“Men of power have not time to read; yet the men who do not read are unfit for power.” Michael Foot
Harold Macmillan read Jane Austen and Trollope in No. 10, Downing St on weekday afternoons, or at least so he told a duchess. He was a poseur, but I think this was true and that it gave him emotional balance. Sir Anthony Eden carried Ronsard in his pocket, as he had in the trenches. John Major's favourite writers were Trollope and RF Delderfield and Mr Blair bafflingly said Ivanhoe was his favourite novel. This is proof positive that he is not a reading man. George W Bush, oddly, liked Camus, so he said, and my old friend, Andrew Roberts. George Herbert Walker Bush was christened George Herbert after the poet, but I don't know if he ever read him.
I wonder if Mr. Cameron reads. Mr. Clegg finishes every day with a novel but what novels? Mr. Miliband I imagine just reads political books. Churchill, who, like John Major, did not go to university nor shine at school, read the whole Decline and Fall and lots of dictionaries of quotations, which are the best books of all. Gladstone's favourite was Homer. When told that Mr. Gladstone read Homer in the original for pleasure, Churchill said, 'Serves him right.' Macaulay's biographer, Sir George Otto Trevelyan, was disgusted to see Gladstone on a coach journey reading 'a goody book', meaning a religious tract. Asquith read hugely in English literature, but not the classics. Baldwin liked in his retirement to dip into Horace. Roy Jenkins disparagingly said Baldwin in old age liked to 'snuffle' books, but I am sure Jenkins did not read Horace. You are said to study Horace at school so you can enjoy him in middle age, so I should go back to him, I suppose.
Balfour read philosophy and William Le Queux, the trashiest of cheap thriller writers. Mrs Thatcher liked Kipling but I doubt she read much, nor Wilson, Heath, Callaghan or Home. Mr Brown read a lot, would take twenty heavy books on holiday in the days before the kindle and probably reads more now but I wonder if he reads literary books. Disraeli did not go to public school or university and, like Shakespeare, had small Latin and less Greek, at a time when knowledge of the classics was the parole of educated men. I wonder if he read much at all, though I can imagine him reading Byron, Moore and Campbell. Rosebery read a lot, but I forget what. I know nothing of Salisbury's or Attlee's reading tastes but suspect they were not what would now be called highbrow.
I wish Mr Cameron had time for Jane Austen, if not Horace.
Mr Basescu does not read and I imagine Crin prefers sleeping.