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repelling advances with a sort of icy courtesy.
He hardly ever lost his temper in the House of
Commons, even in his last session under the
sarcasms of his former friends, though the low,
almost hissing tones of his voice sometimes
betrayed an internal struggle. But during the
electoral campaign in Kilkenny, in December
1890, when he was fighting for his life, he was
more than once so swept away by anger that
those beside him had to hold him back from
jumping off the platform into the crowd to strike
down some one who had interrupted him. Sus-
pended for a moment, his mastery of himself
quickly returned. Men were astonished to
observe how, after some of the stormy passages
at the meetings of Irish members held in one
of the House of Commons committee-rooms in
December 1890, he would address quietly, per-
haps lay his hand upon the shoulder of, some one

Charles Stewart Parnell 241

of the colleagues who had just been denouncing
him, and on whom he had poured all the vitriol
of his fierce tongue. As this could not have
been good -nature, it must have been either
calculated policy or a pride that would not
accept an injury from those whom he had been
wont to deem his subjects. Spontaneous kind-
liness was never ascribed to him ; nor had he,
so far as could be known, a single intimate

Oratory is the usual avenue to leadership in a
democratic movement, and Mr. Parnell is one of
the very few who have arrived at power neither
by that road nor by military success. So far
from having by nature any of the gifts or graces
of a popular speaker, he was at first conspicuously
deficient in them, and became at last effective
only by constant practice, and by an intellectual
force which asserted itself through commonplace-
ness of language and a monotonous delivery.
Fluency was wanting, and even moderate ease
was acquired only after four or five years' practice.
His voice was neither powerful nor delicate in its
modulations, but it was clear, and the enunciation
deliberate and distinct, quiet when the matter
was ordinary, slow and emphatic when an import-
ant point arrived. With very little action of the
body, there was often an interesting and obviously
unstudied display of facial expression. So far from
glittering with the florid rhetoric supposed to

2^2 Biographical Studies

characterise Irish eloquence, his speeches were
singularly plain, bare, and dry. Neither had
they any humour. If they ever raised a smile,
which seldom happened, it was by some touch of
sarcasm or adroit thrust at a point left unguarded
by an adversary. Their merit lay in their
lucidity, in their aptness to the matter in hand,
in the strong practical sense which ran through
them, coupled with the feeling that they came
from one who led a nation, and whose forecasts
had often fulfilled themselves. They were care-
fully prepared, and usually made from pretty
full notes ; but the preparation had been given
rather to the matter and the arrangement than to
the diction, which had rarely any ornament or
literary finish. Of late years he spoke infre-
quently, whether from indolence or from weak
health, or because he thought little was to be
done in the face of a hostile majority, now that
the tactics of obstruction had been abandoned.
When he interposed without preparation in a
debate which had arisen unexpectedly, he was
short, pithy, and direct ; indeed, nothing was
more characteristic of Parnell than his talent
for hitting the nail on the head, a talent which
always commands attention in deliberative assem-
blies. No one saw more clearly or conveyed in
terser language the course which the circumstances
of the moment required ; and as his mastery of
parliamentary procedure and practice came next

Charles Stewart Parnell 243

to that of Mr. Gladstone, any advice that he
gave to the House on a point of order carried
weiofht. It would indeed be no exao-treration to
say that during the sessions of 1889 and 1890
he was distinctly the second man in the House
of Commons, surpassed in debating power by
five or six others, but inferior to Mr. Gladstone
alone in the interest which his speeches excited
and in the impression they produced. Along
with this access of influence his attitude and the
spirit of his policy appeared to rise and widen.
There was less of that hard attorneyism which
had marked his criticisms of the Tory Government
and their measures up to March 1S80, and of the
Liberal Government and their measures during
the five following years. He seemed to grow
more and more to the full stature of a statesman,
with constructive views and a willinoness to make
the best of the facts as he found them. Yet even
in this later and better time one note of o;reat-
ness was absent from his speeches. There was
nothing [^^enial or Q^enerous or elevated about
them. They never soared into an atmosphere
of lofty feeling, worthy of the man who was by
this time deemed to be leading his nation to
victory, and who had begun to be admired and
honoured by one of the two great historic English

