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The life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 online

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was placed in office was disclosed.* The session of 1882 had
only been exceeded in duration by two sessions for fifty years.
The reader has had pictures enough from friendly hands,
so here is one from a persistent foe, one of the most
brilliant journalists of that time, who listened to him from

1 Times, Dec. 8, 1882. * Morning Post, Oct. 20, 1882.

» Standard, Nov. 16, 1882.

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the gallery for years. The words are from an imaginary CHAP,
dialogue, and are put into the mouth of a well-known whig <

in parliament : — ^ 73 -

Sir, I can only tell you that, profoundly as I distrusted him,
and lightly as on the whole I valued the external qualities of his
eloquence, I have never listened to him even for a few minutes
without ceasing to marvel at his influence over men. That white-
hot face, stern as a Covenanter's yet mobile as a comedian's;
those restless, flashing eyes ; that wondrous voice, whose richness
its northern burr enriched as the tang of the wood brings out the
mellowness of a rare old wine; the masterly cadence of his elocu-
tion ; the vivid energy of his attitudes ; the fine animation of his
gestures ; — sir, when I am assailed through eye and ear by this
compacted phalanx of assailants, what wonder that the stormed
outposts of the senses should spread the contagion of their own
surrender through the main encampment of the mind, and that
against my judgment, in contempt of my conscience, nay, in
defiance of my very will, I should exclaim, 'This is indeed the
voice of truth and wisdom. This man is honest and sagacious
beyond his fellows He must be believed, he must be obeyed ! ' *

On the day of his political jubilee (Dec. 13), the event
was celebrated in many parts of the country, and he received
congratulatory telegrams from all parts of the world; for
it was not only two hundred and forty liberal associations
who sent him joyful addresses. The Roumelians poured
out aloud their gratitude to him for the interest he con-
stantly manifested in their cause, and for his powerful and
persistent efforts for their emancipation. From Athens
came the news that they had subscribed for the erection
of his statue, and from the Greeks also came a splendid
casket In his letter of thanks, 2 after remonstrating against
its too great material value, he said : —

I know not well how to accept it, yet I am still less able to
decline it, when I read the touching lines of the accompanying
address, in itself an ample token, in which you have so closely

1 Traill's New Lucian, pp. 305-6,— play of mind,
in spite of politics, a book of admir- a To Mr. Hazzopolo, Dec 22, 1882.
able wit, scholarship, and ingenious

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BOOK associated my name with the history and destinies of your
. country. I am not vain enough to think that I have deserved

1882, any of the numerous acknowledgments which I have received,
especially from Greeks, on completing half a century of parlia-
mentary life. Your over-estimate of my deeds ought rather to
humble than to inflate me. But to have laboured within the
measure of justice for the Greece of the future, is one of my
happiest political recollections, and to have been trained in a partial
knowledge of the Greece of the past has largely contributed to
whatever slender faculties I possess for serving my own country
or my kind. I earnestly thank you for your indulgent judgment
and for your too costly gifts, and I have the honour to remain, etc.

What was deeper to him than statues or caskets was
found in letters from comparative newcomers into the
political arena thanking him not only for his long roll of
public service, but much more for the example and en-
couragement that his life gave to younger men endeavouring
to do something for the public good. To one of these he
wrote (Dec. 15): —

I thank you most sincerely for your kind and friendly letter.
As regards the prospective part of it> I can assure you that I
should be slow to plead the mere title to retirement which long
labour is supposed to earn. But I have always watched, and
worked according to what I felt to be the measure of my own
mental force. A monitor from within tells me that though I may
still be equal to some portions of my duties, or as little unequal as
heretofore, there are others which I cannot face. I fear therefore
I must keep in view an issue which cannot be evaded.


