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Memoirs of Sir Wemyss Reid 1842-1885 by Stuart J. Reid, ed.

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round to my view of that gentleman, and I was hailed--quite
undeservedly--as a prophet because I had always distrusted one whom they
now not only distrusted, but disliked and despised.

Let me say, before leaving Mr. Chamberlain, that I still consider that
the worst blot upon his political career was the manner in which he
treated Mr. Forster. No doubt his dislike of Mr. Forster was in the first
instance inspired by his repugnance to the Education Act; but I cannot
help saying that in later years it degenerated into what, at any rate,
looked like a feeling of antipathy towards the man who, at that time, was
regarded as standing high in the succession to Mr. Gladstone as leader of
the Liberal party. When I come to deal with the events of 1882, I shall
have something to say of the part which Mr. Chamberlain played towards
Mr. Forster in the painful events which issued in the latter's withdrawal
from Mr. Gladstone's second Administration.

The Liberals of England were naturally very despondent after the
unexpected _dbcle_ of 1874. They had believed that the good works
of a Government which had wrought so much for the public benefit would
have been appreciated by the great mass of the electors, and they were
unfeignedly astonished at the verdict returned by the country. They had
not taken into account that swing of the pendulum which has so large an
influence in popular constituencies. Nor had they noted the extent to
which the unity of the Liberal party, and its consequent strength, had
been impaired by the action of advanced sections, who were so
passionately bent upon carrying the measures in which they were
themselves most deeply interested that they did not stop to count the
cost of their proceedings on the fortunes of the party as a whole. It
took some little time to recover our spirits after that heavy blow, but
soon some of us began to feel that in time "the loppd tree would grow
again." I was helped in coming to this conclusion by some words addressed
to me by a shrewd old Yorkshire Tory, which I have remembered gratefully
ever since. "I suppose you Liberals really think, as the fools of the
Tory newspapers seem to do, that your party is finished for ever and a
day. Don't make any such mistake. A Ministry no sooner begins to live
than it begins to die. Our people are in the full flush of triumph just
now, but already they are beginning to die." The shrewd good sense of my
friend has often struck me since, and many a time I have had occasion to
notice how quickly the process of decay sets in after the formation of
even the strongest Governments.

The chief event in the history of the Liberal party in the year
succeeding its great defeat was the unexpected resignation by Mr.
Gladstone of his post of leader. I am not concerned either to defend or
to blame this episode in the career of a very great man whom I followed
with enthusiasm and an unfaltering devotion for many years, but who had,
as I was always conscious, some of the defects of his qualities, and
whose action in a given case could never be predicted with confidence.
There is no doubt that Mr. Gladstone, old Parliamentary hand as he was,
even in 1875, had a very real dislike for those personal intrigues and
jealousies which play so large a part behind the scenes in our public
life. It is a curious fact that for nearly forty years no intrigues were
more active, and no jealousies more bitter, than those which had relation
to Mr. Gladstone himself. There was always someone ready to intrigue
against him. There were always those who thought that, if only he could
be got out of the way, there might possibly be room for themselves upon
the top of the mountain. In 1868 the representatives of this class had
protested against his being allowed to become Prime Minister. In 1874
they, or their successors, were still louder in their protests against
his being allowed ever again to form an administration. He was a defeated
Minister, and some of them took care to bring this fact home to him in as
unpleasant a way as possible. One, at least, had good reason to repent of
his audacity. No one who was in the House of Commons on the memorable
afternoon when Sir William Harcourt tried a fall with Mr. Gladstone, and
met with such terrific punishment, is ever likely to forget the scene. It
was said at the time by a humorous observer describing the debate that
when Sir William--"my own Solicitor-General, I believe," as Mr. Gladstone
said in describing him--had listened to the speech in which his late
chief inflicted due chastisement upon him, like one of Bret Harte's
heroes "he smiled a kind of sickly smile, and curled up on the floor, And
the subsequent proceedings interested him no more." Mr. Gladstone's
resignation of the leadership at the beginning of 1875 was not, I think,
unconnected with the fact that he knew that there were certain active
spirits in the Liberal party who, believing themselves fully equal to any
position to which they might be called, were unfeignedly anxious that
they should have at least a chance of arriving at the front place.

Yet, when Mr. Gladstone did resign the leadership, no one named any of
these intriguers as his possible successor; and it may be noted here that
none of the intriguers has even yet secured the reward he coveted. The
two names mentioned as those of possible leaders in 1875 were those of
Mr. Forster and Lord Hartington. I name them in this order because Mr.
Forster was first suggested, and the suggestion came not from any
wire-pullers or clique, but from the body of Liberals as a whole. But Mr.
Forster's enemies on the Opposition benches, though not very numerous,
were very bitter, and they at once put forward as the strongest card they
could play against Mr. Forster the name of Lord Hartington. Lord
Hartington was, like Forster himself, a man of high character, to whom no
taint of intrigue attached. He had not offended any section of the party
in the way in which Forster had offended the Nonconformists, and, above
all, he was the son and heir of the Duke of Devonshire. Social influence
counts for a great deal in political life in this country, but there was
another factor that also counted in favour of Lord Hartington. This was
the fact that he could not sit in the House of Commons after his father's
death, and that, consequently, if he were chosen, he would be more or
less of a stopgap. A stopgap is, of course, always popular with the
intriguer who knows that he himself has not yet arrived.

A tremendous effort was made on behalf of Lord Hartington. I am doubtful
whether it would have succeeded if the struggle had been carried to the
end. Mr. Forster's friends were in earnest, and they comprised the
majority of what might be called the Moderate party on the Opposition
benches. But Forster himself settled the question by withdrawing from the
candidature, and thus prevented an unseemly contest. It is now known that
Lord Hartington himself would have taken this course if Forster had not
done so. They were two straightforward, honourable rivals, and they acted
throughout this business like English gentlemen. That which made the
election of Lord Hartington to the leadership bitter to those who, like
myself, had strongly advocated the claims of Mr. Forster, was our
knowledge of the fact that he had really been defeated by the opposition
of the Birmingham League, and of those Radicals who were prepared to
sacrifice the larger interests of Liberalism to their own personal
antipathies and sectional views.

Indeed, it may be said that with this election of Lord Hartington to the
Liberal leadership the reign of the caucus commenced. The dejected
Liberals were resolved, if possible, to organise victory, and at
Birmingham men were found who were not only prepared to assist them in
the task, but who were quite ready to assume the lead of the Liberal
forces throughout the country. All the talk that one heard in political
circles in those days was of caucuses on the Birmingham plan, and of the
rise of the National Liberal Federation, the existence of which people
were just dimly beginning to recognise. I am not writing the history of
the National Liberal Federation, and I pretend to no special knowledge on
the subject of its origin. Popular opinion credits Mr. Schnadhorst, the
famous organiser, of Birmingham, and subsequently of London, with the
authorship of the scheme. But I doubt the truth of this. I knew Mr.
Schnadhorst well, and had a great respect for him as a man at once
honest, sagacious, and of much simplicity of character. But he was not
intellectually great, nor was he the astute and unscrupulous Machiavelli
his opponents believed him to be. The Birmingham caucus, which became a
model for all other Liberal constituencies, was probably founded by the
joint efforts of several men, among whom Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Powell
Williams, as well as Mr. Schnadhorst, were to be counted.

The plan of the caucus was delightfully simple. A constituency--and those
were the days of big constituencies--was divided into districts, and the
Liberals of each district were allotted a certain number of seats on the
Central Liberal Association. This Association generally consisted of so
many hundreds of persons, and it thus came to pass that the Association
became known as the Huddersfield Two Hundred, the Leeds Four Hundred, the
Birmingham Six Hundred, and so on. On a given day in each constituency,
the Liberal electors in the various districts met, and elected their
representatives on the Central Association. Every known Liberal had a
vote, so that the constitution of the central body was, in theory at all
events, delightfully democratic. These associations were designed to
sweep away the old system of Liberal committees, influenced by local
magnates, which had prevailed ever since the passing of the Reform Bill.
There was a strong belief among the inventors of the caucus that by means
of this plan they would secure the predominance of the advanced Radical
party. The old privileges of wealth and rank were henceforth to count for
nothing in the councils of Liberalism. Every man was to have a vote, not
merely for a member of Parliament, but for the local body which was to
select candidates, manage local political affairs, and generally
determine the character of the Liberalism professed by the constituency.
Every year the different Hundreds were to elect representatives who were
to act as their delegates at the conferences of the National Liberal
Federation; and the Federation itself was to be regarded as the
legitimate and indisputable representative of the Liberalism of the
country as a whole.

It was a bold and far-reaching scheme, and whatever its effect may have
been in temporarily restoring the fortunes of Liberalism, its influence
upon the political life of England has been great, and--I fear I must
say--has not been beneficial. The founders of the caucus professed to
resent the intrusion of the influence of money into political affairs.
Within certain limits this was an admirable attitude. But its practical
effect has been to drive the greater proportion of the moneyed classes
out of the Liberal party. They further professed to wish to put an end to
the influence exercised by cliques and privileged classes or persons in
the party. The majority was to rule under all conceivable circumstances.
Those who, like myself, have had an active and intimate association with
the caucus and the Federation know that in practice the new system, so
far from destroying the rule of cliques, merely substituted one set of
cliques for another. The active busybody, who had little business of his
own to attend to, or to whom the position of member of a local committee
was one to be striven after for the sake of the dignity attaching to it,
became the ruling spirit of the caucus. In thousands of cases the older
and more sober Liberals were driven out of the councils of their party in
disgust, and more and more the extreme men, who were fighting in earnest
for some special object or fad, became the predominant powers in
Liberalism. This was the change that was gradually wrought in the Liberal
party between 1875 and 1885.

At the outset I was vehemently opposed to the new methods, and protested
stoutly against them in the _Leeds Mercury_. It was not very long,
indeed, before I had personal experience of the way in which the caucus
system worked. Mr. Carter, the Radical, who had been returned for Leeds
in 1874, retired from Parliament two years later. It would have been the
natural and proper course for the Liberal party to invite its former
representative, Sir Edward Baines, to become a candidate for the vacancy.
He was the man who undoubtedly had the chief claim upon the Liberal party
in the town. A meeting of the newly-formed Liberal Association was called
to consider the question of choosing a candidate. As editor of the chief
Liberal paper, I had been taken into the counsels of the local Liberal
leaders ever since assuming that post, had been invited to attend the
meetings of their committee, and found that they were at all times
desirous of securing my support. When I spoke to one of the officials of
the new Association of the meeting that was to be held to choose a
candidate, and mentioned my intention of attending, I was bluntly told
that I should not be admitted. I had not, it appeared, been elected a
member of the Four Hundred. As a matter of fact, very few persons in
Leeds had known anything about the election of this body when it took
place. It was a startling revelation of the change that had taken place
to be thus refused admittance to a body which, in former times, would
have been only too anxious to secure my support.

The President of the Association, to whom I went to demand admittance,
stood upon the strict letter of the law. I had not been elected by my
district committee, which held its meetings in a local public-house, and
it was therefore impossible that I should be allowed to attend the
deliberations of the sacred body. Looking back, I can see that the
president was absolutely justified in the line he took. It might seem
absurd to shut out from a meeting of Liberals the person who, by reason
of his position, had more political influence in Leeds than any other
man. But "logic is logic," and under the new system any claim founded
upon mere influence, or even upon past services, was inadmissible. I was
too young, however, to acknowledge this fact at the time, and I bluntly
delivered an ultimatum to the President of the Association. "You may hold
your caucus meeting," I said, "but if it is to be private so far as I am
concerned, it shall be private so far as the reporters of the _Leeds
Mercury_ are concerned also. I shall simply ignore your proceedings,
and to-morrow the _Leeds Mercury_ will make its own nomination for
the vacancy." This was all very wrong, I fear, and most irregular.
Indeed, remembering what power the caucus system subsequently attained, I
look back with something like astonishment at my own audacious action.
But the caucus was still in its infancy, and my worthy friend the
President, after a hurried consultation with his fellow-officials,
capitulated. I was invited to be present at the meeting of the sacred
body.

It was the first meeting of that description I had ever attended, but it
was typical of many that I have attended since then. As I expected, it
was proposed by those who had long been recognised as the leaders of the
Liberal party in Leeds that Sir Edward Baines should be the candidate.
Forthwith a most violent opposition was offered to the proposal by men
who had never before been heard of in Leeds politics, and some of whom
had only been resident in the town for a few months. I remember that the
most violent of these gentlemen was a schoolmaster from Birmingham, who
denounced Sir Edward Baines for the assistance he had given in the
passing of that iniquitous measure, the Education Act. Another gentleman
denounced him with equal violence because he was the proprietor of the
_Leeds Mercury_, a journal which had dared to speak disrespectfully
of the truest and most honest Liberal of the day, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain.
That was the first occasion on which my fellow-Liberals in Leeds
belaboured me with the name of Mr. Chamberlain. On all sides I heard
extreme opinions expressed by men whose faces and names were quite
unfamiliar to me, and I found to my dismay that the more extreme the
opinions, the warmer was their reception by these representative
Liberals. They would hardly listen to their old leaders, who had grown
grey in fighting the battles of Liberalism. They treated with contumely
any words of soberness or moderation. They applauded even speakers who
were palpably selfish and insincere. As I listened to that debate, my
eyes were opened, and I realised the fact that a great revolution had
been suddenly and silently wrought, and that the control of the Liberal
party had, in a great measure, passed out of the hands of its old leaders
into those of the men who managed the new "machine." If I have been
tedious in telling this story of the caucus, it is still, I feel, one
that is worth telling, for it illustrates one, at least, of the great
changes in the political conditions of this country that have happened
during my lifetime.

