Reviews of Talleyrand in London
Talleyrand is a much written about figure and Kelly is complete mistress of the materials that have accumulated about him… She goes back to sources, wishing as she always does to find the mot juste in contemporary voice. Of Talleyrand’s retirement following a mission that she dubs “his swansong”, she quotes Greville’s diary: “It was fine to see after his stormy youth and middle age, after a career spent in the very tempest and whirlwind of political opinion, how tranquilly and honourably his decling years ebbed away…” It is equally fine to see, after a career spent in capturing lives in the whirlwind of a tempestuous era, how deftly and honourably Linda Kelly continues to add to her epic oeuvre.
Martin Stoddard, Quarterly Review
Talleyrand was 76 when he took up the post of French ambassador to London in 1830. Linda Kelly deals only with the last phase of Talleyrand’s long and tumultuous career, but this short book brings him marvellously to life…Usually portrayed as a cynical old fox … he emerges from Linda Kelly’s delightful book as warm and human. This book should be required reading for Theresa May and her Brexit team. Lecturing and table banging were not Talleyrand’s style. He got his way by charm and guile – by persuading his adversaries that what was best for France was actually in their interests too. We could do with another Talleyrand right now.
Jane Ridley, The Spectator
Kelly’s object…is to present Talleyrand’s embassy in the round as an unexpected diplomatic coup on behalf of closer Franco-British relations. She mirrors her subject’s triumph in a perfectly calculated balance between sophisticated entertainment and seriousness of purpose…When Talleyrand resigned his post in 1834, it was on the grounds of old age and a change of government in England. In the annals of diplomacy, however, this brief London mission offered a dream scenario no modern envoy could hope to share. A septuagearian left over from the age of perukes and knee breeches was suddenly hauled out of retirement and parachuted into a modern metropolis during the decade that saw the birth of steam travel, gas lighting, photography and the electric telegraph. Linda Kelly, who in several earlier books has made this fascinatingly transitional epoch very much her own, is a moving andstylish advocate for old Talley as the most polished advocate of them all.
Jonathan Keates, Literary Review
It radiates its author’s pleasure in invoking the elegant sinuosity of 19th-century diplomacy and mid-Victorian London. Her generosity of spirit and unflinching truthfulness make this book shine.
Richard Davenport-Hines, The Spectator books of the year 2017