Edward Frederick Leveson-Gower.

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given them the opportunity of witnessing the
performance. I cannot say whether my illus-
trious guest would have objected to their presence.
I fancy not.

In the year 1880 I received a small but very
distinguished party. Besides my brother and Mr.
Lowell, it comprised the three greatest orators
in England, Mr. Gladstone, the late Duke of
Argyll, and Mr. Bright. I much regret that on
many occasions, particularly on this, I did not make
notes of the conversation. I remember that on
various subjects there was an exhilarating difference
of opinion. Mr. Bright disputed with Mr. Lowell
as to the correct use of words, and criticised the
Americans in this respect. Mr. Lowell, though
always gracious, even affectionate, in reference
to England, was very touchy about his own country.


When Mr. Gladstone talked to him of his American
fellow subjects, he resented it, and observed, " There
are no subjects in our country — we are all citizens."
He seemed pleased one morning on entering the
drawing-room to find Mr. Bright reading to us his
beautiful lines on the death of Lincoln, whom I
was surprised to hear he had never seen. Mr.
Bright said to him, "You need not listen; this
will not interest you."

The Duke of Argyll contradicted every one, but
in so racy a manner that it was a pleasure to listen
to him. I liked him much, and always lamented
that his many great qualities should be occasionally
marred by what I considered a want of judgment.
I did not mind his self-assertion, which was
innate and not assumed, and I always felt much
admiration for him.

Mr. Gladstone was of course the life and soul
of the party. He listened to every one and added
something to every topic that was raised. He
was always light in hand, and his talk was more
concise than his speeches or his writings.

I once showed with pride to a pert young lady
the page in my visiting-book on which my illus-
trious guests had written their names. All she
observed was that the initials of their names formed
the word gad, of which no one could deny them
the gift.

Mr. G. was one of the most amiable men I ever
knew. He always put the best construction on
the actions of others. Indeed, he was inclined to


rate too highly the merits of those whom he liked,
which led him to place more confidence in some
of them than they deserved. He was, moreover,
unaffectedly humble. After his most distinguished
career at Oxford he retained the most modest
opinion of his social position, and he never put
an undue value on himself; indeed, he under-
valued himself. My mother, when Ambassadress
at Paris, mentions in a letter to her sister his
having dined at the Embassy. I once asked him
whether he remembered having done so. "Of
course I do," he replied, "as it Wcis the first large
dinner I ever attended, not having up to that time
mixed in London society." He offered to show
me the passage in his diary which referred to it.
He could not find it, although, in spite of my
remonstrance, he spent an hour in looking for it.
A year afterwards he wrote to me that he had
at last found it. I know no one else who would
give himself so much trouble to comply with such
a slight request. He describes in his diary the
awe with which he went to that dinner, which he
says was not lessened when he was made to sit
between my mother and my eldest sister, a position
to which he felt he was not entitled. But he adds
that his two neighbours treated him so kindly that
he got reconciled to it.

For many years, even after he had obtained
high office and had become one of the leading
statesmen of the day, I could with difficulty per-
suade him at any dinner party to leave the dining-


room before me, because he ranked lower in the
table of precedence.

He always had both in political and social
matters certain Conservative leanings. He was
opposed to the proposed repeal of the law of
primogeniture in the case of intestacy, about which
I ventured to argue with him, and to which I
believe he afterwards became a convert. He
always allowed me to speak freely to him, of
which the following is an amusing instance. Mrs.
Gladstone thought he was inclined to eat more
fruit than was good for him, which one day,
when, after a long walk, he was vigorously attacking
my gooseberry bushes, made me say to him that
I was expecting a number of guests who were
fond of the fruit, and that I was afraid that he
would not leave enough for them. I do not know
whether he thought me serious, but he at once
desisted. Mrs. Gladstone thanked me.

One day he suddenly asked me whether I
considered him ambitious. I said I thought him
very keen to carry out his own policy, but not
ambitious with regard to his personal position
— at least, less so than most of those who were
similarly situated. He was much pleased, and
said I had judged him righdy, but he added,
smiling, that he feared some of his friends would
not agree with me.

