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Title: Collections and Recollections
Author: Russell, George William Erskine, 1853-1919
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 "Collections and Recollections" ***

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George William Erskine Russell




DIED MARCH 25, 1898

       *       *       *       *       *

    Is he gone to a land of no laughter--
      This man that made mirth for us all?
    Proves Death but a silence hereafter,
      Where the echoes of earth cannot fall?
    Once closed, have the lips no more duty?
      No more pleasure the exquisite ears?
    Has the heart done o'erflowing with beauty,
      As the eyes have with tears?

    Nay, if aught be sure, what can be surer
      Than that earth's good decays not with earth?
    And of all the heart's springs none are purer
      Than the springs of the fountains of mirth?
    He that sounds them has pierced the heart's hollows,
      The places where tears are and sleep;
    For the foam-flakes that dance in life's shallows
      Are wrung from life's deep.



It has been suggested by Mr. Reginald Smith, to whose friendliness and
skill the fortunes of this book have been so greatly indebted, that a
rather fuller preface might be suitably prefixed to this Edition.

When the book first appeared, it was stated on the title-page to be
written "by One who has kept a Diary." My claim to that modest title
will scarcely be challenged by even the most carping critic who is
conversant with the facts. On August 13, 1865, being then twelve years
old, I began my Diary. Several attempts at diary-keeping I had already
made and abandoned. This more serious endeavour was due to the fact that
a young lady gave me a manuscript-book attractively bound in scarlet
leather; and such a gift inspired a resolution to live up to it. Shall I
be deemed to lift the veil of private life too roughly if I transcribe
some early entries? "23rd: Dear Kate came; very nice." "25th: Kate is
very delightful." "26th: Kate is a darling girl. _She kissed me_."

Before long, Love's young dream was dispersed by the realities of
Harrow; but the scarlet book continued to receive my daily confidences.
Soon--alas for puerile fickleness!--the name of "Kate" disappears, and
is replaced by rougher appellations, such as "Bob" and "Charlie;"
"Carrots" this, and "Chaw" that. To Harrow succeeds Oxford, and now
more recognizable names begin to appear--"Liddon" and "Holland," "Gore"
and "Milner", and "Lymington."

But through all these personal permutations the continuous Life of the
Diary remained unbroken, and so remains even to the present date. Not a
day is missing. When I have been laid low by any of the rather numerous
ills to which, if to little else, my flesh has been heir, I have always
been able to jot down such pregnant entries as "Temperature 102°;"
"Salicine;" "Boiled Chicken;" "Bath Chair." It is many a year since the
scarlet book was laid aside; but it has had a long line of successors;
and together they contain the record of what I have been, done, seen,
and heard during thirty-eight years of chequered existence. Entertaining
a strong and well-founded suspicion that Posterity would burn these
precious volumes unread, I was moved, some few years ago, to compress
into small compass the little that seemed worth remembering. At that
time my friend Mr. James Payn was already confined to the house by the
beginnings of what proved to be his last illness. His host of friends
did what they could to relieve the tedium of his suffering days; and the
only contribution which I could make was to tell him at my weekly visits
anything interesting or amusing which I collected from the reperusal of
my diary. Greatly to my surprise, he urged me to make these
"Collections" into a book, and to add to them whatever "Recollections"
they might suggest. Acting on this advice, I published during the year
1897 a series of weekly papers in the _Manchester Guardian_. They were
received more kindly than I had any right to expect; and early in 1898 I
reproduced them in the present volume--just too late to offer it, except
in memory, to dear James Payn.

The fortunes of the book, from that time till now, would not interest
the public, but are extremely interesting to me. The book brought me
many friends. One story, at any rate, elicited the gracious laughter of
Queen Victoria. A pauper who had known better days wrote to thank me
for enlivening the monotony of a workhouse infirmary. Literary clerks
plied me with questions about the sources of my quotations. A Scotch
doctor demurred to the prayer--"Water that spark"--on the ground that
the water would put the spark out. Elderly clergymen in country
parsonages revived the rollicking memories of their undergraduate days,
and sent me academic quips of the forties and fifties. From the most
various quarters I received suggestions, corrections, and enrichments
which have made each edition an improvement on the last. The public
notices were, on the whole, extremely kind, and some were
unintentionally amusing. Thus one editor, putting two and two together,
calculated that the writer could not be less than eighty years old;
while another, like Mrs. Prig, "didn't believe there was no sich a
person," and acutely divined that the book was a journalistic squib
directed against my amiable garrulity. The most pleasing notice was that
of Jean La Frette, some extracts from which I venture to append. It is
true that competent judges have questioned the accuracy of M. La
Frette's idiom, but his sentiments are unimpeachable. The necessary
corrective was not wanting, for a weekly journal of high culture
described my poor handiwork as "Snobbery and Snippets." There was a
boisterousness--almost a brutality--about the phrase which deterred me
from reading the review; but I am fain to admit that there was a certain
rude justice in the implied criticism.


_Christmas, 1903_.
















XIV. CONVERSATION (_continued_)

XV. CONVERSATION (_continued_)

XVI. CONVERSATION (_continued_)


XVIII. CLERGYMEN (_continued_)




















Of the celebrated Mrs. Disraeli her husband is reported to have said,
"She is an excellent creature, but she never can remember which came
first, the Greeks or the Romans." In my walk through life I have
constantly found myself among excellent creatures of this sort. The
world is full of vague people, and in the average man, and still more in
the average woman, the chronological sense seems to be entirely wanting.
Thus, when I have occasionally stated in a mixed company that my first
distinct recollection was the burning of Covent Garden Theatre, I have
seen a general expression of surprised interest, and have been told, in
a tone meant to be kind and complimentary, that my hearers would hardly
have thought that my memory went back so far. The explanation has been
that these excellent creatures had some vague notions of _Rejected
Addresses_ floating in their minds, and confounded the burning of Covent
Garden Theatre in 1856 with that of Drury Lane Theatre in 1809. It was
pleasant to feel that one bore one's years so well as to make the error

But events, however striking, are only landmarks in memory. They are
isolated and detached, and begin and end in themselves. The real
interest of one's early life is in its Links with the Past, through the
old people whom one has known. Though I place my first distinct
recollection in 1856, I have memories more or less hazy of an earlier

There was an old Lady Robert Seymour, who lived in Portland Place, and
died there in 1855, in her ninety-first year. Probably she is my most
direct link with the past, for she carried down to the time of the
Crimean War the habits and phraseology of Queen Charlotte's early Court.
"Goold" of course she said for gold, and "yaller" for yellow, and
"laylock" for lilac. She laid the stress on the second syllable of
"balcony." She called her maid her "'ooman;" instead of sleeping at a
place, she "lay" there, and when she consulted the doctor she spoke of
having "used the 'potticary."

There still lives, in full possession of all her faculties, a venerable
lady who can say that her husband was born at Boston when America was a
British dependency. This is the widow of Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst, who
was born in 1772, and helped to defeat Mr. Gladstone's Paper Bill in the
House of Lords on his eighty-eighth birthday. He died in 1862.[1]

A conspicuous figure in my early recollections is Sir Henry Holland,
M.D., father of the present Lord Knutsford. He was born in 1788, and
died in 1873. The stories of his superhuman vigour and activity would
fill a volume. In 1863 Bishop Wilberforce wrote to a friend abroad: "Sir
Henry Holland, who got back safe from all his American rambles, has been
taken by Palmerston through the river at Broadlands, and lies very
ill." However, he completely threw off the effects of this mischance,
and survived his aquaceous host for some eight years. I well remember
his telling me in 1868 that his first famous patient was the mysterious
"Pamela," who became the wife of the Irish patriot, Lord Edward

Every one who went about in London in the 'seventies will remember the
dyed locks and crimson velvet waistcoat of William, fifth Earl Bathurst,
who was born in 1791 and died in 1878. He told me that he was at a
private school at Sunbury-on-Thames with William and John Russell, the
latter of whom became the author of the Reform Bill and Prime Minister.
At this delightful seminary, the peers' sons, including my informant,
who was then the Hon. William Bathurst, had a bench to themselves.
William and John Russell were not peers' sons, as their father had not
then succeeded to the Dukedom of Bedford. In 1802 he succeeded, on the
sudden death of his elder brother, and became sixth Duke of Bedford; and
his sons, becoming _Lord_ William and _Lord_ John, were duly promoted to
the privileged bench. Nothing in _Pelham_ or _Vivian Grey_ quite equals

When I went to Harrow, in 1868, there was an old woman, by name Polly
Arnold, still keeping a stationer's shop in the town, who had sold cribs
to Byron when he was a Harrow boy; and Byron's fag, a funny old
gentleman in a brown wig--called Baron Heath--was a standing dish on our
school Speech-Day.

Once at a London dinner I happened to say in the hearing of Mrs. Procter
(widow of "Barry Cornwall," and mother of the poetess) that I was going
next day to the Harrow Speeches. "Ah," said Mrs. Procter, "that used to
be a pleasant outing. The last time I went I drove down with Lord Byron
and Dr. Parr, who had been breakfasting with my father." Mrs. Procter
died in 1888.

Among the remarkable women of our time, if merely in respect of
longevity, must be reckoned Lady Louisa Stuart, sister and heir of the
last Earl of Traquair. She was a friend and correspondent of Sir Walter
Scott, who in describing "Tully Veolan" drew Traquair House with literal
exactness, even down to the rampant bears which still guard the locked
entrance-gates against all comers until the Royal Stuarts shall return
to claim their own. Lady Louisa Stuart lived to be ninety-nine, and died
in 1876.

Perhaps the most remarkable old lady whom I knew intimately was Caroline
Lowther, Duchess of Cleveland, who was born in 1792 and died in 1883.
She had been presented to Queen Charlotte when there were only forty
people at the Drawing-room, had danced with the Prince of Orange, and
had attended the "breakfasts" given by Albinia Countess of
Buckinghamshire (who died in 1816), at her villa just outside London.
The site of that villa is now Hobart Place, having taken its name from
that of the Buckinghamshire family. The trees of its orchard are still
discoverable in the back-gardens of Hobart Place and Wilton Street, and
I am looking out upon them as I write this page.

Stories of highwaymen are excellent Links with the Past, and here is
one. The fifth Earl of Berkeley, who died in 1810, had always declared
that any one might without disgrace be overcome by superior numbers, but
that he would never surrender to a single highwayman. As he was crossing
Hounslow Heath one night, on his way from Berkeley Castle to London, his
travelling carriage was stopped by a man on horseback, who put his head
in at the window and said, "I believe you are Lord Berkeley?" "I am." "I
believe you have always boasted that you would never surrender to a
single highwayman?" "I have." "Well," presenting a pistol, "I am a
single highwayman, and I say, 'Your money or your life.'" "You cowardly
dog," said Lord Berkeley, "do you think I can't see your confederate
skulking behind you?" The highwayman, who was really alone, looked
hurriedly round, and Lord Berkeley shot him through the head. I asked
Lady Caroline Maxse (1803-1886), who was born a Berkeley, if this story
was true. I can never forget my thrill when she replied, "Yes; and I am
proud to say that I am that man's daughter."

Sir Moses Montefiore was born in 1784, and died in 1885. It is a
disheartening fact for the teetotallers that he had drunk a bottle of
port wine every day since he grew up. He had dined with Lord Nelson on
board his ship, and vividly remembered the transcendent beauty of Lady
Hamilton. The last time Sir Moses appeared in public was, if I mistake
not, at a garden-party at Marlborough House. The party was given on a
Saturday. Sir Moses was restrained by religious scruples from using his
horses, and was of course too feeble to walk, so he was conveyed to the
party in a magnificent sedan-chair. That was the only occasion on which
I have seen such an article in use.

When I began to go out in London, a conspicuous figure in dinner-society
and on Protestant platforms was Captain Francis Maude, R.N. He was born
in 1798 and died in 1886. He used to say, "My grandfather was nine years
old when Charles II. died." And so, if pedigrees may be trusted, he was.
Charles II. died in 1685. Sir Robert Maude was born in 1676. His son,
the first Lord Hawarden, was born in 1727, and Captain Francis Maude was
this Lord Hawarden's youngest son. The year of his death (1880) saw also
that of a truly venerable woman, Mrs. Hodgson, mother of Kirkman and
Stewart Hodgson, the well-known partners in Barings' house. Her age was
not precisely known, but when a schoolgirl in Paris she had seen
Robespierre executed, and distinctly recollected the appearance of his
bandaged face. Her granddaughters, Mr. Stewart Hodgson's children, are
quite young women, and if they live to the age which, with such
ancestry, they are entitled to anticipate, they will carry down into the
middle of the twentieth century the account, derived from an
eye-witness, of the central event of the French Revolution.

One year later, in 1887, there died, at her house in St. James's Square,
Mrs. Anne Penelope Hoare, mother of the late Sir Henry Hoare, M.P. She
recollected being at a children's party when the lady of the house came
in and stopped the dancing because news had come that the King of France
had been put to death. Her range of conscious knowledge extended from
the execution of Louis XVI. to the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. So short a
thing is history.

Sir Walter Stirling, who was born in 1802 and died in 1888, was a little
old gentleman of ubiquitous activity, running about London with a yellow
wig, short trousers, and a cotton umbrella. I well remember his saying
to me, when Mr. Bradlaugh was committed to the Clock Tower, "I don't like
this. I am afraid it will mean mischief. I am old enough to remember
seeing Sir Francis Burdett taken to the Tower by the Sergeant-at-Arms
with a military force. I saw the riot then, and I am afraid I shall see
a riot again."

In the same year (1888) died Mrs. Thomson Hankey, wife of a former M.P.
for Peterborough. Her father, a Mr. Alexander, was born in 1729, and she
had inherited from him traditions of London as it appeared to a young
Scotsman in the year of the decapitation of the rebels after the rising
of 1745.

One of the most venerable and interesting figures in London, down to his
death in 1891, was George Thomas, sixth Earl of Albemarle. He was born
in 1799. He had played bat-trap-and-ball at St. Anne's Hill with Mr.
Fox, and, excepting his old comrade General Whichcote, who outlived him
by a few months, was the last survivor of Waterloo. A man whom I knew
longer and more intimately than any of those whom I have described was
the late Lord Charles James Fox Russell. He was born in 1807, and died
in 1894. His father's groom had led the uproar of London servants which
in the eighteenth century damned the play _High Life Below Stairs_. He
remembered a Highlander who had followed the army of Prince Charles
Edward in 1745, and had learned from another Highlander the Jacobite
soldiers' song--

    "I would I were at Manchester,
    A-sitting on the grass,
    And by my side a bottle of wine,
    And on my lap a lass."

He had officiated as a page at the coronation of George IV.; had
conversed with Sir Walter Scott about _The Bride of Lammermoor_ before
its authorship was disclosed; had served in the Blues under Ernest Duke
of Cumberland; and had lost his way in trying to find the newly
developed quarter of London called Belgrave Square.

Among living[2] links, I hope it is not ungallant to enumerate Lady
Georgiana Grey, only surviving child of

    "That Earl, who forced his compeers to be just,
    And wrought in brave old age what youth had planned;"

Lady Louisa Tighe, who as Lady Louisa Lennox buckled the Duke of
Wellington's sword when he set out from her mother's ball at Brussels
for the field of Waterloo; and Miss Eliza Smith of Brighton, the
vivacious and evergreen daughter of Horace Smith, who wrote the
_Rejected Addresses_. But these admirable and accomplished ladies hate
garrulity, and the mere mention of their names is a signal to bring
these disjointed reminiscences to a close.


[1] Lady Lyndhurst died in 1901.

[2] "Living" alas! no longer. The last survivor of these ladies died
this year, 1903.



These chapters are founded on Links with the Past. Let me now describe
in rather fuller detail three or four remarkable people with whom I had
more than a cursory acquaintance, and who allowed me for many years the
privilege of drawing without restriction on the rich stores of their
political and social recollections.

First among these in point of date, if of nothing else, I must place
John Earl Russell, the only person I have ever known who knew Napoleon
the Great. Lord Russell--or, to give him the name by which he was most
familiar to his countrymen, Lord John Russell--was born in 1792, and
when I first knew him he was already old; but it might have been said of
him with perfect truth that

    "Votiva patuit veluti descripta tabella
    Vita senis."

After he resigned the leadership of the Liberal party, at Christmas
1867, Lord Russell spent the greater part of his time at Pembroke Lodge,
a house in Richmond Park which takes its name from Elizabeth Countess of
Pembroke, long remembered as the object of King George the Third's
hopeless and pathetic love. As a token of his affection the King allowed
Lady Pembroke to build herself a "lodge" in the "vast wilderness" of
Richmond Park, amid surroundings which went far to realize Cowper's
idea of a "boundless contiguity of shade."

On her death, in 1831, Pembroke Lodge was assigned by William IV. to his
son-in-law, Lord Erroll, and in 1847 it was offered by the Queen to her
Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, who then had no home except his house
in Chesham Place. It was gratefully accepted, for indeed it had already
been coveted as an ideal residence for a busy politician who wanted
fresh air, and could not safely be far from the House of Commons. As
years went on Lord John spent more and more of his time in this
delicious retreat, and in his declining years it was practically his
only home.

A quarter of a century ago it was a curious and interesting privilege
for a young man to sit in the trellised dining-room of Pembroke Lodge,
or to pace its terrace-walk looking down upon the Thames, in intimate
converse with a statesman who had enjoyed the genial society of Charles
Fox, and had been the travelling companion of Lord Holland; had
corresponded with Tom Moore, debated with Francis Jeffrey, and dined
with Dr. Parr; had visited Melrose Abbey in the company of Sir Walter
Scott, and criticized the acting of Mrs. Siddons; conversed with
Napoleon in his seclusion at Elba, and ridden with the Duke of
Wellington along the lines of Torres Vedras.

The genius of John Leech, constantly exercised on the subject for twenty
years, has made all students of _Punch_ familiar with Lord John
Russell's outward aspect. We know from his boyish diary that on his
eleventh birthday he was "4 feet 2 inches high, and 3 stone 12 lb.
weight;" and though, as time went on, these extremely modest dimensions
were slightly exceeded, he was an unusually short man. His massive head
and broad shoulders gave him when he sate the appearance of greater
size, and when he rose to his feet the diminutive stature caused a
feeling of surprise. Sydney Smith declared that when Lord John first
contested Devonshire the burly electors were disappointed by the
exiguity of their candidate, but were satisfied when it was explained to
them that he had once been much larger, but was worn away by the
anxieties and struggles of the Reform Bill of 1832. Never was so robust
a spirit enshrined in so fragile a form. He inherited the miserable
legacy of congenital weakness. Even in those untender days he was
considered too delicate to remain at a Public School. It was thought
impossible for him to live through his first session of Parliament. When
he was fighting the Reform Bill through the House of Commons he had to
be fed with arrowroot by a benevolent lady who was moved to compassion
by his pitiful appearance. For years afterwards he was liable to
fainting-fits, had a wretched digestion, and was easily upset by hot
rooms, late hours, and bad air. These circumstances, combined with his
love of domestic life and his fondness for the country, led him to spend
every evening that he could spare in his seclusion at Pembroke Lodge,
and consequently cut him off, very much to his political disadvantage,
from constant and intimate associations with official colleagues and
parliamentary supporters.

There were other characteristics which enhanced this unfortunate
impression of aloofness. His voice had what used to be described in
satirical writings of the first half of the century as "an aristocratic
drawl," and his pronunciation was archaic. Like other high-bred people
of his time, he talked of "cowcumbers" and "laylocks," called a woman an
"'ooman," and was "much obleeged" where a degenerate age is content to
be obliged. The frigidity of his address and the seeming stiffness of
his manner, due really to an innate and incurable shyness, produced even
among people who ought to have known him well a totally erroneous notion
of his character and temperament. To Bulwer Lytton he seemed--

  "How formed to lead, if not to proud to please!
  His fame would fire you, but his manners freeze.
  Like or dislike, he does not care a jot;
  He wants your vote, but your affections not;
  Vet human hearts need sun as well as oats--
  So cold a climate plays the deuce with votes."

It must be admitted that in some of the small social arts which are so
valuable an equipment for a political leader Lord John was funnily
deficient. He had no memory for faces, and was painfully apt to ignore
his political followers when he met them beyond the walls of Parliament.
Once, staying in a Scotch country-house, he found himself thrown with
young Lord D----, now Earl of S----. He liked the young man's
conversation, and was pleased to find that he was a Whig. When the party
broke up, Lord John conquered his shyness sufficiently to say to his new
friend, "Well, Lord D----, I am very glad to have made your
acquaintance, and now you must come into the House of Commons and
support me there." "I have been doing that for the last ten years, Lord
John," was the reply of the gratified follower.

This inability to remember faces was allied in Lord John with a curious
artlessness of disposition which made it impossible for him to feign a
cordiality he did not feel. Once, at a concert at Buckingham Palace, he
was seen to get up suddenly, turn his back on the Duchess of Sutherland,
by whom he had been sitting, walk to the remotest part of the room, and
sit down by the Duchess of Inverness. When questioned afterwards as to
the cause of his unceremonious move, which had the look of a quarrel, he
said, "I could not have sate any longer by that great fire; I should
have fainted."

"Oh, that was a very good reason for moving; but I hope you told the
Duchess of Sutherland why you left her."

"Well--no; I don't think I did that. But I told the Duchess of Inverness
why I came and sate by her!"

Thus were opportunities of paying harmless compliments recklessly
thrown away.

It was once remarked by a competent critic that "there have been
Ministers who knew the springs of that public opinion which is delivered
ready digested to the nation every morning, and who have not scrupled to
work them for their own diurnal glorification, even although the recoil
might injure their colleagues. But Lord Russell has never bowed the knee
to the potentates of the Press; he has offered no sacrifice of
invitations to social editors; and social editors have accordingly
failed to discover the merits of a statesman who so little appreciated
them, until they have almost made the nation forget the services that
Lord Russell has so faithfully and courageously rendered."

Be this as it may, there is no doubt that the old Whig statesman lacked
those gifts or arts which make a man widely popular in a large society
of superficial acquaintances. On his deathbed he said with touching
pathos, "I have seemed cold to my friends, but it was not in my heart."
The friends needed no such assurance. He was the idol of those who were
most closely associated with him by the ties of blood or duty. Even to
people outside the innermost circle of intimacy there was something
peculiarly attractive in his singular mixture of gentleness and dignity.
He excelled as a host, doing the honours of his table with the
old-fashioned grace which he had learned at Woburn Abbey and at Holland
House when the century was young; and in the charm of his conversation
he was not easily equalled--never, in my experience, surpassed. He had
the happy knack of expressing a judgment which might be antagonistic to
the sentiments of those with whom he was dealing in language which,
while perfectly void of offence, was calmly decisive. His reply to Sir
Francis Burdett was pronounced by Mr. Gladstone to be the best repartee
ever made in Parliament. Sir Francis, an ex-Radical, attacking his
former associates with all the bitterness of a renegade, had said, "The
most offensive thing in the world is the cant of Patriotism." Lord John
replied, "I quite agree that the cant of Patriotism is a very offensive
thing; but the _recant_ of Patriotism is more offensive still." His
letter to the Dean of Hereford about the election of Bishop Hampden is a
classical instance of courteous controversy. Once a most Illustrious
Personage asked him if it was true that he taught that under certain
circumstances it was lawful for a subject to disobey the Sovereign.
"Well, speaking to a Sovereign of the House of Hanover, I can only
answer in the affirmative."

His copiousness of anecdote was inexhaustible. His stories always fitted
the point, and the droll gravity of his way of telling them added
greatly to their zest. Of his conversation with Napoleon at Elba I
recollect one curious question and answer. The Emperor took the little
Englishman by the ear and asked him what was thought in England of his
chances of returning to the throne of France. "I said, 'Sire, they think
you have no chance at all.'" The Emperor said that the English
Government had made a great mistake in sending the Duke of Wellington to
Paris--"On n'aime pas voir un homme par qui on a été battu;" and on War
he made this characteristic comment: "Eh bien, c'est un grand jeu--belle

This interview took place when Lord John was making a tour with Lord and
Lady Holland, and much of his earlier life had been spent at Holland
House, in the heart of that brilliant society which Macaulay so
picturesquely described, and in which Luttrell and Samuel Rogers were
conspicuous figures. Their conversation supplied Lord John with an
anecdote which he used to bring out, with a twinkling eye and a
chuckling laugh, whenever he heard that any public reform was regarded
with misgiving by sensible men. Luttrell and Rogers were passing in a
wherry under old London Bridge when its destruction Was contemplated,
and Rogers said, "Some very sensible men think that, if these works are
carried into effect, the tide will flow so rapidly under the bridge that
dangerous consequences will follow." "My dear Rogers," answered
Luttrell, "if some very sensible men had been attended to, we should
still be eating acorns."

Of William and John Scott, afterwards Lord Stowell and Lord Eldon, Lord
Russell used to tell with infinite zest a story which he declared to be
highly characteristic of the methods by which they made their fortunes
and position. When they were young men at the Bar, having had a stroke
of professional luck, they determined to celebrate the occasion by
having a dinner at a tavern and going to the play. When it was time to
call for the reckoning, William Scott dropped a guinea. He and his
brother searched for it in vain, and came to the conclusion that it had
fallen between the boards of the uncarpeted floor.

"This is a bad job," said William; "we must give up the play."

"Stop a bit," said John; "I know a trick worth two of that," and called
the waitress.

"Betty," said he, "we've dropped two guineas. See if you can find them."
Betty went down on her hands and knees, and found the one guinea, which
had rolled under the fender.

"That's a very good girl, Betty," said John Scott, pocketing the coin;
"and when you find the other you can keep it for your trouble." And the
prudent brothers went with a light heart to the play, and so eventually
to the Bench and the Woolsack.

In spite of profound differences of political opinion, Lord Russell had
a high regard for the memory of the Duke of Wellington, and had been
much in his society in early life. Travelling in the Peninsula in 1812,
he visited Lord Wellington at his headquarters near Burgos. On the
morning after his arrival he rode out with his host and an aide-de-camp,
and surveyed the position of the French army. Lord Wellington, peering
through his glass, suddenly exclaimed, "By G----! they've changed their
position!" and said no more.

When they returned from their ride, the aide-de-camp said to Lord John,
"You had better get away as quick as you can. I am confident that Lord
Wellington means to make a move." Lord John took the hint, made his
excuses, and went on his way. That evening the British army was in full
retreat, and Lord Russell used to tell the story as illustrating the old
Duke's extreme reticence when there was a chance of a military secret
leaking out.

Lord Russell's father, the sixth Duke of Bedford, belonged to that
section of the Whigs who thought that, while a Whig ministry was
impossible, it was wiser to support the Duke of Wellington, whom they
believed to be a thoroughly honest man, than Canning, whom they regarded
as an unscrupulous adventurer. Accordingly the Duke of Wellington was a
frequent visitor at Woburn Abbey, and showed consistent friendliness to
Lord Russell and his many brothers, all of whom were full of anecdotes
illustrative of his grim humour and robust common sense. Let a few of
them be recorded.

The Government was contemplating the dispatch of an expedition to Burma,
with a view of taking Rangoon, and a question arose as to who would be
the fittest general to be sent in command of the expedition. The Cabinet
sent for the Duke of Wellington, and asked his advice. He instantly
replied, "Send Lord Combermere."

"But we have always understood that your Grace thought Lord Combermere a

"So he is a fool, and a d----d fool; but he can take Rangoon."

At the time of Queen Caroline's trial the mob of London sided with the
Queen, and the Duke's strong adhesion to the King made him extremely
unpopular. Riding up Grosvenor Place one day towards Apsley House, he
was beset by a gang of workmen who were mending the road. They formed a
cordon, shouldered their pickaxes, and swore they would not let the Duke
pass till he said "God save the Queen." "Well, gentlemen, since you will
have it so--'God save the Queen,' and may all your wives be like her!"

Mrs. Arbuthnot (wife of the Duke's private secretary, familiarly called
"Gosh") was fond of parading her intimacy with the Duke before
miscellaneous company. One day, in a large party, she said to him,--

"Duke, I know you won't mind my asking you, but is it true that you were
surprised at Waterloo?"

"By G----! not half as much surprised as I am now, mum."

When the Queen came to the throne her first public act was to go in
state to St. James's Palace to be proclaimed. She naturally wished to be
accompanied in her State coach only by the Duchess of Kent and one of
the Ladies of the Household; but Lord Albemarle, who was Master of the
Horse, insisted that he had a right to travel with her Majesty in the
coach, as he had done with William IV. The point was submitted to the
Duke of Wellington, as a kind of universal referee in matters of
precedence and usage. His judgment was delightfully unflattering to the
outraged magnate--"The Queen can make you go inside the coach or outside
the coach, or run behind like a tinker's dog."

And surely the whole literary profession, of which the present writer is
a feeble unit, must cherish a sentiment of grateful respect for the
memory of a man who, in refusing the dedication of a song, informed Mrs.
Norton that he had been obliged to make a rule of refusing dedications,
"because, in his situation as Chancellor of the University of Oxford, he
had been _much exposed to authors_."



If the Christian Socialists ever frame a Kalendar of Worthies (after the
manner of Auguste Comte), it is to be hoped that they will mark among
the most sacred of their anniversaries the day--April 28, 1801--which
gave birth to Anthony Ashley, seventh Earl of Shaftesbury. His life of
eighty-four years was consecrated, from boyhood till death, to the
social service of humanity; and, for my own part, I must always regard
the privilege of his friendship as among the highest honours of my life.
Let me try to recall some of the outward and inward characteristics of
this truly illustrious man.

Lord Shaftesbury was tall and spare--almost gaunt--in figure, but
powerfully framed, and capable of great exertion. His features were
handsome and strongly marked--an aquiline nose and very prominent chin.
His complexion was as pale as marble, and contrasted effectively with a
thick crop of jet-black hair which extreme old age scarcely tinged with

When he first entered Parliament a contemporary observer wrote: "It
would be difficult to imagine a more complete beau-ideal of aristocracy.
His whole countenance has the coldness as well as the grace of a
chiselled one, and expresses precision, prudence, and determination in
no common degree." The stateliness of bearing, the unbroken figure, the
high glance of stern though melancholy resolve, he retained to the end.
But the incessant labour and anxiety of sixty years made their mark, and
Sir John Millais's noble portrait, painted in 1877, shows a countenance
on which a lifelong contact with human suffering had written its tale in
legible characters.

Temperament is, I suppose, hereditary. Lord Shaftesbury's father, who
was for nearly forty years Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords,
was distinguished by a strong intellect, an imperious temper, and a
character singularly deficient in amiability. His mother (whose childish
beauty is familiar to all lovers of Sir Joshua's art as the little girl
frightened by the mask in the great "Marlborough Group") was the
daughter of the third Duke of Marlborough by that Duchess whom Queen
Charlotte pronounced to be the proudest woman in England. It is
reasonable to suppose that from such a parentage and such an ancestry
Lord Shaftesbury derived some of the most conspicuous features of his
character. From his father he inherited his keenness of intellect, his
habits of laborious industry, and his iron tenacity of purpose. From his
mother he may have acquired that strong sense of personal dignity--that
intuitive and perhaps unconscious feeling of what was due to his station
as well as to his individuality--which made his presence and address so
impressive and sometimes alarming.

Dignity was indeed the quality which immediately struck one on one's
first encounter with Lord Shaftesbury; and with dignity were associated
a marked imperiousness and an eager rapidity of thought, utterance, and
action. As one got to know him better, one began to realize his intense
tenderness towards all weakness and suffering; his overflowing affection
for those who stood nearest to him; his almost morbid sensitiveness; his
passionate indignation against cruelty or oppression. Now and then his
conversation was brightened by brief and sudden gleams of genuine
humour, but these gleams were rare. He had seen too much of human misery
to be habitually jocose, and his whole nature was underlain by a
groundwork of melancholy.

The marble of manhood retained the impression stamped upon the wax of
childhood. His early years had been profoundly unhappy. His parents were
stern disciplinarians of the antique type. His private school was a hell
on earth; and yet he used to say that he feared the master and the
bullies less than he feared his parents. One element of joy, and one
only, he recognized in looking back to those dark days, and that was the
devotion of an old nurse, who comforted him in his childish sorrows, and
taught him the rudiments of Christian faith. In all the struggles and
distresses of boyhood and manhood, he used the words of prayer which he
had learned from this good woman before he was seven years old; and of a
keepsake which she left him--the gold watch which he wore to the last
day of his life--he used to say, "That was given to me by the best
friend I ever had in the world."

At twelve years old Anthony Ashley went to Harrow, where he boarded with
the Head Master, Dr. Butler, father of the present Master of Trinity. I
have heard him say that the master in whose form he was, being a bad
sleeper, held "first school" at four o'clock on a winter's morning; and
that the boy for whom he fagged, being anxious to shine as a reciter,
and finding it difficult to secure an audience, compelled him and his
fellow-fag to listen night after night to his recitations, perched on a
high stool where a nap was impossible.

But in spite of these austerities, Anthony Ashley was happy at Harrow;
and the place should be sacred in the eyes of all philanthropists,
because it was there that, when he was fourteen years old, he
consciously and definitely gave his life to the service of his
fellow-men. He chanced to see a scene of drunken indecency and neglect
at the funeral of one of the villagers, and exclaimed in horror, "Good
heavens! Can this be permitted simply because the man was poor and
friendless?" What resulted is told by a tablet on the wall of the Old
School, which bears the following inscription:--

  _Love.     Serve_.










  _Blessed is he that considereth the poor_.

After leaving Harrow Lord Ashley (as he now was) spent two years at a
private tutor's, and in 1819 he went up to Christ Church. In 1822 he
took a First Class in Classics. The next four years were spent in study
and travel, and in 1826 he was returned to Parliament, by the influence
of his uncle the Duke of Marlborough, for the Borough of Woodstock. On
November 16 he recorded in his diary: "Took the oaths of Parliament with
great good will; a slight prayer for assistance in my thoughts and
deeds." Never was a politician's prayer more abundantly granted.

In 1830 Lord Ashley married a daughter of Lord Cowper, and this
marriage, independently of the radiant happiness which it brought, had
an important bearing on his political career; for Lady Ashley's uncle
was Lord Melbourne, and her mother became, by a second marriage, the
wife of Lord Palmerston. Of Lord Melbourne and his strong common sense
Lord Shaftesbury, in 1882, told me the following characteristic story.
When the Queen became engaged to Prince Albert, she wished him to be
made King Consort by Act of Parliament, and urged her wish upon the
Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne. At first that sagacious man simply
evaded the point, but when her Majesty insisted on a categorical answer,
"I thought it my duty to be very plain with her. I said, 'For G----'s
sake, let's hear no more of it, ma'am; for if you once get the English
people into the way of making kings, you will get them into the way of
unmaking them.'"

By this time Lord Ashley was deeply immersed in those philanthropic
enterprises which he had deliberately chosen as the occupation of his
lifetime. Reform of the Lunacy Law and a humaner treatment of lunatics
were the earliest objects to which he devoted himself. To attain them
the more effectually he got himself made a member, and subsequently
chairman, of the Lunacy Commission, and threw himself into the work with
characteristic thoroughness. He used to pay "surprise visits" both by
day and night to public and private asylums, and discovered by those
means a system of regulated and sanctioned cruelty which, as he narrated
it in his old age, seemed almost too horrible for credence.

The abolition of slavery all over the world was a cause which very early
enlisted his sympathy, and he used to tell, with grim humour, how, when,
after he had become Lord Shaftesbury, he signed an Open Letter to
America in favour of emancipation, a Southern newspaper sarcastically
inquired, "Where was this Lord Shaftesbury when the noble-hearted Lord
Ashley was doing his single-handed work on behalf of the English slaves
in the factories of Lancashire and Yorkshire?"

Sanitary reform and the promotion of the public health were objects at
which, in the middle part of his life, he worked hard, both as a
landowner and as the unpaid Chairman of the Board of Health. The crusade
against vivisection warmed his heart and woke his indignant eloquence
in his declining years. His Memorial Service in Westminster Abbey was
attended by representatives of nearly two hundred religious and
philanthropic institutions with which he had been connected, and which,
in one way or another, he had served. But, of course, it is with the
reform of the Factory Laws that his name is most inseparably associated.

In 1833 Lord Ashley took up the Ten Hours Bill, previously in the charge
of Mr. Sadler, who had now lost his seat. He carried his Bill through
the Second Reading, but it was opposed by Lord Althorp, who threw it
out, and carried a modified proposal in 1833. In 1844 the introduction
of a new Bill for the regulation of labour in factories brought Lord
Ashley back to his old battlefield. A desperate struggle was made to
amend the Bill into a Ten Hours Bill, but this failed, owing to Sir
Robert Peel's threat of resignation. In 1845 Lord Ashley refused the
Chief Secretaryship for Ireland in order to be able to devote himself
wholly to the Ten Hours Bill; and, as soon as Parliament rose, he went
on a tour through the manufacturing districts, speaking in public,
mediating between masters and men, and organizing the Ten Hours

In 1847 the Bill passed into law. On June 1 in that year Lord Ashley
wrote in his diary: "News that the Factory Bill has just passed the
Third Reading. I am humbled that my heart is not bursting with
thankfulness to Almighty God--that I can find breath and sense to
express my joy. What reward shall we give unto the Lord for all the
benefits He hath conferred upon us?--God in His mercy prosper the work,
and grant that these operatives may receive the cup of salvation and
call upon the name of the Lord!"

The perfervid vein of philanthropic zeal which is apparent in this
extract animated every part of Lord Shaftesbury's nature and every
action of his life. He had, if ever man had, "the Enthusiasm of
Humanity." His religion, on its interior side, was rapt, emotional, and
sometimes mystic; but at the same time it was, in its outward
manifestations, definite, tangible, and, beyond most men's, practical.
At the age of twenty-seven he wrote in his diary: "On my soul, I believe
that I desire the welfare of mankind." At eighty-four he exclaimed, in
view of his approaching end, "I cannot bear to leave the world with all
the misery in it." And this was no mere effusive declamation, but the
genuine utterance of a zeal which condescended to the most minute and
laborious forms of practical expression. "Poor dear children!" he
exclaimed to the superintendent of a ragged school, after hearing from
some of the children their tale of cold and hunger. "What can we do for

"My God shall supply all their need," replied the superintendent with
easy faith.

"Yes," said Lord Shaftesbury, "He will, but they must have some food
directly." He drove home, and instantly sent two churns of soup, enough
to feed four hundred. That winter ten thousand basins of soup, made in
Grosvenor Square, were distributed among the "dear little hearts" of

And as in small things, so in great. One principle consecrated his whole
life. His love of God constrained him to the service of men, and no
earthly object or consideration--however natural, innocent, or even
laudable--was allowed for a moment to interpose itself between him and
the supreme purpose for which he lived. He was by nature a man of keen
ambition, and yet he twice refused office in the Household, once the
Chief Secretaryship, and three times a seat in the Cabinet, because
acceptance would have hindered him in his social legislation and
philanthropic business. When we consider his singular qualifications for
public life--his physical gifts, his power of speech, his habits of
business, his intimate connections with the official caste--when we
remember that he did not succeed to his paternal property till he was
fifty years old, and then found it grossly neglected and burdened with
debt; and that his purse had been constantly drained by his
philanthropic enterprises--we are justified in saying that very few men
have ever sacrificed so much for a cause which brought neither honours,
nor riches, nor power, nor any visible reward, except the diminished
suffering and increased happiness of multitudes who were the least able
to help themselves.

Lord Shaftesbury's devotion to the cause of Labour led him to make the
Factory Acts a touchstone of character. To the end of his days his view
of public men was largely governed by the part which they had played in
that great controversy. "Gladstone voted against me," was a stern
sentence not seldom on his lips. "Bright was the most malignant opponent
the Factory Bill ever had." "Cobden, though bitterly hostile, was better
than Bright." Even men whom on general grounds he disliked and
despised--such as Lord Beaconsfield and Bishop Wilberforce--found a
saving clause in his judgment if he could truthfully say, "He helped me
with the chimney-sweeps," or, "He felt for the wretched operatives."

But even apart from questions of humane sentiment and the supreme
interests of social legislation, I always felt in my intercourse with
Lord Shaftesbury that it would have been impossible for him to act for
long together in subordination to, or even in concert with, any
political leader. Resolute, self-reliant, inflexible; hating compromise;
never turning aside by a hair's-breadth from the path of duty; incapable
of flattering high or low; dreading leaps in the dark, but dreading more
than anything else the sacrifice of principle to party--he was
essentially the type of politician who is the despair of the official

Oddly enough, Lord Palmerston was the statesman with whom, despite all
ethical dissimilarity, he had the most sympathy, and this arose partly
from their near relationship and partly from Lord Palmerston's
easy-going habit of placing his ecclesiastical patronage in Lord
Shaftesbury's hands. It was this unseen but not unfelt power as a
confidential yet irresponsible adviser that Lord Shaftesbury really
enjoyed and, indeed, his political opinions were too individual to have
allowed of binding association with either political party. He was, in
the truest and best sense of the word, a Conservative. To call him a
Tory would be quite misleading. He was not averse from Roman Catholic
emancipation. He took no prominent part against the first Reform Bill.
His resistance to the admission of the Jews to Parliament was directed
rather against the method than the principle. Though not friendly to
Women's Suffrage, he said: "I shall feel myself bound to conform to the
national will, but I am not prepared to stimulate it."

But while no blind and unreasoning opponent of all change, he had a deep
and lively veneration for the past. Institutions, doctrines, ceremonies,
dignities, even social customs, which had descended from old time, had
for him a fascination and an awe. In his high sense of the privileges
and the duties of kingship, of aristocracy, of territorial possession,
of established religions, he recalled the doctrine of Burke; and he
resembled that illustrious man in his passionate love of principle, in
his proud hatred of shifts and compromises, in his contempt for the
whole race of mechanical politicians and their ignoble strife for place
and power.

When Lord Derby formed his Government in 1866, on the defeat of Lord
Russell's second Reform Bill, he endeavoured to obtain the sanction of
Lord Shaftesbury's name and authority by offering him a seat in his
Cabinet. This offer was promptly declined; had it been accepted, it
might have had an important bearing on the following event, which was
narrated to me by Lord Shaftesbury in 1882. One winter evening in 1867
he was sitting in his library in Grosvenor Square, when the servant told
him that there was a poor man waiting to see him. The man was shown in,
and proved to be a labourer from Clerkenwell, and one of the innumerable
recipients of the old Earl's charity. He said, "My Lord, you have been
very good to me, and I have come to tell you what I have heard." It
appeared that at the public-house which he frequented he had overheard
some Irishmen of desperate character plotting to blow up Clerkenwell
prison. He gave Lord Shaftesbury the information to be used as he
thought best, but made it a condition that his name should not be
divulged. If it were, his life would not be worth an hour's purchase.
Lord Shaftesbury pledged himself to secrecy, ordered his carriage, and
drove instantly to Whitehall. The authorities there refused, on grounds
of official practice, to entertain the information without the name and
address of the informant. These, of course, could not be given. The
warning was rejected, and the jail blown up. Had Lord Shaftesbury been a
Cabinet Minister, this triumph of officialism would probably not have

What I have said of this favourite hero of mine in his public aspects
will have prepared the sympathetic reader for the presentment of the man
as he appeared in private life. For what he was abroad that he was at
home. He was not a man who showed two natures or lived two lives. He was
profoundly religious, eagerly benevolent, utterly impatient of whatever
stood between him and the laudable object of the moment, warmly attached
to those who shared his sympathies and helped his enterprises--_Fort
comme le diamant; plus tendre qu'une mère_. The imperiousness which I
described at the outset remained a leading characteristic to the last.
His opinions were strong, his judgment was emphatic, his language
unmeasured. He had been, all through his public life, surrounded by a
cohort of admiring and obedient coadjutors, and he was unused to, and
intolerant of, disagreement or opposition. It was a disconcerting
experience to speak on a platform where he was chairman, and, just as
one was warming to an impressive passage, to feel a vigorous pull at
one's coat-tail, and to hear a quick, imperative voice say, in no
muffled tone, "My dear fellow, are you never going to stop? We shall be
here all night."

But when due allowance was made for this natural habit of command, Lord
Shaftesbury was delightful company. Given to hospitality, he did the
honours with stately grace; and, on the rare occasions when he could be
induced to dine out, his presence was sure to make the party a success.
In early life he had been pestered by a delicate digestion, and had
accustomed himself to a regimen of rigid simplicity; but, though the
most abstemious of men, he knew and liked a good glass of wine, and in a
small party would bring out of the treasures of his memory things new
and old with a copiousness and a vivacity which fairly fascinated his
hearers. His conversation had a certain flavour of literature. His
classical scholarship was easy and graceful. He had the Latin poets at
his fingers' ends, spoke French fluently, knew Milton by heart, and was
a great admirer of Crabbe. His own style, both in speech and writing,
was copious, vigorous, and often really eloquent. It had the same
ornamental precision as his exquisite handwriting. When he was among
friends whom he thoroughly enjoyed, the sombre dignity of his
conversation was constantly enlivened by flashes of a genuine humour,
which relieved, by the force of vivid contrast, the habitual austerity
of his demeanour.

A kind of proud humility was constantly present in his speech and
bearing. Ostentation, display, lavish expenditure would have been
abhorrent alike to his taste and his principles. The stately figure
which bore itself so majestically in Courts and Parliaments naturally
unbent among the costermongers of Whitechapel and the labourers of
Dorsetshire. His personal appointments were simple to a degree; his own
expenditure was restricted within the narrowest limits. But he loved,
and was honestly proud of, his beautiful home--St. Giles's House, near
Cranbourne; and when he received his guests, gentle or simple, at "The
Saint," as he affectionately called it, the mixture of stateliness and
geniality in his bearing and address was an object-lesson in high
breeding. Once Lord Beaconsfield, who was staying with Lord Alington at
Crichel, was driven over to call on Lord Shaftesbury at St. Giles's.
When he rose to take his leave, he said, with characteristic
magniloquence, but not without an element of truth, "Good-bye, my dear
Lord. You have given me the privilege of seeing one of the most
impressive of all spectacles--a great English nobleman living in
patriarchal state in his own hereditary halls."



I have described a great philanthropist and a great statesman. My
present subject is a man who combined in singular harmony the qualities
of philanthropy and of statesmanship--Henry Edward, Cardinal Manning,
and titular Archbishop of Westminster.

My acquaintance with Cardinal Manning began in 1833. Early in the
Parliamentary session of that year he intimated, through a common
friend, a desire to make my acquaintance. He wished to get an
independent Member of Parliament, and especially, if possible, a Liberal
and a Churchman, to take up in the House of Commons the cause of
Denominational Education. His scheme was much the same as that now[3]
adopted by the Government--the concurrent endowment of all
denominational schools; which, as he remarked, would practically come to
mean those of the Anglicans, the Romans, and the Wesleyans. In
compliance with his request, I presented myself at that barrack-like
building off the Vauxhall Bridge Road, which was formerly the Guards'
Institute, and is now the Archbishop's House. Of course, I had long been
familiar with the Cardinal's shrunken form and finely-cut features, and
that extraordinary dignity of bearing which gave him, though in reality
below the middle height, the air and aspect of a tall man. But I only
knew him as a conspicuous and impressive figure in society, on public
platforms, and (where he specially loved to be) in the precincts of the
House of Commons. I had never exchanged a word with him, and it was with
a feeling of very special interest that I entered his presence.

We had little in common. I was still a young man, and the Cardinal was
already old. I was a staunch Anglican; he, the most devoted of
Papalists. I was strongly opposed both to his Ultramontane policy and to
those dexterous methods by which he was commonly supposed to promote it;
and, as far as the circumstances of my life had given me any insight
into the interior of Romanism, I sympathized with the great Oratorian of
Birmingham rather than with his brother-cardinal of Westminster. But
though I hope that my principles stood firm, all my prejudices melted
away in that fascinating presence. Though there was something like half
a century's difference in our ages, I felt at once and completely at
home with him.

What made our perfect ease of intercourse more remarkable was that, as
far as the Cardinal's immediate object was concerned, my visit was a
total failure. I had no sympathy with his scheme for the endowment of
denominational teaching, and, with all the will in the world to please
him, I could not even meet him half way. But this untoward circumstance
did not import the least difficulty or restraint into our conversation.
He gently glided from business into general topics; knew all about my
career, congratulated me on some recent success, remembered some of my
belongings, inquired about my school and college, was interested to find
that, like himself, I had been at Harrow and Oxford, and, after an
hour's pleasant chat, said, "Now you must stay and have some luncheon."
From that day to the end of his life I was a frequent visitor at his
house, and every year that I knew him I learned to regard and respect
him increasingly.

Looking back over these fourteen years, and reviewing my impressions of
his personality, I must put first the physical aspect of the man. He
seemed older than he was, and even more ascetic, for he looked as if,
like the cardinal in _Lothair_, he lived on biscuits and soda-water;
whereas he had a hearty appetite for his midday meal, and, in his own
words, "enjoyed his tea." Still, he carried the irreducible minimum of
flesh on his bones, and his hollow cheeks and shrunken jaws threw his
massive forehead into striking prominence. His line of features was
absolutely faultless in its statuesque regularity, but his face was
saved from the insipidity of too great perfection by the
imperious--rather ruthless--lines of his mouth and the penetrating
lustre of his deep-set eyes. His dress--a black cassock edged and
buttoned with crimson, with a crimson skullcap and biretta, and a
pectoral cross of gold--enhanced the picturesqueness of his aspect, and
as he entered the anteroom where one awaited his approach, the most
Protestant knee instinctively bent.

His dignity was astonishing. The position of a cardinal with a princely
rank recognized abroad but officially ignored in England was difficult
to carry off, but his exquisite tact enabled him to sustain it to
perfection. He never put himself forward; never asserted his rank; never
exposed himself to rebuffs; still, he always contrived to be the most
conspicuous figure in any company which he entered; and whether one
greeted him with the homage due to a prince of the Church or merely with
the respect which no one refuses to a courtly old gentleman, his manner
was equally easy, natural, and unembarrassed. The fact that the
Cardinal's name, after due consideration, was inserted in the Royal
Commission on the Housing of the Poor immediately after that of the
Prince of Wales and before Lord Salisbury's was the formal recognition
of a social precedence which adroitness and judgment had already made
his own.

To imagine that Cardinal Manning regarded station, or dignity, or even
power, as treasures to be valued in themselves would be ridiculously to
misconceive the man. He had two supreme and absorbing objects in
life--if, indeed, they may not be more properly spoken of as one--the
glory of God and the salvation of men. These were, in his intellect and
conscience, identified with the victory of the Roman Church. To these
all else was subordinated; by its relation to these all else was weighed
and calculated. His ecclesiastical dignity, and the secular recognition
of it, were valuable as means to high ends. They attracted public notice
to his person and mission; they secured him a wider hearing; they gave
him access to circles which, perhaps, would otherwise have been closed.
Hence, and for no other reason, they were valuable.

It has always to be borne in mind that Manning was essentially a man of
the world, though he was much more than that. Be it far from me to
disparage the ordinary type of Roman ecclesiastic, who is bred in a
seminary, and perhaps spends his lifetime in a religious community. That
peculiar training produces, often enough, a character of saintliness and
unworldly grace on which one can only "look," to use a phrase of Mr.
Gladstone's, "as men look up at the stars." But it was a very different
process that had made Cardinal Manning what he was. He had touched life
at many points. A wealthy home, four years at Harrow, Balliol in its
palmiest days, a good degree, a College Fellowship, political and
secular ambitions of no common kind, apprenticeship to the practical
work of a Government office, a marriage brightly but all too briefly
happy, the charge of a country parish, and an early initiation into the
duties of ecclesiastical rulership--all these experiences had made
Henry Manning, by the time of his momentous change, an accomplished man
of the world.

His subsequent career, though, of course, it superadded certain
characteristics of its own, never obliterated or even concealed the
marks left by those earlier phases, and the octogenarian Cardinal was a
beautifully-mannered, well-informed, sagacious old gentleman who, but
for his dress, might have passed for a Cabinet Minister, an eminent
judge, or a great county magnate.

His mental alertness was remarkable. He seemed to read everything that
came out, and to know all that was going on. He probed character with a
glance, and was particularly sharp on pretentiousness and
self-importance. A well-known publicist, who perhaps thinks of himself
rather more highly than he ought to think, once ventured to tell the
Cardinal that he knew nothing about the subject of a painful agitation
which pervaded London in the summer of 1885. "I have been hearing
confessions in London for thirty years, and I fancy more people have
confided their secrets to me than to you, Mr. ----," was the Cardinal's

Once, when his burning sympathy with suffering and his profound contempt
for Political Economy had led him, in his own words, to "poke fun at the
Dismal Science," the _Times_ lectured him in its most superior manner,
and said that the venerable prelate seemed to mistake cause and effect.
"That," said the Cardinal to me, "is the sort of criticism that an
undergraduate makes, and thinks himself very clever. But I am told that
in the present day the _Times_ is chiefly written by undergraduates."

I once asked him what he thought of a high dignitary of the English
Church, who had gone a certain way in a public movement, and then had
been frightened back by clamour. His reply was the single word
"_infirmus_," accompanied by that peculiar sniff which every one who
ever conversed with him must remember as adding so much to the piquancy
of his terse judgments. When he was asked his opinion of a famous
biography in which a son had disclosed, with too absolute frankness, his
father's innermost thoughts and feelings, the Cardinal replied, "I think
that ---- has committed the sin of Ham."

His sense of humour was peculiarly keen, and though it was habitually
kept under control, it was sometimes used to point a moral with
admirable effect.

"What are you going to do in life?" he asked a rather flippant
undergraduate at Oxford.

"Oh, I'm going to take Holy Orders," was the airy reply.

"Take care you get them, my son."

Though he was intolerant of bumptiousness, the Cardinal liked young men.
He often had some about him, and in speaking to them the friendliness of
his manner was touched with fatherliness in a truly attractive fashion.
And as with young men, so with children. Surely nothing could be
prettier than this answer to a little girl in New York who had addressed
some of her domestic experiences to "Cardinal Manning, England."

"My Dear Child,--You ask me whether I am glad to receive letters from
little children. I am always glad, for they write kindly and give me no
trouble. I wish all my letters were like theirs. Give my blessing to
your father, and tell him that our good Master will reward him a
hundredfold for all he has lost for the sake of his faith. Tell him that
when he comes over to England he must come to see me. And mind you bring
your violin, for I love music, but seldom have any time to hear it. The
next three or four years of your life are very precious. They are like
the ploughing-time and the sowing-time in the year. You are learning to
know God, the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the presence and voice of
the Holy Ghost in the Church of Jesus Christ. Learn all these things
solidly, and you will love the Blessed Sacrament and our Blessed Mother
with all your heart. And now you will pray for me that I may make a good
end of a long life, which cannot be far off. And may God guide you and
guard you in innocence and in fidelity through this evil, evil world!
And may His blessing be on your home and all belonging to you! Believe
me always a true friend, Henry Edward, Card. Abp. of Westminster."

The Cardinal had, I should say, rather a contempt for women. He
exercised a great influence over them, but I question if he rated their
intellectual and moral qualities as highly as he ought, and their
"rights" he held in utter detestation. General society, though in his
later days he saw little of it except at the Athenaeum, he thoroughly
enjoyed. Like most old people, he was fond of talking about old days,
and as he had known hosts of important and interesting men, had a
tenacious memory, and spoke the most finished English, it was a pleasure
to listen to his reminiscences. He wrote as well as he talked. His
pointed and lucid style gave to his printed performances a semblance of
cogency which they did not really possess; and his letters--even his
shortest notes--were as exquisite in wording as in penmanship. As he
grew older, he became increasingly sensible of the charms of "Auld Lang
Syne," and he delighted to renew his acquaintance with the scenes and
associations of his youth.

On July 15, 1888, being the first day of the Eton and Harrow Match at
Lord's, a few old Harrovians of different generations met at a Harrow
dinner. The Cardinal, who had just turned eighty, was invited. He
declined to dine, on the ground that he never dined out, but he would on
no account forego the opportunity of meeting the members of his old
school, and he recalled with pride that he had played for two years in
the Harrow Eleven. He appeared as soon as dinner was over, gallantly
faced the cloud of cigar-smoke, was in his very best vein of anecdote
and reminiscence, and stayed till the party broke up.

The Cardinal's friendships were not, I believe, numerous, but his
affection for Mr. Gladstone is well known. It dated from Oxford. Through
Manning and Hope-Scott the influence of the Catholic revival reached the
young member for Newark, and they were the godfathers of his eldest son.
After their secession to Rome in 1851 this profound friendship fell into
abeyance. As far as Manning was concerned, it was renewed when, in 1868,
Mr. Gladstone took in hand to disestablish the Irish Church. It was
broken again by the controversy about _Vaticanism_, in 1875, and some
fifteen years later was happily revived by the good offices of a common
friend. "Gladstone is a very fine fellow," said the Cardinal to me in
1890. "He is not vindictive. You may fight him as hard as you like, and
when the fight is over you will find that it has left no rancour behind

This affection for Mr. Gladstone was a personal matter, quite
independent of politics; but in political matters also they had much in
common. "You know," wrote the Cardinal to Mrs. Gladstone on her Golden
Wedding, "how nearly I have agreed in William's political career,
especially in his Irish policy of the last twenty years." He accepted
the principle of Home Rule, though he thought badly of the Bill of 1886,
and predicted its failure from the day when it was brought in. The
exclusion of the Irish members was in his eyes a fatal blot, as tending
rather to separation than to that Imperial federation which was his
political ideal. But the Cardinal always held his politics in
subordination to his religion, and at the General Election of 1885 his
vigorous intervention on behalf of denominational education which he
considered to be imperilled by the Radical policy, considerably
embarrassed the Liberal cause in those districts of London where there
is a Roman Catholic vote.

It is necessary to say a word about Cardinal Manning's method of
religious propagandism. He excelled in the art of driving a nail where
it would go. He never worried his acquaintance with controversy, never
introduced religious topics unseasonably, never cast his pearls before
unappreciative animals. But when he saw a chance, an opening, a
sympathetic tendency, or a weak spot, he fastened on it with unerring
instinct. His line was rather admonitory than persuasive. When he
thought that the person whom he was addressing had an inkling of the
truth, but was held back from avowing it by cowardice or indecision, he
would utter the most startling warnings about the danger of dallying
with grace.

"I promise you to become a Catholic when I am twenty-one," said a young
lady whom he was trying to convert.

"But can you promise to live so long?" was the searching rejoinder.

In Manning's belief, the Roman Church was the one oracle of truth and
the one ark of salvation; and his was the faith which would compass sea
and land, sacrifice all that it possessed, and give its body to be
burned, if it might by any means bring one more soul to safety. If he
could win a single human being to see the truth and act on it, he was
supremely happy. To make the Church of Rome attractive, to enlarge her
borders, to win recruits for her, was therefore his constant effort. He
had an ulterior eye to it in all his public works--his zealous
teetotalism, his advocacy of the claims of labour, his sympathy with the
demand for Home Rule; and the same principle which animated him in these
large schemes of philanthropy and public policy made itself felt in the
minutest details of daily life and personal dealing. Where he saw the
possibility of making a convert, or even of dissipating prejudice and
inclining a single Protestant more favourably towards Rome, he left no
stone unturned to secure this all-important end. Hence it came that he
was constantly, and not wholly without reason, depicted as a man whom in
religious matters it was impossible to trust; with whom the end
justified the means; and whose every act and word, where the interests
of his Church were involved, must be watched with the most jealous

All this was grossly overstated. Whatever else Cardinal Manning was, he
was an English gentleman of the old school, with a nice sense of honour
and propriety. But still, under a mass of calumny and exaggeration,
there lay this substratum of truth--that he who wills the end wills the
means; and that where the interests of a sacred cause are at stake, an
enthusiastic adherent will sometimes use methods to which, in
enterprises of less pith and moment, recourse could not properly be had.

Manning had what has been called "the ambition of distinctiveness." He
felt that he had a special mission which no other man could so
adequately fulfil, and this was to establish and popularize in England
his own robust faith in the cause of the Papacy as identical with the
cause of God. There never lived a stronger Papalist. He was more
Ultramontane than the Ultramontanes. Everything Roman was to him divine.
Italian architecture, Italian vestments, the Italian mode of pronouncing
ecclesiastical Latin were dear to him, because they visibly and audibly
implied the all-pervading presence and power of Rome. Rightly or
wrongly, he conceived that English Romanism, as it was when he joined
the Roman Church, was practically Gallicanism; that it minimized the
Papal supremacy, was disloyal to the Temporal Power, and was prone to
accommodate itself to its Protestant and secular environment. Against
this time-serving spirit he set his face like a flint. He believed that
he had been divinely appointed to Papalize England. The cause of the
Pope was the cause of God; Manning was the person who could best serve
the Pope's cause, and therefore all forces which opposed him were in
effect opposing the Divine Will. This seems to have been his simple and
sufficient creed, and certainly it had the merit of supplying a clear
rule of action. It made itself felt in his hostility to the Religious
Orders, and especially the Society of Jesus. Religious Orders are
extra-episcopal. The Jesuits are scarcely subject to the Pope himself.
Certainly neither the Orders nor the Society would, or could, be subject
to Manning. A power independent of, or hostile to, his authority was
inimical to religion, and must, as a religious duty, be checked, and, if
possible, destroyed. Exactly the same principle animated his dealings
with Cardinal Newman. Rightly or wrongly, Manning thought Newman a
half-hearted Papalist. He dreaded alike his way of putting things and
his practical policy. Newman's favourite scheme of establishing a Roman
Catholic college at Oxford, Manning regarded as fraught with peril to
the faith of the rising generation. The scheme must therefore be crushed
and its author snubbed.

I must in candour add that these differences of opinion between the two
Cardinals were mixed with and embittered by a sense of personal dislike.
When Newman died there appeared in a monthly magazine a series of very
unflattering sketches by one who had lived under his roof. I ventured to
ask Cardinal Manning if he had seen these sketches. He replied that he
had, and thought them very shocking; the writer must have a very
unenviable mind, &c., and then, having thus sacrificed to propriety,
after a moment's pause he added, "But if you ask me if they are like
poor Newman, I am bound to say--_a photograph_."

It was, I suppose, matter of common knowledge that Manning's early and
conspicuous ascendency in the counsels of the Papacy rested mainly on
the intimacy of his personal relations with Pius IX. But it was news to
most of us that (if his biographer is right) he wished to succeed
Antonelli as Secretary of State in 1876, and to transfer the scene of
his activities from Westminster to Rome, and that he attributed the
Pope's disregard of his wishes to mental decrepitude. The point, if
true, is an important one, for his accession to the Secretaryship of
State, and permanent residence in Rome, could not have failed to affect
the development of events when, two years later, the Papal throne became
vacant by the death of Pius IX. But _Deo aliter visum_. It was ordained
that he should pass the evening of his days in England, and that he
should outlive his intimacy at the Vatican and his influence on the
general policy of the Church of Rome. With the accession of Leo XIII. a
new order began, and Newman's elevation to the sacred purple seemed to
affix the sanction of Infallibility to views and methods against which
Manning had waged a Thirty Years' War. Henceforward he felt himself a
stranger at the Vatican, and powerless beyond the limits of his own

Perhaps this restriction of exterior activities in the ecclesiastical
sphere drove the venerable Cardinal to find a vent for his untiring
energies in those various efforts of social reform in which, during the
last ten years of his life, he played so conspicuous a part. If this be
so, though Rome may have lost, England was unquestionably a gainer. It
was during those ten years that I was honoured by his friendship. The
storms, the struggles, the ambitions, the intrigues which had filled so
large a part of his middle life lay far behind. He was revered, useful,
and, I think, contented in his present life, and looked forward with
serene confidence to the final, and not distant, issue. Thrice happy is
the man who, in spite of increasing infirmity and the loss of much that
once made life enjoyable, thus

    "Finds comfort in himself and in his cause,
    And, while the mortal mist is gathering, draws
    His breath in confidence of Heaven's applause."


[3] 1903



It is narrated of an ancient Fellow of All Souls' that, lamenting the
changes which had transformed his College from the nest of aristocratic
idlers into a society of accomplished scholars, he exclaimed: "Hang it
all, sir, we were _sui generis_." What the unreformed Fellows of All
Souls' were among the common run of Oxford dons, that, it may truly (and
with better syntax) be said, the late Lord Houghton was among his
fellow-citizens. Of all the men I have ever known he was, I think, the
most completely _sui generis_. His temperament and turn of mind were, as
far as I know, quite unlike anything that obtained among his
predecessors and contemporaries; nor do I see them reproduced among the
men who have come after him. His peculiarities were not external. His
appearance accorded with his position. He looked very much what one
would have expected in a country gentleman of large means and prosperous
circumstances. His early portraits show that he was very like all the
other young gentlemen of fashion whom D'Orsay drew, with their long
hair, high collars, and stupendous neckcloths. The admirably faithful
work of Mr. Lehmann will enable all posterity to know exactly how he
looked in his later years with his loose-fitting clothes, comfortable
figure, and air of genial gravity. Externally all was normal. His
peculiarities were those of mental habit, temperament, and taste. As far
as I know, he had not a drop of foreign blood in his veins, yet his
nature was essentially un-English.

A country gentleman who frankly preferred living in London, and a
Yorkshireman who detested sport, made a sufficiently strange phenomenon;
but in Lord Houghton the astonished world beheld as well a politician
who wrote poetry, a railway-director who lived in literature, a
_libre-penseur_ who championed the Tractarians, a sentimentalist who
talked like a cynic, and a philosopher who had elevated conviviality to
the dignity of an exact science. Here, indeed, was a "living
oxymoron"--a combination of inconsistent and incongruous qualities which
to the typical John Bull--Lord Palmerston's "Fat man with a white hat in
the twopenny omnibus"--was a sealed and hopeless mystery.

Something of this unlikeness to his fellow-Englishmen was due, no doubt,
to the fact that Lord Houghton, the only son of a gifted, eccentric, and
indulgent father, was brought up at home. The glorification of the
Public School has been ridiculously overdone. But it argues no blind
faith in that strange system of unnatural restraints and scarcely more
reasonable indulgences to share Gibbon's opinion that the training of a
Public School is the best adapted to the common run of Englishmen. "It
made us what we were, sir," said Major Bagstock to Mr. Dombey; "we were
iron, sir, and it forged us." The average English boy being what he is
by nature--"a soaring human boy," as Mr. Chadband called him--a Public
School simply makes him more so. It confirms alike his characteristic
faults and his peculiar virtues, and turns him out after five or six
years that altogether lovely and gracious product--the Average
Englishman. This may be readily conceded; but, after all, the
pleasantness of the world as a place of residence, and the growing good
of the human race, do not depend exclusively on the Average Englishman;
and something may be said for the system of training which has
produced, not only all famous foreigners (for they, of course, are a
negligible quantity), but such exceptional Englishmen as William Pitt
and Thomas Macaulay, and John Keble and Samuel Wilberforce, and Richard
Monckton Milnes.

From an opulent and cultivated home young Milnes passed to the most
famous college in the world, and found himself under the tuition of
Whewell and Thirlwall, and in the companionship of Alfred Tennyson and
Julius Hare, Charles Buller and John Sterling--a high-hearted
brotherhood who made their deep mark on the spiritual and intellectual
life of their own generation and of that which succeeded it.

After Cambridge came foreign travel, on a scale and plan quite outside
the beaten track of the conventional "grand tour" as our fathers knew
it. From the Continent Richard Milnes brought back a gaiety of spirit, a
frankness of bearing, a lightness of touch which were quite un-English,
and "a taste for French novels, French cookery, and French wines" with
which Miss Crawley would have sympathized. In 1837 he entered Parliament
as a "Liberal Conservative" for the Borough of Pontefract, over which
his father exercised considerable influence, and he immediately became a
conspicuous figure in the social life of London. A few years later his
position and character were drawn by the hand of a master in a passage
which will well bear yet one more reproduction:--

"Mr. Vavasour was a social favourite; a poet, and a real poet, and a
troubadour, as well as a Member of Parliament; travelled,
sweet-tempered, and good-hearted; amusing and clever. With catholic
sympathies and an eclectic turn of mind, Mr. Vavasour saw something good
in everybody and everything; which is certainly amiable, and perhaps
just, but disqualifies a man in some degree for the business of life,
which requires for its conduct a certain degree of prejudice. Mr.
Vavasour's breakfasts were renowned. Whatever your creed, class, or
country--one might almost add your character--you were a welcome guest
at his matutinal meal, provided you were celebrated. That qualification,
however, was rigidly enforced. A real philosopher, alike from his genial
disposition and from the influence of his rich and various information,
Vavasour moved amid the strife, sympathizing with every one; and
perhaps, after all, the philanthropy which was his boast was not
untinged by a dash of humour, of which rare and charming quality he
possessed no inconsiderable portion. Vavasour liked to know everybody
who was known, and to see everything which ought to be seen. His life
was a gyration of energetic curiosity; an insatiable whirl of social
celebrity. There was not a congregation of sages and philosophers in any
part of Europe which he did not attend as a brother. He was present at
the camp of Kalisch in his yeomanry uniform, and assisted at the
festivals of Barcelona in an Andalusian jacket. He was everywhere and at
everything: he had gone down in a diving-bell and gone up in a balloon.
As for his acquaintances, he was welcomed in every land; his universal
sympathies seemed omnipotent. Emperor and King, Jacobin and Carbonaro,
alike cherished him. He was the steward of Polish balls, and the
vindicator of Russian humanity; he dined with Louis Philippe, and gave
dinners to Louis Blanc."

Lord Beaconsfield's penetration in reading character and skill in
delineating it were never, I think, displayed to better advantage than
in the foregoing passage. Divested of its intentional and humorous
exaggerations, it is not a caricature, but a portrait. It exhibits with
singular fidelity the qualities which made Lord Houghton, to the end of
his long life, at once unique and lovable. We recognize the overflowing
sympathy, the keen interest in life, the vivid faculty of enjoyment, the
absolute freedom from national prejudice, the love of seeing and of
being seen.

