John Morley.

The life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 online

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and especially the multiplication of these personal questions
is overdoing me, and for the first time my power of sleep is
seriously giving way. I dare say it would soon right itself if
I could offer it any other medicine than the medicine in
Hood's " Song of the Shirt." ' And the next day he wrote :
'Last night I improved, 3£ hours to 4£, but this is different
from 7 and 8, my uniform standard through life.' And two
days later : — ' The matter of sleep is with me a very grave
ona I am afraid I may have to go up and consult Clark.
My habit has always been to reckon my hours rather exult-
ingly, and say how little I am awake. It is not impossible that
I may have to ask you to meet me in London, but I will not
do this except in necessity. I think that, to convey a clear
idea, I should say I attach no importance to the broken sleep
itself; it is the state of the brain, tested by my own sensa-
tions, when I begin my work in the morning, which may

1 The matter itself has no import- It is a title which cabinet ministers
ance, bnt a point of principle or eti- do not possess. During thirty-eight
quette at one time connected with it years since I first entered the cabinet,
is perhaps worth mentioning. To a I have never known more than a
colleague earlier in the year Mr. friendly announcement before pub-
Gladstone wrote : — ' I can affirm with lioity, and very partial consultation
confidence that the notion of a title in perhaps with one or two, especially
the cabinet to be consulted on the sue- the leaders in the second House.'
cession to a cabinet office is absurd.

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BOOK make me need higher assurance.' Sir Andrew Clark, ' over-

^^' > flowing with kindness, as always/ went down to Hawarden

1383. ^j an 7^ examined, and listened to the tale of heavy wakeful

nights. While treating the case as one of temporary and

accidental derangement, he instantly forbade a projected

expedition to Midlothian, and urged change of air and scene.

This prohibition eased some of the difficulties at Windsor,

where Midlothian was a name of dubious association, and in

announcing to the Queen the abandonment by Dr. Clark's

orders of the intended journey to the north, Mr. Gladstone

wrote (Jan. 8, 1883):— ,

In your Majesty's very kind reference on the 5th to his former
visits to Midlothian, and to his own observations on the 24th
April 1880, your Majesty remarked that he had said he did not
then think himself a responsible person. He prays leave to fill up
the outline which these words convey by saying he at that time
(to the best of his recollection) humbly submitted to your Majesty
his admission that he must personally bear the consequences of all
that he had said, and that he thought some things suitable to be
said by a person out of office which could not suitably be said by a
person in office ; also that> as is intimated by your Majesty's words,
the responsibilities of the two positions severally were different.
With respect to the political changes named by your Majesty, Mr.
Gladstone considers that the very safe measure of extending to the
counties the franchise enjoyed by the boroughs stands in all likeli-
hood for early consideration ; but he doubts whether there can be
any serious dealing of a general character with the land laws by
the present parliament, and so far as Scottish disestablishment
is concerned he does not conceive that that question has made
progress during recent years; and he may state that in making
arrangements recently for his expected visit to Midlothian, he had
received various overtures for deputations on this subject, which
he had been able to put aside.


