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

Part 5 out of 6

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were presented to him from all the Liberal Associations of Yorkshire, and
he responded in a very fine speech that lasted an hour. In the evening he
attended a great banquet at which thirteen hundred persons sat down to
dinner in a noble hall specially erected for the occasion, whilst the
day's work ended with a vast torchlight procession from the dining-hall
in the heart of Leeds to Kitson's residence at Headingley.

On the Saturday, after some minor engagements, the character of which I
forget, but which involved a certain amount of speech-making, Mr.
Gladstone was entertained at luncheon in the Victoria Hall by the Leeds
Liberal Club, of which I was the honorary secretary; and after speaking
there he went direct to the temporary building erected in the Cloth-hall
yard, and there addressed a mass meeting of many thousands of persons.
Afterwards he attended a large dinner party at the house of Mr. Barran,
and at ten o'clock departed from Leeds by special train for Hawarden. It
will be seen that the burden of work laid upon him was enormous,
especially considering the fact that he was already in his seventy-second
year. Yet his wonderful constitution and untiring energy enabled him to
go through the whole programme not only with apparent ease, but with an
exuberant vitality that seemed to suggest that if his engagements had
been twice as numerous he would have been equal to them all. I doubt if
any other statesman ever before got through so much work and
speech-making in the course of a couple of days.

As I look back now, after the lapse of many years, upon that memorable
time--for the Leeds visit was memorable, not only in Mr. Gladstone's
career, but in the political history of the country--the two speeches
which stand out in greatest prominence are those which he delivered at
the banquet on the Friday evening, and the mass meeting on the Saturday
afternoon. The banquet narrowly escaped being a terrible fiasco. For the
first time in my association with them, I had a difference of opinion
with Kitson and Mathers regarding the arrangements for the dinner. The
cost of erecting the special dining-hall was, of course, very
considerable. I proposed that it should be met by a uniform charge of two
guineas for the dinner tickets. My friends, on the other hand, prepared
an elaborate plan by which the tickets were to be charged at different
rates from one guinea up to five, according to the position of the seats.
In this way more money was to be obtained, but it was at the cost of
extra labour on the part of the executive, and of a good deal of
grumbling from those local Liberals who had helped us most earnestly in
the 1880 election, but who could not afford to pay the very high price
demanded for the best seats. The allotment of these variously priced
seats at the banquet was a heavy task, and it was undertaken by Mathers.
Somehow or other he was delayed in his work until two days before the
dinner was to take place, and then he was seized with sudden illness.

I was called in to take his place, and discovered an alarming state of
affairs. It was Wednesday night, Mr. Gladstone was to arrive on Thursday,
and his heavy round of engagements was to begin on Friday morning. More
than thirty thousand tickets had to be sent out to all parts of the
country for the various meetings, and on Wednesday night not one ticket
had been despatched. Moreover, Mathers had prepared so elaborate a scheme
for the allotment and registration of all the tickets applied for, that a
rapid calculation satisfied me that we could not possibly despatch the
last of the tickets until at least two days after Mr. Gladstone's
departure from Leeds. This was rather a terrible discovery to be made on
the eve of the Premier's arrival. The knot had to be cut instead of being
unravelled. I put aside the elaborate and irreproachable volumes in which
Mathers and his staff had been entering the tickets at the time when he
was seized with illness, and, with the help of a sixpenny memorandum book
and half a dozen smart bank clerks, succeeded in allotting and posting
the whole of the thirty thousand tickets between ten o'clock on Wednesday
night and eight o'clock on Thursday morning. I never worked harder in my
life, but when my work was done, and the tickets had all passed beyond my
control, I fell into a terrible state of panic. I was firmly convinced
that in my rapid allotment of seats to the five different orders of
banqueters I had made the most hideous blunders, and I expected nothing
less than a riot when the company assembled in the dining-hall. To my
unfeigned astonishment, my fears proved to be utterly unfounded. There
was a seat for everybody, and everybody got a seat, though to this day I
have a shrewd suspicion that more than one gentleman who had paid five
guineas for his place found himself relegated to a one guinea seat. But
what did it matter? People had come to hear Mr. Gladstone, and so long as
they succeeded in this they were indifferent to everything else.

Mr. Gladstone's speech at the dinner was the famous one in which he
discussed the Irish question, warned Mr. Parnell of the dangers of the
course upon which he had embarked, and declared emphatically that the
resources of civilisation were not exhausted. He did not take his seat at
the high table in the hall where Sir James Kitson presided until dinner
was over and the speeches were about to begin. I observed that when he
did so, after having gazed with admiration upon the brilliant scene, he
leant forward, and, covering his face with both hands, remained for some
time in that attitude. On the following evening I sat next to Mrs.
Gladstone at dinner at Sir John Barran's house. She asked me if I had
observed this action of her husband's, and on my answering in the
affirmative, she said to me, "He was praying. You know, he always prays
before he makes an important speech, and he felt that speech very much.
What do you think he said to me last night after he had gone to his
dressing-room? 'My dear, if I were twenty years younger, I should go to
Ireland myself as Irish Secretary.'" The speech was a great oratorical
success, and at the close of the banquet, as I have said, an immense
torchlight procession, which had been carefully organised by the local
committee, conducted the Premier and his wife from the banqueting hall to
the residence of Kitson at Headingley. The procession had to pass across
Woodhouse Moor, and I do not think I ever witnessed a more effective
spectacle of the kind.

The speech which, to my mind, ranked next in importance and interest to
this at the dinner was that which Mr. Gladstone delivered on the
following day to the mass meeting of Leeds working men. Fully thirty
thousand persons attended this meeting, which, like the dinner, took
place in a temporary building. It was crowded to suffocation--literally
to suffocation. When I arrived, shortly before the proceedings began, I
found that the whole thirty thousand people were gasping for breath, and
that many were fainting. We had quite forgotten to arrange for the
ventilation of the vast hall! Things looked very serious. The hubbub was
indescribable, and the sufferings of the crowd were so great that it was
clearly impossible that, under the conditions prevailing, any meeting
could be held. Fortunately, there were active and willing workers on the
spot, and a band of young men was organised who, mounting to the
temporary roof of the hall, tore the planking open, and quickly relieved
the pressure upon the sufferers beneath. But even when they had been
supplied with air the thirty thousand were anything but comfortable. They
were tightly packed together in a sweltering mass, and in no condition to
listen patiently to speeches. The noise and hubbub was little short of
deafening.

The Chairman, having briefly addressed the meeting in dumb show, called
upon one eminent Liberal after another to move the preliminary
resolutions. Not a word that any one of these gentlemen said could be
heard a yard beyond the limits of the platform. It seemed that nothing
could be done to reduce the vast audience to silence, and we were in
despair at the thought that Mr. Gladstone would have to face so severe an
ordeal. When at last his turn came, and he stepped to the front of the
platform, thirty thousand throats sent up such a shout that it seemed to
shake the building. Again and again for a space of some minutes it was
renewed, whilst the orator stood, pale and motionless. What could one
voice have done against thirty thousand? Then, just as the cheering
seemed to be subsiding, someone started "For he's a jolly good fellow,"
and the whole thirty thousand joined in the song. After that it took some
minutes for them all to settle down again, and still there went on that
undercurrent of murmuring talk which seemed to make the attempt of anyone
to address the gigantic meeting hopeless. But suddenly Mr. Gladstone
raised his hand, and it was almost as if a miracle had happened. In an
instant there was a deathlike silence in the hall, and every man in it
seemed to be holding his breath. The speaker's voice rang out, clear and
musical as of old, and it reached to the furthest corners of the mighty
apartment. But he had not got further than the conventional opening words
when his audience seemed to go mad with delight. A frenzied burst of
cheering, far exceeding that which had welcomed him on his first
appearance, proclaimed the joy with which they had heard the voice of the
man they adored.

Again it was some minutes before Mr. Gladstone was allowed to proceed,
but once more his uplifted hand ensured silence, and from that moment
until he had reached the end of an hour's speech, every syllable that he
uttered was heard distinctly by his thirty thousand listeners. It was, I
think, the passionate eagerness of the audience to hear his voice, and
their outburst of delight when its notes first fell upon their ears, that
formed the most striking feature of that great meeting. Perhaps there was
something almost idolatrous in the reception given to the statesman. It
would have turned the heads of most men. The wonder is that it affected
Mr. Gladstone so slightly. Yet I must say again that one must have been
present at scenes like this in order to appreciate the real position of
this remarkable man at this the very zenith of his political career. I
remember that this speech, which was received with so intense an
enthusiasm by all who heard it, contained the speaker's defence of what
is known as the Majuba Hill policy. To those of us who were under the
wand of the magician it seemed that no other defence was needed.

I had an opportunity, when the meeting was over, of seeing what effect
the physical effort of making an hour's speech to an audience of thirty
thousand had upon Mr. Gladstone. When I went into the committee room he
was half reclining in an armchair, wrapped in a large cloak. His eyes
were closed, his face was deathly pale, his whole aspect that of a man
who was absolutely exhausted. Mrs. Gladstone brought him a cup of tea,
but even as he drank his eyes were shut. To me, who had never seen him in
this state before, it was alarming to observe him in a condition of
positive collapse. Yet a few hours later he was the life and soul of a
large dinner party. That dinner is memorable to me, because it was the
first occasion on which I met Mr. Gladstone in private. I had a good
opportunity of seeing that charming personal courtesy which distinguished
him in all his social relationships. I was introduced to him by our host
across the dinner-table, and he immediately plunged into a discussion
about newspapers and distinguished journalists who were known to me
personally. I remember he paid a great compliment to the _Standard_,
saying that it was a newspaper he always liked to read because he always
found it to be fair and honest. "When I read a bad leader in the
_Standard_," he said, "I say to myself, Mr. Mudford must be taking a
holiday." I duly reported this saying to Mudford afterwards, and I know
that this praise from one whom he had often criticised so severely
afforded that distinguished editor intense pleasure.

When Mr. Gladstone left Leeds after his stay of little more than
forty-eight hours, he might safely have used the words of Julius Caesar.
He had conquered everybody. Even his political opponents were for the
moment subdued by the magic of his eloquence; whilst those who, like
myself, had for the first time enjoyed direct personal intercourse with
him were completely subjugated by the fascination of his manner, and
those remarkable social and intellectual gifts which made him so long the
foremost figure in English society. Of course, to one who had been a
Gladstonian ever since those early days in the 'sixties at Newcastle of
which I have spoken in a previous chapter, the joy of knowing the great
man in the flesh was very great. Yet not even the strength of my
admiration for one so supremely gifted, so ardent in his faith, and so
strenuous in his actions made of me a blind follower of his leadership.
Not many months after that meeting with him at Leeds I found myself
sharply separated from him in a political controversy of which I shall
soon have to speak.

I found refreshment after the fatigues connected with the Leeds
gatherings in an excursion to Tunis. In 1881 the French, upon a
distinctly fraudulent pretext, had invaded the territories of the Bey of
Tunis. Their professed purpose was to punish a certain tribe of
"Kroumirs," who, it was alleged, had committed outrages in Algeria. The
Kroumirs, as it turned out, were a product of the imagination of M.
Roustan, the diplomatic agent of France in Tunis. No such tribe was known
to the Tunisians, but the pretext served, and Tunis was invaded. The
truth, as the world now knows, was that France was resolved to have some
compensation for our ill-starred acquisition of Cyprus. She dared not
move in the direction of Morocco, because of the jealousy of the other
Powers of Europe; but she had obtained the tacit consent of Prince
Bismarck to the Tunisian expedition. Of the pledges she gave as to the
objects and the limitations of that expedition I need not speak. Yet one
is entitled to remember that if the force of circumstances has compelled
our neighbours to break their word with regard to Tunis, we are equally
justified in alleging the same reason for the breach of our own promises
concerning Egypt.

My friend Mudford gave me a commission to act as special correspondent of
the _Standard_ in Tunis, and I went there accordingly to spend a few
interesting weeks in studying on the spot one of the burning questions of
the day. I shall not inflict upon my reader the story of my trip. I feel
the less inclined to do so because I was ill-advised enough after my
return to publish that story in a volume called "The Land of the Bey."
The most interesting fact connected with that volume is one that happened
in quite recent years. A gentleman from the Inland Revenue Office called
upon me, and in a most courteous manner drew my attention to the fact
that I had not, in my income-tax returns, included the profit I had
received from this book. It had taken the department just nineteen years
to discover the existence of this precious volume. The discovery, though
belated, did great credit to the zeal and industry of somebody connected
with the Inland Revenue, for I am convinced that he is the only person,
myself excepted, who knew that the book had been written. I had clean
forgotten its existence myself when it was recalled to my memory in this
amusing fashion. My visitor from the Inland Revenue Office smiled sweetly
when I explained to him why no profits from this publication had ever
swelled my meagre income-tax returns. It was a case of the Spanish Fleet
over again. I had never seen those literary profits even to the amount of
sixpence, and I could not therefore be expected to cause the collectors
of her Majesty's Revenue to succeed where I had failed.