It was not, of course, Sir Edward Baines who was chosen as the Liberal
candidate. The choice of the caucus fell upon the worthy President of
that body, the late Sir John Barran, an amiable man and a good citizen,
though his claims to Parliamentary distinction at that time were
certainly unequal to those of Sir Edward Baines. The revolution had taken
place, however, and the Liberal party found itself under the command of
new masters. For some time after the establishment of the caucus, it
pursued a distinctly aggressive course, and inspired all of us with
alarm. In course of time, however, I realised the fact that there were
certain severe limitations upon its power. It could not stand against the
country when the country was in earnest. It could not give that
inspiration to a party without which victory cannot be achieved. No
amount of organisation, however skilfully devised, could supply the place
of a great popular movement. I became reconciled to the caucus when I
grasped these facts, and for a time I not only looked upon it as
harmless, but gave my assistance to it, locally in Leeds and, in its
national work, in the office of the National Liberal Federation. Yet I am
compelled to confess now that, though I have not altered my view as to
the limitations of the power of the party machine, I no longer regard it
as harmless.

It is, I think, impossible to deny that very great harm has been done,
not merely to the spirit of Liberalism, but to the actual fortunes of the
Liberal party, by the new system. It has brought a new spirit into the
direction of our party, a spirit which is too apt to regard the catching
of votes as the one great object to be pursued and attained, no matter by
what means. It has given the mere machine man, the intriguer and
wire-puller, far greater power than it is right that he should possess,
seeing that as a rule his power is not accompanied by a corresponding
degree of responsibility. Above all, it has lowered the status of a
member of Parliament, and made him more or less of a delegate who is
bound to yield to the wishes, not of his constituents as a whole, but of
the party organisation which seeks to usurp the place of the
constituency. The story of the struggles of Mr. Forster with the Bradford
caucus is familiar to political students. I was mixed up with all those
struggles, and always on the side of Mr. Forster, who stoutly refused to
accept the dictation of the caucus and the theory that a member of
Parliament was no more than a delegate. He was victorious in his
prolonged struggle with the Bradford Radicals, but he only succeeded in
virtue of his own strength of character and dogged courage. Weaker men
went to the wall by scores, and, as they did so, the caucus, of which Mr.
Chamberlain was at this time the ruling spirit, gained strength, and
became the predominant factor in the Liberal party.

In the early autumn of 1876 the most remarkable political agitation I
ever witnessed broke over the country with startling suddenness.
Parliament was just on the point of rising when the _Daily News_
published its first account of the hideous crimes which became known as
the Bulgarian atrocities. Mr. Disraeli, when questioned in the House of
Commons, sneered at the reports in the _Daily News_ as being based
upon "coffee-house babble." If he really believed this, he must have been
strangely ill-informed. The terrible tale which shocked the civilised
world was communicated to the _Daily News_ by its Constantinople
correspondent, Mr. Edwin Pears. The man who supplied Mr. Pears with the
terrible facts which he gave to the world was Dr. Washbourne, the head of
the Robert College at Constantinople. I know both Mr. Pears and Dr.
Washbourne. They are men of the highest honour and integrity, whilst Dr.
Washbourne, who is by birth an American, has been for many years the best
authority on the question of the treatment of the Christians of the
Ottoman Empire by the Sultan. No one who knew the source from which the
_Daily News_ stories emanated could dream of dismissing those
stories as coffee-house babble. Mr. Disraeli, as a matter of duty, should
have made himself acquainted with the authority on which these stories
rested before he took it upon himself to denounce them as sensational
fables. But in spite of Mr. Disraeli, who at this very moment blossomed
into the Earl of Beaconsfield, an official investigation took place. Mr.
Walter Baring, who was attached to our Constantinople Embassy, was
directed to proceed to the scene of the alleged outrages, and to inquire
into the truth of the allegations made in the _Daily News_. Mr.
Baring was an English official of the best stamp. He not only ascertained
the truth, but he reported it in plain language to the Home Government.
It was then found that the _Daily News_ had, if anything,
understated the case. The ruffianly Bashi-Bazouks, employed by the Sultan
to keep down the Christians of European Turkey, had been let loose upon
the people of certain villages in Bulgaria and Roumelia, as a pack of
wolves might have been let loose upon a flock of sheep.

The crimes that were committed do not admit of description. Thousands of
innocent people had been murdered in circumstances of atrocious cruelty.
Neither age nor sex had been respected. Indeed, children, old men, and
women seemed to be the favourite victims of the savages. Upon the women
every conceivable outrage was perpetrated before the knife of the
assassin cut short their misery. It was a story which, when told in the
dry, official language of a Foreign Office report, was still sufficient
to arouse a passion of righteous rage in the breast of any person endowed
with the ordinary instincts of humanity. The old fear of Russia as our
rival in Eastern Europe still constituted the chief influence in
determining our foreign policy, and the old idea of the Turk as our
friend and ally was still popular amongst us. But these revelations for
the moment reversed the national feeling on both these points. Mr.
Gladstone, roused to action by his sympathy with the victims of so cruel
an oppression, left his retirement at Hawarden and issued a pamphlet on
the Bulgarian horrors which raised the feeling of the country to a higher
point than I have ever known it reach before or since, except in some
crisis affecting our very existence as a State.

That month of September, 1876, saw England and Scotland convulsed with a
terrible emotion. The old divisions of parties were effaced, and the
Government, because of its suspected sympathy with the Sultan, found
itself the object of almost universal execration. Naturally, the less
discreet politicians of the day were unable to control themselves under
the influence of the prevailing excitement. Many foolish and many
dangerous things were uttered at the meetings at which every town and
village gave expression to the horror inspired by the Sultan's crimes.
Mr. Gladstone's strongest utterances were seized upon by his fervent
admirers and were carried to an extreme from which he himself would have
shrunk. It was a whirlwind, a tornado of political passion that swept
over the country during those sunny September weeks. The impulse from
which it sprang was just and noble in itself; but who can hold a
whirlwind in check? It is not wonderful that this great outbreak of
national indignation did almost as much harm as good.

The whole condition of our domestic politics was changed by this
Bulgarian atrocities agitation, as it was called. It riveted the
attention of the country upon a great question of foreign policy. It
weakened enormously, for the moment, the power of the Tory Government,
which still enjoyed so commanding a majority in Parliament. Domestic
affairs lost their savour for the ordinary elector, and, writing nearly a
quarter of a century after this episode, I am inclined to believe that
they have never since regained all that they then lost. In the late
autumn, a Conference on the subject of our relations with Turkey was held
in St. James's Hall. This was no demonstration on the part of a caucus,
but a gathering of the notables of all the great towns of England. No
doubt the majority of those present were Liberals, but a very
considerable minority were Conservatives who had hitherto supported the
Government. It was my good fortune to be present at that wonderful
meeting in St. James's Hall. Never was there such a political platform
seen at a public meeting before. Mr. Gladstone, Lord Shaftesbury, the
Dukes of Westminster and Argyll, Mr. Freeman, the historian, the Bishop
of Oxford, Henry Fawcett--these are but a few of the names that occur to
my memory as I recall the memorable scene. Great Tory noblemen like the
Marquess of Bath sat side by side with Radicals from Birmingham, and the
passionate earnestness, amounting to something more than enthusiasm, that
inspired the whole gathering was remarkable. It may be said to have
marked the high tide of political agitation in my own experience.

A simple accident had saved me from the full force of the contagion of
passion that swept over the country in September. I had left Leeds to
spend some weeks with my family in a house on the Clyde, where I was far
from the sounds of political tumult. Possibly, if I had stayed in Leeds
at my post at the _Mercury_ office, I might have gone with the tide,
and might have been just as extreme and as reckless as anybody else. But
I looked on from a distance, and, as it happened, I was absorbed at the
time in other work. The consequence was that I could see the evil, as
well as the good, of this extraordinary upheaval of popular emotion, and
when I returned later on to my work at Leeds I took a cooler view of the
whole question than most Liberal journalists did, and dealt with it, not
from the merely emotional standpoint, but from that of our duty and
interests as a people. Of course, I was blamed for this by the more
fervent, and was suspected of being at heart little better than a
philo-Turk. I had, in short, to meet the usual fate of the man who will
not cry either black or white when it is his misfortune to see only a
confusion of colours. By-and-by, however, when the popular passion
subsided, and the old alarm about Russia again became rampant, I found
myself blamed for precisely the opposite reason. I was no longer assailed
as a philo-Turk, but as a Russophil.

CHAPTER X.

CONTRIBUTIONS TO BRONT LITERATURE.

A Visit to Haworth--Feeling Against the Bronts in Yorkshire--Miss Nussey
and her Discontent with Mrs. Gaskell's "Me"--Publication of "Charlotte
Bront: a Monograph"--Mr. Swinburne's Appreciation--An Abortive Visit to
the Poet--Lecture on Emily Bront and "Wuthering Heights"--Miss Nussey's
Visit to Haworth after Charlotte's Marriage.

I have said that during the stormy days of the atrocities agitation I was
engaged in other work than that of political writing. This was the
completion of a little book in which I gave my impressions of Charlotte
and Emily Bront to the public. The story of Charlotte Bront, as told by
Mrs. Gaskell, had always possessed a great fascination for me. I had been
moved to write to Mrs. Gaskell when her biography of Charlotte appeared,
and I had received from her more than one letter filled with interesting
details about Charlotte's father, and his life after his daughter's
death. When I went to Leeds in 1866, the first pilgrimage I made was to
Haworth. That was less than eleven years after Charlotte's death, and at
a time when there were, of course, many persons still living in the
village who had a perfect recollection of the wonderful sisters. But,
strange to say, Haworth was not in those days a popular "shrine." "Whiles
some Americans come to see the church, but nobody else," was the
statement made to me when I asked the sexton if there were many visitors
to the home of the Bronts.

My visit furnished me with a theme for a descriptive article which was
printed in _Chambers's Journal_ in 1867, and, having written it, I
believed that my connection with the Bronts was at an end. But when I
went back to Leeds in 1870, I was struck by the fact that throughout the
West Riding of Yorkshire there prevailed a widespread feeling that was
nothing less than one of positive antipathy to the works and the story of
the Bronts. Their books, though they dealt with local scenes and
characters, were no longer read. In that respect, however, the West
Riding hardly differed from the rest of England. What was peculiar to
Yorkshire was the fact that, if you mentioned the name of Bront in any
average company, the chances were in favour of your being met with an
indignant snort from someone who protested that Charlotte's stories were
a disgraceful libel upon the district, and that "Wuthering Heights" was a
book so dreadful in its character that its author would only have met
with her deserts if she had been soundly whipped for writing it. I met
more than one lady who had known the Bronts, and who, in reply to my
eager questioning, spoke of them with undisguised contempt. I was assured
that they were not ladies, that they were not even successful as
governesses, that their father and brother were a pair of reprobates, and
that they themselves, being embittered by the fact that they were not
admitted to the good society of their neighbourhood, had deliberately
revenged themselves by writing scurrilous libels and caricatures in order
to bring Yorkshire men and women into contempt. It all seems incredible
now; yet this was the actual state of feeling prevalent in Yorkshire with
regard to the Bronts thirty years ago.

I was asked to deliver a lecture before some literary society in Leeds,
and it seemed to me that I could not do better than tell the story of the
Bronts; and defend them against the aspersions cast upon them by their
old neighbours. Accordingly, I wrote a lecture which was the foundation
of the little book I subsequently published on the same subject. Miss
Nussey, Charlotte's schoolfellow and bosom friend, and the "dear E." of
Mrs. Gaskell's "Life," was then living at Birstall, near Leeds. She heard
of my lecture through some mutual friend, and expressed a desire to be
allowed to read it. After having done so, she asked me to visit her--a
request with which I gladly complied. I found her a cheerful, neat, and
well-preserved woman, who, though she was well advanced in middle life,
retained a good deal of the charm of manner with which Caroline Helstone,
in the delightful story of "Shirley," is endowed.

I am well aware that the identity of Ellen Nussey and Caroline Helstone
has been questioned by some recent writers, and that Mr. Nicholls, who
was for a few months Charlotte Bront's husband, is quoted in support of
this denial. All I can say is, first, that Miss Nussey acknowledged to me
the truth of the statement that she had served as a model for Caroline
Helstone, just as Emily Bront served as a model for Shirley herself; and
secondly, that it was impossible for anyone to know Miss Nussey in those
days without seeing how vivid and truthful Charlotte's portrait of her
was. Almost her first words to me when I met her expressed her regret
that Mrs. Gaskell had not done justice to Charlotte's life and character
in her famous Memoir. To me this was rank heresy, for, like most other
persons, I was indebted to Mrs. Gaskell for nearly all the knowledge I
then possessed of the Bront story. But, in reply to my defence of Mrs.
Gaskell, Miss Nussey entered into particulars. She explained to me that
Mrs. Gaskell had mixed up the sordid and shameful story of Branwell
Bront with that of his sisters; and she protested against the way in
which local traditions, that had nothing to do with the character of the
gifted sisters, in whom there was not a single drop of Yorkshire blood,
had been imported into Mrs. Gaskell's narrative, as though these
traditions were in some way connected with the lives of the Bronts.
Finally, she declared that she would not rest satisfied until a book had
been written about Charlotte which toned down the over-colouring of Mrs.
Gaskell's narrative, and she asked me if I was prepared to write such a
book.

