By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Studies in Contemporary Biography
Author: Bryce, James Bryce, Viscount, 1838-1922
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Studies in Contemporary Biography" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.


images generously made available by Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries

Note: Images of the original pages are available through
      Internet Archive/Canadian Libaries. See

Transcriber's note:

  Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

  Text transcribed from Greek is enclosed by plus signs
  (+Greek transliteration+).




Author of
'The Holy Roman Empire,' 'The American Commonwealth', etc.

Macmillan and Co., Limited
New York: The Macmillan Company

All rights reserved

Copyright in the United States of America 1903


  President of Harvard University



The first and the last of these Studies relate to persons whose fame
has gone out into all lands, and about whom so much remains to be said
that one who has reflected on their careers need not offer an apology
for saying something. Of the other eighteen sketches, some deal with
eminent men whose names are still familiar, but whose personalities
have begun to fade from the minds of the present generation. The rest
treat of persons who came less before the public, but whose brilliant
gifts and solid services to the world make them equally deserve to be
remembered with honour. Having been privileged to enjoy their
friendship, I have felt it a duty to do what a friend can to present a
faithful record of their excellence which may help to keep their
memory fresh and green.

These Studies are, however, not to be regarded as biographies, even
in miniature. My aim has rather been to analyse the character and
powers of each of the persons described, and, as far as possible, to
convey the impression which each made in the daily converse of life.
All of them, except Lord Beaconsfield, were personally, and most of
them intimately, known to me.

In the six Studies which treat of politicians I have sought to set
aside political predilections, and have refrained from expressing
political opinions, though it has now and then been necessary to point
out instances in which the subsequent course of events has shown the
action of Lord Beaconsfield, Mr. Lowe, and Mr. Gladstone to have been
right or wrong (as the case may be) in the action they respectively

The sketches of T. H. Green, E. A. Freeman, and J. R. Green were
originally written for English magazines, and most of the other
Studies have been published in the United States. All of those that
had already appeared in print have been enlarged and revised, some
indeed virtually rewritten. I have to thank the proprietors of the
_English Historical Review_, the _Contemporary Review_, and the _New
York Nation_, as also the Century Company of New York, for their
permission to use so much of the matter of the volume as had appeared
(in its original form) in the organs belonging to them respectively.

_March 6, 1903._


      I. Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield      1804-1881      1
     II. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, Dean of
             Westminster                              1815-1881     69
    III. Thomas Hill Green                            1836-1882     85
     IV. Archibald Campbell Tait, Archbishop of
             Canterbury                               1811-1882    100
      V. Anthony Trollope                             1815-1882    116
     VI. John Richard Green                           1837-1883    131
    VII. Sir George Jessel                            1824-1883    170
   VIII. Hugh M'Calmont Cairns, Earl
             Cairns                                   1819-1885    184
     IX. James Fraser, Bishop of Manchester           1818-1885    196
      X. Stafford Henry Northcote, Earl of
             Iddesleigh                               1818-1887    211
     XI. Charles Stewart Parnell                      1846-1891    227
    XII. Henry Edward Manning, Archbishop and
             Cardinal                                 1808-1892    250
   XIII. Edward Augustus Freeman                      1823-1892    262
    XIV. Robert Lowe, Viscount Sherbrooke             1811-1892    293
     XV. William Robertson Smith                      1846-1894    311
    XVI. Henry Sidgwick                               1838-1900    327
   XVII. Edward Ernest Bowen                          1836-1901    343
  XVIII. Edwin Lawrence Godkin                        1831-1902    363
    XIX. John Emerich Dalberg-Acton, Lord Acton       1834-1902    382
     XX. William Ewart Gladstone                      1809-1898    400


When Lord Beaconsfield died in 1881 we all wondered what people would
think of him fifty years thereafter. Divided as our own judgments
were, we asked whether he would still seem a problem. Would opposite
views regarding his aims, his ideas, the sources of his power, still
divide the learned, and perplex the ordinary reader? Would men
complain that history cannot be good for much when, with the abundant
materials at her disposal, she had not framed a consistent theory of
one who played so great a part in so ample a theatre? People called
him a riddle; and he certainly affected a sphinx-like attitude. Would
the riddle be easier then than it was for us, from among whom the man
had even now departed?

When he died, there were many in England who revered him as a profound
thinker and a lofty character, animated by sincere patriotism.
Others, probably as numerous, held him for no better than a cynical
charlatan, bent through life on his own advancement, who permitted no
sense of public duty, and very little human compassion, to stand in
the way of his insatiate ambition. The rest did not know what to
think. They felt in him the presence of power; they felt also
something repellent. They could not understand how a man who seemed
hard and unscrupulous could win so much attachment and command so much

Since Disraeli departed nearly one-half of those fifty years has
passed away. Few are living who can claim to have been his personal
friends, none who were personal enemies. No living statesman professes
to be his political disciple. The time has come when one may discuss
his character and estimate his career without being suspected of doing
so with a party bias or from a party motive. Doubtless those who
condemn and those who defend or excuse some momentous parts of his
conduct, such as, for instance, his policy in the East and in
Afghanistan from 1876 to 1879, will differ in their judgment of his
wisdom and foresight. If this be a difficulty, it is an unavoidable
one, and may never quite disappear. There were in the days of Augustus
some who blamed that sagacious ruler for seeking to check the
expansion of the Roman Empire. There were in the days of King Henry
the Second some who censured and others who praised him for issuing
the Constitutions of Clarendon. Both questions still remain open to
argument; and the conclusion any one forms must affect in some measure
his judgment of each monarch's statesmanship. So differences of
opinion about particular parts of Disraeli's long career need not
prevent us from dispassionately inquiring what were the causes that
enabled him to attain so striking a success, and what is the place
which posterity is likely to assign to him among the rulers of

First, a few words about the salient events of his life, not by way of
writing a biography, but to explain what follows.

He was born in London, in 1804. His father, Isaac Disraeli, was a
literary man of cultivated taste and independent means, who wrote a
good many books, the best known of which is his _Curiosities of
Literature_, a rambling work, full of entertaining matter. He belonged
to that division of the Jewish race which is called the Sephardim, and
traces itself to Spain and Portugal;[2] but he had ceased to frequent
the synagogue--had, in fact, broken with his co-religionists. Isaac
had access to good society, so that the boy saw eminent and polished
men from his early years, and, before he had reached manhood, began
to make his way in drawing-rooms where he met the wittiest and
best-known people of the day. He was articled to a firm of attorneys
in London in 1821, but after two or three years quitted a sphere for
which his peculiar gifts were ill suited.[3] Samuel Rogers, the poet,
took a fancy to him, and had him baptized at the age of thirteen. As
he grew up, he was often to be seen with Count d'Orsay and Lady
Blessington, well-known figures who fluttered on the confines of
fashion and Bohemia. It is worth remarking that he never went either
to a public school or to a university. In England it has become the
fashion to assume that nearly all the persons who have shone in public
life have been educated in one of the great public schools, and that
they owe to its training their power of dealing with men and
assemblies. Such a superstition is sufficiently refuted by the
examples of men like Pitt, Macaulay, Bishop Wilberforce, Disraeli,
Cobden, Bright, and Cecil Rhodes, not to add instances drawn from
Ireland and Scotland, where till very recently there have been no
public schools in the current English sense.

Disraeli first appeared before the public in 1826, when he published
_Vivian Grey_, an amazing book to be the production of a youth of
twenty-two. Other novels--_The Young Duke_, _Venetia_, _Contarini
Fleming_, _Henrietta Temple_--maintained without greatly increasing
his reputation between 1831 and 1837. Then came two political stories,
_Coningsby_ and _Sybil_, in 1844 and 1845, followed by _Tancred_ in
1847, and the _Life of Lord George Bentinck_ in 1852; with a long
interval of silence, till, in 1870, he produced _Lothair_, in 1880
_Endymion_. Besides these he published in 1839 the tragedy of
_Alarcos_, and in 1835 the more ambitious _Revolutionary Epick_,
neither of which had much success. In 1828-31 he took a journey
through the East, visiting Constantinople, Syria, and Egypt, and it
was then, no doubt, in lands peculiarly interesting to a man of his
race, that he conceived those ideas about the East and its mysterious
influences which figure largely in some of his stories, notably in
_Tancred_, and which in 1878 had no small share in shaping his policy
and that of England. Meanwhile, he had not forgotten the political
aspirations which we see in _Vivian Grey_. In 1832, just before the
passing of the Reform Bill, he appeared as candidate for the petty
borough of High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, and was defeated by a
majority of twenty-three to twelve, so few were the voters in many
boroughs of those days. After the Bill had enlarged the constituency,
he tried his luck twice again, in 1833 and 1835, both times
unsuccessfully, and came before two other boroughs also, Taunton and
Marylebone, though in the latter case no contest took place. Such
activity in a youth with little backing from friends and comparatively
slender means marked him already as a man of spirit and ambition. His
next attempt was more lucky. At the general election of 1837 he was
returned for Maidstone.

His political professions during this period have been keenly
canvassed; nor is it easy to form a fair judgment on them. In 1832 he
had sought and obtained recommendations from Joseph Hume and Daniel
O'Connell, and people had therefore set him down as a Radical.
Although, however, his professions of political faith included dogmas
which, like triennial parliaments, the ballot, and the imposition of a
new land-tax, were part of the so-called "Radical" platform, still
there was a vague and fanciful note in his utterances, and an
aversion to the conventional Whig way of putting things, which showed
that he was not a thorough-going adherent of any of the then existing
political parties, but was trying to strike out a new line and
attract men by the promise of something fresher and bolder than the
recognised schools offered. In 1834 his hostility to Whiggism was
becoming more pronounced, and a tenderness for some Tory doctrines
more discernible. Finally, in 1835, he appeared as an avowed Tory,
accepting the regular creed of the party, and declaring himself a
follower of Sir Robert Peel, but still putting forward a number of
views peculiar to himself, which he thereafter developed not only
in his speeches but in his novels. _Coningsby_ and _Sybil_ were
meant to be a kind of manifesto of the "Young England" party--a party
which can hardly be said to have existed outside his own mind, though
a small knot of aristocratic youths who caught up and repeated his
phrases seemed to form a nucleus for it.

The fair conclusion from his deliverances during these early years is
that he was at first much more of a Liberal than a Tory, yet with
ideas distinctively his own which made him appear in a manner
independent of both parties. The old party lines might seem to have
been almost effaced by the struggle over the Reform Bill; and it was
natural for a bold and inventive mind to imagine a new departure, and
put forward a programme in which a sort of Radicalism was mingled with
doctrines of a different type. But when it became clear after a time
that the old political divisions still subsisted, and that such a
distinctive position as he had conceived could not be maintained, he
then, having to choose between one or other of the two recognised
parties, chose the Tories, dropping some tenets he had previously
advocated which were inconsistent with their creed, but retaining
much of his peculiar way of looking at political questions. How far
the change which passed over him was a natural development, how far
due to mere calculations of interest, there is little use discussing:
perhaps he did not quite know himself. Looking back, we of to-day
might be inclined to think that he received more blame for it than he
deserved, but contemporary observers generally set it down to a want
of principle. In one thing, however, he was consistent then, and
remained consistent ever after--his hearty hatred of the Whigs. There
was something in the dryness and coldness of the great Whig families,
their stiff constitutionalism, their belief in political economy,
perhaps also their occasional toyings with the Nonconformists (always
an object of dislike to Disraeli), which roused all the antagonisms of
his nature, personal and Oriental.

When he entered the House of Commons he was already well known to
fashionable London, partly by his striking face and his powers of
conversation, partly by the eccentricities of his dress--he loved
bright-coloured waistcoats, and decked himself with rings,--partly by
his novels, whose satirical pungency had made a noise in society. He
had also become, owing to his apparent change of front, the object of
angry criticism. A quarrel with Daniel O'Connell, in the course of
which he challenged the great Irishman to fight a duel, each party
having described the other with a freedom of language bordering on
scurrility, made him, for a time, the talk of the political world.
Thus there was more curiosity evoked by his first speech than usually
awaits a new member. It was unsuccessful, not from want of ability,
but because its tone did not suit the temper of the House of Commons,
and because a hostile section of the audience sought to disconcert him
by their laughter. Undeterred by this ridicule, he continued to speak,
though in a less ambitious and less artificial vein, till after a few
years he had become one of the most conspicuous unofficial members. At
first no one had eulogised Peel more warmly, but after a time he edged
away from the minister, whether repelled by his coldness, which showed
that in that quarter no promotion was to be expected, or shrewdly
perceiving that Peel was taking a line which would ultimately separate
him from the bulk of the Conservative party. This happened in 1846,
when Peel, convinced that the import duties on corn were economically
unsound, proposed their abolition. Disraeli, who, since 1843, had
taken repeated opportunities of firing stray shots at the powerful
Prime Minister, now bore a foremost part not only in attacking him,
but in organising the Protectionist party, and prompting its leader,
Lord George Bentinck. In embracing free trade, Peel carried with him
his own personal friends and disciples, men like Gladstone, Sidney
Herbert, Lord Lincoln, Sir James Graham, Cardwell, and a good many
others, the intellectual _élite_ of the Tory party. The more numerous
section who clung to Protection had numbers, wealth, respectability,
cohesion, but brains and tongues were scarce. An adroit tactician and
incisive speaker was of priceless value to them. Such a man they found
in Disraeli, while he gained, sooner than he had expected, an
opportunity of playing a leading part in the eyes of Parliament and
the country. In the end of 1848, Lord George Bentinck, who, though a
man of natural force and capable of industry when he pleased, had been
to some extent Disraeli's mouthpiece, died, leaving his prompter
indisputably the keenest intellect in the Tory-Protectionist party. In
1850, Peel, who might possibly have in time brought the bulk of that
party back to its allegiance to him, was killed by a fall from his
horse. The Peelites drifted more and more towards Liberalism, so that
when Lord Derby, who, in 1851, had been commissioned as head of the
Tory party to form a ministry, invited them to join him, they refused
to do so, imagining him to be still in favour of the corn duties, and
resenting the behaviour of the Protectionist section to their own
master. Being thus unable to find one of them to lead his followers in
the House of Commons, Lord Derby turned in 1852 to Disraeli, giving
him, with the leadership, the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The appointment was thought a strange one, because Disraeli brought to
it absolutely no knowledge of finance and no official experience. He
had never been so much as an Under-Secretary. The Tories themselves
murmured that one whom they regarded as an adventurer should be raised
to so high a place. After a few months Lord Derby's ministry fell,
defeated on the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget, which had been
vehemently attacked by Mr. Gladstone. This was the beginning of that
protracted duel between him and Mr. Disraeli which lasted down till
the end of the latter's life.

For the following fourteen years Disraeli's occupation was that of a
leader of Opposition, varied by one brief interval of office in
1858-59. His party was in a permanent minority, so that nothing was
left for its chief but to fight with skill, courage, and resolution a
series of losing battles. This he did with admirable tenacity of
purpose. Once or twice in every session he used to rally his forces
for a general engagement, and though always defeated, he never
suffered himself to be dispirited by defeat. During the rest of the
time he was keenly watchful, exposing all the mistakes in domestic
affairs of the successive Liberal Governments, and when complications
arose in foreign politics, always professing, and generally
manifesting, a patriotic desire not to embarrass the Executive, lest
national interests should suffer. Through all these years he had to
struggle, not only with a hostile majority in office, but also with
disaffection among his own followers. Many of the landed aristocracy
could not bring themselves to acquiesce in the leadership of a new
man, of foreign origin, whose career had been erratic, and whose ideas
they found it hard to assimilate. Ascribing their long exclusion from
power to his presence, they more than once conspired to dethrone him.
In 1861 these plots were thickest, and Disraeli was for a time left
almost alone. But as it happened, there never arose in the House of
Commons any one on the Conservative side possessing gifts of speech
and of strategy comparable to those which in him had been matured and
polished by long experience, while he had the address to acquire an
ascendency over the mind of Lord Derby, still the titular head of the
party, who, being a man of straightforward character, high social
position, and brilliant oratorical talent, was therewithal somewhat
lazy and superficial, and therefore disposed to lean on his lieutenant
in the Lower House, and to borrow from him those astute schemes of
policy which Disraeli was fertile in devising. Thus, through Lord
Derby's support, and by his own imperturbable confidence, he
frustrated all the plots of the malcontent Tories. New men came up
who had not witnessed his earlier escapades, but knew him only as the
bold and skilful leader of their party in the House of Commons. He
made himself personally agreeable to them, encouraged them in their
first efforts, diffused his ideas among them, stimulated the local
organisation of the party, and held out hopes of great things to be
done when fortune should at last revisit the Tory banner.

While Lord Palmerston lived, these exertions seemed to bear little
fruit. That minister had, in his later years, settled down into a sort
of practical Toryism, and both parties acquiesced in his rule. But, on
his death, the scene changed. Lord Russell and Mr. Gladstone brought
forward a Reform Bill strong enough to evoke the latent Conservative
feeling of a House of Commons which, though showing a nominally
Liberal majority, had been chosen under Palmerstonian auspices. The
defeat of the Bill, due to the defection of the more timorous Whigs,
was followed by the resignation of Lord Russell's Ministry. Lord Derby
and Mr. Disraeli came into power, and, next year, carried a Reform
Bill which, as it was finally shaped in its passage through the House,
really went further than Lord Russell's had done, enfranchising a much
larger number of the working classes in boroughs. To have carried this
Bill remains the greatest of Disraeli's triumphs. He had to push it
gently through a hostile House of Commons by wheedling a section of
the Liberal majority, against the appeals of their legitimate leader.
He had also to persuade his own followers to support a measure which
they had all their lives been condemning, and which was, or in their
view ought to have been, more dangerous to the Constitution than the
one which they and the recalcitrant Whigs had thrown out in the
preceding year. He had, as he happily and audaciously expressed it, to
educate his party into doing the very thing which they (though
certainly not he himself) had cordially and consistently denounced.

The process was scarcely complete when the retirement of Lord Derby,
whose health had given way, opened Disraeli's path to the post of
first Minister of the Crown. He dissolved Parliament, expecting to
receive a majority from the gratitude of the working class whom his
Act had admitted to the suffrage. To his own surprise, and to the
boundless disgust of the Tories, a Liberal House of Commons was again
returned, which drove him and his friends once more into the cold
shade of Opposition. He was now sixty-four years of age, had suffered
an unexpected and mortifying discomfiture, and had no longer the great
name of Lord Derby to cover him. Disaffected voices were again heard
among his own party, while the Liberals, reinstalled in power, were
led by the rival whose unequalled popularity in the country made him
for the time omnipotent. Still Mr. Disraeli was not disheartened. He
fought the battle of apparently hopeless resistance with his old tact,
wariness, and tenacity, losing no occasion for any criticism that
could damage the measures--strong and large measures--which Mr.
Gladstone's Government brought forward.

Before long the tide turned. The Dissenters resented the Education Act
of 1870. A reaction in favour of Conservatism set in, which grew so
fast that, in 1874, the general election gave, for the first time
since 1846, a decided Conservative majority. Mr. Disraeli became again
Prime Minister, and now a Prime Minister no longer on sufferance, but
with the absolute command of a dominant party, rising so much above
the rest of the Cabinet as to appear the sole author of its policy. In
1876, feeling the weight of age, he transferred himself to the House
of Lords as Earl of Beaconsfield. The policy he followed (from 1876
till 1880) in the troubles which arose in the Turkish East out of the
insurrection in Herzegovina and the massacres in Bulgaria, as well as
that subsequently pursued in Afghanistan and in South Africa, while it
received the enthusiastic approval of the soldiers, the stockbrokers,
and the richer classes generally, raised no less vehement opposition
in other sections of the nation, and especially in those two which,
when heartily united and excited, have usually been masters of
England--the Protestant Nonconformists and the upper part of the
working class. An election fought with unusual heat left him in so
decided a minority that he resigned office in April 1880, without
waiting for an adverse vote in Parliament. When the result had become
clear he observed, "They," meaning his friends, "will come in again,
but I shall not." A year later he died.

Here is a wonderful career, not less wonderful to those who live in
the midst of English politics and society than it appears to observers
in other countries. A man with few external advantages, not even that
of education at a university, where useful friendships are formed,
with grave positive disadvantages in his Jewish extraction and the
vagaries of his first years of public life, presses forward, step by
step, through slights and disappointments which retard but never
dishearten him, assumes as of right the leadership of a party--the
aristocratic party, the party in those days peculiarly suspicious of
new men and poor men,--wins a reputation for sagacity which makes his
early errors forgotten, becomes in old age the favourite of a court,
the master of a great country, one of the three or four arbiters of
Europe. There is here more than one problem to solve, or, at least, a
problem with more than one aspect. What was the true character of the
man who had sustained such a part? Did he hold any principles, or was
he merely playing with them as counters? By what gifts or arts did he
win such a success? Was there really a mystery beneath the wizard's
robe which he delighted to wrap around him? And how, being so unlike
the Englishmen among whom his lot was cast, did he so fascinate and
rule them?

Imagine a man of strong will and brilliant intellectual powers,
belonging to an ancient and persecuted race, who finds himself born
in a foreign country, amid a people for whose ideas and habits he
has no sympathy and scant respect. Suppose him proud, ambitious,
self-confident--too ambitious to rest content in a private station,
so self-confident as to believe that he can win whatever he aspires
to. To achieve success, he must bend his pride, must use the language
and humour the prejudices of those he has to deal with; while his
pride avenges itself by silent scorn or thinly disguised irony.
Accustomed to observe things from without, he discerns the weak
points of all political parties, the hollowness of institutions and
watchwords, the instability of popular passion. If his imagination be
more susceptible than his emotions, his intellect more active than
his conscience, the isolation in which he stands and the superior
insight it affords him may render him cold, calculating, self-centred.
The sentiment of personal honour may remain, because his pride will
support it; and he will be tenacious of the ideas which he has
struck out, because they are his own. But for ordinary principles of
conduct he may have small regard, because he has not grown up
under the conventional morality of the time and nation, but has
looked on it merely as a phenomenon to be recognised and reckoned
with, because he has noted how much there is in it of unreality or
pharisaism--how far it sometimes is from representing or expressing
either the higher judgments of philosophy or the higher precepts of
religion. Realising and perhaps exaggerating the power of his own
intelligence, he will secretly revolve schemes of ambition wherein
genius, uncontrolled by fears or by conscience, makes all things bend
to its purposes, till the scruples and hesitations of common humanity
seem to him only parts of men's cowardice or stupidity. What
success he will win when he comes to carry out such schemes in
practice will largely depend on the circumstances in which he finds
himself, as well as on his gift for judging of them. He may become a
Napoleon. He may fall in a premature collision with forces which
want of sympathy has prevented him from estimating.

In some of his novels, and most fully in the first of them, Mr.
Disraeli sketched a character and foreshadowed a career not altogether
unlike that which has just been indicated. It would be unfair to treat
as autobiographical, though some of his critics have done so, the
picture of Vivian Grey. What that singular book shows is that, at an
age when his contemporaries were lads at college, absorbed in cricket
matches or Latin verse-making, Disraeli had already meditated
profoundly on the conditions and methods of worldly success, had
rejected the allurements of pleasure and the attractions of
literature, as well as the ideal life of philosophy, had conceived of
a character isolated, ambitious, intense, resolute, untrammelled by
scruples, who moulds men to his purposes by the sheer force of his
intellect, humouring their foibles, using their weaknesses, and luring
them into his chosen path by the bait of self-interest.

To lay stress on the fact that Mr. Disraeli was of Hebrew birth is
not, though some of his political antagonists stooped so to use it, to
cast any reproach upon him: it is only to note a fact of the utmost
importance for a proper comprehension of his position. The Jews were
at the beginning of the nineteenth century still foreigners in
England, not only on account of their religion, with its mass of
ancient rites and usages, but also because they were filled with the
memory of centuries of persecution, and perceived that in some parts
of Europe the old spirit of hatred had not died out. The antiquity of
their race, their sense of its long-suffering and isolation, their
pride in the intellectual achievements of those ancestors whose blood,
not largely mixed with that of any other race, flows in their veins,
lead the stronger or more reflective spirits to revenge themselves by
a kind of scorn upon the upstart Western peoples among whom their lot
is cast. The mockery one finds in Heinrich Heine could not have come
from a Teuton. Even while imitating, as the wealthier of them have
latterly begun to imitate, the manners and luxury of those nominal
Christians among whom they live, they retain their feeling of
detachment, and are apt to regard with a coldly observant curiosity
the beliefs, prejudices, enthusiasms of the nations of Europe. The
same passionate intensity which makes the grandeur of the ancient
Hebrew literature still lives among them, though often narrowed by
ages of oppression, and gives them the peculiar effectiveness that
comes from turning all the powers of the mind, imaginative as well as
reasoning, into a single channel, be that channel what it may. They
produce, in proportion to their numbers, an unusually large number of
able and successful men, as any one may prove by recounting the
eminent Jews of the last seventy years. This success has most often
been won in practical life, in commerce, or at the bar, or in the
press (which over the European continent they so largely control); yet
often also in the higher walks of literature or science, less
frequently in art, most frequently in music.

Mr. Disraeli had three of these characteristics of his race in
full measure--detachment, intensity, the passion for material success.
Nature gave him a resolute will, a keen and precociously active
intellect, a vehement individuality; that is to say, a consciousness
of his own powers, and a determination to make them recognised by
his fellows. In some men, the passion to succeed is clogged by the
fear of failure; in others, the sense of their greatness is
self-sufficing and indisposes them to effort. But with him ambition
spurred self-confidence, and self-confidence justified ambition. He
grew up in a cultivated home, familiar not only with books but with
the brightest and most polished men and women of the day, whose
conversation sharpened his wits almost from childhood. No religious
influences worked upon him, for his father had ceased to be a Jew in
faith without becoming even nominally a Christian, and there is little
in his writings to show that he had ever felt anything more than
an imaginative, or what may be called an historical, interest in
religion.[4] Thus his development was purely intellectual. The society
he moved in was a society of men and women of the world--witty,
superficial in its interests, without seriousness or reverence. He
felt himself no Englishman, and watched English life and politics as a
student of natural history might watch the habits of bees or ants.
English society was then, and perhaps is still, more complex, more
full of inconsistencies, of contrasts between theory and practice,
between appearances and realities, than that of any other country.
Nowhere so much limitation of view among the fashionable, so much
pharisaism among the respectable, so much vulgarity among the rich,
mixed with so much real earnestness, benevolence, and good sense;
nowhere, therefore, so much to seem merely ridiculous to one who
looked at it from without, wanting the sympathy which comes from the
love of mankind, or even from the love of one's country. It was
natural for a young man with Disraeli's gifts to mock at what he
saw. But he would not sit still in mere contempt. The thirst for
power and fame gave him no rest. He must gain what he saw every one
around him struggling for. He must triumph over these people whose
follies amused him; and the sense that he perceived and could use
their follies would add zest to his triumph. He might have been a
great satirist; he resolved to become a great statesman. For such a
career, his Hebrew detachment gave him some eminent advantages. It
enabled him to take a cooler and more scientific view of the social
and political phenomena he had to deal with. He was not led astray
by party cries. He did not share vulgar prejudices. He calculated
the forces at work as an engineer calculates the strength of his
materials, the strain they have to bear from the wind, and the weights
they must support. And what he had to plan was not the success of a
cause, which might depend on a thousand things out of his ken, but his
own success, a simpler matter.

A still greater source of strength lay in his Hebrew intensity. It
would have pleased him, so full of pride in the pure blood of his
race,[5] to attribute to that purity the singular power of concentration
which the Jews undoubtedly possess. They have the faculty of throwing
the whole stress of their natures into the pursuit of one object,
fixing their eyes on it alone, sacrificing to it other desires,
clinging to it even when it seems unattainable. Disraeli was only
twenty-eight when he made his first attempt to enter the House of
Commons. Four repulses did not discourage him, though his means were
but scanty to support such contests; and the fifth time he
succeeded. When his first speech in Parliament had been received with
laughter, and politicians were congratulating themselves that this
adventurer had found his level, he calmly told them that he had
always ended by succeeding in whatever he attempted, and that he
would succeed in this too. He received no help from his own side, who
regarded him with suspicion, but forced himself into prominence, and at
last to leadership, by his complete superiority to rebuffs. Through
the long years in which he had to make head against a majority in the
House of Commons, he never seemed disheartened by his repeated
defeats, never relaxed the vigilance with which he watched his
adversaries, never indulged himself (though he was physically
indolent and often in poor health) by staying away from Parliament,
even when business was slack; never missed an opportunity for exposing
a blunder of his adversaries, or commending the good service of one of
his own followers. The same curious tenacity was apparent in his
ideas. Before he was twenty-two years of age he had, under the
inspiration of Bolingbroke, excogitated a theory of the Constitution of
England, of the way England should be governed at home and her
policy directed abroad, from which he hardly swerved through all his
later life. Often as he was accused of inconsistency, he probably
believed himself to be, and in a sense he was, substantially faithful,
I will not say to the same doctrines, but to the same notions or
tendencies; and one could discover from the phrases he employed how
he fancied himself to be really following out these old notions, even
when his conduct seemed opposed to the traditions of his party.[6] The
weakness of intense minds is their tendency to narrowness, and this
weakness was in so far his that, while always ready for new
expedients, he was not accessible to new ideas. Indeed, the old ideas
were too much a part of himself, stamped with his own individuality, to
be forsaken or even varied. He did not love knowledge, nor enjoy
speculation for its own sake; he valued views as they pleased his
imagination or as they carried practical results with them; and having
framed his theory once for all and worked steadily upon its lines, he
was not the man to admit that it had been defective, and to set
himself in later life to repair it. His pride was involved in proving
it correct by applying it.

With this resolute concentration of purpose there went an undaunted
courage--a quality less rare among English statesmen, but eminently
laudable in him, because for great part of his career he had no family
or party connections to back him up, but was obliged to face the world
with nothing but his own self-confidence. So far from seeking to
conceal his Jewish origin, he displayed his pride in it, and refused
all support to the efforts which the Tory party made to maintain the
exclusion of Jews from Parliament. Nobody showed more self-possession
and (except on two or three occasions) more perfect self-command in
the hot strife of Parliament than this suspected stranger. His
opponents learnt to fear one who never feared for himself; his
followers knew that their chief would not fail them in the hour of
danger. His very face and bearing had in them an impassive calmness
which magnetised those who watched him. He liked to surround himself
with mystery, to pose as remote, majestic, self-centred, to appear
above the need of a confidant. He would sit for hours on his bench in
the House of Commons, listening with eyes half-shut to furious
assaults on himself and his policy, not showing by the movement of a
muscle that he had felt a wound; and when he rose to reply would
discharge his sarcasms with an air of easy coolness. That this
indifference was sometimes simulated appeared by the resentment he
showed afterwards.

Ambition such as his could not afford to be scrupulous, nor have his
admirers ever claimed conscientiousness as one of his merits. One who
sets power and fame before him as the main ends to be pursued may no
doubt be restrained by pride from the use of such means as are
obviously low and dishonourable. Other questionable means he may
reject because he knows that the opinion of those whose good-will and
good word he must secure would condemn them. But he will not be likely
to allow kindliness or compassion to stand in his way; nor will he be
very regardful of truth. To a statesman, who must necessarily have
many facts in his knowledge, or many plans in his mind, which the
interests of his colleagues, or of his party, or of the nation, forbid
him to reveal, the temptation to put questioners on a false scent, and
to seem to agree where he really dissents, is at all times a strong
one. An honest man may sometimes be betrayed into yielding to it; and
those who know how difficult are the cases of conscience that arise
will not deal harshly with a possibly misleading silence, or even with
the evasion of an embarrassing inquiry, where a real public interest
can be pleaded, for the existence of such a public interest, if it
does not justify, may palliate omissions to make a full disclosure of
the facts. All things considered, the standard of truthfulness among
English public men has (of course with some conspicuous exceptions)
been a high one. Of that standard Disraeli fell short. People did not
take his word for a thing as they would have taken the word of the
Duke of Wellington, or Lord Althorp, or Lord Derby, or Lord Russell,
or even of that not very rigid moralist, Lord Palmerston. Instances of
his lapses were not wanting as late as 1877. His behaviour toward Sir
Robert Peel, whom he plied with every dart of sarcasm, after having
shortly before lavished praises on him, and sought office under him,
has often been commented on.[7] Disraeli was himself (as those who
knew him have often stated) accustomed to justify it by observing that
he was then an insignificant personage, to whom it was supremely
important to attract public notice and make a political position; that
the opportunity of attacking the powerful Prime Minister, at a moment
when their altered attitude towards the Corn Laws had exposed the
Ministry to the suspicions of their own party, was too good to be
lost; and that he was therefore obliged to assail Peel, though he had
himself no particular attachment to the Corn Laws, and believed Peel
to have been a _bona-fide_ convert. It was therefore no personal
resentment against one who had slighted him, but merely the exigencies
of his own career, that drove him to this course, whose fortunate
result proved the soundness of his calculations.

This defence will not surprise any one who is familiar with Disraeli's
earlier novels. These stories are as far as possible from being
immoral; that is to say, there is nothing in them unbecoming or
corrupting. Friendship, patriotism, love, are all recognised as
powerful and worthy motives of conduct. That which is wanting is the
sense of right and wrong. His personages have for certain purposes the
conventional sense of honour, though seldom a fine sense, but they do
not ask whether such and such a course is conformable to principle.
They move in a world which is polished, agreeable, dignified, averse
to baseness and vulgarity, but in which conscience and religion
scarcely seem to exist. The men live for pleasure or fame, the women
for pleasure or love.

Some allowance must, of course, be made for the circumstances of
Disraeli's position and early training. He was brought up neither a
Jew nor a Christian. The elder people who took him by the hand when he
entered life, people like Samuel Rogers and Lady Blessington, were not
the people to give lessons in morality. Lord Lyndhurst, the first of
his powerful political friends, and the man whose example most
affected him, was, with all his splendid gifts, conspicuously wanting
in political principle. Add to this the isolation in which the young
man found himself, standing outside the common stream of English life,
not sharing its sentiments, perceiving the hollowness of much that
passed for virtue and patriotism, and it is easy to understand how he
should have been as perfect a cynic at twenty-five as their experience
of the world makes many at sixty. If he had loved truth or mankind, he
might have quickly worked through his youthful cynicism. But pride and
ambition, the pride of race and the pride of genius, left no room for
these sentiments. Nor was his cynicism the fruit merely of a keen and
sceptical intelligence. It came from a cold heart.

The pursuit of fame and power, to which he gave all his efforts, is
presented in his writings as the only alternative ideal to a life of
pleasure; and he probably regarded those who pursued some other as
either fools or weaklings. Early in his political life he said one
night to Mr. Bright (from whom I heard the anecdote), as they took
their umbrellas in the cloak-room of the House of Commons: "After all,
what is it that brings you and me here? Fame! This is the true arena.
I might have occupied a literary throne; but I have renounced it for
this career." The external pomps and trappings of life, titles,
stately houses and far-spreading parks, all those gauds and vanities
with which sumptuous wealth surrounds itself, had throughout his life
a singular fascination for him. He liked to mock at them in his
novels, but they fascinated him none the less. One can understand how
they might fire the imagination of an ambitious youth who saw them
from a distance--might even retain their charm for one who was just
struggling into the society which possessed them, and who desired to
feel himself the equal of the possessors. It is stranger that, when he
had harnessed the English aristocracy to his chariot, and was driving
them where he pleased, he should have continued to admire such things.
So, however, it was. There was even in him a vein of inordinate
deference to rank and wealth which would in a less eminent person have
been called snobbishness. In his will he directs that his estate of
Hughenden Manor, in Buckinghamshire, shall pass under an entail as
strict as he could devise, that the person who succeeds to it shall
always bear the name of Disraeli. His ambition is the common, not to
say vulgar, ambition of the English _parvenu_, to found a "county
family." In his story of _Endymion_, published a few months before his
death, the hero, starting from small beginnings, ends by becoming
prime minister: this is the crown of his career, the noblest triumph
an Englishman can achieve. It might have been thought that one who had
been through it all, who had realised the dreams of his boyhood, who
had every opportunity of learning what power and fame come to, would
have liked to set forth some other conception of the end of human
life, or would not have told the world so naively of his self-content
at having attained the aim he had worked for. With most men the flower
they have plucked withers. It might have been expected that one who
was in other things an ironical cynic would at least have sought to
seem disillusionised.

To say that Disraeli's heart was somewhat cold is by no means to say
that he was heartless. He was one of those strong natures who
permit neither persons nor principles to stand in their way. His
doctrine was that politics had nothing to do with sentiment; so those
who appealed to him on grounds of humanity appealed in vain. No act
of his life ever so much offended English opinion as the airy
fashion in which he tossed aside the news of the Bulgarian massacre of
1876. It incensed sections who were strong enough, when thoroughly
roused, to bring about his fall. But he was far from being unkindly.
He knew how to attach men to him by friendly deeds as well as
friendly words. He seldom missed an opportunity of saying something
pleasant and cheering to a _débutant_ in Parliament, whether of his
own party or the opposite. He was not selfish in little things; was
always ready to consider the comfort and convenience of those who
surrounded him. Age and success, so far from making him morose or
supercilious, softened the asperities of his character and developed
the affectionate side of it. His last novel, published a few months
before his death, contains more human kindliness, a fuller
recognition of the worth of friendship and the beauty of sisterly
and conjugal love, than do the writings of his earlier manhood.
What it wants in intellectual power it makes up for in a mellower and
more tender tone. Of loyalty to his political friends he was a
model, and nothing did more to secure his command of the party than
its sense that his professional honour, so to speak, could be
implicitly relied upon. To his wife, a warm-hearted woman older than
himself, and inferior to him in education, he was uniformly
affectionate and indeed devoted. The first use he made of his
power as Prime Minister was to procure for her the title of
viscountess. Being once asked point blank by a lady what he thought
of his life-long opponent, Mr. Gladstone answered that two things
had always struck him as very admirable in Lord Beaconsfield's
character--his perfect loyalty to his wife, and his perfect
loyalty to his own race. A story used to be told how, in Disraeli's
earlier days, when his political position was still far from
assured, he and his wife happened to be the guests of the chief of
the party, and that chief so far forgot good manners as to quiz Mrs.
Disraeli at the dinner-table. Next morning Disraeli, whose visit
was to have lasted for some days longer, announced that he must
leave immediately. The host besought him to stay, and made all
possible apologies. But Disraeli was inexorable, and carried off his
wife forthwith. To literary men, whatever their opinions, he was
ready to give a helping hand, representing himself as one of their
profession. In paying compliments he was singularly expert, and few
used the art so well to win friends and disarm enemies. He knew
how to please Englishmen, and especially the young, by showing
interest in their tastes and pleasures, and, without being what
would be called genial, was never wanting in _bonhomie_. In
society he was a perfect man of the world--told his anecdote apropos,
wound up a discussion by some epigrammatic phrase, talked to the
guest next him, if he thought that guest's position made him worth
talking to, as he would to an old acquaintance. But he had few
intimates; nor did his apparent frankness unveil his real thoughts.

He was not of those who complicate political opposition with private
hatreds. Looking on politics as a game, he liked, when he took off his
armour, to feel himself on friendly terms with his antagonists, and
often seemed surprised to find that they remembered as personal
affronts the blows which he had dealt in the tournament. Two or three
years before his death, a friend asked him whether there was in London
any one with whom he would not shake hands. Reflecting for a moment,
he answered, "Only one," and named Robert Lowe, who had said hard
things of him, and to whom, when Lowe was on one occasion in his
power, he had behaved with cruelty. Yet his resentments could smoulder
long. In _Lothair_ he attacked, under a thin disguise, a distinguished
man of letters who had criticised his conduct years before. In
_Endymion_ he gratified what was evidently an ancient grudge by a
spiteful presentation of Thackeray, as he had indulged his more bitter
dislike of John Wilson Croker by portraying that politician in
_Coningsby_ under the name of Nicholas Rigby. For the greatest of his
adversaries he felt, there is reason to believe, genuine admiration,
mingled with inability to comprehend a nature so unlike his own. No
passage in the striking speech which that adversary pronounced, one
might almost say, over Lord Beaconsfield's grave--a speech which may
possibly go down to posterity with its subject--was more impressive
than the sentence in which he declared that he had the best reason to
believe that, in their constant warfare, Lord Beaconsfield had not
been actuated by any personal hostility. Brave men, if they can
respect, seldom dislike, a formidable antagonist.

His mental powers were singularly well suited to the rest of his
character--were, so to speak, all of a piece with it. One sometimes
sees intellects which are out of keeping with the active or emotional
parts of the man. One sees persons whose thought is vigorous, clear,
comprehensive, while their conduct is timid; or a comparatively
narrow intelligence joined to an enterprising spirit; or a sober,
reflective, sceptical turn of mind yoked to an ardent and impulsive
temperament. What we call the follies of the wise often spring from
some such source. Not so with him. His intelligence had the same
boldness, intensity, concentration, directness, which we discover in
the rest of the man. It was just the right instrument, not perhaps for
the normal career of a normal Englishman seeking political success,
but for the particular kind of work Disraeli had planned to do; and
this inner harmony was one of the chief causes of his success, as the
want of it has caused the failure of so many gifted natures.

The range of his mind was not wide. All its products were like one
another. No one of them gives the impression that Disraeli could, had
he so wished, have succeeded in a wholly diverse line. It was a
peculiar mind: there is even more variety in minds than in faces. It
was not logical or discursive, liking to mass and arrange stores of
knowledge, and draw inferences from them, nor was it judicial, with a
turn for weighing reasons and reaching a decision which recognises all
the facts and is not confused by their seeming contradictions. Neither
was it analytically subtle. It reached its conclusions by a process of
intuition or divination in which there was an imaginative as well as a
reflective element. It might almost have been called an artist's mind,
capable of deep meditation, but meditating in an imaginative way, not
so much on facts as on its own views of facts, on the pictures which
its own creative faculty had called up. The meditation became dreamy,
but the dreaminess was corrected by an exceedingly keen and quick
power of observation, not the scientific observation of the
philosopher, but rather the enjoying observation of the artist who
sees how he can use the characteristic details which he notes, or the
observation of the forensic advocate (an artist, too, in his way) who
perceives how they can be fitted into the presentation of his case.
There are, of course, other qualities in Disraeli's work. As a
statesman he was obliged to learn how to state facts, to argue, to
dissect an opponent's arguments. But the characteristic note, both of
his speeches and of his writings, is the combination of a few large
ideas, clear, perhaps, to himself, but generally expressed with
grandiose vagueness, and often quite out of relation to the facts as
other people saw them, with a turn for acutely fastening upon small
incidents or personal traits. In his speeches he used his command of
sonorous phrases and lively illustrations, sometimes to support the
views he was advancing, but more frequently to conceal the weakness of
those views; that is, to make up for the absence of such solid
arguments as were likely to move his hearers. Everybody is now and
then conscious of holding with assured conviction theories which he
would find it hard to prove to a given audience, partly because it is
too much trouble to trace out the process by which they were reached,
partly because uninstructed listeners could not be made to feel the
full cogency of the considerations on which his own mind relies.
Disraeli was usually in this condition with regard to his political
and social doctrines. He believed them, but as he had not reached them
by logic, he was not prepared to use logic to establish them; so he
picked up some plausible illustration, or attacked the opposite
doctrine and its supporters with a fire of raillery or invective. This
non-ratiocinative quality of his thinking was a source both of
strength and of weakness--of weakness, because he could not prove his
propositions; of strength, because, stated as he stated them, it was
not less hard to disprove them. That mark of a superior mind, that it
must have a theory, was never wanting. Some one said of him that he
was "the ruins of a thinker." He could not rest content, like many
among his followers, with a prejudice, a dogma delivered by tradition,
a stolid suspicion unamenable to argument. He would not acquiesce in
negation. He must have a theory, a positive theory, to show not only
that his antagonist's view was erroneous, but that he had himself a
more excellent way. These theories generally had in them a measure of
truth and value for any one who could analyse them; but as this was
exactly what the rank and file of the party could not do, they got
into sad confusion when they tried to talk his language.

He could hardly be called a well-read man, nor were his intellectual
interests numerous. His education had consisted mainly in promiscuous
reading during boyhood and early youth. There are worse kinds of
education for an active intelligence than to let it have the run of a
large library. The wild browsings of youth, when curiosity is strong
as hunger, stir the mind and give the memory some of the best food it
ever gets. The weak point of such a method is that it does not teach
accuracy nor the art of systematic study. In middle life natural
indolence and his political occupations had kept Disraeli from filling
up the gaps in his knowledge, while, in conversation, what he liked
best was persiflage. He was, however, tolerably familiar with the
ancient classics, and with modern English and French literature;
enjoyed Quintilian and Lucian, preferred Sophocles to Æschylus and
(apparently) Horace to Virgil, despised Browning, considered Tennyson
the best of contemporary poets, but "not a poet of a high order."[8]
Physical science seems never to have attracted him. Political economy
he hated and mocked at almost as heartily as did Carlyle. People have
measured his knowledge of history and geography by observing that he
placed the Crucifixion in the lifetime of Augustus, and thought, down
till 1878, when he had to make a speech about Afghanistan, that the
Andes were the highest mountains in the world. But geography is a
subject which a man of affairs does not think of reading up in later
life: he is content if he can get information when he needs it. There
are some bits of metaphysics and some historical allusions scattered
over his novels, but these are mostly slight or superficial. He amused
himself and the public by now and then propounding doctrines on
agricultural matters, but would not appear to have mastered either
husbandry or any other economical or commercial subject. Such things
were not in his way. He had been so little in office as not to have
been forced to apply himself to them, while the tide of pure
intellectual curiosity had long since ebbed.

For so-called "sports" he had little taste. He liked to go mooning in
a meditative way round his fields and copses, and he certainly enjoyed
Nature; but there seems to be no solid evidence that the primrose was
his favourite flower. In his fondness for particular words and phrases
there was a touch of his artistic quality, and a touch also of the
cynical view that words are the counters with which the wise play
their game. There is a passage in _Contarini Fleming_ (a story into
which he has put a good deal of himself) where this is set out.
Contarini tells his father that he left college "because they taught
me only words, and I wished to learn ideas." His father answers, "Few
ideas are correct ones, and what are correct, no one can ascertain;
but with words we govern men."

He went on acting on this belief in the power of words till he
became the victim of his own phrases, just as people who talk
cynically for effect grow sometimes into real cynics. When he had
invented a phrase which happily expressed the aspect he wished his
view, or some part of his policy, to bear, he came to believe in
the phrase, and to think that the facts were altered by the colour
the phrase put upon them. During the contest for the extension of
the parliamentary franchise, he declared himself "in favour of
popular privileges, but opposed to democratic rights." When he was
accused of having assented, at the Congress of Berlin, to the
dismemberment of the Turkish Empire, he said that what had been done
was "not dismemberment, but consolidation." No statesman of recent
times has given currency to so many quasi-epigrammatic expressions:
"organised hypocrisy," "England dislikes coalitions," "plundering and
blundering," "peace with honour," "_imperium et libertas_," "a
scientific frontier," "I am on the side of the angels," are a few,
not perhaps the best, though the best remembered, of the many which
issued from his fertile mint. This turn for epigram, not common in
England, sometimes led him into scrapes which would have damaged a man
of less imperturbable coolness. No one else could have ventured to
say, when he had induced the Tories to pass a Reform Bill stronger
than the one they had rejected from the Liberals in the preceding
year, that it had been his mission "to educate his party." Some of
his opponents professed to be shocked by such audacity, and many
old Tories privily gnashed their teeth. But the country received the
dictum in the spirit in which it was spoken. "It was Disraeli all

If his intellect was not of wide range, it was within its range a
weapon of the finest flexibility and temper. It was ingenious, ready,
incisive. It detected in a moment the weak point, if not of an
argument, yet of an attitude or of a character. Its imaginative
quality made it often picturesque, sometimes even impressive. Disraeli
had the artist's delight in a situation for its own sake, and what
people censured as insincerity or frivolity was frequently only the
zest which he felt in posing, not so much because there was anything
to be gained, as because he realised his aptitude for improvising a
new part in the drama which he always felt himself to be playing. The
humour of the situation was too good to be wasted. Perhaps this love
of merry mischief may have had something to do with his tendency to
confer honours on those whom the world thought least deserving.

His books are not only a valuable revelation of his mind, but have
more literary merit than critics have commonly allowed to them,
perhaps because we are apt, when a man excels in one walk, to deem
him to have failed in any other wherein he does not reach the same
level. The novels foam over with cleverness; indeed, _Vivian Grey_,
with all its youthful faults, gives as great an impression of
intellectual brilliance as does anything Disraeli ever wrote or spoke.
Their easy fertility makes them seem to be only, so to speak, a few
sketches out of a large portfolio. There is some variety in the
subjects--_Contarini Fleming_ and _Tancred_ are more romantic than the
others, _Sybil_ and _Coningsby_ more political--as well as in the
merits of the stories. The two latest, _Lothair_ and _Endymion_,
works of his old age, are markedly inferior in spirit and invention;
but the general features are the same in all--a lively fancy, a knack
of hitting characters off in a few lines and of catching the
superficial aspects of society, a brisk narrative, a sprightly
dialogue, a keen insight into the selfishness of men and the vanities
of women, with flashes of wit lighting up the whole stage. It is
always a stage. The brilliance is never open-air sunshine. There is
scarcely one of the characters whom we feel we might have met and
known. Heroes and heroines are theatrical figures; their pathos
rings false, their love, though described as passionate, does not
spring from the inner recesses of the soul. The studies of men of
the world, and particularly of heartless ones, are the most
life-like; yet, even here, any one who wants to feel the difference
between the great painter and the clever sketcher need only
compare Thackeray's Marquis of Steyne with Disraeli's Marquis of
Monmouth, both of them suggested by the same original. There is
little intensity, little dramatic power in these stories, as also in
his play of _Alarcos_; and if we read them with pleasure it is not
for the sake either of plot or of character, but because they contain
so many sparkling witticisms and reflections, setting in a strong
light, yet not always an unkindly light, the seamy side of politics
and human nature. The slovenliness of their style, which is often
pompous, but seldom pure, makes them appear to have been written
hastily. But Disraeli seems to have taken the composition of them
(except, perhaps, the two latest) quite seriously. When he wrote the
earlier tales, he meant to achieve literary greatness; while the
middle ones, especially _Coningsby_ and _Sybil_, were designed as
political manifestoes. The less they have a purpose or profess to
be serious, the better they are; and the most vivacious of all are
two classical burlesques, written at a time when that kind of
composition had not yet become common--_Ixion in Heaven_ and _The
Infernal Marriage_--little pieces of funning worthy of Thackeray, I
had almost said of Voltaire. They recall, perhaps they were
suggested by, similar pieces of Lucian's. Is Semitic genius specially
rich in this mocking vein? Lucian was a Syrian from Samosata,
probably a Semite; Heinrich Heine was a Semite; James Russell
Lowell used to insist, though he produced little evidence for his
belief, that Voltaire was a Semite.

Whether Disraeli could ever have taken high rank as a novelist if he
had thrown himself completely into the profession may be doubted,
for his defects were such as pains and practice would hardly have
lessened. That he had still less the imagination needed by a poet, his
_Revolutionary Epick_, conceived on the plains of Troy, and meant
to make a fourth to the _Iliad_, the _Æneid_, and the _Divina
Commedia_, is enough to show. The literary vocation he was best
fitted for was that of a journalist or pamphleteer; and in this he
might have won unrivalled success. His dash, his verve, his
brilliancy of illustration, his scorching satire, would have made
the fortune of any newspaper, and carried dismay into the enemy's

In inquiring how far the gifts I have sought to describe qualified
Disraeli for practical statesmanship, it is well to distinguish the
different kinds of capacity which an English politician needs to
attain the highest place. They may be said to be four. He must be a
debater. He must be a parliamentary tactician. He must understand the
country. He must understand Europe. This last is, indeed, not always
necessary; there have been moments when England, leaving Europe to
itself, may look to her own affairs only; but when the sky grows
stormy over Europe, the want of knowledge which English statesmen
sometimes evince may bode disaster.

An orator, in the highest sense of the word, Disraeli never was. He
lacked ease and fluency. He had not Pitt's turn for the lucid
exposition of complicated facts, nor for the conduct of a close
argument. The sustained and fiery declamation of Fox was equally
beyond his range. And least of all had he that truest index of
eloquence, the power of touching the emotions. He could not make his
hearers weep. But he could make them laugh; he could put them in
good-humour with themselves; he could dazzle them with rhetoric; he
could pour upon an opponent streams of ridicule more effective than
the hottest indignation. When he sought to be profound or solemn, he
was usually heavy and laboured--the sublimity often false, the diction
often stilted. For wealth of thought or splendour of language his
speeches will not bear to be compared--I will not say with those of
Burke (on whom he sometimes tried to model himself), but with those of
three or four of his own contemporaries. Even within his own party,
Lord Derby, Lord Ellenborough, and Lord Cairns in their several ways
surpassed him. There is not one of his longer and more finished
harangues which can be read with interest from beginning to end. But
there is hardly any among them which does not contain some striking
passage, some image or epigram, or burst of sarcasm, which must have
been exceedingly effective when delivered. It is partly upon these
isolated passages, especially the sarcastic ones (though the
witticisms were sometimes borrowed), and still more upon the aptness
of the speech to the circumstances under which it was made, that his
parliamentary fame rests. If he was not a great orator he was a superb
debater, who watched with the utmost care the temper of the audience,
and said just what was needed at the moment to disconcert an opponent
or to put heart into his friends. His repartees were often happy, and
must sometimes have been unpremeditated. As he had not the ardent
temperament of the born orator, so neither had he the external
advantages which count for much before large assemblies. His voice was
not remarkable either for range or for quality. His manner was
somewhat stiff, his gestures few, his countenance inexpressive. Yet
his delivery was not wanting in skill, and often added point, by its
cool unconcern, to a stinging epigram.

What he lacked in eloquence he made up for by tactical adroitness. No
more consummate parliamentary strategist has been seen in England. He
had studied the House of Commons till he knew it as a player knows his
instrument--studied it collectively, for it has a collective
character, and studied the men who compose it: their worse rather than
their better side, their prejudices, their foibles, their vanities,
their ambitions, their jealousies, above all, that curious corporate
pride which they have, and which makes them resent any approach to
dictation. He could play on every one of these strings, and yet so as
to conceal his skill; and he so economised himself as to make them
always wish to hear him. He knew how in a body of men obliged to
listen to talk, and most of it tedious talk, about matters in
themselves mostly uninteresting, the desire for a little amusement
becomes almost a passion; and he humoured this desire so far as
occasionally to err by excess of banter and flippancy. Almost always
respectful to the House, he had a happy knack of appearing to follow
rather than to lead, and when he made an official statement it was
with the air of one who was taking them into his confidence. Much of
this he may have learned from observing Lord Palmerston; but the art
came more naturally to that statesman, who was an Englishman all
through, than to a man of Mr. Disraeli's origin, who looked on
Englishmen from outside, and never felt himself, so to speak,
responsible for their habits or ideas.

As leader of his party in Opposition, he was at once daring and
cautious. He never feared to give battle, even when he expected
defeat, if he deemed it necessary, with a view to the future, that the
judgment of his party should have been pronounced in a formal way. On
the other hand, he was wary of committing himself to a policy of blind
or obstinate resistance. When he perceived that the time had come to
yield, he knew how to yield with a good grace, so as both to support a
character for reasonableness and to obtain valuable concessions as the
price of peace. If difficulties arose with foreign countries he
claimed full liberty of criticising the conduct of the Ministry, but
ostentatiously abstained from obstructing or thwarting their acts,
declaring that England must always present a united front to the
foreigner, whatever penalties she might afterwards visit on those who
had mismanaged her concerns. As regards the inner discipline of his
party, he had enormous difficulties to surmount in the jealousy which
many Tories felt for him as a new man, a man whom they could not
understand and only partially trusted.[9] Conspiracies were repeatedly
formed against him; malcontents attacked him in the press, and
sometimes even in Parliament. These he seldom noticed, maintaining a
cool and self-confident demeanour which disheartened the plotters, and
discharging the duties of his post with steady assiduity. He was
always on the look-out for young men of promise, drew them towards
him, encouraged them to help him in parliamentary sharp-shooting, and
fostered in every way the spirit of party. The bad side of that spirit
was seen when he came into office, for then every post in the public
service was bestowed either by mere favouritism or on party grounds;
and men who had been loyal to him were rewarded by places or titles to
which they had no other claim. But the unity and martial fervour of
the Tory party was raised to the highest point. Nor was Disraeli
himself personally unpopular with his parliamentary opponents, even
when he was most hotly attacked on the platform and in the press.

To know England and watch the shifting currents of its opinion is a
very different matter from knowing the House of Commons. Indeed, the
two kinds of knowledge are in a measure incompatible. Men who enter
Parliament soon begin to forget that it is not, in the last resort,
Parliament that governs, but the people. Absorbed in the daily
contests of their Chamber, they over-estimate the importance of those
contests. They come to think that Parliament is in fact what it is in
theory, a microcosm of the nation, and that opinion inside is sure to
reflect the opinion outside. When they are in a minority they are
depressed; when they are in a majority they fancy that all is well,
forgetting their masters out-of-doors. This tendency is aggravated by
the fact that the English Parliament meets in the capital, where the
rich and luxurious congregate and give their tone to society. The
House of Commons, though many of its members belong to the middle
class by origin, belongs practically to the upper class by sympathy,
and is prone to believe that what it hears every evening at dinners or
receptions is what the country is thinking. A member of the House of
Commons is, therefore, ill-placed for feeling the pulse of the nation,
and in order to do so must know what is being said over the country,
and must frequently visit or communicate with his constituents. If
this difficulty is experienced by an ordinary private member, it is
greater for a minister whose time is filled by official duties, or for
a leader of Opposition, who has to be constantly thinking of his
tactics in the House. In Disraeli's case there was a keenness of
observation and discernment far beyond the common. But he was under
the disadvantages of not being really an Englishman, and of having
never lived among the people.[10] The detachment I have already
referred to tended to weaken his power of judging popular sentiment,
and appraising at their true value the various tendencies that sway
and divide a nation so complex as the English. Early in life he had
formed theories about the relations of the different classes of
English society--nobility, gentry, capitalists, workmen, peasantry,
and the middle classes--theories which were far from containing the
whole truth; and he adhered to them even when the changes of half a
century had made them less true. He had a great aversion, not to say
contempt, for Puritanism, and for the Dissenters among whom it chiefly
holds its ground, and pleased himself with the notion that the
extension of the suffrage which he carried in 1867 had destroyed their
political power. The Conservative victory at the election of 1874
confirmed him in this belief, and made him also think that the working
classes were ready to follow the lead of the rich. He perceived that
the Liberal ministry of 1868-74 had offended certain influential
sections by appearing too demiss or too unenterprising in foreign
affairs, and fancied that the bulk of the nation would be dazzled by a
warlike mien, and an active, even aggressive, foreign policy. Such a
policy was congenial to his own ideas, and to the society that
surrounded him. It was applauded by some largely circulated newspapers
which had previously been unfriendly to the Tory party. Thus he was
more surprised than any other man of similar experience to find the
nation sending up a larger majority against him in 1880 than it had
sent up for him in 1874. This was the most striking instance of his
miscalculation. But he had all through his career an imperfect
comprehension of the English people. Individuals, or even an assembly,
may be understood by dint of close and long-continued observation; but
to understand a whole nation, one must also have sympathy, and this
his circumstances, not less than his character, had denied him.

It was partly the same defect that prevented him from mastering the
general politics of Europe. There is a sense in which no single man
can pretend to understand Europe. Bismarck himself did not. The
problem is too vast, the facts to be known too numerous, the
undercurrents too varying. One can speak only of more or less. If
Europe had been in his time what it was a century before, Disraeli
would have had a far better chance of being fit to become what it was
probably his dearest wish to become--its guide and arbiter. He would
have taken the measure of the princes and ministers with whom he had
to deal, would have seen and adroitly played on their weaknesses. His
novels show how often he had revolved diplomatic situations in his
mind, and reflected on the way of handling them. Foreign diplomatists
are agreed that at the Congress of Berlin he played his part to
admiration, spoke seldom, but spoke always to the point and with
dignity, had a perfect conception of what he meant to secure, and of
the means he must employ to secure it, never haggled over details or
betrayed any eagerness to win support, never wavered in his demands,
even when they seemed to lead straight to war. Dealing with
individuals, who represented material forces which he had gauged, he
was perfectly at home, and deserved the praise he obtained from
Bismarck, who, comparing him with other eminent figures at the
Congress, is reported to have said, bluntly but heartily, "Der alte
Jude, das ist der Mann."[11] But to know what the condition of
South-Eastern Europe really was, and understand how best to settle its
troubles, was a far more difficult task, and Disraeli possessed
neither the knowledge nor the insight required. In the Europe of
to-day, peoples count for more than the wills of individual rulers:
one must comprehend the passions and sympathies of peoples if one is
to forecast the future. This he seldom cared to do. He did not realise
the part and the power of moral forces. Down to the outbreak of the
American Civil War he maintained that the question between the North
and the South was mainly a fiscal question between the Protectionist
interests of the one and the Free Trade interests of the other. He
always treated with contempt the national movement in Italy. He made
no secret in the days before 1859 of his good-will to Austria and of
his liking for Louis Napoleon--a man inferior to him in ability and in
courage, but to whose character his own had some affinities. In that
elaborate study of Sir Robert Peel's character,[12] which is one of
Disraeli's best literary performances, he observes that Peel "was
destitute of imagination, and wanting imagination he wanted
prescience." True it is that imagination is necessary for prescience,
but imagination is not enough to give prescience. It may even be a

Disraeli's imagination, his fondness for theories, and disposition
rather to cling to them than to study and interpret facts, made him
the victim of his own preconceived ideas, as his indolence deterred
him from following the march of change and noting how different things
were in the 'seventies from what they had been in the 'thirties. Mr.
Gladstone said to me in 1876, "Disraeli's two leading ideas in foreign
policy have always been the maintenance of the temporal power of the
Pope, and the maintenance of the power of the Sultan." Unable to save
the one, he clung to the hope of saving the other. He was possessed by
the notion, seductive to a dreamy mind, that all the disturbances of
Europe arose from the action of secret societies; and when the Eastern
Question was in 1875 re-opened by the insurrection in Herzegovina,
followed by the war of Servia against the Turks, he explained the
event in a famous speech by saying, "The secret societies of Europe
have declared war against Turkey"--the fact being that the societies
which in Russia were promoting the Servian war were public societies,
openly collecting subscriptions, while those secret "social
democratic" societies of which we have since heard so much were
strongly opposed to the interference of Russia, and those other secret
societies in the rest of Europe, wherein Poles and Italians have
played a leading part, were, if not hostile, at any rate quite
indifferent to the movement among the Eastern Christians.

Against these errors there must be set several cases in which he
showed profound discernment. In 1843 and 1844 he delivered, in debates
on the condition of Ireland, speeches which then constituted and long
remained the most penetrating and concise diagnosis of the troubles of
that country ever addressed to Parliament. Ireland has, he said, a
starving peasantry, an alien church, and an absentee aristocracy, and
he went on to add that the function of statesmanship was to cure by
peaceful and constitutional methods ills which in other countries had
usually induced, and been removed by, revolution. During the American
Civil War of 1861-65, Disraeli was the only leading statesman on his
own side of politics who did not embrace and applaud the cause of the
South. Whether this arose from a caution that would not commit itself
where it recognised ignorance, or from a perception of the superior
strength of the Northern States (a perception which whoever visits the
South even to-day is astonished that so few people in Europe should
have had), it is not easy to decide; but whatever the cause, the fact
is an evidence of his prudence or sagacity all the more weighty
because Lord Palmerston, Lord Russell, and Mr. Gladstone, as well as
Lord Derby and Sir Hugh Cairns, had each of them expressed more or
less sympathy with, or belief in, the success of the Southern cause.

The most striking instance, however, of Disraeli's insight was his
perception that an extension of the suffrage would not necessarily
injure, and might end by strengthening, the Tory party. The Act of
1867 was described at the time as "a leap in the dark." But
Disraeli's eyes had pierced the darkness. For half a century
politicians had assumed that the masses of the people were and would
remain under the Liberal banner. Even as late as 1872 it was thought
on Liberal platforms a good joke to say of some opinion that it might
do for Conservative working men, if there were any. Disraeli had, long
before 1867, seen deeper, and though his youthful fancies that the
monarchy might be revived as an effective force, and that "the
peasantry" would follow with mediæval reverence the lead of the landed
gentry, proved illusory, he was right in discerning that wealth and
social influence would in parliamentary elections count for more among
the masses than the traditions of constitutional Whiggism or the
dogmas of abstract Radicalism.

In estimating his statesmanship as a whole, one must give due weight
to the fact that it impressed many publicists abroad. No English
minister had for a long time past so fascinated observers in Germany
and Austria. Supposing that under the long reign of Liberalism
Englishmen had ceased to care for foreign politics, they looked on him
as the man who had given back to Britain her old European position,
and attributed to him a breadth of design, a grasp and a foresight
such as men had revered in Lord Chatham, greatest in the short list of
ministers who have raised the fame of England abroad. I remember
seeing in a Conservative club, about 1880, a large photograph of Lord
Beaconsfield, wearing the well-known look of mysterious fixity, under
which is inscribed the line of Homer: "He alone is wise: the rest are
fleeting shadows."[13] It was a happy idea to go for a motto to the
favourite poet of his rival, as it was an unhappy chance to associate
the wisdom ascribed to Disraeli with his policy in the Turkish East
and in Afghanistan, a policy now universally admitted to have been
unwise and unfortunate.[14] But whatever may be thought of the
appropriateness of the motto, the fact remains that this was the
belief he succeeded in inspiring. He did it by virtue of those very
gifts which sometimes brought him into trouble--his taste for large
and imposing theories, his power of clothing them in vague and solemn
language, his persistent faith in them. He came, by long posing, to
impose upon himself and to believe in his own profundity. Few people
could judge whether his ideas of imperial policy were sound and
feasible; but every one saw that he had theories, and many fell under
the spell which a grandiose imagination can exercise. It is chiefly
this gift, coupled with his indomitable tenacity, which lifts him out
of the line of mere party leaders. If he failed to see how much the
English are sometimes moved by compassion, he did see that it may be
worth while to play to their imagination.

We may now ask again the question asked at first: How did a man,
whatever his natural gifts, who was weighted in his course by such
disadvantages as Disraeli's, by his Jewish origin, by the escapades of
his early career, by the want of confidence which his habitual
cynicism inspired, by the visionary nature of so many of his
views,--how did he, in a conservative and aristocratic country like
England, triumph over so many prejudices and enmities, and raise
himself to be the head of the Conservative and aristocratic party, the
trusted counsellor of the Crown, the ruler, almost the dictator, of a
free people?

