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an account of what he had seen in Greece and Turkey,
in a volume which, if occasionally florid and imagina-
tive, is still a lively and copious piece of description.
It is even now worth turning to for a picture of the
ruin and distraction of Greece after the final expulsion
of the Turk.2

1 November 30, 1831.

^ Sketches in Greece and Turkey, with the Present Condition and
Future FrosiKcts of the Turkish Empire. London: Ridgway, 1833.

234 AV. It. GKKG : A SKETCH.

On his return ho found the country in the throes
of the great election after the Reform Bill. Perhaps
his experiences of the sovereign Demos on that
occasion helped to colour his opinions on popular
government afterwards.

December 5, 1832, — On Tuesday we nominated — there
was a fearful crowd of 10,000 ruffians, Grundy's friends
from the country. A tremendous uproar. I seconded
Mr. Walker's nomination, but was received with yells and
groans, owing chiefly to the prosecution which I have
instituted against the other candidate and four of his
supporters for intimidation of voters. The ruffians roared
at me like so many bulls of Bashan, and shook their fists
at me, whereupon I bowed profoundly ; and, finding it
impossible to obtain a hearing, I turned to the opposite
candidate and his immediate supporters on the hustings
and spoke to them. When we concluded, the uproar was
fearful. I was warned to escape as I could, which I did,
amid groans and hisses, but no violence. The next
morning we started polling. I had the honour of giving
the first vote, and at four o'clock the poll was decided in
our favour — Walker, 301 ; Grundy, 151. The next day
I returned from Manchester, and had not been in the mill
two hours before I was summoned to assist in quelling a
riot. I rode down immediately with three other gentlemen
and a magistrate to the scene of faction. We found plenty
of broken windows and heads, but no one killed. Here
were two parties of such bludgeon men as I never before
witnessed, evidently bent on mischief. We read the Riot
Act — sent for the military and the Haslams ! I rode
among the ruffians. They were in a state of extreme
exasperation, especially against me, but listened to my
exhortations, and after shaking their bludgeons at me,
came at last to shake hands. About dusk I received
several hints to take care of myself, so rode back to Green

\Y. E. GREG : A SKETCH. 236

Bank, and lay with my blunderbuss and sword, ready to
give entertainment to any visitor.

It is little wonder tliat in a man of his literary
temperament and predispositions a strong reaction
followed close behind these energetic performances.

Do you know [be writes, December 29], I am sick of
public life. I mean sicker than ever. The reward, or
rather success, is so very inadequate to the sacrifice ; and
the exertion, and the injury to one's character, mentally,
morally, and religiously, is so great, and one's real happi-
ness suffers yet more. My love for retirement and the
country, scientific studies, and calm, quiet, and refreshing
society, such as the country only can afl'ord, which has
always been a sort of passion, is now urging me more
strongly and imperiously than ever, to weigh conflicting
interests and tastes, and to hold fast that which is good.
And is it not far better to retire in the full vigour of life,
when the energy of application is still unimpaired, and can
be usefully directed 1

In 1833 Mr. Greg started in business on his own
account at Bury. He inherited his father's mechanical
taste, and took a lively interest in the improvements
that were constantly being made in those years in the
wonderful machinery of the cotton manufacture.
With his workpeople his relations were the most
friendlj', and he was as active as he had ever been
before in trying to better their condition. A wider
field was open for his philanthropic energies. Lanca-
shire was then the scene of diligent social efforts of
all kinds. Mr. Greg was an energetic member of the
circle at Manchester (Richard Cobden was another)

236 W. R. GREG : A SKETCH.

which at this time pushed on ccbicational, sanitary,
and poHtical improvements all over that important
district. He fully shared the new spirit of independ-
ence and self-assertion that began to animate the
commercial and manufacturing classes in the north
of England at the time of the Reform Bill. It
took a still more definite and resolute shape in the
great struggle ten years later for the repeal of the
Corn Laws. ' It is among these classes,' he said, in a
speech in 1841, 'that the onward movements of
society have generally had their origin. It is among
them that new discoveries in political and moral
science have invariably found the readiest acceptance ;
and the cause of Peace, Civilisation, and sound National
Morality has been more indebted to their humble but
enterprising labours, than to the measures of the most
sagacious statesman, or the teachings of the wisest

