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Tears, Tantrums, and Bared Teeth: The Emotional Economy of Three Conservative Prime Ministers, 1951–1963

  • Martin Francis

At a cabinet meeting on November 4, 1956, Anthony Eden came face to face with the unravelling of his ill-starred premiership. As two leading cabinet colleagues, Lord Butler and Lord Salisbury, insisted that British military operations in Egypt would have to be ended, the prime minister found it impossible to repress any longer his overwrought and excitable temperament. According to the journalist James Margach, “Eden was emotionally overcome. He broke down in tears and cried: ‘You are all deserting me.’ He was in total collapse, weeping unashamedly. Then he went upstairs to compose himself.” Within two months Eden had resigned. His successor, Harold Macmillan, deliberately set out to create a very different emotional environment around him. In place of Eden's petulant volatility came an emphasis on self-control and steady nerves. In the words of David Maxwell Fyfe, who served under both premiers, Eden's “chronic restlessness” gave way to “a central calmness” under Macmillan. The new prime minister adopted an air of nonchalance and indifference, and according to one of his aides, “anyone who got excited got short shrift.” The contrasting public styles of Eden and Macmillan is a commonplace in the political history of the 1950s and has been credited with facilitating the recovery in Conservative electoral fortunes in the aftermath of the Suez debacle. However, Eden's breakdown and Macmillan's apparent “unflappability” can also be identified as sites on which to explore how dominant codes of masculine emotional culture were manifested in the world of politics.

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1 Quoted in Carlton, David, Anthony Eden: A Biography (London, 1981), p. 462.

2 Fyfe, David Patrick Maxwell, Kilmuir, Lord, Political Adventure: The Memoirs of the Earl of Kilmuir (London, 1964), p. 308.

3 Wyndham, John Edward Reginald, Egremont, Lord, Wyndham and Children First (London, 1968), p. 170.

4 Ramsden, John, The Winds of Change: Macmillan to Heath, 1957–1975 (London, 1996), pp. 1929; Jefferys, Kevin, Retreat from New Jerusalem: British Politics, 1951–1964 (Basingstoke, 1997), pp. 6084.

5 Stearns, Carol Z. and Stearns, Peter N., In Anger: The Struggle for Emotional Control in America's History (Chicago, 1986); Stearns, P. N., American Cool: Constructing a Twentieth-Century Emotional Style (New York, 1994); Pfister, Joel and Schnog, Nancy, eds., Inventing the Psychological: Toward a Cultural History of Emotional Life in America (New Haven, Conn., 1998); Stearns, Peter N. and Lewis, Jan, eds., An Emotional History of the United States (New York, 1998). While Stearns deservedly remains the doyen of the history of emotions in the United States, surprisingly only a few pages within his prolific opus have been dedicated to the subject of politics.

6 A rare exception is Rose, Nikolas, Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self (London, 1990).

7 Although, for a promising sign of things to come, see Costigliola, Frank, “‘Mixed Up’ and ‘Contact’: Culture and Emotion among the Allies in the Second World War,” International History Review, 20, no. 4 (1998): 791805.

8 For example, Joyce, Patrick, Democratic Subjects: The Self and the Social in Nineteenth-Century England (Cambridge, 1994); Vernon, James, ed., Re-Reading the Constitution: New Narratives in the Political History of England's Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 1996); Lawrence, Jon, Speaking for the People: Party, Language and Popular Politics in England, 1867–1914 (Cambridge, 1998).

9 By contrast, studies of female politicians have been deeply concerned with how women understood and projected their femininity in the predominantly masculine domain of parliamentary politics. For example, Hollis, Patricia, Jennie Lee: A Life (Oxford, 1997).

10 For example, Roper, Michael and Tosh, John, eds., Manful Assertions: Masculinities in Britain since 1800 (London, 1991); Mangan, J. A. and Walvin, James, eds., Manliness and Morality: Middle-Class Masculinity in Britain and America, 1800–1940 (Manchester, 1987); Mosse, George L., The Image of Man: The Creation of Modem Masculinity (New York, 1996); Rotundo, E. Anthony, American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era (New York, 1993); Kimmel, Michael, Manhood in America: A Cultural History (New York, 1996); Bederman, Gillian, Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880–1917 (Chicago, 1995).

