John F. Kennedy's favorite book was Melbourne by David Cecil, the biography of William Lamb, Viscount Melbourne, who was prime minister of Great Britain for seven years, from 1834 to 1841, serving as the political mentor of Queen Victoria. The book was published in 1939 and this is part of Cecil's description of the young William Lamb:
"To be a thinker one must believe in the value of disinterested thought. William's education had destroyed his belief in this, along with all other absolute beliefs, and in doing so removed the motive force necessary to set his creative engery working. The spark that should have kindled his fire was unlit, with the result that he never felt moved to make the effort needed to discipline his intellectual process, to organize his sporadic reflections into a coherent system of thought. He had studied a great many subjects, but none thoroughly; his ideas were original, but they were fragmentary, scattered, unmatured. This lack of system meant further that he never overhauled his mind to set its contents in the light of a considered standard of value - so that the precious and the worthless jostled each other in its confused recesses; side by side with fresh and vivid thoughts lurked contradictions, commonplaces and relics of the conventional prejudices of this rank and station. Even his scepticism was not consistent; though he doubted the value of virtue, he never doubted the value of being a gentleman. Like so many aristocratic persons he was an amateur.
"His amateurishness was increased by his hedonism. For it led him to pursue his thought only in so far as the process was pleasant. He shirked intellectual drudgery. Besides, the life he lived was all too full of distracting delights. If he felt bored reading and cogitating, there was always a party for him to go to where he could be perfectly happy without having to make and effort. Such temptations were particularly hard to resist for a man brought up in the easygoing, disorderly atmosphere of Melbourne House, where no one was ever forced to be methodical or conscientious and where there was always something entertaining going one. If virtue was hard to acquire there, pleasure came all to easily."