My stay in Tunis was not only interesting but somewhat adventurous. There
was only one Englishman besides myself resident in the city of Tunis
while I was there. This was Mr. A. M. Broadley, who was at that time
acting as the correspondent of the _Times_, and whose ability had
enabled him to create a diplomatic question, which he called the Enfida
Case, out of a trumpery lawsuit in which he acted for a rich Arab,
called, if I remember aright, General Benayid. Mr. Broadley subsequently
became known to fame for the active part he took in defending Arabi Pasha
at Cairo. I only mention him now because of the remarkable forecast which
he made on the first evening on which I met him in his house in Tunis.
Producing a map of the Eastern Hemisphere he pointed out to me what he
called the zone of disturbance, and assured me that within the next ten
years the eyes of the world would be riveted upon that zone. Roughly
speaking, the zone was the belt of the Mahommedan races, extending from
Morocco in the west to India in the east. The disturbances which he
predicted would come he traced in the first instance from our annexation
of Cyprus, and the consequent invasion of Tunis by France. He foretold
with great precision the rise of the Mahdi, and the growth of religious
fanaticism in the Soudan; and he indicated that through Asia Minor,
Persia, and Afghanistan a wave of unrest was running which must have
serious consequences for the Christian Powers in the near future. Many
times in later days I had occasion to remember the wonderfully clear and
precise predictions of Mr. Broadley, as he delivered them to me in his
old Arab house in Tunis.

One charming friend I made during my visit. This was the English
Consul-General, Mr. Reade, who entertained me in his beautiful house at
the Marsa, close to the site of Carthage. A pleasant, rather grave, and
thoughtful man, Mr. Reade was a mine of information regarding earlier
days in Tunis, when the Bey was a real ruler and the slave-market in the
old Bazaar was still the scene of a merchandise in flesh and blood. His
father had been Consul-General in Tunis when the influence of Great
Britain was supreme, and he had inherited his father's popularity and
personal prestige. Too clearly he foresaw that the result of the French
foray upon the unoffending principality must be its absorption into
French territory, and the consequent loss of England's position and
influence in that part of the Mediterranean. All his fears have been more
than realised. In 1881 it was the English Consul-General who was the most
important person in Tunis--more important in many respects than the Bey
himself. In the Bazaars every shop was filled with English goods, whilst
many wealthy Tunisians had found protection by securing their recognition
as English subjects. In the old Consulate at the gates of the city an
English, or at least a Maltese, judge administered justice under the red
ensign daily. The travelling Englishman hardly seemed to have left the
shelter of his own flag when he found himself in the land of the Bey. All
this is changed now. France has elbowed England out of Tunis. Our
Consul--he is no longer Consul-General--is a subordinate official.
English commerce has dwindled away to comparative insignificance. French
shops supply the residents with all they require, and Great Britain has
become of no account. This is the direct result of Lord Beaconsfield's
action in taking possession of Cyprus in 1878. Would to Heaven that this
were the whole of the price we have had to pay for that fatal piece of
folly!

Whilst I was in Tunis I went to the little English graveyard, which lies
enclosed by houses in the heart of the old city. Here are the graves of
some Englishmen who were the captives of Tunisian pirates in the old days
when Barbary rovers were still the curse of the Mediterranean. I found
there also, in that lonely and neglected spot, the grave of Howard Payne,
the author of "Home, Sweet Home." It seemed cruel that he, who had
touched so deep and true a chord in the hearts of millions, should
himself be fated to rest so far from home. I wrote to the newspapers to
draw attention to this fact. Whether my letters had in themselves any
effect I do not pretend to say, but I am glad to know that since then
Payne's body has been removed to America and buried in his native place.

In returning from Tunis I came by way of Malta and Naples, where I got an
Orient steamer which brought me to Plymouth. It was in sailing through
the Straits of Messina on my way to Naples that I met with one of those
strange--but by no means rare--coincidences that prove the smallness of
the world, or, at least, of that part of it with which any one man is
acquainted. I was sitting on the upper deck of the steamer, gazing at
Etna, as its snow-shrouded peak was revealed in the brilliant moonlight,
when a chance fellow-traveller began to talk about the coincidences so
common in foreign travel. I told him that one of my strangest experiences
of the kind was the following. In the previous September I was staying at
the Hotel Belle Vue at The Hague, and after dinner one evening went into
the reading room to get a peep at the _Times_. A pleasant-looking
elderly gentleman was reading it when I entered. Perhaps he saw the look
of disappointment on my face when I found that the coveted journal was
engaged. At any rate, he very courteously offered it to me, and by way of
opening a conversation drew my attention to an article it contained about
the Liverpool docks. When I had glanced through the paper he resumed the
conversation about Liverpool, and asked if I knew many persons in that
city. I was compelled to admit that I knew only one, a Liverpool
clergyman named Postance, my acquaintance with him being of the
slightest. "Ah," said my friend, "if you know the Reverend Henry
Postance, you have possibly heard him speak of his son Alfred?" I replied
that I knew Alfred Postance better than I knew his father, and that I
had, as a matter of fact, travelled to Malta with him shortly before his
death, which took place in that island. "Then," pursued my interlocutor,
"since you knew Alfred Postance, you might like to read a little sketch
of his life that has been written by a friend. I think I could procure
the loan of a copy for you." I thanked the gentleman for his offer, but
explained that it was not necessary that I should avail myself of it, as
Mr. Postance senior had already sent me a copy of the work in question.
The old gentleman's eyes glistened when I said this, and with an air of
some pride he said: "Since you have read that little book, you will, I am
sure, be interested to know that it was I who published it." "Well, I am
rather interested," I replied, "because it was I who wrote it."

This was the story which I chanced to tell on the deck of the steamboat
to my unknown fellow-traveller. I had no sooner finished it than he said,
"Then you are Mr. Wemyss Reid. Your account of Alfred Postance was the
last thing I read before leaving my home in Malta." The double
coincidence was certainly rather startling, and it was increased when I
found that I and this second stranger had on the same day visited the
grave of Alfred Postance at Valetta for the same purpose--to pluck a
spray of flowers to send to his father in Liverpool. Yes, the world
_is_ small!

CHAPTER XIV.

CONCERNING W. E. FORSTER AND OTHERS.

The Beginning of Mr. Stead's Journalistic Career--His Methods--Birth of
the New Journalism--Madame Novikoff and Mr. Stead--Mr. Stead's Attacks
upon Joseph Cowen--How he dealt with a Remonstrance--W. E. Forster--Mr.
Chamberlain's Antagonism--The _Leeds Mercury's_ Defence of
Forster--How he was Jockeyed out of the Cabinet--Forster's
Resignation--News of the Phoenix Park Murders--Forster's Reflections--Mr.
Gladstone's Pity for Social Outcasts--Mr. Chamberlain's Brothers
Blackballed at the Reform--Failure of an Attempt to Crush the _Leeds
Mercury_--Forster's Gratitude.

I now approach an episode in my life which not only had a strong and
permanent influence on my own career, but is of interest in its bearing
on the politics of my time. I refer to my intimate friendship with
William Edward Forster, and to my close association with him in the
stormy episodes which attended the close of his career as a Minister of
the Crown. But before I enter into the story of my relations with this
truly great and noble-minded man, I may say something about another
distinguished person who shared my regard for Mr. Forster, though we had,
perhaps, few other tastes in common. One day in 1871 or 1872--that is to
say, soon after I became editor of the _Leeds Mercury_--I was told
on returning home that a gentleman was waiting to see me who had brought
a letter of introduction, which my servant placed in my hands. The letter
was from my father, and its object was to introduce to me the son of his
old friend, the Rev. William Stead, of Howden, near Newcastle. I need not
say that an introduction from my father would in itself have sufficed to
ensure for the bearer a warm reception; but in any case the story which
young Mr. Stead had to tell me at once enlisted my interest and sympathy.
Like myself, he was the son of a Nonconformist minister, and on leaving
school he had entered upon a business career as a clerk on the quayside
at Newcastle. But he had been irresistibly drawn towards journalism, just
as I myself had been a dozen years earlier, and after contributing
articles to various newspapers, he had received the offer of the
editorship of the _Northern Echo_, a halfpenny newspaper which had
been recently established at Darlington.

Strange to say, when this post was offered to and accepted by him, he was
not only absolutely without editorial experience, but, as he himself told
me, had never seen the inside of a newspaper office in his life. With
that remarkable promptitude and directness of action which, as I
afterwards discovered, was one of his great characteristics, he had no
sooner accepted the editorship than he sought to qualify himself for it
by making the acquaintance and obtaining the advice of someone who had
actual experience in editorial work. It happened that I was the only
editor to whom he could get a personal introduction, and so he came to me
at Leeds to get what guidance and help I could afford him at the outset
of his journalistic career. Remembering to what a height of fame he has
since risen as a journalist, I confess that I look back upon the days
when he thus approached me as a neophyte with some amusement. No doubt I
was already, in his eyes, one of the old fogeys of the Press, and it must
be admitted that there was something of the ugly duckling about his first
appearance in my comparatively tame editorial establishment.

Stead interested me immensely during this first visit that he paid me. He
was pleasingly distinguished by an entire lack of diffidence, and from
the first made no concealment of his own views upon any of the subjects
we discussed together. It is true that when I took him down to the
_Mercury_ office that evening, and wrote my leader whilst he sat at
my desk beside me, he regarded me with the admiring eyes of the novice;
but he had, even then, his own ideas as to how leaders ought to be
written and newspapers edited, and he did not affect to conceal them.
There was something that was irresistible in his candour, his enthusiasm,
and his self-confidence. The Press was the greatest agency for
influencing public opinion in the world. It was the true and only lever
by which Thrones and Governments could be shaken and the masses of the
people raised. In all this I was in strong sympathy with his opinions.
But I was staggered by the audacity of the schemes for revolutionising
English journalism which he poured into my ears on this the first evening
on which he had ever entered a newspaper office. For hour after hour he
talked with an ardour and a freshness which delighted me. If he had come
to me in the guise of a pupil, he very quickly reversed our positions,
and lectured me for my own good on questions of journalistic usage which
I thought I had settled for myself a dozen years before I had met him.

Often I thought his ideas ridiculous: once or twice I thought that he
himself must be mad; but even then I admired his splendid enthusiasm and
his engaging frankness. Occasionally I said to him, "If you were ever to
get your way, you would make the Press a wonderful thing, no doubt; but
you would make the Pressman the best-hated creature in the Universe." At
this he would burst into a roar of laughter, in which I was constrained
to join. "I see, you think I'm crazy," he said once. "Well, not crazy,
perhaps, but distinctly eccentric. You will come all right, however, when
you have had a little experience." Thus, in my blind belief in my own
superior experience and wisdom, I thought and spoke. Many a time since
then I have recalled that long night's talk when I have recognised in
some daring development of modern journalism one of the many schemes
which Stead then flashed before my eyes. We had talked--or, rather, he
had talked--for hours after getting home from work. I was far from being
weary of his conversation, but I knew that the night had passed, and I
rose and drew aside the curtains. Never shall I forget the look of
amazement that overspread Stead's face when the sunshine streamed into
the room. "Why, it is daylight!" he exclaimed, with an air of
bewilderment. "I never sat up till daylight in my life before."

This was my first knowledge of one of the most remarkable and brilliant
journalists of my time. We parted with, I think, mutual feelings of
regard and goodwill, feelings which I, at least, have never lost. I
recognised my visitor from the first as a man of remarkable gifts, of
something that came near to genius. I recognised, too, his honesty and
sincerity, though I had, even then, forebodings as to what might be the
consequences of his impetuous ardour and reckless defiance of old customs
and conventions.

After this, I heard a good deal from Stead during his remarkable
editorship of the _Northern Echo_, nor was I long in discovering
that he was really determined to put what I regarded as his wild theories
of journalism into practice. Of course, it took time to enable him to
make his personality felt in the little paper he edited, but he took care
to keep me acquainted with all that he was doing. Whenever an article of
special interest appeared in the _Echo_ I received a copy of it,
marked with a blue pencil by Stead. At the end of twelve months from his
first engagement as editor, he wrote to me asking if I would give him my
opinion in writing of his work during the year, and the capacity he had
shown as a journalist. With great willingness I wrote to express my high
opinion, not only of his ability, but of his growing aptitude as an
editor. Back in a few days came a reply from this extraordinary man. It
was to tell me that he had shown my letter to the proprietor of the
_Northern Echo_, Mr. Bell, and on the strength of it had succeeded
in obtaining an increase of salary, an increase which I am sure was fully
deserved. For two years, if I remember aright, he went through this
formality. I am confident that Mr. Stead himself, if he should read these
lines, will not make any objection to my revelation of these little
episodes in his early career. I have told them because, whilst they are
so thoroughly characteristic of the man, they are not in any way
derogatory to his reputation.

By-and-by, however, a change took place in our relationship. Stead was
rapidly working his way to the front, and some of the means which he
employed did not commend themselves to my judgment. For example, he was
in the habit of sending marked copies of any article he wrote on
political questions to the statesmen or other public men to whom he had
chanced to refer. I had always been very sensitive myself as to this
practice, regarding it as an attempt to force oneself upon the notice of
public men in a way that was not consistent with an editor's
independence, to say nothing of his dignity.