However high be the estimate formed of Disraeli's gifts, secondary
causes must have been at work to enable him to overcome the obstacles
that blocked his path. The ancients were not wrong in ascribing to
Fortune a great share in human affairs. Now, among the secondary
causes of success, that "general minister and leader set over worldly
splendours," as Dante calls her,[15] played no insignificant part. One
of these causes lay in the nature of the party to which he belonged.
The Tory party of the years between 1848 and 1865 contained a
comparatively small number of able men. When J. S. Mill once called it
the stupid party, it did not repudiate the name, but pointed to its
cohesion and its resolution as showing how many things besides mere
talent go to make political greatness. A man of shining gifts had
within its ranks few competitors; and this was signally the case
immediately after Peel's defection. That statesman had carried off
with him the intellectual flower of the Conservatives. Those who were
left behind to form the Protectionist Opposition in the House of
Commons were broad-acred squires, of solid character but slender
capacity. Through this heavy atmosphere Mr. Disraeli rose like a
balloon. Being practically the only member of his party in the Commons
with either strategical or debating power, he became indispensable,
and soon established a supremacy which years of patient labour might
not have given him in a rivalry with the distinguished band who
surrounded Peel. During the twenty years that followed the great Tory
schism of 1846 no man arose in the Tory ranks capable of disputing his
throne. The conspiracies hatched against him might well have prospered
could a candidate for the leadership have been found capable of
crossing swords with the chieftain in possession. Fortune, true to her
nursling, suffered none such to appear.

Another favouring influence not understood outside England was to be
found in the character of the party he led. In his day the Tories,
being the party of the property-holders, and having not to advance but
to stand still, not to propose changes but to resist them, having
bonds of interest as well as of sentiment to draw them close together,
possessed a cohesion, a loyalty to their chiefs, a tenacious corporate
spirit, far exceeding what was to be found among their adversaries,
who were usually divided into a moderate or Whig and an advanced or
Radical section. He who established himself as the Tory leader was
presently followed by the rank and file with a devotion, an
unquestioning submission and confidence, which placed his character
and doctrines under the ægis of the party, and enforced loyalty upon
parliamentary malcontents. This corporate spirit was of infinite value
to Disraeli. The historical past of the great Tory party, its
associations, the social consideration which it enjoys, all went to
ennoble his position and efface the remembrance of the less creditable
parts of his career. And in the later days of his reign, when no one
disputed his supremacy, every Tory was, as a matter of course, his
advocate and admirer, and resented assaults on him as insults to the
party. When a man excites hatred by his words or deeds, attacks on his
character are an inevitable relief to overcharged feelings.
Technically regarded, they are not good politics. Misrepresentation
sometimes succeeds; vituperation seldom. Let a man be personally
untrustworthy or dangerous, still, it is only his own words that
damage him, at least in England and America. Even his own words,
however discrediting, even his acts, however culpable, may, if they
belong to a past unfamiliar to the voter of to-day, tell little,
perhaps too little, on the voter's mind when they are brought up
against him. The average citizen has a short memory, and thinks that
the dead may be allowed to bury their dead.

Let it be further noted that Disraeli's career coincided with a
significant change in English politics, a change partly in the temper
of the nation, partly in the balance of voting power. For thirty years
after the Reform Act of 1832, not only had the middle classes
constituted the majority of the electors, but the social influence of
the great Whig families and the intellectual influence of the economic
school of Cobden had been potent factors. These forces were, in the
later part of Disraeli's life, tending to decline. The working-class
vote was vastly increased in 1867. The old Whig light gradually paled,
and many of the Whig magnates, obeying class sympathies rather than
party traditions, drifted slowly into Toryism. A generation arose
which had not seen the Free Trade struggle, or had forgotten the Free
Trade arguments, and which was attracted by ideals other than those
which Cobden had preached. The grievances which had made men
reformers had been largely removed. The battle of liberty and
nationality in Continental Europe had been in the main won, and
Englishmen had lost the enthusiasm for freedom which had fired them in
the days when the memory of their own struggle against the Crown and
the oligarchy was still fresh. With none of these changes had
Disraeli's personal action much to do, but they all enured to the
benefit of his party, they all swelled the tide which bore him into
office in 1874.

Finally, he had the great advantage of living long. Many a statesman
has died at fifty, and passed from the world's memory, who might have
become a figure in history with twenty years more of life. Had
Disraeli's career closed in 1854, he would have been remembered as a
parliamentary gladiator, who had produced a few incisive speeches, a
crude Budget, and some brilliant social and political sketches. The
stronger parts of his character might have remained unknown. True it
is that a man must have greatness in order to stand the test of long
life. Some are found out, like Louis Napoleon. Some lose their balance
and therewith their influence, like Lord Brougham. Some cease to grow
or learn, and if a statesman is not better at sixty than he was at
thirty, he is worse. Some jog heavily on, like Metternich, or stiffen
into arbitrary doctrinaires, like Guizot. Disraeli did not merely
stand the test, he gained immensely by it. He gained by rising into a
position where his strength could show itself. He gained also by so
impressing his individuality upon people as to make them accept it as
an ultimate fact, till at length they came, not so much to blame him
for what he did in accord with his established reputation, as rather
to relish and enter into the humour of his character. As they
unconsciously took to judging him by a standard different from that
which they applied to ordinary Englishmen, they hardly complained of
deflections from veracity which would have seemed grave in other
persons. He had given notice that he was not like other men, that his
words must not be taken in their natural sense, that he was to be
regarded as the skilful player of a great game, the consummate actor
in a great part. And, once more, he gained by the many years during
which he had opportunities of displaying his fortitude, patience,
constancy under defeat, unwavering self-confidence--gifts rarer than
mere intellectual power, gifts that deserve the influence they bestow.
Nothing so fascinates mankind as to see a man equal to every fortune,
unshaken by reverses, indifferent to personal abuse, maintaining a
long combat against apparently hopeless odds with the sharpest weapons
and a smiling face. His followers fancy he must have hidden resources
of wisdom as well as of courage. When some of his predictions come
true, and the turning tide of popular feeling begins to bear them
toward power, they believe that he has been all along right and the
rest of the world wrong. When victory at last settles on his crest,
even his enemies can hardly help applauding a reward which seems so
amply earned. It was by this quality, more perhaps than by anything
else, by this serene surface with fathomless depths below, that he
laid his spell upon the imagination of observers in Continental
Europe, and received at his death a sort of canonisation from a large
section of the English people.

What will posterity think of him, and by what will he be remembered?
The glamour has already passed away, and to few of those who on the
19th of April deck his statue with flowers is he more than a name.

Parliamentary fame is fleeting: the memory of parliamentary conflicts
soon grows dim and dull. Posterity fixes a man's place in history by
asking not how many tongues buzzed about him in his lifetime, but how
great a factor he was in the changes of the world, that is, how far
different things would have been twenty or fifty years after his death
if he had never lived. Tried by this standard, the results upon the
course of events of Disraeli's personal action are not numerous,
though some of them may be deemed momentous. He was an adroit
parliamentary tactician who held his followers together through a
difficult time. By helping to keep the Peelites from rejoining their
old party, he gave that party a colour different from the sober hues
which it had worn during the leadership of Peel. He became the founder
of what has in later days been called Tory democracy, winning over a
large section of the humbler classes to the banner under which the
majority of the wealthy and the holders of vested interests already
stood arrayed. He saved for the Turkish Empire a part of its
territories, yet in doing so merely prolonged for a little the death
agony of Turkish power. Though it cannot be said that he conferred any
benefit on India or the Colonies, he certainly stimulated the imperial
instincts of Englishmen. He had occasional flashes of insight, as when
in 1843 he perceived exactly what Ireland needed, and at least one
brilliant flash of foresight when he predicted that a wide extension
of the suffrage would bring no evil to the Tory party. Yet in the case
of Ireland he did nothing, when the chance came to him, to give effect
to the judgment which he had formed, while in the case of the suffrage
he did but follow up and carry into effect an impulse given by others.
The Franchise Act of 1867 is perhaps the only part of his policy which
has, by hastening a change that induced other changes, permanently
affected the course of events; and it remains the chief monument of
his parliamentary skill. There was nothing in his career to set the
example of a lofty soul or a noble purpose. He did not raise, he may
even have lowered, the tone of English public life.

Yet history will not leave him without a meed of admiration. When all
possible explanations of his success have been given, what a wonderful
career! An adventurer foreign in race, in ideas, in temper, without
money or family connections, climbs, by patient and unaided efforts,
to lead a great party, master a powerful aristocracy, sway a vast
empire, and make himself one of the four or five greatest personal
forces in the world. His head is not turned by his elevation. He never
becomes a demagogue; he never stoops to beguile the multitude by
appealing to sordid instincts. He retains through life a certain
amplitude of view, a due sense of the dignity of his position, a due
regard for the traditions of the ancient assembly which he leads, and
when at last the destinies of England fall into his hands, he feels
the grandeur of the charge, and seeks to secure what he believes to be
her imperial place in the world. Whatever judgment history may
ultimately pass upon him, she will find in the long annals of the
English Parliament no more striking figure.


   [1] No "authorised" life of Lord Beaconsfield, nor indeed any life
       commensurate with the part he played in English politics, has
       yet appeared.

   [2] Disraeli's family claimed to be of Spanish origin, but had come
       from Italy to England shortly before 1748.

   [3] There are few legal allusions in his novels, fewer in proportion
       than in Shakespeare's plays, but an ingenious travesty of the
       English use of legal fictions may be found in the _Voyage of
       Captain Popanilla_, a satire on the English constitution and
       government. Popanilla, who is to be tried for treason, is, to
       his astonishment, indicted for killing a camelopard.

   [4] That historical interest he did feel deeply. One might almost say
       of him that he was a Christian because he was a Jew, for
       Christianity was to him the proper development of the ancient
       religion of Israel. "The Jews," he observes in the _Life of
       Lord George Bentinck_, "represent the Semitic principle, all
       that is most spiritual in our nature.... It is deplorable that
       several millions of Jews still persist in believing only a part
       of their religion."

   [5] Though it has been maintained that in the Dark and Middle Ages a
       considerable number of Gentiles found their way into Jewish
       communities and became Judaised.

       The high average of intellectual power among the Jews need
       not be attributed to purity of race; it is sufficiently
       explained by their history. Nor is it clear that where two
       of the more advanced races are mixed by intermarriage, the
       product is inferior to either of the parent stocks. On the
       contrary, such a mixture, _e.g._ of Teutonic and Slavonic
       blood, or of Celtic and Teutonic, gives a result at least
       equal in capacity to either of the pure-blooded races which
       have been so commingled.

   [6] He had an intellectual arrogance, which made him dislike what may
       be called the Radical conception of human equality. In the
       _Life of Lord George Bentinck_ he remarks, "The Jews are a
       living and the most striking evidence of the falsity of that
       pernicious doctrine of modern times, the natural equality of
       man.... All the tendencies of the Jewish race are conservative.
       Their bias is to religion, property, and natural aristocracy."

   [7] On one occasion he went so far as to deny that he had asked Peel
       for office, relying on the fact that the letter which contained
       the request was marked "private," so that Peel could not use it
       to disprove his statement (_Letters of Sir Robert Peel_, by C.
       S. Parker, vol. ii. p. 486; vol. iii. pp. 347, 348).

   [8] See Sir S. Northcote's report of a conversation with Disraeli in
       his last years (_Life of Sir Stafford Northcote_, vol. ii.).

   [9] In the _Life of Lord George Bentinck_ (written shortly after
       Peel's death), Disraeli, after dilating upon the loyalty which
       the Tory aristocracy had displayed towards Peel, observes, "An
       aristocracy hesitates before it yields its confidence, but it
       never does so grudgingly.... In political connections the
       social feeling mingles with the principle of honour which
       governs gentlemen.... Such a following is usually cordial and
       faithful. An aristocracy is rather apt to exaggerate the
       qualities and magnify the importance of a plebeian leader."

  [10] When he did set himself to examine the condition of the people,
       the diagnosis, if not always correct, was always suggestive,
       _e.g._ the account of the manufacturing districts given in
       _Sybil, or the Two Nations_.

  [11] "The old Jew, that is the man."

  [12] In the _Life of Lord George Bentinck_.

  [13] +Oiô pepnusthai, toi de skiai aïssousin+ (_Od._ x. 495). Used of
       Tiresias, in the world of disembodied spirits.

  [14] To defend Disraeli by arguing that his policy had not a fair
       chance because his colleagues did not allow him to carry it
       through is to admit another error not less grave, for the path
       he took was one on which no minister ought to have entered
       unless satisfied that the Cabinet and the country would let him
       follow it to the end.

  [15] _Inf._ vii. 77.


In the England of his time there was no personality more attractive,
nor any more characteristic of the country, than Arthur Penrhyn
Stanley, Dean of Westminster. England is the only European country in
which such a figure could have appeared, for it is the only country in
which a man may hold a high ecclesiastical post and yet be regarded by
the nation, not specially as an ecclesiastic, but rather as a
distinguished writer, an active and influential man of affairs, an
ornament of social life. But if in this respect he was typical of his
country, he was in other respects unique. He was a clergyman untouched
by clericalism, a courtier unspoiled by courts. No one could point to
any one else in England who occupied a similar position, nor has any
one since arisen who recalls him, or who fills the place which his
departure left empty.

Stanley was born in 1815. His father, then Rector of Alderley, in
Cheshire, afterwards Bishop of Norwich, belonged to the family of the
Stanleys of Alderley, a branch of that ancient and famous line the
head of which is Earl of Derby. His mother, Catherine Leycester, was a
woman of much force of character and intellectual power. He was
educated at Rugby School under Dr. Arnold, the influence of whose
ideas remained great over him all through his life, and at Oxford,
where he became a fellow and tutor of University College. Passing
thence to be Canon of Canterbury, he returned to the University as
Professor of Ecclesiastical History, and remained there for seven
years. In 1863 he was appointed Dean of Westminster, and at the same
time married Lady Augusta Bruce (sister of the then Lord Elgin,
Governor-General first of Canada and afterwards of India). He died in

He had an extraordinarily active and busy life, so intertwined with
the history of the University of Oxford and the history of the Church
of England from 1850 to 1880, that one can hardly think of any salient
point in either without thinking also of him. Yet it was perhaps
rather in the intensity of his nature and the nobility of his
sentiments than in either the compass or the strength of his
intellectual faculties that the charm and the force he exercised lay.
In some directions he was curiously deficient. He had no turn for
abstract reasoning, no liking for metaphysics or any other form of
speculation. He was equally unfitted for scientific inquiry, and could
scarcely work a sum in arithmetic. Indeed, in no field was he a
logical or systematic thinker. Neither, although he had a retentive
memory, and possessed a great deal of various knowledge on many
subjects, could he be called learned, for he had not really mastered
any branch of history, and was often inaccurate in details. He had
never been trained to observe facts in natural history. He had
absolutely no ear for music, and very little perception either of
colour or of scent. He learned foreign languages with difficulty and
never spoke them well. He was so short-sighted as to be unable to
recognise a face passing close in the street. Yet with these
shortcomings he was a born traveller, went everywhere, saw everything
and everybody worth seeing, always seized on the most characteristic
features of a landscape, or building, or a person, and described them
with a freshness which made one feel as if they had never been
described before. Of the hundreds who have published books on the
Desert of Sinai and the Holy Land, many of them skilful writers or men
of profound knowledge, he is the only one who is still read and likely
to continue to be read, so vivid in colour, so exquisite in feeling,
are the pictures he has given. Nature alone, however, nature taken by
herself, did not satisfy him, did not, indeed, in his later days (for
in his boyhood he had been a passionate lover of the mountains)
greatly interest him. A building or a landscape had power to rouse his
imagination and call forth his unrivalled powers of description only
when it was associated with the thoughts and deeds of men.

The largest part of his literary work was done in the field of
ecclesiastical history, a subject naturally congenial to him, and
to which he was further drawn by the professorship which he held at
Oxford during a time when a great revival of historical studies was
in progress. It was work which critics could easily disparage, for
there were many small errors scattered through it; and the picturesque
method of treatment he employed was apt to pass into scrappiness. He
fixed on the points which had a special interest for his own mind as
illustrating some trait of personal or national character, or some
moral lesson, and passed hastily over other matters of equal or
greater importance. Nevertheless his work had some distinctive merits
which have not received from professional critics the whole credit
they deserved. In all that Stanley wrote one finds a certain
largeness and dignity of view. He had a sense of the unity of
history, of the constant relation of past and present, of the
similarity of human nature in one age and country to human nature in
another; and he never failed to dwell upon the permanently valuable
truths which history has to teach. Nothing was too small to
attract him, because he discovered a meaning in everything, and he
was therefore never dull, for even when he moralised he would light
up his reflections by some happy anecdote. With this he possessed a
keen eye, the eye of a poet, for human character, and a power of
sympathy that enabled him to appreciate even those whose principles
and policy he disliked. Herein he was not singular, for the
sympathetic style of writing history has become fashionable among
us. What was remarkable in him was that his sympathy did not
betray him into the error, now also fashionable, of extenuating moral
distinctions. His charity never blunted the edge of his justice, nor
prevented him from reprobating the faults of the personages who had
touched his heart. For one sin only he had little historical
tolerance--the sin of intolerance. So there was one sin only which
ever led him to speak severely of any of his contemporaries--the
sin of untruthfulness. Being himself so simple and straightforward as
to feel his inability to cope with deceitful men, deceit incensed
him. But he did not resent the violence of his adversaries, for
though he suffered much at their hands he knew many of them to be
earnest, unselfish, and conscientious men.

His pictures of historical scenes are admirable, for with his interest
in the study of character there went a large measure of dramatic
power. Nothing can be better in its way than the description of the
murder of St. Thomas of Canterbury given in the _Memorials of
Canterbury_, which, after _Sinai and Palestine_ and the _Life of
Arnold_, may be deemed the best of Stanley's books. Whether he could,
with more leisure for careful thought and study, have become a
great historian, was a question which those of us who were dazzled
by his Public Lectures at Oxford used often to discuss. The leisure
never came, for he was throughout life warmly interested in every
current ecclesiastical question, and ready to bear a part in
discussing it, either in the press--for he wrote in the _Edinburgh
Review_, and often sent letters to the _Times_ under the signature of
"Anglicanus"--or in Convocation, where he had a seat during the
latter part of his career. These interruptions not only checked the
progress of his studies, but gave to his compositions an air of
haste, which made them seem to want system and finish. The habit
of rapid writing for magazines or other ephemeral purposes is alleged
to tell injuriously upon literary men: it told the more upon
Stanley because he was also compelled to produce sermons rapidly.
Now sermon-writing, while it breeds a tendency to the making of
rhetorical points, subordinates the habit of dispassionate inquiry to
the enforcement of a moral lesson. Stanley, who had a touch of
the rhetorical temperament, and was always eager to improve an
occasion, certainly suffered in this way. When he brings out a
general truth he is not content with it as a truth, but seeks to turn
it also to edification, or to make it illustrate and support some
view for which he is contending at the time. When he is simply
describing, he describes rather as a dramatic artist working for
effect than as a historian solely anxious to represent men and
events as they were. Yet if we consider how much a historian gains,
not only from an intimate knowledge of his own time, but also, and
even more largely, from playing an active part in the events of his
own time, from swaying opinion by his writings and his speeches,
from sitting in assemblies and organising schemes of attack and
defence, we may hesitate to wish that Stanley's time had been more
exclusively given to quiet investigation. The freshness of his
historical portraits is notably due to the sense he carried about
with him of moving in history and being a part of it. He never
mounted his pulpit in the Abbey or walked into the Jerusalem
Chamber when Convocation was sitting without feeling that he was about
to do something which might possibly be recorded in the annals of
his country. I remember his mentioning, to illustrate undergraduate
ignorance, that once when he was going to give a lecture to his
class, he suddenly recollected that Mr. Goldwin Smith, then Regius
Professor of Modern History, was announced to deliver a public
lecture at the same hour. Telling the class that they would be
better employed in hearing Mr. Goldwin Smith than himself, he led
them all there. The next time the class met, one of them, after
making some acute comments on the lecture, asked who the lecturer
was. "I was amazed," said Stanley, "that an intelligent man should
ask such a question, and then it occurred to me that probably he did
not know who I was either." There was nothing of personal vanity or
self-importance in this. All the men of mark among whom he moved
were to him historical personages, and he would describe to his
friends some doing or saying of a contemporary statesman or
ecclesiastic with the same eagerness, the same sense of its being a
fact to be noted and remembered, as the rest of us feel about a
personal anecdote relating to Oliver Cromwell or Cardinal Richelieu.

His sermons, like nearly all good sermons, will be inadequately
appreciated by those who now peruse them, not only because they were
composed for a given audience with special reference to the
circumstances of the time, but also because the best of them gained so
much by his impassioned delivery. They were all read from manuscript,
and his handwriting was so illegible that it was a marvel how he
contrived to read them. I once asked him, not long after he had been
promoted to the Deanery of Westminster, whether he found it easy to
make himself heard in the enormous nave of the Abbey church. His
frame, it ought to be stated, was spare as well as small, and his
voice not powerful. He answered: "That depends on whether I am
interested in what I am saying. If the sermon is on something which
interests me deeply I can fill the nave; otherwise I cannot." When he
had got a worthy theme, or one which stimulated his own emotions, the
power of his voice and manner was wonderful. His tiny body seemed to
swell, his chest vibrated as he launched forth glowing words. The
farewell sermon he delivered when quitting Oxford for Westminster
lives in the memory of those who heard it as a performance of
extraordinary power, the power springing from the intensity of his own
feeling. No sermon has ever since so moved the University.

He was by nature shy and almost timid, and he was not supposed to
possess any gift for extempore speaking. But when in his later days he
found himself an almost solitary champion in Convocation of the
principles of universal toleration and comprehension which he held, he
developed a debating power which surprised himself as well as his
friends. It was to him a matter of honour and conscience to defend his
principles, and to defend them all the more zealously because he
stood alone on their behalf in a hostile assembly. His courage was
equal to the occasion, and his faculties responded to the call his
courage made.

In civil politics he was all his life a Liberal, belonging by birth to
the Whig aristocracy, and disposed on most matters to take rather the
Whiggish than the Radical view, yet drawn by the warmth of his
sympathy towards the working classes, and popular with them. One of
his chief pleasures was to lead parties of humble visitors round the
Abbey on public holidays. Like most members of the Whig families, he
had no great liking for Mr. Gladstone, not so much, perhaps, on
political grounds as because he distrusted the High Churchism and
anti-Erastianism of the Liberal leader. However, he never took any
active part in general politics, reserving his strength for those
ecclesiastical questions which seemed to lie within his peculiar
province.[17] Here he had two leading ideas: one, that the Church of
England must at all hazards continue to be an Established Church, in
alliance with, or subjection to, the State (for his Erastianism was
unqualified), and recognising the Crown as her head; the other, that
she must be a comprehensive Church, finding room in her bosom for
every sort or description of Christian, however much or little he
believed of the dogmas contained in the Thirty-nine Articles and the
Prayer-Book, to which she is bound by statute. The former view cut him
off from the Nonconformists and the Radicals; the latter exposed him
to the fire not only of those who, like the High Churchmen and the
Evangelicals, attach the utmost importance to these dogmas, but of
those also among the laity who hold that a man ought under no
circumstances to sign any test or use any form of prayer which does
not express his own convictions. Stanley would, of course, have
greatly preferred that the laws which regulate the Church of England
should be so relaxed as to require little or no assent to any
doctrinal propositions from her ministers. He strove for this; and he
continued to hope that this might be ultimately won. But he conceived
that in the meantime it was a less evil that men should be technically
bound by subscriptions they objected to than that the National Church
should be narrowed by the exclusion of those whose belief fell short
of her dogmatic standards. It was remarkable that not only did he
maintain this unpopular view of his with unshaken courage on every
occasion, pleading the cause of every supposed heretic against hostile
majorities with a complete forgetfulness of his own peace and ease,
but that no one ever thought of attributing the course he took to any
selfish or sinister motive. It was generally believed that his own
opinions were what nine-tenths of the Church of England would call
unorthodox. But the honesty and uprightness of his character were so
patent that nobody supposed that this fact made any difference, or
that it was for the sake of keeping his own place that he fought the
cause of others.

What his theological opinions were it might have puzzled Stanley
himself to explain. His mind was not fitted to grasp abstract
propositions. His historical imagination and his early associations
attached him to the doctrines of the Nicene Creed; but when he came to
talk of Christianity, he laid so much more stress on its ethics than
on its dogmatic side that his clerical antagonists thought he held no
creed at all. Dr. Pusey once said that he and Stanley did not worship
the same God. The point of difference between him and them was not so
much that he consciously disbelieved the dogmas they held--probably he
did not--as that he did not, like them, think that true religion and
final salvation depended on believing them. And the weak point in his
imagination was that he seemed never to understand their position, nor
to realise how sacred and how momentous to them were statements which
he saw in a purely imaginative light. He never could be got to see
that a Church without any dogmas would not be a Church at all in the
sense either of mankind in the past or of mankind in the present. An
anecdote was current that once when he had in Disraeli's presence been
descanting on the harm done by the enforcement of dogmatic standards,
Disraeli had observed, "But pray remember, Mr. Dean, no dogma, no

Those who thought him a heathen would have assailed him less bitterly
if he had been content to admit his own differences from them. What
most incensed them was his habit of assuming that, except in mere
forms of expression, there were really no differences at all, and that
they also held Christianity to consist not in any body of doctrines,
but in reverence for God and purity of life. They would have preferred
heathenism itself to this kind of Universalism.

As ecclesiastical preferment had not discoloured the native hue of his
simplicity, so neither did the influences of royal favour. It says
little for human nature that few people should be proof against what
the philosopher deems the trivial and fleeting fascinations of a
court. Stanley's elevation of mind was proof. Intensely interested in
the knowledge of events passing behind the scenes which his relations
with the reigning family opened to him, he scarcely ever referred to
those relations, and seemed neither to be affected thereby, nor to
care a whit more for the pomps and vanities of power or wealth, a whit
less for the friends and the causes he had learned to value in his

In private, that which most struck one in his intellect was the quick
eagerness with which his imagination fastened upon any new fact,
caught its bearings, and clothed it with colour. His curiosity
remained inexhaustible. His delight in visiting a new country was like
that of an American scholar landing for the first time in Europe. A
friend met him a year before his death at a hotel in the North of
England, and found he was going to the Isle of Man. He had mastered
its geography and history, and talked about it and what he was to
explore there as one might talk of Rome or Athens when visiting them
for the first time. When anybody told him an anecdote his susceptible
imagination seized upon points which the narrator had scarcely
noticed, and discovered a whole group of curious analogies from other
times or countries. Whatever you planted in this fertile soil struck
root and sprouted at once. Morally, he impressed those who knew him
not only by his kindness of heart, but by a remarkable purity and
nobleness of aim. Nothing mean or small or selfish seemed to harbour
in his mind. You might think him right or wrong, but you never doubted
that he was striving after the truth. He was not merely a just man; he
loved justice with passion. It was partly, perhaps, because justice,
goodness, honour, charity, seemed to him of such paramount importance
in life that he made little of doctrinal differences, having perceived
that these virtues may exist, and may also be found wanting, in every
form of religious creed or philosophical profession. When the
Convocation of the Anglican Church met at Westminster, it was during
many years his habit to invite a great number of its leading members
to the deanery, the very men who had been attacking him most hotly in
debate, and who would go on denouncing his latitudinarianism till
Convocation met again. They yielded--sometimes reluctantly, but still
they yielded--to the kindliness of his nature and the charm of his
manner. He used to dart about among them, introducing opponents to one
another, as indeed on all occasions he delighted to bring the most
diverse people together, so that some one said the company you met at
the deanery were either statesmen and duchesses or starving curates
and briefless barristers.

He had on the whole a happy life. It is true that the intensity of his
attachments exposed him to correspondingly intense grief when he lost
those who were dearest to him; true also that, being by temperament a
man of peace, he was during the latter half of his life almost
constantly at war. But his home, first in the lifetime of his mother
and then in that of his wife, had a serene and unclouded brightness;
and the care of the Abbey, rich with the associations of nearly a
thousand years of history, provided a function which exactly suited
him and which constituted a never-failing source of enjoyment. To
dwell in the centre of the life of the Church of England, and to dwell
close to the Houses of Parliament, in the midst of the making of
history, knowing and seeing those who were principally concerned in
making it, was in itself a pleasure to his quenchless historical
curiosity. His cheerfulness and animation, although to some extent
revived by his visit to America and the reception he met with there,
were never the same after his wife's death in 1876. But the sweetness
of his disposition and his affection for his friends knew no
diminution. He remembered everything that concerned them; was always
ready with sympathy in sorrow or joy; and gave to all alike, high or
low, famous or unknown, the same impression, that his friendship was
for themselves, and not for any gifts or rank or other worldly
advantage they might enjoy. The art of friendship is the greatest art
in life. To enjoy his was to be educated in that art.


  [16] A _Life of Dean Stanley_, in two volumes, begun by Theodore
       Walrond, continued by Dean Bradley, and completed by Mr. R. E.
       Prothero, appeared in 1893.

  [17] When J. S. Mill was a candidate for Westminster in 1868, Stanley
       published a letter announcing his support, partly out of
       personal respect for Mill, partly because it gave him an
       opportunity of expressing an opinion on the Irish Church
       question, and of reprobating the charge of atheism which had
       been brought against Mill.


The name of Thomas Green, Professor of Moral Philosophy in the
University of Oxford, was not, during his lifetime, widely known
outside the University itself. But he is still remembered by students
of metaphysics and ethics as one of the most vigorous thinkers of his
time; and his personality was a striking one, which made a deep and
lasting impression on those with whom he came in contact.

He was born in Yorkshire in 1836, the son of a country clergyman; was
educated at Rugby School and at Balliol College, Oxford, of which he
became a fellow in 1860, and a tutor in 1869. In 1867 he was an
unsuccessful candidate for a chair of philosophy at St. Andrews, and
in 1878 was elected Professor of Moral Philosophy in his own
University, which he never thereafter quitted. He was married in 1869
and died in 1882. It was a life externally uneventful, but full of
thought and work, and latterly crowned by great influence over the
younger and great respect from the senior members of the University.

I can best describe Green as he was in his undergraduate days, for
it was then that I saw most of him. His appearance was striking, and
made him a familiar figure even to those who did not know him
personally. Thick black hair, a sallow complexion, dark eyebrows,
deep-set eyes of rich brown with a peculiarly steadfast look, were
the features which first struck one; and with these there was a
remarkable seriousness of expression, an air of solidity and quiet
strength. He knew comparatively few people, and of these only a
very few intimately, having no taste or turn for those sports in
which university acquaintances are most frequently made, and seldom
appearing at breakfast or wine parties. This caused him to pass for
harsh or unsocial; and I remember having felt a slight sense of
alarm the first time I found myself seated beside him. Though we
belonged to different colleges I had heard a great deal about him,
for Oxford undergraduates are warmly interested in one another, and
at the time I am recalling they had an inordinate fondness for
measuring the intellectual gifts and conjecturing the future of those
among their contemporaries who seemed likely to attain eminence.

Those who came to know Green intimately, soon perceived that under
his reserve there lay not only a capacity for affection--no man was
more tenacious in his friendships--but qualities that made him an
attractive companion. His tendency to solitude sprang less from
pride or coldness, than from the occupation of his mind by subjects
which seldom weigh on men of his age. He had, even when a boy at
school (where he lived much by himself, but exercised considerable
moral influence), been grappling with the problems of metaphysics
and theology, and they had given a tinge of gravity to his manner.
The relief to that gravity lay in his humour, which was not only
abundant but genial and sympathetic. It used to remind us of
Carlyle--he had both the sense of humour and an underlying Puritanism
in common with Carlyle, one of the authors who (with Milton and
Wordsworth) had most influenced him--but in Green the Puritan tinge
was more kindly, and, above all, more lenient to ordinary people.
While averse, perhaps too severely averse, to whatever was luxurious
or frivolous in undergraduate life, he had the warmest interest in,
and the strongest sympathy for, the humbler classes. Loving social
equality, and filled with a sense of the dignity of simple human
nature, he liked to meet farmers and tradespeople on their own level,
and knew how to do so without seeming to condescend; indeed
nothing pleased him better, than when they addressed him as one of
themselves, the manner of his talk to them, as well as the extreme
plainness of his dress, conducing to such mistakes. The belief in
the duty of approaching the people directly and getting them to
think and to form and express their own views in their own way was
at the root of all his political doctrines.

Though apt to be silent in general company, no one could be more
agreeable when you were alone with him. We used to say of him--and his
seniors said the same--that one never talked to him without carrying
away something to ponder over. On everything he said or wrote there
was stamped the impress of a strong individuality, a mind that thought
for itself, a character ruggedly original, wherein grimness was
mingled with humour, and practical shrewdness with a love for abstract
speculation. His independence appeared even in the way he pursued his
studies. With abilities of the highest order, he cared comparatively
little for the distinctions which the University offers; choosing
rather to follow out his own line of reading in the way he judged
permanently useful than to devote himself to the pursuit of honours
and prizes.

He was constitutionally lethargic, found it hard to rouse himself to
exertion, and was apt to let himself be driven to the last moment in
finishing a piece of work. There was a rule in his College that an
essay should be given in every Friday evening. His was, to the great
annoyance of the dons, never ready till Saturday. But when it did go
in, it was the weightiest and most thoughtful, as well as the most
eloquent, that the College produced. This indolence had one good
result. It disposed him to brood over subjects, while others were
running quickly through many books and getting up subjects for
examination. It contributed to that depth and systematic quality which
struck us in his thinking, and made him seem mature beside even the
ablest of his contemporaries. When others were being, so to speak,
blown hither and thither, picking up and fascinated by new ideas,
which they did not know how to fit in with their old ones, he seemed
to have already formed for himself, at least in outline, a scheme of
philosophy and life coherent and complete. There was nothing random or
scattered in his ideas; his mind, like his style of writing, which ran
into long and complicated sentences, had a singular connectedness. You
felt that all its principles were in relation with one another. This
maturity in his mental attitude gave him an air of superiority, just
as the strength of his convictions gave a dogmatic quality to his
deliverances. Yet in spite of positiveness and tenacity he had the
saving grace of a humility which distrusted human nature in himself at
least as much as he distrusted it in others. Leading an introspective
life, he had many "wrestlings," and often seemed conscious of the
struggle between the natural man and the spiritual man, as described
in the Epistle to the Romans.

In these early days, before, and to a less extent after, taking his
degree, he used to speak a good deal, mostly on political topics, at
the University Debating Society, where so many generations of young
men have sharpened their wits upon one another. His speaking was
vigorous, shrewd, and full of matter, yet it could not be called
popular. It was, in a certain sense, too good for a debating society,
too serious, and without the dash and sparkle which tell upon
audiences of that kind. Sometimes, however, and notably in a debate
on the American War of Secession in 1863, he produced, by the
concentrated energy of his language and the fierce conviction with
which he spoke, a powerful effect.[18] In a business assembly,
discussing practical questions, he would soon have become prominent,
and would have been capable on occasions of an oratorical success.

Retired as was Green's life, he became by degrees more and more widely
known beyond the circle of his own intimates; and became also, I
think, more willing to make new friends. His truthfulness appeared in
this that, though powerful in argument, he did not argue for victory.
When he felt the force of what was urged against him, his admissions
were candid. Thus people came to respect his character, with its high
sense of duty, its simplicity, its uprightness, its earnest devotion
to an ideal, even more than they admired his intellectual powers. I
remember one friend of my own, himself eminent in undergraduate
Oxford, and belonging to another college, between which and Green's
there existed much rivalry, who, having been defeated by Green in
competition for a University prize, said, "If it had been any one
else, I should have been vexed, but I don't mind being beaten by a man
I respect so much." My friend knew Green very slightly, and had been
at one time strongly prejudiced against him by rumours of his
heterodox opinions.

So much for those undergraduate days on which recollection loves to
dwell, but which were not days of unmixed happiness to Green, for his
means were narrow and the future rose cloudy before him. When anxiety
was removed by the income which a fellowship secured, he still
hesitated as to his course in life. At one time he thought of
journalism, or of seeking a post in the Education Office. More
frequently his thoughts turned to the clerical profession. His
theological opinions would not have permitted him to enter the
service of the Church of England, but he did seriously consider
whether he should become a Unitarian minister. It was not till he
found that his college needed him as a teacher that these difficulties
came to an end. Similarly he had doubted whether to devote himself to
history, to theology, or to metaphysics. For history he had
unquestionable gifts. With no exceptional capacity for mastering or
retaining facts, he had a remarkable power of penetrating at once to
the dominant facts, of grasping their connection, and working out
their consequences. He had also a keen sense of the dramatic aspect of
events, and a turn, not unlike Carlyle's, partly perhaps formed on
Carlyle, of fastening on the details in which character shows itself,
and illumining narrative by personal touches. On the problems of
theology he had meditated even at school, and after taking his degree
he set himself to a systematic study of the German critics, and I
remember that when we were living together at Heidelberg he had begun
to prepare a translation of C. F. Baur's principal treatise. As he
worked slowly, the translation was never finished. Though not
professing to be an adherent of the Tübingen school, he had been
fascinated by Baur's ingenuity and constructive power.

Ultimately he settled down to metaphysical and ethical inquiries, and
devoted to these the last thirteen years of his life. During his
undergraduate years the two intellectual forces most powerful at
Oxford had been the writings of J. H. Newman in the religious sphere,
though their influence was already past its meridian, and the writings
of John Stuart Mill in the sphere of logic and philosophy. By neither
of these, save in the way of antagonism, had Green been influenced. He
heartily hated all the Utilitarian school, and had an especial scorn
for Buckle, who, now almost forgotten, enjoyed in those days, as being
supposed to be a philosophic historian, a brief term of popularity.
Green had been led by Carlyle to the Germans, and his philosophic
thinking was determined chiefly by Kant and Hegel, more perhaps by the
former than by the latter, for it was always upon ethical rather than
upon purely metaphysical problems that his mind was bent. His
religious vein and his hold upon practical life made him more
interested in morals than in abstract speculation. Thus he became the
leader in Oxford of a new philosophic school which looked to Kant as
its master, and which for a time, partly perhaps because it
effectively attacked the school of Mill, received the adhesion of some
among the most thoughtful of the younger High Churchmen. Like Kant, he
set himself to answer David Hume, and the essay prefixed to his
edition of Hume's _Treatise on Human Nature_. along with his
_Prolegomena to Ethics_, are the only books in which his doctrines
have been given to the world, for he did not live to write the more
systematic exposition he had planned. These two essays are hard
reading, for his philosophical style was usually technical, and
sometimes verged on obscurity. But when he wrote on less abstruse
matters he was intelligible as well as weighty, full of thought, and
with an occasional underglow of restrained eloquence. The force of
character and convictions makes itself felt through the language.

His mind, though constructive, was not, having regard to its general
power, either fertile or versatile. Like most of those who prefer
solitary musings to the commerce of men, he had little facility, and
found it hard to express his thoughts in any other words than those
into which his musings had first flowed. Thus even his oral teaching
was not easy to follow. An anecdote was current how when one day he
had been explaining to a small class his theory of the origin of our
ideas, the class listened in rapt attention to his forcible rhetoric,
admiring each sentence as it fell, and thinking that all their
difficulties were being removed. When he ended they expressed their
gratitude for the pleasure he had given them, and were quitting the
room, when one, halting at the door, said timidly, "But, Mr. Green,
what did you say was really the origin of our ideas?" However,
whether they were or were not capable of assimilating his doctrines,
his pupils all joined in their respect for him. They felt the
loftiness of his character, they recognised the fervour of his belief.
He was the most powerful ethical influence, and perhaps also the most
stimulative intellectual influence, that in those years played upon
the minds of the ablest youth of the University. But it was a singular
fact, which those who have never lived in Oxford or Cambridge may find
it hard to understand, that when he rose from the post of a college
tutor to that of a University professor, his influence declined, not
that his powers or his earnestness waned, but because as a professor
he had fewer auditors and less personal relation with them than he had
commanded as a college teacher. Such is the working of the collegiate
system in Oxford, curiously unfortunate when it deprives the ablest
men, as they rise naturally to the highest positions, of the
opportunities for usefulness they had previously enjoyed.

As his powers developed and came to be recognised, so did those slight
asperities which had been observed in undergraduate days soften down
and disappear. Though he lived a retired life, his work brought him
into contact with a good many people, and he became more genial in
general company. I remember his saying with a smile when I had lured
him into Wales for a short excursion, "I don't know whether it is a
sign of declining virtue, but I find as I grow older that I am less
and less fond of my own company." From the first he had won the
confidence and affection of his pupils. Many of them used long
afterwards to say that his conduct and his teaching had been the one
great example or one great influence they had found and felt in
Oxford. The unclouded happiness of his married life made it easier for
him to see the bright side of things, and he could not but enjoy the
sense that the seed he sowed was falling on ground fit to receive it.
Even when ill-health had fastened on him, and was checking both his
studies and his public work, it did not affect the evenness of his
temper nor sharpen the edge of his judgments of others. In earlier
days these had been sometimes austere, though expressed in temperate
and measured terms.

I must not forget to add that although Green's opinions were by no
means orthodox, the influence he exerted while he remained a college
tutor was in large measure a religious influence. As the clergyman
used to be in the English Universities less of a clergyman than he was
anywhere else, so conversely it caused no surprise there that a lay
teacher should concern himself with the religious life of his pupils.
Green, however, did more, for he on two occasions at least delivered
to his pupils, before the celebration of the communion in the college
chapel, addresses which were afterwards privately printed, and which
present his view of the relations of ethics and religion in a way
impressive even to those who may find it hard to follow the
philosophical argument.

Metaphysicians are generally as little interested in practical
politics as poets are, and not better suited for political life. Green
was a remarkable exception. Politics were in a certain sense the
strongest of his interests. To him metaphysics were not only the basis
of theology, but also the basis of politics. Everything was to
converge on the free life of the individual in a free State; rational
faith and reason inspired by emotion were to have their perfect work
in making the good citizen.

His interest in politics was perhaps less active in later years than
it had been in his youth, but his principles stood unchanged. He was a
thoroughgoing Liberal, or what used to be called a Radical, full of
faith in the people, an advocate of pretty nearly every measure that
tended to democratise English institutions, a friend of peace and of
non-intervention. In our days he would have been called a Little
Englander, for though his ideal of national life was lofty, the
wellbeing of the masses was to him a more essential part of that ideal
than any extension of territory or power. He once said that he would
rather see the flag of England trailed in the dirt than add sixpence
to the taxes that weigh upon the poor. In foreign politics Louis
Napoleon, as the corrupter of France and the disturber of Europe, was
his favourite aversion; in home politics, Lord Palmerston, as the
chief obstacle to parliamentary reform. The statesman whom he most
admired and trusted was Mr. Bright. A strong sense of civic duty led
him to enter the City Council of Oxford, although he could ill spare
from his study and his lecture-room the time which the discharge of
municipal duties required. He was the first tutor who had ever offered
himself to a ward for election. The townsfolk, between whom and the
University there had generally been little love, the former thinking
themselves looked down upon by the latter, warmly appreciated his
action in coming out of his seclusion to help them, and his influence
in the Council contributed to secure some useful reforms, among
others, the establishment of a "grammar" or secondary school for the

One of the last things he wrote was a short pamphlet on freedom of
contract, intended to justify the interference with bargains between
landlord and tenant which was proposed by Mr. Gladstone's Irish Land
Bill of 1881. It is a vigorous piece of reasoning, which may still be
read with interest in respect of its application of philosophical
principles to a political controversy. Had he desired it he might have
gone to the House of Commons as member for the city of Oxford. But he
had found in the Council a field for local public work, and apart from
his constitutional indolence and his declining health, he had
concluded that his first duty lay in expounding his philosophical

Green will be long remembered in the English Universities as the
strongest force in the sphere of ethical philosophy that they have
seen in the second half of the nineteenth century, and remembered also
as a singular instance of a metaphysician with a bent towards politics
and practical life, no less than as a thinker far removed from
orthodoxy who exerted over orthodox Christians a potent and inspiring
religious influence.


  [18] As I have referred to the American Civil War, it is worth adding
       that there were no places in England where the varying fortunes
       of that tremendous struggle were followed with a more intense
       interest than in Oxford and Cambridge, and none in which so
       large a proportion of the educated class sympathised with the
       cause of the North. Mr. Goldwin Smith led the section which
       took that view, and which included three-fourths of the best
       talent in Oxford. Among the younger men Green was the most
       conspicuous for his ardour on behalf of the principles of human
       equality and freedom. He followed and watched every move in the
       military game. No Massachusetts Abolitionist welcomed the fall
       of Vicksburg with a keener joy. He used to say that the whole
       future of humanity was involved in the triumph of the Federal


England is now the only Protestant country in which bishops retain
some relics of the dignity and influence which belonged to the
episcopal office during the Middle Ages. Even in Roman Catholic
countries they have been sadly shorn of their ancient importance,
though the prelates of Hungary still hold vast possessions, while
in France, or Spain, or the Catholic parts of Germany a man of eminent
talents and energy may occasionally use his official position to
become, through his influence over Catholic electors or Catholic
deputies, a considerable political factor. This happens even in
the United States and Canada, though in the United States the
general feeling that religion must be kept out of politics obliges
ecclesiastics to use their spiritual powers cautiously and sparingly.
England stands alone in the fact that although the Protestant
Episcopal Church is, in so far as she is established by law, the
creature and subject of the State, she is nevertheless so far
independent as a religious organisation that she retains a greater
power than in other Protestant nations. State establishment, though it
may have depressed, has not stifled her ecclesiastical life, and an
interest in ecclesiastical questions is shown by a larger proportion
of her laity than one finds in Germany or the Scandinavian kingdoms. A
man of shining parts has, as an English bishop, a wide field of
action and influence open to him outside the sphere of theology or
of purely official duty. And the opportunities of the position
attain their maximum when he reaches the primatial chair of
Canterbury, which is now the oldest and the most dignified of all the
metropolitan sees in countries that have accepted the Reformation of
the sixteenth century.

Ever since there was a bishop at Canterbury at all, that is to say,
ever since the conversion of the English began in the seventh
century of our era, the holder of that see has been the greatest
ecclesiastical personage in these islands, with a recognised
authority over all England, as well as an influence and dignity to
which, in the Middle Ages, the Archbishops of Armagh and St. Andrews
(primates of the Irish and Scottish Churches) practically bowed,
even while refusing to admit his legal supremacy. To be the most
highly placed and officially the most powerful man in the churches of
Britain, in days when the Church was better organised, and in some
ways stronger, than the State, meant a vast deal. The successor of
Augustine was often called a Pope of his own world--that world of
Britain which lay apart from the larger world of the European
continent. Down to the Reformation, the English primates possessed a
power which made some of them almost a match for the English kings.
Dunstan, Lanfranc, Anselm, Thomas (Becket), Hubert, Stephen Langton,
Arundel, Warham, were among the foremost statesmen of their time.
After Henry VIII.'s breach with Rome, the Primate of England
received some access of dignity in becoming independent of the
Pope; but, in reality, the loss of church power and church wealth
which the Reformation caused lowered his political importance. In
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however, there were still
some conspicuous and influential prelates at Canterbury--Cranmer,
Pole, Whitgift, and Laud the best remembered among them. After the
Revolution of 1688, a time of smaller men begins. The office
retained its dignity as the highest place open to a subject, ranking
above the Lord Chancellor or the Lord President of the Council, but
the Church of England, having no fightings within, nor anything to
fear from without, was lapped in placid ease, so it mattered
comparatively little who her chief pastor was.

Bishoprics were in those days regarded chiefly as pieces of rich
preferment with which prime ministers bought the support of powerful
adherents. But since the middle of the nineteenth century, as the
Anglican Church has become at once more threatened and more energetic,
as more of the life of the nation has flowed into her and round her,
the office of a bishop has risen in importance. People show more
interest in the appointments to be made, and ministers have become
proportionately careful in making them. Bishops work harder and are
more in the public eye now than they were eighty, or even fifty, years
ago. They have lost something of the antique dignity and social
consideration which they enjoyed. They no longer wear wigs or ride in
State coaches. They may be seen in third-class railway carriages, or
sitting on the tops of omnibuses. But they have gained by having
countless opportunities opened up to them for exerting influence in
philanthropic as well as in religious movements; and the more zealous
among them turn these opportunities to excellent account.

Whatever is true of an ordinary bishop is true _a fortiori_ of the
Archbishop of Canterbury. He is still a great personage, but he is
great in a new way, with less of wealth and power but larger
opportunities of influence. He is also a kind of Pope in a new way,
because he is the central figure of the Anglican communion over the
whole world, with no legal jurisdiction outside England (except in
India), but far over-topping all the prelates of that communion in the
United States or the British Colonies. Less deference is paid to the
office, considered simply as an office, than it received in the Middle
Ages, because society and thought have been tinged by the spirit of
democratic equality, and people realise that offices are only
artificial creations, whose occupants are human beings like
themselves. But if he is himself a man of ability and force, he may
make his headship of an ancient and venerated church a vantage-ground
whence to address the nation as well as the members of his own
communion. He is sure of being listened to, which is of itself no
small matter in a country where many voices are striving to make
themselves heard at the same time. The world takes his words into
consideration; the newspapers repeat them. His position gives him easy
access to the ministers of the Crown, and implies a confidential
intercourse with the Crown itself. He is, or can be, "in touch" with
all the political figures who can in any way influence the march of
events, and is able to enforce his views upon them. All his conduct is
watched by the nation; so that if it is discreet, provident, animated
by high and consistent principle, he gets full credit for whatever he
does well, and acquires that influence to which masses of men are
eager to bow whenever they can persuade themselves that it is
deserved. During the first half of the nineteenth century the English
people was becoming more interested in ecclesiastical and in
theological matters than it had been during the century preceding. It
grew by slow degrees more inclined to observe ecclesiastical persons,
to read and think about theological subjects, to reflect upon the
relations which the Church ought to bear to civil life and moral
progress. Thus a leader of the Church of England became relatively a
more important factor than he had been a century ago, and an
archbishop, strong by his character, rectitude, and powers of
utterance, rose to occupy a more influential, if not more conspicuous,
position than his predecessors in the days of the Georges had done.

These changes naturally made the selection of an archbishop a more
delicate and troublesome business than it was in those good old days.
Nobody then blamed a Prime Minister for preferring an aspirant who had
the support of powerful political connections. Blameless in life he
must be: even the eighteenth century demanded that from candidates for
English, if not, according to Dean Swift, for Irish sees. If he was
also a man of courtly grace and dignity, and a finished scholar, so
much the better. If he was a man of piety, that also was well. By the
time of Queen Victoria the possession of piety and of gifts of speech
had become more important qualifications, but the main thing was
tactful moderation. Even in apostolic days it was required that a
bishop should rule his own house well, and the Popes esteemed most
saintly have not always been the best, as the famous case of Celestine
the Fifth attests. An archbishop must first and foremost be a discreet
and guarded man, expressing few opinions, and those not extreme ones.
His chief virtue came to be, if not the purely negative one of
offending no section by expressing the distinctive views of any other,
yet that of swerving so little from the _via media_ between Rome and
Geneva that neither the Tractarian party, who began to be feared after
1837, nor the pronounced Low Churchmen could claim the Primate as
disposed to favour their opinions. In the case of ordinary bishops the
plan could be adopted, and has since the days of Lord Palmerston been
mostly followed, of giving every party its turn, while choosing from
every party men of the safer sort. This method, however, was less
applicable to the See of Canterbury, for a man on whose action much
might turn could not well be taken from any particular section. The
acts and words of a Primate, who is expected to "give a line" to the
clergy generally and to speak on behalf of the bench of bishops as a
whole, are so closely scrutinised that he must be prudent and wary,
yet not so wary as to seem timid. He ought to be both firm and suave,
conciliatory and decided. That he may do justice to all sections of
the Church of England, he ought not to be an avowed partisan of any.
Yet he must be able and eminent, and of course able and eminent men
are apt to throw themselves into some one line of action or set of
views, and so come to be considered partisans. The position which the
Archbishop of Canterbury holds as the representative in Parliament of
the whole Established Church, makes statesmanship the most important
of all qualifications. Learning, energy, eloquence, piety would none
of them, nor all of them together, make up for the want of calmness
and wisdom. Yet all those qualities are obviously desirable, because
they strengthen as well as adorn the primate's position.

Archibald Campbell Tait (born in Scotland in 1811, died 1882) was
educated at Glasgow University and at Balliol College, Oxford; worked
at his college for some years as a tutor, succeeded Dr. Arnold as
headmaster of Rugby School in 1843, became Dean of Carlisle and then
Bishop of London, and was translated to Canterbury in 1868. It has
been generally understood that Mr. Disraeli, then Prime Minister,
suggested another prelate for the post, but the Queen, who did not
share her minister's estimate of that prelate, expressed a preference
for Tait. Her choice was amply justified, for Tait united, and indeed
possessed in a high degree, the qualifications which have just been
enumerated. He was, if it be not a paradox to say so, more remarkable
as an archbishop than as a man. He had no original power as a thinker.
He was not a striking preacher, and the more pains he took with his
sermons the less interesting did they become. He was so far from being
learned that you could say no more of him than that he was a sound
scholar and a well-informed man. He was deeply and earnestly pious,
but in a quiet, almost dry way, which lacked what is called unction,
though it impressed those who were in close contact with him. He
showed slight interest either in the historical or in the speculative
side of theology. Though a good headmaster, he was not a stimulating
teacher. Had he remained all his life in a subordinate position, as a
college tutor at Oxford, or as canon of some cathedral, he would have
discharged the duties of the position in a thoroughly satisfactory
way, and would have acquired influence among his colleagues, but no
one would have felt that Fate had dealt unfairly with him in depriving
him of some larger career and loftier post. No one, indeed, who knew
him when he was a college tutor seems to have predicted the dignities
he was destined to attain, although he had shown in the theological
strife that then raged at Oxford the courage and independence of his

In what, then, did the secret of his success lie--the secret, that is,
of his acquitting himself so excellently in those dignities as to have
become almost a model to his own and the next generation of what an
Archbishop of Canterbury ought to be? In the statesmanlike quality of
his mind. He had not merely moderation, but what, though often
confounded with moderation, is something rarer and better, a steady
balance of mind. He was carried about by no winds of doctrine. He
seldom yielded to impulses, and was never so seduced by any one theory
as to lose sight of other views and conditions which had to be
regarded. He was, I think, the first man of Scottish birth who ever
rose to be Primate of England, and he had the cautious self-restraint
which is deemed characteristic of his nation. He knew how to be
dignified without assumption, firm without vehemence, prudent without
timidity, judicious without coldness. He was, above all things, a
singularly just man, who recognised every one's rights, and did not
seek to overbear them by an exercise of authority. He was as ready to
listen to his opponents as to his friends. Indeed, he so held himself
as to appear to have no opponents, but to be rather a judge before
whom different advocates were stating their respective cases, than a
leader seeking to make his own views or his own party prevail. Genial
he could hardly be called, for there was little warmth, little display
of emotion, in his manner; and the clergy noted, at least in his
earlier episcopal days, a touch of the headmaster in his way of
receiving them. But he was simple and kindly, capable of seeing the
humorous side of things, desiring to believe the good rather than the
evil, and to lead people instead of driving them. With all his caution
he was direct and straightforward, saying no more than was necessary,
but saying nothing he had occasion to be ashamed of. He sometimes made
mistakes, but they were not mistakes of the heart, and, being free
from vanity or self-conceit, he was willing in his quiet way to admit
them and to alter his course accordingly. So his character by degrees
gained upon the nation, and so even ecclesiastical partisanship,
proverbially more bitter than political, because it springs from
deeper wells of feeling, grew to respect and spare him. The influence
he obtained went far to strengthen the position of the Established
Church, and to keep its several parties from breaking out into more
open hostility with one another. He himself inclined to what might be
called a moderate Broad Church attitude, leaning more to Evangelical
than to Tractarian or Romanising views in matters of doctrine. At one
time the extreme High Churchmen regarded him as an enemy. But this
unfriendliness had almost died away when the death of his wife and his
only son (a young man of singularly winning character), followed by
his own long illness, stilled the voices of criticism.

He exerted great influence in the House of Lords by his tact, by his
firmness of character, and by the consistency of his public course, as
well as by powers of speech, which, matured by long practice, had
risen to a high level. Without eloquence, without either imagination
or passion, which are the chief elements in eloquence, he had a grave,
weighty, thoughtful style which impressed that fastidious audience.
His voice was strong and sonorous, his diction plain yet pure and
dignified, his matter well considered. His thought moved on a high
plane; he spoke as one who fully believed every word he said. The late
Bishop of Winchester, the famous Dr. Samuel Wilberforce, was
incomparably his superior not only as a talker but as an orator, but
no less inferior in his power over the House of Lords, for so little
does rhetorical brilliance count in a critical and practical assembly.
Next to courage, the quality which gains trust and regard in a
deliberative body is that which is familiarly described when it is
said of a man, "You always know where to find him." Tait belonged to
no party. But his principles, though not rigid, were fixed and
settled; his words and votes were the expression of his principles.

The presence of bishops in the House of Lords is disapproved by some
sections of English opinion, and there are those among the temporal
peers who, quite apart from any political feeling, are said to regard
them with little favour. But every one must admit that they have
raised and adorned the debates in that chamber. Besides Tait and
Wilberforce, two other prelates of the same generation stood in the
front rank of speakers, Dr. Magee, whose wit and fire would have found
a more fitting theatre in the House of Commons, and Dr. Thirlwall, a
scholar and historian whose massive intellect and stately diction were
too rarely used to raise great political issues above the dust-storms
of party controversy.

Perhaps no Archbishop since the Revolution of 1688 has exercised so
much influence as Dr. Tait, and certainly none within living memory is
so well entitled to be credited with a definite ecclesiastical policy.
His aim was to widen the bounds of the Church of England, so far as
the law could, without evasion, be stretched for that purpose. He bore
a leading part in obtaining an Act of Parliament which introduced a
new and less strict form of clerical subscription. He realised that
the Church of England can maintain her position as a State Church
only by adapting herself to the movements of opinion, and accordingly
he voted for the Divorce Bill of 1859, and for the Burials Bill, which
relieved Dissenters from a grievance that exposed the Established
Church to odium. The Irish Church Disestablishment Bill of 1869 threw
upon him, at the critical moment when it went from the House of
Commons, where it had passed by a large majority, to the House of
Lords, where a still larger majority was hostile, a duty delicate in
itself, and such as seldom falls to the lot of a prelate. The Queen
wrote to him suggesting that he should endeavour to effect a
compromise between Mr. Gladstone, then head of the Liberal Ministry,
and the leading Tory peers who were opposing the Bill. He conducted
the negotiation with tact and judgment, and succeeded in securing good
pecuniary terms for the Protestant Episcopal Establishment. Though he
had joined in the Letter of the Bishops which conveyed their strong
disapproval of the book called _Essays and Reviews_ (whose supposed
heretical tendencies roused such a storm in 1861), and had thereby
displeased his friends, Temple (afterwards archbishop), Jowett, and
Stanley,[20] he joined in the judgment of the Privy Council which in
1863 dismissed the charges against the impugned Essayists. Despite his
advocacy of the Bill which in 1874 provided a new procedure to be used
against clergymen transgressing the ritual prescribed by law, he
discouraged prosecutions, and did his utmost to keep Ritualists as
well as moderate Rationalists within the pale of the Church of
England. He did not succeed--no one could have succeeded, even though
he had spoken with the tongues of men and of angels--in stilling
ecclesiastical strife. The controversies of his days still rage,
though in a slightly different form. But in refusing to yield to the
pressure of any section, in regarding the opinion of the laity rather
than that of the clergy, in keeping close to the law yet giving it the
widest possible interpretation, he laid down the lines on which the
Anglican Established Church can best be defended and upheld. That she
will last, as an Establishment, for any very long time, will hardly be
expected by those who mark the direction in which thought tends to
move all over the civilised world. But Tait's policy and personality
have counted for something in prolonging the time-honoured connection
of the Anglican Church with the English State.

Perhaps a doubtful service either to the Church or to the State. Yet
even those who regret the connection, and who, surveying the long
course of Christian history from the days of the Emperor Constantine
down to our own, believe that the Christian Church would have been
spiritually purer and morally more effective had she never become
either the mistress or the servant or the ally of the State, but
relied on her divine commission only, may wish that, when the day
arrives for the ancient bond to be unloosed, it should be unloosed not
through an embittered political struggle, but because the general
sentiment of the nation, and primarily of religious men throughout the
nation, has come to approve the change.


  [19] An admirable life of Archbishop Tait by his son-in-law, Dr. R. T.
       Davidson (now Archbishop of Canterbury), and Canon Benham
       appeared in 1891.

  [20] They thought his public action scarcely consistent with the
       language he had used to Temple in private.


When Mr. Anthony Trollope died (December 11, 1882) at the age of
sixty-seven, he was the best known of our English writers of fiction,
and stood foremost among them if the double test of real merit and
wide popularity be applied. Some writers, such as Wilkie Collins, may
have commanded a larger sale. One writer at least, Mr. George
Meredith, had produced work of far deeper insight and higher
imaginative power. But the gifts of Mr. Meredith had then scarcely
begun to win recognition, and not one reader knew his name for five
who knew Trollope's. So Mr. Thomas Hardy had published what many
continue to think his two best stories, but they had not yet caught
the eye of the general public. Mrs. Oliphant, high as was the general
level of her work, and inexhaustible as her fertility appeared, had
not cut her name so deep upon the time as Trollope did. Everything she
did was good, nothing superlatively good. No one placed Trollope in
the first rank of creative novelists beside Dickens or Thackeray, or
beside George Eliot, who had died two years before. But in the second
rank he stood high; and though other novelists may have had as many
readers as he, none was in so many ways representative of the general
character and spirit of English fiction. He had established his
reputation nearly thirty years before, when Thackeray and Dickens were
still in the fulness of their fame; and had maintained it during the
zenith of George Eliot's. For more than a generation his readers had
come from the best-educated classes as well as from those who lack
patience or taste for anything heavier than a story of adventure. In
this respect he stood above Miss Braddon, Mrs. Henry Wood, Ouida, and
other heroines of the circulating libraries, and also above such more
artistic or less sensational writers as William Black, Walter Besant,
James Payn, and Whyte Melville. (The school of so-called realistic
fiction had scarcely begun to appear.) None of these had, like
Trollope, succeeded in making their creations a part of the common
thought of cultivated Englishmen; none had, like him, given us
characters which we treat as typical men and women, and discuss at a
dinner-table as though they were real people. Mrs. Proudie, for
instance, the Bishop of Barchester's wife, to take the most obvious
instance (though not that most favourable to Trollope, for he produced
better portraits than hers), or Archdeacon Grantly, was when Trollope
died as familiar a name to English men and women between sixty and
thirty years of age as Wilkins Micawber, or Blanche Amory, or Rosamond
Lydgate. There was no other living novelist of whose personages the
same could be said, and perhaps none since has attained this
particular kind of success.

Personally, Anthony Trollope was a bluff, genial, hearty, vigorous
man, typically English in his face, his talk, his ideas, his tastes.
His large eyes, which looked larger behind his large spectacles, were
full of good-humoured life and force; and though he was neither witty
nor brilliant in conversation, he was what is called very good
company, having travelled widely, known all sorts of people, and
formed views, usually positive views, on all the subjects of the day,
views which he was prompt to declare and maintain. There was not much
novelty in them--you were disappointed not to find so clever a writer
more original--but they were worth listening to for their solid
common-sense, tending rather to commonplace sense, and you enjoyed the
ardour with which he threw himself into a discussion. Though
boisterous and insistent in his talk, he was free from assumption or
conceit, and gave the impression of liking the world he lived in, and
being satisfied with his own place in it. Neither did one observe in
him that erratic turn which is commonly attributed to literary men. He
was a steady and regular worker, who rose every morning between five
and six to turn out a certain quantity of copy for the printer before
breakfast, enjoying his work, and fond of his own characters--indeed
he declared that he filled his mind with them and saw them moving
before him--yet composing a novel just as other people might compose
tables of statistics. These methodical habits were to some extent due
to his training as a clerk in the Post Office, where he spent the
earlier half of his working life, having retired in 1864. He did not
neglect his duties there, even when occupied in writing, and claimed
to have been the inventor of the pillar letter-box. It was probably in
his tours as an inspector of postal deliveries that he obtained that
knowledge of rural life which gives reality to his pictures of country
society. He turned his Civil Service experiences to account in some of
his stories, giving faithful and characteristic sketches, in _The
Three Clerks_ and _The Small House at Allington_, of different types
of Government officials, a class which is much more of a class in
England than it is in America, though less of a class than it is in
Germany or France. His favourite amusement was hunting, as readers of
his novels know, and until his latest years he might have been seen,
though a heavy weight, following the hounds in Essex once or twice a

When E. A. Freeman wrote a magazine article denouncing the cruelty of
field sports, Trollope replied, defending the amusement he loved. Some
one said it was a collision of two rough diamonds. But the end was
that Freeman invited Trollope to come and stay with him at Wells, and
they became great friends.

Like most of his literary contemporaries, he was a politician, and
indeed a pretty keen one. He once contested in the Liberal interest--in
those days literary men were mostly Liberals--the borough of Beverley in
Yorkshire, a corrupt little place, where bribery proved too strong
for him. It was thereafter disfranchised as a punishment for its
misdeeds; and his costly experiences doubtless suggested the clever
electioneering sketches in the story of _Ralph the Heir_. Thackeray
also was once a Liberal candidate. He stood for the city of Oxford, and
the story was current there for years afterwards how the freemen of
the borough (not an exemplary class of voters) rose to an unwonted
height of virtue by declaring that though they did not understand his
speeches or know who he was, they would vote for him, expecting
nothing, because he was a friend of Mr. Neate's. Trollope showed his
continued interest in public affairs by appearing on the platform at
the great meeting in St. James's Hall in December 1876, which was the
beginning of a vehement party struggle over the Eastern Question that
only ended at the general election of 1880. He was a direct and
forcible speaker, who would have made his way had he entered
Parliament. But as he had no practical experience of politics either in
the House of Commons or as a working member of a party organisation in
a city where contests are keen, the pictures of political life which are
so frequent in his later tales have not much flavour of reality. They
are sketches obviously taken from the outside. Very rarely do even the
best writers of fiction succeed in reproducing any special and
peculiar kind of life and atmosphere. Of the various stories that
purport to describe what goes on in the English Parliament, none
gives to those who know the social conditions and habits of the place
an impression of truth to nature, and the same has often been
remarked with regard to tales of English University life. Trollope,
however, with his quick eye for the superficial aspects of any
society, might have described the House of Commons admirably had he
sat in it himself. He was fond of travel, and between 1862 and 1880
visited the United States, the West Indies, Australia and New
Zealand, and South Africa, about all of which he wrote books which, if
hardly of permanent value, were fresh, vigorous, and eminently
readable, conveying a definite and generally correct impression of the
more obvious social and economic phenomena he found then existing.
His account of the United States, for instance, is excellent, and did
something to make the Americans forgive the asperity with which his
mother had described her experiences there many years before.
Trollope's travel sketches are as much superior in truthfulness to
Froude's descriptions of the same regions as they are inferior in the
allurements of style.