During the Chartist riots of 1848 Matthew Arnold wrote to his mother:
"Tell Miss Martineau it is said here that Monckton Milnes refused to be
sworn in a special constable, that he might be free to assume the post
of President of the Republic at a moment's notice." And those who knew
Lord Houghton best suspect that he himself originated the joke at his
own expense. The assured ease of young Milnes's social manner, even
among complete strangers, so unlike the morbid self-repression and proud
humility of the typical Englishman, won for him the nickname of "The
Cool of the Evening." His wholly un-English tolerance and constant
effort to put himself in the place of others whom the world condemned,
procured for him from Carlyle (who genuinely loved him) the title of
"President of the Heaven-and-Hell-Amalgamation Company." Bishop
Wilberforce wrote, describing a dinner-party in 1847: "Carlyle was very
great. Monckton Milnes drew him out. Milnes began the young man's cant
of the present day--the barbarity and wickedness of capital punishment;
that, after all, we could not be sure others were wicked, etc. Carlyle
broke out on him with, 'None of your Heaven-and-Hell-Amalgamation
Companies for me. We _do_ know what is wickedness, _I_ know wicked men,
men whom I _would not live with_--men whom under some conceivable
circumstances I would kill or they should kill me. No, Milnes, there's
no truth or greatness in all that. It's just poor, miserable

Lord Houghton's faculty of enjoyment was peculiarly keen. He warmed not
only both hands but indeed all his nature before the fire of life. "All
impulses of soul and sense" affected him with agreeable emotions; no
pleasure of body or spirit came amiss to him. And in nothing was he more
characteristically un-English than in the frank manifestation of his
enjoyment, bubbling over with an infectious jollity, and never, even
when touched by years and illness, taking his pleasures after that
melancholy manner of our nation to which it is a point of literary
honour not more directly to allude. Equally un-English was his frank
openness of speech and bearing. His address was pre-eminently what
old-fashioned people called "forthcoming." It was strikingly--even
amusingly--free from that frigid dignity and arrogant reserve for which
as a nation we are so justly famed. I never saw him kiss a guest on both
cheeks, but if I had I should not have felt the least surprised.

What would have surprised me would have been if the guest (whatever his
difference of age or station) had not felt immediately and completely at
home, or if Lord Houghton had not seemed and spoken as if they had known
one another from the days of short frocks and skipping-ropes. There
never lived so perfect a host. His sympathy was genius, and his
hospitality a fine art. He was peculiarly sensitive to the claims of
"Auld Lang Syne," and when a young man came up from Oxford or Cambridge
to begin life in London, he was certain to find that Lord Houghton had
travelled on the Continent with his father, or had danced with his
mother, or had made love to his aunt, and was eagerly on the look-out
for an opportunity of showing gracious and valuable kindness to the son
of his ancient friends.

When I first lived in London Lord Houghton was occupying a house in
Arlington Street made famous by the fact that Hogarth drew its interior
and decorations in his pictures of "Marriage a la Mode." And nowhere did
the social neophyte receive a warmer welcome, or find himself amid a
more eclectic and representative society. Queens of fashion,
professional beauties, authors and authoresses, ambassadors,
philosophers, discoverers, actors--every one who was famous or even
notorious; who had been anywhere or had done anything, from a
successful speech in Parliament to a hazardous leap at the
Aquarium--jostled one another on the wide staircase and in the gravely
ornate drawing-rooms. And amid the motley crowd the genial host was
omnipresent, with a warm greeting and a twinkling smile for each
successive guest--a good story, a happy quotation, the last morsel of
piquant gossip, the newest theory of ethics or of politics.

Lord Houghton's humour had a quality which was quite its own. Nothing
was sacred to it--neither age, nor sex, nor subject was spared; but it
was essentially good-natured. It was the property of a famous spear to
heal the wounds which itself had made; the shafts of Lord Houghton's fun
needed no healing virtue, for they made no wound. When that saintly
friend of temperance and all good causes, Mr. Cowper-Temple, was raised
to the peerage as Lord Mount Temple, Lord Houghton went about saying,
"You know that the precedent for Billy Cowper's title is in _Don

    'And Lord Mount Coffee-house, the Irish peer,
     Who killed himself for love, with drink, last year.'"

When a very impecunious youth, who could barely afford to pay for his
cab fares, lost a pound to him at whist, Lord Houghton said, as he
pocketed the coin, "Ah, my dear boy, the _great_ Lord Hertford, whom
foolish people called the _wicked_ Lord Hertford--Thackeray's Steyne and
Dizzy's Monmouth--used to say, 'There is no pleasure in winning money
from a man who does not feel it.' How true that was!--" And when he saw
a young friend at a club supping on _pâté de foie gras_ and champagne,
he said encouragingly, "That's quite right. All the pleasant things in
life are unwholesome, or expensive, or wrong." And amid these rather
grim morsels of experimental philosophy he would interject certain
_obiter dicta_ which came straight from the unspoiled goodness of a
really kind heart. "All men are improved by prosperity," he used to
say. Envy, hatred, and malice had no place in his nature. It was a
positive enjoyment to him to see other people happy, and a friend's
success was as gratifying as his own. His life, though in most respects
singularly happy, had not been without its disappointments. At one time
he had nursed political ambitions, and his peculiar knowledge of foreign
affairs had seemed to indicate a special line of activity and success.
But things went differently. He always professed to regard his peerage
as "a Second Class in the School of Life," and himself as a political
failure. Yet no tinge of sourness, or jealousy, or cynical disbelief in
his more successful contemporaries ever marred the geniality of his
political conversation.

As years advanced he became not (as the manner of most men is) less
Liberal, but more so; keener in sympathy with all popular causes;
livelier in his indignation against monopoly and injustice. Thirty years
ago, in the struggle for the Reform Bill of 1866, his character and
position were happily hit off by Sir George Trevelyan in a description
of a walk down Piccadilly:--

  "There on warm midsummer Sundays Fryston's Bard is wont to wend,
   Whom the Ridings trust and honour, Freedom's staunch and jovial friend:
   Loved where shrewd hard-handed craftsmen cluster round the northern
   He whom men style Baron Houghton, but the Gods call Dicky Milnes."

And eighteen years later there was a whimsical pathos in the phrase in
which he announced his fatal illness to a friend: "Yes, I am going to
join the Majority--and you know I have always preferred Minorities."

It would be foreign to my purpose to criticize Lord Houghton as a poet.
My object in these chapters is merely to record the characteristic
traits of eminent men who have honoured me with their friendship, and
among those there is none for whose memory I cherish a warmer sentiment
of affectionate gratitude than for him whose likeness I have now tried
to sketch. His was the most precious of combinations--a genius and a
heart. An estimate of his literary gifts and performances lies
altogether outside my scope, but the political circumstances of the
present hour[4] impel me to conclude this paper with a quotation which,
even if it stood alone, would, I think, justify Lord Beaconsfield's
judgment quoted above--that "he was a poet, and a true poet." Here is
the lyrical cry which, writing in 1843, he puts into the mouth of

    "And if to his old Asian seat,
       From this usurped, unnatural throne,
     The Turk is driven, 'tis surely meet
       That we again should hold our own;
     Be but Byzantium's native sign
       Of Cross on Crescent[5] once unfurled,
     And Greece shall guard by right divine
       The portals of the Easter world."


[4] March 1897.

[5] The Turks adopted the sign of the Crescent from Byzantium after the
Conquest: the Cross above the Crescent is found on many ruins of the
Grecian city--among others, on the Genoese castle on the Bosphorus.



In these chapters I have been trying to recall some notable people
through whom I have been brought into contact with the social life of
the past. I now propose to give the impressions which they conveyed to
me of the moral, material, and political condition of England just at
the moment when the old order was yielding place to new, and modern
Society was emerging from the birth-throes of the French Revolution. All
testimony seems to me to point to the fact that towards the close of the
eighteenth century Religion was almost extinct in the highest and lowest
classes of English society. The poor were sunk in ignorance and
barbarism, and the aristocracy was honeycombed by profligacy. Morality,
discarded alike by high and low, took refuge in the great Middle Class,
then, as now, deeply influenced by Evangelical Dissent. A dissolute
Heir-Apparent presided over a social system in which not merely religion
but decency was habitually disregarded. At his wedding he was so drunk
that his attendant dukes "could scarcely support him from falling."[6]
The Princes of the Blood were notorious for a freedom of life and
manners which would be ludicrous if it were not shocking. Here I may
cite an unpublished diary[7] of Lord Robert Seymour (son of the first
Marquis of Hertford), who was born in 1748 and died in 1831. He was a
man of fashion and a Member of Parliament; and these are some of the
incidents which he notes in 1788:--

"The Prince of Wales declares there is not an honest Woman in London,
excepting Ly. Parker and Ly. Westmoreland, and those are so stupid he
can make nothing of them; they are scarcely fit to blow their own

"At Mrs. Vaneck's assembly last week, the Prince of Wales, very much to
the honour of his polite and elegant Behaviour, measured the breadth of
Mrs. V. behind with his Handkerchief, and shew'd the measurement to most
of the Company."

"Another Trait of the P. of Wales's Respectful Conduct is that at an
assembly he beckoned to the poor old Dutchess of Bedford across a large
Room, and, when she had taken the trouble of crossing the Room, he very
abruptly told her he had nothing to say to her."

"The Prince of Wales very much affronted the D. of Orleans and his
natural Brother, L'Abbé de la Fai, at Newmarket, L'Abbé declaring it
possible to charm a Fish out of the Water, which being disputed
occasioned a Bett; and the Abbé stooped down over the water to tickle
the Fish with a little switch. Fearing, however, the Prince said play
him some Trick, he declared he hoped the Prince would not use him
unfairly by throwing him into the water. The Prince answer'd him that he
would not upon his Honor. The Abbé had no sooner began the operation by
leaning over a little Bridge when the Prince took hold of his Heels and
threw him into the Water, which was rather deep. The Abbé, much enraged,
the moment he got himself out run at the Prince with great violence, a
Horse-whip in his Hand, saying he thought very meanly of a Prince who
cou'd not keep his word. The Prince flew from him, and getting to the
Inn locked himself in one of the Rooms."

"Prince of Wales, Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Duke and Dutchess of
Cumberland, and Miss Pigott, Mrs. F.'s companion, went a Party to
Windsor during the absence of _The Family_ fm. Windsor; and going to see
a cold Bath, Miss P. expressed a great wish to bathe this hot weather.
The D. of C. very imprudently pushed her in, and the Dut. of C. having
the presence of mind to throw out the Rope saved her when in such a
disagreeable State from fear and surprise as to be near sinking. Mrs. F.
went into convulsion Fits, and the Dut. fainted away, and the scene
proved ridiculous in the extreme, as Report says the Duke called out to
Miss P. that he was instantly coming to her in the water, and continued
undressing himself. Poor Miss P.'s clothes entirely laid upon the Water,
and made her appear an awkward figure. They afterwards pushed in one of
the Prince's attendants."

So much for High Life at the close of the eighteenth century. It is more
difficult to realize that we are separated only by some sixty years from
a time when a Cabinet Minister and a brother of the Sovereign conducted
a business-like correspondence on the question whether the Minister had
or had not turned the Prince out of the house for insulting his wife.
The journals, newspapers, and memoirs of the time throw (especially for
those who can read between the lines) a startling light on that
hereditary principle which plays so important a part in our political
system. All the ancillary vices flourished with a rank luxuriance. Hard
drinking was the indispensable accomplishment of a fine gentleman, and
great estates were constantly changing owners at the gaming-table.

The fifth Duke of Bedford (who had the temerity to attack Burke's
pension, and thereby drew down upon himself the most splendid repartee
in literature) was a bosom-friend of Fox, and lived in a like-minded
society. One night at Newmarket he lost a colossal sum at hazard, and,
jumping up in a passion, he swore that the dice were loaded, put them
in his pocket, and went to bed. Next morning he examined the dice in the
presence of his boon companions, found that they were not loaded, and
had to apologize and pay. Some years afterwards one of the party was
lying on his death-bed, and he sent for the duke. "I have sent for you
to tell you that you were right. The dice _were_ loaded. We waited till
you were asleep, went to your bedroom, took them out of your waistcoat
pocket, replaced them with unloaded ones, and retired."

"But suppose I had woke and caught you doing it."

"Well, we were desperate men--_and we had pistols_."

Anecdotes of the same type might be multiplied endlessly, and would
serve to confirm the strong impression which all contemporary evidence
leaves upon the mind--that the closing years of the eighteenth century
witnessed the _nadir_ of English virtue. The national conscience was in
truth asleep, and it had a rude awakening. "I have heard persons of
great weight and authority," writes Mr. Gladstone, "such as Mr.
Grenville, and also, I think, Archbishop Howley, ascribe the beginnings
of a reviving seriousness in the upper classes of lay society to a
reaction against the horrors and impieties of the first French
Revolution in its later stages." And this reviving seriousness was by no
means confined to Nonconformist circles. In the eighteenth century the
religious activities of the time proceeded largely (though not
exclusively) from persons who, from one cause or another, were separated
from the Established Church. Much theological learning and controversial
skill, with the old traditions of Anglican divinity, had been drawn
aside from the highway of the Establishment into the secluded byways of
the Nonjurors. Whitefield and the Wesleys, and that grim but grand old
Mother in Israel, Selina Countess of Huntingdon, found their
evangelistic energies fatally cramped by episcopal authority, and, quite
against their natural inclinations, were forced to act through
independent organizations of their own making. But at the beginning of
the nineteenth century things took a different turn.

The distinguishing mark of the religious revival which issued from the
French Revolution was that it lived and moved and had its being within
the precincts of the Church of England. Of that Church, as it existed at
the close of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth,
the characteristic feature had been a quiet worldliness. The typical
clergyman, as drawn, for instance, in Crabbe's poems and Miss Austen's
novels, is a well-bred, respectable, and kindly person, playing an
agreeable part in the social life of his neighbourhood, and doing a
secular work of solid value, but equally removed from the sacerdotal
pretensions of the Caroline divines and from the awakening fervour of
the Evangelical preachers. The professors of a more spiritual or a more
aggressive religion were at once disliked and despised. Sydney Smith was
never tired of poking fun at the "sanctified village of Clapham" and its
"serious" inhabitants, at missionary effort and revivalist enthusiasm.
When Lady Louisa Lennox was engaged to a prominent Evangelical and
Liberal--Mr. Tighe of Woodstock--her mother, the Duchess of Richmond,
said, "Poor Louisa is going to make a shocking marriage--a man called
_Tiggy_, my dear, a Saint and a Radical." When Lord Melbourne had
accidently found himself the unwilling hearer of a rousing Evangelical
sermon about sin and its consequences, he exclaimed in much disgust as
he left the church, "Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is
allowed to invade the sphere of private life!"

Arthur Young tells us that a daughter of the first Lord Carrington said
to a visitor, "My papa used to have prayers in his family, but none
since he has been a Peer." A venerable Canon of Windsor, who was a
younger son of a great family, told me that his old nurse, when she was
putting him and his little brothers to bed, used to say, "If you're
very good little boys, and go to bed without giving trouble, you needn't
say your prayers to-night." When the late Lord Mount Temple was a youth,
he wished to take Holy Orders; and the project so horrified his parents
that, after holding a family council, they plunged him into fashionable
society in the hope of distracting his mind from religion, and
accomplished their end by making him join the Blues.

The quiet worldliness which characterized the English Church as a whole
was unpleasantly varied here and there by instances of grave and
monstrous scandal. The system of Pluralities left isolated parishes in a
condition of practical heathenism. Even bare morality was not always
observed. In solitary places clerical drunkenness was common. On
Saturday afternoon the parson would return from the nearest town
"market-merry." He consorted freely with the farmers, shared their
habits, and spoke their language. I have known a lady to whom a country
clergyman said, pointing to the darkened windows where a corpse lay
awaiting burial, "There's a stiff 'un in that house." I have known a
country gentleman in Shropshire who had seen his own vicar drop the
chalice at the Holy Communion because he was too drunk to hold it. I
know a corner of Bedfordshire where, within the recollection of persons
living thirty[8] years ago, three clerical neighbours used to meet for
dinner at one another's parsonages in turn. One winter afternoon a
corpse was brought for burial to the village church. The vicar of the
place came from his dinner so drunk that he could not read the service,
although his sister supported him with one hand and held the lantern
with the other. He retired beaten, and both his guests made the same
attempt with no better success. So the corpse was left in the church,
and the vicar buried it next day when he had recovered from his debauch.

While the prevailing tone of quiet worldliness was thus broken, here
and there, by horrid scandals, in other places it was conspicuously
relieved by splendid instances of piety and self-devotion, such as
George Eliot drew in the character of Edgar Tryan of Milby. But the
innovating clergy of the Evangelical persuasion had to force their way
through "the teeth of clenched antagonisms." The bishops, as a rule,
were opposed to enthusiasm, and the bishops of that day were, in virtue
of their wealth, their secular importance, and their professional
cohesiveness, a formidable force in the life of the Church.

In the "good old days" of Erastian Churchmanship, before the Catholic
revival had begun to breathe new life into ancient forms, a bishop was
enthroned by proxy! Sydney Smith, rebuking Archbishop Howley for his
undue readiness to surrender cathedral property to the Ecclesiastical
Commission, pointed out that his conduct was inconsistent with having
sworn at his enthronement that he would not alienate the possessions of
the Church of Canterbury. "The oath," he goes on, "may be less present
to the Archbishop's memory from the fact of his not having taken the
oath in person, but by the medium of a gentleman sent down by the coach
to take it for him--a practice which, though I believe it to have been
long established in the Church, surprised me, I confess, not a little. A
proxy to vote, if you please--a proxy to consent to arrangements of
estates, if wanted; but a proxy sent down in the Canterbury Fly to take
the Creator to witness that the Archbishop, detained in town by business
or pleasure, will never violate that foundation of piety over which he
presides--all this seems to me an act of the most extraordinary
indolence ever recorded in history." In this judgment the least
ritualistic of laymen will heartily concur. But from Archbishop Howley
to Archbishop Temple is a far cry, and the latest enthronement in
Canterbury Cathedral must have made clear to the most casual eye the
enormous transformation which sixty years have wrought alike in the
inner temper and the outward aspect of the Church of England.

Once Dr. Liddon, walking with me down the hall of Christ Church, pointed
to the portrait of an extremely bloated and sensual-looking prelate on
the wall, and said, with that peculiar kind of mincing precision which
added so much to the point of his sarcasms, "How singular, dear friend,
to reflect that _that person_ was chosen, in the providential order, to
connect Mr. Keble with the Apostles!" And certainly this connecting link
bore little resemblance to either end of the chain. The considerations
which governed the selection of a bishop in those good old days were
indeed not a little singular. Perhaps he was chosen because he was a
sprig of good family, like Archbishop Cornwallis, whose junketings at
Lambeth drew down upon him the ire of Lady Huntingdon and the threats of
George III., and whose sole qualification for the clerical office was
that when an undergraduate he had suffered from a stroke of palsy which
partially crippled him, but "did not, however, prevent him from holding
a hand at cards." Perhaps he had been, like Bishop Sumner, "bear-leader"
to a great man's son, and had won the gratitude of a powerful patron by
extricating young hopeful from a matrimonial scrape. Perhaps, like Marsh
or Van Mildert, he was a controversial pamphleteer who had tossed a
Calvinist or gored an Evangelical. Or perhaps he was, like Blomfield and
Monk, a "Greek Play Bishop," who had annotated Aeschylus or composed a
Sapphic Ode on a Royal marriage. "Young Crumpet is sent to school; takes
to his books; spends the best years of his life in making Latin verses;
knows that the _Crum_ in Crumpet is long and the _pet_ short; goes to
the University; gets a prize for an Essay on the Dispersion of the Jews;
takes Orders; becomes a bishop's chaplain; has a young nobleman for his
pupil; publishes a useless classic and a Serious Call to the
Unconverted; and then goes through the Elysian transitions of
Prebendary, Dean, Prelate, and the long train of purple, profit, and

Few--and very few--are the adducible instances in which, in the reigns
of George III., George IV., and William IV., a bishop was appointed for
evangelistic zeal or pastoral efficiency.

But, on whatever principle chosen, the bishop, once duly consecrated and
enthroned, was a formidable person, and surrounded by a dignity scarcely
less than royal. "Nobody likes our bishop," says Parson Lingon in _Felix
Holt_. "He's all Greek and greediness, and too proud to dine with his
own father." People still living can remember the days when the
Archbishop of Canterbury was preceded by servants bearing flambeaux when
he walked across from Lambeth Chapel to what were called "Mrs. Howley's
Lodgings." When the Archbishop dined out he was treated with princely
honours, and no one left the party till His Grace had made his bow. Once
a week he dined in state in the great hall of Lambeth, presiding over a
company of self-invited guests--strange perversion of the old
archiepiscopal charity to travellers and the poor--while, as Sydney
Smith said, "the domestics of the prelacy stood, with swords and
bag-wigs, round pig and turkey and venison, to defend, as it were, the
orthodox gastronome from the fierce Unitarian, the fell Baptist, and all
the famished children of Dissent." When Sir John Coleridge, father of
the late Lord Chief Justice, was a young man at the Bar, he wished to
obtain a small legal post in the Archbishop's Prerogative Court. An
influential friend undertook to forward his application to the
Archbishop. "But remember," he said, "in writing your letter, that his
Grace can only be approached on gilt-edged paper." Archbishop Harcourt
never went from Bishopthorpe to York Minster except attended by his
chaplains, in a coach and six, while Lady Anne was made to follow in a
pair-horse carriage, to show her that her position was not the same
thing among women that her husband's was among men. At Durham, which was
worth £40,000 a year, the Bishop, as Prince Palatine, exercised a
secular jurisdiction, both civil and criminal, and the Commission at the
Assizes ran in the name of "Our Lord the Bishop." At Ely, Bishop Sparke
gave so many of his best livings to his family that it was locally said
that you could find your way across the Fens on a dark night by the
number of little Sparkes along the road. When this good prelate secured
a residential canonry for his eldest son, the event was so much a matter
of course that he did not deem it worthy of special notice; but when he
secured a second canonry for his second son, he was so filled with pious
gratitude that, as a thank-offering, he gave a ball at the Palace of Ely
to all the county of Cambridge. "And I think," said Bishop Woodford, in
telling me the story, "that the achievement and the way of celebrating
it were equally remarkable."

This grand tradition of mingled splendour and profit ran down, in due
degree, through all ranks of the hierarchy. The poorer bishoprics were
commonly held in conjunction with a rich deanery or prebend, and not
seldom with some important living; so that the most impecunious
successor of the Apostles could manage to have four horses to his
carriage and his daily bottle of Madeira. Not so splendid as a palace,
but quite as comfortable, was a first-class deanery. A "Golden Stall" at
Durham or St. Paul's made its occupant a rich man. And even the rectors
of the more opulent parishes contrived to "live," as the phrase went,
"very much like gentleman."

The old Prince Bishops are as extinct as the dodo. The Ecclesiastical
Commission has made an end of them. Bishop Sumner of Winchester, who
died in 1874, was the last of his race. But the dignified country
clergyman, who combined private means with a rich living, did his county
business in person, and performed his religious duties by deputy,
survived into very recent times. I have known a fine old specimen of
this class--a man who never entered his church on a week-day, nor wore a
white neckcloth except on Sunday; who was an active magistrate, a keen
sportsman, an acknowledged authority on horticulture and farming; and
who boasted that he had never written a sermon in his life, but could
alter one with any man in England--which, in truth, he did so
effectively that the author would never have recognized his own
handiwork. When the neighbouring parsons first tried to get up a
periodical "clerical meeting" for the study of theology, he responded
genially to the suggestion: "Oh yes; I think it sounds a capital thing,
and I suppose we shall finish up with a rubber and a bit of supper."

The reverence in which a rector of this type was held, and the
difference, not merely of degree but of kind, which was supposed to
separate him from the inferior order of curates, were amusingly
exemplified in the case of an old friend of mine. Returning to his
parish after his autumn holiday, and noticing a woman at her cottage
door with a baby in her arms, he asked, "Has that child been baptised?"
"Well, sir," replied the curtsying mother, "I shouldn't like to say as
much as that; but your young man came and _did what he could_."

Lost in these entrancing recollections of Anglicanism as it once was,
but will never be again, I have wandered far from my theme. I began by
saying that all one has read, all one has heard, all one has been able
to collect by study or by conversation, points to the close of the
eighteenth century as the low-water mark of English religion and
morality. The first thirty years of the nineteenth century witnessed a
great revival, due chiefly to the Evangelical movement, and not only,
as in the previous century, on lines outside the Establishment, but in
the very heart and core of the Church of England. That movement, though
little countenanced by ecclesiastical authority, changed the whole tone
of religious thought and life in England. It recalled men to serious
ideas of faith and duty; it curbed profligacy, it made decency
fashionable, it revived the external usages of piety, and it prepared
the way for that later movement which, issuing from Oxford in 1833, has
transfigured the Church of England.

"I do not mean to say," wrote Mr. Gladstone in 1879, "that the founders
of the Oxford School announced, or even that they knew, to how large an
extent they were to be pupils and continuators of the Evangelical work,
besides being something else.... Their distinctive speech was of Church
and priesthood, of Sacraments and services, as the vesture under the
varied folds of which the Form of the Divine Redeemer was to be
exhibited to the world in a way capable of, and suited for, transmission
by a collective body from generation to generation. It may well have
happened that, in straining to secure for their ideas what they thought
their due place, some at least may have forgotten or disparaged that
personal and experimental life of the human soul with God which profits
by all ordinances but is tied to none, dwelling ever, through all its
varying moods, in the inner courts of the sanctuary whereof the walls
are not built with hands. The only matter, however, with which I am now
concerned is to record the fact that the pith and life of the
Evangelical teaching, as it consists in the reintroduction of Christ our
Lord to be the woof and warp of preaching, was the great gift of the
movement to the teaching Church, and has now penetrated and possessed it
on a scale so general that it may be considered as pervading the whole


[6] Lord Holland's _Memoirs of the Whig Party_, ii. p. 123.

[7] The property of Colonel Davies-Evans of Highmead.

[8] Written in 1897.



It was a characteristic saying of Talleyrand that no one could conceive
how pleasant life was capable of being who had not belonged to the
French aristocracy before the Revolution. There were, no doubt, in the
case of that great man's congeners some legal and constitutional
prerogatives which rendered their condition supremely enviable; but so
far as splendour, stateliness, and exclusive privilege are elements of a
pleasant life, he might have extended his remark to England. Similar
conditions of social existence here and in France were similarly and
simultaneously transformed by the same tremendous upheaval which marked
the final disappearance of the feudal spirit and the birth of the modern

The old order passed away, and the face of human society was made new.
The law-abiding and temperate genius of the Anglo-Saxon race saved
England from the excesses, the horrors, and the dramatic incidents which
marked this period of transition in France; but though more quietly
effected, the change in England was not less marked, less momentous, or
less permanent than on the Continent. I have spoken in a former chapter
of the religious revival which was the most striking result in England
of the Revolution in France. To-day I shall say a word about another
result, or group of results, which may be summarized as Social

The barriers between ranks and classes were to a large extent broken
down. The prescriptive privileges of aristocracy were reduced. The
ceremoniousness of social demeanour was diminished. Great men were
content with less elaboration and display in their retinues, equipages,
and mode of living. Dress lost its richness of ornament and its
distinctive characteristics. Young men of fashion no longer bedizened
themselves in velvet, brocade, and gold lace. Knights of the Garter no
longer displayed the Blue Ribbon in Parliament. Officers no longer went
into society with uniform and sword. Bishops laid aside their wigs;
dignified clergy discarded the cassock. Coloured coats, silk stockings,
lace ruffles, and hair-powder survived only in the footmen's liveries.
When the Reform Bill of 1832 received the Royal Assent, the Lord
Bathurst of the period, who had been a member of the Duke of
Wellington's Cabinet, solemnly cut off his pigtail, saying, "Ichabod,
for the glory is departed;" and to the first Reformed Parliament only
one pigtail was returned (it pertained to Mr. Sheppard, M.P. for
Frome)--an impressive symbol of social transformation.

The lines of demarcation between the peerage and the untitled classes
were partially obliterated. How clear and rigid those lines had been it
is difficult for us to conceive. In _Humphrey Clinker_ the nobleman
refuses to fight a duel with the squire on the ground of their social
inequality. Mr. Wilberforce declined a peerage because it would exclude
his sons from intimacy with private gentlemen, clergymen, and mercantile
families. I have stated in a previous chapter that Lord Bathurst, who
was born in 1791, told me that at his private school he and the other
sons of peers sate together on a privileged bench apart from the rest of
the boys. A typical aristocrat was the first Marquis of Abercorn. He
died in 1818, but he is still revered in Ulster under the name of "The
Owld Marquis." This admirable nobleman always went out shooting in his
Blue Ribbon, and required his housemaids to wear white kid gloves when
they made his bed. Before he married his first cousin, Miss Cecil
Hamilton, he induced the Crown to confer on her the titular rank of an
Earl's daughter, that he might not marry beneath his position; and when
he discovered that she contemplated eloping, he sent a message begging
her to take the family coach, as it ought never to be said that Lady
Abercorn left her husband's roof in a hack chaise. By such endearing
traits do the truly great live in the hearts of posterity.

In the earlier part of this century Dr. Arnold inveighed with
characteristic vigour against "the insolencies of our aristocracy, the
scandalous exemption of the peers from all ignominious punishments short
of death, and the insolent practice of allowing peers to vote in
criminal trials on their honour, while other men vote on their oath."
But generally the claims of rank and birth were admitted with a
childlike cheerfulness. The high function of government was the
birthright of the few. The people, according to episcopal showing, had
nothing to do with the laws but to obey them. The ingenious author of
_Russell's Modern Europe_ states in his preface to that immortal work
that his object in adopting the form of a Series of Letters from a
Nobleman to his Son is "to give more Weight to the Moral and Political
Maxims, and to entitle the author to offer, without seeming to dictate
to the World, such reflections on Life and Manners as are supposed more
immediately to belong to the higher orders in Society." Nor were the
privileges of rank held to pertain merely to temporal concerns. When
Selina Countess of Huntingdon asked the Duchess of Buckingham to
accompany her to a sermon of Whitefield's, the Duchess replied: "I thank
your ladyship for the information concerning the Methodist preachers;
their doctrines are most repulsive, and strongly tinctured with
impertinence and disrespect towards their superiors, in perpetually
endeavouring to level all ranks and do away with all distinctions. It is
monstrous to be told you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches
that crawl on the earth; and I cannot but wonder that your ladyship
should relish any sentiments so much at variance with high rank and good

The exclusive and almost feudal character of the English peerage was
destroyed, finally and of set purpose, by Pitt when he declared that
every man who had an estate of ten thousand a year had a right to be a
peer. In Lord Beaconsfield's words, "He created a plebeian aristocracy
and blended it with the patrician oligarchy. He made peers of
second-rate squires and fat graziers. He caught them in the alleys of
Lombard Street, and clutched them from the counting-houses of Cornhill."
This democratization of the peerage was accompanied by great
modifications of pomp and stateliness in the daily life of the peers. In
the eighteenth century the Duke and Duchess of Atholl were always served
at their own table before their guests, in recognition of their royal
rank as Sovereigns of the Isle of Man; and the Duke and Duchess of
Argyll observed the same courteous usage for no better reason than
because they liked it. The "Household Book" of Alnwick Castle records
the amplitude and complexity of the domestic hierarchy which ministered
to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland; and at Arundel and Belvoir,
and Trentham and Wentworth, the magnates of the peerage lived in a state
little less than regal. Seneschals and gentlemen-ushers,
ladies-in-waiting and pages-of-the-presence adorned noble as well as
royal households. The private chaplain of a great Whig duke, within the
recollection of people whom I have known, used to preface his sermon
with a prayer for the nobility, and "especially for the noble duke to
whom I am indebted for my scarf"--the badge of chaplaincy--accompanying
the words by a profound bow toward his Grace's pew. The last "running
footman" pertained to "Old Q."--the notorious Duke of Queensberry, who
died in 1810. Horace Walpole describes how, when a guest playing cards
at Woburn Abbey dropped a silver piece on the floor, and said, "Oh,
never mind; let the Groom of the Chambers have it," the Duchess replied,
"Let the carpet-sweeper have it; the Groom of the Chambers never takes
anything but gold."

These grotesque splendours of domestic living went out with the
eighteenth century. Dr. Johnson, who died in 1784, had already noted
their decline. There was a general approach towards external
equalization of ranks, and that approach was accompanied by a general
diffusion of material enjoyment. The luxury of the period was prodigal
rather than refined. There lies before me as I write a tavern bill for a
dinner for seven persons in the year 1751. I reproduce the items
verbally and literally, and certainly the bill of fare is worth studying
as a record of gastronomical exertion on a heroic scale:--

     Bread and Beer. Potage de Tortue. Calipash. Calipees. Un Paté de
     Jambon de Bayone. Potage Julien Verd. Two Turbots to remove the
     Soops. Haunch of Venison. Palaits de Mouton. Selle de Mouton.
     Salade. Saucisses au Ecrevisses. Boudin Blanc à le Reine. Petits
     Patés à l'Espaniol. Coteletts a la Cardinal. Selle d'Agneau glacé
     aux Cocombres. Saumon à la Chambord. Fillets de Saules Royales. Une
     bisque de Lait de Maquereaux. Un Lambert aux Innocents. Des Perdrix
     Sauce Vin de Champaign. Poulets à le Russiene. Ris de Veau en
     Arlequin. Quée d'Agneau à la Montaban. Dix Cailles. Un Lapreau. Un
     Phésant. Dix Ortolans. Une Tourte de Cerises. Artichaux à le
     Provensalle. Choufleurs au flour. Cretes de Cocq en Bonets. Amorte
     de Jesuits. Salade. Chicken. Ice Cream and Fruits. Fruit of various
     sorts, forced. Fruit from Market. Butter and Cheese. Clare.
     Champaign. Burgundy. Hock. White Wine. Madeira. Sack. Cape. Cyprus.
     Neuilly. Usquebaugh. Spa and Bristol Waters. Oranges and Lemons.
     Coffee and Tea. Lemonade.

The total charge for this dinner for seven amounted to £81, 11s. 6d.,
and a footnote informs the curious reader that there was also "a turtle
sent as a Present to the Company, and dressed in a very high _Gout_
after the West Indian Manner." Old cookery-books, such as the misquoted
work of Mrs. Glasse, Dr. Kitchener's _Cook's Oracle_, and the anonymous
but admirable _Culina_, all concur in their testimony to the enormous
amount of animal food which went to make an ordinary meal, and the
amazing variety of irreconcilable ingredients which were combined in a
single dish. Lord Beaconsfield, whose knowledge of this recondite branch
of English literature was curiously minute, thus describes--no doubt
from authentic sources--a family dinner at the end of the eighteenth

"The ample tureen of _potage royal_ had a boned duck swimming in its
centre. At the other end of the table scowled in death the grim
countenance of a huge roast pike, flanked on one side by a leg of mutton
_à la daube_, and on the other by the tempting delicacies of Bombarded
Veal. To these succeeded that masterpiece of the culinary art a grand
Battalia Pie, in which the bodies of chickens, pigeons, and rabbits were
embalmed in spices, cocks' combs, and savoury balls, and well bedewed
with one of those rich sauces of claret, anchovy, and sweet herbs in
which our grandfathers delighted, and which was technically termed a
Lear. A Florentine tourte or tansy, an old English custard, a more
refined blamango, and a riband jelly of many colours offered a pleasant
relief after these vaster inventions, and the repast closed with a dish
of oyster-loaves and a pomepetone of larks."

As the old order yielded place to the new, this enormous profusion of
rich food became by degrees less fashionable, though its terrible
traditions endured, through the days of Soyer and Francatelli, almost to
our own time. But gradually refinement began to supersede profusion.
Simultaneously all forms of luxury spread from the aristocracy to the
plutocracy; while the middle and lower classes attained a degree of
solid comfort which would a few years before have been impossible. Under
Pitt's administration wealth increased rapidly. Great fortunes were
amassed through the improvement of agricultural methods and the
application of machinery to manufacture. The Indian Nabobs, as they were
called, became a recognized and powerful element in society, and their
habits of "Asiatic luxury" are represented by Chatham, Burke, Voltaire,
and Home Tooke as producing a marked effect upon the social life of the
time. Lord Robert Seymour notes in his diary for 1788 that a fashionable
lady gave £100 a year to the cook who superintended her suppers; that at
a sale of bric-à-brac 230 guineas were paid for a mirror; and that, at a
ball given by the Knights of the Bath at the Pantheon, the decorations
cost upwards of £3000. The general consumption of French and Portuguese
wines in place of beer, which had till recently been the beverage even
of the affluent, was regarded by grave writers as a most alarming sign
of the times, and the cause of a great increase of drunkenness among the
upper classes. The habits and manners prevalent in London spread into
the country. As the distinction between the nobility, who, roughly
speaking, had been the frequenters of the capital, and the minor gentry,
who had lived almost entirely on their own estates, gradually
disappeared, the distinction between town and country life sensibly

The enormous increase in the facilities for travelling and for the
interchange of information contributed to the same result; and grave men
lamented the growing fondness of the provincial ladies for the
card-table, the theatre, the assembly, the masquerade, and--singular
social juxtaposition--the Circulating Library. The process of social
assimilation, while it spread from town to country and from nobility to
gentry, reached down from the gentry to the merchants, and from the
merchants to the tradesmen. The merchant had his villa three or four
miles away from his place of business, and lived at Clapham or Dulwich
in a degree and kind of luxury which had a few years before been the
monopoly of the aristocracy. The tradesman no longer inhabited the rooms
over his shop, but a house in Bloomsbury or Soho. Where, fifty years
before, one fire in the kitchen served the whole family, and one dish of
meat appeared on the table, now a footman waited at the banquet of
imported luxuries, and small beer and punch had made way for Burgundy
and Madeira.

But the subject expands before us, and it is time to close. Now I
propose to inquire how far this Social Equalization was accompanied by
Social Amelioration.



At this point it is necessary to look back a little, and to clear our
minds of the delusion that an age of splendour is necessarily an age of
refinement. We have seen something of the regal state and prodigal
luxury which surrounded the English aristocracy in the middle of the
eighteenth century. Yet at no period of our national history--unless,
perhaps, during the orgies of the Restoration were aristocratic morals
at so low an ebb. Edmund Burke, in a passage which is as ethically
questionable as it is rhetorically beautiful, taught that vice loses
half its evil when it loses all its grossness. But in the English
society of his time grossness was as conspicuous as vice itself, and it
infected not only the region of morals, but also that of manners.

Sir Walter Scott has described how, in his youth, refined gentlewomen
read aloud to their families the most startling passages of the most
outrageous authors. I have been told by one who heard it from an
eye-witness that a great Whig duchess, who figures brilliantly in the
social and political memoirs of the eighteenth century, turning to the
footman who was waiting on her at dinner, exclaimed, "I wish to G---
that you wouldn't keep rubbing your great greasy belly against the back
of my chair." Men and women of the highest fashion swore like troopers;
the Princes of the Blood, who carried down into the middle of the
nineteenth century the courtly habits of their youth, setting the
example. Mr. Gladstone told me the following anecdote, which he had from
the Lord Pembroke of the period, who was present at the scene.

In the early days of the first Reformed Parliament the Whig Government
were contemplating a reform of the law of Church Rates. Success was
certain in the House of Commons, but the Tory peers, headed by the Duke
of Cumberland, determined to defeat the Bill in the House of Lords. A
meeting of the party was held, when it appeared that, in the balanced
state of parties, the Tory peers could not effect their purpose unless
they could rally the bishops to their aid. The question was, What would
the Archbishop of Canterbury do? He was Dr. Howley, the mildest and most
apostolic of men, and the most averse from strife and contention. It was
impossible to be certain of his action, and the Duke of Cumberland
posted off to Lambeth to ascertain it. Returning in hot haste to the
caucus, he burst into the room, exclaiming, "It's all right, my lords;
the Archbishop says he will be d----d to hell if he doesn't throw the
Bill out." The Duke of Wellington's "Twopenny d----n" has become
proverbial; and Sydney Smith neatly rebuked a similar propensity in Lord
Melbourne by saying, "Let us assume everybody and everything to be d---
d, and come to the point." The Miss Berrys, who had been the
correspondents of Horace Walpole, and who carried down to the 'fifties
the most refined traditions of social life in the previous century,
habitually "d----d" the tea-kettle if it burned their fingers, and
called their male friends by their surnames--"Come, Milnes, will you
have a cup of tea?" "Now, Macaulay, we have had enough of that subject."

So much, then, for the refinement of the upper classes. Did the Social
Equalization of which we have spoken bring with it anything in the way
of Social Amelioration? A philosophical orator of my time at the Oxford
Union, now a valued member of the House of Lords, once said in a debate
on national intemperance that he had made a careful study of the
subject, and, with much show of scientific analysis, he thus announced
the result of his researches: "The causes of national intemperance are
three: first, the adulteration of liquor; second, the love of drink; and
third, the desire for more." Knowing my incapacity to rival this
masterpiece of exact thinking, I have not thought it necessary in these
chapters to enlarge on the national habit of excessive drinking in the
late years of the eighteenth century. The grossness and the universality
of the vice are too well known to need elaborating. All oral tradition,
all contemporary literature, all satiric art, tell the same horrid tale;
and the number of bottles which a single toper would consume at a
sitting not only, in Burke's phrase, "outraged economy," but "staggered
credibility." Even as late as 1831, Samuel Wilberforce, afterwards
Bishop, wrote thus in his diary:--"A good Audit Dinner: 23 people drank
11 bottles of wine, 28 quarts of beer, 2-1/2 of spirits, and 12 bowls of
punch; and would have drunk twice as much if not restrained. _None, we
hope, drunk!_" Mr. Gladstone told me that once, when he was a young man,
he was dining at a house where the principal guest was a Bishop. When
the decanters had made a sufficient number of circuits, the host said,
"Shall we have any more wine, my Lord?" "Thank you--not till we have
disposed of what is before us," was the bland episcopal reply.

But still, in the matter of drinking, the turn of the century witnessed
some social amelioration among the upper classes. There was a change, if
not in quantity, at least in quality. Where port and Madeira had been
the Staple drinks, corrected by libations of brandy, less potent
beverages became fashionable. The late Mr. Thomson Hankey, formerly
M.P. for Peterborough, told me that he remembered his father coming home
from the city one day and saying to his mother, "My dear, I have ordered
a dozen bottles of a new white wine. It is called sherry, and I am told
the Prince Regent drinks nothing else." The fifteenth Lord Derby told me
that the cellar-books at Knowsley and St. James's Square had been
carefully kept for a hundred years, and that--contrary to what every one
would have supposed--the number of bottles drunk in a year had not
diminished. The alteration was in the alcoholic strength of the wines
consumed. Burgundy, port, and Madeira had made way for light claret,
champagne, and hock. That, even under these changed conditions of
potency, the actual number of bottles consumed showed no diminution, was
accounted for by the fact that at balls and evening parties a great deal
more champagne was drunk than formerly, and that luncheon in a large
house had now become practically an earlier dinner.

The growth of these subsidiary meals was a curious feature of the
nineteenth century. We exclaim with horror at such preposterous bills of
fare as that which I quoted in my last chapter, but it should be
remembered, in justice to our fathers, that dinner was the only
substantial meal of the day. Holland House was always regarded as the
very temple of luxury, and Macaulay tells us that the viands at a
breakfast-party there were tea and coffee, eggs, rolls, and butter. The
fashion, which began in the nineteenth century, of going to the
Highlands for shooting, popularized in England certain northern habits
of feeding, and a morning meal at which game and cold meat appeared was
known in England as a "Scotch breakfast." Apparently it had made some
way by 1840, for the _Ingoldsby Legends_ published in that year thus
describe the morning meal of the ill-fated Sir Thomas:--

  "It seems he had taken A light breakfast--bacon,
  An egg, with a little broiled haddock; at most
  A round and a half of some hot buttered toast;
  With a slice of cold sirloin from yesterday's roast."

Luncheon, or "nuncheon" as some very ancient friends of mine always
called it, was the merest mouthful. Men went out shooting with a
sandwich in their pocket; the ladies who sat at home had some cold
chicken and wine and water brought into the drawing-room on a tray. Miss
Austen in her novels always dismisses the midday meal under the cursory
appellation of "cold meat." The celebrated Dr. Kitchener, the
sympathetic author of the _Cook's Oracle_, writing in 1825, says: "Your
luncheon may consist of a bit of roasted poultry, a basin of beef tea,
or eggs poached, or boiled in the shell; fish plainly dressed, or a
sandwich; stale bread; and half a pint of good homebrewed beer, or
toast-and-water, with about one-fourth or one-third part of its measure
of wine." And this prescription would no doubt have worn an aspect of
liberal concession to the demands of the patient's appetite. It is
difficult, by any effort of a morbid imagination, to realize a time when
there was no five-o'clock tea; and yet that most sacred of our national
institutions was only invented by the Duchess of Bedford who died in
1857, and whose name should surely be enrolled in the Positivist
Kalendar as a benefactress of the human race. No wonder that by seven
o'clock our fathers, and even our mothers, were ready to tackle a dinner
of solid properties; and even to supplement it with the amazing supper
(which Dr. Kitchener prescribes for "those who dine very late") of
"gruel, or a little bread and cheese, or pounded cheese, and a glass of

This is a long digression from the subject of excessive drinking, with
which, however, it is not remotely connected; and, both in respect of
drunkenness and of gluttony, the habits of English society in the years
which immediately succeeded the French Revolution showed a marked
amelioration. To a company of enthusiastic Wordsworthians who were
deploring their master's confession that he got drunk at Cambridge, I
heard Mr. Shorthouse, the accomplished author of _John Inglesant_,
soothingly remark that in all probability "Wordsworth's standard of
intoxication was miserably low."[9] Simultaneously with the restriction
of excess there was seen a corresponding increase in refinement of taste
and manners. Some of the more brutal forms of so-called sport, such as
bull-baiting and cock-fighting, became less fashionable. The more
civilized forms, such as fox-hunting and racing, increased in favour.
Aesthetic culture was more generally diffused. The stage was at the
height of its glory. Music was a favourite form of public recreation.
Great prices were given for works of art. The study of physical science,
or "natural philosophy" as it was called, became popular. Public
Libraries and local "book societies" sprang up, and there was a wide
demand for encyclopaedias and similar vehicles for the diffusion of
general knowledge. The love of natural beauty was beginning to move the
hearts of men, and it found expression at once in an entirely new school
of landscape painting, and in a more romantic and natural form of

But against these marked instances of social amelioration must be set
some darker traits of national life. The public conscience had not yet
revolted against violence and brutality. The prize-ring, patronized by
Royalty, was at its zenith. Humanitarians and philanthropists were as
yet an obscure and ridiculed sect. The slave trade, though menaced, was
still undisturbed. Under a system scarcely distinguishable from slavery,
pauper children were bound over to the owners of factories and subjected
to the utmost rigour of enforced labour. The treatment of the insane
was darkened by incredible barbarities. As late as 1828 Lord Shaftesbury
found that the lunatics in Bedlam were chained to their straw beds, and
left from Saturday to Monday without attendance, and with only bread and
water within their reach, while the keepers were enjoying themselves.
Discipline in the services, in poorhouses, and in schools was of the
most brutal type. Our prisons were unreformed. Our penal code was
inconceivably sanguinary and savage. In 1770 there were one hundred and
sixty capital offences on the Statute-book, and by the beginning of the
nineteenth century the number had greatly increased. To steal five
shillings' worth of goods from a shop was punishable by death. A girl of
twenty-two was hanged for receiving a piece of woollen stuff from the
man who had stolen it.

In 1789 a woman was burnt at the stake for coining. People still living
have seen the skeletons of pirates and highwaymen hanging in chains. I
have heard that the children of the Bluecoat School at Hertford were
always taken to see the executions there; and as late as 1820 the dead
bodies of the Cato Street conspirators were decapitated in front of
Newgate, and the Westminster boys had a special holiday to enable them
to see the sight, which was thus described by an eye-witness, the late
Lord de Ros: "The executioner and his assistant cut down one of the
corpses from the gallows, and placed it in the coffin, but with the head
hanging over on the block. The man with the knife instantly severed the
head from the body, and the executioner, receiving it in his hands, held
it up, saying in a loud voice, 'This is the head of a traitor.' He then
dropped it into the coffin, which being removed, another was brought
forward, and they proceeded to cut down the next body and to go through
the same ghastly operation. It was observed that the mob, which was very
large, gazed in silence at the hanging of the conspirators, and showed
not the least sympathy; but when each head as cut off and held up, a
loud and deep groan of horror burst from all sides, which was not soon
forgotten by those who heard it."

Duelling was the recognized mode of settling all personal disputes, and
no attempt was made to enforce the law which, theoretically, treated the
killing of a man in a duel as wilful murder; but, on the other hand,
debt was punished with what often was imprisonment for life. A woman
died in the County Jail at Exeter after forty-five years' incarceration
for a debt of £19. Crime was rampant. Daring burglaries, accompanied by
every circumstance of violence, took place nightly. Highwaymen infested
the suburban roads, and not seldom plied their calling in the capital
itself. The iron post at the end of the narrow footway between the
gardens of Devonshire House and Lansdowne House is said by tradition to
have been placed there after a Knight of the Road had eluded the
officers of justice by galloping down the stone steps and along the
flagged path. Sir Hamilton Seymour (1797-1880) was in his father's
carriage when it was "stopped" by a highwayman in Upper Brook Street.
Young gentlemen of broken fortunes, and tradesmen whose business had
grown slack, swelled the ranks of these desperadoes. It was even said
that an Irish prelate--Dr. Twysden, Bishop of Raphoe--whose incurable
love of adventure had drawn him to "the road," received the penalty of
his uncanonical diversion in the shape of a bullet from a traveller whom
he had stopped on Hounslow Heath. The Lord Mayor was made to stand and
deliver on Turnham Green. Stars and "Georges" were snipped off
ambassadors and peers as they entered St. James's Palace.

It is superfluous to multiply illustrations. Enough has been said to
show that the circumscription of aristocratic privilege and the
diffusion of material luxury did not precipitate the millennium. Social
Equalization was not synonymous with Social Amelioration. Some
improvement, indeed, in the tone and habit of society occurred at the
turn of the century; but it was little more than a beginning. I proceed
to trace its development, and to indicate its source.


[9] I have since been told that this happy saying was borrowed from Sir
Francis Doyle.



Mr. Lecky justly remarks that "it is difficult to measure the change
which must have passed over the public mind since the days when the
lunatics in Bedlam were constantly spoken of as one of the sights of
London; when the maintenance of the African slave-trade was a foremost
object of English commercial policy; when men and even women were
publicly whipped through the streets when skulls lined the top of Temple
Bar and rotting corpses hung on gibbets along the Edgware Road; when
persons exposed in the pillory not unfrequently died through the
ill-usage of the mob; and when the procession every six weeks of
condemned criminals to Tyburn was one of the great festivals of London."

Difficult, indeed, it is to measure so great a change, and it is not
wholly easy to ascertain with precision its various and concurrent
causes, and to attribute to each its proper potency. But we shall
certainly not be wrong if, among those causes, we assign a prominent
place to the Evangelical revival of religion. It would be a mistake to
claim for the Evangelical movement the whole credit of our social reform
and philanthropic work. Even in the darkest times of spiritual torpor
and general profligacy England could show a creditable amount of
practical benevolence. The public charities of London were large and
excellent. The first Foundling Hospital was established in 1739; the
first Magdalen Hospital in 1769. In 1795 it was estimated that the
annual expenditure on charity-schools, asylums, hospitals, and similar
institutions in London was £750,000.

Mr. Lecky, whose study of these social phenomena is exhaustive, imagines
that the habit of unostentatious charity, which seems indigenous to
England, was powerfully stimulated by the philosophy of Shaftesbury and
Voltaire, by Rousseau's sentiment and Fielding's fiction. This theory
may have something to say for itself, and indeed it is antecedently
plausible; but I can hardly believe that purely literary influences
counted for so very much in the sphere of practice. I doubt if any
considerable number of Englishmen were effectively swayed by that
humanitarian philosophy of France which in the actions of its maturity
so awfully belied the promise of its youth. We are, I think, on surer
ground when, admitting a national bias towards material benevolence, and
not denying some stimulus from literature and philosophy, we assign the
main credit of our social regeneration to the Evangelical revival.

The life of John Wesley, practically coterminous with the eighteenth
century, witnessed both the lowest point of our moral degradation and
also the earliest promise of our moral restoration. He cannot, indeed,
be reckoned the founder of the Evangelical school; that title belongs
rather to George Whitefield. But his influence, combined with that of
his brother Charles, acting on such men as Newton and Cecil and Venn and
Scott of Aston Sandford; on Selina Lady Huntingdon and Mrs. Hannah More;
on Howard and Clarkson and William Wilberforce; made a deep mark on the
Established Church, gave new and permanent life to English
Nonconformity, and sensibly affected the character and aspect of secular

Wesley himself had received the governing impulse of his life from Law's
_Serious Call_ and _Christian Perfection_, and he had been a member of
one of those religious societies (or guilds, as they would now be
called) with which the piety of Bishop Beveridge and Dr. Horneck had
enriched the Church of England. These societies were, of course,
distinctly Anglican in origin and character, and were stamped with the
High Church theology. They constituted, so to say, a church within the
Church, and, though they raised the level of personal piety among their
members to a very high point, they did not widely affect the general
tone and character of national religion. The Evangelical leaders,
relying on less exclusively ecclesiastical methods, diffused their
influence over a much wider area, and, under the impulse of their
teaching, drunkenness, indecency, and profanity were sensibly abated.
The reaction from the rampant wickedness of the eighteenth century drove
men into strict and even puritanical courses.

Lord Robert Seymour wrote on the 20th of March, 1788: "Tho' Good Friday,
Mrs. Sawbridge has an assembly this evening; tells her invited Friends
they really are only to play for a Watch which she has had some time on
her Hands and wishes to dispose of."

"'Really, I declare 'pon my honor it's true' (said Ly. Bridget Talmash
to the Dutchess of Bolton) 'that a great many People now go to Chapel. I
saw a vaste number of Carriages at Portman Chapel last Sunday.' The Dut.
told her she always went to Chapel on Sunday, and in the country read
Prayers in the Hall to her Family."

But where the Evangelical influence reached, it brought a marked
abstention from such forms of recreation as dancing, card-playing, and
the drama. Sunday was observed with a Judaical rigour. A more frequent
attendance on public worship was accompanied by the revival of family
prayers and grace before meat. Manuals of private devotion were
multiplied. Religious literature of all kinds was published in great
quantity. A higher standard of morals was generally professed. Marriage
was gradually restored in public estimation to its proper place, not
merely as a civil bond or social festival, but as a chief solemnity of
the Christian religion.

There was no more significant sign of the times than this alteration. In
the eighteenth century some of the gravest of our social offences had
clustered round the institution of marriage, which was almost as much
dishonoured in the observance as in the breach. In the first half of
that century the irregular and clandestine weddings, celebrated without
banns or licence in the Fleet Prison, had been one of the crying
scandals of the middle and lower classes; and in the second half, the
nocturnal flittings to Gretna Green of young couples who could afford
such a Pilgrimage of Passion lowered the whole conception of marriage.
It was through the elopement of Miss Child--heiress of the opulent
banker at Temple Bar--from her father's house in Berkeley Square (now
Lord Rosebery's) that the ownership of the great banking business passed
eventually to the present Lord Jersey; and the annals of almost every
aristocratic family contain the record of similar escapades.

The Evangelical movement, not content with permeating England, sought to
expand itself all over the Empire. The Society for the Propagation of
the Gospel and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge had been
essentially Anglican institutions; and similar societies, but less
ecclesiastical in character, now sprang up in great numbers. The London
Missionary Society was founded in 1795, the Church Missionary Society in
1799, the Religious Tract Society in the same year, and the British and
Foreign Bible Society three years later. All these were distinctly
creations of the Evangelical movement, as were also the Societies for
the Reformation of Manners and for the Better Observance of the Lord's
Day. Religious education found in the Evangelical party its most active
friends. The Sunday School Society was founded in 1785. Two years later
it was educating two hundred thousand children. Its most earnest
champions were Rowland Hill and Mrs. Hannah More; but it is worthy of
note that this excellent lady, justly honoured as a pioneer of
elementary education, confined her curriculum to the Bible and the
Catechism, and "such coarse works as may fit the children for servants.
_I allow of no writing for the poor_."

To the Society of Friends--a body not historically or theologically
Evangelical--belongs the credit of having first awoke, and tried to
rouse others, to a sense of the horrors and iniquities involved in the
slave-trade; but the adhesion of William Wilberforce and his friends at
Clapham identified the movement for emancipation with the Evangelical
party. Never were the enthusiasm, the activity, the uncompromising
devotion to principle which marked the Evangelicals turned to better
account. Their very narrowness gave intensity and concentration to their
work, and their victory, though deferred, was complete. It has been
truly said that when the English nation had been thoroughly convinced
that slavery was a curse which must be got rid of at any cost, we
cheerfully paid down as the price of its abolition twenty millions in
cash, and threw the prosperity of our West Indian colonies into the
bargain. Yet we only spent on it one-tenth of what it cost us to lose
America, and one-fiftieth of what we spent in avenging the execution of
Louis XVI.

In spite of all these conspicuous and beneficent advances in the
direction of humanity, a great deal of severity, and what appears to us
brutality, remained embedded in our social system. I have spoken in
previous chapters of the methods of discipline enforced in the services,
in jails, in poorhouses, and in schools.[10] A very similar spirit
prevailed even in the home. Children were shut up in dark closets,
starved, and flogged. Lord Shaftesbury's father used to knock him down,
and recommended his tutor at Harrow to do the same. Archdeacon Denison
describes in his autobiography how he and his brothers were thrashed by
their tutor when they were youths of sixteen and had left Eton. _The
Fairchild Family_--that quaint picture of Evangelical life and
manners--depicts a religious father as punishing his quarrelsome
children by taking them to see a murderer hanging in chains, and as
chastising every peccadillo of infancy with a severity which makes one
long to flog Mr. Fairchild.

But still, in spite of all these checks and drawbacks and evil
survivals, the tide of humanitarianism flowed on, and gradually altered
the aspect of English life. The bloody Penal Code was mitigated. Prisons
and poorhouses were reformed. The discipline of school and of home was
tempered by the infusion of mercy and reason into the iron regimen of
terror. And this general diminution of brutality was not the only form
of social amelioration. It was accompanied by a gradual but perceptible
increase in decency, refinement, and material prosperity. Splendour
diminished, and luxury remained the monopoly of the rich; but
comfort--that peculiarly English treasure--was more generally diffused.
In that diffusion the Evangelicals had their full share. Thackeray's
admirable description of Mrs. Newcome's villa is drawn from the life:
"In Egypt itself there were not more savoury fleshpots than those at
Clapham. Her mansion was long the resort of the most favoured among the
religious world. The most eloquent expounders, the most gifted
missionaries, the most interesting converts from foreign islands were to
be found at her sumptuous table, spread with the produce of her
magnificent gardens ... a great, shining, mahogany table, covered with
grapes, pineapples, plum-cake, port wine, and Madeira, and surrounded
by stout men in black, with baggy white neckcloths, who took little
Tommy on their knees and questioned him as to his right understanding of
the place whither naughty boys were bound."

Again, in his paper on _Dinners_ the same great master of a fascinating
subject speaks the words of truth and soberness when he says: "I don't
know when I have been better entertained, as far as creature comforts
go, than by men of very Low Church principles; and one of the very best
repasts that ever I saw in my life was at Darlington, given by a
Quaker." This admirable tradition of material comfort allied with
Evangelical opinion extended into my own time. The characteristic
weakness of Mr. Stiggins has no place in my recollection; but Mr.
Chadband I have frequently met in Evangelical circles, both inside and
outside the Establishment. Debarred by the strictness of their
principles from such amusements as dancing, cards, and theatres, the
Evangelicals took their pleasure in eating and drinking. They abounded
in hospitality; and when they were not entertaining or being
entertained, occupied their evenings with systematic reading, which gave
their religious compositions a sound basis of general culture.
Austerity, gloom, and Pharisaism had no place among the better class of
Evangelicals. Wilberforce, pronounced by Madame de Staël to be the most
agreeable man in England, was of "a most gay and genial disposition;"
"lived in perpetual sunshine, and shed its radiance all around him."
Legh Richmond was "exceedingly good company." Robinson of Leicester was
"a capital conversationalist, very lively and bright." Alexander Knox
found that Mrs. Hannah More "far exceeded his expectations in pleasant
manners and interesting conversation."

The increasing taste for solid comfort and easy living which accompanied
the development of humanitarianism, and in which, as we have just seen,
the Evangelicals had their full share, was evidenced to the eye by the
changes in domestic architecture. There was less pretension in exteriors
and elevations, but more regard to convenience and propriety within. The
space was not all sacrificed to reception-rooms. Bedrooms were
multiplied and enlarged; and fireplaces were introduced into every room,
transforming the arctic "powdering-closet" into a habitable
dressing-room. The diminution of the Window-Tax made light and
ventilation possible. Personal cleanliness became fashionable, and the
means of attaining it were cultivated. The whole art or science of
domestic sanitation--rudimentary enough in its beginnings--belongs to
the nineteenth century. The system which went before it was too
primitively abominable to bear description. Sir Robert Rawlinson, the
sanitary expert, who was called in to inspect Windsor Castle after the
Prince Consort's death, reported that, within the Queen's reign,
"cesspools full of putrid refuse and drains of the worst description
existed beneath the basements.... Twenty of these cesspools were removed
from the upper ward, and twenty-eight from the middle and lower
wards.... Means of ventilation by windows in Windsor Castle were very
defective. Even in the royal apartments the upper portions of the
windows were fixed. Lower casements alone could be opened, so that by
far the largest amount of air-spaces in the rooms contained vitiated
air, comparatively stagnant." When this was the condition of royal
abodes, no wonder that the typhoid-germ, like Solomon's spider, "took
hold with her hands, and was in kings' palaces." And well might Sir
George Trevelyan, in his ardent youth, exclaim:--

  "We much revere our sires; they were a famous race of men.
  For every glass of port we drink, they nothing thought of ten.
  They lived above the foulest drains, they breathed the closest air,
  They had their yearly twinge of gout, but little seemed to care.
  But, though they burned their coals at home, nor fetched their ice
     from Wenham,
  They played the man before Quebec and stormed the lines at Blenheim.
  When sailors lived on mouldy bread and lumps of rusty pork,
  No Frenchman dared to show his nose between the Downs and Cork.
  But now that Jack gets beef and greens and next his skin wears flannel,
  The _Standard_ says we've not a ship in plight to hold the Channel."

So much for Social Amelioration.


[10] For a lively description of Andover School in the eighteenth
century, see the _Memoirs of "Orator Hunt_.'"



I now approach the political condition at the turn of the century, and
that was to a great extent the product of the French Revolution. Some
historians, indeed, when dealing with that inexhaustible theme, have
wrought cause and effect into a circular chain, and have reckoned among
the circumstances which prepared the way for the French Revolution the
fact that Voltaire in his youth spent three years in England, and
mastered the philosophy of Bacon, Newton, and Locke, the Deism of the
English Freethinkers, and the English theory of political liberty. That
these doctrines, recommended by Voltaire's mordant genius and matchless
style, and circulating in a community prepared by tyranny to receive
them, acted as a powerful solvent on the intellectual basis of French
society, is indeed likely enough. But to pursue the theme would carry us
too far back into the eighteenth century. In dealing with the
recollections of persons whom one's self has known we must dismiss from
view the causes of the French Revolution. Our business is with its
effect on political thought and action in England.

About half way through the nineteenth century it became the fashion to
make out that the effect of the Revolution on England had been
exaggerated. Satirists made fun of our traditional Gallophobia. In that
admirable skit on philosophical history, the introduction to the _Book
of Snobs_, Thackeray first illustrates his theme by a reference to the
French Revolution, and then adds (in sarcastic brackets)--"Which the
reader will be pleased to have introduced so early." Lord Beaconsfield,
quizzing John Wilson Croker in _Coningsby_, says: "He bored his audience
with too much history, especially the French Revolution, which he
fancied was his forte, so that the people at last, whenever he made any
allusion to the subject, were almost as much terrified as if they had
seen the guillotine." In spite of these gibes, historians have of late
years returned to the earlier and truer view, and have deliberately
reaffirmed the tremendous effect of the Revolution on English politics.
The philosophical Mr. Lecky says that it influenced English history in
the later years of the eighteenth century more powerfully than any other
event; that it gave a completely new direction to the statesmanship of
Pitt; that it instantaneously shattered, and rendered ineffectual for a
whole generation, one of the two great parties in the State; and that it
determined for a like period the character and complexion of our foreign

All contemporary Europe--all subsequent time--quivered with the shock
and sickened at the carnage; but I have gathered that it was not till
the capture of the Bastille that the events which were taking place in
France attracted any general or lively interest in England. The strifes
of rival politicians, the illness of George III., and the consequent
questions as to the Regency, engrossed the public mind, and what little
interest was felt in foreign affairs was directed much more to the
possible designs of Russia than to the actual condition of France. The
capture of the Bastille, however, was an event so startling and so
dramatic that it instantly arrested the public attention of England, and
the events which immediately followed in rapid and striking succession
raised interest into excitement, and excitement into passion. Men who
had been accustomed from their childhood to regard the Monarchy of
France as the type of a splendid, powerful, and enduring polity now saw
a National Army constituted in complete independence of the Crown; a
Representative Body assuming absolute power and denying the King's right
to dissolve; the summary abrogation of the whole feudal system, which a
year before had seemed endowed with perpetual vigour; an insurrection of
the peasantry against their territorial tyrants, accompanied by every
horror of pillage, arson, and bloodshed; the beautiful and stately Queen
flying, half naked, for her life, amid the slaughter of her sentinels
and courtiers; and the King himself virtually a prisoner in the very
Court which, up to that moment, had seemed the ark and sanctuary of
absolute government. All over England these events produced their
immediate and natural effect. Enemies of religious establishments took
courage from the downfall of ecclesiastical institutions. Enemies of
monarchy rejoiced in the formal and public degradation of a monarch.
Those who had long been conscientiously working for Parliamentary reform
saw with glee their principles expressed in the most uncompromising
terms in the French Declaration of Rights, and practically applied in
the constitution of the Sovereign Body of France.

These convinced and constitutional reformers found new and strange
allies. Serious advocates of Republican institutions, mere lovers of
change and excitement, secret sympathizers with lawlessness and
violence, sedentary theorists, reckless adventurers, and local
busybodies associated themselves in the endeavour to popularize the
French Revolution in England and to imbue the English mind with
congenial sentiments. The movement had leaders of greater mark. The Duke
of Norfolk and the Duke of Richmond, Lord Lansdowne and Lord Stanhope,
held language about the Sovereignty of the People such as filled the
reverent and orderly mind of Burke with indignant astonishment. In Dr.
Priestley the revolutionary party had an eminent man of science and a
polemical writer of rare power. Dr. Price was a rhetorician whom any
cause would have gladly enlisted as its champion. The Revolution
Society, founded to commemorate the capture of the Bastille,
corresponded with the leaders of the Revolution, and promised its
alliance in a revolutionary compact. And, to add a touch of comedy to
these more serious demonstrations, the young Duke of Bedford and other
leaders of fashion discarded hair-powder, and wore their hair cut short
in what was understood to be the Republican mode of Paris.

Amidst all this hurly-burly Pitt maintained a stately and cautious
reserve. Probably he foresaw his opportunity in the inevitable
disruption of his opponents; and if so, his foresight was soon realized
by events. On the capture of the Bastille, Fox exclaimed: "How much the
greatest event it is that ever happened in the world! and how much the
best!" At the same time Burke was writing to an intimate friend: "The
old Parisian ferocity has broken out in a shocking manner. It is true
that this may be no more than a sudden explosion. If so, no indication
can be taken from it; but if it should be character rather than
accident, then that people are not fit for liberty, and must have a
strong hand like that of their former masters to coerce them." This
contrast between the judgments of the 10 great Whigs was continuously
and rapidly heightened. Fox threw himself into the revolutionary cause
with all the ardour which he had displayed on behalf of American
independence. Burke opposed with characteristic vehemence the French
attempt to build up a theoretical Constitution on the ruins of
religion, history, and authority; and any fresh act of cruelty or
oppression which accompanied the process stirred in him that tremendous
indignation against violence and injustice of which Warren Hastings had
learned by stern experience the intensity and the volume. The
_Reflections on the French Revolution_ and the _Appeal from the New to
the Old Whigs_ expressed in the most splendid English which was ever
written the dire apprehensions that darkened their author's receptive
and impassioned mind. "A voice like the Apocalypse sounded over England,
and even echoed in all the Courts of Europe. Burke poured the vials of
his hoarded vengeance into the agitated heart of Christendom, and
stimulated the panic of a world by the wild pictures of his inspired

Meanwhile the Whig party was rent in twain. The Duke of Portland, Lord
Fitzwilliam, the Duke of Devonshire, Lord John Cavendish, and Sir George
Elliot adhered to Burke. Fox as stoutly opposed him, and was reinforced
by Sheridan, Francis, Erskine, and Grey. The pathetic issue of the
dispute, in Burke's formal repudiation of Fox's friendship, has taken
its place among those historic Partings of Friends which have modified
the course of human society. As far as can now be judged, the bulk of
the country was with Burke, and the execution of Louis XVI. was followed
by an astonishing outbreak of popular feeling. The theatres were closed.
The whole population wore mourning. The streets rang with the cry "War
with France!" The very pulpits re-echoed the summons. Fox himself was
constrained to declare to the electors of Westminster that there was no
one outside France who did not consider this sad catastrophe "as a most
revolting act of cruelty and injustice."

But it was too late. The horror and indignation of England were not to
be allayed by soothing words of decorous sympathy from men who had
applauded the earlier stages of the tragedy, though they wept at its
culmination. The warlike spirit of the race was aroused, and it spoke in
the cry, "No peace with the regicides!" Pitt clearly discerned the
feeling of the country, and promptly gave effect to it. He dismissed
Chauvelin, who informally represented the Revolutionary Government in
London, and he demanded from Parliament an immediate augmentation of the

On the 20th of January, 1793, France declared war against England. The
great struggle had begun, and that declaration was a new starting-point
in the political history of England. English parties entered into new
combinations. English politics assumed a new complexion. Pitt's imperial
mind maintained its ascendency, but the drift of his policy was entirely
changed. All the schemes of Parliamentary, financial, and commercial
reform in which he had been immersed yielded place to the stern
expedients of a Minister fighting for his life against revolution abroad
and sedition at home. For though, as I said just now, popular sentiment
was stirred by the King's execution into vehement hostility to France,
still the progress of the war was attended by domestic consequences
which considerably modified this sentiment. Hostility gave way to
passive acquiescence, and acquiescence to active sympathy.

