Asquith. By Stephen Koss. Allen Lane, 1976. Pp. 310. £ 6.95. Professor Koss continues to display a voracious appetite for modern British political history. His latest venture in biography is perhaps his most demanding. It is not the case that Asquith has lacked periodic reassessments since his death, and the study by Roy Jenkins is widely and rightly admired. Koss contends, however, that each of the previous studies was written under the aegis of the Asquith family and was inspired, at least in part, by a devotion to the political tradition with which Asquith was identified. Moreover, he became a cult figure amongst those dismayed by the moral bankruptcy of the Lloyd George ascendancy. His daughter, Violet, always sprang so eagerly to her father's defence that many supposed that there was a good deal to be discovered which was indefensible. In recent years, the revelations and rumours concerning Asquith's private life have certainly kept pace with those concerning Lloyd George. Letters to the other Miss S. are now engaging the attention of another distinguished historian. Koss describes his biography as 'an attempt to steady the pendulum which, too long held in check, has rebounded with a vengeance'. With the assistance, but not under the aegis, of the Asquith family he has attempted a more balanced view of Asquith's aims and achievements. It is certainly a judicious revision, eschewing simple stereotypes-we have here neither the last of the Romans nor the last of the Romantics-but, perhaps precisely because of its measured abstinence from barbed comment or sumptous praise, it is somewhat dull. The prose employed is correct and clear rather than exciting or provocative. It is, indeed, as if Asquith himself had mastered his biographer. It is, avowedly, a political biography- because it is argued that Asquith's early development did not contribute materially to his mature outlook, it is not investigated in detail. We are soon at Balliol where his academic success is rightly described as sensational for a day-boy from the City of London School whose early years had been passed in the shadow of mill and chapel. Ambition and self-confidence seem to have been always there; all that was needed was time. His second marriage signalled a transformation in his attitudes and conduct, but did not cause it. He moved effortlessly from 'Herbert' to 'H.H.A. from back bench to front bench; competent, efficient and possibly indispensable. He formed his own circle, flirted with Liberal Imperialism, engaged in a mini- conspiracy and then accepted office from C.B. with complete composure. No one appeared to complain or be surprised. Over the next decade, he remained a remarkably static personality, at least in public. In private, Lady Diana Cooper recalled, he delighted to talk of poetry and people, of weddings and jokes. In discussing the apparent contradictions of Asquith's personality, Koss makes good use of Bagehot's remark that 'a great premier must add the vivacity of an idle man to the assiduity of a very laborious one'. Yet the author does not disguise the fact that, as a war leader, Asquith was found wanting. His chapters on wartime politics are perhaps the best in the book, bringing together his mastery of the general context and the insight of a good biographer. He does not forget to continue a controversy with Dr. Hazlehurst concerning the fall of the Liberal ministry, and one may confidently expect it to continue in the future. The final chapter takes the story 'From defeat to defeat, 1918-24'. It is a melancholy period, pregnant with unrealized and unrealizable expectations.