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Title: William Ewart Gladstone
Author: James Bryce, Viscount
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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Transcribed from the 1919 The Century Co. edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org

                    [Picture: William Ewart Gladstone]



                                 WILLIAM
                                  EWART
                                GLADSTONE


                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

                           HIS CHARACTERISTICS
                           AS MAN AND STATEMAN

                                    BY
                               JAMES BRYCE

                  AUTHOR OF “THE AMERICAN COMMONWEALTH,”
                     “TRANSCAUCASIA AND ARARAT,” “THE
                       HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE,” “IMPRES-
                         SIONS OF SOUTH AFRICA.”

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

                                 NEW YORK
                             THE CENTURY CO.
                                   1919

                                * * * * *

                           Copyright, 1898, by
                   The Evening Post Publishing Company.

                            Copyright 1898, by
                             THE CENTURY CO.

                                * * * * *



CONTENTS

                                              PAGE
       I.  INTRODUCTION                          1
      II.  EARLY INFLUENCES                      5
     III.  PARLIAMENTARIAN                      18
      IV.  ORATOR                               39
       V.  ORIGINALITY AND INDEPENDENCE         56
      VI.  SOCIAL QUALITIES                     76
     VII.  AUTHORSHIP                           81
    VIII.  RELIGIOUS CHARACTER                  94



I
INTRODUCTION


NO man has lived in our times of whom it is so hard to speak in a concise
and summary fashion as Mr. Gladstone.  For forty years he was so closely
associated with the public affairs of his country that the record of his
parliamentary life comes near to being an outline of English politics.
His activity spread itself out over many fields.  He was the author of
several learned and thoughtful books, and of a multitude of articles upon
all sorts of subjects.  He showed himself as eagerly interested in
matters of classical scholarship and Christian doctrine and
ecclesiastical history as in questions of national finance and foreign
policy.  No account of him could be complete without reviewing his
actions and estimating the results of his work in all these directions.
But the difficulty of describing and judging him goes deeper.  His was a
singularly complex nature, a character hard to unravel.  His
individuality was extremely strong; all that he said or did bore its
impress.  Yet it was an individuality so far from being self-consistent
as sometimes to seem a bundle of opposite qualities capriciously united
in a single person.  He might with equal truth be called, and he has been
in fact called, a conservative and a revolutionary.  He was dangerously
impulsive, and had frequently to suffer from his impulsiveness; yet he
was also not merely wary and cautious, but so astute as to have been
accused of craft and dissimulation.  So great was his respect for
authority and tradition that he clung to views regarding the unity of
Homer and the historical claims of Christian sacerdotalism which the
majority of competent specialists have now rejected.  So bold was he in
practical matters that he transformed the British constitution, changed
the course of English policy in the Orient, destroyed an established
church in one part of the United Kingdom, and committed himself to the
destruction of two established churches in two other parts.  He came near
to being a Roman Catholic in his religious opinions, yet was for twenty
years the darling leader of the English Protestant Nonconformists and the
Scotch Presbyterians.  No one who knew him intimately doubted his
conscientious sincerity and earnestness, yet four fifths of the English
upper classes were in his later years wont to regard him as a
self-interested schemer who would sacrifice his country to his lust for
power.  Though he loved general principles, and often soared out of the
sight of his audience when discussing them, he generally ended by
deciding upon points of detail the question at issue.  He was at
different times of his life the defender and the assailant of the same
institutions, yet he scarcely seemed inconsistent in doing opposite
things, because his method and his arguments preserved the same type and
color throughout.  Any one who had at the beginning of his career
discerned in him the capacity for such strange diversities and
contradictions would probably have predicted that they must wreck it by
making his purposes weak and his course erratic.  Such a prediction would
have proved true of any one with less firmness of will and less intensity
of temper.  It was the persistent heat and vehemence of his character,
the sustained passion which he threw into the pursuit of the object on
which he was for the moment bent, that fused these dissimilar qualities
and made them appear to contribute to and to increase the total force
which he exerted.



II
EARLY INFLUENCES


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

Theories of character based on race differences are dangerous, because
they are so easy to form and so hard to test.  Still, no one denies that
there are qualities and tendencies generally found in the minds of men of
certain stocks, just as there are peculiarities in their faces or in
their speech.  Mr. Gladstone was born and brought up in Liverpool, and
always retained a touch of Lancashire accent.  But, as he was fond of
saying, every drop of blood in his veins was Scotch.  His father was a
Lowland Scot from the neighborhood of Biggar, in the Upper Ward of
Lanarkshire, where the old yeoman’s dwelling of Gledstanes—“the kite’s
rock”—may still be seen.  His mother was of Highland extraction, by name
Robertson, from Dingwall, in Ross-shire.  Thus he was not only a Scot,
but a Scot with a strong infusion of the Celtic element, the element
whence the Scotch derive most of what distinguishes them from the
English.  The Scot is more excitable, more easily brought to a glow of
passion, more apt to be eagerly absorbed in one thing at a time.  He is
also more fond of abstract intellectual effort.  It is not merely that
the taste for metaphysical theology is commoner in Scotland than in
England, but that the Scotch have a stronger relish for general
principles.  They like to set out by ascertaining and defining such
principles, and then to pursue a series of logical deductions from them.
They are, therefore, somewhat bolder reasoners than the English, less
content to remain in the region of concrete facts, more eager to hasten
on to the process of working out a body of speculative doctrines.  The
Englishman is apt to plume himself on being right in spite of logic; the
Scotchman delights to think that it is through logic he has reached his
conclusions, and that he can by logic defend them.  These are qualities
which Mr. Gladstone drew from his Scottish blood.  He had a keen
enjoyment of the processes of dialectic.  He loved to get hold of an
abstract principle and to derive all sorts of conclusions from it.  He
was wont to begin the discussion of a question by laying down two or
three sweeping propositions covering the subject as a whole, and would
then proceed to draw from these others which he could apply to the
particular matter in hand.  His well-stored memory and boundless
ingenuity made this finding of such general propositions so easy a task
that a method in itself agreeable sometimes appeared to be carried to
excess.  He frequently arrived at conclusions which the judgment of the
sober auditor did not approve, because, although they seemed to have been
legitimately deduced from the general principles just enunciated, they
were somehow at variance with the plain teaching of the facts.  At such
moments one felt that the man who was charming but perplexing Englishmen
by his subtlety and ingenuity was not himself an Englishman in mental
quality, but had the love for abstractions and refinements and
dialectical analysis which characterizes the Scotch intellect.  He had
also a large measure of that warmth and vehemence, called in the
sixteenth century the _perfervidum ingenium Scotorum_, which belong to
the Scottish temperament, and particularly to the Celtic Scot.  He
kindled quickly, and when kindled, he shot forth a strong and brilliant
flame.  To any one with less power of self-control such intensity of
emotion as he frequently showed would have been dangerous; nor did this
excitability fail, even with him, to prompt words and acts which a cooler
judgment would have disapproved.  But it gave that spontaneity which was
one of the charms of his nature; it produced that impression of profound
earnestness and of resistless force which raised him out of the rank of
ordinary statesmen.  The tide of emotion swelling fast and full seemed to
turn the whole rushing stream of intellectual effort into whatever
channel lay at the moment nearest.