It was a flattering proposal, but I felt compelled to decline it. I was
well aware that I could not put myself into competition with Mrs.
Gaskell, even if I desired to do so, and I had no wish to appear to
attack a book which I regarded as one of the masterpieces of English
biography. But Miss Nussey was persistent, and she offered me the use of
all Charlotte's correspondence with her, including the letters relating
to her courtship and marriage, which Mrs. Gaskell had never even seen.
After I had read these letters and other documents with which Miss Nussey
furnished me, I suggested that, if I could not write a book, I might
still make one or two interesting magazine articles out of the materials
in my possession. Miss Nussey embraced this idea with enthusiasm,
protesting that so long as she could see Charlotte "set right" in the
eyes of the world, she would be perfectly satisfied with anything I chose
to do. Accordingly, in the spring of 1866, I wrote three articles which
appeared in _Macmillan's Magazine_. I wrote them with fear and
trembling, and I must add that I wrote them without any kind of
encouragement from outside, other than that which I received from Miss
Nussey herself. The general impression among the editors and critics of
the day was that there was nothing new to be said about the Bronts, and
that, even if there were, the public would not care to hear it. The kind
and genial editor of _Macmillan's Magazine_ himself--Sir George
Grove--shared this conviction, and it was only at the urgent request of
William Black, through whom I approached him, that he agreed to look at
my articles. However, having seen them, he liked them, and wrote to me
warmly in their praise. Nor did the public like them less, if Sir George
Grove was correct in his statement that these contributions of mine about
the author of "Jane Eyre" had done more to increase the sale of the
magazine than any article since Mrs. Stowe's famous defamation of Lord
Byron.

Nor did the matter end, as I thought it would have done, with the
publication of my articles in _Macmillan's_. I received a summons
from the famous head of that firm of publishers, Mr. Alexander Macmillan;
and, attending him in the deferential manner in which authors in those
days waited upon important publishers, was asked with characteristic
gruffness if I could add enough to the articles to make a book. "The
public," said Mr. Macmillan, in tones which made me feel my own
insignificance, "seems to want something more of the stuff; I really
don't know why. But if you can do something more, we'll make a book of
it." Then he named the honorarium I was to receive in payment both for
the magazine articles and the volume. It was a modest sum--only a hundred
pounds, and of this I felt that Miss Nussey was entitled to a
considerable share. But a hundred pounds was not to be despised. Besides,
I loved my subject, and knew that I had still something left to say about
it. So I closed with Mr. Macmillan's offer, and a few months later my
little book, "Charlotte Bront: a Monograph," was duly published.

It will be seen that it was by accident rather than design that I wrote
the book. Miss Nussey moved me to the writing of the magazine articles;
Mr. Macmillan urged me to expand them into a volume. Otherwise I should
have written nothing on the subject, and it would have been left to
somebody else to start that Bront cult which has since spread so widely.
The appearance of the volume marked an important epoch in my life. Yet,
in the first instance, "Charlotte Bront" was very coldly received by the
critics. Most of them seemed to think that the book was entirely
superfluous. They evidently shared Mr. Macmillan's surprise that anybody
should think such a volume was needed. Most of them also agreed that I
had no special qualifications for the task I had undertaken, and that the
new matter I had brought to light was of little value. One of my critics,
the _Athenaeum_, poured contempt upon me for having spoken of "the
scent of the heather." The ingenuous writer evidently had seen heather
nowhere save on the slab of a fishmonger's shop. But, in spite of the
critics, the book sold, and sold rapidly. It went through three editions
in this country within a few weeks of its publication. It was republished
in America by arrangement with the Macmillans, and had so large a sale
there that it was speedily pirated, the pirates not even having the
decency to give my name upon the title-page.

Snubbed as I felt myself to be, I still had my reward. People who had
read the book wrote to me in enthusiastic terms, and they were not all
Americans who did so. I speedily became aware that I had, almost by
accident, tapped a vein of pure and rich sentiment. Best of all was the
fact that my kind friend, Lord Houghton, forwarded to me a letter he had
received from Mr. Swinburne which contained the following passage: "Has
anyone told you I am just about to publish a 'Study' on Charlotte Bront,
which has grown out of all proportion to the thing it was meant to be--a
review of (or article on) Mr. Wemyss Reid's little jewel and
treasure-casket of a book?" Need I say that I was more than consoled for
the coldness of the reception which the Press had given to my first
literary essay by such words as these; nor had I long to wait before I
saw the Bront cult a great and growing factor in our literary life. The
critics could not ignore Mr. Swinburne, and when his "Note" on Charlotte
Bront appeared, they were compelled to discuss seriously the question
which they had previously regarded as superfluous or trivial.

At Mr. Swinburne's request I subsequently went to see the distinguished
poet at the rooms he occupied in Great James Street. My reception was not
what I had expected, though Mr. Swinburne cannot be blamed for the fact.
I was kept waiting on the doorstep, after ringing the bell, for an
unusually long time, and during the interval of waiting a tradesman's boy
arrived, basket on arm. He was more impatient than I was, and rang the
bell violently to quicken the movements of those within, evidently
careless as to whether he might be disturbing a poet's daydream. A
terrible old woman, with landlady written large all over her face and
person, opened the door, and, without paying the slightest attention to
me, began to rate the shopboy in no measured terms. He retaliated in the
same fashion, and I found myself quite unheeded in the midst of this war
of words. At last, tired of waiting, I interposed between the boy and the
landlady, and asked the latter if Mr. Swinburne was at home. She looked
at me with withering contempt for a few seconds, and then ejaculated,
"No, he ain't, and it would be a good thing for him if he never was when
the likes of you come to call on him." Having delivered herself of this
hospitable sentence, she slammed the door in my face, and left me a
sadder man. I never dared to face that lady again, and in consequence I
missed the pleasure of making Mr. Swinburne's acquaintance at that time.

I was elected about this time a member of the Savile Club, which then had
its home in Savile Row. My proposer was Mr. J. F. McLennan, the author of
"Primitive Marriage," and I owed my immediate election chiefly to his
good offices, but partly to the fact that my book on Charlotte Bront had
found favour with the reading public. A great deal has been written since
then about the Bronts. Some of our ablest literary critics have
discussed their genius with a penetrating insight that has opened up for
us the secrets of their wonderful laboratory, whilst industrious
investigators have brought to light many facts which were unknown to Mrs.
Gaskell at the time when she wrote her famous Memoir. A Bront Society
has been formed in Yorkshire, and no man would now be justified in
maintaining either that the Bronts are not fully appreciated in the
world of letters, or that in their own county their fame is neglected or
despised. I myself have added very little to the literature which has
been poured forth upon the subject since the appearance of Mr.
Swinburne's "Note." I shrank from doing so, because I was not in sympathy
with the public curiosity which aspired to know everything that there was
to tell about the Bronts without regard to its intrinsic interest, or to
that decent reticence which even the dead have a right to expect from us.
I did not, for example, in my "monograph" publish the remarkable letters
in which Charlotte told Miss Nussey the story of her strange love affair
with Mr. Nicholls. Mr. Nicholls was still living, and I felt that these
letters could not decently be published during his lifetime. Twenty years
later, however, they were published by Mr. Shorter, not only during the
lifetime of Mr. Nicholls, but with that gentleman's full consent.

My chief contribution to the Bront controversy after the publication of
the "monograph" was a lecture delivered at the Royal Institution in 1895
on Emily Bront and the authorship of "Wuthering Heights," in which I set
forth the theory that Emily had, in part, been inspired in her
description of the mad Heathcliffe and his terrible ravings by the bitter
experiences through which she passed as an eyewitness of her brother
Branwell's last days. My theory has met with a certain amount of
acceptance among Bront students, and I still adhere to it as the most
probable explanation of a literary problem of no common difficulty.

Once, somewhere between 1890 and 1896, I was compelled to take up the pen
in my own defence. I read in the _North American Review_ an article
entitled "The Defamation of Charlotte Bront," and to my great amazement
found that it was a vicious attack upon my little book published more
than twenty years previously! I was accused by the writer--an American
lady whose name I had never heard before and have now forgotten--of
having been the first to defame Charlotte Bront, because I had been the
first to point out the singular influence over her life and character
which was exercised by her teacher in Brussels, M. Hger. It is now
obvious to everybody that this gentleman was not only the original of the
Paul Emanuel of "Villette," but was in many respects the inspiring
influence in the whole of Charlotte Bront's career as a writer. That he
exercised a curious fascination over the untrained young woman who went
to Brussels in order to improve her knowledge of French we know from her
own declarations, nor is it surprising that a man of such genuine
intellectual force should have exercised this influence over the mind of
one who, until she met him, had known nothing whatever of intellectual
society. It was not only my right, but my duty, as a critic to point out
the important part which M. Hger had played in the development of
Charlotte Bront's genius, and there was most assuredly nothing in what I
said that touched in the slightest degree the purity of her exalted
character. Yet my critic in the _North American Review_ professed to
discover that I had invented the story that Charlotte had "fallen in
love" with her teacher in Brussels, and abused me soundly for having
degraded her by presenting her to the world in an odious light. Surely it
is a mad world that can thus misconstrue obvious and innocent facts! I
cannot but think, however, that the good lady of the _North American
Review_ was more anxious to figure in the great Bront controversy
than to contribute anything of value to our knowledge of the subject.

As I have said already, when I first wrote about the Bronts there were
many still living who had known the sisters well. Of these Miss Nussey
was the chief, and it may be of interest to repeat a few of the
statements which from time to time she made to me with regard to
Charlotte. One of the most striking of these was her account of the
single visit which she paid to Haworth after Charlotte became the wife of
Mr. Nicholls. Miss Nussey told me that she accompanied Charlotte and her
husband one day on a walk over the moors. In the course of their
conversation she asked Charlotte if she was writing another book. "No,"
replied Charlotte; "Arthur says I have no time for writing now, as I must
attend to my duties as a clergyman's wife." She said it in such a tone as
to convince her friend that she was not satisfied with her husband's
decision, and Miss Nussey, plucking up her courage, remonstrated with him
upon his refusal to allow Charlotte to exercise her great gift. Mr.
Nicholls's response was short and to the point. "I did not marry Currer
Bell, the novelist, but Charlotte Bront, the clergyman's daughter.
Currer Bell may fly to heaven to-morrow for anything I care." I do not
vouch for the absolute truth of this story, but I give it as I heard it
from Miss Nussey, and I am quite sure that when she told it to me she
believed it to be true.

Charlotte must have been more attractive than the world at one time
believed her to have been, for she had several offers of marriage before
Mr. Nicholls appeared upon the scene as a suitor. Mrs. Smith, the mother
of Mr. George Smith, her publisher, was somewhat alarmed at the
possibility of her son's admiration for Charlotte's genius developing
into an affection for her, and whilst very kind to the young authoress,
she let her see that in her opinion Mr. Smith was much too young to
become her husband. In one of her letters to Miss Nussey, Charlotte
discussed this situation, and with her characteristic candour and good
sense came to the conclusion that Mrs. Smith was altogether right. Her
son was both too young and too brilliant, she declared, to make a fitting
husband for the obscure parson's daughter. In "Villette," where the story
of her own heart is told, Mrs. Smith and her son are to be found
portrayed in the characters of Mr. John and his mother.

Charlotte Bront's fame, her genius, her power, live after her in her
books, and so long as those books are read will never be forgotten. But
it is not her fame, her genius, her power, which are the most precious
possessions she has left to us, but that sweetness and virtue, which like
bright flowers bloom upon her grave and remind us of the life which lies
beyond it.

CHAPTER XI.

VISITS TO THE CONTINENT.

Politics in Paris in 1877--An Oration by Gambetta--the Balloting--The
Republic Saved--Gambetta's Funeral--A Member of the Reform Club--The
Century Club--A Draught of Turpentine and Soda--The "Press Gang" at the
Reform--James Payn and William Black--George Augustus Sala and Sir John
Robinson--Disraeli's Triumph in 1878--A European Tour.

In the autumn of 1877 I went over to Paris, in order to watch the General
Election of that year. It was a fateful moment in the history of France.
The Royalists, and the whole of the anti-Republican forces, were bent
upon overthrowing the Republic, and they looked upon President Macmahon
as their tool. Thiers, the natural leader of the Republican party, had
died, after a brief illness, within a few weeks of the election; and
Gambetta, who had stepped into his place, was not only under prosecution
for his famous _"Ou se soumettre ou se dmettre"_ speech, but was
still regarded by a large section of moderate men as a wild man, a _fou
furieux_, indeed, who could not be trusted with the fortunes of the
party. Every morning the Parisians awoke to wonder whether the expected
_coup d'tat_ had taken place during the night. The drama had
clearly reached an exciting moment, and I thought it well to witness the
_dnouement_ for myself.