11 Exceptions would be Jarvis, David, “The Conservative Party and the Politics of Gender, 1900–1939,” in The Conservatives and British Society, 1880–1990, ed. Francis, Martin and Zweiniger-Bargielowska, Ina (Cardiff, 1996), pp. 172–93; Jon Lawrence, “Violence in Interwar Politics: The Olympia Debate Revisited,” Historical Research (forthcoming); and my The Labour Party: Modernisation and the Politics of Restraint,” in Moments of Modernity: Reconstructing Britain, 1945–1964, ed. Conekin, Becky, Mort, Frank, and Waters, Chris (London, 1999), pp. 152–70. These studies supplement a growing interest in the status of masculinity in recent literature on the Edwardian campaigns for female suffrage; e.g., John, Angela and Eustance, Claire, eds., The Men's Share? Masculinities, Men's Support and Women's Suffrage in Britain, 1890–1920 (London, 1997).

12 Reddy, William H., The Invisible Code: Honor and Sentiment in Postrevolutionary France, 1814–1848 (Berkeley, Calif., 1997), pp. 35.

13 Mosse, , Image of Man, p. 59.

14 For the dominance of bourgeois cultural values in mid-twentieth-century Britain, see McKibbin, Ross, Classes and Cultures: England, 1918–1951 (Oxford, 1998).

15 Crosby, Travis L., The Two Mr. Gladstones: A Study in Psychology and History (New Haven, Conn., 1997), pp. 26.

16 Blake, Robert, Disraeli (New York, 1967), pp. 567–68.

17 Stearns, and Stearns, , In Anger, pp. 2, 1011; Mosse, , Image of Man, pp. 17106.

18 Lawrence, , Speaking for the People, pp. 191–92.

19 Baldwin, Stanley, On England (London, 1926), p. 3.

20 Quoted in Middlemas, Keith and Barnes, John, Baldwin: A Biography (London, 1969), p. 506.

21 Feiling, Keith, The Life of Neville Chamberlain (London, 1946), pp. 118–24.

22 Douglas, Keith, Collected Poems (Oxford, 1966), pp. 149–50.

23 Bourke, J., “Disciplining the Emotions: Fear, Psychiatry and the Second World War,” in War, Medicine and Modernity, ed. Cooter, Roger, Harrison, Mark, and Sturdy, Steve (Stroud, U.K., 1998), pp. 225–38.

24 Durbin, E. F. M. and Bowlby, John, Personal Aggressiveness and War (New York, 1939), p. 48.

25 Russell, Bertrand, The Impact of Science on Society (London, 1952), p. 96.

26 For example, Bendit, Phoebe D. and Bendit, Laurence J., Living Together Again (London, 1946).

27 Overstreet, H. A., The Mature Mind (New York, 1950). See also Ehrenreich, Barbara, The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment (New York, 1983), pp. 1718.

28 Griffith, Edward F., “Emotional Development,” in The Road to Maturity, ed. Griffith, Edward F. (London, 1947), p. 193.

29 Spicer, Andrew, “Male Stars, Masculinity and British Cinema, 1945–1960,” in The British Cinema Book, ed. Murphy, Robert (London, 1997), pp. 144–53.

30 Higgins, Patrick, Heterosexual Dictatorship: Male Homosexuality in Post-war Britain (London, 1996), p. 33.

31 Waters, Chris, “Disorders of the Mind, Disorders of the Body Social: Peter Wildeblood and the Making of the Modern Homosexual,” in Conekin, et al., eds., Moments of Modernity, pp. 134–51.

32 Connolly, Cyril, The Missing Diplomats (London, 1952), pp. 18–19, 27–28, 33.

33 Purdy, Anthony and Sutherland, Douglas, Burgess and Maclean (London, 1963), p. 48.

34 For example, the contributions to Barker, Ernest, ed., The Character of England (Oxford, 1947).

35 Orwell, George, The English People (London, 1945)

36 Gorer, Geoffrey, Exploring English Character (New York, 1955), pp. 13–18, 285–90.

37 For example, Jay, Douglas, Change and Fortune: A Political Record (London, 1980), p. 206.

38 Bodleian Library (Bodl), Macmillan MSS c.21/1 (diary entry 24 February 1960) and d.42 (diary entry 4 June 1961).

39 Thorpe, D. R., Selwyn Lloyd (London, 1989), p. 113.

40 Bodl., Macmillan MS c.21/1 (diary entries 12 December 1960 and 14 December 1960).

41 Henderson, Judith, “A Sociological Report,” in Coloured Immigrants in Britain, ed. Griffith, J. A. al. (London, 1960), p. 100.

