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Title: A Beacon for the Blind - Being a Life of Henry Fawcett, the Blind Postmaster-General
Author: Holt, Winifred
Language: English
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[Illustration:                          _Photo. Emery Walker_

                    PROFESSOR AND MRS. FAWCETT
              From the painting by Ford Madox Brown,
               now in the National Portrait Gallery]


Being a Life of Henry Fawcett
the Blind Postmaster-General



   ‘He that is greatest among you
   let him be servant of all.’

Boston and New York
Houghton Mifflin Company


                         THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED

                     TO THE FIVE ON TWO CONTINENTS

                    WHO MADE ITS WRITING POSSIBLE——

                   IN ENGLAND, B. T. AND F. DE G. E.

                      IN AMERICA, E. H. B., H. H.

                               AND R. H.





There has been no more striking example in our time of how self-reliance
and strength of purpose can triumph over adverse fortune than that
presented by the career of Henry Fawcett. The story of his life as it is
to be told in this book will give ample illustrations of his fortitude
and his perseverance. All that I, an old friend of his, need speak of is
a quality hardly less remarkable than was his energy. I mean his
cheerfulness. It was specially wonderful and admirable in one afflicted
as he was. Nothing would seem so to cut a man off from his fellows as
the loss of sight, nor would it appear possible to enjoy the charms of
external nature without seeing them. Fawcett, however, delighted in
society. He never moped. He loved to be among his friends, and found an
inexhaustible pleasure in talk wherever he was, in his College (Trinity
Hall, Cambridge), at London dinner-parties, in the lobbies or
smoking-room of the House of Commons. If he had moments of sadness in
solitude we knew nothing of them, for in company he was always bright.
His greetings were joyous; his good spirits proverbial at Cambridge, and
indeed in all the circles that knew him, making his friends feel, in any
moments of depression that might come upon them, half ashamed to be less
cheery than one with whom fate had dealt so hardly. Without this natural
buoyancy of temper, even such a resolute will as his might have failed
to achieve so much as he achieved. He seemed determined to hold on to
every possible source of enjoyment he had ever known before sight was
lost. That determination used to strike me most in his fondness for
open-air nature and physical exercise. He loved not only walking but
riding. I remember how once when I was staying with him in the same
country house in Surrey, our host arranged a long excursion on horseback
through the lanes and woods of the pretty country that lies on both
sides of the North Downs, to the south-west of London. Fawcett insisted
on being one of the party, and when he approached a place where the
bridle-path ran through a wood of beeches, whose spreading boughs came
down almost to the height of the horses’ heads, he said to me, ‘Tell me
to duck my head whenever we come to a spot where the branches are low.’
I felt uneasy, for if he had struck against one of the thick boughs, he
might have been unhorsed and would certainly have been hurt. However, I
went in front and warned him as he had desired. He rode on fearlessly,
stooping low over the horse’s neck whenever I called out to him to do
so, and he evidently enjoyed the fresh scent of the woods and the
rustling of the leaves just as much as did all the rest of us.

His love of nature, joined to his sympathy with the masses of the
people, made him eager to secure the preservation of public rights in
commons and village greens and footpaths. He was one of the founders of
that Commons Preservation Society which has done so much to save open
spaces in England from the grasp of the spoiler; frequently attended its
meetings, and was always ready to vote and speak in the House of Commons
when any question involving popular rights in the land arose there.

At a time when extremely few non-official persons in Parliament
interested themselves in the government and administration of India,
Fawcett, though he had never visited the East, and had no family
connection with it, felt, and set himself to impress upon others, the
grave responsibility of Britain for the welfare of the peoples of India.
He studied with characteristic thoroughness and assiduity the facts and
conditions of Indian life, the financial problems those conditions
involve, the needs and feelings of the subject population. His speeches
were of the greatest value in calling public attention to these
subjects, and his name is gratefully remembered in India.

His mental powers were remarkable rather for strength than for subtlety.
It was an eminently English intellect, forcible in its broad commonsense
way of looking at things, and in its disposition to pass by side issues
and refinements in order to go straight to the main conclusions he
desired to enforce. This was what chiefly gave weight to his speeches in
Parliament and on the platform. Debarred as he was from the use of
writing, he formed the habit of thinking out fully beforehand both what
he meant to say and the words in which he meant to say it, and thus he
became a master of lucid statement and cogent argument, making each of
his points sharp and clear, and driving them home in a way which every
listener could comprehend. The same merits of directness and coherency
are conspicuous in his writings on political economy, his favourite
study. There were no dark corners in his mind any more than in his
political creed, or indeed in his course of action as a statesman. In
practical politics, it was said of him, to use a familiar phrase, that
you always knew where to find him. That was one of the qualities which
secured for him not only the confidence of his political friends but the
respect of his political opponents. When he died prematurely he had
reached a position in the House of Commons which would have secured his
early admission to the Cabinet, and the only doubt I ever heard raised
was whether his blindness, which would have made it necessary that
documents, however confidential, should be read aloud to him, would have
constituted a fatal obstacle.

The force of his character and the vigour of his intellect must have
ensured him a distinguished career even had he been stricken by no
calamity. That he should have been stricken by one which would have
overwhelmed almost any other man, and should have triumphed over it by
his cheerful and persistent courage, marks him out as an extraordinary
man, worthy to be long remembered.




‘I wish we had Fawcett here to-day. At this crisis England needs him
sorely.’ These words, said with much feeling by the late Lord Avebury,
were spoken to the writer of this book only two years ago.

Fawcett is not needed only in England. His is the type of man needed
sorely to-day and every day in every empire and democracy under the sun.
His example of valour against odds is just as necessary for America as
for the Mother Country, for the men who are now doing the world’s work
as for the lads who will be at work to-morrow.

Sir Leslie Stephen said that while writing the biography of Fawcett,
there was not a single fact which he had to conceal, nothing to explain
away, nothing to apologise for, and he judged the best way to do his
subject honour was to tell the plain story as fully and as frankly as he

Sir Leslie wrote with the reticent dignity of one recently grieving for
the loss of his friend; the present writer will have executed her task
if she has succeeded in throwing a more personal light on the heroic
figure of Fawcett.

This little book has no pretensions. It endeavours merely to preserve
carefully and reverently glimpses and flashes—which might have otherwise
been lost—of a great life, a life of deep significance not only to those
who see, but especially to those who, like Fawcett, must depend for
their vision on that inner eye which no calamity can darken.

When he lost his sight, Fawcett had his fixed manner of life, his tastes
and ambitions, and he was painfully forced to readjust himself to
altered aspects. The tracing of the beneficent effect of this necessity
on a man of his strong mind, body and will, is a psychological study of
deep interest.

His attitude towards questions that are still vital, such as the
treatment of dependent peoples, the widening of the suffrage and the
perfecting of its machinery, make his personality still unique, modern
and absorbing.

A nearer view of the man, seen through the recollections and anecdotes
of his friends, shows his intense love of fun, his high ideals and
bravery, his tremendous industry and accomplishment.

The author is grateful for permission to use the facsimiles of the
letters of Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales (King Edward).

She is also deeply obliged for the help given by reminiscences and
anecdotes from the Right Honourable the late Lord Avebury; Dr. Beck,
Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge; Dr. Henry Bond; the Right Honourable
Viscount Bryce, late British Ambassador to America; Sir Francis
Campbell; the late Robert Campbell, Esq.; the Honourable Joseph H.
Choate, late American Ambassador to Great Britain; Lord and Lady
Courtney; Sir Alfred Dale; the late Sir Robert Hunter; the late Sir
William Lee-Warner, G.C.S.I.; the Right Honourable Viscount Morley; Lady
Ritchie, Miss McCleod Smith; the Right Honourable the late James Stuart,
Esq., and Mr. Sedley Taylor.

She is particularly indebted to Miss Fawcett, the sister of Mr. Fawcett,
and to Mrs. Fawcett, his widow, for their assistance. Their interest in
the book was a great stimulus towards its writing. Mr. F. J. Dryhurst,
C.B., who from 1871 to 1884 was secretary to Mr. Fawcett, has been a
great aid in preparing the book. The greatest assistance has been given
by Miss de Grasse Evans and Miss Beatrice Taylor, without whose sympathy
and help in various stages of the work its completion might have been

It has been inevitable that Sir Leslie’s biography should be largely
quarried. His arrangement of facts has been followed as the simplest and
most logical framework for the story, and descriptions of scenes which
he and his friends witnessed, and stories of Fawcett not elsewhere
given, have been used. The admiration and gratitude of the novice for
help from the master biographer is here humbly recorded.

This book should enhance the interest of the older biography, which
perhaps may be reintroduced after many years oblivion—as it has been out
of print—by its younger and less formal companion.

The material to be had has been used and adapted as it might best serve,
and the narrative has not been interrupted to give its source; it is
believed that this policy will be in accordance with the wishes of those
of Mr. Fawcett’s appreciators who have so generously helped.

The more we know about this brave, patient and humorous man, the more
inspiration we get; and to help us to achieve and to rejoice—never was
inspiration more sorely needed than to-day! It is in the hope of
supplying a little of this great need that this brief story of a
steadfast life is written.

                                                        WINIFRED HOLT.




 FOREWORD BY THE RIGHT HON. VISCOUNT BRYCE                         vii

 INTRODUCTION                                                     xiii


           CHAPTER I. WATERLOO, THE MAYOR AND THE BABY               3

 The Fisherman—The Battle of Waterloo—The Mayor of Salisbury—the
   Mayor’s Son—The Market-place—The Circus—Boarding-School and
   Fun—A Diary

                   CHAPTER II. THE BOY LECTURER                     11

 A Lecture on the Uses of Steam—Parliamentary Ambitions—King’s
   College—Politics in the Fifties—Cribbage and Cricket


                  CHAPTER III. THE TALL STUDENT                     25

 Peterhouse—Quoits and Billiards—Trinity Hall—A
   Fellowship—Lincoln’s Inn

                      CHAPTER IV. A SET BACK                        35

 A Trip to France—Wiltshire French—A Discouragement

                              WINNING BACK

                       CHAPTER V. DARKNESS                          43

 A Shooting Accident—Blindness—Readjustment

                      CHAPTER VI. HAPPINESS                         54

 The clear-sighted Man—A Scot’s Accent—Mountain
   Climbing—Skating—Riding, etc.

                     CHAPTER VII. DISTRACTION                       63

 Fishing—In the House of Commons—Need for Distraction—What Helen
   Keller thinks—Sir Francis Campbell—Leap Frog—Despair and
   Cheer—Paupers and Political Economy

                            CAMBRIDGE AGAIN

              CHAPTER VIII. THE PROBLEM OF THE POOR                 75

 A Prime Object—Lincoln—Leslie Stephen—Daily Life at
   Cambridge—Deepening interest in Social Questions

                  CHAPTER IX. THE GOOD SAMARITAN                    84

 ‘Ask Fawcett’—The Ancient Mariners and the Diplomat—Christmas
   Exceedings—Fawcett as Host—A Bore Foiled—The British

                  CHAPTER X. THE YOUNG ECONOMIST                    94

 Championing Darwin—Darwin at Down—Salisbury gossip—Meeting
   Mill—Fawcett for Lincoln and the Union—John Bright’s Dog—Chair
   of Political Economy


              CHAPTER XI. A PROGRAMME OF HELPFULNESS               111

 Triumphing over Blindness—The Professor’s Audience—Free Trade
   and Protection—The Luxury of Light—The Malady of Poverty

               CHAPTER XII. THE SCHOOLS OF THE POOR                119

 Need of non-secular Education—Charity and Pauperism—Friendship
   with Working-Men—The Voice that Linked

             CHAPTER XIII. THE NEW M.P. AND THE CLUB               127

 Thackeray and the Reform Club—The Popular M.P.—The Assassination
   of Lincoln—Marriage

               CHAPTER XIV. THE WOMAN AND THE VOTE                 135

 The Home in London—Sympathy with Woman Suffrage—The Blind
   Gardener—Clubs—Hatred of Flunkeyism

                              THE NEW M.P.

                 CHAPTER XV. BLIND SUPERSTITIONS                   143

 Speech before the British Association—Mill again—Bright and Lord
   Brougham—The Mythical Committee Room—Defeat at Southwark

                    CHAPTER XVI. PURE POLITICS                     151

 Defeat at Cambridge and Brighton—Routing a Chimæra—Elected the
   Member for Brighton—The House of Commons


 The Blind and Silent M.P.—His First Speech—Protecting Cattle,
   neglecting Children—Industry earns Penury—Mill ‘out’

             CHAPTER XVIII. GLADSTONE PRIME MINISTER               173

 Opposition to Gladstone—‘The Most Thorough Radical Member in the
   House’—Growing Dissatisfaction with the Government—The Irish
   Universities Bill—Helping to Defeat his own Party


                 CHAPTER XIX. THE STOLEN COMMONS                   185

 The Disappearance of the English Playgrounds and
   Commons—Fawcett’s First Protest—The Annual Enclosure Bill
   stopped by his Energetic Action

               CHAPTER XX. THE FIGHT FOR THE FOREST                194

 The Commons Preservation Society—The Saving of Epping Forest—The
   Queen’s Rights—The Lords of the Manors’ Rights.—The People’s


 Saving the Forests—‘The Monstrous Notion’—Walking with Lord
   Morley—The Boat Race—Safeguarding the Rivers

                          THE MEMBER FOR INDIA

                  CHAPTER XXII. WHAT INDIA PAID                    217

 India Pays for English Hospitality—Royal English Generosity to
   India paid for by India—How to Deal with an Angry
   Opponent—Indian Finance and the poor Ryot—Gratitude from
   India—How Fawcett Prepared his Speeches


 Defeated at Brighton—Spectacles and the Man—Elected for Hackney

             CHAPTER XXIV. FAMINE, TURKS AND INDIANS               234

 _Punch_ and Fawcett—The Indian Famine—Parliamentary Interest
   Aroused in India—Bulgarian Atrocities—Afghanistan
   War—Gladstone’s Faith in Fawcett—A £9,000,000 Mistake


                  CHAPTER XXV. LIBERALS IN POWER                   249

 General Expectation that Fawcett would join the
   Cabinet—Importance of a Fish—Postmaster-General—Queen Victoria
   Interested—Post Office Problems—Scientific Business Management
   Anticipated—Women’s Work—A Likeness to Lincoln


 A Day with the Postmaster-General—How he Worked—Reform—The
   Parcel Post

              CHAPTER XXVII. THE PENNIES OF THE POOR               275

 Cheap Postal Orders—Savings Bank—Life Insurance—Two Post Office
   Pamphlets to Help the People—Cheap Telegrams—Telephones—‘The
   Man for the Post’—‘Words are Silver, Silence is Gold’

                            A TRIUMPHANT END

               CHAPTER XXVIII. AT HOME AND AT COURT                287

 Appreciating Opponents—Hackney Address—Proportional
   Representation—Justice for Women—A State Concert—Humble
   Friendships—Pigs—Salisbury again

                  CHAPTER XXIX. A GRAVE ILLNESS                    300

 Illness—Convalescence—Musical Discrimination

                   CHAPTER XXX. AMONG THE BLIND                    306

 A Leader of the Blind—Honours—His Last Speech

                       CHAPTER XXXI. LIGHT                         311

 The Passing—The People Grieve—Sorrow in Parliament—The Nation’s
   Loss—Letters from Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales (the
   late King Edward) and Gladstone—The Railroad Men’s Tribute—The
   Significance of his Life—India’s Loss—Fawcett’s Message

 HENRY FAWCETT, FROM ‘PUNCH’                                       327

 APPENDIX                                                          329

 INDEX                                                             335


 PROFESSOR AND MRS. FAWCETT                             _Frontispiece_

 HENRY FAWCETT’S MOTHER                                _Facing page_ 6

 HENRY FAWCETT BEFORE HE WAS BLIND                          „       26

 MISS MARIA FAWCETT                                         „       50

 HENRY FAWCETT AT CAMBRIDGE, 1863                           „      102

 HENRY FAWCETT AND MRS. FAWCETT                             „      130

 HENRY FAWCETT                                              „      180

 HENRY FAWCETT AND HIS FATHER                               „      204

 HENRY FAWCETT                                              „      224

 FAWCETT’S SIGNATURE AND SEAL AS                            „      252

 THE MAN FOR THE POST                                       „      272

 THE NEW STAMP DUTY                                         „      276

 HERE STANDS A POST                                         „      282



 MEMORIAL IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY                              „      322




                 ‘Where the pools are bright and deep,
                 Where the gray trout lies asleep,
                 Up the river and over the lea,
                 That’s the way for Billy and me.’
                                           JAMES HOGG.


                               CHAPTER I

                   WATERLOO, THE MAYOR, AND THE BABY

    The Fisherman—The Battle of Waterloo—The Mayor of Salisbury—The
    Mayor’s Son—The Market-place—The Circus—Boarding-School and
    Fun—A Diary.

One midsummer day in 1815 a young draper’s assistant was gently fishing
in the Salisbury Avon. William Fawcett was but lately come to Salisbury,
yet he already knew his river. While trying a deep pool in the shadow of
a bridge near the town he was startled by shouts from the roadway above.
‘News from the army! A great victory! Boney in flight!’

The fisherman forgot his fish, and hurried away to join the rejoicing
crowd gathering in the market-place. There having been bustled to the
roof of a stage-coach, and had the gazette containing the news thrust
into his hands, he read out in his remarkably clear and resonant voice
the account of the great battle of Waterloo.

[Sidenote: Rejoicings.]

Seventeen years later, when the shopkeeper had become the Mayor of
Salisbury, he again led the town in rejoicings. The great Reform Bill
had become law. Salisbury townsfolk were henceforth to have a voice in
the councils of the nation, and the barren hill on which stood the
pocket borough of old Sarum was no longer to mock them with its
political power.

The town joyously prepared to celebrate the event. The houses were
decorated. Elaborate illuminations were set up. Victory, assisted by
Greek gods and goddesses, presided over a transparency in which
Britannia throttled the hydra of corruption, while Wellington and Peel
scowled in the background. Meat and beer were given to the poor; in the
market-place, at great fires lighted in the open air, whole sheep were
roasted. The smoke swirled blindly about the bustling crowd, and then
surged up past the latticed windows of the Mayor’s house, to seek in
ever thinning rifts the spire of the wonderful cathedral that for
centuries has watched over the destinies of the town. The next day was
held in the market-place a great banquet, at which the Mayor presided;
and after dinner all adjourned to the Green Croft Cricket Ground, where
his Worship led off the dance with a prominent and elderly lady of the
town—the Mayor resplendent in plaited shirt frill and high stock, the
buckles on his shoes twinkling as he cut ‘pigeon wings,’ the lady sedate
in her wide brocade gown, her poke bonnet, and lace veil.

Fawcett’s heart was as light as his heels on that occasion. All his life
he had been a reformer, a staunch Liberal, ardent for the extension of
the franchise. It says much for his personal charm and worth that, in a
close Tory borough such as Salisbury then was, he should have been
chosen Mayor by his political opponents.

[Sidenote: The Mayor and his Wife.]

So dear to his heart was the spirit of freedom that the Mayor had
forsooth to fall in love with the daughter of the solicitor who acted as
agent for the Liberal party. Miss Mary Cooper was a good and clever
woman, deeply interested in politics, and as ardent a reformer as the
man she married.

The couple were sociable and humorous. They kept a good table, laid in
an excellent stock of wine, and diffused such a pleasant atmosphere of
hospitality that they became immensely popular, and many distinguished
people sought their company. But William Fawcett was not only a good
townsman, he was a good countryman as well, a great jumper, a keen
sportsman, a good shot, and a renowned fisherman.

[Sidenote: The Brick-house Baby.]

In 1833, when the Princess Victoria was fourteen years old, when the
negro slaves were being freed throughout the British Colonies, when
Stephenson had completed his locomotive and the first railroads had been
started, when all things seemed to be pushing and striving for
independence and progress, in the Mayor’s old low red-brick house
overlooking the market-place, in a wonderful Elizabethan room, on 26th
August, Henry Fawcett was born.

The baby seems to have been singularly like most other babies. He shared
the uneventful placidity of his nursery with an older brother, William,
and a sister, Sarah Maria. Six years later there came another brother,
Thomas Cooper.

[Sidenote: The Market.]

When Harry was four years old Queen Victoria, whom he was to serve in so
distinguished a capacity, came to the throne. But it was still too early
to find in Harry indications of the future statesman. He was delicate,
and much spoiled at home, had a strong will of his own, and was on the
whole rather selfish. He was not an imaginative child, though he loved
at times, holding his sister Maria tightly by the hand, to venture into
the great cathedral and see the coloured light as it filtered through
the high windows, or to thrill in response to the thundering of the
great organ. But more often we find him, still very tiny, standing
squarely on his feet, inquiring with real interest the price of bacon,
how much sheep and wool brought; or walking with his father and wearying
him with ceaseless economic questions as to ‘Why are things cheaper
to-day than last month?’ ‘Why does butter cost more than milk?’ until
that patient man was heard to exclaim not too patiently, ‘Harry asks me
so many questions that he quite worries me.’

[Illustration: HENRY FAWCETT’s MOTHER]

He went to a Dame’s school, where his first teacher said that she had
never had so troublesome a pupil, that his head was like a colander; but
Harry puts the case more pathetically when he tells his mother that
‘Mrs. Harris says if we go on, we shall kill her, and we do go on,’
regretfully adding, ‘and yet she does not die.’ A schoolmate of these
days says that Harry lisped very much, and that the boys used to tease
him about it. He was also so slow about his lessons that they called him
thickhead. But when school was out Harry entered the realms he loved.
From his home on the market-place he had only to go outside the door to
be at once in touch with the active world whose economic problems
appealed to him so keenly. He made friends among the country folk, and
talked of their crops and the money they would bring, and noted in his
childish mind the rise and fall in the price of wheat.

[Sidenote: The Circus.]

Then to the same open space came all sorts of travelling shows.
Sometimes the circus spread its mysterious tents, and when the children
were dragged away from the wild beasts and the seductive freaks and put
to bed, the little Fawcetts would stealthily creep to the bedroom window
overlooking the market and see the lights shining on all the wonderful
but forbidden marvels, and hear the hurdy-gurdy and the band mix their
triumphal blare with the solemn striking of the clock in the near-by

[Sidenote: Boarding-School.]

In 1841 Harry’s father took a delightful farmhouse at Longford, about
three miles south of Salisbury, with delectable streams full of fish.
Harry loved to fish every day, and hated lessons, but, alas! grim fate
backed the lessons, and sent him ruthlessly to school. He went as a
boarder to Mr. Sopp at Alderbury, a few miles away.

There are many tales showing that Harry loved the fleshpots and that he
had been much indulged at home. He writes, ‘I have begun Ovid—I hate
it.’ ‘This is a beastly school—milk and water, no milk—bread and butter,
no butter. Please give a quarter’s notice.’

And still more heartrending was the prayer to his mother, ‘Please when
the family has quite finished with the ham bone, send it to me.’
Imagination can supply the effect of this on the family circle, and
guess what a well-covered ham bone was shipped to the starving Harry.
Starving or no, he grew immensely stronger and larger, and though he
never admitted that he got enough to eat at any school, he became
ultimately reconciled to his exile.

He used to come home often for half-holidays, and to go to Longford and
revel in all country delights. Then began the close friendships with the
cottagers about him which meant so much to him and influenced all his

In the summer that completed his tenth year there came to Salisbury two
men who also loved the common people and sought to make their lives
easier. It was the year of the great Free Trade campaign in the
agricultural districts, and the men were Cobden and Bright. They visited
Harry’s father, and perhaps Harry himself met them then for the first
time. Lord Morley has said in his life of Cobden that ‘the picture of
these two men, leaving their homes and their business, and going over
the length and breadth of the land to convert the nation, had about it
something apostolic.’ In a home where they and their teachings were so
reverenced, to even hear of their journeyings would make a strong
impression on a boy of Harry’s interests, and perhaps helped to give a
definite aim to his ambitions.

At Mr. Sopp’s school he began a diary, of which the penmanship is
admirable. On some days the only record is the startling fact, ‘It was a
very fine day.’ June 21st, 1847, however, is a very eventful day, for he
lists the capture of the first fish that he took with a fly, which
weighed ‘about three-quarters of a pound.’

[Sidenote: Hedgehogs and Cake.]

Again, he is transported with joy by the gift of a hedgehog and four
young ones, and he has a glorious time in going on board H.M.S. _Howe_,
of one hundred and twenty guns. On one occasion he goes to the theatre,
on another he is in court hearing a trial. He begins Greek, and this
anguish is modified by the arrival of a cake for one of his
schoolfellows, which Harry doubtless shares.

A change of scene is recorded in the diary when on 3rd August Henry
becomes the first pupil at Queenwood College. In its previous career
this temple of learning had been Harmony Hall, built by Robert Owen for
his last socialist experiment. In 1817 it was opened as a school by Mr.
Edmonson, a Quaker. Special emphasis was given to scientific training
and English literature. The school seems to have been very congenial to
Harry, and his intellect now began to develop rapidly.

[Sidenote: The Editor.]

To continue from the diary, we learn that ‘we elected the various school
officers. J. Mansergh and I were elected without opposition editors of
the _Queenwood Chronicle_.’ He had been at Queenwood but a fortnight,
and was fourteen years old when this great honour came to him. Mr.
Fawcett was delighted at this good news, and offered because of it and
because Harry had been ’studying most determinedly’ to take the boy to
Stonehenge. His aversion to books had distressed his family, and this
new interest in his studies gave his father great pleasure. On reading a
composition which Harry had sent home, Mr. Fawcett exclaimed to his
wife, ‘I really think, mother, after all that there is something in that
boy!’ His literary performances at this time indicate an increasing
imagination, but in the main he never deviated from the practical paths
of thought shown when as a tiny child he studiously investigated the
Salisbury market. His schoolmates report him as ‘tall for his age,
loose-limbed, and rather ungainly.’ He had become much of a bookworm,
and though later good at games, at this time he preferred to wander off
by himself and read. He was strongest in mathematics; languages did not
much appeal to him; but he liked to learn long passages of poetry by
heart. There was a disused chalk-pit near Queenwood where he would take
refuge and declaim his lines. The extravagance of his gesticulations
might well cause unexpecting passers-by to consider him the village

                               CHAPTER II

                            THE BOY LECTURER

    A Lecture on the uses of Steam—Parliamentary Ambitions—King’s
    College—Politics in the Fifties—Cribbage and Cricket.

Fawcett was interested in the scientific lectures, and he had a very
good time. Professor Tyndall took them out surveying. Harry comments on
a lecture at which he heard that there ‘is fire in everything, even
ice’; he also records some chemical experiments in the laboratory.

In September the diary states, ‘I began writing my lecture on
phonography, on the uses of steam without copying any of it.’

There is an error here, as these were two lectures, not one. That on
steam, in a blue marbled-covered copy-book, lies before the writer. The
title, inscribed in tall, shaded handwriting, contained within
scrupulously ruled lines, is:

                   A Lecture delivered by H. Fawcett
                            On Uses of Steam
                          At Queenwood College
                          September 27, 1847.

The ink, which was black sixty-six years ago, is now much faded; but the
essay of the fourteen-year-old schoolboy is still fresh and interesting,
and so prophetic of the man that it is like a simple map indicating the
chief features of the country we are about to see.

Henry writes in his careful penmanship, for which he must have been
marked at least 9+ in a scale of 10, ‘Things which appear simple to an
unobserving Person are to an observing Person the most complicated and
beautifully formed ... such a simple Thing as a blade of Grass, has ever
any Man been yet so wise as to tell what it is?’

[Sidenote: The Essayist.]

Here is another curious sentence written by the bright-eyed youngster
with the monumental dignity of the lecturer:

‘What can be so beautifully contrived and framed as the human Body,
where there are innumerable Parts, acting all in Unity?... if one of the
Parts go wrong, the whole Body is put out of Tune ... is there any one
Part of our Body which we could dispense with?... I think the Answer
“No” must be evident to every one.’

It is curious that Fawcett should have been called upon later by the
loss of his eyesight to contradict this childish statement, and to prove
not only that we can get along without some of our most precious
faculties, but that the law of compensation so works that we may be able
to accomplish more by reason of the loss.

The essay proceeds to deal with railways, and contains all kinds of
figures relating to tonnage, trains, traffics, the cost of railroad
construction, etc., all with careful, correct figures; a complicated
study for a railroad expert. This schoolboy is already coping with the
figures and statistics of which he had later such a marvellous control.
He dwells on the importance of the railroad to the Wiltshire farmer, who
can sell his cheese at sevenpence a pound in London, when it is only
worth sixpence where it is made. In this and similar statements we find
the political economist foreshadowed: he speaks of the nobility who
selfishly object to having railways, which he feels are the greatest
help to the common people; and he adds, ‘A Man should sacrifice a little
of his own Pleasure when he knows that by sacrificing that Pleasure he
will benefit the People at large.’ We must note that pleasure is always
spelt with a beautiful and exceptionally large P.

Later there are some intelligent remarks on the power of a railway to
create traffic, so that ’some Railways have been made between two Places
where there was not sufficient Traffic for a Coach, and yet when they
are made, a Trade springs up, and they pay very well indeed.’

[Sidenote: Transportation—Rich and Poor.]

He further approves of the railway as a means of cheap transportation,
and remarks, ‘Many a Person can avail himself of a Day’s Pleasure ...’
or, ‘Enjoy the beautiful Air of some Country Village.’ Here we have not
only the keystone of Henry Fawcett’s character, but indications of the
political activities in which he was to be so pre-eminent. His public
career was one long, unbroken effort to do away with the monopolies and
prerogatives of any class, and so to increase the independence and
rights of the poor.

The essay continues by quoting from an article in the _Quarterly Review_
written in 1825, which considers it impossible that an engine could
travel eighteen miles an hour. With evident joy he quotes, ‘The gross
Exaggerations of the Powers of the Locomotive Steam Engine, or to speak
English, the Steam Carriage, may delude for a time, but must end in
Mortification to those concerned. We should as soon expect the People of
Woolwich to suffer themselves to be fired off in Congreve’s Ricochet
Rockets, as to trust themselves to the Mercies of such a Machine going
at such a rate.’ Harry himself then tells of the M.P. who insisted that
the best possible locomotive could not compete with a canal boat. The
scribe seems fully to appreciate the humour of this, and so foreshadows
the love of fun and the vibrant laugh of the man to be.

Steam-engines lead to steamships. Our author now invites us to cross
‘the wide heaving Ocean,’ saying, ‘When you are on a Voyage in a Steam
Vessel you feel none of that Inconvenience of having to remain at Anchor
for two or three Weeks waiting for a favourable Wind ... you can
proceed, for you are quite independent of the Winds, and the Speed of a
Steam Vessel is very considerably greater than that of any other
Vessel.’ A steam vessel went from Liverpool to Boston in eleven days and
nine hours, and yet when steam navigation was struggling into existence
‘it struck the minds of our brave Captains as a poor mean mechanical
Thing unworthy of the least Consideration.’... ‘I think you may almost
remark’ (note the conservative discretion) ‘that the greatest and most
useful inventions when they are struggling into Existence receive the
greatest Opposition, because they make great changes, and most people,
especially the ignorant, are generally very adverse to any changes.’

[Sidenote: Patriotism—Bonaparte and Babylon.]

Now he boasts magnificently about the British navy and merchant marine,
approves of Bonaparte’s wisdom in coveting the British sailors, and yet
prudently warns all against pride, citing the lamentable consequence of
lack of humility to Babylon and Nineveh. We are asked to consider the
relative values of coal, diamonds, gold, and silver, and are informed
that ‘every Difficulty can be overcome by steady Perseverance—some
Persons will never scarcely be overcome by Difficulties—they say they
will do it, and they will never rest till they have performed what they
want to, and it is to Men like these that we are indebted.... No
Improvements or Inventions will run into a Person’s Mind like Water will
run into a Bottle, but they come from Years of Study and Perseverance.’

We are asked, ‘Do you suppose that Sir Isaac Newton established the Laws
of Gravitation without some trouble, do you suppose that such a Piece of
Poetry as Milton’s “Paradise Lost” was written without a Moment’s
Thought—or do you suppose that Watt improved the Steam Engine without
some hard Labour?’ Our scribe then finishes his masterpiece with a
stupendous finale, by the help of a bit of poetry culled from an
American newspaper and entitled the ’song of Steam,’ a verse of which
will be sufficient:

             ‘I’ve no Muscle to weary, no Breast to decay,
               No Bones to be laid on the “Shelf,”
             And soon I intend you may go and play,
               While I manage the World by myself.’

This _magnum opus_, being now successfully brought to completion, is
signed in full, no longer, as on the title-page, with only the initial
of his first name, but by Henry Fawcett, writ exceedingly large and
clear, Queenwood College, October 12th, 1847. Every page in the marbled
copy-book has been filled with various spellings, and only a very few
erasures, between 27th September and 12th October.

We have quoted this delicious essay as fully as space would allow, not
only on account of its unique charm, but because every page is coloured
by a preoccupation with those subjects and a love for those traits of
human nature which were later so characteristic of Henry Fawcett, the
teacher and statesman. In fact, we may accept this essay on steam as his
official debut. The lecture had an encore at Salisbury in the family
circle, when, as Harry writes, all were ‘much pleased with it, and Papa
promised to give me a sovereign for it.’

[Sidenote: Phonography and simplified Spelling.]

His lecture on phonography is much in the spirit of to-day, when
simplified spelling is causing such ardent controversies. Harry comments
that ‘out of fifty thousand Words in the language, only fifty are
written as they are pronounced.’ We must note that in these writings his
own inventions in spelling tend to change these statistics.

The range of his composition at this period is great. An article on
‘Angling and Sir Isaac Walton’ is in happy contrast to the account of a
first visit to London. Another fragment contains the acute observation
that ’statesmen depend upon their brains.’ In another essay called
‘Reflection’ an imaginary trip is taken past Spain, during which the
author ponders on people who are ‘made poor by gold.’ Progressing to
Egypt, we are told that Mahomet was ‘in many respects a worthy man.’
Arriving in India, our guide tells us of a company of men who,
‘occupying a house of no very considerable size in London, have entirely
from their enterprise and powers of mind, got possession of many
thousand acres of land.’ Does this refer to the East India Company, and
had Harry seen the stately East India House in Leadenhall Street on that
first visit to London?

The breathless exuberant feat of imagination and philosophy closes with
quotations from Portia’s lines to Mercy and Cicero’s oration on Verres,
both of which, the author truthfully says, ’show powers of reflection.’

Harry was writing and studying with a definite end in view. Already the
youth had determined on a political career, and when the schoolboys
discussed their plans for the future he invariably declared that he
meant to be a Member of Parliament. The statement was received with
roars of laughter, but Harry remained imperturbably sure.

[Sidenote: Still at the foot of the Class.]

He was at Queenwood for a year and a half, and then went to London,
where he first attended King’s College School, and then King’s College.
A schoolmate described him as ‘a very tall boy with pale whitey brown
hair, who always stood at the bottom of the lower sixth class.’

He attended the school in his fifteenth and sixteenth years, and then
went to lectures in the college until the summer of 1852, when he was
nineteen years old.

Standing in the school was, in those days, entirely determined by
knowledge of the classics, for which Fawcett showed a grand
indifference; but he gained the arithmetic prize in 1849, also the
class-work prize, the first prize in German, and the second in French in
the same term. His knowledge of these languages was always so vague that
we fear his teacher was over-partial in the award, or that the other
boys were strangely deficient. In 1850 he carried off another honour for
mathematics, and a first prize after that in the Michaelmas term. The
masters noted Fawcett’s unusual mathematical power, and were also
impressed by his ability to write English prose.

[Sidenote: King’s College and Cricket.]

At Easter in 1851 he left school and worked only at the college for
mathematics and classics. We hear that he made no particular mark; but
he occasionally played billiards and cricket, and he was already an
interested spectator in the gallery of the House of Commons.

During his stay in London he lived with some family connections, a Mr.
and Mrs. Fearon. Mr. Fearon was a Chief Office Keeper at Somerset House,
and lived there. Somerset House adjoins King’s College, and this was
fortunate for Harry, who, when he first went to London, had much
outgrown his strength. The hours spent in the little parlour tucked away
in the vast building were not without charm for the home-loving boy.
Sitting on the corner of the horse-hair sofa, with its relentless early
Victorian back and its unyielding springs, trying, mostly in vain, not
to disturb Mrs. Fearon’s best antimacassar, he would cheerfully play
cribbage by the hour with his hostess, while his host expounded
pungently on the questions of the day. Harry had passed from the
Liberalism of the country home to the Liberalism of the metropolis. For
both, Bright and Cobden were now leaders and standard-bearers, though
Lord Palmerston was the Party Chief. Free Trade had been won, but
neither Parliament nor country had settled down to it as a policy, and
the need of another and more democratic Reform Bill was looming up on
the political horizon.

These were the days that followed the abortive revolutions of ‘48. The
battle for political independence was raging everywhere, but both
leaders and rank and file were learning with bitterness to make haste
slowly. None the less, hearts were glowing hotly for Freedom, and while
Fawcett was in London, Kossuth, the Hungarian, was welcomed with
enthusiasm. He followed Carl Schurz, that valiant apostle of Liberty, to
America, where Garibaldi was already working at his soap factory on
Staten Island. There was no doubt as to the heartiness of Kossuth’s
reception across the Atlantic. The fire of Freedom burnt to high heaven
there: was it not sufficient proof of this that the dandies of that land
reverently encased their mighty brains in the Kossuth hat? Talk of these
great men, of their vain endeavours, of the persecution of the poor, of
the need of opening cages and letting in the light of Freedom, made its
mark on Harry, and he often spoke afterwards of Fearon’s ‘quaint and
forcible’ phrases.

In 1851 was the great Exhibition in Hyde Park. Did Harry’s tall head
peer above the crowd that lined the streets as Queen Victoria drove in
state to the opening of that proud achievement? One would like to think
that once with seeing eyes Fawcett beheld the little lady who presided
over England’s destinies throughout his working life.

And now Mr. Fawcett, senior, conscientiously counting his pennies, and
the ability which his son had already shown as a student, went to his
neighbour, the Dean of Salisbury. He showed the Dean Harry’s
mathematical papers, and asked for advice about the next step. It was
not customary for one of Harry’s social standing to go to a university,
and the strain on the paternal purse to send him there would be
considerable, but the Dean had no doubt that Cambridge offered the
proper opening. The sacrifice was cheerfully made.




    ‘I count life just a stuff to try the soul’s strength on
     —educe the man.’—BROWNING.


                              CHAPTER III

                            THE TALL STUDENT

    Peterhouse—Quoits and Billiards—Trinity Hall—A
    Fellowship—Lincoln’s Inn.

[Sidenote: The new Under-graduate.]

Harry knew that for his father’s sake it was necessary for him to be
self-supporting as soon as possible, and therefore chose his college on
purely financial grounds. He went to Peterhouse, where the fellowships
could be held by laymen, and were reported to be of unusual value.

His great friend, Sir Leslie Stephen, saw him there for the first time.
We cannot do better than quote from Sir Leslie’s biography of Fawcett
the impression his subject then made upon him:

‘I saw Fawcett for the first time a few months after his entrance (in
October 1852).... I could point to the precise spot on the bank of the
Cam where I noticed a very tall, gaunt figure swinging along with huge
strides upon the towing path. He was over 6 feet 3 inches in height. His
chest, I should say, was not very broad in proportion to his height, but
he was remarkably large of bone and massive of limb.

‘The face was impressive, though not handsome. The skull was very large;
my own head vanished as into a cavern if I accidentally put on his hat.
The forehead was lofty, though rather retreating, and the brow finely

‘The complexion was rather dull, but more than one of his early
acquaintance speaks of the brightness of his eye and the keenness of his
glance. The eyes were full and capable of vivid expression, though not,
I think, brilliant in colour. The features were strong, and, though not
delicately carved, were far from heavy, and gave a general impression of
remarkable energy. The mouth long, thin-lipped, and very flexible, had a
characteristic nervous tremor as of one eager to speak and voluble of

‘A certain wistfulness was a frequent shade of expression. But a
singularly hearty and cordial laugh constantly lighted up the whole face
with an expression of most genial and infectious good-humour.[3-1]

Footnote 3-1:

  Sir Leslie Stephen, speaking of the photograph reproduced to face p.
  26, says, ‘The rather peculiar expression of the eyes results from the
  weakness of sight presently to be noticed which made him shrink from
  any strong light.’

‘On my first glimpse of Fawcett, however, I was troubled by a question
of classification. I vaguely speculated as to whether he was an
undergraduate, or a young farmer, or possibly somebody connected with
horses at Newmarket, come over to see the sights. He had a certain
rustic air, in strong contrast to that of the young Pendennises who
might stroll along the bank to make a book upon the next boat race.


‘He rather resembled some of the athletic figures who may be seen at the
side of a north-country wrestling-ring. Indeed, I fancy that Fawcett may
have inherited from his father some of the characteristics of the true
long-legged, long-limbed Dandie Dinmont type of north-countryman. The
impression was, no doubt, fixed in my mental camera because I was soon
afterwards surprised by seeing my supposed rustic dining in our College
Hall. I insist upon this because it may indicate Fawcett’s superficial
characteristics on his first appearance at Cambridge.

‘Many qualities, which all his friends came to recognise sooner or
later, were for the present rather latent, or, maybe, undeveloped. The
first glance revealed the stalwart, bucolic figure, with features
stamped by intelligence, but that kind of intelligence which we should
rather call shrewdness than by any higher name.’

[Sidenote: Sports and Games.]

At first the men of his own year were inclined to estimate Harry as an
outsider in sports and games. His simple provincial ways gave little
sign of expert skill. But he won his way in dramatic fashion. An
undergraduate nick-named the ‘Captain’ challenged him to a game of
quoits. Salisbury’s native game is quoits; Harry was well trained, and
won easily. Then the battle shifted to billiards. Captain’s score pushed
steadily ahead until in a game of a hundred points he had ninety-six to
Harry’s seventy-five: four points more for the Captain, twenty-five for
Harry. The onlookers vociferously offered ten to one on the Captain.
Fawcett gravely took all the bets offered at this rate, and any others
that he could get, and then calmly, in a single break, made the
twenty-five necessary points.

[Sidenote: A successful Game of Billiards.]

Fawcett is quoted as having given this account, ‘Bets were forced on me;
but the odds were really more than ten to one against my making
twenty-five in any position of the balls, but I saw a stroke which I
knew that I could make, and which would leave me a fine game.’ No matter
by what magic the feat was achieved, it filled his pockets, and cleared
for ever any doubts in his companions’ minds as to the capacity and
shrewdness of ‘Old Serpent,’ as he was then dubbed, and by which
nickname he went for a brief time.

He never gambled again. The story is paralleled in later years by an
equally solitary financial speculation. He then showed the same
quickness in seizing the facts and calculating the chances, the same
boldness in acting on his own judgment, and the same restraint in not
repeating the adventure.

He disapproved of gambling, and had a wholesome dislike of it. His sense
of fun made it impossible for him ever to have a holier-than-thou
attitude, but his common sense and natural goodness kept him singularly
free from the failings so common among his associates. While anything
but a Puritan, he ‘was in all senses perfectly blameless in his life.’

[Sidenote: Making Friends.]

He had a rare talent for friendship, attracting people to him as easily
as he was attracted to them, and his faculty of making friends and
keeping them held to the end. He was never known to lose a friend.

Those who knew him well appreciated his strong intellectual equipment.
Perhaps his chief characteristics were his absolute normality, his
remarkable freedom from self-consciousness, his common sense, and his
ever-present sense of fun. These early years at the university, when the
lank boy was emerging into the statesman, were years of great happiness
and joviality. Fawcett found many congenial spirits, and formed
intimacies among men destined to distinguished careers. Most of his
associates were good workers, but not particularly given to intellectual
subtleties. Music made slight appeal to him, and he was flagrantly
ignorant of classics and modern languages, and made no pretence to
culture. The young Cambridge men of this period were greatly afraid of
sentimentality, and devotees of the ‘God of Things as they are.’

But there was one subject peculiarly attractive to the men with whom
Fawcett consorted—political economy. And in those days political economy
meant Mill. His book, gathering together all the last words of the
science, had been written a very few years before Fawcett went to
Cambridge. It had had a phenomenal success, and it and its author were
enjoying a phenomenal authority. Edward Wilson, a brilliant Senior, well
represented the feeling of his day, when he would confute all opposition
by an apt quotation, leaving Mill triumphantly supreme, and then close
his vindication with the cry, ‘Read Mill! Read Mill!’ Fawcett did, from
early till late, until he knew the book by heart. As he was thoroughly
inoculated with this cult, his reverence for Mill was one of his strong
steadfast beliefs through life.

Fawcett begrudged time taken from his books, and never rowed in his
college boat, although Sir Leslie Stephen writes:

[Sidenote: Boating.]

‘That he occasionally performed in the second boat, I remember by this
circumstance, that I can still hear him proclaiming in stentorian tones
and in good vernacular from an attic window to a captain of the boat on
the opposite side of the quadrangle, and consequently to all bystanders
below, that he had a pain in his inside and must decline to row. I have
some reason to think that he had felt bad effects from some previous
exertions, and had been warned by a doctor against straining himself. I
have an impression that there was some weakness in the heart’s action.
Fawcett, like many men who enjoy unbroken health, was a little nervous
about any trifling symptoms. One day we found him lying in bed,
complaining lustily of his sufferings, and stating that he had
dispatched a messenger to bring him at once the first doctor attainable.
A doctor arrived, and his first question as to the nature of Fawcett’s
last dinner resolved the consultation into a general explosion of
laughter, in which the patient joined most heartily.’

It was characteristic of Fawcett that he treated all men as equals, and
took from them the best of what they had to offer. He became intimate
with men of all ages. Mr. Hopkins, a Peterhouse man, with whom Fawcett
read, had received his B.A. in 1827, twenty-five years before Fawcett’s
appearance at Cambridge; but this difference in age did not prevent a
close bond. Fawcett never alluded to Hopkins without great enthusiasm,
and in the days of his grave trial this friend was the most helpful of
all. He was of great service in the first years at Cambridge, urging
Fawcett to regard the mathematical studies necessary for taking a good
degree as valuable intellectual gymnastics. Fawcett with his usual
keenness and common sense was quite alive to the fact that a good degree
was a distinct commercial asset, and said that he would rather be Senior
Wrangler in the worst year than second to Sir Isaac Newton. His definite
aim in life—a political career—made any wanderings into study for its
own sake of no interest to him. He planned through life so to select
that he might obtain.

From the days of declaiming in the chalk-pit at Queenwood, Fawcett had
realised the value of public speaking.

[Sidenote: The Debater.]

The great Macaulay, Sir William Harcourt, and other distinguished men
had tried their oratorical pinions in flights at the Debating Club
called ‘The Union.’ Fawcett joined, and after some tentative efforts,
despite his friends’ amusement and discouragement, boldly won his way,
and became a good speaker. He worked over his orations carefully, and by
great persistence gained an easy and fearless manner of speaking, and we
find that he opened debates on National Education and University Reform.

In these years the events which led to the Crimean War provided the
chief subjects of debate, such as the foreign policy of Austria and
Prussia, the independence of Poland, and the character of the Emperor
Nicholas. On these questions Fawcett did not share the views of John
Bright, who was then making his great speeches on behalf of peace; but
the undergraduate’s democratic sympathies are clearly shown in his
advocacy of non-sectarian National Education, of a motion that ‘the
party called “Cobdenites” have done the country good service,’ or in
favour of a ‘considerable extension of the franchise,’ and of
‘University Reform.’

[Sidenote: Good-bye to Grandiloquence.]

It was during this period of careful self-training that Fawcett
gradually reduced his style of speaking to that simplicity and
directness which became so marked throughout his career. There is a
lingering trace of grandiloquence and schoolboy rhetoric in an essay
written on the merit of Pope’s poetry, but that seems to have been his
swan-song to elocution with frills.

[Sidenote: The Friend of Friends.]

Fawcett left Peterhouse in his second year, and went to Trinity Hall as
a pensioner, thus reducing the expense to his father. There chances for
scholarship were alluring, and several immigrants from other colleges
joined forces at Trinity Hall. There also he met Leslie Stephen, his
lifelong friend and biographer, who speaks of this friendship as ‘one of
the greatest privileges of my life.’

Fawcett set to work with a will to carry off the Senior Wranglership. We
are told that in the Tripos, for the first and the last time in his
life, Fawcett’s nerve failed. Though he got out of bed and ran round the
college quadrangle to exhaust himself, he could not sleep, and failed to
gain the success which meant so much to him. He sank to seventh; but in
spite of his comparative failure he had shown marked ability, and made
so great an impression by his work, that he was elected to a fellowship
at Christmas 1856.

[Sidenote: Pounds and Pence.]

He adhered to his boyish ambition of entering Parliament, but there were
still great obstacles in his way. Beyond his fellowship, which brought
him £250 a year, he had no income of his own. His father was not a rich
man, and the strain on his purse to support his other three children was
sufficient. Harry resolved, therefore, to make his way by a career at
the Bar, and while still at Cambridge entered Lincoln’s Inn. When he had
won his fellowship he settled in London, and set himself to study law.
No one who came in contact with him at this time had any doubt that he
would arrive at his goal by main force. A friendly firm of solicitors
had already promised that he should have opportunities, and his great
talent for working well with all sorts of people, his genius for
friendship, and his real business ability bid well for the success of
his plan. His will was inflexible, his good-nature chronic, and his
acuteness of mind and general ability far beyond the average.