The old classification of novels, based on the two most necessary
elements of a drama, divided them into novels of plot and novels of
character. To these we have of late years added novels of incident
or adventure, novels of conversation, novels of manners, not to
speak of "novels with a purpose," which are sermons or pamphlets
in disguise. No one doubted to which of these categories Trollope's
work should be referred. There was in his stories as little plot as a
story can well have. The conversations never beamed with humour like
that of Scott, nor glittered with aphorisms like those of George
Meredith. The incidents carried the reader pleasantly along, but
seldom surprised him by any ingenuity of contrivance. Character there
was, and, indeed, great fertility in the creation of character, for
there is hardly one of the tales in which three or four at least
of the personages do not stand out as people whom you would know
again if you met them years after. But the conspicuous merit of
Trollope's novels, in the eyes of his own countrymen, is their
value as pictures of contemporary manners. Here he may claim to
have been surpassed by no writer of his own generation. Dickens, with
all his great and splendid gifts, did not describe the society he
lived in. His personages were too unusual and peculiar to speak and
act and think like the ordinary men and women of the nineteenth
century; nor would a foreigner, however much he might enjoy the
exuberant humour and dramatic power with which they are presented,
learn from them much about the ways and habits of the average
Englishman. The everyday life to which the stories are most true
is the life of the lower middle class in London; and some one has
observed that although this class changes less quickly than the
classes above it, it is already unlike that which Dickens saw when
in the 'thirties he was a police-court reporter. Critics have,
indeed, said that Dickens was too great a painter to be a good
photographer, but the two arts are not incompatible, as appears
from the skill with which Walter Scott, for instance, portrayed the
peasantry of his own country in _The Antiquary_. Thackeray, again,
though he has described certain sections of the upper or upper
middle class with far more power and delicacy than Trollope ever
reached, does not go beyond those sections, and has little to tell us
about the middle class generally, still less about the classes
beneath them. Trollope was thoroughly at home in the English middle
class and also (though less perfectly) in the upper class; and his
pictures are all the more true to life because there is not that vein
of stern or cynical reflection which runs through Thackeray, and makes
us think less of the story than of the moral. Trollope usually has a
moral, but it is so obvious, so plainly and quietly put, that it does
not distract attention from the minor incidents and little touches
of every day which render the sketches lifelike. If even his
best-drawn characters are not far removed from the commonplace
this helps to make them fairly represent the current habits and
notions of their time. They are the same people we meet in the street
or at a dinner-party; and they are mostly seen under no more
exciting conditions than those of a hunting meet, or a lawn-tennis
match, or an afternoon tea. They are flirting or talking for effect,
or scheming for some petty temporary end; they are not under the
influence of strong passions, or forced into striking situations,
like the leading characters in Charlotte Brontë's or George Eliot's
novels; and for this reason again they represent faithfully the
ordinary surface of English upper and upper middle class society:
its prejudices, its little pharisaisms and hypocrisies, its
snobbishness, its worship of conventionalities, its aloofness from or
condescension to those whom it deems below its own level; and
therewith also its public spirit, its self-helpfulness, its
neighbourliness, its respect for honesty and straightforwardness,
its easy friendliness of manner towards all who stand within the
sacred pale of social recognition. Nor, again, has any one more
skilfully noted and set down those transient tastes and fashions
which are, so to speak, the trimmings of the dress, and which,
transient though they are, and quickly forgotten by contemporaries,
will have an interest for one who, a century or two hence, feels the
same curiosity about our manners as we feel about those of the
subjects of King George the Third. That Trollope will be read at
all fifty years after his death one may hesitate to predict,
considering how comparatively few in the present generation read
Richardson, or Fielding, or Miss Edgeworth, or Charlotte Brontë, and
how much reduced is the number of those who read even Walter Scott
and Thackeray. But whoever does read Trollope in 1930 will gather
from his pages better than from any others an impression of what
everyday life was like in England in the "middle Victorian" period.
The aspects of that life were already, when his latest books were
written, beginning to change, and the features he drew are fast
receding into history. Even the clergy of 1852-1862 are no longer,
except in quiet country districts, the same as the clergy we now see.

People have often compared the personal impressions which eminent
writers make on those who talk to them with the impressions previously
derived from their works. Thomas Carlyle and Robert Browning used to
be taken as two instances representing opposite extremes. Carlyle
always talked in character: had there been phonographs in his days,
the phonographed "record" might have been printed as part of one of
his books. Browning, on the other hand, seemed unlike what his poems
had made a reader expect: it was only after a long _tête-à-tête_ with
him that the poet whose mind had been learned through his works stood
revealed. Trollope at first caused a similar though less marked
surprise. This bluff burly man did not seem the kind of person who
would trace with a delicate touch the sunlight sparkling on, or a gust
of temper ruffling, the surface of a youthful soul in love. Upon
further knowledge one perceived that the features of Trollope's
talent, facile invention, quick observation, and a strong common-sense
view of things, with little originality or intensity, were really the
dominant features of his character as expressed in talk. Still, though
the man was more of a piece with his books than he had seemed, one
could never quite recognise in him the delineator of Lily Dale.

As a painter of manners he recalls two of his predecessors--one
greater, one less great than himself. In his limitations and in his
fidelity to the aspects of daily life as he saw them, he resembles
Miss Austen. He is inferior to her in delicacy of portraiture, in
finish, in atmosphere. No two of his books can be placed on a level
with _Emma_ and _Persuasion_. On the other hand, while he has done for
the years 1850-1870 what Miss Burney did for 1770-1790, most critics
will place him above her both in fertility and in naturalness. Her
characters are apt either to want colour, like the heroines of
_Evelina_ and _Cecilia_, or to be so exaggerated, like Mr. Briggs and
Miss Larolles, as to approach the grotesque. Trollope is a realist in
the sense of being, in all but a few of his books, on the lines of
normal humanity, though he is seldom strong enough to succeed, when he
pierces down to the bed-rock of human nature, in rendering the primal
passions either solemn or terrible. Like Miss Austen, he attains
actuality by observation rather than by imagination, hardly ever
entering the sphere of poetry.

His range was not wide, for he could not present either grand
characters or tragical situations, any more than he could break out
into the splendid humour of Dickens. His wings never raised him far
above the level floor of earth. But within that limited range he had
surprising fertility. His clerical portrait-gallery is the most
complete that any English novelist has given us. No two faces are
exactly alike, and yet all are such people as one might see any day in
the pulpit. So, again, there is scarcely one of his stories in which a
young lady is not engaged, formally or practically, to two men at the
same time, or one man more or less committed to two women; yet no
story repeats exactly the situation, or raises the problem of honour
and duty in quite the same form as it appears in the stories that went
before. Few people who have written so much have so little appeared to
be exhausting their invention.

It must, however, be admitted that Trollope's fame might have stood
higher if he had written less. The public which had been delighted
with his earlier groups of novels, and especially with that group in
which _The Warden_ comes first and _Barchester Towers_ second, began
latterly to tire of what they had come to deem the mannerisms of their
favourite, and felt that they now knew the compass of his gifts.
Partly, perhaps, because he feared to be always too like himself, he
once or twice attempted to represent more improbable situations and
exceptional personages. But the attempt was not successful. He lost
his touch of ordinary life without getting into any higher region of
poetical truth; and in his latest stories he had begun to return to
his earlier and better manner.

New tendencies, moreover, embodying themselves in new schools, were
already beginning to appear. R. L. Stevenson as leader of the school
of adventure, Mr. Henry James as the apostle of the school of
psychological analysis, soon to be followed by Mr. Kipling with a type
of imaginative directness distinctively his own, were beginning to
lead minds and tastes into other directions. The influence of France
was more felt than it had been when Trollope began to write. And what
a contrast between Trollope's manner and that of his chief French
contemporaries, such as Octave Feuillet or Alphonse Daudet or Guy de
Maupassant! The French novelists, be their faculty of invention
greater or less, at any rate studied their characters with more care
than English writers had usually shown. The characters were fewer,
almost as few as in a classical drama; and the whole action of the
story is carefully subordinated to the development of these
characters, and the placing of them in a critical position which sets
their strength and weakness in the fullest light. There was more of a
judicious adaptation of the parts to the whole in French fiction than
in ours, and therefore more unity of impression was attained.
Trollope, no doubt, set a bad example in this respect. He crowded his
canvas with figures; he pursued the fortunes of three or four sets of
people at the same time, caring little how the fate of the one set
affected that of the others; he made his novel a sort of chronicle
which you might open anywhere and close anywhere, instead of a drama
animated by one idea and converging towards one centre. He neglected
the art which uses incidents small in themselves to lead up to the
_dénoûment_ and make it more striking. He took little pains with his
diction, seeming not to care how he said what he had to say. These
defects strike those who turn over his pages to-day. But to those who
read him in the 'fifties or 'sixties, the carelessness was redeemed
by, or forgotten in, the vivacity with which the story moved, the
freshness and faithfulness of its pictures of character and manners.


  [21] Trollope's autobiography, published in 1883, is a good specimen
       of self-portraiture, candid, straightforward, and healthy, and
       leaves an agreeable impression of the writer. Dr. Richard
       Garnett has written well of him in the _Dictionary of National


John Richard Green was born in Oxford on 12th December 1837, and
educated first at Magdalen College School, and afterwards, for a short
time, at a private tutor's. He was a singularly quick and bright boy,
and at sixteen obtained by competition a scholarship at Jesus College,
Oxford, where he began to reside in 1856. The members of that college
were in those days almost entirely Welshmen, and thereby somewhat cut
off from the rest of the University. They saw little of men in other
colleges, so that a man might have a reputation for ability in his own
society without gaining any in the larger world of Oxford. It so
happened with Green. Though his few intimate friends perceived his
powers, they had so little intercourse with the rest of the
University, either by way of breakfasts and wine-parties, or at the
University debating society, or in athletic sports, that he remained
unknown even to those among his contemporaries who were interested in
the same things, and would have most enjoyed his acquaintance. The
only eminent person who seems to have appreciated and influenced him
was Dean Stanley, then Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Canon
of Christ Church. Green had attended Stanley's lectures, and Stanley,
whose kindly interest in young men never failed, was struck by him,
and had some share in turning his studies towards history. He
graduated in 1860, having refused to compete for honours, because he
had not received from those who were then tutors of the college the
recognition to which he was entitled.

In 1860 he was ordained, and became curate in London at St. Barnabas,
King's Square, whence, after two years' experience, and one or two
temporary engagements, including the sole charge of a parish in
Hoxton, he was appointed in 1865 to the incumbency of St. Philip's,
Stepney, a district church in one of the poorest parts of London,
where the vicar's income was ill-proportioned to the claims which
needy parishioners made upon him. Here he worked with zeal and
assiduity for about three years, gaining an insight into the condition
and needs of the poor which scholars and historians seldom obtain. He
learnt, in fact, to know men, and the real forces that sway them; and
he used to say in later life that he was conscious how much this had
helped him in historical writing. Gibbon, as every one knows, makes a
similar remark about his experience as a captain in the Hampshire

Green threw the whole force of his nature into the parish schools,
spending some part of every day in them; he visited incessantly, and
took an active part in the movement for regulating and controlling
private charity which led to the formation of the Charity Organisation
Society. An outbreak of cholera and period of distress among the poor
which occurred during his incumbency drew warm-hearted men from other
parts of London to give their help to the clergy of the East End.
Edward Denison, who was long affectionately remembered by many who
knew him in Oxford and London, chose Green's parish to work in, and
the two friends confirmed one another in their crusade against
indiscriminate and demoralising charity. It was at this time that
Green, who spent upon the parish nearly all that he received as vicar,
found himself obliged to earn some money by other means, and began to
write for the _Saturday Review_. The addition of this labour to the
daily fatigues of his parish duties told on his health, which had
always been delicate, and made him willingly accept from Archbishop
Tait, who had early marked and learned to value his abilities, the
post of librarian at Lambeth. He quitted Stepney, and never took any
other clerical work.

Although physical weakness was one of the causes which compelled this
step, there was also another. He had been brought up in Tractarian
views, and is said to have been at one time on the point of entering
the Church of Rome. This tendency passed off, and before he went to
St. Philip's he had become a Broad Churchman, and was much influenced
by the writings of Mr. F. D. Maurice, whom he knew and used frequently
to meet, and whose pure and noble character, even more perhaps than
his preaching, had profoundly impressed him. However, his restless
mind did not stop long at that point. The same tendency which had
carried him away from Tractarianism made him feel less and less at
home in the ministry of the Church of England, and would doubtless
have led him, even had his health been stronger, to withdraw from
clerical duties. After a few years his friends ceased to address
letters to him under the usual clerical epithet; but he continued to
interest himself in ecclesiastical affairs, and always retained a
marked dislike to Nonconformity. Aversions sometimes outlive

On leaving Stepney he went to live in lodgings in Beaumont Street,
Marylebone, and divided his time between Lambeth and literary work.
He now during several years wrote a good deal for the _Saturday
Review_, and his articles were among the best which then appeared in
that organ. The most valuable of them were reviews of historical
books, and descriptions from the historical point of view of cities or
other remarkable places, especially English and French towns. Some of
these are masterpieces. Other articles were on social, or what may be
called occasional, topics, and attracted much notice at the time from
their gaiety and lightness of touch, which sometimes seemed to pass
into flippancy. He never wrote upon politics, nor was he in the
ordinary sense of the word a journalist, for with the exception of
these social articles, his work was all done in his own historical
field, and done with as much care and pains as others would bestow on
the composition of a book. Upon this subject I may quote the words of
one of his oldest and most intimate friends (Mr. Stopford Brooke), who
knew all he did in those days.

  The real history of this writing for the _Saturday Review_ has
  much personal, pathetic, and literary interest.

  It was when he was vicar of St. Philip's, Stepney, that he wrote
  the most. The income of the place was, I think, £300 a year, and
  the poverty of the parish was very great. Mr. Green spent every
  penny of this income on the parish. And he wrote--in order to
  live, and often when he was wearied out with the work of the day
  and late into the night--two, and often three, articles a week for
  the _Saturday Review_. It was less of a strain to him than it
  would have been to many others, because he wrote with such speed,
  and because his capacity for rapidly throwing his subject into
  form and his memory were so remarkable. But it was a severe
  strain, nevertheless, for one who, at the time, had in him the
  beginnings of the disease of which he died.

  I was staying with him once for two days, and the first night he
  said to me, "I have three articles to write for the _Saturday
  Review_, and they must all be done in thirty-six hours." "What are
  they?" I said; "and how have you found time to think of them?"
  "Well," he answered, "one is on a volume of Freeman's _Norman
  Conquest_, another is a 'light middle,' and the last on the
  history of a small town in England; and I have worked them all
  into form as I was walking to-day about the parish and in London."
  One of these studies was finished before two o'clock in the
  morning, and while I talked to him; the other two were done the
  next day. It is not uncommon to reach such speed, but it is very
  uncommon to combine this speed with literary excellence of
  composition, and with permanent and careful knowledge. The
  historical reviews were of use to, and gratefully acknowledged by,
  his brother historians, and frequently extended, in two or three
  numbers of the _Saturday Review_, to the length of an article in a
  magazine. I used to think them masterpieces of reviewing, and
  their one fault was the fault which was then frequent in that
  _Review_--over-vehemence in slaughtering its foes. Such reviewing
  cannot be fairly described as journalism. It was an historical
  scholar speaking to scholars.

  Another class of articles written by Mr. Green were articles on
  towns in England, France, or Italy. I do not know whether it was
  he or Mr. Freeman who introduced this custom of bringing into a
  short space the historical aspect of a single town or of a famous
  building, and showing how the town or the building recorded its
  own history, and how it was linked to general history, but Mr.
  Green, at least, began it very early in his articles on Oxford. At
  any rate, it was his habit, at this time, whenever he travelled in
  England, France, or Italy, to make a study of any town he

  Articles of this kind--and he had them by fifties in his
  head--formed the second line of what has been called his
  journalism. I should prefer to call them contributions to history.
  They are totally different in quality from ordinary journalism.
  They are short historical essays.

As his duties at Lambeth made no great demands on his time, he was now
able to devote himself more steadily to historical work. His first
impulse in that direction seems, as I have said, to have been received
from Dean Stanley at Oxford. His next came from E. A. Freeman, who had
been impressed by an ingenious paper of his at a meeting of the
Somerset Archæological Society, and who became from that time his
steadfast friend. Green was a born historian, who would have been
eminent without any help except that of books. But he was wise enough
to know the value of personal counsel and direction, and generous
enough to be heartily grateful for what he received. He did not belong
in any special sense to what has been called Freeman's school,
differing widely from that distinguished writer in many of his views,
and still more in style and manner. But he learnt much from Freeman,
and he delighted to acknowledge his debt. He learnt among other things
the value of accuracy, the way to handle original authorities, the
interpretation of architecture, and he received, during many years of
intimate intercourse, the constant sympathy and encouragement of a
friend whose affection was never blind to faults, while his
admiration was never clouded by jealousy. It was his good fortune to
win the regard and receive the advice of another illustrious
historian, Dr. Stubbs, who has expressed in language perhaps more
measured, but not less emphatic than Freeman's, his sense of Green's
services to English history. These two he used to call his masters;
but no one who has read him and them needs to be told that his was one
of those strong and rich intelligences which, in becoming more perfect
by the study of others, loses nothing of its originality.

His first continuous studies had lain among the Angevin kings of
England, and the note-books still exist in which he had accumulated
materials for their history. However, the book he planned was never
written, for when the state of his lungs (which forced him to spend
the winter of 1870-71 at San Remo) had begun to alarm his friends,
they urged him to throw himself at once into some treatise likely to
touch the world more than a minute account of so remote a period could
do. Accordingly he began, and in two or three years, his winters
abroad sadly interrupting work, he completed the _Short History of the
English People_. When a good deal of it had gone through the press, he
felt, and his friends agreed with him, that the style of the earlier
chapters was too much in the eager, quick, sketchy, "point-making"
manner of his _Saturday Review_ articles, "and did not possess" (says
the friend whom I have already quoted) "enough historical dignity for
a work which was to take in the whole history of England. It was then,
being convinced of this, that he cancelled a great deal of what had
been stereotyped, and re-wrote it, re-creating, with his passionate
facility, his whole style." In order to finish it he gave up the
_Saturday Review_ altogether, though he could ill spare what his
writing there brought him in. It is seldom that one finds such
swiftness and ease in composition as his, united to so much
fastidiousness. He went on remoulding and revising till his friends
insisted that the book should be published anyhow, and published it
accordingly was, in 1874. Feeling that his time on earth might be
short, for he was often disabled even by a catarrh, he was the readier
to yield.

The success of the _Short History_ was rapid and overwhelming.
Everybody bought it. It was philosophical enough for scholars, and
popular enough for schoolboys. No historical book since Macaulay's
_History_ has made its way so fast, or been read with so much avidity.
And Green was under disadvantages from which his great predecessor did
not suffer. Macaulay's name was famous before his _History of England_
appeared, and Macaulay's scale was so large that he could enliven his
pages with a multitude of anecdotes and personal details. Green was
known only to a small circle of friends, having written nothing under
his own signature except one or two papers in magazines or in the
Transactions of archæological societies; and the plan of his book,
which dealt, in eight hundred and twenty pages, with the whole
fourteen centuries of English national life, obliged him to handle
facts in the mass, and touch lightly and briefly on personal traits. A
summary is of all kinds of writing that which it is hardest to make
interesting, because one must speak in general terms, one must pack
facts tightly together, one must be content to give those facts
without the delicacies of light and shade, or the subtler tints of
colour. Yet such was his skill, both literary and historical, that his
outlines gave more pleasure and instruction than other people's
finished pictures.

In 1876 he took, for the only time in his life, except when he had
supported a working-man's candidate for the Tower Hamlets at the
general election of 1868, an active part in practical politics.
Towards the end of that year, when war seemed impending between Russia
and the Turks, fears were entertained that England might undertake the
defence of the Sultan, and a body called the Eastern Question
Association was formed to organise opposition to the pro-Turkish
policy of Lord Beaconsfield's Ministry. Green threw himself warmly
into the movement, was chosen to serve on the Executive Committee of
the Association, and was one of a sub-committee of five (which
included also Mr. Stopford Brooke and Mr. William Morris the poet[23])
appointed to draw up the manifesto convoking the meeting of delegates
from all parts of the country, which was held in December 1876, under
the title of the Eastern Question Conference. The sub-committee met at
my house and spent the whole day on its work. It was a new and curious
experience to see these three great men of letters drafting a
political appeal. Morris and Green were both of them passionately
anti-Turkish, and Morris indeed acted for the next two years as
treasurer of the Association, doing his work with a business-like
efficiency such as poets seldom possess. Green continued to attend the
general committee until, after the Treaty of Berlin, it ceased to
meet, and took the keenest interest in its proceedings. But his weak
health and frequent winter absences made public appearances impossible
to him. He was all his life an ardent Liberal. His sympathy with
national movements did not confine itself to Continental Europe, but
embraced Ireland and made him a Home Ruler long before Mr. Gladstone
and the Liberal party adopted that policy. It ought to be added that
though he had ceased to belong to the Church of England, he remained
strongly opposed to disestablishment.

When he had completed the re-casting of his _Short History_ in the
form of a larger book, which appeared under the title of _A History of
the English People_, he addressed himself with characteristic activity
to a new project. He had for a long time meditated upon the _origines_
of English history, the settlement of the Teutonic invaders in
Britain, followed by the consolidation of their tribes into a nation
with definite institutions and a settled order; and his desire to
treat this topic was stimulated by the way in which some critics had
sought to disparage his _Short History_ as a mere popularising of
other people's ideas. The criticism was unjust, for, if there had been
no rummaging in MS. sources for the _Short History_, there was
abundant originality in the views the book contained. However, these
carpings disposed his friends to recommend an enterprise which would
lead him to deal chiefly with original authorities, and to put forth
those powers of criticism and construction which they knew him to
possess. Thus he set to work afresh at the very beginning, at Roman
Britain and the Saxon Conquest. He had not advanced far when, having
gone to spend the winter in Egypt, he caught an illness which so told
on his weak frame that he was only just able to return to London in
April, and would not have reached it at all but for the care with
which he was tended by his wife. (He had married Miss Alice Stopford
in 1877.) In a few weeks he so far recovered as to be able to resume
his studies, though now forbidden to give to them more than two or
three hours a day. However, what he could not do alone he did with and
through his wife, who consulted the original sources for him,
investigated obscure points, and wrote at his dictation. In this way,
during the summer and autumn months of 1881, when often some slight
change of weather would throw him back and make work impossible for
days or weeks, the book was prepared, which he published in February
1882, under the title of _The Making of England_. Even in those few
months it was incessantly rewritten; no less than ten copies were made
of the first chapter. It was warmly received by the few persons who
were capable of judging its merits. But he was himself far from
satisfied with it as a literary performance, thinking that a reader
would find it at once too speculative and too dry, deficient in the
details needed to make the life of primitive England real and
instructive. If this had been so it would have been due to no failing
in his skill, but to the scantiness of the materials available for the
first few centuries of our national history. But he felt it so
strongly that he was often disposed to recur to his idea of writing a
history of the last seventy or eighty years, and was only induced by
the encouragement of a few friends to pursue the narrative which, in
_The Making of England_, he had carried down to the reign of Egbert.
The winter of 1881 was spent at Mentone, and the following summer in
London. He continued very weak, and was sometimes unable for weeks
together to go out driving or to work at home. But the moment that an
access of strength returned, the note-books were brought out, and he
was again busy going through what his wife's industry had tabulated,
and dictating for an hour or two till fatigue forced him to desist.
Those who saw him during that summer were amazed, not only at the
brave spirit which refused to yield to physical feebleness, but at the
brightness and clearness of his intellect, which was not only as
active as it had ever been before, but as much interested in whatever
passed in the world. When one saw him sitting propped up with cushions
on the sofa, his tiny frame worn to skin and bone, his voice
interrupted by frequent fits of coughing, it seemed wrong to stay,
but, after a little, all was forgotten in the fascination of his talk,
and one found it hard to realise that where thought was strong speech
might be weak.

In October, when he returned to Mentone, the tale of early English
history had been completed, and was in type down to the death of Earl
Godwine in A.D. 1052. He had hesitated as to the point at which the
book should end, but finally decided to carry it down to A.D. 1085,
the date of the dispersion of the last great Scandinavian armament
which threatened England. As the book dealt with both the Danish and
Norman invasions, he called it _The Conquest of England_. It appeared
after his death, wanting, indeed, those expansions in several places
which he had meant to give it, but still a book such as few but he
could have produced, full of new light, and equal in the parts which
have been fully handled to the best work of his earlier years.

Soon after he returned to Mentone he became rapidly worse, and unfit
for any continuous exertion. He could barely sit in the garden during
an hour or two of morning sunshine. There I saw him in the end of
December, fresh and keen as ever, aware that the most he could hope
for was to live long enough to complete his _Conquest_, but eagerly
reading every new book that came to him from England, starting schemes
for various historical treatises sufficient to fill three life-times,
and ranging in talk over the whole field of politics, literature, and
history. It seemed as if the intellect and will, which strove to
remain till their work was done, were the only things which held the
weak and wasted body together. The ardour of his spirit prolonged life
amid the signs of death. In January there came a new attack, and in
February another unexpected rally. On the 2nd of March he remarked
that it was no use fighting longer, and expired five days afterwards
at the age of forty-six.

Short as his life was, maimed and saddened by an ill-health which gave
his powers no fair chance, it was not an unhappy life, for he had that
immense power of enjoyment which so often belongs to a vivacious
intelligence. He delighted in books, in travel, in his friends'
company, in the constant changes and movements of the world. No
satiety dulled his taste for these things, nor was his spirit, except
for passing moments, darkened by the shadows which to others seemed to
lie so thick around his path. He enjoyed, though without boasting, the
fame his books had won, and the sense of creative power. And the last
six years of his life were brightened by the society and affection of
one who entered into all his tastes and pursuits with the fullest
sympathy, and enabled him, by her unwearied diligence, to prosecute
labours which physical weakness must otherwise have arrested.

He might have won fame as a preacher or as a political journalist. It
was, however, towards historical study that the whole current of his
intellect set, and as it is by what he did in that sphere that he will
be remembered, his special gifts for it deserve to be examined.

A historian needs four kinds of capacity. First of all, accuracy,
and a desire for the exact truth, which will grudge no time and
pains in tracing out even what might seem a trivial matter.
Secondly, keen observation, which can fasten upon small points, and
discover in isolated data the basis for some generalisation, or the
illustration of some principle. Thirdly, a sound and calm judgment,
which will subject all inferences and generalisations, both one's
own and other people's, to a searching review, and weigh in delicate
scales their validity. These two last-mentioned qualifications taken
together make up what we call the critical faculty, _i.e._ the power
of dealing with evidence as tending to establish or discredit
statements of fact, and those general conclusions which are built on
the grouping of facts. Neither acuteness alone nor the judicial
balance alone is enough to make the critic. There are men quick in
observation and fertile in suggestion whose conclusions are
worthless, because they cannot weigh one argument against another,
just as there are solid and well-balanced minds that never enlighten
a subject because, while detecting the errors of others, they
cannot combine the data and propound a luminous explanation. To the
making of a true critic, in history, in philosophy, in literature,
in psychology, even largely in the sciences of nature, there should
go not only judgment, but also a certain measure of creative
power. Fourthly, the historian must have imagination, not indeed
with that intensity which makes the poet, but in sufficient volume
to let him feel the men of other ages and countries to be living
and real like those among whom he moves, to present to him a large and
full picture of a world remote from himself in time--as a world
moving, struggling, hoping, fearing, enjoying, believing, like the
near world of to-day--a world in which there went on a private life
of thousands or millions of men and women, vaster, more complex,
more interesting than that public life which is sometimes all that
the records of the past have transmitted to us. Our imaginative
historian may or may not be able to reconstruct for us the private
and personal as well as the public or political life of the past. If
he can, he will. If the data are too scanty, he may cautiously
forbear. Yet he will still feel that those whose movements on the
public stage he chronicles were steeped in an environment of natural
and human influences which must have affected them at every turn;
and he will so describe them as to make us feel them human, and give
life to the pallid figures of far-off warriors and lawgivers.

To these four aptitudes one need hardly add the faculty of literary
exposition, for whoever possesses in large measure the last three, or
even the last alone, cannot fail to interest his readers; and what
more does literary talent mean?

Distinguishing these several aptitudes, historians will be found to
fall into two classes, according as there predominates in them the
critical or the imaginative faculty. Though no one can attain
greatness without both gifts, still they may be present in very
unequal degrees. Some will investigate tangible facts and their
relations with special care, occupying themselves chiefly with that
constitutional and diplomatic side of history in which positive
conclusions are (from the comparative abundance of records) most
easily reached. Others will be drawn towards the dramatic and personal
elements in history, primarily as they appear in the lives of famous
individual men, secondarily as they are seen, more dimly but not less
impressively, in groups and masses of men, and in a nation at large,
and will also observe and dwell upon incidents of private life or
features of social and religious custom, which the student of stately
politics passes by.

As Coleridge, when he divided thinkers into two classes, took Plato
as the type of one, Aristotle of the other, so we may take as
representatives of these two tendencies among historians Thucydides
for the critical and philosophical, Herodotus for the imaginative
and picturesque. The former does not indeed want a sense of the
dramatic grandeur of a situation; his narrative of the later part of
the Athenian expedition against Syracuse is like a piece of Æschylus
in prose. So too Herodotus is by no means without a philosophical
view of things, nor without a critical instinct, although his
generalisations are sometimes vague or fanciful, and his critical
apparatus rudimentary. Each is so splendid because each is wide,
with the great gifts largely, although not equally, developed.

Green was an historian of the Herodotean type. He possessed capacities
which belong to the other type also; he was critical, sceptical,
perhaps too sceptical, and philosophical. Yet the imaginative quality
was the leading and distinctive quality in his mind and writing. An
ordinary reader, if asked what was the main impression given by the
_Short History of the English People_, would answer that it was the
impression of picturesqueness and vividity--picturesqueness in
attention to the externals of the life described, vividity in the
presentation of that life itself.

I remember to have once, in talking with Green about Greek history,
told him how I had heard Mr. Jowett, in discussing the ancient
historians, disparage Herodotus and declare him unworthy to be placed
near Thucydides. Green answered, almost with indignation, that to say
such a thing showed that eminent scholars might have little feeling
for history. "Great as Thucydides is," he said, "Herodotus is far
greater, or at any rate far more precious. His view was so much
wider." I forget the rest of the conversation, but what he meant was
that Herodotus, to whom everything in the world was interesting, and
who has told us something about every country he visited or heard of,
had a more fruitful conception of history than his Athenian successor,
who practically confined himself to politics in the narrower sense of
the term, and that even the wisdom of the latter is not so valuable to
us as the flood of miscellaneous information which Herodotus pours out
about everything in the early world--a world about which we should
know comparatively little if his book had not been preserved.

This deliverance was thoroughly characteristic of Green's own view of
history. Everything was interesting to him because his imagination
laid hold of everything. When he travelled, nothing escaped his quick
eye, perpetually ranging over the aspects of places and society. When
he went out to dinner, he noted every person present whom he had not
known before, and could tell you afterwards something about them. He
had a theory, so to speak, about each of them, and indeed about every
one with whom he exchanged a dozen words. When he read the newspaper,
he seemed to squeeze all the juice out of it in a few minutes. Nor was
it merely the large events that fixed his mind; he drew from stray
notices of minor current matters evidence of principles or tendencies
which escaped other people's eyes. You never left him without having
new light thrown upon the questions of the hour. His memory was
retentive, but more remarkable was the sustained keenness of
apprehension with which he read, and which made him fasten upon
everything in a book or in talk which was significant, and could be
made the basis for an illustration of some view. He had the Herodotean
quality of reckoning nothing, however small or apparently remote from
the main studies of his life, to be trivial or unfruitful. His
imagination vitalised the small things, and found a place for them in
the pictures he was always sketching out.

As this faculty of discerning hidden meanings and relations was one
index and consequence of his imaginative power, so another was found
in that artistic gift to which I have referred. To give literary form
to everything was a necessity of his intellect. He could not tell an
anecdote or repeat a conversation without unconsciously dramatising
it, putting into people's mouths better phrases than they would have
themselves employed, and giving a finer point to the moral which the
incident expressed. Verbal accuracy suffered, but what he thought the
inner truth came out the more fully.

Though he wrote very fast, and in the most familiar way, the style of
his more serious letters was as good, I might say as finished, as that
of his books. Every one of them had a beginning, middle, and end. The
ideas were developed in an apt and graceful order, the sentences could
all be construed, the diction was choice. It was the same with the
short articles which he at one time used to write for the _Saturday
Review_. They are little essays, some of them worthy to live not only
for the excellent matter they contain, but for the delicate refinement
of their form. Yet they were all written swiftly, and sometimes in the
midst of physical exhaustion. The friend I have previously quoted
describes the genesis of one. Green had reached the town of Troyes
early one morning with two companions, and immediately started off to
explore it, darting hither and thither through the streets like a dog
trying to find a scent. In two or three hours the examination was
complete. The friends lunched together, took the train on to Basel,
got there late, and went off to bed. Green, however, wrote before he
slept, and laid on the breakfast-table next morning, an article on
Troyes, in which its characteristic features were brought out and
connected with its fortunes and those of the Counts of Champagne
during some centuries, an article which was really a history in
miniature. Then they went out together to look at Basel, and being
asked some question about that city he gave on the spur of the moment
a sketch of its growth and character equally vivid and equally
systematic, grouping all he had to say round two or three leading
theories. Yet he had never been in either place before, and had not
made a special study of either. He could apparently have done the same
for many another town in France or the Rhineland.

Nothing struck one so much in daily intercourse with him as his
passionate interest in human life. The same quickness of sympathy
which had served him well in his work among the East End poor, enabled
him to pour feeling into the figures of a bygone age, and become the
most human, and in so far the most real and touching, of all who have
dealt with English history. Whether or not his portraits are true,
they always seem to breathe.

Men and women--that is to say, such of them as have characteristics
pronounced enough to make them classifiable--may be divided into those
whose primary interests are in nature and what relates to nature, and
those whose primary interests are in and for man. Green was the most
striking type I have known of the latter class, not merely because his
human interests were strong, but also because they excluded, to a
degree singular in a mind so versatile, interests in purely natural
things. He did not seem to care for or seek to know any of the
sciences of nature[24] except in so far as they bore directly upon
man's life, and were capable of explaining it or of serving it. He had
a keen eye for country, for the direction and character of hills, the
position and influence of rivers, forests, and marshes, of changes in
the line of land and sea. Readers of _The Making of England_ will
recall the picture of the physical aspects of Britain when the
Teutonic invaders entered it as an unsurpassed piece of reconstructive
description. So on a battle-field or in an historical town, his vision
of the features of the ground or the site was unerring. But he
perceived and enjoyed natural beauty chiefly in reference to human
life. The study of the battle-field and the town site were aids to the
comprehension of historical events. The exquisite landscape was
exquisite because it was associated with the people dwelling there,
with the processes of their political growth, with their ideas or
their social usages. I remember to have had from him the most vivid
descriptions of the towns of the Riviera and of Capri, where he used
to pass the winter, but he never touched on anything which did not
illustrate or intertwine itself with the life of the people, leaving
one uninformed on matters purely physical. Facts about the character
of the mountains, the relation of their ranges to one another, or
their rocks, or the trees and flowers of their upper regions, the
prospects their summits command, the scenes of beauty in their glens,
or beside their wood-embosomed lakes, all, in fact, which the mountain
lover delights in, and which are to him a part of the mountain ardour,
of the passion for pure nature unsullied by the presence of man--all
this was cold to him. But as soon as a touch of human life fell like a
sunbeam across the landscape, all became warm and lovable.

It was the same with art. With an historian's delight in the creative
ages and their work, he had a fondness for painting and sculpture, and
could so describe what he saw in the galleries and churches of Italy
as to bring out meanings one had not perceived before. But here, too,
it was the human element that fascinated him. Technical merits, though
he observed them, as he observed most things, were forgotten; he dwelt
only on what the picture expressed or revealed. Pure landscape
painting gave him little pleasure.

It seems a truism to say that one who writes history ought to care
for all that bears upon man in the present in order that he may
comprehend what bore upon him in the past. This roaring loom of
Time, these complex physical and moral forces playing round us, and
driving us hither and thither by such a strange and intricate
interlacement of movements that we seem to perceive no more than what
is next us, and are unable to say whither we are tending, ought to
be always before the historian's mind. But there are few who have
tried, as Green tried, to follow every flash of the shuttle, and to
discover a direction and a relation amidst apparent confusion, for
there are few who have taken so wide a view of the historian's
functions, and have so distinctly set before them as their object the
comprehension and realisation and description of the whole field
of bygone human life. The Past was all present to him in this sense,
that he saw and felt in it not only those large events which
annalists or state papers have recorded, but the everyday life of
the people, their ideas, their habits, their external surroundings.
And the Present was always as if past to him in this sense, that in
spite of his strong political feelings, he looked at it with the eye
of a philosophical observer, trying to disengage principles from
details, permanent tendencies from passing outbursts. His imagination
visualised, so to speak, the phenomena as in a picture; his
speculative faculty tried to harmonise them, measure them, and
forecast their effects. Hence it was a necessity to him to know
what was passing in the world. The first thing he did every day,
whatever other pressure there might be on him, was to read the daily
newspaper. The last thing that he ceased to read, when what remained
of life began to be counted by hours, was the daily newspaper. This
warm interest in mankind is the keynote of his _History of the
English People_. It is the whole people that is ever present to him,
as it had been present before to few other historians.

Such power of imagination and sympathy as I have endeavoured to
describe is enough to make a brilliant writer, yet not necessarily a
great historian. One must see how far the other qualifications,
accuracy, acuteness of observation, and judgment, are also brought
into action.

His accuracy has been much impeached. When the first burst of applause
that welcomed the _Short History_ had subsided, several critics began
to attack it on the score of minor errors. They pointed out a number
of statements of fact which were doubtful, and others which were
incorrect, and spread in some quarters the impression that Green was a
careless and untrustworthy writer. I do not deny that there are in the
first editions of the _Short History_ some assertions made more
positively than the evidence warrants, some pictures drawn from
exceedingly slender materials. Mr. Skene remarks of the account given
of the battle between the Jutes and the Britons which took place in
the middle of the fifth century, somewhere near Aylesford in Kent, and
about which we really know scarcely anything, "Mr. Green describes it
as if he had been present." The temptation to such liberties is strong
where the treatment of a period is summary. A writer who compresses
the whole history of England into eight hundred pages of small
octavo, making his narrative not a bare narrative but a picture full
of colour and incident--incident which, for brevity's sake, must often
be given by allusion--cannot be always interrupting the current of the
story to indicate doubts or quote authorities for every statement in
which there may be an element of conjecture; and it is probable that
when the authorities are scrutinised their result will sometimes
appear different from that which the author has presented. On this
head the _Short History_ may be admitted to have occasionally
purchased vividity at the price of exactitude. Of mistakes, strictly
so called--_i.e._ statements demonstrably incorrect and therefore
ascribable to haste or carelessness--there are enough to make a show
under the hands of a hostile critic, yet not more than one is prepared
to expect from any but the most careful scholars. The book falls far
short of the accuracy of Thirlwall or Ranke or Stubbs, short even of
the accuracy of Gibbon or Carlyle; but it is not greatly below the
standard of Grote or Macaulay or Robertson, it is equal to the
standard of Milman, above that of David Hume. I take famous names, and
could put a better face on the matter by choosing for comparison
divers contemporary writers whose literary eminence is higher than
their historical. And Green's mistakes, although pretty numerous, were
(for they have been corrected in later editions) nearly all in small
matters. He puts an event, let us say, in 1340 which happened in the
November of 1339; he calls a man John whose name was William. These
are mistakes to the eye of a civil service examiner, but they seldom
make any difference to the general reader, for they do not affect the
doctrines and pictures which the book contains, and in which lies its
permanent value as well as its literary charm. As Bishop Stubbs says,
"Like other people, Green makes mistakes sometimes; but scarcely ever
does the correction of his mistakes affect either the essence of the
picture or the force of the argument.... All his work was real and
original work; few people besides those who knew him well would see
under the charming ease and vivacity of his style the deep research
and sustained industry of the laborious student." It may be added that
Green's later and more detailed works, _The Making of England_ and
_The Conquest of England_, though they contain plenty of debatable
matter, as in the paucity of authentic data any such book must do,
have been charged with few errors in matters of fact.

In considering his critical gift, it is well to distinguish those two
elements of acute perception and sober judgment which I have already
specified, for he possessed the former in larger measure than the
latter. The same activity of mind which made him notice everything
while travelling or entering a company of strangers, played
incessantly upon the historical data of his work, and supplied him
with endless theories as to the meaning of a statement, the source it
came from, the way it had been transmitted, the conditions under which
it was made. No one could be more acute and penetrating in what the
Germans call _Quellenforschung_, the collection and investigation and
testing of the sources of history, nor could any one be more
painstaking. Errors of view, apart from those trivial inaccuracies
already referred to, did not arise from an indolence that left any
stone unturned, but rather from an occupation with the leading idea
which had drawn his attention away from the details of time and place.
The ingenuity with which he built up theories was as admirable as the
art with which he stated them. People whom that art fascinated
sometimes fancied that the charm lay entirely in the style. But the
style was only a part of the craftsmanship. The facility in
theorising, the power of grouping facts under new aspects, the skill
in gathering and sifting evidence, were as remarkable as those
artistic qualities which expressed themselves in the paragraphs and
sentences and phrases. What danger there was arose from this
fecundity. His mind was so fertile, could see so much in a theory and
apply it so dexterously, that his judgment was sometimes dazzled by
the brilliance of his ingenuity. I do not think he loved his theories
specially because they were his own, for he often modified them, and
was ready to consider any one else's suggestions; but he had a passion
for light, and when a new view seemed to him to explain things
previously dark, he wanted the patience to suspend his judgment and
abide in uncertainty. Some of his hypotheses he himself dropped. Some
others he probably would have dropped, as the authorities he respected
have not embraced them. Others have made their way into general
acceptance, and may become still more useful as future research works
them out. But, whether right or wrong, they were instructive. Every
one of them is based upon facts whose importance had not been so fully
seen before, and suggests a point of view worth considering. Green's
view may sometimes appear fanciful: it is never foolish, or
superficial, or perverse. And so far from being credulous, his natural
tendency was towards doubt.

Inventive as his mind was, it was also solvent and sceptical. Seldom
is a strong imagination coupled with so unsparing a criticism as
that which he applied to the materials on which the constructive
faculty had to work. His later tendencies were rather towards
scepticism, and towards what one may call a severe and ascetic view
of history. While writing _The Making of England_ and _The Conquest
of England_, he used to lament the scantiness of the data and the
barren dryness which he feared the books would consequently show.
"How am I to make anything of these meagre entries of marches and
battles which are the only materials for the history of whole
centuries? Here are the Norsemen and Danes ravaging and occupying
the country; we learn hardly anything about them from English
sources, and nothing at all from Danish. How can one conceive and
describe them? how have any comprehension of what England was like in
the districts the Northmen took and ruled?" I tried to get him to
work at the Norse Sagas, and remember in particular to have
entreated him when he came to the battle of Brunanburh to eke out
the pitifully scanty records of that fight from the account given of
it in the story of the Icelandic hero, Egil, son of Skallagrim. But
he answered that the Saga was unhistorical, a bit of legend
written down more than a century after the events, and that he
could not, by using it in the text, appear to trust it, or to mix up
authentic history with what was possibly fable. It was urged that he
could guard himself in a note from being supposed to take it for more
than what it was, a most picturesque embellishment of his tale. But
he stood firm. Throughout these two last books, he steadily
refrained from introducing any matter, however lively or romantic,
which could not stand the test of his stringent criticism, and used
laughingly to tell how Dean Stanley had long ago said to him, after
reading one of his earliest pieces, "I see you are in danger of
growing picturesque. Beware of it. I have suffered for it."

If in these later years he reined in his imagination more tightly, the
change was due to no failing in his ingenuity. Nothing in his work
shows higher constructive ability than _The Making of England_. He had
to deal with a time which has left us scarcely any authentic records,
and to piece together his narrative and his picture of the country out
of these records, and the indications, faint and scattered, and often
capable of several interpretations, which are supplied by the remains
of Roman roads and villas, the names of places, the boundaries of
local divisions, the casual statements of writers many centuries
later. What he has given us remains an enduring witness to his
historical power. For here it is not a question of mere brilliance of
style. The result is due to patience, penetration, and the careful
weighing of evidence, joined to that faculty of realising things in
the concrete by which a picture is conjured up out of a mass of
phenomena, everything falling into its place under laws which seem to
prove themselves as soon as they are stated.

Of his style nothing need be said, for his readers have felt its
charm. But it deserves to be remarked that this accomplished master of
words had little verbal memory. He used to say that he could never
recollect a phrase in its exact form, and in his books he often
unconsciously varied, writing from memory, some expression whose
precise form is on record. Nor had he any turn for languages. German
he knew scarcely at all, a fact which makes the range of his
historical knowledge appear more striking; and though he had spent
several winters in Italy, he could not speak Italian except so far as
he needed it for the inn or the railway. The want of mere verbal
memory partly accounts for this deficiency, but it was not unconnected
with the vehemence of his interest in the substance of things. He was
so anxious to get at the kernel that he could not stop to examine the
nut. In this absence of linguistic gifts, as well as in the keenness
of his observation (and in his shortsightedness), he resembled Dean
Stanley, who, though he had travelled in and brought back all that was
best worth knowing from every country in Europe, had no facility in
any language but his own.

Green was not one of those whose personality is unlike their books,
for there was in both the same fertility, the same vivacity, the
same quickness of sympathy. Nevertheless, his conversation seemed to
give an even higher impression of intellectual power than did his
writings, because it was so swift and so spontaneous. Such talk has
rarely been heard in our time, so gay was it, so vivid, so various,
so full of anecdote and illustration, so acute in criticism, so
candid in consideration, so graphic in description, so abundant in
sympathy, so flashing in insight, so full of colour and emotion as
well as of knowledge and thought. One had to forbid one's self to
visit him in the evening, because it was impossible to get away before
two o'clock in the morning. And, unlike many famous talkers, he was
just as willing to listen as to speak. One of the charms of his
company was that it made a man feel better than his ordinary self.
His appreciation of whatever had any worth in it, his comments and
replies, so stimulated the interlocutor's mind that it moved faster
and could hit upon apter expressions than at any other time. The
same gifts which shone in his conversation, lucid arrangement of
ideas, ready command of words, and a power in perceiving the
tendencies of those whom he addressed, would have made him an
admirable public speaker. I do not remember that he ever did
speak, in his later years, to any audience larger than a committee
of twenty. But he was an eloquent preacher. The first time I ever
saw him was in St. Philip's Church at Stepney about 1866, and I
shall never forget the impression made on me by the impassioned
sentences that rang through the church from the fiery little figure
in the pulpit with its thin face and bright black eyes.

What Green accomplished seems to those who used to listen to him
little in comparison with what he might have done had longer life
and a more robust body been granted him. Some of his finest gifts
would not have found their full scope till he came to treat of a
period where the materials for history are ample, and where he
could have allowed himself space to deal with them--such a period,
for instance, as that of his early choice, the Angevin kings of
England. Yet, even basing themselves on what he has done, they may
claim for him a place among the foremost writers of his time. He
left behind him no one who combined so many of the best gifts. There
were among his contemporaries historians more learned and equally
industrious. There were two or three whose accuracy was more
scrupulous, their judgment more uniformly sober and cautious. But
there was no one in whom so much knowledge and so wide a range of
interests were united to such ingenuity, acuteness, and originality,
as well as to such a power of presenting results in rich, clear,
pictorial language. A master of style may be a worthless historian.
We have instances. A skilful investigator and sound reasoner may be
unreadable. The conjunction of fine gifts for investigation with
fine gifts for exposition is a rare conjunction, which cannot be
prized too highly, for while it advances historical science, it brings
historical methods, as well as historical facts, within the horizon of
the ordinary reader.

Of the services Green rendered to English history, the first, and that
which was most promptly appreciated, was the intensity with which he
realised, and the skill with which he portrayed, the life of the
people of England as a whole, and taught his readers that the exploits
of kings and the intrigues of ministers, and the struggles of parties
in Parliament, are, after all, secondary matters, and important
chiefly as they affect the welfare or stimulate the thoughts and
feelings of the great mass of undistinguished humanity in whose hands
the future of a nation lies. He changed the old-fashioned distribution
of our annals according to reigns and dynasties into certain periods,
showing that such divisions often obscure the true connection of
events, and suggesting new and better conceptions of the periods into
which the record of English progress naturally falls. And, lastly, he
laid, in his latest books, a firm and enduring foundation for our
mediæval history by that account of the Teutonic occupation of
England, of the state of the country as they found it, and the way
they conquered and began to organise it, which I have already dwelt on
as a signal proof of his constructive faculty.

Many readers will be disposed to place him near Macaulay, for though
he was less weighty he was more subtle, and not less fascinating. To
fewer perhaps will it occur to compare him with Gibbon, yet I am
emboldened by the opinion of one of our greatest contemporary
historians to venture on the comparison. There are indeed wide
differences between the two. Green is as completely a man of the
nineteenth century as Gibbon was a man of the eighteenth. Green's
style has not the majestic march of Gibbon: it is quick and eager
almost to restlessness. Nor is his judgment so uniformly grave and
sound. But one may find in his genius what was characteristic of
Gibbon's also, the combination of a mastery of multitudinous details,
with a large and luminous view of those far-reaching forces and
relations which govern the fortunes of peoples and guide the course of
empire. This width and comprehensiveness, this power of massing for
the purposes of argument the facts which his literary art has just
been clothing in its most brilliant hues, is the highest of a
historian's gifts, and is the one which seems most surely to establish
Green's position among the leading historical minds of his time.


  [22] This sketch was written in 1883. A volume of Green's Letters,
       with a short connecting biography by Sir Leslie Stephen, was
       published in 1901. The letters are extremely good reading, the
       biography faithful and graceful.

  [23] Sir George Young and I were the other members.

  [24] At one time, however, he learnt a little geology from his friend
       Professor Dawkins, perceiving its bearings on history.


There is hardly any walk of English life in which brilliant abilities
win so little fame for their possessor among the public at large as
that of practice at the Chancery bar. A leading ecclesiastic, or
physician, or surgeon, or financier, or manufacturer, or even a great
man of science, unless his work is done in some sphere which, like
pure mathematics, is far removed from the comprehension of ordinary
educated men, is sure, in a time like ours, to become well known to
the world and acquire influence in it. A great advocate practising in
the Common-law Courts is, of course, still more certain to become a
familiar figure. But the cases which are dealt with by the Courts of
Equity, though they often involve vast sums of money and raise
intricate and important points of law, mostly turn on questions of a
technical kind, and are seldom what the newspapers call sensational.
Thus it may happen that a practitioner or a judge in these Courts
enjoys an extraordinary reputation within his profession, and is by
them regarded as one of the ornaments of his time, while the rest of
his fellow-countrymen know nothing at all about his merits.

This was the case with Sir George Jessel, though towards the end of
his career the admiration which the Bar felt for his powers began so
far to filter through to the general public that his premature death
was felt to be a national misfortune.

Jessel (born in 1824, died in 1883) was only one among many instances
England has lately seen of men of Jewish origin climbing to the
highest distinction. But he was the first instance of a Jew who,
continuing to adhere to the creed of his forefathers, received a very
high office; for Mr. Disraeli, as every one knows, had been baptized
as a boy, and always professed to be a Christian. Jessel's career was
not marked by any remarkable incidents. He rose quickly to eminence at
the bar, being in this aided by his birth; for the Jews in London, as
elsewhere, hold together. There are among them many solicitors in
large practice, and these take a natural pleasure in pushing forward
any specially able member of their community. His powers were more
fully seen and appreciated when he became (in 1865) a Queen's Counsel,
and brought him with unusual speed to the front rank. He came into
Parliament at the general election of 1868 on the Liberal side, and
three years later was made Solicitor-General in Mr. Gladstone's first
Government, retaining, as was then usual, his private practice, which
had become so large that there was scarcely any case of first-rate
importance brought into the Chancery Courts in which he did not
appear. Although a decided Liberal, as the Jews mostly were until Lord
Beaconsfield's foreign policy had begun to lead them into other paths,
he had borne little part in politics till he took his seat in the
House of Commons; and when he spoke there, he obtained no great
success. Lawyers in the English Parliament are under the double
disadvantage of having had less leisure than most other members to
study and follow political questions, and of having contracted a
manner and style of speaking not suited to an assembly which, though
deliberative, is not deliberate, and which listens with impatience to
a technical or forensic method of treating the topics which come
before it.

Jessel's ability would have soon overcome the former difficulty, but
less easily the latter. Though he was lucid and powerful in his
treatment of legal topics, and made a quite admirable law officer in
the way of advising ministers and the public departments, he was never
popular with the House of Commons, for he presented his views in a
hard, dry, dogmatic form, with no graces of style or delivery.
However, he did not long remain in that arena, but on the retirement
of Lord Romilly from the office of Master of the Rolls, was in 1873
appointed to succeed him. In this post his extraordinary gifts found
their amplest sphere. The equity judges in England used always to sit,
and in nearly all cases do still sit, without a jury to hear causes,
with or without witnesses, and they despatch a great deal of the
heaviest business that is brought into the courts. Commercial causes
of the first importance come before them, no less than those which
relate to trusts or to real property; and the granting of injunctions,
a specially serious matter, rests chiefly in their hands. Each equity
judge sits alone, and the suitor may choose before which of them he
will bring his case. Among the four--a number subsequently increased
to five--equity judges of first instance, Jessel immediately rose to
the highest reputation, so that most of the heavy and difficult cases
were brought into his court. He possessed a wonderfully quick, as well
as powerful, mind, which got to the kernel of a matter while other
people were still hammering at the shell, and which applied legal
principles just as swiftly and surely as it mastered a group of
complicated facts.

The Rolls Court used to present, while he presided over it, a curious
and interesting sight, which led young counsel, who had no business to
do there, to frequent it for the mere sake of watching the Judge. When
the leading counsel for the plaintiff was opening his case, Jessel
listened quietly for the first few minutes only, and then began to
address questions to the counsel, at first so as to guide his remarks
in a particular direction, then so as to stop his course altogether
and turn his speech into a series of answers to the Judge's
interrogatories. When, by a short dialogue of this kind, Jessel had
possessed himself of the vital facts, he would turn to the leading
counsel for the defendant and ask him whether he admitted such and
such facts alleged by the plaintiff to be true. If these facts were
admitted, the Judge proceeded to indicate the view he was disposed to
take of the law applicable to the facts, and, by a few more questions
to the counsel on the one side or the other, as the case might be,
elicited their respective legal grounds of contention. If the facts
were not admitted, it of course became necessary to call the witnesses
or read the affidavits, processes which the vigorous impatience of the
Judge considerably shortened, for it was a dangerous thing to read to
him any irrelevant or loosely-drawn paragraph. But more generally his
searching questions and the sort of pressure he applied so cut down
the issues of fact that there was little or nothing left in
controversy regarding which it was necessary to examine the evidence
in detail, since the counsel felt that there was no use in putting
before him a contention which they could not sustain under the fire
of his criticism. Then Jessel proceeded to deliver his opinion and
dispose of the case. The affair was from beginning to end far less an
argument and counter-argument by counsel than an investigation
directly conducted by the Judge himself, in which the principal
function of the counsel was to answer the Judge's questions concisely
and exactly, so that the latter might as soon as possible get to the
bottom of the matter. The Bar in a little while came to learn and
adapt themselves to his ways, and few complained of being stopped or
interrupted by him, because his interruptions, unlike those of some
judges, were neither inopportune nor superfluous. The counsel (with
scarcely an exception) felt themselves his inferiors, and recognised
not only that he was better able to handle the case than they were,
but that the manner and style in which they presented their facts or
arguments would make little difference to the result, because his
penetration was sure to discover the merits of each contention, and
neither eloquence nor pertinacity would have the slightest effect on
his resolute and self-confident mind. Thus business was despatched
before him with unexampled speed, and it became a maxim among
barristers that, however low down in the cause-list at the Rolls your
cause might stand, it was never safe to be away from the court, so
rapidly were cases "crumpled up" or "broken down" under the blows of
this vigorous intellect. It was more surprising that the suitors, as
well as the Bar and the public generally, acquiesced, after the first
few months, in this way of doing business. Nothing breeds more
discontent than haste and heedlessness in a judge. But Jessel's speed
was not haste. He did as much justice in a day as others could do in a
week; and those few who, dissatisfied with these rapid methods, tried
to reverse his decisions before the Court of Appeal, were very seldom
successful, although that court then contained in Lord Justice James
and Lord Justice Mellish two unusually strong men, who would not have
hesitated to differ even from the redoubtable Master of the Rolls.

As I have mentioned Lord Justice Mellish, I may turn aside for a
moment to say a word regarding that extraordinary man, who stood along
with Cairns and Roundell Palmer in the foremost rank of Jessel's
professional contemporaries. Mellish held for some years before his
elevation to the Bench in 1869 a position unique at the English
Common-law Bar as a giver of opinions on points of law. As the
Israelites in King David's day said of Ahithophel that his counsel was
as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God,[25] so the legal
profession deemed Mellish practically infallible, and held an opinion
signed by him to be equal in weight to a judgment of the Court of
Exchequer Chamber (the then court of appeal in common-law cases). He
was not effective as an advocate addressing a jury, being indeed far
too good for any jury; but in arguing a point of law his unerring
logic, the lucidity with which he stated his position, the cogency and
precision with which he drew his inferences, made it a delight to
listen to him. The chain of ratiocination seemed irrefragable:

        +en d' ethet' akmothetô megan akmona, kopte de desmous
        arrhêktous alutous, ophr' empedon authi menoien.+[26]

He had, indeed, but one fault as an arguer. He could not argue a point
whose soundness he doubted as effectively as one in which he had
faith; and when it befell that several points arose in a case, and the
Court seemed disposed to lay more stress on the one for which he cared
little than on the one he deemed conclusive, he refused to fall in
with their view and continued to insist upon that which his own mind

I remember to have once heard him and Cairns argue before the House of
Lords (sitting as the final Court of Appeal) a case relating to a
vessel called the _Alexandra_--it was a case arising out of an
attempt of the Confederates, during the American War of Secession, to
get out of a British port a cruiser they had ordered. Cairns spoke
first with all his usual power, and seemed to have left nothing to be
added. But when Mellish followed on the same side, he set his points
in so strong a light, and placed his contention on so solid a basis,
that even Cairns's speech was forgotten, and it seemed impossible that
any answer could be found to Mellish's arguments. One felt as if the
voice of pure reason were speaking through his lips.

Such an intellect might seem admirably qualified for judicial work.
But as a judge, Mellish, admirable though he was in temper, in
fairness, in learning, and in logic, did not win so exceptional a
reputation as he had won at the Bar. People used to ascribe this
partly to his weak health, partly to the fact that he, who had been a
common-law practitioner, was sitting in a court which heard equity
appeals, and alongside of a quick and strong colleague reared in the
equity courts.[27] But something may have been due to the fact that he
needed the stimulus of conflict to bring out the full force of his
splendid intelligence. A circumstance attending the appointment of
Mellish illustrates the remark already made that a great counsel whose
work lies apart from so-called "sensation cases" may remain unknown to
his contemporaries. When Mr. Gladstone, being then Prime Minister, and
having to select a Lord Justice of Appeal, was told that Mellish was
the fittest man for the post, he asked, "Can that be the boy who was
my fag at Eton?" He had not heard of Mellish during the intervening
forty years!

However, I return to the Master of the Rolls. In dealing with facts,
Jessel has never had a superior, and in our days, perhaps, no rival.
He knew all the ways of the financial and commercial world. In his
treatment of points of law, every one admitted and admired both an
extraordinary knowledge and mastery of reported cases, and an
extremely acute and exact appreciation of principles, a complete power
of extracting them from past cases and fitting them to the case in
hand. He had a memory which forgot nothing, and which, indeed, wearied
him by refusing to forget trivial things. When he delivered an
elaborate judgment it was his delight to run through a long series of
cases, classifying and distinguishing them. His strength made him
bold; he went further than most judges in readiness to carry a
principle somewhat beyond any decided case, and to overrule an
authority which he did not respect. The fault charged on him was his
tendency, perhaps characteristic of the Hebrew mind, to take a
somewhat hard and dry view of a legal principle, overlooking its more
delicate shades, and, in the interpretation of statutes or documents,
to adhere too strictly to the letter, overlooking the spirit. An
eminent lawyer said, "If all judges had been like Jessel, there might
have been no equity." In that respect many deemed him inferior to Lord
Cairns, the greatest judge among his contemporaries, who united to an
almost equally wide and accurate knowledge of the law a grasp of
principles even more broad and philosophical than Jessel's was. Be
this as it may, the judgments of the Master of the Rolls, which fill
so many pages of the recent English Law Reports, are among the best
that have ever gone to build up the fabric of the English law. Except
on two occasions, when he reserved judgment at the request of his
colleagues in the Court of Appeal, they were delivered on the spur of
the moment, after the conclusion of the arguments, or of so much of
the arguments as he allowed counsel to deliver; but they have all the
merits of carefully-considered utterances, so clear and direct is
their style, so concisely as well as cogently are the authorities
discussed and the grounds of decision stated. The bold and sweeping
character which often belongs to them makes them more instructive as
well as more agreeable reading than the judgments of most modern
judges, whose commonest fault is a timidity which tries to escape, by
dwelling on the details of the particular case, from the enunciation
of a definite general principle. Positive and definite Jessel always
was. As he put it himself: "I may be wrong, but I never have any

At the Bar, Jessel had been far from popular; for his manners were
unpolished, and his conduct towards other counsel overbearing. On
the Bench he improved, and became liked as well as respected. There
was a sort of rough _bonhomie_ about him, and though he could be
disagreeable on occasions to a leading counsel, especially if brought
from the common-law bar into his court, he showed a good-humoured
wish to deal gently with young or inexperienced barristers. There
was also an obvious anxiety to do justice, an impatience of mere
technicalities, and a readiness, remarkable in so strong-willed a
man, to hear what could be said against his own opinion, and to
reconsider it. Besides, a profession is naturally proud of any one
whose talents adorn it, and whose eminence seems to be communicated
to the whole body.

Ever since, under the Plantagenet kings, the Chancery became a law
court, the office of Master of the Rolls had been that of a judge of
first instance. In 1881 its character was changed, and its occupant
placed at the head of the Court of Appeal. Thus it was as an appellate
judge that Jessel latterly sat, giving no less satisfaction in that
capacity than in his former one, and being indeed confessedly the
strongest judicial intellect (except Lord Cairns) on the Bench.
Outside his professional duties, his chief interest was in the
University of London, at which he had himself graduated. He was a
member of its senate, and busied himself with its examinations, being
up till the last excessively fond of work, and finding that of a judge
who sits for five or six hours daily insufficient to satisfy his
appetite. He was not what would be called a highly cultivated man,
although he knew a great deal beyond the field of law, mathematics,
for instance, and Hebrew literature and botany, for he had been
brought up in a not very refined circle, and had been absorbed in
legal work during the best years of his life. But his was an
intelligence of extraordinary power and flexibility, eminently
practical, as the Semitic intellect generally is, and yet thoroughly
scientific. And he was also one of those strong natures who make
themselves disliked while they are fighting their way to the top, but
grow more genial and more tolerant when they have won what they
sought, and perceive that others admit their pre-eminence. The
services which he rendered as a judge illustrate not only the
advantage of throwing open all places to all comers--the bigotry of an
elder day excluded the Jews from judicial office altogether--but also
the benefit of having a judge at least equal in ability to the best of
those who practise before him. It was because Jessel was so easily
master in his court that so large and important a part of the judicial
business of the country was, during many years, despatched with a
swiftness and a success seldom equalled in the annals of the English


  [25] 2 Sam. xvi. 23.

  [26] _Odyss._ viii. 274: "And upon the anvil-stand he set the mighty
       anvil; and he forged the links that could be neither broken nor
       loosed, so that they should stay firm in their place."

  [27] Lord Justice James said of his colleague that he had only one
       defect as a judge: "He was too anxious to convince counsel that
       they were wrong, when he thought their contention unsound,
       seeming to forget that counsel are paid not to be convinced."


Hugh M'Calmont Cairns, afterwards Earl Cairns (born 1819, died
1885), was one of three remarkable Scoto-Irishmen whom the north-east
corner of Ulster gave to the United Kingdom in one generation, and
each of whom was foremost in the career he entered. Lord Lawrence
was the strongest of Indian or Colonial administrators, and did more
than any other man to save India for England in the crisis of the
great Mutiny of 1857. Lord Kelvin has been, since the death of
Charles Darwin, the first among British men of science. Lord Cairns
was unquestionably the greatest judge of the Victorian epoch, perhaps
of the nineteenth century.[28] His name and family were of Scottish
origin, but he combined with the shrewd sense and grim persistency
of Scotland some measure of the keen partisanship which marks the
Irish Orangeman. Born an Episcopalian, he grew up a Tory in
politics, an earnest Low-Church Evangelical in religion; nor did his
opinions in either respect ever seem to alter during his long
life. His great abilities were perceived both at school (he was
educated at the Academy in Belfast) and at college (Trinity College,
Dublin), and so much impressed the counsel in whose chambers he
studied for a year in London, that he strongly dissuaded the young
man from returning to Dublin to practise at the Irish bar, promising
him a brilliant career on the wider theatre of England. The prediction
was verified by the rapidity with which Cairns, who had, no doubt,
the advantage of influential connections in the City of London, rose
into note. He obtained (as a Conservative) a seat in Parliament
for his native town of Belfast when only thirty-three years of age,
and was appointed Solicitor-General to Lord Derby's second Ministry
six years later--a post which few eminent lawyers have reached before
fifty. In the House of Commons, though at first somewhat diffident and
nervous, he soon proved himself a powerful as well as ready speaker,
and would doubtless have remained in an assembly where he was
rendering such valuable services to his party but for the weakness
of his lungs and throat, which had threatened his life since boyhood.
He therefore accepted, in 1867, the office of Lord Justice of
Appeal, with a seat in the House of Lords, and next year was made
Lord Chancellor by Mr. Disraeli, then Prime Minister, who dismissed
Lord Chelmsford, then Chancellor, in order to have the benefit of
Cairns's help as a colleague. Disraeli subsequently caused him to
be raised to an earldom.

After Lord Derby's death, Cairns led the Tory party in the House of
Lords for a time (replacing the Duke of Richmond when the latter
quitted the leadership), but his very pronounced Low-Church
proclivities, coupled perhaps with a certain jealousy felt toward him
as a newcomer, prevented him from becoming popular there, so that
ultimately the leadership of that House settled itself in the hands of
Lord Salisbury, a statesman not superior to Cairns in political
judgment or argumentative power, but without the disadvantage of being
a lawyer, possessing a wider range of political experience, and in
closer sympathy with the feelings and habits of the titled order.
There were, however, some peers who, when Lord Beaconsfield died in
1881, desired to see Cairns chosen to succeed him in the leadership of
the Tory party, then in opposition, in the Upper Chamber. Whether in
opposition or in power, Cairns took a prominent part in all
"full-dress" political debates in the House of Lords and in the
discussion of legal measures, and was indeed so absolutely master of
the Chamber when such measures came under discussion, that the
Liberal Government, during the years from 1868 to 1874, and again from
1880 till 1885, could carry no legal reforms through the House of
Lords except by his permission, which, of course, was never given when
such reforms could seem to affect any political issue. Yet the
vehemence of his party feeling did not overcast his judgment. It was
mainly through his interposition (aided by that of Archbishop Tait)
that the House of Lords consented to pass the Irish Church Bill of
1869, a measure which Cairns, of course heartily disliking it,
accepted for the sake of saving to the disestablished Church a part of
her funds, since these might have been lost had the Bill been rejected
then and passed next year by an angrier House of Commons. Of all the
members of Disraeli's two Cabinets, he was the one whom Disraeli
himself had been wont most to trust and most to rely on. In January
1874, when Mr. Gladstone's suddenly announced dissolution of
Parliament startled all England one Saturday morning, Disraeli, who
heard of it while still in bed, was at first frightened, thinking that
the Liberal leader had played his cards boldly and well, and would
carry the elections. When his chief party manager came to see him he
was found restless and dejected, and cried out, "Send for Cairns at
once." Lord Cairns was sent for, came full of vigour, hope, and
counsel, and after an hour's talk so restored the confidence of his
ally that Disraeli sat down in the best spirits to compose his
electoral manifesto. As everybody knows, Cairns's forecast was right,
and the Tories won the general election by a large majority.

