An Honourable Englishman
The Life of Hugh Trevor-Roper
By Adam Sisman
(Random House, Hardcover, 9781400069767, 672pp.)
Publication Date: December 6, 2011
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He was one of the most gifted scholars of his generation—a brilliant writer, high-society star, and cultural force who moved easily between aristocratic houses and the humble haunts of literary bohemia. He developed a lucid prose style that he used to scathing effect, earning notoriety for his sharp attacks on other historians. Now this superb biography of Hugh Trevor-Roper, universally acclaimed overseas, makes its anticipated American debut.
With incisive knowledge of the man and access to never-before-published letters, Adam Sisman paints a fascinating portrait of this charismatic, contentious, contradictory character. Sisman examines Trevor-Roper’s middle-class upbringing in a house so empty of affection that it caused, as he put it, his “almost physical difficulty in expressing emotion.” He traces Trevor-Roper’s career from his early academic triumphs to his later failure to produce the big book expected of him.
Sisman also provides riveting new details of the high drama of Trevor-Roper’s World War II intelligence work—in which he boldly blew the whistle on bureaucratic infighting that imperiled British code-breaking—and the exclusive investigation of Hitler’s death that inspired his bestselling postwar triumph, The Last Days of Hitler. As never before, Trevor-Roper’s personal life is explored, including his passionate affair with an older, married woman. Finally, An Honourable Englishman reveals the truth behind his public substantiation of the false Hitler diaries in 1983, a misstep (encouraged by his impatient employer Rupert Murdoch) that forever tainted his reputation.
Profoundly bright and brutally acerbic, Hugh Trevor-Roper was a literary lion like no other, and in An Honourable Englishman he receives the absorbing biography he deserves.
Adam Sisman’s first book was a biography of Trevor-Roper’s rival A. J. P. Taylor. He has also written Boswell’s Presumptuous Task: The Making of the Life of Dr. Johnson (winner of the National Books Critics Circle award for biography) and The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge.