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Title: Critical Miscellanies (Vol. 3 of 3) - Essay 7: W.R. Greg: A Sketch
Author: Morley, John, 1838-1923
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Critical Miscellanies (Vol. 3 of 3) - Essay 7: W.R. Greg: A Sketch" ***

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                      JOHN MORLEY

                       VOL. III.
               Essay 7: W.R. Greg: A Sketch

              MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited



       *       *       *       *       *


Characteristics                                                    213

Born at Manchester in 1809                                         215

Mathew Henry Greg                                                  217

Goes to the Edinburgh University in the winter of 1826-1827        220

Sir William Hamilton                                               221

Mother died, 1828                                                  224

The Apprentice House                                               225

De Tocqueville                                                     229

Goes abroad                                                        231

_Genius of the Nineteenth Century_                                 232

Starts in business on his own account at Bury, 1833                235

Marries the daughter of Dr. Henry in 1835                          236

Moves to the Lakes                                                 238

Sir George Cornewall Lewis                                         244

Offered a place on the Board of Customs, 1856                      244

Letter to James Spedding, May 24, 1856                             245

Marries again in 1874 the daughter of Mr. James Wilson             246

Death of his brother-in-law, Walter Bagehot (1877)                 247

Letter to Lady Derby                                               247

Died November 1881                                                 248

_Enigmas of Life_, 1875                                            252

Letter to Lord Grey, May 28, 1874                                  255

Conclusion                                                         256

       *       *       *       *       *


It is perhaps a little hard to undertake to write about the personality
of a thinker whose ideas one does not share, and whose reading of the
events and tendencies of our time was in most respects directly opposite
to one's own. But literature is neutral ground. Character is more than
opinion. Here we may forget the loud cries and sounding strokes, the
watchwords and the tactics of the tented field, and fraternise with the
adversary of the eve and the morrow in friendly curiosity and liberal
recognition. It fell to the present writer at one time to have one or
two bouts of public controversy with Mr. Greg. In these dialectics Mr.
Greg was never vehement and never pressed, but he was inclined to
be--or, at least, was felt by an opponent to be--dry, mordant, and
almost harsh. These disagreeable prepossessions were instantly
dissipated, as so often happens, by personal acquaintance. He had not
only the courtesy of the good type of the man of the world, but an air
of moral suavity, when one came near enough to him, that was infinitely
attractive and engaging. He was urbane, essentially modest, and readily
interested in ideas and subjects other than his own. There was in his
manner and address something of what the French call _liant_. When the
chances of residence made me his neighbour, an evening in his
drawing-room, or half an hour's talk in casual meetings in afternoon
walks on Wimbledon Common, was always a particularly agreeable incident.
Some men and women have the quality of atmosphere. The egotism of the
natural man is surrounded by an elastic medium. Mr. Greg was one of
these personalities with an atmosphere elastic, stimulating, elevating,
and yet composing. We do wrong to narrow our interests to those only of
our contemporaries who figure with great lustre and _éclat_ in the
world. Some of the quiet characters away from the centre of great
affairs are as well worth our attention as those who in high-heeled
cothurnus stalk across the foreground.

Mr. Greg, it is not necessary to say, has a serious reputation in the
literature of our time. In politics he was one of the best literary
representatives of the fastidious or pedantocratic school of government.
In economics he spoke the last word, and fell, sword in hand, in the
last trench, of the party of capitalist supremacy and industrial
tutelage. In the group of profound speculative questions that have come
up for popular discussion since the great yawning rents and fissures
have been made in the hypotheses of theology by the hypotheses of
science, he set a deep mark on many minds. 'We are in the sick foggy
dawn of a new era,' says one distinguished writer of our day, 'and no
one saw more clearly than W. R. Greg what the day that would follow was
likely to be.' To this I must humbly venture to demur; for there is no
true vision of the fortunes of human society without Hope, and without
Faith in the beneficent powers and processes of the Unseen Time. That
and no other is the mood in which our sight is most likely to pierce the
obscuring mists from which the new era begins to emerge. When we have
said so much as this, it remains as true as before that Mr. Greg's
faculty of disinterested speculation, his feeling for the problems of
life, and his distinction of character, all make it worth while to put
something about him on record, and to attempt to describe him as he was,
apart from the opaque influences of passing controversy and of
discussions that are rapidly losing their point.

Mr. Greg was born at Manchester in 1809. The family stock was Irish by
residence and settlement, though Scotch in origin. The family name was
half jocosely and half seriously believed to be the middle syllable of
the famous clan of Macgregor. William Rathbone Greg's grandfather was a
man of good position in the neighbourhood of Belfast, who sent two of
his sons to push their fortunes in England. The younger of the two was
adopted by an uncle, who carried on the business of a merchant at
Manchester. He had no children of his own. The boy was sent to Harrow,
where Dr. Samuel Parr was then an assistant master. When the post of
head master became vacant, Parr, though only five-and-twenty, entered
into a very vehement contest for the prize. He failed, and in a fit of
spleen set up an establishment of his own at Stanmore. Many persons, as
De Quincey tells us, of station and influence both lent him money and
gave him a sort of countenance equally useful to his interests by
placing their sons under his care. Among those who accompanied him from
Harrow was Samuel Greg. The lad was meant by his uncle to be a
clergyman, but this project he stoutly resisted. Instead of reading for
orders he travelled abroad, acquired foreign languages, and found out
something about the commercial affairs of the continent of Europe. His
uncle died in 1783, and the nephew took up the business. It was the date
of the American Peace. Samuel Greg was carried forward on the tide of
prosperity that poured over the country after that great event, and in a
moderate time he laid the foundation of a large and solid fortune. The
mighty industrial revolution that was begun by the inventions of
Arkwright was now in its first stage. Arkwright's earliest patent had
been taken out a few years before, and his factory in Derbyshire had by
this time proved a practical success. Instead of sharing the brutish
animosity of the manufacturers of Lancashire to the new processes that
were destined to turn their county into a mine of gold, Greg discerned
their immense importance. The vast prospects of manufacturing industry
grew upon his imagination. He looked about him in search of water-power
in the neighbourhood of Manchester, and at length found what he wanted a
dozen miles away at Wilmslow, over the Cheshire border. Here the stream
of the Bollen cuts through a flat and uninteresting table-land, and
forms a pretty valley of its own, as it winds between banks of red
sandstone. When the mill was built, and a house close to it, Quarry Bank
became the home of the family, and it was here that W. R. Greg passed
his childhood, youth, and early manhood.

His mother was fifth in descent from Philip Henry, one of the two
thousand uncompromising divines who were driven out from their benefices
on that Black Bartholomew's Day of 1662, which is still commemorated by
the severer Nonconformists of the old school. His son was the better
known Mathew Henry, whose famous commentary on the Bible has for more
than a century and a half been the favourite manual of devotional
reading in half the pious households all over England and the United
States. Something of the Puritan element was thus brought into the
family. In Ireland the Gregs belonged to the Presbyterians of the New
Light, and their doctrine allowed of a considerable relaxation in the
rigours of older orthodoxy. Many, again, of the Puritans of the North of
England had favoured the teachings of Priestley. The result of these two
streams of influence was that the Gregs of Manchester joined the
Unitarians. In this body W. R. Greg was brought up. His mother was a
woman of strongly marked character. She was cultivated, and had some
literary capacity of her own; she cared eagerly for the things of the
mind, both for herself and her children; and in spite of ill health and
abundant cares, she persisted in strenuous effort after a high
intellectual and moral standard. A little book of Maxims compiled by her
still remains; and she found time to write a couple of volumes of
_Practical Suggestions towards alleviating the Sufferings of the Sick_.
One volume is little more than a selection of religious extracts, not
likely to be more apt or useful to the sick than to the whole. The other
is a discreet and homely little manual of nursing, distinguished from
the common run of such books by its delicate consideration and wise
counsel for the peculiar mental susceptibilities of the invalid. The
collection of Maxims and Observations was designed to be 'an useful gift
to her children, gleaned from her own reading and reflection.' Though
not intended for publication, they found their way into a few congenial
circles, and one at least of those who were educated at Dr. Carpenter's
school at Bristol can remember these maxims being read aloud to the
boys, and the impression that their wisdom and morality made upon his
youthful mind. The literary value of the compilation is modest enough.
Along with some of the best of the sayings of Chesterfield, La
Rochefoucauld, Addison, and other famous masters of sentences, is much
that is nearer to the level of nursery commonplace. But then these
commonplaces are new truths to the young, and they are the unadorned,
unseen foundations on which character is built.

The home over which this excellent woman presided offered an ideal
picture of domestic felicity and worth. The grave simplicity of the
household, their intellectual ways, the absence of display and even of
knick-knacks, the pale blue walls, the unadorned furniture, the
well-filled bookcases, the portrait of George Washington over the
chimney-piece, all took people back to a taste that was formed on Mrs.
Barbauld and Dr. Channing. Stanley, afterwards Bishop of Norwich, and
father of the famous Dean of our own day, was rector of the adjoining
parish of Alderley. Catherine Stanley, his wife, has left a charming
memorial of the home of the Gregs.

  Have you ever been to Quarry Bank? It is such a
  picture of rational, happy life. Mr. Greg is quite a
  gentleman; his daughters have the delightful simplicity
  of people who are perfectly satisfied in their place, and
  never trying to get out of it. He is rich, and he
  spends just as people do not generally spend their money,
  keeping a sort of open house, without pretension. If he
  has more guests than the old butler can manage, he has
  his maid-servants in to wait. He seldom goes out, except
  on journeys, so that with the almost certainty of finding
  a family party at home, a large circle of connections, and
  literary people, and foreigners, and Scotch and Irish, are
  constantly dropping in, knowing they cannot come amiss.
  You may imagine how this sort of life makes the whole
  family sit loose to all the incumbrances and hindrances
  of society. They actually do not know what it is to be
  formal or dull: each with their separate pursuits and
  tastes, intelligent and well-informed.

Mrs. Fletcher, again, that beautiful type of feminine character alike as
maiden and mother, whose autobiography was given to the world a few
years ago, tells how the family at Quarry Bank struck and delighted her.
'We stayed a week with them,' she says, 'and admired the cultivation of
mind and refinement of manners which Mrs. Greg preserved in the midst of
a money-making and somewhat unpolished community of merchants and
manufacturers. Mr. Greg, too, was most gentlemanly and hospitable, and
surrounded by eleven clever and well-conducted children. I thought them
the happiest family group I had ever seen.'[1]

[Footnote 1: _Autobiography of Mrs. Fletcher_, p. 97. Edinburgh:
Edmonston and Douglas, 1876.]

Samuel Greg was one of thirteen children, and he in his turn became the
father of thirteen. W. R. Greg was the youngest of them. The brightness
and sweetness of his disposition procured for him even more than the
ordinary endearment of such a place in a large family. After the usual
amount of schooling, first at home under the auspices of an elder
sister, then at Leeds, and finally at Dr. Carpenter's at Bristol, in the
winter of 1826-1827 he went to the University of Edinburgh, and remained
there until the end of the session of 1828. He was a diligent student,
but we may suspect, from the turn of his pursuits on leaving the
university, that his mind worked most readily out of the academic
groove. After the manner of most young men with an aptitude for
literature, he competed for a prize poem in John Wilson's class, but he
did not win. When he was in low spirits--a mood so much more common in
early manhood than we usually remember afterwards--he drove them away by
energetic bursts of work. On one occasion, he says, 'When I was so bad
that I thought I should have gone distracted, I shut myself up, and for
three days studied all the most abstruse works that I could find on the
origin of government and society, such as Godwin, Goguet, Rousseau, _et
cætera_, from seven in the morning till twelve at night, which quite
set me up again.' 'Natural history,' at another time he tells his
sister, 'is my principal pursuit at present, and from half-past six in
the morning to twelve at night I am incessantly at work, with the
exception of about two hours for exercise, and two more for meals.'

Sir William Hamilton was the chief intellectual influence in Edinburgh
at this time, and Greg followed his lectures with lively interest. He
was still more attracted by the controversy that then raged in Edinburgh
and elsewhere on the value of Phrenology and Animal Magnetism. Hamilton,
as all students of contemporary philosophy are aware, denounced the
pretensions of Phrenology with curious vehemence and asperity. It was
the only doctrine, his friends said, that he could not even tolerate. On
Animal Magnetism he held a very different opinion, and he wrote to Greg
encouraging his enthusiasm in that direction. 'There has always,' he
said, 'seemed to me a foundation of truth in the science, however
overlaid with a superstructure of credulity and enthusiasm.... I foresee
as great a clamour in favour of the science as there is at present a
contempt and prejudice against it, and both equally absurd.'

It was in this field, and not in literature or philosophy, that Greg's
interests were most actively aroused during his university career. When
his life as a student came to an end, he returned home with his whole
faculties of curiosity and enthusiasm concentrated upon natural history,
phrenology, and animal magnetism. 'I have a canine appetite for natural
history,' he told his brother in 1828. He describes with all the zeal of
a clever youth of nineteen how busily he is employed in macerating
skulls, dissecting unsavoury creatures before breakfast, watching the
ants reduce a viper to a skeleton for him, and striving with all his
might to get a perfect collection of animal and human skulls. All this,
however, was rather an accidental outbreak of exuberant intellectual
activity than serious and well-directed study. He was full of the vague
and morbid aspirations of youth.

  As for me [he writes to his elder brother], I am pining
  after change, I am thirsting for excitement. When I
  compare what I might be with what I shall be, what I
  might do with what I shall do, I am ready to curse myself
  with vexation. 'Why had I, who am so low, a taste
  so high?' I know you are rather of a more peaceful
  and quiet temper of mind than I, but I am much mistaken,
  if you have not much of the same desire for some
  kind of life more suited to man's lofty passions and his
  glorious destiny. How can one bear to know how much
  is to be seen and learned, and yet sit down content without
  ransacking every corner of the earth for knowledge
  and wonder and beauty? And after all, what is picking
  a few skulls (the occupation which gives me the greatest
  pleasure now), when compared with gaining an intimate
  and practical acquaintance with all the varieties of man,
  all the varying phases of his character, all the peculiarities
  of his ever-changing situations?'[2]

[Footnote 2: August 28, 1828]

We may smile at the youthful rhetoric, as the writer proceeds to
describe how shameful it would be to remain inactive in the sight of
exertion, to be satisfied with ignorance when in full view of the temple
of knowledge, and so forth. But it is the language of a generous ardour
for pure aims, and not the commoner ambition for the glittering prizes
of life. This disinterested preference remained with Greg from the
beginning to the end.

William Greg's truest delight at this time lay in his affectionate and
happy intercourse with his brother Samuel. There were three elder
brothers. One of them died comparatively young, but Robert and John were
eminently successful in the affairs of life; the former of them
represented Manchester; they both lived to be octogenarians, and both
left behind them the beneficent traces of long years of intelligent and
conscientious achievement. In Samuel Greg an interesting, clear, and
earnest intelligence was united to the finest natural piety of
character. Enough remains to show the impression that Samuel Greg made
even on those who were not bound to him by the ties of domestic
affection. The posthumous memorials of him disclose a nature moulded of
no common clay; and when he was gone, even accomplished men of the world
and scholars could not recall without emotion his bright and ardent
spirit, his forbearance, his humility.[3] The two brothers, says one who
knew them, were 'now both of them fresh from college: their interest was
alike keen in a great variety of subjects--poetry, philosophy, science,
politics, social questions. About these the two brothers were never
tired of talking together. They would pace up and down all the evening
under the stars, and late into the night, discussing things in heaven
and earth with a keen zest that seemed inexhaustible. Their appetite for
knowledge was insatiable, and their outlook over the rich life that was
opening before them was full of hope and promise.'

[Footnote 3: See the little volume entitled _A Layman's Legacy_;
published in 1877 (Macmillan and Co.), with a prefatory letter by the
late Dean of Westminster.]

The energetic and high-minded mother of the house died at the end of
1828, and the tenderness and skill of her youngest son in the sickroom
surpassed the devotion of women. In the following year he went to manage
one of his father's mills at Bury, where he went to reside. The Gregs
had always been distinguished for their efforts to humanise the
semi-barbarous population that the extraordinary development of the
cotton industry was then attracting to Lancashire. At Quarry Bank the
sedulous cultivation of their own minds had always been subordinate to
the constant and multifarious demands of their duties towards their
workpeople. One of the curious features of that not very distant time
was the Apprentice House. The employer procured children from the
workhouse and undertook the entire charge of them. The Gregs usually had
a hundred boys and girls between the ages of ten and twenty-one in their
apprentice house, and the care of them was one of the main occupations
of the family. They came from the refuse of the towns, yet the harmony
of wise and gentle rule for the young, along with dutifully adjusted
demand and compliance between the older hands and their employers, ended
in the transformation of the thin, starved, half-dazed creatures who
entered the gates of the factory into the best type of workpeople to be
found in the district. The genial side of the patriarchal system was
seen at its best. There is a touch of grace about the picture of the
pleasant house with its old beech-trees and its steep grassy lawns
sloping to the river, with the rhythmic hum of the mill, the loud
factory bell marking the hours like the voice of time itself, the
workers pouring through the garden in the summer morning on their way to
Wilmslow church, and receiving flowers and friendly salutation from the
group at the open door of the great house. It was little wonder that
these recollections acquired a fascination for William Greg that never
passed away, and gave that characteristic form to his social ideas which
they never lost.

At Bury and at Quarry Bank the two brothers were unresting in their
efforts both to acquire knowledge for themselves and to communicate it
to their neighbours. They delivered courses of lectures, and took
boundless trouble to make them interesting and instructive. In these
lectures William Greg took what opportunities he could find to enforce
moral and religious sentiment. 'I lay it down,' he said, 'as an
indubitable fact that religion has double the effect on Saturday that it
has on Sunday; and weekday morality, incidentally introduced, meets with
far more attention than the tautology of Sabbath subjects, treated in
the style in which they generally are by professed teachers.' A more
questionable diligence displayed itself in the zealous practice of
experiments in animal magnetism and mesmerism. With a faith that might
have moved mountains the two brothers laid their hands upon all sorts of
sick folk, and they believed themselves to have wrought many cures and
wonders. William Greg described animal magnetism as a 'discovery bearing
more immediately and extensively on the physical happiness of the world
than any which the last three centuries have witnessed.' The cowardice
of doctors and others, who believed but were afraid to speak, stirred
all the generous fire of youth. 'Here, of itself,' he cries out to his
sister (September 4, 1829), 'is a bitter satire upon human nature, and a
sufficient answer to all who moralise on the impropriety of flying in
the face of received opinions and public prejudice. I assure you it is a
knowledge of how often the ridicule and contempt of the world has
crushed truth in the embryo or stifled it in the cradle, which makes me
so eager to examine and support those opinions which mankind generally
condemn as visionary and irrational.' In later times these interests
became a bond between W. R. Greg and Miss Martineau. He finally let the
subject drop, with the conviction that years of practice had brought it
no farther on its way either to scientific rank or to practical
fruitfulness. The time would have been better spent in severer studies,
though these were not absent. From Green Bank he writes to his sister in

  Sam and I are at present engaged in some calculations
  on population, which have brought us to a very curious,
  beautiful, and important conclusion hitherto overlooked
  by all writers on the subject whom I have consulted, and
  which threatens to invalidate a considerable part of
  Malthus's theory. It respects the increase or diminution
  of fecundity; but I will write you more fully when we have
  quite established our facts. I have just finished a number
  of very tedious tables, all of which confirm our conclusions
  in a manner I had not ventured to anticipate....

  I am now (September 3, 1830) very busy reading
  and arranging and meditating for my lectures on history,
  which will be ten times the labour of my last; also
  collecting from all history and all science every fact, or
  principle, or opinion, or admission, or event, which can
  in any way bear upon magnetism, or suggest any argument
  for its correctness, whereby I have amassed a
  profusion of ancient and modern learning, which I think
  will astonish the natives when I bring it forward.

  My other occupations at present are reading through
  the best authors and orators of our country--to get a
  perfect command of language and style--as Hooker,
  Taylor, Burke, Canning, Erskine, Fox, etc., after which
  I shall take to French literature, and make myself as
  well acquainted with Voltaire, Molière, Bossuet, Massillon,
  Fléchier, and Condorcet, as I am with Mme. de Staël
  and Rousseau and Montesquieu and Volney. This will
  be work enough for another year; and what fit may
  then come upon me, it is impossible to see. My views
  on population are confirmed by every fresh calculation
  I see, and Sadler's new work affords me the means of
  controverting his theory and establishing my own. The
  moral, physical, and political influence of manufactures
  and Poor Laws I must next examine.

A little later he writes:--

  Everything bears indications of some approaching
  struggle between the higher and lower classes, and the
  guilt of it, if it does come, will lie at the door of those
  who, by their inflammatory speeches, public and private,
  and by their constant and monotonous complaints, have
  raised among the people a universal spirit of rebellion
  and disaffection to everything and everybody whom
  Nature has ordained to rule over them. We are all
  waiting in some alarm and much indignation for the
  result, and in the meantime (_entre nous_) I have written
  a small pamphlet, addressed to the higher classes on the
  present state of public feeling among the lower, urging
  them to moderate and direct it if they can. But sooner
  than the present state of things should continue, I would
  adopt any principles, conceiving it to be the duty of all
  men, as Burke says, 'so to be patriots as not to forget
  that we are gentlemen, to mould our principles to our
  duties and our situations, and to be convinced that all
  (public) virtue which is impracticable is spurious.' I
  write to induce the people to leave politics to wiser
  heads, to consent to learn and not endeavour to direct
  or teach.

We here see that before he was one-and-twenty years old, Greg was
possessed by the conception that haunted him to the very end. When the
people complain, their complaint savours of rebellion. Those who make
themselves the mouthpieces of popular complaint must be wicked
incendiaries. The privileged classes must be ordained by Nature to rule
over the non-privileged. The few ought to direct and teach, the many to
learn. That was Greg's theory of government from first to last. It was
derived at this time, I suppose, from Burke, without the powerful
correctives and indispensable supplements that are to be found in
Burke's earlier writings. Some one said of De Tocqueville, who
afterwards became Mr. Greg's friend, and who showed in a milder form the
same fear of democracy, 'Il a commencé à penser avant d'avoir rien
appris; ce qui fait qu'il a quelquefois pensé creux.' What is to be said
for Mr. Greg, now and always, is that he most honourably accepted the
obligations of his doctrine, and did his best to discharge his own
duties as a member of the directing class.

He did not escape moods of reaction. The truth seems to be, that though
his life was always well filled, he inherited rather the easy and
buoyant disposition of his father than the energy and strenuousness of
his mother, though he too could be energetic and strenuous enough upon
occasion. Both William Greg and his favourite brother were of what is
called, with doubtful fitness, the feminine temperament. It was much
less true of William than of Samuel Greg; but it was in some degree true
of him also that, though firm, tenacious, and infinitely patient, 'he
rather lacked that harder and tougher fibre, both of mind and frame,
which makes the battle of life so easy and so successful to many men.'
It may be suspected in both cases that their excessive and prolonged
devotion to the practice of mesmerism and animal magnetism had tended to
relax rather than to brace the natural fibre. Samuel Greg broke down at
a comparatively early age; and though his brother's more vigorous system
showed no evil results for many long years to come, there was a severe
reaction from the nervous tension of their mesmeric experimentation.

Those who trace despondent speculations of the mind to depressed or
morbid conditions of body will find some support for their thesis in Mr.
Greg's case. When he was only one-and-twenty he writes to his sister
(December 2, 1830):--

  I am again attacked with one of those fits of melancholy
  indifference to everything, and total incapacity for exertion,
  to which I am so often subject, and which are indeed the
  chronic malady of my existence. They sometimes last
  for many weeks, and during their continuance I do not
  believe, among those whose external circumstances are
  comfortable, there exists any one more thoroughly miserable....
  For nearly four years these fits of melancholy
  and depression have been my periodical torment, and as
  yet I have found no remedy against them, except strong
  stimulants or the society of intimate friends, and even
  these are only temporary, and the latter seldom within
  my reach, and the former I abstain from partly on principle,
  but more from a fear of consequences. Every one
  has a thorn in the flesh, and this is mine; but I am
  egotistical, if not selfish, in inflicting it upon others. I
  begin to think I have mistaken my way both to my own
  happiness and the affections of others. My strongest
  passion has always been the desire to be loved--as the
  French call it, 'le besoin d'être aimé.' It is the great
  wish, want, desire, necessity, desideratum of my life, the
  source through which I expect happiness to flow to me,
  the ultimate aim and object which has led me on in all
  the little I have done, and the much that I have tried
  to do.

From these broodings the young man was rescued by a year of travel. It
was one of the elements in the domestic scheme of education that the
university should be followed by a year abroad, and in William Greg's
case it had been postponed for a season by the exigences of business and
the factory at Bury. He went first through France and Switzerland to
Italy. At Florence he steeped himself in Italian, and read Beccaria and
Machiavelli; but he had no dæmonic passion (like Macaulay's) for
literature. 'Italian,' he said, 'is a wonderfully poor literature in
everything but poetry, and the poets I am not up to, and I do not think
that I shall take the trouble to study them.' When he reached that city
which usually excites a traveller as no other city on earth can excite
him, dyspepsia, neuralgia, and vapours plunged him into bad spirits, and
prevented him from enjoying either Rome or his books. The sights of Rome
were very different fifty years ago from those that instruct and
fascinate us to-day. Except the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and a few
pillars covered thick with the filth of the modern city, the traveller
found the ancient Rome an undistinguishable heap of bricks. Still, when
we reflect on the profound and undying impression that Rome even then
had made on such men as Goethe, or Winckelmann, or Byron, the
shortcoming must have been partly in the traveller. In truth, Mr. Greg
was not readily stirred either by Goethe's high artistic sense, or by
Byron's romantic sense of the vast pathos of Rome.

  I pass my time here [he says] with extreme regularity
  and quietness, not knowing, even to speak to, a single
  individual in Rome; and the direction to my valet when
  I start on my perambulations, 'al Campidoglio,' 'al Foro,'
  forms the largest part of my daily utterances.... In a
  fit of desperation I took to writing a kind of political
  philosophy, in default of my poetical aim, which is quite
  gone from me. It is a setting forth of the peculiar political
  and religious features of the age, wherein it differs
  from all preceding ones, and is entitled the _Genius of the
  Nineteenth Century_. I do not know if I shall ever finish
  it; but if I could write it as I have imagined it, it will
  at least be entitled to come under Mr. Godwin's definition
  of eloquence. That gentleman being in a company of
  literati, who were comparing their notions of what eloquence
  could be defined to consist in, when his opinion
  was asked replied, 'Eloquence is truth spoken with fervour.'
  I am going on with it, though slowly, and fill up the rest
  of my leisure time with Dante and Machiavelli (with
  which last author I am delighted) in the morning, and
  with Boccaccio and our English poets in the evening.
  Sight-seeing does not occupy much of my time.[4]

[Footnote 4: November 30, 1831.]

From Rome Mr. Greg and a companion went to Naples, and from Naples they
made their way to Sicily. I have said that Mr. Greg had not Byron's
historic sense; still this was the Byronic era, and no one felt its
influence more fervently. From youth to the end of his life, through
good and evil repute, Mr. Greg maintained Byron's supremacy among poets
of the modern time. It was no wonder, then, that he should write home to
his friends,--'I am tired of civilised Europe, and I want to see a
_wild_ country if I can.' Accordingly at Naples he made up his mind to
undertake what would be a very adventurous tour even in our day,
travelling through Greece and Asia Minor to Constantinople, and thence
northwards through Hungary to Vienna. This wild and hazardous part of
his tour gave him a refreshment and pleasure that he had not found in
Swiss landscapes or Italian cities, and he enjoyed the excitement of the
'wild countries' as thoroughly as he had expected. On his return to
England he published anonymously an account of what he had seen in
Greece and Turkey, in a volume which, if occasionally florid and
imaginative, is still a lively and copious piece of description. It is
even now worth turning to for a picture of the ruin and distraction of
Greece after the final expulsion of the Turk.[5]

[Footnote 5: _Sketches in Greece and Turkey, with the Present Condition
and Future Prospects of the Turkish Empire_. London: Ridgway, 1833.]

On his return he found the country in the throes of the great election
after the Reform Bill. Perhaps his experiences of the sovereign Demos on
that occasion helped to colour his opinions on popular government

  _December 5, 1832_.--On Tuesday we nominated--there
  was a fearful crowd of 10,000 ruffians, Grundy's friends
  from the country. A tremendous uproar. I seconded
  Mr. Walker's nomination, but was received with yells and
  groans, owing chiefly to the prosecution which I have
  instituted against the other candidate and four of his
  supporters for intimidation of voters. The ruffians roared
  at me like so many bulls of Bashan, and shook their fists
  at me, whereupon I bowed profoundly; and, finding it
  impossible to obtain a hearing, I turned to the opposite
  candidate and his immediate supporters on the hustings
  and spoke to them. When we concluded, the uproar was
  fearful. I was warned to escape as I could, which I did,
  amid groans and hisses, but no violence. The next
  morning we started polling. I had the honour of giving
  the first vote, and at four o'clock the poll was decided in
  our favour--Walker, 301; Grundy, 151. The next day
  I returned from Manchester, and had not been in the mill
  two hours before I was summoned to assist in quelling a
  riot. I rode down immediately with three other gentlemen
  and a magistrate to the scene of faction. We found plenty
  of broken windows and heads, but no one killed. Here
  were two parties of such bludgeon men as I never before
  witnessed, evidently bent on mischief. We read the Riot
  Act--sent for the military and the Haslams! I rode
  among the ruffians. They were in a state of extreme
  exasperation, especially against me, but listened to my
  exhortations, and after shaking their bludgeons at me,
  came at last to shake hands. About dusk I received
  several hints to take care of myself, so rode back to Green
  Bank, and lay with my blunderbuss and sword, ready to
  give entertainment to any visitor.

