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Title: Memoirs of Sir Wemyss Reid 1842-1885
Author: Reid, T. Wemyss (Thomas Wemyss)
Language: English
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MEMOIRS OF
SIR WEMYSS REID
1842-1885


[Illustration: Wemyss Reid]



MEMOIRS OF
SIR WEMYSS REID
1842-1885

EDITED, WITH AN INTRODUCTION, BY
STUART J. REID


TO
Lady Reid,
THE DEVOTED WIFE OF
MY BROTHER,
THESE PAGES ARE INSCRIBED.



EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION.

The sense of personal loss occasioned by my brother's death is still so
keen and vivid that if I am to write at all about him--and my duty in
that respect is clear--it must be out of the fulness of my heart. My
earliest recollections of him begin when I was a child and he was a
bright, self-reliant lad in the home at Newcastle, the characteristics of
which are with artless realism described in the opening pages of this
book. It is the simple truth to say that we grew up in an atmosphere of
love and duty. Our father was a man of studious habit, passing rich in
the possession of a library of dry works on theology which his children
never read, and among which they searched in vain for the fairy books and
stories, or even the poetry, dear to the youthful heart. He was a
faithful, rather than a gifted preacher, and I have always thought that
his power--it was real and far-reaching--lay in his modest, unselfish
life, and in that unfailing sympathy which kept him on a perpetual round
of visits to the sick and sorrowful, year in, year out. He had a quiet
sense of humour, and was never so happy as when he could steal a day off
from the insistent claims of pastoral work for a ramble in the country
with his boys.

Always a public-spirited man, and keenly interested in political affairs,
he talked to us freely about the events of the time, and made us feel
that the little affairs of our own home and immediate environment could
never be seen in their true perspective until they were set against the
larger life of the town, and, in a sense, of the nation. When any great
event occurred he used to tell us all about it; when any great man died,
if we did not know the significance of his life and the loss it meant to
the country, it was not his fault. He was a quiet, rather reserved man,
terribly in earnest, we thought, and with a touch of sternness about him
which vanished in later life. He mellowed with the passing years, and
long before old age crept quietly upon him the prevailing note of his
character was charity. He had been in early life associated to some
extent with the Press, and later had written one or two books, so that
ink was in my brother's blood.

Our mother was almost his opposite in character. She was quick, almost
imperious in temper, vivacious and witty of speech, full of sense and
sensibility, in revolt--I see it now--against the narrow conditions of
her lot, and yet bravely determined to do her best, not merely for her
husband and children, but for the rather austere little community in
which she was always a central figure. There was a charm about her to
which all sorts and sizes of people surrendered at discretion, and she
loved books more modern and more mundane than the dingy volumes on my
father's shelves. She had received, what was more rare then than now, a
liberal education, and, besides modern languages, had at least a moderate
acquaintance with the classics. She held herself gallantly in the dim,
half-educated society of her husband's chapel, but reserved her
friendships--sometimes with a touch of wilfulness--for those who
represented whatever there was of sweetness and light in the wider
society of the town. In one respect she was absolutely in harmony with my
father, and that was in her sympathy with the poor and in quiet,
unparaded determination to hold out a helping hand to all that sought it.
She had imagination, and she sent it on errands of good-will. I think my
brother inherited from her his alertness of mind and not a little of his
quickness of apprehension.

I can remember him coming back from Bruce's school all aglow with his
prizes, and I can recall, as if it were but yesterday, his audacious
speeches, and the new books with which, as soon as he earned a shilling,
he began to leaven the dull old library, much to the delectation of the
other children. I can recall a rough cartoon in one of the local journals
which was greeted with huge merriment in the family circle, because it
represented Tom as "Ye Press of Newcastle"--a mere boy in a short jacket
perched on a stool, scribbling for dear life at the foot of a platform on
which some local orator was denouncing the tyranny of the existing
Government. He must then have been about seventeen, certainly not more,
and he was even at that time somewhat of a youthful prodigy. Then he
developed a passion for the collection of autographs, and used to write
the most alluring letters to celebrities, and astound my modest father by
the replies--they were invariably written as to a man of mature life and
public importance--which he had elicited from eminent people in politics
and the world of letters. He, a mere youth, invited a well-known Arctic
explorer to Newcastle to lecture on his perils in the frozen North, and
my father bought him his first hat to go to the railway station to meet
the gallant sailor, who brought his pathetic relics of Franklin to our
house, where he stayed as guest. The great man's chagrin when he found
that a lad scarcely out of short jackets had invited him to Newcastle
vanished in the genial firelight, and in the subsequent reception of the
good townsfolk. Then my brother conceived the ambitious scheme of the
West End Literary Institute, and by dint of energetic and persistent
begging carried the project out, and with a high hand.

Suddenly, when he was still a young reporter, a great calamity befell the
locality. The Hartley Colliery catastrophe plunged all Tyneside in gloom.
He was the youngest reporter on the local Press, but his account of the
long-drawn agony of that terrible time, when two hundred brave fellows
lost their lives, was the most graphic. It brought him local renown. It
was published as a shilling pamphlet, after it had done duty in the
_Newcastle Journal_, and to his credit he gave, though as poor as a
church mouse, the whole of the proceeds--a sum of £40, I think--to the
Relief Fund. It was a characteristic act which was not belied by the
subsequent generosity of his life. All too soon--for he brought as a
young reporter a breezy, new atmosphere into the family circle--he went
to Preston, on the principle of promotion by merit. Then Leeds claimed
him, and next he settled in London, in the short-lived happiness of his
early married life, returning to Yorkshire--this time as chief of the
paper he had served so well. During his career as editor of the _Leeds
Mercury_ I saw comparatively little of him. We were both busy, though
in different ways; but we kept up, then and always, a brisk
correspondence, and his letters, all of them brimful of public interest
and family affection, are before me now. The world is a different place
to me now, but "memory is a fountain of perpetual youth" and nothing can
rob me of its sweetness.

There is scarcely an incident recorded in these pages which he did not
tell me at the time in familiar talk. There is much, also, that he has
not set down here, all of it honourable to himself, which I could recount
about those early days in Newcastle, and to a certain extent also in
Leeds, where I was again and again his guest; but, as he has chosen to be
silent, it is not for me to speak. Oddly enough, I never in my life heard
him deliver a political speech, nor do I think he excelled in that
direction. But he was admirable as a lecturer on literary subjects, and I
have seen him again and again hold a large audience spellbound when his
subject was Charlotte or Emily Brontë, Mrs. Carlyle, the Inner Working of
an English Newspaper, the Character of General Gordon, or some other
theme which appealed to him. He spoke rapidly and clearly, and between
the years 1882 and 1886 gave his services without stint in this direction
to the people of Leeds, Bradford, and other of the Yorkshire towns. The
manuscripts of these lectures are before me as I write; they are all in
his own hand, and they must have taken from an hour to an hour and a half
in delivery. Yet one of the most important of them--it runs to between
sixty and seventy closely written manuscript pages, and bears no marks of
haste--was, as a note in his own hand at the outset shows, begun one day
and finished the next--a proof, if any were needed, of his rapidity in
work. He made many enthusiastic friends amongst the shrewd working people
of the North by these deliverances.

The last twenty years of my brother's life are outside the present
narrative. Two of them were spent in Leeds in ever-widening newspaper
work, and the remaining eighteen in London, under circumstances he has
himself described in another volume, which, for political reasons, is for
the present withheld. It will appear eventually, and personally I feel no
doubt whatever that it will take its place, quite apart from its
self-revelation, as one of the most important and authentic records, in
the political sense, of the later decades of Queen Victoria's reign. My
brother's knowledge of the secret history of the Liberal party in the
memorable days when Mr. Gladstone was fighting his historic battle for
Home Rule, and during the subsequent Premiership of Lord Rosebery, was
exceptional. He was the trusted friend of both statesmen, and probably no
other journalist was so absolutely in the confidence of the leaders of
the Liberal party--a circumstance which was due quite as much to his
character as to his capacity. It is not my intention to anticipate the
story, as he himself tells it, either of the "Hawarden Kite" or the Home
Rule split, much less to disclose his opinions--they are emphatic and
deliberate--of the men who made mischief at that crisis. I leave also
untouched the plain, unvarnished account he gives, on unimpeachable
authority, of a subsequent and not less discreditable phase in the annals
of the Liberal party. There are reasons, obvious to everyone who gives
the matter a moment's thought, that render it inadvisable in the
interests of the political cause with which my brother all his life was
identified, and for which he suffered more than is commonly known, to
yield to the very natural temptation to throw reticence to the winds.

To one point only will I permit myself to make brief but significant
allusion, for I cannot allow this book to go forth to the world with the
knowledge that the publication of the companion volume is--through force
of circumstances--for the present postponed, without at least a passing
reference to what in the authoritative biography of Mr. Gladstone is
called the "barren controversy" which arose in 1892, as to whether the
present Duke of Devonshire, in 1880, tried to form a Government. That
controversy was assuredly "barren" to my brother in everything but the
testimony of a good conscience. He was assailed by almost the whole Press
of the country for the part which he played in it, and not least
mercilessly by journalists of his own party. As he said to me himself at
the time, "If I had been Mr. Parnell, fresh from the revelations of the
Divorce Court, I could not have been treated with greater contumely." If
there was one thing on the possession of which he prided himself in life
more than another, it was loyalty, and seldom was political loyalty
subjected to a more cruel strain. He held his peace with all the
materials for his own vindication in his hand, rather than embarrass Mr.
Gladstone at a great political crisis.

The letters on which he based his statements are in existence. I wished
to print them, without note or comment of mine, in an Appendix to the
present volume, but permission has been withheld. They cannot remain for
ever in ambush, and when they are published, with my brother's full and
magnanimous comments, it will be apparent to all the world how greatly he
was misjudged. It is enough for the present to say that Mr. Gladstone
himself admitted in a note under his own hand that the interpretation
which my brother put upon the facts submitted to him _absolutely and
entirely justified_ the course which he took in that controversy. Mr.
Gladstone, as Mr. Morley somewhat drily states in his biography,
"reckoned on a proper stoicism in the victims of public necessity," and I
suppose my brother was regarded as thin-skinned, but a man may be
forgiven a measure of sensitiveness when his honour is impeached.

He always used to speak with gratitude of the action of Lord Russell of
Killowen at that period. He heard the gossip of the clubs, and was not
content, like the majority of men, either to believe it or to dismiss the
matter with a shrug of the shoulders. He sought my brother out at his own
house, heard the whole story from his own lips--through an informal but
stringent process of cross-examination--drew his own conclusions, and did
more than anyone else to turn the tide of misrepresentation. Lord Russell
never rested until Wemyss Reid was elected an honorary member of the
Eighty Club, a distinction shared by only two or three persons, and one
which did not a little to bring about, in the Liberal party at least, a
quick reversal of public opinion. The chivalrous action of Lord Russell
was all the more creditable as the two men at the time were only slightly
acquainted. Other honours came to my brother within the next two years.
The University of St. Andrews in 1893 conferred upon him the degree of
LL.D., and in the following year he was knighted "for services to Letters
and Politics."

It is a pleasure to hark back to the literary interests which grew around
the later years of my brother in London. He went thither in 1887 to take
control of the business of Messrs. Cassell & Company--a position of wide
influence and hard work which he retained to the last day of his life. He
used to tell me that he detested the City and the irksomeness of keeping
office hours, but he stuck manfully to his post, and his presence at the
desk there lent a lustre even to the traditions of a great publishing
house. I betray no confidences when I say that at first he found his new
duties somewhat uncongenial. He had won his spurs as a journalist, he was
fond of the cut and thrust of party politics, he missed the rush of
public life, and he felt that perhaps he had been ill-advised in quitting
the editorial saddle. But this feeling of depression quickly wore off
when he set himself, with characteristic energy, to master the details of
his new work, though to the last he often cast longing glances backwards
to the years in which he inspired the policy of a great daily newspaper.
Before he left Leeds--and here I may say that he did not leave without
substantial proof of the esteem in which he was held--he accepted two
literary commissions, either of which would have satisfied most men and
absorbed all their energies for a term of years.

One was the preparation of an authoritative biography of Mr. Forster, the
other a similar work--less political and more literary--on the first Lord
Houghton. He was, of course, in a position to speak from close personal
knowledge of both men, and in each case all their private letters and
papers were placed at his discretion. He found relief from the prosaic
details of a business career in these congenial tasks, if such a term is
applicable to what in reality were labours of love. Both were big books,
and the marvel is how, with all that he had in hand at the time, he
contrived to write them. But the passion for work was the zest of his
life, and it was never turned to more admirable account than in these
labours. "The Life of the Right Hon. W. E. Forster" was published in
1888, and "The Life, Letters, and Friendships of Lord Houghton" in 1890,
and both met with a reception which it is hardly within my province to
describe. It is enough to say that they widened his reputation, added
materially to his influence, and, best of all, brought him many new and
powerful friends.

Almost before he had finished writing the second of these books, at the
instance of Mr. Bryce (with whom his relations were always most close and
cordial) and other well-known men in the Liberal party, he, in
conjunction with Sir John Brunner, founded the _Speaker_, a weekly
journal which was started on similar lines to the _Spectator_, but
devoted to the advocacy of the Home Rule cause, and broadly of the policy
of Mr. Gladstone. The first number was published on January 4th, 1890,
and from that time until October, 1899, he alone was responsible for its
editorial control. He gathered around him a brilliant staff of
contributors; he used laughingly to say that he was over-weighted by
them, and, if I may venture a criticism, he gave them too free a hand.
Contemporary politics were discussed amongst others by Mr. Morley, Mr.
Bryce, Mr. J. A. Spender, and Mr. Herbert Paul. Literary criticism,
economic questions, and other phases of public affairs, were handled by
Sir Alfred Lyall, Mr. Birrell, Mr. Frederic Harrison, Mr. James Payn, Mr.
Henry James, Mr. J.M. Barrie, Mr. Quiller-Couch, Mr. Sidney Webb, Mr. L.
F. Austin, Mr. A. B. Walkley, and a score of young writers; whilst men
like the late Lord Acton and Principal Fairbairn, and occasionally Mr.
Gladstone himself, lent further distinction to its pages. No one worked
harder in those days for the _Speaker_ than my brother's ever loyal
assistant in its direction, Mr. Barry O'Brien, whose intimate knowledge
of the trend in Irish politics was invaluable. I shall not anticipate by
any comments of my own the vivid and always genial pen-and-ink pictures
which are given of the chief members of the _Speaker_ staff in that
part of the Memoirs which yet remains unprinted.

I prefer to fall back in this connection on a little bit of reminiscence,
printed in one of the daily papers on the morrow of my brother's death.
It was written by Mr. L. F. Austin, who alas! has so quickly followed him
to the grave. "Some months ago, feeling himself under sentence of death,
Sir Wemyss Reid applied his leisure to the task of completing his
Memoirs. 'Here is a chapter that may interest you,' he said to me one
day, producing a roll of manuscript. It did interest me very much, and
when it comes to be published it will be read with no little emotion by
the men who formed the regular staff of the _Speaker_ under Sir
Wemyss Reid's editorship. He deals with us all in turn in a spirit of the
kindliest remembrance and simple goodwill; and as I read those pages, I
felt they were his farewell to some of the men who have good reason to
think of him as the staunchest of friends." I was in very close
association with my brother during the whole of the ten years in which he
retained control of the _Speaker_, and took my full share of the
work. They were for him years of strenuous and unremitting toil, but he
used to say that there were few greater rewards for a man of his
temperament than to be in the thick of the political movement, and to be
in the front rank of the fighters. He adopted as his motto in life
"Onwards"--the watchword of his old school at Newcastle, emblazoned on
the back of the prizes which he took in far-off days; and from first to
last he lived up to it. Brusque he sometimes was, decisive always;
perhaps he was too easily ruffled in little affairs, but he was
magnanimous to the point of self-sacrifice in great. After quitting,
under circumstances entirely honourable to himself, the editorial chair
of the _Speaker_, my brother, who for years previously had been an
occasional contributor to the pages of the _Nineteenth Century_,
contributed regularly to that review a political survey of the month.
Some of his best work was put into these articles, and the last of them
was written under great physical stress, and appeared almost
simultaneously with the announcement of his death. It was the last task
to which he put his hand, and the wish of his life was granted: he died
in harness.

It is not too much to say that neither his interest nor his influence in
political affairs suffered the least abatement in the six closing years
of his life, which bridged the distance between his relinquishment of the
_Speaker_ and the hour when he finally laid down his pen. The
withheld portion of this Autobiography makes that abundantly clear, for,
as in a mirror, it reflects the secret history of the Liberal party. His
relations with Lord Rosebery, both during and after that statesman's
brilliant but difficult Administration, were singularly intimate and
cordial--a circumstance which invests with peculiar interest the final
chapters which he wrote. They throw a dry light on the political
intrigues which occurred after Mr. Gladstone's retirement; they reveal
the difficulties--both open and unsuspected--which beset his successor.
Lord Rosebery has written me a letter, and I have his permission to quote
from it:--"I can only dwell on the sterling notes of courage and
friendship. As to the first, he had taken part in many controversies,
which it is now unnecessary to revive, and borne himself gallantly in
them. But before his life ended he was to display a rarer quality. In
September, 1903, he wrote to me that he could only count on a few weeks
longer of life--that he was condemned by all doctors.... He partially
recovered from that attack, though from that day he was doomed to speedy
death. I saw him in February for the last time, not long before the end.
He told me, as he always did, that he did not feel amiss, but that his
doctors all unanimously condemned him to a short shrift; that his friend
Sir Frederick Treves was putting him under a new treatment, from which he
hoped to derive some benefit; but that, whatever happened, he should go
on writing as if nothing were wrong until the end came. That did not long
tarry. In the evening of Thursday, February 23rd, he was taken ill, and
before ten o'clock on Sunday morning he was dead. During the seventeen
months which elapsed from the time of the doom pronounced by his
physicians until its fulfilment, Wemyss Reid so demeaned himself that
none could have penetrated his secret. He was as gay and high in spirit,
as strenuous in work, as thoughtful for others, as ever; so that those
who knew the fatal truth could not bring themselves to believe it. He was
at work for the _Nineteenth Century_ the day before he was taken
with his final attack. But he himself, cheerful and smiling, never lost
the certainty that death hung over him by a thread.

"So much for his courage; and now for the other note that I would
touch--his friendship. His ideal of friendship was singularly lofty and
generous. He was the devoted and chivalrous champion of those he loved;
he took up their cause as his own, and much more than his own; he was the
friend of their friends and the enemy of their enemies. No man ever set a
higher value on this high connection, which, after all, whether brought
about by kinship, or sympathy, or association, or gratitude, or stress,
is under Heaven the surest solace of our poor humanity; and so it
coloured and guided the life of Wemyss Reid. His chief works were all
monuments to that faith; it inspired him in tasks which he knew would be
irksome and which could scarcely be successful, or which, at least, could
ill satisfy his own standard. This is a severe test for a man of letters,
but he met it without fail.... All this seems lame and tame enough when I
read it over. But it was true and vivid when Wemyss Reid was living, and
giving to his friends the high example of a brave and unselfish life.
Among them, his memory will be a precious fact, and an inheritance long
after any obituary notice is forgotten. It will live as long as they
live; he would scarcely have cared to be remembered by others." Lord
Rosebery's kindness to my brother--it was constant, delicate, and
unwavering--can never be forgotten by any of his relatives. He was the
first visitor to the house of mourning on Sunday, February 26th; he came
in haste, with the hope that he might still be in time to see my brother
alive.

Here, perhaps, is the place to mention some other of his friends: I mean,
of course, those with whom he was most intimate in his closing years. It
may be I have forgotten some; if so, I need scarcely add that it is
without intention. But I do not like to end without at least recalling
his close relations with Lord Burghclere, Mr. Bryce, Sir Henry Fowler,
Mr. Edmund Robertson, Sir Henry Roscoe, Sir Norman Lockyer, Sir Frederick
Treves, Sir John Brunner, Principal Fairbairn, Dr. Guinness Rogers, the
Rev. R. H. Hadden, Mr. W. H. Macnamara, Mr. Douglas Walker, Mr. J. C.
Parkinson, Mr. G. A. Barkley, Mr. Charles Mathews, Mr. J. A. Duncan, Mr.
Edwin Bale, Mr. Barry O'Brien, Mr. Herbert Paul, Mr. J. A. Spender, and
last, but certainly not least, Mr. Malcolm Morris, who was with him at
the end. James Payn, William Black, Sir John Robinson represent the
losses of the last few years of his life; all of them were men with
whom--literature and politics apart--he had much in common.

It is impossible to cite the Press comments on the morrow of my brother's
death, but room at least must be found for one of them--the generous
tribute of his friend Mr. J. A. Spender in the _Westminster
Gazette_:--

"I well remember how bravely and serenely he bore his death-sentence and
how modestly he communicated it to his friends, as if an apology were
needed for speaking of anything so personal. And then he picked himself
up and started again, determined that his work should go forward and his
interests lose none of their edge, though his days were short. He was the
last man in the world to think of such a thing; and yet to many of us he
seemed the perfect example of how a man should bear himself in such a
strait. I have heard young men speak of him as old-fashioned, and, judged
by some modern standards, his virtues were indeed those of the antique
world. He loved his profession for its own sake, believed in its
influence and dignity, hated sensationalism--whether in politics or in
newspapers--would rather that any rival should gain any advantage over
him than that he should divulge a secret or betray the confidence of a
friend. And so he came to be the confidant and adviser of many eminent
men who were attached to him for his sterling qualities of head and
heart, for his knowledge, his integrity, his admirable common-sense. Of
all his qualities none was more attractive than the staunchness of his
friendship. To those whom he really liked, old or young, eminent or
obscure, Wemyss Reid was always the same, a champion who would brook no
slight, and whose help was readiest when times were worst. A literary
man, he was quite without literary jealousy, and never so happy as when
giving a hand-up to a new writer or a young journalist. All of us who
knew him are in his debt--_neque ego desinam debere_."

I will permit myself to make one other quotation, and only one. In
September, 1903, we lost our only sister. We three brothers had been at
her funeral in Scotland; it was the last time we were all together. I
lunched a day or two later with him at the Reform Club, and though, like
myself, he was naturally depressed, he spoke cheerfully, and there was
nothing to hint that he was more than tired. Three days later, September
19th, he wrote me a long letter, which began with the words, "Heaven
knows, I do not want to add to your anxieties at the present moment, but
I think I ought to tell you what has happened to me." He then went on to
say that his friend Mr. Malcolm Morris had met him at the Club on the
same day that I was there, and, startled by his appearance, had asked him
a number of questions. Mr. Morris had been abroad and had not seen him
for some time, but he insisted on an immediate visit to a specialist, and
this was arranged for the following Saturday, the day on which he wrote
the letter from which I am citing. He was told at that interview that his
condition was most serious, even critical--in fact, that he had not long
to live. So he wrote, "I have clearly to put my house in order, and to
wait as calmly as possible for what may happen. The thing has come upon
me very suddenly in the end, but I have had forebodings for some time
past. You remember what I said to you on my way to Kilmarnock last week?
I want nobody to worry about me personally. If my work is to come to an
end soon, it will at least have been a full day's work. I know I can
count on your brotherly love and sympathy."

Lady Reid and his children were at the moment from home. I went to him at
once; he was sitting alone in his house, and he received me with a smile.
He talked calmly and without a shadow of fear, and with no hint of
repining. He had gathered from the specialist that he had only a few
weeks at the most to live, and he told me that as he rode away in a
hansom from the house where he had received what he called his sentence
of death, he looked at the people in the street like a man in a dream,
and with a curious feeling of detachment from the affairs of the world.
But he rallied, and went about his work as usual, was as keenly
interested as ever in the politics of the hour, and gave to those who
knew how much he suffered an example of submission and fortitude which is
not common.

Naturally I saw much of him in his closing days, and in talk with me he
nearly always turned to the old sacred memories which we had in common.
When I was a mere youth and he at the beginning of his career as a
journalist, I remember his telling me never to forget that blood was
thicker than water. His letters to me during thirty years, and many
practical deeds as well, if I were to publish the one or to state the
other, would prove how constantly he himself bore that in mind. Others
can speak of his gift as a raconteur, his superb power of work, his moral
courage, his quick capacity in the handling of public questions; all this
I know, and I know besides, better perhaps than anyone else who is likely
to speak, his intense family affection, his real though unparaded loyalty
to conviction, and the magic of a kindliness which was never so apparent
as when the way was rough and the heart was sore.

All the letters which arrived after his death--and they came in
battalions--were quick with the sense of personal loss. They came from
all sorts of people--from school-fellows in the distant Newcastle days,
and obscure folk who had their own story to tell of his kindness, to
statesmen of Cabinet rank, and men whose names are famous in almost every
walk of life. Personally, I think I was most touched by the remark of a
poor waiter, "a lame dog" whom, it seems, he had helped over a difficult
stile in life, and who declared that he was "one in a thousand."
Assuredly, as far as courage and sympathy are concerned, those simple
words were true.

STUART J. REID.

_Blackwell Cliff, East Grinstead.
October 12th, 1905._



AUTHOR'S PREFACE


One who tries to tell the story of his life and of his personal
experiences, public and private, undertakes a task of rare difficulty.
Now that I have completed the work that I set myself to perform some
years ago, I recognise more fully than I did at the outset the greatness
of this difficulty, and I am only too conscious that, at the best, I have
succeeded but partially in overcoming it. The egotism which is
inseparable from a narrative written, as this necessarily is, in the
first person, is perhaps the most obvious of all the defects which it
must present to the reader. Quite frankly I may say that, on reading
these pages, I am filled with something like confusion by the extent to
which I have been forced to bring my own personality, my own sayings and
doings, even into those chapters which deal with public affairs. I can
only plead in extenuation of my offence that I do not see how it could
have been avoided in that which is neither more nor less than an
Autobiography. I may add that I have tried always to speak the truth, and
have never consciously magnified my own part in the transactions upon
which I have touched.

The closing chapters of the story have been written under what seemed to
be the shadow of approaching death. Indeed, at one time I had no hope
that I could live to complete my task. No man who writes thus, on the
verge of another world, would willingly swerve by so much as a
hair's-breadth from what he believes to be the truth. But human nature
and human limitations remain the same from the beginning to the end of
life, and I am fully conscious of the fact that the soundness of my
judgments upon affairs and my fellow-men is not less open to impeachment
to-day than when I was moving in the main current of human activity. If
in anything that I have written I have wronged any of my fellow-creatures
it has been absolutely without intention on my part, and I can only hope
that they will vindicate themselves, after the publication of these
pages, as quickly and completely as possible.

I have had no exciting story to tell, and no personal triumphs to
chronicle. My simple desire has been to write of the persons and events
of my own time in the light in which they appeared to my own eyes, and by
doing so to give possibly some information regarding them which may be
new to many of my readers. I have been always much more of a spectator
than of an actor in the arena; but it has been my lot to be very near,
for many years, to those who were actively engaged in that "high chess
game whereof the pawns are men"; and we have authority for the belief
that the onlooker sees more than the actual player of the drama he
describes.

I must add that nowhere, except in a few cases in which I make special
mention of the fact, have I trusted to mere hearsay evidence. I have
confined myself to that which I know to be the truth, either from my
personal observation or from documents of unimpeachable authority. My
opinions may be of very little value, but my facts are, I believe,
incontrovertible.

WEMYSS REID.

_26, Bramham Gardens, South Kensington,
January 1st_, 1905.



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I.
EARLY DAYS.
Birth and Parentage--Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the 'Forties--A Visit to St.
Andrews--The Scottish Sabbath--First Acquaintance with a Printing
Office--Tyneside in the Mid-Century--In Peril of Housebreakers--At Dr.
Collingwood Bruce's School--A Plague of Flies--Cholera--Fire.

CHAPTER II.
PROBATION.
Aspirations After a Journalistic Life--A Clerk's Stool in the W.B. Lead
Office--Literary Ambitions--An Accepted Contribution--The _Northern
Daily Express_ and its Editor--Founding a Literary Institute--Letters
from Charles Kingsley and Archbishop Longley--Joseph Cowen and his
Revolutionary Friends--Orsini--Thackeray's Lectures and Dickens's
Readings.

CHAPTER III.
MY LIFE-WORK BEGUN.
On the Staff of the _Newcastle Journal_--In a Dilemma--Lord John
Russell and Mr. Gladstone at Newcastle-upon-Tyne--Mr. Gladstone's
Triumphal Progress--A Memorable Colliery Disaster: A Pit-Sinker's
Heroism--Adventure at a Dickens Reading.

CHAPTER IV.
FROM REPORTER TO EDITOR.
First Visit to London--The Capital in 1862--Acquaintance with
Sothern--Bursting of the Bradfield Reservoir--Attendance at Public
Executions and at Floggings--Assuming the Editorship of the _Preston
Guardian_--Political and Literary Influences--Great Speeches by
Gladstone and Bright--Bright's Contempt for Palmerston--Robertson
Gladstone Defends his Brother--Death of Abraham Lincoln--Meeting with
his Granddaughter.

CHAPTER V.
WORK ON THE LEEDS MERCURY
My New Duties--Betrothal--The Writing of Leading Articles--The Founder of
the _Leeds Mercury_--Edward Baines the Second--Thomas Blackburn
Baines--Patriotic Nonconformists--Another Colliery Disaster: A Story of
Heroism--An Abortive Fenian Raid at Chester--Reminiscences of the Prince
of Wales's Visits to Yorkshire--Mr. Bright and the Reform Demonstrations
of 1866--The Closing Speech at St. James's Hall--The Tribune of the
People Vindicates the Queen.

CHAPTER VI.
LIFE IN LONDON.
Appointed London Correspondent of the _Leeds Mercury_--My
Marriage--Securing Admission to the Reporters' Gallery--Relations between
Reporters and Members--Inadequate Accommodation for the
Press--Reminiscences of the Clerkenwell Explosion--The Last Public
Execution--The Arundel Club--James Macdonell--Robert Donald--James
Payn--Mrs. Riddell and the _St. James's Magazine_--My First
Novel--How Sala Cut Short an Anecdote--Disraeli as Leader of the House in
1868--A Personal Encounter with him at Aylesbury--Mr. Gladstone's First
Ministry--Bright and Forster--W.E. Baxter--Irish Church Disestablishment
Debate in the House of Lords--Mr. Mudford--Bereavement.

CHAPTER VII.
EDITOR OF THE _LEEDS MERCURY_.
Forming Good Resolutions--Provincial Journalism in the 'Seventies--
Recollections of the Franco-German War--The Loss of the _Captain_
and its Consequences to me--Settling Down at Leeds--Acquaintance with
Monckton Milnes--Visits to Fryston--Lord Houghton's Chivalry--His
Talk--His Skill in Judging Men--Stories about George Venables--Lord
Houghton's Regard for Religious Observances.

CHAPTER VIII.
MY FIRST CONTINENTAL TOUR.
A Generous Scot--Paris after the Commune--An Uncomfortable Journey
Home--Illness of the Prince of Wales--Revived Popularity of the
Throne--Death and Funeral of Napoleon III.--Burial of the Prince
Imperial--Forster's Educational Policy--Bruce's Licensing Bill--My Second
Marriage.

CHAPTER IX.
A NEW ERA IN PROVINCIAL JOURNALISM.
Bringing the _Leeds Mercury_ into Line with the London
Dailies--Friendship with William Black--The Dissolution of 1874--The
Election at Leeds--Mr. Chamberlain's Candidature for Sheffield--Mr.
Gladstone's Resignation--Election of his Successor--Birth of the
Caucus--The System Described--Its Adoption at Leeds--Its Effect upon the
Fortunes of the Liberal Party--The Bulgarian Atrocities Agitation.

CHAPTER X.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO BRONTË LITERATURE.
Visit to Haworth--Feeling Against the Brontës in Yorkshire--Miss Nussey
and her Discontent with Mrs. Gaskell's "Life"--Publication of "Charlotte
Brontë: a Monograph"--Mr. Swinburne's Appreciation--An Abortive Visit to
the Poet--Lecture on Emily Brontë and "Wuthering Heights"--Miss Nussey's
Visit to Haworth after Charlotte's Marriage.

CHAPTER XI.
VISITS TO THE CONTINENT.
Politics in Paris in 1877--An Oration by Gambetta--the Balloting--The
Republic Saved--Gambetta's Funeral--A Member of the Reform Club--The
Century Club--A Draught of Turpentine and Soda--The "Press Gang" at the
Reform--James Payn and William Black--George Augustus Sala and Sir John
Robinson--Disraeli's Triumph in 1878--A European Tour.

CHAPTER XII.
A CHAPTER OF MISFORTUNES.
Death of my Sister's Husband and of my Brother James--An Accident on
Marston Moor--Sir George Wombwell's Story of the Charge of the Light
Brigade--His Adventure on the Ouse--Editing a Daily Newspaper from a Sick
Bed--Reflections on Death--Death of my Mother--Serious Illness of my Only
Daughter.

CHAPTER XIII.
THE GENERAL ELECTION OF 1880.
Mr. Gladstone's Position in 1879--His Decision to Contest Midlothian--How
he came to be Adopted by the Leeds Liberals--The Conversation Club--A
Visit from John Morley--The Dissolution of 1880--Lecture on Mr.
Gladstone--His Triumphant Return for Leeds--His Election for
Midlothian--Mr. Herbert Gladstone Adopted as his Successor at Leeds--Mr.
Gladstone's Visit to Leeds in 1881--A Fiasco Narrowly Avoided--A
Wonderful Mass Meeting--Mr. Gladstone's Collapse and Recovery--My
Introduction to Him--An Excursion to Tunis--"The Land of the Bey"--Mr.
A.M. Broadley's Prophecies--Howard Payne's Grave--A Series of
Coincidences.

CHAPTER XIV.
CONCERNING W.E. FORSTER AND OTHERS.
The Beginning of Mr. Stead's Journalistic Career--His Methods--Birth of
the New Journalism--Madame Novikoff and Mr. Stead--Mr. Stead's Attacks
upon Joseph Cowen--How he dealt with a Remonstrance--W. E. Forster--Mr.
Chamberlain's Antagonism--The _Leeds Mercury_'s Defence of
Forster--How he was Jockeyed out of the Cabinet--Forster's
Resignation--News of the Phoenix Park Murders--Forster's Reflections--Mr.
Gladstone's Pity for Social Outcasts--Mr. Chamberlain's Brothers
Blackballed at the Reform--Failure of an Attempt to Crush the _Leeds
Mercury_--Forster's Gratitude.

CHAPTER XV.
THE FIRST LIBERAL IMPERIALIST.
Forster a Pioneer of Liberal Imperialism--His Political Courage--His
Unfortunate Manner--His Home Life--Intrigues in the Cabinet--The Plots
against Forster's Life--Reaction in his Favour--Forster and Lord
Hartington--The Former's Grief for Gordon--Forster and Lord Rosebery--Mr.
Stead and the _Pall Mall Gazette_--His Responsibility for the
Gordon Imbroglio.

CHAPTER XVI.
NOVELS AND NOVELISTS.
"The Lumley Entail"--"Gladys Fane"--My Experience in Novel-Writing--About
Sad Endings--Imaginary Characters and Characters Drawn from Life--Visits
from William Black and Bret Harte--Black as an After-Dinner Speaker--How
Bret Harte saw Haworth Parsonage, and was Roughly Entreated by a
Yorkshire Admirer--A Candid Opinion on the Brontë Monograph.

CHAPTER XVII.
TO THE DEFEAT OF THE GOVERNMENT (1885).
More Antagonism towards Forster--A Household Suffrage Demonstration at
Leeds--A Meeting at the Carlton Club and a Coincidence--Forster and "the
most Powerful Man in England"--Single-Member Constituencies and the
Cumulative Vote--Dynamite Outrages--Police Protection for Statesmen--I
Receive Threatening Letters and Get a Fright--Death of Lord
Houghton--Lord Derby and how he was Misunderstood--An Unconventional
Dinner at Lord Houghton's--A Visit to Tangier--In Peril of the
Sea--Gibraltar "a Magnificent Imposture"--Captain W. and the M.P.--To the
North Cape--Cheering a Funeral Party--News of Mr. Gladstone's
Overthrow--Home Again.



MEMOIRS OF
SIR WEMYSS REID.


       *       *       *       *       *



CHAPTER I.

EARLY DAYS.

Birth and Parentage--Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the 'Forties--A Visit to St.
Andrews--The Scottish Sabbath--First Acquaintance with a Printing
Office--Tyneside in the Mid-Century--In Peril of Housebreakers--At Dr.
Collingwood Bruce's School--A Plague of Flies--Cholera--Fire.


It was in the old town, now the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne that I first
saw the light--March 29, 1842. My father, the Rev. Alexander Reid, was
trained first at the University of St. Andrews, under Dr. Chalmers, and
afterwards at Highbury College, London, under Dr. Pye-Smith, for the
Congregational ministry. On leaving College he settled in 1830 at
Newcastle, and there remained for half a century a faithful and honoured
preacher, retiring in 1880 amid the esteem of the whole community on
Tyneside. He died in 1887 under the roof of my younger brother Stuart, at
Wilmslow, Cheshire, a year which was memorable to me in other than a
sorrowful sense, since it was then that I settled in London. It was said
of my father at the time of his death, in one of the Newcastle papers,
that for a man to be in difficulty or sorrow was a passport to his help
and sympathy. My mother was the daughter of Thomas Wemyss, of Darlington,
a well known Biblical scholar and critic, a kinsman of the poet Campbell,
and a direct descendant of the Stewarts of Ascog, Bute, a family which
traced its descent in unbroken succession--with the bar sinister at the
start--from Robert II. of Scotland.

Of the six children who grew up in the austerely simple but happy
surroundings of my father's home, the eldest, Mary, was the daughter of
my father by a previous marriage; she married the Rev. William Bathgate,
D.D., of Kilmarnock, and died as recently as 1903, to my great sorrow. My
elder brother James, with whom I was most closely associated in boyhood
and youth, was always more or less of an invalid, and died at Leeds in
1880--the year in which our mother also passed away. I came next in the
family, and my younger brothers are Alexander, now manager of the Dublin
and Wexford Railway, and Stuart, who, like myself, has followed
journalism and literature. It only remains for me to mention the youngest
member of the family, John Paul, a bright and affectionate little fellow
of thirteen, whose loss in 1868 threw a shadow over the home which only
the passage of long years softened.

Newcastle, in those days, was scarcely a third of its present size, and
the river Tyne, which is now a mere ditch, hemmed in on either side by
great manufactories, shipbuilding yards, and wharves, from its mouth to a
point above Newcastle, was then a fair and noble river, which watered
green meadows and swept past scenes of rural beauty. The house in which I
was born stood in Elswick Row, and in the year of my birth--1842--that
terrace of modest houses formed the boundary-line of the town on the
west. Beyond it was nothing but fields and open country. There was no
High Level Bridge in those days, spanning the river and forming a link in
the great iron highway between the English and Scotch capitals; nor had
so much as the first stone of the famous Elswick Ordnance and Engineering
Works been laid. The future Lord Armstrong, whom I met at dinner not long
ago, looking hardly older than when I first saw him, was then a
solicitor, whose office stood in Westgate Street, and whose dreams could
scarcely have foreshadowed his ultimate destiny. Richard Granger was just
completing that great reconstruction of the centre of the town which gave
Newcastle so noble and unprovincial an appearance; but the fine streets
he had constructed--finer than any others to be found in England at that
period--were still untenanted, and it was melancholy in walking along
Clayton Street to see nine houses out of ten mere empty shells without
doors or windows.

My earliest recollections start out of the void with great distinctness
on one particular day. It was my third birthday, and I can still recall
vividly the two boys--myself and my brother James--who were playing
together in the garden in front of the pleasant house we then occupied in
Summerhill Terrace, when I was called into the drawing-room to receive my
birthday gifts.

It is not, however, with the memories of a child that I wish to entertain
my readers, except in so far as they may have some intrinsic interest of
their own. Dimly I can recall the year of storm and stress on the
Continent, when thrones were toppling and the tide of revolution
threatened a general catastrophe; vaguely, too, I remember the firing of
the guns from the old castle, which announced the death of Queen Adelaide
in 1849; but it was not until 1850 that my real life may be said to have
begun. In the spring of that year I went on a long visit to my paternal
grandfather at St. Andrews, where his family had been settled for many
generations. In the station of Berwick-upon-Tweed the luggage of
passengers was examined in order to see that whiskey was not being
smuggled across the Border, and I was filled with childish wonder as I
watched the process.

St. Andrews, as it was in 1850, bore little resemblance to the well-known
pleasure resort of to-day. So far as I can remember, there was not a
modern building in the city, and as a picture of an old-world Scottish
town it was without a flaw. No club-house faced the sea, nor were there
the fashionable residences which adorn the modern St. Andrews. The grass
grew and the oats ripened where now stretch the long terraces devoted to
summer lodgings for the visitors. North Street and South Street were the
two city thoroughfares, if thoroughfares they could be called, seeing
that even in them the green weeds grew freely. Antiquity and repose
characterised the place as a whole, though in the winter months the stir
of young life filled the little city, troops of red-cloaked students
passing to and fro between the grey, weather-beaten halls of the
University and their lodgings. At the end of South Street stood the ruins
of the cathedral with the fine tower, in which the beams of some great
vessel of the Spanish Armada, wrecked on the neighbouring Bell Rock, were
carefully preserved, and the graceful arches of the sacred building, for
the destruction of which John Knox was responsible. Many generations of
my forefathers slept side by side in one particular portion of the
cathedral grounds, and here my grandfather used to bring me to play among
the tombs and to spell out the names of kinsmen who had died a century or
more before my own earthly pilgrimage began. The whole place, with its
noble ruins of castle and cathedral, its grey and empty streets, its
venerable halls, its green links and fine coast-line, made a profound
impression upon my imagination as a child. To this day I can recall not
only the scene itself, but the sounds, the colours, the briny odours, the
very atmosphere of the place.

Golf was then, as now, the one great amusement of the citizens, though
there was this difference between the past and the present. In those days
the game was almost unknown to the rest of the world, and to all intents
and purposes St. Andrews had a monopoly of it. [Footnote: Blackheath, of
course, had then, as now, its ancient golf club.] We all talked golf,
even if we did not all play it. The shop-boys rose betimes of a summer's
morning to enjoy a round on the links before breakfast, and learned
professors and staid ministers gave their afternoons to the same
absorbing pursuit. Child though I was, even I had my clubs, and played in
my own fashion at the game.

My grandfather, who had retired from his business as a manufacturer of
flax some years before, had a number of poor relations and dependents
whom he frequently visited, taking me with him as a companion. Many of
these were weavers, and in those days the weaver carried on his craft at
home. I can see distinctly the little stone cottages in the narrow wynds
off South Street, which I was wont to visit; I can recall the whirr and
rattle of the loom "ben the house," and picture to myself the grave
elderly man who on my entrance would rise from the rickety machine in
front of which he was seated, and, after refreshing himself with a pinch
of snuff, adjust his horn-rimmed spectacles and stare, with a seriousness
which to me was somewhat disquieting, at the little English boy who had
found his way into his presence. Kind they were without exception, these
simple homely folk; but their gravity was hardly to be measured. Stern
Calvinists to a man and a woman, the world was clearly to them no
playground, no place for the frivolous pursuit of pleasure; and even the
innocent sports of a child seemed to jar on their sense of the fitness of
things.

It was on Sunday, however, that the full severity of the Scotch
Puritanism of that day made itself felt in my inmost soul. Oh, the dreary
monotony of those Sabbaths at St. Andrews! The long, long service and yet
longer sermon in the forenoon, the funereal procession of the
congregation to their homes, the hasty meal, consisting chiefly of tea
and cold, hard-boiled eggs, which took the place of dinner, and the
return within a few minutes to the kirk, where the vitiated atmosphere
left by the morning congregation had not yet passed away. Even when the
second service had come to a close, the solemnities of the day were not
ended, for the Sunday School met in the late afternoon, and remained in
session for a couple of hours. But it was not the public services,
terrible though these were, that formed the most depressing feature of
Sunday in St. Andrews; it was the rigid discipline which pervaded her
home-life. My grandfather, I believe, was looked upon as being somewhat
lax in his religious views, and he was undoubtedly more liberal--perhaps
one might say more advanced--than many of his neighbours. Yet even he had
to render homage to the universal law. So when Sunday came round the
blinds were closely drawn, lest the rays of the sun should dissipate the
gloom befitting the solemn day, whilst no voice in the household was
raised above a sepulchral whisper. Lucky for me was it that I was sent to
bed early, and that thus the horrors of the Sabbath were in my case
abbreviated. The older members of the family sat in a silent semicircle
round the smouldering fire, each holding, and some possibly reading, a
book, the suitableness of which for use at such a time was beyond
question. The Bible, the metrical version of the Psalms, and one or two
volumes of discourses by divines of undoubted orthodoxy, formed the only
literature recognised on these occasions. For myself, I had brought with
me from home a copy of the delightful, though now forgotten, book called
"Evenings at Home." and my Sabbatical sufferings were intensified by the
sight of this volume on a high bookshelf, where it remained beyond my
reach from Saturday night till Monday morning.

My life among these grave, elderly men and women would probably have been
a sad one but for one fact. Adjoining my grandfather's residence was a
small printing office, which he had established some years before for the
benefit of a widowed daughter-in-law. A door opened from the house into
the printing office, and through it I would steal whenever I got the
chance. It was not only that the journeyman printer (there _were_
journeymen in those days) was the kindest of men, whose memory I cherish
with affection to this hour, and who never failed to welcome me with a
smile and a pleasant word when I invaded his domain. The place had a
charm of its own for me, mysterious, inexplicable, but absolutely
enthralling. The cases of type, the presses, the ink-rollers, the damp
proof-sheets--chiefly of bills announcing public meetings or the "roup"
of some bankrupt farmer's stock--filled me with wonder and delight. Child
as I was, I saw in these humble implements of the petty tradesman the
means by which one mind can place itself in contact with many.

It is not to be supposed that I had even the dimmest perception of
anything beyond the most obvious features of the printer's business, but
the seed was sown then which was to fructify throughout my whole
remaining life, and from the day when I first felt the fascination of
that humble printer's workshop, I never ceased to regard myself as in a
special degree a child of the printing-press. How delightful were the
hours which I and David, the journeyman aforesaid, spent together when
business was slack--and it was often slack! Then it was that together we
would compose the most wonderful announcements of the great enterprises
to which I was to commit myself in after life. Now it was the prospectus
of a "genteel academy" of which I was to be the principal, and again it
was the announcement of the opening of a vast emporium for the sale of
goods of every description under my direction, that we thus composed and
printed. These advertisements were invariably printed on gilt-edged paper
in the bluest of ink, and, when I subsequently returned home, excited
prodigious envy in my elder brother, who had never been privileged to
"see himself in print."

My stay at St. Andrews ended at last in a somewhat melancholy fashion. As
the place seemed to agree with me, it was settled that I should remain
for a year at least; and in order that the time might not be wasted I was
sent to school, the school being the well-known Madras College. Here both
boys and girls were taught together. Of the present state of that famous
institution I know nothing, nor do I wish to utter a word of
disparagement of those who were responsible for its management fifty
years ago; but to me, a timid boy who, in spite of his Northumbrian burr,
was turned to ridicule as a Cockney by the Fifeshire lads and lasses, it
wore the aspect of a veritable place of torment. That classic instrument
of discipline, the tawse, was in use at every hour of the day, girls as
well as boys receiving barbarous punishment under the eyes of their
class-mates. Perhaps the cruelty was not so great as it seemed to me, but
at all events it was enough, so far as I was concerned. My dread of the
terrible lash grew into a brooding horror, which poisoned my days and
destroyed my nights; and before I had been a month at the school I was
seized with an attack upon the brain which nearly proved fatal.

Let me mention here, by way of testifying to the orthodoxy of the
religious training given to my young soul, that on the first night on
which I became delirious I was pursued by a phantom, plainly visible to
my overwrought imagination, which wore the exact guise of the Evil One.
Horns, hoofs, tail, and trident, were all clearly seen, and I sprang
wildly from side to side of my bed trying to evade the fiend's attempt to
capture me, until at last I took refuge, trembling and almost fainting,
in my grandfather's arms. My youth and my good constitution carried me
safely through an illness of no ordinary severity, and one day, as I lay
in bed in the first stage of convalescence, I had the joy of hearing my
mother's voice, and of knowing that she was with me once more. A few days
later I returned with her to Newcastle, and thus ended the attempt to
make a Scotsman of me.

My visit to the North, however, had the effect of stimulating my
intelligence, and giving me a real interest in things around me. Travel
had, in short, done its usual work of instructing and vivifying the mind.
Henceforward I had a standard of comparison to apply to home scenes and
experiences which I had not previously possessed. One favourite resort of
ours at home was a grove of trees situate midway between the outskirts of
the town and the village of Benwell. To us children, and to certain other
young folk who were our playmates, it was known as Diana's Grove, though
whether the name came from some fancy of our own or some bygone
tradition, I was never able to ascertain. On the maps of those days it
bore quite another designation. It was a delightful spot, and when,
accompanied by our nursemaid, my brothers and I set off to spend a long
summer morning there, we seemed to have reached the height of bliss. The
grove was separated from Elswick Lane by sloping fields, where wheat and
barley grew luxuriantly, and the narrow path by which we ran, shouting
with joy, through these fields to our haven among the trees led past a
little fountain at which we always stopped to drink. The grove itself was
a small wood of oak and fir trees, covering a piece of rising ground from
which the most delightful views of the beautiful Tyne Valley and the
country lying south of the river were to be obtained. How often as a
child, when tired with my boyish games, I have sat with my brother
beneath one of the trees of the grove, and looked with eyes of wonder on
the scene before me! The noble river seemed to flow almost at our feet,
and the only signs of life upon its surface were the great keels passing
slowly up and down. Beyond it were the green meadows of Dunstan, whilst,
rising behind them, was the fine amphitheatre crowned by the pretty
village of Wickham and the woods of Ravensworth and Gibside. Young as I
was, I could quote poetry; and I remember how, as I looked upon this
scene, there invariably occurred to me the lines--

  "Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
    Stand dressed in living green;
  So to the Jews old Canaan stood
    While Jordan rolled between."

Away yonder, across the brimming river, was the Canaan of my
imagination--the mysterious, unknown land into which my little feet were
so eager to wander, reckless of what might happen there. Why do I dwell
upon this simple scene? I do so because, alas, it is now a scene of the
past. Where my young comrades and I made merry fifty years ago in the
shade of the oak trees, or beside the well in the meadow, there is now a
vast cemetery, and some of those who played with me there now sleep
peacefully almost in the shadow of the Diana's Grove we loved so well.
And the prospect from the grove--where is it now? Along the north bank of
the Tyne, at that very spot, stretch the immense works of Lord Armstrong,
whilst the houses of his workmen, in thickly-planted streets, cover the
fair meadows of my youth, and the dense cloud of smoke for ever rising
from forge and furnace blots out the prospect of the southern shore.

Hardly less melancholy is the change which has overtaken the favourite
seaside resorts of my childhood. Tynemouth was the earliest
watering-place of which I knew anything. In those days the pleasant
village, not yet defiled by the soot of Shields, consisted of three
streets, called respectively Front Street, Middle Street, and Back
Street. There was no great pier casting its mighty arm into the sea
across the mouth of the river, and the favourite resort of visitors, the
place where we children played and bathed, and our elders lounged and
read or flirted, according to their tastes, was the quaint little haven
now given up to the pier works. How high the breakers were that rolled
into that haven as I stood, a wondering child, and watched them from the
shore! I have tossed on many seas since then, and have stood on many a
storm-swept headland; but nowhere have I seen waves so high--so
irresistible in their majesty, as those waves at Tynemouth seemed to my
innocent eyes to be.

Far greater than the change at Tynemouth is that which has taken place at
Whitley, another of our favourite summer resorts, on the delightful
Northumbrian coast. What Whitley is now I do not know; but when I last
saw it, more than a dozen years ago, it had become a rambling, ugly,
ill-built town, chiefly given over to lodging-house keepers, though
redeemed by its fine stretch of hard sand. Very different was the Whitley
with which I first made acquaintance in 1849. There was no lodging-house
in the place; nothing but a sequestered village, which could not boast of
church or chapel, and which had only one small shop. My parents used to
hire a charming little cottage belonging to the village blacksmith. Its
front opened upon the village street, and behind was a garden, full of
the simple cottage flowers which are so strangely unfamiliar to those
doomed to dwell in towns. A summer-house, clothed in honeysuckle, was one
of the features of the garden, and the delicious scent seemed to me in
those happy days, when I first reached the cottage on one of our summer
holidays, to be as it were the fragrance of heaven itself. Nobody else
seemed to visit Whitley in those first years of our sojourn there; so
that we had the noble stretch of sands and the long line of cliffs almost
to ourselves during the long summer's day, and my father, lying on the
yielding turf above the sands, could study his sermon for the coming
Sunday at peace, unmolested and almost unseen by any man. There must
still, I suppose, be spots somewhere on the long coastline of this island
where one might find combined the peace, the seclusion, and the beauty of
that bit of Northumberland as I knew it fifty years ago; and yet,
whatever my understanding may say, my heart tells me that I shall never
again see anything like the Whitley of my youth. [Footnote: Since these
pages were penned, the memory of the blacksmith's cottage at Whitley has
been vividly brought back to me under rather singular circumstances. In
the spring of 1895 I was dining in Downing Street with Lord Rosebery,
then Prime Minister. Next to me at dinner was seated Sir James Joicey,
the millionaire colliery owner and Member of Parliament. Sir James is,
like myself, a Northumbrian, and our conversation naturally turned upon
our native county. I spoke of the blacksmith's cottage, and the bower of
honeysuckle at Whitley, with the enthusiasm which old memories evoked. To
my surprise, there was an answering gleam of pleasure and tenderness on
my friend's face. "_You_ lived in the blacksmith's cottage?" said
he. "Why, so did we when I was a boy!" We found, on comparing dates, that
the Joiceys had followed my own parents as tenants of the tiny house when
the latter gave it up. To both of us it seemed a far cry from the honest
blacksmith's modest cottage to Mr. Pitt's dining-room in Downing Street.]

It was in the autumn of 1850 that a rather curious adventure befell me,
which might well have cut short my career, and prevented these pages from
ever seeing the light. We were about to remove from Summerhill Terrace to
a house not far distant which had just been bought by my father, and, as
it happened, one dull afternoon I was left alone at home, my mother and
the servants being all engaged at the new house. I was left with strict
injunctions to "put the chain on the front door," and to bolt the kitchen
door, which was on a lower level than the other. The first order I
obeyed, but the second, under the temptation of an entrancing story in
_Tait's Edinburgh Magazine_ which absorbed my thoughts, I entirely
forgot. I was devouring this story, as only children do devour stories,
when I heard the front door opened. I was sitting in the parlour, at the
back of the house, so that I could not see anyone enter the garden.
Running to the door, under the belief that my mother had returned, I
found myself confronted by two men. They were--or pretended to
be--pedlars; and one of them carried a case filled with sham jewellery.
Their great desire seemed to be to get me to unchain the door. I was
simple enough to tell them that I was alone in the house, but my
simplicity did not carry me so far as a compliance with their urgent
request. After arguing with me for several minutes, and even endeavouring
to bribe me with a trumpery jewel, the men withdrew, muttering. I watched
them for a moment, and took note of the keen, earnest gaze they bent upon
the house before leaving the garden. But the voice of the charmer in
_Tait_ was calling too loudly to allow me to dwell upon anything
else, and I was quickly back again in the parlour and deep in mystery.

It might have been twenty minutes later that there fell upon my startled
ear a sound which under the circumstances was distinctly sinister--that
of a man's foot on the sanded floor of the kitchen passage below. A timid
child at all times, there is no need to say that when I crept to the head
of the stairs, and, after listening there breathlessly for a few seconds,
ascertained beyond doubt that more than one man was moving about in the
rooms below me, I was filled with almost a paralysing sense of terror.
Here at last the "robbers" of whom I and my brother had so often talked
in frightened whispers in our beds, were come in good earnest. What was
to be done? And then there flashed upon me, like an inspiration, the
recollection of a plan which we had talked over together when discussing
the best means of driving the robbers from our house, should they ever
enter it. We had both agreed, then, that if we could but induce any
ordinary thief to believe that a certain big relative of ours, whose
colossal proportions we had often admired, was on the premises, there
would be no need to do anything else to make the intruder flee
affrighted. My mind was made up. Creeping softly back into the parlour, I
seized the tongs. These I hurled suddenly down the kitchen stairs, and
when the terrible din thus raised had died out, I cried in my childish
treble, "Uncle John! Uncle John! Come downstairs! There are thieves in
the house!" There was a cry of rage or alarm from the kitchen, a hurried
scuffling of feet on the floor, and then through a window I saw my two
friends the pedlars flying through the yard, and pausing not to look
behind. I ought, of course, to have forthwith gone downstairs and done my
duty by that back door, which I had so shamefully neglected earlier in
the day; but I am ashamed to say that my momentary access of courage had
entirely died away by this time, and that for no imaginable sum of money
would I have dared to descend those stairs, and pass through the dark
passage leading to the back door. The thieves were in due time captured
and transported for another offence; but my parents refused to prosecute
them in order that I might escape the ordeal of a public examination.
They were desperate ruffians, and the police declared their belief that
if they had known I was alone in the house they would have murdered me.

I now come to my schooldays in the distant years 1852-4. My father, as I
have already said, was a minister of religion for fifty years at
Newcastle. He was one of the gentlest and noblest of men, one whom I have
never ceased to revere as the very pattern and exemplar of a Christian
gentleman. But those who follow such a calling cannot expect to gain
riches as their reward, and my father was a poor man. Despite his
poverty, he was resolved that his sons should have the best education
that he could procure for them. That meant that they must be sent to the
best school in the town--Percy Street Academy. So when my elder brother
in 1848 was of school age, he took him to Mr., not then Dr., Bruce, to
enter him as a pupil. I have no doubt that he went with some trepidation,
knowing full well that the school fees would be a heavy tax upon his
small income. I was sitting with my mother in the drawing-room of
Summerhill Terrace when my father returned, and I saw that there was an
unwonted brightness on his gentle face. He told my mother how Mr. Bruce,
after examining my brother, had pronounced him to be fully qualified to
enter the school; and then my father asked about the fees. The answer he
received was, "My dear Mr. Reid, I never take a fee from a minister of
religion." And so it came to pass that not only my brother James but
myself and my two younger brothers were educated at Percy Street without
any fee being paid on our behalf. No one will wonder that I cherish Dr.
Bruce's memory with unstinted gratitude and reverence.

Schooldays, despite the popular theory, are, as a matter of fact,
generally as uninteresting to the schoolboy as their story is to the
public, and I shall not detain the reader with much about this period of
my life. Dr. Collingwood Bruce, the father, by the way, of Mr. Justice
Bruce, was then and long afterwards the most famous school master in the
North of England, and under him I received that small fraction of my
education which a man usually obtains during pupilage. Percy Street
Academy, Newcastle, has long since disappeared, after having counted no
inconsiderable proportion of the best-known residents among its pupils.
It occupied a series of rambling buildings with an imposing house at the
end of the row, in which lived "The Doctor," the assistant masters, and
the boarders. But though the school is gone, my old schoolmaster died but
recently, enjoying to the last the respect of his fellow citizens and the
repose of a happy old age. He is known to fame as the author of the
leading work on the Roman Wall, and as an antiquary of high repute. I
have a grateful recollection of many of his acts during my school career;
and, looking back, there are none I now esteem more highly than the
attempts he constantly made to interest his pupils in the general affairs
of the world outside the school-gates.

How well, for example, do I remember the school being summoned one
morning in November, 1854, to the large writing room! Here the Doctor was
standing at his desk awaiting us, armed with a copy of the _Times_.
It had just arrived, and it contained W. H. Russell's brilliant account
of the battle of Inkermann. In a few well-chosen words, the Doctor--who
was an excellent public speaker--explained that he had called us from our
tasks in order that we might listen to the story of a great deed done for
England of which every Englishman ought to be proud; and then he read the
whole story of the battle as it is told in Russell's graphic narrative,
whilst we boys cheered each deed of English valour and groaned at the
Russians as lustily as though we had been ourselves spectators of the
fight. It was a wise act on the part of Dr. Bruce, and many others
besides myself must have been grateful to him for having thus made us
participators in the emotion which in those stirring times thrilled the
nation.

It was before the Crimean War, however, that we in Newcastle passed
through an experience the like of which I shall hardly encounter again.
Newcastle was then notorious for its bad sanitation. A great part of the
town consisted of houses of extreme antiquity, crowded together in narrow
alleys in the neighbourhood of the river. These alleys, I may note in
passing, were known as "chares"--a designation which used habitually to
puzzle the Judges of Assize when they had to inquire into the
circumstances of one of the not infrequent riots which in those days
chequered the harmony of life on the banks of the Tyne. It was towards
the end of July, 1853, that the rumour spread, reaching even a schoolboy
like myself, that the cholera was approaching. A few weeks later it was
with us in all its grim reality. Its actual appearance in the town was
preceded by an extraordinary phenomenon which may, or may not, have been
connected with the epidemic. One hot morning in August, when I left home
for school, I was struck by the curious appearance of the atmosphere. No
sooner had I stepped out of doors than I found that the strange dimness
which pervaded everything was due to swarms of minute flies, which
literally darkened the skies and settled in innumerable hosts upon every
object animate and inanimate. It was impossible to breathe without
inhaling these loathsome insects whenever the mouth was opened, and in
order to protect ourselves my brother and I fastened our pocket
handkerchiefs over our faces and walked to school in this fashion. We
found that most other persons had adopted the same device. The plague
lasted in Egyptian intensity for the whole of that day. The next day it
had to a certain extent subsided, and on the third the dead flies might
have been seen literally in heaps, each one of which must have contained
countless thousands, in the corners of halls and passages. Everybody
connected this most disagreeable phenomenon with the approach of the
pestilence, and, whether they did so rightly or wrongly, the cholera only
too certainly followed upon its heels.

Its first appearance raised feelings of terror in many hearts. I confess
for myself that when I heard that three persons had died of cholera in
the town on the previous day I fell into a small panic; but it was then
that my mother, always a deeply religious woman, seeing how things were
going with us, called her children together, and in the happiest manner
succeeded in converting our dread of an unknown and mysterious evil into
a perfect and childlike trust in the protection of a Heavenly Father.
What she said I cannot now recall; I only know that from that moment,
whilst many of our companions in school and at play went about with
pallid faces and unstrung nerves, all our fears seemed as if by magic to
have vanished. But the reality of the plague was terrible indeed, and the
month of September, 1853, is never likely to be forgotten by anyone who
then lived at Newcastle. It was not merely that the mortality was
enormous, the deaths on some days being above a hundred, but that the
circumstances attending the plague were of a gruesome and harrowing
character. Not a few of the scenes in the streets recalled the story of
the Great Plague of London. We had the same incidents of the dead lying
unburied because there were none left to carry them to the grave. We had
the piles of coffins waiting for interment in the churchyard. We had sad
stories of men seen wheeling the corpse of wife or child in a barrow to
the place of burial. In the evenings workmen carried burning
disinfectants through the streets, the blue flames and sickening stench
of which heightened the horrors of our situation. And perhaps most awful
of all was the suddenness with which the disease slew. One evening in
that terrible month my brothers and I were playing in the garden of our
next-door neighbour with his children; by-and-by he himself came out to
smoke his evening pipe, and as usual he had a kindly word for each one of
us. We left him, when we went to bed, sauntering in the placid eventide
among the flowers he was wont carefully to tend. When I got downstairs
next morning a rough country servant, who was then in our employment,
bluntly told me that "that laddie B----" (naming our neighbour) had died
of the cholera during the night.

It is easy to conceive the effect which an incident like this necessarily
had upon the mind of a child; and there were many such incidents. I
verily believe that if we had not been clad by our mother's care and
wisdom in that armour of trusting faith, we should have suffered
irremediable injury. As it was, it became apparent that we must be
removed from the plague-stricken town. But whither could we go? No
visitor from Newcastle or any other riverside town could find admittance
into any of the lodging-houses on the coast. Happily a port of refuge was
open to us in the little blacksmith's cottage at Whitley, and thither, to
our great relief, we were transported about the time when the virulence
of the epidemic began to abate. My father had himself suffered from an
attack of the disease, probably incurred whilst visiting, with quiet but
unstinted devotion, the sick, and I also had had a very slight touch of
it. The fine air of Whitley and the sunny hours spent on the lonely sands
did wonders for us all; and when we returned home it was to find
Newcastle restored to its ordinary life, with only the empty places in
many households to remind us of the ordeal through which the town had
passed.

I have spoken of the resemblance between this outbreak of cholera and the
Great Plague of London. Curiously enough, the likeness between the
experiences of the northern town in the nineteenth century and the
capital in the seventeenth was to be made yet closer. It was just a year
after the epidemic had passed away that we were visited by another
calamity, infinitely less appalling, and yet at the time of its
occurrence far more startling. Sound asleep in the middle of a dark
October night, I began to dream, and, naturally enough at the time, my
dreams were of the war which had then begun. A Russian fleet escaping
from the Baltic had sailed up the Tyne and was bombarding Newcastle. So
ran my vision, and its effect was heightened by the firing of the guns I
heard in my sleep.

Suddenly my dream and everything else vanished from my mind, driven out
by a shock the like of which I had never experienced before. I was
sitting up in bed, trembling violently, and wondering what awful thing it
was that had broken in upon my slumbers. It was a sound--but such a
sound! Nothing approaching to it had ever fallen on my ears before; and
even when wide awake I still heard its echoes vibrating around me. My
brother James, strange to say, had slept peacefully through the roar of
an explosion the noise of which was heard at Sunderland, fourteen miles
away. In response to my cries he awoke, and at my urgent request went to
the window, which I was myself at the moment too much unnerved to
approach. Directly he drew aside the curtain the room was filled with a
glare that rendered every object as plainly visible as in broad daylight.
We believed that a large building used as a tannery immediately behind
our house must be on fire, but the building stood, and we saw that the
glare which lighted up the whole heavens was far away. It was shortly
after three o'clock on the morning of October 6th, 1854. Presently our
natural agitation was increased by a violent knocking on the front door
of the house at that untimely hour. It was the old man who "kept" my
father's chapel at Tuthill Stairs, and he brought with him a doleful
story. Evidently hysterical from the shock he had received, he told my
father, amid his sobs, that half of Newcastle and Gateshead had been
blown down by a frightful explosion in one of the Gateshead bonded
warehouses; that the dead and dying were lying about in hundreds, and
that, to crown everything, Tuthill Stairs Chapel had been destroyed.

It was indeed a tale of woe; and though my father promptly discounted it,
it was impossible to doubt, with the evidence of that flaming sky before
our eyes, that something very terrible had happened. Whether old Dixon
expected my father to act as an amateur fireman, or whether he hoped for
services of a more spiritual kind, I do not know; but he resolutely
refused to return to the scene of the disaster unless my father
accompanied him. So by-and-by my brother and I found ourselves
accompanying my father and the chapel-keeper on their way to the fire.

A strange spectacle it was which was presented to us. Thousands of
persons were hurrying down towards the river side; and upon their faces
shone the reflection of the glowing sky. By-and-by, as we came within
range of the effects of the explosion, we found broken windows and
shattered doorways on every side. It was not, however, until we reached
the High Level Bridge, and from the giddy height of the roadway looked
down upon the river and the two towns, that we realised the full extent
of the disaster which had happened so suddenly. To our right, as we stood
on the bridge, raged a fire of immense extent. The flames were roaring
upwards from one of the great bonded warehouses of Gateshead, and
threatening at every moment to attack the old parish church, which stood
like a rock strangely illumined in the glare; to our left, in the crowded
streets and alleys of the lower part of Newcastle, I counted no fewer
than seven fires burning fiercely in different places, whilst on the
river there were three ships in flames. It was wonderful to look up and
see burning sparks and fragments hurtling through air, resembling nothing
so much (I thought at the time) as a snowstorm every flake of which was a
point of fire; it was wonderful, too, to see the shipping in the river,
the broad stream itself, and the long lines of houses on either side
glowing in the dancing flames. We could hear the rush of the fire
heavenwards; we could see the mere handfuls of men--soldiers, police, and
what not--who were vainly striving to cope with the terrible enemy they
had so suddenly been called upon to face; and even as we looked we saw
fresh fires break out, and above the roar of the mighty furnace on the
Gateshead side--with the glowing crater which marked the site of the
great explosion--could hear at intervals the cries of the workers.
Looking back, I think that was upon the whole the most sublimely
impressive sight I ever beheld. The two burning towns; the river between
them glittering as though its waters had been turned to gold; the dense
silent crowds around me--these made up a picture the memory of which can
never fade.

Though old Dixon's "hundreds of dead and dying" was the wildest of
exaggerations, there had been a most lamentable loss of life as a
consequence of the explosion. What had happened was this: about midnight
a fire had broken out in a vinegar manufactory in the densely-crowded
district of Gateshead lying between the parish church and the river. This
fire, baffling the efforts of the fire brigade, spread quickly, until it
reached some large bonded warehouses adjoining the vinegar manufactory.
By this time it had acquired such proportions that it had been found
necessary to summon the military from the Newcastle Barracks to assist in
the effort to extinguish it, whilst vast crowds of people assembled, not
only in the neighbourhood of the fire itself, but on the bridges and
Newcastle quay, from which an excellent view was to be obtained. The fire
at last reached a warehouse owned by a gentleman named Bertram, and here
it assumed a new character. The exact contents of the warehouse remain
undiscovered to this day. At the time it was freely asserted that Mr.
Bertram had, in direct breach of the law, warehoused a large quantity of
gunpowder; but scientific witnesses who were subsequently examined showed
that it was possible that certain chemicals stored in the warehouse, when
suddenly combined, as by the falling of the floors, would be quite as
explosive as gunpowder itself.

