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Title: Modern Leaders: Being a Series of Biographical Sketches
Author: McCarthy, Justin, 1830-1912
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_Author of "Lady Judith: A Tale of Two Continents," etc._

677 BROADWAY and 214 and 216 MERCER STREET.



THE REAL LOUIS NAPOLEON.                        18

EUGENIE, EMPRESS OF THE FRENCH.                 25

THE PRINCE OF WALES.                            35

THE KING OF PRUSSIA.                            45

VICTOR EMANUEL, KING OF ITALY.                  55

LOUIS ADOLPH THIERS.                            66

PRINCE NAPOLEON.                                77

THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE.                          85

BRIGHAM YOUNG.                                  96


ENGLISH POSITIVISTS.                           116


"GEORGE ELIOT" AND GEORGE LEWES.               136

GEORGE SAND.                                   145

EDWARD BULWER AND LORD LYTTON.                 156


ARCHBISHOP MANNING.                            175

JOHN RUSKIN.                                   183

CHARLES READE.                                 192

EXILE-WORLD OF LONDON.                         202


MR. JAMES ANTHONY FROUDE.                      223



The sketches which make up this volume are neither purely critical nor
merely biographical. They endeavor to give the American reader a clear
and just idea of each individual in his intellect, his character, his
place in politics, letters, and society. In some instances I have
written of friends whom I know personally and well; in others of men
with whom I have but slight acquaintance; in others still of persons
whom I have only seen. But in every instance those whom I describe are
persons whom I have been able to study on the spot, whose character and
doings I have heard commonly discussed by those who actually knew them.
In no case whatever are the opinions I have given drawn merely from
books and newspapers. This value, therefore, these essays may have to an
American, that they are not such descriptions as any of us might be
enabled to put into print by the mere help of study and reading;
descriptions for example such as one might make of Henry VIII. or
Voltaire. They are in every instance, even when intimate and direct
personal acquaintance least assist them, the result of close observation
and that appreciation of the originals which comes from habitual
intercourse with those who know them and submit them to constant

I have not made any alteration in the essays which were written some
years ago. Let them stand as portraits bearing that date. If 1872 has in
any instance changed the features and the fortunes of 1869 and 1870, it
cannot make untrue what then was true. What I wrote in 1869 of the
Prince of Wales, for example, will probably not wholly apply to the
Prince of Wales to-day. We all believe that he has lately changed for
the better. But what I wrote then I still believe was true then; and it
is a fair contribution to history, which does not consent to rub out
yesterday because of to-day. I wrote of a "Liberal Triumvirate" of
England when the phrase was an accurate expression. It would hardly be
accurate now. To-day Mr. Mill does not appear in political life and Mr.
Bright has been an exile, owing to his health, for nearly two years from
the scenes of parliamentary debate and triumph. But the portraits of the
men do not on that account need any change. Even where some reason has
been shown me for a modification of my own judgment I have still
preferred to leave the written letter as it is. A distinguished Italian
friend has impressed on me that King Victor Emanuel is personally a much
more ambitious man than I have painted him. My friend has had far better
opportunities of judging than I ever could have had; but I gave the best
opinion I could, and still holding to it prefer to let it stand, to be
taken for what it is worth.

I think I may fairly claim to have anticipated in some of the political
sketches, that of Louis Napoleon, for instance, the judgment of events
and history, and the real strength of certain characters and

These sketches had a gratifying welcome from the American public as they
appeared in the "Galaxy." I hope they may be thought worth reading over
again and keeping in their collected form.



"And when you hear historians tell of thrones, and those who sat upon
them, let it be as men now gaze upon the mammoth's bones, and wonder
what old world such things could see."

So sang Byron half a century ago, and great critics condemned his verse,
and called him a "surly Democrat" because he ventured to put such
sentiments and hopes into rhyme. The thrones of Europe have not
diminished in number since Byron's day, although they have changed and
rechanged their occupants; and the one only grand effort at the
establishment of a new Republic--that of France in 1848--went down into
dust and ashes. Naturally, therefore, the tendency in Europe is to
regard the monarchical principle as having received a new lease and
charter of life, and to talk of the republican principle as an exotic
forced for a moment into a premature and morbid blossom upon European
soil, but as completely unsuited to the climate and the people as the
banyan or the cocoa tree.

I do not, for myself, quite agree in this view of the aspect of affairs.
Of course, if one were inclined to discuss the question fairly, he must
begin by asking what people mean when they talk of the republican
principle. What is the republican principle? When you talk of a
Republic, do you mean an aggressive, conquering, domineering State,
ruled by faction and living on war, like the Commonwealth of Rome? or a
Republic like that planned by Washington, which should repudiate all
concern in foreign politics or foreign conquest? Do you mean a Federal
Republic, like that of the United States, or one with a centralized
power, like the French Republic of 1848? Do you mean a Republic like
that of Florence, in which the people were omnipotent, or a Republic
like that of Venice, in which the people had no power at all? Do you
mean a Republic like that of Switzerland, in which the President is next
to nobody, or a Republic like that of Poland, which was ornamented by a
King? In truth, the phrase "republican principle" has no set meaning. It
means just what the man who uses it wishes to express. If, however, we
understand it to mean, in this instance, the principle of popular
self-government, then it is obvious that Europe has made immense
progress in that direction since Byron raged against the crimes of
Kings. If it means the opposite to the principle of Divine Right or
Legitimacy, or even personal loyalty--loyalty of the old-time,
chivalric, enthusiastic fashion--then it must be owned that it shows all
over Europe the mark of equal progress. The ancient, romantic,
sentimental loyalty; the loyalty which reverenced the Sovereign and was
proud to abase itself before him; the loyalty of the Cavaliers; the
loyalty which went wild over "Oh, Richard! Oh, mon Roi!" is dead and
gone--its relics a thing to be stared at, and wondered over, and
preserved for a landmark in the progress of the world--just like the
mammoth's bones.

The model Monarchy of Europe is, beyond dispute, that of Great Britain.
In England there is an almost absolute self-government; the English
people can have anything whatever which they may want by insisting on it
and agitating a little for it. The Sovereign has long ceased to
interfere in the progress of national affairs. I can only recollect one
instance, during my observation, in which Queen Victoria put her veto on
a bill passed by Parliament, and that was on an occasion when it was
discovered, at the last moment, that the Lords and Commons had passed a
bill which had a dreadful technical blunder in it, and the only way out
of the difficulty was to beg of the Queen to refuse it her sanction,
which her Majesty did accordingly, and the blunder was set right in the
following session. If a Prime Minister were to announce to the House of
Commons, to-morrow, that the Queen had boxed his ears, it would not
create a whit more amazement than if he were to say, no matter in what
graceful and diplomatic periphrasis, that her Majesty was unwilling to
agree to some measure which her faithful Commons desired to see passed
into law.

Nothing did Mr. Disraeli more harm, nothing brought greater contempt on
him than his silly attempts last session to induce the Commons to
believe, by vague insinuations and covert allusions, that the Queen had
a personal leaning toward his policy and himself. So long ago as the
time of the free trade struggle, the Tories, for all their hereditary
loyalty, complained of and protested against the silent presence of
Prince Albert in the Peers' gallery of the House of Commons, on the
ground that it was an attempt to influence the Parliament improperly,
and to interfere with the freedom of debate. No one has anything to say
against the Queen which carries any weight or is worth listening to. She
is undoubtedly a woman of virtue and good sense. So good a woman, I
venture to think, never before reigned over any people, and that she is
not a great woman, an Elizabeth, a Catherine of Russia, or even an
Isabella of Castile, is surely rather to the advantage than otherwise of
the monarchical institution in its present stage of existence. Here,
then, one might think, if anywhere and ever, the principle of personal
loyalty has a fair chance and a full justification. A man might
vindicate his loyalty to Queen Victoria in the name of liberty itself;
nay, he might justify it by an appeal to the very principle of
democracy. Yet one must be blind, who, living in England and willing to
observe, does not see that the old, devoted spirit of personal loyalty
is dead and buried. It is gone! it is a memory! You may sing a poetic
lament for it if you will, as Schiller did for the gods of Hellas; you
may break into passionate rhetoric, if you can, over its extinction, as
Burke did for the death of the age of Chivalry. It is gone, and I firmly
believe it can never be revived or restored.

I do not mean to say that there are many persons in England who feel any
strong objection to the Monarchy, or warmly desire to see a Republic
substituted for it. I know in England several theoretical
republicans--they are to be met with in almost any company. I have never
met with any one Englishman living in England, who showed any anxious,
active interest in the abolition of the Monarchy. I do not know any one
who objects to drink the usual loyal toasts at a public dinner, or
betrays any conscientious reluctance to listen to the unmeaning eulogy
which it is the stereotyped fashion for the chairman of every such
banquet to heap on "Her Majesty and the rest of the Royal Family." But
this sort of thing, if it ever had any practical meaning, has now none.
It has reached that stage at which profession and practice are always
understood to be quite different things. Every one says at church that
he is a miserable sinner; no one is supposed really to believe anything
of the sort. Every one has some time or other likened women to angels,
but we are not therefore supposed seriously to ignore the fact that
women wear flannel petticoats, and have their faults, and are mortal. So
of loyal professions in England now. They are understood to be phrases,
like "Your obedient servant," at the bottom of a letter. They do not
suggest hypocrisy or pretence of any kind. There is apparently no more
inconsistency now in a man's loyally drinking the health of the Queen,
and proceeding immediately after (in private conversation) to abuse or
ridicule her and her family, than there would be in the same man
beginning with "Dear Sir," a missive to one whom he notoriously
dislikes. Every one who has been lately in London must have heard an
immense amount of scandal, or at all events of flippant joking at the
expense of the Queen herself; and of more serious complaint and distrust
as regards the Prince of Wales. Yet the virtues of the Queen, and the
noble qualities of the Prince of Wales are panegyrized and toasted, and
hurrah'd at every public dinner where Englishmen gather together.

The very virtues of Queen Victoria have contributed materially toward
the extinction of the old-fashioned sentiment of living, active loyalty.
The English people had from the time at least of Anne to our own day a
succession of bad princes. Only a race patient as Issachar could have
endured such a line of sovereigns as George II., George III., and George
IV. Then came William IV., who being a little less stupidly obstinate
than George III., and not so grossly corrupt as George IV., was hailed
for a while as the Patriot King by a people who were only too anxious
not to lose all their hereditary and traditional veneration. Do what
they would, however, the English nation could not get into any sincere
transports of admiration about the Patriot King; and they soon found
that any popular reform worth having was to be got rather in spite of
the Patriot King, than by virtue of any wisdom or patriotism in the
monarch. Great popular demonstrations and tumults, and threats of
marching on London; and O'Connell meetings at Charing Cross, with
significant allusion by the great demagogue to the King who lost his
head at Whitehall hard by; the hanging out of the black flag at
Manchester, and a general movement of brickbats everywhere--these seem
to have been justly regarded as the persuasive influences which
converted a Sovereign into the Patriot King and a Reformer. Loyalty did
not gain much by the reforms of that reign. Then followed the young
Victoria; and enthusiasm for a while wakened up fresh and genuine over
the ascension of the comely and simple-hearted girl, who was so frank
and winning; who ran down stairs in her night-dress, rather than keep
her venerable councillors waiting when they sought her out at midnight;
who openly acknowledged her true love for her cousin, and offered him
her hand; who was at once queenly and maidenly, innocent and fearless.

But this sort of thing did not last very long. Prince Albert was never
popular. He was cold; people said he was stingy; his very virtues, and
they were genuine, were not such as anybody, except his wife and family,
warmly admires in a man; he was indeed misunderstood, or at all events
misprized in England, up to the close of his life. Then the gates of the
convent, so to speak, closed over the Queen, and royalty ceased to be an
animating presence in England.

The young men and women of to-day--persons who have not passed the age
of twenty-one--can hardly remember to have ever seen the Sovereign. She
is to them what the Mikado is to his people. Seven years of absolute
seclusion on the part of a monarch must in any case be a sad trial to
personal loyalty, at least in the royal capital. A considerable and an
influential section of Queen Victoria's subjects in the metropolis have
long been very angry with their Sovereign. The tailors, the milliners,
the dressmakers, the jewellers, the perfumers, all the shopkeepers of
the West End who make profit out of court dinners and balls and
presentations, are furious at the royal seclusion which they believe has
injured their business. So, too, are the aristocratic residents of the
West End, who do not care much about a court which no longer contributes
to their season's gayety. So, too, are all the flunkey class generally.
Now, I am sure there are no three sections of the population of London
more influential in the spreading of scandal and the nursing of this
discontent than the shopkeepers, the aristocrats, and the flunkeys of
the West End. These are actively and demonstratively dissatisfied with
the Queen. These it is who spread dirty scandals about her, and laugh
over vile lampoons and caricatures of which she is the object.

Every one knows that there is a low, mean scandal afloat about the
Queen--and it is spread by the clubs, the drawing-rooms, the shops, and
the servants'-halls of the West End. I am convinced that not one of
those who spread the scandal really believes it; but they like to spread
it because they dislike the Queen. There can be no doubt, however, that
much dissatisfaction at the Queen's long seclusion is felt by persons
who are incapable of harboring any motives so mean or spreading any
calumnies so unworthy. Most of the London papers have always found fault
rather sharply and not over decently with the royal retirement. Mr.
Ayrton, representative of the Tower Hamlets--the largest constituency in
England--openly expressed this sentiment at a public meeting; and though
his remarks were at once replied to and condemned by Mr. Bright, they
met with a more or less cordial response from most of his audience.

There is or was in the House of Commons (the general election has got
happily rid of him), a foolish person named Reardon, a Piccadilly
auctioneer, who became, by what we call in England "a fluke," a member
of the House of Commons. This person moved last session a resolution, or
something of the kind, calling on the Queen to abdicate. The thing was
laughed down--poor Mr. Reardon's previous career had been so absurd that
anything coming from him would have been hooted; and the House of
Commons is fiercely intolerant of "bores" and men with crotchets. But I
have reason to believe that Mr. Reardon's luckless project was concocted
by a delegation of London tradesmen, and had the sympathy of the whole
class; and I know that many members of the House which hooted and
laughed him down had in private over and over again grumbled at the
Queen's retirement, and declared that she ought to abdicate.

"What on earth does it matter," I asked of a member of Parliament--one
of the most accomplished scholars and sharp logicians in the
House--"What on earth does it matter whether or not the Queen gives a
few balls to a few thousand West End people in the season? How can
rational people care, one way or the other?" "My dear fellow," was the
answer, "_I_ don't care; but all that sort of thing is her business, and
she is paid to do it, and she ought to do it. If she were a washerwoman
with a family, she would have to do her work, no matter what her grief."
Now this gentleman--who is utterly above any sympathy with scandal or
with the lackey-like grumblings of the West End--did, undoubtedly,
express fairly enough a growing mood of the public dissatisfaction.

Beyond all this, however, is the fact that people--the working-class
especially--are beginning to ask whether we really want a Sovereign at
all, seeing that we get on just as well during the eclipse of royalty as
in its brightest meridian splendor. This question is being very often
put; and it is probably more often thought over than put into words. Now
I think nothing worse could possibly happen to royalty in England than
that people should begin quietly to ask whether there really is any use
in it. If there is a bad King or Queen, people can get or look for, or
hope and pray for a good one; and the abuse of the throne will not be
accounted a sufficient argument against the use of it. But how will it
be when the subjects begin to find that during the reign of one of the
best sovereigns possible to have, they can get on perfectly well
although the monarch is in absolute seclusion?

George IV. was an argument against bad kings only--Queen Victoria may
come to be accepted as an illustration of the uselessness of the very
best kind of Sovereign. I think King Log was much better calculated to
do harm to the institution of royalty than King Stork, although the
frogs might have regretted the placid reign of the former when the
latter was gobbling up their best and fattest.

Decidedly the people of England are learning of the Queen how to do
without royalty. A small section of her subjects are angry with her and
bitter of heart against her; a much larger number find they can do
perfectly well without her; a larger number still have forgotten her. On
a memorable occasion Prince Albert declared that constitutional
government was on its trial in England. The phrase, like many that came
from the same well-meaning lips, was unlucky. Constitutional government
was not upon its trial then; but Monarchy is upon its trial now.

Do I mean to say that Great Britain is on the verge of a revolution;
that the dynasty is about to be overthrown; that a new Cromwell is to
make his appearance? By no means. It does not follow that even if the
English people were to be convinced to-morrow of the absolute
uselessness of a throne, and a sovereignty, they would therefore proceed
to establish a republic. No people under the sun are more strongly
governed by tradition and "the majesty of custom" than the English.
Cobden used to say that they had a Chinese objection to change of any
kind. The Lord Mayor's show, long threatened, and for a while partially
obscured, has come out again in full gingerbread. There is a functionary
who appears every night at the door of the House of Commons just at the
moment when the sitting is formally declared to be over, and bawls out
to the emptying benches the resonant question, "Who's for home?" I
believe the practice originated at a time when Westminster was
unpeopled, and midnight roads were dangerous, and members were glad to
make up parties to travel home together; and, so a functionary was
appointed to issue stentorian appeal to all who were thus willing to
combine their strength and journey safely in company. The need of such
an arrangement has, I need hardly say, passed away these many
generations; but the usage exists. It oppresses no one to have the
formal call thundered out; the thing has got to be a regular
performance; it is part of the whole business and system; nobody wants
it, but nobody heeds it or objects to it, and the functionary appears
every night of every session and shouts his invitation to companionship
as regularly as if the Mohocks were in possession of Charing Cross, and
Claude Duval were coming full trot along Piccadilly.

Now, this may be taken as a sort of illustration of the manner in which
the English people are naturally inclined to deal with any institutions
which are merely useless, and have the recommendation of old age and
long descent. The ordinary Englishman to-day would find it hard to bring
up before his mind's eye a picture of an England without a Sovereign. If
it were made fully plain to him, and thoroughly impressed upon his mind
that he could do just as well without a Sovereign as with, and even that
Monarchy never could possibly be of use to him any more, I think he
would endure it and pay its cost, and drink its health loyally for all
time, providing Monarchy did nothing outrageously wrong; or
provided--which is more to my present purpose--that no other changes of
a remarkable nature occurred in the meantime to remove ancient
landmarks, to disturb the basis of his old institutions and to prepare
him for a new order of things. This is indeed the point I wish to
discuss just now. I have explained what I believe to be the depth and
strength and meaning of the average Englishman's loyal feelings to his
Sovereign at the present moment. I should like to consider next how that
feeling will, in all probability, be affected by the changes in the
English political system, which seem inevitable, and by the accession,
or expected accession, of a new Sovereign to the throne.

England has, just now, something very nearly approaching to manhood
suffrage; and to manhood suffrage it will probably come before long. The
ballot will, doubtless, be introduced. The Irish Church is as good as
dead. I cannot doubt that the English State Church will, ultimately, and
before very long, succumb to the same fate. Not that this logically or
politically follows as a matter of necessity; and nothing could be more
unwise in the interest of their own cause than the persistency with
which the Tories keep insisting that the doom of the one is involved in
the doom of the other. The Irish Church is the foreign church of a
miserably small minority; the English Establishment is the Church of the
majority, and is an institution belonging to the soil. The very
principle which maintains the English Church ought of right to condemn
the Irish Church. But it is the fact that an agitation more influential
than it seemed to the careless spectator, has long been going on in
England for the abolition of the State Church system altogether; and
there can be no doubt that the fate of the Irish Establishment will lend
immense courage and force to that agitation. Revolutionary movements are
always contagious in their nature, and the movement against the Irish
Church is in the strictest sense revolutionary. The Dutch or the Scotch
would have carried such a movement to triumph across rivers of blood if
it were needful; and no man of spirit could say that the end would not
be worth the cost. I assume, then, that the overthrow of the Irish
Church will inflame to iconoclastic fervor the movement of the English
Dissenters against all Church establishments. I do not stop just now to
inquire whether the movement is likely to be successful or how long it
may take to accomplish the object. To me, it seems beyond doubt that it
must succeed; but I do not care to assume even that for the purpose of
my present argument. I only ask my readers to consider the condition of
things which will exist in England when a movement resting on a suffrage
which is almost universal, a movement which will have already overthrown
one State Church within Great Britain, proceeds openly and exultingly to
attack the English Church itself, within its own dominions. I ask
whether it is likely that the institution which is supposed to be bound
up inseparably with that Church, the Monarchy which is based upon, and
exists by virtue of religious ascendency, is likely to escape all
question during such a struggle, and after it? The State Church and the
Aristocracy, if they cannot always be called bulwarks of the throne, are
yet so completely associated with it in the public mind that it is hard
even to think of the one without the others, and yet harder to think of
the one as existing serene and uninjured after the decay or demolition
of the others.

Now, the Aristocracy have, as Mr. Bright put it so truly and so
effectively the other day, already capitulated. They have given up all
notion of any longer making the laws of the country in the interest of
their own class. One of the first things the Reformed Parliament will
do, when it has breathing-time to think about such matters, will be to
abolish the purchase system in the army, and throw open promotion to
merit, without reference to class. The diplomatic service, that other
great stronghold of the Aristocracy, will be thoroughly reorganized and
made a real, useful department, doing solid work, and open to talent of
whatever caste; or it will be abolished altogether. Something will have
to be done with the House of Lords. It, too, must be made a reality, or
dismissed into the land of shadows and the past. Efforts at reforming
it, while it stands on its present basis, are futile. Its existence is,
in its present form, the one great objection to it.

The good-natured, officious Lord Shaftesbury went to work, a few months
ago, to prepare a scheme of reform for the House of Lords, in order to
anticipate and conciliate the popular movement which he expected. He
could think of nothing better than a recommendation that the House
should meet an hour earlier every evening, in order, by throwing more
time on their hands, to induce the younger Peers to get up debates and
take part in them. This, however, is not precisely the kind of reform
the country will ask for when it has leisure to turn its attention to
the subject. It will ask for some reorganization which shall either
abolish or reduce to a comparative nothing the hereditary legislating
principle on which the House of Lords now rests. A set of law-makers or
law-marrers intrusted with power only because they are born to titles,
is an absurd anomaly, which never could exist in company with popular
suffrage. "Hereditary law-makers!" exclaimed Franklin. "You might as
well talk of hereditary mathematicians!" Franklin expressed exactly what
the feeling of the common sense of England is likely to be when the
question comes to be raised. I expect then, not that the House of Lords
will be abolished, but that the rule of the hereditary principle will be
brought to an end--that the Aristocracy there, too, will have to

Now, I doubt whether an American reader can have any accurate idea,
unless he has specially studied the matter and watched its practical
operation in England, of the manner in which the influence of the Peers
makes itself felt through the political life of Great Britain. Americans
often have some kind of notion that the Aristocracy govern the country
directly and despotically, with the high hand of imperious feudalism.
There is nothing of the kind in reality. The House of Lords is, as a
piece of political machinery, almost inoperative--as nearly as possible
harmless. No English Peer, Lord Derby alone excepted, has anything like
the political authority and direct influence of Mr. Gladstone, Mr.
Disraeli, or Mr. Bright. There are very few Peers, indeed, about whose
political utterances anybody in the country cares three straws. But, on
the other hand, the traditional _prestige_ of the Peers, the tacit,
time-honored, generally-conceded doctrine that a Peer has first right to
everything--the mediæval superstition tolerated largely in our own time,
which allows a sort of divinity to hedge a Peer--all this has an
indirect, immense, pervading, almost universal influence in the
practical working of English politics. The Peers have, in fact, a
political _droit du seigneur_ in England. They have first taste of every
privilege, first choice of every appointment. Political office is their
pasture, where they are privileged to feed at will. There does not now
exist a man in England likely to receive high office, who would be bold
enough to suggest the forming of a Cabinet without Peers in it, even
though there were no Peers to be had who possessed the slightest
qualification for any ministerial position. The Peers must have a
certain number of places, because they are Peers. The House of Commons
swarms with the sons and nephews of Peers. The household appointments,
the ministerial offices, the good places in the army and the church are
theirs when they choose--and they generally do choose--to have them. The
son of a Peer, if in the House of Commons, may be raised at one step
from his place in the back benches to a seat in the Cabinet, simply
because of his rank. When Earl Russell, two or three years ago, raised
Mr. Goschen, one of the representatives of the city of London and a
partner in a great London banking-house, to a place in the Cabinet, the
whole country wondered: a very few, who were not frightened out of their
propriety, admired; some thought the world must be coming to an end. But
when the Marquis of Hartington was suddenly picked out of West End
dissipation and made War Secretary, nobody expressed the least wonder,
for he was the heir of the House of Devonshire. Indeed, it was perfectly
notorious that the young Marquis was presented to office, in the first
instance, because it was hoped by his friends that official duties might
wean him from the follies and frivolities of a more than ordinarily
heedless youth. Sir Robert Peel the present, the _magni nominis umbra_,
is not, of course, in the strict sense, an aristocrat; but he is mixed
up with aristocrats, and is the son of a Peer-maker, and may be regarded
as claiming and having the privileges of the class. Sir Robert Peel was
presented with the First Secretaryship as something to play with,
because his aristocratic friends, the ladies especially, thought he
would be more likely to sow his wild oats if he were beguiled by the
semblance of official business. A commoner must, in fact, be supposed to
have some qualification for office before he is invited to fill a
ministerial place. No qualification is believed necessary for the near
relative or connection of a Peer. Even in the most favorable examples of
Peers who are regular occupants of office, no special fitness is assumed
or pretended. No one supposes or says that Lord Clarendon, or Lord
Granville, or Lord Malmesbury has any particular qualification which
entitles him, above all other men, to this or that ministerial place.
Yet it must be a man of bold imagination indeed, who could now conceive
the possibility of a British Cabinet without one of these noblemen
having a place in it.

All this comes, as I have said, out of a lingering superstition--the
faith in the divine right of Peers. Now, a reform in the constitution of
the Upper House, which should purge it of the hereditary principle,
would be the first great blow to this superstition. Julius Cæsar, in one
of his voyages of conquest, was much perplexed by the priests, who
insisted that he had better go back because the sacred chickens would
not eat. At last he thought the time had come to prove his independence
of the sacred chickens, "If they will not eat," he said, "then let them
drink"--and he flung the consecrated fowls into the sea; and the
expedition went on triumphantly, and the Roman soldiers learned that
they could do without the sacred chickens. I think a somewhat similar
sensation will come over all classes of the English people when they
find that the hereditary right to make laws is taken from the English
Peerage. I do not doubt that the whole fabric of superstition will
presently collapse, and that the privilege of the Peer will cease to be
anything more than that degree of superior influence which wealth and
social rank can generally command, even in the most democratic
communities. The law which gives impulse and support to the custom of
primogeniture is certain to go, and with it another prop of the mediæval
superstition. The Peerage capitulates, in fact--no more expressive word
can be found to describe the situation.

Now, in all this, I have been foreshadowing no scheme of wild, vague,
far-distant reform. I appeal to any one, Liberal or Tory, who is
practically acquainted with English politics, to say whether these are
not changes he confidently or timidly looks to see accomplished before
long in England. I have not spoken of any reform which is not part of
the actual accepted programme of the Radical party. To the reform of
the House of Lords, of the military and diplomatic service; to abolition
of the law of primogeniture, the whole body of the Liberals stands
pledged; and Mr. Bright very recently renewed the pledges in a manner
and with an emphasis which showed that change of circumstances has made
no change in his opinions, brought no faltering in his resolution. The
abolition of the English Church is not, indeed, thus openly sought by so
powerful a party; but it is ostentatiously aimed at by that solid,
compact, pertinacious body of Dissenters who, after so long a struggle,
succeeded at last in getting rid of Church rates; and the movement will
go on with a rush after the fall of the Irish establishment. Here then
we have, in the not distant future, a prospect of an England without a
privileged Aristocracy, and with the State Church principle called into
final question. I return to my first consideration--the consideration
which is the subject of this paper--how will this affect the great
aristocratic, feudal and hierarchical institution of England, the Throne
of the Monarch?

The Throne then will stand naked and alone, stripped of its old-time and
traditional surroundings and associations. It cannot be like that of
France, the throne of a Cæsar, a despotic institution claiming to
exercise its despotism over the people by virtue of the will and
delegated power of the people. The English Crown never can be an active
governing power. It will be the last idol in the invaded sanctuary. It
will stand alone, among the pedestals from which popular reform has
swept the embodied superstitions which were its long companions. It must
live, if at all, on the old affection or the toleration which springs
out of custom and habit. This affection, or at least this toleration,
may always be looked upon as a powerful influence in England. One can
hardly imagine, for instance, anything occurring in our day to dethrone
the Queen. However one class may grumble and another class may gibe, the
force of habit and old affection would, in this instance, prove
omnipotent. But, suppose the Prince of Wales should turn out an
unpopular and ill-conditioned ruler? Suppose he should prove to be a man
of low tastes, of vulgar and spendthrift habits, a maladroit and
intermeddling king? He is not very popular in England, even now, and he
is either one of the most unjustly entreated men living, or he has
defects which even the excuse of youth can scarcely gloss over.

An illustrated weekly paper in London forced itself lately into a sudden
notoriety by publishing a finely-drawn cartoon, in which the Prince of
Wales, dressed as Hamlet, was represented as breaking away from the
restraining arms of John Bull as Horatio, and public opinion as
Marcellus, and rushing after a ghost which bore the form and features of
George IV., while underneath were inscribed the words, "Lead on; I'll
follow thee!" This was a bold and bitter lampoon; I am far from saying
that it was not unjust, but I believe it can hardly be doubted that the
Prince of Wales has, as yet, shown little inclination to imitate the
example or cultivate the tastes of his pure-minded and intellectual
father. Now suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Prince of Wales
should turn out a George IV., or suppose, and which would be far worse
from a national point of view, he or his son should turn out a George
III. And suppose further that, about the same time any great crisis
should arise in England--suppose the country entangled in a great
foreign war, or disturbed by some momentous domestic agitation--can any
one doubt that the Crown, in its then isolated condition, would be
really in danger?

We must remember, when the strength of English institutions is boasted,
that they have not, since 1815, stood any strain which could fairly be
called critical. England has never had her national strength, her
political position, or even her _prestige_ seriously imperilled since
that time. Even the Indian war could not be called a great supreme
trial, such as other nations have lately had to bear. No one, even for a
moment, could have doubted how that struggle would end. It was bitter,
it was bloody; but the life of the nation was not staked upon it, even
had its issue been uncertain; and its issue never was uncertain. It
would be superfluous to say that England has passed through no ordeal
like that to which the United States were lately subjected. She has not
even had to confront anything like the crisis which Prussia voluntarily
invited, which Austria had to meet, in 1866. It will be time to consider
English feudal institutions, or what may remain of them, safe and
firmly-rooted, when they have stood the worst result of such a crisis as
that, and not been shaken down.

What I contend is that there is nothing in the present condition of the
English public mind, and nothing in the prospect of the immediate future
to warrant the almost universal assumption that the throne of England is
founded on a rock. The stupidity of loyalty, the devotion as of the
spaniel to his master, of the idolator to his god, is gone. I doubt if
there exists one man in England who feels the sentiment of loyalty as
his grandfather would have felt it. The mass of the people have learned
satisfactorily that a sovereign is not a part of the necessary machinery
of the government. The great problem which the Duke of Wellington used
to present for solution--"How is the Queen's Government to be carried
on?" has been solved in one and an unexpected sense. It can be carried
on without a queen. Here then we have the institution proving itself
superfluous, and falling into public indifference at the very same
moment that some other institutions which seemed always involved with it
as its natural and necessary companions, are about to be broken to
pieces and thrown away. He must, indeed, be full of a verily
transcendental faith in the destinies and divinity of royalty who does
not admit that at least there is a time of ordeal awaiting it in
England, such as it has not encountered before during this century.

To me it seems that the royal principle in England is threatened, not
with sudden and violent extinction, but with death by decay. I do not
expect any change of any kind to-morrow or the day after, or even the
week after next. I do not care to dogmatize, or predict, or make guesses
of any kind. I quite agree with my friend Professor Thorold Rogers, that
an uninspired prophet is a fool. But I contend that as the evident signs
of the times now show themselves, the monarchical principle in England
does seem to be decaying; that the national faith which bore it up is
sorely shaken and almost gone, and that some of the political props
which most nearly supported it are already being cut away. There may,
indeed, be some hidden virtue in the principle, which shall develop
itself unexpectedly in the hour of danger, and give to the institution
that seemed moribund a new and splendid vitality. Such a phenomenon has
been manifested in the case of more than one institution that seemed on
the verge of ruin--it may be the fortunate destiny of British royalty.
But unless in the sudden and timely development of some such occult and
unlooked-for virtue, I do not see what is to preserve the monarchical
principle in England through the trials of the future.

Let it be remembered, too, that the one great plea hitherto always made
in England for monarchy, is that it alone will work on a large scale.
"We admit," it was said, "that your republican theory looks better and
admits of more logical argument in its favor. But we are practical men,
and we find that our system, with all its theoretical disadvantages,
will work and stand a strain; and your republican theory, with all its
apparent advantages in logic, is not suited for this rough world. Our
machinery will stand the hardest trial; yours never did and never will.
Don't tell us about Switzerland. Switzerland is a little country. Kept
out of the stress and danger of European commotions, and protected by a
guarantee of the great powers, any constitution ought to work under such
advantages. But a great independent republic never did last; never did
stand a sudden strain, and never will." So people thought and argued in
England--even very intelligent people, until at last it became one of
the British Philistine's articles of faith, that the republican
principle never will work on a large scale. When Sir John Ramsden
declared in the House of Commons at the beginning of the American civil
war, that the republican bubble had burst, and all Philistinism in
Britain applauded the declaration, the plaudits were given not so much
because of any settled dislike Philistinism had to the United States, as
because Philistinism beheld what it believed to be a providential
testimony to its own wisdom and foresight. Since then Philistinism has
found that after all republicanism is able to bear a strain as great as
monarchy has ever yet borne, and can come out of the trial unharmed and

The lesson has sunk deeply. The mind of something better than
Philistinism has learned that republics can be made to work on a large
scale. I believe Mr. Gladstone is one of the eminent Englishmen who now
openly admit that they have learned from the American war something
which they did not know before, of the cohesiveness and durability of
the republican system. Up to the time of that war in fact, most
Englishmen, when they talked of republican principles, thought only of
French republicanism, and honestly regarded such a system as a brilliant
empty bubble, doomed to soar a little, and float, and dazzle, and then
to burst.

That idea, it is quite safe to say, no longer exists in the English
mind. The fundamental, radical objection to republicanism--the objection
which, partly out of mere reaction and partly for more substantial
reasons, followed the brief and romantic enthusiasm of the days of
Fox--is gone. The practical Englishman admits that a republic is
practicable. Only those who know England can know what a change in
public opinion this is. It is, in fact, something like a revolution. I
think the most devoted monarchist will hardly deny that if some
extraordinary combination of chances (after all, even the British Throne
is but a human institution) were to disturb the succession of the house
of Brunswick, Englishmen would be more likely to try the republican
system than to hunt about for a new royal family, or endeavor to invent
a new scheme of monarchy. Here, then, I leave the subject. Take all this
into account, in considering the probabilities of the future, and then
say whether, even in the case of England, it is quite certain that
Byron's prediction is only the dream of a cynical poet, destined never
to be fulfilled among human realities.


"How will it be with him," said Richard Cobden to a friend, one night,
as they spoke of a great and successful adventurer whom the friend was
striving to defend--"how will it be with him when life becomes all
retrospect?" The adventurer they spoke of was not Louis Napoleon; but
the inquiry might well apply just now to the Emperor of the French. Life
has reached that point with him when little more than retrospect can be
left. In the natural course of events, there can be no great triumphs
for Louis Napoleon still to achieve. Great blunders are possible, though
hardly probable; but the greatest of blunders would scarcely efface the
memory of the substantial triumphs. "Not heaven itself," exclaimed an
ambitious and profane statesman, "can undo the fact that I have been
three times Prime Minister." Well, the Fates--let them do their
best--can hardly undo the fact that the despised outcast of Constance,
and Augsburg, and London, and New York, whom Lord Palmerston excused
himself to Guizot for tolerating, on the ground that really nobody
minded the dull, harmless poor fellow; the Fates cannot undo the fact
that this man has elected himself Emperor of the French, has defeated
the Russians and the Austrians, and made a friend and ally of England.

So much of the past, then, is secure; but there are hardly any triumphs
to be won in the future. If one may venture to predict anything, he may
venture to predict that the Emperor of the French will not live to be a
very old man. He has already led many lives--fast, hard, exhausting
lives, "that murder the youth in a man ere ever his heart has its will."
Exile, conspiracy, imprisonment, hard thinking, hard working, wild and
reckless dissipation, prolonged to the very outer verge of middle life,
the brain, the nerves, the muscles, the whole physical and mental
constitution always strained to the utmost--these are not the ways that
secure a long life. Louis Napoleon is already an "_abgelebter mann_"--an
outworn, used-up, played-out man. The friends and familiars with whom he
started in life are nearly all gone. Long since laid in earth is the
stout form of the wild Marquis of Waterford, who was a wonder to our
fathers (his successor to the title ran away with somebody's wife the
other day; and I thought Time had turned back by thirty years when I
read of the _escapade_, with the name, once so famous, of the principal
performer), and who rode by Louis Napoleon's side at the celebrated,
forgotten Eglintoun Tournament, and was, like Louis Napoleon, one of the
Knights Challengers in that piece of splendid foolery. Dead, lang syne,
is Eglintoun himself, the chivalrous Earl of the generous instincts and
the florid, rotund eloquence, reminding one of Bulwer Lytton diluted. I
do not know whether the Queen of Beauty of that grand joust is yet
living and looking on the earth; but if she be, she must be an embodied
sermon on the perishableness of earthly charms. De Morny is dead, the
devoted half-brother, son of Louis Napoleon's mother, the chaste
Hortense, and the Count de Flahault--De Morny, the brilliant, genial,
witty, reckless gambler in politics and finance, the man than whom
nobody ever, perhaps, was more faithful to friendship and false to
morality, more good-natured and unprincipled. I have seen tears in men's
eyes when De Morny died--in the eyes of men who owned all the time,
smiling through their tears like Andromache, that the lost patron and
friend was the most consummate of _roués_ and blacklegs. Walewski is
dead--Walewski of romantic origin, born of the sudden episode of love
between the great Napoleon and the Polish lady--Walewski, who, like
Prince Napoleon-Jerome, carried his pedigree stamped upon his
face--Walewski, the lover of Rachel, and, to do him justice, the steady
friend of Poland. Old Mocquard is gone, the faithful scribe and
confidant: he is dead, and the dramas he would persist in writing are
dead with him, nay, died even before him. I do not know whether the
faithful, devoted woman who worked for Louis Napoleon, and believed in
him when nobody else did; the woman to whose inspirings, exertions, and
ready money he owes, in great measure, the fact that he is now Emperor
of the French--I do not know whether this woman is alive or dead. I
think she is dead. Anyhow, I suppose the dignity of history, as the
phrase is, can hardly take account of her. She helped to make an
Emperor, and the Emperor, in return, made her a Countess; but then he
had to marry--and so we take leave of the woman who made the Emperor,
and do our homage to the woman who married him. All those are gone; and
St. Arnaud, of the stormy youth, and Pelissier, the bland,
sweet-tempered chevalier, who, getting into a dispute (on his way to be
governor of Algeria) with the principal official of a Spanish port,
invited that dignitary to salute a portion of the Pelissier person which
assuredly the foes of France were never allowed to see--all these are
gone, and many more, and only a very few, fast fading, of the old
friends and followers remain. Life to Louis Napoleon must now, indeed,
be nearly all retrospect. His career, his Imperial reign may be judged
even now as fairly and securely as as if his body had just been laid
beside that of his uncle, under the dome of the Invalides.

Recent events seem specially to invite and authorize that judgment.
Within the past twelve months, the genuine character of Louis Napoleon
has displayed itself, strikingly, nakedly, in his policy. He has tried,
in succession, mild liberalism, severe despotism, reactionary
conservatism, antique Cæsarism, and then, in an apologetic, contrite
sort of way, a liberalism of a rather pronounced character. Every time
that he tried any new policy he was secretly intriguing with some other,
and making ready for the possible necessity of having to abandon the
former and take up with the latter. He was like the lady in "Le Diable
Boiteux," who, while openly coquetting with the young lover, slily gives
her hand behind her back to the old admirer. So far as the public could
judge, Louis Napoleon has, for many months back, been absolutely without
any settled policy whatever. He has been waiting for a wind. Such a
course is probably the safest a man in his position can take; but one
who, at a great crisis, cannot originate and initiate a policy, will not
be remembered among the grand rulers of the world. I do not remember any
greater evidence given in our time of absolute incapacity to seize a
plan of action and decide upon it, than was shown by the Emperor of the
French during the crisis of June and July. So feeble, so vague, halting,
vacillating was the whole course of the government, that many who detest
Louis Napoleon, but make it an article of faith that he is a sort of
all-seeing, omnipotent spirit of darkness, were forced to adopt a theory
that the riots in Paris and the provinces were deliberately got up by
the police agents of the Empire, for the purpose of frightening the
_bourgeois_ class out of any possible hankering after democracy. No
doubt this idea was widely spread and eagerly accepted in Paris; and
there were many circumstances which seemed to justify it. But I do not
believe in any such Imperial stage-play. I fancy the riots surprised the
Government, first, by their sudden outburst, and next, by their sudden
collapse. Probably the Imperial authorities were very glad when the
disturbances began. They gave an excuse for harsh conduct, and they
seemed, for the time, to put the Government in the right. They restored
Louis Napoleon at that moment, in the eyes of timid people, to that
position, as a supreme maintainer of order, which for some years he had
not had an opportunity effectively to occupy. But the obvious want of
stamina in the disturbing force soon took away from the Imperial
authorities this opportune _prestige_, and very little political capital
was secured for Imperialism out of the abortive barricades, and
incoherent brickbats, and effusive chantings of the "Marseillaise." In
truth, no one had anything else to offer just then in place of the
Empire. The little crisis was no test whatever of the Emperor's hold
over his people, or of his power to deal with a popular revolution. To
me it seems doubtful whether the elections brought out for certain any
fact with which the world might not already have been well acquainted,
except the bare fact that Orleanism has hardly any more of vitality in
it than Legitimacy. Rochefort, and not Prevost Paradol, is the typical
figure of the situation.

The popularity and the success of Rochefort and his paper are remarkable
phenomena, but only remarkable in the old-fashioned manner of the straws
which show how the wind blows. Rochefort's success is due to the fact
that he had the good-fortune to begin ridiculing the Empire just at the
time when a general notion was spreading over France that the Empire of
late had been making itself ridiculous. Louis Napoleon had reached the
turning-point of his career--had reached and passed it. The country saw
now all that he could do. The bag of tricks was played out. The
anticlimax was reached at last.

The culmen, the crisis, the turning-point of Louis Napoleon's career
seems to me to have been attained when, just before the outbreak of the
Schleswig-Holstein war--so small a war in itself, so fateful and
gigantic in its results--he appealed to the Emperors and Kings of
Europe, and proposed that the nations should hold a Congress, to settle,
once and forever, all pending disputes. I think the attitude of Louis
Napoleon at that moment was dignified, commanding, imperial. His
peculiar style, forcible, weighty, measured--I have heard it well
described as a "monumental" style--came out with great effect in the
language of the appeal. There was dignity, and grace, there was what
Edmund Burke so appropriately terms "a proud humility," in Louis
Napoleon's allusion to his own personal experience in the school of
exile and adversity as an excuse for his presuming to offer advice to
the sovereigns of Europe. One was reminded of Henry of Navarre's
allusion to the wind of adversity which, blowing so long upon his face,
had prematurely blanched his hair. I do not wonder that the proposed
Congress never met. I do not wonder that the European governments put it
aside--some with courteous phrase and feigned willingness to accept the
scheme, like Russia and Austria; some with cold and brusque rejection,
like England. Nothing worth trying for could have come of the Congress.
Events were brooding of which France and England knew nothing, and which
could not have been exorcised away by any resolutions of a conclave of
diplomatists. But that was, I think, the last occasion when Louis
Napoleon held anything like a commanding, overruling position in
European affairs, and even then it was but a semblance. After that, came
only humiliations and reverses. In a diplomatic sense, nothing could be
more complete than the checkmate which the Emperor of the French drew
upon himself by the sheer blundering of his conduct with regard to
Prussia. He succeeded in placing himself before the world in the
distinct attitude of an enemy to Prussia; and no sooner had he, by
assuming this attitude, forced Prussia to take a defiant tone, than he
suddenly sank down into quietude. He had bullied to no purpose; he had
to undergo the humiliation of seeing Prussia rise in public estimation,
by means of the triumph which his unnecessary and uncalled-for hostility
had enabled her to win. In fact, he was outgeneralled by his pupil,
Bismarck, even more signally than he had previously been outgeneralled
by his former pupil, Cavour. More disastrous and ghastly, by far, was
the failure of his Mexican policy. That policy began in falsehood and
treachery, and ended as it deserved. Poetic and dramatic justice was
fearfully rendered. Never did Philip II., of Spain, never did his
father, never did Napoleon I., never did Mendez Pinto, or any other
celebrated liar, exceed the deliberate monstrosity of the falsehoods
which were told by Louis Napoleon or Louis Napoleon's Ministers at his
order, to conceal, during the earlier stages of the Mexican
intervention, the fact that the French Emperor had a _protégé_ in the
background, who was to be seated on a Mexican throne. The world is not
much affected by perfidy in sovereigns. It laughs at the perjuries of
princes as Jove does at those of lovers. But it could not overlook the
appalling significance of Louis Napoleon's defeat in that disastrous
chapter of his history. Wisdom after the event is easy work; but many,
many voices had told Louis Napoleon beforehand what would come of his
Mexican policy. Not to speak of the hints and advice he received from
the United States, he was again and again assured by the late Marshal
O'Donnell, then Prime Minister of Spain; by General Prim, who commanded
the allied forces during the earlier part of the Mexican expedition; by
Prince Napoleon, by many others--that neither the character of the
Mexican people nor the proximity of the United States would allow a
French proconsulate to be established in Mexico under the name of an
Empire. It is a certain fact that Louis Napoleon frequently declared
that the foundation of that Empire would be the great event of his
reign. This extraordinary delusion maintained a hold over his mind long
after it had become apparent to all the world that the wretched bubble
was actually bursting. The catastrophe was very near when Louis
Napoleon, in conversation with an English political adventurer, who then
was a Member of Parliament, assured him that, however the situation
might then look dark, history would yet have to record that he, Louis
Napoleon, had established a Mexican Empire. The English member of
Parliament, although ordinarily a very shrewd and sceptical sort of
person, was actually so impressed with the earnestness of his Imperial
interlocutor that he returned to London and wrote a pamphlet, in which,
to the utter amazement of his acquaintances, he backed the Empire of
Mexico for a secure existence, and said to it _esto perpetua_. The
pamphlet was hardly in circulation when the collapse came. If Louis
Napoleon ever believed in anything, he believed in the Mexican Empire.
He believed, too, in the certain success of the Southern Confederation.
No Belgravian Dundreary, no _exaltée_ Georgian girl, could have been
more completely taken by surprise when the collapse of that enterprise
came than was the Emperor Napoleon III., whose boundless foresight and
profound sagacity we had all for years been applauding to the echo.
"That which is called firmness in a King," said Erskine, "is called
obstinacy in a donkey." That which is called foresight and sagacity in
an Emperor, is often what we call blindness and blundering in a
newspaper correspondent. The question is whether we can point to any
great event, any political enterprise, subsequent to his successful
assumption of the Imperial crown, in regard to which Napoleon III., if
called upon to act or to judge, did not show the same aptitude for rash
judgments and unwise actions? Certainly no great thing with which he has
had to do came out in the result with anything like the shape he meant
it to have. The Italian Confederation, with the Pope at the head of it;
the Germany irrevocably divided by the line of the Main; the Mexican
Empire; the "rectification" of frontier on the Rhine; the acquisition
of Luxembourg; these are some of the great Napoleonic ideas, by the
success or failure of which we may fairly judge of the wisdom of their
author. At home he has simply had a new plan of government every year.
How many different ways of dealing with the press, how many different
schemes for adjusting the powers of the several branches of legislation,
have been magniloquently announced and floated during the last few
years, each in turn to fail rather more dismally than its predecessor?
Now, it seems, we are to have at last something like that ministerial
responsibility which the Imperial lips themselves have so often
described as utterly opposed to the genius of France. Assuredly it shows
great mental flexibility to be able thus quickly to change one's policy
in obedience to a warning from without. It is a far better quality than
the persistent treachery of a Charles I., or the stupid doggedness of a
George III. But unless it be a characteristic of great statesmanship to
be almost always out in one's calculations, wrong in one's predictions,
and mistaken in one's men, the Emperor has for years been in the habit
of doing things which are directly incompatible with the character of a
great statesman.

Contrasting the Louis Napoleon of action and reality with the Louis
Napoleon of the journals, I am reminded of a declaration once made by a
brilliant, audacious, eccentric Italian journalist and politician,
Petruccelli della Gattina. Petruccelli was, and perhaps still is, a
member of the Italian Parliament, and he had occasion to find fault with
some office or dignity, or something of the kind, conferred by Count
Cavour on the Neapolitan, Baron Poerio, whose imprisonment and chains,
during the reign of the beloved Bomba, aroused the eloquent anger of Mr.
Gladstone, and through Gladstone's efforts and appeals became the wonder
and the horror of the world. Petruccelli insisted that Poerio's
undeserved sufferings were his only political claim. "You know perfectly
well," he said, in effect, to Cavour, "that there is no such man as the
Poerio of the journals. It suited us to invest the poor victim with the
attributes of greatness, and therefore, we, the journalists, created a
Poerio of our own. This imposed upon the world, but it did not impose
upon you, and you have no right to take our Poerio _au serieux_." I do
not know whether the journals created an imaginary Poerio, but I am
convinced that they have created an imaginary Louis Napoleon. The world
in general now so much prefers the imaginary to the real Louis, that it
would for the present be as difficult to dethrone the unreal and set up
the real, as it would be to induce the average reader to accept Lane's
genuine translation of the "Arabian Nights" instead of the familiar
translation from a sprightly, flippant, flashy French version, which
hardly bears the slightest resemblance to the original. English
journalism has certainly created a Disraeli of its own--a dark, subtle,
impenetrable, sphinx-like being, who never smiles, or betrays outward
emotion, or is taken by surprise, or makes a mistake. This Disraeli is
an immense success with the public, and is not in the least like the
real Disraeli, who is as good-natured and genial in manner as he is bold
and blundering in speech and policy. So, on a wider scale, of Louis
Napoleon. We are all more or less responsible for the fraud on the
public; and, indeed, are to be excused on the ground that, enamored of
our own creation, we have often got the length of believing in it. We
have thus created a mysterious being, a sphinx of far greater than even
Disraelian proportions, an embodiment of silence and sagacity, a dark
creature endowed with super-human self-control and patience and
foresight; one who can bend all things, and all men, and destiny itself
to his own calm, inexorable will.

I do not believe there is anything of the sphinx about Louis Napoleon. I
do not believe in his profound sagacity, or his foresight, or his
stupendous self-control. I have grown so heretical that I do not even
believe him to be a particularly taciturn man. I am well satisfied that
Louis Napoleon is personally a good-natured, good-tempered, undignified,
awkward sort of man, ungainly of gesture, not impressive in speech, a
man quite as remarkable for occasional outbursts of unexpected and
misplaced confidence as for a silence that often is, if I may use such
an expression, purely mechanical and unmeaning. I calmly ask my
_confrères_ of the press, is it not a fact that Louis Napoleon is
commonly made the dupe of shallow charlatans, that he has several times
received and admitted to confidential counsel and conference, and
treated as influential statesmen and unaccredited ambassadors, utterly
obscure American or English busybodies who could hardly get to speech of
the Mayor of a town at home; that he has entered into signed and sealed
engagements with impudent adventurers from divers countries, under the
impression that they could render him vast political service; that he
has paid down considerable sums of money to subsidize the most obscure
and contemptible foreign journals, and never seemed able for a moment to
comprehend that in England and the United States no journal that can be
bought for any price, however high, is worth buying at any price,
however low; that his personal inclinations are much more toward quacks
and pretenders than toward men of real genius and influence; that Cobden
was one of the very few great men Louis Napoleon ever appreciated, while
impostors, and knaves, and blockheads, of all kinds, could readily find
access to his confidence? Of course, a man might possibly be a great
sovereign although he had these weaknesses; but the Louis Napoleon of
journalism is not endowed with these, or indeed with any other

Those who know Paris well, know that there is yet another Louis Napoleon
there, equally I trust a fiction with him of the journals. I speak of
the Louis Napoleon of private gossip, the hero of unnumbered _amours_
such as De Grammont or Casanova might wonder at. I have heard stories
poured into my patient but sceptical ears which ascribed to Louis
Napoleon of to-day, adventures illustrating a happy and brilliant
combination of Haroun Al Raschid and Lauzun--the disguises of the Caliph
employed for the purposes of Don Juan. Now, Louis Napoleon certainly
had, and perhaps even still has, his frailties of this class, but I
reject the Lauzun or Don Juan theory quite as resolutely as the sphinx

What we all do really know of Louis Napoleon is, that having the
advantage of a name of surpassing prestige, and at a moment of
unexampled chances not created by him, he succeeded in raising himself
to the throne made by his uncle; that when there, he held his place
firmly, and by maintaining severe order in a country already weary of
disturbance and barren revolution, he favored and stimulated the
development of the material resources of France; that he entered on
several enterprises in foreign politics, not one of which brought about
the end for which it was undertaken, and some of which were ludicrous,
disastrous failures; that he strove to compensate France for the loss of
her civil liberty, by audaciously attempting to make her the dictator of
Europe, and that he utterly failed in both objects; for here toward the
close of his rule, France seems far more eager for domestic freedom than
ever she was since the _coup d'état_, while her influence over the
nations of Europe is considerably less than it was at any period since
the fall of Sebastopol. Now, if this be success, I want to know what is
failure? If these results argue the existence of profound sagacity, I
want to know what would show a lack of sagacity? Was Louis Napoleon
sagacious when he entered Lombardy, to set Italy free from the Alps to
the sea, and sagacious also when, after a campaign of a few weeks, he
suddenly abandoned the enterprise never to resume it? Was he wise when
he told Cavour he would never permit the annexation of Naples, and wise
also when, immediately after, he permitted it? Was he a great statesman
when he entered on the Mexican expedition, and also a great statesman
when he abandoned it and his unfortunate pupil, puppet, and victim
together? Did it show a statesmanlike judgment to bully Prussia until he
had gone near to making her an irreconcilable enemy, and also a
statesmanlike judgment then to "cave in," and declare that he never
meant anything offensive? Was it judicious to demand a rectification of
frontier on the Rhine, and judicious also to abandon the demand in a
hurry, when it was received as anybody might have known that a proud,
brave nation, flushed with a splendid success, would surely have
received it? Did it display great foresight to count with certainty that
the Southern Confederation would succeed, and that Austria would win an
easy victory over Prussia? Was it judicious to instruct an official
spokesman to declare that France had taken steps to assure herself
against any spread of Prussian influence beyond the Main, and to have to
stand next day, amazed and confounded, before an amazed and amused
Europe, when Bismarck made practical answer by contemptuously unrolling
the treaties of alliance actually concluded between France and the
principal States of South Germany? Was it a proof of a great ruling mind
to declare that France could never endure a system of ministerial
responsibility, and also a proof of a great ruling mind to declare that
this is the one thing needful to her contentment? All this bundle of
paradoxes one will have to sustain, if he is content to accept as a
genuine being that monstrous paradox, the Louis Napoleon of the press.
Of course, I do not deny to Louis Napoleon certain qualities of
greatness. But I believe the public was not a whit more gravely mistaken
when it regarded the King street exile as a dreamy dunce, than it is
now, when it regards Napoleon III. as a ruler of consummate wisdom.

There was much of sound sense as well as wit in the saying ascribed to
Thiers, that the second Empire had developed two great statesmen--Cavour
and Bismarck. I do not know of any one great idea, worthy of being
called a contribution to the science of government, which Louis Napoleon
has yet embodied, either in words or actions. The recent elections, and
the events succeeding them, only demonstrate the failure of Imperialism
or Cæsarism, after a trial and after opportunities such as it probably
will never have again in Europe. I certainly do not expect any complete
collapse during the present reign. Doubtless the machine will outlast
the third Emperor's time. He has sense and dexterity enough to trim his
sails to each breeze that passes, and he will, probably, hold the helm
till his right hand loses its cunning with its vital power. But I see no
evidence whatever which induces me to believe that he has founded a
dynasty or created an enduring system of any kind. Some day France will
shake off the whole thing like a nightmare. Meantime, however, I am
anxious to help in dethroning the Louis Napoleon of the journals rather
than him of the Tuileries. The latter has many good qualities which the
former is never allowed to exhibit. I believe the true Louis Napoleon
has a remarkably kind and generous heart; that he is very liberal and
charitable; that he has much affection in him, and is very faithful to
his old friends and old servants; that people who come near him love him
much; that he is free and kindly of speech; that his personal defects
are rather those of a warm and rash, than of a cold and stern nature.
But I think it is high time that we were done with the melodramatic,
dime-romance, darkly mysterious Louis Napoleon of the journals. He
belongs to the race of William Tell, of the Wandering Jew, the Flying
Dutchman, the Sphinx to whom he is so often compared, the mermaid, the
sea-serpent, Byron's Corsair, and Thaddeus of Warsaw.


There are certain men and women in history who seem to have a
peculiarity, independent of their merits or demerits, greatness or
littleness, virtues or crimes--a peculiarity which distinguishes them
from others as great or as little, as virtuous or as criminal. They are,
first and above all things, interesting. It is not easy to describe what
the elements are which make up this attribute. Certainly genius or
goodness, wit or wisdom, splendid public services, great beauty, or even
great suffering, will not always be enough to create it. The greatest
English king since the First Edward was assuredly William the Third; the
greatest military commanders England has ever had were Marlborough and
Wellington; but these three will hardly be called by any one interesting
personages in the sense in which I now use the word. Why Nelson should
be interesting and Wellington not so, Byron interesting and Wordsworth
not so, is perhaps easy enough to explain; but it is not quite easy to
see why Rousseau should be so much more interesting than Voltaire,
Goethe than Schiller, Mozart than Handel, and so on through a number of
illustrations, the accuracy of which nearly all persons would probably
acknowledge. Where history and public opinion and sentiment have to deal
with the lives and characters of women, the peculiarity becomes still
more deeply emphasized. What gifts, what graces, what rank, what
misfortunes have ever surrounded any queens or princesses known to
history with the interest which attaches to Mary Stuart and Marie
Antoinette? Lady Jane Grey was an incomparably nobler woman than either,
and suffered to the full as deeply as either; yet what place has she in
men's feelings and interest compared with theirs? Who cares about Anna
Boleyn, though she too shared a throne and mounted a scaffold?

_Absit omen!_ I am about to speak of an illustrious living lady, who has
in common with Mary Stuart and Marie Antoinette two things at least: she
has a French sovereign for a husband, and she has the fame of beauty.
But she has likewise that other peculiarity of which I spoke: she is
interesting. It is only speaking by the card to say that by far the most
interesting of all the imperial and royal ladies now living is Eugénie,
Empress of the French. I think there are princesses in Europe more
beautiful and even more graceful than she is, or than she ever could
have been; I fancy there are some much more highly gifted with
intellect; but there is no woman living in any European palace in whom
the general world feels half so much interest. There is not the
slightest reason to believe that she is a woman of really penetrating or
commanding intellect, and should she be happy enough to live out her
life in the Tuileries and die peacefully in her bed, history will find
but little to say about her, good or bad. Yet so long as her memory
remains in men's minds, it will be as that of a princess who had above
all things the gift of being interesting--the power of attracting toward
herself the eyes, the admiration, the curiosity, the wonder of all the
civilized world.

"We count time by heart-throbs, not by figures on a dial," says a poet
who once nearly secured immortality, Philip James Bailey. There
certainly are people whose age seems to defy counting by figures on a
dial. Ask anybody what two pictures are called up in his mind when he
hears the names of Queen Victoria and the Empress of the French, no
matter whether he has ever seen the two illustrious ladies or not. In
the case of the former I may safely venture to answer for him that he
sees the face and figure of a motherly, homely body; a woman who has got
quite beyond the age when people observe how she dresses; to whom
personal appearance is no longer of any importance or interest. In the
case of the latter he sees a dazzling court beauty; a woman who, though
not indeed in her youth, is still in a glorious prime; a woman to
captivate hearts, and inspire poets, and set scandal going, and adorn a
ball-room or a throne. The first instinctive idea would be, I think,
that the Empress of the French belonged positively to a later generation
than the good, unattractive, dowdyish Queen of England. Yet I believe
the difference in actual years is very slight. To be sure, you will find
in any almanac that Queen Victoria was born on the 24th of May, 1819,
and is consequently very near to fifty-one years of age; while the fair
Eugénie is set down as having been born on May 5th, 1826, and
consequently would now appear to be only in her forty-fourth year. But
then Queen Victoria was born in the purple, and cannot, poor thing, make
any attempt at reducing by one single year the full figure of her age.
History has taken an inexorable, ineffaceable note of the day and hour
of her birth; and even court flattery cannot affect to ignore the
record. Now Eugénie was born in happy obscurity; even the place of her
birth is not known by the public with that certainty which alone
satisfies sceptics; and I have heard that the date recorded as that of
her natal hour is only a graceful fiction, a pretty bit of polite
biography. Certainly I have heard it stoutly maintained that if any
historian or critic were now to be as ungallant in his researches as
John Wilson Croker was in the case of Lady Morgan (was it not Lady
Morgan?), he would find that the birth of the brilliant Empress of the
French would have to be dated back a few years, and that after all the
difference between her and the elderly Queen Victoria is less an affair
of time than of looks and of heart-throbs.

About a dozen years, I suppose, have passed away since I saw the Empress
Eugénie and Queen Victoria sitting side by side. Assuredly the
difference even then might well have been called a contrast, although
the Queen was in her happiest time, and has worn out terribly fast since
that period. But the quality which above all others Queen Victoria
wanted was just that in which the Empress of the French is supreme--the
quality of imperial, womanly grace. I have never been a rapturous
admirer of the beauty of the Empress; a certain narrowness of contour in
the face, the eyes too closely set together, and an appearance of
artificiality in every movement of the features, seem to me to detract
very much from the charms of her countenance. But her queenly grace of
gesture, of attitude, of form, of motion, must be admitted to be beyond
cavil, and superb. She looks just the woman on whom any sort of garment
would hang with grace and attractiveness; a blanket would become like a
regal mantle if it fell round her shoulders; I verily believe she would
actually look graceful in Mary Walker's costume, which I consider
decidedly the most detestable, in an artistic sense, ever yet indued by
mortal woman. Poor Queen Victoria looked awkward and homely indeed by
the side of this graceful, noble form; this figure that expressed so
well the combination of suppleness and affluence, of imperial dignity
and charming womanhood. Time has not of late spared the face of the
Empress of the French. Lines and hollows are growing fast there; the
bright eyes are sinking deeper into their places; the complexion is
fading and clouding; malicious people now say that, like that of the
lady in the "School for Scandal," it comes in the morning and goes in
the night; and the hair is apparently fast growing thin. But the grace
of form and movement is still there, unimpaired and unsurpassed. The
whitest and finest shoulders still surmount a noble bust, which, but
that its amplitude somewhat exceeds the severe proportions of antique
Grecian beauty, might be reproduced in marble to illustrate the contour
of a Venus or a Juno. I have seldom looked at the Empress of the French
or at any picture or bust of her without thinking how Mary Wortley
Montagu would have gone into bold and eloquent raptures over the superb
womanhood of that splendid form.

Well, the face always disappointed me at least. It seems to me cold,
artificial, narrow, insincere. It wants nobleness. It does not impress
me as being the face of a frivolous woman, a coquette, a court
butterfly; but rather that of one who is always playing a part which
sometimes wearies. If I were to form my own impressions of the Empress
of the French merely from her face, I should set her down as a keen,
politic woman, with brains enough to be crafty, not enough to be great.
I should set her down as a woman who needs and loves the stimulus of
incessant excitement, just as much as a certain class of actress does.
Indeed, I think I have seen in the face of more than one actress just
such an habitual expression, off the stage, as one may see in the
countenance of the French Empress. I fear that sweet and gracious smile,
which is said to be so captivating to those for whose immediate and
special homage it is put on, changes into sudden blankness or weariness
when its momentary business has been done. Sam Slick tells us of a lady
whose smile dropped from her face the moment the gazer's eyes were
withdrawn "like a petticoat when the strings break;" and if I might
apply this irreverent comparison to the smile of an Empress, I would say
that I think I have noted just such a change in the expression of the
brilliant Eugénie. Indeed, it must be a tiresome part, that which she
has had to play through all these resplendent years; a part thrilling
with danger, made thorny by many sharp vexations. Were the Empress of
the French the mere _belle_ of a court, she might doubtless have
joyfully swallowed all the bitternesses for the sake of the brightness
and splendor of her lot; were she a woman of high, imperial genius, a
Maria Theresa, an Anne of Austria, she might have found in the mere
enjoyment of power, or in the nobler aspirings of patriotism, abundant
compensation for her individual vexations. But being neither a mere
coquette nor a woman of genius, being neither great enough to rise
wholly above her personal troubles, nor small enough to creep under them
untouched, she must have suffered enough to render her life very often a
weary trial; and the traces of that weariness can be seen on her face
when the court look is dropped for a moment.

The Empress seems to have passed through three phases of character, or
at least to have made on the public opinion of France three successive
and different impressions. For a long time she was set down as a mere
coquette, a creature whose soul soared no higher than the aspiration
after a bonnet or a bracelet, whose utmost genius exhausted itself in
the invention of a crinoline. Indeed, it may be questioned whether any
invention known to modern Europe had so sudden and wonderful a success
or made the inventor so talked about as Eugénie's famous _jupon
d'acier_. A sour and cynical Republican of my acquaintance once declared
that anybody might have known the Empress to be a _parvenue_ by the mere
fact that she could and did invent a petticoat; for he maintained that
no born emperor or empress ever was known to have done even so much in
the way of invention. Decidedly, the Empress did a great deal of harm in
those her earlier and more brilliant days. To her influence and example
may be ascribed the passion for mere extravagance and variety of dress
which has spread of late years among all the fashionable and would-be
fashionable women of Europe and America. It is not too much to say that
the Empress of the French demoralized, in this sense, the womanhood of
two generations. How literally debauching her influence was to the
women immediately under its control, the women of the fashionable world
of Paris, I need not stop to tell. Graceful, gracious, and elegant as
she is, she did undoubtedly succeed in branding with a stamp of
vulgarity the brilliant court of the Second Empire. It is not wonderful
if scandal said coarse and bitter things about the goddess of
prodigality who presided over the revels of the Tuileries. The most
absurd stories used to be told of the amusements which went on in the
private gardens of the palace and in its inner circles; and the levity
and occasional flightiness of a vivacious young woman thirsting for
fresh gayeties and new excitements were perverted and magnified into
reckless and wanton extravagances. Of course it was inevitable that
there should be scandal over the birth of the Prince Imperial. Were the
Empress Eugénie chaste as ice, pure as unsunned snow, she could not,
under the circumstances, escape that calumny.

About the time of her sudden and mysterious escapade to London, the
Empress began to emerge a little from the character of a mere woman of
fashion, and to become known and felt as a politician. People say that
some at least of the influence and control which she began to obtain
over her husband was owing to her knowledge of his many infidelities and
his reluctance to provoke her into open quarrel. Unless Eugénie was
wholly free from the jealousy which is supposed to lie in the heart of
every other woman, she must have suffered cruelly in this way for many
years. In her own court circles, at her own side, were ladies whom
universal report designated as successive _maîtresses en titre_ of the
Emperor Napoleon. Stories, too, of his indulgence in low and gross
amours were told everywhere, and, true or false (charity itself could
not well doubt that some of them were true), must have reached the
Empress's ears. She suffered severely, and she took to politics--perhaps
as a harassed man sometimes takes to drinking. Her political influence
was, in its day, simply disastrous. She was always on the wrong side,
and she was always impetuous, unreasoning, and pertinacious, as cynical
people say is the way of women. She became a devotee of the narrowest
kind; and just as Madame de Maintenon's religious bigotry did infinitely
more harm to France than the vilest profligacy of a Pompadour or a
Dubarry could have done, so the religious fervor of the Empress Eugénie
threatened at one time to prove a worse thing for the State and for
Europe than if she had really carried on during all her lifetime the
palace orgies which her enemies ascribed to her. Reaction,
Ultramontanism, illiberalism, superstition, found a patroness and leader
in her. She fought for the continued occupation of Rome; she battled
against the unity of Italy; she recommended and urged the Mexican
expedition. Louis Napoleon is personally a good-natured, easy-going sort
of man, averse to domestic disputes, fully conscious, no doubt, of his
frequent liability to domestic censure. What wonder if European politics
sometimes had to suffer heavily for the tolerated presence of this or
that too notorious lady in the inner circles of the French court? "Who
is the Countess de ----?" I once asked of a Parisian friend who was
attached to the Imperial household--I was speaking of a lady whose
beauty and whose audacities of dress were then much talked of in the
French capital. "The latest favorite," was the reply. "I shouldn't
wonder if her presence at court cost another ten years of the occupation
of Rome."

With the Empress's introduction to politics and political intrigue, the
era of scandal seems to have closed for her. She dressed as brilliantly
and extravagantly as ever, and she would take as much pains about her
toilet for the benefit of Persigny and Baroche and Billault at a Council
of State as for a ball in the Tuileries. She received the same sort of
company, was surrounded by the same ladies and the same cavaliers as
ever. But she ceased to be herself a subject of scandal--a fact which is
not a little remarkable when one remembers how many bitter enemies she
made for herself at this period of her career. She seems to have
seriously contemplated the assumption of a great political and religious
part--the part of the patroness and protectress of the Papacy. I believe
she studied hard to educate herself for this part, and indeed for the
work in politics generally which devolved upon her. The position of
Vicegerent, assigned to her by the Emperor during his absence in the
Lombardy campaign, stirred up political ambition within her, and she
seems to have shown a remarkable aptitude for political work. She
certainly sustained the opinion expressed by John Stuart Mill in his
"Subjection of Women," that the business of politics, from which laws in
general shut women out, is just the one intellectual occupation in
which, whenever they have had a chance, they have proved themselves the
equals of men. When Eugénie was raised to the Imperial throne, she
appears to have had no better education than any young Spanish woman of
her class, and that certainly is not much. A lady once assured me that
she was one of a group who were presented to the Empress at the
Tuileries, and that there being in the group two beautiful girls from
America, to whom Eugénie desired to be particularly gracious, her
Imperial Majesty began to ask them several questions about their native
land, and astonished them almost beyond the capacity to reply by kindly
inquiring whether they had come from New York "over the sea, or over the
land." But the Empress has read up a good deal, and mastered much other
knowledge besides that of geography, since those salad days. Meanwhile,
she became more and more the divinity of the Ultramontanes; and the
French court presented the interesting spectacle of having two rival and
extreme parties, one led by the Emperor's wife, and the other by his
cousin, Prince Napoleon, between whom the Emperor himself maintained an
attitude something like that of the central figure in a game of seesaw.
I presume there can be little doubt that the Empress regarded her
husband's portly cousin with a cordial detestation. She is not a woman
endowed with a keen sense of humor, nor in any case would she be quite
likely to enjoy anything which was humorous at her own expense; and
Prince Napoleon is credited broadly with having said things concerning
her which doubtless made his friends and followers and boon companions
laugh, but which, reported to her, as they assuredly would be, must have
made her cheek flame and her lips quiver. Moreover, the Red Prince was
notoriously in the habit of turning into jest some things more sacred in
the eyes of the Imperial devotee than even her own reputation. She
feared his tongue, his reckless wit, his smouldering ambition. She
feared him for her boy, whose rival and enemy he might come to be; and
Prince Napoleon had more sons than one. Therefore the rivalry was keen
and bitter. She was for the Pope; he was for Italy and the Revolution.
She sympathized with the South in the American civil war; Prince
Napoleon was true to his principles and stood by the North. She favored
the Mexican enterprise; he opposed it. She was for all manner of
repressive action as regarded political speaking and writing; he was for
a free platform and free press. Her triumph came when, during the
Emperor's visit to Algeria, Prince Napoleon delivered his famous Ajaccio
speech--a speech terribly true and shockingly indiscreet--and was
punished by an Imperial rebuke, which led him to resign all his
political offices and withdraw absolutely from public life for several
successive years.

But just when the Empress seemed to have the field all to herself, her
political influence began somehow to wane. Perhaps she grew a little
weary of the work of statecraft; perhaps she had not been so successful
in some of her favorite projects as she had expected to be. The Mexican
expedition turned out a dismal, ghastly failure, and that enterprise had
always been regarded as the joint work of the two influences which
cynical people say have usually been most disastrous in politics--the
priest and the petticoat. Then the idea of working out the scheme of
European politics from the central point of the Tuileries was suddenly
exploded by the unexpected intrusion of Prussia, and the dazzling
victory in which the Bonaparte as well as the Hapsburg was overthrown
and humbled. The old framework of things was disjointed by this
surprising event. A new political centre of gravity had to be sought for
Europe. France was rudely pushed aside. The fair Empress, who had been
training herself for quite a different condition of things, found
herself now confronted by new, strange, and bewildering combinations.
One thing is highly to her credit. I have been assured by people who
claim to know something of the matter, that her earnest influence was
used to induce the French Government to accept, without remonstrance,
the new situation. While Louis Napoleon was committing the inexcusable
blunder of feeling his way towards a war with Prussia, and thereby
subjecting himself to the ignominy of having to draw hastily back, the
voice of the Empress, I am assured, was always raised for peace. But I
think the new situation was too much for her. She had made up for a game
of politics between the Pope and Italy; when other players and other
stakes appeared, the Empress was disinclined to undertake a new course
of education. She thereupon passed into the third phase--that of
philanthropic devotee, Lady Bountiful, and mother of her people; and
since then, if she cannot be said to have grown universally popular, she
may fairly be described as having got rid of nearly all her former
unpopularity. Her good deeds began to be magnified everywhere, and even
ancient enemies were content to sing her praises, or, at least, to hear
them sung.

Undoubtedly she has a kindly, charitable heart, and can do heroic as
well as graceful things. Her famous visitation of the cholera hospitals
may doubtless have been done partly for effect, but even in this sense
it showed a lofty appreciation of the duties of an Empress, and could
not have been conceived or carried out by an ignoble nature. When the
cholera appeared in Madrid, the fat, licentious woman who then cumbered
and disgraced the throne of Spain, fled in dismay from her capital; and
this act of peculiarly unwomanlike cowardice told heavily against her
and hurried her deeply down into that public contempt which is so fatal
to sovereigns. The Empress Eugénie, on the other hand, dignified and
served herself and her husband by her fearless exposure of her own life
in the cause of humanity and charity. Kindly and generous deeds of hers
are constantly reported in Paris, and these things go far in keeping up
the superstition of loyalty. Every one knows how gracious and winning
the Empress can be in her personal relations with those who approach
her. Sometimes her demeanor and actions come into sharp contrast with
those of other sovereigns in matters less momentous than the visiting of
death-charged hospital wards. I have heard of an American lady who once
made some rich and complete collections of specimens of American
foliage, collected them at immense labor, arranged them with exquisite
taste in two large and beautiful volumes, and sent one as an offering to
Queen Victoria, the other to the Empress of the French. From the British
court came back the volume itself, with a formal reply from an official
intimating that Her Majesty the Queen made it a rule not to accept such
gifts. From Paris came a letter of genial, graceful acceptance, written
by the Empress Eugénie herself, full of good taste, good feeling, and
courteous, ladylike expression. These are small things, but womanly tact
and grace seldom have much opportunity of expressing themselves save in
just such small things.

The Empress then has of late years faded a little out of political
life. I think it may be taken for granted that although she is a quick,
clever woman, with talents far beyond the mere inventing of bonnets and
petticoats, she is not gifted with any political genius, not qualified
to see quickly into the heart of a difficult question, not endowed with
the capacity to surmount a great crisis. I have never heard anything
which induces me to think that Eugénie's intellect and power would count
for much in the chances of the dynasty should Louis Napoleon die while
his son is yet a boy. Like Louis Napoleon himself, she was twice
misjudged: first when people set her down as an empty-headed coquette,
and next when they cried her up as a woman with a genius for government.
So far as one may venture to predict, I think she would not prove strong
enough for the place, if evil fortune should throw upon her the task of
preserving the throne for her boy.

Recent events seem to me to prove that the imperial system is less
strong and more shaky than most of us would have supposed six months
ago. I for one do fully believe that the recent disturbances are the
genuine indications of a profound and bitter popular discontent. I beg
the readers of THE GALAXY to be very cautious how they form an estimate
of the situation from the correspondence and editorial articles of the
London press. If the "Times" believes Bonapartism safe and strong in
Paris, I have only to remark that the "Times" believed the same, almost
up to the bitter end, of Bonapartism in Mexico. There are very few
London journals which can be trusted where the politics of France are
concerned. Not that the journals are bribed; everybody knowing anything
of the London press knows how absurd the idea of such bribery is; but
that all London Philistinism (and Philistinism does a good deal of the
writing for the London papers) considers it genteel and respectable, and
the right sort of thing generally, to go in for the Empire and sneer at
revolution. I have read with no little wonder many of the comments of
the London, and indeed some of the New York journals, on Henri Rochefort
and his colleagues. One would think that in order to prove a certain
revolutionary movement powerless and contemptible, you had only to show
that its leaders were themselves contemptible and disreputable persons.
Some of the journals here and in London write as if the Empire must be
safe because the satire of the "Lanterne" and the "Marseillaise" seems
to them coarse and witless, and because they have heard that Henri
Rochefort is an insincere man, of doubtful courage and tainted moral
character. One longs to ask whether the "Père Duchesne" and the "Vieux
Cordelier" were publications fit to be read in the drawing-rooms of
virtuous families; whether Mirabeau's private character was quite
blameless; whether Marat and Hébert had led reputable lives; whether
Camille Desmoulins was habitually received into the highest circles;
whether Théroigne de Méricourt was the sort of young woman one's wife
would like to invite to tea. The imbecility with which certain
journalists go on day after day trying to assure themselves and the
world that imperialism has nothing to fear at the hands of a movement
led by scurrilous and disreputable men, has something in it at once
amusing and provoking. The strength of a revolutionary movement is not
exactly to be estimated by the claims of its leaders to carry off the
_prix Monthyon_ or the Holy Grail. Perhaps if it were to be so
estimated, it would be hard to say where the victory should go in the
present instance. For the worst of Rochefort's colleagues have never
been accused of any profligacies and basenesses so bad as those which
universal public opinion ascribes to the leading Bonapartes and some of
their most influential supporters. Undoubtedly there is a great deal of
scurrility and even worse in the papers conducted by Rochefort. It is
not in good taste to go on asking who was the mother of De Morny, who
was the father of Walewski; how the present Walewski, Walewski _fils_,
comes to be called a count, and who was his mother, and so on; and the
direct and libellous attacks on the Empress are utterly indefensible. If
one were making up a memoir of Henri Rochefort, or engaged in a debating
society's controversy on his character, one would have to admit that he
is by no means a model demagogue, a pattern patriot. But one might at
the same time hint that, judging by historical precedent, he is probably
all the more formidable as a revolutionary leader for that very reason.
His literary attacks on the Government are by no means all vulgar, or
scurrilous, or contemptible. There was fresh and genuine humor as well
as telling satire in the "Lanterne's" early declaration of allegiance to
the Napoleons, the purport of which was that, feeling bound to express
his devotion to a Napoleon, Rochefort had selected as the object of his
loyal homage Napoleon the Second, the sovereign who never coerced the
press, or corrupted the Senate, or robbed the nation of its liberty, or
exiled its patriots, or carried on a Mexican expedition, or impoverished
the country to maintain a gigantic army. But there is one thing
certain--that whether Rochefort is witty or not, wise or not, he has
waked an echo throughout France and Europe in general which even very
wise and undeniably witty enemies of the Empire did not succeed in
creating. Nothing he has written will compare in artistic strength of
satire or invective with Victor Hugo's "Châtimens" or "Napoléon le
Petit." Eugène Pelletan's "Nouvelle Babylone" was a prolonged outpouring
of indignant eloquence by a gentleman, a scholar, and a thinker.
Rogeard's "Propos de Labienus" was a piece of really fine sarcasm. But
not the most celebrated of these attacks on the Empire created anything
like the sensation which Rochefort has succeeded in creating by the
constant "pegging away" of his bitter, envenomed, and unscrupulous pen.
Indeed, the reason is obvious--at least to those who, like me, believe
that the great mass of the Parisian population (the army, the officials,
and the priests not counted) are heartily sick of Bonapartism, and would
get rid of it if they could. Rochefort assails the Empire and the
Emperor in a style which they can understand. He is a master of a
certain kind of coarse, rasping ridicule, which delights the disaffected
_ouvrier_; and he has no scruple about assailing any weak place he can
find in his enemy, even though in doing so the heart of a woman has
likewise to be wounded. An angry and disaffected populace delights in
this kind of thing. The fact that Rochefort has created such a sensation
is the best proof in the world that the Parisian populace is angry and
disaffected. Rochefort has a happy gift of epithets, which goes a long
way with admirers and followers such as his. I doubt whether a whole
chapter could have described more accurately and vividly the person,
character, and career of Prince Pierre Bonaparte than Rochefort did when
he branded him as "a social bandit." Personally, Rochefort is not
qualified to be a demagogue in the sense that Danton was a demagogue,
and he can make no pretension to be a revolutionary leader of a high
class. But he can incite a populace, madden the hearts of disaffected
crowds, as the bitter tongue of a shrill woman might do, and as the
tongue of a great orator might perhaps fail to do. Doubtless Rochefort
and his literary sword-and-buckler men are not strong enough to create a
serious disturbance of themselves alone. But if a moment of general
uncertainty and unsettlement came, they might prove a dangerous
disturbing force. If, for example, there should come a crisis which of
itself rendered change of some kind necessary, when all the chances of
the future might depend upon a single hour or perhaps a single decisive
command, and when it was not certain who had the right, who would assume
the responsibility to give the command, then indeed the bitter screams,
and jeers, and invectives of these reckless literary bravos might have
much to do with the ordering of the situation. If, for example, the
Emperor were to die just now, who shall venture to say how much the
chances of the Empress and her son might not be affected at that moment
of terrible crisis by the pens and the tongues of Rochefort and his

Some time, in the natural course of things, the Empress may expect to
have to face such a crisis. It is highly probable that the time will
come while yet her boy is young and dependent upon her guardianship and
care. Has she won for herself the affection, confidence, and loyalty of
France, to such an extent that she could count upon national support? I
am convinced that she has not. She is much liked and even loved by those
who know her. They have countless anecdotes to tell of her affectionate
ways as a mother, of her generosity and kindness as a woman. But
although she has outlived many of the early prejudices against her, she
is still regarded with distrust and dislike by the older families of
France; and I am confident that a large proportion of the working
classes in Paris and the large towns delight to believe the worst things
that malice and slander can say to her detriment. The priests and the
shopkeepers are probably her best friends; but I am not aware that
priests and shopkeepers have ever proved themselves very powerful
bulwarks against sudden popular revolution. The generals and the army
might of course remain perfectly loyal to her; probably would if they
had no time to consider the situation, and there were no favorite rival
in the way (if Prince Napoleon, for example, were a brilliant soldier,
she would not have a ghost of a chance against him); but it must be
remembered that the loyalty of an army is something like the
epigrammatic description of the honor of a woman: when there is any
deliberation, it is likely to be lost; and the claims of the Empress are
certainly not such as absolutely to forbid deliberation and render it
impossible. Much of course would depend on the woman herself. There was
a moment when Catharine of Russia's unfortunate husband might have
carried all before him if he had only seized the chance; and he did not
seize it, and so lost all. There was a moment when Catharine might have
utterly failed if she had not risen to the height of the crisis, and
seized the opportunity with both hands; and she did rise to the height
of the crisis, did seize the opportunity, and so won all. Place Eugénie
in such a position, and is she a woman to win? Is she in fact a woman of
genius? I think not. Nothing that I have ever heard of her--and I have
known many who were her intimate friends--has led me to believe her
endowed with a quick, strong, commanding intellect. Mentally she seems
to be narrow and shallow; in temper she is quick, capricious, full of
warm personal affections and almost groundless personal dislikes. I have
a strong idea that no matter what the urgency of the crisis, she would
stay to make herself picturesque before taking any public action; and I
venture to think she would be guided by counsel only where she happened
to have a personal liking for the counsellor. She cannot, I fancy, be
trusted at a great crisis to make the fortune of her son. Enough if she
do not mar it at such a time.

Political considerations apart, one can only wish her well. Her face is
one which ought to smile sweetly and gracefully through history. If fate
and France will endure the Bonapartes for another generation or so,
there will be some consolation to gallant and romantic souls in the
thought that thereby this gracious, queenly woman will be allowed to
make a happy end of her brilliant, not untroubled life. Thus far we may,
in summing up her career, describe her, first, as a bright, vivacious
young coquette, with a dash of the adventuress about her, ranging the
world in search of a husband; then a woman suddenly and surprisingly
raised to the dazzling rank of an Empress, and a little bewildered by
the change; then a splendid leader of the world's fashion, magnificently
frivolous and heedless; then a political _intrigante_, the supreme
patroness of Ultramontanism; and now a quiet, queenly mother, verging
toward that kind of devoteeism in which some satirical person declares
that coquetry in France is sure to end. She is not a woman to make any
deep impression on history. She has neither gifts enough nor faults
enough. As a politician she has been a failure, and perhaps worse than a
failure; but she has been fortunate enough to escape from all public
responsibility for her mistakes, and may get quietly into history as
merely an intelligent, good-natured, and beautiful woman. Posterity will
probably see her and appreciate her sufficiently in her portrait by
Winterhalter: a name, a vague memory, and a smooth fair picture with
bright complexion, shining hair, and noble shoulders, alone carrying
down to other times the history of the Third Napoleon's wife. Only great
misfortunes could redeem her from this destiny of half oblivion; and
history has names enough that are burnt by misfortune into eternal
memory, and may well spare hers. One great claim she has to a liberal
construction of her character: her personal enemies are those who do not
know her well; her intimates seem to be always her friends. She has one
good quality, which her husband with all his faults likewise possesses:
she has never in her imperial splendor forgotten or neglected or been
ashamed of old acquaintances and friends. I have heard scores of
anecdotes from people who know her well--I have heard one such anecdote
since I began writing this article--which prove her to be entirely above
the mean and vulgar weakness of the _parvenu_, who shrinks in her
magnificence from any acquaintanceship or association likely to remind
her of less brilliant days. Taken on the whole, the Empress Eugénie is
better than her fortunes and her surroundings might have made her. She
is, I think, a woman much more deserving of respect than Josephine
Beauharnais, whose misfortunes, joined with the quiet pathetic dignity
of her retirement and her later years, have made the world forget the
levities, frivolities, and follies of her earlier life. She has shown a
quicker and better appreciation of the duties and difficulties of her
station, and the temper of the people among whom she had to live, than
was at any time shown by Marie Antoinette. Whether she could ever under
the most favorable conditions prove an Anne of Austria may well be
doubted; and we must all hope for her own sake that she may never be put
to the proof. She has at least made it clear that she is no mere Reine
Crinoline; she has shown that she possesses some heart, some courage,
and some brains; she has had sense enough to retrieve blunders, and
merit enough to live down calumny. The best thing one can hope for her
is that she may never again be placed in a position which would tempt
and allow her to make political influence the instrument of religious
bigotry. The greatest woman her native country ever produced, Isabella
of Castile, became with all her virtues and genius a curse to Spain,
because of her bigotry and her power; and there was a time when it
seemed as if the Empress Eugénie was likely to make for herself an
odious fame as the chief patroness of a conspiracy against the religious
and political liberties of the south of Europe. Let us hope that in her
future career she may be saved from any such temptation, and that she
may be kept as much as possible out of all political complications where
religion interferes; and if she be thus graced by fortune, it is all but
certain that whatever her future years may bring, she will deserve and
receive a genial record in the history of France.


"It is now sixteen or seventeen years," says Edmund Burke, in that
famous passage to which one is almost ashamed to allude any more, so
hackneyed has it been, "since first I saw the Queen of France, then the
Dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which
she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision." That glowing,
impassioned apostrophe did more to make partisans and admirers for poor
Marie Antoinette among all English-speaking peoples, probably for all
time, than any charms, or virtues, or misfortunes of the Queen and the
woman could have done. I can never of late read or recall to mind the
burning words of Burke, without thinking of a certain day in March some
seven years ago, when I stood on a platform in Trafalgar Square, London,
and saw a bright, beautiful young face smiling and bending to a vast
enthusiastic crowd on either side, and I, like everybody else, was
literally stricken with admiration of the beauty, the sweetness, and the
grace of the Princess Alexandra of Denmark. In truth, I am not in
general an enthusiast about princes or princesses; I do not believe that
the king's face usually gives grace. In this instance the beauty of the
Princess Alexandra had been so noisily trumpeted by literary lacqueys
already, that one's natural instinct was to feel disappointed, and to
say so, when the Princess herself came in sight. But it was impossible
to feel disappointment, or anything but admiration, at the sight of that
bright, fair face, so transparent in the clearness of its complexion, so
delicate and refined in its outlines, so sweet and gracious in its
expression. I think something like the old-fashioned, chivalric,
chimerical feeling of personal loyalty must have flamed up for the
moment that day in the hearts of many men, who perhaps would have been
ashamed to confess that their first experience of such an emotion was
due to a passing glimpse of the face of a pretty, tremulous girl.

