Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

England under Gladstone, 1880-1885 online

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the Irish question, unless it is prepared to abandon all idea of
a representative system in Ireland, it should take care that the


representative system there is a reality and not a sham, not a
mere fraud and imposition. "We may or may not like the
opinions held by the majority of the Irish people, but we can-
not suppress them ; and it is to our interest, it is in accord with
statesmanship and good policy, that those opinions, however
unpopular, should be represented — that we should tempt the
people of Ireland to bring their grievances to a constitutional
test, and not drive them to secret conspiracy.'

Mr. Gladstone made a i-eappearance in the House for a
brief time on Monday, March 31. The occasion was a melan-
choly one. On the previous Friday the Queen's youngest son,
Pi'ince Leopold, the Dake of Albany, had died at Cannes, quite
suddenly, in an epileptic fit. The popular voice is always pre-
disposed to the praise of princes ; but in the case of the Duke
of Albany the praise and the regret appear to have been un-
usually genuine and unusually deserved. Dr. Johnson once
said to Burke, who had praised a man for having gentle man-
ners, ' Su-, you need say no more ; when you have said a man
of gentle manners, you have said enough.' The Duke of
Albany appears to have been pre-eminently a prince of gentle
manners. His physical health had been feeble from his youth,
and had debarred him from the custom of many exercises in
which Englishmen especially delight, and in which his brothei-s
distinguished themselves. But he found compensation in
studious and literary tastes. In Miss Grace Greenwood's ' Life
of Queen Victoria ' she says that Dr. James Martineau once
described the Duke of Albany to her as ' a young man of very
thoughtful mind, high aims, and quite remarkable acquire-
ments.' The words might fitly serve as the young Prince's
epitaph. Not quite two years before, in Apiil 1882, he had
been married to the Princess Helen Predeiika Augusta, of
Waldeck-Pyrmont, to whom he appears to have been tendei'ly

The address of condolence to the Queen, and message of
sympathy to the Duchess of Albany, were moved in the Lords
by Lord Granville, and seconded by Lord Salisbury ; the address
in the House of Commons was moved by Mr. Gladstone, and


seconded by Sir Staflford North cote. The coudition of the House
was peculiar. It might be said to have met for the discharge
of a melancholy duty under exceptionally distressing conditions.
Mr. Gladstone, as we have said, had come back to the House
after a serious illness, had almost risen from his sick bed, to be
at his place to move the address. The Speaker was so ill that
it was quite impossible for him to leave his room. The Deputy-
Speaker, Sir Arthur Otway, was in almost the same condition,
and under ordinary circumstances would not have attended the
House. But it is one of the beauties of our Parliamentary
system that it is assumed that the Sj)eaker and the Deputy-
Speaker never could both be ill at the same time. No provision
has been made to meet the contingency, and in consequence
the House, if deprived of its Speaker and his deputy, would be
compelled to adjourn. In this emergency Sir Arthur Otway
literally rose from a sick bed to assist the perplexed Commons.
To add one further complication to the difficulties of the situa-
tion. Sir Erskine IMay, the clerk of the House, was almost as
ill as Sii* Arthur Otway, and like Sir Arthur Otway was so
weak and hoarse that he could hardly make his voice be heard.
For the first time within the memory of man members of the
House, to spare their Chairman's voice, rose and put theii' ques-
tions without being called upon by name.

Affairs in Egypt kept on drifting from bad to worse. The
Opposition peppered the Ministry with' unsuccessful votes of
censure on their Egyptian policy. This policy, a policy of
ruling and not ruling Egypt, soon set them at odds with Nubar
Pasha. The Government set great store by the appointment
of Nubar Pasha, and Nubar Pasha was now only increasing
their difficulties by threatening to resign if he did not have
everything his own way. The financial situation of Egypt too
was gloomy. The law of liquidation as it stood forbade any
further borrowing by Egypt. But Egypt's liabilities were
pressing. Some four and a-half millions were owing for the
Alexandrian indemnities alone ; and, if these indemnities were
to be paid, the law of liquidation would have to be modified.
The Government accordingly invited the Great Powers to con-


