From the point at which he first read the Commedia , at the age of twenty-four, William Gladstone was to consider Dante Alighieri one of the major influences in his life, on a par with Homer and St Augustine, and to identify himself strongly with the poet. Both were statesmen as well as scholars, for whom civic duty was more important than personal convenience. Both were serious theologians as well as simple spiritual pilgrims. Both idealised women. This book shows how Gladstone found in Dante an endorsement of his own beliefs as he negotiated a path through life. Isba traces the development of his enthusiasm against the background of a resurgent Italy in a new Europe, and in the context of the Victorian fashion for all things medieval. She also examines the parallels between the two men's attitudes to sex and religion in particular, and closes by analysing the quality of Gladstone's own writing on Dante (he was to become an internationally recognised Dante scholar).