I may have been wrong in my view. Certainly I have known other
journalists besides Stead who adopted his practice, and I have no right
to sit in judgment upon any of them. But my personal view was that an
editor ought to say honestly what he thought for the benefit of the
readers of his journal, and that he ought neither to obtrude his own
individuality upon those readers, nor to seek to come into close contact
with the men whose actions it was his duty to criticise. Long before this
period in my life I had laid down a rule for myself which I have
consistently observed ever since. This was that I would never seek an
introduction to any public man, or bring under his personal notice
anything that I had written. Stead took another course, and though I
could no longer regard him as a _protg_ of my own, I did not like
it, and I daresay I did not conceal my feelings from him. But he could
well afford to treat my disapproval with contempt, for his policy
answered even beyond his own expectation. The fact that his paper was a
very small one, published in a small town, gave, I have no doubt,
additional zest to his very acute and intelligent criticisms of public
affairs. Mr. Bright, if I remember rightly, was the first public man of
eminence who drew attention to the articles in the _Northern Echo_,
and he very soon afterwards received a visit from the enterprising
editor. Then Stead, carrying still further his theory of a journalist's
duties, sought interviews with others among the foremost men of the time.
Carlyle was one of those who succumbed to his fascinations, and when
Carlyle one day referred to him in conversation as "that good man Stead,"
the fact quickly became known to the public. Mr. Forster was another of
Stead's earlier heroes and friends, and by-and-by the young editor at
Darlington became known to a considerable circle of prominent persons.
Thus was the New Journalism born. To me, as an Old Journalist, it is not
a thing with which I can pretend to have much sympathy, but I must
acknowledge its brightness, its alertness, its close grip of actualities,
and its rapid and remarkable success. I need hardly say that it was no
longer necessary for the editor of the _Northern Echo_, the friend
of many of the distinguished personages of the day, to seek my testimony
as to his value to his employer. He quickly became recognised for what he
was--a journalist of exceptional capacity and of great originality and
daring.

Differences upon political questions drove us further apart, however,
than any question of the ethics of editorial conduct. The Eastern
Question, of which I have already spoken, excited Stead greatly, and he
distinguished himself not so much by the vehemence of his attacks upon
the unspeakable Turk, as by his uncompromising championship of Russia and
her policy in South-Eastern Europe. It was not a popular line to take,
but Stead followed it with something like enthusiasm. It was at this time
that he fell under the influence of Madame Novikoff, who, whether
accredited or unaccredited, was generally regarded as the unofficial
representative of Russia in this country. She was, and is, a lady of
great talent and plausibility, and she undoubtedly exercised at one time
an extraordinary amount of influence over many distinguished British
politicians. I am not prepared to say that Stead took his inspiration
upon Russian politics solely from Madame Novikoff; but at any rate he
never wrote anything in the _Northern Echo_ in those days of which
that lady could not heartily approve, and thus he made another powerful
and enthusiastic friend in the political society of our time.

Years afterwards, somewhere in the 'nineties, I happened to sit beside
Madame Novikoff at a luncheon party in Mayfair. "I believe you know my
great friend, Stead?" she said, by way of opening our conversation at the
table. I told her I had known him for many years. "And what do you think
of him?" she asked, with an air of innocent curiosity that sat well upon
her guileless countenance. "Is he not wonderful? I think him, for my
part, one of the greatest men alive. What do you think?" I replied, in a
more restrained spirit, that I thought him extremely able, and that he
had certainly accomplished some wonderful achievements as a journalist.
"Ah!" said Madame Novikoff, with an air of quickened curiosity, "you
think that? Now tell me what, in your opinion, is his most wonderful
achievement." I told her that I thought it was his success in championing
the cause of a certain lady. (The story has nothing to do with this
narrative, but it was a _cause clbre_ in which Stead employed the
methods of the New Journalism in order to secure justice for a woman who
had been gravely wronged.) No sooner had I explained myself to Madame
Novikoff than that lady's face fell. "Ah, I am sorry to hear you say
that. That was not his greatest achievement. But Stead has always been
ready to go crusading at a woman's bidding." Madame Novikoff must have
known what she was talking about.

Among the leading politicians of the North in those days was my old
friend and fellow-townsman, Joseph Cowen, of Newcastle. He had been to
some extent alienated from Mr. Gladstone and from the Liberal party by
disappointment, but he still called himself a Liberal, and there was no
reason to doubt that his political instincts were sound, and that he
might again become one of the Liberal leaders of the North. He took, as
he had always taken, a strong line with regard to Russia, which he looked
upon as the parent of Continental despotism and the traditional enemy of
human freedom. Mr. Stead, full of zeal for the cause represented by
Madame Novikoff, made a series of vehement and persistent attacks upon
Cowen because of his views regarding Russia and the Eastern Question
generally. One day he sent me one of his marked papers containing a
particularly impassioned onslaught upon the member for Newcastle. I
considered that he had invited comment by sending me this article, and I
wrote to him to expostulate with him on the line he was taking, pointing
out that Cowen, who was a very sensitive man, was not unlikely to be
driven out of the party if these attacks were persisted in, and that his
loss would be a serious one to the Liberalism of the North of England. I
don't think I said anything particularly harsh in this letter, which was
in my opinion justified by my relations both with Cowen and with Stead.

The rejoinder was not what I had expected. It came in the shape of an
immensely long article in the _Northern Echo_ entitled, if I
remember aright, "The Editor of the _Leeds Mercury_ and Mr. Cowen."
In this article something I had written about Cowen in the
_Mercury_--I forget what--was held up to ridicule, and was compared
with my private sentiments regarding the member for Newcastle as they had
been gleaned by Mr. Stead in that night-long conversation under my roof,
of which I have spoken in this chapter. Needless to say, my talk was not
faithfully remembered or accurately represented. That, in itself, was a
small matter, but the illustration thus afforded me of the practical
working of the New Journalism was not altogether a pleasant one, and for
some years after this episode there was a distinct coolness between Mr.
Stead and myself. The incident arouses no bitterness now. Mr. Stead
honestly believed that he was entitled to use my frank _obiter
dicta_ for the purpose of correcting what he regarded as my public
errors. I was not the last and by no means the greatest sufferer from
this theory on the part of the founder of the New Journalism; but, as
having been in some small degree a sufferer at his hands, I am, perhaps,
the better able to bear testimony to his absolute honesty of intention,
and to his unfailing conviction that in even his greatest indiscretions
he was acting under the justification of a high moral purpose.

In the spring or summer of 1880 I received a note from John Morley, who
had by this time become editor of the _Pall Mall Gazette_. It was to
inform me that he had secured a notable man from my part of the world to
assist him in his editorial duties. He was Mr. Stead of Darlington, and
Morley wished to know my opinion of him. My reply did not please Mr.
Morley; for while I told him how highly I admired Mr. Stead's abilities,
I warned him that he would need to be watched closely, as he was a man of
such extreme views and of such daring originality in his manner of
conducting a journal that, if he were not kept under strict control, he
might at any moment seriously commit the newspaper with which he was
connected. At the time Morley took this warning with a very bad grace,
plainly implying that he thought that my feeling with regard to Mr. Stead
was founded on the fact that he was a more real Liberal than myself. But
there came a time when the distinguished politician and man of letters
acknowledged that my hint had been only too fully justified.

One day in 1879 William Edward Forster came into my room at the
_Mercury_ office. For some time he had been in the habit of calling
at intervals to have a chat with me. I believe that each of us was
secretly rather afraid of the other. I had for years regarded him with a
strong feeling of admiration, and I looked confidently to him as the man
who, when Mr. Gladstone in the fulness of time retired from public life,
would take his place and become the recognised leader of the great forces
of English Liberalism. I had supported him with unfaltering loyalty both
in his educational policy and at the time when his name was put forward
in the candidature for the leadership of the party in 1875, and I found
myself in strong sympathy with his views on those foreign and colonial
questions on which I could take sides neither with the Little England nor
with the Jingo school. Forster's visit was chiefly for the purpose of
chatting over the prospects of the Liberal party, but incidentally our
conversation turned upon Mr. Stead. "He has one great fault," said
Forster, "and that is that he does not mix with other people." Certainly
Forster had every reason to think well of Mr. Stead, for he was his loyal
friend and admirer in those dark days when few were found to speak well
of the member for Bradford.

It was in 1881 that Forster became the target of the missiles of that
section of the Liberal party which in those days followed Mr.
Chamberlain. Mr. Chamberlain's followers were naturally anxious that
their hero should arrive at the summit of his ambition, and Mr. Forster
was the man who stood most directly in his path. I do not wish to allege
that there were not real differences of opinion between Mr. Forster and
Mr. Chamberlain, though when one remembers the subsequent history of the
latter it is difficult to understand his constant antagonism to Forster,
the founder of the Imperial Federation movement, and the first Liberal
Imperialist. But whatever his motives might be, Mr. Chamberlain's dislike
of Forster was obvious to everyone. He had powerful means of making that
dislike felt. The caucus in those days was absolutely under his thumb,
and at a sign from him more than half the Liberal Associations in the
country were inclined to pass any resolution that he was pleased to
suggest to them. The _Pall Mall Gazette_ became virtually his
mouthpiece, and one read it as much in those days to ascertain the
thoughts of Mr. Chamberlain as those of its distinguished editor. In the
Cabinet he had secured one or two valuable allies, over whom, by virtue
of his great abilities, he exercised an extraordinary influence. In the
House of Commons the most active wing of the Radical Party was, with
certain notable exceptions, devoted to him. He was the man to whom they
looked as their leader, and as the future chief of a Radical
Administration.

In the winter of 1881-2 all the forces controlled by the caucus were
employed in the work of disparaging and weakening Mr. Forster. The latter
was engaged in his almost hopeless struggle with the disaffected classes
in Ireland--in other words, with four-fifths of the nation. I have told
elsewhere the story of Mr. Forster's public career, and it is not
necessary that I should enter into any defence of his Irish
administration here. But this I must say, that at a time when he was
beset with difficulties of the most formidable and distressing kind, and
when he had a right to expect the loyal support at least of his own
colleagues in the Cabinet, he found himself exposed to intrigues and
cruel side-attacks that still further embarrassed him, and that fatally
weakened his hands. As the winter passed the storm artificially raised
against him increased in violence. All the animosities of Birmingham were
let loose upon his head. The old cries of trimmer and traitor were again
raised against him. The Liberal Press, with hardly an exception, took its
cue from the _Pall Mall Gazette_, whilst the organs of the
Conservative party naturally felt under no obligation to defend him from
the misrepresentations and innuendoes of his formidable foes in his own
party.

I do not think I exaggerate when I say that it was only in the columns of
the _Leeds Mercury_ that he was consistently and steadily defended.
It was a labour of love on my part thus to stand by a man for whom I
entertained so great and affectionate an admiration, and who was, as I
conceived, being so cruelly ill-treated by those of the same political
household as himself. It was said at the time that Forster inspired the
_Leeds Mercury_, and that the articles defending him which I
published were really written by himself. In the interests of honourable
journalism, and of Mr. Forster's reputation, I must state the actual
facts. I was, as I have already said, on terms of personal friendship
with him, and I was in the fullest sympathy with his Irish policy; but
from the moment when he became Chief Secretary until he retired from that
office, Forster held no communication with me, either direct or indirect.
I never saw him, and he never wrote to me, nor did I address a single
word to him. This was characteristic of Forster's high sense of public
duty. He was too proud and too high-spirited to try to enlist any man's
sympathies, or to secure any newspaper advocacy. Men spoke of him as a
clever wire-puller who could manufacture a spurious public sentiment in
his own favour. How little they knew him! If he had chosen to resort to
those arts with which his assailants were so familiar he might have won
the support of many tongues and pens. He preferred, then as always in his
public career, to devote himself with a single-minded purpose to the
performance of his duty, leaving the consequences to take care of
themselves. It was in this way that it came to pass that his only
defender in the Press in those dark and troublous days was a little-known
journalist in Yorkshire.

For my part, I look back with pride and deep satisfaction to the line
which I then took, and from which I never swerved. It was not a
successful line. Mr. Forster's enemies were too powerful for him, and, as
everybody knows, he became their victim. But there are better things in
this world than success, and I am more content to have been Forster's
associate in his unmerited fall than I would have been to share in the
personal triumph which Mr. Chamberlain gained over him. Although
complaint was made, when my "Life" of Forster appeared, that I had made
too full a revelation of Cabinet secrets, the fact remains that a good
deal of truth has still to come out with regard to his resignation of
office in 1882. I do not propose to lift the veil here, but it is well
known that an ingenious trap was laid for him, and that, with
characteristic confidence in the good faith of his fellow-men, he walked
unsuspectingly into it. His resignation, it will be remembered, was due
to his refusal to accept as satisfactory a letter written by Mr. Parnell,
in which he undertook, if he were released from Kilmainham, to give
certain assistance to the Government in putting down outrages in Ireland.
Forster would willingly have accepted Mr. Parnell's word as a gentleman
that he would exert himself to this end, but he was not prepared to
accept the skilfully framed words in which Mr. Parnell sought to convey
the impression that was desired whilst avoiding all personal
responsibility in the matter. Those who wish to know how Mr. Forster was
jockeyed out of office must learn the history of Parnell's letter, and
how and by whom the sentences were devised which seemed acceptable to the
sanguine temperament of Mr. Gladstone, but which Forster, with his closer
knowledge of the situation, regarded as wholly unsatisfactory. The time
has not yet come for the story to be told, but when the precise facts are
revealed they will be found to throw a curious light upon this episode.

