Bentley Gilbert is a historian well-equipped to strip off myths and expose facts. All his skills were needed here: during some seventeen years of ministerial life Lloyd George took a hand in five books about himself, and much distortion resulted. After the war, for instance, Ll.G. hoped that his long struggle against Naval expenditure had been forgotten. He recorded that in July 1908 he had told the German Ambassador of his willingness to borrow £100 million to maintain British naval supremacy. He did not record that in the same month he had blamed Britain for the naval arms race, telling a Queen's Hall audience that the Dreadnoughts should not have been built. Other myths originated in Lloyd George's tendency, especially when talking to an attractive young woman, to dramatise or improve on incidents in his past. He seems to have thought a spiritual crisis appropriate for a serious Welsh boy, especially for one who was later to exploit Nonconformist enthusiasm when himself an agnostic. He therefore gave arresting accounts of his spiritual torments on finding that 'there was no one at the other end of the telephone.' According to the careful estimate given here, there was some embroidery in these accounts.
LRB 26 November 1987 | PDF Download