My kind friend Lord Houghton, on learning my intention, sent me a batch
of introductions to many of the leading men in Paris. They included the
Comte de Paris himself, M. Barthlemy Saint-Hilaire, the bosom friend of
M. Thiers, and M. Blowitz, of the _Times_. I did not see a
revolution, because none took place; but I had an excellent opportunity
of watching Paris pass through a political crisis, and of witnessing the
triumph of the Republic over its numerous and formidable enemies. That
year (1877) was indeed the best year in the history of the Republic. It
still had the support of the great mass of the public. The middle-class
gave it all their aid, and the combination of Thiers and Gambetta had
made the Left and Left Centre parties immensely powerful. It was
interesting to watch the beginnings of the clerical reaction, beginnings
which found their outward expression in the propagation of the cult of
the Sacred Heart. All Paris was singing in those days, either in the
original or in a parody, the hymn with the refrain, "Heaven save poor
France in the name of the Sacred Heart." On the whole, the parodists were
in a majority, and their parodies were just as blasphemous as one expects
them to be in France.

Through M. Barthlemy Saint-Hilaire, a typical French statesman of the
philosophical cast, I secured an invitation to the solitary meeting which
Gambetta, as candidate for Belleville, was permitted to hold prior to the
actual election. He was, as I have said, under remand in the prosecution
by which the Government had sought to silence his voice in the Chamber of
Deputies. They could not prevent his making this one speech to his
constituents, for the law gave him the right to do so, and the meeting
was therefore one of great importance. Gambetta spoke in a large circus
which was crowded to excess. He was received with great enthusiasm, but
before his speech was over he had wound up his audience to a still higher
pitch of passionate fervour. He struck me as being, in some respects, the
greatest of all the orators I had ever heard. He had that indispensable
qualification of the orator, a voice at once clear, powerful, and
melodious. His magnificent physique gave weight to the gestures in which
he indulged so freely, and which enabled him to conceal the infirmity
from which he suffered--blindness of one eye--whilst at the same time
allowing him always to keep his living eye fixed on the crowd before him.

I trembled for him when he began his great speech, for, unlike any
English orator I ever heard, he did not warm to his subject gradually,
taking care to make his audience accompany him step by step, but sprang
in a moment to a height of passionate and tempestuous eloquence from
which it seemed inevitable that he must quickly fall to an anti-climax.
But no anticlimax came. For more than an hour he continued to pour forth
a torrent of burning words that seemed to keep the vast multitude before
him in a state of excitement and enthusiasm hardly to be exaggerated.
Never before and never since have I witnessed such an effect as this
produced by an orator, and though he lacked the stately and sonorous
delivery of John Bright, and had no pretension to the intellectual
persuasiveness of Mr. Gladstone, I have always felt, since hearing that
speech, that Gambetta was the greatest orator to whom I ever listened.

It was rumoured that Gambetta was to be arrested on leaving the meeting,
and he himself believed this rumour to be true. Yet this did not cause
him to moderate his defiance of the Government and the reactionary
powers. I remember he closed his great oration with words to the
following effect: "I said in the Chamber not long ago, 'Clericalism, that
is the enemy.' I predict now that when this election is over, I shall
say, 'Clericalism, that is the vanquished.'" I was introduced to him
after his speech. He was lying on a couch in a little green room at the
back of the stage of the circus, panting, and fanning himself furiously
with his pocket-handkerchief, whilst one of his friends administered to
him copious draughts of champagne. He talked to me of the probability of
his arrest on leaving the building, but seemed absolutely confident as to
the future. The Government made no attempt, however, to interfere with
him, and but a few weeks later he was the ruling power in France.

The day on which the first ballot was taken was, according to French
custom, a Sunday. This was the day on which the quidnuncs had fixed as
the probable date of the _coup d'tat_. The Conservatives, on the
other hand, pretended to believe that it would witness a fresh Communist
rising, of which Belleville was to be the centre. It was a beautiful
September day, and the excitement which possessed the whole French people
was visibly reflected in the streets of Paris. I spent the whole day in
driving from one polling station to another, accompanied by a friend who
had resided for many years in the French capital. What struck one was the
good order that was everywhere maintained, and the simplicity of the
arrangements for voting. There was nothing like the tumult that would
have been witnessed in any ordinary general election in England. It was
obvious, too, that much less care was taken to preserve the secrecy of
the ballot than is customary in this country.

As a newspaper correspondent I was freely admitted into every polling
station. It was not until two o'clock in the afternoon that I reached
Belleville, the reputed storm-centre. I had been warned that it would be
dangerous to venture into that district in the handsome carriage provided
for me by my friend. Yet when I climbed the steep hill leading to the
polling station where the Maire presided, I found everything perfectly
quiet. On entering the ballot-room, however, I was received in a somewhat
curious fashion by the Maire. "So you have come at last to poor
calumniated Belleville," he said. "You are the first journalist who has
been here to-day, and yet for a week past every journal in Paris has
declared that we were going to break out into a revolution. If they
really believed it, why did they not come and see how we behaved
ourselves? I call it infamous." The worthy Maire would hardly be pacified
by the thought that I, at least, had not been guilty of staying away. But
one could sympathise with his feelings, for in this spot, regarding which
the wildest stories were current in the Parisian Press, dulness reigned
supreme, and the polling station itself was as solemn and as silent as a
Quakers' meeting house.

It was different at night, when the first news of the result of the
election poured into Paris from the provinces, and it was seen that
Gambetta had been a true prophet, after all, and that Clericalism, and
all the other reactionary forces, had indeed been vanquished. Between ten
o'clock and midnight the long line of the boulevards was crowded with the
gayest multitude of men, women, and children that I ever met. They
cheered, they shouted, they sang for joy. The Republic had triumphed, and
France was saved. This was the burden of their song. Never did I see a
more good-natured crowd; but things would have been different if that
historic election had resulted otherwise. Paris was delighted and
good-humoured because she had won.

Five years after that great victory for Gambetta and the Republic I found
myself again in Paris on a cold January day. All the town was once more
in the streets, but there was no gladness on the faces of the people who
crowded the Place de la Concorde and the long avenue of the Rue de
Rivoli. They had gathered together to witness the funeral of the hero of
the fight of 1877. Gambetta, wounded, whether by accident or design none
can tell, by his dearest friend, had died at the very zenith of his fame,
and all France was prepared to render homage to one of her greatest sons.
His body lay in state in the palace of the Chamber of Deputies, and I was
fortunate enough to find myself standing at the foot of the coffin at the
same moment as Victor Hugo. The great poet had his two grandchildren
clinging to his hands, and as he stood there, explaining to the children
something of Gambetta's story and achievements, I could not help feeling
that there was a fine opening for a historical painter.

Gambetta's funeral was notable above everything else for the profusion of
the display of flowers. Every department, every town and hamlet in
France, had sent a deputation to swell the solemn procession, and every
deputation brought a colossal funeral wreath. It was the first week in
January, yet the air was heavy with the perfume of violets, lilies, and
white lilac. It was computed at the time that twenty thousand pounds was
expended on the flowers borne by the mourners, and I do not think that
this calculation was exaggerated. Yet the funeral itself was extremely
dull and unimpressive. Those long lines of men in evening dress impressed
nobody. It was only when the picked troops went by in their glittering
uniforms that any emotion was displayed by the watching crowd. For the
rest, all our attention and admiration were given to the colossal wreaths
and crowns and chaplets of which there was so barbaric a profusion, and
the poor coffin itself passed almost unnoticed.

It was different a week later, when the statesman's real funeral took
place. His father, a simple _bourgeois_ of Provence, had agreed to
allow this mock funeral to take place in Paris on condition that his
son's body was subsequently given to him for burial among his own people
at Nice. I was present also at this second funeral. There were no flowers
and there was but little display; but behind the coffin in which the body
of the ill-starred political leader lay walked his father, bare-headed,
his white hair streaming in the breeze; and the women around me cried as
he passed, "Ah, le pauvre papa!" and wiped the furtive tear from their
eyes. If anything could have inspired me with a greater horror for the
pomp of a public funeral, it would have been the contrast presented by
this simple but pathetic ceremony at Nice with the gorgeous spectacle of
a few days before in Paris.

In the spring of 1878 I became a member of the Reform Club, Mr. Forster
and Mr. Childers being my sponsors. Then, as now, there was a
black-balling clique in the club, and nobody could be absolutely certain
of election; but my personal friends--among whom William Black was
foremost--worked hard on my behalf, and secured my election in spite of
the fact that I had a considerable number of black-balls. Personal
influence, indeed, goes further than anything else in securing admission
to a club like the Reform. It is a mistake to trust to the mere eminence
of a man's proposer and seconder; unless he has some personal friend who
is a popular member of the club, and who will take the trouble to exert
himself on the day of the election, the mere eminence of his proposer and
seconder will not save him. One of the traditions of the Reform Club
relates to George Augustus Sala. When that well-known writer was proposed
for election, the taint of Bohemianism still clung to him, and it was
very doubtful whether he would pass the ordeal of the ballot. Thackeray,
with whom Sala had been associated in the early days of the _Cornhill
Magazine_, believed that election to a club like the Reform would be
the salvation of the younger man; and on the day when the ballot took
place he remained in the saloon at the head of the steps for four mortal
hours, asking every member as he entered to vote for Sala as a personal
favour to himself. In this way he defeated the black-balling clique, and
secured Sala's admittance to society of a somewhat graver type than that
to which he had heretofore been accustomed.

Even in 1878 I was not unversed in London clubs. I had been a member of
the Arundel, where the dramatists and journalists of the last generation
were wont to assemble; of the Thatched House, which in those days had an
admirable _chef_; of the Savile, the home of cultured authorship;
and of the Devonshire, founded after the Liberal defeat in 1874 as a kind
of Junior Reform Club. I had, in addition, belonged to several more or
less Bohemian clubs, of which the Century, in Pall Mall Place, is perhaps
the only one that demands notice. The Century was founded on the model of
the Cosmopolitan. The members met twice a week--on Wednesday and Sunday
evenings. Tobacco, spirits, and aerated waters were provided out of the
club funds. The members sat in a semicircle round the fireplace, and were
expected to talk together without waiting for the formality of an
introduction. The rules, in short, were the same as at the familiar
"Cos.," and for a time the club was very successful. But it seems almost
inevitable that clubs of this description should drift, sooner or later,
into the hands of a clique. The same men went every night, and you had to
listen to the same platitudes, or the same cheap cynicism. Once or twice
the dulness of the evening at the Century was enlivened by something like
a scene. One night, for example, Henry Fawcett, the blind politician and
statesman, came into the club room after an absence of some months. He
was warmly welcomed, and at the same time reproached for his prolonged
absence. He explained himself. "I like to come here," he said, "but I
can't stand Tom Potter. He talks too much." The identical Tom Potter, the
well-known honorary secretary of the Cobden Club, was sitting in his
favourite corner at the moment, and it need not be said that after
Fawcett's remark the conversation of the little party was somewhat
constrained.

But Tom Potter did not suffer so much as I did in that little room in
Pall Mall Place. One night in 1877 or 1878 I got there late, after dining
with Sir George Grove at his house at Sydenham. I was hot and thirsty,
and William Black, whom I found there, immediately suggested to me the
propriety of a whisky and soda. I accepted the suggestion. As the foaming
glass was handed to me, it occurred to me that the Century Club must have
been recently painted; but I was too thirsty to stop to make any remark
on the subject, and hastily drank off the cool beverage with which I had
been supplied. Directly I had done so, I knew that I had been poisoned.
Whatever I had swallowed, it certainly was not whisky. I suppose I turned
ghastly pale, for I felt a terrible nausea suddenly overcoming me. Black
and my other friends in a state of consternation examined the bottle from
which I had been served, and discovered that although it bore the label
of a well-known brand of whisky, it contained turpentine. I confess I was
relieved when I heard this, as I feared it might have been oxalic acid.
But turpentine is bad enough as a beverage, and I do not think I ever
spent a more uncomfortable four-and-twenty hours than that which followed
this misadventure. There was no doctor present, but Black undertook to
supply his place. "There is only one thing for you to do, my dear Reid.
You must get drunk directly." I declared, with reason, that I had drunk
too much already, and crept away to my bed, which happily was close at
hand. For at least two days after that incident I smelt like a
newly-painted lamp-post, but I have always felt grateful to the careless
dog of a servant for not having served me up oxalic acid or vitriol in
place of the turpentine. After that affair I do not think I ever went
back to the Century Club. It was bad enough to be bored by the
irrepressible Club Jorkinses, but to be poisoned also was more than flesh
and blood could stand.

The Reform, as I soon discovered, differed in many respects from any of
the clubs to which I had previously belonged. In those days, it was
really the headquarters of a great political party, and amongst its
members were to be counted many of the leading statesmen of the day. It
contained, too, not a few men of letters, and many prominent men of
affairs. A new member coming into the club saw these distinguished
persons at lunch, or dinner, or taking their ease in smoking or reading
rooms; but he had little chance of becoming acquainted with them unless
he had some friend by whom he could be introduced. Fortunately for me, I
already knew many of the politicians in the Reform, whilst Black was
eager to introduce me to his own friends in the club. On the very first
day on which I dined there as a member I was formally admitted to the
little coterie the members of which lunched at the same hour every day at
a particular table in the large coffee room. They were known as the
"press-gang," and were the objects, I have always imagined, of the
mingled hatred and envy of their fellow-members. They were hated because
of their exclusiveness, and envied owing to the fact that there was more
laughter at that one table than at all the others put together.