Forster's resignation was a great personal blow to me. It was a blow also
both to his personal friends and admirers in Yorkshire, and to a large
section of politicians who knew him to be an upright and single-minded
man, struggling with all his might to maintain order in Ireland and to
preserve the unity of the United Kingdom. There was, however, one further
step that was possible that would have immeasurably increased our
mortification. This was the appointment of Mr. Chamberlain as Forster's
successor. Mr. Chamberlain's friends confidently expected that the
appointment would be made, and for a day or two it seemed certain that
this would be the case. I saw a member of the Government who was the
confidential friend of Mr. Gladstone, and told him that if Mr.
Chamberlain were to be appointed, the _Leeds Mercury_, and all whom
it could influence in Yorkshire would at once enter upon a most strenuous
and thorough-going opposition to the new Irish policy. I was told in
reply that, whatever Mr. Chamberlain himself might have expected, Mr.
Gladstone had not for a single moment contemplated his appointment to the
vacant post, and that his choice had fallen in another quarter.

The Leeds Liberal Club resolved to invite Forster to a complimentary
dinner, in order that he might have the assurance that there was one
great city, at least, in which he retained the confidence and gratitude
of his party. I wrote to Forster to convey this intimation to him, and
had a reply, in which he asked me to meet him in London. On Friday, May
6th, 1882, the appointment of Lord Frederick Cavendish as Irish Secretary
was announced in Parliament, and the writ moved for his re-election after
taking office. The next night, about 11 o'clock, I was sitting in the
morning-room at the Reform Club, talking to the late Mr. William Summers,
then member for Huddersfield. There were but few men in the room, though
amongst those few were one or two Irish members, including Mr. Shaw, who
had been Chairman of the Home Rule party in the House of Commons until he
was superseded by Mr. Parnell. We had all been reading the telegrams on
the board in the hall announcing the enthusiastic reception of the new
Lord Lieutenant, Earl Spencer, and the new Secretary, Lord Frederick
Cavendish, in Dublin. I was discussing with Summers the meaning of the
new departure and of the success of Forster's assailants, when the old
hall-porter of the club burst into the room, and in a state of great
agitation announced to us that a message had been received at the Carlton
Club stating that the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary had been
assassinated. I cannot describe the mingled amazement, horror, and
incredulity with which the news was received, but I remember well the
extreme distress shown by Mr. Shaw and the other Irish members. "This is
the end of Ireland!" cried Mr. Shaw, with tears in his eyes. For some
time most of us steadily refused to believe the story, for no authentic
news could be gathered respecting it; but, as time passed, the Reform
Club was besieged with inquiries from the other clubs in Pall Mall, the
members of which naturally supposed that authentic news would be
procurable at the Ministerial club. At last someone came in who had been
at Lord Frederick's house in Carlton House Terrace, and he brought the
dreaded confirmation of the story. The Lord Lieutenant, it is true, had
not been attacked, but Lord Frederick had been killed, and with him Mr.
Burke, the Under-Secretary. A shudder ran through the crowd when we were
told that the vile deed had been done with knives.

Inside the club there was now a large assemblage of members, although it
was past midnight. Men came into the club, too, on that eventful night
who were not members, but who were moved by an irrepressible anxiety to
learn the truth as to what had happened. Among these I remember Abraham
Hayward, Q.C., the essayist and Society rattle, who, characteristically
enough, proclaimed to us all the fact that the gentleman who accompanied
him was my Lord So-and-so. But it was outside the club that I witnessed
the most extraordinary scene I ever saw in London. Rumours of the tragedy
had spread through the clubs, but the tidings had not reached the
streets. The clubs, as by a common impulse, emptied themselves, and the
members with one accord flocked to the Reform. On the broad pavement in
Pall Mall some hundreds of men, nearly all in evening dress, were
clustered together, discussing in low tones the horrible event, of which,
as yet, the details were wholly unknown. On the roadway a hundred cabs
were gathered, their drivers evidently bewildered by the unwonted
spectacle, and wondering what had brought together in the stillness of
the early Sunday morning this unwonted crowd.

Suddenly, as I looked upon the scene from the steps of the club, I saw
the crowd fall back on either hand, opening a narrow lane through it.
Along this lane, with bent head, came Lord Hartington, brother of one of
the murdered men, passing from the newly-made house of mourning in
Carlton House Terrace to his home at Devonshire House. No one ventured to
speak to him, but every hat was lifted in token of silent sympathy. It
was a memorable, never-to-be-forgotten night. Years afterwards I heard
from Sir William Harcourt himself an account of how the news first
reached London. There was a big Ministerial dinner party, if I remember
rightly, at Lord Northbrook's; Mr. Gladstone was there, and so was Sir
William Harcourt, then Home Secretary. Dinner was nearly over when Mr.
(now Sir) Howard Vincent, who at that time held a high post at Scotland
Yard, arrived and demanded an immediate interview with the Home
Secretary. To Sir William he showed the official telegram that had just
been received, all other messages having been stopped by the authorities
in Dublin. It was decided, after a consultation, that nothing was to be
said until the ladies had left the dinner table, and that then the news
was to be broken to Mr. Gladstone, who, apart from all other reasons for
feeling the tragedy, had the additional one of a close relationship with
Lady Frederick Cavendish. Mr. Gladstone, though deeply moved, was then,
as always, master of his emotions, and it was he who at once went to
Carlton House Terrace to break the dreadful tidings to his niece, Mrs.
Gladstone accompanying him on the errand.

There was little sleep that night for any of us who had heard the news
before retiring to rest. The next day was such a Sunday as I never
remember to have seen in London before or since. The newspapers spread
the tidings far and wide. In numberless cases men first learned the news
as they were going to church. They turned aside in scores, and hurried
down to Pall Mall to learn the latest particulars of a tragedy that was
instantly recognised as being one that affected the nation as a whole.
From early morning until late at night the fine hall of the Reform Club
was crowded with members, and with friends who came to inquire for
further news. In the forenoon a strange thing happened. Mr. Forster, the
man whose life the villains who struck down Lord Frederick Cavendish and
Mr. Burke had chiefly sought, and who had passed through perils so
terrible that even now the recollection of them raises a shudder, came
into the club. He was besieged at once by a host of members, but breaking
away from them, he came to me, and taking me by the arm, led me to one of
the seats in the hall. Instantly, and as it seemed instinctively, the
great crowd of men formed in a semicircle around us, out of earshot, but
gazing with wondering and sympathetic eyes upon the man who had escaped
so cruel a fate.

I remember the first words that Forster spoke to me. "They may say what
they like," he said, "but it is Mr. Parnell who has done this. He is the
man who sowed the seed of which this is the fruit." And then he talked of
the victims, of Lord Frederick, so gentle, kindly, honourable in all the
relations of life, and of Burke, "the most loyal man," he declared, "who
ever served the Crown." Indeed, at the moment he seemed to feel the death
of poor Burke more acutely than that of Lord Frederick, and he was full
of the idea that if he himself had been in Ireland the lives of both
would have been saved. "I shall go back to Ireland," he said to me
presently. "They must want someone to manage pressing affairs, and I
shall tell Mr. Gladstone that I am at his service." He went straight from
the club to Downing Street, and saw Mr. Gladstone--who, unlike most other
men in London, had been to church that morning. He made the offer, one in
every respect noble and magnanimous as well as courageous; but it was not
accepted. The bitterness of party passion which had been aroused by the
events that culminated in his own resignation had not yet sufficiently
subsided to render such a step possible, and Forster, to my keen regret,
was not permitted to have this fresh opportunity of showing that
unfailing fearlessness in the face of danger which was one of his most
eminent characteristics.

On the following day the adjournment of the House of Commons was moved by
Mr. Gladstone in a speech which betrayed his grief and emotion. That
evening a certain Irish Tory member was dining out, and he told the
following story to a party in which there were women as well as men. "I
was crossing St. James's Park after the rising of the House this
afternoon, when I saw Mr. Gladstone walking in front of me. For the first
time in my life I felt sorry for the fellow, for I knew what a terrible
blow this affair must have been to him. I said to myself, 'Well, there
was no playacting in his speech this afternoon, at all events. The fellow
really felt what he said.' Can you conceive, then, my indignation when on
getting to the top of the steps at the Duke of York's column I saw him
lurking behind the column talking to an abandoned woman?"

A lady who was present at the dinner-party, and who was a great admirer
of Mr. Gladstone, thought it her duty to write to him, and tell him the
charge that had been made against him. She did not mention the name of
her informant, but merely stated the facts that had been reported to her.
She received an immediate reply, on a postcard. It was as follows:--"The
presence of ---- was not unperceived on the occasion to which you refer;
but the conversation he has reported to you was not of the nature he
imagined, and possibly desired." The voice of slander often pursued Mr.
Gladstone, but the reply which he gave to this particular accusation was
recognised, even by his enemies, as complete and conclusive. All through
his life Mr. Gladstone was filled with pity for the outcasts of the
streets, and whenever he could hold out a helping hand to them he did so
with a fearlessness that was characteristic of his courage--the courage
of the pure in heart.

I must turn aside from the Irish tragedy to speak of a small agitation,
in which I and other persons were concerned at the time, that had a
certain connection, not with the Phoenix Park murders, but with the
events that led up to them. Two of Mr. Chamberlain's brothers had been
nominated as candidates for the Reform Club. It was, perhaps, unfortunate
for them that they came up for election in this spring of 1882, when
there was much hostility towards Mr. Chamberlain himself on the part of
many Liberals, who believed that he was intriguing in order to drive Mr.
Forster out of the Cabinet. At all events, the two candidates were
black-balled, and great was the ferment that arose in consequence. In
Birmingham the action of the Reform Club was regarded as an outrageous
insult not only to Mr. Chamberlain himself, but to that section of the
Liberal party to which he then belonged. "The good people of Birmingham
are simply furious," wrote Mr. Chamberlain to his friend, Mr. Peter
Rylands, M.P., "and they even talk of marching upon London," It was an
astounding assertion, but really Mr. Chamberlain's organs in the
Birmingham Press dealt with the black-balling of his brothers in such a
fashion as almost to warrant the expectation that Pall Mall would be
invaded, and the Reform Club sacked, if it did not repent in dust and
ashes of the affront it had offered to the leader of Birmingham
Radicalism. Nothing less would suit Mr. Chamberlain and his friends, as
an atonement for the misdeeds of the club, than such an alteration in the
rules as would deprive the members of the power of black-balling
candidates by transferring elections from the club at large to a special
election committee.

I was present at the meeting of the club at which a resolution to this
effect was proposed by Lord Hartington. The meeting was held only a
couple of days before the Phoenix Park tragedy. It was largely attended,
and many distinguished persons were present. "I saw the whole Cabinet
crowded into the glass and bottle room," said George Augustus Sala, in
speaking of the scene afterwards. Sala himself took a prominent part in
the proceedings, for, provoked by a speech from Mr. Bright, in which he
had denounced black-balling as an odious and ungentlemanly practice, Sala
delivered himself of an impassioned oration in which he asserted that
there was no right more sacred in the eyes of every true-born Englishman
than the right to black-ball anyone he pleased at a club election. I
remember Lord Granville's attempt to reply to Sala's sweeping assertion,
but judging by the cheers, it was the essayist, rather than the earl, who
had the sympathy of the members. Lord Hartington's resolution was carried
by a small majority, and a ballot of the whole club was demanded, to
settle the question finally. When this ballot took place, it was seen
that the feeling of the club as a whole was distinctly adverse to the
proposed change of rules, and Lord Hartington's resolution was rejected
by a large majority. The rejection was due in part, at least, to the
feeling which Mr. Chamberlain had inspired among the moderate Liberals.
Shortly afterwards, Mr. Chamberlain resigned his membership of the club,
and the question of an alteration of the rules fell to the ground.

The Phoenix Park tragedy confirmed many persons in the belief that
Forster had been right, and the rest of the Government wrong, with regard
to Irish policy. In Yorkshire we felt keenly on the subject, and in the
_Leeds Mercury_ I lost no opportunity of vindicating my friend from
the attacks which a section of the advanced Radicals, who claimed Mr.
Chamberlain as their leader, made upon him. The result was to bring about
a strained state of the relations between myself and the official leaders
of the Liberal party. Leeds had given the Government its most signal
victory in the General Election of 1880. It was felt in the Cabinet to be
a serious thing that the _Leeds Mercury_, and with it no
inconsiderable section of the Liberal electors, regarded Mr. Forster's
supersession with indignation, and by some influential member of the
Government a proposal was made to crush the _Mercury_, and prove
that it did not really represent Liberal opinion in Leeds, by convening a
meeting of the Liberal Association for the purpose of expressing
confidence in the Irish policy of the Ministry. It was an absurd device,
and it failed, as it deserved to do. Although we were very angry at the
treatment which Mr. Forster had received, we were perfectly loyal to
Liberal principles and to the leadership of Mr. Gladstone. There was no
need, therefore, to ask us to testify to our confidence in Ministers. But
the men who had succeeded in driving Mr. Forster from office desired to
complete their work by bringing his defenders into open contempt, and
they thought that they would accomplish this by means of a meeting of
Liberal electors in Leeds which should prove to the world that the editor
of the _Leeds Mercury_ represented nobody but himself in his
championship of Forster's cause.

