Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

England under Gladstone, 1880-1885 online

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it had been possible, but it was not possible. The N"o-Eent
Manifesto was a direct challenge to the Government, and the
Government retaliated by declaring the Land League an illegal
body, by proclaiming its meetings, and by arresting its remain-
ing official, Mr. Dorris, and sending him to Dundalk Prison.
Many women, members of the Ladies' Land League, were put
into prison in different parts of the country. The most ad-
vanced of the National newspapers, United Ireland, vi-A^ shortly
afterwards proscribed, and for the time beiug practically sup-
pressed. It carried on a fitful existence, pi'inted now in Paris,
now in Liverpool, and smuggled over as well as might be to
Ireland, where it was sold surreptitiously, and seized by the
police whenever they could lay hands upon it. The Government
had done their best to stifle the Land League, to crush it out of
existence altogether, and they appeared to have succeeded. They
really seemed to think that by abolishing an association and
suppressing a newspaper they could silence a national agitation,
and summarily dispose of a complicated and vexatious problem.
As soon as Mr. Parnell was imprisoned the Lord Chancellor
removed his name from the Commission of the Peace for the
county of Wicklow. An effort was immediately made by the
National section of the Dublin Corporation to confer the free-
dom of the city upon Mr. Parnell and Mr. Dillon. After a
stormy discussion, in which Mr. Gray, M.P., and Mr. Dawson,
M.P., led the National party, ngainst Mr. Brooks, M.P., who
opposed the proposal, the motion was lost by the casting vote
of the Lord Mayor, Dr. Moyers. The proposal was only de-
layed. With the new year a new Lord Mayor was elected,
Mr. Charles Dawson, INI. P., a strong Nationalist. This time the
National pai-ty in the Corporation were in a large majority,
and by a large majority the customary vote of thanks to a re-
tiring Lord Mayor was refused to Dr. Moyers for the part
he had taken in defeating the freedom of the city proposal.
This proposal was now revived and carried successfully. Such


an act on the part of the corporation of a city that had always
been remai table for what was called its 'loyalty,' which meant
its subservience to Castle influence, was in itself deeply signifi-
cant of the hold the National leaders had got upon the heart of
the country. But a message from heaven would not have
appeared significant to Mr. Forster if it had not accorded with
his pre-ostablishcd opinions of the way Ireland ought to bs

The suppression of the Land League did not make Ireland
quiet. The imprisonment of the responsible leaders of the
National party had removed all check upon the fierce and
dangerous forces Avhich are always at work under the surface
of Irish politics. The secret societies, which had almost ceased
to operate during the rule of the Land League, came into play
again the moment the restraining influence of a popular, con-
stitutional, and open movement was removed. Outrages in-
creased daily, and w^ere exaggerated out of all proportion to
their increase, uutil to those at a distance Ireland appeared to
be sinking into a condition of hopeless anarchy. The Chief
Secretary had had his way ; he had put into prison men, women,
priests, according to bis pleasure, and yet an obstinate island
and an ungrateful people refused to justify him by being pacified.
Order did not reign in Warsav/.

The year 1881 was rich in its record of illustrious dead.
On February 5 Thomas Carlyle quietly passed away, at the age
of eighty-five, in the little house in Cheyne Row, Chelsea, where
he had lived the greater part of his troubled, laborious, un-
happy life. How unhappy that life was, few of those who most
admired Carlyle had any conception at the hour of his death.
It was left to Mr. Froude to drag the miseries and meannesses
of Carlyle's private life into the cold, cruel light of publicity,
and to drive for a time a disagreeable trade in the errors and
the weaknesses of his dead friend and master. The reading
Avorld had long learned to look upon Carlyle as the preacher
and expounder of gi'im, composed, almost Promethean resigna-
tion. 'Argue not with the inexorable.' That was the eternal
text of Carlyle's homilies. ' It is an everlasting duty, the duty