Among the causes which produced this change were the immense increase of
national burdens; the sudden agglomeration of a lawless population in
the manufacturing towns which the war called into being; the growing
difficulties in Ireland, where revolutionary theories found ready
learners; the absolute abandonment of all attempts at social and
political improvement; the dogged determination of those in authority to
remedy no grievance however patent, and to correct no abuse however

The wise and temperate reforms for which the times were ripe, and which
the civil genius of Pitt pre-eminently qualified him to effect, were not
only suspended but finally abandoned under the influence of an insane
reaction. The besotted resistance to all change stimulated the desire
for it. Physical distress co-operated with political discontent to
produce a state of popular disaffection such as the whole preceding
century had never seen. The severest measures of coercion and repression
only, and scarcely, restrained the populace from open and desperate
insurrection, and thirty years of this experience brought England to the
verge of a civil catastrophe.

Patriotism was lost in partisanship. Political faction ran to an
incredible excess. The whole community was divided into two hostile
camps. Broadly speaking, the cause of France was espoused, with
different degrees of fervour, by all lovers of civil and religious
freedom. To the Whigs the humiliation of Pitt was a more cherished
object than the defeat of Napoleon. Fox wrote to a friend: "The triumph
of the French Government over the English does, in fact, afford me a
degree of pleasure which it is very difficult to disguise;" and I have
gathered that this was the prevalent temper of Whiggery during the long
and desperate struggle with Republican and Imperial France. What Byron
called "The crowning carnage, Waterloo," brought no abatement of
political rancour. The question of France, indeed, was eliminated from
the contest, but its elimination enabled English Liberals to concentrate
their hostility on the Tory Government without incurring the reproach of
unpatriotic sympathy with the enemies of England.

In the great fight between Tory and Whig, Government and Opposition,
Authority and Freedom, there was no quarter. Neither age nor sex was
spared. No department of national life was untouched by the fury of the
contest. The Royal Family was divided. The Duke of Cumberland was one of
the most dogged and unscrupulous leaders of the Tory party; the Duke of
Sussex toasted the memory of Charles James Fox, and at a public dinner
joined in singing "The Trumpet of Liberty," of which the chorus ran--

    "Fall, tyrants, fall!
    These are the days of liberty;
    Fall, tyrants, fall!"

The Established Church was on the side of authority; the Dissenters
stood for freedom. "Our opponents," said Lord John Russell, in one of
his earliest speeches--"our opponents deafen us with their cry of
'Church and King.' Shall I tell you what they mean by it? They mean a
Church without the Gospel and a King above the law." An old Radical
electioneer, describing the activity of the country clergy on the Tory
side, said: "In every village we had the Black Recruiting-Sergeant
against us." Even within sacred walls the echoes of the fight were
heard. The State Holy-days--Gunpowder Treason, Charles the Martyr, the
Restoration and the Accession--gave suitable occasion for sermons of the
most polemical vehemence. Even the two Collects for the King at the
beginning of the Communion Service were regarded as respectively Tory
and Whig. The first, with its bold assertion of the Divine Right of
Sovereignty, was that which commended itself to every loyal clergyman on
his promotion; and unfavourable conclusions were drawn with regard to
the civil sentiments of the man who preferred the colourless
alternative. As in the Church, so in our educational system. Oxford,
with its Caroline and Jacobite traditions, was the Tory University;
Cambridge, the nursing mother of Whigs; Eton was supposed to cherish a
sentiment of romantic affection for the Stuarts; Harrow was profoundly
Hanoverian. Even the drama was involved in political antipathies, and
the most enthusiastic adherents of Kean and Kemble were found
respectively among the leaders of Whig and Tory Society.

The vigour, heartiness, and sincerity of this political hatred put to
shame the more tepid convictions of our degenerate days. The first Earl
of Leicester, better known as "Coke of Norfolk," told my father that
when he was a child his grandfather took him on his knee and said, "Now,
remember, Tom, as long as you live, never trust a Tory;" and he used to
say, "I never have, and, by George, I never will." A little girl of
Whig descent, accustomed from her cradle to hear language of this sort,
asked her mother, "Mamma, are Tories born wicked, or do they grow wicked
afterwards?" and her mother judiciously replied, "They are born wicked,
and grow worse." I well remember in my youth an eccentric maiden
lady--Miss Harriet Fanny Cuyler--who had spent a long and interesting
life in the innermost circles of aristocratic Whiggery; and she always
refused to enter a four-wheel cab until she had extorted from the driver
his personal assurance that he never had cases of infectious disease in
his cab, that he was not a Puseyite, and was a Whig.

I am bound to say that this vehement prejudice was not unnatural in a
generation that remembered, either personally or by immediate tradition,
the iron coercion which Pitt exercised in his later days, and which his
successors continued. The barbarous executions for high treason remain a
blot on the fair fame of the nineteenth century. Scarcely less horrible
were the trials for sedition, which sent an English clergyman to
transportation for life because he had signed a petition in favour of
Parliamentary reform.

    "The good old Code, like Argus, had a hundred watchful eyes,
    And each old English peasant had his good old English spies,
    To tempt his starving discontent with good old English lies,
    Then call the British yeomanry to stop his peevish cries."

At Woburn, a market town forty miles from London, under the very shadow
of a great Whig house, no political meeting could be held for fear of
Pitt's spies, who dropped down from London by the night coach and
returned to lay information against popular speakers; and when the
politicians of the place desired to express their sentiments, they had
to repair secretly to an adjacent village off the coach road, where they
were harangued under cover of night by the young sons of the Duke of

The ferocity, the venality, the profligate expenditure, the delirious
excitement of contested elections have made an indelible mark on our
political history. In 1780 King George III. personally canvassed the
Borough of Windsor against the Whig candidate, Admiral Keppel, and
propitiated a silk-mercer by calling at his shop and saying, "The Queen
wants a gown--wants a gown. No Keppel. No Keppel." It is pleasant to
reflect that the friends of freedom were not an inch behind the
upholders of tyranny in the vigour and adroitness of their
electioneering methods. The contest for the City of Westminster in 1788
is thus described in the manuscript diary of Lord Robert Seymour:--

"The Riotts of the Westr. Election are carried such lengths the Military
obliged to be called into the assistance of Ld. Hood's party. Several
Persons have been killed by Ld. J. Townsend's Butchers who cleave them
to the Ground with their Cleavers--Mr. Fox very narrowly escaped being
killed by a Bayonet wch. w'd certainly have been fatal had not a poor
Black saved him fm. the blow. Mr. Macnamara's Life is despaired of--&
several others have died in the difft. Hospitals. Next Thursday decides
the business.

"July 25.--Lord John Townsend likely to get the Election--what has
chiefly contributed to Ld. Hood's losing it is that Mr. Pulteney is his
Friend--Mr. P. can command 1,500 Votes--& as he is universally disliked
by his Tenants they are unanimous in voting against him--wch. for Ld. H.
proves a very unfortunate circumstance. The Duke of Bedford sent £10,000
towards the Expenses of the Opposition.

"It is thought that Lord Hood will not attempt a Scrutiny. One of Ld.
Hood's votes was discovered to be a carrot-scraper in St. James's Market
who sleeps in a little Kennel about the Size of a Hen Coup.

"Augt. 5th--The Election decided in favour of Ld. J.T., who was
chaired--and attend'd by a Procession of a mile in length. On his Head
was a crown of Laurel. C. Fox follow'd him in a Landau & 6 Horses
cover'd in Favors & Lawrels. The appearance this Procession made was
equal in splendor to the public Entry of an Ambassador."

A by-election was impending in Yorkshire, and Pitt, paying a social
visit to the famous Mrs. B.--one of the Whig Queens of the West
Riding--said, banteringly, "Well, the election is all right for us. Ten
thousand guineas for the use of our side go down to Yorkshire to-night
by a sure hand." "The devil they do!" responded Mrs. B., and that night
the bearer of the precious burden was stopped by a highwayman on the
Great North Road, and the ten thousand guineas were used to procure the
return of the Whig candidate. The electioneering methods, less
adventurous but not more scrupulous, of a rather later day have been
depicted in _Pickwick_, and _Coningsby_, and _My Novel_, and
_Middlemarch_, with all the suggestive fun of a painting by Hogarth.

And so, with startling incidents and culpable expedients and varying
fortunes, the great struggle for political freedom was conducted through
the first thirty years of the nineteenth century, and it has been my
interesting fortune to know some of the toughest of the combatants both
among the leaders and in the rank-and-file. And from all of them
alike--and not only from them, but from all who remembered the time--I
have gathered the impression that all through their earlier life the
hidden fires of revolution were smouldering under English society, and
that again and again an actual outbreak was only averted by some happy
stroke of fortune. At the Election of 1868 an old labourer in the
agricultural Borough of Woodstock told a Liberal canvasser from Oxford
that in his youth arms had been stored in his father's cottage so as to
be in readiness for the outbreak which was to take place if Lord Grey's
Reform Bill was finally defeated. A Whig nobleman, of great experience
and calm judgment, told me that if Princess Victoria had died before
William IV., and thereby Ernest Duke of Cumberland had succeeded to the
Throne, no earthly power could have averted a revolution. "I have no
hesitation in saying," I heard Mr. Gladstone say, "that if the repeal of
the Corn Laws had been defeated, or even retarded, we should have had a
revolution." Charles Kingsley and his fellow-workers for Social Reform
expected a revolution in April 1848.

But, after all, these testimonies belong to the region of conjecture.
Let me close this chapter by a narrative of fact, derived from the late
Lord de Ros, who was an eye-witness of the events which he narrated.
Arthur Thistlewood (whose execution for the "Cato Street Conspiracy" I
have described in a previous chapter) was a young Englishman who had
been in Paris in the time of Robespierre's ascendency, and had there
imbibed revolutionary sentiments. He served for a short time as an
officer in the English Army, and after quitting the service he made
himself notorious by trying to organize a political riot in London, for
which he was tried and acquitted. He subsequently collected round him a
secret society of disaffected citizens, and proceeded to arrange a plan
by which he hoped to paralyze Government and establish a Reign of Terror
in London.

One evening, in the winter of 1819-20, a full-dress ball was given by
the Spanish Ambassador in Portland Place, and was attended by the Prince
Regent, the Royal Dukes, the Duke of Wellington, the Ministers of State,
and the leaders of fashion and society. "About one o'clock, just before
supper, a sort of order was circulated among the junior officers to draw
towards the head of the stairs, though no one knew for what reason,
except that an unusual crowd had assembled in the street. The appearance
of Lavender and one or two well-known Bow Street officers in the
entrance-hall also gave rise to surmises of some impending riot. While
the officers were whispering to one another as to what was expected to
happen, a great noise was heard in the street, the crowd dispersed with
loud cries in all directions, and a squadron of the 2nd Life Guards
arrived with drawn swords at a gallop from their barracks (then situate
in King Street), and rapidly formed in front of the Ambassador's house.
Lavender and the Bow Street officers now withdrew; the officers who had
gathered about the stairhead were desired to return to the ballroom.

"The alarm, whatever it might have been, appeared to be over, and before
the company broke up the Life Guards had been withdrawn to their
barracks. Inside the Ambassador's house all had remained so quiet that
very few of the ladies present were aware till next day that anything
unusual had happened, but it became known after a short time that the
Duke of Wellington had received information of an intended attack upon
the house, which the precautions taken had probably prevented; and upon
the trial of Thistlewood and his gang (for the Cato Street Conspiracy)
it came out, among other evidence of the various wild schemes they had
formed, that Thistlewood had certainly entertained the project, at the
time of this ball, to attack the Spanish Ambassador's house, and destroy
the Regent and other Royal personages, as well as the Ministers, who
were sure to be, most of them, present on the occasion."

For details of the Cato Street Conspiracy the curious reader is referred
to the _Annual Register_ for 1820, and it is strange to reflect that
these explosions of revolutionary rage occurred well within the
recollection of people now[11] living, among whom I hope it is not
invidious to mention Mr. Charles Villiers,[12] Lady Mary Saurin,[13] and
Lady Glentworth.[14]


[11] 1897.

[12] The Right Hon. C.P. Villiers, M.P., 1802-98.

[13] (_nee_ Ryder), 1801-1900.

[14] Eve Maria, Viscountess Glentworth, 1803-19.



Closely connected with the subject of Politics, of which we were
speaking in the last chapter, is that of Parliamentary Oratory, and for
a right estimate of oratory personal impressions (such as those on which
I have relied) are peculiarly valuable. They serve both to correct and
to confirm. It is impossible to form from the perusal of a printed
speech anything but the vaguest and often the most erroneous notion of
the effect which it produced upon its hearers. But from the testimony of
contemporaries one can often gain the clue to what is otherwise
unintelligible. One learns what were the special attributes of bearing,
voice, or gesture, the circumstances of delivery, or even the antecedent
conditions of character and reputation, which perhaps doomed some
magnificent peroration to ludicrous failure, or, on the contrary,
"ordained strength" out of stammering lips and disjointed sentences.
Testimony of this kind the circumstances of my life have given me in
great abundance. My chain of tradition links me to the days of the

Almost all the old people whose opinions and experience I have recorded
were connected, either personally or through their nearest relations,
with one or other of the Houses of Parliament. Not a few of them were
conspicuous actors on the stage of political life. Lord Robert Seymour,
from whose diary I have quoted, died in 1831, after a long life spent
in the House of Commons, which he entered in 1771, and of which for
twenty-three years he was a fellow-member with Edmund Burke. Let me
linger for a moment on that illustrious name.

In originality, erudition, and accomplishments Burke had no rival among
Parliamentary speakers. His prose is, as we read it now, the most
fascinating, the most musical, in the English language. It bears on
every page the divine lineaments of genius. Yet an orator requires
something more than mere force of words. He must feel, while he speaks,
the pulse of his audience, and instinctively regulate every sentence by
reference to their feelings. All contemporary evidence shows that in
this kind of oratorical tact Burke was eminently deficient. His
nickname, "The Dinner-bell of the House of Commons," speaks for his
effect on the mind of the average M.P. "In vain," said: Moore, "did
Burke's genius put forth its superb plumage, glittering all over with
the hundred eyes of fancy. The gait of the bird was heavy and awkward,
and its voice seemed rather to scare than attract."

Macaulay has done full justice to the extraordinary blaze of brilliancy
which on supreme occasions threw these minor defects into the shade.
Even now the old oak rafters of Westminster Hall seem to echo that
superlative peroration which taught Mrs. Siddons a higher flight of
tragedy than her own, and made the accused proconsul feel himself for
the moment the guiltiest of men. Mr. Gladstone declared that Burke was
directly responsible for the war with France, for "Pitt could not have
resisted him." For the more refined, the more cultivated, the more
speculative intellects he had--and has--an almost supernatural charm.
His style is without any exception the richest, the most picturesque,
the most inspired and inspiring in the language. In its glories and its
terrors it resembles the Apocalypse. Mr. Morley, in the most striking of
all his critical essays, has truly said that the natural ardour which
impelled Burke to clothe his judgments in glowing and exaggerated
phrases is one secret of his power over us, because it kindles in those
who are capable of that generous infection a respondent interest and
sympathy. "He has the sacred gift of inspiring men to care for high
things, and to make their lives at once rich and austere. Such a gift is
rare indeed. We feel no emotion of revolt when Mackintosh speaks of
Shakespeare and Burke in the same breath as being, both of them, above
mere talent. We do not dissent when Macaulay, after reading Burke's
works over again, exclaims: 'How admirable! The greatest man since

No sane critic would dream of comparing the genius of Pitt with that of
Burke. Yet where Burke failed Pitt succeeded. Burke's speeches, indeed,
are a part of our national literature; Pitt was, in spite of grave and
undeniable faults, the greatest Minister that ever governed England.
Foremost among the gifts by which he acquired his supreme ascendency
must be placed his power of parliamentary speaking. He was not, as his
father was, an orator in that highest sense of oratory which implies
something of inspiration, of genius, of passionate and poetic rapture;
but he was a public speaker of extraordinary merit. He had while still a
youth what Coleridge aptly termed "a premature and unnatural dexterity
in the combination of words," and this developed into "a power of
pouring forth with endless facility perfectly modulated sentences of
perfectly chosen language, which as far surpassed the reach of a normal
intellect as the feats of an acrobat exceed the capacities of a normal
body." It was eloquence particularly well calculated to sway a popular
assembly which yet had none of the characteristics of a mob. A sonorous
voice; a figure and bearing which, though stiff and ungainly, were
singularly dignified; an inexhaustible copiousness of grandiloquent
phrase; a peculiar vein of sarcasm which froze like ice and cut like
steel--these were some of the characteristics of the oratory which from
1782 to 1806 at once awed and fascinated the House of Commons.

"I never want a word, but Mr. Pitt always has at command the right
word." This was the generous tribute of Pitt's most eminent rival,
Charles James Fox. Never were great opponents in public life more
exactly designed by Nature to be contrasts to one another. While every
tone of Pitt's voice and every muscle of his countenance expressed with
unmistakable distinctness the cold and stately composure of his
character, every particle of Fox's mental and physical formation bore
witness to his fiery and passionate enthusiasm. "What is that fat
gentleman in such a passion about?" was the artless query of the late
Lord Eversley, who, as Mr. Speaker Shaw-Lefevre, so long presided over
the House of Commons, and who as a child had been taken to the gallery
to hear Mr. Fox. While Pitt was the embodied representative of Order,
his rival was the Apostle and Evangelist of Liberty. If the master
passion of Pitt's mind was enthusiasm for his country, Fox was swayed by
the still nobler enthusiasm of Humanity. His style of oratory was the
exact reflex of his mind. He was unequalled in passionate argument, in
impromptu reply, in ready and spontaneous declamation. His style was
unstudied to a fault. Though he was so intimately acquainted with the
great models of classical antiquity, his oratory owed little to the
contact, and nothing to the formal arts of rhetoric; everything to
inborn genius and the greatness of the cause which he espoused. It would
be difficult to point to a single public question of his time on which
his voice did not sound with rousing effect, and whenever that voice was
heard it was on behalf of freedom, humanity, and the sacred brotherhood
of nations.

I pass on to the orator of whose masterpiece Fox said that "eloquent
indeed it was; so much so that all he had ever heard, all he had ever
read, dwindled into nothing, and vanished like vapour before the sun."
In sparkling brilliancy and pointed wit, in all the livelier graces of
declamation and delivery, Sheridan surpassed all his contemporaries.
When he concluded his speech on the charge against Warren Hastings of
plundering the Begums of Oude, the peers and strangers joined with the
House in a tumult of applause, and could not be restrained from clapping
their hands in ecstasy. The House adjourned in order to recover its
self-possession. Pitt declared that this speech surpassed all the
eloquence of ancient and modern times, and possessed everything that
genius or art could furnish to agitate or control the human mind. And
yet, while Sheridan's supreme efforts met with this startling success,
his deficiencies in statesmanship and character prevented him from
commanding that position in the House and in the Government which his
oratorical gift, if not thus handicapped, must have secured for its

As a speaker in his own sphere Lord Erskine was not inferior to the
greatest of his contemporaries. He excelled in fire, force, and passion.
Lord Brougham finely described "that noble figure every look of whose
countenance is expressive, every motion of whose form graceful; an eye
that sparkles and pierces and almost assures victory, while it 'speaks
audience ere the tongue.'" Yet, as is so often the case, the unequalled
advocate found himself in the House of Commons less conspicuously
successful than he had been at the Bar. The forensic manner of speech,
in which he was a head and shoulders higher than any of his legal
contemporaries, is, after all, distinct from parliamentary eloquence.

The same disqualification attached to the oratory of Lord Brougham,
whose speech at the bar of the House of Lords in defence of Queen
Caroline had made so deep an impression. His extraordinary fierceness
and even violence of nature pervaded his whole physical as well as
intellectual being. When he spoke he was on springs and quicksilver, and
poured forth sarcasm, invective, argument, and declamation in a
promiscuous and headlong flood. Yet all contemporary evidence shows that
his grandest efforts were dogged by the inevitable fate of the man who,
not content with excellence in one or two departments, aims at the
highest point in all. In reading his speeches, while one admires the
versatility, one is haunted by that fatal sense of superficiality which
gave rise to the saying that "if the Lord Chancellor only knew a little
law he would know something about everything."

Pitt died in 1806, but he lived long enough to hear the splendid
eloquence of Grattan, rich in imagination, metaphor, and epigram; and to
open the doors of the official hierarchy to George Canning. Trained by
Pitt, and in many gifts and graces his superior, Canning first displayed
his full greatness after the death of his illustrious master. For twenty
years he was the most accomplished debater in the House of Commons, and
yet he never succeeded in winning the full confidence of the nation,
nor, except in foreign affairs, in leaving his mark upon our national
policy. "The English are afraid of genius," and when genius is displayed
in the person of a social adventurer, however brilliant and delightful,
it is doubly alarming.

We can judge of Canning's speeches more exactly than of those of his
predecessors, for by the time that he had become famous the art of
parliamentary reporting had attained almost to its present perfection;
and there are none which more amply repay critical study. Second only to
Burke in the grandeur and richness of his imagery, he greatly excelled
him in readiness, in tact, and in those adventitious advantages which go
so far to make an orator. Mr. Gladstone remembered the "light and music"
of the eloquence with which he had fascinated Liverpool seventy years
before. Scarcely any one contributed so many beautiful thoughts and
happy phrases to the common stock of public speech. All contemporary
observers testify to the effect produced by the proud strength of his
declaration on foreign policy: "I called the New World into existence,
to redress the balance of the Old." And the language does not contain a
more magnificent or perfect image than that in which he likens a strong
nation at peace to a great man-of-war lying calm and motionless till the
moment for action comes, when "it puts forth all its beauty and its
bravely collects its scattered elements of strength, and awakens its
dormant thunder."

Lord John Russell entered the House of Commons in 1813, and left it in
1861. He used to say that in his early days there were a dozen men there
who could make a finer speech than any one now living; "but," he used to
add, "there were not another dozen who could understand what they were
talking about." I asked him who was, on the whole, the best speaker he
ever heard. He answered, "Lord Plunket," and subsequently gave as his
reason this--that while Plunket had his national Irish gifts of
fluency, brilliant imagination, and ready wit very highly developed,
they were all adjuncts to his strong, cool, inflexible argument. This,
it will be readily observed, is a very rare and a very striking
combination, and goes far to account for the transcendent success which
Plunket attained at the Bar and in the House, and alike in the Irish and
the English Parliament. Lord Brougham said of him that his eloquence was
a continuous flow of "clear statement, close reasoning, felicitous
illustration, all confined strictly to the subject in hand; every
portion, without any exception, furthering the process of conviction;"
and I do not know a more impressive passage of sombre passion than the
peroration of his first speech against the Act of Union: "For my own
part, I will resist it to the last gasp of my existence, and with the
last drop of my blood; and when I feel the hour of my dissolution
approaching, I will, like the father of Hannibal, take my children to
the altar and swear them to eternal hostility against the invaders of
their country's freedom."

Before the death of Pitt another great man had risen to eminence, though
the main achievement of his life associates him with 1832. Lord Grey was
distinguished by a stately and massive eloquence which exactly suited
his high purpose and earnest gravity of nature, while its effect was
enormously enhanced by his handsome presence and kingly bearing. Though
the leader of the popular cause, he was an aristocrat in nature, and
pre-eminently qualified for the great part which, during twenty years,
he played in that essentially aristocratic assembly--the unreformed
House of Commons. In a subsequent chapter I hope to say a little about
parliamentary orators of a rather more recent date; and here it may not
be uninteresting to compare the House of Commons as we have seen it and
known it, modified by successive extensions of the suffrage, with what
it was before Grey and Russell destroyed for ever its exclusive

The following description is taken from Lord Beaconsfield, who is
drawing a character derived in part from Sir Francis Burdett
(1770-1840), and in part from George Byng, who was M.P. for Middlesex
for fifty-six years, and died in 1847:--"He was the Father of the House,
though it was difficult to believe that from his appearance. He was
tall, and kept his distinguished figure; a handsome man with a musical
voice, and a countenance now benignant, though very bright and Once
haughty. He still retained the same fashion of costume in which he had
ridden up to Westminster more than half a century ago to support his
dear friend Charles Fox--real topboots and a blue coat and buff
waistcoat. He had a large estate, and had refused an earldom. Knowing
E., he came and sate by him one Jay in the House, and asked him,
good-naturedly, how he liked his new life. It is very different from
what it as when I was your age. Up to Easter we rarely had a regular
debate, never a party division; very few people came up indeed. But
there was a good deal of speaking on all subjects before dinner. We had
the privilege then of speaking on the presentation of petitions at any
length, and we seldom spoke on any other occasion. After Easter there
was always at least one great party fight. This was a mighty affair,
talked of for weeks before it came off, and then rarely an adjourned
debate. We were gentlemen, used to sit up late, and should have been
sitting up somewhere else had we not been in the House of Commons. After
this party fight the House for the rest of the session was a mere
club.... The House of Commons was very much like what the House of Lords
is now. You went home to dine, and then came back for an important
division.... Twenty years ago no man would think of coming down to the
House except in evening dress. I remember so late as Mr. Canning the
Minister always came down in silk stockings and pantaloons or
knee-breeches. All these things change, and quoting Virgil will be the
next thing to disappear. In the last--Parliament we often had Latin
quotations, but never from a member with a new constituency. I have
heard Greek quoted here, but that was long ago, and a great mistake. The
House was quite alarmed. Charles Fox used to say as to quotation, 'No
Greek; as much Latin as you like; and never French under any
circumstances. No English poet unless he has completed his century.'
These were, like some other good rules, the unwritten orders of the
House of Commons."



I concluded my last chapter with a quotation from Lord Beaconsfield,
describing parliamentary speaking as it was when he entered the House of
Commons in 1837. Of that particular form of speaking perhaps the
greatest master was Sir Robert Peel. He was deficient in those gifts of
imagination and romance which are essential to the highest oratory. He
utterly lacked--possibly he would have despised--that almost prophetic
rapture which we recognize in Burke and Chatham and Erskine. His manner
was frigid and pompous, and his rhetorical devices were mechanical.
Every parliamentary sketch of the time satirizes his habit of turning
round towards his supporters at given periods to ask for their applause;
his trick of emphasizing his points by perpetually striking the box
before him; and his inveterate propensity to indulge in hackneyed
quotation. But when we have said this we have said all that can be urged
in his disparagement. As a parliamentary speaker of the second and
perhaps most useful class he has never been excelled. Firmly though
dispassionately persuaded of certain political and economic doctrines,
he brought to the task of promoting them unfailing tact, prompt courage,
intimate acquaintance with the foibles of his hearers, unconquerable
patience and perseverance, and an inexhaustible supply of sonorous
phrases and rounded periods. Nor was his success confined to the House
of Commons. As a speaker on public platforms, in the heyday of the
ten-pound householder and the middle-class franchise, he was peculiarly
in his element. He had beyond most men the art of "making a platitude
endurable by making it pompous." He excelled in demonstrating the
material advantages of a moderate and cautious conservatism, and he
could draw at will and with effect upon a prodigious fund of
constitutional commonplaces. If we measure the merit of a parliamentary
speaker by his practical influence, we must allow that Peel was
pre-eminently great.

In the foremost rank of orators a place must certainly be assigned to
O'Connell. He was not at his best in the House of Commons. His
coarseness, violence, and cunning were seen to the worst advantage in
what was still an assemblage of gentlemen. His powers of ridicule,
sarcasm, and invective, his dramatic and sensational predilections,
required another scene for their effective display. But few men have
ever been so richly endowed by Nature with the original, the
incommunicable, the inspired qualifications which go to make an orator.
He was magnificently built, and blessed with a voice which, by all
contemporary testimony, was one of the most thrilling, flexible, and
melodious that ever vibrated through a popular assembly. "From grave to
gay, from lively to severe" he flew without delay or difficulty. His wit
gave point to the most irrelevant personalities, and cogency to the most
illogical syllogisms. The most daring perversions of truth and justice
were driven home by appeals to the emotions which the coldest natures
could scarcely withstand; "the passions of his audience were playthings
in his hand." Lord Lytton thus described him:--

    "Once to my sight the giant thus was given:
    Walled by wide air, and roofed by boundless heaven,
    Beneath his feet the human ocean lay,
    And wave on wave flowed into space away.
    Methought no clarion could have sent its sound
    Even to the centre of the hosts around;
    But, as I thought, rose the sonorous swell
    As from some church tower swings the silvery bell.
    Aloft and clear, from airy tide to tide
    It glided, easy as a bird may glide;
    To the last verge of that vast audience sent,
    It played with each wild passion as it went;
    Now stirred the uproar, now the murmur stilled,
    And sobs or laughter answered as it willed.
    Then did I know what spells of infinite choice,
    To rouse or lull, hath the sweet human voice;
    Then did I seem to seize the sudden clue
    To that grand troublous Life Antique--to view,
    Under the rockstand of Demosthenes,
    Mutable Athens heave her noisy seas."

A remarkable contrast, as far as outward characteristics went, was
offered by the other great orator of the same time. Sheil was very
small, and of mean presence; with a singularly fidgety manner, a shrill
voice, and a delivery unintelligibly rapid. But in sheer beauty of
elaborated diction not O'Connell nor any one else could surpass him.
There are few finer speeches in the language than that in which he took
Lord Lyndhurst to task for applying the term "aliens" to the Irish in a
speech on municipal reform:--

"Aliens! Good God! was Arthur Duke of Wellington in the House of Lords,
and did he not start up and exclaim, 'Hold! I have seen the aliens do
their duty'?... I appeal to the gallant soldier before me, from whose
opinions I differ, but who bears, I know, a generous heart in an
intrepid bosom--tell me, for you needs must remember, on that day when
the destinies of mankind were trembling in the balance, while death fell
in showers--tell me if for an instant, when to hesitate for an instant
was to be lost, the 'aliens' blenched.... On the field of Waterloo the
blood of England, of Scotland, and of Ireland flowed in the same stream
and drenched the same field. When the chill morning dawned their dead
lay cold and stark together; in the same deep pit their bodies were
deposited; the green corn of spring is now breaking from their
commingled dust; the dew falls from heaven upon this union in the grave.
Partakers in every peril, in the glory shall we not be permitted to
participate? And shall we be told as a requital that we are 'aliens'
from the noble country for whose salvation our life-blood was poured

By the time which we are now considering there had risen to eminence a
man who, if he could not be ranked with the great orators of the
beginning of the century, yet inherited their best traditions and came
very near to rivalling their fame. I refer to the great Lord Derby. His
eloquence was of the most impetuous kind, corresponding to the sensitive
fierceness of the man, and had gained for him the nickname of "The
Rupert of Debate." Lord Beaconsfield, speaking in the last year of his
life to Mr. Matthew Arnold, said that the task of carrying Mr. Forster's
Coercion Bill of 1881 through the House of Commons "needed such a man as
Lord Derby was in his youth--a man full of nerve, dash, fire, and
resource, who carried the House irresistibly along with him"--no mean
tribute from a consummate judge. Among Lord Derby's ancillary
qualifications were his musical voice, his fine English style, and his
facility in apt and novel quotation, as when he applied Meg Merrilies's
threnody over the ruins of Derncleugh to the destruction of the Irish
Church Establishment. I turn to Lord Lytton again for a description:--

    "One after one, the Lords of Time advance;
    Here Stanley meets--how Stanley scorns!--the glance.
    The brilliant chief, irregularly great,
    Frank, haughty, rash, the Rupert of Debate;
    Nor gout nor toil his freshness can destroy,
    And time still leaves all Eton in the boy.
    First in the class, and keenest in the ring,
    He saps like Gladstone, and he fights like Spring!
    Yet who not listens, with delighted smile,
    To the pure Saxon of that silver style;
    In the clear style a heart as clear is seen,
    Prompt to the rash, revolting from the mean."

I turn now to Lord Derby's most eminent rival--Lord Russell. Writing in
1844, Lord Beaconsfield thus described him:--"He is not a natural
orator, and labours under physical deficiencies which even a Demosthenic
impulse could scarcely overcome. But he is experienced in debate, quick
in reply, fertile in resource, takes large views, and frequently
compensates for a dry and hesitating manner by the expression of those
noble truths that flash across the fancy and rise spontaneously to the
lip of men of poetic temperament when addressing popular assemblies."
Twenty years earlier Moore had described Lord John Russell's public
speaking in a peculiarly happy image:--

    "An eloquence, not like those rills from a height
      Which sparkle and foam and in vapour are o'er;
    But a current that works out its way into light
      Through the filtering recesses of thought and of lore."

Cobden, when they were opposed to one another in the earlier days of the
struggle for Free Trade, described him as "a cunning little fox," and
avowed that he dreaded his dexterity in parliamentary debate more than
that of any other opponent.

In 1834 Lord John made his memorable declaration in favour of a liberal
policy with reference to the Irish Church Establishment, and, in his own
words, "The speech made a great impression; the cheering was loud and
general; and Stanley expressed his sense of it in a well-known note to
Sir James Graham: 'Johnny has upset the coach.'" The phrase was
perpetuated by Lord Lytton, to whom I must go once again for a perfectly
apt description of the Whig leader, both in his defects of manner and in
his essential greatness:--

  "Next cool, and all unconscious of reproach,
  Comes the calm Johnny who "upset the coach"--
  How formed to lead, if not too proud to please!
  His fame would fire you, but his manners freeze;
  Like or dislike, he does not care a jot;
  He wants your vote, but your affections not.
  Yet human hearts need sun as well as oats;
  So cold a climate plays the deuce with votes.
  But see our hero when the steam is on,
  And languid Johnny glows to Glorious John;
  When Hampden's thought, by Falkland's muses drest,
  Lights the pale cheek and swells the generous breast;
  When the pent heat expands the quickening soul,
  And foremost in the race the wheels of genius roll."

As the general idea of these chapters has been a concatenation of Links
with the Past, I must say a word about Lord Palmerston, who was born in
1784, entered Parliament in 1807, and was still leading the House of
Commons when I first attended its debates. A man who, when turned
seventy, could speak from the "dusk of a summer evening to the dawn of a
summer morning" in defence of his foreign policy, and carry the
vindication of it by a majority of 46, was certainly no common performer
on the parliamentary stage; and yet Lord Palmerston had very slender
claims to the title of an orator. His style was not only devoid of
ornament and rhetorical device, but it was slipshod and untidy in the
last degree. He eked out his sentences with "hum" and "hah;" he cleared
his throat, and flourished his pocket-handkerchief, and sucked his
orange; he rounded his periods with "you know what I mean" and "all that
kind of thing," and seemed actually to revel in an anti-climax--"I think
the hon. member's proposal an outrageous violation of constitutional
propriety, a daring departure from traditional policy, and, in short, a
great mistake." It taxed all the skill of the reporters' gallery to trim
his speeches into decent form; and yet no one was listened to with
keener interest, no one was so much dreaded as an opponent, and no one
ever approached him in the art of putting a plausible face upon a
doubtful policy and making the worse appear the better cause.
Palmerston's parliamentary success perfectly illustrates the judgment of
Demosthenes, that "it is not the orator's language that matters, nor the
tone of his voice; but what matters is that he should have the same
predilections as the majority, and should entertain the same likes and
dislikes as his country." If those are the requisites of public
speaking, Palmerston was supreme.

The most conspicuous of all Links with the Past in the matter of
Parliamentary Oratory is obviously Mr. Gladstone. Like the younger Pitt,
he had a "premature and unnatural dexterity in the combination of
words." He was trained under the immediate influence of Canning, who was
his father's friend. When he was sixteen his style was already formed. I
quote from the records of the Eton Debating Society for 1826:--

"Thus much, sir, I have said, as conceiving myself bound in fairness not
to regard the names under which men have hidden their designs so much as
the designs themselves. I am well aware that my prejudices
and my predilections have long been enlisted on the side of
Toryism--(cheers)--and that in a cause like this I am not likely to be
influenced unfairly against men bearing that name and professing to act
on the principles which I have always been accustomed to revere. But the
good of my country must stand on a higher ground than distinctions like
these. In common fairness and in common candour, I feel myself compelled
to give my decisive verdict against the conduct of men whose measures I
firmly believe to have been hostile to British interests, destructive of
British glory, and subversive of the splendid and, I trust, lasting
fabric of the British Constitution."

Mr. Gladstone entered Parliament when he was not quite twenty-three, at
the General Election of 1832, and it is evident from a perusal of his
early speeches in the House of Commons, imperfectly reported in the
third person, and from contemporary evidence, that, when due allowance
is made for growth and development, his manner of oratory was the same
as it was in after-life. He was only too fluent. His style was copious,
redundant, and involved, and his speeches were garnished, after the
manner of his time, with Horatian and Virgilian tags. His voice was
always clear, flexible, and musical, though his utterance was marked by
a Lancastrian "burr." His gesture was varied and animated, though not
violent. He turned his face and body from side to side, and often
wheeled right round to face his own party as he appealed for their

"Did you ever feel nervous in public speaking?" asked the late Lord

"In opening a subject, often," answered Mr. Gladstone; "in reply,

It was a characteristic saying, for, in truth, he was a born debater,
never so happy as when coping on the spur of the moment with the
arguments and appeals which an opponent had spent perhaps days in
elaborating beforehand. Again, in the art of elucidating figures he was
unequalled. He was the first Chancellor of the Exchequer who ever made
the Budget interesting. "He talked shop," it was said, "like a tenth
muse." He could apply all the resources of a glowing rhetoric to the
most prosaic questions of cost and profit; could make beer romantic and
sugar serious. He could sweep the widest horizon of the financial
future, and yet stoop to bestow the minutest attention on the microcosm
of penny stamps and the monetary merits of half-farthings. And yet,
extraordinary as were these feats of intellectual athletics, Mr.
Gladstone's unapproached supremacy as an orator was not really seen
until he touched the moral elements involved in some great political
issue. Then, indeed, he spoke like a prophet and a man inspired. His
whole physical formation seemed to become "fusile" with the fire of his
ethical passion, and his eloquence flowed like a stream of molten lava,
carrying all before it in its irresistible rush, glorious as well as
terrible, and fertilizing while it subdued. Mr. Gladstone's departure
from the House of Commons closed a splendid tradition, and Parliamentary
Oratory as our fathers understood it may now be reckoned among the lost



We have agreed that Parliamentary Oratory, as our fathers understood
that phrase, is a lost art. Must Conversation be included in the same
category? To answer with positiveness is difficult; but this much may be
readily conceded--that a belief in the decadence of conversation is
natural to those who have specially cultivated Links with the Past; who
grew up in the traditions of Luttrell and Mackintosh, and Lord Alvanley
and Samuel Rogers; who have felt Sydney Smith's irresistible fun, and
known the overwhelming fullness of Lord Macaulay. It is not unreasonable
even in that later generation which can still recall the frank but
high-bred gaiety of the great Lord Derby, the rollicking good-humour and
animal spirits of Bishop Wilberforce, the saturnine epigrams of Lord
Beaconsfield, the versatility and choice diction of Lord Houghton, the
many-sided yet concentrated malice which supplied the stock in trade of
Abraham Hayward. More recent losses have been heavier still. Just ten
years ago[15] died Mr. Matthew Arnold, who combined in singular harmony
the various elements which go to make good conversation--urbanity,
liveliness, quick sympathy, keen interest in the world's works and ways,
the happiest choice of words, and a natural and never-failing humour, as
genial as it was pungent. It was his characteristic glory that he knew
how to be a man of the world without being frivolous, and a man of
letters without being pedantic.

Eight years ago[16] I was asked to discuss the Art of Conversation in
one of the monthly reviews, and I could then illustrate it by such
living instances as Lord Granville, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Coleridge,
Lord Bowen, Mr. Browning, and Mr. Lowell. Each of those distinguished
men had a conversational gift which was peculiarly his own. Each talked
like himself, and like no one else; each made his distinct and
individual contribution to the social agreeableness of London. If in now
endeavouring to recall their characteristic gifts I use words which I
have used before, my excuse must be that the contemporary record of a
personal impression cannot with advantage be retouched after the lapse
of years.

Lord Granville's most notable quality was a humorous urbanity. As a
story-teller he was unsurpassed. He had been everywhere and had known
every one. He was quick to seize a point, and extraordinarily apt in
anecdote and illustration. His fine taste appreciated whatever was best
in life, in conversation, in literature, even when (as in his selection
of the preface to the Sanctus as his favourite piece of English prose)
it was gathered from fields in which he had not habitually roamed. A man
whose career had been so full of vivid and varied interests must often
have felt acutely bored by the trivial round of social conversation. But
if he could not rise--who can?--to the apostolic virtue of suffering
bores gladly, at any rate he endured their onslaughts as unflinchingly
as he stood the gout. A smiling countenance and an unfailing courtesy
concealed the torment which was none the less keen because it was
unexpressed. He could always feel, or at least could show, a gracious
interest in what interested his company, and he possessed in supreme
perfection the happy knack of putting those to whom he spoke in good
conceit with themselves.

The late Sir Robert Peel was, both mentally and physically, one of the
most picturesque figures in society. Alike in his character and in his
aspect the Creole blood which he had inherited from his maternal descent
triumphed over the robust and serviceable commonplace which was the
characteristic quality of the Peels. Lord Beaconsfield described "a
still gallant figure, scrupulously attired; a blue frock coat, with a
ribboned button-hole; a well-turned boot; hat a little too hidalgoish,
but quite new. There was something respectable and substantial about
him, notwithstanding his moustaches and a carriage too debonair for his
years." The description, for whomsoever intended, is a lifelike portrait
of Sir Robert Peel. His most salient feature as a talker was his lovely
voice--deep, flexible, melodious. Mr. Gladstone--no mean judge of such
matters--pronounced it the finest organ he ever heard in Parliament; but
with all due submission to so high an authority, I should have said that
it was a voice better adapted to the drawing-room than to the House of
Commons. In a large space a higher note and a clearer tone tell better,
but in the close quarters of social intercourse one appreciates the
sympathetic qualities of a rich baritone. And Sir Robert's voice,
admirable in itself, was the vehicle of conversation quite worthy of it.
He could talk of art and sport, and politics and books; he had a great
memory, varied information, lively interest in the world and its doings,
and a full-bodied humour which recalled the social tone of the
Eighteenth century.

His vein of personal raillery was rather robust than refined. Nothing
has been heard in our time quite like his criticism of Sir Edgar Boehm
in the House of Commons, or his joke about Mr. Justice Chitty at the
election for Oxford in 1880. But his humour (to quote his own words)
"had an English ring," and much must be pardoned to a man who, in this
portentous age of reticence and pose, was wholly free from solemnity,
and when he heard or saw what was ludicrous was not afraid to laugh at
it. Sir Robert Peel was an excellent hand at what our fathers called
banter and we call chaff. A prig or a pedant was his favourite butt, and
the performance was rendered all the more effective by his elaborate
assumption of the _grand seigneur's_ manner. The victim was dimly
conscious that he was being laughed at, but comically uncertain about
the best means of reprisal. Sydney Smith described Sir James Mackintosh
as "abating and dissolving pompous gentlemen with the most successful
ridicule." Whoever performs that process is a social benefactor, and the
greatest master of it whom I have ever known was Sir Robert Peel.

The Judges live so entirely in their own narrow and rather technical
circle that their social abilities are lost to the world. It is a pity,
for several of them are men well fitted by their talents and
accomplishments to take a leading part in society. The late Lord
Coleridge was pre-eminently a case in point. Personally, I had an almost
fanatical admiration for his genius, and in many of the qualities which
make an agreeable talker he was unsurpassed. Every one who ever heard
him at the Bar or on the Bench must recall that silvery voice and that
perfect elocution which prompted a competent judge of such matters to
say: "I should enjoy listening to Coleridge even if he only read out a
page of _Bradshaw_." To these gifts were added an immense store of
varied knowledge, a genuine enthusiasm for whatever is beautiful in
literature or art, an inexhaustible copiousness of anecdote, and a happy
knack of exact yet not offensive mimicry. It is always pleasant to see a
man in great station, who, in the intercourse of society, is perfectly
untrammelled by pomp and form, can make a joke and enjoy it, and is not
too cautious to garnish his conversation with personalities or to season
it with sarcasm. Perhaps Lord Coleridge's gibes were a little out of
place on "The Royal Bench of British Themis," but at a dinner-table they
were delightful, and they derived a double zest from the exquisite
precision and finish of the English in which they were conveyed.

Another judge who excelled in conversation was the late Lord Bowen.
Those who knew him intimately would say that he was the best talker in
London. In spite of the burden of learning which he carried and his
marvellous rapidity and grasp of mind, his social demeanour was quiet
and unobtrusive almost to the point of affectation. His manner was
singularly suave and winning, and his smile resembled that of the
much-quoted Chinaman who played but did not understand the game of
euchre. This singular gentleness of speech gave a special piquancy to
his keen and delicate satire, his readiness in repartee, and his subtle
irony. No one ever met Lord Bowen without wishing to meet him again; no
one ever made his acquaintance without desiring his friendship. Sir
Henry Cunningham's memoir of him only illustrated afresh the
impossibility of transplanting to the printed page the rarefied humour
of so delicate a spirit. Let me make just one attempt. Of a brother
judge he said: "To go to the Court of Appeal with a judgment of ----'s in
your favour, is like going to sea on a Friday. It is not necessarily
fatal; but _one would rather it had not happened_." Had Bowen been more
widely known, the traditions of his table-talk would probably have taken
their place with the best recollections of English conversation. His
admirers can only regret that gifts so rich and so rare should have been
buried in judicial dining-rooms or squandered on the dismal orgies of
the Cosmopolitan Club, where dull men sit round a meagre fire, in a
large, draughty, and half-lit room, drinking lemon-squash and talking
for talking's sake--the most melancholy of occupations.

The society of London between 1870 and 1890 contained no more striking
or interesting figure than that of Robert Browning. No one meeting him
for the first time and unfurnished with a clue would have guessed his
vocation. He might have been a diplomatist, a statesman, a discoverer,
or a man of science. But whatever was his calling, one felt sure that it
must be something essentially practical. Of the disordered appearance,
the unconventional demeanour, the rapt and mystic air which we assume to
be characteristic of the poet he had absolutely none. And his
conversation corresponded to his appearance. It abounded in vigour, in
fire, in vivacity. It was genuinely interesting, and often strikingly
eloquent, yet all the time it was entirely free from mystery, vagueness,
and jargon. It was the crisp, emphatic, and powerful discourse of a man
of the world who was incomparably better informed than the mass of his
congeners. Mr. Browning was the readiest, the blithest, and the most
forcible of talkers, and when he dealt in criticism the edge of his
sword was mercilessly whetted against pretension and vanity. The
inflection of his voice, the flash of his eye, the pose of his head, the
action of his hand, all lent their special emphasis to the condemnation.
"I like religion to be treated seriously," he exclaimed with reference
to a theological novel of great renown, "and I don't want to know what
this curate or that curate thought about it. _No, I don't._" Surely the
secret thoughts of many hearts found utterance in that emphatic cry.

Here I must venture to insert a personal reminiscence. Mr. Browning had
honoured me with his company at dinner, and an unduly fervent admirer
had button-holed him throughout a long evening, plying him with
questions about what he meant by this line, and whom he intended by that
character. It was more than flesh and blood could stand, and at last
the master extricated himself from the grasp of the disciple, exclaiming
with the most airy grace, "But, my dear fellow, this is too bad. _I_ am
monopolizing _you_." Now and then, at rather rare intervals, when time
and place, and company and surroundings, were altogether suitable, Mr.
Browning would consent to appear in his true character and to delight
his hearers by speaking of his art. Then the higher and rarer qualities
of his genius came into play. He kindled with responsive fire at a
beautiful thought, and burned with contagious enthusiasm over a phrase
which struck his fancy. Yet all the while the poetic rapture was
underlain by a groundwork of robust sense. Rant, and gush, and
affectation were abhorrent to his nature, and even in his grandest
flights of fancy he was always intelligible.

The late Mr. Lowell must certainly be reckoned among the famous talkers
of his time. During the years that he represented the United States in
London his trim sentences, his airy omniscience, his minute and
circumstantial way of laying down literary law, were the inevitable
ornaments of serious dinners and cultured tea-tables. My first encounter
with Mr. Lowell took place many years before he entered on his
diplomatic career. It was in 1872, when I chanced to meet him in a
company of tourists at Durham Castle. Though I was a devotee of the
_Biglow Papers_, I did not know their distinguished author even by
sight; and I was intensely amused by the air of easy mastery, the calm
and almost fatherly patronage, with which this cultivated American
overrode the indignant showwoman; pointed out, for the general benefit
of the admiring tourists, the gaps and lapses in her artistic,
architectural, and archaeological knowledge; and made mullion and
portcullis, and armour and tapestry the pegs for a series of neat
discourses on mediaeval history, domestic decoration, and the science of

Which things are an allegory. We, as a nation, take this calm assurance
of foreigners at its own valuation. We consent to be told that we do not
know our own poets, cannot pronounce our own language, and have no
well-educated women. But after a time this process palls. We question
the divine right of the superiority thus imposed on us. We ask on what
foundation these high claims rest, and we discover all at once that we
have paid a great deal of deference where very little was deserved. By
processes such as these I came to find, in years long subsequent to the
encounter at Durham, that Mr. Lowell, though an accomplished politician,
a brilliant writer, and an admirable after-dinner speaker, was,
conversationally considered, an inaccurate man with an accurate manner.
But, after all, inaccuracy is by no means the worst of conversational
faults, and when he was in the vein Mr. Lowell could be exceedingly good
company. He liked talking, and talked not only much but very well. He
had a genuine vein of wit and great dexterity in phrase-making; and on
due occasion would produce from the rich stores of his own experience
some of the most vivid and striking incidents, both civil and military,
of that tremendous struggle for human freedom with which his name and
fame must be always and most honourably associated.


[15] April 15 1888

[16] Written in 1897.



Brave men have lived since as well as before Agamemnon, and those who
know the present society of London may not unreasonably ask whether,
even granting the heavy losses which I enumerated in my last chapter,
the Art of Conversation is really extinct. Are the talkers of to-day in
truth so immeasurably inferior to the great men who preceded them?
Before we can answer these questions, even tentatively, we must try to
define our idea of good conversation, and this can best be done by
rigidly ruling out what is bad. To begin with, all affectation,
unreality, and straining aftereffect are intolerable; scarcely less so
are rhetoric, declamation, and whatever tends towards speech-making.
Mimicry is a very dangerous trick, rare in perfection, and contemptible
when imperfect. An apt story well told is delicious, but there was sound
philosophy in Mr. Pinto's view that "when a man fell into his anecdotage
it was a sign for him to retire from the world." One touch of ill-nature
makes the whole world kin, and a spice of malice tickles the
intellectual palate; but a conversation which is mainly malicious is
entirely dull. Constant joking is a weariness to the flesh; but, on the
other hand, a sustained seriousness of discourse is fatally apt to
recall the conversation between the Hon. Elijah Pogram and the Three
Literary Ladies--"How Pogram got out of his depth instantly, and how the
Three L.L.'s were never in theirs, is a piece of history not worth
recording. Suffice it that, being all four out of their depths and all
unable to swim, they splashed up words in all directions, and floundered
about famously. On the whole, it was considered to have been the
severest mental exercise ever heard in the National Hotel, and the whole
company observed that their heads ached with the effort--as well they

A talker who monopolizes the conversation is by common consent
insufferable, and a man who regulates his choice of topics by reference
to what interests not his hearers but himself has yet to learn the
alphabet of the art. Conversation is like lawn-tennis, and requires
alacrity in return at least as much as vigour in service. A happy
phrase, an unexpected collocation of words, a habitual precision in the
choice of terms, are rare and shining ornaments of conversation, but
they do not for an instant supply the place of lively and interesting
matter, and an excessive care for them is apt to tell unfavourably on
the substance of discourse.

"I might as well attempt to gather up the foam of the sea as to convey
an idea of the extraordinary language in which he clothed his
description. There were at least five words in every sentence that must
have been very much astonished at the use they were put to, and yet no
others apparently could so well have expressed his idea. He talked like
a racehorse approaching the winning-post--every muscle in action, and
the utmost energy of expression flung out into every burst." This is a
contemporary description of Lord Beaconsfield's conversation in those
distant days when, as a young man about town, he was talking and
dressing his way into social fame. Though written in admiration, it
seems to me to describe the most intolerable performance that could ever
have afflicted society. _He talked like a racehorse approaching the
winning-post_. Could the wit of man devise a more appalling image?

Mr. Matthew Arnold once said to me: "People think that I can teach them
style. What stuff it all is! Have something to say, and say it as
clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style." This dictum
applies, I think, at least as well to conversation as to literature. The
one thing needful is to have something to say. The way of saying it may
best be left to take care of itself. A young man about town once
remarked to me, in the tone of one who utters an accepted truism: "It is
so much more interesting to talk about people than things." The
sentiment was highly characteristic of the mental calibre and
associations of the speaker; and certainly the habitual talk--for it is
not conversation--of that section of society which calls itself "smart"
seems to touch the lowest depth of spiteful and sordid dullness. But
still, when the mischiefs of habitual personality have been admitted to
the uttermost, there remains something to be said on the other side. We
are not inhabitants of Jupiter or Saturn, but human beings to whom
nothing that is human is wholly alien. And if in the pursuit of high
abstractions and improving themes we imitate too closely Wordsworth's
avoidance of Personal Talk, our dinner-table will run much risk of
becoming as dull as that poet's own fireside.

Granting, then, that to have something to say which is worth hearing is
the substance of good conversation, we must reckon among its accidents
and ornaments a manner which knows how to be easy and free without being
free-and-easy; a habitual deference to the tastes and even the
prejudices of other people; a hearty desire to be, or at least to seem,
interested in their concerns; and a constant recollection that even the
most patient hearers may sometimes wish to be speakers. Above all else,
the agreeable talker cultivates gentleness and delicacy of speech,
avoids aggressive and overwhelming displays, and remembers the tortured
cry of the neurotic bard:--

    "Vociferated logic kills me quite;
    A noisy man is always in the right--
    I twirl my thumbs, fall back into my chair,
    Fix on the wainscot a distressful stare;
    And when I hope his blunders all are out,
    Reply discreetly, 'To be sure--no doubt!'"

If these, or something like these, are the attributes of good
conversation, in whom do we find them best exemplified? Who best
understands the Art of Conversation? Who, in a word, are our best
talkers? I hope that I shall not be considered ungallant if I say
nothing about the part borne in conversation by ladies. Really it is a
sacred awe that makes me mute. London is happy in possessing not a few
hostesses, excellently accomplished, and not more accomplished than
gracious, of whom it is no flattery to say that to know them is a
liberal education. But, as Lord Beaconsfield observes in a more than
usually grotesque passage of _Lothair_, "We must not profane the
mysteries of Bona Dea." We will not "peep and botanize" on sacred soil,
nor submit our most refined delights to the impertinences of critical

In considering the Art of Conversation I obey a natural instinct when I
think first of Mr. Charles Villiers, M.P. His venerable age alone would
entitle him to this pre-eminence, for he was born in 1802, and was for
seventy years one of the best talkers in London. Born of a family which
combined high rank with intellectual distinction, his parentage was a
passport to all that was best in social and political life. It argues no
political bias to maintain that in the first quarter of the nineteenth
century Toryism afforded its neophytes no educational opportunities
equal to those which a young Whig enjoyed at Bowood and Panshanger and
Holland House. There the best traditions of the previous century were
constantly reinforced by accessions of fresh intellect. The charmed
circle was indeed essentially, but it was not exclusively, aristocratic;
genius held the key, and there was a _carrière ouverte aux talents_.

Thus it came to pass that the society of Lord Lansdowne and Lord Holland
and Lord Melbourne was also the society of Brougham and Mackintosh, and
Macaulay and Sydney Smith. It presented every variety of accomplishment
and experience and social charm, and offered to a man beginning life the
best conceivable education in the art of making oneself agreeable. For
that art Mr. Villiers had a natural genius, and his lifelong association
with the Whigs superadded a technical training in it. But this, though
much, was by no means all. I hold it to be an axiom that a man who is
only a member of society can never be so agreeable as one who is
something else as well. And Mr. Villiers, though "a man about town," a
story-teller, and a diner-out of high renown, has had seventy years'
experience of practical business and Parliamentary life. Thus the
resources of his knowledge have been perpetually enlarged, and, learning
much, he has forgotten nothing. The stores of his memory are full of
treasures new and old. He has taken part in the making of history, and
can estimate the great men of the present day by a comparison with the
political immortals.

That this comparison is not always favourable to some exalted
reputations of the present hour is indeed sufficiently notorious to all
who have the pleasure of Mr. Villiers's acquaintance; and nowhere is his
mastery of the art of conversation more conspicuous than in his knack of
implying dislike and insinuating contempt without crude abuse or noisy
denunciation. He has a delicate sense of fun, a keen eye for
incongruities and absurdities, and that genuine cynicism which springs,
not from the poor desire to be thought worldly-wise, but from a lifelong
acquaintance with the foibles of political men. To these gifts must be
added a voice which age has not robbed of its sympathetic qualities, a
style of diction and a habit of pronunciation which belong to the
eighteenth century, and that formal yet facile courtesy which no one
less than eighty years old seems capable of even imitating.

I have instanced Mr. Villiers as an eminent talker. I now turn to an
eminent man who talks--Mr. Gladstone.[17] An absurd story has long been
current among credulous people with rampant prejudices that Mr.
Gladstone was habitually uncivil to the Queen. Now, it happens that Mr.
Gladstone is the most courteous of mankind. His courtesy is one of his
most engaging gifts, and accounts in no small degree for his power of
attracting the regard of young men and undistinguished people generally.
To all such he is polite to the point of deference, yet never
condescending. His manners to all alike--young and old, rich and
poor--are the ceremonious manners of the old school, and his demeanour
towards ladies is a model of chivalrous propriety. It would therefore
have been to the last degree improbable that he should make a departure
from his usual habits in the case of a lady who was also his Sovereign.
And, as a matter of fact, the story is so ridiculously wide of the mark
that it deserves mention only because, in itself false, it is founded on
a truth. "I," said the Duke of Wellington on a memorable occasion, "have
no small talk, and Peel has no manners." Mr. Gladstone has manners but
no small talk. He is so consumed by zeal for great subjects that he
leaves out of account the possibility that they may not interest other
people. He pays to every one, and not least to ladies, the compliment of
assuming that they are on his own intellectual level, engrossed in the
subjects which engross him, and furnished with at least as much
information as will enable them to follow and to understand him. Hence
the genesis of that absurd story about his demeanour to the Queen.

"He speaks to Me as if I was a public meeting," is a complaint which is
said to have proceeded from illustrious lips. That most successful of
all courtiers, the astute Lord Beaconsfield, used to engage her Majesty
in conversation about water-colour drawing and the third-cousinships of
German princes. Mr. Gladstone harangues her about the polity of the
Hittites, or the harmony between the Athanasian Creed and
Homer. The Queen, perplexed and uncomfortable, tries to make a
digression--addresses a remark to a daughter or proffers biscuit to a
begging terrier. Mr. Gladstone restrains himself with an effort till the
Princess has answered or the dog has sat down, and then promptly
resumes: "I was about to say--" Meanwhile the flood has gathered force
by delay, and when it bursts forth again it carries all before it.

No image except that of a flood can convey the notion of Mr. Gladstone's
table-talk on a subject which interests him keenly--its rapidity, its
volume, its splash and dash, its frequent beauty, its striking effects,
the amount of varied matter which it brings with it, the hopelessness of
trying to withstand it, the unexpectedness of its onrush, the subdued
but fertilized condition of the subjected area over which it has passed.
The bare mention of a topic which interests Mr. Gladstone opens the
floodgates and submerges a province. But the torrent does not wait for
the invitation. If not invited it comes of its own accord; headlong,
overwhelming, sweeping all before it, and gathering fresh force from
every obstacle which it encounters on its course. Such is Mr.
Gladstone's table-talk. For conversation, strictly so called, he has no
turn. He asks questions when he wants information, and answers them
copiously when asked by others. But of give-and-take, of meeting you
half-way, of paying you back in your own conversational coin, he has
little notion. He discourses, he lectures, he harangues. But if a
subject is started which does not interest him it falls flat. He makes
no attempt to return the ball. Although, when he is amused, his
amusement is intense and long sustained, his sense of humour is highly
capricious. It is impossible for even his most intimate friends to guess
beforehand what will amuse him and what will not; and he has a most
disconcerting habit of taking a comic story in grim earnest, and arguing
some farcical fantasy as if it was a serious proposition of law or
logic. Nothing funnier can be imagined than the discomfiture of a
story-teller who has fondly thought to tickle the great man's fancy by
an anecdote which depends for its point upon some trait of baseness,
cynicism, or sharp practice. He finds his tale received in dead silence,
looks up wonderingly for an explanation, and finds that what was
intended to amuse has only disgusted. Mr. Browning once told Mr.
Gladstone a highly characteristic story of Disraelitish duplicity, and
for all reply heard a voice choked with indignation:--"Do you call that
amusing, Browning? _I call it devilish_."[18]


[17] This was written before the 19th of May, 1898, on which day "the
world lost its greatest citizen;" but it has not been thought necessary,
here or elsewhere, to change the present into the past tense.

[18] I give this story as I received it from Mr. Browning.



More than thirty years have passed since the festive evening described
by Sir George Trevelyan in _The Ladies in Parliament_:--

    "When, over the port of the innermost bin,
     The circle of diners was laughing with Phinn;
     When Brookfield had hit on his happiest vein.
     And Harcourt was capping the jokes of Delane."

The sole survivor of that brilliant group now[19] leads the Opposition;
but at the time when the lines were written he had not yet entered the
House of Commons. As a youth of twenty-five he had astonished the
political world by his anonymous letters on _The Morality of Public
Men_, in which he denounced, in the style of Junius, the Protectionist
revival of 1852. He had fought a plucky but unsuccessful fight at
Kirkcaldy; was making his five thousand a year at the Parliamentary Bar;
had taught the world international law over the signature of
"Historicus," and was already, what he is still, one of the most
conspicuous and interesting figures in the society of London. Of Sir
William Harcourt's political alliances this is not the place nor am I
the person to treat:

    "Let the high Muse chant loves Olympian:
     We are but mortals, and must sing of Man."

My theme is not Sir William Harcourt the politician, but Sir William
Harcourt the man, the member of society--above all, the talker. And,
although I have thus deliberately put politics on one side, it is
strictly relevant to my purpose to observe that Sir William is
essentially and typically a Whig. For Whiggery, rightly understood, is
not a political creed but a social caste. The Whig, like the poet, is
born, not made. It is as difficult to become a Whig as to become a Jew.
Macaulay was probably the only man who, being born outside the
privileged enclosure, ever penetrated to its heart and assimilated its
spirit. The Whigs, indeed, as a body have held certain opinions and
pursued certain tactics which have been analyzed in chapters xix. and
xxi. of the unexpurgated _Book of Snobs_. But those opinions and those
tactics have been mere accidents, though perhaps inseparable accidents,
of Whiggery. Its substance has been relationship.

When Lord John Russell formed his first Administration his opponents
alleged that it was mainly composed of his cousins, and one of his
younger brothers was charged with the impossible task of rebutting the
accusation in a public speech. Mr. Beresford-Hope, in one of his novels,
made excellent fun of what he called "the sacred circle of the
Great-Grandmotherhood." He showed--what, indeed, the Whigs themselves
knew uncommonly well--that from a certain Earl Gower, who flourished in
the eighteenth century, and was great-great-great-grandfather of the
present Duke of Sutherland, are descended all the Levesons,[20] Gowers,
Howards, Cavendishes, Grosvenors, Russells, and Harcourts, who walk on
the face of the earth. Truly a noble and a highly favoured progeny.
"They _are_ our superiors," said Thackeray; "and that's the fact. I am
not a Whig myself (perhaps it is as unnecessary to say so as to say I'm
not King Pippin in a golden coach, or King Hudson, or Miss
Burdett-Coutts). I'm not a Whig; but oh, how I should like to be one!"

From this illustrious stock Sir William Harcourt is descended through
his grandmother, Lady Anne Harcourt--born Leveson-Gower, and wife of
the last Prince-Archbishop of York (whom, by the way, Sir William
strikingly resembles both in figure and in feature). When one meets Sir
William Harcourt for the first time in society, perhaps one is first
struck by the fact that he is in aspect and bearing a great gentleman of
the old school, and then that he is an admirable talker. He is a true
Whig in culture as well as in blood. Though his conversation is never
pedantic, it rests on a wide and strong basis of generous learning. Even
those who most cordially admire his political ability do not always
remember that he is an excellent scholar, and graduated as eighth in the
First Class of the Classical Tripos in the year when Bishop Lightfoot
was Senior Classic. He has the _Corpus Poetarum_ and Shakespeare and
Pope at his finger-ends, and his intimate acquaintance with the
political history of England elicited a characteristic compliment from
Lord Beaconsfield. It is his favourite boast that in all his tastes,
sentiments, and mental habits he belongs to the eighteenth century,
which he glorifies as the golden age of reason, patriotism, and liberal
learning. This self-estimate strikes me as perfectly sound, and it
requires a very slight effort of the imagination to conceive this
well-born young Templar wielding his doughty pen in the Bangorian
Controversy, or declaiming on the hustings for Wilkes and Liberty;
bandying witticisms with Sheridan, and capping Latin verses with Charles
Fox; or helping to rule England as a member of that "Venetian Oligarchy"
on which Lord Beaconsfield lavished all the vials of his sarcasm. In
truth, it is not fanciful to say that whatever was best in the
eighteenth century--its robust common sense, its racy humour, its
thorough and unaffected learning, its ceremonious courtesy for great
occasions, its jolly self-abandonment in social intercourse--is
exhibited in the demeanour and conversation of Sir William Harcourt. He
is an admirable host, and, to borrow a phrase from Sydney Smith,
"receives his friends with that honest joy which warms more than dinner
or wine." As a guest, he is a splendid acquisition, always ready to
amuse and to be amused, delighting in the rapid cut-and-thrust of
personal banter, and bringing out of his treasure things new and old for
the amusement and the benefit of a later and less instructed generation.

Extracts from the private conversation of living people, as a rule, I
forbear; but some of Sir William's quotations are so extraordinarily apt
that they deserve a permanent place in the annals of table-talk. That
fine old country gentleman, the late Lord Knightley (who was the living
double of Dickens's Sir Leicester Dedlock), had been expatiating after
dinner on the undoubted glories of his famous pedigree. The company was
getting a little restive under the recitation, when Sir William was
heard to say, in an appreciative aside, "This reminds me of Addison's
evening hymn--

    'And Knightley to the listening earth
     Repeats the story of his birth.'"

Surely the force of apt citation can no further go. When Lord Tennyson
chanced to say in Sir William Harcourt's hearing that his pipe after
breakfast was the most enjoyable of the day, Sir William softly murmured
the Tennysonian line--

    "The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds."

Some historians say that he substituted "bards" for "birds," and the
reception accorded by the poet to the parody was not as cordial as its
excellence deserved.

Another capital talker is Sir George Trevelyan. He has been, from the
necessities of his position, a man of the world and a politician, and he
is as ready as Mr. Bertie-Tremaine's guests in _Endymion_ to talk of
"that heinous subject on which enormous fibs are ever told--the
Registration." But, after all, the man of the world and the politician
are only respectable parts which he had been bound to assume, and he has
played them--with assiduity and success: but the true man in Sir George
Trevelyan is the man of letters. Whenever he touches a historical or
literary theme his whole being seems to undergo a transformation. The
real nature flashes out through his twinkling eyes. While he muses the
fire burns, and, like the Psalmist, he speaks with his tongue. Dates and
details, facts and traditions, cantos and poetry, reams of prose,
English and Latin and Greek and French, come tumbling out in headlong
but not disorderly array. He jumps at an opening, seizes an illusion,
replies with lightning quickness to a conversational challenge, and is
ready at a moment's notice to decide any literary or historical
controversy in a measured tone of deliberate emphasis which is not
wholly free from exaggeration. Like his uncle Lord Macaulay, Sir George
Trevelyan has "his own heightened and telling way of putting things,"
and those who know him well make allowance for this habit. For the rest,
he is delightful company, light-hearted as a boy, full of
autobiographical chit-chat about Harrow and Trinity, and India and Holly
Lodge, eagerly interested in his friends' concerns, brimming over with
enthusiasm, never bored, never flat, never stale. A well-concerted party
is a kind of unconscious conspiracy to promote cheerfulness and
enjoyment, and in such an undertaking there can be no more serviceable
ally than Sir George Trevelyan.

Mr. John Morley's agreeableness in conversation is of a different kind.
His leading characteristic is a dignified austerity of demeanour which
repels familiarity and tends to keep conversation on a high level; but
each time one meets him there is less formality and less restraint, and
the grave courtesy which never fails is soon touched with friendliness
and frank good-humour in a singularly attractive fashion. He talks, not
much, but remarkably well. His sentences are deliberate, clear-cut,
often eloquent. He excels in phrase-making. His quotations are apt and
novel. His fine taste and varied reading enable him to hold his own in
many fields where the merely professional politician is apt to be
terribly astray. His kindness to social and literary beginners is one of
his most engaging traits. He invariably finds something pleasant to say
about the most immature and unpromising efforts, and he has the knack of
so handling his own early experience as to make it an encouragement and
a stimulus, and not (as the manner of some is) a burden and a bogey. Mr.
Morley never obtrudes his own opinions, never introduces debatable
matter, never dogmatizes. But he is always ready to pick up the
gauntlet, especially if a Tory flings it down; is merciless towards
ill-formed assertion, and is the alert and unsparing enemy of what Mr.
Ruskin calls "the obscene empires of Mammon and Belial."

Lord Salisbury goes so little into general society that his qualities as
a talker are not familiarly known. He is painfully shy, and at a club or
in a large party undergoes the torments of the lost. Yet no one can
listen, even casually, to his conversation without appreciating the fine
manner, full both of dignity and of courtesy; the utter freedom from
pomposity, formality, and self-assertion, and the agreeable dash of
genuine cynicism, which modifies, though it does not mask, the flavour
of his fun. After a visit to Hatfield in 1868, Bishop Wilberforce wrote
in his diary: "Gladstone how struck with Salisbury: 'Never saw a more
perfect host.'" And again--"He remarked to me on the great power of
charming and pleasant hosting possessed by Salisbury." And it is the
universal testimony of Lord Salisbury's guests, whether at Hatfield or
in Arlington Street, that he is seen at his very best in his own house.
The combination of such genuine amiability in private life with such
calculated brutality in public utterance constitutes a psychological
problem which might profitably be made the subject of a Romanes Lecture.