For political success Cairns had several qualities of the utmost
value--a stately presence, a clear head, a resolute will, and splendid
oratorical gifts. He was not an imaginative speaker, nor fitted to
touch the emotions; but he had a matchless power of statement, and a
no less matchless closeness and cogency in argument. In the famous
controversies of 1866, he showed himself the clearest and most
vigorous thinker among the opponents of reform, more solid, if less
brilliant, than was Robert Lowe. His diction, without being
exceptionally choice, was pure and precise, and his manner had a
dignity and weight which seemed to compel your attention even when
the matter was uninteresting. A voice naturally neither strong nor
musical, and sometimes apt to sound hollow (for the chest was weak),
was managed with great skill; action and gesture were used sparingly
but effectively, and the tall well-built figure and strongly-marked,
somewhat Roman features, with their haughty and distant air,
deepened the impression of power, courage, and resolution which was
characteristic of the whole man.

The qualities of oratory I have described may seem better fitted to a
comparatively sober and sedate assembly like the House of Lords than
to a changeful and excitable assembly like the House of Commons. Yet,
in point of fact, Cairns spoke better in the Commons than he did
afterwards in the Lords, and would have left an even higher oratorical
reputation had his career in the popular House been longer and his
displays more numerous. The reason seems to be that the heat of that
House warmed his somewhat chilly temperament, and roused him to a more
energetic and ardent style of speaking than was needed in the Upper
Chamber, where he and his friends, commanding a large majority, had
things all their own way. In the House of Commons he confronted a
crowd of zealous adversaries, and put forth all the forces of his
logic and rhetoric to overcome them. In the more languid House of
Lords he was apt to be didactic, sometimes even prolix. He overproved
his own case without feeling the need, which he would have felt in the
Commons, of overthrowing the case of the other side; his manner wanted
animation and his matter variety. Still, he was a great speaker,
greater as a speaker upon legal topics, where a power of exact
statement and lucid exposition is required, than any one he left
behind him.

Why, it may be asked, with these gifts, and with so much firmness and
energy of character, did he not play an even more conspicuous part in
politics, and succeed, after Lord Beaconsfield's death, to the
chieftaincy of the Tory party? The answer is to be found partly in the
prejudice which still survives in England against legal politicians,
partly in certain defects of his own personality. Although sincerely
pious, and exemplary in all the relations of domestic life, he was
ungenial and unbending in social intercourse. Few equally eminent men
of our time have had so narrow a circle of personal friends. There was
a dryness, a coldness, and an appearance of reserve and hauteur about
his manner which repelled strangers, and kept acquaintanceship from
ripening into friendship. To succeed as a political leader, a man must
usually (I do not say invariably, because there are a few remarkable
instances--Mr. Parnell's would appear to be one of them--to the
contrary) at least seem sympathetic; must be able to enter into the
feelings of his followers, and show himself interested in them not
merely as party followers, but as human beings. There must be a
certain glow, a certain effluence of feeling about him, which makes
them care for him and rally to him as a personality. Whether Lord
Cairns wanted warmth of heart, or whether it was that an inner warmth
failed to pierce the cloak of reserve and pride which he habitually
wore, I do not attempt to determine. But the defect told heavily
against him. He never became a familiar figure to the mass of his
party, a person whose features they knew, at whose name they would
cheer; and nowadays all leaders, to whatever party they belong, find a
source of strength in winning this kind of popularity. The quality
which Americans call magnetism is perhaps less essential in England
than in the country which distinguished and named it; but it is
helpful even in England. Cairns, though an Irishman, was wholly
without it.

In the field of law, where passion has no place, and even imagination
must be content to move with clipped wings along the ground, the
merits of Lord Cairns's intellect showed to the best advantage. At the
Chancery bar he was one of a trio who had not been surpassed, if ever
equalled, during the nineteenth century, and whom none of our now
practising advocates rivals. The other two were Mr., afterwards Lord
Justice, Rolt, and Mr. Roundell Palmer, afterwards Lord Chancellor
Selborne. All were admirable lawyers, but, of the three, Rolt excelled
in his spirited presentation of a case and in the lively vigour of his
arguments. Palmer was conspicuous for exhaustless ingenuity, and for a
subtlety which sometimes led him away into reasonings too fine for the
court to follow. Cairns was broad, massive, convincing, with a robust
urgency of logic which seemed to grasp and fix you, so that while he
spoke you could fancy no conclusion possible save that toward which he
moved. His habit was to seize upon what he deemed the central and
vital point of the case, throwing the whole force of his argument upon
that one point, and holding the judge's mind fast to it.

All these famous men were raised to the judicial bench. Rolt remained
there for a few months only, so his time was too short to permit him
to enrich our jurisprudence and leave a memory of himself in the
Reports. Palmer sat in the House of Lords from his accession to the
Chancellorship in 1872 till his death in 1896, and, while fully
sustaining his reputation as a man of eminent legal capacity, was, on
the whole, less brilliant as a judge than he had been as an advocate,
because a tendency to over-refinement is more dangerous in the
judicial than in the forensic mind. He made an admirable Chancellor,
and showed himself more industrious and more zealous for law reform
than did Cairns. But Cairns was the greater judge, and became to the
generation which argued before him a model of judicial excellence. In
hearing a cause he was singularly patient, rarely interrupting
counsel, and then only to put some pertinent question. His figure was
so still, his countenance so impassive, that people sometimes doubted
whether he was really attending to all that was urged at the bar. But
when the time came for him to deliver judgment, which in the House of
Lords is done in the form of a speech addressed to the House in
moving or supporting a motion that is to become the judgment of the
tribunal, it was seen how fully he had apprehended the case in all its
bearings. His deliverances were never lengthy, but they were
exhaustive. They went straight to the vital principles on which the
question turned, stated these in the most luminous way, and applied
them with unerring exactitude to the particular facts. It is as a
storehouse of fundamental doctrines that his judgments are so
valuable. They disclose less knowledge of case-law than do those of
some other judges; but Cairns was not one of the men who love cases
for their own sake, and he never cared to draw upon, still less to
display, more learning than was needed for the matter in hand. It was
in the grasp of the principles involved, in the breadth of view which
enabled him to see these principles in their relation to one another,
in the precision of the logic which drew conclusions from the
principles, in the perfectly lucid language in which the principles
were expounded and applied, that his strength lay. Herein he surpassed
the most eminent of contemporary judges, the then Master of the Rolls,
for while Jessel had perhaps a quicker mind than Cairns, he had not so
wide a mind, nor one so thoroughly philosophical in the methods by
which it moved.

Outside the spheres of law and politics, Cairns's only interest was in
religion. He did not seem, although a good classical scholar and a
competent mathematician, to care either for letters or for science. But
he was a Sunday-school teacher nearly all his life. Prayer-meetings
were held at his house, at which barristers, not otherwise known for
their piety, but believed to desire county court judgeships, were
sometimes seen. He used to take the chair at missionary and other
philanthropic meetings. He was surrounded by evangelisers and
clergymen. But nothing softened the austerity or melted the ice of
his manners. Neither did the great position he had won seem to give a
higher and broader quality to his statesmanship. It is true that in
law he was wholly free from the partisanship which tinged his politics.
No one was more perfectly fair upon the bench; no one more honestly
anxious to arrive at a right decision. And as a law reformer, although
he effected less than might have been hoped from his abilities or
expected from the absolute sway which he exercised while Chancellor in
Lord Beaconsfield's Government from 1874 to 1880, he was free from
prejudice, and willing to sweep away antiquated rules or usages if they
seemed to block the channel of speedy justice. But in politics this
impartiality and elevation vanished even after he had risen so high
that he did not need to humour the passions or confirm the loyalty of
his own associates. He seemed to be not merely a party man, which an
English politician is forced to be, because if he stands outside
party he cannot effect anything, but a partisan--that is, a man
wholly devoted to his party, who sees everything through its eyes, and
argues every question in its interests. He gave the impression of
being either unwilling or unable to rise to a higher and more truly
national view, and sometimes condescended to arguments whose unsoundness
his penetrating intellect could hardly have failed to detect. His
professional tone had been blameless, but at the bar the path of
rectitude is plain and smooth, and a scrupulous mind finds fewer cases
of conscience present themselves in a year than in Parliament within a
month. Yet if in this respect Cairns failed to reach a level worthy of
his splendid intellect, the defect was due not to any selfish view of
his own interest, but rather to the narrowness of the groove into
which his mind had fallen, and to the atmosphere of Orange sentiment
in which he had grown up. As a politician he is already beginning to
be forgotten; but as a judge he will be held in honourable remembrance
as one of the five or six most brilliant luminaries that have
adorned the English bench since those remote days[29] in which the
beginning of legal memory is placed.


  [28] No biography of Lord Cairns has (so far as I know) appeared--a
       singular fact, considering the brilliancy of his career, and
       considering the tendency which now prevails to bestow this kind
       of honour on many persons of the second or even the third rank.
       One reason may be that Cairns, great though he was, never won
       personal popularity even with his own political party or among
       his contemporaries at the bar, and was to the general public no
       more than a famous name.

  [29] The reign of King Richard the First.


James Fraser, Bishop of Manchester from 1870 till 1885, was born in
Gloucestershire, of a Scottish family, in 1818, and died at Manchester
in 1885.[30] He took no prominent part in ecclesiastical politics, and
no part at all in general politics. Though a sound classical scholar
in the old-fashioned sense of the term--he won the Ireland University
Scholarship at Oxford, then and still the most conspicuous prize in
the field of classics--he was not an exceptionally cultivated man, and
he never wrote anything except official reports and episcopal charges.
Neither was he, although a ready and effective speaker, gifted with
the highest kind of eloquence. Neither was he a profound theologian.
Yet his character and career are of permanent interest, for he created
not merely a new episcopal type, but (one may almost say) a new
ecclesiastical type within the Church of England.

Till some sixty or seventy years ago the normal English bishop was a
rich, dignified, and rather easy-going magnate, aristocratic in his
tastes and habits, moderate in his theology, sometimes to the verge of
indifferentism, quite as much a man of the world as a pastor of souls.
He had usually obtained his preferment by his family connections, or
by some service rendered to the court or a political chief--perhaps
even by solicitation or intrigue. Now and then eminence in learning or
literature raised a man to the bench: there were, for instance, the
"Greek play" bishops, such as Dr. Monk of Gloucester, whose fame
rested on their editions of the Attic dramatists; and the _Quarterly
Review_ bishops, such as Dr. Copleston, of Llandaff, whose powerful
pen, as well as his wise administration of the great Oxford College
over which he long presided, amply justified his promotion. So even in
the eighteenth century the illustrious Butler had been Bishop of
Durham, as in Ireland the illustrious Berkeley had been Bishop of
Cloyne. But, on the whole, the bishops of our grandfathers' days were
more remarkable for their prudence and tact, their adroitness or
suppleness, than for intellectual or moral superiority to the rest of
the clergy. Their own upper-class world, and the middle class which,
in the main, took its view of English institutions from the upper
class, respected them as a part of the solid fabric of English
society, but they were a mark for Radical invective and for literary
sneers. Their luxurious pomp and ease were incessantly contrasted
with the simplicity of the apostles and the poverty of curates, and
the abundance among them of the gifts that befit the senate or the
drawing-room was compared with the rarity of the graces that adorn a
saint. The comparison was hardly fair, for saints are scarce, and a
good bishop needs some qualities which a saint may lack.

That revival within the Church of England which went on in various
forms from 1800 till 1870, at first Low Church or Evangelical in its
tendencies, latterly more conspicuously High Church and Ritualist,
began from below and worked upwards till at length it reached the
bishops. Lord Palmerston, influenced by Lord Shaftesbury, filled the
vacant sees that fell to him with earnest men, sometimes narrow,
sometimes deficient in learning, but often good preachers, and zealous
for the doctrines they held. When the High Churchmen found their way
to the Bench, as they did very largely under Lord Derby's and Mr.
Gladstone's rule, they showed as much theological zeal as the
Evangelicals, and perhaps more talent for administration. The popular
idea of what may be expected from a bishop rose, and the bishops rose
with the idea. As Bishop of Oxford, Dr. Samuel Wilberforce was among
the first to make himself powerfully felt through his diocese. His
example told upon other prelates, and prime ministers grew more
anxious to select energetic and popular men. So it came to pass that
the bishops began to be among the foremost men in the Church of
England. Some, like Dr. Magee of Peterborough, and afterwards of York,
were brilliant orators; some, like Dr. Lightfoot of Durham, profound
scholars; some, like Dr. Temple of Exeter, able and earnest
administrators. There remained but few who had not some good claim to
the dignity they enjoyed. So it may be said, when one compares the
later Victorian bishops with their Georgian predecessors, that no
class in the country has improved more. Few now sneer at them, for no
set of men take a more active and more creditable part in the public
business of the country. Their incomes, curtailed of late years in the
case of the richer sees, are no more than sufficient for the expenses
which fall upon them, and they work as hard as any other men for their
salaries. Though the larger sees have been divided, the reduction of
the toil of bishops thus effected has been less than the addition to
it due to the growth of population and the increased activity of the
clergy. The only defect which the censorious still impute to them is a
certain episcopal conventionality, a disposition to try to please
everybody by the use of vague professional language, a tendency to
think too much about the Church as a church establishment, and to
defer to clerical opinion when they ought to speak and act with an
independence born of their individual opinions. Some of them, as, for
instance, the three I have just mentioned, were not open to this
reproach. It was one of the merits and charms of Fraser that he was
absolutely free from any such tendency. Other men, such as Bishop
Lightfoot, have been not less eminent models of the virtues which
ought to characterise a great Christian pastor; but Fraser (appointed
some time before Lightfoot) was the first to be an absolutely
unconventional and, so to speak, unepiscopal bishop. His career marked
a new departure and set a new example.

Fraser spent the earlier years of his manhood in Oxford, as a tutor in
Oriel College, teaching Thucydides and Aristotle. Like many of his
Oxford contemporaries, he continued through life to think on
Aristotelian lines, and one could trace them in his sermons. He then
took in succession two college livings, both in quiet nooks in the
South of England, and discharged for nearly twenty years the simple
duties of a parish priest, unknown to the great world, but making
himself beloved by the people, and doing his best to improve their
condition. The zeal he had shown in promoting elementary education
caused him to be appointed (in 1865) by the Schools Inquiry
Commissioners to be their Assistant Commissioner to examine the
common-school system of the United States, and the excellence of his
report thereon attracted the notice of the late Lord Lyttelton, one
of those Commissioners who were then sitting to investigate the state
of secondary education in England. His report long remained by far the
best general picture of American schools, conspicuous for its breadth
of view, its clearness of statement, its sympathetic insight into
conditions unlike those he had known in England. On the recommendation
(as has been generally believed) of Lord Lyttelton and of the then
Bishop of Salisbury, who was a friend of Dr. Fraser's, Mr. Gladstone,
at that time Prime Minister, appointed him Bishop of Manchester in
1870. The diocese of Manchester, which included all Lancashire except
Liverpool and a small district in the extreme north of the county, had
been under a bishop who, although an able and learned man, capable of
making himself agreeable when he pleased, was personally unpopular,
and had done little beyond his formal duties. He lived in a large and
handsome country-house some miles from the city, and was known by
sight to very few of its inhabitants. (I was familiar with Lancashire
in those days, for I had visited all its grammar-schools as Assistant
Commissioner to the Commission just referred to, and there was hardly
a trace to be found in it of the bishop's action.) Fraser had not been
six months in the county before everything was changed. The country
mansion was sold, and he procured a modest house in one of the less
fashionable suburbs of the city. He preached twice every Sunday,
usually in some parish church, and spent the week in travelling up and
down his diocese, so that the days were few in which he was not on the
railway. He stretched out the hand of friendship to the Dissenters
(numerous and powerful in the manufacturing districts), who had
hitherto regarded a bishop as a sort of natural enemy, gained their
confidence, and soon became as popular with them as with the laity of
his own Church. He associated himself with all the works of
benevolence or public utility which were in progress, subscribed to
all so far as his means allowed, and was always ready to speak at a
meeting on behalf of any good enterprise. He dealt in his sermons with
the topics of the day, avoiding party politics, but speaking his mind
on all social and moral questions with a freedom which sometimes
involved him in passing difficulties, but stimulated the minds of his
hearers, and gave the impression of his own perfect candour and
perfect courage. He used to say that as he felt it his duty to speak
wherever he was asked to do so, he must needs speak without
preparation, and must therefore expect sometimes to get into hot
water; that this was a pity, but it was not his fault that he was
reported, and that it was better to run the risk of making mistakes
and suffering for them than to refuse out of self-regarding caution to
give the best of himself to the diocese. He had that true modesty
which makes a man willing to do a thing imperfectly, at the risk of
lowering his intellectual reputation. He knew that he was neither a
deep thinker nor a finished preacher, and was content to be what he
was, so long as he could perform the work which it was in him to do.
He lost no opportunity of meeting the working men, would go and talk
to them in the yards of the mills or at the evening gatherings of
mechanics' institutes; and when any misfortune befell, such as a
colliery accident, he was often among the first who reached the spot
to help the survivors and comfort the widows. He made no difference
between rich and poor, showed no wish to be a guest in the houses of
the great, and treated the poorest curate with as much courtesy as the
most pompous county magnate. His work in Lancashire seldom allowed him
to appear in the House of Lords; and this he regretted, not that he
desired to speak there, but because, as he said, "Whether or not
bishops do Parliament good, Parliament does bishops good."

Such a simple, earnest, active course of conduct told upon the
feelings of the people who read of his words and doings. But even
greater was the impression made by his personality upon those who saw
him. He was a tall, well-built man,[31] erect in figure, with a quick
eye, a firm step, a ruddy face, an expression of singular heartiness
and geniality. He seemed always cheerful, and, in spite of his endless
labours, always fresh and strong. His smile and the grasp of his hand
put you into good-humour with yourself and the world; if you were
dispirited, they led you out of shadow into sunlight. He was not a
great reader, and had no time for sustained and searching thought; yet
he seemed always abreast of what was passing in the world, and to know
what the books and articles and speeches of the day contained,
although he could not have found time to peruse them. With strong
opinions of his own, he was anxious to hear yours; a ready and eager
talker, yet a willing listener. His oratory was plain, with few
flights of rhetoric, but it was direct and vigorous, free from
conventional phrases, charged with clear good sense and genuine
feeling, and capable, when his feeling was exceptionally strong, of
rising to eloquence. He had a ready sense of humour, the best proof of
which was that he relished a joke against himself.[32] However, the
greatest charm, both of his public and private talk, was the
transparent sincerity and honesty that shone through it. His mind was
like a crystal pool of water in a mountain stream. You saw everything
that was in it, and saw nothing that was mean or unworthy. This
sincerity and freshness made his character not only manly, but lovable
and beautiful, beautiful in its tenderness, its loyalty to his
friends, its devotion to truth.

His conscientious anxiety to say nothing more than he thought was apt
to make him an embarrassing ally. It happened more than once that when
he came to speak at a public meeting on behalf of some enterprise, he
was not content, like most men, to set forth its merits and claims,
but went on to dwell upon possible drawbacks or dangers, so that the
more ardent friends of the scheme thought he was pouring cold water on
them, and called him a Balaam reversed. In a political assembly he
would have been an _enfant terrible_ whom his party would have feared
to put up to speak; but as people in the diocese got to know that this
was his way, they only smiled at his too ingenuous honesty. As he
spoke with no preparation, and was naturally impulsive, he now and
then spoke unadvisedly, and received a good deal of newspaper censure.
But he was never involved in real trouble by these speeches. As Dean
Stanley wrote to him, "You have a singular gift of going to the very
verge of imprudence and yet never crossing it."

No one will wonder that such a character, set in a conspicuous place,
and joined to extraordinary activity and zeal, should have produced an
immense effect on the people of his city and diocese. Since
Nonconformity arose in England in the seventeenth century, no bishop,
perhaps, indeed no man, whether cleric or layman, had done so much to
draw together people of different religious persuasions and help them
to realise their common Christianity. Densely populated South
Lancashire is practically one huge town, and he was its foremost
citizen; the most instant in all good works; the one whose words were
most sure to find attentive listeners. This was because he spoke, I
will not say as a layman, but simply as a Christian, never claiming
for himself any special authority in respect either of his sacerdotal
character or his official position. No English prelate before him had
been so welcome to all classes and sections; none was so much lamented
by the masses of the people. But it is a significant fact that he was
from first to last more popular with the laity than with the clergy.
Not that there was ever any slur on his orthodoxy. He began life as a
moderate High Churchman, and gradually verged, half unconsciously,
toward what would be called a Broad-Church position; maintaining the
claim of the Anglican Church to undertake, and her duty to hold
herself responsible for, the education of the people, and upholding
her status as an establishment, but dwelling little on minor points of
doctrinal difference, and seeming to care still less for external
observances or points of ritual. This displeased the Anglo-Catholic
party, and even among other sections of the clergy there was a kind of
feeling that the Bishop was not sufficiently clerical, did not set
full store by the sacerdotal side of his office, and did not think
enough about ecclesiastical questions.

He was, I think, the first bishop who greeted men of science as
fellow-workers for truth, and declared that Christianity had not, and
could not have, anything to fear from scientific inquiry. This has
often been said since, but in 1870 it was so novel that it drew from
Huxley a singularly warm and impressive recognition. He was one of the
first bishops to condemn the system of theological tests in the
English universities. He even declared that "it was an evil hour when
the Church thought herself obliged to add to or develop the simple
articles of the Apostles' Creed." These deliverances, which any one
can praise now, alarmed a large section of the Church of England then;
nor was the bishop's friendliness to Dissenters favourably regarded by
those who deny to Dissenting pastors the title of Christian

The gravest trouble of his life arose in connection with legal
proceedings which he felt bound to take in the case of a Ritualist
clergyman who had persisted in practices apparently illegal. Fraser,
though personally the most tolerant of men to those who differed from
his own theological views, felt bound to enforce the law, because it
was the law, and was at once assailed unjustly, as well as bitterly,
by those who sympathised with the offending clergyman, and who could
not, or would not, understand that a bishop, like other persons in an
official position, may hold it his absolute duty to carry out the
directions of the law whether or no he approves the law, and at
whatever cost to himself. These attacks were borne with patience and
dignity. He was never betrayed into recriminations, and could the more
easily preserve his calmness, because he felt no animosity.

A bishop may be a power outside his own religious community even in a
country where the clergy are separated as a caste from the lay
people. Such men as Dupanloup in France show that. So too he may be a
mighty moral and religious force outside his own religious community
in a country where there is no church established or endowed by the
State. The example of Dr. Phillips Brooks in the United States shows
that. But Dupanloup would have been eminent and influential had he not
been a clergyman at all; and Dr. Brooks was the most inspiring
preacher and the most potent leader of religious thought in America
long before, in the last years of his life, he reluctantly consented
to accept the episcopal office. Fraser, not so gifted by nature as
either of those men, would have had little chance of doing the work he
did save in a country where the existence of an ancient establishment
secures for one of its dignitaries a position of far-reaching
influence. When the gains and losses to a nation of the retention of a
church establishment are reckoned up, this may be set down among the

If the Church of England possessed more leaders like Tait, Fraser, and
Lightfoot--the statesman, the citizen, and the scholar--in the
characters and careers of all of whom one finds the common mark of a
catholic and pacific spirit, she would have no need to fear any
assaults of political foes, no temptation to ally herself with any
party, but might stand as an establishment until, after long years,
by the general wish of her own people, as well as of those who are
without, she passed peaceably into the position of being the first in
honour, numbers, and influence among a group of Christian communities,
all equally free from State control.

Fraser's example showed how much an attitude of unpretending
simplicity and friendliness to all sects and classes may do to
mitigate the jealousy and suspicion which still embitter the relations
of the different religious bodies in England, and which work for evil
even in its politics. He created, as Dean Stanley said, a new type of
episcopal excellence: and why should not originality be shown in the
conception and discharge of an office as well as in the sphere of pure
thought or of literary creation?


  [30] Two Lives of Dr. Fraser have been published, one (in 1887) by the
       late Judge Hughes, the other, which gives a fuller impression
       of his personal character, by the Rev. J. W. Diggle (1891).

  [31] He was a good judge of horses, and had in his youth been fond of

  [32] A clergyman of his diocese had once, under the greatest
       provocation, knocked down a person who had insulted him, and
       the bishop wrote him a letter of reproof pointing out (among
       other things) that, exposed as the Church of England was to
       much criticism on all hands, her ministers ought to be very
       careful in their demeanour. The offender replied by saying, "I
       must regretfully admit that being grossly insulted, and
       forgetting in the heat of the moment the critical position of
       the Church of England, I did knock the man down, etc." Fraser,
       delighted with this turning of the tables on himself, told me
       the anecdote with great glee, and invited the clergyman to stay
       with him not long afterwards.

  [33] He was himself aware that this caused displeasure. In his latest
       Charge, delivered some months before his death, he said: "I am
       charged, amongst other grievous sins, with that of thinking not
       unkindly, and speaking not unfavourably, of Dissenters. I don't
       profess to love dissent, but I have received innumerable
       kindnesses from Dissenters. Why should I abuse them? Why should
       I call them hard names? Remembering how Nonconformity was
       made--no doubt sometimes by self-will and pride and prejudice
       and ignorance, but far more often by the Church's supineness,
       neglect, and intolerance in days long since gone by, of which
       we have not yet paid the full penalty--though, as I have said,
       I love not the thing, I cannot speak harshly of it."

       That a defence was needed may seem strange to those who do not
       know England.


Sir Stafford Northcote (born 1818, died 1887) belonged to a type of
politician less common among us than it used to be, and likely to
become still more rare as England grows more democratic--the county
gentleman of old family and good estate, who receives and profits by a
classical education at one of the ancient universities, who is at an
early age returned to Parliament in respect of his social position in
his county, who has leisure to cultivate himself for statesmanship,
who has tastes and resources outside the sphere of politics.
Devonshire, whence he came, has preserved more of the old features of
English country life than the central and northern parts of England,
where manufactures and the growth of population have swept away the
venerable remains of feudalism. In Devonshire the old families are
still deeply respected by the people. They are so intermarried that
most of them have ties of kinship with all their neighbours. Few rich
parvenus have intruded among them; society is therefore exceptionally
easy, simple, and unostentatious. There is still a strong local
patriotism, which makes every Devonshire man, whatever his political
prepossessions, proud of other Devonshire men who rise to eminence,
and which exerts a wholesome influence on the tone of manners and
social intercourse. Northcote was a thorough Devonshire man, who loved
his county and knew its dialect: his Devonshire stories, told with the
strong accent he could assume, were the delight of any company that
could tempt him to repeat them. He was immensely popular in the
county, and had well earned his popularity by his pleasant neighbourly
ways, as well as by his attention to county business and to the duties
of a landowner.

He had the time-honoured training of the good old English type, was a
schoolboy at Eton, went thence to Oxford, won the highest distinctions
as a scholar, and laid the foundations of a remarkably wide knowledge
of modern as well as ancient literature. He served his apprenticeship
to statesmanship as private secretary to Mr. Gladstone, who was then
(1843) a member of Sir Robert Peel's Government. When the great schism
in the Tory party took place over the question of free trade in corn,
he was not yet in Parliament, and therefore was not driven to choose
between Peel and the Protectionists. In 1855, when he first entered
the House of Commons, that question was settled and gone, so there was
no inconsistency in his entering the Tory ranks although himself a
decided Free Trader. He was not a man who would have elbowed his way
upward. But elbows were not needed. His abilities, as well as his
industry and the confidence he inspired, speedily brought him to the
top. He was appointed Secretary to the Treasury in 1859, entered the
Cabinet in 1866, when a new Tory Ministry was formed under Lord Derby;
and when in 1876 Mr. Disraeli retired to the House of Lords, he
became, being then Chancellor of the Exchequer, leader of the majority
in the House of Commons, while Mr. Gathorne Hardy, the only other
person who had been thought of as suitable for that post, received a
peerage. Mr. Hardy was a more forcible and rousing speaker, but
Northcote had more varied accomplishments and a fuller mastery of
official work. Disraeli said that he had "the largest parliamentary
knowledge of any man he had met."

As an administrator, Sir Stafford Northcote was diligent, judicious,
and free from any taint of jobbery. He sought nothing for himself; did
not abuse his patronage; kept the public interests steadily before his
mind. He was considerate to his subordinates, and gracious to all
men. He never grudged labour, although there might be no prospect of
winning credit by it. Scrupulous in discharging his duties to his
party, he overtaxed his strength by speaking constantly at public
meetings in the country, a kind of work he must have disliked, and for
which he was ill fitted by the moderation of his views and of his
language. Parliament is not a good place for the pursuit of pure
truth, but the platform is still less favourable to that quest. It was
remarked of him that even in party gatherings, where invective against
political opponents is apt to be expected and relished, he argued
fairly, and never condescended to abuse.

As a Parliamentarian he had two eminent merits--immense knowledge
and admirable readiness. He had been all his life a keen observer
and a diligent student; and as his memory was retentive, all that he
had observed or read stood at his command. In questions of trade and
finance, questions which, owing, perhaps, to their increasing
intricacy, seem to be less and less frequently mastered by practical
politicians in England, he was especially strong. No other man on his
own side in politics spoke on such matters with equal authority, and
the brunt of the battle fell on him whenever they came up for
discussion. As he had now his old master for his chief antagonist, the
conflict was no easy one; but he never shrank from it. Not less
remarkable was his alertness in debate. His manner was indeed
somewhat ineffective, for it wanted both force and variety. Sentence
followed sentence in a smooth and easy stream, always clear, always
grammatically correct, but with a flow too equably unbroken. There
were few impressive phrases, few brilliant figures, few of those
appeals to passion with which it is necessary to warm and rouse a
large assembly. When the House grew excited at the close of a long
full-dress debate, and Sir Stafford rose in the small hours of the
morning to wind it up on behalf of his party, men felt that the
ripple of his sweet voice, the softness of his gentle manner, were not
what the occasion called for. But what he said was always to the
point and well worth hearing. No facts or arguments suddenly
thrown at him by opponents disconcerted him; for there was sure to
be an answer ready. However weak his own case might seem, his
ingenuity could be relied upon to strengthen it; however powerfully
the hostile case had been presented, he found weak places in it and
shook it down by a succession of well-planted criticisms, each
apparently small, but damaging when taken all together, because no
one of them could be dismissed as irrelevant.

It was interesting to watch him as he sat on the front bench, with his
hat set so low on his brow that it hid all the upper part of his face,
while the lower part was covered by a thick yellowish-brown beard,
perfectly motionless, rarely taking a note of what was said, and, to
all appearance, the most indifferent figure in the House. The only
sign of feeling which he gave was to be found in his habit of
thrusting each of his hands up the opposite sleeve of his coat when
Mr. Gladstone, the only assailant whom he needed to fear, burst upon
him in a hailstorm of declamation. But when he rose, one perceived
that nothing had escaped him. Every point which an antagonist had made
was taken up and dealt with; no point that could aid his own
contention was neglected; and the fluent grace with which his
discourse swept along, seldom aided by a reference to notes, was not
more surprising than the unfailing skill with which he shunned
dangerous ground, and put his propositions in a form which made it
difficult to contradict them. I remember to have heard a member of the
opposite party remark, that nothing was more difficult than to defend
your argument from Northcote, because he had the art of nibbling it
away, admitting a little in order to evade or overthrow the rest.

So much for his parliamentary aptitudes, which were fully recognised
before he rose to leadership. But as it was his leadership that has
given him a place in history, I may dwell for a little upon the way in
which he filled that most trying as well as most honourable post. He
led the House--that is to say, the Ministerial majority--for four
sessions (1877-1880), and the Tory Opposition for five and a half
sessions (1880 to middle of 1885). To lead the House of Commons a man
must have, over and above the qualities which make a good debater, an
unusual combination of talents. He must be both bold and cautious,
combative and cool. He must take, on his own responsibility, and on
the spur of the moment, decisions which commit the whole Ministry, and
yet, especially if he be not Prime Minister, he must consider how far
his colleagues will approve and implement his action. He must put
enough force and fire into his speeches to rouse his own ranks and
intimidate (if he can) his opponents, yet must have regard to the more
timorous spirits among his own supporters, going no further than he
feels they will follow, and must sometimes throw a crafty fly over
those in the Opposition whom he thinks wavering or disaffected. Under
the fire of debate, perhaps while composing the speech he has to make
in reply, he must consider not merely the audience before him but also
the effect his words will have when they are read next morning in cold
blood, and, it may be, the effect not only in England but abroad.
Being responsible for the whole conduct of parliamentary business, he
must keep a close watch upon every pending bill, and determine how
much of Government time shall be allotted to each, and in what order
they shall be taken, and how far the general feeling of the House will
let him go in seizing the hours usually reserved for private members,
and in granting or refusing opportunities for discussing topics he
would prefer to have not discussed at all.

So far as prudence, tact, and knowledge of business could enable him
to discharge these duties, Northcote discharged them admirably. It was
his good fortune to have behind him in Lord Beaconsfield, who had
recently gone to the House of Lords, a chief of the whole party who
trusted him, and with whom he was on the best terms. The immense
authority of that chief secured his own authority. His party was--as
the Tory party usually is--compact and loyal; and his majority ample,
so he had no reason to fear defeat. In the conflicts that arose over
Eastern affairs in 1877-79, affairs at some moments highly critical,
he was cautious and adroit, more cautious than Lord Beaconsfield,
sometimes repairing by moderate language the harm which the latter's
theatrical utterances had done. When a group of Irish Nationalist
members, among whom Mr. Parnell soon came to the front, began to evade
the rules and paralyse the action of the House by obstructive tactics,
he was less successful. Their ingenuity baffled the Ministry, and
brought the House into sore straits. But it may be doubted whether
any leader could have overcome the difficulties of the position. It
was a new position. The old rules framed under quite different
conditions were not fit to check members who, far from regarding the
sentiments of the House, avowed their purpose to reduce it to
impotence, and thereby obtain that Parliament of their own, which
could alone, as they held, cure the ills of Ireland.

After ten years of struggle and experiment, drastic remedies for
obstruction were at last devised; but in the then state of opinion
within the House, those remedies could not have been carried. Members
accustomed to the old state of things could not for a good while make
up their minds to sacrifice part of their own privileges in order to
deal with a difficulty the source of which they would not attempt to
cure. On the whole, therefore, though he was blamed at the time,
Northcote may be deemed to have passed creditably through his first
period of leadership.

It was when he had to lead his party in Opposition, after April 1880,
that his severest trial came. To lead the minority is usually easier
than to lead the majority. A leader of the Opposition also must, no
doubt, take swift decisions in the midst of a debate, must consider
how far he is pledging his party to a policy which they may be
required to maintain when next they come into power, must endeavour
to judge, often on scanty data, how many of his usual or nominal
supporters will follow him into the lobby when a division is called,
and how best he can draw off some votes from among his opponents.
Still, delicate as this work is, it is not so hard as that of the
leader of the Government, for it is rather critical than constructive,
and a mistake can seldom do irreparable mischief. Northcote, however,
had special difficulties to face. Mr. Gladstone, still full of energy
and fire, was leading the majority. After a few months Lord
Beaconsfield's mantle no longer covered Northcote (that redoubtable
strategist died in April 1881), and a small but active group of Tory
members set up an irregular skirmishing Opposition on their own
account, paying little heed to his moderate counsels. The Tory party
was then furious at its unexpected defeat at the election of 1880. It
was full of fight, burning for revenge, eager to denounce every
trifling error of the Ministry, and to give battle on small as well as
great occasions. Hence it resented the calm and cautiously critical
attitude which Northcote took up. He had plenty of courage; but he
thought, as indeed most impartial observers thought, that little was
to be gained by incessantly worrying an enemy so superior in force and
flushed with victory; that premature assaults might consolidate a
majority within which there existed elements of discord; and that it
was wiser to wait till the Ministry should begin to make mistakes and
incur misfortunes in the natural course of events, before resuming the
offensive against them. There is a natural tendency to reaction in
English popular opinion, and a tendency to murmur against whichever
party may be in power. This tendency must soon have told in favour of
the Tories, with little effort on their own part; and when it was
already manifest, a Parliamentary attack could have been delivered
with effect. Northcote's view and plan were probably right, but, being
too prone to yield to pressure, and finding his hand forced, he
allowed himself to be drawn by the clamour of his followers into
aggressive operations, which, nevertheless, himself not quite
approving them, he conducted in a half-hearted way. He had not Mr.
Gladstone's power of doing excellently what he hated to have to do.
And it must be admitted that from 1882 onwards, when troubles in
Ireland and oscillations in Egyptian policy had begun to shake the
credit of the Liberal Ministry, he showed less fire and pugnacity than
the needs of the time required from a party leader. In one thing the
young men, who, like Zulu warriors, wished to wash their spears, were
right and he was wrong. He conceived that frequent attacks and a
resort to obstructive tactics would damage the Opposition in the eyes
of the country. Experience has shown that parties do not greatly
suffer from the way they fight their Parliamentary battles. Few people
follow the proceedings closely enough to know when an Opposition
deserves blame for prolonging debate, or a Ministry for abuse of the
closure. So, too, in the United States it would seem that neither the
tyrannical action of a majority nor filibustering by a minority shocks
the nation.

Not only was Northcote's own temper pacific, but he was too sweetly
reasonable and too dispassionate to be a successful leader in
Opposition. He felt that he was never quite a party man. His mind was
almost too judicial, his courtesy too unfailing, his temper too
unruffled, his manner too unassuming. He did not inspire awe or fear.
Not only did he never seek to give pain, even where pain might have
been a wholesome discipline for pushing selfishness--he seemed
incapable of irritation, and bore with vexatious obstruction from some
members of the House, and mutinous attacks from others who belonged to
his own party, when a spirit less kindly and forgiving might have
better secured his own authority and the dignity of the assembly. He
proceeded on the assumption, an unsafe one, as he had too much reason
to know, that every one else was a gentleman like himself, penetrated
by the old traditions of the House of Commons.

While superior to the prejudices of the old-fashioned wing of his
party, he was too cautious and conscientious to join those who sought
to lead it into demagogic courses. So far as political opinions went,
he might, had fortune sent him into the world as the son of a Whig
family, have made an excellent Whig, removed as far from high Toryism
on the one hand as from Radicalism on the other. There was, therefore,
a certain incompatibility between the man and the position. Average
partisans felt that a leader so very reasonable was not in full
sympathy with them. Even his invincible optimism displeased them.
"Hang that fellow Northcote!" said one of them; "he's always seeing
blue sky." The militant partisans, whatever their opinions, desired a
pugnacious chief. That a leader should draw the enemy's fire does him
good with his followers, and makes them rally to him. But the fire of
his opponents was hardly ever directed against Northcote, even when
controversy was hottest. Had he possessed a more imperious will, he
might have overcome these difficulties, because his abilities and
experience were of the highest value to his party, and his character
stood so high that the mass of sensible Tories all over the country
might perhaps have rallied to him, if he had appealed to them against
the intrigues by which it was sought to supplant him. He did not lack
courage. But he lacked what men call "backbone." For practical
success, it is less fatal to fail in wisdom than to fail in
resolution. He had not that unquenchable self-confidence which I have
sought to describe in Disraeli, and shall have to describe in Parnell
and in Gladstone. He yielded to pressure, and people came to know that
he would yield to pressure.

The end of it was that the weakened prestige and final fall of the
Liberal Ministry were not credited to his generalship, but rather to
those who had skirmished in advance of the main army. That fall was in
reality due neither to him nor to them, but partly to the errors or
internal divisions of the Ministry itself, partly to causes such as
the condition of Ireland and the revolt of Arabi in Egypt, for which
Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet was no more, perhaps less, to blame than many
of its predecessors. No Ministry of recent years seemed, when it was
formed, to have such a source of strength in the abilities of the men
who composed it as did the Ministry of 1880. None proved so
persistently unlucky.

The circumstances under which Northcote's leadership came to an end by
his elevation to the Upper House (June 1885) as Earl of Iddesleigh, as
well as those under which he was subsequently (1887) removed from the
post of Foreign Secretary in the then Tory Ministry, evoked much
comment at the time, but some of the incidents attending them have not
yet been disclosed, and they could not be discussed without bringing
in other persons with whom I am not here concerned. Conscious of his
own loyalty to his party, and remembering his long and laborious
services, he felt those circumstances deeply; and they may have
hastened his death, which came very suddenly in February 1887, and
called forth a burst of sympathy such as had not been seen since Peel
perished by an accident nearly forty years before.

In private life Northcote had the charm of unpretending manners,
coupled with abundant humour, a store of anecdote, and a geniality
which came straight from the heart. No man was a more agreeable
companion. In 1884, when the University of Edinburgh celebrated its
tercentenary, he happened to be Lord Rector, and in that capacity had
to preside over the festivities. Although a stranger to Scotland, and
as far removed (for he was a decided High Churchman) from sympathy
with Scottish Presbyterianism as he was removed in politics from the
Liberalism then dominant in Edinburgh, he won golden opinions from the
Scotch, as well as from the crowd of foreign visitors, by the tact and
grace he showed in the discharge of his duties, and the skill with
which, putting off the politician, he entered into the spirit of the
occasion as a lover of letters and learning. Though political eminence
had secured his election to the office, every one felt that it would
have been hard to find in the ranks of literature and science any one
fitter to preside over such a gathering.

He left behind few in whom the capacities of the administrator were so
happily blended with a philosophic judgment and a wide culture. It is
a combination which was inadequately appreciated in his own person.
Vehemence in controversy, domineering audacity of purpose, the power
of moving crowds by incisive harangues, were the qualities which the
younger generation seemed disposed to cultivate. They are qualities
apt to be valued in times of strife and change, times when men are
less concerned to study and apply principles than to rouse the
passions and consolidate the organisation of their party, while
dazzling the nation by large promises or bold strokes of policy. For
such courses Northcote was not the man. Were it to be observed of him
that he was too good for the work he had to do, it might be answered
that political leadership is work for which no man can be too good,
and that it was rather because his force of will and his combativeness
were not commensurate with his other gifts, that those other gifts did
not have their full effect and win their due success. Yet this at
least may be said, that if he had been less amiable, less fair-minded,
and less open-minded, he would have retained his leadership to the


  [34] A _Life of Lord Iddesleigh_, written by Mr. Andrew Lang,
       presents Northcote's character and career with fairness and


Though I do not propose to write even the briefest narrative of
Parnell's life, but only to note certain salient features of his
intellect and character, it may be well to state a few facts and
dates; for in these days of rapid change and hasty reading, facts soon
pass out of most men's memories, leaving only vague impressions

He belonged to a family which, established at Congleton in Cheshire,
had at the time of the Restoration migrated to Ireland, had settled on
an estate in Wicklow, and had produced in every subsequent generation
a person of distinction. Thomas Parnell, the friend of Pope and Swift,
is still remembered by his poem of _The Hermit_. Another Parnell (Sir
John) was Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer in the days of Henry
Grattan, whose opinions he shared. Another (Sir Henry) was a leading
Irish Liberal member of the House of Commons, and died by his own hand
in 1842. Charles's father and grandfather figured less in the public
eye. But his mother was a remarkable woman, and the daughter of a
remarkable man, Commodore Charles Stewart, one of the most brilliant
naval commanders on the American side in the war of 1812. Stewart was
the son of a Scoto-Irishman from Ulster, who had emigrated to America
in the middle of the eighteenth century; so there was a strain of
Scottish as well as a fuller strain of English blood in the most
powerful Irish leader of recent times.

Parnell was born at Avondale, the family estate in Wicklow, in 1846,
and was educated mostly at private schools in England. He spent some
months at Magdalene College, Cambridge, but, having been rusticated
for an affray in the street, refused to return to the College, and
finished his education for himself at home. It was a very imperfect
education. He cared nothing for study, and indeed showed interest only
in mathematics and cricket. In 1874 he stood as a candidate for
Parliament, but without success. When he had to make a speech he broke
down utterly. In 1875 he was returned as member for the county of
Meath, and within two years had made his mark in the House of Commons.
In 1880 he was elected leader of the Irish Parliamentary party, and
ruled it and his followers in Ireland with a rod of iron until he was
deposed, in 1890, at the instance of the leaders of the English
Liberal party, who thought that the verdict against him in a divorce
suit in which he was co-respondent had fatally discredited him in the
eyes of the bulk of the English Liberal party, and made co-operation
with him impossible. Refusing to resign his leadership, he conducted a
campaign in Ireland against the majority of his former followers with
extraordinary energy till November 1891, when he died of rheumatic
fever after a short illness. A constitution which had never been
strong was worn out by the ceaseless exertions and mental tension of
the last twelve months.

The whole of his political activity was comprised within a period of
sixteen years, during ten of which he led the Irish Nationalist party,
exercising an authority more absolute than any Irish leader had
exercised before.

It has often been observed that he was not Irish, and that he led the
Irish people with success just because he did not share their
characteristic weaknesses. But it is equally true that he was not
English. One always felt the difference between his temperament and
that of the normal Englishman. The same remark applies to some other
famous Irish leaders. Wolfe Tone, for instance, and Fitzgibbon
(afterwards Lord Clare) were unlike the usual type of Irishman--that
is, the Irishman in whom the Celtic element predominates; but they
were also unlike Englishmen. The Anglo-Irish Protestants, a strong
race who have produced a number of remarkable men in excess of the
proportion they bear to the whole population of the United Kingdom,
fall into two classes--the men of North-Eastern Ulster, in whom there
is so large an infusion of Scottish blood that they may almost be
called "Scotchmen with a difference," and the men of Leinster and
Munster, who are true Anglo-Celts. It was to this latter class that
Parnell belonged. They are a group by themselves, in whom some of the
fire and impulsiveness of the Celt has been blended with some of the
firmness, the tenacity, and the close hold upon facts which belong to
the Englishman. Mr. Parnell, however, though he might be reckoned to
the Anglo-Irish type, was not a normal specimen of it. He was a man
whom you could not refer to any category, peculiar both in his
intellect and in his character generally.

His intellect was eminently practical. He did not love speculation or
the pursuit of abstract truth, nor had he a taste for literature,
still less a delight in learning for its own sake. Even of the annals
of Ireland his knowledge was most slender. He had no grasp of
constitutional questions, and was not able to give any help in the
construction of a Home Rule scheme in 1886. His general reading had
been scanty, and his speeches show no acquaintance either with
history, beyond the commonest facts, or with any other subject
connected with politics. Very rarely did they contain a maxim or
reflection of general applicability, apart from the particular topic
he was discussing. Nor did he ever attempt to give to them the charm
of literary ornament. All was dry, direct, and practical, without so
much as a graceful phrase or a choice epithet. Sometimes, when
addressing a great public meeting, he would seek to rouse the audience
by vehement language; but though there might be a glow of suppressed
passion, there were no flashes of imaginative light. Yet he never gave
the impression of an uneducated man. His language, though it lacked
distinction, was clear and grammatical. His taste was correct. It was
merely that he did not care for any of those things which men of
ability comparable to his usually do care for. His only interests,
outside politics, lay in mechanics and engineering and in the
development of the material resources of his country. He took pains to
manage his estate well, and was specially anxious to make something
out of his stone quarries, and to learn what could be done in the way
of finding and working minerals.

Those who observed that he was almost always occupied in examining and
attacking the measures or the conduct of those who governed Ireland
were apt to think his talent a purely critical one. They were
mistaken. Critical, indeed, it was, in a remarkable degree; keen,
penetrating, stringently dissective of the arguments of an opponent,
ingenious in taking advantage of a false step in administration or of
an admission imprudently made in debate. But it had also a positive
and constructive quality. From time to time he would drop his negative
attitude and sketch out plans of legislation which were always
consistent and weighty, though not made attractive by any touch of
imagination. They were the schemes not so much of a statesman as of an
able man of business, who saw the facts, especially the financial
facts, in a sharp, cold light, and they seldom went beyond what the
facts could be made to prove. And his ideas struck one as being not
only forcible but independent, the fruit of his own musings. Although
he freely used the help of others in collecting facts or opinions, he
did not seem to be borrowing the ideas, but rather to have looked at
things for himself, and seen them as they actually were, in their true
perspective, not (like many Irishmen) through the mists of sentiment
or party feeling. The impression made by one of his more elaborate
speeches might be compared to that which one receives from a grey
sunless day with an east wind, a day in which everything shows clear,
but also hard and cold.

To call his mind a narrow one, as people sometimes did, was to wrong
it. If the range of his interests was limited, his intelligence was
not. Equal to any task it undertook, it judged soundly, appreciating
the whole phenomena of the case, men and things that had no sort of
attraction for it. There was less pleasure in watching its activities
than the observation of a superior mind generally affords, for it was
always directed to immediate aims, and it wanted the originality which
is fertile in ideas and analogies. It was not discursive, not
versatile, not apt to generalise. It did not rejoice in the exercise
of thought for thought's sake, but felt itself to be merely a useful
instrument for performing the definite practical work which the will
required of it.

If, however, the intellect of the man could not be called interesting,
his character had at least this interest, that it gave one many
problems to solve, and could not easily be covered by any formulæ. An
observer who followed the old method of explaining every man by
ascribing to him a single ruling passion, would have said that his
ruling passion was pride. The pride was so strong that it almost
extinguished vanity. Parnell did not appear to seek occasions for
display, frequently neglecting those which other men would have
chosen, seldom seeming to be elated by the applause of crowds, and
treating the House of Commons with equal coolness whether it cheered
him or howled at him. He cared nothing for any social compliments or
attentions, rarely accepted an invitation to dinner, dressed with
little care and often in clothes whose style and colour seemed
unworthy of his position. He was believed to be haughty and distant to
his followers; and although he could occasionally be kindly and even
genial, scarcely any were admitted to intimacy, and few of the
ordinary signs of familiarity could be observed between him and them.
Towards other persons he was sufficiently polite but warily reserved,
showing no desire for the cultivation of friendship, or, indeed, for
any relations but those of business. Of some ordinary social duties,
such as opening and answering letters, he was, especially in later
years, more neglectful than good breeding permits; and men doubted
whether to ascribe this fault to indolence or to a superb disregard of
everybody but himself. Such disregard he often showed in greater
matters, taking no notice of attacks made upon him which he might have
refuted, and intimating to the English his indifference to their
praise or blame. On one remarkable occasion, at the beginning of the
session of 1883, he was denounced by Mr. W. E. Forster in a long and
bitter speech, which told powerfully upon the House. Many instances
were given in which Irish members had palliated or failed to condemn
criminal acts, and Parnell was arraigned as the head and front of this
line of conduct, and thus virtually responsible for the outrages that
had occurred. The Irish leader, who had listened in impassive silence,
broken only by one interjected contradiction, to this fierce
invective, did not rise to reply, and was with difficulty induced by
his followers to deliver his defence on the following day. To the
astonishment of every one, that defence consisted in a declaration,
delivered in a cold, careless, almost scornful way, that for all he
said or did in Ireland he held himself responsible to his countrymen
only, and did not in the least regard what Englishmen thought of him.
It was an answer not of defence but of defiance.

Even to his countrymen he could on occasion be disdainful, expecting
them to defer to his own judgment of his own course. He would
sometimes remain away from Parliament for weeks together, although
important business might be under consideration, perhaps would vanish
altogether from public ken. Yet this lordly attitude and the air of
mystery which surrounded him did not seem to be studied with a view to
effect. They were due to his habit of thinking first and chiefly of
himself. If he desired to indulge his inclinations, he indulged them.
Some extremely strong motive of passion or interest might interpose
to restrain this desire and stimulate him to an unwelcome exertion;
but no respect for the opinion of others, nor fear of censure from his
allies or friends, would be allowed to do so.

This boundless self-confidence and independence greatly contributed to
his success as a leader. His faith in his star inspired a conviction
that obstacles whose reality his judgment recognised would ultimately
yield to his will, and gave him in moments of crisis an undismayed
fortitude which only once forsook him--in the panic which was suddenly
created by the Phoenix Park murders of May 1882. The confidence which
he felt, or appeared to feel, reacted upon his party, and became a
chief ground of their obedience to him and their belief in his
superior wisdom. His calmness, his tenacity, his patience, his habit
of listening quietly to every one, but deciding for himself, were all
evidences of that resolute will which imposed itself upon the Irish
masses no less than upon his Parliamentary following, and secured for
him a loyalty in which there was little or nothing of personal

In these several respects his overweening pride was a source of
strength. In another direction, however, it proved a source of
weakness. There are men in whom the want of moral principle, of noble
emotions, or of a scrupulous conscience and nice sense of honour, is
partly replaced by deference to the opinion of their class or of the
world. Such men may hold through life a tolerably upright course,
neither from the love of virtue nor because they are ambitious and
anxious to stand well with those whom they aspire to influence or
rule, but because, having a sense of personal dignity, combined with a
perception of what pleases or offends mankind, they are resolved to do
nothing whereby their good name can be tarnished or an opening given
to malicious tongues. But when pride towers to such a height as to
become a law to itself, disregarding the judgment of others, it may
not only lead its possessor into an attitude of defiance which the
world resents, but may make him stoop to acts of turpitude which
discredit his character. Mr. Parnell was certainly not a scrupulous
man. Without dwelling upon the circumstances attending the divorce
case already referred to, or upon his betrayal of Mr. Gladstone's
confidences, and his reckless appeals during the last year of his life
to the most inflammable elements in Ireland, there are facts enough in
his earlier career to show that he had little regard for truth and
little horror for crime. A revolution may extenuate some sins, but
even in a revolution there are men (and sometimes the strongest men)
whose moral excellence shines through the smoke of conflict and the
mists of detraction. In Mr. Parnell's nature the moral element was
imperfectly developed. He seemed cynical and callous; and it was
probably his haughty self-reliance which prevented him from
sufficiently deferring to the ordinary moralities of mankind. His
pride, which ought to have kept him free from the suspicion of
dishonour, made him feel himself dispensed from the usual restraints.
Whatever he did was right in his own eyes, and no other eyes need be
regarded. Phenomena somewhat similar were observable in Napoleon. But
Napoleon, though he came of a good family, was obviously not a
gentleman in the common sense of the term. Mr. Parnell was a gentleman
in that sense. He had the bearing, the manners, the natural easy
dignity of a man of birth who has always moved in good society. He
rarely permitted any one to take liberties with him, even the innocent
liberties of familiar intercourse. This made his departures from what
may be called the inner and higher standard of gentlemanly conduct all
the more remarkable.

He has been accused of a want of physical courage. He did no doubt
after the Phoenix Park murders ask the authorities in England for
police protection, being, not unnaturally, in fear for his life; and
he habitually carried firearms. He was at times in danger, and there
was every reason why he should be prepared to defend himself. An
anecdote was told of another member of the House of Commons whose
initials were the same as his own, and who, taking what he supposed to
be his own overcoat from the peg on which it hung in the cloakroom of
the House, was startled when he put his hand into the pocket to feel
in it the cold iron of a pistol. Moral courage he showed in a high
degree during his whole public career, facing his antagonists with an
unshaken front, even when they were most numerous and bitter. Though
he intensely disliked imprisonment, the terms on which he came out of
Kilmainham Gaol left no discredit upon him. He behaved with perfect
dignity under the attacks of the press in 1887, and in the face of the
use made of letters attributed to him which turned out to have been
forged by Richard Pigott--letters which the bulk of the English upper
classes had greedily swallowed. With this courage and dignity there
was, however, little trace of magnanimity. He seldom said a generous
word, or showed himself responsive to such a word spoken by another.
Accustomed to conceal his feelings, except in his most excited
moments, he rarely revealed, but he certainly cherished, vindictive
sentiments. He never forgave either Mr. W. E. Forster or Mr. Gladstone
for having imprisoned him in 1881;[36] and though he stood in some
awe of the latter, whom he considered the only really formidable
antagonist he had ever had to confront, he bore a grudge which
smouldered under the reconciliation of 1886 and leapt into flame in
the manifesto of November 1890.

The union in Mr. Parnell of intense passion with strenuous self-control
struck all who watched him closely, though it was seldom that passion
so far escaped as to make the contrast visibly dramatic. Usually he was
cold, grave, deliberate, repelling advances with a sort of icy
courtesy. He hardly ever lost his temper in the House of Commons,
even in his last session under the sarcasms of his former friends,
though the low, almost hissing tones of his voice sometimes betrayed an
internal struggle. But during the electoral campaign in Kilkenny, in
December 1890, when he was fighting for his life, he was more than
once so swept away by anger that those beside him had to hold him
back from jumping off the platform into the crowd to strike down some
one who had interrupted him. Suspended for a moment, his mastery of
himself quickly returned. Men were astonished to observe how, after
some of the stormy passages at the meetings of Irish members held in
one of the House of Commons committee-rooms in December 1890, he
would address quietly, perhaps lay his hand upon the shoulder of, some
one of the colleagues who had just been denouncing him, and on whom
he had poured all the vitriol of his fierce tongue. As this could
not have been good-nature, it must have been either calculated
policy or a pride that would not accept an injury from those whom he
had been wont to deem his subjects. Spontaneous kindliness was never
ascribed to him; nor had he, so far as could be known, a single intimate

Oratory is the usual avenue to leadership in a democratic movement,
and Mr. Parnell is one of the very few who have arrived at power
neither by that road nor by military success. So far from having by
nature any of the gifts or graces of a popular speaker, he was at
first conspicuously deficient in them, and became at last effective
only by constant practice, and by an intellectual force which asserted
itself through commonplaceness of language and a monotonous delivery.
Fluency was wanting, and even moderate ease was acquired only after
four or five years' practice. His voice was neither powerful nor
delicate in its modulations, but it was clear, and the enunciation
deliberate and distinct, quiet when the matter was ordinary, slow and
emphatic when an important point arrived. With very little action of
the body, there was often an interesting and obviously unstudied
display of facial expression. So far from glittering with the florid
rhetoric supposed to characterise Irish eloquence, his speeches were
singularly plain, bare, and dry. Neither had they any humour. If they
ever raised a smile, which seldom happened, it was by some touch of
sarcasm or adroit thrust at a point left unguarded by an adversary.
Their merit lay in their lucidity, in their aptness to the matter in
hand, in the strong practical sense which ran through them, coupled
with the feeling that they came from one who led a nation, and whose
forecasts had often fulfilled themselves. They were carefully
prepared, and usually made from pretty full notes; but the preparation
had been given rather to the matter and the arrangement than to the
diction, which had rarely any ornament or literary finish. Of late
years he spoke infrequently, whether from indolence or from weak
health, or because he thought little was to be done in the face of a
hostile majority, now that the tactics of obstruction had been
abandoned. When he interposed without preparation in a debate which
had arisen unexpectedly, he was short, pithy, and direct; indeed,
nothing was more characteristic of Parnell than his talent for hitting
the nail on the head, a talent which always commands attention in
deliberative assemblies. No one saw more clearly or conveyed in terser
language the course which the circumstances of the moment required;
and as his mastery of parliamentary procedure and practice came next
to that of Mr. Gladstone, any advice that he gave to the House on a
point of order carried weight. It would indeed be no exaggeration to
say that during the sessions of 1889 and 1890 he was distinctly the
second man in the House of Commons, surpassed in debating power by
five or six others, but inferior to Mr. Gladstone alone in the
interest which his speeches excited and in the impression they
produced. Along with this access of influence his attitude and the
spirit of his policy appeared to rise and widen. There was less of
that hard attorneyism which had marked his criticisms of the Tory
Government and their measures up to March 1880, and of the Liberal
Government and their measures during the five following years. He
seemed to grow more and more to the full stature of a statesman, with
constructive views and a willingness to make the best of the facts as
he found them. Yet even in this later and better time one note of
greatness was absent from his speeches. There was nothing genial or
generous or elevated about them. They never soared into an atmosphere
of lofty feeling, worthy of the man who was by this time deemed to be
leading his nation to victory, and who had begun to be admired and
honoured by one of the two great historic English parties.

Parnell was not only versed in the rules of parliamentary procedure,
but also a consummate master of parliamentary tactics. Soon after he
entered the House of Commons he detected its weak point, and perfected
a system of obstruction which so destroyed the efficiency of its
time-honoured modes of doing business that new sets of rules, each
more stringent than the preceding, had to be devised between 1878 and
1888. The skill with which he handled his small but well-disciplined
battalion was admirable. He was strict with individuals, requiring
absolute obedience to the party rules, but ready to gratify any
prevailing current of feeling when he saw that this could be done
without harm to the cause. More than once, when English members who
happened to be acting with him on some particular question pressed him
to keep his men quiet and let a division be taken at once, he answered
that they were doubtless right in thinking that the moment for
securing a good division had arrived, but that he must not muzzle his
followers when they wanted to have their fling. The best proof of the
tact with which he ruled a section comprising many men of brilliant
talents lies in the fact that there was no serious revolt, or movement
towards revolt, against him until the breach of 1890 between himself
and the Liberal party had led to the belief that his continued
leadership would mean defeat at the polls in Great Britain, and the
postponement, perhaps for many years, of Home Rule for Ireland.

Parnell's political views and tendencies were eagerly canvassed by
those who had studied him closely. Many, among both Englishmen and
Irishmen, held that he was at heart a Conservative, valuing strong
government and attached to the rights of property. They predicted that
if an Irish Parliament had been established, as proposed by Mr.
Gladstone in 1886, and an Irish cabinet formed to administer the
affairs of the island, Parnell would have been the inevitable and
somewhat despotic leader of the party of authority and order. His
co-operation with the agrarian agitators from 1879 onwards was in this
view merely a politic expedient to gain support for the Home Rule
campaign. For this theory there is much to be said. Though he came to
lead a revolution, and was willing, as appeared in the last few months
of his life, to appeal to the genuine revolutionary party, Parnell was
not by temper or conviction a revolutionist. Those who were left in
Ireland of the old Fenian group, and especially that section of the
extreme Fenians out of which the secret insurrectionary and dynamitard
societies were formed, never liked or trusted him. The passion which
originally carried him into public life was hatred of England, and a
wish to restore to Ireland, if possible her national independence
(though he rarely if ever avowed this), or at least her own
Parliament. But he was no democratic leveller, and still less
inclined to those socialistic doctrines which the section influenced
by Mr. Davitt had espoused. He did not desire the "extinction of
landlordism," and would probably have been a restraining and
moderating force in an Irish legislature. That he was genuinely
attached to his native country need not be doubted. But his patriotism
had little of a sentimental quality, and seemed to spring as much from
dislike of England as from love of Ireland.

It may excite surprise that a man such as has been sketched, with so
cool a judgment and so complete a self-control, a man (as his previous
career had shown) able to endure temporary reverses in the confidence
of ultimate success, should have committed the fatal error, which
blasted his fame and shortened his life, of clinging to the headship
of his party when prudence prescribed retirement. When he sought the
advice of Mr. Cecil Rhodes, retirement for a time was the counsel he
received. His absence need not have been of long duration. Had he,
after the sentence of the Divorce Court in November 1890, gone abroad
for eight or ten months, allowing some one to be chosen in his place
chairman of the Irish party for the session, he might thereafter have
returned to the House of Commons, and would doubtless, after a short
lapse of time, have naturally recovered the leadership. No one else
could have resisted his claims. Unfortunately, the self-reliant pride
which had many a time stood him in good stead, made him refuse to bow
to the storm. Probably he could not understand the indignation which
the proceedings in the divorce case had awakened in England, being
morally somewhat callous, and knowing that his offence had been no
secret to many persons in the House of Commons. He had been accustomed
to despise English opinion, and had on former occasions suffered
little for doing so. He bitterly resented both Mr. Gladstone's letter
and the movement to depose him which it roused in his own party.
Having often before found defiant resolution lead to success, he
determined again to rely on the maxim which has beguiled so many to
ruin, just because it has so much truth in it--"_De l'audace, encore
de l'audace, toujours de l'audace._" The affront to his pride
disturbed the balance of his mind, and made him feel as if even a
temporary humiliation would destroy the prestige that had been won by
his haughty self-confidence. It was soon evident that he had
overestimated his power in Ireland, but when the schism began there
were many besides Lord Salisbury--many in Ireland as well as in
England--who predicted triumph for him. Nor must it be thought that it
was pure selfishness which made him resolve rather to break with the
English Liberals than allow the Nationalist bark to be steered by any
hands but his own. He was a fatalist, and had that confidence in his
star and his mission which is often characteristic of minds in which
superstition--for he was superstitious--and a certain morbid taint may
be discerned. There were others who believed that no one but himself
could hold the Irish party together and carry the Irish cause to
triumph. No wonder that this belief should have filled and perhaps
disordered his own brain.

The swiftness of his rise is a striking instance of the power which
intellectual concentration and a strenuous will can exert, for he had
no adventitious help from wealth or family connection or from the
reputation of having suffered for his country. _Ergo vivida vis animi
pervicit._ When he entered Parliament he was only thirty, with no
experience of affairs and no gift of speech; but the quality that was
in him of leading and ruling men, of taking the initiative, of seeing
and striking at the weak point of the enemy, and fearlessly facing the
brunt of an enemy's attack, made itself felt in a few months, and he
rose without effort to the first place. With some intellectual
limitations and some great faults, he will stand high in the long and
melancholy series of Irish leaders: less lofty than Grattan, less
romantic than Wolfe Tone, less attractive than O'Connell, less
brilliant than any of these three, yet entitled to be remembered as
one of the most remarkable characters that his country has produced in
her struggle of many centuries against the larger isle.


  [35] The _Life of Parnell_, by Mr. R. Barry O'Brien, has taken rank
       among the best biographies of the last half-century.

  [36] An anecdote was told at the time that when he found himself in
       the prison yard at Kilmainham, he said, in a sort of soliloquy,
       "I shall live yet to dance upon those two old men's graves."


Henry Edward Manning, Archbishop of Westminster and Cardinal of the
Holy Roman Church, was born in 1808, eight years after Cardinal
Newman, and died in 1892. He was one of the most notable figures of
his generation; and, indeed, in a sense, an unique figure, for he
contributed a new type to the already rich and various ecclesiastical
life of England. If he could scarcely be described as intellectually a
man of the first order, he held a considerable place in the history of
his time, having effected what greater men might perhaps have failed
to effect, for the race is not always to the swift, and time and
chance favoured Manning.

He was the son of wealthy parents, his father a City of London
merchant; was educated at Harrow and at Oxford, where he obtained high
classical honours and a Fellowship at Merton College; was ordained a
clergyman, and soon rose to be Archdeacon of Chichester; and, having
by degrees been led further and further from his original Low Church
position into the Tractarian movement, ultimately, at the age of
forty-three, went over to the Church of Rome. Having some time before
lost his wife, he was at once re-ordained a priest, was appointed
Archbishop of Westminster on Cardinal Wiseman's death in 1865, and
raised to the Cardinalate by Pope Pius IX. in 1875.