As it happened, this volume of testimony to the affection,
gratitude, and admiration, thus ready t&go out to him from
so many quarters coincided in point of time with one or two
extreme vexations in the conduct of his daily business as
head of the government. Some of them were aggravated
by the loss of a man whom he regarded as one of his two
or three most important friends. In September 1882 the
Dean of Windsor died, and in his death Mr. Gladstone

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suffered a heavy blow. To the end he always spoke of CHAP.
Dr. Wellesley's friendship, and the value of his sagacity and * ^
honest service, with a warmth by this time given to few. Mt ' 73 -

Death of the Dean of Windsor.
To Lord Granville, Sept. 18, 1882.— My belief is that he has
been cognizant of every crown appointment in the church for
nearly a quarter of a century, and that the whole of his influence
has been exercised with a deep insight and a large heart for the
best interests of the crown and the church. If their character
during this period has been in the main more satisfactory to the
general mind of the country than at some former periods, it has
been in no small degree owing to him.

It has been my duty to recommend I think for fully forty of the
higher appointments, including twelve which were episcopal. I
rejoice to say that every one of them has had his approval. But
I do not scruple to own that he has been in no small degree a help
and guide to me ; and as to the Queen, whose heart I am sure is
at this moment bleeding, I do not believe she can possibly fill
his place as a friendly adviser either in ecclesiastical or other

To the Duchess of Wellington, Sept. 24.— He might, if he had
chosen, have been on his way to the Archbishopric of Canterbury.
Ten or eleven years ago, when the present primate was not expected
to recover, the question of the succession was considered, and I had
her Majesty's consent to the idea I have now mentioned. But,
governed I think by his great modesty, he at once refused.

To Mrs. Wellesley 9 Nov. 19, 1882. — I have remained silent, at
least to you, on a subject which for no day has been absent from
my thoughts, because I felt that I could add nothing to your con-
solations and could take away nothing from your grief under your
great calamity. But the time has perhaps come when I may
record my sense of a loss of which even a small share is so large.
The recollections of nearly sixty years are upon my mind, and
through all that period I have felt more and more the force and
value of your husband's simple and noble character. No less have
I entertained an ever-growing sense of his great sagacity and the
singularly true and just balance of his mind. We owe much

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BOOK indeed to you both for your constantly renewed kindness, but
V ^ 1A ' . I have another debt to acknowledge in the invaluable assistance
1882. w hich he afforded me in the discharge of one among the most
important and most delicate of my duties. This void never can be
filled, and it helps me in some degree to feel what must be the void
to you. Certainly he was happy in the enjoyment of love and
honour from all who knew him ; yet these were few in comparison
with those whom he so wisely and so warmly served without their
knowing it ; and the love and honour paid him, great as they were,
could not be as great as he deserved. His memory is blessed —
may his rest be deep and sweet, and may the memory and example
of him ever help you in your onward pilgrimage.

The same week Dr. Pusey died — a name that filled so
large a space in the religious history of England for some
thirty years of the century. Between Mr. Gladstone and
him the old relations of affectionate friendship subsisted
unbroken, notwithstanding the emancipation, as we may
call it, of the statesman from maxims and principles,
though not, so far as I know, from any of the leading
dogmatic beliefs cherished by the divine. 'I hope/ he
wrote to Phillimore (Sept. 20, 1882) ' to attend Dr. Pusey's
funeral to-morrow at Oxford. ... I shall have another
mournful office to discharge in attending the funeral
of the Dean of Windsor, more mournful than the first.
Dr. Pusey's death is the ingathering of a ripe shock, and
I go to his obsequies in token of deep respect and in
memory of much kindness from him early in my life. But
the death of Dean Wellesley is to my wife and me an
unexpected and very heavy blow, also to me an irreparable
loss. I had honoured and loved him from Eton days.'

The loss of Dean Wellesley's counsels was especially felt
in ecclesiastical appointments, and the greatest of these was
made necessary by the death of the Archbishop of Canter-
bury at the beginning of December. That the prime
minister should regard so sage, conciliatory, and large-
minded a steersman as Dr. Tait with esteem was certain,
and their relations were easy and manly. Still, Tait had
been an active liberal when Mr. Gladstone was a tory, and

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from the distant days of the Tracts for the Times, when Tait CHAP,
had stood among the foremost in open dislike of the new ^
tenets, their paths in the region of theology lay wide apart ^ T ' 75,
'I well remember,' says Dean Lake, c a conversation with Mr.
Gladstone on Tait's appointment to London in 1856, when
he was much annoyed at Tait's being preferred to Bishop
Wilberforce, and of which he reminded me nearly thirty
years afterwards, at the time of the archbishop's death, by
saying, " Ah ! I remember you maintaining to me at that
time that his arefivoTr}<; and his judgment would make him
a great bishop." ' * And so, from the point of ecclesiastical
statesmanship, he unquestionably was.