Barring the shyness, from which Mr. Balfour is conspicuously free, there
is something of Lord Salisbury's social manner about his accomplished
nephew. He has the same courtesy, the same sense of humour, the same
freedom from official solemnity. But the characteristics of the elder
man are exaggerated in the younger. The cynicism which is natural in
Lord Salisbury is affected in Mr. Balfour. He cultivates the art of
indifference, and gives himself the airs of a jaded Epicurean who craves
only for a new sensation. There is what an Irish Member, in a moment of
inspiration, called a "toploftiness" about his social demeanour which is
not a little irritating. He is too anxious to show that he is not as
other men are. Among politicians he is a philosopher; among
philosophers, a politician. Before that hard-bitten crew whom Burke
ridiculed--the "calculators and economists"--he will talk airily of golf
and ladies' fashions; and ladies he will seek to impress by the Praise
of Vivisection or the Defence of Philosophic Doubt. His social
agreeableness has, indeed, been marred by the fatuous idolatry of a
fashionable clique, stimulating the self-consciousness which was his
natural foible; but when he can for a moment forget himself he still is
excellent company, for he is genuinely amiable and thoroughly well


[19] 1897.

[20] Cromartie, 4th Duke.



The writer of these chapters has always felt some inward affinity to the
character of Lord St. Jerome in _Lothair_, of whom it is recorded that
he loved conversation, though he never conversed. "There must be an
audience," he would say, "and I am the audience." In my capacity of
audience I assign a high place to the agreeableness of Lord Rosebery's
conversation. To begin with, he has a delightful voice. It is low, but
perfectly distinct, rich and sympathetic in quality, and singularly
refined in accent. It is exactly the sort of voice which bespeaks the
goodwill of the hearer and recommends what it utters. In a former
chapter we agreed that the chief requisite of good conversation is to
have something to say which is worth saying, and here Lord Rosebery is
excellently equipped. Last week the newspapers announced with a flourish
of rhetorical trumpets that he had just celebrated his fiftieth
birthday.[21] Some of the trumpeters, with a laudable intention to be
civil, cried, "Is it possible that he can be so old?" Others, with
subtler art, professed themselves unable to believe that he was so
young. Each compliment contained its element of truth. In appearance,
air, and tastes Lord Rosebery is still young. In experience, knowledge,
and conduct he is already old. He has had a vivid and a varied
experience. He is equally at home on Epsom Downs and in the House of
Lords. His life has been full of action, incident, and interest. He has
not only collected books, but has read them; and has found time, even
amid the engrossing demands of the London County Council, the Turf, and
the Foreign Office, not only for study, but--what is much more
remarkable--for thought.

So far, then, as substance goes, his conversation is (to use Mr.
Gladstone's quaint phrase) "as full of infinitely varied matter as an
egg is full of meat;" and in its accidents and ornaments it complies
exactly with the conditions laid down in a former chapter--a manner
which knows how to be easy and free without being free-and-easy;
habitual deference to the tastes and prejudices of other people; a
courteous desire to be, or at least to seem, interested in their
concerns; and a recollection that even the most patient hearers (among
whom the present writer reckons himself) may sometimes wish to be
speakers. To these gifts he adds a keen sense of humour, a habit of
close observation, and a sub-acid vein of sarcasm which resembles the
dash of Tarragon in a successful salad. In a word, Lord Rosebery is one
of the most agreeable talkers of the day; and even if it is true that
_il s'écoute quand il parle_, his friends may reply that it would be
strange indeed if one could help listening to what is always so
agreeable and often so brilliant.

A genial journalist recently said that Mr. Goschen was now chiefly
remembered by the fact that he had once had Sir Alfred Milner for his
Private Secretary. But whatever may be thought of the First Lord of the
Admiralty as a politician and an administrator, I claim for him a high
place among agreeable talkers. There are some men who habitually use the
same style of speech in public and in private life. Happily for his
friends, this is not the case with Mr. Goschen. Nothing can be less
agreeable than his public style, whether on the platform or in the House
of Commons. Its tawdry staginess, its "Sadler's Wells sarcasm," its
constant striving after strong effects, are distressing to good taste.
But in private life he is another and a much more agreeable man. He is
courteous, genial, perfectly free from affectation, and enters into the
discussion of social banalities as eagerly and as brightly as if he had
never converted the Three per Cents, or established the ratio between
dead millionaires and new ironclads. His easiness in conversation is
perhaps a little marred by a Teutonic tendency to excessive analysis
which will not suffer him to rest until he has resolved every subject
and almost every phrase into its primary elements. But this philosophic
temperament has its counterbalancing advantages in a genuine openness of
mind, willingness to weigh and measure opposing views, and
inaccessibility to intellectual passion. It is true that on the platform
the exigencies of his position compel him to indulge in mock-heroics and
cut rhetorical capers for which Nature never designed him; but these are
for public consumption only, and when he is not playing to the gallery
he can discuss his political opponents and their sayings and doings as
dispassionately as a microscopist examines a black-beetle. Himself a
good talker, Mr. Goschen encourages good talk in other people; and in
old days, when the Art of Conversation was still seriously cultivated,
he used to gather round his table in Portland Place a group of intimate
friends who drank '34 port and conversed accordingly. Among these were
Lord Sherbrooke, whose aptness in quotation and dexterity in repartee
have never, in my experience, been surpassed; and Lord Chief Justice
Cockburn, whose "sunny face and voice of music, which lent melody to
scorn and sometimes reached the depth of pathos," were gracefully
commemorated by Lord Beaconsfield in his sketch of Hortensius. But this
belongs to ancient history, and my business is with the conversation of

Very distinctly of to-day is the conversation of Mr. Labouchere. Even
our country cousins are aware that the Member for Northampton is less
an ornament of general society than the oracle of an initiated circle.
The smoking-room of the House of Commons is his shrine, and there,
poised in an American rocking-chair and delicately toying with a
cigarette, he unlocks the varied treasures of his well-stored memory,
and throws over the changing scenes of life the mild light of his genial
philosophy. It is a chequered experience that has made him what he is.
He has known men and cities; has probed in turn the mysteries of the
caucus, the green-room, and the Stock Exchange; has been a diplomatist,
a financier, a journalist, and a politician. Under these circumstances,
it is perhaps not surprising that his faith--no doubt originally
robust--in the purity of human nature and the uprightness of human
motive should have undergone some process of degeneration. Still it may
be questioned whether, after all that he has seen and done, he is the
absolute and all-round cynic that he would seem to be. The palpable
endeavour to make out the worst of every one--including himself--gives a
certain flavour of unreality to his conversation; but, in spite of this
peculiarity, he is an engaging talker. His language is racy and
incisive, and he talks as neatly as he writes. His voice is pleasant,
and his utterance deliberate and effective. He has a keen eye for
absurdities and incongruities, a shrewd insight into affectation and
bombast, and an admirable impatience of all the moral and intellectual
qualities which constitute the Bore. He is by no means inclined to bow
his knee too slavishly to an exalted reputation, and analyzes with
agreeable frankness the personal and political qualities of great and
good men, even if they sit on the front Opposition bench. As a
contributor to enjoyment, as a promoter of fun, as an unmasker of
political and social humbug, he is unsurpassed. His performances in
debate are no concern of mine, for I am speaking of conversation only;
but most Members of Parliament will agree that he is the best companion
that can be found for the last weary half-hour before the division-bell
rings, when some eminent nonentity is declaiming his foregone
conclusions to an audience whose whole mind is fixed on the chance of
finding a disengaged cab in Palace Yard.

Like Mr. Labouchere, Lord Acton has touched life at many points--but not
the same. He is a theologian, a professor, a man of letters, a member of
society; and his conversation derives a distinct tinge from each of
these environments. When, at intervals all too long, he quits his
retirement at Cannes or Cambridge, and flits mysteriously across the
social scene, his appearance is hailed with devout rejoicing by every
one who appreciates manifold learning, a courtly manner, and a
delicately sarcastic vein of humour. The distinguishing feature of Lord
Acton's conversation is an air of sphinx-like mystery, which suggests
that he knows a great deal more than he is willing to impart. Partly by
what he says, and even more by what he leaves unsaid, his hearers are
made to feel that, if he has not acted conspicuous parts, he has been
behind the scenes of many and very different theatres.

He has had relations, neither few nor unimportant, with the Pope and the
Old Catholics, with Oxford and Lambeth, with the cultivated Whiggery of
the great English families, with the philosophic radicalism of Germany,
and with those Nationalist complications which, in these later days,
have drawn official Liberalism into their folds. He has long lived on
terms of the closest intimacy with Mr. Gladstone, and may perhaps be
bracketed with Canon MacColl and Sir Algernon West as the most absolute
and profound Gladstonian outside the family circle of Hawarden. But he
is thoroughly eclectic in his friendships, and when he is in London he
flits from Lady Hayter's tea-table to Mr. Goschen's bureau, analyzes at
the Athenaeum the gossip which he has acquired at Brooks's, and by
dinner-time is able, if only he is willing, to tell you what Spain
intends and what America; the present relations between the Curia and
the Secret Societies; how long Lord Salisbury will combine the
Premiership with the Foreign Office; and the latest theory about the
side of Whitehall on which Charles I. was beheaded.

The ranks of our good talkers--none too numerous a body at the best, and
sadly thinned by the losses which I described in a former chapter--have
been opportunely reinforced by the discovery of Mr. Augustine Birrell.
For forty-eight years he has walked this earth, but it is only during
the last nine--in short, since he entered Parliament--that the admirable
qualities of his conversation have been generally recognized. Before
that time his delightful _Obiter Dicta_ had secured for him a wide
circle of friends who had never seen his face, and by these admirers his
first appearance on the social scene was awaited with lively interest.
What would he be like? Should we be disillusioned? Would he talk as
pleasantly as he wrote? Well, in due course he appeared, and the
questions were soon answered in a sense as laudatory as his friends or
even himself could have desired. It was unanimously voted that his
conversation was as agreeable as his writing; but, oddly enough, its
agreeableness was of an entirely different kind. His literary knack of
chatty criticism had required a new word to convey its precise effect.
To "birrell" is now a verb as firmly established as to "boycott," and it
signifies a style light, easy, playful, pretty, rather discursive,
perhaps a little superficial. Its characteristic note is grace. But when
the eponymous hero of the new verb entered the conversational lists it
was seen that his predominant quality was strength.

An enthusiastic admirer who sketched him in a novel nicknamed him "The
Harmonious Blacksmith," and the collocation of words happily hits off
the special quality of his conversation. There is burly strength in his
positive opinions, his cogent statement, his remorseless logic, his
thorough knowledge of the persons and things that he discusses. In his
sledge-hammer blows against humbug and wickedness, intellectual
affectation, and moral baseness, he is the Blacksmith all over. In his
geniality, his sociability, his genuine love of fun, his frank readiness
to amuse or be amused, the epithet "harmonious" is abundantly justified.
He cultivates to some extent the airs and tone of the eighteenth
century, in which his studies have chiefly lain. He says what he means,
and calls a spade a spade, and glories in an old-fashioned prejudice. He
is the jolliest of companions and the steadiest of friends, and perhaps
the most genuine book-lover in London, where, as a rule, people are too
"cultured" to read books, though willing enough to chatter about them.


[21] May 7, 1897.



_ Clerus Anglicanus stupor mundi_. I believe that this complimentary
proverb originally referred to the learning of the English clergy, but
it would apply with equal truth to their social agreeableness. When I
was writing about the Art of Conversation and the men who excelled in
it, I was surprised to find how many of the best sayings that recurred
spontaneously to my memory had a clerical origin; and it struck me that
a not uninteresting chapter might be written about the social
agreeableness of clergymen. A mere layman may well feel a natural and
becoming diffidence in venturing to handle so high a theme.

In a former chapter I said something of the secular magnificence which
surrounded great prelates in the good old days, when the Archbishop of
Canterbury could only be approached on gilt-edged paper, and even the
Bishop of impecunious Oxford never appeared in his Cathedral city
without four horses and two powdered footmen. In a certain sense, no
doubt, these splendid products of established religion conduced to
social agreeableness. Like the excellent prelate described in
_Friendship's Garland_, they "had thoroughly learnt the divine lesson
that charity begins at home." They maintained an abundant hospitality;
they celebrated domestic events by balls at the episcopal palace; they
did not disdain (as we gather from the Life of the Hon. and Rev. George
Spencer) the relaxation of a rubber of whist, even on the night before
an Ordination, with a candidate for a partner. They dined out, like that
well-drawn bishop in _Little Dorrit_, who "was crisp, fresh, cheerful,
affable, bland, but so surprisingly innocent;" or like the prelate on
whom Thackeray moralized: "My Lord, I was pleased to see good thing
after good thing disappear before you; and think that no man ever better
became that rounded episcopal apron. How amiable he was! how kind! He
put water into his wine. Let us respect the moderation of the

But the agreeableness which I had in my mind when I took upon myself to
discourse of agreeable clergymen was not an official but a personal
agreeableness. We have been told on high authority that the Merriment of
Parsons is mighty offensive; but the truth of this dictum depends
entirely on the topic of the merriment. A clergyman who made light of
the religion which he professes to teach, or even joked about the
incidents and accompaniments of his sacred calling, would by common
consent be intolerable. Decency exacts from priests at least a semblance
of piety; but I entirely deny that there is anything offensive in the
"merriment of parsons" when it plays round subjects outside the scope of
their professional duties.

Of Sydney Smith Lord Houghton recorded that "he never, except once, knew
him to make a jest on any religious subject, and then he immediately
withdrew his words, and seemed ashamed that he had uttered them;" and I
regard the admirable Sydney as not only the supreme head of all
ecclesiastical jesters, but as, on the whole, the greatest humorist
whose jokes have come down to us in an authentic and unmutilated form.
Almost alone among professional jokers, he made his merriment--rich,
natural, fantastic, unbridled as it was--subserve the serious purposes
of his life and writing. Each joke was a link in an argument; each
sarcasm was a moral lesson.

_Peter Plymley's Letters_, and those addressed to Archdeacon Singleton,
the Essays on _America_ and _Persecuting Bishops_, will probably be read
as long as the _Tale of a Tub_ or Macaulay's review of Montgomery's
Poems; while of detached and isolated jokes--pure freaks of fun clad in
literary garb--an incredible number of those which are current in daily
converse deduce their birth from this incomparable Canon.

When one is talking of facetious clergymen, it is inevitable to think of
Bishop Wilberforce; but his humour was of an entirely different quality
from that of Sydney Smith. To begin with, it is unquotable. It must, I
think, have struck every reader of the Bishop's Life, whether in the
three huge volumes of the authorized Biography or in the briefer but
more characteristic monograph of Dean Burgon, that, though the
biographers had themselves tasted and enjoyed to the full the peculiar
flavour of his fun, they utterly failed in the attempt to convey it to
the reader. Puerile puns, personal banter of a rather homely type, and
good stories collected from other people are all that the books
disclose. Animal spirits did the rest; and yet, by the concurrent
testimony of nearly all who knew him, Bishop Wilberforce was not only
one of the most agreeable but one of the most amusing men of his time.
We know from one of his own letters that he peculiarly disliked the
description which Lord Beaconsfield gave of him in _Lothair_, and on the
principle of _Ce n'est que la vérité qui blesse_, it may be worth while
to recall it: "The Bishop was particularly playful on the morrow at
breakfast. Though his face beamed with Christian kindness, there was a
twinkle in his eye which seemed not entirely superior to mundane
self-complacency, even to a sense of earthly merriment. His seraphic
raillery elicited sympathetic applause from the ladies, especially from
the daughters of the house, who laughed occasionally even before his
angelic jokes were well launched."

Mr. Bright once said, with characteristic downrightness, "If I was paid
what a bishop is paid for doing what a bishop does, I should find
abundant cause for merriment in the credulity of my countrymen;" and,
waiving the theological animus which the saying implies, it is not
uncharitable to surmise that a general sense of prosperity and a strong
faculty of enjoying life in all its aspects and phases had much to do
with Bishop Wilberforce's exuberant and infectious jollity. "A truly
emotional spirit," wrote Matthew Arnold, after meeting him in a country
house, "he undoubtedly has beneath his outside of society-haunting and
men-pleasing, and each of the two lives he leads gives him the more zest
for the other."

A scarcely less prominent figure in society than Bishop Wilberforce, and
to many people a much more attractive one, was Dean Stanley. A clergyman
to whom the Queen signed herself "Ever yours affectionately" must
certainly be regarded as the social head of his profession, and every
circumstance of Stanley's nature and antecedents exactly fitted him for
the part. He was in truth a spoiled child of fortune, in a sense more
refined and spiritual than the phrase generally conveys. He was born of
famous ancestry, in a bright and unworldly home; early filled with the
moral and intellectual enthusiasms of Rugby in its best days; steeped in
the characteristic culture of Oxford, and advanced by easy stages of
well-deserved promotion to the most delightful of all offices in the
Church of England. His inward nature accorded well with this happy
environment. It was in a singular degree pure, simple, refined,
ingenuous. All the grosser and harsher elements of human character
seemed to have been omitted from his composition. He was naturally good,
naturally graceful, naturally amiable. A sense of humour was, I think,
almost the only intellectual gift with which he was not endowed. Lord
Beaconsfield spoke of his "picturesque sensibility," and the phrase was
happily chosen. He had the keenest sympathy with whatever was graceful
in literature; a style full of flexibility and colour; a rare faculty of
graphic description; and all glorified by something of the poet's
imagination. His conversation was incessant, teeming with information,
and illustrated by familiar acquaintance with all the best that has been
thought and said in the world.

Never was a brighter intellect or a more gallant heart housed in a more
fragile form. His figure, features, bearing, and accent were the very
type of refinement; and as the spare figure, so short yet so full of
dignity, marked out by the decanal dress and the red ribbon of the Order
of the Bath, threaded its way through the crowded saloons of London
society, one felt that the Church, as a civilizing institution, could
not be more appropriately represented.

A lady of Presbyterian antecedents who had conformed to Anglicanism once
said to the present writer, "I dislike the _Episcopal_ Church as much as
ever, but I love the _Decanal_ Church." Her warmest admiration was
reserved for that particular Dean, supreme alike in station and in
charm, whom I have just now been describing; but there were, at the time
of speaking, several other members of the same order who were
conspicuous ornaments of the society in which they moved. There was Dr.
Elliot, Dean of Bristol, a yearly visitor to London; dignified, clever,
agreeable, highly connected; an administrator, a politician, an
admirable talker; and so little trammelled by any ecclesiastical
prejudices or habitudes that he might have been the original of Dr.
Stanhope in _Barchester Towers_. There was Dr. Liddell, Dean of Christ
Church, whose periodical appearances at Court and in society displayed
to the admiring gaze of the world the very handsomest and stateliest
specimen of the old English gentleman that our time has produced. There
was Dr. Church, Dean of St. Paul's, by many competent judges pronounced
to be our most accomplished man of letters, yet so modest and so
retiring that the world was never suffered to come in contact with him
except through his books. And there was Dr. Vaughan, Dean of Llandaff,
who concealed under the blandest of manners a remorseless sarcasm and a
mordant wit, and who, returning from the comparative publicity of the
Athenaeum to the domestic shades of the Temple, would often leave behind
him some pungent sentence which travelled from mouth to mouth, and
spared neither age nor sex nor friendship nor affinity.

The very highest dignitaries of the Church in London have never, in my
experience, contributed very largely to its social life. The
garden-parties of Fulham and Lambeth are indeed recognized incidents of
the London season; but they present to the critical eye less the aspect
of a social gathering than that of a Church Congress combined with a
Mothers' Meeting. The overwhelming disparity between the
position of host and guests is painfully apparent, and that
"drop-down-dead-ativeness" of manner which Sydney Smith quizzed still
characterizes the demeanour of the unbeneficed clergy. Archbishop Tait,
whose natural stateliness of aspect and manner was one of the most
conspicuous qualifications for his great office, was a dignified and
hospitable host; and Archbishop Thomson, reinforced by a beautiful and
charming wife, was sometimes spoken of as the Archbishop of Society.
Archbishop Benson looked the part to perfection, but did not take much
share in general conversation, though I remember one terse saying of his
in which the _odium theologicum_ supplied the place of wit. A portrait
of Cardinal Manning was exhibited at the Royal Academy, and I remarked
to the Archbishop on the extraordinary picturesqueness of the Cardinal's
appearance "The dress is very effective," replied the Archbishop dryly,
"but I don't think there is much besides." "Oh, surely it is a fine
head?" "No, not a fine head; only _no face_."

Passing down through the ranks of the hierarchy, I shall presently have
something to say about two or three metropolitan Canons who are notable
figures in society; but before I come to them I must offer a word of
affectionate tribute to the memory of Dr. Liddon. Probably there never
was a man whose social habit and manner were less like what a mere
outsider would have inferred from his physical aspect and public
demeanour. Nature had given him the outward semblance of a foreigner and
an ascetic; a life-long study of ecclesiastical rhetoric had stamped him
with a mannerism which belongs peculiarly to the pulpit. But the true
inwardness of the man was that of the typical John Bull--hearty,
natural, full of humour, utterly free from self-consciousness. He had a
healthy appetite, and was not ashamed to gratify it; liked a good glass
of wine; was peculiarly fond of sociable company, whether as host or
guest; and told an amusing story with incomparable zest and point. His
verbal felicity was a marked feature of his conversation. His
description of Archbishop Benson (revived, with strange taste, by the
_Saturday Review_ on the occasion of the Archbishop's death) was a
masterpiece of sarcastic character-drawing. The judicious Bishop
Davidson and the accomplished Canon Mason were the subjects of similar
pleasantries; and there was substantial truth as well as genuine fun in
his letter to a friend written one dark Christmas from Amen Court:
"London is just now buried under a dense fog. This is commonly
attributed to Dr. Westcott having opened his study-window at



Of the "Merriment of Parsons" one of the most conspicuous instances was
to be found in the Rev. W.H. Brookfield, the "little Frank Whitestock"
of Thackeray's _Curate's Walk_, and the subject of Lord Tennyson's
characteristic elegy:--

    "Brooks, for they called you so that knew you best--
    Old Brooks, who loved so well to mouth my rhymes,
    How oft we two have heard St. Mary's chimes!
    How oft the Cantab supper host, and guest,
    Would echo helpless laughter to your jest!

         *       *       *       *       *

    You man of humorous-melancholy mark
    Dead of some inward agony--is it so?
    Our kindlier, trustier Jaques, past away!
    I cannot laud this life, it looks so dark:
    [Greek: Skias onar]--dream of a shadow, go,--
    God bless you. I shall join you in a day."

This tribute is as true in substance as it is striking in phrase. I have
noticed the same peculiarity about Mr. Brookfield's humour as about
Jenny Lind's singing. Those who had once heard it were always eager to
talk about it. Ask some elderly man about the early triumphs of the
Swedish Nightingale, and notice how he kindles. "Ah! Jenny Lind! Yes;
there was never anything like that!" And he begins about the _Figlia_,
and how she came along the bridge in the _Sonnambula_; and you feel the
tenderness in his tone, as of a positive love for her whose voice seems
still ringing through him as he talks. I have noticed exactly the same
phenomenon when people who knew Mr. Brookfield hear his name mentioned
in casual conversation. "Ah! Brookfield! Yes; there never was any one
quite like him!" And off they go, with visible pleasure and genuine
emotion, to describe the inimitable charm, the touch of genius which
brought humorous delight out of the commonest incidents, the tinge of
brooding melancholy which threw the flashing fun into such high relief.

Not soon will fade from the memory of any who ever heard it the history
of the examination at the ladies' school, where Brookfield, who had
thought that he was only expected to examine in languages and
literature, found himself required to set a paper in physical science.
"What was I to do? I know nothing about hydrogen or oxygen or any other
'gen.' So I set them a paper in common sense, or what I called 'Applied
Science.' One of my questions was, 'What would you do to cure a cold in
the head?' One young lady answered, 'I should put _my_ feet in hot
mustard and water till _you_ were in a profuse perspiration.' Another
said, 'I should put him to bed, give him a soothing drink, and sit by
him till he was better.' But, on reconsideration, she ran her pen
through all the 'him's' and 'he's,' and substituted 'her' and 'she.'"

Mr. Brookfield was during the greater part of his life a hard-working
servant of the public, and his friends could only obtain his delightful
company in the rare and scanty intervals of school-inspecting--a
profession of which not even the leisure is leisurely. The type of the
French abbé, whose sacerdotal avocations lay completely in the
background and who could give the best hours of the day and night to the
pleasures or duties of society, was best represented in our day by the
Rev. William Harness and the Rev. Henry White. Mr. Harness was a
diner-out of the first water; an author and a critic; perhaps the best
Shakespearean scholar of his time; and a recognized and even dreaded
authority on all matters connected with the art and literature of the
drama. Mr. White, burdened only with the sinecure chaplaincies of the
Savoy and the House of Commons, took the Theatre as his parish, mediated
with the happiest tact between the Church and the Stage, and pronounced
a genial benediction over the famous suppers in Stratton Street at which
an enthusiastic patroness used to entertain Sir Henry Irving when the
public labours of the Lyceum were ended for the night.

Canon Malcolm MacColl is an abbé with a difference. No one eats his
dinner more sociably or tells a story more aptly; no one enjoys good
society more keenly or is more appreciated in it; but he does not make
society a profession. He is conscientiously devoted to the duties of his
canonry; he is an accomplished theologian; and he is perhaps the most
expert and vigorous pamphleteer in England. The Franco-German War, the
Athanasian Creed, the Ritualistic prosecutions, the case for Home Rule,
and the misdeeds of the Sultan have in turn produced from his pen
pamphlets which have rushed into huge circulations and swollen to the
dimensions of solid treatises. Canon MacColl is genuinely and _ex animo_
an ecclesiastic; but he is a politician as well. His inflexible
integrity and fine sense of honour have enabled him to play, with credit
to himself and advantage to the public, the rather risky part of the
Priest in Politics. He has been trusted alike by Lord Salisbury and by
Mr. Gladstone; has conducted negotiations of great pith and moment; and
has been behind the scenes of some historic performances. Yet he has
never made an enemy, nor betrayed a secret, nor lowered the honour of
his sacred calling.

Miss Mabel Collins, in her vivid story of _The Star Sapphire_, has drawn
under a very thin pseudonym a striking portrait of a clergyman who, with
his environment, plays a considerable part in the social agreeableness
of London at the present moment. Is social agreeableness a hereditary
gift? Nowadays, when everything, good or bad, is referred to heredity,
one is inclined to say that it must be; and, though no training could
supply the gift where Nature had withheld it, yet a judicious education
can develop a social faculty which ancestry has transmitted. It is
recorded, I think, of Madame de Stael, that, after her first
conversation with William Wilberforce, she said: "I have always heard
that Mr. Wilberforce was the most religious man in England, but I did
not know that he was also the wittiest." The agreeableness of the great
philanthropist's son--Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford and of
Winchester--I discussed in my last chapter. We may put aside the fulsome
dithyrambics of grateful archdeacons and promoted chaplains, and be
content to rest the Bishop's reputation for agreeableness on testimony
so little interested as that of Matthew Arnold and Archbishop Tait. The
Archbishop wrote, after the Bishop's death, of his "social and
irresistibly fascinating side, as displayed in his dealings with
society;" and in 1864 Mr. Arnold, after listening with only very
moderate admiration to one of the Bishop's celebrated sermons, wrote:
"Where he was excellent was in his speeches at luncheon afterwards--gay,
easy, cordial, and wonderfully happy."

I think that one gathers from all dispassionate observers of the Bishop
that what struck them most in him was the blending of boisterous fun and
animal spirits with a deep and abiding sense of the seriousness of
religion. In the philanthropist-father the religious seriousness rather
preponderated over the fun; in the bishop-son (by a curious inversion of
parts) the fun sometimes concealed the religiousness. To those who
speculate in matters of race and pedigree it is interesting to watch the
two elements contending in the character of Canon Basil Wilberforce, the
Bishop's youngest and best-beloved son. When you see his graceful
figure and clean-shaven ecclesiastical face in the pulpit of his
strangely old-fashioned church, or catch the vibrating notes of his
beautifully modulated voice in

    "The hush of our dread high altar,
     Where The Abbey makes us _We_,"

you feel yourself in the presence of a born ecclesiastic, called from
his cradle by an irresistible vocation to a separate and sanctified
career. When you see him on the platform of some great public meeting,
pouring forth argument, appeal, sarcasm, anecdote, fun, and pathos in a
never-ceasing flood of vivid English, you feel that you are under the
spell of a born orator. And yet again, when you see the priest of
Sunday, the orator of Monday, presiding on Tuesday with easy yet
finished courtesy at the hospitable table of the most beautiful
dining-room in London, or welcomed with equal warmth for his racy humour
and his unfailing sympathy in the homes of his countless friends, you
feel that here is a man naturally framed for society, in whom his father
and grandfather live again. Truly a combination of hereditary gifts is
displayed in Canon Wilberforce; and the social agreeableness of London
received a notable addition when Mr. Gladstone transferred him from
Southampton to Dean's Yard.

Of agreeable Canons there is no end, and the Chapter of Westminster is
peculiarly rich in them. Mr. Gore's ascetic saintliness of life conceals
from the general world, but not from the privileged circle of his
intimate friends, the high breeding of a great Whig family and the
philosophy of Balliol. Archdeacon Furse has the refined scholarship and
delicate literary sense which characterized Eton in its days of glory.
Dr. Duckworth's handsome presence has long been welcomed in the very
highest of all social circles. Mr. Eyton's massive bulk and warm heart,
and rugged humour and sturdy common sense, produce the effect of a
clerical Dr. Johnson. But perhaps we must turn our back on the Abbey
and pursue our walk along the Thames Embankment as far as St. Paul's if
we want to discover the very finest flower of canonical culture and
charm, for it blushes unseen in the shady recesses of Amen Court. Henry
Scott Holland, Canon of St. Paul's, is beyond all question one of the
most agreeable men of his time. In fun and geniality and warm-hearted
hospitality he is a worthy successor of Sydney Smith, whose official
house he inhabits; and to those elements of agreeableness he adds
certain others which his admirable predecessor could scarcely have
claimed. He has all the sensitiveness of genius, with its sympathy, its
versatility, its unexpected turns, its rapid transitions from grave to
gay, its vivid appreciation of all that is beautiful in art and nature,
literature and life. His temperament is essentially musical, and,
indeed, it was from him that I borrowed, in a former paragraph, my
description of Jenny Lind and her effect on her hearers. No man in
London, I should think, has so many and such devoted friends in every
class and stratum; and those friends acknowledge in him not only the
most vivacious and exhilarating of social companions, but one of the
moral forces which have done most to quicken their consciences and lift
their lives.

Before I have done with the agreeableness of clergymen I must say a word
about two academical personages, of whom it was not always easy to
remember that they were clergymen, and whose agreeableness struck one in
different lights, according as one happened to be the victim or the
witness of their jocosity. If any one wishes to know what the late
Master of Balliol was really like in his social aspect, I should refer
him, not to the two volumes of his Biography, nor even to the amusing
chit-chat of Mr. Lionel Tollemache's Recollections, but to the cleverest
work of a very clever Balliol man--Mr. W.H. Mallock's _New Republic_.
The description of Mr. Jowett's appearance, conversation, and social
bearing is photographic, and the sermon which Mr. Mallock puts into his
mouth is not a parody, but an absolutely faultless reproduction both of
substance and of style. That it excessively irritated the subject of the
sketch is the best proof of its accuracy. For my own part, I must freely
admit that I do not write as an admirer of Mr. Jowett; but one saying of
his, which I had the advantage of hearing, does much to atone, in my
judgment, for the snappish impertinences on which his reputation for wit
has been generally based. The scene was the Master's own dining-room,
and the moment that the ladies had left the room one of the guests began
a most outrageous conversation. Every one sat flabbergasted. The Master
winced with annoyance; and then, bending down the table towards the
offender, said in his shrillest tone--"Shall we continue this
conversation in the drawing-room?" and rose from his chair. It was
really a stroke of genius thus both to terminate and to rebuke the
impropriety without violating the decorum due from host to guest.

Of the late Master of Trinity--Dr. Thompson--it was said: "He casteth
forth his ice like morsels. Who is able to abide his frost?" The stories
of his mordant wit are endless, but an Oxford man can scarcely hope to
narrate them with proper accuracy. He was nothing if not critical. At
Seeley's Inaugural Lecture as Professor of History his only remark
was--"Well, well. I did not think we could so soon have had occasion to
regret poor Kingsley." To a gushing admirer who said that a popular
preacher had so much taste--"Oh yes; so very much, and all so very bad."
Of a certain Dr. Woods, who wrote elementary mathematical books for
schoolboys, and whose statue occupies the most conspicuous position in
the ante-chapel of St. John's College--"The Johnian Newton." His hit at
the present Chief Secretary for Ireland,[22] when he was a junior Fellow
of Trinity, is classical--"We are none of us infallible--not even the
youngest of us." But it requires an eye-witness of the scene to do
justice to the exordium of the Master's sermon on the Parable of the
Talents, addressed in Trinity Chapel to what considers itself, and not
without justice, the cleverest congregation in the world. "It would be
obviously superfluous in a congregation such as that which I now address
to expatiate on the responsibilities of those who have five, or even
two, talents. I shall therefore confine my observations to the more
ordinary case of those of us who have _one talent_."


[22] The Right Hon. G.W. Balfour.



Lord Beaconsfield, describing Monsignore Berwick in _Lothair_, says that
he "could always, when necessary, sparkle with anecdote or blaze with
repartee." The former performance is considerably easier than the
latter. Indeed, when a man has a varied experience, a retentive memory,
and a sufficient copiousness of speech, the facility of story-telling
may attain the character of a disease. The "sparkle" evaporates while
the "anecdote" is left. But, though what Mr. Pinto called "Anecdotage"
is deplorable, a repartee is always delightful: and, while by no means
inclined to admit the general inferiority of contemporary conversation
to that of the last generation, I am disposed to think that in the art
of repartee our predecessors excelled us.

If this is true, it may be partly due to the greater freedom of an age
when well-bred men and refined women spoke their minds with an
uncompromising plainness which would now be voted intolerable. I have
said that the old Royal Dukes were distinguished by the racy vigour of
their conversation; and the Duke of Cumberland, afterwards King Ernest
of Hanover, was held to excel all his brothers in this respect. I was
told by the late Sir Charles Wyke that he was once walking with the Duke
of Cumberland along Piccadilly when the Duke of Gloucester (first cousin
to Cumberland, and familiarly known as "Silly Billy") came out of
Gloucester House. "Duke of Gloucester, Duke of Gloucester, stop a
minute. I want to speak to you," roared the Duke of Cumberland. Poor
Silly Billy, whom nobody ever noticed, was delighted to find himself
thus accosted, and ambled up smiling. "Who's your tailor?" shouted
Cumberland. "Stultz," replied Gloucester. "Thank you. I only wanted to
know, because, whoever he is, he ought to be avoided like a pestilence."
Exit Silly Billy.

Of this inoffensive but not brilliant prince (who, by the way, was
Chancellor of the University of Cambridge) it is related that once at a
levée he noticed a naval friend with a much-tanned face. "How do,
Admiral? Glad to see you again. It's a long time since you have been at
a levée." "Yes, sir. Since I last saw your Royal Highness I have been
nearly to the North Pole." "By G---, you look more as if you had been to
the South Pole." It is but bare justice to this depreciated memory to
observe that the Duke of Gloucester scored a point against his kingly
cousin when, on hearing that William IV. had consented to the Reform
Bill, he ejaculated, "Who's Silly Billy now?" But this is a digression.

Early in the nineteenth century a famous lady, whose name, for obvious
reasons, I forbear to indicate even by an initial, had inherited great
wealth under a will which, to put it mildly, occasioned much surprise.
She shared an opera-box with a certain Lady D---, who loved the flowing
wine-cup not wisely, but too well. One night Lady D--- was visibly
intoxicated at the opera, and her friend told her that the partnership
in the box must cease, as she could not appear again in company so
disgraceful. "As you please," said Lady D---. "I may have had a glass of
wine too much; but at any rate I never forged my father's signature, and
then murdered the butler to prevent his telling."

Beau Brummell, the Prince of Dandies and the most insolent of men, was
once asked by a lady if be would "take a cup of tea." "Thank you,
ma'am," he replied, "I never _take_ anything but physic." "I beg your
pardon," replied the hostess, "you also take liberties."

The Duchess of Somerset, born Sheridan, and famous as the Queen of
Beauty at the Eglinton Tournament of 1839, was pre-eminent in this
agreeable art of swift response. One day she called at a shop for some
article which she had purchased the day before, and which had not been
sent home. The order could not be traced. The proprietor of the
establishment inquired, with great concern, "May I ask who took your
Grace's order? Was it a young gentleman with fair hair?" "No; it was an
elderly nobleman with a bald head."

The celebrated Lady Clanricarde, daughter of George Canning, was talking
during the Franco-German War of 1870 to the French Ambassador, who
complained bitterly that England had not intervened on behalf of France.
"But, after all," he said, "it was only what we might have expected. We
always believed that you were a nation of shopkeepers, and now we know
you are." "And we," replied Lady Clanricarde, "always believed that you
were a nation of soldiers, and now we know you are not"--a repartee
worthy to rank with Queen Mary's reply to Lady Lochleven about the
sacramental character of marriage, in the third volume of _The Abbot_.

A young lady, who had just been appointed a Maid of Honour, was telling
some friends with whom she was dining that one of the conditions of the
office was that she should not keep a diary of what went on at Court. A
cynical man of the world who was present said, "What a tiresome rule! I
think I should keep my diary all the same." "Then," replied the young
lady, "I am afraid you would not be a maid of _Honour_."

In the famous society of old Holland House a conspicuous and interesting
figure was Henry Luttrell. It was known that he must be getting on in
life, for he had sat in the Irish Parliament, but his precise age no one
knew. At length Lady Holland, whose curiosity was restrained by no
considerations of courtesy, asked him point-blank--"Now, Luttrell, we're
all dying to know how old you are. Just tell me." Eyeing his questioner
gravely, Luttrell made answer, "It is an odd question; but as you, Lady
Holland, ask it, I don't mind telling you. If I live till next year, I
shall be--devilish old."

For the mutual amenities of Melbourne and Alvanley and Rogers and Allen,
for Lord Holland's genial humour, and for Lady Holland's indiscriminate
insolence, we can refer to Lord Macaulay's Life and Charles Greville's
Journals, and the enormous mass of contemporary memoirs. Most of these
verbal encounters were fought with all imaginable good-humour, over some
social or literary topic; but now and then, when political passion was
really roused, they took a fiercely personal tone.

Let one instance of elaborate invective suffice. Sir James Mackintosh,
who, as the writer of the _Vindiciae Gallicae_, had been the foremost
apologist for the French Revolution, fell later under the influence of
Burke, and proclaimed the most unmeasured hostility to the Revolution
and its authors, their works and ways. Having thus become a vehement
champion of law and order, he exclaimed one day that O'Coighley, the
priest who negotiated between the Revolutionary parties in Ireland and
France, was the basest of mankind. "No, Mackintosh," replied that sound
though pedantic old Whig, Dr. Parr; "he might have been much worse. He
was an Irishman; he might have been a Scotsman. He was a priest; he
might have been a lawyer. He was a rebel; he might have been a

These severe forms of elaborated sarcasm belong, I think, to a past age.
Lord Beaconsfield was the last man who indulged in them. When the
Greville Memoirs--that mine of social information in which I have so
often quarried--came out, some one asked Mr. Disraeli, as he then was,
if he had read them. He replied, "No. I do not feel attracted to them. I
remember the author, and he was the most conceited person with whom I
have ever been brought in contact, although I have read Cicero and known
Bulwer Lytton." This three-edged compliment has seldom been excelled. In
a lighter style, and more accordant with feminine grace, was Lady
Morley's comment on the decaying charms of her famous rival, Lady
Jersey--the Zenobia of _Endymion_--of whom some gushing admirer had said
that she looked so splendid going to court in her mourning array of
black and diamonds--"it was like night." "Yes, my dear; _minuit passé_."
A masculine analogue to this amiable compliment may be cited from the
table-talk of Lord Granville--certainly not an unkindly man--to whom the
late Mr. Delane had been complaining of the difficulty of finding a
suitable wedding-present for a young lady of the house of Rothschild.
"It would be absurd to give a Rothschild a costly gift. I should like to
find something not intrinsically valuable, but interesting because it is
rare." "Nothing easier, my dear fellow; send her a lock of your hair."

When a remote cousin of Lord Henniker was elected to the Head Mastership
of Rossall, a disappointed competitor said that it was a case of [Greek:
eneka tou kuriou]; but a Greek joke is scarcely fair play.

When the _New Review_ was started, its accomplished Editor designed it
to be an inexpensive copy of the _Nineteenth Century_. It was to cost
only sixpence, and was to be written by bearers of famous names--those
of the British aristocracy for choice. He was complaining in society of
the difficulty of finding a suitable title, when a vivacious lady said,
"We have got _Cornhill_, and _Ludgate_, and _Strand_--why not call yours

Oxford has always been a nursing-mother of polished satirists. Of a
small sprig of aristocracy, who was an undergraduate in my time, it was
said by a friend that he was like Euclid's definition of a point: he had
no parts and no magnitude, but had position. In previous chapters I have
quoted the late Master of Balliol and Lord Sherbrooke. Professor Thorold
Rogers excelled in a Shandean vein. Lord Bowen is immortalized by his
emendation to the Judge's address to the Queen, which had contained the
Heep-like sentence--"Conscious as we are of our own unworthiness for the
great office to which we have been called." "Wouldn't it be better to
say, 'Conscious as we are of one another's unworthiness'?" Henry Smith,
Professor of Geometry, the wittiest, most learned, and most genial of
Irishmen, said of a well-known man of science--"His only fault is that
he sometimes forgets that he is the Editor, not the Author, of Nature."
A great lawyer who is now a great judge, and has, with good reason, the
very highest opinion of himself, stood as a Liberal at the General
Election of 1880. His Tory opponents set on foot a rumour that he was an
Atheist, and when Henry Smith heard it he said, "Now, that's really too
bad, for ---- is a man who reluctantly acknowledges the existence of a
_Superior Being_."

At dinner at Balliol the Master's guests were discussing the careers of
two Balliol men, the one of whom had just been made a judge and the
other a bishop. "Oh," said Henry Smith, "I think the bishop is the
greater man. A judge, at the most, can only say, 'You be hanged,' but a
bishop can say, 'You be d---d.'" "Yes," twittered the Master; "but if
the judge says, 'You be hanged,' you _are_ hanged."

Henry Smith, though a delightful companion, was a very unsatisfactory
politician--nominally, indeed, a Liberal, but full of qualifications and
exceptions. When Mr. Gathorne Hardy was raised to the peerage at the
crisis of the Eastern Question in 1878, and thereby vacated his seat
for the University of Oxford, Henry Smith came forward as a candidate in
the Liberal interest; but his language about the great controversy of
the moment was so lukewarm that Professor Freeman said that, instead of
sitting for Oxford in the House of Commons, he ought to represent
Laodicea in the Parliament of Asia Minor.

Of Dr. Haig-Brown it is reported that, when Head Master of Charterhouse,
he was toasted by the Mayor of Godalming as a man who knew how to
combine the _fortiter in re_ with the _suav[=i]ter in modo_. In replying
to the toast he said, "I am really overwhelmed not only by the quality,
but by the _quantity_ of his Worship's eulogium."

It has been a matter of frequent remark that, considering what an
immense proportion of parliamentary time has been engrossed during the
last seventeen years by Irish speeches, we have heard so little Irish
humour, whether conscious or unconscious--whether jokes or "bulls." An
admirably vigorous simile was used by the late Mr. O'Sullivan, when he
complained that the whisky supplied at the bar was like "a torchlight
procession marching down your throat;" but of Irish bulls in Parliament
I have only heard one--proceeding, if my memory serves me, from Mr. T.
Healy: "As long as the voice of Irish suffering is dumb, the ear of
English compassion is deaf to it." One I read in the columns of the
_Irish Times_: "The key of the Irish difficulty is to be found in the
_empty_ pocket of the landlord." An excellent confusion of metaphors was
uttered by one of the members for the Principality in the debate on the
Welsh Church Bill, in indignant protest against the allegation that the
majority of Welshmen now belonged to the Established Church. He said,
"It is a lie, sir; and it is high time that we nailed this lie to the
mast." But a confusion of metaphors is not a bull.

Among tellers of Irish stories, Lord Morris is supreme; one of his best
depicts two Irish officials of the good old times discussing, in all the
confidence of their after-dinner claret, the principles on which they
bestowed their patronage Said the first, "Well, I don't mind admitting
that, _caeteris paribus_, I prefer my own relations." "My dear boy,"
replied his boon companion, "_caeteris paribus_ be d----d." The
cleverest thing that I have lately heard was from a young lady, who is
an Irishwoman, and I hope that its excellence will excuse the
personality. It must be premised that Lord Erne is a gentleman who
abounds in anecdote, and that Lady Erne is an extremely handsome woman.
Their irreverent compatriot has nicknamed them

"The storied Erne and animated bust."

Frances Countess Waldegrave, who had previously been married three
times, took as her fourth husband an Irishman, Mr. Chichester Fortescue,
who was shortly afterwards made Chief Secretary. The first night that
Lady Waldegrave and Mr. Fortescue appeared at the theatre in Dublin, a
wag in the gallery called out, "Which of the four do you like best, my
lady?" Instantaneously from the Chief Secretary's box came the adroit
reply: "Why, the Irishman, of course '"

The late Lord Coleridge was once speaking in the House of Commons in
support of Women's Rights. One of his main arguments as that there was
no essential difference between the masculine and the feminine
intellect. For example, he said, some of the most valuable qualities of
what is called the judicial genius--sensibility, quickness,
delicacy--are peculiarly feminine. In reply, Serjeant Dowse said: "The
argument of the hon. and learned Member, compendiously stated, amounts
to this--because some judges are old women, therefore all old women are
fit to be judges."

To my friend Mr. Julian Sturgis, himself one of the happiest of
phrase-makers, I am indebted for the following gems from America.

Mr. Evarts, formerly Secretary of State, showed an English friend the
place where Washington was said to have thrown a dollar across the
Potomac. The English friend expressed surprise; "but," said Mr. Evarts,
"you must remember that a dollar went further in those days." A Senator
met Mr. Evarts next day, and said that he had been amused by his jest.
"But," said Mr. Evarts, "I met a mere journalist just afterwards who
said, 'Oh, Mr. Evarts, you should have said that it was a small matter
to throw a dollar across the Potomac for a man who had chucked a
sovereign across the Atlantic.'" Mr. Evarts, weary of making many jokes,
would invent a journalist or other man and tell a story as his. It was
he who, on a kindly busybody expressing surprise at his daring to drink
so many different wines at dinner, said that it was only the indifferent
wines of which he was afraid.

It was Mr. Motley who said in Boston--"Give me the luxuries of life, and
I care not who has the necessaries."

Mr. Tom Appleton, famous for many witty sayings (among them the
well-known "Good Americans, when they die, go to Paris"), heard some
grave city fathers debating what could be done to mitigate the cruel
east wind at an exposed corner of a certain street in Boston. He
suggested that they should tether a shorn lamb there.

A witty Bostonian going to dine with a lady was met by her with a face
of apology. "I could not get another man," she said; "and we are four
women, and you will have to take us all in to dinner." "Fore-warned is
four-armed," said he with a bow.

This gentleman was in a hotel in Boston when the law forbidding the sale
of liquor was in force. "What would you say," said an angry Bostonian,
"if a man from St. Louis, where they have freedom, were to come in and
ask you where he could get a drink?" Now it was known that spirits could
be clandestinely bought in a room under the roof, and the wit pointing
upwards replied, "I should say, 'Fils de St. Louis, montez au ciel.'"

Madame Apponyi was in London during the debates on the Reform Bill of
1867, and, like all foreigners and not a few Englishmen, was much
perplexed by the "Compound Householder," who figured so largely in the
discussion. Hayward explained that he was the Masculine of the Femme

One of the best repartees ever made, because the briefest and the
justest, was made by "the gorgeous Lady Blessington" to Napoleon III.
When Prince Louis Napoleon was living in impecunious exile in London he
had been a constant guest at Lady Blessington's hospitable and brilliant
but Bohemian house. And she, when visiting Paris after the _coup d'état_
naturally expected to receive at the Tuileries some return for the
unbounded hospitalities of Gore House. Weeks passed, no invitation
arrived, and the Imperial Court took no notice of Lady Blessington's
presence. At length she encountered the Emperor at a great reception. As
he passed through the bowing and curtsying crowd, the Emperor caught
sight of his former hostess. "Ah, Miladi Blessington! Restez-vous
longtemps à Paris?" "Et vous, Sire?" History does not record the
usurper's reply.

Henry Phillpotts, Bishop of Exeter from 1830 to 1869, lived at a
beautiful villa near Torquay, and an enthusiastic lady who visited him
there burst into dithyrambics and cried, "What a lovely spot this is,
Bishop! It is so Swiss." "Yes, ma'am," blandly replied old Harry of
Exeter, "it is very Swiss; only there is no sea in Switzerland, and
there are no mountains here." To one of his clergy desiring to renew a
lease of some episcopal property, the Bishop named a preposterous sum as
the fine on renewal. The poor parson, consenting with reluctance, said,
"Well, I suppose it is better than endangering the lease, but certainly
your lordship has got the lion's share." "But, my dear sir, I am sure
you would not wish me to have that of the other creature."

Still, after all, for a bishop to score off a clergyman is an
inglorious victory; it is like the triumph of a magistrate over a
prisoner or of a don over an undergraduate. Bishop Wilberforce, whose
powers of repartee were among his most conspicuous gifts, was always
ready to use them where retaliation was possible--not in the safe
enclosure of the episcopal study, but on the open battlefield of the
platform and the House of Lords. At the great meeting in St. James's
Hall in the summer of 1868 to protest against the Disestablishment of
the Irish Church, some Orange enthusiast, in the hope of disturbing the
Bishop, kept interrupting his honeyed eloquence with inopportune shouts
of "Speak up, my lord." "I am already speaking up," replied the Bishop
in his most dulcet tone; "I always speak up; and I decline to speak down
to the level of the ill-mannered person in the gallery." Every one whose
memory runs back thirty years will recall the Homeric encounters between
the Bishop and Lord Chancellor Westbury in the House of Lords, and will
remember the melancholy circumstances under which Lord Westbury had to
resign his office. When he was leaving the Royal Closet after
surrendering the Great Seal into the Queen's hands, Lord Westbury met
the Bishop, who was going in to the Queen. It was a painful encounter,
and in reminding the Bishop of the occurrence when next they met,
Westbury said, "I felt inclined to say, 'Hast thou found me, O mine
enemy?'" The Bishop in relating this used to say, "I never in my life
was so tempted as to finish the quotation, and say, 'Yea, I have found
thee, because thou hast sold thyself to work iniquity.' But by a great
effort I kept it down, and said, 'Does your lordship remember the end of
the quotation?'" The Bishop, who enjoyed a laugh against himself, used
to say that he had once been effectually scored off by one of his clergy
whom he had rebuked for his addiction to fox-hunting. The Bishop urged
that it had a worldly appearance. The clergyman replied that it was not
a bit more worldly than a ball at Blenheim Palace at which the Bishop
had been present. The Bishop explained that he was staying in the house,
but was never within three rooms of the dancing. "Oh, if it comes to
that," replied the clergyman, "I never am within three fields of the

One of the best replies--it is scarcely a repartee--traditionally
reported at Oxford was made by the great Saint of the Tractarian
Movement, the Rev. Charles Marriott. A brother-Fellow of Oriel had
behaved rather outrageously at dinner overnight, and coming out of
chapel next morning, essayed to apologize to Marriott: "My friend, I'm
afraid I made rather a fool of myself last night." "My dear fellow, I
assure you I observed nothing unusual."

In a former chapter about the Art of Conversation I referred to the
singular readiness which characterized Lord Sherbrooke's talk. A good
instance of it was his reply to the strenuous advocate of modern
studies, who, presuming on Sherbrooke's sympathy, said, "I have the
greatest contempt for Aristotle." "But not that contempt which
familiarity breeds, I should imagine," was Sherbrooke's mild rejoinder.
"I have got a box at the Lyceum to-night," I once heard a lady say, "and
a place to spare. Lord Sherbrooke, will you come? If you are engaged, I
must take the Bishop of Gibraltar." "Oh, that's no good. Gibraltar can
never be taken."

In 1872, when University College, Oxford, celebrated the thousandth
anniversary of its foundation, Lord Sherbrooke, as an old Member of the
College, made the speech of the evening. His theme was a complaint of
the iconoclastic tendency of New Historians. Nothing was safe from their
sacrilegious research. Every tradition, however venerable, however
precious, was resolved into a myth or a fable. "For example," he said,
"we have always believed that certain lands which this college owns in
Berkshire were given to us by King Alfred. Now the New Historians come
and tell us that this could not have been the case, because they can
prove that the lands in question never belonged to the King. It seems to
me that the New Historians prove too much--indeed, they prove the very
point which they contest. If the lands had belonged to the King, he
would probably have kept them to himself; but as they belonged to some
one else, he made a handsome present of them to the College."

Lord Beaconsfield's excellence in conversation lay rather in studied
epigrams than in impromptu repartees. But in his old electioneering
contests he used sometimes to make very happy hits. When he came
forward, a young, penniless, unknown coxcomb, to contest High Wycombe
against the dominating Whiggery of the Greys and the Carringtons, some
one in the crowd shouted, "We know all about Colonel Grey; but pray what
do you stand on?" "I stand on my head," was the prompt reply, to which
Mr. Gladstone always rendered unstinted admiration. At Aylesbury the
Radical leader had been a man of notoriously profligate life, and when
Mr. Disraeli came to seek re-election as Tory Chancellor of the
Exchequer this tribune of the people produced at the hustings the
Radical manifesto which Mr. Disraeli had issued twenty years before.
"What do you say to that, sir?" "I say that we all sow our wild oats,
and no one knows the meaning of that phrase better than you, Mr. ----."

A member of the diplomatic service at Rome in the old days of the
Temporal Power had the honour of an interview with Pio Nono. The Pope
graciously offered him a cigar--"I am told you will find this very
fine." The Englishman made that stupidest of all answers, "Thank your
Holiness, but I have no vices." "This isn't a vice; if it was you would
have it." Another repartee from the Vatican reached me a few years ago,
when the German Emperor paid his visit to Leo XIII. Count Herbert
Bismarck was in attendance on his Imperial master, and when they
reached the door of the Pope's audience-chamber the Emperor passed in,
and the Count tried to follow. A gentleman of the Papal Court motioned
him to stand back, as there must be no third person at the interview
between the Pope and the Emperor. "I am Count Herbert Bismarck," shouted
the German, as he struggled to follow his master. "That," replied the
Roman, with calm dignity, "may account for, but it does not excuse, your

But, after all these "fash'nable fax and polite annygoats," as Thackeray
would have called them, after all these engaging courtesies of kings and
prelates and great ladies, I think that the honours in the way of
repartee rest with the little Harrow boy who was shouting himself hoarse
in the jubilation of victory after an Eton and Harrow match at Lord's in
which Harrow had it hollow. To him an Eton boy, of corresponding years,
severely observed, "Well, you Harrow fellows needn't be so beastly
cocky. When you wanted a Head Master you had to come to Eton to get
one." The small Harrovian was dumfounded for a moment, and then, pulling
himself together for a final effort of deadly sarcasm, exclaimed, "Well,
at any rate, no one can say that we ever produced a Mr. Gladstone."



The List of Honours, usually published on Her Majesty's Birthday, is
this year[23] reserved till the Jubilee Day, and to sanguine aspirants I
would say, in Mrs. Gamp's immortal words, "Seek not to proticipate."
Such a list always contains food for the reflective mind, and some of
the thoughts which it suggests may even lie too deep for tears. Why is
my namesake picked out for knighthood, while I remain hidden in my
native obscurity? Why is my rival made a C.B., while I "go forth
Companionless" to meet the chances and the vexations of another year?
But there is balm in Gilead. If I have fared badly, my friends have done
little better. Like Mr. Squeers, when Bolder's father was two pound ten
short, they have had their disappointments to contend against. A., who
was so confident of a peerage, is fobbed off with a baronetcy; and B.,
whose labours for the Primrose League entitled him to expect the Bath,
finds himself grouped with the Queen's footmen in the Royal Victorian
Order. As, when Sir Robert Peel declined to form a Government in 1839,
"twenty gentlemen who had not been appointed Under Secretaries for State
moaned over the martyrdom of young ambition," so during the first
fortnight of 1897 at least that number of middle-aged self-seekers came
to the regretful conclusion that Lord Salisbury was not sufficiently a
man of the world for his present position, and inwardly asked why a
judge or a surgeon should be preferred before a company-promoter or a
party hack. And, while feeling is thus fermenting at the base of the
social edifice, things are not really tranquil at the summit.

It is not long since the chief of the princely House of Duff was raised
to the first order of the peerage, and one or two opulent earls,
encouraged by his example, are understood to be looking upward. Every
constitutional Briton, whatever his political creed, has in his heart of
hearts a wholesome reverence for a dukedom. Lord Beaconsfield, who
understood these little traits of our national character even more
perfectly than Thackeray, says of his favourite St. Aldegonde (who was
heir to the richest dukedom in the kingdom) that "he held extreme
opinions, especially on political affairs, being a Republican of the
reddest dye. He was opposed to all privilege, and indeed to all orders
of men except dukes, who were a necessity." That is a delicious touch.
St. Aldegonde, whatever his political aberrations, "voiced" the
universal sentiment of his less fortunate fellow-citizens; nor can the
most soaring ambition of the British Matron desire a nobler epitaph than
that of the lady immortalized by Thomas Ingoldsby:--

    "She drank prussic acid without any water,
     And died like a Duke-and-a-Duchess's daughter."

As, according to Dr. Johnson, all claret would be port if it could, so,
presumably, every marquis would like to be a duke; and yet, as a matter
of fact, that Elysian translation is not often made. A marquis, properly
regarded, is not so much a nascent duke as a magnified earl. A shrewd
observer of the world once said to me: "When an earl gets a marquisate,
it is worth a hundred thousand pounds in hard money to his family." The
explanation of this cryptic utterance is that, whereas an earl's younger
sons are "misters," a marquis's younger sons are "lords." Each "my
lord" can make a "my lady," and therefore commands a distinctly higher
price in the marriage-market of a wholesomely-minded community. Miss
Higgs, with her fifty thousand pounds, might scorn the notion of
becoming the Honourable Mrs. Percy Popjoy; but as Lady Magnus Charters
she would feel a laudable ambition gratified.

An earldom is, in its combination of euphony, antiquity, and
association, perhaps the most impressive of all the titles in the
peerage. Most rightly did the fourteenth Earl of Derby decline to be
degraded into a brand-new duke. An earldom has always been the right of
a Prime Minister who wishes to leave the Commons. In 1880 a member of
the House of Russell (in which there are certain Whiggish traditions of
jobbery) was fighting a hotly contested election, and his ardent
supporters brought out a sarcastic placard--"Benjamin, Earl of
Beaconsfield! He made himself an earl and the people poor"; to which a
rejoinder was instantly forthcoming--"John, Earl Russell! He made
himself an earl and his relations rich." The amount of truth in the two
statements was about equal. In 1885 this order of the peerage missed the
greatest distinction which fate is likely ever to offer it, when Mr.
Gladstone declined the earldom proffered by her Majesty on his
retirement from office. Had he accepted, it was understood that the
representatives of the last Earl of Liverpool would have waived their
claims to the extinct title, and the greatest of the Queen's Prime
Ministers would have borne the name of the city which gave him birth.

But, magnificent and euphonious as an earldom is, the children of an
earl are the half-castes of the peerage. The eldest son is "my lord,"
and his sisters are "my lady;" and ever since the days of Mr. Foker,
Senior, it has been _de rigueur_ for an opulent brewer to marry an
earl's daughter; but the younger sons are not distinguishable from the
ignominious progeny of viscounts and barons. Two little boys,
respectively the eldest and the second son of an earl, were playing on
the front staircase of their home, when the eldest fell over into the
hall below. The younger called to the footman who picked his brother up,
"Is he hurt?" "Killed, _my lord_," was the instantanteous reply of a
servant who knew the devolution of a courtesy title.

As the marquises people the debatable land between the dukes and the
earls, so do the viscounts between the earls and the barons. A child
whom Matthew Arnold was examining in grammar once wrote of certain words
which he found it hard to classify under their proper parts of speech
that they were "thrown into the common sink, which is adverbs." I hope I
shall not be considered guilty of any disrespect if I say that
ex-Speakers, ex-Secretaries of State, successful generals, and ambitious
barons who are not quite good enough for earldoms, are "thrown into the
common sink, which is viscounts." Not only heralds and genealogists, but
every one who has the historic sense, must have felt an emotion of
regret when the splendid title of twenty-third Baron Dacre was merged by
Mr. Speaker Brand in the pinchbeck dignity of first Viscount Hampden.

After viscounts, barons. The baronage of England is headed by the
bishops; but, as we have already discoursed of those right reverend
peers, we, Dante-like, will not reason of them, but pass on--only
remarking, as we pass, that it is held on good authority that no human
being ever experiences a rapture so intense as an American bishop from a
Western State when he first hears himself called "My lord" at a London
dinner-party. After the spiritual barons come the secular barons--the
"common or garden" peers of the United Kingdom. Of these there are
considerably more than three hundred; and of all, except some thirty or
forty at the most, it may be said without offence that they are products
of the opulent Middle Class. Pitt destroyed deliberately and for ever
the exclusive character of the British peerage when, as Lord
Beaconsfield said, he "created a plebeian aristocracy and blended it
with the patrician oligarchy." And in order to gain admission to this
"plebeian aristocracy" men otherwise reasonable and honest will spend
incredible sums, undergo prodigious exertions, associate themselves with
the basest intrigues, and perform the most unblushing tergiversations.
Lord Houghton told me that he said to a well-known politician who
boasted that he had refused a peerage: "Then you made a great mistake. A
peerage would have secured you three things that you are much in need
of--social consideration, longer credit with your tradesmen, and better
marriages for your younger children."

It is unlucky that a comparatively recent change has put it out of the
power of a Prime Minister to create fresh Irish peers, for an Irish
peerage was a cheap and convenient method of rewarding political
service.[24] Lord Palmerston held that, combining social rank with
eligibility to the House of Commons, it was the most desirable
distinction for a politician. Pitt, when his banker Mr. Smith (who lived
in Whitehall) desired the privilege of driving through the Horse Guards,
said: "No, I can't give you that; but I will make you an Irish peer;"
and the banker became the first Lord Carrington.

What is a Baronet? ask some. Sir Wilfrid Lawson (who ought to know)
replies that he is a man "who has ceased to be a gentleman and has not
become a nobleman." But this is too severe a judgment. It breathes a
spirit of contempt bred of familiarity, which may, without irreverence,
be assumed by a member of an exalted Order, but which a humble outsider
would do well to avoid. As Major Pendennis said of a similar
manifestation, "It sits prettily enough on a young patrician in early
life, though, nothing is so loathsome among persons of our rank." I
turn, therefore, for an answer to Sir Bernard Burke, who says: "The
hereditary Order of Baronets was created by patent in England by King
James I. in 1611. At the institution many of the chief estated gentlemen
of the kingdom were selected for the dignity. The first batch of
Baronets comprised some of the principal landed proprietors among the
best-descended gentlemen of the kingdom, and the list was headed by a
name illustrious more than any other for the intellectual pre-eminence
with which it is associated--the name of Bacon. The Order of Baronets is
scarcely estimated at its proper value."

I cannot help feeling that this account of the baronetage, though
admirable in tone and spirit, and actually pathetic in its closing touch
of regretful melancholy, is a little wanting in what the French would
call "actuality." It leaves out of sight the most endearing, because the
most human, trait of the baronetage--its pecuniary origin. On this point
let us hear the historian Hume--"The title of Baronet was sold and two
hundred patents of that species of knighthood were disposed of for so
many thousand pounds." This was truly epoch-making. It was one of those
"actions of the just" which "smell sweet and blossom in the dust." King
James's baronets were the models and precursors of all who to the end of
time should traffic in the purchase of honours. Their example has
justified posterity, and the precedent which they set is to-day the
principal method by which the war-chests of our political parties are

Another authority, handling the same high theme, tells us that the
rebellion in Ulster gave rise to this Order, and "it was required of
each baronet on his creation to pay into the Exchequer as much as would
maintain thirty soldiers three years at eight-pence a day in the
province of Ulster," and, as a historical memorial of their original
service, the baronets bear as an augmentation to their coats-of-arms
the royal badge of Ulster--a Bloody Hand on a white field. It was in apt
reference to this that a famous Whip, on learning that a baronet of his
party was extremely anxious to be promoted to the peerage, said, "You
can tell Sir Peter Proudflesh, with my compliments, that we don't do
these things for nothing. If he wants a peerage, he will have to put his
Bloody Hand into his pocket."

For the female mind the baronetage has a peculiar fascination. As there
was once a female Freemason, so there was once a female baronet--Dame
Maria Bolles, of Osberton, in the County of Nottingham. The rank of a
baronet's wife is not unfrequently conferred on the widow of a man to
whom a baronetcy had been promised and who died too soon to receive it.
"Call me a vulgar woman!" screamed a lady once prominent in society when
a good-natured friend repeated a critical comment. "Call me a vulgar
woman! me, who was Miss Blank, of Blank Hall, and if I had been a boy
should have been a baronet!"

The baronets of fiction are, like their congeners in real life, a
numerous and a motley band. Lord Beaconsfield described, with a
brilliancy of touch which was all his own, the labours and the
sacrifices of Sir Vavasour Firebrace on behalf of the Order of Baronets
and the privileges wrongfully withheld from them. "They are evidently
the body destined to save this country; blending all sympathies--the
Crown, of which they are the peculiar champions: the nobles, of whom
they are the popular branch; the people, who recognize in them their
natural leaders.... Had the poor King lived, we should at least have had
the Badge," added Sir Vavasour mournfully.

"The Badge?"

"It would have satisfied Sir Grosvenor le Draughte; he was for
compromise. But, confound him, his father was only an accoucheur."

A great merit of the baronets, from the novelist's point of view, is
that they and their belongings are so uncommonly easy to draw. He is Sir
Grosvenor, his wife is Lady le Draughte, his sons, elder and younger,
are Mr. le Draughte, and his daughters Miss le Draughte. The wayfaring
men, though fools, cannot err where the rule is so simple, and
accordingly the baronets enjoy a deserved popularity with those
novelists who look up to the titled classes of society as men look at
the stars, but are a little puzzled about their proper designations.
Miss Braddon alone has drawn more baronets, virtuous and vicious,
handsome and hideous, than would have colonized Ulster ten times over
and left a residue for Nova Scotia. Sir Pitt Crawley and Sir Barnes
Newcome will live as long as English novels are read, and I hope that
dull forgetfulness will never seize as its prey Sir Alfred Mogyns Smyth
de Mogyns, who was born Alfred Smith Muggins, but traced a descent from
Hogyn Mogyn of the Hundred Beeves, and took for his motto "Ung Roy ung
Mogyns." His pedigree is drawn in the seventh chapter of the _Book of
Snobs_, and is imitated with great fidelity on more than one page of
Burke's Peerage.

An eye closely intent upon the lesser beauties of the natural world will
find a very engaging specimen of the genus Baronet in Sir Barnet
Skettles, who was so kind to Paul Dombey and so angry with poor Mr.
Baps. Sir Leicester Dedlock is on a larger scale--in fact, almost too
"fine and large" for life. But I recall a fleeting vision of perfect
loveliness among Miss Monflathers's pupils--"a baronet's daughter who by
some extraordinary reversal of the laws of Nature was not only plain in
feature but dull in intellect."

So far we have spoken only of hereditary honours; but our review would
be singularly incomplete if it excluded those which are purely personal.
Of these, of course, incomparably the highest is the Order of the
Garter, and its most characteristic glory is that, in Lord Melbourne's
phrase, "there is no d----d nonsense of merit about it." The Emperor of
Lilliput rewarded his courtiers with three fine silken threads, one of
which was blue, one green, and one red. The Emperor held a stick
horizontally, and the candidates crept under it, backwards and forwards,
several times. Whoever showed the most agility in creeping was rewarded
with the blue thread.

Let us hope that the methods of chivalry have undergone some
modification since the days of Queen Anne, and that the Blue Ribbon of
the Garter, which ranks with the Golden Fleece and makes its wearer a
comrade of all the crowned heads of Europe, is attained by arts more
dignified than those which awoke the picturesque satire of Dean Swift.
But I do not feel sure about it.

Great is the charm of a personal decoration. Byron wrote:

    "Ye stars, that are the poetry of heaven."

"A stupid line," says Mr. St. Barbe in _Endymion_; "he should have
written, 'Ye stars, that are the poetry of dress.'" North of the Tweed
the green thread of Swift's imagination--"the most ancient and most
noble Order of the Thistle"--is scarcely less coveted than the supreme
honour of the Garter; but wild horses should not drag from me the name
of the Scottish peer of whom his political leader said, "If I gave ----
the Thistle, he would eat it." The Bath tries to make up by the lurid
splendour of its ribbon and the brilliancy of its star for its
comparatively humble and homely associations. It is the peculiar prize
of Generals and Home Secretaries, and is displayed with manly openness
on the bosom of the statesman once characteristically described by Lord
Beaconsfield as "Mr. Secretary Cross, whom I can never remember to call
Sir Richard."

But, after all said and done, the institution of knighthood is older
than any particular order of knights; and lovers of the old world must
observe with regret the discredit into which it has fallen since it
became the guerdon of the successful grocer. When Lord Beaconsfield left
office in 1880 he conferred a knighthood--the first of a long series
similarly bestowed--on an eminent journalist. The friends of the new
knight were inclined to banter him, and proposed his health at a dinner
in facetious terms. Lord Beaconsfield, who was of the company, looked
preternaturally grave, and, filling his glass, gazed steadily at the
flattered editor and said in his deepest tone: "Yes, Sir A.B., I drink
to your good health, and I congratulate you on having attained a rank
which was deemed sufficient honour for Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Walter
Raleigh, Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Christopher Wren."

But a truce to this idle jesting on exalted themes--too palpably the
utterance of social envy and mortified ambition. "They _are_ our
superiors, and that's the fact," as Thackeray exclaims in his chapter on
the Whigs. "I am not a Whig myself; but, oh, how I should like to be
one!" In a similar spirit of compunctious self-abasement, the present
writer may exclaim, "I have not myself been included in the list of
Birthday Honours,--but, oh, how I should like to be there!"


[23] 1897.

[24] Since this passage was written, a return has been made to the
earlier practice, and an Irish peerage has been created--the first since



The writer of these chapters would not willingly fall behind his
countrymen in the loyal sentiments and picturesque memories proper to
the "high mid-summer pomps" which begin to-morrow.[25] But there is an
almost insuperable difficulty in finding anything to write which shall
be at once new and true; and this chapter must therefore consist mainly
of extracts. As the sun of August brings out wasps, so the genial
influence of the Jubilee has produced an incredible abundance of fibs,
myths, and fables. They have for their subject the early days of our
Gracious Sovereign, and round that central theme they play with every
variety of picturesque inventiveness. Nor has invention alone been at
work. Research has been equally busy. Miss Wynn's description, admirable
in its simplicity, of the manner in which the girl queen received the
news of her accession was given to the world by Abraham Hayward in
_Diaries of a Lady of Quality_ a generation ago. Within the last month
it must have done duty a hundred times.