sider the expediency of summoning a Conference in order to
induce the signatories of the treaty of liquidation to consent to
a modification of the law. Important as this proposal was, it
was almost lost sight of in the far greater public interest taken
in the fortunes of General Gordon, Gordon was surrounded
in Khartoum. * I can only feel trust in God's mercy/ he wrote
to a friend, ' for there is nothing else.' Indeed there did seem
to be nothing else. The policy of the Government appeared to
be one of masterly inaction. The Times, the Telegraph, the
Morning Post, and the Pall Mall Gazette received incessant
letters from all quarters and all classes, urging the setting on
foot of some subscription in order to form an expedition for the
relief of General Gordon. In the midst of the excitement the
Government, in justification of its policy, published the Egyp-
tian correspondence relating to Gordon. It can hardly be said
that the correspondence proved a very satisfactory justification
of the Government policy, but as a collection of historical
documents it was of almost unrivalled interest. The com-
munications from Gordon at Khartoum are the most important
part of the correspondence. It must be admitted that Gordon's
policy occasionally appears somewhat erratic. Again and again
he makes urgent appeals for assistance, and curious suggestions
about sending Turkish troops to relieve Khartoum. "We hear
of his sending out scouts to see if some army of relief is coming.
' He evidently thinks he is to be abandoned,' telegraphs Sir
Evelyn Baring on April 18 to Earl Granville, 'and is very
indignant.' There is an unconscious satire in those few words
of Sii- Evelyn Baring's which really deserves immortality.
Gordon was in a place of peril, where he was attempting,
almost alone, to accomplish a well-nigh impossible task. He
thought, perhaps unreasonably, that his suggestions Avere dis-
regarded and his appeals for help neglected. Yet it appears
surprising to the official mind that under these conditions he
should consider himself abandoned, and be indignant at the

There was plenty to occupy men's thoughts at home as well
as abroad. In London society much sympathy was felt for


Mr. Edmund Yates, in bis undergoing a sentence of four months'
imprisonment for a libel wbicb bad found its way into tbe
World without bis knowledge. Tbe returns of Mr. Henry-
Irving and Miss Ellen Terry from their unrivalled successes
in America, had about them something of the dignity of inter-
national episodes. Every Londoner took sides and fought
fiercely over Sir "William Harcourt's long-talked-of London
Government Bill. The Bill proposed to put an end to the
anomalous and divided methods by which tbe huge city, or
rather collection of cities, which is called London is administrated.
Boughly speaking, Sir William Harcourt's measure proposed to
extend tbe jurisdiction of tbe Corporation of London, which at
present only rules over what is technically termed ' the City,' to
the whole of the metropolis. All the powers of the Metro-
politan Board of Works were to be transfen^ed to the Corpora-
tion. The Corporation itself underwent no small alterations.
Every householder was to become a citizen under the same quali-
fications that regulate citizenship in other municipalities. The
Common Council elected by tbe votes of tbe citizens was to have
its authority expanded from the City wards to the whole area
of London, and to have everything connected with the metro-
polis under its control except the poor laws, tbe police, and
education. The Maycjr and Sheriffs were to be elected by the
Common Council, and a comprehensive system of district
councils was proposed for carrying out tbe work. One startling
reformation tbe Home Secretary's measure meant to accomplish.
It proposed to annihilate the time-honoured, long-satirised,
much laughed-at office of London Alderman.

On Thursday, April 24, Mr. Cbilders brought forward his
Budget. It contained no striking remissions of taxation ; no
very fascinating and original financial readjustments. Mr.
Childers only coimted upon a surplus of 268,000Z., out of which
he proposed to give some slight relief to the taxation on car-
riages for hire. In order to deal with the perplexing question
of light gold, tbe Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed the
issue of a ten-shilling gold piece, containing only nine shillings'
Avorth of eold and being, therefore, a token coin, Hke the


crown and half-crown. The profit on the issue of this piece
would allow of the withdrawal of all the existing light gold
coinage, without inconvenience to the public or expense to the
taxpayer. The new token would be only legal tender for a
limited amount. Mr. Childers also proposed to create a two
and three-quarters per cent, stock with quarterly dividends,
liable to redemption in the fifth year of the next century, and
a two and a-half per cent, stock with no such liabihty. He
proposed to efiect the conversion of the existing Consols and
Reduced Three Per Cents, into one or other of these newly
created stocks, the profit of the reduction thus eflfected to be
devoted to the relief of taxation. The way had, it was thought,
been sufiiciently prepared for this operation by the great rise in
the pi-ices of the Thi-ee Per Cents., and the existing Two-and-
a-Half Per Cents., that had taken place during the pi-evious
two years.