On January 17, along with Mrs. Gladstone, at Charing

Cross he said good-bye to many Mends, and at Dover to

Lord Granville, and the following afternoon he found himself

at Cannes, the guest of the Wolvertons at the Ch&teau

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Scott, ' nobly situated, admirably planned, and the kindness
exceeded even the beauty and the comfort.' 'Here/ he<
says, ' we fell in with the foreign hours, the snack early, iET# 74 *
d&jeuner at noon, dinner at seven, break-up at ten. ... I am
stunned by this wonderful place, and so vast a change at a
moment's notice in the conditions of life.' He read steadily
through the Odyssey, Dixon's History of the Chwrch of
England, Scherer's Miscellanies, and The Life of Clerk-
Maxwell, and every day he had long talks and walks with
Lord Acton on themes personal, political and religious — and
we may believe what a restorative he found in communion
with that deep and well-filled mind — that 'most satisfactory
mind ' as Mr. Gladstone here one day calls it. He took drives
to gardens that struck him as fairyland. The Prince of Wales
paid him kindjy attentions as always. He had long conversa-
tions with the Comte de Paris, and with M. C16menceau, and
with the Duke of Argyll, the oldest of his surviving friends.
In the evening he played whist. Home affairs he kept at
bay pretty successfully, though a speech of Lord Hartington's
about local government in Ireland drew from him a longish
letter to Lord Granville that the reader, if he likes, will find
elsewhere. 1 His conversation with M. C16menceau (whom
he found ' decidedly pleasing') was thought indiscreet, but
though the most circumspect of men, the buckram of a
spurious discretion was no favourite wear with Mr. Glad-
stone. As for the report of his conversation with the French
radical, he wrote to Lord Granville, ' It includes much which
C16menceau did not say to me, and omits much which he
did, for our principal conversation was on Egypt, about
which he spoke in a most temperate and reasonable manner.'
He read the ' harrowing details ' of the terrible scene in the
court-house at Kilmainham, where the murderous Invincibles
were found out. 'About Carey,' he said to Lord Granville,
' the spectacle is indeed loathsome, but I cannot doubt that
the Irish government are distinctly right In accepting an
approver you do not incite him to do what is in itself wrong ;
only his own bad mind can make it wrong to him. The
government looks for the truth. Approvers are, I suppose,

1 See Appendix.

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BOOK for the most part base, but I do not see how you could act
YJI1 ' * on a distinction of degree between them. Still, one would
1883. h av0 heard the hiss from the dock with sympathy/

Lord Granville wrote to him (Jan. 31, 1883) that the
Queen insisted much upon his diminishing the amount of
labour thrown upon him, and expressed her opinion that
his acceptance of a peerage would relieve him of the heavy
strain. Lord Granville told her that personally he should
be delighted to see him in the Lords, but that he had great
doubts whether Mr. Gladstone would be willing. From
Cannes Mr. Gladstone replied (Feb. 3) : —

As to removal into the House of Lords, I think the reasons
against it of general application are conclusive. At least I cannot
see my way in regard to them. But at any rate it is obvious that
such a step is quite inapplicable to the circumstances created by
the present difficulty. It is really most kind of the Queen to
testify such an interest, and the question is how to answer her.
You would do this better and perhaps more easily than I.

Perhaps he remembered the case of Pulteney and of the
Great Commoner.

He was not without remorse at the thought of his
colleagues in harness while he was lotus-eating. On the
day before the opening of the session he writes, ' I feel dual:
I am at Cannes, and in Downing Street eating my parlia-
mentary dinner/ By February 21 he was able to write to
Lord Granville : —

As regards my health there is no excuse. It has got better and
better as I have stayed on, and is now, I think, on a higher level
than for a long time past. My sleep, for example, is now about as
good as it can be, and far better than it was during the autumn
sittings, after which it got so bad. The pleasure I have had in
staying does not make an argument at all ; it is a mere expression
or anticipation of my desire to be turned out to grass for good. . . .

At last the end of the holiday came. ' I part from Cannes
with a heavy heart/ he records on February 26 : —

Bead the Iliad, copiously. Off by the 12.30 train. We
exchanged bright sun, splendid views, and a little dust at the

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beginning of our journey, for frost and fog, which however hid no CHAP,
scenery at the end. 27tt, Tuesday. — Beached Paris at 8, and drove ,
to the Embassy, where we had a most kind reception [from Lord
Lyons], Wrote to Lord Granville, Lord Spencer, Sir W. Har-
court. Went with Lord L. to see M. GreVy ; also Challemel-Lacour
in his most palatial abode. Looked about among the shops ; and
at the sad face of the Tuileries. An embassy party to dinner;
excellent company.

To Lord ChranviUe.

Feb. 27th. — I have been with Lord Lyons to see GreVy and
Challemel-Lacour. GreVy's conversation consisted of civilities and
a mournful lecture on the political history of France, with many
compliments to the superiority of England. Challemel thought the
burdens of public life intolerable and greater here than in England,
which is rather strong. Neither made the smallest allusion to
present questions, and it was none of my business to introduce
them. . . .