of being brave.' ' All things considered, what right hast thou
even to be ] ' '0 my brother, be not thou a quack. Die rather,
if thou wilt take counsel ; 'tis but dying once, and thou art
quit of it for ever.' Carlyle's writings are full of such maxims
as these, counselling resignation, renunciation, and that proud
patience which the gods are said to love. Epicurus in his garden,
•' the halting slave who in Nicopolis taught Arrian, when Ves-
pasian's brutal son cleared Rome of what most shamed him,'
the Emperor Stoic Aurelius, never counselled firm and unfiling
fortitude more eloquently or more persistently than Carlyle.
No man was ever more scornful than he of the feebleness or
the faint-heartedness of others. Thousands of human beings,
since Carlyle began to write, must have found comfort, conso-
lation, and courage, in his heroic philosophy. It is difficult
to imagine a troubled, world-wearied spirit not learning some
lesson of true nobility, nor deriving some fresh purpose for the
fight of life, from the unconquerable manhood of ' Sartor Resartus.'
Undoubtedly the feeling of the civilised world in the end of
that fii'st week in February was that a great and good philo-
sopher had faded from the earth. Undoubtedly ever since that
time the persistent and repeated eflforts of the dead master's
pupil have been to remove that impression, to teach the wor-
shippers that their idol was not the least among the shams that
he was always so bitter in assailing. In Carlyle's writings we
find one man, in his life and letters we find another. Mr.
Fronde shows us a pitiful, querulous, feverishly impatient
being, consumed and wasted by a devouring envy of all his
intellectual peers and superiors, fretted by petty jealousies,
mean hatreds, and morbid vanities. The words with which he
has put on record his feelings towards his fellows eat like cor-
rosive acid into their genius and their fame. He appears to
have been almost incapable of an honest or honourable admira-
tion for anything. The exquisite humour, the sweet and kindly
spirit of Lamb stirred him only to a cankerous pity. ' This is
not genius,' he snarls; ' it is sheer diluted insanity. Please take
it away.' The pure, star-like soul of Mill — of Mill to whom
he owed so much — rouses only a malign envy and a malign


contempt. ' Pool' Mill,' he says again and again scoffingly of
the man who was in many things so immeasurably his superior.

He seems, indeed, in all the hideous, dismal pages of his
self-recorded life to have been animated by a malignant jealousy
of others, which crippled within him the philosophy he preached
so loudly for others. The sceva indignatio of Swift was at
least dii'ected against injustice, against untruth, against oppres-
sion ; the ' fierce indignation ' of Carlyle seems to have been
directed against those who were successful, against those who
had superior parts, against those who were more fortunate or
more unfortunate than himself. He admires no one — except,
indeed, here and there some member of the aristocracy, one of
them a woman for whose sake he was quite willing to make his
wife very miserable. The sufferings and misfortunes of others
wake in him no gleams of pity ; but his Stoicism only extends to
the ills of others. The preacher of fortitude, of patience, of
endurance, complains with querulous iteration of the smallest
personal discomfort. The least annoyance, the minutest irregu-
larity in the routine of his daily life, seems to have driven this
last of the Stoics into a condition of impotent frenz}\ The
woman whom he married, and whom he succeeded in imbuing
with something of his own scornful pity for every human being
who was not Thomas Carlyle, suffered terribly at his hands.
On her own showing, on his own showing, he made her life a
misery. Thackeray has drawn a powerful, terrible pictui-e of
Swift, ' the lonely, guilty wretch, shuddering over the grave of
his victim.' The picture finds its parallel in Cai-lyle's own
agonies of pitiable remorse, in his wailings — occasionally in
the Spanish language — over the life he had embittered, and the
devotion he had disregarded.

It is difficult to see what purpose, not merely mercantile or
merely cynical, was served by Mr. Fronde's publication of the
letters and papers of Carlyle and his vnie. The familiar story
of Socrates under the judgment of the physiognomist is indeed
valuable. It is good to know that in the nature of the best
and wisest Athenian lurked fierce tendencies to crime and
passion. It is good to know this, because it is good also to


know that Socrates so conquered these evil inclinations that
none of those about him suspected their existence, and were for
laughing the expounder of character to scorn until the conscious
teacher checked them. Bat it is not easy to see what good
service can be rendered to the woi-ld by making it clear that
the stern Stoic, the lofty tea 'her, was after all only a * self-
torturing sophist,' crammed to the lips with envy, malice, and
all uncharitableness, the heedless, heartless tyrant of the woman
who loved him, a man whose clamours for strong men and
strong methods of government were only the utterances of a
feeble nature, harassed by dyspepsia.