On the last day of April the Government made a concession
to Ireland. Mr. Dickson had brought in a measure to amend
the purchase clauses of the Land Act of 1881. Mr. Parnell
did not consider Mr. Dickson's bill strong enough, and to the
surprise of the majority at least of the House, Mr. Trevelyan
appeared to agree with Mr. Parnell. The Irish Secretary an-
nounced that the Government had for some time been matur-
ing a more comprehensive scheme for dealing with the purchase
clauses of the Land Act, and could not therefore accept Mr.
Dickson's slighter measiTre.

Early in the year the Times lost its editor, and Oriental
scholarship one of its most remarkable members, by the death
of Mr. Thomas Chenery. Mr. Chenery was succeeded in the
editorship of the Times by Mr. Buckle. Mr. Milner Gibson at
the time of his death had passed almost entirely out of public
view. At one time he played a prominent part in politics
as an ally of Cobden and Bright. He was defeated at the
General Election of 1868, and rethed into private life. Music
lost Mr. Hullah, mathematics Dr. Isaac Todhunter, law Mr.
Benjamin, Q.C., and literature Mr. Blanchard Jerrold,
Douglas Jen-old'g son. In the beginning of March Pi. H,


Home died, at a very advanced age, at Margate. At one time
he seemed likely to make himself a great name as a poet, but
somehow or other he never quite made it, and of late years
both he and his work might be said to be practically forgotten.
Few people ever read now, few people ever did read, the famous
' Farthing Epic,' the * Orion,' which Edgar Allan Poe admired
so much. . Mr. Home lived a curious, wandering, lonely life ;
he died a lonely death. His was not a very lovable nature,
but he found people to love and befriend him to the end, and
much of his later life was brightened by the aftectionate kind-
ness of one of the youngest of our young poets, Mr. Baddeley.
Home's one wish was to be laid by the side of Charles Lamb
at Edmonton, but for some reason or other the wish was not
carried out and he was buried at Margate, where he died. Of
all that he wrote, and ho wrote much, his * Death of Marlowe '
best deserves to be remembered. There is a grim power and
passion in this one-act tragedy, which is not imworthy of the
poet it celebrates. INIarlowe's dying words —

Oh, full and orbed heart.,
Flee to thy kindred sun, rolling on high.
Or let the hoary and eternal sea
Sweep me away and swallow body and soul !

have in them some echo of the mighty music of ' Faustus.'

On April 24 Madame Taglioni died in Marseilles. Though
she was not indeed English her name was once so famous in
England, and she had lived in England so long after her fame
had passed away, that her death deserves at least a passing
mention. She made her first appearance in London in 1829,
and at once became the rage. People raved about her, wrote
about her, almost worshipped her. Forty years later a quiet
old woman was to be met in certain London houses who was
poor, and who maintained herself by giving dancing lessons.
This quiet old woman was all that was left of Taglioni. ' Here's
a sermon,' as Madame de Berstein said when she showed Harry
Wariangton what her face was like in the days when she was
called Beatrix Castlewood. Taglioni is said not to have been
so beautiful as Cherito, nor so dramatic as Fanny Essler whom


Theophile Gautler idolised, whom, tlie second Napoleon adored,
and wlio loved Frederick von Gentz. But in her own way she
was without a peer.

On April 1 1 Mr. Charles Reade died. If Mr. Reade was not
quite in the front rank of the novelists of the Victorian age, he
was undoubtedly not very far removed from the front rank. If
his name cannot be written with those of Thackeray, of Dickens,
or even of George Eliot, it undoubtedly must be written imme-
diately after them. Mr. Charles Reade has been very truly
said to have developed for himself an entirely new branch of
the art of novel- writing, the special gift of which was to con-
vert a Parliamentary blue-book into a work of fiction. But
although Mr. Reade rendered sterling service alike to literature
and humanity by these glorified blue-books, his greatest works
did not come under that head. The tender charm of ' Christie
Johnstone ' fascinates without inculcating any theory. ' Peg
Woffiugton ' almost deserves to stand as an exqviisite re-
creation of the last century by the side of ' Esmond.' ' The
Cloister and the Hearth ' is the most masterly historical novel
that has been written since Scott. The character of Denys of
Burgundy is worthy of the creator of Dugald Dalgetty. His
cheery watch-cry of ' Courage, camarade, le diable est mort,'
rings in our ears like the speech of a friend. How many, by
the way, we wonder, of Mr. Charles Reade's admirers are
aware that the original of this very watch-cry is to be found,
in Italian, notin French, in one of Dryden's plays, from whose
recesses Mr. Reade disentombed it and gave it a chance of