In the mimic legislature of the Westminster Debating Society, which
consisted of young barristers and journalists, Fawcett soon became the
leader of the Radical party. The organisation followed the form of the
House of Commons. It is said that Bulwer Lytton had once paid it a
visit, and said afterwards that he had entered in a fit of abstraction,
mistaking it for the House of Commons, and only discovered his error
upon finding that there were no dull speeches and no one asleep, which
seems to prove that it must have been a most remarkable society.

One of his contemporaries, who saw Fawcett in the height of these
pseudo-Parliamentary triumphs, speaks of his ‘resonant voice, wild hair,
and expressive eyes.’ But just at this point, when he seemed to be
setting with full sail on the channel towards success, his eyes began to
trouble him.

                               CHAPTER IV

                               A SET BACK

    A Trip to France—Wiltshire French—A Discouragement.

In 1857 the great Critchett warned him against making any exertion, and
forbade his reading. Though he appeared cheerful as usual with his
family, a friend recalls that during his entire career he had never
known him to be so depressed.

In 1857 he was glad to find occupation by taking a pupil to Paris. Miss
Fawcett went with them. The pupil was to read mathematics and to learn
French, while it was hoped that the master’s eyes might benefit under
the care of foreign specialists, as well as by the change.

The oculists gave him some slight encouragement: one ordered low living,
and the other high. It was characteristic of Fawcett that he frugally
chose the former.

[Sidenote: The Ways of the French.]

In Paris our long Wiltshire man seems to have been much of a fish out of
water. The Latin morals and customs were naturally not sympathetic to
his uncompromising though uncensorious nature. He could never cope
successfully with a foreign language. There was even a frequent strong
Wiltshire flavour about his English speech. The difference between
‘February’ and ‘Febuwerry’ never became apparent to him. At Alderbury he
had learnt French with a pronounced English accent. In Paris he now
delighted the French ladies at the pension where he stayed with his
peculiar and unique speech. There was a Madame Palliasse there whom,
much to her joy, he called Madame Peleas.

He came back from France with his eyes still in bad shape and his spirit
totally unresponsive to the lure of Gaul.

On his return he was extremely tried by his inability to work. His real
feelings about life at this time are well expressed in a letter to his
dear friend, Mrs Hodding:

[Sidenote: Confession.]

‘I regard you with such true affection that I have long wished to impart
my mind on many subjects.... You know somewhat of my character; you
shall now hear my views as to my future. I started life as a boy with
the ambition some day to enter the House of Commons. Every effort, every
endeavour, which I have ever put forth has had this object in view. I
have continually tried, and shall, I trust, still try not only
honourably to gratify my desire, but to fit myself for such an important
trust. And now the realisation of these hopes has become something even
more than the gratification of ambition. I feel that I ought to make any
sacrifice, to endure any amount of labour, to obtain this position,
because every day I become more deeply impressed with the powerful
conviction that this is the position in which I could be of the greatest
use to my fellow-men, and that I could in the House of Commons exert an
influence in removing the social evils of our country, and especially
the paramount one—the mental degradation of millions.

‘I have tried myself severely, but in vain, to discover whether this
desire has not some worldly source. I could therefore never be happy
unless I was to do everything to secure and fit myself for this
position. For I should be racked with remorse through life if any
selfishness checked such efforts. For I must regard it as a high
privilege from God if I have such aspirations, and if He has endowed me
with powers which will enable me to assist in such a work.’

This is an interesting revelation of a pure ambition. Fawcett wished to
succeed for no self-regarding purpose. His ideals were noble, and his
ambition their legitimate accompaniment.

About this time he shows a lively interest in the social condition of
the people. After an expedition to some manufacturing towns he mentions
an investigation of ‘gaols and ragged schools,’ and shows much interest
in these sombre centres. He describes a meeting with a good gentleman
whom he characterises as ’so fine and perfect an example of a venerable

[Sidenote: Palmerston, Disraeli, and Gladstone.]

Even twelve hours spent in one day at the House of Commons does not seem
to have been for him an overdose of politics. It did not tax his eyes,
and it delighted his ears, though he writes, ‘No one need fear obtaining
a position in the House of Commons now; for I should say never was good
speaking more required. There is not a man in the Ministry can speak but
Lord Palmerston; Disraeli is the support of the Opposition; but,
although he was considered to have achieved a success that night, it was
done by uttering a multitude of words and indulging in a great deal of

‘Gladstone made the speech of the evening, and he is a fine speaker. He
never hesitates, and his manner and elocution are admirable; in fact, in
this he resembles Bright, but is, in my opinion, inferior to Bright, in
not condensing his matter.’

Towards the close of this letter there is an exceedingly interesting
statement, prophetic of his future interests. He says that he feels that
Australia must have in future a great effect on England, and adds these
significant words, ‘India too is the land I much desire to see and know;
and it ought to be by any one who takes part in public life.’

The doctor now forbade Fawcett all reading, for fear that he might lose
his sight. He took this sentence philosophically, commenting that it
came at an extremely favourable time, when he could best afford to take
a holiday. He writes, ‘I cannot be sufficiently thankful that it has
occurred just now, when perhaps I can spare the time with so little
inconvenience.... Maria will resign her needle with great composure to
devote herself to reading to me. I shall thus get quite as much reading
as I desire, and I can well foresee that, far from being a misfortune,
it may become an advantage, since it will perhaps for the next year
induce me to _think_ more than young men are apt to do: it will give me
an opportunity to solidify and arrange my knowledge, and _you_ will know
how happy Maria and I shall be together.’

[Sidenote: Discouraged.]

About this time a classmate writes of him: ‘We recognised as fully as at
a later period his energy and keen intelligence. If we were still a
little blind to some of his nobler qualities, we at least recognised in
him the thoroughly good fellow, whose success would be as gratifying to
his friends as it was confidently anticipated.’

Yes, anticipated and ardently hoped for; but could it be expected by
Fawcett himself, doomed as he was to idleness by the condition of his
eyes, his doctor’s warnings, and their orders for absolute rest—and
unfitted as he now was for work, and able only to send an occasional
letter to the papers on matters of current interest?

He was staying at his father’s house at Longford with such patience as
he could muster. He, however, enjoyed sitting in the fields near
Salisbury and listening to the sounds about him. The murmuring streams,
the songs of birds, and the hum of drowsy insects seemed to bring him
comfort and rest.


                              WINNING BACK


             ‘If you can meet with triumph and disaster
             And treat those two impostors just the same.’

               ‘Life is sweet, brother.’
                  .     .     .     .     .     .
               ‘In sickness, Jasper?’
               ‘There’s the sun and the stars, brother.’
               ‘In blindness, Jasper?’
               ‘There’s the wind on the heath.’


                               CHAPTER V


    A Shooting Accident—Blindness—Readjustment.

[Sidenote: A Shooting Accident.]

Unfortunate as was the fate which condemned him to so much trouble with
his eyes, it was a fortunate and strange preparation for what was to
follow. Obedient to his physician’s injunctions to give up work, Fawcett
remained with his family near Salisbury. On 15 September 1858, he went
shooting with his father. Together they climbed Harnham Hill. Fawcett
turned to look back at the glorious view, bathed in an autumn light, the
trees, already turning to gold, the village nestled in the valley
through which the river Avon wound, the spire of the great cathedral
touched with glory by the setting sun. To Fawcett this was one of the
loveliest views in England: he looked on all this beauty for the last

As they were crossing a field he advanced in front of his father, who,
suffering from incipient cataract of the eye, did not see his son. A
partridge rose and the father fired, hitting the bird, but some of the
stray shot penetrated both the son’s eyes, blinding him instantly. To
protect his eyes from the glare he was wearing tinted spectacles, both
glasses were pierced, but the resistance which they offered to the shot
prevented the charge entering the brain, and so probably saved his life.
His first thought on being blinded was that he would never again see the
beautiful view which he loved so dearly. There is a widely current
story, which, however, we have been unable to verify, that after the
accident his first words to his agonised father were, ‘This shall make
no difference.’

[Sidenote: Unflinching Bravery.]

He was taken back to his father’s house in a cart, and his first words
to his sister as she received him there were, ‘Maria, will you read the
newspaper to me?’ This way of taking his calamity sounded the key-note
of his heroic acceptance of it from the first. His unflinching bravery
gave the cue which he wished his family to follow. His calmness remained
unaltered even when the doctors gave little encouragement. All knew that
there was not much hope, though he was in such splendid physical
condition that he suffered very little pain.

Mrs. Fawcett, whom her relations called ‘the brightness of the house,’
was having tea with some friends when her wounded son was brought in.
When she saw him she bravely tried to control her grief, but it was so
overwhelming that she took refuge in another room, and only appeared in
the short intervals when she was able to master her distress.

In this crisis his sister Maria was a tower of strength. The poor father
seemed more sorely stricken by the accident than the son. But for his
daughter’s wisdom, he would probably have lost his reason. All through
the night Maria kept him busy at small, useful tasks, and for several
days occupied both her mother and him as fully as possible.

[Sidenote: Blindness.]

After a lapse of six weeks Fawcett was able for three days to perceive
light, but after that the curtain fell for the rest of his life, and he
remained in total darkness. In the following June he suffered some pain
in one of his eyes, and later submitted to an operation which was
unsuccessful, and put the final seal on his calamity. Perhaps the father
deserves as much sympathy as the son. Their relations had been
particularly affectionate, and were, if possible, more intensely so
after the catastrophe. The elder Fawcett often said that his grief at
having blinded Henry would be less, if ‘the boy’ would only complain.
But this was perhaps the only way in his life that the son refused to
gratify the parent whom he loved so tenderly. He was never known to
complain of his loss of sight, and used to say that blindness was not a
tragedy, but an inconvenience.

The life-long ambition of Fawcett to lend a hand in public affairs had
been shared by his father, and the hope and pride which he felt in his
son’s career added, if possible, to the tragedy of seeing it so suddenly
broken. The indomitable pluck shown by more than one blind man which
makes out of his stumbling-block a mounting-stone had yet to be proven.
It did not then seem possible for him to win even greater triumphs than
he might have won if he had not been forced to sharpen his courage
because he had to fight his battle in the dark.

A friend who visited Fawcett a few weeks after the accident found him
serene and cheerful, although his father was evidently heart-broken, and
his appearance gave abundant evidence of it. Fawcett, though not much
given to quotation, was fond at this time of repeating the phrase of
Henry V. at the battle of Agincourt:

            ‘There is some soul of goodness in things evil,
            Would men observingly distil it out.’

What Fawcett distilled from the evil thing which had befallen him was an
iron determination, which triumphed over odds such as few have
encountered on any battlefield.

[Sidenote: A Cloud.]

But the blind man’s horizon had not yet cleared. His outlook, despite
the loving care of his family, was still sad, and though he gave no
sign, there was a fearful slough of despond still to be struggled
through. Ten minutes after the accident, he had made up his mind to
stick to his pursuits as much as possible, but how nearly possible was
it for a blind man to succeed in Parliament, and to give a helpful
impetus to the affairs of nations? This was still at Fawcett’s time in
England untested and remained for him to show. He lacked fortune and
social position to clear the road for him, and the letters of condolence
that poured in mostly obstructed his path with futile sentimentality. He
said, ‘they give more pain than comfort,’ and added that nothing pained
him so much as these letters. The writers counselled resignation to the
will of Providence, meekness, submission, and of course all implied
inaction. But Fawcett asked what was the will of Providence. Why,
without trying, should he suppose that inaction would be the nobler part
for him to play. His sister read to him all the missives from the Job’s
comforters, and he, though much saddened, listened, ‘in a fixed state of
stoical calm.’

[Sidenote: The Message of a Friend.]

Into this atmosphere, heavy with grief, came the message of a friend.
His dear old Cambridge teacher, Hopkins, wrote admitting that blindness
is ‘one of the severest bodily calamities that can befal us,’ yet added
cheerfully: ‘But depend upon it, my dear fellow, it must be our own
fault if such things are without their alleviation.... Give up your mind
to meet the evil in the worst form it can hereafter assume. Now it seems
to me that your mind is eminently adapted to many of those studies which
may be followed with least disadvantage without the help of sight....

‘I would suggest your directing your attention to subjects of a
philosophical and speculative character, such as any branch of mental
science and the history of its progress; the Philosophy of Physical
Science, as Herschel’s work in _Lardner’s Encyclopædia_, Whewell’s
_Inductive Philosophy_, etc., or any work treating on the general
principles, views, and results of physical science. Political Economy,
statistics, and social science in general are assuming interesting forms
in the present day.

‘What a wide range of speculative study, full of interest, do these
subjects present to us! For any part of which, if I mistake not, your
mind is well qualified.

‘The evil that has fallen upon you, like all other evils, will lose half
its terror if regarded steadfastly in the face with the determination to
subdue it as far as it may be possible to do so.

‘Cultivate your intellectual resources (how thankful you may be for
them!) and cultivate them systematically: they will avail you much in
your many hours of trial. Under any circumstances I hope you will visit
Cambridge from time to time. I’ll lend you my aid to amuse you by
talking philosophy or reading an act of Shakespeare or a canto from
Byron. I shall certainly avail myself of the first opportunity I have of
paying you a visit at Longford, and shall engage you for my guide across
the chalk hills. I may then perhaps find the means of indoctrinating you
with a few healthy geological principles.’

Hopkins had struck the right chord. He roused his pupil from his
depression and gave him new hope and ambition. ‘Keep that letter for
me,’ he said to his sister, and from its arrival dated his returning
zeal and the spontaneous cheerfulness which heretofore had been so
skilfully assumed.

[Sidenote: A Rigid Resolution.]

Though the sanity and wisdom of this letter aroused Fawcett as nothing
had before, it is not to be understood that his taking up life again
depended upon the spur given to his hope and self-confidence by his old
friend, but this did come at the psychological moment. It enabled him to
shoulder his burden with more courage, and to begin again climbing
towards the ambitions he had entertained before his blindness. Unhelped
he had planned to travel the road already begun, deviating as little as
possible from the course before mapped out; and he would have done so
without the comfort from his friend’s advice. But the letter was
undoubtedly a first milestone on his race towards the goal which he had
set himself.

Much has been said of the philosophy which is apt to accompany
blindness, of the resignation and calm of those afflicted with it. The
unusual feature in the bravery with which Fawcett met his calamity was
his almost instantaneous resolution to disregard it, and to make good
just as he would have made good without it. Too much honour cannot be
given him for this extraordinary and immediate courage.

Very soon after the accident he took up walking, and at once showed his
fearlessness while going between his brother and a friend who has
recorded the brave adventure.

[Sidenote: Walking.]

On leaving the house, he struck out at once with the long, quick strides
of his old walking era, and naturally stumbled almost at the first step.
One of the party caught him by the arm, and begged him to pick his steps
more carefully. ‘Leave me alone!’ was his reply; ‘I’ve got to learn to
walk without seeing, and I mean to begin at once—only tell me when I am
going off the road.’ To say that he knew not fear would be to give an
impression of callousness which would be entirely false; but it can be
truly said that fear never kept him from carrying out his purpose.

An early glimpse of the hard conflict and longing of his soul was given
when walking with his dearly loved sister. He turned to her suddenly as
if he had been thinking, and asked if she knew Southey’s ‘Hymn before
Sunrise in the Valley of Chamounix.’ When she replied that she did not,
he astonished her by reciting the poem with rare beauty and fervour. The
vibrant voice gathered intensity as, with that wistful expression so
often on his newly blinded face, he repeated the last lines:

             ‘Rise, O ever rise!
             Rise like a cloud of incense from the Earth!
             Thou kingly Spirit throned among the hills,
             Thou dread ambassador from Earth to Heaven,
             Great Hierarch! tell thou the silent sky,
             And tell the stars, and tell yon rising sun,
             Earth, with her thousand voices, praises God.’

[Illustration: MISS MARIA FAWCETT]

[Sidenote: Social Ways.]

After his accident Fawcett took his meals with his sister from a tray in
the drawing-room. When some weeks had passed, he was persuaded to
venture out with her to a quiet supper at the home of friends. Finding
that it was not a formidable undertaking after all, and that he had an
extremely interesting time, he determined to see as much of people as
possible, and resumed his social ways.

It was inevitable that at first his merriment and cheerfulness were a
little bit laboured, but in an astonishingly short time they became
invariable, and those closest to him detected no permanent depression.
About everything but his sadness under his affliction, Fawcett was
frank, but about this sadness he remained bravely reticent.

He soon began candidly to enjoy life, and he seems to have gotten
infinitely more of its beauty and happiness than the average person who
is without handicaps. He had only had one fear, which he confided to his
sister: it would be unbearable for him if through loss of physical force
he should become useless.

Despite very great difficulty, Fawcett for some time tried to keep up
writing with his own hand, and there are still several of his autograph
letters. But he found the effort so great that he soon gave it up and
depended entirely on dictation. He was not entirely loath to do this,
because he thought the practice of dictation useful to him as a speaker.
He never mastered Braille or any other system of printing for the blind,
but depended on being read to.

[Sidenote: Catalogued Collars.]

In many minor things Fawcett never acquired the dexterity possible to
those who are blinded in youth. When his catastrophe came his habits
were already too fixed, and he was too mature to adapt himself readily
in unimportant matters. But his ingenuity in studying out scientific
management of all the little problems of daily routine was marvellously
practical and at times even comic. For example, he had all his clothes
carefully and legibly labelled with numbers, placed so as not to show
during wear. In this way his garments might easily be identified by any
one not familiar with his wardrobe. If he came home in a great hurry to
metamorphise his attire, directions like the following to his family or
an aide-de-camp were not infrequent. He would call in his clarion,
cheerful voice, probably from the door as he entered: ‘I must dress
quickly. Please help. Coat one, vest six, collar one, trousers three;
shoes and socks twelve and thirteen.’ The rest we will leave to
imagination, but there was no detail, even to pocket-handkerchiefs,
which did not have its allotted place and catalogue number.

[Sidenote: A Hero to his Tailor.]

He seems long to have remained faithful to his Salisbury tailor, a
charming person of the old school who recently vouchsafed to the author
the following recollections of his distinguished client: ‘Mr. Fawcett
was very matter of fact and methodical. A very honest kind of man, a
sterling man. He was very susceptible to cold, and was apt to carry
changes of different underwear with him. He was particular about the
material which he bought for his clothes, and always felt of it. He
wouldn’t be humbugged. You couldn’t help liking him. He was that loose
and easy in his walk, his limbs didn’t seem to belong to him. I often
heard him at the hustings, he spoke to the point—he made a thorough

                               CHAPTER VI


    The Clear-sighted Man—A Scot’s Accent—Mountain
    Climbing—Skating—Riding, etc.

His friends all testify to his spirit, his normal view of life
frequently making them forget the fact of his blindness. A distinguished
writer and diplomat, who had known Fawcett, on being asked what
impression had been produced on him, replied quickly and quite simply,
‘I think that he was an extraordinarily clear-sighted man.’ Stephen in
his biography uses this sentence: ‘Fawcett had come to _see_ more
distinctly the real tendency of the proposal and to feel the full force
of the objections to which he had never been blind.’ Such remarks
illustrate Fawcett’s power of making people utterly forget his

[Sidenote: How to be happy.]

He was always grateful when his companions paid no attention to his
affliction, and would talk to him about the scenery which they passed
and the people whom they met as if he too could see them. He kept his
resolve to be as happy as was possible, and often said: ‘There is only
one thing that I ever regret, and that is to have missed a chance for
enjoyment.’ He told his friends that he intended to live to be ninety,
and to relish every day of his life. He deliberately set about
cultivating those tastes which would redound to his happiness: he taught
himself to smoke, he patiently learned to listen to music, which had
never unfolded its full joys to him before he had lost his sight. He so
far succeeded as to be able to enjoy concerts and the opera.

Doubtless, he systematically trained himself to remember. It was often
remarked of him that if he had heard a voice once he would remember it
again years after. One day in the Cambridge streets he was accosted by a
Scottish professor. Fawcett could not remember him, but encouraged him
to talk, and kept up his end of a long conversation. After a good twenty
minutes, a trick in the Scot’s accent betrayed him, and Fawcett
enthusiastically grasped his hand, and said, ‘How do you do, Clerk

He never attempted to modify his vocabulary to fit his infirmity, and
though the effect was at times strange he would greet people in the most
natural way in the world with: ‘How do you do? how well you’re looking’;
or ‘What’s the matter, you’re looking pale to-day? Too much work, eh?’
He commented on a friend’s looking old, and added: ‘But when men with
that colour hair turn grey, they do look prematurely old.’

It was not unusual for him to mimic people, whom he had only known since
his blindness, reproducing their gestures as well as their speech.

[Sidenote: Games.]

Later he learned to play cribbage and écarté with cards pricked by his
secretary with raised dots, in the fashion used by the blind to produce
tactile prints. It took him but three days to conquer all difficulties
in this new system, and he played with quickness and enjoyment. It is of
no small interest to those who have studied the psychology of those
blinded by accident in maturity to note this successful development of
card playing. Shortly after his accident he had made an attempt which
proved a total failure and yet afterwards he took it up without effort.
This point should be dwelt on, and may well give courage to many an
adult who is blinded. It shows that it is worth while to repeat often,
and to hope for success in experiments which have been abandoned as

His hearing developed great acuteness, so that he could tell in towns by
the pressure of the atmosphere if he was passing an opening caused by a
cross street. When he walked in the country he loved the sound of the
leaves, the feel of grass, the springing of the sod beneath his feet,
the note of a bird or the leap of a fish. He seems to have tried to
gather from his friends’ descriptions an even deeper insight into the
charm and subtleties of Nature than before it was shut out from his
bodily vision. When, later, he enjoyed driving, he would stop the
carriage in order to see the view at some favourite point. He was so
fond of the view at Brighton that he often telegraphed a friend there to
take him a walk to Rottingdean. He always enjoyed this intensely, and
spoke of the exquisite prospect as of one of the most wonderful in
England. A breath of the sea stimulated him greatly. After a storm he
loved to listen to the booming and breaking of the waves on the shore,
and to feel the burn of the brine which was cast in his face as he
breasted the receding gale. The little shells and the seaweed interested
him, and he liked to pass the latter between his fingers to get the
slippery gluey feeling, and to play with their little pods and queer

[Sidenote: Enjoying the View from the Mountain Tops.]

Fawcett loved great heights and mountains, a fellow climber says: ‘I
went up Helvellyn with Fawcett. It was his first mountain since he was
blind—by no means his last. He held one end of a stick and I the other,
to direct his turns; and that was all the aid he needed. But it warmed
one’s heart to see his hearty enjoyment. He would have all the views
described to him, what hills and lakes he saw, what colours they were,
where the mist floated, and he anxiously asked of his secretary who was
with us whether he enjoyed it as much as he expected.’

Later he climbed the Cima di Jazzi, in order to see the glorious array
of snow-covered peaks. It does not seem too much to believe that the
highly developed blind have a feeling of the beauty which we say they
cannot see, and a realisation of its presence which we lack and which it
is impossible for them to explain. Though science has not yet been able
to classify this faculty it may before long, and in the meantime there
is sufficient evidence that this unclassified vision of the sightless to
a great extent illumines their darkness.

Excepting cricket and rackets, he gave up none of the sports of which he
was already fond.

[Sidenote: The Giant’s Stride.]

All his friends are agreed that it was almost impossible to keep up with
him in his walks. They tried to modify his break-neck pace by various
devices, such as engaging him in absorbing discussions, or stopping to
talk to some one on the road. But in vain. His long legs would shoot out
like relentless walking beams, and if his friend happened to be small
and holding on to Fawcett’s arm before long he would be swept off his
feet, hanging on like a mere appendage to the rushing blind man.

Fawcett’s recollection for the places that he had known before his
blindness was astonishing. He could even remember in closest detail the
country where he had been as a child at school.

[Sidenote: Skating.]

Having before his accident been a powerful skater he now took it up
again, and after a few strokes showed no hesitancy. He was known even to
accompany a skating race, leaving the course clear for the competitors
and himself unaccompanied getting over the rough ice on the side. Of his
first attempt we read:

‘After a few strokes the only difficulty was to keep his pace down to
mine. We each held one end of a stick, and as we were on the crowded
Serpentine, we came into a good many collisions. As, however, we were a
couple, and one of us a heavy man, we had decidedly the best of these
encounters, especially as the conscience of our antagonists was on our
side when they saw that they had tripped up a blind man.’

In after years his recklessness became proverbial. He had been on a long
expedition on the frozen Cam one cold winter, and was returning at
sunset, chatting gaily with his friends to the accompanying click of
their skates. They were flying along at a good fifteen miles an hour
when they came upon a treacherous stretch of very rough ice. Fawcett,
who accepted ice baths as part of the fun, urged them forward, zealously
calling out: ‘Go on—I only got my legs through!’

[Sidenote: Riding.]

In the early stages of his blindness, Fawcett’s purse did not permit him
to ride much. Moreover, some narrow escapes from accident—he was at one
time nearly crushed at Salisbury by a cart—made him for a short time
hesitate as to its expediency. But later he took it up with enthusiasm,
at first accompanied by a riding master, and later by groups of friends.
One of these tells how he would often ride over to Newmarket to spend
Sunday. During the Sabbath he would nearly walk his friend off his legs,
and on other days contented himself with walking his horse off its legs.
With a box of sandwiches provided for luncheon, Fawcett would ride over
from Cambridge at Christmas time to feast on the sunny side of the
Devil’s Ditch. He loved the chalk downs, and often stopped at a cottage
to ask for a draught of the sparkling, deep-well water. He enjoyed, too,
gossiping with the shepherds about the flocks, for his early interest in
agricultural matters was through life a marked characteristic. Once he
came across the harriers, and joined in their gallops, trusting entirely
to the prudence of his horse to select the most favourable gaps in the

A frequent companion on these rides tells how one day, going at a brisk
pace, she was so interested in something he was telling her that she did
not see until within a few feet of it that they were at the edge of a
precipitous gravel pit. Fearing to alarm Fawcett she simply called out,
’stop at once, please.’ Fawcett, always quick to act, pulled up short,
and but for his prompt response to her call would certainly have been
killed. Fawcett was so reckless and enthusiastic an equestrian that it
is still a well-remembered tradition in the livery-stables at Cambridge
that Professor Fawcett took so much vitality out of his mounts that he
was always charged extra. It must not be gathered that he was inhuman to
his horses—they probably had just as good a time, relatively, as he had,
but whatever he did, he did in a whole-souled and muscular fashion.

[Sidenote: Fishing.]

But for Fawcett, who had been trained from childhood as a fisherman, the
crowning joy of all sports was a good fishing expedition. Very soon
after the accident, he took up his fishing again. He remembered his
native stream well, and to the end of his life he was always eager to
run down to Salisbury to fish. His letters to his father abound in
reference to angling parties, past and to come. He gave directions about
his fishing-boots (they were so frequently in use that they must have
had a simple number in his catalogue of clothes) and instructions to
secure some expert angler to accompany him, or framed some subtle
tactics for way-laying and ensnaring some particularly elusive aquatic
prey, who had perhaps been known to his neighbours but had remained
uncaught by them.

[Sidenote: Trout and Political Economy.]

Many friends urged him to try their waters for trout, pike, salmon,
jack-fishing, and he enjoyed their hospitality greatly. His father who
was devoted to the sport, in which he excelled even after his ninetieth
year, was very fond of accompanying him. Fawcett’s early practice
enabled him to throw a fly with great accuracy. He was fond of combining
his amusements, and would wade in the stream while one of his great
friends often went with him, though walking on the bank so as not to
throw his shadow on the water, but so that he could talk to his heart’s
content without disturbing the angler. Fawcett was wont to say that
trout hear very badly, and are not distracted by political economy. So
fond was Fawcett of the study of his favourite subject that his first
secretary records how in moments snatched between fishing he would
accompany Fawcett to a tea-house, where he would read to him Mill’s
_Political Economy_.

Those who accompanied him fishing are agreed that he was a much better
fisherman than sighted people generally are. This may have been due to
his extraordinary patience, or to his zeal in learning from the experts
with whom he associated.

A Salisbury friend who often fished with him says: ‘He would make his
way through anything. He often walked along the river’s edge fishing,
and he never fell in. One day he was fishing and caught his line in a
tree overhead. He exclaimed to his secretary, who came up, “Can’t you
see it?” then, with added impatience, “See it’s up there, I can see

With his characteristic pluck he did not hesitate to wade in the stream
or to cross a narrow plank. He enjoyed all the roughing incidents in
fishing, even bumping about in a donkey cart full of fish, and he was
particularly glad to meet the country folk and have a chat with them.

                              CHAPTER VII


    Fishing—In the Commons—Need for Distraction—What Helen Keller
    thinks—Sir Francis Campbell—Leap Frog—Despair and Cheer—Paupers
    and Political Economy.

[Sidenote: What Fishing meant for Fawcett.]

It sometimes seems inconsistent that one so acutely sensitive as Fawcett
was to suffering of all kinds should not have hesitated to get pleasure
from a sport involving the necessary cruelty of fishing. In discussing
this, Fawcett at times would maintain the usual ground of the fishes
insensibility to pain, but again he would frankly justify it as the best
method of keeping himself employed and distracted from the weighty
problems which often overburdened him.

It must not be forgotten that, however clever in adapting themselves to
their misfortune the blind are, they are relieved from the thousands of
the distractions which disturb the concentration of even the best seeing
worker. In his lecture-room the sighted teacher is unconsciously drawn
from the monotony of his one purpose by seeing his mind play on the
sensibilities of his hearers.

[Sidenote: Screened Bobbing Bonnets.]

In the House of Commons the statesman’s mind is unconsciously diverted
by the lights, the expressions of his opponents, the sympathy on the
faces of his partisans, the guests in the gallery, to say nothing of his
imaginings concerning those hidden and gracious unseen personalities
behind the screen in the ladies’ gallery—that screen which, perhaps more
than anything else in the House of Commons, piques the curiosity of the
beholder, and sets his thoughts aglow with the mysteries of the Orient.
If the indiscreet and objectionable person who devised that screen had
left the wives and mothers and sweethearts of the members to regale the
combatants in the arena beneath them with a smile of approbation, or a
glimpse of their spring bonnets, or even the pang caused by the thought
of the inevitable bill which belongs to such plumage, the path of duty
and politics would have been less dull.

Then, think of the countless literary distractions, the day’s paper, the
illustrated magazine, the picture posters, and even the advertisements
which to the hurrying business man unconsciously suggest fresh trains of
thought. Again, the sight of the crowd, with its noble and curious
personalities, or the occasional patch of colour made by the passing
omnibus whose garish poster proclaims the latest star at the theatre.
All these, and countless others, make up a kaleidoscope, which, however
taxing and at times palling to the man with sight, are counter-irritants
which make it difficult for him to over-concentrate or to become
exhausted by harping continuously on one thought, to the exclusion of
all else. To think without interruption the seeing man sometimes closes
his eyes. The blind man’s eyes are always closed, and therefore to keep
his spirits bright, to prevent morbidity and even insanity, occupations
and amusement are not only advisable, but imperative. In frank
recognition of this Fawcett felt that the larger good—his usefulness to
the community—justified his ‘going fishing.’

[Sidenote: What Helen Keller thinks.]

The great need of recreation brings as its corollary the advantages for
uninterrupted thought, which are among the alleviations of the loss of
sight. Helen Keller, in answer to the question, What is it to be blind?
said joyfully, ‘To be blind is to see the bright side of life.’ She is
perfectly sincere in this, and feels that in blindness, uncomeliness and
ugliness can never obtrude, while imagination is free to paint the most
sublime pictures. Not a few blind people have said that they would
prefer not to see, because with sight would come many disillusionments.

It is a question of great interest whether either Miss Keller or
Fawcett, without their spur from blindness, without that need of iron
determination and unflinching pluck to win their race in the dark,
would, as seeing people, have attained their respective distinction and
have been such great servants of humanity. Many fail on account of the
insurmountable barriers which seem to accompany blindness, but not a few
heroic souls are developed and stimulated by their blindness in a way
that nothing else could have equalled. To these ranks it seems that
Fawcett belonged.

He hesitated greatly to allude to his blindness, and we find him doing
so voluntarily, only to help those similarly afflicted. It was a very
painful thing for him to speak on behalf of the blind, and on one such
occasion he confided to a friend that he had never been so nervous in
his life. He hated to be put, or to place himself, in a position to
evoke pity, still more to seem to show what he had achieved despite his

He said to the blind, ‘Act as if you were not blind, be of good courage,
and help yourselves.’ He advised the seeing, ‘Do not patronise; treat us
without reference to our misfortune; and, above all, help us to be
independent.’ Also, he emphasised that ‘home associations are for the
blind as important as for you’ (meaning the seeing); ‘you must not wall
up the blind.’ ‘Do not sever them from all the pleasures and
fascinations of home.’

[Sidenote: Sir Francis Campbell.]

He was particularly interested in the work of Dr. Campbell, later Sir
Francis Campbell, the intrepid American blind man who was knighted by
King Edward for the splendid work he had done to emancipate the blind
through education. Fawcett spoke often for the benefit of Campbell’s
work at the Royal Normal College for the Blind. The following quotations
from Fawcett’s speeches were written for this book by some of the blind
stenographers employed at the college, the work of which was inspired by
Sir Francis.

Fawcett, referring to the blind, said, ‘Nothing, he found, was so hard
to bear as to hear people, when they spoke of the blind, assume a
patronising tone towards them, as if they were suffering from something
for which in some mysterious way they should feel thankful. The kindest
thing that could be done or said to a blind person was not to use
patronising language, but to tell him, as far as possible, to be “of
good cheer,” to give him confidence that help would be afforded him
whenever it was required, that there was still good work for him to do,
and the more active his career, the more useful his life to others, the
more happy his days to himself.’

[Sidenote: Fawcett Reminiscences.]

To a blind and most responsive audience he said, ‘I did not lose my
sight until I had reached manhood. I was twenty-five years of age at the
time, and when I knew that my sight was gone, never to return, many
friends came forward and, prompted by the kindest motives, advised me to
adopt a life of quiet contemplation. I very soon, however, came to the
resolution to live, as far as possible, just as I had lived before,
following the same pursuits and enjoying, as well as I could, the same
pleasures. (Cheers.) I would strongly advise those who may be similarly
situated to try to pursue the same course, for I have found that there
is a wide range of amusements in which I can take just the same delight
as I did in days of yore. No one can more enjoy catching a salmon in the
Tweed or the Spey, or throwing a fly in some quiet trout stream in
Wiltshire or Hampshire. I can take the greatest delight, accompanied by
a friend, in a gallop over the turf; a long row from Oxford to London
gives me the same invigorating exercise that it used to do, and during
the recent long frost I do not think any one in the whole country found
more pleasure than I did in a long day’s skating with a friend. Often in
the Cambridgeshire fens I have skated fifty or sixty miles in the day.
(Cheers.) It is a true remark that nature provides a wonderful
compensating power, but I am bound to say that of all the compensations
which I have found, the greatest is the generous and cordial readiness
with which people are ever ready to come forward to offer us that
assistance without which we are often powerless to do anything.
(Cheers.) This with regard to our lot is certainly a silver lining to
the dark cloud.’

‘There are at the present time some nine or ten different systems of
printing for the blind. Each of these systems has its different
advocates, and as the cost of printing is very heavy, a great and
unnecessary outlay is incurred in printing the same book in many
different ways. If an agreement could be arrived at to adopt one
particular system, with the same outlay the numbers of books that would
be brought within the reach of the blind would be increased manyfold,
and an inestimable boon would be conferred upon them by having brought
within their reach a greater number of the masterpieces of English

[Sidenote: Leap-frog.]

Fawcett spoke of an apparently hopeless blind boy who had come to the
institution. At last his chance of making his way seemed assured,
because Dr. Campbell had induced him to play leap-frog. Fawcett said
that that seemed to him ‘the one test which ought to be applied to any
institution devoted to the training of the youthful blind.
Notwithstanding,’ he said, ‘no one felt more than he, or was more
anxious to acknowledge, that, however independent they might be made,
they still constantly required some assistance; and he felt that
whatever he might be doing at the present time, he should be reduced to
a state of entire helplessness if it were not for the friendly arm and
helping voice which were always extended to him.’

[Sidenote: An Apostle of Despair.]

At a meeting to promote a scheme for the benefit of the blind an apostle
of despair began a prepared speech; but Fawcett, who had preceded him,
so completely convinced his audience of the sanity of a cheerful and
useful outlook when helping the blind that the apostle of despair found
the wind completely taken out of his sails, and was forced to sit down
with his speech unfinished. At the end of the controversy, when the
gloomy speaker had retired, Fawcett said to Lady Campbell, ‘I hope I
didn’t hit him too hard!’

Fawcett was most generous to his opponents, and feared lest his
victories should have caused them the slightest suffering.

When Postmaster-General he was anxious to bring deaf and dumb assorters
into the Post Office.

When he heard that telegraphy was thought of as a possible occupation
for the blind, he sent for Sir Francis Campbell, to talk the matter over
at the Post Office with the Comptroller-General. ‘For,’ said Fawcett,
‘if you think it is practical for the blind to be employed in this way,
I shall give them a chance.’ The plan was not considered practical,
though Fawcett was eager for it.

[Sidenote: Heartening the Blind.]

He was zealous to do anything he could by his energy and gaiety to help
those afflicted as he was but who took a more despondent view of their

The frank recognition which he gives of his dependence in his blindness
on the help of others gives touching insight into one of the integral
qualities of his friendship. A friendship meant for him the acceptance
of countless little services which it would be a privilege for his
friend to perform, and while tacitly accepting these aids Fawcett felt
deeply thankful, and sought automatically to do what he could in return.
His kindness was not in the least of the give-and-take type; he revelled
in giving fully of his life and strength where there could not possibly
be any return.

[Sidenote: Wright of Salisbury.]

[Sidenote: Paupers and Political Economy.]

An old fisherman and a delightful character, Wright of Salisbury, was a
great friend of Fawcett. Wright was an ardent politician and a
pronounced Liberal; that he was a celebrated angler is proved by
Fawcett’s remark, ‘Why, Wright, I was in Wales fishing and they knew you
there, and when I was in Scotland I asked if they knew you, and they
said, “Oh yes, quite well.”’ The two used to go fishing together, and
Fawcett would make special request of his companion to tell him of every
blind person they met. He never met any one afflicted with blindness
without offering help. On one occasion, Wright has chronicled, he was
greatly concerned after he had given a poor blind person alms, and asked
whether Wright had noticed what coin he had given to the woman. When the
fisherman said he thought that it was a ‘florin or half a crown,’
Fawcett exclaimed with a sigh of relief, ‘Oh, I am so glad; I was afraid
I gave her a penny.’

His ear was wonderfully acute, and he would detect the tapping of a
beggar’s stick on the sidewalk at a great distance, or in the midst of
the roar of London traffic. The distinguished political economist, as
soon as he heard this little progressive noise, would let all his
well-assorted theories of economy and social justice fly to the winds
and hail the approaching beggar merrily, stop and have a few cheery
words with him, and before they parted gave him some pence. His
secretary never knew him to overlook a beggar or to fail to give him
money. It is the only instance that I can find in his life where he did
not live up to his principles.


                            CAMBRIDGE AGAIN


                  ‘And ye shall know the truth,
                  and the truth shall make you free.’

                  ‘Be swift to hear; and let thy
                  life be sincere; and with patience
                  give answer.’


                              CHAPTER VIII

                        THE PROBLEM OF THE POOR

    A Prime Object—Lincoln—Leslie Stephen—Daily Life at
    Cambridge—Deepening Interest in Social Questions.

[Sidenote: Prime Object of his Career.]

When Fawcett first began to pick up the threads of his life again he
planned to continue reading for the Bar, and obtained special facilities
from the Council of Legal Education. But about a year after his
blindness he decided to give up law altogether. There have been
successful blind lawyers, but Fawcett’s goal was not law but Parliament,
and he shrewdly perceived that he might make his way to the front as
quickly by distinction as a political economist as by good work at the
Bar. To live at Cambridge among the colleges and streets that he knew
and loved, and among the many intimate friends he had there, appealed
very strongly to him in his first blindness.

He determined to avail himself of all that the University had to give
him. While continuing his economic studies he took occasion to give
lectures and to attend and speak at meetings of learned societies. Above
all, he sought to find and win a constituency.

[Sidenote: Personality at twenty-five.]

Let us try to realise what manner of man he was when he went back to
Trinity Hall. He was a little over twenty-five years of age, and a
little over six feet three inches in height, not broad in proportion,
but lanky; of commanding presence, he had a voice of such volume that
his friends used to say it ’scorned concealment.’ Frank and transparent
in all his relations with men and women, he hated subterfuge of any
kind. His quick kindness saved him from hurting any one’s feelings,
though he was still somewhat rough in his ways. Never stereotyped in
appearance or manner, nor really conventional, he had a distinction
quite his own. His pronunciation never became entirely urbane, and his
friends had much difficulty in persuading him that Professor Tyndall
might be right in saying that glacier ice was a viscous fluid, but that
he had never asserted it to be ‘vicious.’

Fawcett hated tyranny in every form. His sympathies ranged from the
smallest child forced to work in the English mines to the American negro
enslaved, whose problems were then beginning to shake the Western
Hemisphere. Deeply interested in America, Fawcett became an ardent
Federalist and a great admirer of Lincoln.

[Sidenote: English Fun, American Humour.]

Not only by his build and love of justice does he suggest the great
emancipator for whom he felt such interest. If Lincoln had lived in
England it is probable that he would have lent a hand in some of the
many problems which Fawcett helped to solve; while if Fawcett had been
born in a cabin in Kentucky instead of by Salisbury Plain, it is not
unthinkable that he might have been a great fighter for the cause of
freedom and integrity of the Union. Another strong characteristic which
these men shared was an ever-present sense of humour. In Fawcett it was
akin to that of the big schoolboy; practical jokes appealed to him and
called forth his ringing laughter. His fun was of a hearty kind that
suited his voice and his huge type. Perhaps Fawcett’s humour would best
be described by the American as an English sense of fun, and by the
Englishman as not in the least American.

Lincoln’s immortal wit, both in its defects as well as its perfection,
could only have been the outcome of American conditions. But for the
support and relief afforded to Lincoln by his intense, unfailing humour
he would probably not have been able to bear the strain necessary to
accomplish his mighty task; but for his present love of fun and his
elastic buoyancy of spirit Fawcett would not have been able to master
his great affliction and to have continued in his struggle on behalf of
the down-trodden, ignorant, and afflicted of his country.

[Sidenote: Grey Suits.]

His Conservative Salisbury tailor said recently of him, ‘He was a very
great anti-slavery man, and sympathised with the abolitionists in
America.’ We can imagine Fawcett holding forth in stentorian tones about
the rights of the negro, while his small, gentle tailor tried in vain to
make the new grey suit fit his giant customer. By the same authority we
learn that Fawcett ‘was very partial to grey suits.’

[Sidenote: Fawcett and Stephen.]

He established himself at the Hall, as the college is known in
Cambridge, in rooms in the main court that looked south and gathered all
the sun grey Cambridge had to give them. They were on the first floor,
and above them his attendant and guide, Brown, occupied some garrets.
Leslie Stephen roomed on the same floor, and could reach Fawcett by
passing through a lecture-room. The two men were always together, and
Stephen writes that Fawcett’s rooms seemed part of his own.

Onlookers have said that Stephen’s care of Fawcett at this time ‘was
beautiful to see’; it ‘was almost womanly.’ The two men were curiously
different in temperament and traditions. They seem to have shared little
but their earlier politics and their love of walking. Stephen, from whom
Meredith is said to have modelled his character of Vernon Whitford, was
a writer and student, a descendant of writers and students. Though he
seems to have much enjoyed the Cambridge society in which he was then
living, he was usually the silent member of a company where Fawcett
dominated by force of energy if not always by the intrinsic value of
what he said.

Fawcett’s room was gay with photographs and the flowers which the blind
man loved to have about him. His fondness for them was a strong and
charming trait. In these days he usually wore a flower in his
button-hole. He loved having them about him; through their fragrance and
the delicacy of their petals he took in their beauty so completely that
he seemed to lose little because he could not see them with his bodily

[Sidenote: The Fellows’ Garden on the Cam.]

Trinity Hall is in the very heart of Collegiate Cambridge, wedged in
between the Senate House and the Cam. Along the river lies the Fellows’
Garden that Henry James has so warmly praised. After Fawcett’s death
Stephen spoke of this garden and Fawcett’s love for it.

‘I always associated Fawcett with a garden. He loved a garden because he
could there take the exercise in which he delighted without the
precautions necessary for a blind man in public places. He loved it
because he heartily enjoyed the sweet air and the scent of flowers and
the song of birds. He loved it because he could ... enjoy even the
sights, the sky and the trees, through the eyes of others. He loved it
not least because a garden is the best of all places for those long
talks with friends which were among the greatest pleasures of his life.
The garden where I oftenest met Fawcett, and where I have talked with
him for long hours, never clouded by an unkind word, is the garden of an
old Cambridge College with a smooth bowling green, and a terrace walk by
the side of the river, and a noble range of old chestnut trees and the
grand pinnacles of King’s College Chapel looking down through the

Within the limits of his college Fawcett moved freely and alone. He
would cross the court and find his way up and down stairs quite
unattended, verifying places with his cane. A Cambridge friend tells how
his coming would be heralded by his well-known step and by the tapping
of that same cane. Announcing himself outside the door with ‘Hello, are
you there?’ he would come into the room, waving his stick about to
locate objects. A hearty handshake would be followed by some such
comment as ‘How well you are looking,’ or ‘I am sorry you are not
looking so well to-day,’ this information probably reaching him from the
greeting of what was to him the tell-tale voice of his host.

Sometimes he would wander in the court at night, annoying the sleepers
by his tapping on the stone flags. Was it as a just retribution that one
night his sleep was hopelessly broken by the continuous singing of a
nightingale near his window? At last he could stand it no longer, and
sought for a missile to drive the bird away; his soap proving the only
available ammunition, he hurled it at the offending mistrel, and routed
him completely. But though the blind man achieved his purpose without
injury to the nightingale, later he had a long and futile hunt for his
cherished bit of soap, and his lusty voice was heard echoing along the
historic Cambridge walls, ‘Oh, I say, who will lend me some soap?’ until
that essential was provided by a neighbour.

He worked in the mornings, and between tea and dinner, the afternoons
were given up to exercise, and the evenings to conversations

[Sidenote: Work and Walks.]

His favourite walk was over the Gog Magogs, the Cambridge Hills. They
are perhaps the lowest hills to be dignified with the name, but he
insisted that the air was purer on their summit than anywhere else,
because there was practically nothing between him and the Ural
Mountains. He would call attention to the outlook towards the distant
towers of Ely Cathedral, and invariably paused at certain points ‘to
look at the view.’ Through life he took the keenest joy in walking to
some place where the scenery was beautiful, and, helped by his friends’
description, he would see with their eyes. His love of Nature was
intense; he would often describe a sunset with such vividness that he
himself forgot whether he had actually seen it before he was blind, or
had only beheld it in his mind’s eye.

The fascination political economy had for him grew as he worked. To him
it was never the dry and impersonal science which freezes so many
enthusiasms, but the science which is necessary knowledge for the
statesman who wishes to better the condition of the man furthest down.
We have seen how Fawcett’s interest in the market folk at Salisbury
began when he was a child. The sight of many industrious, hard-working
people unable to support themselves in spite of the greatest frugality,
and having nothing better to look forward to than the poorhouse, had
left an indelible impression; he wanted to free these people so that
they might have rational lives with a fair return for their hard work.
His father’s political example and his own sympathetic nature and wish
to serve had made him from his youth a Radical. He had a passion for
justice and a zeal to redress wrongs and to liberate the poor from the
bondage in which their ignorance kept them. He regarded political
economy and kindred studies as means to his end, and Parliament as the
ultimate stronghold, from which he could direct his campaign. This was
his prime object, and while achieving it he gathered on his way all the
happiness and merriment that was honourably to be had.

[Sidenote: Freeing the Fellowships.]

In the year that Fawcett was elected fellow of his college the question
of reforming the tenure of the fellowships was newly opened, and at once
he took a hot and revolutionary part. When he returned to Cambridge he
continued to uphold a policy which would leave the fellowships open to
the freest competition. He insisted that neither religious opinions nor
other disabilities, many of which existed, should be any bar. The issues
involved by these reforms were intricate and came up for discussion in
the House of Commons when Fawcett was a member; but all through their
varying phases he kept to the one view that fellowships should be aids
to poor men who desired a university training and should be open to the
competition of the ablest.

But in 1858 fellowships could be held by unmarried men only. Cambridge
society consisted largely of young men before their departure into those
wider fields which permit of matrimony, and a few belated seniors
lingering behind, bachelors by predilection or compulsion. The
youthfulness of the majority appealed to the youthful; sanguine,
buoyant, and sociable, they could boast of sufficient ability to have
won them places in open competition. If they gave evidence of the truth
of the famous admonition of Dr. Thompson, the Master of Trinity College,
that ‘we are none of us infallible, not even the youngest of us,’ their
intercourse was only the more lively.

