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Collections and Recollections by George William Erskine Russell

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architectural, and archaeological knowledge; and made mullion and
portcullis, and armour and tapestry the pegs for a series of neat
discourses on mediaeval history, domestic decoration, and the science of

Which things are an allegory. We, as a nation, take this calm assurance
of foreigners at its own valuation. We consent to be told that we do not
know our own poets, cannot pronounce our own language, and have no
well-educated women. But after a time this process palls. We question
the divine right of the superiority thus imposed on us. We ask on what
foundation these high claims rest, and we discover all at once that we
have paid a great deal of deference where very little was deserved. By
processes such as these I came to find, in years long subsequent to the
encounter at Durham, that Mr. Lowell, though an accomplished politician,
a brilliant writer, and an admirable after-dinner speaker, was,
conversationally considered, an inaccurate man with an accurate manner.
But, after all, inaccuracy is by no means the worst of conversational
faults, and when he was in the vein Mr. Lowell could be exceedingly good
company. He liked talking, and talked not only much but very well. He
had a genuine vein of wit and great dexterity in phrase-making; and on
due occasion would produce from the rich stores of his own experience
some of the most vivid and striking incidents, both civil and military,
of that tremendous struggle for human freedom with which his name and
fame must be always and most honourably associated.


[15] April 15 1888

[16] Written in 1897.



Brave men have lived since as well as before Agamemnon, and those who
know the present society of London may not unreasonably ask whether,
even granting the heavy losses which I enumerated in my last chapter,
the Art of Conversation is really extinct. Are the talkers of to-day in
truth so immeasurably inferior to the great men who preceded them?
Before we can answer these questions, even tentatively, we must try to
define our idea of good conversation, and this can best be done by
rigidly ruling out what is bad. To begin with, all affectation,
unreality, and straining aftereffect are intolerable; scarcely less so
are rhetoric, declamation, and whatever tends towards speech-making.
Mimicry is a very dangerous trick, rare in perfection, and contemptible
when imperfect. An apt story well told is delicious, but there was sound
philosophy in Mr. Pinto's view that "when a man fell into his anecdotage
it was a sign for him to retire from the world." One touch of ill-nature
makes the whole world kin, and a spice of malice tickles the
intellectual palate; but a conversation which is mainly malicious is
entirely dull. Constant joking is a weariness to the flesh; but, on the
other hand, a sustained seriousness of discourse is fatally apt to
recall the conversation between the Hon. Elijah Pogram and the Three
Literary Ladies--"How Pogram got out of his depth instantly, and how the
Three L.L.'s were never in theirs, is a piece of history not worth
recording. Suffice it that, being all four out of their depths and all
unable to swim, they splashed up words in all directions, and floundered
about famously. On the whole, it was considered to have been the
severest mental exercise ever heard in the National Hotel, and the whole
company observed that their heads ached with the effort--as well they

A talker who monopolizes the conversation is by common consent
insufferable, and a man who regulates his choice of topics by reference
to what interests not his hearers but himself has yet to learn the
alphabet of the art. Conversation is like lawn-tennis, and requires
alacrity in return at least as much as vigour in service. A happy
phrase, an unexpected collocation of words, a habitual precision in the
choice of terms, are rare and shining ornaments of conversation, but
they do not for an instant supply the place of lively and interesting
matter, and an excessive care for them is apt to tell unfavourably on
the substance of discourse.

"I might as well attempt to gather up the foam of the sea as to convey
an idea of the extraordinary language in which he clothed his
description. There were at least five words in every sentence that must
have been very much astonished at the use they were put to, and yet no
others apparently could so well have expressed his idea. He talked like
a racehorse approaching the winning-post--every muscle in action, and
the utmost energy of expression flung out into every burst." This is a
contemporary description of Lord Beaconsfield's conversation in those
distant days when, as a young man about town, he was talking and
dressing his way into social fame. Though written in admiration, it
seems to me to describe the most intolerable performance that could ever
have afflicted society. _He talked like a racehorse approaching the
winning-post_. Could the wit of man devise a more appalling image?

Mr. Matthew Arnold once said to me: "People think that I can teach them
style. What stuff it all is! Have something to say, and say it as
clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style." This dictum
applies, I think, at least as well to conversation as to literature. The
one thing needful is to have something to say. The way of saying it may
best be left to take care of itself. A young man about town once
remarked to me, in the tone of one who utters an accepted truism: "It is
so much more interesting to talk about people than things." The
sentiment was highly characteristic of the mental calibre and
associations of the speaker; and certainly the habitual talk--for it is
not conversation--of that section of society which calls itself "smart"
seems to touch the lowest depth of spiteful and sordid dullness. But
still, when the mischiefs of habitual personality have been admitted to
the uttermost, there remains something to be said on the other side. We
are not inhabitants of Jupiter or Saturn, but human beings to whom
nothing that is human is wholly alien. And if in the pursuit of high
abstractions and improving themes we imitate too closely Wordsworth's
avoidance of Personal Talk, our dinner-table will run much risk of
becoming as dull as that poet's own fireside.

Granting, then, that to have something to say which is worth hearing is
the substance of good conversation, we must reckon among its accidents
and ornaments a manner which knows how to be easy and free without being
free-and-easy; a habitual deference to the tastes and even the
prejudices of other people; a hearty desire to be, or at least to seem,
interested in their concerns; and a constant recollection that even the
most patient hearers may sometimes wish to be speakers. Above all else,
the agreeable talker cultivates gentleness and delicacy of speech,
avoids aggressive and overwhelming displays, and remembers the tortured
cry of the neurotic bard:--

"Vociferated logic kills me quite;
A noisy man is always in the right--
I twirl my thumbs, fall back into my chair,
Fix on the wainscot a distressful stare;
And when I hope his blunders all are out,
Reply discreetly, 'To be sure--no doubt!'"

If these, or something like these, are the attributes of good
conversation, in whom do we find them best exemplified? Who best
understands the Art of Conversation? Who, in a word, are our best
talkers? I hope that I shall not be considered ungallant if I say
nothing about the part borne in conversation by ladies. Really it is a
sacred awe that makes me mute. London is happy in possessing not a few
hostesses, excellently accomplished, and not more accomplished than
gracious, of whom it is no flattery to say that to know them is a
liberal education. But, as Lord Beaconsfield observes in a more than
usually grotesque passage of _Lothair_, "We must not profane the
mysteries of Bona Dea." We will not "peep and botanize" on sacred soil,
nor submit our most refined delights to the impertinences of critical

In considering the Art of Conversation I obey a natural instinct when I
think first of Mr. Charles Villiers, M.P. His venerable age alone would
entitle him to this pre-eminence, for he was born in 1802, and was for
seventy years one of the best talkers in London. Born of a family which
combined high rank with intellectual distinction, his parentage was a
passport to all that was best in social and political life. It argues no
political bias to maintain that in the first quarter of the nineteenth
century Toryism afforded its neophytes no educational opportunities
equal to those which a young Whig enjoyed at Bowood and Panshanger and
Holland House. There the best traditions of the previous century were
constantly reinforced by accessions of fresh intellect. The charmed
circle was indeed essentially, but it was not exclusively, aristocratic;
genius held the key, and there was a _carriere ouverte aux talents_.

Thus it came to pass that the society of Lord Lansdowne and Lord Holland
and Lord Melbourne was also the society of Brougham and Mackintosh, and
Macaulay and Sydney Smith. It presented every variety of accomplishment
and experience and social charm, and offered to a man beginning life the
best conceivable education in the art of making oneself agreeable. For
that art Mr. Villiers had a natural genius, and his lifelong association
with the Whigs superadded a technical training in it. But this, though
much, was by no means all. I hold it to be an axiom that a man who is
only a member of society can never be so agreeable as one who is
something else as well. And Mr. Villiers, though "a man about town," a
story-teller, and a diner-out of high renown, has had seventy years'
experience of practical business and Parliamentary life. Thus the
resources of his knowledge have been perpetually enlarged, and, learning
much, he has forgotten nothing. The stores of his memory are full of
treasures new and old. He has taken part in the making of history, and
can estimate the great men of the present day by a comparison with the
political immortals.

That this comparison is not always favourable to some exalted
reputations of the present hour is indeed sufficiently notorious to all
who have the pleasure of Mr. Villiers's acquaintance; and nowhere is his
mastery of the art of conversation more conspicuous than in his knack of
implying dislike and insinuating contempt without crude abuse or noisy
denunciation. He has a delicate sense of fun, a keen eye for
incongruities and absurdities, and that genuine cynicism which springs,
not from the poor desire to be thought worldly-wise, but from a lifelong
acquaintance with the foibles of political men. To these gifts must be
added a voice which age has not robbed of its sympathetic qualities, a
style of diction and a habit of pronunciation which belong to the
eighteenth century, and that formal yet facile courtesy which no one
less than eighty years old seems capable of even imitating.

I have instanced Mr. Villiers as an eminent talker. I now turn to an
eminent man who talks--Mr. Gladstone.[17] An absurd story has long been
current among credulous people with rampant prejudices that Mr.
Gladstone was habitually uncivil to the Queen. Now, it happens that Mr.
Gladstone is the most courteous of mankind. His courtesy is one of his
most engaging gifts, and accounts in no small degree for his power of
attracting the regard of young men and undistinguished people generally.
To all such he is polite to the point of deference, yet never
condescending. His manners to all alike--young and old, rich and
poor--are the ceremonious manners of the old school, and his demeanour
towards ladies is a model of chivalrous propriety. It would therefore
have been to the last degree improbable that he should make a departure
from his usual habits in the case of a lady who was also his Sovereign.
And, as a matter of fact, the story is so ridiculously wide of the mark
that it deserves mention only because, in itself false, it is founded on
a truth. "I," said the Duke of Wellington on a memorable occasion, "have
no small talk, and Peel has no manners." Mr. Gladstone has manners but
no small talk. He is so consumed by zeal for great subjects that he
leaves out of account the possibility that they may not interest other
people. He pays to every one, and not least to ladies, the compliment of
assuming that they are on his own intellectual level, engrossed in the
subjects which engross him, and furnished with at least as much
information as will enable them to follow and to understand him. Hence
the genesis of that absurd story about his demeanour to the Queen.

"He speaks to Me as if I was a public meeting," is a complaint which is
said to have proceeded from illustrious lips. That most successful of
all courtiers, the astute Lord Beaconsfield, used to engage her Majesty
in conversation about water-colour drawing and the third-cousinships of
German princes. Mr. Gladstone harangues her about the polity of the
Hittites, or the harmony between the Athanasian Creed and
Homer. The Queen, perplexed and uncomfortable, tries to make a
digression--addresses a remark to a daughter or proffers biscuit to a
begging terrier. Mr. Gladstone restrains himself with an effort till the
Princess has answered or the dog has sat down, and then promptly
resumes: "I was about to say--" Meanwhile the flood has gathered force
by delay, and when it bursts forth again it carries all before it.

No image except that of a flood can convey the notion of Mr. Gladstone's
table-talk on a subject which interests him keenly--its rapidity, its
volume, its splash and dash, its frequent beauty, its striking effects,
the amount of varied matter which it brings with it, the hopelessness of
trying to withstand it, the unexpectedness of its onrush, the subdued
but fertilized condition of the subjected area over which it has passed.
The bare mention of a topic which interests Mr. Gladstone opens the
floodgates and submerges a province. But the torrent does not wait for
the invitation. If not invited it comes of its own accord; headlong,
overwhelming, sweeping all before it, and gathering fresh force from
every obstacle which it encounters on its course. Such is Mr.
Gladstone's table-talk. For conversation, strictly so called, he has no
turn. He asks questions when he wants information, and answers them
copiously when asked by others. But of give-and-take, of meeting you
half-way, of paying you back in your own conversational coin, he has
little notion. He discourses, he lectures, he harangues. But if a
subject is started which does not interest him it falls flat. He makes
no attempt to return the ball. Although, when he is amused, his
amusement is intense and long sustained, his sense of humour is highly
capricious. It is impossible for even his most intimate friends to guess
beforehand what will amuse him and what will not; and he has a most
disconcerting habit of taking a comic story in grim earnest, and arguing
some farcical fantasy as if it was a serious proposition of law or
logic. Nothing funnier can be imagined than the discomfiture of a
story-teller who has fondly thought to tickle the great man's fancy by
an anecdote which depends for its point upon some trait of baseness,
cynicism, or sharp practice. He finds his tale received in dead silence,
looks up wonderingly for an explanation, and finds that what was
intended to amuse has only disgusted. Mr. Browning once told Mr.
Gladstone a highly characteristic story of Disraelitish duplicity, and
for all reply heard a voice choked with indignation:--"Do you call that
amusing, Browning? _I call it devilish_."[18]


[17] This was written before the 19th of May, 1898, on which day "the
world lost its greatest citizen;" but it has not been thought necessary,
here or elsewhere, to change the present into the past tense.