In the same month died Henry J. Byron, dramatist and
actor, and Mrs. Alfred Wigan, wife of one of the foremost
actors of light comedy, as she was herself one of the foremost
actresses in the same style, of what may almost be called a past
generation. Many changes have come over the stage and all
connected with it since the days when Mr. and Mrs. Alfred
Wigan were at the height of their success. We are in a new
dramatic epoch, and they belonged to the old. To the younger
school of playgoers they are little more than a memory. The


death of Mr, Michael Thomas Bass should not pass uncom-
memorated, for his was a name, like that of Dr, Guillotin,
' like to outlive Ciiesar's.' Sir Michael Costa, who died at the
end of April, took from the world of music one of its most
remarkable figures. ' Ten thousand eyes,' says Mr. Haweis,
writing of him, * for half a century at every gi'eat festival have
been riveted upon that figure. We shall see him no more ;
but he leaves to art an open secret, a bright achievement, and
an unsullied name.'

In Sir Bartle Frere the country lost a statesman whose
successes as an Indian official are pleasanter to dwell on than
his failures in South Africa. Law lost Sir Watkin "Williams ;
literature Mr. Mark Pattison, a scholar of a curious type, who
left behind him some disagreeable memoirs. In Mr. Alexander
Martin Sullivan, Ix^eland lost a true Nationalist, a gifted writer
and a brilliant orator. On November 6 Mr. Fawcett died.
His illness was sudden ; many hardly knew that he was ill till
they heard of his death.

The efiect of the news of the death of Mr. Fawcett was very
marked in the House of Commons. The sad tidings did not
arrive uutil after question-time, and were only known at first
to a few members of the Government ; but they soon spread,
and within half an hour were known to every member. It is
not too much to say that the reception of the news of the
calamity Avrought a distinct change in the outward appearance
of the House and the bearing and demeanour of its occupants.
In lobbies and corridors, in tea-room and dining-room and
smoking-rooms, voices were lower than their wont, and the
almost schoolboyish merriment which is at all times character-
istic of the House of Commons, even during the most serious
political crises, Avas hushed indeed. It was difficult at first to
realise that the stalwart form, with the kindly face and the
cheeiy voice, would never again make its appearance on the
arm of his secretary or of some familiar friend in the place with
which he had been so long and so honourably associated. Every
one recognised that in the whole course of his public career he
■^^as an honourable, upright, and gifted gentleman, whose life.


darkened as it was by the terrible privation of blindness, pre-
sented to the public view the example of an antique fortitude,
and to his private friends a dignified and lovable resignation.
It may indeed be said of him, as of Milton's Lycidas, that in
his own wny of life he ' hath not left his peer.' He was suc-
ceeded in the office of Postmaster-General by Mr. Shaw-Lefevre.



The year 1884 faded into 1885, and found the Government
getting deeper and deeper into difficulties. The Irish question
was as vexed as ever. Mr. "William O'Brien had succeeded in
the face of many difficulties in bringing to light the offences of
certain officials of Dublin Castle. A little later Mr. Trevelyan,
weary of a post in which there was no honour to be gained,
became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Mr.
Campbell Bannerman was made Chief Secretary to the Lord
Lieutenant in his stead. But the chief difficulty of the Govern-
ment was in Egypt, w^here the Mahdi was still defiant, and
where Gordon was still shut up in Khartoum, Eor a long
time the Government seemed disposed to take no steps to aid
him in his sore need. In the end, however, a relief expedition
was fitted out under the command of Lord "Wolseley, Lord
Wolseley had been so often successful that he came to be regarded
in the English mind as a genei'al who must always be successful.
But the difficulties which lay in Lord Wolseley's path in
relieving Khartoum were such as in all probability, under the
conditions in which he acted, would have baffled a Caesar or an
Alexander. The expedition moved its slow way along by the
Nile route. The eyes of the world may be said, without
exaggeration, to have been fixed upon that comparatively small
body of men making their way through the desert to relieve
Khartoum and to save Gordon. Evil fortune attended upon