Into this circle Fawcett came like a huge magnet, drawing to himself all
kinds of curiously different people. He was most heartily welcomed
everywhere, and even when his hot Radicalism encountered in some senior
a wall of Conservative opposition, the wall soon crumbled under
Fawcett’s unquestionable sincerity and good-will.

                               CHAPTER IX

                           THE GOOD SAMARITAN

    ‘Ask Fawcett’—The Ancient Mariners and the Diplomat—Christmas
    Exceedings—Fawcett as Host—A Bore foiled—The British

But if no respecter of persons, Fawcett unfailingly took every
opportunity to play the good Samaritan. Were a friend in trouble, this
great rough comforter was the first at hand to help. If ill, he had
probably from the beginning been sitting daily at the patient’s bedside,
bringing good cheer, or aiding in the thousand and one ways which his
understanding of suffering, through his own great suffering, had taught
him. Nothing gave him greater joy than to help in this way.

He was sent for on one occasion by an old gentleman on his deathbed.

[Sidenote: ‘Ask Fawcett.’]

The invalid had shared some of his guest’s tastes, and before the
interview ended the old man, instead of dedicating his last hours to
spiritual things, became so cheered and animated by his blind friend
that he called from his bed for his fishing-tackle and a bottle of his
best port. This sudden convalescence so scandalised the family that the
vitalising guest was not urged to call again. He was sure to give the
heartiest, least morbid cheer, and revelled in his great privilege of
service wherever it was needed, wherever he could enter. Moreover, his
helpfulness was not spasmodic, it was continuous and unforgetting, and
he was counted on as the most faithful and, in a homespun way, the most
delicate of friends. It necessarily follows that he became a connecting
link to a large circle of Cambridge friends. To the inquiry where any
Cambridge man was, and how the fates were treating him, it was the usual
thing to say, ‘Ask Fawcett.’ Whether the man had drifted away or had
been wrecked financially, socially, or by bad health, the blind man
always knew all about it, and had usually tried to set things right. He
believed firmly in the need of ‘keeping his friendships in constant
repair.’ He did not age prematurely and had the happy talent throughout
life of seeing things from a youthful point of view. It was one of his
principles to make friendships with younger men. Some of the most
brilliant juniors found in him a warm and loyal comrade.

[Sidenote: The Ancient Mariners and the Diplomat.]

He joined a famous boat crew known as the Ancient Mariners, an entirely
safe body of athletes not liable to over-exert itself. Fawcett’s rowing
was as vigorous as it was erratic. He could not keep time with the
others, so they wisely made him stroke.

The Ancient Mariners shockingly beguiled a trusting diplomat sent by
Napoleon III. to study Cambridge sport. The young envoy had just arrived
at Cambridge and was taking in with close scientific observation all its
characteristics. He paused while passing through the Backs as the
Ancient Mariners stroked by Fawcett, skying horribly as was his wont,
hove into sight. Full of interest, the Frenchman studied their
movements, and was surprised when the learned body of professors passed
at their aged and intellectual appearance. He spoke to two
undergraduates standing by. ‘_Pardon, messieurs_, is that the famous
Cambridge crew?’ ‘Yes,’ solemnly responded one shameless youth. ‘But,
monsieur, they are very old.’ ‘Oh yes,’ came the answer, ‘the strain in
training makes them so.’ Pondering on this shocking fact, the Frenchman
industriously made notes which were later digested by his compatriots.
Unfortunately history has not given us his report to the Emperor on the
Cambridge crew.

[Sidenote: Trinity Hall.]

[Sidenote: Christmas Festivities.]

Trinity Hall was founded in 1350 by the far-sighted Bishop Bateman. He
had been greatly alarmed by the terrible black death, and wished to
provide against a scarcity of lawyers. A more genial benefactor sought
to leave a merrier bequest, and provided for an annual Christmas
festivity, properly ushered in by chapel service and followed by a Latin
oration—a eulogy on Civil Law. These Yule-Tide ‘exceedings,’ as they
were gaily termed by the fellows, had a picturesque historic reputation,
and are well described by Leslie Stephen, who enjoyed them to the full.
He writes: ‘It was almost a religious ceremony. If we could not rival
the luxury of a civic banquet, there was an impressive solemnity about
the series of festivities which lasted some ten days at Christmas time.
The college butler swelled with patriotic pride as he arranged the
pyramid of plate—the quaint little enamelled cup bequeathed by our
founder, which had, I think, a shadowy reputation for detecting poison;
the statelier goblet given by Archbishop Parker, which made its rounds
with due ceremony that we might drink “in piam memoriam fundatoris”; and
the huge silver punchbowl, which represented Lord Chesterfield’s view of
the kind of conviviality likely to be appreciated by the Fellows of his
own period. The Master ... beamed hospitality from every feature as he
presided at the table, prolonging the after-dinner sitting till the port
and madeira had made the orthodox number of rounds.’

Fawcett loved these festivities, and rejoiced greatly when he could
succeed in bringing his old friends back to Cambridge, where ‘midst the
clatter of forty pair of knives and forks and the talk of forty guests
his ringing volleys of laughter would assert their supremacy.’

A friend adds: ‘We used to argue whether Fawcett or one of his friends,
whose lungs could emit a crow of superlative vigour, was capable of the
most effective laughter; but if the single explosion of his rival was
most startling no one could deny that Fawcett was superior in point of
continuous and infectious hilarity.’

These Christmas functions would be accompanied by long expeditions,
walking, riding, or when weather permitted, skating. Fawcett would never
lose a chance of this last. A Cambridge companion has told that ‘as soon
as it was even frosty, Fawcett wanted to go skating. Even if no one else
risked it he was glad to open the season. Once early in the winter he
insisted on skating on the river Cam at Cambridge. We took a boy with
us. It was very rough. We skated below the lock, where there is a long
space of river with a strong current. It wasn’t at all safe, and I was
relieved when I was able to persuade Fawcett to come ashore. Scarcely
had I succeeded when two undergraduates appeared on the river. “I don’t
see why I can’t skate if they can!” said Fawcett. “They will be in the
river in a minute,” I replied, and so one of them was, and the boy whom
we had taken with us and I were forced to become life-savers.’

He always remembered to carry pennies in his pocket for the man to put
on his skates, or oranges for the children.

[Sidenote: Fawcett as Host.]

In 1859 Fawcett, who had recently opened a correspondence with Mill,
hospitably asked him to the college Christmasing, but the great
economist did not come. At different times Fawcett had many guests,
notably Cobden, who came to see Fawcett in the summer of 1864 and
charmed the Dons by his delightful urbanity. The great agitator was
himself glad to make the discovery that Dons abate their political
prejudice to be hospitable. Professor Huxley was also gladly welcomed by
Fawcett, besides other scientists, politicians, economists, and lawyers,
famous in their time, and who if not immortals now at all events did
their share to create that great epoch of betterment in the English
world, the Victorian era.

Fawcett had now become a well-known figure, and suffered the usual
consequences. His strategy in self-preservation is described by one
friend thus:

[Sidenote: A Bore foiled.]

‘I was walking with him one day when he was stopped by the long
conversation of a very uninteresting Professor. A few days later, when
we were again walking, I told Fawcett of the approach of the same old
bore. “How far off is he?” asked Fawcett. “About three hundred feet ...
now about a hundred and fifty.” Fawcett’s pace kept quickening and
quickening so that I could hardly keep up; when about twenty yards off
his legs shot out like the huge pistons of an engine. I had to run to
keep up with him. Like a flash of lightning we passed the Professor,
Fawcett shouting as he sped furiously by, “How do you do, Professor?
Very fine day. Good-bye”; and when the Professor in a few seconds was
left a marvelling dot on the horizon, Fawcett turned to me and said,
“He’s even slower than he looks!”’

Fawcett revelled in Cambridge society, and constantly compared it with
London, to its great disadvantage. He felt that no continuity was
possible in the talk of London drawing-rooms, and that an enormous
amount of time was lost in unnecessary pioneering before one could
discover a ground of common interest. At last when you were established
comfortably on this ground, you were briskly whirled away to repeat the
tragedy in some other circle. He had no patience with the early break-up
of London dinner-parties, owing to the custom of moving on to other
functions, and he staunchly refused to go to ‘At Homes.’

[Sidenote: Cambridge Society.]

In Cambridge life was so much simpler, men knew each other, so that no
time was lost by preliminaries, and one could still have ‘talk such as
Johnson enjoyed at the Turk’s Head.’ One had only to walk across a court
to meet old friends, to strike at once into the vital things one cared
about. Here serious subjects were considered seriously, and by men who
were young enough to feel what they had to say and hope that their
opinions would jog the old world a little from its hackneyed course.

Stephen tells us how at Christmas time he would rejoice with Fawcett in
an early and conversational breakfast; then discuss the newspaper until
luncheon; the long afternoon tramp and talk would end just in time to
prepare for dinner, and after dinner more smoking and argument until the
wee hours of the next day. What a triumphant test of friendship and

Much of the ability of Fawcett to entertain—and be entertained—from
morning until past midnight was the result of his talent for accepting
the small and trivial things of life as legitimate pabulum for talk. He
would begin a morning’s conversation with, ‘What did you have for
breakfast to-day?’

[Sidenote: Anecdotage.]

He had a surprising avidity for anecdotes, and loved to hear certain
lengthy ones repeated numberless times. He would listen, his attention
glued to these worn tales, and would beg with an infantile eagerness to
have some hoary story retold which he had heard over and over for a
quarter of a century. His friend, the late Master of Jesus College, had
a rare genius for mimicry of voice and gesture. Fawcett revelled in his
performances; he would be on the _qui vive_ with the delight of
anticipation, and ‘as the well-known anecdote proceeded every muscle of
his body would quiver with enjoyment and he would end with
laughter-choked petitions for more.’

Though Fawcett possessed a remarkably strong and rugged mind, his
training reflected the limitations of the Cambridge curriculum of his
day, in which the development of brain fibre by mental gymnastics and
keen competition was the chief object.

The undeniable charm which accompanies the type of mind which is
attracted by mystery or the more subtle forms of the æsthetic was denied
to Fawcett. Though his biographers may feel that he would have been more
interesting if he had possessed these qualities, the frank acceptance of
his limitations and the record of his achievement make a story of such
heroism that it requires nothing more than what legitimately belongs to

The short-sighted put him down as a Philistine, an epithet well
described as that name which a prig bestows on the rest of the species;
but between Fawcett and a prig there was a natural lack of harmony. He
appreciated good work wherever he found it. The novels of George Eliot,
the Brontës, or Jane Austen were a great delight to him. _Esmond_ and
_Vanity Fair_ were read to him several times over, and he would ask for
certain sonorous passages from Milton or Burke.

[Sidenote: The British Association Meeting.]

In 1860 he visited Oxford, where the British Association was holding its
meeting. He read a paper in which he had the hardihood to attack the
caustic Whewell, assailing his preface to the works of Richard Jones. A
large meeting gathered to witness the encounter. ‘Fawcett had learned by
heart a sentence from Whewell’s preface. Whewell replied and repudiated
the phrases quoted. Fawcett slowly and accurately repeated the words,
which Whewell again disavowed. Then Fawcett called to his secretary to
produce the volume in which the unlucky sentence had been marked. The
Chairman read it out, when Fawcett’s quotation appeared to be perfectly
correct. He thus gained an apparently conclusive triumph.’ ‘There were
not a half-dozen people in the room,’ Fawcett observed afterwards, ‘who
would have understood if I had got the best of the argument as to the
inductive method; but they all heard the passage repeated distinctly
three times.’ Though the younger man had unquestionably routed this
senior, Whewell took his defeat magnanimously, and was from that time on
excellent terms with his conqueror.

                               CHAPTER X

                          THE YOUNG ECONOMIST

    Championing Darwin—Darwin at Downe—Salisbury Gossip—Meeting
    Mill—Fawcett for Lincoln and the Union—John Bright’s Dog—Chair
    of Political Economy.

[Sidenote: Championing Darwin.]

In consequence of that Oxford meeting Fawcett entered another arena.
Bishop Wilberforce, representing the attitude of many not narrow-minded
men, took that occasion to attack Darwin’s recently published _Origin of
Species_. Fawcett, indignant at the theological onslaught on the new
theories, published an article in _Macmillan’s Magazine_ in which he
valiantly took up the gauntlet for Darwin.

Now, when evolution has become so much a part of our accepted and
automatic thought, when we realise that science can in no way disprove
religion, but if anything recommends it on a scientific basis, making
the wonder of creation more real, it seems quaint to remember and
difficult to appreciate that in Fawcett’s day the great evolutionist was
hated as an iconoclast whose teachings would undermine religion, that
Darwin was actually anathema to the orthodox and the pious minded.

Fawcett writes with his usual clearness, stating the true and logical
position of Darwin’s theory; distinguishing carefully between a fruitful
hypothesis and a scientific demonstration; exhibiting the general nature
of the argument and the geological difficulty with great clearness, and
taking some pains to prove that religion is in no danger from Darwinism.
In any case, he says, ‘life must have been originally introduced by an
act of creative will.’ He restated these arguments at the next year’s
meeting of the British Association in Manchester. Although this
controversy for his part went little further, it led to some
correspondence with Darwin, from whose letters it is of interest to

[Sidenote: A Letter from Darwin.]

  MY DEAR MR. FAWCETT,—I wondered who had so kindly sent me the
  newspapers, which I was very glad to see; and now I have to thank you
  sincerely for allowing me to see your MS. It seems to me very good and
  sound; though I am certainly not an impartial judge. You will have
  done good service in calling the attention of scientific men to means
  and laws of philosophising. As far as I could judge by the papers your
  opponents were unworthy of you. How miserably A. talked of my
  reputation, as if that had anything to do with it.... How profoundly
  ignorant B. [who had said that Darwin should have published facts
  alone] must be of the very soul of observation! About thirty years ago
  there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not
  theorise; and I well remember some one saying that at this rate a man
  might as well go into a gravel-pit and count the pebbles and describe
  the colours. How odd it is that any one should not see that all
  observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any

  I have returned only lately from a two months’ visit to Torquay, which
  did my health at the time good; but I am one of those miserable
  creatures who are never comfortable for twenty-four hours; and it is
  clear to me that I ought to be exterminated. I have been rather idle
  of late, or, speaking more strictly, working at some miscellaneous
  papers, which, however, have some direct bearing on the subject of
  species; yet I feel guilty at having neglected my larger book. But, to
  me, observing is much better sport than writing. I fear that I shall
  have wearied you with this long note.

  Pray believe that I feel sincerely grateful that you have taken up the
  cudgels in defence of the line of argument in the _Origin_; you will
  have benefited the subject.

  Many are so fearful of speaking out. A German naturalist came here the
  other day, and he tells me that there are many in Germany on our side;
  but that all seem fearful of speaking out, and waiting for some one to
  speak, and then many will follow. The Naturalists seem as timid as
  young ladies should be, about their scientific reputation. There is
  much discussion on the subject on the Continent, even in quiet
  Holland, and I had a pamphlet from Moscow the other day by a man who
  sticks up famously for the imperfection of the ‘Geological Record’ but
  complains that I have sadly _understated_ the variability of the old
  fossilised animals! But I _must_ not run on. With sincere thanks and
  respect, pray believe me, yours very sincerely,

                                                       CHARLES DARWIN.

[Sidenote: Going to Darwin at Downe.]

Fawcett was a great admirer of Darwin, and the famous scientist had a
whole-hearted admiration for him, and thought most highly of his work on
political economy. While Fawcett was staying with Lord Avebury they
started on the tree-shaded lane that leads uphill to Downe, where Darwin
lived, but Fawcett sped much too fast for his host, who had taken his
arm. The blind man said, ‘I don’t need you to lead me; if you just keep
close enough to me to prevent my going into the hedges, I am all right!’
‘But I don’t do it to guide you,’ replied Lord Avebury, ‘I do it to help
myself, you walk so quickly.’ Fawcett was hugely amused, and the blind
man continuing thus to lead the sighted, they arrived at Darwin’s, where
they had a very merry time.

[Sidenote: At Salisbury.]

It was a great relaxation and joy for Fawcett when he was able to spend
a few days with his beloved family at Salisbury. He often took his work
with him, and was forced at times to deny himself to visitors. One
morning when he was at work an old lady called who had been his sister’s
schoolmistress. When, at luncheon, he heard that she had been there, and
had asked for him, but that they had refused to interrupt him, he
exclaimed, ‘Oh, why didn’t you call me for a friend?’ Although he knew
the old lady but slightly, and she had no claims on him, he was not
happy until he had called on her that same afternoon and told her how
sorry he was not to have seen her.

[Sidenote: The Joy of Gossip.]

It is refreshing to find that he was devoted to gossip, and in the home
circle at Salisbury he would often ask Mrs. Fawcett pleadingly, ‘Mother,
can’t you go out to hook a little news for me?’ and the mother would
sally forth in search of the latest village excitement. She had a
talent, perhaps inherited by the son, of, to state it conservatively,
making the very best of any anecdote; and when she returned to the
picturesque stone cottage in the close, where she found her long son
toasting himself before the fire in pleasant anticipation of a good dish
of fresh gossip, great was their mutual satisfaction. Urged by him ‘to
tell it all without interruptions,’ she would relate what she had
absorbed with her neighbour’s tea. She knew well how to give the flowery
rendering that delighted her son. As the story increased in
picturesqueness and interest, Fawcett, who had been bending forward, his
lips slightly parted in anticipation of coming smiles, would rock back
and forth with sheer glee. As the narrator skilfully made each point he
would shout joyously, ‘Bravo, mother! Bravo! go it, mother!’ He would
never let any one else retail the village talk. She gave it so much more

He could also ‘hook news’ for himself, and had a favourite tale culled
from a Salisbury gossip. An old dairyman who was a great friend of his
announced one day that they had ‘a new, beautiful clergyman at Harnham.’
‘What kind?’ asked Fawcett. ‘Oh, fine—he goes so terrible high and so
terrible low!’

Though he retained his childlike curiosity, it is notable that he was
absolutely free from ill-nature, and one of his intimates states that he
never heard Fawcett say an ill-natured thing or intentionally spread a
possibly mischievous rumour. Though he had a splendid contempt for
certain weaknesses, he was always discreet, and tried his best to
promote kindly feeling. His love of talk was so infective that it
stimulated a flow in those who without him would have been reticent or

[Sidenote: Meeting Mill.]

In Cambridge he used to be teased about his total lack of any
embarrassment or shyness, but he would answer these sallies with, ‘If
you could ever see me meeting Mill, you would see me awkward enough!’
The meeting took place, but not in the presence of these Cambridge
cronies; and what happened was never known, as Fawcett kept this sacred
mystery to himself.

In the letter, already mentioned, written to Mill in 1859, he says that
he is ‘personally a stranger to you,’ and then alludes to ‘the very kind
sympathy you have expressed to me,’ and continues:

[Sidenote: Correspon-dence with Mill.]

  For the last three years your books have been the chief education of
  my mind; I consequently have entertained towards you such a sense of
  gratitude as I can only hope at all adequately to repay by doing what
  lies in my power to propagate the valuable truths contained in every
  page of your writing.

He certainly was a deeply attached pupil.

He writes later:

  Pray accept my most sincere thanks for your letter; I cannot tell you
  how much I value your words of kind encouragement. Often when I
  reflect on my affliction, I feel that it is rash on my part to attempt
  anything like a career of public usefulness; and again and again, I am
  sure, my heart would fail me if it was not stimulated by your thoughts
  and teachings. I can therefore assure you that your kind words will
  remove many an obstacle to my course.

This allusion to his blindness and to the depressing effect that it had
in making him doubt at times the practicability of his having a ‘career
of public usefulness’ is as unusual for him as it is touching.

Even his iron will could not exclude the quiet moments when his disaster
weighed on him with the force of its full burden, and he could not at
all times banish a wistful expression which his friends grew to
recognise when his face was not animated by talk or the stimulus of
debate. It is even reproduced in some of the photographs, which show on
his features the calm acceptance of a great tragedy.

Mill had not long lost the wife who had so radiantly coloured an
otherwise grey existence, and doubtless the cordial admiration and the
open-hearted friendship of the younger economist was very pleasant to

The pupil and master became great friends. Fawcett appreciated the
gentle charm of the singular delicacy of feeling which he found under
Mill’s austere and aloof nature. At the unveiling in 1878 of Mill’s
statue, Fawcett said that Mill possessed qualities supposed to be the
peculiar privileges of women, a gentleness and tenderness such as no
woman could exceed. He revered his teacher so profoundly that it was
sometimes thought that he was less generous in listening to the side of
their common opponents.

In later years Professor Sidgwick, who ventured to find some flaws in
the crystal, met with scant sympathy from Fawcett. Walking with a friend
in Cambridge, Fawcett’s attention was called to the nearness of
Professor Sidgwick, apparently deep in conversation. ‘Oh yes,’ said he,
‘there goes Sidgwick, carping on Mill.’

[Sidenote: American Civil War.]

While Fawcett was busying himself with the theory of economics in the
quiet courts of Cambridge, its practice had given rise to a great
conflagration in the Western Continent. The American Civil War raised
many problems outside the country where it raged. England was
considering where her sympathies lay. The Palmerstonian instinct to
support a small state revolting against the possibly arbitrary
insistence of a greater power gave one impulse in favour of the South;
the grudging desire to see a large country split up gave another in the
same direction. These were the feelings of the aristocracy and the
press. But the Radicals and the common people had quite other thoughts.
To them the great country in the West was the home and hope of freedom,
and that [Sidenote: Lancashire Work People and Freedom.] it should
strive to wipe itself free of the stain of slavery won the full sympathy
of the freedom-loving people in the mother country. The working people
of Lancashire stood by and starved that they might help America to be

In 1863 Leslie Stephen crossed the Atlantic. His letters to his mother
were at his request all forwarded to Fawcett, who helped his friend by
getting him letters of introduction.

Stephen writes, ‘The letter which Fawcett got me from Bright to Seward
proved very useful. It brought Seward down completely. Bright’s name is
(as Fawcett may tell him) a complete tower of strength in these parts.
They all talked of him with extraordinary admiration.’ And again, ‘I
also hear that old fox, Fawcett, with his customary low cunning, speaks
complimentarily of my letters and suggests my writing a book on

[Sidenote: Fawcett for Lincoln and the Union.]

Fawcett from the first was a strong Federalist, and both in public and
in private spoke for the North. At Cambridge he was one of a small
minority, and his rooms were the scene of many a battle for Lincoln and
the Union.



  From a contemporary painting in Trinity Hall

  The other figures from left to right are Fawcett’s guide, Professor
    Geldart and Leslie Stephen]

We have already commented on the curious resemblance, both physical and
mental, between the American and the Englishman. If we turn to the
Trinity Hall picture of Fawcett, Leslie Stephen, and others, the blind
man’s lofty top hat made in England suggests the similar hideous
head-gear which was worn by the American President at his inauguration,
and which was humbly held by his conquered adversary when the oath of
office was taken by the victor. Fawcett is like Lincoln in his great
wiry, lank length of six feet three inches or against the American six
feet four inches; in their athletic force and power, as youths, they
both threw their adversaries in wrestling bouts; their rusticity,
simplicity, and felicity in ready speech; their unfailing love of fun
and affection for small boys, animals, and all weak things in need of
help. In their slight characteristics and in their great traits they had
much in common; their sympathy, honesty, phenomenal patience and
courage. They started on their careers with similar equipments—their
great hearts and tremendous energies. They both, through vast suffering,
found the road to a deep happiness, and with all their love and power
they served their countries.

[Sidenote: Hooking John Bright’s property.]

Fawcett’s friendship for Bright has been referred to. It may not be out
of place to repeat a favourite story Fawcett used to tell against
himself of a fishing exploit in Bright’s company. They had had no luck,
and Bright was walking ahead along the river bank when Fawcett called
out exultantly, ‘Oh, Bright, I’ve got a big one!’ He pulled hard. Bright
turned round and exclaimed, ‘Yes, indeed, you have caught your hook in
the long hair of my dog,’ and went to the rescue of the mystified
collie, who was trying to extricate himself from Fawcett’s vigorous

[Sidenote: Friendship with Macmillan.]

Largely at the instigation of his friend and future publisher,
Macmillan, Fawcett began to write his first book on political economy in
1861. Alexander Macmillan was a great friend of Fawcett and of his
circle. He often came to Fawcett’s rooms to ask him and to persuade him
to contribute some articles to the early numbers of _Macmillan’s

It is possible that these two were drawn to each other by their great
differences—Macmillan to Fawcett’s strong, dogged common sense, and
Fawcett to that esoteric vein in his friend’s mentality. The following
incident brings out strongly this contrast. Macmillan was popular with
the graduates, who often spent interesting evenings at his house. One
day he in turn was their guest in the Common Room. He held the floor in
an extremely metaphysical conversation. Fawcett, who cared little for
such talk and always said that philosophy ran off him like water off a
duck’s back, showed scant interest in the proceedings. Macmillan became
more and more introspective and transcendental, and finally exclaimed,
‘I often wonder, Fawcett, what I am here for,’ to which Fawcett
cheerfully replied, ‘O Macmillan, we all know what you are here for—to
bring out another edition of Hamblin Smith’s _Arithmetic_.’

[Sidenote: _Manual of Political Economy._]

[Sidenote: Candidate for the Chair of Political Economy.]

Fawcett’s _Manual of Political Economy_ appeared early in 1863, when he
was in his thirtieth year. He regarded his book merely as an
introduction to Mill’s larger work, which he said ‘will be remembered as
one of the most enduring productions of the nineteenth century.’ The
manual was very well received, and opened the way for Fawcett to succeed
the then Professor of Political Economy, Professor Pryne, who was in
failing health. On the death of this gentleman the choice for a
successor lay among four candidates. The great ability of one of these,
then Mr. Leonard H. Courtney, now Lord Courtney, was already recognised.
As, however, residents were preferred to strangers, the real contest was
reduced to the two local candidates, Fawcett and Mayor. Fawcett’s book
was his chief asset in the struggle, and it, together with his
discussion at the London Political Economy Club, of which he was a
member, constituted the chief claims urged by his many influential
friends throughout the country. They wrote the usual laudatory letters,
but with perhaps more than the usual heartiness. Nevertheless, his
blindness seemed a probable barrier to his ambition. Even one of his
dearest friends refused to uphold his claims, feeling that a blind man
could not properly fill the post, and there was much sincere doubt
whether a man who could not see could keep order in his lecture-room. In
addition to this, Fawcett’s frank Radicalism counted against him; he had
already, as we shall see in a later chapter, twice been a candidate for
Parliament in the Liberal interest, the last time in Cambridge itself.

Such was the reputation for extreme opinions Fawcett and Stephen had
given by their connection with Trinity Hall, that a certain country
squire of ancient lineage and Conservative principles hesitated whether
he dared send his son to the college where his ancestors had gained
their learning. He decided to visit Cambridge, and there interviewed
Stephen and Fawcett. He told them with unfeigned horror of the serious
charges of Radicalism against the college that made him afraid to
entrust his son to its keeping. The grave fellows compared notes
solemnly before answering the father, then Fawcett reassured him, saying
that the rumours which he had heard had been much exaggerated, and
though at one time ’some of us had been rather infected with extreme
opinions, now we have greatly moderated our views, and shall be content
simply with the Disestablishment of the Church and the abolition of the
Throne.’ The immediate flight of the horrified squire can be imagined.

[Sidenote: Elected.]

Undismayed, however, Fawcett and his friends went to their
electioneering with an astuteness and enthusiasm that vanquished all
opposition, and on 28th November 1863 Fawcett was elected to the
professorial chair. A jubilant letter was despatched by him to his
mother the day after the election on 28th November 1863:

  MY DEAR MOTHER,—I hope you duly received the telegram. The victory
  yesterday was a wonderful triumph. I don’t think an election has
  produced so much excitement in Cambridge for years. At last excitement
  was greatly increased by its being made quite a church and political
  question. All the Masters opposed me with two exceptions, but I was
  strongly supported by a great majority of the most distinguished
  resident Fellows. My victory was a great surprise to the University. I
  thought on the whole that I should win, but I expected a much smaller
  majority. Clarke however was very confident. He managed the election
  splendidly for me, and curiously predicted that I should poll exactly
  ninety votes, and made a bet with Stephen that I should beat Mayor by
  ten to twelve. We are going to publish a list of the votes, which I
  shall send to you. My great strength after all was in Trinity. This
  says much for the independence of the College, as the Master was one
  of my strongest opponents....

  All my friends in town regard it as a great political triumph. The
  Forsters [who had supported him in the election at Cambridge] were in
  a wonderful state of delight, and I have been overwhelmed with
  congratulations. I must now conclude, as I have many more letters to
  write. Give my kindest love to Maria, and believe me to be, dear
  Mother, ever yours affectionately,

                                                        HENRY FAWCETT.


                             THE PROFESSOR

                          OF POLITICAL ECONOMY


           'A man may see how this world goes with no eyes.'


             'He that hath light within his own dim breast
             May sit i' the centre, and enjoy bright day.'



                               CHAPTER XI

                       A PROGRAMME OF HELPFULNESS

    The Triumph over Blindness—The Professor’s Audience—Free Trade
    and Protection—The Luxury of Light—The Malady of Poverty.

[Sidenote: The Triumph over Blindness.]

His election to a professorial chair meant much to Fawcett and helped
greatly to carry him successfully forward in the career which he had
mapped out for himself. It proved two points of much significance in his
life as a blind man: first, that his colleagues and the elder men in
authority at Cambridge thought that he had the intellectual training and
qualifications to develop the honourable post to which he was elected;
and secondly, that they did not feel that his blindness would hinder his
making the most of his knowledge or prevent his students reaping good
results from his lectures. Perhaps no less important was the added
buoyancy and confidence given to Fawcett by a knowledge of his ability
to control and lead men, even if they were only his pupils at Cambridge.
This was a step, even if a very small one, on his path towards his
election to Parliament. From that point of vantage he felt that he could
ultimately lead the hosts of the ignorant and oppressed and force great
issues for the national welfare.

The material advantages following his victory were also important: his
fellowship yielded from £250 to £300 a year, which, with his
professorship worth £300 a year, was sufficient for his needs. He
rejoiced that his professorship compelled him to be at Cambridge for
eighteen weeks each year, and for the rest of his life he continued to
give his annual course of lectures.

The attitude taken towards the duties of a professor at Cambridge at
that time seems to us now almost comic and Gilbertian. It was not
expected that the professor should have a voluntary attendance of
enthusiastic pupils at his lectures. When it was considered advisable
for him to have a larger audience, the lecture-rooms were filled by
forcing the ‘poll’ men, that is the undergraduates taking the Ordinary
Degree, to attend a certain number of lectures; and whilst this
arrangement remained in force Fawcett had a large share of these coerced
auditors. In 1876 the regulation was done away with, and his lectures
were nearly deserted, though in his later years he had again a
respectable audience.

[Sidenote: The Professor’s Audience.]

A friend who saw Fawcett lecturing at Cambridge after the repeal of
compulsory attendance says that the impression made upon him was
grotesque. On entering the lecture-room, which was practically deserted,
one saw the huge blind man holding forth with his ringing voice to
space. Fawcett, in answer to condolences on this weird phenomenon,
replied, with a merry laugh, that it was quite all right and he was used
to it.

Fawcett was practically the only professor who objected to the
withdrawal of compulsion; he said that he had been convinced by
experience that his hearers profited more than he had anticipated.
Examinations showed that they had really acquired useful knowledge. He
did not share the objections of his colleagues, who felt that they had
to lecture above the capacities of their enforced audiences. He should
not, he said, alter in any case the character of his own lectures. There
is something sublime and adamantine in this attitude; with his two feet
planted firmly, the blind man proposed not for a moment to lessen the
height of his intellectual stature, but by sheer force and
determination, derrick-like, to hoist even the lowest members of his
audience up to his own level. The impracticability of this point of view
is obvious, but it is intensely Fawcettian. He felt that the great
truths embodied in political economy were so simple and vital that he
could graft them painlessly and with good results on the most unfertile

[Sidenote: The Science of Helpfulness.]

He did not confine himself to elucidating the essential elements of his
science only, nor was he content to reiterate what he had said to former
audiences. He loved political economy as a living and helpful science.
His lectures were always fresh, earnest, and illustrated by the bearing
of the subject on history or current political events. He did not care
to teach subtleties, but to drill his pupils in a science which he
firmly believed would help them to deal intelligently and efficiently
with the great problems of inequality, poverty, ignorance, and misery
which were calling in vain to high Heaven to be solved.

Fawcett’s critics among the younger men often felt that he was too
conservative. He idealised Mill, and his friends maintained that he had
read no book except Mill’s _Political Economy_; it was true that he had
read no book so exhaustively. He urged his hearers at one of his
lectures to study some good book until they were prepared to give the
substance and fully to analyse the argument of every chapter, and then
having acted conscientiously on his advice himself, naïvely suggested
Mill’s _Political Economy_ as excellent for this purpose.

[Sidenote: Homely Political Economy.]

He proved the teachings of Ricardo and Mill by what he had learned from
the conditions of the country folk about Salisbury and Cambridge. He was
wont to base his arguments on some homely, definite fact as illustration
for his plain, home-made reasoning; for instance, he objected to a
certain increased tax because it meant that every old woman in England
would have a lump of sugar the less in her tea. That was the concrete
thing on which he based his policy; and surely it is not one to be
overlooked by a true statesman. He supplemented his knowledge by
studying inexhaustibly the political, financial and economic movements
of his time, and delighted in spending a quiet Sunday reading through
all the newspapers he could collect. His appetite for them was
insatiable, and he felt that he had been defrauded if his friends, when
reading the Parliamentary debates, skipped any of even ‘the blow off,’
as they called the peroration.

He enriched his mind less by a pre-occupation with the abstract theory
of Political Economy than by keeping constantly in touch with the
affairs which were in actual course of transaction.

[Sidenote: _Free Trade and Protection._]

He was keenly interested in all those questions where political economy
borders on finance. His book, _Free Trade and Protection_, published
fifteen years after his first, assailed the tariff fetish dear to his
generation. Terse and masterly, his publication became popular, and was
regarded by many of the critics of his day as conclusive. In it he
limited the problem to what he deemed its practical viewpoint. To him
this was purely a commercial one, a question of profit and loss. Was
protection profitable or not? He found that, sporadic evidence at times
to the contrary, protection was not a paying business, and that it would
only be maintained in the long run by a loss to the community, and
therefore he considered it an obstruction in the way of progress,
capital, and the general weal.

[Sidenote: The Luxury of Light.]

He was impressed by the fact that the evil of the day was the hopeless
poverty of the mass of the people. He felt that the only way to help
them was to understand the principles that govern ‘the conditions and
consequences of money making and money spending,’ and so discover how
best to make it possible for them to earn more money, that is, to have
more power in exchange. He felt that men should be less content with
their lot, and that schools and savings banks to replace the
public-house would be great factors for regeneration. He used to tell
the following anecdote, which touched his friend Mill deeply. Fawcett
knew a Wiltshire man who was in the habit of going to bed at dusk. The
man explained that this was his custom because he could not afford a
candle, and added that, even if he could, he could not read, so why
should he have the expense or luxury of light? How was it possible to
change this labourer’s horizon, to lift him beyond the degrading
pressure of sordid poverty, and to fill him with ambition, when he had
to support his wife and himself on nine shillings a week? ‘Let us
endeavour,’ Fawcett says, ‘to understand the true causes of poverty.
That is the vital problem.’

[Sidenote: Malady of Poverty.]

As a Professor of Political Economy he tries, like a careful doctor,
painstakingly to study and understand the symptoms of the malady of
poverty and misery, refusing to accept any superficial diagnosis. He
wants to discover the cause of the disturbance which, like a malignant
tumour, vitiates the whole social system. While coping with these
problems he kept his mind cool, critical, and impersonal, refusing all
quack remedies, and seized every detail that helped him to his goal. In
all simplicity he once asked Leslie Stephen why Carlyle called political
economy the ‘dismal Science’—not a difficult question for the average
man! But Fawcett loved budgets and balance-sheets; they brought to his
mind vivid, concrete pictures that could never be dull, and he studied
them industriously; industriously enough to realise thoroughly the
fallibility of figures and the old truth so often quoted (can the reader
bear it again?) that there are three kinds of lies, ‘Lies, Damned Lies,
and Statistics.’ Though his respect for his forerunners was great, his
beliefs were fearlessly his own.

His warm personal relations with country labourers, many of whom he
called his intimate friends, never lessened. Once, after a day’s fishing
at Salisbury with Wright, he had some beer with a farmer, who told him
that the labourers’ wages were to be lowered after the harvest. Fawcett,
after vainly protesting, refused more beer and walked home. On his way
he met one of his labouring friends, who accounted for his best clothes
by saying that he was going to a harvest-home celebration at the church.
Fawcett fell into a long reverie, and at last asked Wright how he would
like to give thanks for a bountiful harvest when his wages were to be
docked of a shilling a week.

[Sidenote: Co-operation.]

Such facts touched him deeply and set him pondering and writing on how
best they could be changed. Co-operation seemed to him to be the cure
for these ills; he felt that it would bind together the interests of the
capitalists and the working men, and would ultimately do away with the
friction between them. An article he published on this subject attracted
the notice of George Eliot, and his proposals were put into practice at
a colliery near Leeds.

                              CHAPTER XII

                        THE SCHOOLS OF THE POOR

    Need of Non-Sectarian Education—Charity and Pauperism—Friendship
    with Working Men—The Voice that linked.

[Sidenote: Need of Non-Sectarian Education.]

But co-operation without intelligence and education in all classes was
impossible. Fawcett felt keenly the need of non-sectarian national
education, especially for the rural population. Schools would enlighten
the workman so that he could learn how to make his work more profitable
to himself and others, and how to make the best of his free hours, and
so work out his independence.

[Sidenote: Charity and Pauperism.]

To the argument that compulsory school attendance, when the schooling
was not gratuitous, would impose additional burdens upon the poor, he
replied that the wages of labourers were determined not by open
competition, but by what was absolutely necessary to keep soul and body
together. The payment for schools would therefore not come out of their
pockets, but be made up in their wages. The employer would be reimbursed
either by a reduction of his rent or, it might be confidently hoped, by
the increased efficiency of labour. A man considers himself repaid for
keeping his horses in good condition, whilst he leaves his labourers in
a state of semi-starvation. Fawcett held that whatever would give and
stimulate the best in men was good, but he abhorred all that tended to
restrict the independence and freedom of action of the poor. This latter
principle made him a strong opponent of any form of State regulation of
the lives and labour of the adult poor. It seemed to him that charity
unsafeguarded which inevitably increases pauperism. He realised that
tyranny always tries to justify itself; his interest in America made him
familiar with the doctrine that slavery is best for the slave.
‘Interference may be tyranny in disguise even when it is really based on
the best motives.’ He wrote sternly against State socialism and the
nationalisation of the land. These plans, he said, regarded the State as
a kind of supernatural milch cow, a body capable of making something out
of nothing, of directly commanding supplies of manna from the heavens
and water from the rocks; whereas, in point of fact, these were simply
schemes for taking money from the prudent and handing it over to the

In his search for practical solutions to these questions he put himself
in close touch with the individual workman and his conditions, as well
as with Trade Union officials. When at Bradford, during a strike against
the introduction of new labour-saving machinery, the blind man went
fearlessly among the excited workmen and cautioned the men against
driving away their trade by their methods. He strongly denounced
violence, and arguing calmly to these under-fed, discontented men, he
compelled their interest; they listened, and were largely convinced by
his logic and good-will. Many working men regarded him as their hero and

Recently a London locksmith told the writer that he was a member of the
Henry Fawcett Club for Workmen, and that one of their proudest memories
was that Fawcett had at one time addressed the club and taught it great
principles of life and work.

[Sidenote: Friendships with Working Men.]

The working men and women appreciated what his friendship meant, and
felt that there was no one who could better speak for them.

[Sidenote: Odger.]

[Sidenote: Frank Fairness.]

George Odger, a shoemaker, the first workman to stand for Parliament,
was a great friend of Fawcett’s. He used to tell this tale of his
candidature. It was before the ballot, and it was the custom to publish
the state of the poll from time to time throughout the day. There were
two Conservatives and two Liberals standing for two seats, and Odger
standing as an independent working-class candidate. As the day went on
it became clear that one of the Liberals would be returned, but that if
the second Liberal and Odger held on a Conservative would win the second
seat. Fawcett and some other Liberal politicians went more than once to
the Liberal Whip’s headquarters, and implored him as the chief of the
Liberal party organisation to allow the second Liberal candidate to
withdraw from the contest, and thus both save a seat for the Liberal
party and allow a workman to get in. Out of dislike to a working-class
candidate, the party leader refused. The result was that both Odger and
the second Liberal were defeated and a Conservative got in; and also a
lasting bitterness on the part of Odger and his sympathisers towards the
wire-pullers of the Liberal party, and apparently an enduring affection
for Fawcett. At one of his political meetings, years after, Odger
appeared to make a speech in defence of his friend, about whom he said,
that if he or any other working-class leader went to see the professor
in the House of Commons or elsewhere to ask him for his support for some
Bill or proposal in which they were interested, Fawcett would not keep
them standing in the lobby as some members would, but would receive them
in the most friendly and unassuming manner. If he didn’t agree with
their proposal he would tell them so in the clearest and most direct
terms, so that they always knew where they stood with him; if he agreed
with them and thought them right he would back them through thick and
thin, and if he thought their views unsound he would with equal candour
tell them so and oppose them.

Odger had shown the same liking for plain speaking when he was present
at the extraordinary meeting held during Mill’s election for
Westminster. In an essay in which he compared the working classes in
different countries, Mill had said that in England the working classes
were generally liars. At this meeting Mill was publicly asked if he had
made the statement. Mill replied, ‘I did.’ His courage was received with
a great burst of applause, and Odger, who spoke next, said that the
working classes wanted friends not flatterers, and were truly obliged to
any one who could treat them so straightforwardly.

[Sidenote: Friendship till Death.]

When, years later, Odger lay dying in the slums of St. Giles, Fawcett
went to his bedside, giving what comfort he could, and an unfailing
sympathy. When the old man died, Fawcett went to his funeral in Brompton
Cemetery. His secretary, who accompanied him, gives this description, it
was ‘a long walk in a procession of many thousands, with trade bands
playing funeral marches, alternating with the Marseillaise, and the
banners of working-class organisations flying. We joined the procession
in Knightsbridge and walked all the way to Brompton, and the throng at
the cemetery was immense. Mr. Fawcett and I were dragged through the
crowd to the grave, where the leader who had arranged the procession
insisted on his making a short speech in eulogy of their dead comrade.’

A characteristic glimpse of Fawcett and his surroundings at this time is
given to us by one of his sympathisers, who says:

‘The first time I saw Mr. Fawcett was at a meeting summoned, as I
understood, by himself, for the purpose of hearing an address from him
on some subject connected with political economy and the interests of
the working class. I was introduced to Mr. Fawcett after the lecture.
Neither he nor anybody else had ever heard of my name at that time, but
he was as frank and friendly as if we had met before and had known each
other. He told me he was determined to try for a seat in the House of
Commons, and he added cheerily, “I know I shall get a seat there some

‘I did not meet him again for more than a year, it may have been two
years, after. I happened to sit next to him at a small meeting of
politicians and philanthropists. Mr. Mill was at the same meeting. We
had the Reform question to interest us, the question between the
Northern and Southern States of America, the question of legislation
affecting the position of working men, the Irish question. Radicalism
was then at once curiously robust and “viewy,” a combination of
qualities which politicians of a more recent birth find it perhaps a
little difficult to understand. Mr. Mill belonged to some of our
fraternities. Mr. Herbert Spencer was at one of them, at least. Mr.
Huxley rather later came into one or two.

[Sidenote: The Voice that linked.]

‘Some speaker got up who spoke well, and whom I did not know, and I
asked Mr. Fawcett who it was. He told me promptly, and then to my
surprise addressed me by name, and reminded me of the fact that we had
talked together after his speech in St. Martin’s Hall. His power of
recognising men by the sound of their voices was something wonderful.
Seventeen or eighteen years afterwards, I happened to sit two rows of
benches behind him in the House of Commons. The House was nearly empty.
Fawcett had spoken a few words on some subject of interest in India.
When he sat down I uttered one quiet “Hear, hear.” In a moment he turned
towards me, and addressing me by my name, asked me whether I had seen a
friend of his, the late Sir David Wedderburn, anywhere in the House that

[Sidenote: The Call of the Outside.]

However great his absorption in political affairs, Fawcett never forgot
to satisfy his craving for fresh air and exercise. His sanity of outlook
on serious things was largely due to his power of throwing them aside to
enjoy a long tramp, a ride or a wintry skate. His nerve never failed
him. One frosty day he walked across the frozen fens from Cambridge to
Newmarket. The country is intersected with dikes and at any moment it
was possible to plunge beyond one’s depth into a half-frozen ditch. To
Fawcett this was part of the fun, but his companion was far more
anxious, and said that the Victoria Cross had been won by deeds
requiring no greater courage and strength than this feat required of a
blind man. Fawcett had learnt his lesson that for him life without
courage was no life, and he habituated himself to hourly risks.

In company with a seeing confederate, he would have made a good scout.
His knowledge of the country, of the mysteries of the woods and fields,
intensified as he grew older. In the Wilderness, many an Indian
path-finder would have lost the crackling of the branches under the
swift hoof of a distant hurrying deer, or the soft call of the partridge
to her young which Fawcett always heard. The distinctive smells and
sounds of the seasons were clearly marked for him. The swish of the
rollicking crisp leaves dancing before the wind along the roadways, and
the thud of the falling apples on the hard ground in the orchard, made
him laugh as it brought autumn to his senses. Winter, with its clear-cut
noises, cracklings of ice and snow under foot, lost none of its
sternness because he could not see its long white robes. He loved the
smells of spring, and seemed to feel the pushing and striving in the
dank earth and to divine the fragrance soon to burst forth. Like a giant
lizard he revelled and basked in the heat of the summer sun, and
rejoiced in the contrast of the cool shadow beneath the heavy-laden
trees, the smell of the hot grass and of fully opened fragrant flowers,
and the sedate ‘brum’ of the bourgeois bumble-bee.

[Sidenote: Increasing Interests.]

Though by his professorship attached for life to Cambridge, Fawcett’s
interests were deep in the world of politics, in which he had already
made his début as the member of Parliament for Brighton. To simplify our
story we will take up the history of his early political efforts in a
new chapter.

The new M.P. was extremely popular; his friends were among the greatest
men of the day—three of them at least, Darwin, Mill, Thackeray, gave new
life to widely different callings.

                              CHAPTER XIII

                       THE NEW M.P. AND THE CLUB

    Thackeray and the Reform Club—The popular M.P.—The Assassination
    of Lincoln—Marriage.

[Sidenote: Thackeray as Champion.]

As Fawcett was often in London, his friends were anxious for him to
belong to a club. He was put up for membership at the Reform Club, but
to the chagrin of his friends, the committee was loath to admit a blind
man. It felt that he would be helpless and in the way. It delegated a
member to tell Fawcett tactfully the feeling in the matter. He received
the news with entire good humour and calmness, remarking quietly that
‘every club has a perfect right to elect, or to refuse to elect,
whomever it chooses on whatever ground it pleases.’ But the attitude of
Thackeray, who was a member of the club, was quite different; he felt
the ruling was outrageous, and said so, exclaiming ‘It is ridiculous—if
Mr. Fawcett is only brought into the dining-room or the library every
one of us there will forget that he is blind, and he will find his way
about without any difficulty.’ Vigorously taking up the cudgels,
Thackeray routed all prejudice against his friend, and Fawcett was
enthusiastically elected a member of the Reform Club. He received this
news of success with the same genial calm with which he had before
received that of failure.

It was a great disappointment to him that Thackeray, whom he had asked
to the Christmas dinner at Trinity Hall in 1863, was unable to come
owing to illness. Lady Ritchie remembers her father’s desire to go to
Cambridge for the famous festivity, and his regretful shake of the head
as he said, ‘No, I must give it up.’ Lady Ritchie adds, ‘We were so
sorry for him, and also because he admired Mr. Fawcett very much.’

Overwhelmed with invitations, he had a tremendously good time wherever
he went. If he was dining out, he would sometimes arrive at his host’s a
little before dinner, and ask to be shown to the dining-room and to have
the places where each guest was to sit pointed out to him; he never
forgot his lesson, so that during dinner he was able to speak quite
naturally, turning as if he saw to any one at the table, addressing them
by name. His conversation was delightful, and he had a marvellous
faculty of putting people at their ease. On one occasion his hostess was
absent when her guests arrived; a general formality and stiffness
pervaded the circle until Fawcett arrived and at once broke up the ice
and substituted a genial and comfortable glow of friendliness.

[Sidenote: The popular M.P.]

We have noted how he remembered people instantly by their voices, even
if many years had elapsed since an only hearing. To him every woman
seemed both charming and unforgettable. A friend tells how his wife, who
had not seen Fawcett for many years, entered the drawing-room at a large
reception. Although Fawcett was at the other end of the large room, he
at once disentangled the lady’s voice from the web of the general
conversation, and threaded his way through the crowd to speak with her.

It is worth pausing a moment to think what an exquisite sense of hearing
this story implies. What must the roar of a political mob have been to
an ear of such delicacy?