In 1835 Mr. Greg married the daughter of Dr.
Henry, an eminent physician in Manchester, and
honourably known to the wider world of science by
contributions to the chemistry of gases that were in
their day both ingenious and useful. Two years after
his marriage he offered himself as a candidate for the
parliamentary representation of Lancaster. He was
much too scrupulous for that exceedingly disreputable
borough, and was beaten by a great majority. In
1841 the health of his wife made it desirable to seek
a purer air than that of the factory district, and in
the spring of 1842 they settled in a charming spot at

W. E. GREG : A SKETCH. 237

the foot of Wansfell — -the hill that rises to the south-
east above Ambleside, and was sung by Wordsworth
in one of his latest sonnets : —

Wansfell ! this household has a favoured lot,

Living with liberty on thee to gaze,

To watch while morn first crowns thee with her rays ;

Or when along thy breast securely float

Evening's angelic clouds. . , .

When we are gone
From every object dear to mortal sight,
As soon we shall be, may these words attest •
How oft, to elevate our spirits, shone
Thy visionary majesties of light,
How in thy pensive glooms our hearts found rest.

Such a step had long been in his mind. From
Naples when on the threshold of active life, he had
written (February 6, 1832) :—

I am becoming more and more anxious to realise a
competence speedily, every time I look to the future, and
reflect on the true objects of life, and the likeliest means
of procuring them. I am desirous to be able to realise
the projects I have formed before the age of feeling and
acting be past, and before the energy of youth has been
evaporated by long repression. Life and talents and
desires were not given me to be wasted in a situation
where the power of doing good is at best very limited,
and where that of acquiring the hij^her kinds of know-
ledge and enjoying the best gifts of life is still more

The nearer prospect of the world of business and
actual contact with it made no change in the perpetual

238 W. R. GRECx : A. SKETCH.

I wonder [he writes, May 1 5, 1 833] how long philosophy
or indecision will induce to continue the dog's life I am
leading here. I never open a book, but shun them as if
they were poison, rise at half-past five o'clock, go to bed
at ten, and toil like a galley slave all day, willy, nilly.
]\Ian laV)()urs for the meat which perisheth, and the food
which satisfieth not.

The move to the Lakes, though it enriched his life
with many delicious hours, and gave him leisure for
thought and composition, yet seems to have led
directly to commercial difficulties. At first he spent
alternate weeks at Buiy and at Wansfell, and for a
little time he even removed to Macclesfield. But
business fell by insensible degrees into the second
place. Mr. Greg's temperament, moreover, was too
sanguine in practical affairs, as Cobden's was ; and we
might almost gather from his writings that he had
not that faculty of sustained attention to details
which is the pith and marrow of success in such a
business as his. At last the crash came in 1850.
Three years before this the health of his brother
Samuel had broken down, and William Greg added
the management of his affairs to his own. The strain
was too great, and a long struggle ended in defeat.
Both mills were closed, and the forty thousand pounds
of capital Avith which Mr. Greg had begun business
were almost entirely swept away. At the age of
forty-one he was called upon to begin life afresh.
The elasticity of his mind proved equal to all the
demands upon it, and they were severe. The illness

W. R. GREG : A SKETCH. 239

of his wife cast the shadow of a terrible cloud over his
house, and for long periods it was deprived of a mother,
and he of a companion. Yet amid these sore anxieties
and heavy depressions he never lost either his fortitude
or, what is much rarer than fortitude, that delicate
and watchful consideration for others which is one of
the most endearing of human characteristics. When
he was twenty years younger, he had written of himself
to one of his sisters (January 14, 1830) : —

Nature never cut me out for a happy man, for my
mind is so constituted as to create difficulties and sorrows
where I do not find them, and to strive with and over-
come them when I meet them. I am never so happy as
in times of difficulty and danger and excitement, and I
am afraid my line of life will furnish me with but few of
these times, so that I shall remain in the ground like the
seed of a strong plant, which has never found the soil or
the atmosphere necessary for its germination.