Parnell was not only versed in the rules of
parliamentary procedure, but also a consummate

244 Biographical Studies

master of parliamentary tactics. Soon after he
entered the House of Commons he detected its
weak point, and perfected a system of obstruc-
tion which so destroyed the efficiency of its time-
honoured modes of doing business that new sets
of rules, each more stringent than the preceding,
had to be devised between 1878 and 1888. The
skill with which he handled his small but well-
disciplined battalion was admirable. He was
strict with individuals, requiring absolute obedi-
ence to the party rules, but ready to gratify any
prevailing current of feeling when he saw that
this could be done without harm to the cause.
More than once, when English members who
happened to be acting with him on some particular
question pressed him to keep his men quiet and
let a division be taken at once, he answered that
they were doubtless right in thinking that the
moment for securing a good division had arrived,
but that he must not muzzle his followers when
they wanted to have their fling. The best
proof of the tact with which he ruled a section
comprising many men of brilliant talents lies
in the fact that there was no serious revolt,
or movement towards revolt, against him until
the breach of 1890 between himself and the
Liberal party had led to the belief that his con-
tinued leadership would mean defeat at the polls
in Great Britain, and the postponement, perhaps
for many years, of Home Rule for Ireland.

Charles Stewart Parnell 245

Parnell's political views and tendencies were
eagerly canvassed by those who had studied
him closely. Many, among both Englishmen
and Irishmen, held that he was at heart a Con-
servative, valuing strong government and attached
to the rights of property. They predicted that
if an Irish Parliament had been established, as
proposed by Mr. Gladstone in 1S86, and an
Irish cabinet formed to administer the affairs of
the island, Parnell would have been the in-
evitable and somewhat despotic leader of the
party of authority and order. His co-operation
with the agrarian agitators from 1879 onwards
was in this view merely a politic expedient to
gain support for the Home Rule campaign. For
this theory there is much to be said. Though
he came to lead a revolution, and was willing,
as appeared in the last few months of his life, to
appeal to the genuine revolutionary party, Parnell
was not by temper or conviction a revolutionist.
Those who were left in Ireland of the old Fenian
group, and especially that section of the extreme
Fenians out of which the secret insurrectionary
and dynamitard societies were formed, never
liked or trusted him. The passion which origin-
ally carried him into public life was hatred of
England, and a wish to restore to Ireland, if
possible her national independence (though he
rarely if ever avowed this), or at least her
own Parliament. But he was no democratic

2^6 Biographical Studies

leveller, and still less inclined to those socialistic
doctrines which the section influenced by Mr.
Davitt had espoused. He did not desire the
"extinction of landlordism," and would prob-
ably have been a restraining and moderating
force in an Irish legislature. That he was
genuinely attached to his native country need not
be doubted. But his patriotism had little of a
sentimental quality, and seemed to spring as
much from dislike of England as from love of

It may excite surprise that a man such as has
been sketched, with so cool a judgment and so
complete a self-control, a man (as his previous
career had shown) able to endure temporary
reverses in the confidence of ultimate success,
should have committed the fatal error, which
blasted his fame and shortened his life, of cling-
ing to the headship of his party when prud-
ence prescribed retirement. When he sought
the advice of Mr. Cecil Rhodes, retirement for
a time was the counsel he received. His
absence need not have been of long duration.
Had he, after the sentence of the Divorce
Court in November 1890, gone abroad for
eight or ten months, allowing some one to
be chosen in his place chairman of the Irish
party for the session, he might thereafter have
returned to the House of Commons, and would
doubtless, after a short lapse of time, have

