private papers of others. More recent writers have not had access to all Palmerston's voluminous private papers. For this reason alone, Bourne's new biography must supersede all earlier ones and take its place as the definitive biography. This volume deals with the earlier and less controversial Palmerston up to 1841. In matters of interpretation it does not contain startling revel- ations, although it may surprise the general reader, more conscious of the later Palmerston, to learn that he was a serious and diffident young man, who spent nearly twenty years in the junior office of Secretary at War outside the Cabinet, working hard on endless details of administration, with no apparent ambition to progress further in politics. What Bourne's biography does (much as Lord Blake's biography did for Disraeli) is to set Palmerston firmly in the context of his times. The Balzacean wealth of detail enables the reader to see Palmerston, not as the isolated maverick he sometimes appears, but in his relations with his family, his colleagues and his subordinates. It gives a picture of a society, as well as of a man, and that society is emphatically a pre-Victorian one. Guedalla remarked that with Palmerston's death 'the last candle of the eighteenth century went out'. A. J. P. Taylor objected that, on the contrary, Palmerston had 'Regency buck' written all over him. Palmerston sired at least four illegitimate, but no legitimate, children. No one found it surprising that Palmerston's mistress, and later wife, Emily Lamb, and her four brothers were probably all fathered by different men. After all, Lady Melbourne had given it as her opinion that a wife owed her husband only one legitimate son and heir. The re-creation of this cheerfully amoral society is not just a prurient peepshow; it is essential for the understanding of what was also a complex political society. Family ties, acknowledged and unacknowledged, influenced appointments and political connections. Social interests and private passions could seem as important as great political and diplomatic decisions. Bourne speculates that Palmerston's notoriously uncertain temper, as well as his unpunctuality (both so offensive to foreign diplomats), may have owed a good deal to his rackety private life. Bourne does not attempt to follow Sir Charles Webster in his blow-by- blow account of Palmerston's diplomacy of the 'thirties. Again he tries rather to set it within its general context of political decision-making. Palmerston was not Grey's first choice for the Foreign Office in 1830. He was given it as a consolation prize because Lord Althorpe was to remain Leader of the Commons. He was immediately plunged into a maelstrom of decisions. He proved himself to be an energetic and intelligent man, who gradually established his mastery of the House of Commons. But a close examination of his policy does not suggest that he had either a profound understanding of international affairs or anything very original to suggest. He was capable of generous impulses but he only slowly became convinced of the evils of the slave trade, just as at the War Office he only slowly became convinced of the evils of army flogging. Bourne suggests that, for all his masterly command of tactics, he 'lacked qualities of moral leadership' and 'went with the tide of public opinion'-both charges feelingly made by his much underrated opponent, the fourth Earl of Aberdeen.