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

When the brilliant young Oxonian entered the House of Commons at the age
of twenty-three, Sir Robert Peel was leading the Tory party with an
authority and ability rarely surpassed in parliamentary annals.  Within
two years the young man was admitted into the short-lived Tory ministry
of 1834, and soon proved himself an active and promising lieutenant of
the experienced chief.  Peel was an eminently wary and cautious man,
alive to the necessity of watching the signs of the times, of studying
and interpreting the changeful phases of public opinion.  His habit was
to keep his own counsel, and even when he perceived that the policy he
had hitherto followed would need to be modified, to continue to use
guarded language and refuse to commit himself to change till he perceived
that the fitting moment had arrived.  He was, moreover, a master of
detail, slow to propound a plan until he had seen how its outlines were
to be filled up by appropriate devices for carrying it out in practice.
These qualities and habits of the minister profoundly affected his gifted
disciple.  They became part of the texture of his own political
character, and in his case, as in that of Peel, they sometimes brought
censure upon him, as having withheld too long from the public views or
purposes which he thought it unwise to disclose till effect could
promptly be given to them.  Such reserve, such a guarded attitude and
conservative attachment to existing institutions, were not altogether
natural to Mr. Gladstone’s mind, and the contrast between them and some
of his other qualities, like the contrast which ultimately appeared
between his sacerdotal tendencies and his political liberalism,
contributed to make his character perplexing and to expose his conduct to
the charge of inconsistency.  Inconsistent, in the ordinary sense of the
word, he was not, much less changeable.  He was really, in the main
features of his political convictions and the main habits of his mind,
one of the most tenacious and persistent of men.  But there were always
at work in him two tendencies.  One was the speculative desire to probe
everything to the bottom, to try it by the light of general principles
and logic, and where it failed to stand this test, to reject it.  The
other was the sense of the complexity of existing social and political
arrangements, and of the risk of disturbing any one part of them unless
the time had arrived for resettling other parts also.  Every statesman
feels both these sides to every concrete question of reform.  No one has
set them forth more cogently, and in particular no one has more earnestly
dwelt on the necessity for the latter, than the most profound thinker
among English statesmen, Edmund Burke.  Mr. Gladstone, however, felt and
stated them with quite unusual force, and when he stated the one side,
people forgot that there was another which would be no less vividly
present to him at some other moment.  He was not only, like all
successful parliamentarians, necessarily something of an opportunist,
though perhaps less so than his master Peel, but was moved by emotion
more than most statesmen, and certainly more than Peel.  The relative
strength with which the need for comprehensive reform or the need for
watchful conservatism presented itself to his mind depended largely upon
the weight which his emotions cast into one or the other scale, and this
element made it difficult to forecast his probable action.  Thus his
political character was the result of influences differing widely in
their origin—influences, moreover, which it was hard for ordinary
observers to appreciate.



III
PARLIAMENTARIAN


MR. GLADSTONE sat for sixty-three years in Parliament, and for more than
twenty-six years was the leader of his party, and therefore the central
figure of English politics.  As has been said, he began as a high Tory,
remained about fifteen years in that camp, was then led by the split
between Peel and the protectionists to take up an intermediate position,
and finally was forced to cast in his lot with the Liberals, for in
England, as in America, third parties seldom endure.  No parliamentary
career in English annals is comparable to his for its length and variety;
and of those who saw its close in the House of Commons, there was only
one man, Mr. Villiers (who died in January, 1898), who could remember its
beginning.  He had been opposed in 1833 to men who might have been his
grandfathers; he was opposed in 1893 to men who might have been his
grandchildren.  In a sketch like this, it is impossible to describe or
comment on the events of such a life.  All that can be done is to
indicate the more salient characteristics which a study of his career as
a statesman and a parliamentarian sets before us.

The most remarkable of these characteristics is the sustained freshness,
openness, eagerness of mind, which he preserved down to the end of his
life.  Most of us, just as we make few intimate friends, so we form few
new opinions after thirty-five.  Intellectual curiosity may remain fresh
and strong even after fifty, but its range steadily narrows as one
abandons the hope of attaining any thorough knowledge of subjects other
than those which make the main business of one’s life.  One cannot follow
the progress of all the new ideas that are set afloat in the world.  One
cannot be always examining the foundations of one’s political or
religious beliefs.  Repeated disappointments and disillusionments make a
man expect less from changes the older he grows; and mere indolence adds
its influence in deterring us from entering upon new enterprises.  None
of these causes seemed to affect Mr. Gladstone.  He was as much excited
over a new book (such as Cardinal Manning’s Life) at eighty-six as when
at fourteen he insisted on compelling little Arthur Stanley (afterward
Dean of Westminster, and then aged nine) to procure Gray’s poems, which
he had just perused himself.  His reading covered almost the whole field
of literature, except physical and mathematical science.  While
frequently declaring that he must confine his political thinking and
leadership to a few subjects, he was so observant of the movements of
opinion that the course of talk brought up scarcely any topic in which he
did not seem to know what was the latest thing that had been said or
done.  Neither the lassitude nor the prejudices common in old age
prevented him from giving a fair consideration to any new doctrines.  But
though his intellect was restlessly at work, and though his eager
curiosity disposed him to relish novelties, except in theology, that
bottom rock in his mind of caution and reserve, which has already been
referred to, made him refuse to part with old views even when he was
beginning to accept new ones.  He allowed both to “lie on the table”
together, and while declaring his mind to be open to conviction, he felt
it safer to speak and act on the old lines till the process of conviction
had been completed.  It took fourteen years, from 1846 to 1860, to carry
him from the Conservative into the Liberal camp.  It took five stormy
years to bring him round to Irish home rule, though his mind was
constantly occupied with the subject from 1880 to 1885, and those who
watched him closely saw that the process had advanced some considerable
way even in 1881.  And as regards ecclesiastical establishments, having
written a book in 1838 as a warm advocate of state churches, it was not
till 1867 that he adopted the policy of disestablishment for Ireland, not
till 1890 that he declared himself ready to apply it in Wales and
Scotland also.

Both these qualities—his disposition to revise his opinions in the light
of new arguments and changing conditions, and the reticence he maintained
till the process of revision had been completed—exposed him to
misconstruction.  Commonplace men, unwont to give serious scrutiny to
their opinions, ascribed his changes to self-interest, or at best
regarded them as the index of an unstable mind.  Dull men could not
understand why he should have forborne to set forth all that was passing
in his mind, and saw little difference between reticence and dishonesty.
Much of the suspicion and even fear with which he was regarded,
especially after 1885, arose from the idea that it was impossible to
predict what he would do next, and how far his openness of mind would
carry him.  In so far as they tended to shake public confidence, these
characteristics injured him in his statesman’s work, but the loss was far
outweighed by the gain.  In a country where opinion is active and
changeful, where the economic conditions that legislation has to deal
with are in a state of perpetual flux, where the balance of power between
the upper and middle and poorer classes has been swiftly altering during
the last sixty years, no statesman can continue to serve the public if he
adheres obstinately to the views with which he started in life.  He
must—unless, of course, he stands aloof in permanent opposition—either
submit to advocate measures he secretly mislikes, or else must keep
himself always ready to learn from events, and to reconsider his opinions
in the light of emergent tendencies and insistent facts.  Mr. Gladstone’s
pride as well as his conscience forbade the former alternative; it was
fortunate that the inexhaustible activity of his intellect made the
latter natural to him.  He was accustomed to say that the great mistake
of his earlier views had been in not sufficiently recognizing the worth
and power of liberty, and the tendency which things have to work out for
good when left to themselves.  The application of this principle gave
room for many developments, and many developments there were.  He may
have wanted that prescience which is, after integrity, the highest gift
of a statesman, but which is almost impossible to a man so pressed by the
constant and engrossing occupations of an English minister that he cannot
find time for the patient study and thought from which alone sound
forecasts can issue.  But he had the next best quality, that of always
learning from the events which passed under his eyes.