After three days of bookstalls, ivory-hunting, and con-
versation, by the evening of March 2 the travellers were once
more after a bright day and rapid passage safe in Downing

Shortly after their return from the south of France the
Gladstones paid a visit to the Prince and Princess of

March 30, 1883. — Off at 1 1.30 to Sandringham. Reception kinder
if possible even than heretofore. Wrote. . . . Read and worked
on London municipality. 31, Saturday. — Wrote. Root-cut a
small tree in the forenoon ; then measured oaks in the park ; one
of 30 feet. In the afternoon we drove to Houghton, a stately
house and place, but woe-begone. Conversation with Archbishop
of Canterbury, Prince of Wales and others. Read . . . Life of
Hatherley, Law's account of Craig. April 1. — Sandringham church,
morning. West Newton, evening. Good services and sermons
from the archbishop. The Prince bade me read the lessons.
Much conversation with the archbishop, also Duke of Cambridge.
Read Nineteenth Century on Revised Version ; Manning on Educa-
tion; Life of Hatherley; Craig's Catechism. Wrote, etc. 2. — Off

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BOOK at 11. D. Street 3.15. Wrote to the Queen. Long conversation
with the archbishop in the train.

Here a short letter or two may find a place : —

To Lady Jessd on her husband's death.
March 30. — Though I am reluctant to intrude upon your sorrow
still so fresh, and while I beg of you on no account to acknowledge
this note, I cannot refrain from writing to assure you not only of
my sympathy with your grief, but of my profound sense of the loss
which the country and its judiciary have sustained by the death of
your distinguished husband. From the time of his first entrance
into parliament I followed his legal expositions with an ignorant
but fervid admiration, and could not help placing him in the first
rank, a rank held by few, of the many able and powerful lawyers
whom during half a century I have known and heard in parlia-
ment. When I came to know him as a colleague, I found reason
to admire no less sincerely his superiority to considerations of
pecuniary interest, his strong and tenacious sense of the dignity
of his office, and his thoroughly frank, resolute, and manly
character. These few words, if they be a feeble, yet I assure you
are also a genuine tribute to a memory which I trust will long be
cherished. Earnestly anxious that you may have every consolation
in your heavy bereavement.

To Cardinal Manning.
April 19. — I thank you much for your kind note, though I am
sorry to have given you the trouble of writing it. Both of us have
much to be thankful for in the way of health, but I should have
hoped that your extremely spare living would have saved you
from the action of anything like gouty tendencies. As for myself,
I can in no way understand how it is that for a full half century
I have been permitted and enabled to resist a pressure of special
liabilities attaching to my path of life, to which so many have
given way. I am left as a solitary, surviving all his compeers.
But I trust it may not be long ere I escape into some position
better suited to declining years.

To Sir W. V. Harcouri.
April 27. — A separate line to thank you for your more than
kind words about my rather Alexandrine speech last night ; as to

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which I can only admit that it contained one fine passage — six CHAP,
lines in length. 1 Your 'instincts' of kindliness in all personal >
matters are known to all the world. I should be glad, on selfish '* Jr# ' 4#
grounds, if I could feel sure that they had not a little warped your
judicial faculty for the moment. But this misgiving abates
nothing from my grateful acknowledgment.

An application was made to him on behalf of a member
of the opposite party for a political pension, and here is his
reply, to which it may be added that ten years later he had
come rather strongly to the view that political pensions
should be abolished, and ho was only deterred from trying
to carry out his view by the reminder from younger
ministers, not themselves applicants nor ever likely to be,
that it would hardly be a gracious thing to cut off benefac-
tions at a time when the bestowal of them was passing away
from him, though he had used them freely while that
bestowal was within his reach.

Political Pensions.

July 4, 1883. — You are probably aware that during the fifty
years which have passed since the system of political and civil
pensions was essentially remodelled, no political pension has been
granted by any minister except to one of those with whom he
stood on terms of general confidence and co-operation. It is
needless to refer to older practice.