the exjDedition. Bad news trod on the heels of bad news. There
were many desperate battles "svith the Arabs and much blood-
shed, and many gallant lives lost on both sides. One of the
most conspicuous names amongst the dead was that of Colonel
Bumaby. Colonel Burnaby occupied a remarkable position in
the eyes of his country. He had done a great many daring and
desperate things. He was famous for that kind of reckless
courage whose delight in attempting any desperate adventure
increases in direct ratio with the danger it incurs. He seemed
to bear acharmed life, for he had carried it safely away from so
many perils. Among the Khanates of Central Asia, in his wild
ballooning expeditions, in his wanderings in all parts of the
world, and, last of all, in his battles in the desert beyond Suakim,
he had braved death many times in many ways and had escaped
the danger. His turn had come, however, and he fell fighting
bravely at Abu Klea, and sleeps beneath the yellow sand of the
desert. He could hardly have wished for a more appropriate
end to the fiery, fitful life. We are told that his health was
such that he might at any time have fallen dead without any
Avarning. He, at least, would have judged it better to die a
soldier's death far oitt in Egypt than to drop dead suddenly on
the steps of a London club or on the pavement of a London

There were deaths in the expedition, and deaths among
those whom the expedition was sent to save. There came a
I'umour that Stewart, Gordon's chosen companion on his event-
ful ride to Khartoum, and Frank Power, the gallant, reckless
Irishman who acted as the Times correspondent at Khartoum,
had been killed away from the city by treachery. The rumour
was soon confirmed. Gordon was left alone in the city, which
he was defending so well against such odds. At last one day
came the final and fateful news. The advanced part of the
expedition had pushed its way through many dangers within
sight of Khartoum, only to find the banners of the Mahdi fiying
over the conquered city, and to be hailed by the fire of the
Mahdi's followers. The advance expedition had to beat back
in imminent peril ; and in a few hoiu-s the whole world knew


that one of the most remarkable sieges in history was over at
last, that Khartoum had fallen, that Gordon was no more.
Seldom within the memory of living man has London shown
more distinct marks of public excitement than on the afternoon
when the posters of the evening papers announced the news of
the fall of Khartoum and the probable death of Gordon.

Many persons had confidently predicted that the death of
Gordon and the fall of Khartoum would bring with it the fall
of Mr. Gladstone's Ministry. These prophets were not justi-
fied. Although the certainty of Gordon's death, in spite of
occasionally conflicting rumours, soon became established
beyond any reasonable doubt, although Khartoum had fallen,
the Ministry still held firm. They were able not merely to
endure the fall of Khartoum, but to announce the abandon-
ment of the Soudan Expedition, and the withdrawal of the
troops from Upper Egypt — not, indeed, without bitter opposi-
tion and hostile criticism, but without Ministerial reverse. This
decision left the Mahdi practically the master of the situation.
It told England's Mohammedan subjects everywhere that a
Mohammedan prophet had proved victorious over the armies
of England, had killed one of her chiefest soldiers, and had
planted the green banner of Islam on the walls of the belea-
guered city whose siege had been followed by so many myriads of
eyes in every Eastern bazaar. It told them that the English army
which had been sent to smash the Mahdi was rapidly retiring
from the dominions over which the Mahdi held sway. All
these facts stirred the Mohammedan world to its centre, but
did not shake — or did not appear to shake — the strength of
Mr. Gladstone's Government. Even the fiei'ce wrangle over
Penjdeh, which seemed for one exciting week destined to fling
England and Russia into a war the end of which must be
difficult to predict, but the result of which must certainly have
been disastrous to all concerned, did not obviously impair the
strength of the Government. Vote of censure after vote of
censure was showered by a furious and despairing Opposition
upon the Ministry without the slightest effect. Appeal after
appeal to the certain test of the division-lobbies only recorded


successive victories for the Government, successive assurance^
of the confidence of the House of Commons in the conduct of
its leaders. Suddenly, almost startlingly, there came a change.
The great scheme of reform had come almost to a conclusion.
The Kedistribution Bill — establishing something like electoral

Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyEngland under Gladstone, 1880-1885 → online text (page 32 of 38)