'Truth, though the sky fall,' Mr. Froude might perhaps
answer with his master. But how far is it truth ? The con-
fession of the repentant is often a darker i-ecord than the charge
of the accuser. The business of the world was with Carlyle
the author, not with Carlyle the hecmtontimorumenos, not
with Carlyle the suffering invalid. It seems like treachery to
take the world into such confidences. They are suh shj'dlo ;
they are not fair evidence for or against. So long as the world
remains imperfect, so long as we do not live in a palace of truth,
so long as men write and say of their fellows more than they
exactly mean, and more than they would care to have repeated
to the objects of their criticism, so long it will be unftxir to
judge a character like Carlyle's wholly by the records he may
leave behind. Only wholly, however : partially he must be
judged out of his own mouth; and to Mr. Froude, therefore,
is due such credit as he may deserve for having successfully
lowered the character of Carlyle the writer of books by too
comprehensive revelations about Carlyle the man.

A thinker and teacher of a very different type from Carlyle
died within the year. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, Dean of
AVestminster, was one of the most remarkable ecclesiastics
that the Church of England in the nineteenth century had
produced. Born in 1815, he was only sixty- six years old when
he died ; but those sixty-six years were years of unceasing
acti\'ity, which put more of life into them than many men put
into lifetimes extending far beyond the limitations of the


Psalmist. Important as the pai-t was which Dean Stanley
played in the ecclesiastical history of his time, he will perhaps
be most remembered for the books with which he enriched the
literature of his age. His poem on the * Gipsies/ with which
he won the Newdigate prize in 1837, has indeed gone the way
of most Newdigate prizes, and been forgotten. But his ' Memo-
rials of Canterbury,' with its varied and glowing picture of the
fortunes of the English metropolitan church ; his ' Sinai and
Palestine,' which is perhaps the most fascinating of all records
of Syrian travel ; his picturesque, if somewhat partial and one-
sided, study of the ' Eastern Church,' and of the ' Jewish
Church,' these will be remembered, these will form his fitting

Over in Ireland another great Churchman died — John
McHale, Archbishop of Tuam, ninety years of age. The penal
laws were in force during his childhood ; he was seven years
old when the rebellion of '98 against those laws and the
principles they represent broke out. Under those laws the
future archbishop, the future scholar, received his earliest
education, at those * hedge schools ' which kept alive the light
of learning and religion in Ireland, in times most evil for the
country and her faith. The old ecclesiastical scholarship for
which Ireland was famous found its fittest modern represen-
tative in Archbishop McHale ; while his profound piety and
saintly life would have done honour to the proudest epoch in
the history of the Church of the West.

In the same year died George Borrow, the once famous
author of the ' Romany Rye,' and of ' Lavengro.' The present
generation had somewhat forgotten Borrow ; he had fallen
away from public attention, and chose to live a quiet and
isolated, if not a lonely life. But the news of his death came
like a shock to many who perhajjs up to that moment were
hardly aware that he was alive. He has given somewhere a
curious picture, in verse, of himself as a 'man who twenty
tongues can talk, and sixty miles a day can walk;' who, ' though
averse to strife, could fight with pistol, sword, or knife,' and
who could 'drink at a draught his quart of rum, and then


be neither sick nor dumb.' He was undoubtedly a man of
many and varied gifts ; he had lived through an adven-
turous and restless manhood into a long and quiet old age ;
and he faded out of a world in which his name had long been
little more than a memory. Another life, no less restless and
adventurous, ended in August, and removed one of the last of
those who ' once saw Shelley plain.' Edward John Trelawney
was one of the survivoi's of that matchless company of men
with whom it was his good fortune to be intimate, one of the
last links that bound the present generation to the time of
Byron and Shelley. Trelawney will always be remembered as
one of the few who psrformed Shelley's Roman rites by the
shore of Spezia Bay, as one of the few who stood by the death-
bed of Byron. Another wanderer, author, adventurer, who
died this year, was Grenville Mun^ay, once familiar in all men's
mouths as the ' Roving Englishman.' He did a great many
things very well, but nothing superlatively well. He wrote
novels so very clever that they were sometimes mistaken for
the works of greater men ; he was a rattKng, vivacious special
correspondent in days when special correspondence meant less
than it means in the days of Archibald Forbes, of MacGahan,
and Edmund O'Donovan. He was a bright essayist, a good
story-teller, an incomparable Jldneur. For many reasons he
found it convenient to exile himself from England during the
latter part of his life. His tastes and sympathies were always
much more Continental than insular, and he died, not inappro-
priately, in the city which he probably loved best of all cities,
the city by the Seine. Among a crowd of othei's of less note
may be mentioned John Hill Burton, the Scotch historian, the
book-lover, the chronicler of the age of Anne ; Mrs. S. C
Hall, an authoress of some gentle and pleasant stories of Irish
life ; Mrs. Ward, Nelson's adopted daughter, the ' little Horatia'
of his letters ; James Speddiug, the Baconian scholar and
critic ; Samuel Sharpe, the Egyptologist ; William Rathbone
Greg, the essayist; Mr. Edward Miall, the Nonconformist,
and E. A. Sothern, the actor, to be remembered in the
annals of the stage as the inventor of Lord Dundreary. Out