It was James Payn who was the chief cause of the laughter. He had himself
the loudest laugh of any man I ever met, and he laughed incessantly.
Again and again, when his ringing peal sounded through the room and we
saw the scandalised faces of our fellow-members, some one amongst us
would remind him of the line touching "the loud laugh that speaks the
vacant mind," but he only laughed the more loudly, and compelled us also
to join in his infectious merriment. Looking back upon the years which I
was destined to spend in constant association with that most delightful
and lovable of men, I sadly realise the fact that since his death I have
never laughed as I did in those happy days. The other members of the
luncheon-table party at that time were William Black, George Augustus
Sala, Sir John Robinson of the _Daily News_, E. D. J. Wilson of the
_Times_, and J. C. Parkinson. There were others who came and went,
but those I have named were the regular frequenters of the table. The
real bond of union between us was Payn; but, as was only natural, the
ties of friendship which united all became very close. To-day (1904)
Parkinson and myself alone remain of the merry party of twenty years ago.
Payn, Black, Robinson, and Sala are dead, and Wilson has sought the more
august society of the Athenaeum. The luncheon table is still maintained,
and we have found one or two recruits to fill the empty chairs; but I
think it is with pity, rather than with envy, that we survivors of the
original party are now regarded by our fellow-members.

However this may be, I shall always regard it as one of the great
privileges of my life that for more than twenty years I was a member of
this little society of friends, most of whom had kindred tastes, and who,
though they might differ widely in ability, were at least alike in the
keenness of their enjoyment of the humorous side of life. Many a time
since Payn's death I have been asked to repeat some of his "good things,"
in order that others might understand the fascination that he had for his
friends. I might as well be asked to repeat the song of the skylark. It
was not in the mere form of words he used that Payn's power of touching
and delighting his companions was to be found. He hated puns and verbal
trickery of every kind, but he saw more quickly than any other man I have
ever known the humorous side of any question or any incident, and he had
a knack of making that humorous side perceptible to others which to my
mind was absolutely unique. Day after day through the long years I have
sat with him at that noonday meal, breathing an atmosphere of wit that
was almost intoxicating. It was a wit that was never cruel, never coarse,
never anything but kindly and humane. Even his cynicism was genial and
good-natured, like that of Lord Houghton himself.

I have spoken already of William Black. He and I had become bound to each
other by ties of warm affection. I had the greatest admiration for his
genius, and a profound love for his pure and chivalrous character; but,
like myself, he was a listener at the table at which Payn sat. He could
say good things occasionally, but, as a rule, his conversation did not
approach the excellence of his writing. Payn, on the other hand, was
infinitely better in talk than in writing. He has written some essays
which will hold their own side by side with some of Elia's, but no essay
that he ever wrote had the delightful fascination that, to the very last,
attached to his conversation. Sala talked almost as much as Payn, but in
a very different fashion. He was an encyclopaedia of out-of-the-way
knowledge, and had a story or an illustration for every topic that
cropped up at the luncheon table. Sometimes his omniscience was almost
overpowering; but I have heard innumerable good stories admirably told by
him. Of Parkinson I must not speak, for he is happily still left to the
luncheon table and to me. Robinson, from experiences which were as varied
as they were abundant, was able to contribute much to our enjoyment at
those bright gatherings of old, whilst he shared to the full in the
affectionate admiration with which we all regarded Payn.

The summer of 1878 witnessed the meeting of the Congress at Berlin which
followed the Russo-Turkish War. Despite all the scares through which we
had passed during the winter and spring, we had escaped the war between
ourselves and Russia with which we had been so often threatened, and the
purpose of the Congress was to render such a war impossible in the
immediate future. It was this summer of 1878 that also witnessed
Disraeli's complete triumph over his enemies and his rivals.

He had secured his own way in the Cabinet, though in doing so he had to
lose the services of Lord Derby and Lord Carnarvon, and to convert Lord
Salisbury to views which, up to that time, he had professed to abhor. He
had brought the Indian troops to Malta, and had thereby given a
significant hint to Europe as to the extent of our resources. He had got
a vote of five millions from the House of Commons, and had spent a great
part of it in the purchase of ships of war, some of which turned out to
be wholly unfitted for the requirements of the English Naval Service. His
picturesque and audacious policy had won the favour of the multitude,
and, despite the criticisms of Mr. Gladstone, the Prime Minister was the
undisputed master of the nation.

Looking back, I do not think I am unfair when I say that Disraeli's
triumph seemed to be largely due to his power of playing to the gallery.
He gave the crowd in the streets the scenic effects which they loved. He
flattered their vanity, and he played upon their weaknesses, and thus he
was able in a great measure to realise the florid dreams of his youth,
and to strengthen English influence in that Eastern world which had
always exercised so great a fascination over him. When he went to Berlin
with Lord Salisbury as his companion, there was a great crowd at Charing
Cross Station to see him depart. I was one of the spectators, and was
struck by the deference which was paid to him by the many distinguished
persons who had come to speed him on his journey. Lord Salisbury passed
unnoticed by his side. At Berlin the same thing happened. In the great
Congress in which all the European Powers were represented, Disraeli's
figure outshone all others. Even Bismarck seemed to take a secondary
place to that of the Jew adventurer, who had made so splendid a fight for
his own hand, and had achieved so magnificent a success. The story of his
life, the romance of his career, and his personal peculiarities seemed to
have produced a deep impression upon people of all classes and of all
nationalities, and it is no exaggeration to say that during his residence
in Berlin the eyes of the whole world were fixed upon him.

When Disraeli came back from Berlin, having by an astute and not very
creditable transaction secured the Island of Cyprus for the British
Crown, besides compelling Russia to forego some of the fruits of her
victory over Turkey, he met with a reception of extraordinary enthusiasm.
A conqueror returning from the wars could hardly, indeed, have been
acclaimed more loudly than was Lord Beaconsfield as he drove from Charing
Cross Railway Station to Downing Street. If he had seen fit to dissolve
Parliament then he would have swept the country, and would have been
confirmed in the possession of power. But he had his own standard of
honour, and it did not permit him to attempt to snatch a victory of this
kind. His political opponents are bound to acknowledge their indebtedness
to him in this matter.

Shortly after the close of the Berlin Congress I took a long holiday from
my duties at Leeds, and made a most interesting tour through Europe in
the company of a friend, Mr. Greig, the manager of the Leeds Steam Plough
Works. Greig was engaged on a business tour, his purpose being to see the
different estates on which the system of steam culture--of which his
partner, Mr. Fowler, was the author--was employed. Our trip took us in
the first place to Germany, where we visited Magdeburg, Halberstadt,
Berlin, and Saxon Switzerland. Thence we went into Bohemia, staying at
Prague some days, and visiting some remote parts of that picturesque but
most unromantic country--for there is, alas! no kinship between the
Bohemia of reality and that of romance. After Bohemia came Vienna,
Budapest, and the Danube. Then at Orsova we turned north, and went by way
of Bucharest, Romn, and Lemberg into Galicia, finally making our way
back again to Vienna, and thence to Paris and home. In those days much of
the ground I have mentioned was practically unknown to English tourists.
The lower Danube, for example, and the great plains of Roumania, though
they were within four days' rail of London, were not so well known to
English people as the Nile, the Ganges, or the Mississippi. It seems
strange, indeed, now to recall the fact that both in Hungary and in
Roumania we visited places where Englishmen were regarded as rare and
curious animals, people to be run after and stared at as they passed
along the village street. All this, I presume, is changed now through the
influence of the wonder-working Cook. Yet one cannot believe that even
now there are not some nooks and corners of the Bukovina where my fellow
countrymen have hardly penetrated, and where they are still regarded with
eyes of curiosity, if not of fear.

At all events, in my own case, in this year 1878, I no sooner diverged
from the beaten track than I had experience of the fact that there was
still an unexplored world within the confines of Europe. The long journey
down the Danube in a steamboat, now superseded by the railway, formed in
itself an expedition of no common interest. It happened that my friend
and I had to leave the steamer at Mohacs, famous in history, and in the
pages of Thackeray, in order to visit the vast estates of the Archduke
Albrecht, at that time the richest member of the Imperial family. It was
then that I had the first experience of a genuine Hungarian town, with
its streets knee-deep in mud, and swarming with huge dogs of ferocious
temper. On quitting the steamboat for the inn, I seemed at one step to
have passed from civilisation into savagery. Anything more atrociously
filthy and repulsive than this establishment I never saw, and yet it was
the best inn of a town of thirty thousand inhabitants.

When we reached our destination--a castle of the Archduke's--the next
day, we found ourselves once more surrounded with the comforts and
decencies of civilised life, but there were many evidences of the fact
that we were here far from the world. The game of croquet, for example,
had been for some ten years before this time practically extinct in
England. At the Archduke's castle they seemed just to have heard of it,
and were eagerly learning it when we arrived. At one of the outlying
farms on the splendid estate, the manager, like all his colleagues, was
of noble birth. When he found that we were Englishmen he suddenly
disappeared from the room. In a few minutes he returned with a smiling
and handsome young lady on his arm. "My wife speaks English," he
declared, in accents of pride. It turned out that the lady, who had been
educated at Budapest, had never spoken to any Englishman before. We
seemed to be almost the first who had ever penetrated into that unknown
land. When the husband found that his wife was able to converse with us
he literally danced for joy, and invited all the rest of the company to
witness the wonderful spectacle. The hospitality and friendliness of the
Hungarians were delightful. However unpopular Englishmen might be
elsewhere in Europe, at that time they were certainly loved in Hungary,
and the mere fact of his nationality was sufficient to secure for the
English traveller an unstinted hospitality.

Bucharest, when we reached it, was still in the occupation of the Russian
army. The war with Turkey had ended many months before, but the Russian
troops had not yet been withdrawn from the Danube, while thousands of
Turkish prisoners of war were still under detention in Roumania. It was
interesting to observe the unveiled hostility of the Russian and
Roumanian officers when they met in the streets and cafs. The only
salutation that passed between them was a scowl. I heard many stories as
to the jealousies and dissensions which had broken out during the war
between the Russians and their allies. The siege of Plevna, in
particular, had left bitter memories behind it. The Roumanians openly
accused the Russian officers of having selfishly sacrificed the soldiers
of the little principality in order to save the lives of Russians. Great
fear was felt in Bucharest that the Russians meant to stay there, and
their swaggering and domineering attitude certainly seemed to justify the
dread felt by those who were entertaining them so unwillingly. The only
happy and smiling people I encountered during my stay in Bucharest were
the Turkish prisoners of war and the gipsies. The prisoners were cheerful
and good-natured fellows. Most of them were eager to eke out their scanty
allowance for food by doing work of any kind, and I was told that when
Prince Charles returned in triumph at the head of his army after the
close of the war, these Turkish prisoners had begged for and obtained the
work of erecting a triumphal arch in his honour. As for the gipsies, they
abounded in Bucharest now that winter had begun to close in upon the
country, and the stirring strains of their quaint melodies were to be
heard in every caf and at almost every street corner.

Brofft's Hotel was at that time the chief place of entertainment in
Bucharest. The principal bedrooms were occupied by ladies who purported
to be the wives of the leading Russian officers, but about whom there was
a strong smack of the boulevards. In the restaurant the officers
themselves dined and drank freely at numberless small tables, Roumanians
and Russians taking care to keep apart from each other. You could dine
very well at Brofft's, but you had to pay for your dinner at a rate which
cast into the shade the highest charges of Paris or Vienna. It was here
that I had experience of an amusing piece of effrontery on the part of
the proprietor. On our first evening in Bucharest my two friends and
I--for Mr. Greig had been joined by another member of his firm--dined
very well, but we were somewhat startled when we had to pay the bill,
which amounted to more than a pound a head. The next evening, determined
to be economical, we ordered a very moderate repast. Whilst we were
eating it, Brofft himself appeared at our table. "I am sorry you are
having so poor a dinner to-night, gentlemen," he said. "I do hope you
will let me add something to it, for, you know, the price will be the
same, whatever you have." And, sure enough, we again had to pay more than
a pound apiece for this very unsatisfactory dinner. After that
experience, we always took care to order the rarest and most costly
viands on the _carte du jour._

I made one interesting acquaintance at Bucharest. This was Mr. White, the
English Consul. Few at that time anticipated that he was destined to rise
to a height never before attained by a member of the Consular Service,
and to end his career as Sir William White, her Majesty's Ambassador at
Constantinople. Yet all who are acquainted with the facts are aware that
Sir William was better qualified than almost any other man for this high
position, and that his death was nothing less than a national misfortune.
At Bucharest in 1878 he was living in the simplest fashion in the
rambling Consulate. When I first went to call upon him he himself opened
the door in response to my knock. We had a long conversation upon Eastern
politics, in the course of which he explained his own perfect knowledge
of affairs in the Balkan Peninsula by telling me that he knew all the
languages spoken in that part of the world, and was consequently able to
study the local newspapers for himself. White was a big, powerful man,
with an air of unpolished frankness and good-nature that seemed to belie
his character as a diplomatist. His was one of the most interesting
careers in the public service of this country. In diplomacy he climbed
from the very bottom of the tree to the very top, and he did so without
having any special personal influence. The Russians both hated him and
feared him, and there was nothing he enjoyed so much as a game of
diplomatic bowls with Prince Gortschakoff or his successor. Some years
before he went to Constantinople Lord Salisbury offered to make him our
Minister at Pekin, and rumour has it that he recommended the new position
to White on the ground that it was at Pekin that the battle between
England and Russia would have to be fought out. But White's great
ambition was to be her Majesty's Ambassador to the Sublime Porte, and he
declined the post at Pekin, where he might have been of even greater
service to us than he was at Constantinople.