If ours were days of augury, men might have shuddered at the omens which
accompanied the wedding ceremonies of the Prince and Princess of Wales.
When Goethe, then a youth, surveyed the preparations for the reception
of Marie Antoinette at Strasbourg, on her way to Paris, he observed
significantly on the inauspicious fact that in the grand chamber adorned
for her coming, the tapestry represented the wedding of Jason and Medea.
The civil authorities of London certainly did not greet the fair
stranger with any such grisly and ghastly emblazonings; but there were
other and even more inauspicious omens offered by chance and the hour.
The sky darkened, a dreary wind whistled; presently the rain came down
in drenching streams that would not abate. There was a mourning-garb at
the wedding--the black dress of the Queen, who would not lay aside her
widow's-weeds even for that hour; and the night of the wedding, when the
streets of London were illuminated, the crowd was so great that, as on a
memorable occasion in the early married life of Marie Antoinette, people
were crushed and trampled to death amid the universal jubilation.

Well, we defy augury, with Hamlet. But I think some at least in the
crowd who welcomed Alexandra felt a kind of doubt and pity as to her
future, which needed no inspiration from omens and superstition. No
foreign princess has ever been so popular in England as Alexandra; and
assuredly some at least of the affection felt for her springs from a
pity which, whether called for or not, is genuine and universal. The
last time I saw the Princess of Wales was within a very few days of my
leaving England to visit the United States. It was in Drury Lane
Theatre, then fitted up as an opera house in consequence of the recent
burning of Her Majesty's Theatre. The Prince of Wales, his wife, and one
of his sisters were in their box. I had not seen the Princess for some
time, and I was painfully impressed with the change which had come over
her. Remembering, as it was easy to do, the brightness of her beauty
during the early days of her marriage, there was something almost
shocking in the altered appearance of her face. It looked wasted and
haggard; the complexion, which used to be so dazzlingly fair, had grown
dull, and, if I may say so, discolored; and I must be ungracious enough
to declare bluntly that, to my eyes at least, there seemed little trace
indeed of the beauty of a few years before left in that dimmed and worn
countenance. "Only the eyes remained--they would not go." Of course, it
must be remembered that the Princess was then only just recovering from
a long, painful, and exhausting illness; and she may have--I truly hope
she has--since then regained all her brightness and beauty. In any case,
it would be unjust indeed to assume that the wasted look of the Princess
was to be attributed to domestic unhappiness. But even a very
matter-of-fact and unsentimental person, looking at her then, and
remembering what she so lately was, might be excused if he fancied that
some of the unpropitious omens which surrounded the Princess's marriage
had already begun to justify themselves in practical fulfilment.

For even at the time of the marriage of the Prince and Princess there
were not wanting prophets of evil who predicted that this royal union
would not prove much happier than state-made marriages commonly are.
Even then there were stories and reports afloat which ascribed to the
Prince habits and tendencies not likely to promote the domestic
happiness of a delicate and refined young wife, hardly more than a mere
child in years. Indeed, there was already considerable doubt in the
public mind as to the personal character of the Prince of Wales. He
certainly did not look a very intellectual or refined sort of person
even then, and some at least were inclined to think him, as Steerforth
says of little Em'ly's lover, "rather a chuckle-headed kind of fellow,"
to get such a girl. There was, certainly, a breath of serious distrust
abroad. On the Prince's coming of age, and again, I think, on the
announcement of his approaching marriage, the London daily papers had
set themselves to preaching sermons at him; and a very foolish chorus of
sermons that was which broke out from all those tongues together. The
only marked effect of this outburst of lay-preaching was, I fancy, to
impress the public mind with the idea that the Prince was really a very
much more dreadful young man than there was any good reason to believe
him. People naturally imagined that the writers who poured forth such
eloquent, wise, and suggestive admonitions must know a great deal more
than they felt disposed to hint at; whereas, I venture to think that, in
truth, the majority of the writers were disposed to hint at a great deal
more than they knew. For, indeed, almost all that is generally and
substantially known of the Prince of Wales has been learned and observed
since his marriage.

Still, even before, and long before the marriage, there were ominous
rumors. Those that I mention I give simply as rumors--not, indeed, the
mere babble of the streets, but as the kind of thing which people told
you who professed to know--the talk of the House of Commons, and the
clubs, and the fashionable drawing-rooms and smoking-rooms. People told
you that the Prince and his father had had many quarrels arising out of
the extravagance, dissipation, and wrong-headedness of the former; and
there was even a painful and cruel report thus whispered about that the
death of Prince Albert was the result of a cold he had taken from
walking incautiously in a heavy rain during excitement caused by a
quarrel with his son. Stories were told of this and that _amour_ and
_liaison_ in Ireland when the Prince of Wales was with the camp on the
Curragh of Kildare; of his excesses when he was a student at the
University; of his escapades at many other times and places. Certain
actresses of a low class, and other women of a still lower class, were
pointed out in London as special favorites of the Prince of Wales. Of
course every man of sense knew, first, that stories of this kind must be
taken with a large amount of allowance for exaggeration; and, next, that
the public must not expect all the virtues of a saint to belong to the
early years of a prince of the family of Guelph. In England public
opinion, although it has grown much more exacting of late years on the
score of decorum than it used to be, is still disposed to look over
without censure a good deal of extravagance and dissipation in young and
unmarried men, especially if they be men of rank. Therefore, if the
rumors which attended the early career of the Prince of Wales had not
followed him into his married years, the world would soon have forgotten
all about his youthful indiscretions. But it became a serious question
for the whole nation when it began to be whispered everywhere that the
Prince was growing worse instead of better during his married life, and
when to the suspicion that he was wasting his own youth and his own
credit came to be added the belief that he was neglecting and injuring
the young and beautiful woman whom state reasons had assigned to him as
a wife. In good truth, it is really a question of public and historical
interest whether the Queen of England is likely to be succeeded by an
Albert the Good or another George the Fourth; and I am not therefore
inviting the readers of THE GALAXY to descend to the useless discussion
of a mere piece of idle court scandal when I ask them to consider with
me the probabilities of the future from such survey as we can take of
the aspects of the present.

Those who saw the Prince of Wales when he visited this country, would
surely fail to recognize the slender, fair-haired, rather graceful youth
of that day in the heavy, fat, stolid, prematurely bald,
elderly-young-man of this. It would not be easy to see in any assembly a
more stupid-looking man than the Prince of Wales is now. On horseback he
shows to best advantage. He rides well, and the pleasure he takes in
riding lends something of animation to his usually inexpressive face.
But when his eyes and features lapse into their habitual condition of
indolent, good-natured, stolid repose, all light of intellect seems to
have been banished. The outline of the head and face, and the general
expression, seemed to me of late to be growing every day more and more
like the head and face of George the Third. Anybody who may happen to
have a shilling or half-crown of George the Third's time, can see on the
coin a very fair presentment of the countenance of the present
heir-apparent of the English throne. Whether the Prince of Wales
resembles George the Fourth in character and tastes or not, he certainly
does not resemble him in face. Even a court sycophant could not pretend
to see beauty or grace in our present Prince.

I think that to the eye of the cynic or the satirist the Prince of Wales
shows to greatest advantage when he sits in his box at an advanced hour
of some rather heavy classic opera, or has to endure a long succession
of speeches at a formal public dinner. The heavy head droops, the heavy
jaws hang, the languid eyes close, the heir-apparent sinks into a doze.
Loyalty itself can see nothing dignified or kingly in him then. I have
watched him thus as he sat in his box during some high-class, and to
him, doubtless, very heavy performance at the Italian opera, and have
thought that at times he might remind irreverent and disloyal observers
of Pickwick's immortal fat boy. I have sometimes observed that his
little dozes appeared to afford innocent amusement to his sisters, if
any of them happened to be in the box; and occasionally one of the
Princesses would playfully poke her slumbering brother in the princely
ribs, and the Heir of all the Ages would open his eyes and smile
languidly, and try to look at the stage and listen to the music; and
then, after a while, the heavy head would sink once more on the vast
expanse of shirt-front in which the Prince seems to delight, and the fat
boy would go to sleep again. But this would only happen at certain
performances. There were times when the Prince had eyes and ears open
and attentive, even in the opera house. His tastes in general, however,
are not for high art in music or the drama. He is very fond of the
little theatres where the vivacious blondes display their unconcealed
attractions. There are, as everybody knows, several minor theatres in
London where the audience, or, I should say more properly, the
spectators, will be found to consist chiefly of men, while, on the other
hand, the performers are chiefly women. These are the temples of the leg
drama. "_Pièce aux jambes? Pièce aux cuisses!_" indignantly exclaims
Eugene Pelletan, denouncing such performances in his "Nouvelle
Babylone"; and he goes on to add some cumulative illustrations which I
omit. Well, the Prince of Wales loves the _pièce aux jambes_, and the
theatres where it flourishes. He constantly visits theatres at which his
wife and sisters are never seen, and in which it would be idle to deny
that there are actresses who have made themselves conspicuous objects of
popular scandal.

Now, I am far from saying that this necessarily implies anything worse
than a low taste on the part of the Prince of Wales. But there are
stations in life which render private bad taste a public sin. In London,
of late, there has been a just outcry against a certain kind of
theatrical performance. It is held to be demoralizing and degrading that
the stage should be made simply a show-place for the exhibition of
half-naked women, for the audacious display of legs and bosoms. Now, I
beg to say for myself that I have entire faith in the dramatic as in
every other art; that I believe it always when truthfully pursued
vindicates itself, and that I think any costume which the true and
legitimate needs of the drama require is fitting, proper, and modest. I
regard the ballet, in its place, as a graceful and delightful
entertainment; and I do not believe that any healthy and pure mind ought
to be offended by the kind of costume which the dance requires. But
artists and moralists in London alike objected, and justly objected, to
performances the whole purpose, and business, and attraction of which
was the exhibition of a crowd of girls as nearly naked as they could
venture to show themselves in public.

Now this was undoubtedly the kind of exhibition which the Prince of
Wales especially favored and patronized. Night after night, even during
the long and lamentable illness of his young wife, he visited such
theatres, and gazed upon "those prodigies of myriad nakednesses."
Likewise did he much delight in the performances of Schneider--that high
priestess of the obscene, rich with the spoils of princes. I say
emphatically that there were actions, gestures, _bouffonneries_
performed amid peals of laughter and thunders of applause by this fat
Faustina in the St. James's Theatre, London, which were only fit to have
gladdened the revels of Sodom and Gomorrah. And this woman was,
artistically at least, the prime favorite of the Prince of Wales; and
when his brother, the Duke of Edinburgh, reached England for the first
time after his escape from the Fenian bullet in Sydney, the _par nobile
fratrum_ celebrated the auspicious event by hastening to the theatre
where Schneider kicked and wriggled and helped out the point of
lascivious songs by a running accompaniment of obscene gestures.

So much at least has to be said against the Prince of Wales, and cannot
be gainsaid. All that he could do by countenance and patronage to
encourage a debauching and degrading style of theatric entertainment, he
has done. He is said to be fond of the singing of the vulgar and low
buffoons of the music-halls, and to have had such persons brought
specially to his residence, Marlborough House, to sing for him. I have
been assured of this often by persons who professed to know; but I do
not know anything of it myself, nor is it indeed a matter of any
importance. The other facts are known to everybody who reads the London
papers. The manager or manageress of a theatre takes good care to
announce in the journals when a visit from the Prince of Wales has taken
place, and we all thus come to know how many times a week the little
theatric temples of nakedness have been honored by his presence.

Am I attaching too much importance to such matters as this? I think not.
The social influence and moral example of a royal personage in England
are now almost the only agencies by which the royal personage can affect
us for good or evil. I hold that no man thoughtful or prudent enough, no
matter what his morals, to be fit to occupy the position assigned to the
Prince of Wales, would be guilty of lending his public and constant
patronage to such exhibitions and amusements as those which he
especially patronizes. Moreover, the Prince has often shown a disregard,
either cynical or stupid--probably the latter--for public opinion, a
heedlessness of public scandal, in other matters as well. He has made
companionship for himself among young noblemen conspicuous for their
debauchery. At a time, not very long ago, when the Divorce Court was
occupied with the hearing of a scandalous cause, in which a certain
young duke figured most prominently and disgracefully, this young duke
was daily and nightly to be seen the close companion of the Prince of

Let me touch upon another subject, of a somewhat delicate nature. I have
said that there were times when our Prince was always wide awake at the
opera house. There is a certain brilliant and capricious little singer
whom all England and Germany much admire, and who in certain operatic
parts has, I think, no rival. Now, public scandal said that the Prince
of Wales greatly admired this lady, and paid her the most marked
attentions. Public scandal, indeed, said a great deal more. I hasten to
record my conviction that, so far as the fair artiste was concerned, the
scandal was wholly unfounded, and that she is a woman of pure character
and honor. But the Prince was credited with a special admiration for
her; and I am sure the Prince's father under such circumstances would
have taken good care to lend no foundation, afford no excuse, for
scandal to rest upon. Now, I speak of what I have myself observed when I
say that the Prince of Wales, whenever he had an opportunity, always
demeaned himself as if he really desired to give the public good reason
for believing the scandal, or as if he was too far gone in infatuation
to be able to govern his actions. For he was always at the opera when
this lady sang; and he always conducted himself as if he wished to
blazon to the world his ostentatious and demonstrative admiration. When
the prima donna went off the stage, the Prince disappeared from his box;
when she came on the stage again, he returned to his seat; he lingered
behind all his party at the end, that he might give the last note of
applause to the disappearing singer; he made a more pertinacious show of
his enthusiasm than even the military admirer of Miss Snevellicci was
accustomed to do. Now, all this may have been only stolidity or
silliness, and may not have denoted anything like cynicism or coarse
disdain of public opinion; but whatever it indicated, it certainly did
not, I think, testify to the existence of qualities likely to be found
admirable or desirable in the heir to a throne.

Of the truth or falsehood of the private scandals in general circulation
concerning the Prince of Wales I know nothing whatever. But everybody in
England is aware that such stories are told, and can name and point out
this or that titled lady as the heroine of each particular story. It
need hardly be said that when a man acquires the sort of reputation
which attaches to the Prince of Wales, nothing could be more unjust or
unreasonable than to accept, without some very strong ground of belief,
any story which couples his name with that of any woman belonging to the
society in which he moves. Obviously, it would be enough, in the eyes of
an English crowd, that the Prince should now pay any friendly attention
to any handsome duchess or countess in order to convert her into an
object of scandal. I am myself morally convinced that some of the titled
ladies who are broadly and persistently set down by British gossip as
mistresses of the Prince of Wales are as innocent of such a charge as if
they had never been within a thousand miles of a court. But the Prince
is a little unlucky wherever he goes, for scandal appears to pursue him
as Horace's black care follows the horseman. When the Prince of Wales
happens to be in Paris, he seems to be surrounded at once by the same
atmosphere of suspicion and evil report. Some two years ago I chanced to
be in Paris at the time the Prince was there, and I can answer for it
that observers who had never heard or read of the common gossip of
London formed the same impression of his general character that the
public of London had already adopted. The Prince was then paying special
attention to a brilliant and beautiful lady moving in the court circles
of the French capital, a lady who had but very recently distinguished
herself by appearing at one of the fancy balls of the Tuileries in the
character of the Archangel Michael or Raphael--it does not much matter
which--and attired in a costume which left the company no possibility of
doubting the symmetry of her limbs and the general shapeliness of her
person. Malicious satirists circulated thereupon an announcement that
the lady was to appear at the next fancy ball as "La Source," the
beautiful naked nymph so exquisitely painted by Ingres. This lady
received the special attentions of the Prince of Wales. He followed her,
people said, like her shadow; and a smart pun was soon in circulation,
which I refrain from giving because it contrives ingeniously to blend
with his name the name of the lady in question, and I am not writing a
scandalous chronicle. This was the time when the Prince made his royal
mother so very angry by attending the Chantilly races on a Sunday. When
he came back to London he had to take part in some public ceremonial--I
forget now what it was--at which the Queen had consented to be present.
Her Majesty was present, and I have been assured by a friend who stood
quite near that a sort of little scene was enacted which much
embarrassed those who had to take part in the official pageantry of the
occasion. Up came the Prince, who had travelled in hot haste from Paris,
and with a somewhat abashed and sheepish air approached his royal
mother. She looked at him angrily, and turned away. The Duke of
Cambridge, her cousin, made an awkward effort to mend matters by
bringing up the Prince again, and with the action of a friendly and
deprecating intercessor presenting the delinquent. This time, I am
assured, the Queen, with determined and angry gestures, and some words
spoken in a low tone, repelled intercessor and offender at once; and the
Prince of Wales retired before the threatened storm. The Duke of
Edinburgh, who had been lingering a little in the background--he, too,
had just come from Paris, and he had been to Chantilly--anxious to see
what kind of reception would be accorded to his brother, thought,
apparently, that he had seen enough to warrant him in keeping himself at
a modest distance on that occasion, and not encountering the terrors of
what Thackeray, in "The Rose and the Ring," describes as "the royal

I have little doubt that Queen Victoria is a somewhat rigorous and
exacting mother, and I should be far from accepting her frown as
decisive with regard to the delinquencies of one of her sons.
Cigar-smoking alone would probably be accounted by the Queen a sin
hardly allowing of pardon. Her husband, Prince Albert, was a man so pure
of life, so free from nearly all the positive errors of manhood, so
remarkably endowed with at least all the negative virtues, that his
companionship might easily have spoiled her for the toleration of
natures less calm and orderly. I suspect that the Queen is one of that
class of thoroughly good women who, from mere lack of wide sympathies
and genial toleration, are not qualified to deal to the best advantage
with children who show a little inclination for irregularity and
self-indulgence. Nor do I believe that the Prince of Wales is the wicked
and brutal profligate that common libel makes him out. The shocking
story which one sees so often alluded to in the London correspondence of
certain American papers, and which attributes the long illness of the
Princess of Wales to the misconduct of her husband, I believe to be
utterly unfounded and unjustifiable. One of the London medical journals,
the "Lancet" I think it was, had the courage to refer directly to this
monstrous statement, and to give it an emphatic and authoritative
refutation. If the worst things said of the Prince of Wales with any
appearance of foundation were true, it is certain that he would still
not be any worse than many other European princes and sovereigns. I have
never heard anything said of the Prince of Wales half so bad as the
stories which are believed everywhere in Paris of the enormous
profligacies of Prince Napoleon; and it would be hardly possible for
charity itself to doubt that up to a very recent period the private life
of the Emperor of the French himself was stained with frequent and
reckless dissipation. Those who were in Vienna anywhere about the autumn
of 1866, will remember the stories which were told about the fatal
results of the exalted military command given by the imperial will to
certain favored generals, and the kind of influence by which those
generals had acquired imperial favor. Common report certainly describes
the Empress of Austria as being no happier in her domestic relations
than the Princess of Wales. Everybody knows what Victor Emanuel's
private character is, and what sort of hopeful youth is his eldest son,
Umberto. Therefore, the Prince of Wales could doubtless plead that he is
no worse than his neighbors; and even in his own family he might point
to other members no better than himself. The Duke of Cambridge, for
instance, has often been accused of profligacy and profligate
favoritism. I wish I could venture to repeat here, for the sake of the
genuine wit and keen satire of it, a certain epigram in Latin, composed
by an English military officer, to describe the influence which brought
about the sudden and remarkable promotion of another officer who was not
believed to be personally quite deserving of the rank conferred on him
by the Duke of Cambridge, commander-in-chief of the British army. But
the position of the Prince of Wales is very different from that of the
Duke of Cambridge, and he has to face a public opinion quite unlike that
which surrounds Prince Napoleon or the Emperor of the French. People in
France are not inclined to make any very serious complaint about the
amours of a prince, or even of an emperor. I do not venture to say that
there is much more of actual immorality in Paris than in London; but,
assuredly, a man may, without harm to his public and political
influence, acknowledge an amount of immorality in Paris which would be
utterly fatal to his credit and reputation in London. Moreover, some of
the illustrious profligates I have mentioned are distinguished by other
qualities as well as profligacy; but I cannot say that I have ever heard
any positively good quality, either of heart or intellect, ascribed to
the Prince of Wales.

Unless his face, his head, his manners in public, and the tastes he so
conspicuously manifests wholly belie him, the heir to the British throne
is a remarkably dull young man. He cannot even deliver with any decent
imitation of intelligence the little speeches which Arthur Helps or
somebody else usually gets up for him when the exigencies of the
situation compel the Prince to make a speech in public. He is reputed to
be parsimonious even in his pleasures, and has managed to get himself
deeply into debt without being supposed to have wasted any of his
substance in obedience to a generous impulse. The Prince inherited a
splendid property. His prudent father had looked well after the revenues
of the duchy of Cornwall, which is the appanage of the Prince of Wales
(even in some very dingy parts of London you may if you hire a house
find that you have the Prince of Wales for a landlord), and the property
of the heir must have been raised to its very highest value. Yet it is
notorious that a very few years after he had attained his majority,
Albert Edward had contrived to get deeply immersed in debt. There was
for some time a scheme in contemplation to apply to Parliament for an
addition to the huge allowance made to the Prince of Wales; and the
"Times" and other newspapers were always urging the fact that the Queen
left the Prince to perform nearly all her social duties for her, as a
reason why the nation ought to award him an augmented income. It puzzles
people in London, who read the papers and who study, as most Britons do,
the occupations and pastimes of royalty, to know where the lavish and
regal hospitalities take place which the Prince of Wales is supposed to
dispense on behalf of his mother. However, the project for appealing to
the generosity of Parliament seems to have been put aside or to have
fallen through--I have read somewhere that the Queen herself has agreed
to increase her son's allowance out of her own ample and well-hoarded
purse--and the English public are not likely to be treated to any
Parliamentary debate on the subject just yet. But this much is certain,
that the same almost universal rumor which attributes coarse and
dissipated habits to the Prince of Wales attributes to him likewise a
mean and stingy parsimony where aught save his own pleasure is
concerned; and even there, if by any possibility the pleasure can be
obtained without superfluous cost.

This then is the character which the son of the Queen of England bears,
in the estimation of the vast majority of his mother's subjects. Almost
any and every one you meet in London will tell you, as something beyond
doubt, that the Prince of Wales is dull, stingy, coarse, and profligate.
As for the anecdotes which are told of his habits and tastes by the
artists and officials of the theatres which he frequents, I might fairly
leave them out of the question, because most of them that I have heard
seem to me obvious improbabilities and exaggerations. They have
nevertheless a certain value in helping us to a sort of historical
estimate of the Prince's character. Half the stories told of the humors
and debaucheries of Sheridan and Fox are doubtless inventions or
exaggerations; but we are quite safe in assuming that the persons of
whom such stories abound were not frugal, temperate, and orderly men. If
the Prince of Wales is not a young man of dissipated habits, then a
phenomenon is exhibited in his case which is, I fancy, without any
parallel in history--the phenomenon of a whole watchful nation,
studying the character and habits of one whose position compels him to
live as in a house of glass, and coming, after years of observation, to
a conclusion at once unanimous and erroneous. But were it proved beyond
the remotest possibility of doubt that the Prince is personally chaste
as a Joseph, temperate as Father Mathew, tender to his wife as the elder
Hamlet, attached to his mother as Hamlet the younger, it would still
remain a fact indisputable to all of us in London, who have eyes to see
and ears to hear, that the Prince is addicted to vulgar amusements; that
he patronizes indecent exhibitions; that he is given to the
companionship of profligate men, and lends his helping hand to the
success and the popularity of immoral and lascivious women.

What is to be the effect upon England of the reign of the Prince of
Wales? Will England and her statesmen endure the rule of a profligate
sovereign? No country can have undergone in equal time a greater
revolution in public taste and sentiment at least, if not in morals,
than England has since the time of George the Fourth. No genius, no
eloquence, no political wisdom or merits could now induce the English
people to put up with the open and undisguised excesses of a Fox; nor
could any English statesman of the rank of Fox be found now who would
condescend to pander to the vices of a George the Fourth. Thirty years
of decorum in the Court, the Parliament, and the press have created a
public feeling in England which will not long bear to be too openly
offended by any one. But, although I may seem at first to be enunciating
a paradox, I must say that all this is rather in favor of the chances of
the Prince of Wales than against them. It will take so small a sacrifice
on his part to satisfy everybody, that only the very extravagance of
folly could lead him long astray on any unsatisfactory course, when once
he has become directly responsible to the nation. We are not exacting in
England as regards the private conduct of our great people. We only ask
them to be publicly decorous. Everywhere in English society there is a
quite unconscious, naive sort of Pharisaism, the unavowed but actual
principle of which is that it matters very little if a man does the
wrong thing, provided he publicly acts and says the right thing. I am
perfectly satisfied that the great bulk of respectable and Philistine
society in England would regard Robert Dale Owen, with his pure life and
his views on the question of divorce, as a far more objectionable person
than the veriest profligate who did evil stealthily, and professed to
maintain the theory of a rigid marriage bond. The Prince of Wales will
therefore need very little actual improvement in his way of life, in
order to be all that his future subjects will expect, or care to ask. No
one wants the Prince to be a man of ability; no one wishes him to be a
good speaker. If Albert Edward were to rise in the House of Lords some
night, and deliver a powerful and eloquent speech, as Prince Napoleon
has often done in the French Senate, the English public would be not
only surprised but shocked. Such a feat performed by a Prince would seem
almost as much out of place, as if he were to follow the example of
Caligula or Nero and exhibit himself in the arena as a gladiator. Of
course the idea of the Prince of Wales fulminating against the policy of
the Crown and the Government, after the fashion of Prince Napoleon,
would be simply intolerable to the British mind of to-day--a thing so
outrageous as indeed to be practically inconceivable. The Prince of
Wales's part during the coming years, whether as first subject or as
ruler, is as easy as could well be assigned to man. It is the very
reverse of Bottom's; it is to avoid all roaring. He must be decorous,
and we will put up with any degree of dulness; he must be decent, and we
will all agree to know nothing of any private compensations wherewith he
may repay himself for public propriety. All the influences of English
statesmanship, rank, religion, journalism, patriotism, Philistinism, and
flunkeyism, will instinctively combine to screen the throne against
scandal, if only the throne will consent to allow of the possibility of
such a protection. I have hardly ever known an Englishman whose
hostility to monarchical institutions went so far that he would not be
ready to say, "We have got a monarchy; let us try to make the best we
can of it." Therefore the Prince of Wales must be the very Marplot or
L'Etourdi of princes, if he cannot contrive to make himself endurable to
a people who will bear so much rather than be at the trouble of a
change. Of course it is possible that his faults may become grosser and
more unmanageable with years (indeed, he is quite old enough already to
have sown his wild oats long since); and it would be a hard trial upon
decorous English statesmen and the English public to endure an openly
profligate King. Yet even that nuisance I think would be endured for one
lifetime at all events, rather than encounter the danger and trouble of
any organic change.

So long as the Prince of Wales keeps out of politics, he may hold his
place well enough; the England of to-day could far better endure even a
George the Fourth than a George the Third. I have little doubt that the
Prince of Wales, when he comes to be King, will be discreet in this
matter at least. He has never indeed shown any particular interest in
political affairs, so far as I have heard. He seems to care little or
nothing about the contests of parties. Some three or four years ago, at
the time of the celebrated Adullamite secession from the Liberal party,
there was some grumbling among Radicals because it was reported that the
Prince of Wales had expressed a wish to make the acquaintance of Robert
Lowe, the brilliant, eccentric chief of the secession, and had had Lowe
brought to him and spent a long time talking with him; and it was urged
that this was done by the Prince to mark his approval of the Adullamites
and his dislike of radicalism. But just about the very same time the
Prince took some trouble to make the acquaintance of John Bright, and
paid what might have been considered very flattering attentions to the
great popular tribune. The Prince has more than once visited the Pope,
and he has likewise more than once visited Garibaldi. Indeed, he seems
to have a harmless liking for knowing personally all people who are
talked about; and I fancy he hunted up the Pope, and Garibaldi, and John
Bright, and Robert Lowe, just as he sends for Mr. Toole the comic actor,
or Blondin, or Chang the giant. Nothing can be safer and better for the
Prince in the future than to keep to this wholesome indifference to
politics. In England we could stand any length of the reign of King Log.
I shall not venture to conjecture what might happen if the Prince of
Wales were to develop a perverse inclination to "meddle and muddle" in
politics, because I think such a thing highly improbable. My impression
is, on the whole, that things will go on under the reign of the next
sovereign in England very much as they have been going on under the
present; that the Prince of Wales will be induced to pay a little more
attention to decorum and public propriety than he has hitherto done; and
that the people of England will laugh at him and cheer for him, talk
scandal about him and sing God save him, and finally endure him, on
somewhat the same principle as that which induces the New York public to
endure overcrowded street-cars and miserable postal arrangements--just
because it is less trouble to each individual to put up with his share
of a defective institution, than to go out of his way for the purpose of
endeavoring to organize any combination to get rid of it.


Ronsard, in one of his songs addressed to his mistress, tells her that
in her declining years she will be able to boast that "When I was young
a poet sang of me." In a less romantic spirit the writer of this article
may boast in old age, should he attain to such blest condition, that
"When I was young a king spoke to me." That was the only king or
sovereign of any kind with whom I ever exchanged a word, and therefore I
may perhaps be allowed to be proud of the occasion and reluctant to let
it sleep in oblivion. The king was William, King of Prussia, and the
occasion of my being spoken to by a sovereign was when I, with some
other journalists, was formally presented to King William after his
coronation, and listened to a word or two of commonplace, good-humored

The coronation of King William took place, as many readers of THE GALAXY
are probably aware, in the old historic town of Königsberg, on the
extreme northeastern frontier of Prussia, a town standing on one of the
inlets of the Baltic Sea, where once the Teutonic Knights, mentioned by
Chaucer, were powerful. Carlyle's "Frederick the Great" had brought
Königsberg prominently before the eyes and minds of English-speaking
readers, just previously to the ceremony in which King William was the
most conspicuous performer. It is the city where Immanuel Kant passed
his long and fruitful life, and which he never quitted. It is a
picturesque city in its way, although not to be compared with its
neighbor Dantzic. It is a city of canals and streams, and many bridges,
and quaint, narrow, crooked streets, wherein are frequent long-bearded
and gabardined Jews, and where Hebrew inscriptions are seen over many
shop-windows and on various door-plates. In its centre the city is
domineered over by a Schloss, or castle-palace, and it was in the chapel
of this palace that the ceremony of coronation took place, which
provoked at the time so many sharp criticisms and so much of popular

The first time I saw the King was when he rode in procession through the
ancient city, some two or three days before the performance of the
coronation. He seemed a fine, dignified, handsome, somewhat bluff old
man--he was then sixty-four or sixty-five years of age--with gray hair
and gray moustache, and an expression which, if it did not denote
intellectual power, had much of cheerful strength and the charm of a
certain kind of frank manhood about it. He rode well--riding is one of
the accomplishments in which kings almost always excel--and his military
costume became him. Certainly no one was just then disposed to be very
enthusiastic about him, but every one was inclined to make the best of
the sovereign and the situation; to forget the past and look hopefully
into the future. The manner in which the coronation ceremony was
conducted, and the speech which the King delivered soon after it,
produced a terrible shock of disappointment; for in each the King
manifested that he understood the crown to be a gift not from his
people, but from heaven. To me the ceremonies in the chapel, splendid
and picturesque as was the _mise en scène_, appeared absurd and even
ridiculous. The King, bedizened in a regal costume which suggested Drury
Lane or Niblo's Garden, lifting a crown from off the altar (was it, by
the way, an altar?) and, without intervention of human aid other than
his own hands, placing it upon his head, to signify that he had his
crown from heaven, not from man; then putting another crown upon the
head of his wife, to show that _she_ derived her dignities from him; and
then turning round and brandishing a gigantic sword, as symbolical of
his readiness to defend his State and people--all this seemed to me too
suggestive of the _opéra comique_ to suit the simple dignity of the
handsome old soldier. Far better and nobler did he look in his military
uniform and with his spiked helmet, as he sat on his horse in the
streets, than when, arrayed in crimson velvet cloak and other such stage
paraphernalia of conventional royalty, he stood in the castle chapel,
the central figure in a ceremonial of mediæval splendor and worse than
mediæval tediousness.

But the King's face, bearing, and manner, as I saw him in Königsberg,
and immediately afterwards in Berlin, agreeably disappointed me. It was
one of the best faces to be seen among all the throng at banquet and
ball and pageant during those days of gorgeous and heavy ceremonial. At
the coronation performances there were two other personages who may be
said to have divided public curiosity and interest with the King. One
was the illustrious Meyerbeer, who composed and conducted the coronation
ode, which thus became almost his swan-song, his latest notes before
death. The other was a man whose name has lately again divided attention
with that of the King of Prussia--Marshal MacMahon, Duke of Magenta.
MacMahon was sent to represent the Emperor of the French at the
coronation, and he was then almost fresh from the glory of his Lombardy
battles. There was great curiosity among the Königsberg public to get a
glimpse of this military hero; and although even Prussians could hardly
be supposed to take delight in a fame acquired at the expense of other
Germans, I remember being much struck by the quiet, candid good-humor
with which people acknowledged that he had beaten their countrymen.
There was, indeed, a little vexation and anger felt when some of the
representatives of Posen, the Prussian Poland, cheered somewhat too
significantly for MacMahon as he drove in his carriage from the palace.
The Prussians generally felt annoyed that the Poles should have thus
publicly and ostentatiously demonstrated their sympathy with France and
their admiration of the French general who had defeated a German army.
But except for this little ebullition of feeling, natural enough on both
sides, MacMahon was a popular figure at the King's coronation; and
before the ceremonies were over, the King himself had become anything
but popular. The foreigners liked him for the most part because his
manners were plain, frank, hearty, and agreeable, and to the foreigners
it was a matter of little consequence what he said or did in the
accepting of his crown. But the Germans winced under his blunt
repudiation of the principle of popular sovereignty, and in the minds of
some alarmists painful and odious memories began to revive and to
transform themselves into terrible omens for the future.

For this pleasant, genial, gray-haired man, whose smile had so much of
honest frankness and even a certain simple sweetness about it, had a
grim and bloodstained history behind him. Not Napoleon the Third himself
bore a more ominous record when he ascended the throne. The blood of the
Berliners was purple on those hands which now gave so kindly and cheery
a welcome to all comers. The revolutionists of Baden held in bitter hate
the stern prince who was so unscrupulous in his mode of crushing out
popular agitation. From Cologne to Königsberg, from Hamburg to Trieste,
all Germans had for years had reason only too strong to regard William
Prince of Prussia as the most resolute and relentless enemy of popular
liberty. When the Pope was inspiring the hearts of freemen and patriots
everywhere in Europe with sudden and splendid hopes doomed to speedy
disappointment, the Prince of Prussia was execrated with the Hapsburgs,
the Bourbons, and the Romanoffs. The one only thing commonly said in his
favor was that he was honest and would keep his word. The late Earl of
Clarendon, one of the most incautious and blundering of diplomatists
(whom after his death the English newspapers have been eulogizing as a
very sage and prince of statesmen), embodied this opinion sharply in a
few words which he spoke to a friend of mine in Königsberg. Clarendon
represented Queen Victoria at the coronation ceremonies, and my friend
happened in conversation with him to be expressing a highly disparaging
opinion of the King of Prussia. "There is just this to be said of him,"
the British Envoy remarked aloud in the centre of a somewhat
miscellaneous group of listeners--"he is an honest man and a man of his
word; he is not a Corsican conspirator."

Yes, this was and is the character of the King of Prussia. In good and
evil he kept his word. You might trust him to do as he had said. During
the greater part of his life the things he promised to do and did were
not such as free men could approve. He set out in life with a genuine
detestation of liberal principles and of anything that suggested popular
revolution. William of Prussia is certainly not a man of intellect or
broad intelligence or flexibility of mind. He would be in private life a
respectable, steady, rather dull sort of man, honest as the sun, just as
likely to go wrong as right in his opinions, perhaps indeed a shade more
likely to go wrong than right, and sure to be doggedly obstinate in any
opinion which he conceived to be founded on a principle. Horror of
revolution was naturally his earliest public sentiment. He was one of
the princes who entered Paris in 1815 with the allied sovereigns when
they came to stamp out Bonapartism; and he seemed to have gone on to
late manhood with the conviction that the mission of honest kings was to
prevent popular agitation from threatening the divine right of the
throne. Naturally enough, a man of such a character, whose chief merits
were steadfastness and honesty, was much disgusted by the vacillation,
the weakness, the half-unconscious deceitfulness of his brother, the
late Frederick William. Poor Frederick William! well-meaning, ill-doing
dreamer, "wind-changing" as Warwick, a sort of René of Anjou placed in a
responsible position and cast into a stormy age. What blighted hopes and
bloody streets were justly laid to his charge--to the charge of him who
asked nothing better than to be able to oblige everybody and make all
his people happy! Frederick William loved poetry and poets in a feeble,
_dilettante_ sort of way. He liked, one might say, to be thought to like
the Muses and the Graces. He used to insist upon Tieck the poet reading
aloud his new compositions to the royal circle of evenings; and when the
bard began to read the King would immediately fall asleep, and nod until
he nodded himself into wakefulness again; and then he would start up and
say, "Bravo, Tieck! Delightful, Tieck! Go on reading, Tieck!" and then
to sleep again. He liked in this sort of fashion the poetic and
sentimental aspects of revolution, and he dandled popular movements on
his royal knee until they became too demonstrative and frightened him,
and then he shook them off and shrieked for the aid of his strong-nerved
brother. One day Frederick William would be all for popular government
and representative monarchy, and what not; the next day he became
alarmed and receded, and was eager to crush the hopes he had himself
awakened. He was always breaking his word to his people and his country,
and yet he was not personally an untruthful man like English Charles the
First. In private life he would have been amiable, respectable, gently
æsthetical and sentimental; placed in a position of responsibility amid
the seething passions and conflicting political currents of 1848, he
proved himself a very dastard and caitiff. Germany could hardly have
had upon the throne of Prussia a worse man for such a crisis. He was
unlucky in every way; for his vacillation drew on him the repute of
hypocrisy, and his whimsical excitable manners procured for him the
reproach of intemperance. A sincerely pious man in his way, he was
almost universally set down as a hypocrite; a sober man who only drank
wine medicinally on the order of his physicians, he was favored
throughout Europe with the nickname of "King Clicquot." His utter
imbecility before and after the massacre of those whom he called his
"beloved Berliners," made him more detestable to Berlin than was his
blunt and stern brother, the present King, who gave with his own lips
the orders which opened fire on the population. A more unkingly figure
than that of poor, weak, well-intentioned, sentimental, lachrymose
Frederick William, never in our days at least has been seen under a
royal canopy.

It was but natural that such a character or no-character as this should
disgust his brother and successor, the present King. Frederick William,
as everybody knows, had no son to succeed him. The stout-hearted William
would have liked his brother and sovereign to be one thing or the other;
a despot of course he would have preferred, but he desired consistency
and steadfastness on whatever side. William, it must be owned, was for
many years a downright stupid, despotic old feudalist. At one of his
brother's councils he flung his sword upon the table and vowed that he
would rather appeal to that weapon than consent to rule over a people
who dared to claim the right of voting their own taxes. He appears to
have had the sincere stupid faith that Heaven directly tells or teaches
kings how to rule, and that a king fails in his religious duty who takes
counsel of aught save his own convictions. Perhaps a good many people in
lowlier life are like William of Prussia in this respect. He certainly
was not the only person in our time who habitually accepted his own
likings and dislikings as the appointed ordinances of Heaven. In my own
circle of acquaintance I think I have known such individuals.

Thus William of Prussia strode through life sword in hand menacing and,
where he could, suppressing popular movement. Yet he was saved from
utter detestation by the admitted integrity of his character--a virtue
so dear to Germans, that for its sake they will pardon harshness and
sometimes even stupidity. People disliked or dreaded him, but they
despised his brother. There was a certain simplicity, too, always seen
in William's mode of living which pleased the country. There was no
affectation about him; he was almost as much of a plain, unpretending
soldier as General Grant himself. Since he became King, anybody passing
along the famous Unter den Linden might see the white-haired, simple old
man writing or reading at the window of his palace. He was in this
respect a sort of military Louis Philippe; a Louis Philippe with a
strong purpose and without any craft. Therefore, when the death of his
brother in 1861 called him to the throne, he found a people anxious to
give him credit for every good quality and good purpose, willing to
forget the past and look hopefully into the coming time. They only
smiled at his renewal of the coronation ceremonies at Königsberg,
believing that the old soldier thought there was something of a
religious principle somehow mixed up in them, and that it was the
imaginary piety, not the substantial pomp, which commended to his mind
so gorgeous and costly an anachronism. After the coronation ceremonies,
however, came back the old unpopularity. The King, people said, has
learned nothing and forgotten nothing since he was Prince of Prussia.
Every act he did after his accession to the crown seemed only more and
more to confirm this impression. It was, I think, about this time that
the celebrated "Diary" of Varnhagen von Ense was published by the niece
of the deceased diplomatist; a diary full in itself of the most piquant
interest, but made yet more piquant and interesting by the bitter and
foolish persecution with which the King's officials endeavored to
suppress the work and punish its publishers. I have not read or even
seen the book for years, but the impression it made on me is almost as
distinct just now as it was when I laid down the last of its many and
vivacious volumes.

Varnhagen von Ense was a bitter creature, and the pen with which he
wrote his diary seems to have been dipped in gall of special acridity.
The diary goes over many years of Berlin court life, and the present
King of Prussia is one of its central figures. The author does not seem
to have had much respect for anybody; and King William was evidently an
object of his particular detestation. All the doings of the days of 1848
are recorded or commented on, and the pages are interspersed with
notices of the sharp ungenial things said by one royal personage of
another. If the late Frederick William chose to say an ill-natured thing
of Queen Victoria of England, down goes the remark in Varnhagen's pages,
and it is chronicled for the perusal of all the world. We learn from the
book that the present King of Prussia does not live on the most genial
terms with his wife Augusta; that Augusta has rather a marked
inclination towards Liberalism, and would find nothing more pleasant
than a little coquetry with Revolution. Varnhagen intimates that the
illustrious lady loved lions and novelties of any kind, and that at the
time he writes she would have been particularly glad to make the
acquaintance of Louis Blanc; and he more than hints at a decided
inclination on her part to _porter le pantalon_--an inclination which
her husband was not at all likely to gratify, consciously at least. Of
the progressive wife Varnhagen speaks with no whit more respect than of
the reactionary husband; and indeed he seems to look with irreverent and
cynical eyes on everything royal that comes under his observation.
Throughout the whole of the diary, the figure of the present King comes
out consistently and distinctly. William is always the blunt, dull,
wrong-headed, I might almost say pig-headed soldier-fanatic, who will do
and suffer and make others do and suffer anything, in a cause which he
believes to be right. With all Varnhagen von Ense's bitterness and
scorn, he gives us no worse idea of King William than just this. But
judging from the expression of the King's face, from his manner, and
from what I have heard of him in Berlin and elsewhere, I should say
there was a good deal of individual kindness and bonhomie in him for
which the critic did not give him credit. I think he is, on the whole,
better than Varnhagen von Ense chose to paint him or see him.

From Alexander Humboldt, as well as from Varnhagen von Ense, we learn a
good deal of the inner life of kings and queens and princes in Berlin.
There is something almost painful in reflecting on the kind of life
which Humboldt must have led among these people, whom he so cordially
despised, and whom in his private chroniclings he so held up to scorn.
The great philosopher assuredly had a huge treasure of hatred locked up
in his heart. He detested and scorned these royal personages, who so
blandly patronized him, or were sometimes so rough in their
condescending familiarity. Nothing takes the gilt off the life of courts
so much as a perusal of what Humboldt has written about it. One hardly
cares to think of so great, and on the whole so noble a man, living a
life of what seems so like perpetual dissimulation; of his enduring
these royal dullards and pert princesses, and doubtless seeming
profoundly reverential, and then going home of nights to put down on
paper his record of their vulgarity, and selfishness, and impertinence.
Sometimes Humboldt was not able to contain himself within the limits of
court politeness. The late King of Hanover (father of the now dethroned
King George) was a rough brutal trooper, who had made himself odious in
England as the Duke of Cumberland, and was accused by popular rumors of
the darkest crimes--unjustly accused certainly, in the case where he was
charged with the murder of his valet. The Duke did not make a very bad
sort of King, as kings then went; but he retained all his roughness and
coarseness of manner. He once accosted Humboldt in the palace of the
late King of Prussia, and in his pleasant graceful way asked why it was
that the Prussian court was always full of philosophers and loose
women--describing the latter class of visitors by a very direct and
expressive word. "Perhaps," replied Humboldt blandly, "the King invites
the philosophers to meet me, and the other persons to please your
Majesty!" Humboldt seems to have had little liking for any of the
illustrious personages he met under the roof of the King of Prussia. A
brief record he made of a conversation with the late Prince Albert (for
whom he expressed a great contempt) went far when it was published to
render the husband of Queen Victoria more unpopular and even detested in
Ireland than another George the Fourth would have been. The Irish people
will probably never forget that, according to the statement of Humboldt,
the Prince spoke contemptuously of Irish national aspirations, declared
he had no sympathy with the Irish, and that they were as restless, idle,
and unmanageable as the Poles--a pretty speech, the philosopher remarks,
to be made by the husband of the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland.
Some attempt was made when this record of Humboldt's came to light to
dispute the truth of it; but Humboldt was certainly not a liar--and
anyhow the Irish people believed the story and it did no little
mischief; and Humboldt in his grave might have had the consolation of
knowing that he had injured one prince at least.

What we learn of the King of Prussia through Humboldt is to the same
effect as the teaching of Varnhagen's cynical spirit; and I think, if
these keen irreverent critics did not do him wrong, his Majesty must
have softened and improved with the responsibilities of royalty. In many
respects one might be inclined to compare him with the English George
the Third. Both were indeed dull, decent, and fanatical. But there are
some wide differences. George the Third was obstinate in the worst
sense; his was the obstinacy of a stupid, self-conceited man who
believes himself wise and right in everything. Now, I fancy the King of
Prussia is only obstinate in what he conceives, rightly or wrongly, to
be questions of duty and of principle; and that there are many subjects,
political and otherwise, of which he does not believe himself to be the
most competent judge, and which therefore he is quite willing to leave
to the consideration and decision of others. For instance, it was made
evident that in the beginning of the transactions which were followed by
(although they cannot be said to have caused) the present war, the King
more than once expressed himself willing to do certain things, of which,
however, Count von Bismarck subsequently disapproved; and the King
quietly gave way. "You know better than I do; act as you think best,"
is, I believe, a quite common sentence on the lips of King William, when
he is talking with this or that trusted minister. Then again it has been
placed beyond all doubt that George the Third could be, when he thought
fit, the most unabashed and unscrupulous of liars; and not even hatred
itself will charge King William with any act or word of falsehood or

Steadily did the King grow more and more unpopular after his coronation.
All the old work of prosecuting newspapers and snubbing, or if possible
punishing, free-spoken politicians, came into play again. The King
quarrelled fiercely with his Parliament about the scheme of army
reorganization. I think he was right as to the scheme, although terribly
wrong-headed and high-handed in his way of forcing it down the throats
of the people, and, aided by his House of Peers, he waged a sort of war
upon the nation's representatives. Then first came to the front that
extraordinary political figure, which before very long had cast into the
shade every other in Europe, even including that of the Emperor
Napoleon; that marvellous compound of audacity and craft, candor and
cunning, the profound sagacity of a Richelieu, the levity of a
Palmerston; imperturbably good-humored, illimitably unscrupulous; a
patriot without lofty emotion of any kind, a statesman who could
sometimes condescend to be a juggler; part bully, part buffoon, but
always a man of supreme courage, inexhaustible resources of brain and
tongue--always in short a man of genius. I need hardly add that I am
speaking of the Count von Bismarck.

At the time of the Schleswig-Holstein campaign, there was probably no
public man in Europe so generally unpopular as the King of Prussia,
except perhaps his Minister, the Count von Bismarck. In England it was
something like an article of faith to believe that the King was a
bloodthirsty old tyrant, his Prime Minister a combination of Strafford
and Sejanus, and his subjects generally a set of beer-bemuddled and
servile blockheads. The dislike felt toward the King was extended to the
members of his family, and the popular conviction in England was that
the Princess Victoria, wife of the King's son, had a dull coarse
drunkard for a husband. It is perfectly wonderful how soon an absurdly
erroneous idea, if there is anything about it which jumps with the
popular humor, takes hold of the public mind of England. The English
people regarded the Prussians with utter detestation and contempt. Not
only that, but they regarded it as quite a possible and even likely
thing that poor brave little Denmark, with a population hardly larger
than that of the city of New York, could hold her own, alone, against
the combined forces of Austria and Prussia. One might have thought that
there never was a Frederick the Great or an Archduke Charles; that the
only part ever played in history by Germans was that of impotent
braggarts and stupid cowards. When there seemed some prospect of
England's drawing the sword for Denmark, "Punch" published a cartoon
which was very popular and successful. It represented an English sailor
and soldier of the conventional dramatic style, looking with utter
contempt at two awkward shambling boobies with long hair and huge
meerschaums--one booby supposed to represent Prussia, the other Austria;
and Jack Tar says to his friend the redcoat: "They can't expect us to
_fight_ fellows like those, but we'll kick them, of course, with
pleasure." This so fairly represented the average public opinion of
England that there was positively some surprise felt in London when it
was found that the Prussians really could fight at all. Towards the
Austrians there was nothing like the same ill-feeling; and when
Bismarck's war against Austria (I cannot better describe it) broke out
shortly after, the sympathy of England went almost unanimously with the
enemy of Prussia. Ninety-nine men out of every hundred firmly believed
that Austria would clutch Italy with one hand and Prussia with the
other, and easily choke the life out of both. About the merits of the
quarrel nobody in England outside the range of a very few politicians
and journalists troubled himself at all. It was settled that Austria had
somehow come to represent the cause of human freedom and progress; that
the King of Prussia was a stupid and brutal old trooper, hurried to his
ruin by the evil counsels of a drunken Mephistopheles; and that the
Austrian forces would simply walk over the Prussians into Berlin. There
was but one newspaper in London (and it has since died) which ventured
to suggest, first, that perhaps the Prussians had the right side of the
quarrel, and next, that perhaps they would have the better in the fight.

With the success of Prussia at Sadowa ended King William's personal
unpopularity in Europe. Those who were prepared to take anything like a
rational view of the situation began to see that there must be some
manner of great cause behind such risks, sacrifices, and success. Those
who disliked Prussia more than ever, as many in France did, were
disposed to put the King out of their consideration altogether, and to
turn their detestation wholly on the King's Minister. In fact, Bismarck
so entirely eclipsed or occulted the King, that the latter may be said
to have disappeared from the horizon of European politics. His good
qualities or bad qualities no longer counted for aught in the estimation
of foreigners. Bismarck was everything, the King was nothing. Now I wish
the readers of THE GALAXY not to take this view of the matter. In
everything which has been done by Prussia since his accession to the
throne, King William has counted for something. His stern uncompromising
truthfulness, seen as clearly in the despatches he sent from recent
battle-fields as in any other deeds of his life, has always counted for
much. So too has his narrow-minded dread of anything which he believes
to savor of the revolution. So has his thorough and devoted Germanism. I
am convinced that it would have been far more easy of late to induce
Bismarck to make compromises with seemingly powerful enemies at the
expense of German soil, than it would have been to persuade Bismarck's
master to consent to such proposals. The King's is far more of a typical
German character (except for its lack of intellect) than that of
Bismarck, in whom there is so much of French audacity as well as of
French humor. On the other hand, I would ask my readers not to rush into
wild admiration of the King of Prussia, or to suppose that liberty owes
him personally any direct thanks. King William's subjects know too well
that they have little to thank him for on that score. Strange as the
comparison may seem at first, it is not less true that the enthusiasm
now felt by Germans for the King is derived from just the same source as
the early enthusiasm of Frenchmen for the first Napoleon. In each man
his people see the champion who has repelled the aggression of the
insolent foreigner, and has been strong enough to pursue the foreigner
into his own home and there chastise him for his aggression. The blind
stupidity of Austria and the crimes of Bonapartism have made King
William a patriot King. When Thiers wittily and bitterly said that the
Second Empire had made two great statesmen, Cavour and Bismarck, he
might have said with still closer accuracy that it had made one great
sovereign, William of Prussia. Never man attained such a position as
that lately won by King William with less of original "outfit" to
qualify him for the place. Five or six years ago the King of Prussia was
as much disliked and distrusted by his own subjects as ever the Emperor
of the French was by the followers of the Left. Look back to the famous
days when "Bockum-Dolff's hat" seemed likely to become a symbol of civil
revolution in Germany. Look back to the time when the King's own son and
heir apparent, the warrior Crown Prince who since has flamed across so
many a field of blood, felt called upon to make formal protest in a
public speech against the illiberal, repressive, and despotic policy of
his father! Think of these things, and say whether any change could be
more surprising than that which has converted King William into the
typical champion and patriot of Germany; and when you seek the
explanation of the change, you will simply find that the worst enemies
of Prussia have been unwittingly the kindest friends and the best
patrons of Prussia's honest and despotic old sovereign.

I think the King of Prussia's subjects were not wrong when they disliked
and dreaded him, and I also think they are now not wrong when they trust
and applaud him. It has been his great good fortune to reign during a
period when the foreign policy of the State was of infinitely greater
importance than its domestic management. It became the business of the
King of Prussia to help his country to assert and to maintain a national
existence. Nothing better was needed in the sovereign for this purpose
than the qualities of a military dictator, and the King, in this case,
was saved all trouble of thinking and planning. He had but to accept and
agree to a certain line of policy--a certain set of national
principles--and to put his foot down on these and see that they were
carried through. For this object the really manly and sturdy nature of
the King proved admirably adapted. He upheld manfully and firmly the
standard of the nation. His defective qualities were rendered inactive,
and had indeed no occasion or chance to display themselves, while all
that was good of him came into full activity and bold relief. But I do
not believe that the character of the King in any wise changed. He was a
dull, honest, fanatical martinet when he turned his cannon against
German liberals in 1848; he was a dull, honest, fanatical martinet when
he unfurled the flag of Prussia against the Austrians in 1866 and
against the French in 1870. The brave old man is only happy when doing
what he thinks right; but he wants alike the intellect and the
susceptibilities which enable people to distinguish right from wrong,
despotism from justice, necessary firmness from stolid obstinacy. But
for the wars and the great national issues which rose to claim instant
decision, King William would have gone on dissolving Parliaments and
punishing newspapers, levying taxes without the consent of
representatives, and making the police-officer the master of Berlin. The
vigor which was so popular when employed in resisting the French, would
assuredly otherwise have found occupation in repressing the Prussians. I
see nothing to admire in King William but his courage and his honesty.
People who know him personally speak delightedly of his sweet and genial
manners in private life; and I have observed that, like many another old
_moustache_, he has the art of making himself highly popular with the
ladies. There is a celebrated little _prima donna_ as well known in
London as in Berlin, who can only speak of the bluff monarch as _der
süsse König_--"the sweet King." Indeed, there are not wanting people who
hint that Queen Augusta is not always quite pleased at the manner in
which the venerable soldier makes himself agreeable to dames and
demoiselles. Certainly the ladies seem to be generally very enthusiastic
about his Majesty when they come into acquaintanceship with him, and to
the _prima donna_ I have mentioned his kindness and courtesy have been
only such as are well worthy of a gentleman and of a king. Still we all
know that it does not take a great effort on the part of a sovereign to
make people, especially women, think him very delightful. I do not,
therefore, make much account of King William's courtesy and _bonhomie_
in estimating his character. For all the service he has done to Germany
let him have full thanks; but I cannot bring myself to any warmth of
personal admiration for him. It is indeed hard to look at him without
feeling for the moment some sentiment of genuine respect. The fine head
and face, with its noble outlines and its frank pleasant smile, the
stately, dignified form, which some seventy-five years have neither
bowed nor enfeebled, make the King look like some splendid old paladin
of the court of Charlemagne. He is, indeed, despite his years, the
finest physical specimen of a sovereign Europe just now can show.
Compare him with the Emperor Napoleon, so many years his junior--compare
his soldierly presence, his manly bearing, his clear frank eyes, his
simple and sincere expression, with the prematurely wasted and crippled
frame, the face blotched and haggard, the lack-lustre eyes which seem
always striving to avoid direct encounter with any other glance, the
shambling gait, the sinister look of the nephew of the great Bonaparte,
and you will say that the Prussians have at least had from the beginning
of their antagonism an immense advantage over their rivals in the
figurehead which their State was enabled to exhibit. But I cannot make a
hero out of stout King William, although he has bravery enough of the
common, military kind, to suit any of the heroes of the "Nibelungen
Lied." He never would, if he could, render any service to liberty; he
cannot understand the elements and first principles of popular freedom;
to him the people is always, as a child, to be kept in leading strings
and guided, and, if at all boisterous or naughty, smartly birched and
put in a dark corner. There is nothing cruel about King William; that is
to say, he would not willingly hurt any human creature, and is, indeed,
rather kind-hearted and humane than otherwise. He is as utterly
incapable of the mean spites and shabby cruelties of the great
Frederick, whose statue stands so near his palace, as he is incapable of
the savage brutalities and indecencies of Frederick's father. He is, in
fact, simply a dull old disciplinarian, saturated through and through
with the traditions of the feudal party of Germany, his highest merit
being the fact that he keeps his word--that he is "a still strong man"
who "cannot lie;" his noblest fortune being the happy chance which
called on him to lead his country's battles, instead of leaving him free
to contend against, and perhaps for the time to crush, his country's
aspirations after domestic freedom. Kind Heaven has allowed him to
become the champion and the representative of German unity--that unity
which is Germany's immediate and supreme need, calling for the
postponement of every other claim and desire; and this part he has
played like a man, a soldier, and a king. But one can hardly be expected
to forget all the past, to forget what Humboldt and Varnhagen von Ense
wrote, what Jacobi and Waldeck spoke, what King William did in 1848, and
what he said in 1861; and unless we forget all this and a great deal
more to the same effect, we can hardly help acknowledging that but for
the fortunate conditions which allowed him to prove himself the best
friend of German unity, he would probably have proved himself the worst
enemy of German liberty.


I have before me just now a little silver coin picked up in Savoy very
soon after Italy had become a kingdom, and Savoy had ceased to be part
of it. That was in truth the only thing that made the coin in any way
specially interesting--the fact that it happened to be in chance
circulation through Savoy when Savoy had no longer any claim to it. So,
for that little scrap of melancholy interest I have since kept the coin
in my purse, and it has made many journeys with me in Europe and
America; and I suppose I can never be utterly destitute while it remains
in my possession. Now, the head which is displayed upon that coin is not
of kingly mould. The mint has flattered its royal master much less than
is usual with such portrait painters. An English silver or gold coin of
this year's mintage will still represent Her Majesty Queen Victoria as a
beautiful young woman of twenty, with features worthy of a Greek statue
and a bust shapely enough for Dryden's Iphigenia. But the coin of King
Victor Emanuel has little flattery in it. There is the coarse, bulldog
cast of face; there are the heavy eye-brows, the unshapely nose, the
hideous moustache, the receding forehead, and all the other beauties and
graces of the "bloat King's" countenance. Certainly the face on the coin
is not bloated enough, and there is too little animalism displayed in
the back of the head, to do justice to the first King of Italy.
Moreover, the coin gives somehow the idea of a small man, and the King
of Italy finds it not easy to get a horse strong enough to bear the load
of Antony. But for a coin it is a wonderfully honest and truthful piece
of work, quite a model to other mints, and it gave when it was issued as
fair an idea as a little piece of silver could well give of the head and
face of Europe's most ill-favored sovereign.

What a chance Victor Emanuel had of being a hero of romance! No king
perhaps ever had such a chance before, and missed it so persistently.
Europe seemed at one time determined, whether he would or no, to make a
hero, a knight, a _preux chevalier_, out of the son of Charles Albert.
Not Charles Edward, the brilliant, unfortunate Stuart himself, not
Gustavus Adolphus even seemed to have been surrounded by such a romantic
rainbow of romance and of hope. When, after the crowning disaster of
Novara, Victor Emanuel's weak, vacillating, unlucky, and not very
trustworthy father abdicated the crown of Sardinia in favor of his son,
the latter seemed in the eyes of liberal Europe to represent not merely
the hopes of all true Italians, but the best hopes of liberty and
progress all over the world. There was even then a vague idea afloat
through Europe--although Europe did not know how Cavour had already
accepted the idea as a principle of action--that with her tremendous
defeats Piedmont had won the right to hoist the standard of one Italy.
This then was the cause which the young King was taken to represent. He
had been baptized in blood to that cause. He represented Italy united
and free--free from Austrian and Pope, from political and religious
despotism. He was at all events no carpet knight. He had fought bravely
on more than one fearful field of battle; he had looked on death closely
and undismayed; he had been wounded in fighting for Italy against the
Austrian. It was said of the young sovereign--who was only Duke of Savoy
then--that on the night of Novara, when all was over save retreat and
humiliation, he shook his dripping sword at the ranks of the conquering
Austrians and exclaimed, "Italy shall make herself for all that!"
Probably the story is substantially true, although Victor Emanuel may
perhaps have used stronger expressions if he spoke at all; for no one
ever doubted his courage and coolness in the hour of danger. But true or
not, the anecdote exactly illustrated the light in which the world was
prepared to regard the young sovereign of Sardinia--as the hope of Italy
and of freedom, the representative of a defeat which he was determined
and destined to convert into a victory.

Not many years after this, and while the lustre of his misfortunes and
the brilliancy of his hopes still surrounded him, King Victor Emanuel
visited England. He was welcomed everywhere with a cordiality of
personal interest and admiration not often accorded by any people to a
foreign king. Decidedly it was a hard thing to look at him and yet
retain the thought of a hero of romance. He was not then nearly so
bloated and burly as he is now; and he was at least some dozen or
fourteen years younger. But even then how marvellously ill-favored he
was; how rough and coarse-looking; how unattractive in manner; how
brusque and uncouth in gesture and bearing; how liable to fits of an
apparently stolid silence; how utterly devoid of grace and dignity! His
huge straw-colored moustache, projecting about half a foot on each side
of his face, was as unsightly a piece of manly decoration as ever royal
countenance displayed. Yet the public tried to forget all those external
defects and still regard him as a hero of romance somehow, anyhow. So
fully was he believed to be a representative of civil and religious
freedom in Italy, that one English religious society of some kind--I
forget which it was--actually went the length of presenting an address
to him, in which they flourished about the errors of Popery as freely as
if they were appealing to an Oliver Cromwell or Frederick the Great.
Cavour gave them very neatly and tersely the snub that their ignorance
and presumption so well deserved; and their address did not obtain an
honored place among Victor Emanuel's memorials of his visit to England.

He was very hospitably entertained by Queen Victoria, who is said to
have suffered agonies of martyrdom from her guest's everlasting
cigar--the good soul detests tobacco as much as King James himself
did--and even more from his occasional outbursts of roystering
compliment and canteen love-making toward the ladies of her staid and
modest court. One of the household edicts, I think, of Queen Elizabeth's
court was that no gallant must "toy with the maids, under pain of
fourpence." Poor Victor Emanuel's slender purse would have had to bear a
good many deductions of fourpence, people used to hint, if this penal
decree had prevailed in his time at Windsor or Osborne. But Queen
Victoria was very patient and friendly. Cavour has left some pleasant
descriptions of her easy, unaffected friendliness toward himself.
Guizot, it will be remembered, has described her as the stiffest of the
stiff, freezing into petrifaction a whole silent circle by her
invincible coldness and formality. I cannot pretend to reconcile the
conflicting accounts of these two eminent visitors, but certainly Cavour
has drawn some animated and very attractive pictures of Queen Victoria's
almost girlish good-humor and winning familiarity. However that may be,
the whole heart of free England warmed to Victor Emanuel, and was ready
to dub him in advance the chosen knight of liberty, the St. George of
Italy, before whose resistless sword every dragon of despotism and
superstition was to grovel in the dust.

So the King went his way, and the next thing the world heard of him was
that he was in league with Louis Napoleon against the Austrian, and that
the child his daughter was to be married to the obese and elderly Prince
Napoleon, whose eccentric genius, varied accomplishments, and thrilling
eloquence were then unrecognized and unknown. Then came the triumphs of
Magenta and Solferino, and it was made plain once more to the world
that Victor Emanuel had the courage of a true soldier. He actually took
a personal share of the fighting when the Italians were in action. He
did not sit on his horse, far away from the bullets, like his imperial
ally, and direct the movements of the army by muttering "_C'est bien_,"
when an aide-de-camp galloped up to announce to him as a piece of solemn
farce that this or that general had already accomplished this or that
operation. No; Victor Emanuel took his share of the fighting like a
king. In the affair of San Martino he led an attack himself, and
encouraged his soldiers by bellowing in stentorian voice quite a clever
joke for a king, just as he was about to charge. A crack regiment of
French Zouaves (the French Zouaves were soldiers in those days) was so
delighted with the Sardinian King that it elected him a corporal of the
regiment on the field of battle--a quite wonderful piece of compliment
from a Zouave regiment to a foreign sovereign. Not so long before had
Lamoricière declared that "Italians don't fight," and here was a crack
Zouave regiment enthusiastic about the fighting capacity of an Italian
King. The irony of fate, it will be remembered, decreed soon after that
Lamoricière should himself lay down his arms before an Italian general
and Italian soldiers.

Out of that war, then, Victor Emanuel emerged still a hero. But the
world soon began to think that he was only a hero in the field. The sale
of Savoy and Nice much shocked the public sentiment of Europe. The house
of Savoy, as an English orator observed, had sprung from the womb of the
mountains which the unworthy heir of Savoy sold to a stranger. As the
world had given to Victor Emanuel the credit of virtues which he never
possessed, it was now ready to lay on him all the burden of deeds which
were not his. Whether the cession of Savoy was right or wrong, Victor
Emanuel was not to blame, under the hard circumstances, for withdrawing,
according to the first Napoleon's phrase, "_sous les draps d'un roi
constitutionnel_," and allowing his ministers to do the best they could.
In fact, the thing was a necessity of the situation. Napoleon the Third
had to make the demand to satisfy his own people, who never quite
"seemed to see" the war for Italy. The Sardinian ministers had to yield
to the demand to satisfy Napoleon the Third. Had Prussia been a raw,
weak power in September, 1866, she must have ceded some territory to
France. Sardinia or Italy was raw and weak in 1860, and had no choice
but to submit. There were two things to be said for the bargain. First,
Italy got good value for it. Next, the Savoyards and Nizzards never were
good Italians. They rather piqued themselves on not being Italians. The
Savoy delegates would not speak Italian in the old Turin Parliament. The
ministers had to answer their French "interpellations" in French.

Still all this business did an immense harm to the reputation of King
Victor Emanuel. He had acted like a quiet, sensible man--not in any way
like a hero of romance, and Europe desired to see in him a hero of
romance. Then he did not show himself, people said, very grateful to
Garibaldi when the latter opened the way for the expulsion of the
Bourbons from Naples, and did so much to crown Victor Emanuel King of
Italy. Now I am a warm admirer of Garibaldi. I think his very weaknesses
are noble and heroic. There is carefully preserved among the best
household treasures of my family a vine leaf which Garibaldi once
plucked and gave me as a _souvenir_ for my wife. But I confess I should
not like to be king of a new monarchy partly made by Garibaldi and with
Garibaldi for a subject. The whole policy of Garibaldi proceeded on the
gallant and generous assumption that Italy alone ought to be able to
conquer all her enemies. We have since seen how little Italy availed
against a mere fragment of the military power of Austria--that power
which Prussia crushed like a nutshell. Events, I think, have vindicated
the slower and less assuming policy of Victor Emanuel, or, I should say,
the policy which Victor Emanuel consented to adopt at the bidding of

But all the same the _prestige_ of Victor Emanuel was gone. Then Europe
began to look at the man coolly, and estimate him without glamour and
without romance. Then it began to listen to the very many stories
against him which his enemies could tell. Alas! these stories were not
all untrue. Of course there were grotesque and hideous exaggerations.
There are in Europe some three or four personages of the highest rank
whom scandal delights to assail, and of whom it tells stories which
common sense and common feeling alike compel us to reject. It would be
wholly impossible even to hint at some of the charges which scandal in
Europe persistently heaped on Victor Emanuel, the Emperor Napoleon III.,
Prince Napoleon, and the reigning King of the Netherlands. If one-half
the stories told of these four men were true, then Europe would hold at
present four personages of the highest rank who might have tutored
Caligula in the arts of recondite debauchery, and have looked down on
Alexander the Sixth as a prudish milksop. But I think no reasonable
person will have much difficulty in sifting the probable truth out of
the monstrous exaggerations. No one can doubt that Victor Emanuel is a
man of gross habits and tastes, and is, or was, addicted to coarse and
ignoble immoralities. "The manners of a mosstrooper and the morality of
a he goat," was the description which my friend John Francis Maguire,
the distinguished Roman Catholic member of the House of Commons, gave,
in one of his Parliamentary speeches, of King Victor Emanuel. This was
strong language, and it was the language of a prejudiced though honest
political and religious partisan; but it was not, all things considered,
a very bad description. Moreover, it was mildness, it was
compliment--nay, it was base flattery--when compared with the hideous
accusations publicly and distinctly made against Victor Emanuel by one
of Garibaldi's sons, not to speak of other accusers, and privately
whispered by slanderous gossip all over Europe. One peculiarity about
Victor Emanuel worthy of notice is that he has no luxury in his tastes.
He is, I believe, abstemious in eating and drinking, caring only for the
homeliest fare. He has sat many times at the head of a grand state
banquet, where the rarest viands, the most superb wines were abundant,
and never removed the napkin from his plate, never tasted a morsel or
emptied a glass. He had had his plain fare at an earlier hour, and cared
nothing for the triumphs of cookery or the choicest products of the
vine. He has thus sat, in good-humored silence, his hand leaning on the
hilt of his sword, through a long, long banquet of seemingly endless
courses, which to him was a pageant, a ceremonial duty, and nothing
more. He delights in chamois-hunting--in hunting of almost any kind--in
horses, in dogs, and in women of a certain coarse and gross description.
There is nothing of the Richelieu or Lauzun, or even the Francis the
First, about the dull, I had almost said harmless, immoralities of the
King of Italy. Men in private and public station have done far greater
harm, caused far more misery than ever he did, and yet escaped almost
unwhipt of justice. The man has (or had, for people say he is reformed
now) the coarse, easily-gratified tastes of a sailor turned ashore after
a long cruise--and such tastes are not kingly; and that is about all
that one feels fairly warranted in saying either to condemn or to
palliate the vices of Victor Emanuel. He absolutely wants all element of
greatness. He is not even a great soldier. He has boisterous animal
courage, and finds the same excitement in leading a charge as in
hunting the chamois. But he has nothing even of the very moderate degree
of military capacity possessed by a dashing _sabreur_ like Murat. It
seems beyond doubt that it was the infatuation he displayed in
attempting the personal direction of affairs which led to the breakdown
at Custozza. The man is, in fact, like one of the rough jagers described
in Schiller's "Wallenstein's Camp"--just this, and nothing more. When
Garibaldi was in the zenith of his fortunes and fame in 1860, Victor
Emanuel declared privately to a friend that the height of his ambition
would be to follow the gallant guerilla leader as a mere soldier in the
field. Certainly, when the two men entered Naples together, every one
must have felt that their places ought to have been reversed. How like a
king, an ideal king--a king of poetry and painting and romance--looked
Garibaldi in the superb serenity of his untaught grace and sweetness and
majesty. How rude, uncouth, clownish, even vulgar, looked the big,
brawny, ungainly trooper whom people had to salute as King. When
Garibaldi went to visit the hospitals where the wounded of the short
struggle were lying, how womanlike he was in his sympathetic tenderness;
how light and noiseless was his step; how gentle his every gesture; what
a sweet word of genial compassion or encouragement he had for every
sufferer. The burly King strode and clattered along like a dragoon
swaggering through the crowd at a country fair. Not that Victor Emanuel
wanted good nature, but that his rude _physique_ had so little in it of
the sympathetic or the tender.

Was there ever known such a whimsical, harmless, odd saturnalia as
Naples presented during those extraordinary days? I am thinking now
chiefly of the men who, mostly uncalled-for, "rallied round" the
Revolution, and came from all manner of holes and corners to offer their
services to Garibaldi, and to exhibit themselves in the capacity of
freedom's friends, soldiers, and scholars. Hardly a hero, or crackbrain,
or rantipole in Europe, one would think, but must have been then on
exhibition somewhere in Naples. Father Gavazzi harangued from one
position; Alexandre Dumas, accompanied by his faithful "Admiral Emile,"
directed affairs from another. Edwin James, then a British criminal
lawyer and popular member of Parliament, was to be seen tearing round in
a sort of semi-military costume, with pistols stuck in his belt. The
worn, thoughtful, melancholy face of Mazzini was, for a short time at
least, to be seen in juxtaposition with the cockney visage of an
ambitious and restless common councilman from the city of London, who
has lived all his life since on the glorious memories and honors of that
good time. The House of Lords, the House of Commons, and the Guildhall
of London were lavishly represented there. Men like Türr, the dashing
Hungarian and Mieroslawski, the "Red" leader of Polish revolution--men
to whom battle and danger were as the breath of their nostrils--were
buttonholed and advised by heavy British vestrymen and pert Parisian
journalists. Hardly any man or woman entered Naples from a foreign
country at that astonishing time who did not believe that he or she had
some special counsel to give, which Victor Emanuel or Garibaldi or some
one of their immediate staff was bound to listen to and accept. Woman's
Rights were pretty well represented in that pellmell. There was a
Countess something or other--French, they said--who wore short
petticoats and trousers, had silver-mounted pistols in her belt and
silver spurs on her heels, and was generally believed to have done
wonders in "the field"--what field no one would stop to ask. There was
Jessie Mario White, modest, pleasant, fair-haired woman, wife of a
gallant gentleman and soldier--Jessie White, who made no exhibition of
herself, but did then and since faithful and valuable work for Italian
wounded, such as Italy ought not soon to forget. There was Mrs.
Chambers--Mrs. Colonel Chambers--the Mrs. "Putney Giles" of Disraeli's
"Lothair"--very prominent everywhere, sounding the special eulogies of
Garibaldi with tireless tongue, and utterly overshadowing her quiet
husband, who (the husband I mean) afterwards stood by Garibaldi's side
at Aspromonte. Exeter Hall had sent out powerful delegations, in the
firm faith apparently that Garibaldi would at their request order Naples
forthwith to break up its shrines and images of saints and become
Protestant; and that Naples would at once obey. Never was such a time of
dreams and madness and fussiness, of splendid aspirations and silly
self-seeking vanity, of chivalry and daring, and true wisdom and
nonsense. It was a time naturally of many disappointments; and one
disappointment to almost everybody was His Majesty King Victor Emanuel.
His Majesty seemed at least not much to care about the whole affair from
the beginning. He went through it as if he didn't quite understand what
it was all about, and didn't think it worth the trouble of trying.
People who saw him at that splendid moment when, the forces of Garibaldi
joining with the regular Sardinian troops after all had been won,
Garibaldi and the King met for the first time in that crisis, and the
soldier hailed the sovereign as "King of Italy!"--people who saw and
studied that picturesque historic meeting have told me that there was no
more emotion of any kind on Victor Emanuel's face than if he were
receiving a formal address from the mayor of a country town. "I thank
you," were his only words of reply; and I am assured that it was not "I
thank _you_," with emphasis on the last word to indicate that the King
acknowledged how much he owed to his great soldier; but simply "I thank
you," as he might have thanked a groom who opened a stable door for him.
Perhaps the very depth and grandeur of the King's emotions rendered him
incapable of finding any expression for them. Let us hope so. But I have
had the positive assurances of some who saw the scene, that if any such
emotions were felt the royal countenance concealed them as completely as
though they never had been.

In truth, I presume that the whole thing really was a terrible bore to
the royal Rawdon Crawley, who found himself compelled by cursed spite to
play the part of a patriot king. The Pope, the ultramontane bishops, and
the ultramontane press have always been ringing fierce changes on the
inordinate and wicked ambition of Victor Emanuel. I am convinced the
poor man has no more ambition than his horse. If he could have chalked
out his own career for himself, he would probably have asked nothing
better than to be allowed to devote his life to chamois-hunting, with a
hunter's homely fare, and the companionship of a few friends (some fat
ladies among the number) with whom he could talk and make jokes in the
_patois_ of Piedmont. This, and perhaps a battle-field and a dashing
charge every now and then, would probably have realized his dreams of
the _summum bonum_. But some implacable destiny, embodied in the form of
a Cavour or a Garibaldi, was always driving on the stout King and
bidding him get up and attempt great things--be a patriot and a hero.
Fancy Rawdon Crawley impelled, or rather compelled by the inexorable
command of Becky his wife, to go forth in quest of the Holy Grail, and
one may perhaps be able to guess what Victor Emanuel's perplexity and
reluctance were when he was bidden to set out for the accomplishment of
the regeneration of Italy. "Honor to those to whom honor is due; honor
to old Mother Baubo," says some one in "Faust." Honor on that principle,
then, to King Victor Emanuel. He did get up and go forth and undertake
to bear his part in the adventure. And here seriously let me speak of
the one high merit of Victor Emanuel's career. He is not a hero; he is
not a statesman or even a politician; he is not a patriot in any grand,
exalted sense. He would like to be idle, and perhaps to be despotic. But
he has proved that he understands the true responsibilities and duties
of a constitutional King better than many sovereigns of higher intellect
and better character. He always did go, or at least endeavor to go,
where the promptings of his ministers, the commands of his one imperious
minister, or the voice of the country directed. There must be a great
struggle in the mind of Victor Emanuel between his duty as a king and
his duty as a Roman Catholic, when he enters into antagonism with the
Pope. Beyond doubt Victor Emanuel is a superstitious Catholic. Of late
years his constitution has once or twice threatened to give way, and he
is probably all the more anxious to be reconciled with the Church.
Perhaps he would be glad enough to lay down the load of royalty
altogether and become again an accepted and devoted Catholic, and hunt
his chamois with a quieted conscience. But still, impelled by what must
be some sort of patriotism and sense of duty, he accepts his uncongenial
part of constitutional King, and strives to do all that the voice of his
people demands. It is probable that at no time was the King personally
much attached to his illustrious minister Cavour. The genius and soul of
Cavour were too oppressively imperial, high-reaching, and energetic for
the homely, plodding King. With all his external levity Count Cavour was
terribly in earnest, and he must often have seemed a dreadful bore to
his sovereign. Cavour knew himself the master, and did not always take
pains to conceal his knowledge. He would sometimes adopt the most direct
and vigorous language in remonstrating with the King if the latter did
not act on valuable advice at the right moment. Sometimes, when things
went decidedly against Cavour's wishes, the minister would take the
monarch to task more roundly than even the most good-natured monarchs
are likely to approve. When Napoleon the Third disappointed Cavour and
all Italy by the sudden peace of Villafranca, I have heard that Cavour
literally denounced Victor Emanuel for consenting to the arrangement.
Count Arrivabene, an able writer, has given a very vivid and interesting
description of Cavour's demeanor when he reached the Sardinian
headquarters on his way to an interview with the King and learned what
had been done. He was literally in a "tearing rage." He tore off his hat
and dashed it down, he clenched his hands, he stamped wildly,
gesticulated furiously, became red and purple, foamed at the mouth, and
grew inarticulate for very passion. He believed that he and Italy were
sold--as indeed they were; and it was while this temper was yet on him
that he went to see the King, and denounced him, as I have said. Now
this sort of thing certainly could not have been agreeable to Victor
Emanuel; and yet he patiently accepted Cavour as a kind of glorious
necessity. He never sought, as many another king in such _duresse_ would
have done, to weaken his minister's influence and authority by showing
open sullenness and dissatisfaction. Ratazzi, with his pliable ways and
his entire freedom from any wearisome earnestness or devotion to any
particular cause, was naturally a far more companionable and agreeable
minister for the King than the untiring and imperious Cavour.
Accordingly, it was well known that Ratazzi was more of a personal
favorite; but the King never seems to have acted otherwise than loyally
and honestly toward Cavour. Ricasoli was all but intolerable to the
King. Ricasoli was proud and stern; and he was, moreover, a somewhat
rigid moralist, which Cavour hardly professed to be. The King writhed
under the government of Ricasoli, and yet, despite all that was at the
time whispered, he cannot, I think, be fairly accused of having done
anything personally to rid himself of an obnoxious minister. Indeed,
the single merit of Victor Emanuel's character, if we put aside the
element of personal courage, is its rough integrity. He is a
_galantuomo_, an honest man--in that sense, a man of his word. He gave
his word to constitutional government and to Italy, and he appears to
have kept the word in each case according to his lights.

But his popularity among his subjects, the interest felt in him by the
world, have long been steadily on the wane. Years and years ago he
ceased to retain the faintest gleam of the halo of romance that once
was, despite of himself, thrown around him. His people care little or
nothing for him. Why, indeed, should they care anything? The military
_prestige_ which he had won, such as it was, vanished at Custozza, and
it was his evil destiny, hardly his fault, to be almost always placed in
a position of antagonism to the one only Italian who since Cavour's
death had an enthusiastic following in Italy. Aspromonte was a calamity
for Victor Emanuel. One can hardly blame him; one can hardly see how he
could have done otherwise. The greatest citizen or soldier in America or
England, if he attempted to levy an army of his own, and make war from
American or English territory upon a neighboring State, would surely
have seen his bands dispersed and found himself arrested by order of his
government; and it would never have occurred to any one to think that
the government was doing a harsh, ungrateful, or improper thing. It
would be the necessary, rightful execution of a disagreeable duty, and
that is all. But the conditions of Garibaldi's case, like the one
splendid service he had rendered, were so entirely abnormal and without
precedent, the whole thing was from first to last so much more a matter
of national sentiment than of political law, that national sentiment
insisted on judging Garibaldi and the King in this case too, and at
least a powerful, passionate minority declared Victor Emanuel an ingrate
and a traitor. Mentana was almost as bad for the King as Custozza. The
voice of the country, so far as one could understand its import, seemed
to declare that when the King had once ordered the Italian troops to
cross the frontier, he should have ordered them to go on; that if they
had actually occupied Rome, France would have recognized accomplished
facts; that as it was, Italy offended France and the Pope by stepping
over the barrier of the convention of September, only to humiliate
herself by stepping back again without having accomplished anything.
Certainly the policy of the Italian Government at such a crisis was
weak, miserable, even contemptible. Then indeed Italy might well have
exclaimed, "Oh for one hour of Cavour!" One hour of the man of genius
and courage, who, if he had moved forward, would not have darted back
again! Perhaps it was unfair to hold the King responsible for the
mistakes of his ministers. But when a once popular King has to be
pleaded for on that sole ground, it is pretty clear that there is an end
to his popularity. So with Victor Emanuel. The world began to forget
him; his subjects began to despise him. Even the thrilling events that
have lately taken place in Italy, the sudden crowning of the national
edifice--the realization of that hope which so long appeared but a
dream--which Cavour himself declared would be the most slow and
difficult to realize of all Italy's hopes--even the possession of Rome
hardly seems to have brought back one ray of the old popularity on the
heavy head of King Victor Emanuel. Again the wonderful combination of
good luck and bad--the good fortune which brought to the very door of
the house of Savoy the sudden realization of its highest dreams--the
misfortune which allowed that house no share in the true credit of
having accomplished its destiny. What had Victor Emanuel to do with the
sudden juncture of events which enabled Italy to take possession of her
capital? Nothing whatever. His people have no more reason to thank him
for Rome than they have to thank him for the rain or the sunshine, the
olive and the vine. The King seems to have felt all this. His short
visit to Rome, and the formal act of taking possession, may perhaps have
been made so short because Victor Emanuel knew that he had little right
to claim any honors or expect any popular enthusiasm. He entered Rome
one day and went away the next. I confess, however, that I should not
wonder if the visit was made so short merely because the whole thing was
a bore to the honest King, and he could only make up his mind to endure
a very few hours of it.

Victor Emanuel, King of United Italy, and welcomed by popular
acclamation in Rome--his second son almost at the same moment proclaimed
King of the Spaniards--his second daughter Queen of Portugal. How
fortune seems to have delighted in honoring this house of Savoy. I only
say "seems to have." I do not venture yet to regard the accession of
King Amadeus to the crown of Spain as necessarily an honorable or a
fortunate thing. Every one must wish the poor young prince well in such
a situation; perhaps we should rather wish him well out of it. Never
king assumed a crown with such ghastly omens to welcome him. Here is the
King putting on his diadem; and yonder, lying dead by the hand of an
assassin, is the man who gave him the diadem and made him King! But for
Juan Prim there would be no Amadeus, King of the Spaniards; and for that
reason Juan Prim lies dead. The young King must have needed all his
hereditary courage to enable him to face calmly and bravely, as he seems
to have done, so terrible a situation. Macaulay justly says that no
danger is so trying to the nerves of a brave man as the danger of
assassination. Men utterly reckless in battle--like "bonny Dundee" for
example--have owned that the knowledge of the assassin's purpose and
haunting presence was more than they could endure. The young Italian
prince seems to have shown no sign of flinching. So far as anything
indeed is known of him, he is favorably known to the world. He bore
himself like a brave soldier at Custozza, and obtained the special
commendation of the Austrian victor, the gallant old Archduke Albrecht.
He married for love a lady of station decidedly inferior to that of a
royal prince; the lady had the honor of being sneered at even in her
honeymoon for the modest, inexpensive simplicity of her toilet, as she
appeared with her young husband at one of the watering-places; he had
not made himself before marriage the subject of as much scandal as used
to follow and float around the bachelor reputation of his elder brother
Humbert. He is believed to be honestly and manfully liberal in his
views. He ought to make a good King as kings go--if the murderers of
General Prim only give him the chance.

As I have mentioned the name of the man whose varied, brilliant, daring,
and turbulent career has been so suddenly cut short, I may perhaps be
excused for wandering a little out of the path of my subject to say that
I think many of the American newspapers have hardly done justice to
Prim. Some of them have written of him, even in announcing his death, as
if it were not possible for a man to be honest and yet not to be a
republican. In more than one instance the murder of Prim was treated as
a sort of thing which, however painful to read of, was yet quite natural
and even excusable in the case of a man who endeavored to give his
country a King. There was a good deal too much of the "Sic semper
tyrannis" tone and temper about some of the journals. Now, I do not
believe that Prim was a patriot of that unselfish and lofty group to
which William the Silent, and George Washington, and Daniel Manin
belong. His was a very mixed character, and ambition had a large place
in it. But I believe that he sincerely loved and tried to serve Spain;
and I believe that in giving her a King he honestly thought he was doing
for her the thing most suited to her tendencies and her interests. If
Prim could have made Spain a republic, he could have made himself her
President, even perhaps for life; while he could not venture, she being
a kingdom, to constitute himself her King. Many times did Prim himself
say to me, before the outbreak of his successful revolt, that he
believed the republican to be the ultimate form of government
everywhere, and that he would gladly see it in Spain; but that he did
not believe Spain was yet suited for it, or numbered republicans enough.
"To have a republic you must first have republicans," was a common
saying of his. New England is a very different sort of place from Old
Castile. At all events, Prim is not to be condemned as a traitor to his
country and to liberty, even if it were true that he could have created
a Spanish republic. We have to show first that he knew the thing was
possible and refused to do it, for selfish or ignoble motives. This I am
satisfied is not true. I think Prim believed a republic impossible in
the Spain of to-day, and simply acted in accordance with his
convictions. He came very near to being a great man; he wanted not much
of being a great patriot. He was, I think, better than his fame. As
Spain has decreed, he "deserved well of his country." It seems hardly
reasonable or just to decry him or condemn him because he did not
deserve better. Such as he was, he proved himself original. "He walked,"
as Carlyle says, "his own wild road, whither that led him." In an age
very prolific of great political men, he made a distinct name and place
for himself. "Name thou the best of German singers," exclaims Heine with
pardonable pride, "and my name must be spoken among them." Name the
half-dozen really great, originating characters in European politics
during our time, and the name of Prim must come in among them.

But I was speaking of Victor Emanuel and his children. All I have heard
then of the Duke of Aosta leads me to believe that he is qualified to
make a respectable and loyal constitutional sovereign. High intellectual
capacity no one expects from the house of Savoy, but there will probably
be good sense, manly feeling, and no small share of political
discretion. In the Duke of Aosta, too, Spain will have a King who can
have no possible sympathy with slave systems and their products of
whatever kind, and who can hardly have much inclination for the coercing
and dragooning of reluctant populations. If Spain in his day and through
his influence can get decently and honorably rid of Cuba, she will have
entered upon a new chapter of her national existence, as important for
her as that grand new volume which opens upon France when defeat has
purged her of her thrice-accursed "militaryism." The dependencies have
been a miserable misfortune to Spain. They have entangled her in all
manner of complications; they have filled her with false principles;
they have created whole corrupt classes among her soldiers and
politicians. General Prim himself once assured me that the real revenues
of Spain were in no wise the richer for her colonial possessions.
Proconsuls made fortunes and spread corruption round them, and that was
all. If her new King could only contrive to relieve Spain of this source
of corruption and danger, he would be worth all the cost and labor of
the revolution which gives him now a Spanish throne.