[18] I give this story as I received it from Mr. Browning.



More than thirty years have passed since the festive evening described
by Sir George Trevelyan in _The Ladies in Parliament_:--

"When, over the port of the innermost bin,
The circle of diners was laughing with Phinn;
When Brookfield had hit on his happiest vein.
And Harcourt was capping the jokes of Delane."

The sole survivor of that brilliant group now[19] leads the Opposition;
but at the time when the lines were written he had not yet entered the
House of Commons. As a youth of twenty-five he had astonished the
political world by his anonymous letters on _The Morality of Public
Men_, in which he denounced, in the style of Junius, the Protectionist
revival of 1852. He had fought a plucky but unsuccessful fight at
Kirkcaldy; was making his five thousand a year at the Parliamentary Bar;
had taught the world international law over the signature of
"Historicus," and was already, what he is still, one of the most
conspicuous and interesting figures in the society of London. Of Sir
William Harcourt's political alliances this is not the place nor am I
the person to treat:

"Let the high Muse chant loves Olympian:
We are but mortals, and must sing of Man."

My theme is not Sir William Harcourt the politician, but Sir William
Harcourt the man, the member of society--above all, the talker. And,
although I have thus deliberately put politics on one side, it is
strictly relevant to my purpose to observe that Sir William is
essentially and typically a Whig. For Whiggery, rightly understood, is
not a political creed but a social caste. The Whig, like the poet, is
born, not made. It is as difficult to become a Whig as to become a Jew.
Macaulay was probably the only man who, being born outside the
privileged enclosure, ever penetrated to its heart and assimilated its
spirit. The Whigs, indeed, as a body have held certain opinions and
pursued certain tactics which have been analyzed in chapters xix. and
xxi. of the unexpurgated _Book of Snobs_. But those opinions and those
tactics have been mere accidents, though perhaps inseparable accidents,
of Whiggery. Its substance has been relationship.

When Lord John Russell formed his first Administration his opponents
alleged that it was mainly composed of his cousins, and one of his
younger brothers was charged with the impossible task of rebutting the
accusation in a public speech. Mr. Beresford-Hope, in one of his novels,
made excellent fun of what he called "the sacred circle of the
Great-Grandmotherhood." He showed--what, indeed, the Whigs themselves
knew uncommonly well--that from a certain Earl Gower, who flourished in
the eighteenth century, and was great-great-great-grandfather of the
present Duke of Sutherland, are descended all the Levesons,[20] Gowers,
Howards, Cavendishes, Grosvenors, Russells, and Harcourts, who walk on
the face of the earth. Truly a noble and a highly favoured progeny.
"They _are_ our superiors," said Thackeray; "and that's the fact. I am
not a Whig myself (perhaps it is as unnecessary to say so as to say I'm
not King Pippin in a golden coach, or King Hudson, or Miss
Burdett-Coutts). I'm not a Whig; but oh, how I should like to be one!"

From this illustrious stock Sir William Harcourt is descended through
his grandmother, Lady Anne Harcourt--born Leveson-Gower, and wife of
the last Prince-Archbishop of York (whom, by the way, Sir William
strikingly resembles both in figure and in feature). When one meets Sir
William Harcourt for the first time in society, perhaps one is first
struck by the fact that he is in aspect and bearing a great gentleman of
the old school, and then that he is an admirable talker. He is a true
Whig in culture as well as in blood. Though his conversation is never
pedantic, it rests on a wide and strong basis of generous learning. Even
those who most cordially admire his political ability do not always
remember that he is an excellent scholar, and graduated as eighth in the
First Class of the Classical Tripos in the year when Bishop Lightfoot
was Senior Classic. He has the _Corpus Poetarum_ and Shakespeare and
Pope at his finger-ends, and his intimate acquaintance with the
political history of England elicited a characteristic compliment from
Lord Beaconsfield. It is his favourite boast that in all his tastes,
sentiments, and mental habits he belongs to the eighteenth century,
which he glorifies as the golden age of reason, patriotism, and liberal
learning. This self-estimate strikes me as perfectly sound, and it
requires a very slight effort of the imagination to conceive this
well-born young Templar wielding his doughty pen in the Bangorian
Controversy, or declaiming on the hustings for Wilkes and Liberty;
bandying witticisms with Sheridan, and capping Latin verses with Charles
Fox; or helping to rule England as a member of that "Venetian Oligarchy"
on which Lord Beaconsfield lavished all the vials of his sarcasm. In
truth, it is not fanciful to say that whatever was best in the
eighteenth century--its robust common sense, its racy humour, its
thorough and unaffected learning, its ceremonious courtesy for great
occasions, its jolly self-abandonment in social intercourse--is
exhibited in the demeanour and conversation of Sir William Harcourt. He
is an admirable host, and, to borrow a phrase from Sydney Smith,
"receives his friends with that honest joy which warms more than dinner
or wine." As a guest, he is a splendid acquisition, always ready to
amuse and to be amused, delighting in the rapid cut-and-thrust of
personal banter, and bringing out of his treasure things new and old for
the amusement and the benefit of a later and less instructed generation.

Extracts from the private conversation of living people, as a rule, I
forbear; but some of Sir William's quotations are so extraordinarily apt
that they deserve a permanent place in the annals of table-talk. That
fine old country gentleman, the late Lord Knightley (who was the living
double of Dickens's Sir Leicester Dedlock), had been expatiating after
dinner on the undoubted glories of his famous pedigree. The company was
getting a little restive under the recitation, when Sir William was
heard to say, in an appreciative aside, "This reminds me of Addison's
evening hymn--

'And Knightley to the listening earth
Repeats the story of his birth.'"

Surely the force of apt citation can no further go. When Lord Tennyson
chanced to say in Sir William Harcourt's hearing that his pipe after
breakfast was the most enjoyable of the day, Sir William softly murmured
the Tennysonian line--

"The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds."

Some historians say that he substituted "bards" for "birds," and the
reception accorded by the poet to the parody was not as cordial as its
excellence deserved.

Another capital talker is Sir George Trevelyan. He has been, from the
necessities of his position, a man of the world and a politician, and he
is as ready as Mr. Bertie-Tremaine's guests in _Endymion_ to talk of
"that heinous subject on which enormous fibs are ever told--the
Registration." But, after all, the man of the world and the politician
are only respectable parts which he had been bound to assume, and he has
played them--with assiduity and success: but the true man in Sir George
Trevelyan is the man of letters. Whenever he touches a historical or
literary theme his whole being seems to undergo a transformation. The
real nature flashes out through his twinkling eyes. While he muses the
fire burns, and, like the Psalmist, he speaks with his tongue. Dates and
details, facts and traditions, cantos and poetry, reams of prose,
English and Latin and Greek and French, come tumbling out in headlong
but not disorderly array. He jumps at an opening, seizes an illusion,
replies with lightning quickness to a conversational challenge, and is
ready at a moment's notice to decide any literary or historical
controversy in a measured tone of deliberate emphasis which is not
wholly free from exaggeration. Like his uncle Lord Macaulay, Sir George
Trevelyan has "his own heightened and telling way of putting things,"
and those who know him well make allowance for this habit. For the rest,
he is delightful company, light-hearted as a boy, full of
autobiographical chit-chat about Harrow and Trinity, and India and Holly
Lodge, eagerly interested in his friends' concerns, brimming over with
enthusiasm, never bored, never flat, never stale. A well-concerted party
is a kind of unconscious conspiracy to promote cheerfulness and
enjoyment, and in such an undertaking there can be no more serviceable
ally than Sir George Trevelyan.

Mr. John Morley's agreeableness in conversation is of a different kind.
His leading characteristic is a dignified austerity of demeanour which
repels familiarity and tends to keep conversation on a high level; but
each time one meets him there is less formality and less restraint, and
the grave courtesy which never fails is soon touched with friendliness
and frank good-humour in a singularly attractive fashion. He talks, not
much, but remarkably well. His sentences are deliberate, clear-cut,
often eloquent. He excels in phrase-making. His quotations are apt and
novel. His fine taste and varied reading enable him to hold his own in
many fields where the merely professional politician is apt to be
terribly astray. His kindness to social and literary beginners is one of
his most engaging traits. He invariably finds something pleasant to say
about the most immature and unpromising efforts, and he has the knack of
so handling his own early experience as to make it an encouragement and
a stimulus, and not (as the manner of some is) a burden and a bogey. Mr.
Morley never obtrudes his own opinions, never introduces debatable
matter, never dogmatizes. But he is always ready to pick up the
gauntlet, especially if a Tory flings it down; is merciless towards
ill-formed assertion, and is the alert and unsparing enemy of what Mr.
Ruskin calls "the obscene empires of Mammon and Belial."

Lord Salisbury goes so little into general society that his qualities as
a talker are not familiarly known. He is painfully shy, and at a club or
in a large party undergoes the torments of the lost. Yet no one can
listen, even casually, to his conversation without appreciating the fine
manner, full both of dignity and of courtesy; the utter freedom from
pomposity, formality, and self-assertion, and the agreeable dash of
genuine cynicism, which modifies, though it does not mask, the flavour
of his fun. After a visit to Hatfield in 1868, Bishop Wilberforce wrote
in his diary: "Gladstone how struck with Salisbury: 'Never saw a more
perfect host.'" And again--"He remarked to me on the great power of
charming and pleasant hosting possessed by Salisbury." And it is the
universal testimony of Lord Salisbury's guests, whether at Hatfield or
in Arlington Street, that he is seen at his very best in his own house.
The combination of such genuine amiability in private life with such
calculated brutality in public utterance constitutes a psychological
problem which might profitably be made the subject of a Romanes Lecture.

Barring the shyness, from which Mr. Balfour is conspicuously free, there
is something of Lord Salisbury's social manner about his accomplished
nephew. He has the same courtesy, the same sense of humour, the same
freedom from official solemnity. But the characteristics of the elder
man are exaggerated in the younger. The cynicism which is natural in
Lord Salisbury is affected in Mr. Balfour. He cultivates the art of
indifference, and gives himself the airs of a jaded Epicurean who craves
only for a new sensation. There is what an Irish Member, in a moment of
inspiration, called a "toploftiness" about his social demeanour which is
not a little irritating. He is too anxious to show that he is not as
other men are. Among politicians he is a philosopher; among
philosophers, a politician. Before that hard-bitten crew whom Burke
ridiculed--the "calculators and economists"--he will talk airily of golf
and ladies' fashions; and ladies he will seek to impress by the Praise
of Vivisection or the Defence of Philosophic Doubt. His social
agreeableness has, indeed, been marred by the fatuous idolatry of a
fashionable clique, stimulating the self-consciousness which was his
natural foible; but when he can for a moment forget himself he still is
excellent company, for he is genuinely amiable and thoroughly well


[19] 1897.

[20] Cromartie, 4th Duke.



The writer of these chapters has always felt some inward affinity to the
character of Lord St. Jerome in _Lothair_, of whom it is recorded that
he loved conversation, though he never conversed. "There must be an
audience," he would say, "and I am the audience." In my capacity of
audience I assign a high place to the agreeableness of Lord Rosebery's
conversation. To begin with, he has a delightful voice. It is low, but
perfectly distinct, rich and sympathetic in quality, and singularly
refined in accent. It is exactly the sort of voice which bespeaks the
goodwill of the hearer and recommends what it utters. In a former
chapter we agreed that the chief requisite of good conversation is to
have something to say which is worth saying, and here Lord Rosebery is
excellently equipped. Last week the newspapers announced with a flourish
of rhetorical trumpets that he had just celebrated his fiftieth
birthday.[21] Some of the trumpeters, with a laudable intention to be
civil, cried, "Is it possible that he can be so old?" Others, with
subtler art, professed themselves unable to believe that he was so
young. Each compliment contained its element of truth. In appearance,
air, and tastes Lord Rosebery is still young. In experience, knowledge,
and conduct he is already old. He has had a vivid and a varied
experience. He is equally at home on Epsom Downs and in the House of
Lords. His life has been full of action, incident, and interest. He has
not only collected books, but has read them; and has found time, even
amid the engrossing demands of the London County Council, the Turf, and
the Foreign Office, not only for study, but--what is much more
remarkable--for thought.