in Madras died Adam, former Liberal whip, and for a short
time Commissioner of "Works under the new Government.
His health had been failing when he accepted the Governorship
of Madras ; the change of climate came too late to save him.
He was more, perhaps, sincerely regretted in the political world
than is often the lot of minor politicians.

One young and promising career came to an untimely con-
clusion in this year. Mr. Arthur O'Shaughnessy had early taken
a prominent place among the constellation of young poets who
grouped themselves around the central sun of Mr. Swinburne.
He was an official of the British Museum, like Theophile
Marzials and E. W. Gosse ; like Russian Ralston and Assyrian
Suiith ; like Mr. Richard Garnett, most erudite of librarians;
most scholarly of critics, most graceful of translators.




The yeai' 1882 opened with a grim sense of disquiet every-
where. In Ireland aifairs were more disturbed than ever;
Blr. Forster's policy of imprisoning the Land League leaders
had completely failed in restoring anything like order to the
country, and the general sense of England seemed to consider
that he had made a mistake. For the moment, however, a
feeling of helpless despondency with regard to Ireland existed
in England. The chief topic of popular discussion was the pro-
posed reform of the rules and regulations of debate in the
House of Commons. Both the great political parties were
agreed that some change was necessary, though they differed
as to the nature and degree of the proposed alterations. Natu-
rally any suggestion of change in Parliamentary institutions that
had stood the test of centuries was in itself a proposition of
such magnitude as to cause uneasiness even in the minds of
those who most advocated the necessity for some alteration.
The speeches of public men, the thoughts of private men, were
chiefly occupied by the condition of Ireland, and the talked-of
changes in the Parliamentary machinery which had in some
measure been the outcome of the Irish question. There was
one other topic, too, on which men's minds were agitated. Our
relationsliips with Egypt were becoming more complicated
every day.

Parliament met on February 7. The Queen's speech began
by announcing the intended marriage of Prince Leopold, Duke
of Albany, with the Princess Helen of Waldeck and Pyrmont.
The successful cession of Thessaly to the Greek Government
was next mentioned ; the afiairs of Egypt were touched upon
with no suggestion of alarm ; the progress of the proposed new
commercial treaty with France was alluded to. The condition
of Ireland was declared to show some signs of improvement.


Proposals were mentioned for the establishment in the English
and Welsh counties of the systems of local self-government
■which had been so long enjoyed by the towns ; for the reform of
the Corporation of London; for the introduction of Bills dealing
■with bankruptcy, ■with corrupt practices at elections, the
criminal code, the consolidation of the patents la-ws, and the
conservancy of rivers.

The Bradlaugh question immediately came up again with
the meeting of the House. As soon as the new members
who had been elected during the recess had come forward and
taken the oaths and their seats, jNIr. Bradlaugh presented
himself at the table, and demanded to be sworn in his turn.
The resolution which had kept him from the precincts of the
House being merely a sessional order had no longer any force,
and Mr. Bradlaugh was perfectly free to enter the Chamber.
£ir Stafford Northcote immediately rose and urged that the
conditions of things were in no way altered, and he moved in
consequence a resolution of a very similar nature to that of
April 26 of the preceding year. Sir William Hai'court, as the
representative of the Government in the absence of Mr. Glad-
stone, moved the previous question, and supported his motion
by arguing that the House had no power either to alter the
provisions of the statute under which Mr. Bradlaugh desired to
De sworn, or to make any inquiry into the religious belief of
d;\ly elected members. Mr. Bradlaugh was then allowed once
again to address the listening Commons from the bar. An
orator of ability, pleading for a cause that had considerable
public sujDpoi't, could hardly wish for a better rostrum than the
bar of the House of Commons, or a more interesting auchence
than its medley of members. Mr. Bradlaugh, addressing the
attentive Commons, may have felt something of the emotions of
Talma addressing his ixirterre of ' i:>rinces orgulous.' It was
admitted, even by those who were most opposed to INIr. Brad-
laugh, that in his difficult position he comported himself with
dignity and with eloquence ; that, regarded simply as a piece of
oratoiy, his defence of himself was worthy of the occasion. It
^as the more difficult for him to be at all impressive in his