At this time, all who saw Fawcett were not only drawn to him by his
delightful and frank personality, but arrested by his strikingly
interesting appearance. Like Saul, his fine head towered far above the
people, his commanding height dominated any gathering. A great shock of
blond hair at this time added picturesqueness to his strong face, and
his vibrant voice roused all by its very earnestness; in intimate talk
he spoke rapidly, riveting attention by his complete sincerity.

Though truly a mighty talker, Fawcett had the rare accompanying grace of
absorbing himself in the conversation and interests of others.
Furthermore, his blindness, by quickening all his remaining faculties,
enabled him to hear without effort everything going on around him.

[Sidenote: The Lure within.]

The chatter in the brilliant drawing-rooms, the swish of silks, the
trailing of velvets on silken carpets, the rustle of starch and frills
on the parquet floor, the perfume used by the women, the smell of furs,
candles, lamps and the warm air heavy with fragrant flowers, the murmur
of distant fountains and music—everything touched the sensitive nervous
organism. Transmitting quickly hundreds of impressions to his swift
brain and wonderful imagination, they created for the blind man vividly
the scenes in which he moved, and in which he delighted with greater
keenness than the usual seeing person, and probably even more intensely
than if he had seen them actually with his bodily eye.

[Sidenote: Lincoln’s Assassination.]

He must have been in a listening mood one evening at a reception in
London, when he suddenly heard a girlish voice, vibrant with tense
emotion, say, ‘Oh, it would have been better if every crowned head in
Europe had been shot, than Lincoln!’ The voice belonged to Miss
Millicent Garrett, a girl of eighteen, who had just heard of Lincoln’s
assassination. Fawcett, too, was deeply moved by this news, and asked to
meet Miss Garrett. He found himself at once with her on a common ground
of sympathy, not only in the loss of the great emancipator, but in a
deep admiration for the lofty principles of liberty for which Lincoln
had given his life.

This meeting was the beginning of a rare understanding between two
strangely harmonious and independent natures, and in the autumn of 1866
Fawcett became engaged to Miss Garrett, whom he married on April 23,
1867. Mrs. Fawcett was the daughter of Mr. Newson Garrett of Aldeburgh.
The following notice of the event is taken from the _Suffolk Mercury_ of
the day:

‘The commanding figure of the bridegroom, which towered above the
surrounding gentlemen, bespoke him one of the tallest as well as one of
the most distinguished of his countrymen.

‘Amongst the most interesting of the wedding presents were a massive
repeating chronometer, sent by the Fellows of Cambridge University, and
a beautiful silver inkstand, the gift of one of Mr. Fawcett’s
constituents at Brighton.’


[Sidenote: Marriage.]

The marriage of Fawcett did more to help him realise his ambitions and
develop his intellectual abilities than any other event in his life. He
used to say that he fell in love with his wife’s mind, but from this we
must not imagine that she lacked personal charm and a vivacious sense of
humour. Their affection rested on a strong foundation of common
principles and interests and of the love of freedom and justice.

A vivid impression of this unique and romantic couple is sketched for us
in the accompanying story told by Lord Avebury.[1]

Sir John Lubbock, as he then was, was waiting at the Railway Station on
his way to Wiltshire, when his attention was called to a reserved
compartment decorated gaily with flowers. On asking the station-master
to explain this unusual phenomenon, he was informed that the compartment
was reserved for Professor Fawcett and his bride, who were about to
start on their wedding trip.

[Sidenote: A Trio and a Wedding Trip.]

Just then Fawcett loomed in sight, his little girlish bride hanging on
his arm. Sir John tried to vanish, but Fawcett’s marvellous intuition
had already detected his presence, and the blind man cried out in that
voice which scorned concealment: ‘Hello, Sir John, I want you to meet my
wife. We are going on our wedding trip; you must come along!’

Willy nilly, Sir John was seized by the giant and hustled after the
bride into the beflowered compartment. Much embarrassed, he protested as
best he could, and tried to extricate himself, but Fawcett would not
hear of it, and insisted on his accompanying them upon their wedding
trip. Sir John made another heroic effort for flight, but just then the
guard slammed the door, and he was forced to form a third for a part of
the honeymoon.

This cordiality to his friends on all occasions was one of Fawcett’s
chief characteristics. He could not imagine any one whom he liked being
in the way; and his wife’s sense of fun always managed to make what
might have been otherwise a difficult situation amusing and acceptable.

For the honeymoon Fawcett had taken a small cottage at Alderbury. The
country had been familiar to him when he was there as a schoolboy. Each
day he took his bride on some new and lovely drive, stopping on the way
to show her the views which he loved and so well remembered.

[Sidenote: Mrs. Fawcett.]

Mrs. Fawcett had been before her marriage deeply interested in the
questions of social interest which absorbed Fawcett. She had his entire
sympathy both in her independent work as a political economist and in
her championship of woman suffrage.

After their marriage, they published together a collection of essays and
lectures. Mrs. Fawcett’s _Political Economy for Beginners_ appeared
shortly after, and quickly won its way to popularity. Fawcett was always
eager in acknowledging his wife’s help, and not only as his literary
critic and editor. He valued her judgment in political matters more than
his own, and would leave important questions unsettled until he had
discussed them with her.

He gave a touching proof of his devotion and belief in her ability when
a sudden accident threatened Mrs. Fawcett’s life, and shook him out of
his usual reserve. They had been riding together at Brighton, when Mrs.
Fawcett was thrown violently from her horse. The fall knocked her
senseless, and she did not regain consciousness for some time. The blind
man could not be convinced that her stupor was not death, and that his
friends, were not deceiving him. The grief and uncontrollable weeping of
the big man were infinitely touching. He was so completely overcome that
he had to give up an election meeting which he had expected to attend in
the evening. On the following day, at a great assembly, he referred to
his absence, and thanked the constituency for its previous support,
saying that whatever difficulties he had met had been surmounted with
the aid of others, and because he had ‘a help-mate whose political
judgment was much less frequently at fault than his own.’ This was his
attitude to his wife and her opinions throughout his life.

Footnote 1:

  The above was given to the writer by the late Lord Avebury at his home
  in London in 1911; it is taken directly from the notes made at the

                              CHAPTER XIV

                         THE WOMAN AND THE VOTE

    The Home in London—Sympathy with Woman Suffrage—The Blind
    Gardener—Clubs—Hatred of Flunkeyism.

[Sidenote: The Home in London.]

His belief in Woman Suffrage probably began before he met his wife. It
was but a month after his marriage that he voted for Mill’s motion in
favour of extending the suffrage to women, the first time the question
was introduced into the House of Commons.

The hampered and restricted position of women industrially was a
condition that stirred Fawcett strongly. He felt that to bring the
necessary pressure upon legislation, women should have votes, and that
much of the injustice from which they suffered was due to their
political powerlessness.

He loved a fight, and believed in competition to determine merit, but
his spirit revolted at the unjust restraint of the rights of mind and
virtue by brute force. He found that many paupers were women, and that
their chance to support themselves was often negligible. So few
wage-earning opportunities were open to them that their employers were
able to make what terms they pleased with these impoverished seekers for
work. Poor women often gladly accepted wages which were insufficient to
hold soul and body together. Fawcett enthusiastically advocated that
women should be given a fair chance to do what work they could do well.
He spoke and worked to have women admitted to the examinations at
Cambridge. He did not attempt to dwell on the equality or inequality of
man and woman, but consistent with his lively sense of fairness, he felt
that they should be given at least an equal chance to develop whatever
powers they had. The sad fate of the hundreds of women whose lives were
forced into useless inactivity depressed him: he did what he could all
his life to open many new fields to them.

[Sidenote: Zeal for Fair Play.]

His single-handed fight against a Bill restricting the work of adult
women was in the same direction. In this he took a very independent
position. He considered that restrictions on adult women were an
infringement of their liberty, and that it would probably have the
effect of lessening their already narrow chances of employment. His
quickness to consider this second point was evidenced also in his
treatment of a question arising out of the bill for the compulsory
registration of teachers. A lady quite unknown to Fawcett wrote that it
would tend to prevent many a young woman who was not regularly employed
in teaching from adding to, or temporarily earning, her livelihood: he
at once answered that that side of the question had not struck him, but
that he would call upon her immediately to hear her statement of facts.
Mrs. Fawcett, of course, augmented and shared her husband’s natural
enthusiasm for the enfranchisement of women. When she was asked to speak
at Brighton on Woman’s Suffrage some of his constituents objected,
fearing that it would react unfavourably on Fawcett’s political
position, but he would not hear of preventing her carrying out her plan,
and did then, as always, everything to help her in her cause.

[Sidenote: Sympathy with Woman’s Suffrage.]

Since these pioneer efforts Mrs. Fawcett has been and is one of the
strongest and most successful workers in a rational and dignified
campaign for obtaining the suffrage for women. She and her daughter have
effectively made great sacrifices for the cause which they have so much
advanced by their eloquent enthusiasm and disinterested and legitimate

A most unusual honour has been accorded to Mrs. Fawcett. The portrait of
Fawcett with his wife now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, and is
at this time the only portrait of a living woman, not of royal blood, in
that historic collection.

[Sidenote: The Blind Gardener.]

Fawcett took his wife to live at 42 Bessborough Gardens. Later they went
to live in The Lawn, Lambeth, where they stayed during the sittings of
the House until his death. Despite the additional griminess due to the
vicinity of Vauxhall Station, the Political Economist at once turned
farmer on his estate of about three-quarters of an acre. He sent the
asparagus which he raised within fifteen minutes’ walk of the House of
Commons, and which he insisted was a peculiarly good variety, to his
father in Salisbury as proof of the excellent climate of London. Two
small greenhouses furnished opportunity for raising flowers. These were
an unfailing source of pleasure to the blind man, always keenly
conscious of their beauty and gratified by their perfume. He knew them
all by name and took pride in showing them to his guests. The
old-fashioned house was made delightful by the artistic sense of Mrs.
Fawcett. The happy couple were unmindful of the lack of social
distinction inherent in their neighbourhood, and felt that the nearness
to the Houses of Parliament, which were within pleasant walk along the
river and over Westminster Bridge, as well as the horticultural
opportunities, compensated their slender purse for any other

[Sidenote: Radical Club.]

A most fantastic incident occurred shortly after Fawcett’s marriage
which might have seriously affected his political career. His most
sociable instincts had prompted him to found a club about the beginning
of his first Parliament. It was called the Radical Club, and it
consisted in equal numbers of politicians in and out of the House. Of
course Mill joined. The club gathered influence. It met at weekly
dinners, when the topics of the day were discussed. Soon afterwards
Fawcett and his friends founded at Cambridge a new club, with the
fearful name of Republican. It defined the name Republican as ‘Hostility
to the hereditary principle as exemplified in monarchical and
aristocratic institutions, and to all social and political privileges
dependent upon difference of sex.’

[Sidenote: Republican Club.]

The Republican Club was the means of promoting many delightful and
charming dinners and evenings among a circle of brilliant and
interesting friends. It was not a dark centre of conspiracy or
revolution, and its members were not concocting a nineteenth-century
version of the Gunpowder Plot. Unfortunately a weird and garbled account
of the Club appeared in the papers and struck terror in the hearts of
Fawcett’s constituents. To them republicanism meant revolution and all
the horrors depicted by Dickens in his _Tale of Two Cities_. One of
Fawcett’s best friends talked of making an amendment to the usual vote
of confidence at the next Liberal meeting in Brighton. Though the
proposed motion was given up, Fawcett profited by the opening to state
clearly his principles; he said that he adhered to ‘merit, not birth,’
and denied any revolutionary predilections for his friends or himself,
or any sentiment of disloyalty.

[Sidenote: Hatred of Flunkeyism.]

Fawcett was essentially a peace-loving citizen when peace and progress
could go hand in hand. He had no plans for upsetting the monarchy,
though he alone objected to the dowry voted by the House to the Princess
Louise. He abominated flunkeyism as an aping of loyalty, and had no more
regard for distinctions of rank than for differences of creed.

It is characteristic of him that while a democrat to democrats, he did
not fall into the mistake of many broad-minded people, and forget that
tact and congeniality are essential in bringing people together
socially. He was very keenly alive to the differences in individuals,
and took care that the gatherings at his house should be congenial and
harmonious. When a proposed party was being plotted out he would say,
‘Oh, don’t ask the So-and-so’s, they are such frumps.’

[Sidenote: His very own Salt Cellar.]

Mrs. Fawcett and he were delightful hosts; they liked having people at
their house, and he greatly enjoyed his own as well as other folks’
dinners. He was abnormally fond of salt, and to ensure an unfailing and
adequate supply, carried a little sprinkling salt cellar with him, which
he had carefully filled before dinner. He appreciated his food very
much, and though not in any way a gourmand, paid full tribute to the
high art of the cook.


                              THE NEW M.P.


                               CHAPTER XV

                          BLIND SUPERSTITIONS

    Speech before the British Association—Mill again—Bright and Lord
    Brougham—The Mythical Committee Room—Defeat at Southwark.

[Sidenote: Blind Superstitions.]

Fawcett never deviated from his school-boy longing for a political
career. But despite the recognition which he had obtained as a speaker
and thinker, even his best friends felt that his dream of a political
future was worse than impracticable. They tried to dissuade him from his
purpose, and make him content with a writer’s life of study, thought and

Opposition, the breath of life to this dauntless man, only added another
stimulating obstacle to those he rejoiced to overcome—blindness, lack of
money, and lack of distinguished origin. He had made up his mind to be a
statesman before his accident; and he would in no wise falter. In the
wonderful crucible of his genial kindliness, the opposition of his
friends was distilled into a warm co-operation. He forced them to
believe in his powers and future, and changed them into his enthusiastic
political backers. His blindness, which appealed to the gentleness and
pity of many, with him became a recognised force to help him to great
feats of memory and prodigies of concentration. His very inability to
read books and newspapers compelled him to cultivate his memory and
tirelessly to think over the problems he wished to master. As a result
of constant practice, he became able to memorise statistical information
and use it in debate in a way which utterly baffled men of average
ability. Even the most brilliant men of his day would have to use notes
where Fawcett could trust to his memory alone.

[Sidenote: A Telling Speech.]

As we have said, a year after his blindness, with Brown to guide him, he
went to Aberdeen, and spoke before the British Association. His paper
there on the ‘Social and Economical Influence of the New Gold’ made a
profound impression, and won him his first public recognition as an
economist and statesman. He was much pleased with the result of his
first effort in public, and the cordiality with which he was personally

But his sociability was not, as we know, confined to learned persons.
During a journey he found himself in a small Scottish inn with a lonely
dinner in prospect; he was cheered to hear voices in the next room. He
sent for the landlord and asked who was there. ‘Some commercial gents,’
was the reply. Fawcett asked the landlord to take his compliments to the
‘commercial gents,’ upon which he received an invitation to dine with
them. He accepted with alacrity, and passed a most jovial evening in
their company.

He next spoke at the Social Science Association at Bradford on the
Protection of Labour from Immigration, and also on the theory and
tendency of strikes. He made several loyal friends there, and his
manifest ability led some of them to wish he might become a
parliamentary candidate for a northern Borough.

The next year he acted as the member of a committee appointed by the
Social Science Association, to investigate the problem of strikes. Lord
Brougham and others of distinction were very friendly to him, though the
veteran Reformer made some remarks about the American War which, Fawcett
said, ‘drove me half wild.’

[Sidenote: Mill and a Political Opening.]

In 1860 Fawcett was greatly encouraged by a meeting with Mill, who
congratulated him on his choice of a political career. Mill considered
that the blind man’s loss of sight could only injure his prospects of
political success if with sight zeal had also gone. The affliction could
be turned into an asset which would arouse sympathy, and soften
jealousies. Fawcett felt elated and stimulated by the older man’s
interest and belief in him, and lost no time in hunting for a political

He interviewed Lord Stanley, but without results, for, as he reported to
a friend, Lord Stanley ‘thought me, I fancy, rather young.’ And, after
all, he was young—only twenty-seven—but he was determined. He watched
for every chance of a bye-election, and knocked at the door of any
borough where candidates seemed likely to be in requisition.

[Sidenote: Bright and Lord Brougham.]

When he asked Mr. Bright about some Scotch burgh, he was kindly but
firmly advised to wait until his star had risen a little more above the
public horizon. But Fawcett refused to lose time, and made his own
opportunity. An article appeared in the _Morning Star_ which stated that
Southwark, then in need of a representative, had revolted against the
control of its paid agents, and that a committee had been appointed to
look for an independent candidate who would stand upon ‘principles of
purity.’ The following morning Fawcett appeared before the committee.
Bringing with him a letter from Lord Brougham, he introduced himself as
‘of Norfolk Street, Strand, and a Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge.’
His declaration of principles was so satisfactory that the chairman of
the committee consented to preside at a meeting.

[Sidenote: First Political Meeting at Southwark.]

Two good stories are told about this election. There is evidence to show
that Fawcett himself set them in circulation. They curiously illustrate
both his sense of fun and his shrewdness. One tells of his first
meeting. This was held in an inn, and only one reporter came to it.
Fawcett began chatting to him, asked him if he had anything special to
do that evening, and then, as there was no audience, suggested to him to
go home. He offered to send on a résumé of his speech. The reporter
gratefully left, Fawcett then asked the landlord if there was any one in
the ‘parlour.’ There were only a few commercial travellers, but Fawcett
sent his compliments to them and asked them to come in. They joined him
and all started a joyful evening together. In course of time, Fawcett
asked one of the travellers if he would mind taking the chair, which he
did. Fawcett then made a brief speech, and after drinks and a very merry
time the party broke up, whereupon Fawcett wrote an account of the
evening to his friend the reporter, giving the speech from the chair,
which he of course made up, and his own oration.

As there was nothing particular doing, to Fawcett’s surprise, the next
day the London papers came out with a full account of the meeting at

Fawcett went promptly to see the chairman of the previous evening, whom
he found absorbed in the account of the great meeting. ‘Why,’ he
exclaimed to Fawcett, ‘I had no idea I made this speech last night. I
have made speeches before, and I usually remember them! I only had a
glass or two! I cannot see why I should have forgotten this one.’ To
which Fawcett replied quietly, ‘You certainly have been well reported,’
and left the bewildered orator to revel in his eloquence.

Lord Avebury said of this tale, which he had repeated to the writer:
‘Tyndall was much shocked by this story, but I thought that the
cleverness far outweighed the wickedness, and the humour of it appealed
to me greatly.’

[Sidenote: The Mythical Committee Room.]

The other story tells of Fawcett’s mythical committee room. It is to be
remembered that he was quite unknown, and put himself up without support
and with no possibility of winning.

He engaged a very small room and a very small boy to open its door. The
candidate was rarely at headquarters, but his acolyte kept up
appearances by informing any one who called that Mr. Fawcett was engaged
with his committee.

[Sidenote: The Contest.]

He stood for a larger franchise; abolition of Church rates; removal of
religious restrictions; economy; the volunteer movement; the
equalisation of poor rates, and the reform of local government in
London. He proved his principles of purity by refusing to pay a shilling
to influence votes.

His success was immediate. The meetings that followed the first were
crowded and overflowing. His interesting personality drew people from
all parts of London to his meetings, till even the neighbouring streets
were crowded.

But the other candidate entered the field. A campaign was started on
behalf of a Mr. Scovell. This did not open with success. A meeting held
for Scovell broke up in a pandemonium. Fawcett had the satisfaction a
few days later of holding an orderly and overcrowded meeting in the very
same hall.

The opposition now introduced a more formidable candidate in Mr. Layard
(later Sir Austin Henry); the Government and the great employers were
understood to favour him. This opposition seemed to decide the contest
against Fawcett, and his friend Leslie Stephen says that he doubts if
Fawcett ever seriously expected to go to the poll. Nevertheless he had
his committee room duly placarded, though the candidate with his small
attendant guide seems still to have been the committee. Fawcett spoke
every night, and urged without success that a mass meeting of electors
should choose between his qualifications and Layard’s!

[Sidenote: The Speaker’s Eye.]

Of course his opponents urged that Fawcett’s obvious disqualification
was his blindness, and that this was an insurmountable obstacle. The
matter was hotly debated on both sides. All sorts of arguments were
brought up at meetings and in the newspapers. How could a blind man
decide questions about the laying out of streets? Fawcett showed how he
could judge accurately of such things by putting pins in a map. How
could he ‘catch the Speaker’s eye’? This objection amused Fawcett and
his friends greatly. It is true that no member can raise his voice in
the Commons unless able to perform that ceremony. But, as Fawcett
gleefully explained, that mysterious ceremony consists in standing in
one’s place hat in hand, no difficult task for a blind man. It is for
the roving eye of the Speaker to note the standing member and announce
his name to the assembly. He thus gaily disposed of these objections,
and cheerfully asked ‘Mr. Layard to argue with him any point supposed to
require eyesight,’ when he would show his power of dealing with it.

Friends came forward to testify, at meetings and by letter, to his great
abilities, and the editor of the _Morning Star_, which had treated his
first speech so generously, delivered an eloquent oration in his favour.

[Sidenote: Triumphant Defeat.]

Fawcett fought that large borough for a month on less than £250. But the
odds were too great, and he wisely decided not to go to the poll, where
Layard obtained a majority of one thousand votes over Scovell.

Fawcett told a friend that this defeat would ensure him victory at the
next contest. Notwithstanding his optimistic belief, he had still much
to win through. He had shown his power of influencing a constituency,
but he had still to overcome the scepticism in the minds of practical
men as to the capabilities of a blind man, and to create for himself a
support which could be counted on as a more positive factor than mere
popular enthusiasm.

                              CHAPTER XVI

                             PURE POLITICS

    Defeat at Cambridge and Brighton—Routing a Chimæra—Elected the
    Member for Brighton—The House of Commons.

Fawcett’s day was no more free from political chicanery and wire-pulling
than our own. Like all aspirants, he was sorely pressed to compromise
with the underworld of politics, but he kept himself clear of the
political mire, and made no promise which he could not justly fulfil.

[Sidenote: The Flutter.]

While waiting for his next chance his life was as usual busy and happy,
labouring over papers for _Macmillan’s Magazine_, editing his books,
lecturing, and generally leading the honest, frugal life of a man of
letters. This quiet was diversified by Fawcett’s one and only ‘flutter’
in mining shares. His father had been for some years working to retrieve
the fortunes of a big mining undertaking in Cornwall. The son had been
much interested, and accompanied his father on several business journeys
to the mine.

The elder Fawcett at last pulled his undertaking to a successful issue;
this success gave a sudden fillip to mining shares. The son ‘plunged,’
and plunged with success—so much so that he was seriously advised to
give up politics, for the time at least, and go on the Stock Exchange.

But he was not to be tempted by the lure of quick monetary success.

‘I am convinced,’ he said once, ‘that the duties of a member of the
House of Commons are so multifarious, the questions brought before him
so complicated and difficult, that if he fully discharges his duty, he
requires almost a lifetime of study.’ And again, ‘If I take up this
profession, I will not trifle with the interests of my country. I will
not trifle with the interests of my constituents by going into the House
of Commons inadequately prepared, because I gave up to the acquisition
of wealth the time which I ought to have spent in the acquisition of
political knowledge.’

The sacrifice was unquestionable, and it emphasises his firm adherence
to his ideals, and his willingness to sacrifice great personal interests
for the still uncertain career on which he had set his heart.

In 1863 a vacancy occurred in the representation of Cambridge. Fawcett’s
friend, Macmillan, now came forward, begging Fawcett to issue an
address, which was circulated broadcast.

[Sidenote: ‘Anybody’s Candidate.’]

‘If I am anybody’s candidate,’ Fawcett said, ‘I am Macmillan’s
candidate,’ but he tried to be nobody’s candidate.

His friends helped him vigorously, presiding or speaking at his
meetings, or acting as his election agents.

Fawcett the elder came to support his son. Though the local papers
assailed him, the most condemning assertions they could make were that
Fawcett was an advanced Radical, who would abolish Church rates, though
he professed to be a member of the Church of England; and worst of all,
that he was capable of the crime of admitting Dissenters to Fellowships.
How funny that latter accusation seems now, when the only question in
obtaining a fellowship is, Has the man the brains to win it?

[Sidenote: The Defeat at Cambridge.]

Fawcett was defeated by eighty-one votes. The cost of the campaign had
amounted to £600, but it had shown that Fawcett ‘could go to the poll as
well as make speeches.’

The election took place the same year that Fawcett was given the Chair
of Political Economy, and made this latter honour all the greater, as it
came despite his fearless Radical protestations.

The following January we find him coming forward as a Liberal candidate
at a bye-election in Brighton. Three other Liberals presented
themselves, and it was decided to have a meeting at which a committee,
appointed by the electors, was to report on the merits of the
candidates. The candidates should then address the meeting, and the
decision was to be made by show of hands. But the committee managed ill,
exceeding its instructions, and the meeting became a tumult. In the
midst of the uproar Fawcett came forward and won probably the greatest
oratorical triumph of his life. He began amidst great interruption, and
after a few sentences the vast body of electors listened with breathless

[Sidenote: Routing a Chimæra.]

Fawcett told them his story. ‘You do not know me now,’ he said, ‘but you
shall know me in the course of a few minutes.’ He proceeded with the
account of his accident, during which, says the reporter, ‘a deep
feeling of pity and sympathy seemed to pervade the meeting.’ He told
them how he had been blinded by two stray shots ‘from a companion’s
gun’; how the lovely landscape had been instantly blotted out; and how
he knew that every lovely scene would be henceforth ’shrouded in
impenetrable gloom.’ ‘It was a blow to a man,’ he said simply; but in
ten minutes he had made up his mind to face the difficulty bravely. He
would never ask for sympathy, but he demanded to be treated as an equal.
He went on with the story of his previous attempts to enter Parliament,
and ended with a profession of his political principles.

This account of the meeting is given by Stephen, who adds the comment:
‘I do not think Fawcett ever again referred to his accident in public,
except in speaking to fellow-sufferers. His blindness was apparently
being made an insuperable obstacle; his best and most natural answer was
to tell the plain story of his struggle, and he told it with a
straightforward manliness which carried away his audience.’

The other candidates had spoken in a hesitating way about the attitude
that England should hold towards the American Civil War. Fawcett began
the political part of his speech by saying: ‘Gentlemen, I am an
uncompromising Northerner,’ a statement that greatly pleased the

[Sidenote: Sir Leslie helps.]

Then the hard work of electioneering began. Fawcett set himself
vigorously to the task, speaking effectively and often. His father and
sister came to him to inspire and help as they could. His friend Leslie
Stephen buckled on his friendly armour, and with all his love and great
abilities did much to help in the brave campaign. He began by writing an
article urging Fawcett’s qualifications. It was refused in all the local
papers, but this difficulty was gallantly surmounted. The editor of the
_Morning Star_, who had supported Fawcett in his Southwark campaign,
lent sufficient type; a room was taken, and the _Brighton Election
Reporter_ started a brief but brilliant career. Leslie Stephen became
editor and moving spirit in chief. The publication was sold at a
halfpenny a copy. Was it shrewdness or love for boys—for both were in
Fawcett in full measure—that determined that the newsboys should keep
the halfpence for themselves? Certain it is that the paper had a wide
and speedy circulation, and though Stephen modestly refuses it a
permanent place in the world of letters, it played a very important and
effective part in Fawcett’s candidature.

When the conflict was at its highest the inaugural lecture as Professor
of Political Economy took place. Fawcett delivered the lecture at
Cambridge in the morning, and the same evening was back in Brighton
addressing a meeting.

[Sidenote: Nomination Day.]

[Sidenote: Political Eggs.]

On nomination day the candidates duly drove to the Town Hall. In the
sixties this was an occasion for much rowdiness. The blind candidate did
not shrink from rough contacts, and doubtless enjoyed the commotion as
much as any. The varying notes in the discordant shouts of the mob told
his sensitive ears every subtlety of friendly greeting or enmity. The
rattle of pebbles against the window panes, or their thud as they struck
a victim, the squelch of an ancient egg against the side of the
carriage—all bore their message to the man from whom sight was withheld.
And the sense of smell brought him knowledge too—of the hot, unwashed
crowd, of the dust-trampled road, of the stale vegetables and ‘political
eggs’ that hurtled through the air. Every phase of the day’s emotion was
present to him and shared by him, thanks to his imagination, alertness
and genial power of good fellowship.

The election took place on February 15.

Fawcett headed the poll in the early hours, when the working men voted,
but he was finally defeated by one hundred and ninety-five by Moore, the
Conservative candidate. Had the votes not been so split up by four
candidates, the Liberal triumph would have been secured and Fawcett

He took his defeat cheerfully, and indeed had some reason to be
satisfied. He had done quite well enough for his success in the next
election to seem positive.

In the autumn of the same year he again addressed meetings at Brighton,
and made his best speech on Parliamentary Reform.

‘Fawcett spoke of the honourable attitude of the working classes during
the American War, and upon the reception of Garibaldi in London. They
proved, he said, that the questions which really roused enthusiasm in
the English people were those which appealed to their moral sentiments.
He argued that something must be rotten if a man at 20s. a week had not
as much interest in the peace and prosperity of the country as his
neighbour with £10,000 a year. The sufferings inflicted by a war fall
chiefly upon the poor; and any argument which implied that they should
be rightfully excluded from the franchise as incompetent and
indifferent, was an argument denoting a degraded and unwholesome state
of feeling.’

[Sidenote: The Tide of Freedom.]

It is significant how Fawcett’s whole nature rose to the wave of
independence which was flooding the world. The emancipation of Italy,
the freeing of the American slaves, and kindred struggles to give the
lesser man a fair chance, found an echo in the policy which he
championed for the helpless labouring classes. He was a lusty swimmer on
this tide of freedom. He believed that working men were divided in their
opinions as much as any other class, and that therefore, it was futile
to fear that the rich vote would be killed by the poor. His attitude
towards any proposal for reform of the franchise was: ‘Do we think it
will cause the various sections of opinion to be more independently and
honestly represented?’

Mill thought well of Fawcett’s speech on Parliamentary Reform, but he
was opposed to his doctrine that workmen would not probably be united in
their opinions. Mill felt that no matter how workmen might differ on
other points, they would be united on whatever touched their class

[Sidenote: Back to Brighton.]

The Brighton election was now at hand. At a great meeting held at the
riding-school of the Pavilion, the two Liberal candidates, Mr. White,
the sitting Liberal member, and Fawcett appeared, and resolutions in
their favour were passed. Fawcett’s father was also present and
enthusiastically received. Fawcett placed his difficulties cheerfully
before his audience. ‘A Tory,’ he said, ‘had summed them up by saying
that he would have to contend with £1500 from the Carlton, and a
cartload of slander.’

The serious arguments against Fawcett were that he was a poor man, and
that he was plotting the ruin of the tradesmen by his advocacy of
co-operation. He frankly accepted both these charges, saying that he
favoured co-operation as the best cure for poverty, and that he was
certainly poor, having deliberately preferred the study of politics to
money-making. Poverty, he said, did not weaken a man’s influence in
Parliament. Cobden, then recently dead, was a poor man, but he had
‘vanquished a proud aristocracy and had given cheap bread to millions of
his countrymen.’ ‘Every word uttered by Cobden in the House of Commons
made its impression, whilst the words of millionaires might pass
unnoticed.’ Poverty would not destroy a man’s influence in the House, if
he were thoroughly qualified for his position, nor would it prevent his
return by an independent constituency in spite of all ostentation of
richer men.

In this case, Fawcett’s optimism was justified, though Mammon had his
usual good position in Brighton; candidates who could dispense champagne
freely and spend money to help trade and politics were naturally
preferred to candidates who were equipped solely with lofty principles
and poverty. So it is much to the credit of the community that for at
least a time it accepted higher things, and elected a blind member with
high ideals and no money.

[Sidenote: The Victor.]

On the day of the election (July 12, 1865) 6492 out of 8661 electors
polled, and the numbers were—White 3065; Fawcett 2665; Moore 2134.

At last Fawcett was an M.P., and at thirty-two had arrived at the goal
towards which from boyhood he had set himself so unflinchingly. The
letter which he wrote to his father of his first day in the House of
Commons, deserves to be quoted in full.

                                ‘123 Cambridge Street, Warwick Square,

                                     LONDON, Feb. 1, 1866.

[Sidenote: A Letter home.]

  ‘My dear Father,—I have just returned from my first experience of the
  House of Commons. I went there early in the morning, and soon found
  that I should have no difficulty in finding my way about. I walked in
  with Tom Hughes about five minutes to two, and a most convenient seat
  close to the door was at once, as it were, conceded to me; and I have
  no doubt that it will always be considered my seat. Every one was most
  kind, and I was quite overwhelmed with congratulations. I am glad that
  my first visit is over, as I shall now feel perfect confidence that I
  shall be able to get on without any particular difficulty. The seat I
  have is as convenient a one as any in the House, and a capital place
  to speak from. I walked away from the House of Commons with Mill. He
  sits on the bench just above me, close to Bright. I sit next but one
  to Danby Seymour. White (his colleague for Brighton) is three or four
  places from me.

  ‘Mother has indeed made a most wise selection in lodgings. They at
  present seem everything I could desire; the rooms are larger than I
  expected, and Mrs. Lark and the servant are most civil and obliging.
  This is everything in lodgings. I can walk to the House of Commons in
  exactly a quarter of an hour; this is not too far. Accept my best
  thanks for the hamper. Everything has arrived quite safely, and all
  the contents will prove most acceptable. We are going to have the fowl
  for dinner to-night at seven. I hope, now that I am so comfortably
  settled, some of you will often come to London. When am I to expect
  Maria? Give my kindest love to Mother and to her, and in great haste,
  to save post, believe me, dear Father, ever yours affectionately,

                                                    ‘HENRY FAWCETT.’

[Sidenote: Parliamentary Arena.]

When Fawcett was elected M.P. the great ‘Pam’ still led the Liberals,
Radicals and Whigs, but he died before Parliament met. By the time of
Fawcett’s visit to the House described in the foregoing letter, Lord
John Russell, the successor of Lord Palmerston as Prime Minister, had
resigned the leadership of the Commons to Gladstone, who for a
generation was to dominate English Liberalism. Bright, known to his
supporters as the Tribune of the People, from his seat below the
gangway, led the Radical wing. It was much strengthened by many new men,
among whom John Stuart Mill was conspicuous. He represented Westminster,
having experienced perhaps the most unique election in English politics.
The Conservative opposition was led by Disraeli, known already, not only
as a wearer of gorgeous waistcoats and a writer of brilliant political
novels, but also for his strong and vivid personality. In the next few
years he was to show his even more extraordinary gifts as a manipulator
of Parliaments.

                              CHAPTER XVII


    The Blind and Silent M.P.—His First Speech—Protecting Cattle,
    Neglecting Children—Industry earns Penury—Mill ‘out.’

[Sidenote: The Blind and Silent M.P.]

Surrounded by these picturesque personages already so familiar to him,
some by repute, and some by personal friendship, the blind M.P. quietly
took his place. He had to learn the ways of the House, and, duly
estimating the value of the unspoken word, said very little during his
first Parliament.

[Sidenote: His First Speech.]

In view of his subsequent career, it is suggestive that Fawcett spoke in
Parliament almost for the first time ‘when he asked why the wages of
certain letter-carriers had not been raised by the Post Office.’ His
first serious speech was in March 1866, in favour of the ill-fated
Reform Bill brought in by Russell, and hailed by Bright with the
doubtful welcome that half a loaf is better than no bread.

Fawcett in this speech repudiated indignantly the sneers at the working
classes made by certain Whigs, and praised the fine political sense
shown by them during the American War. He said that the problems of the
future were the problems of capital and labour, and in these the working
classes were most deeply interested and should directly affect the
decisions to be made. He further maintained (in spite of the previously
noted criticism of Mill) that the working classes would no more vote _en
masse_ than any other section of the community.

[Sidenote: Where Fawcett sat.]

As the gentle reader may know, in the House of Commons the long benches,
upholstered in dark green leather, face one another in two raised tiers.
There are no desks as in the American House of Representatives, and the
men sit close together, the serried rows of faces making long lines of
light against the dark background. Between them is the broad passage-way
that leads up from the bar to the Speaker’s chair, in front of which is
set the great table on which many a minister’s hand has hammered away
his superabundant energy as his words made history. Fawcett sat on the
lowest bench at the end farthest from the table. When he stood up to
speak he was in all his long length in full view of the members who
opposed him and of the leaders of his own party, who sat near the table
on a bench that was continuous with his own.

The impression he made when speaking was of intense earnestness. His
commanding presence and strongly marked individuality compelled
attention. His voice was phenomenally clear, ranging from an almost
nasal twang to tones of rare sweetness. His head was held very erect,
every feature quick with intelligence saving the eyes shaded by the dark
glasses, which gave a pathos to the face. The mouth was very mobile,
sometimes trembling with eagerness for utterance, and with an underlying
expression of wistfulness often routed by swift smiles. There was never
anything cheap or theatrical about the man; he was simple, genuine,
noble, and spoke fearlessly from his big heart, pleading the cause of
the poor and the oppressed.

The Reform Bill was withdrawn, and at the end of the summer the Liberals
resigned office. There was no general election, and the next year
Disraeli from the Government benches faced a House in which the majority
were in opposition.

[Sidenote: Tea-Room Party.]

During the winter there had been so much demonstration of public feeling
that the Conservatives had to bring in a Reform Bill of their own. Their
Bill appeared to be generous, but was hedged about with many provisoes
and exceptions. Gladstone wished his followers to vote against it on the
ground that it was hopelessly bad, and Bright agreed with this policy.
But some Radicals, among whom was Fawcett, considered that to vote
against any Reform Bill was retrograde, and they declined to follow
Gladstone’s lead. These men were known as the Tea-Room Party, as they
plotted their rebellion from that comfortable retreat within the
recesses of the Parliamentary buildings. They held out, in spite of the
reproach that they were showing more confidence in their opponents than
in their own leaders, and contended that to vote against any Reform was
to put themselves in a false position. A deputation of five, of which
one was Fawcett, waited on Gladstone to give their views. Fawcett was
distressed at this early necessity of opposing his chief, and often
spoke with admiration of Gladstone’s earnestness and ability. The
Tea-Room party won their way, and Disraeli’s Bill passed, but the
Liberals and Radicals so altered it that it became a more democratic
bill than the one the Tory leader and his party had opposed the previous

It was during these debates that Fawcett both spoke and voted in favour
of Mill’s amendment to admit women to the franchise.

[Sidenote: Protecting Cattle, neglecting Children.]

During his first Parliament he made himself felt as an ardent and
determined Radical. He made various proposals to help his poor friends
the labourers in the agricultural districts, and spoke forcibly on ‘the
interest taken in the cattle-plague, by some members, and the want of
interest in the more terrible plague which was ruining thousands of the
constituents of the same gentlemen.’

He urged the extension of the Factory Acts to agricultural labourers,
and complained that these Acts had been opposed by the rich on the
‘paltry or cold-hearted plea that they would interfere with industry; as
if it were the mission of a great nation simply to produce bales of
goods and to swell exports and imports, even at the cost of sacrificing
the health and blighting the minds of the young!’

It was in order to promote the prosperity of all classes that Fawcett
longed for a truly national and representative Parliament. He had no
sympathy with those who thought it necessary to ’stem the tide of

He was also eager to make it more possible for poor men to enter
Parliament, and urged a reform that is still being agitated—that the
expenses of the returning officers at elections should be paid by the
State. ‘It was impossible,’ he said, ‘to exaggerate the mischief of thus
shutting out the ablest men from political life.’ This reform was urged
many times and in different Parliaments by Fawcett, but in spite of his
tenacity he did not succeed in carrying it through.

Already he had entered into that discussion of Indian affairs which was
to open up such a noble chapter in his life. He had also done good
service in committee on the Bill for University Reform. An impression on
the House had been made by his honest zeal, and though he had been
perhaps a little too radical for his party leader, his Radical
supporters could find no reason for dissatisfaction with him. For all
time the chimæra that his blindness would prove an obstacle to his
remarkable efficiency had disappeared.

[Sidenote: General Election of 1868.]

Parliament was dissolved in 1868, and a general election took place in
the summer. Part of the constituency of Brighton longed for a rich
representative, and as one of his opponents was popular and kept a
yacht, Fawcett’s struggle for re-election was sharply fought, and he
came out with no more than a respectable majority.

Gladstone was re-elected, but all the working-class candidates were
defeated. This distressed Fawcett greatly. His friendships with many
working men, and his knowledge of their fitness to represent their
fellows, made him appreciate the real loss this meant to the country.

Professor Cairnes of Dublin had first met Fawcett in the long ago days
of the British Association Meeting at Aberdeen. He was a political
economist of much distinction, but had become a helpless invalid, and
lived for years in great suffering. Fawcett had much affection for him,
and neglected no opportunity to run down to his friend’s house at
Blackheath, taking to the sufferer by his own vitality, and high,
mirth-loving spirits, encouragement, new life and energy. Lord Courtney
completed the congenial and closely united trio, and Fawcett’s public
action was often the result of much careful discussion with the other

The following letter, written during these elections to his invalid
friend, shows much of Fawcett’s feeling at the time.

[Sidenote: The Condition of Affairs.]

‘I begin to be very confident that Gladstone will obtain a great
majority. The Irish Church would have been a good cry to have appealed
to the old constituencies on, but working men neither care about the
Irish Church nor any other Church. The election, though satisfactory in
a party sense, will, I fear, return a House scarcely superior in
character to the last. Few good new men are coming out, and more
over-rich manufacturers and iron-masters are standing than ever. Before
the next general election after the coming one, the working men will
have felt their power and will have learnt, perhaps by bitter
experience, that Liberals do not all belong to the same species; in fact
a consummate naturalist, like Darwin, would classify Mill and Harvey
Lewis as belonging to different and well-defined genera. Something must
be done immediately Parliament meets to check election expenses. When
last I saw you in Dover Street, I little thought that late that evening
the Government would give notice of reversing the clause I passed for
throwing necessary election expenses on the rates.

[Sidenote: Industry earns Penury.]

‘The shabby tactics of Disraeli have done much to make the country
favour the clause. If I am returned I shall embody the clause in a bill
and introduce it the first night of the session. I have had no news
about Westminster since leaving London, but I cling to the conviction
that Mill is safe. I spent a day at Brighton about a fortnight since,
and everything there looks as promising as possible. Did you read
Hooker’s address to the British Association? Some portions of it were
most masterly; the _Spectator_ is, I think, just in its criticism of his
sweeping hostility to all metaphysics. When the next essay is written on
peasant proprietors, the £26,000,000 which have been subscribed in cash,
a great portion of it by French peasants, to the recent loan, will
provide a strong argument in favour of cultivation by the owner. I am
staying in the midst of what is considered to be one of the most
prosperous agricultural districts of England. It would be almost
impossible to find a labourer who had saved a sovereign, and not one in
a thousand of these labourers will save enough to keep him from the poor
rates when old age compels him to cease work. Yet nine Englishmen out of
ten think that it is in agriculture that we show our great superiority
to the French.’

Cairnes replies with an interesting letter of warm congratulations, in
which he deplores bitterly the defeat as candidate for the Liberal party
of that ‘exemplar of far-seeing statesmanship, commanding views, and
lofty moral purpose,’ Mill, and adds, ‘How the enemies of truth and
light will blaspheme!’

[Sidenote: Mill ‘out.’]

Fawcett’s reply to Cairnes’ letter gives a vivid idea of the condition
of politics. He writes in December 1868, ‘You and I feel alike about the
rejection of Mill. Those who have watched him in the House of Commons
can perhaps fully realise the injury which his rejection has inflicted
on English politics. He diffused a certain moral atmosphere over an
assembly whose average tone is certainly not high. A letter which I
received from Mill yesterday confirms me in the belief I have long
entertained, that Parliament involved to him a most severe personal
sacrifice. He speaks almost with enthusiastic joy of being restored to
freedom, and he is evidently supremely happy in the prospect of being
able to work uninterruptedly. Still I am sure his sense of public duty
is so high that he would at once accept a seat if one were offered to
him. The working men know what a friend he is of theirs, and I believe
they are determined to return him the first time a good opportunity
offers. The Liberal majority at the general election is of course
eminently satisfactory, but there is much in the constitution of the
present House which is very disappointing. Intellectually it is inferior
to the last, and wealthy uneducated manufacturers and merchants are more
predominant than ever. Mill always predicted that this would be the
case, thinking that the new voters would require two or three years to
understand the power which had been given to them.

[Sidenote: The third Brighton contest.]

‘I had a hard fight at Brighton. Not only was there disunion in my own
party, got up by a small section, who thought I did not spend enough
money in the town, but the Tory who opposed me was very rich, and all
that wealth could do against me was done.

‘My success was peculiarly satisfactory, because it was obtained without
a paid agent or a paid canvasser; and we never held even a meeting at a
public house.

‘I quite agree with you that the present Government will have to be most
narrowly watched with regard to what they do upon education and the land

His ever-increasing responsibilities exhilarated Fawcett, and his
friendships increased in proportion; he was always accumulating relays
of young friends who filled up the sad gaps caused by death. If he had
lived to be a Methuselah he would have died regretted by troops of young
folks. He and his wife were now much sought after, and they much enjoyed
festivities together. Mrs. Fawcett was frequently amused by her
husband’s delight in gossip and his irrepressible boyishness.

One evening, at the house of a friend, Fawcett met another M.P. They
immediately retired together to a remote corner of the room, where they
discussed in low and earnest voices. Mrs. Fawcett, thinking that they
were debating matters of State, was much surprised when she happened to
pass near them to hear Fawcett asking eagerly, ‘Was it her fault or his

[Sidenote: Roller Skating.]

On another occasion, shortly after skating on rollers was introduced,
Mrs. Fawcett went to a rink, and as she came in was told that a most
extraordinary thing was going on—there was a blind man trying
roller-skating. It was her husband, whizzing round delightedly. Fawcett
was having a royal time, darting like a huge swallow in swift circles
about the skating rink. He revelled in the motion and the exercise,
which put him into a fine glow. The merry noise of many little wooden
wheels rolling smoothly over the polished floor—the lifting and
stumbling of awkward feet, and the skilful glide of the good skaters
gave him a happy consciousness of the gay revolving spectacle through
which he winged his way.

                             CHAPTER XVIII

                        GLADSTONE PRIME MINISTER

    Opposition to Gladstone—‘The most Thorough Radical Member in the
    House’—Growing Dissatisfaction with the Government—The Irish
    Universities Bill—Helping to Defeat his own Party.

[Sidenote: Gladstone and Fawcett.]

In the new Parliament Gladstone became Prime Minister for the first
time. Fawcett had much appreciation of his leader’s wonderful powers, of
his ability as a financier, of his sincerity as a reformer, and of his
right to the support of the Liberal party.

But the ramifications, subtleties and luminosities of Gladstone’s
marvellous intellect and culture were a closed book to Fawcett’s
downright, strong, unimaginative and limited mind, limited in a sense by
its very excellencies, its honesties, its insistence on the real, the
well proved, his willingness to consider the workable problem only,
rejecting all inquiries which savoured of the visionary, the
philosophic, or the purely æsthetic. Whatever Fawcett’s mind was willing
to dally with or to assimilate must have the qualities of
serviceableness and a certain homespun simplicity. Culture for its own
sake, the higher flights of the imagination, and struggles to pierce the
veil of the unknown seemed to him a sentimental waste of good time which
could better be spent on real work or good play.

[Sidenote: A Difference in Temperaments.]

The great flights which Gladstone’s intellect revelled in, his delight
in ancient as well as in the most recent philosophy, seemed as amusing
and unnecessary to Fawcett as it was to him profitless and extravagant.

In their entirely divergent points of view we must recognise the cause
of much of the later incompatibility of these two temperaments which
really never understood each other, and had not the power to meet on a
truly common footing.

[Sidenote: The Bills of 1869.]

In the session of 1869 they struck fire more than once. The Bill for
removing Religious Tests at the Universities did not satisfy Fawcett,
and he also much disapproved of the financial arrangements in the Bill
for disestablishing the Irish Church. The Education Bill pleased him as
little. The phrase ‘We must educate our masters’ represented the feeling
of many in regard to the newly enfranchised labour. To them education
was a desperate safeguard against a necessary evil. To Fawcett it was
the beautiful and logical outcome of a simple act of justice. The
Education Bill of 1870 was hampered by conflicting religious
difficulties, and the resultant law was a compromise little to Fawcett’s

Fawcett’s position in Parliament had now become strong and unique. A
contemporary writes of him as ‘the most thorough Radical now in the
House.’ He was regarded as a leader of the extreme party.

[Sidenote: A Radical of the Radicals.]

As a critic of the Government he was ruthless and reckless, like a
mighty woodman hacking mercilessly at ill-grown timber. There was ample
reason for his dissatisfaction, as he emphatically proved to a crowded
meeting at Brighton.

He began by telling a story to which he often referred. Some
old-fashioned Liberal had told him that after two hours’ reflection he
and his friends had been unable to answer the question, what there was
for the Liberal party to do. Fawcett said that he had enlightened his
friend in the course of a short stroll, and he now proceeded to
enlighten his constituents. He began by insisting upon the shortcomings
of the previous sessions. The Irish Church had been disestablished, but
at the cost of a bribe of £7,000,000. The praise bestowed upon the
Education Act was, as often happened, one more proof that it was ‘a
feeble and timorous compromise.’ Time had been wasted in ’squabbling
over a paltry religious difficulty,’ which had been handed over to the
local authorities instead of finally settled by Parliament. The
University Tests had been only half settled. The Ballot Bill was a good
measure, yet it left the most serious difficulty of election expenses
inadequately treated. ‘We had therefore still to make up leeway; but
above all we had to introduce new ideas.’ In this last sentence he
emphasised the paralysis of progress which had so long crippled the
advance of England. New cures, new methods, new energy, were what this
young politician had craved from the first of his co-workers.