So far, then, as substance goes, his conversation is (to use Mr.
Gladstone's quaint phrase) "as full of infinitely varied matter as an
egg is full of meat;" and in its accidents and ornaments it complies
exactly with the conditions laid down in a former chapter--a manner
which knows how to be easy and free without being free-and-easy;
habitual deference to the tastes and prejudices of other people; a
courteous desire to be, or at least to seem, interested in their
concerns; and a recollection that even the most patient hearers (among
whom the present writer reckons himself) may sometimes wish to be
speakers. To these gifts he adds a keen sense of humour, a habit of
close observation, and a sub-acid vein of sarcasm which resembles the
dash of Tarragon in a successful salad. In a word, Lord Rosebery is one
of the most agreeable talkers of the day; and even if it is true that
_il s'ecoute quand il parle_, his friends may reply that it would be
strange indeed if one could help listening to what is always so
agreeable and often so brilliant.

A genial journalist recently said that Mr. Goschen was now chiefly
remembered by the fact that he had once had Sir Alfred Milner for his
Private Secretary. But whatever may be thought of the First Lord of the
Admiralty as a politician and an administrator, I claim for him a high
place among agreeable talkers. There are some men who habitually use the
same style of speech in public and in private life. Happily for his
friends, this is not the case with Mr. Goschen. Nothing can be less
agreeable than his public style, whether on the platform or in the House
of Commons. Its tawdry staginess, its "Sadler's Wells sarcasm," its
constant striving after strong effects, are distressing to good taste.
But in private life he is another and a much more agreeable man. He is
courteous, genial, perfectly free from affectation, and enters into the
discussion of social banalities as eagerly and as brightly as if he had
never converted the Three per Cents, or established the ratio between
dead millionaires and new ironclads. His easiness in conversation is
perhaps a little marred by a Teutonic tendency to excessive analysis
which will not suffer him to rest until he has resolved every subject
and almost every phrase into its primary elements. But this philosophic
temperament has its counterbalancing advantages in a genuine openness of
mind, willingness to weigh and measure opposing views, and
inaccessibility to intellectual passion. It is true that on the platform
the exigencies of his position compel him to indulge in mock-heroics and
cut rhetorical capers for which Nature never designed him; but these are
for public consumption only, and when he is not playing to the gallery
he can discuss his political opponents and their sayings and doings as
dispassionately as a microscopist examines a black-beetle. Himself a
good talker, Mr. Goschen encourages good talk in other people; and in
old days, when the Art of Conversation was still seriously cultivated,
he used to gather round his table in Portland Place a group of intimate
friends who drank '34 port and conversed accordingly. Among these were
Lord Sherbrooke, whose aptness in quotation and dexterity in repartee
have never, in my experience, been surpassed; and Lord Chief Justice
Cockburn, whose "sunny face and voice of music, which lent melody to
scorn and sometimes reached the depth of pathos," were gracefully
commemorated by Lord Beaconsfield in his sketch of Hortensius. But this
belongs to ancient history, and my business is with the conversation of

Very distinctly of to-day is the conversation of Mr. Labouchere. Even
our country cousins are aware that the Member for Northampton is less
an ornament of general society than the oracle of an initiated circle.
The smoking-room of the House of Commons is his shrine, and there,
poised in an American rocking-chair and delicately toying with a
cigarette, he unlocks the varied treasures of his well-stored memory,
and throws over the changing scenes of life the mild light of his genial
philosophy. It is a chequered experience that has made him what he is.
He has known men and cities; has probed in turn the mysteries of the
caucus, the green-room, and the Stock Exchange; has been a diplomatist,
a financier, a journalist, and a politician. Under these circumstances,
it is perhaps not surprising that his faith--no doubt originally
robust--in the purity of human nature and the uprightness of human
motive should have undergone some process of degeneration. Still it may
be questioned whether, after all that he has seen and done, he is the
absolute and all-round cynic that he would seem to be. The palpable
endeavour to make out the worst of every one--including himself--gives a
certain flavour of unreality to his conversation; but, in spite of this
peculiarity, he is an engaging talker. His language is racy and
incisive, and he talks as neatly as he writes. His voice is pleasant,
and his utterance deliberate and effective. He has a keen eye for
absurdities and incongruities, a shrewd insight into affectation and
bombast, and an admirable impatience of all the moral and intellectual
qualities which constitute the Bore. He is by no means inclined to bow
his knee too slavishly to an exalted reputation, and analyzes with
agreeable frankness the personal and political qualities of great and
good men, even if they sit on the front Opposition bench. As a
contributor to enjoyment, as a promoter of fun, as an unmasker of
political and social humbug, he is unsurpassed. His performances in
debate are no concern of mine, for I am speaking of conversation only;
but most Members of Parliament will agree that he is the best companion
that can be found for the last weary half-hour before the division-bell
rings, when some eminent nonentity is declaiming his foregone
conclusions to an audience whose whole mind is fixed on the chance of
finding a disengaged cab in Palace Yard.

Like Mr. Labouchere, Lord Acton has touched life at many points--but not
the same. He is a theologian, a professor, a man of letters, a member of
society; and his conversation derives a distinct tinge from each of
these environments. When, at intervals all too long, he quits his
retirement at Cannes or Cambridge, and flits mysteriously across the
social scene, his appearance is hailed with devout rejoicing by every
one who appreciates manifold learning, a courtly manner, and a
delicately sarcastic vein of humour. The distinguishing feature of Lord
Acton's conversation is an air of sphinx-like mystery, which suggests
that he knows a great deal more than he is willing to impart. Partly by
what he says, and even more by what he leaves unsaid, his hearers are
made to feel that, if he has not acted conspicuous parts, he has been
behind the scenes of many and very different theatres.

He has had relations, neither few nor unimportant, with the Pope and the
Old Catholics, with Oxford and Lambeth, with the cultivated Whiggery of
the great English families, with the philosophic radicalism of Germany,
and with those Nationalist complications which, in these later days,
have drawn official Liberalism into their folds. He has long lived on
terms of the closest intimacy with Mr. Gladstone, and may perhaps be
bracketed with Canon MacColl and Sir Algernon West as the most absolute
and profound Gladstonian outside the family circle of Hawarden. But he
is thoroughly eclectic in his friendships, and when he is in London he
flits from Lady Hayter's tea-table to Mr. Goschen's bureau, analyzes at
the Athenaeum the gossip which he has acquired at Brooks's, and by
dinner-time is able, if only he is willing, to tell you what Spain
intends and what America; the present relations between the Curia and
the Secret Societies; how long Lord Salisbury will combine the
Premiership with the Foreign Office; and the latest theory about the
side of Whitehall on which Charles I. was beheaded.

The ranks of our good talkers--none too numerous a body at the best, and
sadly thinned by the losses which I described in a former chapter--have
been opportunely reinforced by the discovery of Mr. Augustine Birrell.
For forty-eight years he has walked this earth, but it is only during
the last nine--in short, since he entered Parliament--that the admirable
qualities of his conversation have been generally recognized. Before
that time his delightful _Obiter Dicta_ had secured for him a wide
circle of friends who had never seen his face, and by these admirers his
first appearance on the social scene was awaited with lively interest.
What would he be like? Should we be disillusioned? Would he talk as
pleasantly as he wrote? Well, in due course he appeared, and the
questions were soon answered in a sense as laudatory as his friends or
even himself could have desired. It was unanimously voted that his
conversation was as agreeable as his writing; but, oddly enough, its
agreeableness was of an entirely different kind. His literary knack of
chatty criticism had required a new word to convey its precise effect.
To "birrell" is now a verb as firmly established as to "boycott," and it
signifies a style light, easy, playful, pretty, rather discursive,
perhaps a little superficial. Its characteristic note is grace. But when
the eponymous hero of the new verb entered the conversational lists it
was seen that his predominant quality was strength.

An enthusiastic admirer who sketched him in a novel nicknamed him "The
Harmonious Blacksmith," and the collocation of words happily hits off
the special quality of his conversation. There is burly strength in his
positive opinions, his cogent statement, his remorseless logic, his
thorough knowledge of the persons and things that he discusses. In his
sledge-hammer blows against humbug and wickedness, intellectual
affectation, and moral baseness, he is the Blacksmith all over. In his
geniality, his sociability, his genuine love of fun, his frank readiness
to amuse or be amused, the epithet "harmonious" is abundantly justified.
He cultivates to some extent the airs and tone of the eighteenth
century, in which his studies have chiefly lain. He says what he means,
and calls a spade a spade, and glories in an old-fashioned prejudice. He
is the jolliest of companions and the steadiest of friends, and perhaps
the most genuine book-lover in London, where, as a rule, people are too
"cultured" to read books, though willing enough to chatter about them.


[21] May 7, 1897.



_ Clerus Anglicanus stupor mundi_. I believe that this complimentary
proverb originally referred to the learning of the English clergy, but
it would apply with equal truth to their social agreeableness. When I
was writing about the Art of Conversation and the men who excelled in
it, I was surprised to find how many of the best sayings that recurred
spontaneously to my memory had a clerical origin; and it struck me that
a not uninteresting chapter might be written about the social
agreeableness of clergymen. A mere layman may well feel a natural and
becoming diffidence in venturing to handle so high a theme.

In a former chapter I said something of the secular magnificence which
surrounded great prelates in the good old days, when the Archbishop of
Canterbury could only be approached on gilt-edged paper, and even the
Bishop of impecunious Oxford never appeared in his Cathedral city
without four horses and two powdered footmen. In a certain sense, no
doubt, these splendid products of established religion conduced to
social agreeableness. Like the excellent prelate described in
_Friendship's Garland_, they "had thoroughly learnt the divine lesson
that charity begins at home." They maintained an abundant hospitality;
they celebrated domestic events by balls at the episcopal palace; they
did not disdain (as we gather from the Life of the Hon. and Rev. George
Spencer) the relaxation of a rubber of whist, even on the night before
an Ordination, with a candidate for a partner. They dined out, like that
well-drawn bishop in _Little Dorrit_, who "was crisp, fresh, cheerful,
affable, bland, but so surprisingly innocent;" or like the prelate on
whom Thackeray moralized: "My Lord, I was pleased to see good thing
after good thing disappear before you; and think that no man ever better
became that rounded episcopal apron. How amiable he was! how kind! He
put water into his wine. Let us respect the moderation of the

But the agreeableness which I had in my mind when I took upon myself to
discourse of agreeable clergymen was not an official but a personal
agreeableness. We have been told on high authority that the Merriment of
Parsons is mighty offensive; but the truth of this dictum depends
entirely on the topic of the merriment. A clergyman who made light of
the religion which he professes to teach, or even joked about the
incidents and accompaniments of his sacred calling, would by common
consent be intolerable. Decency exacts from priests at least a semblance
of piety; but I entirely deny that there is anything offensive in the
"merriment of parsons" when it plays round subjects outside the scope of
their professional duties.

Of Sydney Smith Lord Houghton recorded that "he never, except once, knew
him to make a jest on any religious subject, and then he immediately
withdrew his words, and seemed ashamed that he had uttered them;" and I
regard the admirable Sydney as not only the supreme head of all
ecclesiastical jesters, but as, on the whole, the greatest humorist
whose jokes have come down to us in an authentic and unmutilated form.
Almost alone among professional jokers, he made his merriment--rich,
natural, fantastic, unbridled as it was--subserve the serious purposes
of his life and writing. Each joke was a link in an argument; each
sarcasm was a moral lesson.

_Peter Plymley's Letters_, and those addressed to Archdeacon Singleton,
the Essays on _America_ and _Persecuting Bishops_, will probably be read
as long as the _Tale of a Tub_ or Macaulay's review of Montgomery's
Poems; while of detached and isolated jokes--pure freaks of fun clad in
literary garb--an incredible number of those which are current in daily
converse deduce their birth from this incomparable Canon.

When one is talking of facetious clergymen, it is inevitable to think of
Bishop Wilberforce; but his humour was of an entirely different quality
from that of Sydney Smith. To begin with, it is unquotable. It must, I
think, have struck every reader of the Bishop's Life, whether in the
three huge volumes of the authorized Biography or in the briefer but
more characteristic monograph of Dean Burgon, that, though the
biographers had themselves tasted and enjoyed to the full the peculiar
flavour of his fun, they utterly failed in the attempt to convey it to
the reader. Puerile puns, personal banter of a rather homely type, and
good stories collected from other people are all that the books
disclose. Animal spirits did the rest; and yet, by the concurrent
testimony of nearly all who knew him, Bishop Wilberforce was not only
one of the most agreeable but one of the most amusing men of his time.
We know from one of his own letters that he peculiarly disliked the
description which Lord Beaconsfield gave of him in _Lothair_, and on the
principle of _Ce n'est que la verite qui blesse_, it may be worth while
to recall it: "The Bishop was particularly playful on the morrow at
breakfast. Though his face beamed with Christian kindness, there was a
twinkle in his eye which seemed not entirely superior to mundane
self-complacency, even to a sense of earthly merriment. His seraphic
raillery elicited sympathetic applause from the ladies, especially from
the daughters of the house, who laughed occasionally even before his
angelic jokes were well launched."