Scarcely less familiar is the more elaborate but still impressive
passage from _Sybil_, in which Lord Beaconsfield described the same
event. And yet, as far as my observation has gone, the citations from
this fine description have always stopped short just at the opening of
the most appropriate passage; my readers, at any rate, shall see it and
judge it for themselves. If there is one feature in the national life of
the last sixty years on which Englishmen may justly pride themselves it
is the amelioration of the social condition of the workers. Putting
aside all ecclesiastical revivals, all purely political changes, and all
appeals, however successful, to the horrible arbitrament of the sword,
it is Social Reform which has made the Queen's reign memorable and
glorious. The first incident of that reign was described in _Sybil_ not
only with vivid observation of the present, but with something of
prophetic insight into the future.

"In a sweet and thrilling voice, and with a composed mien which
indicates rather the absorbing sense of august duty than an absence of
emotion, THE QUEEN announces her accession to the throne of her
ancestors, and her humble hope that Divine Providence will guard over
the fulfilment of her lofty trust. The prelates and captains and chief
men of her realm then advance to the throne, and, kneeling before her,
pledge their troth and take the sacred oaths of allegiance and
supremacy--allegiance to one who rules over the land that the great
Macedonian could not conquer, and over a continent of which Columbus
never dreamed: to the Queen of every sea, and of nations in every zone.

"It is not of these that I would speak, but of a nation nearer her
footstool, and which at this moment looks to her with anxiety, with
affection, perhaps with hope. Fair and serene, she has the blood and
beauty of the Saxon. Will it be her proud destiny at length to bear
relief to suffering millions, and with that soft hand which might
inspire troubadours and guerdon knights, break the last links in the
chain of Saxon thraldom?"

To-day, with pride and thankfulness, chastened though it be by our sense
of national shortcomings, we can answer _Yes_ to this wistful question
of genius and humanity. We have seen the regulation of dangerous labour,
the protection of women and children from excessive toil, the removal
of the tax on bread, the establishment of a system of national
education; and in Macaulay's phrase, a point which yesterday was
invisible is our goal to-day, and will be our starting-post to-morrow.

Her Majesty ascended the throne on the 20th of June 1837, and on the
29th the _Times_ published a delightfully characteristic article against
the Whig Ministers, "into whose hands the all but infant and helpless
Queen has been compelled by her unhappy condition to deliver up herself
and her indignant people." Bating one word, this might be an extract
from an article on the formation of Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule
Government. Surely the consistency of the _Times_ in evil-speaking is
one of the most precious of our national possessions: On the 30th of
June the Royal Assent was given by commission to forty Bills--the first
Bills which became law in the Queen's reign; and, the clerks in the
House of Lords having been accustomed ever since the days of Queen Anne
to say "his Majesty" and "Le Roy le veult," there was hopeless bungling
over the feminine appellations, now after 130 years revived. However,
the Bills scrambled through somehow, and among them was the Act which
abolished the pillory--an auspicious commencement of a humane and
reforming reign. On the 8th of July came the rather belated burial of
William IV. at Windsor, and on the 11th the newly completed Buckingham
Palace was occupied for the first time, the Queen and the Duchess of
Kent moving thither from Kensington.

On the 17th of July, Parliament was prorogued by the Queen in person.
Her Majesty's first Speech from the Throne referred to friendly
relations with Foreign Powers, the diminution of capital punishment, and
"discreet improvements in ecclesiastical institutions." It was read in a
clear and musical voice, with a fascinating grace of accent and
elocution which never faded from the memory of those who heard it. As
long as her Majesty continued to open and prorogue Parliament in person
the same perfection of delivery was always noticed. An old M.P., by no
means inclined to be a courtier, told me that when her Majesty
approached the part of her speech relating to the estimates, her way of
uttering the words "Gentlemen of the House of Commons" was the most
winning address he had ever heard: it gave to an official demand the
character of a personal request. After the Prince Consort's death, the
Queen did not again appear at Westminster till the opening of the new
Parliament in 1866. On that occasion the speech was read by the Lord
Chancellor, and the same usage has prevailed whenever her Majesty has
opened Parliament since that time. But on several occasions of late
years she has read her reply to addresses presented by public bodies,
and I well recollect that at the opening of the Imperial Institute in
1893, though the _timbre_ of her voice was deeper than in early years,
the same admirable elocution made every syllable audible.

In June 1837 the most lively emotion in the masses of the people was the
joy of a great escape. I have said before that grave men, not the least
given to exaggeration, told me their profound conviction that, had
Ernest Duke of Cumberland succeeded to the throne on the death of
William IV., no earthly power could have averted a revolution. The plots
of which the Duke was the centre have been described with a due
commixture of history and romance in Mr. Allen Upward's fascinating
story, _God save the Queen_. Into the causes of his intense
unpopularity, this is not the occasion to enter; but let me just
describe a curious print of the year 1837 which lies before me as I
write. It is headed "The Contrast," and is divided into two panels. On
your left hand is a young girl, simply dressed in mourning, with a pearl
necklace and a gauzy shawl, and her hair coiled in plaits, something
after the fashion of a crown. Under this portrait is "_Victoria_." On
the other side of the picture is a hideous old man, with shaggy eyebrows
and scowling gaze, wrapped in a military cloak with fur collar and black
stock. Under this portrait is "_Ernest_" and running the whole length of
the picture is the legend:--

    "Look here upon _this_ picture--and--on this,
    The counterfeit presentment of two sov'reigns."

This print was given to me by a veteran Reformer, who told me that it
expressed in visible form the universal sentiment of England. That
sentiment was daily and hourly confirmed by all that was heard and seen
of the girl-queen. We read of her walking with a gallant suite upon the
terrace at Windsor; dressed in scarlet uniform and mounted on her roan
charger, to receive with uplifted hand the salute of her troops; or
seated on the throne of the Plantagenets at the opening of her
Parliament, and invoking the Divine benediction on the labours which
should conduce to "the welfare and contentment of My people." We see her
yielding her bright intelligence to the constitutional guidance, wise
though worldly, of her first Prime Minister, the sagacious Melbourne.
And then, when the exigencies of parliamentary government forced her to
exchange her Whig advisers for the Tories, we see her carrying out with
exact propriety the lessons taught by "the friend of her youth," and
extending to each premier in turn, whether personally agreeable to her
or not, the same absolute confidence and loyalty.

As regards domestic life, we have been told by Mr. Gladstone that "even
among happy marriages her marriage was exceptional, so nearly did the
union of thought, heart, and action both fulfil the ideal and bring
duality near to the borders of identity."

And so twenty years went on, full of an ever-growing popularity, and a
purifying influence on the tone of society never fully realized till the
personal presence was withdrawn. And then came the blow which crushed
her life--"the sun going down at noon"--and total disappearance from all
festivity and parade and social splendour, but never from political
duty. In later years we have seen the gradual resumption of more public
offices; the occasional reappearances, so earnestly anticipated by her
subjects, and hedged with something of a divinity more than regal; the
incomparable majesty of personal bearing which has taught so many an
onlooker that dignity has nothing to do with height, or beauty or
splendour of raiment; and, mingled with that majesty and unspeakably
enhancing it, the human sympathy with suffering and sorrow, which has
made Queen Victoria, as none of her predecessors ever was or could be,
the Mother of her People.

And the response of the English people to that sympathy--the recognition
of that motherhood--is written, not only in the printed records of the
reign, but on the "fleshly tables" of English hearts. Let one homely
citation suffice as an illustration. It is taken from a letter of
condolence addressed to the Queen in 1892, on the death of Prince
"Eddie," Duke of Clarence:--

"_To our beloved Queen, Victoria_.

"Dear Lady,--We, the surviving widows and mothers of some of the men and
boys who lost their lives by the explosion which occurred in the Oaks
Colliery, near Barnsley, in December 1866, desire to tell your Majesty
how stunned we all feel by the cruel and unexpected blow which has taken
'Prince Eddie' from his dear Grandmother, his loving parents, his
beloved intended, and an admiring nation. The sad news affected us
deeply, we all believing that his youthful strength would carry him
through the danger. Dear Lady, we feel more than we can express. To tell
you that we sincerely condole with your Majesty and the Prince and
Princess of Wales in your and their sad bereavement and great distress
is not to tell you all we feel; but the widow of Albert the Good and the
parents of Prince Eddie will understand what we feel when we say that we
feel all that widows and mothers feel who have lost those who were dear
as life to them. Dear Lady, we remember with gratitude all that you did
for us Oaks widows in the time of our great trouble, and we cannot
forget you in yours. We have not forgotten that it was you, dear Queen,
who set the example, so promptly followed by all feeling people, of
forming a fund for the relief of our distress--a fund which kept us out
of the workhouse at the time and has kept us out ever since.... We wish
it were in our power, dear Lady, to dry up your tears and comfort you,
but that we cannot do. But what we can do, and will do, is to pray God,
in His mercy and goodness, to comfort and strengthen you in this your
time of great trouble.--Wishing your Majesty, the Prince and Princess of
Wales, and the Princess May all the strength, consolation, and comfort
which God alone can give, and which He never fails to give to all who
seek Him in truth and sincerity, we remain, beloved Queen, your loving
and grateful though sorrowing subjects,


The historic associations, half gay, half sad, of the week on which we
are just entering tempt me to linger on this fascinating theme, and I
cannot illustrate it better than by quoting the concluding paragraphs
from a sermon, which now has something of the dignity of fulfilled
prophecy, and which was preached by Sydney Smith in St. Paul's Cathedral
on the Sunday after the Queen's accession.

The sermon is throughout a noble composition, grandly conceived and
admirably expressed. It begins with some grave reflections on the "folly
and nothingness of all things human" as exemplified by the death of a
king. It goes on to enforce on the young Queen the paramount duties of
educating her people, avoiding war, and cultivating personal religion.
It concludes with the following passage, which in its letter, or at
least in its spirit, might well find a place in some of to-morrow's
sermons:--"The Patriot Queen, whom I am painting, reverences the
National Church, frequents its worship, and regulates her faith by its
precepts; but she withstands the encroachments and keeps down the
ambition natural to Establishments, and, by rendering the privileges of
the Church compatible with the civil freedom of all sects, confers
strength upon and adds duration to that wise and magnificent
institution. And then this youthful Monarch, profoundly but wisely
religious, disdaining hypocrisy, and far above the childish follies of
false piety, casts herself upon God, and seeks from the Gospel of His
blessed Son a path for her steps and a comfort for her soul. Here is a
picture which warms every English heart, and would bring all this
congregation upon their bended knees to pray it may be realized. What
limits to the glory and happiness of the native land if the Creator
should in His mercy have placed in the heart of this royal woman the
rudiments of wisdom and mercy? And if, giving them time to expand, and
to bless our children's children with her goodness, He should grant to
her a long sojourning upon earth, and leave her to reign over us till
she is well stricken in years, what glory! what happiness! what joy!
what bounty of God! I of course can only expect to see the beginning of
such a splendid period; but when I do see it I shall exclaim with the
pious Simeon--'Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for
mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.'"

As respects the avoidance of war, the event has hardly accorded with the
aspiration. It is melancholy to recall the idealist enthusiasms which
preceded the Exhibition of 1851, and to contrast them with the realities
of the present hour. Then the arts of industry and the competitions of
peace were to supplant for ever the science of bloodshed. Nations were
to beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into
pruning-hooks, and men were not to learn war any more. And this was on
the eve of the Crimea--the most ruinous, the most cruel, and the least
justifiable of all campaigns. In one corner of the world or another, the
war-drum has throbbed almost without intermission from that day to this.

But when we turn to other aspirations the retrospect is more cheerful.
Slavery has been entirely abolished, and, with all due respect to Mr.
George Curzon, is not going to be re-established under the British flag.
The punishment of death, rendered infinitely more impressive, and
therefore more deterrent, by its withdrawal from the public gaze, is
reserved for offences which even Romilly would not have condoned. The
diminution of crime is an acknowledged fact. Better laws and improved
institutions--judicial, political, social, sanitary--we flatter
ourselves that we may claim. National Education dates from 1870, and its
operation during a quarter of a century has changed the face of the
industrial world. Queen Victoria in her later years reigns over an
educated people.

Of the most important theme of all--our national advance in religion,
morality, and the principles of humane living--I have spoken in previous
chapters, and this is not the occasion for anything but the briefest
recapitulation. "Where is boasting? It is excluded." There is much to be
thankful for, much to encourage: something to cause anxiety, and nothing
to justify bombast. No one believes more profoundly than I do in the
providential mission of the English race, and the very intensity of my
faith in that mission makes me even painfully anxious that we should
interpret it aright. Men who were undergraduates at Oxford in the
'seventies learned the interpretation, in words of unsurpassable beauty,
from John Ruskin:--

"There is a destiny now possible to us--the highest ever set before a
nation, to be accepted or refused. We are still undegenerate in race; a
race mingled of the best northern blood. We are not yet dissolute in
temper, but still have the firmness to govern and the grace to obey. We
have been taught a religion of pure mercy, which we must either now
finally betray or learn to defend by fulfilling. And we are rich in an
inheritance of honour, bequeathed to us through a thousand years of
noble history, which it should be our daily thirst to increase with
splendid avarice, so that Englishmen, if it be a sin to covet honour,
should be the most offending souls alive.

"Within the last few years we have had the laws of natural science
opened to us with a rapidity which has been blinded by its brightness,
and means of transit and communication given to us which have made but
one kingdom of the habitable globe. One kingdom--but who is to be its
King? Is there to be no King in it, think you, and every man to do that
which is right in his own eyes? Or only kings of terror, and the obscene
Empires of Mammon and Belial? Or will you, youths of England, make your
country again a royal throne of Kings, a sceptred isle, for all the
world a source of light, a centre of peace; mistress of learning and of
the arts; faithful guardian of great memories in the midst of irreverent
and ephemeral visions; faithful servant of time-tried principles, under
temptation from fond experiments and licentious desires; and amidst the
cruel and clamorous jealousies of the nations, worshipped in her strange
valour of good will towards men?"


[25] Sunday, June 20, 1897.



The celebrations of the past week[26] have set us all upon a royal tack.
Diary-keepers have turned back to their earliest volumes for stories of
the girl-queen; there has been an unprecedented run on the _Annual
Register_ for 1837; and every rusty print of Princess Victoria in the
costume of Kate Nickleby has been paraded as a pearl of price. As I
always pride myself on following what Mr. Matthew Arnold used to call
"the great mundane movement," I have been careful to obey the impulse of
the hour. I have cudgelled my memory for Collections and Recollections
suitable to this season of retrospective enthusiasm. Last week I
endeavoured to touch some of the more serious aspects of the Jubilee,
but now that the great day has come and gone--"Bedtime, Hal, and all
well"--a lighter handling of the majestic theme may not be esteemed

Those of my fellow-chroniclers who have blacked themselves all over for
the part have acted on the principle that no human life can be properly
understood without an exhaustive knowledge of its grandfathers and
grandmothers. They have resuscitated George III. and called Queen
Charlotte from her long home. With a less heroic insistence on the
historic method, I leave grandparents out of sight, and begin my gossip
with the Queen's uncles. Of George IV. it is less necessary that I
should speak, for has not his character been drawn by Thackeray in his
_Lectures on the Four Georges?_

    "The dandy of sixty, who bows with a grace,
    And has taste in wigs, collars, cuirasses, and lace;
    Who to tricksters and fools leaves the State and its treasure,
    And, while Britain's in tears, sails about at his pleasure,"

was styled, as we all know, "the First Gentleman in Europe." I forget if
I have previously narrated the following instance of gentlemanlike
conduct. If I have, it will bear repetition. The late Lord Charles
Russell (1807-1894), when a youth of eighteen, had just received a
commission in the Blues, and was commanded, with the rest of his
regiment, to a full-dress ball at Carlton House, where the King then
held his Court. Unluckily for his peace of mind, the young subaltern
dressed at his father's house, and, not being used to the splendid
paraphernalia of the Blues' uniform, he omitted to put on his
aiguillette. Arrived at Carlton House the company, before they could
enter the ball-room, had to advance in single file along a corridor in
which the old King, bewigged and bestarred, was seated on a sofa. When
the hapless youth who lacked the aiguillette approached the presence, he
heard a very high voice exclaim, "Who is this d--d fellow?" Retreat was
impossible, and there was nothing for it but to shuffle on and try to
pass the King without further rebuke. Not a bit of it. As he neared the
sofa the King exclaimed, "Good evening, sir. I suppose you are the
regimental doctor?" and the imperfectly-accoutred youth, covered with
confusion as with a cloak, fled blushing into the ball-room, and hid
himself from further observation. And yet the narrator of this painful
story always declared that George IV. could be very gracious when the
fancy took him; that he was uniformly kind to children; and that on
public occasions his manner was the perfection of kingly courtesy. His
gorgeous habits and profuse expenditure made him strangely popular. The
people, though they detested his conduct, thought him "every inch a
King." Lord Shaftesbury, noting in his diary for the 19th of May 1849
the attempt of Hamilton upon the Queen's life, writes:--"The profligate
George IV. passed through a life of selfishness and sin without a single
proved attempt to take it. This mild and virtuous young woman has four
times already been exposed to imminent peril."

The careers of the King's younger brothers and sisters would fill a
volume of "queer stories." Of the Duke of York Mr. Goldwin Smith
genially remarks that "the only meritorious action of his life was that
he once risked it in a duel." The Duke of Clarence--Burns's "Young royal
Tarry Breeks"--lived in disreputable seclusion till he ascended the
throne, and then was so excited by his elevation that people thought he
was going mad. The Duke of Cumberland was the object of a popular
detestation of which the grounds can be discovered in the _Annual
Register_ for 1810. The Duke of Sussex made two marriages in defiance of
the Royal Marriage Act, and took a political part as active on the
Liberal side as that of the Duke of Cumberland among the Tories. The
Duke of Cambridge is chiefly remembered by his grotesque habit
(recorded, by the way, in _Happy Thoughts_) of making loud responses of
his own invention to the service in church. "Let us pray," said the
clergyman: "By all means," said the Duke. The clergyman begins the
prayer for rain: the Duke exclaims, "No good as long as the wind is in
the east."

_Clergyman_: "'Zacchaeus stood forth and said, Behold, Lord, the half of
my goods I give to the poor.'"

_Duke_: "Too much, too much; don't mind tithes, but can't stand that."
To two of the Commandments, which I decline to discriminate, the Duke's
responses were--"Quite right, quite right, but very difficult
sometimes;'" and "No, no! It was my brother Ernest did that."

Those who care to pursue these curious byways of not very ancient
history are referred to the unfailing Greville; to Lady Anne Hamilton's
_Secret History of the Court of England;_ and to the _Recollections of a
Lady of Quality_, commonly ascribed to Lady Charlotte Bury. The closer
our acquaintance with the manners and habits of the last age, even in
what are called "the highest circles," the more wonderful will appear
the social transformation which dates from her Majesty's accession.
Thackeray spoke the words of truth and soberness when, after describing
the virtues and the limitations of George III., he said: "I think we
acknowledge in the inheritrix of his sceptre a wiser rule and a life as
honourable and pure; and I am sure that the future painter of our
manners will pay a willing allegiance to that good life, and be loyal to
the memory of that unsullied virtue."

For the earlier years of the Queen's reign Greville continues to be a
fairly safe guide, though his footing at the palace was by no means so
intimate as it had been in the roistering days of George IV. and William
IV. Of course, her Majesty's own volumes and Sir Theodore Martin's _Life
of the Prince Consort_ are of primary authority. Interesting glimpses
are to be caught in the first volume of Bishop Wilberforce's Life, ere
yet his tergiversation in the matter of Bishop Hampden had forfeited the
Royal favour; and the historian of the future will probably make great
use of the Letters of Sarah Lady Lyttelton--Governess, to the Queen's
children--which, being printed for private circulation, are unluckily
withheld from the present generation.

A pleasing instance of the ultra-German etiquette fomented by Prince
Albert was told me by an eye-witness of the scene. The Prime Minister
and his wife were dining at Buckingham Palace very shortly after they
had received an addition to their family. When the ladies retired to the
drawing-room after dinner, the Queen said most kindly to the Premier's
wife, "I know you are not very strong yet, Lady----; so I beg you will
sit down. And, when the Prince comes in, Lady D---- shall stand in front
of you." This device of screening a breach of etiquette by hiding it
behind the portly figure of a British Matron always struck me as
extremely droll.

Courtly etiquette, with the conditions out of which it springs and its
effect upon the character of those who are subjected to it, has, of
course, been a favourite theme of satirists time out of mind, and there
can scarcely be a more fruitful one. There are no heights to which it
does not rise, nor depths to which it does not sink. In the service for
the Queen's Accession the Christological psalms are boldly transferred
to the Sovereign by the calm substitution of "her" for "Him." A few
years back--I do not know if it is so now--I noticed that in the
prayer-books in St. George's Chapel at Windsor all the pronouns which
referred to the Holy Trinity were spelt with small letters, and those
which referred to the Queen with capitals. So much for the heights of
etiquette, and for its depths we will go to Thackeray's account of an
incident stated to have occurred on the birth of the Duke of Connaught:

    "Lord John he next alights.
       And who comes here in haste?
     The Hero of a Hundred Fights,
       The caudle for to taste.

    "Then Mrs. Lily the nuss,
       Towards them steps with joy;
     Says the brave old Duke, 'Come tell to us.
       Is it a gal or boy?'

    "Says Mrs. L. to the Duke,
       'Your Grace, it is a _Prince_'
     And at that nurse's bold rebuke
       He did both laugh and wince."

Such was the etiquette of the Royal nursery in 1850; but little Princes,
even though ushered into the world under such very impressive
circumstances, grow up into something not very unlike other little boys
when once they go to school. Of course, in former days young Princes
were educated at home by private tutors. This was the education of the
Queen's uncles and of her sons. A very different experience has been
permitted to her grandsons. The Prince of Wales's boys, as we all
remember, were middies; Princess Christian's sons were at Wellington;
Prince Arthur of Connaught is at Eton. There he is to be joined next
year by the little Duke of Albany, who is now at a private school in the
New Forest. He has among his schoolfellows his cousin Prince Alexander
of Battenberg, of whom a delightful story is current just now.[27] Like
many other little boys, he ran short of pocket money, and wrote an
ingenious letter to his august Grandmother asking for some slight
pecuniary assistance. He received in return a just rebuke, telling him
that little boys should keep within their limits, and that he must wait
till his allowance next became due. Shortly afterwards the undefeated
little Prince resumed the correspondence in something like the following
form: "My dear Grandmamma,--I am sure you will be glad to know that I
need not trouble you for any money just now, for I sold your last letter
to another boy here for 30s."

As Royalty emerges from infancy and boyhood into the vulgar and
artificial atmosphere of the grown-up world, it is daily and hourly
exposed to such sycophancy that Royal persons acquire, quite
unconsciously, a habit of regarding every subject in heaven and earth in
its relation to themselves. An amusing instance of this occurred a few
years ago on an occasion when one of our most popular Princesses
expressed a gracious wish to present a very smart young gentleman to the
Queen. This young man had a remarkably good opinion of himself; was the
eldest son of a peer, and a Member of Parliament; and it happened that
he was also related to a lady who belonged to one of the Royal
Households. So the Princess led the young exquisite to the august
presence, and then sweetly said, "I present Mr. ----, who is"--not Lord
Blank's eldest son or Member for Loamshire, but--"nephew to dear Aunt
Cambridge's lady." My young friend told me that he had never till that
moment realized how completely he lacked a position of his own in the
universe of created being.


[26] June 20-27, 1897.

[27] All this is now ancient history. 1903.



Archbishop Tait wrote on the 11th of February 1877: "Attended this week
the opening of Parliament, the Queen being present, and wearing for the
first time, some one says, her crown as Empress of India. Lord
Beaconsfield was on her left side, holding aloft the Sword of State. At
five the House again was crammed to see him take his seat; and Slingsby
Bethell, equal to the occasion, read aloud the writ in very distinct
tones. All seemed to be founded on the model, 'What shall be done to the
man whom the king delighteth to honour?'"

_Je ne suis pas la rose, mais j'ai vécu près d'elle_. For the last
month[28] our thoughts have been fixed upon the Queen to the exclusion
of all else; but now the regal splendours of the Jubilee have faded. The
majestic theme is, in fact, exhausted; and we turn, by a natural
transition, from the Royal Rose to its subservient primrose; from the
wisest of Sovereigns to the wiliest of Premiers; from the character,
habits, and life of the Queen to the personality of that extraordinary
child of Israel who, though he was not the Rose, lived uncommonly near
it; and who, more than any other Minister before or since his day,
contrived to identify himself in the public view with the Crown itself.
There is nothing invidious in this use of a racial term. It was one of
Lord Beaconsfield's finest qualities that he laboured all through his
life to make his race glorious and admired. To a Jewish boy--a friend of
my own--who was presented to him in his old age he said: "You and I
belong to a race which knows how to do everything but fail."

Is Lord Beaconsfield's biography ever to be given to the world? Not in
our time, at any rate, if we may judge by the signs. Perhaps Lord Rowton
finds it more convenient to live on the vague but splendid anticipations
of future success than on the admitted and definite failure of a too
cautious book. Perhaps he finds his personal dignity enhanced by those
mysterious flittings to Windsor and Osborne, where he is understood to
be comparing manuscripts and revising proofs with an Illustrious
Personage. But there is the less occasion to lament Lord Rowton's
tardiness, because we already possess Mr. Froude's admirable monograph
on Lord Beaconsfield in the series of _The Queen's Prime Ministers_, and
an extremely clear-sighted account of his relations with the Crown in
Mr. Reginald Brett's _Yoke of Empire_.

My present purpose is not controversial. I do not intend to estimate the
soundness of Lord Beaconsfield's opinions or the permanent value of his
political work. It is enough to recall what the last German
Ambassador--Count Münster--told me, and what, in a curtailed form, has
been so often quoted. Prince Bismarck said, "I think nothing of their
Lord Salisbury. He is only a lath painted to look like iron. But that
old Jew means business." This is merely a parenthesis. I am at present
concerned only with Lord Beaconsfield's personal traits. When I first
encountered him he was already an old man. He had left far behind those
wonderful days of the black velvet dress-coat lined with white satin,
the "gorgeous gold flowers on a splendidly embroidered waistcoat," the
jewelled rings worn outside the white gloves, the evening cane of ivory
inlaid with gold and adorned with a tassel of black silk. "We were none
of us fools," said one of his most brilliant contemporaries, "and each
man talked his best; but we all agreed that the cleverest fellow in the
party was the young Jew in the green velvet trousers." Considerably in
the background, too, were the grotesque performances of his rural life,
when, making up for the character of a country gentleman, he "rode an
Arabian mare for thirty miles across country without stopping," attended
Quarter Sessions in drab breeches and gaiters, and wandered about the
lanes round Hughenden pecking up primroses with a spud.

When I first saw Mr. Disraeli, as he then was, all these follies were
matters of ancient history. They had played their part, and were
discarded. He was dressed much like other gentlemen of the 'Sixties--in
a black frock coat, gray or drab trousers, a waistcoat cut rather low,
and a black cravat which went once round the neck and was tied in a
loose bow. In the country his costume was a little more adventurous. A
black velveteen jacket, a white waistcoat, a Tyrolese hat, lent
picturesque incident and variety to his appearance. But the brilliant
colours were reserved for public occasions. I never saw him look better
than in his peer's robes of scarlet and ermine when he took his seat in
the House of Lords, or more amazing than when, tightly buttoned up in
the Privy Councillor's uniform of blue and gold, he stood in the
"general circle" at the Drawing-room or Levée. In his second
Administration he looked extraordinarily old. His form was shrunk, and
his face of a death-like pallor. Ever since an illness in early manhood
he had always dyed his hair, and the contrast between the artificial
blackness and the natural paleness was extremely startling. The one sign
of vitality which his appearance presented was the brilliancy of his
dark eyes, which still flashed with penetrating lustre.

The immense powers of conversation of which we read so much in his
early days, when he "talked like a racehorse approaching the winning
post," and held the whole company spellbound by his tropical eloquence,
had utterly vanished. He seemed, as he was, habitually oppressed by
illness or discomfort. He sat for hours together in moody silence. When
he opened his lips it was to pay an elaborate (and sometimes misplaced)
compliment to a lady, or to utter an epigrammatic judgment on men or
books, which recalled the conversational triumphs of his prime. Skill in
phrase-making was perhaps the literary gift which he most admired. In a
conversation with Mr. Matthew Arnold shortly before his death he said,
with a touch of pathos, "You are a fortunate man. The young men read
you; they no longer read me. And you have invented phrases which every
one quotes--such as 'Philistinism' and 'Sweetness and Light.'" It was a
characteristic compliment, for he dearly loved a good phrase. From the
necessities of his position as a fighting politician, his own best
performances in that line were sarcasms; and indeed sarcasm was the gift
in which from first to last, in public and in private, in writing and in
speaking, he peculiarly excelled. To recall the instances would be to
rewrite his political novels and to transcribe those attacks on Sir
Robert Peel which made his fame and fortune.

It was my good fortune when quite a boy to be present at the debates in
the House of Commons on the Tory Reform Bill of 1867. Never were Mr.
Disraeli's gifts of sarcasm, satire, and ridicule so richly displayed,
and never did they find so responsive a subject as Mr. Gladstone. As
schoolboys say, "he rose freely." The Bill was read a second time
without a division, but in Committee the fun waxed fast and furious, and
was marked by the liveliest encounters between the Leader of the House
and the Leader of the Opposition. At the conclusion of one of these
passages of arms Mr. Disraeli gravely congratulated himself on having
such a substantial piece of furniture as the table of the House between
himself and his energetic opponent. In May 1867 Lord Houghton writes
thus: "I met Gladstone at breakfast. He seems quite awed with the
diabolical cleverness of Dizzy, who, he says, is gradually driving all
ideas of political honour out of the House, and accustoming it to the
most revolting cynicism." Was it cynicism, or some related but more
agreeable quality, which suggested Mr. Disraeli's reply to the wealthy
manufacturer, newly arrived in the House of Commons, who complimented
him on his novels? "I can't say I've read them myself. Novels are not in
my line. But my daughters tell me they are uncommonly good." "Ah," said
the Leader of the House, in his deepest note, "this, indeed, is fame."
The mention of novels reminds me of a story which I heard twenty years
ago; when Mr. Mallock produced his first book--the admirable _New
Republic_. A lady who was his constant friend and benefactress begged
Lord Beaconsfield to read the book and say something civil about it. The
Prime Minister replied with a groan, "Ask me anything, dear lady, except
this. I am an old man. Do not make me read your young friend's
romances." "Oh, but he would be a great accession to the Tory party, and
a civil word from you would secure him for ever." "Oh--well, then, give
me a pen and a sheet of paper," and sitting down in the lady's
drawing-room, he wrote: "Dear Mrs.----,--I am sorry that I cannot dine
with you, but I am going down to Hughenden for a week. Would that my
solitude could be peopled by the bright creations of Mr. Mallock's
fancy!" "Will that do for your young friend?" Surely, as an appreciation
of a book which one has not read, this is absolutely perfect.

When Lord Beaconsfield was driven from office by the General Election of
1880, one of his supporters in the House of Commons begged a great
favour--"May I bring my boy to see you, and will you give him some word
of counsel which he may treasure all his life as the utterance of the
greatest Englishman who ever lived?" Lord Beaconsfield groaned, but
consented. On the appointed day the proud father presented himself with
his young hopeful in Lord Beaconsfield's presence. "My dear young
friend," said the statesman, "your good papa has asked me to give you a
word of counsel which may serve you all your life. Never ask who wrote
the Letters of Junius, or on which side of Whitehall Charles I. was
beheaded; for if you do you will be considered a bore--and that is
something too dreadful for you at your tender age to understand." For
these last two stories I by no means vouch. They belong to the flotsam
and jetsam of ephemeral gossip. But the following, which I regard as
eminently characteristic, I had from Lord Randolph Churchill.

Towards the end of Lord Beaconsfield's second Premiership a younger
politician asked the Premier to dinner. It was a domestic event of the
first importance, and no pains were spared to make the entertainment a
success. When the ladies retired, the host came and sat where the
hostess had been, next to his distinguished guest. "Will you have some
more claret, Lord Beaconsfield?" "No, thank you, my dear fellow. It is
admirable wine--true Falernian--but I have already exceeded my
prescribed quantity, and the gout holds me in its horrid clutch." When
the party had broken up, the host and hostess were talking it over. "I
think the chief enjoyed himself," said the host, "and I know he liked
his claret." "Claret!" exclaimed the hostess; "why, he drank
brandy-and-water all dinner-time."

I said in an earlier paragraph that Lord Beaconsfield's flattery was
sometimes misplaced. An instance recurs to my recollection. He was
staying in a country house where the whole party was Conservative with
the exception of one rather plain, elderly lady, who belonged to a great
Whig family. The Tory leader was holding forth on politics to an
admiring circle when the Whig lady came into the room. Pausing in his
conversation, Lord Beaconsfield exclaimed, in his most histrionic
manner, "But hush! We must not continue these Tory heresies until those
pretty little ears have been covered up with those pretty little
hands"--a strange remark under any circumstances, and stranger still if,
as his friends believed, it was honestly intended as an acceptable

Mr. Brett, who shows a curious sympathy with the personal character of
Lord Beaconsfield, acquits him of the charge of flattery, and quotes his
own description of his method: "I never contradict; I never deny; but I
sometimes forget." On the other hand, it has always been asserted by
those who had the best opportunities of personal observation that Lord
Beaconsfield succeeded in converting the dislike with which he had once
been regarded in the highest quarters into admiration and even
affection, by his elaborate and studied acquiescence in every claim,
social or political, of Royalty, and by his unflagging perseverance in
the art of flattery. He was a courtier, not by descent or breeding, but
by genius. What could be more skilful than the inclusion of _Leaves from
the Journal of our Life in the Highlands_ with _Coningsby_ and _Sybil_
in the phrase "We authors"?--than his grave declaration, "Your Majesty
is the head of the literary profession"?--than his announcement at the
dinner-table at Windsor, with reference to some disputed point of regal
genealogy, "We are in the presence of probably the only Person in Europe
who could tell us"? In the last year of his life he said to Mr. Matthew
Arnold, in a strange burst of confidence which showed how completely he
realized that his fall from power was final, "You have heard me accused
of being a flatterer. It is true. I am a flatterer. I have found it
useful. Every one likes flattery: and when you come to Royalty you
should lay it on with a trowel." In this business Lord Beaconsfield
excelled. Once, sitting at dinner by the Princess of Wales, he was
trying to cut a hard dinner-roll. The knife slipped and cut his finger,
which the Princess, with her natural grace, instantly wrapped up in her
handkerchief. The old gentleman gave a dramatic groan, and exclaimed,
"When I asked for bread they gave me a stone; but I had a Princess to
bind my wounds."

The atmosphere of a Court naturally suited him, and he had a quaint
trick of transferring the grandiose nomenclature of palaces to his own
very modest domain of Hughenden. He called his simple drawing-room the
Saloon; he styled his pond the Lake; he expatiated on the beauties of
the terrace walks, and the "Golden Gate," and the "German Forest." His
style of entertaining was more showy than comfortable. Nothing could
excel the grandeur of his state coach and powdered footmen; but when the
ice at dessert came up melting, one of his friends exclaimed, "At last,
my dear Dizzy, we have got something hot;" and in the days when he was
Chancellor of the Exchequer some critical guest remarked of the soup
that it was apparently made with Deferred Stock. When Lady Beaconsfield
died he sent for his agent and said, "I desire that her Ladyship's
remains should be borne to the grave by the tenants of the estate."
Presently the agent came back with a troubled countenance and said, "I
regret to say there are not tenants enough to carry a coffin."

Lord Beaconsfield's last years were tormented by a bronchial asthma of
gouty origin, against which he fought with tenacious and uncomplaining
courage. The last six weeks of his life, described all too graphically
by Dr. Kidd in an article in the _Nineteenth Century_, were a
hand-to-hand struggle with death. Every day the end was expected, and
his compatriot, companion, and so-called friend, Bernal Osborne, found
it in his heart to remark, "Ah, overdoing it--as he always overdid

For my own part, I never was numbered among Lord Beaconsfield's
friends, and I regarded the Imperialistic and pro-Turkish policy of his
latter days with an equal measure of indignation and contempt. But I
place his political novels among the masterpieces of Victorian
literature, and I have a sneaking affection for the man who wrote the
following passage: "We live in an age when to be young and to be
indifferent can be no longer synonymous. We must prepare for the coming
hour. The claims of the Future are represented by suffering millions,
and the Youth of a Nation are the Trustees of Posterity."


[28] June 1897.



Can a flatterer be flattered? Does he instinctively recognize the
commodity in which he deals? And if he does so recognize it, does he
enjoy or dislike the application of it to his own case? These questions
are suggested to my mind by the ungrudging tributes paid in my last
chapter to Lord Beaconsfield's pre-eminence in the art of flattery.

"Supreme of heroes, bravest, noblest, best!"

No one else ever flattered so long and so much, so boldly and so
persistently, so skilfully and with such success. And it so happened
that at the very crisis of his romantic career he became the subject of
an act of flattery quite as daring as any of his own performances in the
same line, and one which was attended with diplomatic consequences of
great pith and moment.

It fell out on this wise. When the Congress of the Powers assembled at
Berlin in the summer of 1878, our Ambassador in that city of stucco
palaces was the loved and lamented Lord Odo Russell, afterwards Lord
Ampthill, a born diplomatist if ever there was one, with a suavity and
affectionateness of manner and a charm of voice which would have enabled
him, in homely phrase, to whistle the bird off the bough. On the evening
before the formal opening of the Congress Lord Beaconsfield arrived in
all his plenipotentiary glory, and was received with high honours at
the British Embassy. In the course of the evening one of his private
secretaries came to Lord Odo Russell and said, "Lord Odo, we are in a
frightful mess, and we can only turn to you to help us out of it. The
old chief has determined to open the proceedings of the Congress in
French. He has written out the devil's own long speech in French and
learnt it by heart, and is going to fire it off at the Congress
to-morrow. We shall be the laughing-stock of Europe. He pronounces
_épicier_ as if it rhymed with _overseer_, and all his pronunciation is
to match. It is as much as our places are worth to tell him so. Can you
help us?" Lord Odo listened with amused good humour to this tale of woe,
and then replied: "It is a very delicate mission that you ask me to
undertake, but then I am fond of delicate missions. I will see what I
can do." And so he repaired to the state bedroom, where our venerable
Plenipotentiary was beginning those elaborate processes of the toilet
with which he prepared for the couch. "My dear Lord," began Lord Odo, "a
dreadful rumour has reached us." "Indeed! Pray what is it?" "We have
heard that you intend to open the proceedings to-morrow in French."
"Well, Lord Odo, what of that?" "Why, of course, we all know that there
is no one in Europe more competent to do so than yourself. But then,
after all, to make a French speech is a commonplace accomplishment.
There will be at least half a dozen men at the Congress who could do it
almost, if not quite, as well as yourself. But, on the other hand, who
but you can make an English speech? All these Plenipotentiaries have
come from the various Courts of Europe expecting the greatest
intellectual treat of their lives in hearing English spoken by its
greatest living master. The question for you, my dear Lord, is--Will you
disappoint them?" Lord Beaconsfield put his glass in his eye, fixed his
gaze on Lord Odo, and then said, "There is much force in what you say. I
will consider the point." And next day he opened the proceedings in
English. Now the psychological conundrum is this--Did he swallow the
flattery, and honestly believe that the object of Lord Odo's appeal was
to secure the pleasure of hearing him speak English? Or did he see
through the manoeuvre, and recognize a polite intimation that a French
speech from him would throw an air of comedy over all the proceedings of
the Congress, and perhaps kill it with ridicule? The problem is well
fitted to be made the subject of a Prize Essay; but personally I incline
to believe that he saw through the manoeuvre and acted on the hint. If
this be the true reading of the case, the answer to my opening question
is that the flatterer cannot be flattered.

We saw in my last chapter how careful Lord Beaconsfield was, in the
great days of his political struggles, to flatter every one who came
within his reach. To the same effect is the story that when he was
accosted by any one who claimed acquaintance but whose face he had
forgotten he always used to inquire, in a tone of affectionate
solicitude, "And how is the old complaint?" But when he grew older, and
had attained the highest objects of his political ambition, these little
arts, having served their purpose, were discarded, like the green velvet
trousers and tasselled canes of his aspiring youth. There was no more
use for them, and they were dropped. He manifested less and less of the
apostolic virtue of suffering bores gladly, and though always delightful
to his intimate friends, he was less and less inclined to curry favour
with mere acquaintances. A characteristic instance of this latter manner
has been given to the world in a book of chit-chat by a prosy gentleman
whose name it would be unkind to recall.

This worthy soul narrates with artless candour that towards the end of
Lord Beaconsfield's second Administration he had the honour of dining
with the great man, whose political follower he was, at the Premier's
official residence in Downing Street. When he arrived he found his host
looking ghastly ill, and apparently incapable of speech. He made some
commonplace remark about the weather or the House, and the only reply
was a dismal groan. A second remark was similarly received, and the
visitor then abandoned the attempt in despair. "I felt he would not
survive the night. Within a quarter of an hour, all being seated at
dinner, I observed him talking to the Austrian Ambassador with extreme
vivacity. During the whole of dinner their conversation was kept up; I
saw no sign of flagging. _This is difficult to account for._" And the
worthy man goes on to theorize about the cause, and suggests that Lord
Beaconsfield was in the habit of taking doses of opium which were so
timed that their effect passed off at a certain moment!

This freedom from self-knowledge which bores enjoy is one of their most
striking characteristics. One of the principal clubs in London has the
misfortune to be frequented by a gentleman who is by common consent the
greatest bore and buttonholer in London. He always reminds me of the
philosopher described by Sir George Trevelyan, who used to wander about
asking, "Why are we created? Whither do we tend? Have we an inner
consciousness?" till all his friends, when they saw him from afar, used
to exclaim, "Why was Tompkins created? Is he tending this way? Has he an
inner consciousness that he is a bore?"

Well, a few years ago this good man, on his return from his autumn
holiday, was telling all his acquaintances at the club that he had been
occupying a house at the Lakes not far from Mr. Ruskin, who, he added,
was in a very melancholy state, "I am truly sorry for that," said one of
his hearers. "What is the matter with him?" "Well," replied the
buttonholer, "I was walking one day in the lane which separated Ruskin's
house from mine, and I saw him coming down the lane towards me. The
moment he caught sight of me he darted into a wood which was close by,
and hid behind a tree till I had passed. Oh, very sad indeed." But the
truly pathetic part of it was one's consciousness that what Mr. Ruskin
did we should all have done, and that not all the trees in Birnam Wood
and the Forest of Arden combined would have hidden the multitude of
brother-clubmen who sought to avoid the narrator.

The faculty of boring belongs, unhappily, to no one period of life. Age
cannot wither it, nor custom stale its infinite variety. Middle life is
its heyday. Perhaps infancy is free from it, but I strongly suspect that
it is a form of original sin, and shows itself very early. Boys are
notoriously rich in it; with them it takes two forms--the loquacious and
the awkward; and in some exceptionally favoured cases the two forms are
combined. I once was talking with an eminent educationist about the
characteristic qualities produced by various Public Schools, and when I
asked him what Harrow produced he replied, "A certain shy
bumptiousness." It was a judgment which wrung my Harrovian withers, but
of which I could not dispute the truth.

One of the forms which shyness takes in boyhood is an inability to get
up and go. When Dr. Vaughan was Head Master of Harrow, and had to
entertain his boys at breakfast, this inability was frequently
manifested, and was met by the Doctor in a most characteristic fashion.
When the muffins and sausages had been devoured, the perfunctory
inquiries about the health of "your people" made and answered, and all
permissible school topics discussed, there used to ensue a horrid
silence, while "Dr. Blimber's young friends" sat tightly glued to their
chairs. Then the Doctor would approach with Agag-like delicacy, and,
extending his hand to the shyest and most loutish boy, would say, "Must
you go? Can't you stay?" and the party broke up with magical celerity.
Such, at least, was our Harrovian tradition.

Nothing is so refreshing to a jaded sense of humour as to be the
recipient of one of your own stories retold with appreciative fervour
but with all the point left out. This was my experience not long ago
with reference to the story of Dr. Vaughan and his boy-bores which I
have just related. A Dissenting minister was telling me, with extreme
satisfaction, that he had a son at Trinity College, Cambridge. He went
on to praise the Master, Dr. Butler, whom he extolled to the skies,
winding up his eulogy with, "He has such wonderful tact in dealing with
shy undergraduates." I began to scent my old story from afar, but held
my peace and awaited results. "You know," he continued, "that young men
are sometimes a little awkward about making a move and going away when a
party is over. Well, when Dr. Butler has undergraduates to breakfast, if
they linger inconveniently long when he wants to be busy, he has such a
happy knack of getting rid of them. It is so tactful, so like him. He
goes up to one of them and says, '_Can't you go? Must you stay?_' and
they are off immediately." So, as Macaulay says of Montgomery's literary
thefts, may such ill-got gains ever prosper.

My Dissenting minister had a congener in the late Lord P----, who was a
rollicking man about town thirty years ago, and was famous, among other
accomplishments, for this peculiar art of so telling a story as to
destroy the point. When the large house at Albert Gate, which fronts the
French Embassy and is now the abode of Mr. Arthur Sassoon, was built,
its size and cost were regarded as prohibitive, and some social wag
christened it "Gibraltar, because it can never be taken." Lord P----
thought that this must be an excellent joke, because every one laughed
at it; and so he ran round the town saying to each man he met--"I say,
do you know what they call that big house at Albert Gate? They call it
Gibraltar, because it can never be let. Isn't that awfully good?" We all
remember an innocent riddle of our childhood--"Why was the elephant the
last animal to get into the Ark?"--to which the answer was, "Because he
had to pack his trunk." Lord P--asked the riddle, and gave as the
answer, "Because he had to pack his portmanteau," and was beyond measure
astonished when his hearers did not join in his uproarious laughter.
Poor Lord P--! he was a fellow of infinite jest, though not always
exactly in the sense that he intended. If he had only known of it, he
might with advantage have resorted to the conversational device of old
Samuel Rogers, who, when he told a story which failed to produce a
laugh, used to observe in a reflective tone, "The curious part of that
story is that stupid people never see the point of it," and then loud,
though belated, guffaws resounded round the table.



Lately, when hunting for some notes which I had mislaid, I came upon a
collection of Advertisements. No branch of literature is more suggestive
of philosophical reflections. I take my specimens quite at random, just
as they turn up in my diary, and the first which meets my eye is printed
on the sad sea-green of the _Westminster Gazette:_--

"GUARDIAN, whose late ward merits the highest encomiums, seeks for him
the POSITION of SECRETARY to a Nobleman or Lady of Position: one with
literary tastes preferred: the young gentleman is highly connected,
distinguished-looking, a lover of books, remarkably steady, and
exceptionally well read, clever and ambitious: has travelled much: good
linguist, photographer, musician: a moderate fortune, but debarred by
timidity from competitive examination."

I have always longed to know the fate of this lucky youth. Few of us can
boast of even "a moderate fortune," and fewer still of such an
additional combination of gifts, graces, and accomplishments. On the
other hand, most of us, at one time or another in our career, have felt
"debarred by timidity from competitive examination." But, unluckily, we
have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and college dons who
forced us to face the agonies of the Schools, instead of an amiable
guardian who bestowed on us "the highest encomiums," and sought to
plant us on Ladies of Position, "with literary tastes preferred."

Another case, presenting some points of resemblance to the last, but far
less favoured by fortune, was notified to the compassionate world by the
_Morning Post_ in 1889:--

"Will any rich person TAKE a gentleman and BOARD him? Of good family:
age 27: good musician: thoroughly conversant with all office-work: _no
objection to turn Jew_: lost his money through dishonest trustee:
excellent writer."

I earnestly hope that this poor victim of fraud has long since found his
desired haven in some comfortable Hebrew home, where he can exercise his
skill in writing and office-work during the day and display his musical
accomplishments after the family supper. I have known not a few young
Gentiles who would be glad to be adopted on similar terms.

The next is extracted from the _Manchester Guardian_ of 1894:--

"A Child of God, seeking employment, would like to take charge of
property and collect rents; has a slight knowledge of architecture and
sanitary; can give unexceptionable references; age 31; married."

What offers? Very few, I should fear, in a community so shrewdly
commercial as Manchester, where, I understand, religious profession is
seldom taken as a substitute for technical training. The mention of that
famous city reminds me that not long ago I was describing Chetham
College to an ignorant outsider, who, not realizing how the name was
spelt, observed that it sounded as if Mr. Squeers had been caught by the
Oxford Movement and the Gothic Revival, and had sought to give an
ecclesiastical air to his famous seminary of Dotheboys Hall by
transforming it into "Cheat'em College."

That immortal pedagogue owed much of his deserved success to his skill
in the art of drawing an advertisement:--

"At Mr. Wackford Squeers's Academy, Dotheboys Hall, at the delightful
village of Dotheboys, near Greta Bridge, in Yorkshire, Youth are
boarded, clothed, booked, furnished with pocket-money, provided with all
necessaries, instructed in all languages, living and dead, mathematics,
orthography, geometry, astronomy, trigonometry, the use of the globes,
algebra, singlestick (if required), writing, arithmetic, fortification,
and every other branch of classical literature. Terms, twenty guineas
per annum. No extras, no vacations, and diet unparalleled."

Now, mark what follows. Wackford Squeers the younger was, as we all
know, destined by his parents to follow the schoolmaster's profession,
to assist his father as long as assistance was required, and then to
take the management of the Hall and its pupils into his own hands. "Am I
to take care of the school when I grow up a man, father?" said Wackford
junior. "You are, my son," replied Mr. Squeers in a sentimental voice.
"Oh, my eye, won't I give it to the boys!" exclaimed the interesting
child, grasping his father's cane--"won't I make 'em squeak again!" But
we know also that, owing to the pressure of pecuniary and legal
difficulties, and the ill-timed interference of Mr. John Browdie, the
school at Dotheboys Hall was at any rate temporarily broken up. So far
we have authentic records to rely on; the remainder is pure conjecture.
But I am persuaded that Wackford Squeers the younger, with all the
dogged perseverance of a true Yorkshireman, struggled manfully against
misfortune; resolved to make a home for his parents and sister; and, as
soon as he could raise the needful capital, opened a private school in
the South of England, as far as possible from the scene of earlier
misfortune. Making due allowance for change of time and circumstances, I
trace a close similarity of substance and style between the
advertisement which I quoted above and that which I give below, and I
feel persuaded that young Wackford inherited from his more famous
father this peculiar power of attracting parental confidence by means
of picturesque statement. We have read the earlier manifesto; let us now
compare the later:--

"Vacancies now occur in the establishment of a gentleman who undertakes
the care and education of a few backward boys, who are beguiled and
trained to study by kind discipline, without the least severity (which
too often frustrates the end desired). Situation extremely healthy. Sea
and country air; deep gravelly soil. Christian gentility assiduously
cultivated on sound Church principles. Diet unsurpassed. Wardrobes
carefully preserved. The course of instruction comprises English,
classics, mathematics, and science. Inclusive terms, 30 guineas per
annum, quarterly in advance. Music, drawing, and modern languages are
extras, but moderate. Address--------, Chichester." Was it Vivian Grey
or Pelham who was educated at a private school where "the only extras
were pure milk and the guitar"?

I believe that there is no charitable institution which more thoroughly
deserves support than the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young
Servants, affectionately contracted by its supporters into the "MABYS."
Here is one of its advertisements, from which, I am bound to say, the
alluring skill displayed by Mr. Squeers is curiously absent:--

"Will any one undertake as SERVANT a bright, clean, neat girl, who is
deceitful, lazy, and inclined to be dishonest? Address, Hon. Secretary,
M.A.B.Y.S., 21 Charlotte Street, S.E."

I remember some years ago an advertisement which sought a kind master
and a pleasant home for a large, savage dog; and I remember how
admirably _Punch_ described the kind of life which the "large, savage
dog" would lead the "kind master" when he got him. But really the vision
of a bright maid-servant who is "deceitful, lazy, and inclined to be
dishonest," and the havoc which she might work in a well-ordered
household, is scarcely less appalling. A much more deserving case is
this which I append:--

"Under-Housekeeper, under-Matron, desired by a Young Woman, age 22.
Energetic, domesticated. Great misfortune in losing right arm, but good
artificial one. Happy home, with small remuneration."

It is not, I fear, in my power to make a contribution of permanent value
to the "Great Servant Question." But, having given instances of
insufficient qualification in people seeking to be employed, I now turn
to the opposite side of the account, and, after perusing what follows,
would respectfully ask, Who is sufficient for these things?

"Can any lady or gentleman recommend a MAN and WIFE (Church of England)?
Man useful indoors and out. Principal duties large flower-garden, small
conservatory, draw bath-chair, must wait at table, understand lamps,
non-smoker, wear dress suit except in garden. Clothes and beer not
found. Family, lady and child, lady-help. House-parlourmaid kept. Must
not object to small bedroom. Wife plain cook (good), to undertake
kitchen offices, dining-room, and hall (wash clothes). Joint wages £50,
all found."

Now there is really a study in exacting eccentricity which Thackeray
might have made the subject of a "Roundabout Paper." In the first place,
the two servants must be man and wife--unmarried people need not
apply--and yet they must be contented with a small bedroom. The family
consists of a lady (apparently an invalid), a child, a lady-help, and a
house-parlourmaid. For these the wife must cook, and cook well, besides
cleaning the dining-room, hall and offices, and washing the clothes. Her
husband, yet more accommodating, must attend to a large flower-garden
and a small conservatory, must draw a bath-chair, wait at table and
clean lamps. After all these varied and arduous labours, he is denied
the refreshment of a pipe; but, as a kind of compensation, he is not
obliged to wear his dress suit when he is gardening! The joint wages are
£50, with all found except clothes and beer; and the lucky recipients of
this overpowering guerdon must be members of the Church of England.

This last requirement reminds me of a letter from a girl-emigrant
written to Lady Laura Ridding, wife of the Bishop of Southwell, who had
befriended her at home. "Dear Madam,--I hope this finds you as well as
it leaves me. The ship is in the middle of the Red Sea, and it is
fearfully hot. I am in a terrible state of melting all day long. But,
honoured Madam, I know you will be pleased to hear that I am still a
member of the Church of England." I hope the good plain cook and her
non-smoking, bath-chair drawing, large-gardening husband may be able to
comfort themselves with the same reflection when the varied toils of the
day are ended and they seek their well-earned repose in the "small

From these lowly mysteries of domestic life I pass to the Debatable Land
between servitude and gentility. "MAN AND WIFE, superior and active,
seek, in gentleman's family, PLACE OF TRUST; country, houseboat, &c.
Wife needlewoman or Plain Cook, linen, &c.: man ride and drive, waiting,
or useful. _Can teach or play violin in musical family;_ sight-reader in
classical works. Both tall, and refined appearance."

From the Debatable Land I pass on to the exalted regions of courtly

"The Great-niece of a Lord Chamberlain to King George III. REQUIRES a
SITUATION as COMPANION to a lady, or Cicerone to young ladies. Her mind
is highly cultivated. _English habits and Parisian accent._"

"Vieille école bonne école, begad!" cried Major Pendennis, and here
would have been a companion for Mrs. Pendennis or a cicerone for Laura
after his own heart. The austere traditions of the Court of George III.
and Queen Charlotte might be expected to survive in the great-niece of
their Lord Chamberlain; and what a tactful concession to the prejudices
of Mrs. Grundy in the statement that, though the accent may be Parisian,
the habits are English! This excellent lady--evidently a near relation
to Mrs. General in _Little Dorrit_--reintroduces us to the genteel
society in which we are most at home; and here I may remark that the
love of aristocracy which is so marked and so amiable a feature of our
national character finds its expression not only in the advertisement
columns, but in the daily notices of deaths and marriages. For example:
"On the 22nd inst., at Lisbon, William Thorold Wood, cousin to the
Bishop of Rochester, to Sir John Thorold of Syston Park, and brother to
the Rector of Widmerpool. He was a man of great mental endowments and
exemplary conduct." I dare say he was, but I fear they would have gone
unrecorded had it not been for the more impressive fact that he was
kinsman to a Bishop and a Baronet.

While we are on the subject of Advertisements a word must be said about
the Medical branch of this fine art; and knowing the enormous fortunes
which have often been made out of a casual prescription for _acne_ or
_alopecia_, I freely place at the disposal of any aspiring young chemist
who reads this paper the following tale of enterprise and success. A few
years ago, according to the information before me, a London doctor had a
lady patient who complained of an incessant neuralgia in her face and
jaw. The doctor could detect nothing amiss, but exhausted his skill, his
patience, and his remedies in trying to comfort the complainant, who,
however, refused to be comforted. At length, being convinced that the
case was one of pure hypochondria, he wrote to the afflicted lady,
saying that he did not feel justified in any longer taking her money for
a case which was evidently beyond his powers, but recommended her to
try change of air, live in the country, and trust to that _edax rerum_
which sooner or later cures all human ills.

The lady departed in sorrow, but in faith; obeyed her doctor's
instructions to the letter, and established herself not a hundred miles
from the good city of Newcastle. Once established there, her first care
was to seek the local chemist and to place her doctor's letter in his
hands. A smart young assistant was presiding at the counter; he read the
doctor's letter, and promptly made up a bottle which he labelled "_Edax
Rerum_. To be taken twice a day before meals," and for which he demanded
7s. 6d. The lady rejoicingly paid, and requested that a similar bottle
might be sent to her every week till further notice. She continued to
use and to pay for this specific for a year and a half, and then,
finding her neuralgia considerably abated, she came up to London for a
week's amusement. Full of gratitude, she called on her former doctor,
and said that, though she had felt a little hurt at the abrupt manner in
which he had dismissed so old a patient, still she could not forbear to
tell him that his last prescription had done her far more good than any
of its predecessors, and that, indeed, she now regarded herself as
practically cured. Explanations followed; inquiries were set on foot;
the chemist's assistant sailed for South Africa; and "_Edax Rerum_" is
now largely in demand among the unlettered heroes who bear the banner of
the Chartered Company.

That combination of pietism with money-making, which critics of our
national character tell us is so peculiarly British, was well
illustrated in the _Christian Million_ of September 22, 1898:--

"BETHESDA, Hest Bank. Beautiful country home, near the sea. Christian
fellowship, 3s. per day. Sickly persons desiring to trust the Lord will
be considered financially. Apply Miss----. Stamped Envelope."

When poetry is forced into the service of advertisements, the result is
peculiarly gratifying. This is an appeal for funds to repair the church
in which Nelson's father officiated:--

    "The man who first taught Englishmen their duty,
    And fenced with wooden walls his native isle,
    Now asks ONE SHILLING to preserve in beauty
    The Church that brooded o'er his infant smile."[29]

An electioneering address is, in its essence, an advertisement; and in
this peculiar branch of literature it would be difficult to excel the
following manifesto recently issued by a clergyman when candidate for a
benefice to which the appointment is by popular election:--

"I appeal with the utmost confidence for the full support of the IRISH
AND ROMAN CATHOLICS, because I am a Son of the Emerald Isle; to
FOREIGNERS, because they love Ireland; to HIGH CHURCH, LOW CHURCH, and
BROAD CHURCH, because I am tolerant to all parties; to NONCONFORMISTS,
because I have stated in my pamphlet on Reunion that they are "the salt
of the earth and the light of the world;" to JEWS, because my love for
the Children of Promise is well known; to ATHEISTS, because they have
often heard me in Hyde Park telling them of the Author of Nature in its
endless beauties;--to one and all I appeal with the utmost confidence,
and feel sure that the whole electorate will vote for me and do
themselves honour, when they consider who I am, and when a person of my
social and ecclesiastical standing allowed my name at all to be
mentioned for a popular election."

I am thankful to say that this "Son of the Emerald Isle" was left at the
bottom of the poll.


[29] Kindly communicated by "J.C.C."



"Parody," wrote Mr. Matthew Arnold in 1882, "is a vile art, but I must
say I read _Poor Matthias_ in the _World_ with an amused pleasure." It
was a generous appreciation, for the original _Poor Matthias_--an elegy
on a canary--is an exquisite poem, and the _World's_ parody of it is a
rather dull imitation. On the whole, I agree with Mr. Arnold that parody
is a vile art; but the dictum is a little too sweeping. A parody of
anything really good, whether in prose or verse, is as odious as a
burlesque of _Hamlet_; but, on the other hand, parody is the appropriate
punishment for certain kinds of literary affectation. There are, and
always have been, some styles of poetry and of prose which no one
endowed with an ear for rhythm and a sense of humour could forbear to
parody. Such, to a generation brought up on Milton and Pope, were the
styles of the various poetasters satirized in _Rejected Addresses_; but
excellent as are the metrical parodies in that famous book, the prose is
even better. Modern parodists, of whom I will speak more particularly in
a future chapter, have, I think, surpassed such poems as _The Baby's
Début_ and _A Tale of Drury Lane_, but in the far more difficult art of
imitating a prose style none that I know of has even approached the
author of the _Hampshire Farmer's Address_ and _Johnson's Ghost_. Does
any one read William Cobbett nowadays? If so, let him compare what
follows with the recorded specimens of Cobbett's public speaking:--

"Most thinking People,--When persons address an audience from the stage,
it is usual, either in words or gesture, to say, 'Ladies and gentlemen,
your servant.' If I were base enough, mean enough, paltry enough, and
_brute beast_ enough to follow that fashion, I should tell two lies in a
breath. In the first place, you are not ladies and gentlemen, but, I
hope, something better--that is to say, honest men and women; and, in
the next place, if you were ever so much ladies, and ever so much
gentlemen, I am not, _nor ever will be_, your humble servant."

With Dr. Johnson's style--supposing we had ever forgotten its masculine
force and its balanced antitheses--we have been made again familiar by
the erudite labours of Dr. Birkbeck Hill and Mr. Augustine Birrell. But
even those learned critics might, I think, have mistaken a copy for an
original if in some collection of old speeches they had lighted on the
ensuing address:--

"That which was organized by the moral ability of one has been executed
by the physical efforts of many, and DRURY LANE THEATRE is now complete.
Of that part behind the curtain, which has not yet been destined to glow
beneath the brush of the varnisher or vibrate to the hammer of the
carpenter, little is thought by the public, and little need be said by
the Committee. Truth, however, is not to be sacrificed to the
accommodation of either, and he who should pronounce that our edifice
has received its final embellishment would be disseminating falsehood
without incurring favour, and risking the disgrace of detection without
participating the advantage of success."

An excellent morsel of Johnsonese prose belongs to a more recent date.
It became current about the time when the scheme of Dr. Murray's
Dictionary of the English Language was first made public. It took the
form of a dialogue between Dr. Johnson and Boswell:--

"_Boswell_. Pray, sir, what would you say if you were told that the next
dictionary of the English language would be written by a Scotsman and a
Presbyterian domiciled at Oxford?

"_Dr. J_. Sir, in order to be facetious it is not necessary to be

When Bulwer-Lytton brought out his play _Not so Bad as we Seem_, his
friends pleasantly altered its title to _Not so Good as we Expected_.
And when a lady's newspaper advertised a work called "How to Dress on
Fifteen Pounds a Year, as a Lady. By a Lady," _Punch_ was ready with the
characteristic parody: "How to Dress on Nothing a Year, as a Kaffir. By
a Kaffir."

Mr. Gladstone's authority compels me to submit the ensuing imitation of
Macaulay--the most easily parodied of all prose writers--to the judgment
of my readers. It was written by the late Abraham Hayward. Macaulay is
contrasting, in his customary vein of overwrought and over-coloured
detail, the evils of arbitrary government with those of a debased

"The misgovernment of Charles and James, gross as it had been, had not
prevented the common business of life from going steadily and
prosperously on.

"While the honour and independence of the State were sold to a foreign
Power, while chartered rights were invaded, while fundamental laws were
violated, hundreds of thousands of quiet, honest, and industrious
families laboured and traded, ate their meals, and lay down to rest in
comfort and security. Whether Whig or Tories, Protestants or Jesuits
were uppermost, the grazier drove his beasts to market; the grocer
weighed out his currants; the draper measured out his broadcloth; the
hum of buyers and sellers was as loud as ever in the towns; the
harvest-home was celebrated as joyously as ever in the hamlets; the
cream overflowed the pails of Cheshire; the apple juice foamed in the
presses of Herefordshire: the piles of crockery glowed in the furnaces
of the Trent; and the barrows of coal rolled fast along the timber
railways of the Tyne."

This reads like a parody, but it is a literal transcript of the
original; and Hayward justly observes that there is no reason why this
rigmarole should ever stop, as long as there is a trade, calling, or
occupation to be particularized. The pith of the proposition (which
needed no proof) is contained in the first sentence. Why not continue

"The apothecary vended his drugs as usual; the poulterer crammed his
turkeys; the fishmonger skinned his eels; the wine merchant adulterated
his port; as many hot-cross buns as ever were eaten on Good Friday, as
many pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, as many Christmas pies on Christmas
Day; on area steps the domestic drudge took in her daily pennyworth of
the chalky mixture which Londoners call milk; through area bars the
feline tribe, vigilant as ever, watched the arrival of the cat's-meat
man; the courtesan flaunted in the Haymarket; the cab rattled through
the Strand; and, from the suburban regions of Fulham and Putney, the
cart of the market gardener wended its slow and midnight way along
Piccadilly to deposit its load of cabbages and turnips in Covent

Twice has Mr. Gladstone publicly called attention to the merits of this
"effective morsel of parody," as he styles it; and he judiciously adds
that what follows (by the late Dean Hook) is "a like attempt, but less
happy." Most people remember the attack on the constitution of the Court
of Chancery in the preface to _Bleak House_. Dean Hook, in a laudable
attempt to soothe the ruffled feelings of his old friend Vice-Chancellor
Page Wood, of whom Dickens in that preface had made fun, thus endeavours
to translate the accusation into Macaulayese:--



"The Court of Chancery was corrupt. The guardian of lunatics was the
cause of insanity to the suitors in his court. An attempt at reform was
made when Wood was Solicitor-General. It consisted chiefly in increasing
the number of judges in the Equity Court. Government was pleased by an
increase of patronage; the lawyers approved of the new professional
prizes. The Government papers applauded. Wood became Vice-Chancellor. At
the close of 1855 the Equity Courts were without business. People had
become weary of seeking justice where justice was not to be found. The
state of the Bench was unsatisfactory. Cranworth was feeble; Knight
Bruce, though powerful, sacrificed justice to a joke; Turner was heavy;
Romilly was scientific; Kindersley was slow; Stuart was pompous; Wood
was at Bealings."

If I were to indulge in quotations from well-known parodies of prose,
this chapter would soon overflow all proper limits. I forbear,
therefore, to do more than remind my readers of Thackeray's _Novels by
Eminent Hands_ and Bret Harte's _Sensation Novels_, only remarking, with
reference to the latter book, that "Miss Mix" is in places really
indistinguishable from _Jane Eyre_. The sermon by Mr. Jowett in Mr.
Mallock's _New Republic_ is so perfect an imitation, both in substance
and in style, that it suggested to some readers the idea that it had
been reproduced from notes of an actual discourse. On spoken as
distinguished from written eloquence there are some capital skits in the
_Anti-Jacobin_, where (under the name of Macfungus) excellent fun is
made of the too mellifluous eloquence of Sir James Mackintosh.

The differentiating absurdities of after-dinner oratory are photographed
in Thackeray's _Dinner in the City_, where the speech of the American
Minister seems to have formed a model for a long series of similar
performances. Dickens's experience as a reporter in the gallery of the
House of Commons had given him a perfect command of that peculiar style
of speaking which is called Parliamentary, and he used it with great
effect in his accounts of the inaugural meeting of the "United
Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual
Delivery Company" in _Nicholas Nickleby_ (where he introduces a capital
sketch of Tom Duncombe, Radical Member for Finsbury); and in the
interview between Mr. Gregsbury, M.P., and his constituents in a later
chapter of the same immortal book.

The parliamentary eloquence of a later day was admirably reproduced in
Mr. Edward Jenkins's prophetic squib (published in 1872) _Barney
Geoghegan, M.P., and Home Rule at St. Stephen's_. As this clever little
book has, I fear, lapsed into complete oblivion, I venture to cite a
passage. It will vividly recall to the memory of middle-aged politicians
the style and tone of the verbal duels which, towards the end of Mr.
Gladstone's first Administration, took place so frequently between the
Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition. Mr. Geoghegan has
been returned, a very early Home Ruler, for the Borough of Rashkillen,
and for some violent breaches of order is committed to the custody of
the Sergeant-at-Arms. On this the leader of the House rises and
addresses the Speaker:--

"Sir,--The House cannot but sympathize with you in the eloquent and
indignant denunciation you have uttered against the painful invasion of
the decorum of the House which we have just witnessed. There can be no
doubt in any mind, even in the minds of those with whom the hon. member
now at the bar usually acts, that of all methods of argument which could
be employed in this House, he has selected the least politic. Sir, may I
be permitted, with great deference, to say a word upon a remark that
fell from the Chair, and which might be misunderstood? Solitary and
anomalous instances of this kind could never be legitimately used as
arguments against general systems of representation or the course of a
recent policy. I do not, at this moment, venture to pronounce an opinion
upon the degree of criminality that attaches to the hon. member now
unhappily in the custody of the Officer of the House. It is possible--I
do not say it is probable, I do not now say whether I shall be prepared
to commit myself to that hypothesis or not--but it is not impossible
that the hon. member or some of his friends may be able to urge some
extenuating circumstances--(Oh! oh!)--I mean circumstances that, when
duly weighed, may have a tendency in a greater or less degree to modify
the judgment of the House upon the extraordinary event that has
occurred. Sir, it becomes a great people and a great assembly like this
to be patient, dignified, and generous. The honourable member, whom we
regret to see in his present position, no doubt represents a phase of
Irish opinion unfamiliar to this House. (Cheers and laughter.) ... The
House is naturally in a rather excited state after an event so unusual,
and I venture to urge that it should not hastily proceed to action. We
must be careful of the feelings of the Irish people. (Oh! oh!) If we are
to govern Ireland according to Irish ideas, we must make allowance for
personal, local, and transitory ebullitions of Irish feeling, having no
general or universal consequence or bearing.... The course, therefore,
which I propose to take is this--to move that the hon. member shall
remain in the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms, that a Committee be
appointed to take evidence, and that their report be discussed this day

To this replies the Leader of the Opposition:--

"The right hon. gentleman is to be congratulated on the results of his
Irish policy. (Cheers and laughter.) ... Sir, this, I presume, is one of
the right hon. gentleman's contented and pacified people! I deeply
sympathize with the right hon. gentleman. His policy produces strange
and portentous results. A policy of concession, of confiscation, of
truckling to ecclesiastical arrogance, to popular passions and ignorant
prejudices, of lenity to Fenian revolutionists, has at length brought us
to this, that the outrages of Galway and Tipperary, no longer restricted
to those charming counties, no longer restrained to even Her Majesty's
judges, are to reach the interior of this House and the august person of
its Speaker. (Cheers.) Sir, I wash my hands of all responsibility for
this absurd and anomalous state of things. Whenever it has fallen to the
Tory party to conduct the affairs of Ireland, they have consistently
pursued a policy of mingled firmness and conciliation with the most
distinguished success. All the great measures of reform in Ireland may
be said to have had their root in the action of the Tory party, though,
as usual, the praise has been appropriated by the right hon. gentleman
and his allies. We have preferred, instead of truckling to prejudice or
passion, to appeal, and we still appeal, to the sublime instincts of an
ancient people!"