42 Patterson, Sheila, Dark Strangers: A Sociological Study of the Absorption of Recent West Indian Migrant Group in Brixton (London, 1963), p. 201. See also Waters, Chris, “‘Dark Strangers’ in Our Midst: Discourses of Race and Nation in Britain, 1947–1963,” Journal of British Studies, 36, no. 2 (1997): 207–38.

43 Macinnes, Colin, “A Short Guide for Jumbles,” in his England, Half English (1961; London, 1986), pp. 2426.

44 Middleton, Drew, These Are the British (New York, 1957), pp. 37, 163–66.

45 Brown, John, “The Causes and Effects of McCarthyism,” Political Quarterly, 26, no. 2 (1955): 178–85.

46 The Diaries of Cynthia Gladwyn, ed. Jebb, Miles (London, 1995), pp. 146, 147, 149.

47 Gorer, Geoffrey, The American People: A Study in National Character (New York, 1948), p. 89.

48 Gerzon, Mark, A Choice of Heroes: The Changing Faces of American Manhood (Boston, 1982), pp. 8798.

49 Mort, Frank, “Social and Symbolic Fathers and Sons in Postwar Britain,” Journal of British Studies, 38, no. 2 (1999): 353–84.

50 Belchem, John and Epstein, James, “The Nineteenth-Century Gentleman Leader Revisited,” Social History, 22, no. 2 (1997): 174–93.

51 Ellenberger, Nancy W., “Constructing George Wyndham: Narratives of Aristocratic Masculinity in Fin-de-Siècle England,” Journal of British Studies, 39, no. 4 (2000): 487517.

52 Macmillan, Harold, Tides of Fortune, 1945–1955 (London, 1969), p. 312.

53 Quoted in Taylor, Robert Lewis, Winston Churchill: An Informal Study of Greatness (New York, 1952), p. 426.

54 Macmillan, Harold, Pointing the Way, 1959–1961 (London, 1972), p. 40.

55 Hoggart, Richard, The Uses of Literacy (Harmondsworth, 1969), p. 76.

56 Shuckburgh, Evelyn, Descent to Suez: Diaries, 1951–56, ed. Charmley, John (New York, 1987), p. 163.

57 Churchill, Winston S., My Early Life: A Roving Commission (New York, 1930), p. 23; Eden, Anthony, Another World, 1897–1917 (New York, 1977), p. 45; Macmillan, Harold, Winds of Change, 1914–1939 (New York, 1966), pp. 4143.

58 Macmillan, , Winds of Change, pp. 4346.

59 Nicolson, Harold, Good Behavior: Being a Study of Certain Types of Civility (London, 1955), pp. 7477.

60 Roper, Michael, Masculinity and the British Organization Man since 1945 (Oxford, 1994), pp. 14.

61 Quoted in Ehrenreich, , Hearts of Men, p. 133.

62 Wheeler-Bennett, John, John Anderson, Viscount Waverley (London, 1962), pp. 384, 395.

63 Quoted in Jenkins, Roy, The Chancellors (Basingstoke, 1998), p. 401.

64 Wheeler-Bennett, , Anderson, p. 409.

65 Henderson, Nicholas, Inside the Private Office (Chicago, 1987), p. 15.

66 Nicolson, Nigel, Long Life: Memoirs (London, 1997), p. 111.

67 Quoted in Davenport-Hines, Richard, The Macmillans (London, 1992), p. 224.

68 Field Marshal WilliamSlim, , Courage and Other Broadcasts (London, 1957). Of course, it should be conceded that Britain's most famous wartime general, Montgomery, with his egoism and strutting insensitivity, singularly failed to exemplify this model of military modesty and stoicism. For a comparison of Montgomery and Slim, Hamilton, Nigel, Monty: Final Years of the Field Marshal, 1944–1976 (New York, 1986), p. 727.

69 Harvey, John, Men in Black (London, 1995).

70 Rock, Paul and Cohen, Stanley, “The Teddy Boy,” in The Age of Affluence, 1951–1964, ed. Bogdanor, Vernon and Skidelsky, Robert (London, 1970), pp. 289–91.

71 Mort, Frank and Thompson, Peter, “Retailing, Commercial Culture and Masculinity in 1950s Britain: The Case of Montague Burton, the ‘Tailor of Taste,’History Workshop Journal 38 (1994): 121.