With this singular openness and flexibility of mind, there went a not
less remarkable ingenuity and resourcefulness.  His mind was fertile in
expedients, and still more fertile in reasonings by which to recommend
the expedients.  This gift was often dangerous, for he was apt to be
carried away by the dexterity of his own dialectic, and to think schemes
substantially good in whose support he could muster so formidable an
array of arguments.  He never seemed to be at a loss, in public or
private, for a criticism, or for an answer to the criticisms of others.
If his power of adapting his own mind to the minds of those whom he had
to convince had been equal to the skill and swiftness with which he
accumulated a mass of matter persuasive to those who looked at things in
his own way, no one would have exercised so complete a control over the
political opinion of his time.  But his mind had not this power of
adaptation.  It moved on its own lines—peculiar lines, which were often
misconceived, even by those who sought to follow him most loyally.  Thus
it happened that he was blamed for two opposite faults.  Some, pointing
to the fact that he had frequently altered his views, denounced him as a
demagogue profuse of promises, ready to propose whatever he thought
likely to catch the people’s ear.  Others complained that there was no
knowing where to have him; that he had an erratic mind, whose currents
ran underground and came to the surface in unexpected places; that he did
not consult his party, but followed his own predilections; that his
guidance was unsafe because his decisions were unpredictable.  Both these
views were unfair, yet the latter came nearer to the truth than the
former.  No great popular leader had in him less of the true ring of the
demagogue.  He saw, of course, that a statesman cannot oppose the popular
will beyond a certain point, and may have to humor it in order that he
may direct it.  Now and then, in his later days, he so far yielded to his
party advisers as to express his approval of proposals for which he cared
little personally.  But he was too self-absorbed, too eagerly interested
in the ideas that suited his own cast of thought, to be able to watch and
gage the tendencies of the multitude.  On several occasions he announced
a policy which startled people and gave a new turn to the course of
events.  But in none of these instances, and certainly not in the three
most remarkable,—his declarations against the Irish church establishment
in 1868, against the Turks and the traditional English policy of
supporting them in 1876, and in favor of Irish home rule in 1886,—did any
popular demand suggest his pronouncement.  It was the masses who took
their view from him, not he who took his mandate from the masses.  In all
of these instances he was at the time in opposition, and was accused of
having made this new departure for the sake of recovering power.  In the
two former he prevailed, and was ultimately admitted, by his more candid
adversaries, to have counseled wisely.  In all of them he may, perhaps,
be censured for not having sooner perceived, or at any rate for not
having sooner announced, the need for reform.  But it was very
characteristic of him not to give the full strength of his mind to a
question till he felt that it pressed for a solution.  Those who
discussed politics with him were scarcely more struck by the range of his
vision and his power of correlating principles and details than by his
unwillingness to commit himself on matters whose decision he could
postpone.  Reticence and caution were sometimes carried too far, not
merely because they exposed him to misconstruction, but because they
withheld from his party the guidance it needed.  This was true in all the
three instances just mentioned; and in the last of them his reticence
probably contributed to the separation from him of some of his former
colleagues.  Nor did he always rightly divine the popular mind.  Absorbed
in his own financial views, he omitted to note the change that had been
in progress between 1862 and 1874, and thus his proposal in the latter
year to extinguish the income tax fell completely flat.  He often failed
to perceive how much the credit of his party was suffering from the
belief, quite groundless so far as he personally was concerned, that his
government was indifferent to what are called Imperial interests, the
interests of England outside England.  But he always thought for himself,
and never stooped to flatter the prejudices or inflame the passions of
any class in the community.

Though the power of reading the signs of the times and moving the mind of
the nation as a whole may be now more essential to an English statesman
than the skill which manages a legislature or holds together a cabinet,
that skill counts for much, and must continue to do so while the House of
Commons remains the supreme governing authority of the country.  A man
can hardly reach high place, and certainly cannot retain high place,
without possessing this kind of art.  Mr. Gladstone was at one time
thought to want it.  In 1864, when Lord Palmerston’s end was evidently
near and Mr. Gladstone had shown himself the most brilliant and capable
man among the Liberal ministers in the House of Common’s, people
speculated about the succession to the headship of the party; and the
wiseacres of the day were never tired of repeating that Mr. Gladstone
could not possibly lead the House of Commons.  He wanted tact (they
said), he was too excitable, too impulsive, too much absorbed in his own
ideas, too unversed in the arts by which individuals are conciliated.
But when, after twenty-five years of his unquestioned reign, the time for
his own departure drew nigh, men asked how the Liberal party in the House
of Commons would ever hold together after it had lost a leader of such
consummate capacity.  Seldom has a prediction been more utterly falsified
than that of the Whig critics of 1864.  They had grown so accustomed to
Palmerston’s way of handling the House as to forget that a man might
succeed by quite different methods.  And they forgot also that a man may
have many defects and yet in spite of them be incomparably the fittest
for a great place.

Mr. Gladstone had the defects that were ascribed to him.  His
impulsiveness sometimes betrayed him into declarations which a cooler man
would have abstained from.  The second reading of the Irish Home-Rule
Bill of 1886 would probably have been carried had he not been goaded by
his opponents into words which seemed to recall or modify the concessions
he had announced at a meeting of the Liberal party held just before.
More than once precious time was wasted in useless debates because his
antagonists, knowing his excitable temper, brought on discussions with
the sole object of annoying him and drawing from him some hasty
deliverance.  Nor was he an adept, like Disraeli and Sir John A.
Macdonald, in the management of individuals.  He had a contempt for the
meaner side of human nature which made him refuse to play upon it.  He
had comparatively little sympathy with many of the pursuits which attract
ordinary men; and he was too constantly engrossed by the subjects of
enterprises which specially appealed to him to have leisure for the
lighter but often very important devices of political strategy.  A
trifling anecdote, which was told in London about twenty-five years ago,
may illustrate this characteristic.  Mr. Delane, then editor of the
“Times,” had been invited to meet the prime minister at a moment when the
support of the “Times” would have been specially valuable to the Liberal
government.  Instead of using the opportunity to set forth his policy and
invite an opinion on it, Mr. Gladstone talked the whole time of dinner
upon the question of the exhaustion of the English coal-beds, to the
surprise of the company and the unconcealed annoyance of the powerful
guest.  It was the subject then uppermost in his mind, and he either did
not think of winning Mr. Delane or disdained to do so.  In the House of
Commons he was entirely free from airs, or, indeed, from any sort of
assumption of superiority.  The youngest member might accost him in the
lobby and be listened to with perfect courtesy.  But he seldom addressed
any one outside his own very small group of friends, and more than once
made enemies by omitting to notice and show some attention to members of
his party who, having been eminent in their own towns, expected to be
made much of when they entered Parliament.  Having himself plenty of
pride and comparatively little vanity, he never realized the extent to
which, and the cheapness with which, men can be captured and used through
their vanity.  And his mind, flexible as it was in seizing new points of
view and devising expedients to meet new circumstances, did not easily
enter into the characters of other men.  Ideas and causes interested him
more than personal traits did; his sympathy was keener and stronger for
the sufferings of nations or masses of men than with the fortunes of a
particular person.  With all his accessibility and immensely wide circle
of acquaintances, he was at bottom a man chary of real friendship, while
the circle of his intimates became constantly smaller with advancing
years.

