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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986

Book Reviews
Norman D. Brown, Editor
Colonel House and Sir Edward Grey: A Study in Anglo-American Diplomacy.
By Joyce Grigsby Williams. (Lanham, Maryland: University Press
of America, 1984. Pp. 174. Acknowledgments, bibliographical es-
say, index. $22.75, cloth; $10.75, paper.)
The legend of Colonel Edward M. House, which he did so much to
promote and spread, continues to come under intense scholarly scru-
tiny and revision. In this brief but provocative study of House's profes-
sional and diplomatic relationship with Sir Edward Grey, the British
Foreign Secretary, Joyce Grigsby Williams describes a "minuet of ma-
nipulation" (p. 151) in which the Colonel was not the most adroit per-
former on the dance floor. Williams looks at House's mediation efforts
with the European belligerents in 1915, the House-Grey Memorandum
of 1916, and the sad events surrounding the League of Nations fight in
1919-1920 with a cool and critical eye. Her narrative is a welcome con-
tribution to the literature on "Invisible Presence House," as one Texas
newspaper called him.
Williams regards House as a victim on the world stage of his own
technique for political advancement in American domestic affairs. Un-
schooled in the subtleties of European diplomacy and impressed with
his own importance, House did as he had always done. He heard what
he wanted to hear from the Germans, French, and British in World War
I and became neither an accurate reporter of what was said to him nor
an effective spokesman for Woodrow Wilson's policies. "He was so in-
trigued with the part he played in creating the [House-Grey] Memoran-
dum that he did not see the futility of it," Williams concludes (p. 114).
Her account also suggests that Wilson himself did not always grasp the
issues with which he and House were dealing.
Colonel House and Sir Edward Grey indicates that it is past time to re-
appraise House's Texas career before 1912 in a detached and skeptical
way. Clearly he had influence and played a role in state affairs. As the
Colonel's habits of deceit, swollen ego, and tendency to be outwitted be-
come evident for the 1913-1919 years, it is reasonable to inquire if

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117151/. Accessed May 5, 2015.