Why did fate decree that the very best of all the children of Victor
Emanuel should have apparently the worst fortune? The Princess Clotilde
is an exile from the country and the palace of her husband; and if the
sweetness and virtue of one woman might have saved a court, the court of
the Tuileries might have been saved by Victor Emanuel's eldest daughter.
I have heard the Princess Clotilde talked of by Ultramontanes,
Legitimists, Orleanists, Republicans, Red Republicans (by some among the
latter who firmly believed that the poor Empress Eugénie was wickeder
than Messalina), and I never heard a word spoken of her that was not in
her praise. Every one admitted that she was a pure and noble woman, a
patient wife, a devoted mother; full of that unpretending simplicity
which, let us own it frankly, is one of the graces which very high birth
and old blood do sometimes bring. The Princess must in her secret soul
have looked down on some of the odd _coteries_ who were brought around
her at the court of the Tuileries. She comes of a house in whose
genealogy, to quote Disraeli's humorous words, "Chaos was a novel," and
she found herself forced into companionship with ladies and gentlemen
whose fathers and mothers, good lack! sometimes seemed to have omitted
any baptismal registration whatever. I presume she was not ignorant of
the parentage of De Morny, or Walewski, or Walewski's son, or the Jerome
David class of people. I presume she heard what every one said of the
Countess this and the Marchioness that, and so on. Of course the
Princess Clotilde did not like these people--how could any decent woman
like them?--but she accepted the necessities of her position with a
self-possession and dignity which, offending no one, marked the line
distinctly and honorably between her and them. Her joy was in her
children. She loved to show them to friends, and to visitors even whom
she felt that she could treat as friends. Perhaps she is not less happy
now that the ill-omened, fateful splendors of the Palais Royal no longer
help to make a gilded cage for the darlings of her nursery. Of the whole
family, hers may be called the only career which has been doomed to what
the world describes and pities as failure. It may well be that she is
now happiest of all the children of the house of Savoy.

Meanwhile, Victor Emanuel has been welcomed at the Quirinal, and is
indeed, at last, King of Italy. We may well say to him, as Banquo says
of Macbeth, "Thou hast it all!" Lombardy, Tuscany, Parma, Modena, the
Two Sicilies, Venetia, and Rome--what gathering within less than a fifth
of an ordinary lifetime! And on the Quirinal Victor Emanuel may be said
to have stood alone. Of all the men who mainly wrought to bring about
that grand consummation, not one stood by his side. Daniel Manin, the
pure, patient, fearless, patriot hero; Cavour, the consummate statesman;
Massimo d'Azeglio, the Bayard or Lafayette of Italy's later days, the
soldier, scholar, and lover of his country--these are dead, and rest
with Dante. Mazzini is still a sort of exile--homeless, unshaken, seeing
his prophecies fulfil themselves and his ideas come to light, while he
abides in the gloom and shadow, and the world calls him a dreamer.
Garibaldi is lending the aid of his restless sword to a cause which he
cannot serve, and a people who never understood him; and he is getting
sadly mixed up somehow in ordinary minds with General Cluseret and
George Francis Train. Louis Napoleon, who, whatever his crimes, did
something for the unity of Italy, is a broken man in captivity. Only
Victor Emanuel, least gifted of all, utterly unworthy almost to be named
in the same breath with any of them (save Louis Napoleon alone)--only he
comes forward to receive the glories and stand up as the representative
of one Italy! Let us do him the justice to acknowledge that he never
sought the position or the glory. He accepted both as a necessity of his
birth and his place, a formal duty and a bore. His was not the character
which goes in quest of greatness. As Falstaff says of rebellion and the
revolted English lord, greatness "lay in his way, and he found it."


Guizot quietly at work in the preparation of a history of France for the
instruction of children--Thiers taking his place in a balloon to fly
from one seat of government in France to another! Such were the
occupations, at a given time in last November, of the two distinguished
men whose rivalries and contentions disturbed the politics of France for
so many years.

An ill-natured person might feel inclined to say that the adventures in
the balloon were a proper crowning of the edifice of M. Thiers's fitful
career. Was not his whole political life (_non meus hic sermo_, please
to understand--it is the ill-natured person who says this) an enterprise
in a balloon, high out of all the regions where common sense,
consistency, and statesmanship are ruling elements? Did he not overleap
with aëronautic flight when it so suited him, from liberalism to
conservatism, from advocating freedom of thought to enforcing the
harshest repression? Was not his literary reputation floated into high
air by that most inflated and gaseous of all balloons, the "History of
the Consulate and the Empire"? Thiers in a balloon is just where he
ought to be, and where he ever has been. Condense into one meagre little
person all the egotism, all the self-conceit, all the vainglory, all the
incapacity for looking at anything whatever from the right point of
view, which belong to the typical Frenchman of fiction and satire, and
you have a pretty portrait of M. Thiers.

Doubtless, the ill-natured person who should say all this would be able
to urge a good many plausible reasons in justification of his
assertions. Still, one may be allowed to admire--one cannot help
admiring--the astonishing energy and buoyancy which made M. Thiers,
despite his seventy-three years, the most active emissary of the French
Republic during the past autumn, the aëronautic rival of the vigorous
young Corsican Gambetta, who was probably hardly grown enough for a
merry-go-round in the Champs Elysées when Thiers was beginning to be
regarded as an old fogy by the ardent revolutionists of 1848. About the
middle of last September, a few days after the sudden creation of the
French Republic, M. Thiers precipitated himself on London. An account in
the newspapers described him as "accompanied by five ladies." Thus
gracefully escorted, he marched on the English capital. He had
interviews with Mr. Gladstone, Lord Granville, the French Ambassador,
and divers other great personages. He was always rushing from diplomatic
office to office. He "interviewed" everybody in London who could by any
possibility be supposed capable of influencing in the slightest degree
the fortunes of France. He never for a moment stopped talking. Great men
excel each other in various qualities; but there never was a great man
who could talk against M. Thiers. He could have shut up the late Lord
Macaulay in no time; and I doubt whether Mr. Seward could have contrived
to edge in a word while Thiers was in the same room. M. Thiers stayed in
London little more than two days. He arrived, I think, on a Wednesday
night, and left on the following Saturday. During that time he managed
to do all the interviewing, and was likewise able to take his family to
see the paintings in the National Gallery, where he was to be observed
keenly eyeing the pictures, and eloquently laying down critical law and
gospel on their merits, as if he had come over on a little autumnal
holiday from a settled and peaceful country, which no longer needed
looking after. Then he started from London in a steam-yacht, cruised
about the North Sea and the Baltic, dropped in upon the King of
Denmark, sounded the views of Sweden, collected the general opinion of
Finland, visited the Emperor of Russia and talked him into
semi-bewilderment, and then travelled down by land to Vienna, where he
used all his powers of persuasion on the Emperor Francis Joseph, and to
Florence, where by the sheer force of argument and fluency he drove
Victor Emanuel nearly out of his senses. Since that time, he all but
concluded an armistice with Bismarck, and when last I heard of him
(previous to this writing) he was, as I have said, going on a mission
somewhere in a balloon.

During his recent diplomatic flights, M. Thiers constantly offered to
encounter much greater fatigues and responsibilities if needful. He was
ready to go anywhere and talk to anybody. He would have hunted up the
Emperor of China or the Mikado of Japan, if either sovereign seemed in
the remotest degree likely to intervene on the side of France. I believe
I can say with confidence, that at the outset of his expedition he had
no official authority or mission whatever from the Provisional
Government. He told Jules Favre and the rest that he was about to start
on a tour of inspection round the European cabinets, and that they had
better let him try what he could do; and they did not refuse to let him
try, and it would not have mattered in the least whether they refused or
not. He came, in the first instance, altogether "on his own hook."
Perhaps, at first, the Republican Government was not very anxious to
accept the services of M. Thiers as a messenger of peace. No living
Frenchman had done half so much to bring about the state of national
feeling which enabled Louis Napoleon to precipitate the nation into a
war against Prussia. Perhaps they thought the man whose bitterest
complaint against the Emperor was that he failed to take advantage of
the chance of crushing Prussia in 1866, was not the most likely emissary
to conciliate victorious Prussia in 1870. But Thiers was determined to
make himself useful, and the Republican Government had to give in at
last, and concede some sort of official authority to him. Like the young
lady who said she married the importunate suitor to get rid of him,
Jules Favre and his colleagues probably accepted M. Thiers for their
spokesman as the only way of escaping from his eloquence. His mission
was heroic and patriotic, or egotistical and fussy, just as you are
pleased to regard it. In certain lights Cardinal Richelieu looks
wonderfully like Bottom the weaver. But it is impossible not to admire
the energy and courage of the irrepressible, inexhaustible,
fragile-looking, shabby old Orleanist. Thiers does not seem a personage
capable of enduring fatigue. He appears a sapless, withered, wasted old
creature. But the restless, fiery, exuberant, egotistical energy which
carried him along so far and so fast in life, has apparently gained
rather than lost in strength and resource during the forty years which
have elapsed since the subject of this sketch, then editor of the
"National," drew up in Paris the famous protest against the five
infamous _ordonnances_ of Charles the Tenth, and thus sounded the
prelude to the Revolution of July.

It must have been no common stock of self-possession and
self-complacency which enabled M. Thiers to present himself before the
great Prussian Chancellor as a messenger of peace. Bismarck, who has a
happy knack of apt Shakespearian quotation, might have accosted him in
the words of Beatrice and said, "This is a man's office, but not yours."
For M. Thiers, throughout his whole career, devoted his brilliant gifts
to the promotion of that spirit of narrow national vainglory which of
late years has made France dreaded and detested in Germany. M. Thiers is
like Æsop's trumpeter--guilty not of making war himself, but of blowing
the blasts which set other men fighting. The very speech in which he
protested last summer against the war initiated by the Imperial
Government, was inspired by a principle more immoral, and more
calculated to inflame Germany with resentment, than the very declaration
of war itself. For Thiers only condemned the war on the ground that
France was not properly prepared to crush Germany; that she had lost her
opportunity by not falling on Prussia while the latter was in the
death-grapple with Austria in 1866; and that as France had not done the
thing at the right time, she had better not run the risk of doing it
incompletely, by making the effort at an inopportune moment.

These considerations, however, did not trouble M. Thiers. He advanced to
meet Count von Bismarck with the easy confidence of one who feels that
he has a right to be treated as the best of friends and most appropriate
of envoys. If, immediately after the conclusion of the American war,
John Bright had been sent to Washington by England to endeavor to settle
the Alabama dispute, he probably would not have approached the President
with anything like the confident assurance of a genial welcome which
inspired M. Thiers when he offered himself as a messenger to the
Prussian statesman. This very sublimity of egotism is, and always was,
one of the sources of the success of M. Thiers. No man could with more
perfect composure and self-satisfaction dare to be inconsistent. His was
the very audacity and Quixotism of inconsistency. In office to-day, he
could advocate and enforce the very measures of repression which
yesterday, out of office, he was the foremost to denounce--nay, which he
obtained office by opposing and denouncing. He whose energetic action in
protesting against the celebrated five _ordonnances_ of Charles the
Tenth did so much to bring about the Revolution of July, was himself the
chief official author of the equally celebrated "laws of September,"
introduced in Louis Philippe's reign, which might have suited the
administration of a Peter the Great, or any other uncompromising despot.
In practical politics, of course, almost every minister is occasionally
compelled by the force of circumstances to do things which bear a
considerable resemblance to acts warmly condemned by him while he sat in
opposition. But M. Thiers invariably, when in power, exhibited himself
as the author and champion of principles and policy which he had
denounced with all the force of his eloquent tongue when he was the
opponent of the Government. He seemed in fact to be two men rather than
one, so entirely did Thiers in office contrast with Thiers in
opposition. But Thiers himself never appeared conscious of
inconsistency. Indeed, he was always consistent with his one grand
essential principle and creed--faith in the inspiration and the destiny
of M. Thiers.

To one other principle too let it be said in justice that this brilliant
politician has always been faithful--the principle which maintains the
right of France to throw her sword into the scale where every or any
foreign question is to be weighed. When, after a long absence from the
parliamentary arena, he entered the Imperial Corps Législatif as one of
the deputies for Paris, he soon proved himself to be "old Cassius
still." Age, study, experience, retirement, reflection, had in no wise
dimmed the fire of his ardent nationalism. Eagerly as ever he contended
for the sacred right of France to dragoon all Europe into obedience, to
chop up the Continent into such symmetrical sections as might seem
suitable to the taste and the convenience of French statesmen.
Undoubtedly he was a sharp, tormenting thorn in the side of the Imperial
Government when he returned to active political life. Louis Napoleon had
no minister who could pretend to compare with Thiers in debate. He was
an aggravating and exasperating enemy, against whom fluent and shallow
men like Billault and Baroche, or even speakers of heavier calibre like
Rouher, had no chance whatever. But there were times when to any
impartial mind the invectives of Thiers made the Imperial policy look
noble and enlightened in comparison with the canons of detestable
egotism which he propounded as the true principles of government. I
remember thinking more than once that if Louis Napoleon's Ministers
could only have risen to the real height of the situation and appealed
to whatever there was of lofty unselfish feeling in France, they might
have overwhelmed their remorseless and envenomed critic. In 1866 and
1867, for example, Thiers made it a cardinal point of complaint and
invective against the French Government that it had not prevented by
force of arms the progress of Germany's unity. Nothing could be more
pungent, brilliant, bitter, than the eloquence with which he proclaimed
and advocated his doctrines of ignoble and unscrupulous selfishness. Why
did not the Imperial spokesmen assume a virtue if they had it not, and
boldly declare that the Government of France scorned the shallow and
envious policy which sees calamity and danger in the union and growing
strength of a neighboring people? Such a chord bravely struck would have
awakened an echo in every true and generous heart. But the Imperial
Ministers feebly tried to fight M. Thiers upon his own ground, to accept
his principles as the conditions of contest. They endeavored in a
paltering and limping way to show that the French Government had been
selfish and only selfish, and had taken every care to keep Germany
properly weak and divided. It was during one of these debates, thus
provoked by M. Thiers, that occasion was given to Count von Bismarck for
one of his most striking _coups de théâtre_. The French Minister (if I
remember rightly, it was M. Rouher), tortured and baited by M. Thiers,
stood at bay at last, and boldly declared that the Government of France
had taken measures to render impossible any political cohesion of North
and South Germany. A day or two after, Count von Bismarck effectively
and contemptuously replied to this declaration by unfolding in the
Prussian Chamber the treaties of alliance already concluded between his
Government and the South German States.

It has always been a matter of surprise to me that Thiers did not prove
a success at the bar, to which at first he applied his abilities. He
seems to have the very gifts which would naturally have made a great
pleader. All through his political career he displayed a wonderful
capacity for making the worse appear the better cause. The adroitness
which contends skilfully that black is white to-day, having argued with
equal force and fluency that white was green yesterday, would have been
highly appropriate and respectable in a legal advocate. But M. Thiers
did not somehow get on at the bar, and having no influential friends (he
was, I think, the son of a locksmith), but plenty of ambition, courage,
and confidence, he strove to enter political life by the avenue of
journalism. Much of Thiers's subsequent success as a debater was
probably due to that skill which a practised journalist naturally
acquires--the dexterity of arraying facts and arguments so as not to
bear too long on any one part of the subject, and not to offer to the
mind of the reader more than his patience and interest are willing to
accept. Most of the events of his political career, up to his
reappearance in public life in 1863, belong wholly to history and the
past. His long rivalry with Guizot, his intrigues out of office, and his
conduct as a Minister of Louis Philippe, have hardly a more direct and
vital connection with the affairs of to-day than the statecraft of
Mazarin or the political vicissitudes of Bolingbroke. One indeed of the
projects of M. Thiers has now come rather unexpectedly into active
operation. The fortifications of Paris were the offspring of the
apprehension M. Thiers entertained, thirty years ago, that the Eastern
question of that day might provoke another great European war. Since
that time many critics sneered and laughed a good deal at M. Thiers's
system of fortifications; but the whirligig of time has brought the
statesman his revenge. No one could mistake the meaning of the smile of
self-satisfaction which used last autumn to light up the unattractive
features of the veteran Orleanist, as he made tour after tour of
inspection around the defences of Paris. This chain of fortifications
alone, one might almost say, connects the Thiers of the present
generation with the Thiers of the past. There were malignant persons who
did not scruple to say that the author of the scheme of defences was not
altogether sorry for the national calamity which had brought them into
use, and apparently justified their construction. It is very hard to be
altogether sorry for even a domestic misfortune which gives one who is
especially proud of his foresight and sagacity an opportunity of
pointing out that the precautions which he recommended, and other
members of the family scorned, are now eagerly adopted by unanimous
concurrence. There certainly was something of the pardonable pride of
the author of a long misprized invention visible in the face of M.
Thiers as he used to gaze upon his beloved system of fortifications any
time in last September. Little did even he himself think when, after
Sadowa, he accused the Emperor's Government of having left itself no
blunder more to commit, that it had yet to perpetrate one crowning and
gigantic mistake, and that one effect at least of this stupendous error
would be to compel Paris to treat _au sérieux_, and as a supreme
necessity, that system of defences so long regarded as good for little
else than to remind the present generation that Louis Adolphe Thiers was
once Prime Minister of France.

Thiers was not far short of seventy years old when, in 1863, he entered
upon a new chapter of his public life as one of the deputies for Paris
in the Imperial Corps Législatif. A new generation had meantime arisen.
Men were growing into fame as orators and politicians who were boys when
Thiers was last heard as a parliamentary debater. He returned to
political life at an eventful time and accompanied by some notable
compeers. The elections which sent Thiers to represent the department of
the Seine made the venerable and illustrious Berryer one of the
delegates from Marseilles. I doubt whether the political life of any
country has ever produced a purer, grander figure than that of Berryer;
I am sure that an obsolete and hopeless cause never had a nobler
advocate. The genius and the virtues of Berryer are indeed the loftiest
claims modern French legitimacy can offer to the respect of posterity. I
look back with a feeling of something like veneration to that grand and
kingly form, to the sweet, serene, unaffected dignity of that august
nature. Berryer belonged to a totally different political order from
that of Thiers. As John Bright is to Disraeli, as John Henry Newman is
to Monsignore Capel, as Montalembert was to Louis Veuillot, as Charles
Sumner is to Seward, so was Berryer to Thiers. Of the oratorical merits
of the two men I shall speak hereafter; now I refer to the relative
value of their political characters. With Thiers and Berryer there came
back to political life some men of mark and worth. Garnier-Pagès was
one, the impulsive, true-hearted, not very strong-headed Republican; a
man who might be a great leader if fine phrases and good intentions
could rule the world. Carnot was another, not much perhaps in himself,
but great as the son of the illustrious organizer of victory (oh, if
France had lately had one hour of Carnot!), and personally very popular
just then because of his scornful rejection of Louis Napoleon's offer to
bring back the ashes of his father from Magdeburg in Prussia to France.
Eugène Pelletan, who had been suffering savage persecution because of
his fierce attack on the Empire in his book, "The New Babylon"; Jules
Simon, a superior sort of French Tom Hughes--Tom Hughes with republican
convictions and strong backbone--and several other men of name and
fibre, were now companions in the Corps Législatif. All these, differing
widely in personal opinions, and indeed representing every kind of
political view, from the chivalrous and romantic legitimacy of Berryer
to the republican religion or fetichism of Garnier-Pagès, combined to
make up an opposition to the Imperial Government. Up to that time the
opposition had consisted simply of five men. For years those five had
fought a persevering and apparently hopeless fight against the strength
of Imperial arms, Imperial gold, and the lungs of Imperial hirelings. Of
the five the leader was Jules Favre. The second in command was Emile
Ollivier, whose treason to liberty, truth, and peace has since been so
sternly avenged by destiny. The other three were Picard, a member of the
Republican Government of September, and MM. Darimon and Henon.
Numerically the opposition, now strengthened by the new accessions,
became quite respectable; morally and politically it wholly changed the
situation. It was no longer a Leonidas or Horatius Cocles desperately
holding a pass; it was an army encountering an army. The Imperialists of
course still far outnumbered their opponents; but there were no men
among the devotees of Imperialism who could even pretend to compare as
orators with Berryer, Thiers, or Favre. Of these three men, it seems to
me that Berryer was by far the greatest orator, but Thiers left him
nowhere as a partisan leader. Thiers undoubtedly pushed Jules Favre
aside and made him quite a secondary figure. Thiers delighted in
worrying a ministry. He never needed, as Berryer did, the impulse of a
great principle and a great purpose. He felt all the joy of the strife
which distinguishes the born gladiator. He soon proved that his years
had in no degree impaired his oratorical capacity. It became one of the
grand events of Paris when Thiers was to speak. Owing to the peculiar
regulations of the French Chamber, which required that those who meant
to take part in a debate should inscribe their names beforehand in the
book, and speak according to their turn--an odious usage, fatal to all
genuine debate--it was always known in advance through Paris that
to-morrow or the day after Thiers was to speak. Then came a struggle for
places in what an Englishman would call the strangers' gallery. The
Palais Bourbon, where the Corps Législatif held its sittings, opposite
the Place de la Concorde, has the noble distinction of providing the
least and worst accommodation for the public of any House of Assembly in
the civilized world. The English House of Commons is miserably defective
and niggardly in this respect, but it is liberal and lavish when
compared with the French Corps Législatif. Therefore, when M. Thiers was
about to speak, there was as much intriguing, clamoring, beseeching,
wrangling, storming for seats in the public _tribunes_ as would have
sufficed to carry an English county election. The trouble had its
reward. Nobody could be disappointed in M. Thiers who merely desired an
intellectual exercise and treat. Thiers never was heavy or dull. He is,
I think, the most interesting of all the great European debaters. I do
not know whether I convey exactly the meaning I wish to express when I
used the word "interesting." What I mean is that there is in M. Thiers
an inexhaustible vivacity, freshness, and variety which never allows the
attention to wander or flag. He never dwells too long on any one part of
his subject; or if he has to dwell long anywhere, he enlivens the theme
by a lavish copiousness of novel argument, application, and
illustration, which is irresistibly piquant and fascinating. Reëntering
public life in his old age, M. Thiers had physically something like the
advantage which I have known to be possessed by certain mature
actresses, who, never having had any claim to personal beauty in their
youth, were visited with hardly any penalty of time when they began to
descend into age. Thiers always had an insignificant presence, a
dreadfully bad voice, and an unpleasant delivery. Time added nothing,
and probably could add nothing, to these disadvantages. Already John
Bright has lost, already Gladstone is losing, those magnificent
qualities of voice and intonation which till lately distinguished both
from all other living English orators. One of the only fine passages in
Disraeli's "Life of Lord George Bentinck" is that in which he describes
the melancholy sensation created in the House of Commons when Daniel
O'Connell, feeble and broken down, tried vainly to raise above a
mumbling murmur those accents which once could thrill and vibrate to the
furthest corner of the most capacious hall. But the voice and delivery
of Thiers at seventy were no whit worse than those of Thiers at forty;
and in energy, vivacity, and variety, I think the opposition leader of
1866 had rather gained upon the Minister of 1836. In everything that
makes a great orator he was far beneath Berryer. The latter had as
commanding a presence as he had a superb voice, and a manner at once
graceful and dignified. Berryer, too, had the sustaining strength of a
profound conviction, pure and lofty as a faith. If Berryer was a
political Don Quixote, Thiers was a political Gil Blas. Thiers was all
sparkle, antithesis, audacity, sophistry. His _tours de force_ were
perfect masterpieces of fearless adroitness. He darted from point to
point, from paradox to paradox, with the bewildering agility of a
squirrel. He flashed through the heavy atmosphere of a dull debate with
the scintillating radiancy of a firefly. He propounded sentiments of
freedom which would positively have captivated you if you had not known
a little of the antecedents of the orator. He threw off concise and
luminous maxims of government which would have been precious guides if
human politics could only be ruled by epigram. His long experience as a
partisan leader, in and out of office, had made him master of a vast
array of facts and dates, which he was expert to marshal in such a
manner as often to bewilder his opponents. His knowledge of the
mechanism and regulations of diplomatic and parliamentary practice was
consummate. He was singularly clear and attractive in statement; his
mode of putting a case had something in it that was positively
fascinating. He was sharp and severe in retort, and there was a cold,
self-complacent _hauteur_ in his way of putting down an adversary, which
occasionally reminded one of a peculiarity of Earl Russell's style when
the latter was still a good parliamentary debater. M. Thiers had the
great merit of never talking over the heads, above the understandings of
his audience. His style of language was of the same character perhaps as
that of Mr. Wendell Phillips. Of course no two men could possibly be
more unlike in the manner of speaking, but the rhetorical vernacular of
both has a considerable resemblance. The diction in each case is clear,
incisive, penetrating--never, or hardly ever, rising to anything of
exalted oratorical grandeur, never involved in mist or haze of any kind,
and with the same habitual acidity and sharpness in it. I presume M.
Thiers wrote the greater part of his speeches beforehand, but he
evidently had the happy faculty, rare even among accomplished orators,
which enables a speaker to blend the elaborately prepared portions of
his discourse with the extemporaneous passages originated by the
impulses and the incidents of the debate. Some of the cleverest
arguments, and especially some of the cleverest sarcastic hits in M.
Thiers's recent speeches, were provoked by questions and interruptions
which must have been quite unexpected. But a strange peculiarity about
the whole body of the speeches, the written parts as well as the
extemporaneous, was that they bore no resemblance whatever to the
glittering and gorgeous style which is so common and so objectionable in
the pages of the author's history of the French Revolution, and of the
Consulate and the Empire. I must say that I think M. Thiers's historical
works are decidedly heavy reading. I think his speeches are more
interesting and attractive to read than those of any political speaker
of our day. As an orator I set him below Berryer, below Gladstone and
Bright, below Wendell Phillips, and not above Disraeli. But as an
interesting speaker--I can think of no better qualification for him--I
place M. Thiers above any of those masters of the art of eloquence.

I have not compared M. Thiers with Jules Favre. Any juxtaposition of the
two ought rather perhaps to be in the way of contrast than of
comparison. Jules Favre is probably the most exquisite and perfect
rhetorician practising in the public debates of our time. No one else
can lend so brilliant an effect, so delightful an emphasis to words and
phrases by the mere modulations of his tone. I once heard a French
workingman say that Jules Favre _parlait comme un ange_--talked like an
angel; and there was a simple appropriateness in the expression. An
angel, if he had to address so unsympathetic and uncongenial an audience
as the Imperial Corps Législatif, could hardly lend more musical effect
to the meaning of his words than was given by Jules Favre's consummate
rhetorical skill. But I must acknowledge that to me at least there never
seemed to be much in what Jules Favre said. It seemed to me too often to
want marrow and backbone. It was an eloquence of fine phrases and
splendid vague generalities. "Flow on, thou shining river," one felt
sometimes inclined to say as the bright, broad, shallow stream glided
away. If Thiers spoke for half a day, and the discourse covered a dozen
columns of the closely-printed "Moniteur," yet the listener or reader
came away with the impression that the orator had crammed quite a
surprising quantity of matter into his speech, and could have found ever
so much more to say on the same subject. The impression produced on me
at least by the speeches of Jules Favre was always of the very opposite
character. They seemed to be all rhetoric and modulation; they were
without depth and without fibre. The essentially declamatory character
of Jules Favre's eloquence received its most complete illustration in
that remarkable document--so painful and pathetic because of its obvious
earnestness, so ludicrous and almost contemptible because of its turgid
and extravagant outbursts--the report of his recent interviews with
Count von Bismarck at the Prussian headquarters near Versailles. One
must keep constantly in mind the awful seriousness of the situation, and
the genuine suffering which it must have imposed upon Jules Favre, not
to laugh outright or feel disgusted at the inflated, hyperbolical, and
melodramatic style in which the Republican Minister describes his
interview with the Prussian Chancellor. Now, whatever faults of style M.
Thiers might commit, he never could thus make himself ridiculous. He
never allows himself to be out of tune with the occasion and the
audience. You may differ utterly from him, you may distrust and dislike
him; but Thiers, the parliamentary orator, will not permit you to laugh
at him.

Thiers was always very happy in his replies and retorts, and he never
allowed if he could an interruption to one of his speeches in the Corps
Législatif to pass without seizing its meaning and at once dissecting
and demolishing it. He rejoiced in the light sword-play of such
exercises. He would never have been contented with the superb quietness
of contempt by which Berryer in one of his latest speeches crushed
Granier de Cassagnac, the abject serf and hireling of Imperialism. While
Berryer was speaking, Granier de Cassagnac suddenly expressed his coarse
dissent from one of the orator's statements by crying out, "That is not
true." Berryer was not certain as to the source of this insolent
interruption. He gazed all round the assembly, and demanded in accents
of subdued and noble indignation who had dared thus to challenge the
truth of his statement. There was a dead pause. Even enemies looked up
with reverence to the grand old orator, and were ashamed of the rude
insult flung at him. De Cassagnac quailed, but every eye was on him, and
he was compelled to declare himself. "It was I who spoke," said the
Imperial servant. Berryer looked at him for a moment, and then said,
"Oh, it was _you_!--then it is of no consequence," and calmly resumed
the thread of his discourse. Nothing could have been finer, nothing more
demolishing than the cold, grand contempt which branded De Cassagnac as
a creature incapable of meriting, even by insult, the notice of a man of
honor. But Thiers would never have been satisfied with such a mode of
crushing an adversary; and indeed it needed all the majesty of Berryer's
presence and the moral grandeur of his character to give it full force
and emphasis. Thiers would have showered upon the head of the Imperial
lacquey a whole fiery cornucopia of sarcasm and sharp invective, and De
Cassagnac would have gone home rather proud of having drawn down upon
his head the angry eloquence of the great Orleanist orator.

Thiers threw his whole soul into his speeches--not merely as to their
preparation, but as to their revision and publication. According to the
Imperial system, no independent reports of speeches in the Chambers were
allowed to appear in print. The official stenographers noted down in
full each day's debate, and the whole was published next day in the
"Moniteur Universel." These reports professed to give every word and
syllable of the speeches--every whisper of interruption. Sometimes,
therefore, the "Moniteur" came out with twenty of its columns filled up
with the dull maunderings of some provincial blockhead, for whom
servility and money had secured an official candidature. Besides these
stupendous reports, the Government furnished a somewhat condensed
version, in which the twenty-column speech was reduced say to a dozen
columns. Either of these reports the public journals might take, but
none other; and no journal must alter or condense by the omission of a
line or the substitution of a word the text thus officially furnished.
When Thiers had spent the whole day in delivering a speech, he was
accustomed to spend the whole night in reading over and correcting the
proof-sheets of the official report. The venerable orator would hurry
home when the sitting was over, change his clothes, get into his
arm-chair before his desk, and set to work at the proof-sheets according
as they came. Over these he would toil with the minute and patient
inspection of a watchmaker or a lapidary, reading this or that passage
many times, until he had satisfied himself that no error remained and
that no turn of expression could well be improved. Before this task was
done, the night had probably long faded and the early sun was already
lighting Paris; but when the Corps Législatif came to assemble at noon,
the inexhaustible septuagenarian was at his post again. That evening he
would be found, the central figure of a group, in some salon, scattering
his brilliant sayings and acrid sarcasms around him, and in all
probability exercising his humor at the expense of the Imperial
Ministers, the Empire, and even the Emperor himself. After 1866 he was
exuberant in his _bons mots_ about the humiliation of the Imperial
Cabinet by Prussia. "Bismarck," he once declared, "is the best supporter
of the French Government. He keeps it always in its place by first
boxing it on one ear and then maintaining the equilibrium by boxing it
on the other."

If one could have been present at the recent interviews between Count
Bismarck and M. Thiers, he would doubtless have enjoyed a curious and
edifying intellectual treat. Bismarck is a man of imperturbable good
humor; Thiers a man of imperturbable self-conceit. Thiers has a tongue
which never lacks a word, and that the most expressive word. Bismarck
has a rare gift of shrewd satirical humor, and of phrases that stick to
public memory. Each man would have regarded the other as a worthy
antagonist in a duel of words. Neither would care to waste much time in
lofty sentiment and grandiose appeals. Each would thoroughly understand
that his best motto would be, "_A corsaire, corsaire et demi_." Bismarck
would find in Thiers no feather-headed Benedetti; assuredly, Thiers
would favor Bismarck with none of Jules Favre's sighs and tears, and
bravado and choking emotions. Thiers would have the greater part of the
talk, that is certain; but Bismarck would probably contrive to compress
a good deal of meaning and significance into his curt interjected
sentences. Thiers assuredly must have long since worn out any freshness
of surprise or thrilling emotion of any kind at the political
convulsions of France. To him even the spectacle of the standard of
Prussia hoisted on the pinnacles of Versailles could hardly have been an
overpowering wonder. He had seen the soldiers of Prussia picketed in
Paris; he could remember when a fickle Parisian populace, weary of war,
had thronged into the streets to applaud the entrance of the conquering
Czar of Russia. He had seen the Bourbon restored, and had helped to
overthrow him. He had been twice the chief Minister of that Louis
Philippe of Orleans, who in his youth had had to save the Princess his
sister by carrying her off in her night-gown, without time to throw a
shawl around her, and whose long years of exile had led him, in
fulfilment of the prophecy of Danton, to the throne of France at last.
He had helped towards the downfall of that same King his master, and had
striven vainly at the end to stand between him and his fate. He had seen
a second Republic rise and sink; he had now become the envoy of a third
Republic. He had refused to serve an Imperial Napoleon, although his own
teaching and preaching had been among the most effective agencies in
debauching the mind and heart of the nation, and thus rendering a second
Empire possible. People say M. Thiers has no feelings, and I shall not
venture to contradict them--I have often heard the statement from those
who know better than I can pretend to do. It would have been personally
unfortunate for him in his interview with Count von Bismarck if he had
been burthened with feelings. For he must surely in such a case have
felt bitterly the consciousness that the misfortunes which had fallen on
his country were in great measure the fruit of his own doctrines and his
own labors. If the public conscience of France had not been seared and
hardened against all sentiment of obligation to international principle,
where French glory and French aggrandizement were concerned; if France
had not learned to believe that no foreign nation had any rights which
she was bound to respect; if she had not been saturated with the
conviction that every benefit to a neighbor was an injury to herself; if
she had not accepted these views as articles of national faith, and
followed them out wherever she could to their uttermost consequences,
then M. Thiers might be said to have written and spoken and lived in

It is probable that a new career presents itself as a possibility to the
indomitable energy, and, as many would say, the insatiable ambition of
M. Thiers. Certainly, there seems not the faintest indication that the
veteran believes himself to lag superfluous on the stage. It is likely
that he rushed into the recent peace negotiations with the hope of
playing over again the part so skilfully played by Talleyrand at the
time of the Congress of Vienna, by virtue of which France obtained so
much advantage which might hardly have been expected, and Germany got so
little of what she might naturally have looked for. I certainly shall
not venture to say whether M. Thiers may not even yet have an important
official career before him. His recent enterprises and expeditions give
evidence enough that he has nerve and physique for any undertaking
likely to attract him, and I see no reason to doubt that his intellect
is as fresh and active as it was thirty years ago. Thiers deserves
nothing but honor for the unconquerable energy and courage which refuse
to yield to years, and will not acknowledge the triumph of time. He
would deserve far greater honor still if we could regard him as a
disinterested patriot; highest honor of all if his principles were as
wise and just as his ambition was unselfish. But charity itself could
hardly hope to reconcile the facts of M. Thiers's long and varied career
with any theory ascribing to the man himself a pure and disinterested
purpose. That a statesman has changed his opinions is often his highest
glory, if, as in the case of Mr. Gladstone, he has thereby grown into
the light and the right. Nor is a change of views necessarily a reproach
to a politician, even though he may have retrograded or gone wrong. But
the man who is invariably a passionate liberal when out of office, and a
severe conservative when in power; who makes it a regular practice to
have one set of opinions while he leads the opposition, and another when
he has succeeded in mounting to the lead of a ministry; such a man
cannot possibly hope to obtain for such systematic alternations the
credit of even a capricious and fantastic sincerity. No one who knows
anything of M. Thiers would consent thus to exalt his heart at the
expense of his head. When the late Lord Cardigan was, rightly or
wrongly, accused of having returned rather too quickly from the famous
charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava, his lordship, among other
things, alleged that his horse had run away with him. A bitter critic
thereupon declared that Lord Cardigan could not be allowed thus unfairly
to depreciate his consummate horsemanship, I am afraid we cannot allow
M. Thiers's intelligence and shrewdness to be unjustly depreciated by
the assumption that his political tergiversations were the result of
meaningless caprice.

M. Thiers is one of the most gifted men of his day. But he is not, in my
judgment, a great man. He wants altogether the grand and stable
qualities of principle and judgment which are needed to constitute
political greatness. His statesmanship is a sort of policy belonging
apparently to the school of the Lower Empire; a Byzantine blending of
intrigue and impudence. He has never had the faculty of reading the
signs of the times, or of understanding that to-day is not necessarily
like yesterday. But for the wonderful gifts of the man, there would seem
to be something positively childish in the egotism which could believe
that it lay in the power of France to maintain, despite of destiny, the
petty princes of Germany and Italy, to arrange the political conditions
of England, and prescribe to the United States how far their principle
of internal cohesion should reach. Victor Hugo is undoubtedly an
egotistic Frenchman. Some of his recent utterances have been foolish and
ridiculous. But the folly has been that of a great soul; the folly has
consisted in appealing, out of all time and place, to sublime and
impracticable sentiments of human brotherhood and love which ought to
influence all human souls, but do not and probably never will. Far
different is the egotism of Thiers. It is the egotism of selfishness,
arrogance, and craft. In a sublime world, Victor Hugo's appeals would
cease to be ridiculous; but the nobler the world, the more ignoble would
seem the doctrines and the policy of Thiers. My own admiration of Thiers
extends only to his skill as a debater and his marvellous intellectual
vitality. The man who, despite the most disheartening disadvantages of
presence, voice, and manner, is yet the most fascinating political
debater of his time, the man who at seventy-three years of age can go up
in a balloon in quest of a new career, must surely command some interest
and admiration, let critical wisdom preach to us never so wisely. But
the best days will have arisen for France when such a political
character and such a literary career as those of M. Thiers shall have
become an anachronism and an impossibility.


Some few years ago, seven or eight perhaps, a certain sensation was
created among artists, and journalists, and literary men, and
connoisseurs, and critics, by one of Flandrin's best portraits.
Undoubtedly, the portrait was an admirable likeness; no one who had ever
seen the original could deny or question that; but yet there was an air,
a character, a certain depth of idealized expression about it which
seemed to present the subject in a new light, and threw one into a kind
of doubt as to whether he had ever truly understood the original before.
Either the painter had unduly glorified his sitter, or the sitter had
impressed upon the artist a true idea of his character and intellect
which had never before been revealed to the public at large. The
portrait was that of a man of middle age, with a smooth, broad,
thoughtful brow, a character of command about the finely-formed,
somewhat sensuous lips; chin and nose beautifully moulded, in fact what
ladies who write novels would call "chiselled;" a face degenerating a
little into mere flesh, but still dignified and imposing. Everywhere
over the face there was a tone of dissatisfaction, of disappointment, of
sullenness mingling strangely with the sensuous characteristics, and
conveying somehow the idea of great power and daring ambition unduly
repressed by outward conditions, or rendered barren by inward defects,
or actually frustrated by failure and fate. "A Cæsar out of employment!"
exclaimed a celebrated French author and critic. So much there was of
the Cæsar in the face that no school-boy, no Miss in her teens could
have even glanced at it without saying, "That is the face of a
Bonaparte!" Were not the features a little too massive, it might have
passed for an admirable likeness of the victor of Austerlitz; or, at all
events, of the Napoleon of Leipzig or the Hundred Days. Probably any
ordinary observer would at once have set it down as a portrait of the
great Napoleon, and never thought there could be any doubt about the
matter. It was, in fact, the likeness of Napoleon-Jerome, son of the
rattle-pate King of Westphalia--Prince Napoleon, as he is ordinarily
called, the Plon-plon whom soldiers jeer at, the "Red Prince" whom
priests and Legitimists denounce, the cousin of the Emperor of the
French, the son-in-law of the King of Italy.

It was only somewhere about, or a little before the time of the Flandrin
portrait, that Prince Napoleon had the honor of becoming a mystery in
the eyes of the public. Up to 1860, his character was quite settled in
public estimation, just as that of Louis Napoleon had been up to the
time of the _coup d'etat_. Public opinion generally settles the
characters of conspicuous men at first by the intuitive process--the
most delightful and easy method possible, dispensing, as it does, with
any necessity for studying the subject, or even knowing anything at all
about it. When the intuitive process has once adjusted a man's
character, it is not easy to get people to believe in any other
adjustment. Still, there are some remarkable instances of a change in
popular opinion. The case of Louis Napoleon, the Emperor, is one
illustration; that of Prince Napoleon, his cousin, is another, not so
remarkable, certainly, but still quite worthy of some attention.

Prince Napoleon had been before the world more or less since he appeared
as representative of Corsica, in the Constituent Assembly of 1848. He
was made conspicuous, in a negative sort of way, by having had no hand
in the _coup d'etat_, or having even opposed it, although he did not
scruple to profit by its success and enjoy its golden advantages. He
had a command in the Crimean war; he was sent into Tuscany during the
Italian campaign. All that time public opinion in Europe was unanimous
about him. He was a sensualist, a coward, an imbecile, and a blockhead.
He was a fat, stupid, muddle-headed Heliogabalus. Dulness, cowardice,
and profligacy were his principal, perhaps his only characteristics.
When the young Clotilde, of Savoy, was given to him for a wife, a
positive cry of wonder and disgust went up from every country of Europe.
In good truth, it was a scandalous thing to marry a young and innocent
girl to a man nearly as old as her father; and who, undoubtedly, had
been a _mauvais sujet_, and had led a life of dissipation so far. But
Europe cried aloud as if three out of every four princely alliances were
not made on the same principle and endowed with the same character. Had
the Princess Clotilde been affianced to a hog or a gorilla, there could
hardly have been greater wonder and horror expressed, so clear was the
public mind about the stupidity and brutality of Prince Napoleon.

Certainly, if one looked a little deeper than mere public opinion, he
would have found, even then, that here and there some men, not quite
incapable of judging, did not accept the popular estimate of the
Emperor's cousin. All through the memorable progress of the Congress of
Paris--out of which sprang Italy--we find, by the documents subsequently
made public, that Cavour was in close and frequent consultation with
Prince Napoleon. Once we find Cavour saying that Prince Napoleon
complains of his slowness, his too great moderation, and thinks he could
serve the cause better by a little more boldness. "Perhaps he is right,"
says Cavour, in words to that effect; "but I fear I lack his force of
character, his daringness of purpose." Richard Cobden makes the
acquaintance of Prince Napoleon, and is surprised and delighted with his
advanced opinions on the subject of free trade; and deliberately
describes him (I heard Cobden use the words) as "one of the best
informed, if not the very best informed, of all the public men of
Europe." Kinglake observes the Prince during the Crimean campaign--where
Napoleon-Jerome got his reputation for cowardice and his nick-name of
Plon-plon--and finds in him a genius very like that of his uncle, the
great Napoleon, especially a wonderful power of distinguishing at a
glance between the essentials and the accidentals of any question or
situation--and any one who has ever studied politics and public men will
know how rare a faculty that is--and finally declares that he sees no
reason to believe him inferior in courage to the conqueror of Marengo!
Edmond About, not a very dull personage, and not quite given up to
panegyric, bursts into a strain of almost lyrical enthusiasm about the
wit, the brilliancy, the culture, the daring ambition of Prince
Napoleon, and declares that the Prince is kept as much out of the way as
possible, because a man endowed with a soul of such unresting energy,
and the face of the great Emperor, is too formidable a personage to be
seen hanging about the steps of a throne. To close this string of
illustrations, Prince Napoleon is in somewhat frequent and confidential
intercourse with Michel Chevalier, a man not likely to cultivate the
society of heavy blockheads and dullards, even though these might happen
to wear princely coronets. Clearly, public opinion here was even more
directly at odds than it often is with the opinion of some whom we may
call experts; and the difference was so great that there seemed no
possible way of reconciling the two. A man may be a profligate and yet a
man of genius, and even a patriot; but one cannot be a profligate
blockhead and a man of genius, a Cloten and an Alcibiades, a Cæsar and a
Pyrgopolinices at once.

It was in the early part of 1861 that Prince Napoleon contributed
something of his own spontaneous motion to help in the solution of the
enigma. That was the year when the Emperor removed the restriction which
prevented both Chambers of the Legislature from freely debating the
address, and the press from fully reporting the discussions. There was a
remarkable debate in the Senate, ranging over a great variety of
domestic and foreign questions, and one most memorable event of the
debate was the brilliant, powerful and exhaustive oration delivered,
with splendid energy and rhetorical effect, by Prince Napoleon. _Mon âne
parle et même il parle bien_, declares the astonished Joan, in
Voltaire's scandalous poem, "La Pucelle." Perhaps there was something of
a similar wonder mingled with the burst of genuine admiration which went
up first from Paris, then from France, and finally from Europe and
America, when that magnificent democratic manifesto came to be read.
Certainly, I remember no single speech which, during my time, created
anything like the same sensation in Europe. For it took the outer world
wholly by surprise. It was not a case like that of the sensation lately
created by the florid and fervid eloquence of the young Spanish orator,
Castellar. In this latter case the public were surprised and delighted
to find that there was a master of thrilling rhetoric alive, and arrayed
on the side of democratic freedom, of whose very existence most persons
had been previously ignorant. But, in the case of Prince Napoleon, the
surprise was, that a man whom the public had long known, and always set
down as a stupid sensualist, should suddenly, and without any previous
warning, turn out a great orator, whose eloquence had in it something so
fresh, and genuine, and forcible that it recalled the memory of the most
glorious days of the French Tribune. I write of this celebrated oration
now only from recollection; and, of course, I did not hear it spoken. I
say "of course," because the rules of the French Senate, unlike those of
the Corps Legislatif, forbid the presence of any strangers during the
debates. But those who heard it spoke enthusiastically of the force and
freedom with which it was delivered; the sudden, impulsive fervor of
occasional outbursts; and the wonderful readiness with which the
speaker, when interrupted, as he was very frequently, passed from one
topic to another in order to dispose of the interruption, and replied to
sudden challenge with even prompter repartee. No one could read the
speech without admiring the extent and variety of the political
knowledge it displayed; the prodigality of illustration it flung over
every argument; the thrilling power of some of its rhetorical "phrases;"
the tone of sustained and passionate eloquence which made itself heard
all throughout; and, perhaps above all, that flexible, spontaneous
readiness of language and resource to which every interruption, every
interjected question only acted like a spur to a generous horse, calling
forth new and greater, and wholly unexpected efforts. In the French
Senate I need, perhaps, hardly tell my readers, it is the habit to allow
the utmost license of interruption, and Prince Napoleon's audacious
onslaught on the reactionists and the _parti prêtre_ called out even an
unusual amount of impatient utterance. Those who interrupted took little
by their motion. The energetic Prince tossed off his assailants as a
bull flings the dogs away on the points of his horns. "Our principles
are not yours," scornfully exclaims a Legitimist nobleman--the late
Marquis de la Rochejaquelein, if I remember rightly. "Your principles
are not ours!" vehemently replies the orator. "No, nor are your
antecedents ours. Our pride is that our fathers fell on the battle-field
resisting the foreign invaders whom your fathers brought in for the
subjugation of France!" The speech is studded with sudden replies
equally fervid and telling. Indeed, the whole material of the oration
is rich, strong, and genuine. There seems to be in the eloquence of the
French Chambers, of late, a certain want of freshness and natural power.
I do not speak of Berryer--he had no such want. But Thiers--by far the
ablest living debater who speaks only from preparation--with all his
wonderful science and skill as an artist in debate, appears to be always
somewhat artificial and elaborate. Jules Favre, with his exquisitely
modulated tones, and his unrivalled choice of words, hardly ever appears
to me to rise to that height where the orator, lost in his subject,
compels his hearers to lose themselves also in it. Now, I cannot help
thinking that the two or three really great speeches made by Prince
Napoleon had in them more of the native fibre, force and passion of
oratory than those of almost any Frenchman since the days of Mirabeau.

However that may be, the effect wrought on the public mind was
unmistakable. Plon-plon had startled Europe. He entered the palace of
the Luxembourg on that memorable day without any repute but that of a
dullard and a sensualist; he came out of it a recognized orator. I have
been told that he lay back in his open carriage and smoked his cigar, as
he drove home from the Senate, to all appearance the same indolent,
sullen, heavy apathetic personage whom all Paris had previously known
and despised.

One notable effect of this famous speech was the reply which a certain
passage in it drew from Louis Philippe's son, the Duc d'Aumale. Prince
Napoleon had indulged in a bitter sneer or two against former dynasties,
and the Duc d'Aumale, a man of great culture and ability, took up the
quarrel fiercely. The Duke assailed Prince Napoleon in one of the
keenest, most biting pamphlets which the political controversy of our
day has produced. Among other things, the Duke replied to a supposed
imputation on the weakness of Louis Philippe by admitting, frankly, that
the _bourgeois_ King had not dealt with enemies, when in his power, as a
Bonaparte would have done. "_Et tenez_, Prince," wrote the Duke, "the
only time when the word of a Bonaparte may be believed is when he avows
that he will never spare a defenceless enemy." The pamphlet bristled
with points equally sharp and envenomed. But the Duc d'Aumale was not
content with written rejoinder. He sent a challenge to the Prince, and
in serious earnest. The Prince, it need hardly be said, did not accept
the challenge.

     Yes, like enough, high-battled Cæsar will
     Unstate his greatness, and be staged to the show
     Against a sworder!

Our Cæsar, though not "high-battled," was by no means likely to consent
to be "staged against a sworder." The Emperor hastened to prevent any
disastrous consequences, by insisting that the Prince must not accept
the challenge--and there was no duel. People winked and sneered a good
deal. It is said that the martial King Victor Emmanuel grumbled and
chafed at his son-in-law; but there was no fight. Let me say, for my own
part, that I think Prince Napoleon was quite right in not accepting the
challenge, and that I do not believe him to be wanting in personal

From that moment, Prince Napoleon became a conspicuous figure in
European politics, and when any great question arose, men turned
anxiously toward him, curious to know what he would do or say. In three
or four successive sessions he spoke in the Senate, and even with the
impression of the first surprise still strong on the public mind, the
speeches preserved abundantly the reputation which the earliest of them
had so suddenly created. He might be the _enfant terrible_ of the
Bonaparte family; he might be utterly wanting in statesmanship; he
might be insincere; he might be physically a coward; but all the world
now admitted him to be an orator, and, in his way, a man of genius.

Then it became known to the public, all at once, that the Prince,
whatever his failings, had some rare gifts besides that of eloquence. He
was undoubtedly a man of exquisite taste in all things artistic; he had
an intelligent and liberal knowledge of practical science; he had a
great faculty of organization; he was a keen humorist and wit. He loved
the society of artists, and journalists, and literary men; he associated
with them _en bon camarade_, and he could talk with each upon his own
subject; his _bon mots_ soon began to circulate far and wide. He was a
patron of Revolution. In the innermost privacy of the Palais Royal men
like Mieroslawski, the Polish Red Revolutionist, men like General Türr,
unfolded and discussed their plans. Prince Gortschakoff, in his
despatches at the time of the Polish Rebellion, distinctly pointed to
the palace of Prince Napoleon as the headquarters of the insurrection.
The "Red Prince" grew to be one of the mysterious figures in European
policy. Was he in league with his cousin, the Emperor--or was he his
cousin's enemy? Did he hope, on the strength of that Bonaparte face, and
his secret league with Democracy, to mount one day from the steps of the
throne to the throne itself? Between him and the succession to that
throne intervened only the life of one frail boy. Was Prince Napoleon
preparing for the day when he might play the part of a Gloster (without
the smothering), and, pushing the boy aside, succeed to the crown of the
great Emperor whom in face he so strikingly resembled?

At last came the celebrated Ajaccio speech. The Emperor had gone to
visit Algeria; the Prince went to deliver an oration at the inauguration
of a monument to Napoleon I., at Ajaccio. The speech was, in brief, a
powerful, passionate denunciation of Austria, and the principles which
Austria represented before Sadowa taught her a lesson of tardy wisdom.
Viewed as the exposition of a professor of history, one might fairly
acknowledge the Prince's speech to have illustrated eloquently some
solid and stern truths, which Europe would have done well even then to
consider deeply. Subsequent events have justified and illuminated many
of what then seemed the most startling utterances of the orator.
Austria, for example, practically admits, by her present policy, the
justice of much that Prince Napoleon pleaded against her. But as the
speech of the Emperor's cousin; of one who stood in near order of
succession to the throne; of one who had only just been raised to an
office in the State so high that in the absence of the sovereign it made
him seem the sovereign's proper representative, it was undoubtedly a
piece of marvellous indiscretion. Europe stood amazed at its outspoken
audacity. The Emperor could not overlook it; and he publicly repudiated
it. Prince Napoleon resigned his public offices--including that of
President of the Commissioners of the International Exhibition, which
undertaking suffered sadly from lack of his organizing capacity and his
admirable taste and judgment--and the Imperial orator of Democracy
disappeared from the public stage as suddenly, and amid as much tumult,
as he had entered upon it.

Prince Napoleon has, indeed, been taken into favor since by his Imperial
cousin, and has been sent on one or two missions, more or less important
or mysterious; but he has never, from the date of the Ajaccio speech up
to the present moment, played any important part as a public man. He is
not, however, "played out." His energy, his ambition, his ability, will
assuredly bring him prominently before the public again. Let us,
meanwhile, endeavor to set before the readers of THE GALAXY a fair and
true picture of the man, free alike from the exaggerated proportions
which wondering _quid nuncs_ or parasites attribute to him, and from
the distortions of unfriendly painters. Exaggeration of both kinds
apart, Prince Napoleon is really one of the most remarkable figures on
the present stage of French history. He is, at least, a man of great
possibilities. Let us try to ascertain fairly what he is, and what are
his chances for the future.

Born of a hair-brained, eccentric, adventure-seeking, negligent, selfish
father, Prince Napoleon had little of the advantages of a home
education. His boyhood, his youth, were passed in a vagrant kind of way,
ranging from country to country, from court to court. He started in life
with great natural talents, a strong tendency to something not very
unlike rowdyism, an immense ambition, an almost equally vast indolence,
a deep and genuine love of arts, letters, and luxury, an eccentric,
fitful temper, and a predominant pride in that relationship to the great
Emperor which is so plainly stamped upon his face. Without entering into
any questions of current scandal, everybody must know that Napoleon III.
has nothing of the Bonaparte in his face, a fact on which Prince
Napoleon, in his earlier and wilder days, was not always very slow to
comment. Indolence, love of luxury, and a capricious temper have,
perhaps, been the chief enemies which have hitherto prevented the latter
from fulfilling any high ambition. It would be affectation to ignore the
fact that Prince Napoleon flung many years away in mere dissipation.
Stories are told in Paris which would represent him almost as a
Vitellius or an Egalité in profligacy--stories some of which simply
transcend belief by their very monstrosity. Even to this day, to this
hour, it is the firm conviction of the general public that the Emperor's
cousin is steeped to the lips in sensuality. Now, rejecting, of course,
a huge mass of this scandal, it is certain that Prince Napoleon was, for
a long time, a downright _mauvais sujet_; it is by no means certain that
he has, even at his present mature age, discarded all his evil habits.
His temper is much against him. People habitually contrast the unvarying
courtesy and self-control of the Emperor with the occasional
brusqueness, and even rudeness, of the Prince. True that Prince Napoleon
can be frankly and warmly familiar with his intimates, and even that,
like Prince Hal, he sometimes encourages a degree of familiarity which
hardly tends to mutual respect. But the outer world cannot always rely
on him. He can be undiplomatically rough and hot, and he has a gift of
biting jest which is perhaps one of the most dangerous qualities a
statesman can cultivate. Then there is a personal restlessness about him
which even princes cannot afford safely to indulge. He has hardly ever
had any official position assigned to him which he did not sometime or
other scornfully abandon on the spur of some sudden impulse. The Madrid
embassy in former days, the Algerian administration, the Crimean
command--these and other offices he only accepted to resign. He has
wandered more widely over the face of the earth than any other living
prince--probably than any other prince that ever lived. It used to be
humorously said of him that he was qualifying to become a teacher of
geography, in the event of fortune once more driving the race of
Bonaparte into exile and obscurity. What port is there that has not
sheltered his wandering yacht? He has pleasant dwellings enough to
induce a man to stay at home. His Palais Royal is one of the most
elegant and tasteful abodes belonging to a European prince. The stranger
in Paris who is fortunate enough to obtain admission to it--and, indeed,
admission is easy to procure--must be sadly wanting in taste if he does
not admire the treasures of art and _vertu_ which are laid up there, and
the easy, graceful manner of their arrangement. Nothing of the air of
the show-place is breathed there; no rules, no conditions, no watchful,
dogging lacqueys or sentinels make the visitor uncomfortable. Once
admitted, the stranger goes where he will, and admires and examines what
he pleases. He finds there curiosities and relics, medals and statues,
bronzes and stones from every land in which history or romance takes any
interest; he gazes on the latest artistic successes--Doré's magnificent
lights and shadows, Gérome's audacious nudities; he observes autograph
collections of value inestimable; he notices that on the tables, here
and there, lie the newest triumphs or sensations of literature--the poem
that every one is just talking of, the play that fills the theatres,
George Sand's last novel, Rénan's new volume, Taine's freshest
criticism: he is impressed everywhere with the conviction that he is in
the house of a man of high culture and active intellect, who keeps up
with the progress of the world in arts, and letters, and politics. Then
there was, until lately, the famous Pompeiian Palace, in one of the
avenues of the Champs Elysées, which ranked among the curiosities of
Paris, but which Prince Napoleon has at last chosen, or been compelled,
to sell. On the Swiss shore of the lake of Geneva, one of the most
remarkable objects that attract the eye of the tourist who steams from
Geneva to Lausanne, is La Bergerie, the palace of Prince Napoleon. But
the owner of these palaces spends little of his time in them. His wife,
the Princess Clotilde, stays at home and delights in her children, and
shows them with pride to her visitors, while her restless husband is
steaming in and out of the ports of the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, or
the Baltic. Prince Napoleon has not found his place yet, say Edmond
About and other admirers--when he does he will settle firmly to it. He
is a restless, unmanageable idler and scamp, say his enemies--unstable
as water, he shall not excel. Meanwhile years go by, and Prince Napoleon
has long left even the latest verge of youth behind him; and he is only
a possibility as yet, and is popular with no political party in France.

Strange that this avowed and ostentatious Democrat, this eloquent,
powerful spokesman of French Radicalism, is not popular even with
Democrats and Red Republicans. They do not trust him. They cannot
understand how he can honestly extend one hand to Democracy, while in
the other he receives the magnificent revenues assigned to him by
Despotism. One might have thought that nothing would be more easy than
for this man, with his daring, his ambition, his brilliant talents, his
commanding eloquence, his democratic principles, and his Napoleon face,
to make himself the idol of French Democracy. Yet he has utterly failed
to do so. As a politician, he has almost invariably upheld the rightful
cause, and accurately foretold the course of events. He believed in the
possibility of Italy's resurrection long before there was any idea of
his becoming son-in-law to a King of Italy; he has been one of the most
earnest friends of the cause of Poland; he saw long ago what every one
sees now, that the fall of the Austrian system was an absolute necessity
to the progress of Europe; he was a steady supporter of the American
Union, and when it was the fashion in France, as in England, to regard
the independence of the Southern Confederacy as all but an accomplished
fact, he remained firm in the conviction that the North was destined to
triumph. With all his characteristic recklessness and impetuosity, he
has many times shown a cool and penetrating judgment, hardly surpassed
by that of any other European statesman. Yet the undeniable fact
remains, that his opinion carries with it comparatively little weight,
and that no party recognizes him as a leader.

Is he insincere? Most people say he is. They say that, with all his
professions of democratic faith, he delights in his princely rank and
his princely revenues; that he is selfish, grasping, luxurious, arrogant
and deceitful. The army despises him; the populace do not trust him.
Now, for myself, I do not accept this view of the character of Prince
Napoleon. I think he is a sincere Democrat, a genuine lover of liberty
and progress. But I think, at the same time, that he is cursed with some
of the vices of Alcibiades, and some of the vices of Mirabeau; that he
has the habitual indolence almost of a Vendôme, with Vendôme's
occasional outbursts of sudden energy; that a love of luxury, and a
restlessness of character, and fretfulness of temper stand in his way,
and are his enemies. I doubt whether he will ever play a great
historical part, whether he ever will do much more than he has done. His
character wants that backbone of earnest, strong simplicity and faith,
without which even the most brilliant talents can hardly achieve
political greatness. He will probably rank in history among the
Might-Have-Beens. Assuredly, he has in him the capacity to play a great
part. In knowledge and culture, he is far, indeed, superior to his
uncle, Napoleon I.; in justice of political conviction, he is a long way
in advance of his cousin, Napoleon III. Taken for all in all, he is the
most lavishly gifted of the race of the Bonapartes--and what a part in
the cause of civilization and liberty might not be played by a Bonaparte
endowed with genius and culture, and faithful to high and true
convictions! But the time seems going by, if not gone by, when even
admirers could expect to see Prince Napoleon play such a part. Probably
the disturbing, distracting vein of unconquerable levity so conspicuous
in the character of his father, is the marplot of the son's career, too.
After all, Prince Napoleon is perhaps more of an Antony than a
Cæsar--was not Antony, too, an orator, a wit, a lover of art and
letters, a lover of luxury and free companionship, and woman? Doubtless
Prince Napoleon will emerge again, some time and somehow, from his
present condition of comparative obscurity. Any day, any crisis, any
sudden impulse may bring him up to the front again. But I doubt whether
the dynasty of the Bonapartes, the cause of democratic freedom, the
destinies of France, will be influenced much for good or evil, by this
man of rare and varied gifts--of almost measureless possibilities--the
restless, reckless, eloquent, brilliant Imperial Democrat of the Palais
Royal, and Red Republican of the Empire--the long misunderstood and yet
scarcely comprehended Prince Napoleon.


There used to be a story current in London, which I dare say is not
true, to the effect that her gracious Majesty Queen Victoria once
demurred to the Prince and Princess of Wales showing themselves too
freely in society, and asked them angrily whether they meant to make
themselves "as common as the Cambridges."

Certainly the Duke of Cambridge and his sister the Princess Mary, now
Princess of Teck, were for a long time, if not exactly "common," if not
precisely popular, the most social, the most easily approached, and the
most often seen in public pageantry of all members of the royal family.
The Princess Mary might perhaps fairly be called popular. The people
liked her fine, winsome face, her plump and buxom form. If she has not a
kindly, warm, and generous heart, then surely physiognomy is no index of
character. But the Duke of Cambridge, although very commonly seen in
public, and ready to give his presence and his support to almost any
philanthropic meeting and institution which can claim to be fashionable,
never seems to have attained any degree of popularity. Like his father,
who enjoyed the repute of being the worst after-dinner speaker who ever
opened his mouth, the Duke of Cambridge is to be found acting as
chairman of some public banquet once a week on an average during the
London season. He is president or patron of no end of public charities
and other institutions. Yet the people do not seem to care anything
about him, or even to like him. His appearance is not in his favor. He
is handsome in a certain sense, but he is heavy, stolid,
sensual-looking, and even gross in form and face. He has indeed nearly
all the peculiarities of physiognomy which specially belong to the most
typical members of the Guelph family, and there is, moreover, despite
the obesity which usually suggests careless good-humor, something
sinister or secret in his expression not pleasant to look upon. He seems
to be a man of respectable average abilities. He is not a remarkably bad
speaker. I think when he addresses the House of Lords, which he does
rarely, or a public meeting or dinner-party, which he does often, he
acquits himself rather better than the ordinary county member of
Parliament. Judging by his apparent mental capacity and his style as a
speaker, he ought to be rather popular than otherwise in England, for
the English people like respectable mediocrity and not talent in their
princes. "He is so respectable and such an ass," says Thackeray speaking
of somebody, "that I positively wonder he didn't get on in England." The
Duke of Cambridge is so respectable (in intellectual capacity) and so
dull that I positively wonder he has not been popular in England. But
popular he never has been. No such clamorous detestation follows him as
used to pursue the late Duke of Cumberland, subsequently King of
Hanover. No such accusations have been made against him as were
familiarly pressed against the Duke of York. Even against the living
Prince of Wales there are charges made by common scandal more serious
than any that are usually talked of in regard to the Duke of Cambridge.
But the English public likes the Duke as little as it could like any
royal personage. England has lately been growing very jealous of the
manner in which valuable appointments are heaped on members of the
Queen's family. The Duke of Cambridge has long enjoyed some sinecure
places of liberal revenue, and he holds one office of inestimable
influence, for which he has never proved himself qualified, and for
which common report declares him to be utterly disqualified. He is
Commander-in-Chief of the British army; and that I believe to be his
grand offence in the eyes of the British public. Many offences incident
to his position are indeed charged upon him. It is said that he makes an
unfair use, for purposes of favoritism, of the immense patronage which
his office places at his disposal. Some years ago scandal used to charge
him with advancing men out of the same motive which induced the Marquis
of Steyne to obtain an appointment for Colonel Rawdon Crawley. The
private life of the Duke is said to have been immoral, and unluckily for
him it so happened that some of his closest friends and favorites became
now and then involved in scandals of which the law courts had to take
cognizance. But had none of these things been so, or been said, I think
the Duke of Cambridge would have lacked popularity just as much as he
does. The English people are silently angry with him, mainly because he
is an anachronism--a man raised to the most influential public
appointment the sovereign can bestow, for no other reason than because
he is a member of the royal family. The Duke of Cambridge in the office
of Commander-in-Chief is an anachronism at the head of an anomaly. The
system is unfit for the army or the country; the man is incompetent to
manage any military system, good or bad. As the question of army
reorganization, now under debate in England, has a grand political
importance, transcending by far its utmost possible military import, and
as the position of the Duke of Cambridge is one of the peculiar and
typical anomalies about to be abolished, it may surely interest American
readers if I occupy a few pages in describing the man and the system.
Altering slightly the words of Bugeaud to Louis Philippe in 1848, this
reorganization of the army in England is not a reform, but a revolution.
It strikes out the keystone from the arch of the fabric of English

The Duke of Cambridge is, as everybody knows, the first cousin of the
Queen of England. He is about the same age as the Queen. When both were
young it used to be said that he cherished hopes of becoming her
husband. He is now himself one of the victims of the odious royal
marriage act, which in England acknowledges as valid no marriage with a
subject contracted by a member of the royal family without the consent
of the sovereign. The Duke of Cambridge, it is well known, is privately
married to a lady of respectable position and of character which has
never been reproached, but whom, nevertheless, he cannot present to the
world as his wife because the royal consent has not ratified the
marriage. Many readers of THE GALAXY may perhaps remember that only four
or five years ago there was some little commotion created in England by
the report, never contradicted, that a princess of the royal house had
set her heart upon marrying a young English nobleman who loved her, and
that the Queen utterly refused to give her consent. Much sympathy was
felt for the princess, because, as she was not a daughter of the Queen
and was not young enough to be reasonably expected to acknowledge the
control of any relative, this rigorous exercise of a merely technical
power seemed particularly unjust and odious. It will be seen, therefore,
that the objections raised against the Duke and his position in England
are not founded on the belief that he is himself as an individual
inordinately favored by the sovereign; but on the obvious fact that
place and power are given to him because he is a member of the reigning
family. The Duke of Cambridge has never shown the slightest military
talent, the faintest capacity for the business of war. In his only
campaign he proved worse than useless, and more than once made a
humiliating exhibition, not of cowardice, but of utter incapacity and
flaccid nervelessness. His warmest admirer never ventured to pretend
that the Duke was personally the best man to take the place of
Commander-in-Chief. While he was constantly accused by rumor and
sometimes by public insinuation of blundering, of obstinacy, of
ignorance, of gross favoritism, no defence ever made for him, no eulogy
ever pronounced upon him, went the length of describing him as a
well-qualified head of the military organization. His upholders and
panegyrists were content with pleading virtually that he was by no means
a bad sort of Commander-in-Chief; that he was not fairly responsible for
this or that blunder or malversation; that on the whole there might have
been men worse fitted than he for the place. The social vindication of
the appointment was that which proved very naturally its worst offence
in the eyes of the public--the fact that the sovereign and her family
desired that the place should be given to the Duke of Cambridge, and
that the ministers then in power either had not the courage or did not
think it worth their while to resist the royal inclination.

The Duke, if he never proved himself much of a soldier, had at least
opportunity enough to learn all the ordinary business of his profession.
He actually is, and always has been, a professional soldier--not
nominally an officer, as the late Prince Albert was, or as the Prince of
Wales is, or as the Princess Victoria (Crown Princess of Prussia) may be
said for that matter to be, the lady holding, I believe, an appointment
as colonel of some regiment, and being doubtless just as well acquainted
with her regimental duties as her fat and heavy brother. The Duke of
Cambridge was made a colonel at the age of eighteen, and he did the
ordinary barrack and garrison duties of his place. He used when young to
be rather popular in garrison towns. In Dublin, for example, I think
Prince George of Cambridge, as he was then called, was followed with
glances of admiration by many hundred pairs of bright eyes. On the death
of his father (whose after-dinner eloquence used to afford "Punch" a
constant subject for mirth) Prince George became in 1850 Duke of
Cambridge. He holds some appointments which I presume are sinecures to
him; among the rest he is keeper of some of the royal parks (I don't
know the precise title of his office), and the name of "George" may be
seen appended to edicts inscribed on various placards on the trees and
gates near Buckingham Palace. Nothing in particular was known about him
as a soldier until the Crimean war. Indeed, up to that time there had
been for many years as little chance for an English officer to prove his
capacity as there was for a West Point man to show what he was worth in
the period between the Mexican war and the attack on Fort Sumter. When
the Crimean war broke out the Duke was appointed to the command of the
first division of the army sent against the Russians. I believe it is
beyond all doubt that he proved himself unfit for the business of war.
He "lost his head," people say; he could not stand the sights and sounds
of the battle-field. It required on one occasion--at Inkerman, I
believe--the prompt and sharp interference of the late Lord Clyde, then
Sir Colin Campbell, to prevent his Royal Highness from making a sad mess
of his command. It is not likely that he wanted personal courage--few
princes do; but his nerves gave way, and as he could be of no further
use to anybody he was induced to return home. France and England each
sent a fat prince, cousin of the reigning sovereign, to the Crimean war,
and each prince rather suddenly came home again with the invidious
whispers of the malign unpleasantly criticising his retreat from the
field. After the Duke's return the corporation of Liverpool gave him
(why, no man could well say) a grand triumphal entry, and I remember
that an irreverent and cynical member of one of the local boards
suggested that among the devices exhibited in honor of the illustrious
visitor, a white feather would be an appropriate emblem. There the
Duke's active military career began and ended. He had not distinguished
himself. Perhaps he had not disgraced himself; perhaps it was really
only ill-health which prevented him from proving himself as genuine a
warrior as his relative, the Crown Prince of Prussia. But the English
people only saw that the Duke went out to the war and very quickly came
back again. Julius Cæsar or the First Napoleon or General Sherman might
have had to do the same thing under the same circumstances; but then
these more lucky soldiers did not have to do it, and therefore were able
to prove their military capacity. One thing very certain is, that
without such good fortune and such proof of capacity neither Cæsar,
Napoleon, nor Sherman would ever have been made commander-in-chief, and
therein again they were unlike the Duke of Cambridge. For it was not
long after the Duke's return home that on the death or resignation (I
don't now quite remember which) of Viscount Hardinge, our heavy "George"
was made Commander-in-Chief of the British army. I venture to think
that, taking all the conditions of the time and the appointment into
consideration, no more unreasonable, no more unjustifiable instance of
military promotion was ever seen in England.

For observe, that the worst thing about the appointment of the Duke of
Cambridge is not that an incompetent person obtains by virtue of his
rank the highest military position in the State. If this were all, there
might be just the same thing said of almost every other European
country--indeed, of almost every other country. The King of Prussia was
Commander-in-Chief of the armies of North Germany, but no one supposed
that he was really competent to discharge all the duties of such a
position. Abraham Lincoln was Commander-in-Chief of the Federal army, by
virtue of his office of President; but no one supposed that his military
knowledge and capacity would ever have recommended him to such a post.
The appointment in each case was only nominal, and as a matter of
political convenience and propriety. It did not seem wise or even safe
that the supreme military authority should be formally intrusted to any
one but the ruler or the President. It was thoroughly understood that
the duties of the office were discharged by some professional expert,
for whose work the King or the President was responsible to the nation.
But the office of Commander-in-Chief of the English army is something
quite different from this. It is understood to be a genuine office, the
occupant actually doing the work and having the authority. In the
lifetime of the Duke of Wellington the country had the services of the
very best Commander-in-Chief England could have selected. The sound and
wise principle which dictated that appointment is really the principle
on which the office is based in England. The Commander-in-Chief is not
regarded, as on the Continent, in the light of an ornamental president
of a great bureau whose duties are done by others, but as the most
efficient military officer, the man best qualified to do the work.
Marlborough was Commander-in-Chief, and so was Schomberg, and so was
General Seymour Conway. When in 1828 the Duke of Wellington became Prime
Minister, and therefore resigned the command of the army, Lord Hill was
placed at the head of military affairs. The Duke of Wellington resumed
the command in 1842 and held it to his death, when it was given to
Viscount Hardinge, a capable man. The title of the office was not, I
believe, actually "Commander-in-Chief," but "General
Commanding-in-Chief." It was, if I remember rightly, owing to the
disasters arising out of military mismanagement in the Crimea, that the
changes were made which created a distinct Secretary of War and gave to
the office of Commander-in-Chief its present title. Therefore it will be
seen that the intrusting the command of the army to the Duke of
Cambridge is not even justifiable on the ground that it follows an old
established custom. It is, on the contrary, an innovation, and one which
illustrates the worst possible principle. There is nothing to be said
for it. No necessity justified or even excused it. When Viscount
Hardinge died, if the principle adopted in his case--that of appointing
the best man to the place--had been still in favor, there were many
military generals in England, any one of whom would have filled the
office with efficiency and credit. But the superstition of rank
prevailed. The Duke of Wellington is believed to have once recommended
that on his death Prince Albert, the Queen's husband, should be created
Commander-in-Chief. Ridiculous as the suggestion may seem, it would
probably have been a far better arrangement than that which was more
recently adopted. Prince Albert could hardly have been called a
professional soldier at all; and this would have been greatly in his
favor. For he would have filled the place merely as the King of Prussia
does; he would have intrusted the actual duties to some qualified man,
and being endowed with remarkable judgment, temper, and discretion, he
would doubtless have found the right man for the work. But the Duke of
Cambridge, as a professional soldier, although a very indifferent one,
is expected to perform and does perform the duties of his office, after
his own fashion. He is too high in rank to be openly rebuked,
contradicted, or called to account; he is not high enough to be accepted
as a mere official ornament or figurehead. He is too much of a
professional general to become willingly the pupil and instrument of a
more skilled subordinate; too little of a professional general to render
his authority of any real value, or to be properly qualified for any
high military position. So the Duke of Cambridge did actually direct the
affairs of the army, interfered in everything, was supreme in
everything, and I think it is not too much to say mismanaged everything.
He stood in the way of all useful reforms; he sheltered old abuses; he
was as dictatorial as though he had the military genius of a Wellington
or a Von Moltke; he was as independent of public opinion as the Mikado
of Japan. The kind of mistakes which were made and abuses which were
committed under his administration were not such as to attract much of
the attention or interest of the newspapers. In England the press,
moreover, is not supposed to be at liberty to criticise princes. Of late
some little efforts at daring innovation are made in this direction; but
as a rule, unless a prince does something very wrong indeed, he is
secure from any censure or even criticism on the part of the newspapers.
There was, besides, one great practical difficulty in the way of any one
inclined to criticise the military administration of the Duke of
Cambridge. The War Department in England had grown to be a kind of
anomalous two-headed institution. There is a Secretary of War, who sits
in the House of Lords or the House of Commons, as the case may be, and
whom every one can challenge, criticise, and censure as he pleases.
There is the Commander-in-Chief. Which of these two functionaries is the
superior? The theory of course is that the Secretary of War is supreme;
that he is responsible to Parliament, and that every official in the
department is responsible to him. But everybody in England knows that
this is not the actual case. There stands in Pall Mall, not far from the
residence of the Prince of Wales, a plain business-like structure, with
a statue of the late Lord Herbert of Lea (the Sidney Herbert of Crimean
days) in front of it; and this is the War Office, where the Secretary of
War is in power. But there is in Whitehall another building far better
known to Londoners and strangers alike; an old-fashioned, unlovely,
shabby-looking sort of barrack, with a clock in its shapeless cupola and
two small arches in its front, in each of which enclosures sits all day
a gigantic horseman in steel cuirass and high jack-boots. The country
visitor comes here to wonder at the size and the accoutrements of the
splendid soldiers; the nursery-maid loves the spot, and gazes with open
mouth and sparkling eyes at the athletic cavaliers, and too often, like
Hylas sent with his urn to the fountain, "_proposito florem prætulit
officio_," prefers looking at the gorgeous military carnation blazing
before her to the duty of watching her infantile charge in the
perambulator. This building is the famous "Horse Guards," where the
Commander-in-Chief is enthroned. I suppose the theory of the thing was,
that while the army system was to be shaped out and directed in the War
Office, the actual details of practical administration were to be
managed at the Horse Guards. But of late years the relations of the two
departments appear to have got into an almost inextricable and hopeless
muddle, so that no one can pretend to say where the responsibility of
the War Office ends or the authority of the Horse Guards begins. The
Duke of Cambridge, it is said, habitually acts upon his own authority
and ignores the War Office altogether. Things are done by him of which
the Secretary for War knows nothing until they are done. The late Sidney
Herbert, a man devoted to the duties of the War Department, over which
he presided for some years, once emphatically refused during a debate in
the House of Commons to evade the responsibility of some step taken at
the Horse Guards, by pleading that it was made without the knowledge of
the War Office. He declared that he considered himself, as War
Secretary, responsible to Parliament for everything done in any office
of the War Department. But it was quite evident from the tone of his
speech that the thing had been done without his knowledge or consent,
and that if anybody but the Queen's cousin had done it there would have
been a "row in the building." Now Sidney Herbert was an aristocrat of
high rank, of splendid fortune, of unsurpassed social dignity and
influence, of great political talents and reputation. If he then could
not attempt to control and rebuke the Queen's cousin, how could such an
attempt be expected from a man like Mr. Cardwell, the present War
Secretary? Mr. Cardwell is a dull, steady-going, respectable man, who
has no pretension to anything like the rank, social influence, or even
popularity of Sidney Herbert. In fact, the War Secretaries stand
sometimes in much the same relation toward the Duke of Cambridge that a
New York judge occasionally holds toward one of the great leaders of the
bar who pleads before him and is formally supposed to acknowledge his
superior authority. The person holding the position nominally superior
feels himself in reality quite "over-crowed," to use a Spenserian
expression, by the influence, importance, and dignity of the other. Let
any stranger in London who happens to be in the gallery of the House of
Lords, observe the astonishing deference with which even a pure-blooded
marquis or earl of antique title will receive the greeting of the Duke
of Cambridge; and then say what chance there is of a War Secretary, who
probably belongs to the middle or manufacturing classes, venturing to
dictate to or rebuke so tremendous a _magnifico_. Lately an audacious
critic of the Duke has started up in the person of a clever, vivacious
young member of Parliament, George Otto Trevelyan, son of one of the
ablest Indian administrators and nephew of Lord Macaulay. Trevelyan once
held, I think, some subordinate place in the War Department, and he has
lately been horrifying the conservatism and veneration of English
society by boldly making speeches in which he attacks the Queen's
cousin, declares that the latter is an injury and nuisance to the army
system, that he stands in the way of all improvement, and that he ought
to be abolished. But although most people do profoundly and potently
believe what this saucy Trevelyan says, yet his words find little echo
in public debate, and his direct motions in the House of Commons have
been unsuccessful. The Duke, I perceive, has lately, however, descended
so far from his position of supreme dignity as to defend himself in a
public speech, and to claim the merit of having always been a
progressive and indeed rather daring army reformer. But I do not believe
the English Government or Parliament would ever have ventured to take
one step to lessen the Duke of Cambridge's power of doing harm to the
military service, were it not for the pressure of events with which
England had nothing directly to do, and which nevertheless have proved
too strong for the resistance even of princes and of vested interests.
The practical dethronement of the Duke of Cambridge I hold to be as
certain as any mortal event still in the future can well be declared.
The anomaly, the inconvenience, the degradation which English
Governments and Parliaments would have endured forever if left to
themselves, may be regarded as destined to be swept away by the same
flood which overwhelmed the military organization of France, and washed
the Bonapartes off the throne of the Tuileries. The Duke of Cambridge
too had to surrender at Sedan.

For with the overwhelming successes of Prussia and the unparalleled
collapse of France, there arose in England so loud and general a cry for
the reorganization of the decaying old army system that no Government
could possibly attempt to disregard it. Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet had the
sense and spirit to see that no middle course of reform would be worth
anything. _In medio tutissimus ibis_ would never apply to this case. Any
reform must count on the obstinate opposition of vested interests--a
tremendous power in English affairs; and the only way to bear down that
opposition would be by introducing a reform so thorough and grand as to
carry with it the enthusiasm of popular support. Therefore the
Government have undertaken a new work of revolution, certainly not less
bold than that which overthrew the Irish Church, and destined perhaps to
have a still more decisive influence on the political organization of
English society. One of the many changes this measure will
introduce--and it is certain to be carried, first or last--will be the
extinction of the anomaly now represented by the position of the Duke of
Cambridge. I shall not inflict any of the details of the measure upon my
readers in THE GALAXY, and shall even give but slight attention to such
of its main features as are of purely military character and import. But
I shall endeavor briefly to make it clear that some of the changes it
proposes to introduce will have a profound influence on the political
and social condition of England, and are in fact steps in that great
English revolution which is steadily marching on under our very eyes.

First comes the abolition of the purchase system as regards the
commissions held by military officers. Except in certain regiments, and
certain branches of the service outside England itself, the rule is that
an officer obtains his commission by purchase. Promotion can be bought
in the same way. A commission is a vested interest. The owner has paid
so much for it, and expects to sell it for an equal sum. The regulation
price recognized by law and the Horse Guards is by no means the actual
price of the article. It is worth ever so much more to the holder, and
he must of course have its real, not its regulation value. The pay in
the English army is, for the officers, ridiculously small. The habits of
the army, among officers, are ridiculously expensive. An officer is not
expected to live upon his pay. Whether expected to do so or not, he
could hardly accomplish the feat under any conditions; under the common
conditions of an officers' mess-room the thing would be utterly
impossible. Now let any reader ask himself what becomes of a department
of the public service where you obtain admission by payment, and where
when admitted you receive practically no remuneration? Of course it
becomes a mere club and association for the wealthy and aristocratic; a
brotherhood into which admission is sought for the sake of social
distinction. Every man of rank in England will, as a matter of course,
have one of his sons in the army. It is the right sort of thing to do,
like hunting or going into the House of Commons. Then, on the other
hand, every person who has made money sends one of his sons into the
army, because thereby he acquires a stamp of gentility. Poverty and
merit have no chance and no business there. It certainly is not true, as
is commonly believed here, that promotion from the ranks never takes
place; but speaking of the system as a whole, one may fairly say that
promotion from the ranks is opposed to the ordinary regulation, and
occurs so rarely that it need hardly be taken into our consideration
here. Therefore the English army became an essentially aristocratic
service. To be an officer was the right of the aristocratic, the luxury,
ambition, and ornament of the wealthy. One is almost afraid now to
venture on saying anything in praise of the French military system; but
it had, if I do not greatly mistake, one regulation among others which
honorably distinguished it from the English. I believe it was not
permitted to a wealthy officer to distinguish himself from his fellows
while in barracks by extravagance of expenditure. He had to live as the
others lived. But the English system allowed full scope to wealth, and
the result was that certain regiments prided themselves on luxury and
ostentation, and a poor man, or even a man of moderate means, could not
live in them. Add to all this that while the expenses were great and the
pay next to nothing, there were certain valuable prizes, sinecures, and
monopolies to be had in the army, which favoritism and family influence
could procure, and which therefore rendered it additionally desirable
that the control of the military organization should be retained in the
hands of the aristocracy. John Bright described the military and
diplomatic services of England as "a gigantic system of outdoor relief
for the broken-down members of the British aristocracy." This was
especially true of the military service, which had a large number of
rich and pleasant prizes to be awarded at the uncontrolled discretion of
the authorities. It might be fairly said that every aristocratic family
had at least one scion in the army. Every aristocratic family had
likewise one in the House of Commons; sometimes two, or three, or four
sons and nephews. The mere numerical strength of the military officers
who had seats in the House of Commons was enough to hold up a tremendous
barrier in the way of army reform or political reform. It was as clear
as light that a popular Parliament would among its very first works of
reformation proceed to throw open the army to the competition of merit,
independently of either aristocratic rank or moneyed influence. So the
military men in the House of Commons were, with some few and remarkable
exceptions, steady Tories and firm opponents of all reform either in the
army or the political system. Year after year did gallant old De Lacy
Evans bring forward his motion for the abolition of the purchase system
in vain. He was always met by the supposed practical authority of the
great bulk of the military members and by the dead weight of
aristocratic influence and vested interests. The army, as then
organized, was at once the fortress and the trophy of the English
aristocracy. At last the effort at reform seemed to be given up
altogether. Though humane reformers did at last succeed in getting rid
of the detestable system of flogging in the army, the practice of
trafficking in commissions seemed safer than ever. One difficulty in the
way of its abolition was always pressed with special emphasis by persons
who otherwise were prodigal enough of the public money--the cost such a
measure would entail on the people of England. It would be impossible,
of course, to abolish such a system without compensating those who had
paid money for the commissions which thenceforward could be sold no
more. The amount of money required for such compensation would be some
forty millions of dollars. Moreover, when commissions are given away
among all classes according to merit, the pay of officers will have to
be raised. It would indeed be a cruel mockery to give poor Claude
Melnotte an officer's rank if he does not at the same time get pay
enough to enable him to live. Therefore for once the English aristocrats
and Tories were heard to raise their voices in favor of the saving of
public money; but they were only assuming the attitude of economists for
the sake of upholding their own privileges and defending their vested
interests. There will, of course, be a fierce and long fight made even
still against the change, but the change, I take it, will be
accomplished. The English army will cease to be an army officered
exclusively from among the ranks of the aristocracy and the wealthy. Our
time has seen no step attempted in English political affairs more
distinctly democratic than this. I can hardly realize to my mind what
England will be like when commissions and promotions in its military
service are the recognized prizes of merit in whatever rank of life, and
are won by open competition.

Next, the English Government, approaching rather delicately the
difficulty about the Commander-in-Chief, propose to unite the two
departments of the service under one roof. The Commander-in-Chief and
his staff and offices will be transferred from the Horse Guards in
Whitehall to the War Office in Pall Mall, and placed more directly under
the control of the Secretary of War. This change must inevitably bring
about the end at which it aims--the abolition of the embarrassing and
injurious dualism of system now prevailing. It must indeed reduce the
General commanding-in-chief to his proper position as the executive
officer of the War Secretary, who is himself the servant of Parliament.
Such a position would entail no restriction whatever on the military
capacity or genius of the Commander-in-Chief were he another
Marlborough; but it would make him responsible to somebody who is
himself responsible to the House of Commons. I think it may be taken for
granted that this will come to mean, sooner or later, the shelving of
the Duke of Cambridge. It may be hoped that he will not consider it
consistent with his dignity as a member of the royal family to remain in
a position thus made virtually that of a subordinate. Some other place
perhaps will be found for the cousin of the Queen. I have already heard
some talk about the possibility and propriety of sending his Royal
Highness as Lord Lieutenant to govern Ireland. Why not? There is a _vile
corpus_ convenient and ready to hand for any experiment. It would be
quite in keeping with all the traditions of English rule, with the
practice which was illustrated only a few years ago when the noisy and
brainless scamp Sir Robert Peel, whom "Punch" christened "The Mountebank
Member," was made Irish Secretary, if the Duke of Cambridge were allowed
to soothe his offended dignity by practising his skilful hand on the
government of Ireland.

