Part 4 out of 11
Having successfully faced his opponents in Parliament, and having also got
assurances from the authorities in France that he would not be shadowed,
Sir Charles was able to spend the Easter recess with Lady Dilke in Paris:
'At Easter we went to Paris and went about a good deal, seeing much of
Gambetta, of Milner Gibson (who had completely left the world of
English politics, and lived at Paris except when he was cruising in
his yacht), Michel Chevalier, and the Franquevilles. We attended
sittings of the Assembly at Versailles, drove over the battlefields,
dined with the Louis Blancs to meet Louis's brother, Charles Blanc,
the critic and great master of style, ... breakfasted with Evarts the
American lawyer, to meet Caleb Gushing, his colleague on the American
case on the Alabama claims; met at the Franquevilles' Henri de Pene
and Robert Mitchell, the Conservative journalists; and saw "Mignon,"
Katie's favourite opera, and "Rabagas." This last famous piece, which
was being played at the Vaudeville, where it was wonderfully acted,
had been written during the premiership of Emile Ollivier, but being
brought out when Ollivier was half forgotten, and when the name of
Gambetta was in all men's mouths, was supposed by many to have been
intended as a satire of the tribune, though it is far more applicable
in every point to Ollivier's career.'
Many years later Sir Charles was to form a friendship of lifelong duration
with Louis Napoleon's Minister Ollivier. But from this visit to Paris
dates the beginning of an intimacy between the young English member of
Parliament and the leader of French democracy.
He had already met Gambetta once in the end of 1871, and to renew this
acquaintance was a special purpose in going to Paris. He had conceived the
plan of writing a history of the nineteenth century. On the origin of the
Franco-German War Gambetta was a high authority, and it was to discuss
these questions that during this visit he for the first time came to see
Sir Charles, who records: 'Had Gambetta to breakfast with us, when he
stayed the whole day talking with me.'
In five minutes the two men must have been in touch. Those who knew Sir
Charles knew how his intense geniality of nature, masked sometimes for
outsiders by a slight austerity, his _air boutonne_--as it was described
by those who did not pass the barrier--showed immediately with those to
whom he was drawn. That _rire enfantin_, described by Challemel-Lacour,
would burst out at the first quick turn of talk, and he would give his
whole self, with an almost boyish delight, to the encounter with a nature
whose superabundant vitality and delight in life, as in Gambetta's case,
equalled his own.
For these two the common points of interest were strongly marked. Not only
was there the kindred geniality of disposition, and the kindred interest
in the history and fortune of France: there was in each an overwhelming
love of country; strong, indeed, in Gambetta, and in Dilke so strong that
it can best be described in the words of a French friend who, watching
him, said to Sir Charles's second wife: "That man is a great patriot, for
with his whole self he serves his country, never staying to consider how
she has served him."
In the spring of 1872 both men were young: Dilke not yet twenty-nine,
Gambetta just thirty-four. But the past of one was crowded with
experience, and the other had already made history.
Sir Charles here inserts--
'a word of the personality of Gambetta, who for a long time was my
most intimate friend, and for whose memory I have still the deepest
'It was on All Saints' Day of 1868 that a few republicans had paid a
fete-of-the-dead visit to the tomb of a Deputy killed on the side of
the Constitution at the time of the _coup d'etat_, and had found it in
a miserable state. Delescluze (who was two and a half years later to
meet Baudin's fate, being killed, like him, in a black coat, unarmed,
on a Paris barricade) communicated with Challemel-Lacour, and a
subscription for a fitting tomb was started, which soon became an
imposing manifestation of anti-Bonapartist opinion. [Footnote: The
need for a fitting tomb is shown by the circumstance of Baudin's death
and burial. He had gone early in the morning of December 3rd, 1851, to
help in the construction of a barricade at the point where the Rue
Ste. Marguerite and the Rue de Cotte meet. Two companies of the line
arrived from the Bastille and formed an attacking party, and were
joined by some men in blouses, who cried, on seeing the deputies: "A
bas les vingt-cinq francs!" Baudin, unarmed, standing on the top of
the barricade, replied: "Vous allez voir comment on meurt pour vingt-
cinq francs." An attempt to address the soldiers by the
Constitutionalists failed, and a shot from the barricade was replied
to by a general volley, and Baudin fell, pierced by three shots. His
body was taken to the Hopital Ste. Marguerite, and when claimed by his
brothers was given up only on condition that it should not be shown to
the people, but immediately and quietly buried. He was buried on
December 5th secretly in the cemetery of Montmartre (See _Dictionnaire
des Parlementaires_, by Robert and Cougny).]
