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THE LIFE OF THE RT. HON. SIR CHARLES W. DILKE, BART., M.P.
[Illustration: RT. HON. SIR CHARLES W. DILKE, BART., M.P., IN THE
From the painting by G. F. Watts in the National Portrait Gallery.
Frontispiece, Vol. I.]
THE LIFE OF THE RT. HON. SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
BEGUN BY STEPHEN GWYNN, M.P.
COMPLETED AND EDITED BY
GERTRUDE M. TUCKWELL.
IN TWO VOLUMES
The following Life of Sir Charles W. Dilke consists mainly of his own
Memoirs and of correspondence left by him or furnished by his friends.
The Memoirs were compiled by Sir Charles Dilke from his private diaries
and letters between the years 1888 and his return to Parliament in 1892.
The private diaries consisted of entries made daily at the dates dealt
with. Of the Memoirs he says: "These notes are bald, but I thought it best
not to try, as the phrase goes, 'to write them up.'" In some cases the
Memoirs have been condensed into narrative, for Sir Charles says of the
periods his "notes" cover: "These chapters contain everything that can be
used, and more than is needed, and changes should be by way of 'boiling
down.'" The Memoirs were unfinished. He writes in May, 1893: "From this
time forward I shall not name my speeches and ordinary action in the
House, as I had now regained the position which I held up to 1878, though
not my position of 1878-1880, nor that of 1884-85;" and as from this point
onwards there are few entries, chapters treating of his varied activities
have been contributed by those competent to deal with them.
Sir Charles Dilke's will, after giving full discretionary powers to his
literary executrix, contains these words: "I would suggest that, as
regards those parts relating to Ireland, Egypt, and South Africa, the same
shall be made use of (if at all) without editing, as they have been agreed
to by a Cabinet colleague chiefly concerned." A further note shows that,
so far as Ireland was concerned, the years 1884-85 cover the dates to
which Sir Charles Dilke alludes. The part of the Memoirs dealing with
these subjects has therefore been printed _in extenso_, except in the case
of some detailed portions of a discussion on Egyptian finance.
The closing words of this part of Sir Charles Dilke's will point out to
his executrix that "it would be inconsistent with my lifelong views that
she should seek assistance in editing from anyone closely connected with
either the Liberal or Conservative party, so as to import into the
publications any of the conventional attitude of the old parties. The same
objection will not apply to members of the other parties." In consequence
of this direction, Mr. Stephen Gwynn, M.P., whose name was among those
suggested by Sir Charles Dilke, was asked to undertake the work of
arranging the Memoirs, and supplementing them where necessary. This work
was already far advanced when Mr. Gwynn joined the British forces on the
outbreak of the War. His able and sympathetic assistance was thus
withdrawn from the work entailed in the final editing of this book--a work
which has occupied the Editor until going to press.
A deep debt of gratitude is due to Mr. Spenser Wilkinson, who has
contributed the chapters on "The British Army" and "Imperial Defence." Sir
George Askwith was good enough, amidst almost overwhelming pressure of
public duties, to read and revise the chapter entitled "The Turning-
Point." Sir George Barnes and Sir John Mellor have also freely given
expert advice and criticism. Mrs. H. J. Tennant, Miss Constance Smith, Mr.
E. S. Grew, Mr. H. K. Hudson and Mr. John Randall have given much valuable
assistance. The work of reading proofs and verifying references was made
easy by their help.
While thanking all those who have placed letters at her disposal, the
Editor would specially acknowledge the kindness with which Mr. Austen
Chamberlain has met applications for leave to publish much correspondence.
Mr. John Murray's great experience has made his constant counsel of the
utmost value; and from the beginning to the close of the Editor's task the
literary judgment of the Rev. W. Tuck well has been placed unsparingly at
her service. Sir H. H. Lee and Mr. Bodley, who were Sir Charles Dilke's
official secretaries when he was a Minister, have given her useful
information as to political events and dates.
To the many other friends, too numerous to name, who have contributed
"recollections" and aid, grateful acknowledgments must be made.
Finally, the Editor expresses her warmest thanks to Lord Fitzmaurice, who
has laid under contribution, for the benefit of Sir Charles Dilke's Life,
his great knowledge of contemporary history and of foreign affairs,
without which invaluable aid the work of editing could not have been
The papers from which the following Memoir is written were left to my
exclusive care because for twenty-five years I was intimately associated
with Sir Charles Dilke's home and work and life. Before the year 1885 I
had met him only once or twice, but I recall how his kindness and
consideration dissipated a young girl's awe of the great political figure.
From the year 1885, when my aunt, Mrs. Mark Pattison, married Sir Charles,
I was constantly with them, acting from 1893 as secretary in their trade-
union work. Death came to her in 1904, and till January, 1911, he fought
In the earlier days there was much young life about the house. Mrs. H. J.
Tennant, that most loyal of friends, stands out as one who, hardly less
than I, used to look on 76, Sloane Street, as a home. There is no need to
bear witness to the happiness of that home. _The Book of the Spiritual
Life_, in which are collected my aunt's last essays, contains also the
Memoir of her written by her husband, and the spirit which breathes
through those pages bears perfect testimony to an abiding love.
The atmosphere of the house was one of work, and the impression left upon
the mind was that no life was truly lived unless it was largely dedicated
to public service. To the labours of his wife, a "Benedictine, working
always and everywhere," Sir Charles bears testimony. But what of his own
labours? "Nothing will ever come before my work," were his initial words
to me in the days when I first became their secretary. Through the years
realization of this fact became complete, so that, towards the last,
remonstrances at his ceaseless labour were made with hopeless hearts; we
knew he would not purchase length of life by the abatement of one jot of
his energy. He did not expect long life, and death was ever without terror
for him. For years he anticipated a heart seizure, so that in the complete
ordering of his days he lived each one as if it were his last.
The house was a fine school, for in it no waste of force was permitted. He
had drilled himself to the suppression of emotion, and he would not
tolerate it in those who worked with him except as an inspiration to
action. "Keep your tears for your speeches, so that you make others act;
leave off crying and think what you can do," was the characteristic rebuke
bestowed upon one of us who had reported a case of acute industrial
suffering. He never indulged in rhetoric or talked of first principles,
and one divined from chance words of encouragement the deep feeling and
passion for justice which formed the inspiration of his work.
He utilized every moment. The rapidity of his transition from one kind of
work to another, and his immediate concentration on a subject totally
different from that which he had previously handled, were only equalled by
the rapidity with which he turned from work to play.
With the same unerring quickness he would gather up the contents of a book
or appreciate the drift of a question. This latter characteristic, I fear,
often disconcerted disputants, who objected to leave their nicely turned
periods incomplete because he had grasped the point involved before they
were halfway through a sentence; but his delight in finding this same
rapidity of thought in others was great, and I remember his instancing it
as a characteristic of Mr. Asquith.
His wide grasp of every question with which he dealt was accompanied by so
complete a knowledge of its smallest details that vague or inaccurate
statements were intolerable to him; but I think the patience with which he
sifted such statements was amongst the finest features in the discipline
of working under him. One felt it a crime to have wasted that time of
which no moment was ever deliberately wasted by himself.
The spirit in which he approached his work was one of detachment from all
personal considerations; the introduction of private feuds or dislikes
into public service was a thing impossible to him and to be severely
rebuked in those who helped him. He never belittled antagonists,
underrated his opponents' ability, or hesitated to admit a mistake. Others
will testify in the pages which follow to the warmth and generosity of his
friendship, but that which stands out in memory is his forbearance to his
Just as his knowledge was complete in its general grasp as in its smallest
detail, so was his sympathy all-embracing. No suffering, says the
Secretary of the Anti-Sweating League, was too small for his help; the
early atrocities of Congo misrule did not meet with a readier response
than did the wrongs of some heavily fined factory girl or the sufferings
of the victim of a dangerous trade.
For his own achievements he was curiously regardless of fame. He gave
ungrudgingly of his knowledge to all who claimed his help and direction,
and he trained many other men to great public service. In Mr. Alfred
Lyttelton's happy phrase, he possessed "rare self-effacement." There are
many instances in his early career of this habit of self-effacement, and
the habit increased with years. Remonstrance met with the reply: "What
does it matter who gets the credit so long as the work is done?"
It is for this reason that we who love him shall ever bear in affectionate
memory those who brought his laurels home to him in their celebration of
the passing of the Trade Boards Act in 1910--that first instalment of the
principle of the minimum wage, on which he united all parties and of which
he had been the earliest advocate.
It has been said of his public life that he knew too much and interested
himself in too many things; but those coming after who regard his life as
a whole will see the connecting link which ran through all. I can speak
only of that side of his activities in which I served him. He saw the
cause of labour in Great Britain as it is linked with the conditions of
labour throughout the globe; his fight against slavery in the Congo, his
constant pressure for enlightened government in India, his championship of
the native races everywhere, were all part and parcel of the objects to
which he had pledged himself from the first. For progress and development
it is necessary that a country should be at peace, and his study of
military and naval problems was dictated by the consideration of the best
means under existing conditions to obtain that end for England.
Yet to imagine that his life was all work would be to wrong the balance of
his nature. He turned from letters and papers to his fencing bout, his
morning gallop, or his morning scull on the river, with equal enthusiasm,
and his great resonant boyish laugh sounded across the reach at Dockett or
echoed through the house after a successful "touch." His keenness for
athletic exercises, dating from his early Cambridge days, lasted, as his
work did, to the end. In spite of the warnings of an overtaxed heart, he
sculled each morning of the last summer at Dockett, and in Paris he handed
over his foils to his fencing-school only a month before his death,
leaving, like Mr. Valiant-for-Truth before he crossed the river, his arms
to those who could wield them. It was well for him; he could not have
borne long years of failing strength and ebbing mental energy. Anything
less than life at its full was death to him.
Released from work, he was intensely gay, and his tastes were sufficiently
simple for him to find enjoyment everywhere. He loved all beautiful
things, and, though he had seen everything, the gleam of the sinking sun
through the pine aisles at his Pyrford cottage would hold him spellbound;
and in summer he would spend hours trying to distinguish the bird notes,
naming the river flora, or watching the creature life upon the river
banks. So in the Forest of Dean, that constituency which he loved well and
which well deserved his love, his greatest pleasure was to set himself as
guide to all its pleasant places, rehearsing the name of each blue hill on
the far horizon, tracing the windings and meeting of the rivers, loving
all best, I think, when the ground was like a sea of bluebells and
anemones in the early year. He watched eagerly each season for the first
signs of spring, and when he was very ill he told me that it must ever be
a joy untouched by advancing years. But indeed he had in him the heart of
the spring. I think it was largely this simple love of nature which kept
him always strong and sweet even after the deep blow of his wife's death
Wherever he was, life took on warmth and colour. Travel with him was a
revelation, trodden and hackneyed though the road might be. In his vivid
narrative the past lived again. Once more troops fought and manoeuvred as
we passed through stretches of peaceful country which were the
battlefields of France; Provence broke on us out of a mist of legendary
lore, the enchantment deepening as we reached the little-traversed
highlands near the coast--those Mountains of the Moors where in past days,
_connu comme le loup blanc_ among the people, he had wandered on foot with
his old Provencal servant before motors and light railways were.
