John Morley.

The life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 online

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his opinion to deny the moral authority of the Act of Union
was for an Irishman no moral offence whatever. Here the
law-officer sitting opposite to him busily took down a note.
' Yes, yes/ Mr. Gladstone exclaimed, ' you may take my words
down. I heard you examine your witness from a pedestal,
as you felt, of the greatest elevation, endeavouring to press
home the monstrous guilt of an Irishman who did not allow
moral authority to the Act of Union. In my opinion the
Englishman has far more cause to blush for the means by
which that Act was obtained/ As it happened, on the only
occasion on which Mr. Gladstone paid the Commission a
visit, he had found the attorney general cross-examining a
leading Irish member, and this passage of arms on the Act
of Union between counsel and witness then occurred.

The second finding of censure was that the Irish members
incited to intimidation by speeches, knowing that intimida-
tion led to crime. The third was that they never placed
themselves on the side of law and order ; they did not assist
the administration, and did not denounce the party of

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physical force. As if this, said Mr. Gladstone, had not
been the subject of incessant discussion and denunciation in
1890. parliament at the time ten years ago, and yet no vote of
condemnation was passed upon the Irish members then.
On the contrary, the tory party, knowing all these charges,
associated with them for purposes of votes and divisions;
climbed into office on Mr. ParnelTs shoulders ; and through
the viceroy with the concurrence of the prime minister, took
Mr. Parnell into counsel upon the devising of a plan for Irish
government Was parliament now to affirm and record a
finding that it had scrupulously abstained from ever making
its own, and without regard to the counter-allegation that
more crime and worse crime was prevented by agitation?
It was the duty of parliament to look at the whole of the
facts of the great crisis of 1880-1 — to the distress, to the
rejection of the Compensation bill, to the growth of evictions,
to the prevalence of excessive rents. The judges expressly
shut out this comprehensive survey. But the House was
not a body with a limited commission ; it was a body of
statesmen, legislators, politicians, bound to look at the whole
range of circumstances, and guilty of misprision of justice if
they failed so to do. ' Suppose I am told/ he said in not-
able and mournful words, ' that without the agitation Ireland
would never have had the Land Act of 1881, are you prepared
to deny that ? I hear no challenges upon that statement,
for I think it is generally and deeply felt that without the
agitation the Land Act would not have been passed. As the
man responsible more than any other for the Act of 1881 —
as the man whose duty it was to consider that question day
and night during nearly the whole of that session — I must
record my firm opinion that it would not have become the
law of the land, if it had not been for the agitation with
which Irish society was convulsed.' *

This bare table of his leading points does nothing to
convey the impression made by an extraordinarily fine
performance. When the speaker came to the findings of
acquittal, to the dismissal of the infamous charges of the
forged letters, of intimacy with the Invincibles, of being

1 See above p. 296.

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accessory to the assassinations in the Park, glowing passion CHAP,
in voice and gesture reached its most powerful pitch, and «
the moral appeal at its close was long remembered among
the most searching words that he had ever spoken. It was
not forensic argument, it was not literature; it had every
note of true oratory — a fervid, direct and pressing call to his
hearers as ' individuals, man by man, not with a responsi-
bility diffused and severed until it became inoperative and
worthless, to place himself in the position of the victim of
this frightful outrage ; to give such a judgment as would
bear the scrutiny of the heart and of the conscience of
every man when he betook himself to his chamber and was

The awe that impressed the House from this exhortation
to repair an enormous wrong soon passed away, and debate in
both Houses went on the regular lines of party. Everything
that was found not to be proved against the Irishmen, was
assumed against them. Not proven was treated as only an
evasive form of guilty. Though the three judges found that
there was no evidence that the accused had done this thing
or that, yet it was held legitimate to argue that evidence
must exist — if only it could be found. The public were to
'nurse a sort of twilight conviction and keep their minds in
a limbo of beliefs that were substantial and alive — only the
light was bad.