It is little wonder that in a man of his literary temperament and
predispositions a strong reaction followed close behind these energetic

  Do you know [he writes, December 29], I am sick of
  public life. I mean sicker than ever. The reward, or
  rather success, is so very inadequate to the sacrifice; and
  the exertion, and the injury to one's character, mentally,
  morally, and religiously, is so great, and one's real happiness
  suffers yet more. My love for retirement and the
  country, scientific studies, and calm, quiet, and refreshing
  society, such as the country only can afford, which has
  always been a sort of passion, is now urging me more
  strongly and imperiously than ever, to weigh conflicting
  interests and tastes, and to hold fast that which is good.
  And is it not far better to retire in the full vigour of life,
  when the energy of application is still unimpaired, and can
  be usefully directed?

In 1833 Mr. Greg started in business on his own account at Bury. He
inherited his father's mechanical taste, and took a lively interest in
the improvements that were constantly being made in those years in the
wonderful machinery of the cotton manufacture. With his workpeople his
relations were the most friendly, and he was as active as he had ever
been before in trying to better their condition. A wider field was open
for his philanthropic energies. Lancashire was then the scene of
diligent social efforts of all kinds. Mr. Greg was an energetic member
of the circle at Manchester (Richard Cobden was another) which at this
time pushed on educational, sanitary, and political improvements all
over that important district. He fully shared the new spirit of
independence and self-assertion that began to animate the commercial and
manufacturing classes in the north of England at the time of the Reform
Bill. It took a still more definite and resolute shape in the great
struggle ten years later for the repeal of the Corn Laws. 'It is among
these classes,' he said, in a speech in 1841, 'that the onward movements
of society have generally had their origin. It is among them that new
discoveries in political and moral science have invariably found the
readiest acceptance; and the cause of Peace, Civilisation, and sound
National Morality has been more indebted to their humble but
enterprising labours, than to the measures of the most sagacious
statesman, or the teachings of the wisest moralist.'

In 1835 Mr. Greg married the daughter of Dr. Henry, an eminent physician
in Manchester, and honourably known to the wider world of science by
contributions to the chemistry of gases that were in their day both
ingenious and useful. Two years after his marriage he offered himself as
a candidate for the parliamentary representation of Lancaster. He was
much too scrupulous for that exceedingly disreputable borough, and was
beaten by a great majority. In 1841 the health of his wife made it
desirable to seek a purer air than that of the factory district, and in
the spring of 1842 they settled in a charming spot at the foot of
Wansfell--the hill that rises to the southeast above Ambleside, and was
sung by Wordsworth in one of his latest sonnets:--

    Wansfell! this household has a favoured lot,
    Living with liberty on thee to gaze,
    To watch while morn first crowns thee with her rays:
    Or when along thy breast securely float
    Evening's angelic clouds....
                             When we are gone
    From every object dear to mortal sight,
    As soon we shall be, may these words attest
    How oft, to elevate our spirits, shone
    Thy visionary majesties of light,
    How in thy pensive glooms our hearts found rest.

Such a step had long been in his mind. From Naples when on the threshold
of active life, he had written (February 6, 1832):--

  I am becoming more and more anxious to realise a
  competence speedily, every time I look to the future, and
  reflect on the true objects of life, and the likeliest means
  of procuring them. I am desirous to be able to realise
  the projects I have formed before the age of feeling and
  acting be past, and before the energy of youth has been
  evaporated by long repression. Life and talents and
  desires were not given me to be wasted in a situation
  where the power of doing good is at best very limited,
  and where that of acquiring the higher kinds of knowledge
  and enjoying the best gifts of life is still more

The nearer prospect of the world of business and actual contact with it
made no change in the perpetual refrain.

  I wonder [he writes, May 15, 1833] how long philosophy
  or indecision will induce to continue the dog's life I am
  leading here. I never open a book, but shun them as if
  they were poison, rise at half-past five o'clock, go to bed
  at ten, and toil like a galley slave all day, willy, nilly.
  Man labours for the meat which perisheth, and the food
  which satisfieth not.

The move to the Lakes, though it enriched his lite with many delicious
hours, and gave him leisure for thought and composition, yet seems to
have led directly to commercial difficulties. At first he spent
alternate weeks at Bury and at Wansfell, and for a little time he even
removed to Macclesfield. But business fell by insensible degrees into
the second place. Mr. Greg's temperament, moreover, was too sanguine in
practical affairs, as Cobden's was; and we might almost gather from his
writings that he had not that faculty of sustained attention to details
which is the pith and marrow of success in such a business as his. At
last the crash came in 1850. Three years before this the health of his
brother Samuel had broken down, and William Greg added the management of
his affairs to his own. The strain was too great, and a long struggle
ended in defeat. Both mills were closed, and the forty thousand pounds
of capital with which Mr. Greg had begun business were almost entirely
swept away. At the age of forty-one he was called upon to begin life
afresh. The elasticity of his mind proved equal to all the demands upon
it, and they were severe. The illness of his wife cast the shadow of a
terrible cloud over his house, and for long periods it was deprived of a
mother, and he of a companion. Yet amid these sore anxieties and heavy
depressions he never lost either his fortitude or, what is much rarer
than fortitude, that delicate and watchful consideration for others
which is one of the most endearing of human characteristics. When he was
twenty years younger, he had written of himself to one of his sisters
(January 14, 1830):--

  Nature never cut me out for a happy man, for my
  mind is so constituted as to create difficulties and sorrows
  where I do not find them, and to strive with and overcome
  them when I meet them. I am never so happy as
  in times of difficulty and danger and excitement, and I
  am afraid my line of life will furnish me with but few of
  these times, so that I shall remain in the ground like the
  seed of a strong plant, which has never found the soil or
  the atmosphere necessary for its germination.

The judgment was not an unjust one, and the apprehension that life would
bring too few difficulties was superfluous, as most of us find it to be.
When the difficulties came, he confronted them with patient stoicism.
His passionate love of natural beauty was solace and nourishment to him
during the fifteen years of his sojourn in that taking, happy region of
silver lake and green mountain slope. He had many congenial neighbours.
Of Wordsworth he saw little. The poet was, in external manner and habit,
too much of the peasant for Greg's intellectual fastidiousness. He
called on one occasion at Rydal Mount, and Wordsworth, who had been
regravelling his little garden-walks, would talk of nothing but gravel,
its various qualities, and their respective virtues. The fine and subtle
understanding of Hartley Coleridge, his lively fancy, his literature,
his easy play of mind, made him a more sympathetic companion for a man
of letters than his great neighbour. Of him Mr. Greg saw a good deal
until his death in 1849.[6] Southey was still lingering at Greta Hall;
but it was death in life. He cherished and fondled the books in his
beloved library as if they had been children, and moved mechanically to
and fro in that mournful 'dream from which the sufferer can neither wake
nor be awakened.' Southey's example might, perhaps, have been a warning
to the new-comer how difficult it is to preserve a clear, healthy, and
serviceable faculty of thinking about public affairs, without close and
constant contact with those who are taking the lead in them.[7] There
was a lesson for the Cassandra of a later day in the picture of Southey
when Mrs. Fletcher took tea with him in 1833.

[Footnote 6: Hartley Coleridge must, in Mr. Greg's case, have overcome
one of his prepossessions. 'I don't like cotton manufacturers much, nor
merchants over much. Cobden seems to be a good kind of fellow, but I
wish he were not a cotton-spinner. I rather respect him. I'm always on
the side of the poor.']