Finally, the Government propose to introduce measures calculated to weld
together as far as possible the regular and irregular forces of the
country. There are in England three classes of soldiery--the regular
army, the militia, and the volunteers. The militia constitute a force as
nearly as possible corresponding with that in whose companionship Sir
John Falstaff declined to march through Coventry. Bombastes Furioso or
the Grande Duchesse hardly ever marshalled such a body of men as may be
seen when a British militia regiment is turned out for exercise. Awkward
country bumpkins and beer-swilling rowdies of the poacher class make up
the bulk of the privates. They are a terror to any small town where they
may happen to be exercising, and where not infrequently they finish up a
day's drill by a general smashing of windows, sacking of shops, and
plundering of inhabitants. The volunteers are a force composed of a
much better class of men, and are capable, I think, of great military
efficiency and service if properly organized. Of late the volunteer
force has, I believe, been growing somewhat demoralized. The Government
never gave it very cordial encouragement, its position was hardly
defined, and the national enthusiasm out of which it sprang naturally
began to languish. We in England have always owed our volunteer force to
some sudden menace or dread of French invasion. It was so in the time of
William Pitt. We all remember the famous sarcasm with which that
statesman replied to the request of some volunteer regiments not to be
sent out on foreign service. Pitt gravely assured them that they never
should be sent out of the country unless in case of England's invasion.
Erskine was a volunteer, and I think it was as an officer of volunteers
that Gibbon said he acquired a practical knowledge of military affairs,
which proved useful to him in describing the decline and fall of the
Roman empire. Our present volunteer service originated in the last of
the "three panics" described by Cobden--the fear of invasion by Louis
Napoleon, the panic which Tennyson endeavored to foment by his weak and
foolish "Form, form! Riflemen, form!" The volunteer force, however,
continued to grow stronger and stronger long after the alarm had died
away; and even though recently the progress of improvement seems to have
been somewhat checked, and the volunteer body to have become lax in its
organization, it appears to me that in its intelligence, its
earnestness, and its physical capacity there exists the material out of
which might be moulded a very valuable arm of the military service. The
War Minister now proposes to take steps which shall render the militia a
decent body, commanded by really qualified and responsible officers,
which shall give better officers to the volunteers, and place these
latter under more effective discipline, and which shall bring militia
and volunteers into closer relationship with the regular army. How far
these objects may be attained by the measures now under consideration I
do not pretend to judge; but I cannot regard the present War Minister as
a man highly qualified for the place he holds. Mr. Cardwell is an
admirable clerk--patient, plodding, untiring; but I doubt whether he has
any of the higher qualities of an administrator or much force of
character. He is perhaps the very dullest speaker holding a marked
position in the House of Commons. He is fluent, not as Gladstone and a
river are fluent, but as the sand in an hour-glass is fluent. That sand
itself is not more dull, colorless, monotonous, and dry, than is the
eloquence of the War Minister. Mr. Cardwell is not always fortunate in
his military prophecies. On the memorable night in last July when the
news reached London that France had declared war against Prussia, Mr.
Cardwell affirmed that that meant the occupation of Berlin by the French
within a month. It must be remembered, however, as an excuse for the War
Minister's unlucky prediction, that an English military commission sent
to examine the two systems had shortly before reported wholly in favor
of the French army organization and dead against that of Prussia.

The English Government, wisely, I think, decline to attempt the
introduction of any measure for general and compulsory service, except
as a last resource in desperate exigencies. The England of the future is
not likely, I trust, to embroil herself much in Continental quarrels;
and she may be quite expected to hold her own in the improbable event of
any of her neighbors attempting to invade her. For myself, I can
recollect no instance recorded by history of any foreign war wherein
England took part, from which good temper, discretion, judgment, and
justice would not alike have counselled her to hold aloof.

Such then are in substance the changes which are proposed for the
reconstruction of the English army. The one grand reform or revolution
is the abolition of the purchase system. This change will inevitably
convert the army into a practical and regular profession, to which all
classes will look as a possible means of providing for some of their
children. It will have one advantage over the bar, that admission to the
ranks of the officers will not necessarily involve the preliminary
payment of any sum of money, however small. The profession will cease to
be ornamental and aristocratic. It will no longer constitute one of the
great props, one of the grand privileges, of the system of aristocracy.
Its reorganization will be another and a bold step toward the
establishment of that principle of equality which is of late years
beginning to exercise so powerful a fascination over the popular mind of
England. Caste had in Great Britain no such illustration and no such
bulwark as the army system presented. I should be slow to undertake to
limit the possible depth and extent of the influence which the impulse
given by this reform may exercise over the political condition of
England. I can hardly realize to myself by any effort of imagination the
effect which such a change will work in what is called society in
England, and in the literature, especially the romantic and satirical
literature, of the country. Are we then no longer to have Rawdon
Crawley, and Sir Derby Oaks, and "Captain Gandaw of the Pinks"? Was
Black-Bottle Cardigan really the last of a race? Will people a
generation hence fail to understand what was meant by the intimation
that "the Tenth don't dance"? Is Guy Livingstone to become as utter a
tradition and myth as Guy of Warwick? Is the English military officer to
be henceforward simply a hard-working, well-qualified public servant,
who obtains his place in open competition by virtue of his merits?
Appreciate the full meaning of the change who can, it is too much for
me; I can only wonder, admire, and hope. But it is surely not possible
that the Duke of Cambridge, cousin of the Queen, can continue to preside
over a service wherein the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker
have as good a chance of obtaining commissions for their sons as the
marquis or the earl or the great millionaire. Only think of the flood of
light which will be poured in upon all the details of the military
organization, when once it becomes the direct interest of each of us to
see that the profession is properly managed in which his own son,
however poor in purse and humble in rank, has a chance of obtaining a
commission! I believe the Duke of Cambridge had and has an honest hatred
and contempt for the coarse and noisy interference of public and
unprofessional criticism where the business of the sacred Horse Guards
is concerned. Once, when goaded on to sheer desperation by comments in
the papers, his Royal Highness actually wrote or dictated a letter of
explanation to the "Times," signed with the monosyllabic grandeur of his
name "George," we all held up the hands and eyes of wonder that such
things had come to pass, that royal princes condescended to write to
newspapers, and yet the world rolled on. I cannot think the Duke will
abide the awful changes that are coming. He will probably pass into the
twilight and repose of some dignified office, where blundering has no
occupation and obstinacy can do no harm. Everything considered, I think
we may say of him that he might have been a great deal worse than he
was. My own impression is that he is rather better than his reputation.
If the popular voice of England were to ask in the words of
Shakespeare's "Lucio," "And was the Duke a fleshmonger, a fool, and a
coward, as you then reported him to be?" I might answer, in the language
of the pretended friar, "You must change persons with me ere you make
that my report. You indeed spoke so of him, and much more, much worse."


Those among us who are not too young to have had "Evenings at Home" for
a schoolday companion and instructor will remember the story called
"Eyes and No Eyes" and its moral. They will remember that, of the two
little boys who accomplished precisely the same walk at the same time,
one saw all manner of delightful and wonderful things, while the other
saw nothing whatever that was worth recollection or description. The
former had eyes prepared to see, and the other had not; and that made
all the difference. I have to confess that, during a recent visit to
Salt Lake City--a visit lasting nearly as many days as that out of which
my friend, Hepworth Dixon, made the better part of a volume--I must have
been in the condition of the dull little reprobate who had no eyes to
see the wonders which delighted his companion. For, so far as the city
itself, its streets and its structures, are concerned, I really saw
nothing in particular. A muddy little country town, with one or two
tolerably decent streets, wherein a few handsome stores are mixed up
with old shanties, is not much to see in any part of the civilized
world. Other travellers have seen a wondrous sight on the very same
spot. They have seen a large and beautiful city, with spacious, splendid
streets, shaded by majestic trees and watered by silvery currents
flowing in marble channels; they have seen a city combining the
cleanliness and activity of young America with the picturesqueness and
dignity of the Orient; a city which would be beautiful and wonderful
anywhere, but which, raised up here on the bare bosom of the desert, is
a phenomenon of apparently almost magical creation. Naturally,
therefore, they have gone into raptures over the energy, and industry,
and æstheticism of the Mormons; and, even while condemning sternly the
doctrine and practice of polygamy, they have nevertheless been haunted
by an uneasy doubt as to whether, after all, there is not some peculiar
virtue in the having half a dozen wives together which endows a man with
super-human gifts as a builder of cities. Otherwise how comes this
beautiful and perfect city, here on the unfriendly and unsheltering

Well, I saw no beautiful and wonderful city, although I spent several
days in the Mormon capital, and tramped every one of its streets, and
lanes, and roads, scores of times over. Where others beheld the glorious
virgin, Dulcinea del Toboso, radiant in beauty and bedight with queenly
apparel, I saw only the homely milkmaid, with her red elbows and her
russet gown. In plain words, the Mormon city appeared to me just a
commonplace little country town, and no more. I saw in it no evidences
of preternatural energy or skill. It has one decent street, wherein may
be found, at most, half a dozen well-built and attractive-looking shops.
It has a good many comfortable residences in the environs. It has two or
three decentish hotels, like the hotels of any other fiftieth-class
country town. It has the huge Tabernacle, a gigantic barn merely, a
simple covering in and over of so much space--a thing in shape "very
like a land turtle," as President George L. Smith, First Councillor of
Brigham Young, observed to me. Salt Lake City has no lighting and no
draining, except such draining as is done by the little runnels of water
to be found in every street, and which remind one faintly and sadly of
dear, quaint old Berne in Switzerland. At night you have to trudge along
in the darkness and the mud, or slush, or dust, and it is a perilous
quest the seeking of your way home, for at every crossing you must look
or feel for the plank which bridges over the artificial brooklets
already described, or you plunge helpless and hopeless into the little
torrent. Decidedly, a "one-horse" place, in my estimation; I don't see
how men endowed with average heads and arms could for twenty years have
been occupied in the building of a city, and produced anything less
creditable than this. I do not wonder at the complacency and
self-conceit with which all the Mormon residents talk of the beauty of
their city and the wonderful things they have accomplished, when Gentile
travellers of credit and distinction have glorified this shabby, swampy,
ricketty, common-place, vulgar, little hamlet into a town of sweetness
and light, of symmetry and beauty. For my part, and for those who were
with me, I can only say that we spent the first day or so in perpetual
wonder as to whether this really could be the Mormon city of which we
had read so many bewildering and glorious descriptions. And the
theatre--oh, Hepworth Dixon, I like you much, and I think you are often
abused and assailed most unjustly; but how could you write so about that
theatre? Or was the beautiful temple of the drama which _you_ saw here
deliberately taken down, and did they raise in its place the big, gaunt,
ugly, dirty, dismal structure which _I_ saw, and in which I and my
companions made part of a dreary dozen or two of audience, and blinked
in the dim, depressing light of mediæval oil-lamps? I observe that, when
driven to bay by sceptical inquiry, complacent Mormons generally fall
back on the abundance of shade-trees in the streets. Let them have the
full credit of this plantation. They have put trees in the streets, and
the trees have grown; and, when we observe to a Mormon that we have seen
rows of trees similarly growing in even smaller towns of the benighted
European continent, he evidently thinks it is our monogamic perversity
and prejudice which force us to deny the wondrous works of Mormonism.
Making due allowance for every natural difficulty, remembering how
nearly every implement, and utensil, and scrap of raw material had to be
brought from across yonder rampart of mountains, and from hundreds of
miles away, I yet fail to see anything very remarkable about this little
Mormon town. Perhaps no other set of people could have made much more of
the place; I cannot help thinking that no other set of people who were
not Digger Indians could have made much less.

In fact, to retain the proper and picturesque ideas of Salt Lake City,
one never ought to have entered the town at all. We ought to have
remained on this hillside, from which you can look across that most
lovely of all valleys on earth, cinctured as it is by a perfect girdle
of mountains, the outlines of which are peerless and ineffable in their
symmetry and beauty. The air is as clear, the skies are as blue, the
grass as green as the dream of a poet or painter could show him. There
below, fringed and mantled in the clustering green of its trees, you see
the city, with the long, low, rounded dome or back of the Tabernacle
rising broad and conspicuous. Looking down, you may well believe that
the city thus exquisitely placed, thus deliciously shaded and
surrounded, is itself a wonder of picturesqueness and symmetry. Why go
down into the two or three dirty, irregular, shabby little streets, with
their dust or mud for road pavement, their nozzling pigs trotting along
the sidewalks, their dung-heaps and masses of decaying vegetable matter,
their utterly commonplace, mean and disheartening aspect everywhere? But
then we did go down--and where others had seen a fair and goodly, aye,
and queenly city, we saw a muddy, uninteresting, straggling little
village, disfiguring the lovely plain on which it stood.

Profound disappointment, then, is my first sensation in Salt Lake City.
The place is so like any other place! Certainly, one receives a bracing
little shock every now and then, which admonishes him that, despite the
small, shabby stores and the pigs, and the dunghills, he is not in the
regions of merely commonplace dirt. For instance, we learn that the
proprietor of the hotel where we are staying has four wives; and it is
something odd to talk with a civil, respectable, burgess-like man,
dressed in ordinary coat and pantaloons, and wearing mutton-chop
whiskers--a sort of man who in England would probably be a
church-warden--and who has more consorts than an average Turk. Then
again it is startling to be asked, "Do you know Mr. ----?" and when I
say "No, I don't," to be told, "Oh, you ought to know him. He came from
England, and he has lately married two such nice English girls!" One
morning, too, we have another kind of shock. There is a pretty little
chambermaid in our hotel, a new-comer apparently, and she happens to
find out that my wife and I had lived for many years in that part of the
North of England from which she comes herself, whereupon she bursts into
a perfect passion and tempest of tears, declares that she would rather
be in her grave than in Salt Lake City, that she was deceived into
coming, that the Mormonism she heard preached by the Mormon propaganda
in England was a quite different thing from the Mormonism practised
here, and that her only longing was to get out of the place, anyhow,
forever. The girl seemed to be perfectly, passionately sincere. What
could be done for her? Apparently nothing. She had spent all her money
in coming out; and she seemed to be strongly under the conviction that,
even if she had money, she could not get away. An influence was
evidently over her which she had not the courage or strength of mind to
attempt to resist, or even to elude. Doubtless, as she was a very pretty
girl, she would be very soon sealed to some ruling elder. She said her
sister had come with her, but the sister was in another part of the
city, and since their arrival--only a few days, however--they had not
met. My wife endeavored to console or encourage her, but the girl could
only sob and protest that she never could learn to endure the place, but
that she could not get away, and that she would rather be in her grave.
We spoke of this case to one of the civil officers of the United States
stationed in the city, and he shook his head and thought nothing could
be done. The influence which enslaved this poor girl was not wholly that
of force, but a power which worked upon her senses and her
superstitions. I should think an underground railway would be a valuable
institution to establish in connection with the Mormon city.

I well remember that when I lived in Liverpool, some ten or a dozen
years ago, the Mormon propaganda, very active there, always kept the
polygamy institution modestly in the background. Proselytes were courted
and won by descriptions of a new Happy Valley, of a City of the Blest,
where eternal summer shone, where the fruits were always ripe, where the
earth smiled with a perpetual harvest, where labor and reward were
plenty for all, and where the outworn toilers of Western Europe could
renew their youth like the eagles. I remember, too, the remarkable case
of a Liverpool family having a large business establishment in the most
fashionable street of the great town, who were actually beguiled into
selling off all their goods and property and migrating, parents, sons,
and daughters, to the land of promise beyond the American wilderness,
and how, before people had ceased to wonder at their folly, they all
came back, humiliated, disgusted, cured. They had money and something
like education, and they were a whole family, and so they were able,
when they found themselves deceived, to effect a rapid retreat at the
cost of nothing worse than disappointment and pecuniary loss. But for
the poor, pretty serving-lass from Lancashire I do not know that there
is much hope. Poverty and timidity and superstitious weakness will help
to lock the Mormon chains around her. Perhaps she will get used to the
place in time. Ought one to wish that she may--or rather to echo her own
prayer, and petition that she may find an early grave? The graveyards
are densely planted with tombs here in this sacred city of Mormonism.

The place is unspeakably dreary. Hardly any women are ever seen in the
streets, except on the Sunday, when all the families pour in to service
in the huge Tabernacle. Most of the dwelling houses round the city are
pent in behind walls. Most of the houses, too, have their dismal little
_sucursales_, one or two or more, built on to the sides--and in each of
these additions or wings to the original building a different wife and
family are caged. There are no flower gardens anywhere. Children are
bawling everywhere. Sometimes a wretched, slatternly, dispirited woman
is seen lounging at the door or hanging over the gate of a house with a
baby at her breast. More often, however, the house, or clump of houses,
gives no external sign of life. It stands back gloomy in the sullen
shade of its thick fruit trees, and might seem untenanted if one did not
hear the incessant yelling of the children. We saw the women in
hundreds, probably in thousands, at the Tabernacle on the Sunday--and
what women they were! Such faces, so dispirited, depressed, shapeless,
hopeless, soulless faces! No trace of woman's graceful pride and
neatness in these slatternly, shabby, slouching, listless figures; no
purple light of youth over these cheeks; no sparkle in these
half-extinguished eyes. I protest that only in some of the _cretin_
villages of the Swiss mountains have I seen creatures in female form so
dull, miserable, moping, hopeless as the vast majority of these Mormon
women. As we leave the Tabernacle, and walk slowly down the street amid
the crowd, we see two prettily-dressed, lively-looking girls, who laugh
with each other and are seemingly happy, and we thank Heaven that there
are at least two merry, spirited girls in Salt Lake City. A few days
after we meet our blithesome pair at Mintah station; and they are
travelling with their father and mother on to San Francisco, whither we
too are going--and we learn that they are not Mormons, but
Gentiles--pleasant lasses from Philadelphia who had come with their
parents to have a passing look at the externals of Mormonism.

My object, however, in writing this paper was to speak of the chief,
Brigham Young himself, rather than of his city or his system. We saw
Brigham Young, were admitted to prolonged speech of him, and received
his parting benediction. The interview took place in the now famous
house with the white walls and the gilded beehive on the top. We were
received in a kind of office or parlor, hung round with oil paintings of
the kind which in England we regard as "furniture," and which
represented all the great captains and elders of Mormonism. Joseph Smith
is there, and Brigham Young, and George L. Smith, now First Councillor;
and various others whom to enumerate would be long, even if I knew or
remembered their names. President Young was engaged just at the moment
when we came, but his Secretary, a Scotchman, I think, and President
George L. Smith, are very civil and cordial. George L. Smith is a huge,
burly man, with a Friar Tuck joviality of paunch and visage, and a roll
in his bright eye which, in some odd, undefined sort of way, suggests
cakes and ale. He talks well, in a deep rolling voice, and with a dash
of humor in his words and tone--he it is who irreverently but accurately
likens the Tabernacle to a land-turtle. He speaks with immense
admiration and reverence of Brigham Young, and specially commends his
abstemiousness and hermit-like frugality in the matter of eating and
drinking. Presently a door opens, and the oddest, most whimsical figure
I have ever seen off the boards of an English country theatre stands in
the room; and in a moment we are presented formally to Brigham Young.

There must be something of impressiveness and dignity about the man,
for, odd as is his appearance and make up, one feels no inclination to
laugh. But such a figure! Brigham Young wears a long-tailed,
high-collared coat; the swallow-tails nearly touch the ground; the
collar is about his ears. In shape the garment is like the swallow-tail
coats which negro-melodists sometimes wear, or like the dandy English
dress coat one can still see in prints in some of the shops of St. James
street, London. But the material of Brigham's coat is some kind of
rough, gray frieze, and the garment is adorned with huge brass buttons.
The vest and trowsers are of the same material. Round the neck of the
patriarch is some kind of bright crimson shawl, and on the patriarch's
feet are natty little boots of the shiniest polished leather. I must say
that the gray frieze coat of antique and wonderful construction, the
gaudy crimson shawl, and the dandy boots make up an incongruous whole
which irresistibly reminds one at first of the holiday get-up of some
African King who adds to a great coat, preserved as an heirloom since
Mungo Park's day, a pair of modern top-boots, and a lady's bonnet. The
whole appearance of the patriarch, when one has got over the African
monarch impression, is like that of a Suffolk farmer as presented on the
boards of a Surrey theatre. But there is decidedly an amount of
composure and even of dignity about Brigham Young which soon makes one
forget the mere ludicrousness of the patriarch's external appearance.
Young is a handsome man--much handsomer than his portrait on the wall
would show him. Close upon seventy years of age, he has as clear an eye
and as bright a complexion as if he were a hale English farmer of
fifty-five. But there is something fox-like and cunning lurking under
the superficial good-nature and kindliness of the face. He seems, when
he speaks to you most effusively and plausibly, to be quietly studying
your expression to see whether he is really talking you over or not. The
expression of his face, especially of his eyes, strangely and
provokingly reminds me of Kossuth. I think I have seen Kossuth thus
watch the face of a listener to see whether or not the listener was
conquered by his wonderful power of talk. Kossuth's face, apart from its
intellectual qualities, appeared to me to express a strange blending of
vanity, craft, and weakness; and Brigham Young's countenance now seems
to show just such a mixture of qualities. Great force of character the
man must surely have; great force of character Kossuth, too, had; but
the face of neither man seemed to declare the possession of such a
quality. Brigham Young decidedly does not impress me as a man of great
ability; but rather as a man of great plausibility. I can at once
understand how such a man, with such an eye and tongue, can easily exert
an immense influence over women. Beyond doubt he is a man of genius; but
his genius does not reveal itself, to me at least, in his face or his
words. He speaks in a thin, clear, almost shrill tone, and with much
apparent _bonhomie_. After a little commonplace conversation about the
city, its improvements, approaches etc., the Prophet voluntarily goes on
to speak of himself, his system, and his calumniators. His talk soon
flows into a kind of monologue, and is indeed a curious rhapsody of
religion, sentimentality, shrewdness and egotism. Sometimes several
sentences succeed each other in which his hearers hardly seem to make
out any meaning whatever, and Brigham Young appears a grotesque kind of
Coleridge. Then again in a moment comes up a shrewd meaning very
distinctly expressed, and with a dash of humor and sarcasm gleaming
fantastically amid the scriptural allusions and the rhapsody of unctuous
words. The purport of the whole is that Brigham Young has been
misunderstood, misprized, and calumniated, even as Christ was; that were
Christ to come up to-morrow in New York or London, He would be
misunderstood, misprized, and caluminated, even as Brigham Young now is;
and that Brigham Young is not to be dismayed though the stars in their
courses should fight against him. He protests with especial emphasis and
at the same time especial meekness, with eyes half closed and
delicately-modulated voice, against the false reports that any manner of
force or influence whatever is, or ever was, exercised to keep men or
women in Salt Lake City against their will. He appeals to the evidence
of our own eyes, and asks us whether we have not seen for ourselves that
the city is free to all to come and go as they will. At this time we had
not heard the story told by the poor little maid at the hotel; but in
any case the evidence of our eyes could go no farther than to prove that
travellers like ourselves were free to enter and depart. We have,
however, little occasion to trouble ourselves about answering; for the
Prophet keeps the talk pretty well all to himself. His manner is
certainly not that of a man of culture, but it has a good deal of the
quiet grace and self-possession of what we call a gentleman. There is
nothing _prononcé_ or vulgar about him. Even when he is most rhapsodical
his speech never loses its ease and gentleness of tone. He is bland,
benevolent, sometimes quietly pathetic in manner. He poses himself _en
victime_, but with the air of one who does this regretfully and only
from a disinterested sense of duty. I begin very soon to find that there
is no need of my troubling myself much to keep up the conversation; that
my business is that of a listener; that the Prophet conceives himself to
be addressing some portion of the English or American press through my
humble medium. So I listen and my companion listens; and Brigham Young
talks on; and I do declare and acknowledge that we are fast drifting
into a hazy mental condition by virtue of which we begin to regard the
Mormon President as a victim of cruel persecution, a suffering martyr
and an injured angel!

Time, surely, that the interview should come to a close. We tear
ourselves away, and the Prophet dismisses us with a fervent and effusive
blessing. "Good-bye--do well, mean well, pray always. Christ be with
you, God be with you, God bless you." All this, and a great deal more to
the same effect, was uttered with no vulgar, maw-worm demonstrativeness
of tone or gesture, no nasal twang, no uplifted hands; but quietly,
earnestly, as if it came unaffectedly from the heart of the speaker. We
took leave of Brigham Young, and came away a little puzzled as to
whether we had been conversing with an impostor or a fanatic, a Peter
the Hermit or a Tartuffe. One thing, however, is clear to me. I do not
say that Brigham Young is a Tartuffe; but I know now how Tartuffe ought
to be played so as to render the part more effective and more apparently
natural and lifelike than I have ever seen it on French or English

No one can doubt the sincerity of the homage which the Mormons in
general pay to Brigham Young. One man, of the working class, apparently,
with whom I talked at the gate of the Tabernacle, spoke almost with
tears in his eyes of the condescension the Prophet always manifested. My
informant told me that he was at one time disabled by some hurt or
ailment; and, the first day that he was able to come into the street
again, President Young happened to be passing in his carriage, and
caught sight of the convalescent. "He stopped his carriage, sir, called
me over to him, addressed me by my name, shook hands with me, asked me
how I was getting on, and said he was glad to see me out again." The
poor man was as proud of this as a French soldier might have been if the
Little Corporal had recognized him and called him by his name. There is
no flattery which the great can offer to the humble like this way of
addressing the man by his right name, and thus proving that the identity
of the small creature has lived clearly in the memory of the great
being. Many a renowned commander has endeared himself to the soldiers
whom he regarded and treated only as the instruments of his business, by
the mere fact that he took care to remember men's names. They would
gladly die for one who could be so nobly gracious, and could thus prove
that they were regarded by him as worthy to occupy each a distinct place
in his busy mind. The niggardliness and selfishness of John, Duke of
Marlborough, the savage recklessness of Claverhouse, were easily
forgotten by the poor private soldiers whom each commander made it his
business, when occasion required, to address correctly by their
appropriate names of Tom, Dick, or Harry. Lord Palmerston governed the
House of Commons and most of those outside it with whom he usually came
into contact, by just such little arts or courtesies as this. In one of
Messrs. Erckmann and Chatrian's novels we read of a soldier who declares
himself ready to go to the death for Marshal Ney because the Marshal,
who originally belonged to the same district as himself, had just
recognized his fellow-countryman and called him by his name. But the
hero of the novel is somewhat grim and sarcastic, and he thinks it was
not so wonderful a condescension that Ney should have recognized an old
comrade and called him by his name. Perhaps the hero of the tale had not
himself received any such recognition from Ney--perhaps if it had been
vouchsafed to him he, too, would have been ready to go to the death.
Anyhow, this correct calling of names, and quick recognition has always
been a great power in the governing of men and women. "Deal you in
words," is the advice of Mephistophiles to the student, in Faust, "and
you may leave others to do the best they can with things." I was able to
appreciate the governing power of Brigham Young all the better when I
had heard the expression of this poor Mormon's gratitude and homage to
the great President who had shaken hands with him and addressed him
promptly and correctly by his name.

This same Mormon was very communicative. Indeed, as a rule, I found most
of the men in Salt Lake City ready and even eager to discuss their
"peculiar institution," and to invite Gentile opinion on it. He showed
us his two wives, and declared that they lived together in perfect
harmony and happiness; never had a word of quarrel, but were contented
and loving as two sisters. He delivered a panegyric on the moral
condition of Salt Lake City, where, he declared, there was no
dishonesty, no drunkenness, and no prostitution. I believe he was
correct in his description of the place. From many quite impartial
authorities I heard the same accounts of the honesty of the Mormons.
There certainly is no drunkenness to be observed anywhere openly, and I
believe (although I have heard others assert the contrary) that Salt
Lake City is really and truly free from this vice; and I suppose it goes
without saying that there is little or no prostitution in a place where
a man is expected to keep as many wives as his means will allow him.
Intelligent Mormons rely immensely on this absence of prostitution as a
justification of their system. They seem to think that when they have
said, "We have no prostitutes," all is said; and that the Gentile, with
the shames of London, Paris and New York burning in his memory and his
conscience, must be left without a word of reply. Brigham Young, in
conversation with me, dwelt much on this absence of prostitution. Orson
Pratt preached in the Tabernacle during our stay a sermon obviously "at"
the Gentile visitors, who were just then specially numerous; and he drew
an emphatic contrast between the hideous profligacy of the Eastern
cities and the purity of the Salt Lake community. I must say, for
myself, that I do not think the question can thus be settled; I do not
think prostitution so great an evil as polygamy. If this blunt
declaration should shock anybody's moral feelings I am sorry for it; but
it is none the less the expression of my sincere conviction. Pray do
not set me down as excusing prostitution. I think it the worst of all
social evils--except polygamy. I think polygamy the worse evil, because
I am convinced that, regarded from a physiological, moral, religious,
and even merely poetical and sentimental point of view, the only true
social bond to be sought and maintained and justified is the loving
union of one man with one woman--at least until death shall part the
two. Now, I regard the existence of prostitution as a proof that some
men and women fail to keep to the right path. I look on polygamy as a
proof that a whole community is going directly the wrong way. No man
proposes to himself to lead a life of profligacy. He falls into it. He
would get out of it if he only could--if the world and the flesh and the
devil were not now and then too strong for him. But the polygamist
deliberately sets up and justifies and glorifies a system which is as
false to physiology as it is to morals. Observe that I do not say the
polygamist is necessarily an immoral man. Doubtless he is often--in Utah
I really believe he is commonly--a sincere, devoted, mistaken man, who
honestly believes himself to be doing right. But when he attempts to
vindicate his system on the ground that it banishes prostitution, I, for
myself, declare that I believe a society which has to put up with
prostitution is in better case and hope than one which deliberately
adopts polygamy. I am emphatic in expressing this opinion because, as I
am opposed to any stronghanded or legal movement whatever to put down
Brigham Young and his system, I desire to have it clearly understood
that my opinions on the subject of polygamy are quite decided, and that
no one who has clamored, or may hereafter clamor, for the uprooting of
Mormonism by fire and sword, can have less sympathy than I have with
Mormonism's peculiar institution.

Let me return to Brigham Young. I saw the Prophet but twice--once in the
street and once in his own house, where the interview took place which I
have described. The day after that on which I last saw him he left Salt
Lake City and went into the country--some people said to avoid the
necessity of meeting Mr. Colfax, who was just then expected to arrive
with his party from the West. My impressions, therefore, of Brigham
Young and his personal character are necessarily hasty, and probably
superficial. I can only say that he did not impress me either as a man
of great genius, or as a mere _charlatan_. My impression is that he is a
sincere man--that is to say, a man who sincerely believes in himself,
accepts his own impulses, prejudices and passions as divine instincts
and intuitions to be the law of life for himself and others, and who,
therefore, has attained that supreme condition of utterly unsparing and
pitiless selfishness when the voice of self is listened to as the voice
of God. With such a sincerity is quite consistent the adoption of every
craft and trick in the government of men and women. Nobody can doubt
that Napoleon I. was perfectly sincere as regards his faith in himself,
his destiny, and his duty; and yet there was no trick of lawyer, or
play-actor, or priest, of which he would not condescend to avail himself
if it served his purpose. This is not the sincerity of a Pascal, or a
Garibaldi, or a Garrison; but it is just as genuine and infinitely more
common. It is the kind of sincerity which we meet every day in ordinary
life, when we see some dogmatic, obstinate father of a family or
sense-carrier of a small circle trying to mould every will and
conscience and life under his control according to his own pedantic
standard, and firmly confident all the time that his own perverseness
and egotism are a guiding inspiration from heaven. After all, the
downright, conventional stage-hypocrite is the rarest of all beings in
real life. I sometimes doubt whether there ever was _in rerum naturâ_
any one such creature. I suppose Tartuffe had persuaded himself into
self-worship, into the conviction that everything he said and did must
be right. I look upon Brigham Young as a man of such a temperament and
character. Cunning and crafty he undoubtedly is, unless all evidences of
eye, and lip, and voice belie him; but we all know that many a fanatic
who boldly and cheerfully mounted the funeral pile or the scaffold for
his creed had over and over again availed himself of all the tricks of
craft and cunning to maintain his ascendancy over his followers. The
fanatic is often crafty just as the madman is: the presence of craft in
neither case disproves the existence of sincerity.

I believe Brigham Young to be simply a crafty fanatic. That he professes
and leads his creed of Mormonism merely to obtain lands and beeves and
wives, I do not believe, although this seems to be the general
impression among the Gentiles who visit his city. I am convinced that he
regards himself as a prophet and a heaven-appointed leader, and that
this belief prevents him from seeing how selfish he is in one sense and
how ridiculous in another. Any man who can deliberately put on such a
coat in combination with such a pair of boots, as Brigham Young
displayed during my interview with him, must have a faith in himself
which would sustain him in anything. No human creature capable of
looking at any two sides of a question where he himself was concerned,
ever did or could present himself in public and expect to be reverenced
when arrayed in such uncouth and preposterous toggery.

I cannot pretend to have had any extraordinary revelations of the inner
mysteries or miseries of Mormonism made to me during my stay at Salt
Lake City. Other travellers, nearly all other travellers indeed, have
apparently been more fortunate or more pushing and persevering. I fancy
it is rather difficult just now to get to know much of the interior of
Mormon households; and I confess that I never could quite understand how
people, otherwise honorable and upright, can think themselves justified
in worming their way into Mormon confidences, and then making profit one
way or another by revelations to the public. But one naturally and
unavoidably hears, in Salt Lake City, of things which are deeply
significant and which he may without scruple put into print. For
example--there was a terrible pathos to my mind in the history of a
respectable and intelligent woman who, years and years ago, when her
life, now fading, was in its prime, married a man now a shining light of
Mormonism, whose photograph you may see anywhere in Salt Lake City. She
has been superseded since by divers successive wives; she is now
striving in a condition far worse than widowhood to bring up her seven
or eight children, and she has not been favored with even a passing call
for more than a year and a half by the husband of her youth, who lives
with the newest of his wives a few hundred yards away. I am told that
such things are perfectly common; that the result of the system is to
plant in Utah a number of families which may be described practically as
households without husbands and fathers. I believe the lady of whom I
have just spoken accepts her destiny with sad and firm resignation. Her
faith in the religion of Mormonism is unshaken, and she regards her
forlorn and widowed life as the heaven-appointed cross, by the bearing
of which she is to win her eternal crown. Of course the Indian widows
regard their bed of flames, the Russian women-fanatics behold their
mutilated and mangled breasts with a similar enthusiasm of hope and
superstition. But none the less ghastly and appalling is the monstrous
faith which exacts and glorifies such unnatural sacrifices. These dreary
homes, widowed not by death, seem to be the saddest, most shocking birth
of Mormonism. After all, this is not the polygamy of the East, bad as
that may be. "Give us," exclaimed M. Thiers in the French Chamber, three
or four years ago, when Imperialism had reached the zenith of its
despotic power--"give us liberty as in Austria!" So I can well imagine
one of these superseded and lonely wives in Salt Lake City, crying
aloud in the bitterness of her heart, "Give us polygamy as in Turkey!"

That the thing is a religion, however hideously it may show, I do not
doubt. I mean that I feel no doubt that the great majority of the Mormon
men are drawn to and kept in Mormonism by a belief in its truth and
vital force as a religion. I do not believe that conscious and
hypocritical sensuality is the leading impulse in making them or keeping
them members of the Mormon church. I never heard of any community where
a sensual man found any difficulty in gratifying his sensuality; nor are
the vast majority of the Mormons men belonging to a class on whom a
severe public opinion would bear so directly that they must necessarily
wander thousands of miles away across the desert in order to be able
comfortably to gratify their immoral propensities. To me, therefore, the
possibility which appears most dangerous of all is the chance of any
sudden crusade, legal or otherwise, being set on foot against this
perverted and unfortunate people. Left to itself, I firmly believe that
Mormonism will never long bear the glare of daylight, the throng of
witnesses, the intelligent rivalry, the earnest and active criticism,
poured in and forced in upon it by the Pacific railroads. But if it can
bear all this then it can bear anything whatever which human ingenuity
or force can put in arms against it; and it will run its course and have
its day, let the Federal Hercules himself do what he may. Meanwhile it
would be well to bear in mind that Mormonism has thus far cumbered the
earth for comparatively a very few years; that all its members there in
Utah counted together would hardly equal the population of a respectable
street in London; and that at this moment the whole concern is ricketty
and shaky, and threatens to tumble to pieces. I know that some of the
ruling elders are panting for persecution; that they are openly doing
their very best to "draw fire;" that they are daily endeavoring to work
on the fears or the passions of Federal officials resident at Salt Lake
by threats of terrible deeds to be done in the event of any attempt
being made to interfere with Mormonism. Many of these Mormon apostles,
dull, vulgar and clownish as they seem, have foresight enough to see
that their system sadly needs just now the stimulus of a little
persecution, and have fanatical courage enough to put themselves gladly
in the front of any danger for the sake of sowing by their martyrdom the
seed of the church. "That man," said William the Third of England,
speaking of an inveterate conspirator against him "is determined to be
made a victim, and I am determined not to make him one." I hope the
United States will deal with the Mormons in a similar spirit. At the
same time, I would ask my brothers of the pen whether those of them who
have visited Salt Lake City have not made the place seem a good deal
more wonderful, more alluringly mysterious, more grandly paradoxical in
its nature, than it really is? I feel convinced that if people in
Lancashire and Wales and Sweden had all been made distinctly aware that
Salt Lake City is only a dusty or muddy little commonplace country
hamlet, where labor is not less hard and is not any better paid than in
dozens or scores of small hamlets this side the Missouri, one vast
temptation to emigrate thither, the temptation supplied by morbid
curiosity and ignorant wonder, would never have had any conquering
power, and Mormonism would have been deprived of many thousand votaries.
For, regarded in an artistic point of view, the City of the Saints is a
vulgar sham; a trumpery humbug; and I verily believe that it has swelled
into importance not more through the fanatical energy of its governing
elders and the ignorance of their followers, than through the
extravagant exaggeration and silly wonder of most of its hostile
visitors and critics.


A year ago I happened to be talking with some French friends at a
dinner-table in Paris, about the Reform agitation then going on in
England. "We admire your great orators and leaders," said an
enthusiastic French gentleman; "your Bright, your Beales"--and he was
warming to the subject when he saw that I was smiling, and he at once
pulled up, and asked me earnestly whether he had said anything
ridiculous. I endeavored to explain to him gently that in England we did
not usually place our Bright and our Beales on exactly the same
level--that the former was our greatest orator, our most powerful
leader, and the latter a respectable, earnest gentleman of warm emotions
and ordinary abilities whom chance had made the figure-head of a passing
and vehement agitation, and who would probably be forgotten the day
after to-morrow or thereabouts.

My French friend did not seem convinced. He had seen Mr. Beales's name
in the London papers quite as often and as prominently for some months
as Mr. Bright's; and, moreover, he had met Mr. Beales at dinner, and did
not like to be told that he had not thereby made the acquaintance of a
great tribune of the British people. So I dropped the subject and
allowed our Bright and and our Beales to rank together without farther

Here in New York, where English politics are understood infinitely
better than in Paris, I have noticed not a little of this "Bright and
Beales" classification when people talk of the leaders of English
Liberalism. I have heard, with surprise, this or that respectable member
of Parliament, who never for a moment dreamed of being classed among the
chiefs of his party, exalted to a place of equality with Gladstone or
Bright. In truth the English Liberal party (I mean now the advancing and
popular party--not the old Whigs) has only three men who can be called
leaders. After Gladstone, Bright, and Mill there comes a huge gap--and
then follow the subalterns, of whom one might name half a dozen having
about equal rank and influence, and of whom you may choose any favorite
you like. Take, for example, Mr. W. E. Forster, Mr. Stansfeld, Mr.
Thomas Hughes, the O'Donoghue, Mr. Coleridge (who, however, is marked
out for the judicial bench, and therefore need hardly be counted), and
one or two others, and you have the captains of the advanced Liberal
party. The Liberals are not rich in rising talent; at least there seems
no man of the younger political generation who gives any promise of
commanding ability. They have many good debaters and clever politicians,
but I see no "pony Gladstone" to succeed him who used to be called the
"pony Peel;" and the man has yet to show himself in whom the House of
Commons can hope for a future Bright. The great Liberals of our day have
apparently not the gift of training disciples in order that the latter
may become apostles in their time. Like Cavour, they are too earnest
about the work and do too much of it themselves to have leisure or
inclination for teaching and pushing others.

Officially Mr. Gladstone has been, of course, for several years the
leader of the party. He is formally invested with all the insignia of
command. He is indeed the only possible leader; for he is the only man
who has the slightest chance just now of commanding the allegiance of
the old Whigs with their dukes and earls, and the young Radicals with
their philosophers, their Comtists, their Irish Nationalists, and their
working men. But the true soul and voice and heart of the Liberal party
pay silent allegiance to John Bright. He is, by universal
acknowledgment, the maker of the Reform agitation and the Reform Bill.

Mr. Disraeli has over and over again flung in the face of Mr. Gladstone
the fact that Bright, and not he, is the master spirit of Radicalism. Of
late the Tories have taken to praising and courting Bright incessantly
and ostentatiously, and contrasting his calm, consistent wisdom with
Gladstone's impetuosity and fitfulness. Of course both Bright and
Gladstone thoroughly understand the meaning of this, and smile at it and
despise it. The obvious purpose is to try to set up a rivalry between
the two. If Gladstone's authority could be damaged that would be quite
enough; for it would be impossible at present to get the Whig dukes and
earls to follow Bright, and the dethronement of Gladstone would be the
break-up of the party. The trick is an utter failure. Bright is
sincerely and generously loyal to Gladstone, and is a man as completely
devoid of personal vanity or self-seeking as he is of fear. No personal
question will ever divide these two men.

Gladstone is beyond doubt the most fluent and brilliant speaker in the
English Parliament. No other man has anything like his inexhaustible
flow and rush of varied and vivid expression. His memory is as
surprising as his fluency. Grattan spoke of the eloquence of Fox as
"rolling in resistless as the waves of the Atlantic." So far as this
description conveys the idea of a vast volume of splendid words pouring
unceasingly in, it may be applied to Gladstone. A listener new to the
House is almost certain to prefer him to any other speaker there, and to
regard him as the greatest English orator of the present generation. I
was myself for a long time completely under the spell, and a little
impatient of those who insisted on the superiority of Bright. But when
one becomes accustomed to the speaking of the two men it is impossible
not to find the fluency, the glitter, the impetuous volubility, the
involved and complicated sentences, the Latinized, sesquipedalian words
of Gladstone gradually losing their early charm and influence, just as
the pure noble Saxon, the unforced energy, the exquisite simplicity, the
perfect "fusion of reason and passion" which are the special
characteristics of Bright's eloquence, grow more and more fascinating
and commanding. Perhaps the same effect may be found to arise from a
study or a contrast (if one must contrast them) between the political
characters of the two men.

It is a somewhat singular fact that one English county has produced the
three men who undoubtedly rank beyond all others in England as
Parliamentary orators. The Earl of Derby, Mr. Gladstone, and Mr. Bright
are all Lancashire men. But Gladstone is only Lancashire by birth. His
shrewd old Scotch father came to Liverpool from across the Tweed, and
made his money and founded his family in the great port of the Mersey.
The Gladstones had, and have, large West Indian property; and when
England emancipated her slaves by paying off the planters, the
Gladstones came in for no small share of the national purchase-money.
When the great Liberal orator came out so impetuously and unluckily with
his celebrated panegyric on Jefferson Davis, a few years ago, some
people shook their heads and remarked that the old planter spirit does
not quite die out in the course of one generation; and I heard bitter
allusion made to the celebrated declaration flung by Cooke, the great
tragedian, in the face of an indignant theatre in Liverpool, that there
was not a stone in the walls of that town which was not "cemented by the
blood of Africans." But, indeed, Gladstone's outburst had no
traditional, or hereditary, or other such source. It came straight from
the impulsive heart and nature of the speaker. His strength and his
weakness are alike illustrated by that sudden, indiscreet,
unjustifiable, and repented outburst. Thus he every now and then
disappoints his friends and shakes the confidence of his followers. A
keen, intellectual, cynical member of the Liberal party, Mr. Grant Duff,
not long since publicly reproached Mr. Gladstone with this trick of
suddenly "turning round and firing his revolver in the face of his
followers." Certain it is that there is little or no enthusiasm felt
toward Gladstone personally, by his party. Admirers of Mr. Disraeli are
usually devotees of the man himself. Young men, especially, delight in
him and adore him. Mr. Gladstone is followed as a leader, admired as an
orator; but I have heard very few of his followers ever express any
personal affection or enthusiasm for him; but it is quite notorious in
London that some of his adherents can hardly control their dislike of
him. Mr. Bright, although a man of somewhat cold and reserved demeanor,
and occasionally _brusque_ in manner, is popular everywhere in the
House. Mr. Gladstone is not personally popular even among his own
followers. What is the reason? His enemies say that he has a bad temper
and an unbending intellectual pride, which is as untrue as if they were
to say he had a hoarse voice and a stammer. The obscurest man in the
House of Commons is not more modest; and there is nothing ungenial in
his manner or his temper. But the truth is that people cannot rely upon
him, or think they cannot, which, so far as they are concerned, amounts
to the same thing. His strongest passion in life--stronger than his love
of figures, or of Homer, or even of liberty--is a love of argument. He
is always ready to sacrifice his friend, or his party, or even his
cause, to his argument. Add to this that he has a conscience so
sensitive that it can hardly ever find any cause or deed smooth enough
to be wholly satisfactory; add, moreover, that he has an eloquence so
fluent as to flow literally away from him, or with him, and the wonder
will be how such a man ever came to be the successful leader of a great
party at all. He is always reconsidering what he has done, always
penitent for something he has said, always turning up to-day the side of
the question which everybody supposed was finally put away and done with

You can read all this in his face. Furrowed with deep and rigid lines,
it proclaims a certain self-torturing nature--the nature of the
penitent, self-examining ascetic, whose heart is always vexed by doubts
of his own worth and purity, and past and future. Decidedly, Gladstone
wants force of character, and force of intellect as well. He is not a
man of great thought. Every such man settles a question, so far as he is
himself concerned, finally, one way or the other, before long; sees and
accepts what the human limitations of thinking are; recognizes the
necessity of being done with mere thinking about it, and so decides and
is free to act. There is intellectual weakness in Gladstone's
interminable consideration and reconsideration, qualification and
requalification of every subject and branch of a subject. But there is
also a strong, genuine, unmingled delight in mere argument--perhaps as
barren a delight as human intellect can yield to.

Last year there were three Fenian prisoners lying under sentence of
death in Manchester. Their crime was such as undoubtedly all civil
governments are accustomed to punish by death. But there was
considerable sympathy for them, partly because of their youth, partly
because the deed they had done--the killing of a policeman in order to
rescue a political conspirator--did not seem to be a mere base and
malignant murder. Some eminent Liberals, Mr. Bright among the rest,
endeavored to obtain a mitigation of the sentence. The Tory Government
refused; then a point of law was raised on their behalf, and argued in
the House of Commons. The point was new, the Tory law-officers, dull men
at the best, were taken by surprise, and broke down in reply. Yet there
was a reply, and legally, a sufficient one. Mr. Gladstone saw it; saw
where the point raised was defective, and how it might be disposed of.
He sprang to his feet, pulled the Tory law-officers out of their
difficulty, and upset the case for the Fenians. Now this must have
seemed to a conscientious man quite the right thing to do. To a lover of
argument the temptation of upsetting a defective plea was irresistible.
But most of Mr. Gladstone's Irish followers, on whom he must needs rely,
were surprised and angry, and even some of his English friends thought
he might have left the Tories unaided to hang their own political
prisoners. Gladstone's conduct was eminently characteristic. No
impartial man could honestly say that he had done a wrong thing; but no
one acquainted with political life could feel surprised that a leader
who habitually does such things, is almost always being grumbled at by
one or other section of his followers.

There is an obvious lack of directness as well as of robustness in the
whole intellectual and political character of the man. I think it was
Nathaniel Hawthorne who said of General McClellan that if he could only
have shut one eye he might have gone straight into Richmond almost at
any time during his command of the Army of the Potomac. I am sure if
Gladstone would only close one eye now and then he might lead his party
much more easily to splendid victory. With all his great, varied,
comprehensive faculties, he is not a man to make a deep mark on the
history of his country. He has to be driven on. Somebody must stand
behind him. He is not self-sufficing. His style of eloquence is not
straightforward, cleaving its way like an arrow. It goes round and round
a subject, turning it up, holding it to the light, now this way, now
that, examining and re-examining it. Even his reform speeches are as
Disraeli once said very happily of Lord Palmerston, rather speeches
about Reform than orations on behalf of it. He is indeed the brilliant
Halifax of his age--at least he is a complete embodiment of Lord
Macaulay's Halifax. A leader with so many splendid gifts and merits, no
English parliamentary party of modern times has ever had. Taking manner,
voice, elocution and all into account, as is but right in judging of a
speaker, I think he is the most splendid of all English orators. Burke's
manner and accent were terribly against him; Fox was full of repetition,
and often stammered and stuttered in the very rush and tumult of his
thoughts; Sheridan's glitter was sometimes tawdriness; both the Pitts
were given to pompousness and affectation; Bright has neither the silver
voice nor the varied information of Gladstone; Disraeli I do not rank
among orators at all. Gladstone has none of the special defects of any
of these men, yet I am convinced that Fox was a _greater_ orator than
Gladstone; I know that Bright is; while Burke's speeches are, as
intellectual studies, incomparably beyond anything that Gladstone will
ever bequeath to posterity; and as instruments to an end, some of
Disraeli's speeches have been more effective and triumphant than
anything ever spoken by his present rival.

In brief, Gladstone is not, to my thinking, a _great_ orator; and I do
not believe he is a great statesman. A great statesman, I presume, is
tested by a crisis, and is greatest at a crisis. Such was Chatham; such
was Washington; such was Napoleon Bonaparte; such was Cavour; such is
Bismarck. All I have seen of Gladstone compels me to believe that he is
not such a man. He is just the man to lead the Liberal party at this
time; but I should despair of the triumph of that party for the present
generation, if there were not stronger and simpler minds behind his to
keep him in the right way, to drive him on--and, above all, to prevent
him from recoiling after he has made an effective stride forward.

One of the great questions likely to arise soon in English political
discussion is that of national education. On educational questions I
fancy Mr. Gladstone is rather narrow-minded and old-fashioned; taking
too much the tone and view of a college Don. His recent severance from
the political representation of Oxford may have done something to
release his mind from tradition and pedantry; but I much doubt whether
he will not be found sadly wanting when a serious attempt is made to
revolutionize the principles and the system of the English universities,
and to substitute there (I quote again the language of Grant Duff) "the
studies of men for the studies of children." Gladstone is a devotee of
classical study; and his whole nature is under the influence of
æstheticism, or of what is commonly called "sentiment." The sweet and
genial traditions of the past have immense influence over him. His love
of Greek poetry and of Italian art follow him into politics. With the
Teuton, his poetry and his politics he has little or no sympathy; and I
think the question to be decided shortly as regards the university
system in England maybe figuratively described as a question between
Classic and Teuton. Gladstone is a profound Greek and Latin scholar--a
master of Italian, a connoisseur of Italian art; he does not, I believe,
know or care much about German literature. Accordingly, he was a devoted
Philhellene and a passionate champion of Italian independence; while the
outbreak of the recent struggle between the past and the present in
Germany found him indifferent, and probably even ignorant. So it was in
regard to the American crisis the other day. He knew little of American
politics and national life; and the whole thing was a bewilderment and a
surprise to him. If the Laocoon had been the work of a New England
artist I think the North would have found at once a warm advocate in Mr.

Of a mould utterly different is John Bright, at the very root of whose
character are found simplicity and straightforwardness. By simplicity I
do not mean freedom from pretence or affectation; for no man can be more
thoroughly unaffected and sincere than Gladstone. I mean that purely
intellectual attribute which frees the judgment from the influence of
complex emotions; which distinguishes at once essentials from
non-essentials; which sees at a glance the true end and the real way to
it, and can go directly onward. Men supremely gifted with this great
practical quality are commonly set down as men of one idea. In this
sense, undoubtedly, John Bright is a man of one idea; but the phrase
does not justly describe him, or men like him, who are peculiar merely
in having an accurate appreciation of what I may call political
perspective, and thus knowing what proportion of public consideration
certain objects ought, under certain circumstances, to obtain.

So far as ideas are the offspring of information, Mr. Bright has
undoubtedly fewer ideas than some of his contemporaries. He is not a
profound classical scholar like Gladstone; he has had nothing like the
varied culture of Lowe; he makes, of course, no pretence to the
attainments of Mill, who is at once a master of science, of classics,
and of _belles-lettres_. But given a subject, almost any subject, coming
at all within the domain of politics or economics, and time to think
over it, and he is much more likely to be right in his judgment of it
than any of the three men I have named. He is gifted beyond any
Englishman now living with the rare and admirable faculty of seeing
right into the heart of a subject, and discerning what it means and what
it is worth. Nor is this ever a lucky jump at a conclusion. Bright never
gives an opinion at random or off-hand. Some new policy is announced;
some new subject is broached in the House of Commons; and Bright sits
silent and listens. Friends and followers come round him and ask him
what he thinks of it. "Wait until to-morrow and I will tell you," is
almost invariably, in whatever form of words, the tenor of his
reply--and to-morrow's judgment is certain to be right. I can remember
no great public question coming up in England for the past dozen years
in regard to which Mr. Bright's deliberate judgment did not prove itself
to be just.

This quality of sagacious judgment, however valuable and uncommon, would
not of itself make a man a great statesman or even a great party leader;
but it is only one of many remarkable attributes which are found
harmoniously illustrated in the character of Mr. Bright. I do not mean,
however, to dwell at any length here on the place John Bright holds in
English political life or the qualities which have won him that place.
He has lately been the subject of an article in this magazine, and he is
indeed better known to American readers than any other English political
man now living. One or two observations are all that just now seem
necessary to make.

Men who have not heard Bright speak, and who only know him by repute as
a powerful tribune of the people, a demagogue ("John of Bromwicham,"
Carlyle calls him, classing him with John of Leyden), are naturally apt
to think of him as an impetuous, passionate, stormy orator, shaking
people's souls with sound and fury. Almost anybody who only knew the two
men vaguely and by rumor, would be likely to assume that the style of
the classical Gladstone was stately, calm, and regular; that of the
popular orator and democrat, impetuous, rugged, and vehement. Now, the
great characteristic of Gladstone, after his fluency, is his
impetuosity; that of Bright is his magnificent composure and
self-control. Intensity is his great peculiarity. He never foams or
froths or bellows, or wildly gesticulates. The heat of his oratorical
passion is a white heat which consumes without flash or smoke or
sputter. Some of his greatest effects have been produced by passages of
pathetic appeal, of irony, or of invective, which were delivered with a
calm intensity that might almost have seemed coldness, if the fire of
genius and of eloquence did not burn beneath it. Another remark I should
make is that Mr. Bright is the greatest master of pure Saxon English now
speaking the English language. As the blind commonly have their sense of
sound and of touch intensified, so it may be that Mr. Bright's
comparative indifference to classic and foreign literature has tended to
concentrate all his attention upon the culture of pure English, and
given him a supreme faculty of appreciating and employing it. Certain it
is that his unvarying choice of the very best Saxon word in every case
seems to come from an instinct which is in itself something like genius.

Finally, let me remark, that the extent of Mr. Bright's democratic
tendencies would probably disappoint some Americans. I may say now what
I should probably have been laughed at for saying two or three years
ago, that there is a good deal of the conservative about John Bright;
that he is by nature disposed to shrink from innovation; that change for
the mere sake of change is quite abhorrent to him; and that he is about
the last man in England who would care to make political war for an
idea. He seems to me to be the only one Englishman I have lately spoken
with who retains any genuine feeling of personal loyalty toward the
sovereign of England. But for his eloquence and his power, I fancy Mr.
Bright would seem rather a slow sort of politician to many of the
younger Radicals. The "Times" lately attributed Mr. Bright's
conservatism to his advancing years. This was merely absurd. Mr. Bright
is little older now than O'Connell was when he began his Parliamentary
career. He is considerably younger than Disraeli, or Gladstone, or Mill.
What Bright now is he always was. A dozen years ago he was defending the
Queen and Prince Albert against the attacks of Tories and of some
Radicals. He never was a Democrat in the French or Italian sense. He has
always been wanting even, in sympathy, with popular revolution abroad.
He never showed the slightest interest in speculative politics. I doubt
if he ever talked of the "brotherhood of peoples." He has been driven
into political agitation only because, like Schiller's Wilhelm Tell, he
saw positive, practical, and pressing grievances bearing down upon his
neighbors, which he felt called by duty to make war against. I have many
times heard Mr. Bright say that he detests the House of Commons, and
would be glad if it were permitted him never to mount a platform again.

But if Mr. Bright had little natural inclination for a Parliamentary
career, what is one to say of Mr. John Stuart Mill's natural
disinclination for such a path of life?

Physical constitution, intellectual peculiarities, temperament,
habits--all seemed to mark out Mr. Mill as a man destined to close his
career, as he had so long conducted it--in almost absolute seclusion. He
is a silent, shy, shrinking man, of feeble frame and lonely ways. Until
the general election of three years back, Mr. Mill was to his countrymen
but as an oracle--as a voice--almost as a myth. The influence of his
writings was immense. Personally he was but a name. He never came into
any public place; he knew nobody. When the promoters of the movement to
return him to Parliament came to canvass the Westminster electors, the
great difficulty they had to contend with was, that three out of every
four of the honest traders and shopkeepers had never heard of him; and
the few who knew anything of his books had a vague impression that the
author was dead years before. The very men who formed the executive of
his committee could not say that they knew him, even by sight. Half in
jest, half for a serious purpose, some of the Tories sent abroad over
Westminster an awful report that there was no such man in existence as
John Stuart Mill. "Did you ever see him?" was the bewildering question
constantly put to this or that earnest canvasser, and invariably
answered with an apologetic negative. I believe the services of my
friend Dr. Chapman, editor of the "Westminster Review," were brought
into pressing requisition, because he was one of the very few who really
could boast a personal acquaintance with Stuart Mill. The day when the
latter first entered the House of Commons was the first time he and
Bright ever saw each other. I believe Cobden and Mill never met. Mill
had no university acquaintances--he had never been to any university. He
had no school friends--he had never been to a school. Perhaps the best
educated man of his time in England, he owes his education to the
personal care and teaching of his distinguished father, James Mill, who
would have been illustrious if his son had not overshadowed his fame.
Assuredly, to know James Mill intimately was, if I may thus apply Leigh
Hunt's saying, in itself a liberal education. Following his father's
steps at the India House, John Mill worked there methodically and
quietly, until he rose to the highest position his father had occupied;
and then he resigned his office, declined an offer of a seat at the
Indian Council Board, subsequently made by Lord Stanley, and lapsed
wholly into private life. Of late he rarely met even his close and
early friends. Some estrangement, not necessary to dwell on, had taken
place, I believe, between him and his old friend Thomas Carlyle, and I
suppose they ceased to meet. After the death of the wife whom he so
loved and revered, Mill lived almost always at Avignon, in the south of
France, where she died, and where he raised a monument over her remains,
which he visits and tends with a romantic devotion and constancy worthy
of a Roland.

Only a profound sense of duty could drag such a man from his scholarly
and sacred seclusion into the stress and storm of a parliamentary life.
But it was urged upon Mill that he could do good to the popular cause by
going into Parliament; and he is not a man to think anything of his
personal preference in such a case. He accepted the contest and won.
Some of his warmest admirers regretted that he had ever given his
consent. They feared not so much that he might damage his reputation as
that he might weaken the influence of his authority, and with it the
strength of every great popular cause. Certainly those who thought thus,
and who met Mr. Mill for the first time during the progress of the
Westminster contest, did not feel much inclined to take a more
encouraging view of the prospect.

Mr. Mill seems cut out by nature not to be a parliamentary success. He
has a thin, fragile, awkward frame; he has a nervous, incessant
twitching of the lips and eyes; he has a weak voice and a sort of
stammer; he is over sixty years of age; he had never, so far as I know,
addressed a political meeting of any kind up to the time of the
Westminster contest. Yet with all these disadvantages, Mill has, as a
political leader and speaker, been an undoubted success with the
country, and a sort of success in the House. An orator of any kind he
never could be. One might call him a wretchedly bad speaker, if his
speaking were not so utterly unlike anybody else's, as to refuse to be
classified with any other speaking, good or bad. But, so far as the best
selection of words, the clearest style, the most coherent and convincing
argument can constitute eloquence, Mill's speeches are eloquent. They
are, of course, only spoken essays. They differ in no wise from the
speaker's writings; and I need hardly say that a speech, to be
effective, must never be just what the speaker would have written if it
were to be consigned at once to print as a letter or an essay. As
speeches, therefore, Mr. Mill's utterances in the House have little or
no effect. Indeed, they are only listened to by a very few men of real
intelligence and judgment on both sides. Some of the more boisterous of
the Tories made many attempts to cough and laugh Mill into silence;
indeed, there was obviously a deliberate plan of this kind in operation
at one time. But Mill is a man whom nothing can deter from saying or
doing what he thinks right. A more absolutely fearless being does not
exist. He is even free from that fear which has sometimes paralyzed the
boldest spirits, the fear of becoming ridiculous. So the Tory trick
failed. Mill went on with patient, imperturbable, proud good-humor,
despite all interruption--now and then paying off his Tory enemies by
some keen contemptuous epigram or sarcasm, made all the more pungent by
the thin, bland tone in which it was uttered. So the Tories gave up
shouting, groaning and laughing; the more quickly because one at least
of their chiefs, the Marquis of Salisbury (then in the House of Commons
as Lord Cranbourne) had the spirit and sense to express openly and
loudly his anger and disgust at the vulgar and brutal behaviour of some
of his followers. Therefore Mr. Mill ceased to be interrupted; but he is
not much listened to. That supreme, irrefutable evidence that a man
fails to interest the House--the fact that a hum and buzz of
conversation may be heard all the time he is speaking--is always fatally
manifest when Mr. Mill addresses the Commons. But the House, after all,
is only a platform from which a man endeavors to speak to the country,
and if Mill does not always get the ear of the House, he never fails to
be heard by the nation. I have no doubt that even the Tory members of
the House read Mill's speeches when they appear in print; assuredly all
intelligent Tories do. These speeches, in any case, are never lost on
the country. They form at once a part of the really successful
literature of each session. They always excite controversy of some
kind--not even the great orations of Bright and Gladstone are more
talked of.

So far they are a success, and there is something in the personal
character of Mr. Mill himself, which makes him specially popular with
the working classes of England. I doubt if there is now any Englishman
whose name would be received with a more cordial outburst of applause at
a popular meeting. Working-men, in fact, are very proud of Mr. Mill's
scholarship, culture, and profundity. They can perceive easily enough
that he is remarkable for just those intellectual qualities which the
conventional demagogue never has. Tory newspapers and the "Saturday
Review" sometimes affect to regard Mr. Bright as a man of defective
education, but it is impossible to pretend to think that Mill is
ignorant of Greek or superficial in his knowledge of history. When such
a man makes himself especially the champion of working-men, the
working-men think of him very much as the Irish peasants of '98 and '48
did of Edward Fitzgerald and Smith O'Brien, the aristocrats of birth and
rank, who stepped down from their high places and gave themselves up to
the cause of the unlettered and the poor.

There is something fascinating, moreover, about the singular blending of
the emotional, and even the romantic, with the keen, vigorous, logical
intellect, which is to be observed in Mill. Even political economy, in
Mill's mind, is strangely guided and governed by mere feeling. Somebody
said he was a combination of Ricardo and Tom Hughes--somebody else said,
rather more happily, I think, that he is Adam Smith and Fénélon revived
and rolled into one. The "Pall Mall Gazette" found his picture well
painted in Lord Macaulay's analysis of the motives which influenced
Edmund Burke, when he flung his soul into the impeachment of Warren
Hastings. The mere eccentricities, the very defects of such a nature
have in them something captivating. The admirers of Mr. Mill are
therefore not unusually somewhat given to exalting admiration into
idolatry. The classes who most admire him are the scholarly and
adventurous young Radicals, who have a dash of Positivism in them; the
extreme Radicals, who are prepared to go any and all lengths for the
mere sake of change; and the working-men.

This is the Triumvirate of the English Liberal Party. Combined they
represent, guide, and govern every section and fraction of that party
that is worth taking into any consideration. Mr. Gladstone represents
official Liberalism; Mr. Bright speaks for and directs the
old-fashioned, robust, popular Liberalism of which Manchester was the
school; Mr. Mill is the exponent of the new Liberalism, the Liberalism
of Idea and Logic. Bright's programme is a little ahead of Gladstone's,
but Gladstone will probably be easily pulled up to it. Mill goes far
beyond either, far beyond any point at which either is ever likely to
arrive. Indeed, Mr. Mill may be fairly described by a phrase, which I
believe is German, as a man in advance of every possible future--at
least in England. But he is quite prepared to act loyally and steadily
with his party and its leader on all momentous issues. On some minor
questions he has lately gone widely away from them, and given thereby
much offence; and indeed I am sure there are not a few of the
old-fashioned Liberals and the Manchester men who would rather Mr. Mill
had never come into Parliament and sat at their side. But on nearly all
questions of Parliamentary Reform, and on that of the Irish Church, Mill
and his Liberal colleagues will pull cordially together. So, too, on
most economic questions, reduction of taxation, imposition of duties and
the like. Where a sharp difference is likely to arise will only be in
relation to some subject having an idea behind it--some question of
foreign policy perhaps, something not at present imminent; and, let us
hope, not destined in any case to be vital to the interests of the
party. Only where an idea is involved will Mr. Mill refuse to allow his
own judgment to bend to the general necessities of the party. It was his
objection (a very unwise one, I think) to the idea behind the system of
the ballot, which led him to separate himself sharply from Bright and
other Liberals on that subject; it was the idea which lies at the bottom
of a representation of minorities, which beguiled him into lending his
advocacy to that most chimerical, awkward, and absurd piece of political
mechanism which we know in England as the three-cornered constituency.
The cohesion of Gladstone and Bright is decidedly more close and likely
to endure than that between Bright and Mill. But on all immediate
questions of great importance, these two men are sure to be found side
by side. Mill has a deep and earnest admiration for Bright, who is
sometimes, perhaps, a little impatient of the Politics of Idea.

During the session of 1868, I attended a meeting of a few representative
Liberals of all classes, brought together to decide on some course of
agitation with regard to Ireland. Mr. Mill was there, so were Professor
Fawcett, Mr. Thomas Hughes, Lord Amberley, and other members of
Parliament; Mr. Frederick Harrison, with some of his Positivist
colleagues, and several representative working men. Mr. Bright was
unable to attend. A certain course of action being recommended, Mr. Mill
expressed his own approval of it, but emphatically declared that he
considered Mr. Bright's judgment was entitled to be regarded as
authoritative, and that should Mr. Bright recommend the meeting not to
go on, the scheme had better be given up. Mr. Bright subsequently
discouraged the scheme, and it was, on Mr. Mill's recommendation, at
once abandoned. I mention this fact to illustrate the loyalty which Mr.
Mill, with all his tendency to political eccentricity, usually displays
toward the men whom he regards as the leaders of the party.

Mill and Bright are alike warm admirers of Gladstone and believers in
him. Indeed one sometimes feels ashamed to doubt for a moment the
steadfastness of a man in whom Bright and Mill put so full a faith.

Certainly the English Liberal has reason to congratulate himself, and
feel proud when he remembers what sort of men his party's leaders used
to be, and sees what men they are to-day. It will not do to study too
closely the private characters of the chiefs of any political band in
the House of Commons, from the days of Bolingbroke to those of Fox. The
man who was not a sinecurist or a peculator was pretty sure to be a
profligate or a gambler. Not a few eminent men were sinecurists,
peculators, profligates, and gamblers. The political purity of the
English Liberal leaders to-day is absolutely without the faintest shade
of suspicion--it never even occurs to any one to suspect them, while
their private lives, it may be said without indelicacy, are in pure and
perfect accord with the noble principles they profess. Not often has
there been a political triumvirate of greater men; of better men, never.


Some few months ago, a little bubble of interest was made on the surface
of London life, by a course of Sunday lectures of a peculiar kind.

These lectures were given in a small room in Bouverie street, off Fleet
street--Bouverie street, sacred to publishing and newspaper offices--and
only a very small stream of persons was drawn to the place. There was
something very peculiar, however, about the lectures, the lecturer, and
the audience, which might well have repaid a stranger in London for the
trouble of going there. I doubt whether such a proportion of
intellectual faces could have been seen among the congregation of any
London church on these Sunday mornings; and I know one, at least, who
attended the lectures, less for the sake of what he heard than because
such listeners as the authoress of "Romola" were among the audience. The
lecturer was Mr. Richard Congreve, and the subject of his discourses was
the creed of Positivism.

I do not know how familiar Mr. Congreve and his writings and his
doctrines are to the American public. In London, Mr. Congreve is, in a
quiet way, a sort of celebrity or peculiarity. He is the head of the
small, compact band of English Positivists. It is understood that he
goes as far in the direction of the creed which was the dream of Auguste
Comte's later years as any sane human creature can well go. I have,
however, very little to say here of Mr. Congreve, individually; and I
take his recent course of Sunday lectures only as a convenient starting
point from which to begin a few remarks on the political principles,
character, and influence of that small, resolute, aggressive body of
intellectual, highly-educated and able men who are beginning to be known
in the politics and society of England as the London Positivists.

A discourse on the principles of Positivism would be quite out of place
here; but even those who understand the whole subject will, perhaps,
allow me, for the benefit of those who do not, to explain very briefly
what an English Positivist is. Positivism, it is known to my readers, is
the name given to the philosophy which Auguste Comte, more than any
other man, helped to reduce to a system. Regarded as a philosophy of
history and human society, its grand and fundamental doctrine merely is
that human life evolves itself in obedience to certain fixed laws, of
which we could obtain a knowledge if only we applied ourselves to this
study as we do to all other studies in practical science, by the patient
observation of phenomena. Auguste Comte's reduction of this
philosophical theory to a scientific system is undoubtedly one of the
grandest achievements of human intellect. The philosophy did not begin
with him or his generation, or, indeed, any generation of which we have
authentic record. Whenever there were men capable of thinking at all,
there must have been some whose minds were instinct with this doctrine;
but Comte made it a system at once simple, grand, and fascinating, and
he will always remain identified with its development, in the memory of
the modern world. Unfortunately, Comte, in his later years, set to
founding a _religion_ also--a religion which has, perhaps, called down
upon its founder and its followers more ridicule, contempt, and
discredit than any vagary of human imagination in our day. I speak of
all this only to explain to my readers that there is some little
difficulty in defining what is meant by a Positivist. If we mean merely
a believer in the philosophical theory of history, then Positivists
are, indeed, to be named as legion, and their captains are among the
greatest intellects of the world to-day. In England, we regard Mr. John
Stuart Mill as, in this sense, the greatest Positivist, and undoubtedly
he is so regarded here. But Mill utterly rejects and ridicules the
fantastic religion which Comte, in his days of declining mental power,
sought to graft on his grand philosophy. In his treatise on Comte, Mr.
Mill showed no mercy to the Positivist religion, and, indeed, bitterly
offended many of its votaries by his contemptuous exposure of its
follies. What is said of Mill may be said of nineteen out of every
twenty, at least, of the English followers of Comte. They accept the
philosophy as grand, scientific, inexorable truth; they reject the
religion with pity or with scorn, as a fantastic and barren chimera. Mr.
Congreve is, in London, the leader of the small school who go for taking
all or nothing, and to whom Auguste Comte is the prophet of a new and
final religion, as well as the teacher of a new philosophy. Now this
little school is the nucleus of the body of Englishmen of whom I write.

When I speak, therefore, of English Positivists, I do not mean the men
who go no farther than John Stuart Mill does. These men are to be found
everywhere; they are of all schools, and all religions. I mean the much
smaller body of votaries who go, or feel inclined to go, much farther,
and accept Comte's religious teaching as a law of life. It is quite
probable that, even among the men who are now identified more or less,
in the public mind, with Mr. Congreve and his school, there may be some
who do not adopt, or even concern themselves about the religion of
Positivism. A community of sentiment on historical and political
questions, the habit of meeting together, consulting together, writing
for publication together, might naturally bring into the group men who
may not go the length of adopting the Comte worship. It is quite
possible, therefore, that, in mentioning the names of English
Positivists, I may happen to speak of some who have no more to do with
that worship than I have.

I mean, then, only the group of men, most of whom are young, most of
whom are highly cultured, many of whom are endowed with remarkable
ability, who are to be found in a literary and political phalanstery
with Mr. Congreve, and of whom the majority are understood to be actual
votaries of the religion of Comte. Of course I have nothing to do here
with their faith or their practices. If they adopt the worship of woman
I think they do a better thing after all than the increasing and popular
class of writers, whose principal business in life is to persuade us
that our wives and sisters are all Messalinas in heart and nearly all
Messalinas in practice. If, when they pray, they touch certain cranial
bumps at certain passages of the prayer, I do not see that they
institute anything worse than the genuflections of the Ritualist or the
breast-beating of the Roman Catholics. If, finally, one is sometimes a
little puzzled when he receives a letter from a Positivist friend, and
finds it dated "5th Marcus Aurelius," or "12th Auguste Comte," instead
of July or December, as the case may be, one must remember that there
never yet was a young sect which did not delight in puzzling outsiders
by a new and peculiar nomenclature. I never heard anything worse charged
against the Positivists than that they worship woman, touch their
foreheads when they pray, and arrange the calendar according to a plan
of their own invention; except, of course, the general charge of
Atheism; but as that is made in England against anybody whom all his
neighbors do not quite understand, I hardly think it worth discussing in
this particular instance. We are all Atheists in England in the
estimation of our neighbors, whose political opinions are different from
our own.

The English Positivists, then, are beginning to stand out sharply
against the common background of political life. They are a little
school; as distinctly a school for their time and chances as the
Girondists were, or the Manchester school, or the Massachusetts
Abolitionists, or the Boston Transcendentalists. They are Radical, of
course, but their Radicalism has a curious twist in it. On any given
question of Radicalism they go as far as any practical politician does;
but then they also go in most cases so very much farther that they often
alarm the practical politician out of his ordinary composure. They are
generally incisive of speech, aggressive of purpose, defiant of
political prudery, and even of political prudence. Their politics are
always politics of idea.

Some three or four years ago the Positivists published a large and
ponderous volume of essays on subjects of international policy. Each man
who contributed an essay signed his name, and although a general
community of idea and principle pervaded the book, it was not understood
that everybody who wrote necessarily adopted all the views of his
associates. The book, in fact, was constructed on the model of the
famous "Essays and Reviews" which had sent such a thrill through the
religious world a few years before. The political essays naturally
failed to create anything like the sensation which was produced by their
theological predecessors; but they did excite considerable attention,
and awoke the echoes. They astonished a good many Liberal politicians of
the steady old school, and they set many men thinking. What surprised
people at first was the singular combination of literary culture and
ultra-Radical opinion. Literary young men in England, of late, are
generally to be divided into two classes--the smart writers for
periodicals, the minor novelists and dramatists, and so forth, who know
no more and care no more about politics than ballet girls do, and the
University men, the men of "culture," who affect Toryism as something
fine and distinguished, and profess a patrician horror of democracy and
the "mob." If at the time this volume was published one had taken aside
some practical politician in London and said, "Here is a collection of
practical essays written by a cluster of young men who all have
University degrees after their names--will you read it?" the answer
would certainly have been--"Not I, it's sure to be some contemptible
sham Tory rubbish; some 'blood-and-culture' trash; some schoolboy
impertinence about demagoguism and the mob." Therefore the surprise was
not slight to such men when they read the book and found that its
central idea, its connecting thread, was a Radicalism which might well
be called thorough; a Radicalism which made Bright look like a steady
old Conservative; invited Mill to push his ideas a little farther; and
poured scorn upon the Radical press for its slowness and its timidity. A
simple, startling foreign policy was prescribed to England. Its gospel,
after all, was but an old one--so old that it had been forgotten in
English politics. It was merely--Be just and fear not. Renounce all
aggression; give back the spoils of conquest. Give Gibraltar back to the
Spaniards who own it; prepare to cast loose your colonial dependencies;
prepare even to quit your loved India; ask the Irish people fairly and
clearly what they want, and if they desire to be free of your rule, bid
them go and be free and Godspeed. All the old traditional policies
seemed to these men only obsolete and odious superstitions. They would
have England, the State, to stand up and act precisely as an Englishman
of honor and conscience would do, and they treated with utter contempt
any policy of expediency or any policy whatever that aimed at any end
but that of finding out the right thing to do and then doing it at once.
This seemed to me, studying the school quite as an outside observer, its
one great central idea; and it would of course be impossible not to
honor the body of writers who proposed to show how it was to be

But no school lives on one grand idea; and this school had its chimeras
and crotchets--almost its crazes. For example, the leader of the
Positivist band took great trouble to argue that Europe ought to form
herself into a noble federation of States, to the exclusion of Russia,
which was to be regarded as an Oriental, barbarous, unmanageable,
intolerable sort of thing, and pushed out of the European system
altogether. Then a good many of the leading minds of the school are
imbued with a passionate love for a sort of celestial despotism, an
ideal imperialism which the people are first to create and then to
obey--which is to teach them, house them, keep them in employment, keep
them in health, and leave them nothing to do for themselves, while yet
securing to them the most absolute freedom. To some of these men the
condition of New York, where the State does hardly anything for the
individual, would seem as distressing and objectionable as that of
despotic Paris or even Constantinople. A distinguished member of the
school declared that nothing was to him more odious than any manner of
voluntaryism, and that he hoped to see State operation introduced into
every department of English social organization. The connection of this
theory with the principle of Positivism, which would mould all men into
a sort of hierarchy, is natural and obvious enough, and there is, to
support it, a certain reaction now in England against the voluntary
principle, in education and in public charities. But, as it is put
forward and argued by men of the school I describe, it may be taken as
one of the most remarkable points of departure from the common tendency
of thought in England. The Positivists are all, indeed, un-English, in
the common use of a phrase which is ceasing of late to be so dreaded a
stigma as it once used to be in British politics. They are, as I have
already said, a somewhat aggressive body, and are imbued with a
contempt, which they never care to conceal, for the average public
opinion of the British Philistine, whether he present himself as a West
End tradesman or a West End Peer.

The Positivists are almost always to be found in antagonism with this
sort of public opinion. They attack the Philistine, and they attack no
less readily the dainty scholar and critic who lately gave the
Philistine his name, and whose over-refining love of sweetness and light
is so terribly offended by the rough and earnest work of Radical
politics. Whatever way average opinion tends, the influence of the
Positivists is sure to tend the other way.

There was a time, nearly two years ago, when the average English mind
was suddenly seized with a passion of blended hate, fear, and contempt
for Fenianism. The thing was first beginning to show itself in a serious
light and it had not gone far enough to show what it really was. It
looked more formidable than it proved to be, and it seemed less like an
ordinary rebellious organization than like some mysterious and
demoniacal league against property and public security. When I say it
seemed, I mean it seemed to the average English mind, to the ordinary
swell and the ordinary shopkeeper. Just at this time the Positivists
drew up a petition to be presented to the House of Commons, in which
they called upon the House to insist that lenity should be shown to all
Fenian prisoners, that they should be regarded as men driven into
rebellion by a deep sense of injustice, and that measures should be
taken to prevent the British troops from committing such excesses in
Ireland as had been perpetrated in the suppression of the Indian mutiny,
and more lately in Jamaica. Now, if there was anything peculiarly
calculated to vex and aggravate the House of Commons and the English
public generally, it was such a view of the business as this. Fenianism
had not acquired the solemn and tragic interest which it obtained a few
months afterward. It is only just to say that Englishmen in general
began to look with pity and a sort of respect on Fenianism, once it
became clear that it had among its followers men who, to quote the
language of one of the least sympathetic of London newspapers, "knew how
to die." But, at the time I speak of, Fenianism was a vague, mystic,
accursed thing, which it was proper to regard as utterly detestable and
contemptible. Imagine then what the feeling of the English county member
must have been when he learned that there were actually in London a set
of educated Englishmen, nearly all trained in the universities and
nearly all moving in good society, who regarded the Fenians just as he
himself regarded rebels against the Emperor of Austria or the Pope of
Rome, and who not merely asked that consideration should be shown toward
them, but went on to talk of the necessity of protecting them against
the brutality of the loyal British soldier! The petition was signed by
all who had a share in its preparation. Such men as Richard Congreve, T.
M. Ludlow, Frederick Harrison and Professor Beesly, were among the
petitioners who risked their admission into respectable society by
signing the document. The petitioners did not feel quite sure about
getting any one of mark to present their appeal; and it is certain that
a good many professed Liberals, of advanced opinions and full of
sympathy with foreign rebels of any class or character, would have
promptly refused to accept the ungenial office. The petitioners,
however, applied to one who was not likely to be influenced by any
considerations but those of right and justice, and whom, moreover, no
body in the House of Commons would think of trying to put down. They
asked Mr. Bright to present their petition, and there was, of course, no
hesitation on his part. Mr. Bright not merely presented the petition,
but read it amid the angry and impatient murmurs of an amazed and
indignant House; and he declared, in tones of measured and impressive
calmness, that he entirely approved of and adopted the sentiments which
the petitioners expressed. There was, of course, a storm of indignation,
and some members went the length of recommending that the petition
should not even be received--an extreme and indeed extravagant course in
a country where the right of petition is supposed to be held sacred, and
which the good sense even of some Tory members promptly repudiated. Mr.
Disraeli did his very best to aggravate the feeling of the House against
the petitioners. During the Indian mutiny he had himself loudly
protested against the spirit of vengeance which our press encouraged;
asked whether we meant to make Nana Sahib the model for a British
officer, and whether Moloch or Christ was our divinity. Yet he now
declared that the language of the petition was a libel on the Indian
army, and that nothing had ever occurred during the Bengal outbreak to
warrant the imputations cast on the humanity of our soldiers.

I suppose it is not easy to convey to an American reader a correct idea
of the degree of boldness involved in the presentation of this
celebrated petition. It really was a very bold thing to do. It was
running right in the very teeth of the public opinion of all the classes
which are called respectable in England. It was, however, strictly
characteristic of the men who signed it. Most, if not all of them, took
a prominent part in the prosecution of Governor Eyre of Jamaica, for the
lawless execution of George William Gordon and the wholesale and
merciless floggings and hangings by which order was made to reign in the
island. Most of them, indeed, have a pretty spirit of contradiction of
their own, and a pretty gift of sarcasm. I think I hardly remember any
man who received, during an equal length of time, a greater amount of
abuse from the press than Professor Beesly drew down on himself not very
long ago. It was at the time when the public mind was in its wildest
thrill of horror at the really fearful revelations of organized murder
in connection with the Sawgrinders' Union in Sheffield. The whole
question of trades' union organization had been under discussion; and
even before the Sheffield revelations came out, the general voice of
English respectability was against the workmen's societies altogether.
But when the disclosures of organized murder in connection with one
union came out, a sort of panic took possession of the public mind. The
first, and not unnatural impulse was to assume that all trades' unions
must be very much the same sort of thing, and that the societies of
workmen were little better than organized Thuggism. Now, Professor
Beesly, Mr. Frederick Harrison and other signers of the petition for the
Fenians, had long been prominent and influential advocates of the
trades' union principle. They had been to the English artisan something
like what the Boston Abolitionist was so long to the negro. The trades'
union bodies, who felt aggrieved at the unjust suspicion which made them
a party to hideous crimes they abhorred, began to hold public meetings
to repudiate the charge, and record their detestation of the Sheffield
outrages. Professor Beesly attended one of these meetings in London. He
made a speech, in which he told the working men that he thought enough
had been done in the way of disavowing crimes which no one had a right
to impute to them; that there was no need of their further humiliating
themselves; and that it was rather odd the English Aristocracy had such
a horror of murderers among the poorer classes, seeing how very fond
they were of men like Eyre, of Jamaica! In fact, Professor Beesly
uplifted his voice very honestly, but rather recklessly and out of time,
against the social hypocrisy which is the stain and curse of London
society, and which is never so happy as when it can find some chance of
denouncing sin or crime among Republicans, or Irishmen, or workingmen.
There was nothing Professor Beesly said which had not sense and truth in
it; but it might have been said more discreetly and at a better time;
and it was said with a sarcastic and scornful bitterness which is one of
the characteristics of the speaker. For several days the London press
literally raged at the professor. "Punch" persevered for a long time in
calling him "Professor Beastly;" a a strong effort was made to obtain
his expulsion from the college in which he has a chair. He was talked of
and written of as if he were the advocate and the accomplice of
assassins, instead of being, as he is, an honorable gentleman and an
enlightened scholar, whose great influence over the working classes had
always been exerted in the cause of peaceful progress and good order. It
was a common thing, for days and weeks, to see the names of Broadhead
and Beesly coupled with ostentatious malignity in the leading columns of
London newspapers.

I give these random illustrations only to show in what manner the school
of writers and thinkers I speak of usually present themselves before the
English public. Now Mr. Harrison devotes himself to a pertinacious,
powerful series of attacks on Eyre, of Jamaica, at a time when that
personage is the hero and pet martyr of English society; now Professor
Beesly horrifies British respectability by pointing out that there are
respectable murderers who are quite as bad as Broadhead; now Mr. John
Morley undertakes even to criticise the Queen; now Mr. Congreve assails
the anonymous writers of the London press as hired and masked assassins;
now the whole band unite in the defence of Fenians. This sort of thing
has a startling effect upon the steady public mind of England; and it
is thus, and not otherwise, that the public mind of England ever comes
to hear of these really gifted and honest, but very antagonistic and
somewhat crochetty men. Several of them are brilliant and powerful
writers. Professor Beesly writes with a keen, caustic, bitter force
which has something Parisian in it. I know of no writer in English
journalism who more closely resembles in style a certain type of the
literary gladiator of French controversy. He has much of Eugene Pelletan
in him, and something of Henri Rochefort, blended with a good deal that
reminds one of Jules Simon. Frederick Harrison is fast becoming a power
in the Radical politics and literature of England. John Morley is a
young man of great culture, and who writes with a quite remarkable
freshness and force. I could mention many other men of the same school
(I have already said that I do not know whether each and every one of
these is or is not a professed Positivist) who would be distinguished as
scholars and writers in the literature of any country. However they may
differ on minor points, however they may differ in ability, in
experience, in discretion, they have one peculiarity in common: they are
to be found foremost in every liberal and radical cause; they are always
to be found on the side of the weak, and standing up for the oppressed;
they are inveterate enemies of cant; they hate vulgar idolatry and
vulgar idols. Looking back a few years, I can remember that almost, if
not quite, every man I have alluded to was a fearless and outspoken
advocate of the cause of the North, at a time when it was _de rigueur_
among men of "culture" in London to champion the cause of the South.
Some of the men I have named were indefatigable workers at that time on
the unfashionable side. They wrote pamphlets; they wrote leading
articles; they made speeches; they delivered lectures in out-of-the-way
quarters to workingmen and poor men of all kinds; they hardly came, in
any prominent way, before the public, in most of this work. It brought
them, probably, no notoriety or recognition whatever on this side of the
ocean; but their work was a power in England. I feel convinced that, in
any case, the English workingmen would have gone right on such a
question as that which was at issue between North and South. As Mr.
Motley truly said in his address to the New York Historical Society, the
workers and the thinkers were never misled; but I am bound to say that
the admirable knowledge of the realities of the subject; the clear,
quick, and penetrating judgment, and the patient, unswerving hope and
confidence which were so signally displayed by the London workingmen
from first to last of that great struggle, were in no slight degree the
result of the teaching and the labor of men like Professor Beesly and
Frederick Harrison.

If I were to set up a typical Positivist, in order to make my American
reader more readily and completely familiar with the picture which the
word calls up in the minds of Londoners, I should do it in the following
way: I should exhibit my model Positivist as a man still young for
anything like prominence in English public life, but not actually young
in years--say thirty-eight or forty. He has had a training at one of the
great historical Universities, or at all events at the modern and
popular University of London. He is a barrister, but does not practise
much, and has probably a modest competence on which he can live without
working for the sake of living, and can indulge his own tastes in
literature and politics. He has immense earnestness and great
self-conceit. He has an utter contempt for dull men and timid or
half-measure men, and he scorns Whigs even more than Tories. He devotes
much of his time generously and patiently to the political and other
instruction of working men. He writes in the "Fortnightly Review," and
sometimes in "MacMillan," and sometimes in the "Westminster Review." He
plunges into gallant and fearless controversy with the "Pall Mall
Gazette," and he is not easily worsted, for his pen is sharp and his ink
very acrid. Nevertheless, is any great question stirring, with a serious
principle or a deep human interest at the heart of it, he is sure to be
found on the right side. Where the controversy is of a smaller kind and
admits of crotchet, then he is pretty sure to bring out a crotchet of
some kind. He is perpetually giving the "Saturday Review" an opportunity
to ridicule him and abuse him, and he does not care. He writes pamphlets
and goes to immense trouble to get up the facts, and expense to give
them to the world, and he never grudges trouble or money, where any
cause or even any crotchet is to be served. He is ready to stand up
alone, against all the world if needs be, for his opinions or his
friends. Benevolent schemes which are of the nature of mere charity he
never concerns himself about. I never heard of him on a platform with
the Earl of Shaftesbury, and I fancy he has a contempt for all patronage
of the poor or projects of an eleemosynary character. He is for giving
men their political rights and educating them--if necessary compelling
them to be educated; and he has little faith in any other way of doing
good. He has, of course, a high admiration for and faith in Mr. Mill.
His nature is not quite reverential--in general he is rather inclined to
sit in the chair of the scorner; but if he reverenced any living man it
would be Mill. He admires the manly, noble character of Bright, and his
calm, strong eloquence. I do not think he cares much about Gladstone--I
rather fancy our Positivist looks upon Gladstone as somewhat weak and
unsteady--and with him to be weak is indeed to be miserable. Disraeli is
to him an object of entire scorn and detestation, for he can endure no
one who has not deeply-rooted principles of some kind. He has a crotchet
about Russia, a theory about China; he gets quite beside himself in his
anger over the anonymous leading articles of the London press. He is not
an English type of man at all, in the present and conventional sense. He
cares not a rush about tradition, and mocks at the wisdom of our
ancestors. The bare fact that some custom, or institution, or way of
thinking has been sanctioned and hallowed by long generations of usage,
is in his eyes rather a _prima facie_ reason for despising it than
otherwise. He is pitilessly intolerant of all superstitions--save his
own--that is to say, he is intolerant in words and logic and ridicule,
for the wildest superstition would find him its defender, if it once
came to be practically oppressed or even threatened. He is "ever a
fighter," like one of Browning's heroes; he is the knight-errant, the
Quixote of modern English politics. He admires George Eliot in
literature, and, I should say, he regards Charles Dickens as a sort of
person who does very well to amuse idlers and ignorant people. I do not
hear of his going much to the theatre, and it is a doubt to me if he has
yet heard of the "Grande Duchesse." Life with him is a very earnest
business, and, although he has a pretty gift of sarcasm, which he uses
as a weapon of offence against his enemies, I cannot, with any effort of
imagination, picture him to myself as in the act of making a joke.