In truth, the public did what the judges declined to do.
They took circumstances into account. The general effect
of this transaction was to promote the progress of the
great unsettled controversy in Mr. Gladstone's sense. The
abstract merits of home rule were no doubt untouched,
but it made a difference to the concrete argument, whether
the future leader of an Irish parliament was a proved
accomplice of the Park murderers or not. It presented
moreover the chameleon Irish case in a new and singular
colour. A squalid insurrection awoke parliament to the
mischiefs and wrongs of the Irish cultivators. Reluctantly
it provided a remedy. Then in the fulness of time, ten
years after, it dealt with the men who had roused it to its
duty. And how ? It brought them to trial before a special

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tribunal, invented for the purpose, and with no jury; it
- allowed them no voice in the constitution of the tribunal ; it
1890. exposed them to long and harassing proceedings; and it
thereby levied upon them a tremendous pecuniary fine.
The report produced a strong recoil against the flagrant
violence, passion, and calumny, that had given it birth ; and
it affected that margin of men, on the edge of either of the
two great parties by whom electoral decisions are finally

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The nobler a soul is, the more objects of compassion it bath.

— Bacon.

At the end of 1888 Mr. Gladstone with his wife and others
of his house was carried off by Mr. Rondel's friendly care to «
Naples. Hereto, he told Lord Acton, ' we have been induced Mt - 80 -
by three circumstances. First, a warm invitation from the
Dufferins to Rome ; as to which, however, there are cons as
well as pros, for a man who like me is neither Italian nor
Curial in the view of present policies. Secondly, our kind
friend Mr. Stuart Rendel has actually offered to be our con-
ductor thither and back, to perform for us the great service
which you rendered us in the trip to Munich and Saint-
Martin. Thirdly, I have the hope that the stimulating
climate of Naples, together with an abstention from speech
greater than any I have before enjoyed, might act upon my
" vocal cord," and partially at least restore it.'

At Naples he was much concerned with Italian policy.

To Lord Granville.

Jan. 13, 1889. — My stay here where the people really seem
to regard me as not a foreigner, has brought Italian affairs
and policy very much home to me, and given additional force and
vividness to the belief I have always had, that it was sadly impolitic
for Italy to make enemies for herself beyond the Alps. Though I
might try and keep back this sentiment in Rome, even my silence
might betray it and I could not promise to keep silence altogether.
I think the impolicy amounts almost to madness especially for a


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country which carries with her, nestling in her bosom, the ' stand-
ing menace ' of the popedom. . . .

To J. Morley.

Jan. 10. — I hope you have had faith enough not to be troubled

about my supposed utterances on the temporal power I will not

trouble you with details, but you may rest assured I have never said
the question of the temporal power was anything except an Italian
question. I have a much greater anxiety than this about the
Italian alliance with Germany. It is in my opinion an awful error
and constitutes the great danger of the country. It may be asked,
' What have you to do with it 1 ' More than people might suppose.
I find myself hardly regarded here as a foreigner. They look
upon me as having had a real though insignificant part in the
Liberation. It will hardly be possible for me to get through the
affair of this visit without making my mind known. On this
account mainly I am verging towards the conclusion that it
will be best for me not to visit Rome, and my wife as it happens
is not anxious to go there. If you happen to see Granville or
Rosebery please let them know this.

We have had on the whole a good season here thus far. Many
of the days delicious. We have been subjected here as well as in
London to a course of social kindnesses as abundant as the waters
which the visitor has to drink at a watering place, and so enervat-
ing from the abstraction of cares that I am continually thinking of
the historical Capuan winter. I am in fact totally demoralised,
and cannot wish not to continue so. Under the circumstances
Fortune has administered a slight, a yery slight physical correction.
A land-slip, or rather a Tufo rock-slip of 50,000 tons, has come
down and blocked the proper road between us and Naples.

To Lord Acton.
Jan. 23, 1889. — Borne is I think definitely given up. I shall be
curious to know your reasons for approving this gran ri/iuto.
Meantime I will just glance at mine. I am not so much afraid of
the Pope as of the Italian government and court. My sentiments
are so very strong about the present foreign policy. The foreign
policy of the government but not I fear of the government only.
If I went to Rome, and saw the King and the minister, as I must,

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I should be treading upon eggs all the time with them. I could
not speak out uninvited ; and it is not satisfactory to be silent <
in the presence of those interested, when the feelings are very
strong. . . .