[Footnote 7: I do not forget the interesting passage in Mill's
_Autobiography_ (pp. 262, 263), where he contends that 'by means of the
regular receipt of newspapers and periodicals, a political writer, who
lives many hundreds of miles from the chief seat of the politics of his
country, is kept _au courant_ of even the most temporary politics, and
is able to acquire a more correct view of the state and progress of
opinion than he could acquire by personal contact with individuals.']

  I never saw any one [she said] whose mind was in so
  morbid a state as that of this excellent poet and amiable
  man on the subject of the present political aspect of
  affairs in England. He is utterly desponding. He believes
  the downfall of the Church and the subversion of all law
  and government is at hand; for in spite of all our
  endeavours to steer clear of politics, he slid unconsciously
  into the subject, and proclaimed his belief that the ruin
  of all that was sacred and venerable was impending.[8]

[Footnote 8: _Autobiography_, p. 214.]

The condition, say of Bury, in Lancashire, at that time, contrasted with
its condition to-day, is the adequate answer to these dreary

One resident of the Lake District was as energetic and hopeful as
Southey was despondent. This was Harriet Martineau, whom Mr. Greg first
introduced to the captivating beauty of Westmoreland, and whom he
induced in 1850 to settle there. Other friends--the Speddings, the
Arnolds at Fox How, the Davys at Ambleside, the Fletchers at
Lancrigg--formed a delightful circle, all within tolerably easy reach,
and affording a haven of kind and nourishing companionship. But, for a
thinker upon the practical aspects of political and social science, it
was all too far from--

    Labour in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar.

For during these years Mr. Greg did not handle merely the abstract
principles of politics and sociology. A very scanty livelihood would
have come by that way. He discussed the men, measures, and events of the
day; and most of what strikes one as unsatisfactory in the discussion is
probably due to a want of that close observation of facts which was
hardly possible to a student on the shores of Windermere. On the other
hand, it is still more certain that it was in these meditative scenes
that the germs were ripened of those grave, ingenious, and affecting
speculations which afterwards came to their full growth in the _Enigmas
of Life_--to most of us by so much the most interesting of all its
author's performances. His note-book shows that the thoughts that are
suggested in this short but important volume were springing up in his
mind for years, and that it touches the problems that were most
constantly present to him in his best moments. It was during his
residence at Windermere that he worked out and published (1851) his
memorable book on the _Creed of Christendom_. It is enough here to
remind ourselves how serious a place is held by that work in the
dissolvent literature of the generation. The present writer was at
Oxford in the last three years of the decade in which it appeared, and
can well recall the share that it had, along with Mansel's _Bampton
Lectures_ and other books on both sides, in shaking the fabric of early
beliefs in some of the most active minds then in the University. The
landmarks have so shifted within the last twenty years that the _Creed
of Christendom_ is now comparatively orthodox. But in those days it was
a remarkable proof of intellectual courage and independence to venture
on introducing to the English public the best results of German
theological criticism, with fresh applications from an original mind.
Since then the floods have broken loose. One may add that Mr. Greg's
speculations show, as Hume and smaller men than Hume had shown before,
how easily scepticism in theology allies itself with the fastidious and
aristocratic sentiment in politics.

As was to be expected under the circumstances, much of Mr. Greg's time
was given to merely fugitive articles on books or groups of passing
events. Even the slightest of them, so far as they are known to me, show
conscience and work. In 1852, for example, he wrote no less than twelve
articles for the four leading quarterlies of that date. They were, with
one exception, all on political or economical subjects. 'Highland
Destitution,' and 'Irish Emigration,' 'Investments for the Working
Classes,' 'The Modern Exodus;'--these were not themes to be dealt with
by the facile journalist, standing on one foot. Mr. Greg always showed
the highest conception of the functions and the obligations of the
writer who addresses the public, in however ephemeral a form, on topics
of social importance. No article of his ever showed a trace either of
slipshod writing or of make-believe and perfunctory thinking. To compose
between four and five hundred pages like these, on a variety of grave
subjects, all needing to be carefully prepared and systematically
thought out, was no inconsiderable piece of work for a single pen. The
strain was severe, for there was insufficient stimulus from outside, and
insufficient refreshment within his own home. Long days of study were
followed by solitary evening walks on the heights, or lonely sailing on
the lake. In time, visits to London became more frequent, and he got
closer to the world. Once a year he went to Paris, and he paid more than
one visit to De Tocqueville at his home in Normandy. I remember that he
told me once how surprised and disappointed he was by the indifference
of public men, even the giants like Peel, to anything like general views
and abstract principles of politics or society. They listened to such
views with reasonable interest, but only as matters lying quite apart
from their own business in the world. The statesman who pleased him
best, and with whom he found most common ground, was Sir George
Cornewall Lewis.

Like most men of letters who happen to be blessed or cursed with a
prudential conscience, Mr. Greg was haunted by the uncertainty of his
vocation. He dreaded, as he expressed it, 'to depend on so precarious a
thing as a brain always in thinking order.' In every other profession
there is much that can be done by deputy, or that does itself, or is
little more than routine and the mechanical. In letters alone, if the
brain be not in working order, all is lost. In 1856 Sir Cornewall Lewis,
who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, offered Greg a place on the
Board of Customs, and he accepted it. Yet, as he said, he did so 'with
some loathing and great misgiving.' Five years earlier he would have
entered upon it with eagerness, but in five years he was conscious of
having made 'sad progress in that philosophy whose root is idleness,
indulged freedom, and increasing years.' To James Spedding he wrote on
the 24th of May 1856:--

  My position every one but myself seems to think
  most enviable. _I_ contrast Lower Thames Street with The
  Craig, and my heart sinks into my shoes. The attendance
  is onerous; the actual work is not. It seems to be
  a place wherein a man may grow old comfortably. There
  is a good salary (nominally £1200), and a liberal retiring
  allowance when you are worked out. A board every
  day--except for two months' holiday, varied only by
  occasional tours of inspection--sounds horrible slavery
  to a man accustomed to wander at his own free will;
  and finally, at my time of my life, I have an indefinable
  dislike to anything involving a total change of life and
  habits. _En revanche_, I have a provision for old age and
  for my family, and shall be almost as glad to be spared
  the necessity of writing for bread--for butter at least--as
  sorry to be tied out from scribbling when and where
  the spirit moves me.

  My last quarter's labours are an article on America
  in the _National_, and on Montalembert in the _Edinburgh_,
  and one on Macaulay in the _North Briton_, of which I am
  not proud. Froude's History I have not yet seen. I hope
  now, as I write less, I shall have more time for reading.
  It seems to be somewhat paradoxical. By the way, is
  not Carlyle sadly gone off? I met him the other day,
  and he did nothing but blaspheme, and pour out a torrent
  of bad language against blackguards, fools, and devils
  that was appalling to listen to.

On the whole, when the time came, his new employment brought him
moderate interests of its own. What may be called the literary part of
the work, such as the drawing up of reports, naturally fell into his
hands. The necessity of working with other people, which does not always
come easily to men accustomed to the isolation and independence of their
own libraries, he found an agreeable novelty. Still he was not sorry
when, at the end of 1864, the chance came to him of a move to the
Stationery Office. Here he was the head of a department, and not merely
a member of a Board, and the regulation of his hours fell more into his
own hands.

