PLEASE NOTE, our last few copies have slightly scuffed or faded covers, hence the sale price
As Home Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Minister for War, George Cornewall Lewis served under and alongside Lord John Russell, Lord Palmerston and Gladstone. First elected to Parliament in 1847, he lost his Herefordshire seat in 1852, returning to Parliament as MP for New Radnor in 1855, following the death of his father who had been the MP, and which constituency he served until his own death in 1863.
The use of the word ‘elected’ to Parliament is a light misuse of language, for George Lewis only ever managed to ‘enter’ Parliament when no-one stood against him – at every election in which he stood that was contested, he lost. Indeed, what come through from this book is his almost disdain for Parliament, that he felt he ‘ought’ to be there whilst his interests lay elsewhere, essentially in languages and ancient history. He was as fluent in the languages of modern Europe as he was in those of the ancient world. He was the author of copious articles and books on early history, notably that of the Romans, on linguistic issues and an assortment of matters that took his curiosity – such as whether man could live to be 100 years old.
Using previously untapped diaries and correspondence, the authors have delved into Lewis’ relationships with his fellow politicians as well as trying to discover the ‘man’. Some strange dichotomies arise. For all his interest in languages and early history, he seems to have no love for Wales or the Welsh. At one level he appears to be a compassionate man, yet his early involvement in the administration of the Poor Law was to encourage its particularly harsh application. In the world of politics he appears as a relatively able administrator and maker of deals, but as a hopeless orator despite all his learning and writing. He tried to encourage Britain to take an active role in bringing about a settlement of the American Civil War, but was fatalistic about what could be done to end the Crimean War.
A read of this book will not just bring Lewis to life, but also many aspects of the period – the coming of the railways, the arguments between protectionism and free trade, debates within the Church, the state of agriculture. It also brings a part of the Welsh Border to the heart of British Government as politicians pass between the capital and Harpton Court, the Lewises home near New Radnor.
Dr R.W.D. Fenn, FSA, FRHistS, FLS, read theology at Jesus College, Oxford, subsequently becoming an Anglican priest. He has been an Associate lecturer and Senator to the Open University for many years, has been President of teh Radnorshire Society since 2001 and served as President of the Cambrian Archaeological Association for 2004-5.
Sir Andrew Duff Gordon worked in the City before becoming Christie’s representative in Herefordshire, South and Mid Wales. He is a kinsman of Sir George Cornewall Lewis.
Paperback | 384 pages | 234 x 156 mm | 2005
1 8pp b&w plate section