He was not a great thinker nor a man of wide learning. His writings
show no trace of originality, nor indeed any conspicuous philosophical
acuteness or logical power. So far as purely intellectual gifts are
concerned, he was not to be named with Cardinal Newman or with several
other of the ablest members of the English Tractarian party, such as
were the two metaphysicians W. G. Ward and Dalgairns, both of whom
passed over to Rome, or such as was Dean Church, an accomplished
historian, and a man of singularly beautiful character, who remained
an Anglican till his death in 1890. Nor, though he had won a high
reputation at his University, was Manning a leading spirit in the
famous "Oxford Movement." It was by his winning manners, his graceful
rhetoric, and his zealous discharge of clerical duties, rather than by
any commanding talents that he rose to eminence in the Church of
England. Neither had his character the same power either to attract or
to awe as that of Newman. Nobody in those days called him great, as
men called Newman. Nobody felt compelled to follow where he led. There
was not, either in his sermons or in his writings, or in his bodily
presence and conversation, anything which could be pronounced
majestic, or lofty, or profound. In short, he was not in the grand
style, either as a man or as a preacher, and wanted that note of
ethereal purity or passionate fervour which marks the two highest
forms of religious character.

Intelligent, however, skilful, versatile he was in the highest degree;
cultivated, too, with a knowledge of all that a highly educated man
ought to know; dexterous rather than forcible in theological
controversy; an admirable rhetorician, handling language with
something of that kind of art which Roman ecclesiastics most
cultivate, and in their possession of which the leading Tractarians
showed their affinity to Rome, an exact precision of phrase and a
subtle delicacy of suggestion. Newman had it in the fullest measure.
Dean Church had it, with less brilliance than Newman, but with no less
grace and dignity. Manning equalled neither of these, but we catch in
him the echo. He wrote abundantly and on many subjects, always with
cleverness and with the air of one who claimed to belong to the _âmes
d'élite_, yet his style never attained the higher kind of literary
merit. There was no imaginative richness about it, neither were there
the weight and penetration that come from sustained and vigorous
thinking. Similarly, with a certain parade of references to history
and to out-of-the-way writers, he gave scant evidence of solid
learning. He was an accomplished disputant in the sense of knowing
thoroughly the more obvious weaknesses of the Protestant (and
especially of the Anglican) position, and of being able to contrast
them effectively with the external completeness and formal symmetry of
the Roman system. But he never struck out a new or illuminative
thought; and he seldom ventured to face--one could indeed sometimes
mark him seeking to elude--a real difficulty.

What, then, was the secret of his great and long-sustained reputation
and influence? It lay in his power of dealing with men. For the work
of an ecclesiastical ruler he had three inestimable gifts--a resolute
will, captivating manners, and a tact equally acute and vigilant, by
which he seemed not only to read men's characters, but to discern the
most effective means of playing on their motives. To call him an
intriguer would be unjust, because the word, if it does not imply the
pursuit of some mean or selfish object, does generally connote a
resort to unworthy arts; and the Cardinal was neither dishonourable
nor selfish. But he had the talents which an intriguer needs, though
he used them in a spirit of absolute devotion to the interests of his
Church, and though he was too much of a gentleman to think that the
interests of the Church, which might justify a good deal, could be
made to justify any and every means. In conversation he had the art of
seeming to lay his mind alongside of yours, wishful to know what you
had to say, and prepared to listen respectfully to it, even though you
might be much younger and of no personal consequence. Yet you
sometimes felt, if your own power of observation had not been lulled
to sleep by the winning manner, that he was watching you, and
watching, in conformity to a settled habit, the effect upon you of
whatever he said. It was hard not to be flattered by this air of
kindly deference, and natural to admire the great man who condescended
without condescension, even though one might be secretly disappointed
at the want of freshness and insight in his conversation. Like his
famous contemporary, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, Manning was all things
to all men. He was possessed, no doubt, of far less wit and far less
natural eloquence than that brilliant but variable creature. But he
gave a more distinct impression of earnest and unquestioning loyalty
to the cause he had made his own.

In the government of his diocese, Manning showed himself a finished
ruler and manager of men, flexible in his power of adapting himself to
any character or society, yet inflexible when firmness was needed,
usually tactful if not always gentle in his methods, but tenacious in
his purposes, demanding rightfully from others the simplicity of life
and the untiring industry of which he set an example himself. Over
women his influence was still greater than over men, because women are
more susceptible to the charm of presence and address; nor could any
other ecclesiastic count so many conversions among ladies of high
station, his dignified carriage and ascetic face according admirably
with his sacerdotal rank and his life of strict observance. For some
years it was his habit to go to Rome early in Lent and remain till
after Easter. Promising subjects, who had doubts as to their
probabilities of salvation in the Anglican communion, used to be
invited to dinner to meet him, and they fell in swift succession
before his skilful presentation of the peace and bliss to be found
within the Roman fold.

In his public appearances, it was neither the solid substance of his
discourses nor the literary quality of their style that struck one,
but their judicious adaptation to the audience, and the grace with
which they were delivered. For this reason--originality being rarer
and therefore more precious in the pulpit, where well-worn themes have
to be handled, than on a platform, where the topic is one of the
moment--his addresses at public meetings were better than his sermons,
and won for him the reputation of a speaker whom it was well worth
while to secure at any social or philanthropic gathering. At the
Vatican OEcumenical Council of 1870 it was less by his speeches than
by his work in private among the assembled prelates that he served the
Infallibilist cause. Himself devoted, and, no doubt, honestly devoted,
to Ultramontane principles, he did not hesitate to do violence to
history and join in destroying what freedom the Church at large had
retained, in order to exalt the Chair of Peter to a position unheard
of even at Trent, not to say in the Middle Ages. His activity, his
assiduity, and his tireless powers of persuasion contributed largely
to the satisfaction at that Council of the wishes of Pius IX., who
presently rewarded him with the Cardinalate. But the opponents of the
new dogma, who were as superior in learning to the Infallibilists as
they proved inferior in numbers, carried back with them to Germany and
North America an undying distrust of the astute Englishman who had
shown more than a convert's proverbial eagerness for rushing to
extremes and forcing others to follow. I remember to have met some of
the anti-Infallibilist prelates returning to America in the autumn of
1870; and in our many talks on shipboard they spoke of the Archbishop
in terms no more measured than Nestorius may have used of St. Cyril
after the Council of Ephesus.

But Manning's powers shone forth most fully in the course he gave to
his policy as Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Roman
hierarchy in Britain. He had two difficulties to confront. One was the
suspicion of the old English Roman Catholic families, who distrusted
him as a recent recruit from Protestantism, a man brought up in ideas
unfamiliar to their conservative minds. The other was the aversion of
the ruling classes in England, and indeed of Englishmen generally, to
the pretensions of Rome an aversion which, among the Tories, sprang
from deep-seated historical associations, and among the Whigs drew
further strength from dislike to the reactionary tendencies of the
Popedom on the European continent, and especially its resistance to
the freedom and unity of Italy. In 1850 the creation by the Pope of a
Roman Catholic hierarchy in England, followed by Cardinal Wiseman's
letter dated from the Flaminian Gate, had evoked a burst of anti-papal
feeling which never quite subsided during Wiseman's lifetime. Both
these enmities Manning overcame. The old Catholic families rallied to
a prelate who supported with dignity and vigour the pretensions of
their church; while the suspicions of Protestants were largely, if not
universally, allayed when they noted the attitude of a patriotic
Englishman, zealous for the greatness of his country, which the
Archbishop assumed, as well as the heartiness with which he threw
himself into moral and philanthropic causes. Loyalty to Rome never
betrayed him into any apparent disloyalty to England. Too prudent to
avow sympathy with either political party, he seemed less opposed to
Liberalism than his predecessor had been or than most of the English
Catholics were. While, of course, at issue with the Liberal party upon
educational questions, he was believed to lean to Home Rule, and
maintained good relations with the Irish leaders. He joined those who
worked for the better protection of children and the repression of
vice, advocated total abstinence by precept and example, and did much
to promote it among the poorer Roman Catholic population. Discerning
the growing magnitude of what are called labour questions, he did not
recoil from proposals to limit by legislation the hours of toil, and
gladly exerted himself to settle differences between employers and
workmen, showing his own sympathy with the needs and hardships of the
latter. Thus he won a popularity with the London masses greater than
any prelate of the Established Church had enjoyed, while the middle
and upper classes noted with pleasure that, however Ultramontane in
his theology, he always spoke and wrote as an Englishman upon
non-theological subjects.

In this there was no playing of a part, for he sincerely cared about
temperance, the welfare of children, the advancement of the labouring
class, and the greatness of England. But there was also a sage
perception of the incidental service which his attitude in these
matters could render to his church; and he relished opportunities of
proving that a Catholic prelate could be not only a philanthropist but
also a patriot. He saw the value of the attitude, though he used it
honestly, and if he was not artful, he was full of art. Truth, for its
own sake, he neither loved nor sought, but, having once adopted
certain conclusions, doctrinal and practical, subordinated everything
else to them. Power he loved, yet not wholly for the pleasure which he
found in exerting it, but also because he knew that he was fit to use
it, and could use it, to promote the aims he cherished. To his church
he was devoted heart and soul; nor could any one have better served it
so far as England was concerned. No one in our time, hardly even
Cardinal Newman, has done so much to sap and remove the old Protestant
fears and jealousies of Rome, fears and jealousies which had descended
from days when they were less unreasonable than the liberality or
indifference of our times will allow. Truly the Roman Church is a
wonderful institution, fertile beyond any other, since in each
succeeding age she has given birth to new types of force suited to the
conditions she has to deal with. In Manning she developed a figure
full of a kind of charm and strength which could hardly have found due
scope within a Protestant body: a man who never obtruded a claim, yet
never yielded one; who was the loyal servant of a spiritual despotism,
yet apparently in sympathy with democratic ideas and movements;
equally welcome among the poorest Irish of his diocese and at the
gatherings of the great; ready to join in every good work with those
most opposed to his own doctrines, yet standing detached as the
austere and unbending representative of a world-embracing power.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Since these pages were written there has appeared a Life of Cardinal
Manning which, for the variety and interest of its contents, and for
the flood of light which it throws upon its subject, deserves to rank
among the best biographies in the English language. It reveals the
inner life of Manning, his high motives and his tortuous methods, his
piety and his aspirations, his occasional lapses from sincerity and
rectitude, with a fulness to which one can scarcely find a parallel.
As was remarked by Mr. Gladstone, who was so keenly interested in the
book that for months he could talk of little else, it leaves nothing
for the Day of Judgment.

It would be idle to deny that Manning's reputation did in some measure
suffer. Yet it must in fairness be remembered that an ordeal such as
that to which he has been thus subjected is seldom applied, and might,
if similarly applied, have lowered many another reputation. Cicero
has suffered in like manner. We should have thought more highly of
him, though I do not know that we should have liked him better, if his
letters had not survived to reveal weaknesses which other men, or
their biographers, were discreet enough to conceal.

I have not attempted to rewrite the preceding pages in the light of
Mr. Purcell's biography, for to do so would have extended them beyond
the limits of a sketch. I have, moreover, found that the disclosures
contained in the biography do not oblige me to darken the colours of
the sketch itself. Taken all in all, these intimate records of
Manning's life tend to confirm the view that, along with his love of
power and pre-eminence, along with his carelessness about historic
truth, along with the questionable methods he sometimes allowed
himself to use, there lay deep in his heart a genuine and unfailing
sympathy with many good causes, such as the cause of temperance, and a
real tenderness for the poor and for children. If he was far removed
from a saint, still less was he the mere worldly ecclesiastic, crafty
and ambitious, who has in all ages been a familiar and unlovely type
of character.


Edward Freeman was born at Harborne in South Staffordshire on 2nd
August 1823, and died at Alicante on 16th March 1892, in the course of
an archæological and historical journey to the east and south of
Spain, whither he had gone to see the sites of the early Carthaginian
settlements. His life was comparatively uneventful, as that of learned
men in our time usually is. He was educated at home and at a private
school till he went to Oxford at the age of eighteen. There he was
elected a scholar of Trinity College in 1841, took his degree (second
class in _literae humaniores_) in 1845, and was elected a fellow of
Trinity shortly afterwards. Marrying in 1847, he lost his fellowship,
and settled in 1848 in Gloucestershire, and at a later time went to
live in Monmouthshire, whence he migrated in 1860 to Somerleaze, a
pretty spot about a mile and a half to the north-west of Wells in
Somerset. Here he lived till 1884, when he was appointed (on the
recommendation of Mr. Gladstone) to the Regius Professorship of Modern
History at Oxford. Thenceforth he spent the winter and spring in the
University, returning for the long vacation to Somerleaze, a place he
dearly loved, not only in respect of the charm of the surrounding
scenery, but from its proximity to the beautiful churches of Wells and
to many places of historical interest. For the greater part of his
manhood his surroundings were those of a country gentleman, nor did he
ever reconcile himself to town life, for he loved the open sky, the
fields and hills, and all wild creatures, though he detested what are
called field sports, knew nothing of natural history, and had neither
taste nor talent for farming. As he began life with an income
sufficient to make a gainful profession unnecessary, he did not
prepare himself for any, but gave free scope from the first to his
taste for study and research. Thus the record of his life is, with the
exception of one or two incursions into the field of practical
politics, a record of his historical work and of the journeys he
undertook in connection with it.

History was the joy as well as the labour of his life. But the
conception he took of it was peculiar enough to deserve some remark.
The keynote of his character was the extraordinary warmth of his
interest in the persons, things, and places which he cared for, and the
scarcely less conspicuous indifference to matters which lay outside the
well-defined boundary line of his sympathies. If any branch of inquiry
seemed to him directly connected with history, he threw himself
heartily into it, and drew from it all it could be made to yield for his
purpose. About other subjects he would neither read nor talk, no
matter how completely they might for the time be filling the minds of
others. While an undergraduate, and influenced, like most of the abler
men among his Oxford contemporaries, by the Tractarian opinions and
sentiments then in their full force and freshness,[38] he became
interested in church architecture, discerned the value which
architecture has as a handmaid to historical research, set to work
to study mediæval buildings, and soon acquired a wonderfully full and
exact knowledge of the most remarkable churches and castles all over
England. He taught himself to sketch, not artistically, but
sufficiently well to record characteristic points, and by the end of
his life he had accumulated a collection of hundreds of drawings made
by himself of notable buildings in France, Germany, Italy, and
Dalmatia, as well as in the British Isles. Architecture was always
thenceforward to him the prime external record and interpreter of
history. But it was the only art in which he took the slightest
interest. He cared nothing for pictures or statuary; was believed to
have once only, when his friend J. R. Green dragged him thither,
visited a picture-gallery in the course of his numerous journeys; and
did not seem to perceive the significance which paintings have as
revealing the thoughts and social condition of the time which produced
them. Another branch of inquiry cognate to history which he prized
was comparative philology. With no great turn for the refinements of
classical scholarship, and indeed with some contempt for the practice
of Latin and Greek verse-making which used to absorb much of the time
and labour of undergraduates and their tutors at Oxford and Cambridge,
he was extremely fond of tracing words through different languages
so as to establish the relations of the peoples who spoke them, and,
indeed, used to argue that all teaching of languages ought to begin
with Grimm's law, and to base his advocacy of the retention of Greek
as a _sine qua non_ for an Arts degree in the University on the
importance of that law. But with this love for philology as an
instrument in the historian's hands, he took little pleasure in
languages simply as languages--that is to say, he did not care to
master, and was not apt at mastering, the grammar and idioms of a
tongue. French was the only foreign language he spoke with any
approach to ease, though he could read freely German, Italian, and
modern Greek, and on his tour in Greece made some vigorous speeches
to the people in their own tongue. He had learnt to pronounce Greek in
the modern fashion, which few Englishmen can do; but how much of his
classically phrased discourses did the crowds that acclaimed the
distinguished Philhellene understand? So too he was a keen and
well-trained archæologist, but only because archæology was to him a
priceless adjunct--one might almost say the most trustworthy source--of
the study of early history. As evidence of his accomplishments as an
antiquary I cannot do better than quote the words of a master of that
subject, who was also one of his oldest friends. Mr. George T. Clark

  He was an accurate observer, not only of the broad features of a
  country but of its ancient roads and earthworks, its prehistoric
  monuments, and its earlier and especially its ecclesiastical
  buildings. No man was better versed in the distinctive styles of
  Christian architecture, or had a better general knowledge of the
  earthworks from the study of which he might hope to correct or
  corroborate any written records, and by the aid of which he often
  infused life and reality into otherwise obscure narrations.... He
  visited every spot upon which the Conqueror is recorded to have
  set his foot, compared many of the strongholds of his followers
  with those they left behind them in Normandy, and studied the
  evidence of Domesday for their character and possessions. When
  writing upon Rufus he spent some time in examining the afforested
  district of the New Forest, and sought for traces of the villages
  and churches said to have been depopulated or destroyed. And for
  us archæologists he did more than this. When he attended a
  provincial congress and had listened to the description of some
  local antiquity, some mound, or divisional earthbank, or
  semi-Saxon church, he at once strove to show the general evidence
  to be deduced from them, and how it bore upon the boundaries or
  formation of some Celtic or Saxon province or diocese, if not upon
  the general history of the kingdom itself.... He thus did much to
  elevate the pursuits of the archæologist, and to show the relation
  they bore to the far superior labours of the historian.

  Freeman was always at his best when in the field. It was then that
  the full force of his personality came into play: his sturdy
  upright figure, sharp-cut features, flowing beard, well-modulated
  voice, clear enunciation, and fluent and incisive speech. None who
  have heard him hold forth from the steps of some churchyard cross,
  or from the top stone of some half-demolished cromlech, can ever
  cease to have a vivid recollection of both the orator and his

Freeman took endless pains to master the topography of any place he
had to deal with. When at work in his later years on Sicilian history
he visited, and he has minutely described, the site of nearly every
spot in that island where a battle or a siege took place in ancient
times, so that his volumes have become an elaborate historical
guide-book for the student or tourist.

But while he thus delighted in whatever bore upon history as he
conceived it, his conception was one which belonged to the eighteenth
century rather than to our own time. It was to him not only primarily
but almost exclusively a record of political events--that is to say,
of events in the sphere of war, diplomacy, and government. He
expressed this view with concise vigour in the well-known dictum,
"History is past politics, and politics is present history"; and
though his friends remonstrated with him against this view as far too
narrow, excluding from the sphere of history many of its deepest
sources of interest, he would never give way. That historians should
care as much (or more) for the religious or philosophical opinions of
an age, or for its ethical and social phenomena, or for the study of
its economic conditions, as for forms of government or battles and
sieges, seemed to him strange. He did not argue against the friends
who differed from him, for he was ready to believe that there must be
something true and valuable in the views of a man whom he respected;
but he could not be induced to devote his own labours to the
elucidation of these matters. He would say to Green, "You may bring in
all that social and religious kind of thing, Johnny, but I can't." So
when he went to deliver lectures in the United States, he delighted in
making new acquaintances there, and was interested in the Federal
system and in all institutions which he could trace to their English
originals, but did not care to see anything or hear anything about the
economic development or social life of the country.

The same predominant liking for the political element in history made
him indifferent to many kinds of literature. It may indeed be said
that literature, simply as literature, did not attract him. In his
later years, at any rate, he seldom read a book except for the sake of
the political or historical information it contained. Among the
writers whom he most disliked were Plato, Carlyle, and Ruskin, in no
one of whom could he see any merit. Plato, he said, was the only
author he had ever thrown to the other end of the room. Neither,
although very fond of the Greek and Roman classics generally, did he
seem to enjoy any of the Greek poets except Homer and Pindar and, to
some extent, Aristophanes. His liking for Pindar used to surprise us,
because Pindar is peculiarly the favourite poet of poetical minds; and
I suspect it was not so much the splendour of Pindar's style and the
wealth of his imagination that Freeman enjoyed, as rather the
profusion of historical and mythological references. He was impatient
with the Greek tragedians, and still more impatient with Virgil,
because (as he said) "Virgil cannot or will not say a thing simply."
Among English poets his preference was for the old heroic ballads,
such as the songs of Brunanburh and Maldon, and, among recent
writers, for Macaulay's _Lays_. The first thing he ever published
(1850) was a volume of verse, consisting mainly of ballads, some of
them very spirited, on events in Greek and Moorish history. It may be
doubted if he remembered a line of Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, or
Tennyson. He blamed Walter Scott for misrepresenting history in
_Ivanhoe_, but constantly read the rest of his stories, taking special
pleasure in _Peveril of the Peak_. He bestowed warm praise upon
_Romola_, on one occasion reading it through twice in a single
journey. Mrs. Gaskell's _Mary Barton_, Marryatt's _Peter Simple_,
Trollope's _The Warden_ and _Barchester Towers_, were amongst his
favourites. Among the moderns, Macaulay was his favourite prose
author, and he was wont to say that from Macaulay he had learned never
to be afraid of using the same word to describe the same thing, and
that no one was a better model to follow in the choice of pure
English. Limitations of taste are not uncommon among eminent men. What
was uncommon in Freeman was the perfect frankness with which he avowed
his aversions, and the absence of any pretence of caring for things
which he did not really care for. He was in this, as in all other
matters, a singularly simple and truthful man, never seeking to appear
different from what he was, and finding it hard to understand why
other people should not be equally simple and direct. This directness
made him express himself with an absence of reserve which often gave
offence. Positive and definite, with a strong broad logic which every
one could follow, he was a formidable controversialist even on
subjects outside history. A good specimen of his powers was given in
the argument against the cruelty of field sports which he carried on
with Anthony Trollope. His cause was not a popular one in England, but
he stated it so well as to carry off the honours of the fray.[39]

The restriction of his interest to a few topics--wide ones, to be
sure--seemed to increase the intensity of his devotion to those few;
and thus even the two chief practical interests he had in life
connected themselves with his conception of history. One was the
discharge of his duties as a magistrate in the local government of his
county. While he lived at Somerleaze he rarely missed Quarter
Sessions, speaking seldom, but valuing the opportunity of taking part
in the rule of the shire. The other was the politics of the time,
foreign politics even more than domestic. He was from an early age a
strong Liberal, throwing himself into every question which bore on the
Constitution, either in state or in church, for (as has been said)
topics of the social or economic kind lay rather out of his sphere.
When Mr. Gladstone launched his Irish Home Rule scheme in 1886,
Freeman espoused it warmly, and praised it for the very point which
drew most censure even from Liberals, the removal of the Irish members
from Parliament. He was intensely English and Teutonic, and wished the
Gael to be left to settle, or fight over, their own affairs in their
own island, as they had done eight centuries ago. Even the idea of
separating Ireland altogether from the English Crown would not have
alarmed him, for he did not thank Strongbow and Henry II. for having
invaded it; while, on the other hand, the plan of turning the United
Kingdom into a federation, giving to England, Scotland, Ireland, and
Wales each a local parliament of its own, with an imperial parliament
for common concerns, shocked all his historical instincts.

In 1859 he was on the point of coming forward as a parliamentary
candidate for the borough of Newport in Monmouthshire, and again at
the election of 1868 he actually did stand for one of the divisions of
Somerset, and showed in his platform speeches a remarkable gift of
eloquence, and occasionally, also, of humour, coupled with a want of
those minor arts which usually contribute more than eloquence does to
success in electioneering. I went round with him, along with his and
my friend Mr. Albert Dicey, and few are the candidates who get so much
pleasure out of a contest as Freeman did. He was a strenuous advocate
of disestablishment in Ireland, the question chiefly at issue in the
election of 1868, because he thought the Roman Catholic Church was of
right, and ought by law to be, the national Church there; but no less
decidedly opposed to disestablishment in England, where it would have
pained him to see the uprooting of a system entwined with the ideas
and events of the Middle Ages. In his later years he told me that if
the Liberal party took up the policy of disestablishment in Wales, he
did not know whether he could adhere to them, much as he desired to do

Similarly he disliked all schemes for drawing the colonies into closer
relations with the United Kingdom, and even seemed to wish that they
should sever themselves from it, as the United States had done. This
view sprang partly from his feeling that they were very recent
acquisitions, with which the old historic England had nothing to do,
partly also from the impression made on him by the analogy of the
Greek colonies. He held that the precedent of the Greek settlements
showed the true and proper relation between a "metropolis," or
mother-city, and her colonies to be one not of political dependence or
interdependence, but of cordial friendliness and a disposition to
render help, nothing more. These instances are worth citing because
they illustrate a remarkable difference between his way of looking
historically at institutions and Macaulay's way. A friend of his (the
late Mr. S. R. Gardiner), like Freeman a distinguished historian, and
like him a strong Home Ruler, wrote to me upon this point as

  Freeman and Macaulay are alike in the high value they set upon
  parliamentary institutions. On the other hand, when Macaulay wants
  to make you understand a thing, he compares it with that which
  existed in his own day. The standard of the present is always with
  him. Freeman traces it to its origin, and testifies to its growth.
  The strength of this mode of proceeding in an historian is
  obvious. Its weakness is that it does not help him to appreciate
  statesmanship looking forward and trying to find a solution of
  difficult problems. Freeman's attitude is that of the people who
  cried out for the good laws of King Edward, trying to revive the

Freeman was apt to go beyond his own dictum about history and
politics, for he sometimes made history present politics as well as

By far the strongest political interest--indeed it rose to a
passion--of his later years was his hatred of the Turk. In it his
historical and religious sentiment, for there was a good deal of the
Crusader about him, was blended with his abhorrence of despotism and
cruelty. Ever since the beginning of the Crimean war he had been
opposed to the traditional English policy of supporting the Sultan.
Ever since he had thought about foreign politics at all he had
sympathised with the Christians of the East. So when Lord Beaconsfield
seemed on the point of carrying the country into a war with Russia in
defence of the Turks, no voice rose louder or bolder than his in
denouncing the policy then popular with the upper classes in England.
On this occasion he gave substantial proof of his earnestness by
breaking off his connection with the _Saturday Review_ because it had
espoused the Turkish cause. This cost him £600 a year, a sum he could
ill spare, and took from him what had been the joy of his heart,
opportunities of delivering himself upon all sorts of current
questions. But his sense of duty forbade him to write for a journal
which was supporting a misguided policy and a minister whom he thought

His habit of speaking out his whole mind with little regard to the
effect his words might produce, or to the way in which they might be
twisted, sometimes landed him in difficulties. One utterance raised an
outcry at the time, because it was made at a conference held in London
in December 1876 to oppose Lord Beaconsfield's Eastern policy. The
Duke of Westminster and Lord Shaftesbury presided at the forenoon and
afternoon sessions, and the meeting, which told powerfully on the
country, was wound up by Mr. Gladstone. Freeman's speech, only ten
minutes long, but an oratorical success at the moment, contained the
words, "Perish the interests of England, perish our dominion in India,
rather than that we should strike one blow or speak one word on behalf
of the wrong against the right." This flight of rhetoric was perverted
by his opponents into "Perish India"; and though he indignantly
repudiated the misrepresentation, it continued to be repeated against
him for years thereafter, and to be cited as an instance of the
irresponsible violence of the friends of the Eastern Christians.

The most conspicuous and characteristic merits of Freeman as an
historian may be summed up in six points: love of truth, love of
justice, industry, common sense, breadth of view, and power of vividly
realising the political life of the past.

Every one knows the maxim, _pectus facit theologum_,[40] a maxim
accountable, by the way, for a good deal of weak theology. More truly
may it be said that the merits of a great historian are far from lying
wholly in his intellectual powers. Among the highest of such merits,
merits which the professional student has even more reason to
appreciate than the general reader, because he more frequently
discerns the disturbing causes, are two moral qualities. One is the
zeal for truth, with the willingness to undertake, in a search for it,
a toil by which no credit will ever be gained. The other is a clear
view of, and loyal adherence to, the permanent moral standards. In
both these points Freeman stood in the front rank. He was kindly and
fair in his judgments, and ready to make all the allowances for any
man's conduct which the conditions of his time suggested, but he hated
cruelty, falsehood, oppression, whether in Syracuse twenty-four
centuries ago or in the Ottoman empire to-day. That conscientious
industry which spares no pains to get as near as possible to the facts
never failed him. Though he talked less about facts and verities than
Carlyle did, Carlyle was not so assiduous and so minutely careful in
sifting every statement before he admitted it into his pages. That he
was never betrayed by sentiment into partisanship it would be too much
to say. Scottish critics have accused him, perhaps not without
justice, of being led by his English patriotism to over-state the
claims of the English Crown to suzerainty over Scotland. J. R. Green,
as well as the late Mr. C. H. Pearson, thought that the same cause
disposed him to overlook the weak points in the character of Harold
son of Godwin, one of his favourite heroes. But there have been few
writers who have so seldom erred in this way; few who have striven so
earnestly to do full justice to every cause and every person. Even the
race prejudices which he allowed himself to indulge, in letters and
talk, against Irishmen, Frenchmen, and Jews, scarcely ever appear in
his books. The characters he has drawn of Lucius Cornelius Sulla,
William the Conqueror and William the Red, St. Thomas of Canterbury
(none of whom he liked), and, in his _History of Sicily_, of Nicias,
are models of the fairness which historical portraiture requires. It
is especially interesting to compare his picture of the unfortunate
Athenian with the equally vigorous but harsher view of Grote. Freeman,
whom many people thought fierce, was one of the most soft-hearted of
men, and tolerant of everything but perfidy and cruelty. Though
disposed to be positive in his opinions, he was always willing to
reconsider a point when any new evidence was discovered or any new
argument brought to his notice, and not unfrequently modified his view
in the light of such evidence or arguments. It was this passion for
accuracy and for that lucidity of statement which is the necessary
adjunct of real accuracy, that made him deal so sternly with confused
thinkers and careless writers. Carelessness seemed to him a moral
fault, because a fault which true conscientiousness excludes. So also
clearness of conception and exact precision in the use of words were
so natural to him, and appeared so essential to good work, that he
would set down the want of them rather to indolence than to
incapacity, and apply to them a proportionately severe censure. Mere
ignorance he could pardon, but when it was, as often happens, even in
persons of considerable pretensions, joined to presumption, his wrath
was the hotter because he deemed it a wholly righteous wrath. Never
touching any subject which he had not mastered, he thought it his duty
as a critic to expose impostors, and rendered in this way, during the
years when he wrote for the _Saturday Review_, services to English
scholarship second only to those which were embodied in his own
treatises. It must be confessed that he enjoyed the work, and, like
Samuel Johnson, was not displeased to be told that he had "tossed and
gored several persons."

His determination to get to the bottom of a question was the cause of
the censure he so freely bestowed both on lawyers, who were wont to
rest content with their technicalities, and not go back to the
historical basis on which those technicalities rested, and on
politicians who fell into the habit of using stock phrases which
muddled or misrepresented the principles involved. The expression
"national property," as applied to tithes, incensed him, and gave
occasion for some of his most vigorous writing. So the commonplace
grumblings against the presence of bishops in the House of Lords,
which may be heard from people who acquiesce in the presence of
hereditary peers, led him to give the most clear and forcible
statement of the origin and character of that House which our time has
produced. Here he was on ground he knew thoroughly. But his habits of
accuracy were not less fully illustrated by his attitude towards
branches of history he had not explored. With a profound and minute
knowledge of English history down to the fourteenth century, so far as
his aversion to the employment of manuscript authorities would allow,
and a scarcely inferior knowledge of foreign European history during
the same period, with a less full but very sound knowledge down to the
middle of the sixteenth century, and with a thorough mastery of pretty
nearly all ancient history, his familiarity with later European
history, and with the history of such outlying regions as India or
America, was not much beyond that of the average educated man. He used
to say when questioned on these matters that "he had not come down to
that yet." But when he had occasion to refer to those periods or
countries, he hardly ever made a mistake. If he did not know, he did
not refer; if he referred, he had seized, as if by instinct, something
which was really important and serviceable for his purpose. The same
remark applies (speaking generally) to Gibbon and to Macaulay, and I
have heard Freeman make it of the writings of Mr. Goldwin Smith, for
whom he had a warm admiration.

Freeman's abstention from the use of manuscript sources was virtually
prescribed by his persistence in refusing to work out of his own
library, or, as he used to say, out of a room which he could
consider to be his library for the time being. As, however, the
original authorities for the times with which he chiefly dealt are,
with few or unimportant exceptions, all in print, this habit can
hardly be considered a defect in his historical qualifications. In
handling the sources he was a judicious critic and a sound scholar,
thoroughly at home in Greek and Latin, and sufficiently equipped in
Anglo-Saxon, or, as he called it, Old English. Of his breadth of
view, of the command he had of the whole sweep of his knowledge, of
his delight in bringing together things the most remote in place or
time, it is superfluous to speak. These merits are perhaps most
conspicuously seen in the plan of his treatise on Federal Government,
as well as in the execution of that one volume which unfortunately
was all he produced of what might have been, if completed, a book of
the utmost value. But one or two trifling illustrations of this habit
of living in an atmosphere in which the past was no less real to him
than the present may be forgiven. When careless friends directed
letters to him at "Somerleaze, Wookey, Somerset," Wookey being a
village a quarter of a mile from his house, but on the other side of
the river Axe, he would write back complaining that they were
"confusing the England and Wales of the seventh century." When his
attention had been called to a discussion in the weekly journals
about Shelley's first wife he wrote to me, "Why will they worry us
with this _Harrietfrage_? You and I have quite enough to do with
Helen, and Theodora, and Mary Stuart." So in addressing Somersetshire
rustics during his election campaign in 1868, he could not help on one
occasion referring to Ptolemy Euergetes, and on another launching
out into an eloquent description of the Landesgemeinde of Uri.

Industry came naturally to Freeman, because he was fond of his own
studies and did not think of his work as task work. The joy in reading
and writing about bygone times sprang from the intensity with which he
realised them. He had no geographical imagination, finding no more
pleasure in books of travel than in dramatic poetry. But he loved to
dwell in the past, and seemed to see and feel and make himself a part
of the events he described. Next to their worth as statements of
carefully investigated facts, the chief merit of his books lies in the
sense of reality which fills them. The politics of Corinth or Sicyon,
the contest of William the Red with St. Anselm, interested him as
keenly as a general election in which he was himself a candidate.
Looking upon current events with an historian's eye, he was fond, on
the other hand, of illustrating features of Roman history from
incidents he had witnessed when taking part in local government as a
magistrate; and in describing the relations of Hermocrates and
Athenagoras at Syracuse he drew upon observations which he had made in
watching the discussions of the Hebdomadal Council at Oxford. This
power of realising the politics of ancient or mediæval times was
especially useful to him as a writer, because without it his
minuteness might have verged on prolixity, seeing that he cared
exclusively for the political part of history. It was one of the
points in which he rose superior to most of those German students with
whom it is natural to compare him. Many of them have equalled him in
industry and diligence; some have surpassed him in the ingenuity which
they bring to bear upon obscure problems; but few of them have shown
the same gift for understanding what the political life of remote
times really was. Like Gibbon, Freeman was not a mere student, but
also a man with opportunities of mixing in affairs, accustomed to bear
his share in the world's work, and so better able than the mere
student can be to comprehend how that work goes forward. Though he was
too peculiar in his views and his way of stating them to have been
adapted either to the House of Commons or to a local assembly, and
would indeed have been wasted upon nineteen-twentieths of the business
there transacted, he loved politics and watched them with a shrewdly
observant eye. Though he indulged his foibles in some directions, he
could turn upon history a stream of clear common sense which sometimes
made short work of German conjectures. And he was free from the
craving to have at all hazards something new to advance, be it a
trivial fact or an unsupported guess. He was accustomed of late years
to complain that German scholarship seemed to be suffering from the
passion for _etwas Neues_, and the consequent disposition to disparage
work which did not abound with novelties, however empty or transient
such novelties might be.

To think of the Germans is to think of industry. Freeman was a true
Teuton in the mass of his production. Besides the seven thick
volumes devoted to the Norman Conquest and William Rufus, the four
thick volumes to Sicily, four large volumes of collected essays,
and nine or ten smaller volumes on architectural subjects, on the
English constitution, on the United States, on the Slavs and the
Turks, he wrote an even greater quantity of matter which appeared in
the _Saturday Review_ during the twenty years from 1856 to 1876, and
it was by these articles, not less than by his books, that he
succeeded in dispelling many current errors and confusions, and in
establishing some of his own doctrines so firmly that we now
scarcely remember what iteration and reiteration, in season and out
of season, and much to the impatience of those who remembered that
they had heard these doctrines often before, were needed to make
them accepted by the public. Freeman's swift facility was due to
his power of concentration. He always knew what he meant an article
to contain before he sat down to his desk; and in his historical
researches he made each step so certain that he seldom required to
reinvestigate a point or to change, in revising for the press, the
substance of what he had written.

In his literary habits he was so methodical and precise that he could
carry on three undertakings at the same time, keeping on different
tables in his working rooms the books he needed for each, and passing
at stated hours from one to the other. It is often remarked that the
growth of journalism, forcing men to write hastily and profusely,
tends to injure literature both in matter and in manner. In point of
matter, Freeman, though for the best part of his life a very prolific
journalist, did not seem to suffer. He was as exact, clear, and
thorough at the end as he had been at the beginning. On his style,
however, the results were unfortunate. It retained its force and its
point, but it became diffuse, not that each particular sentence was
weak, or vague, or wordy, but that what was substantially the same
idea was apt to be reiterated, with slight differences of phrase, in
several successive sentences or paragraphs. He was fond of the
Psalter, great part of which he knew by heart, and we told him that he
had caught too much of the manner of Psalm cxix. This tendency to
repetition caused some of his books, and particularly the _Norman
Conquest_ and _William Rufus_, to swell to a portentous bulk. Those
treatises, which constitute a history of England from A.D. 1042 to
1100, would be more widely read if they had been, as they ought to
have been, reduced to three or four volumes; and as he came to
perceive this, he resolved in the last year of his life to republish
the _Norman Conquest_ in a condensed form. To be obliged to compress
was a wholesome, though unwelcome, discipline, and the result is seen
in some of his smaller books, such as the historical essays, and the
sketches of English towns, often wonderfully fresh and vigorous bits
of work. Anxiety to be scrupulously accurate runs into prolixity, and
Freeman so loved his subjects that it pained him to omit any
characteristic detail a chronicler had preserved; as he once observed
to a distinguished writer who was dealing with a much later period,
"You know so much about your people that you have to leave out a great
deal, I know so little that I must tell all I know." The tendency to
repeat the same word too frequently sprang from his preference for
words of Teutonic origin and his pride in what he deemed the purity of
his English. His pages would have been livelier had he felt free to
indulge in the humour with which his private letters sparkled; for he
was full of fun, though it often turned on points too recondite for
the public. But it was only in the notes to his histories, and seldom
even there, that he gave play to one of the merits that most commended
him to his friends.

So far of his books. He was, however, also Regius Professor of History
at Oxford during the last eight years of his life, and thus the head
of the historical faculty in his own university which he dearly loved.
That he was less effective as a teacher than as a writer may be partly
ascribed to his having come too late to a new kind of work, and one
which demands the freshness of youth; partly also to the cramping
conditions under which professors have to teach at Oxford, where
everything is governed by a system of examinations which Freeman was
never tired of denouncing as ruinous to study. His friends, however,
doubted whether the natural bent of his mind was towards oral
teaching. It was a peculiar mind, which ran in a deep channel of its
own, and could not easily, if the metaphor be permissible, be drawn
off to irrigate the adjoining fields. He was always better at putting
his own views in a clear and telling way than at laying his intellect
alongside of yours, apprehending your point of view, and setting
himself to meet it. Or, to put the same thing differently, you learned
more by listening to him than by conversing with him. He had not the
quick intellectual sympathy and effusion which feels its way to the
heart of an audience, and indeed derives inspiration from the sight of
an audience. In his election meetings I noticed that the temper and
sentiment of the listeners did not in the least affect him; what he
said was what he himself cared to say, not what he felt they would
wish to hear. So also in his lecturing he pleased himself, and chose
the topics he liked best rather than those which the examination
scheme prescribed to the students. Perhaps he was right, for he was of
those whose excellence in performance depends upon the enjoyment they
find in the exercise of their powers. But even on the topics he
selected, he did not take hold of and guide the mind of the students,
realising their particular difficulties and needs, but simply
delivered his own message in his own way. Admitting this deficiency,
the fact remains that he was not only an ornament to the University by
the example he set of unflagging zeal, conscientious industry, loyalty
to truth, and love of freedom, but also a stimulating influence upon
those who were occupied with history. He delighted to surround himself
with the most studious of the younger workers, gave them abundant
encouragement and recognition, and never grudged the time to help them
by his knowledge or his counsel.

Much the same might be said of his lifelong friend and illustrious
predecessor in the chair of history (Dr. Stubbs), whom Freeman had
been generously extolling for many years before the merits of that
admirable scholar became known to the public. Stubbs disliked
lecturing; and though once a year he delivered a "public lecture" full
of wisdom, and sometimes full of wit also, he was not effective as a
teacher, not so effective, for instance, as Bishop Creighton, who won
his reputation at Merton College long before he became Professor of
Ecclesiastical History at Cambridge. But Stubbs, by his mere presence
in the University, and by the inexhaustible kindness with which he
answered questions and gave advice, rendered great services to the
studies of the place. It may be doubted whether, when he was raised to
the episcopal bench, history did not lose more than the Church of
England gained. Other men of far less ability could have discharged
five-sixths of a bishop's duties equally well, but there was no one
else in England, if indeed in Europe, capable of carrying on his
historical researches. So Dr. Lightfoot was, as Professor at
Cambridge, doing work for Christian learning even more precious than
the work which is still affectionately remembered in his diocese of

Few men have had a genius for friendship equal to Freeman's. The
names of those he cared for were continually on his lips, and their
lives in his thoughts; their misfortunes touched him like his own;
he was always ready to defend them, always ready to give any aid they
needed. No differences of opinion affected his regard. Sensitive
as he was to criticism, he received their censure on any part of his
work without offence. The need he felt for knowing how they fared and
for sharing his thoughts with them expressed itself in the enormous
correspondence, not of business, but of pure affection, which he kept
up with his many friends, and which forms, for his letters were so
racy that many of them were preserved, the fullest record of his

This warmth of feeling deserves to be dwelt on, because it explains
the tendency to vehemence in controversy which brought some enmities
upon him. There was an odd contrast between his fondness for
describing wars and battles and that extreme aversion to militarism
which made him appear to dislike the very existence of a British army
and navy. So his combativeness, and the zest with which he bestowed
shrewd blows on those who encountered him, though due to his wholesome
scorn for pretenders, and his hatred of falsehood and injustice,
seemed inconsistent with the real kindliness of his nature. The
kindliness, however, no one who knew him could doubt; it showed itself
not only in his care for dumb creatures and for children, but in the
depth and tenderness of his affections. Of religion he spoke little,
and only to his most intimate friends. In opinion he had drifted a
long way from the Anglo-Catholic position of his early manhood; but he
remained a sincerely pious Christian.

Though his health had been infirm for some years before his death, his
literary activity did not slacken, nor did his powers show signs of
decline. There is nothing in his writings, nor in any writings of our
time, more broad, clear, and forcible than many chapters of the
_History of Sicily_. Much of his work has effected its purpose, and
will, by degrees, lose its place in the public eye. But much will
live on into a yet distant future, because it has been done so
thoroughly, and contains so much sound and vigorous thinking, that
coming generations of historical students will need it and value it
almost as our own has done.


  [37] An excellent Life of Freeman has been written by his friend Mr.
       W. R. W. Stephens, afterwards Dean of Winchester, whose death
       while these pages were passing through the press has caused the
       deepest regret to all who had the opportunity of knowing his
       literary gifts and his lovable character.

  [38] The scholars of Trinity were then (1843) all High Churchmen, and
       never dined in hall on Fridays. Fourteen years later there was
       not a single High Churchman among them. Ten or fifteen years
       afterwards Anglo-Catholic sentiment was again strong. Freeman
       said that his revulsion against Tractarianism began from a
       conversation with one of his fellow-scholars, who had remarked
       that it was a pity there had been a flaw in the consecration of
       some Swedish bishops in the sixteenth century, for this had
       imperilled the salvation of all Swedes since that time. He was
       startled, and began to reconsider his position.

  [39] Having had about the same time a brush with George Anthony
       Denison (Archdeacon of Taunton), and a less friendly passage of
       arms with James Anthony Froude, he wrote to me in 1870: "I am
       greater than Cicero, who was smiter of one Antonius. I venture
       to think that I have whopped the whole _Gens Antonia_--first
       Anthony pure and simple, which is Trollope; secondly, James
       Anthony, whom I believe myself to have smitten, as Cnut did
       Eadric swiðe rihtlice, in the matter of St. Hugh; thirdly,
       George Anthony, with whom I fought again last Tuesday, carrying
       at our Education Board a resolution in favour of Forster's
       bill." Trollope and he became warm friends. Froude he heartily
       disliked, not, I think, on any personal grounds, but because he
       thought Froude indifferent to truth, and was incensed by the
       defence of Henry VIII.'s crimes.

       It may be added that Freeman, much as he detested Henry VIII.,
       used to observe that Henry had a sort of legal conscience,
       because he always wished his murders to be done by Act of
       Parliament, and that the earlier and better part of Henry's
       reign ought not to be forgotten. He was fond of quoting the
       euphemism with which an old Oxford professor of ecclesiastical
       history concluded his account of the sovereign whom, in respect
       of his relation to the Church of England, it seemed proper to
       handle gently: "The later years of this great monarch were
       clouded by domestic troubles."

  [40] "The heart makes the theologian."


Had Robert Lowe died in 1868, when he became a Cabinet Minister, his
death would have been a political event of the first magnitude; but
when he died in 1892 (in his eighty-second year) hardly anybody under
forty years of age knew who Lord Sherbrooke was, and the new
generation wondered why their seniors should feel any interest in the
disappearance of a superannuated peer whose name had long since ceased
to be heard in either the literary or the political world. It requires
an effort to believe that he was at one time held the equal in oratory
and the superior in intellect of Mr. Bright and Mr. Gladstone. There
are few instances in our annals of men who have been equally famous
and whose fame has been bounded by so short a span out of a long

No one who knew Lowe ever doubted his abilities. He made a brilliant
reputation, first at Winchester (where, as his autobiography tells
us, he was miserable) and then at Oxford, where he was the
contemporary and fully the peer of Roundell Palmer (afterwards Lord
Chancellor Selborne) and of Archibald Tait (afterwards Archbishop of
Canterbury). He was much sought after and wonderfully effective as a
private tutor or "coach" in classical subjects, being not only an
excellent scholar but extremely clear and stimulating as a teacher. He
retained his love of literature all through life, and made himself,
_inter alia permulta_, a good Icelandic scholar and a fair Sanskrit
scholar. For mathematics he had no turn at all. Active sports, he
tells us, he enjoyed, characteristically adding, "they open to dulness
also its road to fame." When he left the University, where anecdotes
of his caustic wit were long current, he tried his fortune at the Bar,
but with such scant success that he presently emigrated to New South
Wales, soon rose to prominence and unpopularity there, returned in ten
years with a tolerable fortune and a detestation of democracy, became
a leading-article writer on the _Times_, entered Parliament, but was
little heard of till Lord Palmerston gave him (in 1859) the place of
Vice-President of the Committee of Council on Education. His function
in that office was to administer the grants made from the national
treasury to elementary schools, and as he found the methods of
inspection rather lax, and noted a tendency to superficiality and a
neglect of backward children, he introduced new rules for the
distribution of the grant (the so-called "Revised Code") which
provoked violent opposition. The motive was good, but the rules were
too mechanical and rigid and often worked harshly; so he was presently
driven from office by an attack led by Lord Robert Cecil (now Lord

Though Lowe became known by this struggle, his conspicuous fame dates
from 1865, when he appeared as the trenchant critic of a measure
for extending the parliamentary franchise in boroughs, introduced
by a private member. Next year his powers shone forth in their full
lustre. The Liberal Ministry of Lord Russell, led in the House of
Commons by Mr. Gladstone, had brought in a Franchise Extension Bill
(applying to boroughs only) which excited the dislike of the more
conservative or more timid among their supporters. This dislike might
not have gone beyond many mutterings and a few desertions but for the
vehemence with which Lowe opposed the measure. He fought against it
in a series of speeches which produced a greater impression in the
House of Commons, and roused stronger feelings of admiration and
hostility in the country, than any political addresses had done since
1832. The new luminary rose so suddenly to the zenith, and cast so
unexpected a light that everybody was dazzled; and though many
dissented, and some attacked him bitterly, few ventured to meet him
in argument on the ground he had selected. The effect of these
speeches of 1866 can hardly be understood by any one who reads them
to-day unless he knows how commonplace and "practical," that is to
say, averse to general reasonings and historical illustrations,
the character of parliamentary debating was becoming even in Lowe's
time. It is still more practical and still less ornate in our own

The House of Commons then contained, and has indeed usually contained
(though some Houses are much better than others), many capable
lawyers, capable men of business, capable country gentlemen; many men
able to express themselves with clearness, fluency, and that sort of
temperate good sense which Englishmen especially value. Few,
however, were able to produce finished rhetoric; still fewer had a
range of thought and knowledge extending much beyond the ordinary
education of a gentleman and the ordinary ideas of a politician;
and the assembly was one so intolerant of rhetoric, and so much
inclined to treat, as unpractical, facts and arguments drawn from
recondite sources, that even those who possessed out-of-the-way
learning were disposed, and rightly so, to use it sparingly. In
Robert Lowe, however, a remarkable rhetorical and dialectical power
was combined with a command of branches of historical, literary, and
economic knowledge so unfamiliar to the average member as to have
for him all the charm of novelty. The rhetoric was sometimes too
elaborate. The political philosophy was not always sound. But the
rhetoric was so polished that none could fail to enjoy it; and the
political philosophy was put in so terse, bright, and pointed a form
that it made the ordinary country gentleman fancy himself a
philosopher while he listened to it in the House or repeated it to
his friends at the club. The speeches, which, though directed
against a particular measure, constituted an indictment of democratic
government in general, had the advantages of expressing what many
felt but few had ventured to say, and of being delivered from one side
of the House and cheered by the other side. No position gives a
debater in the House of Commons such a vantage ground for securing
attention. Its rarity makes it remarkable. If the speaker who
attacks his own party is supposed to do so from personal motives,
the personal element gives piquancy. If he may be credited with
conscientious conviction, his shafts strike with added weight, for
how strong must conviction be when it turns a man against his former
friends. Accordingly, nothing so much annoys a party and gratifies
its antagonists as when one of its own recalcitrant members attacks
it in flank. When one looks back now at the contents of these
speeches--there were only five or six of them--and finds one's self
surprised at their success, this favouring circumstance and the whole
temper of the so-called "upper classes" need to be remembered. The
bulk of the wealthier commercial class and a large section of the
landed class had theretofore belonged to the Liberal party. Most
of them, however, were then already beginning to pass through what
was called Whiggism into habits of thought that were practically
Tory. They did not know how far they had gone till Lowe's speeches
told them, and they welcomed his ideas as justifying their own

In themselves, as pieces either of rhetoric or of "civil wisdom," the
speeches are not first-rate. No one would dream of comparing them to
Burke's, in originality, or in richness of diction, or in weight of
thought. But for the moment they were far more appreciated than
Burke's were by the House of his time, which thought of dining while
he thought of convincing. Robert Lowe was for some months the idol of
a large part of the educated class, and indeed of that part chiefly
which plumed itself upon its culture. I recollect to have been in
those days at a breakfast party given by an eminent politician and
nominal supporter of the Liberal Ministry, and to have heard Mr. G. S.
Venables, the leader of the _Saturday Review_ set, an able and copious
writer who was a sort of literary and political oracle among his
friends, deliver, amid general applause, including that of the host,
the opinion that Lowe was an intellectual giant compared to Mr.
Gladstone, and that the reputation of the latter had been extinguished
for ever.

This period of glory, which was enhanced by the fall of Lord Russell
and Mr. Gladstone from power in June 1866--the defeat came on a minor
point, but was largely due to Lowe's speeches--lasted till Lowe, who
had now become a force to be counted with, obtained office as
Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Liberal Ministry which Mr.
Gladstone formed in the end of 1868. From that moment his position
declined. He lost popularity and influence both with the country and
in the House of Commons. His speeches were always able, but they did
not seem to tell when delivered from the ministerial bench. His
financial proposals, though ingenious, were thought too ingenious, and
showed a deficient perception of the tendencies of the English mind.
No section likes being taxed, but Lowe's budgets met with a more than
usually angry opposition. His economies and retrenchments, so far from
bringing him the credit he deserved, exposed him to the charge of
cheese-paring parsimony, and did much to render the Ministry
unpopular. Before that ministry fell in 1874, Lowe, who had in 1873
exchanged the Exchequer for the Home Office, had almost ceased to be a
personage in politics. He did nothing to retrieve his fame during the
six years of Opposition that followed, seldom spoke, took little part
in the denunciation of Lord Beaconsfield's Eastern and Afghan policy,
which went on from 1876 till 1880, and once at least gave slight signs
of declining mental power. So in 1880 he was relegated to the House of
Lords, because the new Liberal Government of that year could not make
room for him. Very soon thereafter his memory began to fail, and for
the last ten years of his life he had been practically forgotten,
though sometimes seen, a pathetic figure, at evening parties. There is
hardly a parallel in our parliamentary annals to so complete an
eclipse of so brilliant a luminary.

This rapid obscuration of a reputation which was genuine, for Lowe's
powers had been amply proved, was due to no accident, and was apparent
long before mental decay set in. The causes lay in himself. One cause
was purely physical. He was excessively short-sighted, so much so
that when he was writing a letter, his nose was apt to rub out the
words his pen had traced; and this defect shut him out from all that
knowledge of individual men and of audiences which is to be
obtained by watching their faces. Mr. Gladstone, who never seemed to
resent Lowe's attacks, and greatly admired his gifts--it was not so
clear that Lowe reciprocated the admiration--used to relate that on
one occasion when a foreign potentate met the Minister in St.
James's Park and put out his hand in friendly greeting, Lowe
repelled his advances, and when the King said, "But, Mr. Lowe, you
know me quite well," he answered, "Yes, indeed, I know you far too
well, and I don't want to have anything more to do with you." He
had mistaken the monarch for a prominent politician with whom he
had had a sharp encounter on a deputation a few days before! For
social purposes Lowe might almost as well have been blind; yet he did
not receive that kind of indulgence which is extended to the
blind. In the interesting fragment of autobiography which he left,
he attributes his unpopularity entirely to this cause, declaring that
he was really of a kindly nature, liking his fellow-men just as well
as most of them like one another.[42] But in truth his own character
had something to answer for. Without being ill-natured, he was deemed
a hard-natured man, who did not appear to consider the feelings of
others. He had indeed a love of mischief, and gleefully tells in
his autobiography how, when travelling in his youth through the
Scottish Highlands, he drove the too self-conscious Wordsworth wild
by his incessant praise of Walter Scott.[43] He had not in political
life more than his fair share of personal enmities. One of them was
Disraeli's. They were not unequally matched. Lowe was intellectually
in some respects stronger, but he wanted Disraeli's skill in
managing men and assemblies. Disraeli resented Lowe's sarcasms, and
on one occasion, when the latter had made an indiscreet speech, went
out of his way to inflict on him a personal humiliation.

Nor was this Lowe's only defect. Powerful in attack, he was feeble in
defence. Terrible as a critic, he had, as his official career showed,
little constructive talent, little tact in shaping or recommending his
measures. Unsteady or inconstant in purpose, he was at one moment
headstrong, at another timid or vacillating. These faults, scarcely
noticed when he was in Opposition, sensibly reduced his value as a
minister and as a Cabinet colleague.

In private Lowe was good company, bright, alert, and not unkindly. He
certainly did not, as was alleged of another famous contemporary,
Lord Westbury, positively enjoy the giving of pain. But he had a most
unchristian scorn for the slow and the dull and the unenlightened, and
never restrained his scorching wit merely for the sake of sparing
those who came in his way. If the distinction be permissible, he was
not cruel but he was merciless, that is to say, unrestrained by
compassion. Instances are not wanting of men who have maintained great
influence in spite of their rough tongues and the enmities which rough
tongues provoke. But such men have usually also possessed some of the
arts of popularity, and have been able to retain the adherence of
their party at large, even when they had alienated many who came into
personal contact with them. This was not Lowe's case. He did not
conceal his contempt for the multitude, and had not the tact needed
for humouring it, any more than for managing the House of Commons. The
very force and keenness of his intellect kept him aloof from other
people and prevented him from understanding their sentiments. He saw
things so clearly that he could not tolerate mental confusion, and was
apt to reach conclusions so fast that he missed perceiving some of the
things which are gradually borne in upon slower minds. There are also
instances of strong men who, though they do not revile their
opponents, incur hatred because their strength and activity make them
feared. Hostility concentrates itself on the opponents deemed most
formidable, and a political leader who is spared while his fellows are
attacked cannot safely assume that this immunity is a tribute to his
virtues. Incessant abuse fell to the lot of Mr. Bright, who was not
often, and of Mr. Gladstone, who was hardly ever, personally bitter in
invective. But in compensation Mr. Bright and Mr. Gladstone received
enthusiastic loyalty from their followers. For Lowe there was no such
compensation. Even his own side did not love him. There was also a
certain harshness, perhaps a certain narrowness, about his views. Even
in those days of rigid economics, he took an exceptionally rigid view
of all economic problems, refusing to make allowance for any motives
except those of bare self-interest. Though he did not belong by
education or by social ties to the Utilitarian group, and gave an
ungracious reception to J. S. Mill's first speeches in the House of
Commons, he was a far more stringent and consistent exponent of the
harder kind of Benthamism than was Mill himself. He professed, and
doubtless to some extent felt, a contempt for appeals to historical or
literary sentiment, and relished nothing more than deriding his own
classical training as belonging to an effete and absurd scheme of
education. He left his mark on our elementary school system by
establishing the system of payment by results, but nearly every change
made in that system since his day has tended to destroy the
alterations he made and to bring back the older condition of things,
though no doubt in an amended form. His ideas of University reform
were crude and barren, limited, indeed, to the substitution of what
the Germans call "bread studies" for mental cultivation, and to the
extension of the plan of competitive examinations for honours and
money prizes, a plan which more and more displeases the most
enlightened University teachers, and is felt to have done more harm
than good to Oxford and Cambridge, where it has had the fullest play.
He had also, and could give good reasons for his opinion, a hearty
dislike to endowments of all kinds; and once, when asked by a Royal
Commission to suggest a mode of improving their application, answered
in his trenchant way, "Get rid of them. Throw them into the sea."

It would not be fair to blame Lowe for the results which followed his
vigorous action against the extension of the suffrage in 1866, for no
one could then have predicted that in the following year the Tories,
beguiled by Mr. Disraeli, would reverse their former attitude and
carry a suffrage bill far wider than that which they had rejected a
year before. But the sequel of the successful resistance of 1866 may
stand as a warning to those who think that the course of thoroughgoing
opposition to a measure they dislike is, because it seems courageous,
likely to be the right and wise course for patriotic men. Had the
moderate bill of 1866 been suffered to pass, the question of further
extending the suffrage might possibly have slept for another thirty
years, for there was no very general or urgent cry for it among the
working people, and England would have continued to be ruled in the
main by voters belonging to the middle class and the upper section of
the working class. The consequence of the heated contest of 1866 was
not only to bring about a larger immediate change in 1867, but to
create an interest in the question which soon prompted the demand for
the extension of household suffrage to the counties, and completed in
1884-85 the process by which England has become virtually a democracy,
though a plutocratic democracy, still affected by the habits and
notions of oligarchic days. Thus Robert Lowe, as much as Disraeli and
Gladstone, may in a sense be called an author of the tremendous change
which has passed upon the British Constitution since 1866, and the
extent of which was not for a long while realised. Lowe himself never
recanted his views, but never repeated his declaration of them,
feeling that he had incurred unpopularity enough, and probably feeling
also that the case was hopeless.

People who disliked his lugubrious forecasts used to call him a
Cassandra, perhaps forgetting that, besides the distinctive feature
of Cassandra's prophecies that nobody believed them, there was another
distinctive feature, viz. that they came true. Did Lowe's? It is often
profitable and sometimes amusing to turn back to the predictions
through which eminent men relieved their perturbed souls, and see how
far these superior minds were able to discern the tendencies, already
at work in their time, which were beginning to gain strength, and were
destined to determine the future. Whoever reads Lowe's speeches of
1865-67 may do worse than glance at the same time at a book,[44] long
since forgotten, which contains the efforts of a group of young
University Liberals to refute the arguments used by him and by Lord
Cairns, the strongest of his allies, in their opposition to schemes of
parliamentary reform.

To compare the optimism of these young writers and Lowe's pessimism
with what has actually come to pass is a not uninstructive task. True
it is that England has had only thirty-five years' experience of the
Reform Act of 1867, and only seventeen years' experience of that even
greater step towards pure democracy which was effected by the
Franchise and Redistribution Acts of 1884-85. We are still far from
knowing what sorts of Parliaments and policies the enlarged suffrage
will end by giving. But some at least of the mischiefs Lowe foretold
have not arrived. He expected first of all a rapid increase in
corruption and intimidation at parliamentary elections. The quality of
the House of Commons would decline, because money would rule, and
small boroughs would no longer open the path by which talent could
enter. Members would be either millionaires or demagogues, and they
would also become far more subservient to their constituents.
Universal suffrage would soon arrive, because no halting-place between
the £10 franchise[45] and universal suffrage could be found. Placed on
a democratic basis, the House of Commons would not be able to retain
its authority over the Executive. The House of Lords, the Established
Church, the judicial bench (in that dignity and that independence
which are essential to its usefulness), would be overthrown as England
passed into "the bare and level plain of democracy where every
ant-hill is a mountain and every thistle a forest tree." These and the
other features characteristic of popular government on which Lowe
savagely descanted were pieced together out of Plato and Tocqueville,
coupled with his own disagreeable experiences of Australian politics.
None of the predicted evils can be said to have as yet become features
of the polity and government of England,[46] though the power of the
House relatively to the Cabinet does seem to be declining. Yet some of
Lowe's incidental remarks are true, and not least true is his
prediction that democracies will be found just as prone to war, just
as apt to be swept away by passion, as other kinds of government have
been. Few signs herald the approach of that millennium of peace and
enlightenment which Cobden foretold and for which Gladstone did not
cease to hope.

No one since Lowe has taken up the part of _advocatus diaboli_ against
democracy which he played in 1866.[47] Since Disraeli passed the
Household Suffrage in Boroughs Bill in 1867, a nullification of Lowe's
triumph which incensed him more than ever against Disraeli, no one has
ever come forward in England as the avowed enemy of changes designed
to popularise our government. Parties have quarrelled over the time
and the manner of extensions of the franchise, but the issue of
principle raised in 1866 has not been raised again. Even in 1884, when
Mr. Gladstone carried his bill for assimilating the county franchise
to that existing in boroughs, the Tory party did not oppose the
measure in principle, but confined themselves to insisting that it
should be accompanied by a scheme for the redistribution of seats. The
secret, first unveiled by Disraeli, that the masses will as readily
vote for the Tory party as for the Liberal, is now common property,
and universal suffrage, when it comes to be offered, is as likely to
be offered by the former party as by the latter. This gives a touch of
historical interest to Lowe's speeches of 1866. They are the swan-song
of the old constitutionalism. The changes which came in 1867 and 1884
must have come sooner or later, for they were in the natural line of
development as we see it all over the world; but they might have come
much later had not Lowe's opposition wrecked the moderate scheme of
1866. Apart from that episode Lowe's career would now be scarcely
remembered, or would be remembered by those who knew his splendid
gifts as an illustration of the maxim that mere intellectual power
does not stand first among the elements of character that go to the
winning of a foremost place.


  [41] A carefully written life of Lord Sherbrooke (in two volumes) by
       Mr. Patchett Martin was published in 1896. The most interesting
       part of it is the short fragment of autobiography with which it
       begins, and which carries the story down to Lowe's arrival in

  [42] In his autobiography he writes, "With a quiet temper and a real
       wish to please, I have been obliged all my life to submit to an
       amount of unpopularity which I really did not deserve, and to
       feel myself condemned for what were really physical rather than
       moral deficiencies."

  [43] There was an anecdote current in the University of Oxford down to
       my time that when Lowe was examining in the examination which
       the statutes call "Responsions," the dons "Little-go," and the
       undergraduates "Smalls," a friend coming in while the _viva
       voce_ was in progress, asked him how he was getting on.
       "Excellently," said Lowe; "five men plucked already, and the
       sixth very shaky." Another tale, not likely to have been
       invented, relates that when he and several members of the then
       Liberal Ministry were staying in Dublin with the Lord
       Lieutenant, and had taken an excursion into the Wicklow hills,
       they found themselves one afternoon obliged to wait for half an
       hour at a railway station. To pass the time, Lowe forthwith
       engaged in a dispute about the charge with the car-drivers who
       had brought them, a dispute which soon became hot and noisy, to
       the delight of Lowe, but to the horror of the old Lord
       Chancellor, who was one of the party.

  [44] _Essays on Reform_, published in 1867.

  [45] The then borough qualification, which Mr. Gladstone's Bill
       proposed to reduce to £7.

  [46] Mr. Gladstone said to me in 1897 that the extension of the
       suffrage had, in his judgment, improved the quality of
       legislation, making it more regardful of the interests of the
       body of the people, but had not improved the quality of the
       House of Commons.

  [47] Sir H. S. Maine's _Quarterly Review_ articles, published in a
       volume under the title of _Popular Government_, come nearest to
       being a literary presentation of the case against democracy,
       but they are, with all their ingenuity and grace of style, so
       provokingly vague and loosely expressed that there can seldom
       be found in them a proposition with which one can agree, or
       from which one can differ. E. de Laveleye's well-known book is
       not much more substantial, but instruction may (as respects
       France) be found in the late Edmond Schérer's _De la
       Démocratie_, and (as respects England and the United States) in
       M. Ostrogorski's recent book, _Democracy and the Organisation
       of Political Parties_.


Robertson Smith,[48] the most widely learned and one of the most
powerful teachers that either Cambridge or Oxford could show during
the years of his residence in England, died at the age of forty-seven
on the 31st of March 1894. To the English public generally his name
was little known, or was remembered only in connection with the
theological controversy and ecclesiastical trial of which he had been
the central figure in Scotland fifteen years before. But on the
Continent of Europe and by Orientalists generally he was regarded as
the foremost Semitic scholar of Britain, and by those who knew him as
one of the most remarkable men of his time.