Be this as it may, after one or two slight explosions--those which in my
dream were transformed into the cannonade of a Russian force--the whole
warehouse with all its contents was suddenly blown into the air by the
force of an explosion seldom equalled in its terrible violence. That
explosion not only carried the burning materials across the river to
Newcastle, where they quickly produced another conflagration as serious
in its character as that which was raging in Gateshead, but inflicted
terrible injury both to life and property. The persons in the
neighbourhood of the burning building, including soldiers, firemen,
police, and Mr. Bertram, the owner of the warehouse, were instantly
killed; and in many cases not a trace of their remains could afterwards
be found. On the bridges and on Newcastle quay the great crowds of
onlookers were thrown to the ground by the shock, and several were killed
outright; whilst, far and wide, buildings were partially unroofed,
windows broken, and a great and populous district reduced to the state in
which one might have expected to see it after a bombardment. The exact
number of those killed was never ascertained, but I believe that between
thirty and forty persons lost their lives.

As I came away with my father and brother from the scene of the fire, my
young nerves received the shock which invariably follows the first sight
of death. In the Sandhill--the scene of Lord Eldon's elopement with the
beautiful Bessie Surtees--a man was lying on the pavement who had been
killed by the force of the explosion. As I passed, they were lifting the
body into a cart, and the sight of the head, hanging helplessly like that
of a dead bird, was one I never forgot. All that day the fires burned
fiercely, and it was not until the third day that they were really
subdued. Indeed, on the Gateshead side the ruined warehouses smoked and
smouldered for more than a week. In all, the value of the property
destroyed was something like a million sterling.

Never shall I forget my morning at school on the day on which the fire
first broke out. Boylike, it was the wonder rather than the horror of the
thing which was uppermost in my mind, and I and my schoolfellows, before
the morning bell sounded, eagerly related to each other all that we had
seen; those who, like myself, had been early on the ground having much to
tell to eager listeners. It was only when we had trooped excitedly into
our class-rooms, and found ourselves face to face with our masters, that
we began to realise the actual solemnity of a catastrophe the like of
which had never before befallen an English provincial town. In the Latin
room, where I was due at the opening of the school, I was unfeignedly
surprised to see Mr. Garven, our old classical tutor, sitting in tears at
his desk, and I can still hear the broken whispers in which he attempted
to speak to us of the terrible event.

It came home, I ought to say, very closely to "Bruce's school." More than
one of those killed had been pupils, and the son of Mr. Bertram, upon
whom already an excited public opinion was seeking to fasten the
responsibility for the explosion, was one of our schoolfellows, and had
but the day before joined us in our lessons. Suddenly as, in a
half-hearted way, we began our usual tasks, Dr. Bruce entered, pale and
agitated. "Boys," he said, "a dreadful thing has happened to our good old
town. God knows how far the mischief may extend, and what ruin may be
wrought; but we know already that more than one old pupil here have lost
their lives, and that some of you boys have lost those near and dear to
you. There can be no school to-day. It would not be decent----" And then
the Doctor's voice fairly gave way, and we found ourselves dismissed to
an unexpected--and, for once, an undesired--holiday. These things sink
deep into the youthful imagination, and the memory of them can never be
lost. As I look back upon the years I spent at school, that dark October
morning stands out with a prominence that causes every other day of my
school life to sink into insignificance.



CHAPTER II.

PROBATION.

Aspirations After a Journalistic Life--A Clerk's Stool in the W.B. Lead
Office--Literary Ambitions--An Accepted Contribution--The _Northern
Daily Express_ and its Editor--Founding a Literary Institute--Letters
from Charles Kingsley and Archbishop Longley--Joseph Cowen and his
Revolutionary Friends--Orsini--Thackeray's Lectures and Dickens's
Readings.


One day, in the summer of 1856, I was walking along Princes Street,
Edinburgh, looking with wonder and delight upon the beautiful panorama
that was spread before my eyes. I was little for my age, and the
gentleman who was my companion, and who was pointing out to me the many
famous buildings and monuments that form the glory of the modern Athens,
was leading me by the hand.

Probably he thought me still younger than I was, and treated me as a mere
child. I had come to Edinburgh on a brief holiday, and was staying at the
house of one of my father's friends. By-and-by, having duly fulfilled his
duty as showman, my companion, in a kindly, patronising way, sought to
draw me out. "And what do you mean to be, my boy, when you grow up?" he
asked. My answer was instantaneous and assured. "I mean to be a newspaper
editor, sir." My friend flung my hand from him and burst into a roar of
laughter, which surprised me even more than it did the passers-by. "A
newspaper editor!" he cried, still convulsed by what appeared to me a
most unseemly, if not offensive, merriment. "Good heavens! And what in
the world has put such a thing as that into the child's head?" My wounded
dignity came to my aid. Was I not fourteen? and had I not already left
school and begun to earn my own living? "I made up my mind a long time
ago," I said in the accents of injured innocence. "When I am a man I mean
to be that, and nothing else." I had a sad time of it for the rest of the
day, for this worthy gentleman appreciated what he regarded as the joke
so keenly that whenever he met a friend he stopped him, and said, "Let me
introduce to you a live editor--that is to be some day." He enjoyed the
situation more than I did.

But it was quite true. Young as I was, I had made up my mind, and was
resolved that nothing should move me from my purpose. Perhaps the
printer's ink of the dear old composing room at St. Andrews had
inoculated me, and made me proof against the usual temptations by which a
boy, dreaming of his future path in life, is beset. Or perhaps it was
because printer's ink is in the blood of the family. Whatever may have
been the cause, journalism was my first precocious love, and my last;
and, looking back across the years of heavy work which now separate me
from that June morning at Edinburgh, I see no reason to repent my early
choice or the loss of every other chance of success in life.

Yet, at the outset, there were a hundred obstacles barring my way to the
door through which I longed to pass. I was already, as I have said, at
work. Knowing full well the narrowness of my father's means, I had
cheerfully taken a situation as a clerk, and kindly Fortune had smiled
upon me in the appointment I secured. Most boys of my time on leaving
school went, as it was phrased in those days, "on the quay side" at
Newcastle; that is to say, they entered the office of one of the great
merchants by whose hands the prosperous trade of the Tyne was carried on.
Here their lives were full from morning to night with the business which
in such a hive of industry seemed to know no slackening. No doubt, a
position in a shipping or colliery office at Newcastle in those days was
one to which many advantages were attached. Not a few schoolfellows of my
own, starting with no greater advantages than I possessed, have become
men of large fortune, have acquired landed estates, have sat in
Parliament, have founded county families. But it was not towards these
ends that my youthful ambition urged me; and, happily for me, the office
to which I went one January morning in the 'fifties, in the humble
capacity of junior clerk, had nothing in common with the bustling,
worrying places of business on the quay side, where the race for wealth
seemed to absorb the thoughts of all, from highest to lowest.

Through the influence of a friend, and chiefly in virtue of my father's
name, I secured a place in what was then known as the W.B. Lead Office.
There was at that time a certain quality of lead distinguished by these
letters which carried off the palm in the lead markets of the world;
indeed, its price was constantly from one to two pounds a ton higher than
that of any other lead procurable. This lead was obtained from the great
mines in Weardale and Allandale, then and for many generations owned by
the Beaumont family. Mr. Wentworth Blackett Beaumont was at that time the
head of the family. There was no eager bustle, due to the keenness of
business competition, in the quiet rooms of the W.B. Lead Office in
Northumberland Street, when I entered it as a boy. The whole of the
produce of the mines was sold to half a dozen great London firms, and the
sales were made in such large quantities that a score of transactions
sufficed for a year's work. How great those transactions were may be
gathered from the fact that I sometimes had to make out a single invoice
in which the sole item stated represented a sum of £40,000.

Very soon I found that my chief duty as junior clerk in this eminently
sedate and respectable establishment was to read the _Times_ to my
immediate superior. This gentleman I must always remember with a lively
sense of gratitude. His name was Fothergill, and, like myself, he had
little taste for mere business avocations. He was a student, a lover of
literature, a collector of books, and a writer of verse. Fortunate was it
for me to meet with such a companion at that stage in my life--the stage
when one is most susceptible to outside influences. For five years we sat
opposite to each other in the same quiet room, and never once did I hear
fall from his lips an unworthy idea or suggestion. He suffered from
serious weakness of the eyes, and it was for this reason that so much of
my spare time (and it was nearly all spare time there) was devoted to
reading aloud to him. He had only a clerk's income, small enough in all
conscience, but he never wanted money to spend on a book or a magazine. I
remember his delight when the first number of the _Saturday Review_,
to which he had subscribed on its appearance, was placed in his hands.
From that time forward my daily readings of the leaders in the
_Times_ were varied by weekly readings of the brilliant sarcasm and
invective which then distinguished the new review that had entered the
field of journalism with so bold a mien, and was holding its own so
fearlessly against all comers. With such a friend, always ready to give
me of his best--alas, at the time, in my youthful ignorance of men, I
failed altogether to appreciate my good fortune in meeting a companion
like this--my mind rapidly expanded, and before I was half way through my
teens I was learning to put boyish things behind me. Although Fothergill
did not encourage my precocious affection for the press, wisely holding
that a literary life was one reserved only for the few, and, like
matrimony, not to be "taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly,"
he did not, as so many men in his place might have done, stamp ruthlessly
upon my aspirations or subject them to that cruel sarcasm which is so
killing to the ambitions of the young. This, it is true, was done by
another person in the same office--the manager; but, fortunately, that
gentleman was altogether so obnoxious to me for many reasons that his
special dislike of my literary bent, and the sneers with which he greeted
my early appearances in print, did not affect my purpose in the slightest
degree.

I could say much of those five years of my life spent in the W.B. Lead
Office, but I must not weary my readers with that which would be at best
a humdrum tale. My education went on apace. In the evenings I took
lessons at home, and during the day, when I was not otherwise engaged, I
had always a book or a pen in my hand. How high one's aspirations soar in
that season when everything seems possible to the unfledged soul! The
glory of Milton itself seemed hardly beyond attainment, and I nursed the
illusion that within me lay the potentiality of a new Scott, or Dickens,
or Thackeray. Happy, foolish dreams, from cherishing which no man has
ever been the worse! A hundred times I essayed to produce something
worthy of being printed. But the stories, the essays, and--save the
mark!--the poems I attempted had a knack of remaining unfinished, or,
when finished, were so obviously bad, even to my untrained judgment, that
they were promptly destroyed. When at last I did taste the fearful joys
of a first appearance in print, it was on a very humble stage. A great
controversy was raging in Newcastle in 1857 over the appointment of the
then vicar to another living in the town; an appointment that was
obnoxious not only because it was a clear case of pluralism, but because
the vicar himself belonged to the then unpopular High Church party. I
read the articles in the papers, and the letters in which my indignant
fellow-townsmen gave expression to their views, with keen interest, and
at last I was myself prompted to join in the fray. Having carefully
composed a letter to the editor of the _Northern Daily Express_,
which I signed "A Bedesman," I furtively dropped it into the letter-box
at the newspaper office, and tremblingly awaited the result.

I had not long to wait. The next morning, as I was on my way to the
office, I chanced upon a contents bill of the _Express_, and there,
with dazzled eyes, the testimony of which I could hardly believe, I read
the announcement that the paper of the day contained a letter by "A
Bedesman." And here I must make a humiliating confession. The price of
the paper was a penny, and at that particular moment I discovered that I
had not a penny in the world. My weekly pocket-money was sixpence, and it
generally went at one of the old bookstalls in the market before the week
was far advanced. But I could not face the day before me with the
dreadful uncertainty weighing upon my soul as to whether another person
might not have adopted the same signature as myself, and whether,
consequently, I might not be labouring under a fond delusion. I turned
and fled home (fortunately I always started for work in good time), and
asked my mother to lend me the penny I needed. In a broken whisper I
confided to her the fact that I believed there was really a letter of
mine in that morning's _Express_. I got my penny, and in a few
minutes I was feasting my eyes upon that sight--dearer than any other the
world can show to the young literary aspirant--my first printed
composition. I had then just entered my fifteenth year.

Not one writer in a thousand has stopped at a first book, and not one
newspaper contributor in a million has stopped at a first letter to the
editor. Like much better people, I had made the discovery that whilst my
opinions regarding the Genius of Shakespeare, the Art of Fiction, and the
Character of Cromwell were not wanted by anybody, there were some
questions cropping up, as it were, at my own door, about which I might,
if I liked, give an opinion that some persons at all events would think
worth printing. In short, I was enabled to see that though I could not
fly, I might at least walk. How eagerly I turned to profit the discovery
I had thus made need not be told here. For the moment my ambitious
designs were laid on one side. I no longer dreamed of an Epic that should
rival "Paradise Lost" or a novel that might outshine "Vanity Fair"; but I
prepared to discuss the local questions of the hour, the site of a post
office, the opening of a hospital, the grievance of some small public
official, with the zest which I had only felt hitherto when dealing with
the great literary and social problems, to the discussion of which my
untrained intelligence could contribute nothing of value. What I wrote on
such topics as those I have named I cannot pretend to remember; but there
must have been some little promise in my contributions to the
_Express_, for one memorable day, when I got home from work, my
father told me that he had received a visit from Mr. Marshall, the chief
proprietor of that paper, and that this visit closely concerned me. Mr.
Marshall had inquired as to my age and occupation, and having suggested
that my leaning towards journalism ought not to be repressed, had offered
to have me taught shorthand by the reporter of the _Express_.
Finally he had left with my father half a sovereign, which he desired me
to accept in payment of my various contributions to the paper. So, whilst
I was still a mere boy, not having as yet entered on my sixteenth year, I
found myself enrolled among the more or less irregular camp-followers of
journalism.

It was indeed a rapturous moment when I heard this news. If I had been
allowed, I would forthwith have thrown up my place at the W.B. Lead
office and taken service--even the humblest--on the Press. But on this
point my father was firm. I must stick to my proper work for the present,
though there could be no harm in my devoting my evenings to such study
and practice as might fit me for journalism hereafter. Not that he or my
mother desired to see me become a journalist. The Press--at all events in
provincial towns--in those days was the reverse of respectable in the
eyes of the world; and truly there was some reason for the low esteem in
which it was held. The ordinary reporter on a country paper was generally
illiterate, was too often intemperate, and was invariably ill-paid. Again
and again did my mother seek to check my eager yearning for a life on the
Press with the repetition of dismal stories dinned into her ears by
sympathising friends, who deplored the fact that her son should dream of
leaving so secure and respectable a position as a clerkship in the W.B.
Lead Office for the poor rewards and dubious respectability of a
newspaper career.

There was an old friend of my father's--Innes by name--who took it upon
himself to remonstrate with me. After exhorting me fervently for some
time, he sought to illustrate the dangers of the course on which I was
anxious to embark by a personal experience. "Thomas," he said solemnly
(and oh, how I hated to be called Thomas!), "I knew a laddie called
Forster. His father was a most respectable, decent man, that kept a
butcher's shop at the top o' the Side--a first-rate business; and this
laddie--his name was John--got just such notions into his head as ye
have; he was always reading and writing, and nothing would suit him but
to go to college instead of sticking to the shop. And at last he went
away to London, and his poor father died, and the business went all to
pieces, and I've never heard tell of that laddie from the day he went to
London until now. He's died of starvation, most likely, by this time."

"Why, Mr. Innes," I cried, "do you really mean to say that you have never
heard of Mr. Forster's books--his Life of Oliver Goldsmith and 'The
Arrest of the Five Members'? He's one of our great writers now, and if I
could only reach a position like his--" But this prospect was so dazzling
that it fairly took my breath away, and I lapsed into silence, delighted
to find that my old friend's "awful example" should have been a man in
whose footsteps I most ardently desired to tread.

As I have mentioned the opposition which my parents offered to my design
to become a journalist, it is only right that I should say that if it had
not been for the atmosphere in which I lived at home, the accomplishment
of that design would never have become possible. Ours was a home of
narrow and stinted means, but of wide and generous sympathies. We
children learned from the example of our dear father and mother to look
beyond ourselves and our own small interests upon the battle of life as
it was being fought in the world at large. If our table was of the
plainest, there were always books and newspapers in the house, and they
were not there for show. My mother had a genuine taste for literature,
and a judgment which, if not infallible, was at least sound. Many a time
would we discuss together the books we were reading. They were not, as a
rule, hot from the Press; but why should they have been, in the case of a
boy with all the literary treasures of the world still untasted? My
father leaned, as was natural, to the more serious side of literature;
but he had a keen interest in public affairs, and he brought to their
study a sagacious and well-informed mind. Whilst the spirit in which both
he and my mother viewed life and the problems which it daily presented to
them was that of a pure and lofty Puritanism, it was broadened and
softened, more particularly in the case of my father, by the gentleness
and liberality of their own characters. So it was in an atmosphere of
culture and liberal thought that I lived my life in those days both at
home and at the W.B. Lead Office.

The _Northern Daily Express_ was a penny newspaper which laid claim
to be the first provincial daily published at that price. The claim has,
I believe, been disputed by Mr. Justin McCarthy, who claims the honour
for a Liverpool journal with which he was himself at one time connected.
But whether first or second, it is certain that the _Express_ was
very early in the field. It had been started at Darlington in 1855 by a
gentleman named Watson. A year later it was transferred to Newcastle, and
it was in the _Express_ office that I first became acquainted with
actual newspaper work. A very curious place was that office when I first
knew it. It consisted simply of two rooms and two cellars in a house in
West Clayton Street. One of the rooms was devoted to the compositors who
set the little sheet; the other was by day the counting-house and the
place where the papers were sold and advertisements received, whilst at
night it became the editorial office--the editor, sub-editor, and
reporters all working together here at the desks occupied by the clerks
during the day. I ought, perhaps, to explain that the staff was not quite
so large as my description of it might lead people to suppose. The
sub-editor, for instance, doubled his part and acted as reporter also.
Still, it was a tight fit in that little room in West Clayton Street when
I went there of an evening to write some paragraph or letter for the next
morning's paper. In the cellars was the machine on which the
_Express_ was printed, and the stock of paper.

In one respect, the _Express_ was better equipped than is many a
pretentious journal of to-day. Its editor--Manson by name--was a man of
remarkable ability, and his carefully-prepared leading articles were
certainly second to none in the newspaper press of his day. This is a
strong saying, but my reader will not think it unjustified when he hears
that Manson's services had been eagerly sought for by more than one
London newspaper, including the _Times_. He was a man of real
genius, but, unfortunately, not without the defects of his qualities. In
my young eyes he was a marvel, and almost an idol. To sit beside him, as
I sometimes did, whilst he forged the thunderbolts which produced so
great an effect upon the opinion of the town, was to me a joy almost too
great for words. I would sit and watch the untiring hand moving across
the slips of blue paper with a mind filled with the awe and reverence
with which a pupil of Michael Angelo might have watched the master at
work. I had at last got my foot on the first rung of the ladder, and my
soul was filled with absolute content. True, my days were given to the
W.B. Lead Office; but seldom did an evening come round without finding
me, on one pretext or another, in the house in West Clayton Street.
Indeed, I had now become almost a recognised member of the staff, and my
little contributions in the shape of paragraphs, letters, and the
inevitable verses appeared almost daily.

I had been trying to teach myself shorthand, and had made some progress
with Pitman's system of phonography; but now, thanks to the kindness of
Mr. Marshall, I secured the services of a first-rate teacher, and soon
made rapid progress in that difficult art. My teacher was Mr. Lowes, an
admirable shorthand writer, who wrote a system of his own. To Mr. Lowes,
phonography appeared to be the chief evil afflicting mankind. What little
things divide the world! In my teacher's opinion it was divided into
phonographers and stenographers, and never did the schoolmen of old show
more bitterness in maintaining their own shibboleths than did Lowes in
asserting the superiority of his system to that of Mr. Pitman--an opinion
which I need scarcely say was not shared by the world.

Lowes was a good fellow, and a most kind and patient teacher. Under his
guidance I soon acquired a certain amount of facility in ordinary
press-work. Contributions to _Chambers's Journal_, the _Leisure
Hour_, and one or two minor religious magazines, gave me as the years
passed an opportunity of addressing a wider audience than the readers of
the _Express_, and though I had as many misfortunes and
disappointments as most young writers, I stuck steadily to my task, and
bit by bit strengthened my position in the world of journalism.

There were other fields of activity, besides the press, that I
assiduously cultivated. For example, in the plenitude of my wisdom, at
the age of seventeen I founded an institution in the west end of
Newcastle, not far from my father's church. I called it the "West End
Literary Institute," and truly it was designed upon a most ambitious
scale. When I recall the way in which I begged money from all and sundry
among my friends for the purpose of starting the institute, and the
manner in which I pestered distinguished authors for presentation copies
of their books, in order to furnish the shelves of the library, I am
driven to the painful conclusion that I must have been a terrible person
in the days of my youth, and something of a prig to boot. Apropos of the
begging for books as free gifts from authors, I had one or two amusing
experiences. Among those whom I importuned in this impertinent way were
Charles Kingsley, and the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Longley.
Kingsley replied to my request in a manner that was as sensible as it was
severe, bluntly telling me that he was a poor man who wrote books in
order to get money, and who could not afford to give them away. I have
written books myself since then, and have had many an application as
unreasonable as that which I addressed to the author of "Alton Locke."
This fact, perhaps, explains my entire approval of the snubbing which
that distinguished man administered to me.

Very different, however, was the response of the Archbishop of
Canterbury. It was a courteous and dignified epistle, expressing his
pleasure at being able to comply with my request, and fifteen handsome
octavo volumes of sermons were forthwith forwarded to me from Hatchard's.
I had other similar experiences, and the result was that when my library
was thrown open to the public the amount of theology which it contained
far outweighed every other department of literature. However, people came
to my reading-room, and I was fortunately able to provide them with other
entertainment besides the reading of old sermons. I started a course of
lectures and readings. I blush to say that I distinguished myself one
evening by reading the play of _Macbeth_ to an unhappy audience of
bored victims. Heaven forgive me! I carried on my West End Institute for
some years, started a flourishing penny bank in connection with it, and
formed numerous acquaintances among the more intelligent artisans of the
district; but at last the building was wanted for an extension of the
Sunday schools connected with my father's congregation, and the little
performance came to an end. I trust it had not made me an incurable prig,
but I fear that it did not do anybody very much good; though, perhaps, it
kept some out of mischief.

No account of Newcastle at this period (1850-60) would be complete
without some reference to one of its most notable inhabitants, Mr. Joseph
Cowen, commonly known at that time to his fellow-townsmen as "Joe." Mr.
Cowen's subsequent career in Parliament, brief though it was, gained for
him a reputation for eloquence hardly inferior to that enjoyed by the
most illustrious of his contemporaries. But in those early days of my
youth it was not his eloquence but his advanced opinions about which his
fellow-townsmen thought most. He openly professed to be a Republican, in
theory at all events, and all his sympathies were engaged on the side of
the oppressed nationalities of Europe. A man of culture, of commanding
abilities, and of considerable wealth, he lived by choice in the plainest
fashion, delighting to be known as one of the people. He dressed at all
times in the kind of suit which a Northumbrian pitman wears when not
actually at work. Years afterwards, when he had just thrilled all England
by a great speech in the House of Commons on the subject of Russian
oppression, I chanced to meet him one day in Pall Mall, and, stopping to
talk to him, was amused to see the glances of curiosity which were cast
at the strangely attired man who had found his way to that fashionable
thoroughfare.

Nor was it only in his dress that he affected a likeness to the
working-men of Tyneside. In his speech he exaggerated the burr of the
Newcastle tongue. Most of us were anxious to get rid of that undesirable
distinction. Mr. Cowen clung to it as one of the most precious of his
possessions. He had to pay for this piece of affectation in later life,
when he became a figure in the House of Commons. His first notable speech
in that assembly was on the Royal Titles Bill of Mr. Disraeli. It was a
very brilliant performance, greatly admired by those who were able to
appreciate it. But, unfortunately, it was not understood by everybody.
The day after it was delivered, Mr. Disraeli was questioned at a
dinner-party by a lady, who asked him what he thought of the new orator
whose presence had been revealed to the House. "I'm sorry I can't answer
your question," said the Prime Minister. "It is true that a gentleman,
whom I had never seen before, got up on the Opposition side and made a
speech which seemed to excite great enthusiasm in a certain part of the
House; but, unfortunately, he spoke in a language I had never heard, and
I haven't the slightest idea in the world what he said."

But in the days of which I am now writing Mr. Cowen was still a long way
from the House of Commons. His fame, however, was even then of no common
kind. He was known throughout Europe as a man willing to befriend, not
merely with speech and pen, but with purse, every victim of political
oppression. By the despotic Governments of the Continent he was held in
feverish hatred, and at one time his modest house at Blaydon Burn was
regularly watched by French, Russian, and Austrian spies; nor was it
without good reason that the tyrants of Europe saw in him their natural
enemy. Under his roof many of the most eminent refugees from the
countries I have named and from Italy found a welcome shelter, and in one
room in that house was a small printing press on which thousands of
revolutionary proclamations in all the languages of Europe had been
printed. Mazzini, Garibaldi, Kossuth, Felice Orsini, and scores of other
notable revolutionaries whose names I forget, were his friends and
guests, and through his influence a large party of us in Newcastle were
led to take almost as warm an interest in political affairs on the
Continent as in the movements of parties at home. Again and again in
those days, when France was crushed under the heel of the Second Empire,
when Poland was vainly writhing in her cruel bonds, when Hungary was
filled with the spirit of rebellion, and when the people of Italy were
taking their first steps by the intricate paths of conspiracy and
insurrection towards unity and freedom, Joe Cowen would find some excuse
for summoning a public meeting in the old Lecture Room, Nelson Street, in
order that we might listen to some patriot exile as he told the story of
his country's wrongs, or give expression to our own detestation of the
despotism which at that time weighed upon Europe, from the banks of the
Seine to those of the Volga.

No impressionable youth could fail to be affected by such an influence as
this, and if in those days I shrank from Mr. Cowen's views on home
politics as being too advanced, I was one of the most enthusiastic of his
adherents in his self-appointed mission against the tyrannies of the
Continent. How well do I remember some of the faces and figures of Mr.
Cowen's friends and guests! I can still see Kossuth with his grey hair
and wrinkled brow, and Mazzini with his melancholy eyes and handsome
face; I can still hear the tones of Louis Blanc as he stands on the
platform of the lecture room and talks to us in excellent English of the
epoch of the Great Revolution. But the one man whose face and figure
dwell most vividly in my recollection is Orsini, the great Italian who,
after a lifetime spent in the attempt to deliver Tuscany and Lombardy
from the yoke of the tyrant, died under the guillotine in Paris, and by
his death secured for Italy her long-sought freedom. Orsini came to
Newcastle shortly after his escape from an Austrian dungeon at Mantua,
and addressed a great meeting in the Lecture Room. He spoke English
fairly well; but it was the appearance of the man, and the knowledge of
all that he had suffered in the struggle for Italian freedom, that
appealed to one more eloquently than his words. Never had I seen any man
whose appearance equalled that of this Italian martyr who died as an
assassin. His features were almost faultless, whilst his jet-black hair
set off the lustrous pallor of his complexion with extraordinary
effectiveness. Attired in fashionable evening dress, his hands encased in
white kid gloves, and a smile, gentle rather than pathetic, lighting up
his beautiful face, he looked the last man in the world whom one would
naturally associate with desperate deeds. Yet, not many weeks after I had
grasped his hand, he had brought about the terrible attempt upon the life
of the Emperor Napoleon, when the latter was driving through the Rue
Lepelletier, Paris, by which many innocent persons perished, and was
himself lying in prison under sentence of death. Mr. Cowen once told me
that it was he who provided the funds for carrying out Orsini's plot
against Louis Napoleon's life, but he did so in absolute ignorance of the
fact that this was the purpose to which the money was to be appropriated.
He understood that it was wanted for the equipment of another
insurrectionary expedition against the Austrians in Italy, and he
willingly subscribed the amount asked for.

As for Orsini, he met his death like a hero; but it is well known that
before dying he succeeded, as a leading member of the Carbonari, in
extracting from the French Emperor, who had himself belonged to that
society, a promise that he would free Italy from Austrian oppression. By
giving that promise, Louis Napoleon was delivered from the fear of
violent death at the hands of the Carbonari, whilst his fulfilment of it
in the war of 1859 gave Italy her first great step towards unity and
freedom. Even the romantic page of history has never recorded a more
notable transaction than that which thus took place in a condemned cell
between an assassin lying under sentence of death and a reigning Emperor;
nor would it be possible to denounce regicide so absolutely as most of us
do if there were many instances in which it had proved so successful as
it did in the case of Orsini.

I have dwelt at undue length on an episode which my readers probably
think altogether outside the scope of this narrative, but it does not lie
quite so far apart from it as they may imagine. It was my association as
a boy with Mr. Cowen's enthusiastic assertion of the rights of oppressed
nationalities, and the stirring of my spirit which necessarily resulted
from contact, however slight, with men like Kossuth and Orsini, that
first made me a real Liberal in politics.

As I have mentioned the Lecture Room--a dismal, stuffy, ill-lighted
little theatre--I may refer to two meetings unconnected with foreign
politics which I remember in it. One was in 1857, when the Dissenters of
Newcastle had revolted against the domination of the Whig clique, and at
the general election had set up a candidate of their own. They had great
difficulty in finding one, for they required a man who would pay his own
expenses (in those days a very serious item), and the chance of success
was by no means brilliant. At last, however, they secured a rich retired
Bombay merchant, and he came down to Newcastle forthwith to address his
first meeting. The Lecture Room was crowded with enthusiastic
Nonconformists, and these were the words with which the unhappy candidate
began his speech: "Gentlemen, four-and-twenty hours ago, if anybody had
asked me where Newcastle-on-Tyne was, I could not have told them." This,
to an audience full of the local pride which possessed the soul of every
genuine Newcastle man! I need hardly say that, having ascertained where
Newcastle was, Mr. C. speedily departed from it, amid a storm of
indignation, never again to be seen in its streets.

More vivid still is my recollection of the Lecture Room on the occasion
when Thackeray delivered his lectures on the Four Georges to an audience
more select than numerous. I was at the age when, as the author of
"Vanity Fair" himself has said, "to behold Brown, the author of the last
romance, in the flesh, is a joy and a delight." Anybody who had written a
book seemed to me to be a hero; what was it then to see and to hear the
literary idol of my youth? Thackeray, with his tall figure, his silvery
hair, his upturned face, expressive and striking, though by no means
beautiful, seemed to me as I sat on my bench and listened to him to be
nothing less than one of the gods. He was an admirable lecturer; his
voice was musical and clear, his pronunciation singularly distinct and
accurate, and the little touches of sarcasm and humour which he conveyed
to his audience by a tone or an inflection, quite inimitable. I heard, as
I sat listening to his lecture on George the Third--by far the best of
the series--someone near me yawn, and my soul was filled with horror at
what I thought nothing less than an act of sacrilege. I never saw the
great novelist except on the occasion of his visit to Newcastle, but to
the end of my days it will be a delight thus to have beheld him in the
flesh. Dickens I heard read several times, though never in the Lecture
Room; yet I cannot say that any of his readings made upon me the
impression produced by Thackeray's lectures. The actor and the arts of
the popular entertainer were too plainly visible in all that he did, and
I received something like a shock when, having written an enthusiastic
but juvenile panegyric upon him on the occasion of one of his visits to
Newcastle, I learned that he had sent his secretary to buy a dozen copies
of the paper to send to his friends. That so great a man should have
thought a mere newspaper effusion worth noticing seemed to me altogether
incredible. The reader may smile at the confession, but I own I never
thought quite so much of Dickens, as a man, after this incident. This
only shows how high was the pedestal upon which I had placed him, and how
slight was my knowledge of human nature.



CHAPTER III.

MY LIFE-WORK BEGUN.

On the Staff of the _Newcastle Journal_--In a Dilemma--Lord John
Russell and Mr. Gladstone at Newcastle-upon-Tyne--Mr. Gladstone's
Triumphal Progress--A Memorable Colliery Disaster--A Pit-Sinker's
Heroism--Adventure at a Dickens Reading.


At last my term of probation came to an end. My friend and teacher, Mr.
Lowes, after a temporary absence from Newcastle, had returned to it to
undertake the editorship of the _Newcastle Journal_, a weekly Tory
newspaper which was about to appear in a daily edition. We had kept up
our friendship, and to my intense delight he offered me the post of chief
reporter on the daily paper. This was in the spring of 1861. My father
had come, reluctantly enough, to the conclusion that I must be allowed to
go my own way, and accordingly, on July 1st in that year, I entered on my
career as a professional journalist. On the previous day I had said
good-bye to the W.B. Lead Office, and to Mr. Fothergill, whose kindly
interest in my fortunes had never wavered, and whose own literary tastes
and sympathies led him at last to look with something like approval on
the step I was taking. Never was a young subaltern prouder of his first
commission than was I of an appointment which gave me a recognised
standing, however humble, on the English Press.

Nor was I without substantial reason for my delight at the change in my
lot. My work at the W.B. Lead Office had been light enough in all
conscience; but the drudgery of official routine, the strict keeping of
office hours, and the monotony which made one day the counterpart of any
other, were no more to my liking than they are to the liking of anyone
who is young and high-spirited. All this was now at an end. No special
hours had to be kept, and no two days were the same. Instead of the four
walls of my office, I now had the whole of the northern counties as my
sphere of work. To this hour I remember the delight with which on my
second morning at the _Journal_ office I set off, in company with
the reporters of the _Chronicle_ and the _Express_, to report
the Quarter Sessions at Hexham. A poor task no doubt it was, but it
involved a journey up the beautiful Tyne valley, and a glimpse of the old
abbey town; it meant, in short, the change from a life of drudgery to one
of adventure, and that morning I felt that I had recovered my lost youth.

But enough of my own feelings. The readiness with which I adapted myself
to my new surroundings, the zest with which I entered into the
friendships of my new comrades, certainly indicated that I had something,
at all events, of the Bohemian in my nature. Of the public events of that
year, 1861, there is comparatively little to be said. I remember, indeed,
that I happened to be acting for the first time as sub-editor in the
temporary absence of my friend, Mr. Lowes, when I received a telegram
announcing that the first shot had been fired in the American War. Some
two or three months later Newcastle was favoured with a visit from Lord
John Russell, who had recently accepted an earldom. He was entertained at
a great banquet in the Town Hall, whereat all the Whig notabilities of
the North of England assembled to do him honour. Now, in my days,
provincial reporters were an unsophisticated race. To a young journalist,
living in Newcastle, the journalism of London seemed so remote and
unattainable that it might as well have been in another planet. The sight
of a reporter for one of the London dailies was awe-inspiring, and the
notion of being called upon to work in the company of so august a being
almost took one's breath away.

It fell out that at the Russell banquet it was arranged that his speech
should be reported in short "turns" by the whole body of reporters
present. This is an arrangement now, I believe, in universal use, the
object being to get the report out quickly. But in 1861 it was almost
unknown on the provincial press, and this was my first experience of it.
Perhaps I was unnerved by the presence of a couple of _Times_
reporters, or perhaps my knowledge of shorthand was not then all that it
should have been. Be this as it may, I have to confess with regret that
in reporting my turn of the great statesman's speech I made one woeful
blunder. Lord Russell said (I quote from memory) that we saw now in the
New World that which had so often been seen in the Old--a struggle on the
one side for empire and on the other for independence. Now in the system
of shorthand which I had learned, the word "independence" is represented
by an arbitrary symbol, consisting of two dots, one above the other, like
a colon. When I came to write out my turn, I found to my horror that the
signification of this particular symbol had escaped my memory. There it
was, staring me in the face from my note-book, but what it meant for my
very life I could not at the moment tell. And the telegraph messengers
were pestering me for my copy, and, worst of all, the reporters from
London seemed to my guilty conscience to be eyeing me askance, and
wondering what the delay meant. In a desperate moment I made a guess, not
at the meaning of my symbol, but at some word which might take its place,
and possibly pass unnoticed; so I represented Lord Russell as having said
that we saw in the New World, what we had often seen in the old, a
struggle on the one side for empire, and on the other for power. If it
did not make absolute nonsense of the speaker's words, it certainly
robbed them of all their point and meaning, and yet history is based upon
blunders like this. And years afterwards I saw in a certain volume this
mutilated sentence printed as Lord Russell's judgment upon the causes of
the great rebellion. Never did anybody feel more ashamed of himself than
I did at that time, and never again was I caught in a similar dilemma.

Newcastle was very fond in those days of entertaining the distinguished
stranger. Lord Russell's visit in 1861 had been such a success that
twelve months later the Liberals of the town resolved to invite Mr.
Gladstone to be their guest. Mr. Gladstone was at that time Chancellor of
the Exchequer. It was not very long since he had ceased to be a
Conservative; but already he had incurred the suspicions of a section of
the Liberal Party, and the old Whigs of Northumberland would have nothing
to do with his visit to the Tyne. But Mr. Gladstone did not need the
sympathy or countenance of the Brahmins of Liberalism. He came, he was
seen, and he conquered. Rarely have I seen anything to compare with the
enthusiasm which fired the people of Tyneside during the two days he
spent amongst them in October, 1862. I have said elsewhere that this
visit was one of the turning-points in Mr. Gladstone's life. He himself
practically acknowledged this to me in after-days. It was the first
occasion in his career on which he had been brought into close contact
with a great industrial community. It was the first time that he was
treated as the popular idol by an overwhelming multitude of his fellow
men. On the first day of his visit he was entertained at a banquet in the
Town Hall, and it was in his speech after dinner that he made one of the
notable mistakes of his great career. The Civil War in America, to which
Lord Russell had alluded twelve months before, was still raging. I need
hardly say that the sympathies of the upper classes were enthusiastically
with the South. The names of the public men of eminence who favoured the
North might have been counted upon one's fingers. Mr. Gladstone believed
in the cause of the Confederates, and in this speech at Newcastle he
declared that Jefferson Davis had created not merely an army and a navy,
but a nation. The speech caused a great sensation. Naturally enough, it
aroused bitter indignation on the other side of the Atlantic, whilst the
sympathisers with the North in this country felt deeply aggrieved by it.
In subsequent years Mr. Gladstone publicly made amends to the great
Republic for his error of judgment, but it was a long time before he was
allowed to forget it.

I had no misadventure in reporting this memorable speech. It was the
first occasion on which I had ever heard Mr. Gladstone speak, and it is
even fresher in my recollection than my last sight of him shortly before
his death. I can recall his tall, upright figure, the handsome, open
countenance, as mobile as an actor's, the flashing eye that in moments of
passion lit up so wonderfully, the crop of waving brown-black hair. I
have seldom seen a finer-looking man. I hear once again the beautiful
voice, so sonorous, so varied in tone, so emphatic in accent. To the boy
of twenty a first sight of this great historic figure was a revelation.
He seemed different from everybody else, almost a being from another
world. I suppose that my admiration of Mr. Gladstone, which some have
considered idolatrous, is to be dated from that hour. Thirty years
afterwards I still regarded him as my political leader, and as the chief
of men.

On the second day of his visit to Newcastle, Mr. Gladstone, as the guest
of the River Tyne Commissioners, steamed down the Tyne from Newcastle to
its mouth. His progress was like that of a conqueror returning from the
wars. The firing of cannon, the waving of flags, the cheering of
thousands, acclaimed his passage down the coaly stream. An immense train
of steamers and barges, all gaily decorated, followed in his wake. At
different points of the journey his steamer was brought to a standstill,
in order that addresses of welcome might be presented to him by different
public bodies. He made speeches without end in reply. I think I reported
eight of them myself. It was evident that he was deeply impressed by this
demonstration, and I have always held that it was on that fateful day in
October, 1862, that he discovered that his unpopularity with the upper
classes was more than counterbalanced by his hold upon the affections of
the people. As we were returning to Newcastle in the evening, I happened
to be standing near Mrs. Gladstone, and she entered into conversation
with me. It was the first time that I had ever seen her. "I think this
has been the happiest day of my life," she said to me, with that
exuberant enthusiasm in the cause of her illustrious husband which was
one of the sweetest and noblest traits of her character. Exactly twenty
years later, on October 8th, 1882, I sat beside Mrs. Gladstone at dinner
at Leeds, where the Prime Minister had just been making a series of
memorable speeches, and had received a welcome which even surpassed that
at Newcastle in 1862. I recalled our meeting on the steamboat twenty
years before, and her face kindled with an expression of delight. "Ah,"
she said, "I shall never forget that day! It was the first time, you
know, that _he_ was received as he deserved to be."

My reporting experiences at Newcastle were as varied as those of most
journalists. One day I would be listening to a bishop's charge; the next,
in some beautiful spot in the valley of the North Tyne, I would be
professing to criticise shorthorns at a cattle show, and on the third day
it might be my misfortune to have to be present at an execution. Colliery
accidents, boat races (for which the Tyne has long been famous),
performances at the theatre--all these came within the scope of my duty.
It was admirable training, and has turned out many a good journalist.
Always to be on the alert, so that no important item of news should be
missed by my paper; always to be ready to reel off a column of readable
"copy" on any subject whatever; always to be prepared for any duty that
might turn up--these were among the necessary qualifications for my post.
Then, as the _Journal_ was short-handed, it sometimes fell to my lot
to undertake tasks which usually lie outside the reporter's sphere.
Sometimes I had to take a turn at sub-editing, and sometimes I had even
to write a leader. My first attempt at leader-writing for the
_Journal_ was on a momentous occasion--the death of the Prince
Consort. This was an event which for a time lightened my duties
considerably. All public festivities were suspended; meetings of every
kind were put off, and for a space of some weeks the country was spared
the infliction of reading reports of speeches.

It was just about a month after the death of the Prince Consort that the
most notable incident connected with my career as a reporter at Newcastle
occurred. This was the terrible disaster at the Hartley New Pit, a
colliery some fifteen miles from Newcastle, near the bleak Northumberland
coast. The accident was of a peculiar character, and it excited an
extraordinary amount of public interest. Up to that time it had been
lawful to work coal mines with a single shaft, so that there was only one
possible mode of egress for the men at work in the pit. Hartley was one
of these single shaft collieries, and on the morning of Thursday, January
17th, 1862, more than two hundred men and boys were suddenly made
prisoners in the workings by the blocking of this shaft. The beam of a
pumping engine erected directly over the mouth of the pit broke, and one
half of the beam--a piece of metal weighing some fifteen tons--fell down
the shaft. It tore down the sides in its descent, and finally lodged at a
point above the seam in which the men were working, with an immense mass
of _débris_ from the shaft walls piled above it.

The suspense of the relatives of the buried men and boys was terrible,
and the whole civilised world seemed to share their emotion. After the
accident had occurred, signals had been exchanged between the buried men
and those at the surface, but none could tell how long the former might
be able to sustain life in the vitiated atmosphere of the mine, when
ventilation was no longer possible. I reached Hartley a few hours after
the breaking of the beam, and in the hand-to-hand encounter with death at
that forlorn and desolate spot I first became acquainted at close
quarters with the tragic realities of life. For a full week in that
bitter January weather I may be said to have lived on the pit platform.
From ten in the morning till long after midnight I remained there,
writing hourly despatches for my paper; then I drove to Newcastle, a
cold, dark journey of a couple of hours, and scribbled my latest bulletin
at the _Journal_ office. This done, I lay down on a pile of
newspapers in the rat-haunted office, and snatched a few hours' sleep
before returning to the post of duty. But some nights it was impossible
to leave the mouth of the pit even for a moment, for none could tell when
the captives might be reached; so I sat with the doctors, the mining
engineers, and one or two colleagues before the fire which gave us a
partial warmth, though it did not shield us from the pitiless winds and
the drifting sleet and snow, which often effaced my "copy" more quickly
than I wrote it. It was a time of hardship and endurance, not soon to be
forgotten; but it was also a time which tested to the full the
capacities, both mental and physical, of the journalist, and I at least
derived nothing but benefit from that rough experience.

For a full week the work of re-opening the shaft went on by night and
day, and there were wives and parents who during all that week hardly
left the neighbourhood of the pit for a single hour. The task of
re-opening the shaft was one of extreme peril. The men had to be lowered
to their work at the end of a rope in which a loop had been made, which
was secured round their bodies. The two chief dangers they had to face
were the continual falling in of the sides of the shaft and the presence
of noxious gases. They never flinched, however, and I witnessed on that
dreary pit platform at Hartley that which I have always considered the
bravest deed I ever saw. I and a handful of watchers were dozing round
the open fire in the early hours of a bitter winter morning, just one
week after the accident had happened, when we were suddenly aroused by an
urgent signal from the shaft, evidently coming from the men working far
below. We thought that the imprisoned miners had been reached, and
eagerly we waited till the first messenger was brought to the surface.
Alas! when he was raised to the mouth of the shaft we saw that he was one
of the sinkers, and was unconscious--apparently, indeed, dead. Whilst the
doctor in attendance was seeking to restore him, other men were brought
up, nearly all in the same condition, until the whole of the sinkers who
had been engaged in their perilous task of mercy were laid in a row,
pallid and unconscious, at our feet. The truth was at once apparent. The
obstacle which had so long blocked the shaft had at last been removed,
but a deadly gas--carbon dioxide--had at once ascended from the
long-sealed workings, and we knew that the men we had been trying to save
must be beyond the reach of help.

One of the sinkers who lay insensible on the platform was the son of the
master-sinker, Coulson by name. I saw Coulson, when he realised what had
happened, stoop down and kiss the unconscious lips of his son, and then,
without a word or a sign of hesitation, he calmly took his place in the
loop, and ordered the attendants to lower him into the pit. None dared
say him nay, for there was still a last faint possibility that some one
among the imprisoned miners might yet be alive. But it seemed to us on
the pit-heap that the brave old man was going to certain death, and we
never expected to see him alive again when he vanished from our sight. He
did come back alive, however, and brought with him the terrible story of
what he had seen. All the two hundred imprisoned colliers were dead. They
were found sitting in long rows in the workings adjoining the shaft. Most
had their heads buried in their hands, but here and there friends sat
with intertwined arms, whilst fathers whose boys were working with them
in the pit were in every case found with their lads clasped in their
arms. They had all died very peacefully, and certainly not more than
forty-eight hours after the closing of the shaft. One of the over-men had
kept a diary of events. It told how some had succumbed to the fatal
atmosphere before others, and how, in the depths of the mine, a
prayer-meeting had been held, and "Brother Tibbs" had "exhorted" his
fellow-sufferers. There was something noble in this peaceful ending of a
life of toil and danger. It affected the whole country profoundly. It
drew from the Queen, who herself had been but a few weeks a widow, a
letter of sympathy which touched the heart of the nation. A subscription
was raised for the widows and orphans on so liberal a scale that all
their wants were more than provided for. I had myself the pleasure of
starting a subscription for Coulson and his heroic fellow-workers in the
shaft, which realised a handsome sum; and I was present in the Town Hall
at Newcastle when they were decorated with the medals they deserved so
well.

Incidentally, this great disaster affected my own career. My accounts,
written at the pit mouth from day to day, had been widely quoted and read
throughout the country, and it was desired that I should reprint them.
They were accordingly republished for the benefit of the fund raised for
the sinkers, and had a large sale. As my name appeared on the reprint, it
gave me a certain passing renown in journalistic circles, and materially
aided me in my future professional life.

Charles Dickens, as I have already mentioned, came to Newcastle to read
from his works during my reportership on the _Journal_. I was, of
course, an enthusiastic admirer of his, though, as I have said, Thackeray
was my chief hero as a novelist. I have already spoken of the boyish
eulogium which I wrote upon Dickens in anticipation of his visit.

The evening of his first reading was marked by an incident which nearly
cut short my career. The hall where he was to read was full to the door
when I arrived. With three ladies--who, like myself, had come too late--I
was in danger of being excluded. A form was, however, brought in, and
placed directly beneath the platform, so close to it that we had to
incline our heads at an uncomfortable angle in order to see the reader's
face. Suddenly, before the reading had proceeded very far, the heavy
proscenium, which Dickens always carried about with him for the purpose
of his readings, fell with a crash over me and the three ladies on the
form. We were so near that the top of the proscenium happily fell beyond
us, and we escaped with a severe fright. Years afterwards I was amused to
read, in one of the published letters of Dickens to his sister-in-law, an
account of this accident, in which the novelist told how his gasman had
said afterwards: "The master stood it like a brick." But it was not upon
the master, but upon me and the three ladies that that terrible
proscenium suddenly descended.



CHAPTER IV.

FROM REPORTER TO EDITOR.

First Visit to London--The Capital in 1862--Acquaintance with
Sothern--Bursting of the Bradfield Reservoir--Attendance at Public
Executions and at Floggings--Assuming the Editorship of the _Preston
Guardian_--Political and Literary Influences--Great Speeches by
Gladstone and Bright--Bright's Contempt for Palmerston--Robertson
Gladstone Defends his Brother--Death of Abraham Lincoln--Meeting with his
Granddaughter.


My first visit to London was on the occasion of the opening of the
International Exhibition of 1862. The abominable system of Parliamentary
trains, which made it necessary that the third-class passenger should
rise in the middle of the night if he had to make a journey of any
length, was then in force. I had, therefore, to start at five o'clock in
the morning in order that I might reach London in the evening. I can
still recall some of the emotions of that journey. London was to me the
city of all cities--the one great goal of the journalist's ambition. I
took short views of life even then, but my secret hope, ever present to
my mind, was that I might some day attain a post in connection with the
London Press. As the crawling train came into the southern
counties--farther south than I had ever been in my life before--I
remember counting the milestones on the road, and suffering all the
emotions of the youth in "Locksley Hall" as he draws nearer to the
world's central point.

My first impression, when I found myself in the cab that was to carry me
to the Brompton Road, where lodgings had been engaged for me, was one of
bewilderment at the length of the streets. I had studied a plan of
London, and thought from it that I could, in case of need, find my way
easily on foot from King's Cross to Brompton. Now I discovered, to my
dismay, that streets which had seemed no longer than those with which I
was familiar at Newcastle stretched to a length that was apparently
interminable; whilst instead of one unbroken thoroughfare I was rattled
in my cab through squares and streets innumerable, the names of none of
which had I been able to read upon my plan. My next impression was one of
delight at the fidelity with which little bits of street scenery had been
portrayed by John Leech in _Punch_. In Newcastle we knew nothing of
the kitchen area and the portico. I was filled with joy when, in passing
through the Bloomsbury squares, I recognised, as I thought, the very
houses, porticoes, and areas that Leech had made the background for his
magnificent flunkeys and neat parlour-maids.

The streets of London were a good deal dingier and dirtier in 1862 than
they are to-day, and they were certainly vastly noisier. The wooden
pavement was unknown, and the roar of traffic in crowded thoroughfares
was positively deafening. The window-boxes filled with the flowers that
are now so common and so pretty a feature of the London summer were rare,
as also were the coloured awnings and outside blinds now almost universal
in the better-class of thoroughfares. Hyde Park was untidy and neglected,
flower-beds being practically unknown. The fine open space at Hyde Park
Corner did not exist, and Piccadilly Circus was a circus really, and one
of very narrow extent. But though far from possessing the magnificence of
which it can now boast, London forty years ago had certain advantages
over the city of to-day. There were no enormous piles of flats shutting
out air and light from the streets, where both are so much needed. Few of
the houses were more than four storeys in height, and the irregular
architecture which then prevailed in Piccadilly--that most delightful of
all the streets of the world--added to its attractiveness. But I must not
be led into a digression upon London, a city so great and wonderful that
a volume might easily be filled with the story of the associations it
holds in my memory.

On the day after my arrival in town I was present at the State Opening of
the Great Exhibition of 1862, the second--and apparently the last--of the
international exhibitions held in London. Its interest was sensibly
diminished by the fact that, in consequence of the death of the Prince
Consort, neither the Queen nor any member of her family was present. The
Duke of Cambridge, then in the prime of his manhood, took the leading
part in the ceremony, and he had as his supporters Prince Frederick of
Prussia, afterwards the Emperor Frederick, and the Prince of Hesse. We
were not so clever in those days at arranging spectacles as we have since
become, and, shortly before the hour fixed for the opening ceremony, a
good deal of confusion still reigned upon the daïs set apart for the
official notabilities. I was amused to see Lord Granville, who was, if I
remember aright, chairman of the Royal Commissioners, broom in hand,
vigorously sweeping the carpet in front of the State chairs only a few
moments before he had to rush off to receive the Duke of Cambridge. My
most vivid recollection of the opening ceremony is the singing of
Tennyson's fine ode, composed for the occasion. I can still recall the
cadence of the first lines as they fell upon my ears.

A visit to the House of Commons, where I remember hearing speeches from
Lord Palmerston and Sir George Cornewall Lewis, and where I gazed with
longing eyes upon the occupants of the reporters' gallery, fills up my
memories of this first sight of London. I might, indeed, have included in
them some reference to Sothern, the actor, who was then at the height of
his glory in the famous part of Lord Dundreary. But it was at Newcastle,
not in London, that I actually made Sothern's acquaintance. No actor ever
made a single character so famous as this part of Dundreary was made by
Sothern. When he came to Newcastle on his first provincial tour I met
him, and spent some pleasant evenings with him after the play. He was a
man of refined speech and good social gifts. His besetting weakness, as I
learned even then, was that addiction to practical jokes which, on more
than one occasion in his subsequent career, involved him in unpleasant
situations. One of his favourite tricks was to select some portly and
self-important gentleman whom he saw passing along Piccadilly or Oxford
Street, and, rushing up to him, to claim him as his dearly loved but
long-lost uncle. The more strenuously the victim denied the relationship,
the more eloquently pathetic and indignant became Sothern. A crowd always
collected quickly, and more than once the police were summoned to relieve
the putative uncle from the presence of his unwelcome nephew.

Sothern told me that he was driven nearly mad during the long run of Lord
Dundreary--or, rather, _Our American Cousin_, as the play was
named--at the Haymarket. He found it almost impossible to repeat his own
jokes before a house in which he invariably recognised many familiar
faces. He was constantly driven to vary his "gag," in order to amuse
these veterans of the theatre, and it was in a large measure to escape
from them that he made his provincial tour. In one of his conversations
on the stage with the fair Georgina, who was endeavouring to entrap him
into marriage, he used sometimes, at the moment when the lady thought
that he was about to propose, to put a question of a very different kind:
"Can you wag your left ear?" I asked him one day what had made him invent
so ridiculous a question as this. "Because I _can_ wag my left ear,"
was his prompt response, and straightway I saw the organ in question
flapping about like a sail in a breeze. The Theatre Royal at Newcastle in
those days was under the management of Mr. E. D. Davis, a well-known
figure in the provincial theatrical world. It was before the days of
touring companies, and Mr. Davis was supported by an excellent body of
artists, including his brother and his son Alfred, as well as his niece
Emily Cross. I went to the theatre in the dignified capacity of dramatic
critic; but neither then, nor at any subsequent period of my life, did I
fall a victim to that passion for the drama to which so many Pressmen
succumb. Indeed, I have a lively recollection of incurring the
well-merited reproof of pretty Miss Cross for having engaged in one of
the stage boxes in a hot political discussion with another Newcastle
journalist, Mr. Joseph Cowen to wit. Yet it was at Newcastle that I had
my first and last association with dramatic authorship. One of the
Davises had written a play which he had called _Wild Flowers_. He
asked me to read the manuscript, and when I had done so I suggested that
it should be entitled _The Marriage Contract_, an emendation which
the author duly accepted.

My term of service on the Newcastle Press came to an end sooner than I
had anticipated. The chief feature of my reporting experiences in 1863
was the meeting of the British Association in my native town. There was
keen rivalry between the _Journal_ and the _Chronicle_--Mr.
Cowen's newspaper--with regard to the reporting of all local matters.
Unfortunately for me, the _Chronicle_ was a wealthy paper, and the
_Journal_ a very poor one. I had, therefore, to wage an unequal war
with my richer rival. A British Association meeting throws a heavy strain
upon the newspapers of the town in which it takes place. Half-a-dozen
sections meet every day, and all must be reported; whilst there are, in
addition, evening meetings and social functions, the story of which must
be told from day to day. Sir William Armstrong, then just coming into
fame as a maker of guns, though long known to Newcastle as a great
mechanical engineer and the inventor of the hydraulic crane, was the
president of the meeting. This added to the pride which the people of
Newcastle felt in the fact that their town had been chosen for the scene
of so distinguished a gathering. In those days local patriotism ran very
high in the old town. We were intensely provincial, and our favourite
belief was that Newcastle stood unrivalled among the cities of the earth.
When any distinguished stranger came amongst us--as, for example, Mr.
Gladstone, on the occasion to which I have already referred--we washed
our face, and put on our best clothes in order to impress the visitor. We
had something of the perfervid nature of the Scot in our characters, and
rose to extraordinary heights of enthusiasm on very indifferent pretexts.
It followed that when we had so distinguished a body as the British
Association to receive as our guests, and when we had furnished in one of
our own citizens the president of the meeting, we almost went out of our
minds in our exultant delight. I do not know if Newcastle is still
capable of these transports of enthusiasm. I rather think that the local
patriotism which distinguished so many of our cities fifty years ago is
now, in these days of incessant intercommunication, merged in the larger
patriotism of the nation. Be this as it may, I must explain that my
dissertation on the manner in which Newcastle received the British
Association in 1863 is merely intended to account for the fact that, as a
result of that meeting, I suffered from a serious illness, brought on by
anxiety and overwork. I found that reporting, when you had to compete
with a formidable rival possessing a staff three times as large as your
own, was laborious, as well as exciting; and having a desire to attempt
literary work upon a higher level, I gave up my position as a reporter,
and adopted instead the vocation of a leader-writer.

My last bit of work as a reporter for the _Newcastle Journal_ was in
describing the accident which happened at Bradfield, near Sheffield, in
the spring of 1864. The dam of the great reservoir from which Sheffield
drew its water supply burst, and a torrent of water, many feet in depth,
and nearly a quarter of a mile in width, suddenly rushed down a narrow
valley, and flooded the lower part of Sheffield. The tragic occurrence
was subsequently described by Charles Reade in his novel, "Put Yourself
in His Place." Reade was not an eye-witness of the scene that was
presented after the flood had spent its force, but I can bear testimony
to the fact that he described it accurately. Certainly it was a wonderful
and terrible sight that was presented when I visited the place a few
hours after the bursting of the dam. The streets of Sheffield were
ploughed up to the depth of many feet; lamp-posts were twisted like wire,
and many houses either stood tottering with one of their sides clean
swept away, or lay a mere heap of ruins. Hundreds of lives were lost. A
great battle could not have dealt death more freely than did this flood.
Most of the victims were drowned in their beds, and it was a terrible
sight to see the long rows of corpses, clad in night-dresses, that were
laid out in the public building that had been hastily turned into a
mortuary. I think, indeed, the horror of that spectacle surpassed even
that of the scene at Hartley New Pit, when the victims of the accident
there were disinterred.

The newspaper reporter has still, in the discharge of his duty, to see
many strange and painful things, but he is now spared some of the most
trying sights to which he was exposed in my reporting days. Among these,
none was so painful and so revolting as a public execution. I attended
several executions during my connection with the Newcastle Press, and I
was a witness in 1868 of the last public execution in England--that of
Barrett, the Fenian, of whom I shall have more to say by-and-by. I am
thankful to know that the necessity of attendance at these dreadful
scenes is no longer imposed upon the journalist, and I feel a profound
pity for those officials who are compelled by an imperative duty to be
present at the private strangling of their fellow-creatures. It is true,
however, that use hardens the heart and deadens the nerves. I remember
how, on the first occasion of witnessing an execution, as I stood
trembling at the foot of the scaffold on which the victim was about to
appear, I noticed an old reporter, for whom I entertained a great
personal respect, pacing up and down beside me, reading the New
Testament. In the passion of horror and pity that filled my young heart,
I concluded that my friend was seeking spiritual comfort in view of the
event in which we were about to take part as spectators and recorders. I
said something to him about the horror of the act we were shortly to
witness. He looked up with a placid smile from his reading, and said
gently--for he was essentially a gentle man--"Yes, very sad, very sad;
but let us be thankful it isn't raining." And then he calmly returned to
his daily reading of the Word. If even gentle hearts can thus grow
callous, what must be the "moral effect" of an execution upon those who
are already brutalised?

Another unpleasant sight which reporters are now spared is the flogging
of garrotters. When the Act authorising this punishment was passed,
provision was made that the representatives of the Press should be
present when it was inflicted. More than once I have had to witness these
floggings in the course of my ordinary duty. I confess that they did not
affect me as they seemed to affect most of my colleagues. An execution,
with the violent thrusting of a human soul into the unknown, moved me
deeply; but the physical punishment of a ruffian who had himself
inflicted atrocious suffering upon some innocent person seemed to be such
well-deserved retribution that even the coward's shrieks for mercy made
no impression upon my nerves; and yet I have seen reporters who could
laugh and joke at an execution faint at the flogging of a garrotter. So
differently are human beings constituted!

At the end of June, 1864, I left my native town, and went to Preston to
undertake editorial duties in connection with the _Preston
Guardian_--the leading Liberal paper in North Lancashire. It was a
custom amongst journalists in those days always to give a farewell
entertainment to a brother of the Press when he quitted a town where he
had been engaged for any length of time. I was entertained at the usual
complimentary dinner, and was made the recipient of a very handsome
testimonial. I felt most unfeignedly that I had not deserved it, yet the
possession of the gold watch and collection of standard books subscribed
for out of the scanty earnings of my colleagues was a real comfort to me
when, with a sad heart, I left the sacred shelter of my home and quitted
the town in which the whole of my life up to that moment had been spent.
I reached Preston one summer evening as homesick as any lad could have
been. I did not know the name of a single person in the town except that
of the proprietor of the _Guardian_, Mr. Toulmin. I did not even
know the name of an hotel at which to stay for the night. A porter at the
railway station told me the name of the chief inn, and thither I repaired
with my belongings.

An amusing experience befell me here, which, as it relates to a state of
things that is now obsolete, I may recount. On the day after my arrival,
having introduced myself at the _Guardian_ office, and taken formal
possession of my new post, I returned to my hotel in time for the daily
dinner which the waitress had informed me was served at one o'clock. The
coffee-room, when I entered it, was filled by commercial travellers, all
hovering with hungry looks around the table that had been laid for
dinner. They seemed relieved when I, as shy a youth as could anywhere be
found, entered the room, and instantly seated themselves at the table. I
looked round for some corner in which I might hide myself from what
seemed to me to be their almost ferocious gaze, and was filled with alarm
when I found that the only seat left vacant was that at the head of the
table. Instinctively I shrank from so conspicuous a place, and as I moved
away the hungry company seemed to glare at me more fiercely than ever. A
waitress approached me, and saying, "You are president of the day, sir,"
motioned me to the vacant seat at the head of the board. I do not think I
was ever more miserable or more frightened in my life than when, under
her imperious direction, I took my seat and met the gaze of a dozen
hungry men: on the sideboard stood the soup tureens, the waiting-maids
beside them, but not a cover was lifted or a motion made, and dead
silence filled the room. I sat in blushing bewilderment, waiting for the
dinner to be served. Suddenly, from the other end of the table, a harsh
voice issued from the lips of a burly, red-faced man. "Mr. President, if
you are a Christian, you'll perhaps be good enough to say grace, and let
us get to our dinner, which we want very badly." I managed to stammer
forth the formula of my childhood, and thought the worst was over. Not a
bit of it. No sooner had the soup been audibly consumed than the hated
voice from the foot of the table again assailed me. "Mr. President, I
really don't know what you mean by neglecting your duties in this way,
but let me tell you that this is not a company of teetotallers." "Ask
them what wine they would like," whispered the waitress behind me, who
saw my plight, and who evidently pitied it, for she added, "Don't let
that nasty man at the other end of the table bully you." But I was
incapable of maintaining the deception in which I had been innocently
involved, and, taking my courage in both hands, I frankly told the
company that I was not a commercial traveller, had never in my life dined
at a commercial table, and, as I knew nothing of the usages of such a
place, would beg the gentleman at the other end of the table to take upon
himself the duties of president. There was a burst of laughter from the
majority of the diners, and good-humour was instantly restored. My
_vis-à-vis_, who was addressed as "Mr. Vice," was, indeed, somewhat
grumpy; but I had won the goodwill of the others, and was allowed to look
on, a silent spectator, whilst the many mystic rites and usages which
distinguished the "commercial table" of that epoch were duly celebrated.
Strange to say, that was not only my first but my last experience of the
kind, and now I imagine that the old customs of the road--the
wine-drinking, the speech-making, the toasts, and the graces before and
after meat--are all things of the past.

My editorial career at Preston began with a somewhat painful and even
dramatic episode. I had returned to the office, after my dinner with the
commercial travellers, in order to attend to my duties for the day. The
_Guardian_ was published twice a week--on Wednesday and Saturday.
This was Tuesday afternoon. The proprietor had informed me that he was
already provided with a leading article for Wednesday's publication, and
my duties were therefore confined to the sub-editing of the news and the
writing of a few editorial paragraphs. Suddenly Mr. Toulmin entered my
room, and, without uttering a word, placed a telegram on the desk before
me. It consisted of these words, still imprinted on my memory:
"Washington Wilkes died suddenly last night while addressing a public
meeting." I knew Mr. Wilkes by name as a Radical journalist of
considerable ability, who wrote regularly for the _Morning Star_.
Accordingly I expressed my regret on hearing of his death. "Yes," said
Mr. Toulmin, bluntly; "that's all very well, but now you'll have to write
the leader for to-morrow, for Wilkes was to have written it." Under these
startling circumstances I penned my first leading article for the
_Preston Guardian_. Though I thus stepped into the shoes of a dead
man, I fear that I can hardly have filled them; but this was, on the
whole, not to be wondered at.

Mr. Toulmin, my new employer, was a man of marked character. Long before
my business connection with him ceased, I learned to regard him with
genuine respect and liking, and these feelings I entertained for him to
the day of his death. But his somewhat rough exterior was not altogether
prepossessing, and when I came to him first as a raw lad, shy, sensitive,
and intolerant of manners that were foreign to my own, I must frankly
confess that I felt repelled by him. Besides, I quickly discovered that I
should have to fight my own battles if I wished to preserve my
professional rights and dignity. I had been engaged as editor and
sub-editor of the _Guardian_, and as it was my first editorship, it
need hardly be said that I valued my position highly. Mr. Toulmin, I
subsequently found, had a reputation for getting all he could out of the
members of his staff without much regard to the customs of journalism.
Thus, I had scarcely finished the article which would have been written
by Washington Wilkes but for his sudden death, when Mr. Toulmin, coming
into my room, expressed his warm satisfaction at the quickness with which
I had turned out my work; then, with an almost paternal smile upon his
face, he laid before me some pages of manuscript, and in an insinuating
voice said: "Would you mind keeping your eye upon this whilst I run over
this proof?" In an instant I grasped his meaning. I had been engaged as
editor, and he proposed to fill up my spare time by employing me as a
proof-reader. For a moment I was almost apoplectic with indignation at
what I regarded as an outrage upon my dignity. To this day I am thankful
that I controlled my temper, but I am not less thankful that I had the
courage--and it required some courage--to say to him, with a smile as
insinuating as his own: "I should have been delighted, but unfortunately
I have an engagement out of doors." And thereupon I left the room,
triumphant.

Never again did Mr. Toulmin invite me to assist him in reading a proof,
and long afterwards he made frank admission to me of the fact that this
incident proved that I was "not going to be put upon." Very soon I found
that he was not only a kind-hearted but a very able man. He had begun
life, at the age of six, in a cotton factory. The statement to-day is
hardly credible, but such is the fact. In those cruel times, when no Lord
Ashley had as yet arisen to open the door of the workman's prison-house
and set the children free, this poor child had been shut up from six in
the morning till six at night in the fetid atmosphere of a cotton-mill.
God knows what the economic value of such a weakling's labour may have
been! One would think that a South Carolina planter would have been wiser
than to work his "stock" at such an age. Be this as it may, my friend had
passed through this terrible apprenticeship to toil--always hungry,
always tired; and had not only survived it, but emerged from it a man.
When I knew him he could talk calmly of the horrors of his childhood, but
there was an undercurrent of bitterness in his reference to those times
which one could understand and respect. He was an ardent and convinced
Liberal, and I think that I owe more to his teaching for the character of
my own political views than I owe to anybody else.

When I went to Lancashire in 1864 the terrible effects of the cotton
famine were everywhere to be seen. History has done justice to the noble
fortitude with which the operatives of Lancashire "clemmed" (starved) in
silence during that awful time. Never shall I forget the pale, pinched
faces of the men and women as they walked to and from their daily labour.
The worst of the struggle was over, but hundreds of great mills were
still closed, and those which were open only ran half-time. The working
classes in Lancashire, as in most places, were on the side of the North
in the American Civil War, and not even the sufferings which that war
caused them, made them abate their opposition to the slave-holding South.
But in Lancashire, as elsewhere, the upper classes--with the exception of
the few who followed the noble leadership of John Bright--were
enthusiasts on the side of the South, and, if they had dared, would have
urged English intervention on behalf of the Confederate States. There was
thus a strong and marked difference of opinion between the upper and the
lower classes in Lancashire, as elsewhere. The great question in domestic
politics was that of Parliamentary reform. Advanced Liberals believed
that if only the franchise was enlarged, and the working-man admitted
within the pale, Liberal principles and ideas would henceforward triumph
permanently in our national politics, and they were, consequently, eager
to bring about this great constitutional change. Tories also believed
that this would be the effect of the enlargement of the franchise, and
they naturally opposed it vehemently. Neither party foresaw that the
elements common to human nature everywhere would influence the course of
politics just as fully after the working men had been admitted within the
pale of the Constitution as before, and that we should find even amongst
the lower orders the same differences between Liberals and Conservatives
as prevailed in the middle class.

