Debts of Honour
Debts of Honour
is Michael Foot's most famous collection of essays. Adept at the longer distance though he was, one only has to remember
The Pen and the Sword
and his Aneurin Bevan biography, the essay very often saw his writing at its sharpest and most eloquent. He has been compared to Arnold Bennett and J. B. Priestley, but there is no exaggeration in extending that to A. J. P. Taylor.
Of this volume, Kenneth Morgan has written,’But it is still an enchanting volume, revealing of Foot's style and of his friends and heroes past and present. His heroes are literary and political, though it is clear that for Foot the categories merge into one common stream of aspiration'. There are fourteen essays. It is instructive to list the subjects: Isaac Foot (his father), William Hazlitt, Benjamin Disraeli, Beaverbrook, Bonar Thompson (Hyde Park Sceptic); Bertrand Russell; H. N. Brailsford; Ignazio Silone; Vicky (the cartoonist); Randolph Churchill; Thomas Paine; Daniel Defoe; Sarah, The Duchess of Marlborough, and Jonathan Swift. The range is impressively wide, something that struck a fledgling politician.
In July 1982 Tony Blair wrote with depressing truth, 'The first thing that struck me about Debts of Honour was the prison of ignorance which my generation has constructed for itself'. Having mentioned Hazlitt, Paine and Brailsford and doubting they are still read, he ends with this exhortation, 'We need to recover the searching radicalism of these people'. Stirring words even if they might embarrass the author now!
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