He was born in 1846 in the quiet pastoral valley of the Don, in
Aberdeenshire. His father, who was a minister of the Scottish Free
Church in the parish of Keig, possessed high mathematical talent,
and his mother, who survived him six years, was a woman of great
force of character, who retained till her death, at seventy-six years
of age, the full exercise of her keen intelligence. Smith went
straight from his father's teaching to the University of Aberdeen, and
after graduating there, continued his studies first at Bonn in
1865, and afterwards at Göttingen (1869). When only twenty-four he
became Professor of Oriental Languages in the College or Divinity
School of the Free Church at Aberdeen, and two years later was
chosen one of the revisers of the Old Testament, a striking honour
for so young a man. In 1881 he became first assistant-editor and
then editor-in-chief of the ninth edition of the _Encyclopædia
Britannica_. He was exceptionally qualified for the post by the
variety of his attainments and by the extreme quickness of his
mind, which rapidly acquired knowledge on almost any kind of subject.
Those who knew him are agreed that among all the eminent men who have
been connected with this great _Encyclopædia_ from its first
beginning nearly a century and a half ago until now, he was
surpassed by none, if equalled by any, in the range of his learning
and in the capacity to bring learning to bear upon editorial work.
He took infinite pains to find the most competent writers, and was
able to exercise effective personal supervision over a very large
proportion of the articles. The ninth edition was much fuller and
more thorough than any of its predecessors; and good as the first
twelve volumes were, a still higher level of excellence was attained
in the latter half, a result due to his industry and discernment.
Not a few of the articles on subjects connected with the Old
Testament were from his own pen; and they were among the best in the

The appearance of one of them, that entitled "Bible," which contained
a general view of the history of the canonical books of Scripture,
their dates, authorship, and reception by the Christian Church, became
a turning-point in his life. The propositions he stated regarding the
origin of parts of the Old Testament, particularly the Pentateuch,
excited alarm and displeasure in Scotland, where few persons had
become aware of the conclusions reached by recent Biblical scholars in
Continental Europe. The article was able, clear, and fearless, plainly
the work of a master hand. The views it advanced were not for the most
part due to Smith's own investigations, but were to be found in the
writings of other learned men. Neither would they now be thought
extreme; they are in fact accepted to-day by many writers of
unquestioned orthodoxy in Britain and a (perhaps smaller) number in
the United States. In 1876, however, these views were new and
startling to those who had not studied in Germany or followed the
researches of such men as Ewald, Kuenen, and Wellhausen. The Scottish
Free Church had theretofore prided itself upon the rigidity of its
orthodoxy; and while among the younger ministers there were a good
many able and learned scholars holding what used to be called
"advanced views," the mass of the elder and middle-aged clergy had
gone on in the old-fashioned traditions of verbal inspiration, and
took every word in the Five Books (except the last chapter of
Deuteronomy) to have been written down by Moses. It was only natural
that their anger should be kindled against the young professor, whose
theories seemed to cut away the ground from under their feet.
Proceedings were (1876) taken against him before the Presbytery of
Aberdeen, and the case found its way thence to the Synod of Aberdeen,
and ultimately to the General Assembly of the Free Church. In one form
or another (for the flame was lit anew by other articles published by
him in the _Encyclopædia_) it lingered on for five years. So far from
yielding to the storm, Robertson Smith defied it, maintaining not only
the truth of his views, but their compatibility with the Presbyterian
standards as contained in the Confession of Faith and the Longer and
Shorter Catechisms. In this latter contention he was successful,
proving that the divines of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
had not committed themselves to any specific doctrine of inspiration,
still less to any dogmatic deliverance as to the authorship of
particular books of Scripture. The standards simply declared that the
Word of God was contained in the canonical books, and as there had
been little or no controversy between Protestants and Roman Catholics
regarding the date or the authorship or the divine authority of those
books (apart of course from disputes regarding the Apocrypha), had not
dealt specifically with those last mentioned matters. As it was by
reference to the Confession of Faith that the offence alleged had to
be established, Smith made good his defence; so in the end, finding it
impossible to convict him of deviation from the standards, and thereby
to deal with him as an ordained minister of the Church, his
adversaries fell back on the plan of depriving him, by an executive
rather than judicial vote, not indeed of his clerical status, but of
his professorship, on the ground of the alleged "unsettling character"
of his teaching.

Meanwhile, however, there had been an immense rally to him of the
younger clergy and of the less conservative among the laity. The main
current of Scottish popular thought and life had ever since the
Reformation flowed in an ecclesiastical channel; and even nowadays,
when Scotland is rapidly becoming Anglicised, a theological or
ecclesiastical question excites a wider and keener interest there than
a similar question would do in England. So in Scotland for four years
"the Robertson Smith case" was the chief topic of discussion outside
as well as inside the Free Church. The sympathy felt for the accused
was heightened by the ingenuity, energy, and courage with which he
defended his position, showing a power of argument and repartee which
made it plain that he would have held a distinguished place in any
assembly whatever. If his debating had a fault, it was that of being
almost too dialectically cogent, so that his antagonists felt that
they were being foiled on the form of the argument before they could
get to the issues they sought to raise. But while he was an
accomplished lawyer in matters of form, he was no less an accomplished
theologian in matters of substance. Although the party of repression
triumphed so far as to deprive him of his chair, the victory virtually
remained with him, not only because he had shown that the Scottish
Presbyterian standards did not condemn the views he held, but also
because his defence and the discussions which it occasioned had, in
bringing those views to the knowledge of a great number of thoughtful
laymen, led such persons to reconsider their own position. Some of
them found themselves forced to agree with Smith. Others, who
distrusted their capacity for arriving at a conclusion, came at least
to think that the questions involved did not affect the essentials of
faith, and must be settled by the ordinary canons of historical and
philological criticism. Thus the trial proved to be a turning-point
for the Scottish Churches, much as the _Essays and Reviews_ case had
been for the Church of England eighteen years earlier. Opinions
formerly proscribed were thereafter freely expressed. Nearly all the
doctrinal prosecutions subsequently attempted in the Scottish
Presbyterian Churches have failed. Much feeling has been excited, but
the result has been to secure a greater latitude than was dreamt of
forty years ago. At first the rigidly orthodox section of the Free
Church, now almost confined to the Highlands, thought of seceding from
the main body on the ground that tolerance was passing into
indifference or unbelief. But the new ideas continued to grow, and the
sentiment in favour of letting clergymen as well as lay church members
put a lax construction on the doctrinal standards drawn up in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, has spread as widely in Scotland
as in England. The Presbyterian Churches in America and the Roman
Catholic Church now stand almost alone among the larger Christian
bodies in retaining something of the ancient rigidity. Even the Roman
Church begins to feel the solvent power of these researches. It may be
conjectured that as the process of adjusting the letter of Scripture
to the conclusions of science which Galileo was not permitted to
apply in the field of astronomy has now been generally applied in the
fields of geology and biology, so all the churches will presently
reconcile themselves to the conclusions of historical and linguistic
criticism, now that such criticism has become truly scientific in its

Having no longer any tie to Scotland, as he had never desired a
pastoral charge there, since he felt his vocation to lie in study and
teaching, Smith was hesitating which way to turn, when the offer of
the Lord Almoner's Readership in Arabic, which had become vacant in
1883, determined him to settle in Cambridge. He had travelled in
Arabia a few years earlier, thereby adding a colloquial familiarity to
his grammatical mastery of the language. He was an ardent student of
Arabic literature, and indeed devoted more time to it than to Hebrew.
Though he had felt deeply the attacks made upon him, and was indignant
at the mode of his dismissal, he was not in the least dispirited; and
his self-control was shown by the way in which he resisted the
temptation, to which controversialists are prone, of going further
than they originally meant and thereby damaging the position of their
supporters. Still, he was weary of controversy, and pleased to see
before him a prospect of learned quiet and labour, although the salary
of the Readership was less than £100 a year. Fortunately he had come
to a place where gifts like his were appreciated. The Master and
Fellows of Christ's College elected him to a fellowship with no duties
of tuition attached to it--a wise and graceful recognition of his
merits which did them the more credit because they had very little
personal knowledge of him, while he had possessed no prior tie with
the University. Christ's is one of the smaller colleges, but has
almost always had men of distinction among its fellows, and has
maintained a high standard of teaching. In the list of its alumni
stand the names of John Milton, Isaac Barrow, Ralph Cudworth, and
Charles Darwin. Robertson Smith dwelt in it for the rest of his days,
entering into the life of hall and common-room with great zest, for he
was of an extremely sociable turn, and the College became proud of
him. When a vacancy occurred in the office of University Librarian, he
was chosen to fill it. His knowledge of and fondness for books fitted
him excellently for the place, but the details of administration
worried him, and it was a change for the better when (in 1889), on the
death of his friend, William Wright, he became Professor of
Arabic.[49] His efforts to build up a school of Oriental studies on
the foundations laid by Wright, and with the help of an eminent Syriac
scholar, Bensley, were proving successful, and a considerable number
of able young men were gathering round him, when (in 1890) the hand of
disease fell upon him, obliging him first to curtail and afterwards to
intermit his lectures. The last year of his life was a year of
suffering, borne with uncomplaining fortitude.

What with work on the _Encyclopædia Britannica_, with the distractions
of his prolonged trial, with the time spent in oral teaching, and with
the physical weakness of his latest years, Smith's leisure available
for literary production was not large, and the books he has left do
not adequately represent either his accumulated knowledge or his
faculty of investigation. The earlier books--_The Old Testament in the
Jewish Church_ and _The Prophets of Israel_ (the latter a series of
lectures delivered at Glasgow)--are comparatively popular in handling.
The two later--_Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia_ and _The
Religion of the Semites_--are more abstruse and technical, and also
more original, dealing with topics in which their author was a
pioneer, though he had been influenced by, and acknowledged in the
amplest way his obligations to, his friend John F. Maclennan, the
author of _Primitive Marriage_. _The Religion of the Semites_, though
masterly in plan and execution, and though it has excited the
admiration of the few Oriental scholars competent to appraise its
substantial merit, suffers from its incompleteness. Only the first
volume was published, for death overtook the author before he could
put into final shape the materials he had collected for the full
development of his theories. As the second volume would have traced
the connection between the primitive religion of the Arab branches of
the Semitic stock (including Israel) and the Hebrew religion as we
have it in the earlier books of the Old Testament, the absence of this
finished statement is a loss to science. Changes had passed upon his
views since he wrote the incriminated articles, and he said to me (I
think about 1888) that he would no longer undertake any clerical
duties. He had a sensitive conscience, and held that no clergyman
ought to use language in the pulpit which did not express his personal

What struck one most in Robertson Smith's writings was the easy
command wherewith he handled his materials. His generalisations were
based on an endlessly patient and careful study of details, a study in
which he never lost sight of guiding principles. With perfect lucidity
and an unstrained natural vigour, there was a sense of abounding and
overflowing knowledge which inspired confidence in the reader, making
him feel he was in the hands of a master. On all that pertained to the
languages and literature of the Arabic branch of the Semitic races,
ancient and modern (for he did not claim to be an Assyriologist), his
knowledge was accurate no less than comprehensive. Full of deference
to the great scholars--no one spoke with a warmer admiration of
Nöldeke, Wellhausen, and Lagarde than he did--he was a stringent
critic of unscientific work in the sphere of history and physics as
well as in that of philology, quick to expose the uncritical
assumptions or loose hypotheses of less careful though more
pretentious students. He used to say that when he had disposed of the
_Encyclopædia Britannica_, he might undertake a "Dictionary of
European Impostors." Oriental lore was only one of many subjects in
which he might have achieved distinction. His mathematical talents
were remarkable, and during two sessions he taught with conspicuous
success the class of Natural Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh
as assistant professor. He had a competent acquaintance with not a few
other practical arts, including navigation, and once, when the
compasses of the vessel on which he was sailing in the Red Sea got out
of order, he proved to be the person on board most competent to set
them right. In metaphysics and theology, in ancient history and many
departments of modern history, he was thoroughly at home. Few, indeed,
were the subjects that came up in the course of conversation on which
he was not able to throw light, for the range of his acquirements was
not more striking than the swiftness and precision with which he
brought knowledge to bear wherever it was wanted.

There was hardly a line of practical life in which he might not have
attained a brilliant success. But the passion for knowledge made him
prefer the life of a scholar, and seemed to have quenched any desire
even for literary fame.

Learning is commonly thought of as a weight to be carried, which makes
men dull, heavy, or pedantic. With Robertson Smith the effect seemed
to be exactly the opposite. Because he knew so much, he was interested
in everything, and threw himself with a joyous freshness and keenness
into talk alike upon the most serious and the lightest topics. He was
combative, apt to traverse a proposition when first advanced, even
though he might come round to it afterwards; and a discussion with him
taxed the defensive acumen of his companions. Having once spent five
weeks alone with him in a villa at Alassio on the Riviera, I observed
to him when we parted that we had had (as the Americans say) "a lovely
time" together, and that there was not an observation I had made
during those weeks which he had not contested. He laughed and did not
contest that observation. Yet this tendency, while it made his society
more stimulating, did not make it less agreeable, because he never
seemed to seek to overthrow an adversary, but only to get at the truth
of the case, and his manner, though positive, had about it nothing
either acrid or conceited. One could imagine no keener intellectual
pleasure than his company afforded, for there was, along with an
exuberant wealth of thought and knowledge, an intensity and ardour
which lit up every subject which it touched. I once invited him and
John Richard Green (the historian) to meet at dinner. They took to one
another at once, nor was it easy to say which lamp burned the
brighter. Smith had wider and more accurate learning, and stronger
logical power, but Green was just as swift, just as fertile, just as
ingenious. In stature Smith, like Green, was small, almost diminutive;
his dark brown eyes bright and keen; his speech rapid; his laugh ready
and merry, for he had a quick sense of humour and a power of enjoying
things as they came. The type of intellect suggested a Teutonic Scot
of the Lowlands, but in appearance and temperament he was rather a
Scottish Celt of the Highlands, with a fire and a gaiety, an abounding
vivacity and vitality, which made him a conspicuous figure wherever he
lived, in Aberdeen, in Edinburgh, in Cambridge. Even by his walk, with
its quick, irregular roll, one could single him out at a distance in
the street.

When a man is attractive personally, he is all the more attractive for
being unlike other men, and he often becomes the centre of a group.
This was the case with Smith. His numerous friends were so much
interested by him that when they met their talk was largely of him,
and many friendships were based on a common knowledge of this one
person. Indeed, the geniality, elevation, and simplicity of his
character gave him a quite unusual hold on those who had come to know
him well. Few men, leading an equally quiet and studious life, have
inspired so much regard and affection in so large a number of persons;
few teachers have had an equal power of stimulating and attracting
their pupils. He loved teaching hardly less than he loved the
investigation of truth, and he was the most faithful and sympathetic
of friends, one who was felt to be unique while he lived and
irreplaceable when he had departed.

I have spoken of the courage he had shown in confronting his
antagonists in the ecclesiastical courts. That courage did not fail
him in the severer trials of his last illness. The nature of the
disease of which he died was disclosed to him by his physician in
September 1892, while an international Congress of Orientalists, in
which he presided over the Semitic section, was holding its meetings.
A festival dinner was being given in honour of the Congress the same
afternoon. When the physician had spoken, Smith simply remarked, "This
means the death my brother died" (one of his brothers had been struck
by the same malady a few years before). He went straight to the
dinner, and was throughout the evening the gayest and brightest of the

Fancy sometimes indulges herself in imagining what part the eminent
men one has known would have played had their lot been cast in some
other age. So I have fancied that Archbishop Tait (described in an
earlier chapter) ought to have been Primate of England under Edward
the Sixth or Elizabeth. He would have guided the course of reform more
prudently and more firmly than Cranmer did; he would have shown a
broader spirit than did Parker or Whitgift. So Cardinal Manning, had
he lived in the seventeenth century, might haply have become General
of the Jesuit Order, and enjoyed the secret control of the politics of
the Catholic world. So Robertson Smith, had he been born in the great
age of the mediæval universities, might, like the bold dialectician of
whom Dante speaks, have "syllogised invidious truths"[50] in the
University of Paris; or had Fortune placed him two centuries later
among the scholars of the Italian Renaissance in its glorious prime,
the fame of his learning might have filled half Europe.


  [48] No life of Robertson Smith has yet been written, but it is hoped
       that one may be prepared by his intimate friend, Mr. J.
       Sutherland Black. A portrait of him (by his friend Sir George
       Reid, late President of the Royal Scottish Academy) hangs in
       the library of Christ's College, Cambridge, to which Smith's
       collection of Oriental books was presented by his friends, and
       another has been placed in the Divinity College of the United
       Free Presbyterian Church at Aberdeen. A memorial window has
       been set up in the chapel of the University of Aberdeen, where
       he won his first distinctions. I have to thank my friend Mr.
       Black for some suggestions he has kindly made after perusing
       this sketch.

  [49] There was an aged Jewish scholar who came now and then to
       Cambridge in those days, and who, as sometimes happens,
       disliked other scholars labouring in the same field. He was (so
       it used to be said) one of the few who knew exactly how the
       word which we write Jehovah or Iahve ought to be pronounced,
       and it was believed that he had solemnly cursed Wright, Smith,
       and a third Semitic scholar in the Sacred Name. All three died
       soon afterwards.

       What would have been thought of this in the Middle Ages!

  [50] _Parad._ x. 136, of Sigier, "Sillogizzó invidiosi veri."


Henry Sidgwick was born at Skipton, in Yorkshire, where his father was
headmaster of the ancient grammar school of the town, on 31st May
1838.[51] The family belonged to Yorkshire. He was a precocious boy,
and used to delight his brothers and sister by the fertility of his
imagination in inventing games and stories. Educated at Rugby School
under Goulburn (afterwards Dean of Norwich), he was sent at an
unusually early age to Trinity College, Cambridge. His brilliant
University career was crowned by the first place in the classical
tripos and by a first class in the mathematical tripos, and he was
speedily elected a Fellow of Trinity. Intellectual curiosity and an
interest in the problems of theology presently drew him to Germany,
where he worked at Hebrew and Arabic under Ewald at Göttingen, as well
as with other eminent teachers. After hesitating for a time whether to
devote himself to Oriental studies or to classical scholarship, he was
drawn back to philosophy by his desire to investigate questions
bearing on natural theology, and finally settled down to the pursuit
of what are called in Cambridge the moral sciences--metaphysics,
ethics, and psychology; becoming first a College Lecturer and then (in
1875) a University Prælector in these subjects. In 1869 he resigned
his fellowship, feeling that he could no longer consider himself a
"_bona fide_ member of the Church of England," that being the
condition then attached by law to the holding of fellowships in the
Colleges at Cambridge. This step caused surprise, for the test was
deemed a very vague and light one, having been recently substituted
for a more stringent requirement, and there had been many holders of
fellowships who were at least as little entitled to call themselves
_bona fide_ members of the Established Church as he was. But, as was
afterwards said of him by Mrs. Cross (George Eliot), Sidgwick was
expected by his intimate friends to conform to standards higher than
average men prescribe for their own conduct. Taken in conjunction with
the fact that several English Dissenters and Scottish Presbyterians
had won the distinction of a Senior Wranglership and been debarred
from fellowships, though they were in theological opinion more
orthodox than some nominal members of the Established Church who were
holding fellowships, Sidgwick's conscientious act made a great
impression in Cambridge and did much to hasten that total abolition
of tests in the Universities which was effected by statute in 1871;
for in England concrete instances of hardship and injustice are more
powerful incitements to reform than the strongest abstract arguments,
and Sidgwick was already so eminent and so respected a figure that all
Cambridge felt the absurdity of excluding such a man from its honours
and emoluments. In 1883 he was appointed Professor of Moral
Philosophy, and continued to hold that post till three months before
his death in 1900, when failing health determined him to resign it.

His life was the still and tranquil life of the thinker, teacher, and
writer, varied by no events more exciting than those controversies
over reforms in the studies and organisation of the University in
which his sense of public duty frequently led him to bear a part.

These I pass over, but there is one branch of his active work to which
special reference ought to be made, viz. the part he took in promoting
the University education of women. In or about the year 1868 he joined
with the late Miss Anne Jane Clough (sister of the poet Arthur Clough)
and a few other friends in establishing a course of lectures and a
hall of residence for women at Cambridge, which grew into the
institution called Newnham College. It and Girton College, founded by
other friends of the same cause about the same time, were the first
two institutions in England which provided for women, together with
residential accommodation, a complete University training equivalent
and similar to that provided by the two ancient English universities
for men. The teaching was mainly given by the University professors
and lecturers, the curriculum was the same as the University
prescribed, and the women students, though not legally admitted to the
University, were examined by the University examiners at the same time
as the other students. Henry Sidgwick was, from the foundation of
Newnham onwards, the moving spirit and the guiding hand among its
University friends, the spirit which inspired the policy and the hand
which piloted the fortunes of the College. Its growth to its present
dimensions, and its usefulness, not only directly, but through the
example it has set, have been largely due to his assiduous care and
temperate wisdom. He had married (in 1876) Miss Eleanor Mildred
Balfour, and when she accepted the principalship of Newnham after Miss
Clough's death, in 1889, he and she transferred their residence to the
College, and lived thenceforward at it. The England of our time has
seen no movement of opinion more remarkable or more beneficial than
that which has recognised the claims of women to the highest kind of
education, and secured a substantial, if still incomplete, provision
therefor. The change has come so quietly and unobtrusively that few
people realise how great it is. Few, indeed, remember what things were
forty years ago, as few realise when waste lands have been stubbed and
drained and tilled what they were like in their former state. No one
did more than Sidgwick to bring about this change. Besides his work
for Newnham, he took a lead in all the movements that have been made
to obtain for women a fuller admission to University privileges, and
well deserved the gratitude of Englishwomen for his unceasing efforts
on their behalf.

The obscure problems of psychology had a great attraction for him, and
he spent much time in investigating them, being one of the founders,
and remaining all through his later life a leading and guiding member,
of the Society for Psychical Research, which has for the last twenty
years cultivated this field with an industry and ability which have
deserved larger harvests than have yet been reaped. Two remarkable
men, both devoted friends of his, worked with him, Edmund Gurney and
Frederic Myers the poet, the latter of whom survived him a few months
only. It was characteristic of Sidgwick that he never committed
himself to any of the bold and possibly over-sanguine anticipations
formed by some of the other members of the Society, while yet he never
was deterred by failure, or by the discovery of deceptions, sometimes
elaborate and long sustained, from pursuing inquiries which seemed to
him to have an ultimate promise of valuable results. The phenomena, he
would say, may be true or false; anyhow they deserve investigation.
The mere fact that so many persons believe them to be genuine is a
problem fit to be investigated. If they are false, it will be a
service to have proved them so. If they contain some truth, it is
truth of a kind so absolutely new as to be worth much effort and long
effort to reach it. In any case, science ought to take the subject out
of the hands of charlatans.

The main business of his life, however, was teaching and writing. Three
books stand out as those by which he will be best remembered--his
_Methods of Ethics_, his _Principles of Political Economy_, and his
_Elements of Politics_. All three have won the admiration of those
who are experts in the subjects to which they respectively relate, and
they continue to be widely read in universities both in Britain and in
America. All three bear alike the peculiar impress of his mind.

It was a mind of singular subtlety, fertility, and ingenuity, which
applied to every topic an extremely minute and patient analysis. Never
satisfied with the obvious view of a question, it seemed unable to
acquiesce in any broad and sweeping statement. It discovered
objections to every accepted doctrine, exceptions to every rule. It
perceived minute distinctions and qualifications which had escaped the
notice of previous writers. These qualities made Sidgwick's books
somewhat difficult reading for a beginner, who was apt to ask what,
after all, was the conclusion to which he had been led by an author
who showed him the subject in various lights, and added not a few
minor propositions to that which had seemed to be the governing one.
But the student who had already some knowledge of the topic, who,
though he apprehended its main principles, had not followed them out
in detail or perceived the difficulties in applying them, gained
immensely by having so many fresh points presented to him, so many
fallacies lurking in currently accepted notions detected, so many
conditions indicated which might qualify the amplitude of a general
proposition. The method of discussion was stimulating. Sometimes it
reminded one of the Socratic method as it appears in Plato, but more
frequently it was the method of Aristotle, who discusses a subject
first from one side, then from another, throws out a number of
remarks, not always reconcilable, but always suggestive, regarding it,
and finally arrives at a view which he delivers as being probably the
best, but one which must be taken subject to the remarks previously
made. The reader often feels in Sidgwick's treatment of a subject as
he often feels in Aristotle's, that he would like to be left with
something more definite and positive, something that can be easily
delivered to learners as an established truth. He desires a bolder and
broader sweep of the brush. But he also feels how much he is benefited
by the process of sifting and analysing to which every conception or
dogma is subjected, and he perceives that he is more able to handle it
afterwards in his own way when his attention has been called to all
these distinctions and qualifications or antinomies which would have
escaped any vision less keen than his author's. For those who, in an
age prone to hasty reading and careless thinking, are disposed to
underrate the difficulties of economic and political questions, and to
walk in a vain conceit of knowledge because they have picked up some
large generalisations, no better discipline can be prescribed than to
follow patiently such a treatment as Sidgwick gives; nor can any
reader fail to profit from the candour and the love of truth which
illumine his discussion of a subject.

The love of truth and the sense of duty guided his life as well as his
pen. Though always warmly interested in politics, he was of all the
persons I have known the least disposed to be warped by partisanship,
for he examined each political issue as it arose on its own merits,
apart from predilections for either party or for the views of his
nearest friends. We used to wonder how such splendid impartiality
would have stood a practical test such as that of the House of
Commons. His loyalty to civic duty was so strong as on one occasion to
bring him, in the middle of his vacation, all the way from Davos, in
the easternmost corner of Switzerland, to Cambridge, solely that he
might record his vote at a parliamentary election, although the result
of the election was already virtually certain.

Sidgwick's attitude toward the Benthamite system of Utilitarianism
illustrates the cautiously discriminative habit of mind I have sought
to describe. If he had been required to call himself by any name, he
would not have refused that of Utilitarian, just as in mental
philosophy he leaned to the type of thought represented by the two
Mills rather than to the Kantian idealism of his friend and school
contemporary, the Oxford professor T. H. Green. But the system of
Utility takes in his hands a form so much more refined and delicate
than was given to it by Bentham and James Mill, and is expounded with
so many qualifications unknown to them, that it has become a very
different thing, and is scarcely, if at all, assailable by the
arguments which moralists of the idealistic type have brought against
the older doctrine. Something similar may be said of his treatment of
bimetallism in his book on political economy. While assenting to some
of the general propositions on which the bimetallic theory rests, he
points out so many difficulties in the application of that theory to
the actual conditions of currency that his assent cannot be cited as a
deliverance in favour of trying to turn theory into practice. He told
me in 1896 that he held the political and other practical objections
to an attempt to establish a bimetallic system to be virtually
insuperable. When he treats of free trade, he is no less guarded and
discriminating. He points out various circumstances or conditions
under which a protective tariff may become, at least for a time,
justifiable, but never abandons the free trade principle as being
generally true and sound, a principle not to be departed from save for
strong reasons of a local or temporary kind. His general economic
position is equally removed from the "high and dry" school of Ricardo
on the one hand, and from the "Katheder-Sozialisten" and the modern
"sentimental" school on the other. In all his books one notes a
tendency to discover what can be said for the view which is in popular
disfavour, even often for that which he does not himself adopt, and to
set forth all the objections to the view which is to receive his
ultimate adhesion. There is a danger with such a method of losing
breadth and force of effect. One is ready to cry, "Do lapse for a
moment into dogmatism." Yet it ought to be added that Sidgwick's
subtlety is always restrained by practical good sense, as well as by
the desire to reconcile opposite views. His arguments, though they
often turn on minute distinctions, are not bits of fine-drawn
ingenuity, but have weight and substance in them.[52]

One book of his which has not yet (December 1902) been published, but
which I have had the privilege of reading in proof, displays his
constructive power in another light. It is a course of lectures on the
development of political institutions in Europe from early times down
to our own. Here, as he is dealing with concrete matter, the treatment
is more broad, and the line of exposition and argument more easy to
follow, than in the treatises already referred to. It is a masterly
piece of work, and reveals a wider range of historical knowledge and a
more complete mastery of historical method than had been shown in his
earlier books, or indeed than some of his friends had known him to

The tendency to analysis rather than to construction, the abstention
from the deliverance of doctrines easy to comprehend and repeat, which
belong to his writings on ethics and economics, do not impair the
worth of his literary criticisms. In this field his fine perception
and discriminative taste had full scope. He was an incessant reader,
especially of poetry and novels, with a retentive memory for poetry,
as well as a finely modulated and expressive voice in reciting it. His
literary judgments had less of a creative quality, if the expression
be permissible, than Matthew Arnold's, but are not otherwise inferior
to those of that brilliant though sometimes slightly prejudiced
critic. No one of his contemporaries has surpassed Sidgwick in
catholicity and reasonableness, in the power of delicate appreciation,
or in an exquisite precision of expression. His essay on Arthur Hugh
Clough, prefixed to the latest edition of Clough's collected poems, is
a good specimen of this side of his talent. Clough was one of his
favourites, and has indeed been called the pet poet of University men.
Sidgwick's literary essays, which appeared occasionally in magazines,
were few, but they well deserve to be collected and republished, for
this age of ours, though largely occupied in talking about literature,
has produced comparatively little criticism of the first order.

Sidgwick did not write swiftly or easily, because he weighed carefully
everything he wrote. But his mind was alert and nimble in the highest
degree. Thus he was an admirable talker, seeing in a moment the point
of an argument, seizing on distinctions which others had failed to
perceive, suggesting new aspects from which a question might be
regarded, and enlivening every topic by a keen yet sweet and kindly
wit. Wit, seldom allowed to have play in his books, was one of the
characteristics which made his company charming. Its effect was
heightened by a hesitation in his speech which often forced him to
pause before the critical word or phrase of the sentence had been
reached. When that word or phrase came, it was sure to be the right
one. Though fond of arguing, he was so candid and fair, admitting all
that there was in his opponent's case, and obviously trying to see the
point from his opponent's side, that nobody felt annoyed at having
come off second best, while everybody who cared for good talk went
away feeling not only that he knew more about the matter than he did
before, but that he had enjoyed an intellectual pleasure of a rare and
high kind. The keenness of his penetration was not formidable, because
it was joined to an indulgent judgment: the ceaseless activity of his
intellect was softened rather than reduced by the gaiety of his
manner. His talk was conversation, not discourse, for though he
naturally became the centre of nearly every company in which he found
himself, he took no more than his share. It was like the sparkling of
a brook whose ripples seem to give out sunshine.

Though Sidgwick's writings are a mine of careful and suggestive
thinking, he was even more remarkable than his books. Though his
conversation was delightful, the impression of its fertility and its
wit was the least part of the impression which his personality
produced. An eminent man is known to the world at large by what he
gives them in the way of instruction or of pleasure. A man is prized
and remembered by his friends for what he was in the intercourse of
life. Few men of our time have influenced so wide or so devoted a
circle of friends as did Henry Sidgwick; few could respond to the
calls of friendship with a like sympathy or wisdom. His advice was
frequently asked in delicate questions of conduct, and he was
humorously reminded that, by his own capacity as well as by the title
of his chair, he was a professor of casuistry. His stores of knowledge
and helpful criticism were always at the service of his pupils or his

From his earliest college days he had been just, well-balanced,
conscientious alike in the pursuit of truth and in the regulation of
his own life, appearing to have neither prejudices nor enmities, and
when he had to convey censure, choosing the least cutting words in
which to convey it. Yet in earlier years there had been in him a touch
of austerity, a certain remoteness or air of detachment, which
confined to a very few persons the knowledge of his highest qualities.
As he grew older his purity lost its coldness, his keenness of
discernment mellowed into a sweet and persuasive wisdom. A life
excellently conducted, a life which is the expression of fine
qualities, and in which the acts done are in harmony with the thoughts
and words of the man, is itself a beautiful product, whether of
untutored nature or of thought and experience turning every faculty to
the best account. In the modern world the two types of excellence
which we are chiefly bidden to admire are that of the active
philanthropist and that of the saint. The ancient world produced and
admired another type, to which some of its noblest characters
conformed, and which, in its softer and more benignant aspect,
Sidgwick presented. In his indifference to wealth and fame and the
other familiar objects of human desire, in the almost ascetic
simplicity of his daily life, in his pursuit of none but the purest
pleasures, in his habit of subjecting all impulses to the law of
reason, the will braced to patience, the soul brought into harmony
with the divinely appointed order, he seemed to reproduce one of those
philosophers of antiquity who formed a lofty conception of Nature and
sought to live in conformity with her precepts. But the gravity of a
Stoic was relieved by the humour and vivacity which belonged to his
nature, and the severity of a Stoic was softened by the tenderness and
sympathy which seemed to grow and expand with every year. In
Cambridge, where, though the society is a large one, all the teachers
become personally known to one another, and the students have
opportunities of familiar intercourse with the teachers, affection as
well as admiration gathered round him. His thoughts quickened and his
example inspired generation after generation of young men passing
through the University out into the life of England, as a light set
high upon the bank beams on the waves of a river gliding swiftly to
the sea.

It was a life of single-minded devotion to truth and friendship, a
life serene and gentle, free alike from vanity and from ambition,
bearing without complaint the ill-health which sometimes checked his
labours, viewing with calm fortitude those problems of man's life on
which his mind was always fixed, untroubled in the presence of death.

           Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas
           Quique metus omnes et inexorabile fatum
           Subiecit pedibus strepitumque Acherontis avari.

When his friends heard of his departure there rose to mind the words
in which the closing scene of the life of Socrates is described by the
greatest of his disciples, and we thought that among all those we had
known there was none of whom we could more truly say that in him the
spirit of philosophy had its perfect work in justice, in goodness, and
in wisdom.


  [51] It is hoped that a life of Sidgwick, together with a selection
       from his letters, may before long be published.

  [52] It was his aim to avoid as much as possible technical terms or
       phrases whose meaning was not plain to the average reader. An
       anecdote was current that once when, in conducting a
       university examination, he was perusing the papers of a
       candidate who had darkened the subject by the use of extreme
       Hegelian phraseology, he turned to his co-examiner and said, "I
       can see that this is nonsense, but is it the right kind of


Ever since the publication of Stanley's Life of Dr. Arnold that
eminent headmaster has been taken as the model of a great teacher and
ruler of boys, the man who, while stimulating the intelligence of his
pupils, was even more concerned to discipline and mould their moral
natures. Arnold has become the type of what Carlyle might have called
"The Hero as Schoolmaster." Though there have been many able men at
the head of large schools since his time, including three who
afterwards rose to be Archbishops of Canterbury, as well as a good
many who have become bishops, his fame remains unrivalled, and the
type created by his career, or rather perhaps by his biographer's
account of it, still holds the field. Moreover, during the sixty years
that have passed since Arnold's death scarcely a word has been said
regarding any other masters than the head. During those years the
English universities have sent into the great schools a large
proportion of their most capable graduates as assistant teachers; and
some of the strongest men among these graduates have never, from
various causes, and often because they preferred to remain laymen,
been raised to the headships of the schools. Every one knows that a
school depends for its wellbeing and success more largely on the
assistants taken together than it does on the headmaster. Most people
also know that individual assistant masters are not unfrequently
better scholars, better teachers, and more influential with the boys
than is their official superior. Yet the assistant masters have
remained unhonoured and unsung in the general chorus of praise of the
great schools which has been resounding over England for nearly two

Edward Bowen was all his life an assistant master, and never cared to
be anything else. As he had determined not to take orders in the
Church of England, he was virtually debarred from many of the chief
headmasterships, which are, some few of them by law, many more by
custom, confined to Anglican clergymen. But even when other headships
to which this condition was not attached were known to be practically
open to his acceptance, were, indeed, in one or two instances almost
tendered to him, he refused to become a candidate, preferring his own
simple and easy way of life to the pomp and circumstance which
convention requires a headmaster to maintain. This abstention,
however, did not prevent his eminence from becoming known to those who
had opportunities of judging. In his later years he would, I think,
have been generally recognised by the teaching profession as the most
brilliant, and in his own peculiar line the most successful, man among
the schoolmasters of Britain.

He was born on 30th March 1836, of an Irish family (originally from
Wales) holding property in the county of Mayo. His father was a
clergyman of the Church of England; his mother, who survived him a
few months (dying at the age of ninety-four) and whom he tended with
watchful care during her years of widowhood, was partly of Irish,
partly of French extraction. Like his more famous but perhaps not
more remarkable elder brother, Charles Bowen, who became Lord Bowen,
and is remembered as one of the most acute and subtle judges as well
as one of the most winning personalities of our time, he had a gaiety,
wit, and versatility which suggested the presence of Celtic blood. He
was educated at Blackheath School, and afterwards at King's College
in London, whence he proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge. In
1860, after a career at the University, distinguished both in the
way of honours and in respect of the reputation he won among his
contemporaries, he became a master at Harrow, and thenceforth
remained there, leading an uneventful and externally a monotonous
life, but one full of unceasing and untiring activity in play and
work. He died on Easter Monday 1901.

Nothing could be less like the traditional Arnoldine methods of
teaching and ruling boys than Bowen's method was. The note of those
methods was what used to be called moral earnestness. Arnold was grave
and serious, distant and awe-inspiring, except perhaps to a few
specially favoured pupils. Bowen was light, cheerful, vivacious,
humorous, familiar, and, above all things, ingenious and full of
variety. His leading principles were two--that the boy must at all
hazards be interested in the lessons and that he should be at ease
with the teacher.

A Harrow boy once said to his master, "I don't know how it is, sir,
but if Mr. Bowen takes a lesson he makes you work twice as hard as
other masters, but you like it twice as much and you learn far more."
He was the most unexpected man in conversation that could be imagined,
always giving a new turn to talk by saying something that seemed
remote from the matter in hand until he presently showed the
connection. So his teaching kept the boys alert, because its variety
was inexhaustible. He seemed to think that it did not greatly matter
what the lesson was so long as the pupil could be got to enjoy it. The
rules of the school and the requirements of the examinations for
which boys had to be prepared would not have permitted him to try to
any great extent the experiment of varying subjects to suit individual
tastes; but he was fond of giving lessons in topics outside the
regular course, on astronomy for instance, of which he had acquired a
fair knowledge, and on recent military history, which he knew
wonderfully well, better probably than any man in England outside the
military profession. When the so-called "modern side" was established
at Harrow, in 1869, he became head of it, having taken this post, not
from any want of classical taste and learning, for he was an admirable
scholar, and to the end of his life wrote charming Latin verses, but
because he felt that this line of teaching needed to be developed in a
school which had been formerly almost wholly classical. For
grammatical minutiæ, for learning rules by heart, and indeed for the
old style of grammar-teaching generally, he had an unconcealed
contempt. He thought it unkind and wasteful to let a boy go on
puzzling over difficulties of language in an author, and permitted,
under restrictions, the use of English translations, or (as boys call
them) "cribs." Teaching was in his view a special gift of the
individual, which depended on the aptitude for getting hold of the
pupil's mind, and enlisting his interest in the subject. He had
accordingly no faith in the doctrine that teaching is a science which
can be systematically studied, or an art in which the apprentice ought
to be systematically trained. When he was summoned as a witness before
the Secondary Education Commission in 1894 he adhered, under
cross-examination, to this view (so far as it affected schools like
Harrow or Eton), refusing to be moved by the arguments of those among
the Commissioners who cited the practice of Germany, where Pädagogik,
as they call it, is elaborately taught in the universities. "I am
unable," he said, "to conceive any machinery by which the art of
teaching can be given practically to masters. That art is so much a
matter of personal power and experience, and of various social and
moral gifts, that I cannot conceive a good person made a good master
by merely seeing a class of boys taught, unless he was allowed to take
a real and serious part in it himself, unless he became a teacher
himself. I can understand that at a primary school you can learn by
going in and hearing a good teacher at work; but the teaching of a
class of older boys is so different, and has so much of the social
element in it, and it may vary so much, that I should despair of
teaching a young man how to take a class unless he was a long time
with me.... A master at a large public school is chiefly a moral and
social force; a master is this to a much less extent at a primary
school or in the ordinary day-schools, the grammar-schools of the
country. To deal with boys when you have them completely under your
control for the whole of every day is an altogether different thing,
and requires different virtues in the teacher from those that are
required in the case of day-schools."

Bowen may possibly have been mistaken, even as regards the teachers in
the great public boarding schools. His view seems to overlook or
disregard that large class of persons who have no marked natural
aptitude for teaching, but are capable of being, by special
instruction and supervised practice, kneaded and moulded into better
teachers than they would otherwise have grown to be. He felt so
strongly that no one ought to teach without having a real gift and
fondness for teaching that he thought such difference as training
could make insignificant in comparison with the inborn talent. Perhaps
he generalised too boldly from himself, for he had an enjoyment of his
work, and a conscientiousness in always putting the very best of
himself into it--how much was conscientiousness and how much was
enjoyment, no one could tell--as well as a quickness and vivacity
which no study of methods could have improved. As one of his most
eminent colleagues,[54] who was also his life-long friend, observes:
"The humdrum and routine which must form so large a part of a
teacher's life were never humdrum or routine to him, for he put the
whole of his abounding energies into his work, and round its driest
details there played and flickered, as with a lambent flame, his
joyous spirit, finding expression now perhaps in a striking parallel,
now in a startling paradox, now in a touch of humour, and once again
in a note of pathos."

The personal influence he exerted on the boys who lived in his House
was quite as remarkable as his "form-teaching." Stoicism and honour
were the qualities it was mainly directed to form. Every boy was
expected to show manliness and endurance, and to utter no complaint.
Where physical health was concerned he was indulgent; his House was
the first which gave the boys meat at breakfast in addition to tea
with bread and butter. But otherwise the discipline was Spartan,
though not more Spartan than that he prescribed to himself, and the
House was trained to scorn the slightest approach to luxury.
Arm-chairs were forbidden except to sixth-form boys. A pupil relates
that when Bowen found he was in the habit of taking two hot baths a
week the transgression was reproved with the words: "Oh boy, that's
like the later Romans, boy." His maxims were: "Take sweet and bitter
as sweet and bitter come" and "Always play the game." He never
preached to the boys or lectured them; and if he had to convey a
reproof, conveyed it in a single sentence. But he dwelt upon honour as
the foundation of character, and made every boy feel that he was
expected to reach the highest standard of truthfulness, courage, and
duty to the little community of the House, or the cricket eleven, or
the football team.

Some have begun to think that in English schools and universities too
much time is given to athletic sports, and that they absorb too
largely the thoughts and interests of the English youth. Bowen,
however, attached the utmost value to games as a training in
character. He used to descant upon the qualities of discipline,
good-fellowship, good-humour, mutual help, and postponement of self
which they are calculated to foster. Though some of his friends
thought that his own intense and unabated fondness for these
games--for he played cricket and football up to the end of his
life--might have biassed his judgment, they could not deny that the
games ought to develop the qualities aforesaid.

"Consider the habit of being in public, the forbearance, the
subordination of the one to the many, the exercise of judgment, the
sense of personal dignity. Think again of the organising faculty that
our games develop. Where can you get command and obedience, choice
with responsibility, criticism with discipline, in any degree remotely
approaching that in which our social games supply them? Think of the
partly moral, partly physical side of it, temper, of course, dignity,
courtesy.... When the match has really begun, there is education,
there is enlargement of horizon, self sinks, the common good is the
only good, the bodily faculties exhilarate in functional development,
and the make-believe ambition is glorified into a sort of ideality.
Here is boyhood at its best, or very nearly at its best. _Sursum
crura!..._ When you have a lot of human beings, in highest social
union and perfect organic action, developing the law of their race and
falling in unconsciously with its best inherited traditions of
brotherhood and common action, you are not far from getting a glimpse
of one side of the highest good. There lives more soul in honest play,
believe me, than in half the hymn-books."

These words, taken from a half-serious essay on Games written for a
private society, give some part of Bowen's views. The whole essay is
well worth reading.[55] Its arguments do not, however, quite settle
the matter. The playing of games may have, and indeed ought to have,
the excellent results Bowen claimed for it, and yet it may be doubted
whether the experience of life shows that boys so brought up do in
fact turn out substantially more good-humoured, unselfish, and fit for
the commerce of the world than others who have lacked this training.
And the further question remains whether the games are worth their
costly candle. That they occupy a good deal of time at school and at
college is not necessarily an evil, seeing that the time left for
lessons or study is sufficient if well spent. The real drawback
incident to the excessive devotion games inspire in our days is that
they leave little room in the boy's or collegian's mind either for
interest in his studies or for the love of nature. They fill his
thoughts, they divert his ambition into channels of no permanent value
to his mind or life; they continue to absorb his interest and form a
large part of his reading long after he has left school or college.
Nevertheless, be these things as they may, the opinion of a man so
able and so experienced as Bowen was, deserves to be recorded; and his
success in endearing himself to and guiding his boys was doubtless
partly due to the use he made of their liking for games.

He was never married, so the school became the sole devotion of his
life, and he bequeathed to it the bulk of his property, directing an
area of land which he had purchased on the top of the Hill to be
always kept as an open space for the benefit of boys and masters.

It need hardly be said that he loved boys as he loved teaching. He
took them with him in the holidays on walking tours. He kept up
correspondence with many of his pupils after they left Harrow, and
advised them as occasion rose. To many of them he remained through
life the model whom they desired to imitate. But he was very chary of
the exercise of influence. "A boy's character," he once wrote, "grows
like the Temple of old, without sound of mallet and trowel. What we
can do is to arrange matters so as to give Virtue her best chance. We
can make the right choice sometimes a little easier, we can prevent
tendencies from blossoming into acts, and render pitfalls visible. How
much indirectly and unconsciously we can do, none but the recording
angel knows. 'You can and you should,' said Chiffers,[56] 'go straight
to the heart of every individual boy.' Well, a fellow-creature's mind
is a sacred thing. You may enter into that arcanum once a year,
shoeless. And in the effort to control the spirit of a pupil, to make
one's own approval his test and mould him by the stress of our own
presence, in the ambition to do this, the craving for moral power and
visible guiding, the subtle pride of effective agency, lie some of the
chief temptations of a schoolmaster's work."

Such ways and methods as I have endeavoured to describe are less easy
to imitate than those which belong to the Arnoldine type of
schoolmaster. In Bowen's gaiety, in his vivacity, in the humour which
interpenetrated everything he said or did, there was something
individual. Teachers who do not possess a like vivacity, versatility,
and humour cannot hope to apply with like success the method of
familiarity and sympathy. Not indeed that Bowen stood altogether alone
in his use of that method. There were others among his contemporaries
who shared his view, and whose practice was not dissimilar. He was,
however, the earliest and most brilliant exponent of the view, so his
career may be said to open a new line, and to mark a new departure in
the teacher's art.

I have mentioned his walking tours. He was a pedestrian of extraordinary
force, rather tall, but spare and light, swift of foot, and tireless
in his activity. As an undergraduate he had walked from Cambridge to
Oxford, nearly ninety miles, in twenty-four hours, scarcely halting. At
one time or another he had traversed on foot all the coast-line and
great part of the inland regions of England. He was an accomplished
Alpine climber. His passion for exercise of body as well as of mind
was so salient a feature in his character that his friends wondered
how he would be able to support old age. He was spared the trial,
for he was gay and joyous as ever on the last morning of his life, and
he died in a moment, while mounting his bicycle after a long ascent,
among the lonely forests of Burgundy, then bursting into leaf under
an April sun.

His interest in politics provided him with a short and strenuous
interlude of public action, which varied the even tenor of his life at
Harrow. At the general election of 1880 he stood as a candidate for
the little borough of Hertford (which has since been merged in the
county) against Mr. Arthur Balfour, now (1902) First Lord of the
Treasury in England. The pro-Turkish policy of Lord Beaconsfield,
followed by the Afghan War of 1878, had roused many Liberals who
usually took little part in political action. Bowen felt the impulse
to denounce the conduct of the Ministry, and went into the contest
with his usual airy suddenness. He had little prospect of success at
such a place, for, like many of the so-called Academic Liberals of
those days, he made the mistake of standing for a small semi-rural
constituency, overshadowed by a neighbouring magnate, instead of for a
large town, where both his opinions and his oratory would have been
better appreciated. However, he enjoyed the contest thoroughly,
amusing himself as well as the electors by his lively and sometimes
impassioned speeches, and he looked back to it as a pleasant episode
in his usually smooth and placid life. He was all his life a strong
Liberal _vieille roche_, a lover of freedom and equality as well as of
economy in public finance, a Free Trader, an individualist, an enemy
of all wars and all aggressions, and in later years growingly
indignant at the rapid increase of military and naval expenditure. He
was also, like the Liberals of 1850-60 in general, a sympathiser with
oppressed nationalities, though this feeling did not carry him the
length of accepting the policy of Home Rule for Ireland, as to which
he had grave doubts, yet doubts not quite so serious as to involve
his separation from the Liberal party. Twice after 1880 he was on the
point of becoming a candidate for a seat in the House of Commons, but
whether his love for Harrow would have suffered him to remain in
Parliament had he entered it may be doubted. One could not even tell
whether he was really disappointed that his political aspirations
remained unfulfilled. Had he given himself to parliamentary life, his
readiness, ingenuity, and wit would have soon made him valued by his
own side, while his sincerity and engaging manners would have
commended him to both sides alike. His delivery was always too rapid,
and his voice not powerful, yet these defects would have been
forgotten in the interest which so peculiar a figure must have

His peace principles contrasted oddly with his passion for military
history, a passion which prompted many vacation journeys to
battlefields all over Europe, from Salamanca to Austerlitz. He had
followed the campaigns of Napoleon through Piedmont and Lombardy,
through Germany and Austria, as well as those of Wellington in Spain
and Southern France.[57] This taste is not uncommon in men of peace.
Freeman had it; J. R. Green and S. R. Gardiner had it; and the
historical works of Sir George Trevelyan and Dr. Thomas Hodgkin prove
that it lives in those genial breasts also. It was a pleasure to be
led over a battlefield by Bowen, for he had a good eye for ground, he
knew the movements of the armies down to the smallest detail, and he
could explain with perfect lucidity the positions of the combatants
and the tactical moves in the game.

Twice only did he come across actual fighting, once at Düppel in 1864,
during the Schleswig-Holstein war, and again in Paris during the siege
of the Communards by the forces that obeyed Thiers and the Assembly
sitting at Versailles. He maintained that the Commune had been
unfairly judged by Englishmen, and wrote a singularly interesting
description of what he saw while risking his life in the beleaguered
city. There was in him a great spirit of adventure, though the
circumstances of his life gave it little scope.

Travel was one of his chief pleasures, but it was, if possible, a
still greater pleasure to his fellow-travellers, for he was the most
agreeable of companions, fertile in suggestion, candid in discussion,
swift in decision. He cared nothing for luxury and very little for
comfort; he was absolutely unselfish and imperturbably good-humoured;
he could get enjoyment out of the smallest incidents of travel, and
his curiosity to see the surface of the earth as well as the cities of
men was inexhaustible. He loved the unexpected, and if one had written
proposing an expedition to explore Tibet, he would have telegraphed
back, "Start to-night: do we meet Charing Cross or Victoria?"

I have dwelt on Bowen's gifts and methods as a teacher, because
teaching was the joy and the business of his life, and because he
showed a new way in which boys might be stimulated and guided. But he
was a great deal besides a teacher, just as his brother Charles was a
great deal besides a lawyer. Both had talents for literature of a very
high order. Charles published a verse translation of Virgil's
_Eclogues_ and the first six books of the _Æneid_, full of ingenuity
and refinement, as well as of fine poetic taste. Edward's vein
expressed itself in the writing of songs. His school songs, composed
for the Harrow boys, became immensely popular with them, and their use
at school celebrations of various kinds has passed from Harrow to the
other great schools of England, even to some of the larger girls'
schools. The songs are unique in their fanciful ingenuity and humorous
extravagance, full of a boyish joy in life, in the exertion of
physical strength, in the mimic strife of games, yet with an
occasional touch of sadness, like the shadow of a passing cloud as it
falls on the cricket field over which the shouts of the players are
ringing. The metres are various: all show rhythmical skill, and in all
the verse has a swing which makes it singularly effective when sung
by a mass of voices. Most of the songs are dedicated to cricket or
football, but a few are serious, and two or three of these have a
beauty of thought and perfection of form which make the reader ask why
a poetic gift so true and so delicate should have been rarely used.
These songs were the work of his middle or later years, and he never
wrote except when the impulse came upon him. The stream ran pure but
it ran seldom. In early days he had been for a while, like many other
brilliant young University men of his time, a contributor to the
_Saturday Review_. (There surely never was a journal which enlisted so
much and such varied literary talent as the _Saturday_ did between
1855 and 1863.) Bowen's articles were, like his elder brother's,
extremely witty. In later life he could seldom be induced to write,
having fallen out of the habit, and being, indeed, too busy to carry
on any large piece of work; but the occasional papers on educational
subjects he produced showed no decline in his vivacity or in the
abundance of his humour. Those who knew the range and the resources of
his mind sometimes regretted that he would do nothing to let the world
know them. But he was, to a degree most unusual among men of real
power, absolutely indifferent, not only to fame, but to opportunities
for exercising power or influence.

The stoicism which he sought to form in his pupils was inculcated by
his own example. It was a genial and cheerful stoicism, which checked
neither his affection for them nor his brightness in society, and
which permitted him to draw as much enjoyment from small things as
most people can from great ones. But if he had the gaiety of an
Irishman, he had a double portion of English reserve. He never gave
expression in words to his emotions. He never seemed either elated or
depressed. He never lost his temper and never seemed to be curbing it.
His tastes and way of life were simple to the verge of austerity; nor
did he appear to desire anything more than what he had obtained.

It is natural--possibly foolish, yet almost inevitable--that those
who perceive in a friend the presence of rare and brilliant gifts
should desire that his gifts should not only be turned to full
account for the world's benefit, but should become so known and
appreciated as to make others admire and value what they admire and
value. When such a man prefers to live his life in his own way, and do
the plain duties that lie near him, with no thought of anything
further, they feel, though they may try to repress, a kind of
disappointment, as though greatness or virtue had missed its mark
because known to few besides themselves. Yet there is a sense in
which that friend is most our own who has least belonged to the
world, who has least cared for what the world has to offer, who has
chosen the simplest and purest pleasures, who has rendered the
service that his way of life required with no longing for any wider
theatre or any applause to be there won. Is there indeed anything
more beautiful than a life of quiet self-sufficing yet beneficent
serenity, such as the ancient philosophers inculcated, a life which
is now more rarely than ever led by men of shining gifts, because the
inducements to bring such gifts into the dusty thoroughfares of the
world have grown more numerous? Bowen had the best equipment for a
philosopher. He knew the things that gave him pleasure, and sought no
others. He knew what he could do well. He followed his own bent.
His desires were few, and he could gratify them all. He had made life
exactly what he wished it to be. Intensely as he enjoyed travel, he
never uttered a note of regret when the beginning of a Harrow school
term stopped a journey at its most interesting point, so dearly did
he love his boys. What more can we desire for our friends than
this--that in remembering them there should be nothing to regret,
that all who came under their influence should feel themselves for
ever thereafter the better for that influence, that a happy and
peaceful life should be crowned by a sudden and painless death?


  [53] Since this sketch was written a very interesting _Life of Edward
       Bowen_ by his nephew (the Hon. and Rev. W. E. Bowen) has
       appeared. Some of his (too few) essays and a collection of his
       school-songs are appended to it.

  [54] Mr. R. Bosworth Smith.

  [55] It is printed in the _Life_.

  [56] "Chiffers" is the typical would-be imitator of Arnold.

  [57] He remarked once that he had so nearly exhausted the battlefields
       of the past that he must begin to devote himself to the
       battlefields of the future.


As with the progress of science new arts emerge and new occupations
and trades are created, so with the progress of society professions
previously unknown arise, evolve new types of intellectual excellence,
and supply a new theatre for the display of peculiar and exceptional
gifts. Such a profession, such a type, and the type which is perhaps
most specially characteristic of our times, is that of the Editor. It
scarcely existed before the French Revolution, and is, as now fully
developed, a product of the last eighty years. Various are its forms.
There is the Business Editor, who runs his newspaper as a great
commercial undertaking, and may neither care for politics nor attach
himself to any political party. America still recollects the familiar
example set by James Gordon Bennett, the founder of the _New York
Herald_. There is the Selective Editor, who may never pen a line, but
shows his skill in gathering an able staff round him, and in allotting
to each of them the work he can do best. Such an one was John Douglas
Cook, a man of slender cultivation and few intellectual interests,
but still remembered in England by those who forty years ago knew the
staff of the _Saturday Review_, then in its brilliant prime, as
possessed of an extraordinary instinct for the topics which caught the
public taste, and for the persons capable of handling those topics.
John T. Delane, of the _Times_, had the same gift, with talents and
knowledge far surpassing Cook's. A third and usually more interesting
form is found in the Editor who is himself an able writer, and who
imparts his own individuality to the journal he directs. Such an one
was Horace Greeley, who, in the days before the War of Secession, made
the _New York Tribune_ a power in America. Such another, of finer
natural quality, was Michael Katkoff, who in his short career did much
to create and to develop the spirit of nationality and imperialism in
Russia thirty years ago.

It was to this third form of the editorial profession that Mr. Godkin
belonged. He is the most remarkable example of it that has appeared in
our time--perhaps, indeed, in any time since the profession rose to
importance; and all the more remarkable because he was never, like
Greeley or Katkoff, the exponent of any widespread sentiment or potent
movement, but was frequently in opposition to the feeling for the
moment dominant.

Edwin Lawrence Godkin, the son of a Protestant clergyman and author,
was born in the county of Wicklow, in Ireland, in 1831. He was
educated at Queen's College, Belfast, read for a short time for the
English bar, but drifted into journalism by accepting the post of
correspondent to the London _Daily News_ during the Crimean War in
1853-54. The horror of war which he retained through his life was due
to the glimpse of it he had in the Crimea. Soon afterwards he went to
America, was admitted to the bar in New York, but never practised,
spent some months in travelling through the Southern States on
horseback, learning thereby what slavery was, and what its economic
and social consequences, was for two or three years a writer on the
_New York Times_, and ultimately, in 1865, established in New York a
weekly journal called the _Nation_. This he continued to edit, writing
most of it himself, till 1881, when he accepted the editorship of the
_New York Evening Post_, an old and respectable paper, but with no
very large circulation. The _Nation_ continued to appear, but became
practically a weekly edition of the _Evening Post_, or rather, as some
one said, the _Evening Post_ became a daily edition of the _Nation_,
for the tone and spirit that had characterised the _Nation_ now
pervaded the _Post_. In 1900 failing health compelled him to retire
from active work, and in May 1902 he died in England. Journalism left
him little leisure for any other kind of literary production; but he
wrote in early life a short history of Hungary; and a number of
articles which he had in later years contributed to the _Nation_ or to
magazines were collected and published in three volumes between 1895
and 1900. They are clear and wise articles, specially instructive
where they deal with the most recent aspects of democracy. But as they
convey a less than adequate impression of the peculiar qualities which
established his fame, I pass on to the work by which he will be
remembered, his work as a weekly and daily public writer.

He was well equipped for this career by considerable experience of the
world, by large reading, for though not a learned man, he had
assimilated a great deal of knowledge on economical and historical
subjects, and by a stock of positive principles which he saw clearly
and held coherently. In philosophy and economics he was a Utilitarian
of the school of J. S. Mill, and in politics what used to be called a
philosophical Radical, a Radical of the less extreme type, free from
sentiment and from prejudices, but equally free from any desire to
destroy for the sake of destroying. Like the other Utilitarians of
those days, he was a moderate optimist, expecting the world to grow
better steadily, though not swiftly; and he went to America in the
belief that he should there find more progress secured, and more of
further progress in prospect, than any European country could show. It
was the land of promise, in which all the forces making for good on
which the school of Mill relied were to be found at work, hampered
only by the presence of slavery. I note this fact, because it shows
that the pessimism of Mr. Godkin's later years was not due to a
naturally querulous or despondent temperament.

So too was his mind admirably fitted for the career he had chosen.
It was logical, penetrating, systematic, yet it was also quick and
nimble. His views were definite, not to say dogmatic, and as they were
confidently held, so too they were confidently expressed. He never
struck a doubtful note. He never slurred over a difficulty, nor
sought, when he knew himself ignorant, to cover up his ignorance.
Imagination was kept well in hand, for his constant aim was to get
at and deal with the vital facts of every case. If he was not
original in the way of thinking out doctrines distinctively his own,
nor in respect of any exuberance of ideas bubbling up in the
course of discussion, there was fertility as well as freshness in
his application of principles to current questions, and in the
illustrations by which he enforced his arguments.

As his thinking was exact, so his style was clear-cut and trenchant.
Even when he was writing most swiftly, it never sank below a high
level of form and finish. Every word had its use and every sentence
told. There was no doubt about his meaning, and just as little about
the strength of his convictions. He had a gift for terse vivacious
paragraphs commenting on some event of the day or summing up the
effect of a speech or a debate. The touch was equally light and firm.
But if the manner was brisk, the matter was solid: you admired the
keenness of the insight and the weight of the judgment just as much as
the brightness of the style. Much of the brightness lay in the humour.
That is a plant which blossoms so much more profusely on Transatlantic
soil that English readers of the _Nation_ had usually a start of
surprise when told that this most humorous of American journalists was
not an American at all but a European, and indeed a European who never
became thoroughly Americanised. It was humour of a pungent and
sarcastic quality, usually directed to the detection of tricks or the
exposure of shams, but it was eminently mirth-provoking and never
malicious. Frequently it was ironical, and the irony sometimes so fine
as to be mistaken for seriousness.

The _Nation_ was from its very first numbers so full of force,
keenness, and knowledge, and so unusually well written, that it made
its way rapidly among the educated classes of the Eastern States. It
soon became a power, but a power of a new kind. Mr. Godkin wanted
most of the talents or interests of the ordinary journalist. He
gave no thought to the organisation of the paper as a business
undertaking. He scarcely heeded circulation, either when his
livelihood depended upon the _Nation_ of which he was the chief
owner, or when he was associated with others in the ownership of
the _Evening Post_. He refused to allow any news he disapproved,
including all scandal and all society gossip, to appear. He was
prepared at any moment to incur unpopularity from his subscribers, or
even to offend one half of his advertisers. He took no pains to get
news before other journals, and cared nothing for those "beats" and
"scoops" in which the soul of the normal newspaper man finds a
legitimate source of pride. He was not there, he would have said,
to please either advertisers or subscribers, but to tell the American
people the truths they needed to hear, and if those truths were
distasteful, so much the more needful was it to proclaim them. He
was absolutely independent not only of all personal but of all party
ties. A public man was never either praised or suffered to escape
censure because he was a private acquaintance. He once told me that
the being obliged to censure those with whom he stood in personal
relations was the least agreeable feature of his profession.
Whether an act was done by the Republicans or by the Democrats
made no difference to his judgment, or to the severity with which his
judgment was expressed. His distrust of Mr. James G. Blaine had led
him to support Mr. Cleveland at the election of 1884, and he
continued to give a general approval to the latter statesman during
both his presidential terms. But when Mr. Cleveland's Venezuelan
message with its menaces to England appeared in December 1895, Mr.
Godkin vehemently denounced it, as indeed he had frequently before
blamed particular acts of the Cleveland administrations. He
sometimes voted for the Republicans, sometimes for the Democrats,
according to the merits of the transitory issue or the particular
candidate, but after 1884 no one could have called him either a
Republican or a Democrat.

Independence of party is less rare among American than among European
newspapers; but courage such as Godkin's is rare everywhere. The
editor of a century ago had in most countries to fear press
censorship, or the law of political libel, or the frowns of the great.
The modern editor, delivered from these risks, is exposed to the more
insidious temptations of financial influence, of social pressure, of
the fear of injuring the business interests of the paper, which are
now sometimes enormous. Godkin's conscientiousness and pride made him
equally indifferent to influence and to threats. As some one said,
you might as well have tried to frighten the east wind. Clear, prompt,
and self-confident, judging everything by a high standard of honour
and public spirit, he distributed censure with no regard either to the
official position or to the party affiliations of politicians. The
"Weekly Day of Judgment" was the title bestowed upon the _Nation_ by
Charles Dudley Warner, who himself admired it. As Godkin expected--or
at least demanded--righteousness from every one, he was more a terror
to evildoers than a praise to them that do well, and the fact that,
having no private ends to serve, he thought only of truth and the
public interest, made him all the more stringent. Because he was, and
found it easy to be, fearless and independent, he scarcely allowed
enough for the timidity of others, and sometimes chastised the weak as
sternly as the wicked. An editor who smites all the self-seekers and
all the time-servers whom he thinks worth smiting, is sure to become a
target for many arrows. But as Godkin was an equally caustic critic of
the sentimental vagaries or economic heresies of well-meaning men or
sections of opinion, he incurred hostility from quarters where the
desire for honest administration and the purity of public life was
hardly less strong than in the pages of the _Nation_ itself. Though he
took no personal part in politics, never appeared on platforms nor in
any way put himself forward, his paper was so markedly himself that
people talked of it as him. It was not "the _Nation_ says" or "the
_Post_ says," but "Godkin says." Even his foreign birth was charged
against him--a rare charge in a country so tolerant and catholic as
the United States, where every office except that of President is open
to newcomers as freely as to the native born.

He was called "un-American," and I have heard men who admired and read
the _Nation_ nevertheless complain that they did not want "to be
taught by a European how to run this Republic." True it is that he did
not see things or write about them quite as an American would have
done. But was this altogether a misfortune? The Italian cities of the
Middle Ages used to call in a man of character and mark from some
other place and make him Podestá just because he stood outside the
family ties and the factions of the city. Godkin's foreign education
gave him detachment and perspective. It never reduced his ardour to
see administration and public life in America made worthy of the
greatness of the American people.

No journal could have maintained its circulation and extended its
influence in the face of so much hostility except by commanding
merits. The merits of the _Nation_ were incontestable. It was the best
weekly not only in America but in the world. The editorials were
models of style. The book reviews, many of them in earlier days also
written by Godkin himself, were finished in point of form, and, when
not his own, came from the ablest specialist hands in the country. The
"current notes" of progress in such subjects as geography, natural
history, and archæology were instructive and accurate. So it was that
people had to read the _Nation_ whether they liked it or not. It could
not be ignored. It was a necessity even where it was a terror.

Yet neither the force of his reasoning nor the brilliance of his
style would have secured Godkin's influence but for two other
elements of strength he possessed. One was the universal belief in his
disinterestedness and sincerity. He was often charged with prejudice
or bitterness, but never with any sinister motive; enemies no less
than friends respected him. The other was his humour. An austere
moralist who is brimful of fun is rare in any country. Relishing
humour more than does any other people, the Americans could not be
seriously angry with a man who gave them so abundant a feast.

To trace the course he took in the politics of the United States since
1860 would almost be to outline the history of forty years, for
there was no great issue in the discussion of which he did not bear a
part. He was a strong supporter of the Northern cause during the
War of Secession, and by his letters to the London _Daily News_ did
something to enlighten English readers. When the problems of
reconstruction emerged after the war, he suggested lines of action
more moderate than those followed by the Republican leaders, and
during many subsequent years denounced the "carpet-baggers," and
advocated the policy of restoring self-government to the Southern
States and withdrawing Federal troops. Incensed at the corruption of
some of the men who surrounded President Grant during his first
term, he opposed Grant's re-election, as did nearly all the
reformers of those days. By this time he had begun to attack the
"spoils system," and to demand a reform of the civil service, and he
had also become engaged in that campaign against the Tammany
organisation in New York City which he maintained with unabated energy
till the end of his editorial career.[58] In 1884 he led the
opposition to the candidacy of Mr. Blaine for President, and it
was mainly the persistency with which the _Evening Post_ set forth
the accusations brought against that statesman that secured his defeat
in New York State, and therewith his defeat in the election. It
was on this occasion that the nickname of Mugwump[59] was first
applied to Mr. Godkin by the ablest of his antagonists in the press,
Mr. Dana of the _New York Sun_, a title before long extended to the
Independents whom the _Post_ led, and who constituted, during the
next ten or twelve years, a section of opinion important, if not
by its numbers, yet by the intellectual and moral weight of the men
who composed it. When currency questions became prominent, Mr.
Godkin was a strong opponent of bimetallism and of "silverism" in
all its forms, and a not less strenuous opponent of all socialistic
theories and movements. It need hardly be added that he had always
been an upholder of the principles of Free Trade. Like a sound
Cobdenite, he was an advocate of peace, and disliked territorial
extension. He opposed President Grant's scheme for the acquisition
of San Domingo, as he afterwards opposed the annexation of Hawaii.
His close study of Irish history, and his old faith in the principle
of nationality, had made him a strenuous advocate of Home Rule for
Ireland. But no one was farther than he from sharing the feelings of
the American Irish towards England. He condemned the threats
addressed in 1895 to Great Britain over the Venezuela question; and
glad as he was to see that question settled by England's acceptance
of an arbitration which she had previously denied the right of the
United States to demand, he held that England must beware of yielding
too readily to pressure from the United States, because such
compliance would encourage that aggressive spirit in the latter whose
consequences for both countries he feared. Never, perhaps, did he
incur so much obloquy as in defending, almost single-handed, the
British position in the Venezuelan affair. The attacks made all over
the country on the _Evening Post_ were, he used to say, like storms of
hail lashing against his windows. At the very end of his career,
he resisted the war with Spain and the annexation of the Philippine
Islands, deeming the acquisition of trans-Oceanic territories,
inhabited by inferior races, a dangerous new departure, opposed to
the traditions of the Fathers of the Republic, and inconsistent with
the principles on which the Republic was founded. No public writer
has left a more consistent record.