The sober Whiggish turn of mind which I had inherited from my father
influenced me greatly in those days. Like the rest of the world, I
believed that to admit the working classes to the franchise would be to
give democracy a free rein, and to bring about changes, both social and
political, of an extreme kind. Many of the changes then suggested did not
seem to me to be wise. For this reason I could not enter as heartily as I
might otherwise have done into the demand for Parliamentary reform. To go
slowly, I thought, would be to go safely. From this Laodicean frame of
mind I was rescued by Mr. Toulmin. It was not only that he could speak of
the dark days at the beginning of the century, and of the inequality and
injustice which then prevailed under Tory rule in England; he was able
also to point out the contrast between the unselfish and heroic conduct
of the Lancashire operatives with regard to the American Civil War, and
that of their superiors, in whose hands the political destinies of the
country rested. He was in the habit of enforcing his broad and sensible
arguments on the subject of Parliamentary reform by means of a quaint
little diagram, which he was continually presenting to those with whom he
engaged in argument. "Look at this," he would say, pointing to an
inverted pyramid, "that is the British constitution as it is at present.
Does it not strike you as being rather top-heavy, and not unlikely to
topple over in a storm? Now look at this," and he placed the pyramid on
its proper base. "That is what I want to see, and you'll agree with me
it's a great deal safer than the other way." I thought of Tennyson's
words: "Broad-based upon her people's will," and felt that there was more
in the rude little diagram than in many subtle and learned arguments.

It was not only from my intercourse with Mr. Toulmin that I derived
mental profit in those days. I was always a rapid worker, and I speedily
found that two days and a half in each week sufficed to enable me to
discharge my duties at the _Guardian_ office. The ample leisure
which I thus enjoyed I devoted to reading, and in my lonely lodgings I
spent hours each day in study. As I look back upon that time I feel again
stealing over me like a vivifying flood the influence of Carlyle, under
the spell of whose teaching and inspiration I then practically came for
the first time. The companions of my solitude in those days were at least
not ignoble ones. Carlyle, Browning--not yet the victim of the Browning
Society--Thackeray, and most of our great historians, were always by my
side, and my mind gradually expanded as it absorbed their words and
thoughts. In one respect Preston has always seemed to me to be unique
among English towns. The centre of the town, if I may commit a bull, lay
at a point on its circumference. The Town Hall, the parish church, the
leading business thoroughfare, the railway station, and the
_Guardian_ office were all close to the river Ribble, separated from
it only by the beautiful Avenham Park, where the residences of the local
aristocracy were to be found. All the industrial part of the town, and
the houses of the operatives, lay farther away from the river. Across the
river there was nothing but open country. My modest lodgings in Regent
Street were at the same time within three minutes' walk of the
_Guardian_ office and of the old wooden bridge that crossed the
Ribble. Thus I could escape almost directly from the town into the open
country, and many were the hours I spent in delightful solitary rambles
through the lanes and fields of rural Lancashire. It is a good thing for
a young man to have time for solitary thinking, and no one who is worth
his salt can enjoy the kind of solitude which fell to my lot at Preston
without gaining by it. If I went there a boy, I left the place, after my
eighteen months of editorship, a man.

Of my newspaper experiences at Preston there is not much to record. Two
notable speeches that I heard and reported--although I would not read
proofs I was quite willing to oblige Mr. Toulmin by keeping up my
practice as a shorthand writer--recur to me. One was a speech made in
1865 by Mr. Gladstone at Manchester. The chief memory it has left with me
is of the touching and stately eloquence with which he told his audience
that he felt that his own life's work was drawing to a close. Of the men
with whom he had entered upon public life, he declared the majority had
passed away, and that fact reminded him that he could not reasonably
expect that his own time could be much further prolonged. No one who
heard him could have imagined that thirty years of public service still
lay before the speaker. The other speech was still more notable, for it
introduced me for the first time to the greatest of all the orators of
the nineteenth century, John Bright. Mr. Bright's speech, which was
delivered at Blackburn, promised to be of peculiar interest, inasmuch as
he made it only a few days after the death of Lord Palmerston, in
October, 1865. Everybody was curious to know what the great Liberal would
say of the man whose policy he had so often opposed, and with whom he had
so often crossed swords on the floor of Parliament. I went to Blackburn
as curious as anybody else. Bright made a long speech, and from beginning
to end he never mentioned the name of Palmerston. Years afterwards, in a
spirit, I fear, slightly tinged with malice, I would sometimes supply
that notable omission by naming Palmerston to Mr. Bright. The effect was
always the same, and always electrical. "Palmerston!" he would cry. "The
man who involved us in the crime of the Crimean War!" And then he would
break off with an angry toss of his leonine head; but the accents of
immeasurable scorn filled the hiatus in his speech.

In after years I became what I still remain--an enthusiastic admirer of
Mr. Bright's oratory. I hope to say something on a later page on this
subject. Here I need only note the fact that his first speech
disappointed me. Indeed, men were usually disappointed when they heard
him for the first time. They went expecting to hear an orator full of
sound and fury. They were amazed by the reserve--one might almost say the
repose--of his style. Of gesture he made absolutely no use. He never let
his magnificent voice rise above a certain pitch; he never poured out his
words in a tumultuous torrent; he was always deliberate and measured in
his utterances, and it was only as you grew accustomed to him that you
noted those wonderful inflections of the voice which expressed so clearly
the emotions of the orator.

In 1865 the country was much agitated on the question of the cattle
plague. It was a question that particularly affected Cheshire and the
rural parts of Lancashire. The action taken by the Government, of which
Mr. Gladstone was a prominent member, was strongly opposed by the
representatives of the agricultural interest. A county meeting was held
at Preston to consider the subject and to denounce the Ministry. If I
remember aright, the Earl of Derby, the famous "Rupert of debate," was in
the chair, and he was surrounded by half the magnates of Lancashire. It
was a notable and imposing gathering. One titled speaker after another
got up and abused Ministers, and it was notable that Mr. Gladstone fell
in for the hottest measure of abuse. When some resolution was about to be
put a man seated in the body of the hall got up and asked if he might say
a few words. He was a tall, thick-set person, and his dress was so plain
that most of us took him for a farmer, if not a farm-labourer. The
meeting, which was enjoying the eloquence of earls and aristocrats of
every degree, turned with anger upon the unknown intruder, and shouted
"Name, name!" with all its might. "My name is Gladstone," said the
stranger, in a clear and powerful voice. Everybody burst into a roar of
laughter. It seemed so curious that immediately after listening to
unmeasured vituperation of _the_ Gladstone, this humble person who
had obtruded himself unexpectedly upon the scene should happen to be of
the same name. But before the laughter had subsided Sir James
Kay-Shuttleworth, who was on the platform, shouted out the explanation of
the mystery. "Mr. Robertson Gladstone, of Liverpool." It was the brother
of the much-hated Chancellor of the Exchequer. He had gone to the meeting
to defend his illustrious relative; and defend him he did, with so much
force and eloquence that he not only made some of the noble speakers look
rather foolish, but convinced one, at least, who heard him that if he had
adopted a Parliamentary career, he too might have been one of the great
figures of the House of Commons.

As I look back upon my editorial experiences during the year and a half
that I spent at Preston, the salient questions which stand out in my
recollection are the war between Denmark and the Austro-Prussian allies,
in which this country was so nearly involved, and the concluding
struggles in the American Civil War, which may be said to have had their
culmination in the tragical assassination of Lincoln. It may seem a
strange thing to say, and yet I believe that Lincoln's cruel death did
more to hasten the return of peace and goodwill, not only in the United
States, but all over the world, after the close of the war, than anything
else could have done. It is certain that it produced a remarkable effect
in England. The "classes" in England were, as I have said, almost
unanimously opposed to the North, and there was no single person engaged
in the great struggle whom they more persistently misunderstood and
misrepresented than Abraham Lincoln. Even now I feel a sense of shame as
I recall the abuse which was showered upon that great man at the time
when he was leading his country through the most terrible crisis in her
history. But his death, coming as it did in the moment of victory, and
also at the moment when he had shown that he knew how to be moderate and
magnanimous in victory, opened the eyes of the world, and showed him,
even to those Englishmen who had hated him, in his true colours--one of
the wisest and noblest men of our time.

This revelation of the blunder which "the classes" had committed in their
estimate of Lincoln had an even greater effect in softening the
asperities which the war left behind it than had the exposure of the
egregious miscalculations of English statesmen as to the comparative
military strength of North and South. One must not blame Englishmen too
severely, however, for their lack of appreciation of Lincoln. It is
doubtful if even now he is appreciated at his true worth by Americans
themselves. Some years ago I had the privilege of taking in to dinner a
charming young lady who was Lincoln's direct descendant. I said to her,
"You can hardly understand how pleased I am to have met you. There is
scarcely any man whose name is familiar to me whom I honour as I honour
the memory of your grandfather." The young lady opened her eyes in
innocent amazement, and confessed subsequently that she had been very
much surprised by my little speech. "At home they never say anything
about grandpapa." Lowell, however, has said something about him which
will live for ever in the elegiac poetry of the world.

My stay at Preston came to an end in January, 1866. I had become engaged
whilst staying there, and, feeling stronger in health, was anxious to
obtain a more active position than the editorship of a newspaper
published only twice a week. My wishes were realised when I received an
offer from the proprietors of the _Leeds Mercury_ of a position on
that journal, which had long been one of the most important of provincial
newspapers. I accepted the offer, and left Preston at the beginning of
1866 with feelings of nothing but goodwill and respect for my old chief,
Mr. Toulmin.



CHAPTER V.

WORK ON THE _LEEDS MERCURY_.

My New Duties--Betrothal--The Writing of Leading Articles--The Founder of
the _Leeds Mercury_--Edward Baines the Second--Thomas Blackburn
Baines--Patriotic Nonconformists--Another Colliery Explosion: A Story of
Heroism--An Abortive Fenian Raid at Chester--Reminiscences of the Prince
of Wales's Visits to Yorkshire--Mr. Bright and the Reform Demonstrations
of 1866--The Closing Speech at St. James's Hall--The Tribune of the
People Vindicates the Queen.


I did not know, when I arrived in Leeds one wintry day in the beginning
of 1866, how long my connection with that town was to last, and how
closely I was to become associated with its public life. Beyond one or
two members of the _Mercury_ staff, I knew nobody in Leeds, so that
once more I found myself amongst strangers. But whereas at Preston I had
remained a stranger and a wayfarer during the whole period of my sojourn
in the place, I had not been long in Leeds before I began to feel that I
had found a second home. This was, no doubt, due in part to the fact that
old friends of mine were already employed on the _Mercury_ staff,
through whom I speedily made a number of acquaintances among the
townspeople. But I think that the sense of being at home which I acquired
so soon was chiefly due to the character of the inhabitants of Leeds.
Whatever may be the case now, at that time the Leeds people were typical
representatives of the best characteristics of Yorkshire. They were
frank, outspoken, warm-hearted, and hospitable. They were not, indeed, so
refined in speech as they might have been, and to the stranger their
blunt utterances were at times rather disconcerting. They criticised
one's work freely, and never hesitated to say when they did not like it.
They had strong prejudices and prepossessions, to both of which they gave
free expression. But if they never hesitated to criticise, they were just
as ready, when they were pleased, to utter words of praise and
encouragement; and it was not long before I had the gratification of
finding that my humble efforts on the _Leeds Mercury_ had made for
me many friends whom I did not know in the flesh.

Next to the delight of a first appearance in print, there is nothing that
brings so much joy to the heart of a young writer as the discovery that
something which he has written has won the sympathy and secured for him
the friendly approval of some unknown reader. It is in this that there
lies, after all, the highest reward of the journalist. No honours, no
money, no fame can ever satisfy him as does the knowledge that by means
of his pen he is influencing the thoughts, and winning the affections, of
some at least of that vast unknown public whom it is his duty to address.
A sheet of paper is but a flimsy thing, yet, as a rule, when used by the
journalist it cuts off the electric current of sympathy which passes
between speaker and auditor when they are visible to each other. The
discovery that it may sometimes be a conductor, instead of an
obstruction, to the current warms the heart of a young writer in a
wonderful fashion, and is the best stimulus that he can have in the
pursuit of his profession. To my dying day I shall think of Leeds with
pleasure and gratitude, in remembrance of the fact that it was there that
I first enjoyed this delightful experience.

My duties on the _Leeds Mercury_ were, in the first instance, both
varied and modest. I had to superintend the work of the reporting staff,
taking part myself, when necessary, in the reporting of large meetings
and important speeches. I had to do all the descriptive work of the
journal, and in those days more importance was attached to the work of
the descriptive writer than appears to be the case at present. Russell,
of the _Times_, the illustrious "pen of the war," furnished the
model for descriptive journalism in the 'sixties. There was none of that
slap-dash statement of bare facts, embellished by the more or less
impertinent personal impressions and opinions of the reporter, to which
we have become accustomed in recent times. It was expected that a
descriptive article should be in the nature of an essay, and that it
should actually describe, more or less vividly, the scene with which it
dealt. If anyone cares to search the files of our leading newspapers
between 1860 and 1870, he will come upon some pieces of descriptive
writing of astonishing literary merit.

In addition to acting as descriptive writer, I had, when required, to
contribute leading articles to the _Mercury_. At first I did this at
rare intervals. It was an innovation for anyone connected with the
reporting staff to contribute to the leading columns, and I remember the
alarm and indignation of the older members of the staff when they learned
that work of this character was to be entrusted to me. But I had
practised leader-writing at Preston; I liked it (though my preference was
for descriptive writing), and it was not long before I found that I had
got into the regular leader-writer's stride. I was barely
four-and-twenty, and I had, therefore, a consuming sense of the value of
my lucubrations and the importance of my opinions. It is emphatically
true, as Sir William Harcourt once wrote to me, that "Youth is the age of
Wegotism." When I wielded that magnificent editorial "we," and was able
to back up my own crude ideas with all the authority of a great daily
newspaper, I felt that I, too, was somebody in the world of affairs, and
that though I might live in modest lodgings and possess but narrow means,
I was not without a distinct place and influence of my own in the great
commonwealth. Such are the illusions of the youthful leader-writer--
foolish, perhaps, but not ignoble.

Some of my early leaders pleased the proprietors of the paper, one of
whom was also the editor. It was arranged that I was to contribute
regularly the chief article for Monday's paper. Now, as I have said, I
had become engaged, and my cousin, Miss Kate Thornton, to whom I was
betrothed, lived at Stockport, at a distance of more than two hours from
Leeds. I had been in the habit of visiting Stockport almost every
Saturday, returning to my duties on Monday morning. This leader-writing
for Monday's paper threatened to interfere with this arrangement.
Fortunately for me, the proprietors of the _Mercury_--of whom I
shall have more to say presently--had a great reverence for Sunday. The
_Leeds Mercury_, indeed, had not become a daily paper until long
after this change in its character was expected by the public, simply
because an ordinary daily newspaper entailed a certain amount of Sunday
work upon those engaged in producing it. It was not until the proprietors
had satisfied themselves that it would be possible to produce a Monday
morning's newspaper, and at the same time to keep the office closed from
midnight on Saturday till midnight on Sunday, that they resolved to
publish daily. The arrangement was costly; it was vastly inconvenient to
everybody concerned. I am afraid that it did not conduce to the keeping
of the Sabbath, seeing that the compositors, who were not allowed to
enter the office until midnight of that day, were tempted to spend an
hour or two in some public-house before commencing their belated work.
But with all its drawbacks, the plan had at least the advantage of
keeping the office doors shut for the whole of the twenty-four sacred
hours, and thus the appearance of evil, if not the evil itself, was
avoided. As a consequence of this system, the greater part of Monday's
paper had to be set on Saturday, and the leader, in particular, was
always furnished to the printers on that day. So far, therefore, there
was nothing to prevent my writing the Monday's leader, and still paying
my usual weekly visit to Stockport. All that was necessary was that the
editor should give me my subject early enough on Saturday morning.

This, however, was what I could not induce him to do. He was supposed to
be at the office shortly after eleven o'clock, and my train for Stockport
did not leave until half-past one. If the editor had been punctual, and
if he had given me my subject at once, I should have had ample time in
which to write my leader. But unfortunately he was not punctual, and too
often when he came he was occupied with other business, whilst I hung
about miserably counting the minutes until I was summoned to his
presence. Then, when at last I had received my subject, or had got leave
to write upon some topic suggested by myself, I hurried to the
sub-editor's room, and, sitting at a corner of a table upon which I laid
my watch, dashed off my precious article at the top of my speed. When I
began my practice as a leader-writer I took from an hour and a half to
two hours to write my fifteen hundred words; but, under the pressure of
that terrible half-past one o'clock train, I gradually improved my pace,
until at last, if I took more than an hour in the production of an
article, I felt dissatisfied. Mere speed in writing is a very small
accomplishment. It is not necessarily a virtue, and it may even be a
vice; but it is undoubtedly an accomplishment that I possess. In later
days my regular time for turning out an article of the length I have
named was from forty to fifty minutes. I could write my leaders with
people talking around me, and felt no difficulty in joining in the
conversation. I am told that many journalists regard it as incredible
that an article of fifteen hundred words could be written in from forty
to fifty minutes. All I can say is that it is a fact, and I attribute
this speed in writing to the pressure of that half-past one o'clock train
on Saturdays in the good old days of my first residence in Leeds.

The story of the _Leeds Mercury_ is an honourable one in the annals
of English journalism. It was first established, if I remember aright, in
the year 1718. In the editor's room at Leeds a file of the paper is
preserved, dating from the year 1727. This file is complete for more than
170 years, with one melancholy exception. In the volume for 1745 the
numbers of the paper published during the second Jacobite Rising are
omitted. But in spite of this omission, these volumes, extending over so
long a period, are of immense value and interest. In its earliest days
the _Mercury_, though published in a provincial town, sought to
reproduce in its columns not so much the news of the locality as the
humour of the Metropolis; and the very first leading article in the
earliest volume preserved at Leeds bears the quaint title, "To the Ladies
who affect showing their stockings."

Comparatively early in the Georgian era the _Mercury_ became
distinguished for the excellence of its news, both local and general. It
was not, of course, a large newspaper in those days, but the four pages
of which it consisted were full of meat. There was no descriptive
reporting; but what could be more expressive than the announcement of a
marriage in such terms as these:--"On Tuesday se'n-night, Squire Brown of
Bumpkin Hall was married to Miss Matilda Midas of Halifax, a handsome
young lady with ten thousand pounds to her dowry"? We are much more
florid nowadays, but by no means so precise. The leader-writer did not
spread himself abroad a hundred years ago. Indeed, soon after the
_Leeds Mercury_ gave up discussing the amiable weakness that it
attributed to ladies with well-turned ankles, it ceased for a time to
discuss anything at all. It was only in the beginning of the nineteenth
century that it resumed its leading articles. But what leading articles
they were! Fine writing and redundancy of style were both discarded, and
when the news of Waterloo arrived, the editor's comment upon the great
epoch-making victory was expressed in a dozen lines. One sighs at the
thought of the miles of "long primer" that would be expended if we had
the opportunity of commenting upon such a theme to-day. Yet the
twelve-line article in the _Leeds Mercury_ of June, 1815, really
said everything that was to the point on the subject with which it dealt.

It was in the year 1800 that the _Mercury_ took that new stand in
its history which was to place it in the front rank among English
provincial journals. Three or four years earlier a young journeyman
printer, named Edward Baines, had tramped across the moors which form the
dividing line between Lancashire and Yorkshire, and after walking the
whole distance from Preston to Leeds, had found employment in the small
printing office in which the _Leeds Mercury_ was produced. Edward
Baines, the first, was undoubtedly a man of great ability and remarkable
character. Very soon after he began his humble work as a compositor in
Leeds he attracted the attention not only of his employer, but of some of
the gentry of the town. He was seen to be a person of uncommon
intelligence, strict integrity, and distinct political sagacity. The
_Leeds Mercury_, at the close of the eighteenth century, was still a
mere news-sheet, professing no opinions of its own, and consequently
making no attempt to mould the opinions of its readers. The Whig party in
the West Riding felt that they needed an organ of their own to support
their cause in that great district. Accordingly, they subscribed funds
sufficient to acquire the _Mercury_ and to provide capital for
carrying it on, and they placed the paper in the hands of Edward Baines,
the young printer who, but a few years previously, had made his first
appearance in Yorkshire.

The trust they reposed in Mr. Baines was more than justified. Under his
direction the _Mercury_ became in a few years the leading journal in
the north of England. The money that had been advanced to him for its
purchase he speedily repaid, and by the time that Wellington was dealing
his death-blow at French Imperialism, Edward Baines had made himself a
power, not only in Leeds but in Yorkshire. I remember being told by very
old men that when the news of Waterloo reached him a chair was taken out
of his office in Briggate to the street, where an eager crowd had
gathered. Mounting upon this chair, Mr. Baines read the despatch
announcing the great victory to his enthusiastic fellow townsmen. An
earnest Liberal, he fought by the side of the Liberal leaders both with
his pen and his tongue during the long struggle for Parliamentary Reform,
and he was in due time rewarded by being elected to represent Leeds in
the House of Commons. His may fairly be described as an ideal career. He
gained friends, influence, wealth, in the town he had entered as a
penniless workman. But, better than all, he witnessed the triumph of
nearly all the great political and social movements to which he had lent
his powerful aid. Having represented his fellow-townsmen in three
successive Parliaments, he was honoured at his death, at a ripe age, in
1848, with a public funeral, which people in Leeds still recall as a
unique demonstration of gratitude and esteem. In Yorkshire, where his
career was better known than elsewhere, the name given to him by the
generation that followed him was that of "the English Benjamin Franklin."

It was Mr. Baines's good fortune to leave behind him in his sons men who
were worthy to succeed him. His eldest son, Matthew Talbot Baines, went
to the Bar. After his father's death he entered Parliament, where he had
a distinguished career, becoming eventually a Cabinet Minister under Lord
Palmerston. He died at a comparatively early age, and it was well known
to the initiated that, if he had not died thus young, it was the
intention of the Government to propose him for the Speakership. The
second son of the man who really founded the fortunes of the _Leeds
Mercury_ was, like his father, called Edward. He, too, attained
distinction in the public service. From his youth he was his father's
chief assistant in the editorship of the _Mercury_, and by his
enterprise, sagacity, and fine abilities as a journalist he greatly
extended the influence and reputation of the paper. As a boy he was
present at the so-called Battle of Peterloo--the riot which took place at
Manchester in 1819, when a political meeting was being held on the site
of the present Free Trade Hall. Young Edward attended the meeting as a
reporter for the _Mercury_. He observed everything that happened,
and it was his evidence, given subsequently at Lancaster Assizes, that
saved many innocent persons, who had been hunted down by the cruel
authorities of the day, from the punishment of transportation.

Edward Baines the second edited the _Mercury_ down to 1859, when, on
the death of his brother, he was chosen by his fellow-townsmen to succeed
him as their representative in Parliament. He had there a most honourable
career. He was, like his father, a Nonconformist, and he was also a
strict teetotaller. When he entered the House of Commons there was only
one other teetotaller in that body. A generous and cultured man, filled
with enthusiasm for the public good, he succeeded during his
Parliamentary career in winning the respect of the House, not only for
himself personally, but for those Nonconformist and teetotal principles
which Society, at that time, held in such low esteem. Strangely enough,
this life-long advocate of temperance reform lost his seat in the General
Election of 1874 through an outburst of teetotal fanaticism on the part
of the advocates of the Permissive Bill. As he refused to vote for that
measure, they ran an intemperate temperance advocate named Lees against
him, and by doing so gave the seat to a local brewer. On his eightieth
birthday, in 1880, he was knighted by Queen Victoria in recognition of
his life-long devotion to the public service.

I am not, however, telling the story of the Baineses. I have not even
referred to it at such length merely because I feel it to be an
honourable and instructive chapter in English local history, but because
it throws light upon the peculiar position and authority enjoyed by the
_Leeds Mercury_ when I first became connected with it in 1866. At
that time, the son of the second Edward Baines, Thomas Blackburn Baines,
was editor of the paper, but his father took as active a part in its
political direction as was consistent with the performance of his duties
in Parliament. While Tom Baines edited the paper, the management was in
the hands of his uncle, Frederick Baines, a man for whom I retain to this
day something of the affection and respect of a son for a father. The
paper, it will be seen, was thus the exclusive possession of the Baines
family. It represented the views to which they had clung so tenaciously
from the first. It was the great organ of Nonconformity in the English
Press, and it was at the same time the advocate of a pronounced, though
not an extreme, Liberalism. Its influence in the politics of Yorkshire
was great, but no small part of that influence was due to the fact that
the character of its conductors was known to the world, and that they
were everywhere recognised as high-minded men, to whom journalism was
something more than a trade. It was, indeed, a fortunate accident that
brought me, whilst still in my youth, into intimate association with so
high-minded a family.

They had their peculiarities. I have spoken already of their strict
regard for the Sabbath. In other matters also they clung to many of the
notions of the Puritans of an older generation. They never allowed the
_Mercury_ to publish betting news, or to pander to the national
passion for gambling sport in any manner whatever. It would have been a
good thing for the Englishman of to-day if, in this respect, their
action, instead of being the exception, had been the rule among newspaper
proprietors. The love of sport and of betting which has had so bad an
effect upon the national character during the last thirty years would
have been greatly curbed if other newspaper proprietors had been as
mindful of their responsibilities as were the Baineses. As it was, they
met with no reward for the heavy sacrifice they made in refusing to cater
for the tastes of the sport-loving populace.

Another peculiarity which marked the _Mercury_ in those days, though
founded upon equally admirable motives, was not so happy in its character
as this exclusion of betting news. Edward Baines the second regarded the
theatre from the old Nonconformist point of view. He looked upon it, as
so many did, as being an agent for the demoralisation of the young, and
he refused to allow any notice of it to appear in the columns of his
paper. This naturally excited the anger and ridicule of a large section
of the public, who were not insensible to the change that was gradually
taking place on the British stage. But no arguments and no ridicule could
move the sturdy old Nonconformist. I remember once pleading with him for
some relaxation of this rule. He heard all I had to say with courteous
attention, but when I had exhausted my stock of arguments he delivered
himself as follows: "My dear Mr. Reid, I feel sure that you are quite
sincere and conscientious in the views you hold, but you do not know the
theatre as I do. I speak from personal experience when I say that both in
itself and in its surroundings it is immoral and demoralising." I stared
aghast at this utterance. I knew that I went to theatres occasionally,
but until then I had believed that Edward Baines had never crossed the
threshold of a playhouse. He saw my look of surprise, and continued,
"Yes, I am sorry to say that between the years 1819 and 1822 I attended
the theatre frequently in London, and I can never forget the shocking
immorality I witnessed both on the stage and among the audience." Dear,
simple, high-principled, and most scrupulous soul! It was impossible to
make way against his sixty-year-old memories.

But I must not omit to mention one characteristic of the proprietors of
the _Mercury_ which had a marked influence upon their manner of
conducting that paper. This was their intense love of country. Both
Edward Baines and his brother Frederick, though they never called
themselves patriots, were among the most patriotic men I have ever known.
They were Nonconformists and Liberals, and consequently, in the belief of
their ignorant political opponents, they ought also to be Little
Englanders of the huckster class. Instead of being Little Englanders,
they were all through their lives the advocates of a sane but ardent
Imperialism. They loved their country, and they believed in it--believed
in it not only as the foremost nation of the earth, but as a great
instrument for good among the peoples of the world. It followed that,
whilst the _Mercury_ advocated advanced Liberal opinions on most
domestic questions, it was always in foreign affairs the supporter of an
enlightened and reasonable Imperialism, and on any question affecting
international policy it resolutely refused to take the mere partisan
point of view. I have dwelt at this length upon some of the
characteristics of the _Leeds Mercury_ and its proprietors when I
first became acquainted with them because they had a great and abiding
influence upon my own character and opinions. At Preston I had learned to
sympathise with the democracy, and to believe ardently in the cause of
political reform. At Leeds I came in contact with a wider and loftier
standard of Liberalism, and, whilst retaining my faith in the principles
of my party on domestic questions, I added to it a conviction, not less
profound, of the duty of advancing the interests of the British Empire
throughout the world by every means in my power. In later years, when I
was myself the editor of the _Leeds Mercury_, some of my excellent
friends in London--and notably Mr. Stead--were wont to deplore my
tendency in favour of Imperialism in foreign affairs, and to attribute it
to the influence upon me of the Pall Mall clubs. As a matter of fact, I
was led in this direction by the influence of these two estimable
Yorkshire Nonconformists.

My first stay in Leeds in the somewhat anomalous position I have
described lasted for little more than eighteen months. During that period
I found plenty of work to do as a descriptive writer and reporter, and
was brought into contact with some notable and interesting persons. Some
months after I had become connected with the _Mercury_, I renewed my
acquaintance with the tragical vicissitudes of colliery life. An
explosion occurred at the Oaks Pit, near Barnsley, which led to the
sacrifice of three hundred lives. Such a loss of life, exceeding that on
many an historic battlefield, was in itself terrible, but the
circumstances attending the accident at the Oaks Pit added to the
grimness of the tragedy. When I reached the colliery a few hours after
the explosion occurred I found that some two hundred of the men who had
been working in it were known to have been killed, but that many more
were believed to be still alive in the distant workings, and that a large
rescue party had gone below to recover them. Having sent my last despatch
to Leeds, I went to an inn at Barnsley to snatch a few hours of sleep
before resuming work at daybreak. In the morning, as I was hastening back
to the colliery to learn what progress had been made during the night, I
suddenly saw a dense volume of black smoke shoot out of the mouth of the
pit, and, rising high in the air, spread in a fan-shaped cloud of
enormous size. Immediately afterwards the dull reverberation of an
underground explosion fell upon my ear. A rough collier was walking
beside me, and when he heard that ominous sound he turned white, and
staggered against the wall which lined the road. "God have mercy on us!"
he cried, "she's fired again." It was an awful moment. Both I and the
pitman knew that, in addition to any survivors of the first explosion,
there were twenty or thirty brave men risking their lives in a work of
mercy when this new catastrophe took place.

We ran to the pit at our utmost speed, and when we reached the bank we
found ourselves in the midst of a distressing scene. The engineers and
workmen who had been engaged at the mouth of the pit were completely
unnerved by this unexpected disaster, and were weeping like children. The
second explosion had driven the "cage" completely out of the shaft, and
it hung in a wrecked condition in the gallows-like scaffolding which
surmounted the pit. There was thus no means of descending the shaft, even
if anyone had been courageous enough to do so. This renewed explosion
was, I ought to say, almost unprecedented in the long story of colliery
accidents. In a few minutes the wives and friends of the search party
below came thronging around us with agonised inquiries as to the safety
of those whom they loved. For a time all was confusion and despair; but
very quickly the voice of authority was heard, and the pit platform was
cleared of all except the small party that remained on duty and myself.
It was, as a matter of fact, a place of danger, for, as a second
explosion had occurred, it was quite possible that it might be followed
by a third. In spite of this risk, it was resolved to communicate, if
possible, with the bottom of the shaft.

By order of the engineer in charge, we all lay down at full length on the
platform, and one of our number was pushed forward until his head and
shoulders protruded over the black chasm of the pit, from which a thin
column of smoke was still rising. He was armed with a hammer, and with
this he struck one of the metal guiders of the ruined cage, giving the
pitman's "jowl" or signal, "three times three, and one over." Lying
breathless, we listened, hoping for some response. But there was only the
silence of death. Thrice the brave man repeated the signal, but no
answering sound came from the depths of the pit, and sadly we came to the
conclusion that all had perished. The signal man was dragged back from
his post of peril, and we were consulting eagerly as to the next step to
be taken, when a third explosion suddenly took place, shaking the
platform on which we stood, and covering us with fragments of burning
wood. Several of us were slightly hurt, but no one sustained any serious
injury. The painful fact that was forced upon us, however, by this new
explosion was that nothing could for the present be done to ascertain the
fate of the gallant fellows who had apparently been lost in their attempt
to rescue their comrades. It was clear that the pit was making gas, and
that a fire was burning somewhere in the workings, which in due time
might--and, as a matter of fact, did--cause fresh explosions. In these
circumstances nothing could be done except to pour water into the pit in
the hope of extinguishing the fire. Sorrowfully the band of workers
abandoned the pit-heap, leaving only a couple of young mining engineers
to keep watch above the scene of death.

In the middle of the following night--repeated explosions having taken
place during the day--a remarkable incident occurred. One of the
engineers left in charge--named, if I remember aright, Jeffcock--was
suddenly startled by hearing a sound proceeding, apparently, from the
depths of the pit. He went to the edge of the shaft, and then heard
unmistakably, far below him, the "jowl" for which we had listened in vain
on the previous morning. It proved that there was someone living in the
pit, and Mr. Jeffcock instantly determined to save him if he could. The
shaft was a very deep one. The cage which was the ordinary means of
descent had, as I have already explained, been destroyed, whilst the
pit-sides had been torn by the successive explosions, so that they were
in a highly dangerous state. But undaunted by these difficulties and
dangers, Jeffcock carried out his heroic task. Summoning assistance, he
caused himself to be lowered at the end of a rope to the bottom of the
shaft. Heaven only knows what were the terrors and dangers of that
descent. He faced them all unflinchingly. At the bottom of the pit he
discovered not any member of the search party, for they had all
succumbed, but one of the men employed in the colliery, who, by some
extraordinary chance, had escaped with his life not only from the
original explosion, but from all those which followed it. With immense
labour and risk he brought this man, the sole survivor of more than three
hundred, to the pit's mouth, and the next night the thoughtless fellow
for whom a brave man had risked so much, and whose own escape from death
had been almost miraculous, was carousing in a public-house in Barnsley,
and pocketing the coppers which hundreds of curious persons paid for the
privilege of seeing him.

One evening, in the summer of 1866, when I was on duty in the
_Mercury_ office, I received a telegram which Mr. Baines had
despatched from the House of Commons half an hour before. It stated that
the Home Secretary had just received information that Chester Castle had
been attacked by five hundred Fenians from Manchester, and that troops
were being despatched from London to meet them. I saw that a train which
left Leeds late in the evening would land me at Chester an hour or so
after midnight, and I at once made up my mind to take it. When I reached
Chester all was quiet at the station, and there were no signs of a Fenian
rising. I asked the chief official on duty if he knew anything about the
affair. All he could tell me was that during the early hours of the
evening the waiting rooms, and even the platform itself, had been filled
with crowds of "working men in their Sunday clothes," who had seemed to
be waiting for somebody or something. There were many hundreds of them,
and their unexplained presence had greatly puzzled the railway officials.
Some time before I arrived they had disappeared.

I went out into the streets of the old city. The darkness of the summer
night still brooded over me, but there was light enough to see that at
every street corner and every open space a crowd was gathered. They were
curious crowds. In every case the men were clustered in a circle, their
faces all turned towards the centre. They seemed to be listening intently
to someone who, in the middle of each little group, was speaking in low
but earnest tones. I made my way to one of the small crowds, and, joining
it, tried to hear what it was that the speaker in the middle was saying;
but instantly a strange thing happened. The crowd fell apart, melted away
into the gloom, and I suddenly found myself standing alone. Thrice did I
thus attempt to learn what was passing in these mysterious groups, and
every time the result was the same. I accosted individuals in the
streets, and questioned them as to the meaning of the curious scene, so
unusual in the dead of night in a quiet cathedral city. No man answered
me, except in some unintelligible syllable. I was not molested, nobody
was uncivil, but from no one could I get a word of explanation.
Gradually, as morning began to break, the throng became thinner. It was
dispersed like the mist by the sunshine.

By four o'clock Chester was apparently deserted by its strange visitors.
I went to the castle, and found that all was quiet there. I went to the
police office, and here I was told that the men were undoubtedly Fenians,
but that they had been guilty of no violence, and had given no excuse to
the police to interfere with them. They had apparently come to Chester
from every quarter, Liverpool, Manchester, and Stafford having each
contributed a contingent. But few had come by rail, most having entered
the city on foot. What it all signified the police declared they could
not understand, though they had no doubt that it had meant mischief. At
five o'clock I returned to the station, and saw two special trains arrive
within a few minutes of each other. These brought down a full battalion
of the Guards from London. It was a fine sight to see the regiment
marching with fixed bayonets from the station to the Castle. When the
last man had disappeared within the Castle gates, we knew that, whatever
plot had been hatched, it had miscarried.

The next day I gave in the _Leeds Mercury_ a full account of what I
had seen at Chester, and stoutly upheld the theory that a Fenian raid,
which had somehow or other miscarried, had been intended. But, on the
same morning, almost every other newspaper in the United Kingdom
published an account of the affair that had been supplied by a Liverpool
news agency. In this account the whole matter was turned into ridicule,
and the authorities were said to have been hoaxed, or carried away by
their own excited imaginations. But I had seen those strange, mysterious
groups, planted so thickly in the streets of Chester under the silent
night, and I could not accept the explanation of the Liverpool reporter.
Still, for the moment his story was that which was generally believed,
and I had to submit to the suspicion of having allowed myself to be
befooled. Not until more than twelve months later was the truth revealed.
It came out in the course of the trial of certain Fenian prisoners that
there really had been a plot to seize, not Chester Castle, but the arms
it contained. The conspirators knew that the guard in the Castle was very
weak. They hoped to get into the place by stratagem, and to seize the
contents of the armoury. Then they meant to capture a train, and, having
destroyed the telegraph wires, to carry their booty to Holyhead, where
they expected to find a steamer which would land them in Ireland. It was
about as mad a plan as was ever devised--as mad as John Brown's seizure
of the arsenal at Springfield. But desperate men attempt daring deeds.
Fortunately for the peace of the realm, the plot against Chester was
revealed to the Government in time, and when the little army of Fenians
knew that they had been betrayed, they silently dispersed without
striking a blow. It was, I confess, a satisfaction to me when the
informer--Corydon, if I remember the name aright--confirmed the truth of
my interpretation of that strange scene at Chester; and I had the
additional satisfaction of feeling that I was one of the few living men
who had, with his own eyes, actually seen a hostile army assembled on
English soil.

A reporter's life brings him into contact both with tragedy and comedy. I
have an amusing recollection of a visit paid by Edward VII., when Prince
of Wales, to Upper Teesdale during my stay in Leeds, for the purpose of
shooting on the Duke of Cleveland's moors. I travelled in the special
train which took the Prince and his party to the little station of
Lartington, then the terminus of the line which now connects the east and
west coasts. No royal personage had visited that beautiful valley before.
It was Sunday, and the whole population seemed to have turned out to see
the train, in which the heir to the throne travelled, fly past them.
Everywhere it was greeted with the waving of hats and handkerchiefs; but
I saw one old man, apparently an agricultural labourer, who was not
content with uncovering his head when the train went by. Reverently he
sank down upon his knees, and remained in that position until long after
we had sped past him. From Lartington the Prince and his party were to
drive to the inn at High Force, a dozen or fourteen miles away. I, and a
companion, representing a Sheffield newspaper, were to take up our
quarters for the night at the little village of Middleton-in-Teesdale,
halfway to High Force. A country omnibus had been provided for the Prince
and his friends, and in this they drove off. We had to walk, as no
vehicle was to be got.

When we had tramped a mile or more on our way, we met two men who were
walking quickly towards Lartington. One of them, who from his appearance
might have been a village schoolmaster, accosted us politely. "Can you
tell me if his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has arrived at
Lartington station yet?" "Yes," I replied, "he got there more than half
an hour ago." "Then where is he?" said my interlocutor in an injured tone
of voice. "He surely cannot be stopping there?" I told him that this was
not the case, and that he had already preceded us along that very road.
"Impossible!" retorted the schoolmaster. "I've been on this road ever
since the morning, and I can assure you that his Royal Highness has not
passed this way." "Did you not see a small omnibus pass," I asked, "with
some luggage on the roof?" The schoolmaster's companion, who was younger,
admitted that he had done so. "Well, then," I continued, "you must have
seen a gentleman in a brown felt hat sitting beside the driver, and
smoking a cigar. That was the Prince of Wales." "Don't attempt to make a
fool of me, you impertinent jackanapes!" roared my schoolmaster friend in
a mighty rage, and, setting off again at full speed, he proceeded on his
way towards Lartington, in search of the kingly vision he expected to
discover.

There was another occasion, during those early Yorkshire days, when I had
a little experience connected with the Prince. He and the Princess were
about to be received as the guests of a great--a very great--dignitary.
It was the first occasion on which this really eminent man had
entertained their Royal Highnesses, and he had specially furnished
certain rooms in his stately abode for their use. He gave a polite
intimation that he would be glad to see one representative of the Press
of the United Kingdom, in order that he might show him these apartments,
with a view to their being properly described in print. My colleagues of
the Yorkshire Press unanimously selected me to represent them on this
great occasion, and were good enough to warn me that they would expect at
least a column of descriptive matter detailing the glories of the
upholstery provided for the Royal apartments.

To my surprise, when I got to the house I was at once brought face to
face with the Great Man himself. He was mighty affable, and most
desperately anxious that I should do justice to his newly bought
furniture. I shall never forget my tour of the bedrooms and boudoirs to
which I was expected to do justice. The Great Man pounded the beds to
prove their elasticity. He turned down the bedclothes to convince me of
the fineness of the linen. He lifted up chairs in order that I might
satisfy myself of the solidity of their construction, and he expatiated
upon the beauties of curtains, window-hangings, and carpets in periods as
sonorous as any with which he had thrilled the House of Lords. I frankly
confess that I was astounded, and not a little shocked. I could see that
the Great Man was disappointed at my somewhat stolid reception of a
florid eloquence of which George Robins, the auctioneer, might have been
proud. I do not think, however, he was half so much disappointed as my
colleagues were when I returned to them and dictated a dozen lines of
severe catalogue as the only "description" I was capable of giving of the
furniture of two commonplace bedrooms. I never met the Great Man in after
life without seeing him, in my mind's eye, flourishing a chair upside
down, or lovingly patting with his mighty hand an embroidered coverlet.

Upon the whole, the most important of the events in which I took part as
reporter and descriptive writer during this period at Leeds was the
series of Reform demonstrations in which Mr. Bright played the leading
part in the autumn of 1866. I remember no public meetings in the course
of my life that equalled them in enthusiasm. The Russell administration
had been defeated in the previous session on the question of
Parliamentary Reform, the defeat having been brought about by the action
of the Adullamites, so-called, under the leadership of Lord Grosvenor and
Mr. Lowe. John Bright, to use a phrase that has since become historic,
"took off his coat" at the end of that session, and went to the country
with the avowed determination of raising such a movement in favour of
Parliamentary Reform that even the Tory Government, which was now in
office under the Premiership of Lord Derby, would be compelled to yield
to it. His plan of campaign was as simple as are most great plans. He
arranged to address meetings in the chief cities of England, Scotland,
and Ireland. Each meeting was to be preceded by a Reform demonstration
held on some open piece of ground in or near the city where the meeting
was to be held. These demonstrations took place at Birmingham,
Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, Dublin, and London. I was present at all of
them.

Never were such open-air gatherings held in England before. On more than
one occasion the attendance exceeded a hundred thousand. The gatherings
were without exception orderly and enthusiastic. All the smaller towns
and villages near the scene of meeting sent deputations. There were great
processions through the streets, headed by bands and political banners.
At the place of meeting many different platforms were erected, and
resolutions calling upon the Government to introduce a measure of
Parliamentary Reform were put simultaneously from all the platforms.
Nothing could have been more impressive as a demonstration of national
feeling than these wonderful gatherings, so vast, so resolute in their
bearing, and yet so orderly. They made even Ministers feel that the time
had passed for trifling with the question of Reform. The Government were
compelled to yield, and, as everybody knows, the session of 1867
witnessed the passing of the Household Suffrage Act. But by far the most
important factor in each of these successive gatherings was the evening
meeting that followed the open-air demonstration. At this Mr. Bright was
always the chief speaker. I do not think he ever made better speeches
than those which he delivered during this autumn of 1866. I have recorded
the first occasion on which I heard Bright speak, and have said that his
oratory was not so impressive on a first hearing as people might suppose.
For my own part, I found that the spell of his magic grew stronger every
time that it was renewed, and before I had listened to the last of this
wonderful series of orations I had become what I remained to the end--the
most enthusiastic of his admirers.

The opening speech of the series was delivered at Birmingham, and it
contained one passage that, after all these years, is still stamped upon
my memory. It was a brilliant vindication of Mr. Gladstone, as the
apostle of Parliamentary Reform, from the sharp attacks made upon him by
the Adullamites. Even then the intrigues against Mr. Gladstone's
leadership of the Liberal party--intrigues which did not cease until the
day of his final retirement nearly thirty years later--had begun. Bright
treated them with characteristic contempt. He inveighed with all his
force against the men who were going about declaring that Mr. Gladstone
was unfit to be the leader of the party, and, with that accent of
withering scorn which was one of his most formidable weapons as an
orator, he cried, "If they have another leader who can take Mr.
Gladstone's place, why do they not let us see him? _Where have they
been hiding him until now?_" That single sentence fell like a hammer
upon the heads of the intriguers of the Cave. In face of it they could
not continue their absurd attempt to rob Mr. Gladstone of his appointed
place.

The most florid and poetical of Bright's Reform speeches was that which
he delivered at Glasgow. It consisted, for the most part, of a noble
appeal to ministers of religion, and to all interested in the social
welfare of the people, to try what a Reformed Parliament could do to
remove the burdens laid upon the shoulders of common humanity. "The
classes have failed, let us try the nation." The speech closed with a
fine peroration in which the speaker, after referring to the effect
already produced by the public movement in favour of Reform, declared
that he could see "as it were upon the hill-tops of Time, the glimmerings
of the dawn of a new and a better day for the country and the people that
he loved so well." It was with this peroration still ringing in my ears
that I hurried from the meeting to the telegraph office. I was
palpitating with excitement under the influence of Bright's magic
eloquence. Judge of my astonishment when I heard two worthy citizens of
Glasgow who had just left the hall comment upon the speech in these
words. First Citizen: "A varra disappointing speech!" Second Citizen: "Ou
aye! He just canna speak at all." This extraordinary incident at least
bears out what I said as to the disappointing character of Bright's
eloquence upon people who listened to it for the first time. A man needed
to grow into an appreciation of it. There was, by the way, an amusing
incident in connection with the reporting of this Glasgow speech. Bright,
as I have said, had referred to the influence of the great popular
demonstrations in favour of Reform, and had spoken of them as "those vast
gatherings, sublime in their numbers and in their resolution." Some
unhappy reporter, by a very slight slip, made him speak of the meetings
as sublime in their numbers and their resolutions--a very different
matter.

His last Reform speech in 1866 was delivered in London, in St. James's
Hall. It was preceded on the previous day by the usual procession through
the streets and an open-air demonstration at Lillie Bridge. The poor
Londoners were very much alarmed at the prospect of the gathering. The
editors of the morning papers opened their respective Balaam boxes and
gave the asses a holiday, to borrow a phrase of Christopher North.
Innumerable letters were published, declaring that the mob of reformers,
led by the wild man from Birmingham, would probably sack the town; and
fervent entreaties were addressed to the Government to line the streets
with troops for the protection of peaceful and law-abiding householders.
The Government, which had received its lesson in Hyde Park in the
preceding summer, did nothing of the sort; but I believe that a good many
houses and even shops in the West End were actually closed and barricaded
by their perturbed and nervous proprietors. There was one notable and
significant exception to this rule. Miss--now the Baroness--Burdett-Coutts
not only did not close her house in Piccadilly, but assembled a party of
friends at it, and, seated in the midst of them in the great bay-window
overlooking Piccadilly, saluted in friendly fashion the great army of the
unenfranchised as they passed along the road. She was cheered
vociferously, and must have felt a thrill of satisfaction at the thought
that she was recognised as the worthy representative of that stout old
Radical reformer, Sir Francis Burdett. I took up my position to see the
procession pass in Pall Mall, opposite the Reform Club. I had never before
seen that famous building. It struck me at the time as having a cold and
gloomy exterior, yet I gazed upon it with reverence as the home of the most
distinguished of the men who espoused the cause of liberty. I little
thought, on that dull winter day, how many years I was destined to spend
within its walls, or how large a part I was to take in its affairs.

Of course, all the fears of the alarmists were falsified. The only
untoward incidents were the raids of the pickpockets upon the crowds. I
myself was one of their victims, in a somewhat curious fashion. I was
riding with another reporter in a cab at the tail of the procession. The
crowd, as we approached Lillie Bridge, was very dense, pressing upon us
on all sides. Suddenly a hand was put in at the open window of the cab,
and, before I had the presence of mind to grasp the situation, the pin I
wore had been removed from my scarf, literally under my very eyes. It was
one of the neatest and most impudent robberies I ever saw.

Bright's speech at St. James's Hall was a very fine one. It contained a
memorable passage in which he described men dwelling in fancied security
on the slopes of a slumbering volcano. He demanded if those who warned
them of the peril to which they were exposed were to be accused of being
the cause of that peril. It was a brilliant and telling retort upon those
who charged him with having stirred up a seditious movement for his own
personal ends. But his best speech at St. James's Hall was a brief and
unpremeditated utterance at the close of the meeting. Mr. Ayrton, the
well-known member for the Tower Hamlets, an advanced Radical, and a man
who subsequently made himself notorious as a Minister of the Crown by his
aggressive and unconciliatory utterances, was one of the speakers who
followed Bright. He referred to the demonstration in front of Miss
Burdett-Coutts's house on the previous day, and made some remarks
comparing her with the Queen, who was just then in Scotland, by no means
to the advantage of the latter. Bright's loyalty, which was strong and
real, was outraged by Ayrton's language. In burning words, evidently born
of genuine emotion, he repudiated and rebuked the want of respect shown
to her Majesty, and declared that any woman, be she the wife of a working
man or the queen of a mighty realm, who was capable of showing an intense
devotion to the memory of her lost husband was worthy of the respect and
reverence of every honest heart. Years afterwards, I have reason to know,
that utterance was borne in mind in high quarters. It laid the foundation
of the high personal regard and friendship which her Majesty extended to
the old tribune of the people when he became a Minister of the Crown.



CHAPTER VI.

LIFE IN LONDON.

Appointed London Correspondent of the _Leeds Mercury_--My
Marriage--Securing Admission to the Reporters' Gallery--Relations between
Reporters and Members--Inadequate Accommodation for the
Press--Reminiscences of the Clerkenwell Explosion--The Last Public
Execution--The Arundel Club--James Macdonell--Robert Donald--James
Payn--Mrs. Riddell and the _St. James's Magazine_--My First
Novel--How Sala Cut Short an Anecdote--Disraeli as Leader of the House in
1868--A Personal Encounter with him at Aylesbury--Mr. Gladstone's First
Ministry--Bright and Forster--W. E. Baxter--Irish Church Disestablishment
Debate in the House of Lords--Mr. Mudford--Bereavement.


In 1867 a change unexpectedly took place in my position. The London
representative of the _Leeds Mercury,_ my old friend Mr. Charles
Russell, now editor of the _Glasgow Herald,_ retired from his post,
and I was appointed to succeed him. In addition to the duties which had
been discharged by Mr. Russell, it was arranged that I was to act as
London correspondent of the _Mercury_ and to continue to be an
occasional contributor of leaders. On September 5th in this year I was
married at Cheadle Congregational Church, Cheshire, to my cousin, to whom
I had long been engaged, and I at once went to London to spend my
honeymoon in the delightful occupation of house-hunting. The London
suburbs wore a different aspect in 1867 from that which they now present.
In the far west of London, at all events, the reign of the semi-detached
villa, with its private garden, was still maintained. There were no lofty
"mansions" comprising endless suites for the accommodation of persons of
limited means, and the system of a common garden for the residents in a
particular street or square was practically unknown outside the central
district of the metropolis. Notting Hill, Kensington, Shepherd's Bush,
and Hammersmith offered to the man of moderate means the choice among an
infinite number of pleasant little villas, each boasting its own garden
and lawn secluded from the public eye. My choice fell upon a house of
this description in Addison Road North, and there I spent two happy
years, the garden, with its fine old tree casting a welcome shade over
the lawn, making me forget the fact that I was, at last, an actual
dweller in the world's greatest city.

Almost my first business in London was to secure admission to the
Reporters' Gallery in the House of Commons. There was an autumn session
in that year, 1867, and I was anxious to get access to the Gallery when
it began. In order to obtain the coveted Gallery ticket I proffered my
gratuitous services as an occasional reporter to the _Morning Star_.
My offer was accepted, and after an interview with Mr. Justin McCarthy,
who was then editor of the _Star_, I was introduced to Mr. Edwards,
the chief of the reporting staff, as a new member of that body. Edwards,
who was one of the veterans of the Gallery, was a character in his way.
He was an Irishman possessed of a delicious brogue, a devout Roman
Catholic, intensely proud of the fact that he had a son in the
priesthood. His mind was stored with reminiscences of the Gallery in the
days when the status of a Parliamentary reporter was hardly recognised
even in the House of Commons itself. Like so many of the Gallery men of
this time, his world seemed to be limited to the little society of which
he was a conspicuous member. Nothing appeared to interest him that lay
outside the immediate duties of a Parliamentary reporter. His sole
reading seemed to be the reports of debates, his sole pleasure listening
to Parliamentary speeches. Many amusing stories were told of him by his
colleagues. Not long before I made his acquaintance, Mr. Bright, in one
of the debates on the Liberal Reform Bill, had made his famous reference
to the Cave of Adullam which caused the anti-reformers in the Liberal
party to be nicknamed "Adullamites." Mr. Bright was interested in the
_Morning Star_, and that newspaper's report of this passage in his
speech was obviously confused and defective. The day after it was printed
the manager of the _Star_ summoned Edwards to his presence in order
to complain of this fact. "Do you think our fellows understood the
allusion to the Cave of Adullam?" he inquired of Edwards. "Of course they
did," replied the latter, hotly. "They're an ignorant lot, I know, but
there isn't one of them so ignorant as not to have read the Arabian
Nights!"

Edwards was very kind to me. He seemed to feel a profound respect for a
man who undertook to do any work for nothing, and he did his utmost to
make my somewhat anomalous position personally agreeable. One bit of good
advice he gave me. That was that I should not let anyone know that I
received no salary. The truth is that in those days the Parliamentary
reporters were a very clannish set--almost, indeed, a close corporation.
To my youthful eyes, most of them appeared to be men who had attained an
almost incredible age. They could talk of the days in the old House of
Commons when no Reporters' Gallery existed, and the unfortunate shorthand
writers had to take their notes on their knees, at the back of the
Strangers' Gallery. In the House of Lords they had to stand in a kind of
gangway, and I have heard a venerable man tell how a certain
distinguished peeress, who had to pass along this gangway when she went
to hear the debates, used deliberately to brush against the reporters as
she did so, and knock the note-books out of their hands. It was, I
suppose, her Grace's manner of displaying her peculiar affection for the
Press. The reporters looked with suspicion upon any newcomer, and for a
time after I entered the Gallery I was viewed with unconcealed dislike by
most of my new colleagues.

A somewhat untoward incident that happened on the first night on which I
took my seat as one of the _Star_ staff added to this feeling.
Worthy Edward Baines, sitting on the Opposition benches below me, no
sooner recognised me in the Gallery than he felt it to be his duty to
come up and have a chat with me. Accordingly he made his way to one of
the side galleries adjoining the reporters' seats, and conversed with me
for several minutes, pointing out the leading members and officials of
the House and making himself generally agreeable, as was his wont. I
little knew what offence I was unconsciously giving to my colleagues. In
those days a gulf that was regarded as impassable divided the members of
the Press from the members of the House. Occasionally the white-haired,
or rather white-wigged, Mr. Ross, the head of the _Times_
Parliamentary corps, might be seen holding a mysterious colloquy in some
gloomy corner behind the Gallery with some politician; but the
overwhelming majority of the reporters had never exchanged a word with a
Member of Parliament in their lives, and, to do them justice, they
evidently had no desire to do so. The caste of reporters neither had, nor
wished to have, any relations with the Brahmins of the green benches
below them, and I found subsequently that if by any chance a reporter
were detected in conversation with even the most obscure Member of
Parliament he thought it necessary to give some explanation of his
conduct to his Gallery friends afterwards. It may be imagined, then, with
what feelings the veterans of the Gallery saw a newcomer, on his very
first appearance in the Gallery, talking on friendly and confidential
terms with a well-known Member of the House. Some of the old hands
positively snorted at me in their indignation, and one of the few friends
I had in the Gallery earnestly warned me that the recurrence of such an
incident would prove fatal to my career as a Parliamentary reporter. Who
would have imagined then that the relations of journalists and Members
would ever assume their present intimate character?

The accommodation for reporters outside the Gallery was very different
then from what it is now. There were two wretched little cabins, ill-lit
and ill-ventilated, immediately behind the Gallery, which were used for
"writing out." But one of these was occupied exclusively by the
_Times_ staff, and the other was so small that it could not
accommodate a quarter of the number of reporters. One of the committee
rooms on the upper corridor--No. 18, if I remember aright--was given up
after a certain hour in the afternoon to the reporters, and here most of
the work of "writing out" was done. As for other accommodation for the
Press, it consisted only of a cellar-like apartment in the yard below,
where men used to resort to smoke, and of the ante-room to the Gallery,
where the majestic Mr. Wright presided.

Mr. Wright was one of the characters of the Gallery. Like most of the
officials of the House in those days, he was a _protégé_ of the
Sergeant-at-Arms, Lord Charles Russell. Rumour declared that he had
originally been a boat-builder on the Thames, and had secured the favour
of Lord Charles by his services in teaching his sons to row. He certainly
looked more like a boat-builder, or the captain of a barge, than the
keeper of the vestibule to the Reporters' Gallery. He was permitted to
purvey refreshments of a modest kind to the reporters. He always had a
bottle of whisky on tap, a loaf or two of stale bread, and a most
nauseous-looking ham. I never, during my career in the Gallery, tasted
that ham. The tradition was that every night, when Mr. Wright, at the
close of his duties, retired to his modest abode in Lambeth, he took with
him the ham, wrapped in a large red bandana which he had been
flourishing, and using, during the evening, and for greater security
placed it under his bed during the night. I do not vouch for the truth of
this story, universally believed by the Gallery men of my day.

I simply repeat that I never in the course of my life tasted one of Mr.
Wright's hams. The sole refreshment I ever consumed in his filthy den
consisted of eggs and tea. The tea I drank with unfeigned reluctance, but
the eggs, however stale, inspired me with a confidence I felt in none of
the other viands provided by the ex-boat-builder. The reporters nowadays
have a dining-room of their own, as well as reading-room, smoking-room,
and tea-room. The status of the Press is changed indeed.

One of Mr. Wright's characteristics was his love of talking Johnsonese. I
can see him in my mind's eye now, as I emerged from the Gallery after a
heavy "turn," reclining on the wooden bench which was his favourite place
of rest. His head half covered with the famous red bandana; his boots
off, and a pair of dirty worsted stockings exposed to view, he twiddled
his thumbs, and through half-closed eyes cast a disparaging glance at the
young member of the Gallery who had not yet patronised either his whisky
or his ham; then, with a grunt, he would wake up and begin to speak. "I
hope, sir, that you are intellectual enough to appreciate the grandeur of
the debate to which you have just been privileged to listen. Sir, it
fills me with an amazement that is simply inexpressible to listen to
those two men, Gladstone and Disraeli, when they are a-conducting
themselves as they 'ave been this evening. What I want to know, sir, is,
where do they get it from? You and me could never do such a thing--no,
not a moment. In my opinion they are more than mortal." But enough of Mr.
Wright, who is dead now, though he lived to see the twentieth century
born, and to mourn over the changed times which no longer made the hungry
reporter dependent upon his famous ham.

The first night of that autumn session of 1867 was a memorable one. Mr.
Disraeli sat on the Treasury Bench as leader of the House. Opposite to
him sat Mr. Gladstone, now the recognised leader of the Liberal party.
Mrs. Disraeli had been seriously ill; was, in fact, still ill when
Parliament met. Mr. Gladstone, who never overlooked the courtesies of
debate, in opening his attack upon the Government after the speech had
been duly moved and seconded, made touching reference to the personal
anxieties of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Disraeli was visibly
moved. He suddenly covered his face with his hands, and one could see
that his eyes were filled with tears. Nearly thirty years later there was
a similar scene in the House, in which Mr. Gladstone was again the moving
cause. This was when, referring to a speech by Mr. Austen Chamberlain, he
spoke of it in terms that made Mr. Chamberlain himself flush with
emotion, and caused the tears to gather in the eyes of that hardened
political fighter. Strange are the links which bind the generations
together!

It was in the late autumn of 1867 that one of the most remarkable of the
outrages committed by the Fenians in London took place. This was the
explosion at the Clerkenwell House of Detention. The object of the crime
was the rescue of two Fenians who were confined in the prison. The
authorities at Scotland Yard had got wind of the plot, and sought to put
the governor of the prison, and the magistrates who controlled it, on
their guard. The latter declared themselves quite able to look after
their prisoners, and declined the proffered assistance of the police.
Instead of keeping guard, as they should have done, round the walls of
the House of Detention, they contented themselves with keeping the
prisoners--whose names, if my memory does not fail, were Burke and
Casey--in their cells at the hour when they usually took their daily
exercise in the yard. A wheelbarrow, laden with powerful explosives, was
deliberately wheeled up to the prison wall, outside the exercise ground,
at the time when Burke and Casey were supposed to be walking there. An
orange was thrown over into the yard, this being the signal that had been
agreed upon with the captives, and the fuse attached to the barrel of
explosives was lighted. Then the conspirators quietly retired, nobody
molesting them. A terrific explosion followed.

I had just left the reading-room of the British Museum that afternoon,
and was crossing the quadrangle, when I heard a sound which my experience
of the Oaks Pit enabled me at once to recognise as that of an explosion.
I thought that some kitchen boiler in an adjoining house must have burst;
but nothing was to be seen, and I went my way, merely making a note, with
the reporter's instinct, of the exact moment at which the explosion took
place. The next morning the London papers were full of the details of the
great crime. Several persons, including some children, had been killed
outright, and many more had been injured. A breach had been made in the
prison wall, but the Fenian prisoners, of course, had not escaped, owing
to the precautions taken by the authorities. The whole country was roused
to a violent state of indignation by this crime, which followed close
upon a similar attempt to rescue other Fenian prisoners who were being
carried in a prison van through the streets of Manchester. The Manchester
crime resulted in the death of a police sergeant named Brett, and for
that murder three men--Allen, Larkin, and Gould, who are still famous in
Irish history as "the Manchester martyrs"--were hanged.

On the day following the Clerkenwell explosion I attended the inquest
upon some of the victims, and, curiously enough, I was the only person
who could inform the coroner of the exact hour at which the outrage was
committed. The police were soon in hot pursuit of the culprits. Five men
were arrested, and after a tedious investigation at Bow Street were
committed for trial at the Old Bailey. If I remember aright, they were
Irishmen hailing from Glasgow. I made my first acquaintance with Bow
Street Police Court at the examination of these men. It was the old
police court--a dismal, stuffy, ill-ventilated room--where justice had
been administered for several generations. I have a lively recollection
of the fact that whilst I was reporting the proceedings I suddenly
fainted, for the first time in my life; and I still remember gratefully
the kindness of the police, who removed me from the court room into the
fresh air, and tended me with the utmost care until I had recovered. This
sympathy with illness is one of the best characteristics of our London
police.

The trial at the Old Bailey resulted in the acquittal of all the
prisoners except one, a man named Barrett. He was convicted, and
sentenced to death. Great interest in his case was felt in Glasgow, and I
was asked by one of the Glasgow newspapers to telegraph to it a full
account of the execution. It was in one respect to be a remarkable
occasion, for an Act had just received the assent of Parliament putting
an end to public executions, and Barrett's was to be the last event of
the kind. I and an old newspaper friend named Donald, who was also
commissioned to describe the scene, agreed to stay up all night in order
that we might witness the gruesome preliminaries of a hanging at the Old
Bailey. We were on duty in the Reporters' Gallery up to a late hour of
the night, and I remember that Mr. Bright, rising from his seat below the
gangway, made an appeal to the Home Secretary to spare the condemned
man's life. It was very unusual for such an appeal to be made in that
fashion, and it was still more unusual to make it within a few hours of
the time fixed for the execution. The Home Secretary was, of course,
unable to comply with Mr. Bright's prayer, but this scene in the House of
Commons was undoubtedly a solemn one, more solemn and impressive than the
tragedy to which it was the prelude. Donald and I, when the House at last
rose, sauntered slowly through the streets, taking note of that night
side of London, which was novel to both of us. In the early hours of the
morning we found ourselves at Covent Garden, where we watched the
unloading of the vegetable carts and the unpacking of the great hampers
filled with sweet spring flowers. Before six o'clock we had reached the
Old Bailey, where already a large crowd was gathering.

Rumours of an attempted rescue, even on the scaffold, had been freely
circulated. Calcraft, the executioner, had received a number of
threatening letters, which had frightened him greatly. The police,
knowing what the Fenians had already attempted in the way of rescuing
their friends, were very much on the alert, and more than a hundred
officers, in private clothes and armed with revolvers, had been placed
outside the barriers amongst the crowd. At six o'clock the great gates
leading to the yard of the Old Bailey courthouse were thrown open, and
with a heavy, rumbling sound the grim old scaffold which had figured in
so many scenes of horror was for the last time drawn forth from its
resting-place and wheeled to its position in front of the small,
iron-barred door, which, as late as 1900, was still seen in the middle of
the blank wall of Newgate Prison. The noise of the workmen's hammers as
they made the scaffold fast was almost drowned by the roar of the quickly
gathering crowd. All the scoundreldom of London seemed to have assembled
for the occasion. It was the last Old Bailey execution crowd. The windows
of the public-house opposite the scaffold had been thrown open, and at
every window men and women were crowded together, eagerly waiting for the
grim approaching spectacle. It was not an edifying sight, this execution
crowd.

There was one strange incident connected with it that has never been put
on record. Shortly after the scaffold had been placed in position I saw
four men, whose faces were familiar to me, trying to force their way
through the crowd, and I was greatly startled when I recognised them as
the four men who had been tried at the same time as Barrett, but who had
been acquitted by the jury. Not knowing what sinister purpose they might
have in view, I felt it my duty at once to warn the chief inspector of
police of their presence. He was greatly disturbed, and quickly pushed
his way through the crowd towards the place I had indicated to him. I
followed close at his heels until we reached the front of the scaffold.
As we did so he quickly put his hand upon my shoulder to stop me, and at
the same time uncovered his head. It was a strange sight that we saw in
the middle of that obscene and blasphemous mob. The four men, who had so
narrowly escaped the fate of Barrett, were kneeling, bare-headed, on the
stones of the Old Bailey in front of the scaffold on which their friend
was about to die, praying silently but earnestly. For several minutes
they continued to kneel and pray, and then, suddenly rising, they
hurriedly left the crowd and disappeared. "Did you ever see anything like
that?" said the inspector to me; and I do not know which of us was the
more moved by this strange incident.

Of the execution itself I have only one thing to say: that is, that
Barrett died in a very different fashion from any other murderer whom I
had seen hanged. He faced death, in fact, like a hero, with undaunted
mien, and a smile upon his pallid lips. I observed that his trousers were
all frayed and worn at the knees, and remarked upon the fact to one of
the warders who was standing beside me. "Yes," he replied, "he has been
on his knees, praying, ever since he was sentenced." I came away from the
spot rejoicing in the thought that I should never again be called upon to
witness that abominable thing a public execution.

It was in 1868 that I gained my first experience of London club-life.
This was when I became a member of the Arundel Club. The club is still, I
believe, in existence, and has a home somewhere in the Adelphi. In 1868
it occupied a house at the bottom of a street, running from the Strand to
the river, which was swept away when the Hotel Cecil was built. This
house had once been the residence of John Black, the well-known editor of
the _Morning Chronicle_, a journalist who used to boast that his
readers would follow him wherever he liked to lead them. The members of
the club were, for the most part, journalists, actors, and artists. It
was a delight to me to find admittance to the society I had hitherto
regarded with wistful eyes from afar. I could feel at last that I had got
a foothold, however humble, in the literary life of London. The man who
introduced me to the club was my old friend James Macdonell. We had
become intimate at Newcastle, in the days when he was editing the
_Northern Daily Express_. His brilliant writing had attracted the
attention of the proprietors of the _Daily Telegraph_, and they had
brought him to London to act as assistant editor of that paper.

Macdonell was a typical journalist, of very fine character. He was an
enthusiast, more than commonly perfervid, even for a Scot. Whatever he
believed, he believed with all his heart and soul. He was always in
earnest, and always striving to give effect to his opinions. His leaders
were really polished essays, of remarkable point and brilliancy. His
conversation was as striking and epigrammatic as his writing. He was
inspired by generous impulses, and his soul was clean. One of his
colleagues on the _Telegraph_ declared that Macdonell evidently
believed that his chief business in life was to frame syllogisms and
apply them. He had a good deal of the temperament of the French man of
letters, and to the enthusiasm of the Gaul he added a fine taste for
style. In those early days in London he was full of the possibilities
that lay before the penny Press, and predicted that the day was not far
distant when the _Daily Telegraph_ would supersede the _Times_
as the chief organ of English opinion. He greatly admired the shrewdness
of the proprietors of the paper, who, having no knowledge of literary
quality themselves, had yet an unerring instinct for what was good in
journalism. He delighted in one story which I have heard him relate more
than once. He had been telling Alexander Russel, of the _Scotsman_,
of the shrewd manner in which Mr. Levy, the principal owner of the
_Telegraph_, had been criticising an article of which he did not
quite approve. The writer had pleaded that the reasoning of the article
was perfectly sound. "We don't want sound reason; we want sound writing,"
was Mr. Levy's response. When Macdonell repeated this to Russel, the
great Edinburgh editor slapped his thigh, and cried, with an oath, "The
Lord knew what He was about when He chose that people for His own!"