Mr. Bright once said, with characteristic downrightness, "If I was paid
what a bishop is paid for doing what a bishop does, I should find
abundant cause for merriment in the credulity of my countrymen;" and,
waiving the theological animus which the saying implies, it is not
uncharitable to surmise that a general sense of prosperity and a strong
faculty of enjoying life in all its aspects and phases had much to do
with Bishop Wilberforce's exuberant and infectious jollity. "A truly
emotional spirit," wrote Matthew Arnold, after meeting him in a country
house, "he undoubtedly has beneath his outside of society-haunting and
men-pleasing, and each of the two lives he leads gives him the more zest
for the other."

A scarcely less prominent figure in society than Bishop Wilberforce, and
to many people a much more attractive one, was Dean Stanley. A clergyman
to whom the Queen signed herself "Ever yours affectionately" must
certainly be regarded as the social head of his profession, and every
circumstance of Stanley's nature and antecedents exactly fitted him for
the part. He was in truth a spoiled child of fortune, in a sense more
refined and spiritual than the phrase generally conveys. He was born of
famous ancestry, in a bright and unworldly home; early filled with the
moral and intellectual enthusiasms of Rugby in its best days; steeped in
the characteristic culture of Oxford, and advanced by easy stages of
well-deserved promotion to the most delightful of all offices in the
Church of England. His inward nature accorded well with this happy
environment. It was in a singular degree pure, simple, refined,
ingenuous. All the grosser and harsher elements of human character
seemed to have been omitted from his composition. He was naturally good,
naturally graceful, naturally amiable. A sense of humour was, I think,
almost the only intellectual gift with which he was not endowed. Lord
Beaconsfield spoke of his "picturesque sensibility," and the phrase was
happily chosen. He had the keenest sympathy with whatever was graceful
in literature; a style full of flexibility and colour; a rare faculty of
graphic description; and all glorified by something of the poet's
imagination. His conversation was incessant, teeming with information,
and illustrated by familiar acquaintance with all the best that has been
thought and said in the world.

Never was a brighter intellect or a more gallant heart housed in a more
fragile form. His figure, features, bearing, and accent were the very
type of refinement; and as the spare figure, so short yet so full of
dignity, marked out by the decanal dress and the red ribbon of the Order
of the Bath, threaded its way through the crowded saloons of London
society, one felt that the Church, as a civilizing institution, could
not be more appropriately represented.

A lady of Presbyterian antecedents who had conformed to Anglicanism once
said to the present writer, "I dislike the _Episcopal_ Church as much as
ever, but I love the _Decanal_ Church." Her warmest admiration was
reserved for that particular Dean, supreme alike in station and in
charm, whom I have just now been describing; but there were, at the time
of speaking, several other members of the same order who were
conspicuous ornaments of the society in which they moved. There was Dr.
Elliot, Dean of Bristol, a yearly visitor to London; dignified, clever,
agreeable, highly connected; an administrator, a politician, an
admirable talker; and so little trammelled by any ecclesiastical
prejudices or habitudes that he might have been the original of Dr.
Stanhope in _Barchester Towers_. There was Dr. Liddell, Dean of Christ
Church, whose periodical appearances at Court and in society displayed
to the admiring gaze of the world the very handsomest and stateliest
specimen of the old English gentleman that our time has produced. There
was Dr. Church, Dean of St. Paul's, by many competent judges pronounced
to be our most accomplished man of letters, yet so modest and so
retiring that the world was never suffered to come in contact with him
except through his books. And there was Dr. Vaughan, Dean of Llandaff,
who concealed under the blandest of manners a remorseless sarcasm and a
mordant wit, and who, returning from the comparative publicity of the
Athenaeum to the domestic shades of the Temple, would often leave behind
him some pungent sentence which travelled from mouth to mouth, and
spared neither age nor sex nor friendship nor affinity.

The very highest dignitaries of the Church in London have never, in my
experience, contributed very largely to its social life. The
garden-parties of Fulham and Lambeth are indeed recognized incidents of
the London season; but they present to the critical eye less the aspect
of a social gathering than that of a Church Congress combined with a
Mothers' Meeting. The overwhelming disparity between the
position of host and guests is painfully apparent, and that
"drop-down-dead-ativeness" of manner which Sydney Smith quizzed still
characterizes the demeanour of the unbeneficed clergy. Archbishop Tait,
whose natural stateliness of aspect and manner was one of the most
conspicuous qualifications for his great office, was a dignified and
hospitable host; and Archbishop Thomson, reinforced by a beautiful and
charming wife, was sometimes spoken of as the Archbishop of Society.
Archbishop Benson looked the part to perfection, but did not take much
share in general conversation, though I remember one terse saying of his
in which the _odium theologicum_ supplied the place of wit. A portrait
of Cardinal Manning was exhibited at the Royal Academy, and I remarked
to the Archbishop on the extraordinary picturesqueness of the Cardinal's
appearance "The dress is very effective," replied the Archbishop dryly,
"but I don't think there is much besides." "Oh, surely it is a fine
head?" "No, not a fine head; only _no face_."

Passing down through the ranks of the hierarchy, I shall presently have
something to say about two or three metropolitan Canons who are notable
figures in society; but before I come to them I must offer a word of
affectionate tribute to the memory of Dr. Liddon. Probably there never
was a man whose social habit and manner were less like what a mere
outsider would have inferred from his physical aspect and public
demeanour. Nature had given him the outward semblance of a foreigner and
an ascetic; a life-long study of ecclesiastical rhetoric had stamped him
with a mannerism which belongs peculiarly to the pulpit. But the true
inwardness of the man was that of the typical John Bull--hearty,
natural, full of humour, utterly free from self-consciousness. He had a
healthy appetite, and was not ashamed to gratify it; liked a good glass
of wine; was peculiarly fond of sociable company, whether as host or
guest; and told an amusing story with incomparable zest and point. His
verbal felicity was a marked feature of his conversation. His
description of Archbishop Benson (revived, with strange taste, by the
_Saturday Review_ on the occasion of the Archbishop's death) was a
masterpiece of sarcastic character-drawing. The judicious Bishop
Davidson and the accomplished Canon Mason were the subjects of similar
pleasantries; and there was substantial truth as well as genuine fun in
his letter to a friend written one dark Christmas from Amen Court:
"London is just now buried under a dense fog. This is commonly
attributed to Dr. Westcott having opened his study-window at



Of the "Merriment of Parsons" one of the most conspicuous instances was
to be found in the Rev. W.H. Brookfield, the "little Frank Whitestock"
of Thackeray's _Curate's Walk_, and the subject of Lord Tennyson's
characteristic elegy:--

"Brooks, for they called you so that knew you best--
Old Brooks, who loved so well to mouth my rhymes,
How oft we two have heard St. Mary's chimes!
How oft the Cantab supper host, and guest,
Would echo helpless laughter to your jest!

* * * * *

You man of humorous-melancholy mark
Dead of some inward agony--is it so?
Our kindlier, trustier Jaques, past away!
I cannot laud this life, it looks so dark:
[Greek: Skias onar]--dream of a shadow, go,--
God bless you. I shall join you in a day."

This tribute is as true in substance as it is striking in phrase. I have
noticed the same peculiarity about Mr. Brookfield's humour as about
Jenny Lind's singing. Those who had once heard it were always eager to
talk about it. Ask some elderly man about the early triumphs of the
Swedish Nightingale, and notice how he kindles. "Ah! Jenny Lind! Yes;
there was never anything like that!" And he begins about the _Figlia_,
and how she came along the bridge in the _Sonnambula_; and you feel the
tenderness in his tone, as of a positive love for her whose voice seems
still ringing through him as he talks. I have noticed exactly the same
phenomenon when people who knew Mr. Brookfield hear his name mentioned
in casual conversation. "Ah! Brookfield! Yes; there never was any one
quite like him!" And off they go, with visible pleasure and genuine
emotion, to describe the inimitable charm, the touch of genius which
brought humorous delight out of the commonest incidents, the tinge of
brooding melancholy which threw the flashing fun into such high relief.

Not soon will fade from the memory of any who ever heard it the history
of the examination at the ladies' school, where Brookfield, who had
thought that he was only expected to examine in languages and
literature, found himself required to set a paper in physical science.
"What was I to do? I know nothing about hydrogen or oxygen or any other
'gen.' So I set them a paper in common sense, or what I called 'Applied
Science.' One of my questions was, 'What would you do to cure a cold in
the head?' One young lady answered, 'I should put _my_ feet in hot
mustard and water till _you_ were in a profuse perspiration.' Another
said, 'I should put him to bed, give him a soothing drink, and sit by
him till he was better.' But, on reconsideration, she ran her pen
through all the 'him's' and 'he's,' and substituted 'her' and 'she.'"

Mr. Brookfield was during the greater part of his life a hard-working
servant of the public, and his friends could only obtain his delightful
company in the rare and scanty intervals of school-inspecting--a
profession of which not even the leisure is leisurely. The type of the
French abbe, whose sacerdotal avocations lay completely in the
background and who could give the best hours of the day and night to the
pleasures or duties of society, was best represented in our day by the
Rev. William Harness and the Rev. Henry White. Mr. Harness was a
diner-out of the first water; an author and a critic; perhaps the best
Shakespearean scholar of his time; and a recognized and even dreaded
authority on all matters connected with the art and literature of the
drama. Mr. White, burdened only with the sinecure chaplaincies of the
Savoy and the House of Commons, took the Theatre as his parish, mediated
with the happiest tact between the Church and the Stage, and pronounced
a genial benediction over the famous suppers in Stratton Street at which
an enthusiastic patroness used to entertain Sir Henry Irving when the
public labours of the Lyceum were ended for the night.

Canon Malcolm MacColl is an abbe with a difference. No one eats his
dinner more sociably or tells a story more aptly; no one enjoys good
society more keenly or is more appreciated in it; but he does not make
society a profession. He is conscientiously devoted to the duties of his
canonry; he is an accomplished theologian; and he is perhaps the most
expert and vigorous pamphleteer in England. The Franco-German War, the
Athanasian Creed, the Ritualistic prosecutions, the case for Home Rule,
and the misdeeds of the Sultan have in turn produced from his pen
pamphlets which have rushed into huge circulations and swollen to the
dimensions of solid treatises. Canon MacColl is genuinely and _ex animo_
an ecclesiastic; but he is a politician as well. His inflexible
integrity and fine sense of honour have enabled him to play, with credit
to himself and advantage to the public, the rather risky part of the
Priest in Politics. He has been trusted alike by Lord Salisbury and by
Mr. Gladstone; has conducted negotiations of great pith and moment; and
has been behind the scenes of some historic performances. Yet he has
never made an enemy, nor betrayed a secret, nor lowered the honour of
his sacred calling.

Miss Mabel Collins, in her vivid story of _The Star Sapphire_, has drawn
under a very thin pseudonym a striking portrait of a clergyman who, with
his environment, plays a considerable part in the social agreeableness
of London at the present moment. Is social agreeableness a hereditary
gift? Nowadays, when everything, good or bad, is referred to heredity,
one is inclined to say that it must be; and, though no training could
supply the gift where Nature had withheld it, yet a judicious education
can develop a social faculty which ancestry has transmitted. It is
recorded, I think, of Madame de Stael, that, after her first
conversation with William Wilberforce, she said: "I have always heard
that Mr. Wilberforce was the most religious man in England, but I did
not know that he was also the wittiest." The agreeableness of the great
philanthropist's son--Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford and of
Winchester--I discussed in my last chapter. We may put aside the fulsome
dithyrambics of grateful archdeacons and promoted chaplains, and be
content to rest the Bishop's reputation for agreeableness on testimony
so little interested as that of Matthew Arnold and Archbishop Tait. The
Archbishop wrote, after the Bishop's death, of his "social and
irresistibly fascinating side, as displayed in his dealings with
society;" and in 1864 Mr. Arnold, after listening with only very
moderate admiration to one of the Bishop's celebrated sermons, wrote:
"Where he was excellent was in his speeches at luncheon afterwards--gay,
easy, cordial, and wonderfully happy."