On my return to England I wrote some account of my trip in the
_Fortnightly Review,_ then under the editorship of Mr. John Morley.
My journey had undoubtedly opened my eyes to the economic possibilities
of Eastern Europe, and it had also proved to me that, at that time, at
all events, England was well able to hold her own in the race for
commercial supremacy even against Germany. Again and again, in visiting
German workshops, I found that the practical direction of the
establishment was in the hands of some Englishman or Scotsman, and the
intensely practical character of the English workman, his readiness of
resource, and his reliance upon himself in difficulties, were themes upon
which my German friends were never tired of dilating. I am afraid that
the case is somewhat different now, and that we are not so well able to
compete, even on their own ground, with the artisans and business men of
Germany as we were in 1878.

CHAPTER XII.

A CHAPTER OF MISFORTUNES.

Death of my Sister's Husband and of my Brother James--An Accident on
Marston Moor--Sir George Wombwell's Story of the Charge of the Light
Brigade--His Adventure on the Ouse--Editing a Daily Newspaper from a Sick
Bed--Reflections on Death--Death of my Mother--Serious Illness of my Only
Daughter.

There is a great deal of truth in the lines which declare that sorrows
and troubles do not come alone--"they come not single spies, but in
battalions." I have had experience of the fact more than once in my own
life; but never was it presented to me in such overwhelming force as in
the year 1880. On January 1st in that year I attended the funeral of my
only sister's husband at Kilmarnock. He, the Rev. William Bathgate, D.D.,
was a Scottish minister, a man of culture and refinement, and the author
of some theological works which had attained considerable popularity. His
death is associated in my mind with a great public calamity, the fall of
the Tay Bridge, when a train with all its passengers was destroyed. The
wind that toppled over the Tay Bridge proved fatal to my brother-in-law.
It was on a Sunday night--the last Sunday of 1879--and he had gone to
visit one of the Sunday schools attached to his church. The furious gale,
which about the same time destroyed the Tay Bridge, burst in its full
fury upon him soon after he had left his house, and after battling
against it for some time he found himself so much exhausted that he was
unable to move. It was only with the assistance of a kindly passer-by
that he was enabled to return home. Half an hour later he died in my
sister's presence, without a sound or a movement. I began the year,
consequently, in melancholy circumstances, in attendance at his funeral.

A few weeks later, at the beginning of February, a loss which I felt
still more keenly fell upon me. My elder brother, James, who had been my
constant companion from boyhood, and who had spent the closing years of
his life in intimate association with me at Leeds, died after a lingering
illness. The loss of one who had been for so many years my closest
companion and my most confidential friend, with whom I consulted over
almost every step of my life, was irreparable, and to this hour I
continue to feel the lack of his sympathy and advice in moments of
personal perplexity. Always more or less of an invalid, he lived much in
the life of his brothers, and his cheery fortitude, kindly humour, and
unfailing sympathy made his loss keenly felt in our family circle. He
died, by a strange coincidence, on the tenth anniversary of the death of
my first wife.

Three months later, I myself met with an accident which not only entailed
great suffering upon me, but almost cost me my life. It was in the month
of May, when, after the severe exertions imposed upon me by the General
Election--of which I shall speak fully later on--I had left Leeds for a
few days' rest and change. Sir George Wombwell, of Balaclava fame, had
invited a small party--of whom I was one--to join him on a driving tour
among the abbeys and ruins of the East Riding. The other members of the
party were William Black, Bret Harte, who had not long before taken up
his residence in England, and C. O. Shepard, the American Consul at
Bradford. Our rendezvous was at York, on a certain Saturday, and we had
agreed to spend that afternoon in visiting the battlefield of Marston
Moor. We drove out to the field in the highest spirits. I, in particular,
was elated at the thought of my escape from the drudgery of my office, as
well as by the prospect of the agreeable companionship of Black and
Harte, not to speak of Shepard, who was an admirable teller of American
stories, of which he possessed an inexhaustible fund.

We were crossing the battlefield on foot when we found our way stopped by
a hedge. It was a long way round to the gate of the field, and the hedge
did not seem very formidable. At all events, Black and Shepard cleared it
at a bound, and laughingly challenged Harte and me to follow their
example. But we were prudent men, and openly congratulated ourselves upon
that fact when we discovered a gap, through which it seemed possible to
pass quite easily. Harte passed through without difficulty, and I
followed his example. I had to jump about eighteen inches from the bank
of the hedge into the field. Nothing seemed simpler. Yet when I landed on
my feet one of them was caught in some mysterious way in a hole in the
ground, and whilst it was held as in a vice, my body was wrenched round
on the axis of my knee. To this day I do not understand how it happened.
All I knew at the moment was that something had given way in the
knee-joint, and that when I attempted to put my foot to the ground after
extricating it from the hole in which it had been caught "the pains of
hell gat hold upon me." I suppose I must, up to that time, have been
fairly free from physical torments of any kind. I had certainly no
conception, before that moment, that it was possible for a human being to
suffer such torture as I had then to endure.

I turned away my face from my companions so that they might not see that
I was suffering, and they went on unconscious of anything having
happened. I set off to follow them, supporting myself as best I could
with an umbrella which I chanced to be carrying. When they saw that I
limped they inquired the cause, but I reassured them by saying that it
was nothing more than a slight sprain. I was determined that I would not
spoil sport, or cast a shadow over the good spirits of our party. But,
Heavens, how that knee tortured me! I suppose I was a fool. Indeed the
doctor told me so the next morning, with some heat and quite unnecessary
emphasis. But I went on at the moment as if nothing had happened,
crawling with the aid of my umbrella across field after field, and even
climbing up some steps in order to see the room where Cromwell slept the
night before--or was it the night after?--the battle. Then I walked on
to the place where our carriage was waiting for us. It was standing at a
little country public-house. "I am going in here to get a drink," said I
to Black. "What!" cried he. "Drink anything here? Why, they'll poison you!"
"So much the better," I retorted, and then my friends began to realise
that I was hurt. They consulted together as to the stimulant that was
most likely to be innocuous, and finally decided upon gin. I had never
drunk gin in my life before. I now tossed off three glasses in quick
succession. It was very nasty, and it did not take away the pain, but it
made me feel rather less like dying than I had done before.

Somehow or other I got back to York, and, with the aid of the hotel
porter, undressed and got to bed. By this time my knee was enormously
swollen, but I was so ignorant of the actual position of affairs that I
honestly thought that all that was necessary to put me right again was a
rest of a few hours. Unfortunately, I was not allowed even that
homoeopathic remedy. We were to dine with Sir George Wombwell at the
Yorkshire Club that evening. I proposed to stay in bed at the hotel, but
to this Black demurred. He hated to meet strangers, and he declared that
if I did not go with him to the club he would not go at all. So once more
the porter was requisitioned, and with his help I managed to get into
evening clothes. Arrived at the club, the quick, soldierly eye of Sir
George Wombwell instantly detected my condition, and diagnosed it more
accurately than either I or my companions had done. I remained to dinner,
but a leg-rest was provided for me, and everything done to make me feel
comfortable, whilst Sir George sent a messenger to Mr. Husband, an
eminent surgeon of York, asking him to see me at the hotel as early as
possible next morning.

The evening passed like a nightmare, but I still have a vivid
recollection of the account which Sir George Wombwell gave me of his
famous ride with the Light Brigade at Balaclava. His horse was shot under
him whilst they were charging for the guns, and, being left behind whilst
the brigade thundered onward, he was made prisoner by the Russian
cavalry, which closed in behind our English horse. His captivity lasted,
however, for but a few minutes. The cry was raised that the English were
returning from their mad but heroic enterprise, and instantly the
Russians scattered and fled. As Lord Cardigan, who was riding in front of
the remnant of the shattered brigade, passed Wombwell, he shouted, "Catch
a horse, you d--d young fool, and come with us!"--advice which Wombwell
promptly took. He found the charger of a Russian officer, and, mounting
it, came back in safety with the few survivors of the awful day.

That was not, however Wombwell declared, the occasion on which his life
had been in greatest peril. Years afterwards, he and Sir Charles Slingsby
and a number of the members of the York and Anisty Hunt were crossing the
Ouse in a ferryboat, when some of the horses were seized with panic, and
the boat was upset. Sir Charles Slingsby and a number of others--twelve,
I believe, in all--were drowned, Wombwell being one of the few who
escaped. This he regarded as a much more dangerous adventure than the
charge of the Light Brigade. Someone at the dinner-table told a story
about this tragedy which Wombwell, I thought, hardly liked. The
ferry-boat was upset in the river adjoining Sir Charles Slingsby's
estate. One of his tenants who had heard of the disaster, and had been
told that only one of the baronets had escaped, was hurrying to the scene
of the catastrophe, when he met Sir George Wombwell riding home. As soon
as the man saw Sir George he flung up his hands, and in accents of dismay
cried, "Eh! but they've drowned t'wrang baronet!"

On the morning after this dinner, Mr. Husband visited me and inspected my
knee. I told him that I meant to stay in bed during the day, but hoped he
would allow me to keep an engagement I had made to dine at the Cavalry
Barracks in the evening. Eyeing me with great severity, the good surgeon
said: "You are a man of intelligence, or at least you ought to be,
considering the position you hold. You must surely know that you have met
with an injury that will keep you in bed for weeks, at least." And he
hinted, not obscurely, that still worse things than prolonged confinement
to bed would certainly befall me if I did not take the greatest care of
my injured leg. So there ended all my hopes of a pleasant holiday. The
next day I was taken back to Leeds in a state of absolute helplessness,
and, being got to bed in my own house, had to remain there for nine
mortal weeks.

Some of the experiences of that time were curious. Phlebitis had set in,
and for a time I was in serious danger from the formation of a clot of
blood in one of the arteries. As is pretty generally known, whilst this
state of things exists death may occur at any moment from the stoppage of
the heart through the clot getting free and passing into the central
organ. It was curious to lie in this condition for several days, never
knowing at night whether I should see the sun rise again. But I was very
much struck by the fact that I became easily reconciled to my state, and
did not feel the slightest apprehension with regard to the course of the
disease. I was almost free from pain, and was able to carry on my work as
regularly as if I had been in attendance at the _Mercury_ office.
Every evening I dictated my leading article to a shorthand writer. A
telephone--at that time a great novelty--was put up by the side of my bed
and connected with my room at the _Mercury_ office, and by this
means I was kept in constant communication with the members of my staff.

Thus my time passed pleasantly enough. When I was not dictating I was
reading, and during my confinement I re-read the whole of the Waverley
novels. It was when I was once more enjoying the romantic adventures of
"Ivanhoe" that I was seized, one afternoon, with the premonitory symptoms
which my doctors had told me would indicate the approach of death. At my
urgent request they had enlightened me upon this point, and I had learned
that death from the accidental stoppage of the heart would be without
pain, and would simply be preceded by a feeling of faintness. It was a
feeling of this kind which suddenly stole over me as I was reading
"Ivanhoe." I felt it deepening, and laid aside my book under the firm
conviction that I would never again read printed page. Asking for some
stimulant, I was given some brandy and water, but it seemed to have no
effect in checking the ever-increasing faintness. So I closed my eyes in
the drowsy belief that I should never open them again in this world. I
felt no pain, no agitation, no fear. Half an hour later I awoke from a
placid sleep, and, to my great surprise, found that I was decidedly
better than I had been for some time. This seemed, indeed, to have been
the crisis of my illness, and from that point I slowly recovered. My
doctors conjectured that a minute clot of blood had really passed through
my heart, producing the faintness from which I had suffered, but not
causing death.

I have dwelt at unconscionable length upon this incident of my accidental
injury and subsequent illness, but I have done so for the very reason
that, sooner or later, experiences of this kind come to most of us, and
it may be of some use to state exactly, not only the wonderful rapidity
with which a man by the simplest misadventure may imperil his life, but
the sensations with which he greets the apparent approach of death. All
who have suffered from severe illness must know how readily the invalid
accustoms himself to seclusion from the world, and how quickly the
panorama of passing life seems to fade into insignificance. The outside
world becomes, at such a time, a mere passing show which has but a
secondary interest for the man who can take no part in it. As for the
approach of death, I believe, from my own experience, that there is
nothing to which a sick man more easily reconciles himself. Certainly,
since those days in 1880 I have lost any fear I may have had before of
that inevitable end which awaits us all. It is the recovery from a severe
illness of accidental injury that is the really trying thing. For many
weeks after I left my bed I was a cripple, compelled to use crutches in
moving about, and suffering from extreme weakness. I went to Bridlington,
a watering-place on the Yorkshire coast, to recruit, and, hiring a small
trawling boat, I spent every day upon the sea, beating up and down the
fine bay trawling for fish. In this way I got plenty of fresh air without
bodily fatigue, whilst I had the enjoyment of one of my favourite
pursuits.