I was at Hawarden just before I made a tour
in Sicily. He then lent me a description he had
written of his trip there when a young man. He


said that few persons had ever read it — only some
members of his family and Mr. Murray, who made
extracts from it in his guide-book. I thought it
delightful, the style being more simple than his
later writings. It was full of the most interesting
accounts of the condition of the island in both
classical and modern times. He wrote with en-
thusiasm of the scenery, and gave amusing de-
scriptions of some of his adventures. It certainly
ought to be published. His companion was Mr.
Arthur Kinnaird, an early friend with whom he
seemed to be on the best of terms. Yet there
never were two individuals who appeared so
different. But perhaps in a tete-a-tete journey,
as in matrimony, a difference of opinion and
character may occasionally relieve monotony.

There are slight indications in that journal that
the mind of Mr. Gladstone was already at that
early age drifting towards Liberal opinions.
He hotly denounced the Neapolitan system of
government, of course little foreseeing how much
he would in later life contribute to its downfall.
On my return he asked me many things about
my trip, and was scandalised to hear that I had not
attempted the ascent of Mount Etna. Considering
that I was then nearer seventy than sixty, and that
the time of year was mid-winter, the omission
seemed to me excusable.

During one of his visits, when he was unpopular
with the Irish, the Home Secretary sent down a
detective to look after his safety. This annoyed


him considerably, and he refused to let the man
accompany him. I, however, compromised the
matter, and got him to allow him to sit on the
box of the carriage when it was known where he
was eoino:, whether to church or the station, when
alone there was any danger to be apprehended.

The following anecdote may amuse my readers.
Mrs. Gladstone, coming one day out of church
at Ewhurst, went up to an old man in a smock-
frock, which is still worn by some old people,
and said to him : " I like to see that old smock-
frock. It reminds me of old days. Have you been
to church ? " — '* Yes, ma'am." — " Do you know
who was in church ? " — " No, ma'am." — " Mr. Glad-
stone was in church." — " Was he, ma'am ? " —
"You have heard of Mr. Gladstone?" — "Never,

This reminds me of another instance of un-
recognised greatness. Monsieur Thiers, when
travelling in France, paid a visit to an old school-
fellow, who was living in some out-of-the-way
place, when he asked him whether he remembered
a boy of the name of Thiers at the school at Mar-
seilles. At first he did not, but presently said :

'' Le petit Adolphe Thiers? N'etait-ce pas un
petit gamin qui faisait toujours des niches ^ ? "

" Eh bien, cdtait moi"

" Et depuis, quest-ce que vous avez fait ? "

** Bien de c hoses. Entre autres, j'ai dt^

1 Niches = \x\Qks,.


" Protestant ? "

Sur qiioi r homme d'Etat s^crie, " Voila la re-
nomm^e I "

It would be an endless undertaking to describe
all the agreeable people who visited me. I have
already mentioned Mr. Lowell, who came constantly
to Holmbury. To have gained the friendship of
such a distinguished man, of whom his countrymen
were so justly proud and who had become so great
a favourite in England, gratified me exceedingly.
At the risk of being thought egotistical I am
induced to here insert the following graceful lines,
which were written when he was unable to pay
me a visit, and which show that he reciprocated
my feeling of friendship for him :

How gladly would I, if I might,
My Wheaton's dreary tome bury,
And hasten with the lessening light
To the warm arms of Holmbury !

Homehury's the spelling I prefer ;
Oh, could I make a bee-line
Thither, to curl me up and purr
With comfort more than feline !

Alas, it cannot be, for I
Am pinioned here in London,
A male Andromeda, to sigh
That pledges can't be undone !

His view is Leveson's chiefest boast,
Unconscious that the part of it
His guests see gladliest is their host.
The sunshine at the heart of it ;


The friendly voice, the manners bland,
The culture — not too much of it —
I must forego, the honest hand,
With welcome in the touch of it ;

Across the void that hand I press.
And think, the surest rental man,
Mocking at Land Leagues, is the cess
All true hearts pay a gentleman.

Mr. Lowell thus wrote to me afterwards about
them : " You ought to have put my poor verses
into your waste-basket. I will write to you some
better ones one of these days." He may have
judged them rightly, but at all events, they gave
me much pleasure.