The recommendation of a successor in the historic see of
Canterbury, we may be very certain, was no common event
to Mr. Gladstone. Tait on his deathbed had given his
opinion that Dr. Harold Browne, the Bishop of Winchester,
would do more than any other man to keep the peace of the
church. The Queen was strong in the same sense, thinking
that the bishop might resign in a year or two, if he could
not do the work. He was now seventy-one years old, and
Mr. Gladstone judged this to be too advanced an age for the
metropolitan throne. He was himself now seventy- three, and
though his sense of humour not always of the protective
kind, he felt the necessity of some explanatory reason, and
with him to seek a plea was to find one. He wrote to the
Bishop of Winchester : —

... It may seem strange that I, who in my own person
exhibit so conspicuously the anomaly of a disparate conjunction
between years and duties, should be thus forward in interpreting
the circumstances of another case certainly more mitigated in many
respects, yet differing from my own case in one vital point, the
newness of the duties of the English, or rather anglican or British
primacy to a diocesan bishop, however able and experienced, and
the newness of mental attitude and action, which they would
require. Among the materials of judgment in such an instance, it
seems right to reckon precedents for what they are worth ; and I
cannot find that from the time of Archbishop Sheldon any one has

1 L\fe of Tait, i. p. 109.

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BOOK assumed the primacy at so great an age as seventy. Juxon, the
, predecessor of Sheldon, was much older ; but his case was altogether
peculiar. I cannot say how pleasant it would have been to me
personally, but for the barrier I have named, to mark my respect
and affection for your lordship by making to you such a proposal.
What is more important is, that I am directly authorised by her
Majesty to state that this has been the single impediment to her
conferring the honour, and imposing the burden, upon you of such
an offer. 1

The world made free with the honoured name of Church,
the Dean of Saint Paul's, and it has constantly been said
that he declined the august preferment to Canterbury on
this occasion. In that story there is no truth. 'Formal
offer/ the Dean himself wrote to a friend, ' there was none,
and could not be, for I had already on another occasion
told my mind to Gladstone, and said that reasons of health,
apart from other reasons, made it impossible for me to
think of anything, except a retirement altogether from
office/ 2

When it was rumoured that Mr. Gladstone intended to
recommend Dr. Benson, then Bishop of Truro, to the arch-
bishopric, a political supporter came to remonstrate with
him. ' The Bishop of Truro is a strong tory/ he said, ' but
that is not alL He has joined Mr. Raikes's election com-
mittee at Cambridge ; and it was only last week that Raikes
made a violent personal attack on yourself/ ' Do you know/
replied Mr. Gladstone, 'you have just supplied me with
a strong argument in Dr. Benson's favour ? For if he had
been a worldly man or self-seeker, he would not have done
anything so imprudent.' Perhaps we cannot wonder that
whips and wirepullers deemed this to be somewhat over-
ingenious, a Christianity out of season. Even liberals who
took another point of view, still asked themselves how it was

* Bishop Browne writes to a friend he himself, prompted by Bishop
{Life, p. 457) : ' Gladstone, I learned Wilberforce, wanted Palmerston to

both from himself and others, searched appoint Sumner (of Winchester)
Into all precedents from the Com- when he was seventy-two. It was
monwealtn to the present day for a when they feared they could not get

Into all precedents from the Com- when he was seventy-two. It was

monwealtn to the present day for a when tl

primate who began his work at Longlej

seventy, and found none but Juxon. * lAfi

Curiously, I have been reading that p. 307*

primate who began his work at Longley (who was sixty-eight).'
seventy, and found none but Juxon. * Lift and Letters of Dean Church,