It was not to be Macdonell's fate to convert the _Telegraph_ into a
second _Times_. On the contrary, after a few years in Fleet Street,
he himself went to Printing House Square, where he became, in the closing
days of Delane's editorship of the _Times_, the principal political
leader writer. He made a great mark in that capacity, and drew the
_Times_ a good deal further in the direction of advanced Liberalism
than it has ever been drawn before or since. He was a strong hater of Mr.
Disraeli's Imperial policy, and for a time the leading journal lent no
countenance to that line of action. But the curb was put upon the
enthusiastic leader writer, with his strong humanitarian views, and he
had to see the paper with which he was identified taking a course of
which he could not approve. To a man who threw his whole heart into his
work, nothing could be more galling than this. Poor Macdonell fairly wore
himself out with his ceaseless expenditure of nervous and intellectual
force, and he died suddenly and prematurely in 1878. His death was, I
think, the greatest blow to English journalism that it has received in my
time. In 1868, however, Macdonell was still in the heyday of his physical
and mental powers. We used to meet at the Arundel Club in the society
that I have described. Sala, Tom Robertson, Swinburne, and others hardly
less eminent, formed the company; and to these Macdonell, when he was
moved to talk--as he frequently was--would pour out the epigrams in which
he delighted. I can recall some of them that were very brilliant, but
they are too personal to be repeated here.

Another friend of those days never attained to anything like fame. He
died, as he had lived, a simple working journalist, and he is now
remembered only by a handful of personal friends. Yet even now, more than
twenty years after his death, I feel that Robert Donald was in many ways
one of the most gifted men I have ever known. He had come from Edinburgh
to fill a place in the Reporters' Gallery, and he added to his work as
reporter that of London correspondent of the _Glasgow Herald_. With
the rest of his intimate friends, I had an almost unbounded admiration
for his gifts, and an unqualified belief in his future. We knew from
constant and intimate intercourse the wealth of intellect and of feeling
that he possessed, and we were convinced that when he revealed these
riches to the world he would impress others as much as he had impressed
us.

He had been engaged for years in writing a novel--a novel that, we were
convinced, would be a notable addition to the great treasury of English
literature. He was very reticent on the subject of this _magnum
opus_, but at last he consented to submit the manuscript to me and to
another friend with whom he was equally intimate, Mr. Charles Russell. I
can recall the thrill of expectancy and delight with which I first turned
to the voluminous pages of Donald's book. I can remember how I read on
far into the night, revelling in the freshness and vigour of the style,
in the brilliancy of the dialogue which abounded throughout the story,
and in the insight into character and the grasp of human motives that
were everywhere revealed. After I had read a hundred pages I was
convinced that all our anticipations as to Donald's future fell short of
the mark. But I read on and on, and slowly, yet certainly, a deadly sense
of disappointment crept into my heart. It was not that there was any
falling-off in the quality of the work. Every page was as fresh and as
strong as those which preceded it. But when I had read a thousand
pages--large pages, closely written--and had come to the end of that part
of the work that he had finished, I made the appalling discovery that the
story he had to tell had not advanced a single step beyond the point he
had reached in the first chapter. Apparently it would require thousands
of pages more to complete the tale, and the work was already as long as
"Middlemarch" itself.

Donald had the faculty of writing admirably--far better, I still think,
than any but the greatest of his contemporaries; but he lacked the chief
essential of a novelist, the power of making his story march. Russell,
when he read the manuscript, compared it to an immense torso, heroic in
its proportions, splendid in its workmanship, but nothing more than a
fragment after all. "And yet what a quarry it is!" he said to me when we
were discussing it. "If only some inferior writer were allowed to dig
into it, and transfer its gold and marble to his own pages!" My poor
friend's personal story was a real tragedy. He accepted the advice we
gave him, and, laying aside the huge unfinished manuscript, began to
write what he meant to be a short and simple story. He submitted the
opening chapters to the editor of the _Glasgow Weekly Herald_. That
gentleman was delighted with it, and at once accepted the novel for
publication in his journal. The first few weekly instalments were read
with the keenest pleasure by everybody, and the hope ran high that we had
found a new writer who was destined to take his place in the first rank
of English authorship. But by-and-by the readers of the _Herald_
made the discovery that had been made by myself when I read Donald's
unfinished manuscript. Each chapter of the tale was brilliant in itself,
but no single chapter advanced the movement of the story by a hair's
breadth.

For weeks and months the novel ran its course, until the murmurs of
discontent on the part of the readers swelled into a positive roar. Mr.
Stoddart, the editor, who was a warm friend of Donald's, again and again
implored him to expedite the development of the plot, and again and again
he undertook to do so. But it was beyond his power to fulfil his promise.
Then, one day, a terrible thing happened. I was lunching with Donald in a
club in St. James's Street, one of the proprietors of the _Herald_
(now dead) being also his guest. This gentleman suddenly turned to
Donald, and speaking not with intentional brutality, but simply in the
frankness of unrestrained good-fellowship, asked him "when that d----d
long-winded story of his was going to stop?" adding that it must be got
out of the way in a week or two, as they wanted to begin the publication
of another. I saw how my poor friend turned pale at the cruel thrust. He
faltered out a promise that he would finish the tale at once, but I felt
that his heart was broken. He went home and bravely did his best to keep
his promise, but he only found once more that the task was beyond his
strength; and the unfortunate editor was reluctantly compelled to call in
an outsider to put an end in a summary fashion to a story which had
escaped completely from the grasp of its author. Donald never recovered
from the blow. His own ambition was crushed and mortified, and the ardent
hopes of his friends were all destroyed. He did not long survive this
tragical experience. And yet what a man he was! And what capacities he
possessed, capacities which would have enabled him to delight the world,
if only he had not lacked the poor faculty of the storyteller!

These were two of my great friends during my first residence in London,
and they were friends of whom any man might have been proud. Others I
held scarcely less dear, but they are still, happily, living, and I must
refrain from dwelling upon them. I had not been long settled in London
before I found work of different kinds accumulating on my hands. I wrote
London letters every week for the _Madras Times_, under the
editorship of an old friend, James Sutherland, and I contributed to
various provincial papers. But that which chiefly attracted me was
literary work for the magazines, and it was in connection with this work
that I first became acquainted with one of the dearest and most honoured
of the friends of my life, James Payn. I had been for some years an
occasional contributor to _Chambers's Journal_, and had received
more than one encouraging note written in a hand that it was difficult to
decipher, and simply signed, "Editor, _C.J._" At last it occurred to
me that a series of descriptive articles relating to the places and
scenes with which I had become familiar as a Parliamentary reporter might
be accepted by the editor. With much trepidation--for I was still a
neophyte in London literary life--I addressed a personal note to Mr.
Payn, asking for an interview. I got a cordial reply, inviting me to call
upon him at the office of Messrs. Chambers in Paternoster Row. Though I
entered his presence with fear and trembling, in two minutes I was at my
ease, and talking freely to the kindest and most generous man that ever
wielded the editorial pen. Neither of us then knew how dear we were to
become to each other, and how close and affectionate was to be our
intercourse during more than twenty years.

To Payn I was, of course, merely a very humble contributor to the journal
he edited; but I was received in a most friendly and cordial fashion, and
found, much to my delight and not a little to my astonishment, that the
brilliant man of letters before me was eager to recognise the bond which
a common calling created between us. There was no air of patronage in his
treatment of my modest proposals. He did what he could to make me feel
that we stood on an equality. This was Payn all over. Throughout his life
he was one of those men of letters who, whilst never sinking into the
boon companionship of Bohemia, show their respect for the calling they
have adopted by treating all the other members of that calling with an
unaffected respect and cordiality. Such men are the salt of our order.
Payn's generosity to young and unknown writers has been attested by many
men who in later life attained eminence, to whom he gave the first
helping hand in their long struggle against fate. When, in later days, I
read these tributes to the splendid and unselfish service which Payn had
rendered to English literature, I always recalled him as I saw him in the
dingy office in Paternoster Row on that day in 1868, when he first gave
me the right hand of fellowship. I shall have much to say of him
hereafter. At this point I need only record the fact that I became a
frequent contributor to _Chambers's Journal_, writing for it a
series of articles, descriptive of the work of the journalist, that were
afterwards republished in a volume called "Briefs and Papers." In this
little book I collaborated with my old friend and schoolfellow, Mr. W. H.
Cooke, who was the author of the chapters describing the experiences of a
young barrister.

By-and-by, as I extended my connection with magazine work, I was brought
into contact with Mrs. Riddell, the gifted writer of that admirable novel
"George Geith," and of other stories of equal merit. Mrs. Riddell was the
editor and proprietor of the _St. James's Magazine_, and I became a
regular contributor to its pages. Here I was brought into intimate
association with a phase of literary life which belongs rather to the
past than to the present. Mrs. Riddell had achieved sudden fame by her
brilliant stories. In these days such fame would have meant for her a
handsome income and a recognised position in society. But forty years ago
fame as a writer was not necessarily rewarded in this way. My first
interview with Mrs. Riddell, who was a lady of delightful manners and
charming appearance, took place literally in a cellar beneath a shop in
Cheapside. The shop was her husband's, and here certain patent stoves, of
which he was the inventor and manufacturer, were exposed for sale. I had
been greatly surprised when Mrs. Riddell, wishing to speak to me about
certain contributions to the _St. James's Magazine_, had asked me to
call, not at the office in Essex Street, but at this shop in Cheapside. I
was still more surprised on finding this gifted woman, in whose brilliant
pages I had found so much to delight me, acting as her husband's clerk,
and engaged in making out invoices in the cellar beneath the shop.

I am afraid that, in spite of her husband's occupation, I cannot give
Mrs. Riddell a testimonial as a business woman. She was, as I have said,
delightful as a writer, and charming as a woman, but her editorship of
the _St. James's Magazine_ did not suggest that she had the aptitude
necessary to success in business. She was very kind to me, and gave me
the opportunity of writing on any subject, and at almost any length, in
the pages she controlled. More than once I have had three long articles
in one number of the magazine; but I was always harassed by the fact that
the magazine was never "out" on the proper day, and that the editor was
always in a hurry for the copy I had to supply. My chief contributions to
the _St. James's_ were a series of sketches of statesmen,
subsequently republished in a volume, entitled "Cabinet Portraits,"
another series of sketches of London preachers, and a novel called "The
Lumley Entail."

This novel was my first venture in fiction, and one curious incident, at
least, was connected with it. I had submitted to Mrs. Riddell nothing
more than the first two or three chapters, and a synopsis of the plot,
when I offered it to her. With a courage that was undoubtedly rash, she
accepted the story forthwith, and decided to begin its publication at
once. I was very busy with my newspaper work at the time, and in
consequence could only write my monthly instalment in bare time for its
inclusion in the coming number of the magazine. One awful day, when the
_St. James's_ for the current month was already overdue, I received
a telegram from the publisher bidding me send in my instalment
immediately, as they were waiting for it in order to go to press. I
rushed to the office in a state of consternation, and explained to the
man that I had duly sent in my manuscript more than a week before. "I
know that," he said quite coolly; "I got it myself, and gave it to Mrs.
Riddell; but unfortunately she has lost it, so you will have to write it
over again." Here was a pretty dilemma for a budding novelist! I did not
take "The Lumley Entail" so seriously as I should have done, and I had a
very vague recollection of the contents of the lost instalment; but there
was no help for it. I had to sit down there and then in the office in
Essex Street, and write another instalment of equal length. It was
altogether different from that which it was meant to replace, and I have
no doubt that it changed materially the fortunes of the more or less
human beings who figured in my tale. Such, however, was the fate of a
young contributor in the hands of an unbusinesslike editor.

But, as I have said, Mrs. Riddell, apart from her imperfect observance of
editorial customs, was a delightful woman. She and her husband lived in a
rambling old house in the Green Lanes, Tottenham. Here she entertained
many of the notable men of letters of her time, and here I had the
pleasure of making the acquaintance of not a few of them. The
establishment was a somewhat primitive one. The workshop in which Mr.
Riddell carried on the manufacture of his patent stoves was at the back
of the house, and a rather large central hall, dividing the dining-room
and the drawing-room, was used as a kind of show-room in which choice
specimens of Mr. Riddell's wares were displayed. The special feature of
these patent stoves was that they were ornamental as well as useful. They
were made to look like anything but what they were. One stove appeared in
the guise of a table, richly ornamented in cast-iron; another was a vase;
a third a structure like an altar, and so forth. But whatever their
appearance might be, they all were stoves. One winter's night, when there
was an inch of snow on the ground, I went out to the Green Lanes to
attend one of Mrs. Riddell's literary parties. It was bitterly cold, and
one of the stoves in the hall had been lighted for the comfort of the
guests. We were a merry company, including, if I remember aright, George
Augustus Sala, and some other well-known journalists. In the course of
the evening Mrs. Riddell asked a well-known barrister, who at that time
dabbled a little in literature, and who has since risen to fame and to a
knighthood, to favour us with a song. He was an innocent young man in
those days, and tried to excuse himself. "Now, Mr. C----," said Mrs.
Riddell, "I know you have brought some music with you, so you must get it
and do as I wish." The young man admitted that he had brought music, and
blushingly retired to the hall in quest of it. Suddenly, those of us who
were standing near the door heard a groan of anguish, and, looking out,
we saw Mr. C---- holding in one hand the charred remains of a roll of
music, and in the other the remnants of what had once been an excellent
overcoat. He had laid his coat, when he arrived, on what was apparently a
hall table. Unluckily for him, it happened to be the patent stove that
had been lighted that evening to cheer and warm us when we escaped from
the storm outside. I draw a veil over the subsequent proceedings.

I believe it was on this very evening that I heard Sala utter one of
those jocosely brutal sentences for which he was celebrated. The literary
men who frequented Mrs. Riddell's house were not, I am sorry to say, so
respectful to her husband as they might have been. They made it very
clear, in fact, that it was the novelist and not the inventor of stoves
whom they came to see, and they were impatient when the latter attempted
to intrude his views upon them. A party of us were gathered in the
dining-room, smoking and otherwise refreshing ourselves. We had been
listening to story after story from some of the best talkers in the
Bohemia of those days, and again and again the attempts of Mr. Riddell to
contribute to our entertainment by some long-winded narration had been
vigorously and successfully repulsed. At last the unhappy host found an
opening, and had got so far as "What you were saying reminds me of an
interesting anecdote I once heard," when Sala, striking his fist upon the
table, thundered a stentorian "Stop, sir!" Mr. Riddell looked at him,
half frightened, half indignant. "If the story you propose to tell us,"
continued Sala, "is an improper one, I wish to tell you that we have
heard it already; and if it is not improper, we don't want to hear it at
all." Yes, clearly one had wandered into Bohemia in those days.

My work in the Gallery of the House of Commons was of great interest. I
watched Disraeli during his first brief premiership in 1868, when he had
to hold the reins of authority in a House in which his party was really
in a minority, and when he had nightly to confront the fierce attacks of
Mr. Gladstone, who was rallying his own followers, both in the House and
in the country, for their successful onslaught upon the Government. It
was a unique and most valuable experience to watch these two great men in
their gladiatorial combats across the table of the House: Gladstone
wielding the mighty broadsword of his powerful eloquence, and seeming as
if at every moment he would annihilate his antagonist; Disraeli, with
marvellous skill and exquisite adroitness, bringing the rapier of his wit
to bear upon his opponent, and again and again pinking him with some
stinging epigram or smart retort that set all the Tory benches roaring
with delight. It made one's young blood grow warmer to watch the struggle
from the impartial height of the Reporters' Gallery.

I was in the House on that memorable occasion when Disraeli made a speech
which astounded his followers so much that they were only able to account
for it by the hypothesis that he had taken too much to drink. This is a
harsh way of stating the case, but there is no doubt a measure of truth
in it. Disraeli was not a self-indulgent man, but in those days his
devotion to his duties in the House was so great that he would sometimes
sit all the evening listening to a debate without taking any food, and in
his dinnerless condition the stimulant he took before making his speech
in reply occasionally got into his head. Certainly, in the memorable
speech on the Irish Church question, to which I allude, he was betrayed
into excesses for which some justification was necessary. I remember
seeing him, at the close of that speech, draw his handkerchief from his
pocket and wave it round his head, before he sank back exhausted on the
Treasury bench; and I can still see the pale and angry face of Mr.
Gladstone as he sprang to his feet to reply, and hear the stern tones in
which he referred to "the excitement--the too obvious excitement--of the
right honourable gentleman."

Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff has recently furnished the world with many
volumes of personal reminiscences. He does not include among those
reminiscences any reference to a scene which I witnessed in the House of
Commons during Disraeli's first brief premiership, although Sir
Mountstuart was himself the hero of the occasion. It was one Wednesday
afternoon. There was an empty House and a dull debate, but Disraeli was
in his place on the Treasury Bench, so that anything might happen. It
pleased the Mr. Grant Duff of those days to deliver himself of a
philippic, at once voluminous and violent, against the Prime Minister. He
quoted the opinions of foreign critics to the disadvantage of Mr.
Disraeli; he emphasised them by fine flights of his own imagination; and
he illustrated his speech with a wealth of gesticulation and a variety of
intonation that convulsed his scanty audience with laughter. People
wondered mildly what punishment was in store for the audacious man who
was thus breaking one of the unwritten canons of the House, for in those
days it was regarded as bad form on the part of a man not himself in the
front rank to attack one in the position of Mr. Disraeli. As the speech
proceeded, the Prime Minister sat in his favourite attitude, his arms
folded, his head slightly bent forward, and his vacant eyes fixed upon
the points of his boots. He might have been carved in stone for any trace
of emotion that he displayed. We in the Gallery anticipated that this air
of absolute indifference was to be the punishment of his rash assailant.
But to our surprise, when Grant Duff sat down, Disraeli instantly sprang
to his feet. As he did so, he raised his single glass to his eye, and
looked fixedly across the House to the spot where the member for Elgin
was slowly composing himself after his mighty effort. For some seconds
Disraeli, with an air of cold, cynical aloofness, continued to gaze at
the unfortunate man. Then, with a favourite action, he suddenly dropped
the glass from his eye, and, waving his hand with an airy gesture of
contempt, said, "I shall not detain the House, sir, by referring to
the--the _exhibition_ we have just witnessed; but I merely wish to
say in reply to an honourable member below the gangway," and so on. This
was, I think, the most cruel speech I ever heard Disraeli make, and for
the moment it seemed to have a crushing effect upon its subject.

In those days Disraeli was not the Tory idol he subsequently became. I
well remember, on the historic evening when Mr. Gathorne Hardy moved the
adjournment of the House because of the absence of Mr. Disraeli at
Windsor, and the news instantly spread that Lord Derby had resigned and
Mr. Disraeli had become Prime Minister in his place, that there was a
hubbub--not merely of excitement, but of disapproval--in the Lobby. Tory
members of the old school were furious at having "that Jew," as they
contemptuously styled him, set over them. I walked from the House that
evening with Sir Edward Baines and Mr.--afterwards Sir Charles--Forster.
They were both full of the dislike felt on the Tory side for the change
in the leadership of their party. It is strange to note how quickly the
views of a party change with regard to its leaders. I remember the time
when the idea that Mr. Gladstone would ever be Prime Minister was treated
with ridicule by not a few of those who sat beside him in Parliament. I
have myself heard Mr. Disraeli assailed in scornful and sarcastic terms
by Lord Salisbury, and have listened to his sneering retort. Even after
Disraeli became Prime Minister in 1868 it is notorious that the Duke of
Buccleuch refused to entertain him as his guest when he visited Scotland
to rally the party before the General Election of that year. It was on
the occasion of this visit that he gave such offence to the graver
section of the Tories by the speech in which, explaining the genesis of
the Household Suffrage Act, he used the words, "I educated my party." A
few years later the whole party was proud of having been educated by him;
but when he made this speech his words were regarded as an insolent
display of vanity on the part of an upstart who had elbowed his way to
the front at the expense of better men.

My only personal encounter with the great Tory leader was connected with
this same speech at Edinburgh. I went to Aylesbury, during the course of
the 1868 election, in order to report a speech of his. He spoke in the
Corn Exchange, which was crowded to excess. The accommodation for the
reporters was quite unequal to their demands, and I had to stand among
the crowd and take my notes as best I could. A good-natured farmer in
front of me invited me to use his back as a desk, against which I placed
my note-book. Disraeli had not proceeded very far with his speech before
I found that my friend was not by any means in agreement with the
illustrious speaker. Again and again he interrupted him with exclamations
and questions. For a long time Disraeli took no notice of these
interruptions, but at last one stung him into action. The orator had
paused for a moment, and my farmer friend, seizing his chance, bawled out
in a stentorian voice, "What about educating your party?" The Prime
Minister instantly turned round, raised his glass to his eye, and with an
angry and contemptuous glare, transfixed--me! The farmer's courage had
given way when he found that his shot had told, and, to my unutterable
disgust, he dropped upon his knees, and left me to face the music.
Disraeli looked at me for a perceptible space of time, and then, dropping
his glass, said, in those chilling tones of which he was a master, "I
shall certainly not try to educate _you_, sir." Everybody stared at
me; everybody groaned at me; and it was only the consciousness of my own
innocence that kept me from dropping on my knees beside the treacherous
author of my humiliation.

In that election of 1868 I recorded my first parliamentary vote. Living
at 24, Addison Road North, I was an elector of Chelsea, and I duly
supported at the polling booth the joint candidature of Sir Charles Dilke
and Sir Henry Hoare. This was the last General Election before the
passing of the Ballot Bill. Representatives of the different candidates
sat on either side of the poll clerk, and duly thanked each elector as he
recorded his vote for the man whom they represented.

I wrote an article in the _St. James's Magazine_ describing the
opening day of the session of the new Household Suffrage Parliament. It
was called "The Birthday of an Era," and, looking back, I think I was
fully entitled to make use of that somewhat high-sounding phrase. It was
the beginning of the Gladstonian epoch in English history, and, for good
or for evil (in my own opinion mainly for good), it was destined to make
a deep impression on the institutions and fortunes of the nation. When
Mr. Gladstone entered upon his first term of office as Prime Minister, he
was certainly surrounded by a wonderful band of colleagues. They included
Lord Granville, Lord Hartington, Lord Kimberley, Mr. Lowe, Mr. Bright,
Mr. Cardwell, Mr. Childers, Mr. Bruce, and Mr. Forster. In my time no
stronger ministry than this has had power in England. The men I admired
most after Mr. Gladstone were Mr. Bright and Mr. Forster. I had not yet
made the personal acquaintance of Forster, and did not dream of the close
ties by which we were eventually to be united; but I was drawn to him
from the very first by an instinctive feeling of liking and esteem. His
blunt speech, his careless dress, his unpolished but genuine manners, all
seemed to me to mark him out as that rare creature a thoroughly honest
politician; and whilst I sat in the Reporters' Gallery, there was no one
after Mr. Gladstone whose speeches delighted me more than did those of
Forster.

Before the Ministry had been long in office I was brought into contact
with one of its members, Mr. W.E. Baxter, the Secretary to the Admiralty.
Mr. Baxter was a great reformer and a financial purist. When he went to
the Admiralty he found extravagance and confusion, not to speak of
corruption, pervading all the departments connected with the provision of
_matériel_ for the Fleet. He set to work at once, with the vigour of
the new broom, to cleanse the Augean stable. Naturally he excited the
bitter hostility of those whose personal interests were affected by his
action, and these, being in many cases persons of influence, were able to
inspire attacks upon his policy in the leading organs of the daily press
in London. I, in my small way, as London correspondent of the _Leeds
Mercury_, had defended him against some of these attacks. Baxter
noticed my defence, and sought me out in order to thank me for it. He did
more than this. He proposed that I should hear from him from time to time
how he was advancing in his work of reorganisation and reform, and should
make the facts known to the public through the columns of the
_Mercury_. This was great promotion for me. In those days the
provincial press had no direct connection with Ministers or the leaders
of parties; and the "London correspondent" was not in a position to
supply his readers with news at first hand, or with any news, indeed,
that was at once original and authentic. Through Mr. Baxter I suddenly
found myself placed in a position that enabled me to provide the _Leeds
Mercury_ with political and administrative news that was not only of
the highest importance, but that had not appeared anywhere else. For Mr.
Baxter was better than his word. When I went, as I did several times a
week, to see him at the Admiralty, he not only told me all that was going
on in his own department, but all that could be published with regard to
the proceedings of the Government as a whole. I think I am correct in
saying that I was at that time the only correspondent of a provincial
newspaper who was favoured in this way, and my letter to the
_Mercury_ began to be read and quoted in many different quarters.
Certainly my position was made both easier and more important by this
friendship with Mr. Baxter.

During the whole of 1869 I attended the debates in Parliament, and
watched with eager sympathy the progress of the Government in the heavy
task that it had set itself. The passing of the Bill for disestablishing
the Irish Church was the chief business of that memorable session. The
speaking on both sides was at the highest level. In the House of Commons,
Gladstone, Disraeli, Bright, Lowe, and Gathorne Hardy distinguished
themselves above all others. But the palm for oratory, as has so often
been the case, was borne off by the House of Lords. That House presented
a brilliant spectacle during the debates on the second reading of the
Bill which the majority of the peers detested so heartily. The speaking
against the measure was far more effective than that in its favour.
Indeed, at this distance of time I can only recall one speech by a
supporter of the Bill which impressed itself so strongly upon me as to
remain fresh in my memory after the lapse of more than thirty years. That
was the speech of Dr. Connop Thirlwall, Bishop of St. David's, who was
courageous enough to stand against his brethren, and to prefer the claims
of justice to those of the Establishment in which he was a leading
figure. On the other hand, two at least of the speeches delivered against
the Bill are still vividly present to my mind. The first was the speech
of Dr. Magee, Bishop of Peterborough, an extraordinary display of florid
and flowing eloquence. It moved the House so greatly that when he sat
down the Tory peers rose, almost in a body, and rushing across the floor,
offered him their personal congratulations and handshakes in recognition
of his success. Such a scene, common enough in foreign Chambers, was
almost without precedent in our cold and stately House of Lords. The
other memorable speech was that of Lord Derby, "the Rupert of debate."
Though I had no sympathy with his views, I could not but admire the
almost passionate fervour with which he pleaded for the Irish Church, and
the indignation with which he denounced those who were bent upon
despoiling it. I remember his quoting with dramatic effect the curse
uttered by Meg Merrilees upon Ellan-gowan--a curse which he intended, of
course, to apply to Mr. Gladstone. It was the last speech that Lord Derby
ever made. When the announcement of the final surrender of the Peers,
after the Bill had passed through Committee, was made by Lord Cairns, I
saw Lord Derby rise from his seat and, with a face inflamed with
indignation, hobble swiftly out of the Chamber. He never entered it
again.

This incident belongs to the tragedy of politics; but the debates on the
Irish Church Bill in the House of Lords were not without their touches of
comedy. One of these was supplied by Lord Westbury, the ex-Liberal Lord
Chancellor. He made a very amusing, a very bitter, and an almost wholly
inaudible speech against the Bill. The older peers, with their hands
behind their ears, clustered round him to catch his witticisms, some even
kneeling on the floor in order to be near enough to hear him. They
chuckled and laughed consumedly, but we unfortunate reporters in the
Gallery had but the faintest idea of what it was they were laughing at.
One sentence I did indeed catch, and still remember. It was to the effect
that if the Irish Church were disestablished there would be no provision
for the celebration of holy matrimony in Ireland in accordance with
Protestant rites. "Was it possible," Lord Westbury asked, with simulated
indignation, "that the authors of this iniquitous measure really meant to
drive all the unmarried Protestants of Ireland into mortal sin?" The old
peers around him enjoyed this effort of the imagination mightily.

The other comic incident I remember was of a different kind. The
Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Trench, on behalf of his fellow-prelates, made
a long speech against the Bill. Dr. Trench was a man of very high
character and fine talent, but he was not at home in the House of Lords,
or, indeed, in a political speech. When he advanced to the table of the
House, he caused a slight titter by producing an unmistakable black
sermon case, and spreading it open before him. By-and-by, as he proceeded
with his sonorous but somewhat melancholy discourse, everybody perceived
that he was preaching a sermon. The intonation of his voice, the
phraseology, the measured sweep of the hands, all smacked of the pulpit.
The whole House listened eagerly, and watched intently for the accident
that was certain to happen. At last it came. "I beseech you, my
brethren," said the Archbishop, in a moment of apostolic absence of mind,
and the whole House exploded in a roar of long-suppressed laughter, which
made it impossible to learn the nature of the Primate's appeal.

For any man of intelligence the position of a parliamentary reporter is
one of great interest and full of great possibilities. In my days in the
Gallery there was, as I have already stated, little communication between
the Gallery and the House proper. The art of exploiting the Press had not
yet become familiar to the politicians, and a great gulf seemed to be
fixed between the reporters and the members. Since then, that gulf has
almost disappeared, and not a few men have stepped down from the
Reporters' Gallery to the floor of the House. But our very aloofness from
the inner side of parliamentary life, with its personal interests and its
incessant intrigues, strengthened our position as independent critics and
observers. We looked on as at a play in which we ourselves had no part,
and those who possessed the instinct for politics which is the gift of
the born journalist were able to see more and learn more from our
independent standpoint than many of the actual actors saw and learned.
Some of the most capable of our political writers and critics were
trained in the Gallery. One of my most intimate friends in those days was
Mr. Mudford, who subsequently became known to fame as the editor of the
_Standard_, and who built up that journal's great reputation. Of
Mudford's capacity as an editor it is hardly necessary to speak here, but
I may note in passing that even in his early days in the Gallery he
displayed the marked characteristics which distinguished him when he was
at once the ablest and the least known of London editors. His
independence of character was even then combined with a strong
indisposition to make many acquaintances, or to cut any figure in public.
It was my privilege to be counted thus early in his career among his
friends, and I am glad to say that it is a privilege which I still enjoy.

My stay in London was brought to an end in the early part of 1870, amid
circumstances that changed the whole tenor of my life, and for a time
left me a crippled and wounded man. I have said nothing in these pages of
my private life or my domestic happiness. My marriage had proved to be,
in all respects save one, everything that the heart of man could desire.
The one drawback was my wife's delicate health; but she had shown such
marvellous recuperative powers at times when the doctors had spoken in
the gravest manner of her case, and she possessed so unfailing a flow of
natural good spirits, that it was impossible for one who, perhaps, saw
only that which he desired to see, to believe that her case was hopeless.
Yet hopeless it really was during the whole of the two short years of her
married life. Her death--it took place on the 4th of February--was a blow
that seemed to shatter my own life to its very foundations. I cannot
dwell upon it, unless it be to say that at that time of unspeakable
sorrow I first learned the value of human sympathy, and made the
discovery that there are, happily, in this world not a few men and women
who seem to have the gift of being able, not indeed to remove, but to
share and to lighten the burdens of their fellow-creatures. It is only
those who have gone through such an ordeal as this of mine who can fully
understand all that human sympathy may be in that hour of darkest woe
when a man, still standing on the threshold of life, finds himself alone
in a world which to him has suddenly become an empty desert.

One incident, and one only, of those days I will venture to recall. I was
walking along the Strand in the blackest hours of my misery, when I saw
an old man approaching me whose depth of mourning showed that he had
sustained the same bereavement as myself. There was probably a difference
of fifty years in our ages, but we were alike in the sacred kinship of
sorrow. As he drew near me I saw his eyes fixed upon mine with a long
look of tenderness and sympathy that went to my very heart, and comforted
me subtly. I envied him his age, which seemed to bring him so much nearer
to the end. I do not think he envied me my youth. It was but for a moment
that we were thus drawn to each other in the crowded street--"ships that
passed in the night," in the darkest night, indeed; but that moment I
have never forgotten.



CHAPTER VII.

EDITOR OF THE _LEEDS MERCURY_.

Forming Good Resolutions--Provincial Journalism in the 'Seventies--
Recollections of the Franco-German War--The Loss of the _Captain_
and its Consequences to me--Settling Down at Leeds--Acquaintance with
Monckton Milnes--Visits to Fryston--Lord Houghton's Chivalry--His
Talk--His Skill in Judging Men--Stories about George Venables--Lord
Houghton's Regard for Religious Observances.


In April, 1870, there came to me most unexpectedly the offer of the
editorship of the _Leeds Mercury_. It came, as readers of the
preceding pages know, at a time when my whole life was unsettled by the
bereavement which had made me a lonely, restless man. It was, I need
hardly say, an offer of a very tempting character. After little more than
two years of the life of a journalist in London, the prospect was held
out to me of a recognised position on the Press as chief of one of the
principal provincial dailies. The position meant increased remuneration,
freedom from the anxieties of miscellaneous work, and the possession of
influence of no ordinary kind. All my friends and relatives urged upon me
the madness of refusing such an offer, especially since it had come to me
unsought and at an unusually early age. Yet for a time I was more
inclined to refuse than to accept the proposal. I loved London, and the
freedom of its literary life, and I knew by experience how sharp was the
contrast between the social life of the capital and that of a provincial
town like Leeds. Besides, London drew my sympathies more strongly than
ever as the scene of those short years of married happiness which had now
come to an end. So, for a time, I wavered as to the acceptance of the new
position offered to me, and it was only under the sharp pressure of
friends and relatives that I at last wrote to my old friend, Mr.
Frederick Baines, and accepted the editorship of the _Mercury_.

No one not a member of the Baines family had edited the journal since it
became the property of the first Edward Baines, so that it was a new
departure in more respects than one that the proprietors were making in
placing the editorship in my hands. The cause of the vacancy which I
undertook to fill was a rather curious one. Mr. Tom Baines, who had been
editor since his father, Edward Baines, entered Parliament, had become an
adherent of the religious body known as Plymouth Brethren. A man of
culture, of fine ability, and of high character, he had deliberately
associated himself with a sect which regarded the affairs of the world as
being outside the scope of a Christian's duties. He found it impossible
to combine attention to the many questions of politics and public
business that must engage the thoughts of a newspaper editor, with the
Bible readings and sermons upon spiritual truth to which he specially
desired to devote himself. It was a sore trouble to his excellent father
when Mr. Tom Baines decided that the life of a journalist and that of a
Plymouth Brother were not consistent; but, with that noble respect for
all conscientious convictions which distinguished Edward Baines both in
public and in private, he bowed to his son's decision, and regretfully
acquiesced in his retirement from a post that he had filled with eminent
distinction.

So it came about that on May 15th, 1870, I found myself in the train on
my road to Leeds to take charge of the duties of the important post to
which I had been called. I do not think that I had any conception at that
time of the real importance of that post, or of the heavy
responsibilities attaching to it. I was barely eight-and-twenty, and
hitherto the bent of my inclination had been towards literature rather
than political journalism. The ideal life, I thought, was that of a
successful writer of fiction. Though a sincere and convinced Liberal, I
had always possessed an unfortunate capacity for seeing the defects and
blunders of my own party, and I had a strong distaste for the doctrine
which finds expression in the phrase, "My party, right or wrong."
Besides, I was then, as I still am, strongly attracted towards different
personalities. There were men on the Conservative side of the House of
Commons whom I regarded with deep respect and esteem. There were others,
sitting on the Liberal benches, whom I held in something like contempt.
Upon the whole, therefore, I did not feel so much attracted by the
responsible editorship of a great political journal as might have been
expected, and it was with considerable trepidation, and many doubts as to
my own capacity, that I made that fateful journey to Leeds. I remember
distinctly the current of my thoughts as the train flew northwards. The
death of my wife had sobered me, and all youthful levity seemed to have
been buried in her grave. I spent the four hours of the railway journey
in making good resolutions as to my conduct in my new position.

The resolution which impressed itself most forcibly upon my mind was a
determination not to make any enemies. I could honestly say that I had
made none so far in the course of my life. If my circle of acquaintances
was but a narrow one, it consisted wholly of persons who were truly my
friends. In my innocence I believed that in the public position I was
about to take this pleasant condition of things might be continued. I
would be fair, just, and courteous to everybody, I resolved; and thus I
should pass through life as one of those fortunate men who enjoy
everyone's goodwill. I can smile now as I recall the speedy shattering of
that illusion which awaited me at Leeds; but I well remember the almost
tragical sense of surprise and disappointment which I felt when I first
found that in honestly doing what I conceived to be my duty, in a public
matter with which I had to deal, I had most unexpectedly made a personal
enemy. Speaking now with long years of experience behind me, I may be
allowed to bear my testimony to the fact that it is impossible for a
public man in this country to deal honestly with the many controversial
questions that politicians have to handle without finding that, in the
course of his life, he must of necessity make some enemies. Human nature
being what it is, it seems impossible for a man to take a clear and
independent line on great questions without at times giving offence to
others, who may be just as honest and conscientious as himself. It would,
of course, be ridiculous to say that the test of a man's worth as a
politician, whether in Parliament or the editorial chair, is the number
of his enemies; but I am convinced that a public man who has absolutely
no enemies must be a person who has deliberately shirked his duties and
stifled his conscience.

My first step on entering on my duties as editor of the _Mercury_
was to make a complete change in the editor's hours. My predecessor had
been in the habit of writing his leader in the middle of the day, and it
was very seldom that he was to be seen in the office after four o'clock
in the afternoon. In common with all, or nearly all, the editors of the
provincial dailies of his time, he never attempted to write upon late
news. It was the fashion then for the provincial editor to wait until he
had ascertained the opinions of the London daily papers upon current
questions before he ventured to express his own. It was a delightful
system so far as the ease and comfort of the provincial editor were
concerned. To be able to finish the labours of the day in the early hours
of the afternoon was an ideal state of things from the personal point of
view. Fortunately I did not yield to the temptation to continue the old,
easygoing _régime_. My experience in London had made me acquainted
with the interiors of the offices of more than one of the daily
newspapers, and I was no longer oppressed with a provincial reverence for
London editors as beings who dwelt apart. I saw no reason why I should
not express my own views upon the questions with which I had to deal,
instead of waiting to pen a mere reflection of the views of other
persons. So, almost from the first day of my editorship, I went to the
office late, and wrote upon some subject that was absolutely fresh.
Barely three weeks had passed before I was able to make a distinct
impression upon the readers of the _Mercury_ as a result of this
changed system.

It was on the night of June 9th, 1870. I had finished my leader for the
next morning's paper, and was just preparing to leave the office, when a
telegram was brought to me with the sad announcement of the death of
Charles Dickens. My old leader was instantly thrown aside, and, sitting
down, I wrote out of a full heart of the irreparable loss which English
literature and the Englishmen of that generation had suffered. No matter
what the faults of the article might be, it made a great impression upon
the readers of the _Mercury_ next morning, for the death of Dickens
was one of those events that touch the heart of the nation, and everybody
was anxious to read any comments upon it. The impression made by my
article was deepened by the fact that no other provincial paper had
commented upon the absorbing topic. From that moment I seemed to have
gained the ear of my readers, and Leeds, which, not unnaturally, had
taken coldly to me in the first instance, began to open its heart and
extend its sympathies to the new and unknown editor. All this sounds like
sheer egotism; but as to the fact that, with my editorship of the
_Mercury_, the practice of writing upon the latest topics in the
provincial daily press first became general, there can be no dispute, and
as it is a fact of interest in the history of the Press, I have dwelt
upon it at this length.

Very soon the attention of newspaper readers all over the world was
absorbed by one engrossing topic--the great war between France and
Germany. The experiences of an editor during those exciting days were not
uninteresting. There have been no such days since in my recollection. In
the first instance, when the clouds were gathering with startling
suddenness, few persons in this country believed that war was possible.
It was incredible, they held, that two civilised nations should fight
over such a question as the candidature for the Spanish throne. All the
orthodox authorities were furiously angry with those journals that
pointed out the real dangers of the situation, and the difficulty of
arresting two great nations like France and Prussia when they had once
begun to approach each other with the language of menace. One day Mr.
Frederick Baines brought into my room one of the most influential
citizens of Leeds. His purpose in calling was to protest against the
alarmist tone of the articles in the _Mercury_, and nothing could
have been better than the imposing air of authority with which he
informed me that he knew for a fact that neither the members of the
English Government nor any other well-informed persons looked upon a war
as being even remotely possible. I felt very uncomfortable, and somewhat
overweighted by the air of my visitor. I could see, too, that Mr.
Frederick Baines, though thoroughly loyal to me, was also impressed by
his friend's statement. But in spite of the high authority on which this
gentleman spoke, just three days later war was declared.

Never in my time has the world looked on at a drama at once so stupendous
and so enthralling in its excitement as that of the Franco-German War. We
have had wars since then which have affected this country more nearly,
and have, of course, stirred deeper emotions in our breasts, than this
war between France and Germany; but as a dramatic spectacle on which,
thank God, we Englishmen could look as spectators merely, this great
struggle was unsurpassed and unapproached. The march of events was so
swift, the surprises were so great and numerous, the field of operations
was so near and so familiar, and the political upheaval so terrible and
so complete, that we onlookers were kept in a state of perpetual, almost
breathless, suspense whilst the struggle lasted.

Of course, the newspapers were full of the war from the moment of its
breaking out. The arrangements for special correspondents and news from
the front were more complete than they had ever been before, and as the
astounding drama swiftly advanced from the trivial overture at Saarbruck
to the overwhelming catastrophe at Sedan, the civilised world had eyes
and ears for nothing else. Barely seven weeks elapsed between the
declaration of war and the surrender of the Emperor and the fall of his
empire. During those seven weeks, public opinion in this country seemed
to be equally divided between the two belligerents; but after the
collapse of the Imperial army and the fall of the empire, the balance
swung round in favour of France. That wholesome human sentiment which
leads most men to take sides with the weak against the strong acted upon
us, and drew our sympathies to unhappy France. The French have never
given us credit for this fact, but have continually reproached us for not
having espoused their side in a quarrel with which we had absolutely no
concern. On the other hand, the Germans have never openly resented our
sympathy with France in her day of immeasurable misfortune. I do not
think, however, that they have forgotten it.

It was after Sedan, when it became evident that Paris was about to be
invested by the victorious troops, that the war entered upon a new phase.
At first nobody believed in a possible siege of Paris, any more than
people now believe in a possible siege of London. I remember one of the
sub-editors of the _Leeds Mercury_, who happened to take the
Prussian side in the quarrel, bursting into my room one day in a furious
passion to denounce the conduct of those wretched Frenchmen, who were
positively cutting down the woods outside the city barriers in order to
prevent their affording shelter to the enemy. My friend had once visited
Paris, and had been struck by the beauty of these woods. Apparently he
thought that, even for their own salvation, the French had no right to
disfigure scenes of beauty that had delighted the eyes of sentimental
tourists.

The newspapers, when it became evident that the siege of Paris was, after
all, destined to take place, had to adopt measures to secure
correspondents who were prepared to endure the hardships of that siege in
order to furnish information to the British public. The most famous of
these correspondents was Mr. Labouchere, who furnished the _Daily
News_ with the most entertaining journal of a siege ever written by a
besieged resident. On behalf of the _Leeds Mercury_ I engaged the
services of another well-known journalist to act as our representative
during the siege. This gentleman very naturally required a considerable
sum of money in advance for his maintenance during the investment. He had
written one or two admirable letters in anticipation of the siege, and I
cheerfully sent him the amount for which he asked. He received it just
before the Prussian lines closed round Paris, and I do not remember that
I ever heard from him again. The letters which it is to be presumed he
wrote to the _Leeds Mercury_ never reached that journal.

When the investment began, and Paris was cut off from the outer world, we
onlookers with the strip of sea between had certain visible signs of the
reality of the siege offered to us in our very midst. The front page of
the _Times_ furnished one of these signs. Day after day, for weeks
at a stretch, the whole of that page was occupied by messages from the
French outside Paris to their friends and relatives within the walls. At
first English readers were puzzled by this phenomenon. The investment of
the city was very strict, and it was difficult to understand how the
newspaper could be smuggled inside the barriers; but presently the truth
was made known. This page of the _Times_ was part of the machinery
of the famous pigeon post which connected the outside world with Paris
during its long beleaguerment. The page was photographed on a microscopic
scale. The film on which the photograph was printed was carried into
Paris by a pigeon, a magic-lantern was used to enlarge the photograph,
and the messages it contained were copied by Post Office officials, and
forwarded to their different destinations. Such a postal service was, I
imagine, unique. It was certainly most ingenious.

Another sign of the siege of Paris was presented during those bright
autumn days by the appearance of Piccadilly, especially on a Sunday
afternoon. I generally spent Sunday in London, and during that autumn,
when walking on a Sunday in Piccadilly, I noticed more than once that the
majority of the well-dressed persons promenading on the northern side of
the street were Frenchmen--most of them wearing the ribbon of the Legion
of Honour. They were chiefly Imperialists, for whom there was no place in
France under the new _régime_, and they had flocked to London
literally in thousands, so that the great West End thoroughfare resounded
at times with the French tongue.

One feature of that autumn was the unwonted magnificence of the displays
of the aurora borealis. I never saw such fine auroras before or since.
Night after night the sky was lighted up by the brilliantly coloured
shafts of quivering flame. It is hardly surprising that the vulgar should
have associated the phenomenon with the wonderful tragedy which was being
enacted so near to our shores. The most ignorant, however, did not regard
it as an omen. They honestly believed that they saw in the heavens the
reflection of the glare from burning Paris.

I did not settle down to my editorial work in Leeds easily. Everything
drew me back to London, and I told the proprietors of the _Mercury_
that I did not mean to retain my post after the war came to an end. But
at this point a fresh piece of good fortune came to me, though it arose
out of a deplorable calamity. The _Captain_, the experimental vessel
built by Captain Cowper Coles on designs that many high naval authorities
had declared to be dangerously unsound, capsized in the Bay of Biscay,
and sank with nearly every soul on board, including her designer, Captain
Coles himself. There had been a great newspaper discussion about the
_Captain_, and the _Times_ had taken a vigorous part in it
against the Admiralty authorities and in favour of Captain Coles. On the
morning on which the news of the disaster was announced, the _Times_
in its leading article maintained that the catastrophe was in no sense
due to the instability of the ship, and urged that another _Captain_
should be forthwith built. The _Leeds Mercury_, on the other hand,
took what I regarded as the commonsense view, and insisted that for the
future the opinions of the trained experts of the Admiralty should be
preferred to those of irresponsible enthusiasts, even though they
happened to be, like Captain Cowper Coles, men of genius.

Mr. Edward Baines, like most old journalists, had a profound respect for
the wisdom of the _Times_, and he was very much disturbed when he
found that the _Leeds Mercury_ took a directly opposite view of the
disaster to that of "the leading journal." He expressed to me, in his
usual friendly and courteous manner, his regret that I had expressed
myself so strongly, and evidently felt that what the _Times_ said
must be true. But on the following day the _Times_, after an
interval for reflection, completely changed its position, admitted that
the design of the _Captain_ must have been at fault, recalled the
fact that the catastrophe had been foreseen by the highest authorities,
and protested against the building of any more ships of the same
character. There was nothing surprising in this change of front, for the
first views of the paper had been obviously inconsistent with the facts
and with commonsense. But Mr. Baines was immensely impressed by the fact
that the _Leeds Mercury_ had grasped the essential truth before the
_Times_. He greatly exaggerated the merit of his editor in the
matter, came to the conclusion that I had become indispensable to the
paper, and would not rest until I had entered into a new and binding
agreement with him to continue my editorship on conditions that were
greatly to my own advantage.

Thus this grave disaster to an English ship led to my final
relinquishment of the idea of returning to London as a literary free
lance, and to my settling in Leeds as permanent editor of the
_Mercury_. Gradually my life in the town of my adoption became more
agreeable to me. I made friends who were kind to me with the
characteristic kindness of Yorkshire. I began to feel the power, as well
as the responsibility, of my position; and I learned before long that,
even in connection with the local affairs of a great community, a man can
render services to his fellow citizens quite as important as any that he
can render on the larger platform of public life.

It was at the close of 1870 that I first made the personal acquaintance
of a man to whom I was afterwards to be deeply and permanently indebted.
This was Monckton Milnes, first Lord Houghton. There was no better known
figure in London society in those days than Lord Houghton. But he was
much more than a figure in society. Delightful as host, _raconteur_,
poet, and man of letters, he was more admirable still as the generous and
willing servant of those who needed help. He had his foibles, his likes
and his dislikes; but he was not one of those philanthropists who wait to
be asked for their help. Where he was attracted towards anyone he was
eager to aid, not only without solicitation, but at times even against
the will of the beneficiary himself. I have known many kind men, many
true friends, in the course of my life; I have known none whose kindness
was more unstinted, more constant, or more generous than that of Lord
Houghton. He had come to Leeds in December, 1870, to attend some public
meeting, and he was entertained as his guest by Mr. Baines, whose son, as
I have already explained, was my predecessor in the editorship of the
_Mercury_.

At the dinner-table at Mr. Baines's house, Lord Houghton was as vivacious
and as full of good talk as usual. The conversation happened to turn upon
slips of the tongue. Houghton said that the most amusing he remembered
was that of the lady who, meeting a friend in the street, exclaimed,
"Have you heard of the dreadful thing that has happened to my poor
brother John? He has become a Yarmouth Bloater." The good lady meant, of
course, to say "Plymouth Brother." To Houghton's surprise, his story was
received in embarrassed silence, and someone, as he told me afterwards,
trod heavily upon his foot. Monckton Milnes was not a man to be easily
disconcerted, and he speedily restored the party to a proper mood of
geniality; but after dinner he took someone aside, and asked the meaning
of the cold reception of his joke. He received the explanation which the
reader will anticipate. It was because Mr. Tom Baines had become a
Plymouth Brother that he had been compelled to retire from the editorship
of the _Mercury_, to the great distress of his father. My name as
his successor in that position was unknown until then to Lord Houghton,
but he had no sooner heard it than he invited me to visit him at Fryston.

When I first entered the hospitable door of Fryston, I suffered from a
distinct feeling of trepidation. It was new to me to meet men of Lord
Houghton's social rank and fame on terms of friendly intimacy, and I
confess that I was miserably shy when I made my first appearance among
the company assembled in that pleasant morning room, where, long years
before, Thomas Carlyle had been first introduced to the amenities of
English country-house life. Carlyle has told the world, in a letter
written to his wife, how much he was confounded by what seemed to him to
be the splendours of a society that he had hitherto viewed only from the
outside. His description of his bedroom--it was much larger and grander
in the letter than any bedroom that really existed at Fryston--of the
servants in livery, the menu of the dinner-table, and of the valet who
made unlawful and undesired investigation of the contents of his pockets
when he intruded himself upon him in the morning, all bespoke the
absolute novice. I do not think, however, that he was a greater novice in
1842 than I was in 1870. A very brief experience enables any person of
ordinary intelligence to grasp the essential details of country-house
life; but many persons--including Carlyle and myself--would have been
spared a certain spell of nervous discomfort if there had existed some
simple written code explaining those usages and customs in which
country-house life differs from the ordinary life of the English
middle-classes. But kindness puts an end to all difficulties of the shy
guest, and certainly there never was a kinder hostess than Lady Houghton.

From 1870 down to 1885 I had the good fortune to be a frequent visitor at
Fryston. Lord Houghton's kindness to me at our first meeting only
increased as time passed; and writing of him now, long after he has
passed away, I must relieve my heart by saying that I owe more to him and
to his unceasing efforts, not merely to draw me out, but to push me
forward, than to any other friend I have ever made. There was a whimsical
side to his character which, naturally enough, attracted more attention
than was given to his more sober qualities. The eccentricities of his
youth, embalmed by Sydney Smith and the other humorists of the 'thirties
and 'forties, had disappeared when I made his acquaintance; but to the
last he was absolutely careless as to public opinion, except on such
points as those on which he himself shared that opinion. The truest thing
that was ever said of him was said by William Edward Forster at the
Cosmopolitan Club one night, when Houghton was leaving it. Someone said,
referring to Houghton, "He's a good man to trust when you're in trouble,
for he'll stand by you." "He'll do more than that," responded Forster;
"he'll stand by a man not only in trouble but in disgrace, and I know
nobody else who will." This was where the finer trait in Houghton's
independence of character came in. He was always ready to espouse the
cause of a man upon whom the world was frowning, but happily this quality
is not uncommon among our nobler natures. That which was most uncommon in
Houghton's character was his willingness to befriend a man even when he
knew that the disgrace into which he had fallen was not undeserved. He
could be severe--as severe as anybody I have ever known--upon vice and
meanness; but if the sinner needed help he pitied him at once, and was
ready to aid him to the best of his power.

His talk in his own house was delightful. It was altogether different
from the talk that men heard when they met him at London dinner-tables.
Strangely enough, it was at the breakfast-table that he talked best. Most
Englishmen are not roused to conversational brilliancy until the day is
far spent; but Houghton was at his best at breakfast and immediately
afterwards. And how good that best was! He was a walking encyclopaedia,
although no man was ever less of "a book in breeches." Whenever I wished
to clear up some obscure point in history or politics, in literature or
in the personal life of our times, I went to him, and seldom was it that
I failed to get the light I wanted. As a judge of character he had no
equal among the men I have known, and in the years that have flown since
his death I have had the happiness of seeing his forecast of the future
of not a few men strikingly realised. The first time I ever heard the
name of Lord Rosebery was from his lips, in 1874 or 1875. I had seen the
name in print, of course, but to me it was a name, and nothing more. "You
don't know Lord Rosebery?" said he one day. "Then mark him well. He is
the ablest young man in England, and, I believe, will be Prime Minister
before he dies."

On another occasion he shocked me for the moment by a deliverance about
Mr. Gladstone. It was in 1880, when the great statesman, having won the
most brilliant triumph of his life, and finally defeated his great rival,
Lord Beaconsfield, was struck down by serious illness a few weeks after
he had regained power. "I am so sorry to see that Gladstone is getting
better," Houghton said to me as we sat in the library at Fryston. I could
hardly believe my own ears, and expressed my surprise at hearing such a
sentiment from the lips of one of Mr. Gladstone's greatest admirers.
"Don't you see," responded Houghton, "that if he dies now he will be one
of the greatest figures in English history? He has just won the greatest
triumph a statesman ever enjoyed. It is impossible that he can remain at
this dazzling height. _Now_ is the time for him to die." Those who
only knew Lord Houghton as a genial cynic would have been surprised if
they had known that in his opinion the greatest Englishman of his own
time was Lord Shaftesbury, and the greatest Englishwoman Florence
Nightingale. Those who were acquainted with his poetry would not have
felt this surprise. There is much in his verse, neglected though it now
be, which deserves a high place in our national literature. But in his
later days--or, rather, throughout his life--the world refused to see his
more serious side, and treated him as the humorist and the wit, the
cynic, and the kind-hearted but eccentric peer who made it his mission in
life to try to fuse the two worlds of society and intellect.

He certainly had wonderful success in bringing together men who stood at
opposite poles both of position and opinion. In the days when Mr. John
Morley was only known as a promising writer of the most terrible
heterodoxy, he dined with Houghton, and was placed next the Archbishop of
Canterbury. "Who is that clever-looking young man sitting next the
Archbishop?" asked Lord Selborne, who was also at the table. When he was
told that it was Mr. Morley, the editor of the _Fortnightly Review_
and the author of the famous "little g," he threw up his hands in
absolute consternation. But Houghton had a rare discrimination in
bringing men together. He never brought people who disliked each other
into juxtaposition, as some notorious hostesses of our own time are fond
of doing. What he did was to gather round his table men of talent and
worth who would have had little chance of meeting but for his kindly and
hospitable intervention, and many a lifelong friendship has thus been
begun beneath his roof.

One of the earliest lessons a man learnt on being admitted to Houghton's
cosmopolitan society was the great need of care in the selection of
topics in addressing a stranger. Most persons one met at Fryston had
either done something or were somebodies, and occasionally their fame was
not of the kind that commends itself to everybody. It was necessary,
therefore, to walk delicately, like Agag, in opening a conversation with
a stranger. A terrible experience of my own will illustrate this fact. As
boy and man I had adored Thackeray, and made him the hero of my literary
dreams. There was one incident in his early life about which I was quite
unreasonably curious. I wanted to know which of his schoolfellows it was
who broke his nose and disfigured him for life, and I had made up my mind
that if ever I met a man who had been at school with him I would question
him on this point. During one of my earlier visits to Fryston I found
that George Venables, the well-known Parliamentary counsel and Saturday
Reviewer, was staying there. Venables was one of the most distinguished
men of his day. His ripe judgment commanded universal confidence, whilst
the somewhat austere manner which veiled a warm heart inspired chance
acquaintances with a certain feeling of awe. During dinner I heard
Venables talking about his early days at the Charterhouse, and felt at
once that my long-sought chance had come. Accordingly, when I was walking
with him in the Fryston woods on the following morning, I plucked up my
courage, and asked him if he had been at the Charterhouse with Thackeray.
"Certainly I was," replied the eminent publicist; "we entered on the same
day, and were great friends all the time we were at school." "Then," said
I, rushing blindly upon my fate, "you can tell me what I have long wanted
to know. Who was it that broke Thackeray's nose?"

It was winter, and we were walking in Indian file through the woods. As I
put this question to Venables, he suddenly stopped, and, turning round,
glared at me in a manner that instantly revealed the terrible truth to my
alarmed intelligence. He continued to glare for several seconds, and
then, apparently perceiving nothing but innocent confusion, not unmixed
with alarm, on my face, his own features became relaxed into a more
amiable expression. "Did anybody tell you," he said slowly, and with
solemn emphasis, "to ask me that question?" I could truthfully say that
nobody had done so. My answer seemed to mollify Venables at once. "Then,
if nobody put you up to asking me that question, I don't mind answering
it. It was _I_ who broke Thackeray's nose. We were only little boys
at the time, and quarrelled over something, and had the usual fight. It
wasn't my fault that he was disfigured for life; it was all the fault of
some wretched doctor. Nowadays a boy's nose can be mended so that nobody
can see that it has ever been broken. Let me tell you," he continued,
"that Thackeray never showed me any ill-will for the harm I had done him,
and I do not believe he felt any." Nor, I must add, did Venables show any
ill-will to me for the _gaucherie_ which had caused me to rake up
this painful episode in his career.

Venables himself had been the victim of another mistake, which he
resented more strongly than he did my indiscretion. He told the story to
me and to Mrs. Procter one day in the drawing-room at Fryston, with keen
indignation. A certain noble lord had approached him at an evening party
with an air of extraordinary deference. Venables knew the peer very
slightly, and was surprised by the salaams with which he was greeted. His
surprise changed to fury when he discovered that his lordship had
mistaken him for a notorious millionaire of somewhat dubious reputation
who had just blossomed into a baronetcy. "Think of it!" he said with
lofty scorn. "The fellow came cringing to me as if I were a prince of the
blood, merely because he thought I was that odious adventurer, and had
money in my pocket." Mrs. Procter sprang from her seat, and, hobbling
across the room with extended forefinger, cried to Venables, in tones of
dramatic intensity, "Does that noble lord still live?"

It was from Venables that I heard a delightful story about our host
which, years afterwards, I repeated in writing Lord Houghton's life. It
was the story of Carlyle's remark when Tennyson's friends were trying to
procure a pension for him from Sir Robert Peel. "Richard Milnes," said
Carlyle, taking his pipe out of his mouth, "when are ye gaun to get that
pension for Alfred Tennyson?" Milnes tried to explain to Carlyle that
there were difficulties in the way, and that possibly his constituents,
who knew nothing about Tennyson, might accuse him of being concerned in a
job if he were to succeed in getting the desired pension for the poet.
"Richard Milnes," replied the sage, "on the Day of Judgment, when the
Lord asks ye why ye didna get that pension for Alfred Tennyson, it'll no
do to lay the blame on your constituents. It's _you_ that'll be
damned." I always had a half impression that, for some reason or other,
Lord Houghton did not like to hear that story told in his presence. All
the world knows, of course, that he did get the pension for the poet, and
thus escaped the penalty anticipated by the philosopher.

But if Lord Houghton was sensitive on some points, he was frank and
courageous in acknowledging his own youthful follies and the punishment
which they brought upon him. I shall never forget his taking me to a
particular corner in that vast library at Fryston--which, like some
vegetable parasite, seemed to have spread itself over every inch of
available wall-space in the house--and taking down from the shelves a
volume of the "Life of Sydney Smith." His object in doing so was to show
me the original manuscript of the pungent and witty letter in which
Sydney Smith rebuked him sharply for having written a somewhat peppery
note to ask the Canon if it was true that he had dubbed him "the cool of
the evening." "What a young fool I was!" said Lord Houghton, when he had
read the letter to me. "And how good it was of Sydney Smith to set me
down in that fashion!"

Everybody knows that Lord Houghton was the most tolerant of men in all
matters of faith and opinion; but he did not allow mere carelessness or
idleness to serve as an excuse for the disregard of religious
observances. My usual time for visiting Fryston was on Saturday, when I
was free from the charge of my paper for four-and-twenty hours. My kind
friend always insisted on Sunday morning that instead of going to church
I should spend the morning in strolling in the park, either alone or in
his delightful company. This, he would say, was necessary in the
interests of my health. I spent more Sundays at Fryston than I can count,
but I never entered the little church hard by the park gates until the
sad day when I went there to attend his funeral. One Sunday evening, when
there was a rather large party at the Hall--including John Morley--we
were summoned by the old butler--himself a character not unworthy of
commemoration--to prayers in the morning room. Lord Houghton was good
enough to intimate to Morley and myself that we should not be expected to
attend, and we accordingly remained in the drawing-room in conversation.
A certain young Yorkshire baronet, who was also of the party, influenced
by our bad example, stayed behind with us. In a couple of minutes,
however, the butler reappeared, and going up to the baronet, said, "Sir
Henry, his lordship is waiting for you before he begins prayers." The
liberty accorded to the philosophic writer and the editor was not
permitted to the country gentleman. I think I ought to add, in justice to
Mr. Morley at least, that he and I accompanied the unwilling young man to
the scene of the family devotions.

I must stay my hand, however, in these rambling recollections of my kind
and brilliant friend and benefactor. No doubt I shall have more to say
about him before my task is finished; but for the present I must take up
again the thread of my narrative.



CHAPTER VIII.

MY FIRST CONTINENTAL TOUR.

A Generous Scot--Paris after the Commune--An Uncomfortable Journey
Home--Illness of the Prince of Wales--Revived Popularity of the
Throne--Death and Funeral of Napoleon III.--Burial of the Prince
Imperial--Forster's Educational Policy--Bruce's Incensing Bill--My Second
Marriage.


With the opening of 1871 came the armistice before Paris, quickly
followed by the conclusion of peace. Then took place the ghastly upheaval
of the Commune, and the eyes of the world were once more riveted upon the
great city which has been the theatre of so many tragedies. It shocked
everybody to think that the heavy sufferings through which unhappy France
had passed, instead of uniting all classes of the people together in the
bonds of a common sorrow, had only intensified the conflicts of parties
and social grades. But in due time the Communist rising itself was
suppressed, and peace at last fell to the lot of distracted France.

In September of this year, 1871, I went abroad for the first time in my
life. Passing through Belgium and by the Rhine to Switzerland, I visited
the Italian lakes before returning to England by way of Paris. There is
no need to dwell upon the incidents of a commonplace tour like this,
though one can never forget the delightful sense of exhilaration produced
by a first experience of the living grandeur of the Alps. Switzerland was
not so completely hackneyed in those days as it is now, and to me, of
course, as a newcomer, it did not seem to be hackneyed at all. I was too
young, I think, fully to realise the indescribable charm of Italy, a
charm which is felt more strongly by most of us with each successive
visit to that land of dreams and beauty. At Milan I was the victim of a
not unusual incident in travel. I found myself stranded at the old Hôtel
de la Ville for want of money. I had arranged for a remittance to reach
me there; but in those days there were no tunnels through the Alps, and
Italy was, in consequence, still a long way from England. My remittance,
therefore, took longer to reach me than I had anticipated. The result was
that I spent certain miserable days in a state of almost complete
impecuniosity. I shall never forget the weary hours during which I
tramped the streets, and the endless visits to the post office in search
of the letter which I awaited so anxiously.

But whilst in this unpleasant position, I was fortunate enough to meet
with an instance of genuine kindliness that really raised my opinion of
my fellow-creatures. An old Scotsman used to sit beside me at the
_table d'hôte_ at the Hôtel de la Ville. He was a man of
intelligence, and I found his conversation very pleasant. With the pride
and sensitiveness of youth, I was, of course, resolute in my
determination to conceal from him my unpleasant fix; but one night at
dinner he startled me by asking when I was going to leave Milan. I feebly
evaded the question by saying that I must first of all see all the sights
of the place. "Hoots, man!" he retorted, "ye've seen all the sights, and
ye're jist wasting your time and losing your holiday stopping here. I ken
weel what it is ye're waiting for. Ye're short of money--that's it, isn't
it?" I murmured something to the effect that I was expecting remittances
which would, no doubt, reach me almost immediately. "Weel, I'm not going
to let a young fellow like you lose your holiday," said my friend, in a
very positive manner, "and ye'll just have to make me your banker for
what ye want, and get away out of this hole as soon as ye can, for there
are better sights to be seen than Milan." I could only prevent his
forcing money upon me on the spot by promising that if my remittance did
not come next day I would avail myself of his generous offer. Happily,
the next day relief came, and I was no longer in pawn at Milan. But
blessings on the head of that worthy old Scot, who must long ago have
gone over to the majority! At least he nobly redeemed the character of
his countrymen from the libel which makes the name of a Scotsman
synonymous with meanness.

Paris in September, 1871, presented a strange sight to the eyes of a
visitor. The shadow of the double ordeal of the siege and the Communist
rising still lay heavily upon it. In the streets traces of the conflict
between the Versaillists and the Communards were everywhere visible.
Lamp-posts twisted by the shell fire, plate-glass windows perforated by
bullets, columns chipped and shattered, and the pavement ripped up for
the erection of barricades, were the common sights of the streets; whilst
the blackened ruins of the Tuileries, and the other public buildings
destroyed by the rebels, remained to attest the desperate character of
the civil war that had been waged in the capital. The inhabitants had not
yet recovered from the privations of the siege and the horrors of the
Commune. There were few who smiled, and there were many who could not
speak of the past without tears. That which was specially noticeable was
the fact that all the fury of the Parisians seemed to be turned against
the Communards. Many of them, speaking of the Prussians, referred warmly
to the contrast between their conduct and that of their own lawless
fellow-citizens.

Outside Paris the traces of the siege were everywhere visible, and
driving along the country roads near St. Cloud--where the people were
still living in tents and wooden sheds, almost every house having been
destroyed--one came constantly upon little groups of graves of German
soldiers who had been buried where they fell, each grave marked by its
wooden cross with its simple inscription. These monuments spoke
eloquently of the tragic character of the struggle. At Versailles, where
the National Assembly was sitting, the great bulk of the Communist
prisoners were confined in the orangery in front of the palace. Loaded
cannon commanded this improvised prison, where many hundreds of men and
women were herded promiscuously. Standing on the terrace above the
orangery, I leant over the balustrade in order to look on the prisoners
beneath. I had to withdraw hastily, for from the miserable crowd there
came up an unbearable stench, such as might emanate from a cage of wild
animals. Now and then one saw Communists being escorted by soldiers to
meet the swift vengeance of the court-martial which was sitting to try
them. These unhappy prisoners, who had little chance of escaping the
penalty of death, bore themselves with firmness, and manifestly believed
that they were sufferers in a holy cause. Not even the sight of the
destruction they had wrought in Paris could wholly stifle one's feelings
of sympathy with them in their wretched plight.

I had a second experience of the disadvantages of impecuniosity before I
reached London. During the latter part of my trip I had found a pleasant
travelling companion in the person of Mr. Charles Townsend, of Bristol, a
gentleman who subsequently represented that city in Parliament. As we
were travelling straight through from Paris to London, and had, as we
believed, ample funds for the journey, we signalised the close of our
trip on the Continent by a specially good dinner on the evening of our
departure, for which we had to pay a price in accordance with its merits.
We were returning by the Dieppe route. The journey by rail was delayed
because all the bridges near Paris were broken, and we had to creep
across temporary wooden structures. Before we were allowed to board the
steamer at Dieppe, all passports were carefully examined. The police were
on the search for escaped Communists, and whilst it was easy enough to
get into France, it was much more difficult to get out of the country.
Our passports, however, were in order, and we were soon lying down to
sleep in the cabin of the steamer in the full belief that we should find
ourselves in England in a few hours. I slept soundly, and only awoke when
the sun was well up in the heavens. The steamer was at rest, and I
thought we were in the harbour of Newhaven; but, to my dismay, when I
went on deck I found that we were still moored to the quay at Dieppe. A
terrific northwesterly gale was blowing, and the captain had not ventured
to put out. All that day we lay at Dieppe, the result being that the
money which would have taken us, under ordinary circumstances, in comfort
to London, was expended before we quitted France. When we reached
Victoria Station our united capital consisted of a halfpenny. We could
not even tip the porter who attended to us. I felt it was the meanest
moment of my life. We drove straight to a bank, however, and in a few
minutes had each a pocketful of gold. The double lesson I received during
this first Continental trip has made me careful ever since to take
sufficient funds on every journey to carry me safely through to the end.

The great public event of the autumn of 1871 was the illness of the
Prince of Wales. He had been staying in November with Lord Londesborough
at Scarborough, and on his return to Sandringham he was attacked by
typhoid fever. For a time no anxiety was felt, because it was believed
that the illness was a slight one. But suddenly the news was flashed
through the country that his Royal Highness had taken a turn for the
worse. This was followed a few hours later by the announcement that the
Queen and the other members of his family had been suddenly summoned to
his bedside; and yet a little later came the tidings that his case was
hopeless, and that he was rapidly sinking. December 14th, the day which
had proved fatal to his father exactly ten years before, was at hand, and
everybody believed that it would see another heavy blow dealt at the
Royal Family. It is impossible to describe the emotion produced by the
most unexpected news of the Prince's condition. The telegrams from
Sandringham were of so positive a nature that they forbade hope. On
Friday, December 13th, the gloom deepened hourly. At midnight a telegram
reached the office of the _Leeds Mercury_ saying that the family
were gathered round the Prince's bed awaiting his dissolution. That
telegram was received in every other newspaper office in the kingdom.
Everywhere Lives of the Prince were hurriedly prepared, and articles
written announcing the event which appeared to be imminent.