Bishop Wilberforce was more than once my
guest. He was the most agreeable man I ever
knew, combining in himself so many qualities con-
ducive to agreeableness, adequate knowledge, great
tact, infinity of fun and a charming manner.
In July, 1873, I asked him to come and meet
the Gladstones and the Granvilles. He accepted,
and arranged to ride with my brother over the
downs from Leatherhead, which is fifteen miles
off I did not like the idea of this long ride in
the great heat which then prevailed, but he would
not listen to me, and declared his unwillingness
to give up what he had been looking forward to
with so much pleasure. When the dinner hour
approached I was wondering why they did not
arrive. I went up to dress, and was soon after-
wards informed that my brother's groom was
downstairs and wished to see me. Much alarmed,


I ran down the stairs to learn what had happened,
and the trroom told me the terrible news that the
Bishop had been thrown from his horse, that he
left him unconscious, and did not know whether
he was alive or dead. We sat through dinner
without any one uttering a word. At dessert-time
my brother entered the room with a look of the
deepest dejection, and merely said, " It is all over ;
it was instantaneous death." My brother had gone
through the most dreadful ordeal. He had to send
away the groom to order some conveyance, and
was left alone with the Bishop, hoping against
hope that life was not extinct. The body was
conveyed to Abinger Hall, Lord Farrer's house,
which was not far off. It may be imagined how
much shocked was our small party, which included
Mr. Gladstone, the Bishop's attached friend, and
Canon Sapte, who had been his chaplain and
was devoted to him. I was afterwards told that
the Bishop had always wished to meet with a
sudden death, a feeling I cannot understand, as
I myself shall feel anxious before I die to take
an affectionate leave of those I love.

I had a curious conversation one day with the
Bishop at a dinner when, after the ladies had left
the dining-room, I sat next to him. He asked me
whether I thought it wrong to wish for any one's

" That appears to me a question of which you
are a much better judge than myself It, however,
seems to me that if you in no way contribute to the


death, the wish for it may not be blamable. But
might I ask you why you put the question ? "

"The reason is that I do wish for somebody's
death, but I have some misgivings whether I ought
to do so."

" Might I ask you whose death you desire ?"
" Certainly. I wish for the Pope's death."
** Poor old man ! Why do you wish him dead ? "
" From no feeling of hostility to him, but because
I am convinced that if his life be prolonged he
will make my brother-in-law Manning a Cardinal,
which will be bad for him and bad for other people."
The Pope did live on and made Manning a Car-
dinal, and people will differ whether the Bishop's
anticipations were fulfilled.

Mr. Gladstone was intensely interested in Mr.
Purcell's Life of the Cardinal, which he, contrary
to the general opinion, thought on the whole took
a favourable view of his character, although he ad-
mitted that it did not do so in some respects.

What struck me in Mr. Gladstone was the intense
interest he always took in the book he was reading
at the moment, whatever the subject might be,
whether fiction or history, philosophy or divinity.
If he did not like a book, he left off reading it.
If he liked it, it engrossed him.

I formed a friendship with Baron Hiibner,
whose name I am unwilling to omit from these
recollections. He was said to be connected with
Prince Metternich ; at all events, he advanced
rapidly in diplomacy. It was to him, as Austrian


Ambassador, that Louis Napoleon addressed in
1859 his memorable speech which was tantamount
to a declaration of war. Since then the Baron
held no other diplomatic appointment, but he
received the title of Count. He lived much in
England, where his society was highly prized.
He wrote several delightful books of travel,
describing the journeys he took just before and
after he became eighty in every quarter of the
world. It was gratifying to his English friends
that, although an Ultramontane Catholic and a
Reactionary, he expressed great admiration of
our countrymen and of their achievements in every
part of the Empire. It was amusing to hear him
and Sir James Lacaita at one of our Breakfast
Club gatherings discuss their early experiences.
The Baron was appointed Commissioner at Milan
just before its evacuation by the Austrians. When
they left he was arrested and put under surveillance.
The Baron said : " Your friends the Liberals kept
me under surveillance for a hundred days." To
which Sir James replied : " That is better than
two days in a Neapolitan prison, which I owed to
your friend Bomba." ^ How much improved were
the times, when two men holding such opposite
views could thus pleasantly chaff each other.

