King : William Lyon Mackenzie King : a life guided by the hand of destiny /
Allan Levine.
Vancouver : Douglas & McIntyre, 2011.
515 p., [24] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm.
1553655605 (Cloth), 9781553655602, 9781553655602 (Cloth)
More Details
Vancouver : Douglas & McIntyre, 2011.
1553655605 (Cloth)
9781553655602 (Cloth)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references.
Issued also in electronic formats.
A Look Inside
This item was nominated for the following awards:
First Chapter
From the IntroductionFactor in King's obsessive compulsive tendencies - the constant checking of the clock for no apparent reason and the saving of every scrap of paper he received, right down to his dental x-rays and the Pats' dog tags - and you have one difficult and oddball prime minister. King was "a literary magpie of unprecedented proportions," as Peter C. Newman described him in a 1976 newspaper essay. "After King died, his notes on Edward VIII's abdication were found in a piano bench at Laurier House." (The collection of King's papers kept in Ottawa at Library and Archives Canada includes more than two million documents and 25,000 photographs. It measures 315.89 metres or 1,036.38 feet, almost three football fields long.)King made a point of noting in his diary every compliment he received and each time his caucus or an audience cheered him on, in addition to every slight and sarcastic remark he regarded as offensive. And he always blew these usually insignificant matters out of all proportion. No wonder he was so "fatigued" so much of the time: He expended a huge amount of emotional energy on minor issues and sheer nonsense. It started early. In 1904, when Prime Minister Laurier did not properly compliment him on a speech he delivered at the Canadian Club, he was troubled about it for a week. At Christmas, he tallied up all those people who sent him cards and more significantly, those who did not. In December 1926, some months after his nasty public row with Lord Byng over a dissolution of Parliament that he demanded and the governor general did not wish to grant, a Christmas card from Lord and Lady Byng (who now detested King more than her husband) was not forthcoming. "The Byngs have not sent me a Xmas card," he noted on December 27, 1926, "pretty nice sort of treatment after the four years of close relationship we had." When Lord Byng died in Britain in June 1935, King was thrown into a crisis. He was uncertain if he should send a telegram of condolence, which he finally did, and was incapable of deciding what to say publicly about the former governor general's passing. He was in an anxious tizzy for days about it, reviewing the entire 1926 episode again with the necessary rationalizations and justifications for his actions. No one had it as hard or felt sorrier for himself than Mackenzie King did. A friendly phone call from Kathleen King, his nephew Arthur's wife (the son of his brother Max) was not just a friendly phone call. "I think this is one of the very few times that anyone related by marriage or any other way has made an enquiry concerning my health," he noted in October 1943 with typical self-absorption. "It shows how completely isolated one has become in giving one's years as well as days in public affairs and allowing all elements of home and its association to slip by unshared." Violet Markham, the British social reformer and socialite who was friends with King for more than four decades, remembered that she "begged him to take life more easily and not allow affairs of state to submerge him so completely. No human frame could stand with impunity the strain he put upon it, but he had little power either to relax or amuse himself." In his memoirs, historian Charles Stacey recalled that in August 1946 during a guided tour he gave King through the battlefields of Normandy in France, there was a terribly uncomfortable moment for the prime minister when the group stood at the spot where Canadian solders had been murdered by the Nazis and temporarily buried. King always feared not doing the right thing or following the correct protocol, so he did nothing. "What does one do at an empty grave?" Stacey remembered wondering. "We military people waited for the Prime Minister to set us some example. We then realized he was waiting for an example from us; in fact he was craning forward to see that those of us on each side of him were doing. We saluted; and King then removed his hat." King was so out of tune with his own persona that it borders on the absurd. During the second conscription crisis in 1944, he had recruited General Andy McNaughton to replace James Ralston, his problematic minister of defence. But then McNaughton failed to win a seat in the House of Commons. In his diary, King, who mentally catalogued every caustic remark ever directed at him, castigated the general for being "much too strong in his suspicions and dislikes and hatreds. McNaughton was not a good man in politics for that reason. Sir Wilfrid was right when he said that it does not do to cherish resentments in public life." Similarly, after King had died, Alex Hume, the veteran Ottawa Citizen reporter who had known the prime minister for years, recounted that King had once told him with a straight face, no less, that, "it is a great mistake to take anything in public life in a personal way to embitter one." If only he had paid attention to that advice he would have saved himself from so much aggravation, but it was not to be. The window into King's turbulent personality and his tortured soul is the diary he kept almost religiously from the time he was eighteen in 1893 to his death in 1950. It is the treasure trove of his triumphs, anxieties, sexual proclivities and chronic guilt, which this book is framed around. "This diary is to contain a very brief sketch of the events, actions, felling and thoughts of my daily life," the very first entry began on September 6, 1893. "It must above all be a true and faithful account. The chief object of my keeping this diary is that I may be ashamed to let even one day have nothing worthy of its showing, and it is hoped that through its pages the reader may be able to trace how the author has sought to improve his time." Running about 30,000 pages (7.5 million words) it is one of the greatest, historical documents in Canadian history. King's diary, journalist and critic Robert Fulford once opined, "might turn out to be the only Canadian work of our century that someone will look at in 500 years."
