Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

England under Gladstone, 1880-1885 online

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curiously misapplied to the soldiery Avho ".vere with Ai-abi.
They were the Khedive's soldiers; all the Khedivial army was
with Arabi; up to the very last moment the Khedive had
been, nominally at least, acting in concert with Arabi. At no
time had Tewfik made any application to thej British or French
fleets to come to his assistance in any way. It must be ad-
mitted that our action in conquering Egypt for the Khedive
had in it something of the quibbling spirit which inspired
Cromwell's Ironsides to declare that they were fighting for the
king. The Khedive had made no appeal to us for aid ; up to
the moment when we sent our first shot a</';iinst the low line of
Alexandrian forts, he and Arabi wei-e ov.itw^ardly in complete
accord. It would seem as if some subtle spirit of intuition,
almost akin to the supernatural, had miade the Government
acquainted with the moving of the Khediv ial mind, and had told

EGYPT. 243

tliem at what particular moment tlie whole Egyptian army had
ceased to be the soldiers of the Khedive and had become rebels.
However, it had been settled in some mysterious way to the satis-
faction of the Ministry, firstly, that the followers of Arabi were
rebels against the Khedive ; and secondly, that it was England's
duty to assist the Khedive against these rebels with British
ships and British bayonets. Troops were poured into Alex-
andria, where »Sir Garnet Wolseley himself soon arrived to com-
mand the operations. The result of the struggle, never doubtful,
was not long delayed. The safety of the canal was fortunately
secured. The English troops marched out against Arabi; the
decisive battle took place before Arabi's entrenched position
at Tel-el-Kebir. With Sir Garnet were some 11,000 bayonets,
2,000 sabres, and 60 guns. There wei-e no means of precisely
estimating the strength of the Egyptians entrenched behind
Arabi's earthworks, but they greatly outnumbered the attacking
force. At about half-past one on the morning of September 1 3
the British advance began. Just as dawn was beginning to
show the van came upon the Egyptian entrenchments. The
Egyptians, taken completely by surprise, opened a desultory
fire, but could not stoj) the rush of the assailants. The British
charged with the bayonet, and carried the first line of defences
at a rush. The Egyptians fought desperately enough, but never
rallied from the eflect of the first wild charge of the British.
In twenty minutes the right and left of Arabi's position were
in the hands of the assailants ; in little more than half an hour
the Egyptian army was hopelessly disorganised and in full
retreat, and Tel-el-Kebir was won. Without delay the main
strength of the cavalry and mounted infantry struck out across
the desert for Cairo. There is something really heroic in the
story of this forced march, and of the appearance of the wearied
troopers under the walls of Cairo. A handful of travel-stained
men, tired with fighting and forced marching, drew rein before
a city full of troops, and called ujDon it to sun-ender. Like
the knight-errants of the old tales of chivalry, these Amadises
in jack-boots ordered the city to yield, and it obeyed their
summons. Had any resistance been made there were soldiers

XI 2


enough in Cairo to annihilate the little band of British who
rode triumphantly into the town and received the sword of
Ai-abi. The next day Sir Garnet Wolseley with more troops
entered Cairo. The war was over. Arabi was a prisoner.

It was not a victory to make much of a work about. No-
body expected that the Egyptian levies would fight as the
Afghans or the Sepoy mutineers fought. But ^ery credit is
due to Sir Garnet Wolseley for the manner in which he accom-
plished his task. The war was not a great war, but it presented
many difficulties and dangers, all of which Sir Garnet Wolseley
had practically surmounted before he landed in Alexandria. He
had surveyed the situation, had decided where he would fight,
and fixed the length of the campaign before he left for the scene
of war, and everything fell out as he had expected. The place,
the time he had specified, were fulfilled to the letter. People
who delight in diminishing, or in trying to diminish, the repu-
tation of a great man, are fond of calling Sir Garnet Wolseley
a lucky soldier. What they call luck is military genius. Mere
luck never yet made a warrior ' famoused for fight.' The mind
which can arrange beforehand all the details of a campaign, can
say where and when the decisive blows shall be struck, is a
mind of the highest order in the soldier's craft.