I think that one gathers from all dispassionate observers of the Bishop
that what struck them most in him was the blending of boisterous fun and
animal spirits with a deep and abiding sense of the seriousness of
religion. In the philanthropist-father the religious seriousness rather
preponderated over the fun; in the bishop-son (by a curious inversion of
parts) the fun sometimes concealed the religiousness. To those who
speculate in matters of race and pedigree it is interesting to watch the
two elements contending in the character of Canon Basil Wilberforce, the
Bishop's youngest and best-beloved son. When you see his graceful
figure and clean-shaven ecclesiastical face in the pulpit of his
strangely old-fashioned church, or catch the vibrating notes of his
beautifully modulated voice in

"The hush of our dread high altar,
Where The Abbey makes us _We_,"

you feel yourself in the presence of a born ecclesiastic, called from
his cradle by an irresistible vocation to a separate and sanctified
career. When you see him on the platform of some great public meeting,
pouring forth argument, appeal, sarcasm, anecdote, fun, and pathos in a
never-ceasing flood of vivid English, you feel that you are under the
spell of a born orator. And yet again, when you see the priest of
Sunday, the orator of Monday, presiding on Tuesday with easy yet
finished courtesy at the hospitable table of the most beautiful
dining-room in London, or welcomed with equal warmth for his racy humour
and his unfailing sympathy in the homes of his countless friends, you
feel that here is a man naturally framed for society, in whom his father
and grandfather live again. Truly a combination of hereditary gifts is
displayed in Canon Wilberforce; and the social agreeableness of London
received a notable addition when Mr. Gladstone transferred him from
Southampton to Dean's Yard.

Of agreeable Canons there is no end, and the Chapter of Westminster is
peculiarly rich in them. Mr. Gore's ascetic saintliness of life conceals
from the general world, but not from the privileged circle of his
intimate friends, the high breeding of a great Whig family and the
philosophy of Balliol. Archdeacon Furse has the refined scholarship and
delicate literary sense which characterized Eton in its days of glory.
Dr. Duckworth's handsome presence has long been welcomed in the very
highest of all social circles. Mr. Eyton's massive bulk and warm heart,
and rugged humour and sturdy common sense, produce the effect of a
clerical Dr. Johnson. But perhaps we must turn our back on the Abbey
and pursue our walk along the Thames Embankment as far as St. Paul's if
we want to discover the very finest flower of canonical culture and
charm, for it blushes unseen in the shady recesses of Amen Court. Henry
Scott Holland, Canon of St. Paul's, is beyond all question one of the
most agreeable men of his time. In fun and geniality and warm-hearted
hospitality he is a worthy successor of Sydney Smith, whose official
house he inhabits; and to those elements of agreeableness he adds
certain others which his admirable predecessor could scarcely have
claimed. He has all the sensitiveness of genius, with its sympathy, its
versatility, its unexpected turns, its rapid transitions from grave to
gay, its vivid appreciation of all that is beautiful in art and nature,
literature and life. His temperament is essentially musical, and,
indeed, it was from him that I borrowed, in a former paragraph, my
description of Jenny Lind and her effect on her hearers. No man in
London, I should think, has so many and such devoted friends in every
class and stratum; and those friends acknowledge in him not only the
most vivacious and exhilarating of social companions, but one of the
moral forces which have done most to quicken their consciences and lift
their lives.

Before I have done with the agreeableness of clergymen I must say a word
about two academical personages, of whom it was not always easy to
remember that they were clergymen, and whose agreeableness struck one in
different lights, according as one happened to be the victim or the
witness of their jocosity. If any one wishes to know what the late
Master of Balliol was really like in his social aspect, I should refer
him, not to the two volumes of his Biography, nor even to the amusing
chit-chat of Mr. Lionel Tollemache's Recollections, but to the cleverest
work of a very clever Balliol man--Mr. W.H. Mallock's _New Republic_.
The description of Mr. Jowett's appearance, conversation, and social
bearing is photographic, and the sermon which Mr. Mallock puts into his
mouth is not a parody, but an absolutely faultless reproduction both of
substance and of style. That it excessively irritated the subject of the
sketch is the best proof of its accuracy. For my own part, I must freely
admit that I do not write as an admirer of Mr. Jowett; but one saying of
his, which I had the advantage of hearing, does much to atone, in my
judgment, for the snappish impertinences on which his reputation for wit
has been generally based. The scene was the Master's own dining-room,
and the moment that the ladies had left the room one of the guests began
a most outrageous conversation. Every one sat flabbergasted. The Master
winced with annoyance; and then, bending down the table towards the
offender, said in his shrillest tone--"Shall we continue this
conversation in the drawing-room?" and rose from his chair. It was
really a stroke of genius thus both to terminate and to rebuke the
impropriety without violating the decorum due from host to guest.

Of the late Master of Trinity--Dr. Thompson--it was said: "He casteth
forth his ice like morsels. Who is able to abide his frost?" The stories
of his mordant wit are endless, but an Oxford man can scarcely hope to
narrate them with proper accuracy. He was nothing if not critical. At
Seeley's Inaugural Lecture as Professor of History his only remark
was--"Well, well. I did not think we could so soon have had occasion to
regret poor Kingsley." To a gushing admirer who said that a popular
preacher had so much taste--"Oh yes; so very much, and all so very bad."
Of a certain Dr. Woods, who wrote elementary mathematical books for
schoolboys, and whose statue occupies the most conspicuous position in
the ante-chapel of St. John's College--"The Johnian Newton." His hit at
the present Chief Secretary for Ireland,[22] when he was a junior Fellow
of Trinity, is classical--"We are none of us infallible--not even the
youngest of us." But it requires an eye-witness of the scene to do
justice to the exordium of the Master's sermon on the Parable of the
Talents, addressed in Trinity Chapel to what considers itself, and not
without justice, the cleverest congregation in the world. "It would be
obviously superfluous in a congregation such as that which I now address
to expatiate on the responsibilities of those who have five, or even
two, talents. I shall therefore confine my observations to the more
ordinary case of those of us who have _one talent_."


[22] The Right Hon. G.W. Balfour.



Lord Beaconsfield, describing Monsignore Berwick in _Lothair_, says that
he "could always, when necessary, sparkle with anecdote or blaze with
repartee." The former performance is considerably easier than the
latter. Indeed, when a man has a varied experience, a retentive memory,
and a sufficient copiousness of speech, the facility of story-telling
may attain the character of a disease. The "sparkle" evaporates while
the "anecdote" is left. But, though what Mr. Pinto called "Anecdotage"
is deplorable, a repartee is always delightful: and, while by no means
inclined to admit the general inferiority of contemporary conversation
to that of the last generation, I am disposed to think that in the art
of repartee our predecessors excelled us.

If this is true, it may be partly due to the greater freedom of an age
when well-bred men and refined women spoke their minds with an
uncompromising plainness which would now be voted intolerable. I have
said that the old Royal Dukes were distinguished by the racy vigour of
their conversation; and the Duke of Cumberland, afterwards King Ernest
of Hanover, was held to excel all his brothers in this respect. I was
told by the late Sir Charles Wyke that he was once walking with the Duke
of Cumberland along Piccadilly when the Duke of Gloucester (first cousin
to Cumberland, and familiarly known as "Silly Billy") came out of
Gloucester House. "Duke of Gloucester, Duke of Gloucester, stop a
minute. I want to speak to you," roared the Duke of Cumberland. Poor
Silly Billy, whom nobody ever noticed, was delighted to find himself
thus accosted, and ambled up smiling. "Who's your tailor?" shouted
Cumberland. "Stultz," replied Gloucester. "Thank you. I only wanted to
know, because, whoever he is, he ought to be avoided like a pestilence."
Exit Silly Billy.

Of this inoffensive but not brilliant prince (who, by the way, was
Chancellor of the University of Cambridge) it is related that once at a
levee he noticed a naval friend with a much-tanned face. "How do,
Admiral? Glad to see you again. It's a long time since you have been at
a levee." "Yes, sir. Since I last saw your Royal Highness I have been
nearly to the North Pole." "By G---, you look more as if you had been to
the South Pole." It is but bare justice to this depreciated memory to
observe that the Duke of Gloucester scored a point against his kingly
cousin when, on hearing that William IV. had consented to the Reform
Bill, he ejaculated, "Who's Silly Billy now?" But this is a digression.

Early in the nineteenth century a famous lady, whose name, for obvious
reasons, I forbear to indicate even by an initial, had inherited great
wealth under a will which, to put it mildly, occasioned much surprise.
She shared an opera-box with a certain Lady D---, who loved the flowing
wine-cup not wisely, but too well. One night Lady D--- was visibly
intoxicated at the opera, and her friend told her that the partnership
in the box must cease, as she could not appear again in company so
disgraceful. "As you please," said Lady D---. "I may have had a glass of
wine too much; but at any rate I never forged my father's signature, and
then murdered the butler to prevent his telling."

Beau Brummell, the Prince of Dandies and the most insolent of men, was
once asked by a lady if be would "take a cup of tea." "Thank you,
ma'am," he replied, "I never _take_ anything but physic." "I beg your
pardon," replied the hostess, "you also take liberties."

The Duchess of Somerset, born Sheridan, and famous as the Queen of
Beauty at the Eglinton Tournament of 1839, was pre-eminent in this
agreeable art of swift response. One day she called at a shop for some
article which she had purchased the day before, and which had not been
sent home. The order could not be traced. The proprietor of the
establishment inquired, with great concern, "May I ask who took your
Grace's order? Was it a young gentleman with fair hair?" "No; it was an
elderly nobleman with a bald head."

The celebrated Lady Clanricarde, daughter of George Canning, was talking
during the Franco-German War of 1870 to the French Ambassador, who
complained bitterly that England had not intervened on behalf of France.
"But, after all," he said, "it was only what we might have expected. We
always believed that you were a nation of shopkeepers, and now we know
you are." "And we," replied Lady Clanricarde, "always believed that you
were a nation of soldiers, and now we know you are not"--a repartee
worthy to rank with Queen Mary's reply to Lady Lochleven about the
sacramental character of marriage, in the third volume of _The Abbot_.

A young lady, who had just been appointed a Maid of Honour, was telling
some friends with whom she was dining that one of the conditions of the
office was that she should not keep a diary of what went on at Court. A
cynical man of the world who was present said, "What a tiresome rule! I
think I should keep my diary all the same." "Then," replied the young
lady, "I am afraid you would not be a maid of _Honour_."

In the famous society of old Holland House a conspicuous and interesting
figure was Henry Luttrell. It was known that he must be getting on in
life, for he had sat in the Irish Parliament, but his precise age no one
knew. At length Lady Holland, whose curiosity was restrained by no
considerations of courtesy, asked him point-blank--"Now, Luttrell, we're
all dying to know how old you are. Just tell me." Eyeing his questioner
gravely, Luttrell made answer, "It is an odd question; but as you, Lady
Holland, ask it, I don't mind telling you. If I live till next year, I
shall be--devilish old."

For the mutual amenities of Melbourne and Alvanley and Rogers and Allen,
for Lord Holland's genial humour, and for Lady Holland's indiscriminate
insolence, we can refer to Lord Macaulay's Life and Charles Greville's
Journals, and the enormous mass of contemporary memoirs. Most of these
verbal encounters were fought with all imaginable good-humour, over some
social or literary topic; but now and then, when political passion was
really roused, they took a fiercely personal tone.

Let one instance of elaborate invective suffice. Sir James Mackintosh,
who, as the writer of the _Vindiciae Gallicae_, had been the foremost
apologist for the French Revolution, fell later under the influence of
Burke, and proclaimed the most unmeasured hostility to the Revolution
and its authors, their works and ways. Having thus become a vehement
champion of law and order, he exclaimed one day that O'Coighley, the
priest who negotiated between the Revolutionary parties in Ireland and
France, was the basest of mankind. "No, Mackintosh," replied that sound
though pedantic old Whig, Dr. Parr; "he might have been much worse. He
was an Irishman; he might have been a Scotsman. He was a priest; he
might have been a lawyer. He was a rebel; he might have been a

These severe forms of elaborated sarcasm belong, I think, to a past age.
Lord Beaconsfield was the last man who indulged in them. When the
Greville Memoirs--that mine of social information in which I have so
often quarried--came out, some one asked Mr. Disraeli, as he then was,
if he had read them. He replied, "No. I do not feel attracted to them. I
remember the author, and he was the most conceited person with whom I
have ever been brought in contact, although I have read Cicero and known
Bulwer Lytton." This three-edged compliment has seldom been excelled. In
a lighter style, and more accordant with feminine grace, was Lady
Morley's comment on the decaying charms of her famous rival, Lady
Jersey--the Zenobia of _Endymion_--of whom some gushing admirer had said
that she looked so splendid going to court in her mourning array of
black and diamonds--"it was like night." "Yes, my dear; _minuit passe_."
A masculine analogue to this amiable compliment may be cited from the
table-talk of Lord Granville--certainly not an unkindly man--to whom the
late Mr. Delane had been complaining of the difficulty of finding a
suitable wedding-present for a young lady of the house of Rothschild.
"It would be absurd to give a Rothschild a costly gift. I should like to
find something not intrinsically valuable, but interesting because it is
rare." "Nothing easier, my dear fellow; send her a lock of your hair."

