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'the holy KOMAN' EMl'IRE.' 'THE AMiCRICAN CO.MM0N'w;;aL rH.' ETC.


.Ni:\V YORK : ! Ill-: MAfMU.l.AN COMPANY


Coffyright in the United States of America 1903

First Edition Afril 1903. Reprinted May 1903
Second Edition {>-evised) January 1904




pi;ksii)K.\t of harvard univkrsitv




The first and the last of these Studies relate to
persons whose fame has gone out into all lands, and
about whom so much remains to be said that one
who has reflected on their careers need not offer
an apology for saying something. Of the other
eighteen sketches, some deal with eminent men
whose names are still familiar, but whose person-
alities have begun to fade from the minds of the
present generation. The rest treat of persons
who came less before the public, but whose
brilliant gifts and solid services to the world
make them equally deserve to be remembered
with honour. Having been privileged to enjoy
their friendship, I have felt it a duty to do what
a friend can to present a faithful record of their
excellence which may help to keep their memory
fresh and green.

These Studies are, however, not to be regarded

viii Biographical Studies

as biographies, even in miniature. My aim
has rather been to analyse the character and
powers of each of the persons described, and,
as far as possible, to convey the impression
which each made in the daily converse of life.
All of them, except Lord Beaconsfield, were
personally, and most of them intimately, known
to me.

In the six Studies which treat of politicians
I have sought to set aside political predilections,
and have refrained from expressing political
opinions, though it has now and then been
necessary to point out instances in which the
subsequent course of events has shown Lord
Beaconsfield, Mr. Lowe, and Mr. Gladstone to
have been right or wrong (as the case may be)
in the action they respectively took.

The sketches of T. H, Green, E. A. Free-
man, and J. R. Green were originally written
for English magazines, and most of the other
Studies have been published in the United
States. All of those that had already appeared
in print have been enlarged and revised, some
indeed virtually rewritten. I have to thank the
proprietors of the English Historical Rcvieiu,



the Co7itcvLpora7y Review, and the Neiv York
Nation, as also the Century Company of New
York, for their permission to use so much of
the matter of the volume as had appeared (in
its original form) in the organs belonging to
them respectively.

March 6, 1903.


1. Bkmjamin Disrakli, Earl of


n. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, Dean

OF West.minsti:r
in. Thomas Hill ("iREen .
IV. Archh'.ald Campp.ell 'Fait, Arch

bishop of Canterbury .
V. Anthony Trollope .
VI. John Richard Green
\ii. Sir Ge()R(;e Jessel
VIII. Hu(;h ^['CALMON^ Cairns, Eari
Cairns ....
IX. James Eraser, liisnop of 2\1an

X. Stafford Henry Northcote

Eakl of Iddeslkioh
XL Charles Stewart Parneli,
XII. Henry Edward ]\L\nnix(;, x\rch

XIII. Edward Augustus 1'"reeman
XFv'. Ror.EkT Lowi;, \'isc:ol'nt Shi:r

liROOKF. ....

XV. ^\"II.LIA^i Ror,i;kisoN Smiii:
XVI. Henry Sidcwk:;

XVII. I'.DWAkii ErNI'.ST Ji(iWi;N

xviii. Edwin Eawri:xci, Codrix .
XIX. John ]', m e rich 1) a l f, i : r( ; - Actox

XX. ^\'ILLIAM I'^WARl ( il.ADSlON i:




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When Lord Beaconsfield died in 1881 we all
wondered what people would think of him fifty
years thereafter. Divided as our own judgments
were, we asked whether he would still seem a
problem. Would opposite views regarding his
aims, his ideas, the sources of his power, still
divide the learned, and perplex the ordinary
reader ? Would men complain that history can-
not be good for much when, with the abundant
materials at her disposal, she had not framed a
consistent theory of one who played so great a
part in so ample a theatre ? People called him
a riddle ; and he certainly affected a sphinx-like
attitude. Would the riddle be easier then than
it was for us, from among whom the man had
even now departed ?

When he died, there were many in England
who revered him as a profound thinker and a
lofty character, animated by sincere patriotism.

' No "authorised" life of Lord Heaconsfield, nor indeed any life com-
mensurale ^vilh the [lart he played in English j;olitics, has yet appeared.