So it befell that though his popularity among the general body of his
adherents went on increasing, and the admiration of his parliamentary
followers remained undiminished, he had few intimate friends, few men in
the House of Commons who linked him to the party at large and rendered to
him those confidential personal services which count for much in keeping
a party in hearty accord and enabling the commander to gage the sentiment
of his troops.  Thus adherents were lost who turned into dangerous
foes—lost for the want not so much of tact as of a sense for the need and
use of tact in humoring and managing men.

If, however, we speak of parliamentary strategy in its larger sense, as
covering familiarity with parliamentary forms and usages, the powers of
seizing a parliamentary situation and knowing how to deal with it, the
art of guiding a debate and choosing the right moment for reserve and for
openness, for a dignified retreat, for a watchful defense, for a sudden
rattling charge upon the enemy, no one had a fuller mastery of it.  His
recollection of precedents was unrivaled, for it began in 1833 with the
first reformed Parliament, and it seemed as fresh for those remote days
as for last month.  He enjoyed combat for its own sake, not so much from
any inborn pugnacity, for he was not disputatious in ordinary
conversation, as because it called out his fighting force and stimulated
his whole nature.  “I am never nervous in reply,” he once said, “though I
am sometimes nervous in opening a debate.”  And although his impetuosity
sometimes betrayed him into imprudence when he was taken unawares, no one
could be more wary or guarded when a crisis arrived whose gravity he had
foreseen.  In the summer of 1881 the House of Lords made some amendments
to the Irish Land Bill which were deemed ruinous to the working of the
measure, and therewith to the prospects of the pacification of Ireland.
A conflict was expected which might have strained the fabric of the
constitution.  The excitement which quickly arose in Parliament spread to
the whole nation.  Mr. Gladstone alone remained calm and confident.  He
devised a series of compromises, which he advocated in conciliatory
speeches.  He so played his game that by a few minor concessions he
secured nearly all of the points he cared for, and, while sparing the
dignity of the Lords, steered his bill triumphantly out of the breakers
which had threatened to engulf it.  Very different was his ordinary
demeanor in debate when he was off his guard.  Observers have often
described how his face and gestures while he sat in the House of Commons
listening to an opponent would express all the emotions that crossed his
mind; with what eagerness he would follow every sentence, sometimes
contradicting half aloud, sometimes turning to his next neighbor to
express his displeasure at the groundless allegations or fallacious
arguments he was listening to, till at last he would spring to his feet
and deliver a passionate reply.  His warmth would often be in excess of
what the occasion required, and quite disproportioned to the importance
of his antagonist.  It was in fact the unimportance of the occasion that
made him thus yield to his feeling.  As soon as he saw that bad weather
was coming, and that careful seamanship was wanted, his coolness
returned, his language became guarded and careful, and passion, though it
might increase the force of his oratory, never made him deviate a hand’s
breadth from the course he had chosen.



IV
ORATOR


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

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

If, on the other hand, Mr. Gladstone be judged by the impression he made
on his own time, his place will be high in the front rank.  His speeches
were neither so concisely telling as Mr. Bright’s nor so finished in
diction; but no other man among his contemporaries—neither Lord Derby nor
Mr. Lowe nor Mr. Disraeli nor Bishop Wilberforce nor Bishop
Magee—deserved comparison with him.  And he rose superior to Mr. Bright
himself in readiness, in variety of knowledge, in persuasive ingenuity.
Mr. Bright required time for preparation, and was always more successful
in alarming his adversaries and stimulating his friends than in either
instructing or convincing anybody.  Mr. Gladstone could do all these four
things, and could do them at an hour’s notice, so vast and well ordered
was the arsenal of his mind.

His oratory had many conspicuous merits.  There was a lively imagination,
which enabled him to relieve even dull matter by pleasing figures,
together with a large command of quotations and illustrations.  There
were remarkable powers of sarcasm—powers, however, which he rarely used,
preferring the summer lightning of banter to the thunderbolt of
invective.  There was admirable lucidity and accuracy in exposition.
There was great skill in the disposition and marshaling of his arguments,
and finally—a gift now almost lost in England—there was a wonderful
variety and grace of appropriate gesture.  But above and beyond
everything else which enthralled the listener, there were four qualities,
two specially conspicuous in the substance of his eloquence—inventiveness
and elevation; two not less remarkable in his manner—force in the
delivery, expressive modulation in the voice.

Of the swift resourcefulness of his mind, something has been said
already.  In debate it shone out with the strongest ray.  His readiness,
not only at catching a point, but at making the most of it on a moment’s
notice, was amazing.  Some one would lean over the back of the bench he
sat on and show a paper or whisper a sentence to him.  Apprehending its
bearings at a glance, he would take the bare fact and so shape and
develop it, like a potter molding a bowl on the wheel out of a lump of
clay, that it grew into a cogent argument or a happy illustration under
the eye of the audience, and seemed all the more telling because it had
not been originally a part of his case.  Even in the last two years of
his parliamentary life, when his sight had so failed that he read
nothing, printed or written, except what it was absolutely necessary to
read, and when his deafness had so increased that he did not hear half of
what was said in debate, it was sufficient for a colleague to whisper a
few words to him, explaining how the matter at issue stood, and he would
rise to his feet and extemporize a long and ingenious argument, or
perhaps retreat with dexterous grace from a position which the course of
the discussion or the private warning of the “whips” had shown to be
untenable.  No one ever saw him at a loss either to meet a new point
raised by an adversary or to make the most of an unexpected incident.
Sometimes he would amuse himself by drawing a cheer or a contradiction
from his opponents, and would then suddenly turn round and use this hasty
expression of their opinion as the basis for a fresh argument of his own.
In this particular kind of debating power, for the display of which the
House of Commons—an assembly of moderate size, which knows all its
leading figures familiarly—is an apt theater, he has been seldom rivaled
and never surpassed.  Its only weakness sprang from its superabundance.
He was sometimes so intent on refuting the particular adversaries opposed
to him, and persuading the particular audience before him, that he forgot
to address his reasonings to the public beyond the House, and make them
equally applicable and equally convincing to the readers of next morning.

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

The note of genuineness and spontaneity which marked the substance of his
speeches was no less conspicuous in their delivery.  Nothing could be
more easy and graceful than his manner on ordinary occasions.  His
expository discourses, such as those with which he introduced a
complicated bill or unfolded a financial statement, were models of their
kind, not only for lucidity, but for the pleasant smoothness, equally
free from monotony and from abruptness, with which the stream of speech
flowed from his lips.  The task was performed so well that people thought
it an easy task till they saw how immeasurably inferior were the
performances of two subsequent chancellors of the exchequer so able in
their respective ways as Mr. Lowe and Mr. Goschen.  But when an occasion
arrived which quickened men’s pulses, and particularly when some sudden
storm burst on the House of Commons, a place where the waves rise as fast
as in a mountain lake under a squall rushing down a glen, the vehemence
of his feeling found expression in the fire of his eye and the resistless
strength of his words.  His utterance did not grow swifter, nor did the
key of his voice rise, as passion raises and sharpens it in most men.
But the measured force with which every sentence was launched, like a
shell hurtling through the air, the concentrated intensity of his look,
as he defied antagonists in front and swept his glance over the ranks of
his supporters around and behind him, had a startling and thrilling power
which no other Englishman could exert, and which no Englishman had
exerted since the days of Pitt and Fox.  The whole proud, bold, ardent
nature of the man seemed to flash out, and one almost forgot what the
lips said in admiration of the towering personality.

