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The life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 online

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even sooner than I had expected.'

' That,' I said, ( is a momentous matter which will need immense
deliberation/ So it will, indeed.

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Mr. G. — Do you recall anything in history like the present
- distracted scenes in Ireland ?
1S90. j^ m — Florence, Pisa, or some other Italian city, with the

French or the Emperor at the gates 1

Mr. G. — 1 11 tell you what is the only thing that I can think of
as at all like it. Do you remember how it was at the siege of
Jerusalem — the internecine fury of the Jewish factions, the
ZqAoiTcu, and the rest — while Titus and the legions were marching
on the city !

We went in to luncheon. Something was said of our friend ,

and the new found malady, Raynaud's disease.

/. M. — Joseph de Maistre says that in the innocent primitive
ages men died of diseases without names.

Mr. G. — Homer never mentions diseases at all.

J. M. — Not many of them die a natural death in Homer.

Mr. G. — Do you not recollect where Odysseus meets his mother
among the shades, and she says : —

O0re r« otrv /mm vovtrot iiHjkvdc* . . .

dXXd fu cr6t re x60os <rd re /u}8ea, <pai&ifi y 'Odwreu,

<rfj t* &y<wo<ppo<FuvT) fie\irj54a Bvfibv iirrfjpa. 1

J. M. — Beautiful lines. Uodo? such a tender word, and it is

Mr. G. — Oh, desiderium.

c Quis desiderio sit pudor aut modus
Tarn cari capitis.' J

/. M. — The Scotch word 'wearying' for somebody. And

Then Mr. G. went off to his library to hunt up the reference,
and when I followed him, I found the worn old Odyssey open at
the passage in the eleventh book. As he left the room, he looked
at me and said, ' Ah, this is very different stuff for talking about,
from all the wretched work we were speaking of just now.
Homer's fellows would have cut a very different figure, and made
short work in that committee room last week ! ' We had a few
more words on politics. . . . So I bade him good-bye. . . .

1 Od. xi. 200. ' It was not sickness ness, this it was that broke the heart

that came upon me ; it was wearying within me.'

for thee and thy lost counsels, glorious a Hor. Carm. i. 24.
Odysseus, and for all thy gentle kind-

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In view of the horrors of dissension in Ireland, well-
meaning attempts were made at the beginning of the year «
to bring about an understanding. The Irish members, ^ T * 8L
returning from America where the schism at home had
quenched all enthusiasm and killed their operations, made
their way to Boulogne, for the two most important among
them were liable to instant arrest if they were found in the
United Kingdom. They thought that Mr. Parnell was really
desirous to withdraw on such terms as would save his self-
respect, and if he could plead hereafter that before giving
way he had secured a genuine scheme of home rule.
Some suspicion may well have arisen in their minds when
a strange suggestion came from Mr. Parnell that the liberal
leaders should enter into a secret engagement about con-
stabulary and the other points. He had hardly given such
happy evidence of his measure of the sanctity of political
confidences, as to encourage further experiments. The pro-
posal was absurd on the face of it. These suspicions soon
became certainties, and the Boulogne negotiations came
to an end. I should conjecture that those days made the
severest ordeal through which Mr. Gladstone, with his ex-
treme sensibility and his abhorrence of personal contention,
ever passed. Yet his facility and versatility of mood was
unimpaired, as a casual note or two of mine may show : —

. . . Mr. G.'s confabulation [with an Irish member] proved to
have been sought for the purpose of warning him that Parnell was
about to issue a manifesto in which he would make all manner of
mischief. Mr. G. and I had a few moments in the room at the
back of the chair; he seemed considerably perturbed, pale, and
concentrated. We walked into the House together ; he picked up
the points of the matter in hand (a motion for appropriating all
the time) and made one of the gayest, brightest, and most
delightful speeches in the world — the whole House enjoying it
consumedly. Who else could perform these magic transitions ?

Mr. G. came into the House, looking rather anxious ; gave us
an account of his interview with the Irish deputation ; and in the
midst of it got up to say his few sentences of condolence with the
Speaker on the death of Mrs. Peel — the closing phrases admirably

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chosen, and the tones of his voice grave, sincere, sonorous, and
compassionate. When he sat down, he resumed his talk with
1890. ij juhJ me g[e was so touched, he said, by those * poor wretches '
on the deputation, that he would fain, if he could, make some
announcement that would ease their unlucky position.