This is not to be accounted for by the fact that after meeting
the just claims of political adherents, there has been nothing left
to bestow. For, although it has happened that the list of pensions
of the first class has usually been full, it has not been so with
political pensions of the other classes, which have, I think, rarely
if ever been granted to the fullest extent that the Acts have
allowed. At the present time, out of twelve pensions which may
legally be conferred, only seven have been actually given, if I
reckon rightly. I do not think that this state of facts can have
been due to the absence of cases entitled to consideration, and I
am quite certain that it is not to be accounted for by what are
commonly termed party motives. It was obvious to me that I

1 The lines from Lucretius (in his speech on the Affirmation bill). See
above, p. 259.

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BOOK could not create a precedent of deviation from a course undeviat-
ingly pursued by my predecessors of all parties, without satisfying
myself that a new form of proceeding would be reasonable and
safe. The examination of private circumstances, such as I consider
the Act to require, is from its own nature difficult and invidious :
but the examination of competing cases in the ex-official corps is
a function that could not, I think, be discharged with the neces-
sary combination of free responsible action, and of exemption
from offence and suspicion. Such cases plainly may occur. 1

To HJI.H. the Prince of Wales.
' August \lth. — I am much shocked at an omission which I
made last night in failing to ask your royal Highness's leave to
be the first to quit Lord Alcester's agreeable party, in order that
I might attend to my duties in the House of Commons. In my
early days not only did the whole company remain united, if a
member of the royal family were present, until the exalted per-
sonage had departed ; but I well recollect the application of the
same rule in the case of the Archbishop (Howley) of Canterbury.
I am sorry to say that I reached the House of Commons in time to
hear some outrageous speeches from the ultra Irish members. I
will not say that they were meant to encourage crime, but they
tended directly to teach the Irish people to withhold their con-
fidence from the law and its administrators ; and they seemed to
exhibit Lord Spencer as the enemy to the mass of the community
— a sad and disgraceful fact, though I need not qualify what I
told your royal Highness, that they had for some time past not
been guilty of obstruction.

Even in pieces that were in their nature more or less
official, he touched the occasions of life by a note that was
not merely official, or was official in its best form. To Mrs.
Garfield he wrote (July 21, 1881):—

You will, I am sure, excuse me, though a personal stranger, for

addressing you by letter, to convey to you the assurance of my

1 In a party sense, as he told the had suffered an unpleasant experience

cabinet, it might be wise enough to in another case, of the relations

grant it, as it would please the public, brought about by the refusal of a

displease the tories, and widen the political pension after inquiry as to

breach between the fourth party and the accuracy of the necessary state-

their front bench. Mr. Gladstone ment as to the applicant's need for it

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own feelings and those of my countrymen on the occasion of the
late horrible attempt to murder the President of the United .
States, in a form more palpable at least than that of messages ^ T - 74 *
conveyed by telegraph. Those feelings have been feelings in the
first instance of sympathy, and afterwards of joy and thankfulness,
almost comparable, and I venture to say only second, to the strong
emotions of the great nation of which he is the appointed head.
Individually I have, let me beg you to believe, had my full share
in the sentiments which have possessed the British nation. They
have been prompted and quickened largely by what I venture to
think is the ever-growing sense of harmony and mutual respect
and affection between the two countries, and of a relationship
which from year to year becomes more and more a practical bond
of union between us. But they have also drawn much of their
strength from a cordial admiration of the simple heroism which
has marked the personal conduct of the President, for we have not
yet wholly lost the capacity of appreciating such an example of
Christian faith and manly fortitude. This exemplary picture has
been made complete by your own contribution to its noble and
touching features, on which I only forbear to dwell because I am
directly addressing you.

Under all the conventional solemnities in Mr. Gladstone
on such occasions, we are conscious of a sincere feeling
that they were in real relation to human life and all its
chances and changes.

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Parran faville della sua virtute
In non ourar d'argento ne d'affanni.

Paradiso, xvii. 83.

Sparks of his worth shall show in the little heed he gives either to
riches or to heavy toils.