2 Biographical Studies

Others, probably as numerous, held him for no
better than a cynical charlatan, bent through
life on his own advancement, who permitted no
sense of public duty, and very little human
compassion, to stand in the way of his insatiate
ambition. The rest did not know what to think.
They felt in him the presence of power ; they
felt also something repellent. They could not
understand how a man who seemed hard and
unscrupulous could win so much attachment and
command so much obedience.

Since Disraeli departed nearly one-half of
those fifty years has passed away. Few are
living who can claim to have been his personal
friends, none who were personal enemies. No
living statesman professes to be his political
disciple. The time has come when one may dis-
cuss his character and estimate his career without
being suspected of doing so with a party bias
or from a party motive. Doubtless those who
condemn and those who defend or excuse some
momentous parts of his conduct, such as, tor
instance, his policy in the East and in Afghan-
istan from 1876 to 1879, will differ in their
judgment of his wisdom and foresight. If this
be a difficulty, it is an unavoidable one, and
may never quite disappear. There were in the
days of Augustus some who blamed that sagacious
ruler for seeking to check the expansion of the
Roman Empire. There were in the days of King

Lord Beaconsfield 3

Henry the Second some who censured and others
who praised him for issuing the Constitutions of
Clarendon. Both questions still remain open to
argument ; and the conclusion any one forms
must affect in some measure his judgment of
each monarch's statesmanship. So differences of
opinion about particular parts of Disraeli's long
career need not prevent us from dispassionately
inquiring what were the causes that enabled him
to attain so striking a success, and w^hat is the
place which posterity is likely to assign to him
among the rulers of England.

First, a few words about the salient events of
his life, not by way of writing a biography, but
to explain what follows.

He was born in London, in 1804. His father,
Isaac Disraeli, was a literary man of cultivated
taste and independent means, who wrote a good
many books, the best known of which is his
Ciiriosities of Literatitre, a rambling work, full
of entertaining matter. He belonged to that
division of the Jewish race which is called
the Sephardim, and traces itself to Spain and
Portugal ; ^ but he had ceased to frequent the
synagogue had, in fact, broken with his co-
religionists. Isaac had access to good society, so
that the boy saw eminent and polished men irom
his early years, and, before he had reached man-

' Disraeli's family claimed lu be of Spanish orii^in, Init ha. I come from
Italy to Enj^land shortly before 174S.

4 Biographical Studies

hood, began to make his way in drawing-rooms
where he met the wittiest and best-known people
of the day. He was articled to a firm of attor-
neys in London In 1821, but after two or three
years quitted a sphere for which his peculiar gifts
were ill suited/ Samuel Rogers, the poet, took
a fancy to him, and had him baptized at the age
of thirteen. As he grew up, he was often to be
seen with Count d'Orsay and Lady Blessington,
well-known figures who fluttered on the confines
of fashion and Bohemia. It is worth remarking
that he never went either to a public school or to
a university. In England it has become the
fashion to assume that nearly all the persons who
have shone in public life have been educated in one
of the great public schools, and that they owe to
its training their power of dealing with men and
assemblies. Such a superstition is sufficiently
refuted by the examples of men like Pitt,
Macaulay, Bishop Wilberforce, Disraeli, Cobden,
Bright, and Cecil Rhodes, not to add instances
drawn from Ireland and Scotland, where till very
recently there have been no public schools in the
current English sense.

Disraeli first appeared before the public in
1826, when he published Vivian Grey, an amazing

' There are few legal allusions in his novels, fewer in priiporiion than
in Shakesjieare's plays, hul an ingi'iiious travest)' of the Mni^lish use of
legal (lelions maybe f)un<I in the ]'oyai;i: of Captain J\>patiiih!, a satire
on the English constitution and government. I'opanilla, who is to he
tried for treason, is, to liis astt)ni>hment, indicted for killing a can;clopard.

