The Whigs were one of the two great English political parties in the 150 years after 1700, vastly influential whether in office or in opposition. Yet the Whigs were much more than simply a group of politicians. An exclusive set, composed of the greatest and wealthiest families, the Whig world was a self-contained and small one, impervious to outside criticism. With members such as Charles James Fox, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Lord Byron, its gambling, loose-living, drinking and wit was notorious. "The Whig World" is a portrait, of which politics forms only a small part, of an extraordinary group of men and women whose power, taste and intellect dominated the centre of what had become the greatest power in the world. Cosmopolitan, sceptical, urban, sophisticated, and promiscuous, the Whigs numbered many more brilliant conversationalists and controversialists amongst their number than the Bloomsbury Group.
Leslie Mitchell is Emeritus Fellow of University College, Oxford, and the author of Bulwer Lytton: The Rise and Fall of a Victorian Man of Letters.