Charles Stewart Parnell 247

naturally recovered the leadership. No one else
could have resisted his claims. Unfortunately,
the self-reliant pride which had many a time
stood him in good stead, made him refuse to
bow to the storm. Probably he could not
understand the indignation which the proceed-
ings in the divorce case had awakened in
England, being morally somewhat callous, and
knowing that his offence had been no secret to
many persons in the House of Commons, He
had been accustomed to despise English opinion,
and had on former occasions suffered little
for doing so. He bitterly resented both Mr.
Gladstone's letter and the movement to depose
him which it roused in his own party. Having
often before found defiant resolution lead to
success, he determined again to rely on the
maxim which has beguiled so many to ruin, just
because it has so much truth in it " De raitdace,
encore de raicdace, toujour s de raudaccT The
affront to his pride disturbed the balance of his
mind, and made him feel as if even a temporary
humiliation would destroy the prestige that had
been won by his haughty self-confidence. It
was soon evident that he had overestimated his
power in Ireland, but when the schism began
there were many besides Lord Salisbury many
in Ireland as well as in England who predicted
triumph for him. Nor must It be thought that
it was pure selfishness which made him resolve

248 Biographical Studies

rather to break with the English Liberals than
allow the Nationalist bark to be steered by any
hands but his own. He was a fatalist, and had
that confidence in his star and his mission which
is often characteristic of minds in which super-
stition for he was superstitious and a certain
morbid taint may be discerned. There were
others who believed that no one but himself could
hold the Irish party together and carry the Irish
cause to triumph. No wonder that this belief
should have filled and perhaps disordered his
own brain.

The swiftness of his rise is a striking instance
of the power which intellectual concentration and a
strenuous will can exert, for he had no adventitious
help from wealth or family connection or from
the reputation of having suffered for his country.
Ergo vivida vis aiiinii pervicit. When he entered
Parliament he was only thirty, with no experience
of affairs and no gift of speech ; but the quality
that was in him of leading and ruling men, of
taking the initiative, of seeing and striking at the
weak point of the enemy, and fearlessly facing the
brunt of an enemy's attack, made itself felt in a
few months, and he rose without effort to the first
place. With some intellectual limitations and
some great faults, he will stand high in the long
and melancholy series of Irish leaders : less
lofty than Grattan, less romantic than Wolfe
Tone, less attractive than O'Connell, less brilliant

Charles Stewart Parnell 249

than any of these three, yet entitled to be
remembered as one of the most remarkable
characters that his country has produced in her
struggle of many centuries against the larger


Henry Edward Manning, Archbishop of West-
minster and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church,
was born in 1808, eight years after Cardinal
Newman, and died in 1892. He was one of the
most notable figures of his generation ; and, in-
deed, in a sense, an unique figure, for he con-
tributed a new type to the already rich and
various ecclesiastical life of England. If he
could scarcely be described as intellectually a man
of the first order, he held a considerable place
in the history of his time, having effected what
greater men might perhaps have failed to effect,
for the race is not always to the swift, and time
and chance favoured Manning.

He was the son of wealthy parents, his father
a City of London merchant ; was educated at
Harrow and at Oxford, where he obtained high
classical honours and a Fellowship at Merton
College ; was ordained a clergyman, and soon rose
to be Archdeacon of Chichester ; and, having by
degrees been led further and further from his
original Low Church position into the Tractarian

movement, ultimately, at the age of forty-three,


Cardinal Manning 251

went over to the Church of Rome. Having
some time before lost his wife, he was at once
re-ordained a priest, was appointed Archbishop
of Westminster on Cardinal Wiseman's death in
1865, and raised to the Cardinalate by Pope
Pius IX, in 1875.

He was not a great thinker nor a man of
wide learning. His writings show no trace of
originality, nor indeed any conspicuous philo-
sophical acuteness or logical power. So far as
purely intellectual gifts are concerned, he was
not to be named with Cardinal Newman or with
several other of the ablest members of the
English Tractarian party, such as were the two
metaphysicians W. G. Ward and Dalgairns, both
of whom passed over to Rome, or such as was
Dean Church, an accomplished historian, and a
man of singularly beautiful character, who re-
mained an Anglican till his death in 1890. Nor,
though he had won a high reputation at his
University, was Manning a leading spirit in the
famous "Oxford Movement." It was by his win-
ning manners, his graceful rhetoric, and his zealous
discharge of clerical duties, rather than by any
commanding talents that he rose to eminence in
the Church of England. Neither had his character
the same power either to attract or to awe as that
of Newman. Nobody in those days called him
great, as men called Newman. Nobody felt
compelled to follow where he led. There was

2^2 Biographical Studies

not, either in his sermons or in his writings, or
in his bodily presence and conversation, any-
thing which could be pronounced majestic, or
lofty, or profound. In short, he was not in the
grand style, either as a man or as a preacher, and
wanted that note of ethereal purity or passionate
fervour which marks the two highest forms of
religious character.