After the fall of Cairo the rest was easy. The other strong-
holds of insurrection surrendered. The re-embarkation of
British troops at once began, some ten thousand men being, in
Sir Garnet's opinion, a sufficient force to keep the country in
order. Baker Pasha, who bad hurried from Constantinople for
the purpose, was entrusted with the formation of a gendarmerie.
The Khedive and a new Ministry, with Cherif Pasha at the
head, retuiuied to Cairo. The trials of the prisoners began at
once. At first the advisers of the Khedive were eager to try
and punish their enemies as quietly and as quickly as possible.
But in England and in Europe there was little faith put in
Egyi:)tian methods of procedure with fjillen foes. The hostility
to Arabi in England had subsided the moment after his defeat,
and all pai-ties in England were detei-mined to secure him a fair
trial. Arabi was defended by TMr. Broadley, into whose hands

EGYPT. 245

Arabi entrusted various important documents. There were no
startling revelations at the trial, however, which was finally-
brought to a conclusion by what looked like an ingenious ar-
rangement between the English and Egyptian Governments.
Arabi pleaded guilty of rebellion, and was sentenced to death.
The sentence was immediately commuted by the Khedive to
perpetual exile, and Arabi, with a few of his fellow-rebels,
went to Ceylon, after giving his parole of honour to the British
Government that he would not make any attempt to withdraw
from his place of exile. There Mr. Henry W. Lucy saw him
not long since, when he stopped at Ceylon on his way round
the world. Mr. Lucy found Arabi apparently contented,
learning EngUsh, very grateful to his English friends, and
waiting upon ' Kismet,' which may bring him back to Egypt
and to authority again, one of these days.

The Egyptian war was the direct cause of the death of one of
the most brilliant and most profound of English Oriental scholars.
Professor Edward Palmer was one of those rare men who pos-
sess what appears to be an almost incredible facility for learn-
ing languages. He was well-nigh the ideal scholar, devoted to
learning for learning's sake, yet never tainted by the faintest
tinge of pedantry, pride, or afiectation. The story of his life has
been told by his close friend, attached admirer, and Htei-ary col-
league, the well-known novelist, Mr. Walter Besant. It is a
touching and a thrilling record of marvellous accomplishments,
of brilliant performance, of patient determined struggle towards
success, of success achieved, of honours won, of firm friendships,
and a peaceful, happy home— and all ended by a sudden, terrible
death in the Wady Sudr. In the summer of 1882, Professor
Palmer agreed to go out for the Government to Egypt to prevent
any alliance between Arabi and the Bedouin tribes of the
desert. It seems strange that so precious a life should have
been risked on such an errand, though Professor Palmer's know-
ledge of the languages of the East was proverbial. It is not
very surprising that when he and his party were captured by
hostile Arabs their doom should be death. It is certain that
short work would have been made of any emissary from Arabi


who was caught attempting to interfere with the relations exist-
ing between some English general and, say, an Indian regiment.
We shall, perhaps, never exactly know the story of the tragedy
near Nakl, It is certain, however, that Palmer and his com-
panions were captured, through the treachery of the sheikh
Meter Sofieh, who was their guide, and that Palmer, Captain
Gill, and Lieutenant Charrington wei'e shot. Some thirteen of
the Arabs of the tribe that killed Palmer and his companions
were afterwards captured, brought to trial, and five of them
were hanged at Zagazig on February 28, 1883. The remains of
Palmer, Gill, and Charrington were recovered, carried to Eng-
land, and interred in St. Paul's Church.

The death-roll of 1882 is studded with some famous names
■ — and many remarkable names. On April 9 died Dante
Gabriel Pwossetti, painter and poet, and one of the strongest
influences upon the painting and the poetry of his age. He,
with a few others, Millais and Holman Hunt among them, was
the founder of the Pre-Eaphaelite Brotherhood, which strove
to break away from the hideous conventionalities of the art then
existing, and to find fresh iiispii'ation in the works of the greater
Plorentines, and in a closer and truer appreciation of nature.
As a school the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood did not last very
long. It was short-lived, like the magazine, the Germ, in which
its founders sought to express their pictorial and literary theories,
and whose few numbers are -now among the most precious of a
modern book-lover's possessions. Each of the brethren went his
own wild way, whither that led him. One it led to long wan-
derings in the East, and to the cr-eation of pictures with reli-
gious subjects treated from the standpoint of the Syria of to-day.
Another sought popularity and success, and found it, and was,
perhaps, content. Dante Rossetti went on as he had begun,
living for the two arts, in certain phases of each of which he
was so consummate a master. "With the bier, bustling, stru<?-
gling world about him he had little or nothing to do. He had
no need for travel to stir his imagination. Much as he loved
his mother Italy, much as he chei'ished that loveliest of all
books of love, the ' Vita Nuova/ much as his fancy delighted to

