Steven Runciman

I have been reading Minoo Dinshaw’s long, magnificently scholarly and perceptive biography of Steven Runciman.   Dinshaw is very good at exploring the ambiguities of Runciman’s personality:  on the one hand, the child of a family of wealthy, lowland Scots with puritanical instincts (guests at Elshieshields were always advised to bring their own drink);  and, on the other hand, someone with a great taste for louche company and subversive gossip.   Occasionally, as with his subject, there is slightly too much information about obscurer members of the Almanac de Gotha (Runciman called his chickens after members of the French aristocracy), but the rich information pays off in explaining who his friends were in 1930s Cambridge and what his contribution was to the study of the Bogomils.

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