Max Nicholson

Israel Sieff talks about Max

Extract from Israel Sieff: the Memoirs pp 191-2 (Weidenfeld, 1970)

Max Nicholson is the cleverest man I have ever met, and one of the most lovable. I may not be a good judge of which men are clever, and which men are not; but many men generally agreed to be clever have been introduced to me, usually in the hope that I might be able to assist them, and Max tops the lot. It was not a case of me being asked to assist him but of me hoping to be allowed to associate myself with his good works.

As for judgement of which man is lovable and which is not, I speak with an authority at least equal to that of any man. for me he has represented as nobody else quite has what I have always most admired; the application of the intellect to the everyday pressing affairs of men in a steady unsensational attempt to leave them better than they were before; service of one's fellows by planning, not by preaching; blueprinting a path to that progress, not preaching theoretical pie in the sky.

Max could fit my limited practical experience, my gleanings, my gropings into theoretical totalities which covered society as a whole. His mind was broad enough not only to see every practical social and economic problem in its complete world context, but to be able to construct viable solutions to them, and then plan patiently to bring them about. He could do it because there was everyday human wisdom in his widest calculation; this human element, not the ideal - in the planner's opinion - was the meat and drink which kept him going. If Max told me a thing could be done, I knew it could be done. However impossible of execution a project looked at any stage in the operation, I could lift my heart with "Max says it can be done". His verdicts never failed me.