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The Life and Times of J. Neville Keynes

A Beacon in the Tempest

Phyllis Deane

This fascinating biography of an economist who was also a logician and administrator, is based mainly upon his virtually continuous diary. The diary provides an intimate commentary on the academic developments and conflicts in which he was closely involved as well as on his life as undergraduate, bachelor and family man.
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Chapter 1: Origins

Phyllis Deane


1 CARNATIONS, PICOTEES AND PINKS John Neville Keynes was born in 1852, one of only two children in a middleclass Salisbury family, whose forebears had settled in the town in the middle of the eighteenth century. His grandfather, also a John Keynes (1782–1852), had owned and managed a successful brush factory during the first half of the nineteenth century, but his father, another John Keynes (1805–78) chose a more colourful career. Apprenticed to the family brushmaking trade in his early teens, Neville’s father relieved the tedium of processing wood and hog bristles by growing and propagating garden flowers in his spare time. He was winning prizes at local flower shows when still in his twenties and before he had decided to create a business out of his hobby. By 1872 his national reputation as an innovative and successful floriculturalist was such that the leading English florists and horticulturalists came together, to celebrate his half century as a prizewinning exhibitor. So popular was he that his fellow gardeners hosted two banquets in his honour – one at the Crystal Palace (in August) and the other at a Fleet Street hotel (in November). At the well-publicized Crystal Palace event, John Keynes is reported to have told an appreciative audience of friends and business colleagues that, as a lad, ‘riding on the stage-coach from Salisbury to Andover, he saw in the coat of a fellow-passenger sitting opposite to him, a bloom of Butt’s Lord Rodney, a purple-flake carnation, of some note...

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