I hope that an unknown author, whose skill in reproducing an archaic
style I heartily admire, will forgive me for quoting the following
narrative of certain doings decreed by the General Post Office on the
occasion of the Jubilee of the Penny Post. Like all that is truly good
in literature, it will be seen that this narrative was not for its own
time alone, but for the future, and has its relevancy to events of the
present day:[30]

"1. Now it came to pass in the month June of the Post-office Jubilee,
that Raikes, the Postmaster-General, said to himself, Lo! an opening
whereby I may find grace in the sight of the Queen!

"2. And Raikes appointed an Executive Committee; and Baines, the
Inspector-General of Mails, made he Chairman.

"3. He called also Cardin, the Receiver and Accountant-General; Preece,
Lord of Lightning; Thompson, the Secretarial Officer; and Tombs; the

"4. Then did these four send to the Heads of Departments, the
Postmasters and Sub-Postmasters, the Letter-Receivers, the
Clerks-in-Charge, the Postal Officers, the Telegraphists, She Sorters,
the Postmen; yea from the lowest even unto the highest sent they out.

"5. And the word of Baines and of them that were with him went forth
that the Jubilee should be kept by a conversazione at the South
Kensington Museum on Wednesday the second day of the month July in the
year 1890.

"6. And Victoria the Queen became a patron of the Jubilee Celebration;
and her heart was stirred within her; for she said, For three whole
years have I not had a Jubilee.

"7. And the word of Baines and of them that were with him went forth
again to the Heads of Departments; the Postmasters and Sub-Postmasters,
the Letter-Receivers, the Clerks-in-Charge, the Postal Officers and
Telegraphists, the Sorters and the Postmen.

"8. Saying unto them, Lo! the Queen is become Patron of the Rowland Hill
Memorial and Benevolent Fund, and of the conversazione in the museum;
and we the Executive Committee bid you, from the lowest even to the
highest, to join with us at the tenth hour of the conversazione in a
great shouting to praise the name of the Queen our patron.

"9. Each man in his Post Office at the tenth hour shall shout upon her
name; and a record thereof shall be sent to us that we may cause its
memory to endure for ever.

"10. Then a great fear came upon the Postmasters, the Sub-Postmasters,
and the Letter-Receivers, which were bidden to make the record.

"11. For they said, If those over whom we are set in authority shout not
at the tenth hour, and we send an evil report, we shall surely perish.

"12. And they besought their men to shout, aloud at the tenth hour,
lest a worse thing should befall.

"13. And they that were of the tribes of Nob and of Snob rejoiced with
an exceeding great joy, and did shout with their whole might; so that
their voices became as the voices of them that sell tidings in the
street at nightfall.

"14. But the Telegraphists and the Sorters and the Postmen, and them
that were of the tribes of Rag and of Tag, hardened their hearts, and
were silent at the tenth hour; for they said among themselves, 'Shall
the poor man shout in his poverty, and the hungry celebrate his lack of

"15. Now Preece, Lord of Lightning, had wrought with a cord of metal
that they who were at the conversazione might hear the shouting from the
Post Offices.

"16. And the tenth hour came; and lo! there was no great shout; and the
tribes of Nob and Snob were as the voice of men calling in the

"17. Then was the wrath of Baines kindled against the tribes of Rag and
Tag for that they had not shouted according to his word; and he
commanded that their chief men and counsellors should be cast out of the
Queen's Post Office.

"18. And Raikes, the Postmaster-General; told the Queen all the travail
of Baines, the Inspector-General, and of them that were with him, and
how they had wrought all for the greater glory of the Queen's name.

"19. And the Queen hearkened to the word of Raikes, and lifted up Baines
to be a Centurion of the Bath; also she placed honours upon Cardin, the
Receiver-General and Accountant-General; upon Preece, Lord of Lightning;
upon Thompson, the Secretarial Officer; and upon Tombs, the Controller,
so that they dazzled the eyes of the tribe of Snob, and were favourably
entreated of the sons of Nob.

"20. And they lived long in the land; and all men said pleasant things
unto them.

"21. But they of Tag and of Rag that had been cast out were utterly
forgotten; so that they were fain to cry aloud, saying, 'How long, O ye
honest and upright in heart, shall Snobs and Nobs be rulers over us,
seeing that they are but men like unto us, though they imagine us in
their hearts to be otherwise?'

"22. And the answer is not yet."


[30] June 1897.



Here I embark on the shoreless sea of metrical parody, and I begin my
cruise by reaffirming that in this department _Rejected Addresses_,
though distinctly good for their time, have been left far behind by
modern achievements. The sense of style seems to have grown acuter, and
the art of reproducing it has been brought to absolute perfection. The
theory of development is instructively illustrated in the history of
metrical parody.

Of the same date as _Rejected Addresses_, and of about equal merit, is
the _Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin_, which our grandfathers, if they
combined literary taste with Conservative opinions, were never tired of
repeating. The extraordinary brilliancy of the group of men who
contributed to it guaranteed the general character of the book. Its
merely satiric verse is a little beside my present mark; but as a parody
the ballad of _Duke Smithson of Northumberland_, founded on _Chevy
Chase_, ranks high, and the inscription for the cell in Newgate where
Mrs. Brownrigg, who murdered her apprentices, was imprisoned, is even
better. Southey, in his Radical youth, had written some lines on the
cell in Chepstow Castle where Henry Marten the Regicide was confined:--

    "For thirty years secluded from mankind
    Here Marten lingered ...
                       Dost thou ask his crime?
    He had rebell'd against the King, and sate
    In judgment on him."

Here is Canning's parody:--

    "For one long term, or e'er her trial came,
    Here Brownrigg lingered ...
    Dost thou ask her crime?
    She whipped two female 'prentices to death,
    And hid them in a coal-hole."

The time of _Rejected Addresses_ and the _Anti-Jacobin_ was also the
heyday of parliamentary quotation, and old parliamentary hands used to
cite a happy instance of instantaneous parody by Daniel O'Connell, who,
having noticed that the speaker to whom he was replying had his speech
written out in his hat, immediately likened him to Goldsmith's village
schoolmaster, saying,--

    "And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew
    That one small _hat_ could carry all he knew."

Another instance of the same kind was O'Connell's extemporized
description of three ultra-Protestant members, Colonel Verner, Colonel
Vandeleur, and Colonel Sibthorp, the third of whom was conspicuous in a
closely shaven age for his profusion of facial hair.

    "Three Colonels, in three different counties born,
    Armagh and Clare and Lincoln did adorn.
    The first in direst bigotry surpassed:
    The next in impudence: in both the last.
    The force of Nature could no further go--
    To beard the third, she shaved the former two."

A similarly happy turn to an old quotation was given by Baron Parke,
afterwards Lord Wensleydale. His old friend and comrade at the Bar, Sir
David Dundas, had just been appointed Solicitor-General, and, in reply
to Baron Parke's invitation to dinner, he wrote that he could not accept
it, as he had been already invited by seven peers for the same evening.
He promptly received the following couplets:--

    "Seven thriving cities fight for Homer dead
    Through which the living Homer begged his bread."

    "Seven noble Lords ask Davie to break bread
    Who wouldn't care a d--were Davie dead."

The _Ingoldsby Legends_--long since, I believe, deposed from their
position in public favour--were published in 1840. Their principal
merits are a vein of humour, rollicking and often coarse, but genuine
and infectious; great command over unusual metres; and an unequalled
ingenuity in making double and treble rhymes: for example--

    "The poor little Page, too, himself got no quarter, but
    Was served the same way, And was found the next day,
    With his heels in the air, and his head in the water-butt."

There is a general flavour of parody about most of the ballads. It does
not as a rule amount to more than a rather clumsy mockery of
mediaevalism, but the verses prefixed to the _Lay of St. Gengulphus_ are
really rather like a fragment of a black-letter ballad. The book
contains only one absolute parody, borrowed from Samuel Lover's _Lyrics
of Ireland_, and then the result is truly offensive, for the poem chosen
for the experiment is one of the most beautiful in the language--the
_Burial of Sir John Moore_, which is transmuted into a stupid story of
vulgar debauch. Of much the same date as the _Ingoldsby Legends_ was the
_Old Curiosity Shop_, and no one who has a really scholarly acquaintance
with Dickens will forget the delightful scraps of Tom Moore's amatory
ditties with which, slightly adapted to current circumstances, Dick
Swiveller used to console himself when Destiny seemed too strong for
him. And it will be remembered that Mr. Slum composed some very telling
parodies of the same popular author as advertisements for Mrs. Jarley's
Waxworks; but I forbear to quote here what is so easily accessible.

By way of tracing the development of the Art of Parody, I am taking my
samples in chronological order. In 1845 the Newdigate Prize for an
English poem at Oxford was won by J.W. Burgon, afterwards Dean of
Chichester. The subject was Petra. The successful poem was, on the
whole, not much better and not much worse than the general run of such
compositions; but it contained one couplet which Dean Stanley regarded
as an absolute gem--a volume of description condensed into two lines:--

    "Match me such marvel, save in Eastern clime--
    A rose-red city, half as old as time."

The couplet was universally praised and quoted, and, as a natural
consequence, parodied. There resided then (and long after) at Trinity
College, Oxford, an extraordinarily old don called Short.[31] When I was
an undergraduate he was still tottering about, and we looked at him with
interest because he had been Newman's tutor. To his case the parodist of
the period, in a moment of inspiration, adapted Burgon's beautiful
couplet, saying or singing:--

    "Match me such marvel, save in college port,
    That rose-red liquor, half as old as Short."

The Rev. E.T. Turner, till recently Registrar of the University, has
been known to say: "I was present when that egg was laid." It is
satisfactory to know that the undergraduate who laid it--William Basil
Tickell Jones--attained deserved eminence in after-life, and died Bishop
of St. David's.

When Burgon was writing his prize-poem about Petra, Lord John Manners
(afterwards seventh Duke of Rutland), in his capacity as Poet Laureate
of Young England, was writing chivalrous ditties about castles and
banners, and merry peasants, and Holy Church. This kind of mediaeval
romanticism, though glorified by Lord Beaconsfield in _Coningsby_,
seemed purely laughable to Thackeray, and he made rather bitter fun of
it in _Lines upon my Sister's Portrait, by the Lord Southdown._

    "Dash down, dash down yon mandolin, beloved sister mine!
    Those blushing lips may never sing the glories of our line:
    Our ancient castles echo to the clumsy feet of churls.
    The spinning-jenny houses in the mansion of our Earls.
    Sing not, sing not, my Angelina! in days so base and vile,
    'Twere sinful to be happy, 'twere sacrilege to smile.
    I'll hie me to my lonely hall, and by its cheerless hob
    I'll muse on other days, and wish--and wish I were--A SNOB."

But, though the spirit of this mournful song is the spirit of _England's
Trust_, the verbal imitation is not close enough to deserve the title of

The _Ballads of Bon Gaultier_, published anonymously in 1855, had a
success which would only have been possible at a time when really
artistic parodies were unknown. Bon Gaultier's verses are not as a rule
much more than rough-and-ready imitations; and, like so much of the
humour of their day, and of Scotch humour in particular, they generally
depend for their point upon drinking and drunkenness. Some of the
different forms of the Puff Poetical are amusing, especially the
advertisement of Doudney Brothers' Waistcoats, and the Puff Direct in
which Parr's Life-pills are glorified after the manner of a German
ballad. _The Laureate_ is a fair hit at some of Tennyson's earlier

    "Who would not be
    The Laureate bold,
    With his butt of sherry
    To keep him merry,
    And nothing to do but pocket his gold?"

But _The Lay of the Lovelorn_ is a clumsy and rather vulgar skit on
_Locksley Hall_--a poem on which two such writers as Sir Theodore Martin
and Professor Aytoun would have done well not to lay their sacrilegious

We have now passed through the middle stage of the development which I
am trying to trace; we are leaving clumsiness and vulgarity behind us,
and are approaching the age of perfection. Sir George Trevelyan's
parodies are transitional. He was born in 1838, three times won the
prize poem at Harrow, and brought out his Cambridge squibs in and soon
after the year 1858. _Horace at the University of Athens_, originally
written for acting at the famous "A.D.C.," still holds its own as one
of the wittiest of extravaganzas. It contains a really pretty imitation
of the 10th Eclogue, and it is studded with adaptations, of which the
only possible fault is that, for the general reader, they are too
topical. Here is a sample:--

                    "_Donec gratus eram tibi_."

    _Hor_. While still you loved your Horace best
                Of all my peers who round you pressed
                (Though not in expurgated versions),
                More proud I lived than King of Persians.

    _Lyd_. And while as yet no other dame
                Had kindled in your breast a flame,
                (Though Niebuhr her existence doubt),
                I cut historic Ilia out.

    _Hor_. Dark Chloe now my homage owns,
                Skilled on the banjo and the bones;
                For whom I would not fear to die,
                If death would pass my charmer by.

    _Lyd_. I now am lodging at the _rus-
                In-urbe_ of young Decius Mus.
                Twice over would I gladly die
                To see him hit in either eye.

    _Hor_. But should the old love come again,
                And Lydia her sway retain,
                If to my heart once more I take her,
                And bid black Chloe wed the baker?

    _Lyd_. Though you be treacherous as audit
                When at the fire you've lately thawed it,
                For Decius Mus no more I'd care
                Than for their plate the Dons of Clare.

Really this is a much better rendering of the famous ode than
nine-tenths of its more pompous competitors; and the allusions to the
perfidious qualities of Trinity Audit Ale and the mercenary conduct of
the Fellows of Clare need no explanation for Cambridge readers, and
little for others. But it may be fairly objected that this is not, in
strictness, a parody. That is true, and indeed as a parodist Sir George
Trevelyan belongs to the metrical miocene. His Horace, when serving as a
volunteer in the Republican Army, bursts into a pretty snatch of song
which has a flavour of Moore:--

    "The minstrel boy from the wars is gone,
      All out of breath you'll find him;
    He has run some five miles, off and on,
      And his shield has flung behind him."

And the Bedmaker's Song in one of the Cambridge scenes is sweetly
reminiscent of a delightful and forgotten bard:--

    "I make the butler fly, all in an hour;
      I put aside the preserves and cold meats,
    Telling my master the cream has turned sour,
      Hiding the pickles, purloining the sweets."

    "I never languish for husband or dower;
      I never sigh to see 'gyps' at my feet;
    I make the butter fly, all in an hour,
      Taking it home for my Saturday treat."

This, unless I greatly err, is a very good parody of Thomas Haynes
Bayly, author of some of the most popular songs of a sentimental cast
which were chanted in our youth and before it. But this is ground on
which I must not trench, for Mr. Andrew Lang has made it his own. The
most delightful essay in one of his books of Reprints deals with this
amazing bard, and contains some parodies so perfect that Mr. Haynes
Bayly would have rejoicingly claimed them as his own.

Charles Stuart Calverley is by common consent the king of metrical
parodists. All who went before merely adumbrated him and led up to him;
all who have come since are descended from him and reflect him. Of
course he was infinitely more than a mere imitator of rhymes and
rhythms. He was a true poet; he was one of the most graceful scholars
that Cambridge ever produced; and all his exuberant fun was based on a
broad and strong foundation of Greek, Latin, and English literature.
_Verses and Translations, by C.S.C._, which appeared in 1862, was a
young man's book, although its author had already established his
reputation as a humorist by the inimitable Examination Paper on
_Pickwick_; and, being a young man's book, it was a book of unequal
merit. The translations I leave on one side, as lying outside my present
purview, only remarking as I pass that if there is a finer rendering
than that of Ajax--645-692--I do not know where it is to be found. My
business is with the parodies. It was not till ten years later that in
_Fly Leaves_ Calverley asserted his supremacy in the art, but even in
_Verses and Translations_ he gave good promise of what was to be.

Of all poems in the world, I suppose _Horatius_ has been most frequently
and most justly parodied. Every Public School magazine contains at least
one parody of it every year. In my Oxford days there was current an
admirable version of it (attributed to the Rev. W.W. Merry, now Rector
of Lincoln College), which began,--

    "Adolphus Smalls, of Boniface,
      By all the powers he swore
    That, though he had been ploughed three times,
      He would be ploughed no more,"

and traced with curious fidelity the successive steps in the process of
preparation till the dreadful day of examination arrived:--

    "They said he made strange quantities,
      Which none might make but he;
    And that strange things were in his Prose
      Canine to a degree:
    But they called his _Viva Voce_ fair,
      They said his 'Books' would do;
    And native cheek, where facts were weak,
      Brought him triumphant through.
    And in each Oxford college
      In the dim November days,
    When undergraduates fresh from hall
      Are gathering round the blaze;
    When the 'crusted port' is opened,
      And the Moderator's lit,
    And the weed glows in the Freshman's mouth,
      And makes him turn to spit;
    With laughing and with chaffing
      The story they renew,
    How Smalls of Boniface went in,
      And actually got through."

So much for the Oxford rendering of Macaulay's famous lay. "C.S.C." thus
adapted it to Cambridge, and to a different aspect of undergraduate

    "On pinnacled St. Mary's
      Lingers the setting sun;
    Into the street the blackguards
      Are skulking one by one;
    Butcher and Boots and Bargeman
      Lay pipe and pewter down,
    And with wild shout come tumbling out
      To join the Town and Gown.

         *       *       *       *       *

    "'Twere long to tell how Boxer
      Was countered on the cheek,
    And knocked into the middle
      Of the ensuing week;
    How Barnacles the Freshman
      Was asked his name and college,
    And how he did the fatal facts
      Reluctantly acknowledge."

Quite different, but better because more difficult, is this essay in
_Proverbial Philosophy_:--

    "I heard the wild notes of the lark floating far over the blue sky,
    And my foolish heart went after him, and, lo! I blessed him as he
    Foolish; for far better is the trained boudoir bullfinch,
    Which pipeth the semblance of a tune and mechanically draweth up
    For verily, O my daughter, the world is a masquerade,
    And God made thee one thing that thou mightest make thyself
    A maiden's heart is as champagne, ever aspiring and struggling
    And it needed that its motions be checked by the silvered cork of
    He that can afford the price, his be the precious treasure,
    Let him drink deeply of its sweetness nor grumble if it tasteth of
        the cork."

_Enoch Arden_ was published in 1864, and was not enthusiastically
received by true lovers of Tennyson, though people who had never read
him before thought it wonderfully fine. A kinsman of mine always
contended that the story ended wrongly, and that the really human, and
therefore dramatic, conclusion would have been as follows:--

    "For Philip's dwelling fronted on the street,
    And Enoch, coming, saw the house a blaze
    Of light, and Annie drinking from a mug--
    A funny mug, all blue with strange device
    Of birds and waters and a little man.
    And Philip held a bottle; and a smell
    Of strong tobacco, with a fainter smell--
    But still a smell, and quite distinct--of gin
    Was there. He raised the latch, and stealing by
    The cupboard, where a row of teacups stood,
    Hard by the genial hearth, he paused behind
    The luckless pair, then drawing back his foot--
    His manly foot, all clad in sailors' hose--
    He swung it forth with such a grievous kick
    That Philip in a moment was propelled
    Against his wife, though not his wife; and she
    Fell forwards, smashing saucers, cups, and jug
    Fell in a heap. All shapeless on the floor
    Philip and Annie and the crockery lay.
    Then Enoch's voice accompanied his foot,
    For both were raised, with horrid oath and kick,
    Till constables came in with Miriam Lane
    And bare them all to prison, railing loud.
    Then Philip was discharged and ran away,
    And Enoch paid a fine for the assault;
    And Annie went to Philip, telling him
    That she would see old Enoch further first
    Before she would acknowledge him to be
    Himself, if Philip only would return.
    But Philip said that he would rather not.
    Then Annie plucked such handfuls of his hair
    Out of his head that he was nearly bald.
    But Enoch laughed, and said, 'Well done, my girl.'
    And so the two shook hands and made it up."

In 1869 Lewis Carroll published a little book of rhymes called
_Phantasmagoria_. It related chiefly to Oxford. Partly because it was
anonymous, partly because it was mainly topical, the book had no
success. But it contained two or three parodies which deserve to rank
with the best in the language. One is an imitation of a ballad in
black-letter called


    "I have a horse--a ryghte goode horse--
      Ne doe I envye those
    Who scoure ye playne yn headye course
      Tyll soddayne on theyre nose
    They lyghte wyth unexpected force--
      Yt ys a Horse of Clothes."

Then, again, there is excellent metaphysical fooling in _The Three
Voices_. But far the best parody in the book--and the most richly
deserved by the absurdity of its original--is _Hiawatha's
Photographing_. It has the double merit of absolute similarity in
cadence and lifelike realism. Unluckily the limits of space forbid
complete citation:--

    "From his shoulder Hiawatha
    Took the camera of rosewood,
    Made of sliding, folding rosewood;
    Neatly put it all together.
    In its case it lay compactly,
    Folded into nearly nothing.
    But he opened out the hinges,
    Pushed and pulled the joints and hinges,
    Till it looked all squares and oblongs,
    Like a complicated figure
    In the Second Book of Euclid.
    This he perched upon a tripod,
    And the family in order
    Sate before him for their portraits.

         *       *       *       *       *

    Each in turn, as he was taken,
    Volunteered his own suggestions,
    His ingenious suggestions.
    First the Governor, the Father:
    He suggested velvet curtains,
    And the corner of a table,
    Of a rosewood dining-table.
    He would hold a scroll of something,
    Hold it firmly in his left hand;
    He would keep his right hand buried
    (Like Napoleon) in his waistcoat;
    He would contemplate the distance
    With a look of pensive meaning,
    As of ducks that die in tempests.
    Grand, heroic was the notion,
    Yet the picture failed entirely,
    Failed, because he moved a little;
    Moved, because he couldn't help it."

Who does not know that Father in the flesh? and who has not seen
him--velvet curtains, dining-table, scroll, and all--on the most
conspicuous wall of the Royal Academy? The Father being disposed of,

    "Next his better half took courage,
    She would have her picture taken."

But her restlessness and questionings proved fatal to the result.

    "Next the son, the Stunning-Cantab:
    He suggested curves of beauty,
    Curves pervading all his figure,
    Which the eye might follow onward
    Till they centered in the breastpin,
    Centered in the golden breastpin.
    He had learnt it all from Ruskin,
    Author of the _Stones of Venice_."

But, in spite of such culture, the portrait was a failure, and the elder
sister fared no better. Then the younger brother followed, and his
portrait was so awful that--

    "In comparison the others
    Seemed to one's bewildered fancy
    To have partially succeeded."

Undaunted by these repeated failures, Hiawatha, by a great final effort,
"tumbled all the tribe together" in the manner of a family group, and--

    "Did at last obtain a picture
    Where the faces all succeeded--
    Each came out a perfect likeness
    Then they joined and all abused it,
    Unrestrainedly abused it,
    As the worst and ugliest picture
    They could possibly have dreamed of;
    'Giving one such strange expressions--
    Sullen, stupid, pert expressions.
    Really any one would take us
    (Any one that didn't know us)
    For the most unpleasant people.'
    Hiawatha seemed to think so,
    Seemed to think it not unlikely."

How true to life is this final touch of indignation at the unflattering
truth! But time and space forbid me further to pursue the photographic
song of Hiawatha.

_Phantasmagoria_ filled an aching void during the ten years which
elapsed between the appearance of _Verses and Translations_ and that of
_Fly Leaves_. The latter book is small, only 124 pages in all, including
the _Pickwick_ Examination Paper, but what marvels of mirth and poetry
and satire it contains! How secure its place in the affections of all
who love the gentle art of parody! My rule is not to quote extensively
from books which are widely known; but I must give myself the pleasure
of repeating just six lines which even appreciative critics generally
overlook. They relate to the conversation of the travelling tinker.

    "Thus on he prattled like a babbling brook.
    Then I: 'The sun hath slipt behind the hill,
    And my Aunt Vivian dines at half-past six,'
    So in all love we parted; I to the Hall,
    He to the village. It was noised next noon
    That chickens had been missed at Syllabub Farm."

Will any one stake his literary reputation on the assertion that these
lines are not really Tennyson's?


[31] Rev. Thomas Short, 1789-1879.


PARODIES IN VERSE--_continued_.

When I embarked upon the subject of metrical parody I said that it was a
shoreless sea. For my own part, I enjoy sailing over these rippling
waters, and cannot be induced to hurry. Let us put in for a moment at
Belfast. There in 1874 the British Association held its annual meeting;
and Professor Tyndall delivered an inaugural address in which he revived
and glorified the Atomic Theory of the Universe. His glowing peroration
ran as follows: "Here I must quit a theme too great for me to handle,
but which will be handled by the loftiest minds ages after you and I,
like streaks of morning cloud, shall have melted into the infinite azure
of the past." Shortly afterwards _Blackwood's Magazine_, always famous
for its humorous and satiric verse, published a rhymed abstract of
Tyndall's address, of which I quote (from memory) the concluding

    "Let us greatly honour the Atom, so lively, so wise, and so small;
    The Atomists, too, let us honour--Epicurus, Lucretius, and all.
    Let us damn with faint praise Bishop Butler, in whom many atoms
    To form that remarkable structure which it pleased him to call his
    Next praise we the noble body to which, for the time, we belong
    (Ere yet the swift course of the Atom hath hurried us breathless
    The BRITISH ASSOCIATION--like Leviathan worshipped by Hobbes,
    The incarnation of wisdom built up of our witless nobs;
    Which will carry on endless discussion till I, and probably you,
    Have _melted in infinite azure_--and, in short, till all is

Surely this translation of the Professor's misplaced dithyrambics into
the homeliest of colloquialisms is both good parody and just criticism.

In 1876 there appeared a clever little book (attributed to Sir Frederick
Pollock) which was styled _Leading Cases done into English, by an
Apprentice of Lincoln's Inn_. It appealed only to a limited public, for
it is actually a collection of sixteen important law-cases set forth,
with explanatory notes, in excellent verse imitated from poets great and
small. Chaucer, Browning, Tennyson, Swinburne, Clough, Rossetti, and
James Rhoades supply the models, and I have been credibly informed that
the law is as good as the versification. Mr. Swinburne was in those days
the favourite butt of young parodists, and the gem of the book is the
dedication to "J.S." or "John Stiles," a mythical person, nearly related
to John Doe and Richard Roe, with whom all budding jurists had in old
days to make acquaintance. The disappearance of the venerated initials
from modern law-books inspired the following:--

    "When waters are rent with commotion
      Of storms, or with sunlight made whole,
    The river still pours to the ocean
      The stream of its effluent soul;
    You, too, from all lips of all living,
      Of worship disthroned and discrowned,
    Shall know by these gifts of my giving
      That faith is yet found;

    "By the sight of my song-flight of cases
      That bears, on wings woven of rhyme,
    Names set for a sign in high places
      By sentence of men of old time;
    From all counties they meet and they mingle,
      Dead suitors whom Westminster saw;
    They are many, but your name is singles
      Pure flower of pure law.

         *       *       *       *       *

    "So I pour you this drink of my verses,
      Of learning made lovely with lays,
    Song bitter and sweet that reheares
      The deeds of your eminent days;
    Yea, in these evil days from their reading
      Some profit a student shall draw,
    Though some points are of obsolete pleading,
      And some are not law.

    "Though the Courts, that were manifold, dwindle
      To divers Divisions of One,
    And no fire from your face may rekindle
      The light of old learning undone,
    We have suitors and briefs for our payment,
      While, so long as a Court shall hold pleas,
    We talk moonshine with wigs for our raiment,
      Not sinking the fees."

Some five-and-twenty years ago there appeared the first number of a
magazine called _The Dark Blue_. It was published in London, but was
understood to represent in some occult way the thought and life of Young
Oxford, and its contributors were mainly Oxford men. The first number
contained an amazing ditty called "The Sun of my Songs." It was dark,
and mystic, and transcendental, and unintelligible. It dealt extensively
in strange words and cryptic phrases. One verse I must transcribe:--

      "Yet all your song
      Is--'Ding dong,
      Summer is dead,
      Spring is dead--
    O my heart, and O my head
    Go a-singing a silly song
      All wrong,
      For all is dead.
        Ding dong,
      And I am dead!

I quote thus fully because Cambridge, never backward in poking fun at
her more romantic sister, shortly afterwards produced an excellent
little magazine named sarcastically _The Light Green_, and devoted to
the ridicule of its cerulean rival. The poem from which I have just
quoted was thus burlesqued, if, indeed, burlesque of such a composition
were possible:--

    "Ding dong, ding dong,
    There goes the gong;
    Dick, come along,
      It is time for dinner
    Wash your face,
    Take your place.
    Where's your grace,
      You little sinner?

    "Baby cry,
     Wipe his eye.
     Baby good,
     Give him food.
     Baby sleepy,
     Go to bed.
     Baby naughty,
     Smack his head!"

_The Light Green_, which had only an ephemeral life, was, I have always
heard, entirely, or almost entirely, the work of one undergraduate, who
died young--Arthur Clement Hilton, of, St. John's.[32] He certainly had
the knack of catching and reproducing style. In the "May Exam.," a
really good imitation of the "May Queen," the departing undergraduate
thus addresses his "gyp":--

    "When the men come up again, Filcher, and the Term is at its height,
     You'll never see me more in these long gay rooms at night;
     When the "old dry wines" are circling, and the claret-cup flows cool,
     And the loo is fast and furious, with a fiver in the pool."

In 1872 "Lewis Carroll" brought out _Through the Looking-glass_, and
every one who has ever read that pretty work of poetic fancy will
remember the ballad of the Walrus and the Carpenter. It was parodied in
_The Light Green_ under the title of "The Vulture and the Husbandman."
This poem described the agonies of a _viva-voce_ examination, and it
derived its title from two facts of evil omen--that the Vulture plucks
its victim, and that the Husbandman makes his living by ploughing:--

    "Two undergraduates came up,
      And slowly took a seat,
    They knit their brows, and bit their thumbs,
      As if they found them sweet;
    And this was odd, because, you know,
     Thumbs are not good to eat.

    "'The time has come,' the Vulture said,
      'To talk of many things--
    Of Accidence and Adjectives,
      And names of Jewish Kings;
    How many notes a Sackbut has,
      And whether Shawms have strings.'

    "'Please sir,' the Undergraduates said,
      Turning a little blue,
    'We did not know that was the sort
      Of thing we had to do.'
    'We thank you much,' the Vulture said;
      'Send up another two.'"

The base expedients to which an examination reduces its victims are hit
off with much dexterity in "The Heathen Pass-ee," a parody of an
American poem which is too familiar to justify quotation:--

    "Tom Crib was his name,
      And I shall not deny,
    In regard to the same,
      What that name might imply;
    But his face it was trustful and childlike,
      And he had the most innocent eye.

       *       *       *       *       *

    "On the cuffs of his shirt
      He had managed to get
    What we hoped had been dirt,
      But which proved, I regret,
    To be notes on the Rise of the Drama
      A question invariably set.

    "In the crown of his cap
      Were the Furies and Fates,
    And a delicate map
      Of the Dorian States;
    And we found in his palms, which were hollow,
      What are frequent in palms--that is, dates."

Deservedly dear to the heart of English youth are the Nonsense Rhymes
of Edward Lear. It will be recollected that the form of the verse as
originally constructed reproduced the final word of the first line at
the end of the fifth, thus:--

    "There was an old person of Basing
    Whose presence of mind was amazing;
      He purchased a steed
      Which he rode at full speed,
    And escaped from the people of Basing."

But in the process of development it became usual to find a new word for
the end of the fifth line, thus at once securing a threefold rhyme and
introducing the element of unexpectedness, instead of inevitableness,
into the conclusion. Thus _The Light Green_ sang of the Colleges in
which it circulated--

    "There was an old Fellow of Trinity,
    A Doctor well versed in divinity;
      But he took to free-thinking,
      And then to deep drinking,
    And so had to leave the vicinity."


    "There was a young genius of Queen's
    Who was fond of explosive machines;
      He blew open a door,
      But he'll do so no more--
    For it chanced that that door was the Dean's."


    "There was a young gourmand of John's
    Who'd a notion of dining off swans;
      To the "Backs" he took big nets
      To capture the cygnets,
    But was told they were kept for the Dons."

So far _The Light Green_.

Not at all dissimilar in feeling to these ebullitions of youthful fancy
were the parodies of nursery rhymes which the lamented Corney Grain
invented for one of his most popular entertainments, and used to
accompany on the piano in his own inimitable style. I well remember the
opening verse of one, in which an incident in the social career of a
Liberal millionaire was understood to be immortalized:--

    "Old Mr. Parvenu gave a great ball,
    And of all his smart guests he knew no one at all;
    Old Mr. Parvenu went up to bed,
    And his guests said good-night to the butler instead."

Twenty years ago we were in the crisis of the great Jingo fever, and
Lord Beaconsfield's antics in the East were frightening all sober
citizens out of their senses. It was at that period that the music-halls
rang with the "Great MacDermott's" Tyrtaean strain--

    "We don't want to fight; but, by Jingo, if we do,
    We've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money too;"

and the word "Jingo" took its place in the language as the recognized
symbol of a warlike policy. At Easter 1878 it was announced that the
Government were bringing black troops from India to Malta, to aid our
English forces in whatever enterprises lay before them. The refrain of
the music-hall was instantly adapted with great effect, even the grave
_Spectator_ giving currency to the parody--

    "We don't want to fight; but, by Jingo, if we do,
    We won't go to the front ourselves, but we'll send the mild Hindoo."

Two years passed. Lord Beaconsfield was deposed. The tide of popular
feeling turned in favour of Liberalism, and "Jingo" became a term of
reproach. Mr. Tennyson, as he then was, endeavoured to revive the
patriotic spirit of his countrymen by publishing _Hands all Round_--a
poem which had the supreme honour of being quoted in the House of
Commons by Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett. Forthwith an irreverent
parodist--some say Mr. Andrew Lang--appeared with the following


(Being an attempt to arrange Mr. Tennyson's noble words for truly
patriotic, Protectionist, and Anti-aboriginal circles.)

    "A health to Jingo first, and then
      A health to shell, a health to shot!
    The man who hates not other men
      I deem no perfect patriot."
    To all who hold all England mad
      We drink; to all who'd tax her food!
    We pledge the man who hates the Rad,
      We drink to Bartle Frere and Froude!

            Drinks all round!
    Here's to Jingo, king and crowned!
      To the great cause of Jingo drink, my boys,
    And the great name of Jingo, round and round.

    To all the companies that long
      To rob, as folk robbed years ago;
    To all that wield the double thong,
      From Queensland round to Borneo!
    To all that, under Indian skies,
      Call Aryan man a "blasted nigger;"
    To all rapacious enterprise;
      To rigour everywhere, and vigour!

            Drinks all round!
    Here's to Jingo, king and crowned!
      To the great name of Jingo drink, my boys,
    And every filibuster, round and round!

    To all our Statesmen, while they see
      An outlet new for British trade,
    Where British fabrics still may be
      With British size all overweighed;
    Wherever gin and guns are sold
      We've scooped the artless nigger in;
    Where men give ivory and gold,
      We give them measles, tracts, and gin.

            Drinks all round!
    Here's to Jingo, king and crowned!
      To the great name of Jingo drink, my boys.
    And to Adulteration round and round.

The Jingo fever having abated, another malady appeared in the body
politic. Trouble broke out in Ireland, and in January 1881 Parliament
was summoned to pass Mr. Forster's Coercion Act. My diary for that date
supplies me with the following excellent imitation of a veteran Poet of
Freedom rushing with ardent sympathy into the Irish struggle.



    O Irlande, grand pays du shillelagh et du bog,
    Où les patriots vont toujours ce qu'on appelle le whole hog.
    Aujourd'hui je prends la plume, moi qui suis vieux,
    Pour dire au grand patriot Parnell, "How d'ye do?"
    Erin, aux armes! le whisky vous donne la force
    De se battre l'un pour l'autre comme les fameux Frères Corses.
    Votre Land League et vos Home Rulers sont des libérateurs.
    Payez la valuation de Griffith et n'ayez pas peur.

      De la tenure la fixité c'est l'astre de vos rêves,
    Que Rory des Collines vit et que les landgrabbers crèvent
    Moi, je suis vieux, mais dans l'ombre je vois clair,
    Bientôt serez-vous maîtres de vos bonnes pommes de terre.
    C'est le brave Biggar, le T.P. O'Connor et les autres
    Qui sont vos sauveurs, comme Gambetta était le nôtre;
    Suivez-les, et la victoire sera toujours à vous,
    Si à Milbank ce cher Forster ne vous envoie pas. Hooroo!

By the time that these lines were written the late Mr. J.K.
Stephen--affectionately known by his friends as "Jem Stephen"--was
beginning to be recognized as an extraordinarily good writer of humorous
verse. His performances in this line were not collected till ten years
later (_Lapsus Calami_, 1891), and his brilliant career was cut short,
by the results of an accident, in 1892. I reproduce the following
sonnet, not only because I think it an excellent criticism aptly
expressed, but because I desire to pay my tribute of admiration to one
of whom all men spoke golden words:--

    "Two voices are there: one is of the deep--
    It learns the storm-cloud's thunderous melody,
    Now roars, now murmurs with the changing sea,
    Now bird-like pipes, now closes soft in sleep;
    And one is of an old, half-witted sheep
    Which bleats articulate monotony,
    And indicates that two and one are three,
    That glass is green, lakes damp, and mountains steep;
    And, Wordsworth, both are thine."

I hope that there are few among my readers who have not in their time
known and loved the dear old ditty which tells us how

    "There was a youth, and a well-beloved youth,
      And he was a squire's son,
    And he loved the Bailiff's daughter dear
      Who dwelt at Islington."

Well, to all who have followed that touching story of love and grief I
commend the following version of it. French, after all, is the true
language of sentiment:--

    "Il y avait un garçon,
    Fort amiable et fort bon,
      Qui était le fils du Lord Mayor;
    Et il aimait la fille
    D'un sergent de ville
      Qui demeurait à Leycesster Sqvare.

    "Mais elle était un peu prude,
    Et n'avait pas l'habitude
      De coqueter, comme les autres demoiselles;
    Jusqu'à ce que le Lord Mayor
    (Homme brutal, comme tous les pères)
      L'éloigna de sa tourterelle.

    "Après quelques ans d'absence,
    Au rencontre elle s'élance;
      Elle se fait une toilette de très bon goût--
    Des pantoufles sur les pieds,
    Des lunettes sur le nez,
      Et un collier sur le cou--c'était tout.

    "Mais bientôt elle s'assit
    Dans la rue Piccadilli,
      Car il faisait extrêmement chaud;
    Et là elle vit s'avancer
    L'unique objet de ses pensées,
      Sur le plus magnifique de chevaux!

    "Je suis pauvre et sans ressource!
    Prête, prête-moi ta bourse,
      Ou ta montre, pour me montrer confiance.'
    'Jeune femme, je ne vous connais,
    Ainsi il faut me donner
      Une adresse et quelques références'

    "'Mon adresse--c'est Leycesster Sqvare,
    Et pour référence j'espère
      Que la statue de Shakespeare vous suffira,'
    'Ah! connais-tu ma mie,
    La fille du sergent?' 'Si;
      Mais elle est morte comme un rat!'

    "'Si défunte est ma belle,
    Prenez, s'il vous plaît, ma selle,
      Et ma bride, et mon cheval incomparable;
    Car il ne faut rien dire,
    Mais vite, vite m'ensevelir
      Dans un désert sec et désagréable.'

    "'Ah! mon brave, arrête-toi.
    Je suis ton unique choix;
      La fille du sergent sans peur!
    Pour mon trousseau, c'est modeste,
    Vous le voyez! Pour le reste,
      Je t'épouse dans une demi-heure!'

    "Mais le jeune homme épouvanté
    Sur son cheval vite remontait,
      La liberté lui était trop chère!
    Et la pauvre fille dégoûtée
    N'avait qu'à reprendre sa route, et
      Son adresse est encore Leycesster Sqvare."

The chiefs of the Permanent Civil Service are not usually, as Swift
said, "blasted with poetic fire," but this delightful ditty is from the
pen of Mr. Henry Graham, the Clerk of the Parliaments.

Of the metrical parodists of the present hour two are extremely good.
Mr. Owen Seaman is, beyond and before all his rivals, "up to date," and
pokes his lyrical fun at such songsters as Mr. Alfred Austin, Mr.
William Watson, Mr. Rudyard Kipling, and Mr. Richard Le Gallienne. But
"Q." is content to try his hand on poets of more ancient standing; and
he is not only of the school but of the lineage of "C.S.C." I have said
before that I forbear, as a rule, to quote from books as easily
accessible as _Green Bays;_ but is there a branch of the famous "Omar
Khayyám Club" in Manchester? If there be, to it I offer this delicious
morsel, only apologizing to the uninitiated reader for the pregnant
allusiveness, which none but a sworn Khayyámite can perfectly


     Wake! for the closed Pavilion doors have kept
     Their silence while the white-eyed Kaffir slept,
     And wailed the Nightingale with "Jug, jug, jug!"
       Whereat, for empty cup, the White Rose wept.

     Enter with me where yonder door hangs out
     Its Red Triangle to a world of drought,
       Inviting to the Palace of the Djinn,
     Where death, Aladdin, waits as Chuckeroût.

     Methought, last night, that one in suit of woe
     Stood by the Tavern-door and whispered, "Lo!
       The Pledge departed, what avails the Cup?
     Then take the Pledge and let the Wine-cup go."

     But I: "For every thirsty soul that drains
     This Anodyne of Thought its rim contains--
       Freewill the _can_, Necessity the _must;_
     Pour off the _must_, and see, the _can_ remains.

    "Then, pot or glass, why label it '_With care?'_
     Or why your Sheepskin with my Gourd compare?
       Lo! here the Bar and I the only Judge:--
     O Dog that bit me, I exact an hair!"

No versifier of the present day lends himself so readily to parody as
Mr. Kipling. His "Story of Ung" is an excellent satire on certain
methods of contemporary literature:--

    "Once on a glittering icefield, ages and ages ago,
     Ung, a maker of pictures, fashioned an image of snow.
     Fashioned the form of a tribesman; gaily he whistled and sung,
     Working the snow with his fingers, '_Read ye the story of Ung!_'

          *       *       *       *       *

     And the father of Ung gave answer, that was old and wise in the craft,
     Maker of pictures aforetime, he leaned on his lance and laughed:
    'If they could see as thou seest they would do as thou hast done,
     And each man would make him a picture, and--what would become
         of my son?'"

So far Mr. Kipling. A parodist writing in _Truth_ applies the same
"criticism of life" to commercial production:--

                      THE STORY OF BUNG.

  Once, ere the glittering icefields paid us a tribute of gold,
  Bung, the son of a brewer, heir to a fortune untold--
  Vast was his knowledge of brewing--gaily began his career.
  Whispered the voice of ambition, "Perhaps they will make thee a peer."

  People who sampled his liquor wunk an incredulous wink,
  Smelt it, then drank it, and grunted, "Verily _this_ is a drink!"
  Even the Clubman admitted, wetting the tip of his tongue,
  "Lo! it is excellent beer! Glory and honour to Bung!"

  Straightway the doubters assembled, a prying, unsatisfied horde:
  "It is _said_ the materials used are approved by the Revenue Board;
  It is claimed that no adjuncts are used, the advertisements say it is
  True, the beer is good--and it may be--but can the consumer be sure?"

  Wroth was that brewer of liquor, knowing the doubters were right,
  User of chemical adjuncts, and methods that bear not the light;
  Little he recked of disclosures, much of the profits he cleared,
  So in the ear of his father whispered the thing that he feared.

  And the father of Bung gave answer, that was old and wise in the craft,
  "If they cast suspicion upon thee, it is nought but a random shaft;
  If others could know what thou knowest, they would do what thou hast done,
  And men would drink of their brewing, and--what would become of my son?

  "So long as thy beer is best, so long shall thy brewing win
  The praise no money can buy, and the money that praise brings in.
  And if the majority's pleased, the majority does not mind
  The _how_, and the _what_, and the _whence_. Rejoice that the public
     is blind."

  And Bung took his father's counsel, and fell to his brewing of beer,
  And he gave the Government cheques, and the Government made him a peer,
  And the doubters ceased from their doubting, loudly his praises they sung,
  Cursing their previous blindness. _Heed ye the story of Bung!_

But no effort of intentional parody can, I think, surpass this serious
adaptation of the "March of the Men of Harlech" to the ecclesiastical
crisis of 1898-9:--




    Sons of Freedom, rouse the Nation!
    Or Britain's glorious Reformation
    Soon will reach dire consummation!
      God defend the right!
    Shall false traitor-bishops lead us,
    Chained to Rome, and madly speed us,
    From the Word of God which freed us,
      Unto Papal night?
        False example setting,
        Treachery begetting,
        Temple, Halifax, Maclagan,
        Now with Rome coquetting.
    Mighty House of Convocation
    Thou art not the British Nation!
    Every warrior to your station;
      Freedom calls for fight!

    Cuba, Spain, and Madagascar,
    Where the Jesuits are master,
    Shout our shame in their disaster,--
      What shall Britain say?
    Rome, thy smile is cold as Zero.
    Drop the mask, thou crafty Nero!
    Britons! rouse ye! Play the Hero!
      Right shall win the day!
        False example setting,
        Treachery begetting,
        Temple, Halifax, Maclagan,
        Now with Rome coquetting.
    Trust in God! His truth protecting,
    Prayer and duty ne'er neglecting,
    Fearless, victory expecting,
      Prepare you for the fray!


[32] Born 1851; ordained 1874; died 1877.



"_Se non è vero_," said a very great Lord Mayor, "_è ben traviata_." His
lordship's linguistic slip served him right. Latin is fair play, though
some of us are in the condition of the auctioneer in _The Mill on the
Floss_, who had brought away with him from the Great Mudport Free School
"a sense of understanding Latin generally, though his comprehension of
any particular Latin was not ready." But to quote from any other
language is to commit an outrage on your guests. The late Sir Robert
Fowler was, I believe, the only Lord Mayor who ever ventured to quote
Greek, but I have heard him do it, and have seen the turtle-fed company
smile with alien lips in the painful attempt to look as if they
understood it, and in abject terror lest their neighbour should ask them
to translate. Mr. James Payn used to tell a pleasing tale of a learned
clergyman who quoted Greek at dinner. The lady who was sitting by Mr.
Payn inquired in a whisper what one of these quotations meant. He gave
her to understand, with a well-assumed blush, that it was scarcely fit
for a lady's ear. "Good heavens!" she exclaimed; "you don't mean to
say----" "Please don't ask any more," said Payn pleadingly; "I really
could not tell you." Which was true to the ear, if not to the sense.

Municipal eloquence has been time out of mind a storehouse of delight.
It was, according to tradition, a provincial mayor who, blessed with a
numerous progeny, publicly expressed the pious hope that his sons might
grow up to be better citizens than their father, and his daughters more
virtuous women than their mother. There was a worthy alderman at Oxford
in my time who was entertained at a public dinner on his retirement from
civic office. In replying to the toast of his health, he said it had
always been his anxious endeavour to administer justice without swerving
to "partiality on the one hand or impartiality on the other." Surely he
must have been near akin to the moralist who always tried to tread "the
narrow path which lay between right and wrong;" or, perchance, to the
newly-elected mayor who, in returning thanks for his elevation, said
that during his year of office he should lay aside all his political
prepossessions and be, "like Caesar's wife, all things to all men." A
well-known dignitary, rebuking his housemaid for using his bath during
his absence from the Deanery, said, "I am grieved to think that you
should do behind my back what you wouldn't do before my face;" and it
was related of my old friend Dean Burgon that once, in a sermon on the
transcendent merits of the Anglican school of theology, he exclaimed,
with a fervour which was all his own, "May I live the life of a Taylor,
and die the death of a Bull!" The late Lord Coleridge, eulogizing
Oxford, said in his most dulcet tone, "I speak not of this college or of
that, but of the University as a whole; and, gentlemen, what a _whole_
Oxford is!"

The admirable Mr. Brooke, when he purposed to contest the Borough of
Middlemarch, found Will Ladislaw extremely useful, because he
"remembered what the right quotations are--_Omne tulit punctum_, and
that sort of thing." And certainly an apt quotation is one of the most
effective decorations of a public speech; but the dangers of
inappositeness are correspondingly formidable. I have always heard that
the most infelicitous quotation on record was made by the fourth Lord
Fitzwilliam at a county meeting held at York to raise a fund for the
repair of the Minster after the fire which so nearly destroyed it in
1829. Previous speakers had, naturally, appealed to the pious
munificence of Churchmen. Lord Fitzwilliam, as the leading Whig of the
county, thought that it would be an excellent move to enlist the
sympathies of the rich Nonconformists, and that he was the man to do it.
So he perorated somewhat after the following fashion:--"And, if the
liberality of Yorkshire Churchmen proves insufficient to restore the
chief glory of our native county, then, with all confidence, I turn to
our excellent Dissenting brethren, and I exclaim, with the Latin poet,

    'Flectere si nequeo superos Acheronta movebo.'"

Mr. Anstey Guthrie has some pleasant instances of texts misapplied. He
was staying once in a Scotch country-house where, over his bed, hung an
illuminated scroll with the inscription, "Occupy till I come," which, as
Mr. Guthrie justly observes, is an unusually extended invitation, even
for Scottish notions of hospitality. According to the same authority,
the leading citizen of a seaside town erected some iron benches on the
sea front, and, with the view of at once commemorating his own
munificence and giving a profitable turn to the thoughts of the sitters,
inscribed on the backs--

               THESE SEATS
          J.P. FOR THE BOROUGH.

Nothing is more deeply rooted in the mind of the average man than that
certain well-known aphorisms of piety are to be found in the
Bible--possibly in that lost book the Second Epistle to the Ephesians,
which Dickens must have had in his mind when he wrote in _Dombey and
Son_ of the First Epistle to that Church. "In the midst of life we are
in death" is a favourite quotation from this imaginary Scripture. "His
end was peace" holds its place on many a tomb in virtue of a similar
belief. "He tempers the wind to the shorn lamb" is, I believe, commonly
attributed to Solomon; and a charming song which was popular in my youth
declared that, though the loss of friends was sad, it would have been
much sadder,

    "Had we ne'er heard that Scripture word,
        'Not lost, but gone before.'"

Mrs. Gamp, with some hazy recollections of the New Testament floating in
her mind, invented the admirable aphorism that "Rich folks may ride on
camels, but it ain't so easy for 'em to see out of a needle's eye." And
a lady of my acquaintance, soliloquizing on the afflictions of life and
the serenity of her own temper, exclaimed, "How true it is what Solomon
says, 'A contented spirit is like a perpetual dropping on a rainy day'!"

A Dissenting minister, winding up a week's mission, is reported to have
said, "And if any spark of grace has been kindled by these exercises,
oh, we pray Thee, water that spark." A watered spark is good, but what
of a harnessed volcano? When that eminent Civil servant, Sir Hugh Owen,
retired from the Local Government Board, a gentleman wrote to the _Daily
Chronicle_ in favour of "harnessing this by no means extinct volcano to
the great task" of codifying the Poor Law. An old peasant-woman in
Buckinghamshire, extolling the merits of her favourite curate, said to
the rector, "I do say that Mr. Woods is quite an angel in sheep's
clothing;" and Dr. Liddon told me of a Presbyterian minister who was
called on at short notice to officiate at the parish church of Crathie
in the presence of the Queen, and, transported by this tremendous
experience, burst forth in rhetorical supplication--"Grant that as she
grows to be an old woman she may be made a new man; and that in all
righteous causes she may go forth before her people like a he-goat on
the mountains."

Undergraduates, whose wretched existence for a week before each
examination is spent in the hasty acquisition of much ill-assorted and
indigestible knowledge, are not seldom the victims of similar
confusions. At Oxford--and, for all I know, at Cambridge too--a hideous
custom prevails of placing before the examinee a list of isolated texts,
and requiring him to supply the name of the speaker, the occasion, and
the context.

_Question_.--"'My punishment is greater than I can bear.' Who said this?
Under what circumstances?"

_Answer_.--"Agag, when he was hewn in pieces."

One wonders at what stage of the process he began to think it was going
a little too far.

"What is faith?" inquired an examiner in "Pass-Divinity." "Faith is the
faculty by which we are enabled to believe that which we know is not
true," replied the undergraduate, who had learned his definition by
heart, but imperfectly, from a popular cram-book. A superficial
knowledge of literature may sometimes be a snare. "Can you give me any
particulars of Oliver Cromwell's death?" asked an Examiner in History in
1874. "Oh yes, sir," eagerly replied the victim: "he exclaimed, 'Had I
but served my God as I have served my King, He would not in mine age
have left me naked to mine enemies.'"

"Things one would rather have expressed differently" are, I believe, a
discovery of Mr. Punch's. Of course he did not create them. They must be
as old as human nature itself. The history of their discovery is not
unlike that of another epoch-making achievement of the same great
genius, as set forth in the preface to the _Book of Snobs_. First, the
world was made; then, as a matter of course, snobs; they existed for
years and years, and were no more known than America. But
presently--_ingens patebat tellus_--people became darkly aware that
there was such a race. Then in time a name arose to designate that race.
That name has spread over England like railroads. Snobs are known and
recognised throughout an Empire on which the sun never sets. _Punch_
appeared at the ripe season to chronicle their history, and the
individual came forth to write that history in _Punch_. We may apply
this historical method to the origin and discovery of "Things one would
rather have expressed differently." They must have existed as long as
language; they must have flourished wherever men and women encountered
one another in social intercourse. But the glory of having discovered
them, recognized them, classified them, and established them among the
permanent sources of human enjoyment belongs to Mr. Punch alone.

    "He was the first that ever burst
       Into that silent sea."

Let us humbly follow in his wake.

We shall see later on that no department of human speech is altogether
free from "Things one would rather have expressed differently;" but,
naturally, the great bulk of them belong to social conversation; and,
just as the essential quality of a "bull" is that it expresses
substantial sense in the guise of verbal nonsense, so the social "Thing
one would rather have expressed differently" must, to be really
precious, show a polite intention struggling with verbal infelicity. Mr.
Corney Grain, narrating his early experiences as a social entertainer,
used to describe an evening party given by the Dowager Duchess of S----
at which he was engaged to play and sing. Late in the evening the young
Duke of S---- came in, and Mr. Grain heard his mother prompting him in
an anxious undertone: "Pray go and say something civil to Mr. Grain. You
know he's quite a gentleman--not a common professional person." Thus
instructed, the young Duke strolled up to the piano and said,
"Good-evening, Mr. Grain. I'm sorry I am so late, and have missed your
performance. But I was at Lady ----'s. _We had a dancing-dog there._"

The married daughter of one of the most brilliant men of Queen
Victoria's reign has an only child. An amiable matron of her
acquaintance, anxious to be thoroughly kind, said, "O Mrs. W----, I hear
that you have such a clever little boy." Mrs. W., beaming with a
mother's pride, replied, "Well, yes, I think Roger is rather a sharp
little fellow." "Yes," replied her friend. "How often one sees
that--the talent skipping a generation!" A stately old rector in
Buckinghamshire--a younger son of a great family--whom I knew well in my
youth, had, and was justly proud of, a remarkably pretty and
well-appointed rectory. To him an acquaintance, coming for the first
time to call, genially exclaimed, "What a delightful rectory! Really a
stranger arriving in the village, and not knowing who lived here, would
take it for a gentleman's house." One of our best-known novelists, the
most sensitively courteous of men, arriving very late at a dinner-party,
was overcome with confusion--"I am truly sorry to be so shockingly
late." The genial hostess, only meaning to assure him that he was not
the last, emphatically replied "O, Mr. ----, you can't come too late." A
member of the present[33] Cabinet was engaged with his wife and daughter
to dine at a friend's house in the height of the season. The daughter
fell ill at the last moment, and her parents first telegraphed her
excuses for dislocating the party, and then repeated them earnestly on
arriving. The hostess, receiving them with the most cordial sympathy,
exclaimed, "Oh, it doesn't matter in the least to us; we are only so
sorry for your daughter." An eminent authoress, who lives not a hundred
miles from Richmond Hill, was asked, in my hearing, if she had been to
"write her name" at White Lodge, in Richmond Park (then occupied by the
Duchess of Took), on the occasion of an important event in the Duchess's
family. She replied that she had not, because she did not know the
Duchess, and saw no use in adding another stranger's signature to the
enormous list. "Oh, that's a pity," was the rejoinder; "the Royal Family
think more of the quantity of names than the quality."

In all these cases the courtesy of the intention was manifest; but
sometimes it is less easy to discover. Not long ago Sir Henry Trying
most kindly went down to one of our great Public Schools to give some
Shakespearean recitations. Talking over the arrangements with the Head
Master, who was not a man of felicities and facilities, he said, "Each
piece will take about an hour; and there must be fifteen minutes'
interval between the two." "Oh! certainly," replied the Head Master;
"you couldn't expect the boys to stand two hours of it without a break."
The newly appointed rector of one of the chief parishes in London was
entertained at dinner by a prominent member of the congregation.
Conversation turned on the use of stimulants as an aid to intellectual
and physical effort, and Mr. Gladstone's historic egg-flip was cited.
"Well, for my own part," said the divine, "I am quite independent of
that kind of help. The only occasion in my life when I used anything of
the sort was when I was in for my tripos at Cambridge, and then, by the
doctor's order, I took a strong dose of strychnine, in order to clear
the brain." The hostess, in a tone of the deepest interest, inquired,
"How soon did the effect pass off?" and the rector, a man of academical
distinction, who had done his level best in his inaugural sermons on the
previous Sunday, didn't half like the question.

Not long ago I was dining with one of the City Companies. On my right
was another guest--a member of the Worshipful Company of Butchers. We
had a long and genial conversation on topics relevant to Smithfield,
when, in the midst of it, I was suddenly called on to return thanks for
the visitors. The chairman, in proposing the toast, was good enough to
speak of my belongings and myself in flattering terms, to which I hope
that I suitably responded. When I resumed my seat my butcher friend
exclaimed, with the most obvious sincerity, "I declare, sir, I'm quite
ashamed of myself. To think that I have been sitting alongside of a
gentleman all the evening, and never found it out!"

The doorkeepers and attendants at the House of Commons are all old
servants, who generally have lived in great families, and have obtained
their places through influential recommendations. One of these fine old
men encountered, on the opening day of a new Parliament, a young sprig
of a great family who had just been for the first time elected to the
House of Commons, and thus accosted him, with tears in his eyes: "I am
glad indeed, sir, to see you here; and when I think that I helped to put
your noble grandfather and grandmother both into their coffins, it makes
me feel quite at home with you." Never, surely, was a political career
more impressively auspicated.

These Verbal Infelicities are by no means confined to social
intercourse. Lord Cross, when the House laughed at his memorable speech
in favour of Spiritual Peers, exclaimed in solemn remonstrance, "I hear
a smile." When the Bishop of Southwell, preaching in the London Mission
of 1885, began his sermon by saying, "I feel a feeling which I feel you
all feel," it is only fair to assume that he said something which he
would rather have expressed differently. Quite lately I heard an Irish
rhetorician exclaim, "If the Liberal Party is to maintain its position,
it must move forward." A clerical orator, fresh from a signal triumph at
a Diocesan Conference, informed me, together with some hundreds of
other hearers, that when his resolution was put "quite a shower of hands
went up;" and at a missionary meeting I once heard that impressive
personage, "the Deputation from the Parent Society," involve himself
very delightfully in extemporaneous imagery. He had been explaining that
here in England we hear so much of the rival systems and operations of
the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the Church Missionary
Society that we are often led to regard them as hostile institutions;
whereas if, as he himself had done, his hearers would go out to the
mission-field and observe the working of the societies at close
quarters, they would find them to be in essential unison. "Even so," he
exclaimed; "as I walked in the beautiful park which adjoins your town
to-day, I noticed what appeared at a distance to be one gigantic tree.
It was only when I got close to it and sat down under its branches that
I perceived that what I had thought was one tree was really two
trees--as completely distinct in origin, growth, and nature as if they
had stood a hundred miles apart." No one in the audience (besides
myself) noticed the infelicity of the illustration; nor do I think that
the worthy "Deputation," if he had perceived it, would have had the
presence of mind to act as a famous preacher did in like circumstances,
and, throwing up his hands, exclaim, "Oh, blessed contrast!"

But it does not always require verbal infelicity to produce a "Thing one
would rather have expressed differently." The mere misplacement of a
comma will do it. A distinguished graduate of Oxford determined to enter
the Nonconformist ministry, and, quite unnecessarily, published a
manifesto setting forth his reasons and his intentions. In his
enumeration of the various methods by which he was going to mark his
aloofness from the sacerdotalism of the Established Church, he wrote; "I
shall wear no clothes, to distinguish me from my fellow-Christians."
Need I say that all the picture-shops of the University promptly
displayed a fancy portrait of the newly fledged minister clad in what
Artemus Ward called "the scandalous style of the Greek slave," and
bearing the unkind inscription--"The Rev. X.Y.Z. distinguishing himself
from his fellow-Christians"? If a comma too much brought ruin into Mr.
Z.'s allocution, a comma too little was the undoing of a well-remembered
advertisement. "A PIANO for sale by a lady about to leave England in an
oak case with carved legs."

An imperfect sympathy with the prepossessions of one's environment may
often lead the unwary talker to give a totally erroneous impression of
his meaning. Thus the Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford once brought an
Indian army chaplain to dine at the high table of Oriel, and in the
common room after dinner the Fellows courteously turned the conversation
to the subject of life and work in India, on which the chaplain held
forth with fluency and zest. When he had made an end of speaking, the
Professor of Anglo-Saxon, who was not only a very learned scholar but
also a very devout clergyman, leaned forward and said, "I am a little
hard of hearing, sir, but from what I could gather I rejoice to infer
that you consider the position of an army chaplain in India a hopeful
field." "Hopeful field indeed," replied the chaplain; "I should rather
think so! You begin at £400 a year."

A too transparent honesty which reveals each transient emotion through
the medium of suddenly chosen words is not without its perils. None that
heard it could ever forget Norman Macleod's story of the Presbyterian
minister who, when he noticed champagne-glasses on the dinner-table,
began his grace, "Bountiful Jehovah!" but, when he saw only
claret-glasses, subsided into, "We are not worthy of the least of Thy
mercies." I deny the right of Bishop Wilberforce in narrating this story
in his diary to stigmatize this good man as "gluttonous." He was simply
honest, and his honesty led him into one of those "Things one would
rather have expressed differently." But, however expressed, the meaning
would have been the same, and equally sound.

Absence of mind, of course, conversationally slays its thousands, though
perhaps more by the way of "Things one would rather have left unsaid"
than by "Things one would rather have expressed differently." The late
Archbishop Trench, a man of singularly vague and dreamy habits, resigned
the See of Dublin on account of advancing years, and settled in London.
He once went back to pay a visit to his successor, Lord Plunket. Finding
himself back again in his old palace, sitting at his old dinner-table,
and gazing across it at his old wife, he lapsed in memory to the days
when he was master of the house, and gently remarked to Mrs. Trench, "I
am afraid, my love, that we must put this cook down among our failures."
Delight of Lord and Lady Plunket!

Medical men are sometimes led by carelessness of phrase into giving
their patients shocks. The country doctor who, combining in his
morning's round a visit to the Squire and another to the Vicar, said
that he was trying to kill two birds with one stone, would probably have
expressed himself differently if he had premeditated his remark; and a
London physician who found his patient busy composing a book of
Recollections, and asked, "Why have you put it off so long?" uttered a
"Thing one would rather have left unsaid." The "donniest" of Oxford dons
in an unexampled fit of good nature once undertook to discharge the
duties of the chaplain of Oxford Jail during the Long Vacation.
Unluckily it so fell out that he had to perform the terrible office of
preparing a criminal for execution, and it was felt that he said a
"Thing one would rather have expressed differently," when, at the close
of his final interview, he left the condemned cell, observing, "Well, at
eight o'clock to-morrow morning, then."

The path of those who inhabit Courts is thickly beset with pitfalls.
There are so many things that must be left unsaid, and so many more that
must be expressed differently. Who does not know the "Copper Horse" at
Windsor--that equestrian statue at the end of the Long Walk to which
(and back again) the local flyman always offers to drive the tourist?
Queen Victoria was entertaining a great man, who, in the afternoon,
walked from the Castle to Cumberland Lodge. At dinner her Majesty, full,
as always, of gracious solicitude for the comfort of her guests, said,
"I hope you were not tired by your long walk?" "Oh, not at all, thank
you, ma'am. I got a lift back as far as the Copper Horse." "As far as
what?" inquired her Majesty, in palpable astonishment. "Oh, the Copper
Horse, at the end of the Long Walk!" "That's not a copper horse. That's
my grandfather!"

A little learning is proverbially dangerous, and often lures vague
people into unsuspected perils. One of the most charming ladies of my
acquaintance, remonstrating with her mother for letting the fire go out
on a rather chilly day, exclaimed, "O dear mamma, how could you be so
careless? If you had been a Vestal Virgin you would have been bricked
up." When the London County Council first came into existence, it used
to assemble in the Guildhall, and the following dialogue took place
between a highly cultured councillor and one of his commercial

_Cultured Councillor_. "The acoustics of this place seem very bad."

_Commercial Councillor (sniffing)_. "Indeed, sir? I haven't perceived
anything unpleasant."

A well-known lady had lived for some years in a house in Harley Street
which contained some fine ornamentation by Angelica Kauffmann, and, on
moving to another quarter of the town, she loudly lamented the loss of
her former drawing-room, "for it was so beautifully painted by Fra

Mistakes of idiom are the prolific parents of error, or, as Mrs.
Lirriper said, with an admirable confusion of metaphors, breed fruitful
hot water for all parties concerned. "The wines of this hotel leave one
nothing to hope for," was the alluring advertisement of a Swiss
innkeeper who thought that his vintages left nothing to be desired. Lady
Dufferin, in her Reminiscences of Viceregal Life, has some excellent
instances of the same sort. "Your Enormity" is a delightful variant on
"Your Excellency;" and there is something really pathetic in the Baboo's
benediction, "You have been very good to us, and may Almighty God give
you tit for tat." But to deride these errors of idiom scarcely lies in
the mouth of an Englishman. A friend of mine, wishing to express his
opinion that a Frenchman was an idiot, told him that he was a
"cretonne." Lord R----, preaching at the French Exhibition, implored his
hearers to come and drink of the "eau de vie;" and a good-natured
Cockney, complaining of the incivility of French drivers, said, "It is
so uncalled for, because I always try to make things pleasant by
beginning with 'Bon jour, Cochon.'" Even in our own tongue Englishmen
sometimes come to grief over an idiomatic proverb. In a debate in
Convocation at Oxford, Dr. Liddon, referring to a concession made by the
opposite side, said, "It is proverbially ungracious to look a gift horse
_in the face._" And, though the undergraduates in the gallery roared
"Mouth, sir; mouth!" till they were hoarse, the Angelic Doctor never
perceived the unmeaningness of his proverb.

Some years ago a complaint of inefficiency was preferred against a
workhouse-chaplain, and, when the Board of Guardians came to consider
the case, one of the Guardians, defending the chaplain, observed that
"Mr. P---- was only fifty-two, and had a mother running about."
Commenting on this line of defence, a newspaper, which took the view
hostile to the chaplain, caustically remarked:--"On this principle, the
more athletic or restless were a clergyman's relatives, the more
valuable an acquisition would he himself be to the Church. Supposing
that some Embertide a bishop were fortunate enough to secure among his
candidates for ordination a man who, in addition to 'a mother running
about,' had a brother who gained prizes at Lillie Bridge, and a cousin
who pulled in the 'Varsity Eight, and a nephew who was in the School
Eleven, to say nothing of a grandmother who had St. Vitus's Dance, and
an aunt in the country whose mind wandered, then surely Dr. Liddon
himself would have to look out for his laurels."

The "Things one would rather have expressed differently" for which
reporters are responsible are of course legion. I forbear to enlarge on
such familiar instances as "the shattered libertine of debate," applied
to Mr. Bernal Osborne, and "the roaring loom of the _Times_" when Mr.
Lowell had spoken of the "roaring loom of time." I content myself with
two which occurred in my own immediate circle. A clerical uncle of mine
took the Pledge in his old age, and at a public meeting stated that his
reason for so doing was that for thirty years he had been trying to cure
drunkards by making them drink in moderation, but had never once
succeeded. He was thus reported:--"The rev. gentleman stated that his
reason for taking the Pledge was that for thirty years he had been
trying to drink in moderation, but had never once succeeded." Another
near relation of mine, protesting on a public platform against some
misrepresentation by opponents, said:--"The worst enemy that any cause
can have to fight is a double lie in the shape of half a truth." The
newspaper which reported the proceedings gave the sentiment thus:--"The
worst enemy that any cause can have to fight is a double eye in the
shape of half a tooth." And, when an indignant remonstrance was
addressed to the editor, he blandly said that he certainly had not
understood the phrase, but imagined it must be "a quotation from an old

But if journalistic reporting, on which some care and thought are
bestowed, sometimes proves misleading, common rumour is far more
prolific of things which would have been better expressed differently.
It is now (thank goodness!) a good many years since "spelling-bees" were
a favourite amusement in London drawing-rooms. The late Lady Combermere,
an octogenarian dame who retained a sempiternal taste for _les petits
jeux innocents_ kindly invited a young curate whom she had been asked to
befriend to take part in a "spelling-bee." He got on splendidly for a
while, and then broke down among the repeated "n's" in "drunkenness."
Returning crestfallen to his suburban parish, he was soon gratified by
hearing the rumour that he had been turned out of a lady's house at the
West End for drunkenness.