One day Lady Eastlake - brought Madame Mohl
to luncheon, whose salon in Paris was so much

^ The nickname of the last of the Bourbon kings of Naples.
* An accomplished authoress, and the widow of Sir Charles Eastlake,
then President of the Academy.


frequented by English visitors. It was a glorious
day — all Nature smiling — when, stepping out on
to the terrace, she gazed on the lovely scene before
her and exclaimed, " How sorry you will be to
die!" My answer was: "My consolation is that
my son will in all probability survive me." Her
mind was said to be then failing, but I saw in
her enough to make me understand how she
became, with the help of her learned husband, so
popular a maitresse de maisoii.

My first introduction to Tennyson was at
the Cosmopolitan Club, and I saw him after-
wards, but not very frequently. I once lunched
with him at Aldworth, and Mr. Knowles^
invited me to meet him and the Gladstones at
dinner in London. Being somewhat indisposed,
he shirked the dinner, but in the evening sat in
an adjoining room, where we all by turns went
to pay our respects to him. If I remember right
Cardinal Manning was of the party. The next
morning I called upon Mr. Knowles to talk over
some matters connected with his becoming my
tenant at Holmbury. The eminent poet, who
was staying with Mr. Knowles, hearing that I
was in the house, expressed a wish to see me.
In the course of our conversation he suddenly
exclaimed that every time he met Mr. Gladstone
confirmed him in the opinion that he was the
most delightful person he ever knew. " But I
hate his politics and his dealings with the Irish,

^ Now Sir James Knowles.


all of whom I wish were at the bottom of the
sea." — " Not all," I said ; and added, pointing to
his charming daughter-in-law, the present Lady
Tennyson,^ who was listening to us, " Surely you
would except her." — " Of course I would, as I love
her dearly, but I cannot admit that she is an
Irishwoman." — Certainly the Boyles are always
looked upon as Irish, although the founder of the
family, the first Earl of Cork, was an Englishman.

I need hardly say that Tennyson's outbreak
against the Irish must not be taken too seriously.

Mr. Grote, the Greek historian, and his wife
were my near neighbours in the country. She
fully deserved her reputation of being an admir-
able talker. What she said was interesting,
original and amusing. She was thought by some
to be too downright. She was amiable and very
gracious to me. This made the ill-natured say
she won me by flattery — which is possible, because
I like flattery if it comes from a clever person and
if it can have no unworthy motive. Besides, to
be called " my young man over the hill " is not
displeasing to some one who has passed his fiftieth
year. During their early married life the Grotes
were the incarnation of Radicalism, but by the
time I knew them they had much modified their
views. He went the length of saying that he
had come to have some misgiving about the adoption
of the Ballot at elections, of which he had been the
chief promoter.

' She was a Boyle, a descendant of the seventh Earl of Cork.


Mrs. Grote had certainly a respect for rank.
I asked her one day whether she saw much of a
neighbouring baronet. — " How could I ? He is
an Irvingite!" — "But so is your great friend the
Duke of Northumberland." — " Oh, that is quite
another story." — So a Duke may hold opinions
which a Baronet may not. She was fond of
chaff One day Mr. Reeve complained of the
road leading up to her house being so steep that
his fly could hardly get up it. Upon which she
remarked that he had probably with him the last
number of the Edinburgh Review, of which he
was the editor. On another day they had a
dispute about some international question, which
made him sarcastically exclaim, "Another Grotius!"
She at once replied, "Another Puffendorf!" — a
name well suited to his portly person.

Mrs. Grote paid me several visits at Holmbury.
On one of these occasions a touching incident
occurred. My neighbour and relative Lady Mac-
donald was making an afternoon call, when I
rather disturbed her by telling her that Mrs.
Grote was my guest. At that moment Mrs. Grote
stepped in from the garden, when, recognising
one another, they at once threw themselves into
each other's arms, and then sat together on the
sofa, recounting all their youthful recollections.
Nearly sixty years before they had been bosom
friends. They had never since met, and they
never saw each other again.