Intelligent, however, skilful, versatile he was
in the highest degree ; cultivated, too, with a
knowledge of all that a highly educated man
ought to know ; dexterous rather than forcible
in theological controversy ; an admirable rheto-
rician, handling language with something of that
kind of art which Roman ecclesiastics most
cultivate, and in their possession of which the
leading Tractarians showed their affinity to
Rome, an exact precision of phrase and a subtle
delicacy of suggestion. Newman had it in the
fullest measure. Dean Church had it, with less
brilliance than Newman, but with no less grace and
dignity. Manning equalled neither of these, but
we catch in him the echo. He wrote abundantly
and on many subjects, always with cleverness
and with the air of one who claimed to belong
to the dmes d'dlite, yet his style never attained
the higher kind of literary merit. There was no
imaginative richness about it, neither were there
the weight and penetration that come from sus-
tained and vigorous thinking. Similarly, with a

Cardinal Manning 253

certain parade of references to history and to
out-of-the-way writers, he gave scant evidence of
solid learning. He was an accomplished disputant
in the sense of knowing thoroughly the more
obvious weaknesses of the Protestant (and especi-
ally of the Anglican) position, and of being able
to contrast them effectively with the external
completeness and formal symmetry of the Roman
system. But he never struck out a new or
illuminative thought ; and he seldom ventured
to face one could indeed sometimes mark him
seeking to elude a real difficulty.

What, then, was the secret of his great and
long-sustained reputation and influence ? It lay
in his power of dealing with men. For the work
of an ecclesiastical ruler he had three inestimable
gifts a resolute will, captivating manners, and a
tact equally acute and vigilant, by which he
seemed not only to read men's characters, but to
discern the most effective means of playing on
their motives. To call him an intriguer would be
unjust, because the word, if it does not imply the
pursuit of some mean or selfish object, does
generally connote a resort to unworthy arts ; and
the Cardinal was neither dishonourable nor selfish.
But he had the talents which an intriguer needs,
though he used them in a spirit of absolute
devotion to the interests of his Church, and though
he was too much of a gentleman to think that
the interests of the Church, which might justify

2 54 Biographical Studies

a good deal, could be made to justify any and
every means. In conversation he had the art
of seeming to lay his mind alongside of yours,
wishful to know what you had to say, and
prepared to listen respectfully to it, even though
you might be much younger and of no personal
consequence. Yet you sometimes felt, if your
own power of observation had not been lulled to
sleep by the winning manner, that he was watch-
ing you, and watching, in conformity to a settled
habit, the effect upon you of whatever he said. It
was hard not to be flattered by this air of kindly
deference, and natural to admire the great man
who condescended without condescension, even
though one might be secretly disappointed at the
want of freshness and insight in his conversa-
tion. Like his famous contemporary. Bishop
Samuel Wilberforce, Manning was all things to
all men. He was possessed, no doubt, of far
less wit and far less natural eloquence than that
brilliant but variable creature. But he gave
a more distinct impression of earnest and un-
questioning loyalty to the cause he had made his

In the government of his diocese. Manning
showed himself a finished ruler and manager of
men, flexible in his power of adapting himself to
any character or society, yet inflexible when firm-
ness was needed, usually tactful if not always
gentle in his methods, but tenacious In his pur-

Cardinal Manning 255

poses, demanding rightfully from others the
simplicity of life and the untiring industry
of which he set an example himself. Over
women his influence was still o-reater than over
men, because women are more susceptible to
the charm of presence and address ; nor could
any other ecclesiastic count so many conversions
among ladies of high station, his dignified car-
riage and ascetic face according admirably with
his sacerdotal rank and his life of strict observ-
ance. For some years it was his habit to go to
Rome early in Lent and remain till after Easter.
Promising subjects, who had doubts as to their
probabilities of salvation in the Anglican com-
munion, used to be invited to dinner to meet
him, and they fell in swift succession before his
skilful presentation of the peace and bliss to be
found within the Roman fold.