Lord Beaconsfield 5

book to be the production of a youth of twenty-
two. Other nov^els The Young Duke, Vcnctia,
Contarhii Fleming, Henrietta Temple main-
tained without greatly increasing his reputa-
tion between 1831 and 1837. Then came two
poHtical stories, Coningsby and Sybil, in 1844
and 1845, followed by Tancred in 1847, and the
Life of Lord George Bentinck in 1852 ; with a
long interval of silence, till, in 1870, he produced
Lothair, in 1880 Endymion. Besides these he
published in 1839 the tragedy oi Alar cos, and in
1835 the more ambitious Revolutionary Epick,
neither of which had much success. In 1828-31
he took a journey through the East, visiting
Constantinople, Syria, and Egypt, and it was
then, no doubt, in lands peculiarly interesting to
a man of his race, that he conceived those ideas
about the East and its mysterious influences
which figure largely in some of his stories,
notably in Tancred, and which in 1878 had no
small share in shaping his policy and that of
England. Meanwhile, he had not forgotten the
political aspirations which we see in Vivian Grey.
In 1832, just before the passing of the Reform
Bill, he appeared as candidate for the petty
borough of High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire,
and was defeated by a majority of twenty-three
to twelve, so few were the voters in many
boroughs of those days. After the Bill had
enlarged the constituency, he tried his luck twice

6 Biographical Studies

again, in 1833 ^"^ 1^35' both times unsuccess-
fully, and came before two other boroughs also,
Taunton and Marylebone, though in the latter
case no contest took place. Such activity in a
youth with little backing from friends and com-
paratively slender means marked him already as
a man of spirit and ambition. His next attempt
was more lucky. At the general election of 1837
he was returned for Maidstone.

His political professions during this period
have been keenly canvassed ; nor is it easy to
form a fair judgment on them. In 1832 he
had sought and obtained recommendations from
Joseph Hume and Daniel O'Connell, and people
had therefore set him down as a Radical. Al-
though, however, his professions of political
faith included dogmas which, like triennial parlia-
ments, the ballot, and the imposition of a new
land-tax, were part of the so-called " Radical "
platform, still there was a vague and fanciful
note in his utterances, and an aversion to the
conventional Whig way of putting things, which
showed that he was not a thorough -going
adherent of any of the then existing political
parties, but was trying to strike out a new line
and attract men by the promise of something
fresher and bolder than the recognised schools
offered. In 1834 his hostility to Whiggism
was becoming more pronounced, and a tender-
ness for some Tory doctrines more discernible.

Lord Beaconsfield


Finally, in 1835, he appeared as an avowed
Tory, accepting the regular creed of the party,
and declaring himself a follower of Sir Robert
Peel, but still putting forward a number of
views peculiar to himself, which he thereafter
developed not only in his speeches but in his
novels. Conmgsby and Sybil were meant to be
a kind of manifesto of the "Young England"
party a party which can hardly be said to have
existed outside his own mind, thous^h a small knot
of aristocratic youths who caught up and repeated
his phrases seemed to form a nucleus for it.

The fair conclusion from his deliverances
during these early years is that he w^as at first
much more of a Liberal than a Tory, yet with
ideas distinctively his own which made him appear
in a manner independent of both parties. The
old party lines might seem to have been almost
effaced by the struggle over the Reform i^ill ;
and it was natural for a bold and inventive niind
to imagine a new departure, and put forward a
programme in which a sort of Radicalism was
mingled with doctrines of a difterent t)pe. But
when it became clear after a time that the old
political divisions still subsisted, and that such a
distinctive position as he had conceived could not
be maintained, he then, having to choose between
one or other of the two recognised parties, chose
the Tories, dropping sonie tenets he had previ-
ously advocated which were inconsistent with their

8 Biographical Studies

creed, but retaining much of his peculiar way
of looking at political questions. How far the
change which passed over him was a natural
development, how far due to mere calculations of
interest, there is little use discussing : perhaps he
did not quite know himself. Looking back, we
of to-day might be inclined to think that he re-
ceived more blame for it than he deserved, but
contemporary observers generally set it down to a
want of principle. In one thing, however, he was
consistent then, and remained consistent ever after
his hearty hatred of the Whigs, There was
something in the dryness and coldness of the great
Whig families, their stiff constitutionalism, their
belief in political economy, perhaps also their
occasional toyings with the Nonconformists
(always an object of dislike to Disraeli), which
roused all the antagonisms of his nature, personal
and Oriental.