In private life Mr. Godkin was a faithful friend and a charming
companion, genial as well as witty, considerate of others, and liked
no less than admired by his staff on the _Evening Post_, free from
cynicism, and more indulgent in his views of human nature than might
have been gathered from his public utterances. He never despaired of
democratic government, yet his spirits had been damped by the faint
fulfilment of those hopes for the progress of free nations, and
especially of the United States, which had illumined his youth. The
slow advance of economic truths, the evils produced by the increase of
wealth, the growth of what he called "chromo-civilisation," the
indifference of the rich and educated to politics, the want of nerve
among politicians, the excitability of the masses, the tenacity with
which corruption and misgovernment held their ground, in spite of
repeated exposures, in cities like New York, Philadelphia, and
Chicago--all these things had so sunk into his soul that it became
hard to induce him to look at the other side, and to appreciate the
splendid recuperative forces which are at work in America. Thus his
friends were driven to that melancholy form of comfort which consists
in pointing out that other countries are no better. They argued that
England in particular, to which he had continued to look as the home
of political morality and enlightened State wisdom, was suffering from
evils, not indeed the same as those which in his judgment afflicted
America, but equally serious. They bade him remember that moral
progress is not continuous, but subject to ebbs of reaction, and that
America is a country of which one should never despair, because in it
evils have often before worked out their cure. He did regretfully own,
after his latest visits to Europe, that England had sadly declined
from the England of his earlier days, and he admitted that the clouds
under which his own path had latterly lain might after a time be
scattered by a burst of sunshine; but his hopes for the near future of
America were not brightened by these reflections. Sometimes he seemed
to feel--though of his own work he never spoke--as though he had
laboured in vain for forty years.

If he so thought, he did his work far less than justice. It had told
powerfully upon the United States, and that in more than one way.
Though the circulation of the _Nation_ was never large, it was read by
the two classes which in America have most to do with forming
political and economic opinion--I mean editors and University
teachers. (The Universities and Colleges, be it remembered, are far
more numerous, relatively to the population, in America than in
England, and a more important factor in the thought of the country.)
From the editors and the professors Mr. Godkin's views filtered down
into the educated class generally, and affected its opinion. He
instructed and stimulated the men who instructed and stimulated the
rest of the people. To those young men in particular who thought about
public affairs and were preparing themselves to serve their country,
his articles were an inspiration. The great hope for American
democracy to-day lies in the growing zeal and the ripened intelligence
with which the generation now come to manhood has begun to throw
itself into public work. Many influences have contributed to this
result, and Mr. Godkin's has been among the most potent.

Nor was his example less beneficial to the profession of journalism.
There has always been a profusion of talent in the American press,
talent more alert and versatile than is to be found in the press of
any European country. But in 1865 there were three things which the
United States lacked. Literary criticism did not maintain a high
standard, nor duly distinguish thorough from flashy or superficial
performances. Party spirit was so strong and so pervasive that
journalists were content to denounce or to extol, and seldom subjected
the character of men or measures to a searching and impartial
examination. There was too much sentimentalism in politics, with too
little reference of current questions to underlying principles, too
little effort to get down to what Americans call the "hard pan" of
facts. In all these respects the last forty years have witnessed
prodigious advances; and, so far as the press is concerned--for much
has been due to the Universities and to the growth of a literary
class--Mr. Godkin's writings largely contributed to the progress made.
His finished criticism, his exact method, his incisive handling of
economic problems, his complete detachment from party, helped to form
a new school of journalists, as the example he set of a serious and
lofty conception of an editor's duties helped to add dignity to the
position. He had not that disposition to enthrone the press which made
a great English newspaper once claim for itself that it discharged in
the modern world the functions of the mediæval Church. But he brought
to his work as an anonymous writer a sense of responsibility and a
zeal for the welfare of his country which no minister of State could
have surpassed.

His friends may sometimes have wished that he had more fully
recognised the worth of sentiment as a motive power in politics, that
he had more frequently tried to persuade as well as to convince, that
he had given more credit for partial instalments of honest service and
for a virtue less than perfect, that he had dealt more leniently with
the faults of the good and the follies of the wise. Defects in these
respects were the almost inevitable defects of his admirable
qualities, of his passion for truth, his hatred of wrong and
injustice, his clear vision, his indomitable spirit.

The lesson of his editorial career is a lesson not for America only.
Among the dangers that beset democratic communities, none are greater
than the efforts of wealth to control, not only electors and
legislators, but also the organs of public opinion, and the
disposition of statesmen and journalists to defer to and flatter the
majority, adopting the sentiment dominant at the moment, and telling
the people that its voice is the voice of God. Mr. Godkin was not
only inaccessible to the lures of wealth--the same may happily be
still said of many of his craft-brethren--he was just as little
accessible to the fear of popular displeasure. Nothing more incensed
him than to see a statesman or an editor with his "ear to the ground"
(to use an American phrase), seeking to catch the sound of the coming
crowd. To him, the less popular a view was, so much the more did it
need to be well weighed and, if approved, to be strenuously and
incessantly preached. Democracies will always have demagogues ready to
feed their vanity and stir their passions and exaggerate the feeling
of the moment. What they need is men who will swim against the stream,
will tell them their faults, will urge an argument all the more
forcibly because it is unwelcome. Such an one was Edwin Godkin. Since
the death of Abraham Lincoln, America has been generally more
influenced by her writers, preachers, and thinkers than by her
statesmen. In the list of those who have during the last forty years
influenced her for good and helped by their pens to make her history,
a list illustrated by such names as those of R. W. Emerson and
Phillips Brooks and James Russell Lowell, his name will find its place
and receive its well-earned meed of honour.


  [58] The Tammany leaders had him repeatedly arrested, usually on
       Sunday mornings (that being the day on which it was least easy
       to find bail) for alleged criminal libels upon them. These
       prosecutions, threatened in the hope of intimidating him, never
       went further.

  [59] A Mugwump is in the Algonquin tongue an aged chief or wise man,
       and the name was meant to ridicule the _ex cathedra_ manner
       ascribed to the _Evening Post_.


When Lord Acton died on 19th June 1902, at Tegern See in Bavaria,
England lost the most truly cosmopolitan of her children, and Europe
lost one who was, by universal consent, in the foremost rank of her
men of learning. He belonged to an old Roman Catholic family of
Shropshire, a branch of which had gone to Southern Italy, where his
grandfather, General Acton, had been chief minister of the King of
Naples in the great war, at the time when the Bourbon dynasty
maintained itself in Sicily by the help of the British fleet, while
all Italy lay under the heel of Napoleon. His father, Sir Ferdinand
Acton, married a German lady, heiress of the ancient and famous house
of Dalberg, one of the great families of the middle Rhineland; so John
Edward Emerich Dalberg-Acton was born half a German, and connected by
blood with the highest aristocracy of Germany. He was educated at
Oscott, one of the two chief Roman Catholic colleges of England, under
Dr. Wiseman, afterwards Archbishop of Westminster and Cardinal; but
the most powerful influence on the development of his mind and
principles came from that glory of Catholic learning, a beautiful soul
as well as a capacious intellect, Dr. von Döllinger, with whom Acton
studied during some years at Munich. He sat for a short time in the
House of Commons as member for Carlow (1859); and was afterwards
elected for Bridgnorth (1865), but lost his seat (which he had gained
by one vote only) on a scrutiny. In those days it was not easy for a
Roman Catholic to find an English constituency, so in 1869 Mr.
Gladstone procured his elevation to the peerage. He made a successful
speech in the House of Lords in 1893, but took no prominent part in
parliamentary life in either House, feeling himself too much of a
student, and looking at current questions from a point of view unlike
that of English politicians. Neither as a philosopher, nor as a
historian, nor as a product of German training, could he find either
Lords or Commons a congenial audience. When he was asked soon after he
entered Parliament why he did not speak, he answered that he agreed
with nobody and nobody agreed with him. But since he regarded politics
as history in the course of making under his eyes, he continued to be
all his life keenly interested in public affairs, watching and judging
every move in the game. Mr. Gladstone, whose trusted friend he had
been for many years, was believed to have on one occasion wished to
place him in an important office; but political exigencies made this
impossible, and the only public post he ever held was that of
Lord-in-Waiting in the Ministry of 1892. In this capacity he was
brought into frequent contact with Queen Victoria, who felt the
warmest respect and admiration for him. He was one of the very few
persons surrounding her who was familiar with most of the courts of
Continental Europe, and could discuss with her from direct knowledge
the men who figured in those courts. At Windsor he spent in the
library of the Castle all the time during which he was not required to
be in actual attendance on the Queen, a singular phenomenon among

Unlike most English Roman Catholics, he was a strong Liberal, a
Liberal of that orthodox type, individualist, free-trade, and
peace-loving, which prevailed from 1846 till 1885. He was also a
convinced Home Ruler, and had, indeed, adopted the principle of Home
Rule for Ireland long before Mr. Gladstone himself was converted to
it. His faith in that principle rested on the value he attached to
self-government as a means of training and developing the political
aptitudes of a people, and to the recognition of national sentiment,
which he held to be, like other natural forces, useful when guided but
formidable when repressed. So too his Liberalism was based on the love
of freedom for its own sake, joined to the conviction that freedom is
the best foundation for the stability of a constitution and the
happiness of a people. Reliance on the power of freedom was, he used
to say, one of the broadest of all the lessons he had learned from
history. He applied it in ecclesiastical as well as in political
affairs. At the time of the Vatican Council of 1870 he was, though a
layman, prominent among those who constituted the opposition
maintained by the Liberal section of the Roman Catholic Church to the
affirmation of the dogma of papal infallibility. His full and accurate
knowledge of ecclesiastical history was placed at the disposal of the
prelates, such as Archbishop Dupanloup, Bishop Strossmayer, and
Archbishop Conolly (of Halifax, Nova Scotia), who combated the
Ultramontane party in the animated and protracted debates which
illumined that OEcumenical Council. One, at least, of the treatises,
and many of the letters in the press which the Council called forth
were written either by him or from materials which he supplied, and he
was recognised by the Ultramontanes, and in particular by Archbishop
Manning, as being, along with Döllinger, the most formidable of their
opponents behind the scenes. As every one knows, the Infallibilists
triumphed, and the schism which led to the formation of the Old
Catholic Church in Germany and Switzerland was the result. Döllinger
was excommunicated; but against Lord Acton no action was taken, and he
remained all his life a faithful member of the Roman communion, while
adhering to the views he had advocated in 1870.

With this close hold upon practical life and this constant interest in
the politics of the world, especially of England and the United
States, no one could be less like that cloistered student who is
commonly taken as the typical man of learning. But Lord Acton was a
miracle of learning. Of the sciences of nature and their practical
applications in the arts he had indeed no more knowledge than any
cultivated man of the world is expected to possess. But of all the
so-called "human subjects" his mastery was unequalled. Learning was
the business of his life. He was gifted with a singularly tenacious
memory. His industry was untiring. Wherever he was--in London, at
Cannes in winter, at Tegern See in summer, at Windsor or Osborne with
the Queen, latterly (till his health failed) at Cambridge during the
University terms--he never worked less than eight hours a day. Yet,
even after making every allowance for his memory and his industry, his
friends stood amazed at the range and exactness of his knowledge. It
was as various as it was profound, and much of it bore on recondite
matters which few men study to-day. Though less minute where it
touched the ancient and the early mediæval world than as respected
more recent times, it might be said to cover the whole field of
history, both civil and ecclesiastical, and became wonderfully full
and exact when it reached the Renaissance and Reformation periods. It
included not only the older theology, but modern Biblical criticism.
It included metaphysics; and not only metaphysics in the more special
sense, but the abstract side of economics and that philosophy of law
on which the Germans set so much store. Most of the prominent figures
who have during the last half-century led the march of inquiry in
these subjects, men like Ranke and Fustel de Coulanges in history,
Wilhelm Roscher in economic science, Adolf Harnack in theology, were
his personal friends, and he could meet them as an equal on their own
ground. On one occasion I had invited to meet him at dinner the late
Dr. (afterwards Bishop) Creighton, who was then writing his _History
of the Popes_, and the late Professor Robertson Smith, the most
eminent Hebrew and Arabic scholar in Britain. The conversation turned
first upon the times of Pope Leo the Tenth, and then upon recent
controversies regarding the dates of the books of the Old Testament,
and it soon appeared that Lord Acton knew as much about the former as
Dr. Creighton, and as much about the latter as Robertson Smith. The
constitutional history of the United States is a topic far removed
from those philosophical and ecclesiastical or theological lines of
inquiry to which most of his time had been given; yet he knew it more
thoroughly than any other living European, at least in England and
France, for of the Germans I will not venture to speak, and he
continued to read most of the books of importance dealing with it
which from time to time were published. So, indeed, he kept abreast of
nearly all the literature of possible utility bearing on history
(especially ecclesiastical history) and political theory that appeared
in Europe or America, reading much which his less diligent or less
eager friends thought scarcely worthy of his perusal. And it need
hardly be said that his friends found him an invaluable guide to the
literature of any subject. In the sphere of history more especially,
one might safely assume that a book which he did not know was not
worth knowing, while he was often able to indicate, as being the right
book to consult, some work of which the person who consulted him,
albeit not unversed in the subject, had never heard. He had at one
time four libraries, the largest at his family seat, Aldenham in
Shropshire, others at Tegern See, at Cannes, and in London; and he
could usually tell in which of these the particular book he named was
to be found. Unlike most men who value their libraries, he was fond of
lending books, and would sometimes put a friend to shame by asking
some weeks afterwards what the latter thought of the volumes he had
almost forced on the borrower, and which the borrower had not found
time to read. After saying this, I need scarcely add that he was not a
book collector in the usual sense of the word. He did not care for
rare editions, and still less did he care about bindings.

His Aldenham library was itself a monument of learning and industry.[60]
In forming it he sought to bring together the books needed for
tracing and elucidating the growth of formative ideas and of
institutions in the sphere of ecclesiastical and civil polity, and to
attain this he made it include not only all the best treatises
handling these large and complex subjects, but a mass of original
records bearing as well on the local histories of the cities and
provinces of such countries as Italy and France as on the general
history of the great European States and of the Church. This
magnificent design he accomplished by his own efforts before he was
forty. What was still more surprising, he had found time to use the
books. Nearly all of them show by notes pencilled or marks placed in
them that he had read some part of them, and knew (so far as was needed
for his purpose) their contents.

Vast as his stores of knowledge were, they were opened only to his few
intimate friends. It was not merely that he, as Tennyson said of
Edmund Lushington, "bore all that weight of learning lightly, like a
flower." No one could have known in general society that he had any
weight of learning to bear. He seemed to be merely a cultivated and
agreeable man of the world, interested in letters and politics, but
disposed rather to listen than to talk. He was sometimes enigmatic
and "not incapable of casting a pearl of irony in the way of those
who would mistake it for pebbly fact."[61] A great capacity for
cynicism remained a capacity only, because joined to a greater
reverence for virtue. In a large company he seldom put forth the
fulness of his powers; it was in familiar converse with persons whose
tastes resembled his own that the extraordinary finesse and polish
of his mind revealed themselves. His critical taste was not only
delicate, but exacting; his judgments leaned to the side of severity.
No one applied a more stringent moral standard to the conduct of men
in public affairs, whether to-day or in past ages. He insisted upon
this, in his inaugural lecture at Cambridge, as the historian's first
duty. "It is," said he, "the office of historical science to maintain
morality as the sole impartial criterion of men and things." When he
came to estimate the value of literary work he seemed no less hard
to satisfy. His ideal, both as respected thoroughness in substance and
finish in form, was impossibly high, and he noted every failure to
reach it. No one appreciated merit more cordially. No one spoke
with warmer admiration of such distinguished historians and
theologians as the men whom I have just named. But the precision of
his thinking and the fastidiousness of his taste gave more than a
tinge of austerity to his judgment. His opinions were peculiarly
instructive and illuminative to Englishmen, because he was only
half an Englishman in blood, less than half an Englishman in his
training and mental habits. He was as much at home in Paris or Berlin
or Rome as he was in London, speaking the four great languages with
almost equal facility, and knowing the men who in each of these
capitals were best worth knowing. He viewed our insular literature
and politics with the detachment not only of a Roman Catholic
among Protestants, of a pupil of Döllinger and Roscher among Oxford
and Cambridge men, but also of a citizen of the world, whose mastery
of history and philosophy had given him an unusually wide outlook
over mankind at large.

His interest in the great things, so far from turning him away from
the small things, seemed to quicken his sense of their significance.
It was a noteworthy feature of his view of history that he should have
held that the explanation of most of what has passed in the light is
to be found in what has passed in the dark. He was always hunting for
the key to secret chambers, preferring to believe that the grand
staircase is only for show, and meant to impose upon the multitude,
while the real action goes on in hidden passages behind. No one knew
so much of the gossip of the past; no one was more intensely curious
about the gossip of the present, though in his hands it ceased to be
gossip and became unwritten history. One was sometimes disposed to
wonder whether he did not think too much about the backstairs. But he
had seen a great deal of history in the making.

The passion for acquiring knowledge which his German education had
fostered ended by becoming a snare to him, because it checked his
productive powers. Not that learning burdened him, or clogged the
soaring pinions of his mind. He was master of all he knew. But
acquisition absorbed so much of his time that little was left for
literary composition. (Döllinger saw the danger, for he observed that
if Acton did not write a great book before he reached the age of
forty, he would never do so.) It made him think that he could not
write on a subject till he had read everything, or nearly everything,
that others had written about it. It developed the habit of making
extracts from the books he read, a habit which took the form of
accumulating small slips of paper on which these extracts were written
in his exquisitely neat and regular hand, the slips being arranged in
cardboard boxes according to their subjects. He had hundreds of these
boxes; and though much of their contents must no doubt be valuable,
the time spent in distilling and bottling the essence of the books
whence they came, might have been better spent in giving to the world
the ideas which they had helped to evoke in his own mind. If one may
take the quotations appended to his inaugural lecture as a sample of
those he had collected, many of them were not exceptionally valuable,
and did little more than show how the same idea, perhaps no recondite
one, might be expressed in different words by different persons. When
one read some article he had written, garnished and even overloaded
with citations, one often felt that his own part was better, both in
substance and in form, than the passages which he had culled from his
predecessors. It becomes daily more than ever true that the secret of
historical composition is to know what to neglect, since in our time
it has become impossible to exhaust the literature of most subjects,
and, as respects the last two centuries, to exhaust even the original
authorities. Yet how shall one know what to neglect without at least a
glance of inspection? Acton was unwilling to neglect anything; and his
ardour for completeness drew him into a policy fit only for one who
could expect to live three lives of mortal men.

The love of knowledge grew upon him till it became a passion of the
intellect, a thirst like the thirst for water in a parching desert.
What he sought to know was not facts only, but facts in their
relations to principles, facts so disposed and fitly joined together
as to become the causeway over which the road to truth shall pass. For
this purpose events were in his view not more important than the
thoughts of men, because discursive and creative thought was to him
the ruling factor in history. Hence books must be known--books of
philosophic creation, books of philosophic reflection, no less than
those which record what has happened. The danger of this conception is
that everything men have said or written, as well as everything they
have done, becomes a possibly significant fact; and thus the search
for truth becomes endless because the materials are inexhaustible.

He expressed in striking words, prefixed to a list of books suggested
for a young man's perusal, his view of the aim of a course of
historical reading. It is "to give force and fulness and clearness and
sincerity and independence and elevation and generosity and serenity
to his mind, that he may know the method and law of the process by
which error is conquered and truth is won, discerning knowledge from
probability and prejudice from belief, that he may learn to master
what he rejects as fully as what he adopts, that he may understand the
origin as well as the strength and vitality of systems and the better
motive of men who are wrong ... and to steel him against the charm of
literary beauty and talent."[62]

Neither his passion for facts nor his appreciation of style and form
made him decline to the right hand or to the left from the true
position of a historian. He set little store upon what is called
literary excellence, and would often reply, when questioned as to the
merits of some book bearing an eminent name, "You need not read it: it
adds nothing to what we knew." He valued facts only so far as they
went to establish a principle or explained the course of events. It
was really not so much in the range of his knowledge as in the
profundity and precision of his thought that his greatness lay.

His somewhat overstrained conscientiousness, coupled with the
practically unattainable ideal of finish and form which he set before
himself, made him less and less disposed to literary production. No
man of first-rate powers has in our time left so little by which
posterity may judge those powers. In his early life, when for a time
he edited the _Home and Foreign Review_, and when he was connected
with the _Rambler_ and the _North British Review_, he wrote
frequently; and even between 1868 and 1890 he contributed to the press
some few historical essays and a number of anonymous letters. But the
aversion to creative work seemed to grow on him. About 1890 he so far
yielded to the urgency of a few friends as to promise to reissue a
number of his essays in a volume, but, after rewriting and polishing
these essays during several years, he abandoned the scheme altogether.
In 1882 he had already drawn out a plan for a comprehensive history of
Liberty. But this plan also he dropped, because the more he read with
a view to undertaking it the more he wished to read, and the vaster
did the enterprise seem to loom up before him. With him, as with many
men who cherish high literary ideals, the Better proved to be the
enemy of the Good.

Twenty years ago, late at night, in his library at Cannes, he
expounded to me his view of how such a history of Liberty might be
written, and in what wise it might be made the central thread of all
history. He spoke for six or seven minutes only; but he spoke like a
man inspired, seeming as if, from some mountain summit high in air, he
saw beneath him the far-winding path of human progress from dim
Cimmerian shores of prehistoric shadow into the fuller yet broken and
fitful light of the modern time. The eloquence was splendid, but
greater than the eloquence was the penetrating vision which discerned
through all events and in all ages the play of those moral forces, now
creating, now destroying, always transmuting, which had moulded and
remoulded institutions, and had given to the human spirit its
ceaselessly-changing forms of energy. It was as if the whole landscape
of history had been suddenly lit up by a burst of sunlight. I have
never heard from any other lips any discourse like this, nor from his
did I ever hear the like again.

His style suffered in his later days from the abundance of the
interspersed citations, and from the overfulness and subtlety of the
thought, which occasionally led to obscurity. But when he handled a
topic in which learning was not required, his style was clear, pointed
and incisive, sometimes epigrammatic. Several years ago he wrote in a
monthly magazine a short article upon a biography of one of his
contemporaries which showed how admirable a master he was of polished
diction and penetrating analysis, and made one wish that he had more
frequently consented to dash off light work in a quick unstudied way.

To the work of a University professor he came too late to acquire the
art of fluent and forcible oral discourse, nor was the character of
his mind, with its striving after a flawless exactitude of statement,
altogether fitted for the function of presenting broad summaries of
facts to a youthful audience. His predecessor in the Cambridge chair
of history, Sir John Seeley, with less knowledge, less subtlety, and
less originality, had in larger measure the gift of oral exposition
and the power of putting points, whether by speech or by writing, in
a clear and telling way. No one, indeed, since Macaulay has been a
better point-putter than Seeley was. But Acton's lectures (read from
MS.) were models of lucid and stately narrative informed by fulness of
thought; and they were so delivered as to express the feeling which
each event had evoked in his own mind. That sternness of character
which revealed itself in his judgments of men and books never affected
his relations to his pupils. Precious as his time was, he gave it
generously, encouraging them to come to him for help and counsel. They
were awed by the majesty of his learning. Said one of them to me,
"When Lord Acton answers a question put to him, I feel as if I were
looking at a pyramid. I see the point of it clear and sharp, but I see
also the vast subjacent mass of solid knowledge." They perceived,
moreover, that to him History and Philosophy were not two things but
one, and perceived that of History as well as of divine Philosophy it
may be said that she too is "charming, and musical as is Apollo's
lute." Thus the impression produced in the University by the amplitude
of Lord Acton's views, by the range of his learning, by the liberality
of his spirit and his unfailing devotion to truth and to truth alone,
was deep and fruitful.

When they wished that he had given to the world more of his wisdom,
his friends did not undervalue a life which was in itself a rare and
exquisite product of favouring nature and unwearied diligence. They
only regretted that the influence of his ideas, of his methods, and of
his spirit, had not been more widely diffused in an enduring form. It
was as when a plant unknown elsewhere grows on some remote isle where
ships seldom touch. Few see the beauty of the flower, and here death
came before the seed could be gathered to be scattered in receptive

To most men Lord Acton seemed reserved as well as remote, presenting a
smooth and shining surface beneath which it was hard to penetrate. He
avoided publicity and popularity with the tranquil dignity of one for
whom the world of knowledge and speculation was more than sufficient.
But he was a loyal friend, affectionate to his intimates, gracious in
his manners, blameless in all the relations of life. Comparatively few
of his countrymen knew his name, and those who did thought of him
chiefly as the confidant of Mr. Gladstone, and as the most remarkable
instance of a sincere and steadfast Roman Catholic who was a Liberal
alike in politics and in theology. But those who had been admitted to
his friendship recognised him as one of the finest intelligences of
his generation, an unsurpassed, and indeed a scarcely rivalled, master
of every subject which he touched.


  [60] This library, bought by Mr. Andrew Carnegie, was presented by him
       to Mr. John Morley, and by the latter to the University of

  [61] The phrase is Professor Maitland's.

  [62] I owe this quotation to a letter of Sir M. E. Grant Duff's
       published soon after Lord Acton's death.


Of no man who has lived in our times is it so hard to speak in a
concise and summary fashion as of Mr. Gladstone. For fifty years he
was so closely associated with the public affairs of his country that
the record of his parliamentary life is virtually an outline of
English political history during those years. His activity spread
itself out over many fields. He was the author of several learned and
thoughtful books, and of a multitude of articles upon all sorts of
subjects. He showed himself as eagerly interested in matters of
classical scholarship and Christian doctrine and ecclesiastical
history as in questions of national finance and foreign policy. No
account of him could be complete without reviewing his actions and
estimating the results of his work in all these directions.

But the difficulty of describing and judging him goes deeper. His was
a singularly complex nature, whose threads it was hard to unravel.
His individuality was extremely strong. All that he said or did
bore its impress. Yet it was an individuality so far from being
self-consistent as sometimes to seem a bundle of opposite qualities
capriciously united in a single person. He might with equal truth
have been called, and he was in fact called, a conservative and a
revolutionary. He was dangerously impulsive, and had frequently to
suffer for his impulsiveness; yet he was also not merely prudent and
cautious, but so astute as to have been accused of craft and
dissimulation. So great was his respect for tradition that he clung
to views regarding the authorship of the Homeric poems and the date
of the books of the Old Testament which nearly all competent
specialists have now rejected. So bold was he in practical matters
that he carried through sweeping changes in the British constitution,
changed the course of English policy in the nearer East, overthrew an
established church in one part of the United Kingdom, and committed
himself in principle to the overthrow of two other established
churches in other parts. He came near to being a Roman Catholic in
his religious opinions, yet was for the last twenty years of his life
the trusted leader of the English Protestant Nonconformists and the
Scottish Presbyterians. No one who knew him intimately doubted his
conscientious sincerity and earnestness, yet four-fifths of the
English upper classes were in his later years wont to regard him as
a self-interested schemer who would sacrifice his country to his
ambition. Though he loved general principles, and often soared out
of the sight of his audience when discussing them, he generally
ended by deciding upon points of detail the question at issue. He
was at different times of his life the defender and the assailant of
the same institutions, yet scarcely seemed inconsistent in doing
opposite things, because his methods and his arguments preserved the
same type and colour throughout. Those who had at the beginning of
his career discerned in him the capacity for such diversities and
contradictions would probably have predicted that they must wreck
it by making his purposes fluctuating and his course erratic. Such
a prediction might have proved true of any one with less firmness of
will and less intensity of temper. It was the persistent heat and
vehemence of his character, the sustained passion which he threw
into the pursuit of the object on which he was for the moment bent,
that fused these dissimilar qualities and made them appear to
contribute to and increase the total force which he exerted.

The circumstances of Mr. Gladstone's political career help to explain,
or, at any rate, will furnish occasion for the attempt to explain,
this complexity and variety of character. But before I come to his
manhood it is convenient to advert to three conditions whose influence
on him was profound--the first his Scottish blood, the second his
Oxford education, the third his apprenticeship to public life under
Sir Robert Peel.

Theories of character based on race differences are dangerous, because
they are as hard to test as they are easy to form. Still, we all know
that there are specific qualities and tendencies usually found in the
minds of men of certain stocks, just as there are peculiarities in
their faces or in their speech. Mr. Gladstone was born and brought up
in Liverpool, and always retained a touch of Lancashire accent. But,
as he was fond of saying, every drop of blood in his veins was Scotch.
His father's family belonged to the Scottish Lowlands, and came from
the neighbourhood of Biggar, in the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire, where
the ruined walls of Gledstanes[63]--"the kite's rock"--may still be
seen. His mother was of Highland extraction, by name Robertson, from
Dingwall, in Ross-shire. Thus he was not only a Scot, but a Scot with
a strong infusion of the Celtic element, the element whence the Scotch
derive most of what distinguishes them from the northern English. The
Scot is more excitable, more easily brought to a glow of passion, more
apt to be eagerly absorbed in one thing at a time. He is also more
fond of exerting his intellect on abstractions. It is not merely that
the taste for metaphysical theology is commoner in Scotland than in
England, but that the Scotch have a stronger relish for general
principles. They like to set out by ascertaining and defining such
principles, and then to pursue a series of logical deductions from
them. They are, therefore, bolder reasoners than the English, less
content to remain in the region of concrete facts, more prone to throw
themselves into the construction of a body of speculative doctrine.
The Englishman is apt to plume himself on being right in spite of
logic; the Scotchman likes to think that it is through logic he has
reached his results, and that he can by logic defend them. These are
qualities which Mr. Gladstone drew from his Scottish blood. He had a
keen enjoyment of the processes of dialectic. He loved to get hold of
an abstract principle and to derive all sorts of conclusions from it.
He was wont to begin the discussion of a question by laying down two
or three sweeping propositions covering the subject as a whole, and
would then proceed to draw from these others which he could apply to
the particular matter in hand. His well-stored memory and boundless
ingenuity made the discovery of such general propositions so easy a
task that a method in itself agreeable sometimes appeared to be
carried to excess. He frequently arrived at conclusions which the
judgment of the common-sense auditor did not approve, because,
although they seemed to have been legitimately deduced from the
general principles just enunciated, they were somehow at variance with
the plain teaching of the facts. At such moments one felt that the man
who was fascinating but perplexing Englishmen by his subtlety was not
himself an Englishman in mental quality, but had the love for
abstractions and refinements and dialectical analysis which
characterises the Scotch intellect. He had also a large measure of
that warmth and vehemence, called in the sixteenth century the
_perfervidum ingenium Scotorum_, which belong to the Scottish
temperament, and particularly to the Celtic Scot. He kindled quickly,
and when kindled, he shot forth a strong and brilliant flame. To any
one with less power of self-control such intensity of emotion as he
frequently showed would have been dangerous; nor did this excitability
fail, even with him, to prompt words and acts which a cooler judgment
would have disapproved. But it gave that spontaneity which was one of
the charms of his nature; it produced that impression of profound
earnestness and of resistless force which raised him out of the rank
of ordinary statesmen. The rush of emotion swelling fast and full
seemed to turn the whole stream of intellectual effort into whatever
channel lay at the moment nearest.

With these Scottish qualities, Mr. Gladstone was brought up at school
and college (Eton and Christ Church) among Englishmen, and received at
Oxford, then lately awakened from a long torpor, a bias and tendency
which never thereafter ceased to affect him. The so-called "Oxford
Movement," which afterwards obtained the name of Tractarianism and
carried Newman and Manning, together with other less famous leaders,
on to Rome, had not yet, in 1831, when Mr. Gladstone obtained his
degree with double first-class honours, taken visible shape, or
become, so to speak, conscious of its own purposes. But its doctrinal
views, its peculiar vein of religious sentiment, its respect for
antiquity and tradition, its proneness to casuistry, its taste for
symbolism, were already in the air as influences working on the more
susceptible of the younger minds. On Mr. Gladstone they told with full
force. He became, and never ceased to be, not merely a High-churchman,
but what may be called an Anglo-Catholic, in his theology, deferential
not only to ecclesiastical tradition, but to the living voice of the
Visible Church, revering the priesthood as the recipients (if duly
ordained) of a special grace and peculiar powers, attaching great
importance to the sacraments, feeling himself nearer to the Church of
Rome, despite what he deemed her corruptions, than to any of the
non-Episcopal Protestant churches. Henceforth his interests in life
were as much ecclesiastical as political. For a time he desired to be
ordained a clergyman. Had this wish, abandoned in deference to his
father's advice, been carried out, he must eventually have become a
leading figure in the Church of England and have sensibly affected her
recent history. The later stages in his career drew him away from the
main current of political opinion within that church. He who had been
the strongest advocate of the principle of the State establishment of
religion came to be the chief actor in the disestablishment of the
Protestant Episcopal Church in Ireland, and a supporter of the policy
of disestablishment in Scotland and in Wales. But the colour which
these Oxford years gave to his mind and thoughts was never effaced.
While they widened the range of his interests and deepened his moral
earnestness, they at the same time confirmed his natural bent toward
over-subtle distinctions and fine-drawn reasonings, and put him out of
sympathy not only with the attitude of the average Englishman, who is
essentially a Protestant--that is to say, averse to sacerdotalism, and
suspicious of any other religious authority than that of the Bible and
the individual conscience--but also with two of the strongest
influences of our time, the influence of the sciences of nature, and
the influence of historical criticism. Mr. Gladstone, though too wise
to rail at science, as many religious men did till within the last
few years, could never quite reconcile himself either to the
conclusions of geology and zoology regarding the history of the
physical world and the creatures which inhabit it, or to modern
methods of critical inquiry as applied to Scripture and to ancient
literature generally. The training which Oxford then gave, stimulating
as it was, and free from the modern error of over-specialisation, was
defective in omitting the experimental sciences, and in laying undue
stress upon the study of language. A proneness to dwell on verbal
distinctions and to trust overmuch to the analysis of terms as a means
of reaching the truth of things is noticeable in many eminent Oxford
writers of that and the next succeeding generation--some of them, like
the illustrious F. D. Maurice, far removed from Cardinal Newman and
Mr. Gladstone in theological opinion.

When, bringing with him a brilliant University reputation, he
entered the House of Commons at the age of twenty-three, Sir Robert
Peel was leading the Tory party with an authority and ability rarely
surpassed in the annals of parliament. Within two years the young man
was admitted into the short-lived Tory ministry of 1834, and soon
proved himself a promising lieutenant of the experienced chief.
Peel was an eminently wary man, alive to the necessity of watching
the signs of the times, of studying and interpreting the changeful
phases of public opinion. Yet he always kept his own counsel. Even
when he perceived that the policy he had hitherto followed would
need to be modified, Peel continued to use guarded language and did
not publicly commit himself to change till it was plain that the
fitting moment had arrived. He was, moreover, a master of detail,
slow to propound a plan until he had seen how its outlines were to
be filled up by appropriate devices for carrying it out in practice.
These qualities and habits of the minister profoundly affected his
disciple. They became part of the texture of Mr. Gladstone's
political character, and in his case, as in that of Peel, they
sometimes brought censure upon him, as having locked up too long
within his breast views or purposes which he thought it unwise to
disclose till effect could be forthwith given to them. Such
reserve, such a guarded attitude and tenderness for existing
institutions, may have been not altogether natural to Mr. Gladstone's
mind, but due partly to the influence of Peel, partly to the
tendency to hold by tradition and the established order which
reverence for Christian antiquity and faith in the dogmatic teachings
of the Church had planted deep in his soul. The contrast between Mr.
Gladstone's caution and respect for facts on the one hand, and his
reforming fervour on the other, like the contrast which ultimately
appeared between his sacerdotal tendencies and his political
liberalism, contributed to make his character perplexing and to
expose his conduct to the charge of inconsistency. Inconsistent,
in the proper sense of the word, he was not, much less changeable.
He was really, in his fundamental convictions and the main habits of
his mind, one of the most tenacious and persistent of men. But there
were always at work in him two tendencies. One was the speculative
desire to probe everything to the bottom, to try it by the light of
general principles and logic, and when it failed to stand this
test, to reject it. The other was the sense of the complexity of
existing social and political arrangements, and of the risk of
disturbing any one part of them until the time had arrived for
resettling other parts also. Every statesman feels both these sides
to every concrete question of reform. No one has set them forth more
cogently, and in particular no one has more earnestly dwelt on the
necessity for the latter side, than the most profound thinker among
British statesmen, Edmund Burke. When Mr. Gladstone stated either side
with his incomparable force, people forgot that there was another
side which would be no less vividly present to him at some other
moment. He was not only, like all successful parliamentarians,
necessarily something of an opportunist, though perhaps less so than
his master, but was moved by emotion more than most statesmen, and
certainly more than Peel. The relative strength with which the need
for drastic reform or the need for watchful conservatism, as the
case might be, presented itself to his mind depended largely upon the
weight which his emotions cast into one or other scale, and this
emotional element made it difficult to forecast his course. Thus
his action in public life was the result of influences differing
widely in their origin, influences, moreover, which could be duly
appreciated only by those who knew him intimately.

Whoever has followed his political career has been struck by the sharp
divergence of the views entertained by his fellow-countrymen about one
who had been for so long a period under their observation. That he was
possessed of boundless energy and brilliant eloquence all agreed. But
agreement went no further. One section of the nation accused him of
sophistry, of unwisdom, of a want of patriotism, of a lust for power.
The other section not only repelled these charges, but admired in him
a conscientiousness and a moral enthusiasm such as no political leader
had shown for centuries. When the qualities of his mind and the
aptitudes for politics which he showed have been briefly examined, it
will be fitting to return to these divergent views of his character,
and endeavour to discover which of them contains the larger measure of
truth. Meantime let it suffice to say that among the reasons that led
men to misjudge him, this union in one person of opposite qualities
was the chief. He was rather two men than one. Passionate and
impulsive on the emotional side of his nature, he was cautious and
conservative on the intellectual. Few understood the conjunction;
still fewer saw how much of what was perplexing in his conduct it

Mr. Gladstone sat for sixty-three years (1833-1895) in Parliament, was
for twenty-eight years (1866-1894) the leader of his party, and was
four times Prime Minister. He began as a high Tory, remained about
fifteen years in that camp, was then led by the split between Peel and
the Protectionists to take up an intermediate position, and finally
was forced to cast in his lot with the Liberals, for in England, as in
America, third parties seldom endure. No parliamentary career in
English annals is comparable to his for its length and variety; and of
those who saw its close in the House of Commons, there was only one
man, Mr. Villiers (who died in January 1898), who could remember its
beginning. Mr. Gladstone had been opposed in 1833 to men who might
have been his grandfathers; he was opposed in 1894 to men who might
have been his grandchildren. It is no part of my design to describe or
comment on the events of such a life. All that can be done here is to
indicate the more salient characteristics which a study of his career
as a statesman and a parliamentarian sets before us.

The most remarkable of these characteristics was the openness,
freshness, and eagerness of mind which he preserved down to the end of
his life. Most men form few new opinions after thirty-five, just as
they form few new intimacies. Intellectual curiosity may remain even
after fifty, but its range narrows as a man abandons the hope of
attaining any thorough knowledge of subjects other than those which
make the main business of his life. It is impossible to follow the
progress of all the new ideas that are set afloat in the world,
impossible to be always examining the foundations of one's political
or religious beliefs. Repeated disappointments and disillusionments
make a man expect less from changes the older he grows; while
indolence deters him from entering upon new enterprises. None of these
causes seemed to affect Mr. Gladstone. He was as much excited over a
new book (such as Cardinal Manning's Life) at eighty-four as when at
fourteen he insisted on compelling little Arthur Stanley (afterwards
Dean of Westminster, and then aged nine) forthwith to procure and
study Gray's poems, which he had just perused himself. His reading
covered almost the whole field of literature, except physical and
mathematical science. While frequently declaring that he must confine
his political thinking and leadership to a few subjects, he was so
observant of current events that the course of talk brought up
scarcely any topic in which he did not seem to know what was the
latest thing that had been said or done. Neither the lassitude nor the
prejudices that usually accompany old age prevented him from giving a
fair consideration to any new doctrines. But though his intellect was
restlessly at work, and though his curiosity disposed him to relish
novelties, except in theology, that bottom rock in his mind of caution
and reserve, which has already been referred to, made him refuse to
part with old views even when he was beginning to accept new ones. He
allowed both to "lie on the table" together, and while declaring
himself open to conviction, felt it safer to speak and act on the old
lines till the process of conviction had been completed. It took
fourteen years, from 1846 to 1860, to carry him from the Conservative
into the Liberal camp. It took five stormy years to bring him round to
Irish Home Rule, though his mind was constantly occupied with the
subject from 1880 to 1885, and those who watched him closely saw that
the process had advanced a long way even in 1882. And as regards
ecclesiastical establishments, having written a book in 1838 as a warm
advocate of State churches, it was not till 1867 that he adopted the
policy of disestablishment for Ireland, not till 1890 that he
declared himself ready to apply that policy in Wales and Scotland

Both these qualities--his disposition to revise his opinions in the
light of new arguments and changing conditions, and the silence he
maintained till the process of revision had been completed--exposed
him to misconstruction. Commonplace men, unwont to give serious
scrutiny to their opinions, ascribed his changes to self-interest, or
at best regarded them as the index of an unstable purpose. Dull men
could not understand why he should have forborne to set forth all that
was passing in his mind, and saw little difference between reticence
and dishonesty. In so far as they shook public confidence, these
characteristics injured him in his statesman's work. Yet the loss was
outweighed by the gain. In a country where opinion is active and
changeful, where the economic conditions that legislation has to deal
with are in a state of perpetual flux, where the balance of power
between the upper, the middle, and the poorer classes has been swiftly
altering during the last seventy years, no statesman can continue to
serve the public if he adheres obstinately to the doctrines with which
he started in life. He must--unless, of course, he stands aloof in
permanent isolation--either subordinate his own views to the general
sentiment of his party, and be driven to advocate courses he secretly
mislikes, or else, holding himself ready to quit his party, if need
be, must be willing to learn from events, and to reconsider his
opinions in the light of emergent tendencies and insistent facts. Mr.
Gladstone's pride as well as his conscience forbade the former
alternative; it was fortunate that the tireless activity of his
intellect made the latter natural to him. He was accustomed to say
that the capital fault of his earlier days had been his failure
adequately to recognise the worth and power of liberty, and the
tendency which things have to work out for good when left to
themselves. The application of this principle gave room for many
developments, and many developments there were. He may have shown less
than was needed of that prescience which is, after integrity and
courage, the highest gift of a statesman, but which can seldom be
expected from an English minister, too engrossed to find time for the
patient reflection from which alone sound forecasts can issue. But he
had the next best quality, that of remaining accessible to new ideas
and learning from the events which passed under his eyes.

With this openness and flexibility of mind there went a not less
remarkable ingenuity and resourcefulness. Fertile in expedients, he
was still more fertile in reasonings by which to recommend the
expedients. The gift had its dangers, for he was apt to be carried
away by the dexterity of his own dialectic, and to think that a
scheme must be sound in whose support he could muster a formidable
array of arguments. He never seemed at a loss, in public or in
private, for a criticism, or for an answer to the criticisms of
others. If his power of adapting his own mind to the minds of those
whom he had to convince had been equal to the skill and swiftness with
which he accumulated a mass of matter persuasive to those who looked
at things in his own way, no one would have exercised so complete a
control over the political opinion of his time. But his intellect
lacked this power of adaptation. It moved on lines of its own, which
were often misconceived, even by those who sought to follow him
loyally. Thus, as already observed, he was blamed for two opposite
faults. Some, pointing to the fact that he had frequently altered his
views, denounced him as a demagogue profuse of promises, ready to
propose whatever he thought likely to catch the people's ear. Others
complained that there was no knowing where to have him; that he had an
erratic mind, whose currents ran underground and came to the surface
in unexpected places; that he did not consult his party, but followed
his own impulses; that his guidance was unsafe because his decisions
were unpredictable. Much of the suspicion with which he was regarded,
especially after 1885, arose from this view of his character.

It was an unfair view, yet nearer to the truth than that which charged
him with seeking to flatter and follow the people. No great popular
leader had in him less of the demagogue. He saw, of course, that a
statesman cannot oppose the general will beyond a certain point, and
may have to humour it in small things that he may direct it in great
ones. He was obliged, as others have been, to take up and settle
questions he deemed unimportant because they were troubling the body
politic. Now and then, in his later days, he so far yielded to his
party advisers as to express his approval of proposals in which his
own interest was slight. But he was ever a leader, not a follower, and
erred rather in not keeping his finger closely and constantly upon the
pulse of public opinion. In this point, at least, one may discover in
him a likeness to Disraeli. Slow as he was in maturing his opinions,
Mr. Gladstone was liable to forget that the minds of his followers
might not be moving along with his own, and hence his decisions
sometimes took his party as well as the nation by surprise. But he was
too self-absorbed, too eagerly interested in the ideas that suited his
own cast of thought, to be able to watch and gauge the tendencies of
the multitude. The three most remarkable instances in which his new
departures startled the world were his declarations against the Irish
Church establishment in 1867, against the Turks and the traditional
English policy of supporting them in 1876, and in favour of Irish Home
Rule in 1886, and in none of these did any popular demand suggest his
pronouncement. It was the masses who took their view from him, not he
who took a mandate from the masses. In each of these cases he may,
perhaps, be blamed for not having sooner perceived, or at any rate for
not having sooner announced, the need for a change of policy. But it
was very characteristic of him not to give the full strength of his
mind to a question till he felt that it pressed for a solution. Those
who listened to his private talk were scarcely more struck by the
range of his vision than by his unwillingness to commit himself on
matters whose decision he could postpone. Reticence and caution were
sometimes carried too far, not merely because they exposed him to
misconstruction, but because they withheld from his party the guidance
it needed. This was true in the three instances just mentioned; and in
the last of them it is possible that earlier and fuller communications
might have averted the separation of some of his former colleagues.
Nor did he always rightly divine the popular mind. His proposal (in
1874) to extinguish the income-tax fell completely flat, because the
nation was becoming indifferent to that economy in public expenditure
which both parties had in the days of Peel and Lord John Russell vied
in demanding. Cherishing his old financial ideals, Mr. Gladstone had
not marked the change. So he failed to perceive how much the credit of
his party was suffering (after 1871) from the belief of large sections
of the people, that he was indifferent to the interests of England
outside England. Perhaps, knowing the charge of indifference to be
groundless, he underrated the effect which the iteration of it
produced: perhaps his pride would not let him stoop to dissipate it.

Though the power of reading the signs of the times and swaying the
mind of the nation may be now more essential to an English statesman
than the skill which manages a legislature or holds together a
cabinet, that skill counts for much, and must continue to do so while
the House of Commons remains the governing authority of the country. A
man can hardly reach high place, and certainly cannot retain high
place, without possessing this kind of art. Mr. Gladstone was at one
time thought to want it. In 1864, when Lord Palmerston's end was
approaching, and Mr. Gladstone had shown himself the strongest man
among the Liberal ministers in the House of Commons, people speculated
about the succession to the headship of the party; and the wiseacres
of the day were never tired of repeating that Mr. Gladstone could not
possibly lead the House of Commons. He wanted tact, they said, he was
too excitable, too impulsive, too much absorbed in his own ideas, too
unversed in the arts by which individuals are conciliated. But when,
after twenty-five years of his unquestioned reign, the time for his
own departure drew nigh, men asked how the Liberal party in the House
of Commons would ever hold together after it had lost a leader of such
consummate capacity. The Whig critics of 1864 had grown so accustomed
to Palmerston's way of handling the House as to forget that a man
might succeed by quite different methods, and that defects, serious in
themselves, may be outweighed by transcendent merits.

Mr. Gladstone had the defects ascribed to him. His impulsiveness
sometimes betrayed him into declarations which a cooler reflection
would have dissuaded. The second reading of the Irish Home Rule Bill
of 1886 might possibly have been carried had he not been goaded by his
opponents into words which were construed as recalling or modifying
the concessions he had announced at a meeting of the Liberal party
held just before. More than once precious time was wasted because
antagonists, knowing his excitable temper, brought on discussions with
the sole object of annoying him and drawing from him some hasty
deliverance. Nor was he an adept, like Disraeli and Disraeli's famous
Canadian imitator, Sir John A. Macdonald, in the management of
individuals. His aversion for the meaner side of human nature made him
refuse to play upon it. Many of the pursuits, and most of the
pleasures, which attract ordinary men had no interest for him, so that
much of the common ground on which men meet was closed to him. He was,
moreover, too constantly engrossed by the subjects he loved, and by
enterprises which specially appealed to him, to have leisure for the
lighter but often vitally important devices of political strategy. I
remember hearing, soon after 1870, how Mr. Delane, then editor of the
_Times_, had been invited to meet the Prime Minister at a moment when
the support of that newspaper would have been specially valuable to
the Liberal Government. Instead of using the opportunity in the way
that had been intended, Mr. Gladstone dilated during the whole time of
dinner upon the approaching exhaustion of the English coal-beds, to
the surprise of the company and the unconcealed annoyance of the
powerful guest. It was the subject then uppermost in his mind, and he
either forgot, or disdained, to conciliate Mr. Delane. Good nature as
well as good sense made him avoid giving offence by personal
reflections in debate, and he usually suffered fools if not, like St.
Paul's converts, gladly, yet patiently.[64] In the House of Commons he
was entirely free from airs, and, indeed, from any assumption of
superiority. The youngest member might accost him in the lobby and be
listened to with perfect courtesy. But he had a bad memory for faces,
seldom addressed any one outside the circle of his personal friends,
and more than once made enemies by omitting to notice and show
attention to recruits who, having been eminent in their own towns,
expected to be made much of when they entered Parliament. Having
himself plenty of pride and comparatively little vanity, he never
realised the extent to which, and the cheapness with which, men can be
captured and used through their vanity. Adherents were sometimes
turned into dangerous foes because his preoccupation with graver
matters dimmed his sense of what may be done to win support by the
minor arts, such as an invitation to dinner or even a seasonable
compliment. And his mind, flexible as it was in seizing new points of
view and devising expedients to meet new circumstances, did not easily
enter into the characters of other men. Ideas and causes interested
him more than did personal traits; his sympathy was keener and
stronger for the sufferings of nations or masses of men than with the
fortunes of an individual man. With all his accessibility and
kindliness, he was at bottom chary of real friendship, while the
circle of his intimates became constantly smaller with advancing
years. So it befell that though his popularity among the general body
of his adherents went on increasing, and the admiration of his
parliamentary followers remained undiminished, he had in the House of
Commons few personal friends who linked him to the party at large, and
rendered to him those confidential services which count for much in
keeping all sections in hearty accord and enabling the commander to
gauge the sentiment of his troops.

Of parliamentary strategy in that larger sense, which covers
familiarity with parliamentary forms and usages, care and judgment in
arranging the business of the House, the power of seizing a
parliamentary situation and knowing how to deal with it, the art of
guiding a debate and choosing the right moment for reserve and for
openness, for a dignified retreat, for a watchful defence, for a
sudden rattling charge upon the enemy--of all this no one had a fuller
mastery. His recollection of precedents was unrivalled, for it began
in 1833 with the first reformed Parliament, and it seemed as fresh for
those remote days as for last month. He enjoyed combat for its own
sake, not so much from inborn pugnacity, for he was not disputatious
in ordinary conversation, as because it called out his fighting force
and stimulated his whole nature. "I am never nervous in reply," he
once said, "though I am sometimes nervous in opening a debate." No one
could be more tactful or adroit when a crisis arrived whose gravity he
had foreseen. In the summer of 1881 the House of Lords made some
amendments to the Irish Land Bill which were deemed ruinous to the
working of the measure, and therewith to the prospects of the
pacification of Ireland. A conflict was expected which might have
strained the fabric of the constitution. The excitement which quickly
arose in Parliament spread to the nation. Mr. Gladstone alone remained
calm and confident. He devised a series of compromises, which he
advocated in conciliatory speeches. He so played his game that by a
few minor concessions he secured nearly all the points he cared for,
and, while sparing the dignity of the Lords, steered his bill
triumphantly out of the breakers which had threatened to engulf it.
Very different was his ordinary demeanour in debate when he was off
his guard. His face and gestures while he sat in the House of Commons
listening to an opponent would express all the emotions that crossed
his mind. He would follow every sentence as a hawk follows the
movements of a small bird, would sometimes contradict half aloud,
sometimes turn to his next neighbour to vent his displeasure at the
groundless allegations or fallacious arguments he was listening to,
till at last, like a hunting leopard loosed from the leash, he would
spring to his feet and deliver a passionate reply. His warmth would
often be in excess of what the occasion required, and quite
disproportioned to the importance of his antagonist. It was in fact
the unimportance of the occasion that made him thus yield to his
feeling. As soon as he saw that bad weather was coming, and careful
seamanship wanted, his coolness returned, his language became
measured, while passion, though it might increase the force of his
oratory, never made him deviate a hand's breadth from the course he
had chosen. The Celtic heat subsided, and the shrewd self-control of
the Lowland Scot regained command.

It was by oratory that Mr. Gladstone rose to fame and power, as,
indeed, by it most English statesmen have risen, save those to whom
wealth and rank and family connections used to give a sort of
presumptive claim to high office, like the Cavendishes and the
Russells, the Bentincks and the Cecils. And for many years, during
which Mr. Gladstone was suspected as a statesman because, while he had
ceased to be a Tory, he had not fully become a Liberal, his eloquence
was the main, one might almost say the sole, source of his influence.
Oratory was a power in English politics even a century and a half ago,
as the career of the elder Pitt shows. During the last seventy years,
years which have seen the power of rank and family connections
decline, it has, although less cultivated as a fine art, continued to
be almost essential to the highest success, and it still brings a man
quickly to the front, though it will not keep him there should he
prove to want the other branches of statesmanlike capacity.

The permanent reputation of an orator depends upon two things, the
witness of contemporaries to the impression produced upon them, and
the written or printed record of his speeches. Few are the famous
speakers who would be famous if they were tried by this latter test
alone, and Mr. Gladstone was not one of them. It is only by a rare
combination of gifts that one who speaks with so much force and
brilliance as to charm his listeners is also able to deliver thoughts
so valuable in words so choice that posterity will read them as
literature. Some of the ancient orators did this; but we seldom know
how far those of their speeches which have been preserved are the
speeches which they actually delivered. Among moderns, a few French
preachers, Edmund Burke, Macaulay, and Daniel Webster are perhaps the
only speakers whose discourses have passed into classics and find new
generations of readers.[65] Twenty years hence Mr. Gladstone's will
not be read, except, of course, by historians. Indeed, they ceased to
be read even in his lifetime. They are too long, too diffuse, too
minute in their handling of details, too elaborately qualified in
their enunciation of general principles. They contain few epigrams and
few of those weighty thoughts put into telling phrases which the
Greeks called +gnômai+. The style, in short, is not sufficiently rich
or polished to give an enduring interest to matter whose practical
importance has vanished. The same oblivion has overtaken all but a few
of the best speeches (or parts of speeches) of Grattan, Sheridan,
Pitt, Fox, Erskine, Canning, Plunket, Brougham, Peel, Bright. It may,
indeed, be said--and the examples of Burke and Macaulay show that this
is no paradox--that the speakers whom posterity most enjoys are rarely
those who most affected the audiences that listened to them.[66]

If, on the other hand, Mr. Gladstone be judged by the impression he
made on his own time, his place will be high in the front rank. His
speeches were neither so concisely telling as Mr. Bright's nor so
finished in diction; but no other man among his contemporaries--neither
Lord Derby nor Mr. Lowe, nor Lord Beaconsfield nor Lord Cairns, nor
Bishop Wilberforce nor Bishop Magee--taken all round, could be ranked
beside him. And he rose superior to Mr. Bright himself in readiness,
in variety of knowledge, in persuasive ingenuity. Mr. Bright spoke
seldom and required time for preparation. Admirable in the breadth and
force with which he set forth his own position, or denounced that of
his adversaries, he was not equally qualified for instructing nor
equally apt at persuading. Mr. Gladstone could both instruct and
persuade, could stimulate his friends and demolish his opponents, and
could do all these things at an hour's notice, so vast and well
ordered was the arsenal of his mind. Pitt was superb in an expository
or argumentative speech, but his stately periods lacked variety. Fox,
incomparable in reply, was hesitating and confused when he had to state
his case in cold blood. Mr. Gladstone showed as much fire in winding
up a debate as skill in opening it.

His oratory had, indeed, two faults. It wanted concentration, and it
wanted definition. There were too many words, and the conclusion was
sometimes left vague because the arguments had been too nicely
balanced. I once heard Mr. Cobden say: "I always listen to Mr.
Gladstone with pleasure and admiration, but I sometimes have to ask
myself, when he has sat down, 'What after all was it that he meant,
and what practical course does he recommend?'" These faults were
balanced by conspicuous merits. There was a lively imagination, which
enabled him to relieve even dull matter by pleasing figures, together
with a large command of quotations and illustrations. There were
powers of sarcasm, powers, however, which he rarely used, preferring
the summer lightning of banter to the thunderbolts of invective. There
was admirable lucidity and accuracy in exposition. There was art in
the disposition and marshalling of his arguments, and finally--a gift
now almost lost in England--there was a delightful variety and grace
of appropriate gesture. But above and beyond everything else which
enthralled the listener, there stood out four qualities. Two of them
were merits of substance--inventiveness and elevation; two were merits
of delivery--force in the manner, expressive modulation in the voice.

No one showed such swift resourcefulness in debate. His readiness, not
only at catching a point, but at making the most of it on a moment's
notice, was amazing. Some one would lean over the back of the bench he
sat on and show a paper or whisper a sentence to him. Apprehending the
bearings at a glance, he would take the bare fact and so shape and
develop it, like a potter moulding a bowl on the wheel out of a lump
of clay, that it grew into a cogent argument or a happy illustration
under the eye of the audience, and seemed all the more telling because
it had not been originally a part of his case. Even in the last three
years of his parliamentary life, when his sight had so failed that he
read nothing, printed or written, except what it was absolutely
necessary to read, and when his deafness had so increased that he did
not hear half of what was said in debate, it was sufficient for a
colleague to say into the better ear a few words explaining how the
matter at issue stood, and he would rise to his feet and extemporise a
long and ingenious argument, or retreat with dexterous grace from a
position which the course of the discussion or the private warning of
the Whips had shown to be untenable. Never was he seen at a loss
either to meet a new point raised by an adversary or to make the best
of an unexpected incident. Sometimes he would amuse himself by drawing
a cheer or a contradiction from his opponents, and would then suddenly
turn round and use this hasty expression of their opinion as the basis
for a fresh argument of his own. Loving conflict, he loved debate,
and, so far from being confused or worried by the strain conflict put
upon him, his physical health was strengthened and his faculties were
roused to higher efficiency by having to prepare and deliver a great
speech. He had the rare faculty of thinking ahead while he was
speaking, and could, while pouring forth a stream of glittering
sentences, be at the same time (as one saw by watching his eye)
composing an argument to be delivered five or ten minutes later. Once,
at a very critical moment, when he was defending a great measure
against the amendment--moved by a nominal supporter of his own--which
proved fatal to it, a friend suddenly reminded him of an incident in
the career of the mover which might be effectively used against him.
When Mr. Gladstone sat down after delivering an impassioned speech, in
the course of which he had several times approached and then sheered
off from the incident, he turned round to the friend and said, "I was
thinking all the time I was speaking whether I could properly use
against ---- what you told me, but concluded, on the whole, that it
would be too hard on him."

The weakness of his eloquence sprang from its supersubtlety and
superabundance. He was prone to fine distinctions. He multiplied
arguments when it would have been better to rely upon two or three of
the strongest. And he was sometimes so intent on refuting the
particular adversaries opposed to him, and persuading the particular
audience before him, that he forgot to address his reasonings to the
public beyond the House, and make them equally applicable and equally
convincing to the readers of next morning.

As dignity is one of the rarest qualities in literature, so elevation
is one of the rarest in oratory. It is a quality easier to feel than
to analyse. One may call it a power of ennobling ordinary things by
showing their relation to great things, by pouring high emotions round
them, by bringing the worthier motives of human conduct to bear upon
them, by touching them with the light of poetry. Ambitious writers and
speakers strain after effects of this kind; but they are effects which
study and straining cannot ensure. Vainly do most men flap their wings
in the effort to soar; if they succeed in rising from the ground it is
because some unusually strong burst of feeling makes them for the
moment better than themselves. In Mr. Gladstone the capacity for
feeling was at all times so strong, and the susceptibility of the
imagination so keen, that he soared without effort. His vision seemed
to take in the whole landscape. The points actually in question might
be small, but the principles involved were to him far-reaching. The
contests of to-day were ennobled by the effect they might have in a
still distant future. There are rhetoricians skilful in playing by
words and manner on every chord of human nature, rhetoricians who move
you, and may even carry you away for the moment, but whose sincerity
is doubted, because the sense of spontaneity is lacking. Mr. Gladstone
was not of these. He never seemed to be forcing an effect or assuming
a sentiment. To listen to him was to feel convinced of his own
conviction and to be warmed by the warmth with which he expressed it.
Nor was this due to the perfection of his rhetorical art. He really
did feel what he expressed. Sometimes, of course, like all statesmen,
he had to maintain a cause whose weakness he perceived, as, for
instance, when it became necessary to defend the blunder of a
colleague, or a decision reached by some Cabinet compromise which his
own judgment disapproved. But even in such cases he did not simulate
feeling, but reserved his earnestness for those parts of the case on
which it could be honestly expended. As this was generally true of the
imaginative and emotional side of his eloquence, so was it especially
true of his unequalled power of lifting a subject from the level on
which other speakers had treated it into the purer air of permanent
principle, perhaps even of moral sublimity.

The dignity and spontaneity which marked the substance of his speeches
was no less conspicuous in their delivery. Nothing could be more easy
and graceful than his manner on ordinary occasions, nothing more grave
and stately than it became when he was making a ceremonial reference
to some public event or bestowing a meed of praise on the departed.
His expository discourses, such as those with which he introduced a
complicated bill or unfolded a financial statement, were models of
their kind, not only for lucidity, but for the pleasant smoothness,
never lapsing into monotony, with which the stream of speech flowed
from his lips. The task was performed so well that people thought it
an easy task till they saw how inferior were the performances of two
subsequent chancellors of the exchequer so able in their respective
ways as Sir Stafford Northcote and Mr. Lowe. But when an occasion
arrived which quickened men's pulses in the House of Commons, a place
where feeling rises as suddenly as do the waves of a Highland loch
when a squall comes rushing down the glen, the vehemence of his
feeling found expression in the fire of his eye and the resistless
strength of his words. His utterance did not grow swifter, nor did the
key of his voice rise, as passion raises and sharpens the voice in
most men. But the measured force with which every sentence was
launched, like a shell hurtling through the air, the concentrated
intensity of his look, as he defied antagonists in front and swept his
glance over the ranks of his supporters around and behind him, had a
startling and thrilling power which no other Englishman could exert,
and which no Englishman had exerted since the days of Pitt and Fox.
The whole proud, bold, ardent nature of the man seemed to flash out,
and one almost forgot what the lips said in admiration of the
towering personality.

People who read next day the report in the newspapers of a speech
delivered on such an occasion could not comprehend the impression
it had made on the listeners. "What was there in it so to stir you?"
they asked. They had not seen the glance and the gestures; they
had not heard the vibrating voice rise to an organ peal of triumph or
sink to a whisper of entreaty. Mr. Gladstone's voice was naturally
rich and resonant. It was a fine singing voice, and a pleasant voice
to listen to in conversation, not the less pleasant for having a
slight trace of Liverpool accent clinging to it. But what struck one
in listening to his speeches was not so much the quality of the
vocal chords as the skill with which they were managed. He had a
gift of sympathetic expression, of throwing his feeling into his
voice, and using its modulations to accompany and convey every shade
of meaning, like that which a great composer exerts when he puts music
to a poem, or a great executant when he renders at once the
composer's and the poet's thought. And just as accomplished singers
or violinists enjoy the practice of their art, so he rejoiced,
perhaps unconsciously, yet intensely, in putting forth this faculty
of expression; as appeared, indeed, from the fact that whenever his
voice failed him (which sometimes befell in later years) his
words came less easily, and even the chariot of his argument seemed
to drive heavily. That the voice should so seldom have failed was
wonderful. When he had passed his seventy-fifth year, it became
sensibly inferior in volume and depth of tone. But its variety and
delicacy remained. In April 1886, he being then seventy-seven, it
held out during a speech of nearly four hours in length. In
February 1890 it enabled him to deliver with extraordinary effect an
eminently solemn and pathetic appeal. In March 1894 those who
listened to it the last time it was heard in Parliament--they were
comparatively few, for the secret of his impending resignation had
been well kept--recognised in it all the old charm. The most
striking instance I recall of the power it could exert is to be
found in a speech made in 1883, during one of the tiresome debates
occasioned by the refusal of the Opposition and of some timorous
Liberals to allow Mr. Bradlaugh to be sworn as a member of the House
of Commons. This speech produced on those who heard it an impression
which its perusal to-day fails to explain. That impression was chiefly
due to the grave and reverent tone in which he delivered some
sentences stating the view that it is not our belief in the bare
existence of a Deity, but the realising of him as being a Providence
ruling the world, that has moral value and significance for us. And
it was due in particular to the solemn dignity with which he
declaimed six lines of Lucretius, setting forth the Epicurean view
that the gods do not concern themselves with human affairs. There
were perhaps not twenty men in the House of Commons who could follow
the sense of the lines so as to appreciate their bearing on his
argument. But these sonorous hexameters--hexameters that seemed to
have lived on through nineteen centuries to find their application
from the lips of an orator to-day--the sense of remoteness in the
strange language and the far-off heathen origin, the deep and moving
note in the speaker's voice, thrilled the imagination of the
audience and held it spellbound, lifting for a moment the whole
subject of debate into a region far above party conflicts. Spoken by
any one else, the passage culminating in these Lucretian lines might
have produced little effect. It was the voice and manner, above
all the voice, with its marvellous modulations, that made the
speech majestic.