The judgment was not an unjust one, and the
apprehension that life would bring too few difficulties
was superfluous, as most of us find it to be. When
the difficulties came, he confronted them with patient
stoicism. His passionate love of natural beauty was
solace and nourishment to him during the fifteen
years of his sojourn in that taking, happy region of
silver lake and green mountain slope. He had many
congenial neighbours. Of Wordsworth he saw little.
The poet was, in external manner and habit, too
much of the peasant for Greg's intellectual fastidious-
ness. He called on one occasion at liydal Mount,


and Wordsworth, who had been regravelling his
little garden-walks, would talk of nothing but gravel,
its various qualities, and their respective virtues.
The fine and subtle understanding of Hartley Cole-
ridge, his lively fancy, his literature, his easy play
of mind, made him a more sympathetic companion
for a man of letters than his great neighbour. Of
him Mr. Greg saw a good deal until his death in
1849.^ Southey was still lingering at Greta Hall;
but it was death in life. He cherished and fondled
the books in his beloved library as if they had been
children, and moved mechanically to and fro in that
mournfid ' dream from which the sufferer can neithei"
wake nor be awakened.' Southey 's example might,
perhaps, have been a warning to the new-comer how
difficult it is to preserve a clear, healthy, and service-
able faculty of thinking about public affairs, without
close and constant contact with those who are taking
the lead in them.^ There was a lesson for the

^ Hartley Coleridge must, in Mr. Greg's case, have overcome
one of his prepossessions. ' I don't like cotton manufacturers
mucli, nor m(;rchants over much. Cobden seems to be a good
kind of fellow, but I wish he were not a cotton - spinner. I
rather respect him. I'm always on the side of the poor.'

^ I do not forget the interesting passage in Mill's Autobio-
graphy (pp. 262, 263), where he contends that 'by means of the
regular receipt of newspapers and periodicals, a political writer,
who lives many hundreds of miles from the chief seat of the
politics of his country, is kept au courant of even the most
temporary politics, and is able to acquire a more correct view
of the state and progress of opinion than he could acquire by
personal contact with individuals.'

W. E. GREG : A SKETCH. 241

Cassandra of a later day in the picture of Southey
when Mrs. Fletcher took tea with him in 1833.

I never saw any one [she said] whose mind was in so
morbid a state as that of this excellent poet and amiable
man on the subject of the present political aspect of
affairs in England. He is utterly desponding. He believes
the downfall of the Church and the subversion of all law
and government is at hand ; for in spite of all our
endeavours to steer clear of politics, he slid unconsciously
into the subject, and proclaimed his belief that the ruin
of all that was sacred and venerable was impending.^

The condition, say of Bury, in Lancashire, at that
time, contrasted with its condition to-day, is the
adequate answer to these dreary vaticinations.

One resident of the Lake District was as energetic
and hopeful as Southey was despondent. This was
Harriet Martineau, whom Mr. Greg first introduced
to the captivating beauty of Westmoreland, and
whom he induced in 1850 to settle there. Other
friends — the Speddings, the Arnolds at Fox How,
the Davys at Ambleside, the Fletchers at Lancrigg —
formed a delightful circle, all within tolerably easy
reach, and affording a haven of kind and nourishing
companionship. But, for a thinker upon the practical
aspects of political and social science, it was all too
far from —

Labour in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar.

For during these years Mr. Greg did not handle
merely the abstract principles of politics and sociology.

^ Autobiography, p. 214.

242 W. H. GREG : A SKETCH.

A very scanty livelihood would have come by that
way. He discussed the men, measures, and events
of the day ; and most of Avhat strikes one as unsatis-
factory in the discussion is probably due to a want
of that close observation of facts Avhich was hardly
possible to a student on the shores of Windermere.
On the other hand, it is still more certain that it
was in these meditative scenes that the germs were
ripened of those grave, ingenious, and affecting
speculations Avhich afterwards came to their full
growth in the Enigmas of Life — to most of us by so
much the most interesting of all its author's perform-
ances. His note-book shows that the thoughts that
are suggested in this short but important volume
were springing up in his mind for years, and that it
touches the problems that were most constantly
present to him in his best moments. It was during
his residence at Windermere that he worked out and
published (1851) his memorable book on the Creed of
Christendom. It is enough here to remind ourselves
how serious a place is held by that work in the
dissolvent literature of the generation. The jDresent
writer was at Oxford in the last three years of the
decade in which it appeared, and can well recall
the share that it had, along Avith Hansel's Bampton
Lectures and other books on ~both sides, in shaking
the fabric of early beliefs in some of the most active
minds then in the University. The landmarks have
so shifted within the last twenty years that the
Creed of Christendom is now comparatively orthodox.