EGYPT. 217

live with Dante and Beatrice, he never, we believe, visited Italy,
never saw the flower-city of his dreams and of his pictures.
Nor did he ever covet society or the voices of society, its praise
or its patronage. He lived his own life in his own way. He
painted his sad, beautiful faces, and clad his wonderful witch-
women in exquisite harmonies and subtle contrasts of colour,
till the sense ached at their strange, luxm-ious loveliness; he
wrote his passionate, melancholy sonnets, which enshrine and
embalm the emotions of a soul born out of its time, or the tragic,
fantastic ballads, in which the spirit of a departed time lives
like a rekindled flame, and held aloof from the noisy world, and
was proud, and patient, and unhappy. When his young wife,
the wife of his youth and his love, died, he had laid the manu-
script of bis poems in her coffin, and they vf ere buried under the
earth. Years after, the entreaties of friends persuaded him to
disentomb his poems, and they were given to the world, and the
world made much of them both in praise and blame. Their
influence upon contemporary poetry and contemporary thought
was profound. Many years aftex', shortly before his death,
Mr. Rossetti brought out a fresh volume of poems, only less
beautiful than the first because it was not the first. It
showed no sign of changed mood or method ; it was not an
advance, as it was not a falling off, from the earlier volume.
We may rest assured that Dante Rossetti's too early death has
not at least been injurious to his fame as a poet. He had given
the world his best.

In the same month, ten days later, Charles Robert Darwin
died, greatest of the naturalists of his epoch, the founder of the
modern scientific school. It matters little to his fame that the
so-called Darwinian theory was in some measure anticipated
theoretically by others, by Oken of Jena, and by Goethe. Darwin
devoted to the principle a laborious lifetime of research. The
problem on which he worked may have been guessed at by
a great poet, or dimly conceived of by a Privatdocent of
Gottingen, but it was Darwin who carried out the problem, who
traced it to its conclusions, who made it his own by more than
forty years of patient, unwearying study. He was buried in


"Westminster Abbey. Science, that bad lost her oldest servant
in Darwin, suffered much, a little later, by the loss of one of
her youngest, Professor E. M. Balfour, one of the many victims
annually offered vip to the worship of Mont Blanc. Mr.
Balfour was looked upon as one of the ' coming men ' in science.
He was just thirty years old. Mr. Stanley Jevons, Avho was
drowned while bathing off St. Leonards in August, had earned
a considerable position as a logician and political economist.
He owed his success in life largely to Mr. Mill's generous re-
cognition of his ability as a young man, and it was regrettable
that he should have devoted much of the latter part of his life
to a futile and ungrateful attempt to lower Mill's reputation as
a thinker and a philosopher.

Literature and art lost Harrison Ainsworth, whose stories
have been the delight of generations of schoolboys, and of
more than schoolboys; Denis Florence M'Carthy, the Iiish
patriotic poet, the translator of ' Calderon ; ' Mr. "VV. B. Rands,
essayist and author of ' Lilliput Levee,' a dainty book of child-
lyrics ; Mr. James Rice, Mr. Besant's colleague in a whole
series of popular novels; Dr. John Brown, the sweet-spuited
author of 'Horse Subsecivre,' and of *Rab and his Friends;'
Hablot Knight Browne, the once fiimous, lately somewhat for-
gotten 'Phiz;' John Linnell, the landscape painter; Cecil Law-
son, a young landscape painter of brilliant promise and brilliant
performance; and Benjamin Webster, the actor. The deaths of
Longfellow and Emerson in America were equally regretted on
boih shores of the Atlantic. With Dr. Piisey died the founder
of the school of ecclesiastical thought which, advancing from
the circle of the Church of England, paused halfway upon the
journey towards the Church of Rome.