[A question of a letter in reply to some application prompted
by Mr. Parnell. Mr. Gladstone asked two of us to try our hands
at a draft.] At last we got it ready for him and presently we
went to his room. It was now six o'clock. Mr. 6. read aloud in
full deep voice the letter he had prepared on the base of our short
draft. We suggested this and that, and generally argued about
phrases for an hour, winding up with a terrific battle on two
prodigious points : (1) whether he ought to say, ' after this state-
ment of my views,' or * I have now fully stated my views on
the points you raise ' ; (2) ' You will doubtless concur/ or 'probably
concur.' Most characteristic, most amazing. It was past seven
before the veteran would let go — and then I must say that he
looked his full years. Think what his day had been, in mere
intellectual strain, apart from what strains him far more than that
— his strife with persons and his compassion for the unlucky Irish-
men. I heard afterwards that when he got home, he was for once
in his life done up, and on the following morning he lay in bed.
All the same, in the evening he went to see Antony and Cleopatra,
and he had a little ovation. As he drove away the crowd
cheered him with cries of 'Bravo, don't you mind Parnell !'
Plenty of race feeling left, in spite of union of hearts !

No leader ever set a finer example under reverse than
did Mr. Gladstone during these tedious and desperate pro-
ceedings. He was steadfastly loyal, considerate, and sympa-
thetic towards the Irishmen who had trusted him; his
firm patience was not for a moment worn out; in vain a
boisterous wave now and again beat upon him from one
quarter or another. Not for a moment was he shaken;
even under these starless skies his faith never drooped.
'The public mischief,' he wrote to Lord Acton (Dec. 27,
1890), 'ought to put out of view every private thought.
But the blow to me is very heavy — the heaviest I ever

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Mr. 81.


have received It is a great and high call to walk by faith CHAP,
and not by sight.'

Occasion had already offered for testing the feeling of
Ireland. There was a vacancy in the representation of
Kilkenny, and the Parnellite candidate had been defeated.

To J. Morley.

Hawardm, Dec. 23, 1890. — Since your letter arrived this morn-
ing, the Kilkenny poll has brightened the sky. It will have a
great effect in Ireland, although it is said not to be a represen-
tative constituency, but one too much for us. It is a great gain ;
and yet sad enough to think that even here one-third of the voters
should be either rogues or fools. I suppose the ballot has largely
contributed to save Kilkenny. It will be most interesting to
learn how the tories voted.

I return your enclosure. ... I have ventured, without asking
your leave, on keeping a copy of a part. Only in one proposition
do I differ from you. I would rather see Ireland disunited than
see it Parnellite.

I think that as the atmosphere is quiet for the moment we had
better give ourselves the benefit of a little further time for reflec-
tion. Personally, I am hard hit. My course of life was daring
enough as matters stood six weeks ago. How it will shape in the
new situation I cannot tell. But this is the selfish part. Turning
for a moment to the larger outlook, I am extremely indisposed to
any harking back in the matter of home rule; we are now, I
think, freed from the enormous danger of seeing P. master in
Ireland; division and its consequences in diminishing force, are
the worst we have to fear. What my mind leans to in a way still
vague is to rally ourselves by some affirmative legislation taken up
by and on behalf of the party. Something of this kind would be
the best source to look to for reparative strength.

To Lord Acton.

Jan. 9, 1891. — To a greybeard in a hard winter the very name
of the south is musical, and the kind letters from you and Lord
Hampden make it harmony as well as melody. But I have been
and am chained to the spot by this Parnell business, and every

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day have to consider in one shape or other what ought to be said

> by myself or others. ... I consider the Parnell chapter of politics

1891, finally closed for us, the British liberals, at least during my time.

He has been even worse since the divorce court than he was in

it. The most astounding revelation of my lifetime.

To J. Morley.

Hawarden, Dec. 30, 1890. — I must not longer delay thanking you
for your most kind and much valued letter on my birthday — a
birthday more formidable than usual, on account of the recent
disasters, which, however, may all come to good. If I am able to
effect in the world anything useful, be assured I know how much
of it is owed to the counsel and consort of my friends.