His care for the _Athenaeum_, inspired by the more than filial love he
bore his grandfather, its earlier proprietor, led to continual reading and
reviewing, and he would note with interest those few Parliamentarians who,
keeping themselves fresh for their work of routine by some touch with the
world of Literature, thereby, as he phrased it, "saved their souls."
Of the events which cut his public life asunder it is sufficient to say
here that those nearest him never believed in the truth of the charges
brought, finding it almost inconceivable that they should have been made;
while the letters and records in my hands bear testimony to that great
outer circle of friends, known and unknown, who have expressed by spoken
or by written word, in public and in private, their share in that absolute
belief in him which was a cardinal fact of our work and life.
The fortitude which gave to his country, after the crash of 1886, twenty-
five years of tireless work, was inspired, for those who knew him best, by
that consciousness of rectitude which holds a man above the clamour of
tongues, and finds its reward in the fulfilment of his life's purpose.
"To have an end, a purpose, an object pursued through all vicissitudes of
fortune, through heart's anguish and shame, through humiliation and
disaster and defeat--that is the great distinction, the supreme
justification of a life." So wrote his wife in her preface for _The Shrine
The service of his country was the purpose of his life. Nor was that life
justified alone by his unswerving pursuit of its great aim; it was
justified also in its fulfilment, for his service was entirely fruitful--
he wrested success from failure, gain from loss.
It has been said that in 1886 the nation lost one who would have been
among its greatest administrators. Yet when we look back on all that was
inspired and done by him, on the thousand avenues of usefulness into which
his boundless energy was directed, there is no waste, only magnificent
An independent critic both by pen and speech inside and outside the House
of Commons, the consolidator of whatever Radical forces that chamber held,
the representative of labour before the Labour Party was, he stood for all
the forces of progress, and when his great figure passed into the silence
his place was left unfilled.
One writing for an African journal the record of his funeral, dreamed that
as the strains of the anthem poured their blessings on "him that hath
endured," there rose behind the crowd which gathered round him dead a
greater band of mourners. "A vast unseen concourse of oppressed mankind
were there, coming to do homage to one who had ever found time, amidst his
manifold activities, to plead their cause with wisdom, unfailing
knowledge, and with keen sympathy of heart."
I commit his memory to the people whom he loved and served.
G. M. T.
CONTENTS OF VOL. 1
I. EARLY LIFE
IV. CAMBRIDGE (_continued_)
V. LAST TERMS AT THE UNIVERSITY
VI. "GREATER BRITAIN"
VII. ELECTION TO PARLIAMENT
VIII. THE EDUCATION BILL OF 1870--THE FRANCO-GERMAN WAR
IX. THE BLACK SEA TREATY--THE COMMUNE
X. THE CIVIL LIST
XI. PERIOD OF FIRST MARRIAGE
XII. RE-ELECTION TO PARLIAMENT--DEATH OF LADY DILKE
XIII. RENEWAL OF ACTIVITY
XIV. REVIVAL OF THE EASTERN QUESTION
XV. HOME POLITICS AND PERSONAL SURROUNDINGS
XVI. THE EASTERN QUESTION--TREATY OF SAN STEFANO AND CONGRESS OF BERLIN
XVII. POLITICS AND PERSONS
XVIII. THE ZULU WAR AND THE GREEK COMMITTEE
XIX. SOCIAL AND POLITICAL INTERESTS
XX. THE FORMATION OF A MINISTRY
XXI. AT THE FOREIGN OFFICE
XXII. HOME POLITICS--COMMERCIAL TREATY--PERSONAL MATTERS
XXIV. EUROPEAN POLITICS
XXV. COMMERCIAL RELATIONS WITH FRANCE
XXVI. GAMBETTA, DISRAELI, ROYAL PERSONAGES, MORIER
XXVII. DIFFICULTIES OF THE LIBERAL GOVERNMENT
XXVIII. THE PHOENIX PARK MURDERS
XXIX. EGYPT (JANUARY TO SEPTEMBER, 1882)
XXX. ENTRY INTO THE CABINET (SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER, 1882)
XXXI. AT THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
XXXII. FOREIGN AND COLONIAL AFFAIRS (OCTOBER, 1882, TO DECEMBER, 1883)
XXXIII. EGYPT AFTER TEL-EL-KEBIR (SEPTEMBER, 1882, TO DECEMBER, 1883)
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS TO VOL. I
RT. HON. SIR CHARLES W. DILKE, M.P., IN THE YEAR 1873
Photographed by F. Hollyer from the painting by G. F. Watts, R.A., in the
National Portrait Gallery.
SIR CHARLES W. DILKE AS A CHILD
From the miniature by Fanny Corbaux.
MR. CHARLES WENTWORTH DILKE (SIR CHARLES W. DILKE'S GRANDFATHER)
Photographed by F. Hollyer from the painting by Arthur Hughes.
SIR C. WENTWORTH DILKE (SIR CHARLES W. DILKE'S) FATHER
Photographed by F. Hollyer from the painting by Arthur Hughes.
LADY DILKE (MISS KATHERINE SHEIL)
From a photograph by Hills and Saunders.
JOHN STUART MILL
Photographed by F. Hollyer from the painting by G. F. Watts, R.A.,
bequeathed by Sir Charles W. Dilke to the Westminster Town Hall.
RT. HON, JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN, M.P.
Photographed by F. Hollyer from the painting by Frank Holl, R.A.,
bequeathed by Sir Charles W. Dilke to the National Portrait Gallery.
Photographed by F. Hollyer from the painting by Legros, bequeathed by Sir
Charles W. Dilke to the Luxembourg and Louvre Museums.
THE LIFE OF SIR CHARLES DILKE
The man whose history is here recorded was for more than forty years a
commanding figure upon the theatre of English public life; a politician,
who in the councils of a powerful Ministry exercised an influence more
than proportioned to the offices he held; a statesman, who brought to
triumphant issue many wise projects, and whose authority, even when he was
a private member of Parliament, continued to be recognized not only among
all parties of his countrymen, but also throughout Europe: yet, when he
died, all thought and spoke not of what he had achieved, but of what he
To write the biography of one so marked by a special malignity of fate is
a difficult task. That bare justice may be done, it is necessary not only
to follow out his openly recorded successes, things done in his own name
and of his own right, but also to disentangle, as far as may be, the part
which his authority, his knowledge, and his ceaseless industry played in
framing and securing measures whose enactment redounded to the credit of
other men. But above all, since a man's personality signifies far more
than his achievements, and this man stands before the world overshadowed
by a dishonouring accusation, it is necessary to establish by facts and by
testimony not so much what he did as what he was.
Yet it must not be supposed that he himself counted his career among
life's failures. The record will tell of close and affectionate family
ties; of a wonderfully vivid and varied experience acquired in many lands
and through many phases of activity; and, even in his blackest hour, of a
noble love retained and richly repaid. No trace will be found of a nature
soured or warped by balked ambition, nor any resentful withdrawal from the
In the story that has to be told, proof will emerge indisputably that,
without affected indifference to the prizes of a public career, his
passion was for work, not for its attendant honours; that he valued office
as an opportunity to advance, not himself, but the causes which he had at
heart; and that when further tenure of power was denied him, he abated no
jot of his lifelong labours. The main purpose of his life was 'to revive
true courage in the democracy of his country,' [Footnote: Throughout these
volumes single quotation marks without further indication signify an
excerpt from the Manuscript Memoir (compiled by Sir Charles, as explained
in the Preface, from original diaries and letters), or (as here) from
notes left with that document, but not embodied in it. Double quotation
marks signify Correspondence and Memoranda found in the despatch-cases and
letters sent by correspondents, etc.] and his immediate object always and
everywhere to defend the weak. For the protection of toilers from their
taskmasters at home and abroad, in the slums of industrial England and in
the dark places of Africa, he effected much directly; but indirectly,
through his help and guidance of others, he effected more; and in the
recognition of his services by those for whom he worked and those who
worked with him he received his reward.
Charles Wentworth Dilke was born into a family of English gentlefolk,
which after a considerable period of comparative obscurity had won back
prosperous days. The baronetcy to which he succeeded was recent, the
reward of his father's public services; but a long line of ancestors
linked him to a notable landed stock, the Dilkes of Maxstoke.
This family was divided against itself in the Civil Wars; and the brother
of the inheritor of Maxstoke, Fisher Dilke, from whom Sir Charles
descended, was a fanatical Puritan, and married into a great Puritan
house. His wife, Sybil Wentworth, was granddaughter to Peter Wentworth,
who led the Puritan party of Elizabeth's reign: she was sister to Sir
Peter Wentworth, a distinguished member of Cromwell's Council of State.
Property was inherited through her under condition that the Dilke heirs to
it should assume the Wentworth name; and in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries Fisher Dilke's descendants were Wentworth Dilke or Dilke
Wentworth from time to time.
In George II.'s reign one Wentworth Dilke was clerk to the Board of Green
Cloth at Kew Palace: his only son, Wentworth Dilke Wentworth, was
secretary to the Earl of Litchfield of the first creation, and left an
only son, Charles Wentworth Dilke, who was a clerk in the Admiralty. This
Dilke was the first of five who successively have borne this combination
of names. [Footnote: For convenience a partial table of descent is
inserted, showing the five Dilkes who bore the same combination of names.
CHARLES WENTWORTH DILKE, b. 1742, d. 1826.
Charles Wentworth Dilke = Maria Dover William Dilke, b. 1796,
b. 1789, d. 1864. | Walker. d. 1885.
Charles Wentworth Dilke = M. Mary William Wentworth
first Baronet, b. 1810, Chatfield. Grant Dilke, killed in
d. 1869. Crimea, b. 1826, d. 1854
Charles Wentworth Dilke = (1) Katherine Ashton Dilke,
second Baronet, | M. E. Sheil. b. 1850, d. 1883.
b. 1843, d. 1911. | (2) Emilia F. S.
Charles Wentworth Dilke,
present Baronet, b. 1874.]
The second of them, Charles Wentworth Dilke, his eldest son, and
grandfather to the subject of the memoir, was, like his father, a clerk in
the Admiralty; but early in life showed qualities which fitted him to
succeed in another sphere of work--qualities through which he exercised a
remarkable influence over the character and career of his grandson. So
potent was this influence in moulding the life which has to be chronicled,
that it is necessary to give some clear idea of the person who exercised
Mr. Dilke--who shall be so called to distinguish him from his son
Wentworth Dilke, and from his grandson Charles Dilke--at an early period
added the pursuit of literature to his duties as a civil servant. By 1815,
when he was only twenty-six, Gifford, the editor of the _Quarterly
Review_, already spoke highly of him; and between that date and 1830 he
was contributing largely to the monthly and quarterly reviews. In 1830 he
acquired a main share in the _Athenaeum_, a journal 'but just born yet
nevertheless dying,' and quickly raised it into the high position of
critical authority which it maintained, not only throughout his own life,
but throughout his grandson's. So careful was Mr. Dilke to preserve its
reputation for impartial judgment, that during the sixteen years in which
he had virtually entire control of the paper, he withdrew altogether from
general society "in order to avoid making literary acquaintances which
might either prove annoying to him, or be supposed to compromise the
independence of his journal." [Footnote: From _Papers of a Critic_, a
selection of Mr. Dilke's essays, edited, with a memoir, by Sir Charles
Dilke, See _infra_, p. 184.]