When the time approached for the _Mercury_ to be sent to press,
though we had made every preparation in case of the Prince's death, the
fatal news had not yet arrived. I consequently wrote an article upon his
illness and the emotion it had caused, to be inserted if his death had
not taken place when we went to press. Needless to say, it was this
article, and not that in which the national calamity was bewailed, that
appeared in the _Leeds Mercury_ next morning. The only other daily
newspaper that had a leading article on the Prince's illness was the
_Times_. In every other newspaper office the conviction that he was
at the very point of death was so strong that no preparation had been
made for his possible survival. When the morning of the fateful 14th came
it was announced that the Prince, though still in grave danger, had
rallied. For several days he hung between life and death, and then began
rapidly to mend, thanks to his own good constitution and to the
extraordinary care and skill with which he was nursed by Sir
William--then Dr.--Gull.

The revived popularity of the Throne in England may be dated, I believe,
from that period. The Queen's long withdrawal from the public eye,
consequent upon her widowhood, had led the multitude, ignorant of the
manner in which she devoted herself to the heavy duties of her position,
to regard her as being little more than a figurehead. Certain
politicians, in the autumn of 1871, had taken advantage of this state of
feeling to begin a crusade against the monarchy, and a section of the
extreme Radicals really seemed to believe that the glorious Throne of
England was about to be overthrown. But the sharp touch of personal
sorrow changed all this, and revealed to the English people their true
sentiments towards the Queen and her family. The grief, universally felt
when it was believed that we were about to lose the heir to the Crown,
and the affectionate sympathy with which his slow recovery was followed,
convinced us all, as they convinced the outside world, that the bonds
between the English Throne and the English people were far closer and
stronger than most persons had imagined. The trumpery campaign against
the monarchy died in a single night, and from that day to this the mutual
love and trust of monarch and people have gone on steadily increasing.

The announcement that the Queen proposed to attend St. Paul's Cathedral
in state to return thanks for the recovery of her eldest son touched the
heart of the nation afresh, and evoked the first great popular
demonstration of loyalty that had been witnessed since the early days of
the reign. I was present in the Cathedral at that solemn and stately
service on the 27th February, 1872, the precursor of the still more
stately service held at Westminster on the 21st June, 1887. Except on the
occasion of the Jubilee of the last-mentioned year, and of that of 1897,
London has never witnessed a more remarkable outburst of loyal
enthusiasm. At night the whole town was illuminated, St. Paul's Cathedral
being lighted up after the fashion of St. Peter's at Rome on Easter Day.
The crowds which filled the streets were enormous, and as the London
police had not then acquired the art of marshalling vast multitudes,
there was terrible crushing, and several lives were lost. Three persons
were suffocated at Temple Bar, which was already marked for removal. I
myself had the narrowest escape from death on Ludgate Hill, where the
multitude was packed in one dense, immovable mass for hours. The people
in the houses on the hill passed down water in buckets to the fainting
crowd, and now and then some woman or child was positively hauled out of
it by ropes, and thus placed in safety. It was not a sight that could
ever be forgotten, and it impressed forcibly upon one's mind the strength
of the hold which the monarch has upon the hearts of the people of this
country.

Among those who watched the passage of the Queen and the Prince of Wales
from Buckingham Palace to St. Paul's there was one notable and historic
personage. This was Napoleon the Third, at that time living in exile at
Chislehurst. Within twelve months the ex-Emperor was dead. His death was
the cause of a singularly picturesque demonstration on the part of the
ruined Imperialist party. I went to Chislehurst to see the lying-in-state
which preceded the funeral. The train which took me down from Charing
Cross was crowded with Frenchmen wearing the rosette of the Legion of
Honour, and on every side I heard men called by names that for twenty
years had been part of the history of Europe. The poor Emperor lying in
his coffin, guarded by men who but recently had been the great officers
of an Imperial household, was a pathetic object. I noticed that his hair
had turned grey; and the shortness of stature that he had been so anxious
to conceal when living was now plainly apparent. His funeral, which took
place on the following day, fittingly symbolised the fall of the Second
Empire. Preceding the hearse walked a body of French workmen in blue
blouses, the foremost of whom bore the tricolour, rudely fastened to a
branch which had been hastily torn from one of the fine trees at Camden
Place. Behind the hearse the young Prince Imperial walked alone, a pale,
thoughtful, delicate youth, who seemed little fitted to bear the burden
of the Pretendership. Behind him, in a single line, were four of his
father's cousins, of whom the most conspicuous was Prince Napoleon. His
likeness to the great Emperor was startling, and, as he walked
bareheaded, one could see that it was emphasised by the way in which he
had trained a solitary lock of hair upon his massive brow.

The Emperor was buried in a temporary vault in the Catholic chapel of
Chislehurst. The building was too small to admit a tithe of the crowd of
French people who were present, but those who could not enter the chapel
knelt throughout the service on the damp grass of the churchyard. When
the funeral party returned to Camden House, I witnessed an unexpected and
dramatic scene. The mourners had come back, as they went, in absolute
silence. From highest to lowest, all seemed to be suffering from the
deepest depression. The young Prince was the first to step within the
door of the house. As he did so, he turned and bowed to the great company
of Frenchmen--the wreckage of his father's empire. Instantly every hat
was raised, and a tremendous cry went up, "_Vive Napoléon le
Quatre!_" The suddenness and unexpectedness of this acclamation of the
youth as the inheritor of the Napoleonic legend startled and impressed
all those of us who were present as spectators.

Alas! in how brief a space of time I attended another funeral at Camden
Place, and saw the body of the boy, who had thus been hailed as Emperor,
carried across the breezy common to rest by his father's side. But now it
was with the sad music of military bands and the pomp and glitter of an
army in motion that the body was carried to the tomb. The Prince Imperial
was buried with the honours due not merely to a royal prince, but to an
English soldier. The Union Jack lay side by side with the tricolour upon
his coffin, and four English princes acted as pall-bearers. The Queen
herself watched from a pavilion erected above the wall of Camden Place
the passage of the funeral party from the house to the place of burial.
It was strange to think that this display of heartfelt sorrow, which was
shared alike by the highest and the lowest, had been drawn forth by the
death of the last representative of the Napoleonic Empire. But one could
not forget the opening words of the young Prince's will, in which he
declared that he died with a heart full of gratitude to the Queen of
England and her family. If that could have been the end of the Napoleonic
legend it would have been a fitting one; but even on the day of the
funeral of the Prince the truth that peace is seldom to be found in the
houses of the great was painfully illustrated. The chief mourner was
Prince Napoleon, to whom had fallen the second place only at the burial
of the Emperor. When the party came out of church the Prince took a
ceremonious farewell of the members of our Royal Family, and then,
disregarding the entreaties of the officials that he would return to
Camden Place and meet the greatly bereaved mother, leapt into his
carriage and in a harsh voice cried imperiously to the driver, "_A
Londres!_"

After the curtain had fallen on the great drama of the Franco-German War
there was an interval during which this country was chiefly occupied with
questions of domestic interest. The Gladstone Ministry had completed its
great achievements. It had disestablished the Irish Church, abolished
purchase in the Army, established vote by ballot, reformed the Irish land
system, and, above all, had created a national system of education. To
Mr. Forster had fallen the high honour of carrying this last-named
measure, and it is an honour which seems even greater now than it did at
the moment when the Royal assent was given in 1870 to the Education Bill.
At that time, indeed, Forster met with criticism and abuse, rather than
admiration and gratitude, for his great achievement. As older persons
will remember, he excited the bitter hostility of the Dissenters and a
section of the Radicals because of his refusal to make a hopeless crusade
against the Church schools the basis of his educational policy. Even if
he had believed such a step to be just, he would have committed the
gravest of errors if he had yielded to Nonconformist clamour. It would
have been impossible, even in the Parliament of 1868, to have carried
such a Bill as the Birmingham Education League demanded, and there has
been no Parliament since then that would even have looked at such a task.
Remembering this fact, the injustice of the bitter attacks made upon Mr.
Forster by a certain section of the Radicals, among whom a young
Birmingham manufacturer named Joseph Chamberlain was now beginning to
make himself conspicuous, is manifest.

One can only account for the acerbity with which Mr. Forster was attacked
on the ground that, both as a Radical and the son of Nonconformist
parents, he had excited the hope among the extreme party that he himself
would be as extreme as any of them. The wisdom with which he turned
existing institutions to account, and succeeded in masking the batteries
that the Church was ready to open upon any State system of education, was
denounced as cowardice and lukewarmness; and as a consequence of the
greatest triumph of his career--a triumph hardly excelled by any other
Minister of our time--he became the object of the undying suspicion and
hatred of a large number of the members of his own party. To the end of
my days it will be a cause of pride to me that, although myself an ardent
Liberal, and the son of a Nonconformist minister, I gave all the support
I could in the columns of the _Leeds Mercury_ to Mr. Forster. That
this support was of real importance to him was due to the fact that the
_Leeds Mercury_ circulated largely in Bradford, the town for which
Mr. Forster sat.

My championship of Forster and his educational policy, though it had the
warm support of Sir Edward Baines and of the majority of Yorkshire
Liberals, brought upon me the heavy displeasure of the advanced Radicals.
Like Mr. Forster, I was regarded as a traitor to my principles, and again
and again in those days, when I attended public meetings, I heard the
_Leeds Mercury_ and its editor denounced by those who declared that
the Liberalism propounded in its columns was a feeble, milk-and-water
product, scarcely better than open and undiluted Toryism. Here I must
pause to interject one word of grateful acknowledgment of the generous
manner in which the proprietors of the _Mercury_ stood by me in
those stormy days, and encouraged me to give free expression to the
independent opinions that I had formed. It was a time of trial for
Liberalism in general, and it was also a time of trial for the young
editor who, in supporting what he believed to be the truth, had thus to
run counter to the convictions of a very important section of his
readers. Yet, looking back, I cannot say that I suffered any substantial
injury from the ordeal through which I had thus to pass. It is true that
for many years I was regarded with suspicion as being only a half-hearted
Liberal by a considerable section of my party in Yorkshire; but I had the
compensation of being allowed to speak my own mind, and of knowing that
my words were not without influence upon others. No greater compensation
than this can be desired by any publicist.

It was not the education question alone that engaged the attention of the
public in the years 1872 and 1873, with which I am now dealing. The great
problem of the liquor traffic had been brought to the front, in a large
measure owing to the spirited but somewhat mischievous campaign
maintained at a great cost by the United Kingdom Alliance, in favour of
the measure known as the Permissive Bill. I have never been able to
understand why the promoters of the Permissive Bill should have made a
fetich of that very dubious measure. Yet for a whole generation it has
been their shibboleth, and, no matter what might be the aims or the
virtues of the man who refused to pronounce it, the supporters of the
Permissive Bill have regarded him as an enemy. They, at least, have not
laid themselves open to the charge of trimming. For more than thirty
years the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill, has been their
cry; and as a consequence they have seen these years pass without the
carrying of any real amendment of our licensing system.

In 1873 the Gladstone Government, now drawing towards the close of its
remarkable history, introduced a great measure of licensing reform, known
at the time as Mr. Bruce's Bill. It was a wise and statesmanlike scheme,
and if it had been carried it would have wrought a beneficent social
revolution in this country. But the Government, in their attempt to deal
in a practical way with the evils of our drink system, had to face not
only the opposition of the unholy alliance of the pulpit and the
beer-shop, but the hostility of the United Kingdom Alliance and its
supporters throughout the country. It was from the friends of the
Permissive Bill, rather than from the friends of the Tory party and the
publicans, that the Government scheme received its death-blow. The
fanatical opposition of extreme politicians had not proved fatal to Mr.
Forster's Education Bill, and as a consequence we have had for thirty
years a great national system of education at work in England, producing
results of immeasurable value. But the fanatics did kill Mr. Bruce's
Licensing Bill, and the thirty years that have followed have in
consequence seen no amelioration of the greatest of our social evils. The
_Leeds Mercury_ gave an uncompromising support to the Government
proposals with regard to the licensing system, and I thus roused against
myself the anger and ill-will of the adherents of the United Kingdom
Alliance, who were no less bitter against me than were the extreme
Radicals and Dissenters. I have no desire to fight my battles over again
in these pages, but the reader will understand that the editor of a
Liberal newspaper who was thus placed in a position of antagonism to more
than one important section of his party had not an altogether happy lot.
Yet I enjoyed it. I had my full measure of confidence in the soundness of
my own opinions, that great characteristic of the young journalist, and
in my many encounters with the foes of my own household I always tried
not to come off second-best.

The year 1873 was memorable to me in another and more personal sense. On
the 26th of March I married again. My second wife, who, I am glad to say,
still survives, was Miss Louisa Berry, of Headingley, Leeds. This union
brought with it settled domestic happiness, and gave me once more what I
needed--solace and sympathy under my own roof. Here perhaps, as I have
touched upon private affairs, is the right place to speak about my
children. The eldest, John Alexander, was born in London, and is the only
child of my first marriage. The other two, my daughter Eleanor and my
younger son Harold, were born at Headingley, during my later Leeds life.
Surely nothing to a man immersed in public work can be more helpful than
the loving devotion--it was never denied to me--of those who turn what
would otherwise be a mere dwelling place into a home.



CHAPTER IX.

A NEW ERA IN PROVINCIAL JOURNALISM.

Bringing the _Leeds Mercury_ into Line with the London
Dailies--Friendship with William Black--The Dissolution of 1874--The
Election at Leeds--Mr. Chamberlain's Candidature for Sheffield--Mr.
Gladstone's Resignation--Election of his Successor--Birth of the
Caucus--The System Described--Its Adoption at Leeds--Its Effect upon the
Fortunes of the Liberal Party--The Bulgarian Atrocities Agitation.


It was in the autumn of 1873 that I undertook a formidable task as a
journalist. I had long been of opinion that the provincial daily papers,
if they were properly organised, might make themselves independent of the
London dailies, and prevent the latter from competing with the local
press. Having convinced the proprietors of the _Mercury_ of the
soundness of my views, I looked out for allies elsewhere. The
_Manchester Guardian_ was the chief rival in those days of the
_Leeds Mercury_ in the great district comprising East Lancashire and
Yorkshire. The _Guardian_ was conducted with spirit and energy, and
I had been annoyed to find that it was gradually pushing its way into
that which we regarded as the territory of the _Mercury_. I
accordingly proposed to the local rival of the _Guardian_, the
_Manchester Examiner_, that it should enter into an alliance with
the _Leeds Mercury_ for the improvement of both newspapers. My
proposal was rejected with great promptitude by the managers of the
_Examiner_. They declared that they regarded the costly efforts that
were being made by the _Guardian_ to establish its preeminence in
Lancashire as a ridiculous waste of money, and plainly intimated that
they would never attempt to enter into a competition which, in their
opinion, savoured of stark lunacy.

Long afterwards I remembered my negotiations with the _Examiner_
when I saw that newspaper, after passing through a lingering decline,
finally absorbed by its successful rival, the _Guardian_. Baffled at
Manchester, I turned my eyes to another quarter. The _Glasgow
Herald_ suffered in Scotland from the spirited management of the
_Scotsman_ as we were suffering from the enterprise of the
_Manchester Guardian_. I went to Glasgow and laid my proposals
before the proprietors and editor of the _Herald_. After some
negotiations they were accepted, and a working alliance was established
between the _Leeds Mercury_ and the _Glasgow Herald_, which
only came to an end in 1900. We established a joint London office, with
special wires to Leeds and Glasgow respectively. (I ought to say that the
_Herald_, like the _Scotsman_, already had its special wire
from London.) We formed a thoroughly efficient editorial staff to do the
work of the London office, and we entered into an arrangement with one of
the London daily papers by which we secured access to all the information
it received. In this way I was able to guarantee the readers of the
_Leeds Mercury_ as good a supply of important London news as they
could obtain in one of the London dailies. I went further than this,
however, and took a step of the wisdom of which I am not now so fully
convinced as I was in 1873. This was the installation of a night editor
in our office in Fleet Street, whose business it was to secure the
earliest copies of the London morning papers and to telegraph from them
over our private wires any special items of news that those papers
contained, and that were not supplied by the ordinary agencies. The
_Times_ was hostile to this new departure, and we had some
difficulty in getting copies of the paper for the purpose of our "morning
express," as we called the new service. The other London dailies did not
object. The result was that a great part of each day's issue of the
_Leeds Mercury_ contained all the special items of news published in
the chief London newspapers of the same morning. It was a bold and
audacious innovation in the methods of English journalism, and I need not
say that it was one that was quickly imitated by others.

Besides making arrangements for a special report of Parliament, I
extended the old London letter of the _Mercury_ by securing for it a
number of contributors who were interested in different fields of
activity. Hitherto it had only been political. I now gave it a social and
literary character as well. It was in carrying out this part of my work
that I first became the intimate friend of William Black. I had met him
years before, but our friendship was of the slightest until I induced him
to take a leading part in the London correspondence of the
_Mercury_. He was at that time assistant-editor of the _Daily
News_, but he did not like the work, and was anxious to be relieved of
the drudgery of nightly attendance at the office in Bouverie Street. I
was able to offer him terms which justified him in relinquishing his
connection with the _Daily News_. He was just beginning his career
as a brilliantly successful novelist. "A Daughter of Heth" had won the
favour both of the critics and the public, and this he had followed up
with "The Strange Adventures of a Phaeton." The arrangement he made with
the _Leeds Mercury_ enabled him to devote his time and strength to
fiction, and, as I have said, it brought us into a relationship which
quickly ripened into one of affectionate intimacy.

There never was a man who stood the sharp test of prosperity better than
did Black. When we first became intimate he was just beginning to be
known, but within a year or two from that time he had become the most
popular of English novelists, and had become famous throughout the
civilised world. Obscure or famous, he was just the same. To a rare
simplicity of manner he added a chivalrousness of spirit that was almost
an inspiration to those who were brought into contact with him. As a
friend he scarcely had an equal. In all the affairs of life he would make
his friend's cause his own, and fight for it with an energy and
enthusiasm that few men are capable of showing, even on behalf of their
own interests. At a time, for example, when he was deep in the writing of
one of his own greatest novels, he voluntarily undertook the work of a
dying friend as a contributor to the Press, in order to ensure the
payment of his salary to the end of his life. I remember meeting him once
on his way to that friend's room, carrying in one hand a hare and in the
other a can containing some soup or other delicacy. He was very
particular about his appearance, always smart in his dress, and
rigorously observant of the social _convenances_; yet these
characteristics did not prevent his walking through the streets of London
on a summer afternoon laden in this fashion. My first dinner with him was
at the Pall Mall Club, in Waterloo Place, at the end of 1873. He had
another young man of our own age to share the entertainment, and behind
his back he spoke of this young man--who was, like himself, a
Scotsman--with an enthusiastic admiration. He was an artist who had just
come up to try his fortune in London, and that fortune, Black declared,
could be nothing less than the Academy. He was right, for the man who
made the third at that little dinner-party was the late Colin Hunter,
A.R.A.

Black lived in those days in a roomy, old-fashioned house in Camberwell
Grove; and here, in course of time, I spent many a pleasant evening with
him. His second wife, a charming North-country lady, was, as most now
know, the original of "The Princess of Thule," the heroine of the book of
that name, and the portrait was far more true to life than most sketches
of heroines drawn from reality are. Black's mother, a kindly old
Scotswoman, justly proud of her son, was another inmate of the house. It
was from her I learned that Coquette, the bewitching creature who plays
the chief part in "A Daughter of Heth," had for her original Black's
first wife. I discovered for myself that the author was the original of
"The Whaup," and when I taxed him with it he did not deny the fact. One
evening, after dinner at Camberwell Grove, we went for a walk together.
When we reached the top of the Grove he drew my attention to a pleasant
little villa standing in its own ground. "James Drummond," he said,
"lives there." I wondered who James Drummond was, but said nothing.
By-and-bye, as we pursued our way, he pointed out other houses, and told
me the names of their occupants, all utterly unknown to me. At last I
said, "Who are these people, Black? I don't know one of them." "You soon
will know them, though, my boy," he answered. "Just wait and see if you
don't." And sure enough, when "Madcap Violet" appeared, all the unknown
personages of that night-walk at Camberwell were straightway revealed to
me.

Black had an artist's eye and the soul of a poet. In general company he
was shy and ill at ease. If he talked at all to strangers, he talked with
nervous volubility, and too often perhaps with little meaning. In this
respect he reminded one of Goldsmith. But when he was with a friend, and
could open his heart freely, he gave you glimpses of a most beautiful
nature, a noble sense of chivalry, and the keenest eye in the world for
catching those gleams of spiritual light that sometimes illuminate even
the dullest of the bare realities of life. He was always sketching his
friends, and making them figure in his stories; but he did it in such a
fashion that the person drawn never recognised his portrait. He once
admitted that he had made use of me as a lay-figure in his literary
studio, but I was never able to discover by what character I was supposed
to be represented. As a rule, he was much too kind to his friends when
drawing their portraits, for he liked to think the best and say the best
of a man. Only once in my long friendship with him did I know him to
exercise his power of making a man whom he disliked appear odious in his
pages. But this particular person was so odious in reality that everybody
felt that Black had only done him justice. Of course, Black was careful
to give no clue to the identity of the disagreeable man which could be of
the slightest use to the general reader. A few of us knew perfectly well
who was meant, but that was all. Unfortunately, the particular story in
which this person figured was first published serially in an illustrated
magazine, and by some extraordinary chance--or mischance--the artist, in
depicting the disagreeable man, drew a portrait of the actual original
that was positively startling in its likeness. No one who knew him opened
the magazine without saying at once, "Why, here's a portrait of
So-and-so." And yet the likeness was absolutely accidental. Black assured
me that the artist knew nothing of the original disagreeable man, and had
never even seen him. It was all a freak of the long arm of coincidence.

I do not know whether I may not be boring my readers in telling these
little stories about works of fiction which they may never have read or
have cared to read. Yet those of us who can recall the refreshment and
delight which Black's earlier books spread amongst us will never allow
that the shadow of eclipse that now lies upon his literary fame is either
deserved or likely to prove lasting. No novelist of his century--alas!
this new century has begun without William Black--had his power of
painting a woman's heart and soul, or his deft grace in making the
portrait at once real and ideal. I do not wish to overpraise, but the man
who could draw Coquette, and Sheila, and Madcap Violet was, I hold, a
master in his craft. That he was, in a very literal sense, an artist in
words, is universally admitted. There are passages in his writings which,
in their power of conjuring up before the mind of the reader the scenes
they describe, are not surpassed by anything that Ruskin himself ever
wrote. The fact is that Black's sympathies drew him more strongly to art
than to literature. If he could have had his way, I think he would rather
have been a great painter than a great writer, and certainly he always
loved the company of artists better than that of journalists and men of
letters. He was most at his ease in the studios of his friends. He was
never so full of an eager, effervescent happiness as at the private view
at the Academy, when, seizing you by the arm, he would lead you from
picture to picture, pointing out the merits of each, and ending up by
introducing you to the artist. The artists, on their side, held him in no
common esteem, and long regarded him as first of those among the writers
of the day who had a real appreciation of and sympathy with art.

I must leave Black for the present, however, and return to Leeds, and the
events of 1874. My special wire and London arrangements had not been long
in existence before they received a most unexpected justification. One
night in February, 1874, when seated in my editor's room, I received over
the private wire a telegram that took my breath away. It was from our
London sub-editor, announcing that Parliament was to be dissolved
immediately, and that Mr. Gladstone had written a long address to the
electors of Greenwich, explaining his policy and intentions. My informant
added that this startling news was still a profound secret in London, and
that in all probability no other newspaper in Yorkshire would get
possession of it. Everybody interested in our political history now knows
the story of that bolt from the blue. It came with absolute
unexpectedness, and some even of Mr. Gladstone's own colleagues in the
Cabinet were taken by surprise. I know, at all events, of one member of
the Ministry who was staying at the time in a country house in Yorkshire,
and who, when the _Leeds Mercury_, with its announcement of the
dissolution and the long address of Mr. Gladstone to the Greenwich
electors, was brought to him, insisted that the paper must have been
hoaxed. Mr. Gladstone had kept his secret so well that at six o'clock on
the evening of the day on which he penned his manifesto there were not
twenty people in all England who knew what was about to happen. So far as
the _Leeds Mercury_ was concerned, this startling step ensured for
it a great success. No other newspaper in Yorkshire--and, if I remember
rightly, only one other provincial paper in England--was able to announce
the great event. The _Mercury_ accompanied the manifesto with a
"double-leaded" leader, and of course made the most of so precious a
piece of news. Those who doubted the wisdom of the increased expenditure
to which I had induced the proprietors of the paper to consent, doubted
no longer.

The General Election which followed immediately upon the dissolution was
a short but very bitter contest. It ended in the rout of the Liberal
party, a rout almost as signal and complete as that which befel it
twenty-one years later, in 1895. Mr. Disraeli, who had been nowhere at
the polls in 1868, was suddenly swept into the highest place by those
"harassed interests" which Mr. Gladstone's great administration had
offended by a policy that Disraeli described as one of "plundering and
blundering." It was, in reality, a policy which preferred the interests
of the nation to those of the privileged classes. In Leeds, where I had
now, for the first time as editor of a daily newspaper, to taste the
doubtful joys of a General Election, a fight of extraordinary vehemence
was waged.

Leeds was one of the three-cornered constituencies created by the Reform
Bill of 1867, and its representatives at the time of the dissolution were
Sir Edward Baines, Mr. Carter, an advanced Radical, very popular with the
working-classes, and Mr. Wheelhouse, a Conservative barrister. Sir Edward
Baines was the only one of the three who had achieved a Parliamentary
reputation. He had represented Leeds for fifteen years, and he was
recognised as its principal citizen by the community at large. He was a
total abstainer and an ardent advocate of temperance reform, but in the
eyes of the fanatical supporters of the Permissive Bill he had committed
the unpardonable sin in giving his adherence to Mr. Bruce's measure. So,
in spite of his character and his public services, they brought out
against him one of the agents of the United Kingdom Alliance. The Tories
had brought out a local gentleman named Tennant as their second
candidate. He was a man of many occupations, including that of a brewer.
The fight which followed was the most bitter in which I have ever been
engaged. Practically, Edward Baines stood alone, getting no help from
Carter. The Liberal party had fallen to pieces, and Edward Baines, as a
supporter of the Government, had to bear the weight of the offence given
both to the Radical Nonconformists and to the rabid teetotallers. The
Alliance candidate must have known that he had no chance of winning the
seat, but he persisted in his opposition to Sir Edward Baines, though the
effect of defeating him would be to secure the election of the local
brewer. Such are the extremes to which men allow themselves to be carried
at times of excitement. The end of the struggle was the defeat of Sir
Edward Baines, and the return of Carter, Wheelhouse, and Tennant. What
happened in Leeds happened in a great many other places. The teetotallers
deliberately wrecked the only Government which was prepared to reform the
licensing system. They have had more than a quarter of a century in which
to repent their folly.

It was, of course, in the Leeds election that I felt the deepest personal
interest; but the _Mercury_ had to take note of all the elections in
Yorkshire, and some of these were of special interest. At Sheffield a
candidate came forward in the extreme Radical interest whose speeches
attracted some notice in Yorkshire, though they passed unobserved by the
larger public beyond. This was Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, who now made his
first attempt to win Parliamentary honours. Up to that moment I had only
known Mr. Chamberlain as a young Birmingham politician who was fond of
saying things both bitter and flippant, not only about his political
opponents, but about the older members of his own party. He had made
himself one of the buglemen in the cry raised against Mr. Forster,
towards whom he seemed to entertain a feeling of almost personal
antipathy. At Sheffield he made himself conspicuous by his sneers at Mr.
Gladstone and almost all the recognised leaders of Liberalism. His own
political opinions appeared to be based upon a crude and intolerant
Radicalism of the Socialistic type. He evidently believed that promises
of material benefits would enable him to win the support of the mass of
the electors, and he conceived also that the best method of displacing
his seniors in the party of which he was a member was to assail them with
a rather coarse invective. These methods did not commend themselves to
the electors of Sheffield, and Mr. Chamberlain was soundly beaten. But he
had great ability, accompanied by great force of character, and all the
world knows how his ability and forcefulness have since carried him to
one of the highest places in political life. It is, however, not as a
Radical, but as a militant Tory that he now figures before the world.

I should not have dwelt upon the Sheffield election of 1874 but for the
fact that it was this election which made me one of Mr. Chamberlain's
political opponents. I did not like the way in which he spoke of men who
had been serving the country before he himself was born; and, without
questioning his honesty, I came to the conclusion that personal ambition
played a large part in his political professions. It followed that from
1874 onwards the _Leeds Mercury_ was never friendly to Mr.
Chamberlain, and never gave him its confidence, even at a time when he
was the idol of English Radicalism. For years I had to suffer because of
this attitude towards the Birmingham politician; and many a time, when I
have been sitting on the platform at a political meeting in Leeds, some
speaker has inveighed fiercely against me because of my want of faith in
Mr. Chamberlain. I had my revenge in 1885, when the Leeds Liberals swung
round to my view of that gentleman, and I was hailed--quite
undeservedly--as a prophet because I had always distrusted one whom they
now not only distrusted, but disliked and despised.

Let me say, before leaving Mr. Chamberlain, that I still consider that
the worst blot upon his political career was the manner in which he
treated Mr. Forster. No doubt his dislike of Mr. Forster was in the first
instance inspired by his repugnance to the Education Act; but I cannot
help saying that in later years it degenerated into what, at any rate,
looked like a feeling of antipathy towards the man who, at that time, was
regarded as standing high in the succession to Mr. Gladstone as leader of
the Liberal party. When I come to deal with the events of 1882, I shall
have something to say of the part which Mr. Chamberlain played towards
Mr. Forster in the painful events which issued in the latter's withdrawal
from Mr. Gladstone's second Administration.

The Liberals of England were naturally very despondent after the
unexpected _débâcle_ of 1874. They had believed that the good works
of a Government which had wrought so much for the public benefit would
have been appreciated by the great mass of the electors, and they were
unfeignedly astonished at the verdict returned by the country. They had
not taken into account that swing of the pendulum which has so large an
influence in popular constituencies. Nor had they noted the extent to
which the unity of the Liberal party, and its consequent strength, had
been impaired by the action of advanced sections, who were so
passionately bent upon carrying the measures in which they were
themselves most deeply interested that they did not stop to count the
cost of their proceedings on the fortunes of the party as a whole. It
took some little time to recover our spirits after that heavy blow, but
soon some of us began to feel that in time "the loppèd tree would grow
again." I was helped in coming to this conclusion by some words addressed
to me by a shrewd old Yorkshire Tory, which I have remembered gratefully
ever since. "I suppose you Liberals really think, as the fools of the
Tory newspapers seem to do, that your party is finished for ever and a
day. Don't make any such mistake. A Ministry no sooner begins to live
than it begins to die. Our people are in the full flush of triumph just
now, but already they are beginning to die." The shrewd good sense of my
friend has often struck me since, and many a time I have had occasion to
notice how quickly the process of decay sets in after the formation of
even the strongest Governments.

The chief event in the history of the Liberal party in the year
succeeding its great defeat was the unexpected resignation by Mr.
Gladstone of his post of leader. I am not concerned either to defend or
to blame this episode in the career of a very great man whom I followed
with enthusiasm and an unfaltering devotion for many years, but who had,
as I was always conscious, some of the defects of his qualities, and
whose action in a given case could never be predicted with confidence.
There is no doubt that Mr. Gladstone, old Parliamentary hand as he was,
even in 1875, had a very real dislike for those personal intrigues and
jealousies which play so large a part behind the scenes in our public
life. It is a curious fact that for nearly forty years no intrigues were
more active, and no jealousies more bitter, than those which had relation
to Mr. Gladstone himself. There was always someone ready to intrigue
against him. There were always those who thought that, if only he could
be got out of the way, there might possibly be room for themselves upon
the top of the mountain. In 1868 the representatives of this class had
protested against his being allowed to become Prime Minister. In 1874
they, or their successors, were still louder in their protests against
his being allowed ever again to form an administration. He was a defeated
Minister, and some of them took care to bring this fact home to him in as
unpleasant a way as possible. One, at least, had good reason to repent of
his audacity. No one who was in the House of Commons on the memorable
afternoon when Sir William Harcourt tried a fall with Mr. Gladstone, and
met with such terrific punishment, is ever likely to forget the scene. It
was said at the time by a humorous observer describing the debate that
when Sir William--"my own Solicitor-General, I believe," as Mr. Gladstone
said in describing him--had listened to the speech in which his late
chief inflicted due chastisement upon him, like one of Bret Harte's
heroes "he smiled a kind of sickly smile, and curled up on the floor, And
the subsequent proceedings interested him no more." Mr. Gladstone's
resignation of the leadership at the beginning of 1875 was not, I think,
unconnected with the fact that he knew that there were certain active
spirits in the Liberal party who, believing themselves fully equal to any
position to which they might be called, were unfeignedly anxious that
they should have at least a chance of arriving at the front place.

Yet, when Mr. Gladstone did resign the leadership, no one named any of
these intriguers as his possible successor; and it may be noted here that
none of the intriguers has even yet secured the reward he coveted. The
two names mentioned as those of possible leaders in 1875 were those of
Mr. Forster and Lord Hartington. I name them in this order because Mr.
Forster was first suggested, and the suggestion came not from any
wire-pullers or clique, but from the body of Liberals as a whole. But Mr.
Forster's enemies on the Opposition benches, though not very numerous,
were very bitter, and they at once put forward as the strongest card they
could play against Mr. Forster the name of Lord Hartington. Lord
Hartington was, like Forster himself, a man of high character, to whom no
taint of intrigue attached. He had not offended any section of the party
in the way in which Forster had offended the Nonconformists, and, above
all, he was the son and heir of the Duke of Devonshire. Social influence
counts for a great deal in political life in this country, but there was
another factor that also counted in favour of Lord Hartington. This was
the fact that he could not sit in the House of Commons after his father's
death, and that, consequently, if he were chosen, he would be more or
less of a stopgap. A stopgap is, of course, always popular with the
intriguer who knows that he himself has not yet arrived.

A tremendous effort was made on behalf of Lord Hartington. I am doubtful
whether it would have succeeded if the struggle had been carried to the
end. Mr. Forster's friends were in earnest, and they comprised the
majority of what might be called the Moderate party on the Opposition
benches. But Forster himself settled the question by withdrawing from the
candidature, and thus prevented an unseemly contest. It is now known that
Lord Hartington himself would have taken this course if Forster had not
done so. They were two straightforward, honourable rivals, and they acted
throughout this business like English gentlemen. That which made the
election of Lord Hartington to the leadership bitter to those who, like
myself, had strongly advocated the claims of Mr. Forster, was our
knowledge of the fact that he had really been defeated by the opposition
of the Birmingham League, and of those Radicals who were prepared to
sacrifice the larger interests of Liberalism to their own personal
antipathies and sectional views.

Indeed, it may be said that with this election of Lord Hartington to the
Liberal leadership the reign of the caucus commenced. The dejected
Liberals were resolved, if possible, to organise victory, and at
Birmingham men were found who were not only prepared to assist them in
the task, but who were quite ready to assume the lead of the Liberal
forces throughout the country. All the talk that one heard in political
circles in those days was of caucuses on the Birmingham plan, and of the
rise of the National Liberal Federation, the existence of which people
were just dimly beginning to recognise. I am not writing the history of
the National Liberal Federation, and I pretend to no special knowledge on
the subject of its origin. Popular opinion credits Mr. Schnadhorst, the
famous organiser, of Birmingham, and subsequently of London, with the
authorship of the scheme. But I doubt the truth of this. I knew Mr.
Schnadhorst well, and had a great respect for him as a man at once
honest, sagacious, and of much simplicity of character. But he was not
intellectually great, nor was he the astute and unscrupulous Machiavelli
his opponents believed him to be. The Birmingham caucus, which became a
model for all other Liberal constituencies, was probably founded by the
joint efforts of several men, among whom Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Powell
Williams, as well as Mr. Schnadhorst, were to be counted.

The plan of the caucus was delightfully simple. A constituency--and those
were the days of big constituencies--was divided into districts, and the
Liberals of each district were allotted a certain number of seats on the
Central Liberal Association. This Association generally consisted of so
many hundreds of persons, and it thus came to pass that the Association
became known as the Huddersfield Two Hundred, the Leeds Four Hundred, the
Birmingham Six Hundred, and so on. On a given day in each constituency,
the Liberal electors in the various districts met, and elected their
representatives on the Central Association. Every known Liberal had a
vote, so that the constitution of the central body was, in theory at all
events, delightfully democratic. These associations were designed to
sweep away the old system of Liberal committees, influenced by local
magnates, which had prevailed ever since the passing of the Reform Bill.
There was a strong belief among the inventors of the caucus that by means
of this plan they would secure the predominance of the advanced Radical
party. The old privileges of wealth and rank were henceforth to count for
nothing in the councils of Liberalism. Every man was to have a vote, not
merely for a member of Parliament, but for the local body which was to
select candidates, manage local political affairs, and generally
determine the character of the Liberalism professed by the constituency.
Every year the different Hundreds were to elect representatives who were
to act as their delegates at the conferences of the National Liberal
Federation; and the Federation itself was to be regarded as the
legitimate and indisputable representative of the Liberalism of the
country as a whole.

It was a bold and far-reaching scheme, and whatever its effect may have
been in temporarily restoring the fortunes of Liberalism, its influence
upon the political life of England has been great, and--I fear I must
say--has not been beneficial. The founders of the caucus professed to
resent the intrusion of the influence of money into political affairs.
Within certain limits this was an admirable attitude. But its practical
effect has been to drive the greater proportion of the moneyed classes
out of the Liberal party. They further professed to wish to put an end to
the influence exercised by cliques and privileged classes or persons in
the party. The majority was to rule under all conceivable circumstances.
Those who, like myself, have had an active and intimate association with
the caucus and the Federation know that in practice the new system, so
far from destroying the rule of cliques, merely substituted one set of
cliques for another. The active busybody, who had little business of his
own to attend to, or to whom the position of member of a local committee
was one to be striven after for the sake of the dignity attaching to it,
became the ruling spirit of the caucus. In thousands of cases the older
and more sober Liberals were driven out of the councils of their party in
disgust, and more and more the extreme men, who were fighting in earnest
for some special object or fad, became the predominant powers in
Liberalism. This was the change that was gradually wrought in the Liberal
party between 1875 and 1885.

At the outset I was vehemently opposed to the new methods, and protested
stoutly against them in the _Leeds Mercury_. It was not very long,
indeed, before I had personal experience of the way in which the caucus
system worked. Mr. Carter, the Radical, who had been returned for Leeds
in 1874, retired from Parliament two years later. It would have been the
natural and proper course for the Liberal party to invite its former
representative, Sir Edward Baines, to become a candidate for the vacancy.
He was the man who undoubtedly had the chief claim upon the Liberal party
in the town. A meeting of the newly-formed Liberal Association was called
to consider the question of choosing a candidate. As editor of the chief
Liberal paper, I had been taken into the counsels of the local Liberal
leaders ever since assuming that post, had been invited to attend the
meetings of their committee, and found that they were at all times
desirous of securing my support. When I spoke to one of the officials of
the new Association of the meeting that was to be held to choose a
candidate, and mentioned my intention of attending, I was bluntly told
that I should not be admitted. I had not, it appeared, been elected a
member of the Four Hundred. As a matter of fact, very few persons in
Leeds had known anything about the election of this body when it took
place. It was a startling revelation of the change that had taken place
to be thus refused admittance to a body which, in former times, would
have been only too anxious to secure my support.

The President of the Association, to whom I went to demand admittance,
stood upon the strict letter of the law. I had not been elected by my
district committee, which held its meetings in a local public-house, and
it was therefore impossible that I should be allowed to attend the
deliberations of the sacred body. Looking back, I can see that the
president was absolutely justified in the line he took. It might seem
absurd to shut out from a meeting of Liberals the person who, by reason
of his position, had more political influence in Leeds than any other
man. But "logic is logic," and under the new system any claim founded
upon mere influence, or even upon past services, was inadmissible. I was
too young, however, to acknowledge this fact at the time, and I bluntly
delivered an ultimatum to the President of the Association. "You may hold
your caucus meeting," I said, "but if it is to be private so far as I am
concerned, it shall be private so far as the reporters of the _Leeds
Mercury_ are concerned also. I shall simply ignore your proceedings,
and to-morrow the _Leeds Mercury_ will make its own nomination for
the vacancy." This was all very wrong, I fear, and most irregular.
Indeed, remembering what power the caucus system subsequently attained, I
look back with something like astonishment at my own audacious action.
But the caucus was still in its infancy, and my worthy friend the
President, after a hurried consultation with his fellow-officials,
capitulated. I was invited to be present at the meeting of the sacred
body.

It was the first meeting of that description I had ever attended, but it
was typical of many that I have attended since then. As I expected, it
was proposed by those who had long been recognised as the leaders of the
Liberal party in Leeds that Sir Edward Baines should be the candidate.
Forthwith a most violent opposition was offered to the proposal by men
who had never before been heard of in Leeds politics, and some of whom
had only been resident in the town for a few months. I remember that the
most violent of these gentlemen was a schoolmaster from Birmingham, who
denounced Sir Edward Baines for the assistance he had given in the
passing of that iniquitous measure, the Education Act. Another gentleman
denounced him with equal violence because he was the proprietor of the
_Leeds Mercury_, a journal which had dared to speak disrespectfully
of the truest and most honest Liberal of the day, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain.
That was the first occasion on which my fellow-Liberals in Leeds
belaboured me with the name of Mr. Chamberlain. On all sides I heard
extreme opinions expressed by men whose faces and names were quite
unfamiliar to me, and I found to my dismay that the more extreme the
opinions, the warmer was their reception by these representative
Liberals. They would hardly listen to their old leaders, who had grown
grey in fighting the battles of Liberalism. They treated with contumely
any words of soberness or moderation. They applauded even speakers who
were palpably selfish and insincere. As I listened to that debate, my
eyes were opened, and I realised the fact that a great revolution had
been suddenly and silently wrought, and that the control of the Liberal
party had, in a great measure, passed out of the hands of its old leaders
into those of the men who managed the new "machine." If I have been
tedious in telling this story of the caucus, it is still, I feel, one
that is worth telling, for it illustrates one, at least, of the great
changes in the political conditions of this country that have happened
during my lifetime.

It was not, of course, Sir Edward Baines who was chosen as the Liberal
candidate. The choice of the caucus fell upon the worthy President of
that body, the late Sir John Barran, an amiable man and a good citizen,
though his claims to Parliamentary distinction at that time were
certainly unequal to those of Sir Edward Baines. The revolution had taken
place, however, and the Liberal party found itself under the command of
new masters. For some time after the establishment of the caucus, it
pursued a distinctly aggressive course, and inspired all of us with
alarm. In course of time, however, I realised the fact that there were
certain severe limitations upon its power. It could not stand against the
country when the country was in earnest. It could not give that
inspiration to a party without which victory cannot be achieved. No
amount of organisation, however skilfully devised, could supply the place
of a great popular movement. I became reconciled to the caucus when I
grasped these facts, and for a time I not only looked upon it as
harmless, but gave my assistance to it, locally in Leeds and, in its
national work, in the office of the National Liberal Federation. Yet I am
compelled to confess now that, though I have not altered my view as to
the limitations of the power of the party machine, I no longer regard it
as harmless.

It is, I think, impossible to deny that very great harm has been done,
not merely to the spirit of Liberalism, but to the actual fortunes of the
Liberal party, by the new system. It has brought a new spirit into the
direction of our party, a spirit which is too apt to regard the catching
of votes as the one great object to be pursued and attained, no matter by
what means. It has given the mere machine man, the intriguer and
wire-puller, far greater power than it is right that he should possess,
seeing that as a rule his power is not accompanied by a corresponding
degree of responsibility. Above all, it has lowered the status of a
member of Parliament, and made him more or less of a delegate who is
bound to yield to the wishes, not of his constituents as a whole, but of
the party organisation which seeks to usurp the place of the
constituency. The story of the struggles of Mr. Forster with the Bradford
caucus is familiar to political students. I was mixed up with all those
struggles, and always on the side of Mr. Forster, who stoutly refused to
accept the dictation of the caucus and the theory that a member of
Parliament was no more than a delegate. He was victorious in his
prolonged struggle with the Bradford Radicals, but he only succeeded in
virtue of his own strength of character and dogged courage. Weaker men
went to the wall by scores, and, as they did so, the caucus, of which Mr.
Chamberlain was at this time the ruling spirit, gained strength, and
became the predominant factor in the Liberal party.

In the early autumn of 1876 the most remarkable political agitation I
ever witnessed broke over the country with startling suddenness.
Parliament was just on the point of rising when the _Daily News_
published its first account of the hideous crimes which became known as
the Bulgarian atrocities. Mr. Disraeli, when questioned in the House of
Commons, sneered at the reports in the _Daily News_ as being based
upon "coffee-house babble." If he really believed this, he must have been
strangely ill-informed. The terrible tale which shocked the civilised
world was communicated to the _Daily News_ by its Constantinople
correspondent, Mr. Edwin Pears. The man who supplied Mr. Pears with the
terrible facts which he gave to the world was Dr. Washbourne, the head of
the Robert College at Constantinople. I know both Mr. Pears and Dr.
Washbourne. They are men of the highest honour and integrity, whilst Dr.
Washbourne, who is by birth an American, has been for many years the best
authority on the question of the treatment of the Christians of the
Ottoman Empire by the Sultan. No one who knew the source from which the
_Daily News_ stories emanated could dream of dismissing those
stories as coffee-house babble. Mr. Disraeli, as a matter of duty, should
have made himself acquainted with the authority on which these stories
rested before he took it upon himself to denounce them as sensational
fables. But in spite of Mr. Disraeli, who at this very moment blossomed
into the Earl of Beaconsfield, an official investigation took place. Mr.
Walter Baring, who was attached to our Constantinople Embassy, was
directed to proceed to the scene of the alleged outrages, and to inquire
into the truth of the allegations made in the _Daily News_. Mr.
Baring was an English official of the best stamp. He not only ascertained
the truth, but he reported it in plain language to the Home Government.
It was then found that the _Daily News_ had, if anything,
understated the case. The ruffianly Bashi-Bazouks, employed by the Sultan
to keep down the Christians of European Turkey, had been let loose upon
the people of certain villages in Bulgaria and Roumelia, as a pack of
wolves might have been let loose upon a flock of sheep.

The crimes that were committed do not admit of description. Thousands of
innocent people had been murdered in circumstances of atrocious cruelty.
Neither age nor sex had been respected. Indeed, children, old men, and
women seemed to be the favourite victims of the savages. Upon the women
every conceivable outrage was perpetrated before the knife of the
assassin cut short their misery. It was a story which, when told in the
dry, official language of a Foreign Office report, was still sufficient
to arouse a passion of righteous rage in the breast of any person endowed
with the ordinary instincts of humanity. The old fear of Russia as our
rival in Eastern Europe still constituted the chief influence in
determining our foreign policy, and the old idea of the Turk as our
friend and ally was still popular amongst us. But these revelations for
the moment reversed the national feeling on both these points. Mr.
Gladstone, roused to action by his sympathy with the victims of so cruel
an oppression, left his retirement at Hawarden and issued a pamphlet on
the Bulgarian horrors which raised the feeling of the country to a higher
point than I have ever known it reach before or since, except in some
crisis affecting our very existence as a State.

That month of September, 1876, saw England and Scotland convulsed with a
terrible emotion. The old divisions of parties were effaced, and the
Government, because of its suspected sympathy with the Sultan, found
itself the object of almost universal execration. Naturally, the less
discreet politicians of the day were unable to control themselves under
the influence of the prevailing excitement. Many foolish and many
dangerous things were uttered at the meetings at which every town and
village gave expression to the horror inspired by the Sultan's crimes.
Mr. Gladstone's strongest utterances were seized upon by his fervent
admirers and were carried to an extreme from which he himself would have
shrunk. It was a whirlwind, a tornado of political passion that swept
over the country during those sunny September weeks. The impulse from
which it sprang was just and noble in itself; but who can hold a
whirlwind in check? It is not wonderful that this great outbreak of
national indignation did almost as much harm as good.

The whole condition of our domestic politics was changed by this
Bulgarian atrocities agitation, as it was called. It riveted the
attention of the country upon a great question of foreign policy. It
weakened enormously, for the moment, the power of the Tory Government,
which still enjoyed so commanding a majority in Parliament. Domestic
affairs lost their savour for the ordinary elector, and, writing nearly a
quarter of a century after this episode, I am inclined to believe that
they have never since regained all that they then lost. In the late
autumn, a Conference on the subject of our relations with Turkey was held
in St. James's Hall. This was no demonstration on the part of a caucus,
but a gathering of the notables of all the great towns of England. No
doubt the majority of those present were Liberals, but a very
considerable minority were Conservatives who had hitherto supported the
Government. It was my good fortune to be present at that wonderful
meeting in St. James's Hall. Never was there such a political platform
seen at a public meeting before. Mr. Gladstone, Lord Shaftesbury, the
Dukes of Westminster and Argyll, Mr. Freeman, the historian, the Bishop
of Oxford, Henry Fawcett--these are but a few of the names that occur to
my memory as I recall the memorable scene. Great Tory noblemen like the
Marquess of Bath sat side by side with Radicals from Birmingham, and the
passionate earnestness, amounting to something more than enthusiasm, that
inspired the whole gathering was remarkable. It may be said to have
marked the high tide of political agitation in my own experience.

A simple accident had saved me from the full force of the contagion of
passion that swept over the country in September. I had left Leeds to
spend some weeks with my family in a house on the Clyde, where I was far
from the sounds of political tumult. Possibly, if I had stayed in Leeds
at my post at the _Mercury_ office, I might have gone with the tide,
and might have been just as extreme and as reckless as anybody else. But
I looked on from a distance, and, as it happened, I was absorbed at the
time in other work. The consequence was that I could see the evil, as
well as the good, of this extraordinary upheaval of popular emotion, and
when I returned later on to my work at Leeds I took a cooler view of the
whole question than most Liberal journalists did, and dealt with it, not
from the merely emotional standpoint, but from that of our duty and
interests as a people. Of course, I was blamed for this by the more
fervent, and was suspected of being at heart little better than a
philo-Turk. I had, in short, to meet the usual fate of the man who will
not cry either black or white when it is his misfortune to see only a
confusion of colours. By-and-by, however, when the popular passion
subsided, and the old alarm about Russia again became rampant, I found
myself blamed for precisely the opposite reason. I was no longer assailed
as a philo-Turk, but as a Russophil.



CHAPTER X.

CONTRIBUTIONS TO BRONTË LITERATURE.

A Visit to Haworth--Feeling Against the Brontës in Yorkshire--Miss Nussey
and her Discontent with Mrs. Gaskell's "Me"--Publication of "Charlotte
Brontë: a Monograph"--Mr. Swinburne's Appreciation--An Abortive Visit to
the Poet--Lecture on Emily Brontë and "Wuthering Heights"--Miss Nussey's
Visit to Haworth after Charlotte's Marriage.


I have said that during the stormy days of the atrocities agitation I was
engaged in other work than that of political writing. This was the
completion of a little book in which I gave my impressions of Charlotte
and Emily Brontë to the public. The story of Charlotte Brontë, as told by
Mrs. Gaskell, had always possessed a great fascination for me. I had been
moved to write to Mrs. Gaskell when her biography of Charlotte appeared,
and I had received from her more than one letter filled with interesting
details about Charlotte's father, and his life after his daughter's
death. When I went to Leeds in 1866, the first pilgrimage I made was to
Haworth. That was less than eleven years after Charlotte's death, and at
a time when there were, of course, many persons still living in the
village who had a perfect recollection of the wonderful sisters. But,
strange to say, Haworth was not in those days a popular "shrine." "Whiles
some Americans come to see the church, but nobody else," was the
statement made to me when I asked the sexton if there were many visitors
to the home of the Brontës.

My visit furnished me with a theme for a descriptive article which was
printed in _Chambers's Journal_ in 1867, and, having written it, I
believed that my connection with the Brontës was at an end. But when I
went back to Leeds in 1870, I was struck by the fact that throughout the
West Riding of Yorkshire there prevailed a widespread feeling that was
nothing less than one of positive antipathy to the works and the story of
the Brontës. Their books, though they dealt with local scenes and
characters, were no longer read. In that respect, however, the West
Riding hardly differed from the rest of England. What was peculiar to
Yorkshire was the fact that, if you mentioned the name of Brontë in any
average company, the chances were in favour of your being met with an
indignant snort from someone who protested that Charlotte's stories were
a disgraceful libel upon the district, and that "Wuthering Heights" was a
book so dreadful in its character that its author would only have met
with her deserts if she had been soundly whipped for writing it. I met
more than one lady who had known the Brontës, and who, in reply to my
eager questioning, spoke of them with undisguised contempt. I was assured
that they were not ladies, that they were not even successful as
governesses, that their father and brother were a pair of reprobates, and
that they themselves, being embittered by the fact that they were not
admitted to the good society of their neighbourhood, had deliberately
revenged themselves by writing scurrilous libels and caricatures in order
to bring Yorkshire men and women into contempt. It all seems incredible
now; yet this was the actual state of feeling prevalent in Yorkshire with
regard to the Brontës thirty years ago.

I was asked to deliver a lecture before some literary society in Leeds,
and it seemed to me that I could not do better than tell the story of the
Brontës; and defend them against the aspersions cast upon them by their
old neighbours. Accordingly, I wrote a lecture which was the foundation
of the little book I subsequently published on the same subject. Miss
Nussey, Charlotte's schoolfellow and bosom friend, and the "dear E." of
Mrs. Gaskell's "Life," was then living at Birstall, near Leeds. She heard
of my lecture through some mutual friend, and expressed a desire to be
allowed to read it. After having done so, she asked me to visit her--a
request with which I gladly complied. I found her a cheerful, neat, and
well-preserved woman, who, though she was well advanced in middle life,
retained a good deal of the charm of manner with which Caroline Helstone,
in the delightful story of "Shirley," is endowed.

I am well aware that the identity of Ellen Nussey and Caroline Helstone
has been questioned by some recent writers, and that Mr. Nicholls, who
was for a few months Charlotte Brontë's husband, is quoted in support of
this denial. All I can say is, first, that Miss Nussey acknowledged to me
the truth of the statement that she had served as a model for Caroline
Helstone, just as Emily Brontë served as a model for Shirley herself; and
secondly, that it was impossible for anyone to know Miss Nussey in those
days without seeing how vivid and truthful Charlotte's portrait of her
was. Almost her first words to me when I met her expressed her regret
that Mrs. Gaskell had not done justice to Charlotte's life and character
in her famous Memoir. To me this was rank heresy, for, like most other
persons, I was indebted to Mrs. Gaskell for nearly all the knowledge I
then possessed of the Brontë story. But, in reply to my defence of Mrs.
Gaskell, Miss Nussey entered into particulars. She explained to me that
Mrs. Gaskell had mixed up the sordid and shameful story of Branwell
Brontë with that of his sisters; and she protested against the way in
which local traditions, that had nothing to do with the character of the
gifted sisters, in whom there was not a single drop of Yorkshire blood,
had been imported into Mrs. Gaskell's narrative, as though these
traditions were in some way connected with the lives of the Brontës.
Finally, she declared that she would not rest satisfied until a book had
been written about Charlotte which toned down the over-colouring of Mrs.
Gaskell's narrative, and she asked me if I was prepared to write such a
book.

It was a flattering proposal, but I felt compelled to decline it. I was
well aware that I could not put myself into competition with Mrs.
Gaskell, even if I desired to do so, and I had no wish to appear to
attack a book which I regarded as one of the masterpieces of English
biography. But Miss Nussey was persistent, and she offered me the use of
all Charlotte's correspondence with her, including the letters relating
to her courtship and marriage, which Mrs. Gaskell had never even seen.
After I had read these letters and other documents with which Miss Nussey
furnished me, I suggested that, if I could not write a book, I might
still make one or two interesting magazine articles out of the materials
in my possession. Miss Nussey embraced this idea with enthusiasm,
protesting that so long as she could see Charlotte "set right" in the
eyes of the world, she would be perfectly satisfied with anything I chose
to do. Accordingly, in the spring of 1866, I wrote three articles which
appeared in _Macmillan's Magazine_. I wrote them with fear and
trembling, and I must add that I wrote them without any kind of
encouragement from outside, other than that which I received from Miss
Nussey herself. The general impression among the editors and critics of
the day was that there was nothing new to be said about the Brontës, and
that, even if there were, the public would not care to hear it. The kind
and genial editor of _Macmillan's Magazine_ himself--Sir George
Grove--shared this conviction, and it was only at the urgent request of
William Black, through whom I approached him, that he agreed to look at
my articles. However, having seen them, he liked them, and wrote to me
warmly in their praise. Nor did the public like them less, if Sir George
Grove was correct in his statement that these contributions of mine about
the author of "Jane Eyre" had done more to increase the sale of the
magazine than any article since Mrs. Stowe's famous defamation of Lord
Byron.

Nor did the matter end, as I thought it would have done, with the
publication of my articles in _Macmillan's_. I received a summons
from the famous head of that firm of publishers, Mr. Alexander Macmillan;
and, attending him in the deferential manner in which authors in those
days waited upon important publishers, was asked with characteristic
gruffness if I could add enough to the articles to make a book. "The
public," said Mr. Macmillan, in tones which made me feel my own
insignificance, "seems to want something more of the stuff; I really
don't know why. But if you can do something more, we'll make a book of
it." Then he named the honorarium I was to receive in payment both for
the magazine articles and the volume. It was a modest sum--only a hundred
pounds, and of this I felt that Miss Nussey was entitled to a
considerable share. But a hundred pounds was not to be despised. Besides,
I loved my subject, and knew that I had still something left to say about
it. So I closed with Mr. Macmillan's offer, and a few months later my
little book, "Charlotte Brontë: a Monograph," was duly published.

It will be seen that it was by accident rather than design that I wrote
the book. Miss Nussey moved me to the writing of the magazine articles;
Mr. Macmillan urged me to expand them into a volume. Otherwise I should
have written nothing on the subject, and it would have been left to
somebody else to start that Brontë cult which has since spread so widely.
The appearance of the volume marked an important epoch in my life. Yet,
in the first instance, "Charlotte Brontë" was very coldly received by the
critics. Most of them seemed to think that the book was entirely
superfluous. They evidently shared Mr. Macmillan's surprise that anybody
should think such a volume was needed. Most of them also agreed that I
had no special qualifications for the task I had undertaken, and that the
new matter I had brought to light was of little value. One of my critics,
the _Athenaeum_, poured contempt upon me for having spoken of "the
scent of the heather." The ingenuous writer evidently had seen heather
nowhere save on the slab of a fishmonger's shop. But, in spite of the
critics, the book sold, and sold rapidly. It went through three editions
in this country within a few weeks of its publication. It was republished
in America by arrangement with the Macmillans, and had so large a sale
there that it was speedily pirated, the pirates not even having the
decency to give my name upon the title-page.

Snubbed as I felt myself to be, I still had my reward. People who had
read the book wrote to me in enthusiastic terms, and they were not all
Americans who did so. I speedily became aware that I had, almost by
accident, tapped a vein of pure and rich sentiment. Best of all was the
fact that my kind friend, Lord Houghton, forwarded to me a letter he had
received from Mr. Swinburne which contained the following passage: "Has
anyone told you I am just about to publish a 'Study' on Charlotte Brontë,
which has grown out of all proportion to the thing it was meant to be--a
review of (or article on) Mr. Wemyss Reid's little jewel and
treasure-casket of a book?" Need I say that I was more than consoled for
the coldness of the reception which the Press had given to my first
literary essay by such words as these; nor had I long to wait before I
saw the Brontë cult a great and growing factor in our literary life. The
critics could not ignore Mr. Swinburne, and when his "Note" on Charlotte
Brontë appeared, they were compelled to discuss seriously the question
which they had previously regarded as superfluous or trivial.

At Mr. Swinburne's request I subsequently went to see the distinguished
poet at the rooms he occupied in Great James Street. My reception was not
what I had expected, though Mr. Swinburne cannot be blamed for the fact.
I was kept waiting on the doorstep, after ringing the bell, for an
unusually long time, and during the interval of waiting a tradesman's boy
arrived, basket on arm. He was more impatient than I was, and rang the
bell violently to quicken the movements of those within, evidently
careless as to whether he might be disturbing a poet's daydream. A
terrible old woman, with landlady written large all over her face and
person, opened the door, and, without paying the slightest attention to
me, began to rate the shopboy in no measured terms. He retaliated in the
same fashion, and I found myself quite unheeded in the midst of this war
of words. At last, tired of waiting, I interposed between the boy and the
landlady, and asked the latter if Mr. Swinburne was at home. She looked
at me with withering contempt for a few seconds, and then ejaculated,
"No, he ain't, and it would be a good thing for him if he never was when
the likes of you come to call on him." Having delivered herself of this
hospitable sentence, she slammed the door in my face, and left me a
sadder man. I never dared to face that lady again, and in consequence I
missed the pleasure of making Mr. Swinburne's acquaintance at that time.

I was elected about this time a member of the Savile Club, which then had
its home in Savile Row. My proposer was Mr. J. F. McLennan, the author of
"Primitive Marriage," and I owed my immediate election chiefly to his
good offices, but partly to the fact that my book on Charlotte Brontë had
found favour with the reading public. A great deal has been written since
then about the Brontës. Some of our ablest literary critics have
discussed their genius with a penetrating insight that has opened up for
us the secrets of their wonderful laboratory, whilst industrious
investigators have brought to light many facts which were unknown to Mrs.
Gaskell at the time when she wrote her famous Memoir. A Brontë Society
has been formed in Yorkshire, and no man would now be justified in
maintaining either that the Brontës are not fully appreciated in the
world of letters, or that in their own county their fame is neglected or
despised. I myself have added very little to the literature which has
been poured forth upon the subject since the appearance of Mr.
Swinburne's "Note." I shrank from doing so, because I was not in sympathy
with the public curiosity which aspired to know everything that there was
to tell about the Brontës without regard to its intrinsic interest, or to
that decent reticence which even the dead have a right to expect from us.
I did not, for example, in my "monograph" publish the remarkable letters
in which Charlotte told Miss Nussey the story of her strange love affair
with Mr. Nicholls. Mr. Nicholls was still living, and I felt that these
letters could not decently be published during his lifetime. Twenty years
later, however, they were published by Mr. Shorter, not only during the
lifetime of Mr. Nicholls, but with that gentleman's full consent.

My chief contribution to the Brontë controversy after the publication of
the "monograph" was a lecture delivered at the Royal Institution in 1895
on Emily Brontë and the authorship of "Wuthering Heights," in which I set
forth the theory that Emily had, in part, been inspired in her
description of the mad Heathcliffe and his terrible ravings by the bitter
experiences through which she passed as an eyewitness of her brother
Branwell's last days. My theory has met with a certain amount of
acceptance among Brontë students, and I still adhere to it as the most
probable explanation of a literary problem of no common difficulty.

Once, somewhere between 1890 and 1896, I was compelled to take up the pen
in my own defence. I read in the _North American Review_ an article
entitled "The Defamation of Charlotte Brontë," and to my great amazement
found that it was a vicious attack upon my little book published more
than twenty years previously! I was accused by the writer--an American
lady whose name I had never heard before and have now forgotten--of
having been the first to defame Charlotte Brontë, because I had been the
first to point out the singular influence over her life and character
which was exercised by her teacher in Brussels, M. Héger. It is now
obvious to everybody that this gentleman was not only the original of the
Paul Emanuel of "Villette," but was in many respects the inspiring
influence in the whole of Charlotte Brontë's career as a writer. That he
exercised a curious fascination over the untrained young woman who went
to Brussels in order to improve her knowledge of French we know from her
own declarations, nor is it surprising that a man of such genuine
intellectual force should have exercised this influence over the mind of
one who, until she met him, had known nothing whatever of intellectual
society. It was not only my right, but my duty, as a critic to point out
the important part which M. Héger had played in the development of
Charlotte Brontë's genius, and there was most assuredly nothing in what I
said that touched in the slightest degree the purity of her exalted
character. Yet my critic in the _North American Review_ professed to
discover that I had invented the story that Charlotte had "fallen in
love" with her teacher in Brussels, and abused me soundly for having
degraded her by presenting her to the world in an odious light. Surely it
is a mad world that can thus misconstrue obvious and innocent facts! I
cannot but think, however, that the good lady of the _North American
Review_ was more anxious to figure in the great Brontë controversy
than to contribute anything of value to our knowledge of the subject.

As I have said already, when I first wrote about the Brontës there were
many still living who had known the sisters well. Of these Miss Nussey
was the chief, and it may be of interest to repeat a few of the
statements which from time to time she made to me with regard to
Charlotte. One of the most striking of these was her account of the
single visit which she paid to Haworth after Charlotte became the wife of
Mr. Nicholls. Miss Nussey told me that she accompanied Charlotte and her
husband one day on a walk over the moors. In the course of their
conversation she asked Charlotte if she was writing another book. "No,"
replied Charlotte; "Arthur says I have no time for writing now, as I must
attend to my duties as a clergyman's wife." She said it in such a tone as
to convince her friend that she was not satisfied with her husband's
decision, and Miss Nussey, plucking up her courage, remonstrated with him
upon his refusal to allow Charlotte to exercise her great gift. Mr.
Nicholls's response was short and to the point. "I did not marry Currer
Bell, the novelist, but Charlotte Brontë, the clergyman's daughter.
Currer Bell may fly to heaven to-morrow for anything I care." I do not
vouch for the absolute truth of this story, but I give it as I heard it
from Miss Nussey, and I am quite sure that when she told it to me she
believed it to be true.

Charlotte must have been more attractive than the world at one time
believed her to have been, for she had several offers of marriage before
Mr. Nicholls appeared upon the scene as a suitor. Mrs. Smith, the mother
of Mr. George Smith, her publisher, was somewhat alarmed at the
possibility of her son's admiration for Charlotte's genius developing
into an affection for her, and whilst very kind to the young authoress,
she let her see that in her opinion Mr. Smith was much too young to
become her husband. In one of her letters to Miss Nussey, Charlotte
discussed this situation, and with her characteristic candour and good
sense came to the conclusion that Mrs. Smith was altogether right. Her
son was both too young and too brilliant, she declared, to make a fitting
husband for the obscure parson's daughter. In "Villette," where the story
of her own heart is told, Mrs. Smith and her son are to be found
portrayed in the characters of Mr. John and his mother.

Charlotte Brontë's fame, her genius, her power, live after her in her
books, and so long as those books are read will never be forgotten. But
it is not her fame, her genius, her power, which are the most precious
possessions she has left to us, but that sweetness and virtue, which like
bright flowers bloom upon her grave and remind us of the life which lies
beyond it.



CHAPTER XI.

VISITS TO THE CONTINENT.

Politics in Paris in 1877--An Oration by Gambetta--the Balloting--The
Republic Saved--Gambetta's Funeral--A Member of the Reform Club--The
Century Club--A Draught of Turpentine and Soda--The "Press Gang" at the
Reform--James Payn and William Black--George Augustus Sala and Sir John
Robinson--Disraeli's Triumph in 1878--A European Tour.


In the autumn of 1877 I went over to Paris, in order to watch the General
Election of that year. It was a fateful moment in the history of France.
The Royalists, and the whole of the anti-Republican forces, were bent
upon overthrowing the Republic, and they looked upon President Macmahon
as their tool. Thiers, the natural leader of the Republican party, had
died, after a brief illness, within a few weeks of the election; and
Gambetta, who had stepped into his place, was not only under prosecution
for his famous _"Ou se soumettre ou se démettre"_ speech, but was
still regarded by a large section of moderate men as a wild man, a _fou
furieux_, indeed, who could not be trusted with the fortunes of the
party. Every morning the Parisians awoke to wonder whether the expected
_coup d'état_ had taken place during the night. The drama had
clearly reached an exciting moment, and I thought it well to witness the
_dénouement_ for myself.

My kind friend Lord Houghton, on learning my intention, sent me a batch
of introductions to many of the leading men in Paris. They included the
Comte de Paris himself, M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire, the bosom friend of
M. Thiers, and M. Blowitz, of the _Times_. I did not see a
revolution, because none took place; but I had an excellent opportunity
of watching Paris pass through a political crisis, and of witnessing the
triumph of the Republic over its numerous and formidable enemies. That
year (1877) was indeed the best year in the history of the Republic. It
still had the support of the great mass of the public. The middle-class
gave it all their aid, and the combination of Thiers and Gambetta had
made the Left and Left Centre parties immensely powerful. It was
interesting to watch the beginnings of the clerical reaction, beginnings
which found their outward expression in the propagation of the cult of
the Sacred Heart. All Paris was singing in those days, either in the
original or in a parody, the hymn with the refrain, "Heaven save poor
France in the name of the Sacred Heart." On the whole, the parodists were
in a majority, and their parodies were just as blasphemous as one expects
them to be in France.

Through M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire, a typical French statesman of the
philosophical cast, I secured an invitation to the solitary meeting which
Gambetta, as candidate for Belleville, was permitted to hold prior to the
actual election. He was, as I have said, under remand in the prosecution
by which the Government had sought to silence his voice in the Chamber of
Deputies. They could not prevent his making this one speech to his
constituents, for the law gave him the right to do so, and the meeting
was therefore one of great importance. Gambetta spoke in a large circus
which was crowded to excess. He was received with great enthusiasm, but
before his speech was over he had wound up his audience to a still higher
pitch of passionate fervour. He struck me as being, in some respects, the
greatest of all the orators I had ever heard. He had that indispensable
qualification of the orator, a voice at once clear, powerful, and
melodious. His magnificent physique gave weight to the gestures in which
he indulged so freely, and which enabled him to conceal the infirmity
from which he suffered--blindness of one eye--whilst at the same time
allowing him always to keep his living eye fixed on the crowd before him.

I trembled for him when he began his great speech, for, unlike any
English orator I ever heard, he did not warm to his subject gradually,
taking care to make his audience accompany him step by step, but sprang
in a moment to a height of passionate and tempestuous eloquence from
which it seemed inevitable that he must quickly fall to an anti-climax.
But no anticlimax came. For more than an hour he continued to pour forth
a torrent of burning words that seemed to keep the vast multitude before
him in a state of excitement and enthusiasm hardly to be exaggerated.
Never before and never since have I witnessed such an effect as this
produced by an orator, and though he lacked the stately and sonorous
delivery of John Bright, and had no pretension to the intellectual
persuasiveness of Mr. Gladstone, I have always felt, since hearing that
speech, that Gambetta was the greatest orator to whom I ever listened.