People who read next day the report in the newspapers of a speech
delivered on such an occasion could not comprehend the impression it had
made on the listeners.  “What was there in it so to stir you?” they
asked.  They had not seen the glance and the gestures; they had not heard
the vibrating voice rise to an organ peal of triumph or sink to a whisper
of entreaty.  Mr. Gladstone’s voice was naturally one of great richness
and resonance.  It was a fine singing voice, and a pleasant voice to
listen to in conversation, not the less pleasant for having a slight
trace of Liverpool accent clinging to it.  But what struck one in
listening to his speeches was not so much the quality of the vocal chords
as the skill with which they were managed.  He had the same gift of
sympathetic expression, of throwing his feeling into his voice, and using
its modulations to accompany and convey every shade of meaning, that a
great composer has when he puts music to a poem, or a great executant
when he renders at once the composer’s and the poet’s thought.  And just
as great singers or violinists enjoy the practice of their art, so it was
a delight to him to put forth this faculty of expression—perhaps an
unconscious, yet an intense delight; as appeared from this also, that
whenever his voice failed him (which sometimes befell in later years) his
words came less easily, and even the chariot of his argument seemed to
drive heavily.  That the voice should so seldom have failed him was
wonderful.  When he had passed his seventy-fifth year, it became sensibly
inferior in volume and depth of tone.  But its strength, variety, and
delicacy remained.  In April, 1886, he being then seventy-seven, it held
out during a speech of nearly four hours in length.  In February, 1890,
it enabled him to deliver with extraordinary effect an eminently solemn
and pathetic appeal.  In March, 1895, those who listened to it the last
time it was heard in Parliament—they were comparatively few, for the
secret of his impending resignation had been well kept—recognized in it
all the old charm.  But perhaps the most curious instance of the power it
could exert is to be found in a speech made in 1883, during one of the
tiresome debates occasioned by the refusal of the Tory party and of some
timorous Liberals to allow Mr. Bradlaugh to be sworn as a member of the
House of Commons.  This speech produced a profound impression on those
who heard it, an impression which its perusal to-day fails to explain.
That impression was chiefly due to the grave and reverent tone in which
he delivered some sentences stating the view that it is not our belief in
the bare existence of a Deity, but the realizing of him as being also a
Providence ruling the world, that is of moral value and significance, and
was due in particular to the lofty dignity with which he declaimed six
lines of Lucretius, setting forth the Epicurean view of the gods as
unconcerned with mankind.  There were probably not ten men in the House
of Commons who could follow the sense of the lines so as to appreciate
their bearing on his argument.  But these stately and sonorous
hexameters—hexameters that seemed to have lived on through nineteen
centuries to find their application from the lips of an orator to-day;
the sense of remoteness in the strange language and the far-off heathen
origin; the deep and moving note in the speaker’s voice, thrilled the
imagination of the audience and held it spellbound, lifting for a moment
the whole subject of debate into a region far above party conflicts.
Spoken by any one else, the passage culminating in these Lucretian lines
might have produced little effect.  It was the voice and manner, above
all the voice, with its marvelous modulations, that made the speech
majestic.

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



V
ORIGINALITY AND INDEPENDENCE


THOUGH Mr. Gladstone’s oratory was a main source of his power, both in
Parliament and over the people, the effort of his enemies to represent
him as a mere rhetorician will seem absurd to the historian who reviews
his whole career.  The mere rhetorician adorns and popularizes the ideas
which have originated with others, he advocates policies which others
have devised; he follows and expresses the sentiments which already
prevail in his party.  He may help to destroy; he does not construct.
Mr. Gladstone was himself a source of new ideas and new policies; he
evoked new sentiments or turned sentiments into new channels.  He was a
constructive statesman not less conspicuously than Pitt, Canning, and
Peel.  If the memory of his oratorical triumphs were to pass completely
away, he would deserve to be remembered in respect of the mark he left
upon the British statute-book and of the changes he wrought both in the
constitution of his country and in her European policy.  To describe the
acts he carried would almost be to write the history of recent British
legislation; to pass a judgment upon their merits would be foreign to the
scope of this sketch: it is only to three remarkable groups of measures
that reference can here be made.

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

    Καρτίοστην δὴ τήν γε μάχην φάατω δύμεναι ἀνδρῶν.

The budget of 1860, among other changes, abolished the paper duty, an
immense service to the press, which excited the hostility of the House of
Lords.  They threw out the measure, but in the following year Mr.
Gladstone forced them to submit.  His achievements in the field of
finance equal, if they do not surpass, those of Peel, and are not
tarnished, as in the case of Pitt, by the recollection of burdensome
wars.  To no minister can so large a share in promoting the commercial
and industrial prosperity of modern England, and in the reduction of her
national debt, be ascribed.

The second group includes the two great parliamentary reform bills of
1866 and 1884 and the Redistribution Bill of 1885.  The first of these
was defeated in the House of Commons, but it led to the passing next year
of an even more comprehensive bill—a bill which, though passed by Mr.
Disraeli, was to some extent dictated by Mr. Gladstone, as leader of the
opposition.  Of these three statutes taken together, it may be said that
they have turned Britain into a democratic country, changing the
character of her government almost as profoundly as did the Reform Act of
1832.

The third group consists of a series of Irish measures, beginning with
the Church Disestablishment Act of 1869, and including the Land Act of
1870, the University Education Bill of 1873 (defeated in the House of
Commons), the Land Act of 1881, and the home-rule bills of 1886 and 1893.
All these were in a special manner Mr. Gladstone’s handiwork, prepared as
well as brought in and advocated by him.  All were highly complicated,
and of one—the Land Act of 1881, which it took three months to carry
through the House of Commons—it was said that so great was its intricacy
that only three men understood it—Mr. Gladstone himself, his
Attorney-General for Ireland, and Mr. T. M. Healy.  So far from shrinking
from, he seemed to revel in, the toil of mastering an infinitude of
technical details.  Yet neither did he want boldness and largeness of
conception.  The Home-Rule Bill of 1886 was nothing less than a new
constitution for Ireland, and in all but one of its most essential
features had been practically worked out by himself more than four months
before it was presented to Parliament.

Of the other important measures passed while he was prime minister, two
deserve special mention, the Education Act of 1870 and the
Local-Government Act of 1894.  Neither of these, however, was directly
his work, though he took a leading part in piloting the former through
the House of Commons.

His action in the field of foreign policy, though it was felt only at
intervals, was on several occasions momentous, and has left abiding
results in European history.  In 1851, he being then still a Tory, his
powerful pamphlet against the Bourbon government of Naples, and the
sympathy he subsequently avowed with the national movement in Italy, gave
that movement a new standing in Europe by powerfully recommending it to
English opinion.  In 1870 the prompt action of his government, in
concluding a treaty for the neutrality of Belgium on the outbreak of the
war between France and Germany, saved Belgium from being drawn into the
strife.  In 1871, by concluding the treaty of Washington, which provided
for the settlement of the _Alabama_ claims, he not only asserted a
principle of the utmost value, but delivered England from what would have
been, in case of her being at war with any European power, a danger fatal
to her ocean commerce.  And, in 1876, the vigorous attack he made on the
Turks after the Bulgarian massacre roused an intense feeling in England,
so turned the current of opinion that Disraeli’s ministry were forced to
leave the Sultan to his fate, and thus became the cause of the
deliverance of Bulgaria, Eastern Rumelia, Bosnia, and Thessaly from
Mussulman tyranny.  Few English statesmen have equally earned the
gratitude of the oppressed.