W. E. GREG : A SKETCH. 243

But in those days it M'as a remarkable proof of
intellectual courage and independence to venture on
introducing to the English public the best results of
German theological criticism, with fresh applications
from an original mind. Since then the floods have
broken loose. One may add that Mr. Greg's specula-
tions show, as Hume and smaller men than Hume
had shown before, how easily scepticism in theology
allies itself with the fastidious and aristocratic senti-
ment in politics.

As was to be expected under the circumstances,
much of Mr. Greg's time was given to merely fugitive
articles on books or groups of passing events. Even
the slightest of them, so far as they are known to me,
show conscience and work. In 1852, for example,
he wrote no less than twelve articles for the four
leading quarterlies of that date. They were, mth
one exception, all on political or economical subjects.
'Highland Destitution,' and 'Irish Emigration,' 'In-
vestments for the Working Classes,' 'The Modern
Exodus;' — these were not themes to be dealt with
by the facile journalist, standing on one foot. Mr.
Greg always showed the highest conception of the
functions and the obligations of the wiiter who
addresses the public, in however ephemeral a form,
on topics of social importance. No article of his
ever showed a trace either of slipshod writing or of
make-believe and perfunctory thinking. To compose
between four and five hundred pages like these, on
a variety of grave subjects, all needing to be carefully

244 W. R. GREG : A SKETCH.

prepared and systematically tliought out, was no
inconsiderable piece of work for a single pen. The
strain was severe, for there was insufficient stimulus
from outside, and insufficient refreshment within his
own home. Long days of study were followed by
solitary evening walks on the heights, or lonely
sailing on the lake. In time, visits to London became
more frequent, and he got closer to the world. Once
a year he went to Paris, and he paid more than one
visit to Do Tocqueville at his home in Normandy.
I remember that he told me once how surprised and
disappointed he was by the indifference of public
men, even the giants like Peel, to anything like
general views and abstract principles of politics or
society. They listened to such views with reason-
able interest, but only as matters lying quite apart
from their own business in the world. The statesman
who pleased him best, and with whom he found most
common ground, was Sir George Cornewall Lewis.

Like most men of letters who happen to be blessed
or cursed with a prudential conscience, Mr. Greg was
haunted by the uncertainty of his vocation. He
dreaded, as he expressed it, ' to depend on so precari-
ous a thing as a brain always in thinking order.' In
every other profession there is much that can be done
by deputy, or that does itself, or is little more than
routine and the mechanical. In letters alone, if the
brain be not in working order, all is lost. In 1856
Sir Cornewall Lewis, who was then Chancellor of the
Exchequer, offered Greg a place on the Board of

W. E. GKEG : A SKETCH. 245

Customs, and he accepted it. Yet, as he said, he did
so ' with some loathing and great misgiving.' Five
years earlier he would have entered upon it with
eagerness, but in five years he was conscious of having
made ' sad progress in that philosophy whose root is
idleness, indulged freedom, and increasing years.'
To James Spedding he wrote on the 24th of May
1856 :—

My position every one but myself seems to think
most enviable. / contrast Lower Thames Street with The
Craig, and my heart sinks into my shoes. The attend-
ance is onerous ; the actual work is not. It seems to be
a place wherein a man may grow old comfortably. There
is a good salary (nominally £1200), and a liberal retiring
allowance when you are worked out. A board every
day — except for two months' holiday, varied only by
occasional tours of inspection — sounds horrible slavery
to a man accustomed to wander at his own free will ;
and finally, at my time of my life, I have an indefinable
dislike to anything involving a total change of life and
habits. En revanche, I have a provision for old age and
for my family, and shall be almost as glad to be spared
the necessity of writing for bread — for butter at least —
as sorry to be tied out from scribbling when and where
the spirit moves me.

