By any standards, William Ewart Gladstone was an exceptional man. Four times Prime Minister of Great Britain, the moral and political voice of the Victorian era, an inveterate polemicist, a rigorous economist, a mesmeric orator, and a stern pater familias, his first government was one of the great reforming administrations in British history—passing a comprehensive education bill, enacting the secret ballot, disestablishing the Protestant church in Ireland, and enacting a progressive Irish land bill. The stern, puritanical, controlling, and evangelical Victorian Gladstone is part and parcel of political folklore, but, and thus the title of Travis Crosby’s absorbing study, he was also a man of great volatility and passion. Indeed, the Earl of Selborne, Lord Chancellor in two of Gladstone’s administrations, characterized him as having "something volcanic in the underground currents of his mind." He worshipped control, particularly self-control, yet continually put himself in situations in which this very quality faced the sharpest of tests, be it negotiating the Home Rule bill for Ireland in the maelstrom of the House of Commons or wrestling with his passions in the company of beautiful, seductive prostitutes in the gaslit streets of London. Gladstone’s family was run on the strictest of lines, rules were punctiliously enforced, and the atmosphere was imbued with a fear of sin and depravity, yet he regularly exploded with incandescent fury in parliamentary debates and conducted intemperate and aggressive campaigns against opponents with scant regard to feelings, theirs or his own.