After 1846 the editorship of the _Athenaeum_ was in other hands, but the
proprietor's vigilant interest in it never abated, and was transmitted to
his grandson, who continued to the end of his days not only to write for
it, but also to read the proofs every week, and repeatedly for brief
periods to act as editor.
When in 1846 Mr. Dilke curtailed his work on the _Athenaeum_, it was to
take up other duties. For three years he was manager of the recently
established _Daily News_, working in close fellowship with his friends
John Forster and Charles Dickens.
From the time when he gave up this task till his death in 1864 Mr. Dilke's
life had one all-engrossing preoccupation--the training of his grandson
Charles. But to the last, literary research employed him. In 1849 he
helped to establish _Notes and Queries_ 'to be a paper in which literary
men could answer each other's questions'; and his contributions to this
paper [Footnote: Its founder and first editor, Mr. W. J. Thorns
(afterwards Librarian of the House of Lords), had for three years been
contributing to the _Athenaeum_ columns headed "Folk-Lore"--a word coined
by him for the purpose. The correspondence which grew out of this
threatened to swamp other departments of the paper, and so the project was
formed of starting a journal entirely devoted to the subjects which he had
been treating. Mr. Dilke, being consulted, approved the plan, and lent it
his full support. In 1872, when Mr. Thorns retired from control of the
paper, Sir Charles Dilke bought it, putting in Dr. Doran as editor; and
thenceforward it was published from the same office as the _Athenaeum_.]
and to the _Athenaeum_ never ceased; though so unambitious of any personal
repute was he that in all his long career he never signed an article with
his own name, nor identified himself with a pseudonym. A man of letters,
he loved learning and literature for their own sake; yet stronger still
than this love was his desire to transmit to his heirs his own gathered
knowledge, experience, and convictions.
He had become early 'an antiquary and a Radical,' and this combination
rightly indicated unusual breadth of sympathy. The period in which he was
born favoured it: for, keen student as he was of the eighteenth century--
preserving in his own style, perhaps later than any other man who wrote in
England, that dignified but simple manner which Swift and Bolingbroke had
perfected--he yet was intimately in touch with the young genius of an age
in revolt against all the eighteenth-century tradition. Keats, only a few
years his junior, was his close friend; so was John Hamilton Reynolds, the
comrade of Keats, and author of poems known to every student of that
literary group. Thomas Hood and Charles Lamb had long and near association
with him. Lover of the old, he had always an open heart for the new; and,
bookish though he was, no one could be less a bookworm. The antiquary in
him never mastered the Radical: he had an unflagging interest in the large
facts of life, an undying faith in human progress. Slighting his own
lifework as he evidently did--for he never spoke of it to his son or his
son's son--he was yet prompted by instinct to kindle and tend a torch
which one after him should carry, and perhaps should carry high. It would
be difficult to name any man who had a stronger sense of the family bond.
He had married very young--before he was nineteen--Maria Dover Walker, the
beautiful daughter of a Yorkshire yeoman, still younger than he. This
couple, who lived together "in a most complete happiness" for forty years,
had one child only, born in 1810, Charles Wentworth Dilke, commonly called
Wentworth. [Footnote: _Papers of a Critic_, vol. i., p. 13.] Mr. Dilke
sent his son to Westminster, and removed him at the age of sixteen,
arranging--because his theory of education laid great stress on the
advantage of travel--that the lad should live for a while with Baron
Kirkup, British Consul and miniature painter, in Florence, as a
preparatory discipline before going to Cambridge. What he hoped and
intended is notably expressed in a letter written by him at Genoa on his
return journey to his son in Florence in 1826: [Footnote: _Ibid_., p. 18.]
"I ought to be in bed, but somehow you are always first in my thoughts
and last, and I prefer five minutes of gossiping with you.... How,
indeed, could it be otherwise than that you should be first and last
in my thoughts, who for so many years have _occupied all_ my thoughts.
For fifteen years at least it has been my pleasure to watch over you,
to direct and to advise. Now, direct and personal interference has
ceased.... It is natural, perhaps, that I should take a greater
interest than other fathers, for I have a greater interest at stake. I
have _but one _son. That son, too, I have brought up differently from
others, and if he be not better than others, it will be urged against
me, not as a misfortune, but as a shame. From the first hour I never
taught you to believe what I did not myself believe. I have been a
thousand times censured for it, but I had that confidence in truth
that I dared put my faith in it and in you. And you will not fail me.
I am sure you will return home to do me honour, and to make me respect
you, as I do, and ever shall, love you."
It was a singular letter for a man of thirty-seven to write--singular in
its self-effacement before the rising generation, singular, too, in the
intensity of its forecast. Yet, after all, a measure of disappointment was
to be his return for that first venture. The son to whom so great a cargo
of hopes had been committed was a vigorous lad, backed when he was fifteen
'to swim or shoot or throw against any boy of his age in England,' and he
developed these and kindred energies, accepting culture only in so far as
it ministered to his fine natural faculty for enjoyment. He acquired a
knowledge of Italian and of operatic music at Florence; but when
afterwards at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he was, to his father's despair,
very idle, and during his early years in London 'was principally known to
his friends for never missing a night at the Opera.'
That interest in things of the mind which he could hardly have failed to
inherit had made of him a dilettante rather than a scholar; but later he
became very active in promoting those ideals which appealed to his taste.
He had a shrewd business eye, and showed it in founding the _Gardeners'
Chronicle_ and the _Agricultural Gazette_, both paying properties. He had,
moreover, a talent for organization, and a zeal in getting things done,
acknowledged in many letters from persons of authority in their
recognition of those services to the International Exhibitions of 1851 and
1862 which were rewarded by his baronetcy. An interesting National
Exhibition of 'Art Manufactures' had already been held by the Society of
Arts, on whose Council Wentworth Dilke was an active worker, at the time
when he, with two other members of the Council and the secretary, Mr.
Scott Russell, met the Prince Consort on June 30th, 1849, and decided to
renew the venture on a scale which should include foreign nations. When
the executive committee of four (to whom were added a secretary and a
representative of the contractors) was named in January, 1850, the work
practically fell on three persons--Sir William Reid communicating with the
public departments, Mr. Henry Cole settling questions of space and
arrangement, [Footnote: Mr. Cole, afterwards Sir Henry Cole, K.C.B., was,
says the Memoir, 'commonly known as King Cole,' and was afterwards
secretary to the South Kensington School of Design.] and Wentworth Dilke
'having charge of the correspondence and general superintendence,' and
attending 'every meeting of the executive except the first.'
Wentworth Dilke worked hard for this and for other objects. But his public
activities had to be fitted in with a great deal of shooting and other
sport at Alice Holt, the small house in Hampshire, with adjacent
preserves, which he rented, and which became the family's country home.
In 1840 he married, and, after the birth of Charles Wentworth Dilke, the
subject of this Memoir, on September 4th, 1843, all the grandfather's
thought centred on the child. His daughter-in-law became, from then till
her death, his chief correspondent, and the master of the house was
'completely overshadowed' in the family group.
That group was so large as to be almost patriarchal. Wentworth Dilke, when
he married, and established himself at 76, Sloane Street, took under his
roof his wife's mother, Mrs. Chatfield, her grandmother, Mrs. Duncombe,
and also her unmarried cousin, Miss Folkard. All these ladies lived out
their lives there, Mrs. Chatfield and Miss Folkard surviving till Charles
Dilke had become a Minister of State.
Up to 1850 old Mr. Dilke and his wife lived at their house in Lower
Grosvenor Place, which was a second home for their grandson Charles. But
in 1850 the wife died, and Mr. Dilke 'spent sixteen months in wandering
through the remoter parts of Scotland, and along the north and west coast
of Ireland, but corresponded ceaselessly with his daughter-in-law, to whom
he was much attached.' During a great part of this time he was accompanied
by his grandson. Mrs. Wentworth Dilke, after giving birth in 1850 to her
second child, Ashton Dilke, had 'fallen into a deep decline'; and Charles
Dilke, at the age of seven, was handed over to his grandfather's charge,
partly to solace the old widower's loneliness, partly to relieve the
strain on his mother.
The peculiar relation between grandfather, mother, and son, stands out
clearly from the letter which that mother wrote shortly before her death
in September, 1853, to be delivered to the boy Charles. After some tender
exhortation, she added:
"But moral discipline your grandfather will teach you. What I wish
particularly to impress on you is the _necessity_ of worshipping God."
And at the end:
"My own boy, there is another thing still to name, for none can say
whether this letter may be required soon, or whether I may have the
delight of seeing my children grow up, but this last and cherished
subject is my little Ashton. When he is old enough, dear, to
understand, let him read this letter, and by his mother's blessing
teach him to think and feel that all that I have said applies equally
to him. Set him a good example in your own conduct, and be always
Of the father, not a word--and for care of the younger boy, the dying
woman's hope is in his brother. It will be shown how studiously the ten-
year-old boy, on whom his mother so leant, fulfilled that charge. But he
himself felt, in later life, that scant justice had been done to the man
who was 'overshadowed' in his home, and wrote in 1890:
'My father loved my grandfather deeply, but my grandfather was greatly
disappointed in him, and always a little hard towards him: my father
suffered through life under a constant sense of his inferiority. He
suffered also later from the fact that while his elder son was the
grandfather's and not the father's boy, his younger son was as
completely under my influence in most matters, as I was under the
influence of my grandfather.'
Yet in a sense the relation between old Mr. Dilke and the son whom he
unconsciously slighted was strangely intimate and confiding. For in 1853
the elder man gave up his own house in Lower Grosvenor Place, made over
all his money to his son, and came to live under the son's roof in Sloane
Street for the remainder of his life. His confidence in the patriarchal
principle justified itself. 'My father,' writes Sir Charles, 'for eleven
years consulted his father--dependent on him for bread--in every act of
To the world at large, Wentworth Dilke was a vastly more important person
than the old antiquary and scholar. After his services in organizing the
Great Exhibition of 1851, he declined a knighthood and rewards in money;
but he accepted from the French Government a gift of Sevres china; from
the King of Saxony, the Collar of the Order of Albertus Animosus; from the
King of Sweden and from the Prince Consort, medals; and from Queen
Victoria, a bracelet for his wife. These remained among the treasures of
76, Sloane Street. But he acquired something far more important in the
establishment of friendly relations with persons of mark and influence all
over the Continent; for these relations were destined to be developed by
Charles Dilke, then a pretty-mannered boy, who was taken everywhere, and
saw, for instance, in 1851, the Duke of Wellington walk through the
Exhibition buildings on a day when more than a hundred thousand people
were present. He could remember how the Duke's 'shrivelled little form'
and 'white ducks' 'disappeared in the throng which almost crushed him to
death' before the police could effect his rescue.