A small drawing-room would assuredly hold all the London Positivists who
make themselves effective in English politics. Yet I do not hesitate to
say that they are becoming--that they have already become--a power which
no one, calculating on the chances of any coming struggle, can afford to
leave out of his consideration. Their public influence thus far has been
wholly for good; and they set up no propaganda that I have ever seen or
heard of, as regards either philosophy or religion. The course of
lectures I have already mentioned was the nearest approach to any
public diffusion of their peculiar doctrines which I can remember, and
it created little or no sensation in London. Indeed, little or no
publicity was sought for it. I have read lately somewhere that a
newspaper, specially devoted to the propagation and vindication of
Positivism, is about to be, or has been started in London. I do not know
whether this is true or not; but for any such journal I should
anticipate a very small circulation, and an existence only to be
maintained by continual subsidy.

So quietly have these men hitherto pursued their course, whatever it may
be, in religion or religious philosophy, that it was long indeed before
any idea got abroad that the cluster of highly-educated, ultra-radical
thinkers, who were to be found sharpshooting on the side of every great
human principle and every oppressed cause, and who seemed positively to
delight in standing up against the vulgar rush of public opinion, were
anything more than chance associates, or were bound by any tie more
close and firm than that of general political sympathy. Even now that
people are beginning to know them, and to classify them, in a vague sort
of way, as "those Positivists," they make so little parade of any
peculiarity of faith that, without precise and personal knowledge, it
would be rash to say for certain that this or that member of the group
is or is not an actual professor of the Comtist religion. I read a few
days ago, in one of the few sensible books written on America by an
Englishman, some remarks made about a peculiar view of Europe's duty to
Egypt, which was described as being held by "the Comtists." I do not
know whether the men referred to hold the view ascribed to them or not;
but, assuredly, if they do, the fact has no more direct connection with
their Comtism than Bright's free-trade views have with Bright's
Quakerism. An illustration, however, will serve well enough as an
example of the vague and careless sort of way in which doctrines and the
men who profess them get mixed up together insolubly in the public mind.
The Sultan of a generation back, who told the European diplomatist that
if he changed his religion at all he would become a Roman Catholic,
because he observed that Roman Catholic people always grew the best
wine, was not more unreasonable in his logic than many well-informed men
when they are striving to connect cause and effect in dealing with the
religion of others.

I do not myself make any attempt to explain why a follower of Comte's
worship should, at least in England, be always on the side of liberty
and equality and human progress. Indeed, if inclined to discuss such a
question at all, I should rather be disposed to put it the other way and
ask how it happens that men so enlightened and liberal in education and
principles should yield a moment's obedience to the ghostly shadow of
Roman Catholic superstition, which Auguste Comte, in the decaying years
of his noble intellect, conjured up to form a new religion. But I am
quite content to let the question go unanswered--and should be willing,
indeed, to leave it unasked. I wish just now to do nothing more than to
direct the attention of American readers to the fact that a new set or
sect has arisen to influence English politics, and that their influence
and its origin are different from anything which, judging by the history
of previous generations, one might naturally have been led to expect.
"Culture" in England has, of late years, almost invariably ranked itself
on the side of privilege. The Oxford undergraduate shouts himself hoarse
in cheering for Disraeli and groaning for Bright. Oxford rejects
Gladstone the moment he becomes a Liberal. The vigorous Radicalism of
Thorold Rogers costs him his chair as professor of political economy,
although no man in England is a more perfect master of some of the more
important branches of that science. The journals which are started for
the sake of being read by men of "culture" are sure to throw their
influence, nine times out of ten, into the cause of privilege and class
ascendency. The "Saturday Review" does this deliberately; the "Pall Mall
Gazette" does it instinctively. Suddenly there comes out from the bosom
of the universities themselves a band of keen, acute, fearless
gladiators, who throw themselves into the van of every great movement
which works for democracy, equality and freedom. They invade the press
and the platform; they write in this journal and in that; they are
always writing, always printing; they are ready for any assailant,
however big, they are willing to work with any ally, however small; they
shrink from no logical consequence or practical inconvenience of any
argument or opinion; they take the working man by the hand and talk to
him and tell him all they know--and it is something worth studying, the
fact that their scholarship and his no-scholarship so often come to the
same conclusion. They will work with anybody, because they go farther
than almost anybody; and they will allow anybody the full swing of his
own crotchet, even though he be not so willing to give them scope enough
for theirs. Thus they are commonly associated with Goldwin Smith, who
has a perfect horror of French Democracy and French Imperialism, and who
sees in Mirabeau only a "Voltairean debauchee;" with Tom Hughes, who is
a sturdy member of the Church of England, and does not, I fancy, care
three straws about the policy of ideas; with Bright, whose somewhat
Puritanical mind draws back with a kind of dread from anything that
savors of free-thinking; with Auberon Herbert, the mild young
aristocrat, converted from Toryism by pure sentimentalism and
philanthropy; with Connolly, the eloquent Irish plasterer, whose
vigorous stump oratory aroused the warm admiration of Louis Blanc. It
would be impossible that such a knot of men, so gifted and so fearless,
so independent and so unresting, so keen of pen, and so unsparing of
logic, should be without a clear and marked influence on the politics of
England. It is quite a curious phenomenon that such a group of men
should be found in close and constant co-operation with the English
artisan, his trades' union organizations, and his political cause.
Frederick Harrison represented the working men in the Parliamentary
commission lately held to inquire into the whole operation of the
trades' unions. Professor Beesly writes continually in the "Beehive,"
the newspaper which is the organ of George Potter and the trades'
societies. I cannot see how the cause of Democracy can fail to derive
strength and help from this sort of alliance, and I therefore welcome
the influence upon English politics of the little group of Positivist
penmen, believing that it will have a deeper reach than most people now
imagine, and that where it operates effectively at all, it will be for


Sir John Mandeville tells a story of a man who set out on a voyage of
discovery, and sailing on and on in a westerly direction, at last
touched a land where he was surprised to find a climate the same as his
own; animals like those he had left behind; men and women not only
having the same dress and complexion, but actually speaking the same
language as the people of his own country. He was so struck with this
unexpected and wonderful discovery, that he took to his ship again
without delay, and sailed back eastward to impart to his own people the
news that in a far-off, strange, western sea he had found a race
identical with themselves. The truth was that the simple voyager had
gone round the world, reached his own country without recognizing it,
and then went round the world again to get home.

If the voyage were made in our time, and the explorer were a British
Tory who had left England in the opening of the year 1867, and after
unconsciously sailing round the world had fallen in with British Tories
again in the autumn of the same year, one could easily excuse his
failing to recognize his own people. For in the interval of time from
February to August, British Toryism underwent the most sudden and
complete transformation known outside the sphere of Ovid's
Metamorphoses. If any of my American readers will try to imagine a whole
political party, great in numbers, greater still in wealth, station and
influence, suddenly performing just such a turn-round as the "New York
Herald" accomplished at a certain early crisis of the late civil war, he
will have some idea of the marvellous and unprecedented feat which was
executed by the English Tories, when, renouncing all their time-honored
traditions, watchwords and principles, they changed a limited and
oligarchical franchise into household suffrage. It is singular, indeed,
that such a thing should have been done. It is more singular still that
it should have been done, as it most assuredly was done, in order that
one man should be kept in power. It is even more singular yet that it
should have been done by a party of men individually high principled,
honorable, unselfish, incapable of any deliberate meanness--and of whom
many if not most actually disliked and distrusted the man in whose
interest and by whose influence the surrender of principle was made.

Perhaps when I have said a little about the leadership of the English
Tories, the phenomenon will appear less wonderful or at least more
intelligible. It was not a mere epigram which Mr. Mill uttered when he
described the Tories as the stupid party. An average Tory really is a
stupid man. He is a gentleman in all the ordinary acceptation of the
word. He has been to Oxford or Cambridge; he has received a decent
classical education; he has travelled along the beaten tracks--made what
would have been called in Mary Wortley Montague's day "the grand tour;"
he has birth and high breeding; he is a good fellow, with manly,
honorable ways, and that genial consideration for the feelings of others
which is the fundamental condition, the vital element of gentlemanly
breeding. But he is, with all this, stupid. His mind is narrow, dull,
inflexible; he cannot connect cause with effect, or see that a change is
coming, or why it should come; with him _post hoc_ always means _propter
hoc_; he cannot account for Goodwin Sands otherwise than because of
Tenterden steeple. You cannot help liking him, and sometimes laughing at
him. It may seem paradoxical, but I at least am unable to get out of my
mind the conviction that there is a solid basis of stupidity in the mind
of the great Conservative Chief, Lord Derby. Let me explain what I mean.
The Earl of Derby is in one sense a highly accomplished man. He is a
good classical scholar, and can make a speech in Latin. He has produced
some very spirited translations from Horace; and I like his version of
the Iliad better on the whole than any other I know. He is a splendid
debater--Macaulay said very truly that with Lord Derby the science of
debate was an instinct. He will roll out resonant, rotund, verbose
sentences by the hour, by the yard; he is great at making hits and
points; he has immense power of reply and repartee--of a certain easy
and obvious kind; his voice is fine, his manner is noble, his invective
is powerful. But he has no ideas. The light he throws out is a polarized
light. He adds nothing new to the political thought of the age. I have
heard many of his finest speeches; and I can remember that they were
then very telling, in a Parliamentary point of view; but I cannot
remember anything he said. He is always interpreting into eloquent and
effective words the commonplace Philistine notions, the hereditary
conventionalities of his party--and nothing more. His mind is not open
to new impressions, and he is not able to appreciate the cause, the
purpose or the tendency of change. This I hold to be the essential
characteristic of stupidity; and this is an attribute of Lord Derby,
with all his Greek, his Latin, his impetuous rhetoric, his debating
skill and his audacious blunders, which sometimes almost deceive one
into thinking him a man of genius. Now the Earl of Derby is the greatest
Tory living; and if I have fairly described the highest type of Tory,
one can easily form some conception of what the average Tory must be.
Every one likes Lord Derby, and I fully believe it to be the fact that
those who know him best like him best. I cannot imagine Lord Derby doing
a mean thing; I cannot imagine him haughty to a poor man, or
patronizingly offensive to a timid visitor of humble birth. Look at Lord
Derby through the wrong end of the intellectual telescope and you have
the average British Tory. The Tory's knowledge is confined to classics
and field sports--when he knows anything. Even Lord Derby has been
guilty of the most flagrant mistakes in geography and modern history.
People are never tired of alluding to a famous blunder of his about
Tambov in Russia. It is also told of him that he once spoke in
Parliament of Demerara as an island; and when one of his colleagues
afterward remonstrated with him on the mistake, he asked with
ingenuousness and _naïvete_ "How on earth was I to know that Demerara
was not an island?" He once, at a public meeting, spoke of himself very
frankly as having been born "in the pre-scientific period"--the period
but too recently closed, when English Universities and high class
schools troubled themselves only about Greek and Latin, and thought it
beneath their dignity to show much interest in such vulgar, practical
studies as chemistry and natural history, to say nothing of that
ungentlemanly and ungenerous study, the science of political economy.
The average British Tory is a Lord Derby without eloquence, brains,
official habits and political experience.

How, then, do the Tories exist as a party? How do they continue to
believe themselves to be Tories, and speak of themselves as Tories, when
they have surrendered all, or nearly all, the great principles which are
the creed and faith, and business of Toryism? Because they have, in our
times, never had Tories for leaders. A man is not a Tory merely because
he fights the Tory battles, any more than a captain of the Irish Brigade
was a Frenchman because he fought for King Louis, or Hobart Pasha is a
Turk because he commands the Ottoman navy. The Tory party has always,
of late years, had to call in the aid of brilliant outsiders, political
renegades, refugees from broken-down agitations, disappointed and
cynical deserters from the Liberal camp, or mere adventurers, to fight
their battles for them. It used to be quite a curious sight, some three
or four years ago, when the Tories were, as they are now again, in
opposition, to look down from the gallery of the House of Commons and
see the men who did gladiatorial duty for the party. Along the back
benches, above and below the "gangway," were stretched out huge at
length the stalwart, handsome, manly country gentlemen, the bone and
sinew of the Tory party--the only real Tories to be found in the House.
But _they_ did not bear the brunt of debate. They could cheer
splendidly, and vote in platoons; but you don't suppose they were just
the sort of men to confront Gladstone, and reply to Bright? Not they;
and they knew it. There sat Disraeli, the brilliant renegade from
Radicalism, who was ready to think for them and talk for them: and who
were his lieutenants? Cairns, the successful, adroit, eloquent lawyer, a
North of Ireland man, with about as much of the genuine British Tory in
him as there is in Disraeli himself; Seymour Fitzgerald, the clever,
pushing Irishman, also a lawyer; Whiteside, the voluble, eloquent,
rather boisterous advocate, also a lawyer, and also an Irishman; smart,
saucy Pope Hennessy, a young Irish adventurer, who had taken up with
Toryism and ultramontanism as the best way of making a career, and who
would, at the slightest hint from his chief, have risen, utterly
ignorant of the subject under debate, and challenged Gladstone's finance
or Roundel Palmer's law. These men, and such men--these and no
others--did the debating and the fighting for the great Tory party of
England at a most critical period of that party's existence. Needless to
say that the party who were compelled by their own poverty of idea,
their own stupidity, to have these men for their representatives, were
stupid enough to be led anywhere and into anything by the force of a
little dexterity and daring on the part of the one man into whose hands
they had confided their destinies.

In speaking, therefore, of the leaders of Toryism, I must distinctly say
that I am not speaking of Tories. The rank and file are Tories; the
general and officers belong to another race. Mr. Disraeli is so well
known on this side of the Atlantic that I need not occupy much time or
space in describing him. He is the most brilliant specimen of the
adventurer or political soldier of fortune known to English public life
in our days. I do not suppose anybody believes Mr. Disraeli's Toryism to
be a genuine faith. This is not merely because he has changed his
opinions so completely since the time when he came out as a Radical,
under the patronage of O'Connell, and wrote to William Johnson Fox, the
Democratic orator, a famous letter, in which he, Disraeli, boasted that
"his forte was revolution." Men have changed their views as completely,
and even as suddenly, and yet obtained credit for sincerity and
integrity. It is not even because, in all of Mr. Disraeli's novels, a
prime and favorite personage is a daring political adventurer, who
carries all before him by the audacity of his genius and his
unscrupulousness; it is not even that Mr. Disraeli, in private life,
frequently speaks of success in politics as the one grand object worth
striving for or living for. "What do you and I come to this House of
Commons night after night for?" said Mr. Disraeli once to a great
Englishman, and when the latter failed to reply very quickly, he
answered his own question by saying, "You know we come here for fame."
The man to whom he spoke declared, in all truthfulness, that he did not
follow a political career for the sake of fame. But Disraeli was quite
incredulous, and probably could not, by any earnestness and apparent
sincerity of asseveration, be got to believe that there lives a being
who could sacrifice time, and money, and intellect, and eloquence merely
for the sake of serving the public. Yet it is not alone this cynical
avowal of selfishness which makes people so profoundly sceptical as to
Mr. Disraeli's Toryism. It is the fact that he always escapes into
Liberalism whenever he has an opportunity; that he lives by hawking
Toryism, not by imbibing it himself; that he is ready to sell it, or
betray it, or drag it in the dirt whenever he can safely serve himself
by doing so; that he can become the most ardent of Freetraders, the most
uncompromising champion of a Popular Suffrage to-day, when it is for his
interest, after having fought fiercely against both yesterday, when to
fight against them was for his interest. Mr. Disraeli is decidedly a man
without scruple. Those who have read his "Vivian Grey" will remember
with what zest and unction he describes his hero bewildering a company
and dumbfoundering a scientific authority by extemporizing an imaginary
quotation from a book which he holds in his hand, and from which he
pretends to read the passage he is reciting. It is not long since Mr.
Disraeli himself publicly ventured on a bold little experiment of a
somewhat similar kind. The story is curious, and worth hearing; and it
is certain that it cannot be contradicted.

Three or four years ago, a bitter factious attack was made in the House
of Commons upon Mr. Stansfeld, then holding office in the Liberal
government, because of his open and avowed friendship for, and intimacy
with Mazzini. This was at a time when the French government were
endeavoring to connect Mazzini with a plot to assassinate the Emperor
Napoleon. Mr. Disraeli was very stern in his condemnation of Mr.
Stansfeld for his friendship with one who, twenty odd years before, had
encouraged a young enthusiast (as the enthusiast said) in a design to
kill Charles Albert, King of Sardinia. Mr. Bright, in a moderate and
kindly speech, deprecated the idea of making unpardonable crimes out of
the hotheaded follies of enthusiastic men in their young days; and he
added that he believed there would be found in a certain poem, written
by Disraeli himself some twenty-five or thirty years before, and called
"A Revolutionary Epick," some lines of eloquent apostrophe in praise of
tyrannicide. Up sprang Mr. Disraeli, indignant and excited, and
vehemently denied that any such sentiment, any such line, could be found
in the poem. Mr. Bright at once accepted the assurance; said he had
never seen the poem himself, but only heard that there was such a
passage in it; apologized for the mistake--and there most people thought
the matter would have ended. In truth, the volume which Mr. Disraeli had
published a generation before, with the grandiloquent title, "A
Revolutionary Epick" (not "epic," in the common way, but dignified,
old-fashioned "epick"), was a piece of youthful, bombastic folly long
out of print, and almost wholly forgotten. But Disraeli chose to attach
great importance to the charge he supposed to be made against him; and
he declared that he felt himself bound to refute it utterly by more than
a mere denial. Accordingly, in a few weeks, there came out a new edition
of the Epick, with a dedication to Lord Stanley, and a preface
explaining that, as the first edition was out of print, and as a charge
founded on a passage in it had been made against the author, said author
felt bound to issue this new edition, that all the world might see how
unfounded was the accusation. Sure enough, the publication did seem to
dispose of the charge effectually. There was only one passage which in
any way bore on the subject of tyrannicide, and that certainly did not
express approval. What could be more satisfactory? Unluckily, however,
the gentleman on whose hint Mr. Bright spoke, happened to possess one
copy of the original edition. He compared this, to make assurance
doubly sure, with the copy at the British Museum, the only other copy
accessible to him, and he found that the passage which contained the
praise of tyrannicide had been partly altered, partly suppressed, in the
new edition specially issued by Mr. Disraeli, in order to prove to the
world that he had not written a line in the poem to imply that he
sanctioned the slaying of a tyrant. Now, this was a small and trifling
affair; but just see how significant and characteristic it was! It
surely did not make much matter whether Mr. Disraeli, in his young,
nonsensical days, had or had not indulged in a burst of enthusiasm about
the slaying of tyrants, in a poem so bombastical that no rational man
could think of it with any seriousness. But Mr. Disraeli chose to regard
his reputation as seriously assailed; and what did he do to vindicate
himself? He published a new edition, which he trumpeted as not merely
authentic, but as issued for the sole purpose of proving that he had not
praised tyrannicide, and he deliberately excised the lines which
contained the passage in question! The controversy turned on some two
lines and a half; and of these Mr. Disraeli cut out all the dangerous
words and gave the garbled version to the world as his authoritative
reply to the charge made against him! This, too, after the famous
"annexation" of one of Thiers's speeches, and the delivery of it as a
panegyric on the memory of the Duke of Wellington, and after the
appropriation of a page or two out of an essay by Macaulay, and its
introduction wholesale, as original, into one of Mr. Disraeli's novels.

The truth is that Disraeli is so reckless a gladiator that he will catch
up any weapon of defence, use any means of evasion and escape; will
fight anyhow, and win anyhow. In political affairs, at least, he has no
moral sense whatever; and the public seems to tolerate him on that
understanding. Certainly, escapades and practices which would ruin the
reputation of any other public man do not seem to bring Disraeli into
serious disrepute. The few high-toned men of his own party and the other
who hold all trickery in detestation, had made up their minds about him
long ago; and nothing could hurt him more in their esteem--the great
majority of politicians laugh at the whole thing, and take no thought.
The feeling seems to be, "We don't expect grave and severe virtue from
this man; we take him as he is. It would be ridiculous to apply a grave
moral test to anything he may say or do." In Lockhart's "Life of Walter
Scott," it is told that the great novelist went one morning very early
to call on a certain friend. The friend was in bed, and Scott, pushing
into the room familiarly, found that his friend was--not alone, as he
expected him to be. Scott was a highly moral man, and he would have
turned his back indignantly on any other of his friends whom he found
guilty of vice; but his biographer says that he took the discovery he
had made very lightly in this instance; and he afterward explained that
the delinquent was so ridiculously without depth of character it would
be absurd to find serious fault with anything he did. Perhaps it is in a
similar spirit that the British public regard Mr. Disraeli. He delivered
a memorable peroration one night last year in the House of Commons, the
utterance and the language of which were so peculiar that charity itself
could not affect to be ignorant of the stimulating cause which sent
forth such extraordinary eloquence. Yet hardly anybody seemed to regard
it as more than a good joke; and the newspapers which were most
indignant and most scandalized over Andrew Johnson's celebrated
inaugural address made no allusion whatever to Mr. Disraeli's
bewildering outburst. One reason, probably, is that Disraeli, in
private, is much liked. He is very kindly; he is a good friend; he is
sympathetic in his dealings with young politicians, and is always glad
to give a helping hand to a young man of talent. Personal ambition,
which, in Mr. Bright's eyes, is something despicable, and which Mr.
Gladstone probably regards as a sin, is, in Disraeli's acceptation,
something generous and elevating, something to be fostered and
encouraged. Therefore, young men of talent admire Disraeli, and are glad
and proud to gather round him. The men who have any brains in the Tory
ranks are usually of the adventurer class; and they form a phalanx by
the aid of which Disraeli can do great things. No matter how the honest,
dull bulk of his party may distrust him, they cannot do without him and
his phalanx; and they allow him to win his battles by the force of their
votes, and they think he is winning their battles all the time.

One young man of brains there was on the Tory side of the House of
Commons, who did not like Disraeli, and never professed to like him.
This was Lord Robert Cecil, who subsequently became Viscount Cranbourne,
and now sits in the House of Lords as Marquis of Salisbury. Lord Robert
Cecil was by far the ablest scion of noble Toryism in the House of
Commons. Younger than Lord Stanley he had not Lord Stanley's solidity
and caution; but he had much more of original ability; he had brilliant
ideas, great readiness in debate, and a perfect genius for saying bitter
things in the bitterest tone. The younger son of a wealthy peer, he had,
in consequence of a dispute with his father, manfully accepted honorable
poverty, and was glad, for no short time, to help out his means by the
use of his pen. He wrote in the "Quarterly Review," the time-honored
organ of Toryism; and after a while certain political articles regularly
appearing in that periodical became identified with his name. One great
object of these articles seemed to be to denounce Mr. Disraeli and warn
the Tory party against him as a traitor, certain in the end to sell and
surrender their principles. Lord Robert Cecil was an ultra-Tory--or at
least thought himself so--I feel convinced that his intellect and his
experience will set him free one day. He was a Tory on principle and
would listen to no compromise. People did not at first see how much
ability there was in him--very few indeed saw how much of genuine
manhood and nobleness there was in him. His tall, bent, awkward figure;
his prematurely bald crown, his face with an outline and a beard that
reminded one of a Jew pedler from the Minories, his ungainly gestures,
his unmelodious voice, and the extraordinary and wanton bitterness of
his tongue, set the ordinary observer strongly against him. He seemed to
delight in being gratuitously offensive. Let me give one illustration.
He assailed Mr. Gladstone's financial policy one night, and said it was
like the practice of a pettifogging attorney. This was rather coarse and
it was received with loud murmurs of disapprobation, but Lord Robert
went on unheeding. Next night, however, when the debate was resumed, he
rose and said he feared he had used language the previous evening which
was calculated to give offence, and which he could not justify. There
were murmurs of encouraging applause--nothing delights the House of
Commons like an unsolicited and manly apology. Yes, he had, on the
previous night, in a moment of excitement, compared the policy of the
Chancellor of the Exchequer to the practice of a pettifogging attorney.
That was language which on sober consideration he felt he could not
justify and ought not to have used, "and therefore," said Lord Robert,
"I beg leave to offer my sincere apology"--here Mr. Gladstone half rose
from his seat, with face of eager generosity, ready to pardon even
before fully asked--"I beg leave to tender my sincere apology--to the
attorneys!" Half the House roared with laughter, the other half with
anger--and Gladstone threw himself back in his seat with an expression
of mingled disappointment, pity and scorn, on his pallid, noble

There was something so wanton, something so nearly approaching to
outrageous buffoonery, in conduct like this, on the part of Lord Robert
Cecil, that it was long before impartial observers came to recognize the
fine intellect and the manly character that were disguised under such an
unprepossessing exterior. When the Tories came into power, the great
place of Secretary for India was given to Lord Robert, who had then
become Viscount Cranbourne, and the responsibilities of office wrought
as complete a change in him as the wearing of the crown did in Harry the
Fifth. No man ever displayed in so short a time greater aptitude for the
duties of the office he had undertaken, or a loftier sense of its
tremendous moral and political responsibility, than did Lord Cranbourne
during his too brief tenure of the Indian Secretaryship. The cynic had
become a statesman, the intellectual gladiator an earnest champion of
exalted political principle. The license of tongue, in which Lord
Cranbourne had revelled while yet a free lance, he absolutely renounced
when he became a responsible minister. He extorted the respect and
admiration of Gladstone and Bright, and indeed of every one who took the
slightest interest in the condition and the future of India. The manner
of his leaving office became him, too, almost as much as his occupation
of it. He was sincerely opposed to a sudden lowering of the franchise,
and he insisted that his party ought to think nothing of power when
compared with principle. He found that Disraeli was determined to
surrender anything rather than power, and he withdrew from the
uncongenial companionship. He resigned office, and dropped into the
ranks once more, never hesitating to express his conviction of the utter
insincerity of the Conservative leader. He would have been a sharp and
stinging thorn in Disraeli's side, only that death intervened and took
away, not him, but his father. The death of his elder brother had made
Lord Robert Cecil, Viscount Cranbourne; the death of his father now
converted Viscount Cranbourne into the Marquis of Salisbury, and
condemned him to the languid, inert, lifeless atmosphere of the House of
Peers. The sincere pity of all who admired him followed the brilliant
Salisbury in his melancholy descent. I should despair of conveying to an
American reader unacquainted with English politics any adequate idea of
the profundity and hopelessness of the fall which precipitates a young,
ardent and gifted politician from the brilliant battle-ground of the
House of Commons into the lifeless, Lethean pool of the House of Lords.

Still, the Tory party may be led, as it has been, by a chief in the
House of Lords, although its great and splendid fights must be fought in
the Commons. If then, in our time, Toryism ever should again become a
principle which a man of genius and high character could fairly fight
for, it has a leader ready to its hand in the Marquis of Salisbury. For
the present it has Lord Cairns. The Earl of Derby's health no longer
allows him to undertake the serious and laborious duties of party
leadership. When he withdrew from the front, an attempt was made to put
up with Lord Malmesbury. But Malmesbury is stupid and muddle-headed to a
degree which even Tory peers cannot endure in a Tory peer; and it has
somehow been "borne in upon him" that he had better leave the place to
some one really qualified to fill it. Now, the Tories in the House of
Commons, the country gentlemen of England, the men whose ancestors came
over, perhaps, with the Conqueror, the men who imbibed family Toryism
from the breasts of their mothers, are driven, when they want a capable
leader, to follow a renegade Radical, the son of a middle-class Jew. In
like manner the Tory Lords, also sadly needing an efficient leader, are
compelled to take up with a lawyer from Belfast, the son of middle-class
parents in the North of Ireland, who has fought his way by sheer talent
and energy into the front rank of the bar, into the front bench of the
Parliamentary Opposition, and at last into a peerage. Lord Cairns is a
very capable man; his sudden rise into high place and influence proves
the fact of itself, for he was not a young man when he entered
Parliament, obscure and unknown, and he is now only in the prime of
life, while he leads the Opposition in the House of Lords. He is one of
the most fluent and effective debaters in either House; he has great
command of telling argument; his training at the bar gives him the
faculty of making the very most, and at the shortest notice, of all the
knowledge and all the facts he can bring to bear on any question. He has
shown more than once that he is capable of pouring forth a powerful,
almost indeed, a passionate invective. An orator in the highest sense he
certainly is not. No gleam of the poetic softens or brightens his lithe
and nervous logic; no deep feeling animates, inspires and sanctifies it.
He has made no speeches which anybody hereafter will care to read. He
has made, he will make, no mark upon his age. When he dies, he wholly
dies. But living, he is a skilful and a capable man--far better
qualified to be a party leader than an Erskine or a Grattan would be. A
North of Ireland Presbyterian, he has made his way to a peerage, and now
to be the leader of peers, with less of native genius than that which
conducted Wolfe Tone, another North of Ireland Presbyterian, to
rebellion and failure and a bloody death. He has, above all things,
skill and discretion; and he can lead the Tory party well, so long as no
great cause has to be vindicated, no splendid phantom of a principle
maintained. His name and his antecedents are useful to us now, inasmuch
as they serve still farther to illustrate the fact that Toryism is not
led by Tories.

In speaking of Tory leaders one ought not, of course, to leave out the
name of Lord Stanley. But Lord Stanley is only a Tory _ex officio_, and
by virtue of his position as the eldest son and heir of the great Earl
of Derby. I have never heard of Lord Stanley's uttering a Tory
sentiment, even when he had to play a Tory part. His speeches are all
the speeches of a steady, respectable, thoughtful sort of Liberal,
inclined to study carefully both or all sides of a question, and opposed
to extreme opinions either way. He will never, it is quite clear, be
guilty of the audacity of openly breaking with his party while his
father lives; and perhaps when he becomes Earl of Derby, there may be
nothing distinctively Tory worth fighting about. Lord Stanley is indeed
totally devoid of that generous ardor which makes men open converts. He
is no longer young, and he will probably remain all his life where he
stands at present. But a genuine Tory he is not. I confess that at one
time I looked to him with great hope, as a man likely to develop into
statesmanship of the highest order, and to announce himself as a votary
of political and intellectual progress. Some years ago I wrote an
article in the "Westminster Review," the object of which was to point to
Lord Stanley as the future colleague of Gladstone in a great and a
really liberal government. I have changed my opinion since. Lord Stanley
wants, not the brains, but the heart for such a place. He has not the
spirit to step out of his hereditary way. He is one of the sort of men
of whom Goethe used to say, "If only they would commit an extravagance
even, I should have some hope for them." He seems to care for little
beyond accuracy of judgment and propriety; and I do not suppose accuracy
of judgment and propriety ever made a great statesman. There is nothing
venturesome about Lord Stanley--therefore there is nothing great. A man
to be great must brave being ridiculous; and I do not remember that Lord
Stanley has ever run the risk of being ridiculous. One of the finest and
most celebrated passages of modern Parliamentary eloquence is that in
which George Canning, vindicating his recognition of the South American
republics, proclaimed that he had called in the New World to redress the
balance of the Old. I once heard a member of the House of Lords, now
dead, who sat in the House of Commons near Canning, when Canning spoke
that famous speech, say that when the orator came to the great climax
the House was actually breaking into a titter, so absurd then did any
grandiloquence about South American republics seem; and it was only the
earnestness and resolve of his manner that commanded a respectful
attention, and thus compelled the House to recognize the genuine
grandeur of the idea, and to break into a tempest of applause. I have
heard something the same told of one of the grandest passages in any of
Bright's speeches--that in one of his orations against the Crimean War,
in which he declared that he already heard, during the debate, the
beating of the wings of the Angel of Death. The House was under the
influence of a war fever, and disposed to scoff at all appeals to
prudence or to pity; and it was just on the verge of a laugh at the
orator's majestic apostrophe, when his earnestness conquered, the
grandeur of the moment was recognized, and a peal of irrepressible
applause proclaimed the triumph of his eloquence. Now, these are the
risks that a man like Lord Stanley never will run. Only genius makes
such ventures. He is always safe: great statesmen must sometimes brave
terrible hazards. In England he has received immense praise for the part
he took in averting a war between France and Prussia on the Luxembourg
question. Now, it is quite true that he did much; that, in fact, he lent
all the influence of England to the mode of arrangement by which both
the contending Powers were enabled to back decently out of a dangerous
and painful position. But the idea of such a mode of settlement did not
come from him. It was originated by Baron von Beust, the Austrian Prime
Minister, and it was quietly urged a good deal before Lord Stanley saw
it. Von Beust, who has a keener wit than Stanley, knew that if the
proposition came directly from him it would, _ipso facto_, be odious to
Prussia; and he was, therefore, rejoiced when Lord Stanley took it up
and adopted it as his own and England's. Von Beust was well content, and
so was Lord Stanley--just as Cuddie Headrigg, in "Old Mortality," is
content that John Gudyill shall have the responsibility and the honor of
the shot which the latter never fired. The one original thing which Lord
Stanley did during the controversy was to write a dispatch to Prussia
recommending her to come to terms, because of the superior navy of
France, and the certainty, in the event of war, that France would have
the best of it at sea.

Now, this was a capital argument to influence a man like Lord Stanley
himself--calm, cold-blooded, utterly rational. But human ingenuity could
hardly have devised an appeal less likely to influence Prussia in the
way of peace. Prussia, flushed with her splendid victories over Austria,
and deeply offended by the arrogant and dictatorial conduct of France,
was much more likely to be stung by such an argument, if it affected her
at all, into flinging down the gauntlet at once, and inviting France to
come if she dared. The use of such a mode of persuasion is, indeed, an
adequate illustration of the whole character of Lord Stanley. Cool,
prudent, and rational, he is capable enough of weighing things fairly
when they are presented to him; but he can neither create an opportunity
nor run a risk. Therefore, he remains officially a Tory, mentally a
Liberal, politically neither the one nor the other. His bones are
marrowless, his blood is cold. He can forfeit his own career, and hazard
his reputation for his party; but that is all. He cannot give his mind
to it, and he cannot redeem himself from his futile bondage to it. He is
a respectable speaker, despite his defective articulation and his
lifeless manner; he will be a respectable politician, despite his want
of faith in, or zeal for the cause he tries to follow. That is his
career; that is the doom to which he voluntarily condemns himself.

I do not know that there are any other Tory chiefs worth talking about.
Sir Stafford Northcote looks like a Bonn or Heidelberg professor, and
has a fair average intellect, fit for commonplace finance and elementary
politics; there is not a ghost of an idea in him. Walpole is a pompous,
well-meaning, gentlemanlike imbecile. Gathorne Hardy is fluent, as the
sand in an hourglass is fluent--he can pour out words and serve to mark
the passing of time. Sir John Pakington is an educated Dogberry, a
respectable Justice Shallow. Not upon men like these do the political
fortunes of the Tory party of our day depend, although Walpole and
Pakington fairly represent the sincerity, the manhood, and the
respectability of Toryism.

I come back to the point from which I started--that Toryism, in itself,
is only another word for stupidity, and that any triumphs the party have
won or may win are secured by the surrender of the principle they
profess to be fighting for, and by the skilful management of men whose
conscience permits them to adapt the means unscrupulously to the end.
Were the Tory party led by genuine Tories it would have been extinct
long ago. It lives and looks upon the earth, it has its triumphs and its
gains, its present and its future, only because by very virtue of its
own dulness it has allowed itself to be led by men whom it ought to
detest, whom it sometimes does distrust, but who have the wit to sell
principle in the dearest market, and buy reputation in the cheapest.


Literary reputations are, in one respect, like wines--some are greatly
improved by a long voyage, while others lose all zest and strength in
the process of crossing the ocean. There ought to be hardly any
difference, one would think, between the literary taste of the public of
London and that of the public of New York; and yet it is certain that an
author or a book may be positively celebrated in the one city and only
barely known and coldly recognized in the other. Every one, of course,
has noticed the fact that certain English authors are better known and
appreciated in New York than in London; certain American writers more
talked of in London than in New York. The general public of England do
not seem to me to appreciate the true position of Whittier and Lowell
among American poets. The average Englishman knows hardly anything of
any American poet but Longfellow, who receives, I venture to think, a
far more wholesale and enthusiastic admiration in England than in his
own country. Robert Buchanan, the Scottish poet, lately, I have read,
described "Evangeline" as a far finer poem than Goethe's "Hermann und
Dorothea," a judgment which I presume and hope it would be impossible to
get any American scholar and critic to indorse or even to consider
seriously. On the other hand, it is well known that both the
Brownings--certainly Mrs. Browning--found quicker and more cordial
appreciation in America than in England. Lately, we in London have taken
to discussing and debating over Walt Whitman with a warmth and interest
which people in New York do not seem to manifest in regard to the author
of "Leaves of Grass." Charles Dickens appears to me to have more devoted
admirers among the best class of readers here than he has in his own
country. Of course, it would be hardly possible for any man to be more
popular and more successful than Dickens is in England; but New York
journals quote him and draw illustrations from him much more frequently
than London papers do--I do not think any day has passed since first I
came to this country, six or seven months ago, that I have not seen at
least two or three allusions to Dickens in the leading articles of the
daily papers--and I question whether, among critics standing as high in
London as George William Curtis does here, Dickens could find the
enthusiastic, the almost lyrical devotion of Curtis's admiration.
Charles Reade, again, is more generally and warmly admired here than in
England. Am I wrong in supposing that the reverse is the case with
regard to the authoress of "Romola" and "The Mill on the Floss?" All
American critics and all American readers of taste, have doubtless
testified practically their recognition of the genius of this
extraordinary woman; but there seems to me to be relatively less
admiration for her in New York than in London. The general verdict of
English criticism would, I feel no doubt, place George Eliot on a higher
pedestal than Charles Dickens. We regard her as belonging to a higher
school of art, as more nearly affined to the great immortal few whose
genius and fame transcend the fashion of the age and defy the caprice of
public taste. So far as I have been able to observe, I do not think this
is the opinion of American criticism.

In any case, the mere question will excuse my writing a few pages about
a woman whom I regard as the greatest living novelist of England; as, on
the whole, the greatest woman now engaged in European literature. Only
George Sand and Harriet Martineau could fairly be compared with her;
and, while Miss Martineau, of course, is far inferior in all the higher
gifts of imagination and the higher faculties of art, George Sand, with
all her passion, her rich fancy, and daring, subtle analysis of certain
natures, has never exhibited the serene, symmetrical power displayed in
"Romola" and in "Silas Marner." Mrs. Lewes (it would be affectation to
try to assume that there is still any mystery about the identity of
"George Eliot") is what George Sand is not--a great writer, merely as a
writer. Few, indeed, are the beings who have ever combined so many high
qualities in one person as Mrs. Lewes does. Her literary career began as
a translator and an essayist. Her tastes seemed then to lead her wholly
into the somewhat barren fields where German metaphysics endeavor to
come to the relief or the confusion of German theology. She became a
contributor to the "Westminster Review;" then she became its assistant
editor, and worked assiduously for it under the direction of Dr. John
Chapman, the editor, with whose family she lived for a time, and in
whose house she first met George Henry Lewes. She is an accomplished
linguist, a brilliant talker, a musician of extraordinary skill. She has
a musical sense so delicate and exquisite that there are tender, simple,
true ballad melodies which fill her with a pathetic pain almost too keen
to bear; and yet she has the firm, strong command of tone and touch,
without which a really scientific musician cannot be made. I do not
think this exceeding sensibility of nature is often to be found in
combination with a genuine mastery of the practical science of music.
But Mrs. Lewes has mastered many sciences as well as literatures.
Probably no other novel writer, since novel writing became a business,
ever possessed one tithe of her scientific knowledge. Indeed, hardly
anything is rarer than the union of the scientific and the literary or
artistic temperaments. So rare is it, that the exceptional, the almost
solitary instance of Goethe comes up at once, distinct and striking, to
the mind. English novelists are even less likely to have anything of a
scientific taste than French or German. Dickens knows nothing of
science, and has, indeed, as little knowledge of any kind, save that
which is derived from observation, as any respectable Englishman could
well have. Thackeray was a man of varied reading, versed in the lighter
literature of several languages, and strongly imbued with artistic
tastes; but he had no care for science, and knew nothing of it but just
what every one has to learn at school. Lord Lytton's science is a mere
sham. Charlotte Bronté was all genius and ignorance. Mrs. Lewes is all
genius and culture. Had she never written a page of fiction, nay, had
she never written a line of poetry or prose, she must have been regarded
with wonder and admiration by all who knew her as a woman of vast and
varied knowledge; a woman who could think deeply and talk brilliantly,
who could play high and severe classical music like a professional
performer, and could bring forth the most delicate and tender aroma of
nature and poetry lying deep in the heart of some simple, old-fashioned
Scotch or English ballad. Nature, indeed, seemed to have given to this
extraordinary woman all the gifts a woman could ask or have--save one.
It will not, I hope, be considered a piece of gossipping personality if
I allude to a fact which must, some day or other, be part of literary
history. Mrs. Lewes is not beautiful. In her appearance there is nothing
whatever to attract admiration. Hers is not even a face like that of
Charlotte Cushman, which, at least, must make a deep impression, and
seize at once the attention of the gazer. Nor does it seem, like that of
Madame de Staël or Elizabeth Barrett Browning, informed and illuminated
by the light of genius. Mrs. Lewes is what we in England call decidedly
plain--what people in New York call homely; and what persons who did not
care to soften the force of an unpleasant truth would describe probably
by a still harder and more emphatic adjective.

This woman, thus rarely gifted with poetry and music and
imagination--thus disciplined in man's highest studies and accustomed to
the most laborious of man's literary drudgery--does not seem to have
found out, until she had passed what is conventionally regarded as the
age of romance, that she had in her, transcendent above all other gifts,
the faculty of the novelist. When an author who is not very young makes
a great hit at last, we soon begin to learn that he had already made
many attempts in the same direction, and his publishers find an eager
demand for the stories and sketches which, when they first appeared,
utterly failed to attract attention. Thackeray's early efforts,
Trollope's, Charles Reade's, Nathaniel Hawthorne's, all these have been
lighted into success by the blaze of the later triumph. But it does not
seem that Miss Marion Evans, as she then was, ever published anything in
the way of fiction previous to the series of sketches which appeared in
"Blackwood's Magazine," and were called "Scenes of Clerical Life." These
sketches attracted considerable attention, and were much admired; but I
do not think many people saw in them the capacity which produced "Adam
Bede" and "Romola." With the publication of "Adam Bede" came a complete
triumph. The author was elevated at once and by acclamation to the
highest rank among living novelists. I think it was in the very first
number of the "Cornhill Magazine" that Thackeray, in a gossiping
paragraph about novelists of the day, whom he mentioned alphabetically
and by their initials, spoke of "E" as a "star of the first magnitude
just risen on the horizon." Thackeray, it will be remembered, was one of
the first, if not, indeed, the very first, to recognize the genius
manifested in "Jane Eyre." The publishers sent him some of the proof
sheets for his advice, and Thackeray saw in them the work of a great

The place which Mrs. Lewes thus so suddenly won, she has, of course,
always maintained. Her position of absolute supremacy over all other
women writers in England is something peculiar and curious. She is
first--and there is no second. No living authoress in Britain is ever
now compared with her. I read, not long since, in a New York paper, a
sentence which spoke of George Eliot and Miss Mulock as being the
greatest English authoresses in the field of fiction. It seemed very odd
and funny to me. Certainly, an English critic would never have thought
of bracketing together such a pair. Miss Mulock is a graceful,
true-hearted, good writer; but Miss Mulock and George Eliot! Robert
Lytton and Robert Browning! "A. K. H. B." (I think these are the
initials) and John Stuart Mill! Mark Lemon's novels and Charles
Dickens's! Mrs. Lewes has made people read novels who perhaps never read
fiction from any other pen. She has made the novel the companion and
friend and study of scholars and thinkers and statesmen. Her books are
discussed by the gravest critics as productions of the highest school of
art. Men and journals which have always regarded, or affected to regard,
Thackeray as a mere cynic, and Dickens as little better than a
professional buffoon, have discussed "The Mill on the Floss" and
"Romola" as if these novels were already classic. Of course it would be
a very doubtful kind of merit which commanded the admiration of literary
prigs or pedants; but that is not the merit of George Eliot. Her books
find their way to all hearts and intelligences, but it is their
peculiarity that they compel, they extort the admiration of men who
would disparage all novels, if they could, as frivolous and worthless,
but who are forced even by their own canons and principles to recognize
the deep clear thought, the noble culture, the penetrating, analytical
power, which are evident in almost every chapter of these stories. Most
of our novelists write in a slipslop, careless style. Dickens is
worthless, if regarded merely as a prose writer; Trollope hardly cares
about grammar; Charles Reade, with all his masculine force and
clearness, is terribly irregular and rugged. The woman writers have
seldom any style at all. George Eliot's prose might be the study of a
scholar anxious to acquire and appreciate a noble English style. It is
as luminous as the language of Mill; far more truly picturesque than
that of Ruskin; capable of forcible, memorable expression as the robust
Saxon of Bright. I am not going into a criticism of George Eliot, who
has been, no doubt, fully criticised in America already. I am merely
engaged in pointing out the special reasons why she has won in England a
certain kind of admiration which, it seems to me, hardly any novelist
ever has had before. I think she has infused into the novel some
elements it never had before, and so thoroughly infused them that they
blend with all the other materials, and do not form anywhere a solid
lump or mass distinguishable from the rest. There are philosophical
novels--"Wilhelm Meister," for example--which are weighed down and
loaded with the philosophy, and which the world admires in spite of the
philosophy. There are political novels--Disraeli's, for instance--which
are only intelligible to those who make politics and political
personalities a study, and which viewed merely as stories would not be
worth speaking about. There are novels with a great direct purpose in
them, such as "Uncle Tom's Cabin," or "Bleak House," or Charles Reade's
"Hard Cash;" but these, after all, are only magnificent pamphlets,
splendidly illustrated diatribes. The deep philosophic thought of George
Eliot's novels suffuses and illumines them everywhere. You can point to
no sermon here, no lecture there, no solid mass interposing between this
incident and that, no ponderous moral hung around the neck of this or
that personage. Only you feel that you are under the control of one who
is not merely a great story-teller but who is also a deep thinker.

It is not, perhaps, unnecessary to say to American readers that George
Eliot is the only novelist who can paint such English people as the
Poysers and the Tullivers just as they really are. She looks into the
very souls of these people. She tracks out their slow peculiar mental
processes; she reproduces them fresh and firm from very life. Mere
realism, mere photographing, even from the life, is not in art a very
great triumph. But George Eliot can make her dullest people interesting
and dramatically effective. She can paint two dull people with quite
different ways of dulness--say a dull man and a dull woman, for
example--and you are astonished to find how utterly distinct the two
kinds of stupidity are--and how intensely amusing both can be made. Look
at the two pedantic, pompous, dull advocates in the later part of Robert
Browning's "The Ring and the Book." How distinct they are; how
different, how unlike, and how true, are the two portraits. But then it
must be owned that the poet is himself terribly tedious just there. His
pedants are quite as tiresome as they would be in real life, if each
successively held you by the button. George Eliot never is guilty of
this great artistic fault. You never want to be rid of Mrs. Poyser or
Aunt Glegg, or the prattling Florentines in "Romola." It is almost
superfluous to say that there never was or could be a Mark Tapley, or a
Sam Weller. We put up with these impossibilities and delight in them,
because they are so amusing and so full of fantastic humor. But Mrs.
Poyser lives, and I have met Aunt Glegg often; and poor Mrs. Tulliver's
cares and hopes, and little fears, and pitiful reasonings, are animating
scores of Mrs. Tullivers all over England to-day. I would propose a safe
and easy test to any American or other "foreigner" (I am supposing
myself now again in England), who is curious to know how much he
understands of the English character. Let him read any of George Eliot's
novels--even "Felix Holt," which is so decidedly inferior to the
rest--and if he fails to follow, with thorough appreciation, the talk
and the ways of the Poysers and such like personages, he may be assured
he does not understand one great phase of English life.

Are these novels popular in England? Educated public opinion, I repeat,
ranks them higher than the novels of any other living author. But they
are not popular--that is, as Wilkie Collins or Miss Braddon is popular;
and I do not mean to say anything slighting of either Wilkie Collins or
Miss Braddon, both of whom I think possess very great talents, and have
been treated with quite too much of the _de haut en bas_ mood of the
great critics. George Eliot's novels certainly are not run after and
devoured by the average circulating library readers, as "The Woman in
White," and "Lady Audley's Secret" were. She has, of course, nothing
like the number of readers who follow Charles Dickens; nor even, I
should say, nearly as many as Anthony Trollope. When "Romola," which the
"Saturday Review" justly pronounced to be, if not the greatest,
certainly the noblest romance of modern days, was being published as a
serial in the "Cornhill Magazine," it was comparatively a failure, in
the circulating library sense; and even when it appeared in its complete
form, and the public could better appreciate its artistic perfection, it
was anything but a splendid success, as regarded from the publisher's
point of view. Perhaps this may be partly accounted for by the nature of
the subject, the scene and the time; but even the warmest admirer of
George Eliot may freely admit that "Romola" lacks a little of that
passionate heat which is needed to make a writer of fiction thoroughly
popular. When a statue of pure and perfect marble attracts as great a
crowd of gazers as a glowing picture, then a novel like "Romola" will
have as many admirers as a novel like "Consuelo" or "Villette."

I am not one of the admirers of George Eliot who regret that she
ventured on the production of a long poem. I think "The Spanish Gypsy" a
true and a fine poem, although I do not place it so high in artistic
rank as the best of the author's prose writings. But I believe it to be
the greatest story in verse ever produced by an Englishwoman. This is
not, perhaps, very high praise, for Englishwomen have seldom done much
in the higher fields of poetry; but we have "Aurora Leigh;" and I think
"The Spanish Gypsy," on the whole, a finer piece of work. Most of our
English critics fell to discussing the question whether "The Spanish
Gypsy" was to be regarded as poetry at all, or only as a story put into
verse; and in this futile and vexatious controversy the artistic value
of the work itself almost escaped analysis. I own that I think criticism
shows to little advantage when it occupies itself in considering whether
a work of art is to be called by this name or that; and I am rather
impatient of the critic who comes with his canons of art, his
Thirty-Nine articles of literary dogma, and judges a book, not by what
it is in itself, but by the answer it gives to his self-invented
catechism. I do not believe that the art of man ever can invent--I know
it never has invented--any set of rules or formulas by which you can
decide, off-hand and with certainty, that a great story in verse, which
you admit to have power and beauty and pathos and melody, does not
belong to true poetry. One great school of critics discovered, by the
application of such high rules and canons that Shakespeare, though a
great genius was not a great poet; a later school made a similar
discovery with regard to Schiller; a certain body of critics now say the
same of Byron. I don't think it matters much what you call the work.
"The Spanish Gypsy" has imagination and beauty; it has exquisite
pictures and lofty thoughts; it has melody and music. Admitting this
much, and the most depreciating critics did admit it, I think it hardly
worth considering what name we are to apply to the book. Such, however,
was the sort of controversy in which all deep and true consideration of
the artistic value of "The Spanish Gypsy" evaporated. I am not sorry
Mrs. Lewes published the poem; but I am sorry she put her literary name
to it in the first instance. Had it appeared anonymously it would have
astonished and delighted the world. But people compared "The Spaniel
Gypsy" with the author's prose works, and were disappointed because the
woman who surpassed Dickens in fiction did not likewise surpass Tennyson
and Browning in poetry. Thus, and in no other sense, was "The Spanish
Gypsy" a failure. No woman had written anything of the same kind to
surpass it; but some men, even of our own day, had--and no man of our
day has written novels which excel those of George Eliot. Mrs. Lewes
will probably not write any more long poems; but I think English poetry
has gained something by her one venture.

Mrs. Lewes's mind is of a class which, however varied its power, is not
fairly described by the word "versatile." Versatility is a smaller kind
of faculty, a dexterity of intellect and capacity--the property of a
mind of the second order. If we want a perfect type and pattern of
versatility, we may find it very close to the authoress of "Silas
Marner," in the person of her husband, George Henry Lewes. What man of
our day has done so many things and done them so well? He is the
biographer of Goethe and of Robespierre; he has compiled the "History of
Philosophy," in which he has something really his own to say of every
great philosopher, from Thales to Schelling; he has translated Spinoza;
he has published various scientific works; he has written at least two
novels; he has made one of the most successful dramatic adaptations
known to our stage; he is an accomplished theatrical critic; he was at
one time so successful as an amateur actor that he seriously
contemplated taking to the stage as a profession, in the full
conviction, which he did not hesitate frankly to avow, that he was
destined to be the successor to Macready. He did actually join a company
at one of the Manchester theatres, and perform there for some time under
a feigned name; but the amount of encouragement he received from the
public did not stimulate him to continue on the boards, although I
believe his confidence in his own capacity to succeed Macready remained
unshaken. Mr. Lewes was always remarkable for a frank and fearless
self-conceit, which, by its very sincerity and audacity, almost disarmed
criticism. Indeed, I do not suppose any man less gifted with
self-confidence would have even attempted to do half the things which
George Henry Lewes has done well. Margaret Fuller was very unfavorably
impressed by Lewes when she met him at Thomas Carlyle's house, and she
wrote of him contemptuously and angrily. But these were the days of
Lewes's Bohemianism; days of an audacity and a self-conceit unsubdued as
yet by experience and the world, and some saddening and some refining
influences; and Margaret Fuller failed to appreciate the amount of
intellect and manliness that was in him. Charlotte Bronté, on the other
hand, was quite enthusiastic about Lewes, and wrote to him and of him
with an almost amusing veneration. Indeed, he is a man of ability and
versatility that may fairly be called extraordinary. His merit is not
that he has written books on a great variety of subjects. London has
many hack writers who could go to work at any publisher's order and
produce successively an epic poem, a novel, a treatise on the philosophy
of the conditioned, a handbook of astronomy, a farce, a life of Julius
Cæsar, a history of African explorations, and a volume of sermons. But
none of these productions would have one gleam of genuine native
vitality about it. The moment it had served its purpose in the literary
market it would go, dead, down to the dead. Lewes's works are of quite
a different style. They have positive merit and value of their own, and
they live. It was a characteristically audacious thing to attempt to
cram the history of philosophy into a couple of medium-sized volumes,
polishing off each philosopher in a few pages--draining him, plucking
out the heart of his mystery and his system, and stowing him away in the
glass jar designed to exhibit him to an edified class of students. But
it must be avowed that Lewes's has been a marvellously clever and
successful attempt. He certainly crumples up the whole science of
metaphysics, sweeps away transcendental philosophy, and demolishes _a
priori_ reasoning, in a manner which strongly reminds one of Arthur
Pendennis upsetting, in a dashing criticism and on the faith of an
hour's reading in an encyclopædia, some great scientific theory of which
he had never heard previously, and the development of which had been the
life's labor of a sage. But Lewes does, somehow or other, very often
come to a right conclusion, and measure great theories and men with
accurate estimate; and the work is immensely interesting, and it is not
easy to see how anybody could have done it better. His "Life of Goethe"
is undoubtedly a very successful, symmetrical, and comprehensive piece
of biography. Some of his scientific studies have a genuine value, and
they are all fascinating. One of his pieces--adapted from the French, of
course, as most so-called English pieces are--will always be played
while Charles Mathews lives, or while there are actors who can play in
Charles Mathews's style. I wonder whether any of the readers of THE
GALAXY read, or having read remember, Lewes's novels? I only recollect
two of them, and I do not know whether he wrote any others. One was
called "Ranthorpe," and it had, in its day, quite a sort of success. How
long ago was it published? Fully twenty years, I should think: I
remember quite well being thrown into youthful raptures with it at the
time. But I do not go upon my boyish admiration for it. I came across it
somewhere much more recently, and read it through. There was a good deal
of inflation, and audacity, and nonsense in it; but at the same time it
showed more of brains and artistic impulse and constructive power than
nine out of every ten novels published in England to-day. It was all
about a young poet, who came to London and made, for a moment, a great
success, and was dazzled by it, and became intoxicated with love for a
lustrous beauty of high rank, who only played with him; and how he
forgot, for a time, the modest, delightful, simple girl to whom he was
pledged at home; and how he did not get on, and the public and the
_salons_ grew tired of him; and he became miserable, and was going to
drown himself (I think), but was prevented by some wise and timely
person; and how, of course, it all came right in the end, and he was
redeemed. This outline, probably, will not suggest much of originality
to any reader; but there was a great deal of freshness and thought in
the book, some of the incidents and one or two of the characters had a
flavor of originality about them; and the style was, for the most part,
animated and attractive. It was the work of a man of brains, and
culture, and taste; and one felt this all through, and was not ashamed
of the time spent in reading it. The other of Lewes's novels was called
"Rose, Blanche, and Violet." It charmed me a good deal when I read it;
but I have not read it lately, and so I forbear giving any decided
opinion as to its merits. It is, of course, quite settled now that
George Lewes had not in him the materials to make a successful novelist;
but men of far less talent have produced far worse novels than his, and
been, in their way, successful.

Lewes first became prominent in literature as a contributor to the
"Leader," a very remarkable weekly organ of advanced opinions on all
questions, which was started in London seventeen or eighteen years ago,
and died, after much flickering and lingering, in 1861 or thereabouts.
The "Leader," in its early and best days, fairly sparkled all over with
talent, originality and audacity. It was to extreme philosophical
radicalism, (with a dash of something like atheism) what the "Saturday
Review" now is to cultured swelldom and Belgravian Sadduceeism. Miss
Martineau wrote for it. Lewes and Thornton Hunt (they were then
intimates, unfortunately for Lewes) were among its principal
contributors; Edward Whitty flung over its pages the brilliant eccentric
light which was destined to immature and melancholy extinction. Lewes's
theatrical criticisms, which he used to sign "Vivian," were inimitable
in their vivacity, their wit, and their keenness, even when their
soundness of judgment was most open to question. Poor Charles Kean was
an especial object of Lewes's detestation, and was accordingly pelted
and peppered with torturingly clever and piquant pasquinades in the form
of criticism. Lewes has got wonderfully sober and grave in style since
those wild days, and his occasional contributions in the shape of
dramatic criticism to the "Pall Mall Gazette" are doubtless more
generally accurate, are certainly much more thoughtful, but are far less
amusing than the admirable fooling of days gone by. It was in the
"Leader," I think, that Lewes carried on his famous controversy with
Charles Dickens on the possibility of such spontaneous combustion as
that of the old brute in "Bleak House," and it was in the "Leader" that
he made an equally famous exposure of a sham spiritualist medium, about
whom London was then much agitated. The "Leader," probably, never paid;
it was far too iconoclastic and eccentric to be a commercial success,
but it made quite a mark and will always be a memory. It did not succeed
in its object; but, like the arrow of the hero in Virgil, it left a long
line of sparkles and light behind it. Lewes has abandoned Bohemia long
since, and Edward Whitty is dead, and Thornton Hunt has come to
nothing--and there is another "Leader" now in London which bears about
as much resemblance to the original and real "Leader" as Richard
Cromwell did to Oliver, or Charles Kean to Edmund.

Bohemianism, and novel-writing, and amateur acting, and persiflage, and
epigram, are all gone by now with Lewes. He has settled into a grave and
steady writer, for the most part of late confining himself to scientific
subjects. A few years ago he started the "Fortnightly Review," in the
hope of establishing in England a counterpart of the "Revue des Deux
Mondes." The first number was enriched by one of the most thoughtful,
subtle, beautiful essays lately contributed to literature; and it bore
the signature of George Eliot. Lewes himself wrote a series of essays on
"The Principles of Success in Literature," very good, very sound, but
not very lively reading. A great English novelist was pleased graciously
to say, _apropos_ of these essays, "Success in literature! What does
Lewes know about success in literature?" and the small devotees of the
great successful novelist laughed and repeated the joke. It is certain
that the "Fortnightly Review" was not a success under the editorship of
George Henry Lewes; and people said, I do not know how truly, that a
good deal of the nobly-earned money paid for "Silas Marner" and the
"Mill on the Floss" disappeared in the attempt to erect a British "Revue
des Deux Mondes." The "Fortnightly" lives still, and is called
"Fortnightly" still, although it now only comes out once a month, but
Lewes has long ceased to edit it. I think the present editor, John
Morley, a young man of great ability and promise, is better suited for
the work than Lewes was--indeed I doubt whether Lewes, with all his
varied gifts and acquirements, possesses the peculiar qualities which
make a man a genuine editor. But, the difference between wild Hal, the
Prince of Gadshill, and grave, wise Henry the Fifth, could hardly be
greater than that between the Vivian of the "Leader" and the late
editor of the solemn, ponderous "Fortnightly Review."

Lewes wrote at one time a great deal for the "Westminster Review." It
was during his connection with it that he became acquainted, at Dr.
Chapman's house, with Marion Evans. There was a great similarity between
their tastes. Both loved the study of languages, and of philosophical
thought, and of literature and science generally. Both were splendid in
conversation, brilliant in epigram; both loved music and were intensely
susceptible to its influence. The mind of the woman was, I need hardly
say, far the stronger, wider, deeper of the two; but the affinity was
clear and close. A great misfortune had fallen on Lewes; and he was
probably in that condition of mind which makes a man not unlikely to
lose his faith in everything and drift into hopeless, perpetual
cynicism. From this, if this impended over him, Lewes was saved by his
intercourse with the rarely-gifted woman he had met in so timely an
hour. The result is, as every one knows, a companionship and union
unusual indeed in literary life. Very seldom has a distinguished author
had for wife a distinguished authoress, or _vice versa_; indeed, it used
to be one of the dear delightful theories of blockheads that such
unions, if they could take place, would be miserably unhappy. This
theory, so soothing to complacent dulness, was hardly borne out in the
instance of the Brownings; it is just as little corroborated by the
example of "George Eliot" and George Lewes. I believe, too, the example
of George Eliot is highly unsatisfactory to the devotees of that other
theory, so long cherished by dolts of both sexes, that a woman of talent
and culture can never do anything in the way of mending or making, of
cooking a chop or ordering a household. People tell us they can trace
the influence of Lewes's varied scholarship and critical judgment in the
novels of George Eliot. It is hardly possible to doubt that some such
influence must be there, but I certainly never saw it anywhere
distinctly and openly evident. It would be poor art which allowed a thin
stream of Lewes to be seen sparkling through the broad, deep, luminous
lake which mirrors the genius of George Eliot. I am, however, rather
inclined to fancy that Lewes, in general, abstains from critical
_surveillance_ or restraint over the productions of his greater
companion, believing, perhaps, that the higher mind had better be a law
to itself. If this be so, I think it is a wholesome principle pushed
sometimes too far, for one can hardly believe that the calm judgment of
any sincere and qualified adviser would not have discouraged and
condemned the painful, unnecessary underplot of past intrigue and sin
which is so great a blot in "Felix Holt," or suggested a rapider
dramatic movement in some passages of "The Spanish Gypsy." Lewes once
wrote to Charlotte Bronté that he would rather be the author of Miss
Austen's stories than of the whole of the Waverley Novels. I certainly
do not agree with him in that opinion; but it is strange that one who
held it should not have endeavored to prevent an authoress greater than
Miss Austen, and far more directly under his influence than Charlotte
Bronté, from sinking, in one or two instances, into faults which neither
Miss Austen nor Miss Bronté would ever have committed. Many things are
strange about this literary and domestic companionship; this
comparatively trifling fact seems to me not the least strange.

Finally let me say that I fully expect George Eliot yet to give to the
world some work of art even greater than any she has already produced.
She is not a woman to close with even a comparative failure. Her maxim,
I feel confident, would be that of the Emperor Napoleon--offer terms of
peace and repose after a great victory; never otherwise.


We are all of us probably inclined now and then to waste a little time
in vaguely speculating on what might have happened if this or that
particular event had not given a special direction to the career of some
great man or woman. If there had been an inch of difference in the size
of Cleopatra's nose; if Hannibal had not lingered at Capua; if Cromwell
had carried out his idea of emigration; if Napoleon Bonaparte had taken
service under the Turk--and so on through all the old familiar
illustrations dear to the minor essayist and the debating society. I
have sometimes felt tempted thus to lose myself in speculating on what
might have happened if the woman whom all the world knows as George Sand
had been happily married in her youth to the husband of her choice.
Would she ever have taken to literature at all? Would she, loving as she
does, and as Frenchwomen so rarely do, the changing face of inanimate
nature--the fields, the flowers, and the brooks--have lived a peaceful
and obscure life in some happy country place, and been content with
home, and family, and love, and never thought of fame? Or if, thus
happily married, she still had allowed her genius to find an expression
in literature, would she have written books with no passionate purpose
in them--books which might have seemed like those of a good Miss Mulock
made perfect--books which Podsnap might have read with approval and put
without a scruple into the hands of that modest young person, his
daughter? Certainly one cannot but think that a different kind of early
life would have given a quite different complexion to the literary
individuality of George Sand.

Bulwer Lytton, in one of his novels, insists that true genius is always
quite independent of the individual sufferings or joys of its possessor,
and describes some inspired youth in the novel as sitting down while
sorrow is in his heart and hunger gnawing at his vitals, to throw off a
sparkling and gladsome little fairy tale. Now this is undoubtedly true
in general of any high order of genius; but there are at least some
great and striking exceptions. Rousseau and Byron are, in modern days,
remarkable illustrations of genius, admittedly of a very high rank,
governed and guided almost wholly by the individual fortunes of the men
themselves. So too must we speak of the genius of George Sand. Not
Rousseau, not even Byron, was in this sense more egotistic than the
woman who broke the chains of her ill-assorted marriage with a crash
that made its echoes heard at last in every civilized country in the
world. Just as people are constantly quoting _nous avons changé tout
cela_ who never read a page of Molière, or _pour encourager les autres_
without even being aware that there is a story of Voltaire's called
"Candide," so there have been thousands of passionate protests uttered
in America and Europe for the last twenty years by people who never saw
a volume of George Sand, and yet are only echoing her sentiments and
even repeating her words.

In a former number of THE GALAXY I expressed casually the opinion that
George Sand is probably the most influential writer of our day. I am
still, and deliberately, of the same opinion. It must be remembered that
very few English or American authors have any wide or deep influence
over peoples who do not speak English. Even of the very greatest authors
this is true. Compare, for example, the literary dominion of Shakespeare
with that of Cervantes. All nations who read Shakespeare read
Cervantes: in Stratford-upon-Avon itself Don Quixote is probably as
familiar a figure in people's minds as Falstaff; but Shakespeare is
little known indeed to the vast majority of readers in the country of
Cervantes, in the land of Dante, or in that of Racine and Victor Hugo.
In something of the same way we may compare the influence of George Sand
with that of even the greatest living authors of England and America.
What influence has Charles Dickens or George Eliot outside the range of
the English tongue? But George Sand's genius has been felt as a power in
every country of the world where people read any manner of books. It has
been felt almost as Rousseau's once was felt; it has aroused anger,
terror, pity, or wild and rapturous excitement and admiration; it has
rallied around it every instinct in man or woman which is revolutionary;
it has ranged against it all that is conservative. It is not so much a
literary influence as a great disorganizing force, riving the rocks of
custom, resolving into their original elements the social combinations
which tradition and convention would declare to be indissoluble. I am
not now speaking merely of the sentiments which George Sand does or did
entertain on the subject of marriage. Divested of all startling effects
and thrilling dramatic illustrations, these sentiments probably amounted
to nothing more dreadful than the belief that an unwedded union between
two people who love and are true to each other is less immoral than the
legal marriage of two uncongenial creatures who do not love and probably
are not true to each other. But the grand, revolutionary idea which
George Sand announced was that of the social independence and equality
of woman--the principle that woman is not made for man in any other
sense than as man is made for woman. For the first time in the history
of the world woman spoke out for herself with a voice as powerful as
that of man. For the first time in the history of the world woman spoke
out as woman, not as the servant, the satellite, the pupil, the
plaything, or the goddess of man.

Now I intend at present to write of George Sand rather as an individual,
or an influence, than as the author of certain works of fiction.
Criticism would now be superfluously bestowed on the literary merits and
peculiarities of the great woman whose astonishing intellectual activity
has never ceased to produce, during the last thirty years, works which
take already a classical place in French literature. If any reputation
of our day may be looked upon as established, we may thus regard the
reputation of George Sand. She is, beyond comparison, the greatest
living novelist of France. She has won this position by the most
legitimate application of the gifts of an artist. With all her
marvellous fecundity, she has hardly ever given to the world any work
which does not seem at least to have been the subject of the most
elaborate and patient care. The greatest temptation which tries a
story-teller is perhaps the temptation to rely on the attractiveness of
story-telling, and to pay little or no attention to style. Walter
Scott's prose, for example, if regarded as mere prose, is rambling,
irregular, and almost worthless. Dickens's prose is as bad a model for
imitation as a musical performance which is out of tune. Of course, I
need hardly say that attention to style is almost as characteristic of
French authors in general, as the lack of it is characteristic of
English authors; but even in France, the prose of George Sand stands out
conspicuous for its wonderful expressiveness and force, its almost
perfect beauty. Then of all modern French authors--I might perhaps say
of all modern novelists of any country--George Sand has added to
fiction, has annexed from the worlds of reality and of imagination, the
greatest number of original characters--of what Emerson calls new
organic creations. Moreover, George Sand is, after Rousseau, the one
only great French author who has looked directly and lovingly into the
face of Nature, and learned the secrets which skies and waters, fields
and lanes, can teach to the heart that loves them. Gifts such as these
have won her the almost unrivalled place which she holds in living
literature, and she has conquered at last even the public opinion which
once detested and proscribed her. I could therefore hope to add nothing
to what has been already said by criticism in regard to her merits as a
novelist. Indeed, I think it probable that the majority of readers in
this country know more of George Sand through the interpretation of the
critics than through the pages of her books. And in her case criticism
is so nearly unanimous as to her literary merits, that I may safely
assume the public in general to have in their minds a just recognition
of her position as a novelist. My object is rather to say something
about the place which George Sand has taken as a social revolutionist,
about the influence she has so long exercised over the world, and about
the woman herself. For she is assuredly the greatest champion of woman's
rights, in one sense, that the world has ever seen; and she is, on the
other hand, the one woman out of all the world who has been most
commonly pointed to as the appalling example to scare doubtful and
fluttering womanhood back into its sheepfold of submissiveness and
conventionality. There is hardly a woman's heart anywhere in the
civilized world which has not felt the vibration of George Sand's
thrilling voice. Women who never saw one of her books, nay, who never
heard even her _nom de plume_, have been stirred by emotions of doubt or
fear or repining or ambition, which they never would have known but for
George Sand, and perhaps but for George Sand's uncongenial marriage. For
indeed there is not now, and has not been for twenty years, I venture to
think, a single "revolutionary" idea, as slow and steady-going people
would call it, afloat anywhere in Europe or America, on the subject of
woman's relations to man, society, and destiny, which is not due
immediately to the influence of George Sand, and to the influence of
George Sand's unhappy marriage upon George Sand herself.

The world has of late years grown used to this extraordinary woman, and
has lost much of the wonder and terror with which it once regarded her.
I can quite remember--younger people than I can remember--the time when
all good and proper personages in England regarded the authoress of
"Indiana" as a sort of feminine fiend, endowed with a hideous power for
the destruction of souls and an inextinguishable thirst for the
slaughter of virtuous beliefs. I fancy a good deal of this sentiment was
due to the fearful reports wafted across the seas, that this terrible
woman had not merely repudiated the marriage bond, but had actually put
off the garments sacred to womanhood. That George Sand appeared in men's
clothes was an outrage upon consecrated proprieties far more astonishing
than any theoretical onslaught upon old opinions could be. Reformers
indeed should always, if they are wise in their generation, have a care
of the proprieties. Many worthy people can listen with comparative
fortitude when sacred and eternal truths are assailed, who are stricken
with horror when the ark of propriety is never so lightly touched.
George Sand's pantaloons were therefore regarded as the most appalling
illustration of George Sand's wickedness. I well remember what
excitement, scandal, and horror were created in the provincial town
where I lived some twenty years ago, when the editor of a local
Panjandrum (to borrow Mr. Trollope's word) insulted the feelings and the
morals of his constituents and subscribers by polluting his pages with a
translation from one of George Sand's shorter novels. Ah me, the little
novel might, so far as morality was concerned, have been written every
word by Miss Phelps, or the authoress of the "Heir of Redcliffe"; it
had not a word, from beginning to end, which might not have been read
out to a Sunday school of girls; the translation was made by a woman of
the purest soul, and in her own locality the highest name; and yet how
virtue did shriek out against the publication! The editor persevered in
the publishing of the novel, spurred on to boldness by some of his very
young and therefore fearless coadjutors, who thought it delightful to
confront public opinion, and liked the notion of the stars in their
courses fighting against Sisera, and Sisera not being dismayed. That
charming, tender, touching little story! I would submit it to-day
cheerfully to the verdict of a jury of matrons, confident that it would
be declared a fit and proper publication. But at that time it was enough
that the story bore the odious name of George Sand; public opinion
condemned it, and sent the magazine which ventured to translate it to an
early and dishonored grave. I remember reading about that time a short
notice of George Sand by an English authoress of some talent and
culture, in which the Frenchwoman's novels were described as so
abominably filthy, that even the denizens of the Paris brothels were
ashamed to be caught reading them. Now this declaration was made in all
good faith, in the simple good faith of that class of persons who will
pass wholesale and emphatic judgment upon works of which they have never
read a single page. For I need hardly tell any intelligent person of
to-day, that whatever may be said of George Sand's doctrines, she is no
more open to the charge of indelicacy than the authoress of "Romola." I
cannot myself remember any passage in George Sand's novels which can be
called indelicate; and indeed her severest and most hostile critics are
fond of saying, not without a certain justice, that one of the worst
characteristics of her works is the delicacy and beauty of her style,
which thus commends to pure and innocent minds certain doctrines that,
broadly stated, would repel and shock them. Were I one of George Sand's
inveterate opponents, this, or something like it, is the ground I would
take up. I would say: "The welfare of the human family demands that a
marriage, legally made, shall never be questioned or undone. Marriage is
not a union depending on love or congeniality, or any such condition. It
is just as sacred when made for money, or for ambition, or for lust of
the flesh, or for any other purpose, however ignoble and base, as when
contracted in the spirit of the purest mutual love. Here is a woman of
great power and daring genius, who says that the essential condition of
marriage is love and natural fitness; that a legal union of man and
woman without this is no marriage at all, but a detestable and
disgusting sin. Now the more delicately, modestly, plausibly she can put
this revolutionary and pernicious doctrine, the more dangerous she
becomes, and the more earnestly we ought to denounce her." This was in
fact what a great many persons did say; and the protest was at least
consistent and logical.

But horror is an emotion which cannot long live on the old fuel, and
even the world of English Philistinism soon ceased to regard George Sand
as a mere monster. Any one now taking up "Indiana," for example, would
perhaps find it not quite easy to understand how the book produced such
an effect. Our novel-writing women of to-day commonly feed us on more
fiery stuff than this. Not to speak of such accomplished artists in
impurity as the lady who calls herself Ouida, and one or two others of
the same school, we have young women only just promoted from
pantalettes, who can throw you off such glowing chapters of passion and
young desire as would make the rhapsodies of "Indiana" seem very feeble
milk-and-water brewage by comparison. Indeed, except for some of the
descriptions in the opening chapters, I fail to see any extraordinary
merit in "Indiana"; and toward the end it seems to me to grow verbose,
weak, and tiresome. "Leone Leoni" opens with one of the finest dramatic
outbursts of emotion known to the literature of modern fiction; but it
soon wanders away into discursive weakness, and only just toward the
close brightens up into a burst of lurid splendor. It is not those which
I may call the questionable novels of George Sand--the novels which were
believed to illustrate in naked and appalling simplicity her doctrines
and her life--that will bear up her fame through succeeding generations.
If every one of the novels which thus in their time drew down the
thunders of society's denunciation were to be swept into the wallet
wherein Time, according to Shakespeare, carries scraps for oblivion,
George Sand would still remain where she now is, at the head of the
French fiction of her day. It is true, as Goethe says, that
"miracle-working pictures are rarely works of art." The books which make
the hair of the respectable public stand on end, are not often the works
by which the fame of the author is preserved for posterity.

It is a curious fact that at the early time to which I have been
alluding, little or nothing was known in England (or, I presume, in
America) of the real life of Aurore Amandine Dupin, who had been pleased
to call herself George Sand. People knew, or had heard, that she had
separated from her husband, that she had written novels which
depreciated the sanctity of legal marriage, and that she sometimes wore
male costume in the streets. This was enough. In England, at least, we
were ready to infer any enormity regarding a woman who was unsound on
the legal marriage question, and who did not wear petticoats. What would
have been said had people then commonly known half the stories which
were circulated in Paris; half the extravagances into which a passionate
soul and the stimulus of sudden emancipation from restraint had hurried
the authoress of "Indiana" and "Lucrezia Floriani"? For it must be owned
that the life of that woman was, in its earlier years, a strange and
wild phenomenon, hardly to be comprehended perhaps by American or
English natures. I have heard George Sand bitterly arraigned even by
persons who protested that they were at one with her as regards the
early sentiments which used to excite such odium. I have heard her
described by such as a sort of Lamia of literature and passion; a
creature who could seize some noble, generous, youthful heart, drain it
of its love, its aspirations, its profoundest emotions, and then fling
it, squeezed and lifeless, away. I have heard it declared that George
Sand made "copy" of the fierce and passionate loves which she knew so
well how to awaken and to foster; that she distilled the life-blood of
youth to obtain the mixture out of which she derived her inspiration.
The charge so commonly (I think unjustly) made against Goethe, that he
played with the girlish love of Bettina and of others in order to obtain
a subject for literary dissection, is vehemently and deliberately urged
in an aggravated form, in many aggravated forms, against George Sand.
Where, such accusers ask, is that young poet, endowed with a lyrical
genius rare indeed in the France of later days, that young poet whose
imagination was at once so daring and so subtle; who might have been
Béranger and Heine in one, and have risen to an atmosphere in which
neither Béranger nor Heine ever floated? Where is he, and what evil
influence was it which sapped the strength of his nature, corrupted his
genius, and prepared for him a premature and shameful grave? Where is
that young musician, whose pure, tender, and lofty strains sound sweetly
and sadly in the ears, as the very hymn and music of the
Might-Have-Been--where is he now, and what was the seductive power which
made a plaything of him and then flung him away? Here and there some man
of stronger mould is pointed out as one who was at the first conquered,
and then deceived and trifled with, but who ordered his stout heart to
bear, and rose superior to the hour, and lived to retrieve his nature
and make himself a name of respect; but the others, of more sensitive
and perhaps finer organizations, are only the more to be pitied because
they were so terribly in earnest. Seldom, even in the literary history
of modern France, has there been a more strange and shocking episode
than the publication by George Sand of the little book called "Elle et
Lui," and the rejoinder to it by Paul de Musset called "Lui et Elle." I
can hardly be accused of straying into the regions of private scandal
when I speak of two books which had a wide circulation, are still being
read, and may be had, I presume, in any New York bookstore where French
literature is sold. The former of the two books, "She and He," was a
story, or something which purported to be a story, by George Sand,
telling of two ill-assorted beings whom fate had thrown together for a
while, and of whom the woman was all tenderness, love, patience, the man
all egotism, selfishness, sensuousness, and eccentricity. The point of
the whole business was to show how sublimely the woman suffered, and how
wantonly the man flung happiness away. Had it been merely a piece of
fiction, it must have been regarded by any healthy mind as a morbid,
unwholesome, disagreeable production; a sin of the highest æsthetic kind
against true art, which must always, even in its pathos and its tragedy,
leave on the mind exalted and delightful impressions. But every one in
Paris at once hailed the story as a chapter of autobiography, as the
author's vindication of one episode in her own career--a vindication at
the expense of a man who had gone down, ruined and lost, to an early
grave. Therefore the brother of the dead man flung into literature a
little book called "He and She," in which a story, substantially the
same in its outlines, is so told as exactly to reverse the conditions
under which the verdict of public opinion was sought. Very curious
indeed was the manner in which the same substance of facts was made to
present the two principal figures with complexions and characters so
strangely altered. In the woman's book, the woman was made the patient,
loving, suffering victim; in the man's reply, this same woman was
depicted as the most utterly selfish and depraved creature the human
imagination could conceive. Even if one had no other means whatever of
forming an estimate of the character of George Sand, it would be hardly
possible to accept as her likeness the hideous picture sketched by Paul
de Musset. No woman, I am glad to believe, ever existed in real life so
utterly selfish, base, and wicked as his bitter pen has drawn. I must
say that the thing is very cleverly done. The picture is at least
consistent with itself. As a character in romance it might be pronounced
original, bold, brilliant, and, in an artistic sense, quite natural.
There is something thoroughly French in the easy and delicate force of
the final touch with which de Musset dismisses his hideous subject.
Having sketched this woman in tints that seem to flame across the eyes
of the reader; having described with wonderful realism and power her
affectation, her deceit, her reckless caprices, her base and cruel
coquetries, her devouring wantonness, her soul-destroying arts, her
unutterable selfishness and egotism; having, to use a vulgar phrase,
"turned her inside out," and told her story backwards, the author calmly
explains that the hero of the narrative in his dying hour called his
brother to his bedside, and enjoined him, if occasion should ever arise,
if the partner of his sin should ever calumniate him in his grave, to
vindicate his memory and avenge the treason practised upon him. "Of
course," adds the narrator, "the brother made the promise--and I have
since heard that he has kept his word." I can hardly hope to convey to
the reader any adequate idea of the effect produced on the mind by these
few simple words of compressed, whispered hatred and triumph, closing a
philippic, or a revelation, or a libel of such extraordinary bitterness
and ferocity. The whole episode is, I believe and earnestly hope,
without precedent or imitation in literary controversy. Never, that I
know of, has a living woman been publicly exhibited to the world in a
portraiture so hideous as that which Paul de Musset drew of George Sand.
Never, that I know of, has any woman gone so near to deserving and
justifying such a measure of retaliation.

For if it be assumed--and I suppose it never has been disputed--that in
writing "Elle et Lui" George Sand meant to describe herself and Alfred
de Musset, it is hard to conceive of any sin against taste and feeling,
against art and morals, more flagrant than such a publication. The
practice, to which French writers are so much addicted, of making "copy"
of the private lives, characters, and relationships of themselves and
their friends, seems to me in all cases utterly detestable. Lamartine's
sins of this kind were grievous and glaring; but were they red as
scarlet, they would seem whiter than snow when compared with the lurid
monstrosity of George Sand's assault on the memory of the dead poet who
was once her favorite. The whole affair indeed is so unlike anything
which could occur in America or in England, that we can hardly find any
canons by which to try it, or any standard of punishment by which to
regulate its censure. I allude to it now because it is the only
substantial evidence I know of which does fairly seem to justify the
worst of the accusations brought against George Sand; and I do not think
it right, when writing for grown men and women, who are supposed to have
sense and judgment, to affect not to know that such accusations are
made, or to pretend to think that it would be proper not to allude to
them. They have been put forward, replied to, urged again, made the
theme of all manner of controversy in scores of French and in some
English publications. Pray let it be distinctly understood that I am not
entering into any criticism of the morality of any part of George Sand's
private life. With that we have nothing here to do. I am now dealing
with the question, fairly belonging to public controversy, whether the
great artist did not deliberately deal with human hearts as the painter
of old is said to have done with a purchased slave--inflicting torture
in order the better to learn how to depict the struggles and contortions
of mortal agony. In answer to such a question I can only point to
"Lucrezia Floriani" and to "Elle et Lui," and say that unless the
universal opinion of qualified critics be wrong these books, and others
too, owe their piquancy and their dramatic force to the anatomization of
dead passions and discarded lovers. We have all laughed over the
pedantic surgeon in Molière's "Malade Imaginaire," who invites his
_fiancée_ as a delightful treat to see him dissect the body of a woman.
I am afraid that George Sand did sometimes invite an admiring public to
an exhibition yet more ghastly and revolting--the dissection of the
heart of a dead lover.

But in truth we shall never judge George Sand and her writings at all if
we insist on criticising them from any point of view set up by the
proprieties or even the moralities of Old England or New England. When
the passionate young woman, in whose veins ran the wild blood of Marshal
Saxe, found herself surrendered by legality and prescription to a
marriage bond against which her soul revolted, society seemed for her to
have resolved itself into its original elements. Its conventionalities
and traditions contained nothing which she held herself bound to
respect. The world was not her friend, nor the world's law. By one great
decisive step she sundered herself forever from the bonds of what we
call society. She had shaken the dust of convention from her feet; the
world was all before her where to choose. No creature on earth is so
absolutely free as the Frenchwoman who has broken with society. There,
then, stood this daring young woman, on the threshold of a new, fresh,
and illimitable world; a young woman gifted with genius such as our
later years have rarely seen, and blessed or cursed with a nature so
strangely uniting the most characteristic qualities of man and woman as
to be in itself quite unparalleled and unique. Just think of it--try to
think of it! Society and the world had no longer any laws which she
recognized. Nothing was sacred; nothing was settled. She had to evolve
from her own heart and brain her own law of life. What wonder if she
made some sad mistakes? Nay, is it not rather a theme for wonder and
admiration that she did somehow come right at last? I know of no one who
seems to me to have been open at once to the temptations of woman's
nature and man's nature except this George Sand. Her soul, her brain,
her style may be described, from one point of view, as exuberantly and
splendidly feminine; yet no other woman has ever shown the same power of
understanding and entering into the nature of a man. If Balzac is the
only man who has ever thoroughly mastered the mysteries of a woman's
heart, George Sand is the only woman, so far as I know, who has ever
shown that she could feel as a man can feel. I have read stray passages
in her novels which I would confidently submit to the criticism of any
intelligent men unacquainted with the text, convinced that they would
declare that only a man could have thus analyzed the emotions of
manhood. I have in my mind just now especially a passage in the novel
"Piccinino" which, were the authorship unknown, would, I am satisfied,
secure the decision of a jury of literary experts that the author must
be a man. Now this gift of entire appreciation of the feelings of a
different sex or race is, I take it, one of the rarest and highest
dramatic qualities. Especially is it difficult for a woman, as our
social life goes, to enter into the feelings of a man. While men and
women alike admit the accuracy of certain pictures of women drawn by
such artists as Cervantes, Molière, Balzac, and Thackeray, there are few
women--indeed, perhaps there are no women but one--by whom a man has
been so painted as to challenge and compel the recognition and
acknowledgment of men. In THE GALAXY some months ago I wrote of a great
Englishwoman, the authoress of "Romola," and I expressed my conviction
that on the whole she is entitled to higher rank as a novelist than even
the authoress of "Consuelo." Many, very many men and women, for whose
judgment I have the highest respect, differed from me in this opinion. I
still hold it, nevertheless; but I freely admit that George Eliot has
nothing like the dramatic insight which enables George Sand to enter
into the feelings and the experiences of a man. I go so far as to say
that, having some knowledge of the literature of fiction in most
countries, I am not aware of the existence of any woman but this one who
could draw a real, living, struggling, passion-tortured man. All other
novelists of George Sand's sex--even including Charlotte Brontë--draw
only what I may call "women's men." If ever the two natures could be
united in one form, if ever a single human being could have the soul of
man and the soul of woman at once, George Sand might be described as
that physical and psychological phenomenon. Now the point to which I
wish to direct attention is the peculiarity of the temptation to which a
nature such as this was necessarily exposed at every turn when, free of
all restraint and a rebel against all conventionality, it confronted the
world and the world's law, and stood up, itself alone, against the
domination of custom and the majesty of tradition. I claim, then, that
when we have taken all these considerations into account, we are bound
to admit that Aurora Dudevant deserves the generous recognition of the
world for the use which she made of her splendid gifts. Her influence on
French literature has been on the whole a purifying and strengthening
power. The cynicism, the recklessness, the wanton, licentious disregard
of any manner of principle, the debasing parade of disbelief in any
higher purpose or nobler restraint, which are the shame and curse of
modern French fiction, find no sanction in the pages of George Sand. I
remember no passage in her works which gives the slightest encouragement
to the "nothing new, and nothing true, and it don't signify" code of
ethics which has been so much in fashion of late years. I find nothing
in George Sand which does not do homage to the existence of a principle
and a law in everything. This daring woman, who broke with society so
early and so conspicuously, has always insisted, through every
illustration, character, and catastrophe in her books, that the one only
reality, the one only thing that can endure, is the rule of right and of
virtue. Nor has she ever, that I can recollect, fallen into the
enfeebling and sentimental theory so commonly expressed in the works of
Victor Hugo, that the vague abstraction society is always to bear the
blame of the faults committed by the individual man or woman. Of all
persons in the world Aurora Dudevant might be supposed most likely to
adopt this easy and complacent theory as her guiding principle. She had
every excuse, every reason for endeavoring to preach up the doctrine
that our errors are society's and our virtues our own. But I am not
aware that she ever taught any lesson save the lesson that men and women
must endeavor to be heroes and heroines for themselves, heroes and
heroines though all the world else were craven and weak and selfish and
unprincipled. Even that wretched and lamentable "Elle et Lui" affair,
utterly inexcusable as it is when we read between the lines its secret
history, has at least the merit of being an earnest and powerful protest
against the egotistical and debasing indulgence of moral weaknesses and
eccentricities which mean and vulgar minds are apt to regard as the
privilege of genius. "Stand upon your own ground; be your own ruler;
look to yourself, not to your stars, for your failure or success; always
make your standard a lofty ideal, and try persistently to reach it,
though all the temptations of earth and all the power of darkness strive
against you"--this and nothing else, if I have read her books rightly,
is the moral taught by George Sand. She may be wrong in her principle
sometimes, but at least she always has a principle. She has a profound
and generous faith in the possibilities of human nature; in the capacity
of man's heart for purity, self-sacrifice, and self-redemption. Indeed,
so far is she from holding counsel with wilful weakness or sin, that I
think she sometimes falls into the noble error of painting her heroes as
too glorious in their triumph over temptation, in their subjugation of
every passion and interest to the dictates of duty and of honor. Take,
for instance, that extraordinary book which has just been given to the
American public in Miss Virginia Vaughan's excellent translation,
"Mauprat." If I understand that magnificent romance at all, its purport
is to prove that no human nature is ever plunged into temptation beyond
its own strength to resist, provided that it really wills resistance;
that no character is irretrievable, no error inexpiable, where there is
sincere resolve to expiate and longing desire to retrieve. Take again
that exquisite little story, "La Dernière Aldini"; I do not know where
one could find a finer illustration of the entire sacrifice of man's
natural impulse, passion, interest, to what might almost be called an
abstract idea of honor and principle. I have never read this little
story without wondering how many men one ever has known who, placed in
the same situation as that of Nello, the hero, would have done the same
thing; and yet so simply and naturally are the characters wrought out
and the incidents described, that the idea of pompous, dramatic
self-sacrifice never enters the mind of the reader, and it seems to him
that Nello could not do otherwise than as he is doing. I speak of these
two stories particularly, because in both of them there is a good deal
of the world and the flesh; that is, both are stories of strong human
passion and temptation. Many of George Sand's novels, the shorter ones
especially, are as absolutely pure in moral tone, as entirely free from
even a taint or suggestion of impurity, as they are perfect in style.
Now, if we cannot help knowing that much of this great woman's life was
far from being irreproachable, are we not bound to give her all the
fuller credit because her genius at least kept so far the whiteness of
its soul? Revolutions are not to be made with rose water; you cannot
have omelettes without breaking of eggs. I am afraid that great social
revolutionists are not often creatures of the most pure and perfect
nature. It is not to patient Griselda you must look for any protest
against even the uttermost tyranny of social conventions. One thing I
think may at least be admitted as part of George Sand's
vindication--that the marriage system in France is the most debased and
debasing institution existing in civilized society, now that the buying
and selling of slaves has ceased to be a tolerated system. I hold that
the most ardent advocates of the irrevocable endurance of the marriage
bond are bound by their very principles to admit that in protesting
against the so-called marriage system of France George Sand stood on the
side of purity and right. Assuredly she often went into extravagances in
the other direction. It seems to be the fate of all French reformers to
rush suddenly to extremes; and we must remember that George Sand was not
a Bristol Quakeress or a Boston transcendentalist, but a passionate
Frenchwoman, the descendant of one of the maddest votaries of love and
war who ever stormed across the stage of European history.