It is not indeed the common lot of man to make serious
additions to the friendships which so greatly help us in this
pilgrimage, after seventy-six years old; but I rejoice to think
that in your case it has been accomplished for me.


A few more sentences will end this chapter in Mr. Glad-
stone's life. As we have seen, an election took place in the
closing days of December 1890. Mr. Parnell flung himself
into the contest with frantic activity. A fierce conflict ended
in the defeat of his candidate by nearly two to one. 1 Three
months later a contest occurred in Sligo. Here again, though
he had strained every nerve in the interval as well as in
the immediate struggle, his candidate was beaten. 2 Another
three months, then a third election at Carlow, — with the
same result, the rejection of Mr. Parneirs man by a majority
of much more than two to one. 8 It was in vain that his
adherents denounced those who had left him as mutineers
and helots, and exalted him as ' truer than Tone, abler than
Grattan, greater than O'Connell, full of love for Ireland as
Thomas Davis himself.' On the other side, he encountered
antagonism in every key, from pathetic remonstrance or
earnest reprobation, down to an unsparing fury that savoured

1 December 23, 1890. » April 3, 1891. * July 8, 189L

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of the ruthless factions of the Seine. In America almost
every name of consideration was hostile.

Yet undaunted hy repulse upon repulse, he tore over from iET# 82 -
England to Ireland and back again, week after week and
month after month, hoarse and haggard, seamed by sombre
passions, waving the shreds of a tattered flag. Ireland must
have been a hell on earth to him. To those Englishmen
who could not forget that they had for so long been his
fellow-workers, though they were now the mark of his
attack, these were dark and desolating days. No more
lamentable chapter is to be found in all the demented scroll
of aimless and untoward things, that seem as if they made
up the history of Ireland. It was not for very long. The
last speech that Mr. Parnell ever made in England was at
Newcastle-on-Tyne in July 1891, when he told the old story
about the liberal leaders, of whom he said that there was
but one whom he trusted. A few weeks later, not much
more than ten months after the miserable act had opened,
the Veiled Shadow stole upon the scene, and the world
learned that Parnell was no more. 1

1 October 6. He was in his forty-sixth year (6. June 1846), and had been
sixteen years in parliament.

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Omnium autem ineptiarum, qu» sunt innumerabiles, haud sci&m
an nulla sit major, quam, at illi solent, quocunque in loco,
quoecunque inter homines visum est, de rebus aut difficillimis
aut non necessariis argutissime disputare. — Cicero.

Of all the numberless sorts of bad taste and want of tact, perhaps
the worst is to insist, no matter where you are or with whom *
you are, on arguing about the hardest subjects to the full pitch
of elaboration and detail.

BOOK We have seen how in 1889 Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone cele-


brated the fiftieth anniversary of one of the most devoted

1891 - and successful marriages that ever were made, and the
unbroken felicity of their home. In 1891, after the shadows
of approaching calamity had for many months hung doubt-
fully over them, a heavy blow fell, and their eldest son died.
Not deeply concerned in ordinary politics, he was a man of
many virtues and some admirable gifts ; he was an accom-
plished musician, and I have seen letters of his to his father,
marked by a rare delicacy of feeling and true power of
expression. 'I had known him for nearly thirty years/ one
friend wrote, ' and there was no man, until his long illness,
who had changed so little, or retained so long the best
qualities of youth, and my first thought was that the greater
the loss to you, the greater would be the consolation/
To Archbishop Benson, Mr. Gladsone wrote (July 6) : —

It is now forty-six years since we lost a child, 1 and he who
has now passed away from our eyes, leaves to us only blessed
recollections. I suppose all feel that those deaths which reverse
the order of nature have a sharpness of their own. But setting

1 Vol. i. p. 387.


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this apart, there is nothing lacking to ns in consolations human CHAP,
or divine. I can only wish that I may become less unworthy to - ^* -
have been his father. ^ T# ^