Wentworth Dilke's association in the Prince Consort's most cherished
schemes had brought him on a footing of friendship with the Royal Family;
and on July 25th, 1851, his wife wrote that the Queen had come over and
talked to her in the Exhibition ground. Long afterwards, when the pretty-
mannered boy had grown into a Radical, who avowed his theoretical
preference for republican institutions, Queen Victoria said that "she
remembered having stroked his head, and supposed she had stroked it the
[Illustration: Sir Charles as a child from the miniature by Fanny Corbin.]
The earliest memory that Sir Charles Dilke could date was 'of April 10th,
1848, when the Chartist meeting led to military preparations, during which
I' (a boy in his fifth year) 'saw the Duke of Wellington riding through
the street, attended by his staff, but all in plain clothes.' In 1850 'No
Popery chalked on the walls attracted my attention, but failed to excite
my interest'; he was not of an age to be troubled by the appointment of
Dr. Wiseman to be Archbishop of Westminster. In 1851 he was taken to a
meeting to hear Kossuth.
From this year--1851--date the earliest letters preserved in the series of
thirty-four boxes which contain the sortings of his vast correspondence.
There is a childish scrap to his grandfather, and a long letter from the
grandfather to him written from Dublin, which lovingly conjures up a
picture of the interior at Sloane Street, with 'Cousin' (Miss Folkard)
stirring the fire, 'Charley-boy' settling down his head on his mother's
lap, and 'grandmamma' (his mother's mother, Mrs. Chatfield) sitting in the
For the year 1852 there are no letters to the boy; it was the time of his
mother's failing health, and he was journeying with his grandfather all
over England, 'reading Shakespeare, and studying church architecture,
especially Norman.' It was a delightful way of learning history for a
quick child of nine:
'We followed Charles II. in his flight, and visited every spot that has
ever been mentioned in connection with his escape--a pilgrimage which took
me among other places to my future constituency of the Forest of Dean. We
went to every English cathedral, and when my grandfather was at work upon
his Pope investigations, saw every place which was connected with the
history of the Carylls.' [Footnote: John Caryll suggested to Pope the idea
of the "Rape of the Look"; and many of the poet's letters were written to
his son, a younger John Caryll. They were an ancient and distinguished
Roman Catholic family, devoted partisans of, and centres of correspondence
with, the exiled Stuarts.]
Mr. Dilke combined his desire to instruct the child with the frankest
interest in his play. Here, for instance, is a letter to Charles of
October 15th, 1853:
"DEAR OLD ADMIRAL,
"Hope you found all right and tight: a gallant vessel--tackle trim--
noble crew of true blue waters--guns shining and serving for looking--
glasses to shave by--powder dry--plenty in the locker. Wishing you
"Your old friend and rough and tough
It is worth while giving the reply--precocious for a boy of ten:
"_October 16th, 1853._
"MY DEAR GRANDPAPA,
"We arrived quite safely on Friday night, and were astonished to find
that my Aunt and Uncle and Cousin Letitia were gone to Brighton and
then to Hastings, and Godpapa had a letter this morning to say that
they found it so hot at Hastings that they went on to Folkestone, and
they are there now. The Admiral has to report for the information of
his Cockney readers that he hoisted his Flag yesterday at the main
peak. The weather was, however, so windy and wet that after hiding
himself with his honoured father under the cuddy for half an hour, the
Admiral thought that prudence was part of his duty, therefore struck
his Pocket-handkerchief and retired to luncheon. A Salute from a black
cloud hastened his departure.
"Your affectionate grandson,
"C. W. DILKE."
The boy was his grandfather's to educate, and there has not often been
such an education. A man ripe in years, still vigorous--for Mr. Dilke was
only fifty-three when his elder grandson was born--yet retired from the
business of life, and full of leisure, full of charm, full of experience,
full of knowledge, devoted his remaining years to the education of his
grandson. It may be held that he created a forcing-house of feeling, no
less than of knowledge, under which the boy's nature was prematurely drawn
up; but there can be no doubt as to the efficacy of the method. It was not
coddling--Mr. Dilke was too shrewd for that--and if at a certain stage it
seemed as though excessive stimulus had been given, maturity went far to
contradict that impression.
'After my mother's death I began classics and mathematics with Mr.
Bickmore, at that time a Chelsea curate and afterwards Vicar of
Kenilworth. At the same time I took charge of teaching letters to my
brother. I had few child friends, and used to see more of grown-up
people, such as Chorley, [Footnote: Musical critic for the
_Athenaeum._] Thackeray, and Dickens, of whom the latter was known to
us as "young Charles Dickens," owing to my great-grandfather having
Old Mr. Dilke's father had been employed in the Admiralty along with the
father of Dickens. As for Thackeray, it was probably about this time that
he came on the boy stretched out upon grass in the garden of Gore House,
resting on elbows, deep in a book, and looked over his shoulder. "Is it
any good?" he asked. "Rather!" said the boy. "Lend it me," said Thackeray.
The book was _The Three Musketeers_, and we all know _The Roundabout
Papers_ which came out of that loan.
Charles Dilke had his free run of novels as a boy, and not of novels only.
In 1854, when he was only eleven:
'I began my regular theatre-going, which became a passion with me for
many years, and burnt itself out, I may add, like most passions, for I
almost entirely ceased to go near a theatre when I went to Cambridge
at nineteen. Charles Kean, and Madame Vestris, and Charles Mathews,
were my delight, with Wright and Paul Bedford at the Adelphi, Webster
and Buckstone at the Haymarket, and Mrs. Keeley. Phelps came later,
but Charles Kean's Shakespearian revivals at the Princess's from the
first had no more regular attendant. My earliest theatrical
recollection is Rachel.
'I was a nervous, and, therefore, in some things a backward child,
because my nervousness led to my being forbidden for some years to
read and work, as I was given to read and work too much, and during
this long period of forced leisure I was set to music and drawing,
with the result that I took none of the ordinary boy's interest in
politics, and never formed an opinion upon a political question until
the breaking-out of the American Civil War when I was eighteen. I then
sided strongly with the Union, as I showed at the Cambridge Union when
I reached the University. Even in this question, however, I only
followed my grandfather's lead, although, for the first time, in this
case intelligently. So far indeed as character can be moulded in
childhood, mine was fashioned by my grandfather Dilke.'
It was not only character that Mr. Dilke formed. He made the boy the
constant companion of his own intellectual pursuits, imbued him deeply
with his own tastes, his own store of knowledge. In the summer of 1854 he
had taken his pupil to 'Windsor, Canterbury, Rochester, Bury St. Edmunds,
St. Albans, and many other interesting towns.' That autumn the pair went
to France together--apparently the beginning of Charles Dilke's close
acquaintance with that country, which was extended in the following year,
1855, when Wentworth Dilke was named one of the English Commissioners for
the French International Exhibition, and took his family to live in Paris
from April to August.
'We were all with him at Paris for some time, and I acquired a
considerable knowledge of the antiquities of the town, before the
changes associated with the name of Haussmann, by rambling about it
with my grandfather, who, however, soon got sick of Paris and went
home to his books, while we remained there for four months. I was at
the party given at the Quai d'Orsay by Walewski, the son of Napoleon;
at that given at the "Legion of Honour" by Flahaut, the father of
Morny; at the Ball at the Hotel de Ville to the Emperor and Empress
and Queen Victoria; at the review; and at the Queen's entry and
departure. The entry was the finest display of troops which I ever
witnessed, as the National Guard of the City and its outskirts turned
out in great form, and raised the numbers to 120,000, while the
costumes both of the Guard and of the National Guard were very showy.
There paraded also two hundred veterans of the wars of the First
Empire in all the uniforms of the period. I heard Lablache in his last
great part, and in this year I think I also saw Rachel for the last
time; but I had seen her in England, I believe, in 1853. I certainly
had seen her in a part in which many years later I remember Sarah
Bernhardt, and can recall Rachel well enough to be able to institute a
comparison entirely to Rachel's advantage.
'After our visit to Paris in 1855 my brother and I had taken to
speaking and to writing to one another in French, and this practice we
kept up until his death, even when he was Member of Parliament for
Newcastle-on-Tyne, and I a member of the Government.'
One memory of that year never left Sir Charles Dilke. In the evenings he
used to go to the Place Vendome to hear the Guards' combined tattoo. Every
regiment was represented, and the drummers were a wonderful show in their
different brilliant uniforms--Chasseurs of the Garde, Dragoons, Lancers,
Voltigeurs, and many more. In the midst was the gigantic sergeant-major
waiting, with baton uplifted, for the clock to strike. At the first stroke
he gave the signal with a twirl and a drop of his baton, and the long
thundering roll began, taken up all round the great square. Sir Charles,
as he told of this, would repeat the tambour-major's gesture; and the
boy's tense, eager look of waiting, and flash of satisfaction when the
roll broke out, revived on the countenance of the man.
'In 1856 I became half attached to a day-school, which had for its
masters, in mathematics a Mr. Acland, a Cambridge man, and in classics
a Mr. Holme, a fellow of Durham, and for several years I used to do
the work which they set in the school without regularly attending the
school, which, however, my brother attended. My health at that time
was not supposed to be sufficiently strong to enable me even to attend
a day-school, and still less to go to a public school; but there was
nothing the matter with me except a nervous turn of mind,
overexcitable and overstrained by the slightest circumstance. This
lasted until I was eighteen, when it suddenly disappeared, and left me
strong and well; but the form which this weakness took may be
illustrated by the fact that, although I did not believe in ghosts, I
have known myself at the age of sixteen walk many miles round to avoid
passing through a "haunted" meadow.'
Also he made the experiments in literature common with clever lads:
'In 1856 I wrote a novel called _Friston Place_, and I have a sketch
which I made of Friston Place in Sussex in August of that year, but
the novel I have destroyed, as it was worthless.'
Another aspect of his education is recalled by drawings preserved in the
boxes from 1854 onwards--conscientious delineations of buildings visited,
representing an excellent training for the eye and observation.
In 1857 his grandfather took him to Oxford (where he rambled happily about
the meadows while Mr. Dilke read in the Bodleian) and to Cambridge, going
on thence to Ely, Peterborough, and Norwich. Later in the same year the
pair travelled all over South Wales, everywhere rehearsing the historical
memories of the place, everywhere mastering the details of whatever
architecture presented itself.