Shortly after my return from Bridlington, and whilst I was still
crippled, another great misfortune befell me. This was the death, on the
5th of August, of my mother, a woman of distinct culture and intellectual
power, to whom her children had been indebted for many things in addition
to the motherly love which she lavished upon them all so freely. It was,
I think, the shock of her death, and the exertion of the railway journey
to my brother Stuart's house at Wilmslow, Cheshire, which I took in order
that I might see her before she died, that brought about a relapse in my
condition. In the hope that I should benefit by it, my doctors ordered me
a long sea voyage. It was the first I had ever undertaken. I sailed from
Liverpool on the _Sidon_, one of the Cunard Company's steamers, for
a round trip through the Mediterranean to Constantinople and back. The
_Sidon_ was a slow old boat, and we took ten days to reach Malta,
the first place of stoppage. I never enjoyed ten days so much before or
since. The novelty of life at sea charmed me, whilst the freedom from all
work and anxiety was delightful. Every day I seemed to have acquired a
fresh stock of vigour, and by the time we reached Malta I could no longer
pretend to be an invalid. It was fortunate for me that my health had
undergone this wonderful improvement, for we had no sooner cast anchor in
the busy harbour of Valetta than a telegram was put into my hands,
announcing that my only daughter Nellie had been struck down by typhoid
on the very day on which I sailed from England.

There was no opportunity at the moment of getting back from Malta to
England direct, and I had consequently to continue my voyage to Syra,
Smyrna, and Constantinople, getting telegrams, of course, at each place
as to the condition of the invalid. At Constantinople I had an urgent
summons from my daughter's medical attendants, and started at an hour's
notice for home by the overland route, such as it then was. Leaving
Constantinople on a Tuesday at two o'clock by the Austrian Lloyd steamer
for Varna, I reached my own house in Yorkshire shortly after midnight on
the following Sunday. I believe I established on that occasion a record
in travelling from the Bosphorus to Leeds. I have described this overland
journey in "Gladys Fane." It was an experience worth remembering,
especially in these days of _trains de luxe_, when the traveller
passes from Calais to Constantinople without a change of carriage. From
Constantinople to Varna I had an exceedingly rough passage in the
Austrian boat, and at Varna the weather was so bad that it was with
difficulty that I persuaded the captain to allow me to land in time to
catch the through train. The whole of the following day we were passing
through the gloomy uplands of Bulgaria. Crossing the Danube at Rustchuk
in the evening, we reached Bucharest by nine o'clock at night. Here was
the only opportunity I had during my journey of obtaining a night's rest,
and I eagerly availed myself of it. Remembering Brofft's extortions on
the occasion of my previous visit to Bucharest, I went to a new hotel
which had just been opened, one of the advertised attractions of which
was its moderate charges.

The next morning, when I was preparing for my early start by train, the
proprietor of the hotel came to have a chat with me, and I explained to
him the reason why I had chosen his house in preference to Brofft's.
"Quite right, sir!" he exclaimed with great heartiness. "Everybody says
the same thing. Take my word for it, sir, Brofft is a thief." At that
moment my bill was handed to me. It was more extortionate than anything I
had known at Brofft's. "That is as it may be." I said, turning to the
landlord, "but I think you will agree with me that if Brofft is a thief,
he is not the only one in Bucharest." Things, I hope, have changed since
then. If they have not done so I am sorry for the tourist who unwittingly
includes Bucharest in the round of the holiday vacation. From Bucharest
to London, and thence to Leeds, I came practically without a break, and
on reaching my own home once more, in the dead of the night, I had the
joy of knowing that the crisis of my daughter's illness was passed, and
that she was spared to me. Here ends the chronicle of my misfortunes
during the year 1880. It is but a trivial tale, and one that, I fear,
will have small interest for the reader, but I have ventured to tell it
as an illustration of the adage that troubles never come singly. In the
quarter of a century that has elapsed since then I have not had to
encounter such a series of misfortunes as came upon me in the first nine
months of that ill-omened year.

CHAPTER XIII.

THE GENERAL ELECTION OF 1880.

Mr. Gladstone's Position in 1879--His Decision to Contest Midlothian--How
he came to be Adopted by the Leeds Liberals--The Conversation Club--A
Visit from John Morley--The Dissolution of 1880--Lecture on Mr.
Gladstone--His Triumphant Return for Leeds--His Election for
Midlothian--Mr. Herbert Gladstone Adopted as his Successor at Leeds--Mr.
Gladstone's Visit to Leeds in 1881--A Fiasco Narrowly Avoided--A
Wonderful Mass Meeting--Mr. Gladstone's Collapse and Recovery--My
Introduction to Him--An Excursion to Tunis--"The Land of the Bey"--Mr. A.
M. Broadley's Prophecies--Howard Payne's Grave--A Series of Coincidences.

The misfortunes described in the last chapter befell me in 1880; I must
now retrace my steps and go back to the year 1879. That year was largely
spent in preparations for the General Election. Party spirit ran very
high. Lord Beaconsfield retained his great popularity in London and among
the classes, and the Press and the clubs in consequence believed that the
General Election, when it came, would provide him with another victory.
Mr. Gladstone was hated more than ever by the London journalists, and by
all who had been attracted by the showy foreign policy of Lord
Beaconsfield. I am afraid that he was not at this time over popular in
the inner circle of his own party. He had resigned the leadership in
1875, and had ostensibly gone into retirement. He had emerged from that
retirement in 1876, in order to be the voice of the nation in its
outburst of indignation against the Sultan.

From that time forward he had occupied a curious position. He was neither
leader nor follower, but a great force, acting independently of other
persons, and disconcerting them visibly by the unexpectedness of his
movements.

I had access, years afterwards, to the records of the meetings of the
leading members of the Liberal party during the period between 1874 and
1880. It was easy to gather from these secret and confidential memoirs
that Mr. Gladstone was found to be an uneasy bedfellow by his old
colleagues. When he was moved by any strong impulse he was very apt to
forget that Lord Hartington was the nominal leader of the Opposition, and
to take some line of action without waiting to consult his ostensible
chief. He did, I believe, consult Lord Granville with frequency, if not
with regularity. Lord Granville was, in his opinion, the leader of the
whole party, whilst the only post held by Lord Hartington was that of
leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons. The result of his
frequent interventions in public affairs was undoubtedly to throw the
Opposition into some confusion. The _Times_, and the other chief
organs of the London Press, constantly poured ridicule upon his speeches,
and did their best to accentuate the differences between himself and his
former colleagues. It followed--not unnaturally, perhaps--that there were
those among the leaders of the Liberal party who desired to prevent Mr.
Gladstone's return to power. But whilst the great chief was thus assailed
and intrigued against in London, his position in the country was every
day becoming stronger.

It was known that he meant to retire from the representation of Greenwich
when the Parliament elected in 1874 came to an end. A score of different
towns contended for the honour of securing him as the Liberal
representative. Leeds, amongst other great constituencies, sent a
deputation to Harley Street, where Mr. Gladstone was living. To all these
offers he turned a deaf ear, and to the amazement of everybody it was
announced that he had decided to contest Midlothian, at that time
represented by Lord Dalkeith, whose father, the Duke of Buccleuch, was
the recognised leader of Conservatism in Scotland. Many years afterwards
I learned from Mr. Gladstone himself that before accepting the
candidature for Midlothian he consulted Lord Granville and Lord
Hartington, pointing out to them that if he were to enter into a colossal
struggle like that involved in the fight for the great Tory stronghold of
Midlothian, instead of accepting one of the safe seats offered to him
elsewhere, his position in the party would of necessity be altered. In
short, he could only fight Midlothian as a leader. Lord Granville and
Lord Hartington, undeterred by this consideration, still pressed him to
stand for Midlothian. From the moment he consented to do so Mr. Gladstone
undoubtedly regarded himself as the leader in the great campaign upon
which the country was about to embark.

In Leeds great efforts were made by the Liberals in preparation for the
conflict. My own position in the party was now very different from what
it had been in 1874. I had been taken into the innermost circle of the
caucus, and now exercised a considerable amount of direct influence over
its proceedings. Having formed an intimate friendship with the honorary
secretary of the Liberal Association, Mr. Mathers, I was consulted upon
every step that was taken. It was at my suggestion that Mr.--now Sir
James--Kitson was invited to become our president, and I believe I am
correct in saying that it was by my arguments that he was induced to
accept the office. From the moment when he did so, the organisation of
the party in Leeds--where in 1874 we had met with so cruel a
disaster--began to advance by leaps and bounds. Kitson was a man of great
sagacity and shrewdness, and of much strength of character. Mathers was
simply the best organiser and wire-puller I ever met in the course of my
life. He was a master of detail, one of those rare men who can retain
within their grasp the full knowledge of every fact in the most
complicated of problems. He was also, like myself, an enthusiastic
Gladstonian. Unkind people in Leeds said in those days that the Liberal
party consisted of three persons, Kitson, Mathers, and Reid. This may not
have been absolutely correct, but it was certainly not very far from the
truth.

On every side we witnessed, during this year 1879, the revival of Liberal
feeling, and the rapid growth of a strong hostility to Lord
Beaconsfield's adventures in the domain of foreign affairs. The current
had turned with a vengeance, and the flowing tide was indeed with us. We
three organisers of Leeds Liberalism were determined that at the coming
General Election we would win a victory that should fully redeem the
character of our town and give it a leading place in the political world.
We were, however, somewhat hampered for want of a good candidate to stand
along with Mr. Barran, the sitting member. I had found a thoroughly
suitable man who would have been a credit to the constituency, but there
were other candidates in the field, and it seemed as though one of these
would be chosen by the Liberal Four Hundred. For the adoption of a
candidate was a matter which rested solely with the Four Hundred, and
they clung to this prerogative of theirs with great tenacity.

On the eve of the meeting at which they were to make their final
selection of a colleague for Mr. Barran, I learned that my fears were
well founded, and that the choice was likely to fall upon a gentleman
whom I did not regard as suitable. In order to prevent this, I proposed
in the _Leeds Mercury_ of the next morning that, in spite of Mr.
Gladstone's acceptance of the candidature for Midlothian, we should make
him our candidate at Leeds also. It was true that he had already refused
the invitation of the Leeds Liberals, but I pointed out that the fight
for Midlothian would notoriously be a severe one, and that it was quite
possible that Mr. Gladstone might be defeated. In such a case, if the
Liberal Association adopted my suggestion, Leeds would secure the high
honour of being represented by Mr. Gladstone, whilst, in any event, our
adoption of him as a candidate would enable him to conduct the contest in
Midlothian without feeling any anxiety as to a possible interruption in
his Parliamentary career. To my great delight, the Liberal Association
not only adopted my suggestion, but did so with enthusiasm. I had
consulted nobody before making it, but I had the satisfaction of finding
that everybody approved of it--everybody, that is to say, except the
gentleman who had won over to his own candidature a considerable
proportion of the Four Hundred.

When the Association met that evening the whole of the candidates whose
claims had been so eagerly discussed beforehand were swept ruthlessly
aside, and nothing was talked of but the proposal of the _Leeds
Mercury_. After some discussion--in the course of which one gentleman
shrewdly pointed out that the anonymous letter suggesting the candidature
of Mr. Gladstone was probably written by the editor of the _Mercury_
himself--the Association resolved by an overwhelming majority that Mr.
Gladstone should be one of the two Liberal candidates for Leeds at the
next election. And yet, at the very time when this proof of his
extraordinary hold upon the affections of a great community was made
public, the London newspapers were speaking of Mr. Gladstone as a
politician who no longer possessed either reputation or influence. We,
who had to live at a distance from Fleet Street, were at least able to
form a sounder judgment upon this point.

I may interpolate here an account of one of the institutions of Leeds
that helped to reconcile me to my sojourn in that city. I do so because
it has always seemed to me to be a model institution of the kind. This
was the Conversation Club. It consisted of twelve members who were
supposed to be more or less representative of the intellectual life of
the town. The meetings were held monthly, each member entertaining his
fellow-members once a year in his own house. After dinner the host acted
as president, and the members present talked upon some selected subject.
By an ingenious arrangement it was impossible that anyone should know
beforehand what the subject of conversation on any particular evening
would be. In this way the preparation of set arguments was prevented, and
the club had nothing about it of the debating society. Speeches, of
course, were strictly prohibited. We limited ourselves to real
conversation, and many a delightful talk we had after dinner in those
Leeds drawing-rooms in which we met. Any facility I may have gained in
conversation I feel that I owe to the club, as I owe to it also many
happy and instructive hours. Considering our limited numbers, and the
fact that we met in a provincial town, we counted in our membership an
usually large number of men who have made some mark in the world. Amongst
the members were William Edward Forster, Sir Edward Baines, the Bishops
of Ely (Woodford), Truro (Gott), Chester (Jayne), and Rochester (Talbot);
Clifford Allbutt, Regius Professor of Medicine at Cambridge;
Professor--now Sir Arthur--Rcker, who has been secretary of the Royal
Society and President of the British Association, and is now Principal of
the University of London; Professor Thorpe, the chemist and Government
analyst, and Dr. Edison. This is not a bad list for so small a club, and
one might easily give many other names, in addition, of men who would
have been welcomed anywhere for their knowledge and attainments. In the
year 1900 the club celebrated its jubilee, and its members can look back
with satisfaction upon the influence which it has had on the social and
intellectual life of Leeds. Politics and religion were forbidden themes;
but many public movements of great importance for the development and
improvement of Leeds have had their origin in our conversations, whilst
the intellectual stimulus which those conversations afforded cannot be
forgotten by at least one grateful member of the club.