They put pressure upon the Association to summon a meeting, which was
duly held. It turned out to be a demonstration in favour of Forster
rather than the Government, and the attempt to crush independence of
opinion in the Liberal ranks was thus signally foiled. I do not know who
the member of the Cabinet was who was responsible for this manoeuvre, but
whoever he may have been--and I have my suspicions upon that point--he
had little reason to congratulate himself upon the result of his
strategy. For a time the incident caused a certain degree of coldness
between myself and my Liberal friends on the executive of the Liberal
Association. Sir James Kitson and I had worked together so harmoniously
in raising up a united party in Leeds that this partial breach between us
was rather painful. Happily it did not last long. I stood to my own
opinions, and for the future our local Liberal leaders were content that,
whilst supporting them in every matter upon which I was in agreement with
them, I should not be attacked for maintaining my absolute independence
on those questions on which I took a line of my own. No further attempts
were made, I need scarcely add, to intimidate the _Mercury_ by means
of public meetings in Leeds, nor do I think I suffered in the long run in
the estimation of friends from whom I then differed, by the steps I took
to vindicate my character, both as a responsible journalist and as an
independent critic of public affairs.

Naturally I was drawn closer to Forster by the fact that I was thus
constituted his representative and champion in the Press, and I became a
somewhat frequent visitor at his delightful but unpretentious residence
on the banks of the Wharfe at Burley. It was on my first visit to him
after his resignation that an incident took place which touched me
deeply. I was sitting with his and my old friend, Canon Jackson, of
Leeds, in the library after breakfast. Forster, of whose blunt manner I
have already spoken, came into the room. For some time he walked up and
down without speaking, and was apparently somewhat troubled. Suddenly he
turned to Jackson and asked him if he would go out of the room. When the
Canon had gone Forster closed the door behind him, took another turn up
and down the apartment, and then, speaking with evident difficulty, said
to me, "I cannot let you leave this house without letting you know what I
feel with regard to all that you have done for me. When nobody else dared
to say a word in my favour in public during that terrible time in
Ireland, you were always ready to defend me from attack. I needed
defending, Heaven knows! My colleagues left me absolutely alone; they
left me to take my own way, just as if I had been the Czar of Russia. I
was attacked, as you know, both in England and Ireland, by the papers and
public men of all parties. I knew I had very powerful enemies who were
determined to make the worst of everything I did, and none of my own
colleagues defended me. You can never know what a comfort it was to me at
that time to know that I had one staunch friend in the Press, and that
the dear old _Leeds Mercury_ would always judge me fairly and try to
make the public see the truth. God bless you!"

I do not know whether he or I was the more deeply moved by this sudden
and most unexpected outburst of feeling from a man who, as a rule,
stubbornly concealed the sensitiveness of his nature and the warmth of
his heart under a rugged and at times almost forbidding exterior. I do
not pretend to have deserved what he said, but the words he uttered sank
into my heart, never to be forgotten. Henceforth the censures of a caucus
and the sneers of those superior critics who derided me as the victim of
an absurd prejudice in favour of a statesman who had fallen, were as less
than nothing to me.

CHAPTER XV.

THE FIRST LIBERAL IMPERIALIST.

Forster a Pioneer of Liberal Imperialism--His Political Courage--His
Unfortunate Manner--His Home Life--Intrigues in the Cabinet--The Plots
against Forster's Life--Reaction in his Favour--Forster and Lord
Hartington--The Former's Grief for Gordon--Forster and Lord Rosebery--Mr.
Stead and the _Pall Mall Gazette_--His Responsibility for the Gordon
Imbroglio.

I should like to dwell upon my visits to Forster at his own home at
Wharfeside, and to describe the frank, wholesome talk which I had there
on many different occasions with the master of the house; but the talk
was private, I made no notes of it at the time, and it is better that I
should make no attempt to recall it now. This, however, I will say, in
justice to Forster himself. During all my intercourse with him I never
heard him utter a harsh word or give expression to an unworthy sentiment.
No public man of his day was more cruelly misunderstood by his
contemporaries. It had become a sort of tradition among the followers of
Mr. Chamberlain, and among others who ought to have known better, that
Forster was not even a genuine Liberal. He was supposed to be a trimmer
and a time-server, and all manner of ignoble jealousies were attributed
to him. I know, not only from many repeated conversations with him, but
from acts of his which never reached the public, how deep and genuine was
his faith in Liberal principles, how exalted and far-extended his belief
in the application and development of those principles. He was the first
man of eminence to attempt to bring home to the mind of the nation the
greatness of its Imperial duties and responsibilities. It was he who, in
the days when he was a discarded Minister, sowed the seed which is now
bringing forth fruit in the shape of that unity of the Empire for which
others, who came but yesterday into the field, are, with a great flourish
of trumpets, claiming the credit.

The man who was scornfully described as "the great trimmer" was the most
absolutely fearless man in political life I have ever known. I remember
his coming to me when the question of extending Household Suffrage to the
residents in the counties was first being broached in Parliament. He told
me that he meant to move a resolution extending the measure to Ireland.
No other statesman of importance had at that time suggested such a step,
whilst Lord Hartington had openly denounced it. I implored him to leave
such a measure, which was certain to be unpopular with that section of
the party which had been most favourable to him, to somebody else. "You
have suffered enough already for Ireland," I said. "Let somebody else
knock his head against this stone wall." "Who else will do it?" he
replied. "The thing is right, and it must be done. As for your stone
wall, I have never been afraid of being the first man over a fence."
Trimmer, indeed! As for his alleged jealousy of the men who were treading
on his heels, I can only say that I never heard a syllable from his lips
which gave countenance to this charge against him. Always frank and
outspoken, he was at the same time invariably generous in his judgments
upon his colleagues and his rivals. Rancour he never cherished, and he
could forgive those who had injured him far more freely than most men I
have known.

I have spoken of his manner. This was, I think, his great misfortune.
Again and again he offended men who were brought into contact with him by
his bluntness of speech, and by his disregard of the mere niceties of
deportment. I have heard him denounced as "a heartless ruffian" by
someone who had suffered from an apparent lack of courtesy on his part.
All the time Forster was absolutely unconscious of having given offence,
and when his attention was called to the fact that he had wounded someone
by his manner, he was filled with distress. One day an eminent publicist
who had cruelly misjudged and misrepresented Forster came to me in the
Reform Club and asked if I had ever stayed at Wharfeside. I replied in
the affirmative. "Then," said my friend, "you can perhaps tell me if what
I hear is true. I am told that, rude and bearish as he is to people who
meet him casually, it is nothing in comparison with his brutality in his
own house, and especially to his wife." Angry as I was at this charge
against my friend, I could not refrain from bursting into a roar of
laughter at its absurdity. No woman that ever lived was treated with a
more tender and chivalrous affection and reverence than that which Mrs.
Forster received from her husband. That she was eminently worthy of being
worshipped by the man whose name she bore, all who knew her must admit.
She had inherited great intellectual qualities from her father, Dr.
Arnold, of Rugby. She shared the delicate critical spirit of her brother
Matthew; and, above all, she was a delightful woman, gentle, refined,
full of love for those of her own household, but full also of interest
in, and sympathy with, all other men and women. Upon her Forster lavished
the love of his whole heart, and to her judgment he deferred more
constantly than to that of any other person. It always seemed to me that
their marriage was an ideal union, both of brain and heart. When I was
writing his biography, I felt it necessary to say something about the
peculiarities of his manner. Mrs. Forster objected to what I said, not on
the ground that it hurt her feelings to remember those peculiarities, but
because, in her opinion, they had never existed. "I do not understand
what you mean by the peculiarities of his manner," she said to me one
day. "His manner was always delightful, especially to women." This was
the one point on which she was blind with regard to her husband. She did
not see how great was the tribute paid to his sterling qualities by the
fact that so many men loved him and honoured him in spite of his rough
exterior. Often when I was with him I thought of Browning's line, "Do
roses stick like burrs?" It was his very angularities that seemed to make
Forster's friends cling to him so closely.

In the years which followed his retirement from office he remained a
thorough-going Liberal, but he claimed for himself the right of
independent judgment as a member of his own party. The Ministry never got
over the blow it received when he resigned. On the day of his
resignation, when he left the Cabinet, Lord Selborne, who sympathised
altogether with him, rose directly after he did, and said, "If Forster
goes, I must go too." He was actually on his way to the door when
someone--I believe Sir William Harcourt--following him threw his arms
round him, and forcibly detained him till he was brought to a more docile
state of mind.

That, however, was, as everybody knows, a Cabinet of many resignations.
It was said, when it at last came to an end, that there was no man in it
who had not resigned once at least, and that one or two had resigned many
times. The fact is that the disruption of the old Liberal party had
already begun. The new wine provided by Chamberlain and Company fermented
in the old bottles. Nobody felt very happy in the presence of the member
for Birmingham. He was the reverse of conciliatory, and seemed anxious to
let everybody know that he recognised no superior. This would not have
mattered so much if his conduct had been more consistent with the
traditions of Cabinets. Sir William Harcourt was not unversed in
intrigue, and one wonders now how a Cabinet which contained those two men
held together as long as it did. It was the leakiest Cabinet, so far as
its secrets were concerned, that I have known. It is amusing now to
recall the fact that at that time an innocent public, which still
regarded Mr. Chamberlain as a man with more self-assertion than intellect
or force of character, pictured him to itself as the tool of Mr. Morley.
It was Mr. Morley, we were told, who found the policy and the brains, and
Mr. Chamberlain was but the instrument of his will. This is not the only
point upon which the public fell into error, but it is one that deserves
to be noted.

The ugly wrench which was given to the Ministry by Forster's retirement
and the Phoenix Park tragedy that immediately followed it, was aggravated
by the revelations at the trial of the murderers of Lord Frederick
Cavendish and Mr. Burke. Whilst Mr. Forster was still Chief Secretary it
was vaguely known that he had been the object of murderous conspiracies.
The _Pall Mall Gazette_ had sneered at the rumours of plots against
his life, and had pleasantly hinted that they were all a myth, concocted
by Forster's friends in his interests. When James Carey, the infamous
ringleader of the assassins, told his dreadful story in the witness-box
in order to save his neck, the truth was made known, and the world
learned that for months Forster, whilst meeting slander and hostile
criticism in England, had been in constant danger of murder in Ireland. I
have told elsewhere the story of his last week in Dublin, and of the
daily attempts that were made by Carey and his confederates to compass
his death. Some of my readers may remember how at the last he only
escaped the knives of the assassins by something like a miracle. He was
leaving Dublin for the last time, though he himself was not aware of the
fact, and he had arranged to go from Westland Row Station by a certain
train in order to catch the night boat for Holyhead. In the afternoon his
work at the Castle was got through rather sooner than had been expected,
and his private secretary, Mr. Jephson, suggested to him that instead of
waiting for the train they should drive together to Kingstown, and dine
at the club there. The inducement held out to Forster was that in this
way he would have time for a game of whist before going on board the
steamer. He fell in with Jephson's suggestion, and thus escaped from
Ireland safely. That very night the whole gang of Invincibles, as the
murderers had called themselves, had assembled at Westland Row for the
purpose of killing him. Thrice they searched the train, vainly looking
for the man whose death-sentence they had pronounced. Mrs. Forster was in
one of the carriages, but her husband was not there. "If he had been,"
said Carey, in telling the story, "he would not have been alive now."

When the truth became known, and it was seen that there was nothing of
the mythical in the conspiracy against Forster's life, public indignation
flamed up afresh at the treatment he had received. When he next came to
Leeds, after the trial of the Invincibles, a crowd followed him through
the streets from the railway station to the _Mercury_ office,
cheering loudly. No wonder that a Government which had to confront the
feeling caused by the treatment meted out to Forster was neither very
happy nor very strong. It was soon after the exposure of the Invincibles
that Forster addressed his constituents in St. George's Hall, Bradford. A
number of Irishmen had got into the gallery, and persistently interrupted
him, so that at last his speech was brought to a standstill. Gathering
himself together, he waited for a moment's silence, and then, with
outstretched arm menacing his antagonists, cried, in a voice which rang
through the hall, "Since you didn't kill me in Ireland, you've got to
listen to me here!" The shout that went up from the meeting as a whole
acclaimed this sentiment with such emphasis that the Irishmen were
reduced to silence, and there was no more trouble. Some persons were,
however, very much shocked by Forster's characteristic bluntness. Among
these was Mr. Gladstone, who thought that his former colleague had shown
very bad taste.

Egypt and Gordon were the topics which I chiefly discussed with Forster
during our years of intimacy after 1882. The fate of Gordon, in
particular, excited in him a degree of emotion of which few would have
thought him capable. More than once I have seen the tears in his eyes
when he was speaking of Gordon, surrounded by his savage foes in his
desert capital. The Ministry, as everybody knows, was floundering in
those days. Even those of us who were the warm friends and admirers of
Mr. Gladstone were troubled and perplexed. Some of us knew, indeed, that
Mr. Gladstone was not the only, nor the chief, sinner in the matter of
Gordon; but he was the scapegoat behind whom those who had a greater
responsibility for the mismanagement of the Soudan business were only too
glad to hide themselves. Forster was filled with indignation and contempt
by the confused utterances of the Ministry, and by Mr. Gladstone's
elaborate attempts to prove that though General Gordon was "hemmed in" he
was not surrounded. Poor Mr. Gladstone! It was sad indeed that he should
have to undertake this thankless task, and should be compelled to make
out a case for a Cabinet which had practically got out of hand. It was in
connection with one of his apologies for the Ministry that Mr. Forster
charged him with being able to persuade most people of almost anything,
and himself of everything. This chance phrase, used in the heat of
debate, was treated by Lord Hartington as being a direct imputation upon
Mr. Gladstone's sincerity, and Forster was lectured and denounced in
terms which made the breach between himself and his old colleagues wider
than ever. There was no truth in the charge made against him. He always
had, and always expressed, a profound admiration for Gladstone's
character, and he had never for a moment doubted his honesty. He felt the
violent invective of Lord Hartington keenly. When he met the latter in
the lobby on the same evening, he said to him, "You were very unfair to
me to-night, and you knew it, but you had such a d----d bad case that I
forgive you."