When a remote cousin of Lord Henniker was elected to the Head Mastership
of Rossall, a disappointed competitor said that it was a case of [Greek:
eneka tou kuriou]; but a Greek joke is scarcely fair play.

When the _New Review_ was started, its accomplished Editor designed it
to be an inexpensive copy of the _Nineteenth Century_. It was to cost
only sixpence, and was to be written by bearers of famous names--those
of the British aristocracy for choice. He was complaining in society of
the difficulty of finding a suitable title, when a vivacious lady said,
"We have got _Cornhill_, and _Ludgate_, and _Strand_--why not call yours

Oxford has always been a nursing-mother of polished satirists. Of a
small sprig of aristocracy, who was an undergraduate in my time, it was
said by a friend that he was like Euclid's definition of a point: he had
no parts and no magnitude, but had position. In previous chapters I have
quoted the late Master of Balliol and Lord Sherbrooke. Professor Thorold
Rogers excelled in a Shandean vein. Lord Bowen is immortalized by his
emendation to the Judge's address to the Queen, which had contained the
Heep-like sentence--"Conscious as we are of our own unworthiness for the
great office to which we have been called." "Wouldn't it be better to
say, 'Conscious as we are of one another's unworthiness'?" Henry Smith,
Professor of Geometry, the wittiest, most learned, and most genial of
Irishmen, said of a well-known man of science--"His only fault is that
he sometimes forgets that he is the Editor, not the Author, of Nature."
A great lawyer who is now a great judge, and has, with good reason, the
very highest opinion of himself, stood as a Liberal at the General
Election of 1880. His Tory opponents set on foot a rumour that he was an
Atheist, and when Henry Smith heard it he said, "Now, that's really too
bad, for ---- is a man who reluctantly acknowledges the existence of a
_Superior Being_."

At dinner at Balliol the Master's guests were discussing the careers of
two Balliol men, the one of whom had just been made a judge and the
other a bishop. "Oh," said Henry Smith, "I think the bishop is the
greater man. A judge, at the most, can only say, 'You be hanged,' but a
bishop can say, 'You be d---d.'" "Yes," twittered the Master; "but if
the judge says, 'You be hanged,' you _are_ hanged."

Henry Smith, though a delightful companion, was a very unsatisfactory
politician--nominally, indeed, a Liberal, but full of qualifications and
exceptions. When Mr. Gathorne Hardy was raised to the peerage at the
crisis of the Eastern Question in 1878, and thereby vacated his seat
for the University of Oxford, Henry Smith came forward as a candidate in
the Liberal interest; but his language about the great controversy of
the moment was so lukewarm that Professor Freeman said that, instead of
sitting for Oxford in the House of Commons, he ought to represent
Laodicea in the Parliament of Asia Minor.

Of Dr. Haig-Brown it is reported that, when Head Master of Charterhouse,
he was toasted by the Mayor of Godalming as a man who knew how to
combine the _fortiter in re_ with the _suav[=i]ter in modo_. In replying
to the toast he said, "I am really overwhelmed not only by the quality,
but by the _quantity_ of his Worship's eulogium."

It has been a matter of frequent remark that, considering what an
immense proportion of parliamentary time has been engrossed during the
last seventeen years by Irish speeches, we have heard so little Irish
humour, whether conscious or unconscious--whether jokes or "bulls." An
admirably vigorous simile was used by the late Mr. O'Sullivan, when he
complained that the whisky supplied at the bar was like "a torchlight
procession marching down your throat;" but of Irish bulls in Parliament
I have only heard one--proceeding, if my memory serves me, from Mr. T.
Healy: "As long as the voice of Irish suffering is dumb, the ear of
English compassion is deaf to it." One I read in the columns of the
_Irish Times_: "The key of the Irish difficulty is to be found in the
_empty_ pocket of the landlord." An excellent confusion of metaphors was
uttered by one of the members for the Principality in the debate on the
Welsh Church Bill, in indignant protest against the allegation that the
majority of Welshmen now belonged to the Established Church. He said,
"It is a lie, sir; and it is high time that we nailed this lie to the
mast." But a confusion of metaphors is not a bull.

Among tellers of Irish stories, Lord Morris is supreme; one of his best
depicts two Irish officials of the good old times discussing, in all the
confidence of their after-dinner claret, the principles on which they
bestowed their patronage Said the first, "Well, I don't mind admitting
that, _caeteris paribus_, I prefer my own relations." "My dear boy,"
replied his boon companion, "_caeteris paribus_ be d----d." The
cleverest thing that I have lately heard was from a young lady, who is
an Irishwoman, and I hope that its excellence will excuse the
personality. It must be premised that Lord Erne is a gentleman who
abounds in anecdote, and that Lady Erne is an extremely handsome woman.
Their irreverent compatriot has nicknamed them

"The storied Erne and animated bust."

Frances Countess Waldegrave, who had previously been married three
times, took as her fourth husband an Irishman, Mr. Chichester Fortescue,
who was shortly afterwards made Chief Secretary. The first night that
Lady Waldegrave and Mr. Fortescue appeared at the theatre in Dublin, a
wag in the gallery called out, "Which of the four do you like best, my
lady?" Instantaneously from the Chief Secretary's box came the adroit
reply: "Why, the Irishman, of course '"

The late Lord Coleridge was once speaking in the House of Commons in
support of Women's Rights. One of his main arguments as that there was
no essential difference between the masculine and the feminine
intellect. For example, he said, some of the most valuable qualities of
what is called the judicial genius--sensibility, quickness,
delicacy--are peculiarly feminine. In reply, Serjeant Dowse said: "The
argument of the hon. and learned Member, compendiously stated, amounts
to this--because some judges are old women, therefore all old women are
fit to be judges."

To my friend Mr. Julian Sturgis, himself one of the happiest of
phrase-makers, I am indebted for the following gems from America.

Mr. Evarts, formerly Secretary of State, showed an English friend the
place where Washington was said to have thrown a dollar across the
Potomac. The English friend expressed surprise; "but," said Mr. Evarts,
"you must remember that a dollar went further in those days." A Senator
met Mr. Evarts next day, and said that he had been amused by his jest.
"But," said Mr. Evarts, "I met a mere journalist just afterwards who
said, 'Oh, Mr. Evarts, you should have said that it was a small matter
to throw a dollar across the Potomac for a man who had chucked a
sovereign across the Atlantic.'" Mr. Evarts, weary of making many jokes,
would invent a journalist or other man and tell a story as his. It was
he who, on a kindly busybody expressing surprise at his daring to drink
so many different wines at dinner, said that it was only the indifferent
wines of which he was afraid.

It was Mr. Motley who said in Boston--"Give me the luxuries of life, and
I care not who has the necessaries."

Mr. Tom Appleton, famous for many witty sayings (among them the
well-known "Good Americans, when they die, go to Paris"), heard some
grave city fathers debating what could be done to mitigate the cruel
east wind at an exposed corner of a certain street in Boston. He
suggested that they should tether a shorn lamb there.

A witty Bostonian going to dine with a lady was met by her with a face
of apology. "I could not get another man," she said; "and we are four
women, and you will have to take us all in to dinner." "Fore-warned is
four-armed," said he with a bow.

This gentleman was in a hotel in Boston when the law forbidding the sale
of liquor was in force. "What would you say," said an angry Bostonian,
"if a man from St. Louis, where they have freedom, were to come in and
ask you where he could get a drink?" Now it was known that spirits could
be clandestinely bought in a room under the roof, and the wit pointing
upwards replied, "I should say, 'Fils de St. Louis, montez au ciel.'"

Madame Apponyi was in London during the debates on the Reform Bill of
1867, and, like all foreigners and not a few Englishmen, was much
perplexed by the "Compound Householder," who figured so largely in the
discussion. Hayward explained that he was the Masculine of the Femme

One of the best repartees ever made, because the briefest and the
justest, was made by "the gorgeous Lady Blessington" to Napoleon III.
When Prince Louis Napoleon was living in impecunious exile in London he
had been a constant guest at Lady Blessington's hospitable and brilliant
but Bohemian house. And she, when visiting Paris after the _coup d'etat_
naturally expected to receive at the Tuileries some return for the
unbounded hospitalities of Gore House. Weeks passed, no invitation
arrived, and the Imperial Court took no notice of Lady Blessington's
presence. At length she encountered the Emperor at a great reception. As
he passed through the bowing and curtsying crowd, the Emperor caught
sight of his former hostess. "Ah, Miladi Blessington! Restez-vous
longtemps a Paris?" "Et vous, Sire?" History does not record the
usurper's reply.

Henry Phillpotts, Bishop of Exeter from 1830 to 1869, lived at a
beautiful villa near Torquay, and an enthusiastic lady who visited him
there burst into dithyrambics and cried, "What a lovely spot this is,
Bishop! It is so Swiss." "Yes, ma'am," blandly replied old Harry of
Exeter, "it is very Swiss; only there is no sea in Switzerland, and
there are no mountains here." To one of his clergy desiring to renew a
lease of some episcopal property, the Bishop named a preposterous sum as
the fine on renewal. The poor parson, consenting with reluctance, said,
"Well, I suppose it is better than endangering the lease, but certainly
your lordship has got the lion's share." "But, my dear sir, I am sure
you would not wish me to have that of the other creature."

Still, after all, for a bishop to score off a clergyman is an
inglorious victory; it is like the triumph of a magistrate over a
prisoner or of a don over an undergraduate. Bishop Wilberforce, whose
powers of repartee were among his most conspicuous gifts, was always
ready to use them where retaliation was possible--not in the safe
enclosure of the episcopal study, but on the open battlefield of the
platform and the House of Lords. At the great meeting in St. James's
Hall in the summer of 1868 to protest against the Disestablishment of
the Irish Church, some Orange enthusiast, in the hope of disturbing the
Bishop, kept interrupting his honeyed eloquence with inopportune shouts
of "Speak up, my lord." "I am already speaking up," replied the Bishop
in his most dulcet tone; "I always speak up; and I decline to speak down
to the level of the ill-mannered person in the gallery." Every one whose
memory runs back thirty years will recall the Homeric encounters between
the Bishop and Lord Chancellor Westbury in the House of Lords, and will
remember the melancholy circumstances under which Lord Westbury had to
resign his office. When he was leaving the Royal Closet after
surrendering the Great Seal into the Queen's hands, Lord Westbury met
the Bishop, who was going in to the Queen. It was a painful encounter,
and in reminding the Bishop of the occurrence when next they met,
Westbury said, "I felt inclined to say, 'Hast thou found me, O mine
enemy?'" The Bishop in relating this used to say, "I never in my life
was so tempted as to finish the quotation, and say, 'Yea, I have found
thee, because thou hast sold thyself to work iniquity.' But by a great
effort I kept it down, and said, 'Does your lordship remember the end of
the quotation?'" The Bishop, who enjoyed a laugh against himself, used
to say that he had once been effectually scored off by one of his clergy
whom he had rebuked for his addiction to fox-hunting. The Bishop urged
that it had a worldly appearance. The clergyman replied that it was not
a bit more worldly than a ball at Blenheim Palace at which the Bishop
had been present. The Bishop explained that he was staying in the house,
but was never within three rooms of the dancing. "Oh, if it comes to
that," replied the clergyman, "I never am within three fields of the

One of the best replies--it is scarcely a repartee--traditionally
reported at Oxford was made by the great Saint of the Tractarian
Movement, the Rev. Charles Marriott. A brother-Fellow of Oriel had
behaved rather outrageously at dinner overnight, and coming out of
chapel next morning, essayed to apologize to Marriott: "My friend, I'm
afraid I made rather a fool of myself last night." "My dear fellow, I
assure you I observed nothing unusual."

In a former chapter about the Art of Conversation I referred to the
singular readiness which characterized Lord Sherbrooke's talk. A good
instance of it was his reply to the strenuous advocate of modern
studies, who, presuming on Sherbrooke's sympathy, said, "I have the
greatest contempt for Aristotle." "But not that contempt which
familiarity breeds, I should imagine," was Sherbrooke's mild rejoinder.
"I have got a box at the Lyceum to-night," I once heard a lady say, "and
a place to spare. Lord Sherbrooke, will you come? If you are engaged, I
must take the Bishop of Gibraltar." "Oh, that's no good. Gibraltar can
never be taken."