Review Quotes
"This first major biography of Mackenzie King in 30 years is a guide to the deep and often moving inner conflicts that haunted Mackenzie King. With animated prose and a subtle wit, Allan Levinedraws a multidimensional portrait of this most compelling of politicians."
"...This is an informative, authoritative study that's also entertaining and even witty...The book has some delightfully waspish comments from Levine...This is a worthy biography of an important individual. If he could, I'm sure William Lyon Mackenzie King would read and enjoy it, in Levine's phrase, with 'as much humility as he was capable of showing.'"
" outstanding biography of Canada's longest-reigning prime minister."
"Here we haveAllan Levine, one of the aces of Canadian historical chronicles, channelling Mackenzie King. And what a story they have to tell: our longest-serving prime minister, getting advice from his dog and having two-way conversations with his long-dead mother. If Canadian history was ever dull, it isn't now. Get this book."
"...his book is perceptive and eminently readable. Levine's discussion of King's personality is excellent...(Levine) has ably shown that King was important and remarkable."
"...until now no one has ever done as magisterial a job as Levinein fusing King's many parts into a complex but comprehensible whole..."
"King fairly trips along, serving up great dollops from King's legendary diary to explain the lonely Victorian romantic behind the politics...Levine is a careful historian, and his judgments usually reflect the detailed work of earlier, more expert scholars, whom he credits generously in his text...Moreover, Levine's text is accessible and readable..."
"In this endeavour, Levinehas succeeded masterfully...By examining King's personality and politics as two sides of the same coin, Levinehas produced a wonderfully comprehensive portrait of this intensely disagreeable -- yet critically important -- Canadian."
"In King, Allan Levinegives us a readable, comprehensive account of a prime minister we ought to know about. He also reminds us that, in ever-changing ways, King haunts us still."
"If anyone doubted that King spent a lot of time in la-la land, they need only read Mr. Levine's intriguing account, one that fleshes out new material from his voluminous diaries."
"If the world needed evidence to disprove the notion we need to know as much as possible about our political leaders, it's between the covers of Allan Levine's new biography of William Lyon Mackenzie King... William Lyon Mackenzie King: A Life Guided by the Hand of Destinymust therefore be treated as a skillful introduction to one of the most important and perplexing personalities to hold the highest political post in Canada."
" Allan Levinehad no shortage of peculiar personal details to make use of in his biography of Canada's longest serving P.M."
" Allan Levine's King: William Lyon MacKenzie Kingis more a biography of King the man than King the politician...LevineĆ­s biography of King is very much worth reading. Levine is skilled with his prose and entertaining in his conclusions."
" Allan Levinegave himself the mission of turning this dull but eccentric Canadian into a subject worthy of contemporary discussion. He succeeds, bringing to life the inner thoughts of his subject as best anyone can."
This item was reviewed in:
Quill & Quire, December 2011
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Main Description
Advance Praise for King "Here we have Allan Levine, one of the aces of Canadian historical chronicles, channelling Mackenzie King. And what a story they have to tell: our longest-serving prime minister, getting advice from his dog and having two-way conversations with his long-dead mother. If Canadian history was ever dull, it isn't now. Get this book." Book jacket.
Main Description
The first biography in a generation of Canada's most eccentric and most important prime minister -- Mackenzie King -- and his defining influence on our 20th century. Most Canadian historians consider William Lyon Mackenzie King to be not only the country's greatest prime minister but also its most peculiar. From 1919 to 1948 he occasionally lorded over the Liberal Party, also serving as prime minister for much of that time. Mackenzie King was a brilliant tactician, was passionately committed to Canadian unity, and was a protector of the underdog, introducing such cornerstones of Canada's social safety net as unemployment insurance, family allowances and old-age pensions. At the same time, he was insecure, craved flattery, became upset at minor criticism, and was prone to fantasy -- especially about the Tory conspiracy against him. King loosened the Imperial connection with Britain and was wary of American military and economic power. Yet he loved all things British and acted like a praised schoolboy when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill or U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt treated him as an equal. Kingcomes at a time when the Canadian people have resoundingly rebuffed the Liberal party under Michael Ignatieff; while the party's future remains uncertain, this definitive biography sheds light on its history under its greatest leader. This first major biography of Mackenzie King in 30 years mines the pages of his remarkable diary. At 30,000 pages, Kingis one of the most significant and revealing political documents in Canada's history and a guide to the deep and often moving inner conflicts that haunted Mackenzie King. With animated prose and a subtle wit, Allan Levinedraws a multidimensional portrait of this most compelling of politicians.
Table of Contents
Introduction: By the Hand of Destinyp. 1
His Mantle Has Fallen on Mep. 23
The Peacemakerp. 55
Industrial Prophetp. 82
A Not Unacceptable Party Leaderp. 111
Vindication and Victoryp. 139
A Place in Historyp. 166
Scandal and Resurrectionp. 201
A Romantic Among the Spiritsp. 229
A United Canada Cryp. 260
A Man on a Tightropep. 293
Conscription if Necessaryp. 327
The Sense of Triumphp. 358
With the Loved Ones at Lastp. 392
Conclusion: Canada's Greatest Prime Ministerp. 404
Acknowledgementsp. 410
Timelinep. 412
Notesp. 416
Bibliographyp. 489
Indexp. 499
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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