It was my good fortune to have another near



neighbour, Mr. Farrer, to whom I have already
referred as a pupil of Mr. Plunkett. We agreed
upon most topics. We both lamented the undue
spirit of aggrandisement which has lately been so
detrimental to the country, and it would have
much grieved him to witness the revival of
Protectionist fallacies. He was the permanent
Under-Secretary of the Board of Trade when
Mr. Chamberlain became its President, He was
charmed with him, but was surprised to find how
ignorant he was of all economic questions. At
the same time, he was struck by his adroitness in
assimilating and reproducing arguments which he
did not understand. This was said when Mr.
Chamberlain still professed to be a Free Trader.
Farrer was much attached to his brother-in-law
Lord Iddesleigh. He had the highest opinion of
his ability, industry and good sense, as well as
of his many amiable qualities. But in one respect
he had some misgiving. He feared that when he
became the Leader in the House of Commons,
he would not have sufficient backbone for such a
position, which certainly proved to be the case.


MY son started in 1886 with his friend Mr.
Shoobridge to make a tour in India and
Java. They wished me to accompany them, but
I felt too old to undertake so long a journey, and
feared I should be a burden to them. They were
to be away seven months, which was a long
separation from my son, from whom I had never
been parted for more than a few weeks. Never-
theless, I was glad that they were going, as I
remembered with what pleasure in after life
I looked back to my own journey to India. I
decided, in order to distract myself in his absence,
to visit a number of countries which I regretted
never to have seen. In accordance with the rule
I have laid down I will not attempt to describe
the various places I went to. Such descriptions
should be made on the spot, and certainly not after
the lapse of many years. But it would be difficult
to make any other tour which would comprise
more exquisite scenery and more interesting towns.
The view which during my journey enchanted me
most was perhaps that from the plain which lies
above Patras, on the Gulf of Corinth.

My dear nieces, the two Miss Pitts, consented



to accompciny me during the first part of my
journey. We spent two months in Sicily, one
of them at Palermo and the other at different
places in the island. We saw all that is worth
seeing except the Temple of Segeste and the ruins
of Selinonte, which we could not well manage at
that time of the year. A friend of mine was
nearly drowned on his way to the Temple of
Pegeste. The ten days we passed at Taorminia
were very enjoyable. Thence we went to Naples,
where we divided our time between it and its
enchanting environs. We found that the following
incident had occurred at our hotel since we had
left it on our way out. The waiters had one day
all struck work, leaving the manager with his house
full of guests with nobody to wait upon them.
He said the guests very good-naturedly submitted
to great inconvenience, and he did his best, with
the help of some friends, to cope with the difficulty.
However, this state of things could not last ; and
being a man of resource, he saw his way to meet
it. He read in the newspapers an account of
the dreadful earthquake which had desolated the
Riviera and destroyed many hotels there, and at once
telegraphed to Mentone to desire that a number
of the waiters who had lost their employment
should be sent off to Naples by the next steamer.
They arrived the next morning to take the place
of those who had struck. The new-comers were
all Germans, and the manager declared he would
never again employ Italians. The latter were not


to be relied upon, and some of them had more
than once threatened to stab him. This is a
terrible blot on the Italian character. The Arm-
strong Company, of which I am a director, had
great difficulty when they first established their
works at Pozzuoli in dealing with their Italian
workmen. The first manager, a Swiss, told me
that among the workmen assassinations were fre-
quent. I was glad to find subsequently that these
were not assassinations, but cases of stabbing, which
did not prove fatal, though this was bad enough.
By degrees a superior class of men have been
obtained, who, being well paid, and therefore con-
tented, give no trouble, their efficiency being so
great that eight hundred men now do as much
work as twelve hundred did formerly.

My nieces, to my great regret, took leave of me
about the middle of April 1887. I was then most
hospitably received by the late Mr. George Rendel
(brother of Lord Rendel) and his amiable wife
at their enchanting Villa Marival, near Naples.
This was formerly known by the name of Villa
Strachan, having belonged to Lady Strachan, the
widow of Sir Richard. She became the chere
mnie of Lord Hertford, Croker's friend, whom
Thackeray satirised in Vanity Fair. The following
squib, upon the disastrous Walcheren expedition,
has immortalised Sir Richard :

The Earl of Chatham, with his sword drawn,
Stood waiting for Sir Richard Strachan ;
Sir Richard, longing to be at 'em,

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Online LibraryEdward Frederick Leveson-GowerBygone years; → online text (page 19 of 21)