Nothing lay nearer to his heart than the protection of the Eastern
Christians.  His sense of personal duty to them was partly due to the
feeling that the Crimean War had prolonged the rule of the Turk, and had
thus imposed a special responsibility on Britain, and on the statesmen
who formed the cabinet which undertook that war.  Twenty years after the
agitation of 1876, and when he had finally retired from Parliament and
political life, the massacres perpetrated by the Sultan on his Armenian
subjects brought him once more into the field, and his last speech in
public (delivered at Liverpool in the autumn of 1896) was a powerful
argument in favor of British intervention to rescue the Eastern
Christians.  In the following spring he followed this up by a spirited
pamphlet on behalf of the freedom of Crete.  In neither of these two
cases did success crown his efforts, for the government, commanding a
large majority in Parliament, pursued the course it had already entered
on.  Many poignant regrets were expressed in England that Mr. Gladstone
was no longer able to take practical action in the cause of humanity; yet
it was a consolation to have the assurance that his sympathies with that
cause had been nowise dulled by age and physical infirmity.

That he was right in the view he took of the Turks and British policy in
1876–78 has been now virtually admitted even by his opponents.  That he
was also right in 1896 and 1897, when urging action to protect the
Eastern Christians, will probably be admitted ten years hence, when
partizan passion has cooled.  In both cases it was not merely religious
sympathy, but also a far-sighted view of policy that governed his
judgment.  The only charge that can fairly be brought against his conduct
in foreign, and especially in Eastern, affairs is, that he did not keep a
sufficiently watchful eye upon them at all times, but frequently allowed
himself to be so engrossed by British domestic questions as to lose the
opportunity which his tenure of power from time to time gave him of
averting approaching dangers.  Those who know how tremendous is the
strain which the headship of a cabinet and the leadership of the House of
Commons impose will understand, though they will not cease to regret,
this omission.

Such a record is the best proof of the capacity for initiative which
belonged to him and in which men of high oratorical gifts have often been
wanting.  In the Neapolitan case, in the _Alabama_ case, in the Bulgarian
case, no less than in the adoption of the policy of a separate
legislature and executive for Ireland, he acted from his own convictions,
with no suggestion of encouragement from his party; and in the last
instances—those of Ireland and of Bulgaria—he took a course which seemed
to the English political world so novel and even startling that no
ordinary statesman would have ventured on it.

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

Two faults natural to a strong man and an excitable man were commonly
charged on him—an overbearing disposition and an irritable temper.
Neither charge was well founded.  Masterful he certainly was, both in
speech and in action.  His ardent manner, the intensity of his look, the
dialectical vigor with which he pressed an argument, were apt to awe
people who knew him but slightly, and make them abandon resistance even
when they were unconvinced.  A gifted though somewhat erratic politician
used to tell how he once fared when he had risen in the House of Commons
to censure some act of the ministry.  “I had not gone on three minutes
when Gladstone turned round and gazed at me so that I had to sit down in
the middle of a sentence.  I could not help it.  There was no standing
his eye.”  But he neither meant nor wished to beat down his opponents by
mere authority.  One of the ablest of his private secretaries, who knew
him as few people did, once observed: “When you are arguing with Mr.
Gladstone, you must never let him think he has convinced you unless you
are really convinced.  Persist in repeating your view, and if you are
unable to cope with him in skill of fence, say bluntly that for all his
ingenuity and authority you think he is wrong, and you retain your own
opinion.  If he respects you as a man who knows something of the subject,
he will be impressed by your opinion, and it will afterward have due
weight with him.”  In his own cabinet he was willing to listen patiently
to everybody’s views, and, indeed, in the judgment of some of his
colleagues, was not, at least in his later years, sufficiently strenuous
in asserting and holding to his own.  It is no secret that some of the
most important decisions of the ministry of 1880–85 were taken against
his judgment, though when they had been adopted he, of course, defended
them in Parliament as if they had received his individual approval.  Nor,
although he was extremely resolute and tenacious, did he bear malice
against those who foiled his plans.  He would exert his full force to get
his own way, but if he could not get it, he accepted the position with
dignity and good temper.  He was too proud to be vindictive, too
completely master of himself to be betrayed, even when excited, into
angry words.  Whether he was unforgiving and overmindful of injuries, it
was less easy to determine, but those who had watched him most closely
held that mere opposition or even insult did not leave a permanent sting,
and that the only thing he could not forget or forgive was faithlessness
or disloyalty.  Like his favorite poet, he put the _traditori_ in the
lowest pit, although, like all practical statesmen, he often found
himself obliged to work with those whom he distrusted.  His attitude
toward his two chief opponents well illustrates this feature of his
character.  He heartily despised Disraeli, not because Disraeli had been
in the habit of attacking him, as one could easily perceive from the way
he talked of those attacks, but because he thought Disraeli habitually
untruthful, and considered him to have behaved with incomparable meanness
to Peel.  Yet he never attacked Disraeli personally, as Disraeli often
attacked him.  There was another of his opponents of whom he entertained
an especially bad opinion, but no one could have told from his speeches
what that opinion was.  For Lord Salisbury he seemed to have no dislike
at all, though Lord Salisbury had more than once insulted him.  On one
occasion (in 1890) he remarked to a colleague who had said something
about the prime minister’s offensive language: “I have never felt angry
at what Salisbury has said about me.  His mother was very kind to me when
I was quite a young man, and I remember Salisbury as a little fellow in a
red frock rolling about on the ottoman.”  His leniency toward another
violent tongue which frequently assailed him, that of Lord Randolph
Churchill, was not less noteworthy.

That his temper was naturally hot, no one who looked at him could doubt.
But he had it in such tight control, and it was so free from anything
acrid or malignant, that it had become a good temper, worthy of a large
and strong nature.  With whatever vehemence he might express himself,
there was nothing wounding or humiliating to others in this vehemence,
the proof of which might be found in the fact that those younger men who
had to deal with him were never afraid of a sharp answer or an impatient
repulse.  A distinguished man (the late Lord Chief Justice Coleridge),
some ten years his junior, used to say that he had never feared but two
persons, Mr. Gladstone and Cardinal Newman; but it was awe of their
character that inspired this fear, for no one could cite an instance in
which either of them had forgotten his dignity or been betrayed into a
discourteous word.  Of Mr. Gladstone especially it might be said that he
was cast in too large a mold to have the pettiness of ruffled vanity or
to abuse his predominance by treating any one else as an inferior.  His
manners were the manners of the old time, easy but stately.  Like his
oratory, they were in what Matthew Arnold used to call the grand style;
and the contrast in this respect between him and most of those who
crossed swords with him in literary or theological controversy was
apparent.  His intellectual generosity was a part of the same largeness
of nature.  He always cordially acknowledged his indebtedness to those
who helped him in any piece of work; received their suggestions candidly,
even when opposed to his own preconceived notions; did not hesitate to
own a mistake if he had made one.  Those who have abundant mental
resources, and have conquered fame, can doubtless afford to be generous.
Julius Cæsar was, and George Washington, and so, in a different sphere,
were Newton and Darwin.  But the instances to the contrary are so
numerous that one may say of magnanimity that it is among the rarest as
well as the finest ornaments of character.