[Sidenote: New Ideas.]

Full of life and enthusiasm, the blind youth abounded in plans to make
the world happier and saner. It should have no rest till his thoughts
had become beneficient law. He prodded those sedate Whiggish gentlemen
who formed so large a part of the Liberal majority on the importance of
a fair minority representation. He cried out that there must be ‘no more
hereditary legislation, and that the House of Lords needed reform.’ He
held before them abuses connected with the Poor Laws, and the horrible
fact that in England one in every twenty of their fellows was then a

[Sidenote: Being disagreeable.]

The party whips and organisers used to say that whatever was proposed,
Fawcett would say something disagreeable. Fawcett did, in fact, say the
‘most disagreeable’ thing pretty often, because nothing can be so
disagreeable as an opposition based upon the very principle of which the
party claims a special monopoly.

Fawcett’s increasing dissatisfaction with the Government was strongly
set forth in an article in the _Fortnightly Review_ of 1871 ‘On the
Present Position of the Government.’

It was a vigorous criticism of the ministry. While giving them credit
for what they had done, he contended that the reforms that had been
attempted were but half-heartedly done, and had not met the evils they
were supposed to overcome. He mentioned many of the questions we have
already referred to, but he also spoke of two others that will be
discussed more fully in later chapters. He complained that the
Government had done its utmost to promote the enclosure of English
commons, and that Indian Finance had been dismissed by the Cabinet with
fifteen minutes’ discussion.

He forestalled the rejoinder that the Government was not to be expected
to satisfy the extreme Radicals, by claiming that it did not even keep
up with the main body of its supporters. It was enormously pleased with
itself when it, ‘after much curious twisting, and many a dubious halt,
decided to accept a principle which, years before, had been endorsed at
a hundred provincial meetings.’

He felt that while Government could have kept the enthusiasm of its
supporters by following out a simple, strong policy, it had injured
itself and disgusted them, not by going too far, but by
shilly-shallying, compromising, and equivocating. This frankness hurt
Fawcett’s position with the strong supporters of the Government, and he
was looked on as its enemy, so that the Government Whips did not even
send him the usual notices.

[Sidenote: The Irish University Bill.]

Then came the last great battle of that Parliament, in which Fawcett was
to play so dramatic a part. Trinity College, Dublin, was a Protestant
university financed by the State. Liberals were eager to remove the
religious tests which prevented Catholics from enjoying the emoluments
of the college. This proposal had Fawcett’s enthusiastic sympathy. His
standpoint in dealing with these questions can best be shown by a
comment he once made on Mill’s book on _Liberty_.

‘As I was reading Mill’s _Liberty_—perhaps the greatest work of our
greatest living writer—as I read his noble, I might almost say his holy
ideas, I thought to myself, if every one in my country could and would
do his work, how infinitely happier would the nation be! How much less
desirous should we be to wrangle about petty religious differences! How
much less of the energy of the nation would be wasted in contemptible
quarrels about creeds and formularies; and how much more powerful should
we be as a nation to achieve works of good, when, as this work would
teach us to be, we were firmly bound together by the bonds of a wise

Fawcett resented any narrow sectarian rules, and, though never
irreligious, was out of sympathy with ceremonial and dogmatic detail.

He himself really lived according to the creed that ‘the world was his
country, and to do good his religion.’ He had probably little true
understanding of the depth of feeling that can be aroused by differences
of creed and church. All men were alike to him, the Catholic, the Jew,
or the Agnostic; and for Ireland as well as for England he fought for
absolute equality of privilege for all.

Even in his first Parliament, Fawcett had urged the removal of religious
tests in Dublin, and had continued to do so in the various sessions that
followed. His friend, Professor Cairnes, and he would discuss the
matter. Fawcett studied it very thoroughly and pressed this reform
incessantly. At last in 1873, when he had again brought in a Bill for
abolishing tests and for certain other changes, he agreed to withdraw it
in favour of a Government Bill if this latter should seem to him
sufficiently satisfactory.

[Sidenote: Gladstone’s Speech.]

The Government measure was introduced by Gladstone in a speech so
persuasive that Fawcett said that ‘if the decision could have taken
place whilst the House was still under its spell, the Bill would have
been almost unanimously carried.’ But, after a careful examination,
Fawcett found it impossible to give it his support. He was, however,
much moved by Gladstone’s speech, and afterwards congratulated him most
heartily on his eloquence. Gladstone’s eagle eye glanced at him with a
slight air of reproach as he replied, ‘I could have wished that it had
proved more persuasive, sir.’

The scheme of the Bill was very complicated. The various colleges in
Ireland, Catholic and Protestant, were to be combined into one
university. Instruction in subjects likely to be controversial was to be
limited to the colleges themselves. These subjects were theology, moral
philosophy, and modern history. On these the university Professors were
not to lecture, nor was the university to examine in them. ‘Gagging
clauses’ Fawcett called these, and made against them the ablest speech
of his life. He lifted the debate out of the level plain of
Parliamentary commonplace, and almost savagely closed with the weak
arguments of his antagonists, and vanquished them. He contended that the
proposed regulations would make ‘the treatment of all subjects, even
political economy, for example, hopeless’ and would seem a Government
sanction of any criticism advanced by any religious authority. The
separate colleges, each with their separate religious control, would
perpetuate and deepen the bitter religious quarrels from which Ireland
had suffered so long.

When Fawcett felt that it was his mission to drive home an idea, so that
it would penetrate and permeate unforgettably the minds of his auditors,
he set out deliberately to pierce like a steel drill the rock of
opposition. His relentless facts bored a hole in the wall of antagonism,
which he then tried to fill with the dynamite of action. When embittered
and roused to righteous anger, his words were like blows. Often his
enemies gave in from sheer weariness, because their reasons were too
black and blue to fight his logic any longer.

[Illustration: HENRY FAWCETT]

[Sidenote: Fawcett’s Bill passed.]

Opposition seemed only to feed his triple flame of courage,
resourcefulness, and energy. The ministers received but lukewarm
support, and were unable to withstand Fawcett’s onslaught. The Bill was
defeated in division, and immediately Fawcett brought in his own
measure. The Government agreed to support it if all changes but those
abolishing religious tests were omitted. Fawcett consented, and at last,
after many years struggle, his Bill became law.

This defeat of the Ministry by some of its own supporters was one of the
main causes which brought about its fall. Fawcett had dared that
courageous thing, to wreck his own party rather than consent to a Bill
of which he disapproved. He did more, for Gladstone retired from the
leadership shortly after this, and largely because of the weak support
of members of his own party. It says well for both that the two men
worked together later on several occasions.

Fawcett was never a party man in the sense of submitting his judgment to
the policy of his leaders; but he kept their respect, for his honesty
could not be questioned, and when he turned and rent his own party, it
was because he felt it lacked that Liberalism for which it stood. The
fact that his action was likely to stand in the way of his chance of
office was a consideration which it would never occur to him to
entertain. He desired office, but as a better means of serving the
people; if office could not mean that to him, it meant nothing.


                          SAVING THE PEOPLE’S


    ‘Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to the iron string. God
    will not have His work made manifest by cowards.’—EMERSON.


                              CHAPTER XIX

                           THE STOLEN COMMONS

    The Disappearance of the English Playgrounds and
    Commons—Fawcett’s first Protest—The Annual Enclosure Bill
    stopped by his energetic Action.

[Sidenote: A Countryman to the Rescue.]

Fawcett used to say that there was no part of his public work on which
he looked with so much unalloyed satisfaction as on his work for the
commons. Perhaps a few words show what a complicated question he had to
deal with, and how great the need was for the strong and courageous
action which he took in this matter.

He would see the urgency as only those could see it whose knowledge of
country life and country ways was drawn from the farming and labouring
classes. He kept true to his early lessons and did not allow his path to
be deviated by the many side issues in which these questions were

[Sidenote: Common Lands.]

From the earliest times there had been in every parish in England a
large tract of land held in common. Part of it was cultivated jointly by
the villagers and part of it was kept as open common land, and all
parishioners had the right to feed their beasts there, and to cut wood
or furze, and similar privileges.

This gave much independence to the simpler folk and added to their
resources and comforts, but it also made it impossible to farm the
common lands by more modern and more productive methods. So there arose
a movement for enclosing these lands and dividing them up among the
different village inhabitants, to become their own individual property.
As regards the lands farmed jointly, this course had many advantages
provided that the distribution was made fairly. But when it came to the
commons proper, the benefit was much more doubtful even from a
wealth-giving point of view. As to the non-economic value of a
common—its value as an open place for recreation and health-giving—this
only began to be realised as the commons became few.

Fawcett, in his first professional lectures (1864), mentions the evils
arising from enclosures.

[Sidenote: No room for the Cow and the Pig.]

‘He declared, from his own knowledge of the agricultural labourer, that
cottagers could no longer keep a cow, a pig, or poultry; that the
village greens had become extinct, and that the turnpike road was too
often the only playground for the village children.

‘He doubted whether the enclosure of commons, involving the breaking up
of pastures, had, in point of fact, permanently increased the wealth of
the country; but the wealth in any case was dearly purchased if
purchased by a diminution of the labourers’ comforts. The compensation
paid to the poor commoner had generally been spent by the first
receiver, whilst his descendants were permanently deprived of many of
the little advantages which might have helped to eke out their scanty

The procedure whereby a common was enclosed was one that dealt very
hardly on the poorer folk, and made it very difficult, if not
impossible, for them to make their objections felt. The matter went
before the Enclosure Commissioners, and they every year presented a Bill
to Parliament recommending such enclosures as they had at that time
approved. The Bill would be passed almost without investigation, as part
of the routine work of Parliament.

Fawcett appreciated from a child the blessings of open free tracts for
fresh air and fun. He watched with distress and indignation the rights
of the people to their woods and open spaces being put aside, their
commons seized and fenced off, their forests appropriated and their
venerable trees cut down—and all this without protest, nay by the
consent of a Government which undertook to be the guardian of the
people’s interests. Their historic right in Epping Forest, Hampstead
Heath, and many other places were ignored in mean schemes for
appropriating the land and raising paltry sums by selling it as farm or
building land, or by marketing the timber. Fawcett might have chanted in
his sonorous voice the following apt and classic verse:

               The law locks up the man or woman
               Who steals the goose from off the common,
               But lets the greater villain loose
               Who steals the common from the goose.

[Sidenote: Battle of Wisley Common.]

The annual enclosure Bill, introduced in 1869, submitted over six
thousand acres for enclosure, of which only three acres were to be
reserved for the public. In this area was included the beautiful common
of Wisley. It chanced that a resident near Wisley, who was a member of
Parliament, strongly objected to enclosures, and to this one in
particular, and he drew the attention of the House to the case. The
Minister in charge of the Bill agreed to withdraw Wisley and refer it to
a select committee, but said, at the same time, that it would be
obviously unfair to stop unopposed enclosures, and he proposed to
proceed with the rest of the Bill.

Fawcett, who joined in the debate, was made a member of this committee,
but his interest and energy went further. The Wisley case had fixed his
attention on the nature of the Bill itself, and he saw that there was
every reason to suppose that similar but unnoticed abuses were
occurring. The Bill had almost reached its final stage in the House of
Commons, but Fawcett was not to be stopped. He gave notice that ‘upon
the third reading he should move for a recommittal of the Bill in order
that a better provision might be made for allotments.’ This motion
created a great outcry. Why this interference? Parliament had been
getting along most harmoniously with the Enclosure Commission. Why
change this comfortable order of things and create delay and
inconvenience to those interested in making enclosures? Fawcett had a
hearty contempt for this comfort and convenience at the expense of the
poor. He continued his efforts to stop the passage of the Bill.

[Sidenote: Outwitting the Whips.]

The Government Whips, whose business it is to get business done, tried
to evade Fawcett’s opposition by arranging for the Bill to be discussed
at awkward times. They arranged for it to come on half an hour after
midnight, after the main business of the sitting was finished. Night
after night it would be put off on one excuse or another, and Fawcett
and the small band of friends who supported him would wait in vain. None
the less, they took turns and tried to be always on guard, for they knew
that their absence would be the signal for hurrying the Bill through.
Fawcett used to tell this story with glee: one night, as he had a very
bad cold, he sent a message to the Whips asking to have the motion
postponed again as had been so frequently done before. He had no answer,
but trusting that his request would be granted, he went home to bed. A
friend who dropped in to see him suggested that it would be unwise to
relax guard even for the night. Fawcett thereupon hurled on his clothes
and arrived to find the House about to pass the obnoxious Bill.

The wily Whip started ‘like a guilty thing surprised,’ and admitted
good-naturedly the failure of his tactics, and gave a formal undertaking
to defer the Bill then and to arrange for it to be brought on later at a
reasonable hour. Then, at last, Fawcett moved his resolution, dwelt upon
the injustice to the labourer, of the absurdly small reservations for
public allotments, protested at the attitude of the speakers for the
Government, who shirked all responsibility beyond confirming the action
of the commissioners. On his motion a committee was appointed to
consider the working of the present system, and the expediency of better
provision for recreation and allotment grounds.

[Sidenote: Fawcett opposes the traditional.]

In committee Fawcett opposed the existing system. The Enclosure
Commissioners and their supporters were content with the doctrine, that
‘the final cause of an enclosure commission is naturally to enclose,’
and considered it advantageous to get rid of common rights which
obstructed a more profitable employment of the land. Surely, they
claimed, it is a hardship to prevent the owners of any piece of property
from distributing their various rights on terms upon which they all
agree. Fawcett argued that the agreement was illusory. Country gentlemen
and farmers had looked after themselves, but the cottager had been put
off with some trifle, spent as soon as received.

[Sidenote: Withypool Parish Clerk.]

Fawcett was particularly delighted with the evidence given by Mr. J.
Reed, parish clerk of Withypool. When asked how far people would have to
go for an open space, the witness replied, ‘They could not find one for
miles except they did go on the common.’ ‘Is there no common within
reach of an ordinary walk?’ ‘No, he would not want any more recreation
by the time he came to any other common. The people say they will be as
badly off as in a town.’ ‘Are there no fields where they can walk?’
‘Yes, they can trespass, if they like that.’

The committee’s report, after vigorous discussion, accepted the chief
principles advocated by Fawcett; ‘Parliamentary scrutiny was to become
real and searching.’ Bills should be more carefully prepared in future.
It was even admitted to be questionable whether enclosures were always

Thus was a first great battle won for the safety of the commons. Others
had felt the wrong as well as Fawcett, and supported him loyally, but it
was his bulldog tenacity and his doing the disagreeable thing that
finally throttled the Annual Enclosures Bill and stopped the mechanical
process by which so many harmful enclosures were made.

[Sidenote: Sir Robert Hunter.]

Fawcett made a notable speech against this Bill. The late Sir Robert
Hunter, who saw much of Fawcett at this time, says: ‘Mr. Fawcett’s
memory was very remarkable, apart from the recognition of voices. I
remember an instance of this which struck me very much. He was making a
stand against the enclosure of rural commons; the question arose whether
certain enclosures which had been commenced should be carried out or
abandoned. There were some twenty or thirty cases, and Mr. Fawcett in a
speech to the House of Commons gave figured details of each case, the
whole area of each common, the extent of the allotments for fields, for
gardens and a host of other particulars.

[Sidenote: The Style for the House.]

But all his friends were not so appreciative. Lord Courtney tells how
Fawcett on one occasion took a Liverpool man of little humour down to
Cambridge for the Christmas dinner. In return for his hospitality the
guest rewarded Fawcett by fearless and supercilious criticism of his
method of speaking, saying, ‘Fawcett, you haven’t got the style for the
House of Commons!’ Fawcett accepted the criticism in good part and his
friend undertook to show how to speak, rising to his feet and
gesticulating dramatically and making himself greatly absurd. Fawcett,
after a little good-natured listening, excused himself on the plea of an
engagement, saying, ‘Thanks ever so much. Edward,’ indicating his guide,
who was present, ‘is a first-rate reporter, and will tell me the rest of
your speech when I return.’ With which he flung gaily out of the room,
leaving his instructor agape.

Perhaps he had fled to go skating. His enthusiasm for this sport was
unquenchable. A Cambridge friend of those days writes:

‘Fawcett insisted that skating was best on the first day of a thaw. He
would come to my room, calling in his cheerful, loud voice, “Hullo, are
you going skating?” More than once I argued with him without avail that
it was dangerous to skate when the ice was thinning. He was deaf to all
reason, and would haul me out on the river, where he would skate ankle
deep in water. Well I remember my alarm once when I saw him—he was
heading full tilt towards a big hole. I shouted to him to steer clear of
it, myself horrified at his imminent danger. When he barely escaped the
opening he called out cheerily. “Oh, don’t worry, it will be all right!”
Shod with his skates he was absolutely without fear.’

                               CHAPTER XX

                        THE FIGHT FOR THE FOREST

    The Commons Preservation Society—The saving of Epping Forest—The
    Queen’s Rights—The Lords of the Manors’ Rights—The People’s

A society had been founded in 1865, called the Commons Preservation
Society, which had for object to defend the public rights in the commons
round London. Two years later Fawcett joined their committee and
attended their meetings sedulously. One of his first actions was to
recommend that the sphere of their operations be extended to the country
at large.

[Sidenote: Epping Forest.]

He found them busy in the effort to save Epping Forest, which stretches
some ten to thirty miles to the north-east of the city. It is one of the
most beautiful forests of England. Old trees stand there that in their
youth witnessed the hunting of Saxon kings. Epping Forest was for many
centuries a favourite royal hunting-ground. Up to the time of Charles
II., kings followed the deer there in person. But after that time the
Crown no longer protected the game or looked after the woodlands, and
the district became waste land—subject only to certain rather vague
rights of the Crown, of the local lords of the manors, and of the

In the nineteenth century the Crown thought to turn an honest penny out
of Epping. It sold its forestal rights over some four thousand acres,
about half the area of the forest, to the neighbouring lords of the
manors at an average price of £5 an acre. These gentlemen now began
gaily to enclose the land. The commoners were few and powerless, and the
lords of the manors professed to have compensated them or received their
consent, where they did not ignore them altogether. One landowner calmly
ploughed up three hundred acres without consent of Crown or commons.

[Sidenote: Prison for tree lopping.]

But though much of the forest was lost in some places, in others it was
successfully defended. For four years that part of the forest that is
within the Manor of Loughton was saved by the courage and public spirit
of a labourer named Willingdale. By immemorial custom the men of that
parish had the right of tree-lopping, and on St. Martin’s Eve at
midnight they used to meet and go into the forest, cut wood, and drag it
to their homes. When the lord of this manor, who was also the rector of
the parish, enclosed thirteen hundred acres, Willingdale and his two
sons, on the St. Martin’s Eve following, broke through the fencing and
lopped and carried away their wood. For this assertion of their rights
they were summoned before the local justices and sentenced to two
months’ hard labour.

The sentence roused great indignation in East London. The Commons
Preservation Society took up the matter, and a fund was raised to fight
the case in the law-courts on behalf of Willingdale.

Willingdale himself had a hard time. Unless he continued to live in
Loughton he had no right to bring his suit, but he could get no
employment there, and was forced to accept a pension from the Commons
Preservation Society. Even then he found it difficult to get a lodging
in the village. He was more than once offered big bribes of money if he
would abandon his suit. One son died in prison, and he himself died in
1870, but his pluck had saved the forest long enough for others to be
found to take up the fight.

It was during this litigation that Fawcett became actively interested in
the case. He appeared as one of a deputation from the Commons
Preservation Society to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and shared in
the severe rebuke which that gentleman administered to the deputation.

[Sidenote: Royal Rights made People’s Rights.]

This reception was enough in itself to set Fawcett to work. He proposed
to move forthwith an address to the Queen, urging that the Crown rights
might be defended, and by this means the forest kept free for the
recreation of the people. He felt that a clear statement of a sane and
popular principle would force the Liberal party to choose a definite
course as champion either of popular rights or private interests.

In his determination to bring the whole matter thus before the public
and challenge the Government policy, Fawcett stood quite alone. The best
friends of the movement begged him to desist, believing he was inviting
defeat, and would thus injure the cause, but he had a firmer belief in
the strength of public opinion. It was another proof of that far-sighted
independence of judgment which his fellow-workers learned so heartily to

His influence on his friends deepened year by year. His personality is
perhaps most felt in the strong impression he made on them. Professor
Stewart, also an M.P., tells of Fawcett: ‘He sat at times when we came
to tell him things in his easy-chair with his hands holding the elbows
of it, his face towards us, his lips a little parted, his whole
physiognomy lit up with intelligence and interest, his mind evidently
drawing before itself the picture of which we spoke, and the smile that
was on his features playing even to his broad brow. Or again, when
animated with his own clear mental vision, his whole frame eloquent, he
spoke strong, incisive, direct words, looking through my very soul with
his empty eyes.’

[Sidenote: A friendly Cabby.]

He very rarely went about alone, but the late Sir Robert Hunter told of
once journeying to London with him one evening. ‘When we arrived at
Waterloo, Fawcett asked me to put him into a cab, and refused to let me
go with him, shouting “Good-bye” merrily as he drove off into the night.
Notwithstanding his fearlessness he seemed to me so helpless, this blind
giant all alone in a cab in London, utterly at the mercy of the cabman.’
But he had friends among the cabmen too, for once when he turned to pay
a cabby his fare, the man utterly refused it with ‘No, Mr. Fawcett, no,
sir. You have done too much for the working man.’

When his motion came on in the House, he reviewed the whole question of
Epping Forest and showed the value of the Crown rights as a protection
of the people’s rights. He stated that the Crown had sold its rights on
four thousand acres for £18,603, 16s. 2d., so small an amount as to be
negligible to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a healthful means of
enjoyment for the people had been destroyed. Ten times the sum might
have been saved by abolishing a sinecure office, such as the Lord Privy
Seal. This last a truly Fawcettian fling.

[Sidenote: Deer, yes. Picnickers, no!]

The principal argument which he had to meet now was that ‘the forest
rights were relics of feudalism; they were useful to keep up deer for
the royal hunting. Now that the Queen did not want to hunt it would be
unfair to keep them up for a different purpose.’ A man may not put up a
fence to keep out the Queen’s deer, but he may put it up to restrain a
picnic party of her subjects. The Queen might not make over her rights
to the public, but must resign them to the lords of the manors. Fawcett
(taking, I fear, a real and humorous satisfaction in his reply)
answered, ‘If a right ceased when the original purpose became obsolete,
what would become of the lord of the manor? He had ceased to discharge
any duties; should he cease to have any rights?’

Fawcett’s motion was strongly supported. Mr. Gladstone showed a wider
appreciation of the significance of the problem than other members of
his Government. He conceded that Fawcett had demonstrated that it was
the duty of Government to take up the question, and as the champions of
the people to secure whatever was practical. He proposed a modification,
accepted by Fawcett, and the motion was passed.

This was a great triumph, but entire success was not yet assured.
Government endorsed the policy of the Commons Preservation Society. The
Prime Minister recognised that Fawcett’s road was the right one to
travel, but there were still many enemies who were to be won over to an
appreciation of the people’s rights. A compromise was proposed which
seemed quite inadequate to the society. But the Government introduced a
Bill on the lines of this so-called compromise which would have enclosed
nearly all the forest and have left, perhaps, six hundred acres in
various scattered plots to be reserved for public use.

[Sidenote: An inept Proposal.]

At once Fawcett gave notice of moving the rejection of this inept
document. For this and other technical reasons the Bill was dropped. But
even its short life had shown its infirmities to such a degree that
Government was too wise to let it reappear.

[Sidenote: High Beach.]

The next year, 1871, the Commons Preservation Society was stirred to
immediate action by a new danger. Notice was given that the most
beautiful of the ancient trees in Epping, those of High Beach, were to
be felled! High Beach was a part of the forest in which there were no
Crown rights. The timber belonged to the lords of the manors and the
rights of the public seemed difficult to ascertain. The Commons
Preservation Society sat in committee, and Fawcett suggested that a
motion should be proposed in the House of Commons desiring that measures
should be taken for keeping open those parts of the forest which had not
been enclosed by consent of the Crown, or by legal authority. This
ingenious phrasing, for all its complicated appearance, would have the
simple and satisfactory effect of saving Epping Forest until such time
as the House of Commons legislated further on the subject. Fawcett
suggested that this motion should be brought forward by Mr. Cowper
Temple, who, on account of his previous services and his less extreme
views, was much better qualified to press the matter than himself. This
was like Fawcett, thorough and direct, standing back to give another his
place whenever it meant better service.

Government opposed this resolution with all its force, but so strongly
had the public feeling been roused that it was defeated by a majority of
one hundred and one.

[Sidenote: The Hunting-ground of Kings.]

[Sidenote: Five thousand acres secured for the People.]

Later in the session the Government appointed a Royal Commission. And
then the City of London found out that it also had forestal rights, and
took the matter into the law-courts. For eleven weary years more the
battle went on. It was not till 1882 that Queen Victoria went in person
to Epping Forest to hand over five thousand acres of the old
hunting-ground of her ancestors to the people of England. But the
critical time had been in those first years before the public conscience
was roused. And in those years Fawcett’s persistence had made the
after-work possible.

By his brave common sense, and lucid justice and eloquence, Fawcett had
won this great battle for the people for all time. In his article in the
_Fortnightly_, the following November, he says: ‘The few remaining
commons are the only places where the people, except by sufferance, can
leave the beaten pathway or the frequented high road.’ ‘And yet this
Government, so grand in its popular professions, so strong in its
hustings denunciations of those who would divorce the people from the
soil, used the whole weight of official influence to enclose the few
commons that were left.’ ’so anxious were they to pursue this policy of
depriving the public and the poor of their commons that night after
night the House was kept sitting to two or three o’clock in the morning
in order to pass an Enclosure Bill,’ ‘and the Ministry, apparently
willing to risk something more than reputation in the cause, were
disastrously defeated by those who were anxious to preserve Epping

The Ministry had come to stigmatise him as ‘impracticable.’ Yet the
course which he obliged them against their will to follow was of vital
importance to the country, and it seems as if the ‘impracticable’
Fawcett, the blind Don Quixote, had not tilted in vain at his opponents.

                              CHAPTER XXI


    Saving the Forests—‘The monstrous Nation’—Walking with Lord
    Morley—The Boat Race—Safeguarding the Rivers.

[Sidenote: The shearing of a Statesman.]

Fawcett had the knack of saving time and getting the most out of it. One
spring day when he was going to pay a promised visit, absent-mindedly he
put his hand to his hair, which he found rather long. Discovering that
he had five minutes to spare, he shouted in his cheerful loud voice to
the cabby through the opening in the roof of the hansom: ‘stop at the
first hairdresser’s shop.’ Arrived there he sprang out quickly and
rushed in to the barber, exclaiming as he whizzed past him: ‘Cut off as
much of my hair as you can in five minutes.’ Literally following these
directions with zealous enthusiasm, the man quickly left his victim
absolutely shorn to the skull, so that when Fawcett put on his hat it
was far too large for him. A few minutes later he was shown into the
drawing-room at the very minute of his appointment. He felt extremely
embarrassed and sheepish coming in his despoiled condition, but his
hostess, rising to meet him, exclaimed with as much tact as concealed
surprise: ‘O Mr. Fawcett, what an improvement! I have never before been
able to see the beautiful shape of your head.’ So the hostess tempered
the wind to the shorn statesman. There was sufficient truth for art in
her flattery, as Fawcett’s head was really of an unusually fine shape,
massive, rugged—even beautiful.

[Sidenote: He loved to be read to.]

He loved to be read to, and he kept a separate book for each friend who
entertained him in this fashion. One day _The Rhyme of the Duchess May_
was being read to him. In each stanza of the poem recurs the phrase
‘Toll slowly.’ The whole thing was admirably read—with pathetic emphasis
on the refrain. One of the audience says: ‘We all thought that Fawcett
was asleep, but to our amusement, when the reader had finished, he said
enthusiastically, with his generous voice, “Thank you very much;
beautifully read, but don’t you think that you might have left out that
‘told slowly’?”


[Sidenote: Salisbury Close.]

He continued a frequent visitor at Salisbury, and always fitted in with
the home ways. His parents had come to pass their closing year in a
house in the Cathedral Close. Opposite the house there was a stretch of
old wall, where before breakfast Fawcett used to walk quite by himself,
enjoying a seclusion and peace such as was his in the court of his old
Cambridge College. The gates of the close are shut at eleven o’clock
every night. Miss Fawcett tells the following: ‘As Henry liked to walk
the last thing at night before going to bed, and as it was not always
convenient for one of us to accompany him, we arranged for him to go
with the gate closer on his rounds. So regularly, when Harry was at
home, the gate closer’s voice would be heard at half-past ten, “I’ve
come for Mr. Harry,” and together they would sally forth and lock the
ancient gates about the close.’ The scheme worked admirably to the
entire satisfaction of Fawcett, and to the delight of the watchman, who,
like the rest of the world, found Fawcett a stimulating and cheering
companion. He awakened the seeing man’s interest in the beauty of the
cathedral which they passed in their nightly patrol, and often asked if
a different planet had yet appeared on the horizon, if the moon could be
seen over the church tower, or if the clouds were obscuring the stars.

[Sidenote: The New Forest in peril.]

Though he had passed his childhood on the edge of the New Forest, it is
doubtful if Fawcett ever saw its beauties excepting with his mind’s eye
and by the help of his friends’ description.

In the seventies he was fond of going there and combining the comfort
and joy that he always found in his walk by the great trees with a
fishing expedition at Ibbesley. Here he liked to stay with his fisher
friend Tizard and his good wife, sharing their homely meals and chat;
the place abounded in birds whose singing delighted him. It was here
that he caught the huge salmon that graced the table at his father’s and
mother’s golden wedding feast.

On these fishing expeditions he heard of the mania for money-making that
threatened to rout the ancient spirit of romance which for centuries had
lived in the seclusion of the great oaks and beeches. One enterprising
surveyor said that the old wood should be cleared ’smack smooth.’ The
patrician ancient trees were being replaced by symmetrical lines of
Scotch firs planted for sacrifice by fire or for building purposes.
Fawcett in answer to inquiry was informed that the woods would not be
cleared till the House of Commons had come to a division on the
treatment of open spaces. Not content with this rather vague answer, he
moved that ‘no ornamental timber should be felled, and no timber
whatever should be cut except for necessary purposes, whilst legislation
was pending.’ This resolution came none too soon and ’stood between the
forest and the axe’ for six years. The official point of view was that
the term ‘public’ was misused; it really meant taxpayers, not tourists,
nor even the neighbouring residents. The official duty consisted in
making an income for the nation and making the most of the property of
the Heir Apparent, so that he might make a better bargain on the next
settlement of the Civil List. No resolution of the House of Commons
could prevent the commissioner in charge of the New Forest from
performing his duties, which were similar to those of a trustee of a
settled estate.

[Sidenote: The Forest—Health and Art.]

Fawcett received signed petitions protesting against the devastation of
the forest. In 1875 the Government, this time a Conservative Government,
appointed a select committee on the condition of the New Forest. Fawcett
gave evidence and spoke forcibly. ‘The forest should be preserved as a
national park. Any money which could be made by its enclosure was not
worth considering in comparison with the effects upon the health,
happiness, and morality of the people. Even arguing the matter from a
purely economical point of view, the influence of the forest on the
health and artistic faculties of the people had a far greater money
value than that of the mere timber.’ His comment of the effect of the
beauty of the forest on the ‘artistic faculties of the people’ must have
been peculiarly impressive; that a blind man could see so true, plead so
wisely and far-seeingly for the best influence that his fellows could
get from the right of those historic glades. Fawcett suggested that
these honest, if penny-wise, stewards could ease their consciences by
accepting the liberal compensation which the nation would be glad to
pay. It was a mere superstition to feel that though neither the Crown
nor the nation wished it, there was need to treat the forest as it would
be treated by a timber merchant. He wisely pointed out that the
Secretary of the Treasury had four years before used the same arguments
to good purpose on behalf of the Thames Embankment Gardens. The
committee speedily reported, and an Act was passed to preserve the
ancient woods, and stop destructive enclosures, and the Verderer’s Court
was reconstituted, so as to represent the commoners more effectually.

[Sidenote: Fawcett _versus_ Ruskin.]

It is when dwelling on this fight of Fawcett’s for beauty versus money
that it is amusing to realise that he was once challenged by Ruskin to a
public debate—Fawcett to defend the political economy of his day against
Ruskin’s charge that it was radically opposed to Christianity. Fawcett
wisely realised that they would have no common meeting-ground and
refused to enter the lists.

[Sidenote: ‘The monstrous Notion.’]

The general questions of enclosures had still to be settled. The old
method had been stopped for all time in Fawcett’s Battle of Wisley
Common, but no new machinery had been substituted. Bills were brought in
two or three times, but failed to win sufficient support to be carried.
In 1876 Lord Cross, the Home Secretary, brought in a Bill which showed a
distinct advance in public opinion. Nevertheless, it did not satisfy the
Commons Preservation Society. Next, the chairman of the society, Mr.
Shaw Lefevre, now Lord Eversley, moved a resolution embodying the
enactment of provisions and safeguards. The Bill was supported by a
speaker who at the same time attacked what he chose to call ‘the
monstrous notion,’ _i.e._ that the inhabitants of large towns had a
right to wander over distant commons as they pleased. Fawcett, who also
supported the Bill in a vigorous speech, swooped down, seized this
‘monstrous notion’ and held it aloft for admiration and support, and
contended that the commons were a great and valuable possession for the
people of the entire country.’ He had again to insist that the bill did
not adequately protect the labourers nor provide sufficient security
against a ruthless enclosure of commons. He pointed out that ‘under the
old Enclosure Commission, 5,500,000 acres had been added to the estates
of great proprietors, whilst villagers by the hundred had lost their
rights of pasture, and now found it difficult to provide milk for their
children. Yet the commission which had used this procedure was still to
be trusted.’ ‘The worst and most mischievous of all economies,’ he
declared, ‘was that which aggrandised a few, and made a paltry addition
to the sum-total of wealth by shutting out the poor from fresh air and
lovely scenery.’ The bill passed through the committee, doggedly, though
not very successfully, opposed by Fawcett and his friends.

Lord Eversley and Fawcett succeeded later in amending the procedure to
be followed by the Enclosure Commissioners. The Commissioners were
instructed that they must have proof that any proposed enclosure should
be of real benefit to the neighbourhood as well as to private interests.
Furthermore, every enclosure scheme had to be submitted to a standing
committee of the House of Commons of which Fawcett was one of the first

[Sidenote: Charm of Home.]

The unfailing charm of Fawcett’s home life was a constant delight and
rest to him. Mrs. Fawcett’s share in his career was of the greatest
possible moment. Their only child Philippa began to be a source of great
pleasure, and she enjoyed being with her father on his country
expeditions as much as he delighted in having her with him.

Declaring firmly that he believed in at least eleven hours’ skating,
this serious statesman would often ponder deeply, as he thoughtfully
rubbed his blue glasses and replaced them on his nose, how with
ingenuity it would be possible to contrive to fit in another hour on the
ice. He not only skated by himself, depending only on the voice of his
companion to steer him, but he insisted that his wife, daughter,
secretary, and two maids should all turn out to have a good time with
him. Only the cook, on the uncontrovertible score of old age, was

Little Philippa greatly enjoyed accompanying her father, and whistling
in order to guide him. When she was about nine years old she had
returned from a wonderful skate, when she had steered him in the
customary fashion. She told her mother all about it and what fun they
had had, on a particularly difficult route, her father depending solely
on her piping to guide him. ‘And what did you whistle?’ asked the
mother. ‘Oh, just “Gentle Jesus,”’ came the prompt reply.

[Sidenote: Hymns.]

Perhaps it is not amiss to indicate here the complete control that this
small person exercised over her giant father. At this period of her life
she had been imbued by her nurse with an intense devoutness. One Sunday
morning he was singing to himself: it is only proper to say that the
word singing is not an exact term, as all his friends and family are
agreed that he was incapable of producing melody or sweet noises. His
tiny daughter popped her head in at the crack of the door, saying
solemnly: ‘You mustn’t sing, it’s Sunday!’ ‘Are you sure?’ asked
Fawcett. ‘Wait,’ was the answer; closing the door his mentor
disappeared, doubtless to consult with the nurse who had filled her with
so much theological technique. Again the child appeared at the crack in
the door, saying briefly: ‘If it’s hymns you may, if it isn’t you
mayn’t,’ and the singing ceased abruptly!

[Sidenote: The sanctity of Open Spaces.]

Open spaces, especially those near the big towns, had in the railway
companies another and most powerful enemy. It was so much easier to take
a railway across a common than through the neighbouring enclosed land,
that there arose a serious risk that the commons though at last secured
for the people, would still be despoiled of their freshness and beauty.
Fawcett was quick to perceive this, and to try to save the open spaces
from such invasions of their sanctity. He was characteristically amused
once by the suggestion of some more prudent members of the Commons
Preservation Society that he might weaken their position by failure. It
was not by fear of defeat that he so often succeeded in turning defeat
into victory. He never hesitated in his attack. Even when
Postmaster-General he voted against his colleague, Mr. Chamberlain, the
President of the Board of Trade, on a question of railway encroachment
on Wimbledon Common.

It is a beautiful thing for all of us who have the privilege of enjoying
the glory of the commons and forests of England to appreciate that that
pleasure has been kept for us, and for countless others for all time,
largely by the valiant fight and generous labours of a man who, though
he loved them as he loved light, freedom and justice, and gave part of
his life to save them, could only see them through the eyes of others.

[Sidenote: Lord Morley takes Fawcett [on] a walk.]

Lord Morley tells of Fawcett on these lands which he saved for the poor.
Fawcett had been walking on Lord Morley’s arm over the Wimbledon
Commons, with that vigour and enjoyment in the exercise which he
invariably found. They paused on a hill. Lord Morley, impressed with the
unusual loveliness of the sunset and its ineffable melancholy, was
startled to hear Fawcett beside him ask wistfully: ‘Morley, is the
sunset very beautiful?’ ‘Yes,’ was the answer. ‘Ah, I thought so,’ came
the comment before a long silence, in which the blind man seemed to be
taking in the exquisite scene spread before his unseeing eyes.

We know how Fawcett’s deep love of nature and beauty was a strong factor
of his very being. He loved the forest and the hills, the fields and the
skies, and above all the rivers.

[Sidenote: Following the Boat Race.]

Until nearly the end of his life, Fawcett rarely missed the Oxford and
Cambridge rowing contests. It was a matter of course to see him ‘looking
over’ the crew of the college ‘eight’ and expressing his opinion frankly
about its fitness, or eagerly ‘watching’ a race. He followed the
University boat race on one occasion in a launch, and in the keenest
excitement continually asked his friend, ‘How are they going now,
Morgan? How near are they now?’

The race gained much zest for Fawcett from the motion of the tug from
which he watched it, from the noise of the water lapping against the
side of the boat, the splash of the oars, the occasional spray dashed in
his face as the little ship darted to hasten its course by benefiting in
an opening in the crowd of craft. The cheers of the spectators, the
calling of the coxswains to the straining crews, and even the occasional
tooting of an unmannerly tug, all gave colour to the picture for the
blind man. The river’s fascination perhaps even increased for him after
he could not see it.

[Sidenote: Safeguarding the Rivers.]

When the Thames needed a protector to safeguard its loveliness, it was
the blind man who eagerly urged that an organisation, similar to the
Commons Preservation Society, should be formed to protect the river, and
it was through his advice that a Select Committee with this object was
later appointed. He also took occasion to support Lord Bryce in his
efforts to abolish the system which hampered the public in their
enjoyment of the beauties of the Scottish Highlands.

Stephen speaks of his readiness to refuse prominence if he thought that
others could serve better than he, of his eagerness ‘to meet the
strength of the opposite case,’ to see his opponent’s point of view and
to judge it generously; he dwells on the great interest he took in
private life in considering impartially and thoughtfully his friends’
problems, so that his advice to them was of unusual value. The whole
chapter of this fight for the rights of those who were least able to
fight for themselves, sustained and led by a man who could not see or
enjoy, saving vicariously, what he was fighting for, is as heroic as any
in history. He faced the danger of losing his hard-won position, and
often alone made the decision to act against the advice of his friends
and his own interests and to stand for the right. In his simple direct
plea for justice he never rested until he got what was the people’s due,
and what must remain for all time a living monument to his singleness of
purpose and chivalrous bravery.


                          THE MEMBER FOR INDIA


            ‘Let thy dauntless mind
            Still ride in triumph over all mischance.’

            ‘Not from without us only, from
            Within can come upon us light.’


                              CHAPTER XXII

                            WHAT INDIA PAID

    India pays for English Hospitality—Royal English generosity
    to India paid for by India—How to deal with an angry
    opponent—Indian Finance and the poor Ryot—Gratitude from
    India—How Fawcett prepared his Speeches.

[Sidenote: The Sultan’s Ball.]

The purpose of this chapter is not to comment on the condition of India,
and of its government in Fawcett’s time, but through these new labours
of his to know him better, to show how gallantly he fought for a poor
remote people, and how poignantly he brought their needs before their
English fellow-subjects. It was a work he was peculiarly fitted to do.
His vigorous action, his picturesque personality, his gift for singling
out a weak point, perhaps trifling in itself, and making it a vivid
symbol of wrong policy, all helped Englishmen unfamiliar with India to
realise better their responsibilities to a country in whose destinies
they were so closely concerned.

Fawcett once said that in his undergraduate days he had picked up a book
on India which attracted him to the subject. His comments in his
schoolboy essays have been noted. It is possible that Mill and other
friends of his closely connected with India stimulated his interest. He
referred to the country a good deal in his _Manual of Political

He first dealt with Indian affairs publicly in 1867, and in most
characteristic fashion. The Sultan of Turkey was about to visit England,
and it was proposed to give a ball in his honour at the India Office.
Fawcett demanded who was to foot the bill. He was told that India was to
pay for this courtesy offered to the Sultan by the British, because the
Sultan had been courteous in the matter of telegraphic communication
between India and Europe.

[Sidenote: India pays for English Hospitality.]

Though Mill urged Fawcett not to protest, as there were greater abuses
to be found, Fawcett could not quiet his resentment at this unfair
distribution of the burden. Had not England benefited equally by the
telegraphic communication, and should it not at least pay equally? So,
when a motion was made for the list of invitations, with the usual
Parliamentary pleasantries about the unfair selection of guests, Fawcett
rose with true reluctance to strike a discordant note. He urged that the
really important question was to determine by what justice the Secretary
for India could tax the people of India for this entertainment. It might
be proper for the officials themselves to give the entertainment. But
why should the toiling peasant pay for it? At that very time there was
famine in India, and the Indian press complained of the slowness of
relief measures. It would have new occasion for sarcasm, when a part of
the much-needed Indian revenue was voted for an entertainment of smart
folk in London.

His protest against this ‘masterpiece of meanness,’ as he afterwards
called it, had little effect for the time being. But it aroused the
attention of many in India, and began to make known to them the man whom
they learned to call almost affectionately the ‘Member for India.’

[Sidenote: An Insolent Meddler.]

When presenting a petition to the House of Commons from European
residents and natives of India, who complained of the expenditure on
public works and asked for greater economy, Fawcett moved that a
commission be sent to India to obtain evidence on the spot—a motion that
he afterwards withdrew. During the debate arising out of his motion, he
was attacked with such asperity and lack of civility by one of the Under
Secretaries of State, that it aroused the protest of other members.
Fawcett was content to reply with a very characteristic maxim. ‘Five
years’ experience in the House,’ he said, ‘had taught him that a member
was always right in bringing forward a question, when the fact of his
bringing it forward caused the minister concerned to lose his temper.’
On another occasion the same antagonist warned Fawcett that his love of
competition was becoming a fetish. But Fawcett smilingly retaliated,
‘Beware of the fetish of officialism.’ Good advice for many!

Fawcett’s stand from the first was taken so surely and firmly, that his
ground could not be cut from under him. His success was merely a
question of work and time. Part of his power lay in his frank
realisation of his own limitations.

[Sidenote: Supporting a family on fourpence halfpenny a day.]

He had no special knowledge of Indian religion and customs, and was not
competent to judge questions of internal policy. But the financial
relations between England and India, as well as the methods of dealing
with finance in India itself, were well within the compass of his clear
mind. With these he proposed to deal exhaustively. He knew whether the
balance-sheets shown by Indian statesmen were intelligible or not,
whether charges made to India were just, and he set himself with a will
to study these questions. And to them he knew how to give a most
intimately personal touch. He was an untravelled man, and lived within
the isolation of his blindness. But he had the great gift of realising
habitually the existence of the world beyond his experience. He made
England understand that India is no rich country from the Arabian
Nights, but a poor country, where the ryot, the peasant of India, had
but fourpence halfpenny a day to keep himself and his family, where
taxes were increased only with great hardship to the poor, and where of
all places money must not be wasted.

In 1870, in a long and technical speech, he criticised the Indian
Budget. He complained that it was brought on so late in the session that
there was no time for proper discussion, and urged that a committee on
Indian finance should be appointed. In this speech, which showed his
careful study of the whole Budget, he singled out one item for especial
scorn. The Queen’s second son, the Duke of Edinburgh, had recently
journeyed through India, and had distributed royal gifts amounting in
value to £10,000. These had been paid for out of the Indian revenues,
that is to say, by the Indian taxpayers themselves!

The Prime Minister agreed that the Indian Budget should be presented
earlier in the session, and the next year adopted Fawcett’s proposal to
appoint a committee on Indian finance. It sat for four years, and
Fawcett was a hard-working member of it, and a most effective one.

The committee, urged by Fawcett, asked for native witnesses, and two
Hindoos were sent to England to give evidence, and their expenses were
paid by the Government.

Mr. Nadabhai Naoroji, one of them, said that he wrote a letter telling
of the evidence which he had to give, and then appeared before the
Finance Committee. The chairman was not sympathetic, and made things as
uncomfortable as possible for him. But when Fawcett, with whom Naoroji
had discussed matters previously, undertook the examination, by a series
of apt questions he brought out all the distinguished Hindoo had to say.
Mr. Naoroji adds: ‘This was an instance of the justice and fearlessness
with which he wanted to treat this country. As I saw him pleading our
cause, I felt awe and veneration as for a superior being.’

[Sidenote: Grateful messages from India.]

In Miss Maria Fawcett’s dining-room there hangs at this day a long
hand-written document, with a beautifully illuminated gold and coloured
border. It was sent to her brother from a remote city in India in 1873,
to thank him for the work he had done. Too long to quote in full, a
sentence from it may show how Fawcett was regarded in India. ‘We view
with feelings of inexpressible delight your efforts to enlighten your
countrymen of the wants and grievances of the millions of Her Majesty’s
subjects living in a country so far from the seat of government, and our
feeling of admiration is heightened into that of reverence on learning
that you are labouring in this cause of philanthropy under great
disadvantages, among which the great physical disability which
Providence has pleased to impose upon you is much to be regretted.’

Distinguished now as an able critic on Indian finance, Fawcett had an
extensive correspondence with residents of India, and with members of
the Indian Civil Service, and neglected no opportunity to increase his
knowledge of Indian affairs.

Appreciative resolutions were sent to him from many native Indian
associations. At a meeting in Calcutta an address was voted to him and
also one to ‘the Mayor of Brighton thanking the constituency for
returning such a worthy representative and disinterested friend of
India.’ He was frequently begged to present petitions stating the
grievances of the native and non-official community.

He helped privately, as well as publicly, as many a poor Indian student
or petitioner came to know. When, however, Fawcett was urged to
represent the grievances of certain Indian rulers, he refused, saying
quaintly that ‘he was too poor a man to have anything to do with

[Sidenote: An Optimist.]

Mr. Justice Scott said, speaking of the ideal for which Fawcett worked:
‘It is not enough for us Englishmen to say that we have given to India
order, peace, security and justice, roads, railroads, and other material
benefits of Western civilisation, but it should be our duty to ourselves
and in co-operation with the people of India in the great task of
education, private, social and political, never to rest content till
every individual of the teeming masses of India can take an intelligent
part as a citizen in the management of their own concerns. This is a
great idea. It may seem the Utopian dream of an optimist. Mr. Fawcett
was no doubt an optimist.’

Fawcett most powerfully influenced people by his speeches. His
appearance was arresting and interesting, while his brave disregard of
his blindness claimed instant sympathy and admiration. His voice, which
was unusually powerful, softened in tone with years, and his language
grew less severe; he uttered each word clearly, and what he said was
clearly thought out. What he wanted was never for himself. What he
fought for was invariably to help some one less fortunate, less free,
less happy, than the blind man who pleaded so earnestly.

He delivered two speeches in 1872 and 1873 on the Indian Budgets of
those years which an adversary said ‘he considered to be the most
remarkable intellectual efforts he had ever heard.’ Of course Fawcett,
unlike other speakers, had no notes to help him, yet he gave an
exposition of complex questions with a clearness which might have raised
the envy of the most accomplished Chancellor of the Exchequer.