To me he wrote (July 10) : —

We feel deeply the kindness and tenderness of your letter. It
supplies one more link in a long chain of recollection which I
deeply prize. Yes, ours is a tribulation, and a sore one, but
yet we feel we ought to find ourselves carried out of ourselves
by sympathy with the wife whose noble and absorbing devotion
had become like an entire life of itself, and who is now face to face
with the void. The grief of children too, which passes, is very
sharp while it remains. The case has been very remarkable.
Though with abatement of some powers, my son has not been
without many among the signs and comforts of health during
a period of nearly two and a half years. All this time the
terrible enemy was lodged in the royal seat, and only his healthy
and unyielding constitution kept it at defiance, and maintained
his mental and inward life intact. . . . And most largely has
human, as well as divine compassion, flowed in upon us, from
none more conspicuously than from yourself, whom we hope
to count among near friends for the short remainder of our

To another correspondent who did not share his own
religious beliefs, he said (July 5) : —

When I received your last kind note, I fully intended to write to
you with freedom on the subject of The Agnostic Island. But since
then I have been at close quarters, so to speak, with the dispensa-
tions of God, for yesterday morning my dearly beloved eldest son
was taken from the sight of our eyes. At this moment of bleeding
hearts, I will only say what I hope you will in consideration of
the motives take without offence, namely this : I would from the
bottom of my heart that whenever the hour of bereavement shall
befall you or those whom you love, you and they may enjoy the
immeasurable consolation of believing, with all the mind and all
the heart, that the beloved one is gone into eternal rest, and that
those who remain behind may through the same mfghty Deliverer
hope at their appointed time to rejoin him.

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All this language on the great occasions of human life
► was not with him the tone of convention. Whatever the
1891. synthesis, as they call it, — whatever the form, whatever the
creed and faith may be, he was one of that high and favoured
household who, in Emerson's noble phrase, ' live from a great
depth of being/

Earlier in the year Lord Granville, who so long had been
his best friend, died. The loss by his death was severe.
As Acton, who knew of their relations well and from within,
wrote to Mr. Gladstone (April 1) :—

There was an admirable fitness in your union, and I had been
able to watch how it became closer and easier, in spite of so much
to separate you, in mental habits, in early affinities, and even in
the form of fundamental convictions, since he came home from
your budget, overwhelmed, thirty-eight years ago. I saw all the
connections which had their root in social habit fade before the one
which took its rise from public life and proved more firm and more
enduring than the rest.

In September he paid a visit to his relatives at Fasque,
and thence he went to Glenalmond — spots that in his
tenacious memory must have awakened hosts of old and
dear associations. On October 1, he found himself after
a long and busy day, at Newcastle-on-Tyne, where he had
never stayed since his too memorable visit in 1862. 1 Since
the defeat of the Irish policy in 1886, he had attended the
annual meeting of the chief liberal organization at Notting-
ham (1887), Birmingham (1888), and Manchester (1889).
This year it was the turn of Newcastle. On October 2, he
gave his blessing to various measures that afterwards came
to be known as the Newcastle programme. After the shock
caused by the Irish quarrel, every politician knew that it
would be necessary to balance home rule by reforms expected
in England and Scotland. No liberal, whatever his par-
ticular shade, thought that it would be either honourable
or practical to throw the Irish policy overboard, and if there

1 See above, vol. i. p. 710.

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-were any who thought such a course honourable, they knew CHAP,
it would not be safe. The principle and expediency of home - . -
rule had taken a much deeper root in the party than it ^ Et - 82 -
suited some of the trimming tribe later to admit. On the
other hand, after five years of pretty exclusive devotion to
the Irish case, to pass by the British case and its various
demands for an indefinite time longer, would have been


In the eighties Mr. Gladstone grew into close friendship
with one who had for many years been his faithful supporter
in the House of Commons as member for Dundee. Nobody
ever showed him devotion more considerate, loyal, and
unselfish than did Mr. Armitstead, from about the close of
the parliament of 1880 down to the end of this story. 1 In
the middle of December 1891 Mr. Armitstead planned a
foreign trip for his hero, and persuaded me to join. Biarritz
was to be our destination, and the expedition proved a
wonderful success. Some notes of mine, though intended
only for domestic consumption, may help to bring Mr.
Gladstone in his easiest moods before the reader's eye.
No new ideas struck fire, no particular contribution was
made to grand themes. But a great statesman on a holiday
may be forgiven for not trying to discover bran-new keys
to philosophy, history, and 'all the mythologies.' As a
sketch from life of the veteran's buoyancy, vigour, genial
freshness of heart and brain, after four-score strenuous
years, these few pages may be found of interest.