In 1872, when University College, Oxford, celebrated the thousandth
anniversary of its foundation, Lord Sherbrooke, as an old Member of the
College, made the speech of the evening. His theme was a complaint of
the iconoclastic tendency of New Historians. Nothing was safe from their
sacrilegious research. Every tradition, however venerable, however
precious, was resolved into a myth or a fable. "For example," he said,
"we have always believed that certain lands which this college owns in
Berkshire were given to us by King Alfred. Now the New Historians come
and tell us that this could not have been the case, because they can
prove that the lands in question never belonged to the King. It seems to
me that the New Historians prove too much--indeed, they prove the very
point which they contest. If the lands had belonged to the King, he
would probably have kept them to himself; but as they belonged to some
one else, he made a handsome present of them to the College."

Lord Beaconsfield's excellence in conversation lay rather in studied
epigrams than in impromptu repartees. But in his old electioneering
contests he used sometimes to make very happy hits. When he came
forward, a young, penniless, unknown coxcomb, to contest High Wycombe
against the dominating Whiggery of the Greys and the Carringtons, some
one in the crowd shouted, "We know all about Colonel Grey; but pray what
do you stand on?" "I stand on my head," was the prompt reply, to which
Mr. Gladstone always rendered unstinted admiration. At Aylesbury the
Radical leader had been a man of notoriously profligate life, and when
Mr. Disraeli came to seek re-election as Tory Chancellor of the
Exchequer this tribune of the people produced at the hustings the
Radical manifesto which Mr. Disraeli had issued twenty years before.
"What do you say to that, sir?" "I say that we all sow our wild oats,
and no one knows the meaning of that phrase better than you, Mr. ----."

A member of the diplomatic service at Rome in the old days of the
Temporal Power had the honour of an interview with Pio Nono. The Pope
graciously offered him a cigar--"I am told you will find this very
fine." The Englishman made that stupidest of all answers, "Thank your
Holiness, but I have no vices." "This isn't a vice; if it was you would
have it." Another repartee from the Vatican reached me a few years ago,
when the German Emperor paid his visit to Leo XIII. Count Herbert
Bismarck was in attendance on his Imperial master, and when they
reached the door of the Pope's audience-chamber the Emperor passed in,
and the Count tried to follow. A gentleman of the Papal Court motioned
him to stand back, as there must be no third person at the interview
between the Pope and the Emperor. "I am Count Herbert Bismarck," shouted
the German, as he struggled to follow his master. "That," replied the
Roman, with calm dignity, "may account for, but it does not excuse, your

But, after all these "fash'nable fax and polite annygoats," as Thackeray
would have called them, after all these engaging courtesies of kings and
prelates and great ladies, I think that the honours in the way of
repartee rest with the little Harrow boy who was shouting himself hoarse
in the jubilation of victory after an Eton and Harrow match at Lord's in
which Harrow had it hollow. To him an Eton boy, of corresponding years,
severely observed, "Well, you Harrow fellows needn't be so beastly
cocky. When you wanted a Head Master you had to come to Eton to get
one." The small Harrovian was dumfounded for a moment, and then, pulling
himself together for a final effort of deadly sarcasm, exclaimed, "Well,
at any rate, no one can say that we ever produced a Mr. Gladstone."



The List of Honours, usually published on Her Majesty's Birthday, is
this year[23] reserved till the Jubilee Day, and to sanguine aspirants I
would say, in Mrs. Gamp's immortal words, "Seek not to proticipate."
Such a list always contains food for the reflective mind, and some of
the thoughts which it suggests may even lie too deep for tears. Why is
my namesake picked out for knighthood, while I remain hidden in my
native obscurity? Why is my rival made a C.B., while I "go forth
Companionless" to meet the chances and the vexations of another year?
But there is balm in Gilead. If I have fared badly, my friends have done
little better. Like Mr. Squeers, when Bolder's father was two pound ten
short, they have had their disappointments to contend against. A., who
was so confident of a peerage, is fobbed off with a baronetcy; and B.,
whose labours for the Primrose League entitled him to expect the Bath,
finds himself grouped with the Queen's footmen in the Royal Victorian
Order. As, when Sir Robert Peel declined to form a Government in 1839,
"twenty gentlemen who had not been appointed Under Secretaries for State
moaned over the martyrdom of young ambition," so during the first
fortnight of 1897 at least that number of middle-aged self-seekers came
to the regretful conclusion that Lord Salisbury was not sufficiently a
man of the world for his present position, and inwardly asked why a
judge or a surgeon should be preferred before a company-promoter or a
party hack. And, while feeling is thus fermenting at the base of the
social edifice, things are not really tranquil at the summit.

It is not long since the chief of the princely House of Duff was raised
to the first order of the peerage, and one or two opulent earls,
encouraged by his example, are understood to be looking upward. Every
constitutional Briton, whatever his political creed, has in his heart of
hearts a wholesome reverence for a dukedom. Lord Beaconsfield, who
understood these little traits of our national character even more
perfectly than Thackeray, says of his favourite St. Aldegonde (who was
heir to the richest dukedom in the kingdom) that "he held extreme
opinions, especially on political affairs, being a Republican of the
reddest dye. He was opposed to all privilege, and indeed to all orders
of men except dukes, who were a necessity." That is a delicious touch.
St. Aldegonde, whatever his political aberrations, "voiced" the
universal sentiment of his less fortunate fellow-citizens; nor can the
most soaring ambition of the British Matron desire a nobler epitaph than
that of the lady immortalized by Thomas Ingoldsby:--

"She drank prussic acid without any water,
And died like a Duke-and-a-Duchess's daughter."

As, according to Dr. Johnson, all claret would be port if it could, so,
presumably, every marquis would like to be a duke; and yet, as a matter
of fact, that Elysian translation is not often made. A marquis, properly
regarded, is not so much a nascent duke as a magnified earl. A shrewd
observer of the world once said to me: "When an earl gets a marquisate,
it is worth a hundred thousand pounds in hard money to his family." The
explanation of this cryptic utterance is that, whereas an earl's younger
sons are "misters," a marquis's younger sons are "lords." Each "my
lord" can make a "my lady," and therefore commands a distinctly higher
price in the marriage-market of a wholesomely-minded community. Miss
Higgs, with her fifty thousand pounds, might scorn the notion of
becoming the Honourable Mrs. Percy Popjoy; but as Lady Magnus Charters
she would feel a laudable ambition gratified.

An earldom is, in its combination of euphony, antiquity, and
association, perhaps the most impressive of all the titles in the
peerage. Most rightly did the fourteenth Earl of Derby decline to be
degraded into a brand-new duke. An earldom has always been the right of
a Prime Minister who wishes to leave the Commons. In 1880 a member of
the House of Russell (in which there are certain Whiggish traditions of
jobbery) was fighting a hotly contested election, and his ardent
supporters brought out a sarcastic placard--"Benjamin, Earl of
Beaconsfield! He made himself an earl and the people poor"; to which a
rejoinder was instantly forthcoming--"John, Earl Russell! He made
himself an earl and his relations rich." The amount of truth in the two
statements was about equal. In 1885 this order of the peerage missed the
greatest distinction which fate is likely ever to offer it, when Mr.
Gladstone declined the earldom proffered by her Majesty on his
retirement from office. Had he accepted, it was understood that the
representatives of the last Earl of Liverpool would have waived their
claims to the extinct title, and the greatest of the Queen's Prime
Ministers would have borne the name of the city which gave him birth.

But, magnificent and euphonious as an earldom is, the children of an
earl are the half-castes of the peerage. The eldest son is "my lord,"
and his sisters are "my lady;" and ever since the days of Mr. Foker,
Senior, it has been _de rigueur_ for an opulent brewer to marry an
earl's daughter; but the younger sons are not distinguishable from the
ignominious progeny of viscounts and barons. Two little boys,
respectively the eldest and the second son of an earl, were playing on
the front staircase of their home, when the eldest fell over into the
hall below. The younger called to the footman who picked his brother up,
"Is he hurt?" "Killed, _my lord_," was the instantanteous reply of a
servant who knew the devolution of a courtesy title.

As the marquises people the debatable land between the dukes and the
earls, so do the viscounts between the earls and the barons. A child
whom Matthew Arnold was examining in grammar once wrote of certain words
which he found it hard to classify under their proper parts of speech
that they were "thrown into the common sink, which is adverbs." I hope I
shall not be considered guilty of any disrespect if I say that
ex-Speakers, ex-Secretaries of State, successful generals, and ambitious
barons who are not quite good enough for earldoms, are "thrown into the
common sink, which is viscounts." Not only heralds and genealogists, but
every one who has the historic sense, must have felt an emotion of
regret when the splendid title of twenty-third Baron Dacre was merged by
Mr. Speaker Brand in the pinchbeck dignity of first Viscount Hampden.

After viscounts, barons. The baronage of England is headed by the
bishops; but, as we have already discoursed of those right reverend
peers, we, Dante-like, will not reason of them, but pass on--only
remarking, as we pass, that it is held on good authority that no human
being ever experiences a rapture so intense as an American bishop from a
Western State when he first hears himself called "My lord" at a London
dinner-party. After the spiritual barons come the secular barons--the
"common or garden" peers of the United Kingdom. Of these there are
considerably more than three hundred; and of all, except some thirty or
forty at the most, it may be said without offence that they are products
of the opulent Middle Class. Pitt destroyed deliberately and for ever
the exclusive character of the British peerage when, as Lord
Beaconsfield said, he "created a plebeian aristocracy and blended it
with the patrician oligarchy." And in order to gain admission to this
"plebeian aristocracy" men otherwise reasonable and honest will spend
incredible sums, undergo prodigious exertions, associate themselves with
the basest intrigues, and perform the most unblushing tergiversations.
Lord Houghton told me that he said to a well-known politician who
boasted that he had refused a peerage: "Then you made a great mistake. A
peerage would have secured you three things that you are much in need
of--social consideration, longer credit with your tradesmen, and better
marriages for your younger children."

It is unlucky that a comparatively recent change has put it out of the
power of a Prime Minister to create fresh Irish peers, for an Irish
peerage was a cheap and convenient method of rewarding political
service.[24] Lord Palmerston held that, combining social rank with
eligibility to the House of Commons, it was the most desirable
distinction for a politician. Pitt, when his banker Mr. Smith (who lived
in Whitehall) desired the privilege of driving through the Horse Guards,
said: "No, I can't give you that; but I will make you an Irish peer;"
and the banker became the first Lord Carrington.

What is a Baronet? ask some. Sir Wilfrid Lawson (who ought to know)
replies that he is a man "who has ceased to be a gentleman and has not
become a nobleman." But this is too severe a judgment. It breathes a
spirit of contempt bred of familiarity, which may, without irreverence,
be assumed by a member of an exalted Order, but which a humble outsider
would do well to avoid. As Major Pendennis said of a similar
manifestation, "It sits prettily enough on a young patrician in early
life, though, nothing is so loathsome among persons of our rank." I
turn, therefore, for an answer to Sir Bernard Burke, who says: "The
hereditary Order of Baronets was created by patent in England by King
James I. in 1611. At the institution many of the chief estated gentlemen
of the kingdom were selected for the dignity. The first batch of
Baronets comprised some of the principal landed proprietors among the
best-descended gentlemen of the kingdom, and the list was headed by a
name illustrious more than any other for the intellectual pre-eminence
with which it is associated--the name of Bacon. The Order of Baronets is
scarcely estimated at its proper value."

I cannot help feeling that this account of the baronetage, though
admirable in tone and spirit, and actually pathetic in its closing touch
of regretful melancholy, is a little wanting in what the French would
call "actuality." It leaves out of sight the most endearing, because the
most human, trait of the baronetage--its pecuniary origin. On this point
let us hear the historian Hume--"The title of Baronet was sold and two
hundred patents of that species of knighthood were disposed of for so
many thousand pounds." This was truly epoch-making. It was one of those
"actions of the just" which "smell sweet and blossom in the dust." King
James's baronets were the models and precursors of all who to the end of
time should traffic in the purchase of honours. Their example has
justified posterity, and the precedent which they set is to-day the
principal method by which the war-chests of our political parties are

Another authority, handling the same high theme, tells us that the
rebellion in Ulster gave rise to this Order, and "it was required of
each baronet on his creation to pay into the Exchequer as much as would
maintain thirty soldiers three years at eight-pence a day in the
province of Ulster," and, as a historical memorial of their original
service, the baronets bear as an augmentation to their coats-of-arms
the royal badge of Ulster--a Bloody Hand on a white field. It was in apt
reference to this that a famous Whip, on learning that a baronet of his
party was extremely anxious to be promoted to the peerage, said, "You
can tell Sir Peter Proudflesh, with my compliments, that we don't do
these things for nothing. If he wants a peerage, he will have to put his
Bloody Hand into his pocket."

