In this collection of remarkable biographical portraits, the great essayist and intellectual historian Isaiah Berlin brings to life a wide range of prominent twentieth-century thinkers, politicians, and writers. These include Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Chaim Weizmann, Albert Einstein, Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, Boris Pasternak, and Anna Akhmatova. With the exception of Roosevelt, Berlin met them all, and he knew many of them well. Other figures recalled here include the Zionist Yitzhak Sadeh, the U.S. Supreme Court judge Felix Frankfurter, the classicist and wit Maurice Bowra, the philosopher J. L. Austin, and the literary critic Edmund Wilson. For this edition, ten new pieces have been added, including portraits of David Ben-Gurion, Maynard and Lydia Keynes, and Stephen Spender, as well as Berlin's autobiographical reflections on Jewish Oxford and his Oxford undergraduate years. Rich and enlightening, Personal Impressions is a vibrant demonstration of Berlin's belief that ideas truly live only through people.
Kaiser; Mussolini than Victor Emmanuel; and, memor able as they were, President Wilson and Lloyd George yield in the attribute of sheer historical magnitude to Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. History, we are told by Aristotle, is ‘what Alcibiades did and suffered’.1 This notion, despite all the efforts of the social sciences to overthrow it, remains a good deal more valid than rival hypotheses, provided that history is defined as that which historians actually do. At any rate
historical imagination, of possible religious or aesthetic or psychological significance, but with no possible relevance to political practice. As for the fact that pious Jews everywhere thrice daily prayed to be returned to Zion, that was, again quite naturally, regarded as an expression of the longing for the coming of the Messiah, for the end of the world of evil and pain, and for the coming of the reign of God on earth, and wholly remote from secular ideas about political self-determination.
social terror – this seems to me to be Felix Frankfurter’s rarest single personal gift. It was this that penetrated our defences – ramparts that have kept out and needlessly frustrated many a good and interested and intelligent and well-intentioned man. Aldous Huxley The Classical and History Middle and Upper Eighth forms at St Paul’s School were, in the middle and late 1920s, an unusually sophisticated establishment. This was not directly induced by the masters, who were (with one exception –
composed purely from memory. Namier was one of the most distinguished historians of our time, a man of fame and influence. His achievement as a historian, still more his decisive influence on English historical research and writing, as well as his extraordinary life, deserve full and detailed study. For this task I am not qualified. My sole purpose is to describe to the best of my ability the character and some of the opinions of one of the most remarkable men that I have ever known. I was not at
Foreword • xxvii dedication to liberalism, his commitment to individuals as the agents of history, his profound horror of tyranny and coercion were fuelled by the experience. For her – though she did not blame him – the results were disastrous. The visit came to Stalin’s attention, who commented ‘So now our nun receives visits from foreign spies?’ The day after Berlin came to say goodbye to her, men in uniform went into her room while she was out and screwed a microphone to the ceiling,