We left Paris at nine in the morning (Dec. 16), and were
listening to the swell of the mighty Bay resounding under
our windows at Biarritz soon after midnight.

The long day's journey left no signs of fatigue on either
Mr. or Mrs. Gladstone, and his only regret was that we had

1 Once Mr. Gladstone presented a remarkable friendship: Georgio

him with a piece of plate, and set Armitstead, Armigero, D.D. GuL £.

upon it one of those little Latin in- Gladstone. Amiciti® Benevolentiee

scriptions to which be was so much Beneficioram delatoram Valde me-

addicted, and which must serve here mor Mense Augusti A.D., 1894.
instead of further commemoration of

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not come straight through instead of staying a night in
Paris. I 'm always for going straight on, he said. For some
189L odd reason in spite of the late hour he was full of stories of
American humour, which he told with extraordinary verve
and enjoyment I contributed one that amused him much,
of the Bostonian who, having read Shakespeare for the first
time, observed, 'I call that a very clever book Now, I
don't suppose there are twenty men in Boston to-day who
could have written, that book ! '

Thursday, Dec. 17. — Splendid morning for making
acquaintance with a new place. Saw the western spur
of the Pyrenees falling down to the Bidassoa and the first
glimpse of the giant wall, beyond which, according to
Michelet, Africa begins, and our first glimpse of Spain.

After breakfast we all sallied forth to look into the shops
and to see the lie of the land. Mr. G. as interested as a
child in all the objects in the shops — many of them showing
that we are not far from Spain. The consul very polite,
showed us about, and told us the hundred trifles that bring
a place really into one's mind. Nothing is like a first
morning's stroll in a foreign town. By afternoon the spell
dissolves, and the mood comes of Dante's lines, ' Era gi&
Vora,' etc. 1

Some mention was made of Charles Austin, the famous
lawyer : it brought up the case of men who are suddenly
torn from lives of great activity to complete idleness.

Mr. 0. — I don't know how to reconcile it with what I 've
always regarded as the foundation of character — Bishop
Butler's view of habit. How comes it that during the
hundreds of years in which priests and fellows of Eton
College have retired from hard work to college livings and
leisure, not one of them has ever done anything whatever
for either scholarship or divinity — not one ?

Mr. G. did not know Mazzini, but Armellini, another of
the Roman triumvirs, taught him Italian in 1832.

1 Era gia Pora, che volge '1 disio
A' naviganti, e 'ntenerisce '1 cuore
Lo dl oh' han detto a' dolci amici addio, etc

Pwrg. viii.
Byron's rendering is well enough known.

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I spoke a word for Gambetta, but he would not have it.
' Gambetta was autoritaire ; I do not feel as if he were a «
true liberal in the old and best sense. I cannot forget how ifiT - 82 -
hostile he was to the movement for freedom in the Balkans/

Said he only once saw Lord Liverpool. He went to call
on Canning at Glos'ter House (close to our Glos'ter Road
Station), and there through a glass door he saw Canning
and Lord Liverpool talking together.

Peel. — Had a good deal of temper ; not hot ; but perhaps
sulky. Not a farsighted man, but fairly clear-sighted. ' I
called upon him after the election in 1847. The Janissaries,
as Bentinck called us, that is the men who had stood by
Peel, had been 110 before the election ; we came back only 50.
Peel said to me that what he looked forward to was a long
and fierce struggle on behalf of protection. I must say I
thought this foolish. If Bentinck had lived, with his strong
will and dogged industry, there might have been a wide
rally for protection, but everybody knew that Dizzy did not
care a straw about it, and Derby had not constancy and
force enough/

Mr. G. said Disraeli's performances against Peel were
quite as wonderful as report makes them. Peel altogether
helpless in reply. Dealt with them with a kind of ' right-
eous dulness/ The Protectionist secession due to three
men : Derby contributed prestige ; Bentinck backbone ; and
Dizzy parliamentary brains.

The golden age of administrative reform was from 1832
to the Crimean War ; Peel was always keenly interested in
the progress of these reforms.

Northcote. — 'He was my private secretary; and one of
the very best imaginable; pliant, ready, diligent, quick,
acute, with plenty of humour, and a temper simply perfect.

Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 64 of 91)