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

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



VI
SOCIAL QUALITIES


ADDING these charms of manner to a memory of extraordinary strength and
quickness and to an amazing vivacity and variety of mental force, any one
can understand how fascinating Mr. Gladstone was in society.  He enjoyed
it to the last, talking as earnestly and joyously at eighty-five as he
had done at twenty on every topic that came up, and exerting himself with
equal zest, whether his interlocutor was an arch-bishop or a young
curate.  Though his party used to think that he overvalued the political
influence of the great Whig houses and gave them more than their fair
share of honors and appointments, no one was personally more free from
that taint of snobbishness which is so frequently charged upon
Englishmen.  He gave the best he had to everybody alike, paying to men of
learning and letters a respect which they seldom receive from English
politicians or social magnates.  And although he was scrupulously
observant of all the rules of precedence and conventions of social life,
it was easy to see that neither rank nor wealth had that importance in
his eyes which the latter, especially nowadays, commands in London.
Dispensing titles and decorations with a liberal hand, his pride always
refused such so-called honors for himself.  When Mr. Disraeli became Earl
of Beaconsfield, his smile had a touch of contempt in it as he observed,
“I cannot forgive him for not having made himself a duke.”

It was often said of him that he lacked humor; but this was only so far
true that he was apt to throw into small matters a force and moral
earnestness which ordinary people thought needless, and to treat
seriously opponents whom a little light sarcasm would have better reduced
to their insignificance.  In private he was wont both to tell and enjoy
good stories; while in Parliament, though his tone was generally earnest,
he would occasionally display such effective powers of banter and
ridicule as to make people wonder why they were so rarely put forth.  A
great deal of what passes in London for humor is mere cynicism, and he
hated cynicism so heartily as to dislike even humor when it had a touch
of cynical flavor.  Wit he enjoyed, but did not produce.  The turn of his
mind was not to brevity and point and condensation.  He sometimes struck
off a telling phrase, but never polished an epigram.  His conversation
was luminous rather than sparkling; you were interested and instructed
while you listened, but the words seldom dwelt in your memory.

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



VII
AUTHORSHIP


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

He might, however, have failed to secure a place in the front rank.  His
style was forcible, copious, rich with various knowledge, warm with the
ardor of his nature.  But it had three serious defects.  It was diffuse,
apt to pursue a topic into details, when these might have been left to
the reader’s own reflection.  It was redundant, employing more words than
were needed to convey the substance.  It was unchastened, indulging too
freely in tropes and metaphors, in quotations and adapted phrases even
when the quotation added nothing to the sense, but was due merely to some
association in his own mind.  Thus it seldom reached a high level of
purity and grace, and though one might excuse its faults as natural to
the work of a swift and busy man, they were sufficient to prevent readers
from deriving much pleasure from the mere form and dress of his thoughts.
Nevertheless there are passages, and not a few passages, both in the
books and in the articles, of rare merit, among which may be cited (not
as exceptionally good, but as typical of his strong points) the striking
picture of his own youthful feeling toward the Church of England
contained in the “Chapter of Autobiography,” and the refined criticism of
“Robert Elsmere,” published in 1888.  Almost the last thing he wrote, a
pamphlet on the Greek and Cretan question, published in the spring of
1897, has all the force and cogency of his best days.  Two things were
never wanting to him: vigor of expression and an admirable command of
appropriate words.

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

With these deficiencies, Mr. Gladstone’s Homeric work had the great merit
of being based on a full and thorough knowledge of the Homeric text.  He
had seen that Homer is not only a poet, but an “historical source” of the
highest value, a treasure-house of data for the study of early Greek life
and thought, an authority all the more trustworthy because an unconscious
authority, addressing not posterity but his own contemporaries.  With
this thorough knowledge of the matter contained in the poems, Mr.
Gladstone was able to present many interesting and permanently valuable
pictures of the political and social life of Homeric Greece, while the
interspersed literary criticisms are often subtle and suggestive, erring,
when they do err, chiefly through what may be called the over-earnestness
of his mind.  He sometimes takes the poet too seriously; he is apt to
read an ethical purpose into descriptive or dramatic touches which are
merely descriptive or dramatic.  But he has for his author not only that
intense sympathy which is the best basis for criticism, but a real
justness of poetic taste which the learned and painstaking German
commentator frequently wants.  That he was a sound and accurate scholar
in that somewhat narrow sense of the word which denotes a grammatical and
literary mastery of Greek and Latin, goes without saying.  Men of his
generation were more apt to keep up their familiarity with the ancient
classics than is the present generation; and his habit of reading Greek
for the sake of his Homeric studies, and Latin for the sake of his
theological, made this familiarity more than usually thorough.  Like most
Etonians, he loved and knew the poets by preference.  Theology claimed a
place beside poetry; history came next, and was always a favorite branch
of study.  It seemed odd that the constitutional history of England was
by no means one of his strong subjects, but the fact is that this was
preeminently a Whig subject, and Mr. Gladstone never was a Whig, never
learned to think upon the lines of the great Whigs of former days.  His
knowledge was not, perhaps, very wide, but it was generally exact;
indeed, the accuracy with which he grasped facts that belonged to the
realm of history proper was sometimes in strange contrast to the fanciful
way in which he reasoned from them, or to the wildness of his conjectures
in the prehistoric region.  For metaphysics strictly so called he had
apparently little turn—his reading did not go far beyond those companions
of his youth, Aristotle and Bishop Butler; and philosophical speculation
interested him only so far as it bore on Christian doctrine.  Neither, in
spite of his eminence as a financier and an advocate of free trade, did
he show much taste for economic studies.  On practical topics, such as
the working of protective tariffs, the abuse of charitable endowments,
the development of fruit-culture in England, the duty of liberal giving
by the rich, the utility of thrift among the poor, his remarks were
always full of point, clearness, and good sense, but he seldom launched
out into the wider sea of economic theory.  He must have possessed
mathematical talent, for he took a first class in mathematics at Oxford,
at the same time as his first in classics, but it was a subject he soon
dropped.  Regarding the sciences of nature, the sciences of experiment
and observation, he seemed to feel as little curiosity as any educated
man who notes the enormous part they play in the modern world can feel.
Sayings of his have been quoted which show that he imperfectly
comprehended the character of the evidence they rely upon and of the
methods they employ.  On one occasion he astonished a dinner-table of
younger friends by refusing to accept some of the most certain
conclusions of modern geology.  No doubt he belonged (as the famous Lord
Derby once said of himself) to a pre-scientific age; still, it was hard
to avoid thinking that he was unconsciously influenced by a belief that
such sciences as geology and biology, for instance, were being worked in
a sense hostile to revealed religion, and were therefore influences
threatening the moral welfare of mankind.