72 Bevins, Reginald, The Greasy Pole (London, 1965), p. 19.

73 Diaries of Cynthia Gladwyn, pp. 293, 333.

74 Horne, Alistair, Harold Macmillan, vol. 1, 1940–1965 (New York, 1989), p. 338.

75 Macmillan, Harold, Riding the Storm, 1956–1959 (London, 1971), p. 591.

76 Brivati, Brian, Hugh Gaitskell (London, 1996), pp. 273–86.

77 Moran, Lord, Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival, 1940–1965 (London, 1966), p. 781.

78 Dutton, David, Anthony Eden: A Life and Reputation (London, 1997), p. 256.

79 Fishman, Jack, My Darling Clementine: The Story of Lady Churchill (New York 1963), pp. 286–87.

80 Ibid., p. 283.

81 Churchill, Winston S., Painting as a Pastime (London, 1948), p. 17.

82 Storr, Anthony, “The Man,” in Churchill Revisited: a Critical Assessment, ed. Taylor, A.J. P. (New York, 1969), p. 268.

83 Ibid., pp. 316–17, 419.

84 Fishman, , Darling Clementine, p. 89.

85 The Eisenhower Diaries, ed. Ferrell, Robert H. (New York, 1981), pp. 223–24.

86 Light, Alison, Forever England: Femininity, Literature and Conservatism between the Wars (London, 1991).

87 Fishman, , Darling Clementine, pp. 325–26.

88 Moran, , Churchill, p. 745.

89 Lees-Milne, James, Ancestral Voices (New York, 1975).

90 Jefferys, , Retreat from New Jerusalem, p. 37.

91 Moran, , Churchill, p. 658.

92 Chandos, Lord, The Memoirs of Lord Chandos (London, 1962), pp. 291–92.

93 James, Robert Rhodes, Robert Boothby: A Portrait of Churchill's Ally (New York, 1991), pp. 377–78.

94 Moran, , Churchill, p. 407.

95 Rees-Mogg, William, Sir Anthony Eden (London, 1956), p. 41; Rothwell, Victor, Anthony Eden: A Political Biography, 1931–57 (Manchester, 1992), p. 107.

96 Jan Karski, quoted in Rothwell, , Eden, p. 11.

97 James, Robert Rhodes, Anthony Eden (New York, 1987), p. 12.

98 Broad, Lewis, Anthony Eden: The Chronicle of a Career (New York, 1955), p. 264.

99 Dutton, , Eden, pp. 468–69; James, , Eden, p. 303.

100 Boyd-Carpenter, John, Way of Life (London, 1980), p. 124; Diaries of Cynthia Gladwyn, p. 49; Diaries of Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, vol. 2, 1939–65, ed. Young, Kenneth (London, 1980).

101 Carlton, , Eden, p. 324; Neff, David, Warriors at Suez (New York, 1981), p. 145.

102 Drew Pearson: Diaries, 1949–1959, ed. Abell, Tyler (New York, 1974), p. 172.

103 Cosgrave, Patrick, R. A. Butler (London, 1981), p. 12.

104 Butler, Lord, The Art of the Possible (Boston, 1972), p. 165.

105 Shuckburgh, , Descent to Suez, pp. 35, 73, 151, 178.

106 Macmillan, , Riding the Storm, p. 154.

107 Rawlinson, Peter, A Price Too High: An Autobiography (London, 1989), pp. 6970.

108 Kilmuir, , Political Adventure, pp. 273–74.

109 Macmillan, , Riding the Storm, p. 198.

110 Quoted in Horne, Alistair, Harold Macmillan, vol. 2, 1957–1986 (New York, 1989), p. 154.

111 Horne, , Macmillan, 1:293–94.

112 Ibid., p. 294.

113 Critchley, Julian, A Bag of Boiled Sweets: An Autobiography (London, 1994), p. 84; Turner, Boyd-Carpenter, Way of Life, p. 156; John, , Macmillan (London, 1994), p. 173.

114 Egremont, , Wyndham, pp. 155, 170, 173–74.

115 Critchley, , Boiled Sweets, pp. 8485.

116 Boyd-Carpenter, , Way of Life, p. 151.

117 For example, Bodl., Macmillan MSS c.21/1 (diary entry 5 July 1960), d.49 (diary entry 12 July 1963), and d.48 (diary entry 17 February 1963).