Again and again, in those days, Forster would come over to Leeds to see
me, to talk about Gordon, or he would ask me to his own house in order to
discuss the same topic. The fascination which it had for him was
extraordinary. If Gordon had been his own brother he could not have been
more deeply interested in his fate. When at last the end of the long
tragedy came, and the news reached England of the failure of the
expedition to Khartoum, and Gordon's death, Forster was affected by it in
the keenest manner. He could hardly speak when he came to me to discuss
the fatal tidings, and he was full of theories as to the possibility of
Gordon having escaped, after all, from his enemies. Apparently he could
not bring himself to accept the truth. It was strange to see this great,
powerful man, who had passed through so many years of fierce conflict on
his own account, broken down by sorrow for one of whom he had
comparatively little personal knowledge, but whose character and fate
appealed to all that was best and truest in his nature. Looking back upon
my years of friendship with Forster, there are no incidents that touch my
sympathies more keenly than those which relate to his heartfelt grief for
Gordon, the great victim of ministerial muddling and administrative
incapacity.

Everybody knows that Forster was the reverse of a Little Englander. In
the days when Mr. Chamberlain was still the parochial politician, and the
Manchester School a power in the land, Forster never lost an opportunity
of trying to inspire his fellow-countrymen with the sense of the
greatness of their Imperial position, and of the duties which it imposed
upon them. As founder of the Imperial Federation League, he put himself
at the head of those English statesmen whose names will be identified
with the union of Great Britain and her Colonies in the Empire which we
know to-day. He got very little help from the leading politicians on
either side. Mr. Chamberlain, who now talks as though the
foundation-stone of the Empire was laid in the suburbs of Birmingham,
gave him no aid at all, nor did the active spirits of the Opposition. It
seemed as though most of his old colleagues and opponents regarded
Forster's strenuous advocacy of Imperial Federation as an attempt on his
part to keep his name before the public eye. There was one rising young
politician, however, who took a different view of Forster's action, and
who not only sympathised with his motives, but threw himself into the
cause of which he was the leader. This was Lord Rosebery, and to him and
to Forster belongs the lion's share of the credit for the creation and
development of that sense of Imperial unity which is to-day so great a
factor in the life of the Empire.

At that time Forster's friends had no suspicion that his public career
was drawing to a close. He was many years younger than Mr. Gladstone, was
full of vigour and of an enthusiasm that was almost youthful in its
exuberance, and he seemed to have a long life of work before him. But a
trivial incident revealed to me the fact that things were not as they
seemed, and that this great sturdy Englishman was by no means in the
state of health that men supposed. When walking in Switzerland, he had
accidentally injured the nail of his great toe, and it was necessary to
remove it. Forster regarded the operation as a slight one, and was
anxious that cocaine should be used as an anaesthetic, so that he might,
as he said to me, "have the fun" of witnessing the actual operation. When
the time came, however, it was found to be a much more serious matter
than Forster had supposed. The operation was performed under chloroform
by an eminent surgeon, and this gentleman told me after the operation
that he had discovered that Forster's health was in a very unsatisfactory
condition. Indeed, this little accident was the beginning of the end,
though few at the time suspected the fact.

Before closing this chapter, I may make some further reference to my
friend Mr. Stead. The retirement of John Morley from the P_all Mall
Gazette_ had led to Mr. Stead's promotion, and he had become the
virtual, if not the nominal editor of the paper. He was not long in
impressing the public with the fact that a new and original force had
entered English public life. "I am riding on the crest of the wave," he
wrote to me one day, and such was indeed the fact. The influence of the
paper which he controlled became for a time almost paramount, and Mr.
Stead revelled in his power with all the zest of a schoolboy who has
suddenly been called to sit on the throne of an autocrat. He calmly
undertook the direction of the foreign policy of Great Britain, and
ordered Ministers to do his bidding with an audacity which would have
been absurd but for the fact that Ministers seemed ready to take him at
his word. He it was who first advised them to the evil course of sending
Gordon to Khartoum. "Sarawak the Soudan" was the cry he raised, his
proposal being that Gordon should be sent to found an empire of his own
on the upper Nile. Ministers yielded to his vehemence, and Gordon was
sent to Khartoum, with what results everybody knows. Mr. Stead had the
courage of his opinions, and he was not in the least disconcerted when he
found that his advice had involved the country in the tragical and
disastrous expedition for Gordon's relief. Talking to me one day at that
time, he said, "John Morley told me yesterday that I ought not to be able
to sleep in my bed at nights for thinking of all the men who have lost
their lives over this business." If at any time in my life I had been
inclined to believe in government by newspapers, I should certainly have
been cured of that delusion after seeing what a mess even so brilliant a
journalist as Stead made of the attempt to control the policy of a nation
from an editor's desk.

CHAPTER XVI.

NOVELS AND NOVELISTS.

"The Lumley Entail"--"Gladys Fane"--My Experience in Novel Writing--About
Sad Endings--Imaginary Characters and Characters Drawn from Life--Visits
from William Black and Bret Harte--Black as an After-Dinner Sneaker--How
Bret Harte saw Haworth Parsonage, and was Roughly Entreated by a
Yorkshire Admirer--A Candid Opinion on the Bront Monograph.

I now propose to hark back a little in order to bring together some
reminiscences and experiences that lie apart from the graver political
events with which I have been dealing. To begin with, I made a serious
attempt at novel-writing in 1883. Perhaps my friendship with William
Black and James Payn had some influence in leading me to revert to a kind
of work which in my youth had attracted me greatly. I had already, as I
have said, written one novel, "The Lumley Entail," published in the
_St. James's Magazine_, and long since forgotten by everybody,
including its author. I had begun half-a-dozen different stories at
various times, but had always failed to make much progress with them. One
or two short stories that had appeared in Christmas Numbers of the
_Leeds Mercury_ and sundry magazines had not been wholly
unsuccessful, and so, after long cogitation, in the year 1883 I wrote
"Gladys Fane: A Story of Two Lives." Of its merits I cannot speak, but it
gave me great pleasure to write it, and it had a friendly reception both
from the critics and the public. In this country it had a very large
sale, and in the United States a still larger. The strange thing is that
here the book still sells, and once a year I receive from the publisher,
Mr. Fisher Unwin, a modest sum in payment of the royalties due to me on
the sales.

Perhaps I may say something on the strength of my limited experience on
the subject of novel-writing. It may seem presumptuous to do so, seeing
that everybody nowadays either writes a novel or thinks that he or she
can do so. My own experience taught me that in novel-writing, as in most
descriptions of work, there is a particular knack to be acquired before
success can be attained. I think I must have been absolutely without this
knack when I began to write "Gladys Fane." I was a good descriptive
writer, and could describe either scenery or action sufficiently well,
but when I tried my hand at conversation I was utterly at sea. I could
not make my men and women talk as men and women do in real life. Before I
had finished the story I had got the knack, and if I were ever to write
another I have no doubt that I could manage the conversation fairly well.
Of course, even without the knack a writer may achieve, under certain
conditions, a great success; but to do so he must _feel_ his story;
that is to say, it must be as real to him as if it were something that
had actually happened. Undoubtedly I had this feeling about "Gladys
Fane," and this, I imagine, was the one merit which secured for the book
the degree of success that it attained. I remember that when I wrote the
closing chapter, in which the hero meets with a tragical death, I was
under the influence of as poignant an emotion as I should have
experienced if I had been standing by the deathbed of my dearest friend.
Great was my joy, after the story was published, to read a generous
review of the book in the _Standard_, in which the reviewer said
that he did not envy the man who could read that last chapter with a
steady voice and an undimmed eye. I saw that others had been infected by
the emotion which almost overwhelmed me as I penned the closing pages of
the book.

The sad ending which is so hateful to the ordinary reader is regarded by
some reviewers as a cheap device for enlisting popular attention, and
many complaints have been made of its having been used unnecessarily.
There may be some writers who deliberately make up their minds to bring
their stories to a tragical conclusion, but if such persons exist they
must be very bad artists. In my own case I certainly did not contemplate
a sad ending when I began to write my novel; but week by week, as I
wrote, I became more and more forcibly impressed with the feeling that
the doom of my hero was sealed. I tried to get away from this morbid
conclusion, and to wrench the story into another channel, but I failed
utterly in the attempt, so that at last I had to yield, though, as I have
said, I did so with keen regret. William Black, when discussing with me
one day the question of the sad ending, said, "People may say what they
like, but I know, as a matter of experience, that a book which ends
sorrowfully is always remembered far more vividly than one that winds up
in the usual fashion with the ringing of marriage-bells." This is quite
true, but the young novelist who wants his novels to sell, ought
carefully to avoid the tragical _dnouement_, for there are a great
many readers who deliberately refuse to read any book which ends sadly.
Therefore, though art may require such an ending, from the commercial
side of literature it is a huge mistake. Mr. Forster came to me at the
time when "Gladys Fane" was in the flush of its first success, and told
me with his usual kindly bluntness that he was not going to read it. "My
wife has read it, and likes it, but I am not going to make myself
miserable by reading any story that ends sadly. You must write another
that I _can_ read." And it was this chance remark that led to my
next essay in fiction, of which more hereafter.

I had one curious experience in writing "Gladys Fane" that may or may not
be common to most novelists. Certain of the characters were founded upon
real men and women. I painted no portraits, of course, but I undoubtedly
took hints from people whom I knew. My heroine, for example, had a
prototype in real life, who served for the first sketch, but as I wrote I
made her character develop until she was a wholly different woman from
her model. Black, criticising the story in a letter, remarked that the
further the heroine was removed from all likeness to the original, the
more natural and real she became. But still more striking was the fact
that most of my critics agreed that the most real characters in the book,
those that struck them as being most lifelike and individual, were purely
imaginary creations of my own. "I like your villain," wrote Lord
Houghton. "He is the most impressive figure in the book. Wherever did you
meet him?" As a matter of fact, I had met him nowhere, and could not
charge myself with having taken even a hint in drawing his portrait from
anybody whom I knew or had heard of. Some of the minor characters were
unhesitatingly described by critics as portraits evidently drawn from
life. In no single instance had they been so drawn. I had imagined them
simply. It would be interesting to know if this is the experience of
other writers of romance. I am bound to speak with modesty and
diffidence, because of my very limited experience in this kind of work. I
have only touched upon the subject, indeed, because I think it may
interest my readers to know something of the secrets of the workshop of
even the humblest literary artist.

There is just one other point that I may mention in connection with
"Gladys Fane." Whilst I was writing the book, I was doing my full work as
editor of the _Leeds Mercury_, and was not only editing the paper,
but was writing for it an average of twelve columns a week. "Gladys Fane"
is a long story, containing a hundred and sixty thousand words. I wrote
it during my scanty leisure in exactly sixteen weeks, or at the rate of
ten thousand words a week. This, I imagine, is a speed which only the
unfaltering pen of the typical lady novelist usually attains. Before
beginning any chapter which had not shaped itself clearly in my mind, I
used to take a long country walk, during the course of which I found that
I could beat out the whole narrative, and solve any small problem in the
construction that had troubled me.

About this time I was seeing a good deal of my literary friends. Amongst
others, William Black and Bret Harte visited me at Leeds, and I have
amusing recollections of both visits. Black came to me, if I remember
aright, on his way to Scotland. It was his first visit to Leeds, and I
thought he was entitled to something more than the welcome given to a
private guest. Not many writers of distinction had found their way to
Leeds whilst I was living there, and it was my earnest desire that those
who came should receive a greeting that would satisfy them that even
business communities could value real worth in literature. Accordingly, I
gave a large dinner party at the Liberal Club in Black's honour, and
invited to it a number of the leading citizens. They were all anxious to
come, and to share in the welcome to my distinguished guest.
Unfortunately, however, the dinner involved a speech from Black. I knew
how much he hated speech-making, and did my best to steel him for the
ordeal. But no efforts of mine, or of any other man, would have converted
Black into an orator. His response to the toast of his health, which had
been drunk with genuine enthusiasm, was as follows: "When I left London,
I thought I was going to Yorkshire, but the way in which you have treated
me shows that I have made a mistake and that I have really got into
Scotland." And forthwith he sat down, leaving us to realise the subtle
compliment conveyed in his brief speech.