VIII
RELIGIOUS CHARACTER


OF all the things with which men are concerned, religion was that which
had the strongest hold upon his thoughts and feelings.  He had desired,
when quitting the university, to become a clergyman, and it was only his
father’s opposition that made him abandon the idea.  Never thereafter did
he cease to take the warmest and most constant interest in all the
ecclesiastical controversies that distracted the Established Church.  He
was turned out of his seat for Oxford University by the country clergy,
who form the bulk of the voters.  He incurred the bitter displeasure of
four fifths of the Anglican communion by disestablishing the Protestant
Episcopal Church in Ireland, and from 1868 to the end of his life found
nearly all the clerical force of the English establishment arrayed
against him, while his warmest support came from the Nonconformists of
England and the Presbyterians of Scotland.  Yet nothing affected his
devotion to the church in which he had been brought up, nor to the body
of Anglo-Catholic doctrine he had imbibed as an undergraduate.  After an
attack of influenza which had left him very weak in the spring of 1891,
he endangered his life by attending a meeting on behalf of the Colonial
Bishoprics Fund, for which he had spoken fifty years before.  His
theological opinions tinged his views upon not a few political subjects.
They filled him with dislike of the legalization of marriage with a
deceased wife’s sister; they made him a vehement opponent of the bill
which established the English Divorce Court in 1857, and a watchfully
hostile critic of all divorce legislation in America afterward.  Some of
his friends traced to the same cause his low estimate of German
literature and even his political aversion to the German Empire.  He
could not forget that Germany had been the fountain of rationalism, while
German Evangelical Protestantism was more schismatic and further removed
from the medieval church than it pleased him to deem the Church of
England to be.  He had an exceedingly high sense of the duty of purity of
life and of the sanctity of domestic relations, and his rigid ideas of
decorum inspired so much awe that it used to be said to a person who had
told an anecdote with ever so slight a tinge of impropriety, “How many
thousands of pounds would you take to tell that to Gladstone?”  When
living in the country, it was his constant practice to attend daily
morning service in the parish church, and on Sunday to read in it the
lessons for the day; nor did he ever through his long career transgress
his rule against Sunday labor.

Religious feeling, coupled with a system of firm dogmatic beliefs, was
the mainspring of his whole career, a guiding light in perplexities, a
source of strength in adverse fortune, a consolation in sorrow, a beacon
of hope beyond the disappointments and shortcomings of life.  He did not
make what is commonly called a profession of religion, and talked little
about it in general society, though always ready to plunge into a
magazine controversy when Christianity was assailed.  But those who knew
him well knew that he was always referring current questions to, and
trying his own conduct by, a religious standard.  He was a remarkable
example of the coexistence together with a Christian virtue of a quality
which theologians treat as a sin.  He was an exceedingly proud man, yet
an exceedingly humble Christian.  With a high regard for his own dignity
and a keen sensitiveness to any imputation on his honor, he was deeply
conscious of his imperfections in the eye of God, realizing the
sinfulness and feebleness of human nature with a medieval intensity.  The
language of self-depreciation he was wont to use, though people often
thought it unreal, was the genuine expression of his sense of the
contrast between the religious ideal he set up and his own attainment.
And the tolerance which he extended to those who attacked him or who had
(as he thought) behaved ill in public life was largely due to this
pervading sense of the frailty of human character, and of the
inextricable mixture in conduct of good and bad motives.  “It is always
best to take the charitable view,” he once observed in passing through
the division lobby, when a friend had quoted to him the saying of Dean
Church that Mark Pattison had painted himself too black in his
autobiography—“always best, especially in politics.”

This indulgent view, which seemed to develop in his later years, was the
more remarkable because his feelings were strong and his expressions
sometimes too vehement.  There was nothing in it of the cynical “man of
the world” acceptance of a low standard as the only possible standard,
for his moral earnestness was as fervent at eighty-eight as it had been
at thirty.  Although eminently accessible and open in the ordinary
converse of society, he was in reality a reserved man; not shy, stiff,
and externally cold, like Peel, nor always standing on a pedestal of
dignity, like the younger Pitt, but revealing his deepest thoughts only
to a very few intimate friends, and treating all others with a courteous
friendliness which, though it put them quickly at their ease, did not
encourage them to approach any nearer.  Thus, while he was admired by the
mass of his followers, and beloved by the small inner group of family
friends, the great majority of his colleagues, official subordinates, and
political or ecclesiastical associates felt for him rather respect than
affection, and would have hesitated to give him any of friendship’s
confidences.  It was regretfully observed that though he was kindly and
considerate, would acknowledge all good service, and gladly offer to a
junior an opportunity of distinction, he seldom seemed sufficiently
interested in any one of his disciples to treat him with special favor or
bestow those counsels which a young man so much prizes from his chief.
But for the warmth of his devotion to a few early friends and the
reverence he always paid to their memory, a reverence touchingly shown in
the article on Arthur Hallam which he published in 1898, sixty-five years
after Hallam’s death, there might have seemed to be a measure of truth in
the judgment that he cared less for men than for ideas and causes.
Those, however, who marked the pang which the departure to the Roman
Church of his friend Hope Scott caused him, those who in later days noted
the enthusiasm with which he would speak of Lord Althorp, his opponent,
and of Lord Aberdeen, his chief, dwelling upon the beautiful truthfulness
and uprightness of the former and the sweet amiability of the latter,
knew that the impression of detachment he gave wronged the sensibility of
his own heart.  Of how few who have lived for more than sixty years in
the full sight of their countrymen, and have been as party leaders
exposed to angry and sometimes dishonest criticism, can it be said that
there stands on record against them no malignant word and no vindictive
act!  This was due not perhaps entirely to natural sweetness of
disposition, but rather to self-control and to a certain largeness and
dignity of soul which would not condescend to anything mean or petty.
Nor should it be forgotten that the perfectly happy life which he led at
home, cared for in everything by a devoted wife, kept far from him those
domestic troubles which have soured the temper and embittered the
judgments of not a few famous men.  Reviewing his whole career, and
summing up the impressions and recollections of those who knew him best,
this dignity is the feature which dwells most in the mind, as the outline
of some majestic Alp moves one from afar when all the lesser beauties of
glen and wood, of crag and glacier, have faded in the distance.  As
elevation was the note of his oratory, so was magnanimity the note of his
character.

The favorite Greek maxim that no man can be called happy till his life is
ended must, in the case of statesmen, be extended to warn us from the
attempt to fix any one’s place in history till a generation has arisen to
whom he is a mere name, not a familiar figure to be loved, opposed, or
hated.  Few reputations made in politics keep so far green and fresh that
men continue to read and write and speculate about the person when those
who can remember him living have departed.  Out of all the men who have
played a leading part in English public life in the present century there
are but seven or eight—Pitt, Fox, Canning, Wellington, Peel, O’Connell,
Disraeli, perhaps Melbourne and Brougham—who still excite our curiosity.
The great poet or the great artist lives longer—indeed, he lives as long
as his books or his pictures; the statesman, like the musician or the
actor, begins to be forgotten so soon as his voice is still, unless he
has so dominated the men of his own time, and made himself a part of his
country’s history, that his personal character becomes a leading factor
in the course which events took.  Tried by this test, Mr. Gladstone’s
fame seems destined to last.  His eloquence will soon become merely a
tradition, for his printed speeches do not preserve its charm.  His main
acts of policy, foreign and domestic, will have to be judged by their
still unborn consequences.  If his books continue to be read, it will be
rather because they are his than in respect of any permanent contribution
they have made to knowledge.  But whoever follows the annals of England
during the memorable years from 1843 to 1894 will meet his name on almost
every page, will feel how great must have been the force of an intellect
that could so interpenetrate the events of its time, and will seek to
know something of the wonderful figure that rose always conspicuous above
the struggling throng.

There is a passage in the “Odyssey” where the seer Theoclymenus, in
describing a vision of death, says: “The sun has perished out of heaven.”
To Englishmen, Mr. Gladstone has been like a sun which, sinking slowly,
has grown larger as he sank, and filled the sky with radiance even while
he trembled on the verge of the horizon.  There were able men, and famous
men, but there was no one comparable to him in power and fame and honor.
Now he is gone.  The piercing eye is dim, and the mellow voice is silent,
and the light has died out of the sky.





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