My last quarter's labours are an article on America
in the National, and on IMontalembert in the Edinburgh,
and one on Macaulay in the North Briton, of which I am
not proud. Fronde's History I have not yet seen. I hope
now, as I write less, I shall have more time for reading.
It seems to be somewhat paradoxical. By the way, is
not Carlyle sadly gone off ? I met him the other day,
and he did nothing but blaspheme, and pour out a tor-
rent of bad language against blackguards, fools, and devils
that was appalling to listen to.


On the whole, when the time came, his new em-
ployment brought him moderate interests of its own.
What may be called the literary part of the work,
such as the drawing up of reports, naturally fell into
his hands. The necessity of working with other
people, which does not always come easily to men
accustomed to the isolation and independence of
their own libraries, he found an agreeable novelty.
Still he was not sorry when, at the end of 1864,
the chance came to him of a move to the Sta-
tionery Office. Here he Avas the head of a depart-
ment, and not merely a member of a Board, and
the regulation of his hours fell more into his own

From the time when he came to London, until
his death five and twenty years later (November 1881),
his life was for the most part without any incident in
which the world can have an interest. He formed
many acquaintances according to the cheerful and
hospitable fashion of London, and he made a number
of warm and attached friends. In 1873 his wife died.
In the following year he married a daughter of Mr.
James Wilson, well known as the fellow-worker of
Cobden and Bright in the agitation against the Corn
Laws, and as Finance Minister in India, where he
sank under the cares of his office in 1860. Mr. Wilson
had been Greg's intimate friend from the days of the
League down to the time of his death. When by
and by Mr, Greg retired from his post as Controller
(1877), he wrote :—

W. R. GREG : A SKETCH. 247

For myself, since I gave up office, I feel compara-
tively and indeed positively in haven and peace, and with
much and rather unusual brightness and sunshine round
me, and with my interest in the world, both speculative
and practical, quite undiminished, and finding old age on
the whole cheerful and quiet, and the position of a S2)ec-
tator by no means an unenviable one.

This was his attitude to the end. A heavy shock
fell upon him in the death of his brother-in-law,
Walter Bagehot (1877), that brilliant original, well
known to so many of us, who saw events and books
and men with so curious an eye.

He was quite a unique man [Mr. Greg wrote to Lady
Derby], as irreplaceable in private life as he is universally
felt to be in public. He had the soundest head I ever
knew since Cornewall Lewis left us, curiously original,
yet without the faintest taint of crotchetiness, or preju-
dice, or passion, wbicli so generally mars originality. Then
lie was high-minded, and a gentleman to the backbone ; the
man of all I knew, both mentally and morally, best icorth
talking things over with ; and I was besides deeply attached
to him personally. We had been intimates and collabor-
ateurs in many lines for twenty-five years ; so that alto-
gether there is a great piece gone out of my daily life, and
a great stay also — the greatest, in fact. There is no man
living who was, taken all in all, so much of me.

There is a pensive grace about one of his last
letters to the widow of the favourite brother of earlier
days : —

I cannot let Christmas pass, dear Mary, without send-
ing you a word of love and greeting from us both, to all
of you of both generations. It cannot be a " merry "

248 W. R. GREG : A SKETCH.

Christmas for finy of us exactly ; there is so mnch around
that is anxious and sad, and indeed almost gloomy, and
life is passing away to our juniors. But we have still
mucli to make us thankful and even happy ; and, as a
whole, life to those whom it concerns, much more than to
us, to most of them at least, is reasonably cheerful. At
least they are young and vigorous, and have pluck to face
the battle of years to come. We have little to do now
but watch and sympathise, and give what little help we

Greg's own departure was not much longer de-
ferred. He died in November 1881.

He was not one of the fortunate beings who can
draw on a spontaneous and inexhaustible fund of
geniality and high spirits. He had a craving both
for stimulation and for sympathy. Hence he be-
longed to those who are always happier in the society
of women than of men. In his case this choice was
not due, as it so often is, to a love of procuring defer
ence cheaply. It was not deference that he sought,
but a sympathy that he could make sure of, and that
put him at his ease. Nobody that ever lived was
less of a pedant, academic don, or loud Sir Oracle.
He was easy to live with, a gay and appreciative

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