Books: Prelude to Suicide

CLIVE OF PLASSEY —A. Mervyn Davies — Scribner ($3.75). Most people remember Robert, Lord Clive as a figure in Henty's With Clive In India. There was little else to read about him until last week A. Mervyn Davies, onetime British diplomat and author of Warren Hastings filled the gap with a solid, non-spark, thoroughly readable, 522-page biography, Clive of Plassey.

When Robert Clive reached Madras one nightfall in 1744 after a 15-month voyage from London, he found India a "battered caravanserai." Its warring kinglets misruled some 90 distinct peoples whose languages were Babel....

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