In his public appearances, it was neither
the solid substance of his discourses nor the
literary quality of their style that struck one, but
their judicious adaptation to the audience, and
the grace with which they were delivered. For
this reason originality being rarer and therefore
more precious in the pulpit, where well-worn
themes have to be handled, than on a platform,
where the topic is one of the moment his
addresses at public meetings were better than his
sermons, and won for him the reputation of a
speaker whom it was well worth while to secure

256 Biographical Studies

at any social or philanthropic gathering. At the
Vatican QEcumenical Council of 1870 it was less
by his speeches than by his work in private among
the assembled prelates that he served the In-
fallibilist cause. Himself devoted, and, no doubt,
honestly devoted, to Ultramontane principles, he
did not hesitate to do violence to history and join
in destroying what freedom the Church at large
had retained, in order to exalt the Chair of Peter
to a position unheard of even at Trent, not to say
in the Middle Ages. His activity, his assiduity,
and his tireless powers of persuasion contri-
buted largely to the satisfaction at that Council
of the wishes of Pius IX., who presently rewarded
him with the Cardinalate. But the opponents of
the new dogma, who were as superior in learning
to the Infallibilists as they proved inferior in
numbers, carried back with them to Germany and
North America an undying distrust of the astute
Englishman who had shown more than a con-
vert's proverbial eagerness for rushing to extremes
and forcing others to follow. I remember to
have met some of the anti-Infallibilist prelates
returning to America in the autumn of 1870;
and in our many talks on shipboard they spoke of
the Archbishop in terms no more measured than
Nestorius may have used of St, Cyril after the
Council of Ephesus.

But Manning's powers shone forth most fully
in the course he gave to his policy as Arch-

Cardinal Manning 257

bishop of Westminster and head of the Roman
hierarchy in Britain. He had two difficulties
to confront. One was the suspicion of the
old English Roman Catholic families, who dis-
trusted him as a recent recruit from Protestantism,
a man brought up in ideas unfamiliar to their
conservative minds. The other was the aversion
of the ruling classes in England, and indeed of
Englishmen generally, to the pretensions of Rome
an aversion which, among the Tories, sprang
from deep-seated historical associations, and among
the Whigs drew further strength from dislike to
the reactionary tendencies of the Popedom on the
European continent, and especially its resistance
to the freedom and unity of Italy. In 1850
the creation by the Pope of a Roman Catholic
hierarchy in England, followed by Cardinal
W^iseman's letter dated from the Flaminian Gate,
had evoked a burst of anti-papal feeling which
never quite subsided during Wiseman's lifetime.
Both these enmities Manning overcame. The
old Catholic families rallied to a prelate who
supported with dignity and vigour the pretensions
of their church ; while the suspicions of Protest-
ants were largely, if not universally, allayed
when they noted the attitude of a patriotic
Englishman, zealous for the greatness of his
country, which the Archbishop assumed, as well
as the heartiness with which he threw himself

into moral and philanthropic causes. Loyalty to


258 Biographical Studies

Rome never betrayed him into any apparent
disloyalty to England. Too prudent to avow
sympathy with either political party, he seemed
less opposed to Liberalism than his predecessor
had been or than most of the English Catholics
were. While, of course, at issue with the Liberal
party upon educational questions, he was believed
to lean to Home Rule, and maintained good rela-
tions with the Irish leaders. He joined those
who worked for the better protection of children
and the repression of vice, advocated total abstin-
ence by precept and example, and did much to
promote it among the poorer Roman Catholic
population. Discerning the growing magnitude
of what are called labour questions, he did not
recoil from proposals to limit by legislation the
hours of toil, and gladly exerted himself to settle
differences between employers and workmen,
showing his own sympathy with the needs and
hardships of the latter. Thus he won a popu-
larity with the London masses greater than any

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceStudies in contemporary biography → online text (page 15 of 29)