From the time when he came to London, until his death five and twenty
years later (November 1881), his life was for the most part without any
incident in which the world can have an interest. He formed many
acquaintances according to the cheerful and hospitable fashion of
London, and he made a number of warm and attached friends. In 1873 his
wife died. In the following year he married a daughter of Mr. James
Wilson, well known as the fellow-worker of Cobden and Bright in the
agitation against the Corn Laws, and as Finance Minister in India, where
he sank under the cares of his office in 1860. Mr. Wilson had been
Greg's intimate friend from the days of the League down to the time of
his death. When by and by Mr. Greg retired from his post as Controller
(1877), he wrote:--

  For myself, since I gave up office, I feel comparatively
  and indeed positively in haven and peace, and with
  much and rather unusual brightness and sunshine round
  me, and with my interest in the world, both speculative
  and practical, quite undiminished, and finding old age on
  the whole cheerful and quiet, and the position of a _spectator_
  by no means an unenviable one.

This was his attitude to the end. A heavy shock fell upon him in the
death of his brother-in-law, Walter Bagehot (1877), that brilliant
original, well known to so many of us, who saw events and books and men
with so curious an eye.

  He was quite a unique man [Mr. Greg wrote to Lady
  Derby], as irreplaceable in private life as he is universally
  felt to be in public. He had the soundest head I ever
  knew since Cornewall Lewis left us, curiously original,
  yet without the faintest taint of crotchetiness, or prejudice,
  or passion, which so generally mars originality. Then
  he was high-minded, and a gentleman to the backbone; the
  man of all I knew, both mentally and morally, best _worth
  talking things over with_; and I was besides deeply attached
  to him personally. We had been intimates and _collaborateurs_
  in many lines for twenty-five years; so that altogether
  there is a great piece gone out of my daily life, and
  a great stay also--the greatest, in fact. There is no man
  living who was, taken all in all, so much of me.

There is a pensive grace about one of his last letters to the widow of
the favourite brother of earlier days:--

  I cannot let Christmas pass, dear Mary, without sending
  you a word of love and greeting from us both, to all
  of you of both generations. It cannot be a "merry"
  Christmas for any of us exactly; there is so much around
  that is anxious and sad, and indeed almost gloomy, and
  life is passing away to our juniors. But we have still
  much to make us thankful and even happy; and, as a
  whole, life to those whom it concerns, much more than to
  us, to most of them at least, is reasonably cheerful. At
  least they are young and vigorous, and have pluck to face
  the battle of years to come. We have little to do now
  but watch and sympathise, and give what little help we

Greg's own departure was not much longer deferred. He died in November

He was not one of the fortunate beings who can draw on a spontaneous and
inexhaustible fund of geniality and high spirits. He had a craving both
for stimulation and for sympathy. Hence he belonged to those who are
always happier in the society of women than of men. In his case this
choice was not due, as it so often is, to a love of procuring deference
cheaply. It was not deference that he sought, but a sympathy that he
could make sure of, and that put him at his ease. Nobody that ever lived
was less of a pedant, academic don, or loud Sir Oracle. He was easy to
live with, a gay and appreciative companion, and the most amiable of
friends, but nothing was further from his thoughts than to pose as guide
and philosopher. His conversation was particularly neat and pointed. He
had a lucidity of phrase such as is more common in French society than
among ourselves. The vice of small talk and the sin of prosing he was
equally free from; and if he did not happen to be interested, he had a
great gift of silence.

The grace of humility is one of the supreme moral attractions in a man.
Its outward signs are not always directly discernible; and it may exist
underneath marked intrepidity, confidence in one's own judgment, and
even a strenuous push for the honours of the world. But without
humility, no veracity. There is a genuine touch of it in a letter which
Greg wrote to a friend who had consented to be the guardian of his

  I have no directions as to their education to give.
  I have too strong a sense of the value of religion myself,
  not to wish that my children should have so much of it
  (I speak of feeling, not of creed) as is compatible with
  reason. I have no ambition for them, and can only
  further say in the dying words of Julie, 'N'en faites point
  des savans--faites-en des hommes bienfaisans et justes.'
  If they are this, they will be more than their father ever
  was, and all he ever desired to be.

This sentiment of the unprofitable servant was deep in his nature--as it
may well be in all who are not either blinded by inborn fatuity, or
condemned by natural poverty of mind to low and gross ideals.

Though he took great delight in the enchanted land of pure literature,
apart from all utility, yet he was of those, the fibres of whose nature
makes it impossible for them to find real intellectual interest outside
of what is of actual and present concern to their fellows. Composition,
again, had to him none of the pain and travail that it brings to most
writers. The expression came with the thought. His ideas were never
vague, and needed no laborious translation. Along with them came apt
words and the finished sentence. Yet his fluency never ran off into the
fatal channels of verbosity. Ease, clearness, precision, and a certain
smooth and sure-paced consecutiveness, made his written style for all
purposes of statement and exposition one of the most telling and
effective of his day. This gift of expression helped him always to
appear intellectually at his best. It really came from a complete grasp
of his own side of the case, and that always produces the best style
next after a complete grasp of both sides. Few men go into the troubled
region of pamphleteering, article-writing, public controversy, and
incessant dialectics, without suffering a deterioration of character in
consequence. Mr. Greg must be set down as one of these few. He never
fell into the habitual disputant's vice of trying to elude the force of
a fair argument; he did not mix up his own personality in the defence of
his thesis; differences in argument and opinion produced not only no
rancour, but even no soreness.

The epicurean element was undoubtedly strong in him. He liked pleasant
gardens; set a high value on leisure and even vacuity; did not disdain
novels; and had the sense to prefer good wine to bad. When he travelled
in later life he showed none of the over-praised desire to acquire
information for information's sake. While his companions were 'getting
up' the Pyramids, or antiquities in the Troad, or the great tomb of
Alyattis, Mr. Greg refused to take any trouble to form views, or to
pretend to find a sure footing among the shifting sands of archæological
or pre-historic research. He chose to lie quietly among the ruins, and
let the beauty and wonder of the ancient world float silently about him.
For this poetic indolence he had a great faculty. To a younger friend
whom he suspected of unwholesome excess of strenuousness, he once
propounded this test of mental health: 'Could you sit for a whole day on
the banks of a stream, doing nothing and thinking of nothing, only
throwing stones into the water?'

The ascetic view of things was wholly distasteful to him. He had a
simple way of taking what was bright and enjoyable in life, refusing to
allow anything but very distinct duty to interfere with the prompt
acceptance of the gifts of the gods. Yet, as very seldom happens in
natures thus composed, he was before all things unselfish. That is to
say, he struck those who knew him best as less of a centre to himself
than most other people are. Though thoroughly capable of strong and
persistent wishes, and as far as possible from having a character of
faint outlines and pale colours, it came to him quite naturally and
without an effort to think of those for whom he cared, and of himself
not at all. There was something of the child of nature in him. Though
nobody liked the fruits of cultivated life better--order, neatness, and
grace in all daily things--yet nobody was more ready to make short work
of conventionalities that might thrust shadows between him or others and
the substance of happiness.

