On the face of it, Quintin Hogg ought to be a great historic figure. He comes into the history books as the victorious pro-Munich candidate at the famous Oxford by-election of 1938, is Under-Secretary for Air in Churchill's Government by 1945, First Lord of the Admiralty at the time of Suez, the head of various other ministries, Tory Party Chairman and, for a record 12 years, Lord Chancellor, formally the country's highest office. (The Lord Chancellor has often earned more than the prime minister and outranks him on all official occasions.) He had every advantage: a wealthy background, a Lord Chancellor as a father, a good brain, Eton and Christ Church - the classic pedigree of the Tory grandee - and easy social connections wherever it mattered. (When Hogg's right-wing polemic, The Dilemma of Democracy, was published, in which he spoke of Labour's victory of 1974 as proof that democracy was breaking down, the Queen wrote him a long handwritten letter to tell him of the 'intense interest and enjoyment' his book had occasioned: she was, she said, sure that it would help 'many slightly muddled, BBC-battered people to see things more clearly'.) The title of Geoffrey Lewis's biography could have been 'Quintin Hogg', 'Quintin Hailsham' or just 'Hailsham'. No one, after all, would dream of writing a biography of, say, Harold Wilson and calling it 'Lord Wilson' because deep down we know that was all a hollow sham. But Lewis clearly feels that Hogg is, well, lordly.
LRB 13 November 1997 | PDF Download