Each return home brought experiences of a different kind. 'I have known,'
he says, 'everyone worth knowing from 1850 to my death.' At seven years
old he was seeing and hearing the famous persons of that time, either at
the home in Sloane Street, to which Wentworth Dilke's connection with the
Exhibition drew men eminent in the world of physical science and
industrial enterprise, as well as the artists with whom his
connoisseurship brought him into touch; or else at old Mr. Dilke's house
in Lower Grosvenor Place. He remembered visits with his grandfather to
Gore House, 'before Soyer turned it into the Symposium,' and to Lady
Morgan's. The brilliant little Irishwoman was a familiar friend, and her
pen, of bog-oak and gold, the gift to her of the Irish people, came at
last to lie among the treasures of 76, Sloane Street. Also there remained
"memories from about 1851 of the bright eyes of little Louis Blanc, of
Milner-Gibson's pleasant smile, of Bowring's silver locks, of
Thackeray's tall stooping figure, of Dickens's goatee, of Paxton's
white hat, of Barry Cornwall and his wife, of Robert Stephenson the
engineer, to whom I wanted to be bound apprentice, of Browning (then
known as 'Mrs. Browning's husband'), of Joseph Cooke (another
engineer), of Cubitt the builder (one of the promoters of the
Exhibition), of John Forster the historian, of the Redgraves, and of
that greater painter, John Martin. Also of the Rowland Hills, at
"1859 was the height of my rage for our South Kensington Trap-Bat
Club, which I think had invented the name South Kensington. It was at
it that I first met Emilia Francis Strong. We played in the garden of
Gore House where the Conservatory of the Horticultural Society, behind
the Albert Hall, was afterwards built."
In the memoir of the second Lady Dilke, prefixed to _The Book of the
Spiritual Life_, Sir Charles writes of this time, 1859 to 1860, when he
"loved to be patronized by her, regarding her with the awe of a
hobbledehoy of sixteen or seventeen towards a beautiful girl of nineteen
or twenty." But at one point she bewildered him; for in those days Emilia
Strong was devout to the verge of fanaticism:
"We were all puzzled by the apparent conflict between the vitality and
the impish pranks of the brilliant student, expounding to us the most
heterodox of social views, and the 'bigotry' which we seemed to
discern when we touched her spiritual side." [Footnote: _Book of the
Spiritual Life_, Memoir, p. 10.]
No doubt the fastings and mortifications which Emilia Strong practised at
that period of her youth would seem 'bigotry' to a lad brought up under
influences which, in so far as theology entered into them, had an
Evangelical bent. Charles Dilke thus summed up his early prepossessions
and practices in this respect:
'My mother had been a strong Low Church woman, and those of her
letters which I have destroyed very clearly show that her chief fear
in meeting death was that she would leave me without that class of
religious training which she thought essential. My grandfather and my
father, although both of them in their way religious men (and my
grandfather, a man of the highest feeling of duty), were neither of
them churchgoers, nor of her school of thought; and ... as I was till
the age of twenty a regular church attendant and somewhat devout for a
boy of that age, it was a grief to me to find that my brother's turn
of mind as he grew up was different, and that he naturally thought his
judgment on the subject as good as that of the mother whom he had lost
at three years old, and could hardly be said to have known.'
But the true spiritual influence on Charles Dilke's early life was derived
from his grandfather, whose nature had in it much of the serenity and wise
happiness which go to the making of a saint. This influence was no doubt
ethical in its character rather than religious; but it can be traced, for
example, in a humane scruple which links it with Dilke's affectionate cult
of St. Francis of Assisi:
'In 1856 I had begun to shoot, my father being passionately fond of
the sport, and I suppose that few people ever shot more before they
were nineteen than I did. But about the time I went to Cambridge I
found the interference with my work considerable, and I also began to
have doubts as to considerations of cruelty, and on points affecting
the Game Laws, which led me to give up shooting, and from 1862 I
hardly ever shot at all, except, in travelling, for food.'
The taste for travel, always in search of knowledge, but followed with an
increasing delight in the quest, began for him in the rovings through
England with his grandfather. As early as his seventeenth year he was out
on the road by himself; and this letter written from Plymouth, April 5th,
1860 after a night spent at Exeter, indicates the results of his training:
"This morning we got up early, and went to the Northerny [Footnote:
Northernhay, or Northfield, a pleasure-ground at Exeter.] and
Cathedral. Nothing much. Took the train at quarter before ten. Railway
runs along the shore under the cliffs and in the cliffs. We saw a
rather large vessel wrecked on the sands. Teignmouth pretty. Got to
Totnes before twelve. Hired a boat and two men, 10s. 6d. Down the
river to Dartmouth, twelve miles. The Dart is more like a series of
lakes than a river; in some of the reaches it is impossible to see
what way you are to get out. Very like the Wye until you get low down,
then it opens into a lake about two miles across, free from all mud,
nothing but hills and cliffs. Then it again contracts, and passes
through a gorge, which is said to be very like parts of the Rhine.
"The scene here is splendid. Dartmouth now comes, but the river,
instead of spreading and becoming ugly, as most tidal rivers do,
remains narrow and between cliffs, until you have the great sea waves
thundering up against them. Dartmouth contains a church more curious
than half the cathedrals in the kingdom: Norman (Late), fine brasses,
barrel roof with the paint on, and stone pulpit painted, etc., etc.
There are some very fine old houses also. The place is the most lovely
by far of any that I ever saw--Paradise.
"We have had a bad day--real Devonshire--where they say that they must
have one shower every day and two on Sundays. 'Shower' means about six
hours' quiet rain, _vide_ 'Murray' and our experience of to-day. The
boatmen say 'it rains most days.' I hope Mrs. Jackson is going on
well. Trusting you are all well, I send my love to all and remain
"Your affectionate grandson,
"CHARLES W. DILKE."
A scrap from one of the grandfather's letters, April 25th, 1859, which
points to the terms of intellectual equality that existed in the
correspondence between the two, has also some historical interest:
"Hope your news of the French troops landing in Genoa is premature.
War, however, seems inevitable; but I hope on, hope ever. I should be
sorry to see the Austrians triumph over the Sardinians, for then they
would fasten the chains on Italy tighter than ever. Yet I cannot hope
that the worst man in Europe, the Emperor of the French, should
At the close of 1860, the lad set out on a more adventurous excursion to
France, in a storm of snow so tremendous that trains were blocked in many
places. However, he reached Amiens safely, saw and described it dutifully,
then made for Paris.
Charles Dilke's familiarity with France was destined to be extended year
by year till the end of his life. This visit of Christmas 1860 was the
first which he made alone to that country; but part of the summer of 1859
had been spent by him with his family at Trouville, whence he wandered
over Normandy, adding detail to his knowledge of Norman architecture.
But even stronger than the interest in historic architecture which his
grandfather had imparted to him was the interest in men and affairs; above
all, in those men who had assisted at great events. Throughout his life
his love of travel, his taste for society, and his pursuit of first-hand
information upon political matters helped to enlarge his list of
remarkable acquaintances; and during this stay in France a new name was
added to the collection of celebrities:
'At Havre I got to know King Jerome, father to "Plon-Plon" and father-
in-law to my friend Princess Clothilde, and was duly interested in
this last of the brothers of Napoleon. The ex-King of Westphalia was a
wicked old gentleman; but he did not let a boy find this out, and he
was courteous and talkative. We long had in both years, I think, the
next rooms to his at Frascati's; and he used to walk in the garden
with me, finding me a good listener. The old Queen of Sweden was still
alive, and he told me how Desiree Clary [Footnote: Eugenie Bernardine
Desiree Clary married, August 16th, 1798, Marshal Jean-Baptiste
Bernadotte, afterwards Charles XIV., King of Sweden. Her elder sister
Julie had become the wife of Joseph Bonaparte in 1794.] had thrown
Bonaparte over for him, and then had thrown him over for Bernadotte.
He also described riding through Paris with Bonaparte on the day of
Having completely outgrown the nervous invalidishness of his earlier
boyhood, Dilke at eighteen years of age was extending his activities in
'In 1861 I find by my diaries that I was at the very height of my
theatre-going, attending theatres in Paris and in London with equal
regularity; and in this year I wrote an elaborate criticism of
Fechter's Hamlet, which is the first thing I ever wrote in the least
worth reading, but it is not worth preservation, and has now been
destroyed by me. At Easter, 1861, I walked to Brighton in a single day
from London, and the next day attended the volunteer review. I was a
great walker, and frequently walked my fifty miles within the day. My
interest in military affairs continued, and I find among my letters of
1861 passages which might have formed part of my writings on military
subjects of 1887 to 1889. I went down to see the new Tilbury forts,
criticized the system of the distribution of strength in the Thames
defences, advocated "a mile of vigorous peppering as against a slight
dusting of feathers every half-hour"; and went to Shoeburyness to see
the trial of the Whitworth guns.'
His cousin, William Wentworth Grant Dilke, was Captain and Adjutant of the
77th Regiment, and Charles Dilke remembered the young officer's visit to
bid good-bye before he departed for the Crimea, where he met his death.
Though old Mr. Dilke had sympathized with the wonderful manoeuvres of the
child's armies of leaden soldiers, and had added to them large
reinforcements, he became troubled by his grandson's keen and excited
following of all the reports from the Crimea. He had a terror of the boy's
becoming a soldier, and 'used to do his best to point out the foolish side
of war.' But this, as the passage already quoted shows, did not deter his
pupil from beginning, while still a growing youth, detailed study of
Under normal conditions, an undergraduate going up to an English
University without public school friendships is at a disadvantage: and
this was Charles Dilke's case. But he went to his father's college,
Trinity Hall; and his father was a very well known and powerfully
connected man. Offer of a baronetcy had been made to Wentworth Dilke in
very unusual and gratifying terms. General Grey, the Queen's secretary,
"ST. JAMES'S PALACE,
"_January 1st_, 1862.
"MY DEAR DILKE,
"The Queen cannot forget for how many years you have been associated
with her beloved husband in the promotion of objects which were dear
to his heart; and she would fain mark her sense of the valuable
assistance you have ever given him in his labours in some manner that
would be gratifying to your feelings.
"I am therefore commanded by Her Majesty to express the hope that the
offer of a Baronetcy which she has informed Lord Palmerston of her
desire to confer upon you, coming direct from Her Majesty herself, and
as her own personal act, may be one which it will be agreeable to you
Proof of the Queen's strong feeling for the man who had been so closely
associated with the Prince Consort in his work of popularizing the arts
and crafts had already been given by the fact that Wentworth Dilke was,
except for those whom she was obliged to meet on business, the first
person from the outside world whom she saw after the Prince Consort's
death. And indeed, but for his sense of a personal graciousness in the
offer, Wentworth Dilke would scarcely have departed from his lifelong
habit of deference to his father's wish and judgment. Old Mr. Dilke,
though gratified by the compliment, wrote to a friend:
"My son's fortune is not strong enough to enable his children to carry
such a burthen with ease; and as to the waifs and strays which it may
help them to, I would rather see them fight their good fight
There came a time when the baronetcy was something of an encumbrance to
one of these children:
'When I was accused of attacking the Queen, which I never did,
somebody--I forget who--went further, and said I had "bitten the hand
which fed me," and I really believe that this metaphor expressed
publicly a private belief of some people that my father had made money
by his labours. All I can say is that he never made a farthing by them
in any form at any time, and that in '51 and in '62 he spent far more
than his income on entertainments.... He wished for no reward, and he
knew the conditions under which his life was given to public rather
than to private service: but he killed himself at it; he left me much
less rich than I should otherwise have been, and it is somewhat hard
to find myself told that if I call attention to notorious illegalities
I am "biting the hand that fed me." The Queen herself has, as I happen
to know, always spoken in a very different sense.'
