Books: The Keynes phenomenon - The third part of Robert Skildelsky's trilogy on the great economist's life completes an outstanding enterprise, says Anthony Howard. John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Britain 1937-1946 by Robert Skidelsky Macmillan, pounds

Books: The Keynes phenomenon - The third part of Robert Skildelsky's trilogy on the great economist's life completes an outstanding enterprise, says Anthony Howard. John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Britain 1937-1946 by Robert Skidelsky Macmillan, pounds

by ANTHONY HOWARD, writer and biographer of Richard Crossman andRab Butler

Maynard Keynes was a phenomenon. The most renowned economist of his generation, he also twice acted as a government official - as the chancellor's deputy at the Paris peace conference and playing the leading part at the Bretton Woods conference. A year later, he was responsible for negotiations that led to Britain securing the postwar American loan. A non-conformist by inheritance and nature, he delighted in challenging traditional orthodoxies, always bringing a sharp pen and a tart tongue to the task.

When he died in 1946, great care was taken by family and friends to protect the secret of his early life - as a key member of the Bloomsbury Group, he had been a rampant and reckless homosexual. This did not, however, inhibit The Times from suggesting in the 1970s that his disregard of economic rules flowed from the undiscipline of his personal life.

This was all, of course, great nonsense. Everything else apart - as this third and final volume of Lord Skidelsky's comprehensive biography demonstrates - Keynes himself became a classic pillar of the establishment. Not content with his eminence as an economist, he played an active and influential part in the arts. He died a hereditary baron, a fellow of Eton, a trustee of the National Gallery and a director of the Bank of England.

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