It was rumoured that Gambetta was to be arrested on leaving the meeting,
and he himself believed this rumour to be true. Yet this did not cause
him to moderate his defiance of the Government and the reactionary
powers. I remember he closed his great oration with words to the
following effect: "I said in the Chamber not long ago, 'Clericalism, that
is the enemy.' I predict now that when this election is over, I shall
say, 'Clericalism, that is the vanquished.'" I was introduced to him
after his speech. He was lying on a couch in a little green room at the
back of the stage of the circus, panting, and fanning himself furiously
with his pocket-handkerchief, whilst one of his friends administered to
him copious draughts of champagne. He talked to me of the probability of
his arrest on leaving the building, but seemed absolutely confident as to
the future. The Government made no attempt, however, to interfere with
him, and but a few weeks later he was the ruling power in France.

The day on which the first ballot was taken was, according to French
custom, a Sunday. This was the day on which the quidnuncs had fixed as
the probable date of the _coup d'état_. The Conservatives, on the
other hand, pretended to believe that it would witness a fresh Communist
rising, of which Belleville was to be the centre. It was a beautiful
September day, and the excitement which possessed the whole French people
was visibly reflected in the streets of Paris. I spent the whole day in
driving from one polling station to another, accompanied by a friend who
had resided for many years in the French capital. What struck one was the
good order that was everywhere maintained, and the simplicity of the
arrangements for voting. There was nothing like the tumult that would
have been witnessed in any ordinary general election in England. It was
obvious, too, that much less care was taken to preserve the secrecy of
the ballot than is customary in this country.

As a newspaper correspondent I was freely admitted into every polling
station. It was not until two o'clock in the afternoon that I reached
Belleville, the reputed storm-centre. I had been warned that it would be
dangerous to venture into that district in the handsome carriage provided
for me by my friend. Yet when I climbed the steep hill leading to the
polling station where the Maire presided, I found everything perfectly
quiet. On entering the ballot-room, however, I was received in a somewhat
curious fashion by the Maire. "So you have come at last to poor
calumniated Belleville," he said. "You are the first journalist who has
been here to-day, and yet for a week past every journal in Paris has
declared that we were going to break out into a revolution. If they
really believed it, why did they not come and see how we behaved
ourselves? I call it infamous." The worthy Maire would hardly be pacified
by the thought that I, at least, had not been guilty of staying away. But
one could sympathise with his feelings, for in this spot, regarding which
the wildest stories were current in the Parisian Press, dulness reigned
supreme, and the polling station itself was as solemn and as silent as a
Quakers' meeting house.

It was different at night, when the first news of the result of the
election poured into Paris from the provinces, and it was seen that
Gambetta had been a true prophet, after all, and that Clericalism, and
all the other reactionary forces, had indeed been vanquished. Between ten
o'clock and midnight the long line of the boulevards was crowded with the
gayest multitude of men, women, and children that I ever met. They
cheered, they shouted, they sang for joy. The Republic had triumphed, and
France was saved. This was the burden of their song. Never did I see a
more good-natured crowd; but things would have been different if that
historic election had resulted otherwise. Paris was delighted and
good-humoured because she had won.

Five years after that great victory for Gambetta and the Republic I found
myself again in Paris on a cold January day. All the town was once more
in the streets, but there was no gladness on the faces of the people who
crowded the Place de la Concorde and the long avenue of the Rue de
Rivoli. They had gathered together to witness the funeral of the hero of
the fight of 1877. Gambetta, wounded, whether by accident or design none
can tell, by his dearest friend, had died at the very zenith of his fame,
and all France was prepared to render homage to one of her greatest sons.
His body lay in state in the palace of the Chamber of Deputies, and I was
fortunate enough to find myself standing at the foot of the coffin at the
same moment as Victor Hugo. The great poet had his two grandchildren
clinging to his hands, and as he stood there, explaining to the children
something of Gambetta's story and achievements, I could not help feeling
that there was a fine opening for a historical painter.

Gambetta's funeral was notable above everything else for the profusion of
the display of flowers. Every department, every town and hamlet in
France, had sent a deputation to swell the solemn procession, and every
deputation brought a colossal funeral wreath. It was the first week in
January, yet the air was heavy with the perfume of violets, lilies, and
white lilac. It was computed at the time that twenty thousand pounds was
expended on the flowers borne by the mourners, and I do not think that
this calculation was exaggerated. Yet the funeral itself was extremely
dull and unimpressive. Those long lines of men in evening dress impressed
nobody. It was only when the picked troops went by in their glittering
uniforms that any emotion was displayed by the watching crowd. For the
rest, all our attention and admiration were given to the colossal wreaths
and crowns and chaplets of which there was so barbaric a profusion, and
the poor coffin itself passed almost unnoticed.

It was different a week later, when the statesman's real funeral took
place. His father, a simple _bourgeois_ of Provence, had agreed to
allow this mock funeral to take place in Paris on condition that his
son's body was subsequently given to him for burial among his own people
at Nice. I was present also at this second funeral. There were no flowers
and there was but little display; but behind the coffin in which the body
of the ill-starred political leader lay walked his father, bare-headed,
his white hair streaming in the breeze; and the women around me cried as
he passed, "Ah, le pauvre papa!" and wiped the furtive tear from their
eyes. If anything could have inspired me with a greater horror for the
pomp of a public funeral, it would have been the contrast presented by
this simple but pathetic ceremony at Nice with the gorgeous spectacle of
a few days before in Paris.

In the spring of 1878 I became a member of the Reform Club, Mr. Forster
and Mr. Childers being my sponsors. Then, as now, there was a
black-balling clique in the club, and nobody could be absolutely certain
of election; but my personal friends--among whom William Black was
foremost--worked hard on my behalf, and secured my election in spite of
the fact that I had a considerable number of black-balls. Personal
influence, indeed, goes further than anything else in securing admission
to a club like the Reform. It is a mistake to trust to the mere eminence
of a man's proposer and seconder; unless he has some personal friend who
is a popular member of the club, and who will take the trouble to exert
himself on the day of the election, the mere eminence of his proposer and
seconder will not save him. One of the traditions of the Reform Club
relates to George Augustus Sala. When that well-known writer was proposed
for election, the taint of Bohemianism still clung to him, and it was
very doubtful whether he would pass the ordeal of the ballot. Thackeray,
with whom Sala had been associated in the early days of the _Cornhill
Magazine_, believed that election to a club like the Reform would be
the salvation of the younger man; and on the day when the ballot took
place he remained in the saloon at the head of the steps for four mortal
hours, asking every member as he entered to vote for Sala as a personal
favour to himself. In this way he defeated the black-balling clique, and
secured Sala's admittance to society of a somewhat graver type than that
to which he had heretofore been accustomed.

Even in 1878 I was not unversed in London clubs. I had been a member of
the Arundel, where the dramatists and journalists of the last generation
were wont to assemble; of the Thatched House, which in those days had an
admirable _chef_; of the Savile, the home of cultured authorship;
and of the Devonshire, founded after the Liberal defeat in 1874 as a kind
of Junior Reform Club. I had, in addition, belonged to several more or
less Bohemian clubs, of which the Century, in Pall Mall Place, is perhaps
the only one that demands notice. The Century was founded on the model of
the Cosmopolitan. The members met twice a week--on Wednesday and Sunday
evenings. Tobacco, spirits, and aerated waters were provided out of the
club funds. The members sat in a semicircle round the fireplace, and were
expected to talk together without waiting for the formality of an
introduction. The rules, in short, were the same as at the familiar
"Cos.," and for a time the club was very successful. But it seems almost
inevitable that clubs of this description should drift, sooner or later,
into the hands of a clique. The same men went every night, and you had to
listen to the same platitudes, or the same cheap cynicism. Once or twice
the dulness of the evening at the Century was enlivened by something like
a scene. One night, for example, Henry Fawcett, the blind politician and
statesman, came into the club room after an absence of some months. He
was warmly welcomed, and at the same time reproached for his prolonged
absence. He explained himself. "I like to come here," he said, "but I
can't stand Tom Potter. He talks too much." The identical Tom Potter, the
well-known honorary secretary of the Cobden Club, was sitting in his
favourite corner at the moment, and it need not be said that after
Fawcett's remark the conversation of the little party was somewhat
constrained.

But Tom Potter did not suffer so much as I did in that little room in
Pall Mall Place. One night in 1877 or 1878 I got there late, after dining
with Sir George Grove at his house at Sydenham. I was hot and thirsty,
and William Black, whom I found there, immediately suggested to me the
propriety of a whisky and soda. I accepted the suggestion. As the foaming
glass was handed to me, it occurred to me that the Century Club must have
been recently painted; but I was too thirsty to stop to make any remark
on the subject, and hastily drank off the cool beverage with which I had
been supplied. Directly I had done so, I knew that I had been poisoned.
Whatever I had swallowed, it certainly was not whisky. I suppose I turned
ghastly pale, for I felt a terrible nausea suddenly overcoming me. Black
and my other friends in a state of consternation examined the bottle from
which I had been served, and discovered that although it bore the label
of a well-known brand of whisky, it contained turpentine. I confess I was
relieved when I heard this, as I feared it might have been oxalic acid.
But turpentine is bad enough as a beverage, and I do not think I ever
spent a more uncomfortable four-and-twenty hours than that which followed
this misadventure. There was no doctor present, but Black undertook to
supply his place. "There is only one thing for you to do, my dear Reid.
You must get drunk directly." I declared, with reason, that I had drunk
too much already, and crept away to my bed, which happily was close at
hand. For at least two days after that incident I smelt like a
newly-painted lamp-post, but I have always felt grateful to the careless
dog of a servant for not having served me up oxalic acid or vitriol in
place of the turpentine. After that affair I do not think I ever went
back to the Century Club. It was bad enough to be bored by the
irrepressible Club Jorkinses, but to be poisoned also was more than flesh
and blood could stand.

The Reform, as I soon discovered, differed in many respects from any of
the clubs to which I had previously belonged. In those days, it was
really the headquarters of a great political party, and amongst its
members were to be counted many of the leading statesmen of the day. It
contained, too, not a few men of letters, and many prominent men of
affairs. A new member coming into the club saw these distinguished
persons at lunch, or dinner, or taking their ease in smoking or reading
rooms; but he had little chance of becoming acquainted with them unless
he had some friend by whom he could be introduced. Fortunately for me, I
already knew many of the politicians in the Reform, whilst Black was
eager to introduce me to his own friends in the club. On the very first
day on which I dined there as a member I was formally admitted to the
little coterie the members of which lunched at the same hour every day at
a particular table in the large coffee room. They were known as the
"press-gang," and were the objects, I have always imagined, of the
mingled hatred and envy of their fellow-members. They were hated because
of their exclusiveness, and envied owing to the fact that there was more
laughter at that one table than at all the others put together.

It was James Payn who was the chief cause of the laughter. He had himself
the loudest laugh of any man I ever met, and he laughed incessantly.
Again and again, when his ringing peal sounded through the room and we
saw the scandalised faces of our fellow-members, some one amongst us
would remind him of the line touching "the loud laugh that speaks the
vacant mind," but he only laughed the more loudly, and compelled us also
to join in his infectious merriment. Looking back upon the years which I
was destined to spend in constant association with that most delightful
and lovable of men, I sadly realise the fact that since his death I have
never laughed as I did in those happy days. The other members of the
luncheon-table party at that time were William Black, George Augustus
Sala, Sir John Robinson of the _Daily News_, E. D. J. Wilson of the
_Times_, and J. C. Parkinson. There were others who came and went,
but those I have named were the regular frequenters of the table. The
real bond of union between us was Payn; but, as was only natural, the
ties of friendship which united all became very close. To-day (1904)
Parkinson and myself alone remain of the merry party of twenty years ago.
Payn, Black, Robinson, and Sala are dead, and Wilson has sought the more
august society of the Athenaeum. The luncheon table is still maintained,
and we have found one or two recruits to fill the empty chairs; but I
think it is with pity, rather than with envy, that we survivors of the
original party are now regarded by our fellow-members.

However this may be, I shall always regard it as one of the great
privileges of my life that for more than twenty years I was a member of
this little society of friends, most of whom had kindred tastes, and who,
though they might differ widely in ability, were at least alike in the
keenness of their enjoyment of the humorous side of life. Many a time
since Payn's death I have been asked to repeat some of his "good things,"
in order that others might understand the fascination that he had for his
friends. I might as well be asked to repeat the song of the skylark. It
was not in the mere form of words he used that Payn's power of touching
and delighting his companions was to be found. He hated puns and verbal
trickery of every kind, but he saw more quickly than any other man I have
ever known the humorous side of any question or any incident, and he had
a knack of making that humorous side perceptible to others which to my
mind was absolutely unique. Day after day through the long years I have
sat with him at that noonday meal, breathing an atmosphere of wit that
was almost intoxicating. It was a wit that was never cruel, never coarse,
never anything but kindly and humane. Even his cynicism was genial and
good-natured, like that of Lord Houghton himself.

I have spoken already of William Black. He and I had become bound to each
other by ties of warm affection. I had the greatest admiration for his
genius, and a profound love for his pure and chivalrous character; but,
like myself, he was a listener at the table at which Payn sat. He could
say good things occasionally, but, as a rule, his conversation did not
approach the excellence of his writing. Payn, on the other hand, was
infinitely better in talk than in writing. He has written some essays
which will hold their own side by side with some of Elia's, but no essay
that he ever wrote had the delightful fascination that, to the very last,
attached to his conversation. Sala talked almost as much as Payn, but in
a very different fashion. He was an encyclopaedia of out-of-the-way
knowledge, and had a story or an illustration for every topic that
cropped up at the luncheon table. Sometimes his omniscience was almost
overpowering; but I have heard innumerable good stories admirably told by
him. Of Parkinson I must not speak, for he is happily still left to the
luncheon table and to me. Robinson, from experiences which were as varied
as they were abundant, was able to contribute much to our enjoyment at
those bright gatherings of old, whilst he shared to the full in the
affectionate admiration with which we all regarded Payn.

The summer of 1878 witnessed the meeting of the Congress at Berlin which
followed the Russo-Turkish War. Despite all the scares through which we
had passed during the winter and spring, we had escaped the war between
ourselves and Russia with which we had been so often threatened, and the
purpose of the Congress was to render such a war impossible in the
immediate future. It was this summer of 1878 that also witnessed
Disraeli's complete triumph over his enemies and his rivals.

He had secured his own way in the Cabinet, though in doing so he had to
lose the services of Lord Derby and Lord Carnarvon, and to convert Lord
Salisbury to views which, up to that time, he had professed to abhor. He
had brought the Indian troops to Malta, and had thereby given a
significant hint to Europe as to the extent of our resources. He had got
a vote of five millions from the House of Commons, and had spent a great
part of it in the purchase of ships of war, some of which turned out to
be wholly unfitted for the requirements of the English Naval Service. His
picturesque and audacious policy had won the favour of the multitude,
and, despite the criticisms of Mr. Gladstone, the Prime Minister was the
undisputed master of the nation.

Looking back, I do not think I am unfair when I say that Disraeli's
triumph seemed to be largely due to his power of playing to the gallery.
He gave the crowd in the streets the scenic effects which they loved. He
flattered their vanity, and he played upon their weaknesses, and thus he
was able in a great measure to realise the florid dreams of his youth,
and to strengthen English influence in that Eastern world which had
always exercised so great a fascination over him. When he went to Berlin
with Lord Salisbury as his companion, there was a great crowd at Charing
Cross Station to see him depart. I was one of the spectators, and was
struck by the deference which was paid to him by the many distinguished
persons who had come to speed him on his journey. Lord Salisbury passed
unnoticed by his side. At Berlin the same thing happened. In the great
Congress in which all the European Powers were represented, Disraeli's
figure outshone all others. Even Bismarck seemed to take a secondary
place to that of the Jew adventurer, who had made so splendid a fight for
his own hand, and had achieved so magnificent a success. The story of his
life, the romance of his career, and his personal peculiarities seemed to
have produced a deep impression upon people of all classes and of all
nationalities, and it is no exaggeration to say that during his residence
in Berlin the eyes of the whole world were fixed upon him.

When Disraeli came back from Berlin, having by an astute and not very
creditable transaction secured the Island of Cyprus for the British
Crown, besides compelling Russia to forego some of the fruits of her
victory over Turkey, he met with a reception of extraordinary enthusiasm.
A conqueror returning from the wars could hardly, indeed, have been
acclaimed more loudly than was Lord Beaconsfield as he drove from Charing
Cross Railway Station to Downing Street. If he had seen fit to dissolve
Parliament then he would have swept the country, and would have been
confirmed in the possession of power. But he had his own standard of
honour, and it did not permit him to attempt to snatch a victory of this
kind. His political opponents are bound to acknowledge their indebtedness
to him in this matter.

Shortly after the close of the Berlin Congress I took a long holiday from
my duties at Leeds, and made a most interesting tour through Europe in
the company of a friend, Mr. Greig, the manager of the Leeds Steam Plough
Works. Greig was engaged on a business tour, his purpose being to see the
different estates on which the system of steam culture--of which his
partner, Mr. Fowler, was the author--was employed. Our trip took us in
the first place to Germany, where we visited Magdeburg, Halberstadt,
Berlin, and Saxon Switzerland. Thence we went into Bohemia, staying at
Prague some days, and visiting some remote parts of that picturesque but
most unromantic country--for there is, alas! no kinship between the
Bohemia of reality and that of romance. After Bohemia came Vienna,
Budapest, and the Danube. Then at Orsova we turned north, and went by way
of Bucharest, Román, and Lemberg into Galicia, finally making our way
back again to Vienna, and thence to Paris and home. In those days much of
the ground I have mentioned was practically unknown to English tourists.
The lower Danube, for example, and the great plains of Roumania, though
they were within four days' rail of London, were not so well known to
English people as the Nile, the Ganges, or the Mississippi. It seems
strange, indeed, now to recall the fact that both in Hungary and in
Roumania we visited places where Englishmen were regarded as rare and
curious animals, people to be run after and stared at as they passed
along the village street. All this, I presume, is changed now through the
influence of the wonder-working Cook. Yet one cannot believe that even
now there are not some nooks and corners of the Bukovina where my fellow
countrymen have hardly penetrated, and where they are still regarded with
eyes of curiosity, if not of fear.

At all events, in my own case, in this year 1878, I no sooner diverged
from the beaten track than I had experience of the fact that there was
still an unexplored world within the confines of Europe. The long journey
down the Danube in a steamboat, now superseded by the railway, formed in
itself an expedition of no common interest. It happened that my friend
and I had to leave the steamer at Mohacs, famous in history, and in the
pages of Thackeray, in order to visit the vast estates of the Archduke
Albrecht, at that time the richest member of the Imperial family. It was
then that I had the first experience of a genuine Hungarian town, with
its streets knee-deep in mud, and swarming with huge dogs of ferocious
temper. On quitting the steamboat for the inn, I seemed at one step to
have passed from civilisation into savagery. Anything more atrociously
filthy and repulsive than this establishment I never saw, and yet it was
the best inn of a town of thirty thousand inhabitants.

When we reached our destination--a castle of the Archduke's--the next
day, we found ourselves once more surrounded with the comforts and
decencies of civilised life, but there were many evidences of the fact
that we were here far from the world. The game of croquet, for example,
had been for some ten years before this time practically extinct in
England. At the Archduke's castle they seemed just to have heard of it,
and were eagerly learning it when we arrived. At one of the outlying
farms on the splendid estate, the manager, like all his colleagues, was
of noble birth. When he found that we were Englishmen he suddenly
disappeared from the room. In a few minutes he returned with a smiling
and handsome young lady on his arm. "My wife speaks English," he
declared, in accents of pride. It turned out that the lady, who had been
educated at Budapest, had never spoken to any Englishman before. We
seemed to be almost the first who had ever penetrated into that unknown
land. When the husband found that his wife was able to converse with us
he literally danced for joy, and invited all the rest of the company to
witness the wonderful spectacle. The hospitality and friendliness of the
Hungarians were delightful. However unpopular Englishmen might be
elsewhere in Europe, at that time they were certainly loved in Hungary,
and the mere fact of his nationality was sufficient to secure for the
English traveller an unstinted hospitality.

Bucharest, when we reached it, was still in the occupation of the Russian
army. The war with Turkey had ended many months before, but the Russian
troops had not yet been withdrawn from the Danube, while thousands of
Turkish prisoners of war were still under detention in Roumania. It was
interesting to observe the unveiled hostility of the Russian and
Roumanian officers when they met in the streets and cafés. The only
salutation that passed between them was a scowl. I heard many stories as
to the jealousies and dissensions which had broken out during the war
between the Russians and their allies. The siege of Plevna, in
particular, had left bitter memories behind it. The Roumanians openly
accused the Russian officers of having selfishly sacrificed the soldiers
of the little principality in order to save the lives of Russians. Great
fear was felt in Bucharest that the Russians meant to stay there, and
their swaggering and domineering attitude certainly seemed to justify the
dread felt by those who were entertaining them so unwillingly. The only
happy and smiling people I encountered during my stay in Bucharest were
the Turkish prisoners of war and the gipsies. The prisoners were cheerful
and good-natured fellows. Most of them were eager to eke out their scanty
allowance for food by doing work of any kind, and I was told that when
Prince Charles returned in triumph at the head of his army after the
close of the war, these Turkish prisoners had begged for and obtained the
work of erecting a triumphal arch in his honour. As for the gipsies, they
abounded in Bucharest now that winter had begun to close in upon the
country, and the stirring strains of their quaint melodies were to be
heard in every café and at almost every street corner.

Brofft's Hotel was at that time the chief place of entertainment in
Bucharest. The principal bedrooms were occupied by ladies who purported
to be the wives of the leading Russian officers, but about whom there was
a strong smack of the boulevards. In the restaurant the officers
themselves dined and drank freely at numberless small tables, Roumanians
and Russians taking care to keep apart from each other. You could dine
very well at Brofft's, but you had to pay for your dinner at a rate which
cast into the shade the highest charges of Paris or Vienna. It was here
that I had experience of an amusing piece of effrontery on the part of
the proprietor. On our first evening in Bucharest my two friends and
I--for Mr. Greig had been joined by another member of his firm--dined
very well, but we were somewhat startled when we had to pay the bill,
which amounted to more than a pound a head. The next evening, determined
to be economical, we ordered a very moderate repast. Whilst we were
eating it, Brofft himself appeared at our table. "I am sorry you are
having so poor a dinner to-night, gentlemen," he said. "I do hope you
will let me add something to it, for, you know, the price will be the
same, whatever you have." And, sure enough, we again had to pay more than
a pound apiece for this very unsatisfactory dinner. After that
experience, we always took care to order the rarest and most costly
viands on the _carte du jour._

I made one interesting acquaintance at Bucharest. This was Mr. White, the
English Consul. Few at that time anticipated that he was destined to rise
to a height never before attained by a member of the Consular Service,
and to end his career as Sir William White, her Majesty's Ambassador at
Constantinople. Yet all who are acquainted with the facts are aware that
Sir William was better qualified than almost any other man for this high
position, and that his death was nothing less than a national misfortune.
At Bucharest in 1878 he was living in the simplest fashion in the
rambling Consulate. When I first went to call upon him he himself opened
the door in response to my knock. We had a long conversation upon Eastern
politics, in the course of which he explained his own perfect knowledge
of affairs in the Balkan Peninsula by telling me that he knew all the
languages spoken in that part of the world, and was consequently able to
study the local newspapers for himself. White was a big, powerful man,
with an air of unpolished frankness and good-nature that seemed to belie
his character as a diplomatist. His was one of the most interesting
careers in the public service of this country. In diplomacy he climbed
from the very bottom of the tree to the very top, and he did so without
having any special personal influence. The Russians both hated him and
feared him, and there was nothing he enjoyed so much as a game of
diplomatic bowls with Prince Gortschakoff or his successor. Some years
before he went to Constantinople Lord Salisbury offered to make him our
Minister at Pekin, and rumour has it that he recommended the new position
to White on the ground that it was at Pekin that the battle between
England and Russia would have to be fought out. But White's great
ambition was to be her Majesty's Ambassador to the Sublime Porte, and he
declined the post at Pekin, where he might have been of even greater
service to us than he was at Constantinople.

On my return to England I wrote some account of my trip in the
_Fortnightly Review,_ then under the editorship of Mr. John Morley.
My journey had undoubtedly opened my eyes to the economic possibilities
of Eastern Europe, and it had also proved to me that, at that time, at
all events, England was well able to hold her own in the race for
commercial supremacy even against Germany. Again and again, in visiting
German workshops, I found that the practical direction of the
establishment was in the hands of some Englishman or Scotsman, and the
intensely practical character of the English workman, his readiness of
resource, and his reliance upon himself in difficulties, were themes upon
which my German friends were never tired of dilating. I am afraid that
the case is somewhat different now, and that we are not so well able to
compete, even on their own ground, with the artisans and business men of
Germany as we were in 1878.



CHAPTER XII.

A CHAPTER OF MISFORTUNES.

Death of my Sister's Husband and of my Brother James--An Accident on
Marston Moor--Sir George Wombwell's Story of the Charge of the Light
Brigade--His Adventure on the Ouse--Editing a Daily Newspaper from a Sick
Bed--Reflections on Death--Death of my Mother--Serious Illness of my Only
Daughter.


There is a great deal of truth in the lines which declare that sorrows
and troubles do not come alone--"they come not single spies, but in
battalions." I have had experience of the fact more than once in my own
life; but never was it presented to me in such overwhelming force as in
the year 1880. On January 1st in that year I attended the funeral of my
only sister's husband at Kilmarnock. He, the Rev. William Bathgate, D.D.,
was a Scottish minister, a man of culture and refinement, and the author
of some theological works which had attained considerable popularity. His
death is associated in my mind with a great public calamity, the fall of
the Tay Bridge, when a train with all its passengers was destroyed. The
wind that toppled over the Tay Bridge proved fatal to my brother-in-law.
It was on a Sunday night--the last Sunday of 1879--and he had gone to
visit one of the Sunday schools attached to his church. The furious gale,
which about the same time destroyed the Tay Bridge, burst in its full
fury upon him soon after he had left his house, and after battling
against it for some time he found himself so much exhausted that he was
unable to move. It was only with the assistance of a kindly passer-by
that he was enabled to return home. Half an hour later he died in my
sister's presence, without a sound or a movement. I began the year,
consequently, in melancholy circumstances, in attendance at his funeral.

A few weeks later, at the beginning of February, a loss which I felt
still more keenly fell upon me. My elder brother, James, who had been my
constant companion from boyhood, and who had spent the closing years of
his life in intimate association with me at Leeds, died after a lingering
illness. The loss of one who had been for so many years my closest
companion and my most confidential friend, with whom I consulted over
almost every step of my life, was irreparable, and to this hour I
continue to feel the lack of his sympathy and advice in moments of
personal perplexity. Always more or less of an invalid, he lived much in
the life of his brothers, and his cheery fortitude, kindly humour, and
unfailing sympathy made his loss keenly felt in our family circle. He
died, by a strange coincidence, on the tenth anniversary of the death of
my first wife.

Three months later, I myself met with an accident which not only entailed
great suffering upon me, but almost cost me my life. It was in the month
of May, when, after the severe exertions imposed upon me by the General
Election--of which I shall speak fully later on--I had left Leeds for a
few days' rest and change. Sir George Wombwell, of Balaclava fame, had
invited a small party--of whom I was one--to join him on a driving tour
among the abbeys and ruins of the East Riding. The other members of the
party were William Black, Bret Harte, who had not long before taken up
his residence in England, and C. O. Shepard, the American Consul at
Bradford. Our rendezvous was at York, on a certain Saturday, and we had
agreed to spend that afternoon in visiting the battlefield of Marston
Moor. We drove out to the field in the highest spirits. I, in particular,
was elated at the thought of my escape from the drudgery of my office, as
well as by the prospect of the agreeable companionship of Black and
Harte, not to speak of Shepard, who was an admirable teller of American
stories, of which he possessed an inexhaustible fund.

We were crossing the battlefield on foot when we found our way stopped by
a hedge. It was a long way round to the gate of the field, and the hedge
did not seem very formidable. At all events, Black and Shepard cleared it
at a bound, and laughingly challenged Harte and me to follow their
example. But we were prudent men, and openly congratulated ourselves upon
that fact when we discovered a gap, through which it seemed possible to
pass quite easily. Harte passed through without difficulty, and I
followed his example. I had to jump about eighteen inches from the bank
of the hedge into the field. Nothing seemed simpler. Yet when I landed on
my feet one of them was caught in some mysterious way in a hole in the
ground, and whilst it was held as in a vice, my body was wrenched round
on the axis of my knee. To this day I do not understand how it happened.
All I knew at the moment was that something had given way in the
knee-joint, and that when I attempted to put my foot to the ground after
extricating it from the hole in which it had been caught "the pains of
hell gat hold upon me." I suppose I must, up to that time, have been
fairly free from physical torments of any kind. I had certainly no
conception, before that moment, that it was possible for a human being to
suffer such torture as I had then to endure.

I turned away my face from my companions so that they might not see that
I was suffering, and they went on unconscious of anything having
happened. I set off to follow them, supporting myself as best I could
with an umbrella which I chanced to be carrying. When they saw that I
limped they inquired the cause, but I reassured them by saying that it
was nothing more than a slight sprain. I was determined that I would not
spoil sport, or cast a shadow over the good spirits of our party. But,
Heavens, how that knee tortured me! I suppose I was a fool. Indeed the
doctor told me so the next morning, with some heat and quite unnecessary
emphasis. But I went on at the moment as if nothing had happened,
crawling with the aid of my umbrella across field after field, and even
climbing up some steps in order to see the room where Cromwell slept the
night before--or was it the night after?--the battle. Then I walked on
to the place where our carriage was waiting for us. It was standing at a
little country public-house. "I am going in here to get a drink," said I
to Black. "What!" cried he. "Drink anything here? Why, they'll poison you!"
"So much the better," I retorted, and then my friends began to realise
that I was hurt. They consulted together as to the stimulant that was
most likely to be innocuous, and finally decided upon gin. I had never
drunk gin in my life before. I now tossed off three glasses in quick
succession. It was very nasty, and it did not take away the pain, but it
made me feel rather less like dying than I had done before.

Somehow or other I got back to York, and, with the aid of the hotel
porter, undressed and got to bed. By this time my knee was enormously
swollen, but I was so ignorant of the actual position of affairs that I
honestly thought that all that was necessary to put me right again was a
rest of a few hours. Unfortunately, I was not allowed even that
homoeopathic remedy. We were to dine with Sir George Wombwell at the
Yorkshire Club that evening. I proposed to stay in bed at the hotel, but
to this Black demurred. He hated to meet strangers, and he declared that
if I did not go with him to the club he would not go at all. So once more
the porter was requisitioned, and with his help I managed to get into
evening clothes. Arrived at the club, the quick, soldierly eye of Sir
George Wombwell instantly detected my condition, and diagnosed it more
accurately than either I or my companions had done. I remained to dinner,
but a leg-rest was provided for me, and everything done to make me feel
comfortable, whilst Sir George sent a messenger to Mr. Husband, an
eminent surgeon of York, asking him to see me at the hotel as early as
possible next morning.

The evening passed like a nightmare, but I still have a vivid
recollection of the account which Sir George Wombwell gave me of his
famous ride with the Light Brigade at Balaclava. His horse was shot under
him whilst they were charging for the guns, and, being left behind whilst
the brigade thundered onward, he was made prisoner by the Russian
cavalry, which closed in behind our English horse. His captivity lasted,
however, for but a few minutes. The cry was raised that the English were
returning from their mad but heroic enterprise, and instantly the
Russians scattered and fled. As Lord Cardigan, who was riding in front of
the remnant of the shattered brigade, passed Wombwell, he shouted, "Catch
a horse, you d--d young fool, and come with us!"--advice which Wombwell
promptly took. He found the charger of a Russian officer, and, mounting
it, came back in safety with the few survivors of the awful day.

That was not, however Wombwell declared, the occasion on which his life
had been in greatest peril. Years afterwards, he and Sir Charles Slingsby
and a number of the members of the York and Anisty Hunt were crossing the
Ouse in a ferryboat, when some of the horses were seized with panic, and
the boat was upset. Sir Charles Slingsby and a number of others--twelve,
I believe, in all--were drowned, Wombwell being one of the few who
escaped. This he regarded as a much more dangerous adventure than the
charge of the Light Brigade. Someone at the dinner-table told a story
about this tragedy which Wombwell, I thought, hardly liked. The
ferry-boat was upset in the river adjoining Sir Charles Slingsby's
estate. One of his tenants who had heard of the disaster, and had been
told that only one of the baronets had escaped, was hurrying to the scene
of the catastrophe, when he met Sir George Wombwell riding home. As soon
as the man saw Sir George he flung up his hands, and in accents of dismay
cried, "Eh! but they've drowned t'wrang baronet!"

On the morning after this dinner, Mr. Husband visited me and inspected my
knee. I told him that I meant to stay in bed during the day, but hoped he
would allow me to keep an engagement I had made to dine at the Cavalry
Barracks in the evening. Eyeing me with great severity, the good surgeon
said: "You are a man of intelligence, or at least you ought to be,
considering the position you hold. You must surely know that you have met
with an injury that will keep you in bed for weeks, at least." And he
hinted, not obscurely, that still worse things than prolonged confinement
to bed would certainly befall me if I did not take the greatest care of
my injured leg. So there ended all my hopes of a pleasant holiday. The
next day I was taken back to Leeds in a state of absolute helplessness,
and, being got to bed in my own house, had to remain there for nine
mortal weeks.

Some of the experiences of that time were curious. Phlebitis had set in,
and for a time I was in serious danger from the formation of a clot of
blood in one of the arteries. As is pretty generally known, whilst this
state of things exists death may occur at any moment from the stoppage of
the heart through the clot getting free and passing into the central
organ. It was curious to lie in this condition for several days, never
knowing at night whether I should see the sun rise again. But I was very
much struck by the fact that I became easily reconciled to my state, and
did not feel the slightest apprehension with regard to the course of the
disease. I was almost free from pain, and was able to carry on my work as
regularly as if I had been in attendance at the _Mercury_ office.
Every evening I dictated my leading article to a shorthand writer. A
telephone--at that time a great novelty--was put up by the side of my bed
and connected with my room at the _Mercury_ office, and by this
means I was kept in constant communication with the members of my staff.

Thus my time passed pleasantly enough. When I was not dictating I was
reading, and during my confinement I re-read the whole of the Waverley
novels. It was when I was once more enjoying the romantic adventures of
"Ivanhoe" that I was seized, one afternoon, with the premonitory symptoms
which my doctors had told me would indicate the approach of death. At my
urgent request they had enlightened me upon this point, and I had learned
that death from the accidental stoppage of the heart would be without
pain, and would simply be preceded by a feeling of faintness. It was a
feeling of this kind which suddenly stole over me as I was reading
"Ivanhoe." I felt it deepening, and laid aside my book under the firm
conviction that I would never again read printed page. Asking for some
stimulant, I was given some brandy and water, but it seemed to have no
effect in checking the ever-increasing faintness. So I closed my eyes in
the drowsy belief that I should never open them again in this world. I
felt no pain, no agitation, no fear. Half an hour later I awoke from a
placid sleep, and, to my great surprise, found that I was decidedly
better than I had been for some time. This seemed, indeed, to have been
the crisis of my illness, and from that point I slowly recovered. My
doctors conjectured that a minute clot of blood had really passed through
my heart, producing the faintness from which I had suffered, but not
causing death.

I have dwelt at unconscionable length upon this incident of my accidental
injury and subsequent illness, but I have done so for the very reason
that, sooner or later, experiences of this kind come to most of us, and
it may be of some use to state exactly, not only the wonderful rapidity
with which a man by the simplest misadventure may imperil his life, but
the sensations with which he greets the apparent approach of death. All
who have suffered from severe illness must know how readily the invalid
accustoms himself to seclusion from the world, and how quickly the
panorama of passing life seems to fade into insignificance. The outside
world becomes, at such a time, a mere passing show which has but a
secondary interest for the man who can take no part in it. As for the
approach of death, I believe, from my own experience, that there is
nothing to which a sick man more easily reconciles himself. Certainly,
since those days in 1880 I have lost any fear I may have had before of
that inevitable end which awaits us all. It is the recovery from a severe
illness of accidental injury that is the really trying thing. For many
weeks after I left my bed I was a cripple, compelled to use crutches in
moving about, and suffering from extreme weakness. I went to Bridlington,
a watering-place on the Yorkshire coast, to recruit, and, hiring a small
trawling boat, I spent every day upon the sea, beating up and down the
fine bay trawling for fish. In this way I got plenty of fresh air without
bodily fatigue, whilst I had the enjoyment of one of my favourite
pursuits.

Shortly after my return from Bridlington, and whilst I was still
crippled, another great misfortune befell me. This was the death, on the
5th of August, of my mother, a woman of distinct culture and intellectual
power, to whom her children had been indebted for many things in addition
to the motherly love which she lavished upon them all so freely. It was,
I think, the shock of her death, and the exertion of the railway journey
to my brother Stuart's house at Wilmslow, Cheshire, which I took in order
that I might see her before she died, that brought about a relapse in my
condition. In the hope that I should benefit by it, my doctors ordered me
a long sea voyage. It was the first I had ever undertaken. I sailed from
Liverpool on the _Sidon_, one of the Cunard Company's steamers, for
a round trip through the Mediterranean to Constantinople and back. The
_Sidon_ was a slow old boat, and we took ten days to reach Malta,
the first place of stoppage. I never enjoyed ten days so much before or
since. The novelty of life at sea charmed me, whilst the freedom from all
work and anxiety was delightful. Every day I seemed to have acquired a
fresh stock of vigour, and by the time we reached Malta I could no longer
pretend to be an invalid. It was fortunate for me that my health had
undergone this wonderful improvement, for we had no sooner cast anchor in
the busy harbour of Valetta than a telegram was put into my hands,
announcing that my only daughter Nellie had been struck down by typhoid
on the very day on which I sailed from England.

There was no opportunity at the moment of getting back from Malta to
England direct, and I had consequently to continue my voyage to Syra,
Smyrna, and Constantinople, getting telegrams, of course, at each place
as to the condition of the invalid. At Constantinople I had an urgent
summons from my daughter's medical attendants, and started at an hour's
notice for home by the overland route, such as it then was. Leaving
Constantinople on a Tuesday at two o'clock by the Austrian Lloyd steamer
for Varna, I reached my own house in Yorkshire shortly after midnight on
the following Sunday. I believe I established on that occasion a record
in travelling from the Bosphorus to Leeds. I have described this overland
journey in "Gladys Fane." It was an experience worth remembering,
especially in these days of _trains de luxe_, when the traveller
passes from Calais to Constantinople without a change of carriage. From
Constantinople to Varna I had an exceedingly rough passage in the
Austrian boat, and at Varna the weather was so bad that it was with
difficulty that I persuaded the captain to allow me to land in time to
catch the through train. The whole of the following day we were passing
through the gloomy uplands of Bulgaria. Crossing the Danube at Rustchuk
in the evening, we reached Bucharest by nine o'clock at night. Here was
the only opportunity I had during my journey of obtaining a night's rest,
and I eagerly availed myself of it. Remembering Brofft's extortions on
the occasion of my previous visit to Bucharest, I went to a new hotel
which had just been opened, one of the advertised attractions of which
was its moderate charges.

The next morning, when I was preparing for my early start by train, the
proprietor of the hotel came to have a chat with me, and I explained to
him the reason why I had chosen his house in preference to Brofft's.
"Quite right, sir!" he exclaimed with great heartiness. "Everybody says
the same thing. Take my word for it, sir, Brofft is a thief." At that
moment my bill was handed to me. It was more extortionate than anything I
had known at Brofft's. "That is as it may be." I said, turning to the
landlord, "but I think you will agree with me that if Brofft is a thief,
he is not the only one in Bucharest." Things, I hope, have changed since
then. If they have not done so I am sorry for the tourist who unwittingly
includes Bucharest in the round of the holiday vacation. From Bucharest
to London, and thence to Leeds, I came practically without a break, and
on reaching my own home once more, in the dead of the night, I had the
joy of knowing that the crisis of my daughter's illness was passed, and
that she was spared to me. Here ends the chronicle of my misfortunes
during the year 1880. It is but a trivial tale, and one that, I fear,
will have small interest for the reader, but I have ventured to tell it
as an illustration of the adage that troubles never come singly. In the
quarter of a century that has elapsed since then I have not had to
encounter such a series of misfortunes as came upon me in the first nine
months of that ill-omened year.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE GENERAL ELECTION OF 1880.

Mr. Gladstone's Position in 1879--His Decision to Contest Midlothian--How
he came to be Adopted by the Leeds Liberals--The Conversation Club--A
Visit from John Morley--The Dissolution of 1880--Lecture on Mr.
Gladstone--His Triumphant Return for Leeds--His Election for
Midlothian--Mr. Herbert Gladstone Adopted as his Successor at Leeds--Mr.
Gladstone's Visit to Leeds in 1881--A Fiasco Narrowly Avoided--A
Wonderful Mass Meeting--Mr. Gladstone's Collapse and Recovery--My
Introduction to Him--An Excursion to Tunis--"The Land of the Bey"--Mr. A.
M. Broadley's Prophecies--Howard Payne's Grave--A Series of Coincidences.


The misfortunes described in the last chapter befell me in 1880; I must
now retrace my steps and go back to the year 1879. That year was largely
spent in preparations for the General Election. Party spirit ran very
high. Lord Beaconsfield retained his great popularity in London and among
the classes, and the Press and the clubs in consequence believed that the
General Election, when it came, would provide him with another victory.
Mr. Gladstone was hated more than ever by the London journalists, and by
all who had been attracted by the showy foreign policy of Lord
Beaconsfield. I am afraid that he was not at this time over popular in
the inner circle of his own party. He had resigned the leadership in
1875, and had ostensibly gone into retirement. He had emerged from that
retirement in 1876, in order to be the voice of the nation in its
outburst of indignation against the Sultan.

From that time forward he had occupied a curious position. He was neither
leader nor follower, but a great force, acting independently of other
persons, and disconcerting them visibly by the unexpectedness of his
movements.

I had access, years afterwards, to the records of the meetings of the
leading members of the Liberal party during the period between 1874 and
1880. It was easy to gather from these secret and confidential memoirs
that Mr. Gladstone was found to be an uneasy bedfellow by his old
colleagues. When he was moved by any strong impulse he was very apt to
forget that Lord Hartington was the nominal leader of the Opposition, and
to take some line of action without waiting to consult his ostensible
chief. He did, I believe, consult Lord Granville with frequency, if not
with regularity. Lord Granville was, in his opinion, the leader of the
whole party, whilst the only post held by Lord Hartington was that of
leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons. The result of his
frequent interventions in public affairs was undoubtedly to throw the
Opposition into some confusion. The _Times_, and the other chief
organs of the London Press, constantly poured ridicule upon his speeches,
and did their best to accentuate the differences between himself and his
former colleagues. It followed--not unnaturally, perhaps--that there were
those among the leaders of the Liberal party who desired to prevent Mr.
Gladstone's return to power. But whilst the great chief was thus assailed
and intrigued against in London, his position in the country was every
day becoming stronger.

It was known that he meant to retire from the representation of Greenwich
when the Parliament elected in 1874 came to an end. A score of different
towns contended for the honour of securing him as the Liberal
representative. Leeds, amongst other great constituencies, sent a
deputation to Harley Street, where Mr. Gladstone was living. To all these
offers he turned a deaf ear, and to the amazement of everybody it was
announced that he had decided to contest Midlothian, at that time
represented by Lord Dalkeith, whose father, the Duke of Buccleuch, was
the recognised leader of Conservatism in Scotland. Many years afterwards
I learned from Mr. Gladstone himself that before accepting the
candidature for Midlothian he consulted Lord Granville and Lord
Hartington, pointing out to them that if he were to enter into a colossal
struggle like that involved in the fight for the great Tory stronghold of
Midlothian, instead of accepting one of the safe seats offered to him
elsewhere, his position in the party would of necessity be altered. In
short, he could only fight Midlothian as a leader. Lord Granville and
Lord Hartington, undeterred by this consideration, still pressed him to
stand for Midlothian. From the moment he consented to do so Mr. Gladstone
undoubtedly regarded himself as the leader in the great campaign upon
which the country was about to embark.

In Leeds great efforts were made by the Liberals in preparation for the
conflict. My own position in the party was now very different from what
it had been in 1874. I had been taken into the innermost circle of the
caucus, and now exercised a considerable amount of direct influence over
its proceedings. Having formed an intimate friendship with the honorary
secretary of the Liberal Association, Mr. Mathers, I was consulted upon
every step that was taken. It was at my suggestion that Mr.--now Sir
James--Kitson was invited to become our president, and I believe I am
correct in saying that it was by my arguments that he was induced to
accept the office. From the moment when he did so, the organisation of
the party in Leeds--where in 1874 we had met with so cruel a
disaster--began to advance by leaps and bounds. Kitson was a man of great
sagacity and shrewdness, and of much strength of character. Mathers was
simply the best organiser and wire-puller I ever met in the course of my
life. He was a master of detail, one of those rare men who can retain
within their grasp the full knowledge of every fact in the most
complicated of problems. He was also, like myself, an enthusiastic
Gladstonian. Unkind people in Leeds said in those days that the Liberal
party consisted of three persons, Kitson, Mathers, and Reid. This may not
have been absolutely correct, but it was certainly not very far from the
truth.

On every side we witnessed, during this year 1879, the revival of Liberal
feeling, and the rapid growth of a strong hostility to Lord
Beaconsfield's adventures in the domain of foreign affairs. The current
had turned with a vengeance, and the flowing tide was indeed with us. We
three organisers of Leeds Liberalism were determined that at the coming
General Election we would win a victory that should fully redeem the
character of our town and give it a leading place in the political world.
We were, however, somewhat hampered for want of a good candidate to stand
along with Mr. Barran, the sitting member. I had found a thoroughly
suitable man who would have been a credit to the constituency, but there
were other candidates in the field, and it seemed as though one of these
would be chosen by the Liberal Four Hundred. For the adoption of a
candidate was a matter which rested solely with the Four Hundred, and
they clung to this prerogative of theirs with great tenacity.

On the eve of the meeting at which they were to make their final
selection of a colleague for Mr. Barran, I learned that my fears were
well founded, and that the choice was likely to fall upon a gentleman
whom I did not regard as suitable. In order to prevent this, I proposed
in the _Leeds Mercury_ of the next morning that, in spite of Mr.
Gladstone's acceptance of the candidature for Midlothian, we should make
him our candidate at Leeds also. It was true that he had already refused
the invitation of the Leeds Liberals, but I pointed out that the fight
for Midlothian would notoriously be a severe one, and that it was quite
possible that Mr. Gladstone might be defeated. In such a case, if the
Liberal Association adopted my suggestion, Leeds would secure the high
honour of being represented by Mr. Gladstone, whilst, in any event, our
adoption of him as a candidate would enable him to conduct the contest in
Midlothian without feeling any anxiety as to a possible interruption in
his Parliamentary career. To my great delight, the Liberal Association
not only adopted my suggestion, but did so with enthusiasm. I had
consulted nobody before making it, but I had the satisfaction of finding
that everybody approved of it--everybody, that is to say, except the
gentleman who had won over to his own candidature a considerable
proportion of the Four Hundred.

When the Association met that evening the whole of the candidates whose
claims had been so eagerly discussed beforehand were swept ruthlessly
aside, and nothing was talked of but the proposal of the _Leeds
Mercury_. After some discussion--in the course of which one gentleman
shrewdly pointed out that the anonymous letter suggesting the candidature
of Mr. Gladstone was probably written by the editor of the _Mercury_
himself--the Association resolved by an overwhelming majority that Mr.
Gladstone should be one of the two Liberal candidates for Leeds at the
next election. And yet, at the very time when this proof of his
extraordinary hold upon the affections of a great community was made
public, the London newspapers were speaking of Mr. Gladstone as a
politician who no longer possessed either reputation or influence. We,
who had to live at a distance from Fleet Street, were at least able to
form a sounder judgment upon this point.

I may interpolate here an account of one of the institutions of Leeds
that helped to reconcile me to my sojourn in that city. I do so because
it has always seemed to me to be a model institution of the kind. This
was the Conversation Club. It consisted of twelve members who were
supposed to be more or less representative of the intellectual life of
the town. The meetings were held monthly, each member entertaining his
fellow-members once a year in his own house. After dinner the host acted
as president, and the members present talked upon some selected subject.
By an ingenious arrangement it was impossible that anyone should know
beforehand what the subject of conversation on any particular evening
would be. In this way the preparation of set arguments was prevented, and
the club had nothing about it of the debating society. Speeches, of
course, were strictly prohibited. We limited ourselves to real
conversation, and many a delightful talk we had after dinner in those
Leeds drawing-rooms in which we met. Any facility I may have gained in
conversation I feel that I owe to the club, as I owe to it also many
happy and instructive hours. Considering our limited numbers, and the
fact that we met in a provincial town, we counted in our membership an
usually large number of men who have made some mark in the world. Amongst
the members were William Edward Forster, Sir Edward Baines, the Bishops
of Ely (Woodford), Truro (Gott), Chester (Jayne), and Rochester (Talbot);
Clifford Allbutt, Regius Professor of Medicine at Cambridge;
Professor--now Sir Arthur--Rücker, who has been secretary of the Royal
Society and President of the British Association, and is now Principal of
the University of London; Professor Thorpe, the chemist and Government
analyst, and Dr. Edison. This is not a bad list for so small a club, and
one might easily give many other names, in addition, of men who would
have been welcomed anywhere for their knowledge and attainments. In the
year 1900 the club celebrated its jubilee, and its members can look back
with satisfaction upon the influence which it has had on the social and
intellectual life of Leeds. Politics and religion were forbidden themes;
but many public movements of great importance for the development and
improvement of Leeds have had their origin in our conversations, whilst
the intellectual stimulus which those conversations afforded cannot be
forgotten by at least one grateful member of the club.

I may here mention a visit I received from John Morley about this period.
He was one of the many men whose acquaintanceship I owed to the good
offices of Lord Houghton. It is an acquaintanceship that has lasted over
a considerable stretch of years, and that has from time to time been of a
close and almost confidential character. The charm of John Morley's
manner, and the brightness of his talk, have been felt and acknowledged
by all who have been brought into contact with him, and it would be
superfluous on my part to say anything about his literary reputation. But
I have always felt that neither his fine gifts nor his peculiar
temperament were suited for the rough and tumble of political warfare. I
have felt this whether I have been, as has often happened, marching
behind him in thorough unison with his opinions, or, as has also occurred
at times, directly opposed to him and to his policy. He came to see me at
Leeds because, having undertaken to deliver an address to the Trades
Union Congress, he was wishful to learn something on the spot of the
relations of master and men in a great industrial community. I made him
acquainted with my friends James Kitson and David Greig. He discussed
with them the problems concerning the relations of labour and capital,
and in their company visited the great industrial establishments over
which they presided. At that time he was not in Parliament, nor had he
begun his editorship of the _Pall Mall Gazette_. I remember that,
after a fatiguing day, spent in the works of the Kitsons, Morley
expressed his conviction that the great captains of industry, like Kitson
and Greig, were not only of greater importance to the world than a mere
Secretary of State, but were engaged upon much more laborious and
responsible tasks. I do not know if he still adheres to that opinion.

I must now turn back to the course of public events, or at least of those
with which I had some personal connection. The dissolution of 1880 came
very unexpectedly, almost as unexpectedly as that of 1874. One evening,
as I was preparing to go down to the office, a messenger arrived in hot
haste with a telegram that had come over the _Mercury_ private wire
stating that the intention to dissolve Parliament had been announced in
the House of Commons that evening. Kitson, Mathers, and I had made all
our preparations, so the plan of campaign was already settled. On getting
the telegram I crossed over to the house of Mathers, who was a neighbour
of mine, and told him the news, and together we drove off to Kitson's to
take the first steps in the battle. The next morning the people of Leeds
awoke to discover every dead wall in the town placarded with an address,
signed by the president of the Liberal Association, announcing the
dissolution, and appealing to the electors to support the Liberal
candidates, Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Barran. By ten o'clock in the forenoon
our committee rooms were open, and in full working order, and bands of
willing workers, whom we had summoned the night before, were already
being despatched to all quarters of the town to begin the indispensable
canvass. Our opponents were taken completely by surprise, and we had
gained that great advantage in all contests, the first start. As it
began, so it continued. All through the great struggle the Conservatives
were hopelessly behind us. As the enthusiastic Mathers afterwards
remarked, "We were right on the top of them the whole time." It was a
stirring and Homeric contest. To a staunch Liberal it was one that gave
unalloyed satisfaction, for all through the great fight there was the
amplest evidence that the flowing tide was on the side of Liberalism.

In Leeds we had, of course, to face the disadvantage of fighting without
our chief candidate. Not by a word nor a sign did Mr. Gladstone, who was
deep in his own struggle in Midlothian, show that he was conscious that
an election in which he was personally concerned was going on in
Yorkshire. Naturally, our opponents made the most of this, and we had
constantly to meet the taunt that we were asking the electors to vote for
a man who had refused to countenance our proceedings, and who would
never, as a matter of fact, sit as the representative of Leeds in the
House of Commons. In ordinary times we should undoubtedly have suffered
from this taunt, especially since it had the merit of being true. But in
1880 the times were the reverse of ordinary. The overwhelming majority of
the people of Great Britain seemed to be possessed by an almost
passionate admiration for Mr. Gladstone. Future generations will find it
difficult to understand the extent of the fascination that he seemed, at
that period in his career, to exercise over the minds and hearts of a
majority of his fellow countrymen. Whilst London, and the London press,
still refused to admit that he could ever return to power, there was not
a public gathering in the provinces at which the mention of his name was
not received with enthusiastic cheering, so that, at last, men were
almost afraid to name him in their speeches, lest they should be accused
of bidding for the inevitable applause. If there was one town in the
country where this enthusiasm ran higher than in any other, it was Leeds.
We had no reason, therefore, to fear the taunts of our opponents. We knew
that we were being swept on an irresistible current to an assured
victory.

On the Saturday before the polling-day a great meeting was held in the
Albert Hall, presided over by Kitson. The chief business of the meeting
was to listen to a lecture on Mr. Gladstone which I had prepared for the
occasion. Never before had I addressed so large an audience, nor one
possessed by so boundless an enthusiasm. It was amid an almost incessant
accompaniment of rolling cheers that I delivered my hour-long eulogium
upon the Liberal leader. I had thought that I had gone as far as any man
could in his praise, but I found I had not gone far enough for my
audience, and the only sounds of dissent I heard were when I ventured
mildly to hint that at some period or other in his career the great man
had not shown himself to be infallible. I dwell upon this state of public
feeling because it ought to be understood by those who wish to appreciate
aright the history of our country at that period. I do not think I go too
far when I say that the feeling entertained towards Mr. Gladstone in 1880
by the great majority of the people of these islands was nothing less
than idolatrous. Any smaller man must have been intoxicated by the
knowledge of the feeling he had thus aroused. It says much for Mr.
Gladstone that, so far from showing any signs of intoxication or personal
exultation, from first to last he seemed to regard his hold upon the
masses of the people simply as one of the assets in the cause of which he
had made himself the champion.

After I had finished my lecture in the Albert Hall a young man, then
unknown to me, and who was described as an Oxford don, was called upon to
address the meeting. This was Mr. Arthur Acland, subsequently a member of
Mr. Gladstone's last Cabinet. The next day I wrote to Mrs. Gladstone--for
all direct communication with her husband was forbidden--telling her how
the contest was going, and predicting that not less than twenty thousand
electors would vote for her husband on the polling day. My prediction was
more than fulfilled, for when the votes were counted it was found that
Mr. Gladstone's stood at the remarkable number of 24,622, whilst Mr.
Barran came next to him with 23,674. Mr. W. L. Jackson (afterwards Chief
Secretary for Ireland), the successful Conservative candidate, was more
than ten thousand below the number secured by Mr. Gladstone. It was,
indeed, a famous victory; and when I parted from Kitson and Mathers after
the declaration of the poll, whilst we all felt more than repaid for the
toil and anxiety of months, we admitted, with a certain amount of
sadness, that we could never hope to repeat such a success. "Whatever
happens, we shall never see 1880 again," said Kitson, and he spoke truly.
Mrs. Gladstone, on receipt of my letter, had written to me expressing her
warm thanks for what "the dear people of Leeds" were doing, but she said
not a word about her husband, nor did we receive a sign or acknowledgment
of the stupendous victory--a victory which had staggered the whole
country, and opened the eyes even of the London clubs to Mr. Gladstone's
real position--whilst the Midlothian contest remained in suspense. We
heard, indeed, from a private source, that the company assembled with Mr.
Gladstone under Lord Rosebery's roof at Dalmeny had "jumped for joy" when
the telegram announcing the Leeds result had arrived. But that was all.

A few days later Midlothian also spoke, and in turn elected Mr. Gladstone
as its representative. Within an hour of the declaration of the poll in
Edinburgh, Kitson received a telegram from Mr. Gladstone, thanking Leeds
for all that it had done. It was characteristic of the great man's
businesslike habits and careful attention to small details that the
telegram was so worded as to come within the limits of the shilling rate
which was then the minimum charge for telegraphic messages. A day or two
later Mr. Gladstone wrote fully and most cordially in acknowledgment of
the great services which had been rendered to him and to the Liberal
cause by the party in Leeds. But his real thanks were given to us more
than a year after, when he paid a memorable visit to the town, of which I
shall have occasion to speak later.

A few weeks afterwards, when the Gladstone Ministry had been formed, and
the new Parliament, with its overwhelming Liberal majority, had met, we
had fresh reason to acknowledge the unique and astounding position of
supremacy which Mr. Gladstone had secured among his fellow countrymen. He
had, as from the first was anticipated, elected to sit for Midlothian,
and there was consequently a vacancy for Leeds. All the heart had been
taken out of the Tories of the borough by the beating they had received,
and their leaders courteously informed us that they would not oppose any
candidate whom we might elect. We had, it need hardly be said, many
applicants for this safe seat, but we--I speak of the recognised leaders
of the Liberal party in the town--had fixed upon one man to fill the
vacancy. This was Edward Baines, who had been, as I have told on a
previous page, so scurvily treated by the teetotallers in 1874. The
executive committee of the Association agreed by a unanimous vote to
propose Mr. Baines to the Four Hundred as the new candidate in place of
Mr. Gladstone. But we reckoned without our host, and, above all, we had
failed to give due weight to the overwhelming strength of the Gladstone
cult.

When we met the Four Hundred, and Mr. Baines was duly proposed and
seconded in the name of the executive committee, we found that the
proposition was but coldly received; nor were we long left in doubt as to
the reason. Someone in the body of the hall got up and proposed that Mr.
Herbert Gladstone should be the Liberal candidate. Herbert Gladstone was
at that time a stranger to me, and I believe to every other man in the
room. All that we knew of him was that he was Mr. Gladstone's youngest
son, that he was twenty-five years of age, and that he had just been
defeated by Lord George Hamilton in the contest for Middlesex. No member
of Mr. Gladstone's family had suggested Herbert's name to us, and we had
naturally felt that the first claim to the vacant seat lay with our old
representative and honoured fellow-townsman. But it was useless to
struggle against the glamour of the name of Gladstone. The whole meeting
broke away from its recognised leaders, and adopted with enthusiasm the
candidature of Herbert Gladstone. Looking back, I cannot pretend to
regret its decision. Though we knew nothing of Herbert Gladstone at the
time, when we did get to know him, a few weeks later, we found him to be
a young man of the highest promise, of exceptional talents, and of great
amiability of character. The Liberals of Leeds ratified the verdict of
the Four Hundred, and he was elected almost by acclamation to be the
representative of the town in Parliament--a position which he still
holds. The incident of his election when personally quite unknown is,
however, conclusive as to the extent of his father's influence among the
electors of the country.

In those days, it is no reflection upon Herbert Gladstone's abilities to
say that one of the most powerful influences in his favour was his
appearance. The young women of Leeds of the working-class formed the
highest estimate of his good looks, and whenever he appeared in public a
crowd of them gathered to feast their eyes upon his pleasant and handsome
features. In the later elections that took place during my residence at
Leeds I always accompanied him in his drive through his constituency on
the polling day. Wherever our carriage stopped, a group of young women
flocked round it, and Gladstone had to listen to their somewhat
embarrassing comments upon his appearance--comments, I ought to say, that
were uniformly favourable. In the 1885 election, which took place in
November, we had drawn up in front of one of the Liberal clubs, and he
had gone inside the building to interview his committee. As he
disappeared from view, the young women burst forth in their usual praise
of his appearance. "Eh, but isn't he good-looking? Shouldn't I like to
kiss him!" said one of the girls who was standing at my elbow. "Would you
really?" I said, anxious for some relief to the grave business of the
day; and the girl repeated her declaration. "Then when he comes out of
the club," said I, "you may give him a kiss if you like." And, to my
great amusement, when the candidate reappeared, a pair of buxom arms were
suddenly thrown round his neck, and a good-looking girl kissed him
heartily. The crowd cheered with enthusiasm, all the more because of the
blush which spread over the features of the ingenuous candidate thus
taken by surprise. But kisses, as we learnt long ago, are not to be
despised as electioneering weapons.

It was in October, 1881, that the Prime Minister came to Leeds to thank
us for his election in the previous year. Among the many political
meetings, or series of meetings, that I remember, I can call to mind none
like this. For weeks before the event we of the Liberal Committee were
engaged in preparing for it. Mr. Gladstone was to arrive on the Thursday
evening, and to leave on Saturday evening. Into the forty-eight hours of
his visit a series of engagements was packed to which a week might well
have been devoted. On the first evening he was formally welcomed to the
town, which had been decorated for the occasion as though for a royal
visit. Afterwards a large dinner party was held at the residence of his
host, Mr. (now Sir James) Kitson. On the Friday he received an address
from the Mayor and Corporation, and another from the Chamber of Commerce,
to both of which he replied in speeches of some length. A little later in
the day a great meeting was held in the Victoria Hall, at which addresses
were presented to him from all the Liberal Associations of Yorkshire, and
he responded in a very fine speech that lasted an hour. In the evening he
attended a great banquet at which thirteen hundred persons sat down to
dinner in a noble hall specially erected for the occasion, whilst the
day's work ended with a vast torchlight procession from the dining-hall
in the heart of Leeds to Kitson's residence at Headingley.

On the Saturday, after some minor engagements, the character of which I
forget, but which involved a certain amount of speech-making, Mr.
Gladstone was entertained at luncheon in the Victoria Hall by the Leeds
Liberal Club, of which I was the honorary secretary; and after speaking
there he went direct to the temporary building erected in the Cloth-hall
yard, and there addressed a mass meeting of many thousands of persons.
Afterwards he attended a large dinner party at the house of Mr. Barran,
and at ten o'clock departed from Leeds by special train for Hawarden. It
will be seen that the burden of work laid upon him was enormous,
especially considering the fact that he was already in his seventy-second
year. Yet his wonderful constitution and untiring energy enabled him to
go through the whole programme not only with apparent ease, but with an
exuberant vitality that seemed to suggest that if his engagements had
been twice as numerous he would have been equal to them all. I doubt if
any other statesman ever before got through so much work and
speech-making in the course of a couple of days.

As I look back now, after the lapse of many years, upon that memorable
time--for the Leeds visit was memorable, not only in Mr. Gladstone's
career, but in the political history of the country--the two speeches
which stand out in greatest prominence are those which he delivered at
the banquet on the Friday evening, and the mass meeting on the Saturday
afternoon. The banquet narrowly escaped being a terrible fiasco. For the
first time in my association with them, I had a difference of opinion
with Kitson and Mathers regarding the arrangements for the dinner. The
cost of erecting the special dining-hall was, of course, very
considerable. I proposed that it should be met by a uniform charge of two
guineas for the dinner tickets. My friends, on the other hand, prepared
an elaborate plan by which the tickets were to be charged at different
rates from one guinea up to five, according to the position of the seats.
In this way more money was to be obtained, but it was at the cost of
extra labour on the part of the executive, and of a good deal of
grumbling from those local Liberals who had helped us most earnestly in
the 1880 election, but who could not afford to pay the very high price
demanded for the best seats. The allotment of these variously priced
seats at the banquet was a heavy task, and it was undertaken by Mathers.
Somehow or other he was delayed in his work until two days before the
dinner was to take place, and then he was seized with sudden illness.

I was called in to take his place, and discovered an alarming state of
affairs. It was Wednesday night, Mr. Gladstone was to arrive on Thursday,
and his heavy round of engagements was to begin on Friday morning. More
than thirty thousand tickets had to be sent out to all parts of the
country for the various meetings, and on Wednesday night not one ticket
had been despatched. Moreover, Mathers had prepared so elaborate a scheme
for the allotment and registration of all the tickets applied for, that a
rapid calculation satisfied me that we could not possibly despatch the
last of the tickets until at least two days after Mr. Gladstone's
departure from Leeds. This was rather a terrible discovery to be made on
the eve of the Premier's arrival. The knot had to be cut instead of being
unravelled. I put aside the elaborate and irreproachable volumes in which
Mathers and his staff had been entering the tickets at the time when he
was seized with illness, and, with the help of a sixpenny memorandum book
and half a dozen smart bank clerks, succeeded in allotting and posting
the whole of the thirty thousand tickets between ten o'clock on Wednesday
night and eight o'clock on Thursday morning. I never worked harder in my
life, but when my work was done, and the tickets had all passed beyond my
control, I fell into a terrible state of panic. I was firmly convinced
that in my rapid allotment of seats to the five different orders of
banqueters I had made the most hideous blunders, and I expected nothing
less than a riot when the company assembled in the dining-hall. To my
unfeigned astonishment, my fears proved to be utterly unfounded. There
was a seat for everybody, and everybody got a seat, though to this day I
have a shrewd suspicion that more than one gentleman who had paid five
guineas for his place found himself relegated to a one guinea seat. But
what did it matter? People had come to hear Mr. Gladstone, and so long as
they succeeded in this they were indifferent to everything else.

Mr. Gladstone's speech at the dinner was the famous one in which he
discussed the Irish question, warned Mr. Parnell of the dangers of the
course upon which he had embarked, and declared emphatically that the
resources of civilisation were not exhausted. He did not take his seat at
the high table in the hall where Sir James Kitson presided until dinner
was over and the speeches were about to begin. I observed that when he
did so, after having gazed with admiration upon the brilliant scene, he
leant forward, and, covering his face with both hands, remained for some
time in that attitude. On the following evening I sat next to Mrs.
Gladstone at dinner at Sir John Barran's house. She asked me if I had
observed this action of her husband's, and on my answering in the
affirmative, she said to me, "He was praying. You know, he always prays
before he makes an important speech, and he felt that speech very much.
What do you think he said to me last night after he had gone to his
dressing-room? 'My dear, if I were twenty years younger, I should go to
Ireland myself as Irish Secretary.'" The speech was a great oratorical
success, and at the close of the banquet, as I have said, an immense
torchlight procession, which had been carefully organised by the local
committee, conducted the Premier and his wife from the banqueting hall to
the residence of Kitson at Headingley. The procession had to pass across
Woodhouse Moor, and I do not think I ever witnessed a more effective
spectacle of the kind.

The speech which, to my mind, ranked next in importance and interest to
this at the dinner was that which Mr. Gladstone delivered on the
following day to the mass meeting of Leeds working men. Fully thirty
thousand persons attended this meeting, which, like the dinner, took
place in a temporary building. It was crowded to suffocation--literally
to suffocation. When I arrived, shortly before the proceedings began, I
found that the whole thirty thousand people were gasping for breath, and
that many were fainting. We had quite forgotten to arrange for the
ventilation of the vast hall! Things looked very serious. The hubbub was
indescribable, and the sufferings of the crowd were so great that it was
clearly impossible that, under the conditions prevailing, any meeting
could be held. Fortunately, there were active and willing workers on the
spot, and a band of young men was organised who, mounting to the
temporary roof of the hall, tore the planking open, and quickly relieved
the pressure upon the sufferers beneath. But even when they had been
supplied with air the thirty thousand were anything but comfortable. They
were tightly packed together in a sweltering mass, and in no condition to
listen patiently to speeches. The noise and hubbub was little short of
deafening.

The Chairman, having briefly addressed the meeting in dumb show, called
upon one eminent Liberal after another to move the preliminary
resolutions. Not a word that any one of these gentlemen said could be
heard a yard beyond the limits of the platform. It seemed that nothing
could be done to reduce the vast audience to silence, and we were in
despair at the thought that Mr. Gladstone would have to face so severe an
ordeal. When at last his turn came, and he stepped to the front of the
platform, thirty thousand throats sent up such a shout that it seemed to
shake the building. Again and again for a space of some minutes it was
renewed, whilst the orator stood, pale and motionless. What could one
voice have done against thirty thousand? Then, just as the cheering
seemed to be subsiding, someone started "For he's a jolly good fellow,"
and the whole thirty thousand joined in the song. After that it took some
minutes for them all to settle down again, and still there went on that
undercurrent of murmuring talk which seemed to make the attempt of anyone
to address the gigantic meeting hopeless. But suddenly Mr. Gladstone
raised his hand, and it was almost as if a miracle had happened. In an
instant there was a deathlike silence in the hall, and every man in it
seemed to be holding his breath. The speaker's voice rang out, clear and
musical as of old, and it reached to the furthest corners of the mighty
apartment. But he had not got further than the conventional opening words
when his audience seemed to go mad with delight. A frenzied burst of
cheering, far exceeding that which had welcomed him on his first
appearance, proclaimed the joy with which they had heard the voice of the
man they adored.