Regarding George Sand then as an influence in literature and on society,
I claim for her at least four great and special merits. First, she
insisted on calling public attention to the true principle of marriage;
that is to say, she put the question as it had not been put before. Of
course, the fundamental principle she would have enforced is always
being urged more or less feebly, more or less sincerely; but she made it
her own question, and illuminated it by the fervid, fierce rays of her
genius and her passion. Secondly, her works are an exposition of the
tremendous reality of the feelings which people who call themselves
practical are apt to regard with indifference or contempt as mere
sentiments. In the long run the passions decide the life-question one
way or the other. They are the tide which, as you know or do not know
how to use it, will either turn your mill and float your boat, or drown
your fields and sweep away your dwellings. Life and society receive no
impulse and no direction from the influences out of which the novels of
Dickens or even of Thackeray are made up. These are but pleasant or
tender toying with the playthings and puppets of existence. George Sand
constrains us to look at the realities through the medium of her
fiction. Thirdly, she insists that man can and shall make his own
career; not whine to the stars and rail out against the powers above,
when he has weakly or wantonly marred his own destiny. Fourthly--and
this ought not to be considered her least service to the literature of
her country--she has tried to teach people to look at nature with their
own eyes, and to invite the true love of her to flow into their hearts.
The great service which Ruskin, with all his eccentricities and
extravagances, has rendered to English-speaking peoples by teaching them
to use their own eyes when they look at clouds, and waters, and grasses,
and hills, George Sand has rendered to France.

I hold that these are virtues and services which ought to outweigh even
very grave personal and artistic errors. We often hear that this or that
great poet or romancist has painted men as they are; this other as they
ought to be. I think George Sand paints men as they are, and also not
merely as they ought to be, but as they can be. The sum of the lesson
taught by her books is one of confidence in man's possibilities, and
hope in his steady progress. At the same time she is entirely practical
in her faith and her aspirations. She never expects that the trees are
to grow up into the heavens, that men and women are to be other than men
and women. She does not want them to be other; she finds the springs and
sources of their social regeneration in the fact that they are just what
they are, to begin with. I am afraid some of the ladies who seem to base
their scheme of woman's emancipation and equality on the assumption
that, by some development of time or process of schooling, a condition
of things is to be brought about where difference of sex is no longer to
be a disturbing power, will find small comfort or encouragement in the
writings of George Sand. She deals in realities altogether; the
realities of life, even when they are such as to shallow minds may seem
mere sentiments and ecstasies; the realities of society, of suffering,
of passion, of inanimate nature. There is in her nothing unmeaning,
nothing untrue; there is in her much error, doubtless, but no sham.

I believe George Sand is growing into a quiet and beautiful old age.
After a life of storm and stress, a life which, metaphorically at least,
was "worn by war and passion," her closing years seem likely to be
gilded with the calm glory of an autumnal sunset. One is glad to think
of her thus happy and peaceful, accepting so tranquilly the reality of
old age, still laboring with her unwearied pen, still delighting in
books, and landscapes, and friends, and work. The world can well afford
to forget as soon as possible her literary and other errors. Of the vast
mass of romances, stories, plays, sketches, criticisms, pamphlets,
political articles, even, it is said, ministerial manifestoes of
republican days, which she poured out, only a few comparatively will
perhaps be always treasured by posterity; but these will be enough to
secure her a classic place. And she will not be remembered by her
writings alone. Hers is probably the most powerful individuality
displayed by any modern Frenchwoman. The influence of Madame Roland was
but a glittering unreality, that of Madame de Staël only a boudoir and
coterie success, when compared with the power exercised over literature,
human feeling, and social law, by the energy, the courage, the genius,
even the very errors and extravagances of George Sand.


Ten years ago an important political question was agitating the English
House of Commons and the English public. It was the old question of
Parliamentary Reform in a new shape. Thirty years before Lord John
Russell had pleaded the right of the middle classes to have a voice in
the election of their Parliamentary representatives; this time he was
asserting a similar right for the working population. Then he had to
contend against the opposition of the aristocracy only; this time he had
to fight against the combined antagonism of the aristocracy and the
middle classes, the latter having made common cause with their old
enemies to preserve a monopoly of their new privileges. The debate in
the House of Commons on the proposed Reform Bill of 1860 was long and
bitter. When it was reaching its height, a speaker arose on the Tory
side of the House whose appearance on the scene of the debate lent a new
and piquant interest to the night's discussion. He sat on the front
bench of the Opposition, quite near to Disraeli himself. The moment he
rose, every head craned forward to see him; the moment he began to
speak, every ear was strained with keen curiosity to hear him. The ears
were for a while sorely tried and perplexed. What was he saying--nay,
what language was he speaking? What extraordinary, indescribable sounds
were those which were heard issuing from his lips? Were they articulate
sounds at all? For some minutes certainly those who like myself had
never heard the speaker before were utterly bewildered. We could only
hear what seemed to us an incoherent, inarticulate guttural jabber, like
the efforts at speech of somebody with a mutilated tongue or excided
palate. Anything like it I never heard before or since; for no
subsequent listening to the same speaker ever produced nearly the same
impression: either he had greatly improved in elocution, or his listener
had grown used to him. But the night of this famous speech, nothing
could have exceeded the extraordinary nature of the sensations produced
on those who heard the orator for the first time. After a while we began
to detect articulate sounds; then we guessed at and recognized words;
then whole sentences began to shape themselves out of the guttural fag;
and at last we grew to understand that, with an elocution the most
defective and abominable ever possessed by mortal orator, this Tory
speaker was really delivering a speech of astonishing brilliancy,
ingenuity, and power. The sentences had a magnificent, almost majestic
rotundity, energy, and power; they reminded one of something cut out of
solid and glittering marble, at once so dazzling and so impressive. The
speech was from first to last an aristocratic argument against the
fitness of the working man to be anything but a political serf. In the
true fashion of the aristocrat, the speaker was for patronizing the
working man in every possible way; behaving to him as a kind and
friendly master; seeing that he had a decent home to live in and coals
and blankets in winter; but all the time insisting that the ruin of
England must follow any successful attempt to place political power in
the hands of "poverty and passion." The speech overflowed with
illustration, ingenious analogy, felicitous quotation, brilliant
epigram, and political paradoxes that were made to sound wondrously like
maxims of wisdom. Despite all its hideous defects of delivery, this
speech was, beyond the most distant comparison, the finest delivered on
the Tory side during the whole of that long and memorable debate. For a
time one was almost cheated into the belief that that elaborate and
splendid diction, now so stately and now so sparkling, was genuine
eloquence. Yet to the last the listener was frequently baffled by some
uncouth, semi-articulate, hardly intelligible sound. "What on earth does
he mean," asked a puzzled and indeed agonized reporter of some laboring
brother, "by talking so often about the political authority of Joe
Miller?" Careful inquiry elicited the fact that the name of the
political authority to which the orator had been alluding was John Mill.
Fortunately for his readers and his fame, the speaker had taken good
care to write out his oration and send the manuscript to the newspapers.

Now this inarticulate orator, this Demosthenes without the
pebble-training, was, as my readers have already guessed, Edward
Bulwer-Lytton, then a baronet and a member of the House of Commons, now
a peer. Undoubtedly he succeeded, by this and one or two other speeches,
in securing for himself a place among the few great Parliamentary
debaters of the day. Despite of physical defects which would have
discouraged almost any other man from entering into public life at all,
he had succeeded in winning a reputation as a great speaker in a debate
where Palmerston, Gladstone, Bright, and Disraeli were champions. So
deaf that he could not hear the arguments of his opponents, so defective
in utterance as to become often almost unintelligible, he actually made
the House of Commons doubt for a while whether a new great orator had
not come among them. It was not great oratory after all; it was not true
oratory of any kind; but it was a splendid imitation of the real
thing--the finest electroplate anywhere to be found. "If it is not Bran,
it is Bran's brother," says a Scottish proverb. If this speech of
Bulwer-Lytton's was not true oratory, it was oratory's illegitimate

Nearly a whole generation before the winning of that late success,
Bulwer-Lytton had tried the House of Commons, and miserably, ludicrously
failed. The young Tory members who vociferously cheered his great
anti-reform speech of 1860, were in their cradles when Bulwer-Lytton
first addressed the House of Commons, and having signally failed
withdrew, as people supposed, altogether from Parliamentary life. His
failure was even more complete than that of his friend Disraeli, and he
took the failure more to heart. Rumor affirms that the first serious
quarrel between Bulwer and his wife arose out of her vexation and
disappointment at his break-down, and the bitter, provoking taunts with
which she gave vent to her anger. I know no other instance of a
rhetorical triumph so long delayed, and at length so completely
effected. Nor can one learn that it was by any intervening practice or
training that Bulwer in his declining years atoned for the failure of
his youth. He was never that I know of a public speaker; he won his
Parliamentary success in defiance of Charles James Fox's famous axiom,
that a speaker can only improve himself at the expense of his audiences.
Between his failure and his triumph Bulwer-Lytton may be said to have
had no political audience.

A statesman Bulwer-Lytton never became, although he held high office in
a Tory Cabinet. He did little or nothing to distinguish himself, unless
there be distinction in writing some high-flown, eloquent despatches,
such as Ernest Maltravers might have penned, to the discontented
islanders of Ionia; and it was he, if I remember rightly, who thought of
sending out "Gladstone the Philhellene" on that mission of futile
conciliation which only misled the Ionians and amused England. It always
seemed to me that in his political career Bulwer acted just as one of
the heroes of his own romances might have done. Having suffered defeat
and humiliation, he vowed a vow to wrest from Fate a victory upon the
very spot which had seen his discomfiture; and he kept his word, won his
victory, and then calmly quitted the field forever. A more prosaic
explanation might perhaps be found in the fact that weak physical health
rendered it impossible for Bulwer to encounter the severe continuous
labor which English political life exacts. But I prefer for myself the
more romantic and less commonplace explanation, and I hope my readers
will do likewise. I prefer to think of the great romancist retrieving
after thirty years of silence his Parliamentary defeat, and then, having
reconciled himself with Destiny, retiring from the scene contented, to
struggle in that arena no more. In all seriousness, there must be some
quality of greatness in the man who, after bearing such a defeat for so
many years, can struggle with Fate again, and accomplish so conspicuous
a success.

Now this is in fact one grand explanation of Bulwer-Lytton's rank in
English literature. He has the self-reliance, the patience, the courage
so rare among literary men, by which one is enabled to extract their
full and utter value from whatsoever intellectual endowments he may
possess. Bulwer-Lytton alone among all famous English authors of our
days has apparently done all that he could possibly do--obtained from
his faculties their entire tribute. Readers of the letters of poor
Charlotte Brontë may remember the impatience with which she occasionally
complained that her idol Thackeray would not put forth his whole
strength. No such fault could possibly be found with Bulwer-Lytton.
Sooner or later he always put forth his whole strength. He had many
failures, but, as in the case of his political discomfiture, he had
always the art of learning from failure the way how to succeed, and
accordingly succeeding. When he wrote his wretched "Sea Captain," the
critics all told him he could not produce a successful drama. Bulwer
thought he could. He thought the very failure of that attempt would show
him how to succeed another time. He was determined not to give in until
he had satisfied himself as to his fitness, one way or the other, and so
he persevered. Now observe the character of the man, and see how much
superior he himself is to his works, and how much of their success the
works owe to the man's peculiar temper. We all know what authors usually
are, and how they receive criticism. In ordinary cases, when the critics
declare some piece of work a failure, the author either is crushed for
the time by the fiat, or he insists that the critics are idiots, hired
assassins, personal enemies, and so forth; he defiantly adheres to his
own notions and his own method--and he probably fails. Bulwer-Lytton
looked at the matter in quite a different light. He said, apparently, to
himself: "The critics only know what I have done; I know what I can do.
From their point of view they are quite right--this thing is a failure.
But I know that it is a failure only because I went to work the wrong
way. I _can_ do something infinitely better. Their experience and their
comments have given me some valuable hints; I will forthwith go to work
on a better principle." So Bulwer-Lytton wrote "Richelieu," "Money," and
the "Lady of Lyons"--the last probably the most successful acting drama
produced in England since the days of Shakespeare, and the first hardly
below it in stage success. Of course I am not claiming for either of
these plays a high and genuine dramatic value. They probably bear the
same resemblance to the true drama that their author's Parliamentary
speech-making does to true eloquence. But of their popularity and their
transcendent technical success there cannot be the slightest doubt.
Bulwer-Lytton proved to his critics that he could do better than any
other living man the very thing they said he could never do--write a
play that should conquer the public and hold the stage. So to those who
affirmed that, whatever else he might do, he never could be a
Parliamentary speaker, he replied by standing up when approaching the
very brink of old age, and delivering speeches which won the willing and
generous applause of Disraeli, and extorted the reluctant but manly and
frank recognition of such an opponent as John Bright.

Bulwer-Lytton once insisted, in an address delivered to some English
literary institution, that the word "versatile" is generally used
wrongly when we speak of men who do a great many things well; that it is
a comprehensive, not merely a versatile mind, each of these men has; not
a knack of adroitly turning himself to many heterogeneous labors, but a
capacity so wide that it unfolds quite naturally many fields of labor.
In this sense Bulwer-Lytton has undoubtedly a more comprehensive mind
than any of his English contemporaries. He has written the most
successful dramas and some of the most successful novels of his day; and
he has so varied the method of his novel-writing that he may be said to
have at least three distinct and separate principles of construction.
Some of his poetic translations seem to me almost absolutely the best
done in England of late years; many of his essays approach a true
literary value, while all or nearly all of them are attractive reading;
his satire, "The New Timon," is the only thing of the kind which is
likely to outlive his age; and his political speeches are what I have
already described. Now, to estimate the personal value of these
successes, let us not fail to remember that their author never was
placed in a condition to make literary or other labor a necessity, and
that for nearly a whole generation he has been in the enjoyment of
actual wealth; that in England literature adds little or no social
distinction to a man of Bulwer-Lytton's rank; and that during a
considerable portion of his life the author of "The Caxtons" and "My
Novel" has been tortured by almost incessant ill-health. Almost
everything that could tend to make a man shun continuous and patient
labor (opulence and ill-health would be quite enough to make most of us
shun it) combined to render Bulwer-Lytton an idle or at least an
indolent man. Yet almost all the literary success he attained was due to
a patient toil which would have wearied out a penny-a-liner, and a
laborious self-study and self-culture which might have overtaxed the
nerves of a Königsberg professor. "Easy writing is cursed hard reading,"
is a maxim which Bulwer-Lytton fully understood, and of which he showed
his appreciation in his personal practice.

Bulwer-Lytton was born on the fringe of the aristocratic region. He can
hardly be said to belong to the genuine aristocracy, although of late,
thanks to his political opinions and his peerage, he has come to be
ranked among aristocrats. He is the brother of a distinguished
diplomatist, Sir Henry Bulwer, and the father of a somewhat promising
diplomatist, not quite unknown to Washington people, Robert Lytton,
"Owen Meredith." Bulwer-Lytton had advanced tolerably far upon his
career when he inherited through his mother a magnificent estate, which
enabled him to set up for an aristocrat. His baronetcy had been
conferred upon him by the Crown, as his peerage lately was. He started
in political life, like Mr. Disraeli, as a Liberal; indeed, it was, if I
am not greatly mistaken, on the introduction of Bulwer-Lytton that
Disraeli obtained the early patronage of Daniel O'Connell, which he so
soon forfeited by the political tergiversation that drew down from the
great Agitator the famous outburst of fierce and savage scorn wherein,
alluding to Disraeli's boasted Jewish origin, he proclaimed him
evidently descended in a right line from the blasphemous thief who died
impenitent on the cross. Disraeli's apostasy was sudden and glaring, and
he kept the field. Bulwer-Lytton soon faded out of politics altogether
for nearly thirty years, and when he reappeared in the House of Commons
and wore the garb of a Tory, his old friend and political patron
O'Connell had long become a mere tradition. Nearly all of those who
listened with curiosity to Bulwer-Lytton's speeches in 1859 and 1860,
were curious only to hear how a great romancist and dramatist would
acquit himself in a part which, so far as they were concerned, was
entirely a new appearance. They had no personal memory of his former
efforts; no recollection of the time when the young author of the
sparkling, piquant, and successful "Pelham" endeavored to take London by
storm as a political orator, and failed in the enterprise.

In one peculiarity, at least, Bulwer-Lytton the novelist surpassed all
his rivals and contemporaries. His range was so wide as to take in all
circles and classes of English readers. He wrote fashionable novels,
historical novels, political novels, metaphysical novels, psychological
novels, moral-purpose novels, immoral purpose novels. "Wilhelm Meister"
was not too heavy nor "Tristram Shandy" too light for him. He tried to
rival Scott in the historical romance; he strove hard to be another
Goethe in his "Ernest Maltravers"; he quite surpassed Ainsworth's "Jack
Sheppard," and the general run of what we in England call "thieves'
literature," in his "Paul Clifford"; he became a sort of pinchbeck
Sterne in "The Caxtons," and was severely classical in "The Last Days of
Pompeii." One might divide his novels into at least half a dozen
classes, each class quite distinct and different from all the rest, and
yet the one author, the one Bulwer-Lytton, showing and shining through
them all. Bulwer is always there. He is masquerading now in the garb of
a mediæval baron, and now in that of an old Roman dandy; anon he is
disguised as a thief from St. Giles's, and again as a full-blooded
aristocrat from the region of St. James's. But he is the same man
always, and you can hardly fail to recognize him even in his cleverest
disguise. It may be questioned whether there is one spark of true and
original genius in Bulwer. Certain ideas commonly floating about in this
or that year he collects and brings to a focus, and by their aid he
burns a distinct impression into the public mind. Just as he expressed
the thin and spurious classicism of one period in his Pompeian romance,
so he made copy out of the pseudoscience and bastard psychology of a
later day in his "Strange Story." Never was there in literature a more
masterly and wonderful mechanic. Many-sided he never was, although
probably the fame of many-sidedness (if one may use so ungraceful an
expression) is the renown which he specially coveted and most
strenuously strove to win. Only genius can be many-sided, and
Bulwer-Lytton's marvellous capability never can be confounded with
genius. The nearest approach to genius in all his works may be found in
their occasional outbursts and flashes of audacious, preposterous
absurdity. The power which could palm off such outrageous nonsense as in
some instances he has done on two or three generations of novel-readers,
which could compel the public to swallow it and delight in it, despite
all that the satire of a Thackeray or a Jerrold could do, must surely,
one would almost say, have had something in it savoring of a sort of
genius. For there are in some even of the very best and purest of
Bulwer's novels whole scenes and characters which it seems almost
utterly impossible that any reader whatever could follow without
laughter. I protest that I think the author of "Ernest Maltravers" owed
much of his success to the daring which assumed that anything might be
imposed on the public, and to the absence of that sense of the ludicrous
which might have made a man of a different stamp laugh at his own
nonsense. I assume that Bulwer wrote in perfect faith and seriousness,
honestly believing them to be fine, the most ridiculous, bombastic,
fantastic passages in all his novels. I take it for granted that Mr.
Morris's sad hero, "The Man who never Laughed Again," must have been
frivolity itself when compared with Bulwer-Lytton at work upon a novel.
The sensitive distrust of one's own capacity, the high-minded doubt of
the value of one's own works, which is probably the companion, the
Mentor, the tormentor often, and not unfrequently the conqueror and
destroyer of true genius, never seems to have vexed the author of
"Eugene Aram" and "Godolphin." Bulwer-Lytton won a great name partly
because he was not a man of genius. The kind of thing he tried to do
could not have been done truly and successfully, in the high artistic
sense, by any one with a capacity below that of a Shakespeare, or at
least a Goethe. A man of genius, but inferior genius, would have made a
wretched failure of it. Between the two stools of popularity and art, of
time and eternity, he must have fallen to the ground. But where genius
might fail to achieve a splendid success, talent and audacity might turn
out a magnificent sham. This is the sort of success, this and none
other, which I believe Bulwer-Lytton to have achieved. He is the finest
_faiseur_ in the literature of to-day. His wax-work gallery surpasses
Madame Tussaud's; or rather his sham art is as much superior to that of
a James or an Ainsworth as Madame Tussaud's gallery is to Mrs. Jarley's
show. That sort of sentiment which lies somewhere down in the heart of
every one, however commonplace, or busy, or cynical--the sentiment which
is represented by the applause of the galleries in a popular theatre,
and which cultivated audiences are usually ashamed to acknowledge--was
the feeling which Bulwer-Lytton could always reach and draw forth. He
had so much at least of the true artistic instinct as to recognize that
the strongest element of popularity is the sentimental; and he knew that
out of ten persons who openly laugh at such a thing, nine are secretly
touched by it. Bulwer-Lytton found much of his stock and capital in the
human emotions which sympathize with youthful ambition and youthful
love, just as Dickens makes perpetual play with the feelings which are
touched by the death of children. When Claude Melnotte, transfigured
into the splendid Colonel Morier, rushes forward just at the critical
moment, outbids yon sordid huckster for his priceless jewel Pauline,
flings down the purse containing double the needful sum, declares that
he has bought every coin of it in the cause of nations with a
Frenchman's blood, and sweeps away his ransomed bride amid the thunder
of the galleries, of course we all know that sort of thing is not
poetry, or high art, or anything but splendiferous rubbish. Yet it does
touch most of us somehow. I know I always feel divided between laughter
and enthusiastic sympathy even still, when I see it for the hundred and
fiftieth time or so. In the same way, when Paul Clifford charges on
society the crimes of his outlaw career; when Rienzi vows vengeance for
his brother's blood; when Zanoni resigns his immortal youth that "the
flower at his feet may a little longer drink the dew"; when Ernest
Maltravers silently laments amid all his splendor of success the obscure
Arcadia of his boyish love, we can all see at a glance how bombastic,
gaudy, melodramatic, is the style in which the author works out his
ideas; how utterly unlike the simple, strong majesty of true art the
whole thing is; but yet we must acknowledge that the author understands
thoroughly how to touch a certain vein of what may be called elementary
emotion, common almost to all minds, which it is the object of society
to repress or suppress, and the object of the popular artist to stir up
into activity. Preach, advise, remonstrate, demonstrate as you will, the
majority of us will always feel inclined to give alms to beggar-women
and whining little children in the snowy streets. We know we are doing
unwisely, and perhaps even wrongly; we know that the misery which
touches us is probably a trumped-up and sham misery; we know that
whatever we give to the undeserving and the insincere is practically
withdrawn from the deserving and the sincere; we are ashamed to be seen
giving the money, and yet we do give it whenever we can. Because, after
all, our common emotion of sympathy with the more obvious, intelligible,
and I would almost say vulgar forms of human suffering, are far too
strong for our moderating maxims and our more refined mental conditions.
So of the sympathies which heroes and heroines, aspirations and agonies
of the style of Bulwer-Lytton awaken in us. Virtue cannot so inoculate
our old stock but we shall relish it; and is not he something of an
artist who recognizes this great fact in human nature, and plays upon
that vibrating, imperishable chord, and compels it to give him back such
an applauding echo? After all, I think there is just as much of sham and
of Madame Tussaud, and of the beggar-child in the snow, about Paul
Dombey's deathbed and Little Dorrit's filial devotion, as about the mock
heroics of Claude Melnotte or the domestic virtues of the Caxtons. Of
course I am not comparing Bulwer-Lytton with Dickens. The latter was a
man of genius, and one of the greatest humorists known at least to
modern literature. But nearly all the pathetic side of Dickens seems to
me of much the same origin as the heroic side of Bulwer-Lytton, and I
question whether the greater part of the popularity won by the author of
"Bleak House" has not been gained by a mastery of the very same kind of
art as that which sets galleries applauding for Claude Melnotte, and
young women in tears for Eugene Aram.

There are, moreover, two points of superiority in artistic purpose which
may be claimed for Bulwer-Lytton over either Dickens or Thackeray. They
do not, perhaps, "amount to much" in any case; but they are worth
mentioning. Bulwer-Lytton has more than once drawn to the best of his
power a gentleman, and he has often drawn, or tried to draw, a man
possessed by some great, impersonal, unselfish object in life. The
former of these personages Dickens never seemed to have known or
believed in; the latter, Thackeray never even attempted to paint. Why
has Dickens never drawn a gentleman? I am not using the word in the
artificial, conventional, snobbish sense. I mean by a gentleman a
creature with intellect as well as heart, with refined and cultivated
tastes, with something of personal dignity about him. I do not care from
what origin he may have sprung, or to what class he may have belonged:
there is no reason, even in England, why a man born in a garret might
not acquire all the ways, and thoughts, and refinements of a gentleman.
Among the class to which most of Dickens's heroes are represented as
belonging, have we not all in England known gentlemen of intellect and
culture? Yet Dickens has never painted such a being. Nicholas Nickleby
is a plucky, honest, good-hearted blockhead; Tom Pinch is a benevolent
idiot; Eugene Wrayburn is a low-bred, impertinent snob--a mere "cad," as
Londoners would say. I have had no sympathy with the "Saturday Review"
in its perpetual accusations of vulgarity against Dickens; and I think a
recent English critic was pleasantly and purposely extravagant when he
charged the author of the "Christmas Carol" with having no loftier idea
of human happiness than the eating of plum pudding and kissing girls
under the mistletoe. But I do say that Dickens never drew a cultivated
English gentleman or lady--a cultivated and refined English man or
woman, if you will; and yet I know that there are such personages to be
found without troublesome quest among the very classes of society which
he was always describing.

Now Thackeray could draw and has drawn English gentlemen and
gentlewomen; but has he ever drawn a high-minded, self-forgetting man or
woman devoted to some, to any, great object, or cause, or purpose of
any kind in life--absorbed by it and faithful to it? Is it true that
even in London society men are wholly given up to dining, and paying
visits, and making and spending money? Is it true that all men, even in
London society, pass their lives in a purposeless, drifting way, making
good resolves and not carrying them out; doing good things now and then
out of easy, generous impulse; loving lightly, and recovering from love
quickly? Are there in London society, on the one hand, no passions; on
the other hand, no simple, strong, consistent, unselfish, high-minded
lives? Assuredly there are; but Thackeray, the greatest painter of
English society England has ever had, chose, for some reason or another,
to ignore them. Only when he comes to speak of artists, more especially
of painters, does he ever hint that he is aware of the existence of men
whose lives are consistent, steadfast, and unselfish. Surely this is a
great omission. One does not care to drag into this discussion the names
of living illustrations; but I should like to have pointed Thackeray's
attention to this and that and the other man whom, to my certain
knowledge, he knew and warmly, fully appreciated, and asked him, "Why,
when you were painting with such incomparable fidelity such
illustrations of English life as you chose to select, did you not think
fit to picture such a simple, strong, consistent, magnanimous,
self-forgetting, self-devoting nature as that, or that, or that?"--and
so on, through many examples which I or anybody could have named. I
suppose the honest answer would have been, "I cannot draw that kind of
character; I cannot quite enter into its experiences and make it look
life-like as I see it; it is not in my line, and I prefer not to attempt
it." Now, I think it to the credit of Bulwer-Lytton, as a mere artist,
that he did include such figures even in his wax-work gallery. He could
not make them look like life; but he showed at least that he was aware
of their existence, and that he did his best to teach the world to
recognize them.

Thus then, using with inexhaustible energy and perseverance his
wonderful gifts as an intellectual mechanician, Edward Bulwer-Lytton
went on from 1828 to 1860 grinding out of his mill an almost unbroken
succession of novels and romances to suit all changes in public taste. I
do not believe he changed his themes and ways of treating them
purposely, to suit the changes of public taste; but rather that, being a
man of no true original and creative power, his style and his views were
modified by the modifying conditions of successive years. Some new idea,
some new way of looking at this or that question of human life came up,
and it attracted him who was always a close and diligent student of the
world and its fashions; and he made it into a romance. Whatever new
schools of fiction came into existence, Bulwer-Lytton, always directing
the new ideas into the channel where popular and elementary sympathies
flowed freely, succeeded in turning each change to advantage, and
keeping his place. Dickens sprang up and founded a school; and yet
Bulwer-Lytton held his own. Thackeray arose and established a new
school, and Bulwer-Lytton, whom no human being would have thought of
comparing with either as a man of genius, did not lose a reader.
Charlotte Brontë came like a shadow, and so departed; George Eliot gave
a new lift and life to romance; the realistic school was followed by the
sensational school; the Literature of Adultery ran its vulgar
course--and Bulwer-Lytton remained where he always had been, and moulted
no feather.

It is not likely that any true critic ever thought very highly of him,
or indeed took him quite seriously; but for many, many years criticism,
which had so scoffed and girded at him once, had only civil words and
applauding smiles for him. How Thackeray once did make savage fun of
"Bullwig," and more lately how Thackeray praised him! Charles
Dickens--what an enthusiastic admirer of the genius of his friend Lytton
he too became! And Tennyson--what a fierce passage of arms that was long
ago between Bulwer and him; and now what cordial mutual admiration!
Fonblanque and Forster, the "Athenæum" and "Punch," Tray, Blanche, and
Sweetheart--how they all welcomed in chorus each new effort of genius by
the great romancist who was once the stock butt of all lively satirists.
How did this happy change come about? Nobody ever had harder dealing at
the hands of the critics than Bulwer when his powers were really most
fresh and forcible; nobody ever had more general and genial commendation
than shone of late years around his sunny way. How was this? Did the
critics really find that they had been mistaken and own themselves
conquered by his transcendent merit? Did he "win the wise who frowned
before to smile at last"? To some extent, yes. He showed that he was not
to be written down; that no critical article could snuff him out; that
he really had some stuff in him and plenty of mettle and perseverance;
and he soon became a literary institution, an accomplished fact which
criticism could not help recognizing. But there was much more than this
operating towards Bulwer-Lytton's reconciliation with criticism. He
became a wealthy man, a man of fashion, a sort of aristocrat, with yet a
sincere love for the society of authors and artists, with a taste for
encouraging private theatricals and endowing literary institutions, and
with a splendid country house. He became a genial, golden link between
literature and society. Even Bohemia was enabled by his liberal and
courteous good-will to penetrate sometimes into the regions of
Belgravia. The critics began to fall in love with him. I do not believe
that Lord Lytton made himself thus agreeable to his literary brethren
out of any motive whatever but that of honest goodfellowship and
kindness. I have heard too many instances of his frank and brotherly
friendliness to utterly obscure writers, who could be of no sort of
service to him or to anybody, not to feel satisfied of his unselfish
good-nature and his thorough loyalty to that which ought to be the
_esprit de corps_ of the literary profession. But it is certain that he
thus converted enemies into friends, and stole the gall out of many an
inkstand, and the poison from many a penman's feathered dart. Not that
the critics simply sold their birthright of bitterness for an invitation
to dinner or the kindly smile of a literary Peer. But you cannot, I
suppose, deal very rigidly with the works of a man who is uniformly kind
to you; who brings you into a sort of society which otherwise you would
probably never have a chance of seeing; who, being himself a lord,
treats you, poor critic, as a friend and brother; and whose works,
moreover, are certain to have a great public success, no matter what you
say or leave unsaid. The temptation to look for and discover merit in
such books is strong indeed--perhaps too strong for frail critical
nature. Thus arises the great sin of English criticism. It is certainly
not venal; it is hardly ever malign. Mere ill-nature, or impatience, or
the human delight of showing one's strength, may often induce a London
critic to deal too sharply with some new and nameless author; but
although we who write books are each and all of us delighted to persuade
ourselves that any disparaging criticism must be the result of some
personal hatred, I cannot remember ever having had serious reason to
believe that a London critic had attacked a book because of his personal
ill-will to the author. The sin is quite of another kind--a tendency to
praise the books of certain authors merely because the critic knows the
men so intimately, and likes them so well, that he is at once naturally
prejudiced in their favor, and disinclined to say anything which could
hurt or injure them. Thus of late criticism has had hardly anything to
say of Lord Lytton, except in the way of praise. He is the head, and
patron, and ornament of a great London literary "Ring." I use this word
because none other could so well convey to a reader in New York a clear
idea of the friendly professional unity of the coterie I desire to
describe; but I wish it to be distinctly understood that I do not
attribute anything like venality or hired partisanship of any kind to
the literary Ring of which Lord Lytton is the sparkling gem. Of course
it has become, as such cliques always must become, somewhat of a Mutual
Admiration Society; and it is certain that a place in that brotherhood
secures a man against much disparaging criticism. There are indeed
literary cliques in London, of a somewhat lower range than this, where
the influence of personal friendships does operate in a manner that
closely borders upon a sort of literary corruption. But Lord Lytton and
his friends and admirers are not of that sort. They are friends
together, and they do admire each other, and I suppose everybody (save
one person) likes Lord Lytton now; and so it is only in the rare case of
a fresh, independent outsider, like the critic who wrote in the
"Westminster Review" some two years ago, that a really impartial, keen,
artistic survey is taken of the works of him that was "Bullwig." When
Lytton published his "Caxtons," the reviewer of the "Examiner," even up
to that time a journal of great influence and prestige, having nearly
exhausted all possible modes of panegyric, bethought himself that some
unappreciative and cynical persons might possibly think there was a lack
of originality in a work so obviously constructed after the model of
"Tristram Shandy." So he hastened to confute or convince all such
persons by pointing out that in this very fact consisted the special
claim of "The Caxtons" to absolute originality. The original genius of
Lytton was proved by his producing so excellent a copy. Don't you see?
You don't, perhaps. But then if you were intimate with Lord Lytton, and
were liked by him, and were a performer in the private theatricals at
Knebworth, his country seat, you would probably see it quite clearly,
and agree with it, every word.

There was one person indeed who had no toleration for Lord Lytton, or
for his friendly critics. That was Lord Lytton's wife. There really is
no scandal in alluding to a conjugal quarrel which was brought so
persistently under public notice by one of the parties as that between
Bulwer-Lytton and his wife. I do not know whether I ought to call it a
quarrel. Can that be called a fight, piteously asks the man in Juvenal,
where my enemy only beats and I am merely beaten? Can that be called a
quarrel in which, so far as the public could judge, the wife did all the
denunciation, and the husband made no reply? Lady Lytton wrote novels
for the purpose of satirizing her husband and his friends--his
parasites, she called them. Bulwer-Lytton she gracefully described as
having "the head of a goat on the body of a grasshopper"--a description
which has just enough of comical truthfulness in its savage ferocity to
make it specially cruel to the victim of the satire, and amusing to the
unconcerned public. Lady Lytton attributed to her husband the most
odious meannesses, vices, and cruelties; but the public, with all its
love of scandal, seems to have steadfastly refused to take her
ladyship's word for these accusations. Dickens she denounced and
vilified as a mere parasite and sycophant of her husband. At one time
she poured out a gush of fulsome eulogy on Thackeray because he
apparently was not one of Lytton's friends; afterwards, when the
relationship between "Pelham" and "Pendennis" became friendly, she
changed her tune and tried to bite the file, to satirize the great
satirist. Disraeli she caricatured under the title of "Jericho Jabber."
This sort of thing she kept always going on. Sometimes she issued
pamphlets addressed to the women of England, calling on them to take up
her quarrel--which somehow they did not seem inclined to do. Once when
Lord Lytton, then only Sir Edward, was on the hustings, addressing his
constituents at a county election, her ladyship suddenly mounted the
platform and "went for" him. Sir Edward and his friends prudently and
quietly withdrew. I do not know anything of the merits of the quarrel,
and have always been disposed to think that something like insanity must
have been the explanation of much of Lady Lytton's conduct. But it is
beyond doubt that her husband's demeanor was remarkable for its quiet,
indomitable patience and dignity. Lately the public has happily heard
little of Lady Lytton's complaints. I did not even know whether she was
still living, until I saw a little book announced the other day by some
publisher, which bore her name. Let her pass--with the one remark that
her long succession of bitter attacks upon her husband does not seem to
have done him any damage in the estimation of the world.

It is not likely that posterity will preserve much of Lord Lytton's
writings. They do not, I think, add to literature one original
character. Even the glorified murderer or robber, the Eugene Aram or
Paul Clifford sort of person, had been done and done much better by
Schiller, by Godwin, and by others, before Bulwer-Lytton tried him at
second hand. As pictures of English society, those of them which profess
to deal with modern English life have no value whatever. The historical
novels, the classical novels, are glaringly false in their color and
tone. Some of the personages in "The Last Days of Pompeii" are a good
deal more like modern English dandies than most of the people who are
given out as such in "Pelham." The attempts at political satire in "Paul
Clifford," at broad humor in "Eugene Aram" (the Corporal and his cat for
example), are feeble and miserable. There is hardly one touch of refined
and genuine pathos--of pathos drawn from other than the old stock
conventional sources--in the whole of the romances, plays, and poems.
The one great faculty which the author possessed was the capacity to
burnish up and display the absolutely commonplace, the merely
conventional, the utterly unreal, so that it looked new, original, and
real in the eyes of the ordinary public, and sometimes even succeeded,
for the hour, in deceiving the expert. Bulwer-Lytton's romance is only
the romance of the London "Family Herald" or the "New York Ledger," plus
high intellectual culture and an intimate acquaintance with the best
spheres of letters, art, and fashion. I own that I have considerable
admiration for the man who, with so small an original outfit,
accomplished so much. So successful a romancist; occasionally almost a
sort of poet; a perfect master of the art of writing plays to catch
audiences; so skilful an imitator of oratory that, despite almost
unparalleled physical defects, he once nearly persuaded the world that
his was genuine eloquence--who shall say that the capacity which can do
all this is not something to be admired? It is a clever thing to be able
to make ornaments of paste which shall pass with the world for diamonds;
mock-turtle soup which shall taste like real; wax figures which look at
first as if they were alive. Of the literary art which is akin to this,
our common literature has probably never had so great a master as Lord
Lytton. Such a man is especially the one to stand up as the appropriate
representative of literature in such an assembly as the English House of
Lords. I should be sorry to see a Browning, a Thackeray, a Carlyle, a
Tennyson, a Dickens there; but I think Lord Lytton is in his right
place--a splendid sham author in a splendid sham legislative assembly.


"The truth, friend," exclaims Mr. Arthur Pendennis, debating some
question with his comrade Warrington; "where is the truth? Show it me. I
see it on both sides. I see it in this man who worships by act of
Parliament, and is rewarded with a silk apron and five thousand a year;
in that man who, driven fatally by the remorseless logic of his creed,
gives up everything, friends, fame, dearest ties, closest vanities, the
respect of an army of churchmen, the recognized position of a leader,
and passes over, truth-impelled, to the enemy in whose ranks he is ready
to serve henceforth as a nameless private soldier; I see the truth in
that man as I do in his brother, whose logic drives him to quite a
different conclusion, and who, after having passed a life in vain
endeavors to reconcile an irreconcilable book, flings it at last down in
despair, and declares, with tearful eyes and hands up to heaven, his
revolt and recantation."

Perhaps many American readers, meeting with this passage, may have
supposed that the two brothers here described were merely typical
figures, invented almost at random by Thackeray to enable Pendennis to
point his moral. But in England people know that the two brothers are
real personages, and still live. I saw one of them a few nights ago, the
one last mentioned by Arthur Pendennis. I saw him, as he is indeed often
to be seen, the centre and leader of a little group or knot, a hopeless
minority, vainly striving by force of argument and logic, of almost
unlimited erudition, and a keen bright intellect, to obtain public
attention for something which the public persisted in regarding as an
idle crotchet, an impotent craze. The other brother, the elder, is a man
whose secession from the Church of England has lately been described by
Disraeli, in the preface to the collected edition of his works, as
having "dealt a blow to the Church under which it still reels." "That
extraordinary event," says Disraeli, "has been 'apologized for' but has
never been explained. It was a mistake and a misfortune." Probably no
reader of "The Galaxy" will now need to be told that the typical
brothers alluded to by Pendennis are John Henry and Francis W. Newman.

The Atlantic deals curiously and capriciously with reputations. Both
these brothers Newman seem to me to be less known in America than they
deserve to be. John Henry in especial I found to be thus comparatively
ignored in the United States. He is beyond doubt one of the greatest,
certainly one of the most influential Englishmen of our time. He has
engraved his name deeply on the history of his age. He has led perhaps
the most remarkable religious movement known to England for generations.
He is one of the very few men whose lofty and commanding intellect has
been acknowledged and admired by all sects and parties. Gather together
any company of eminent Englishmen, however select in its composition,
however splendid in its members, and John Henry Newman will be among the
few especially conspicuous.

Perhaps most of my readers will be of opinion that Newman's intellect
has been sadly misused; that his influence has been for the most part
disastrous. But no one who knows anything of the subject can deny the
greatness alike of the intellect and of the influence. Let me add, too,
that no enemy ever yet called into question the simple sincerity, the
blameless purity of John Henry Newman's purposes and character. Of later
years he has been rarely seen in London, for his duties keep him in
Birmingham, where he is at the head of a religious and educational
institution. I have heard that years are telling heavily on him, and
that when he now preaches he is listened to with the kind of
half-melancholy reverence which hangs on the words of a great man who is
already beginning to be a portion of the past. But his influence was a
power almost unequalled in its day, and that day has not yet wholly

The Newman brothers are Londoners by birth, sons of a wealthy banker of
Lombard street--the British Wall street. Both were educated at Ealing
school, and both went to the University of Oxford. John Henry is by some
four years the senior of Francis, who was born in 1805, and who now
looks at least a dozen or fifteen years younger than his distinguished
brother. Both men were endowed with remarkable gifts; both had a
splendid faculty of acquiring knowledge. John Henry Newman became a
clergyman of the Established Church. He was a close and intimate friend
of Keble, of Pusey, and of Manning. He grew to be regarded as one of the
rising stars of Protestantism. No name, soon, stood higher than his. His
friends loved him, and Protestant England began to revere him. Now
observe the change that came on these two brothers, alike so gifted and
earnest, alike so wooed by the promise of brilliant worldly career. Two
movements of thought, having perhaps a common origin in the
dissatisfaction with the existing intellectual stagnation of the Church,
but tending in widely different directions, carried the brothers along
with them--"seized," to use the words of Richter, "their bleeding hearts
and flung them different ways." The younger brother found himself drawn
toward rationalism. He could not subscribe the Thirty-Nine Articles for
his degree as a Master; he left Oxford. He wandered for years in the
East, endeavoring, not very successfully, to teach Christianity on its
broadest basis to the Mohammedans; and he finally returned to England to
take his place among the leaders of that school of free thought which
the ignorant, the careless, or the malignant set down as infidelity. In
the mean time his brother became one of the pioneers of a still more
unexpected movement. In the English Church for a long time every thing
had seemed to be settled and at rest. The old controversy with Rome
appeared out of date, unnecessary, and perhaps vulgar. Everything was
just as it should be--stable and respectable. But it suddenly occurred
to some earnest, unresting souls, like that of Keble--souls "without
haste and without rest," like Goethe's star--to insist that the Church
of England had higher claims and nobler duties than those of preaching
harmless sermons and enriching bishops. Keble could not bear to think of
the Church taking pleasure since all is well. He urged on some of the
more vigorous and thoughtful minds around him that they should reclaim
for the Church the place which ought to be hers as the true successor of
the Apostles. He claimed for her that she, and she alone, was the real
Catholic Church, authorized to teach all nations, and that Rome had
wandered away from the right path, foregone the glorious mission which
she might have maintained. One of Keble's closest and dearest friends
was John Henry Newman, and Keble regarded Newman as a man qualified
beyond all others to become the teacher and leader of the new movement.
Keble preached a famous sermon in 1833, and inaugurated the publication
of a series of tracts designed to vindicate the real mission of the
Church of England. This was the Tractarian movement, which had early,
various, and memorable results. John Henry Newman wrote the most
celebrated of all the tracts, the famous "No. 90," which drew down the
censure of the University authorities on the ground that it actually
tended to abolish all difference between the Church of England and the
Church of Rome. Yet a little, and the gradual workings of Newman's mind
became evident to all the world. The brightest and most penetrating
intellect in the English Protestant Church was publicly and deliberately
withdrawn from her service, and John Henry Newman became a priest of the
Church of Rome. To this had the inquiry conducted him which led his
friend Dr. Pusey merely to endeavor to incorporate some of the mysticism
and the symbols of Rome with the practice and the progress of the
English Church; which had led Dr. Keble only to a more liberal and truly
Christianlike temper of Protestant faith; which had sent Francis Newman
into radical rationalism. The two brothers were intellectually divided
forever. Each renounced a career rich in promise for mere conscience'
sake; and the one went this way, the other that.

Disraeli has in no wise exaggerated the depth and painfulness of the
sensation produced among English Protestants by the secession of John
Henry Newman. It was of course received upon the opposite side with
corresponding exultation. No man, indeed, could be less qualified than
Mr. Disraeli to understand the tremendous, the irresistible force of
conviction in a nature like that of Newman. The brilliant master of
political tactics has made it evident that he did not understand the
motive of Newman's secession any more than he did the meaning of the
title of Newman's celebrated book, "Apologia pro Vitâ suâ." "That
extraordinary event," says Disraeli, speaking of the secession, "has
been apologized for, but has never been explained." Evidently Disraeli
believed that the English word "apology" is the correct translation of
the Latinized Greek word "apologia," which it most certainly is not.
Nothing could have been further from Newman's mind or from the purpose,
or indeed from the title of his book, than to apologize for his
secession. On the contrary, the book is sharply and pertinaciously
aggressive. It was called forth by an attack made on Dr. Newman by the
Rev. Charles Kingsley. I think Kingsley was in the main right in his
views, but he was rough and blundering in his expression of them, and he
is about as well qualified to carry on a controversy with John Henry
Newman as Governor Hoffman would be to undertake a rhetorical
competition with Mr. Wendell Phillips. Kingsley's bluff, rude, illogical
way of fighting, his "wild and skipping spirit," were placed at
ludicrous and fearful disadvantage. Newman "went for him" unsparingly,
and literally tore him with the beak and claws of logic, satire, and
invective. One was reminded of Pascal's attacks on the Jesuits--only
that this time the wit and power were on the side which might fairly be
called Jesuitical. Out of this merciless onslaught on Kingsley came the
"Apologia pro Vitâ suâ," in which Newman endeavored to vindicate and
glorify, not excuse or apologize for, his strange secession. The book is
well worth reading, if only as a curious illustration of the utter
inadequacy of human intellect and human logic to secure a soul from the
strangest wandering, the saddest possible illusion. You cannot read a
page of it without admiration for the intellect of the author, and
without pity for the poverty even of the richest intellectual gifts
where guidance is sought in a faith and in things which transcend the
limits of human logic.

John Henry Newman threw his whole soul, energy, genius, and fame into
the cause of the Roman Catholic Church. Rome welcomed him with that
cordial welcome she always gives to a new-comer, and she utilized him
and set work for him to do. Macaulay has shown very effectively in one
of his essays how the Roman Church seldom loses any one it has gained,
because it is so skilful in finding for everybody his proper place, and
assigning him in her service the task he is best qualified to do, so
that her ambition becomes his ambition, her interest his interest, her
conquests his conquests. Newman appears to have been made a sort of
missionary from Rome to the intellect and culture of the English people.
Within the Church to which he had gone over he became an immense
influence and almost unequalled power. The Catholics delighted to have a
leader whose intellect no one could pretend to despise, whose gifts and
culture had been panegyrized in the most glowing terms, over and over
again, by the foremost statesmen and divines of the Protestant Church.
Newman was appointed head of the oratory of St. Philip Neri at
Birmingham, and was for some years rector of the Roman Catholic
University of Dublin. He rarely came before the public. In all the arts
that make an orator or a great preacher he is strikingly deficient. His
manner is constrained, awkward, and even ungainly; his voice is thin and
weak. His bearing is not impressive. His gaunt, emaciated figure, his
sharp, eagle face, his cold, meditative eye, rather repel than attract
those who see him for the first time. The matter of his discourse,
whether sermon, speech, or lecture, is always admirable, and the
language is concise, scholarly, expressive--perhaps a little
overweighted with thought; but there is nothing there of the orator. It
is as a writer, and as an "influence"--I don't know how better to
express it--that Newman has become famous. I doubt if we have many
better prose writers. He is full of keen, pungent, satirical humor; and
there is, on the other hand, a subtle vein of poetry and of pathos
suffusing nearly all he writes. One of the finest and one of the most
frequently quoted passages in modern English literature is Newman's
touching and noble apostrophe to England's "Saxon Bible." He has
published volumes of verse which I think belong to the very highest
order of verse-making that is not genuine poetry. They are full of
thought, feeling, pathos, tenderness, beauty of illustration; they are
all that verse can be made by one who just fails to be a poet. An
English critical review not long since classed the poetical works of Dr.
Newman and George Eliot together, as the nearest approach which
intellect and culture have made in our days toward the production of
genuine poetry. When Newman made his famous attack on Dr. Achilli, an
Italian priest who had renounced the Roman Church, and whom Newman
publicly accused of many crimes, the judge who had to sentence the
accuser to the payment of a fine for libel pronounced a panegyric on his
intellect and his character such as is rarely heard from an English
judgment seat. Not long after, when the subject came up somehow in the
House of Commons, Mr. Gladstone broke into an encomium of John Henry
Newman which might have seemed poetical by hyperbole to those who did
not know the merits of the one man and the conscientious truthfulness of
the other. We have heard the testimony borne by Mr. Disraeli to the
importance of Newman's intellect as a support of the English Church, and
the shock which was caused by his withdrawal. Seldom, indeed, has a man
seceded from one church and become the aggressive, unsparing, intolerant
champion of its enemy, and yet retained the esteem and the affection of
those whom he abandoned, as this good, great, mistaken Englishman has

The two brothers then are hopelessly divided. One consorts with the Pope
and Cardinal Wiseman and Archbishop Manning, and is the idol and saint
of the Ultramontanes, and devotes his noble intellect to the task of
making the Irish Catholic a more bigoted Catholic than ever. The other
falls in with the little band, that once seemed a forlorn hope, of what
we may call the philosophical radicals of England. He becomes a
professor of the rationalistic University of London, and a contributor
to the free-thinking "Westminster Review." Judging each brother's
success merely by what each sought to do, I suppose the career of the
Catholic has been the more successful. Not that I think he has made much
way toward the conversion of England to Catholicism. With all its
Puseyism and ritualism, England seems to have little real inclination
toward the doctrines of Rome. There is indeed a distinguished "convert"
every now and then--the Marquis of Bute some two years ago, Lord Robert
Montagu last year; but the great mass of the English people remain
obstinately anti-papal. The tendency is far more toward Rationalism than
toward Romanism; with the Newman who withdrew from all churches rather
than with the Newman who renounced one church to enter another.
Therefore, when I say that the career of John Newman appears to me to
have been more successful than that of Francis, I mean only that he has
been a greater influence, a more powerful instrument of his cause than
his brother ever has been. The boast was made unjustly for Voltaire that
he almost arrested the progress of Christianity in Europe. I think the
admirers of John Newman might claim for him that he actually did for a
time at least arrest the progress of Protestantism in England. He had
indeed the great advantage of passing from one organization to another.
Like Coriolanus, when he seceded he became the leader of the enemy's
army. It was quite otherwise with his brother, who leaving the English
Church was thenceforward only an individual, and for the most part an
isolated worker. But indeed, with all his intellect, his high culture,
and his indomitable courage, Francis Newman has never been an
influential man in English politics. It may be that his keen logic is
too uncompromising; and there can be no practical statesmanship without
compromise. It may be that there is something eccentric, egotistic (in
the less offensive sense), and crotchety in that sharp, independent, and
self-sufficing intelligence. Whatever the reason, nine out of ten men in
London set down Francis Newman as hopelessly given over to crotchets,
while the tenth man, admiring however much his character and his
capacity, is sometimes grieved and sometimes provoked that both together
do not make him a greater power in the nation. I never remember Francis
Newman to have been in accord with what I may call the average public
opinion of English political life, except in one instance; and in that
case I believe him to have been wrong. He was in favor of the Crimean
war; and for this once therefore he found himself on the side of the
majority. As if to mark the contrast of views which it has been the fate
of these two brothers to present during their lives, it so happened
that, so far as John Henry's opinions on the subject could be learned by
the public, they were against the war. At least they were decidedly
against the Turks. I remember hearing him deliver at that time a course
of lectures in an educational institution, having for their subject the
origin and the results of the Ottoman settlement in Europe. I well
remember how effectively and vividly he argued, with his thin voice and
his constrained, ungraceful action, that the Turk had no greater moral
right to the territory he occupies, but does not cultivate and improve,
than the pirate has to the sea over which he sails. But Francis Newman
was then for once mixed up with the majority; and I doubt whether he
could have much liked the unwonted position. He certainly took care to
explain more than once that his reasons for taking that side were not
those of the average Englishman. He thus might have given some of his
casual associates occasion to say of him, as Charles Mathews says of
woman in general, that even when he is right he is right in a wrong
sort of way. For myself I am inclined to reverse the saying, and declare
of Francis Newman that even when he is wrong he is wrong in a right sort
of way. He was right, and in a very right sort of way, when he came out
from his habitual seclusion during the American civil war, and stood up
on many a platform for the cause of the Union. Like his brother, he is a
poor public speaker. At his very best he is the professor talking to his
class, not the orator addressing a crowd. His manner is singularly
constrained, ineffective, and even awkward; his voice is thin and weak.
There is a certain very small and rare class of bad speakers, which has
yet a virtue and charm of its own almost equal to eloquence. I am now
thinking of men utterly wanting in all the arts and graces, in all the
power and effect of rhetorical delivery, but who yet with whatever
defect of manner can say such striking things, can put such noble
thoughts into expressive words, can be so entirely original and so
completely masters of their subject, that they seem to be orators in all
but voice and manner. Horace Greeley always is, to me at least, such a
speaker; so is Stuart Mill. These are bad speakers as Jane Eyre or
Consuelo may have been an unlovely woman; all the rules declare against
them, all the intelligences and sympathies are in their favor. But
Francis Newman is not a speaker of this kind. He is feeble, ineffective,
and often even commonplace. Nature has denied to him the faculty of
adequately expressing himself in spoken words. He is almost as much out
of his element when addressing a public meeting as he would be if he
were singing in an opera. Few Englishmen living can claim to be the
intellectual superiors of Francis Newman; but you would never know
Francis Newman by hearing him speak on a platform. The last time I heard
him address a public meeting was on an occasion to which I have already
alluded. He was presiding over an assemblage called together to protest
against compulsory vaccination. The Government and Parliament have
lately made very stringent the enactment for compulsory vaccination, in
consequence of the terrible increase of small-pox. There is in London,
as in all other great capitals, a certain knot of persons who would
refuse to wash their faces or kiss their wives if Government ordered or
even recommended either performance. Therefore there was a small
agitation got up against vaccination, and Francis Newman consented to
become the president of one of its meetings. This meeting was held in
Exeter Hall--not indeed in the vast hall where the oratorios are
performed, and where once upon a time Henry Ward Beecher pleaded the
cause of the Union; but in the "lower hall," as it is called, a little
subterranean den. Some eminent classic person, I really forget who,
being reproached with the small size of his apartments, declared that he
should be only too glad if he could fill his rooms, small as they were,
with men his friends. The organizers of this meeting might have been
content if they could have filled the hall, small as it was, with men
and women their friends. The attendance was not nearly up to the size of
the room. There on the platform sat the good, the gifted, and the
fearless Francis Newman; and immediately around him were some dozen
embodied and living crotchets and crazes. There was this learned
physician who has communication with the spirit-world regularly. There
was this other eminent person who has long been trying in vain to teach
an apathetic Government how to cure crime on phrenological principles.
There was Smith, who is opposed to all wars; Brown, who firmly believes
that every disease comes from the use of salt; Jones, who has at his own
expense put into circulation thousands of copies of his work against the
employment of medical men in puerperal cases; Robinson, who is ready to
spend his last coin for the purpose of proving that vaccination and
original sin are one and the same thing. How often, oh, how often have I
not heard those theories expounded! How often have I marvelled at the
extraordinary perversion of ingenuity by which figures, facts,
philosophy, and Scripture are jumbled up together to convince you that
the moon is made of green cheese! We just wanted on this memorable
occasion the awful persons who prove to you that the earth is flat, and
the indefatigable ladies who expound their claims to the British crown
feloniously usurped by Queen Victoria. There sat Francis Newman
presiding over this preposterous little conclave, and having of course
what seemed to him satisfactory and just reasons for the position he
occupied. He spoke rather better than usual, and there was a bewildering
bravery of paradox writhing through his speech which must have delighted
his listeners. The meeting came to nothing. The papers took hardly any
notice of it (London papers were never in my time so entirely
conventional, respectable, and Philistinish as they are just now); and
Newman's effort went wholly in vain. I have mentioned it only because it
was illustrative or typical of so much in the man's whole career. So
much of lovely independence; such a disdain of public opinion and public
ridicule; such an absence of all perception of the ridiculous! Thus it
was that he endeavored to rouse up the English public, who except for
the extreme democracy always have had a strong hankering for the
Austrian Government, to a sense of the crimes of the House of Hapsburg
against its subjects. Thus he was for reform in Parliament when
Parliamentary reform was a theme supposed to be dead and buried; when
Palmerston had trampled on its ashes, and Disraeli had made merry over
its coffin. Thus he came out for the American Union when John Bright
stood almost alone in the House of Commons, and Mill and Goldwin Smith
and two or three others were trying to organize public opinion outside
the House. The same qualities after all which made Newman nearly sublime
in these latter instances, were just those which made him well nigh
ridiculous in the anti-vaccination business. But in all the instances
alike the same thing can be said of Francis Newman. There is a turn or
twist of some kind in his nature and intellect which always seems to mar
his best efforts at practical accomplishment. Even his purely literary
and scholastic productions are marked by the same fatal characteristic.
All the outfit, all the materials are there in surprising profusion.
There is the culture, there is the intellect, the patience, the
sincerity. But the result is not in proportion to the value of the
materials. The blending is not complete, is not effectual. Something has
always intervened or been wanting. Francis Newman has never done and
probably never will do anything equal to his strength and his capacity.

I am not inviting a comparison between these two brothers, so alike in
their sincerity, their devotion, their courage, and their gifts--so
singularly unlike, so utterly divided, in their creeds and their
careers. My own sympathies, of course, naturally go with Francis Newman,
who has in a vast majority of instances been a teacher of some opinion,
a champion of some political cause of which I am proud to be a disciple
and a follower. But I suppose the greater intellect and the richer gifts
were those which were given up so meekly and wholly to the service of
the dogmatism of the Roman Catholic Church. The career of John Henry
Newman may probably be regarded as having practically closed. His latest
work of note, "The Grammar of Assent," does not indeed seem to show any
falling away of his intellectual powers; but I have heard that his
physical strength has suffered severely with years, and he never was a
strong man. He is now in his seventieth year, and it is therefore only
reasonable to regard him as one who has done his work and whose life is
fully open to the judgment of his time. May I be allowed to say that I
think he has done some good even to that English Church to which his
secession struck so heavy a blow? Newman was really the mainspring of
that movement which proposed to rescue the Church from apathy, from dull
easy-going quiescence, from the perfunctory discharge of formal duties,
and to quicken her once again with the spirit of a priesthood, to arouse
her to the living work, physical and spiritual, of an ecclesiastical
sovereignty. The impulse indeed overshot itself in his case, and was
misdirected in the case of Dr. Pusey, plunging blindly into Romanism
with the one, degenerating into a somewhat barren symbolism with the
other. But throughout the English Church in general there has been
surely a higher spirit at work since that famous Oxford movement which
was inspired by John Henry Newman. I think its influence has been more
active, more beneficent, more human, and yet at the same time more
spiritual, since that sudden and startling impulse was given. For the
man himself little more needs to be said. Every one acknowledges his
gifts and his virtues. No one doubts that in his marvellous change he
sought only the pure truth. His theology, I presume, is not that of the
readers of "The Galaxy" in general, any more than it is mine; but I
trust there is none of us so narrowed to his own form of Christianity as
to refuse his respect and admiration to one so highly lifted above the
average of men in goodness and intellect, even though his career may
have been sacrificed at the shrine of a faith that is not ours. For me,
I am sometimes lost in wonder at the sacrifice, but I can only think
with respect and even veneration of the man.

The younger brother needs no apology or vindication, in the United
States especially. He is, be it understood, a thoroughly religious man.
He has never sunk into materialism or frittered away his earnestness in
mere skepticism. He is not orthodox--he has gone his own way as regards
church dogma and discipline; but except in the vulgarest and narrowest
application of the word, he is no "infidel." The United States owe him
some good feeling, for he was one of the few eminent men in England who
never were faithless to the cause of the Union, and never doubted of its
ultimate triumph. I have now before me one of the most powerful
arguments addressed to an English audience for the Union and against
secession that reason, justice, and eloquence could frame. It is a
pamphlet published in 1863 by "F. W. Newman, late Professor at
University College, London," in the form of a "Letter to a Friend who
had joined the Southern Independence Association." How wonderful it
seems now that such arguments ever should have been needed; how few
there were then in England who regarded them; how completely time has
justified and sealed them as true, right, and prophetic. I read the
pages over, and all the old struggle comes back with its rancors and its
dangers, and I honor anew the brave man who was not afraid to stand as
one of a little group, isolated, denounced, and laughed at, confiding
always in justice and time.

The story of these two brothers is on the whole as strange a chapter as
any I know in the biography of human intellect and creed. I think it may
at least teach us a lesson of toleration, if nothing better. The very
pride of intellect itself can hardly pretend to look down with mere
scorn upon beliefs or errors which have carried off in contrary
directions these two Newmans. The sternest bigot can scarcely refuse to
admit that truthfulness and goodness may abide without the limits of his
own creed, when he remembers the high and noble example of pure, true,
and disinterested lives which these intellectually-sundered brothers
alike have given to their fellow-men.


St. James's Hall, London, is primarily a place for concerts and singers,
as Exeter Hall is. But, like its venerable predecessor, St. James's Hall
has come to be identified with political meetings of a certain class.
Exeter Hall, a huge, gaunt, unadorned, and dreary room in the Strand, is
resorted to for the most part as the arena and platform of
ultra-Protestantism. St. James's Hall, a beautiful and almost lavishly
ornate structure in Piccadilly, is commonly used by the leading Roman
Catholics of London when they desire to make a demonstration. There are
political classes which will use either place indifferently; but Exeter
Hall has usually a tinge of Protestant exclusiveness about its political
expression, while the ceiling of the other building has rung alike to
the thrilling music of John Bright's voice, to the strident vehemence of
Mr. Bradlaugh, the humdrum humming of Mr. Odger, and the clear,
delicate, tremulous intonations of Stuart Mill. But I never heard of a
Roman Catholic meeting of great importance being held anywhere in London
lately, except in St. James's Hall.

Let us attend such a meeting there. The hall is a huge oblong, with
galleries around three of the sides, and a platform bearing a splendid
organ on the fourth. The room is brilliantly lighted, and the mode of
lighting is peculiar and picturesque. The platform, the galleries, the
body of the hall alike are crowded. This is a meeting held to make a
demonstration in favor of some Roman Catholic demand--say for separate
education. On the platform are the great Catholic peers, most of them
men of lineage stretching back to years when Catholicism was yet
unsuspicious of any possible rivalry in England. There are the Norfolks,
the Denbighs, the Dormers, the Petres, the Staffords; there are such
later accessions to Catholicism as the Marquis of Bute, whose change
created such a sensation, and Lord Robert Montagu, who "went over" only
last year. There are some recent accessions of the peerage also--Lord
Acton, for instance, head of a distinguished and ancient family, but
only lately called to the Upper House, and who, when Sir John Acton, won
honorable fame as a writer and scholar. Lord Acton not many years ago
started the "Home and Foreign Review," a quarterly periodical which
endeavored to reconcile Catholicism with liberalism and science. The
universal opinion of England and of Europe declared the "Home and
Foreign Review" to be unsurpassed for ability, scholarship, and
political information by any publication in the world. It leaped at one
bound to a level with the "Edinburgh," the "Quarterly," and the "Revue
des Deux Mondes." But the Pope thought the Review too liberal, and
intimated that it ought to be suppressed; and Lord Acton meekly bowed
his head and suppressed it in all the bloom of its growing fame. Some
Irish members of Parliament are on the platform--men of station and
wealth like Munsell, men of energy and brains like John Francis Maguire;
perhaps, too, the handsome, brilliant-minded O'Donoghue, with his
picturesque pedigree and his broken fortunes. But in general there is
not a very cordial _rapprochement_ between the English Catholic peers
and the Irish Catholic members. Of all slow, cold, stately Conservatives
in the world, the slowest, coldest, and stateliest is the English
Catholic peer. Only the common bond of religion brings these two sets of
men together now and then. They meet, but do not blend. In the body of
the hall are the middle-class Catholics of London, the shopkeepers and
clerks, mostly Irish or of Irish parentage. In the galleries are
swarming the genuine Irishmen of London, the Paddies who are always
threatening to interrupt Garibaldian gatherings in the parks, and who
throw up their hats at the prospect of any "row" on behalf of the Pope.
The chair is taken by some duke or earl, who is listened to
respectfully, but without any special fervor of admiration. The English
Catholics are undemonstrative in any case, and Irish Paddy does not care
much about a chilly English peer. But a speaker is presently introduced
who has only to make his appearance in front of the platform in order to
awaken one universal burst of applause. Paddy and the Duke of Norfolk
vie with each other; the steady English shopkeeper from Islington is as
demonstrative as any O'Donoghue or Maguire. The meeting is wide awake
and informed by one spirit and soul at last.

The man who has aroused all this emotion shrinks back almost as if he
were afraid of it, although it is surely not new to him. He is a tall
thin personage, some sixty-two years of age. His face is bloodless--pale
as a ghost, one might say. He is so thin as to look almost cadaverous.
The outlines of the face are handsome and dignified. There is much of
courtly grace and refinement about the bearing and gestures of this
pale, weak, and wasted man. He wears a long robe of violet silk, with
some kind of dark cape or collar, and has a massive gold chain round his
neck, holding attached to it a great gold cross. There is a certain
nervous quivering about his eyes and lips, but otherwise he is perfectly
collected and master of the occasion. His voice is thin, but wonderfully
clear and penetrating. It is heard all through this great hall--a moment
ago so noisy, now so silent. The words fall with a slow, quiet force,
like drops of water. Whatever your opinion may be, you cannot choose but
listen; and, indeed, you want only to listen and see. For this is the
foremost man in the Catholic Church of England. This is the Cardinal
Grandison of Disraeli's "Lothair"--Dr. Henry Edward Manning, Roman
Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, successor in that office of the late
Cardinal Wiseman.

It is no wonder that the Irishmen at the meeting are enthusiastic about
Archbishop Manning. An Englishman of Englishmen, with no drop of Irish
blood in his veins, he is more Hibernian than the Hibernians themselves
in his sympathies with Ireland. A man of social position, of old family,
of the highest education and the most refined instincts, he would leave
the Catholic noblemen at any time to go down to his Irish teetotallers
at the East End of London. He firmly believes that the salvation of
England is yet to be accomplished through the influence of that
religious devotion which is at the bottom of the Irish nature, and which
some of us call superstition. He loves his own country dearly, but
turns away from her present condition of industrial prosperity to the
days before the Reformation, when yet saints trod the English soil. "In
England there has been no saint since the Reformation," he said the
other day, in sad, sweet tones, to one of wholly different opinions, who
listened with a mingling of amazement and reverence. No views that I
have ever heard put into living words embodied to anything like the same
extent the full claims and pretensions of Ultramontanism. It is quite
wonderful to sit and listen. One cannot but be impressed by the
sweetness, the thoughtfulness, the dignity, I had almost said the
sanctity of the man who thus pours forth, with a manner full of the most
tranquil conviction, opinions which proclaim all modern progress a
failure, and glorify the Roman priest or the Irish peasant as the true
herald and repository of light, liberty, and regeneration to a sinking
and degraded world.

Years ago, Henry Edward Manning was one of the brilliant lights of the
English Protestant Church. Just twenty years back he was appointed to
the high place of Archdeacon of Chichester, having also, according to
the manner in which the English State Church rewards its dignitaries,
more than one other ecclesiastical appointment at the same time. Dr.
Manning had distinguished himself highly during his career at the
University of Oxford. His father was a member of the House of Commons,
and Manning on starting into life had many friends and very bright
prospects. Nothing would have been easier, nothing seemingly would have
been more natural than for him to tread the way so plainly opened before
him, and to rise to higher and higher dignity, until at last perhaps the
princely renown of a bishopric and a seat in the House of Lords would
have been his reward. But Dr. Manning's career was cast in a time of
stress and trial for the English State Church. I have described briefly
in a former article the origin, growth, and effects of that remarkable
movement which, beginning within the Church itself and seeking to
establish loftier claims for her than she had long put forward, ended by
convulsing her in a manner more troublous than any religious crisis
which had occurred since the Reformation. Dr. Manning's is evidently a
nature which must have been specially allured by what I may be allowed
to call the supernatural claims put forward on behalf of the Church of
England. He was of course correspondingly disappointed by what he
considered the failure of those claims. As Coleridge says that every man
is born an Aristotelian or a Platonist, so it may perhaps be said that
every man is born with a predisposition to lean either on natural or
supernatural laws in the direct guidance of life. I am not now raising
any religious question whatever. What I say may be said of members of
the same sect or church--of any sect, of any church. One man, as
faithful and devout a believer as any, is yet content to go through his
daily duties and fulfil his career trusting to his religious principles,
his insight, and his reason, without requiring at every moment the light
of spiritual or supernatural guidance. Another must always have his
world in direct communion with the spiritual, or it is no world of faith
to him. Now it is impossible to look in Dr. Manning's face without
seeing that his is one of those sensitive, spiritual, I had almost said
morbid natures, which can find no endurable existence without a close
and constant communion with the supernatural. Keble, Newman, Time and
the Hour, called out for the assertion of the claim that the Church of
England was the true heir of the apostolic succession. Such a nature as
Manning's must have delightedly welcomed the claim. But the mere
investigation sent, as I have already explained, one Newman to
Catholicism and the other to Rationalism. Dr. Manning, too, felt
compelled to ask himself whether the Church could make good its claim,
and whether, if it could not, he had any longer a place within its
walls. The change does not appear to have come so rapidly to fulfilment
with him as with John Henry Newman. Dr. Manning seems to me to have a
less aggressive temperament than his distinguished predecessor in
secession. There is more about him of the quietist, of the ecstatic, so
far as religious thought is concerned, while it is possible that he may
be a more practical and influential guide in the mere policy of the
church to which he belongs. There is an amount of scorn in Newman's
nature which sometimes reminds one of Pascal, and which I have not
observed in Dr. Manning or in his writings. I cannot imagine Dr.
Manning, for example, pelting Charles Kingsley with sarcasms and
overwhelming him with contempt, as Dr. Newman evidently delighted to do
in the famous controversy which was provoked by the apostle of Muscular
Christianity. I suppose therefore that Dr. Manning clung for a long time
to the faith in which he was bred. But his whole nature is evidently
cast in the mould which makes Roman Catholic devotees. He is a man of
the type which perhaps found in Fénelon its most illustrious example. I
think it is not too much to say that to him that light of private
judgment which some of us regard as man's grandest and most peculiarly
divine attribute, must always have presented itself as something
abhorrent to his nature. I am judging, of course, as an outsider and as
one little acquainted with theological subjects; but my impression of
the two men would be that Dr. Newman joined the Roman Catholic Church in
obedience to some compulsion of reason, acting in what must seem to most
of us an inscrutable manner, and that Dr. Manning never would have been
a Protestant at all if he had not believed that the Protestant Church
was truly all which its rival claims to be.

Dr. Manning in fact did not leave the Church. The Church left him. He
had misunderstood it. It became revealed at last as it really is, a
church founded on the right of private judgment, and Manning was
appalled and turned away from it. Something that may almost be called
accident brought home to his mind the true character of the Church to
which he belonged. Many readers of "The Galaxy" may have some
recollection of the once celebrated Gorham case in England--a case which
I shall not now describe any further than by saying that it raised the
question whether the Church of England can prescribe the religion of the
State. Had the Church the right to decide whether certain doctrine
taught by one of its clergy was heretical, and to condemn it if so
declared? In England, Church and State are so bound up together, that it
is practically the State and not the Church which decides whether this
or that teaching is heresy or true religion. A lord chancellor who may
be an infidel, and two or three "law lords" who may be anything or
nothing, settle the question in the end. We all remember the epigram
about Lord Chancellor Westbury, the least godly of men, having
"dismissed Hell with costs," and taken away from the English Protestant
"his last hope of damnation." The Gorham case, twenty years ago, showed
that the Church, as an ecclesiastical body, had no power to condemn
heresy. This, to men like Stuart Mill, appears on the whole a
satisfactory condition of things so long as there is a State Church, for
the plain reason which he gives--namely, that the State in England is
now far more liberal than the Church. But to Dr. Manning the idea of the
Church thus abdicating its function of interpreting and declaring
doctrine was equivalent to the renunciation of its right to existence.
He strove hard to bring about an organized and solemn declaration and
protest from the Church--a declaration of doctrine, a protest against
secular control. He became the leader of an effort in this direction.
The effort met with little support. The then Bishop of London did indeed
introduce a bill into the House of Lords for the purpose of enacting
that in matters of doctrine, as distinct from questions of mere law, the
final decision should rest with the prelates. Dr. Manning sat in the
gallery of the House of Lords on that memorable night. The Bishop of
London wholly failed. The House of Lords scouted the idea of liberal
England tolerating a sort of ecclesiastical inquisition. Every one
admitted the anomalous condition in which things then were placed; but
few indeed would think of enacting a dogma of infallibility in favor of
the bishops of the Church. Lord Brougham spoke against the bill with
what Dr. Manning himself admits to be plain English common sense. He
said the House of Lords through its law peers could decide questions of
mere ecclesiastical law, and the decisions would carry weight and
authority; but neither peers nor bishops could in England decide a
question of doctrine. Suppose, he asked, the bishops were divided
equally on such a question, where would the decision be then? Suppose
there was a very small majority, who would accept such a decision? Or
even suppose there was a large majority, but that the minority comprised
the few men of greatest knowledge, ability, and authority, what value
would attach to the judgment of such a majority? The bill was a hopeless
failure. Dr. Manning has himself described with equal candor and
clearness the effect which the debate had upon him. He mentally
supplemented Lord Brougham's questions by one other. Suppose that all
the bishops of the Church of England should decide unanimously on any
doctrine, would any one receive the decision as infallible? He was
compelled to answer, "No one." The Church of England had no pretension
to be the infallible spiritual guide of men. Were she to raise any such
pretension, it would be rejected with contempt by the common mind of the
nation. Hear then how this conviction affected the man who up to that
time had had no thought but for the interests and duties of the English
Church. "To those," he has himself told us, "who believed that God has
established upon the earth a divine and therefore an unerring guardian
and teacher of his faith, this event demonstrated that the Church of
England could not be that guardian and teacher."

While Dr. Manning was still uncertain whither to turn, the celebrated
"Papal aggression" took place. Cardinal Wiseman was sent to England by
the Pope, with the title of Archbishop of Westminster. All England
raged. Earl Russell wrote his famous "Durham Letter." The Lord
Chancellor Campbell, at a public dinner in the city of London, called up
a storm of enthusiasm by quoting the line from Shakespeare, which
declares that

     Under our feet we'll stamp the cardinal's hat.

Protestant zealots in Stockport belabored the Roman Catholics and sacked
their houses; Irish laborers in Birkenhead retorted upon the
Protestants. The Government brought in the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill--a
measure making it penal for any Catholic prelate to call himself
archbishop or bishop of any place in England. Let him be "Archbishop
Wiseman" or "Cardinal Wiseman, Archbishop of Mesopotamia," as long as he
liked--but not Archbishop of Westminster or Tuam. The bill was
powerfully, splendidly opposed by Gladstone, Bright, and Cobden, on the
broad ground that it invaded the precincts of religious liberty; but it
was carried and made law. There it remained. There never was the
slightest attempt made to enforce it. The Catholic prelates held to the
titles the Pope had given them; and no English court, judge, magistrate,
or policeman ever offered to prevent or punish them. So ludicrous, so
barren a proceeding as the carrying of that measure has not been known
in the England of our time.

Cardinal Wiseman was an able and a discreet man. He was calm, plausible,
powerful. He was very earnest in the cause of his Church, but he seemed
much more like a man of the world than Newman or Dr. Manning. There was
little of the loftily spiritual in his manner or appearance. His bulky
person and swollen face suggested at the first glance a sort of Abbot
Boniface; he was, I believe, in reality an ascetic. The corpulence which
seemed the result of good living was only the effect of ill health. He
had a persuasive and an imposing way. His ability was singularly
flexible. His eloquence was often too gorgeous and ornamental for a pure
taste, but when the occasion needed he could address an audience in
language of the simplest and most practical common sense. The same
adaptability, if I may use such a word, was evident in all he did. He
would talk with a cabinet minister on terms of calm equality, as if his
rank must be self-evident, and he delighted to set a band of poor school
children playing around him. He was a cosmopolitan--English and Irish by
extraction, Spanish by birth, Roman by education. When he spoke English
he was exactly like what a portly, dignified British bishop ought to
be--a John Bull in every respect. When he spoke Italian at Rome he fell
instinctively and at once into all the peculiarities of intonation and
gesture which distinguish the people of Italy from all other races. When
he conversed in Spanish he subsided into the grave, somewhat saturnine
dignity and repose of the true Castilian. All this, I presume, was but
the natural effect of that flexibility of temperament I have attempted
to describe. I had but slight personal acquaintance with Cardinal
Wiseman, and I paint him only as he impressed me, a casual observer. I
am satisfied that he was a profoundly earnest and single-minded man; the
testimony of many whom I know and who knew him well compels me to that
conviction. But such was not the impression he would have left on a mere
acquaintance. He seemed rather one who could, for a purpose which he
believed great, be all things to all men. He impressed me quite
differently from the manner in which I have been impressed by John Henry
Newman and by Archbishop Manning. He reminded one of some great,
capable, worldly-wise, astute Prince of the Church of other generations,
politician rather than priest, more ready to sustain and skilled to
defend the temporal power of the Papacy than to illustrate its highest
spiritual influence.

The events which brought Cardinal Wiseman to England had naturally a
powerful effect upon the mind of Dr. Manning. It was the renewed claim
of the Roman Church to enfold England in its spiritual jurisdiction. For
Dr. Manning, who had just seen what he regarded as the voluntary
abdication of the English Church, the claim would in any case have
probably been decisive. It "stepped between him and his fighting soul."
But the personal influence of Cardinal Wiseman had likewise an immense
weight and force. Dr. Manning ever since that time entertained a feeling
of the profoundest devotion and reverence for Cardinal Wiseman. The
change was consummated in 1851, and one of the first practical comments
upon the value of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act was the announcement
that a scholar and divine of whom the Protestant Church had long been
especially proud had resigned his preferments, his dignities, and his
prospects, and passed over to the Church of Rome. I cannot better
illustrate the effect produced on the public mind than by saying that
even the secession of John Henry Newman hardly made a deeper impression.

Dr. Manning, of course, rose to high rank in the church of his adoption.
He became Roman of the Romans--Ultramontane of the Ultramontanes. On the
death of his friend and leader, Cardinal Wiseman, whose funeral sermon
he preached, Henry Manning became Archbishop of Westminster. Except for
his frequent journeys to Rome, he has always since his appointment lived
in London. Although a good deal of an ascetic, as his emaciated face and
figure would testify, he is nothing of a hermit. He mingles to a certain
extent in society, he takes part in many public movements, and he has
doubtless given Mr. Disraeli ample opportunity of studying his manner
and bearing. I don't believe Mr. Disraeli capable of understanding the
profound devotion and single-minded sincerity of the man. A more
singular, striking, marvellous figure does not stand out, I think, in
our English society. Everything that an ordinary Englishman or American
would regard as admirable and auspicious in the progress of our
civilization, Dr. Manning calmly looks upon as lamentable and
evil-omened. What we call progress is to his mind decay. What we call
light is to him darkness. What we reverence as individual liberty he
deplores as spiritual slavery. The mere fact that a man gives reasons
for his faith seems shocking to this strangely-gifted apostle of
unconditional belief. Though you were to accept on bended knees
ninety-nine of the decrees of Rome, you would still be in his mind a
heretic if you paused to consider as to the acceptance of the hundredth
dogma. All the peculiarly modern changes in the legislation of England,
the admission of Jews to Parliament, the introduction of the principle
of divorce, the practical recognition of the English divine's right of
private judgment, are painful and odious to him. I have never heard from
any other source anything so clear, complete, and astonishing as his
cordial acceptance of the uttermost claims of Rome; the prostration of
all reason and judgment before the supposed supernatural attributes of
the Papal throne. In one of the finest passages of his own writings he
says: "My love for England begins with the England of St. Bede. Saxon
England, with all its tumults, seems to me saintly and beautiful. Norman
England I have always loved less, because, although majestic, it became
continually less Catholic, until the evil spirit of the world broke off
the light yoke of faith at the so-called Reformation. Still I loved the
Christian England which survived, and all the lingering outlines of
diocese and parishes, cathedrals and churches, with the names of saints
upon them. It is this vision of the past which still hovers over England
and makes it beautiful and full of the memories of the kingdom of God.
Nay, I loved the parish church of my childhood and the college chapel of
my youth, and the little church under a green hillside where the morning
and evening prayers and the music of the English Bible for seventeen
years became a part of my soul. Nothing is more beautiful in the natural
order, and if there were no eternal world I could have made it my home."
To Dr. Manning the time when saints walked the earth of England is more
of a reality than the day before yesterday to most of us. Where the
ordinary eye sees only a poor, ignorant Irish peasant, Dr. Manning
discerns a heaven-commissioned bearer of light and truth, destined by
the power of his unquestioning faith to redeem perhaps, in the end, even
English philosophers and statesmen. When it was said in the praise of
the murdered Archbishop of Paris that he was disposed to regret the
introduction of the dogma of infallibility, Archbishop Manning came
eagerly to the rescue of his friend's memory, and as one would vindicate
a person unjustly accused of crime, he vindicated the dead Archbishop
from the stigma of having for a moment dared to have an opinion of his
own on such a subject. Of course, if Dr. Manning were an ordinary
theological devotee or fanatic, there would be nothing remarkable in all
this. But he is a man of the widest culture, of high intellectual gifts,
of keen and penetrating judgment in all ordinary affairs, remarkable for
his close and logical argument, his persuasive reasoning, and for a
genial, quiet kind of humor which seems especially calculated to
dissolve sophistry by its action. He is an English gentleman, a man of
the world; he was educated at Oxford with Arthur Pendennis and young
Lord Magnus Charters; he lives at York Place in the London of to-day; he
drives down to the House of Commons and talks politics in the lobby with
Gladstone and Lowe; he meets Disraeli at dinner parties, and is on
friendly terms, I dare say, with Huxley and Herbert Spencer; he reads
the newspapers, and I make no doubt is now well acquainted with the
history of the agitation against Tammany and Boss Tweed. I think such a
man is a marvellous phenomenon in our age. It is as if one of the
mediæval saints from the stained windows of a church should suddenly
become infused with life and take a part in all the ways of our present
world. I can understand the long-abiding power of the Catholic Church
when I remember that I have heard and seen and talked with Henry Edward

Dr. Manning is not, I fancy, very much of a political reformer. His
inclinations would probably be rather conservative than otherwise. He is
drawn toward Gladstone and the Liberal party less by distinct political
affinity, of which there is but little, than by his hope and belief that
through Gladstone something will be done for that Ireland which to this
Oxford scholar is still the "island of the saints." The Catholic members
of Parliament, whether English or Irish, consult Archbishop Manning
constantly upon all questions connected with education or religion. His
parlor in York Place--not far from where Mme. Tussaud's wax-work
exhibition attracts the country visitor--is the frequent scene of
conferences which have their influence upon the action of the House of
Commons. He is a devoted upholder of the doctrine of total abstinence
from intoxicating drinks; and he is the only Englishman of real
influence and ability, except Francis Newman, who is in favor of
prohibitory legislation. He is the medium of communication between Rome
and England; the living link of connection between the English Catholic
peer and the Irish Catholic bricklayer. The position which he occupies
is at all events quite distinctive. There is nobody else in England who
could set up the faintest claim to any such place. It would be
superfluous to remark that I do not expect the readers of "The Galaxy"
to have any sympathy with the opinions, theological or political, of
such a man. But the man himself is worthy of profound interest, of
study, and even of admiration. He is the spirit, the soul, the ideal of
mediæval faith embodied in the form of a living English scholar and
gentleman. He represents and illustrates a movement the most remarkable,
possibly the most portentous, which has disturbed England and the
English Church since the time of Wyckliffe. No one can have any real
knowledge of the influences at work in English life to-day, no one can
understand the history of the past twenty years, or even pretend to
conjecture as to the possibilities of the future, who has not paid some
attention to the movement which has Dr. Manning for one of its most
distinguished leaders, and to the position and character of Manning


Any one who has visited the National Gallery in London must have seen,
and seeing must have studied, the contrasted paintings placed side by
side of Turner and of Claude. They will attract attention if only
because the two Turners are thus placed apart from the rooms used as a
Turner Gallery, and containing the great collection of the master's
works. The pictures of which I am now speaking are hung in a room
principally occupied by the paintings of Murillo. As you enter you are
at once attracted by four large pictures which hang on either side of
the door opposite. On the right are Turner's "Dido Building Carthage,"
and Claude's "Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba." On the left are a
"Landscape with the Sun Rising" by Turner, and "The Marriage of Isaac
and Rebecca" by Claude. Nobody could fail to observe that the pictures
are thus arranged for some distinct purpose. They are in fact placed
side by side for the sake of comparison and contrast. They are all
eminently characteristic; they have the peculiar faults and the peculiar
merits of the artists. In the Claudes we have even one of those yellow
trunks which are the abomination of the critic I am about to speak of,
and one might almost suppose that the Queen of Sheba was embarking for
Saratoga. I do not propose to criticise the pictures; but in them you
have, to the full, Turner and Claude.