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that when church preferment came his way, the prime minister CHAP,
so often found the best clergymen in the worst politicians. . ^ L
They should have remembered that he was of those who &*• TO.
believed 'no more glorious church in Christendom to
exist than the church of England ' ; and its official ordering
was in his eyes not any less, even if it was not infinitely
more, important in the highest interests of the nation
than the construction of a cabinet or the appointment
of permanent heads of departments. The church was at
this moment, moreover, in one of those angry and perilous
crises that came of the Elizabethan settlement and the
Act of Uniformity, and the anglican revival forty years
ago, and all the other things that mark the arrested pro-
gress of the Reformation in England. The anti-ritualist
hunt was up. Civil courts were busy with the conscience
and conduct of the clergy. Harmless but contumacious
priests were under lock and key. It seemed as if more
might follow them, or else as if the shock of the great trac-
tarian catastrophe of the forties might in some new shape
recur. To recommend an archbishop in times like these
could to a churchman be no light responsibility.

With such thoughts in his mind, however we may judge
them, it is not altogether surprising that in seeking a^ ecclesi-
astical governor for an institution to him the most sacred
and beloved of all forms of human association, Mr. Gladstone
should have cared very little whether the personage best
fitted in spirituals was quite bf the right shade as to state
temporals. The labour that he now expended on finding the
best man is attested by voluminous correspondence. Dean
Church, who was perhaps the most freely consulted by the
prime minister, says, ' Of one thing I am quite certain ; that
never for hundreds of years has so much honest disinterested
pains been taken to fill the primacy — such inquiry and
trouble resolutely followed out to find the really fittest man,
apart from every personal and political consideration, as in
this case.' *

Another ecclesiastical vacancy that led to volumes or
correspondence was the deanery of Westminster the year

1 Life and Letters qf Dean Church, p. 307.

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BOOK before. In the summer of 1881 Dean Stanley died, and it
' > is interesting to note how easy Mr. Gladstone found it to do

1882. f^ j us tice to one for whom as erastian and latitudinarian he
could in opinion have such moderate approval. In offering
to the Queen his ' cordial sympathy ' for the friend whom
she had lost, he told her how early in his own life and earlier
still in the dean's he had opportunities of watching the
development of his powers, for they had both been educated
at a small school near the home of Mr. Gladstone's boyhood. 1
He went on to speak of Stanley's boundless generosity and
brilliant gifts, his genial and attaching disposition. 'There
may be,' he said, ' and must be much diversity as to parts of
the opinions of Dean Stanley, but he will be long remem-
bered as one who was capable of the deepest and widest love,
and who received it in return.'

Far away from these regions of what he irreverently called
the shovel hat, about this time Carlyle died (Feb. 4, 1881),
a firm sympathiser with Mr. Gladstone in his views of the
unspeakable Turk, but in all else the rather boisterous
preacher of a gospel directly antipathetic. 'Carlyle is at
least a great fact in the literature of his time ; and has con-
tributed largely, in some respects too largely, towards forming
its characteristic habits of thought' So Mr. Gladstone
wrote in 1876, in a highly interesting parallel between
Carlyle and Macaulay — both of them honest, he said, both
notwithstanding their honesty partisans; both of them,
though variously, poets using the vehicle of prose; both
having the power of painting portraits extraordinary for
vividness and strength ; each of them vastly though diversely
powerful in expression, each more powerful in expression
than in thought; neither of them to be resorted to for
comprehensive disquisition, nor for balanced and impartial
judgments. 2 Perhaps it was too early in 1876 to speak of
Carlyle as forming the characteristic habits of thought of
his time, but undoubtedly now when he died, his influence
was beginning to tell heavily against the speculative liberal-
ism that had reigned in England for two generations, with
enormous advantage to the peace, prosperity and power of

1 See vol. i. p. 47. 9 Gleanings, ii. p. 287.

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the country and the two generations concerned. Half lights CHAP,
and half truths are, as Mr. Gladstone implies, the utmost ■ ^ »
that Carlyle's works were found to yield in philosophy and' **• 7a
history, but his half lights pointed in the direction in which
men for more material reasons thought that they desired


A reconstruction of the ministry had become necessary by
his own abandonment of the exchequer. For one moment it
was thought that Lord Hartington might become chancellor,
leaving room for Lord Derby at the India office, but Lord
Derby was not yet ready to join. In inviting Mr. Childers to
take his place as chancellor of the exchequer, Mr. Gladstone
told him (Dec. 1, 1882): — 'The basis of my action is not
so much a desire to be relieved from labour, as an anxiety
to give the country a much better finance minister than
myself, — one whose eyes will be always ranging freely and
vigilantly over the whole area of the great establishments,
the public service and the laws connected with his office,
for the purposes of improvement and of good husbandry.'