When he entered the House of Commons he
was already well known to fashionable London,
partly by his striking face and his powers of con-
versation, partly by the eccentricities of his dress
he loved bright-coloured waistcoats, and decked
himself with rings, partly by his novels, whose
satirical pungency had made a noise in society.
He had also become, owing to his apparent change
of front, the object of angry criticism. A quarrel
with Daniel O'Connell, in the course of which he
challenged the great Irishman to fight a duel, each

Lord Beaconsheld 9

party having described the other with a freedom
of language bordering on scurriHty, made him, for
a time, the talk of the political world. Thus
there was more curiosity evoked by his first
speech than usually awaits a new member. It
was unsuccessful, not from want of ability, but
because its tone did not suit the temper of
the House of Commons, and because a hostile
section of the audience sought to disconcert him
by their laughter. Undeterred by this ridi-
cule, he continued to speak, though in a less
ambitious and less artificial vein, till after a few
years he had become one of the most conspicuous
unofficial members. At first no one had eulo-
gised Peel more warmly, but after a time he
edged away from the minister, whether repelled
by his coldness, which showed that in that
quarter no promotion was to be expected, or
shrewdly perceiving that Peel was taking a line
which would ultimately separate him from the
bulk of the Conservative party. This happened
in 1846, when Peel, convinced that the import
duties on corn were economically unsound, pro-
posed their abolition. Disraeli, who, since 1S43,
had taken repeated opportunities of firing stray
shots at the powerful Prime Minister, now bore a
foremost part not only in attacking him, but in
organising the Protectionist party, and prompting
its leader, Lord George Bentinck. In embracing
free trade, Peel carried with him his own personal

lo Biographical Studies

friends and disciples, men like Gladstone, Sidney
Herbert, Lord Lincoln, Sir James Graham, Card-
well, and a good many others, the intellectual ilite
of the Tory party. The more numerous section
who clung to Protection had numbers, wealth,
respectability, cohesion, but brains and tongues
were scarce. An adroit tactician and incisive
speaker was of priceless value to them. Such
a man they found in Disraeli, while he gained,
sooner than he had expected, an opportunity of
playing a leading part in the eyes of Parliament
and the country. In the end of 1848, Lord
George Bentinck, who, though a man of natural
force and capable of industry when he pleased,
had been to some extent Disraeli's mouthpiece,
died, leaving his prompter indisputably the keenest
intellect in the ToryT^rotectionist party. In 1850,
Peel, who might possibly have in time brought
the bulk of that party back to its allegiance
to him, was killed by a fall from his horse.
The Peelites drifted more and more towards
Liberalism, so that when Lord Derby, who, in
185 1, had been commissioned as head of the
Tory party to form a ministry, invited them to
join him, they refused to do so, imagining him
to be still in favour of the corn duties, and
resenting the behaviour of the Protectionist
section to their own master. Being thus un-
able to find one of them to lead his followers in
the House of Commons, Lord Derby turned in

Lord Beaconsheld 1 1

1852 to Disraeli, giving him, with the leadership,
the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. The
appointment was thought a strange one, because
Disraeli brought to it absolutely no knowledge
of finance and no official experience. He had
never been so much as an Under-Secretary.
The Tories themselves murmured that one whom
they regarded as an adventurer should be raised
to so high a place. After a few months Lord
Derby's ministry fell, defeated on the Chancellor
of the Exchequer's Budget, which had been
vehemently attacked by ^Ir. Gladstone. This
was the beginning of that protracted duel between
him and Mr. Disraeli which lasted down till the
end of the latter's life.