[Sidenote: How Fawcett prepared his Speeches.]

The way he prepared his speeches is interesting. First, he would master
the vital facts and figures he wanted. Then he would press into his
service some friend well up on the subject with which he wished to deal,
and together they would go over the ground until Fawcett felt that the
facts were arranged so as to express most clearly and pithily his

Lucid arrangement helped his memory. His object was primarily to be
clear, to say a thing as well as he could. He did not hesitate to repeat
the same illustrations and statements, and paid little attention to
rhetoric, epigram or elegance. He wished to hammer certain leading
principles into people’s heads, and he did this so effectively that they
stuck there, and he pressed his points so vividly and insistently that
he made his audiences, no matter where he found them, usually become his
supporters, and even workers for his policy.

[Illustration: _Photo. Mansell_

                      HENRY FAWCETT From a painting by Sir Hubert von
Herkomer ]

On one occasion Fawcett spoke on India for nearly two hours. He had the
House absolutely in his hand the whole of that time, and never once had
to hark back. The figures that he dealt with were exceedingly
complicated and numerous. Later an M.P. congratulated him and expressed
his surprise at his wonderful memory. Fawcett, with his habitual
modesty, said, ‘There is nothing strange about it. You know I see the
thing mentally as I suppose you see whatever you are looking upon now;
really that is the difference.’ The M.P. replied, ‘Yes, but it doesn’t
account for it at all. I see and forget—you see and don’t forget,
there’s the difference.’

[Sidenote: Sympathy from Suffering.]

A Cambridge professor said of Fawcett when he began to make those
remarkable speeches on Indian affairs: ‘We, I think, were mainly struck
with the extraordinary intellectual feats that they were for a man under
his calamity; but the effect produced in India was of a different and
profounder kind. There was the sense of the largeness of heart of the
statesman who had known suffering, and a gratitude for his broad
sympathy with all whom he could protect against what he conceived to be
oppression of any kind.’

[Sidenote: No time in Parliament for India.]

He did not hesitate to speak on Indian affairs to his constituency, and
to ask of them their sympathy and interest. At a meeting in Brighton he
said that the most trumpery question ever brought before Parliament, a
wrangle over the purchase of a picture or a road through a park excited
more interest than the welfare of the many millions of our Indian
fellow-subjects. Constituencies were said to take no interest in the
subject. They would be some day forced to take an interest, if affairs
were neglected in the future as they had been in the past. ‘The people
of India have not votes; they cannot bring so much pressure to bear upon
Parliament as can be brought by one of our great railway companies; but
with some confidence I believe that I shall not be misinterpreting your
wishes if, as your representative, I do whatever can be done by one
humble individual to render justice to the defenceless and powerless.’

That last sentence could be taken as his policy and motto through life.
Could there be a more valiant one for a blind man, or for any one
fighting against great odds for the right? ‘I do whatever can be done by
one humble individual to render justice to the defenceless and
powerless.’ He does not limit whom or where. There are no limitations.
That they are defenceless and powerless is all the recommendation which
they need to claim his warmest interest and ceaseless effort to help
them to find the way out of their misery.

                             CHAPTER XXIII

                   THE ‘ONE MAN WHO CARED FOR INDIA’

    Defeated at Brighton—Spectacles and the Man—Elected for Hackney.

[Sidenote: Effect of Speeches in India.]

In spite of many warnings that his Indian policy would be unpopular, his
adherence to his high ideal of a truly Imperial citizenship proved a
good campaign asset, and Fawcett’s constituents were proud of him, and
absorbed in his expositions of Indian affairs.

Notwithstanding that he lost his seat at Brighton at the next general
election, he was soon in the House again, representing another
constituency. The prominence of his position in the House of Commons and
out of it was much enhanced by the power of his Indian speeches.

His popularity in Cambridge was unquestioned. On his return to residence
there, his home was a merry meeting-place for his many friends old and
new. His original ways were a byword. He once began a new
acquaintanceship in this fashion. Shaking hands warmly with a young
student who had just been introduced, Fawcett said jovially, ‘What do
you do—ride, or row or fish? I smoke!’

In speaking of Fawcett, the present head Master of Trinity used these
words: ‘We all had a veneration for Fawcett, and loved to see the way he
won every one. A friend of all of ours with whom Fawcett stayed tried us
very much by insisting that all his guests should go to bed by ten
o’clock. One of them vowed that “he’d be hanged if he would go to bed at
ten o’clock.” We were greatly relieved and amused that when Fawcett
appeared on the scene, his conversation so completely charmed his host
that it was impossible to get him to bed until long after midnight.’

[Sidenote: Mastership of Trinity Hall.]

When a vacancy occurred in the Mastership of Trinity Hall, Fawcett was
asked to stand, and though he retired from the candidature in favour of
Sir Henry Maine, it is an interesting evidence of Fawcett’s close
interest in his old college that no new interests could weaken.

At this time his chief exercise seems to have been riding. A friend who
often accompanied him gives this description of one adventurous morning
ride: ‘His riding was like the driving of Jehu. He was entirely
fearless, seemed to know all the road, the turnings, the signposts, and
the houses, where the turf began that was good to go on, and where the
horse must be allowed to walk.

[Sidenote: Spectacles and the Man.]

‘We were going together at a moderate pace on his favourite road. I was
a yard in front; suddenly I heard a noise as of a fall, and looking back
saw to my horror Fawcett lying on the ground, and his horse standing
quietly by. How it happened I don’t know. I jumped down in terror, but
was soon reassured by Fawcett calling out in his natural voice, “Just
look for my spectacles, will you?” When I had helped him up and brought
him to his horse, he remounted without the least appearance of flurry or
alarm. He explained to me as we cantered on, that he thought that in
case of a fall, he was in less danger than a seeing man, as he did not
attempt to move or struggle. He seemed to think no more of his fall,
beyond expressing a wish that I should not speak of it at home, and thus
cause alarm and nervousness when he was riding again.’

[Sidenote: Enjoying the Sunset.]

This courage is the more remarkable in view of the fact that Fawcett
once said: ‘The happiest moments I spend in my life are when I am in the
companionship of some friend who will forget that I have lost my
eyesight, who will talk to me as if I could see, who will describe to me
the persons I meet, a beautiful sunset, or scenes of great beauty
through which we may be passing. For so wonderful is the adaptability of
the human mind, that when for instance some scene of great beauty has
been described to me, I recall that scene in after years, and I speak
about it in such a manner that sometimes I have to check myself and
consider for a moment whether the impression was produced when I had my
sight or was conveyed by the description of another.’

It is not conceivable that the man who so thoroughly saw through the
vision given to him by others, could have been deficient in the power to
imagine vividly, acutely, all possible dangers. It meant a very
deliberate courage to overcome all slowness and hesitancy—to gallop
alone, trusting entirely to his horse to save him from, may be, serious
collisions. Yet, so complete was Fawcett’s self-mastery that he thrust
fear utterly behind him, and found only hearty, high-spirited joy in his

[Sidenote: Hackney. A model campaign.]

This same courage stood him in good stead in the general election in
1874, which resulted in a great victory for the Conservatives. In
Brighton both the Liberal candidates were thrown out, though Fawcett
polled forty-nine more votes than before. Within six weeks he was again
an M.P., this time enthusiastically elected for Hackney; and the
management of his election for that borough was so inexpensive that it
was long cited as a model of electioneering efficiency and economy.

The Indian papers spoke strongly of his ‘unique position,’ and a fund of
£400 was raised and transmitted to England to pay the expenses of
another contest. It arrived too late, but went towards the expenses of
the contest at Hackney in 1880. Another sum of £350 was then raised in
India, which was placed in the hands of trustees with a view to a future
election, and in due time was devoted to some purpose connected with

Fawcett’s first speech to his Hackney constituents was delivered in
March. What he said there, then and later, was distinguished by his
fearless and frank adherence to what were considered unpopular
principles. He denounced what he deemed the unworthy competition between
Gladstone and Disraeli, saying that when the former announced that in
case of his election he would repeal the Income Tax, the latter promptly
announced that he would do the same. Fawcett considered that neither
could carry out this promise, and that it was merely a discreditable bid
for votes. He said that he would continue in his efforts for India, then
threatened anew by famine.

[Sidenote: The Times.]

The _Saturday Review_, not usually favourable to his party, hoped for
his return as the ‘one man,’ out of official circles, who cared for
India. The _Times_ said ‘he offended publicans by refusing to use their
houses as committee rooms; he offended the advocates of the Permissive
Bill by declaring his resolution to vote against it; he offended
shopkeepers by his zeal in favour of the co-operative movement; he
offended working men by his opposition to the latest movement for
limiting the hours of labour of adult women; he offended old-fashioned
Liberals, and Liberals who are getting old-fashioned, by his persistent
advocacy of reforms that had not come within the range of their
education when they were young; and Liberals of a later growth
remembered how often Fawcett had found himself unable to acquiesce in
Mr. Gladstone’s policy and plans. Yet he must have secured the support
of men of all these sections, who concurred in sending him to
Parliament, because they believed that his presence there would be
advantageous, in spite of errors of opinion which each section in turn

His short absence between his defeat at Brighton and his fresh
appearance as the representative for Hackney was sincerely regretted in
the House of Commons on all sides. Warm friends missed his genial
personality and the jovial meetings at his seat, whence many merry
stories and much gossip emanated. Those who saw Fawcett casually found
it difficult to believe that he was blind. It was his unfailing habit to
turn to the person to whom he was speaking as if he saw them. He knew
his way about the House of Commons so well that he was quick and sure in
all his movements. He would cross the floor of the House and, bowing to
the Speaker, take his seat with familiar assurance. His father used
often to come up from Salisbury, and Fawcett would take him to the
privileged strangers’ seats under the gallery, and bring his
Parliamentary friends to talk to the old gentleman.

One of the favourite ways of drawing attention to departmental misdeeds
is to ask questions of the Minister of State concerned to be answered by
him at the beginning of the sitting. These questions were sent up in
writing and then read aloud to the House by the members who asked them.
The Rt. Hon. Thomas Burt, one of the first working-class
representatives, and an old friend of Fawcett’s, says: ‘Mr. Fawcett
often put long questions, and he repeated them word for word as they
were printed on the order paper, never a slip, never the slightest

[Sidenote: The hard-worked Hen.]

Fawcett was at once added to the committee on Indian finance appointed a
few days before his election. This was the fourth year that this
committee had worked. _Punch_ said that it reminded him ‘of the hen that
laid so many eggs she could never come to the hatching of any.’ And
indeed it never published a report, though it collected a great deal of
most valuable evidence.

It was before this committee that Lord Salisbury gave evidence on the
difficulty for an Indian Secretary of State to withstand the demands of
the Treasury. Continued resistance on his part was ‘to stop the
machine.’ ’so,’ said Fawcett, ‘you must either stop the machine, or
resign, or go on tacitly submitting to injustice.’ ‘I should accept the
statement,’ replied Lord Salisbury, ‘barring the word tacitly. I should
go on submitting with loud remonstrances.’

But a strong echo in the public conscience would be necessary for these
remonstrances to be of any value to India, and this is what Fawcett saw.

                              CHAPTER XXIV

                       FAMINE, TURKS AND INDIANS

    _Punch_ and Fawcett—The Indian Famine—Parliamentary
    Interest aroused in India—Bulgarian Atrocities—Afghanistan
    War—Gladstone’s Faith in Fawcett—A £9,000,000 Mistake.

He was becoming one of the most prominent figures in the House of
Commons, and as such is frequently mentioned in the political diary with
which _Punch_ has amused more than two generations. _Punch_ gives vivid
glimpses of our hero ‘hitting out in fine style,’ giving ‘a well
deserved rap over the knuckles’ to some not too scrupulous speaker. Then
he is ‘the blind gentleman who cannot see things in his way like other
people, and so will not be turned aside’; or ‘One of the biggest wigs on
India.’ On a night of great debate ‘First in the lists was that ablest
of intractables, Professor Fawcett, who not seeing when he bores others
can defy the penalties of boredom in the strength of an honest purpose.’
Finally, when energy was required ‘Professor Fawcett danced over it.’

Then back to the quiet home across the river, and a peaceful time by his
own fireside. In damp weather the tolling of Big Ben would ring clear
over the water. Fawcett did not need to be told it was raining or to
depend on the patter on the window panes for his knowledge. He knew it
by the distinctive noises of the wet wheels of traffic. All the various
noises of the London streets were acutely present to him: the uneven,
slow hammer of a lame horse’s hoofs, the short quick step of a donkey,
and the whir of the two wheels of a coster’s donkey-cart piled high with
vegetables for Covent Garden, or the more rhythmic trot of a pair of
carriage horses and the almost noiseless revolutions of the wheels of
prosperous vehicles. He knew of fog by the muffled cries of the cabbies
and the linkmen, or by the bewildering tooting of the river craft on the

In 1875 Gladstone retired from the Liberal leadership, and Lord
Hartington was elected in his stead. The Liberals were a disorganised
and despondent party, sitting in the coldest of cold shades of
opposition. But there was nothing dispirited about Fawcett. In this
session he reiterated two former war-cries: the one to reduce the
expenses of Parliamentary candidates—a proposal which still had little
support from either side of the House; the other, to insist with this
Government as he had insisted with the former one, to bring on the
debate on the Indian Budget in sufficient time for proper discussion. In
the same session funds were voted to meet the expenses of the tour about
to be made by the Prince of Wales in India. Fawcett was wishful that the
whole cost of this voyage of good will should be met by England. But
both Disraeli and Gladstone opposed him, and he was unable to get his
point carried.

[Sidenote: The Liberty of the Individual.]

His strong belief in individual liberty gave Fawcett scant sympathy with
that school of thought which was for controlling people into better
conditions of living. When the Conservative Government brought in a bill
for municipal action in cases of bad housing, and the premier happily
misquoted ’sanitas sanitatum, omnia sanitas,’ Fawcett was scornful. He
considered it class legislation and paternally patronising in a way that
few would understand to-day. He had the same feeling about the Factory
Acts, except when they were to protect the most helpless. On the other
hand, he was eager to extend the compulsory attendance of children at
school, and urged it several times during this Parliament.

[Sidenote: Empress of India.]

[Sidenote: Famine.]

Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India at Delhi in 1877 amidst
much stately ceremonial and much thundering of cannon. But the
reverberations from the Imperial salute had hardly died away before
ominous news was muttered of famine in Bengal. It proved only too true,
and was very terrible in its effects. More than two million people died.
Many endeavours were made to cope with the disaster, and also to provide
better against its recurrence, in all of which Fawcett took deep
interest. A month or two later it was proposed to remit the duty on
cotton. Fawcett, although a strong free trader, opposed this, as he
thought the change at this time would deal hardly with India.

In 1879 Fawcett published an article in the _Nineteenth Century_, called
‘The New Departure in Finance,’ in which he shows the changes that have
been wrought. He points out, amongst other things, that in that year the
Indian Budget was discussed in May instead of in August, and that it
excited sufficient interest for the debate to last three nights, whereas
in former years it was generally hurried over in the closing hours of
the session. The vital importance of limiting taxation and reducing
expenditure had been acknowledged by the highest authorities, and an
obstacle had thus been surmounted which had hitherto stood in the way of
all serious reforms. He insisted on the importance of developing the
resources of the country, but objected to reckless borrowing for that
purpose. He considered that the expenses could be reduced until there
should be a fair surplus to spend on works of real value. He emphasised
most particularly a policy always much in his mind. There might be a
great saving of money, and a great gain politically, if more opportunity
were given to the native races to be employed in Government posts. After
calling attention to the heavy military expenditure, he ends with the
expression of a hope that a new financial era is really being

Fawcett was surprised and amused at the way in which his essay was
received with unanimous approval, and said that it showed ‘the
uncertainty of any forecast of the effect of an appeal to the public.’
After years of labour apparently productive of little result, he had
suddenly become an exponent of accepted principles.

He is now the great man. And a great man’s jokes, however feeble, make
their impress. But through this atmosphere we see the cheerful Fawcett
of our ken, gay, brusque, and light-hearted.

He walks with a friend from Newmarket to Cambridge. The friend relates:

[Sidenote: Fawcett and the Yokels.]

‘We stopped at a roadside inn for lunch; the country yokels stared, as
well they might, at this strong-faced blind man, full of interest for
the things they knew about. He insisted on paying more than the landlady
asked, because he had taken all the crust off the loaf!

‘I saw some one on the road whom I thought Fawcett ought to know, who
passed with no sign of recognition. On inquiry from him why I thought he
would know this man, I described him as some old fogey who looked like a
member of the University. Later on I had occasion to talk to him about
the strenuous exercise he often took, and hazarded a conjecture that he
was as strong as any member of the House of Commons. His version,
shouted out to his wife directly he got inside of his house, was that I
had been calling him an old fogey, and had been trying to make up for it
by calling him the strongest member of the House.’

‘In the evening his wife or any friend present read aloud to him. I
remember one evening, after I had been reading the _Spectator_ to him,
Mrs. Fawcett took up Trevelyan’s _Life of Fox_, and read to him for some
minutes; she then looked up and said, ‘Harry, you are asleep!’ He
indignantly denied it, and to show that he had not been asleep said, “I
have heard every word you said. I think we will have some of Fox’s Life
now.” When informed that we had been reading it for ten minutes, he
said, without being at all disconcerted, “Oh, have you, then go on!”’

[Sidenote: The terrible Turks.]

The Beaconsfield Government (for Disraeli was now Earl of Beaconsfield),
which had begun its course so prosperously, had from 1876 onwards to
meet difficulties arising from war in Eastern Europe. The Turks put down
a rising in Bulgaria with inconceivable barbarity, and Beaconsfield’s
handling of the question gave great offence to many Englishmen. The
sufferings of the Christians brought Gladstone out of his retirement
and, in the first days of September, he published a pamphlet that was
sold daily in its thousands. Within a fortnight Fawcett presided at a
great meeting in Exeter Hall, the birthplace of so many crusades.

It is popularly supposed that it is particularly difficult for the blind
to keep order or to compel attention. This idea has often been used as
an objection to the blind as teachers or lecturers. As many things are
true in the same degree of the blind person as of the seeing person. The
practical question which should be asked in such cases is irrespective
of blindness, and is: ‘Has the man sufficient personality to be
interesting and to command attention and respect?’ Fawcett had. Both his
blindness and his disregard of it compelled admiration, even reverence,
while they added interest to what he said, and brought out the latent
chivalrous, gracious qualities of his audience. It was probably far
easier for him to preside at a meeting than it would have been for a
sighted person of average calibre. He was not forced to keep order by
himself, for most of the men at the meeting unconsciously helped the
blind chairman by their sympathy and attention. Fawcett’s natural
quickness, keyed to high pitch by his blindness, made him swift to
detect the slightest movement or half-murmured objection, and to catch
the change of mood in the tones of a speaker who was, even unknown to
himself, being turned from his original point.

No breach of procedure escaped this chairman, whose unseeing eyes seemed
to watch the expression of each debater. To see Fawcett in the chair,
dominating the other strong men with whom he worked, was a sight not to
be forgotten. Rising to his great height, and looking around with his
genial smile, he would open the meeting with a few words. If their quiet
authority left no doubt but that there would be order, there was a
pleasant marginal sense that it would be order not necessarily dreary or
even unmixed with fun.

A striking proof of his popularity occurred at the National Conference
in the following December. Gladstone was chief orator, but Fawcett, who
was on the platform, was called for from the audience to add his words
as well.

But the first popular indignation became overcast by a jealousy of
Russian action, and when the House met its mood was hesitating and
uncertain. But not Fawcett. In March he moved independently a resolution
demanding that the European Powers should insist on adequate reforms,
and led an attack on the Government, that claimed to have a spirited
foreign policy which was really a do-nothing policy. The Conservatives
cried, horror-stricken, that Fawcett wanted a ‘bloody war.’ The Liberal
front bench said that the resolution was inopportune, and they suggested
it should be withdrawn. To this Fawcett felt obliged to consent, as a
weak following from his own party would have made a most discouraging

Two months later Gladstone brought in a resolution on the subject, but
thought it unwise to go further than he could persuade the front bench
to follow him. How eagerly he urged the Liberal leaders, and how
reluctantly they consented, was not known at the time, and the weakness
of Gladstone’s resolution was a great disappointment to Fawcett. He
spoke vigorously at this May debate, and _Punch_ says of ‘this blind,
brave Mr. Fawcett,’ ‘And it do me good to hear one so downright in these
over timid times. And do call a spade a spade as plain as ever I
hear.... And Mr. Gladstone did speak mighty well to the same time as Mr.
Fawcett, only sharper and stronger and brisker and fiercer all at once
as is his wont.’

[Sidenote: The Bengal Tiger.]

Fawcett, who had so lately been treated as a firebrand, found himself on
the other side of the scales when in the next year’s phase of the
question Beaconsfield’s Government became bellicose, and moved troops
from India to the Mediterranean. Beaconsfield sided more and more
strongly with the Turks as the question wrapped itself up into those
complications whose orchestration is called the Concert of Europe. It
was generally felt that these troops were on hand to help the Turks.
Their removal from India to Malta roused Fawcett on two issues—the
possibility of helping the Turks and the making of unfair demands on
India. He again attacked the Ministers, or as _Punch_ says, ‘had it out
with the Government about bringing the Bengal Tiger into European

The Eastern question was to continue to disturb Europe, creating
suspicions and fostering disagreements. Its first dramatic fruit was at
the other end of the Russian dominions, where Afghanistan lies between
the threatening borders of the Russian and British Empires. The Amir of
Afghanistan, ‘an earthen pipkin between two iron pots,’ was wooed by
England and by Russia, but desired the attentions of neither. But to
prove his neutrality was impossible. The Indian Government accused him
of favouring Russia, and a clumsy diplomacy led finally to war.

[Sidenote: To shield the Indian Taxpayer.]

Fawcett denounced at Bethnal Green, and again at Hackney, the underhand
conduct of the Indian Government towards the Amir, and demanded that
Parliament should be summoned. He argued from the opinions of high
authorities that an occupation of the capital city, Cabul, would involve
an intolerable burden upon Indian finances. When Parliament met to
approve the expenditure incurred in Afghanistan, Fawcett, seconded by
Mr. Gladstone, proposed that the cost of the war should not be thrown
upon India. Once more he was defending the Indian tax-payer. He
complained that when it was a question of declaring war, the Government
had boasted that they were carrying out a great Imperial policy; when it
was a question of paying for the war, they represented it as a mere
border squabble. The course adopted by Government was unpopular, because
it was marked by meanness and ‘entire absence of generosity.’ He
declared that his constituents at Hackney would prefer to pay their fair
share of the expense. His motion was rejected by 235 to 125. Fawcett
returned to the charge in the next session, when a financial arrangement
was proposed for apportioning the burden between England and India.
Fawcett, in criticising, showed that India would have to pay twice as
much as England. He was again seconded by Gladstone, but was again

[Sidenote: Gladstone’s Faith in Fawcett’s knowledge.]

A story told of Fawcett at this time shows how real was the respect for
his knowledge and exactness. He was staying at a week-end house-party in
the country. Gladstone was there, and said to him, ‘What do you think of
the news of Afghanistan? I have not read the papers and I have a speech
to make on the subject. I have been at the Corpus Christi library,
looking at the Parker manuscripts, comparing the 39 Articles, so that I
have had no time.’ Fawcett told him about the Afghanistan conditions so
fully and accurately that Gladstone, without having any further
information, made a long and most telling speech about them in

The importance to Gladstone of the Parker manuscript as compared with
the Afghanistan complications is highly characteristic; we can imagine
Fawcett’s amusement that Gladstone should become absorbed in an academic
question of theological punctilio, for such it would seem to him, when
there was such really vital matters at issue.

Before Parliament met again, Fawcett had accepted his appointment as
Postmaster-General on condition that he would be free ‘to take part in
Indian debates.’ But the great demands made on his time left little
energy for other matters.

[Sidenote: A Mistake of Nine Million Pounds, no one to blame.]

He expressed himself in 1880 at length on the Indian Budget, when an
error of nine millions in the accounts of the Afghan War came before the
House. He showed how it emphasised the need of the precautions which he
had urged on the Finance Committee, especially when it appeared that no
one could be held responsible for this great carelessness. It was a
comfort for him to be able to approve, in the main, the trend which the
Indian policy continued to take, and that what he had laboured for so
devotedly became the policy of the Government.

In reviewing his struggles for India, several things about him stand out
forcefully. The fearlessness with which he took up a dangerous position,
and by his very bravery made it safe ground. The scornful way he pushed
aside whatever he considered spurious or unworthy. He gained not only
the love of those whose battles he fought, but also the respect and
goodwill of his adversaries.

Sir William Lee Warner says, ‘His great fear was that India might be
saddled with charges which the British Treasury ought to bear; and the
poverty of the ryot afflicted him as if he suffered himself.’ This
suffering for others, so characteristic of Fawcett, was another common
trait which he had with Lincoln, who we remember said that ‘he didn’t
pull the wretched pig out of the mire for the pig’s sake, but to take
the pain out of his own heart.’

In recognition of her husband’s great service, a beautiful necklace was
sent in gratitude from India for Mrs. Fawcett, and a sumptuous
tea-service was sent to him, which was inscribed, ‘Presented to the Rt.
Honble. Henry Fawcett, M.P., by his native friends and admirers in
Bombay, India, June 1880.’

With no aid save his great heart and tremendous energy, he had won his
battle for India. Despite his galvanic talk and pioneering energy, he
had shown great diplomacy. His stand had been made on the rock bed of
honesty, and he had given no quarter to deceit or self-seekers. In
serving his country as he would serve himself he had found his path of


                             A NEW KIND OF


    ‘You can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn
    long after they have gone—and so hold on when there is nothing in
    you except the will which says hold on.’—KIPLING.


                              CHAPTER XXV

                           LIBERALS IN POWER

    General Expectation that Fawcett would join the Cabinet—The
    Importance of a Fish—Postmaster-General—Queen Victoria
    interested—Post Office Problems—Scientific Business Management
    anticipated—Women’s Work—A Likeness to Lincoln.

[Sidenote: His Preparation.]

It is doubtful if anything but incessant struggles, the single-handed
upholding of forlorn hopes, the fighting of battles with no other
ammunition than irrefutable fact, and finally, the frequent victory over
overwhelming difficulties, could have fitted Fawcett for the great task
which lay before him. No easier life could have given him the
instinctive grip of the essential, the sympathy which reads men truly,
and the eagerness to serve the least of them which fitted this blind man
to take efficient command of an army of over 90,000 people, to inspire
them with an _esprit de corps_ which they had heretofore lacked, and
incidentally to fill them with a sense of gratitude, loyalty and
affection to their chief. This is what Fawcett did with the Post Office
department of England.

The General Election of 1880 returned the Liberals into power, with
Gladstone once more at their head. Fawcett’s prominence before the
public had grown so steadily and surely, and his attack on the last
Government had been so strong, that he was widely accepted as a probable
member of the new Government.

[Sidenote: The Importance of a Fish.]

He ran down to Cambridge just before he received his appointment. All
who knew him there were on the _qui vive_, eagerly awaiting the good
tidings which they expected any minute. A friend called, in the hope of
gathering news. Fawcett greeted him cordially, and went on to ask, ‘Have
you seen that fish I caught yesterday?’ Characteristic this, to discuss
fish, not politics, at the crisis of his career.

Mr. Gladstone offered the Postmaster-Generalship to Fawcett in April
1880. The following letter was written to his parents the day after:

[Sidenote: Queen Victoria interested.]

  ‘My dear Father and Mother,—You will I know all be delighted to hear
  that last night I received a most kind letter from Gladstone offering
  me the Postmaster-Generalship. It is the office which Lord Hartington
  held when Gladstone was last in power. I shall be a Privy Councillor,
  but shall not have a seat in the Cabinet. I believe there was some
  difficulty raised about my having to confide Cabinet secrets;
  apparently because of the dependence on others for handling
  correspondence. This objection, I think, time will remove. I did not
  telegraph to you the appointment at first because Gladstone did not
  wish it to be known until it was formally confirmed by the Queen; but
  he told me in my interview with him this morning that he was quite
  sure that the Queen took a kindly interest in my appointment.’

He adds that Mr. Gladstone said ‘that he has given me the appointment in
order that I might have time to speak in Indian and other debates.’ He
goes on to make some arrangements for fishing at Salisbury.

He had himself feared that his lack of sight might keep him from holding
office, and was not surprised that it debarred him from being in the
Cabinet, but his friends were keenly disappointed. It was generally held
at the time that his blindness was the cause of his exclusion, but it is
noteworthy that Gladstone himself is not reported to have said so.

A contemporary newspaper wrote:

‘No one asked why Mr. Fawcett was a member of the Government, but many
inquired why he was not in the Cabinet. We have reason to believe that
if Mr. Fawcett had been definitely apprised that his blindness was
considered an insuperable barrier in the way of his admission to the
Cabinet, he would have resigned office. He would not have consented to
have been permanently debarred from the free discussion in Parliament of
the questions in which he was intensely interested, and to which he
brought a greater capacity of judgment than three-fourths of the members
of any Cabinet England has ever seen. The opinions he could not express
in council, he would have resumed the right of expressing in
Parliamentary debate. It is a matter of regret that a barrier of weak
prejudice should have excluded a man who had overcome so many real, and
seemingly insuperable, barriers.’

It was argued that a member of the Cabinet has to see many confidential
papers, and that there would be difficulty in admitting some one who, in
order to read them, would have to use other eyes than his own. This
explanation seems hardly sufficient. Six months later, Lord Hartington
offered Fawcett a seat on the Indian Council, where confidential
documents would also have to be scrutinised. The English Cabinet, even
in its methods of procedure, is so secret, that it is impossible to
dogmatise on the subject. But for that very reason, it seems the more
plausible that difficulties such as those due to Fawcett’s blindness
could have been met and overcome. Fawcett’s exclusion from the Cabinet
may as much have been due to his uncompromising individuality as to his
physical infirmity. It is to be remembered that Cabinet forming is
difficult work, and a Prime Minister has to think of the claims and
capacities of many candidates, and of how they will pull together.
Furthermore, the principle that a man should serve in a subordinate
office first, before being asked to join the Cabinet, was a favourite
one with Gladstone.



  The impression of the seal was taken from the actual seal used by
  Fawcett; but, at the time of King Edward’s accession, when the
  expression “Her Majesty’s” became incorrect, the word “his” was
  cut on the seal in substitution to the word “her”]

The reader must draw his own conclusions as to these high matters of
State. The only reference Fawcett is known to have made is in the letter
to his father already quoted.

In a previous administration Gladstone had had reason to know that the
financial work of a Postmaster-General is complex and full of intricate
detail. In his choice of Fawcett for this post he showed his respect for
the economist's financial ability. This respect was mutual: Fawcett in
one of his letters speaks of 'the pleasure of doing business with a
Master of the Art.'

On the spring day when Fawcett made his first call at the busy Post
Office, he was warmly received by his predecessor and political
opponent, Lord John Manners, and introduced by him to the leading

[Sidenote: An Official Welcome.]

[Sidenote: Hand-shaking.]

At a more formal reception to Fawcett, 'all the officials at the General
Post Office' were mustered to be individually introduced to him,
beginning with the heads of departments, with each of whom he shook
hands. These were followed by officials next in rank. To the first of
these Fawcett was about to hold out his hand, when the hint was
whispered to him, 'It is not usual for Her Majesty's Postmaster-General
to shake hands with any one in the office below the rank of head of a
department.' 'I suppose,' rejoined Fawcett, 'that I am at liberty to
make what use I like of my own hand,' and he went on shaking hands with
every one who was presented to him.

There is a report that this democratic handshaking proclivity was shown
also in the opposite direction socially. At some function when Royalty
was present, Fawcett was sent for by the Queen. It was his first
interview with her, and unlike a seeing man he had no chance to observe
the customary etiquette in these matters. So he advanced cheerily,
heartily grasped Her Majesty’s hand and spoke of his pleasure in
greeting her.

Queen Victoria always knew how to overlook an unintentional breach of
etiquette, and fascinated, as so many were, by Fawcett’s friendliness,
chatted gaily and unceremoniously with him, while the court looked on,
much amused and somewhat astounded.

[Sidenote: A great Opening of Service.]

To understand Fawcett’s methods and the manner in which he took up his
new work, it is essential to get his estimate of its scope, and of his
relation to it as its director. His attitude was very simple. He was the
servant of the people—an engine to lift their loads and to help them to
help themselves to fuller, happier lives. He regarded the Post Office
neither as an end in itself, nor as a money-making machine for the
Government, but as an instrument which could be made of service,
especially to the poor.

First, he wished to give the machine a _soul_ and a heart: the thought
of such things in the Post Office seems comic, but in Fawcett’s time
this miracle was accomplished. Its whole system was waked up, shaken
from its lethargy, and flooded with a new interest, and that unusual
_esprit de corps_ which has been mentioned, was aroused among the
employees, and alone made possible the results which he achieved.

As usual, far ahead of his time, he grasped the chief principles of
scientific business management—that recent art which has claimed so much
attention from the great capitalists and the directors of huge
enterprises, especially in America. Without labelling his principles
with high-sounding names, he carried them out, insisting on economy,
both of work and fatigue, which produced contentment, increased interest
and zeal among the employees; hence greater efficiency.

His method was, first, to diminish fatigue, perhaps the most wasteful
factor in quasi-efficient business. Working and sanitary conditions were
improved, and the staff of Post Office doctors was augmented. He noticed
the failure in health, however slight, of those officers with whom he
came in contact, and at once suggested that they should recruit
themselves by leave of absence. Thus he raised the standard of physique
among his workers. He tried to adjust the work to each individual. This
seems impossible in so vast an enterprise, but by the tremendous amount
of investigation which he made himself, and by seeing his humble
employees as well as heads of departments, Fawcett brought this about to
an astonishing degree. The threat of a strike among the telegraphists
soon after he assumed office gave him an early opportunity to prove
this. Fawcett investigated their grievances with much personal inquiry,
and, by a re-classification of the employees, satisfactorily met their

Before long he had won the loyal adherence of the officials of his
department, and it is delightful to see how highly he esteemed them and
their integrity and industry. He was careful to give credit to the work
of his subordinates, and to obtain for them any marks of approval or
honorary distinctions that were their due. He would add to his own
labours rather than cause a subordinate to be late for luncheon or lose
a train home.

At that time the selection of women for Post Office work was not by open
competition, but the applications were submitted to the
Postmaster-General. Fawcett took much trouble about these, and would not
allow himself to be affected by the influential backing of an applicant,
but tried, other things being equal, to give the position to the one who
needed it most.

The following interesting anecdote is told by Fawcett’s old friend, Sir
William Lee Warner: ‘I remember on one occasion I passed him in the
street in London, and he asked me to walk with him. First he asked me
whether by chance any half-sovereigns had got into the pocket in which
he kept sixpences. Then he wished to visit a certain Post Office, and as
we went he would tell me his impressions of the names of the streets
down which we passed, and ask me to correct him. His memory was
wonderfully good, and even his sense of distances. “We must now be near
such a post office,” he said, and he was nearly always right. We entered
it and I took him to the counter. “Is Miss B. here?” he asked. “No, but
she will be back directly,” was the reply. Then ensued a scene which
impressed me with the inconvenience of blindness. Having ascertained
that Miss B. was before him, he told her that he had received her
application for promotion, and proceeded to discuss the matter with her.
The applicant blushed greatly—her neighbours, and possibly her rivals,
pressed forward to hear, and perhaps resent her application. The poor
creature looked the more uncomfortable as the Postmaster-General became
the more considerate and promised to give his best attention to her

[Sidenote: Help for Women.]

Keen for any efficient service obtainable, he welcomed what able
assistance women could offer. He largely extended the employment of
women workers in the Post Office. This has proved so successful that the
number of women in the various branches of the Post Office has steadily
increased, and is now very large. Fawcett was wont to say that he
considered the head of the women’s staff of the Savings Bank one of the
ablest officials in the whole postal service.

Mrs. Garrett Anderson, his sister-in-law, was deeply interested in his
work for the women in the Post Office, and especially in his efforts to
have them labour under healthful conditions. She was a distinguished
doctor, and in 1882 Fawcett, after consultation with her, appointed a
woman doctor to look after the women in the London post office. He also,
with excellent results, appointed women doctors at Liverpool and
Manchester. Under the improved conditions for health and of health, the
women’s work was eminently satisfactory, and at the time of his death
there were two thousand nine hundred and nineteen employed in the

He noted that difficulties occurred when, as was then customary, on the
marriage of a postmistress her appointment was given to her husband.
When he was not the right person for the new place, this led to trouble;
in 1882 the passage of the Married Woman’s Property Act enabled him to
decide that a woman should in every case have the option of retaining
the appointment in her own name. This arrangement was confirmed by Lord
Eversley, who succeeded Fawcett at the Post Office.

Fawcett went personally into many complaints against petty officials.
Unless fully convinced, he was righteously unwilling to dismiss a man,
and so often leave him with a stigma for life. Losses of letters having
occurred in a local post office, a watch was set, and suspicion fell on
a clerk who had been caught using telegrams for racing and betting. As a
preliminary measure, the clerk was removed to another office for a
month, and the irregularities immediately ceased; he was then sent back,
and at once they began again. What could be a clearer case? He must be
dismissed at once. ‘Give him another chance,’ said Fawcett. ‘He has
admitted his gambling. Had he denied it I should have been convinced he
was guilty of thefts.’ Certain tests, usual in the Post Office service,
were applied, and the result proved conclusively that the culprit was a
guard on the railway, who had been astute enough to forgo taking the
letters during the absence of the suspected clerk, and who began again
when the man returned. ‘There, you see,’ said Fawcett, ‘by a little
extra care I saved a foolish young man from the absolute ruin of
character which his dismissal from the Post Office would have caused.’

Again we are reminded of his likeness to that other great, tall,
contemporary champion of justice, who, across the Atlantic, had given
his life to serve the oppressed and the debased. Lincoln’s critics were
always reproaching him for his excessive leniency and clemency; he would
never let a shadow fall on the life of an unfortunate if he could help
it. He forgot to sign the death warrant for a scared boy who had run
away when his officer told him to face his first mad sight of battle;
and he meekly granted a widowed mother a pardon for her renegade son. So
Fawcett, in his peaceful rôle of directing the Post Office, hated and
hesitated to confirm an order for dismissing a subordinate. His critics
say that occasionally he pushed clemency to weakness, and that he was
‘unwilling to enforce punishments really called for in the interests of
the necessary discipline.’ More than a quarter of a century has passed
since this was said, and with the definition of bad (as good out of
place) we have come to question the use of so-called punishments.
Perhaps Fawcett and Lincoln, in trying not to inflict them, because of
their dislike to give pain, were in this respect also far ahead of their
time, and, by their intuitive hate of doing an injury to any one, were
anticipating the wisest policy of to-day, which seeks by scientific
adjustment and inspiration to do away with so crude a thing as
punishment. The future will judge of this, but we can appreciate the
righteous fear such men had of unjustly interfering with personal
rights, or trying to make a stereotyped formula fit an erring human

When differences of opinion occurred, Fawcett would discuss the question
with his subordinates to an ‘almost wearisome length’ because he
disliked unnecessarily to thrust their opinions aside. He often said
that as he could not see himself, he had an earnest wish to see things
as much as possible from the point of view of others. By bringing home
his personality to the great mass of Post Office servants, and by
calling the attention of the public to the value of the work done by the
permanent staff, he raised the tone of the whole service, enhanced their
self-respect, and increased the estimation in which they are held by the

[Sidenote: Esprit de Corps.]

The employee who had fallen under the spell of his new chief’s
enthusiasm and kindliness felt, no matter how humble a niche he
occupied, that he was doing part of the good work of a great country,
and forgot that he was, perhaps, a poorly paid clerk in a God-forsaken
hamlet. His efforts would be redoubled; the golden chain of service
linked all the little outlying posts with the great ones, bound even the
little half-frozen postmistress in the bleakest settlement of the empire
to help on the work of the jovial, warm-hearted chief in the brilliant
city of London.

                              CHAPTER XXVI


    A Day with the Postmaster-General—How he worked Reform—The
    Parcel Post.

By his intense love of the open air Fawcett kept mind and body fresh,
and was eager and able to cope with his problems, and to welcome new
ones. The late Sir Robert Hunter said: ‘He frequently walked up and down
outside the post office in the middle of the day, while smoking his
cigarette, and on Saturdays he either walked, or rowed on the Thames
with an old friend or two. He rowed very badly, and caused much
discomfort to his companions by ‘catching crabs.’

‘I often used to accompany him, on long walks over Wimbledon Common, and
he liked walking on uneven ground as contrasted with smooth pavements. I
remember his saying one day how much better it was to get out into the
country than to follow the prevalent fashion of hanging about the clubs
on a Saturday, on the chance of picking up some piece of political
gossip, gossip mostly untrue and worthless.’ It is also told that when a
mutual friend mentioned to Fawcett that he was going to stay in the
country with the newly appointed solicitor: ‘Ah,’ said the blind man,
‘you are going down to ——: Hunter has a wonderful view there!’

Applications did not need to be influentially backed to receive his
interested attention. The request of a cottager to have his letters
brought to his own cottage instead of to the house of his employer would
be investigated by Fawcett as carefully as a request from a Minister of
State. Nothing was too much trouble for him. He received a petition from
the town of Guildford asking for an additional daily postal delivery. He
invited a small deputation from among the signers of the petition to
come to London and talk the matter over with him. Among those who formed
the deputation was a medical man who gave the following account of what
took place at the interview: ‘After Fawcett had welcomed us most kindly,
he had a little map of the town, which had been specially drawn up for
the occasion, distributed among us, and then himself gave us an address
on the work of the Guildford postmen. He described minutely the various
rounds of each of them, specifying the names of the streets passed
through, and the length of time occupied in traversing them. Summing up
these data, he proved that the additional delivery for which we asked
could only be provided at the cost of engaging an additional postman,
which the local finances would not justify. None of us had a word to say
against this demonstration, and I, for my part, quitted the General Post
Office filled with astonishment that a blind man should seem to know
more than I myself did about a town in which, as boy and man, I had been
going about all my life.’[2]

[Sidenote: What kind of a Donkey?]

A large factor in his success was that he always kept his sense of
humour to the fore. A friend remonstrated with the Postmaster-General
because the post was brought to him by a donkey. But his only answer was
a deeply interested inquiry, ‘What kind of a donkey is it, a lean
donkey, or a fat donkey?’

[Sidenote: Blue Ribbon.]

When complaint was made to the Postmaster-General that it was not
‘official’ for women working in the Post Office to wear the ‘blue
ribbon,’ Fawcett replied that by doing so they set a very good example,
and he had no fault to find with their office work. To a similar
complaint about a postman, he replied that they might wear all the
colours of the rainbow if it would keep them from drinking.

Though he did not take part in the various temperance campaigns of his
day, Fawcett believed very strongly in the evils of drink. His own
temperate existence, the fact that even in his college days he had never
drunk too much, put him in a strong position to talk to others about the
foolishness of drunkenness and the great loss of strength caused by an
indulgence in drink. He was much in earnest in trying to persuade men of
all classes to be temperate, and would unhesitatingly argue with
hard-drinking men against their unwise course.

[Sidenote: A day with the Postmaster-General.]

The following outline of his daily work is kindly given by Mr. Dryhurst,
who was his secretary at the time. The official pouches would be brought
to the House of Commons at six o’clock. These contained the ‘minutes,’
to use the official term, _i.e._ the proposals submitted for his
approval or instructions. His secretary would get up these papers and
afterwards read them to his chief. This had to be a thorough process,
for Fawcett, instead of passing them as a matter of form, was certain to
ask minute questions about them. He returned home from the House of
Commons any time from one to four A.M. After breakfast the following
morning, ‘the meat,’ as he called it, would be read to him out of the
morning news, and then important papers would be put before him to be
approved or initialled. If he felt he did not know enough to approve or
disapprove, he would ask to see So-and-so later at the post office. At
eleven-thirty to twelve, partly by cab and partly on foot, he would
reach the post office, and there spend the next three to four hours in
discussing with the officials the proposals they had put before him, or
new ones which were in contemplation.

Other important business during the parliamentary session would be the
preparation of answers to the questions to be asked in the House of
Commons in the afternoon. As soon as this work was done, he walked along
the Embankment from Blackfriars to the House of Commons.

It is interesting to set beside this more impressions of Sir Robert
Hunter, which he most kindly gave to the writer shortly before his
death. Sir Robert was appointed solicitor to the Post Office by Fawcett,
who was particularly glad to make the appointment, as Mr. Hunter, as he
was then, was an old friend. The two men had worked together in the
Commons Preservation Society, to which Sir Robert Hunter was the
indefatigable solicitor, and Fawcett had then become thoroughly familiar
with his great abilities.

[Sidenote: How he worked.]

Speaking of the blind Postmaster-General, Sir Robert said that he gave
the Post Office an enormous lift; he tried to make it an important
social instrument for the amelioration of the State. His personality was
most inspiriting. He would come to the post office on Monday morning
with a crumpled little piece of paper, which he would hand to any one
standing near to read to him. It contained perhaps half a dozen words;
for example: ‘Foreign delivery, parcels, stamp, alterations.’ This
slight help to his memory was sufficient to remind him perhaps of all
the day’s work, including investigations and even what he was prepared
to say before the House of Commons in the afternoon. He took great pains
with his answers for question time, discussing, writing, and re-writing
them. But once they were settled and read over to him in their final
form, they were delivered by him in the House verbatim without any
effort. If some proposal came before him in the guise of a file of
papers, he always endeavoured to ascertain what official had given most
consideration to the question, and he then discussed the matter with him
personally. This was an innovation. The discussion would suggest ideas
which would often lead to improvements in the administration. His
enthusiasm made every one feel the need of working harder and doing
better than under a less inspiring leader. He gained the affection of
all by his astonishing consideration, and by not giving unnecessary

Though now a mature and distinguished man, he had not changed from his
buoyant earlier self, and with each return to Cambridge took up his
lectures and his social life with a new glow and fresh zeal. He
appreciated more than ever, if possible, the value of work and fun in
life, and in return, for his industry and gaiety, life yielded him full
measure of joy and contentment.

[Sidenote: Interested Cows.]

A Trinity Hall contemporary tells of going to stay with a friend in the
country, and on his arrival finding no one at home; but being told by
the butler that Mr. Fawcett had arrived and was fishing in the
neighbourhood, the new guest went in search. After a short walk in the
meadows he was surprised to see in the neighbourhood of a brook a large
group of cows standing in contemplation about some central object which
he could not make out. A nearer view revealed Fawcett seated in the
charmed circle, the cynosure of all the bovine eyes! In his hand he held
a fishing-rod, the line being firmly caught above his head to the branch
of a tree. The anxious and puzzled observer asked what was the matter,
to which Fawcett answered unconcernedly: ‘Oh, I’m all right, thanks; I’m
very glad to see you!’ On further inquiry about his hypnotised audience
of cows, he explained, ‘Oh, it was the boy’s lunch-time, so I sent him
off to get it. My fish-hook got caught in the tree and these cows just
happened to come round.’ As always, he was having an idyllic time, and
was amused by his friend’s perplexity.

[Sidenote: A Faithful Plaster.]

Mr. Dryhurst tells of Fawcett in a different predicament, the centre of
a very different circle at Cambridge. Like most healthy men, he took his
trifling ailments most seriously, and was much worried by any unusual
symptoms. One day, having a fearful pain in his chest, he went to a
chemist in Cambridge. The chemist properly made inquiry as to a possible
cause for the trouble. Had there been perhaps some reckless indulgence?
some forbidden fruit or similar dissipation? Fawcett could find,
however, no possible explanation for his illness, though he
parenthetically remarked that he had eaten forty walnuts. The chemist
finally prescribed for this mysterious illness a tar adhesive plaster
and applied a large one to Fawcett’s chest. The same evening the invalid
went to a dinner-party. The weather was close, the room badly
ventilated. A slight but rapidly increasing odour of tar was noticed by
one or two of the guests. Fawcett blandly remarked that they were
repairing the streets of Cambridge, which might perhaps account for the
odour, and thus diverted any awkward investigation.

[Sidenote: A German Visitor.]

On his return to London, Fawcett was asked by the head of the German
Post Office to allow him to send an official to study certain points of
administration. Fawcett gladly gave the required leave, and on reaching
the office one morning was informed that the German official had arrived
and was already at work in one of the departments. ‘Tell him,’ said
Fawcett, ‘that I should be glad to speak to him in my room.’ As a
considerable time elapsed without his putting in an appearance, Fawcett
asked the reason for the delay, and received the following answer:
‘Directly we told the German gentleman that you wished to speak to him,
he put on his coat and hat and left the office, and we saw him drive off
in a hansom cab.’ This seemed a very odd way of behaving, but the matter
was satisfactorily cleared up before long by the return of the German
visitor in full official costume and with all his orders on. Fawcett,
concealing his amusement, expressed his regret that so much trouble
should have been thrown away on a blind man who could not perceive the
results. The German visitor explained that in no case could he have
presented himself before a Minister of a foreign power in ordinary
attire. To have done so would have rendered him liable to most serious
censure from his own official superiors.

[Sidenote: New Ideas.]