These feelings broke out in time in at least one anony-
mous article. 1 He told Lord Granville how anxious he was
that no acknowledgment of authorship, direct or indirect,
should come from any of his friends. ' Such an article of
necessity lectures the European states. As one of a public
of three hundred and more millions, I have a right to do
this, but not in my own person.' This strange simplicity
rather provoked his friends, for it ignored two things —
first, the certainty that the secret of authorship would get
out ; second, if it did not get out, the certainty that the
European states would pay no attention to such a lecture
backed by no name of weight — perhaps even whether it
were so backed or not. Faith in 'lectures, sermons, articles,
even books, is one of thl things most easily overdone.

Most of my reading, he went on to Acton, has been about the Jews
and the Old Testament. I have not looked at the books you kindly
sent me, except a little before leaving Hawarden ; but I want to get
a hold on the broader side of the Mosaic dispensation and the Jewish
history. The great historic features seem to me in a large degree
independent of the critical questions which have been raised about
the redaction of the Mosaic books. Setting aside Genesis, and the
Exodus proper, it seems difficult to understand how either Moses
or any one else could have advisedly published them in their
present form ; and most of all difficult to believe that men going
to work deliberately after the captivity would not have managed
a more orderly execution. My thoughts are always running back
to the parallel question about Homer. In that case, those who
hold that Peisistratos or some one of his date was the compiler,
have at least this to say, that the poems in their present form are
such as a compiler, having liberty of action, might have aimed
at putting out from his workshop. Can that be said of the
Mosaic books? Again are we not to believe in the second and

1 « The Triple Alliance and Italy's Place in It.' By Outidanoe. Content-
porary Review, Oct. 1889. See Appendix.

JErr. 80.

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BOOK third Temples as centres of worship because there was a temple
/ v at Leontopolis, as we are told ? Out of the frying - pan, into
1889 - the fire.

When he left Amalfi (Feb. 14) for the north, he found
himself, he says, in a public procession, with great crowds at
the stations, including Crispi at Rome, who had once been
his guest at Ha warden.

After his return home, he wrote again to Lord Acton : —

April 28, 1889. — I have long been wishing to write to you.
But as a rule I never can write any letters that I wish to write.
My volition of that kind is from day to day exhausted by the
worrying demand of letters that I do not wish to write. Every
year brings me, as I reckon, from three to five thousand new
correspondents, of whom I could gladly dispense with 99 per cent.
May you never be in a like plight.

Mary showed me a letter of recent date from you, which re-
ferred to the idea of my writing on The Old Testament. The
matter stands thus : An appeal was made to me to write something
on the general position and claims of the holy scriptures for the
working men. I gave no pledge but read (what was for me) a
good deal on the laws and history of the Jews with only two
results : first, deepened impressions of the vast interest and im-
portance attaching to them, and of their fitness to be made the
subject of a telling popular account ; secondly, a discovery of the
necessity of reading much more. But I have never in this con-
nection thought much about what is called the criticism of the Old
Testament, only seeking to learn how far it impinged upon the
matters that I really was thinking of. It seems to me that it
does not impinge much. ... It is the fact that among other
things I wish to make some sort of record of my life. .You say
truly it has been very full. I add fearfully full. But it has
been in a most remarkable degree the reverse of self-guided and
self-suggested, with reference I mean to all its best known aims.
Under this surface, and in its daily habit no doubt it has been
selfish enough. Whether anything of this kind, will ever come
off is most doubtful. Until I am released from politics by the
solution of the Irish problem, I cannot even survey the field.

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I turn to the world of action. It has long been in my mind to
found something of which a library would be the nucleus. I,
incline to begin with a temporary building here. Can you, who iEx * w
have built a library, give me any advice t On account of fire I
have half a mind to corrugated iron, with felt sheets to regulate
the temperature.

