Steve Tomkins’ review of my book in the Church Times is behind a paywall. He is himself an historian of the Clapham Sect and clearly thinks I’ve written the wrong type of history. ‘These personal stories’, he writes, ‘are not hugely eventful. The births, romances, marriages, illnesses, and deaths of which they consist are not terribly interesting on their own compared with the drama of the heroic fight against slavery and the calamitous affair of Sierra Leone.’ That has to come down to a difference of opinion! I am struck with his observation that ‘those who are generally interested in the private lives of the wealthy 18th-century English middle classes also sound like a restricted readership.’ Where has he been these past twenty years? Having written this, I will now maintain a dignified silence!
Does he require the glam and sparkle of a Hollywood screenplay to keep him interested in the written word? You are a much kinder soul than I in your retort. He seems to care more for the smoke and mirrors of a rock concert in his reading than he does the accuracy and significance you have painstakingly brought to your work.
Thanks for your kind comment, Dan. I think it just wasn’t his type of book. He likes the political stuff (so do I!) but can’t see the value of the personal.