Fawcett always lent a ready ear to all suggestions for widening the
work. Friends told him of the reply postcard and of the indicators used
abroad to show when the last collection had been made at the pillar
boxes. Gleefully, like a boy with a new toy, he seized these, to him,
new ideas, and made them part of the little details of his great
machine. He loved to watch the effect of any new improvement, and was
interested in hearing of the greater convenience and consequently
greater correspondence due to the erection of a pillar box in Salisbury
near his old home. He multiplied pillar boxes in railway stations, and
had letter boxes fixed to the travelling post offices in trains, and
greatly accelerated the collection and delivery of letters. He arranged
for the issue of postal orders on board ship, and earned the gratitude
of pensioners by arranging to have their money sent by post, thus saving
them a journey. The official reports testify to his love of the minutiæ
of his task.

[Sidenote: Five things to be done.]

He was as genuinely absorbed in it as if the administration of the Post
Office had been the desire of his lifetime. In a letter to his father on
7th April 1883, he names briefly his chief ambitions for the extension
of his work. He writes: ‘Before I had been a fortnight at the Post
Office I felt that there were five things to be done: (1) The parcel
post; (2) the issue of postal orders; (3) the receipt of small savings
in stamps and the allowing of small sums to be invested in the funds;
(4) increasing the facilities for life insurance and annuities; (5)
reducing the price of telegrams. The first four I have succeeded in
getting done, and now the fifth is to be accomplished.’

[Sidenote: Parcel Post.]

It is only last year (1913) that the United States Post Office, after
many struggles, has at last followed the example of the Mother Country
in introducing the parcel post. At this time it may be of especial
interest to take a short survey of the history of this great agent for
helpfulness and of the splendid part which Fawcett played in promoting
it. As early as 1698 Docwra originated the penny post for London. It
dispensed impartially ‘bank boxes, tradesmen’s parcels, and
apothecaries’ mixtures.’ Patients complained wisely or unwisely (for it
seems that there has always been a faction in favour of mind cure) that
they did not get their physic in time. But the high rate of postage put
an end to this. Though a parcel post was advocated by Sir Rowland Hill,
the Society of Arts, the Royal Commission on Railways, and though Lord
John Manners had opened up negotiations with the various interests
involved, no working agreement had been arrived at. When Fawcett took
office he became keenly interested and persisted resolutely till the
many difficulties were overcome. It required tireless patience, tact,
and diplomacy, both with the Treasury department, which had to provide
funds to meet the first outlay, and with the railway companies.
Fawcett’s part in the work of establishing this new system was
interrupted by illness, but, nevertheless, the new order was in full
swing in August 1883.

[Sidenote: The new red Vans.]

He took a keen delight in this fresh work, of which he felt that the
public should have the benefit, even if the Government made little
profit. On the evening when the parcel post was started, Fawcett, with
his wife and daughter, went to the ‘circulation office.’ He writes
afterwards on the same night to his parents, describing the scene, the
extraordinary variety of objects posted, and the ’smartly painted red
vans.’ He begs them to come and have a look at it. Three days later he
reports that things are working smoothly, and speaks warmly of the zeal
of all concerned, from the head officials down to the humblest
letter-carrier. He says that he shall soon issue a general notice of
thanks to the persons co-operating in the result. The only difficulty
was the public inexperience in the art of packing.

In his report Fawcett writes: ‘The new post had been introduced without
the least interference with the older services. The number of parcels
conveyed had increased and was now at the rate of from twenty-one to
twenty-two millions a year. Simplifications, and consequent economies
had been introduced, and further improvements were under consideration.’





  _With special permission from the Proprietors of “Punch”_]


Though not at first a financial success, the parcel post became a great
national asset, and later also a generous contributor to the national
exchequer; and though Fawcett’s death came too soon, probably, for him
to realise the quick improvement, his innovations and model methods made
the English Post Office an all-important study for other countries.

[Sidenote: The Heart of the Post Office.]

Men, not things, interested Fawcett, as they do most born leaders. He
knew that if he could energise the minds and bodies of the men and women
of the peaceful army he commanded, and fill them with zeal for their
job, the work of England’s Post Office would go of itself. The machinery
would fly, and each department fill its mission with miraculous new
life. Telegrams, letters, and parcels would dart and fly with fresh
quickness to their destinations, and the revenue from his latest
ventures would return, like a carrier pigeon, to his fostering hand.

Fawcett’s magnetism and good nature, combined with his driving energy,
and his love for the work and the workers, brought about the
transformation of the Post Office from a partially efficient machine to
a highly sensitive, highly organised, democratic department, highly
efficient for the good of his country and its dependencies. His
irrepressible enthusiasm for service infected his force from the lowest
to the highest, brought out the best in them, and knit them together by
this bond of interest and brotherhood. He instilled in them the fervour
for conquest of the nobler kind that inspires patriots, soldiers, or
explorers. Thus he gave wings, interest, even poetry to the stamping of
letters and collecting of mail.

Footnote 2:

  This account was given in approximately the above words by the late
  Mr. Henry Taylor of Guildford to his cousin, Mr. Sedley Taylor of

                             CHAPTER XXVII

                        THE PENNIES OF THE POOR

    Cheap Postal Orders—Savings Bank—Life Insurance—Two Post Office
    Pamphlets to help the People—Cheap Telegrams—Telephones—‘The Man
    for the Post’—‘Words are Silver, Silence is Gold.’

[Sidenote: Postal Money Orders.]

It had been felt for some time that it would be possible to send small
sums of money by post more cheaply. The only method, that of Post Office
Money Orders, in force when Fawcett became Postmaster-General, was well
described by him when he said: ‘If a boy wanted to send his mother the
first shilling he had saved, he would have to pay twopence for the order
and a penny for postage.’ A committee had a measure prepared to remedy
this, and Fawcett quickly saw its value and got the measure passed
through Parliament. Thus originated the Postal Order which is so
familiar to us all.

[Sidenote: Postal Savings Bank.]

In making this change Fawcett had to overcome the opposition of the
banking interest, who considered that the Government was infringing on
their preserves. He came into conflict with them again when he increased
the facilities of the Savings Bank. He made it possible to begin with
the smallest sums by adopting the scheme of stamp slip deposits, which
had been worked out and devised by Mr. Chetwynd, an official of the Post
Office. This was a blank form which could be filled up with twelve penny
stamps, and then deposited in the Savings Bank.

At this time Fawcett, with the help of a Mr. Cardin, another official,
prepared his first popular pamphlet, called ‘Aids to Thrift.’ He took an
enormous amount of interest in this little leaflet, which he felt would
be a great help to the poor and ignorant. He tried to give the
information printed in the regular Post Office Guide in the simplest
language, so that the benefits offered by the Post Office could be
easily grasped by the most ignorant.

[Sidenote: The Working Man who Insured.]

A sad incident set his mind to working out another scheme for lessening
the difficulties of the working man. ‘A poor neighbour employed in a
mill near Salisbury had fallen ill. He had insured himself in a certain
society which was to pay him an allowance in case of illness. The
allowance was stopped under certain pretences strongly suggestive of
fraud. Fawcett, to whom he appealed, immediately called at the offices
of the society. The secretary, not recognising his visitor, treated him
with considerable insolence. Fawcett brought the man to his senses,
extracted certain sums from the society, and took steps to investigate
the nature of its business. He had the satisfaction of obtaining
something for the poor man, who died not long afterwards. Fawcett did
what he could for the family.’






  “Mr. Fawcett’s scheme brings saving within everybody’s

  _With special permission from the Proprietors of “Punch”_]


[Sidenote: Post Office Annuities.]

The facts which he gleaned in connection with this case and others, as
well as from his many friendships since childhood with labourers and
peasants, made him realise the problems which beset the poor who wish to
insure against the future. He improved the system of Post Office
Annuities, and arranged for the publication of a short paper called
‘Plain Rules for the Guidance of persons wishing to make provision for
the future with the aid of the Government.’ This also was to be had
gratuitously, and did much to teach the poor how to provide for

[Sidenote: Cheaper Telegrams.]

Fawcett regretted that telegrams were too expensive to be a convenience
for any but the rich. The betting ring and the Stock Exchange were its
principal patrons. He was deeply interested in lowering the cost, so
that telegrams could become useful to the ‘plain people.’ Among the
first deputations to be given an audience by the new Postmaster, was one
requesting cheap telegrams. He set himself with a will to get them,
writing and speaking to urge this new reform. It meant a fresh expense
for the Treasury, at least at the beginning, and he could not get the
consent of that department. But there were many members of the House of
Commons who favoured the change, and pushed it, relying on the
Postmaster-General’s well-known sympathy. In 1883 they succeeded in
outvoting the Government, and the adoption of sixpenny telegrams became

[Sidenote: The Telegraph Boys.]

Fawcett always had a fellow-feeling for the small boy, and he was very
anxious that the telegraph boys used in the Post Office should be kept
in the service, mounting from their positions as understudies of Mercury
to those of greater distinction and better pay. When on a visit to a
friend in a suburb of a large manufacturing town, Fawcett found that his
friend was able by telephone to direct his business in the town by half
an hour’s conversation, and was then free for the rest of the day. This
so greatly impressed Fawcett, that he became eager to give the public as
large an enjoyment of telephones as possible. He was in favour of
granting the widest possible liberty to qualified persons to start
telephone exchanges, making the condition that the Post Office should be
paid a royalty of ten per cent., and that no written telephone messages
should be delivered. One of his last acts was the approval of a licence
containing these terms, which was signed by his successor. He refused
firmly but gently, in his last interview at the Post Office, to grant to
a gentleman the protection which he asked for a small telephone company,
thus showing himself to the last true to his belief in open competition.

[Sidenote: An Executive Genius.]

We have now seen something of Fawcett’s task at the Post Office,
thirty-three years ago, and how he strove to do the work largely in
accordance with our most approved and up-to-date methods. Some of his
tools are now obsolete, the work has been changed in detail, but the
philosophy and wisdom, the business sense and control which he showed in
his four and a half years of office were what could be considered to-day
so remarkable, so successful, as to amount to executive genius.

Sir Arthur Blackwood, who was Permanent Secretary to the Post Office in
Fawcett’s day, used of his chief this striking phrase: ‘He had a passion
for justice.’ His only criticism of Fawcett’s administration was that he
was too lenient to erring subordinates, and apt to give too much time to
details which might have been entrusted to others. His conclusion was:
‘The Post Office could never, I believe, have a more capable
Postmaster-General, nor its officers a truer friend.’

As witness to this last, a post-office clerk wrote: ‘The humblest
servant within the dominion of his authority was not left uncared for.
During his history as Postmaster-General, a greatly improved state of
feeling has been introduced among the officers in their general tone
towards each other and towards those beneath them.’

The view of the country at large was equally emphatic. Let these verses
from _Punch_, written after Fawcett had been two years in office, speak
for the popular appreciation of his work:—

                         ‘THE MAN FOR THE POST

                          John Bull _loquitur_

        Well, well, here’s comfort, and, by Jove, it’s needed
        Amidst the chaos of cantankerous cackle,
        Here is one man has silently succeeded—
        One man who a tough job can stoutly tackle.
        O si sic omnes! In my blatant Babel
        Business is a lost art—at least it seems so.
        All the more honour to the Champion able
        Who still can realise my hopes and dreams so,
        To serve the State, to sagely shape and plan for it,
        Is the true Statesman’s part, and here’s the man for it.

        No epic hero! Well, I’m getting weary
        Of the huge windiness now dubbed heroic,
        “Arms and the Man”—and a fiasco dreary
        Too oft repeated, irritate a Stoic
        Such as I’m grown. And then I’m not quite certain,
        Applied to him the name _is_ pure misnomer.
        _Fawcett_, though seldom called before the curtain,
        Perhaps in more than _one_ point pairs with _Homer_.
        Although one sang Achilles and his host,
        The other schemed, not sang, the Parcels Post.

        Perhaps the large ambition that loves spangles
        And warrior fame might pooh-pooh the projectors,
        But I’m inclined to fancy Red Tape’s tangles
        Are tougher foes than many Trojan Hectors.
        Achilles as Laocoön might have thundered
        And thrust tremendously, and yet been throttled.
        St. Stephen’s spouters long have fought and blundered,
        And long my rising wrath I’ve choked and bottled,
        But I _am_ glad to see one silent, strong fellow,
        Who emulates the hero sung by Longfellow.

        “Something attempted, something done!” Precisely!
        A friend of mine, who much inclined to scoff is,
        Declares when Fawcett’s plans have ripened nicely,
        The World will be a branch of the Post Office.
        Let the Wit wag, the World won’t find salvation
        In parcels or reply-cards, stamps or thriftiness;
        Danger there may be in “centralisation,”
        But after all the squabbling, hobbling shiftiness
        Of the cantankerous, rancorous jaw-jaw-jaw-set,
        ’Tis a relief to turn to turn to Henry Fawcett!’

The ‘one silent, strong fellow’ had learned a patience and tact in his
later years that stood him in good stead when he found himself member of
a Government, and there bound to refrain from criticising its actions. A
story told of him at this time shows a gentle avoidance of differences
not so common in his earlier days.

Professor Clifford, an old Cambridge friend, and secretary of the whilom
Republican Club, died in 1880 leaving his widow in straitened
circumstances. Professor Clifford was a mathematician of the first
order, but, especially in his later years, he became an aggressive
anti-religionist, and wrote much on these matters.

[Sidenote: A Widow’s Pension.]

Fawcett wanted to arrange for a pension for the widow, and took occasion
to speak to the Prime Minister. Gladstone took Fawcett with him down to
his room and asked him, ‘Who is the great man at Cambridge now?’ Fawcett
mentioned the loss that the university had recently sustained by the
death of its mathematician, carefully alluding to Professor Clifford in
this manner. Gladstone said, ‘I always regarded him as a third-rate
theologian.’ To which Fawcett said, ‘I know nothing about his theology,
but as a mathematician he stood in the very front rank.’ This opinion of
Fawcett’s so impressed Gladstone that Mrs. Clifford’s name was added to
the Civil Pension List.

Fawcett would not have joined the Ministry unless he felt in real
sympathy with its avowed principles, but it is probable that had he
remained independent he would have found much to criticise. Leslie
Stephen comments: ‘His position as a Minister without a seat in the
Cabinet imposed reserve, whilst it did not enable him to exert any
direct influence upon the Government. On some points I can only
conjecture his probable views. Mr. Gladstone’s Government was especially
notable for its Irish and Egyptian policy. In both cases I imagine
Fawcett’s sympathy must have been imperfect.’

This position requiring silence, without giving him power to exert
direct influence on the Government, must have been, to one of his frank,
honest, fighting temperament, at times very difficult.

[Sidenote: Interest in Ireland.]

He was profoundly interested in Ireland, and felt that the only
satisfactory symptom in Irish matters was the increased use of the
Savings Bank. A friend of Fawcett’s having casually mentioned his name
in a remote part of Ireland, was surprised at the exclamation, ‘Oh, we
know all about him here!’ This remark was based on the fact that a girl
from the district had gone with great credit through all the stages of a
telegraph clerk’s position in the English General Post Office. On her
quitting to get married, Fawcett had sent for her, and in the kindest
manner thanked her for her past services, and offered his hearty good
wishes for her happiness.


  April 9, 1861.] PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI. 159


  _With special permission from the Proprietors of “Punch”_]

He felt strongly that exceptional legislation was required to deal with
the land questions of Ireland, and that any legislation would be futile
which did not reflect in some way the wishes of the Irish themselves. No
one could be more opposed than he to Home Rule, which, he declared,
meant ‘the disruption of the Empire.’ He would rather, as he said on one
occasion, that the Liberal Party should remain out of office till its
youngest member had grown grey with age, than be intimidated into voting
for Home Rule. Still he held that some such legislation as that embodied
in Mr. Gladstone’s Land Bill was necessary.

It is related that once at this time, when sitting with friends who were
discussing the Irish irreconcilability, he kept repeating, as if to
himself, ‘We must press on and do what is right’; and he wrote to his
father, ‘There is nothing for it, but to persevere in doing justice in
spite of all provocation.’

[Sidenote: Loyal Work and Loyal Silence.]

He felt that the Egyptian policy was weak, and on one or two occasions
so far showed his distrust as to refuse to vote. But for the most part
he absorbed himself in the work of his own department, and did it nobly.
He gave hard work, sound sense, resolute purpose, and a gay elasticity
of spirit which no weariness could break. It was truly said of him that
he bettered everything and kept his eye on everything. In this, as in
every task, he neared his ideal which he had expressed on leaving
Cambridge: ‘To exert an influence in removing the social evils of our
country, and especially the paramount one, the mental degradation of
millions. I regard it as a high privilege of God if He will enable me to
assist in such a work.’


                            A TRIUMPHANT END


              ‘Strive for the truth unto death,
              and the Lord shall fight for thee.’

              ‘The things which are seen are temporal, but
              the things which are unseen are eternal.’


                             CHAPTER XXVIII

                          AT HOME AND AT COURT

    Appreciating Opponents—Hackney Address—Proportional
    Representation—Justice for Women—A State Concert—Humble
    Friendships—Pigs—Salisbury again.

[Sidenote: Appreciating Opponents.]

The same respect for the individuality of others which made Fawcett
unwilling to punish a subordinate if he could honourably avoid it, which
made him often detect good qualities in the offender to compensate for
the offence, made him also quick to respect and admire an adversary,
even when strongly repudiating his principles. Fawcett never forgot that
his opponent was a human being, however different their political
creeds. In his later years his sympathy may not have been any deeper
than in his vigorous youth, but it expressed itself more gently and more
skilfully. When his fine wrath was roused, he still had at his command
barbed arrows of sarcasm and thunders of denunciation, but his speech
was more apt to be kindly. He trusted more than in his less experienced
days to force of example and to irrefutable logic. His fairness and
justice stood out in fine contrast to the hectic verbal warfare raging
between rival factions. When, on 13th October 1884, he spoke in public
for the last time, he administered a grave rebuke to ‘the spirit of
mutual intolerance,’ saying:

[Sidenote: ‘Prudence and Patriotism.’]

‘If we take a calm review of the situation ... we refuse to enter into
useless recriminations and taunts about the past. I still have not
relinquished the hope ... that the counsels of common sense, prudence,
and patriotism will prevail.... Can we come to any other conclusion than
that the present is a time when the dictates of prudence and patriotism
demand that everything should be done to lessen, rather than to
intensify, the bitterness of party strife.’

He went on to speak on a subject which had been much in his mind from
the beginning of his political career. Proportional representation meant
to him the method, and the only method, by which the different elements
of the body politic could be fairly represented in Parliament. So
earnestly did he hold to this view that he made up his mind, with his
friend Lord Courtney, to resign his office should the Government proceed
with legislation incompatible with these principles. In this last word
on a subject on which it has been necessary in this book to omit so many
other words, Fawcett emphasised the main principle in these phrases:
‘While we regard it as of the first moment that no important section of
opinion should be effaced from representation, yet at the same time we
are most anxious to secure to the majority the preponderance of power to
which it is justly entitled. Let the voice of the weak be heard as well
as the voice of the strong by your Government, give fair play to all,
and make justice possible.’ And he added this vital remark: ‘The
enfranchisement of women, already dictated by justice, would soon become
a necessity.’

[Sidenote: Fawcett’s unfailing Chivalry.]

His unfailing chivalry was always a radiant characteristic of his
courteous nature, and he felt it his high privilege to serve women; he
had the faculty of encouraging them, and filling them with confidence in
their own ability; his voice, though not melodious, had a peculiar
brightness that raised drooping spirits, and impressed itself upon the
memory. Besides the encouragement which he gave by the employment of
women in the Post Office, his efforts for compulsory education, now
accepted as a matter of course, his labours to protect young children at
work in factory or field, as well as his fight for free playgrounds and
commons, were all helpful to the mothers of the race.

On the day after his death, a poor woman, who came to the employment
office to make inquiries on behalf of her daughter, who wished to enter
the Civil Service, must have expressed the feelings of hundreds of
struggling women, when she said: ‘We do not know who will help us now
that so good a friend has gone.’

[Sidenote: Fair-play Expedient.]

Believing that justice must infallibly become the most expedient policy,
he felt it was not only repugnant, but bad diplomacy, that any class
should be excluded by force or prejudice from having a voice in the
Government, and he realised to the full that government could only be
fair when it existed with the consent of the governed.

The constant society of his wife and other brilliant women of her family
and her friends, impressed him with the great benefit that it would be
to the community to have the assistance of their votes, as expressing
their fair and able minds. He said concerning women’s voting: ‘The
Parliamentary suffrage should be applied to those women who fulfil the
qualifications of property and residence demanded from the elector. That
is to say, if a widow or a spinster is in possession of a house, and
pays rates and taxes, she should have the borough vote, and if she
possesses freehold or leasehold property, she should have a county vote,
as if it were held by a man.’

[Sidenote: The Uses of Adversity.]

We have dwelt on the great part that Fawcett’s blindness played in
forming his character. It intensified his bravery and determination,
broadened his sympathies, sharpened his observation, made his memory
keener, quickened his intellect, and gave him a greater power to conquer
himself and others. Affliction had given him strength as of steel well
tempered, to withstand and pierce all muddled thought and murky
sentiment, and so make the clear under-light of his soul a shining
beacon to all who knew him. But there were, inevitably, quiet moments,
when, all efforts unavailing, his blindness must have weighed heavily
upon him. Seated by his fireside, feeling the glow which he might never
see, he would listen to the crackling of the coal and the ticking of the
clock as it marked a minute less of his darkness. Such hours had to be
fought through single-handed, by his own courage and strength of will.

[Sidenote: Hearth and Home.]

No small part of his triumph over circumstance was due to the great
affections and friendships which were at the heart of his life. Chiefest
and most constant of these were his flawless devotion to his wife and
daughter, and the singularly beautiful sympathy and companionship which
he found at home. It is not for the biographer to intrude into this holy
of holies—enough to know that Fawcett had with his wife that perfect
understanding and fellowship, that entire sympathy and intellectual
inspiration, which, when he was most sorely tried, gave him a sure haven
of rest and happiness from which to start forth again, better armed and
braver, to battle anew.

When Mrs. Fawcett was absent, her husband would postpone a decision of
great moment until he was able to get her opinion. She often acted as
his secretary, and in all matters was his trusted counsellor. In later
years, his daughter Philippa, whose great talent was a source of deep
interest to him, completed with her brilliant intellect and happy wit
this perfectly attuned trio. There is a poetic justice that Fawcett
having fought so for the admission of women students at Cambridge, it
was left for his daughter to achieve the highest mathematical honours
bestowed on any woman in Great Britain, when as a student at Newnham she
won four hundred marks above the Senior Wrangler.

[Sidenote: A blithe Spirit.]

He still greatly enjoyed society, and threw himself so thoroughly into
the spirit of sociability and gaiety, that he seemed to leave his
critical Parliamentary self. Mrs. Fawcett, as a comment on his
whole-souled capacity for finding all things and everybody lovely,
jestingly composed this epitaph for him: ‘Here lies the man who found
every soup delicious and every woman charming.’ He did, and what is
more, he tried to make every one else find life lovely and to have as
glorious a time as he did.

He would never overlook any quiet mousy individuals lost in the general
gaiety, but would take pains to draw them out, to throw himself so
thoroughly into their interests that he put them at their ease, and made
them take part in the conversation and shine unwontedly.

A contemporary gives a gay glimpse of him chatting and joking merrily
among the smart crowd at Lady Granville’s. His tall figure towered over
the little knot of friends invariably gathered round him.

[Sidenote: A State Concert.]

Fawcett duly attended the levees and occasional official dinners held by
the Prince of Wales, and on one occasion, when in the neighbourhood of
Balmoral, he dined with the Queen. With his wife he went to the concerts
given by her at Buckingham Palace. These were very stately events.
Arrayed in his court uniform, Fawcett would drive with his wife betimes
to the palace; as they approached, the music of the band in the
courtyard was in full swing, and they liked to hear it as they waited in
line until the preceding carriages had deposited their burdens. The
guests moved through the glass doors to the entrance-hall, which echoed
the rumbling of wheels and the closing of the carriage doors, the
clanging of the spurs and swords of the men. They mounted the main
staircase between the stationed Yeomen of the Guard, Fawcett’s cheery
voice and laughter resounding as he greeted friends above and below him.
A moment’s pause on the threshold of the great concert-room, and here
the parquet floor gave back the tapping of little slippered feet and the
heavy tread of the men, as the groups of guests flocked together or
dispersed to find places before the music began.

On both sides of the room were raised tiers of seats for the company. At
one end was the low platform with chairs arranged for Royalty. At the
opposite end, a balcony with the organ provided places for the singers
and musicians. Crystal chandeliers with hanging stalactites lighted the
brilliant scene. Fawcett’s fine ear caught the tiny tinkle of the
crystals, as they answered to the draughts from the movement of the
crowd, or trembled when the waves of music shook them on their little
metal moorings. The good acoustics of the room, and the consequent
clearness of all the sounds, brought the scene with unusual vividness
before the blind man.

[Sidenote: Enter Victoria Regina et Imperatrix.]

A sudden expectant murmur rose from the crowd, a pause, a flutter of
silks and a tapping of scabbards, the organ played ‘God save the Queen,’
and the mighty little Empress entered and greeted her guests. Returning
her courtesy, the brilliant throng bowed as a field of wheat swayed by
the wind, until the Queen had seated herself in the centre of the dais,
surrounded in due order by members of the Royal Family.

Then the guests resumed their places and the music began.

[Sidenote: Voices of Youth and Art.]

Here Fawcett, as much if not more than any other guests, enjoyed the
fresh young voices of the chorus of young girls from the Royal School of
Music, and choir-boys from the Chapel Royal. This youthfulness
contrasted charmingly with the more formal and perfect singing of the
great artists of whose skill Queen Victoria was so appreciative.

When the programme was finished, the Queen rose and, preceded by
gentlemen of the court walking backwards, went to the supper-room,
through an aisle formed by her guests, stopping as she passed the
balcony, to speak to the chief artists. The princesses who followed her
often darted a smile or stole a fleeting word with one of the throng,
and the more decorous ladies-in-waiting brought up the rear of the
procession. The guests followed, with them Fawcett guided by his wife.

As Royalty was well separated by an encircling wall of court gentlemen,
the assault by the guests on the sandwiches, cakes and bonbons began
without restraint. A horseshoe buffet surrounded the room. The throng
stood about chatting together, waited upon by gorgeous footmen
resplendent in scarlet and white. The clinking of glass and china was
drowned in the general conversation, all the more lively after the long
silent listening to the music. Then the guests drifted in friendly
groups down to the great hall, where the names of departing guests
called from footman to footman echoed among the pillars.

A frequent and happy conversation this, as they sat on the long benches,
muffled up and waiting for their carriages, and doubtless more than one
of Fawcett’s good stories was cut short by the call ‘The
Postmaster-General’s carriage stops the way.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: A Big Friend of all the World.]

Though he could find amusement in any form of social intercourse, it was
the opportunities of close companionship that he most valued. He rarely
lapsed into silence, and with his family, when there were no guests at
table, he would talk with the same animation as if he had been at a
brilliant dinner. Talk was an essential of life to him; wherever he
went, reserve vanished.

If any unsuccessful schoolmate, who had no other claim on him, wrote for
help, he was always sure to get it. In his interviews he was
marvellously patient, would never let a person leave him in anger or
displeasure; few people left him without being his friends. If he said a
sharp thing to any one, he confessed at once, and was not happy until he
had made full amends; any irritable action towards another on his part
caused him much more suffering than he inflicted.

His real democratic feeling and disregard of rank put him at his ease
with all classes, his abounding geniality and accessibility often placed
him in difficult predicaments from which it required a lively ingenuity
successfully to extricate himself.

Once while he was walking, a well-known bore buttonholed the
Postmaster-General, and explained at length how the Post Office might be
regenerated. Fawcett listened patiently for five minutes; then when it
was clear that the man had no idea or facts to offer, but only words,
Fawcett held out his hand, saying, ‘Good day, Mr. J——, I am much obliged
to you for your kind wish to help me,’ and walked on, leaving the bore,
who felt himself just warming to his work, helplessly stranded.

[Sidenote: His Dog.]

His servants and his friends loved him; he was wonderfully considerate
to all dependants, and indeed to every one whom he met. Certainly he was
over-attentive to his dog Oddo, who had emerged from a refuge of lost
dogs to assume the high office of watch-dog in the garden of the London
house. Fawcett was deeply interested in the higher education of this
humble friend, and their common affection was very warm.

[Sidenote: Sudden Friendships.]

His friendships were so sudden, at times so instantaneous, that their
strength and duration was surprising. He had an incredible number of
people whom he called in all sincerity his intimate friends, and, as one
of them says, ‘all the overgrowth of new friendship seemed rather to
strengthen than to stifle the earlier ties.’ As we have recorded, even
the voice of an acquaintance once made, was to him unforgettable. When
walking in London with his sister, Fawcett met the Primate of New
Zealand, who had been at Cambridge with him. They had not met for many
years, and the Primate did not wish to trouble Fawcett by recalling a
long-ago acquaintanceship. But Miss Fawcett, recognising him, stopped,
and as soon as the Primate spoke, Fawcett exclaimed with delight, ‘Why,
it’s Nevill!’

[Sidenote: Postmaster and Pigs.]

At Salisbury he invariably called on his father’s old farm servant,
Rumbold. Rumbold was one day giving to Fawcett’s mother the last news
from his sties, and he added ‘Mind you tell Master Harry when you write
to him, for if there’s one thing he cares about, ‘tis pigs.’ Truly it
was one thing, though it is generally suspected that the Postmaster had
other interests.

His increased income as Postmaster-General made no change in his simple
mode of life, though he may have spent a little more on riding; he had,
however, the satisfaction of being able to buy his family more presents,
and he took an intense delight in tactfully giving many little things;
he heard his sister say that she very much liked a lamp by which she had
read to him in London. To her surprise and delight, on her return to
Salisbury its twin appeared, found and sent to her by her brother.

Nothing gave him greater pleasure than to have his parents and sister
under his roof, and to give them a good time. One of the most touching
things in his life was his intense affection for his father. When the
father grew old and was forced to breakfast in bed, the big son, after
saying good-bye to him in the morning, would often quickly run upstairs
again just to kiss the old gentleman a second time.

                  *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Presents and Parents.]

When his sister told him that his letters gave his parents the greatest
pleasure of their lives, he never let a week elapse without sending off
two newsy documents to Salisbury. These letters abound in affection and
in many little proofs of his eagerness to make them happy. He sends a
birthday present, a comfortable pair of ‘Norwegian slippers,’ or
encloses letters containing bits of political news which he is at
liberty to show them; he tells them of his triumphs, even of compliments
which he thinks that they would like to hear, and boasts of the
admiration expressed for his father’s remarkable vigour and youthfulness
for his years; he also compliments the admirable packing evinced by the
excellent condition in which sundry gifts in various interesting hampers
have arrived.

He ran down to Salisbury whenever he could make time, and was there for
the ovation given by the Liberals to his father on his ninety-first
birthday. The old gentleman had been a fighter in the Liberal ranks
since the days of the great Reform Bill.

Six months later, in spite of the urgent claims Cambridge lectures and
Post Office work made upon him, he again went to speak at Salisbury.
Parliament was in session too, an unusual thing in November, so that he
was particularly hard worked. Still November 17th found him at Salisbury
speaking to an enthusiastic audience, of which his father was one. After
the meeting he seemed exhausted, but he returned to London on the 20th,
lectured at Cambridge on the 22nd, and on the 23rd discharged his
business at the House of Commons.

                              CHAPTER XXIX

                            A GRAVE ILLNESS

    Illness—Convalescence—Musical Discrimination.

He was suffering from a cold, and complained of feeling ill. Mrs.
Fawcett had been called away by the fatal illness of her cousin. When
she returned to London, it was to hear that her husband’s illness was
pronounced to be diphtheria, and it was rendered more serious later by
typhoid and other complications.

[Sidenote: Through the Valley and Back.]

Until the end of December his condition was grave. During the first
stage of the illness he had frequently been delirious, and remembered
little of what had happened. His mind was made up that he would not
recover, and he insisted on hearing the bulletins. They were read to him
with omissions.

There was to be an important election at Liverpool, and he, remembering
its date, asked about the prospect. It was his habit at Christmas to
send to a list of country labourers whom he knew, or whose names had
been given to him by his father, envelopes each containing a card on
which was written ‘Please give to bearer John Smith [so many] pounds of
beef or mutton.’ With the card he sent a personal letter after this
fashion: ‘Dear John, I enclose a ticket for Christmas beef. Hoping you
and the children are well, I am,’ etc. The entire list of these
benefactions he kept clearly in his mind. Before he was out of his
delirium, he asked his secretary to send out the Christmas letters and
food tickets as usual.

A little later, when he was just beginning to recover, a Cambridge crony
was permitted to stand for a short time by his bedside. In the midst of
his own weakness, Fawcett’s thoughts flew to a Cambridge friend in
trouble, and he charged his guest to do the utmost to give whatever help
was possible.

The course of Fawcett’s illness was watched with extraordinary anxiety.
It was the dominant theme at working men’s meetings and in third-class
railway carriages. The Royal Family showed the same interest as the
labourers who discussed the latest bulletin in the market-place of
Salisbury. The Queen telegraphed for news, at times twice a day.
Gradually the patient improved, and the danger was pronounced over.

[Sidenote: Convalescing with _Vanity Fair_.]

The convalescent was permitted to see his friends, who in relays read to
him the whole of _Vanity Fair_. After three weeks’ inaction, he was
allowed to write to his parents, and amidst great rejoicing the cat and
dog were permitted to resume their usual place in the family circle. In
the early part of January he went to stay at his father-in-law’s, on the
Suffolk coast.

His friend Mr. Sedley Taylor came to play to him. Fawcett would listen
to him often for an hour at a time. Though he had little acquaintance
with music, he showed for it a genuine appreciation and discrimination.
There were two compositions which he particularly enjoyed, one by
Mendelssohn and one by Bach, which Mr. Taylor often played in that
sequence. One day, however, he inverted the order. After listening with
interest, Fawcett remarked: ‘I don’t know how it is, Taylor, but somehow
that Bach seems to have taken the taste out of the Mendelssohn.’

[Sidenote: Visits he enjoyed.]

At the end of this visit, Fawcett sent for all the servants, so that he
might personally give each a gratuity and shake of the hand, while
thanking them individually for the kindness they had shown him. When no
more were forthcoming, Fawcett said: ‘Where is that boy that blacks the
shoes? I should like to give him a tip too.’ Whereupon the boy, who had
been overlooked, was sent for and duly rewarded.

Fawcett went on to pay some other visits in the west of England, which
seemed to help him regain his strength. It was at this time that he
first successfully amused himself by playing cards, though his former
attempts had been so unpromising. His secretary devised the simple and
ingenious method of marking the cards, which has been described, so that
he could tell each one by touch. Thus he was able with great
satisfaction to spend hours at cribbage, écarté and loo.

In February he went to stay with his parents at Salisbury, and there
used his enforced leisure to prepare a new edition of his book on
Political Economy. It was there that a stranger to the town, not knowing
his way, questioned a tall scholarly man who approached briskly. He was
given minute directions; the streets and their windings were described
in detail, and it was only after an amusing chat that the stranger
discovered that his guide was the learned Professor Fawcett, and that
therefore he must be blind! It was extraordinary how his own attitude to
his affliction caused others to forget it. Not infrequently his cottage
friends would tidy up and put things in order ‘in case Mr. Fawcett
should drop in.’

[Sidenote: With his Parents again.]

It was a great joy to his old parents in the Salisbury Close to have
their busy, cheery ‘boy’ back again; and Miss Fawcett, that brave
understanding friend in his affliction and throughout his life, was very
happy in his companionship. One day they had been talking together as
only those who have always understood each other can, lovingly they had
gone over reminiscences of Salisbury and Cambridge, and had fought
Parliamentary battles over again. Fawcett told his sister that above all
his other work, he cherished his privilege of winning the forests and
commons free for the people, theirs to the end of time.

[Sidenote: His Sister and the Cathedral.]

The two sauntered together into the near-by cathedral where, as a tiny,
half-scared boy, Harry had gone clinging to his big sister’s hand. Now
the tall blind man held her arm, and his cane on the pavement was echoed
by the high arches; suddenly a great glory of music broke forth from the
organ, magic uplifting notes shook the walls, and piercing with gladness
the shadows of centuries, rehallowed the old sanctuary with melody.
Fawcett stood leaning slightly against a column, his heroic head
uplifted as if he were looking through the vaulting, his whole being
suffused with an inward light, and his sensitive ear revelling in the
lovely harmonies. The voices of men and women raised in chorus burst
forth in a mighty Hallelujah; the organ thrilled in glorious fulness,
and again the voices repeated the refrain until it echoed from the wall
like a song of triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness. A glad
smile broke over the blind man’s face as, pressing his dear companion’s
hand, he exclaimed: ‘Oh, how beautiful that is!’

[Sidenote: Back to his Post.]

He returned to his work in March, seemingly in fully restored health.

His reception at the Post Office and the House of Commons showed how
deep had been the love and anxiety called forth by his illness. He lived
in the hearts of all classes—his bitterest antagonists, Conservatives as
well as Socialists, loved and trusted him; never was a man more of a
democrat and less of a demagogue.

[Sidenote: Humble friends.]

The old woman who for many years had the care of Fawcett’s rooms at
Cambridge had been much distressed by his illness, and had said to the
Master of Trinity Hall, ‘Poor Mrs. Fawcett would miss him so terribly.’
‘Why should she miss him more than any woman would miss the husband she
loved?’ sympathetically asked the Master. ‘Because he is such a happy
noisy man; whenever he is in the house you know it, he is always
shouting so,’ was the tearful reply.

A poor old shoemaker who had never spoken to Fawcett, but whose shop the
Postmaster-General passed daily on his way to his work, gave voice to
the public feeling when he said, ‘If Professor had died, I should have
missed him dreadfully. He always looked so pleased and cheery, it did
one good.’

                              CHAPTER XXX

                            AMONG THE BLIND

    A Leader of the Blind—Honours—His Last Speech.

[Sidenote: What he meant to the Blind.]

What his happy, successful life meant to the blind, and how he heartened
them by his hearty personality, cannot be overestimated.

‘I went with him,’ says Mr. Dryhurst, ‘to a tea-meeting at Bethnal
Green. It was night, and the Assembly Hall, which was low, was crowded
with over one thousand blind people and their guides. Fawcett, who spoke
briefly, was greeted with fervent enthusiasm when he entered, and when,
in the course of the speech he exclaimed in his thundering voice, ‘Do
not wall us up in institutions, but let us live as other men live,’ the
excitement of the audience and the animation of the blind faces, was
something which I shall never forget.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: A Leader out of Darkness.]

While at Cambridge preparing this book, the writer was sent for by a
blind lady whom she did not know. She was old and ill in bed, but in
happier times she had known Fawcett, who had often dined at her house.
Recently she also had lost her sight, and she evidently felt that she
had a debt to the great blind man who had been her friend when she could
see. She wished the relief of expressing her indebtedness, as in her
weak voice she struggled to say: ‘I wanted to tell you that in my life
no one has helped me as much as Mr. Fawcett; his help is constant even

Fawcett had always lived so that he might be strong and attain. He was
careful of his diet, exercise and clothing; of this last to such a
degree that his friends, as we know, loved to poke fun at him for his
precautions against chills. Tradition tells of two suits of
underclothing being superimposed while in an express train London-bound
on his way to the Houses of Parliament.

We are given a glimpse of him at this time by a friend: ‘Coming towards
me I saw a man leaning on the arm of his companion, and walking with a
smiling upturned face, as though he were watching the clouds of smoke
from a small but exceedingly fragrant cigar.’

[Sidenote: The Wear of Work.]

He seemed now quite his old self again in mind and body, though he would
often return home exhausted from his work, and when Mrs. Fawcett read to
him he would frequently fall fast asleep. On one occasion she was
reading to him the biography of some distinguished man, and had come to
a passage where the author was describing a moonlight scene, when
Fawcett, waking from a nap, interrupted the peaceful picture with the
exclamation, ‘I always said he was a sagacious old fool.’

[Sidenote: Honours.]

It was natural that when his achievements had won him such wide
popularity and distinction he should receive many of those tokens which
most men cherish. Oxford gave him the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil
Law; Würzburg, on its tricentenary celebration, made him Doctor of
Political Economy; he was elected a corresponding member of the section
of political economy of the Institute of France; the Royal Society
elected him to a Fellowship, and in 1883, a year after his illness, the
University of Glasgow gave him an LL.D. and elected him their Lord
Rector, the other candidates being Lord Bute and Mr. Ruskin.

He did not live to give his Rectorial address, but Mrs. Fawcett sent a
copy of his Hackney speech to each of the students, saying as preface,
‘This last speech appears to me so characteristic of him on whom the
choice of the students fell, so free from party passion and prejudice,
so scrupulously just to opponents, so fearless in saying what he knew
would not be popular, so instinct with devotion to principle and love of
justice, that I cannot believe it will be useless or unacceptable to
young men just beginning the battle of life.’

His friends had been over sanguine in their belief in Fawcett’s restored
strength. He did not take a proper vacation in the summer of 1884, but
devoted himself to settling questions which he found anxious and onerous
about telephone rights. The work told on his weakened constitution. In
September he went to Wales, ‘made a vigorous little speech,’ and visited
two friends. He returned for his lectures at Cambridge, but he was
forced to be much in London. Even so he snatched every occasion for
fresh air and exercise that he could. He gloried in the great

[Sidenote: Bells.]

One Sunday he went rowing with a friend on the Thames. It was a glorious
day, and Fawcett was delighted with the church bells. They paused to
listen, and he exclaimed, ‘How lovely the bells are!’ and then added
wickedly, ‘and how glad I am that I am not in church.’ About him there
always hovered a glint of the impish schoolboy playing ‘hookey,’
especially when he was in the open air, revelling in the warmth of the
sunshine, listening to the lap and swish of the water, the rustle of the
leaves, the wind in the grass, or the songs of the birds. He loved all
these glad noises, and at such times his whole being gave out joy, his
gay spirit had the freshness and the unhesitating truthfulness of early
youth. He was so full of the light of that inner eye which nothing could
darken, that he forgot his blindness in the fulness of his own bright
soul. Heartily would he have assented to the sentiment: ‘It is a comely
fashion to be glad—Joy is the grace we say to God.’ It surprised and
startled those about him, whom he made so oblivious of his misfortune,
when he would ask, ‘Is the sun shining?’

[Sidenote: Golden Leaves of Autumn.]

Hearing that the foliage at Clarendon was singularly lovely that autumn,
the tired, busy, blind man snatched a moment to run down to see the
woods. The glory of that autumn light on the trees at Salisbury, when he
was last permitted to see them, was never to be forgotten. He refused to
remember the catastrophe which had blinded him, and still delighted to
recall the beauty thus lost, and to love all similar autumn glories.

                  *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: His Last Speech.]

His final speech was made at Hackney on 13th October; he lectured with
weakened voice on the 30th, went to London, and returned to Cambridge,
where, though he found the weather damp and raw, he enjoyed a ride with
some relatives. In the evening he compared his cold with that of a
friend who was dining with them, and was forced to admit that the
friend’s cold was superior to his own.

The next day, though he did Post Office work with his secretary, he kept
his bed; his lecture for Monday had to be put off. On Tuesday and
Wednesday he grew worse, though he greatly enjoyed Mrs. Fawcett’s
reading of Dickens, laughing heartily over it. It was now necessary to
ask Lord Eversley, so often his able substitute, to act again as his

                              CHAPTER XXXI


    The Passing—The People grieve—Sorrow in Parliament—The Nation’s
    Loss—Letters from Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales (the late
    King Edward) and Gladstone—The Railroad Men’s Tribute—The
    Significance of his Life—India’s Loss—Fawcett’s Message.

[Sidenote: Between the Lights.]

On Thursday morning, 6th November 1884, the two doctors who saw him
found that his heart was weak, and he asked his secretary to notify the
papers of his illness. Another doctor came from London, and when the
three went to Fawcett’s room, they found that there was no hope of his
recovery. Thoughtful as always of the comfort of others, he asked in a
failing voice if dinner had been arranged for the doctor who had just

When his hands began to grow cold, he thought the weather had changed.
Practical and exact to the last, he said: ‘The best things to warm my
hands with would be my fur gloves. They are in the pocket of my coat in
the dressing-room.’ He never spoke again. In the quiet room, the dull
autumn afternoon darkened as his wife and daughter sat by the bedside.
Very gently, his brave fight won, the tired blind man’s unquenchable
spirit left them in the twilight and passed to find the light.

                  *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Remembered and Loved.]

Rarely has a loss caused so much deep personal sorrow in every class. A
dearly loved friend of many had gone, a noble life had been spent for
others. There was mourning in many a little cottage when the head of the
family read aloud that the good Postmaster-General had passed away.

In the misty lamplit village squares, and in the market-place at
Salisbury, the rural labourers gathered to lament his loss, and to
recall his many good deeds and the countless little friendlinesses which
he had personally shown to so many of them.

‘That such a man should have died at only fifty-one is one of those
apparent wastes in Nature before which our philosophy stands impotent;
but that such a light should have existed at all makes philosophy
superfluous in contemplating it.’[3]

The morning after Fawcett’s going, Lady Courtney told the news to her
parlourmaid, who had known Fawcett. On entering the kitchen, to her
surprise the cook burst out weeping and sat by the table rocking herself
to and fro. ‘Why,’ said Lady Courtney, ‘Maria, you didn’t know Mr.
Fawcett, did you?’ ‘Ah, yes, your ladyship, I knew him, the kind
gentleman. It was when you and his lordship were out of town. I opened
the door for him, and when he found you were not at home, he said, “I
have been here to dine very often, and I want to know you.” “Oh no,
sir,” says I, “I’m only the cook,” with which he puts out his hand and
shakes mine like an old friend, as he says, “Well, I’m very glad indeed
to meet you.” Then I offered him a glass of water, ma’am, which he drank
so grateful.’ Lady Courtney queried, ‘But Maria, why didn’t you offer
him tea, for the credit of the house?’ ‘Oh, your ladyship, I didn’t dare
to, for fear he’d see the state of the house with your ladyship away.’

When the news came to the House of Commons, sudden as such news always
is, it fell to the Marquis of Hartington to announce it to the House. It
is said that he all but broke down.

[Sidenote: Sorrow in Parliament.]

Later in the evening there were more formal expressions of grief. Sir
Stafford Northcote, on behalf of the Conservative Party, whom Fawcett
had so consistently opposed, spoke of the loss the House had sustained,
and said: ‘I do not think anybody can recall a single word that ever
fell from him that gave unnecessary offence or pain to any one.’ The
Marquis of Hartington, on behalf of the Government, said Fawcett
commanded the ‘respect, I think I may say the affection, of the whole
House’; and Mr. Justin McCarthy, on behalf of the Irish Party, spoke
with much feeling of ‘the sudden and melancholy close of so promising
and great a career.’ The next evening Gladstone, who had not been
present the night before, said: ‘Mr. Fawcett’s name is a name which is
heard in all quarters of the House with feelings of the greatest
respect. We have all been accustomed to regard with admiration his
admirable integrity and independence of mind, his absolute devotion to
the public service, the marvellous tenacity of his memory, combined with
his remarkable clearness of mental vision; and, I think, even above all
these, if possible, the rare courage, the unfailing, the unmeasured
courage, with which he confronted and mastered all the difficulties
which would have daunted and repelled an ordinary man in connection with
the loss of the precious gift of sight. From these and other causes he
acquired a place in the hearts and minds such as is undoubtedly accorded
to few; and I believe that he had won a place equally high in the esteem
and respect of the House of Commons. I wish in these few words to place
on record, in the name of myself and my colleagues, our deep sense of
the loss of a most distinguished public servant.’ The last words were
spoken by Lord John Manners, who, referring to the personal intercourse
he had had with Fawcett, said, ‘It was impossible to exceed in courtesy
and fairness the eminent statesman whose loss we all deplore.’

Writing of Fawcett shortly after his death, Mr. Beresford Hope used
these words: ‘He was a man who had conquered all personal enmity, all
personal suspicion, and lived in the hearts of every man, on every side
of the House, without exception. Ask me why it was? That is a difficult
question to answer. The appreciation of character—the influence that a
man has—is generally indescribable.... He had gained a strange influence
over the House, from the absolute certainty with which he inspired every
man of the clear, transparent honesty and courage of his character.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The Reason of a Boy.]

Fawcett was always strongly opposed to taking away any legitimate
pleasure, and the keen appreciation of this fact by a child seems worth
recording. Soon after the Postmaster’s death, his small nephew, who had
been promised that he should go to the Lord Mayor’s Show, begged to be
taken there; the family naturally hesitated, and discussed the propriety
of the boy’s going to the festivity the day before his uncle’s funeral.
The natural question was, ‘What would Fawcett have said under similar
circumstances?’ The small nephew piped up with ‘I know Uncle Harry would
have said: “Go, my boy!”’ This was so true that the boy went.

[Sidenote: Britain mourns.]

Numerous letters were sent to the family, some from those who, from lack
of learning, were forced to dictate their letters to the village
schoolmaster. Others, who had rarely struggled with the intricate
problems of pen and paper, strove painfully to put their sympathy into
written words. Telegrams and resolutions of sympathy came from
workingmen’s societies, labour unions, and all kinds of associations and
societies, tokens of love and grief from a vaster circle of personal
friends than almost any one ever had.