The newly made Baronet, in the course of his labours for the second
Great Exhibition, added to his already very numerous friendships.
'My father's chief foreign friends in '62 were Prince Napoleon,
Montesinos, Baron Schwartz (Austria), Baron von Brunen von Grootelind
(Holland), Prince Oscar (afterwards King of Sweden), and Senator
Finally, there is this entry, written in 1890:
'Just as I had made the acquaintance of the Duke of Wellington through
father in the Exhibition of 1851, so I made that of Palmerston in the
Exhibition of 1862. He was still bright and lively in walk and talk,
and was extremely kind in his manner to me, and asked me to one of
Lady Palmerston's Saturday nights at Cambridge House, to which I duly
went. I should think that there is no one living but myself who was at
the Ball to the Queen at the Hotel de Ville in 1855, at the famous
Guards' Ball in 1862, and also at one of Lady Palmerston's evenings.'
Charles Dilke matriculated at Trinity Hall in October 1862.
Charles Dilke was sent in 1862, as in later days he sent his own son, to
his father's college. Trinity Hall in the early sixties was a community
possessing in typical development the combination of qualities which
Cambridge has always fostered. Neither very large nor very small, it had
two distinguishing characteristics: it was a rowing college, and it was a
college of lawyers. Although not as a rule distinguished in the Tripos
Lists, it was then in a brilliant period.
The Memoir will show that in Dilke's first year a Hall man was Senior
Wrangler, and that the boat started head of the river. Such things do not
happen without a cause; and the college at this moment numbered on its
staff some of the most notable figures in the University. The Vice-Master,
Ben Latham, for thirty-five years connected with the Hall, was of those
men whose reputation scarcely reaches the outside world; but he had found
the college weak, he had made it strong, and he was one of the
institutions of Cambridge.
Among the junior Fellows were Fawcett and Leslie Stephen. Both were
profound believers in hard tonic discipline of mind and body, inculcating
their belief by doctrine and example; and both, with great diversity of
gifts, had the rough strong directness of intellectual attack which
Cambridge, then perhaps more than at any other time, set in contrast to
the subtleties of Oxford culture.
Leslie Stephen in particular, who had been a tutor and who was still a
clerical Fellow, made it his business to meet undergraduates on their own
ground. Hard work and hard bodily exercise--but, above all, hard bodily
exercise--made up the gospel which he preached by example. No one ever did
more to develop the cult of athletics, and there is no doubt that he
thought these ideals the best antidote to drunkenness and other vices,
which were far more rife in the University of that day than of this.
Both he and Fawcett were strenuous Radicals, and contact with them was
well fitted to infuse fresh vitality into the political beliefs which
Charles Dilke had assumed by inheritance from his grandfather. In these
ways of thought he met them on ground already familiar and attractive to
him. His introduction to Fawcett was at the Economics and Statistics
Section of the British Association, which he attended at Cambridge in the
first week of his first term. "I am one of the few people who really enjoy
statistics," he said, long years after this, in a presidential address to
the Statistical Society. But it was early at nineteen to develop this
In another domain of modern thought these elder men affected his mind
considerably and with a new order of ideas. Old Mr. Dilke seems to have
left theology out of his purview altogether; and it was at Cambridge that
Charles Dilke first met the current of definitely sceptical thought on
Fawcett was aggressively unorthodox. But far more potent was the influence
of Leslie Stephen, then with infinite pain struggling under the yoke that
he had taken on himself at ordination, and had not yet shaken off. The
effect of Stephen's talk--though he influenced young men as much by his
dry critical silence as by his utterances--was heightened by admiration
for his athletic prowess. He coached the college Eights: anyone who has
been at a rowing college will realize how commanding an ascendancy is
implied. But his athletics covered every phase of muscular activity; and
Fawcett joined him in encouraging the fashion of long walks.
Another of the long-walkers whom the Memoir notes as among the chief
influences of those days was Leslie Stephen's pupil Romer, the Admirable
Crichton of that moment--oarsman, cricketer, and Trinity Hall's hope in
the Mathematical Tripos. The future Lord Justice of Appeal was then
reading for the Tripos, in which he was to be Senior Wrangler; and,
according to Cambridge custom, took a certain amount of coaching as part
of his work. Charles Dilke was one of those whom he instructed, and it was
the beginning of a friendship which lasted many years.
Looking back, Sir Robert Romer says that most undergraduates are simply
grown-up boys, and that at Trinity Hall in his day there was no variation
from this type till Dilke came there--a lad who, to all appearance, had
never associated with other lads, whose companions had been grown-up
people, and who had mature ideas and information on everything. But,
thrown among other young men, the young man found himself with surprising
rapidity. Elements in his nature that had never been brought out developed
at once; and one of these was a great sense of fun. Much stronger than he
looked, he plunged into athletics with a perfectly simple delight.
"Nobody," says Sir Robert Romer, "could make more noise at a boating
supper." This frank natural glee remained with him to the end. Always
disputatious, always a lover of the encounter of wits, he had none the
less a lifelong gift for comradeship in which there was little clash of
controversy and much hearty laughter.
One of the eight-and-twenty freshmen who matriculated at Trinity Hall
along with Charles Dilke in 1862 was David Fenwick Steavenson, a dalesman
from Northumberland, with whom he formed a lasting friendship. The two had
seemingly little in common. Dilke to all appearance was "very serious,"
and in disposition of mind ten years older than his fellows, while the
young Northumbrian's whole preoccupation was to maintain and enlarge the
fame of his college on the river. If the friendship was to develop,
Steavenson must undoubtedly become interested in intellectual matters, but
not less certainly Dilke must learn to row. It was a very useful
discipleship for the future politician. Sloping shoulders, flat and narrow
chest, height too great for his build: these were things that Cambridge
helped to correct. Dilke, a willing pupil, was diligently coached by the
stronger man, until he became an accomplished and effective oar. In
general Judge Steavenson's recollection confirms Sir Robert Romer's, and
gives precision to one detail. In their second year, upon the occasion of
some triumph on the river, there was to be a bump supper, but the college
authorities forbade, whereupon an irregular feast was arranged--this one
bringing a ham, that a chicken, and so on. When the heroes had put from
them desire of eating and drinking, they sallied out, and after a vigorous
demonstration in the court, proceeded to make music from commanding
windows. It was Charles Dilke who had provided the whistles and toy drums
for this ceremony, and Judge Steavenson retains a vision of the future
statesman at his window [Footnote: Dilke's rooms were on Staircase A, on
the first floor, above the buttery. They have not for very many years been
let to an undergraduate, as they are too near the Fellows' Combination
Room.] blowing on a whistle with all his might. The authorities were
vindictive, and Dilke suffered deprivation of the scholarship which he had
won at the close of his freshman year.
Such penalties carry no stigma with them. It should be noted, too, that at
a period of University history when casual excess in drink was no
reproach, but rather the contrary, Charles Dilke, living with boating men
in a college where people were not squeamish, drank no wine. Judge
Steavenson adds that the dislike of coarse talk which was marked with him
later was equally evident in undergraduate days.
Charles Dilke's own ambition and industry were reinforced by the keen
anxiety of his people. Concealing nothing of their eagerness for him to
win distinction, those who watched his career with such passionate
interest set their heart, it would seem, on purely academic successes. Sir
Wentworth Dilke may well have feared, from his own experience, that old
Mr. Dilke's expectations might again be disappointed by a student who
found University life too full of pleasure. At all events it was to his
father that the freshman wrote, October 24th, 1862, a fortnight after he
"I am very sorry to see by your letter of this morning that you have
taken it into your head that I am not reading hard. I can assure you,
on the contrary, that I read harder than any freshman except Osborn,
who takes no exercise whatever; and that I have made the rowing-men
very dissatisfied by reading all day three days a week. On the other
three I never read less than six hours, besides four hours of lectures
and papers. I have not missed reading a single evening yet since I
have been here; that is, either from six, or seven, till eleven,
except Saturday at Latham's. This--except for a fourth-year man--is
more than even the tutors ask for.... I hope I have said enough to
convince you that you are entirely wrong; what has made you so has
been my account of breakfasts, which are universal, and neither
consume time nor attract attention. I was at one this morning--I left
my rooms at twenty-five minutes to nine, and returned to them at five
minutes to nine, everything being over."
This scrupulous economy of time was to be characteristic of Charles
Dilke's whole life, and nothing impressed his contemporaries more at all
times than the "methodical bee-like industry" attributed to him by the
present Master of Trinity Hall. Mr. Beck, who came up to the college just
after Dilke left it, thus expands the impression:
"There remained in Trinity Hall in 1867 a vivid tradition that he was
one of the few men who never lost a minute, would even get in ten
minutes of work between river and Hall (which was in those days at
five o'clock); and much resembled the Roman who learned Greek in the
time saved from shaving. On the doorpost inside his bedroom over the
Buttery there remained in pencil the details of many days of work thus
pieced together." [Footnote: _Cambridge Review_, February 2nd, 1911.]
Judge Steavenson recalls how he used to be "bundled out" of his friend's
rooms the instant that the appointed hour for beginning to read had
arrived, and he did his best to mitigate the strenuousness of that
application. But there were stronger influences at work than his: Sir
Wentworth Dilke was fully satisfied with the assurance he had received, as
well he might be; but the grandfather never ceased to enforce the claims
of study. He wrote ceaselessly, but with constant exhortations that he
should be answered only when work and play allowed.
When the letters from Cambridge told of success in athletics, he
responded, but with a temperate rejoicing. Here, for instance, is his
reference to the news that the freshman had rowed in the winning boat of
the scratch fours on March 14th, 1863:
"I am glad that you have won your 'pewter'--as I was glad when you
took rank among the best of the boating freshmen--although I have not
set my heart on your plying at Blackfriars Bridge, nor winning the
hand of the daughters of Horse-ferry as the 'jolly young waterman,' or
old Doggett's Coat and Badge. But all things in degree; and therefore
I rejoice a hundred times more at your position in the college Euclid
There was no mistaking old Mr. Dilke's distaste for all these athletics,
and it was to his father, on this one point more sympathetic, that the
freshman wrote this characteristic announcement of a great promotion:
"Edwards" (captain of the Trinity Hall Boat Club) "has just called to
inform me that I am to row in the head-of-the-river boat to-
morrow, and to go into training for it.
"The time wasted if I row in it will not be greater than in the 2nd,
but there is one difference--namely, that it may make me more sleepy
at nights. I must read hard before breakfast. Romer--who is my master
and pastor--tells me of all things to row in it,--this year at all
He did row in the May races of his first year, and with so little
detriment to his work that in the following month he secured the first
mathematical scholarship in the college examination. This triumph may well
have disposed old Mr. Dilke to accept a suggestion which is recorded in
the correspondence. On June 2nd it was decided that Trinity Hall should
send an eight to Henley, and the letter adds: "I should think my
grandfather would like to come and stay at or near Henley while I am
Before the date fixed, the oarsman had been inducted scholar, and so Mr.
Dilke could go with a free heart to see his grandson row in the Grand
Challenge against Brasenose and Kingston, where Trinity Hall defeated
Kingston, but were themselves defeated by Brasenose in a very fast race.