The claim of Sir Charles Dilke to a seat in the cabinet
had become irresistible alike by his good service as under-
secretary at the foreign office, and by his position out of
doors ; and as the admission of a radical must be balanced
by a whig — so at least it was judged — Mr. Gladstone
succeeded in inducing Lord Derby to join, though he had
failed with him not long before. 1

Apart from general objections at court, difficulties arose
about the distribution of office. Mr. Chamberlain, who has
always had his full share of the virtues of staunch friend-
ship, agreed to give up to Sir C. Dilke his own office, which
he much liked, and take the duchy, which he did not like
at all. In acknowledging Mr. Chamberlain's letter (Dec. 14)
Mr. Gladstone wrote to him, ' I shall be glad, if I can, to
avoid acting upon it. But I cannot refrain from at once
writing a hearty line to acknowledge the self-sacrificing
spirit in which it is written; and which, I am sure, you
will never see cause to repent or change.' This, however,
1 Lord Derby had refused office in the previous May.

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BOOK was found to be no improvement, for Mr. Chamberlain's
language about ransoms to be paid by possessors of pro-
perty, the offence of not toiling and spinning, and the
services rendered by courtiers to kings, was not much less
repugnant than rash assertions about the monarch evad-
ing the income-tax. All contention on personal points
was a severe trial to Mr. Gladstone, and any conflict with
the wishes of the Queen tried him most of all. One of his
audiences upon these affairs Mr. Gladstone mentions in his
diary: 'Dec. 11. — Off at 12.45 to Windsor in the frost and
fog. Audience of her Majesty at 3. Most difficult ground,
but aided by her beautiful manners, we got over it better
than might have been expected/ The dispute was stubborn,
but like all else it came to an end ; colleagues were obliging,
holes and pegs were accommodated, and Lord Derby went
to the colonial office, and Sir C. Dilke to the local govern-
ment board. An officer of the court, who was in all the
secrets and had foreseen all the difficulties, wrote that the
actual result was due ' to the judicious manner in which Mr.
Gladstone managed everything. He argued in a friendly
way, urging his views with moderation, and appealed to the
Queen's sense of courtesy.'

In the course of his correspondence with the Queen, the
prime minister drew her attention (Dec. 18) to the fact that
when the cabinet was formed it included three ministers
reputed to belong to the radical section, Mr. Bright, Mr.
Forster, and Mr. Chamberlain, and of these only the last
remained. The addition of Lord Derby was an addition
drawn from the other wing of the party. Another point
presented itself. The cabinet originally contained eight
commoners and six peers. There were now seven peers
and six commoners. This made it requisite to add a
commoner. As for Mr. Chamberlain, the minister assured
the Queen that though he had not yet, like Mr. Bright,
undergone the mollifying influence of age and experi-
ence, his leanings on foreign policy would be far more
acceptable to her Majesty than those of Mr. Bright, while
his views were not known to be any more democratic in
principle. He further expressed his firm opinion (Dec. 22)

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that though Lord Derby might on questions of peace and
war be some shades nearer to the views of Mr. Bright than -
the other members of the cabinet, yet he would never go JEfr - 73 -
anything like the length of Mr. Bright in such matters. In
fact, said Mr. Gladstone, the cabinet must be deemed a little
less pacific now than it was at its first formation. This at
least was a consolatory reflection.

Ministerial reconstruction is a trying moment for the
politician who thinks himself ' not a favourite with his stars,'
and is in a hurry for a box seat before his time has come.
Mr. Gladstone was now harassed with some importunities
of this kind. 1 Personal collision with any who stood in the
place of friends was always terrible to him. His gift of sleep
deserted him. ' It is disagreeable to talk of oneself/ he wrote
to Lord Granville (Jan. 2, 1883), 'when there is so much
of more importance to think and speak about, but I am
sorry to say that the incessant strain and pressure of work,

Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 31 of 91)