In December Mr. Anthony Trollope died, at the age of sixty-
seven. He has left on record in his autobiography, published
after his death, the method of working at his novels, and the
somewhat formal and mathematical regularity of his method
has left its mark upon the character of his books. Mr. Trol-
lope made something like an effort to do for English society
what Balzac did for French in his * Human Comedy.' Some

EGYPT. 219

of his characters, Planty Palliser and others, permeate a whole
series of his stories, as Rastignac and Maxime de Traill do
those of the French novelist. But Mr. Trollope had not the
genius though he almost rivalled the fecundity of Balzac; and
while Balzac's novels have already become classics, it is not
probable that Mr. Trollope's novels will occupy any enduring
place in literature. In the telling of a story, which after all is
one of the first purposes of fiction, from the days of the Sindbad
Nameh or the ' Thousand and One Nights,' to those of
M. Fortune du Boisgobey, he was not, except in one or two
instances, very successful. It is on his study of character that
his fame will rest ; he was the apostle of the commonplace,
but he was occasionally something more than commonplace.
There are some at least who think that * Nina Balatka ' and
' Linda Tressel,' two of his least known stories, are worth all the
' Chronicles of Barset ' put together.

The political world dropped a link with the past in the
death of Sir George Grey. For many years he had played no
part in public life. Nor was the part he played in former days
a very great one. His name is most likely to be remembered
in connection with the measure passed in 1857, Avhich abolished
transportation. The Tory party lost one of its ablest lawyers
by the death of Sir John Holker in May. Mr. Bernal Osborne
was chiefly conspicuous for his remarkable power of saying bitter
things, and the impartiality with which he exercised the power.
One of his latest and bitterest sayings was occasioned by the
death of Lord Beaconsfield. The length of time during which
Lord Beaconsfield lingered offered Mr. Bernal Osborne an op-
portunity which he could not miss. ' Overdoing it as he overdid
eveiything,' was his kindly comment on the dying statesman.
The death of Mr. Edwin James reminded London for a moment
of what once promised to be a successful political and legal
career. He first became prominent by his skilful defence of Dr.
Bernard in the Orsini business of 1858, and he shortly after
entered Parliament. His talents had almost won for him the
position of Solicitor-General, when money difficulties caused him
to quit England and go to America, where he made some way


at the American Bar. He returned to London in later years
to find himself almost forgotten, and to fail in the attempt to
make a new career for himself. Captain Hans Busk, the in-
ventor of the Volunteer movement ; Sir Henry Cole, inventor
of the South Kensington Museum, and Joseph Aloysius
Hansom, who invented the Hansom cab, died in this year.

During the summer of 1SS2 London was delighted by the
presence of a curious guest. London is made as happy as ever
old E,ome was by the visit of some barbaric or semi-barbaric
sovereign. It forgot its hon-or of the Cretan massacres in its
eagerness to welcome the ill-fated Abdul Aziz ; it went wild over
the Shah of Persia and other Oriental potentates. Now it was
rejoicing over the Zulu king Cetewayo. Cetewayo, after being
dethroned and kept in long confinement was brought on a visit
to England and entrusted to the care of Mr. Whiteley, the
world-renowned 'universal provider,' who has given an amusing
account of his experiences in providing for an African monarch.
Cetewayo with some of his companions was installed in an
' jBsthetic ' red brick house in Melbury Boad, where he was fed
on overdone beefsteak, where he drank lai-ge quantities of
champagne, and where he received endless visitors who came to
pay theii" respects and to converse with him through the medium
of his interpreter, Mr. Shepstone, Sir Theophilus Shepstoue's
son. After a while London got tired of Cetewayo ; it was felt
that he had been sufficiently impressed by the greatness of the
British Empire, and by the charms of Mr. Whiteley 's cham
pagne, and he was sent back to Africa, and for a time restored
to his dominion. He soon got into a war with another chief
and was defeated ; it was reported that he was killed. The
rumour of his death proved to be unfounded just then. He
gave himself up to English authority again, and died not long
after — of heart disease, it was said. Possibly successive dis-
appointments, and an inability to understand the policy of the
Government, had something to do with the ill-starred king's