Now in the contrast between these pictures may be found, symbolically at
least, the origin and motive of John Ruskin's career. He sprang into
literary life simply as a vindicator of the fame and genius of Turner.
But as he went on with his task he found, or at least he convinced
himself, that the vindication of the great painter was essentially a
vindication of all true art. Still further proceeding with his
self-imposed task, he persuaded himself that the cause of true art was
identical with the cause of truth, and that truth, from Ruskin's point
of view, enclosed in the same rules and principles all the morals, all
the politics, all the science, industry, and daily business of life.
Therefore from an art-critic he became a moralist, a political
economist, a philosopher, a statesman, a preacher--anything, everything
that human intelligence can impel a man to be. All that he has written
since his first appeal to the public has been inspired by this
conviction--that an appreciation of the truth in art reveals to him who
has it the truth in everything. This belief has been the source of Mr.
Ruskin's greatest successes and of his most complete and ludicrous
failures. It has made him the admiration of the world one week, and the
object of its placid pity or broad laughter the next. A being who could
be Joan of Arc to-day and Voltaire's Pucelle to-morrow would hardly
exhibit a stronger psychical paradox than the eccentric genius of Mr.
Ruskin commonly displays. But in order to understand him, or to do him
common justice--in order not to regard him as a mere erratic utterer of
eloquent contradictions, poured out on the impulse of each moment's new
freak of fancy--we must always bear in mind this fundamental faith of
the man. Extravagant as this or that doctrine may be, outrageous as
to-day's contradiction of yesterday's assertion may be, yet the whole
career is consistent with its essential principles and belief.

Ruskin was singularly fitted by fortune to live for a purpose; to
consecrate his life to the cause of art and of what he considered truth.
As everybody knows, he was born to wealth so considerable as to allow
him to indulge all his tastes and whims, and to write without any regard
for money profit. I hardly know of any other author of eminence who in
our time has worked with so complete an independence of publisher,
public, or paymaster. I do not suppose Ruskin ever wrote one line for
money. Some of his works must have brought him in a good return of mere
pounds and shillings; but they would have been written just the same if
they had never paid for printing; and indeed the author is always
spending money on some benevolent crotchet. He was born in London, and
he himself attributes much of his early love for nature to the fact that
he was "accustomed for two or three years to no other prospect than that
of the brick walls over the way," and that he had "no brothers nor
sisters nor companions." I question whether anybody not acquainted with
London can understand how completely one can be shut in from the pure
face of free nature in that vast city. In New York one can hardly walk
far in any direction without catching glimpses of the water and the
shores of New Jersey or Long Island. But in some of the most respectable
middle-class regions of London, you might drudge away or dream away your
life and never have one sight of open nature unless you made a regular
expedition to find her. Ruskin speaks somewhere of the strange and
exquisite delight which the cockney feels when he treads on grass; and
every biographical sketch of him recalls that passage in his writings
which tells us of the first thing he could remember as an event in his
life--his being taken by his nurse to the brow of one of the crags
overlooking Derwentwater, and the "intense joy, mingled with awe, that I
had in looking through the hollows in the mossy roots over the crag into
the dark lake, and which has associated itself more or less with all
twining roots of trees ever since." Ruskin travelled much, and at a very
early age, through Europe. He became familiar with most of the beautiful
show-places of the European Continent when a boy, and I believe he never
extended the sphere of his travels. About his early life there is little
to be said. He completed his education at Oxford, and, more successful
than Arthur Pendennis, he went in for a prize poem and won the prize. He
visited the Continent, more especially Switzerland and Italy, again and
again. He married a Scottish lady, and the marriage was not a happy one.
I don't propose to go into any of the scandal and talk which the events
created; but I may say that the marriage was dissolved without any moral
blame resting on or even imputed to either of the parties, and that the
lady afterwards became the wife of Mr. Millais. Since then Mr. Ruskin
has led a secluded rather than a lonely life. His constitution is
feeble; he has as little robustness of _physique_ as can well be
conceived, and no kind of excitement is suitable for him. Only the other
day he sank into a condition of such exhaustion that for a while it was
believed impossible he could recover. At one time he used to appear in
public rather often; and was ready to deliver lectures on the ethics of
art wherever he thought his teaching could benefit the ignorant or the
poor. He was especially ready to address assemblages of workingmen, the
pupils of charitable institutions for the teaching of drawing. I cannot
remember his ever having taken part in any fashionable pageant or
demonstration of any kind. Of late he has ceased to show himself at any
manner of public meeting, and he addresses his favorite workingmen
through the medium of an irregular little publication, a sort of
periodical or tract which he calls "Fors Clavigera." Of this publication
"I send a copy," he announces, "to each of the principal journals and
periodicals, to be noticed or not at their pleasure; otherwise, I shall
use no advertisements." The author also informs us that "the tracts will
be sold for sevenpence each, without abatement on quantity." I doubt
whether many sales have taken place, or whether the reference to
purchase in quantity was at all necessary, or whether indeed the author
cared one way or the other. In one of these printed letters he says:
"The scientific men are busy as ants, examining the sun and the moon and
the seven stars; and can tell me all about them, I believe, by this
time, and how they move and what they are made of. And I do not care,
for my part, two copper spangles how they move nor what they are made
of. I can't move them any other way than they go, nor make them of
anything else better than they are made." This might sound wonderfully
sharp and practical, if, a few pages on, Mr. Ruskin did not broach his
proposition for the founding of a little model colony of labor in
England, where boys and girls alike are to be taught agriculture, vocal
music, Latin, and the history of five cities--Athens, Rome, Venice,
Florence, and London. This scheme was broached last August, and it is
rather soon yet even to ask whether any steps have been taken to put it
into execution; but Mr. Ruskin has already given five thousand dollars
to begin with, and will probably give a good deal more before he
acknowledges the inevitable failure. Ruskin lives in one of the most
beautiful of London suburbs, on Denmark Hill, at the south side of the
river, near Dulwich and the exquisite Sydenham slopes where the Crystal
Palace stands. Here he indulges his love of pictures and statues, and of
rest--when he is not in the mood for unrest--and nourishes philanthropic
schemes of eccentric kinds, and is altogether about the nearest approach
to an independent, self-sufficing philosopher our modern days have
known. Of his life as a private citizen this much is about all that it
concerns us to hear.

Twenty-eight years have passed away since Mr. Ruskin leaped into the
critical arena, with a spring as bold and startling as that of Edward
Kean on the Kemble-haunted stage. The little volume, so modest in its
appearance, so self-sufficient in its tone, which the author defiantly
flung down like a gage of battle before the world, was entitled "Modern
Painters: their Superiority in the Art of Landscape Painting to all the
Ancient Masters. By a Graduate of Oxford." I was a boy of thirteen,
living in a small provincial town, when this book made its first
appearance, but it seems to me that the echo of the sensation it created
still rings in my ears. It was a challenge to all established beliefs
and prejudices; and the challenge was delivered in the tones of one who
felt confident that he could make good his words against any and all
opponents. If there was one thing that more than another seemed to have
been fixed and rooted in the English mind, it was that Claude and one or
two other of the old masters possessed the secret of landscape painting.
When, therefore, this bold young dogmatist involved in one common
denunciation "Claude, Gaspar Poussin, Salvator Rosa, Ruysdael, Paul
Potter, Cavaletto, and the various Van-Somethings and Koek-Somethings,
more especially and malignantly those who have libelled the sea," it was
no wonder that affronted authority raised its indignant voice and
thundered at him. Affronted authority, however, gained little by its
thunder. The young Oxford graduate possessed, along with genius and
profound conviction, an imperturbable and magnificent self-conceit,
against which the surges of angry criticism dashed themselves in vain.
Mr. Ruskin, when putting on his armor, had boasted himself as one who
takes it off; but in his case there proved to be little rashness in the
premature fortification. For assuredly that book overrode and bore down
its critics. I need not follow it through its various editions, its
successive volumes, its amplifications, wherein at last the original
design, the vindication of Turner, swelled into an enunciation and
illustration of the true principles of landscape art. Nor do I mean to
say that the book carried all its points. Far from it. Claude still
lives, and Salvator Rosa has his admirers, among whom most of us are
very glad to enroll ourselves; and Ruskin himself has since that time
pointed out many serious defects in Turner, and has unsaid a great deal
of what he then proclaimed. But if the Oxford graduate had been wrong in
every illustration of his principal doctrine, I should still hold that
the doctrine itself was true and of inestimable value, and that the book
was a triumph. For, I think, it proclaimed and firmly established the
true point of view from which we must judge of the art of painting in
all its departments. In plain words, Ruskin taught the English public
that they must look at nature with their own eyes, and judge of art by
the help of nature. Up to the publication of that book England, at
least, had been falling into the way of regarding art as a sort of
polite school to which it was our duty to endeavor to make nature
conform. Conventionality and apathy had sunk apparently into the very
souls of men and women. Hardly one in ten thousand ever really saw a
landscape, a wave, a ray of the sun as it is. Nobody used his own eyes.
Every one was content to think that he saw what the painters told him he
saw. Ruskin himself tells us somewhere about a test question which used
to be put to young landscape painters by one who was supposed to be a
master of the craft: "Where do you put your brown tree?" The question
illustrates the whole theory and school of conventionality.
Conventionality had decreed first that there are brown trees, and next
that there cannot be a respectable landscape without a brown tree. Long
after the teaching of Ruskin had well-nigh revolutionized opinion in
England, I stood once with a lover of art of the old-fashioned school,
looking on one of the most beautiful and famous scenes in England. The
tender autumn season, the melancholy woods in the background, the little
lake, the half-ruined abbey, did not even need the halo of poetic and
romantic association which hung around them in order to render the scene
a very temptation, one might have thought, to the true artist. I
suggested something of the kind. My companion shook his head almost
contemptuously. "You could never make a picture of that," he said. I
pressed him to tell me why so picturesque a scene could not be
represented somehow in a picture. He did not care evidently to argue
with ignorance, and he even endeavored to concede something to my
untutored whim. "Perhaps," he began with hesitation, "if one were to put
a large dark tree in there to the left, one might make something of it.
But no" (he had done his best and could not humor me any further), "it
is out of the question; there couldn't be a picture made out of _that_."
How could I illustrate more clearly the kind of thing which Ruskin came
to put down and did put down in England?

Of course Mr. Ruskin was never a man to do anything by halves, and
having once laid down the canon that nature and truth are to be the
guides of the artist, he soon began to write and to think as if nature
and truth alone were concerned. He seemed to have taken no account of
the fact that one great object of art is simply to give delight, and
that however natural and truthful an artist may be, yet he is to bear in
mind this one purpose of his work, or he might almost as well let it
alone. Nature and truth are to be his guides to the delighting of men;
to show him how he is to give a delight which shall be pure and genuine.
A single inaccuracy as to fact seems at one time to have spoiled all Mr.
Ruskin's enjoyment of a painting, and filled him with a feeling of scorn
and detestation for it. He denounces Raphael's "Charge to Peter," on the
ground that the apostles are not dressed as men of that time and place
would have been when going out fishing; and he makes no allowance for
the fact, pointed out by M. Taine, that Raphael's design first of all
was to represent a group of noble, serious men, majestic and
picturesque, and that mere realism entered little into his purpose. It
may seem the oddest thing to compare Ruskin with Macaulay, but it is
certain that the very kind of objection which the former urges against
the paintings of Raphael the latter brings forward against one of the
poems of Goldsmith. "What would be thought of a painter," asks Macaulay,
"who would mix January and August in one landscape, who would introduce
a frozen river into a harvest scene? Would it be a sufficient defence of
such a picture to say that every part was exquisitely colored; that the
green hedges, the apple trees loaded with fruit, the wagons reeling
under the yellow sheaves, and the sunburned reapers wiping their
foreheads, were very fine; and that the ice and the boys sliding were
also very fine? To such a picture the 'Deserted Village' bears a great
resemblance." Now it would indeed be an incomprehensible mistake if a
painter were to mix up August and January as Macaulay suggests, or to
depict the apostles like a group of Greek philosophers, as in Ruskin's
opinion Raphael did. But I venture to think that even the extraordinary
blunder mentioned in the first part of the sentence would not
necessarily condemn a picture to utter contempt. It was a great mistake
to make Dido and Iulus contemporaries; a great mistake to represent
angels employing gunpowder for the suppression of Lucifer's
insurrection; a great mistake to talk of the clock having struck in the
time of Julius Cæsar. Yet I suppose Virgil and Milton and Shakespeare
were great poets, and that the very passages in which those errors occur
are nevertheless genuine poetry. Now Ruskin criticises Raphael and
Claude on precisely the principle which would declare Virgil, Milton,
and Shakespeare worthless because of the errors I have mentioned. The
errors are errors no doubt, and ought to be pointed out, and there an
end. Virgil was not writing a history of the foundation of Carthage.
Shakespeare was not describing the social life of Rome under Julius
Cæsar. Milton was not a gazetteer of the revolt of Lucifer and his
angels. Mr. Ruskin might as well dispose of a sculptured group of
Centaurs by remarking that there never were Centaurs, or of the famous
hermaphrodite in the Louvre by explaining that hermaphrodites of that
perfect order are unknown to physiology. The beauty of color and
contour, the effect of graceful grouping, the reach of poetic
imagination, the dignity of embodied thought, outlive all such criticism
even when in its way it is just, for they bear in themselves the
vindication of their existence. But Ruskin's criticism is the legitimate
result of the cardinal error of his career--the belief that the morality
of art exactly corresponds with the morality of human life; that there
is a central law of right and wrong for everything, like Stephen Pearl
Andrews's universal science, of which when you have once got the key you
can open every lock--which is the solving word of every enigma, the
standard by which everything is finally to be judged. I need not show
how he followed out that creed and gave it a new application in "The
Seven Lamps of Architecture" and the "Stones of Venice." In these
masterpieces of eloquent declamation, the building of houses was brought
up to be tried according to Mr. Ruskin's self-constructed canons of
æsthetic and architectural morality. No one, I venture to think, cares
much about the doctrine; everybody is carried away by the eloquence, the
originality, and the feeling. Later still Mr. Ruskin applied the same
central, all-pervading principle to the condemnation of fluttering
ribbons in a woman's bonnet. The stucco of a house he set down as false
and immoral, like the painting of a meretricious cheek. His æsthetic
transcendentalism soon ceased to have any practical influence. It would
be idle to try to persuade English house-builders that the attributes of
a building are moral qualities, and that the component parts of a London
residence ought to symbolize and embody "action," "voice," and "beauty."
It may be doubted whether a single architect was ever practically
influenced by the dogmatic eloquence of Mr. Ruskin. In fact the
architects, above all other men, rebelled against the books and scorned
them. But the books made their way with the public, who, caring nothing
about the principles of morality which underlie the construction of
houses, were charmed by the dazzling rhetoric, the wealth of gorgeous
imagery, the interesting and animated digressions, the frequent flashes
of vigorous good sense, and the lofty thought whose only fault was that
which least affected the ordinary reader--its utter inapplicability to
the practical subject of the books.

It was about the year 1849 that that great secession movement in art
broke out to which its leaders chose to give the title of
pre-Raphaelite. The principal founder of the movement has since been
almost forgotten as an artist, but has come into a sort of celebrity as
a poet--Mr. Dante Gabriel Rossetti. With him were allied, it is almost
needless to say, the two now famous and successful painters, Holman Hunt
and Millais. Decidedly that was the most thriving controversy in the
world of art and letters during our time. It was the only battle of
schools which could tell us what the war for and against the
Sturm-und-Drang school in Germany, the Byron epoch in England, the
struggle of the Classicists and Romanticists in France, must have been
like. The pre-Raphaelite dispute has long ceased to be heard. Years ago
Mr. Ruskin himself, the prophet and apostle of the new sect, described
the defection of its greatest pupil as "not a fall, but a catastrophe."
Rossetti's sonnets are criticised, but not his paintings. "Are not you
still a pre-Raphaelite?" asked an inquisitive person lately of the
sonneteer. "I am not an 'ite' of any kind," was the answer; "I am an
artist." John Everett Millais is among the most fortunate and
fashionable painters of the day. Those who saw his wonderful
"Somnambulist" in last season's exhibition of the London Royal Academy
would have found in it little of the harsh and "crawling realism" which
distinguished the "Beauty in Bricks Brotherhood," as somebody called the
rebellious school of twenty years ago. A London comic paper lately
published a capital likeness of Mr. Millais, handsome, respectable,
tending to stoutness and baldness, and described the portrait as that of
the converted pre-Raphaelite. The progress of things was exactly similar
to that which goes on in the English political world so often. A fiery
young Radical member of Parliament begins by denouncing the Government
and the constitution. He wins first notoriety, and then, if he has any
real stuff in him, reputation; and then he is invited to office, and he
takes it and becomes respectable, wealthy, and fashionable; and his
rebellion is all over, and the world goes on just as before. Such was,
so far as individuals are concerned, the course of the pre-Raphaelite
rebellion; undoubtedly the movement did some good; most rebellions do.
It was a protest against the vague and feeble generalizations and the
vapid classicism which were growing too common in art. Ruskin himself
has happily described the generalized and conventional way of painting
trees and shrubs which was growing to be common and tolerated, and which
he says was no less absurd than if a painter were to depict some
anomalous animal, and defend it as a generalization of pig and pony.
Anything which teaches a careful and rigid study of nature must do good.
The pre-Raphaelite school was excellent discipline for its young
scholars. Probably even those of Millais's paintings which bear on the
face of them least evident traces of that early school, might have been
far inferior to what they are, were it not for the slow and severe study
which the original principles of the movement demanded. The present
interest which the secession has for me is less on its own account than
because of the vigorous, ingenious, and eloquent pages which Ruskin
poured forth in its vindication. He gave it meanings which it never had;
found out truth and beauty in its most prosaic details such as its
working scholars never meant to symbolize; he explained and expounded it
as Johnson did the meaning of the word "slow" in the opening line of the
"Traveller," and in fact well-nigh persuaded himself and the world that
a new priesthood had arisen to teach the divinity of art. But even he
could not write pre-Raphaelitism into popularity and vitality. The
common instinct of human nature, which looks to art as the
representative of beauty, pathos, humor, and passion, could not be
talked into an acceptance of ignoble and ugly realisms. It may be an
error to depict a Judean fisherman like a stately Greek philosopher; but
error for error, it is far less gross and grievous than to paint the
exquisite heroine of Keats's lovely poem as a lank and scraggy spinster,
with high cheek bones like one of Walter Scott's fishwives, undressing
herself in a green moonlight, and displaying a neck and shoulders worthy
of Miss Miggs, and stays and petticoat that bring to mind Tilly Slowboy.

The pre-Raphaelite mania faded away, but Ruskin's vindication endures;
just as the letters of Pascal are still read by every one, although
nobody cares "two copper spangles" about the controversy which provoked
them. Mr. Ruskin's mental energy did not long lie fallow. Turning the
bull's-eye of his central theory upon other subjects, he dragged
political economy up for judgment. Who can forget the whimsical
sensation produced by the appearance in the "Cornhill Magazine" of the
letters entitled "Unto this Last"? I need not say much about them. They
were a series of fantastic sermons, sometimes eloquent and instructive,
sometimes turgid and absurd, on the moral duty of man. They had
literally nothing to do with the subject of political economy. The
political economists were talking of one thing, and Mr. Ruskin was
talking of another and a totally different thing. The value of an
article is what it will bring in the market, say the economists. "For
shame!" cries Mr. Ruskin; "is the value of her rudder to a ship at sea
in a tempest only what it would be bought for at home in Wapping?" So on
through the whole, the two disputants talking on quite different
subjects. Mr. Ruskin might just as reasonably have interrupted a medical
professor lecturing to his class on the effects and uses of castor oil,
by telling him in eloquent verbiage that castor oil will not make men
virtuous and nations great. Nobody ever said it would; but it is
important to explain the properties of castor oil for all that. It would
be a grand thing of course if, as Mr. Ruskin prayed, England would "cast
all thoughts of possessive wealth back to the barbaric nations among
whom they first arose," and leave "the sands of the Indus and the
adamant of Golconda" to "stiffen the housings of the charger, and flash
from the turban of the slave." This would be ever so much finer than
opening banks, making railways (which Mr. Ruskin specially detests), and
dealing in stocks. But it has nothing to do, good or bad, with the
practical exposition of the economic laws of banking and exchange. It is
about as effective a refutation of the political economist's doctrines
as a tract from the Peace Society denouncing all war would be to a
lecture from Von Moltke on the practical science of campaigning. But Mr.
Ruskin never saw this, and never was disconcerted. He turned to other
missions with the firm conviction that he had finished off political
economy, as a clever free-thinking London lady calmly announced a few
years back to her friends that she had abolished Christianity. Then Mr.
Ruskin condemned mines and factories, railways and engines. With all the
same strenuous and ornate eloquence he passed sentence on London
pantomimes and "cascades of girls," and the too liberal exposure of
"lower limbs" by the young ladies composing those cascades. Nothing is
too trivial for the omniscient philosopher, and nothing is too great.
The moral government of a nation is decreed by the same voice and on the
same principles as those which have prescribed the length of a lady's
waist-ribbon and the shape of a door-scraper. The first Napoleon never
claimed for himself the divine right of intermeddling with and arranging
everything more complacently than does the mild and fragile philosopher
of Denmark Hill. Be it observed that his absolute ignorance of a subject
never deters Mr. Ruskin from pronouncing prompt judgment upon it. It may
be some complicated question of foreign, say of American politics, on
which men of good ability, who have mastered all the facts and studied
the arguments on both sides, are slow to pronounce. Mr. Ruskin, boldly
acknowledging that until this morning he never heard of the subject,
settles it out of hand and delivers final judgment. Sometimes his
restless impulses and his extravagant way of plunging at conclusions and
conjecturing facts lead him into unpleasant predicaments. He delivered a
manifesto some years ago upon the brutality of the lower orders of
Englishmen, founded on certain extraordinary persecutions inflicted on
his friend Thomas Carlyle. Behold Carlyle himself coming out with a
letter in which he declares that all these stories of persecution were
not only untrue, but were "curiously the reverse of truth." Of course
every one knew that Ruskin believed them to be true; that he half heard
something, conjectured something else, jumped at a conclusion, and as
usual regarded himself as an inspired prophet, compelled by his mission
to come forward and deliver judgment on a sinful people.

Mr. Ruskin's devotion to Carlyle has been unfortunate for him, as it has
for so many others. For that which is reality in Carlyle is only echo
and imitation in Ruskin, and the latter has power enough and a field
wide enough of his own to render inexcusable the attempt to follow
slavishly another man. Moreover, Carlyle's utterances, right or wrong,
have meaning and practical application; but when Ruskin repeats them
they become meaningless and inapplicable. Mr. Ruskin endeavoring to
apply Carlyle's dogmas to the business of art and social life and
politics often reminds one of the humorous Hindoo story of the Gooroo
Simple and his followers, who went through life making the most
outrageous blunders, because they would insist on the literal
application of their traditional maxims of wisdom to every common
incident of existence. When a self-conceited man ever consents to make
another man his idol, even his very self-conceit only tends to render
him more awkwardly and unconditionally devoted and servile. The amount
of nonsense that Ruskin has talked and written, under the evident
conviction that thus and not otherwise would Thomas Carlyle have dealt
with the subject, is something almost inconceivable. I never heard of
Ruskin taking up any political question without being on the wrong side
of it. I am not merely speaking of what I personally consider the wrong
side; I am alluding to questions which history and hard fact and the
common voice and feeling of humanity have since decided. Against every
movement to give political freedom to his countrymen, against every
movement to do common justice to the negro race, against every effort
to secure fair play for a democratic cause, Mr. Ruskin has peremptorily
arrayed himself. "I am a Kingsman and no Mobsman," he declares; and this
declaration seems in his mind to settle the question and to justify his
vindication of every despotism of caste or sovereignty. To this has his
doctrine of æsthetic moral law, to this has his worship of Carlyle,
conducted him.

For myself, I doubt whether Mr. Ruskin has any great qualities but his
eloquence, and his true, honest love of Nature. As a man to stand up
before a society of which one part was fashionably languid and the other
part only too busy and greedy, and preach to it of Nature's immortal
beauty and of the true way to do her reverence, I think Ruskin had and
has a place almost worthy the dignity of a prophet. I think, too, that
he has the capacity to fill the place, to fulfil its every duty. Surely
this ought to be enough for the work and for the praise of any man. But
the womanish restlessness of Ruskin's temperament, combined with the
extraordinary self-sufficiency which contributed so much to his success
when he was master of a subject, sent him perpetually intruding into
fields where he was unfit to labor, and enterprises which he had no
capacity to conduct. No man has ever contradicted himself so often, so
recklessly, so complacently, as Mr. Ruskin has done. It is absurd to
call him a great critic even in art, for he seldom expresses any opinion
one day without flatly contradicting it the next. He is a great writer,
as Rousseau was--fresh, eloquent, audacious, writing out of the fulness
of the present mood, and heedless how far the impulse of to-day may
contravene that of yesterday; but as Rousseau was always faithful to his
idea of Truth, so Ruskin is ever faithful to Nature. When all his errors
and paradoxes and contradictions shall have been utterly forgotten, this
his great praise will remain: No man since Wordsworth's brightest days
ever did half so much to teach his countrymen, and those who speak his
language, how to appreciate and honor that silent Nature which "never
did betray the heart that loved her."


A few days ago I came by chance upon an old number of an illustrated
publication which made a rather brilliant start in London four or five
years since, but died, I believe, not long after. It sprang up when
there was a sudden rage in England for satirical portraits of eminent
persons, and it really showed some skill and humor in this not very
healthful or dignified department of art. This number of which I speak
has a humorous cartoon called "Companions of the Bath," and representing
a miscellaneous crowd of the celebrated men and women of the day
enjoying a plunge in the waves at Havre, Dieppe, or some other French
bathing-place. There are Gladstone and Disraeli; burly Alexandre Dumas
and small, fragile Swinburne; Tennyson and Longfellow; Christine Nilsson
and Adelina Patti, the two latter looking very pretty in their tunics
and _caleçons_. Most of the likenesses are good, and the attitudes are
often characteristic and droll. Mr. Spurgeon flounders and puffs wildly
in the waves; Gladstone cleaves his way sternly and earnestly; Mario
floats with easy grace. One group at present attracts very special
attention. It represents a big, heavy, gray-headed man, ungainly of
appearance, whom a smaller personage, bald and neat, is pushing off a
plank into the water. The smaller man is Dion Boucicault; the larger is
Mr. Charles Reade. This was the time when Reade and Boucicault were
working together in "Foul Play." The insinuation of the artist evidently
was that Boucicault, always ready for any plunge into the waves of
sensationalism, had to give a push to his hesitating companion in order
to impel him to the decisive "header."

The artist has been evidently unjust to Mr. Reade. Indeed, one can
hardly help suspecting that there must have been some little personal
grievance which the pencil was employed to pay off, after the fashion
threatened more than once by Hogarth. Mr. Reade is not an Adonis, but
this attempt at his likeness is cruelly grotesque and extravagant.
Charles Reade is a big, heavy, rugged, gray man; a sort of portlier Walt
Whitman, but with closer-cut hair and beard; a Walt Whitman, let us say,
put into training for the part of a stout British vestryman. He
impresses you at once as a man of character, energy, and originality,
although he is by no means the sort of person you would pick out as a
typical romancist. But the artist who has delineated him in this
cartoon, and who has dealt so fairly, albeit humorously, with Tennyson
and Swinburne and Longfellow, must surely have had some spite against
the author of "Peg Woffington" when he depicted him as a sort of huge
human gorilla. It is in fact for this reason only that I have thought it
worth while to introduce an allusion to such a caricature. The
caricature is in itself illustrative of my subject. It helps to
introduce an inevitable allusion to a weakness of Mr. Charles Reade's
which makes for him many enemies and satirists among minor authors,
critics, and artists in London. To a wonderful energy and virility of
genius and temperament Charles Reade adds a more than feminine
susceptibility and impatience when criticism attempts to touch him. With
a faith in his own capacity and an admiration for his own works such as
never were surpassed in literary history, he can yet be rendered almost
beside himself by a disparaging remark from the obscurest critic in the
corner of the poorest provincial newspaper. There is no pen so feeble
anywhere but it can sting Charles Reade into something like delirium. He
replies to every attack, and he discovers a personal enemy in every
critic. Therefore he is always in quarrels, always assailing this man
and being assailed by that, and to the very utmost of his power trying
to prevent the public from appreciating or even recognizing the wealth
of genuine manhood, truth, and feeling, which is bestowed everywhere in
the rugged ore of his strange and paradoxical character. I am not myself
one of Mr. Reade's friends, or even acquaintances; but from those who
are, and whom I know, I have always heard the one opinion of the
sterling integrity, kindness, and trueheartedness of the man who so
often runs counter to all principles of social amenity, and whose bursts
of impulsive ill-humor have offended many who would fain have admired.

I said once before in the pages of "The Galaxy," when speaking of
another English novelist, that Charles Reade seems to me to rank more
highly in America than he does in England. It is only of quite recent
years that English criticism of the higher class has treated him with
anything like fair consideration. There was a long time of Reade's
growing popularity during which such criticism declined altogether to
regard him _au sérieux_. Even now he has not justice done to him. But if
I cannot help believing that Mr. Reade rates himself far too highly, and
announces his opinion far too frankly, neither can I help thinking that
English criticism in general fails to do him justice. For a long time he
had to struggle hard to obtain a mere recognition. He had during part of
his early career the good sense, or the spirit, or the misfortune,
according as people choose to view it, to write in one of the popular
weekly journals of London which correspond somewhat with the "New York
Ledger." I think Charles Dickens described Reade as the one only man
with a genuine literary reputation who at that time had ventured upon
such a performance. There are indeed men now of undoubted rank in
literature who began their career with work like this; but they did not
put their names to it, and the world was never the wiser. Reade worked
boldly and worked his best, and put his own name to it; and therefore
the London press for some time regarded or affected to regard him as an
author of that class whose genius supplies weekly instalments of
sensation and tremendously high life, to delight the servant girls of
Islington and the errand boys of the City. Long after the issue of some
of the finest novels Reade has written, the annual publication called
"Men of the Time" contained no notice of the author. The odd thing about
this is that Reade is an author of the very class which English
criticisms of the kind I allude to ought to have delighted to encourage.
In the reaction against literary Bohemianism, which of late years has
grown up in England, and which the "Saturday Review" may be said to
have inaugurated, it became the whim and fashion to believe that only
gentlemen with university degrees, only "blood and culture," as the cant
phrase was, could write anything which gentlemanly persons could find it
worth their while to read. The "Saturday Review" for a long time
affected to treat Dickens as a good-humored and vulgar buffoon, with a
gift of genius to delight the lower classes. It usually regarded
Thackeray as a person made for better things, who had forfeited his
position as a gentleman and a university man by descending to literature
and to lectures. Now Charles Reade is what in the phraseology of English
_caste_ would be called a gentleman. He is of good English family; he is
a graduate of Magdalen College, Oxford. He is a man of culture and
scholarship. His reading, and especially his classical acquirements, I
presume to be far wider and deeper than those of Thackeray, who, it need
hardly be said, was as Porson or Parr when compared with Dickens.
Altogether Reade seems to have been the sort of man whom the "Saturday
Review," for example, ought to have taken promptly up and patted on the
back and loftily patronized. But nothing of the sort occurred. Reade was
treated merely as the clever, audacious concocter of sensational
stories. He was hardly dealt with as an artist at all. The reviews only
began to come round when they discovered that the public were positively
with the new and stirring romancist. What renders this more curious is
the fact that the earlier novels were incomparably more highly finished
works of art than their successors. "Peg Woffington" and "Christie
Johnstone"--the former published so long ago as 1852--seem almost
perfect in their symmetry and beauty. "The Cloister and the Hearth"
might well-nigh have persuaded a reader that a new Walter Scott was
about to arise on the horizon of our literature. All the more recent
works seem crude and rough by comparison. They ought to have been the
vigorous, uncouth, undisciplined efforts of the author's earlier years.
They ought to have led up to the "Cloister and the Hearth" and "Peg
Woffington," instead of succeeding them. Yet, if I am not greatly
mistaken, it was while he was publishing those earlier and finer
products of his fresh intellect that Charles Reade was especially
depreciated and even despised by what is called high-class English
criticism. He never indeed has had much for which to thank the English
critics, and he has never been slow to express his peculiar sense of
obligation; but assuredly they treated with greater respect the works
which will be soonest forgotten than those on which he may perhaps rest
a claim to a more enduring reputation.

The general public, however, soon began to find him out. "Peg
Woffington" was a decided success. Its dramatic adaptation is still one
of the favorite pieces of the English stage. "It is Never Too Late to
Mend" set everybody talking. Reade began to devote himself to exposing
this or that social and legal grievance calling for reform, and people
came to understand that a new branch of the art of novel-writing was in
process of development, the special gift of which was to convert a
Parliamentary blue-book into a work of fiction. The treatment of
criminals in prisons and in far-off penal settlements, the manner in
which patients are dealt with in private lunatic asylums, became the
main subject and backbone of the new style of novel, instead of the
misunderstandings of lovers, the trials of honest poverty, or the
struggles for ascendancy in the fashionable circles of Belgravia. Mr.
Reade undoubtedly stands supreme and indeed alone in work of this kind.
No man but he can make a blue-book live and yet be a blue-book still.
When Dickens undertook some special and practical question, we all knew
that we had to look for lavish outpouring of humor, fancy, and
eccentricity, for generous pathos, and for a sentimental misapplication
or complete elimination of the actual facts. Miss Martineau made dry
little stories about political economy; and Disraeli's "Sibyl" is only a
fashionable novel and a string of tracts bound up together and called by
one name. But Reade takes the hard and naked facts as he finds them in
some newspaper or in the report of some Parliamentary commission, and he
so fuses them into the other material whereof his romance is to be made
up that it would require a chemical analysis to separate the fiction
from the reality. You are not conscious that you are going through the
boiled-down contents of a blue-book. You have no aggrieved sense of
being entrapped into the dry details of some harassing social question.
The reality reads like romance; the romance carries you along like
reality. No author ever indulged in a fairer piece of self-glorification
than that contained in the last sentence of "Put Yourself in his Place":
"I have taken a few undeniable truths out of many, and have labored to
make my readers realize those appalling facts of the day which most men
know, but not one in a thousand comprehends, and not one in a hundred
thousand realizes, until fiction--which, whatever you may have been told
to the contrary, is the highest, widest, noblest, and greatest of all
the arts--comes to his aid, studies, penetrates, digests the hard facts
of chronicles and blue-books, and makes their dry bones live." To this
object, to this kind of work, Reade seems to have deliberately purposed
to devote himself. It was evidently in accordance with his natural
tastes and sympathies. He is a man of exuberant and irrepressible
energy. He must be doing something definite always. He did actually
bestir himself in the case of a person whom he believed to be unjustly
confined in a lunatic asylum, as energetically as he makes Dr. Sampson
do in "Hard Cash," and with equal success. Most of the scenes he
describes, in England at least, have thus in some way fallen in to be
part of his own experience. Whatever he undertakes to do he does with a
tremendous earnestness. His method of workmanship is, I believe,
something like that of Mr. Wilkie Collins, but of course the object is
totally different. Wilkie Collins collects all the remarkable police
cases and other judicial narratives he can find, and makes what Jean
Paul Richter called "quarry" of them--a vast accumulation of materials
in which to go digging for subjects and illustrations at leisure.
Charles Reade does the same with blue-books and the reports of official
inquiries. The author of the "Dead Secret" is looking for perplexing
little mysteries of human crime; the author of "Hard Cash" for stories
of legal or social wrong to be redressed. I need hardly say, perhaps,
that I rank Charles Reade high above Wilkie Collins. The latter can
string his dry bones on wires with remarkable ingenuity; the former can,
as he fairly boasts, make the dry bones live.

Meanwhile, let us follow out the progress of Mr. Charles Reade as a
literary influence. He grows to have a distinct place and power in
England quite independently of the reviewers, and at last the very storm
of controversy which his books awaken compels the reviewers themselves
to take him into account. "It is Never Too Late to Mend" raised a clamor
among prison disciplinarians. Years after its publication it is brought
out as a drama in London, and its first appearance creates a sort of
riot in the Princess's Theatre. Hostile critics rise in the stalls and
denounce it; supporters and admirers vehemently defend it; speeches are
made on either side. Mr. Reade plunges into the arena of controversy a
day or two after in the newspapers, assails one of the critics by name,
and charges him with having denounced the piece in the theatre, and
applauded his own denunciation in the journal for which he wrote. Some
friend of the critic replies by the assertion that one of Mr. Reade's
most enthusiastic literary supporters is Mr. Reade's own nephew. All
this sort of thing is dreadfully undignified, but it brings an author at
all events into public notice, and it did for Mr. Reade what I am
convinced he would have disdained to do consciously--it "puffed" his
books. An amusing story is told in connection with the production of
this drama. An East End manager thought of bringing it out. (The East
End, I need hardly say, is the lower and poorer quarter of London.) This
manager came and studied the piece as produced at the West End. One of
the strong scenes, the sensation scene, was a realistic exhibition of
prison discipline. The West End had been duly impressed and thrilled
with this scene. But the East End manager shook his head. "It would
never do for _me_," he said despondingly to a friend. "Not like the real
thing at all. _My_ gallery would never stand it. Bless you, my fellows
know the real thing too well to put up with _that_."

In this, as in other cases, Mr. Reade's hot temper, immense
self-conceit, and eager love of controversy plunged him into discussions
from which another man would have shrunk with disgust. He went so far on
one occasion as to write to the editor of a London daily paper,
threatening that if his books were not more fairly dealt with he would
order his publisher to withdraw his advertisements from the offending
journal. One can fancy what terror the threat of a loss of a few
shillings a month would have had upon the proprietors of a flourishing
London paper, and the amount of ridicule to which the bare suggestion of
such a thing exposed the irritable novelist. But Reade was, and probably
is, incurable. He would keep pelting his peppery little notes at the
head of any and everybody against whom he fancied that he had a
grievance. I remember one peculiarly whimsical illustration of this
weakness, which found its way into print some years ago in London, but
which perhaps will be quite new in the United States, and I cannot
resist the temptation to reproduce it. Once upon a time, it would seem
from the correspondence, Mr. Reade wrote a play called "Gold," which was
produced at Drury Lane Theatre. Except from this correspondence I own
that I never heard of the play. Subsequently, Mr. Reade presented
himself one night at the stage-door of Drury Lane Theatre, and was
refused admittance. Mr. Charles Mathews was then performing at the
theatre, and Mr. Reade evidently supposed him to have been the manager
and responsible for all the arrangements. Therefore he addressed his
complaint to the incomparable light comedian, who is as renowned for
easy sparkling humor and wit off the stage as for brilliant acting on
it. Here is the correspondence; and we shall see how much Mr. Reade took
by his motion:


     DEAR SIR: I was stopped the other night at the stage-door of Drury
     Lane Theatre by people whom I remember to have seen at the Lyceum
     under your reign.

     This is the first time such an affront was ever put upon me in any
     theatre where I had produced a play, and is without precedent
     unless when an affront was intended. As I never forgive an affront,
     I am not hasty to suppose one intended. It is very possible that
     this was done inadvertently; and the present stage-list may have
     been made out without the older claims being examined.

     Will you be so kind as to let me know at once whether this is so,
     and if the people who stopped me at the stage-door are yours, will
     you protect the author of "Gold," etc., from any repetition of such
     an annoyance?

     I am, dear sir, yours faithfully,

To this imperious demand Mr. Reade received next day the following
genial answer:

     T. R., DRURY LANE, November 29.

     DEAR SIR: If ignorance is bliss on general occasions, on the
     present it certainly would be folly to be wise. I am therefore
     happy to be able to inform you that I am ignorant of your having
     produced a play at this theatre; ignorant that you are the author
     of "Gold"; ignorant of the merits of that play; ignorant that your
     name has been erased from the list at the stage-door; ignorant that
     it had ever been on it; ignorant that you had presented yourself
     for admittance; ignorant that it had been refused; ignorant that
     such a refusal was without precedent; ignorant that in the man who
     stopped you you recognized one of the persons lately with me at the
     Lyceum; ignorant that the doorkeeper was ever in that theatre;
     ignorant that you never forgive an affront; ignorant that any had
     been offered; ignorant of when, how, or by whom the list was made
     out, and equally so by whom it was altered.

     Allow me to add that I am quite incapable of offering any
     discourtesy to a gentleman I have barely the pleasure of knowing,
     and moreover have no power whatever to interfere with Mr. Smith's
     arrangements or disarrangements; and, with this wholesale admission
     of ignorance, incapacity, and impotence, believe me

     Faithfully yours,
     C. T. MATHEWS.


The correspondence got into print somehow, and created, I need hardly
say, infinite merriment in the literary clubs and circles of London. Not
all disputes with Charles Reade ended so humorously, for the British
novelist is as fond of actions at law as Fenimore Cooper used to be.
Thus more than one critic has had to dread the terrors of an action for
damages when he has ventured in a rash moment to disparage the literary
value of Mr. Reade's teaching. Lately, however, in the case of the
"Times," and its attack on "A Terrible Temptation," Mr. Reade adopted
the unexpected tone of mild and even flattering remonstrance. Whether he
thought it hopeless to alarm the "Times" by any threat of action, or
feared that if he wrote a savage letter the journal would not even give
him the comfort of seeing it in print, I do not know. But he certainly
took a meek tone and endeavored to propitiate, and got rather coarsely
rebuked for his pains. People in London were amused to find that he
could be thus mild and gentle. I do remember, however, that on one
occasion he wrote a letter of remonstrance, which was probably intended
to be a kind of rugged compliment to the "Saturday Review," a paper
which likewise cares nothing about actions for damages. Usually,
however, his tone of argument with his critics is perfervid, and his
estimate of himself is exquisitely candid. In one of his manifestoes he
assured the world that he never allowed a publisher to offer any
suggestions with regard to his story, but simply sold the manuscript in
bulk--"_c'est à prendre ou à laisser_." In another instance he spoke of
one of his novels as "floating" the serial publication in which it was
making its appearance, and which we were therefore given to understand
would have sunk to the bottom but for his coöperation. In short, it is
well known in London that Mr. Charles Readers character is disfigured by
a self-conceit which amounts to something like mania, and an impatience
of criticism which occasionally makes him all but a laughing-stock to
the public. Rarely, indeed, in literary history have high and genuine
talents been united with such a flatulence of self-conceit.

Probably Reade had reached his highest position just after the
publication of "Hard Cash." This remarkable novel, crammed with
substance enough to make half a dozen novels, appeared in the first
instance in Dickens's "All the Year Round." Dickens himself, if I
remember rightly, felt bound to publish a note disclaiming any
concurrence in or personal responsibility for the attacks on the private
madhouse system, and the whole subject aroused a very lively
controversy, wherein, I think, Reade certainly was not worsted. The
"Griffith Gaunt" controversy we all remember. I confess that I have no
sympathy whatever with the kind of criticism which treats any of Mr.
Reade's works as immoral in tendency, and I think the charge was even
more absurd when urged against "Griffith Gaunt" than when pressed
against the "Terrible Temptation." To me the clear tendency of Reade's
novels seems always healthy, purifying, and bracing, like a fresh,
strong breeze. I cannot understand how any man or woman could be the
worse for reading one of them. They are always novels with a purpose,
and I, at least, never could discern any purpose in them which was not
honest and sound. I feel inclined to excuse all Reade's vehemence of
self-vindication and childish frankness of self-praise when I read some
of the attacks against what people try to paint as the immorality of his
books. But I need not go into that controversy. Enough to say for my own
part that I found "Griffith Gaunt" a grim and dreary book--a tiresome
book, in fact; but I saw nothing in it which could with any justice be
said to have the slightest tendency to demoralize any reader. I have
indeed heard people who are in general fair critics condemn "Adam Bede"
as immoral because Hetty is seduced; and I have even heard poor Maggie
Tulliver rated as unfit for decent society because she ever allowed even
a moment's thought of her cousin's engaged lover to enter her mind. On
this principle, doubtless, "Griffith Gaunt" is immoral. There are people
in the book who commit sin, and yet are not eaten by lions or bodily
carried down below like Don Juan. But if we are to have novels made up
only of good people who always do right and the one stock villain who
always does wrong, I think the novelist's art cannot too soon be
delegated to its only fitting province--the amusement of the nursery.
"Griffith Gaunt," however, I regard as a falling off, because it is a
sour, unpleasant, and therefore inartistic book. "Foul Play" was a
clever _tour de force_, a brilliant thing, made to sell, with hardly
more character in it than would suffice for a Bowery melodrama. "Put
Yourself in his Place" was a wholesome return to the former style, a
marrowy, living blue-book, instinct with power and passion. "A Terrible
Temptation" I do not admire. I do not think it immoral, but it hardly
calls for any deliberate criticism. Since "Hard Cash" Mr. Reade has, in
my opinion, written only one novel which the literary world will care to
preserve, and even that one, "Put Yourself in his Place," can hardly be
said to add one cubit to his stature.

Mr. Reade has, I believe, rather a passion for dramatic enterprise, and
a characteristic faith in his power to turn out a good drama. A season
or two back he hired, I am told, a London theatre, in order to have the
complete superintendence of the production of one of his novels turned
into a drama. I have been assured that the dramatic version was
accomplished entirely by himself. If so, I am sure no enemy could have
more cruelly damaged the original work. All the character was completely
sponged out of it. The one really effective and original personage in
the novel did not appear in the play. A number of the most antique and
conventional melodramatic situations and surprises were crammed into the
piece. All the silly old stage business about mysterious conspiracies
carried on under the very ear of the identical personage who never ought
to have been allowed to hear them are called in to form an essential
feature of the drama. The play, of course, was not successful, although
the novel had in it naturally all the elements of a stirring and
powerful drama. If Charles Reade really with his own hand converted a
vigorous and thrilling story into that limp, languid, and vapid play,
it was surely the most awful warning against amateur dramatic enterprise
that ever self-conceit could receive undismayed.

Of course we won't rank Mr. Reade as one of the most popular novelists
now in England. But his popularity is something very different indeed
from that of Dickens, or even from that of Thackeray. In Forster's "Life
of Dickens" there is a letter of the great novelist's in which he
complains of having been treated (by Bentley, I think) no better than
any author who had sold but fifteen hundred copies. I should think the
occasions were very rare when Mr. Reade's circulation in England went
much beyond fifteen hundred copies. The whole system of publishing is so
different in England from that which prevails in America, our fictitious
prices and the controlling monopoly of our great libraries so restrict
and limit the sale, that a New York reader would perhaps hardly believe
how small a number constitute a good circulation for an English
novelist. I assume that, speaking roughly, Reade, Wilkie Collins, and
Trollope may be said to have about the same kind of circulation--almost
immeasurably below Dickens, and below some such abnormal sale as that of
"Lothair" or "Lady Audley's Secret," but much above even the best of the
younger novelists. I venture to think that not one of these three
popular and successful authors may be counted on to reach a circulation
of two thousand copies. Probably about eighteen hundred copies would be
a decidedly good thing for one of Charles Reade's novels. Of the three,
I should say that Wilkie Collins has the most eager readers; that
Trollope's novels take the highest place in what is called "society";
and that Reade's rank the best among men of brains. But there is so wide
a difference between the popularity of Dickens and that of Reade that it
seems almost absurd to employ the same word to describe two things so
utterly unlike. It is, indeed, a remarkable proof of Reade's power and
success that, setting out as he always does to tell a story which shall
convey information and a purpose of some practical kind, he can get any
sort of large circulation at all. For one great charm and excellence of
our library system is that it creates a huge class of regular, I might
almost say professional, novel-readers, who subscribe to Mudie's by the
year, want to get all the reading they can out of it, and instinctively
shudder at the thought of any novel that is weighted by solid
information and overtaxing thought. This is the class for whom and by
whom the circulating libraries exist, and Mr. Reade deserves the full
credit of having utterly disregarded them, or rather boldly encountered
them, and at least to some extent compelled them to read him.

Mr. Reade's position as a novelist may be adjudged now as safely as ever
a novelist's place can be fixed by a contemporary generation. He is
nearly sixty years old, and he has written about a dozen novels. It is
not likely that he will ever write anything which could greatly enhance
the estimate the public have already formed of him; and no future
failures could affect his past success. I think his career is,
therefore, fairly and fully before us. We know how singularly limited
his _dramatis personæ_ are. He marches them on and off the stage boldly
ever so often, and by a change of dresses every now and then he for a
while almost succeeds in making us believe that he has a very full
company at his command. But we soon get to know every one by sight, and
can swear to him or her, no matter by what name or garb disguised. We
know the sweet, impulsive, incoherent heroine, who is always
contradicting herself and saying what she ought not to say and does not
mean to say; who now denounces the hero, and then falls upon his neck
and vows that she loves him more than life. This young woman is
sometimes Julia and sometimes Helen and sometimes Grace; she now is
exiled for a while on a lonely island, and even she is carried away by a
flood; but in every case she is just the same girl rescued by the same
hero. That hero is always a being of wonderful mechanical and scientific
knowledge of some kind or other, whether as Captain Dodd he makes love
to Lucy Fountain, or as Henry Little he captivates Grace Carden, or as
the gentleman in "Foul Play" he cures the heroine of consumption and
builds island huts better than Robinson Crusoe. Then we have the rough,
clever, eccentric personage, Dr. Sampson or Dr. Amboyne, whose business
principally is to act a part like that of Herr Mittler in Goethe's
novel, and help the characters of the book through every difficulty.
Then we have the white-livered sneak, the villain of the book when he is
bad enough for such a part; the Coventry of "Put Yourself in his Place";
I forget what his name is in "Foul Play." These are the puppets which
principally make up the show. Very vigorously and cleverly do they
dance, and capitally do they imitate life; but there are so very few of
them that we grow a little tired of seeing them over and over again.
Indeed, Charles Reade's array of characters sometimes reminds us of the
simple system of Plautus, in which we have for every play the same types
of people--the rather stingy father, the embarrassed lover, the clever
comic slave, and so forth. It cannot be said that Reade has added a
single character to fiction. He understands human nature, or at least
such types of it as he habitually selects, very well, and he draws
vigorously his figures and groups; but he has discovered nothing fresh,
he has rescued no existence from the commonplace and evanescent
realistics of life, to be preserved immortal in a work of art. Not one
of his characters is cited in ordinary conversation or in the writings
of journalists. Nobody quotes from him unless in reference to some one
of the stirring social topics which he has illustrated, and even then
only as one would quote from a correspondent of the "Times." Every
educated man and woman in England is assumed, as a matter of course, to
be familiar with the works of George Eliot; but nobody is necessarily
assumed to have read Charles Reade. That educated people do read him and
do admire him is certain; but it is quite a matter of option with them
to read him or let him alone so far as society and public opinion are
concerned. There are certain tests and evidences of a novelist's having
attained a front-rank place in England which are unmistakable. They are
purely social, may be only superficial, and will neither one way nor the
other affect the views of foreign critics or of posterity; but they are
decisive as far as England is concerned. Among them I shall mention two
or three. One is the fact that writers in the press allude to some of
his characters without feeling bound to explain in whose novel and what
novel the characters appear. Another is the fact that artists
voluntarily select from his works subjects for paintings to be sent to
the Royal Academy's annual exhibition or elsewhere. A third is the fact
that articles about him, not formal reviews of a work just published,
appear pretty often in the magazines. Now, whatever may be the genius
and merits of an author, I think he cannot be said to have attained the
front rank in English public opinion unless he can show these evidences
of success; and, so far as I know, Mr. Reade cannot show any of them.
For myself, I do not believe that Mr. Reade ever could under any
circumstances have become a really great novelist. All the higher gifts
of imagination and all the richer veins of humor have been denied to
him. Not one gleam of poetic fancy ever seems to have floated across the
nervous Saxon of his style. He is a powerful story-teller, who has a
manly purpose in every tale he tells, and that is all. That surely is a
great deal. No one tells a story more thrillingly. Once you begin to
listen, you cannot release yourself from the spell of the _raconteur_
until all be done. A strong, healthy air of honest and high purpose
breathes through nearly all the stories. An utter absence of cant,
affectation, and sham distinguishes them. A surprising variety of
descriptive power, at once bold, broad, and realistic, is one of their
great merits. Mr. Reade can describe a sea-fight, a storm, the forging
of a horseshoe, the ravages of an inundation, the trimming of a lady's
dress, the tuning of a piano, with equal accuracy and apparent zest. I
once heard an animated discussion in a literary club as to whether the
scrap of minute description was artistic and effective or absurd and
ludicrous which makes us acquainted with the fact that when Henry Little
dragged Grace Carden out of the raging flood, the force of the water
washed away the heroine's stockings and garters and left her barefoot.
Some irreverent critics would only laugh at the gravity with which the
author detailed this important circumstance. Others, however, insisted
that this little touch, so homely, and to the profane mind so
exceedingly ridiculous, was necessary and artistic; that it heightened
the effect of the great word-picture previously shown by the force of
its practical and circumstantial reality. However this momentous
controversy may settle itself in the estimation of readers, it cannot be
denied that some at least of Reade's success is due to the courage and
self-reliance which will brave the risk of being ridiculous for the sake
of being real and effective. Indeed, Mr. Reade wants no quality which is
necessary to make a powerful story-teller, while he is distinguished
from all mere story-tellers by the fact that he has some great social
object to serve in nearly everything he undertakes to detail. More than
this I do not believe he is, nor, despite the evidences of something yet
higher which were given in "Christie Johnstone" and "The Cloister and
the Hearth," do I think he ever could have been. He is a magnificent
specimen of the modern special correspondent, endowed with the
additional and unique gift of a faculty for throwing his report into the
form of a thrilling story. But it requires something more than this,
something higher than this, to make a great novelist whom the world will
always remember. Mr. Reade is unsurpassed in the second class of English
novelists, but he does not belong to the front rank. His success has
been great in its way, but it is for an age and not for time.


Leicester Square and the region that lies around it are conventionally
regarded as the exile quarter of London. The name of Leicester square
suggests the idea of an exile, as surely and readily, even to the mind
of one who has never looked on the mournful and decaying enclosure, as
the name of Billingsgate does that of fish-woman, or the name of the
Temple that of a law-student. Yet, if a stranger visiting London thinks
he is likely to see any exile of celebrity, while pacing the streets
which branch off Leicester square, he will be almost as much mistaken as
if he were to range Eastcheap in the hope of meeting the wild Prince and

Many a conspiracy has had its followers and understrappers in the
Leicester square region; but the great conspirators do not live there
any more. The place is falling, falling; the foreign and distinctive
character of the population remains as marked as ever, but the
foreigners whom London people would care to see are not to be found
there any longer. The exiles who have made part of history, whose names
are on record, do not care for Leicester square. They are to be found in
Kensington, in Brompton, in Hampstead and Highgate; in the Regent's Park
district; a few in Bloomsbury, a few in Mayfair. A marble slab and an
inscription now mark the house in King street, St. James's, where Louis
Napoleon lodged; and there is a house in Belgrave square dear to all
true Legitimists, where the Count de Chambord ("Henri Cinq") received
Berryer and his brother pilgrims. Only poor exiles herd together now in
London. Only poverty, I suppose, ever causes nationalities to herd
together anywhere. The men who group around Leicester square are the
exiles without a fame; the subterranean workers in politics; the men who
come like shadows, and so depart; the men whose names are writ in water,
even though their life-paths may have been marked in blood.

Living in London, I had of late years many opportunities of meeting with
the exiles of each class. I know few men more to be pitied than the
great majority of those who make up the latter or Leicester square
section. On the other hand, I should say that few men, indeed, are more
to be envied by any of their fellow-creatures who love to be courted and
"lionized," than the political exiles of great name who come to London
and do not stay too long there.

Far away as the days of Thaddeus of Warsaw and the conventional and
romantic type of exile now seem, there is still a fervent yearning in
British society toward the representative of any Continental nationality
which happens to be oppressed. No man had ever before received such a
welcome in London as Kossuth did; but Kossuth stayed too long, became
domesticized and familiarized, and society in London likes its lions to
be always new and fresh. Moreover, the late Lord Palmerston, a warm
patron of exiles when the patronage went no further than an invitation
to a dinner or an evening party, set his face against Kossuth from the
first; and polite society soon took the hint.

The man who most completely conquered all society, even the very
highest, in London, during my recollection, was the man who probably
cared least about it, and who certainly never sought to win the favor of
fashion--I mean, of course, Garibaldi. To this day I am perfectly unable
to understand the demeanor of the British peerage toward Garibaldi, when
he visited London for a few days some years ago. The thing was utterly
unprecedented and inexplicable. The Peerage literally rushed at him. He
was beset by dukes, mobbed by countesses. He could not by any human
possibility have so divided his day as to find time for breakfasting and
dining with one-fifth of the noble hosts who fought and scrambled for
him. It was a perpetual torture to his secretaries and private friends
to decide between the rival claims of a Prime Minister and a Prince of
the blood; an Archbishop and a Duchess; the Lord Chancellor and the
leader of the Opposition. The Tories positively outdid the Whigs in the
struggle for the society of the simple seaman, the gallant guerilla. The
oddest thing about the business was, that three out of every four of
these noble personages had always previously spoken of Garibaldi--when
they did speak of him at all--with contempt and dislike, as a buccaneer
and a filibuster.

What did it mean? Was it a little comedy? Was it their fun? Was it a
political _coup de théâtre_, to dodge the Radicals and the workingmen
out of their favorite hero? Certainly some of Garibaldi's friends
suspected something of the kind, and were utterly bewildered and
confounded by the unexpected rush of aristocratic admirers, who beset
the hero from the moment he touched the shore of England.

It was a strange sight, not easily to be forgotten, to see the manner in
which Garibaldi sat among the dukes and marchionesses--simple, sweet,
arrayed in the calm, serene dignity of a manly, noble heart. There was
something of Oriental stateliness in the unruffled, imperturbable, bland
composure, with which he bore himself amid the throng of demonstrative
and titled adulators. I do not think he believed in the sincerity of
half of it, any more than I did, but he showed no more sign of distrust
or impatience than he did of gratified vanity.

The thing ended in a quarrel between the Aristocracy and the Democracy,
between Belgravia and Clerkenwell, for the custody of the hero, and
Garibaldi escaped somehow back to his island during the squabble. But I
think Lady Palmerston let the mask fall for a moment, when, growing
angry at the assurance of Garibaldi's humbler friends, and perhaps a
little tired of the whole business, she told some gentlemen of my
acquaintance, that quite too much work had been made about a person who,
after all, was only a respectable brigand. This was said (and it _was_
said) at the very meridian of the day of noble homage to the Emancipator
of Sicily.

Garibaldi has never since returned to England. Should he ever do so, he
will find himself unembarrassed by the attentions of the Windsor uniform
and Order of the Garter. The play, however it was got up, or whatever
its object, was played out long ago. But the West End is, as a rule,
very fond of distinguished exiles, when they come and go quickly; and
Lord Palmerston's drawing-room was seldom without a representative of
the class. No man ever did less for any great cause than Lord Palmerston
did; but he liked brilliant exiles, and, perhaps, more particularly the
soldierly than the scholarly class. Such a man as the martial, dashing,
adventurous General Türr, for example, was the kind of refugee that Lord
and Lady Palmerston especially favored.

Many English peers have, indeed, quite a _spécialité_ in the way of
patronizing exiles; but, of course, in all such cases the exile must
have a name which brings some gratifying distinction to his host. He
must be somebody worth pointing out to the other guests. I know that
many Continental refugees have chafed at all this, and some have
steadily held aloof from it, and declined to be shown off for the
admiration of a novelty-hunting crowd. Many, too, have been deceived by
it; have mistaken such idle attention for profound and practical
sympathy, and have thought that two or three peers and half a dozen
aristocratic petticoats could direct the foreign policy of England. They
have swelled with hope and confidence; have built their plans and based
their organizations on the faith that Park Lane meant the British
government, and that the politeness of a Cabinet Minister was as good as
the assistance of a British fleet; and have found out what idiots they
were in such a belief, and have gone nigh to breaking their hearts
accordingly. Indeed, the readiness of all classes in England to rush at
any distinguished exile, and become effusive about himself and his cause
is very often--or, at least, used to be--a cruel kindness, sure to be
misunderstood and to betray--a love that killed.

Nothing could, in its way, have been more unfortunate and calamitous
than the outburst of popular enthusiasm in England about the Polish
insurrection four years ago. Some of the Polish leaders living in London
were completely deceived by it, and finally believed that England was
about to take up arms in their cause. An agitation was got up, outside
the House of Commons, by an earnest, well-meaning gentleman, who really
believed what he said; and inside the House by a bustling, quickwitted,
political adventurer, who certainly ought not to have believed what he
said. This latter gentleman actually went out to Cracow, in Austrian
Poland, and was received there with wild demonstrations of welcome as a
representative of the national will of England and the precursor of
English intervention. The Polish insurrection went on; and England wrote
a diplomatic note, which Russia resented as a piece of impertinence; and
there England's sympathy ended. "I think," said a great English Liberal
to me, "that every Englishman who helped to encourage these poor Poles
and give them hope of English help, has Polish blood on his hands." I
think so, too.

I have always thought that Felice Orsini was in some sort a victim to
the kind of delusion which English popularity so easily fosters. I met
Orsini when he came to England, not very long before the unfortunate and
criminal attempt of the Rue Lepelletier; and I was much taken, as most
people who met him were, by the simplicity, sweetness, and soldierly
frankness of his demeanor. He delivered some lectures in London,
Manchester, Liverpool, and other large towns, on his own personal
adventures--principally his escape from prison--and though he had but a
moderate success as a lecturer, he was surrounded everywhere by
well-meaning and sympathizing groups, the extent of whose influence and
the practical value of whose sympathy he probably did not at first quite
understand. He certainly had, at one time, some vague hopes of obtaining
for the cause of Italian independence a substantial assistance from
England. A short experience cured him of that dream; and I fancy it was
then that he formed the resolution which he afterward attempted so
desperately to carry out. I think, from something I heard him say once,
that Mazzini had endeavored to enlighten him as to the true state of
affairs in England, and the real value of the sort of sympathy which
London so readily offers to any interesting exile. But I do not believe
Mazzini's advice had much influence over Orsini. Indeed, the latter, at
the time I saw him, had but little respect for Mazzini. He spoke with
something like contempt of the great conspirator. It would have been
well for Orsini if he had, in one thing at least, followed the counsels
of Mazzini. People used to say, some years ago, that odious and
desperate as Orsini's attempt was, it at least had the merit of
frightening Louis Napoleon into active efforts on behalf of Italy. There
was so much about Orsini that was worthy and noble that one would be
glad to regard him as even in his crime the instrument of good to the
country he loved so well. But documentary and other evidence has made
it clear since Orsini's death that the negotiations which ended in
Solferino and Villafranca were begun before Orsini had ever planned his
murderous enterprise. The fact is, that, during the Crimean war, Cavour
first tried England on the subject, through easy-going and heedless Lord
Clarendon--who hardly took the trouble to listen to the audacious
projects of his friend--and then turned to France, where quicker and
shrewder ears listened to what he had to say.

I have spoken of Orsini's contempt for Mazzini. Such a feeling toward
such a man seems quite inexplicable. Many men detest Mazzini; many men
distrust him; many look up to him as a prophet, and adore him as a
chief; but I am not able to understand how any one can think of him with
mere contempt. For myself, I find it impossible to contemplate without
sadness and without reverence that noble, futile career; that majestic,
melancholy dream. But it must be owned that an atmosphere of illusion
sheds itself around Mazzini wherever he goes. I believe the man himself
to be the very soul of truth and honor; and yet I protest I would not
take, on any political question, the unsupported testimony of any
devotee of Mazzini to any fact whatsoever. Mazzini's own faith is so
sublimely transcendental, so utterly independent of realities and of
experience, that I sincerely believe the visions of the opium-eater are
hardly less to be relied on than the oracles and opinions of the great
Italian. And yet the force of his character, the commanding nature of
his genius, are such that his followers become more Mazzinian than
Mazzini himself. There is something a good deal provoking about the
manner of the minor followers of Mazzini. I mean in England. I do not
speak of such men as my friend, Mr. Stansfeld, now a Lord of the
Treasury, or my friend, Mr. P. A. Taylor, M. P. These are men of ability
and men of the world, whose enthusiasm and faith, even at their highest,
are under the control of practical experience and the discipline of
public life. But I speak of the minor and less responsible admirers, the
men and women who accept oracle as fact, aspiration as experience, the
dream as the reality. The calm, self-satisfied way in which they deal
with contemporary history, with geography, with statistics, with
possibilities and impossibilities, in the hope of making you believe
what they firmly believe--that Italy could, if only she had proclaimed
herself Republican, have driven the Austrians into the sea in 1859, and
the French across the Alps in 1860, while at the same time quietly
kicking Pope, Bourbon, and Savoy out of throned existence. The confident
and imperturbable assurance with which they can do all this--and I have
never met with any genuine devotee of Mazzini who could not--is
something to make one bewildered rather than merely impatient. For it is
true in politics as in literature or in fashion, the admiring imitator
reproduces only the defects, the weaknesses, the mannerisms and mistakes
of the original. Mazzini himself is, I need hardly say, a singularly
modest and retiring man. While he lived in London, he shrank from all
public notice, and was seen only by his friends and followers. He sought
out nobody. "Sir," said Mr. Gladstone, addressing the Speaker of the
House of Commons, one night, when a fierce and factious attack was made
on Mr. Stansfeld as a follower of the great exile, "I never saw Signor
Mazzini." Yet Gladstone was by far the most prominent and influential of
all the English sympathizers with the cause of Italian liberty. One
would have thought it impossible for such a man as Mazzini to live for
years in the same city with Gladstone without the two ever chancing to
meet. But for the modest seclusion and shrinking way of Mazzini, such a
thing would, indeed, have been impossible.

Louis Blanc is, perhaps, the only Revolutionary exile who, in my time,
has been everywhere and permanently popular in London society. The fate
of a political exile in a place like London usually is to be a lion
among one clique and a _bête noir_ in another. But Louis Blanc has been
accepted and welcomed everywhere, although he has never compromised or
concealed one iota of his political opinions. I think one explanation,
and, perhaps, _the_ explanation of this somewhat remarkable phenomenon,
is to be found in the fact that Louis Blanc never for an hour played the
part of a conspirator. He seems to have honorably construed his place in
English society to be that of one to whom a shelter had been given, and
who was bound not to make any use of that shelter which could embarrass
his host. In London he ceased to be an active politician. He refused to
exhibit himself _en victime_. He appealed to no public pity. He made no
parade of defeat and exile. He went to work steadily as a literary man,
and he had the courage to be poor. When he appeared in public it was
simply as a literary lecturer. He was not very successful in that
capacity. At least, he was not what the secretary of a lyceum would call
a success. He gave a series of lectures on certain phases of society in
Paris before the great Revolution, and they were attended by all the
best literary men in London, who were, I think, unanimous in their
admiration of the power, the eloquence, the brilliancy which these
pictures of a ghastly past displayed. But the general public cared
nothing about the _salons_ where wit, and levity, and wickedness
prepared the way for revolution; and I heard Louis Blanc pour out an
_apologia_ (I don't mean an apology) for Jean Jacques Rousseau in
language of noble eloquence, and with dramatic effect worthy of a great
orator, in a small lecture-room, of which three-fourths of the space was
empty. Since that time he has delivered lectures occasionally at the
request of mechanics' institutions and such societies; but he has not
essayed a course of lectures on his own account. Everyone knows him;
everyone likes him; everyone admires his manly, modest character and his
uncompromising Republicanism. Lately he has lived more in Brighton than
in London; but wherever in England he happens to be, he lives always as
a simple citizen; has never been raved about like Kossuth, or denounced
like Mazzini; and has occupied himself wholly with his historical labors
and his letters to a Paris newspaper.

Another exile of distinction who lived for years in London apart from
politics and heedless of popular favor was Ferdinand Freiligrath, the
German poet. Freiligrath had to leave Prussia because of his political
poems and writings. He had undergone one prosecution and escaped
conviction, but Prussia was not then (twenty years ago) a country in
which to run such risks too often. So Freiligrath went to Amsterdam and
thence to London. He lived in London for many years, and acted as
manager of a Swiss banking-house. His life was one of entire seclusion
from political schemes or agitations. He did not even, like his
countryman and friend, Gottfried Kinkel, take any part in public
movements among the Germans in London--and he certainly never went about
society and the newspapers blowing his own trumpet, and keeping his name
always prominent, like the egotistical and inflated Karl Blind. Indeed,
so complete was Freiligrath's retirement that many Englishmen living in
London, who delighted in some of his poems--his exquisite, fanciful,
melodious "Sand Songs" his glowing Desert poems, his dreamy, delightful
songs of the sea, and his burning political ballads--were quite amazed
to find that the poet himself had been a resident of their own city for
nearly half a lifetime. Freiligrath has now at last returned to his own
country. His countrymen invited him home, and raised a national tribute
to enable him to give up his London engagement and withdraw altogether
from a life of mere business. In a letter I lately received from
Freiligrath's daughter (a young lady of great talent and
accomplishments, recently married in London), I find it mentioned that
Freiligrath expected soon to receive a visit from Longfellow in
Germany--the first meeting of these two old friends for a period of some
five-and-twenty years.

Alexander Herzen, the famous Russian exile, the wittiest of men, endowed
with the sharpest tongue and the best nature, has left us. For many
years he lived in London and published his celebrated _Kolokol_--"The
Bell," which rang so ominously and jarringly in the ears of Russian
autocracy. He has now set up his staff in Geneva, a little London in its
attractiveness to exiles; and his arrowy, flashing wit gleams no longer
across the foreign world of the English metropolis. I do not know how
long Herzen had lived in London, but I fancy the difficulties of the
English language must have proved insurmountable to him--a strange
phenomenon in the case of a Russian. Certainly he never, so far as I am
aware, either spoke or wrote English.

The latest exile of great mark whom we had among us in London was
General Prim. When his attempt at revolution in Spain failed some two
years ago, Prim went into Belgium. There some pressure was brought to
bear upon him by the Ministry, in consequence, no doubt, of certain
pressure brought to bear by France, and Prim left Brussels and came to
live in London. He lived very quietly, made no show of himself in any
way, and was no doubt hard at work all the time making preparation for
what has since come to pass. To all appearance he had an easy and
careless sort of life, living out among his private friends, going to
the races and going to the opera. But he was incessantly planning and
preparing; and he told many Englishmen candidly what he was preparing
for. There were many men in London who were looking out for the Spanish
Revolution months before it came, on the faith of Prim's earnest
assurances that it was coming. So much has of late been written about
Prim that his personal appearance and manner must be familiar to most
readers of newspapers and magazines. I need only say that there is in
private much less of the _militaire_ about him than one who had not
actually met him would be inclined to imagine. He is small, neat, and
even elegant in dress, very quiet and perhaps somewhat languid in
manner, looking wonderfully young for his years, and without the
slightest tinge of the Leicester square foreigner about him. He is
rather the foreigner of Regent street and the stalls of the opera
house--any one who knows London will at once understand the difference.
Prim impressed me with a much greater respect for his intellect, even
from a literary man's point of view, than I had had before meeting and
conversing with him. I think those who regard him as a mere _sabreur_,
the ordinary Spanish leader of a successful military revolution, are
mistaken. His animated and epigrammatic conversation seemed to me to be
inspired and guided by an intellectual depth and a power of observation
and reflection such as I at least was not prepared to find in the
dashing soldier of the Moorish campaign.

There is one class of the obscure exiles, different from both the
favored and the poorest, whose existence has often puzzled me. A
political question of moment begins to disturb the European continent.
Immediately there turns up in London, and presents himself at your door
(supposing you are a journalist with acknowledged sympathies for this or
that side of the question) a mysterious and generally shabby-looking
personage, who professes to know all about it, and volunteers to supply
you with the most authentic information and the most trustworthy
"appreciation" of any events that may transpire. He wants no money; his
information is given for the sake of "the cause." You ask for
credentials, and he produces recommendations which quite satisfy you
that his objects are genuine, although, oddly enough, the persons who
recommend him do not seem to have anything whatever to do with the cause
he represents. He comes, for example, to talk about the affairs of
Roumania, and he brings letters and vouchers from literary friends in
Paris. He professes to be an emissary from the Cretans, and his
recommendations are from a Manchester cotton-firm. Anyhow, you are
satisfied; you ask no explanations; you assume that your Paris or
Manchester friends have enlarged the sphere of their sympathies since
you saw them last, and you repose confidence in your new acquaintance.
You are right. He brings you information, the most rapid, the most
surprising, the most accurate. Such a man I knew during the
Schleswig-Holstein agitation, which ended in the Danish war of four
years since. He was a Prussian--a waif of the Berlin rising of 1848. Was
he in the confidence of Von Beust, and Bismarck, and Palmerston, and all
the rest of them? I venture to doubt it; yet if he had been, he could
hardly have been more quick and accurate in all the information he
brought me. Evening after evening he brought a regular minute of the
proceedings of the day at the Conference of London, which was sitting
with closed doors, and pledged to profoundest secrecy. Perhaps this was
only guesswork! Here is one illustration. The Conference was held
because some of the European Great Powers, England and France
especially, desired to save Denmark from a struggle against the
immeasurably superior force of Prussia and Austria. A certain proposal
was to be made to the Conference by England and France on the part of
Denmark. So much we all knew. One evening my friend came to me, and bade
me announce to the world that the proposal had been made that day, and
indignantly rejected--by Denmark! The story seemed preposterous, but I
relied on my friend. Next day I was laughed at; my news was denounced
and repudiated. The day after it was proved to be true--and Denmark went
to war.

The last time I saw my friend was in the spring of 1866. He came to tell
me that Prussia had resolved--at least that Bismarck had resolved--on
war with Austria. "Stick to that statement," he said, "whatever anybody
may say to the contrary--unless Bismarck resigns." I took his advice. At
this time I am convinced that the English government had not the least
idea that a war was really coming. The war came; but I never saw my
friend any more.

Another of my mysterious acquaintances was an old, white-haired, grave,
placid man who turned up in London during the early part of the French
occupation of Mexico. He was a passionate Republican and
anti-Bonapartist. He was a friend and apparently a confidant of Juarez,
and was thoroughly identified with the interests of the Republicans in
Mexico, although himself a Frenchman. I doubt whether I have ever met
with a finer specimen of the courtly old gentleman, the class now
beginning to disappear even in France, than this mysterious friend of
the Mexican Republic. He might have been fresh from the Faubourg St.
Germain, such was the grave, dignified, and somewhat melancholy grace of
his courtly bearing. Yet he had evidently lived long in Mexico, and he
was an ardent Republican of the red tinge; there was something of the
old _militaire_ about him, too, which lent a certain strength to his
bland and placid demeanor. I never quite knew what he was doing in
London. He was not what is called an "unofficial representative" of
Juarez (at this time diplomatic relations between England and Mexico
were of course broken off) for he never seemed to go near any of our
ministers or diplomatists, and his only object appeared to be to supply
accurate information to one or two Liberal journals which he believed
to be honestly inclined toward the right side of every question. His
information was always accurate, his estimate of a critical situation
was always justified by further knowledge and the progress of events,
his predictions always came true. He looked like a poor man, indeed,
like a needy man; yet he never seemed to want for money, and he neither
sought nor would have any compensation for the constant and valuable
information he afforded. His knowledge of European and American politics
was profound; and though he spoke not one word of English he seemed to
understand all the daily details of our English political life. He was a
constant visitor to me (always at night and late) during the progress of
the Mexican struggle. When the Mexican Empire was nearly played out he
came and told me the end was very, very near, and that in the event of
Maximilian's being captured it would be impossible for Juarez to spare
his life. He did not tell me that he was at once returning to Mexico,
but I presume that he did immediately return, for that was the last I
saw or heard of him.

During the quarrels between the Prussian Representative Chamber and
Count von Bismarck (before the triumph of Sadowa had condoned for the
offences of the great despotic Minister), I had a visit, one night, from
a mysterious, seedy, snuffy old German. He came, he said, to develop a
grand plan for the extinction of the Junker or Feudal party. Why he came
to develop it to me I do not know, as it will presently be seen that I
could hardly render it any practical assistance. It was, like all grand
schemes, remarkably simple in its nature. Indeed, it was literally and
strictly Captain Bobadil's immortal plan; although my German visitor
indignantly repudiated the supposition that he had borrowed it, and
declared, I believe, with perfect truth, that he had never heard of
Captain Bobadil before. The plan was simply that a society should be
formed of young and devoted Germans who should occupy themselves in
challenging and killing off, one by one, the whole Junker party. My
friend made his calculations very calmly, and he did not foolishly or
arrogantly assume that the swordsmanship of his party must needs be
always superior to that of their adversaries. No; he counted that there
would be a certain number of victims among his Liberal heroes, and made,
indeed, a large allowance, left a broad margin for such losses. But
this, in no wise affected the success of his plan. The Liberals, were
many, the Junkers few. It would simply be a matter of time and
calculation. Numbers must tell in the end. A day must come when the last
Junker would fall to earth--and then Astrea would return. Now the man
who talked in this way was no lunatic. He had nothing about him, except
his plan, which denoted mental aberration. His scheme apart, he was as
steady and prosy an old German as you could meet under the lindens of
Berlin or on the Lutherplatz of Königsberg. He was, moreover, as
earnest, argumentative, and profoundly wearisome over his project as if
he were expounding to an admiring class of students the relations of the
Ego and Non-Ego. I need hardly add that one single beam, even the
faintest, of a sense of the ridiculous, never shone in upon him during
his long and eloquent exposition of the patriotic virtue, the
completeness and the mathematical certainty of his ingenious project.

Let me close my random reminiscences with one recollection of a sadder
nature. Some three or four years ago there came to London from Naples an
Italian of high education and character--a lawyer by profession; a
passionate devotee of Italian unity, and filled naturally with a hatred
of the expelled Bourbons. This gentleman had discovered in one of the
Neapolitan prisons a number of instruments of torture--rusty, hideous
old iron chairs, and racks, and screws, and "cages of silence," and such
other contrivances. He became the possessor of these, and he obtained
from the new government a certificate of the genuineness of his
treasure-trove--that is to say, a certificate that the things were
actually found in the place where the owner professed to have found
them. The Italian authorities, of course, could say nothing as to
whether they had or had not been used as instruments of torture in any
modern reign. They may have lain rusting there since hideous old days
when the Inquisition was a fashionable institution; they may have been
used--public opinion and Mr. Gladstone said things as horrible had been
done--in the blessed reign of good King Bomba. The Neapolitan lawyer
firmly believed that they had been so used; and he became inspired with
the idea that to take these instruments, first to London and then to the
United States, and exhibit them, and lecture on them, would arouse such
a tempest of righteous indignation among all peoples, free or enslaved,
as must sweep kingcraft and priestcraft off the earth. This idea became
a faith with him. He brought his treasure of rusty iron to London, and
proposed to take a great hall and begin the work of his mission. I
endeavored to dissuade him (he had brought some introductions to me). I
told him frankly that, just at that time, public opinion in London was
utterly indifferent to the Bourbons. The fervor of interest about the
Neapolitan Revolution had gone by; people were tired of Italy, and
wanted something new; the Polish insurrection was going on; the great
American Civil War was occupying public attention; London audiences
cared no more about the crimes of the Bourbons than about the crimes of
the Borgias. He was not to be dissuaded. He really believed at first
that he could induce some great English orator, Gladstone or Bright, to
deliver lectures on those instruments and the guilt of the system which
employed them. Then he became more moderate, and applied to this and
that professional lecturer--in vain. No one would have anything to do
with a project so obviously doomed to failure--he himself spoke no
English. At last he induced a lady who was somewhat ambitious of a
public career, to lecture for him; and he took a great hall for a series
of nights, and advertised largely, and went to great expense. I believe
he staked all he had in money or credit on the success of the
enterprise; and the making of money was not his object; he would have
cheerfully given all he had to create a flame of public indignation
against despotism. Need I say what a failure the enterprise was? The
London public never manifested the slightest interest in the exhibition.
The lecture-hall was empty. I believe the poor Neapolitan tried again
and again. The public would not come, or look, or listen. He spent his
money in vain; he got into debt in vain. His instruments of torture must
have inflicted on their owner agonies enough to have satisfied
Maniscalco or Carafa. At last he could bear it no longer. He wrote a few
short letters to some friends (I have still that which I received--a
melancholy memorial), simply thanking them for what efforts they had
made to assist him in his object, acknowledging that he had been over
sanguine, and intimating that he had now given up the enterprise.
Nothing more was said or hinted. A day or two after, he locked himself
up in his room. Somebody heard an explosion, but took no particular
notice. The lady who had endeavored to give voice to my poor friend's
scheme came, later in the day, to see him. The door was broken open--and
the poor Neapolitan lay dead, a pistol still in his hand, a pistol
bullet in his brain.


I wonder how many of the rising generation in America or in England have
read "Alton Locke"? Many years have passed since I read or even saw it.
I do not care to read it any more, for I fear that it would not now
sustain the effect of the impression it once produced on me, and I do
not desire to destroy or even to weaken that impression. I know the book
is not a great work of art. I know that three-fourths of its value
consists in its blind and earnest feeling; that the story is heavily
constructed, that many of the details are extravagant exaggerations, and
that the author after all was not in the least a democrat or a believer
in human equality. I have not forgotten that even then, when he braved
respectable public opinion by taking a tailor for his hero, he took good
care that the tailor should have genteel relations. Still I retain the
impression which the book once produced, and I do not care to have it
disturbed. Therefore I do not read or criticise "Alton Locke" any more;
I remember it only as it struck me long ago--as a generous protest
against the brutal indifference, literary and political, which left the
London artisan so long to toil and suffer and sicken, to run into debt,
to drink and fight and pine and die, in the darkness. Is it
necessary--perhaps it is--to explain to some of my readers the story of
"Alton Locke"? It is the story of a young London tailor-boy who has
instincts and aspirations far above his class; who yearns to be a poet
and a patriot; who loves and struggles in vain; who is supposed to sum
up in his own weakly body all the best emotions, the vainest pinings,
the wildest wishes, the most righteous protests of his fellows; who
joins with the Chartist movement for lack of a better way to the great
end, and sees its failure, and himself utterly broken down goes out to
America to seek a new life there, and only beholds the shore of the
promised land to die. Here at least was a grand idea. Here was the
motive of a prose epic that ought to have been more thrilling to modern
ears than the song of Tasso. The effect of the work at the time was
strengthened by the fact that the author was a clergyman of the Church
of England, who was believed to be a man of aristocratic family and
connections. The book was undoubtedly a great success in its day. The
strong idea which was in the heart of it carried it along. The Rev.
Charles Kingsley became suddenly famous.

"Alton Locke" was published more than twenty years ago. Then Charles
Kingsley was to most boys in Great Britain who read books at all a sort
of living embodiment of chivalry, liberty, and a revolt against the
established order of baseness and class-oppression in so many spheres of
our society. The author of "Alton Locke" about the same time delivered a
sermon in the country church where he officiated, so full of warm and
passionate protest against the wrongs done to the poor by existing
systems, that his spiritual chief, the rector or dean or some other
dignitary, arose in the church itself--morally and physically arose, as
Mrs. Gamp did--and denounced the preacher. Need it be said that the
report of so unusual and extraordinary a scene as this excited our
youthful enthusiasm into a perfect flame for the minister of the State
Church who had braved the public censure of his superior in the cause of
human right? For a long time Charles Kingsley was our chosen hero--I am
speaking now of young men with the youthful spirit of revolt in them,
with dreams of republics and ideas about the equality of man. If I were
to be asked to describe Charles Kingsley now, having regard to the
tendency of his writings and his public attitude, how should I speak of
him? First, as about the most perverse and wrong-headed supporter of
every political abuse, the most dogmatic champion of every wrong cause
in domestic and foreign politics, that even a State Church has for many
years produced. I hardly remember, in my practical observation of
politics, a great public question but Charles Kingsley was at the wrong
side of it. The vulgar glorification of mere strength and power, such a
disgraceful characteristic of modern public opinion, never had a
louder-tongued votary than he. The apostle of liberty and equality, as
he seemed to me in my early days, has of late only shown himself to my
mind as the champion of slave-systems of oppression and the iron reign
of mere force. Is this a paradox? Has the man undergone a wonderful
change of opinions? It is not a paradox, and I think Charles Kingsley
has not changed his views. Perhaps a short sketch of the man and his
work may reconcile these seeming antagonisms and make the reality
coherent and clear.

I was present at a meeting not long since where Mr. Kingsley was one of
the principal speakers. The meeting was held in London, the audience was
a peculiarly Cockney audience, and Charles Kingsley is personally little
known to the public of the metropolis. Therefore when he began to speak
there was quite a little thrill of wonder and something like incredulity
through the listening benches. Could that, people near me asked, really
be Charles Kingsley, the novelist, the poet, the scholar, the
aristocrat, the gentleman, the pulpit-orator, the "soldier-priest," the
apostle of muscular Christianity? Yes, that was indeed he. Rather tall,
very angular, surprisingly awkward, with thin, staggering legs, a
hatchet face adorned with scraggy gray whiskers, a faculty for falling
into the most ungainly attitudes, and making the most hideous
contortions of visage and frame; with a rough provincial accent and an
uncouth way of speaking, which would be set down for absurd caricature
on the boards of a comic theatre; such was the appearance which the
author of "Glaucus" and "Hypatia" presented to his startled audience.
Since Brougham's time nothing so ungainly, odd, and ludicrous had been
displayed upon an English platform. Needless to say, Charles Kingsley
has not the eloquence of Brougham. But he has a robust and energetic
plain-speaking which soon struck home to the heart of the meeting. He
conquered his audience. Those who at first could hardly keep from
laughing; those who, not knowing the speaker, wondered whether he was
not mad or in liquor; those who heartily disliked his general principles
and his public attitude, were alike won over, long before he had
finished, by his bluff and blunt earnestness and his transparent
sincerity. The subject was one which concerned the social suffering of
the poor. Mr. Kingsley approached it broadly and boldly, talking with a
grand disregard for logic and political economy, sometimes startling the
more squeamish of his audience by the Biblical frankness of his
descriptions and his language, but, I think, convincing every one that
he was sound at heart, and explaining unconsciously to many how it
happened that one endowed with sympathies so humane and liberal should
so often have distinguished himself as the champion of the stupidest
systems and the harshest oppressions. Anybody could see that the strong
impelling force of the speaker's character was an emotional one; that
sympathy and not reason, feeling rather than logic, instinct rather than
observation, would govern his utterances. There are men in whom, no
matter how robust and masculine their personal character, a
disproportionate amount of the feminine element seems to have somehow
found a place. These men will usually see things not as they really are,
but as they are reflected through some personal prejudice or emotion.
They will generally spring to conclusions, obey sudden impulses and
instincts, ignore evidence and be very "thorough" and sweeping in all
their judgments. When they are right they are--like the young lady in
the song--very, very good; but like her, too, when they happen to be
wrong they are "horrid." Of these men the author of "Alton Locke" is a
remarkable illustration. It seems odd to describe the expounder of the
creed of Muscular Christianity as one endowed with too much of the
feminine element. But for all his vigor of speech and his rough voice,
Mr. Charles Kingsley is as surely feminine in his way of reasoning, his
likes and dislikes, his impulses and his prejudices, as Harriet
Martineau is masculine in her intellect and George Sand in her emotions.

Mr. Charles Kingsley is a man of ancient English family, very proud of
his descent, and full of the conviction so ostentatiously paraded by
many Englishmen, that good blood carries with it a warrant for bravery,
justice, and truth. The Kingsleys are a Cheshire family; I believe they
date from before the Conquest--it does not much matter. I shall not
apply to them John Bright's epigram about families which came over with
William the Conqueror and never did anything else; for the Kingsleys
seem to have been always an active race. They took an energetic part in
the civil war during Charles the First's time, and stood by the
Parliament. I am told that the family have still in their possession a
commission to raise a troop of horse, given to a Kingsley and signed by
Oliver Cromwell. One of the family emigrated to the New World with the
Pilgrim Fathers, and I believe the Kingsley line still flourishes there
like a bay-tree. Irrepressible energy, so far as I know, seems to have
always been a characteristic of the household. Charles Kingsley was born
near Dartmouth, in Devonshire; every one who has read his books must
know how he revels in descriptions of the lovely scenery of Devon. He
was for a while a pupil of the Rev. Derwent Coleridge, son of the poet,
and he finally studied at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Mr. Kingsley was
originally intended for the legal profession, but he changed his mind
and went into the church. He was first curate and soon after rector of
the Hampshire parish of Eversley, the name of which has since been so
constantly kept in association with his own. I may mention that Mr.
Kingsley married one of a trio of sisters--the Misses Grenfell--a second
of whom was afterwards married to Mr. Froude, and is since dead, while
the third became the wife of one of the foremost English journalists.
Passing away from these merely personal facts, barely worth a brief
note, we shall find that Kingsley's real existence, if I may use such a
phrase, began and developed under the guidance of a remarkable man and
under the inspiration of a strange movement. The man to whose leadership
and teaching Mr. Kingsley owed so much was the Rev. Frederick Denison
Maurice, who died in the first week of last April.