For the female mind the baronetage has a peculiar fascination. As there
was once a female Freemason, so there was once a female baronet--Dame
Maria Bolles, of Osberton, in the County of Nottingham. The rank of a
baronet's wife is not unfrequently conferred on the widow of a man to
whom a baronetcy had been promised and who died too soon to receive it.
"Call me a vulgar woman!" screamed a lady once prominent in society when
a good-natured friend repeated a critical comment. "Call me a vulgar
woman! me, who was Miss Blank, of Blank Hall, and if I had been a boy
should have been a baronet!"

The baronets of fiction are, like their congeners in real life, a
numerous and a motley band. Lord Beaconsfield described, with a
brilliancy of touch which was all his own, the labours and the
sacrifices of Sir Vavasour Firebrace on behalf of the Order of Baronets
and the privileges wrongfully withheld from them. "They are evidently
the body destined to save this country; blending all sympathies--the
Crown, of which they are the peculiar champions: the nobles, of whom
they are the popular branch; the people, who recognize in them their
natural leaders.... Had the poor King lived, we should at least have had
the Badge," added Sir Vavasour mournfully.

"The Badge?"

"It would have satisfied Sir Grosvenor le Draughte; he was for
compromise. But, confound him, his father was only an accoucheur."

A great merit of the baronets, from the novelist's point of view, is
that they and their belongings are so uncommonly easy to draw. He is Sir
Grosvenor, his wife is Lady le Draughte, his sons, elder and younger,
are Mr. le Draughte, and his daughters Miss le Draughte. The wayfaring
men, though fools, cannot err where the rule is so simple, and
accordingly the baronets enjoy a deserved popularity with those
novelists who look up to the titled classes of society as men look at
the stars, but are a little puzzled about their proper designations.
Miss Braddon alone has drawn more baronets, virtuous and vicious,
handsome and hideous, than would have colonized Ulster ten times over
and left a residue for Nova Scotia. Sir Pitt Crawley and Sir Barnes
Newcome will live as long as English novels are read, and I hope that
dull forgetfulness will never seize as its prey Sir Alfred Mogyns Smyth
de Mogyns, who was born Alfred Smith Muggins, but traced a descent from
Hogyn Mogyn of the Hundred Beeves, and took for his motto "Ung Roy ung
Mogyns." His pedigree is drawn in the seventh chapter of the _Book of
Snobs_, and is imitated with great fidelity on more than one page of
Burke's Peerage.

An eye closely intent upon the lesser beauties of the natural world will
find a very engaging specimen of the genus Baronet in Sir Barnet
Skettles, who was so kind to Paul Dombey and so angry with poor Mr.
Baps. Sir Leicester Dedlock is on a larger scale--in fact, almost too
"fine and large" for life. But I recall a fleeting vision of perfect
loveliness among Miss Monflathers's pupils--"a baronet's daughter who by
some extraordinary reversal of the laws of Nature was not only plain in
feature but dull in intellect."

So far we have spoken only of hereditary honours; but our review would
be singularly incomplete if it excluded those which are purely personal.
Of these, of course, incomparably the highest is the Order of the
Garter, and its most characteristic glory is that, in Lord Melbourne's
phrase, "there is no d----d nonsense of merit about it." The Emperor of
Lilliput rewarded his courtiers with three fine silken threads, one of
which was blue, one green, and one red. The Emperor held a stick
horizontally, and the candidates crept under it, backwards and forwards,
several times. Whoever showed the most agility in creeping was rewarded
with the blue thread.

Let us hope that the methods of chivalry have undergone some
modification since the days of Queen Anne, and that the Blue Ribbon of
the Garter, which ranks with the Golden Fleece and makes its wearer a
comrade of all the crowned heads of Europe, is attained by arts more
dignified than those which awoke the picturesque satire of Dean Swift.
But I do not feel sure about it.

Great is the charm of a personal decoration. Byron wrote:

"Ye stars, that are the poetry of heaven."

"A stupid line," says Mr. St. Barbe in _Endymion_; "he should have
written, 'Ye stars, that are the poetry of dress.'" North of the Tweed
the green thread of Swift's imagination--"the most ancient and most
noble Order of the Thistle"--is scarcely less coveted than the supreme
honour of the Garter; but wild horses should not drag from me the name
of the Scottish peer of whom his political leader said, "If I gave ----
the Thistle, he would eat it." The Bath tries to make up by the lurid
splendour of its ribbon and the brilliancy of its star for its
comparatively humble and homely associations. It is the peculiar prize
of Generals and Home Secretaries, and is displayed with manly openness
on the bosom of the statesman once characteristically described by Lord
Beaconsfield as "Mr. Secretary Cross, whom I can never remember to call
Sir Richard."

But, after all said and done, the institution of knighthood is older
than any particular order of knights; and lovers of the old world must
observe with regret the discredit into which it has fallen since it
became the guerdon of the successful grocer. When Lord Beaconsfield left
office in 1880 he conferred a knighthood--the first of a long series
similarly bestowed--on an eminent journalist. The friends of the new
knight were inclined to banter him, and proposed his health at a dinner
in facetious terms. Lord Beaconsfield, who was of the company, looked
preternaturally grave, and, filling his glass, gazed steadily at the
flattered editor and said in his deepest tone: "Yes, Sir A.B., I drink
to your good health, and I congratulate you on having attained a rank
which was deemed sufficient honour for Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Walter
Raleigh, Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Christopher Wren."

But a truce to this idle jesting on exalted themes--too palpably the
utterance of social envy and mortified ambition. "They _are_ our
superiors, and that's the fact," as Thackeray exclaims in his chapter on
the Whigs. "I am not a Whig myself; but, oh, how I should like to be
one!" In a similar spirit of compunctious self-abasement, the present
writer may exclaim, "I have not myself been included in the list of
Birthday Honours,--but, oh, how I should like to be there!"


[23] 1897.

[24] Since this passage was written, a return has been made to the
earlier practice, and an Irish peerage has been created--the first since



The writer of these chapters would not willingly fall behind his
countrymen in the loyal sentiments and picturesque memories proper to
the "high mid-summer pomps" which begin to-morrow.[25] But there is an
almost insuperable difficulty in finding anything to write which shall
be at once new and true; and this chapter must therefore consist mainly
of extracts. As the sun of August brings out wasps, so the genial
influence of the Jubilee has produced an incredible abundance of fibs,
myths, and fables. They have for their subject the early days of our
Gracious Sovereign, and round that central theme they play with every
variety of picturesque inventiveness. Nor has invention alone been at
work. Research has been equally busy. Miss Wynn's description, admirable
in its simplicity, of the manner in which the girl queen received the
news of her accession was given to the world by Abraham Hayward in
_Diaries of a Lady of Quality_ a generation ago. Within the last month
it must have done duty a hundred times.

Scarcely less familiar is the more elaborate but still impressive
passage from _Sybil_, in which Lord Beaconsfield described the same
event. And yet, as far as my observation has gone, the citations from
this fine description have always stopped short just at the opening of
the most appropriate passage; my readers, at any rate, shall see it and
judge it for themselves. If there is one feature in the national life of
the last sixty years on which Englishmen may justly pride themselves it
is the amelioration of the social condition of the workers. Putting
aside all ecclesiastical revivals, all purely political changes, and all
appeals, however successful, to the horrible arbitrament of the sword,
it is Social Reform which has made the Queen's reign memorable and
glorious. The first incident of that reign was described in _Sybil_ not
only with vivid observation of the present, but with something of
prophetic insight into the future.

"In a sweet and thrilling voice, and with a composed mien which
indicates rather the absorbing sense of august duty than an absence of
emotion, THE QUEEN announces her accession to the throne of her
ancestors, and her humble hope that Divine Providence will guard over
the fulfilment of her lofty trust. The prelates and captains and chief
men of her realm then advance to the throne, and, kneeling before her,
pledge their troth and take the sacred oaths of allegiance and
supremacy--allegiance to one who rules over the land that the great
Macedonian could not conquer, and over a continent of which Columbus
never dreamed: to the Queen of every sea, and of nations in every zone.

"It is not of these that I would speak, but of a nation nearer her
footstool, and which at this moment looks to her with anxiety, with
affection, perhaps with hope. Fair and serene, she has the blood and
beauty of the Saxon. Will it be her proud destiny at length to bear
relief to suffering millions, and with that soft hand which might
inspire troubadours and guerdon knights, break the last links in the
chain of Saxon thraldom?"

To-day, with pride and thankfulness, chastened though it be by our sense
of national shortcomings, we can answer _Yes_ to this wistful question
of genius and humanity. We have seen the regulation of dangerous labour,
the protection of women and children from excessive toil, the removal
of the tax on bread, the establishment of a system of national
education; and in Macaulay's phrase, a point which yesterday was
invisible is our goal to-day, and will be our starting-post to-morrow.

Her Majesty ascended the throne on the 20th of June 1837, and on the
29th the _Times_ published a delightfully characteristic article against
the Whig Ministers, "into whose hands the all but infant and helpless
Queen has been compelled by her unhappy condition to deliver up herself
and her indignant people." Bating one word, this might be an extract
from an article on the formation of Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule
Government. Surely the consistency of the _Times_ in evil-speaking is
one of the most precious of our national possessions: On the 30th of
June the Royal Assent was given by commission to forty Bills--the first
Bills which became law in the Queen's reign; and, the clerks in the
House of Lords having been accustomed ever since the days of Queen Anne
to say "his Majesty" and "Le Roy le veult," there was hopeless bungling
over the feminine appellations, now after 130 years revived. However,
the Bills scrambled through somehow, and among them was the Act which
abolished the pillory--an auspicious commencement of a humane and
reforming reign. On the 8th of July came the rather belated burial of
William IV. at Windsor, and on the 11th the newly completed Buckingham
Palace was occupied for the first time, the Queen and the Duchess of
Kent moving thither from Kensington.

On the 17th of July, Parliament was prorogued by the Queen in person.
Her Majesty's first Speech from the Throne referred to friendly
relations with Foreign Powers, the diminution of capital punishment, and
"discreet improvements in ecclesiastical institutions." It was read in a
clear and musical voice, with a fascinating grace of accent and
elocution which never faded from the memory of those who heard it. As
long as her Majesty continued to open and prorogue Parliament in person
the same perfection of delivery was always noticed. An old M.P., by no
means inclined to be a courtier, told me that when her Majesty
approached the part of her speech relating to the estimates, her way of
uttering the words "Gentlemen of the House of Commons" was the most
winning address he had ever heard: it gave to an official demand the
character of a personal request. After the Prince Consort's death, the
Queen did not again appear at Westminster till the opening of the new
Parliament in 1866. On that occasion the speech was read by the Lord
Chancellor, and the same usage has prevailed whenever her Majesty has
opened Parliament since that time. But on several occasions of late
years she has read her reply to addresses presented by public bodies,
and I well recollect that at the opening of the Imperial Institute in
1893, though the _timbre_ of her voice was deeper than in early years,
the same admirable elocution made every syllable audible.

In June 1837 the most lively emotion in the masses of the people was the
joy of a great escape. I have said before that grave men, not the least
given to exaggeration, told me their profound conviction that, had
Ernest Duke of Cumberland succeeded to the throne on the death of
William IV., no earthly power could have averted a revolution. The plots
of which the Duke was the centre have been described with a due
commixture of history and romance in Mr. Allen Upward's fascinating
story, _God save the Queen_. Into the causes of his intense
unpopularity, this is not the occasion to enter; but let me just
describe a curious print of the year 1837 which lies before me as I
write. It is headed "The Contrast," and is divided into two panels. On
your left hand is a young girl, simply dressed in mourning, with a pearl
necklace and a gauzy shawl, and her hair coiled in plaits, something
after the fashion of a crown. Under this portrait is "_Victoria_." On
the other side of the picture is a hideous old man, with shaggy eyebrows
and scowling gaze, wrapped in a military cloak with fur collar and black
stock. Under this portrait is "_Ernest_" and running the whole length of
the picture is the legend:--

"Look here upon _this_ picture--and--on this,
The counterfeit presentment of two sov'reigns."

This print was given to me by a veteran Reformer, who told me that it
expressed in visible form the universal sentiment of England. That
sentiment was daily and hourly confirmed by all that was heard and seen
of the girl-queen. We read of her walking with a gallant suite upon the
terrace at Windsor; dressed in scarlet uniform and mounted on her roan
charger, to receive with uplifted hand the salute of her troops; or
seated on the throne of the Plantagenets at the opening of her
Parliament, and invoking the Divine benediction on the labours which
should conduce to "the welfare and contentment of My people." We see her
yielding her bright intelligence to the constitutional guidance, wise
though worldly, of her first Prime Minister, the sagacious Melbourne.
And then, when the exigencies of parliamentary government forced her to
exchange her Whig advisers for the Tories, we see her carrying out with
exact propriety the lessons taught by "the friend of her youth," and
extending to each premier in turn, whether personally agreeable to her

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