BOOK The session of 1883 was marked by one legislative per-
v ^ n - . formance of the first order, the bill devised against corrupt
1883. practices at elections. This invaluable measure was worked
through the House of Commons mainly by Sir Henry James,
the attorney general, whose skill and temper in a business
that was made none the easier by the fact of every man in the
House supposing himself to understand the subject, excited
Mr. Gladstone's cordial admiration; it strengthened that
peculiarly warm regard in which he held Sir Henry, not
only now but even when the evil days of political severance
came. The prime minister, though assiduous, as he always
was, in the discharge of those routine and secondary duties
which can never be neglected without damage to the House,
had for the first session in his career as head of a govern-
ment, no burden in the shaping of a great bill He insisted, in
spite of some opposition in the cabinet, on accepting a motion
pledging parliament to economy (April 3). In a debate on
the Congo, he was taken by some to have gone near to
giving up the treaty-making power of the crown. He had
to face more than one of those emergencies that were
naturally common for the leader of a party with a zealous
radical wing represented in his cabinet, and in some
measure these occasions beset Mr. Gladstone from 1869


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onwards. His loyalty and kindness to colleagues who got CHAP,
themselves and him into scrapes by imprudent speeches, , * .
and his activity and resource in inventing ways out of ^ 74#
scrapes, were always unfailing. Often the difficulty was
with the Queen, sometimes with the House of Lords, occa-
sionally with the Irish members. Birmingham, for instance,
held a grand celebration (June 13) on the twenty-fifth
anniversary of Mr. Bright's connection as its representative.
Mr. Bright used strong language about * Irish rebels/ and
then learned that he would be called to account He con-
sulted Mr. Gladstone, and from him received a reply that
exhibits the use of logic as applied to inconvenient displays
of the sister art of rhetoric : —

To Mr. Bright

June 15, 1883. — I have received your note, and I am extremely
sorry either that you should have personal trouble after your
great exertions, or that anything should occur to cloud the
brilliancy or mar the satisfaction of your recent celebration in
Birmingham. I have looked at the extract from your speech,
which is to be alleged as the corpus delicti, with a jealous eye.
It seems well to be prepared for the worst. The points are, I
think, three: — 1. 'Not a few* tones are guilty of determined
obstruction. I cannot conceive it possible that this can be deemed
a breach of privilege. % These members are found 'in alliance'
with the Irish party. Alliance is often predicated by those who
disapprove, upon the ground that certain persons have been voting
together. This I think can hardly be a breach of privilege even in
cases where it may be disputable or untrue.

But then : 3, This Irish party are * rebels ' whose oath of alle-
giance is broken by association with the enemies of the country.
"Whether these allegations are true or not, the following questions
arise : — (a) Can they be proved ; (b) Are they allegations which
would be allowed in debate. I suppose you would agree with me
that they cannot be proved ; and I doubt whether they would be
allowed in debate. The question whether they are a breach of
privilege is for the House ; but the Speaker would have to say, if
called upon, whether they were allowable in debate. My impres-

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BOOK fdon is that he would say no : and I think yon would not wish to


* - use elsewhere expressions that you could not repeat in the House

1883 - of Commons.

The Speaker has a jotting in his diary which may end
this case of a great man's excess : —

June 18. — Exciting sitting. Bright's language about Irish rebels.
Certainly his language was very strong and quite inadmissible if
spoken within the House. In conversation with Northcote I
deprecated the taking notice of language outside the House,
though I could not deny that the House, if it thought fit, might
regard the words as a breach of privilege. But Northcote was no
doubt urged by his friends.

Mr. Chamberlain's was a heavier business, and led to
much correspondence and difficult conversation in high
places. A little of it, containing general principles, will
probably suffice here : —

To Sir Henry Ponsoriby.

June 22.— Be Chamberlain's speech. I am sorry to say I had
not read the report until I was warned by your letters to
Granville and to Hamilton, for my sight does not allow me
to read largely the small type of newspapers. I have now
read it, and I must at once say with deep regret. We had done
our best to keep the Bright celebration in harmony with the
general tone of opinion by the mission which Granville kindly
undertook. I am the more sorry about this speech, because Cham-
berlain has this year in parliament, shown both tact and talent in
the management of questions not polemical, such as the bankruptcy

Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 32 of 91)