Shy people are constantly getting into conversational scrapes, their
tongues carrying them whither they know not, like the shy young man who
was arguing with a charming and intellectual young lady.

_Charming Young Lady._ "The worst of me is that I am so apt to be run
away with by an inference."

_Shy Young Man._ "Oh, how I wish I was an inference!"

When the late Dr. Woodford became Bishop of Ely, a rumour went before
him in the diocese that he was a misogynist. He was staying, on his
first round of Confirmations, at a country house, attended by an
astonishingly mild young chaplain, very like the hero of _The Private
Secretary_. In the evening the lady of the house said archly to this
youthful Levite, "I hope you can contradict the story which we have
heard about our new bishop, that he hates ladies." The chaplain, in much
confusion, hastily replied, "Oh, that is quite an exaggeration; but I do
think his Lordship feels safer with the married ladies."

Let me conclude with a personal reminiscence of a "Thing one would
rather have left unsaid." A remarkably pompous clergyman who was an
Inspector of Schools showed me a theme on a Scriptural subject, written
by a girl who was trying to pass from being a pupil-teacher to a
schoolmistress. The theme was full of absurd mistakes, over which the
inspector snorted stertorously. "Well, what do you think of that?" he
inquired, when I handed back the paper. "Oh," said I, in perfectly good
faith, "the mistakes are bad enough, but the writing is far worse. It
really is a disgrace." "Oh, _my_ writing!" said the inspector; "I copied
the theme out." Even after the lapse of twenty years I turn hot all over
when I recall the sensations of that moment.


[33] 1897.



It was "A.K.H.B.," if I recollect aright, who wrote a popular essay on
"The Art of Putting Things." As I know nothing of the essay beyond its
title, and am not quite certain about that, I shall not be guilty of
intentional plagiarism if I attempt to discuss the same subject. It is
not identical with the theme which I have just handled, for "Things one
would rather have expressed differently" are essentially things which
one might have expressed better. If one is not conscious of this at the
moment, a good-natured friend is always at hand to point it out, and the
poignancy of one's regret creates the zest of the situation. For
example, when a German financier, contesting an English borough, drove
over an old woman on the polling-day, and affectionately pressed five
shillings into her hand, saying, "Never mind, my tear, here's something
to get drunk with," his agent instantly pointed out that she wore the
Blue Ribbon, and that her husband was an influential class-leader among
the Wesleyans.

But "The Art of Putting Things" includes also the things which one might
have expressed worse, and covers the cases where a dexterous choice of
words seems, at any rate to the speaker, to have extricated him from a
conversational quandary. As an instance of this perilous art carried to
high perfection, may be cited Abraham Lincoln's judgment on an
unreadably sentimental book--"People who like this sort of thing will
find this the sort of thing they like"--humbly imitated by two eminent
men on this side of the Atlantic, one of whom is in the habit of writing
to struggling authors--"Thank you for sending me your book, which I
shall lose no time in reading;" while the other prefers the less
truthful but perhaps more flattering formula--"I have read your blank
verse, _and much like it_"

The late Mr. Walter Pater was once invited to admire a hideous
wedding-present, compact of ormolu and malachite. Closing his eyes, the
founder of modern aesthetics leaned back in his chair, and waving away
the offending object, murmured in his softest tone, "Oh, very rich, very
handsome, very expensive, I am sure. But they mustn't make any more of

Dexterities of phrase sometimes recoil with dire effect upon their
author. A very popular clergyman of my acquaintance prides himself on
never forgetting an inhabitant of his parish. He was stopped one day in
the street by an aggrieved parishioner whom, to use a homely phrase, he
did not know from Adam. Ready in resource, he produced his pocket-book,
and, hastily jotting down a memorandum of the parishioner's grievance,
he said, with an insinuating smile, "It is so stupid of me, but I always
forget how to spell your name." "J--O--N--E--S," was the gruff response;
and the shepherd and the sheep went their several ways in mutual
disgust. Perhaps the worst recorded attempt at an escape from a
conversational difficulty was made by an East-end curate who specially
cultivated the friendship of the artisans. One day a carpenter arrived
in his room, and, producing a photograph, said, "I've brought you my
boy's likeness, as you said you'd like to have it."

_Curate_ (rapturously). "How awfully good of you to remember! What a
capital likeness! Where is he?"

_Carpenter_. "Why, sir, don't you remember? He's dead."

_Curate._ "Oh yes, of course, I know that. I mean, where's the man that
took the photograph?"

The art of disguising an unpleasant truth with a graceful phrase was
well illustrated in the case of a friend of mine, not remarkable for
physical courage, of whom a tactful phrenologist pronounced that he was
"full of precaution against real or imaginary danger." It is not every
one who can tell a man he is an arrant coward without offending him. The
same art, as applied by a man to his own shortcomings, is exemplified in
the story of the ecclesiastical dignitary who gloried in his Presence of
Mind. According to Dean Stanley, who knew him well, he used to narrate
the incident in the following terms:--

"A friend invited me to go out with him on the water. The sky was
threatening, and I declined. At length he succeeded in persuading me,
and we embarked. A squall came on, the boat lurched, and my friend fell
overboard. Twice he sank; and twice he rose to the surface. He placed
his hands on the prow and endeavoured to climb in. There was great
apprehension lest he should upset the boat. Providentially, I had
brought my umbrella with me, I had the _presence of mind_ to strike him
two or three hard blows over the knuckles. He let go his hold and sank.
The boat righted itself, and we were saved."

The art of avoiding conversational unpleasantness by a graceful way of
putting things belongs, I suppose, in its highest perfection, to the
East. When Lord Dufferin was Viceroy of India, he had a "shikarry," or
sporting servant, whose special duty was to attend the visitors at the
Viceregal Court on their shooting excursions. Returning one day from one
of these expeditions, the shikarry encountered the Viceroy, who, full of
courteous solicitude for his guests' enjoyment, asked: "Well, what sort
of sport has Lord----had?" "Oh," replied the scrupulously polite Indian,
"the young Sahib shot divinely, but God was very merciful to the
birds." Compare this honeyed speech with the terms in which an English
gamekeeper would convey his opinion of a bad shot, and we are forced to
admit the social superiority of Lord Salisbury's "black man."

If we turn from the Orient to the Occident, and from our dependencies to
the United Kingdom, the Art of Putting Things is found to flourish
better on Irish than on Scotch or English soil. We all remember that
Archbishop Whately is said to have thanked God on his deathbed that he
had never given a penny in indiscriminate charity. Perhaps one might
find more suitable subjects of moribund self-congratulation; and I have
always rejoiced in the mental picture of the Archbishop, in all the
frigid pomp of Political Economy, waving off the Dublin beggar with "Go
away, go away; I never give to any one in the street," and receiving the
instantaneous rejoinder, "Then where would your reverence have me wait
on you?" A lady of my acquaintance, who is a proprietress in County
Galway, is in the habit of receiving her own rents. One day, when a
tenant-farmer had pleaded long and unsuccessfully for an abatement, he
exclaimed as he handed over his money, "Well, my lady, all I can say is
that if I had my time over again it's not a tenant-farmer I'd be. I'd
follow one of the learn'd professions." The proprietress gently replied
that even in the learned professions there were losses as well as gains,
and perhaps he would have found professional life as precarious as
farming. "Ah, my lady, how can that be then?" replied the son of St.
Patrick. "If you're a lawyer--win or lose, you're paid. If you're a
doctor--kill or cure, you're paid. If you're a priest--heaven or hell,
you're paid." Who can imagine an English farmer pleading the case for an
abatement with this happy mixture of fun and satire?

"Urbane" is a word which etymologically bears witness that the ancient
world believed the arts of courtesy to be the products of the town
rather than of the country. Something of the same distinction may
occasionally be traced even in the civilization of modern England. The
house-surgeon of a London hospital was attending to the injuries of a
poor woman whose arm had been severely bitten. As he was dressing the
wound he said, "I cannot make out what sort of animal bit you. This is
too small for a horse's bite, and too large for a dog's." "O sir,"
replied the patient, "it wasn't an animal; it was _another lydy._"
Surely the force of Urbanity could no further go. On the other hand, it
was a country clergyman who, in view of the approaching Confirmation,
announced that on the morning of the ceremony the young _ladies_ would
assemble at the Vicarage and the young _women_ at the National School.

"Let us distinguish," said the philosopher, and certainly the arbitrary
use of the term "lady" and "gentleman" suggests some curious studies in
the Art of Putting Things. A good woman who let furnished apartments in
a country town, describing a lodger who had apparently "known better
days," said, "I am positive she was a real born lady, for she hadn't the
least idea how to do hanything for herself; it took her hours to peel
her potatoes." Carlyle has illustrated from the annals of our criminal
jurisprudence the truly British conception of "a very respectable man"
as one who keeps a gig; and similarly, I recollect that in the famous
trial of Kurr and Benson, the turf-swindlers, twenty years ago, a
witness testified, with reference to one of the prisoners, that he had
always considered him a "perfect gentleman;" and, being pressed by
counsel to give his reasons for this view, said, "He had rooms at the
Langham Hotel, and dined with the Lord Mayor."

On the other hand, it would seem that in certain circles and
contingencies the "grand old name of Gentleman" is regarded as a term of
opprobrium. The late Lord Wriothesley Russell, who was for many years a
Canon of Windsor, used to conduct a mission service for the Household
troops quartered there; and one of his converts, a stalwart trooper of
the Blues, expressing his gratitude for these voluntary ministrations,
and contrasting them with the officer-like and disciplinary methods of
the army chaplains, genially exclaimed, "But I always say there's not a
bit of the gentleman about you, my lord." When Dr. Harold Browne became
Bishop of Ely, he asked the head verger some questions as to where his
predecessor had been accustomed to sit in the Cathedral, what part he
had taken in the services, and so on. The verger proved quite unable to
supply the required information, and said in self-excuse, "Well, you
see, my lord, his late lordship wasn't at all a church-going gentleman;"
which, being interpreted, meant that, on account of age and infirmities,
Bishop Turton had long confined his ministrations to his private chapel.

Just after a change of Government not many years ago, an officer of the
Royal Household was chatting with one of the Queen's old coachmen (whose
name and location I, for obvious reasons, forbear to indicate). "Well,
Whipcord, have you seen your new Master of the Horse yet?" "Yes, sir, I
have; and I should say that his lordship is more of an indoors man." The
phrase has a touch of genial contempt for a long-descended but effete
aristocracy which tickles the democratic palate. It was not old
Whipcord, but a brother in the craft, who, when asked, during the
Jubilee of 1887, if he was driving any of the Imperial and Royal guests
then quartered at Buckingham Palace, replied, with calm self-respect,
"No, sir; I am the Queen's Coachman. I don't drive the riff-raff." I
take this to be a sublime instance of the Art of Putting Things.
Lingering for a moment on these back stairs of History, let me tell the
tragic tale of Mr. and Mrs. M----. Mr. M---- was one of the merchant
princes of London, and Mrs. M---- had occasion to engage a new
housekeeper for their palace in Park Lane. The outgoing official wrote
to her incoming successor a detailed account of the house and its
inmates. The butler was a very pleasant man. The _chef_ was inclined to
tipple. The lady's-maid gave herself airs; and the head housemaid was a
very well principled young woman--and so on and so forth. After the
signature, huddled away in a casual postscript, came the damning
sentence, "As for Mr. and Mrs. M----, they behave as well as they know
how." Was it by inadvertence, or from a desire to let people know their
proper place, that the recipient of this letter allowed its contents to
find their way to the children of the family?

As incidentally indicated above, a free recourse to alcoholic stimulus
used to be, in less temperate days, closely associated with the culinary
art; and one of the best cooks I ever knew was urged by her mistress to
attend a great meeting for the propagation of the Blue Ribbon, to be
held not a hundred miles from Southampton, and addressed by a famous
preacher of total abstinence. The meeting was enthusiastic, and the Blue
Ribbon was freely distributed. Next morning the lady anxiously asked her
cook what effect the oratory had produced on her, and she replied, with
the evident sense of narrow escape from imminent danger, "Well, my lady,
if Mr. ---- had gone on for five minutes more, I believe I should have
taken the Ribbon too; but, thank goodness! he stopped in time."

So far, I find, I have chiefly dealt with the Art of Putting Things as
practised by the "urbane" or town-bred classes. Let me give a few
instances of "pagan" or countrified use. A village blacksmith was
describing to me with unaffected pathos the sudden death of his very
aged father; "and," he added, "the worst part of it was that I had to go
and break it to my poor old mother." Genuinely entering into my friend's
grief, I said, "Yes; that must have been terrible. How did you break
it?" "Well, I went into her cottage and I said. 'Dad's dead.' She said,
'What?' and I said, 'Dad's dead, and you may as well know it first as
last.'" Breaking it! Truly a curious instance of the rural Art of
Putting Things.

A labourer in Buckinghamshire, being asked how the rector of the village
was, replied, "Well, he's getting wonderful old; but they do tell me
that his understanding's no worse than it always was"--a pagan synonym
for the hackneyed phrase that one is in full possession of one's
faculties. This entire avoidance of flattering circumlocutions, though
it sometimes produces these rather startling effects, gives a peculiar
raciness to rustic oratory. Not long ago a member for a rural
constituency, who had always professed the most democratic sentiments,
suddenly astonished his constituents by taking a peerage. During the
election caused by his transmigration, one of his former supporters said
at a public meeting, "Mr. ---- says as how he's going to the House of
Lords to leaven it. I tell you, you can't no more leaven the House of
Lords by putting Mr. ---- into it than you can sweeten a cart-load of
muck with a pot of marmalade." During the General Election of 1892 I
heard an old labourer on a village green denouncing the evils of an
Established Church. "I'll tell you how it is with one of these 'ere
State parsons. If you take away his book, he can't preach; and if you
take away his gownd, he mustn't preach; and if you take away his screw,
he'll be d----d if he'll preach." The humour which underlies the
roughness of countrified speech is often not only genuine but subtle. I
have heard a story of a young labourer who, on his way to his day's
work, called at the registrar's office to register his father's death.
When the official asked the date of the event, the son replied, "He
ain't dead yet, but he'll be dead before night, so I thought it would
save me another journey if you would put it down now." "Oh, that won't
do at all," said the registrar, "perhaps your father will live till
to-morrow." "Well, I don't know, sir; the doctor says as he won't, and
he knows what he has given him."

The accomplished authoress of _Country Conversations_ has put on record
some delightful specimens of rural dialogue, culled chiefly from the
labouring classes of Cheshire. And, rising in the social scale from the
labourer to the farmer, what could be more lifelike than this tale of an
ill-starred wooing? "My son Tom has met with a disappointment about
getting married. You know he's got that nice farm at H----; so he met a
young lady at a dance, and he was very much took up, and she seemed
quite agreeable. So, as he heard she had Five Hundred, he wrote next day
to pursue the acquaintance, and her father wrote and asked Tom to come
over to S----. Eh, dear! Poor fellow! He went off in such sperrits, and
he looked so spruce in his best clothes, with a new tie and all. So next
day, when I heard him come to the gate, I ran out as pleased as could
be; but I see in a moment he was sadly cast down. 'Why, Tom, my lad,'
says I, 'what is it?' 'Why, mother,' says he, 'she'd understood mine was
a harable; _and she will not marry to a dairy_.'"

From Cheshire to East Anglia is a far cry, but let me give one more
lesson in the Art of Putting Things, derived from that delightful writer
Dr. Jessopp. In one of his studies of rural life the Doctor tells, in
his own inimitable style, a story of which the moral is the necessity of
using plain words when you are preaching to the poor. The story runs
that in the parish where he served his first curacy there was an old
farmer on whom had fallen all the troubles of Job--loss of stock, loss
of capital, eviction from his holding, the death of his wife, and the
failure of his own health. The well-meaning young curate, though full of
compassion, could find no more novel topic of consolation than to say
that all these trials were the dispensations of Providence. On this the
poor old victim brightened up and said with a cheerful smile, "Ah yes,
sir; I know that right enough. That old Providence has been against me
all along; but I reckon _there's One above_ that will put a stopper on
him if he goes too far." Evidently, as Dr. Jessopp observes,
"Providence" was to the good old man a learned synonym for the devil.



The humours of childhood include in rich abundance both Things which
would have been better left unsaid, and Things which might have been
expressed differently. But just now they lack their sacred bard. There
is no one to observe and chronicle them. It is a pity, for the "heart
that watches and receives" will often find in the pleasantries of
childhood a good deal that deserves perpetuation.

The children of fiction are a mixed company, some lifelike and some
eminently the reverse. In _Joan_ Miss Rhoda Broughton drew with
unequalled skill a family of odious children. Henry Kingsley look a more
genial view of his subject, and sketched some pleasant children in
_Austin Elliot_, and some delightful ones in the last chapter of
_Ravenshoe_. The "Last of the Neros" in _Barchester Towers_ is admirably
drawn, and all elderly bachelors must have sympathized with good Mr.
Thorne when, by way of making himself agreeable to the mother, Signora
Vesey-Neroni, he took the child upon his knee, jumped her up and down,
saying, "Diddle, diddle, diddle," and was rewarded with, "I don't want
to be diddle-diddle-diddled. Let me go, you naughty old man." Dickens's
children are by common consent intolerable, but a quarter of a century
ago we were all thrilled by Miss Montgomery's _Misunderstood_. It is
credibly reported that an earlier and more susceptible generation was
moved to tears by the sinfulness of Topsy and the saintliness of Eva;
and the adventures of the _Fairchild Family_ enjoy a deserved popularity
among all lovers of unintentional humour. But the "sacred bard" of
child-life was John Leech, whose twofold skill immortalized it with pen
and with pencil. The childish incidents and sayings which Leech
illustrated were, I believe, always taken from real life. His sisters
"kept an establishment," as Mr. Dombey said--the very duplicate of that
to which little Paul was sent. "'It is not a Preparatory School by any
means. Should I express my meaning,' said Miss Tox with peculiar
sweetness, 'if I designated it an infantine boarding-house of a very
select description?'"

"'On an exceedingly limited and particular scale,' suggested Mrs. Chick,
with a glance at her brother."

"'Oh! exclusion itself,' said Miss Tox."

The analogy may be even more closely pressed, for, as at Mrs. Pipchin's
so at Miss Leech's, "juvenile nobility itself was no stranger to the
establishment." Miss Tox told Mr. Dombey that "the humble individual who
now addressed him was once under Mrs. Pipchin's charge;" and, similarly,
the obscure writer of these papers was once under Miss Leech's. Her
school supplied the originals of all the little boys, whether greedy or
gracious, grave or gay, on foot or on pony-back, in knickerbockers or in
nightshirts, who figure so frequently in _Punch_ between 1850 and 1864;
and one of the pleasantest recollections of those distant days is the
kindness with which the great artist used to receive us when, as the
supreme reward of exceptionally good conduct, we were taken to see him
in his studio at Kensington. It is my rule not to quote at length from
what is readily accessible, and therefore I cull only one delightful
episode from Leech's _Sketches of Life and Character_. Two little chaps
are discussing the age of a third; and the one reflectively remarks,
"Well, I don't 'zactly know how old Charlie is; but he must be very
old, for he blows his own nose." Happy and far distant days, when such
an accomplishment seemed to be characteristic of a remotely future age!
"Mamma," inquired an infant aristocrat of a superlatively refined
mother, "when shall I be old enough to eat bread and cheese with a
knife, and put the knife in my mouth?" But the answer is not recorded.

The vagueness of the young with respect to the age of their elders is
pleasingly illustrated by the early history of a nobleman who recently
represented a division of Manchester in Parliament. His mother had a
maid, who seemed to childish eyes extremely old. The children of the
family longed to know her age, but were much too well-bred to ask a
question which they felt would be painful; so they sought to attain the
desired end by a system of ingenious traps. The future Member for
Manchester chanced in a lucky hour to find in his "Book of Useful
Knowledge" the tradition that the aloe flowers only once in a hundred
years. He instantly saw his opportunity, and accosting the maid with
winning air and wheedling accent, asked insinuatingly, "Dunn, have you
often seen the aloe flower?"

The _Enfant Terrible_, though his name is imported from France, is an
indigenous growth of English soil. A young husband and wife of my
acquaintance were conversing in the comfortable belief that "Tommy
didn't understand," when Tommy looked up from his toys, and said
reprovingly, "Mamma, oughtn't you to have said that in French?"

The late Lord ----, who had a deformed foot, was going to visit Queen
Victoria at Osborne, and before his arrival the Queen and Prince Albert
debated whether it would be better to warn the Prince of Wales and the
Princess Royal of his physical peculiarity, so as to avoid embarrassing
remarks, or to leave it to their own good feeling. The latter course was
adopted. Lord ---- duly arrived. The foot elicited no remarks from the
Royal children, and the visit passed off anxiously but with success.
Next day the Princess Royal asked the Queen, "Where is Lord----?" "He
has gone back to London, dear." "Oh! what a pity! He had promised to
show Bertie and me his foot!" They had caught him in the corridor and
made their own terms with their captive.

In more recent years the little daughter of one of the Queen's most
confidential advisers had the unexampled honour of being invited to
luncheon with her Majesty. During the meal, an Illustrious Lady,
negotiating a pigeon after the German fashion, took up one of its bones
with her finger and thumb. The little visitor, whose sense of British
propriety was stronger than her awe of Courts, regarded the proceeding
with wonder-dilated eyes, and then burst out, "Oh, Piggy-wiggy,
Piggy-wiggy! You _are_ Piggy-wiggy." Probably she is now languishing in
the dungeon keep of Windsor Castle.

If the essence of the _Enfant Terrible_ is that he or she causes
profound embarrassment to the surrounding adults, the palm of
pre-eminence must be assigned to the children of a famous diplomatist,
who, some twenty years ago, organized a charade and performed it without
assistance from their elders. The scene displayed a Crusader knight
returning from the wars to his ancestral castle. At the castle gate he
was welcomed by his beautiful and rejoicing wife, to whom, after tender
salutations, he recounted his triumphs on the tented field and the
number of paynim whom he had slain. "And I too, my lord," replied his
wife, pointing with conscious pride to a long roll of dolls of various
sizes--"and I too, my lord, have not been idle." _Tableau_ indeed!

The argumentative child is scarcely less trying than the _Enfant
Terrible_. Miss Sellon, the foundress of English sisterhoods, adopted
and brought up in her convent at Devonport a little Irish waif who had
been made an orphan by the outbreak of cholera in 1849. The infant's
customs and manners, especially at table, were a perpetual trial to a
community of refined old maids. "Chew your food, Aileen," said Miss
Sellon. "If you please, mother, the whale didn't chew Jonah," was the
prompt reply of the little Romanist, who had been taught that the
examples of Holy Writ were for our imitation. Answers made in
examinations I forbear, as a rule, to quote, but one I must give,
because it so beautifully illustrates the value of ecclesiastical
observances in our elementary schools:--

_Vicar_. "Now, my dear, do you know what happened on Ascension Day?"

_Child_. "Yes, sir, please. We had buns and a swing."

Natural childhood should know nothing of social forms, and the
coachman's son who described his father's master as "the man that rides
in dad's carriage," showed a finely democratic instinct. But the
boastful child is a very unpleasant product of nature or of art. "We've
got a private master comes to teach us at home, but we ain't proud,
because Ma says it's sinful," quoth Morleena Kenwigs, under her mother's
instructions, when Nicholas Nickleby gave her French lessons. The infant
daughter of a country clergyman, drinking tea in the nursery of the
episcopal Palace, boasted that at the Vicarage they had a hen which laid
an egg every day. "Oh, that's nothing," retorted the bishop's daughter;
"Papa lays a foundation-stone every week."

The precocious child, even when thoroughly well-meaning, is a source of
terror by virtue of its intense earnestness. In the days when Maurice
first discredited the doctrine of Eternal Punishment, some learned and
theological people were discussing, in a country house near Oxford, the
abstract credibility of endless pain. Suddenly the child of the house
(now its owner), who was playing on the hearth-rug, looked up and said,
"But how am I to know that it isn't hell already, and that I am not in
it?"--a question which threw a lurid light on his educational and
disciplinary experiences. Some of my readers will probably recollect the
"Japanese Village" at Knightsbridge--a pretty show of Oriental wares
which was burnt down, just at the height of its popularity, a few years
ago. On the day of its destruction I was at the house of a famous
financier, whose children had been to see the show only two days before.
One of them, an urchin of eight, immensely interested by the news of the
fire, asked, not if the pretty things were burnt or the people hurt, but
this one question, "Mamma, was it insured?" Verily, _bon chat chasse de
race_. The children of an excellent but unfortunate judge are said to
have rushed one day into their mother's drawing-room exclaiming, "Dear
Mamma, may we have jam for tea? One of Papa's judgments has been upheld
in the Court of Appeal." An admirable story of commercial precocity
reaches me from one of the many correspondents who have been good enough
to write to me in connection with this book. It may be commended to the
promoters of that class of company which is specially affected by the
widow, the orphan, and the curate. Two small boys, walking down
Tottenham Court Road, passed a tobacconist's shop. The bigger remarked,
"I say, Bill, I've got a ha'penny, and, if you've got one too, we'll
have a penny smoke between us." Bill produced his copper, and Tommy
diving into the shop, promptly reappeared with a penny cigar in his
mouth. The boys walked side by side for a few minutes, when the smaller
mildly said, "I say, Tom, when am I to have a puff? The weed's half
mine." "Oh, you shut up," was the business-like reply. "I'm the Chairman
of this Company, and you are only a shareholder. _You can spit._"

Mr. H.J. Barker, who is, I believe, what Mr. Squeers called "A Educator
of Youth," has lately given us some pleasant echoes from the Board
School. A young moralist recorded his judgment, that it is not cruel to
kill a turkey, "if only you take it into the backyard and use a sharp
knife, _and the turkey is yours!_" Another dogmatized thus: "Don't
teese cats, for firstly, it is wrong so to do; and 2nd, cats have
clawses which is longer than people think." The following theory of the
Bank Holiday would scarcely commend itself to that sound economist Sir
John Lubbock:--"The Banks shut up shop, so as people can't put their
money in, but has to spend it." So far the rude male: it required the
genius of feminine delicacy to define a Civil War as "one in which the
military are unnecessarily and punctiliously civil or polite, often
raising their helmets to each other before engaging in deadly combat."

The joys of childhood are a theme on which a good deal of verse has been
expended. I am far from denying that they are real, but I contend that
they commonly take a form which is quite inconsistent with poetry, and
that the poet (like heaven) "lies about us in our infancy." "I wish
every day in the year was a pot of jam," was the obviously sincere
exclamation of a fat little boy whom I knew, and whom Leech would have
delighted to draw. Two little London girls who had been sent by the
kindness of the vicar's wife to have "a happy day in the country,"
narrating their experiences on their return, said, "Oh yes, mum, we
_did_ 'ave a 'appy day. We saw two pigs killed and a gentleman buried."
And the little boy who was asked if he thought he should like a
hymn-book for his birthday present replied that "he _thought_ he should
like a hymn-book, but he _knew_ he should like a squirt." A small cousin
of mine, hearing his big brothers describe their experiences at a Public
School, observed with unction, "If ever I have a fag of my own, I will
stick pins into him." But now we are leaving childhood behind, and
attaining to the riper joys of full-blooded boyhood.

    "O running stream of sparkling joy
    To be a soaring human boy!"

exclaimed Mr. Chadband in a moment of inspiration. "In the strictest
sense a boy," was Mr. Gladstone's expressive phrase in his controversy
with Colonel Dopping. For my own part, I confess to a frank dislike of
boys. I dislike them equally whether they are priggish boys, like Kenelm
Chillingly, who asked his mother if she was never overpowered by a sense
of her own identity; or sentimental boys, like Dibbins in _Basil the
Schoolboy_, who, discussing with a friend how to spend a whole holiday,
said, "Let us go to Dingley Dell and talk about Byron;" or manly boys
like Tom Tulliver, of whom it is excellently said that he was the kind
of boy who is commonly spoken of as being very fond of animals--that is,
very fond of throwing stones at them.

Whatever its type,

    "I've seemed of late
    To shrink from happy boyhood--boys
    Have grown so noisy, and I hate
    A noise.
    They fright me when the beech is green,
    By swarming up its stem for eggs;
    They drive their horrid hoops between
    My legs.
    It's idle to repine, I know;
    I'll tell you what I'll do instead:
    I'll drink my arrowroot, and go
    To bed."

But before I do so let me tell one boy-story, connected with the Eton
and Harrow match, which has always struck me as rather pleasing. In the
year 1866, when F.C. Cobden, who was afterwards so famous for his
bowling in the Cambridge Eleven, was playing for Harrow, an affable
father, by way of making conversation for a little Harrow boy at Lord's,
asked, "Is your Cobden any relation to the great Cobden?" "Why, he _is_
the great Cobden," was the simple and swift reply. This is the true
spirit of hero-worship.



"Odd men write odd letters." This rather platitudinous sentence, from an
otherwise excellent essay of the late Bishop Thorold's, is abundantly
illustrated alike by my Collections and by my Recollections. I plunge at
random into my subject, and immediately encounter the following letter
from a Protestant clergyman in the north of Ireland, written in response
to a suggestion that he might with advantage study Mr. Gladstone's
magnificent speech on the Second Reading of the Affirmation Bill in

"My dear Sir,--I have received your recommendation to read carefully the
speech of Mr. Gladstone in favour of admitting the infidel Bradlaugh
into Parliament, I did so when it was delivered, and I must say that the
strength of argument rests with the opposition. I fully expect in the
event of a dissolution the Government will lose between fifty and sixty
seats. Any conclusion can be arrived at, according to the premises laid
down. Mr. G. avoided the Scriptural lines and followed his own. All
parties knew the feeling of the country on the subject, and,
notwithstanding the bullying and majority of Gladstone, he was defeated.
Before the Irish Church was robbed, I was nominated to the Deanery of
Tuam, but Mr. Disraeli resigning, I was defrauded of my just right by
Mr. Gladstone, and my wife, Lady----, the only surviving child of an
Earl, was sadly disappointed; but there is a just Judge above. The
letter of nomination is still in my possession. I am, dear sir, yours

It is highly characteristic of Mr. Gladstone that, when this letter was
shown to him by its recipient as a specimen of epistolary oddity, he
read it, not with a smile, but with a portentous frown, and, handing it
back, sternly asked, "What does the fellow mean by quoting an engagement
entered into by my predecessor as binding on me?"

It is not only clergy "defrauded" of expected dignities that write odd
letters. Young curates in search of benefices often seek to gratify
their innocent ambitions by the most ingenious appeals. Here is a letter
received not many years ago by the Prime Minister of the day:--

"I have no doubt but that your time is fully occupied. I will therefore
compress as much as possible what I wish to say, and frame my request in
a few words. Some time ago my mother wrote to her brother, Lord ----,
asking him to try and do something for me in the way of obtaining a
living. The reply from Lady ---- was that my uncle could do nothing to
help me. I naturally thought that a Premier possessed of such a
plenitude of power as yourself would find it a matter of less difficulty
to transform a curate into a rector or vicar than to create a peer. My
name is in the Chancellor's List--a proceeding, as far as results,
somewhat suggestive, I fear, of the Greek Kalends.... My future
father-in-law is a member of the City Liberal Club, in which a _large
bust_ of yourself was unveiled last year. I am 31 years of age; a High
Churchman; musical, &c.; graduate of----. If I had a living I could
marry.... I am very anxious to marry, but I am very poor, and a living
would help me very much. Being a Southerner, fond of music and of books,
I naturally would like to be somewhere near town. I hope you will be
able to help me in this respect, and thus afford much happiness to more
than one." There is great force in that appeal to the "large bust."

Here is a request which Bishop Thorold received from an admirer, who
unfortunately omitted to give his address:--

"Rev. and learned Sir,--Coming into your presence through the medium of
a letter, I do so in the spirit of respect due to you as a gentleman and
a scholar. I unfortunately am a scholar, but a blackguard. I heard you
preach a few times, and thought you might pity the position I have
brought myself to. I should be grateful to you for an old coat or an old
pair of boots."

And while the seekers after emolument write odd letters, odd letters are
also written by their admirers on their behalf. A few years ago one of
the principal benefices in West London was vacated, and, the
presentation lapsing to the Crown, the Prime Minister received the
following appeal:--

"Sir,--Doubtless you do not often get a letter from a working man on the
subject of clerical appointments, but as I here you have got to find a
minister for to fill Mr. Boyd Carpenter's place, allow me to ask you to
just go some Sunday afternoon and here our little curate, Mr. ----, at
St. Matthew's Church--he is a good, Earnest little man, and a genuine
little Fellow; got no humbug about him, but a sound Churchman, is an
Extempor Preacher, and deserves promotion. Nobody knows I am writing to
you, and it is not a matter of kiss and go by favour, but simply asking
you to take a run over and here him, and then put him a stept higher--he
deserves it. I know Mr. Sullivan will give him a good character, and so
will Mr. Alcroft, the Patron. Now do go over and here him before you
make a choice. We working men will be sorry to loose him, but we think
he ought not to be missed promotion, as he is a good fellow.--Your
obediently servant."

Ladies, as might naturally be expected, are even more enthusiastic in
advocating the claims of their favourite divines. Writing lately on the
Agreeableness of Clergymen, I described some of the Canons of St. Paul's
and Westminster, and casually referred to the handsome presence of Dr.
Duckworth. I immediately received the following effusion, which, wishing
to oblige the writer, and having no access to the _Church Family
Newspaper_, I now make public:--

"A member of the Rev. Canon Duckworth's congregation for _more than 25
years_ has been much pained by the scant and curious manner in which he
is mentioned by you, and begs to say that his Gospel teaching, his
scholarly and yet simple and charitable discourses (and teaching), his
courteous and sympathetic and prompt answers to his people's requests
and inquiries, his energetic and constant work in his parish, are beyond
praise. Added to all is his clear and sonorous voice in his rendering of
the prayer and praise amongst us. A grateful parishioner hopes and
_asks_ for some further recognition of his position in the Church of
Christ, in the _Church Family Newspaper_, June 12." So far the Church. I
now turn to the world.

In the second volume of Lord Beaconsfield's _Endymion_ will be found a
description, by a hand which was never excelled at such business, of
that grotesque revival of medievalism, the Tournament at Eglinton Castle
in 1839. But the writer, conceding something to the requirements of art,
ignores the fact that the splendid pageant was spoilt by rain. Two
years' preparation and enormous expense were thrown away. A grand
cavalcade, in which Prince Louis Napoleon rode as one of the knights,
left Eglinton Castle on the 28th of August at two in the afternoon, with
heralds, banners, pursuivants, the knight-marshal, the jester, the King
of the Tournament, the Queen of Beauty, and a glowing assemblage of
knights and ladies, seneschals, chamberlains, esquires, pages, and
men-at-arms, and took their way in procession to the lists, which were
overlooked by galleries in which nearly two thousand spectators were
accommodated; but all the while the rain came down in bucketfuls, never
ceased while the tourney proceeded, and brought the proceedings to a
premature and ignominious close. I only mention the occurrence here
because the Queen of Beauty, elected to that high honour by unanimous
acclamation, was Jane Sheridan, Lady Seymour; and there is all the charm
of vivid contrast in turning from the reckless expenditure and fantastic
brilliancy of 1839 to the following correspondence, which was published
in the newspapers in the early part of 1840.

Anne, Lady Shuckburgh, was the wife of Sir Francis Shuckburgh, a
Northamptonshire Baronet, and to her the Queen of Beauty, forsaking the
triumphs of chivalry for the duties of domestic economy, addressed the
following letter:--

"Lady Seymour presents her compliments to Lady Shuckburgh, and would be
obliged to her for the character of Mary Stedman, who states that she
lived twelve months, and still is, in Lady Shuckburgh's establishment.
Can Mary Stedman cook plain dishes well? make bread? and is she honest,
good-tempered, sober, willing, and cleanly? Lady Seymour would also like
to know the reason why she leaves Lady Shuckburgh's service. Direct,
under cover to Lord Seymour, Maiden Bradley."

To this polite and business-like inquiry, Lady Shuckburgh replied as

"Lady Shuckburgh presents her compliments to Lady Seymour. Her
ladyship's note, dated October 28, only reached her yesterday, November
3. Lady Shuckburgh was unacquainted with the name of the kitchen-maid
until mentioned by Lady Seymour, as it is her custom neither to apply
for or to give characters to any of the under servants, this being
always done by the housekeeper, Mrs. Couch--and this was well known to
the young woman; therefore Lady Shuckburgh is surprised at her referring
any lady to her for a character. Lady Shuckburgh having a professed
cook, as well as a housekeeper, in her establishment, it is not very
likely she herself should know anything of the abilities or merits of
the under servants; therefore she is unable to answer Lady Seymour's
note. Lady Shuckburgh cannot imagine Mary Stedman to be capable of
cooking for any except the servants'-hall table.

"November 4, Pavilion, Hans Place."

But Sheridan's granddaughter was quite the wrong subject for these
experiments in fine-ladyism, and she lost no time in replying as

"Lady Seymour presents her compliments to Lady Shuckburgh, and begs she
will order her housekeeper, Mrs. Pouch, to send the girl's character
without delay; otherwise another young woman will be sought for
elsewhere, as Lady Seymour's children cannot remain without their
dinners because Lady Shuckburgh, keeping a 'professed cook and a
housekeeper,' thinks a knowledge of the details of her establishment
beneath her notice. Lady Seymour understands from Stedman that, in
addition to her other talents, she was actually capable of dressing food
fit for the little Shuckburghs to partake of when hungry."

To this note was appended a pen-and-ink vignette by Lady Seymour
representing the three "little Shuckburghs," with large heads and
cauliflower wigs, sitting at a round table and voraciously scrambling
for mutton chops dressed by Mary Stedman, who was seen looking on with
supreme satisfaction, while Lady Shuckburgh appeared in the distance in
evident dismay. A crushing rejoinder closed this correspondence:--

"Madam,--Lady Shuckburgh has directed me to acquaint you that she
declines answering your note, the vulgarity of which is beneath
contempt; and although it may be the characteristic of the Sheridans to
be vulgar, coarse, and witty, it is not that of a 'lady,' unless she
happens to have been born in a garret and bred in a kitchen. Mary
Stedman informs me that your ladyship does not keep either a cook or a
housekeeper, and that you only require a girl who can cook a mutton
chop. If so, I apprehend that Mary Stedman or any other scullion will be
found fully equal to cook for or manage the establishment of the Queen
of Beauty.--I am, your Ladyship's, &c.,

"ELIZABETH COUCH (not Pouch)."

"Odd men," quoth Bishop Thorold, "write odd letters," and so do odd
women. The original of the following epistle to Mr. Gladstone lies
before me. It is dated Cannes, March 15, 1893:--

"Far away from my native Land, my bitter indignation as a _Welshwoman_
prompts me to reproach you, you _bad, wicked, false_, treacherous Old
Man! for your iniquitous scheme to _rob_ and overthrow the
dearly-beloved Old Church of my Country. You have no conscience, but I
pray that God may even yet give you one that will sorely _smart_ and
trouble you before you die. You pretend to be religious, you old
hypocrite! that you may more successfully pander to the evil passions of
the lowest and most ignorant of the Welsh people. But you neither care
for nor respect the principles of Religion, or you would not distress
the minds of all true Christian people by instigating a mob to Commit
the awful sin of Sacrilege. You think you will shine in History, but it
will be a notoriety similar to that of _Nero._ I see some one pays you
the unintentional compliment of comparing you to Pontius Pilate, and I
am sorry, for Pilate, though a political time-server, was, with all his
faults, a very respectable man in comparison with you. And he did not,
like you, profess the Christian Religion You are certainly _clever_. So
also is your lord and master the Devil. And I cannot regard it as sinful
to hate and despise you, any more than it is sinful to abhor him. So,
with full measure of contempt and detestation, accept these compliments


It is a triumph of female perseverance and ingenuity that the whole of
the foregoing is compressed into a single postcard.

Some letters, like the foregoing, are odd from their extraordinary
rudeness. Others--not usually, it must be admitted, Englishmen's
letters--are odd from their excess of civility. An Italian priest
working in London wrote to a Roman Catholic M.P., asking for an order of
admission to the House of Commons, and, on receiving it, acknowledged it
as follows:--

"_To the Hon. Mr. ----, M.P._

"Hon. Sir, Son in Jesu Christ, I beg most respectfully you, Hon. Sir, to
accept the very deep gratitude for the ticket which you, Hon. Sir, with
noble kindness, favoured me by post to-day. May the Blessing of God
Almighty come upon you, Hon. Sir, and may He preserve you, Hon. Sir, for
ever and ever, Amen! With all due respect, I have the honour to be, Hon.
Sir, your most

"humble and obedient servant,


Surely the British Constituent might take a lesson from this extremely
polite letter-writer when his long-suffering Member has squeezed him
into the Strangers' Gallery.

Some letters, again, are odd from their excess of candour. A gentleman,
unknown to me, soliciting pecuniary assistance, informed me that, having
"sought relief from trouble in dissipation," he "committed an act which
sent him into Penal Servitude," and shortly after his release, "wrote a
book containing many suggestions for the reform of prison discipline," A
lady, widely known for the benevolent use which she makes of great
wealth, received a letter from an absolute stranger, setting forth that
he had been so unfortunate as to overdraw his account at his bankers,
and adding, "As I know that it will only cost you a scratch of the pen
to set this right, I make no apology for asking you to do so."

Among "odd men" might certainly be reckoned the late Archdeacon Denison,
and he displayed his oddness very characteristically when, having
quarrelled with the Committee of Council on Education, he refused to
have his parish schools inspected, and thus intimated his resolve to the

"My dear Bellairs,--I love you very much; but if you ever come here
again to inspect, I lock the door of the school, and tell the boys to
put you in the pond."

I am not sure whether the great Duke of Wellington can properly be
described as an "odd man," but beyond question he wrote odd letters. I
have already quoted from his reply to Mrs. Norton when she asked leave
to dedicate a song to him: "I have made it a rule to have nothing
dedicated to me, and have kept it in every instance, though I have been
Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and in other situations _much
exposed to authors_." The Duke replied to every letter that he received,
but his replies were not always acceptable to their recipients. When a
philanthropist begged him to present some petitions to the House of
Lords on behalf of the wretched chimney sweeps, the Duke wrote back:
"Mr. Stevens has _thought fit_ to leave some petitions at Apsley House.
They will be found with the porter." The Duke's correspondence with
"Miss J.," which was published by Mr. Fisher Unwin some ten years ago,
and is much less known than it deserves to be, contains some gems of
composition. Miss J. consulted the Duke about her duty when a
fellow-passenger in the stage-coach swore, and he wrote: "I don't
consider with you that it is necessary to enter into a disputation with
every wandering Blasphemer. Much must depend upon the circumstances."
And when the good lady mixed flirtation with piety, and irritability
with both, he wrote: "The Duke of Wellington presents His Compliments to
Miss J. She is quite mistaken. He has no Lock of Hair of Hers. He never
had one."[34] The Letter of Condolence is a branch of the art of
letter-writing which requires very delicate handling. This was evidently
felt by the Oxford Don who, writing to condole with a father on the
death of his undergraduate son, concluded his tribute of sympathy by
saying: "At the same time, I feel it my duty to tell you that your son
would not in any case have been allowed to return next term, as he had
failed to pass Responsions."

Curtness in letter-writing does not necessarily indicate oddity. It
often is the most judicious method of avoiding interminable
correspondence. When one of Bishop Thorold's clergy wrote to beg leave
of absence from his duties in order that he might make a long tour in
the East, he received for all reply: "Dear--,--Go to Jericho.--Yours,
A.W.R." At a moment when scarlet fever was ravaging Haileybury, and
suggestions for treatment were pouring in by every post, the Head Master
had a lithographed answer prepared, which ran: "Dear Sir,--I am obliged
by your opinions, and retain my own." An admirable answer was made by
another Head Master to a pompous matron, who wrote that, before she sent
her boy to his school, she must ask if he was very particular about the
social antecedents of his pupils: "Dear Madam, as long as your son
behaves himself and his fees are paid, no questions will be asked about
his social antecedents."

Sydney Smith's reply, when Lord Houghton, then young "Dicky Milnes,"
wrote him an angry letter about some supposed unfriendliness, was a
model of mature and genial wisdom: "Dear Milnes,--Never lose your good
temper, which is one of your best qualities." When the then Dean of
Hereford wrote a solemn letter to Lord John Russell, announcing that he
and his colleagues would refuse to elect Dr. Hampden to the See, Lord
John replied: "Sir,--I have had the honour to receive your letter of the
22nd inst., in which you intimate to me your intention of violating the
law." Some years ago Lady----, who is well known as an ardent worker in
the interests of the Roman Church, wrote to the Duke of----, a sturdy
Protestant, that she was greatly interested in a Roman Catholic Charity,
and, knowing the Duke's wide benevolence, had ventured to put down his
name for £100. The Duke wrote back: "Dear Lady----,--It is a curious
coincidence that, just before I got your letter, I had put down your
name for a like sum to the English Mission for converting Irish
Catholics; so no money need pass between us." But perhaps the supreme
honours of curt correspondence belong to Mr. Bright. Let one instance
suffice. Having been calumniated by a Tory orator at Barrow, Mr. Bright
wrote as follows about his traducer: "He may not know that he is
ignorant, but he cannot be ignorant that he lies. And after such a
speech the meeting thanked him--I presume because they enjoyed what he
had given them. I think the speaker was named Smith. He is a discredit
to _the numerous family of that name._"


[34] Sir Herbert Maxwell, in his _Life of Wellington_, vouches for the
genuineness of the Duke's letters to "Miss J." She was Miss A.M.



The announcements relating to the first Cabinet of the winter set me
thinking whether my readers might be interested in seeing what I have
"collected" as to the daily life and labours of her Majesty's Ministers.
I decided that I would try the experiment, and, acting on the principle
which I have professed before--that when once one has deliberately
chosen certain words to express one's meaning one cannot, as a rule,
alter them with advantage--I shall borrow from some former writings of
my own.

The Cabinet is the Board of Directors of the British Empire. All its
members are theoretically equal; but, as at other Boards, the effective
power really resides in three or four. At the present moment[35]
Manchester is represented by one of these potent few. Saturday is the
usual day for the meeting of the Cabinet, though it may be convened at
any moment as special occasion arises. Describing the potato-disease
which led to the repeal of the Corn Laws, Lord Beaconsfield wrote: "This
mysterious but universal sickness of a single root changed the history
of the world. 'There is no gambling like politics,' said Lord
Roehampton, as he glanced at the _Times_: 'four Cabinets in one week!
The Government must be more sick than the potatoes!'"

Twelve is the usual hour for the meeting of the Cabinet, and the
business is generally over by two. At the Cabinets held during November
the legislative programme for next session is settled, and the
preparation of each measure is assigned to a sub-committee of Ministers
specially conversant with the subject-matter. Lord Salisbury holds his
Cabinets at the Foreign Office; but the old place of meeting was the
official residence of the First Lord of the Treasury at 10 Downing
Street, in a pillared room looking over the Horse Guards Parade, and
hung with portraits of departed First Lords.

In theory, of course, the proceedings of the Cabinet are absolutely
secret. The Privy Councillor's oath prohibits all disclosures. No record
is kept of the business done. The door is guarded by vigilant attendants
against possible eavesdroppers. The dispatch-boxes which constantly
circulate between Cabinet Ministers, carrying confidential matters, are
carefully locked with special keys, said to date from the administration
of Mr. Pitt; and the possession of these keys constitutes admission into
what Lord Beaconsfield called "the circles of high initiation." Yet in
reality more leaks out than is supposed. In the Cabinet of 1880-5 the
leakage to the press was systematic and continuous. Even Mr. Gladstone,
the stiffest of sticklers for official reticence, held that a Cabinet
Minister might impart his secrets to his wife and his Private Secretary.
The wives of official men are not always as trustworthy as Mrs. Bucket
in _Bleak House_, and some of the Private Secretaries in the Government
of 1880 were little more than boys. Two members of that Cabinet were
notorious for their free communications to the press, and it was often
remarked that the _Birmingham Daily Post_ was peculiarly well informed.
A noble Lord who held a high office, and who, though the most pompous,
was not the wisest of mankind, was habitually a victim to a certain
journalist of known enterprise, who used to waylay him outside Downing
Street and accost him with jaunty confidence: "Well, Lord----, so you
have settled on so-and-so after all?" The noble lord, astonished that
the Cabinet's decision was already public property, would reply, "As you
know so much, there can be no harm in telling the rest"; and the
journalist, grinning like a dog, ran off to print the precious morsel in
a special edition of the _Millbank Gazette_. Mr. Justin McCarthy could,
I believe, tell a curious story of a highly important piece of foreign
intelligence communicated by a Minister to the _Daily News_; of a
resulting question in the House of Commons; and of the same Minister's
emphatic declaration that no effort should be wanting to trace this
violator of official confidence and bring him to condign punishment.

While it is true that outsiders sometimes become possessed by these
dodges of official secrets, it is not less true that Cabinet Ministers
are often curiously in the dark about great and even startling events. A
political lady once said to me, "Do you in your party think much of my
neighbour, Mr. ----?" As in duty bound, I replied, "Oh yes, a great
deal." She rejoined, "I shouldn't have thought it, for when the boys are
shouting any startling news in the special editions, I see him run out
without his hat to buy an evening paper. That doesn't look well for a
Cabinet Minister." On the fatal 6th of May 1882 I dined in company with
Mr. Bright. He stayed late, but never heard a word of the murders which
had taken place that evening in the Phoenix Park; went off quietly to
bed, and read them as news in the next morning's _Observer_.

But, after all, attendance at the Cabinet, though a most important, is
only an occasional, event in the life of one of her Majesty's Ministers.
Let us consider the ordinary routine of his day's work during the
session of Parliament. The truly virtuous Minister, we may presume,
struggles down to the dining room to read prayers and to breakfast in
the bosom of his family between 9 and 10 A.M. But the self-indulgent
bachelor declines to be called, and sleeps his sleep out. Mr. Arthur
Balfour invariably breakfasts at 12; and more politicians than would
admit it consume their tea and toast in bed. Mercifully, the dreadful
habit of giving breakfast-parties, though sanctioned by the memories of
Holland and Macaulay and Rogers and Houghton, virtually died out with
the disappearance of Mr. Gladstone.

"Men who breakfast out are generally Liberals," says Lady St. Julians in
_Sybil_. "Have not you observed that?"

"I wonder why?"

"It shows a restless, revolutionary mind," said Lady Firebrace, "that
can settle to nothing, but must be running after gossip the moment they
are awake."

"Yes," said Lady St. Julians, "I think those men who breakfast out, or
who give breakfasts, are generally dangerous characters; at least I
would not trust them."

And Lady St. Julians's doctrine, though half a century old, applies with
perfect exactness to those enemies of the human race who endeavour to
keep alive or to resuscitate this desperate tradition. Juvenal described
the untimely fate of the man who went into his bath with an undigested
peacock in his system. Scarcely pleasanter are the sensations of the
Minister or the M.P. who goes from a breakfast-party, full of buttered
muffins and broiled salmon, to the sedentary desk-work of his office or
the fusty wrangles of a Grand Committee.

Breakfast over, the Minister's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of
exercise. If he is a man of active habits and strenuous tastes, he may
take a gentle breather up Highgate Hill, like Mr. Gladstone, or play
tennis, like Sir Edward Grey. Lord Spencer when in office might be seen
any morning cantering up St. James's Street on a hack, or pounding round
Hyde Park in high naval debate with Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth. Lord
Rosebery drives himself in a cab; Mr. Asquith is driven; both
occasionally survey the riding world over the railings of Rotten Row;
and even Lord Salisbury may be found prowling about the Green Park, to
which his house in Arlington Street has a private access. Mr. Balfour,
as we all know, is a devotee of the cycle, and his example is catching;
but Mr. Chamberlain holds fast to the soothing belief that, when a man
has walked upstairs to bed, he has made as much demand on his physical
energies as is good for him, and that exercise was invented by the
doctors in order to bring grist to their mill.

Whichever of these examples our Minister prefers to follow, his exercise
or his lounge must be over by 12 o'clock. The Grand Committees meet at
that hour; on Wednesday the House meets then; and if he is not required
by departmental business to attend either the Committee or the House, he
will probably be at his office by midday. The exterior aspect of the
Government Offices in Whitehall is sufficiently well known, and any
peculiarities which it may present are referable to the fact that the
execution of an Italian design was entrusted by the wisdom of Parliament
to a Gothic architect. Inside, their leading characteristics are the
abundance and steepness of the stairs, the total absence of light, and
an atmosphere densely charged with Irish stew. Why the servants of the
British Government should live exclusively on this delicacy, and why its
odours should prevail with equal pungency "from morn to noon, from noon
to dewy eve," are matters of speculation too recondite for popular

The Minister's own room is probably on the first floor--perhaps looking
into Whitehall, perhaps into the Foreign Office Square, perhaps on to
the Horse Guards Parade. It is a large room with immense windows, and a
fireplace ingeniously contrived to send all its heat up the chimney. If
the office is one of the older ones, the room probably contains some
good pieces of furniture derived, from a less penurious age than ours--a
bureau or bookcase of mahogany dark with years, showing in its staid
ornamentation traces of Chippendale or Sheraton; a big clock in a
handsome case; and an interesting portrait of some historic statesman
who presided over the department two centuries ago. But in the more
modern offices all is barren. Since the late Mr. Ayrton was First
Commissioner of Works a squalid cheapness has reigned supreme. Deal and
paint are everywhere; doors that won't shut, bells that won't ring, and
curtains that won't meet. In two articles alone there is
prodigality--books and stationery. Hansard's Debates, the Statutes at
Large, treatises illustrating the work of the office, and books of
reference innumerable, are there; and the stationery shows a delightful
variety of shape, size, and texture, adapted to every conceivable
exigency of official correspondence.

It is indeed in the item of stationery, and in that alone, that the
grand old constitutional system of perquisites survives. Morbidly
conscientious Ministers sometimes keep a supply of their private
letter-paper on their office-table and use it for their private
correspondence; but the more frankly human sort write all their letters
on official paper. On whatever paper written, Ministers' letters go free
from the office and the House of Commons; and certain artful
correspondents outside, knowing that a letter to a public office need
not be stamped, write to the Minister at his official address and save
their penny. In days gone by each Secretary of State received on his
appointment a silver inkstand, which he could hand down as a keepsake to
his children. Mr. Gladstone, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer,
abolished this little perquisite, and the only token of office which an
outgoing Minister can now take with him is his dispatch-box. The wife of
a minister who had long occupied an official residence, on being evicted
from office said with a pensive sigh, "I hope I am not avaricious, but
I must say, when one was hanging up pictures, it was very pleasant to
have the Board of Works carpenter and a bag of the largest nails for

The late Sir William Gregory used to narrate how when a child he was
taken by his grandfather, who was Under-Secretary for Ireland, to see
the Chief Secretary, Lord Melbourne, in his official room. The
good-natured old Whig asked the boy if there was anything in the room
that he would like; and he chose a large stick of sealing-wax, "That's
right," said Lord Melbourne, pressing a bundle of pens into his hand:
"begin life early. All these things belong to the public, and your
business must always be to get out of the public as much as you can."
There spoke the true spirit of our great governing families.

And now our Minister, seated at his official table, touches his
pneumatic bell. His Private Secretary appears with a pile of papers, and
the day's work begins. That work, of course, differs enormously in
amount, nature, importance, and interest with different offices. To the
outside world probably one office is much the same as another, but the
difference in the esoteric view is wide indeed. When the Revised Version
of the New Testament came out, an accomplished gentleman who had once
been Mr. Gladstone's Private Secretary, and had been appointed by him to
an important post in the permanent Civil Service, said: "Mr. Gladstone,
I have been looking at the Revised Version, and I think it distinctly
inferior to the old one."

"Indeed," said Mr. Gladstone, with all his theological ardour roused at
once: "I am very much interested to hear you say so. Pray give me an

"Well," replied the Permanent Official, "look at the first verse of the
second chapter of St. Luke. That verse used to run, 'There went out a
decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.' Well, I
always thought that a splendid idea--a tax levied on the whole world by
a single Act--a grand stroke worthy of a great empire and an imperial
treasury. But in the Revised Version I find, 'There went out a decree
that all the world should be enrolled'--a mere counting! a census! the
sort of thing the Local Government Board could do! Will any one tell me
that the new version is as good as the old one in this passage?"

This story aptly illustrates the sentiments with which the more powerful
and more ancient departments regard those later births of time, the
Board of Trade, the Local Government Board, the Board of Agriculture,
and even the Scotch Office--though this last is redeemed from utter
contempt by the irritable patriotism of our Scottish fellow-citizens,
and by the beautiful house in which it is lodged. For a Minister who
loves an arbitrary and single-handed authority the India Office is the
most attractive of all. The Secretary of State for India, is (except in
financial matters, where he is controlled by his Council) a pure despot.
He has the Viceroy at the end of a telegraph-wire, and the Queen's three
hundred millions of Indian subjects under his thumb. His salary is not
voted by the House of Commons; very few M.P.'s care a rap about India;
and he is practically free from Parliamentary control. The Foreign
Office, of course, is full of interest, and its social traditions have
always been of the most dignified sort--from the days when Mr.
Ranville-Ranville used to frequent Mrs. Perkins's Balls to the existing
reign of Sir Thomas Sanderson and Mr. Eric Barrington.

The Treasury has its finger in every departmental pie except the Indian
one, for no Minister and no department can carry out reforms or even
discharge its ordinary routine without public money, and of public money
the Treasury is the vigilant and inflexible guardian. "I am directed to
acquaint you that My Lords do not see their way to comply with your
suggestion, inasmuch as to do so would be to _open a serious door_."
This delightful formula, with its dread suggestion of a flippant door
and all the mischief to which it might lead, is daily employed to check
the ardour of Ministers who are seeking to advance the benefit of the
race (including their own popularity among their constituents) by a
judicious expenditure of public money. But whatever be the scope and
function of the office, and whatever the nature of the work done there,
the mode of doing it is pretty much the same. Whether the matter in
question originates inside the office by some direction or inquiry of
the chief, or comes by letter from outside, it is referred to the
particular department of the office which is concerned with it. A clerk
makes a careful minute, giving the facts of the case and the practice of
the office as bearing on it. The paper is then sent to any other
department or person in the office that can possibly have any concern
with it. It is minuted by each, and it gradually passes up, by more or
fewer official gradations, to the Under-Secretary of State, who reads,
or is supposed to read, all that has been written on the paper in its
earlier stages, balances the perhaps conflicting views of different
annotators, and, if the matter is too important for his own decision,
sums up in a minute of recommendation to the chief. The ultimate
decision, however, is probably less affected by the Under-Secretary's
minute than by the oral advice of a much more important personage, the
Permanent Head of the office.

It would be beyond my present scope to discuss the composition and
powers of the permanent Civil Service, whose chiefs have been, at least
since the days of Bagehot, recognized as the real rulers of this
country. For absolute knowledge of their business, for self-denying
devotion to duty, for ability, patience, courtesy, and readiness to help
the fleeting Political Official, the permanent chiefs of the Civil
Service are worthy of the highest praise. That they are
conservative[36] to the core is only to say that they are human. On
being appointed to permanent office the extremist theorists, like the
bees in the famous epigram, "cease to hum" their revolutionary airs, and
settle down into the profound conviction that things are well as they
are. All the more remarkable is the entire equanimity with which the
Permanent Official accepts the unpalatable decision of a chief who is
strong enough to override him, and the absolute loyalty with which he
will carry out a policy which he cordially disapproves.

Much of a Minister's comfort and success depends upon his Private
Secretary. Some Ministers import for this function a young gentleman of
fashion whom they know at home--a picturesque butterfly who flits gaily
through the dusty air of the office, making, by the splendour of his
raiment, sunshine in its shady places, and daintily passing on the work
to unrecognized and unrewarded clerks. But the better practice is to
appoint as Private Secretary one of the permanent staff of the office.
He supplies his chief with official information, hunts up necessary
references, writes his letters, and interviews his bores.

When the late Lord Ampthill was a junior clerk in the Foreign Office,
Lord Palmerston, then Foreign Secretary, introduced an innovation
whereby, instead of being solemnly summoned by a verbal message, the
clerks were expected to answer his bell. Some haughty spirits rebelled
against being treated like footmen, and tried to organize resistance;
but Odo Russell, as he then was, refused to join the rebellious
movement, saying that whatever method apprized him most quickly of Lord
Palmerston's wishes was the method which he preferred. The aggrieved
clerks regarded him as a traitor to his order--but he died an
ambassador. Trollope described the wounded feelings of a young clerk
whose chief sent him to fetch his slippers; and in our own day a Private
Secretary, who had patiently taken tickets for the play for his chief's
daughters, drew the line when he was told to take the chief's razors to
be ground. But such assertions of independence are extremely rare, and
as a rule the Private Secretary is the most cheerful and the most alert
of ministering spirits.

But it is time to return from this personal digression to the routine of
the day's work. Among the most important of the morning's duties is the
preparation of answers to be given in the House of Commons, and it is
often necessary to have answers ready by three o'clock to questions
which have only appeared that morning on the notice-paper. The range of
questions is infinite, and all the resources of the office are taxed in
order to prepare answers at once accurate in fact and wise in policy, to
pass them under the Minister's review, and to get them fairly copied out
before the House meets. As a rule, the Minister, knowing something of
the temper of Parliament, wishes to give a full, explicit, and
intelligible answer, or even to go a little beyond the strict terms of
the question if he sees what his interrogator is driving at. But this
policy is abhorrent to the Permanent Official. The traditions of the
Circumlocution Office are by no means dead, and the crime of "wanting to
know, you know," is one of the most heinous that the M.P. can commit.
The answers, therefore, as prepared for the Minister are generally
jejune, often barely civil, sometimes actually misleading. But the
Minister, if he be a wise man, edits them into a more informing shape,
and after a long and careful deliberation as to the probable effect of
his words and the reception which they will have from his questioner, he
sends the bundle of written answers away to be fair-copied and turns to
his correspondence.

And here the practice of Ministers varies exceedingly. Lord Salisbury
writes almost everything with his own hand. Mr. Balfour dictates to a
shorthand clerk. Most Ministers write a great deal by their Private
Secretaries. Letters of any importance are usually transcribed into a
copying-book. A Minister whom I knew used to burn the fragment of
blotting-paper with which he had blotted his letter, and laid it down as
an axiom that, if a constituent wrote and asked a Member to vote for a
particular measure, the Member should on no account give a more precise
reply than, "I shall have great pleasure in voting in the sense you
desire." For, as this expert observed with great truth, "unless the
constituent has kept a copy of his letter--and the chances are twenty to
one against that--there will be nothing to prove what the sense he
desired was, and you will be perfectly safe in voting as you like." The
letters received by a Minister are many, various, and surprising. Of
course, a great proportion of them relate to public business, and a
considerable number to the affairs of his constituency. But, in addition
to all this, lunatics, cranks, and impostors mark a Minister for their
own, and their applications for loans, gifts, and offices of profit
would exhaust the total patronage of the Crown and break the Bank of

When the day's official papers have been dealt with, answers to
questions settled, correspondence read, and the replies written or
dictated, it is very likely time to go to a conference on some Bill with
which the office is concerned. This conference will consist of the
Minister in charge of the Bill, two or three of his colleagues who have
special knowledge of the subject, the Permanent Officials, the
Parliamentary draftsman, and perhaps one of the Law Officers. At the
conference the amendments on the paper are carefully discussed, together
with the objects for which they were presumably put down, their probable
effect, their merits or demerits, and the best mode of meeting them. An
hour soon passes in this kind of anticipatory debate, and the Minister
is called away to receive a deputation.

The scene is exactly like that which Matthew Arnold described at the
Social Science Congress--the large bare room, dusty air, and jaded
light, serried ranks of men with bald heads and women in spectacles; the
local M.P., like Mr. Gregsbury in _Nicholas Nickleby_, full of
affability and importance, introducing the selected spokesmen--"Our
worthy mayor; our leading employer of labour; Miss Twoshoes, a
philanthropic worker in all good causes"--the Minister, profoundly
ignorant of the whole subject, smiling blandly or gazing earnestly from
his padded chair; the Permanent Official at his elbow murmuring what the
"practice of the department" has been, what his predecessor said on a
similar occasion ten years ago, and why the object of the deputation is
equally mischievous and impossible; and the Minister finally expressing
sympathy and promising earnest consideration. Mr. Bright, though the
laziest of mankind at official work, was the ideal hand at receiving
deputations. Some Ministers scold or snub or harangue, but he let the
spokesmen talk their full, listened patiently, smiled pleasantly, said
very little, treated the subject with gravity or banter as its nature
required, paid the introducing member a compliment on his assiduity and
public spirit, and sent them all away on excellent terms with themselves
and highly gratified by their intelligent and courteous reception.

So far we have described our Minister's purely departmental duties. But
perhaps the Cabinet meets at twelve, and at the Cabinet he must, to use
Mr. Gladstone's phrase, "throw his mind into the common stock" with his
fellow-Ministers, and take part in the discussions and decisions which
govern the Empire. By two o'clock or thereabouts the Cabinet is over.
The labours of the morning are now beginning to tell, and exhausted
Nature rings her luncheon-bell. Here again men's habits widely differ.
If our Minister has breakfasted late, he will go on till four or five,
and then have tea and toast, and perhaps a poached egg; but if he is an
early man, he craves for nutriment more substantial. He must not go out
to luncheon to a friend's house, for he will be tempted to eat and drink
too much, and absence from official territory in the middle of the day
has a bad look of idleness and self-indulgence. The _dura ilia_ of the
present[37] Duke of Devonshire could always cope with a slice of the
office-joint, a hunch of the office-bread, a glass of the office-sherry.
But, as a rule, if a man cannot manage to get back to the family meal in
South Kensington or Cavendish Square, he turns into a club, has a cutlet
and a glass of claret, and gets back to his office for another hour's
work before going to the House.

At 3.30 questions begin, and every Minister is in his place, unless,
indeed, there is a Levee or a Drawing-room, when a certain number of
Ministers, besides the great Officers of State, are expected to be
present. The Minister lets himself into the House by a private door--of
which Ministers alone have the key--at the back of the Chair. For an
hour and a half, or perhaps longer, the storm of questions rages, and
then the Minister, if he is in charge of the Bill under discussion,
settles himself on the Treasury Bench to spend the remainder of the day
in a hand-to-hand encounter with the banded forces of the Opposition,
which will tax to their utmost his brain, nerve, and physical endurance.
If, however, he is not directly concerned with the business, he goes out
perhaps for a breath of air and a cup of tea on the Terrace, and then
buries himself in his private room--generally a miserable little
dog-hole in the basement of the House--where he finds a pile of
office-boxes, containing papers which must be read, minuted, and
returned to the office with all convenient dispatch. From these labours
he is suddenly summoned by the shrill ting-ting of the division-bell and
the raucous bellow of the policeman to take part in a division. He
rushes upstairs two steps at a time, and squeezes himself into the
House through the almost closed doors. "What are we?" he shouts to the
Whip. "Ayes" or "Noes" is the hurried answer; and he stalks through the
lobby to discharge this intelligent function, dives down to his room
again, only, if the House is in Committee, to be dragged up again ten
minutes afterwards for another repetition of the same farce, and so on

It may be asked why a Minister should undergo all this worry of running
up and down and in and out, laying down his work and taking it up again,
dropping threads, and losing touch, and wasting time, all to give a
purely party vote, settled for him by his colleague in charge of the
Bill, on a subject with which he is personally unfamiliar. If the
Government is in peril, of course every vote is wanted; but, with a
normal majority, Ministers' votes might surely be "taken as read," and
assumed to be given to the side to which they belong. But the traditions
of Government require Ministers to vote. It is a point of honour for
each man to be in as many divisions as possible. A record is kept of all
the divisions of the session and of the week, and a list is sent round
every Monday morning showing in how many each Minister has voted.

The Whips, who must live and move and have their being in the House,
naturally head the list, and their colleagues follow in a rather
uncertain order. A Minister's place in this list is mainly governed by
the question whether he dines at the House or not. If he dines away and
"pairs," of course he does not in the least jeopardize his party or
embarrass his colleagues; but "pairs" are not indicated in the list of
divisions, and, as divisions have an awkward knack of happening between
nine and ten, the habitual diner-out naturally sinks in the list. If he
is a married man, the claims of the home are to a certain extent
recognized by his Whips, but woe to the bachelor who, with no domestic
excuse, steals away for two hours' relaxation. The good Minister
therefore stays at the House and dines there. Perhaps he is entertaining
ladies in the crypt-like dining-rooms which look on the Terrace, and in
that case the charms of society may neutralize the material discomforts.
But, if he dine upstairs at the Ministerial table, few indeed are the
alleviations of his lot. In the first place he must dine with the
colleagues with whom his whole waking life is passed--excellent fellows
and capital company--but nature demands an occasional enlargement of the
mental horizon. Then if by chance he has one special bugbear--a bore or
an egotist, a man with dirty hands or a churlish temper--that man will
inevitably come and sit down beside him and insist on being affectionate
and fraternal.

The room is very hot; dinners have been going on in it for the last two
hours; the [Greek: knisê]--the odour of roast meat, which the gods
loved, but which most men dislike--pervades the atmosphere; your
next-door neighbour is eating a rather high grouse while you are at your
apple-tart, or the perfumes of a deliquescent Camembert mingle with your
coffee. As to beverages, you may, if you choose, follow the example of
Lord Cross, who, when he was Sir Richard, drank beer in its native
pewter, or of Mr. Radcliffe Cooke, who tries to popularize cider; or you
may venture on that thickest, blackest, and most potent of vintages
which a few years back still went by the name of "Mr. Disraeli's port."
But as a rule these heroic draughts are eschewed by the modern Minister.
Perhaps, if he is in good spirits after making a successful speech or
fighting his Estimates through Committee, he will indulge himself with
an imperial pint of champagne; but more often a whiskey-and-soda or a
half-bottle of Zeltinger quenches his modest thirst.

On Wednesday and Saturday our Minister, if he is not out of London,
probably dines at a large dinner-party. Once a session he must dine in
full dress with the Speaker; once he must dine at, or give, a full-dress
dinner "to celebrate her Majesty's Birthday." On the eve of the meeting
of Parliament he must dine again in full dress with the Leader of the
House, to hear the rehearsal of the "gracious Speech from the Throne."
But, as a rule, his fate on Wednesday and Saturday is a ceremonious
banquet at a colleague's house, and a party strictly political--perhaps
the Prime Minister as the main attraction, reinforced by Lord and Lady
Decimus Tite-Barnacle, Mr. and Mrs. Stiltstalking, Sir John Taper, and
young Mr. Tadpole. A political dinner of thirty colleagues, male and
female, in the dog-days is only a shade less intolerable than the greasy
rations and mephitic vapours of the House of Commons' dining-room.