It would not be easy to explain to an American reader the meaning and
the extent of the influence which this eminent man exercised over a
large field of English society. The life of Mr. Maurice contains nothing
worthy of note as to facts and dates; but its spirit infused new soul
and sense into a whole generation. He was not a great speaker or a great
thinker; he was not a bold reformer; he had not a very subtle intellect;
I doubt whether his writings will be much read in coming time. He was
simply a great character, a grand influence. He sent a new life into the
languid and decaying frame of the State Church of England. He quickened
it with a fresh sense of duty. His hope and purpose were to bring that
church into affectionate and living brotherhood with modern thought,
work, and society. An early friend and companion of John Sterling (the
two friends married two sisters), Maurice had all the sweetness and
purity of Carlyle's hero, with a far greater intellectual strength. Mr.
Maurice set himself to make the English Church a practical influence in
modern thought and society. He did not believe in a religion sitting
apart on the cold Olympian heights of dogmatic theology, and looking
down with dignified disdain upon the common life and the vulgar toils of
humanity. He held that a church, if it is good for anything, ought to be
able to meet fair and square the challenge of the skeptic and the
infidel, and that it ought to concern itself about all that concerns men
and women. One of the fruits of his long and valuable labor is the
Workingmen's College in Red Lion Square, London, an institution of which
he became the principal and to which he devoted much of his time and
attention. Only a few weeks before his death he presided at one of the
public meetings of this his favorite institution. He was the parent of
the scheme of "Christian socialism," which sprang into existence more
than twenty years ago and is bearing fruit still--a scheme to set on
foot coöperative associations among working men on sound and progressive
principles; to help the working men by advances of capital, in order
that they might thus be enabled to help themselves. One of Mr. Maurice's
earliest and most ardent pupils was Charles Kingsley; another was Thomas
Hughes. In helping Mr. Maurice to carry out these schemes Kingsley was
brought into frequent intercourse with some of the London Chartists, and
especially with the working tailors, who have nearly all a strong
radical tendency. Kingsley's impulsive sympathies took fire, and flamed
out with the novel "Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet."

That extraordinary Chartist movement, so long in preparation and so
suddenly extinguished, how completely a thing of the past it seems to
have become! Only twenty-four years have passed since its collapse. Men
under forty can recall, as if it were yesterday, all its incidents and
its principal figures. People in the United States know that my friend
Henry Vincent is still only in his prime; he was one of its earliest and
foremost leaders. But it seems as old and dead as a peasant-war of the
Middle Ages. It was a strange jumble of politics and social complaints.
It was partly the blind, passionate protest of working men who knew that
they had no right to starve and suffer in a prosperous country, but who
hardly knew where the real grievance lay. It was partly the protest of
untaught and eager intelligence against the brutal apathy of government
which would do nothing for national education. Its political demands
were very modest. Some of them have since been quietly carried into law;
some of them have been quietly dismissed into the realm of anachronisms.
Chartism was indeed rather a wild cry, a passionate yearning of lonely
men for combination, than any definite political enterprise. One looks
back now with a positive wonder upon the savage stupidity of the ruling
classes which so nearly converted it into a rebellion. Of course it was
in some instances seized hold of by selfish and scheming politicians,
who played with it for their own purposes. Of course it had its evil
counsellors, its false friends, its cowards, and its traitors. But on
the whole there was a noble spirit of manly honesty pervading the
movement, which to my mind fills it with a romantic interest and ought
to secure for it an honorable memory. It found leaders in many cases
outside its own classes. There was, for example, "Tom Duncombe," a sort
of Alcibiades of English Radicalism; a brilliant talker in Parliament, a
gay man of fashion, steeped deep in reckless debt and sparkling
dissipation; hand and glove with the fast young noblemen of the West End
gambling houses, and the ardent Chartist working men of Shoreditch and
Clerkenwell. There was Feargus O'Connor--huge, boistering, fearless--a
burlesque Mirabeau with red hair; a splendid mob-speaker, who could
fight his way by sheer strength of muscle and fist through a hostile
crowd; vain of his half-mythical descent from Irish kings, even when he
delighted in being hail fellow well met with tailors and hod-carriers;
revelling in the fiercest struggles of politics and the wildest freaks
of prolonged debauchery. O'Connor tried to crowd half a dozen lives into
one, and the natural result was that he prematurely broke down. For a
long time before his death he was a mere lunatic. A strange fact was
that as his manners were always eccentric and boisterous, he had become
an actual madman for months before those around him were fully aware of
the change. In the House of Commons the freaks of the poor lunatic were
for a long time supposed to be only more marked eccentricities, or, as
some thought, insolent affectations of eccentricity. He would rise while
Lord Palmerston was addressing the House, walk up to the great minister,
and give him a tremendous slap on the back. One night he actually
assaulted a member of the House, and the Speaker ordered his arrest.
Feargus sauntered coolly out into the lobbies. The sergeant-at-arms was
bidden to go forth and arrest the offender. Lord Charles Russell
(brother of Earl Russell), then and now sergeant-at-arms, is a thin,
little, feeble man. I have been told by some who witnessed it that the
scene in the lobbies became highly amusing. Lord Charles went with
reluctant steps about his awful task. By this time everybody was
beginning to suspect that O'Connor was really a madman. Anyhow, he was a
giant, and at his sanest moments perfectly reckless. Now it is not a
pleasant task for a weak and little man to be sent to arrest even a sane
giant; but only think of laying hands on a giant who appears to be out
of his senses! The dignity of his office, however, had to be upheld, and
Lord Charles trotted quietly after his huge quarry. He cast imploring
looks at member after member, but it was none of their business to
interfere, and they had no inclination to volunteer. Some of them indeed
were deeply engrossed in speculations as to what would happen if Feargus
were suddenly to turn round. Would the sergeant-at-arms put his dignity
in his pocket and actually run? Or, if he stood his ground, what would
be the result? Happily, however, just as Feargus and his unwilling
pursuer reached Westminster Hall, the eager eye of Lord Charles Russell
descried a little knot of policemen; he hailed them; they came up, and
the sergeant-at-arms did his duty and the capture was effected. I can
well remember seeing O'Connor, somewhere about this time, sauntering
through Covent Garden market, with rolling, restless gait; his hair,
that once was fiery red, all snowy white; his eye gleaming with the
peculiar, quick, shallow, ever-changing glitter of madness. The poor
fellow rambled from fruit-stall to fruit-stall, talking all the while to
himself, sometimes taking up a fruit as if he meant to buy it, and then
putting it down with a vacant laugh and walking on. It was a pitiable
spectacle. His light of reason soon flickered out altogether, and death
came to his relief.

I must not omit to mention, when speaking of the Chartist leaders, the
brave, disinterested, and highly-gifted Ernest Jones, who sacrificed
such bright worldly prospects for the cause of the People's Charter.
Long after the Charter and its agitation were dead, Jones emerged into
public life again, still comparatively a young man, and he seemed about
to enter on a career both brilliant and valuable. An immature and
unexpected death interposed.

However, I have wandered away from the subject of my paper. Charles
Kingsley came to know the principal working men among the Chartists,
and his impulsive nature was greatly influenced by their words and
their lives. Most of their leaders drawn from other classes, O'Connor
especially, he distrusted and disliked. But the rank and file of the
movement, the working men, the sufferers, the "prolétaires" as they
would be called nowadays, attracted his kindly heart. Chartism had
fallen. It collapsed suddenly in 1848; died amid Homeric laughter of the
public. It fell mainly because it had come to occupy a false position
altogether. Partly by ignorance, partly by the selfish folly of some of
its leaders, and partly by the severity of the government measures, the
movement had been driven into a dilemma which it never originally
contemplated. It must either go into open rebellion or surrender. It was
jammed up like MacMahon at Sedan. Chartism had no real wish to rebel,
although of course the flame of the recent revolution in Paris had
glared over it and made it wild; and it had no means of carrying on a
revolt for a single day. So it could only surrender; and the surrender
took place under conditions which made it seem utterly ridiculous.
Kingsley was seized with the idea of crystallizing all this into a
romance. He had as a further stimulant and guide the work which Henry
Mayhew was then publishing, "London Labor and the London Poor," a serial
which by its painful and startling revelations was working a profound
impression on England. Mayhew's narratives were often inaccurate, for he
could not conduct the whole enterprise himself, and had sometimes to
call in the aid of careless and untrustworthy associates, who
occasionally found it easier to throw off a bit of sentimental or
sensational romance than to pursue a patient inquiry. But the general
effect of the publication was healthful and practical, and it became the
parent of nearly all the efforts that followed to lay bare and
ameliorate the condition of the London poor. There can be no doubt that
it had a great influence on the impressionable mind of Charles Kingsley.
He wrote "Alton Locke," and the book became a great success. The Tailor
and Poet was the hero of the hour. "Blackwood" at once christened Alton
Locke "Young Remnants;" but Young Remnants survived the joke. The novel
is full of nonsense and extravagance; and with all its sympathy for
tailors, it has a great deal of Kingsley's characteristic affection for
rank and birth. But it had a really great idea at its heart, and struck
out one or two new characters--especially that of the old Scotch
bookseller--and it made its mark. The peculiarity, however, to which I
wish now especially to direct attention is its utter absence of
practical thinking-power. Nowhere can you find any proof that the author
is able to think about anything. An idea strikes him; he seizes it, and,
to use Hawthorne's expression, "wields it like a flail." Then he throws
it down and takes up something else, to employ it in the same wild and
incoherent fashion. This is Kingsley all out, and always. He is not
content with developing his one only gift of any literary value--the
capacity to paint big, striking pictures with a strong glare or glow on
them. He firmly believes himself a profound philosopher and social
reformer, and he will insist on obtruding before the world on all
occasions his absolute incapacity for any manner of reasoning on any
subject whatsoever. Wild with intellectual egotism, and blind to all
teaching from without, Kingsley rushes at great and difficult subjects
head downwards like a bull. Thus he tackled Chartism, and society, and
competition, and political economy, and what not, in his "Alton Locke";
and thus he has gone on ever since and will to the end of his chapter,
always singling out for the display of his powers the very subjects
whereof he knows least, and is by the whole constitution of his
intellect and temperament least qualified to judge.

I am writing now rather about Kingsley himself than about his books,
with which the readers of "The Galaxy" are of course well acquainted. I
therefore pass over the many books he produced between "Alton Locke" and
"Westward Ho!"--and I dwell upon the latter only because it illustrates
the next great idea which got hold of the author after the little fever
about Chartism had passed away. I suppose "Westward Ho!" may be regarded
as the first appearance of the school of Muscular Christianity. Mr.
Kingsley started for our benefit the huge British hero who could do
anything in the way of fighting and walking, and propagated the
doctrines of the English Church. To read the Bible and to kill the
Spaniards was the whole duty of the ideal Briton of Elizabeth's time,
according to this authority. The notion was a success. In a moment our
literature became flooded with pious athletes who knocked their enemies
down with texts from the Scriptures and left-handers from the shoulder.
All these heroes were of necessity "gentlemen." One of the principal
articles of the new gospel according to Kingsley was that truth, valor,
muscle, and theological fervor were only possessed in their fulness by
the scions of good old English county families. Other nations seldom had
such qualities at all; never had them to perfection; and even favored
Britain only saw them properly illustrated in country gentlemen of long
descent. Of course this sort of thing, which was for the moment a
sincere idea with Kingsley, became a mere affectation among his
followers and admirers. The fighting-parson pattern of hero was for a
while as great a bore as the rough and ugly hero after Jane Eyre's
"Rochester," or the colossal and corrupt guardsman whom "Guy
Livingstone" sent abroad on the world. Certainly Kingsley's hero was a
better style of man than Guy Livingstone's, for at the worst he was only
an egotistical savage, and not a profligate. But I think he did a good
deal of harm in his day. He helped to encourage and inflate that feeling
of national self-conceit which makes people such nuisances to their
neighbors, and he fostered that odious reverence for mere force and
power which Carlyle had already made fashionable. Kingsley himself
appears to have become "possessed" by his own idea as if by some
unmanageable spirit. It banished all his chartism and democracy and
liberalism, and the rest of it. Under its influence Kingsley
out-Carlyled Carlyle in the worship of strong despotisms and force of
any kind. He went out of his way to excuse slavery in the Southern
States. He became the fervent panegyrist of Governor Eyre of Jamaica.
When two sides were possible to any question of human politics, he was
sure to take the wrong one. Nothing for long years, I think, has been
more repulsive, and in its way more mischievous, than the cant about
"strength" which Kingsley did so much to diffuse and to glorify.

Meanwhile his irrepressible energy was always driving him into new
fields of work. It never allowed him time to think. The moment any sort
of idea struck him, he rushed at it and crushed it into the shape of a
book or an essay. He wrote historical novels, philosophical novels, and
theological novels. He wrote poetry--yards of poetry--volumes of poetry.
There really is a great deal of the spirit of poetry in him, and he has
done better things with the hexameter verse than better poets have done.
There was for a long time a fervid school of followers who swore by him,
and would have it that he was to be the great English poet of the
century. He published essays, tracts, lectures, and sermons without
number. He seems to have made up his mind to publish in book form
somehow everything that he had spoken or written anywhere. He inundated
the leading newspapers with letters on this, that, and the other
subject. He was appointed professor of modern history at the University
of Cambridge on the death of Sir James Stephen, and he launched at once
into a series of lectures, which were almost immediately published in
book form. Why he published them it was hard for even vanity itself to
explain, because with characteristic bluntness he began his course with
the acknowledgment that he really knew nothing in particular about the
subjects whereon he had undertaken to instruct the University and the
world. He made up in courage, however, for anything he may have lacked
in knowledge. He went bravely in for an onslaught on the positive theory
of history--on Comte, Mill, Buckle, Darwin, and everybody else. He made
it perfectly clear very soon that he did not know even what these
authors profess to teach. He flatly denied that there is any such thing
as an inexorable law in nature. He proved that even the supposed law of
gravitation is not by any means the rigid and universal sort of thing
that Newton and such-like persons have supposed. How, it may be asked,
did he prove this? In the following words: "If I choose to catch a
stone, I can hold it in my hands; it has not fallen to the ground, and
will not till I let it. So much for the inevitable action of the laws of
gravity." This way of dealing with the question may seem to many readers
nothing better than downright buffoonery. But Kingsley was as grave as a
church and as earnest as an owl. He fully believed that he was refuting
the pedants who believe in the inevitable action of the law of
gravitation, when he talked of holding a stone in his hand. That an
impulsive, illogical man should on the spur of the moment talk this kind
of nonsense, even from a professor's chair, is not perhaps wonderful;
but it does seem a little surprising that he should see it in print,
revise it, and publish it, without ever becoming aware of its absurdity.

In the same headlong spirit Mr. Kingsley rushed into his famous
controversy with Dr. John Henry Newman. I have already, when writing of
Dr. Newman, alluded to this controversy, which for a time excited the
greatest interest and indeed the greatest amusement in England. I only
refer to it now as an illustration of the surprising hotheadedness and
lack of thinking power which characterize the author of "Alton Locke."
Dr. Newman preached a sermon on "Wisdom and Innocence." Mr. Kingsley
went out of his way to discourse and comment on this sermon, and
publicly declared that its doctrine was an exhortation to disregard
truth. "Dr. Newman informs us that truth need not and on the whole ought
not to be a virtue for its own sake." Of course this was as grave a
charge as could possibly be made against a great religious teacher. It
was doubly odious and offensive to Dr. Newman because it was the revival
of an old and familiar charge against the church he had lately entered.
It was made by Kingsley in an oft-hand, careless sort of way, as if it
were something acknowledged and indisputable--as if some one were to
say, "Horace Greeley informs us that a protective tariff is often
useful," or "Henry Ward Beecher is in favor of early rising." Newman
wrote with a cold civility to ask in what passage of his writings any
such doctrine was to be found. Of course nothing of the kind was to be
found. If it were possible to conceive of any divine in our days holding
such a doctrine, we may be perfectly certain that he would never put it
into print. Newman was known to all the world as the purest and most
austere devotee of what he believed to be the truth. He had sacrificed
the most brilliant career in the Church of England for his convictions,
and, strange to say, had yet retained the admiration and the affection
of those whose religious fellowship he had renounced. Kingsley had but
one course in fairness and common sense open to him. He ought to have
frankly apologized. He ought to have owned that he had spoken without
thinking; that he had blurted out the words without observing the
gravity of the charge they contained; and that he was sorry for it. But
he did not do this. He published a letter, in which he said that Dr.
Newman having denied that his doctrine bore the meaning Mr. Kingsley had
put upon it, he (Kingsley) could only express his regret at having
mistaken him. This was nearly as bad as the first charge. It distinctly
conveyed the idea that but for Dr. Newman's subsequent explanation and
denial, certain words of his might fairly have been understood to bear
the odious meaning ascribed to them. Dr. Newman returned to the charge,
still with a chill urbanity which I cannot help thinking Kingsley
mistook for weakness or fear. He pointed out that he had never denied
anything; that there was nothing for him to deny; that Mr. Kingsley had
charged him with teaching a certain odious doctrine, and he therefore
asked Mr. Kingsley to point to the passage containing the doctrine, or
frankly own that there was no such passage in existence. Kingsley
thereupon took the worst, the most unfair, and as it proved the most
foolish course a man could possibly have pursued. He went to work to
fasten on Newman by a constructive argument, drawn from the general
tendency of his teaching, a belief in the doctrine of which he was
unable to find any specific statement. Then opened out that controversy,
which was quite an event in its time, and set everybody talking.
Newman's was an intellect which must be described as the peer of Stuart
Mill's or Herbert Spencer's. He was a perfect master of polemical
science. He could write, when he thought fit, with a vitriolic keenness
of sarcasm. When he had allowed Kingsley to entangle himself
sufficiently, Newman fairly opened fire, and the rest of the debate was
like a duel between some blundering, wrong-headed cudgel-player from a
village green, and some accomplished professor of the science of the
rapier from Paris or Vienna. Not the least amusing thing about the
controversy was the manner in which it put Kingsley into open antagonism
with his own teaching. He endeavored gratuitously and absurdly to
convict Dr. Newman of a disregard for the truth, because Newman believed
in the miracles of the saints. For, he argued, a man of Newman's
intellect could not believe in such things if he inquired into them. But
he did not inquire into them; he taught that they were not to be
questioned but accepted as orthodox. Thereby he showed that he preferred
orthodoxy to truth--"truth, the capital virtue, the virtue of virtues,
without which all others are rotten." Now, that sounds very well, and we
all agree in what Kingsley says of the truth. But Kingsley had not long
before been assailing Bishop Colenso for his infidelity. Kingsley
declared himself shocked at the publication of a work like Dr.
Colenso's, which claimed and exercised a license of inquiry that seemed
to him "anything but reverent." He distinctly laid it down that the
liberty of religious criticism must be "reverent," and "within the
limits of orthodoxy!" Now, I am not challenging Mr. Kingsley's doctrine
as to the limit of religious inquiry. That forms no part of my purpose.
But it is perfectly obvious that if to limit inquiry within the bounds
of orthodoxy shows a disregard for truth in John Henry Newman, the same
practice must be evidence of a similar disregard in Charles Kingsley. Of
course Kingsley never thought of this--never thought about the matter at
all. He disliked Colenso's teaching on the one hand and Newman's on the
other. He said the first thing that came into his mind against each in
turn, and never heeded the fact that the reproach he employed in the
former case was utterly inconsistent with that which he uttered in the
other. I do not believe, however, that the controversy did Kingsley any
harm. Nobody ever expected consistency or rational argument from him.
People were amused, and laughed, and perhaps wondered why Dr. Newman
should have taken any trouble in the matter at all. But Kingsley
remained in popular estimation just the same as before--blundering,
hot-headed, boisterous, but full of brilliant imagination, and
thoroughly sound at heart.

Thus Charles Kingsley is always at work. Lately he has been describing
some of the scenery of the West Indies, and proclaiming the virtues of
Australian potted meats. He has thrown his whole soul into the
Australian meat question. The papers have run over with letters from him
intended to prove to the world how good and cheap it is to eat the
mutton and beef brought in tin cans from Australia. I believe Mr.
Kingsley acknowledges that all his energy and eloquence have been
unequal to the task of persuading his servants to eat the excellent food
which he is himself willing to have at his table. He has also been
lecturing on temperance, and delivering a philippic against Darwin. He
has also written a paper condemning and deprecating the modern critical
spirit. There is one rule, he insists, "by which we should judge all
human opinions, endeavors, characters." That is, "Are they trying to
lessen the sum of human misery, of human ignorance? Are they trying,
however clumsily, to cure physical suffering, weakness, deformity,
disease, and to make human bodies what God would have them?... If so,
let us judge them no further. Let them pass out of the pale of our
criticism. Let their creed seem to us defective, their opinions
fantastic, their means irrational. God must judge of that, not we. They
are trying to do good; then they are children of the light." This is
not, perhaps, the spirit in which Kingsley himself criticised Newman or
Colenso. But if we judge him according to the principle which he
recommends, he would assuredly take high rank; for I never heard any one
question his sincerity and his honest purpose to do good. Of course he
is often terribly provoking. His feminine and almost hysterical
impulsiveness, and his antiquated, feudal devotion to rank, are
difficult to bear always without strong language. His utter absence of
sympathy with political emancipation is a lamentable weakness. His
self-conceit and egotism often make him a ludicrous object. Still, he
has an honest heart, and he tries to do the work of a man; and he is one
of those who would, if they could, make the English State Church still a
living, an active, and an all-pervading influence. As a preacher and a
pastor he often reminds me of the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. Of course he
is far below Mr. Beecher in all oratorical gifts as well as in political
enlightenment; but he has the same perfervid and illogical nature, the
same vigorous, self-sufficient temperament, the same tendency to "slop
over," the same generous energy in any cause that seems to him good.

It will be inferred that I do not rate Mr. Kingsley very highly as an
author. He can describe glowing scenery admirably, and he can vigorously
ring the changes on his one or two ideas--the muscular Englishman, the
glory of the Elizabethan discoverers, and so on. He is a scholar, and he
has written verses which sometimes one is on the point of mistaking for
poetry, so much of the poet's feelings have they about them. He can do a
great many things very cleverly. He belongs to a clever family. His
brother, Henry Kingsley, is a spirited and dashing novelist, whom the
critics sneer at a good deal, but whose books always command a large
circulation, and have made a distinctive mark. Perhaps if Charles
Kingsley had done less he might have done better. Human capacity is
limited. It is not given to mortal to be a great preacher, a great
philosopher, a great scholar, a great poet, a great historian, a great
novelist, an indefatigable country parson, and a successful man in
fashionable society. Mr. Kingsley seems never to have quite made up his
mind for which of these callings to go in especially, and being with all
his versatility not at all many-sided, but strictly one-sided, and
almost one-ideaed, the result of course has been that, touching success
at many points, he has absolutely mastered it at none. His place in
letters has been settled this long time. Since "Westward Ho!" at the
latest, he has never added half a cubit to his stature. The "Chartist
Parson" has, on the other hand, been growing more and more aristocratic,
illiberal, and even servile in politics. His discourse on the recovery
of the Prince of Wales was the very hyperbole of the most old-fashioned
loyalty--a discourse worthy of Filmer, and utterly out of place in the
present century. Muscular Christianity has shrunk and withered long
since. The professorship of modern history was a failure, and has been
given up. Darwin is flourishing, and I am not certain about the success
of Australian beef. All this acknowledged, however, it must still be
owned that, failing in this, that, and the other attempt, and never
probably achieving any real and enduring success, Charles Kingsley has
been an influence and a name of mark in the Victorian age. I cannot,
indeed, well imagine that age without him, although his presence is
sometimes only associated with it as that of Malvolio with the court of
the fair lady in "Twelfth Night." Men of far greater intellect have made
their presence less strongly felt, and imprinted their image much less
clearly on the minds of their contemporaries. He is an example of how
much may be done by energetic temper, fearless faith in self, an absence
of all sense of the ridiculous, a passionate sympathy, and a wealth of
half-poetic descriptive power. If ever we have a woman's parliament in
England, Charles Kingsley ought to be its chaplain; for I know of no
clever man whose mind and temper more aptly illustrate the illogical
impulsiveness, the rapid emotional changes, the generous, often
wrong-headed vehemence, the copious flow of fervid words, the vivid
freshness of description without analysis, and the various other
peculiarities which, justly or unjustly, the world has generally agreed
to regard as the special characteristics of woman.


Mr. Froude, I perceive, is about to visit the United States. _Reddas
incolumem!_ He is a man of mark--with whatever faults, a great
Englishman. It will not take the citizens of New York and Boston long to
become quite as familiar with his handsome, thoughtful face as the
people of London. Mr. Froude rarely makes his appearance at any public
meeting or demonstration of any kind. He delivers a series of lectures
now and then to one of the great solemn literary institutions. He is a
member of some of our literary and scientific societies. He used at one
time occasionally to attend the meetings of the Newspaper Press Fund
Committee, where his retiring ways and grave, meditative demeanor
reminded me, I cannot tell why, of Nathaniel Hawthorne. He has many
friends, and mingles freely in private society, but to the average
public he is only a name; to a large proportion of that average public
he is not even so much. I presume he might walk the Strand every day and
no head turn round to look after him. I presume it would not be
difficult to get together a large public meeting of respectable and
intelligent London rate-payers of whom not one could tell who Mr. Froude
was, or would be aroused to the slightest interest by the mention of his
name. Who, indeed, is generally known or cared about in London? I do not
say universally known, for nobody enjoys that proud distinction, not
even the Prince of Wales--nay, not even the Tichborne claimant. But who
is ever generally known? Gladstone and Disraeli are; and Bright is.
Dickens was, and, to a certain extent, Thackeray. Archbishop Manning and
Mr. Spurgeon are, perhaps; and I cannot remember anybody else just now.
Palmerston, in his day, was better known than any of these; and the Duke
of Wellington was by far the most widely known of all. The Duke of
Wellington was the only man who during my time was nearly as well known
in London as Mr. Greeley is in New York. "How can you, you know?" as Mr.
Pecksniff asks. We have four millions of people crowded into one city.
It takes a giant of popularity indeed to be seen and recognized above
that crowd. As for your Brownings and Spencers and Froudes and the rest,
your mere men of genius--well, they have their literary celebrity and
they will doubtless have their fame. But average London knows and cares
no more about them than it does about you or me.

Therefore, let not any American reader, when I describe Mr. Froude as a
man of mark and a great Englishman, assume that he is a man of mark with
the crowd. Let no American visitor to London be astonished if, finding
himself in the neighborhood of Mr. Froude's residence, and stepping
into half a dozen shops in succession to ask for the exact address of
the historian, he should hear that nobody there knew anything about him.
Nobody but scholars and literary people knew anything about the late
George Grote, one of the few great philosophic historians of the modern
world. Compared with the influence of Mr. Grote upon average London,
that of Mr. Froude may almost be described as sensational; for Froude
has stirred up literary and religious controversy, and has been
denounced and has personally defended himself, and in that way must have
attracted some attention. At all events, when New York has seen and
heard Mr. Froude, she will have seen and heard one of the men of our
time in the true sense; one of the men who have toiled out a channel for
a fresh current of literature to run in, and whose name can hereafter be
omitted from no list of celebrities, however select, which pretends to
illustrate the characteristics of the Victorian age in England.

Mr. Froude is a Devonshire man, son of a Protestant archdeacon. He was
educated in Westminster School, and afterward at the famous Oriel
College, Oxford. He is now some fifty-four or fifty-five years of age,
but seems, and I hope is, only in his prime. Froude is a waif of that
marvellous Oxford movement which began some forty years ago, and of
which the strange, diversely operating influence still radiates through
English thought and society. That movement was a peculiar theological
_renaissance_, which partly converted itself into a reaction and partly
into a revolt. It began with the saintly and earnest Keble; its master
spirits were John Henry Newman and Dr. Pusey. It proposed to vindicate
for the Protestant Church the true place of spiritual heir to the
apostles and universal teacher of the Christian world. Newman, Pusey,
and others worked in the production of the celebrated "Tracts for the
Times." The results were extraordinary. The impulse of inquiry thus set
going seemed to shake all foundations of agreement. It was an explosion
which blew people various ways, they could hardly tell why or how. It
made one man a ritualist, another an Ultramontane Roman Catholic, a
third a skeptic. Like the two women grinding at the mill in the
Scripture, two devoted companions, brothers perhaps, were seized by that
impulse and flung different ways. Before the wave had subsided it tossed
Mr. Froude, then a young man of five or six and twenty, clear out of his
intended career as a clergyman of the Church of England. He had taken
deacon's orders before the change came on him, which drove him forth as
the two Newmans had been driven; but his course was more like that of
Francis Newman than of John Henry. He seemed, indeed, at one time likely
to pass away altogether into the ranks of the skeptics. Skepticism is in
London attended with no small degree of social disadvantage. To be in
"society," you must believe as people of good position do. Dissent of
any kind is unfashionable. A shrewd friend of mine says a dissenter can
never enter London. Dissent never gets any further than Hackney or
Clapham, a northern and a southern suburb. Allowance being made for a
touch of satirical exaggeration, the saying is very expressive, and even
instructive. Probably, however, the odds are more heavily against mere
dissent than a bold, intellectual skepticism, which may have a piquant
and alluring flavor about it, and make a man a sort of curiosity and
lion, so that "society" would tolerate him as it does a poet. There was,
however, nothing in exclusion from fashionable society to frighten a man
like Froude, who, so far as I know, has never troubled himself about the
favor of the West End. His first work of any note (for I pass over "The
Shadows of the Clouds," a novel, I believe, which I have never read nor
seen) was "The Nemesis of Faith." This work was published in 1848, and
is chiefly to be valued now as an illustration of one stage of
development through which the intellect of the author and the tolerance
of his age were passing. "The Nemesis of Faith" was declared a skeptical
and even an infidel book. It was sternly censured and condemned by the
authorities of the university to which Mr. Froude had belonged. He had
won a fellowship in Exeter College, Oxford; the college authorities
punished him for his opinions by depriving him of it. "The Nemesis of
Faith" created a sensation, an excitement and alarm, which surely were
extravagant even then and would be impossible now. Its doubts and
complaints would seem wild enough to-day. Men of any freshness and
originality so commonly begin--or about that time did begin--their
career with a little outburst of skepticism, that the thing seems almost
as natural as it seemed to Major Pendennis for a young peer to start in
public life as a professed republican. Besides, we must remember that
"The Nemesis of Faith" was published in what the late Lord Derby once
called the pre-scientific age. It was the time when skepticism dealt
only in the metaphysical or the emotional, and had not congealed into
the far more enduring and corroding form of physical science. As well as
I can remember, "The Nemesis of Faith"--which I have not seen for
years--was full of life and genius, but not particularly dangerous to
settled beliefs. However, a storm raged around it, and around the
author; and finally Mr. Froude himself seems to have reconsidered his
opinions, for he subsequently withdrew the book from circulation. Its
literary success, however, must have shown him clearly what his career
was to be. He was at this time drifting about the world in search of
occupation; for he found himself cut off from the profession of the
Church, on which he had intended to enter, and yet he had, if I am not
mistaken, passed far enough within its threshold to disqualify him for
admission to one of the other professions. He began to write for the
"Westminster Review," which at that time was in the zenith of its
intellectual celebrity, and for "Fraser's Magazine." His studies led him
especially into the history of the Tudor reigns, and most of his early
contributions to "Fraser" were explorations in that field. Out of these
studies grew the "History of England," on which the fame of the author
is destined to rest. Mr. Froude himself tells us that he began his task
with a strong inclination toward what may be called the conventional and
orthodox opinions of the character of Henry VIII.; but he found as he
studied the actual records and state papers that a different sort of
character began to grow up under his eyes. I can easily imagine how his
emotional and artistic nature gradually bore him away further and
further in the direction thus suddenly opened up, until at last he had
created an entirely new Henry for himself. Of course the old traditional
notion of Henry, the simple idea which set him down as a monster of lust
and cruelty, would soon expose its irrationality to a mind like that of
Froude. But, like the writers who, in revolt against the picture of
Tiberius given by Tacitus, or that of the French Revolution woven by
Burke, have painted the Roman Emperor as an archangel, and the
Revolution as a stainless triumph of liberty, so Mr. Froude seems to
have been driven into a positive affection and veneration for the
subject of his study. In 1856 the first and second volumes appeared of
the "History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of
Elizabeth." There has hardly been in our time so fierce a literary
controversy as that which sprang up around these two volumes. Perhaps
the war of words over Buckle's first volume or Darwin's "Origin of
Species" could alone be compared with it. Mr. Froude became famous in a
moment. The "Edinburgh Review" came out with a fierce, almost a savage
attack, to which Mr. Froude replied in an article which he published in
"Fraser" and to which he affixed his own signature. Mr. Froude, indeed,
has during his career fought several battles in this open, personal
manner--a thing very uncommon in England. He has had many enemies. The
"Saturday Review" has been unswerving in its passionate hostility to
him, and has even gone so far as to arraign his personal integrity as a
chronicler. Rumor in London ascribes some of the bitterest of the
"Saturday Review" articles to the pen of Mr. Edward A. Freeman, author
of "The History of Federal Government," "The History of the Norman
Conquest of England," and many historical essays--a prolific writer in
reviews and journals. Then as the successive volumes of Froude's work
began to appear, and the historian brought out his famous portraiture of
Elizabeth and Mary, it was but natural that controversy should thicken
and deepen around him. The temper of parties in Great Britain is still
nearly as hot as ever it was on the characters of Mary and Elizabeth.
Not many years ago Thackeray was hissed in Edinburgh, because in one of
his lectures he said something which was supposed to be disparaging to
the moral character of Mary of Scotland. Then the whole question of
Saxon against Celt comes up again in Mr. Froude's account of English
rule in Ireland. Everybody knows what a storm of controversy broke
around the historian's head. He was accused not merely of setting up his
own personal prejudices as law and history, but even of misrepresenting
facts and actually misquoting documents in order to suit his purpose. I
do not mean to enter into the discussion, for I am not writing a
criticism of Mr. Froude's history, but only a chapter about Mr. Froude
himself. But I confess I can quite understand why so many readers, not
blind partisans of any cause, become impatient with some of the passages
of his works. He coolly and deliberately commends as virtue in one
person or one race the very qualities, the very deeds which he
stigmatizes as the blackest and basest guilt in others. "Show me the
man, and I will show you the law," used to be an old English proverb,
illustrating the depth which judicial partisanship and corruption had
reached. "Show me the person, and I will show you the moral law," might
well be the motto of Mr. Froude's history. But I believe Mr. Froude to
be utterly incapable of any misrepresentation or distortion of facts,
any conscious coloring of the truth. Indeed, I am rather impressed by
the extraordinary boldness with which he often gives the naked facts,
and still calmly upholds a theory which to ordinary minds would seem
absolutely incompatible with their existence. It appears to be enough if
he once makes up his mind to dislike a personage or a race. Let the
facts be as they may, Mr. Froude will still explain them to the
discredit of the object of his antipathy. His mode of dealing with the
characters and actions of those he detests, might remind one of the
manner in which the discontented subjects of the perplexed prince in
"Rabagas" explain every act of their good-natured ruler: "Je donne un
bal--luxe effréné! Pas de bal--quelle avarice! Je passe une
revue--intimidation militaire! Je n'en passe pas--je crains l'esprit des
troupes! Des pétards à ma fête--l'argent du peuple en fumée! Pas de
pétards--rien pour les plaisirs du peuple! Je me porte bien--l'oisivite!
Je me porte mal--la débauche! Je bâtis--gaspillage! Je ne bâtis pas--et
le prolétaire?"

However that may be, it is certain that the "History" placed Mr. Froude
in the very front rank of English authors. He had made a path for
himself. He refused to accept the thought of what is commonly called a
science of history, although his own method of evolving his narrative is
very often in faithful conformity with the principles of that science.
He had written about political economy, in the very opening of his first
volume, in a manner which, if it did not imply an actual contempt for
the doctrines of that science, yet certainly showed an impatience of its
rule which aroused the anger of the economists. He claimed a reversal of
the universal decision of modern history as to the character of Henry
VIII. He assailed one of the English Protestant's articles of faith when
he denied the virtue of Anne Boleyn. He made mistakes and confessed
them, and went to work again. The opening of the Spanish archives in the
castle of Simancas flooded him with new lights and required a
reconstruction of much that he had done. The progress of his work became
one of the literary phenomena of the age. All eyes were on it. The rich
romantic splendor of the style, the singular power and impressiveness of
the historical portraits, fascinated everybody. Orthodox Protestants
looked on him as a sort of infidel or pagan, despite his admiration for
Queen Bess, because, with all his admiration, he exposed her meannesses
and her falsehoods with unsparing hand. Catholics insisted on regarding
him as a mere bigot of Protestantism, although he condemned Anne Boleyn.
Mr. Froude has always shown a remarkable freedom from prejudice and
bigotry. Some of his closest friends are Catholics and Irishmen. I
remember a little personal instance of liberality on his part which is
perhaps worth mentioning. There was an official in the Record or State
Paper Office of England who had become a Roman Catholic, and was, like
most English Catholics, especially if converts, rather bigoted and
zealous. This gentleman, Mr. Turnbull, happened to be employed some
years ago in arranging, copying, and calendaring the Elizabethan State
papers. The Evangelical Alliance Society got up a cry against him. They
insisted that to employ a Roman Catholic in such a task was only to
place in his hands the means of falsifying a most important period of
English history, and they argued that the temptation would be too strong
for any man like Mr. Turnbull to resist. There sprang up one of those
painful and ignoble disputations which are even still only too common in
England when religious bigotry gets a chance of raising an alarm. I am
sorry to say that so influential a journal as the "Athenæum" joined in
the clamor for the dismissal of Mr. Turnbull, who was not accused of
having done anything wrong, but only of being placed in a position which
might perhaps tempt some base creatures to do wrong. Mr. Turnbull was a
gentleman of the highest honor, and, unfortunately for himself, an
enthusiast in the very work which then occupied him. Mr. Froude was then
engaged in studying the period of history which employed Mr. Turnbull's
labors. The opinions of the two men were utterly at variance. Mr.
Turnbull must have thought Froude's work in the rehabilitation of Henry
VIII., and the glorification of Elizabeth positively detestable. But Mr.
Froude bore public testimony to the honor and integrity of Mr. Turnbull.
"Mr. Turnbull," Froude wrote, "could have felt no sympathy with the work
in which I was engaged; but he spared no pains to be of use to me, and
in admitting me to a share of his private room enabled me to witness the
ability and integrity with which he discharged his own duties." Bigotry
prevailed, however. Mr. Turnbull was removed from his place, and died
soon after, disappointed and embittered. But Froude the man is not
Froude the author. The man is free from dislikes and prejudices; the
author can hardly take a pen in his hand without being suffused by
prejudices and dislikes. Take for example his way of dealing with Irish
questions, not merely in his history, but in his miscellaneous writings.
Mr. Froude has some little property in the west of Ireland, and resides
there for a short time every year. He has occasionally detailed his
experiences, and commented on them, in the pages of "Fraser." I shall
not give my own view of his apparent sentiments toward Ireland, because
I am obviously not an impartial judge; but I shall take the opinion of
the London "Spectator," which is. The "Spectator" declares that "it may
be not unfairly said that Mr. Froude simply loathes the Irish people;
not consciously perhaps, for he professes the reverse. But a certain
bitter grudge breaks out despite his will now and then. It colors all
his tropes. It adds a sting to the casual allusions of his language.
When he wants a figure of speech to express the relation between the two
islands, he compares the Irish to a kennel of fox-hounds, and the
English to their master, and declares that what the Irish want is a
master who knows that he is a master and means to continue master." In
his occasional studies of contemporary Ireland from the window of his
shooting lodge in Kerry, Mr. Froude exhibits the same strange mixture of
candor as to fact and blind prejudice as to conclusion which so oddly
characterizes his history. He recounts deliberately the most detestable
projects--he himself calls them "detestable;" the word is his, not
mine--avowed to him by the agents of great Irish landlords, and yet his
sympathy is wholly with the agents and against the occupiers. He tells
in one instance, with perfect delight, of a mean and vulgar exhibition
of triumphant malice which he says an agent, a friend of his, paraded
for the humiliation of an evicted and contumacious tenant. The
"Spectator" asks in wonder whether it can be possible that "Mr. Froude,
an English gentleman by birth and education, an Oxford fellow, is not
ashamed to relate this act as an heroic feat?" Indeed, Mr. Froude seems
to associate in Ireland only with the "agent" class, and to take all his
views of things from them. His testimony is therefore about as valuable
as that of a foreigner who twelve or fifteen years ago should have taken
his opinions as to slavery in the South from the judgment and
conversation of the plantation overseers. The "Spectator" observed, with
calm severity, that Mr. Fronde's unlucky accounts of his Irish
experiences were "a comical example of the way in which an acute and
profound mind can become dull to the sense of what is manly, just, and
generous, by the mere atmosphere of association." Let me say that I am
convinced, however, that all this blind and unmanly prejudice is purely
literary; that it is taken up and laid aside with the pen. As I have
already said, some of Mr. Froude's closest friends are Irishmen--men who
are incapable of associating with any one, however eminent, who really
felt the coarse and bitter hatred to their country which Mr. Froude in
his wilder moments allows his too fluent pen to express. In fact Mr.
Froude is nothing of a philosopher. He settles every question easily and
off hand by reference to what Stuart Mill well calls the resource of the
lazy--the theory of race. Celts are all wrong and Anglo-Saxons are all
right, and there is an end of it. If he has any philosophy and science
of history, it is this. It explains everything and reconciles all
seeming contradictions. Nothing can be at once more comprehensive and
more simple. But there is still something to be added to this story of
Mr. Froude's Irish experiences; and I mention the whole thing only to
illustrate the peculiar character of Mr. Froude's emotional temperament,
which so often renders him untrustworthy as a historian. In the
particular instance on which the "Spectator" commented, it turned out
that Mr. Froude was entirely mistaken. He had misunderstood from
beginning to end what his friend the agent told him. The agent, the
landlord (a peer of the realm), and others hastened to contradict the
historian. There never had been any such eviction or any such offensive
display. Mr. Froude himself wrote to acknowledge publicly that he had
been entirely mistaken. He seemed indeed to have always had some doubt
of the story he was publishing; for he sent a proof of the page to the
agent "to be corrected in case I had misunderstood him." But the agent's
alterations, "unluckily, did not reach me in time;" and as Mr. Froude
could not wait for the truth, he published the error. Thus indeed is
history written! This was Mr. Froude's published version of a statement
made _viva voce_ to himself; and his version was wrong in every
particular--in fact, in substance, in detail, in purport, in everything!
I venture to think that this little incident is eminently
characteristic, and throws a strong light on some of the errors of the
"History of England."

Mr. Froude has taken little or no active part in English politics. I do
not remember his having made any sign of personal sympathy one way or
the other with any of the great domestic movements which have stirred
England in my time. I presume that he is what would be generally called
a Liberal; at least it is simply impossible that he could be a Tory. But
I doubt if he could very distinctly "place himself," as the American
phrase is, with regard to most of the political contentions of the time.
I cannot call Mr. Froude a philosophical Radical; for the idea which
that suggests is of a school of thought and a system of training quite
different from his, even if his tendencies could possibly be called
Radical. It is rather a pity that so much of the best and clearest
literary intellect of England should be so entirely withdrawn from the
practical study of contemporary politics. No sensible person could ask a
man like Mr. Froude to neglect his special work, that for which he has a
vocation and genius, for the business of political life. But perhaps a
better attempt might be made by him and others of our leading authors to
fulfil the conditions of the German proverb which recommends that the
one thing shall be done and the other not left undone. Mr. Froude has
taken a more marked interest in the quasi-political question lately
raised touching the connection between England and her colonies. Of
recent years a party has been growing up in England who advocate
emphatically the doctrine that the business of this country is to
educate her colonies for emancipation. These men believe that as time
goes on it will become more and more difficult to retain even a nominal
connection between distant colonies and the parent country. The Dominion
of Canada and the Australian colonies, both separated by oceans from
England, are now practically independent. They have their own
parliaments, and make their own laws; but England sends out a governor,
and the governor has still a nominal control indeed, which in some rare
cases he still exercises. Now what is to be the tendency of the future?
Will this practical independence tend to bind the colonial system more
strongly up into that of the central empire, as the practical
independence of the American or the Swiss States keeps them together? Or
is the time inevitable when the slight bond must be severed altogether
and the great colonies at last declare their independence? Would it, for
example, be possible always to maintain the American Union if several
thousand miles of ocean divided California in one direction from
Washington, and several thousand miles of another ocean lay between
Washington and the South? This is the sort of question political parties
in England have lately been asking themselves. One party, mainly under
an impulse once given by a chance alliance between the Manchester school
and Goldwin Smith, affirm boldly that ultimate separation is inevitable,
and that we ought to begin to prepare ourselves and the colonies for
it. This party made great way for awhile. They said loudly, they
announced as a principle, that which had been growing vaguely up in many
minds, and which one or two statesmen had long before put into actual
form. More than twelve years ago Mr. Gladstone delivered a lecture on
our colonial system which plainly pointed to this ultimate severance and
bade us prepare for it. Mr. Lowe, the present Chancellor of the
Exchequer, himself an old colonist, had talked somewhat cynically in the
same way. Mr. Bright was well known to favor the idea; so was Mr. Mill.
With the sudden and direct impulse given by Mr. Goldwin Smith, the
thought seemed to be catching fire. England had voluntarily given up the
Ionian Islands to Greece; there was talk of her restoring Gibraltar to
Spain. Mr. Lowe had spoken in the House of Commons with utter contempt
of those who thought it would be possible to hold Canada in the event of
a war with the United States. Governors of colonies actually began to
warn their population that the preparation for independence had better
begin. Suddenly a reaction set in. A class of writers and speakers came
up to the front who argued that the colonies were part of England's very
life system; that they were her friends, and might be her strength; that
it was only her fault if she had neglected them; and that the natural
tendency was to cohesion rather than dissolution. This party roused at
once the sympathy of that large class of people who, knowing and caring
nothing about the political and philosophical aspects of the question,
thought it somehow a degradation to England, a token of decay, a
confession of decrepitude, that there should be any talk of the
severance of her colonies. Between the two, the tide of separatist
feeling has decidedly been rolled back for the present. The humor of the
present day is to devise means--schemes of federation or federative
representation for example--whereby the colonies may still be kept in
cohesion with England. Now, among the men of intellect who have
stimulated and fostered this reactionary movement, if it be so--at all
events, this movement toward the retention of the colonies--Mr. Froude
has been a leading influence. He has advocated such a policy himself,
and he has instilled it into the minds of others. He has formed silently
a little school who take their doctrines from him and expand them. The
colonial question has become popular and powerful. We have every now and
then colonial conferences held in London, at which everybody who has any
manner of suggestion to make, or crotchet to air, touching the
improvement or development of our colonial system, goes and delivers his
speech independently of everybody else. In the House of Commons the
party is not yet very strong; but if it had a leader there, it would
undoubtedly be powerful. There is even already a visible anxiety on the
part of cabinet ministers to drop all allusion to the fact that they
once talked of preparing the colonies for independence. We now find that
it is regarded as unpatriotic, un-English, ungrateful, and I know not
what, to say a word about a possible severance, at any time, between the
parent country and her colonies. In one of Mr. Disraeli's novels a
political party, hard up for a captivating and popular watchword, is
thrown into ecstasies when somebody invents the cry of "Our young Queen
and our old Constitution." I think the cry of "Our young colonies and
our old Constitution" would be almost as taking now. It is curious,
however, to note how both the movement and the reaction came from
scholars and literary men--not from politicians or journalists. Many
eminent men had talked of gradually preparing the colonies for
independence; but the talk never became an impulse and a political
movement until it came from Mr. Goldwin Smith. On the other hand,
countless vociferous persons had always been bawling out that England
must never part with a rock on which her flag had waved; but all this
sort of thing had no effect until Mr. Froude and his school inaugurated
the definite movement of reaction. Mr. Goldwin Smith sent the ball
flying so far in one direction, that it seemed almost certain to reach
the limit of the field. Mr. Froude suddenly caught it and sent it flying
back the way it had come, and beyond the hand which had originally
driven it forth. It is not often that the ideas of "literary" men have
so much of positive influence over practical controversy in England.

For a long time Mr. Froude has been the editor of "Fraser's Magazine," a
periodical which I need not say holds a high position, and to which the
editor has contributed some of the finest of his shorter writings. He is
assisted in the work of editing by Mr. William Allingham, who is best
known as a young poet of great promise, and who is probably the closest
personal friend of Alfred Tennyson. "Fraser's" is always ready to open
its columns to merit of any kind, and is willing to put before the
public bold and original views of many political questions which other
periodicals would shrink from admitting. As a rule English magazines,
even when they acknowledge a dash of the philosophic in them, are very
reluctant to give a place to opinions, however honestly entertained,
which differ in any marked degree from those of society at large. The
"Fortnightly Review" may be almost regarded as unique in its principle
of admitting any expression of opinion which has genuineness and value
in it, without regard to its accordance with public sentiment, or even
to its inherent soundness. "Fraser," of course, makes no pretension to
such deliberate boldness. But "Fraser" will now and then venture to put
in an article, even from an uninfluential hand, which goes directly in
the teeth of accepted and orthodox political opinion. For example, it is
not many months since it published an article written by an English
working man ("The Journeyman Engineer," a sort of celebrity in his way)
to prove that republicanism is becoming the creed of the English
artisan. Now, in any English magazine which professes to be respectable,
it is almost as hazardous a thing to speak of republicanism in England
as to speak of something indecent or blasphemous. "Fraser" also made
itself conspicuous some years ago as a bold and persevering advocate of
army reform, and ventured to press certain schemes of change which then
seemed either revolutionary or impossible, but which since then have
been quietly realized.

I think I have given a tolerably accurate estimate of Mr. Froude's
public work in England. I have never heard him make a speech or deliver
a lecture, and therefore cannot conjecture how far he is likely to
impress an audience with the manner of his discourse; but the matter can
hardly fail to be suggestive, original, and striking. I can foresee
sharp controversy and broad differences of opinion arising out of his
lectures in the United States. I cannot imagine their being received
with indifference, or failing to hold the attention of the public. Mr.
Froude is a great literary man, if not strictly a great historian. Of
course every one must rate Froude's intellect very highly. He has
imagination; he has that sympathetic and dramatic instinct which enables
a man to enter into the emotions and motives, the likings and dislikings
of the people of a past age. His style is penetrating and thrilling; his
language often rises to the dignity of a poetic eloquence. The figures
he conjures up are always the semblances of real men and women. They are
never wax-work, or lay figures, or skeletons clothed in words, or purple
rags of description stuffed out with straw into an awkward likeness to
the human form. The one distinct impression we carry away from Froude's
history is that of the living reality of his figures. In Marlowe's
"Faustus" the Doctor conjures up for the amusement of the Emperor a
procession of stately and beautiful shadows to represent the great ones
of the past. When the shadows of Alexander the Great and his favorite
pass by, the Emperor can hardly restrain himself from rushing to clasp
the hero in his arms, and has to be reminded by the wizard that "these
are but shadows not substantial." Even then the Emperor can scarcely get
over his impression of their reality, for he cries:

                             I have heard it said
     That this fair lady, whilst she lived on earth,
     Had on her neck a little wart or mole;

and lo! there is the mark on the neck of the beautiful form which floats
across his field of vision. Mr. Froude's shadows are like this: so
deceptive, so seemingly vital and real; with the beauty and the blot
alike conspicuous; with the pride and passion of the hero, and the
heroine's white neck and the wart on it. Mr. Froude's whole soul, in
fact, is in the human beings whom he meets as he unfolds his narrative.
He is not an historical romancist, as some of his critics have called
him. He is a romantic or heroic portrait painter. He has painted
pictures on his pages which may almost compare with those of Titian.
Their glances follow you and haunt you like the wonderful eyes of Cæsar
Borgia or the soul-piercing resignation of Beatrice Cenci. But is Mr.
Froude a great historian? Despite this splendid faculty, nay, perhaps
because of this, he wants the one great and essential quality of the
true historian, accuracy. He wants altogether the cold, patient, stern
quality which clings to facts--the scientific faculty. His narrative
never stands out in that "dry light" which Bacon so commends, the light
of undistorted and clear Truth. The temptations to the man with a gift
of heroic portrait-painting are too great for Mr. Froude's resistance.
His genius carries him away and becomes his master. When Titian was
painting his Cæsar Borgia, is it not conceivable that his imagination
may have been positively inflamed by the contrast between the physical
beauty and the moral guilt of the man, and have unconsciously heightened
the contrast by making the pride and passion lower more darkly, the
superb brilliancy of the eyes burn more radiantly than might have been
seen in real life? The world would take little account even if it were
to know that some of the portraits it admires were thus idealized by the
genius of the painter; but the historian who is thus led away is open to
a graver charge. It seems to me impossible to doubt that Mr. Froude has
more than once been thus ensnared by his own special gift. What is there
in literature more powerful, more picturesque, more complete and
dramatic than Froude's portrait of Mary Queen of Scots? It stands out
and glows and darkens with all the glare and gloom of a living form,
that now appears in sun and now in shadow. It is almost as perfect and
as impressive as any Titian. But can any reasonable person doubt that
the picture on the whole is a dramatic and not an historical study?
Without going into any controversy as to disputed facts--nay, admitting
for the sake of argument that Mary was as guilty as Mr. Froude would
make her--as guilty, I mean, in act and deed--yet it is impossible to
contend with any show of reason that the being he has painted for us is
the Mary of history and of life. To us his Mary now is a reality. We are
distinctly acquainted with her; we see her and can follow her movements.
But she is a fable and might be an impossibility for all that. The poets
have made many physical impossibilities real for us and familiar to us.
The form and being of a mermaid are not one whit less clear and distinct
to us than the form and being of a living woman. If any of us were to
see a painting of a mermaid with scales upon her neck, or with feet, he
would resent it or laugh at it as an inaccuracy, just as if he saw some
gross anatomical blunder in a picture of an ordinary man or woman. Mr.
Froude has created a Mary Queen of Scots as the poets and painters have
created a mermaid. He has made her one of the most imposing figures in
our modern literature, to which indeed she is an important addition. So
of his Queen Elizabeth; so, to a lesser extent, of his Henry VIII.,
because, although there he may have gone even further away from history,
yet I think he was misled rather by his anxiety to prove a theory than
by the fascination of a picture growing under his own hands. Everything
becomes for the hour subordinate to this passion for the picturesque in
good or evil. Mr. Froude's personal integrity and candor are constantly
coming into contradiction with this artistic temptation; but the
portrait goes on all the same. He is too honest and candid to conceal or
pervert any fact that he knows. He tells everything frankly, but
continues his portrait. It may be that the very vices which constitute
the gloom and horror of this portrait suddenly prove their existence in
the character of the person who was chosen to illustrate the brightness
and glory of human nature. Mr. Froude is not abashed. He frankly states
the facts; shows how, in this or that instance, Truth did tell shocking
lies, Mercy ordered several massacres, and Virtue fell into the ways of
Messalina. But the portraits of Truth, Mercy, and Virtue remain as
radiant as ever. A lover of art, according to a story in the memoirs of
Canova, was so struck with admiration of that sculptor's Venus that he
begged to be allowed to see the model. The artist gratified him; but so
far from beholding a very goddess of beauty in the flesh, he only saw a
well-made, rather coarse-looking woman. The sculptor, seeing his
disappointment, explained to him that the hand and eye of the artist, as
they work, can gradually and almost imperceptibly change the model from
that which it is in the flesh to that which it ought to be in the
marble. This is the process which is always going on with Mr. Froude
whenever he is at work upon some model in which for love or hate he
takes unusual interest. Therefore the historian is constantly involving
himself in a welter of inconsistencies and errors which affect the
artist in nowise. Henry is a hero on one page, although he does the very
thing which somebody else on the next page is a villain for even
attempting. Elizabeth remains a prodigy of wisdom and honesty, Mary a
marvel of genius, lust, cruelty, and falsehood, although in every other
chapter the author frankly accumulates instances which show that now and
then the parts seem to have been exchanged; and it often becomes as hard
to know, by any tangible evidence, which is truth and which falsehood,
which patriotism and which selfishness, as it was to distinguish the
true Florimel from the magical counterfeit in Spenser's "Faery Queen."

This is a grave and a great fault; and unhappily it is one with which
Mr. Froude seems to have been thoroughly inoculated. It goes far to
justify the dull and literal old historians of the school of Dryasdust,
who, if they never quickened an event into life, never on the other hand
deluded the mind with phantoms. The chroniclers of mere facts and dates,
the old almanac-makers, are weary creatures; but one finds it hard to
condemn them to mere contempt when he sees how the vivid genius of a man
like Froude can lead him astray. Mr. Froude's finest gift is his
greatest defect for the special work he undertakes to do. A scholar, a
thinker, a man of high imagination, a man likewise of patient labor, he
is above all things a romantic portrait painter; and the spell by which
his works allure us is therefore the spell of the magician, not the
power of the calm and sober teacher.


     "The old God is dead above, and the old Devil is dead below!"

So sang Heinrich Heine in one of his peculiarly cheerful moods; and I do
not know that any words could paint a more complete picture of the utter
collapse and ruin of old theologies and time-honored faiths and
superstitions. Irreverent and even impious as the words will perhaps
appear to most minds, it is probable that not a few of those who would
be most likely to shudder at their audacity are beginning to think with
horror that the condition of things described by the cynical poet is
being rapidly brought about by the doings of modern science. Many an
English country clergyman, many an earnest and pious Dissenter, must
have felt that a new and awful era had arrived--that a modern war of
Titans against Heaven was going on, when such discourses as Professor
Huxley's famous Protoplasm lecture could be delivered by a man of the
highest reputation, and could be received by nearly all the world with,
at least, a respectful consideration. In fact, the delivery of such
discourses does indicate a quite new ordeal for old-fashioned orthodoxy,
and an ordeal which seems to me far severer than any through which it
has yet passed. It would be impossible to exaggerate the importance of
the struggle which is now openly carried on between Science and Orthodox
Theology. I need hardly say perhaps that I utterly repudiate the use of
any such absurd and unmeaning language as that which speaks of a
controversy between science and religion. One might as well talk of a
conflict between fact and truth; or between truth and virtue. But
orthodox theology in England, whether it be right or wrong, is certainly
a very different thing from religion. Were it wholly and eternally true
it could still only bear the same relation to religion that geography
bears to the earth, astronomy to the sidereal system, the words
describing to the thing described. I may therefore hope not to be at
once set down as an irreligious person, merely because I venture to
describe the war indirectly waged against orthodox theology, by a new
school of English scientific men, as the severest trial that system has
ever yet had to encounter, and one through which it can hardly by any
possibility pass wholly unscathed.

In describing briefly and generally this new school of English science,
and some of its leading scholars, I should say that I do so merely from
the outside. I am not a scientific man professionally; and, even as an
amateur, can only pretend to very slight attainment. But I have been on
the scene of controversy, have looked over the field, and studied the
bearing of the leading combatants. When Cressida had seen the chiefs of
the Trojan army pass before her and had each pointed out to her and
described, she could probably have told a stranger something worth his
listening to, although she knew nothing of the great art of war. Only on
something of the same ground do I venture to ask for any attention from
American readers, when I say something about the class of scientific men
who have recently sprung up in England, and of whom one of the most
distinguished and one of the most aggressive has just been elected
President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

This school is peculiarly English. So far as I know, it owes nothing
directly and distinctly to the intellectual initiative of any other
country. Both in metaphysical and in practical science there has been a
sudden and powerful awakening, or perhaps I should say _renaissance_,
in England lately. Three or four years ago Stuart Mill wrote that the
sceptre of psychology had again passed over to England; and it seems to
me not too much to say that England now likewise holds the sceptre of
natural science. It is evident to every one that the leaders of this new
school stand in antagonism which is decided, if not direct, to the
teachings of orthodox theology.

The recent election of Professor Huxley as President of the British
Association was accepted universally as a triumph over the orthodox
party. Professor Owen, who undoubtedly possesses one of the broadest and
keenest scientific intellects of the age, has lately been pushed aside
and has fallen into something like comparative obscurity because he
could not, or would not, see his way into the dangerous fields opened up
by his younger and bolder rivals. Professor Owen held on as long as ever
he could to orthodoxy. He made heavy intellectual sacrifices at its
altar. I do not quite know whether in the end it was he who first gave
the cold shoulder to orthodoxy, or orthodoxy which first repudiated him.
But it is certain that he no longer stands out conspicuous and ardent as
the great opponent of Darwin and Huxley. He has, in fact, receded so
much from his old ground that one finds it difficult now to know where
to place him; and perhaps it will be better to regard him as out of the
controversy altogether. If he had done less for orthodoxy, where his
labors were vain, he might have done much more for science, where his
toil would always have been fruitful. Undoubtedly, he is one of the
greatest naturalists since Cuvier; his contributions toward the facts
and data of science have been valuable beyond all estimation; his
practical labors in the British Museum would alone earn for him the
gratitude of all students. Owen is, or was, to my mind, the very
perfection of a scientific lecturer. The easy flow of simple, expressive
language, the luminous arrangement and style which made the profoundest
exposition intelligible, the captivating variety of illustration, the
clear, well-modulated voice, the self-possessed and graceful manner--all
these were attributes which made Owen a delightful lecturer, although he
put forward no pretensions to rhetorical skill or to eloquence of any
very high order. But while there can hardly have been any recent falling
off in Owen's intellectual powers, yet it is certain that he was more
thought of, that he occupied a higher place in the public esteem, some
half dozen years ago than he now does. I think there has been a general
impression of late years that in the controversy between theology and
science, Owen was not to be relied upon implicitly. People thought that
he was trying to sit on the two stools; to run with the theological
hare, and hold with the scientific hounds. Indeed, Owen is eminently a
respectable, a courtly _savant_. He does not love to run tilt against
the prevailing opinion of the influential classes, or to forfeit the
confidence and esteem of "society." He loves--so people say--the company
of the titled and the great, and prefers, perhaps, to walk with Sir Duke
than with humble Sir Scholar. All things considered, we may regard him
as out of the present controversy, and, perhaps, as left behind by it
and by the opinions which have created it. The orthodox do not seem much
beholden to him. Only two or three years ago an orthodox association for
which Owen had delivered a scientific lecture, refused on theological
grounds to print the discourse in their regular volume. On the other
hand, the younger and more ardent _savans_ and scholars sneer at him,
and refuse to give him credit for sincerity at the expense of his
intelligence. They believe that if he chose to speak out, if he had the
courage of his opinions, he would say as they do. He has ceased to be
their opponent, but he is not upon their side; he is no longer the
champion of pure orthodoxy, but he has never pronounced openly against
it. Flippant people allude to him as an old fogy; let us say more
decently that Richard Owen already belongs to the past.

"Free-thinking" has never been in England a very formidable rival of
orthodox theology. Perhaps there is something in the practical nature of
the average English mind which makes it indifferent and apathetic to
mere speculation. The ordinary Englishmen understands being a Churchman
or a Dissenter, a Roman Catholic or a no-Popery man; but he hardly
understands how people can be got to concern themselves with mere
sceptical speculation. Writings like those of Rousseau, for example,
never could have produced in England anything like the effect they
wrought in France. Of late years the effects of "free-thinking" (I am
using the phrase merely in the vulgar sense) have been poor, feeble and
uninfluential--wholly indeed without influence over the educated classes
of society. A certain limited and transient influence was once
maintained over a small surface of society by the speeches and the
writings of George Jacob Holyoake. Holyoake avowed himself an Atheist,
conducted a paper called (I think) "The Reasoner," was prosecuted under
the terms of a foolish and discreditable act of Parliament, and had for
a time something of notoriety and popular power. But Holyoake, a man of
pure character and gentle manners, is devoid of anything like commanding
ability, has no gleam of oratorical power, and is intellectually
unreliable and vacillating. Under no conceivable circumstances could he
exercise any strong or permanent control over the mind or the heart of
an age: and he has of late somewhat modified his opinions, and has
greatly altered his sphere of action, preferring to be a political and
social reformer in a small and modest way to the barren task of
endeavoring to uproot religious belief by arguments evolved from the
depth of the moral consciousness. Holyoake, the Atheist, may therefore
be said to have faded away.

His old place has lately been taken by a noisier, more egotistic and
robust sort of person, a young man named Bradlaugh, who at one time
dubbed himself "Iconoclast," and, bearing that ambitious title, used to
harangue knots of working men in the North of England with the most
audacious of free-thinking rhetoric. Bradlaugh has a certain kind of
brassy, stentorian eloquence and a degree of reckless self conceit which
almost amount to a conquering quality. But he has no intellectual
capacity sufficient to make a deep mark on the mind of any section of
society and he never attempts, so far as I know, any other than the old,
time-worn arguments against orthodoxy with which the world has been
wearily familiar since the days of Voltaire. Indeed, a man who gravely
undertakes to prove by argument that there is no God, places himself at
once in so anomalous, paradoxical and ridiculous a position that it is a
marvel the absurdity of the situation does not strike his own mind. A
man who starts with the reasonable assumption that belief is a matter of
evidence and then goes on to argue that a Being does not exist of whose
non-existence he can upon his own ground and pleading know absolutely
nothing, is not likely to be very formidable to any of his antagonists.
Orthodox theologians, therefore, are little concerned about men like
Bradlaugh--very often perhaps are ignorant of the existence of any such.

I only mention Holyoake and Bradlaugh at all because they are the only
prominent agitators of this kind who have appeared in England during my
time. I do not mean to speak disparagingly of either man. Both have
considerable abilities; both are, I am sure, sincere and honest. I have
never heard anything to the disparagement of Bradlaugh's character.
Holyoake I know personally, and esteem highly. But their influence has
been insignificant, and cannot have any long duration. I only speak of
it here to show how feeble has been the head made against orthodoxy in
England by professed infidelity in our time. There was, indeed, a book
written some years ago by a man of higher culture than Holyoake or
Bradlaugh, and which made a bubble or two of sensation at the time. I
mean "The Creed of Christendom," by William Rathbone Greg, a well-known
political and philosophical essayist, who wrote largely for the
"Edinburgh Review" and the "Westminster Review" and more lately for the
"Pall Mall Gazette," and has now a comfortable place under government.
But the "Creed of Christendom," though a clever book in its way, made no
abiding mark. It was read and liked by those whose opinions it
expressed, but I question if it ever made one single convert or
suggested a doubt to a truly orthodox mind. I mention it because it was
the only work of what is called a directly infidel character, not
pretending to a scientific basis, which was contributed to the
literature of English philosophy by a man of high culture and literary
reputation during my memory. It will be understood that I am speaking
now of works modeled after the old fashion of sceptical controversy, in
which the authors make it their avowed and main purpose to assail the
logical coherence and reasonableness of the Christian faith by arguments
which, sound or unsound, can be brought to no practical test and settled
by no possible decision. Such works may be influential among nations
which are addicted to or tolerant of mere religious speculation; it is
only a calling aloud to solitude to address them to the English public.
Even books of a very high intellectual class, such for example as
Strauss's "Life of Jesus," are translated into English in vain. They are
read and admired by those already prepared to admire and eager to read
them--the general public takes no heed of them.

I have ventured into this digression in order to show the more clearly
how important must be the influence of that new school of science which
has aroused such a commotion among the devotees of English orthodoxy.
There is not, so far as I know, among the leading scientific men of the
new school one single professed infidel in the old fashioned sense. The
fundamental difference between them and the orthodox is that they insist
upon regarding all subjects coming within the scope of human knowledge
as open to inquiry and to be settled only upon evidence. I suppose a day
will come when people will wonder that a scientific man, living in the
England of the nineteenth century, could have been denounced from
pulpits because he claimed the right and the duty to follow out his
scientific investigations whithersoever they should lead him. Yet I am
not aware that anything more desperately infidel than this has ever been
urged by our modern English _savans_.

Michel Chevalier tells a story of a French iconoclast of our own time
who devoted himself to a perpetual war against what he considered the
two worst superstitions of the age--belief in God and dislike of
spiders. This aggressive sage always carried about with him a golden box
filled with the pretty and favorite insects I have mentioned; and
whenever he happened to be introduced to any new acquaintance he
invariably plunged at once into the questions--"Do you believe in a God,
and are you afraid of spiders?"--and without waiting for an answer, he
instantly demonstrated his own superiority to at least one conventional
weakness by opening his box, taking out a spider, and swallowing it. I
think a good deal of the old-fashioned warfare against orthodoxy had
something of this spider-bolting aggressiveness about it. It assailed
men's dearest beliefs in the coarsest manner, and it had commonly only
horror and disgust for its reward. There is nothing of this spirit among
the leaders of English scientific philosophy to-day. Not merely are the
practically scientific men free from it, but even the men who are
called in a sort of a contemptuous tone "philosophers" are not to be
accused of it. Mill and Herbert Spencer have as little of it as Huxley
and Grove. Indeed the scientific men are nothing more or less than
earnest, patient, devoted inquirers, seeking out the truth fearlessly,
and resolute to follow wherever she invites. Whenever they have come
into open conflict with orthodoxy, it may be safely assumed that
orthodoxy threw the first stone. For orthodoxy, with a keen and just
instinct, detests these scientific men. The Low Church party, the great
mass of the Dissenting body (excluding, of course, Unitarians) have been
their uncompromising opponents. The High Church party, which, with all
its mediæval weaknesses and its spiritual reaction, does assuredly boast
among its leaders some high and noble intellects, and among all its
classes earnest, courageous minds, has, on the contrary, given, for the
most part, its confidence and its attention to the teachings of the
_savans_. We have the testimony of Professor Huxley himself to the fact
that the leading minds of the Roman Catholic Church do at least take
care that the teachings of the _savans_ shall be understood, and that
they shall be combated, if at all, on scientific and not on theological

No man is more disliked and dreaded by the orthodox than Thomas Huxley.
Darwin, who is really the _fons et origo_ of the present agitation, is
hardly more than a name to the outer world. He has written a book, and
that is all the public know about him. He never descends into the arena
of open controversy; we never read of him in the newspapers. I know of
no instance of a book so famous with an author so little known. Even
curiosity does not seem to concern itself about the individuality of
Darwin, whose book opened up a new era of controversy, spreading all
over the world, and was the sensation in England of many successive
seasons. Herbert Spencer, indeed, has lived for a long time hardly
noticed or known by the average English public. But then none of
Spencer's books ever created the slightest sensation among that public,
and three out of every four Englishmen never heard of the man or the
books. Herbert Spencer is infinitely better known in the United States
than he is in England, although I am far from admitting that he is
better appreciated even here than by those of his countrymen who are at
all acquainted with his masterly, his unsurpassed, contributions to the
philosophy of the world. The singular fact about Darwin is that his book
was absolutely the rage in England; everybody was bound to read it or at
least to talk about it and pretend to have understood it. More
excitement was aroused by it than even by Buckle's "History of
Civilization;" it fluttered the petticoats in the drawing-room as much
as the surplices in the pulpit; it occupied alike the attention of the
scholar and the fribble, the divine and the schoolgirl. Yet the author
kept himself in complete seclusion, and, for some mysterious reason or
other, public curiosity never seemed disposed to persecute him.
Therefore the theologians seem to have regarded him as the poet does the
cuckoo, rather as a voice in the air than as a living creature; and they
have not poured out much of their anger upon him personally. But Huxley
comes down into the arena of public controversy and is a familiar and
formidable figure there. Wherever there is strife there is Huxley. Years
ago he came into the field almost unknown like the Disinherited Knight
in Scott's immortal romance; and, while the good-natured spectators were
urging him to turn the blunt end of the lance against the shield of the
least formidable opponent, he dashed with splendid recklessness, and
with spearpoint forward, against the buckler of Richard Owen himself,
the most renowned of the naturalists of England. Indeed Huxley has the
soul and spirit of a gallant controversialist. He has many times warned
the orthodox champions that if they play at bowls they must expect
rubbers; and once in the fight he never spares. He has a happy gift of
shrewd sense and sarcasm combined; and, indeed, I know no man who can
exhibit a sophism as a sophism and hold it up to contempt and laughter
more clearly and effectively in a single sentence of exhaustive satire.

It would be wrong to regard Huxley merely as a scientific man. He is
likewise a literary man, a writer. What he writes would be worth reading
for its style and its expression alone, were it of no scientific
authority; whereas we all know perfectly well that scientific men
generally are read only for the sake of what they teach, and not at all
because of their manner of teaching it--rather indeed despite of their
manner of teaching it. Huxley is a fascinating writer, and has a happy
way of pressing continually into the service of strictly scientific
exposition illustrations caught from literature and art--even from
popular and light literature. He has a gift in this way which somewhat
resembles that possessed by a very different man belonging to a very
different class--I mean Robert Lowe, the present English Chancellor of
the Exchequer, who owes the greater part of his rhetorical success to
the prodigality of varied illustration with which he illumines his
speeches, and which catches, at this point or that, the attention of
every kind of listener. Huxley seems to understand clearly that you can
never make scientific doctrines really powerful while you are content
with the ear of strictly scientific men. He cultivates, therefore,
sedulously and successfully, the literary art of expression. A London
friend of mine, who has had long experience in the editing of high-class
periodicals, is in the habit of affirming humorously that the teachers
of the public are divided into two classes: those who know something and
cannot write, and those who know nothing and can write. Every literary
man, especially every editor, will cordially agree with me that at the
heart of this humorous extravagance is a solid kernel of truth. Now,
scientific men very often belong to the class of those who know
something, but cannot write. No one, however, could possibly confound
Thomas Huxley with the band of those to whom the gift of expression is
denied. He is a vivid, forcible, fascinating writer. His style as a
lecturer is one which, for me at least, has a special charm. It is,
indeed, devoid of any effort at rhetorical eloquence; but it has all the
eloquence which is born of the union of profound thought with simple
expression and luminous diction. There is not much of the poetic,
certainly, about him; only the occasional dramatic vividness of his
illustrations suggests the existence in him of any of the higher
imaginative qualities. I think there was something like a gleam of the
poetic in the half melancholy half humorous introduction of Balzac's
famous "Peau de Chagrin," into the Protoplasm lecture. But Huxley as a
rule treads only the firm earth, and deliberately, perhaps scornfully,
rejects any attempts and aspirings after the clouds. His mind is in this
way far more rigidly practical than that even of Richard Owen. He is
never eloquent in the sense in which Humboldt for example was so often
eloquent. Being a politician, I may be excused for borrowing an
illustration from the political arena, and saying that Huxley's
eloquence is like that of Cobden; it is eloquence only because it is so
simply and tersely truthful. The whole tone of his mind, the whole
tendency of his philosophy, may be observed to have this character of
quiet, fearless, and practical truthfulness. No seeker after truth could
be more earnest, more patient, more disinterested. "Dry light," as Bacon
calls it--light uncolored by prejudice, undimmed by illusion,
undistorted by interposing obstacle--is all that Huxley desires to have.
He puts no bound to the range of human inquiry. Wherever man may look,
there let him look earnestly and without fear. Truth is always naked
and not ashamed. The modest, self-denying profession of Lessing that he
wanted not the whole truth, and only asked to be allowed the pleasing
toil of investigation, must be almost unintelligible to a student like
Huxley; and indeed is only to be understood by any active inquirer, on
condition that he bears in mind the healthy and racy delight which the
mere labor of intellectual research gave to Lessing's vigorous and
elastic mind. No subject is sacred to Huxley; because with him truth is
more sacred than any sphere of inquiry. I suppose the true and pure
knight would have fearlessly penetrated any shrine in his quest of the
Holy Grail.

Professor Huxley's nature seems to me to have been cast in a finer mould
than that of Professor Tyndall, for example. Decidedly, Tyndall is a man
of great ability and earnestness. He has done, perhaps, more practical
work in science than Huxley has; he has written more; he sometimes
writes more eloquently. But he wants, to my thinking, that pure and
colorless impartiality of inquiry and judgment which is Huxley's
distinguishing characteristic. There is a certain coarseness of
materialism about Tyndall; there is a vehement and almost an arrogant
aggressiveness in him which must interfere with the clearness of his
views. He assails the orthodox with the temper of a Hot Gospeller.
Perhaps his Irish nature is partly accountable for this warm and eager
combativeness: perhaps his having sat so devotedly at the feet of his
friend, the great apostle of force, Thomas Carlyle, may help to explain
the unsparing vigor of his controversial style. However that may be,
Tyndall is assuredly one of the most impatient of sages, one of the most
intolerant of philosophers. If I have compared Huxley to the pure
devoted knight riding patiently in search of the Holy Grail, I may,
perhaps, liken Tyndall to the ardent champion who ranges the world,
fiercely defying to mortal combat any and every one who will not
instantly admit that the warrior's lady-love is the most beautiful and
perfect of created beings. His temper does unquestionably tend to weaken
Tyndall's authority. You may trust him implicitly where it is only a
question of a glacial theory or an atmospheric condition; but you must
follow the Carlylean philosopher very cautiously indeed where he
undertakes to instruct you on the subject of races. The negro, for
example, conquers Tyndall altogether. The philosopher loses his temper
and forgets his science the moment he comes to examine poor black
Sambo's woolly skull, and remembers that there are sane and educated
white people who maintain that the owner of the skull is a man and a
brother. In debates which cannot be settled by dry science, Huxley's
sympathies almost invariably guide him right: Tyndall's almost
invariably set him wrong. During the American Civil war, Huxley, like
Sir Charles Lyell and some other eminent scientific men, sympathized
with the cause of the North: Tyndall, on the other hand, was an eager
partisan of the South. A still more decisive test severed the two men
more widely apart. The story of the Jamaica massacre divided all England
into two fierce and hostile camps. I am not going to weary my readers
with any repetition of this often-told and horrible story. Enough to say
that the whole question at issue in England in relation to the Jamaica
tragedies was whether the belief that a negro insurrection is impending
justifies white residents in flogging and hanging as many negro men and
women, unarmed and unresisting, as they can find time to flog and hang,
without any ceremony of trial, evidence, or even inquiry. I do not
exaggerate or misstate. The ground taken by the advocates of the Jamaica
military measures was that although no insurrection was going on yet
there was reasonable ground to believe an insurrection impending; and
that therefore the white residents were justified in anticipating and
crushing the movement by the putting to death of every person, man or
woman, who could be supposed likely to have any part in it. Of course I
need hardly tell the student of history that this is exactly the ground
which was taken up, and with far greater plausibility and better excuse,
by the promoters of the massacre of Saint Bartholomew. They said: "We
have evidence, and are convinced, that these Huguenots are plotting
against us. If we do not put them down, they will put us down. Let us be
first at the work and crush them." The Jamaica question then raised a
bitter controversy in England. Naturally, John Bright and Stuart Mill
and Goldwin Smith took one side of it: Thomas Carlyle and Charles
Kingsley and John Ruskin the other. That was to be expected: any one
could have told it beforehand. But the occasion brought out men who had
never taken part in political controversy before: and then you saw at
once what kind of hearts and sympathies these new agitators had. Herbert
Spencer emerged for the first time in his life, so far as I know, from
the rigid seclusion of a silent student's career, and appeared in public
as an active, hard-working member of a political organization. The
American Civil War had drawn Mill for the first time into the public
arena of politics; the Jamaica massacre made a political agitator of
Herbert Spencer. The noble human sympathies of Spencer, his austere and
uncompromising love of justice, his instinctive detestation of brute,
blind, despotic force, compelled him to come out from his seclusion and
join those who protested against the lawless and senseless massacre of
the wretched blacks of Jamaica. So, too, with Huxley, who, if he did not
take part in a political organization, yet lent the weight of his
influence and the vigor of his pen to add to the force of the protest.
During the whole of that prolonged season of incessant and active
controversy, with the keenest intellects and the sharpest tongues in
England employing themselves eagerly on either side, I can recall to
mind nothing which, for justice, sound sense, high principle, and
exquisite briefness of pungent sarcasm, equaled one of Huxley's letters
on the subject to the "Pall Mall Gazette." The mind which was not
touched by the force of that incomparable mixture of satire and sense
would surely have remained untouched though one rose from the dead. The
delicious gravity with which Huxley accepted all the positions of his
opponents, assumed the propositions about the high character of the
Jamaica governor and the white residents, and the immorality of poor
Gordon and the negroes, and then reduced the case of the advocates of
the massacre to "the right of all virtuous persons, as such, to put to
death all vicious persons, as such," was almost worthy of Swift himself.

On the other hand, Professor Tyndall plunged eagerly into the
controversy as a defender of the policy and the people by whose
authority the massacre was carried on. I do not suppose he made any
inquiry into the facts--nothing of his that I read or heard of led me to
suppose that he had; but he went off on his Carlylean theory about
governing minds, and superior races, and the right of strong men, and
all the rest of the nonsense which Carlyle once made fascinating, and
his imitators have lately made vulgar. I think I am not doing Tyndall an
injustice when I regard him as a less austere and trustworthy follower
of the pure truth than Huxley. In fact Tyndall is a born
controversialist. Some orthodox person once extracted from Huxley, or
from some of his writings, the admission that "the truth of the miracles
was all a question of evidence," and seemed to think he had got hold of
a great concession therein. Possibly the admission was made in the
spirit of sarcasm, but it none the less expressed a belief and
illustrated a temper profoundly characteristic of Thomas Huxley. With
him everything is a question of evidence; nothing is to be settled by
faith or by preliminary assumption. I am convinced that if you could
prove by sufficient evidence the truth of every miracle recorded in
Butler's "Lives of the Saints," Professor Huxley would bow resignedly,
and accept the truth--wanting only the truth, whatever it might be. But
I think Tyndall would rage and chafe a great deal, and I suspect that he
would use a good many hard words against his opponents before he
submitted to acknowledge aloud the defeat which his inner consciousness
already admitted. And yet I think it would be at least as difficult to
convince Huxley as it would be to convince Tyndall that Saint Denis
walked with his head under his arm, or that Saint Januarius (was it not
he?) crossed the sea on his cloak for a raft.

I do not know whether it comes strictly within the scope of this essay
to say much about Herbert Spencer, who is rather what people call a
philosopher than a professionally scientific man. But assuredly no
living thinker has done more to undermine orthodoxy than the author of
"First Principles." I have already said that Spencer is much more widely
known in this country than in England. During the first few weeks of my
sojourn in the United States I heard more inquiries and more talk about
Spencer than about almost any other Englishman living. Spencer's whole
life, his pure, rigorous, anchorite-like devotion to knowledge, is
indeed a wonderful phenomenon in an age like the present. He has labored
for the love of labor and for the good it does to the world, almost
absolutely without reward. I presume that as paying speculations Herbert
Spencer's works would be hopeless failures; and yet they have influenced
the thought of the whole thinking world, and will probably grow and grow
in power as the years go on. It is, I suppose, no new or unseemly
revelation to say that Spencer has lived for the most part a life of
poverty as well as of seclusion. He is a sensitive, silent, self-reliant
man, endowed with a pure passion for knowledge, and the quickest,
keenest love of justice and right. There is something indeed quite
Quixotic, in the better sense, about the utterly disinterested and
self-forgetting eagerness with which Herbert Spencer will set himself to
see right done, even in the most trivial of cases. Little, commonplace,
trifling instances of unfairness or injustice, such as most of us may
observe every day, and which even the most benevolent of us will think
himself warranted in passing by, on his way to his own work, without
interference, will summon into activity--into positively unresting
eagerness--all the sympathies and energies of Herbert Spencer, nor will
the great student of life's ultimate principles return to his own high
pursuits until he has obtained for the poor sempstress restitution of
the over-fare exacted by the extortionate omnibus-conductor, or seen
that the policeman on duty is not too rough in his entreatment of the
little captured pickpocket. As one man has an unappeasable passion for
pictures, and another for horses, so Herbert Spencer has a passion for
justice. All this does not appear on first, or casual, acquaintance; but
I have heard many striking, and some very whimsical, illustrations of it
given by friends who know Spencer far better than I do. Indeed I should
say that there are few men of great intellect and character who reveal
themselves so little to the ordinary observer as Herbert Spencer does.
His face is, above all things, commonplace. There is nothing whatever
remarkable, nothing attractive, nothing repelling, nothing particularly
unattractive, about him. Honest, homespun, prosaic respectability seems
to be his principal characteristic. In casual and ordinary conversation
he does not impress one in the least. Almost all men of well-earned
distinction seem to have, above all things, a strongly-marked
individuality. You meet a man of this class casually; you have no idea
who he is; perhaps you do not even discover, have not an opportunity of
discovering, that he is a man of genius or intellect; but you do almost
invariably find yourself impressed with a strong individual
influence--the man seems to be somebody--he is not just like any other
man. To take illustrations familiar to most of us--observe what a
strongly-marked individuality Charles Dickens, John Bright, Disraeli,
Carlyle, Lord Ellenborough, Lord Salisbury have; what a strongly-marked
individuality Nathaniel Hawthorne had, Wendell Phillips, Charles Sumner,
William Cullen Bryant, Horace Greeley have. Now, Herbert Spencer is the
very opposite of all this. All that Dr. Johnson said of Burke might be
conveniently reversed in the case of Spencer. The person sheltering
under the hedge, the ostler in the yard, might talk long enough with him
and never feel tempted to say when he had gone, "There has been a
remarkable man here." A London _litterateur_, who had long been a
devotee of Herbert Spencer, was induced some year or two back to go to a
large dinner-party by the assurance that Spencer was to be there and was
actually to have the chair next to his own at table. Our friend went,
was a little late, and found himself disappointed. Next to him on one
side was a man whom he knew and did not care about; on the other side, a
humdrum, elderly, respectable, commonplace personage. With this latter,
for want of a better, he talked. It was dull, commonplace, conventional
talk, good for nothing, meaning nothing. The dinner was nearly over when
our friend heard some one address his right-hand neighbor as "Spencer."
Amazed out of all decorum, he turned to the commonplace, dull-looking
individual, and broke out with the words "Why, you don't mean to say
that you are Herbert Spencer?" "Oh, yes," the other replied, as quietly
as ever, "I am Herbert Spencer."

I have wandered a little from my path; let me return to it. My object is
to illustrate the remarkable and fundamental difference between the
nature of the antagonism which old-fashioned orthodoxy has to encounter
to-day, and that which used to be its principal assailant. The sceptic,
the metaphysician, the "infidel" have given way to the professional
_savant_. Nobody now-a-days would trouble himself to read Tom Paine;
hardly could even the scepticism of Hume or Gibbon attract much public
attention. Auguste Comte has been an influence because he endeavored to
construct as well as to destroy. I cannot speak of Comte without saying
that Professor Huxley seems to me grievously, and almost perversely, to
underrate the value of what Comte has done. Huxley has not, I fancy,
given much attention to historical study, and is therefore not so well
qualified to appreciate Comte as a much inferior man of a different
school might be. Moreover, Huxley appears to have a certain
professional, and I had almost said pedantic, contempt for anything
calling itself science which cannot be rated and registered in the
regular and practical way. To me Comte's one grand theory or discovery,
call it what you will, seems, whether true or untrue, as strictly a
question of science as anything coming under Huxley's own professional
cognizance. But I have already intimated that the character of Huxley's
intellect seems to me acute and penetrating, rather than broad and
comprehensive. Perhaps he is all the better fitted for the work he and
his compeers have undertaken to do. They have taken, in this regard, the
place of the Rousseaus and Diderots; of the much smaller Paines and
Carliles (please don't suppose I am alluding to Thomas Carlyle); of the
yet smaller Holyoakes and Bradlaughs. Those only attempted to destroy:
these seek to construct. Huxley and his brethren follow the advice which
is the moral and the sum of Goethe's "Faust"--they "grasp into the
present," and refuse to "send their thoughts wandering over eternities."
They honestly and fearlessly seek the pure truth, which surely must be
always saving. Let me say something more. This advance-guard of
scientific scholars alone express the common opinion of the educated and
free Englishmen of to-day. The English journals, I wish distinctly to
say, do not express it. They do not venture to express it. There is a
tacit understanding that although it would be too much to expect an
intelligent journalist to write up old-fashioned orthodoxy, yet at least
he is never to be allowed to write it down. It is not very long since
one of the most popular, successful and influential of London journals
sneered at the Parliamentary candidature of my friend, Professor
Fawcett, M. P., on the ground that he was a man who, as an advocate of
the Darwinian theory, admitted that his great-grandfather was a frog.
Yet I know that the journal which indulged in this vapid and vulgar
buffoonery is written for by scholars and men of ability. Now, this is
indeed an extreme and unusual instance of journalism, well cognizant of
better things, condescending to pander to the lowest and stupidest
prejudices. But the same kind of thing, although not the same thing, is
done by London journals every day. You cannot hope to get at the
religious views of cultivated and liberal-minded Englishmen through the
London papers. "The right sort of thing to say," is what the journalists
commit to print, whatever they may think, or know, or say as individuals
and in private. But the scientific men speak out. They, and I might
almost say they alone, have the courage of their opinions. What educated
people venture to believe, they venture to express. Nor do they keep
themselves to audiences of _savans_ and professors and the British
Association. Huxley delivers lectures to the working men of Southwark;
Carpenter undertook Sunday evening discourses in Bloomsbury; Tyndall,
with all the pugnacity of his country, is ready for a controversy
anywhere. Sometimes the duty and honor of maintaining the right of free
speech have been claimed by the journalists alone; sometimes, when even
the journals were silent, by the pulpit, by the bar, or by the stage. In
England to-day all men say aloud what they think on all great subjects
save one--and on that neither pulpit, press, bar nor stage cares to
speak the whole truth. The scientific men alone are bold enough to
declare it, as they are resolute to seek it. I think history will
hereafter contemplate this moral triumph as no less admirable, and no
less remarkable, than any of their mere material conquests.

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