Again it was some minutes before Mr. Gladstone was allowed to proceed,
but once more his uplifted hand ensured silence, and from that moment
until he had reached the end of an hour's speech, every syllable that he
uttered was heard distinctly by his thirty thousand listeners. It was, I
think, the passionate eagerness of the audience to hear his voice, and
their outburst of delight when its notes first fell upon their ears, that
formed the most striking feature of that great meeting. Perhaps there was
something almost idolatrous in the reception given to the statesman. It
would have turned the heads of most men. The wonder is that it affected
Mr. Gladstone so slightly. Yet I must say again that one must have been
present at scenes like this in order to appreciate the real position of
this remarkable man at this the very zenith of his political career. I
remember that this speech, which was received with so intense an
enthusiasm by all who heard it, contained the speaker's defence of what
is known as the Majuba Hill policy. To those of us who were under the
wand of the magician it seemed that no other defence was needed.

I had an opportunity, when the meeting was over, of seeing what effect
the physical effort of making an hour's speech to an audience of thirty
thousand had upon Mr. Gladstone. When I went into the committee room he
was half reclining in an armchair, wrapped in a large cloak. His eyes
were closed, his face was deathly pale, his whole aspect that of a man
who was absolutely exhausted. Mrs. Gladstone brought him a cup of tea,
but even as he drank his eyes were shut. To me, who had never seen him in
this state before, it was alarming to observe him in a condition of
positive collapse. Yet a few hours later he was the life and soul of a
large dinner party. That dinner is memorable to me, because it was the
first occasion on which I met Mr. Gladstone in private. I had a good
opportunity of seeing that charming personal courtesy which distinguished
him in all his social relationships. I was introduced to him by our host
across the dinner-table, and he immediately plunged into a discussion
about newspapers and distinguished journalists who were known to me
personally. I remember he paid a great compliment to the _Standard_,
saying that it was a newspaper he always liked to read because he always
found it to be fair and honest. "When I read a bad leader in the
_Standard_," he said, "I say to myself, Mr. Mudford must be taking a
holiday." I duly reported this saying to Mudford afterwards, and I know
that this praise from one whom he had often criticised so severely
afforded that distinguished editor intense pleasure.

When Mr. Gladstone left Leeds after his stay of little more than
forty-eight hours, he might safely have used the words of Julius Caesar.
He had conquered everybody. Even his political opponents were for the
moment subdued by the magic of his eloquence; whilst those who, like
myself, had for the first time enjoyed direct personal intercourse with
him were completely subjugated by the fascination of his manner, and
those remarkable social and intellectual gifts which made him so long the
foremost figure in English society. Of course, to one who had been a
Gladstonian ever since those early days in the 'sixties at Newcastle of
which I have spoken in a previous chapter, the joy of knowing the great
man in the flesh was very great. Yet not even the strength of my
admiration for one so supremely gifted, so ardent in his faith, and so
strenuous in his actions made of me a blind follower of his leadership.
Not many months after that meeting with him at Leeds I found myself
sharply separated from him in a political controversy of which I shall
soon have to speak.

I found refreshment after the fatigues connected with the Leeds
gatherings in an excursion to Tunis. In 1881 the French, upon a
distinctly fraudulent pretext, had invaded the territories of the Bey of
Tunis. Their professed purpose was to punish a certain tribe of
"Kroumirs," who, it was alleged, had committed outrages in Algeria. The
Kroumirs, as it turned out, were a product of the imagination of M.
Roustan, the diplomatic agent of France in Tunis. No such tribe was known
to the Tunisians, but the pretext served, and Tunis was invaded. The
truth, as the world now knows, was that France was resolved to have some
compensation for our ill-starred acquisition of Cyprus. She dared not
move in the direction of Morocco, because of the jealousy of the other
Powers of Europe; but she had obtained the tacit consent of Prince
Bismarck to the Tunisian expedition. Of the pledges she gave as to the
objects and the limitations of that expedition I need not speak. Yet one
is entitled to remember that if the force of circumstances has compelled
our neighbours to break their word with regard to Tunis, we are equally
justified in alleging the same reason for the breach of our own promises
concerning Egypt.

My friend Mudford gave me a commission to act as special correspondent of
the _Standard_ in Tunis, and I went there accordingly to spend a few
interesting weeks in studying on the spot one of the burning questions of
the day. I shall not inflict upon my reader the story of my trip. I feel
the less inclined to do so because I was ill-advised enough after my
return to publish that story in a volume called "The Land of the Bey."
The most interesting fact connected with that volume is one that happened
in quite recent years. A gentleman from the Inland Revenue Office called
upon me, and in a most courteous manner drew my attention to the fact
that I had not, in my income-tax returns, included the profit I had
received from this book. It had taken the department just nineteen years
to discover the existence of this precious volume. The discovery, though
belated, did great credit to the zeal and industry of somebody connected
with the Inland Revenue, for I am convinced that he is the only person,
myself excepted, who knew that the book had been written. I had clean
forgotten its existence myself when it was recalled to my memory in this
amusing fashion. My visitor from the Inland Revenue Office smiled sweetly
when I explained to him why no profits from this publication had ever
swelled my meagre income-tax returns. It was a case of the Spanish Fleet
over again. I had never seen those literary profits even to the amount of
sixpence, and I could not therefore be expected to cause the collectors
of her Majesty's Revenue to succeed where I had failed.

My stay in Tunis was not only interesting but somewhat adventurous. There
was only one Englishman besides myself resident in the city of Tunis
while I was there. This was Mr. A. M. Broadley, who was at that time
acting as the correspondent of the _Times_, and whose ability had
enabled him to create a diplomatic question, which he called the Enfida
Case, out of a trumpery lawsuit in which he acted for a rich Arab,
called, if I remember aright, General Benayid. Mr. Broadley subsequently
became known to fame for the active part he took in defending Arabi Pasha
at Cairo. I only mention him now because of the remarkable forecast which
he made on the first evening on which I met him in his house in Tunis.
Producing a map of the Eastern Hemisphere he pointed out to me what he
called the zone of disturbance, and assured me that within the next ten
years the eyes of the world would be riveted upon that zone. Roughly
speaking, the zone was the belt of the Mahommedan races, extending from
Morocco in the west to India in the east. The disturbances which he
predicted would come he traced in the first instance from our annexation
of Cyprus, and the consequent invasion of Tunis by France. He foretold
with great precision the rise of the Mahdi, and the growth of religious
fanaticism in the Soudan; and he indicated that through Asia Minor,
Persia, and Afghanistan a wave of unrest was running which must have
serious consequences for the Christian Powers in the near future. Many
times in later days I had occasion to remember the wonderfully clear and
precise predictions of Mr. Broadley, as he delivered them to me in his
old Arab house in Tunis.

One charming friend I made during my visit. This was the English
Consul-General, Mr. Reade, who entertained me in his beautiful house at
the Marsa, close to the site of Carthage. A pleasant, rather grave, and
thoughtful man, Mr. Reade was a mine of information regarding earlier
days in Tunis, when the Bey was a real ruler and the slave-market in the
old Bazaar was still the scene of a merchandise in flesh and blood. His
father had been Consul-General in Tunis when the influence of Great
Britain was supreme, and he had inherited his father's popularity and
personal prestige. Too clearly he foresaw that the result of the French
foray upon the unoffending principality must be its absorption into
French territory, and the consequent loss of England's position and
influence in that part of the Mediterranean. All his fears have been more
than realised. In 1881 it was the English Consul-General who was the most
important person in Tunis--more important in many respects than the Bey
himself. In the Bazaars every shop was filled with English goods, whilst
many wealthy Tunisians had found protection by securing their recognition
as English subjects. In the old Consulate at the gates of the city an
English, or at least a Maltese, judge administered justice under the red
ensign daily. The travelling Englishman hardly seemed to have left the
shelter of his own flag when he found himself in the land of the Bey. All
this is changed now. France has elbowed England out of Tunis. Our
Consul--he is no longer Consul-General--is a subordinate official.
English commerce has dwindled away to comparative insignificance. French
shops supply the residents with all they require, and Great Britain has
become of no account. This is the direct result of Lord Beaconsfield's
action in taking possession of Cyprus in 1878. Would to Heaven that this
were the whole of the price we have had to pay for that fatal piece of
folly!

Whilst I was in Tunis I went to the little English graveyard, which lies
enclosed by houses in the heart of the old city. Here are the graves of
some Englishmen who were the captives of Tunisian pirates in the old days
when Barbary rovers were still the curse of the Mediterranean. I found
there also, in that lonely and neglected spot, the grave of Howard Payne,
the author of "Home, Sweet Home." It seemed cruel that he, who had
touched so deep and true a chord in the hearts of millions, should
himself be fated to rest so far from home. I wrote to the newspapers to
draw attention to this fact. Whether my letters had in themselves any
effect I do not pretend to say, but I am glad to know that since then
Payne's body has been removed to America and buried in his native place.

In returning from Tunis I came by way of Malta and Naples, where I got an
Orient steamer which brought me to Plymouth. It was in sailing through
the Straits of Messina on my way to Naples that I met with one of those
strange--but by no means rare--coincidences that prove the smallness of
the world, or, at least, of that part of it with which any one man is
acquainted. I was sitting on the upper deck of the steamer, gazing at
Etna, as its snow-shrouded peak was revealed in the brilliant moonlight,
when a chance fellow-traveller began to talk about the coincidences so
common in foreign travel. I told him that one of my strangest experiences
of the kind was the following. In the previous September I was staying at
the Hotel Belle Vue at The Hague, and after dinner one evening went into
the reading room to get a peep at the _Times_. A pleasant-looking
elderly gentleman was reading it when I entered. Perhaps he saw the look
of disappointment on my face when I found that the coveted journal was
engaged. At any rate, he very courteously offered it to me, and by way of
opening a conversation drew my attention to an article it contained about
the Liverpool docks. When I had glanced through the paper he resumed the
conversation about Liverpool, and asked if I knew many persons in that
city. I was compelled to admit that I knew only one, a Liverpool
clergyman named Postance, my acquaintance with him being of the
slightest. "Ah," said my friend, "if you know the Reverend Henry
Postance, you have possibly heard him speak of his son Alfred?" I replied
that I knew Alfred Postance better than I knew his father, and that I
had, as a matter of fact, travelled to Malta with him shortly before his
death, which took place in that island. "Then," pursued my interlocutor,
"since you knew Alfred Postance, you might like to read a little sketch
of his life that has been written by a friend. I think I could procure
the loan of a copy for you." I thanked the gentleman for his offer, but
explained that it was not necessary that I should avail myself of it, as
Mr. Postance senior had already sent me a copy of the work in question.
The old gentleman's eyes glistened when I said this, and with an air of
some pride he said: "Since you have read that little book, you will, I am
sure, be interested to know that it was I who published it." "Well, I am
rather interested," I replied, "because it was I who wrote it."

This was the story which I chanced to tell on the deck of the steamboat
to my unknown fellow-traveller. I had no sooner finished it than he said,
"Then you are Mr. Wemyss Reid. Your account of Alfred Postance was the
last thing I read before leaving my home in Malta." The double
coincidence was certainly rather startling, and it was increased when I
found that I and this second stranger had on the same day visited the
grave of Alfred Postance at Valetta for the same purpose--to pluck a
spray of flowers to send to his father in Liverpool. Yes, the world
_is_ small!



CHAPTER XIV.

CONCERNING W. E. FORSTER AND OTHERS.

The Beginning of Mr. Stead's Journalistic Career--His Methods--Birth of
the New Journalism--Madame Novikoff and Mr. Stead--Mr. Stead's Attacks
upon Joseph Cowen--How he dealt with a Remonstrance--W. E. Forster--Mr.
Chamberlain's Antagonism--The _Leeds Mercury's_ Defence of
Forster--How he was Jockeyed out of the Cabinet--Forster's
Resignation--News of the Phoenix Park Murders--Forster's Reflections--Mr.
Gladstone's Pity for Social Outcasts--Mr. Chamberlain's Brothers
Blackballed at the Reform--Failure of an Attempt to Crush the _Leeds
Mercury_--Forster's Gratitude.


I now approach an episode in my life which not only had a strong and
permanent influence on my own career, but is of interest in its bearing
on the politics of my time. I refer to my intimate friendship with
William Edward Forster, and to my close association with him in the
stormy episodes which attended the close of his career as a Minister of
the Crown. But before I enter into the story of my relations with this
truly great and noble-minded man, I may say something about another
distinguished person who shared my regard for Mr. Forster, though we had,
perhaps, few other tastes in common. One day in 1871 or 1872--that is to
say, soon after I became editor of the _Leeds Mercury_--I was told
on returning home that a gentleman was waiting to see me who had brought
a letter of introduction, which my servant placed in my hands. The letter
was from my father, and its object was to introduce to me the son of his
old friend, the Rev. William Stead, of Howden, near Newcastle. I need not
say that an introduction from my father would in itself have sufficed to
ensure for the bearer a warm reception; but in any case the story which
young Mr. Stead had to tell me at once enlisted my interest and sympathy.
Like myself, he was the son of a Nonconformist minister, and on leaving
school he had entered upon a business career as a clerk on the quayside
at Newcastle. But he had been irresistibly drawn towards journalism, just
as I myself had been a dozen years earlier, and after contributing
articles to various newspapers, he had received the offer of the
editorship of the _Northern Echo_, a halfpenny newspaper which had
been recently established at Darlington.

Strange to say, when this post was offered to and accepted by him, he was
not only absolutely without editorial experience, but, as he himself told
me, had never seen the inside of a newspaper office in his life. With
that remarkable promptitude and directness of action which, as I
afterwards discovered, was one of his great characteristics, he had no
sooner accepted the editorship than he sought to qualify himself for it
by making the acquaintance and obtaining the advice of someone who had
actual experience in editorial work. It happened that I was the only
editor to whom he could get a personal introduction, and so he came to me
at Leeds to get what guidance and help I could afford him at the outset
of his journalistic career. Remembering to what a height of fame he has
since risen as a journalist, I confess that I look back upon the days
when he thus approached me as a neophyte with some amusement. No doubt I
was already, in his eyes, one of the old fogeys of the Press, and it must
be admitted that there was something of the ugly duckling about his first
appearance in my comparatively tame editorial establishment.

Stead interested me immensely during this first visit that he paid me. He
was pleasingly distinguished by an entire lack of diffidence, and from
the first made no concealment of his own views upon any of the subjects
we discussed together. It is true that when I took him down to the
_Mercury_ office that evening, and wrote my leader whilst he sat at
my desk beside me, he regarded me with the admiring eyes of the novice;
but he had, even then, his own ideas as to how leaders ought to be
written and newspapers edited, and he did not affect to conceal them.
There was something that was irresistible in his candour, his enthusiasm,
and his self-confidence. The Press was the greatest agency for
influencing public opinion in the world. It was the true and only lever
by which Thrones and Governments could be shaken and the masses of the
people raised. In all this I was in strong sympathy with his opinions.
But I was staggered by the audacity of the schemes for revolutionising
English journalism which he poured into my ears on this the first evening
on which he had ever entered a newspaper office. For hour after hour he
talked with an ardour and a freshness which delighted me. If he had come
to me in the guise of a pupil, he very quickly reversed our positions,
and lectured me for my own good on questions of journalistic usage which
I thought I had settled for myself a dozen years before I had met him.

Often I thought his ideas ridiculous: once or twice I thought that he
himself must be mad; but even then I admired his splendid enthusiasm and
his engaging frankness. Occasionally I said to him, "If you were ever to
get your way, you would make the Press a wonderful thing, no doubt; but
you would make the Pressman the best-hated creature in the Universe." At
this he would burst into a roar of laughter, in which I was constrained
to join. "I see, you think I'm crazy," he said once. "Well, not crazy,
perhaps, but distinctly eccentric. You will come all right, however, when
you have had a little experience." Thus, in my blind belief in my own
superior experience and wisdom, I thought and spoke. Many a time since
then I have recalled that long night's talk when I have recognised in
some daring development of modern journalism one of the many schemes
which Stead then flashed before my eyes. We had talked--or, rather, he
had talked--for hours after getting home from work. I was far from being
weary of his conversation, but I knew that the night had passed, and I
rose and drew aside the curtains. Never shall I forget the look of
amazement that overspread Stead's face when the sunshine streamed into
the room. "Why, it is daylight!" he exclaimed, with an air of
bewilderment. "I never sat up till daylight in my life before."

This was my first knowledge of one of the most remarkable and brilliant
journalists of my time. We parted with, I think, mutual feelings of
regard and goodwill, feelings which I, at least, have never lost. I
recognised my visitor from the first as a man of remarkable gifts, of
something that came near to genius. I recognised, too, his honesty and
sincerity, though I had, even then, forebodings as to what might be the
consequences of his impetuous ardour and reckless defiance of old customs
and conventions.

After this, I heard a good deal from Stead during his remarkable
editorship of the _Northern Echo_, nor was I long in discovering
that he was really determined to put what I regarded as his wild theories
of journalism into practice. Of course, it took time to enable him to
make his personality felt in the little paper he edited, but he took care
to keep me acquainted with all that he was doing. Whenever an article of
special interest appeared in the _Echo_ I received a copy of it,
marked with a blue pencil by Stead. At the end of twelve months from his
first engagement as editor, he wrote to me asking if I would give him my
opinion in writing of his work during the year, and the capacity he had
shown as a journalist. With great willingness I wrote to express my high
opinion, not only of his ability, but of his growing aptitude as an
editor. Back in a few days came a reply from this extraordinary man. It
was to tell me that he had shown my letter to the proprietor of the
_Northern Echo_, Mr. Bell, and on the strength of it had succeeded
in obtaining an increase of salary, an increase which I am sure was fully
deserved. For two years, if I remember aright, he went through this
formality. I am confident that Mr. Stead himself, if he should read these
lines, will not make any objection to my revelation of these little
episodes in his early career. I have told them because, whilst they are
so thoroughly characteristic of the man, they are not in any way
derogatory to his reputation.

By-and-by, however, a change took place in our relationship. Stead was
rapidly working his way to the front, and some of the means which he
employed did not commend themselves to my judgment. For example, he was
in the habit of sending marked copies of any article he wrote on
political questions to the statesmen or other public men to whom he had
chanced to refer. I had always been very sensitive myself as to this
practice, regarding it as an attempt to force oneself upon the notice of
public men in a way that was not consistent with an editor's
independence, to say nothing of his dignity.

I may have been wrong in my view. Certainly I have known other
journalists besides Stead who adopted his practice, and I have no right
to sit in judgment upon any of them. But my personal view was that an
editor ought to say honestly what he thought for the benefit of the
readers of his journal, and that he ought neither to obtrude his own
individuality upon those readers, nor to seek to come into close contact
with the men whose actions it was his duty to criticise. Long before this
period in my life I had laid down a rule for myself which I have
consistently observed ever since. This was that I would never seek an
introduction to any public man, or bring under his personal notice
anything that I had written. Stead took another course, and though I
could no longer regard him as a _protégé_ of my own, I did not like
it, and I daresay I did not conceal my feelings from him. But he could
well afford to treat my disapproval with contempt, for his policy
answered even beyond his own expectation. The fact that his paper was a
very small one, published in a small town, gave, I have no doubt,
additional zest to his very acute and intelligent criticisms of public
affairs. Mr. Bright, if I remember rightly, was the first public man of
eminence who drew attention to the articles in the _Northern Echo_,
and he very soon afterwards received a visit from the enterprising
editor. Then Stead, carrying still further his theory of a journalist's
duties, sought interviews with others among the foremost men of the time.
Carlyle was one of those who succumbed to his fascinations, and when
Carlyle one day referred to him in conversation as "that good man Stead,"
the fact quickly became known to the public. Mr. Forster was another of
Stead's earlier heroes and friends, and by-and-by the young editor at
Darlington became known to a considerable circle of prominent persons.
Thus was the New Journalism born. To me, as an Old Journalist, it is not
a thing with which I can pretend to have much sympathy, but I must
acknowledge its brightness, its alertness, its close grip of actualities,
and its rapid and remarkable success. I need hardly say that it was no
longer necessary for the editor of the _Northern Echo_, the friend
of many of the distinguished personages of the day, to seek my testimony
as to his value to his employer. He quickly became recognised for what he
was--a journalist of exceptional capacity and of great originality and
daring.

Differences upon political questions drove us further apart, however,
than any question of the ethics of editorial conduct. The Eastern
Question, of which I have already spoken, excited Stead greatly, and he
distinguished himself not so much by the vehemence of his attacks upon
the unspeakable Turk, as by his uncompromising championship of Russia and
her policy in South-Eastern Europe. It was not a popular line to take,
but Stead followed it with something like enthusiasm. It was at this time
that he fell under the influence of Madame Novikoff, who, whether
accredited or unaccredited, was generally regarded as the unofficial
representative of Russia in this country. She was, and is, a lady of
great talent and plausibility, and she undoubtedly exercised at one time
an extraordinary amount of influence over many distinguished British
politicians. I am not prepared to say that Stead took his inspiration
upon Russian politics solely from Madame Novikoff; but at any rate he
never wrote anything in the _Northern Echo_ in those days of which
that lady could not heartily approve, and thus he made another powerful
and enthusiastic friend in the political society of our time.

Years afterwards, somewhere in the 'nineties, I happened to sit beside
Madame Novikoff at a luncheon party in Mayfair. "I believe you know my
great friend, Stead?" she said, by way of opening our conversation at the
table. I told her I had known him for many years. "And what do you think
of him?" she asked, with an air of innocent curiosity that sat well upon
her guileless countenance. "Is he not wonderful? I think him, for my
part, one of the greatest men alive. What do you think?" I replied, in a
more restrained spirit, that I thought him extremely able, and that he
had certainly accomplished some wonderful achievements as a journalist.
"Ah!" said Madame Novikoff, with an air of quickened curiosity, "you
think that? Now tell me what, in your opinion, is his most wonderful
achievement." I told her that I thought it was his success in championing
the cause of a certain lady. (The story has nothing to do with this
narrative, but it was a _cause célèbre_ in which Stead employed the
methods of the New Journalism in order to secure justice for a woman who
had been gravely wronged.) No sooner had I explained myself to Madame
Novikoff than that lady's face fell. "Ah, I am sorry to hear you say
that. That was not his greatest achievement. But Stead has always been
ready to go crusading at a woman's bidding." Madame Novikoff must have
known what she was talking about.

Among the leading politicians of the North in those days was my old
friend and fellow-townsman, Joseph Cowen, of Newcastle. He had been to
some extent alienated from Mr. Gladstone and from the Liberal party by
disappointment, but he still called himself a Liberal, and there was no
reason to doubt that his political instincts were sound, and that he
might again become one of the Liberal leaders of the North. He took, as
he had always taken, a strong line with regard to Russia, which he looked
upon as the parent of Continental despotism and the traditional enemy of
human freedom. Mr. Stead, full of zeal for the cause represented by
Madame Novikoff, made a series of vehement and persistent attacks upon
Cowen because of his views regarding Russia and the Eastern Question
generally. One day he sent me one of his marked papers containing a
particularly impassioned onslaught upon the member for Newcastle. I
considered that he had invited comment by sending me this article, and I
wrote to him to expostulate with him on the line he was taking, pointing
out that Cowen, who was a very sensitive man, was not unlikely to be
driven out of the party if these attacks were persisted in, and that his
loss would be a serious one to the Liberalism of the North of England. I
don't think I said anything particularly harsh in this letter, which was
in my opinion justified by my relations both with Cowen and with Stead.

The rejoinder was not what I had expected. It came in the shape of an
immensely long article in the _Northern Echo_ entitled, if I
remember aright, "The Editor of the _Leeds Mercury_ and Mr. Cowen."
In this article something I had written about Cowen in the
_Mercury_--I forget what--was held up to ridicule, and was compared
with my private sentiments regarding the member for Newcastle as they had
been gleaned by Mr. Stead in that night-long conversation under my roof,
of which I have spoken in this chapter. Needless to say, my talk was not
faithfully remembered or accurately represented. That, in itself, was a
small matter, but the illustration thus afforded me of the practical
working of the New Journalism was not altogether a pleasant one, and for
some years after this episode there was a distinct coolness between Mr.
Stead and myself. The incident arouses no bitterness now. Mr. Stead
honestly believed that he was entitled to use my frank _obiter
dicta_ for the purpose of correcting what he regarded as my public
errors. I was not the last and by no means the greatest sufferer from
this theory on the part of the founder of the New Journalism; but, as
having been in some small degree a sufferer at his hands, I am, perhaps,
the better able to bear testimony to his absolute honesty of intention,
and to his unfailing conviction that in even his greatest indiscretions
he was acting under the justification of a high moral purpose.

In the spring or summer of 1880 I received a note from John Morley, who
had by this time become editor of the _Pall Mall Gazette_. It was to
inform me that he had secured a notable man from my part of the world to
assist him in his editorial duties. He was Mr. Stead of Darlington, and
Morley wished to know my opinion of him. My reply did not please Mr.
Morley; for while I told him how highly I admired Mr. Stead's abilities,
I warned him that he would need to be watched closely, as he was a man of
such extreme views and of such daring originality in his manner of
conducting a journal that, if he were not kept under strict control, he
might at any moment seriously commit the newspaper with which he was
connected. At the time Morley took this warning with a very bad grace,
plainly implying that he thought that my feeling with regard to Mr. Stead
was founded on the fact that he was a more real Liberal than myself. But
there came a time when the distinguished politician and man of letters
acknowledged that my hint had been only too fully justified.

One day in 1879 William Edward Forster came into my room at the
_Mercury_ office. For some time he had been in the habit of calling
at intervals to have a chat with me. I believe that each of us was
secretly rather afraid of the other. I had for years regarded him with a
strong feeling of admiration, and I looked confidently to him as the man
who, when Mr. Gladstone in the fulness of time retired from public life,
would take his place and become the recognised leader of the great forces
of English Liberalism. I had supported him with unfaltering loyalty both
in his educational policy and at the time when his name was put forward
in the candidature for the leadership of the party in 1875, and I found
myself in strong sympathy with his views on those foreign and colonial
questions on which I could take sides neither with the Little England nor
with the Jingo school. Forster's visit was chiefly for the purpose of
chatting over the prospects of the Liberal party, but incidentally our
conversation turned upon Mr. Stead. "He has one great fault," said
Forster, "and that is that he does not mix with other people." Certainly
Forster had every reason to think well of Mr. Stead, for he was his loyal
friend and admirer in those dark days when few were found to speak well
of the member for Bradford.

It was in 1881 that Forster became the target of the missiles of that
section of the Liberal party which in those days followed Mr.
Chamberlain. Mr. Chamberlain's followers were naturally anxious that
their hero should arrive at the summit of his ambition, and Mr. Forster
was the man who stood most directly in his path. I do not wish to allege
that there were not real differences of opinion between Mr. Forster and
Mr. Chamberlain, though when one remembers the subsequent history of the
latter it is difficult to understand his constant antagonism to Forster,
the founder of the Imperial Federation movement, and the first Liberal
Imperialist. But whatever his motives might be, Mr. Chamberlain's dislike
of Forster was obvious to everyone. He had powerful means of making that
dislike felt. The caucus in those days was absolutely under his thumb,
and at a sign from him more than half the Liberal Associations in the
country were inclined to pass any resolution that he was pleased to
suggest to them. The _Pall Mall Gazette_ became virtually his
mouthpiece, and one read it as much in those days to ascertain the
thoughts of Mr. Chamberlain as those of its distinguished editor. In the
Cabinet he had secured one or two valuable allies, over whom, by virtue
of his great abilities, he exercised an extraordinary influence. In the
House of Commons the most active wing of the Radical Party was, with
certain notable exceptions, devoted to him. He was the man to whom they
looked as their leader, and as the future chief of a Radical
Administration.

In the winter of 1881-2 all the forces controlled by the caucus were
employed in the work of disparaging and weakening Mr. Forster. The latter
was engaged in his almost hopeless struggle with the disaffected classes
in Ireland--in other words, with four-fifths of the nation. I have told
elsewhere the story of Mr. Forster's public career, and it is not
necessary that I should enter into any defence of his Irish
administration here. But this I must say, that at a time when he was
beset with difficulties of the most formidable and distressing kind, and
when he had a right to expect the loyal support at least of his own
colleagues in the Cabinet, he found himself exposed to intrigues and
cruel side-attacks that still further embarrassed him, and that fatally
weakened his hands. As the winter passed the storm artificially raised
against him increased in violence. All the animosities of Birmingham were
let loose upon his head. The old cries of trimmer and traitor were again
raised against him. The Liberal Press, with hardly an exception, took its
cue from the _Pall Mall Gazette_, whilst the organs of the
Conservative party naturally felt under no obligation to defend him from
the misrepresentations and innuendoes of his formidable foes in his own
party.

I do not think I exaggerate when I say that it was only in the columns of
the _Leeds Mercury_ that he was consistently and steadily defended.
It was a labour of love on my part thus to stand by a man for whom I
entertained so great and affectionate an admiration, and who was, as I
conceived, being so cruelly ill-treated by those of the same political
household as himself. It was said at the time that Forster inspired the
_Leeds Mercury_, and that the articles defending him which I
published were really written by himself. In the interests of honourable
journalism, and of Mr. Forster's reputation, I must state the actual
facts. I was, as I have already said, on terms of personal friendship
with him, and I was in the fullest sympathy with his Irish policy; but
from the moment when he became Chief Secretary until he retired from that
office, Forster held no communication with me, either direct or indirect.
I never saw him, and he never wrote to me, nor did I address a single
word to him. This was characteristic of Forster's high sense of public
duty. He was too proud and too high-spirited to try to enlist any man's
sympathies, or to secure any newspaper advocacy. Men spoke of him as a
clever wire-puller who could manufacture a spurious public sentiment in
his own favour. How little they knew him! If he had chosen to resort to
those arts with which his assailants were so familiar he might have won
the support of many tongues and pens. He preferred, then as always in his
public career, to devote himself with a single-minded purpose to the
performance of his duty, leaving the consequences to take care of
themselves. It was in this way that it came to pass that his only
defender in the Press in those dark and troublous days was a little-known
journalist in Yorkshire.

For my part, I look back with pride and deep satisfaction to the line
which I then took, and from which I never swerved. It was not a
successful line. Mr. Forster's enemies were too powerful for him, and, as
everybody knows, he became their victim. But there are better things in
this world than success, and I am more content to have been Forster's
associate in his unmerited fall than I would have been to share in the
personal triumph which Mr. Chamberlain gained over him. Although
complaint was made, when my "Life" of Forster appeared, that I had made
too full a revelation of Cabinet secrets, the fact remains that a good
deal of truth has still to come out with regard to his resignation of
office in 1882. I do not propose to lift the veil here, but it is well
known that an ingenious trap was laid for him, and that, with
characteristic confidence in the good faith of his fellow-men, he walked
unsuspectingly into it. His resignation, it will be remembered, was due
to his refusal to accept as satisfactory a letter written by Mr. Parnell,
in which he undertook, if he were released from Kilmainham, to give
certain assistance to the Government in putting down outrages in Ireland.
Forster would willingly have accepted Mr. Parnell's word as a gentleman
that he would exert himself to this end, but he was not prepared to
accept the skilfully framed words in which Mr. Parnell sought to convey
the impression that was desired whilst avoiding all personal
responsibility in the matter. Those who wish to know how Mr. Forster was
jockeyed out of office must learn the history of Parnell's letter, and
how and by whom the sentences were devised which seemed acceptable to the
sanguine temperament of Mr. Gladstone, but which Forster, with his closer
knowledge of the situation, regarded as wholly unsatisfactory. The time
has not yet come for the story to be told, but when the precise facts are
revealed they will be found to throw a curious light upon this episode.

Forster's resignation was a great personal blow to me. It was a blow also
both to his personal friends and admirers in Yorkshire, and to a large
section of politicians who knew him to be an upright and single-minded
man, struggling with all his might to maintain order in Ireland and to
preserve the unity of the United Kingdom. There was, however, one further
step that was possible that would have immeasurably increased our
mortification. This was the appointment of Mr. Chamberlain as Forster's
successor. Mr. Chamberlain's friends confidently expected that the
appointment would be made, and for a day or two it seemed certain that
this would be the case. I saw a member of the Government who was the
confidential friend of Mr. Gladstone, and told him that if Mr.
Chamberlain were to be appointed, the _Leeds Mercury_, and all whom
it could influence in Yorkshire would at once enter upon a most strenuous
and thorough-going opposition to the new Irish policy. I was told in
reply that, whatever Mr. Chamberlain himself might have expected, Mr.
Gladstone had not for a single moment contemplated his appointment to the
vacant post, and that his choice had fallen in another quarter.

The Leeds Liberal Club resolved to invite Forster to a complimentary
dinner, in order that he might have the assurance that there was one
great city, at least, in which he retained the confidence and gratitude
of his party. I wrote to Forster to convey this intimation to him, and
had a reply, in which he asked me to meet him in London. On Friday, May
6th, 1882, the appointment of Lord Frederick Cavendish as Irish Secretary
was announced in Parliament, and the writ moved for his re-election after
taking office. The next night, about 11 o'clock, I was sitting in the
morning-room at the Reform Club, talking to the late Mr. William Summers,
then member for Huddersfield. There were but few men in the room, though
amongst those few were one or two Irish members, including Mr. Shaw, who
had been Chairman of the Home Rule party in the House of Commons until he
was superseded by Mr. Parnell. We had all been reading the telegrams on
the board in the hall announcing the enthusiastic reception of the new
Lord Lieutenant, Earl Spencer, and the new Secretary, Lord Frederick
Cavendish, in Dublin. I was discussing with Summers the meaning of the
new departure and of the success of Forster's assailants, when the old
hall-porter of the club burst into the room, and in a state of great
agitation announced to us that a message had been received at the Carlton
Club stating that the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary had been
assassinated. I cannot describe the mingled amazement, horror, and
incredulity with which the news was received, but I remember well the
extreme distress shown by Mr. Shaw and the other Irish members. "This is
the end of Ireland!" cried Mr. Shaw, with tears in his eyes. For some
time most of us steadily refused to believe the story, for no authentic
news could be gathered respecting it; but, as time passed, the Reform
Club was besieged with inquiries from the other clubs in Pall Mall, the
members of which naturally supposed that authentic news would be
procurable at the Ministerial club. At last someone came in who had been
at Lord Frederick's house in Carlton House Terrace, and he brought the
dreaded confirmation of the story. The Lord Lieutenant, it is true, had
not been attacked, but Lord Frederick had been killed, and with him Mr.
Burke, the Under-Secretary. A shudder ran through the crowd when we were
told that the vile deed had been done with knives.

Inside the club there was now a large assemblage of members, although it
was past midnight. Men came into the club, too, on that eventful night
who were not members, but who were moved by an irrepressible anxiety to
learn the truth as to what had happened. Among these I remember Abraham
Hayward, Q.C., the essayist and Society rattle, who, characteristically
enough, proclaimed to us all the fact that the gentleman who accompanied
him was my Lord So-and-so. But it was outside the club that I witnessed
the most extraordinary scene I ever saw in London. Rumours of the tragedy
had spread through the clubs, but the tidings had not reached the
streets. The clubs, as by a common impulse, emptied themselves, and the
members with one accord flocked to the Reform. On the broad pavement in
Pall Mall some hundreds of men, nearly all in evening dress, were
clustered together, discussing in low tones the horrible event, of which,
as yet, the details were wholly unknown. On the roadway a hundred cabs
were gathered, their drivers evidently bewildered by the unwonted
spectacle, and wondering what had brought together in the stillness of
the early Sunday morning this unwonted crowd.

Suddenly, as I looked upon the scene from the steps of the club, I saw
the crowd fall back on either hand, opening a narrow lane through it.
Along this lane, with bent head, came Lord Hartington, brother of one of
the murdered men, passing from the newly-made house of mourning in
Carlton House Terrace to his home at Devonshire House. No one ventured to
speak to him, but every hat was lifted in token of silent sympathy. It
was a memorable, never-to-be-forgotten night. Years afterwards I heard
from Sir William Harcourt himself an account of how the news first
reached London. There was a big Ministerial dinner party, if I remember
rightly, at Lord Northbrook's; Mr. Gladstone was there, and so was Sir
William Harcourt, then Home Secretary. Dinner was nearly over when Mr.
(now Sir) Howard Vincent, who at that time held a high post at Scotland
Yard, arrived and demanded an immediate interview with the Home
Secretary. To Sir William he showed the official telegram that had just
been received, all other messages having been stopped by the authorities
in Dublin. It was decided, after a consultation, that nothing was to be
said until the ladies had left the dinner table, and that then the news
was to be broken to Mr. Gladstone, who, apart from all other reasons for
feeling the tragedy, had the additional one of a close relationship with
Lady Frederick Cavendish. Mr. Gladstone, though deeply moved, was then,
as always, master of his emotions, and it was he who at once went to
Carlton House Terrace to break the dreadful tidings to his niece, Mrs.
Gladstone accompanying him on the errand.

There was little sleep that night for any of us who had heard the news
before retiring to rest. The next day was such a Sunday as I never
remember to have seen in London before or since. The newspapers spread
the tidings far and wide. In numberless cases men first learned the news
as they were going to church. They turned aside in scores, and hurried
down to Pall Mall to learn the latest particulars of a tragedy that was
instantly recognised as being one that affected the nation as a whole.
From early morning until late at night the fine hall of the Reform Club
was crowded with members, and with friends who came to inquire for
further news. In the forenoon a strange thing happened. Mr. Forster, the
man whose life the villains who struck down Lord Frederick Cavendish and
Mr. Burke had chiefly sought, and who had passed through perils so
terrible that even now the recollection of them raises a shudder, came
into the club. He was besieged at once by a host of members, but breaking
away from them, he came to me, and taking me by the arm, led me to one of
the seats in the hall. Instantly, and as it seemed instinctively, the
great crowd of men formed in a semicircle around us, out of earshot, but
gazing with wondering and sympathetic eyes upon the man who had escaped
so cruel a fate.

I remember the first words that Forster spoke to me. "They may say what
they like," he said, "but it is Mr. Parnell who has done this. He is the
man who sowed the seed of which this is the fruit." And then he talked of
the victims, of Lord Frederick, so gentle, kindly, honourable in all the
relations of life, and of Burke, "the most loyal man," he declared, "who
ever served the Crown." Indeed, at the moment he seemed to feel the death
of poor Burke more acutely than that of Lord Frederick, and he was full
of the idea that if he himself had been in Ireland the lives of both
would have been saved. "I shall go back to Ireland," he said to me
presently. "They must want someone to manage pressing affairs, and I
shall tell Mr. Gladstone that I am at his service." He went straight from
the club to Downing Street, and saw Mr. Gladstone--who, unlike most other
men in London, had been to church that morning. He made the offer, one in
every respect noble and magnanimous as well as courageous; but it was not
accepted. The bitterness of party passion which had been aroused by the
events that culminated in his own resignation had not yet sufficiently
subsided to render such a step possible, and Forster, to my keen regret,
was not permitted to have this fresh opportunity of showing that
unfailing fearlessness in the face of danger which was one of his most
eminent characteristics.

On the following day the adjournment of the House of Commons was moved by
Mr. Gladstone in a speech which betrayed his grief and emotion. That
evening a certain Irish Tory member was dining out, and he told the
following story to a party in which there were women as well as men. "I
was crossing St. James's Park after the rising of the House this
afternoon, when I saw Mr. Gladstone walking in front of me. For the first
time in my life I felt sorry for the fellow, for I knew what a terrible
blow this affair must have been to him. I said to myself, 'Well, there
was no playacting in his speech this afternoon, at all events. The fellow
really felt what he said.' Can you conceive, then, my indignation when on
getting to the top of the steps at the Duke of York's column I saw him
lurking behind the column talking to an abandoned woman?"

A lady who was present at the dinner-party, and who was a great admirer
of Mr. Gladstone, thought it her duty to write to him, and tell him the
charge that had been made against him. She did not mention the name of
her informant, but merely stated the facts that had been reported to her.
She received an immediate reply, on a postcard. It was as follows:--"The
presence of ---- was not unperceived on the occasion to which you refer;
but the conversation he has reported to you was not of the nature he
imagined, and possibly desired." The voice of slander often pursued Mr.
Gladstone, but the reply which he gave to this particular accusation was
recognised, even by his enemies, as complete and conclusive. All through
his life Mr. Gladstone was filled with pity for the outcasts of the
streets, and whenever he could hold out a helping hand to them he did so
with a fearlessness that was characteristic of his courage--the courage
of the pure in heart.

I must turn aside from the Irish tragedy to speak of a small agitation,
in which I and other persons were concerned at the time, that had a
certain connection, not with the Phoenix Park murders, but with the
events that led up to them. Two of Mr. Chamberlain's brothers had been
nominated as candidates for the Reform Club. It was, perhaps, unfortunate
for them that they came up for election in this spring of 1882, when
there was much hostility towards Mr. Chamberlain himself on the part of
many Liberals, who believed that he was intriguing in order to drive Mr.
Forster out of the Cabinet. At all events, the two candidates were
black-balled, and great was the ferment that arose in consequence. In
Birmingham the action of the Reform Club was regarded as an outrageous
insult not only to Mr. Chamberlain himself, but to that section of the
Liberal party to which he then belonged. "The good people of Birmingham
are simply furious," wrote Mr. Chamberlain to his friend, Mr. Peter
Rylands, M.P., "and they even talk of marching upon London," It was an
astounding assertion, but really Mr. Chamberlain's organs in the
Birmingham Press dealt with the black-balling of his brothers in such a
fashion as almost to warrant the expectation that Pall Mall would be
invaded, and the Reform Club sacked, if it did not repent in dust and
ashes of the affront it had offered to the leader of Birmingham
Radicalism. Nothing less would suit Mr. Chamberlain and his friends, as
an atonement for the misdeeds of the club, than such an alteration in the
rules as would deprive the members of the power of black-balling
candidates by transferring elections from the club at large to a special
election committee.

I was present at the meeting of the club at which a resolution to this
effect was proposed by Lord Hartington. The meeting was held only a
couple of days before the Phoenix Park tragedy. It was largely attended,
and many distinguished persons were present. "I saw the whole Cabinet
crowded into the glass and bottle room," said George Augustus Sala, in
speaking of the scene afterwards. Sala himself took a prominent part in
the proceedings, for, provoked by a speech from Mr. Bright, in which he
had denounced black-balling as an odious and ungentlemanly practice, Sala
delivered himself of an impassioned oration in which he asserted that
there was no right more sacred in the eyes of every true-born Englishman
than the right to black-ball anyone he pleased at a club election. I
remember Lord Granville's attempt to reply to Sala's sweeping assertion,
but judging by the cheers, it was the essayist, rather than the earl, who
had the sympathy of the members. Lord Hartington's resolution was carried
by a small majority, and a ballot of the whole club was demanded, to
settle the question finally. When this ballot took place, it was seen
that the feeling of the club as a whole was distinctly adverse to the
proposed change of rules, and Lord Hartington's resolution was rejected
by a large majority. The rejection was due in part, at least, to the
feeling which Mr. Chamberlain had inspired among the moderate Liberals.
Shortly afterwards, Mr. Chamberlain resigned his membership of the club,
and the question of an alteration of the rules fell to the ground.

The Phoenix Park tragedy confirmed many persons in the belief that
Forster had been right, and the rest of the Government wrong, with regard
to Irish policy. In Yorkshire we felt keenly on the subject, and in the
_Leeds Mercury_ I lost no opportunity of vindicating my friend from
the attacks which a section of the advanced Radicals, who claimed Mr.
Chamberlain as their leader, made upon him. The result was to bring about
a strained state of the relations between myself and the official leaders
of the Liberal party. Leeds had given the Government its most signal
victory in the General Election of 1880. It was felt in the Cabinet to be
a serious thing that the _Leeds Mercury_, and with it no
inconsiderable section of the Liberal electors, regarded Mr. Forster's
supersession with indignation, and by some influential member of the
Government a proposal was made to crush the _Mercury_, and prove
that it did not really represent Liberal opinion in Leeds, by convening a
meeting of the Liberal Association for the purpose of expressing
confidence in the Irish policy of the Ministry. It was an absurd device,
and it failed, as it deserved to do. Although we were very angry at the
treatment which Mr. Forster had received, we were perfectly loyal to
Liberal principles and to the leadership of Mr. Gladstone. There was no
need, therefore, to ask us to testify to our confidence in Ministers. But
the men who had succeeded in driving Mr. Forster from office desired to
complete their work by bringing his defenders into open contempt, and
they thought that they would accomplish this by means of a meeting of
Liberal electors in Leeds which should prove to the world that the editor
of the _Leeds Mercury_ represented nobody but himself in his
championship of Forster's cause.

They put pressure upon the Association to summon a meeting, which was
duly held. It turned out to be a demonstration in favour of Forster
rather than the Government, and the attempt to crush independence of
opinion in the Liberal ranks was thus signally foiled. I do not know who
the member of the Cabinet was who was responsible for this manoeuvre, but
whoever he may have been--and I have my suspicions upon that point--he
had little reason to congratulate himself upon the result of his
strategy. For a time the incident caused a certain degree of coldness
between myself and my Liberal friends on the executive of the Liberal
Association. Sir James Kitson and I had worked together so harmoniously
in raising up a united party in Leeds that this partial breach between us
was rather painful. Happily it did not last long. I stood to my own
opinions, and for the future our local Liberal leaders were content that,
whilst supporting them in every matter upon which I was in agreement with
them, I should not be attacked for maintaining my absolute independence
on those questions on which I took a line of my own. No further attempts
were made, I need scarcely add, to intimidate the _Mercury_ by means
of public meetings in Leeds, nor do I think I suffered in the long run in
the estimation of friends from whom I then differed, by the steps I took
to vindicate my character, both as a responsible journalist and as an
independent critic of public affairs.

Naturally I was drawn closer to Forster by the fact that I was thus
constituted his representative and champion in the Press, and I became a
somewhat frequent visitor at his delightful but unpretentious residence
on the banks of the Wharfe at Burley. It was on my first visit to him
after his resignation that an incident took place which touched me
deeply. I was sitting with his and my old friend, Canon Jackson, of
Leeds, in the library after breakfast. Forster, of whose blunt manner I
have already spoken, came into the room. For some time he walked up and
down without speaking, and was apparently somewhat troubled. Suddenly he
turned to Jackson and asked him if he would go out of the room. When the
Canon had gone Forster closed the door behind him, took another turn up
and down the apartment, and then, speaking with evident difficulty, said
to me, "I cannot let you leave this house without letting you know what I
feel with regard to all that you have done for me. When nobody else dared
to say a word in my favour in public during that terrible time in
Ireland, you were always ready to defend me from attack. I needed
defending, Heaven knows! My colleagues left me absolutely alone; they
left me to take my own way, just as if I had been the Czar of Russia. I
was attacked, as you know, both in England and Ireland, by the papers and
public men of all parties. I knew I had very powerful enemies who were
determined to make the worst of everything I did, and none of my own
colleagues defended me. You can never know what a comfort it was to me at
that time to know that I had one staunch friend in the Press, and that
the dear old _Leeds Mercury_ would always judge me fairly and try to
make the public see the truth. God bless you!"

I do not know whether he or I was the more deeply moved by this sudden
and most unexpected outburst of feeling from a man who, as a rule,
stubbornly concealed the sensitiveness of his nature and the warmth of
his heart under a rugged and at times almost forbidding exterior. I do
not pretend to have deserved what he said, but the words he uttered sank
into my heart, never to be forgotten. Henceforth the censures of a caucus
and the sneers of those superior critics who derided me as the victim of
an absurd prejudice in favour of a statesman who had fallen, were as less
than nothing to me.



CHAPTER XV.

THE FIRST LIBERAL IMPERIALIST.

Forster a Pioneer of Liberal Imperialism--His Political Courage--His
Unfortunate Manner--His Home Life--Intrigues in the Cabinet--The Plots
against Forster's Life--Reaction in his Favour--Forster and Lord
Hartington--The Former's Grief for Gordon--Forster and Lord Rosebery--Mr.
Stead and the _Pall Mall Gazette_--His Responsibility for the Gordon
Imbroglio.


I should like to dwell upon my visits to Forster at his own home at
Wharfeside, and to describe the frank, wholesome talk which I had there
on many different occasions with the master of the house; but the talk
was private, I made no notes of it at the time, and it is better that I
should make no attempt to recall it now. This, however, I will say, in
justice to Forster himself. During all my intercourse with him I never
heard him utter a harsh word or give expression to an unworthy sentiment.
No public man of his day was more cruelly misunderstood by his
contemporaries. It had become a sort of tradition among the followers of
Mr. Chamberlain, and among others who ought to have known better, that
Forster was not even a genuine Liberal. He was supposed to be a trimmer
and a time-server, and all manner of ignoble jealousies were attributed
to him. I know, not only from many repeated conversations with him, but
from acts of his which never reached the public, how deep and genuine was
his faith in Liberal principles, how exalted and far-extended his belief
in the application and development of those principles. He was the first
man of eminence to attempt to bring home to the mind of the nation the
greatness of its Imperial duties and responsibilities. It was he who, in
the days when he was a discarded Minister, sowed the seed which is now
bringing forth fruit in the shape of that unity of the Empire for which
others, who came but yesterday into the field, are, with a great flourish
of trumpets, claiming the credit.

The man who was scornfully described as "the great trimmer" was the most
absolutely fearless man in political life I have ever known. I remember
his coming to me when the question of extending Household Suffrage to the
residents in the counties was first being broached in Parliament. He told
me that he meant to move a resolution extending the measure to Ireland.
No other statesman of importance had at that time suggested such a step,
whilst Lord Hartington had openly denounced it. I implored him to leave
such a measure, which was certain to be unpopular with that section of
the party which had been most favourable to him, to somebody else. "You
have suffered enough already for Ireland," I said. "Let somebody else
knock his head against this stone wall." "Who else will do it?" he
replied. "The thing is right, and it must be done. As for your stone
wall, I have never been afraid of being the first man over a fence."
Trimmer, indeed! As for his alleged jealousy of the men who were treading
on his heels, I can only say that I never heard a syllable from his lips
which gave countenance to this charge against him. Always frank and
outspoken, he was at the same time invariably generous in his judgments
upon his colleagues and his rivals. Rancour he never cherished, and he
could forgive those who had injured him far more freely than most men I
have known.

I have spoken of his manner. This was, I think, his great misfortune.
Again and again he offended men who were brought into contact with him by
his bluntness of speech, and by his disregard of the mere niceties of
deportment. I have heard him denounced as "a heartless ruffian" by
someone who had suffered from an apparent lack of courtesy on his part.
All the time Forster was absolutely unconscious of having given offence,
and when his attention was called to the fact that he had wounded someone
by his manner, he was filled with distress. One day an eminent publicist
who had cruelly misjudged and misrepresented Forster came to me in the
Reform Club and asked if I had ever stayed at Wharfeside. I replied in
the affirmative. "Then," said my friend, "you can perhaps tell me if what
I hear is true. I am told that, rude and bearish as he is to people who
meet him casually, it is nothing in comparison with his brutality in his
own house, and especially to his wife." Angry as I was at this charge
against my friend, I could not refrain from bursting into a roar of
laughter at its absurdity. No woman that ever lived was treated with a
more tender and chivalrous affection and reverence than that which Mrs.
Forster received from her husband. That she was eminently worthy of being
worshipped by the man whose name she bore, all who knew her must admit.
She had inherited great intellectual qualities from her father, Dr.
Arnold, of Rugby. She shared the delicate critical spirit of her brother
Matthew; and, above all, she was a delightful woman, gentle, refined,
full of love for those of her own household, but full also of interest
in, and sympathy with, all other men and women. Upon her Forster lavished
the love of his whole heart, and to her judgment he deferred more
constantly than to that of any other person. It always seemed to me that
their marriage was an ideal union, both of brain and heart. When I was
writing his biography, I felt it necessary to say something about the
peculiarities of his manner. Mrs. Forster objected to what I said, not on
the ground that it hurt her feelings to remember those peculiarities, but
because, in her opinion, they had never existed. "I do not understand
what you mean by the peculiarities of his manner," she said to me one
day. "His manner was always delightful, especially to women." This was
the one point on which she was blind with regard to her husband. She did
not see how great was the tribute paid to his sterling qualities by the
fact that so many men loved him and honoured him in spite of his rough
exterior. Often when I was with him I thought of Browning's line, "Do
roses stick like burrs?" It was his very angularities that seemed to make
Forster's friends cling to him so closely.

In the years which followed his retirement from office he remained a
thorough-going Liberal, but he claimed for himself the right of
independent judgment as a member of his own party. The Ministry never got
over the blow it received when he resigned. On the day of his
resignation, when he left the Cabinet, Lord Selborne, who sympathised
altogether with him, rose directly after he did, and said, "If Forster
goes, I must go too." He was actually on his way to the door when
someone--I believe Sir William Harcourt--following him threw his arms
round him, and forcibly detained him till he was brought to a more docile
state of mind.

That, however, was, as everybody knows, a Cabinet of many resignations.
It was said, when it at last came to an end, that there was no man in it
who had not resigned once at least, and that one or two had resigned many
times. The fact is that the disruption of the old Liberal party had
already begun. The new wine provided by Chamberlain and Company fermented
in the old bottles. Nobody felt very happy in the presence of the member
for Birmingham. He was the reverse of conciliatory, and seemed anxious to
let everybody know that he recognised no superior. This would not have
mattered so much if his conduct had been more consistent with the
traditions of Cabinets. Sir William Harcourt was not unversed in
intrigue, and one wonders now how a Cabinet which contained those two men
held together as long as it did. It was the leakiest Cabinet, so far as
its secrets were concerned, that I have known. It is amusing now to
recall the fact that at that time an innocent public, which still
regarded Mr. Chamberlain as a man with more self-assertion than intellect
or force of character, pictured him to itself as the tool of Mr. Morley.
It was Mr. Morley, we were told, who found the policy and the brains, and
Mr. Chamberlain was but the instrument of his will. This is not the only
point upon which the public fell into error, but it is one that deserves
to be noted.

The ugly wrench which was given to the Ministry by Forster's retirement
and the Phoenix Park tragedy that immediately followed it, was aggravated
by the revelations at the trial of the murderers of Lord Frederick
Cavendish and Mr. Burke. Whilst Mr. Forster was still Chief Secretary it
was vaguely known that he had been the object of murderous conspiracies.
The _Pall Mall Gazette_ had sneered at the rumours of plots against
his life, and had pleasantly hinted that they were all a myth, concocted
by Forster's friends in his interests. When James Carey, the infamous
ringleader of the assassins, told his dreadful story in the witness-box
in order to save his neck, the truth was made known, and the world
learned that for months Forster, whilst meeting slander and hostile
criticism in England, had been in constant danger of murder in Ireland. I
have told elsewhere the story of his last week in Dublin, and of the
daily attempts that were made by Carey and his confederates to compass
his death. Some of my readers may remember how at the last he only
escaped the knives of the assassins by something like a miracle. He was
leaving Dublin for the last time, though he himself was not aware of the
fact, and he had arranged to go from Westland Row Station by a certain
train in order to catch the night boat for Holyhead. In the afternoon his
work at the Castle was got through rather sooner than had been expected,
and his private secretary, Mr. Jephson, suggested to him that instead of
waiting for the train they should drive together to Kingstown, and dine
at the club there. The inducement held out to Forster was that in this
way he would have time for a game of whist before going on board the
steamer. He fell in with Jephson's suggestion, and thus escaped from
Ireland safely. That very night the whole gang of Invincibles, as the
murderers had called themselves, had assembled at Westland Row for the
purpose of killing him. Thrice they searched the train, vainly looking
for the man whose death-sentence they had pronounced. Mrs. Forster was in
one of the carriages, but her husband was not there. "If he had been,"
said Carey, in telling the story, "he would not have been alive now."

When the truth became known, and it was seen that there was nothing of
the mythical in the conspiracy against Forster's life, public indignation
flamed up afresh at the treatment he had received. When he next came to
Leeds, after the trial of the Invincibles, a crowd followed him through
the streets from the railway station to the _Mercury_ office,
cheering loudly. No wonder that a Government which had to confront the
feeling caused by the treatment meted out to Forster was neither very
happy nor very strong. It was soon after the exposure of the Invincibles
that Forster addressed his constituents in St. George's Hall, Bradford. A
number of Irishmen had got into the gallery, and persistently interrupted
him, so that at last his speech was brought to a standstill. Gathering
himself together, he waited for a moment's silence, and then, with
outstretched arm menacing his antagonists, cried, in a voice which rang
through the hall, "Since you didn't kill me in Ireland, you've got to
listen to me here!" The shout that went up from the meeting as a whole
acclaimed this sentiment with such emphasis that the Irishmen were
reduced to silence, and there was no more trouble. Some persons were,
however, very much shocked by Forster's characteristic bluntness. Among
these was Mr. Gladstone, who thought that his former colleague had shown
very bad taste.

Egypt and Gordon were the topics which I chiefly discussed with Forster
during our years of intimacy after 1882. The fate of Gordon, in
particular, excited in him a degree of emotion of which few would have
thought him capable. More than once I have seen the tears in his eyes
when he was speaking of Gordon, surrounded by his savage foes in his
desert capital. The Ministry, as everybody knows, was floundering in
those days. Even those of us who were the warm friends and admirers of
Mr. Gladstone were troubled and perplexed. Some of us knew, indeed, that
Mr. Gladstone was not the only, nor the chief, sinner in the matter of
Gordon; but he was the scapegoat behind whom those who had a greater
responsibility for the mismanagement of the Soudan business were only too
glad to hide themselves. Forster was filled with indignation and contempt
by the confused utterances of the Ministry, and by Mr. Gladstone's
elaborate attempts to prove that though General Gordon was "hemmed in" he
was not surrounded. Poor Mr. Gladstone! It was sad indeed that he should
have to undertake this thankless task, and should be compelled to make
out a case for a Cabinet which had practically got out of hand. It was in
connection with one of his apologies for the Ministry that Mr. Forster
charged him with being able to persuade most people of almost anything,
and himself of everything. This chance phrase, used in the heat of
debate, was treated by Lord Hartington as being a direct imputation upon
Mr. Gladstone's sincerity, and Forster was lectured and denounced in
terms which made the breach between himself and his old colleagues wider
than ever. There was no truth in the charge made against him. He always
had, and always expressed, a profound admiration for Gladstone's
character, and he had never for a moment doubted his honesty. He felt the
violent invective of Lord Hartington keenly. When he met the latter in
the lobby on the same evening, he said to him, "You were very unfair to
me to-night, and you knew it, but you had such a d----d bad case that I
forgive you."

Again and again, in those days, Forster would come over to Leeds to see
me, to talk about Gordon, or he would ask me to his own house in order to
discuss the same topic. The fascination which it had for him was
extraordinary. If Gordon had been his own brother he could not have been
more deeply interested in his fate. When at last the end of the long
tragedy came, and the news reached England of the failure of the
expedition to Khartoum, and Gordon's death, Forster was affected by it in
the keenest manner. He could hardly speak when he came to me to discuss
the fatal tidings, and he was full of theories as to the possibility of
Gordon having escaped, after all, from his enemies. Apparently he could
not bring himself to accept the truth. It was strange to see this great,
powerful man, who had passed through so many years of fierce conflict on
his own account, broken down by sorrow for one of whom he had
comparatively little personal knowledge, but whose character and fate
appealed to all that was best and truest in his nature. Looking back upon
my years of friendship with Forster, there are no incidents that touch my
sympathies more keenly than those which relate to his heartfelt grief for
Gordon, the great victim of ministerial muddling and administrative
incapacity.

Everybody knows that Forster was the reverse of a Little Englander. In
the days when Mr. Chamberlain was still the parochial politician, and the
Manchester School a power in the land, Forster never lost an opportunity
of trying to inspire his fellow-countrymen with the sense of the
greatness of their Imperial position, and of the duties which it imposed
upon them. As founder of the Imperial Federation League, he put himself
at the head of those English statesmen whose names will be identified
with the union of Great Britain and her Colonies in the Empire which we
know to-day. He got very little help from the leading politicians on
either side. Mr. Chamberlain, who now talks as though the
foundation-stone of the Empire was laid in the suburbs of Birmingham,
gave him no aid at all, nor did the active spirits of the Opposition. It
seemed as though most of his old colleagues and opponents regarded
Forster's strenuous advocacy of Imperial Federation as an attempt on his
part to keep his name before the public eye. There was one rising young
politician, however, who took a different view of Forster's action, and
who not only sympathised with his motives, but threw himself into the
cause of which he was the leader. This was Lord Rosebery, and to him and
to Forster belongs the lion's share of the credit for the creation and
development of that sense of Imperial unity which is to-day so great a
factor in the life of the Empire.

At that time Forster's friends had no suspicion that his public career
was drawing to a close. He was many years younger than Mr. Gladstone, was
full of vigour and of an enthusiasm that was almost youthful in its
exuberance, and he seemed to have a long life of work before him. But a
trivial incident revealed to me the fact that things were not as they
seemed, and that this great sturdy Englishman was by no means in the
state of health that men supposed. When walking in Switzerland, he had
accidentally injured the nail of his great toe, and it was necessary to
remove it. Forster regarded the operation as a slight one, and was
anxious that cocaine should be used as an anaesthetic, so that he might,
as he said to me, "have the fun" of witnessing the actual operation. When
the time came, however, it was found to be a much more serious matter
than Forster had supposed. The operation was performed under chloroform
by an eminent surgeon, and this gentleman told me after the operation
that he had discovered that Forster's health was in a very unsatisfactory
condition. Indeed, this little accident was the beginning of the end,
though few at the time suspected the fact.

Before closing this chapter, I may make some further reference to my
friend Mr. Stead. The retirement of John Morley from the P_all Mall
Gazette_ had led to Mr. Stead's promotion, and he had become the
virtual, if not the nominal editor of the paper. He was not long in
impressing the public with the fact that a new and original force had
entered English public life. "I am riding on the crest of the wave," he
wrote to me one day, and such was indeed the fact. The influence of the
paper which he controlled became for a time almost paramount, and Mr.
Stead revelled in his power with all the zest of a schoolboy who has
suddenly been called to sit on the throne of an autocrat. He calmly
undertook the direction of the foreign policy of Great Britain, and
ordered Ministers to do his bidding with an audacity which would have
been absurd but for the fact that Ministers seemed ready to take him at
his word. He it was who first advised them to the evil course of sending
Gordon to Khartoum. "Sarawak the Soudan" was the cry he raised, his
proposal being that Gordon should be sent to found an empire of his own
on the upper Nile. Ministers yielded to his vehemence, and Gordon was
sent to Khartoum, with what results everybody knows. Mr. Stead had the
courage of his opinions, and he was not in the least disconcerted when he
found that his advice had involved the country in the tragical and
disastrous expedition for Gordon's relief. Talking to me one day at that
time, he said, "John Morley told me yesterday that I ought not to be able
to sleep in my bed at nights for thinking of all the men who have lost
their lives over this business." If at any time in my life I had been
inclined to believe in government by newspapers, I should certainly have
been cured of that delusion after seeing what a mess even so brilliant a
journalist as Stead made of the attempt to control the policy of a nation
from an editor's desk.



CHAPTER XVI.

NOVELS AND NOVELISTS.

"The Lumley Entail"--"Gladys Fane"--My Experience in Novel Writing--About
Sad Endings--Imaginary Characters and Characters Drawn from Life--Visits
from William Black and Bret Harte--Black as an After-Dinner Sneaker--How
Bret Harte saw Haworth Parsonage, and was Roughly Entreated by a
Yorkshire Admirer--A Candid Opinion on the Brontë Monograph.


I now propose to hark back a little in order to bring together some
reminiscences and experiences that lie apart from the graver political
events with which I have been dealing. To begin with, I made a serious
attempt at novel-writing in 1883. Perhaps my friendship with William
Black and James Payn had some influence in leading me to revert to a kind
of work which in my youth had attracted me greatly. I had already, as I
have said, written one novel, "The Lumley Entail," published in the
_St. James's Magazine_, and long since forgotten by everybody,
including its author. I had begun half-a-dozen different stories at
various times, but had always failed to make much progress with them. One
or two short stories that had appeared in Christmas Numbers of the
_Leeds Mercury_ and sundry magazines had not been wholly
unsuccessful, and so, after long cogitation, in the year 1883 I wrote
"Gladys Fane: A Story of Two Lives." Of its merits I cannot speak, but it
gave me great pleasure to write it, and it had a friendly reception both
from the critics and the public. In this country it had a very large
sale, and in the United States a still larger. The strange thing is that
here the book still sells, and once a year I receive from the publisher,
Mr. Fisher Unwin, a modest sum in payment of the royalties due to me on
the sales.

Perhaps I may say something on the strength of my limited experience on
the subject of novel-writing. It may seem presumptuous to do so, seeing
that everybody nowadays either writes a novel or thinks that he or she
can do so. My own experience taught me that in novel-writing, as in most
descriptions of work, there is a particular knack to be acquired before
success can be attained. I think I must have been absolutely without this
knack when I began to write "Gladys Fane." I was a good descriptive
writer, and could describe either scenery or action sufficiently well,
but when I tried my hand at conversation I was utterly at sea. I could
not make my men and women talk as men and women do in real life. Before I
had finished the story I had got the knack, and if I were ever to write
another I have no doubt that I could manage the conversation fairly well.
Of course, even without the knack a writer may achieve, under certain
conditions, a great success; but to do so he must _feel_ his story;
that is to say, it must be as real to him as if it were something that
had actually happened. Undoubtedly I had this feeling about "Gladys
Fane," and this, I imagine, was the one merit which secured for the book
the degree of success that it attained. I remember that when I wrote the
closing chapter, in which the hero meets with a tragical death, I was
under the influence of as poignant an emotion as I should have
experienced if I had been standing by the deathbed of my dearest friend.
Great was my joy, after the story was published, to read a generous
review of the book in the _Standard_, in which the reviewer said
that he did not envy the man who could read that last chapter with a
steady voice and an undimmed eye. I saw that others had been infected by
the emotion which almost overwhelmed me as I penned the closing pages of
the book.

The sad ending which is so hateful to the ordinary reader is regarded by
some reviewers as a cheap device for enlisting popular attention, and
many complaints have been made of its having been used unnecessarily.
There may be some writers who deliberately make up their minds to bring
their stories to a tragical conclusion, but if such persons exist they
must be very bad artists. In my own case I certainly did not contemplate
a sad ending when I began to write my novel; but week by week, as I
wrote, I became more and more forcibly impressed with the feeling that
the doom of my hero was sealed. I tried to get away from this morbid
conclusion, and to wrench the story into another channel, but I failed
utterly in the attempt, so that at last I had to yield, though, as I have
said, I did so with keen regret. William Black, when discussing with me
one day the question of the sad ending, said, "People may say what they
like, but I know, as a matter of experience, that a book which ends
sorrowfully is always remembered far more vividly than one that winds up
in the usual fashion with the ringing of marriage-bells." This is quite
true, but the young novelist who wants his novels to sell, ought
carefully to avoid the tragical _dénouement_, for there are a great
many readers who deliberately refuse to read any book which ends sadly.
Therefore, though art may require such an ending, from the commercial
side of literature it is a huge mistake. Mr. Forster came to me at the
time when "Gladys Fane" was in the flush of its first success, and told
me with his usual kindly bluntness that he was not going to read it. "My
wife has read it, and likes it, but I am not going to make myself
miserable by reading any story that ends sadly. You must write another
that I _can_ read." And it was this chance remark that led to my
next essay in fiction, of which more hereafter.

I had one curious experience in writing "Gladys Fane" that may or may not
be common to most novelists. Certain of the characters were founded upon
real men and women. I painted no portraits, of course, but I undoubtedly
took hints from people whom I knew. My heroine, for example, had a
prototype in real life, who served for the first sketch, but as I wrote I
made her character develop until she was a wholly different woman from
her model. Black, criticising the story in a letter, remarked that the
further the heroine was removed from all likeness to the original, the
more natural and real she became. But still more striking was the fact
that most of my critics agreed that the most real characters in the book,
those that struck them as being most lifelike and individual, were purely
imaginary creations of my own. "I like your villain," wrote Lord
Houghton. "He is the most impressive figure in the book. Wherever did you
meet him?" As a matter of fact, I had met him nowhere, and could not
charge myself with having taken even a hint in drawing his portrait from
anybody whom I knew or had heard of. Some of the minor characters were
unhesitatingly described by critics as portraits evidently drawn from
life. In no single instance had they been so drawn. I had imagined them
simply. It would be interesting to know if this is the experience of
other writers of romance. I am bound to speak with modesty and
diffidence, because of my very limited experience in this kind of work. I
have only touched upon the subject, indeed, because I think it may
interest my readers to know something of the secrets of the workshop of
even the humblest literary artist.

There is just one other point that I may mention in connection with
"Gladys Fane." Whilst I was writing the book, I was doing my full work as
editor of the _Leeds Mercury_, and was not only editing the paper,
but was writing for it an average of twelve columns a week. "Gladys Fane"
is a long story, containing a hundred and sixty thousand words. I wrote
it during my scanty leisure in exactly sixteen weeks, or at the rate of
ten thousand words a week. This, I imagine, is a speed which only the
unfaltering pen of the typical lady novelist usually attains. Before
beginning any chapter which had not shaped itself clearly in my mind, I
used to take a long country walk, during the course of which I found that
I could beat out the whole narrative, and solve any small problem in the
construction that had troubled me.

About this time I was seeing a good deal of my literary friends. Amongst
others, William Black and Bret Harte visited me at Leeds, and I have
amusing recollections of both visits. Black came to me, if I remember
aright, on his way to Scotland. It was his first visit to Leeds, and I
thought he was entitled to something more than the welcome given to a
private guest. Not many writers of distinction had found their way to
Leeds whilst I was living there, and it was my earnest desire that those
who came should receive a greeting that would satisfy them that even
business communities could value real worth in literature. Accordingly, I
gave a large dinner party at the Liberal Club in Black's honour, and
invited to it a number of the leading citizens. They were all anxious to
come, and to share in the welcome to my distinguished guest.
Unfortunately, however, the dinner involved a speech from Black. I knew
how much he hated speech-making, and did my best to steel him for the
ordeal. But no efforts of mine, or of any other man, would have converted
Black into an orator. His response to the toast of his health, which had
been drunk with genuine enthusiasm, was as follows: "When I left London,
I thought I was going to Yorkshire, but the way in which you have treated
me shows that I have made a mistake and that I have really got into
Scotland." And forthwith he sat down, leaving us to realise the subtle
compliment conveyed in his brief speech.