Yet one must not forget to add that with him, as with some other
famous statesmen, the impression made by a speech was in a measure due
to the admiring curiosity and wonder which his personality inspired.
He was so much the most interesting human being in the House of
Commons that, when he withdrew, many members said that the place had
lost half its attraction for them, and that the chamber looked empty
because he was not in it. Plenty of able men remained. But even the
ablest seemed ordinary when compared with the figure that had
vanished, a figure in whom were combined, as in no other man of his
time, an unrivalled experience, an extraordinary activity and
versatility of intellect, a fervid imagination, and an indomitable

Though Mr. Gladstone's oratory was a main source of his power, both in
Parliament and over the people, the effort of detractors to represent
him as a mere rhetorician will seem absurd to the historian who
reviews his whole career. The rhetorician adorns and popularises the
ideas which have originated with others; he advocates policies which
others have devised; he follows and expresses the sentiments which
already prevail in his party. Mr. Gladstone was himself a source of
new ideas and new policies; he evoked new sentiments or turned old
sentiments into new channels. Neither was he, as some alleged,
primarily a destroyer. His conservative instincts were strong; he
cherished ancient custom. When it became necessary to clear away an
institution he sought to put something else in its place. He was a
constructive statesman not less conspicuously than were Pitt, Canning,
and Peel. Whether he was a philosophic statesman, basing his action on
large views obtained by thought and study, philosophic in the sense
in which we apply the epithet to Pericles, Machiavelli, Turgot,
Burke, Jefferson, Hamilton, Stein--if one class can be made to include
persons otherwise so dissimilar--may perhaps be doubted. There are few
instances in history of men who have been great thinkers and also
great legislators or administrators, because the two kinds of capacity
almost exclude one another. As experts declare that a man who should
try to operate on the Stock Exchange in reliance upon a profound
knowledge of the inner springs of European politics and the financial
resources of the great States, would ruin himself before his perfectly
correct calculations had time to come true, so a practical statesman,
though he cannot know too much, or look too far ahead, must beware of
trusting his own forecasts, must remember that he has to deal with the
next few months or years, and to persuade persons who cannot be
expected to share or even to understand his views of the future. The
habit of meditating on underlying truths, the tendency to play the
long game, are almost certain to spoil a man for dealing effectively
with the present. He will not be a sufficiently vigilant observer; he
will be out of sympathy with the notions of the average man; his
arguments will go over the head of his audience. No English prime
minister has looked at politics with the eye of a philosopher. But Mr.
Gladstone, if hardly to be called a thinker, showed higher
constructive power than any one else has done since Peel. Were the
memory of his oratorical triumphs to pass completely away, he would
deserve to be remembered in respect of the mark he left upon the
British statute-book and of the changes he wrought both in the
constitution of his country and in her European policy.

Three groups of measures stand out as monuments of his skill and
energy. The first of these three includes the financial reforms
embodied in a series of fourteen budgets between the years 1853 and
1882, the most famous of which were the budgets of 1853 and 1860. In
the former he continued the work begun by Peel by reducing and
simplifying the customs duties. Deficiencies in revenue were supplied
by the enactment of less oppressive imposts, and particularly by
resettling the income-tax, and by the introduction of a succession
duty on real estate. The preparation and passing of this very
technical and intricate Succession Duty Act was a most laborious
enterprise, of which Mr. Gladstone used to speak as the severest
mental strain he had ever undergone:

        +Kartistên dê tên ge machên phato dymenai andrôn.+[67]

The budget of 1860, among other changes, abolished the paper duty, a
boon to the press which was resisted by the House of Lords. They
threw out the measure, but in the following year Mr. Gladstone forced
them to submit. His achievements in the field of finance equal, if
they do not surpass, those of Peel, and are not tarnished, as in the
case of Pitt, by the recollection of a burden of debts incurred. To no
minister can be ascribed so large a share in promoting the commercial
and industrial prosperity of modern England, and in the reduction of
her national debt to the figure at which it stood when it began to
rise again in 1900.

The second group includes the parliamentary reform bills of 1866 and
1884 and the Redistribution Bill of 1885. The first of these was
defeated in the House of Commons, but it led to the passing next year,
by Mr. Disraeli, of a more sweeping measure. Taken together, these
statutes have turned Britain into a democratic country, changing the
character of her government almost as profoundly as did the Reform Act
of 1832.

The third group consists of a series of Irish measures, beginning with
the Church Disestablishment Act of 1869, and including the Land Act of
1870, the University Education Bill of 1873 (defeated in the House of
Commons), the Land Act of 1881, and the Home Rule bills of 1886 and
1893. All these were in a special manner Mr. Gladstone's handiwork,
prepared as well as brought in and advocated by him. All were highly
complicated, and of one, the Land Act of 1881, which it took three
months to carry through the House of Commons, it was said that so
great was its intricacy that only three men understood it--Mr.
Gladstone himself, his Attorney-General for Ireland, and Mr. T. M.
Healy. In preparing a bill no man could be more painstaking. He
settled and laid down the principles himself; and when he came to work
them out with the draughtsman and the officials who had special
knowledge of the subject, he insisted on knowing what their effect
would be in every particular. Indeed, he loved work for its own sake,
in this respect unlike Mr. Bright, who once said to me with a smile,
when asked as to his methods of working, that he had never done any
work all his life. The value of this mastery of details was seen when
a bill came to be debated in Committee. It was impossible to catch Mr.
Gladstone tripping on a point of fact, or unprepared with a reply to
the arguments of an opponent. He seemed to revel in the toil of
mastering a tangle of technical details.

It is long since England, in this respect not favoured by her
parliamentary system, has produced a great foreign minister, nor has
that title been claimed for Mr. Gladstone. But he showed on several
occasions both his independence of tradition and his faith in broad
principles as fit to be applied in international relations; and his
action in that field, though felt only at intervals, has left abiding
results in European history. In 1851, he being then still a Tory, his
pamphlet denouncing the cruelties of the Bourbon government of Naples,
and the sympathy he subsequently avowed with the national movement in
Italy, gave that movement a new standing in Europe by powerfully
recommending it to English opinion. In 1870 the prompt action of his
ministry in arranging a treaty for the neutrality of Belgium on the
outbreak of the war between France and Germany, averted the risk that
Belgium might be drawn into the strife. In 1871, by concluding the
treaty of Washington, which provided for the settlement by arbitration
of the _Alabama_ claims, he not only set a precedent full of promise
for the future, but delivered England from what would have been, in
case of her being at war with any European power, a danger fatal to
her ocean commerce. And, in 1876, his onslaught upon the Turks, after
the Bulgarian massacres, roused an intense feeling in England, turning
the current of opinion so decisively that Disraeli's ministry were
forced to leave the Sultan to his fate, and thus became a cause of the
ultimate deliverance of Bulgaria, Eastern Rumelia, Bosnia, and
Thessaly from Mussulman tyranny. Few English statesmen have equally
earned the gratitude of the oppressed.

Nothing lay nearer to his heart than the protection of the Christians
of the East. His sense of personal duty to them was partly due to the
feeling that the Crimean War had prolonged the rule of the Turk, and
had thus imposed a special responsibility on Britain, and on the
members of Lord Aberdeen's cabinet which drifted into that war. Twenty
years after the agitation of 1876, and when he had finally retired
from Parliament and political life, the massacres perpetrated by the
Sultan on his Armenian subjects brought him once more into the field,
and his last speech in public (delivered at Liverpool in the autumn of
1896) was a powerful argument in favour of British intervention to
rescue the Eastern Christians. In the following spring he followed
this up by a pamphlet on behalf of the freedom of Crete. In neither of
these two cases did success crown his efforts, for the Government,
commanding a large majority in Parliament, pursued the course upon
which it had already entered. Poignant regrets were expressed that Mr.
Gladstone was no longer able to take effective action in the cause of
humanity; yet it was a consolation to be assured that age and
infirmity had not dulled his sympathies with that cause.

That he was right in 1876-78 in the view he took of the line of
conduct England should adopt towards the Turks has been now virtually
admitted even by his opponents. That he was also right in 1896, when
urging action to protect the Eastern Christians, will probably be
admitted ten years hence, when the facts of the case and the nature of
the opportunity that existed for taking prompt action without the risk
of a European war have become better known. In both cases it was not
merely religious sympathy, but also a far-sighted view of policy that
governed his judgment. He held that the faults of Turkish rule are
incurable, and that the Powers of Western and Central Europe ought to
aim at protecting the subject nationalities and by degrees extending
self-government to them, so that they may grow into states, and in
time be able to restore prosperity to regions ruined by long
misgovernment, while constituting an effective barrier to the advance
of Russia. The jealousies of the Powers throw obstacles in the way of
this policy, but it is a safe policy for England, and offers the best
hope for the peoples of the East.

The facts just noted prove that he possessed and exerted a capacity
for initiative in foreign as well as in domestic affairs. In the
Neapolitan case, in the _Alabama_ case, in the Bulgarian case, he
acted from his own convictions, with no previous suggestion of
encouragement from his party; and in the last-mentioned instance he
took a course which did not at the moment promise any political gain,
and which seemed to the English political world so novel and even
startling that no ordinary statesman would have ventured on it.

His courage was indeed one of the most striking parts of the man.[68]
It was not the rashness of an impetuous nature, for, impetuous as he
was when stirred by some sudden excitement, he showed an Ulyssean
caution whenever he took a deliberate survey of the conditions that
surrounded him. It was the proud self-confidence of a strong
character, which was willing to risk fame and fortune in pursuing a
course it had once resolved upon; a character which had faith in its
own conclusions, and in the success of a cause consecrated by
principle; a character which obstacles did not affright, but rather
roused to a higher combative energy. Few English statesmen have done
anything so bold as was Mr. Gladstone's declaration for Irish Home
Rule in 1886. He took not only his political power but the fame and
credit of his whole past life in his hand when he set out on this new
journey at seventy-seven years of age; for it was quite possible that
the great bulk of his party might refuse to follow him, and he be left
exposed to derision as the chief of an insignificant group. As it
happened, the bulk of the party did follow him, though many of the
most influential refused to do so. But neither he nor any one else
could have foretold this when his intentions were first announced.

We may now, before passing away from the public side of Mr.
Gladstone's career, return for a moment to the opposite views of his
character which were indicated some pages back. He was accused of
sophistry, of unwisdom, of want of patriotism, of lust for power.
Though it is difficult to sift these charges without discussing the
conduct which gave rise to them, a task impossible here, each of them
must be briefly examined.

The first charge is the most plausible. His ingenuity in discovering
arguments and stating fine verbal distinctions, his subtlety in
discriminating between views or courses apparently similar, were
excessive, and invited misconstruction. He had a tendency to persuade
himself, quite unconsciously, that the course he desired to take was a
course which the public interest required. His acuteness soon found
reasons for that course; the warmth of his emotions enforced the
reasons. It was a dangerous tendency, but it does not impeach his
honesty of purpose, for the influence which his predilections
unconsciously exerted upon his judgment appeared also in his
theological and literary inquiries. I can recall no instance in which
he wilfully misstated a fact, or simulated a feeling, or used an
argument which he knew to be unsound. He did not, as does the sophist,
attempt "to make the worse appear the better reason."

His wisdom will be differently judged by those who condemn or approve
the chief acts of his policy. But it deserves to be noted that all the
legislation he passed, even the measures which, like the Irish Church
Disestablishment Bill, exposed him to angry attacks at the time, have
now been approved by the all but unanimous judgment of Englishmen.[69]
The same may be said of two acts which brought much invective upon
him--his settlement of the _Alabama_ claims, one of the wisest strokes
of foreign policy ever accomplished by a British minister, and his
protest against a support of the Turks in and after 1876. I pass by
Irish Home Rule, because the wisdom of the course he took must be
tested by results that are yet unborn, as I pass by his Egyptian
policy in 1882-85, because it cannot be fairly judged till the facts
have been fully made public. He may be open to blame for his
participation in the Crimean War, for his mistaken view of the
American Civil War, for his neglect of the Transvaal question when he
took office in 1880, and for his omission during his earlier career to
recognise the gravity of Irish disaffection and to study its causes. I
have heard him lament that he had not twenty years earlier given the
same attention to that abiding source of the difficulties of England
which he gave from 1866 onwards. If in these instances he erred, it
must be remembered that he erred in company with nine-tenths of
British statesmen in both political parties.

Their admiration did not prevent his friends from noting tendencies
which sometimes led him to miscalculate the forces he had to deal
with. Being, like the younger Pitt, extremely sanguine, he was prone
to underrate difficulties. Hopefulness is a splendid quality. It is
both the child and the parent of faith. Without it neither Mr. Pitt
nor Mr. Gladstone could have done what they did. But it disposes its
possessor not sufficiently to allow for the dulness or the prejudice
of others. So too the intensity of Mr. Gladstone's own feeling made
him fail to realise how many of his fellow-countrymen did not know of,
or were not shocked by, acts of cruelty and injustice which had roused
his indignation. If his hatred of ostentation suffered him to perceive
that a nation, however well assured of the reality of its power and
influence in the world, may also desire that this power and influence
should be asserted and proclaimed to other nations, he refused to
humour that desire. He had a contempt for what is called "playing to
the gallery," with a deep sense of the danger of stimulating the
passions which lead to aggression and war. To national honour, as he
conceived it, national righteousness was vital. His spirit was that of
Lowell's lines--

           I love my country so as only they
           Who love a mother fit to die for may.
           I love her old renown, her ancient fame:
           What better proof than that I loathe her shame?

It was this attitude that brought on him the charge of wanting
patriotism, a charge first, I think, insinuated at the time of the
_Alabama_ arbitration, renewed when in 1876 he was accused of
befriending Russia and neglecting "British interests," and sedulously
repeated thereafter, although in those two instances the result had
proved him right. There was this much to give a kind of colour to the
charge, that he had scrupulously, perhaps too scrupulously, refrained
from extolling the material power of England, preferring to insist
upon her responsibilities; that he was known to regret the constant
increase of naval and military expenditure, and that he had several
times taken a course which honour and prudence seemed to him to
recommend, but which had offended the patriots of the music-halls. But
it was an unjust charge, for no man had a warmer pride in England, a
higher sense of her greatness and her mission.

Was he too fond of power? Like other strong men, he enjoyed it.[70]
That to secure it he ever either adopted or renounced an opinion,
those who understood and watched the workings of his mind could not
believe. He was not only too conscientious, but too proud to forego
any of his convictions, and there were not a few occasions when he
took a course which considerations of personal interest would have
forbidden. He did not love office, feeling himself happier without its
cares, and when he accepted it did so, I think, in the belief that
there was work to be done which it was laid upon him individually to
do. His changes sprang naturally from the development of his own ideas
or (as in the case of his Irish policy) from the teaching of facts. He
sometimes so far yielded to his colleagues as to sanction steps which
he thought not the best, and may in this have sometimes erred; yet
compromises are unavoidable, for no Cabinet could be kept together if
its members did not now and then, in matters not essential, yield to
one another. When all the facts of his life come to be known,
instances may be disclosed in which he was the victim of his own
casuistry or of his deference to Peel's maxim that a minister should
not avow a change of view until the time has come to give effect to
it. But it will also be made clear that he strove to obey his
conscience, that he acted with an ever-present sense of his
responsibility to the Almighty, and that he was animated by an
unselfish enthusiasm for humanity, enlightenment, and freedom.

Whether he was a good judge of men was a question much discussed
among his friends. With all his astuteness, he was in some ways
curiously simple; with all his caution, he was by nature unsuspicious,
disposed to treat all men as honest till they gave him strong reasons
for thinking otherwise. Those who professed sympathy with his views
and aims sometimes succeeded in inspiring more confidence than they
deserved. But where this perturbing influence was absent he showed
plenty of insight, and would pass shrewd judgments on the politicians
around him, permitting neither their behaviour towards himself nor his
opinion of their moral character to affect his estimate of their
talents. In making appointments in the Civil Service, or in the
Established Church, he rose to a far higher standard of public duty
than Palmerston or Disraeli had reached or cared to reach, taking
great pains to find the fittest men, and giving little weight to
political considerations.[71]

His public demeanour, and especially his excitability and vehemence of
speech, made people attribute to him an overbearing disposition and an
irritable temper. In private one did not find these faults. Masterful
he certainly was, both in speech and in action. His ardent manner, the
intensity of his look, the dialectical vigour with which he pressed an
argument, were apt to awe people who knew him but slightly, and make
them abandon resistance. A gifted though somewhat erratic politician
of long bygone days told me how he once fared when he had risen in the
House of Commons to censure some act of his leader. "I had not gone on
three minutes when Gladstone turned round and gazed at me so that I
had to sit down in the middle of a sentence. I could not help it.
There was no standing his eye." But he neither meant nor wished to
beat down his opponents by mere authority. One who knew him as few
people did observed to me, "When you are arguing with Mr. Gladstone,
you must never let him think he has convinced you unless you are
really convinced. Persist in repeating your view, and if you are
unable to cope with him in skill of fence, say bluntly that for all
his ingenuity and authority you think he is wrong, and you retain your
own opinion. If he respects you as a man who knows something of the
subject, he will be impressed by your opinion, and it will afterwards
have due weight with him." In his own Cabinet he was willing to listen
patiently to everybody's views, and, indeed, in the judgment of some
of his colleagues, was not, at least in his later years, sufficiently
strenuous in asserting and holding to his own. It is no secret that
some of the most important decisions of the ministry of 1880-85 were
taken against his judgment, though, when they had been adopted, he
was, of course, bound to defend them in Parliament as if they had
received his individual approval. Nor, though tenacious, did he bear
malice against those who had baffled him. He would exert his full
force to get his own way, but if he could not get it, accepted the
position with good temper.[72] He was too proud to be vindictive, too
completely master of himself to be betrayed into angry words.
Impatient he might sometimes be under a nervous strain, but never rude
or rough. It was less easy to determine whether he was overmindful of
injuries, but those who had watched him most closely held that mere
opposition or even insult did not leave a permanent sting, and that
the only thing he could not forget or forgive was faithlessness.
Himself a model of loyalty to his colleagues, he followed his
favourite poet in consigning the _traditori_ to the lowest pit,
although, like all statesmen, he often found himself obliged to work
with those whom he distrusted.

He was less sensitive than Peel, as appeared from his attitude toward
his two chief opponents. Disraeli's attacks did not seem to gall him,
perhaps because, although he recognised the ability and admired the
courage of his adversary, he did not respect Disraeli's character,
remembering his behaviour to Peel, and thinking him habitually
untruthful. Yet he never attacked Disraeli personally. There was
another of his opponents of whom he entertained a specially
unfavourable opinion, but no one could have told from his speeches
what that opinion was. Against Lord Salisbury, his chief antagonist
from 1881 onwards, he showed no resentment, though Lord Salisbury had
more than once spoken discourteously of him. In 1890 he remarked to me
_apropos_ of some attack, "I have never felt angry at what Salisbury
has said about me. His mother was very kind to me when I was quite a
young man, and I remember Salisbury as a little fellow in a red frock
rolling about on the ottoman."

That his temper was naturally hot, no one who looked at him could
doubt. But he had it in such tight control, and it was so free from
anything acrid or malignant, that it had become a good temper, worthy
of a fine nature. However vehement his expressions, they did not wound
or humiliate, and those younger men who had to deal with him were not
afraid of a sharp answer or an impatient repulse. He was cast in too
large a mould to have the pettiness of ruffled vanity or to abuse his
predominance by treating any one as an inferior. His manners were the
manners of the old time, easy but stately. Like his oratory, they
were in what Matthew Arnold used to call the grand style; and the
contrast in this respect between him and some of those who crossed
swords with him in literary or theological controversy was apparent.
His intellectual generosity was a part of the same largeness of
nature. He cordially acknowledged his indebtedness to those who helped
him in any piece of work, received their suggestions candidly, even
when opposed to his own preconceived notions, did not hesitate to
confess a mistake. Those who know the abundance of their resources,
and have conquered fame, can doubtless afford to be generous. Julius
Cæsar was, and George Washington, and so, in a different sphere, were
Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. But the instances to the contrary are
so numerous that one may say of magnanimity that it is among the
rarest as well as the finest ornaments of character.

The essential dignity of Mr. Gladstone's nature was never better seen
than during the last few years of his life, after he had finally
retired (in 1894) from public life. He indulged in no vain regrets,
nor was there any foundation for the rumours, so often circulated,
that he thought of re-entering the arena of strife. He spoke with no
bitterness of those who had opposed, and sometimes foiled, him in the
past. He gave vent to no criticisms of those who from time to time
filled the place that had been his in the government of the country or
the leadership of his party. Although his opinion on current questions
was frequently solicited, he scarcely ever allowed it to be known,
lest it should embarrass his successors in the leadership of the
party, and never himself addressed the nation, except (as already
mentioned) on behalf of what he deemed a sacred cause, altogether
above party--the discharge by Britain of her duty to the victims of
the Turk. As soon as an operation for cataract had enabled him to
resume his habit of working for seven hours a day, he devoted himself
with his old ardour to the preparation of an edition of Bishop
Butler's works, resumed his multifarious reading, planned (as he told
me in 1896) a treatise on the Olympian religion, and filled up the
interstices of his working-time with studies on Homer which he had
been previously unable to complete. No trace of the moroseness of old
age appeared in his manners or his conversation, nor did he, though
profoundly grieved at some of the events which he witnessed, and
owning himself disappointed at the slow advance made by a cause dear
to him, appear less hopeful than in earlier days of the general
progress of the world, or less confident in the beneficent power of
freedom to promote the happiness of his country. The stately
simplicity which had always charmed those who saw him in private,
seemed more beautiful than ever in this quiet evening of a long and
sultry day. His intellectual powers were unimpaired, his thirst for
knowledge undiminished. But a placid stillness had fallen upon him and
his household; and in seeing the tide of his life begin slowly to ebb,
one thought of the lines of his illustrious contemporary and

                 Such a tide as moving seems asleep,
                     Too full for sound and foam,
           When that which drew from out the boundless deep
                     Turns again home.

Adding to his grace of manner a memory of extraordinary strength and
quickness and an amazing vivacity and variety of mental force, any one
can understand how fascinating Mr. Gladstone was in society. He
enjoyed it to the last, talking as earnestly and joyously at
eighty-seven as he had done at twenty on every topic that came up, and
exerting himself with equal zest whether his interlocutor was an
archbishop or a youthful curate. Though his party used to think that
he overvalued the political influence of the great families, allotting
them rather more than their share of honours and appointments, no one
was personally more free from that taint of snobbishness which is
frequently charged upon Englishmen. He gave the best he had to
everybody alike, paying to men of learning and letters a respect
which in England they seldom receive from the magnates who lead
society. And although he was scrupulously observant of the rules of
precedence and conventions of social life, it was easy to see that
neither rank nor wealth had that importance in his eyes which the
latter nowadays commands. Dispensing titles and decorations with a
liberal hand, his pride always refused such so-called honours for

It was often said of him that he lacked humour; but this was only so
far true that he was apt to throw into small matters more force and
moral earnestness than were needed, and to honour with a refutation
opponents whom a little light sarcasm would have better reduced to
their insignificance.[73] In private he was wont both to tell and to
enjoy good stories; while in Parliament, though his tone was generally
earnest, he could display such effective powers of banter and ridicule
as to make people wonder why they were so rarely put forth. Much of
what passes in London for humour is mere cynicism, and he hated
cynicism so heartily as to dislike even humour when it had a cynical
flavour. Wit he enjoyed, but did not produce. The turn of his mind was
not to brevity, point, and condensation. He sometimes struck off a
telling phrase, but seldom polished an epigram. His conversation was
luminous rather than sparkling; you were interested and instructed
while you listened, but it was not so much the phrases as the general
effect that dwelt in your memory. An acute observer once said to me
that Mr. Gladstone showed in argument a knack of hitting the nail not
quite on the head. The criticism was so far just that he was less
certain to go straight to the vital issue in a controversy than one
expected from his force and keenness.

After the death of Thomas Carlyle he was probably the best talker in
London, and a talker in one respect more agreeable than either Carlyle
or Macaulay, inasmuch as he was no less ready to listen than to speak,
and never wearied the dinner-table by a monologue. His simplicity, his
spontaneity, his geniality and courtesy, as well as the fund of
knowledge and of personal recollections at his command, made him so
popular in society that his opponents used to say it was dangerous to
meet him, because one might be forced to leave off hating him. He was,
perhaps, too prone to go on talking upon the subject which filled his
mind at the moment; nor was it easy to divert his attention to
something else which others might deem more important.[74] Those who
stayed with him in the same country house sometimes complained that
the perpetual display of force and eagerness tired them, as one tires
of watching the rush of Niagara. His guests, however, did not feel
this, for his own home life was quiet and smooth. He read and wrote a
good many hours daily, but never sat up late, almost always slept
soundly, never seemed oppressed or driven to strain his strength. With
all his impetuosity, he was regular, systematic, and deliberate in his
habits and ways of doing business. A swift reader and a surprisingly
swift writer, he was always occupied, and was skilful in using even
the scraps and fragments of his time. No pressure of work made him
fussy, nor could any one remember to have seen him in a hurry.

The best proof of his swiftness, industry, and skill in economising
time is supplied by the quantity of his literary work, which,
considering the abstruse nature of the subjects to which much of it is
related, would have been creditable to the diligence of a German
professor sitting alone in his study. The merits of the work have been
disputed. Mankind are slow to credit the same person with eminence in
various fields. When they read the prose of a great poet, they try it
by severer tests than would be applied to other writers. When a
painter has won credit by his landscapes or his cattle pieces, he is
seldom encouraged to venture into other lines. So Mr. Gladstone's
reputation as an orator stood in his own light when he appeared as an
author. He was read by thousands who would not have looked at the
article or book had it borne some other name; but he was judged by the
standard, not of his finest printed speeches, for his speeches were
seldom models of composition, but rather by the impression which his
finest speeches made on those who heard them. Since his warmest
admirers could not claim for him as a writer of prose any such
pre-eminence as belonged to him as a speaker, it followed that his
written work was not duly appreciated. Had he been a writer and
nothing else, he would have been eminent and powerful by his pen.

He might, however, have failed to secure a place in the front rank.
His style was forcible, copious, rich with various knowledge, warm
with the ardour of his temperament. But it suffered from an inborn
tendency to exuberance which the long practice of oratory had
confirmed. It was diffuse, apt to pursue a topic into details, when
these might have been left to the reader's own reflection. It was
redundant, employing more words than were needed to convey the
substance. It was unchastened, indulging too freely in tropes and
metaphors, in quotations and adapted phrases even when the quotation
added nothing to the sense, but was suggested merely by some
association in his own mind. Thus it seldom reached a high level of
purity and grace, and though one might excuse the faults as natural to
the work of a swift and busy man, they were sufficient to reduce the
pleasure to be derived from the form and dress of his thoughts.
Nevertheless there are not a few passages of rare merit, both in the
books and in the articles, among which may be cited (not as
exceptionally good, but as typical of his strong points) the striking
picture of his own youthful feeling toward the Church of England
contained in the _Chapter of Autobiography_, and the refined criticism
of _Robert Elsmere_, published in 1888. Almost the last thing he
wrote, a pamphlet on the Greek and Cretan question, published in the
spring of 1897, has the force and cogency of his best days. Two things
were never wanting to him: vigour of expression and an admirable
command of appropriate words.

His writings fall into three classes: political, theological, and
literary--the last chiefly consisting of his books and articles upon
Homer and the Homeric question. All the political writings, except
the books on _The State in its Relations to the Church_ and _Church
Principles considered in their Results_, belong to the class of
occasional literature, being pamphlets or articles produced with a
view to some current crisis or controversy. They are valuable chiefly
as proceeding from one who bore a leading part in the affairs they
relate to, and as embodying vividly the opinions and aspirations of
the moment, less frequently in respect of permanent lessons of
political wisdom, such as one finds in Machiavelli or Tocqueville or
Edmund Burke. Like Pitt and Peel, Mr. Gladstone had a mind which,
whatever its original tendencies, had come to be rather practical
than meditative. He was fond of generalisations and principles,
but they were always directly related to the questions that came
before him in actual politics; and the number of weighty maxims or
illuminative suggestions to be found in his writings and speeches
is small in proportion to the sustained vigour they display. Even
Disraeli, though his views were often fanciful and his epigrams often
forced, gives us more frequently a brilliant (if only half true)
historical _aperçu_, or throws a flash of light into some corner of
human character. Of the theological essays, which are mainly
apologetic and concerned with the authenticity and authority of
Scripture, it is enough to say that they were the work of an
accomplished amateur, who had been too busy to follow the progress of
critical inquiry. His Homeric treatises, the most elaborate piece
of work that proceeded from Mr. Gladstone's pen, are in one sense
worthless, in another sense admirable. Those parts of them which
deal with early Greek mythology, genealogy, and religion, and, in a
less degree, the theories about Homeric geography and the use of
Homeric epithets, have been condemned by the unanimous voice of
scholars as fantastic. The premises are assumed without sufficient
investigation, while the reasonings are fine-drawn and flimsy.
Extraordinary ingenuity is shown in piling up a lofty fabric, but
the foundation is of sand, and the edifice has hardly a solid wall
or beam in it. A conjecture is treated as a fact; then an inference,
possible but not certain, is drawn from this conjecture; a second
possible inference is based upon the first; and we are made to
forget that the probability of this second is at most only half the
probability of the first. So the process goes on; and when the
superstructure is complete, the reader is provoked to perceive how
much dialectical skill has been wasted upon a series of hypotheses
which a breath of common-sense criticism dissipates. If one is
asked to explain the weakness in this particular department of a mind
otherwise so strong, the answer would seem to be that the element
of fancifulness in Mr. Gladstone's intellect, and his tendency to
mistake mere argumentation for verification, were checked in
practical politics by constant intercourse with friends and
colleagues as well as by the need of convincing visible audiences,
while in theological or historical inquiries his ingenuity roamed
with fatal freedom over wide plains where no obstacles checked its
course. Something may also be due to the fact that his philosophical
and historical education was received at a time when the modern
critical spirit and the canons it recognises had scarcely begun to
assert themselves at Oxford. Similar defects may be discerned in other
eminent writers of his own and the preceding generation of Oxford
men, defects from which persons of inferior power in later days might
be free. In some of these writers, and particularly in Cardinal
Newman, the contrast between dialectical acumen, coupled with
surpassing rhetorical skill, and the vitiation of the argument by a
want of the critical faculty, is scarcely less striking; and the
example of that illustrious man suggests that the dominance of the
theological view of literary and historical problems, a dominance
evident in Mr. Gladstone, counts for something in producing the

With these defects, Mr. Gladstone's Homeric work had the merit of
being based on a full and thorough knowledge of the Homeric text. He
had seen, at a time when few people in England had seen it, that the
Homeric poems are an historical source of the highest value, a
treasure-house of data for the study of early Greek life and thought,
an authority all the more trustworthy because an unconscious
authority, addressing not posterity but contemporaries. This mastery
of the matter contained in the poems enabled him to present valuable
pictures of the political and social life of Homeric Greece, while the
interspersed literary criticisms are often subtle and suggestive,
erring, when they do err, chiefly through the over-earnestness of his
mind. He often takes the poet too seriously; reading an ethical
purpose into descriptive or dramatic touches which are merely
descriptive or dramatic. Passages whose moral tendency offends him are
reprobated as later insertions with a naïveté which forgets the
character of a primitive age. But he has for his author not only that
sympathy which is the best basis for criticism, but a justness of
poetic taste which the learned and painstaking German commentator
frequently wants. That Mr. Gladstone was a sound scholar in that
narrower sense of the word which denotes a grammatical and literary
command of Greek and Latin, goes without saying. Men of his generation
kept a closer hold upon the ancient classics than we do to-day; and
his habit of reading Greek for the sake of his Homeric studies, and
Latin for the sake of his theological, made this familiarity more than
usually thorough. Like most Etonians, he loved and knew the poets by
preference. Dante was his favourite poet, perhaps because Dante is the
most theological and ethical of the great poets, and because the
tongue and the memories of Italy had a peculiar attraction for him. He
used to say that he found Dante's thought incomparably inspiring, but
hard to follow, it was so high and so abstract. Theology claimed a
place beside poetry; history came next, though he did not study it
systematically. It seemed odd that he was sometimes at fault in the
constitutional antiquities of England; but this subject was, until the
day of Dr. Stubbs, pre-eminently a Whig subject, and Mr. Gladstone
never was a Whig, never learned to think upon the lines of the great
Whigs of former days. His historical knowledge was not exceptionally
wide, but it was generally accurate in matters of fact, however
fanciful he might be in reasoning from the facts, however wild his
conjectures in the prehistoric region. In metaphysics strictly so
called his reading did not go far beyond those companions of his
youth, Aristotle and Bishop Butler; and philosophical speculation
interested him only so far as it bore on Christian doctrine. Keen as
was his interest in theology and in history, it is not certain that
he would have produced work of permanent value in either sphere even
had his life been wholly devoted to study. His mind seemed to need to
be steadied, his ingenuity restrained, by having to deal with concrete
matter for a practical end. Neither, in spite of his eminence as a
financier and an advocate of free trade, did he show much taste for
economic studies. On practical topics, such as the working of
protective tariffs, the abuse of charitable endowments, the
development of fruit-culture in England, the duty of liberal giving by
the rich, the utility of thrift among the poor, his remarks were full
of point, clearness, and good sense, but he seldom launched out into
the wider sea of economic theory. He took a first-class in mathematics
at Oxford, at the same time as his first in classics, but did not
pursue the subject in later life. Regarding the sciences of experiment
and observation, he seemed to feel as little curiosity as any educated
man who notes the enormous part they play in the modern world can
feel. Sayings of his have been quoted which show that he imperfectly
comprehended the character of the evidence they rely upon and of the
methods they employ. On one occasion he horrified a dinner-table of
younger friends by refusing to accept some of the most certain
conclusions of modern geology. No doubt he belonged, as Lord Derby
(the Prime Minister) once said of himself, to a pre-scientific age.
Perhaps he was unconsciously biassed by the notion that such sciences
as geology and biology, for instance, were being used by some students
to sap the foundations of revealed religion. But I can recall no sign
of disposition to dissuade free inquiry either into those among the
sciences of nature which have been supposed to touch theology, or into
the date, authorship, and authority of the books of the Bible. He had
faith not only in his creed, but in God as a God of truth, and in the
power of research to elicit truth.

General propositions are dangerous, yet it seems safe to observe that
great men have seldom been obscurantists or persecutors. Either the
sympathy with intellectual effort which is natural to a powerful
intellect, or the sense that free inquiry, though it may be checked by
repression for a certain time or within a certain area, will
ultimately have its course, dissuades them from that attempt to dam up
the stream of thought which smaller minds regard as the obvious
expedient for saving souls or institutions.

It ought to be added, for this was a remarkable feature of his
character, that he had the deepest reverence for the great poets and
philosophers, placing the career of the statesman on a far lower plane
than that of those who rule the world by their thoughts enshrined in
literature. He expressed in a striking letter to Tennyson's eldest
son his sense of the immense superiority of the poet's life and work.
Once, in the lobby of the House of Commons, seeing his countenance
saddened by the troubles of Ireland, I told him, in order to divert
his thoughts, how some one had recently discovered that Dante had in
his last years been appointed at Ravenna to a lectureship which raised
him above the pinch of want. Mr. Gladstone's face lit up at once, and
he said, "How strange it is to think that these great souls whose
words are a beacon-light to all the generations that have come after
them, should have had cares and anxieties to vex them in their daily
life, just like the rest of us common mortals." The phrase reminded me
that a few days before I had heard Mr. Darwin, in dwelling upon the
pleasure a visit paid by Mr. Gladstone had given him, say, "And he
talked just as if he had been an ordinary person like one of
ourselves." The two great men were alike unconscious of their

It was an unspeakable benefit to Mr. Gladstone that his love of
letters and learning enabled him to find in the pursuit of knowledge a
relief from anxieties and a solace under disappointments. Without some
such relief his fiery and restless spirit would have worn itself out.
He lived two lives--the life of the statesman and the life of the
student, and passed swiftly from the one to the other, dismissing when
he sat down to his books all the cares of politics. But he led a
third life also, the secret life of the soul. Religion was of all
things that which had the strongest hold upon his thoughts and
feelings. Nothing but his father's opposition prevented him from
becoming a clergyman when he quitted the University. Never thereafter
did he cease to take the warmest interest in everything that affected
the Christian Church. He lost his seat for Oxford University by the
votes of the country clergy, who formed the bulk of the constituency.
He incurred the displeasure of four-fifths of the Anglican communion
by disestablishing the Protestant Episcopal Church in Ireland, and
from 1868 to the end of his life found nearly all the clerical force
of the English establishment arrayed against him, while his warmest
support came from the Nonconformists of England and the Presbyterians
of Scotland. Yet nothing affected his devotion to the Church in which
he had been brought up, nor to the body of Anglo-Catholic doctrine he
had imbibed as an undergraduate. After an attack of influenza which
had left him very weak in the spring of 1891, he endangered his life
by attending a meeting on behalf of the Colonial Bishoprics Fund, for
which he had spoken fifty years before. His theological opinions
tinged his views upon political subjects. They filled him with dislike
of the legalisation of marriage with a deceased wife's sister; they
made him a vehement opponent of the bill which established the
English Divorce Court in 1857, and a watchfully hostile critic of all
divorce legislation in America afterwards. Some of his friends traced
to the same cause his less than adequate appreciation of German
literature (though he admired Goethe and Schiller) and even his
political coldness towards Prussia and afterwards towards the German
Empire. He could not forget that Germany had been the fountain of
rationalism, while German Evangelical Protestantism was more
schismatic and farther removed from the mediæval Catholic Church than
it pleased him to deem the Church of England to be. He had an
exceedingly high sense of the duty of purity of life and of the
sanctity of domestic relations, and his rigid ideas of decorum
inspired so much awe that it used to be said to a person who had told
an anecdote with ever so slight a tinge of impropriety, "How many
thousands of pounds would you take to tell that to Gladstone?" When
living in the country, it was his practice to attend daily morning
service in the parish church, and on Sunday to read in church the
lessons for the day; and he rarely, if ever, transgressed his rule
against Sunday labour. Religious feeling, coupled with a system of
firm dogmatic beliefs, was the mainspring of his life, a guiding light
in perplexities, a source of strength in adverse fortune, a
consolation in sorrow, a beacon of hope beyond the failures and
disappointments of this present world. He did not make what is
commonly called a profession of religion, and talked little about it
in general society, although always ready to plunge into a magazine
controversy when Christianity was assailed. But those who knew him
best knew that he was always referring current questions to, and
trying his own conduct by, a religious standard. He believed in the
efficacy of prayer, and sought through prayer for strength and for
direction in the affairs of state. He was a remarkable example of the
coexistence together with a Christian virtue of a quality which
Catholic theologians treat as a mortal sin. He was an exceedingly
proud man, yet an exceedingly humble Christian. With a high regard for
his own dignity and a sensitiveness to any imputation on his honour,
he was deeply conscious of his imperfections in the eye of God,
realising the weakness and sinfulness of human nature with a mediæval
intensity. The language of self-depreciation he was wont to use,
sometimes deemed unreal, expressed his genuine sense of the contrast
between the religious ideal he set up and his own attainment. And the
tolerance which he extended to those who attacked him or who had (as
he thought) behaved ill in public life was largely due to this
pervading sense of the frailty of human character, and of the
inextricable mixture in conduct of good and bad motives. "It is
always best to take the charitable view," he once observed when I had
quoted to him the saying of Dean Church that Mark Pattison had painted
himself too black in his autobiography--"always best," adding, with
grim emphasis, "especially in politics."

In this indulgent view, more evident in his later years, and the more
remarkable because his expressions were often too vehement, there was
nothing of the cynical "man of the world" acceptance of a low standard
as the only possible standard, for his moral earnestness was as
fervent at eighty-eight as it had been at thirty, and he retained a
simplicity and an unwillingness to suspect sinister motives, singular
in one who had seen so much. Although accessible and frank in the
ordinary converse of society, he was in reality a reserved man; not
shy, stiff, and externally cold, like Peel, nor always standing on a
pedestal of dignity, like the younger Pitt, but revealing his deepest
thoughts only to a few intimate friends, and treating others with a
courteous kindliness which, though it put them at their ease, did not
encourage them to approach nearer. Thus, while he was admired by the
mass of his followers, and beloved by the small inner group of family
friends, the majority of his colleagues, official subordinates, and
political or ecclesiastical associates, would have hesitated to give
him any of friendship's confidences. Though quick to mark and
acknowledge good service, or to offer to a junior an opportunity of
distinction, many deemed him too much occupied with his own thoughts
to show interest in his disciples, or to bestow those counsels which a
young man prizes from his chief. But for the warmth of his devotion to
a few early friends and the reverence he paid to their memory, a
reverence touchingly shown in the article on Arthur Hallam which he
published near the end of his own life, sixty-five years after
Hallam's death, there might have seemed to be a measure of truth in
the judgment that he cared less for men than for ideas and causes.
Those, however, who marked the pang which the departure to the Roman
Church of his friend Hope Scott caused him, those who in later days
noted the enthusiasm with which he would speak of Lord Althorp, his
opponent, and of Lord Aberdeen, his chief, dwelling upon the
truthfulness and uprightness of the former and the amiability of the
latter, knew that the impression of detachment he gave wronged the
sensibility of his own heart. Of how few who have lived for more than
sixty years in the full sight of their countrymen, and have been as
party leaders exposed to angry and sometimes spiteful criticism, can
it be said that there stands on record against them no malignant word
and no vindictive act! This was due not perhaps entirely to natural
sweetness of disposition, but rather to self-control and to a certain
largeness of soul which would not condescend to anything mean or
petty. Pride, though it may be a sin, is to most of us a useful, to
some an indispensable, buttress of virtue. Nor should it be forgotten
that the perfectly happy life which he led at home, cared for in
everything by a devoted wife, kept far from him those domestic
troubles which have soured the temper and embittered the judgments of
not a few famous men. Reviewing his whole career, and summing up the
concurrent impressions and recollections of those who knew him best,
this dignity is the feature which dwells most in the mind, as the
outline of some majestic Alp thrills one from afar when all the lesser
beauties of glen and wood, of crag and glacier, have faded in the
distance. As elevation was the note of his oratory, so was magnanimity
the note of his character.

The Greek maxim that no one can be called happy till his life is
closed must, in the case of statesmen, be extended to warn us from the
attempt to fix a man's place in history till a generation has arisen
to whom he is a mere name, not a familiar figure to be loved or hated.
Few reputations made in politics so far retain their lustre that
curiosity continues to play round the person when those who can
remember him living have departed. Dante has in immortal stanzas
contrasted the fame of Provenzano Salvani that sounded through all
Tuscany while he lived with the faint whispers of his name heard in
his own Siena forty years after his death.[75] So out of all the men
who have held a foremost place in English public life in the
nineteenth century there are but six or seven--Pitt, Fox, Wellington,
Peel, Disraeli, possibly Canning, or O'Connell, or Melbourne--whose
names are to-day upon our lips. The great poet or the great artist
lives as long as his books or his pictures; the statesman, like the
singer or the actor, begins to be forgotten so soon as his voice is
still, unless he has so dominated the men of his own time, and made
himself a part of his country's history, that his personal character
is indissolubly linked to the events the course of which he helped to
determine. Tried by this test, Mr. Gladstone's fame seems destined to
endure. His eloquence will soon become merely a tradition, for his
printed speeches do not preserve its charm. If some of his books
continue to be read, it will be rather because they are his than in
respect of any permanent contribution they have made to knowledge. The
wisdom of his policy, foreign and domestic, will have to be judged,
not only by the consequences we see, but also by other consequences
still hidden in the future. Yet among his acts there are some with
which history cannot fail to concern herself, and which will keep
fresh the memory of their author's energy and courage. Whoever
follows the annals of England during the memorable years from 1843 to
1894 will meet his name on almost every page, will feel how great must
have been the force of an intellect that could so interpenetrate the
story of its time, and will seek to know something of the dauntless
figure that rose always conspicuous above the struggling throng.

There is a passage in the _Odyssey_ where the seer Theoclymenus says,
in describing a vision of death: "The sun has perished out of heaven."
To Englishmen, Mr. Gladstone had been like a sun which, sinking
slowly, had grown larger as he sank, and filled the sky with radiance
even while he trembled on the verge of the horizon. There were men of
ability and men of renown, but there was no one comparable to him in
fame and power and honour. When he departed the light seemed to have
died out of the sky.


  [63] "Gled" is a kite or hawk. The name was Gladstones till Mr.
       Gladstone's father dropped the final s.

  [64] One of his most intimate friends has, I think, said that "he
       never knew what it was to be bored." Fortunate, indeed, would
       he have been had this been so; but that one who had watched him
       long and closely should make the statement shows how gently
       bores fared at his hands.

       I recollect his once remarking on the capacity for boring
       possessed by a gentleman who had been introduced and had talked
       for some fifteen minutes to him; but his own manner through the
       conversation had betrayed no impatience.

  [65] Sermons belong to a somewhat different category, else I should
       have to add the discourses of a few great preachers, such as
       Robert Hall, J. H. Newman, Phillips Brooks.

  [66] Though one of Macaulay's speeches (that against the exclusion of
       the Master of the Rolls from the House of Commons) had the rare
       honour of turning votes.

  [67] "He said that this was the hardest battle of men he had entered,"
       _Iliad_ vi. 185.

  [68] His physical courage was no less evident than his moral. For two
       or three years his life was threatened, and policemen were told
       off to guard him wherever he went. He disliked this protection
       so much (though the Home Office thought it necessary) that he
       used to escape from the House of Commons by a little-frequented
       exit, give the policemen the slip, and stroll home to his
       residence along the Thames Embankment in the small hours of the
       morning. Fear was not in his nature.

  [69] The late Protestant Episcopal Primate of Ireland said that
       Disestablishment had proved a blessing to his Church; and this
       would seem to be now the general view of Irish Protestants.

  [70] His abdication of leadership in 1875 was meant to be final,
       though when the urgency of Eastern affairs had drawn him back
       into strife, the old ardour revived, and he resumed the place
       of Prime Minister in 1880. It has been often said that he would
       have done better to retire from public life in 1880, or in
       1885, yet the most striking proofs both of his courage and of
       his physical energy were given in the latest part of his

  [71] For instance, he recommended Dr. Stubbs for a bishopric and Sir
       John Holker for a lord justiceship, knowing both of them to be

  [72] His respect and regard for Mr. Bright were entirely unaffected by
       the fact that Mr. Bright's opposition to the Home Rule Bill of
       1886 had been the chief cause of its defeat.

  [73] Usually over-anxious to vindicate his own consistency, he showed
       on one occasion a capacity for recognising the humorous side of
       a position into which he had been brought. In a debate which
       arose in 1891 frequent references had been made to a former
       speech in which he had pronounced a highly-coloured panegyric
       upon the Church of England in Wales, the disestablishment of
       which he had subsequently become willing to support. He
       replied, "Many references have been made to a former speech of
       mine on this subject, and I am not prepared to deny that in
       that speech, when closely scrutinised, there may appear to be
       present some element of exaggeration." The House dissolved in
       laughter, and no further reference was made to the old speech.

  [74] His Oxford contemporary and friend, the late Mr. Milnes Gaskell,
       told me that when Mr. Gladstone was undergoing his _viva voce_
       examination for his degree, the examiner, satisfied with the
       candidate's answers on a particular matter, said, "And now, Mr.
       Gladstone, we will leave that part of the subject." "No,"
       replied the examinee, "we will, if you please, not leave it
       yet." Whereupon he proceeded to pour forth a further flood of
       knowledge and disquisition.

  [75] _Purgat._ xi. 100-126.


 Acton, John Edward Emerich Dalberg, Lord--
   career of, 382-84
   characteristics of, 399
   critical taste of, 390
   family of, 382
   history, view of, 391-92;
     view of study of, 394-95
   learning of, 386-89, 392
   liberty, history of, projected by, 395-96
   libraries of, 388-89 and note
   political opinions of, 384
   style of, 396-97
   thoroughness of, 390, 393-95
   University work of, 397-98
   writings of, 395

 American Civil War, 55, 57, 90 and note. _See also_ United States

 Arnold, Dr., 343, 346

 Austen, Jane, 127

 Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli, Lord--
   Cairns valued by, 186-87
   career of, 3-16
   characteristics of--
     ambition, 21-22, 26, 30-31
     _bonhomie_, 32, 34
     courage, 11, 25-26, 65
     cynicism, 30, 40-41
     debating power, 47
     intellectual congruity, 35-38, 42
     loyalty, 33
     self-confidence, 21, 26, 50, 65, 224
     tactical adroitness, 48-50
     tenacity, 11, 15, 23-24, 60, 65
   Eastern policy of, 140, 275-76, 300, 356
   education of, 39
   epigrammatic phrases of, 41-42
   estimates regarding, 1-2;
     foreign, 54, 58
   family of, 3
   Gladstone compared with, 418, 429, 465;
     contrasted with, 422;
     Gladstone's attitude towards, 455-56
   influence of, 66-68
   literary works of, 4-5, 18-19, 29, 31-33, 35, 41, 43-45, 52 note;
     quoted, 21 note, 25 note, 41, 50 note, 55
   Lowe and, 34, 302
   Northcote appreciated by, 21, 218
   political views of, 6-8;
     foreign policy of (_see also above_, Eastern policy), 15, 56, 59, 67
   Stanley and, 81
   suffrage extension, policy of, 305-306, 309-10, 442
   otherwise mentioned, 107, 171, 220

 Bentinck, Lord George, 9

   change in type of, 196-98
   House of Lords, presence in, 112
   industry of, 199
   influence of, 100-101, 103

 Bismarck, Prince, 54

 Black, J. Sutherland, 311 note

 Bowen, Edward Ernest--
   biography of, 343 note
   career of, 345-46
   characteristics of, 360-62
   death of, 355
   games, attitude towards, 351-52
   influence of, 350;
     views regarding, 353-54
   military history, fondness for, 357-58
   political interests of, 355-57
   school songs of, 343 note, 359-360
   teaching methods of, 346-47, 349-350, 354-55
   training of teachers, views on, 348
   travel, fondness for, 358
   walking tours of, 355

 Bowen, Lord, 345, 359

 Bright, John, 30, 98, 304, 428-29, 443, 455 note

 Bradlaugh, Mr., 437

 Brooke, Rev. Stopford, quoted, 135-137

 Brooks, Dr. Phillips, 209, 381

 Brougham, Lord, 64, 428

 Browning, Robert, 39, 126

 Burke, Edmund, 410, 427-28, 440

 Burney, Miss, 127

 Cairns, Hugh M'Calmont, Earl--
   American Civil War, attitude towards, 57
   career of, 184-86
   characteristics of, 184, 188-91
   Disraeli compared with, 47
   Gladstone compared with, 429
   Jessel compared with, 180, 193
   judicial gifts of, 192-93
   legal manner of, 191-92
   Mellish and, 176-78
   parliamentary reform opposed by, 307
   political partisanship of, 187, 194-195
   religious views and interests of, 185-86, 193-94

   Jewish scholar at, 319 note
   Sidgwick at, 327 _seq._
   Smith, W. R., at, 319

   importance of See of, 101-105;
   qualifications of archbishops of, 105-107

 Carlyle, Thomas, 40, 87, 92, 126, 277, 461

 Celtic temperament, 403, 405

 Chancery Bar, 170;
   famous trio at, 191

 Chancery Courts, 181-82

 Charity Organisation Society, 133

 Church, Dean, 251-52

     disestablishment of, 114-15, 141
     possibilities before, 209-10
     Stanley's view of, 78-79
     Tractarian movement in, 252, 264 note, 406
   Roman Catholic--
     adaptability of, 259
     Infallibilist claims of, 256, 385
     modern research, attitude towards, 317

 Clark, George T., quoted, 266-67

 Clough, Miss A. J., 329

 Clough, Arthur Hugh, 338

 Cobden, Mr., quoted, 429-30

 Collins, Wilkie, 116

 Copleston, Dr. (Bishop of Llandaff), 197

 Creighton, Bishop, 289, 387

 Dalgairns, 251

 Dante, 468-69, 471

 Darwin, Charles, 457, 471-72

 _De la Démocratie_, Schérer's, cited, 309 note

 Delane, Mr., 422

 _Democracy and the Organisation of Political Parties_,
     Ostrogorski's, cited, 309 note

 Denison, Archdeacon, 133, 271 note

 Derby, Lord, 10, 12, 28, 47, 57, 198, 429, 470

 Dickens, Charles, 123, 127

 Disraeli. _See_ Beaconsfield

 Dissenters. _See_ Nonconformists

 Döllinger, Dr. von, 383, 385, 392

 Dupanloup, Archbishop, 209, 385

 Eastern Question (1876), 140, 275-276, 300, 356, 419

   types of, 363-64;
   temptations of, 370, 380-81

 Eliot, George, 124, 328

 Equity Courts, 170, 173

 _Essays and Reviews_, 113, 317

 _Essays on Reform_, cited, 307 and note

 _Evening Post, The_, 365, 374-76

 Forster, W. E., 234, 239 and note

 Fox, Charles James, 428-29, 435

 France, novelists of, 129

 Franchise extension. _See_ Suffrage

 Fraser, James, Bishop of Manchester--
   biographies of, 196 note
   career of, 196, 200-201
   characteristics of, 204-205
   energy of, 202
 Fraser, James, Bishop of Manchester--
   influence of, 206
   new Episcopal type created by, 196, 210
   personality of, 203-204
   popularity of, 202, 206
   ritualist illegalities, attitude towards, 208
   science, attitude towards, 207
   views of, 206-207

 Freeman, Edward Augustus--
   biography of, 262 note
   career of, 262-63
   friendships of, 290
   Green influenced by, 137
   historical work,
     merits of, 276-84;
     style of, 286-87
   humour of, 287
   interests of, 264-67, 271-72
   kindliness of, 278, 291
   literary preferences of, 269-70
   methodical ways of, 285
   military history, fondness for, 357
   Oxford work of, 287-89
   political views of, 272-75
   simplicity and directness of, 270-71, 275
   Trollope and, 120, 271 and note
   works of, 267, 284-86, 291-92

 Froude, J. A., 271 note

 Gardiner, S. R., 357;
   quoted, 274

 Gibbon, 133, 169, 281, 284

 Gladstone, William Ewart--
   Acton, Lord, relations with, 383, 399
   _Alabama_ claims, action regarding, 444, 446, 449, 451
   American Civil War, attitude towards, 57
   career of, 412
   characteristics of--
     breadth and keenness of interests, 400, 413, 459
     caution, 409, 414, 419, 447, 453
     complexity of nature, 400, 409-410, 412
     conservatism, 401, 439
     constructive power, 439-41
     conversational powers, 461
     courage, 447 and note, 451 note
     courtesy, 423 and note, 455-456, 461
     dignity, 457
     emotional excitability, 405, 410-411, 433-34
     humour, 460
     impulsiveness, 401, 405, 421, 447
     independence, 418-19, 450
     ingenuity, 404, 416-17, 430-31, 466
     insight into character, 453
     intensity, 402, 405, 426, 435, 450, 453, 460, 462
     loyalty, 455
     magnanimity, 457, 477
     memory, 404, 424, 459
       for faces, 423
     open-mindedness, 416, 452, 454
     oratory, 411, 426-39, 463
     over-subtlety, 407, 432, 448, 452
     patriotism, 450-51
     pride, 416, 420, 423, 452, 455, 474, 477
     religious disposition, 472-75
       views, 401, 406-407
       political, 409, 414-15, 419, 452
       personal, 424, 475-476
     Scottish temperament, 403-405
     self-confidence, 224
     simplicity, 453, 458, 461, 475
     sincerity, 401
     temper, 455-56
     tranquillity, 462
     voice, 430, 436-38
   Disraeli and, 11, 33, 35
   estimates of, 411, 417, 448
     continental, 444
   family of, 403
   foreign affairs, attitude towards, 443-46, 458
   Freeman's appointment by, 263
   High Church appointments of, 198
   home life of, 462, 474, 477
   Home Rule Bill of (1886), 272
   Homeric studies and views of, 401, 465-68
   hostility to, 304
   literary activities of, 401, 458, 462-68
   Lowe compared with, 293, 299, 429, 435
     Lowe's antagonism to, 295
     Lowe in Cabinet of, 299
   mistakes of, 449
   Northcote and, 212, 216
   Oxford training of, 406-408
   parliamentary abilities of, 420-21, 424-26
   Parnell's resentment against, 239-240, 247
   Peel's influence on, 10, 409, 452
   poetry, attitude towards, 471
   quoted, 56
   Reform Bill of, 13, 442
   scholarship of, 468
   science, attitude towards, 407-408, 470
   suffrage qualifications, proposed reduction of, 308 note
   theological views of, tinging political, 473
   otherwise mentioned, 67, 113, 179, 187, 221, 260

 Godkin, Edwin Lawrence--
   career of, 365-66
   courage of, 370-71
   geniality of, 376
   humour of, 368-73
   independence of, 364, 369, 381
   influence of, 378-80
   sincerity of, 367, 373, 380
   style of, 367-68, 373
   Tammany, attitude towards, 374 and note
   views of, 366-67, 370, 374-76

 Green, John Richard--
   biography of, 131 note
   career of, 131-34
   conversation of, 165-66
   eloquence of, 166
   gifts and qualities of, 146, 151-52, 154, 160-62, 164-67
   ill-health of, 138, 141-46
   interests of, 151, 154-57
   letters of, 131 note, 152-53
   literary work of--
     _Saturday Review_ articles, 133, 135-37, 153;
     historical, 138-39, 142-45, 155, 158-60, 163-64;
     characteristics of, 139-40, 150, 152-53, 157-65, 167-69
   military history, fondness for, 357
   political activity of, 140-41
   views of, 134

 Green, Prof. Thomas Hill--
   career of, 85
   characteristics of, 86-91
   civic activities of, 98
   influence of, 95-97, 99
   literary works of, 92-94, 98
   political keenness of, 95, 97
   views of, 93, 97, 335
   otherwise mentioned, 265, 268, 278

 Hardy, Gathorne, 213

 Hardy, Thomas, 116

 Healy, T. M., 443

 Henry VIII., 271 note

 Herodotus, 149-51

   qualifications of, 146-48, 156, 277
   two classes of, 149

 History, Freeman's view of, 268, 274

 Hodgkin, Dr. Thomas, 357

 Holker, Sir John, 453 note

 House of Commons--
   character of, 48
   erroneous sketches of, 121
   lawyers in, 172
   leadership of, 217, 424
   occasional detachment of, from popular sentiment, 51
   power of, declining, 308-309
   rhetoric unpopular with, 296

 Huxley, 207

 Iddesleigh. _See_ Northcote

   Anglo-Irish Protestants, 229-30
   Church disestablishment in, 113, 187, 273, 407, 419, 442, 449 and note
   Disraeli's attitude towards, 56-57, 67
   Green, J. R., views of, regarding, 141
   Home Rule, views regarding, of
     Acton, 384;
     Bowen, 356;
     Bright, 455 note;
     Freeman, 272;
     Gladstone, 272, 414, 447;
     Godkin, 375
   Land Bill of 1881, 425, 442-43

 James, Henry, 129

 Jessel, Sir George--
   Cairns compared with, 180, 193
   career of, 171
   judicial methods of, 174-75, 179-181, 194
   mental powers of, 173, 181-82
   parliamentary manner of, 172
   quickness of, 173, 176, 183, 193

   bigotry towards, 183
   Cambridge scholar, anecdote of, 319 note
   concentration, power of, possessed by, 23 and note
   conservatism of, 25 note
   detachment of, 19-20
   distinctions gained by, 171
   practicality of, 182
   satirical powers of, 45

 Jowett, 113, 150

 Kelvin, Lord, 184

 Kipling, Rudyard, 129

 Lawrence, Lord, 184

 Lightfoot, Bishop, 199-200, 209, 290

 Louis Napoleon, 55, 64, 98

 Lowe, Robert--
   biography of, 293 note
   Cairns compared with, 188
   career of, 293-95, 299-300
   characteristics of, 301-304
   Disraeli and, 34, 302
   eclipse of fame of, 293, 300
   educational work of, 294-95, 304-305
   Gladstone compared with, 293, 299, 429, 435;
     antagonism to Gladstone, 295;
     in Gladstone's Cabinet, 299
   Oxford, at, 301 note 2
   rhetorical power of, 296-97
   shortsightedness of, 300-301
   Utilitarianism of, 304

 Lyndhurst, Lord, 29

 Macaulay, 139, 169, 270, 274, 281, 427, 428 and note 2

 Macdonald, Sir John A., 422

 Maclennan, John F., 320

 Magee, Archbishop, 112, 199, 429

 Manning, Cardinal Henry Edward--
   biography of, 260-61
   career of, 250-51
   characteristics of, 251-54, 261
   conversions effected by, 255
   Infallibilist cause, work for, 256
   interests and sympathies of, 257-61
   speeches of, 255

 Maurice, F. D., 134, 408

 Mellish, Lord Justice, 176-79

 Meredith, George, 116, 122

 Mill, John Stuart, 61, 78 note, 93, 304

 Monk, Bishop, 197

 Mugwumps, 375 and note

 Napoleon Bonaparte, 238

 Napoleon, Louis, 55, 64, 98

 _Nation, The_, 365, 368, 371-73, 378

 Newman, Cardinal, 251-52, 428 note 1, 467

 Newnham College, Cambridge, 329-330

   Disraeli's dislike of, 8, 52
   Education Act (1870) resented by, 15
   Fraser's attitude towards, 202, 206-208 and note
   Gladstone trusted by, 401
   Green's dislike of, 134

 Northcote, Sir Stafford (Lord Iddesleigh)--
   biography of, 211 note
   career of, 212-13
   characteristics of, 213, 222-23, 225-26
   Gladstone compared with, 435
   parliamentary abilities of, 214-16, 218

 Novels, types of, 122

 O'Connell, Daniel, 6, 8, 248

 Oliphant, Mrs., 116

   elevation in, 433
   reputation for, nature of, 427

   Green, T. H., on municipal council of, 98-99
   Thackeray's candidature for, 120

 Oxford University--
   Tractarian movement in, 252, 264 note, 406
   training at, characteristics of, 408, 467

 Palmer, Roundell (Lord Selborne), 176, 191-92, 294

 Palmerston, Lord, 13, 28, 49, 57, 98, 294

 Parliament. _See_ House of Commons

 Parnell, Charles Stewart--
   biography of, 227 note
   career of, 228-29
   family of, 227
   leadership, aptness for, 248
   moral courage of, 239
   parliamentary tactics of, 218-19, 244;
     knowledge of procedure, 242-43
   passion and self-control of, 240
   Phoenix Park murders, demeanour after, 236, 238
   Pigott affair, attitude towards, 239
   practicality of, 230-33
   pride of, 233, 235-38
   self-confidence of, 224, 236, 238
   speeches of, 241-42
   unscrupulousness of, 237-38
   unsympathetic manner of, 190
   views of, 245-46

 Peel, Sir Robert--
   caution of, 408-409, 452
   death of, 10
   Disraeli's conduct towards, 28 and note
     his view of, 55
   financial policy of, 441-42
   Gladstone compared with, 411, 439, 455, 475
   separation of, from Conservatives, 9, 61
   speeches of, 428

 Pitt, William, 429, 435, 439, 442, 476

 _Popular Government_, Sir H. Maine's, cited, 309 note

 Psychical Research Society, 331-32

 Pusey, Dr., cited, 80

 Rhodes, Cecil, 246

 Rolt, Lord Justice, 191-92

 Roman Catholic Church. _See under_ Church

 Russell, Lord, 13, 28, 57, 295

 Salisbury, Lord, 186, 247, 295, 456

 _Saturday Review_--
   Bowen's contributions to, 360
   Freeman's contributions to, 285
     dissociation from, 275
   Green's contributions to, 133, 135-137, 153

 Schoolmasters, types of, 343, 346

 Schools Inquiry Commission, 200-201

 Scott, Sir Walter, 123, 125

 Scottish temperament and characteristics, 315, 403-405

 Selborne, Lord. _See_ Palmer, Roundell

 Sherbrooke, Viscount. _See_ Lowe, Robert

 Sidgwick, Henry--
   career of, 327-29
   characteristics of, 338-42
   impartiality of, 334
   literary preferences of, 338
   psychical research, interest in, 331-332
   views of, philosophical and political, 335-37
   women's education promoted by, 329

 Sidgwick, Henry--
   works of, 332-34, 338

 Skene, Mr., cited, 158

 Smith, Professor Goldwin, 76, 281

 Smith, R. Bosworth, quoted, 349-50

 Smith, Prof. Robertson--
   Acton, Lord, and, 387
   career of, 311-12, 315, 318-320
   characteristics of, 323-25
   ecclesiastical trial of, 313-16
   _Encyclopædia Britannica_, work on, 312-14
   versatility of, 322
   works of, 320-21;
     characteristics of, 321

 Stanley, Very Rev. Arthur Penrhyn--
   career of, 70
   characteristics of, 71, 73, 77, 82-84
   debating power of, 77
   Disraeli and, 81
   family of, 69-70
   Green influenced by, 132, 137
   literary work of, 71-74
   politics of, 78
   sermons of, 76-77
   theological position of, 80-81
   Tait, attitude towards, 113
   otherwise mentioned, 164-65, 205-206

 Statesmanship, necessary qualifications for, 46

 Stevenson, R. L., 129

 Stubbs, Bishop, 138, 160, 289-90, 453 note

 Suffrage extension--
   Disraeli's view of, 52, 57-58, 67-68, 310
   Lowe's opposition to, 295-98, 305-306
   results of, 306-309

 Tait, Archibald Campbell, Archbishop of Canterbury--
   biography of, cited, 100 note
   career of, 107
   characteristics of, 108-12, 209
   Green appointed librarian by, 133-134
   influence of, 110-12
   Irish Church Disestablishment Bill, attitude towards, 187
   policy of, 112, 114
   views of, 110

 Temple, Archbishop, 113 and note, 199

 Tennyson, 39, 459

 Thackeray, W. M., 35, 120, 123-25

 Thirlwall, Bishop, 112

 Thucydides, 149-50

 Tone, Wolfe, 229, 248

 Tory party--
   nature of, 218;
     (1848-1865), 60-62
   suffrage extension profitable to, 52, 57-58, 67, 310

 Tractarian movement, 252, 264 note, 406

 Trollope, Anthony--
   biographies of, cited, 116 note
   Freeman and, 120, 271 and note
   literary position of, 116-18
   personality of, 118, 126
   political activity of, 120
   travels of, 121-22
   works of, 117-20, 128;
     characteristics of, 122-30

 United States--
   Acton's knowledge of history of, 387
   Freeman's visit to, 268
   journalism in, 379
   Presbyterianism in, 317
   religion and politics dissociated in, 100
   Trollope's account of, 122
   University influence in, 378

 Westbury, Lord, 303

 Whiggism, 6, 8, 63, 298, 469

 Wilberforce, Bishop Samuel, 111-12, 198, 254, 429

 Women, education of, 329-31

 Wordsworth, 301

 Wright, William, 319 and note, 320


_Printed by_ R. & R. Clark, Limited, _Edinburgh_.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:

  The authors' archaic and variable spelling and hyphenation
  are preserved.

  The authors' punctuation styles are preserved.

  Footnotes have been moved to the end of each chapter.

  Typographical errors were corrected and are listed below.

Transcriber's Changes: (Indicated below with =equal signs=.)

 Page 218: Was 'opportunies' (in granting or refusing =opportunities=
          for discussing topics he would prefer to have not discussed
          at all.)

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Studies in Contemporary Biography" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.