Have you read any of the works of Dr. Salmon ? I have just
finished his volume on Infallibility, which fills me with admiration
of its easy movement, command of knowledge, singular faculty
of disentanglement, and great skill and point in argument ; though
he does not quite make one love him. He touches much ground
trodden by Dr. Dollinger ; almost invariably agreeing with him.


July 25, 1889, was the fiftieth anniversary of his marriage.
The Prince and Princess of Wales sent him what he calls a
beautiful and splendid gift. The humblest were as ready
as the highest with their tributes, and comparative strangers
as ready as the nearest Among countless others who wrote
was Bishop Lightfoot, great master of so much learning : —

I hope you will receive this tribute from one who regards your
private friendship as one of the great privileges of his life.

And Dollinger: —

If I were fifteen years younger than I am, how happy I would
be to come over to my beloved England once more, and see you
surrounded by your sons and daughters, loved, admired, I would
almost say worshipped, by a whole grateful nation.

On the other side, a clever lady having suggested to
Browning that he should write an inscription for her to
some gift for Mr. Gladstone, received an answer that has
interest, both by the genius and fame of its writer, and as
a sign of widespread feeling in certain circles in those
days : —

Surely your kindness, even your sympathy, will be extended to
me when I say, with sorrow indeed, that I am unable now con-
scientiously to do what, but a few years ago, I would have at

VOL. IT. 2 T

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BOOK least attempted with such pleasure and pride as might almost
/ > promise success. I have received much kindness from that extra-

1889# ordinary personage, and what my admiration for his transcendent
abilities was and ever will be, there is no need to speak of. But
I am forced to altogether deplore his present attitude with respect
to the liberal party, of which I, the humblest unit, am still a
member, and as such grieved to the heart by every fresh utter-
ance of his which comes to my knowledge. Were I in a position
to explain publicly how much the personal feeling is independent
of the political aversion, all would be easy ; but I am a mere man
of letters, and by the simple inscription which would truly testify
to what is enduring, unalterable in. my esteem, I should lead
people — as well those who know me as those who do not — to
believe my approbation extended far beyond the bounds which
unfortunately circumscribe it now. All this — even more — was
on my mind as I sat, last evening, at the same table with the
brilliantly-gifted man whom once — but that i once ' is too sad to

At a gathering at Spencer House in the summer of 1888,
when this year of felicitation opened, Lord Granville, on
behalf of a number of subscribers, presented Mr. and Mrs.
Gladstone with two portraits, and in his address spoke of
the long span of years through which they had enjoyed
' the unclouded blessings of the home.' The expression was
a just one. The extraordinary splendour and exalted joys
of an outer life so illustrious were matched in the inner
circle of the* hearth by a happy order, affectionate reciprocal
attachments, a genial round of kindliness and duty, that
from year to year went on untarnished, unstrained, unbroken.
Visitors at Hawarden noticed that, though the two heads
of the house were now old, the whole atmosphere seemed
somehow to be alive with the freshness and vigour of youth;
it was one of the youngest of households in its interests and
activities. The constant tension of his mind never impaired
his tenderness and wise solicitude for family and kinsfolk,
and for all about him ; and no man ever had such observ-
ance of decorum with such entire freedom from pharisaism.

Nor did the order and moral prosperity of his own home

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leave him complacently forgetful of fellow-creatures to whom CHAP,
life's cup had been dealt in another measure. On his first v_