And here I am reminded of another occasion on which I heard him make an
attempt at after-dinner oratory. A certain Lord Mayor of London
distinguished himself by giving a dinner to the representatives of
literature. I had the honour of being invited to the feast, and shared
Black's cab in the drive to the Mansion House. On the way thither he told
me that he was one of those who had to respond for fiction: "but," he
added, "I am all right, for Blackmore is to speak before me, and I shall
get up when he sits down, and simply say 'I say ditto to Mr. Blackmore,'"
Comforted with this idea, he was able to enjoy the Lord Mayor's turtle.
But alas! when Blackmore rose to address the company, he confined himself
to the statement that, never having made a speech before, he must leave
it to a much more distinguished man, his friend Mr. William Black, to
respond to the toast. It was obvious to Black that he could not say ditto
to this speech, and he had, accordingly, to make a serious attempt to
reply for fiction.

I confess I was very sorry for him. He started well by telling a story
about an experience of his when visiting the United States. He was
entertained at dinner by some New York club, not, I imagine, a literary
one, and the president proposed his health in gushing terms, the
peroration of the speech being, "I now ask you, gentlemen, to drink to
the health of the greatest of living novelists, Mr. William Black, the
author of that immortal work, 'Lorna Doone.'" Now this is an excellent
story, and if Black had only been able to tell it, he would have
delighted his audience, and would have secured a very genuine triumph.
But alas! the acoustic properties of the Egyptian Hall are, to say the
least of it, not good, and Black was so nervous that he was almost
inaudible, more especially when he reached the point of his little tale.
The result was that to the vast majority of those who heard him, his
speech seemed to be a simple announcement of the fact that he had once
been described at a dinner in New York as the greatest of living
novelists. Happily, Black was not dependent upon his oratorical gifts for
his power of influencing the public.

When Bret Harte visited me at Leeds in the early 'eighties, his arrival
caused what the reporters describe as a "sensation" in the town. To begin
with, Harte had not been long resident in this country, and the author of
"The Heathen Chinee" was still something of a mythical personage to the
average Englishman. Then he still affected the style of dress which
Buffalo Bill afterwards made familiar, and with his broad sombrero hat,
his flowing locks, and ample fur-lined overcoat, cut a conspicuous figure
in the streets. It is no exaggeration to say that everybody turned to
look at him, and that more than once he had a small mob at his heels.
Greatly interested, like most of his fellow-countrymen, in the story of
the Bronts, he got me to accompany him on a pilgrimage to Haworth, to
see the world-famed parsonage and church. Shortly before this time, I had
been concerned in raising an agitation against the destruction of the
church, and had, in consequence, incurred the hostility of the incumbent,
a certain Mr. Wade, who was anxious to replace the venerable fabric in
which the Bronts had worshipped for so many years by a handsome modern
edifice. Mr. Shepard, the American Consul at Bradford, was the companion
of Harte and myself in our visit; but somewhat to our annoyance, we were
joined at a wayside station by a young man, who was known to Shepard, and
who seemed very anxious to accompany a celebrity like Bret Harte. We duly
reached the grey old village among the moors, and for the last time I saw
the quaint interior of Haworth Church, and sat once more in Charlotte
Bront's seat in the old-fashioned pew at the foot of the clumsy
three-decker pulpit.

When we had seen the church, and inspected the signature of Charlotte
Bront in the register of marriages, Harte declared that he could not
leave without visiting the parsonage. I warned him that he was not likely
to be admitted, as Mr. Wade was known to object to the intrusion of
strangers into his house. Harte, however, maintained that as an American
author, Mr. Wade would certainly not refuse him if he sought admittance,
and persisted in visiting the parsonage. Remembering my controversy with
Mr. Wade, I discreetly withdrew from the company, and retired to the
Black Bull Inn, where I smoked a cigar in the chair in which Branwell
Bront had too often sat. After some time had elapsed, my friends--Harte,
Shepard, and the young man, whom I will call M.---- returned. "Did you
really get admittance?" I asked, and Harte replied in the affirmative.
"Well," I said, "you may congratulate yourself, for it was a remarkable
achievement."

Harte did not seem to respond very willingly to this remark, so Shepard
took up the tale, and told me what had really happened. "When we got to
the door, Harte sent in his card to Mr. Wade, and enquired if he could
see him. We were left standing on the doorstep until Mr. Wade made his
appearance, Harte's card in his hand. The expression of his face was not
encouraging. He asked what we wanted, and Harte said, 'You perhaps may
know my name. I am an American author.' Mr. Wade looked at the card, and
said, 'Yes, he had heard the name. What did Mr. Harte want?' Then Harte
introduced me, as American Consul at Bradford, and explained that we were
both most anxious to be allowed to see the interior of Charlotte Bront's
old home. Upon this Mr. Wade, in very plain language, declared that it
was impossible, that he made it a rule not to admit strangers to his
house, and could make no exception. Harte seemed very much annoyed, and I
put in a word to explain who his visitor was, and what he had done in
literature. But the old gentleman was quite obdurate, and we were about
to turn away when young M. stepped forward, and said, 'Mr. Wade, my name
is M. and I come from So-and-so.' 'What!' said Mr. Wade, his whole manner
changing at once, 'are you related to my old friend, Mr. M., of the firm
of M. & N.?' 'I am his son,' replied M. 'Come in, sir,' cried Mr. Wade,
with effusion. 'I shall be delighted to see you in my house, and you may
bring your friends with you.'" And this was the fashion in which Bret
Harte saw Haworth Parsonage.

I had, I confess, a kindlier feeling towards our youthful companion on
the return journey than that which I had entertained towards him before
this incident; but ere we reached Leeds he again annoyed me. Whilst we
were waiting for our train in Keighley Station, M. disappeared from our
side. Presently we became aware that he was going to and fro upon the
platform telling everybody who Bret Harte was; so that in a short time we
found ourselves surrounded by a staring crowd. Fortunately the train came
up, and we were able to escape; but a man known to M. entered the
compartment, and the exuberant youth, in spite of the frowns of Shepard
and myself, was unable to restrain himself. We heard him, in a stage
whisper, announce that Bret Harte was there. Harte, who was boiling over
with indignation, thrust his head out of the window to escape the
stranger's stare. The latter ejaculated, "Bret Harte! Where?" M. pointed
to the window, and instantly the sturdy Yorkshireman sprang from his
seat, and seizing Harte by the shoulders, forced him back into his seat,
whilst he thrust himself half out of the window, and eagerly searched the
platform for the missing celebrity. "I can't see him nowhere," he
ejaculated, as the train moved off, and he once more pushed Harte
violently aside, as he strode back to his own seat. When at last, by
expressive pantomime, M. had conveyed the truth to his friend's mind, it
was difficult to decide whether Harte or the hero-worshipper betrayed the
greater degree of embarrassment.

It was about this time that I had an amusing experience of my own in
connection with Haworth and the Bronts. I was staying with my wife and
children at a country inn at Burnsall, a delightful spot on the Upper
Wharfe above Bolton Abbey. The inn was a small one, and by arrangement
with the landlord I had, in addition to a sitting-room, the exclusive use
of the coffee-room when my family partook of meals. The truth was that
the "Red Lion" had but few visitors, at any rate of the coffee-room
class. Coming down to breakfast one morning, the landlord met me with a
perturbed countenance. "There's a young gentleman from London in the
coffee-room, sir," he said, "and though I've told him the room is
engaged, he won't go out, but insists upon having his breakfast there." I
assured the landlord that I did not in the least object to his doing so,
and accordingly the young man breakfasted at the same table as myself and
my family. I found he was an entire stranger to the district, and he
volunteered the statement that he had never been in Yorkshire before his
present visit. An enthusiast upon Yorkshire scenery, I was anxious to
know what he had seen of the beautiful broad shire. "I've been nowhere,"
he replied, "except to a little place called Haworth."

Now what attraction could there be in such a place as Haworth for a
stranger from London unless it were the attraction of the Bronts? So I
reasoned; and reasoned, as it appeared, most erroneously. "Oh, no," he
said, in reply to my question, "I didn't go to Haworth because of the
Bronts. In fact, I knew nothing about them when I went there, but my
friends gave me a book to read about them, and I tried to read it. It was
written by somebody called Wemyss Reid, but I thought it a poor book." I
knew that my friend the landlord was quite certain to tell the stranger
my name, and I thought it better to take the bull by the horns, and
reveal the truth to him. So, as gently as I could, and with a keen
appreciation of the good story with which I saw that he had furnished me,
I made him understand that I was the culprit who had produced that poor
book. He took the revelation so much to heart that I really regretted
having made it, and it was not until after more than an hour's talk on
irrelevant topics that I eased him, as I hope, of his pain and
mortification, and induced him to join me in laughing at the
extraordinary stroke of ill-fortune by which I was the first person to
whom he innocently revealed his bad opinion of my book. Perhaps the
incident taught him to be more cautious ever afterwards in the expression
of his literary verdicts, at all events when in the company of a chance
acquaintance. It must be confessed that in this case the doctrine of
coincidences upon which I have touched in a former chapter was not so
pleasant in its application as it usually is. For my part, I have always
recalled that breakfast with keen delight.

CHAPTER XVII.

TO THE DEFEAT OF THE GOVERNMENT (1885).

More Antagonism towards Forster--A Household Suffrage Demonstration at
Leeds--A Meeting at the Carlton Club and a Coincidence--Forster and "the
most Powerful Man in Europe"--Single-Member Constituencies and the
Cumulative Vote--Dynamite Outrages--Police Protection for Statesmen--I
Receive Threatening Letters and Get a Fright--Death of Lord
Houghton--Lord Derby and how he was Misunderstood--An Unconventional
Dinner at Lord Houghton's--A Visit to Tangier--In Peril of the
Sea--Gibraltar "a Magnificent Imposture"--Captain W. and the M.P.--To the
North Cape--Cheering a Funeral Party--News of Mr. Gladstone's
Overthrow--Home Again.

The extension of Household Suffrage to the counties was the chief
political topic of 1884. I have told how Forster was the first to
announce his resolve to support a Household Suffrage Bill for Ireland. He
was always an ardent reformer, and a genuine, as opposed to a sham,
Radical. In the public agitation for the Bill Forster took a leading
part, though he was still regarded with suspicion by many advanced
Liberals. Sometimes these gentlemen treated him with distinct unfairness,
because they could not forgive him his resolute antagonism to Mr.
Chamberlain. In the autumn before the Bill passed we held a great
Yorkshire demonstration in its favour on Woodhouse Moor, Leeds. John
Morley had promised to attend as the principal speaker, and it was
understood that the whole of the Liberal members for the West Riding
would also be invited. I need hardly say that by far the most eminent of
these gentlemen was Mr. Forster. When the executive committee, of which I
was a member, met to make arrangements for the demonstration, I found, to
my intense indignation, that many members were opposed to the sending of
an invitation to Mr. Forster! He was our nearest neighbour, for his house
was only a few miles from Leeds; he was our most distinguished
representative, and he was an ardent supporter of the Franchise Bill. Yet
not even these facts could serve him in the eyes of men who regarded Mr.
Chamberlain as being, next to Mr. Gladstone, the heaven-born leader of
English Liberalism. I hotly contested the proposal to exclude Forster
from the gathering, and succeeded in carrying my point, though I could
only do so by agreeing that instead of a special invitation, such as we
sent to all other men in his position, he should receive nothing but the
ordinary printed circular sent wholesale to the known Liberals of the
district. Forster, who cared nothing about forms and ceremonies, wrote
promptly declaring his intention to be present.

The meeting was to be addressed from three platforms, at each of which
was a principal speaker. To John Morley, as a stranger, we assigned the
leading position on the middle platform. Herbert Gladstone took a similar
post on one of the side platforms, and on the third Forster was to be the
chief speaker. To my great amazement, a couple of days before the
meeting, we received word from Mr. Morley that under the new arrangements
he did not think it desirable to attend. It was the first evidence I had
received of what I now know to be one of the peculiarities in the
character of this eminent and gifted man. The new arrangement which led
to his wishing to withdraw from the meeting seemed to be the announcement
that Forster was to be one of the speakers. I saw at once that if Morley
did not come it would not only lessen the effect of the meeting, but
would lead to a fresh outbreak of what I may call the Forster dissensions
in the party. This was a disaster at all hazards to be prevented, and
accordingly I took what most of my readers, I imagine, will consider not
only strong but somewhat presumptuous action. I telegraphed to Morley,
warning him that if he maintained his determination to stay away, the
reason for his absence would undoubtedly become public property, and his
"laudable ambition" would not be aided by the revelation of the truth. A
strong measure, indeed; and I am prepared for the censure of my critics;
but I succeeded in my purpose. Morley promised to come, and contented
himself with writing a letter to me in which he disclaimed the imputation
that he carried about with him any of that "perilous explosive" called
ambition. The meeting was a great success; all the chief speakers were
well received, but I confess I was not altogether grieved when I saw that
the greatest crowd was that which gathered round platform number three,
and that the loudest cheers of the vast multitude were those given to
Forster.

It will be remembered that the Tories offered a stubborn opposition to
the passing of the Household Suffrage Bill, and it was only carried in
the end in a winter session, specially convened for that purpose.
According to popular rumour at the time, it was eventually passed as the
result of compromise between Mr. Gladstone and Lord Salisbury. I do not
believe that there is a word of truth in this story. Mr. Gladstone, at
all events, stoutly denied that there had been any such compromise, and
once wrote a long letter to me, maintaining this denial. But before the
Tories could be induced to accept the Bill, a meeting of their party had
to be held at the Carlton Club, and in connection with that meeting I
have to tell a curious story of my own.

