30 APRIL 1954, Page 27

But those without the time or the inclination to read

the full-scale work, will find here an adequate précis, based on the same material and in places written in the same words. The book, in fact, may be recommended as a reliable first primer in a subject that has been much bedevilled by rumour and distortion.

But even so, it is open to question if Miss Oman's method suits the purpose. A Brief Life, because of its very brevity, gains from a background and a point of View clearly stated; and a recital of the main events in a career cannot by itself give the uninitiated reader (for whom such a work presumably is intended) a proper idea of its significance. Admittedly, Nelson, less than most men, needs to be explained in terms of his circumstances; but without the circumstances, the achievement cannot be appreciated. If Miss Oman had briefly sketched the background—in strategy, in administration and in practice—to a career which transcended it, her account of that career itself would have gained in depth and balance.