entry upon the field of responsible life, he had formed a ^
serious and solemn engagement with a friend — I suppose it
was Hope-Scott — that each would devote himself to active
service in some branch of religious work. 1 He could not,
without treason to his gifts, go forth like Selwyn or Patte-
son to Melanesia to convert the savages. He sought a
missionary field at home, and he found it among the un-
fortunate ministers to 'the great sin of great cities/ In
these humane efforts at reclamation he persevered all
through his life, fearless of misconstruction, fearless of the
levity or baseness of men's tongues, regardless almost of the
possible mischiefs to the public policies that depended on
him. Greville 2 tells the story how in 1853 a man made an
attempt one night to extort money from Mr. Gladstone, then
in office as chancellor of the exchequer, by threats of ex-
posure ; and how he instantly gave the offender into custody,
and met the case at the police office. Greville could not
complete the story. The man was committed for trial Mr.
Gladstone directed his solicitors to see that the accused was
properly defended He was convicted and sent to prison.
By and by Mr. Gladstone inquired from the governor of the
prison how the delinquent was conducting himself. The
report being satisfactory, he next wrote to Lord Palmerston,
then at the home office, asking that the prisoner should be
let out. There was no worldly wisdom in it, we all know.
But then what are people Christians for ?

We have already seen 8 his admonition to a son, and how
much importance he attached to the dedication of a certaiij,
portion of our means to purposes of charity and religion.
His example backed his precept. He kept detailed accounts
under these heads from 1831 to 1897, and from these it
appears that from 1831 to the end of 1890 he had devoted
to objects of charity and religion upwards of seventy
thousand pounds, and in the remaining years of his life
the figure in this account stands at thirteen thousand five

1 See above, voL i. pp. 99, 668. a Third Part, vol i., p. 62.
3 Vol. i. p. 206.

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BOOK hundred — this besides thirty thousand pounds for his

» cherished object of founding the hostel and library at Saint
1890. Deiniol's. His friend of early days, Henry Taylor, says in
one of his notes on life that if you know how a man deals
with money, how he gets it, spends it, keeps it, shares it, you
know some of the most important things about him. His
old chief at the colonial office in 1846 stands the test most


Near the end of 1889 among the visitors to Hawarden
was Mr. ParnelL His air of good breeding and easy com-
posure pleased everybody. Mr. Gladstone's own record is
simple enough, and contains the substance of the affair as
he told me of it later : —

Dec. 18, 1889. — Reviewed and threw into form all the points
of possible amendment or change in the plan of Irish government,
etc., for my meeting with Mr. Parnell. He arrived at 5.30, and
we had two hours of satisfactory conversation ; but he put off the
gros of it. 19. — Two hours more with Mr. P. on points in Irish
government plans. He is certainly one of the very best people to
deal with that I have ever known. Took him to the old castle.
He seems to notice and appreciate everything.

Thinking of all that had gone before, and all that was so
soon to come after, anybody with a turn for imaginary
dialogue might easily upon this theme compose a striking

In the spring of 1890 Mr. Gladstone spent a week at
Oxford of which he spoke with immense enthusiasm. He
fras an honorary fellow of All Souls, and here he went into
residence in his own right with all the zest of a virtuous
freshman bent upon a first class. Though, I daresay, pretty
nearly unanimous against his recent policies, they were all
fascinated by his simplicity, his freedom from assumption
or parade, his eagerness to know how leading branches of
Oxford study fared, his naturalness and pleasant manners.
He wrote to Mrs. Gladstone (Feb. 1): —

Here I am safe and sound, and launched anew on my university

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JEt. 81.


career, all my days laid out and occupied until the morning of this CHAP,
day week, when I am to return to London. They press me to
stay over the Sunday, but this cannot be thought of. I am
received with infinite kindness, and the rooms they have given
me are delightful. Weather dull, and light a medium between
London and Hawarden. I have seen many already, including
Liddon and Acland, who goes up to-morrow for a funeral early
on Monday. Actually I have engaged to give a kind of Homeric
lecture on Wednesday to the members of the union. The warden
and his sisters are courteous and hospitable to the last degree.
He is a unionist. The living here is very good, perhaps some put
on for a guest, but I like the tone of the college ; the fellows arc
men of a high class, and their conversation is that of men with
work to do. I had a most special purpose in coming here which
will be more than answered. It was to make myself safe so far as
might be, in the articles 1 which eighteen months ago I undertook
to write about the Old Testament This, as you know perhaps,
is now far more than the New the battle-ground of belief. There
are here most able and instructed men, and I am already deriving

Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 60 of 91)