118 Davenport-Hines, Richard, The Macmillans (London: Mandarin, 1993), p. 226.

119 Thorpe, , Selwyn Lloyd, p. 361; Evans, Harold, Downing Street Diary: The Macmillan Years, 1957–1963 (London, 1981), p. 209.

120 Evans, , Downing Street Diary, p. 209.

121 Ibid, p. 28.

122 Diaries of Cynthia Gladwyn, p. 269.

123 Giddens, Anthony, Modernity and Self-Identity (Cambridge, 1991); Sennett, Richard, The Fall of Public Man (New York, 1977); Taylor, Charles, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge, 1989).

124 Mort, Frank, “The Commercial Domain: Advertising and the Cultural Management of Demand,” in Conekin, et al., eds., Moments of Modernity, pp. 5575.

125 Taylor, , Sources of the Self p. 469.

126 Quoted in Ehrenreich, , Minds of Men, pp. 92–94, 109.

127 Lorenz, Karl, On Aggression, trans, by Wilson, M. Kerr (New York, 1963); Goldberg, E. M., Family Influences and Psychosomatic Illness (London, 1958). The misogynistic Freudianism that informed Goldberg's analysis is all too obvious.

128 Keniston, Kenneth, The Uncommitted: Alienated Youth in American Society (New York, 1965), pp. 295308.

129 Winnicott to Freud, 6 July 1948, The Spontaneous Gesture: Selected Letters of D.W. Winnicott, ed. Rodman, F. Robert (Cambridge, Mass., 1987), p. 11.

130 Laing, R. D., The Politics of Experience (New York, 1969), pp. 6165.

131 See Sennett, Fall of Public Man, for an account of this change in feeling.

132 O'Shea, Alan, “English Subjects of Modernity,” in Modern Times: Reflections on a Century of English Modernity, ed. Nava, Mica and O'Shea, Alan (London, 1996), pp. 22–23, 3132. My use of the term “appeared to” is deliberate here, since greater informality in some aspects of behavior is usually paralleled by the emergence of new codes of control and reduced scope for spontaneity in others. For example, in Western societies in the twentieth century, swearing in public became more acceptable but spitting less so. See Stearns, Peter N., Battleground of Desire: The Struggle for Self-Control in Modern America (New York, 1999).

133 Bailey, Peter, “Jazz at the Spirella: Coming of Age in Coventry in the 1950s,” in Conekin, et al., eds., Moments of Modernity, pp. 2240.

134 Susman, Warren I., “Personality and the Making of Twentieth-Century Culture,” in his Culture As History (New York, 1984), pp. 273–80.

135 Booker, Christopher, The Neophiliacs (Boston, 1970) p. 80.

136 Quoted in ibid., p. 94.

137 For the American challenge to the British “landscape of psychological simplicity,” Steedman, Carolyn, Landscape for a Good Woman (London, 1986), p. 113.

138 Green, Martin, A Mirror for Anglo-Saxons (London, 1961), p. 60.

139 Bodl., Macmillan MS c.21/1 (diary entry 10 June 1960).

140 Jefferys, , Retreat from New Jerusalem, pp. 6465.

141 Macmillan, , Riding the Storm, p. 419.

142 Butler, David and Rose, Richard, The British General Election of 1959 (London, 1960), pp. 2425.

143 Hailsham, Lord, The Door Wherein I Went (London, 1975), p. 151.

144 Ramsden, , Winds of Change, pp. 4649.

145 Evans, , Downing Street Diary, p. 294.

146 Bodl., Macmillan MS c.20/1 (diary entry 18 October 1959).

147 Maudling, Davenport-Hines, The Macmillans, p. 31; Reginald, , Memoirs (London, 1978), p. 126; Marcus Worsley, M.P., quoted in The Backbench Diaries of Richard Crossman, ed. Morgan, Janet (London, 1981), p. 1031.

148 Booker, , Neophiliacs, p. 80.

149 Davenport-Hines, , The Macmillans, pp. 246–47.

150 Macmillan, Harold, At the End of the Day, 1961–1963 (London, 1973), pp. 431, 436, 441, 444, 452; Bodl., Macmillan MSS d.49, d.50, passim.

151 Macmillan, , End of the Day, pp. 432, 436, 451.

152 Bodl., Macmillan MS d.48 (diary entries 8 March 1963, 10 March 1963, and 12 March 1963).

153 Campbell, John, Edward Heath: A Biography (London, 1993), p. 194.

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