It would be difficult for me here to examine Mr. Greg's writings with
perfect freedom and appropriateness. The man rather than the author has
prompted this short sketch. His books tell their own story. There is not
one of them that does not abound in suggestion both in politics and in
subjects where there is more room for free meditation and the subtler
qualities of mind than politics can ever afford. Mr. Greg is not one of
the thinkers whom we can place in any school, still less in any party.
It may be safely said of him that he never took up an idea or an
opinion, as most writers even of high repute are not afraid of doing,
simply because it was proffered to him, or because it was held by others
with whom in a general way he was disposed to agree. He did not even
shrink from what looked like self-contradiction, so honest was his
feeling for truth, and so little faith had he in the infallibility of
sect and the trustworthiness of system. In the _Enigmas of Life_ (1875)
there is much that is hard to reconcile with his own fundamental
theology, and he was quite aware of it. He was content with the thought
that he had found fragments of true ore. Hence the extraordinary
difficulty of classifying him. One would be inclined to place him as a
Theist, yet can we give any other name but Agnostic to a man who speaks
in such terms as these?--

  I cannot for a moment _not_ believe in a Supreme
  Being, and I cannot for a moment doubt that His arrangement
  must be right and wise and benevolent. But I
  cannot also for a moment feel confident in any doctrines
  or opinions I could form on this great question.[9]

The same impossibility of classification meets us in his politics. He
was certainly, in a philosophic sense, a Conservative; he was
anti-popular and anti-democratic. Yet he was an ardent champion of the
popular and democratic principle of Nationalities; he was all for the
Greeks and Bulgarians against the Turks, and all for the Hungarians and
Italians against the Austrians.[10] Nor had he any sympathy with the old
ordering of society as such. He had no zeal, as far as one can see, for
an hereditary peerage and an established church. He threw himself into
the memorable battle of the Reform Bill of 1832 with characteristic
spirit and energy. His ideal, like that of most literary thinkers on
politics, was an aristocracy, not of caste, but of education, virtue,
and public spirit. It was the old dream of lofty minds from Plato down
to Turgot. Every page of Greg's political writing is coloured by this
attractive vision. Though as anxious as any politician of his time for
practical improvements, and as liberal in his conception of their scope
and possibility, he insisted that they could only be brought about by an
aristocracy of intellect and virtue.[11] But then the great controversy
turns on the best means of securing sense and probity in a government.
The democrat holds that under representative institutions the best
security for the interests of the mass of the community is, that the
mass shall have a voice in their own affairs, and that in proportion as
that security is narrowed and weakened, the interests of the mass will
be subordinate to those of the class that has a decisive voice. Mr. Greg
had no faith in the good issues of this rough and spontaneous play of
social forces. The extension of the suffrage in 1867 seemed to him to be
the ruin of representative institutions; and when that was capped by the
Ballot in 1872, the cup of his dismay was full. Perhaps, he went on to
say, some degree of safety might be found by introducing the Ballot
inside the House of Commons. De Tocqueville wrote Mr. Greg a long and
interesting letter in 1853, which is well worth reading to-day in
connection with _scrutin de liste_ and the Ballot.[12] De Tocqueville was
for both. He was, as has been said, 'an aristocrat who accepted his
defeat,' and he tried to make the best of democracy. Greg fought against
the enemy to the last, and clung to every device for keeping out the
deluge. He could not get on to common ground with those who believe that
education is no sort of guarantee for political competency; that no
class, however wise and good, can be safely trusted with the interests
of other classes; and finally, that great social and economic currents
cannot be checked or even guided by select political oligarchies, on
whatever base any such oligarchy may rest.

[Footnote 9: To the Rev. E. White.]

[Footnote 10: 'When the Hungarian exiles were in England,' writes
Professor F. W. Newman, 'he was not too rich, nor had I any close
relations with him, but he voluntarily gave me ten pounds for any
service to them which I judged best.']

[Footnote 11: See his two volumes of reprinted articles, _Essays on
Political and Social Science_ (1853).]

[Footnote 12: _Correspondence_, vol. ii. pp. 212-220.]

Lord Grey's prescription for correcting the practical faults revealed by
experience in our present system of representation, consisted of the
following ingredients:--the cumulative vote; not fewer than three seats
to each constituency; universities and some other constituencies,
necessarily consisting of educated men, to have increased
representation; a limited number of life members to be introduced into
the House of Commons, the vacancies to be filled, when not less than
three had occurred, by cumulative vote within the House itself. On all
this Mr. Greg wrote to Lord Grey (May 28, 1874): 'I quite agree with you
that this impending danger we both foresee might be averted, if our
country would listen either to you or to me.'

Tenderness for these truly idle devices for keeping power in the hands
of a restricted class was all the less to be expected in Mr. Greg, as he
had made a serious study of French politics prior to 1848. Now the
Monarchy of July maintained a narrow and exclusive franchise, and its
greatest minister was the very type of the class from whom Mr. Greg
would have sought the directors of national affairs. If ever there was a
statesman who approached the fulfilment of Mr. Greg's conditions, it was
Guizot. Guizot had undergone years of patient historic study; nobody of
his time had reflected more carefully on the causes and forces of great
movements; he had more of what is called the calm philosophic mind, than
any one then eminent in literature; he overflowed with what Mr. Greg
describes as the highest kind of wisdom; his moral pretensions were
austere, lofty, and unbending to a fault. No man of any time would seem
to have been better entitled to a place among the Wise and the Good whom
nations ought to seek out to rule over them. Yet this great man was one
of the very worst statesmen that ever governed France. The severe
morality of the student was cast behind him by the minister. He did not
even shrink from defending, from considerations of political
convenience, the malversations of a colleague. The pattern of wisdom and
goodness devised and executed a cynical and vile intrigue, from which
Sir Robert Walpole would have shrunk with masculine disgust, and that
would have raised scruples in Dubois or Calonne. Finally, this famous
professor of political science possessed so little skill in political
practice, that a few years of his policy wrecked a constitution and
brought a dynasty to the ground.

All these political regrets and doubts, however, cannot lessen or affect
our interest in those ingenious, subtle, and delicate speculations which
Mr. Greg called _Enigmas of Life_. Though his _Creed of Christendom_ may
have made a more definite and recognisable mark, the later book rapidly
fell in with the needs of many minds, stirred much controversy of a
useful and harmonious kind, and attracted serious curiosity to a wider
variety of problems. It is at this moment in its fifteenth edition. The
chapters on Malthus and on the Non-Survival of the Fittest make a very
genuine and original contribution to modern thought. But it is the later
essays in the little volume that touched most readers, and will for long
continue to touch them. They are as far as possible from being vague, or
misty, or aimless. Yet they have, what is so curiously rare in English
literature, the charm of reverie. As the author said, they 'contain
rather suggested thoughts that may fructify in other minds than distinct
propositions which it is sought argumentatively to prove.' They have the
ever seductive note of meditation and inwardness, which, when it sounds
true, as it assuredly did here, moves the spirit like a divine music.
There is none of the thunder of Carlyle (which, for that matter, one may
easily come in time to find prodigiously useless and unedifying); there
is not the piercing concentrated ray of Emerson: but the complaints, the
misgivings, the aspirations of our generation find in certain pages of
Mr. Greg's book a voice of mingled fervour and _recueillement_, a union
of contemplative reason with spiritual sensibility, which makes them one
of the best expressions of one of the highest moods of this bewildered
time. They are in the true key for religious or spiritual composition,
as Rousseau's Savoyard Vicar is; thought and emotion are fused without
the decorations of misplaced rhetoric. That meditations so stamped with
sincerity, and so honestly directed to the actual perplexities of
thoughtful people, should have met with wide and grateful acceptance, is
no more than might have been expected. Least of all can their fine
qualities be underrated even by those who, like the present writer,
believe that, ponder these great enigmas as we may, we shall never get
beyond Goethe's majestic psalm:--

    Edel sey der Mensch,
    Hülfreich und gut!
    Denn das allein
    Unterscheidet ihn
    Von allen Wesen
    Die wir kennen....

    Denn unfühlend
    Ist die Natur:
    Es leuchtet die Sonne
    Ueber Bös' und Gute,
    Und dem Verbrecher
    Glänzen, wie dem Besten,
    Der Mond und die Sterne....

    Nach ewigen, ehrnen
    Grossen Gesetzen
    Müssen wir alle
    Unseres Daseyns
    Kreise vollenden.

    Nur allein der Mensch
    Vermag das Unmögliche;
    Er unterscheidet
    Wählet und richtet
    Er kann dem Augenblick
    Dauer verleihen.

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