appeal, because it was not the first, nor even the second time
that he had found himself there addressing the House of
Commons from the Commons bar. The House of Commons
does not love repetitions, and it is so much the more to Mr.
Bradlaugh's credit, artistically, that he was able to repeat once
and again his part of pleader for his rights before the Commons
without making his hearers either impatient or indifferent.

Mr. Bradlaugh urged that he had been misunderstood and
misrepresented. If he were allowed to take the oath he should
consider it as binding both upon his honour and his conscience.
But he warned the House that he was determined to present
himself again and again to demand his rights, unless indeed
the Government were prepared to bring in some measure for
the alteration of the existing law, in which case he would wait
in patience till such law were passed. Mr. Gladstone, who
had by this time come into the House, maintained his formerly
expressed opinion that the matter was one with which the
courts of law alone were properly competent to deal. The
previous question being negatived by 286 to 228, Mr. Brad-
laugh again advanced to the table. The Speaker ordered him
to withdraw. Mr. Bradlaugh declined. The Speaker appealed
to the House. Sir Stafford Northcote moved that Mr. Brad-
laugh be directed to withdraw. The motion was carried without
a division, and Mr. Bradlaugh withdrew under protest to his
familiar seat under the clock on the Liberal side, a seat which,
being below the bar, and therefore not technically in the
House, he was at liberty to occupy.

He soon asserted his claim again. On February 21 his
colleague in the repi'esentation of Xoi-thampton, Mr. Labou-
chere, moved for a new writ for Northampton. This was
refused by the House by a large majority. No sooner was the
division taken than Mr. Bradlaugh, who had been watching
the proceedings, hurried up the floor of the House, stood before
the table, and, taking from his pocket a New Testament,
proceeded in a loud tone of voice to swear himself in. The
respectable inhabitants of Yeii, who were assembled in their
temple on that auspicious day when the priest announced


victory to him who should make the impending sacrifice, could
hardly have been more surprised when Camillus made his
sensation leap through the floor, and performed the rite, than
were the assembled Commons at beholding Mr. Bradlausrh
standing at the table and calmly administering the oath to
himself. Stupefaction held them still, as Mr. Bradlangh,
having sworn himself in to his own satisfaction, produced a
paper announcing that he had duly taken the oath, signed
this document, and ];ud it gravely on the table. By this
time the House had shaken ofi" its stupor, and was howling
and shouting with inarticulate rage as Mr. Bradlaugh took a
seat with the calm appearance of a man who had now suc-
ceeded in satisfying all scruples and pleasing all parties. Im-
mediately a bewildering, confused debate sprang up. Lord
Randolph Churchill argued vehemently that the extraordinary
action which the House had just witnessed in itself vacated
the seat. The law officers of the Crown disagreed, and could not
see their way to declaring that any statute had been broken.
Loi'd Randolph Churchill then asked if the insult to the House
was to be passed over in silence ; but upon the counsel of
Mr. Gladstone the discussion of the matter was postponed till
the next day, Wednesday, February 22.

The next day, accordingly, the wrangle began again. After
much expostulation on the part of the Ministry, who evidently
did not know what to do, and much fierce invective from the
fierier Conservative spirits, Mr. Labouchere, by way of bringing
everything to a genial termination, proposed that Mr. Brad-
laugh should be heard in his own defence. It may be that
Mr. Bradlausfh thought he had now addressed the House
sufficiently often from the bar of the House. It is certain that

Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyEngland under Gladstone, 1880-1885 → online text (page 16 of 38)