And here I am reminded of another occasion on which I heard him make an
attempt at after-dinner oratory. A certain Lord Mayor of London
distinguished himself by giving a dinner to the representatives of
literature. I had the honour of being invited to the feast, and shared
Black's cab in the drive to the Mansion House. On the way thither he told
me that he was one of those who had to respond for fiction: "but," he
added, "I am all right, for Blackmore is to speak before me, and I shall
get up when he sits down, and simply say 'I say ditto to Mr. Blackmore,'"
Comforted with this idea, he was able to enjoy the Lord Mayor's turtle.
But alas! when Blackmore rose to address the company, he confined himself
to the statement that, never having made a speech before, he must leave
it to a much more distinguished man, his friend Mr. William Black, to
respond to the toast. It was obvious to Black that he could not say ditto
to this speech, and he had, accordingly, to make a serious attempt to
reply for fiction.

I confess I was very sorry for him. He started well by telling a story
about an experience of his when visiting the United States. He was
entertained at dinner by some New York club, not, I imagine, a literary
one, and the president proposed his health in gushing terms, the
peroration of the speech being, "I now ask you, gentlemen, to drink to
the health of the greatest of living novelists, Mr. William Black, the
author of that immortal work, 'Lorna Doone.'" Now this is an excellent
story, and if Black had only been able to tell it, he would have
delighted his audience, and would have secured a very genuine triumph.
But alas! the acoustic properties of the Egyptian Hall are, to say the
least of it, not good, and Black was so nervous that he was almost
inaudible, more especially when he reached the point of his little tale.
The result was that to the vast majority of those who heard him, his
speech seemed to be a simple announcement of the fact that he had once
been described at a dinner in New York as the greatest of living
novelists. Happily, Black was not dependent upon his oratorical gifts for
his power of influencing the public.

When Bret Harte visited me at Leeds in the early 'eighties, his arrival
caused what the reporters describe as a "sensation" in the town. To begin
with, Harte had not been long resident in this country, and the author of
"The Heathen Chinee" was still something of a mythical personage to the
average Englishman. Then he still affected the style of dress which
Buffalo Bill afterwards made familiar, and with his broad sombrero hat,
his flowing locks, and ample fur-lined overcoat, cut a conspicuous figure
in the streets. It is no exaggeration to say that everybody turned to
look at him, and that more than once he had a small mob at his heels.
Greatly interested, like most of his fellow-countrymen, in the story of
the Brontës, he got me to accompany him on a pilgrimage to Haworth, to
see the world-famed parsonage and church. Shortly before this time, I had
been concerned in raising an agitation against the destruction of the
church, and had, in consequence, incurred the hostility of the incumbent,
a certain Mr. Wade, who was anxious to replace the venerable fabric in
which the Brontës had worshipped for so many years by a handsome modern
edifice. Mr. Shepard, the American Consul at Bradford, was the companion
of Harte and myself in our visit; but somewhat to our annoyance, we were
joined at a wayside station by a young man, who was known to Shepard, and
who seemed very anxious to accompany a celebrity like Bret Harte. We duly
reached the grey old village among the moors, and for the last time I saw
the quaint interior of Haworth Church, and sat once more in Charlotte
Brontë's seat in the old-fashioned pew at the foot of the clumsy
three-decker pulpit.

When we had seen the church, and inspected the signature of Charlotte
Brontë in the register of marriages, Harte declared that he could not
leave without visiting the parsonage. I warned him that he was not likely
to be admitted, as Mr. Wade was known to object to the intrusion of
strangers into his house. Harte, however, maintained that as an American
author, Mr. Wade would certainly not refuse him if he sought admittance,
and persisted in visiting the parsonage. Remembering my controversy with
Mr. Wade, I discreetly withdrew from the company, and retired to the
Black Bull Inn, where I smoked a cigar in the chair in which Branwell
Brontë had too often sat. After some time had elapsed, my friends--Harte,
Shepard, and the young man, whom I will call M.---- returned. "Did you
really get admittance?" I asked, and Harte replied in the affirmative.
"Well," I said, "you may congratulate yourself, for it was a remarkable
achievement."

Harte did not seem to respond very willingly to this remark, so Shepard
took up the tale, and told me what had really happened. "When we got to
the door, Harte sent in his card to Mr. Wade, and enquired if he could
see him. We were left standing on the doorstep until Mr. Wade made his
appearance, Harte's card in his hand. The expression of his face was not
encouraging. He asked what we wanted, and Harte said, 'You perhaps may
know my name. I am an American author.' Mr. Wade looked at the card, and
said, 'Yes, he had heard the name. What did Mr. Harte want?' Then Harte
introduced me, as American Consul at Bradford, and explained that we were
both most anxious to be allowed to see the interior of Charlotte Brontë's
old home. Upon this Mr. Wade, in very plain language, declared that it
was impossible, that he made it a rule not to admit strangers to his
house, and could make no exception. Harte seemed very much annoyed, and I
put in a word to explain who his visitor was, and what he had done in
literature. But the old gentleman was quite obdurate, and we were about
to turn away when young M. stepped forward, and said, 'Mr. Wade, my name
is M. and I come from So-and-so.' 'What!' said Mr. Wade, his whole manner
changing at once, 'are you related to my old friend, Mr. M., of the firm
of M. & N.?' 'I am his son,' replied M. 'Come in, sir,' cried Mr. Wade,
with effusion. 'I shall be delighted to see you in my house, and you may
bring your friends with you.'" And this was the fashion in which Bret
Harte saw Haworth Parsonage.

I had, I confess, a kindlier feeling towards our youthful companion on
the return journey than that which I had entertained towards him before
this incident; but ere we reached Leeds he again annoyed me. Whilst we
were waiting for our train in Keighley Station, M. disappeared from our
side. Presently we became aware that he was going to and fro upon the
platform telling everybody who Bret Harte was; so that in a short time we
found ourselves surrounded by a staring crowd. Fortunately the train came
up, and we were able to escape; but a man known to M. entered the
compartment, and the exuberant youth, in spite of the frowns of Shepard
and myself, was unable to restrain himself. We heard him, in a stage
whisper, announce that Bret Harte was there. Harte, who was boiling over
with indignation, thrust his head out of the window to escape the
stranger's stare. The latter ejaculated, "Bret Harte! Where?" M. pointed
to the window, and instantly the sturdy Yorkshireman sprang from his
seat, and seizing Harte by the shoulders, forced him back into his seat,
whilst he thrust himself half out of the window, and eagerly searched the
platform for the missing celebrity. "I can't see him nowhere," he
ejaculated, as the train moved off, and he once more pushed Harte
violently aside, as he strode back to his own seat. When at last, by
expressive pantomime, M. had conveyed the truth to his friend's mind, it
was difficult to decide whether Harte or the hero-worshipper betrayed the
greater degree of embarrassment.

It was about this time that I had an amusing experience of my own in
connection with Haworth and the Brontës. I was staying with my wife and
children at a country inn at Burnsall, a delightful spot on the Upper
Wharfe above Bolton Abbey. The inn was a small one, and by arrangement
with the landlord I had, in addition to a sitting-room, the exclusive use
of the coffee-room when my family partook of meals. The truth was that
the "Red Lion" had but few visitors, at any rate of the coffee-room
class. Coming down to breakfast one morning, the landlord met me with a
perturbed countenance. "There's a young gentleman from London in the
coffee-room, sir," he said, "and though I've told him the room is
engaged, he won't go out, but insists upon having his breakfast there." I
assured the landlord that I did not in the least object to his doing so,
and accordingly the young man breakfasted at the same table as myself and
my family. I found he was an entire stranger to the district, and he
volunteered the statement that he had never been in Yorkshire before his
present visit. An enthusiast upon Yorkshire scenery, I was anxious to
know what he had seen of the beautiful broad shire. "I've been nowhere,"
he replied, "except to a little place called Haworth."

Now what attraction could there be in such a place as Haworth for a
stranger from London unless it were the attraction of the Brontës? So I
reasoned; and reasoned, as it appeared, most erroneously. "Oh, no," he
said, in reply to my question, "I didn't go to Haworth because of the
Brontës. In fact, I knew nothing about them when I went there, but my
friends gave me a book to read about them, and I tried to read it. It was
written by somebody called Wemyss Reid, but I thought it a poor book." I
knew that my friend the landlord was quite certain to tell the stranger
my name, and I thought it better to take the bull by the horns, and
reveal the truth to him. So, as gently as I could, and with a keen
appreciation of the good story with which I saw that he had furnished me,
I made him understand that I was the culprit who had produced that poor
book. He took the revelation so much to heart that I really regretted
having made it, and it was not until after more than an hour's talk on
irrelevant topics that I eased him, as I hope, of his pain and
mortification, and induced him to join me in laughing at the
extraordinary stroke of ill-fortune by which I was the first person to
whom he innocently revealed his bad opinion of my book. Perhaps the
incident taught him to be more cautious ever afterwards in the expression
of his literary verdicts, at all events when in the company of a chance
acquaintance. It must be confessed that in this case the doctrine of
coincidences upon which I have touched in a former chapter was not so
pleasant in its application as it usually is. For my part, I have always
recalled that breakfast with keen delight.



CHAPTER XVII.

TO THE DEFEAT OF THE GOVERNMENT (1885).

More Antagonism towards Forster--A Household Suffrage Demonstration at
Leeds--A Meeting at the Carlton Club and a Coincidence--Forster and "the
most Powerful Man in Europe"--Single-Member Constituencies and the
Cumulative Vote--Dynamite Outrages--Police Protection for Statesmen--I
Receive Threatening Letters and Get a Fright--Death of Lord
Houghton--Lord Derby and how he was Misunderstood--An Unconventional
Dinner at Lord Houghton's--A Visit to Tangier--In Peril of the
Sea--Gibraltar "a Magnificent Imposture"--Captain W. and the M.P.--To the
North Cape--Cheering a Funeral Party--News of Mr. Gladstone's
Overthrow--Home Again.


The extension of Household Suffrage to the counties was the chief
political topic of 1884. I have told how Forster was the first to
announce his resolve to support a Household Suffrage Bill for Ireland. He
was always an ardent reformer, and a genuine, as opposed to a sham,
Radical. In the public agitation for the Bill Forster took a leading
part, though he was still regarded with suspicion by many advanced
Liberals. Sometimes these gentlemen treated him with distinct unfairness,
because they could not forgive him his resolute antagonism to Mr.
Chamberlain. In the autumn before the Bill passed we held a great
Yorkshire demonstration in its favour on Woodhouse Moor, Leeds. John
Morley had promised to attend as the principal speaker, and it was
understood that the whole of the Liberal members for the West Riding
would also be invited. I need hardly say that by far the most eminent of
these gentlemen was Mr. Forster. When the executive committee, of which I
was a member, met to make arrangements for the demonstration, I found, to
my intense indignation, that many members were opposed to the sending of
an invitation to Mr. Forster! He was our nearest neighbour, for his house
was only a few miles from Leeds; he was our most distinguished
representative, and he was an ardent supporter of the Franchise Bill. Yet
not even these facts could serve him in the eyes of men who regarded Mr.
Chamberlain as being, next to Mr. Gladstone, the heaven-born leader of
English Liberalism. I hotly contested the proposal to exclude Forster
from the gathering, and succeeded in carrying my point, though I could
only do so by agreeing that instead of a special invitation, such as we
sent to all other men in his position, he should receive nothing but the
ordinary printed circular sent wholesale to the known Liberals of the
district. Forster, who cared nothing about forms and ceremonies, wrote
promptly declaring his intention to be present.

The meeting was to be addressed from three platforms, at each of which
was a principal speaker. To John Morley, as a stranger, we assigned the
leading position on the middle platform. Herbert Gladstone took a similar
post on one of the side platforms, and on the third Forster was to be the
chief speaker. To my great amazement, a couple of days before the
meeting, we received word from Mr. Morley that under the new arrangements
he did not think it desirable to attend. It was the first evidence I had
received of what I now know to be one of the peculiarities in the
character of this eminent and gifted man. The new arrangement which led
to his wishing to withdraw from the meeting seemed to be the announcement
that Forster was to be one of the speakers. I saw at once that if Morley
did not come it would not only lessen the effect of the meeting, but
would lead to a fresh outbreak of what I may call the Forster dissensions
in the party. This was a disaster at all hazards to be prevented, and
accordingly I took what most of my readers, I imagine, will consider not
only strong but somewhat presumptuous action. I telegraphed to Morley,
warning him that if he maintained his determination to stay away, the
reason for his absence would undoubtedly become public property, and his
"laudable ambition" would not be aided by the revelation of the truth. A
strong measure, indeed; and I am prepared for the censure of my critics;
but I succeeded in my purpose. Morley promised to come, and contented
himself with writing a letter to me in which he disclaimed the imputation
that he carried about with him any of that "perilous explosive" called
ambition. The meeting was a great success; all the chief speakers were
well received, but I confess I was not altogether grieved when I saw that
the greatest crowd was that which gathered round platform number three,
and that the loudest cheers of the vast multitude were those given to
Forster.

It will be remembered that the Tories offered a stubborn opposition to
the passing of the Household Suffrage Bill, and it was only carried in
the end in a winter session, specially convened for that purpose.
According to popular rumour at the time, it was eventually passed as the
result of compromise between Mr. Gladstone and Lord Salisbury. I do not
believe that there is a word of truth in this story. Mr. Gladstone, at
all events, stoutly denied that there had been any such compromise, and
once wrote a long letter to me, maintaining this denial. But before the
Tories could be induced to accept the Bill, a meeting of their party had
to be held at the Carlton Club, and in connection with that meeting I
have to tell a curious story of my own.

As most of my readers know, the Carlton Club and the Reform stand side by
side in Pall Mall, only separated from each other by a narrow street
which gives access to Carlton House Gardens. The windows of the
smoking-room at the Reform Club face those of the large library of the
Carlton, so that the members of the two clubs may, if they choose, see
each other across the narrow roadway. The Conservative meeting was held
in the big library of the club. Going into our own smoking-room on the
afternoon of the meeting, I saw a well-known member of the club gazing
intently across the way at the corresponding apartment in the Carlton.
"If you come here," he said, turning to me, "you can see all the members
of the Tory party gathering for their meeting." I saw no harm in
accepting X.'s invitation, and joined him at the window. We picked out
the various notables of the party. By-and-by an evil inspiration seized
X. "Let us go upstairs to F.'s room," he said. "We shall see much better
from there." I am ashamed to say that I yielded to the temptation, and
accompanied X. to the room of a friend who occupied one of the club
chambers facing the Carlton.

The window happened to be open, so that we had an unimpeded view of the
meeting of the Tory party. We could not, of course, hear anything that
was said, nor could we see the speakers, who were evidently placed with
their backs to us between two of the windows; but we saw the audience,
and were amused by the varying expression upon their faces as they
listened to their leaders. X.'s insatiable curiosity led him to snatch up
an opera-glass that was lying on F.'s dressing-table, and, despite my
remonstrance, he took a long survey of the Tory gathering through this
instrument. Suddenly I saw a man in the body of the meeting rise to his
feet and point straight at our window. Instantly every face in the room
flashed round, and I found myself under the concentrated gaze of some
hundreds of manifestly indignant men. I seized the wretched X. by the
collar and dragged him back from the window. "See what you have done with
that abominable opera-glass of yours!" I cried; and then, to my shame and
mortification, I saw the blinds pulled down at every window of the
Carlton library, and I felt that by our foolish curiosity we had caused
this gathering of political opponents to hold their conference in the
dark. It is quite true that neither I nor X. had any ulterior motive in
our observation of the meeting at the Carlton Club, but all the same I
cannot pretend that the use of the opera-glass was not indefensible.

I was dining that evening at the Oxford and Cambridge Club with Mr.
Andrew Lang. When I arrived there I was ushered into the club
drawing-room, with the intimation that Mr. Lang would join me in a
moment, and that I would find another of his guests already in the room.
I stepped to the fireplace, where this gentleman was standing, and my
feelings may be imagined when I discovered that it was the very man who
had pointed us out at the window of the Reform Club a few hours earlier.
He was Mr. Charles Elton, then one of the members for Somersetshire. I
saw that he did not recognise me, but the desire to confess my offending
was irresistible. "You were at the meeting at the Carlton Club this
afternoon, were you not?" I said to him. He looked at me rather
curiously, before replying in the affirmative, and then added, "But you
were not there?" "No," I said, "but did you observe anything curious at
the Reform Club?" At once his face lighted up with angry intelligence.
"Yes!" he said, "I did. There were a couple of scallywags"--it was the
first time I had ever heard this modern term of reproach, and it is not
surprising that I have nearly forgotten it--"watching us through
opera-glasses from one of the windows, and signalling to a man whom they
had put on the top of our club, and who was listening through the
ventilator to the speeches." No words can express the sense of relief I
felt when I heard this absurd statement. "No," I replied, "I assure you
that you are mistaken. I am sorry to say that I was one of the scallywags
who were looking out of the Reform Club, and I apologise sincerely for my
untimely curiosity; but we had only one opera-glass between us, and we
had nobody posted on the top of the Carlton Club to listen to the
speeches. Upon that you may rely." Elton stared at me for a moment, and
then burst into a roar of laughter, in which I joined him. It was an
immense relief to me to have got the burden off my soul; but I had
received another proof of the frequency with which that long arm of
coincidence asserts itself.

As a result of the passing of the Franchise Bill, and the creation of
single-member constituencies which accompanied it, a Boundary Commission
had to be appointed, to settle the boundaries of the new electoral
divisions. In order to prevent gerrymandering it was agreed that this
Commission should not only be quite independent of both parties, but that
it should have absolute powers. Its chairman was Sir John Lambert,
secretary of the Local Government Board; and his powers were, of course,
very great. Forster, coming to see me one day, began to talk to me about
the Boundary Commission, and the supreme powers vested in Sir John
Lambert. Suddenly he burst into a chuckling laugh, and I knew that he had
a story to tell me. "I was going up the stairs of the Local Government
office to see Lambert the other day," he said, "and I met ----,"
mentioning the name of the former holder of a subordinate Government
post, "coming down. 'Hullo, Forster!' he cried, 'what in the world are
you doing here?' 'Well, I was just going to call on the most powerful man
in England,' I replied. ---- took off his hat and made me a low bow. 'I
hope you didn't undeceive him,' I said. 'Oh, yes, I did,' replied
Forster. I told him that I didn't mean him, but Sir John Lambert." I
wrung my hands over this fresh illustration of my friend's inability to
set his sails in such a fashion as to catch the approval of others.

It was over this redistribution question that I had the only difference
of opinion I ever had with Forster. He was an ardent supporter of the
single-member constituency, or _scrutin d'arrondissement_, as the
French call it, in opposition to _scrutin de liste_. I, on the other
hand, foresaw that the new system would break up the powerful political
associations in our great towns, and thus destroy a political force which
I believed to be of great value. I fought strenuously in the _Leeds
Mercury_ against what I styled the vivisection of the great boroughs;
but I need not say that I fought in vain. I had many a good-humoured
argument with Forster on the subject, but he would never admit that I was
right, though after twenty years' experience and observation I am only
now strengthened in my original opinion.

Before this time I had aroused Forster's anger--anger which never
hurt--by the action I had taken, in common with some of my Liberal
friends in Leeds, with regard to the School Board election. We found that
the cumulative vote in a large constituency was almost unworkable. It had
resulted in Leeds in the election, at the head of the poll on one
occasion, of a mere demagogue of no account. In order to obviate any
further misfortune of this kind my friend Mathers, the honorary secretary
of the Liberal Association, devised a plan under which the town was
divided by the Liberals into different divisions. To each of these
divisions we allotted certain candidates, and we asked the electors who
sympathised with us to vote only for the candidate allotted to the
division in which they lived. The plan proved a brilliant success, for we
carried all our candidates at that election, and this method of getting
over the difficulties of the cumulative vote was afterwards adopted in
all large towns, including London. Forster was greatly wroth at the time,
and told me that he looked upon the scheme as a dishonest attempt to
evade an Act of Parliament.

Those were the years of the dynamite outrages. Certain desperate Irish
societies, chiefly financed and recruited from the United States, were
seeking to advance the Home Rule cause by terrorising the people of
England. "Holy dynamite," as that powerful explosive was christened, was
the weapon employed, and some very daring outrages were committed in
London and other places. The most notable of these were the simultaneous
attempts to wreck the House of Commons, Westminster Hall, and the Tower
of London. These audacious crimes were committed on a Saturday afternoon.
I spent the whole of the next morning reading and analysing the telegrams
in which full details of the occurrences were given, and in writing an
article for Monday's _Mercury_ on the subject. In the afternoon I
went over to Wakefield to keep an engagement I had made to dine and sleep
at Thorns, the residence of my friends Mr. and Lady Catherine Milnes
Gaskell. I well remember the scene when I entered the beautiful library
at Thorns, about five o'clock. There was a large party there, including
the Duke and Duchess of St. Albans, Mr. and Mrs. Goschen, and Mr. W B.
Beaumont, of Bretton.

When I was announced, Gaskell jumped up from his seat, saying, "Now we
shall have news!" and instantly the whole party flocked round me, eager
to know the truth as to the wild rumour which was all they had as yet
heard of the devastation wrought by the dynamiters in London on the
previous day. My morning's work had, of course, qualified me to satisfy
their curiosity, but the questions they poured in upon me were so
numerous and so eager that I was at last obliged to ask them to sit down,
and let me tell the story in my own fashion, which I accordingly
proceeded to do amid the breathless attention of my auditors. The scene
is worth recording as a characteristic incident of life in England in
those days. We had an enemy, subtle, daring, and dangerous, actually
waging war upon us within our own gates; and though the invincible
courage of our race enabled us to pursue our own way in spite of the new
terror that had arisen amongst us, we were none of us, as this scene in
the library at Thorns proved, insensible to the horror of the situation,
and the deadly character of the weapons used against us.

At this time all the leading members of the Liberal Government were under
police protection, and Forster, as being the special object of Irish
animosity, was also treated in this respect as though he were still a
Minister. Some Ministers, it was asserted, not only enjoyed, but desired,
the constant companionship of armed detectives, and amusing stories were
told of the way in which they arrived at Mayfair dinner-parties
accompanied by "stern-faced men" with revolvers in their pockets. I shall
not repeat these stories, for I cannot bring myself to believe that any
English statesman has been the victim of physical cowardice. Others,
among whom Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Forster were conspicuous, loathed the
presence of the police agents dogging their footsteps, and keeping watch
at their doors, and tried in every possible way to evade them. Mr.
Gladstone, with the collar of his overcoat turned up to his ears, used
suddenly to dash out of the garden door at the back of Downing Street,
and attempt, by running across the parade at full speed, to get rid of
his bodyguard. Occasionally he succeeded, but I am told that as a
consequence he had so severe a wigging from the Home Secretary and the
Chief Commissioner of Police that he was at last compelled to abandon his
efforts to secure his unfettered liberty of action. Forster managed to
obtain exemption from the obtrusive services of a bodyguard, but a
policeman kept watch and ward by day and night in front of his house in
Eccleston Square, not only to his disgust, but to that of one of his
neighbours, who quitted his abode rather than continue to live near so
dangerous a character. "I often wonder," said Forster to me one day,
"what I shall do if I find an infernal machine on my doorstep when I come
home some night. I know what it is my duty to do. I ought to take it up,
and throw it into the middle of the square, but I am terribly afraid that
I shan't have the pluck, and shall simply turn round and run away."
Nobody who knew Forster could believe that he would ever have acted in
any such fashion.

I had my own small experience at this time of trial. Threatening letters
were flying about, and I received a fair share of them, for I was at that
time very obnoxious to the Irish party in Leeds. One evening, on going
down to my office, which I entered from a narrow thoroughfare called Bank
Street, I was startled by being suddenly called upon to halt when near
the office door, whilst a policeman's lantern was flashed in my face. One
of our workmen explained my identity to the officer, and I was allowed to
pass. I then learned that the Leeds police had received information of a
plot to blow up the _Mercury_ office, and they had, accordingly,
posted guards round the building. I was in the habit of driving home
every night, or rather every morning, to my residence at Headingley, and
the police suggested that I should be accompanied by an officer; but I
did not believe in my danger, and desired no such protection. In the
depths of one winter's night, when a thaw was dissolving a heavy fall of
snow, I had a great fright. I had left my cab, which had driven away, and
was mounting the steps leading to the porch of my house, when I suddenly
saw, lying on the half-melted snow against the door itself, a large
bundle wrapped in sacking. I drew near it cautiously, and heard a curious
ticking sound proceeding from it. "An infernal machine!" I exclaimed to
myself, and I confess I was horribly frightened. The outer door of the
porch was unlocked, and, opening it, I bounded inside, carefully avoiding
the object which I suspected. I unlocked the inner door, and, entering
the house, locked and barred it behind me.

Then, when I got into my dining-room, reason asserted itself, and I felt
heartily ashamed of my panic. If the thing were an infernal machine, it
would certainly do a great deal of damage if it exploded where it lay. I
strung my nerves up to the sticking-point, went out, unlocked the door,
seized the mysterious package in my hands, and flung it as far as I could
into a little shrubbery in the garden. There was no explosion such as I
had expected. Nothing, indeed, happened; but when I got back to my
dining-room, and saw my face in a mirror, I found it was as white as a
sheet. The next morning I went out to look for the infernal machine. It
was a coarse sack, filled with blocks of wood and sawdust, and I have a
strong suspicion that it had been placed where I found it as a practical
joke. The ticking which I had heard, and which had convinced me that I
had to deal with an infernal machine, was evidently produced by the drip,
drip of water from the bag on the step beneath it. Such were features in
the lives of men more or less before the public eye in the years of the
dynamite terror.

In the summer of 1885, along with many others, I met with a great loss.
This was the death at Vichy of my dear old friend, Lord Houghton. No
kinder friend than he man ever had. The world was inclined to laugh at
his peculiarities, which lay upon the surface, and to ignore the sterling
qualities that formed the basis of his character. If it is right to speak
of a man as you find him, then I am entitled to say that there never
lived a kinder or more generous man, or a truer friend, than Monckton
Milnes. To me he was all this. I have told already the story of our first
acquaintance in 1870, and of the debt which I very soon owed him. I could
fill a volume with reminiscences of his talk, as I used to hear it during
my frequent visits to Fryston, and of the warmth of his sympathy with one
who had no claim upon him. I have made many friends in the course of my
life, and looking back upon the list I am constrained to say that I have
made more friends through the mediumship of Lord Houghton than through
that of any other man.

Among those whom I first met at his house, I must not omit Edward,
fourteenth Earl of Derby, better known in his time as the Lord Stanley
who served as Foreign Secretary under the premiership of his brilliant
father, the thirteenth Earl. Lord Derby--the man of whom I speak--was one
of the great misunderstood figures of his generation. Men slandered him
as freely as they slandered Mr. Gladstone, and, unlike the great Liberal
leader, he did not possess that strong following of ardent adherents who
stood by their chief, no matter how sternly Fortune might frown upon him.
Lord Derby was one of the shyest of men, and, as a consequence, he was
really known, even when he was in the thick of his political work, by
only a few men and women. Those who did know him held him, however, in
the highest esteem. There was no better judge of character than Lord
Houghton, and often he would remark upon the fact that Lord Derby was
almost as unpopular as his father had been the reverse. He cited this as
a proof of the incapacity of the public for forming correct estimates of
character. I had been in confidential correspondence with Lord Derby long
before I first met him at Fryston, and in 1879 I wrote an article in
_Macmillan's Magazine_ dealing with his career at the Foreign
Office, and with his reason for resigning his post in Lord Beaconsfield's
Administration. This article was written on information which he
supplied, and he himself corrected the proof-sheets. Yet these facts did
not prevent some of the cocksure critics of the Press from announcing
that I was wholly mistaken in my account of Lord Derby's action and
motive. I have found, however, that nothing is so certain to meet with an
absolute contradiction in the Press as an indubitable fact which comes as
a piece of unexpected news to the ordinary journalist.

When I met Lord Derby under Lord Houghton's roof he was far too shy to
make any reference to our previous correspondence, yet when the first
painful embarrassment had passed away, he proved a delightful companion,
and his conversation was full of the charm derived from ample knowledge
and marked intellectual power. No man was simpler than he in his
intercourse with those whom he trusted. It was difficult when talking to
him to realise the fact that you were speaking to one who had held the
great office of Foreign Secretary. Instead of laying down the law upon
foreign affairs he seemed anxious to elicit the opinions of other
persons, and he displayed a modest simplicity of manner which was very
striking. He has been described as the incarnation of common-sense, and
the general public believed him to be as full of facts and as dry as a
Blue Book. In reality he had a decided love of humour, and his
conversation, which was illustrated by many good stories, had all the
light and shade, the warmth and colour, that good talk ought to possess.
He was amazingly frank in his criticisms upon men and upon current
affairs.

The outer world believed him to be the most cautious and prudent of men,
weighing every word before he uttered it, and never making a rash remark,
whereas he was very much the reverse. I have, for example, heard him
discuss the characters of European statesmen with an unreserved freedom
that was startling. He was fond, too, of passing criticisms upon great
political questions that staggered one by their boldness. I think it was
in 1883 that he told me that, in his opinion, there was no future for the
Tory party. Conservatism as a force was played out, and the destinies of
the country must henceforth be controlled by Liberals. I am trying to
give a slight sketch of the man as he really was, and not as he was
believed to be by the contemporary public. If he was neither so wise nor
so cautious as men thought him, he was infinitely more charming and more
human, and all who really knew him mourned his death as a personal loss.
When I first met him he was in a state of political transition. Although
he had made up his mind to sever his connection with the Conservatives,
he had taken no open steps in the direction of the other camp. The first
time he ever entered a Liberal club, and made a political speech in it,
was when I got him to go to the Leeds Liberal Club to receive an address
from the members. He is one of the most distinguished of the figures I
associate with Fryston and its gifted owner.

The very last time that I dined with Lord Houghton I had an amusing
experience. It was in the late autumn of 1884. Houghton had just met with
a rather severe and painful accident. He had been staying at the Durdans
with Lord Rosebery, and during the night had fallen out of bed,
fracturing his collar-bone. His own account of the accident was that he
had dreamt that Mr. Gladstone was pursuing him in a hansom cab, and in
trying to escape he had tumbled off the bed. Although in great pain, he
made light, according to his wont, of his injuries, and positively went
down to Yorkshire the day after the accident in order to attend a meeting
of Quarter Sessions. It was only on his return to town, where he was
staying with his sister, the Dowager Viscountess Galway, that he
consulted a doctor, who found that the collar-bone was fractured, and at
once ordered him complete rest. Complete rest was something for which
Houghton was not by nature fitted. I went to call on him whilst he was
laid up, and he immediately begged me to arrange a little dinner party
for his amusement while he was invalided.

The person he was most anxious to secure as a guest was James Payn, and I
promised to do what I could to get Payn to dine. But there were
difficulties in the way. Payn disliked dining out at any time, and he
had, as I have already mentioned, a rooted aversion to evening dress,
which, he declared, killed more men than drink. Besides, when he did dine
out, he wished to smoke as soon as he had finished eating, and for this
reason he objected to dinner parties at which ladies were present. All
this I explained to Houghton. "Not wear evening dress? Well, you and he
can come in frock-coats. I shall be in a dressing-gown." "And the
cigars?" I said. "Oh, well, of course he can smoke if he wishes." "And
ladies?" I continued. "That's awkward," said the dear old gentleman, "for
this is my sister's house. She must be here. But don't tell him, and then
perhaps he'll come." My negotiations with Payn were successful, and on
the appointed evening, a Sunday, he and I set forth in a hansom for
Rutland Gardens. I remember that on the way Payn, who was in
exceptionally high spirits, informed me of the engagement of his daughter
Alice to Mr. Buckle, the young editor of the _Times_.

It was a very small party at Lady Galway's, the only other guest being
Sir Frederick Pollock; but the talk was certainly as good as any I had
ever listened to. When Lady Galway left the room, I reminded our host of
the condition with regard to cigars, for Payn, I saw, was already
impatient. Lord Houghton suggested a cigarette, which would by no means
have met the views of Payn. Happily I had my cigar-case with me, and this
part of the dinner treaty was carried out in its entirety. I still
remember the stories of that delightful evening. They were many and
striking. Both Payn and Lord Houghton were at their best, and Sir
Frederick Pollock, when the opportunity occurred, gave us pleasant
recollections of the past. I was only too glad to be a listener. We sat
long over our cigars, and it was not until the evening was far advanced
that we rejoined Lady Galway. "Now," said she, when we appeared in the
drawing-room, "you have been laughing ever since I left you, but there
were three distinct bursts of laughter that were louder than any others,
and I insist upon being told the stories which you seemed to enjoy so
much." We looked at each other in some dismay, knowing full well the
difficulty of re-warming cold dishes so as to make them appetising. But
Lord Houghton came to the rescue. "My dear." he said, "it is quite
impossible that you should be told those stories. They were not stories
for ladies." The recording angel, I am sure, blotted out our host's
departure from the truth for the sake of the motive which led him to
spare Payn the burden of repeating his stories.

I have dwelt upon this dinner because, though I little knew it then, it
was my last meeting with my dear and generous friend. Curiously enough,
Lord Houghton's last words to me when I left him at night had reference
to a lady with whom we both had a slight acquaintance. When I next saw
that lady, the open grave in which Lord Houghton's coffin had just been
placed yawned between us. Of that memorable dinner party in December,
1884, I, alas! am the only survivor. I corresponded with Houghton during
the following spring and summer, but was unable to meet him on any of the
occasions on which he asked me to do so, and whilst the summer was still
at its height he died at Vichy. Like many another man, I felt that in him
I had lost almost the best of my friends.

At the beginning of 1884 I visited Tangier, and spent a month in that
curious place, so near to Europe in point of distance and so remote from
it in all other respects. Tangier had at one time a reputation as the
Alsatia of Europe and the United States. I do not know whether it still
deserves this fame, but when I was there there were not a few sojourners
in the place who, for reasons of their own, had abandoned civilisation in
favour of a country in which law is but a term. On my way from Gibraltar
to Tangier I met with an unpleasant experience. The steamer which was to
convey me was a miserable rickety boat, called, if I remember aright, the
_Lion d'Or_. It was not so big as a Thames penny steamer, was filthy
in the extreme, and overloaded with goods which a number of Arab
merchants were taking back from Europe to Morocco. There were three other
European passengers besides myself, two of them being ladies. A stiff
Levanter was blowing when we started, and the trip, which should have
been accomplished in three hours, took eight. I have been out in worse
weather, but never in a worse vessel, and more than once in that eight
hours' struggle with wind and waves my fellow-passengers and I really
believed that our end had come. The captain set a sail, hoping to steady
the rolling craft, and it was instantly ripped into shreds by the wind.
We shipped heavy seas, and were undoubtedly very near foundering.

Most fortunately, I and the other Englishman on board, a young artist who
is now a full-fledged R.A., had taken the precaution to provide ourselves
with food, and it was well that the provision was a liberal one, for the
two poor ladies, one of whom was a young invalid, had not so much as a
biscuit between them. Of course we shared our rations, and were thus
saved from hunger during our day of peril. It was dark when we entered
Tangier Bay, but all round us was a sea of foaming breakers. A huge
flat-bottomed barge was with great difficulty brought out to the side of
the steamer, and we were bidden to jump into it at once. At the risk of
broken limbs or necks, we succeeded in reaching it, and then, to my
dismay, I saw the steamer, with all my baggage on board, moving off, the
captain having found that it was too dangerous to remain at anchor in the
bay. When we were half-way to the shore the barge suddenly filled with
water and sank beneath us, fortunately in so shallow a sea that there was
no danger of drowning. My walking-stick, which was a very necessary
adjunct, as I still suffered from my accident on Marston Moor, was washed
out of my hands, but brawny Arabs seized me and my fellow-passengers, and
we were borne safely through the surf to the beach, where we arrived,
dazed, breathless, and drenched to the skin.

My travelling experiences in Tunis and Turkey had prepared me for the
rush which was made upon us by all the loafers of the place, shrieking in
Arabic, and eagerly claiming us as their spoil. But the ladies had never
been out of England before, and were naturally terrified by the wild
scene, following as it did upon their narrow escape from drowning. They
were going to an hotel in the town, and I escorted them to it. Then I set
out on my walk to Bruzeaud's Hotel, beyond the city gates and the Soko. I
was in a sorry plight when I arrived there, but nothing could exceed the
kindness of my reception, not only by the host, but by the Englishmen in
the house. They placed their wardrobes at my disposal, and did everything
they could to make me comfortable. My lost luggage did not turn up for
nearly a week, but happily I had my money and my letters of introduction
in my pocket. On the morning after my arrival I called upon the ladies
who had shared my experiences on the previous day, and found, happily,
that they had not suffered from the shock. I never saw them again; but
ten years afterwards, when I was sitting in my room in London, a
gentleman who had called upon business was brought to see me. To my great
surprise he burst into tears as he took my hand. When he had recovered
his composure he explained that he was the father of the younger of the
two ladies, and he thanked me, in what I could not but think
unnecessarily warm terms, for the trifling service I had rendered to his
daughter. His emotion was explained by the fact that she had but recently
died.

Among the company at Bruzeaud's Hotel there was a certain Captain W., a
retired naval officer, who was something of a character. He had lived
long in Morocco, had the highest opinion of its enormous natural wealth,
and was longing for the day when England, or some other European Power,
would seize and develop it. He had many original theories. He believed,
for example, that Gibraltar was a source of weakness rather than of
strength to the British Empire, and he had written a pamphlet in support
of a proposal that we should exchange it with Spain for Ceuta. I must
confess that his idea seemed to me to be a sound one. But Gibraltar looks
so grand, and makes so strong an appeal to our national pride, that no
English Minister would dare to talk of surrendering it, no matter what he
might be offered in exchange. All the same, I do not think that Captain
W. was altogether wrong when he spoke of the Rock as a "magnificent
impostor."

One day there came to our hotel a typical representative of "Padgett,
M.P." He was a member of the House of Commons who, having a couple of
days to spare at Gibraltar, had run across the Straits to learn all about
Morocco in the space of four-and-twenty hours. In the smoking-room after
dinner he aired his opinions with all the confidence begotten of his
Parliamentary dignity. He denounced the French, who knew nothing, he
declared, about colonisation, and whose government of Algeria was a
disgraceful failure. He lauded the noble character of the Arabs, and
declared that Morocco needed no improvement, and, consequently, called
for no interference on the part of any European Power. Captain W., who
had very strong opinions as to the corruption of the Moorish Government,
listened for some time in silence to opinions which were eminently
distasteful to him. But at last his patience gave way, and he addressed
the astonished M.P. in the following words: "You think you know
everything about Morocco, sir, although you only landed on its soil this
morning. There is one thing, however, that you evidently don't know, and
that is, that if I chose to spend a couple of dollars I could have your
throat cut before to-morrow morning; and you've talked such nonsense,
sir, that I don't know whether that wouldn't be the best thing for me to
do." I never saw a Padgett, M.P., collapse more completely than did this
unfortunate specimen of the race under a retort which, however wanting in
urbanity, was not without very considerable provocation.

In the early summer of 1885 I ventured, for the first time during my
editorship at Leeds, to take a holiday whilst Parliament was sitting. It
had always previously been my rule never to leave my post during the
session of Parliament, but in 1885 everything seemed to be in a state of
profound calm, so far as the political world was concerned. General
Gordon was dead, but the Ministry had survived his loss. It had even
survived the ignominious collapse of the attempt to "break the power of
the Mahdi at Khartoum" which it had professed to make. One knew that
bitter intrigues were in progress behind the scenes. But now that Mr.
Forster was off the scene Mr. Chamberlain seemed bent upon trying
conclusions with Mr. Gladstone himself, and was preaching those doctrines
of an extreme and Socialistic Radicalism which the Conservatives frankly
denounced as being based on the policy of Jack Cade. But time was needed
for the successful development of the new political movement, and
meanwhile public affairs seemed to be running in a very humdrum course. I
thought it, in consequence, a favourable opportunity for carrying out a
long-cherished intention of visiting the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Accordingly, at the beginning of June I went over to Bergen in a Wilson
steamer from Hull. The vessel was crowded with salmon-fishers and their
wives, going to Norway for the summer fishing. I was much amused by the
extreme clannishness of these persons. They absolutely refused to
exchange a word with anybody who was not going to Norway for purposes of
sport. Those of us who, like myself, were going there either for health
or to see the country were regarded by the salmon-fishing people as
intruders, whose presence on the scene was to be actively and rudely
resented. I have travelled much in my time, and have had only too many
opportunities of observing the ridiculous and offensive behaviour of the
English snob when he finds himself in foreign parts; but I do not think
that I ever saw snobbish vulgarity carried further than it was by the
salmon-fishers on this Wilson steamer in the summer of 1885.

For my part, I had no greater desire for their company than they had for
mine, and when I reached Bergen, I speedily transhipped myself to a
native cargo-boat that was announced as being about to start for the
first visit of the season to the North Cape. The accommodation on board
the vessel, though somewhat homely, was comfortable. I had a good cabin,
and soon made friends with the officers. No other Englishman was on
board. We steamed slowly up the coast as far as Trondhjem, and I had
ample opportunities of admiring the fine scenery, as our vessel touched
at almost every small port upon the way. After resting a day at
Trondhjem, we resumed our journey for the North Cape. The passengers were
chiefly Norwegians, most of whom were bound for the Lofoten Islands,
where the great annual fair was about to be held. In the saloon my
companions from Trondhjem were two young Frenchmen, bent, like myself,
upon visiting the North Cape, and an Austrian, attached to the Court at
Vienna, who, for some inscrutable reason, was fired with the same
ambition. We made a very cheery company, and I was able to cast off all
editorial cares in the society of these people, to whom English politics
were of no account. The weather, after leaving Trondhjem, was for some
days positively frightful. It was the month of June, but it rained
incessantly, except when it snowed. It was bitterly cold, and heavy mists
prevented our seeing anything.

The Austrian and I bore the discomforts of the situation as
philosophically as we could. We smoked always, and we read and played
bezique alternately, but our mercurial French friends were less happy,
and on the third day of this detestable weather, on entering the little
smoking-room on deck, I discovered them both sitting in tears, and
bewailing the fact that they were not at home with their mothers. I
laughed so much at their distress that a coolness sprang up between us
which lasted for several days.

Once, indeed, as I find noted in my memorandum-book, the young Frenchmen
revived. It was at one of the stations at which we called. We saw a large
group of people, including several young women, gathered in front of a
building that looked half-church, half-schoolhouse. The Parisians
insisted that they had assembled in our honour; for, as a matter of fact,
they looked upon themselves as being engaged in a desperate and most
heroic enterprise. Accordingly, as we approached the wharf, they brought
out their pocket handkerchiefs, and, waving them wildly, uttered loud
shouts of greeting. To their great chagrin, not the slightest notice was
taken of them. They redoubled their efforts to attract attention, but
neither man nor woman moved a head. Then one of the officers came along,
and drily informed the Frenchmen that the object of their demonstrations
was a funeral party!

I had many other amusing experiences during this little trip, and feel
strongly tempted to inflict upon my readers some extracts from the diary
which I kept during the voyage. But nowadays everybody has been to the
North Cape, and we have all seen the midnight sun. I think I saw it, and
the wonderful scenery of the Lofoten Islands, in my little Norwegian
cargo-boat, under far more favourable auspices than my successors who
have travelled in great tourist steamers, surrounded by all the luxuries
that are now supplied to the passengers on the large Atlantic and
Mediterranean liners. Certainly, one saw something of the people, as well
as of the country, when travelling in this modest fashion; and I still
have the most pleasant recollection of these friendly Norwegians and of
the glorious fiords and mountains of the Far North. But that which
entitles this trip of mine to a special place in these reminiscences of a
journalist is the fact that it cut me off from all connection with
affairs in England at the very moment when those affairs became
unexpectedly interesting.

I had left Hull on the 2nd of June, and after parting from my chance
companions of the _Eldorado_, had not seen a single Englishman, or
heard a scrap of English news, until I found myself at Tromsoe, within
the Arctic circle, on June 17th. The captain of my vessel, knowing that I
wanted to hear what was going on at home, drew my attention to the fact
that a steam collier from Leith had just arrived in Tromsoe Harbour, and
suggested that I should go on board and get the latest newspapers.
Accordingly, I went off in one of the ship's boats to the grimy collier.
It was eleven p.m., but the sun was shining brilliantly. For some time I
hailed the vessel in vain, but at last a black-faced man who was
manifestly one of the officers thrust his head through a port and asked
what I wanted. I told him that I had come to see if he had any newspapers
from home. "I will go and see," he said, in a strong Glasgow dialect, and
presently he returned with a copy of the _Glasgow Mail_ of June 3rd,
and threw it down to me. I was disappointed that he had nothing of a
later date, and after thanking him for his kindness was returning to my
own steamer, when a sudden thought occurred to me, and I said, "Have you
heard any news later than this?" holding up the newspaper. He considered
for a moment, then shook his head reflectively, and said, "Na, I've heard
naething later." So again I started on my way to the ship. I had not gone
more than a yard or two when I heard him calling to me loudly. Once more
I put back. "I forgot to tell ye that they've kicked oot that blasted
auld deevil, Gladstone." "What!" I exclaimed, in incredulous horror.
"Kicked out Mr. Gladstone! What do you mean?" "I mean that they've kicked
him oot of office, and a d----d good job, too."

I fairly gasped for breath as I heard the astonishing news. Here was I,
the editor of an English daily newspaper, away up in the Arctic circle,
separated by days of travel from newspapers or means of getting news, and
I suddenly heard this startling piece of intelligence. I could not credit
it, and eagerly asked for further particulars. But the old tar could tell
me nothing more. He could only persist in affirming and reaffirming his
conviction that Mr. Gladstone's loss of office was the best thing that
could have happened to the country. And this was the end of the great
Ministry of 1880, for the formation of which I had worked so hard, and
which I had so constantly and ardently supported with my pen! I went back
to the _Kong Halfdan_ much excited, and rushing to the captain told
him that I must go back to England at once. He heard my news and
sympathised with my dilemma, but assured me that the earliest mode of
returning to Trondhjem would be by sticking to his ship. I went ashore,
and made further inquiries, only to have the captain's statement
confirmed; so, willy-nilly, I had to go on to the North Cape, bitterly
conscious of the fact that I ought to have been at my post at Leeds. But
a man in a hurry is always the victim of circumstances, and there was
nothing for it but to possess my soul in patience. How eagerly I looked
for further news! It was not, however, until several days later that, on
returning to Tromsoe, I found a mail-steamer going north, and saw an
unmistakable Englishman on the deck, whom I immediately accosted with a
request for information. All he could tell me was that Mr. Gladstone had
resigned on the 12th of June, and that Lord Salisbury on the next day had
been hastily summoned by the Queen to Balmoral and had accepted office.
From Trondhjem I made hot haste by rail to Christiania, and taking the
first steamer for Hull, which to me seemed to make haste slowly, returned
to my own country to face the unexpected fact that a great political
revolution had suddenly occurred, and that the Tories were once more in
power.



INDEX.

A

Addison Road North,
  Author's residence in.
Adullamites.
Albrecht, Archduke,
  Author's visit to estate of.
American Civil War,
  Conclusion of.
Armstrong, Lord,
  as a solicitor at Newcastle-upon-Tyne;
  as president of British Association.
Arundel Club in 1868.
Aurora Borealis in 1870.
Ayrton, Mr.,
  Attack of, on Queen Victoria.

B

Baines, Edward,
  founder of _Leeds Mercury_.
Baines, Frederick.
Baines, Matthew Talbot, M.P.
Baines, Sir Edward,
  at battle of Peterloo;
  M.P. for Leeds;
  Knighted;
  visits author in Reporters' Gallery;
  and loss of ship _Captain_;
  defeated as Parliamentary candidate at Leeds;
  and Leeds Caucus.
Baines, Thomas Blackburn,
  resigns editorship of _Leeds Mercury_.
Baring, Walter,
  and Bulgarian atrocities of 1876.
Barran, Sir John.
Barrett, Fenian,
  Execution of;
Bathgate, Rev. William, D.D.,
  author's brother-in-law, Death of.
Baxter, W. E.,
  as Secretary to Admiralty.
Beaconsfield, Lord,
  (_see_ Disraeli, Benjamin).
Berlin Congress in 1878.
Berry, Miss Louisa.
Bertram, Mr., Death of.
Berwick-upon-Tweed Station in 1850.
Birmingham Caucus, Formation of,
  (_see also_ Caucus).
Black, John, journalist.
Black, William,
  joins staff of _Leeds Mercury_;
  his loyalty to friends;
  his house in Camberwell Road;
  stories about his books;
  his sympathy with art;
  at Century Club;
  his chivalrous character;
  on sad endings of novels;
  his first visit to Leeds;
  his failure as a speaker.
Boundary Commission for electoral divisions.
Bow Street Police Court in 1867.
Bradfield,
  Bursting of reservoir dam at.
Bradford Caucus and W. E. Forster.
Brett, Police-sergeant,
  Murder of.
"Briefs and Papers,".
Bright, John,
  at Blackburn in 1865;
  at reform demonstrations in 1866;
  his last reform speech in 1866;
  champions Queen Victoria;
  and Cave of Adullam;
  appeals for life of Barrett, the Fenian.
British Association at Newcastle (1863).
Broadley, Mr. A. M.,
  at Tunis.
Brofft's Hotel, Bucharest.
Brontë, Charlotte,
  Mrs. Gaskell's Life of;
  author's monograph on;
  her attractiveness;
  (_see also_ Haworth).
Brontë, Emily, Author's lecture on.
Brontë literature, Author's contributions to.
Bruce, Dr. Collingwood.
Bruce's Licensing Bill, Introduction of.
Buccleuch, Duke of, and Disraeli.
Bucharest in 1878,
  extortionate charges at.
Bulgarian atrocities of 1876,
  Excitement caused by;
  their effect upon our domestic politics.
Burdett-Coutts, Baroness, and reform demonstrators.
Burke, T.H., Assassination of, in Phoenix Park.
Burke and Casey, Fenian prisoners.

C

"Cabinet Portraits," Author's.
_Captain_, Loss of the.
Casey and Burke, Fenian prisoners.
Carey, James, informer.
Carlton Club, Overlooked meeting at.
Carlyle at Fryston,
  his remark to Monckton Milnes on pension for Tennyson.
Carter, Mr., M.P. for Leeds.
Cattle plague in 1865.
Caucus, Plan of Liberal,
  its effect upon Liberalism;
  (_see also_ Birmingham and Bradford).
"Cave of Adullam," _Morning Star_ and.
Cavendish, Lord Frederick, Assassination of.
Central Liberal Association, Plan of.
Century Club,
  author nearly poisoned at.
Chamberlain, Mr. Austen,
  Mr. Gladstone's reference to speech of.
Chamberlain, the Right Hon. Joseph,
  affected by Mr. Gladstone's reference to his son;
  defeated Parliamentary candidate at Sheffield;
  his dislike of W.E. Forster;
  ruling spirit of Caucus;
  and W.E. Forster;
  his brothers blackballed at Reform Club;
  resigns membership of Reform Club;
  intrigues of;
  his Socialistic Radicalism.
_Chambers's Journal_,
  Author's contributions to.
Chester, Fenians at (1866).
Cholera at Newcastle.
Clerkenwell House of Detention,
  Fenian outrage at.
Club Life in London in 1868.
Coles, Captain Cowper, Death of.
Commons, House of,
  Author's first visit to;
  its Parliamentary reporters in 1867;
  autumn session of 1867;
  gladiatorial combats of Disraeli and Gladstone in 1868;
  dynamite outrage at;
  (_see also_ Parliament).
Congress at Berlin in 1878.
Constituencies,
  Creation of single-member;
  cumulative vote in large.
Conversation Club at Leeds.
Cooke, Mr. W.H.
Cotton famine in 1864.
Coulson, miner, Heroism of.
Cowen, Joseph, Reminiscences of,
  and Mr. Stead.
Cross, Miss Emily, actress.
Cumulative vote in large School Board constituencies.

D

_Daily News_ and Bulgarian atrocities of 1876.
Danube, Journey down (1878).
Davis, Mr. E.D., actor.
Derby, Earl of (13th), on Irish Church.
Derby, Earl of (14th), Memories of.
Devonshire Club.
Dickens, Charles,
  at Newcastle;
  author's leader on death of.
Disraeli, Benjamin,
  affected by Mr. Gladstone's allusion to illness of Mrs. Disraeli;
  on Irish Church in 1868;
  his contemptuous treatment of an assailant;
  Tory dislike of him in 1868;
  author's personal encounter with;
  and Bulgarian atrocities of 1876;
  his triumph in 1878;
  his power of playing to the gallery;
  at Berlin Congress.
Donald, Robert, journalist.
Dynamite outrages.

E

Education Act, Passing of.
Edwards, Mr., Parliamentary reporter.
Elections, General (_see_ General Elections).
Elton, Mr. Charles.
Executions,
  Memories of public;
  of Barrett, the Fenian.
Exhibition of 1862, Opening of.

F

Fawcett, Henry, at Century Club.
Fenians,
  Execution of Barrett;
  at Chester in 1866;
  outrage at Clerkenwell House of Detention;
  at Manchester.
Flogging of garrotters.
Forster, Mrs. W. E.
Forster, Sir Charles.
Forster, W. E.,
  Description of;
  on Lord Houghton;
  Radical hostility against;
  suggested as Liberal leader;
  his struggles with Bradford Caucus;
  on Mr. Stead;
  and Mr. Joseph Chamberlain;
  is defended by _Leeds Mercury_;
  his resignation of office in 1882;
  on assassination of Lord Frederick Cavendish;
  author at residence of;
  pioneer of Liberal Imperialism;
  his political courage;
  home life;
  plots against his life;
  his speech at Bradford;
  and fate of General Gordon;
  attends Household Suffrage demonstration at Leeds;
  and Boundary Commission;
  under police protection;
  and Lord Hartington;
  founder of the Imperial Federation League;
  meets with an accident.
Fothergill, Mr., clerk in the W.B. Lead office.
Franchise Bill of 1884.
Franco-German war, Recollections of.
Fryston, Lord Houghton's seat, Author at.

G

Galway, Lady, Dinner party given by.
Gambetta, M.,
  his oration in 1877;
  funeral of.
Garrotters, Flogging of.
Gaskell's, Mrs., Life of Charlotte Brontë.
General Election of 1868,
  of 1874;
  of 1880.
Germany, Commercial enterprise of.
Gladstone, Mr. Herbert, elected for Leeds.
Gladstone, Mr. Robertson, at Preston.
Gladstone, Mrs., and author.
Gladstone, W. E.,
  at Newcastle in 1862;
  appearance of;
  at Manchester in 1865;
  his courtesy in debate;
  his attacks on Disraeli in 1868;
  his Parliamentary colleagues in 1868;
  and dissolution of Parliament in 1874;
  resigns leadership of Liberal party;
  intrigues against;
  on Bulgarian atrocities of 1876;
  unpopular with his party in 1879;
  decides to contest Midlothian;
  people's admiration for (1880);
  his election at Leeds;
  elected for Midlothian;
  at Leeds in 1881;
  his sympathy with social outcasts;
  and death of General Gordon;
  denies compromise with Lord Salisbury on Household Suffrage Bill;
  under police protection;
  his resignation in 1885.
"Gladys Fane," author's novel.
_Glasgow Herald_, Author's overtures to.
Golf, past and present.
Gordon, General, W. E. Forster on fate of
Granger, Richard, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Grant-Duff, Mr. (afterwards Sir) Mountstuart, attacks Disraeli.
Granville, Lord, at Exhibition of 1862,
  his relations with Mr. Gladstone.
Great Exhibition of 1862, Opening of.
Greig, Mr., tours with author.
Grove, Sir George, editor of _Macmillan's Magazine_.

H

Harcourt, Sir William,
  his futile attack on Mr. Gladstone in 1878.
  receives news of assassination of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke.
Harte, Bret,
  visits Haworth.
Hartington, Marquis of,
  elected leader of Liberal party;
  and W.E. Forster;
  sympathy with him on night of Phoenix Park murders.
Hartley New Pit, Disaster at.
Haworth, Author's visit to,
  Bret Harte's visit to.
Héger, M., Influence over Charlotte Brontë of.
Houghton, Lord,
  Geniality of;
  author's indebtedness to;
  on Lord Rosebery;
  on Mr. Gladstone;
  as poet;
  as host;
  his tolerance in matters of faith;
  death of;
  last occasion on which author dined with him.
Household Suffrage Bill (1867), Passing of.
Household Suffrage Bill (1884), Passing of.
Household Suffrage demonstration at Leeds.
Household Suffrage Parliament, Opening of (1868).
House of Commons (_see_ Commons, House of).
House of Lords (_see_ Lords, House of).
Hungary in 1878.
Hunter, Mr. Colin, A.R.A.
Hyde Park in 1862.

I

Imperial Federation League, Foundation of.
Innes, Mr., Exhortation to author by.
Invincibles, Plots of the Irish.
Irish Church Bill, Debates on.

J

Jackson, Mr. W.L., elected M.P. for Leeds.
Jeffcock,--, engineer, Heroism of.
Joicey, Sir James.
Journalism of the 'sixties; birth of the New.
Journalism, Provincial, in 1870.

K

Kingsley, Charles,
  his reply to author's request for books.
Kitson, Sir James.
Kossuth, Louis, Visit of, to Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
"Kroumirs" in Algeria.

L

Labouchere, Mr. Henry, as war correspondent.
Lambert, Sir John, Chairman of Boundary Commission.
Lancashire cotton famine in 1864.
"Land of the Bey," Author's.
Leech, John, Verisimilitude of street scenes of.
Leeds: Characteristics of its inhabitants,
  parliamentary election in 1874;
  its Caucus meeting;
  parliamentary election of 1880;
  author's influence in its Liberal Association;
  Mr. Gladstone's candidature for;
  its Conversation Club;
  Mr. Herbert Gladstone elected for;
  W.E. Gladstone at (1881);
  its Household Suffrage demonstration.
Leeds Liberal Association and W.E. Forster.
_Leeds Mercury_,
  Author joins staff of;
  author's duties on;
  and Sunday labour;
  its file;
  its history;
  its influence under Baines family;
  its exclusion of betting and theatrical news;
  author accepts editorship of;
  inaugurating a new era;
  on loss of _Captain_;
  supports educational policy of Forster;
  brought into line with London dailies;
  publishes early news of dissolution of Parliament in 1874;
  proposes candidature of Mr. Gladstone for Leeds;
  defends W.E. Forster;
  attempt to crush it;
  its office under police protection.
Levy, Mr., owner of _Daily Telegraph_.
Liberal Imperialist, W.E. Forster the first.
Liberal Party,
  Its defeat in 1874;
  resignation of leadership by Mr. Gladstone;
  suggested leaders of;
  Lord Hartington leads;
  effect of Caucus upon;
  Caucus control of;
  between 1874-80;
  disruption of old.
Licensing system, Permissive Bill and.
Lincoln, Abraham,
  Effect of death of;
  author meets his granddaughter.
_Lion d'Or_, Author on board of.
London, Author's first visit to,
  its streets in 1862;
  its suburbs in 1867;
  its club life in 1868.
Longley, Archbishop,
  replies to author's request for books.
Lords, House of: Reporters in,
  debates on Disestablishment of Irish Church.
Lowes, Mr., shorthand writer,
  appointed editor of _Newcastle Journal_.
"Lumley Entail," author's novel.

M

Macdonell, James, journalist.
_Macmillan's Magazine_,
  Author's contributions to.
Madras College, St. Andrews, Author at.
Magee, Bishop,
  on Irish Church Disestablishment Bill.
Manchester, Fenian outrage at.
_Manchester Examiner_,
  Author's overtures to.
_Manchester Guardian_,
  Spirited management of.
Manson, Mr., editor of _Northern Daily Express_.
Marshall, Mr., proprietor of _Northern Daily Express_.
Marston Moor,
  Author visits battlefield of.
Mathers, Mr., secretary of Leeds Liberal Association.
Mazzini, Giuseppe,
  Visit of, to Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
McLennan, Mr. J.F.
Midlothian,
  Mr. Gladstone decides to contest;
  the election (1880).
Milan, Author "in pawn" at.
Milnes-Gaskell, Mr., at Thorns.
Milnes, Monckton
  (_see_ Houghton, Lord).
Mohacs (Hungary) in 1878.
Morley, Mr. John,
  author and;
  at Leeds Household Suffrage demonstration;
  and Mr. Stead.
_Morning Star_,
  Author occasionally reports for,
  its report of John Bright's reference to Cave of Adullam.
Mudford, Mr., of _Standard_,
  as Parliamentary reporter;
  Mr. Gladstone's opinion of.

N

Napoleon III., Death of.
Napoleon, Prince.
National Liberal Federation,
  Origin of.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in 1842,
  Percy Street Academy;
  cholera at;
  its great fire in 1854;
  author's West End Literary Institute;
  British Association at (1863).
_Newcastle Journal_,
  Author on staff of.
Nicholls, Mr., husband of Charlotte Brontë.
_North American Review_
  on author's "Charlotte Brontë,".
_Northern Daily Express_,
  Author's first contribution;
  description of.
Norway, Author's visit to.
Novel-writing, Author on.
Novikoff, Madame, and Mr. Stead.
Nussey, Miss, Memories of.

O

Oaks Pit, Explosions at.
Orsini, Felice,
  at Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Paris, Recollections of siege of,
  Communist rising of 1871;
  in September, 1871;
  in 1877.
Parliamentary Reform Demonstration in 1866.
Parliamentary trains in 1862.
Parliament, Opening of Household Suffrage,
  its debates of 1869;
  possibilities of reporter in;
  its dissolution in 1874;
  its dissolution in 1880;
  stories of its reporters in 1867,
(_see also_ Commons, House of, and Lords, House of).
Parnell, C.S., and W.E. Forster.
Payn, James,
  Author's first interview with;
  his laugh;
  his sense of humour;
  his aversion to dining out.
Payne, Howard, Grave of, at Tunis.
Pears, Mr. Edwin,
  and Bulgarian atrocities of 1876.
Percy Street Academy, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Permissive Bill,
  Licensing system and.
Peterloo, "Battle" of.
Phoenix Park murders.
Piccadilly Circus in 1862.
Piccadilly,
  French Imperialists in.
Pollock, Sir Frederick.
Postance, Rev. Henry.
Potter, Mr. Tom,
  at Century Club.
Press, The
  (_see_ Journalism _and_ Reporters).
"Press-gang" at the Reform Club.
Preston,
  Description of.
_Preston Guardian_,
  Author joins staff of.
Prince Consort,
  Death of.
Prince Imperial,
  burial of.
Prince of Wales (afterwards Edward VII.),
  in Upper Teesdale;
  illness of;
  thanksgiving service at St. Paul's for recovery of.
_Punch_,
  London street scenery in.

R

Reade, Mr., Consul-General at Tunis.
Reform Club, Author elected member of,
  in 1878;
  "press-gang" at;
  excitement upon news of Phoenix Park murders;
  Mr. Chamberlain's brothers blackballed;
  proposal to abolish blackballing;
  Mr. Chamberlain resigns membership.
Reform demonstrations in 1866.
Reid, Alexander, brother of author.
Reid, Eleanor, daughter of author.
Reid, James, brother of author,
  Death of.
Reid, John Paul, brother of author.
Reid, Mrs., author's first wife,
  her marriage;
  death.
Reid, Mrs. (Lady), author's second wife.
Reid, Mrs., mother of author,
  love of literature;
  death of.
Reid, Rev. Alexander, father of author,
  his interest in public affairs.
Reid, Stuart J., brother of author.
Reid, Thomas Wemyss (Sir Wemyss),
  Parentage and ancestry of;
  year of birth; earliest recollections;
  at St. Andrews in 1850;
  first connection with printing office;
  at Madras College;
  has attack of brain fever;
  returns home;
  at Tynemouth;
  at Whitley;
  in peril of housebreakers;
  at Dr. Collingwood Bruce's school;
  youthful literary aspirations;
  junior clerk at W.B. Lead office;
  his first contribution to Press;
  makes acquaintance with newspaper work;
  learns shorthand;
  founds "West End Literary Institute,";
  appointed chief reporter on _Newcastle Journal_;
  experiences as reporter;
  first attempt at leader-writing;
  meets with accident at a Dickens reading;
  first visit to London;
  resigns reportership on _Newcastle Journal_;
  at public executions;
  joins staff of _Preston Guardian_;
  his experience at a commercial dinner;
  his studious habits;
  newspaper experiences at Preston;
  joins staff of _Leeds Mercury_;
  his newspaper duties;
  as a leader-writer;
  his Imperialism;
  reporting reminiscences;
  appointed London correspondent;
  his first marriage;
  admitted to Reporters' Gallery;
  first experience of London club life;
  contributes to magazines;
  his first novel, "Lumley Entail,";
  has personal encounter with Disraeli;
  obtains original and authentic parliamentary news;
  death of his first wife;
  accepts editorship of _Leeds Mercury_;
  forms good resolutions;
  changes editorial system;
  settles in Leeds;
  visits to Fryston;
  his first Continental tour;
  is denounced by advanced Radicals;
  on drink question;
  his second marriage;
  brings _Leeds Mercury_ into line with London dailies;
  protests against Caucus system;
  his contributions to Brontë literature;
  elected member of Savile Club;
  in Paris in 1877;
  elected member of Reform Club;
  at London clubs in 1878;
  nearly poisoned at Century Club;
  tours through Europe;
  injures his knee;
  on board _Sidon_;
  travels from Constantinople by overland route;
  his influence in the Leeds Liberal Caucus;
  proposes candidature of Mr. Gladstone for Leeds;
  sends out tickets for Mr. Gladstone's banquet at Leeds;
  at Tunis;
  and Mr. Stead;
  defends W. E. Forster;
  on novel-writing;
  overlooks Carlton Club meeting;
  suggested police protection for;
  visits Tangier;
  visits Norway;
Reporters,
  Duties of newspaper;
  stories of Parliamentary;
  possibilities of Parliamentary.
Reservoir dam, Bursting of Bradfield.
Riddell, Mrs., novelist, Reminiscences of.
Robinson, Sir John, editor of _Daily News_.
Rosebery, Earl of,
  Lord Houghton on;
  and W. E. Forster.
Ross, Mr., head of _Times_ Parliamentary corps.
Royal Institution,
  Author's lecture on Charlotte Brontë at.
Russell, Lord John, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Russell, Mr. Alexander, of _Scotsman_.
Russell, Mr. Charles, editor of _Glasgow Herald_.

S

St. Andrews in 1850,
  its Sabbaths.
St. Cloud in 1871.
St. James's Hall, London,
  John Bright at;
  political meeting in 1876 at.
_St. James's Magazine_,
  Author contributes to.
St. Paul's Cathedral,
  Thanksgiving service for recovery of Prince of Wales in.
Sala, G. A.,
  Reminiscences of;
  his election to Reform Club;
  his encyclopaedic knowledge;
  on blackballing at clubs.
Savile Club,
  Author elected member of.
Schnadhorst, Mr.,
  Character of.
Shaw, Mr., Irish leader.
Sheffield,
  Flooding of lower part of;
  Mr. J. Chamberlain's Parliamentary defeat in 1874.
Shepard, Consul, at Haworth.
_Sidon_, Author on board.
Single-member constituencies,
  Creation of.
Slingsby, Sir Charles,
  Death of.
Sothern, E. A.,
  Reminiscences of.
_Standard_, The,
  Mr. Gladstone's opinion of.
Stead, Mr. W. T.,
  accepts editorship of _Northern Echo_;
  his theories on journalism;
  on Eastern Question;
  and Madame Novikoff;
  attacks Joseph Cowen;
  and author;
  on staff of _Pall Mall Gazette_;
  appointed editor of _Pall Mall Gazette_;
  his foreign politics.
Stoddart, Mr., editor of _Glasgow Weekly Herald_.
Swinburne, Mr.,
  on author's "Charlotte Brontë,";
  author's abortive visit to house of.

T

Tangier in 1884.
Tay Bridge,
  Destruction of.
Tennant, Mr.,
  M.P. for Leeds in 1874.
Thackeray, W. M.,
  at Newcastle.
Thanksgiving Service for recovery of Prince of Wales.
Thatched House Club.
Thirlwall, Bishop,
  on Irish Church Bill.
Thornton, Miss Kate
  (_see_ Reid, Mrs., author's first wife).
_Times_, The,
  Use of its front page during siege of Paris;
  on loss of ship _Captain_.
Toulmin, Mr., proprietor of _Preston Guardian_.
Tower of London,
  Dynamite outrage at.
Townsend, Mr. Charles, of Bristol.
Trains, Parliamentary, in 1862.
Trench, Archbishop,
  on Irish Church Bill.
Tunis in 1881.
Tynemouth about the 'forties.
Tyne, River, in 1842.

U

United Kingdom Alliance,
  Policy of.

V

Venables, George,
  Recollections of.
Versailles in 1871.
Victoria, Queen, and John Bright.

W

W----, Captain, at Tangier.
Washbourne, Dr.,
  and Bulgarian atrocities of 1876.
Weaving in 1850.
Wemyss, Thomas, grandfather of author.
Westbury, Lord,
  on Irish Church Bill.
Westminster Hall,
  Dynamite outrage at.
White, Sir William, at Bucharest.
Whitley in 1849.
Wilkes, Mr. Washington, Death of.
Wombwell, Sir George,
  and Charge of Light Brigade;
  his narrow escape from drowning.
Workman, English, in 1878.
Wright, Mr., an official of the Reporters' Gallery in 1867.

Y

Yorkshire Club,
  Author at.





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