I may here mention a visit I received from John Morley about this period.
He was one of the many men whose acquaintanceship I owed to the good
offices of Lord Houghton. It is an acquaintanceship that has lasted over
a considerable stretch of years, and that has from time to time been of a
close and almost confidential character. The charm of John Morley's
manner, and the brightness of his talk, have been felt and acknowledged
by all who have been brought into contact with him, and it would be
superfluous on my part to say anything about his literary reputation. But
I have always felt that neither his fine gifts nor his peculiar
temperament were suited for the rough and tumble of political warfare. I
have felt this whether I have been, as has often happened, marching
behind him in thorough unison with his opinions, or, as has also occurred
at times, directly opposed to him and to his policy. He came to see me at
Leeds because, having undertaken to deliver an address to the Trades
Union Congress, he was wishful to learn something on the spot of the
relations of master and men in a great industrial community. I made him
acquainted with my friends James Kitson and David Greig. He discussed
with them the problems concerning the relations of labour and capital,
and in their company visited the great industrial establishments over
which they presided. At that time he was not in Parliament, nor had he
begun his editorship of the _Pall Mall Gazette_. I remember that,
after a fatiguing day, spent in the works of the Kitsons, Morley
expressed his conviction that the great captains of industry, like Kitson
and Greig, were not only of greater importance to the world than a mere
Secretary of State, but were engaged upon much more laborious and
responsible tasks. I do not know if he still adheres to that opinion.

I must now turn back to the course of public events, or at least of those
with which I had some personal connection. The dissolution of 1880 came
very unexpectedly, almost as unexpectedly as that of 1874. One evening,
as I was preparing to go down to the office, a messenger arrived in hot
haste with a telegram that had come over the _Mercury_ private wire
stating that the intention to dissolve Parliament had been announced in
the House of Commons that evening. Kitson, Mathers, and I had made all
our preparations, so the plan of campaign was already settled. On getting
the telegram I crossed over to the house of Mathers, who was a neighbour
of mine, and told him the news, and together we drove off to Kitson's to
take the first steps in the battle. The next morning the people of Leeds
awoke to discover every dead wall in the town placarded with an address,
signed by the president of the Liberal Association, announcing the
dissolution, and appealing to the electors to support the Liberal
candidates, Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Barran. By ten o'clock in the forenoon
our committee rooms were open, and in full working order, and bands of
willing workers, whom we had summoned the night before, were already
being despatched to all quarters of the town to begin the indispensable
canvass. Our opponents were taken completely by surprise, and we had
gained that great advantage in all contests, the first start. As it
began, so it continued. All through the great struggle the Conservatives
were hopelessly behind us. As the enthusiastic Mathers afterwards
remarked, "We were right on the top of them the whole time." It was a
stirring and Homeric contest. To a staunch Liberal it was one that gave
unalloyed satisfaction, for all through the great fight there was the
amplest evidence that the flowing tide was on the side of Liberalism.

In Leeds we had, of course, to face the disadvantage of fighting without
our chief candidate. Not by a word nor a sign did Mr. Gladstone, who was
deep in his own struggle in Midlothian, show that he was conscious that
an election in which he was personally concerned was going on in
Yorkshire. Naturally, our opponents made the most of this, and we had
constantly to meet the taunt that we were asking the electors to vote for
a man who had refused to countenance our proceedings, and who would
never, as a matter of fact, sit as the representative of Leeds in the
House of Commons. In ordinary times we should undoubtedly have suffered
from this taunt, especially since it had the merit of being true. But in
1880 the times were the reverse of ordinary. The overwhelming majority of
the people of Great Britain seemed to be possessed by an almost
passionate admiration for Mr. Gladstone. Future generations will find it
difficult to understand the extent of the fascination that he seemed, at
that period in his career, to exercise over the minds and hearts of a
majority of his fellow countrymen. Whilst London, and the London press,
still refused to admit that he could ever return to power, there was not
a public gathering in the provinces at which the mention of his name was
not received with enthusiastic cheering, so that, at last, men were
almost afraid to name him in their speeches, lest they should be accused
of bidding for the inevitable applause. If there was one town in the
country where this enthusiasm ran higher than in any other, it was Leeds.
We had no reason, therefore, to fear the taunts of our opponents. We knew
that we were being swept on an irresistible current to an assured
victory.

On the Saturday before the polling-day a great meeting was held in the
Albert Hall, presided over by Kitson. The chief business of the meeting
was to listen to a lecture on Mr. Gladstone which I had prepared for the
occasion. Never before had I addressed so large an audience, nor one
possessed by so boundless an enthusiasm. It was amid an almost incessant
accompaniment of rolling cheers that I delivered my hour-long eulogium
upon the Liberal leader. I had thought that I had gone as far as any man
could in his praise, but I found I had not gone far enough for my
audience, and the only sounds of dissent I heard were when I ventured
mildly to hint that at some period or other in his career the great man
had not shown himself to be infallible. I dwell upon this state of public
feeling because it ought to be understood by those who wish to appreciate
aright the history of our country at that period. I do not think I go too
far when I say that the feeling entertained towards Mr. Gladstone in 1880
by the great majority of the people of these islands was nothing less
than idolatrous. Any smaller man must have been intoxicated by the
knowledge of the feeling he had thus aroused. It says much for Mr.
Gladstone that, so far from showing any signs of intoxication or personal
exultation, from first to last he seemed to regard his hold upon the
masses of the people simply as one of the assets in the cause of which he
had made himself the champion.

After I had finished my lecture in the Albert Hall a young man, then
unknown to me, and who was described as an Oxford don, was called upon to
address the meeting. This was Mr. Arthur Acland, subsequently a member of
Mr. Gladstone's last Cabinet. The next day I wrote to Mrs. Gladstone--for
all direct communication with her husband was forbidden--telling her how
the contest was going, and predicting that not less than twenty thousand
electors would vote for her husband on the polling day. My prediction was
more than fulfilled, for when the votes were counted it was found that
Mr. Gladstone's stood at the remarkable number of 24,622, whilst Mr.
Barran came next to him with 23,674. Mr. W. L. Jackson (afterwards Chief
Secretary for Ireland), the successful Conservative candidate, was more
than ten thousand below the number secured by Mr. Gladstone. It was,
indeed, a famous victory; and when I parted from Kitson and Mathers after
the declaration of the poll, whilst we all felt more than repaid for the
toil and anxiety of months, we admitted, with a certain amount of
sadness, that we could never hope to repeat such a success. "Whatever
happens, we shall never see 1880 again," said Kitson, and he spoke truly.
Mrs. Gladstone, on receipt of my letter, had written to me expressing her
warm thanks for what "the dear people of Leeds" were doing, but she said
not a word about her husband, nor did we receive a sign or acknowledgment
of the stupendous victory--a victory which had staggered the whole
country, and opened the eyes even of the London clubs to Mr. Gladstone's
real position--whilst the Midlothian contest remained in suspense. We
heard, indeed, from a private source, that the company assembled with Mr.
Gladstone under Lord Rosebery's roof at Dalmeny had "jumped for joy" when
the telegram announcing the Leeds result had arrived. But that was all.

A few days later Midlothian also spoke, and in turn elected Mr. Gladstone
as its representative. Within an hour of the declaration of the poll in
Edinburgh, Kitson received a telegram from Mr. Gladstone, thanking Leeds
for all that it had done. It was characteristic of the great man's
businesslike habits and careful attention to small details that the
telegram was so worded as to come within the limits of the shilling rate
which was then the minimum charge for telegraphic messages. A day or two
later Mr. Gladstone wrote fully and most cordially in acknowledgment of
the great services which had been rendered to him and to the Liberal
cause by the party in Leeds. But his real thanks were given to us more
than a year after, when he paid a memorable visit to the town, of which I
shall have occasion to speak later.

A few weeks afterwards, when the Gladstone Ministry had been formed, and
the new Parliament, with its overwhelming Liberal majority, had met, we
had fresh reason to acknowledge the unique and astounding position of
supremacy which Mr. Gladstone had secured among his fellow countrymen. He
had, as from the first was anticipated, elected to sit for Midlothian,
and there was consequently a vacancy for Leeds. All the heart had been
taken out of the Tories of the borough by the beating they had received,
and their leaders courteously informed us that they would not oppose any
candidate whom we might elect. We had, it need hardly be said, many
applicants for this safe seat, but we--I speak of the recognised leaders
of the Liberal party in the town--had fixed upon one man to fill the
vacancy. This was Edward Baines, who had been, as I have told on a
previous page, so scurvily treated by the teetotallers in 1874. The
executive committee of the Association agreed by a unanimous vote to
propose Mr. Baines to the Four Hundred as the new candidate in place of
Mr. Gladstone. But we reckoned without our host, and, above all, we had
failed to give due weight to the overwhelming strength of the Gladstone
cult.

When we met the Four Hundred, and Mr. Baines was duly proposed and
seconded in the name of the executive committee, we found that the
proposition was but coldly received; nor were we long left in doubt as to
the reason. Someone in the body of the hall got up and proposed that Mr.
Herbert Gladstone should be the Liberal candidate. Herbert Gladstone was
at that time a stranger to me, and I believe to every other man in the
room. All that we knew of him was that he was Mr. Gladstone's youngest
son, that he was twenty-five years of age, and that he had just been
defeated by Lord George Hamilton in the contest for Middlesex. No member
of Mr. Gladstone's family had suggested Herbert's name to us, and we had
naturally felt that the first claim to the vacant seat lay with our old
representative and honoured fellow-townsman. But it was useless to
struggle against the glamour of the name of Gladstone. The whole meeting
broke away from its recognised leaders, and adopted with enthusiasm the
candidature of Herbert Gladstone. Looking back, I cannot pretend to
regret its decision. Though we knew nothing of Herbert Gladstone at the
time, when we did get to know him, a few weeks later, we found him to be
a young man of the highest promise, of exceptional talents, and of great
amiability of character. The Liberals of Leeds ratified the verdict of
the Four Hundred, and he was elected almost by acclamation to be the
representative of the town in Parliament--a position which he still
holds. The incident of his election when personally quite unknown is,
however, conclusive as to the extent of his father's influence among the
electors of the country.

In those days, it is no reflection upon Herbert Gladstone's abilities to
say that one of the most powerful influences in his favour was his
appearance. The young women of Leeds of the working-class formed the
highest estimate of his good looks, and whenever he appeared in public a
crowd of them gathered to feast their eyes upon his pleasant and handsome
features. In the later elections that took place during my residence at
Leeds I always accompanied him in his drive through his constituency on
the polling day. Wherever our carriage stopped, a group of young women
flocked round it, and Gladstone had to listen to their somewhat
embarrassing comments upon his appearance--comments, I ought to say, that
were uniformly favourable. In the 1885 election, which took place in
November, we had drawn up in front of one of the Liberal clubs, and he
had gone inside the building to interview his committee. As he
disappeared from view, the young women burst forth in their usual praise
of his appearance. "Eh, but isn't he good-looking? Shouldn't I like to
kiss him!" said one of the girls who was standing at my elbow. "Would you
really?" I said, anxious for some relief to the grave business of the
day; and the girl repeated her declaration. "Then when he comes out of
the club," said I, "you may give him a kiss if you like." And, to my
great amusement, when the candidate reappeared, a pair of buxom arms were
suddenly thrown round his neck, and a good-looking girl kissed him
heartily. The crowd cheered with enthusiasm, all the more because of the
blush which spread over the features of the ingenuous candidate thus
taken by surprise. But kisses, as we learnt long ago, are not to be
despised as electioneering weapons.

It was in October, 1881, that the Prime Minister came to Leeds to thank
us for his election in the previous year. Among the many political
meetings, or series of meetings, that I remember, I can call to mind none
like this. For weeks before the event we of the Liberal Committee were
engaged in preparing for it. Mr. Gladstone was to arrive on the Thursday
evening, and to leave on Saturday evening. Into the forty-eight hours of
his visit a series of engagements was packed to which a week might well
have been devoted. On the first evening he was formally welcomed to the
town, which had been decorated for the occasion as though for a royal
visit. Afterwards a large dinner party was held at the residence of his
host, Mr. (now Sir James) Kitson. On the Friday he received an address
from the Mayor and Corporation, and another from the Chamber of Commerce,
to both of which he replied in speeches of some length. A little later in
the day a great meeting was held in the Victoria Hall, at which addresses

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