At the political dinner "shop" is the order of the day. Conversation
turns on Brown's successful speech, Jones's palpable falling-off,
Robinson's chance of office, the explanation of a recent by-election, or
the prospects of an impending division. And, to fill the cup of boredom
to the brim, the political dinner is usually followed by a political
evening-party. On Saturday the Minister probably does two hours' work at
his office and has some boxes sent to his house, but the afternoon he
spends in cycling, or golfing, or riding, or boating, or he leaves
London till Monday morning. On Wednesday he is at the House till six,
and then escapes for a breath of air before dinner. But on Monday,
Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, as a rule, he is at the House from its
meeting at three till it adjourns at any hour after midnight. After
dinner he smokes and reads and tries to work in his room, and goes to
sleep and wakes again, and towards midnight is unnaturally lively.
Outsiders believe in the "twelve o'clock rule," but insiders know that,
as a matter of fact, it is suspended as often as an Irish member in the
'80 Parliament. Whoever else slopes homewards, the Government must stay.
Before now a Minister has been fetched out of his bed, to which he had
surreptitiously retired, by a messenger in a hansom, and taken back to
the House to defend his Estimates at three in the morning.

    "There they sit with ranks unbroken, cheering on the fierce debate,
    Till the sunrise lights them homeward as they tramp through
       Storey's Gate,
    Racked with headache, pale and haggard, worn by nights of endless
    While the early sparrows twitter all along the Birdcage Walk."

Some ardent souls there are who, if report speaks true, are not content
with even this amount of exertion and excitement, but finish the night,
or begin the day, with a rubber at the club or even a turn at baccarat.
However, we are describing, not choice spirits or chartered _viveurs_,
but the blameless Minister, whose whole life during the Parliamentary
session is the undeviating and conscientious discharge of official duty;
and he, when he lays his head upon his respectable pillow any time after
1 a.m., may surely go to sleep in the comfortable consciousness that he
has done a fair day's work for a not exorbitant remuneration.


[35] 1897.

[36] The word "conservative" here applies only to official routine. The
Civil Service has no politics, but many of its members are staunch

[37] Spencer Compton, 8th Duke.



The diary from which these Recollections have been mainly gathered dates
from my thirteenth year, and it has lately received some unexpected
illustrations. In turning out the contents of a neglected cupboard, I
stumbled on a photograph-book which I filled while I was a boy at a
Public School. The school has lately been described under the name of
Lyonness,[38] and that name will serve as well as another. The book had
been mislaid years ago, and when it accidentally came to light a strange
aroma of old times seemed still to hang about it. Inside and out, it was
reminiscent of a life in which for five happy years I bore my part.
Externally the book showed manifest traces of a schoolboy's ownership,
in broken corners; plentiful ink-stains, from exercises and punishments;
droppings of illicit candle grease, consumed long after curfew-time;
round marks like fairy rings on a greensward, which indicated the
standpoint of extinct jam pots--where are those jam pots now? But, while
the outside of the book spoke thus, as it were, by innuendo and
suggestion, the inside seemed to shout with joyous laughter or chuckle
with irreverent mirth; or murmured, in tones lower perhaps, but
certainly not less distinct, of things which were neither joyous nor

The book had been carefully arranged. As I turned over the leaves,
there came back the memory of holiday-evenings and the interested
questionings of sisters over each new face or scene; and the kind
fingers which did the pasting-in; and the care with which we made
portrait and landscape fit into and illustrate one another. And what
memories, what impressions, strong and clear as yesterday's, clung to
each succeeding view! The Spire--that "pinnacle perched on a
precipice"--with its embosoming trees, as one had so often seen it from
the North-Western Railway, while the finger of fate, protruding from the
carriage window, pointed it out with--"That's where you will go to
school." And, years later, came the day when one travelled for the first
time by a train which did not rush through Lyonness Station (then how
small), but stopped there, and disgorged its crowd of boys and their
confusion of luggage, and oneself among the rest, and one's father just
as excited and anxious and eager as his son.

A scurry for a seat on the omnibus or a tramp uphill, and we find
ourselves abruptly in the village street. Then did each page as I turned
it over bring some fresh recollection of one's unspeakable sense of
newness and desolation; the haunting fear of doing something ludicrous;
the morbid dread of chaff and of being "greened," which even in my time
had, happily, supplanted the old terrors of being tossed in a blanket or
roasted at a fire. Even less, I venture to think, was one thrilled by
the heroic ambitions, the magnificent visions of struggle and success,
which stir the heroes of schoolboy novels on the day of their arrival.

Here was a view of the School Library, with its patch of greensward
separating it from the dust and traffic of the road. There was the Old
School with its Fourth Form Room, of which one had heard so much that
the actual sight of it made one half inclined to laugh and half to cry
with surprise and disappointment. There was the twisting High Street,
with its precipitous causeway; there was the faithful presentment of the
fashionable "tuck-shop," with two boys standing in the road, and the leg
of a third caught by the camera as he hurried past; and, wandering
through all these scenes in the album as one had wandered through them
in real life, I reached at last my boarding-house, once a place of
mystery and wonderful expectations and untried experiences; now full of
memories, some bright, some sad, but all gathering enchantment from
their retrospective distance; and in every brick and beam and cupboard
and corner as familiar as home itself.

The next picture, a view of the School Bathing-place, carried me a stage
onward in memory to my first summer quarter. Two terms of school life
had inured one to a new existence, and one began to know the pleasures,
as well as the pains, of a Public School. It was a time of cloudless
skies, and abundant "strawberry mashes," and _dolce far niente_ in that
sweetly-shaded pool, when the sky was at its bluest, and the air at its
hottest, and the water at its most inviting temperature.

And then the Old Speech-Room, so ugly, so incommodious, where we stood
penned together like sheep for the slaughter, under the gallery, to hear
our fate on the first morning of our school life, and where, when he had
made his way up the school, the budding scholar received his prize or
declaimed his verses on Speech Day. That was the crowning day of the
young orator's ambition, when there was an arch of evergreens reared
over the school gate, and Lyonness was all alive with carriages, and
relations, and grandees,

    "And, as Lear, he poured forth the deep imprecation,
      By his daughters of Kingdom and reason deprived;
    Till, fired by loud plaudits and self-adulation,
      He regarded himself as a Garrick revived."

Opposite the Old Speech-Room was the interior of the Chapel, with its
roof still echoing the thunder of the Parting Hymn; and the pulpit with
its unforgotten pleadings for truthfulness and purity; and the organ,
still vocal with those glorious psalms. And, high over all, the
Churchyard Hill, with its heaven-pointing spire, and the Poet's Tomb;
and, below, the incomparable expanse of pasture and woodland stretching
right away to the "proud keep with its double belt of kindred and coeval

    "Still does yon bank its living hues unfold,
    With bloomy wealth of amethyst and gold;
    How oft at eve we watched, while there we lay,
    The flaming sun lead down the dying day,
    Soothed by the breeze that wandered to and fro
    Through the glad foliage musically low.
    Still stands that tree, and rears its stately form
    In rugged strength, and mocks the winter storm;
    There, while of slender shade and sapling growth,
    We carved our schoolboy names, a mutual troth.
    All, all, revives a bliss too bright to last,
    And every leaflet whispers of the past."

And while the views of places were thus eloquent of the old days,
assuredly not less so were the portraits. There was the Head Master in
his silken robes, looking exactly as he did when, enthroned in the Sixth
Form Room, he used to deliver those well-remembered admonitions--"Never
say what you know to be wrong," and "Let us leave _commence_ and
_partake_ to the newspapers."

And there was the Mathematical Master--the Rev. Rhadamanthus
Rhomboid--compared with whom his classical namesake was a lenient judge.
An admirable example was old Mr. Rhomboid of a pedagogic type which, I
am told, is passing away--precise, accurate, stern, solid; knowing very
little, but that little thoroughly; never overlooking a slip, but seldom
guilty of an injustice; sternest and most unbending of prehistoric
Tories, both in matters political and educational; yet carrying
concealed somewhere under the square-cut waistcoat a heart which knew
how to sympathize with boy-flesh and the many ills which it is heir to.
Good old Mr. Rhomboid! I wonder if he is still alive.

Facing him in the album, and most appropriately contrasted, was the
portrait of a young master--the embodiment of all that Mr. Rhomboid most
heartily loathed. We will call him Vivian Grey. Vivian Grey was an
Oxford Double First of unusual brilliancy, and therefore found a special
charm and a satisfying sense of being suitably employed in his duty at
Lyonness, which was to instil [Greek: tuptô] and Phaedrus into the
five-and-thirty little wiseacres who constituted the lowest form. Over
the heads of these sages his political and metaphysical utterances
rolled like harmless thunder, for he was at once a transcendentalist in
philosophy and a utilitarian Radical of the purest dye. All of which
mattered singularly little to his five-and-thirty disciples, but caused
infinite commotion and annoyance to the Rhomboids and Rhadamanthuses.
Vivian Grey at Oxford had belonged to that school which has been
described as professing

    "One Kant with a K,
    And many a cant with a c."

At Lyonness he was supposed to have helped to break the railings of Hyde
Park in the riot of 1866, and to be a Head Centre of the Fenian
Brotherhood. As to personal appearance, Mr. Grey was bearded like the
pard--and in those days the scholastic order shaved--while his taste in
dress made it likely that he was the "Man in the Red Tie" whom we
remember at the Oxford Commemoration some thirty years ago. In short, he
was the very embodiment of all that was most abhorrent to the old
traditions of the schoolmaster's profession; and proportionately great
was the appositeness of a practical joke which was played me on my
second or third morning at Lyonness. I was told to go for my
mathematical lesson to Mr. Rhomboid, who tenanted a room in the Old
School. Next door to his room was Mr. Grey's, and I need not say that
the first boy whom I asked for guidance playfully directed me to the
wrong door. I enter, and the Third Form suspend their Phaedrus, "Please,
sir, are you Mr. Rhomboid?" I ask, amid unsmotherable laughter. Never
shall I forget the indignant ferocity with which the professor of the
new lights drove me from the room, nor the tranquil austerity with which
Mr. Rhomboid, when I reached him, set me "fifty lines" before he asked
me my name.

On the same page I find the portrait of two men who have before now
figured in the world of school-fiction under the names of Rose and
Gordon.[39] Of Mr. Rose I will say no more than that he was an excellent
schoolmaster and a most true saint, and that to his influence and
warnings many a man can, in the long retrospect, trace his escape from
moral ruin. Mr. Gordon is now a decorous Dean; at Lyonness he was the
most brilliant, the most irregular, and the most fascinating of
teachers. He spoilt me for a whole quarter. I loved him for it then, and
I thank him even now.

These more distinguished portraits, of cabinet dimensions, were
scattered up and down among the miscellaneous herd of _cartes de
visits_. The art of Messrs. Hills and Saunders was denoted by the
pretentious character of the chairs introduced--the ecclesiastical
Glastonbury for masters, and velvet backs studded with gilt nails for
boys. The productions of the rival photographer were distinguished by a
pillar of variegated marble, or possibly scagliola, on which the person
portrayed leaned, bent, or propped himself in every phase of graceful
discomfort. The athletes and members of the School Eleven, dressed in
appropriate flannel, were depicted as a rale with their arms crossed
over the backs of chairs, and brought very much into focus so as to
display the muscular development in high relief. The more studious
portion of the community, "with leaden eye that loved the ground,"
scanned small photograph-books with absorbing interest; while a group of
editors, of whom I was one, were gathered round a writing-table, with
pens, ink, and paper, the finger pressed on the forehead, and on the
floor proofs of the journal which we edited--was it the _Tyro_ or the

Among the athletes I instantly recognize Biceps Max., captain of the
Cricket Eleven, and practically autocrat of my house--"Charity's" the
house was called, in allusion to a prominent feature of my tutor's
character. Well, at Charity's we did not think much of intellectual
distinction in those days, and little recked that Biceps was "unworthy
to be classed" in the terminal examination. We were much more concerned
with the fact that he made the highest score at Lord's; that we at
Charity's were absolutely under his thumb, in the most literal
acceptation of that phrase; that he beat us into mummies if we evaded
cricket-fagging; and that if we burnt his toast he chastised us with a
tea-tray. Where is Biceps now, and what? If he took Orders, I am sure he
must be a muscular Christian of the most aggressive type. If he is an
Old Bailey barrister, I pity the timid witness whom he cross-examines.
Why do I never meet him at the club or in society? It would be a
refreshing novelty to sit at dinner opposite a man who corrected your
juvenile shortcomings with a tea-tray. Would he attempt it again if I
contradicted him in conversation, or confuted him in argument, or capped
his best story with a better?

Next comes Longbow--Old Longbow, as we called him; I suppose as a term
of endearment, for there was no Young Longbow. He was an Irishman, and
the established wit, buffoon, and jester of the school. Innumerable
stories are still told of his youthful escapades, of his audacity and
skill in cribbing, of his dexterity in getting out of scrapes, of his
repartees to masters and persons in authority. He it was who took up the
same exercise in algebra to Mr. Rhomboid all the time he was in the
Sixth Form, and obtained maiks, ostensibly for a French exercise, with a
composition called _De Camelo qualis sit_. He alone of created boys
could joke in the rarefied air of the Head Master's schoolroom, and had
power to "chase away the passing frown" with some audacious witticism
for which an English boy would have been punished. Longbow was ploughed
three times at Oxford, and once "sent down." But he is now the very
orthodox vicar of a West End parish, a preacher of culture, and a
pattern of ecclesiastical propriety. Then, leaving these heroic figures
and coming to my own contemporaries, I discern little Paley, esteemed a
prodigy of parts--Paley, who won an Entrance Scholarship while still in
knickerbockers; Paley, who ran up the school faster than any boy on
record; Paley, who was popularly supposed never to have been turned in a
"rep" or to have made a false quantity; Paley, for whom his tutor and
the whole magisterial body were never tired of predicting a miraculous
success in after life. Poor Paley! He is at this moment languishing in
Lincoln's Inn, consoling himself for professional failure by
contemplating the largest extant collection of Lyonness prize-books. I
knew Paley, as boys say, "at home," and, when he had been a few years at
the Bar, I asked his mother if he had got any briefs yet. "Yes," she
answered with maternal pride; "he has been very lucky in that way." "And
has he got a verdict?" I asked. "Oh, no," replied the simple soul; "we
don't aspire to anything so grand as that."

Next to Paley in my book is Roderick Random, the cricketer. Dear Random,
my contemporary, my form-fellow and house-fellow; partaker with me in
the ignominy of Biceps's tea-tray and the tedium of Mr. Rhomboid's
problems: my sympathetic companion in every amusement, and the pleasant
drag on every intellectual effort--Random, who never knew a lesson, nor
could answer a question; who never could get up in time for First
School, nor lay his hand on his own Virgil--Random, who spent more of
his half-holidays in Extra School than any boy of his day, and had
acquired by long practice the power of writing the "record" number of
lines in an hour; who never told a lie, nor bullied a weaker boy, nor
dropped an unkind jest, nor uttered a shameful word--Random, for whom
every one in authority prophesied ruin, speedy and inevitable; who is,
therefore, the best of landlords and the most popular of country
gentlemen; who was the most popular officer in the Guards till duty
called him elsewhere, and at the last election came in at the top of the
poll for his native county.

Then what shall we say for Lucian Gay, whose bright eyes and curly hair
greet me on the same page, with the attractive charm which won me when
we stood together under the Speech-Room gallery on the first morning of
our school life? Gay was often at the top of his form, yet sometimes
near the bottom; wrote, apparently by inspiration, the most brilliant
verses; and never could put two and two together in Mr. Rhomboid's
schoolroom. He had the most astonishing memory on record, and an
inventive faculty which often did him even better service. He was the
soul of every intellectual enterprise in the school, the best speaker at
the Debating Society; the best performer on Speech Day; who knew nothing
about [Greek: ge] and less about [Greek: men] and [Greek: de]; who
composed satirical choices when he should have been taking notes on
Tacitus; edited a School Journal with surprising brilliancy; failed, to
conjugate the verbs in [Greek: mi] during his last fortnight in the
school; and won the Balliol Scholarship when he was seventeen. I trust,
if this meets his eye, he will accept it as a tribute of affectionate
recollection from one who worked with him, idled with him, and joked
with him for five happy years.

Under another face, marked by a more spiritual grace, I find written
_Requiescat_. None who ever knew them will forget that bright and pure
beauty, those eyes of strange, supernatural light, that voice which
thrilled and vibrated with an unearthly charm. All who were his
contemporaries remember that dauntless courage, that heroic virtue, that
stainless purity of thought and speech, before which all evil things
seemed to shrink away abashed. We remember how the outward beauty of
body seemed only the visible symbol of a goodness which dwelt within,
and how moral and intellectual excellence grew up together, blending
into a perfect whole. We remember the School Concert, and the enchanting
voice, and the words of the song which afterwards sounded like a warning
prophecy, and the last walk together in the gloaming of a June holiday,
and the loving, trusting companionship, and the tender talk of home. And
then for a day or two we missed the accustomed presence, and dimly
caught a word of dangerous illness; and then came the agony of the
parting scene, and the clear, hard, pitiless school bell, cutting on our
hearts the sense of an irreparable loss, as it thrilled through the
sultry darkness of the summer night.

Here I shut the book. And with the memories which that picture called up
I may well bring these Recollections to a close. It is something to
remember, amid the bustle and bitterness of active life, that one once
had youth, and hope, and eagerness, and large opportunities, and
generous friends. A tender and regretful sentiment seems to cling to the
very walls and trees among which one cherished such bright ambitions and
felt the passionate sympathy of such loving hearts. The innocence and
the confidence of boyhood pass away soon enough, and thrice happy is he
who has contrived to keep

    "The young lamb's heart amid the full-grown flocks."


[38] In _School and Home Life,_ by T.G. Rooper, M.A.

[39] In _Eric_, by F.W. Farrar, D.D.



De ce côté de la Manche nous avons une spécialité de souvenirs
militaires, et le public paraît prendre goût à ce genre de lectures. De
l'autre côté, les souvenirs sont plutôt d'ordre politique ou littéraire.
Ils n'en sont pas moins intéressants. Après tout, les récits de
massacres et de saccages se ressemblent beaucoup, qu'ils soient
d'Hérodote ou de Canrobert: et même il ne semble pas que le genre soit
en progrès, si l'on compare les termes extrêmes de la série. Car
Hérodote vit autre chose que les tueries, et il l'en faut féliciter.

Il y a une autre différence entre les deux groupes de mémoires en
question. Les nôtres ont trait pour la plupart à une époque que beaucoup
de gens considèrent comme un apogée, de sorte que, pour le lecteur, ils
apportent plutôt un sentiment de découragement. "Voilà ce qu'ils
firent," se dit-il: "et nous?..." Car ce qu'on est convenu d'appeler
"les gloires" napoléoniennes du début du siècle ne suffit pas, hélas, à
effacer la tache--non moins napoléonienne--de 1870. Ce sentiment, le
lecteur anglais ne l'éprouve pas à lire les mémoires qui lui sont
offerts, et qui, s'ils ne racontent pas, d'habitude, des exploits
guerriers, relatent les phases principales d'une lente évolution, d'un
progrès très réel dans les moeurs, dans la culture et dans
l'amélioration sociale générale.

Quel était l'auteur du plus récent volume de souvenirs, _Collections and
Recollections_, publié par MM. Smith, Elder et C'ie, à Londres, on
l'ignora quelques semaines. Maintenant il n'y a plus de doute: l'auteur
s'est fait connaître; c'est M.G.W.E. Russell. Sa personnalité importait
assez peu d'ailleurs: car ce n'est lui-même qu'il raconte: ce sont ses
contemporains et les faits dont il a été témoin. Mais M. Russell est un
homme de culture, qui a beaucoup approché de notabilités politiques et
littéraires, et a su les écouter parler, saisissant plus volontiers le
côté humoristique ou anecdotique de leurs propos. Son livre est amusant
et instructif à la fois: et il met bien en lumière, dans les premiers
chapitres en particulier, l'évolution dont il était parlé plus haut, la
transformation graduelle que les moeurs anglaises ont subie depuis le
commencement du siècle.

Ce n'est point que l'auteur soit centenaire, d'ailleurs. Il nous le dit
expressément: ses souvenirs personnels remontent à 1856 seulement: mais
il a beaucoup vu de vieilles gens, il a pris note de leurs récits, et
c'est par ces récits qu'il est facile de mesurer le chemin parcouru.

Ils confirment ce qu'on savait déjà de la grossièreté des moeurs à une
époque encore récente. Du reste l'exemple venait de haut, et la famille
royale ne pouvait en imposer ni par la tenue, ni par la moralité.

Le prince de Galles, raconte Lord Seymour, dans des mémoires inédits, le
prince de Galles assure--et doit s'y connaître--"qu'il n'y a pas une
honnête femme à Londres, excepté Lady Parker et Lady Westmorland: et
encore sont-elles si bêtes qu'on n'en peut rien tirer: tout au plus
sont-elles capables de se moucher elles-mêmes." A la réception de Mme
Vaneck, la semaine dernière [ceci se passe en 1788], le prince de
Galles; à l'honneur de la politesse et de l'élégance de ses manières,
mesura la largeur de Mme V---- par derrière avec son mouchoir, et alla
montrer les dimensions à presque tous ceux qui étaient là. Un autre
trait de la conduite respectueuse du prince: à cette même assemblée il a
fait signe à la pauvre vieille duchesse de Bedford à travers une grande
salle, et après qu'elle eut pris la peine de traverser cette dernière,
il lui dit brusquement n'avoir rien à lui communiquer. Le prince a rendu
visite la semaine dernière à Mme Vaneck, avec deux de ses écuyers. En
entrant dans la salle il s'est exclame: "Il _faut_ que je le fasse: il
le _faut_ ..." Mme V---- lui a demandé ce qu'il était obligé de faire,
et là-dessus il a jeté un clignement d'oeil à St. Léger et à l'autre
complice qui ont couché Mme V---- à terre, et le prince l'a positivement

C'était le résultat d'un pari. Mais Mlle Vaneck avait quelque habitude
des "jeux de rois": le prince fit pénitence le lendemain, et elle ne lui
en voulut point. Autre aimable fantaisie du prince: il reçoit le duc
d'Orléans, accompagné de son frère naturel, l'abbé de la Fai(?). L'abbé
prétend avoir un secret pour charmer les poissons: d'où le pari, à la
suite duquel l'abbé s'approche de l'eau pour chatouiller un poisson avec
une baguette. Se méfiant toutefois du prince, qu'il connaissait sans
doute de réputation, il dit qu'il espère bien que celui-ci ne lui jouera
pas le tour de le jeter à l'eau. Le prince de protester et de donner "sa
parole d'honneur." L'abbé commence à se pencher sur un petit pont et le
prince aussitôt le saisit et le fait culbuter à l'eau, d'où l'abbé se
tire non sans peine, et non sans colère, car il court sur le prince avec
un fouet pour le corriger, déclarant à qui veut l'entendre ce qu'il
pense d'un prince incapable de tenir parole. Les _practical jokers_ de
ce genre n'étaient pas rares: le duc de Cumberland fit partager le même
sort à une jeune fille qui servait de dame de compagnie. Les "grands"

Ils ont d'autres manières de s'amuser: le jeu, la boisson, et le reste,
qui sont de tous les temps et de tous les pays: l'histoire de France en
peut témoigner autant que celle de n'importe quelle nation. Il faut
croire que ces plaisirs sont les plus appropriés à la caste oisive et
riche, à qui il a suffi de naître pour être--ou paraître--quelque chose.
Au reste, il n'y aurait guère à s'en plaindre: ils font office d'agents
de sélection; ils éliminent--dans la stérilité ou imbécillité--des êtres
imbéciles et malfaisants, et ils remettent en circulation des richesses
qui n'ont souvent été accumulées qu'à coups de rapines, ou par une
persévérante marche dans les voies déshonnêtes.

Mais ces soi-disant plaisirs mènent de façon très directe au crime:
c'est là une notion banale, et les exemples ne manquent point.

Le duc de Bedford--cinquième du nom--ayant perdu de grosses sommes un
soir, à Newmarket, incrimina les dés, les accusant d'être pipés. Il se
leva de table en colère, saisit les instruments de son malheur, et les
emporta pour les examiner à loisir. Rentré chez lui, il se coucha, pour
se calmer, remettant ses investigations au lendemain. Celles-ci se
firent avec le concours de ses compagnons, et il dut reconnaître que les
dés étaient fort orthodoxes. Cela le surprit, mais il n'avait qu'à
s'exécuter et c'est ce qu'il fit: il adressa des excuses, et paya.
Quelques années après, un des joueurs qui se mourait le fit appeler. "Je
vous ai prié de venir," dit-il, "parce que je voulais vous dire que vous
étiez dans le vrai. Les dés étaient effectivement pipés. Mais nous
attendîmes que vous fussiez couché: nous nous sommes glissés dans votre
chambre, et aux dés pipés que vous aviez emportés nous avons substitué
qui ne l'étaient point, et nous les avons placés dans votre poche."
"Mais si je m'étais éveillé, et si je vous avais pris sur le fait?..."
"Eh bien! nous étions décidés à tout ... et nous avions des pistolets."

La seule action méritoire de sa vie, disait M. Goldwin Smith du duc
d'York, c'est de l'avoir une fois risquée en duel.... C'était maigre,
pour un prince du sang, et pour un simple particulier aussi bien. Car il
ne la perdit point.

La délicatesse est très médiocre.

William et John Scott, plus tard Lord Stowell et Lord Eldon, ayant
obtenu quelque succès comme avocats; dans leurs jeunes aimées, avaient
résolu de célébrer l'événement par un dîner à la taverne, après quoi
l'on irait au théâtre. En payant l'addition, William laissa tomber une
guinée que les deux frères ne purent retrouver. "Mauvaise affaire," fit
William: "voilà qu'il nous faut renoncer au théâtre." "Que non pas," dit
John: "je sais une tour qui vaut mieux." Il appela la servante. "Betty,
nous avons perdu deux guinées: voyez donc si vous pouvez les retrouver."
Betty se met à quatre pattes et cherche si bien qu'elle retrouve la
pièce. "Bonne fille," fait William: "quand vous trouverez l'autre, vous
pourrez la garder pour votre peine." Et les deux frères s'en furent au
théâtre, et plus tard aux plus hautes dignités de la magistrature. La
pauvre Betty a-t-elle jamais compris le tour? Il se peut: ce n'est point
par la délicatesse et les scrupules que se distinguait la clientèle à
laquelle elle avait d'habitude affaire.

De façon générale, pourtant, ce monde avait un certain courage

Le cinquième comte de Berkeley avait dit un jour, devant témoins, qu'il
n'y a point de honte à être réduit par des adversaires, quand ceux-ci
l'emportent par le nombre, mais que, pour lui, il ne se rendrait jamais
à un voleur de grand chemin qui l'attaquerait seul.

En ce temps le brigandage était répandu. Une nuit qu'il se rendait de
Berkeley à Londres, sa voiture fut arrêtée par un seigneur de grande
route qui, passant sa tête à la portière, lui dit: "N'êtes-vous pas Lord

"Certainement," répliqua celui-ci.

"C'est bien vous qui avez déclaré que vous ne vous rendriez jamais à un
voleur de grand chemin qui vous attaquerait seul?"


"Eh bien!"--et ce disant il braquait un pistolet sur Lord Berkeley--"je
suis un de ces voleurs, et je suis seul; je vous demande la bourse ou la

"Chien couard," crie Lord Berkeley, "crois-tu donc me tromper? Est-ce
que je ne vois pas tes complices cachés derrière toi?"

Le voleur se retourne, surpris, pour voir ces complices qu'il ignorait,
car il était réellement seul, et dans ce moment Lord Berkeley lui brûle
la cervelle.

Courage, et surtout présence d'esprit. Cette anecdote a été racontée à
notre auteur par la propre fille de Lord Berkeley.

La religion n'inspirait qu'un médiocre respect. La faute en était en
partie à ses représentants, en partie à l'esprit général. Un pur
formalisme, une étiquette mondaine, telle elle était: rien de plus. Le
système était commode; il est resté tel, d'ailleurs, et non pas
seulement en Angleterre.

Le mépris des choses religieuses était naturel, et l'exemple partait de
haut. Un des frères du roi, le duc de Cambridge, s'était fait une
spécialité dans l'irrévérence, en se créant pour lui seul une liturgie,
et en répondant personnellement à l'officiant.

"Prions," disait ce dernier à la congrégation.

"Certainement," faisait observer le duc; "c'est cela; prions."

Le clergyman commença. Sans doute, la saison était fort sèche, car il
demanda d'abord au ciel d'envoyer de la pluie. Mais le duc

"Inutile; rien à faire pour le moment, le vent est à l'Est...."

Le service continua par une lecture de la Bible. "Et Zacchée se leva et
dit: Vois, Seigneur, je donne la moitié de mes biens aux pauvres ..."

"C'est trop, c'est beaucoup trop," interrompit le duc; "des privilèges,
si vous voulez, mais pas le reste."

On lit les commandements. Le duc les commente. Il en est deux qui le

"C'est très bien dit; mais il est des cas où c'est diablement difficile
d'obéir.... Ah! pour celui-là, non; c'est mon frère Ernest qui l'a
violé; cela ne me regarde pas."

A ce troupeau grossier, et mené par des pasteurs grossiers, on
chercherait avec peine quelques sentiments élevés, en dehors du courage
personnel. C'est quelque chose assurément: mais n'est-il pas infiniment
plus déshonorant de ne l'avoir point, qu'il n'est honorable de l'avoir?
Il ne semble pas qu'il y ait tant à vanter la possession d'un attribut
qu'il serait dégradant de ne pas posséder: c'est une vertu négative. La
condition du peuple était pitoyable: entre le _status_ des enfants des
fabriques et l'esclavage, il était difficile d'apercevoir une
différence. A Bedlam, les aliénés étaient enchaînés à leurs lits de
paille, en 1828, et du samedi au lundi ils étaient abandonnés à
eux-mêmes, avec les aliments nécessaires à portée, tandis que le geôlier
allait s'amuser au dehors. En 1770, il y avait 160 offenses punies de la
peine de mort, et le nombre s'en était beaucoup accru au commencement de
ce siècle. Le vol simple appelait la peine capitale, et pour avoir volé
cinq _shillings_ de marchandises dans un magasin, c'était la corde. En
1789, on brûlait les faux monnayeurs. C'étaient du reste des
réjouissances, que les exécutions, et pour inculquer à la jeunesse des
sentiments moraux, on conduisait des écoles entières au spectacle. Ceci
se passait encore en 1820. Sur le chapitre des dettes, la loi était
féroce. Une femme est morte dans la prison d'Exeter après quarante cinq
ans d'incarcération, cette dernière motivée par le fait qu'elle ne
pouvait acquitter une dette de moins de 500 francs... Aussi les
malheureux qui avaient perdu leur avoir, ou qui ne pouvaient faire face
à leurs engagements, étaient-ils, pour ainsi dire, jetés dans les bras
du crime. Plutôt que d'aller moisir dans les cachots, ils prenaient la
fuite, et comme il faut manger, ils demandaient le nécessaire à la
société. Ils le demandaient de façons variées: l'une des plus répandues,
et qui est relativement honorable, consistait à se faire brigand de
grand chemin. Nombre de vaincus de la vie embrassèrent cette carrière où
l'on put voir des gentlemen ruinés et jusqu'à un prélat, l'évêque de
Raphoe. Ils avaient beaucoup d'audace, pillant les voitures des invités
à peu de distance du palais.

Voilà pour le passé.

C'est par le mouvement religieux, issu d'Oxford il y a bientôt
soixante-dix ans, que la transformation fut opérée. Par le mouvement
religieux, qui fut admirable, et aussi par le mouvement politique où la
Révolution et la France jouèrent un rôle prépondérant. Ces deux facteurs
ont puissamment contribué à remodeler l'Angleterre.

La passion politique était vive: et pendant un temps, tout l'intérêt se
concentra sur ce qui se passait en France. Tous les esprits qui avaient
à coeur la liberté civile et la liberté religieuse, tous ceux que
l'impéritie et la suffisance de la classe aristocratique dégoûtaient,
tous ceux qui voyaient avec mépris ce que l'Eglise avait pu faire de la
religion, avaient embrassé la cause de la France révolutionnaire. Fox, à
la prise de la Bastille, s'exclamait: "C'est le plus grand événement qui
se soit passé au monde, et c'en est le meilleur." Il croyait que tout
serait fini avec le démantèlement de la vieille forteresse symbolique et
ne prévoyait pas qu'elle pouvait être sitôt reconstituée: l'idée que le
peuple serait assez bête pour se forger, bénévolement, des chaînes pour
s'entraver lui-même ne lui était point apparue. Par contre, Burke était
pessimiste. Il ne voyait là que "la vieille férocité parisienne," et se
demandait si, après tout, ce peuple n'est pas impropre à la liberté, et
s'il n'a pas besoin d'une main vigoureuse pour le contenir. Il était
pessimiste et autoritaire: aussi eut-il beaucoup d'adhérents; et Pitt
bientôt se joignit à lui, au moins dans la haine des révolutionnaires.
Son humiliation fut une joie profonde pour les whigs qui suivaient Fox:
et il est intéressant de voir que, pour beaucoup, la défaite de Pitt
comptait plus que celle de Napoléon. Il y avait des whigs jusque dans la
famille royale, et ils étaient pleins d'ardeur. Au reste la cause était
belle: c'était celle de la liberté contre l'autorité. "Nos adversaires,"
s'écriait Lord John Russell, "nous cassent le tympan avec le cri: 'Le
roi et l'Eglise.' Savez-vous ce qu'ils entendent par là? C'est une
Eglise sans évangile et un roi qui se met au-dessus de la loi."
Oxford--clérical et littéraire--était tory; Cambridge, scientifique, qui
avait eu Newton et attendait Darwin, était whig. Il est bon que la
politique inspire de telles passions: car, au total, c'est la lutte
entre les principes fondamentaux, et l'enjeu est de nature telle que nul
n'a le droit de se désintéresser de la partie. Car l'enjeu ce sont les
hommes mêmes, leurs privilèges et leurs droits, et s'ils se
désintéressent, ils n'ont que ce qu'ils méritent le jour où la force
s'appesantit sur eux brutalement.

A n'entendre parler que de politique, les enfants mêmes se troublaient
"Maman," demandait la fille d'un whig éminent; "les tories naissent-ils
méchants, ou bien le deviennent-ils?" "Ils naissent méchants," répliqua
la mère, "et deviennent pires....' Une vieille fille excentrique, que
l'auteur a connue, ne consentait à monter dans une voiture de louage
qu'après avoir demandé au cocher s'il n'avait point transporté de
malades atteints d'une maladie infectieuse, s'il n'était pas puseyite,
et enfin s'il adhérait au programme whig.

"La passion aveugle," dît Topffer: elle aveuglait sur la moralité des
procédés. Pitt, en visite chez une femme qui occupait un rang élevé dans
le monde whig, au moment d'une élection, dit à son interlocutrice: "Eh
bien! vous savez, nous l'emporterons. Dix mille guinées partiront
demain par un homme de confiance pour le Yorkshire, et c'est pour notre
usage qu'elles partent." "Du diable s'il en est ainsi," réplique la
dame. Et la nuit même le porteur était arrêté, et son précieux fardeau
allait grossir les poches des électeurs qui votèrent pour le candidat
whig et en assurèrent la nomination.

C'est au cours de ces luttes politiques, pleines de feu et glorieuses,
qui marquèrent principalement le début de ce siècle, et firent tant de
bien à la nation, que les barrières entre les castes commencèrent à
s'abaisser. Jusque-là, il n'y avait point de rapports entre
l'aristocratie et la classe moyenne, en dehors des cas, encore rares, où
la première patronnait l'aristocratie intellectuelle. (Voyez _La Vie de
Johnson_ par Boswell, par exemple.)

Les choses allaient à ce point que Wilberforce refusa la pairie pour ne
point retirer à ses fils le privilège de fréquenter chez les
_gentlemen_, les familles du commerce, etc. A l'école--et c'est lord
Bathurst qui a raconté ceci à l'auteur--les fils de nobles étaient assis
sur un banc à part, loin du contact avec les roturiers. Il fallait
garder la tradition. C'est ce que faisait le marquis d'Abercorn, qui
mourut en 1818. Il n'allait jamais à la chasse sans arborer sa
décoration--son _Blue Ribbon_--et exigeait que pour faire son lit les
femmes de chambre eussent les mains gantées, et de gants de peau, pas de
fil.... Avant d'épouser sa cousine Hamilton, il la fit anoblir par le
régent, pour ne pas se marier au-dessous de sa condition. Et quand il
apprit qu'elle le voulait planter là pour suivre un amant, il la pria de
prendre le carrosse de famille afin qu'il ne fût pas dit que Lady
Abercorn avait quitté le domicile conjugal dans une voiture de louage. A
ses yeux cette "voiture de louage" jetait évidemment un grand discrédit
sur les operations. On a de la race ou l'on n'en a pas.

Nous avons dit plus haut que M.G.W.E. Russell avait connu beaucoup
d'hommes marquants de ce siècle, et avait eu avec eux des relations
personnelles. Il en fut de toutes sortes; leurs opinions religieuses et
politiques étaient souvent très opposées, mais tous étaient au nombre
des, notabilités du jour. Sur chacun d'eux, notre auteur donne son
impression personnelle, et rappelle des souvenirs personnels ou des
anecdotes intéressantes. Nous ne pouvons les passer tous en revue: mais
on en peut citer quelques-uns.

Sir Moses Montefiore ne fut pas le plus célèbre: mais il avait une
spécialité. Né en 1784, il mourut en 1885, ayant été toute sa vie un
objet d'horreur pour les _teetotallers_; car de quel oeil en vérité
pouvaient-ils considérer un homme qui buvait chaque jour une bouteille
de porto, et à qui la Providence permettait de se bien porter? C'était

Une physionomie plus curieuse était celle de Lord Russell, plein
d'anecdotes, spirituel, souvent froid en apparence, à l'occasion
éloquent. A une dame qui demandait la permission de lui dédier un livre,
il répliquait qu'à son grand regret il se voyait obligé de refuser:
"parce que, comme chancelier de l'Université d'Oxford, il avait été très
exposé aux auteurs."

Pour un chef politique, il avait un grave défaut. Sa mémoire des visages
était très faible. Il se rencontra une fois en Ecosse chez un ami commun
avec le jeune Lord D...., depuis comte de S.... Le jeune homme lui plut
par sa personne et par ses opinions _whig_. Quand vint l'heure de la
séparation, Lord John dit à Lord D.... tout le plaisir qu'il avait eu à
faire sa connaissance, et ajouta: "Maintenant il faut que vous veniez me
donner votre appui à la Chambre des communes." "Mais je ne fais pas
autre chose depuis dix ans," répondit le jeune politicien. Son chef ne
l'avait pas reconnu. Avec cela des distractions qui auraient pu le faire
croire dénué d'éducation alors qu'il n'était que dénué d'artifice.

Etant assis un soir à un concert à Buckingham Palace, aux côtés de la
duchesse de Sutherland, il se leva tout à coup, et s'en fut au fond de
la pièce, où il s'assit auprès de la duchesse d'Inverness. La chose fut
remarquée, et l'on soupçonna quelque querelle, aussi fut-il interrogé
par un ami sur la cause de son attitude, et il répondit et toute
sincérité: "Je ne pouvais rester plus longtemps auprès d'un feu aussi
vif: je me serais évanoui." "Ah! très bien: la raison est bonne en
effet, mais au moins avez-vous dit à la duchesse de Sutherland la raison
de votre changement de place?" "Tiens, non, je ne crois pas le lui avoir
dit: mais j'ai dit à la duchesse d'Inverness pourquoi je venais
m'asseoir près d'elle."

Il n'était pas diplomate--comme on le peut voir--mais il avait de
l'esprit, et sa conversation était pleine d'anecdotes curieuses. Il
avait conversé avec Napoléon à l'île d'Elbe. Celui-ci l'avait pris par
l'oreille, et lui avait demandé ce qu'en Angleterre on pensait des
chances qu'il pouvait avoir de remonter sur le trône de France. "Sire,"
répondit Russell, "les Anglais considèrent vos chances comme nulles."
"Alors vous pouvez leur dire de ma part qu'ils se trompent."

       *       *       *       *       *

Autre physionomie intéressante, celle de Lord Shaftesbury, un beau type
d'aristocrate, au physique comme au moral, très sensible et
compatissant, un philanthrope bon et loyal, anti-esclavagiste militant.
"Pauvres enfants," disait-il en écoutant le récit d'un inspecteur
d'école d'enfants assistés. "Que pouvons-nous faire pour eux?" "Notre
Dieu subviendra à tous leurs besoins," dit l'inspecteur, en servant le
cliché habituel. "Oui, sans doute, mais il faut qu'ils aient à manger
tout de suite," dit Shaftesbury, et sur l'heure il rentre chez lui, et
expédie 400 rations de soupe. Le quiproquo d'un journaliste américain
l'amusa fort. Devenu Lord Shaftesbury après avoir longtemps porté le nom
de Lord Ashley, il signa une lettre sur l'émancipation des esclaves des
Etats-Unis du Sud. "Où était-il donc, ce lord Shaftesbury," demandait
le journaliste, "pendant que ce noble coeur, Lord Ashley, seul et sans
appui, se faisait le champion des esclaves anglais dans les manufactures
du Lancashire et du Yorkshire?" C'était un type admirable de grand
seigneur, et de grand coeur, et l'on comprend ce que lui disait
Beaconsfield, avec un peu d'emphase, une fois qu'il prenait congé, après
lui avoir rendu visite dans son château: "Adieu, mon cher lord. Vous
m'avez donné le privilège de contempler l'un des plus impressionnants
des spectacles; de voir un grand noble anglais vivant à l'état
patriarcal dans son domaine héréditaire."

Puis c'est Lord Houghton, qui avait de l'esprit et de la psychologie. Il
venait de gagner une livre a un jeune homme de ressources très modestes,
au cours d'une partie de whist, et comme il empochait la pièce: "Ah! mon
cher enfant," dit-il, "le _grand_ Lord Hertford, que les sots appellent
le _méchant_ Lord Hertford, avait accoutumé de dire: Il n'y a pas de
plaisir à gagner de l'argent à un homme qui ne sent point sa perte.
Comme c'est vrai!"

Et apercevant un jeune ami, au club, qui faisait un souper de pâté de
foie gras et de Champagne, il lui fit un regard d'encouragement: "Voilà
qui est bien, mon ami: toutes les choses agréables de la vie sont
malsaines, ou coûteuses, ou illicites." C'est un peu la philosophie du
_Pudd'n-head Wilson_ de Mark Twain, qui déclare que, pour bien faire
dans la vie, il faut se priver de tout ce que l'on aime, et faire tout
ce que l'on n'aime point.

Notre auteur n'a point connu Wellington, mais des anecdotes lui ont été
fournies à son égard, de première main.

C'était lors du couronnement de la reine Victoria. Celle-ci voulait
aller au palais de Saint-James, n'ayant dans son carrosse que la
duchesse de Kent et une dame d'honneur; mais Lord Albemarle, _master of
the Horse_, exposa qu'il avait le droit de faire le trajet avec la
reine, dans la même voiture, comme il l'avait fait avec Guillaume IV.
De là, discussion. L'affaire fut soumise au duc de Wellington, considéré
comme une sorte d'arbitre en choses de la cour. Sa réponse fut précise
et peu satisfaisante. "La reine seule a droit de décider," dit-il: "elle
peut vous faire aller dans la voiture ou hors de la voiture, ou courir
derrière comme un s... chien de raccommodeur."

A un autre moment le gouvernement méditait une expédition en Birmanie
pour la prise de Rangoon, et l'on se demandait à quel général la tâche
serait confiée. Le cabinet consulta Wellington. Celui-ci répliqua
aussitôt: 'Envoyez Lord Combermere.'

"Mais nous avons toujours compris que Votre Seigneurie considérait Lord
Combermere comme un imbécile...." "Assurément, c'est un imbécile,"
répliqua Wellington, "c'est un s... imbécile, mais il peut bien prendre

Autre trait de la même période, et qui se rapporte à Lord Melbourne.

La reine Victoria venait de se fiancer, et elle voulait que le prince
Albert fût fait roi consort, par acte du Parlement. Elle parla de ceci à
Lord Melbourne, le premier ministre. Celui-ci commença par éviter la
discussion, mais comme Sa Majesté insistait pour obtenir un avis
catégorique: "Pour l'amour de Dieu, Madame, ne parlons plus de ceci.
Car, une fois que vous aurez donné à la nation anglaise le moyen de
faire des rois, vous lui aurez aussi donné le moyen de les défaire."

Il avait de la philosophie, Lord Melbourne.... C'est lui qui disait que
l'intelligence n'est pas toujours indispensable: le grand avantage du
célèbre ordre de la Jarretière, ajoutait-il, c'est qu'au moins "il n'y a
pas, dans toute cette bête d'histoire, de _mérite_ à l'avoir." Lord
Melbourne avait la bosse de l'esprit pratique, en même temps que la

Pour les personnalités plus modernes, notre auteur insiste assez
longuement sur Disraeli, _alias_ Dizzy, _alias_ encore Lord
Beaconsfield. C'était un homme ingénieux.

"On m'accuse d'être un flatteur," disait-il à Matthew Arnold. "Cela est
vrai, je suis un flatteur. Il est utile de l'être. Chacun aime la
flatterie, et, si vous approchez les rois, il faut l'empiler avec une
truelle...." "Mon secret, c'est de ne jamais contredire et de ne jamais
nier; j'oublie quelquefois...."

Il savait être aimable quand il le fallait, et voici son procédé pour se
faire bien venir des personnes qu'il ne reconnaissait pas, mais qui le
connaissaient, à en juger par leur manière de venir à lui: "Eh bien!"
disait-il sur un ton d'affectueuse sollicitude, "et le vieil ennemi, que
fait-il?" (_How is thé old complaint?_ Comment va l'indisposition
accoutumée?) Cela tombait rarement à faux; et cela faisait toujours

Bismarck, qui s'y connaissait, avait une haute opinion de Disraeli,
"Salisbury est sans importance," disait-il durant le congrès de Berlin:
"ce n'est qu'une baguette peinte pour ressembler à du fer. Mais ce vieux
juif--Disraeli--s'entend aux affaires."

Un amusant épisode se rapporte au même congrès, et au même "vieux juif."

Lord Beaconsfield arriva à Berlin la veille de l'ouverture, et
l'ambassade anglaise le reçut avec beaucoup d'apparat. Dans le courant
de la soirée un des secrétaires vint trouver Lord Odo Russell qui était
l'ambassadeur en ce moment et lui dit:

"Nous sommes dans un terrible embarras. Vous seul pouvez nous en tirer.
Le vieux chef a résolu d'ouvrir le congrès avec un discours en
français.... Il a rédigé une longue oraison, en français, et il l'a
apprise par coeur. Il ouvrira les écluses demain. L'Europe entière va se
moquer de nous: sa prononciation est exécrable. Nous perdrions nos
places à vouloir le lui dire: voulez-vous nous tirer d'affaire?"

"La mission est délicate," fit Lord Odo: "mais j'aime les missions
délicates. Je vais voir ce que je puis faire."

Il alla rejoindre Dizzy dans la chambre à coucher d'honneur de

"Mon cher lord," dit-il, "une terrible rumeur est arrivée jusqu'à mes

"Vraiment, qu'est-ce donc?"

"On nous dit que vous avez l'intention d'ouvrir demain les travaux du
congrès en français."

"Eh bien! et après?"

"Ce qu'il y a, c'est que nous savons tous que nul en Europe n'est mieux
en état de ce faire. Mais, à tout prendre, faire un discours en français
est un tour de force banal. Il y aura au congrès au moins une
demi-douzaine d'hommes qui pourraient en faire autant, presque aussi
bien. Mais, d'un autre côté, qui donc, hormis vous, pourrait prononcer
un discours en anglais? Tous ces plénipotentiaires sont venus des
différentes cours d'Europe dans l'expectative du plus grand régal
intellectuel de leur existence: entendre parler en anglais par le maître
le plus éminent de la langue. La question est de savoir si vous les
voulez désappointer?..."

Dizzy écouta avec attention, mit son monocle, considéra Lord Odo, et dit

"11 y a un argument sérieux dans ce que vous me dites là. Je vais y

Et il y réfléchit si bien que le lendemain il ouvrait le congrès en
langue anglaise. Avait-il réellement avalé la flatterie, ou bien
avait-il compris--fût-ce vaguement--son infériorité en français? On ne
sait; mais un flatteur tel que lui devait avoir quelque méfiance; et la
seconde hypothèse est sans doute la plus exacte.

Autre anecdote. Il dînait un jour à côté de la princesse de Galles, et
se blessa le doigt en voulant couper du pain trop dur. La princesse,
pleine de grâce, entoura le doigt de son propre mouchoir. Et Dizzy, avec
à-propos, de s'exclamer:

"Je leur ai demandé du pain, et c'est une pierre qu'ils m'ont
donnée.... Mais j'ai eu une princesse pour panser mes plaies."

Sa mort fut longue et douloureuse. Pendant six semaines elle approcha et
s'éloigna tour à tour. Un ami--ce nom est-il bien en situation--trouva
le courage de dire à ce propos: "Ah! le voilà bien; il exagère: il a
toujours exagéré."

Sur Gladstone, Newman et beaucoup d'autres, il faut passer rapidement.
Manning a toutefois laissé une grande impression à l'auteur, par sa
prestance et sa dignité. Il était malicieux aussi.

Peu après la mort de Newman, un article nécrologique parut dans une
revue, qui était piquant et même méchant. Manning fut interrogé à ce
propos; il déclara qu'il plaignait l'auteur de l'avoir écrit, que
celui-ci devait avoir un fort mauvais esprit, etc., mais, ajouta-t-il:
"Si vous demandez si c'est bien là Newman, je suis bien obligé de vous
le dire; c'est une vraie photographie."

On peut du reste ouvrir _Collections and Recollections_ au hasard; à
toute page c'est un trait curieux et spirituel qui se montre. J'en cite
quelques-uns, "tout venant," comme disent les carriers. Les deux
premiers rapportent à Henry Smith, un Irlandais des plus spirituels, qui
fut professeur de géométrie à Oxford. Un homme politique éminent, qui
est actuellement un des premiers jurisconsultes de son pays, et dont le
principal défaut est une suffisance exagérée, se présentait aux
élections en 1880, comme candidat libéral. Pour le discréditer, ses
adversaires politiques le représentèrent aux élections comme athée;
c'était une manoeuvre. Apprenant cette accusation, Henry Smith s'écria,
avec une indignation feinte:

"Tout cela est faux. Il n'est nullement un athée. Il croit le plus
fermement du monde à l'existence d'un être supérieur "--sans ajouter que
l'être supérieur, en qui X----croyait, était X---- lui-même.

"Que vaut-il le mieux être, évêque ou juge?" "Oh!" fait Henry Smith,
"évêque. Car le juge, au plus, peut dire: 'Allez vous faire pendre;'
mais l'évêque peut vous damner." "Oui," dit le maître de Balliol, "mais
si le juge dit: 'Allez vous faire pendre,' vous êtes effectivement
pendu." Ici Smith avait le dessous.

Une jolie anecdote dont Napoléon III. _n'est pas_ le héros:

Napoléon III., alors qu'il n'était que prétendant, et plus riche
d'espérances que de monnaie ayant cours légal, fréquentait beaucoup, à
Londres, chez Lady Blessington, maison plus clinquante que solide. Après
le coup d'Etat, la dame vint à Paris faire un petit voyage, et elle
s'attendait à ce que ses politesses lui fussent rendues. Aucune
invitation ne venait, l'empereur oubliait les bienfaits reçus par le
prince. A la fin, pourtant, Lady Blessington réussit à le rencontrer au
cours d'une réception quelconque. Il ne put éviter de la voir et
l'interpella: "Ah! milady Blessington, restez-vous longtemps à Paris?"
"Et vous, Sire?" repliqua-t-elle.

Revenons un peu en arrière et voici une autre jolie ironie.

Au collège d'Oriel, un soir, un des compagnons de Charles Marriott, qui
joua un si grand rôle dans le _Tractarian Movement_, s'oublia, et se
conduisit de façon déplacée. Le lendemain, rencontrant Marriott, il
essaya de s'excuser. "Mon cher ami, je crois bien que j'ai quelque peu
fait la bête hier au soir." "Comment donc, cher camarade?" repliqua
Marriott. "Je ne me suis pas aperçu que vous fussiez autrement qu'à

Le tact n'est pas donné à tous; et pour en avoir, il ne suffit pas
d'occuper une haute situation.

Il y a à Windsor, au bout d'une des promenades du château, une statue
équestre que le peuple a dénommée le Cheval de cuivre. Un grand de
distinction, mais assez pauvre en culture historique, était l'hôte de la
Reine, et une après-midi il fit une promenade. A dîner la Reine
s'informa de ce qu'il avait fait, demandant s'il n'était point fatigué.

"Du tout, Madame, merci; j'ai trouvé une voiture qui m'a ramené jusqu'au
Cheval de cuivre."

"Jusqu'où?" dit la Reine avec effarement

"Jusqu'au Cheval de cuivre, vous savez bien, au bout de Long Walk."

"Mais ce n'est pas un cheval de cuivre: c'est mon grand-père."

"Avez-vous lu les _Greville Memoirs_?" demandait quelqu'un à Disraeli.
"Non," repliqua-t-il. "Ils ne m'attirent pas. Il me souvient de
l'auteur, et c'était la personne la plus vaniteuse avec qui je sois
jamais entré en contact, encore que j'aie lu Cicéron et connu Bulwer
Lytton." D'une pierre trois coups; et ils sont bons. Voulez-vous de la
malice féminine?

"Que Lady Jersey est donc belle!" s'exclamait un admirateur fervent,
devant Lady Morley, sa rivale en beauté. "Dans sa toilette de deuil, en
noir et avec ses diamants, elle semble personnifier la nuit." "Oui, mon
cher," fit Lady Morley, "mais minuit passé."

       *       *       *       *       *

Le chapitre des mots d'enfants est fort étendu. J'en cueille
quelques-uns au hasard:

Voici un trait d'Alexandre de Battenberg, alors qu'il était tout jeune
encore. Manquant d'argent de poche, il imagina d'écrire à son auguste
grand'mère, la reine et impératrice Victoria, pour en demander. Elle lui
répondit une admonestation, et en l'engageant à être désormais plus
économe, de façon à ne pas se trouver dépourvu à la fin du mois. Très
bien. Quelque jours après, elle reçut un second billet de son

"Chère grand'mère," disait le très pratique personnage, "je suis certain
que vous apprendrez avec plaisir que je n'ai pas besoin de vous ennuyer
pour de l'argent en ce moment, car j'ai vendu votre dernière lettre pour
30 shillings à un de mes camarades d'ici!..."

Un enfant--qui depuis a été représentant de Manchester au
Parlement--avait dans sa famille une servante qu'il jugeait être fort
vieille. Il eût voulu savoir son âge, mais il n'osait le lui demander,
sachant que c'est là une question qu'on ne pose pas. Il fallait ruser.
Enfin, un jour, il trouva le biais requis. Il venait de lire que l'aloès
ne fleurit qu'une fois tous les cent ans--ce qui est une erreur
d'ailleurs--et il y avait des aloès dans la serre. Abordant la servante
d'un air câlin: "Avez-vous souvent vu fleurir l'aloès?"

Une élégante forme de politesse. C'est aux Indes, et un Indien rend
compte au gouverneur d'une partie de chasse qui a été organisée en
l'honneur d'un jeune lord de passage. "Eh bien?" fait le gouverneur.
"Oh!" dit l'Indien, "le jeune Sahib a tiré divinement; mais Dieu a été
très miséricordieux pour les petits oiseaux."

Comme cela est finement dit! Je n'en dirai pas autant de quelques
exemples de rhétorique religieuse.

C'est une métaphore cueillie dans le sermon d'un clergyman: "Et si
quelque étincelle de grâce a pu être allumée par cet exercice, veuille,
ô Dieu, l'arroser."

Et que dites-vous de cette prière prononcée devant la reine Victoria par
un prédicateur de petite ville? "Elle," c'est la souveraine: "accorde, ô
Dieu! qu'en devenant plus âgée elle soit faite un homme nouveau, et que
dans toutes les causes de justice elle marche en avant de son peuple
comme un bélier dans les montagnes."

Que de métamorphoses, grand Dieu!

Et enfin, pour ne pas sortir de la théologie. C'est aux examens de

"Qu'est-ce que la foi?

"C'est cette faculté par laquelle nous pouvons croire ce que nous savons
n'être pas vrai."

Et j'en passe, et des meilleures, et en grand nombre. Lisez _Collections
and Recollections_ l'occupation est amusante et instructive, et une
excellente table des noms vous permettra de savoir tout de suite s'il
est parlé de tel ou toi personnage et de retrouver les anecdotes qui le

Abercorn, marquis of
Acton, Lord
Albermarle, sixth Earl of,
  fifth Earl of
Albert, Prince Consort
Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (_see_ Wales)
Alvanley, Lord
Ampthill, Lord
Appleton, Tom
Apponyi, Mme.
Arbuthnot, Mrs.
Argyll, Duke and Duchess of
Arnold, Matthew
Atholl, Duke and
Duchess of Aytoun, W.E.

Balfour, A.J.
Barham, Rev. R.H.D. ("Thomas Ingoldsby")
Barker, H.J.
Bathurst, Earl
Battenberg, Prince Alexander of
Bayly, T.H.
Beaconsfield, Earl of
Beaconsfield, Viscountess
Bedford, Anna Maria, Duchess of
  fifth Duke of
  Gertrude, Duchess of
  sixth Duke of
Benson, Dr., Archbishop of Canterbury
Benson, Harry
Beresford-Hope, A.J.B.
Berkeley, Earl of
Bernal-Osborne, Ralph
Berry, the Misses
Birrell, Augustine
Bismarck, Count Herbert
Blessington, Countess of
Blomfield, Dr., Bishop of London
Bolles, Dame Maria
Bolton, Duchess of
Boswell, James
Bowen, Lord
Braddon, Miss
Bright, John
Brookfield, Rev. W.H.
Brougham, Lord
Broughton, Miss,
Browne, Dr., Bishop of Ely,
Browning, Robert,
Brownrigg, Mrs.,
Brummell, G.B.,
Buckinghamshire, Countess of,
Bull, Bishop,
Burdett, Sir Francis,
Burgon, Dean,
Burke, Sir Bernard,
Bury, Lady Charlotte,
Butler, Dr., Master of Trinity,
  Dr., Bishop of Lichfield,
Byng, George,
Byron, Lord,

Calverley, C.S.,
Cambridge, Adolphus, Duke of,
   Duchess of,
Canning, George,
Canterbury, Archbishops Benson,
Cornwallis, Howley, Tait, and
Temple, of (_see_ those headings).
Carlyle, Thomas,
Carrington, Lord,
"Carroll, Lewis,"
Chamberlain, Joseph,
Charles I.,
Chatham, Earl of,
Child, Miss,
Church, Dean,
Churchill, Lord Randolph,
Clarence, Edward, Duke of,
   William, Duke of,
Cleveland, Duchess of,
Cobbett, William,
Cobden, F.C.,
Cockburn, Sir Alexander,
"Coke of Norfolk" (Earl of Leicester),
Coleridge, Lord,
  Sir J.T.,
Collins, Miss,
Combermere, Viscount,
Connaught, Duke of,
   Prince Arthur of,
Cornwallis, Dr., Archbishop of Canterbury,
Cowper-Temple, W.F. (Lord Mount-Temple),
Croker, J.W.,
Cross, Viscount,
Cumberland, Ernest, Duke of,
   Henry Frederick, Duke of,
Cuyler, Miss,
Cunningham, Sir Henry,

Delane, J.T.,
Denison, Archdeacon,
Derby, fourteenth Earl of,
  fifteenth Earl of,
De Ros, Lord,
Devonshire, eighth Duke of,
Dickens, Charles,
Disraeli (_see_ Beaconsfield).
D'Orsay, Count Alfred,
Dowse, Serjeant,
Dublin, Archbishops Plunket, Trench, and Whately, of (_see_
those headings).
Duckworth, Rev. Dr.
Dufferin, Marchioness of,
  Marquis of,
Duncombe, Thomas,
Dundas, Sir David,

Eldon, Earl of,
Elliot, Dean,
Ely, Bishops Browne, Sparke,
   Turton, and Woodford, of (_see_
   those headings).
Erne, Earl and Countess of,
Erskine, Lord,
Evarts, Jeremiah,
Exeter, Dr. Phillpotts, Bishop of,
Eyton, Rev. Robert,

FitzGerald, Lady Edward,
Fitzherbert, Mrs.,
Fitzwilliam, Earl,
Forster, W.E.,
Fox, C.J.,
Frederick, the Empress (Princess
Freeman, E.A.,
Fronde, J.A.,
Furse, Archdeacon,

Gambetta, Leon,
George IV. (_see_ under Kings).
Gladstone, W.E.,
Glasse, Hannah,
Glentworth, Viscountess,
Gloucester, Duke of ("Silly Billy"),
Gore, Rev. Charles,
Goschen, G.J.,
Gower, Earl,
Graham, H.J.L.,
Grain, Corney,
Granville, Earl,
Grattan, Henry,
Grenville, Thomas,
Greville, C.C.F.,
Grey, Colonel Charles,

Grey, Earl,
  Lady Georgiana,
Guthrie, Anstey,

Haig-Brown, Rev. Dr.,
Hamilton, Lady Anne,
  Lady Cecil,
  Emma, Lady,
Hampden, Viscount,
  Dr., Bishop of Hereford,
Hankey, Thomson,
Hanover, Ernest, King of,
Harcourt, Lady Anne,
  Dr., Archbishop of York,
  Sir William,
Hardy, Gathorne (Earl of Cranbrook),
Harness, Rev. William,
Harte, Bret,
Hayward, Abraham,
Healy, T.M.,
Heath, Baron,
Hertford, first Marquis of,
  third Marquis of,
Hilton, A.C.,
Hoare, Mrs.,
Holland, Sir Henry, M.D.,
  Rev. H.S.,
Hook, Dean,
Hope-Scott, J.R.,
Houghton, Lord,
Howley, Dr., Archbishop of Canterbury,
Hugo, Victor,
Hume, David,
Huntingdon, Countess of,

"Ingoldsby, Thomas" (Rev.
R.H. D, Barham), his "Legends,"
Irving, Sir Henry,

Jenkins, Miss A.M.,
Jersey, Countess of,
Jessopp, Rev. Dr.,
Johnson, Dr.,
Jones, W.B.T.,
Jowett, Rev. Benjamin,

Keble, Rev. John,
Kent, Duchess of,
Keppel, Admiral,
Kidd, Dr.,
 Earnest of Hanover,
 George III.,
 George IV.,
 William IV.,
Kingsley, Rev. Charles,
Kipling, Rudyard,
Kitchener, Dr.,
Knox, Alexander,
Knutsford, Viscount,
Kurr, William,

Labouchere, Henry,
La Fai, l'Abbé de,
Lang, Andrew,
Law, Rev. William,
Lawson, Sir Wilfrid,
Lear, Edward,
Lecky, W.E.H.,
Leech, John,
Leicester, Earl of ("Coke of Norfolk"),
Lennox, Lady Louisa,
Leo XIII. (_see_ Popes, Leo XIII.).
Liddell, Dean,
Liddon, Rev. Dr.,
Lightfoot, Dr., Bishop of Durham,
Lily, Mrs.,
Lincoln, Abraham,
Lind, Jenny,
London, Dr. Blomfield, Bishop of,
Lover, Samuel,
Lowell, J.R.,
Luttrell, Henry,
Lyndhurst, Lady,
Lyttelton, Lady,
Lytton, Lord,

Macaulay, Lord,
M'Carthy, Justin,
MacColl, Rev. Malcolm,
Mackintosh, Sir James,
Macleod, Rev. Norman,
Mallock, W.H.,
Manners, Lord John (Duke of Rutland),
Manning, Cardinal,
Marlborough, third Duke of,
  fourth Duke of,
Marriott, Rev. Charles,
Marsh, Dr., Bishop of Peterborough,
Marten, Henry,
Martin, Sir Theodore,
Maude, Capt. Francis,
Maxse, Lady Caroline,
Maxwell, Sir Herbert,
Melbourne, Viscount,
Merry, Rev. W.W.,
Milnes, R.M. (_see_ Lord Houghton)
"Miss J.,"
Monk, Dr., Bishop of Gloucester,
Montefiore, Sir Moses,
Montgomery, Miss,
  Rev. Robert,
Moore, Thomas,
More, Hannah,
Morley, John,
  ", Countess of,
Morris, Lord,
Motley, J.L.,
Mount-Temple, Lord (_see_ Cowper-Temple, W.F.).

Napoleon I.,
Newman, Cardinal,
Northumberland, Duke and Duchess of,
Norton, Mrs.,

OAKS Widows, the,
O'Coighley, J.,
O'Connell, Daniel,
"Old Q.,"
Orleans, Duke of,
O'Sullivan, W.H.,
Owen, Sir Hugh,

Palmerston, Viscount,
"Pamela" (Lady Edward FitzGerald),
Parke, Sir James (_see_ Lord Wensleydale).
Parr, Rev. Dr.,
Pater, W.H.,
Payn, James,
Peel, Sir Robert (father),
Pembroke, Countess,
  Earl of,
Phillpotts, Dr., Bishop of Exeter,
Pigott, Miss,
Pitt, William (_see_ Chatham).
Pitt, William (younger),
Pius IX. (_see_ Popes, Pius IX.).
Plunket, Lord,
Pollock, Sir Frederick,
Popes, Leo XIII.,
  Pius IX.,
Prince Regent (_see_ Kings, George IV.).
Princess Royal (_see_ Victoria, Princess Royal).
Procter, Mrs.,

Queen Victoria,
Queensberry, Duke of (_see_ "Old Q.")

Raikes, H.C.,
Raphoe, Dr. Twysden, Bishop of (_see_ Twysden, Dr.).
Rawlinson, Sir Robert,
Reynolds, Sir Joshua,
Rhoades, James,
Richmond, Rev. Legh,
  Duchess of,
Ridding, Dr., Bishop of Southwell,
  Lady Laura,
Robinson, Rev. Thomas,
Rochester, Dr. Thorold, Bishop of (_see_ Thorold).
Rogers, Samuel,
  J.E. Thorold,
Rosebery, Earl of,
Rossetti, D.G.,
Rowton, Lord,
Ruskin, John,
Russell, Lord Charles,
  Lord John (sixth Duke of Bedford),
  Lord John (Earl Russell),
Russell, Odo (Lord Ampthill),
  Lord William,
  Lord Wriothesley,
Rutland, Duke of,

Salisbury, Marquis of,
Saurin, Lady Mary (_née_ Ryder),
Sawbridge, Mrs.,
Scott, John (Earl of Eldon),
  Rev. Thomas,
  Sir Waller,
  William (Lord Stowell),
Seaman, Owen,
Seeley, Sir John,
Sellon, Miss,
Seymour, Lady Robert,
  Sir Hamilton,
  Jane, Lady (Duchess of Somerset),
  Lord Robert,
Shaftesbury, sixth Earl of,
  seventh Earl of,
Shaw-Lefevre, Charles (Viscount Eversley),
Sheil, R.L.,
Sheppard, Thomas,
Sherbrooke, Viscount,
Sheridan, Jane (Lady Seymour, Duchess of Somerset),
Sheridan, R.B.,
Short, Rev. Thomas,
Shorthouse, J.H.,
Shuckburgh, Lady,
Sibthorp, Colonel,
Siddons, Mrs.,
"Silly Billy,"
Smith, Eliza,
Smith, Robert (Lord Carrington),
  Rev. Sydney,
Somerset, Duchess of (_see_ Sheridan, Jane).
Southey, Robert,
Southwell, Dr. Ridding, Bishop of,
Sparke, Dr., Bishop of Ely
Spencer, Rev. George,
Staël, Mme de,
Stanley, Dean,
Stephen, J.K.,
Stirling, Sir Walter,
Stowell, Lord,
Stuart, Prince Charles Edward,
  Lady Louisa,
Sturgis, Julian,
Sumner, Dr., Bishop of Winchester,
Sussex, Duke of,
Swinburne, A.C.,

Tait, Dr., Archbishop of Canterbury,
Talleyrand, Prince,
Talmash, Lady Bridget,
Temple, Dr., Archbishop of Canterbury,
Tennyson, Lord,
Thackeray, W.M.,
Thistlewood, Arthur,
Thompson, Dr. (Master of Trinity),
Thomson, Dr., Archbishop of York,
Thorold, Dr., Bishop of Winchester,
  Sir John,
Tighe, Lady Louisa,
Trench, Dr., Archbishop of Dublin,
Trevelyan, Sir George,
Trollope, Anthony,
Turner, Rev. E.T.,
Turton, Dr., Bishop of Ely,
Twysden, Dr., Bishop of Raphoe,
Tyndall, John,

Upward, Allen,

Vaneck, Mrs.,
Van Mildert, Dr., Bishop of Durham,
Vaughan, Dean,
Venn, Rev. Henry,
Victoria, Her Majesty Queen (_see_ under Queen).
  Princess, Royal,
Villiers, C.P.,

Waldegrave, Countess,
Wales, Albert Edward, Prince of,
  Alexandra, Princess of,
  George, Prince of,
Walpole, Horace,
Wellington, Duke of,
Wensleydale, Lord (Sir James Paike),
Wesley, Rev. Charles,
  Rev. John,
West, Sir Algernon,
Westbury, Lord,
Westcott, Dr., Bishop of Durham,
Whately, Dr., Archbishop of Dublin,
White, Rev. Henry,
Whitefield, Rev. George,
Wilberforce, Rev. Basil,
Winchester, Bishops Sumner, Thorold, and Wilberforce, of
  (_see_ those headings).
Woodford, Dr., Bishop of Ely,
Woods, Rev. Dr.,
Wordsworth, William,
Wyke, Sir Charles,
Wynn, Miss,

York, Dr. Harcourt, Archbishop of,
  Dr. Thomson, Archbishop of,
  Frederick, Duke of,
Young, Arthur,


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