It was not only in the examination halls and on the river that Charles
Dilke was winning reputation. He had joined the Volunteers, and proved
himself among the crack rifleshots of the University corps; he had won
walking races, but especially he had begun to seek distinction in a path
which led straight to his natural goal.
The impression left on Sir Robert Romer's mind was that Dilke came up to
the University elaborately trained with a view to a political career. This
is to read into the facts a wrong construction; the purpose, if it existed
at all, was latent only in his mind. The training which he had received
from his grandfather lent itself admirably, it is true, to the making of a
statesman; but it was the pupil's temperament which determined the
application of that rich culture.
The first debate which he had the chance to attend at the Union was on
October 28th, 1862, the motion being: "That the cause of the Northern
States is the cause of humanity and progress, and that the widespread
sympathy with the Confederates is the result of ignorance and
The discussion gained in actuality from the fact that the President of the
Union was Mr. Everett, son of the distinguished literary man who had been
America's representative in London, and was at this time Secretary of
State in the Federal Government. But the South had a notable ally. Mr.
George Otto Trevelyan, author of some of the best light verse ever written
by an undergraduate, was still in residence, though he had before this
taken his degree; and he shared in those days the sentimental preference
for the South. Dilke reported to his grandfather: "Trevelyan's speech was
mere flash, but very witty." "Mere flash" the freshman was likely to think
it, for he shared his grandfather's opinions, and gave his first Union
vote for the North--in a minority of 34 against 117. "Very witty" it was
sure to be, and its most effective hit was a topical allusion. The Union
Society of those days had its quarters in what had originally been a
Wesleyan chapel--a large room in Green Street, the floor of which is now
used as a public billiard saloon, while the galleries from which applause
and interruption used to come freely now stand empty. There had long been
complaint of its inadequacy; Oxford had set the example of a special
edifice, and as far back as 1857 a Building Fund had been started, which,
however, dragged on an abortive existence from year to year, a constant
matter of gibes. 'Can the North restore the Union?' Mr. Trevelyan asked.
'Never, sir; they have no Building Fund'; and the punning jest brought
down a storm of applause.
But when Mr. Trevelyan, after a year spent in India, came back to England
and to Cambridge gossip in the beginning of 1864, he learnt that this
despised Building Fund had been taken seriously in hand, that one
undergraduate in particular was corresponding with all manner of persons,
and that this Union also was going to be restored. That was how the
present Sir George Trevelyan first heard the name of Charles Dilke.
Even in his earliest term Dilke soon passed out of the role of a mere
listener and critic. The Commissioners of the International Exhibition of
1862 were then being sharply criticized, and on November 25th "a man of
the name of Hyndman" (so the undergraduate's letter described this other
undergraduate, afterwards to be well known as the Socialist writer and
speaker) moved "a kind of vote of censure" upon them. It was natural
enough that Sir Wentworth Dilke's son should brief the defence, and among
the papers of 1862 is a bundle of "Notes by me for Everett's speech." Next
he was trying his own mettle; and opposed a motion "that Prince Alfred
should be permitted to accept the throne of Greece." His own note is:
'On the 8th December I made my first speech, advocating a Greek
Republic, and suggesting that if they must have a King, they had
better look to the northern nations to supply one. I was named by
Everett, the President, as one of the tellers in the Division.'
Probably the speech had been no more of a success than most maiden
speeches, for Mr. Dilke's letter reads like a consolation:
"The Greek debate I care little about. I would much rather have _read_
a paper on the subject. _Till a man can write he cannot speak_--
except, as Carlyle would say, 'in a confused babble of words and
The main part of the grandson's letters were concerned with the topics
handled and the speeches made at the Union.
"_November 7th_, 1862.
"How wavering and shortsighted the policy of England in Turco-Grecian
matters has been of late! Compare Navarino and Sebastopol. Palmerston
will, if he has his way, oblige the Greeks to continue in much the
same state of degradation as hitherto, and will go on holding up the
crumbling Turkish Empire till some rising of Christians occurs at a
time when we have our hands full and cannot afford to help our 'old
friend.' Then Turkey-in-Europe will vanish. I do not myself believe in
the Pan-Slavonic Empire. The Moldavians, Hungarians, and Greeks could
never be long united; but I think that Greece might hold the whole of
the coast and mountain provinces without containing in itself fatal
elements of disunion.
"Brown--No. 3 of our four--broke from his training to-day, and spent
the whole day with the hounds. That will never do."
Mr. Dilke in reply did not conceal the amusement which was awakened in him
by the rowing man's deadly seriousness:
"_November 9th_, 1862.
"I agree with you. No Browns, no hunting fellows, no divided love!! If
'a man' goes in 'our boat' he goes in to win. "Broke from his
training!" Abominable! Had he 'broke from his training' when standing
out for Wrangler, why so be it, _his_ honour only would be concerned;
but here it is _our_ honour, T. H. for ever, and no fox-hunting!
"After this, the Greek question falls flat on the ears, but I will
and thereupon he goes into hints for research, very characteristic in
their thoroughness, ending with a practical admonition:
"Now comes 'The Moral.' As you could not speak on the great Ionian
question, why not _write_ on it? Write down what you would or could
have said on the subject. Take two or three hours of leisure and
quiet; write with great deliberation, but _write on_ till the subject
is concluded. No deferring, no bit by bit piecework, but all offhand.
No _correction_, not a word to be altered; once written let it stand.
Put the Essay aside for a month. Then criticize it with your best
judgment--the order and sequence of facts, its verbal defects, its
want or superabundance of illustration, its want or superabundance of
detail, etc., etc."
Another letter of Dilke's in his freshman year concerns the art of debate:
"What is wanted is common-sense discussion in well-worded speeches
with connected argument, the whole to be spoken loud enough to be
heard, and with sufficient liveliness to convince the hearers of the
speaker's interest in what he is saying. So far as this is oratory, it
is cultivated (with very moderate success) at the Union."
From the ideal here indicated--an accurate analysis of 'the House of
Commons manner'--Charles Dilke never departed, and his grandfather in
replying eagerly reinforced the estimate:
"I agree to all you say about that same Union, and about the Orators
and Oratory. I should have said it myself, but thought it necessary to
_clear the way_. I rejoice that no such preliminary labour was
required. I agree that even Chatham was a 'Stump'--what he was in
addition is not our question. I hope and believe he was the last of
our Stumpers. Burke, so far as he was an Orator, was a Stump and
something more, and the more may be attributed to the fact that he was
a practised _writer,_ where Chatham was not, and that he reported his
own speeches. Latterly his _writings_ were all Stump. I had not
intended to have written for a week or more, for you have so many
correspondents and are so punctual in reply that I fear the waste of
precious time; but I am as pleased with your letter as an old dog-
fancier when a terrier-pup catches his first rat--it is something to
see my boy hunt out and hunt down that old humbug Oratory."
Charles Dilke's own mature judgment on the matters concerned was expressed
in a letter to the _Cantab_ of October 27th, 1893:
"The value of Union debates as a training for political life? Yes, if
they are debates. There is probably little debate in the Union. There
was little in my time. There is little real debating in the House of
Commons. But debating is mastery. The gift of debate means the gift of
making your opinion prevail. Set speaking is useless and worse than
useless in these days."
Dilke was elected to the Library Committee of the Union in his second
term, and in his third to the Standing Committee. At this moment a
decision was taken to make a determined effort for new buildings, and it
was suggested that he should stand for the secretaryship. Declining this
as likely to engross more time than he could spare, he was put forward for
the Vice-Presidency, and elected at the beginning of October, 1863. His
prominence in the negotiations which followed may be inferred from the
fact that he was re-elected. This was in itself a rare honour; but in his
case was followed by election and re-election to the Presidency, a record
unique in the Society's annals.
It was through this phase of his activity that Charles Dilke took part in
the general life of the University. At the Union he was closely associated
with men outside his own college, one of whom, Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice,
was destined to be a lifelong friend and fellow-worker. But his College
meant more to him than the University. A conservative in this, he
resented, and resisted later on, all tendencies to make the teaching of
the place communal by an opening of college lectures to students from
other colleges; he valued the distinctiveness of type which went with the
older usage, under which he himself was nurtured. Trinity Hall was a
lawyers' college; it had a library specially stored with law books, and it
was early determined that he should conform to the _genius loci_ so far at
least as to be called to the Bar. In his first Christmas vacation he began
to eat his dinners at the Middle Temple, where his nomination paper was
signed by John Forster; and in June, 1863, after he had spent a year at
mathematics and won his college scholarship, he took stock of his
position, and felt clear as to his own powers. He might, he thought,
attain to about a tenth wranglership in the Mathematical Tripos, which
would insure him a fellowship at his college; but this, although he valued
academic distinctions very highly, did not seem an end worth two years of
work, and he determined to devote the remainder of his time at the
University to the study of law and history.
He had not at any time limited himself to mathematics. Both before his
freshman year and during it he had read hard and deeply on general
subjects. His habit was to analyze on paper whatever he studied, and he
had dealt thus in 1861 (aged eighteen) with all Sir Thomas More,
Bolingbroke, and Hobbes. Among the papers for 1862 there is preserved such
an analysis of Coleridge's political system; a note on the views of the
Abbe Morellet, with essays on comparative psychology, the association of
ideas, and the originality of the anti-selfish affections. These are
deposits of that course of philosophic reading over which, says the
Memoir, 'I wasted a good deal of time in 1862, but managed also to give
myself much mental training.'
The determination to abandon mathematics for a line of study more germane
to that career of which he already had some vision met with no resistance
from his people; but it did not altogether please the college authorities.
He wrote to old Mr. Dilke:
"When I told Hopkins" (his tutor) "that I was not going out in
mathematics, he was taken aback, and seemed very sorry. He urged me to
_read law_, but still to go out as a high senior optime, which he says
I could be, without reading more than a very small quantity of
mathematics every day. My objection to this was that I knew myself
better than he did; that were I to go in for mathematics, I should be
as high in that tripos as my talents would let me, and that my law and
my life's purpose would suffer in consequence.
"He said--'You will be very sorry if it happens that you are not first
legalist of your year--that is the only place in the Law Tripos that
you can be content with--and yet remember you have Shee in your year,
who is always a dangerous adversary, and who starts with some little
knowledge on the subject.'
"I said I should read with Shee, and make him understand that I was
intended by Nature to beat him."
The dangerous Shee had been thus announced in a letter of February, 1863:
"Shee--son of the well-known Serjeant, [Footnote: Mr. Serjeant Shee was
later a Judge--the first Roman Catholic since the time of the Stuarts to
sit on the English Bench.] has come up and taken the rooms over me. He
seems a nice kind of fellow; of course, a strong Romanist."
