Thursday, February 17, 2005

A class act ...

Last night I had the pleasure of introducing William Hague, the former leader of Britain's Conservative Party and the author of William Pitt the Younger, which I reviewed on Sunday, at the Free Library. Hague gave a great talk about the man who was the youngest ever to serve as Prime Minister. Hague said he intends to stand again for Parliament in the forthcoming election but has no intention of seeking any leadership position in his party. Like Pitt, Hague's political career began early, when he was 16 and gave a speech at a Conservative Party conference (what we could call a convention) and came to the attention of Margaret Thatcher, who told those assembled that they might be looking at the next Mr. Pitt. Hague says he had only the vaguest notion at the time who Pitt was. But he said that, thanks to giving up the party leadership after the last election, he had discovered something Pitt never had: that life has much to offer besides politics. Hague has travelled, been able to spend more time with his wife, Ffion, and has even learned to play the piano. He enjoys writing, he says. Interestingly, he said that he dictated his biography of Pitt. In that regard, it surely helped that Hague is a very fluent public speaker. His book is certainly very well written.
The questions afterward were quite good, as were Hague's answers. These author events at the Library are one of the treasures of Philadelphia life. If you like reading and ideas, you should try to go. Many of them, like last night's, are free, so you can't beat the price. You can check what's coming here:


  1. Now this is interesting, isn't it? Another British politician who can actually write. Real stuff, that is, not just bloviating memoirs. American politicians can barely write their name, unless it's on the back of a check. Disraeli's usually the first example cited, but there are other, recent ones. Roy Jenkins, for one. Now we have the Right Hon. Mr. Hague. Two-three decades back there was even a Labour MP who was a fairly successful novelist -- Maurice Edelman. There's one in your eye, Sen. Santorum.

  2. Well, if you read "Ronald Reagan: A Life in Letters," which is now out in paperback, you realize that Reagan, dismissed as a dummy actor who just read his lines well, was actually a very good writer, quite skilled at adapting his style to his audience. Hague impresses one as someone with a very orderly mind, a quality that shines through in his book. If education in this country were about being educated -- i.e., learning how to read and think and organize one's thoughts, as opposed to a step up in job placement -- and if we also placed some emphasis on speaking properly, then our polticians might seem more presentable. Not that smooth talk is enough. John Kerry's a good enough speaker and has a pretty good voice. But it helps to say something, too.