The new year 1883 opened sadly enough. The sorrow was
more another nation's than ours, yet it had its echo here.
The man who had died in France just as the old year was fad-
ing into the new, had begun to play a great part in history,
and his influence had counted for something in the politics of
England. All over London, on the Monday which was the first
day of the year, the placards of the evening paper-s announced
that M. Gambetta was dead. He had been ill some time,
through a mysterious accident, with regard to which many
vague and meaningless rumours were in circulation, as such
rumours always circulate when a great statesman is struck
down. He had somehow wounded himself with a pistol; the
wound was slight in itself, but Gambetta's health was bad, and
suddenly, almost before people were aware that he was in serious
danger, he was dead. Seldom perhaps has the irony of existence,
the vanity of success, been more grimly accentuated. Gambetta
was on the threshold of a great career; he was already the
greatest statesman in France, the one man in whom people re-
cognised a spirit that was not unworthy to cope with that of the
German Chancellor. He had become almost suddenly famous
in France. The war gave him his opportunity to show himself
a soldier, a statesman, and an orator. He seemed to be walking
with a sure tread to the highest successes that a political life
can dream after and attain. He had the rare gift of patience ;
he knew how to wait. He was content, if needs were, to stand
aside for a while and watch the play; quietly confident that
when his cue came he could strike in again and fill the stage
with his presence, and cause all the other actors to be forgotten.
And now, long before the play was played out, while it was
but beginning, the great actor was gone. The effect was strange,
startling, even ghastly. The drama has been going on, and the


audience have been applauding ; in scene after scene the actor
has appeared and been successful, and suddenly, while all are
looking for greater things yet, the curtain is rung down, and we
are told that the great actor has died while waiting to come on
the stage. He is dead, and the play will never be finished. M.
Gambetta had many bitter enemies. The bitterest of them might
be willing to admit that there was something profoundly melan-
choly, something inexpressibly tragic in that swift, untimely,
meaningless conclusion to a great career. If life were indeed,
in the words of Mr. George Meredith, ' a supreme ironic proces-
sion, with laughter of gods in the background,' there might well
be immortal mirth over such an ambition coming to such an
end. M. Gambetta died at Ville d'Avi-ay, a little country
place not far from Paris, in the villa called ' Les Jardies,' which
had once belonged to Balzac, and which had been a cause of
much pride and much torment to the great French novelist.
There was everything in the career of Gambetta to excite the
admiration of the old master of ' Les Jardies,' and sometliing in
its futile farewell of which he, pei'haps best of all men who have
ever written, could have imderstood the pity and pathos.

On February 10, 1883, the representatives of Germany,
Au.stria, France, Italy, Russia, Turkey, and Great Britain
met at the Foreign Office, to hold a series of conferences re-
specting the navigation of the Danube. They had actually met
two days previously, but had adjourned out of compliment to
the Turkish Ambassador, Musurus Pasha, who had not then
received the full powers enabling him to take part in the con-
ference. The question which the conference had to decide upon
Avere not only of the highest international interest, but were of
especial importance to British commerce. By the Treaties of
Paris of 1856 and 1857 Russia ceded to Turkey the Avhole of
the islands at the mouth of the Danube, fi'om the Belgarod or
most northern outlet of the Kilia branch, down to the St.
George's or most southern mouth, with the addition of the Isle
of Serpents. Thus every navigable outlet of the Danube into
the sea passed from the conti'ol of Russia to that of the Porte.
The contracting parties to the Treaty of Paris placed all matters


connected with the improvement and navigation of the Danube
undei- two Commissions, In the first oi- European Commission,
each of the contracting parties was to be represented by a
delegate, and the duties of the Commission were to put the
mouth of the Danube into the best possible state for navigation,
and to settle the fixed duties which should be levied to defray
the expenses connected with these works. It was expected
that this Commission would have completed its task in two
years, and in the meantime a permanent Riverain Commission
was to be formed of delegates from the various riverain states
of the Danube, to whom the improvement of the river and the
regulations of navigation throughout its entire course were to
be entrusted. The Eiverain Commission never acted. The
European Commission was unable to accomplish its work in the
proposed two years. The work it had to carry out proved to
be of a much more serious character than was at first expected,
and its existence was renewed from time to time by prolonga-
tions in 1866 of five years, and in 1871 of twelve years. Before
this latter period of twelve years was little more than half ex-
pired, Russia's victory over Tui-key gave her the opportunity of
eflfacing the very last of the humiliations that had been inflicted

Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyEngland under Gladstone, 1880-1885 → online text (page 23 of 38)