John Maynard Keynes: art dealer, impresario, don, speculator, wit

Tim Bouverie in The Telegraph:

Keynes_2_3221146bAt first glance, a biography of Keynes which largely ignores the economics might seem like a biography of Mozart which skips over the music. But as Richard Davenport-Hines argues in his sprightly Life, or Lives, Keynes was a man so interesting, diverse and important that he is able to command attention beyond the field with which his name is indelibly associated. As his fellow Bloomsbury set member Leonard Woolf wrote, Keynes was “a don, a civil servant, a speculator, a businessman, a journalist, a writer, a farmer, a picture dealer, a statesman, a theatrical manager, a book collector, and half a dozen other things”. “Economist” is notable by its absence, as it is also from the seven thematic chapter headings of this book. For Davenport-Hines, this is entirely deliberate. As Keynes wrote, “the worst of economics is that it really is a technical and complicated subject”, unsuited to a general readership. But for Davenport-Hines there is also a more profound reason, which becomes apparent through this highly enjoyable series of portraits: Keynes’s economics were not created out of a theoretical or mathematical firmament but were the product of his wider life.

Born into the middle-class intelligentsia, Keynes was by birth, by education and inclination, a Liberal. A King’s Scholar at Eton, he went on to King’s College Cambridge where he was a member of the semi-secret debating club, The Apostles. There, members discussed philosophy and took it in turns to read papers from the hearth rug. It was here that Keynes developed that “unparalleled power of lucid exposition” (Austin Robinson) which was to enable him to become one of the great “persuaders” of his age.

More here.