As most of my readers know, the Carlton Club and the Reform stand side by
side in Pall Mall, only separated from each other by a narrow street
which gives access to Carlton House Gardens. The windows of the
smoking-room at the Reform Club face those of the large library of the
Carlton, so that the members of the two clubs may, if they choose, see
each other across the narrow roadway. The Conservative meeting was held
in the big library of the club. Going into our own smoking-room on the
afternoon of the meeting, I saw a well-known member of the club gazing
intently across the way at the corresponding apartment in the Carlton.
"If you come here," he said, turning to me, "you can see all the members
of the Tory party gathering for their meeting." I saw no harm in
accepting X.'s invitation, and joined him at the window. We picked out
the various notables of the party. By-and-by an evil inspiration seized
X. "Let us go upstairs to F.'s room," he said. "We shall see much better
from there." I am ashamed to say that I yielded to the temptation, and
accompanied X. to the room of a friend who occupied one of the club
chambers facing the Carlton.

The window happened to be open, so that we had an unimpeded view of the
meeting of the Tory party. We could not, of course, hear anything that
was said, nor could we see the speakers, who were evidently placed with
their backs to us between two of the windows; but we saw the audience,
and were amused by the varying expression upon their faces as they
listened to their leaders. X.'s insatiable curiosity led him to snatch up
an opera-glass that was lying on F.'s dressing-table, and, despite my
remonstrance, he took a long survey of the Tory gathering through this
instrument. Suddenly I saw a man in the body of the meeting rise to his
feet and point straight at our window. Instantly every face in the room
flashed round, and I found myself under the concentrated gaze of some
hundreds of manifestly indignant men. I seized the wretched X. by the
collar and dragged him back from the window. "See what you have done with
that abominable opera-glass of yours!" I cried; and then, to my shame and
mortification, I saw the blinds pulled down at every window of the
Carlton library, and I felt that by our foolish curiosity we had caused
this gathering of political opponents to hold their conference in the
dark. It is quite true that neither I nor X. had any ulterior motive in
our observation of the meeting at the Carlton Club, but all the same I
cannot pretend that the use of the opera-glass was not indefensible.

I was dining that evening at the Oxford and Cambridge Club with Mr.
Andrew Lang. When I arrived there I was ushered into the club
drawing-room, with the intimation that Mr. Lang would join me in a
moment, and that I would find another of his guests already in the room.
I stepped to the fireplace, where this gentleman was standing, and my
feelings may be imagined when I discovered that it was the very man who
had pointed us out at the window of the Reform Club a few hours earlier.
He was Mr. Charles Elton, then one of the members for Somersetshire. I
saw that he did not recognise me, but the desire to confess my offending
was irresistible. "You were at the meeting at the Carlton Club this
afternoon, were you not?" I said to him. He looked at me rather
curiously, before replying in the affirmative, and then added, "But you
were not there?" "No," I said, "but did you observe anything curious at
the Reform Club?" At once his face lighted up with angry intelligence.
"Yes!" he said, "I did. There were a couple of scallywags"--it was the
first time I had ever heard this modern term of reproach, and it is not
surprising that I have nearly forgotten it--"watching us through
opera-glasses from one of the windows, and signalling to a man whom they
had put on the top of our club, and who was listening through the
ventilator to the speeches." No words can express the sense of relief I
felt when I heard this absurd statement. "No," I replied, "I assure you
that you are mistaken. I am sorry to say that I was one of the scallywags
who were looking out of the Reform Club, and I apologise sincerely for my
untimely curiosity; but we had only one opera-glass between us, and we
had nobody posted on the top of the Carlton Club to listen to the
speeches. Upon that you may rely." Elton stared at me for a moment, and
then burst into a roar of laughter, in which I joined him. It was an
immense relief to me to have got the burden off my soul; but I had
received another proof of the frequency with which that long arm of
coincidence asserts itself.

As a result of the passing of the Franchise Bill, and the creation of
single-member constituencies which accompanied it, a Boundary Commission
had to be appointed, to settle the boundaries of the new electoral
divisions. In order to prevent gerrymandering it was agreed that this
Commission should not only be quite independent of both parties, but that
it should have absolute powers. Its chairman was Sir John Lambert,
secretary of the Local Government Board; and his powers were, of course,
very great. Forster, coming to see me one day, began to talk to me about
the Boundary Commission, and the supreme powers vested in Sir John
Lambert. Suddenly he burst into a chuckling laugh, and I knew that he had
a story to tell me. "I was going up the stairs of the Local Government
office to see Lambert the other day," he said, "and I met ----,"
mentioning the name of the former holder of a subordinate Government
post, "coming down. 'Hullo, Forster!' he cried, 'what in the world are
you doing here?' 'Well, I was just going to call on the most powerful man
in England,' I replied. ---- took off his hat and made me a low bow. 'I
hope you didn't undeceive him,' I said. 'Oh, yes, I did,' replied
Forster. I told him that I didn't mean him, but Sir John Lambert." I
wrung my hands over this fresh illustration of my friend's inability to
set his sails in such a fashion as to catch the approval of others.

It was over this redistribution question that I had the only difference
of opinion I ever had with Forster. He was an ardent supporter of the
single-member constituency, or _scrutin d'arrondissement_, as the
French call it, in opposition to _scrutin de liste_. I, on the other
hand, foresaw that the new system would break up the powerful political
associations in our great towns, and thus destroy a political force which
I believed to be of great value. I fought strenuously in the _Leeds
Mercury_ against what I styled the vivisection of the great boroughs;
but I need not say that I fought in vain. I had many a good-humoured
argument with Forster on the subject, but he would never admit that I was
right, though after twenty years' experience and observation I am only
now strengthened in my original opinion.

Before this time I had aroused Forster's anger--anger which never
hurt--by the action I had taken, in common with some of my Liberal
friends in Leeds, with regard to the School Board election. We found that
the cumulative vote in a large constituency was almost unworkable. It had
resulted in Leeds in the election, at the head of the poll on one
occasion, of a mere demagogue of no account. In order to obviate any
further misfortune of this kind my friend Mathers, the honorary secretary
of the Liberal Association, devised a plan under which the town was
divided by the Liberals into different divisions. To each of these
divisions we allotted certain candidates, and we asked the electors who
sympathised with us to vote only for the candidate allotted to the
division in which they lived. The plan proved a brilliant success, for we
carried all our candidates at that election, and this method of getting
over the difficulties of the cumulative vote was afterwards adopted in
all large towns, including London. Forster was greatly wroth at the time,
and told me that he looked upon the scheme as a dishonest attempt to
evade an Act of Parliament.

Those were the years of the dynamite outrages. Certain desperate Irish
societies, chiefly financed and recruited from the United States, were
seeking to advance the Home Rule cause by terrorising the people of
England. "Holy dynamite," as that powerful explosive was christened, was
the weapon employed, and some very daring outrages were committed in
London and other places. The most notable of these were the simultaneous
attempts to wreck the House of Commons, Westminster Hall, and the Tower
of London. These audacious crimes were committed on a Saturday afternoon.
I spent the whole of the next morning reading and analysing the telegrams
in which full details of the occurrences were given, and in writing an
article for Monday's _Mercury_ on the subject. In the afternoon I
went over to Wakefield to keep an engagement I had made to dine and sleep
at Thorns, the residence of my friends Mr. and Lady Catherine Milnes
Gaskell. I well remember the scene when I entered the beautiful library
at Thorns, about five o'clock. There was a large party there, including
the Duke and Duchess of St. Albans, Mr. and Mrs. Goschen, and Mr. W B.
Beaumont, of Bretton.

When I was announced, Gaskell jumped up from his seat, saying, "Now we
shall have news!" and instantly the whole party flocked round me, eager
to know the truth as to the wild rumour which was all they had as yet
heard of the devastation wrought by the dynamiters in London on the
previous day. My morning's work had, of course, qualified me to satisfy
their curiosity, but the questions they poured in upon me were so
numerous and so eager that I was at last obliged to ask them to sit down,
and let me tell the story in my own fashion, which I accordingly
proceeded to do amid the breathless attention of my auditors. The scene
is worth recording as a characteristic incident of life in England in
those days. We had an enemy, subtle, daring, and dangerous, actually
waging war upon us within our own gates; and though the invincible
courage of our race enabled us to pursue our own way in spite of the new
terror that had arisen amongst us, we were none of us, as this scene in
the library at Thorns proved, insensible to the horror of the situation,
and the deadly character of the weapons used against us.

At this time all the leading members of the Liberal Government were under
police protection, and Forster, as being the special object of Irish
animosity, was also treated in this respect as though he were still a
Minister. Some Ministers, it was asserted, not only enjoyed, but desired,
the constant companionship of armed detectives, and amusing stories were
told of the way in which they arrived at Mayfair dinner-parties
accompanied by "stern-faced men" with revolvers in their pockets. I shall
not repeat these stories, for I cannot bring myself to believe that any
English statesman has been the victim of physical cowardice. Others,
among whom Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Forster were conspicuous, loathed the
presence of the police agents dogging their footsteps, and keeping watch
at their doors, and tried in every possible way to evade them. Mr.
Gladstone, with the collar of his overcoat turned up to his ears, used
suddenly to dash out of the garden door at the back of Downing Street,
and attempt, by running across the parade at full speed, to get rid of
his bodyguard. Occasionally he succeeded, but I am told that as a
consequence he had so severe a wigging from the Home Secretary and the
Chief Commissioner of Police that he was at last compelled to abandon his
efforts to secure his unfettered liberty of action. Forster managed to
obtain exemption from the obtrusive services of a bodyguard, but a
policeman kept watch and ward by day and night in front of his house in
Eccleston Square, not only to his disgust, but to that of one of his
neighbours, who quitted his abode rather than continue to live near so
dangerous a character. "I often wonder," said Forster to me one day,
"what I shall do if I find an infernal machine on my doorstep when I come
home some night. I know what it is my duty to do. I ought to take it up,
and throw it into the middle of the square, but I am terribly afraid that
I shan't have the pluck, and shall simply turn round and run away."
Nobody who knew Forster could believe that he would ever have acted in
any such fashion.

I had my own small experience at this time of trial. Threatening letters
were flying about, and I received a fair share of them, for I was at that
time very obnoxious to the Irish party in Leeds. One evening, on going
down to my office, which I entered from a narrow thoroughfare called Bank
Street, I was startled by being suddenly called upon to halt when near
the office door, whilst a policeman's lantern was flashed in my face. One
of our workmen explained my identity to the officer, and I was allowed to
pass. I then learned that the Leeds police had received information of a
plot to blow up the _Mercury_ office, and they had, accordingly,
posted guards round the building. I was in the habit of driving home
every night, or rather every morning, to my residence at Headingley, and
the police suggested that I should be accompanied by an officer; but I
did not believe in my danger, and desired no such protection. In the
depths of one winter's night, when a thaw was dissolving a heavy fall of
snow, I had a great fright. I had left my cab, which had driven away, and
was mounting the steps leading to the porch of my house, when I suddenly
saw, lying on the half-melted snow against the door itself, a large
bundle wrapped in sacking. I drew near it cautiously, and heard a curious
ticking sound proceeding from it. "An infernal machine!" I exclaimed to
myself, and I confess I was horribly frightened. The outer door of the
porch was unlocked, and, opening it, I bounded inside, carefully avoiding
the object which I suspected. I unlocked the inner door, and, entering
the house, locked and barred it behind me.

Then, when I got into my dining-room, reason asserted itself, and I felt
heartily ashamed of my panic. If the thing were an infernal machine, it
would certainly do a great deal of damage if it exploded where it lay. I
strung my nerves up to the sticking-point, went out, unlocked the door,
seized the mysterious package in my hands, and flung it as far as I could
into a little shrubbery in the garden. There was no explosion such as I
had expected. Nothing, indeed, happened; but when I got back to my
dining-room, and saw my face in a mirror, I found it was as white as a
sheet. The next morning I went out to look for the infernal machine. It
was a coarse sack, filled with blocks of wood and sawdust, and I have a
strong suspicion that it had been placed where I found it as a practical
joke. The ticking which I had heard, and which had convinced me that I
had to deal with an infernal machine, was evidently produced by the drip,
drip of water from the bag on the step beneath it. Such were features in
the lives of men more or less before the public eye in the years of the
dynamite terror.

In the summer of 1885, along with many others, I met with a great loss.
This was the death at Vichy of my dear old friend, Lord Houghton. No
kinder friend than he man ever had. The world was inclined to laugh at
his peculiarities, which lay upon the surface, and to ignore the sterling
qualities that formed the basis of his character. If it is right to speak
of a man as you find him, then I am entitled to say that there never
lived a kinder or more generous man, or a truer friend, than Monckton
Milnes. To me he was all this. I have told already the story of our first
acquaintance in 1870, and of the debt which I very soon owed him. I could
fill a volume with reminiscences of his talk, as I used to hear it during
my frequent visits to Fryston, and of the warmth of his sympathy with one
who had no claim upon him. I have made many friends in the course of my
life, and looking back upon the list I am constrained to say that I have
made more friends through the mediumship of Lord Houghton than through
that of any other man.

Among those whom I first met at his house, I must not omit Edward,

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