Shee remained till the end Dilke's chief competitor, and he was also one
of the band of friends who met each other incessantly, and incessantly
talked over first principles till the small hours of morning. Perhaps it
is not without importance that Charles Dilke should have had the
experience, not very common for Englishmen, of living on terms of intimacy
with an Irish Roman Catholic: at all events, his relations in after-life,
both with Irishmen and with Roman Catholics, were more friendly than is
common. For the moment Shee made one factor in the discussions upon
theology which are inevitable among undergraduates, and which went on with
vigour in this little group, according to the recollection of Judge
Steavenson, who in those days, faithful to the orthodoxy of his Low Church
upbringing, found himself ranged by the side of the 'strong Romanist'
against a general onslaught upon Christianity. Charley Dilke himself had
come under the influences of the place and the time. There is an entry
headed May, 1863: "I find a fair argument against miracles in my notes for
this month." He had abandoned attendance at Communion, but, according to
Judge Steavenson, did not go further in opinions or in talk than a vague
agnosticism--which was also the attitude of another subtle and agile
intelligence in that circle.
Turning over, in 1891, the boxes which held his letters and papers of
college days, Charles Dilke wrote:
"In every page of the destroyed notebooks of this year I could see the
influence of two men--my grandfather and H. D. Warr." [Footnote: Mr.
H. D. Warr became a journalist. In 1880 Sir Charles secured him the
post of Secretary to the Royal Commission upon City Companies, of
which Lord Derby was Chairman.]
Warr was a classical exhibitioner of Trinity Hall in Dilke's year, and was
not among the few who are named at first as likely friends,
though he figures early as a competitor in the Euclid and Algebra 'fights'
at his tutor's. In February, 1863, his name must have been on Dilke's
tongue or pen, since this is evidently a reply to inquiries:
"Warr is a clergyman's son. He will probably be about fourth or fifth
for the Bell (Scholarship)."
It is not till the October term of his second year that more explicit
notice of this friend occurs, when Dilke is giving an account of his first
speech as Vice-President of the Union. He opened a debate on the metric
system, concerning which he had solid and well-thought-out opinions:
"My speech was logical but not fluent. Warr says it was the best
opening speech he ever listened to, but by no means the best speech.
Warr is a candid critic whom I dread, so that I am glad he was
Of this candour Dilke has preserved some specimens which show that Warr's
influence was mainly used in laughing his friend out of his solemnity.
Thus Warr characterizes him as a dealer in logic," and, breaking off from
some fantastic speculation as to the future of all their college set,
January 9th, 1864, moralizes.
"I am an ass, my friend, a great ass, to write in this silly strain to
you, but you must not be very angry, though I own now to a feeling of
_having half insulted your kind serious ways by talking nonsense to
them on paper_."
Sir Charles Dilke's association with the river and with rowing men was so
constant that we ate justified in preserving this contemporary report of
his first race for the Grand Challenge, on which he always looked back
"It was," says the report, which Dilke preserved, "one of the finest
and fastest races ever seen at Henley, and the losers deserve as much
credit as the winners. The Oxford crew were on the Berks side,
Kingston on the Oxon, and Cambridge in the middle. It was a very fine
and even start, and they continued level for about 50 yards, when
Brasenose began to show the bow of their boat in front, the others
still remaining oar and oar, rowing in fine form and at a great pace.
So finely were the three crews matched, that, although Brasenose
continued to increase their lead, it was only inch by inch. At the end
of about 400 yards Brasenose were about a quarter of a length only
ahead. The race was continued with unabated vigour, Brasenose now
going more in front, and being a length ahead at the Poplars, where
they began to ease slightly. The contest between Cambridge and
Kingston was still admirable; Cambridge had made some fine bursts to
get away from them, but they were not to be shaken off, and the
gallant effort of the one crew was met by a no less gallant effort on
the part of the other. The Cambridge crew began to show in front as
they neared Remenham, and a most determined race was continued to the
end. Brasenose won by a length clear, and the Cambridge boat was not
clear of the Kingston, only having got her about three-quarters of
The time--seven minutes, twenty-six seconds--was the fastest that had been
rowed over that course, and more than half a minute faster than that of
the final heat, in which Brasenose were beaten by University. But next day
in the Ladies' Plate University brought down the record by three seconds.
Trinity Hall had the worst station, and if they were beaten by only a
length, must have been as fast as Brasenose. Kingston was stroked by L.
Pugh Evans, Brasenose by D. Pocklington (W. B. Woodgate rowing 4). The
Trinity Hall eight were as follows:
E. F. Dyke 9 12
H. W. Edwardes 10 13
W. H. Darton 11 2
C. W. Dilke 11 5
D. F. Steavenson 12 1
R. E. Neane 11 0
W. J. S. Cadman 10 6
R. Richardson 9 10
A. A. Berens (cox.) 9 8
In these years of all-round training Cambridge was doing for Charles Dilke
what it has done for hundreds of other young men. The exceptional in his
case sprang from the tie which linked this young athlete to the old
scholar who, in his library at Sloane Street, or among his flowers at
Alice Holt, was ceaselessly preoccupied with detail of the undergraduate's
life and work. From the first there was a pathos in his eagerness to
follow and understand all the minutiae of an unfamiliar scene. At the
close of Charles Dilke's first term he wrote (December 1st, 1862):
"Your letter gave me great pleasure, as indeed for one reason or
another, or for no reason if you please, your letters always do;
though not being a Cambridge man, I am at times a little puzzled....
What a bore I shall be after the 13th with my endless enquiries."
Ten days later he is jubilant over the results of the college examination
which closed the first term:
"Hurrah! hurrah! my dear grandson. Ninety-seven out of a hundred--
eleven above the second 'man'--is a position that would satisfy a
whole family of loving friends, even if they were all grandfathers."
After every college examination the grandson sent lists of results,
compiled with elaborate detail. The grandfather studied them, treasured
them, compared them, wanted to know why this man had fallen back, how the
other had advanced, and always with the same warm outflow of sympathy and
pride over his own pupil. There they lie to-day in the despatch-boxes,
preserved as a memorial of that love by the man on whom it was expended.
On one is noted:
"Many scraps such as this, and his letters, show the loving care with
which my grandfather watched over my progress at the University."
The beginning of his first Long Vacation he spent in travelling through
Germany, Holland, and Belgium with his father. Later, in August, he
visited Jersey and Guernsey, and went to France alone, making pilgrimage
from Cherbourg to Tocqueville's two houses, and filling notebooks with
observations on Norman architecture at St. Lo, Coutances, and elsewhere.
He was perfecting his mastery of the language, too, and notes long after:
"On this journey I was once taken for a Frenchman, but my French was not
so good as it was about 1870." But always and everywhere he observed; and
sent back the results of his observation to the man who had trained it. On
June 30th, 1863, he writes:
"I have been all over Brussels to-day. My previous estimate of the
place is confirmed. It apes Paris without having any of the Parisian
charms, just as its people speak French without being able to
"The two modern pictures in the Palais de Justice are to me worth all
the so-called Rubenses in the place. They are by Gallait and de
Biefve, and the one is our old friend of last year in London, 'The
Abdication of Charles V.'
"Rogier--the great Belgian Minister--has failed to secure his return
in the late elections, owing to his having given a vote unpopular to
his constituents on the fortification scheme. The Catholics lost three
votes (regained by the advanced party) in the Senate these elections.
"The names of the sides of the chambers are significant:
"Liberals. -- Catholics.
"What a fine country Belgium would be if it could get rid of its
priests a little more. The people understand freedom. In Ghent the
priests are rich, but utterly powerless owing to the extent of the
When he returned to Cambridge for the October term of 1863, his hard
reading did not satisfy his prodigious power for work. He was Vice-
President of the Union, and he undertook the more arduous duties of
Secretary and Treasurer of the College Boat Club. When at the beginning of
1864 he was re-elected Vice-President of the Union, his grandfather wrote:
"Your University career has proved to me that you have a happiness of
manner that wins friends." Mr. Dilke's health began to decline notably in
the early part of 1864, and loss of sight menaced him. He took the
doctor's sentence, that he must refrain altogether from reading, with
characteristic philosophy, but added: "I have ordered that newspapers are
not to be sent here, so you must excuse it if, when we meet, I am a little
in arrear of the course of life."
Early in February, 1864, Charles Dilke had entered without training for a
walking race, and had beaten the University champion, Patrick, covering
the mile ("in a gale of wind and over heavy slush") in eight minutes and
forty-two seconds. [Footnote: Mr. Patrick, afterwards member of
Parliament, and from 1886 Permanent Under-Secretary for Scotland.] To this
announcement his grandfather made pleasant reply, threatening to come up
and compete in person, but three days later wrote:
"I wish you had sent me a Cambridge paper which contained an account
of your Olympic games. It is not too late now if you can get one; _I
reserve the right of reading everything that relates to you and your
Meanwhile Charles Dilke's reading went on with feverish energy. The
dangerous rival was closely watched. "Shee has been sitting up till
ominously late hours for some nights past. His father came up last night
and left again to-night, but I fear he did not make his son waste much
time." The competitors were straining then for a college law prize, but
the letter goes on to observe very sagely:
"The law is of little consequence, as neither of us can know anything
about it at present; but I should like to win the essay prize."
The prize was the annual college prize for the best English essay, and
that year's subject was "Sir Robert Walpole." Compositions were presumably
sent in after the Christmas vacation, for on February 29th, 1864, a
fortnight after the announcement as to the walking race, comes this
"MY DEAR GRANDFATHER,
"English Essay Prize: Dilke.
Honourably mentioned: Osborn, Shee.
Latin Essay Prize: Warr.
Honourably mentioned: Casswell. [Footnote: A scholar of Sir Charles's
year, and one of his most frequent associates in undergraduate days.]
"They say that parts of my essay were vulgar.
"Your affectionate grandson,
"CHAS. W. DILKE."
That last sentence roused the old critic:
"I should like to read the _whole_ essay. My especial interest is
aroused by the charge of occasional _vulgarity_. If it be true, it is
not improbable that the writer caught the infection from his
grandfather. With one half the world, in its judgment of literature
and of life, vulgarity is the opposite of gentility, and gentility is
merely negative, and implies _the absence of all character_, and, in
language, of all idiom, all bone and muscle. I have a notion--only do
not whisper such heresy within college walls--that a college tutor
must be genteel in his _college judgments_, that 'The Polite Letter
Writer' was the work of an M.A. in the 'Augustan Age.' You may find in
Shakespeare household words and phrases from every condition and walk
in life--as much coarseness as you please to look for--anything and
everything except gentility and vulgarity. Occasional vulgarity is,
therefore, a question on which _I_ refuse to take the opinion of any
man not well known to me."
On one matter the pupil was recalcitrant. Mr. Dilke begged him to give
"one hour or one half-hour a day" to mastering Greek, so as to be able to
read it with pleasure--a mastery which could only be acquired "before you
enter on the direct purpose and business of life." But "insuperable
difficulties" presented themselves. "It is of considerable importance that
I should be first in the college Law May examination." Hopes of compliance
in a later period were held out, to which Mr. Dilke replied shrewdly that
"insuperable difficulties" were often temperamental, and that during the
whole period of study equally strong reasons for postponement would
continue to present themselves; and then would come "the all-engrossing
business of life, and there is an end of half-hours."
In May, 1864, Mr. Dilke was present on the bank at 'Grassy' when, on the
second night of the races, Trinity Hall, with his grandson rowing at No.