Review: William Pitt the Younger, William Hague

Rating: 2 out of 5

I had the misfortune to read another biography — one which I liked a lot more — right after this one. It’s even quite interesting to see how my impressions of this book can change because of another — in this case, however, reading a very well written and vivid biography brought into mind what I didn’t like about this one. Though a great ode to British success and glory, Pitt did not emerge as a person from this biography. He was a cog in the machinery of greatness, all of which was destined to be no matter what.

In reality, of course, William Pitt was a person though his accomplishments might make that easy to overlook. I think it was too easy for Mr Hague to dip into his own House of Commons experience and to make it image the 18th century. The author seemed to be most vivid when he was describing not the character of the subject but rather Parliament’s intricacies and how these differed under George III.

With that in mind, I should note that Mr Pitt also seemed to enjoy certain hyperbolas. Perhaps these are customary when one lets imagination fly, especially when considering such a bygone era, but it looked and felt throughout this book that we were painted a picture which had a lot of white — with an edge of the black, never too close.

At the same time, I am no longer certain that this book was that bad. It was definitely readable and it covered the life of Mr Pitt in good detail. I had hoped for more of a character to emerge from the pages, but that was perhaps hoping for too much.

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