For the following fourteen years Disraeli's
occupation was that of a leader of Op[)osition,
varied by one brief interval of office in 1858-59.
His party was in a permanent minority, so that
nothing was left for its chief but to fight with
skill, courage, and resolution a series of losing
battles. This he did with admirable tenacity of
purpose. Once or twice in every session he used
i;o rally his forces for a general engagement, and
though always defeated, he never suffered himselt
to be dispirited by defeat. During the rest of the
lime he was keenly watchful, exposing all the mis-
lakes in domestic affairs of the successive Liberal
Governments, and when complications arose in
foreign politics, always [professing, and generally

12 Biographical Studies

manifesting, a patriotic desire not to embarrass
the Executive, lest national interests should suffer.
Through all these years he had to struggle, not
only with a hostile majority in office, but also
with disaffection among his own followers. Many
of the landed aristocracy could not bring them-
selves to acquiesce in the leadership of a new
man, of foreign origin, whose career had been
erratic, and whose ideas they found it hard to
assimilate. Ascribing their long exclusion from
power to his presence, they more than once
conspired to dethrone him. In 1861 these plots
were thickest, and Disraeli was for a time left
almost alone. But as it happened, there never
arose in the House of Commons any one on the
Conservative side possessing gifts of speech and
of strategy comparable to those which in him
had been matured and polished by long ex-
perience, while he had the address to acquire
an ascendency over the mind of Lord Derby,
still the titular head of the party, who, being
a man of straightforward character, high social
position, and brilliant oratorical talent, was there-
withal somewhat lazy and superficial, and there-
fore disposed to lean on his lieutenant in the
Lower House, and to borrow from him those
astute schemes of policy which Disraeli was fertile
in devising. Thus, through Lord Derby's support,
and by his own imperturbable confidence, he frus-
trated all the plots of the malcontent Tories.

Lord Beaconsheld 13

New men came up who had not witnessed his
earHer escapades, but knew him only as the bold
and skilful leader of their party in the House of
Commons. He made himself personally agree-
able to them, encouraged them in their first
efforts, diffused his ideas among them, stimulated
the local organisation of the party, and held out
hopes of great things to be done when fortune
should at last revisit the Tory banner.

While Lord Palmerston lived, these exertions
seemed to bear little fruit. That minister had, in
his later years, settled down into a sort of prac-
tical Toryism, and both parties acquiesced in his
rule. But, on his death, the scene changed.
Lord Russell and Mr. Gladstone brought forward
a Reform Bill strong enough to evoke the latent
Conservative feeling of a House of Commons
which, though showing a nominally LibtTal
majority, had been chosen under Palmerstonian
auspices. The defeat of the Bill, due to the de-
fection of the more timorous Whigs, was followed
by the resignation of Lord Russell's !^Iinistry.
Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli came into power,
and, next year, carried a Reform Bill which, as it
was finallyshaped in its passage through the House,
really went further than Lord Russell's had done.
enfranchising a much larger number of the working
classes in boroughs. To have carried this Bill
remains the greatest of Disraeli's triumphs. He
had to push it gently through a hostile House of

14 Biographical Studies

Commons by wheedling a section of the Liberal
majority, against the appeals of their legitimate
leader. He had also to persuade his own followers
to support a measure which they had all their liv^es
been condemning, and which was, or in their view
ought to have been, more dangerous to the Con-
stitution than the one which they and the recal-
citrant Whigs had thrown out in the preceding
year. He had, as he happily and audaciously
expressed it, to educate his party into doing the
very thing which they (though certainly not he
himself) had cordially and consistently denounced.
The process was scarcely complete when the
retirement of Lord Derby, whose health had given
way, opened Disraeli's path to the post of first
jMinister of the Crown. He dissolved Parliament,
expecting to receive a majority from the gratitude
of the working class whom his Act had admitted
to the suffrage. To his own surprise, and to the
boundless disgust of the Tories, a Liberal House
of Commons was again returned, which drove him
and his friends once more into the cold shade of
Opposition. He was now sixty-four years of age,
had suffered an unexpected and mortifying dis-
comfiture, and had no longer the great name of
Lord Derby to cover him. Disaffected voices
were again heard among his own party, while the
Liberals, reinstalled in power, were led by the
rival whose unequalled popularity in the country
made him for the time omnipotent. Still Mr.

Lord Beaconsfield 1 5

Disraeli was not disheartened. He fought the
battle of apparently hopeless resistance with his
old tact, wariness, and tenacity, losing no occasion
for any criticism that could damage the measures
strong and large measures which Mr. Glad-
stone's Government brought forward.

Before long the tide turned. The Dissenters
resented the Education Act of 1870. A reaction

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceStudies in contemporary biography → online text (page 1 of 29)