We have the privilege of printing a facsimile of the sympathetic letter
written with her own hand by Queen Victoria, and of the note of
condolence from the Prince of Wales (the late King Edward).

[Sidenote: Letters from Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales (the late
           King Edward).]

                                          ‘BALMORAL CASTLE,
                                            ‘_November 8th, 1884._

    ‘DEAR MRS. FAWCETT,—I am anxious to express to you myself the
    true and sincere sympathy I feel for you in your present
    terrible bereavement, as well as my sincere regret for the loss
    of your distinguished husband, who bore his great trial with
    such courage and patience, and who served his Queen and country
    ably and faithfully.

    ‘You, who were so devoted a wife to him, must, even in this hour
    of overwhelming grief, be gratified by the universal expression
    of respect and regret on this sad occasion.

    ‘That He Who alone can give consolation and peace in the hour of
    affliction may support you, is the earnest wish of yours

                                    ‘(Signed) VICTORIA, R. AND I.’

[Illustration: Facsimile of a letter from Queen Victoria to Mrs.

                               ‘KING’S LYNN, _November 8th, 1884._

    ‘DEAR MRS. FAWCETT,—You are certain to receive many letters
    expressing sympathy with your present grief, and although I
    hardly like intruding so soon on your great sorrow, yet I am
    anxious to express how deeply both the Princess and myself
    sympathise with you in this severe hour of trial. Mr. Fawcett
    cannot fail to be deeply mourned and regretted by all who knew
    him—but he has left a name, which will ever be remembered among
    England’s distinguished men.—Believe me, dear Mrs. Fawcett,
    truly yours,

                                         ‘(Signed) ALBERT EDWARD.’


  Facsimile of a letter from the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII)
  to Mrs. Fawcett]

[Sidenote: What Gladstone wrote.]

Mr. Gladstone wrote to Fawcett’s father. Miss Fawcett has kindly given
us permission to reprint the letter.

                                         ‘10 DOWNING STREET,
                                ‘WHITEHALL, _November 25th, 1884_.

    ‘DEAR SIR,—Will you allow me to intrude upon you for a moment by
    offering to you in private my assurances of deep sympathy under
    the grievous loss you have sustained, and to repeat also the
    testimony which I have endeavoured to render in public to your
    distinguished son. There has been no public man in our day whose
    remarkable qualities have been more fully recognised by his
    fellow-countrymen, and more deeply enshrined in their memories.
    There they will long remain now that they form the subject of
    recollection only and are no longer associated, as they were
    until the sad event, with sanguine and brilliant hopes.

    ‘He has left a record of some qualities which are given to few;
    but of others, perhaps yet more remarkable, which all his
    fellow-countrymen may in their degree emulate and follow; for
    integrity so high, and courage so far beyond the common range,
    aid more often than his great powers of intellect and memory to
    profitable imitation, and will, I trust, give to thousands a
    powerful incentive to honourable imitation and a means of real

    ‘Heartily wishing to you, dear Sir, both in retrospect and in
    prospect every consolation,—I remain, faithfully yours,

                                                 ‘W. E. GLADSTONE.

    ‘W. FAWCETT, Esqr.’

Mr. Fawcett, senior, died at Salisbury at the ripe age of ninety-five,
after a successful and much honoured life.

It is interesting to read what the Prime Minister said of Fawcett, by
whom he had been at times so vigorously and successfully opposed, and to
whom the downfall of his Government was once largely due.

[Sidenote: The Old Folk and Salisbury.]

The sorrow of the grief-stricken parents in Salisbury for the loss of
their beloved son seemed too great a burden for their aged shoulders to
bear. But slowly, as time went on, the father gathered comfort from the
sympathy of great and humble. Reviewing lovingly bit by bit the brave
course which his boy had run, he realised perhaps, as the crowning
comfort, that in the inscrutable workings of fate, his unwittingly
blinding his own child had not after all proved an irreparable calamity.
Rather it had, by depriving the lad of the blessing of sight,
miraculously sped him on valiantly to a great life gladly lived.

[Sidenote: From Carpenters, Bricklayers, etc.]

Among the many sympathetic letters sent to Mrs. Fawcett, perhaps none
express more truly the feelings of those to whom her husband had given
his constant solicitude, and certainly none are more touching, than
these two:—

                                 PANGBOURNE, _November 8th, 1884_.

    ‘DEAR MADAM,—I hope you will forgive us, but having followed the
    political life of the late Professor Fawcett, we felt when we
    saw his death in the papers on the 7th that we had lost a
    personal friend, and that a great man had gone from us. The loss
    to you must be beyond measure; but we as part of the nation do
    give you who have been his helper our heartfelt sympathy in your
    great trouble, and we do hope you may find a little consolation
    in knowing that his work that he has done for the working
    classes has not been in vain.

    ‘We, as working men, do offer you and your child our deepest
    sympathy, and beg to be yours respectfully,

                    ‘HARRY COX, Carpenter.
                    CHARLES EDDY, Carpenter.
                    RICHARD BOWLES, Carpenter.
                    G. LEWENDON, Bricklayer.
                    GEORGE BROWN, Bricklayer.
                    WILLIAM COX, Carpenter.
                    CHARLES COX, Blacksmith.
                    M. CLIFFORD, Postmaster.
                    F. CLIFFORD, Clerk.’

[Sidenote: A Tribute from the Railroad men of Brighton.]

                                          ‘11 ELDER PLACE,
                                 ‘BRIGHTON, _November 11th, 1884_.

    ‘DEAR MRS. FAWCETT,—Excuse me in not writing you sooner, on the
    sad death of your dear lamented husband. Several of his old
    friends at the Brighton Railway Works has wished me to ask you
    privately how you are situated in a pecuniary sense. We always
    thought that the Professor was a poor man, and only had what he
    earned by his talents; his three years of office could not have
    brought in much money for you and the family to live in ease and
    comfort for the rest of your days. It is our opinion that you
    are richly entitled to a public pension.

    ‘Failing this, would you accept a public subscription, say a
    penny one, from the working classes of this country, for the
    many good and noble deeds your noble partner done for the
    working classes of this country. His advice was always sound,
    good and practical, and full of sympathy, a good private friend
    to all men.

    ‘I see you had a plentiful supply of flowers, but those flowers
    soon fade and are no support to the poor and fatherless ones. I
    am confident, if you could make up your mind to accept a penny
    testimonial the working classes would give cheerfully, not in
    the shape of charity, but for public and striking services
    rendered by one of the best men since Edmund Burke. We only wish
    he had lived twenty years longer.

    ‘Pray excuse my plain way of writing to you, as an honest
    workman, one of his supporters from first to last. His last
    letter to me a month back was full of sound and good advice
    concerning our Provident Society.—Believe me, your sincere
    friend and well-wisher,

                                              JOHN SHORT, Senior.’

Mrs. Fawcett, profoundly touched by this letter, was able to say that
she could not properly accept the generous offer, as her husband had
left her adequately provided for. Mr. Short, who had written the letter,
replied to Mrs. Fawcett, ‘our men of the railway works say that you are
entitled to all honour for refusing a pension or a public subscription
from the working men; also that your dear husband and our best friend
has practised what he always preached to us, private thrift!’

[Sidenote: Burial.]

Fawcett was buried in the churchyard at Trumpington, near Cambridge, by
the little old church, with its square tower, which he had so often
passed on his joyful walks and rides. He was followed to his
resting-place by representatives of all the classes and the peoples who
had loved him. Those humble folk who were so dear to him mingled with
statesmen of all parties and many countries, delegates from learned
bodies and universities, his colleagues, and the undergraduates from his
beloved Cambridge.

[Sidenote: The significance of Fawcett’s life.]

The influence of such a career, the significance of its eternal echo,
grows in value each year. As life becomes more complicated, and
competition keener, men in the general struggle naturally think
themselves forced to safeguard their own interests, and forget what, by
their very birthright as citizens, they owe to the community, to the
making and purifying of the Government which should be the protector of
the weak, the instigator of progress, and the guardian of national

Fawcett’s life awakens us to the possibilities of happiness and
usefulness without the aid of money or position, and even despite one of
the gravest impediments under which a man can labour. He completely
forgot himself and his personal interests, and in so doing found
happiness and success. His career was a forceful illustration of that
ancient truth, ‘He that loses his life shall find it.’

His heroic victory should help to give that faith and inspiration needed
so much in our day in every field. Like that great friend of liberty
with whom he so deeply sympathised and to whom we have compared him,
Fawcett came from the humble people whom he fully appreciated, and he
too might have said that ‘God must have loved the plain people, or He
would not have made so many of them.’ He too struggled against gigantic
difficulties, and became a leader of his countrymen. From this position
of vantage, which he cherished because it enabled him to do good
effectively, he helped the poor and neglected, and those who had no
voice to ask justice for themselves. Even the least of these touched his
great heart and claimed his sympathy, and he wrought unsparingly,
unselfishly for their rights. Worn out with his ceaseless task, he too
was taken in his prime, at the height of his powers, beloved and
reverenced by his own people, and the great and small of many lands.


[Sidenote: Gloria Mundis.]

A national memorial and many others were set up. Contributions were
received from all parts of the Empire, in gifts ranging from the widow’s
mite to the munificent donations of Indian princes, in recognition of
the help which Fawcett had given to their country. To the one fittingly
placed in Westminster Abbey, the employees of the Post Office
contributed one-quarter of the cost. Besides the portrait, the memorial
includes two figures symbolising Brotherhood, and others for Zeal,
Justice, Fortitude, Sympathy and Industry.

The remainder of the National Memorial Fund was devoted to the Fawcett
Scholarship, available for blind students at the universities, and to
the Fawcett playgrounds, gymnasium, skating rinks, boating equipment,
and other athletic facilities at the Royal Normal College for the Blind.

[Sidenote: India’s loss.]

We have spoken of the feeling of India. A great public meeting was held
at Bombay; extracts from some of the speeches are given below, and with
them some cuttings from the Indian papers.

‘This great assembly is here to do honour to the memory of a high-minded
English statesman, whose name has become a household word out here, to
express that policy of strict justice and warm sympathy which alone can
bind India to England.’

‘The best friend of India has gone—the Right Honble. Henry Fawcett. All
people will regret the death of this statesman—especially those in
India. He had so identified himself with the interests of India, and so
fearlessly advocated the cause of the dumb millions of this poor
country, that he had gained for himself the honorary title of the Member
for India. It was certainly unfortunate that he had no place in the
Cabinet. His colleagues, who knew him thoroughly, were probably afraid
that in Indian matters he would prove too stiff for them. By far the
best place for him would have been that of Secretary of State for India.
In fact, ever since he was Postmaster-General India lost the services of
its Member.’

‘Independently of his political services to India, Mr. Fawcett was well
known among us as an author. His _Manual of Political Economy_ has
become a text-book in all our colleges and universities, and his other
writings on social and economic questions are extensively read by the
educated portion of our countrymen.’

‘There was no more touching spectacle than that of the blind Professor
devoting himself as the champion of the country he had never seen, and
the steadfast friend of the people with whom he had never come into
personal contact, simply because that country needed a champion, and
those people wanted a friend to represent their interests. Such a figure
strikes me as even more chivalrous than the figures of the ideal knights
who went about redressing human wrongs.’

‘To India his loss is truly irreparable.’

[Sidenote: The Statue in his Birthplace.]

‘In the market-place at Salisbury, near the house where Fawcett was
born, and where he made his first economic investigation, they have
placed a statue of him, so that the inhabitants of India and others
coming from distant parts to see Stonehenge and the great Cathedral may
pause before the memorial, and, seeing Fawcett’s name, will remember
that he was the friend who fought for their rights.’

[Sidenote: His Message.]

As a friend wrote when deploring Fawcett’s untimely death: ‘The
necessity of the hour is one brave man, faithful to his convictions,
strong enough to make himself heard above the angry cries of a mob, and
determined that no amount of popular applause, no momentary party
advantage, no miserable plea of expediency, and no false imputation of
cowardice shall move him one hair’s-breadth from the path of rectitude.’
Yes, Fawcett is needed to-day, and his example is needed now—the
teaching of his generous brotherhood, his intense industry, his fair
thoroughness of investigation, and his conscientious deliberation.

On his grave they have written, ‘Speak to the people that they go
forward.’ In obedience to this summons this book has been written, and
in hope that it will lead others to tell the story over and over again.
It may too help others to follow in the footsteps of this country boy,
who, blinded, fought valiantly against tremendous odds, and taught
himself to ignore his misfortune and to make at last his spirit see so
clearly that he found the truth and pointed it out to others. He became
the champion of those who most needed a protector, and battled against
oppression, ignorance, and neglect. He gave to the humblest the right to
enjoy the commons and forests which he himself could not see. He strove
for the friendless in India, and for the poor woman who had no voice in
the making of the laws which bound her. He shouldered tasks beyond his
strength, loving them. He attained the best because he believed the

There is no parallel in history for this heroic and romantic life, in
spite of the overhanging shadow, so full of usefulness, of joy and
light. So keen was the sight of the eyes on his finger-tips, that he
could detect the smallest leaf carried by the stream against his
fishing-line. After a score of years he would recognise the laugh and
the voice of a long absent friend. He worshipped in the cathedral of the
immensity he could not see. His creed was simple,—love and service;
sacrifice, his interpretation of God, and the secret of his life.

He was called the ‘Messiah of the Blind,’ and it was said that with his
death the beacon for those who sit in darkness had been extinguished.
Let us rather say that he kindled one for them for all time; that saving
for the blindness of the spirit there is no blindness; through the light
shed by his bright and noble life this blind man has proved it, and
still teaches us to see.

Footnote 3:

  This tribute is from an American appreciator of Fawcett.


                             HENRY FAWCETT

                      BORN 1833, DIED NOV. 6, 1884

           Virtus in arducis! Valour against odds
           That must have daunted courage less complete.
           A spectacle to gladden men, and meet
           The calm approval of the gazing gods.
           So some large singer of the heroic days
           Might well have summed that life the fatal shears
           Too soon have severed. Many fruitful years,
           More conquests yet, still wider meed of praise,
           All hoped of him who had goodwill of all,—
           The brave, the justly balanced, calmly strong,
           Friend of all truth, and foe of every wrong,
           Who now, whilst lingering autumn’s last leaves fall,
           Too soon! too soon! if the stern stroke of fate
           Ever too early falls, or falls too late,
           At least the passing of this stern, strong soul
           In fullest strength and clearness wakes lament.
           We could have better spared a hundred loud,
           Incontinent, blaring flatterers of the crowd
           Than him, whose self-respecting years were spent
           In silent thought and sense-directed toil,
           Ungagged by greed, unshackled and unswayed
           By sordid impulse of the sophist’s trade,
           By lies unsnared and unseduced by spoil.
           No braver conquest o’er ill fortune’s flout
           Our age has seen than his, who held straight on
           Though the great God-gift from his days was gone,
           ‘And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.’
           Held on with genial stoutness, seeing more
           Than men with sight undarkened, but with mind
           Through prejudice and party bias blind.
           The ‘foolish fires’ of faction through the flare
           Betraying beacons, in the battle’s van.
           _Vale!_ A valid and a valiant man!
           Ampler horizons and serener air
           Await the fighter of so good a fight
           Than favour Party’s low, mist-haunted hollow.
           Heart-deep regrets and honest plaudits follow
           Him who has passed from darkness into light.




To make this record complete the following descriptions of the Fawcett
Memorials is appended, together with the copy of a letter from Mrs.
Fawcett’s sister.

There are three memorials in London, besides others elsewhere.

The national memorial to Fawcett in Westminster Abbey bears the
following inscription, written by Sir Leslie Stephen.

                             HENRY FAWCETT

              BORN 26 AUGUST 1833.    DIED 6 NOVEMBER 1884

      After losing his sight by an accident, at the age of 24, he
      became Professor of Political Economy in the University of
      Cambridge, Member of four Parliaments, and from 1880 to
      1884, H.M. Postmaster-General.

      His inexorable fidelity to his convictions commanded the
      respect of statesmen. His chivalrous self-devotion to the
      cause of the poor and helpless won the affection of his
      countrymen and of his Indian fellow-subjects. His heroic
      acceptance of the calamity of blindness has left a memorable
      example of the power of a brave man to transmute evil into
      good and wrest victory from misfortune.

This memorial was erected by the subscribers to a national memorial.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Memorial Scholarship for the Blind. Playgrounds, skating rink, boats and
other athletic equipment at the Royal Normal College for the Blind.

As has been said elsewhere, the national memorial in Westminster Abbey
represented contributions received from all parts of the Empire. This
sum was expended not only in erecting the memorial in Westminster Abbey,
but also in providing the above-mentioned scholarship and athletic
facilities for the blind.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The small Vauxhall Park, just behind Vauxhall Station, includes within
its area the site of the house where Fawcett lived from shortly after
his marriage till his death. In it stands a handsome memorial to Fawcett
given by Sir Henry Doulton. The high pedestal is decorated with eight
panels in bas-relief. Fawcett is represented seated. An angel stands
behind his chair and is about to crown him with a wreath of laurel. The
inscription is the same as that in Westminster Abbey.

                  *       *       *       *       *

A drinking fountain was erected as a Women’s Memorial to Fawcett in the
Gardens on the Thames Embankment, east of Charing Cross.

‘The first person to drink of the waters of the fountain was a postman;
this gracefully recalled the regard in which Professor Fawcett was held
by the humble servants of the state, whose duties he regulated, and
whose welfare he had ever at heart during his tenure of the office of
Postmaster-General.’—Extract from a contemporaneous paper.

                  *       *       *       *       *

A memorial was placed by the inhabitants of Alderburgh in the Parish
Church there. The words with which the memorial is inscribed are as

                Erected by the inhabitants of Alderburgh
             In memory of the Rt. Hon. Henry Fawcett, M.P.,
                 who was born August 26, 1833, and who
                         died November 6, 1884.
             His brave and kindly nature will ever live in
               the hearts of all who knew and loved him.
                Be ye also strong, and of good courage.

                  *       *       *       *       *

There is a memorial window in Trumpington Church; below the figures of
Truth, Fortitude and Charity is the inscription:

                              In memory of
                             HENRY FAWCETT
                          Born August 26, 1833
                         Died November 6, 1884

A statue of Fawcett was erected to his memory in the market-place of
Salisbury, near the house where he was born.

                  *       *       *       *       *


  ‘A clergyman came to me one day in the street and asked if I was not
  Mrs. Fawcett’s sister. I said “Yes,” and then he told me his little

  ‘A friend of his had become blind and had lost hope and courage, and
  seemed unable to face the disaster; then some one reminded him of
  Mr. Fawcett, and read his life to him, and the poor man took fresh
  heart, and met his misfortune bravely. The clergyman added, “I do
  not know Mrs. Fawcett or any of his family, and could not let slip
  this chance of telling them what Mr. Fawcett’s example had done for
  my friend.”’

May his example continue ceaselessly to help, and may this little book
make his story more widely known, so that those who sit in darkness may
see the light which his keen spirit saw—and seeing, choose the nobler



 Aberdeen, Fawcett at, 144, 167.

 Abolition of Slavery, 5, 76, 77, 120, 157.

 Afghanistan, position of, 242-4.

 Agriculture, Fawcett on, 169.

 _Aids to Thrift_, Fawcett’s, 276.

 Aldeburgh, the Garrett family of, 130, 301;
   memorial to Fawcett in, 333.

 Alderbury, Fawcett at, 7, 36, 132.

 American Civil War, the, Fawcett’s interest in, 101, 124, 145, 155,
    157, 162.

 Ancient Mariners, the, 85, 86, 262.

 Anderson, Dr. Garrett, 334;
   her interest in the Post Office, 257.

 Anecdotage, Fawcett’s love of, 91, 98, 99, 171.

 Angling, Fawcett’s love of, 17, 60-63, 67, 268.

 Austen, Jane, novels of, 92.

 Australia, Fawcett on future of, 38.

 Avebury, Lord, accompanies Fawcett on his honeymoon, 131, 132;
   his friendship with Fawcett, xiii, xv, 97, 147.

 Babylon, 15.

 Bach, Fawcett on, 302.

 Ballot Act, Fawcett on the, 175.

 Balmoral, Fawcett at, 292.

 Bateman, Bishop, founder of Trinity Hall, 86.

 Beaconsfield, Lord, Fawcett on, 38, 168, 231, 242;
   leads the Conservative party, 161, 164, 236, 239, 242.

 Beck, Dr., master of Trinity Hall, xv.

 Bengal, famine in, 236.

 Bethnal Green, Fawcett at, 243, 306.

 Billiards, Fawcett plays, 27, 28.

 Blackheath, Fawcett at, 167.

 Blackwood, Sir Arthur, on Fawcett, 279.

 Blind, Fawcett’s alms to the, 71;
   literature for the, 68.

 Blindness, as a spur, 65;
   Fawcett on, 45, 66-69, 100, 149, 154, 306.

 Blue ribbon, Fawcett on the, 264.

 Bombay, honour to Fawcett in, 323.

 Bond, Dr. Henry, xv.

 Bowles, Richard, 319.

 Bradford, Fawcett at, 120, 145.

 Braille, never mastered by Fawcett, 51.

 Bright, John, advises Fawcett, 146;
   advocates peace, 32;
   apostle of Free Trade, 8, 19;
   Fawcett on, 38, 103, 160;
   on the Reform Bill, 162, 164;
   revered in America, 102.

 Brighton, Fawcett at, 56, 133;
   Fawcett contests, 153-9, 166, 170, 227, 230, 232;
   Fawcett M.P. for, 126, 131, 139, 159, 166, 168, 170, 174, 222, 225,
      227, 320.

 _Brighton Election Reporter, the_, 155.

 British Association, the, 168;
   at Aberdeen, 144, 167;
   at Manchester, 95;
   at Oxford, 92.

 Brompton Cemetery, 123.

 Brougham, Lord, Fawcett on, 145;
   introduces Fawcett, 146.

 Brown, attendant, 78, 144, 192.

 Brown, George, 319.

 Browning, E. B., 204.

 Bryce, James, Viscount, on Fawcett, vii-xi, xv;
   supported by Fawcett, 213.

 Buckingham Palace, Fawcett at, 292-295.

 Bulgarian atrocities, the, 239-43.

 Burke, Edmund, 92, 320.

 Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas, on Fawcett, 232.

 Bute, Lord, 308.

 Byron, Lord, 48.

 Cabmen, Fawcett’s friends among, 198.

 Cabul, Fawcett on, 243.

 Cairnes, Professor, his friendship with Fawcett, 167, 169, 179.

 Calcutta, gratitude to Fawcett in, 222.

 Cambridge, boat race, 212;
   Fawcett as a Fellow in, 33, 59, 60, 75-91, 104, 112;
   Fawcett as a professor in, 105-115, 126, 138, 153, 156, 227, 250,
      267, 299, 309, 321, 331;
   Fawcett as an undergraduate in, 25-33;
   Fawcett contests, 106, 152, 153;
   Fawcett on society in, 89;
   position of women at, 136, 291;
   the Union, 32.

 Campbell, Lady, 69.

 —— Robert, xv.

 —— Sir Francis, xv;
       his work for the blind, 66, 69, 70.

 Cardin, Mr. postal official, 276.

 Cards, Fawcett plays, 56, 302.

 Carlyle, Thomas, on political economy, 117.

 Cattle-plague, Fawcett on the, 165.

 Chamberlain, Joseph, Fawcett votes against, 211.

 Charles II., King, 194.

 Chartism, 20.

 Chesterfield, Lord, 87.

 Chetwynd, Mr. postal official, 276.

 Children’s Acts, Fawcett on the, 165.

 Choate, Hon. J. H., xv.

 Church rates, abolition of, 148, 152.

 Cicero, quoted, 18.

 Cima di Jazzi, Fawcett climbs, 57.

 Civil Pension List, 282.

 Clarendon, Fawcett at, 309.

 Clarke of Cambridge, 107.

 Clifford, M. & F., 319.

 —— Professor, Fawcett on, 281.

 Club for Workmen, Fawcett, 121.

 Cobden, Richard, apostle of Free Trade, 8, 19;
   Fawcett on, 159;
   visits Fawcett, 88.

 Common Lands, Fawcett’s defence of, 185, 194-213, 289, 303.

 Commons Preservation Society, the, Fawcett as member of, ix, 194, 196,
    199, 200, 208, 211, 213, 266.

 Congreve’s rockets, 14.

 Cooper, Mary, marries William Fawcett, 5.

 Co-operation, Fawcett advocates, 117-120, 231.

 Cornish mines, Fawcett’s, 151.

 Corpus Christi Library, 244.

 Courtney, Lord, candidate for professorship, 105;
   his friendship with Fawcett, xv, 167, 192, 288.

 Courtney, Lady, xv, 312, 313.

 Cowper Temple, Mr., his motion _re_ Epping Forest, 200.

 Cox, Harry, Charles and William, 319.

 Crimean War, the, 32.

 Critchett, oculist, 35.

 Cross, Lord, as Home Secretary, 208.

 Dale, Sir Alfred, xv.

 Darwin, Charles, defended by Fawcett, 94-97;
   his friendship with Fawcett, 97, 126, 168.

 Delhi, Empire proclaimed in, 236.

 Devonshire, Duke of, announces Fawcett’s death, 313;
   as Liberal Leader, 235, 252;
   as Postmaster-General, 250.

 Dickens, Charles, his novels, 139, 310.

 Disestablishment, Fawcett on, 106, 153.

 Disraeli. _See_ Beaconsfield.

 Docwra, originates the penny post, 271.

 Doulton, Sir Henry, his memorial to Fawcett, 332.

 Downe, Darwin at, 97.

 Dryhurst, F. J., Fawcett’s secretary, xv, 265, 268, 306.

 Dublin, 167; Trinity College, 177, 178.

 East India Company, 17.

 Eddy, Charles, 319.

 Edinburgh, Duke of, in India, 221.

 Edmonston, Mr., opens Queenwood College, 9.

 Education, National, Fawcett advocates, 32, 119, 171, 174, 236, 289.

 Edward VII., his interest in Fawcett, 292, 317;
   in India, 235;
   knights Dr. Campbell, 66.

 Egyptian question, Fawcett on the, 282, 283.

 Electioneering experiences, Fawcett’s, 146-159.

 Eliot, George, her interest in Fawcett, 118;
   her novels, 92.

 Ely Cathedral, 81.

 Enclosure Bills, the, 187-91, 201.

 Epping Forest, saved for the nation, 187, 194-201.

 Evans, F. de Grasse, xv.

 Eversley, Lord, as Postmaster-General, 258, 310;
   his Bill _re_ Common Lands, 208, 209.

 Evolution, Fawcett’s defence of, 94-97.

 Exeter Hall, Fawcett at, 239.

 Exhibition of 1851, the, 20.

 Factory Acts, Fawcett on the, 165, 236, 289.

 Fawcett, Henry, his blindness, vii, xiv, 43-71, 111, 149, 154, 229,
    240, 251, 306, 326;
   his cheerful courage, vii, xi, 44, 273, 305, 309, 325, 334;
   his love of riding, viii, 59, 60, 68, 229;
   his mental powers, ix, 29, 91, 173;
   his endeavours to save Common Lands, ix, 185-214;
   his biography, xiii, xv;
   his birth, 5;
   his early questions on economy, 6, 10, 81;
   his schooldays, 6-21;
   his love of fishing, 7, 17, 60-63, 67, 104, 268;
   influenced by Cobden and Bright, 8, 19;
   his diary, 9;
   his oratory, 10, 31, 32, 143, 163;
   his boyish lectures and essays, 11-17;
   in London, 17, 19, 33, 137, 197, 235, 332;
   his ambition to enter Parliament, 18, 19, 33, 36-38, 45, 46, 75, 82,
      111, 124, 143-59;
   as an undergraduate at Cambridge, 25-33;
   his friendship with Stephen, 25, 33, 78;
   his personal appearance, 25-27, 76, 103, 129, 163, 197, 223;
   his skill in games, 27;
   his talent for friendship, 29, 31, 84, 85, 132;
   his love for political economy, 29, 61, 81, 101;
   his anxiety for his health, 30, 52, 268, 307;
   advocates national education, 32, 119, 171, 174, 236, 289;
   his Fellowship, 33, 78, 82, 87;
   studies law, 33;
   his eyesight fails, 34-39;
   his radicalism, 34, 83, 105, 106, 124, 138, 148, 153, 161, 165, 166,
   visits Paris, 35;
   his ideals, 37, 284;
   his interest in social questions, 38, 117, 121-4, 165, 236, 283;
   his interest in Indian finance, 38, 166, 177, 217-27, 230, 233,
      235-8, 242-6, 331;
   is accidentally blinded, 43;
   his love of walking, 49, 57, 58, 81, 125, 238;
   his tailor, 52, 77;
   his memory, 55, 58, 124, 128, 144, 191, 225, 233, 238, 297;
   his love of skating, 58, 68, 88, 171, 192, 193, 210;
   as Postmaster General, 70, 211, 244, 249-83, 289, 296, 304, 308, 331;
   compared with Lincoln, 76, 77, 102, 103, 245, 259, 260;
   his love of freedom, 76, 157, 236;
   his love of rowing, 85;
   evades bores, 89, 192, 296;
   his life in Cambridge, 82, 87, 90;
   his conversational powers, 91, 98, 129;
   his sociability, 91, 98, 144, 171, 292, 295;
   addresses the British Association, 92, 144, 167;
   defends Darwin, 94;
   his love of home life, 97-99, 204, 209-211, 234, 291, 297-9, 303;
   his friendship with Mill, 99;
   his sympathy with the Federalists, 102, 145, 155;
   portraits of, 103, 137;
   his _Manual of Political Economy_, 105, 218, 303, 324;
   as Professor of Political Economy, 106-117, 126, 144, 153, 156, 186,
      299, 309, 321, 331;
   contests Cambridge, 106, 152;
   his _Free Trade and Protection_, 115;
   as an M.P., 122, 125, 138, 149, 160-7, 174, 176, 188-192, 232, 265,
      299, 304;
   elected to the Reform Club, 127;
   his marriage, 130-2;
   his wife’s companionship, 133, 209, 239, 290-2, 307, 310;
   advocates Woman Suffrage, 133, 135-7, 165, 289, 290;
   contests Brighton, 139, 153-9, 166, 170, 227, 230, 232;
   as M.P. for Brighton, 126, 131, 139, 159, 166, 168, 170, 174, 222,
      225, 227, 320;
   his love of salt, 140;
   his campaign in Southwark, 146-50;
   his flutter on the Stock Exchange, 151;
   his intractability, 176, 189;
   opposes the ministry, 176-81;
   his hair cut, 203;
   his love of being read to, 204, 239, 307;
   as M.P. for Hackney, 230-2, 243, 310;
   advocates peace, 242;
   his handshaking proclivity, 253, 254;
   his temperance, 264;
   his sense of fairness, 287;
   his chivalry, 289;
   his illness, 300;
   his honorary degrees, 308;
   his death, 311, 312;
   tributes to, 312-334.

 Fawcett, Mrs., mother of Henry, 5, 44, 98, 107, 160.

 —— Mrs. Henry, advocates Woman Suffrage, 133, 135-7;
   her accident at Brighton, 133;
   her marriage, 130-3;
   her necklace from India, 245;
   her portrait, 137;
   on her husband, 171;
   shares her husband’s interests, 209, 239, 290-2, 307, 310;
   sympathy shown to, 319-21.

 Fawcett, Philippa, daughter of Henry Fawcett, 210, 291, 311.

 —— Sarah Maria, sister of Henry Fawcett, 6, 35, 39, 44-51, 107, 161,
    204, 222, 297, 303.

 —— Thomas Cooper, 6.

 —— William, as Mayor of Salisbury, 3-5;
   causes his son’s blindness, 43-45;
   death of, 318;
   encourages his son, 10;
   Gladstone’s letter to, 317;
   his Cornish mines, 152;
   his marriage, 5;
   his memory of Waterloo, 3;
   his son’s affection for, 298;
   sends his son to Cambridge, 21, 25, 33;
   supports his son’s elections, 153, 158, 160, 232.

 —— —— junior, 6.

 —— scholarship, the, 323.

 Fearon, Mr. and Mrs., Fawcett lives with, 19, 20.

 Fishing, Fawcett’s love of, 17, 60-63, 67, 268.

 Flunkeyism, Fawcett on, 139.

 Forster family, the, 107.

 _Fortnightly Review, The_, Fawcett’s articles in, 176, 201.

 Franchise, Fawcett on the, 135, 153, 158.

 Free Trade, Cobden and Bright’s campaign for, 8, 19.

 _Free Trade and Protection_, Fawcett’s, 115.

 Freedom, Fawcett’s love of, 133, 135-7, 157.

 Gambling, Fawcett on, 28, 151.

 Garibaldi, in America, 20;
   in London, 157.

 Garrett, Millicent, her marriage, 130-3.

 Germany, evolution in, 96;
   sends an official to the Post Office, 269.

 Gladstone, William Ewart, as Liberal leader, 161, 164, 167, 173,
    179-81, 235, 243, 259, 281;
   endorses Fawcett’s policy in preserving Commons, 199;
   Fawcett on, 38, 231, 282;
   his eulogy of Fawcett, 314, 317;
   his Indian policy, 221, 236, 243, 244;
   his Irish policy, 282, 283;
   offers Fawcett Postmaster-Generalship, 250-3;
   on Bulgaria, 239, 241, 242;
   on Professor Clifford, 281;
   portrait of, 103.

 Glasgow University, elects Fawcett as Rector, 308.

 Gog Magog hills, the, 81.

 Granville, Lady, Fawcett visits, 292.

 Guildford postal arrangements, 263.

 Hackney, Fawcett M.P. for, 230-2, 243, 310.

 Hampstead Heath, 187.

 Harcourt, Sir William, as an orator, 31.

 Harmony Hall, 9.

 Harnham, 99.

 Harnham Hill, Fawcett on, 43.

 Harris, Mrs., 6.

 Hartington, Lord. _See_ Devonshire.

 Helvellyn, Fawcett climbs, 57.

 Henry Fawcett Club for Workmen, the, 121.

 Herschel’s philosophy, 47.

 Hill, Sir Roland, advocates parcel post, 271.

 Hodding, Mrs., Fawcett’s letter to, 36.

 Holland, evolution in, 96.

 Home Rule, Fawcett opposes, 283.

 Hooker, Sir Joseph, Fawcett on, 168.

 Hope, Beresford, on Fawcett, 314.

 Hopkins, Mr., his friendship with Fawcett, 31, 47-49.

 House of Commons, the, Fawcett’s ambition to enter, 18, 19, 33, 36-38,
    45, 46, 75, 82, 111, 124, 143-59;
   Fawcett as a member of, 122, 125, 138, 149, 160-7, 174, 176, 188-92,
      265, 299, 304;
   Ladies’ gallery, 64;
   mourns Fawcett’s loss, 313.

 Housing Bills, Fawcett on, 236.

 _Howe_, H.M.S., 9.

 Hughes, Tom., introduces Fawcett to the House, 160.

 Hunter, Sir Robert, as Solicitor to the Post Office, 266;
   on Fawcett, xv, 191, 197, 262, 266.

 Huxley, Professor, as a Radical, 124;
   visits Fawcett, 89.

 Ibbesley, Fawcett at, 205.

 Iddesleigh, Lord, on Fawcett, 313.

 Immigration, Fawcett on, 145.

 Income Tax, Fawcett on, 231.

 India, famine in, 236;
   Fawcett’s interest in, 38, 166, 177, 217-27, 230, 233, 235-8, 242-6,
   gratitude to Fawcett in, 230, 245, 323-6.

 Indian Council, Fawcett as member of, 252.

 Institute of France, Fawcett as member of, 308.

 Insurance, Fawcett on, 276.

 Irish question, the, Fawcett on, 124, 167, 175, 282, 283.

 Irish University Bill, the, 177-81.

 Italian Unity, Fawcett’s interest in, 157.

 James, Henry, on Trinity Hall Garden, 79.

 Jesus College, Cambridge, 91.

 Johnson, Dr., 90.

 Jones, Richard, Whewell on, 92.

 Keller, Helen, on her blindness, 65.

 King’s College, Fawcett at, 18-21.

 Knightsbridge, 123.

 Kossuth, in London, 20.

 Lambeth, Fawcett’s garden in, 137.

 Lancashire love of freedom, 102.

 Land question, Fawcett on the, 120, 169, 171.

 _Lardner’s Encyclopædia_, 47.

 Lark, Mrs., 160.

 Layard, Sir A. H., contests Southwark, 148-50.

 Leeds, colliery near, 118.

 Lee-Warner, Sir William, on Fawcett, xv, 245, 256.

 Lefevre, Shaw. _See_ Lord Eversley.

 Lewis, Harvey, Fawcett on, 168.

 Lewendon, G., 319.

 Liberal Party, the, Fawcett on, 176, 201, 231.

 Lincoln, Abraham, assassination of, 130;
   compared with Fawcett, 76, 77, 102, 103, 245, 259, 260;
   Fawcett’s admiration of, 76, 102.

 Lincoln’s Inn, Fawcett studies at, 33, 75.

 Liverpool, election at, 300;
   postal work in, 258.

 London, Fawcett in, 17, 19-21, 33, 137, 197, 235, 332;
   Fawcett on society in, 89, 90.

 Longford, Fawcett family at, 7, 8, 39, 48.

 Longton, manor of, 195, 196.

 Louise, Princess, dowry of, 139.

 Lytton, Bulwer, on the Westminster Debating Society, 34.

 Macaulay, Lord, as an orator, 31.

 M‘Carthy, Justin, on Fawcett, 313.

 Macmillan, publisher, his friendship with Fawcett, 104.

 _Macmillan’s Magazine_, Fawcett’s contributions to, 94, 104, 151.

 Mahomet, 17.

 Maine, Sir Henry, master of Trinity Hall, 228.

 Malta, 242.

 Manchester, Fawcett at, 95;
   postal conditions in, 258.

 Manners, Lord John, as Postmaster-General, 253, 271;
   on Fawcett, 314.

 Mansergh, J., 10.

 _Manual of Political Economy_, Fawcett’s, 105, 218, 303, 324.

 Married Women’s Property Act, 258.

 Maxwell, Clerk, 55.

 Mayor, candidate for professorship, 105, 107.

 Memory, cultivated by the blind, 55, 144, 191, 225, 233, 297.

 Mendelssohn, Fawcett on, 302.

 Meredith, George, his Vernon Whitford, 78.

 Mill, John Stuart, advocates Woman Suffrage, 135, 165;
   Fawcett on, 101;
   Fawcett studies his _Political Economy_, 29, 61, 101, 105, 114;
   Fawcett’s correspondence with, 99, 100;
   his friendship with Fawcett, 99, 116, 126, 145;
   his interest in India, 217, 218;
   his _Liberty_, 178;
   his political opinions, 158, 161, 163, 168-70;
   his wife, 100;
   invited to Cambridge, 88;
   M.P. for Westminster, 122, 124, 160, 161, 168, 169;
   member of the Radical Club, 138.

 Milton, John, 16, 92.

 Mining in Cornwall, Fawcett’s interest in, 151.

 Monarchism, Fawcett on, 106.

 Moore, M.P. for Brighton, 156, 159.

 Morgan, master of Jesus College, Cambridge, 91, 213.

 Morley, John, Viscount, on Cobden, 8;
   takes Fawcett a walk, xv, 212.

 _Morning Star, The_, supports Fawcett, 146, 150, 155.

 Moscow, evolution in, 96.

 Music, Fawcett’s love of, 302, 304.

 Naoroji, Nadabhai, evidence of, 221.

 Napoleon I., 3, 15.

 —— III., 85.

 National Education, Fawcett advocates, 32, 119, 171, 174, 236, 289.

 —— Portrait Gallery, the, 137.

 Nationalisation of land, Fawcett on, 120, 169.

 Nevill, Primate of New Zealand, 297.

 New Forest, Fawcett’s defence of the, 205-8.

 Newmarket, Fawcett at, 26, 59, 125, 238.

 Newnham, Miss Fawcett at, 292.

 Newton, Sir Isaac, 16, 31.

 Nicholas, Emperor, 32.

 _Nineteenth Century, the_, Fawcett’s article in, 237.

 Nineveh, 15.

 Northcote, Sir Stafford, on Fawcett, 313.

 Oddo, Fawcett’s dog, 296.

 Odger, George, Fawcett’s friendship with, 121-3.

 Owen, Robert, builds Harmony Hall, 9.

 Oxford and Cambridge boat race, 212.

 —— confers D.C.L. on Fawcett, 308;
   Fawcett at, 68, 92.

 Palliasse, Madame, 36.

 Palmerston, Lord, as Premier, 19, 161;
   Fawcett on, 38;
   his foreign policy, 101.

 Pangbourne, sympathy from, 319.

 Paris, Fawcett in, 35, 36.

 Parker, Archbishop, 87, 244.

 Parliamentary Reform, Fawcett on, 157, 162, 166, 176, 235, 288.

 Peel, Sir Robert, 4.

 Permissive Bill, the, 231.

 Peterhouse College, Cambridge, Fawcett at, 25, 33.

 Phonography, Fawcett on, 17.

 Political Economy, in America, 101;
   Fawcett begins to study, 29, 30, 48, 81, 101;
   Fawcett as professor of, 105-17, 126, 144, 153, 156, 186, 299, 309,
      321, 331.

 —— —— Club, the London, 105.

 _Political Economy for Beginners_, Mrs. Fawcett’s, 133.

 Poor Laws, Fawcett on the, 176.

 —— rates, the, 148.

 Pope, Alexander, 32.

 Postmaster-General, Fawcett as, 70, 211, 244, 249, 283, 289, 296, 304,
    308, 331.

 Post Office, annuities, 277;
   employment of women in, 256-8, 289;
   Fawcett’s first speech on, 162;
   Fawcett’s wish to employ the blind in, 70;
   memorial to Fawcett, 323;
   money orders, 275;
   parcel post, 271-3;
   savings bank, the, 257, 271, 275, 282;
   telegraph service, 271, 277, 278, 282;
   telephone service, 278, 308.

 Privy Seal, Fawcett on the, 198.

 Pryne, Professor, Fawcett succeeds, 105.

 _Punch_ on Henry Fawcett, 233, 234, 241, 242, 279-81, 328.

 _Quarterly Review_, quoted, 14.

 Queenwood College, Fawcett at, 9-18, 31.

 Quoits, Fawcett plays, 27.

 Radical Club, the, Fawcett founds, 138.

 —— party, Fawcett as a member of the, 34, 83, 105, 124, 138, 153, 161,
    165, 166, 174-81.

 Railways, Royal Commission on, 271.

 Reed, J., evidence of, 191.

 Reform Bills, Liberal and Conservative, 162-4;
   rejoicings in 1832, 3, 4.

 —— Club, Fawcett as member of the, 127.

 Religious restrictions, Fawcett advocates removal of, 148, 174, 177-9.

 Republican Club, Fawcett founds the, 138, 139, 281.

 Ricardo, Fawcett on, 114.

 Riding, Fawcett’s love of, viii, 59, 60, 68, 229.

 Ritchie, Lady, on Thackeray and Fawcett, xv, 128.

 Roller-skating, Fawcett tries, 171.

 Rottingdean, Fawcett at, 57.

 Rowing, Fawcett’s love of, 68, 85, 262, 309.

 Royal Normal College for the Blind, Campbell’s work at the, 66;
   Fawcett memorials in, 323, 332.

 Royal Society, Fawcett a Fellow of the, 308.

 Rumbold, farm-servant, 297.

 Ruskin, John, 308;
   challenges Fawcett, 208.

 Russell, Lord John, his Reform Bill, 162-4;
   resignation of, 161.

 Russian action in Turkey, 241-3.

 Salisbury, dean of, 21;
   Fawcett in, 52, 59, 61, 77, 81, 97, 204, 251, 270, 297-9, 303, 310;
   Fawcett family at, 3-8, 39, 43, 98, 298;
   marquis of, on India, 233;
   rejoices over Reform Bill, 4;
   statue of Fawcett in, 324, 334.

 Salt, Fawcett’s love of, 140.

 _Saturday Review_, on Fawcett, 231.

 Schurz, Carl, in America, 20.

 Scott, Mr. Justice, on India, 223.

 Scovell, contests Southwark, 148-50.

 Serpentine, skating on the, 58.

 Seward, Stephen meets, 102.

 Seymour, Danby, 160.

 Shakespeare, quoted, 17, 46.

 Short, John, 320.

 Sidgwick, professor, on Mill, 101.

 Skating, Fawcett’s love of, 58, 68, 88, 171, 192, 193, 210.

 Slavery, abolition of, 5, 76, 77, 120, 157.

 Smith, Hamblin, his arithmetic, 104;
   Miss M‘Cleod, xv.

 Socialism, Fawcett on state, 120.

 Social Science Association at Bradford, 145.

 Society of Arts, advocates parcel post, 271.

 Somerset House, Fawcett at, 19.

 Sopp, Mr., schoolmaster, 79.

 Southey, Robert, Fawcett quotes, 50.

 Southwark, Fawcett contests, 146-50.

 _Spectator, The_, 239;
   on Hooker, 168.

 Spencer, Herbert, as a Radical, 124.

 Stanley, Lord, interviewed by Fawcett, 145.

 Staten Island, Garibaldi in, 20.

 Steam, Fawcett on the powers of, 14-17.

 Stephen, Sir Leslie, as Vernon Whitford, 78;
   at Cambridge with Fawcett, 25-27, 30, 33, 78, 90, 106, 116;
   composes inscription on Fawcett memorial, 331;
   his biography of Fawcett, xiii, xv, 25, 54, 154, 213;
   on Fawcett at Southwark, 149;
   on Fawcett’s parliamentary career, 282;
   on Trinity Hall festivities, 86;
   portrait of, 103;
   supports Fawcett at Brighton, 154-5;
   visits America, 102.

 Stevenson, George, 5.

 Stewart, Professor, on Fawcett, 197.

 St. Martin’s Hall, Fawcett at, 124.

 Stock Exchange, Fawcett’s flutter on the, 151, 152;
   telegrams, 277.

 Stonehenge, 10, 325.

 Stuart, Rt. Hon. James, xv.

 _Suffolk Mercury_, quoted, 131.

 Suffrage for Women, advocated by Fawcett, 133, 135-7, 165, 289, 290.

 Sultan of Turkey, visits England, 218.

 Taylor, Beatrice, xv.

 —— Henry, 264 _n._

 —— Sedley, xv, 264 _n._, 302.

 Tea-Room Party, the, 164.

 Telegraphic communication with India, 218.

 Thackeray, W. M., his friendship with Fawcett, 126-128;
   novels of, 92, 301.

 Thames Embankment Gardens, 207, 332.

 _Times, The_, on Fawcett, 231.

 Tizard, fisherman, 205.

 Torquay, Darwin at, 96.

 Trade Unionism, Fawcett’s interest in, 120.

 Trevelyan, Sir George, his _Life of Fox_, 239.

 Trinity College, Cambridge, 83;
   master of, 228.

 Trinity Hall, Cambridge, Fawcett at, vii, 33, 76-91, 102-7, 128, 228,
    267, 304;
   its Christmas festivities, 86-88, 128.

 Trumpington, Fawcett’s grave at, and memorial at, 321, 333.

 Turkey, Sultan of, visits England, 218.

 Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria, 239-43.

 Tyndall, Professor, at Queenwood College, 11, 76;
   Lord Avebury on, 147.

 University Reform, Fawcett advocates, 32, 82, 153, 166, 174, 175, 178.

 Ural Mountains, the, 81.

 Victoria, Queen, accession of, 5, 6;
   hands over Epping Forest to the nation, 201;
   her interest in Fawcett, 251, 254, 292, 301, 316;
   opens the Great Exhibition, 20;
   proclaimed empress, 236.

 Volunteer movement, the, 148.

 Walking, Fawcett’s love of, 50, 58, 125, 238.

 Walton, Sir Isaac, Fawcett on, 17.

 Waterloo, battle of, 3.

 Watt, James, 16.

 Wedderburn, Sir David, 125.

 Wellington, Arthur, first duke of, 4.

 Westminster, J. S. Mill stands for, 122.

 —— Abbey, memorial to Fawcett in, 323, 331, 332.

 —— Debating Society, Fawcett at the, 34.

 Whewell, Dr., Fawcett defeats, 92, 93;
   his admonition on fallibility, 83;
   _Inductive Philosophy_, 47.

 White, M.P. for Brighton, 158-60.

 Wilberforce, bishop, attacks Darwin, 94.

 Willingdale, public spirit of, 195.

 Wilson, Edward, on Mill, 30.

 Wimbledon Common, 212, 262.

 Wisley Common, case of, 188, 208.

 Withypool Common, 191.

 Woman Suffrage, Fawcett advocates, 133, 135-7, 165, 289, 290.

 Woolwich, 14.

 Wright, fisherman, his friendship with Fawcett, 70, 71, 117.

 Würzburg, confers honours on Fawcett, 308.

Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty at the Edinburgh
University Press


Transcriber's note:

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected.

Both “Mrs” and “Mrs.” appear; original form has been retained.

Inconsistencies regarding hyphenated words have been retained.

Missing [on] added to sidenote on page 212.

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