'The Government having prosecuted the papers which published the
subscription lists, Challemel-Lacour caused the selection of Gambetta
as counsel. He was a young barrister speaking with a strong Southern
accent, which, however, disappeared when he spoke in public, vulgar in
language and appearance, one-eyed, of Genoese (possibly Jewish) race,
full of power. Gambetta made a magnificent speech, which brought him
at one bound into the front rank among the republican leaders. His
description of December 2nd was such as had never been excelled even
by Cicero or by Berryer: "At that time there grouped themselves around
a pretender a number of men without talent, without honour, sunk in
debt and in crime, such as in all ages have been the accomplices of
arbitrary violence, men of whom one could repeat what Sallust had said
of the foul mob that surrounded Catiline, what Caesar said himself of
those who conspired along with him: 'Inevitable dregs of organized
society.'" The word Pretender, without adjectives, may seem somewhat
weak as applied to the Prince President, the head of the band, but
those who have heard Gambetta alone know the contempt which he could
throw into his voice in the pronunciation of such a word. Finest of
all the passages that remain to us of Gambetta's eloquence was one
near the close of this memorable speech, which began: "During
seventeen years you who are the masters of France have never dared to
keep December 2nd as the national anniversary. That anniversary we
take as that on which to commemorate the virtues of our dead who died
that day--" Here the Advocate Imperial tried to interrupt him so as to
spoil his peroration, and the written version now printed in his
speeches differs altogether in language from that which was taken down
by the shorthand writers at the time, although the idea is exactly the
same. The two counsel spoke together for some minutes, each trying to
shout down the other, until Gambetta's tremendous roar had crushed his
adversary, whereupon, in the middle of his peroration, with a really
Provencal forgetfulness of his art and subject, Gambetta interposed--
"He tried to close my mouth, but I have drowned him"--and then went
This picture is made more vivid by the pencillings on Sir Charles's copy
of Daudet's _Numa Roumestan_, where the word "Gambetta" is scribbled again
and again opposite passages which describe Numa's wonderful ringing voice,
his quick supple nature, all things to all men, catching as if by magic
the very tone and gestures of those with whom he spoke, prodigal as the
sun in greetings and in promises, poured out in a torrent of words, which
seemed "not to proceed from ideas, but to waken them in his mind by the
mechanical stimulus of their sound, and by certain intonations even
brought tears into his eyes."
'My friendship with Gambetta perhaps meant to me something more than
the friendship of the man. Round him gathered all that was best and
most hopeful in the state of the young republic. He, more than any
other individual, had both destroyed the Empire and made new France,
and to some extent the measure of my liking for the man was my hatred
of those that he had replaced. Louis Napoleon ... had dynastic ends in
view.... The Napoleonic legend did not survive Sedan, and that it was
unable to be revived in the distress which followed the Commune was
largely owing to the policy and courage of Gambetta.
'There is some permanent importance in the discussions as to the
origin of the war of 1870 which I had with Gambetta at this time; for
it so happens that I have been able at various periods to discuss with
the most absolute freedom the history of this period with the five men
who knew most of it--Bismarck, Emile Ollivier, Gambetta, Nigra, and
Casa Laigleisia (at that time Rancez), the Spanish diplomatist,
afterwards three times Spanish Minister in London.
'The question which I often discussed with Gambetta, with Ollivier,
with Nigra, with Rancez, until, in September, 1889, Bismarck's frank
admissions settled the matter in my mind for good, has been one of the
most disputed points in modern history. My opinion that Bismarck had
prepared the war, and had brought about the Hohenzollern candidature
in order to provoke it, was only strengthened by an article entitled
"Who is responsible for the War?" by "Scrutator"--probably from the
pen of Congreve, the Comtist, who I know was in correspondence with
the Duc de Gramont. At Easter, 1872, I discussed the matter fully with
Gambetta, with Rancez, with Klaszco (author of _The Two Chancellors_,
and secret agent of the Austrian Government), and with Hansen, a Dane,
and spy of the French Government. Rancez long represented Spain at
Berlin, and it was he who, under Prim's orders, prepared the
Hohenzollern candidature. He was then sent to Vienna, as it was wise
for him to be out of the way when war, brought about by his agency,
was impending; but he was fetched suddenly to Berlin from Vienna in
1869, and this was when the thing was settled. The facts are all known
now." [Footnote: Bismarck, _Gedanken und Erinnerungen_, ii., chap,
xxii., p. 90 (German edition); Benedetti, _Ma Mission en Prusse_,
chap, vi., pp. 409, 410.] The King of Prussia, on July 13th (1870),
refused to give assurances for the future, in simple and dignified
language which meant peace. His telegram to Berlin was one of 200
words. Bismarck told me, when I was staying with him in September,
1889, that he was with Moltke and von Roon when it was received by
them at Berlin, and that he deliberately altered the telegram by
cutting it down "from a telegram of 200 words which meant peace into a
telegram of 20 words which meant war;" and in this form it was
placarded throughout North Germany in every village.
'I discussed repeatedly with Gambetta the incidents of the Cabinet at
St. Cloud on the 14th (July, 1870). Gambetta proved to me that on the
14th the mobilization order was given by the Minister of War, and that
on the same day the order was itself ordered by the Cabinet to be
countermanded. The Duc de Gramont has said, with singular confusion,
that it was decided on the 15th that the orders of the Minister of War
should not be countermanded, and that the reserves should be called
out. Ollivier assured me that after a six hours' sitting of the
Cabinet he had finally left St. Cloud long before that hour at which
Delord states in his history that the Cabinet again met in the
presence of the Empress. There was no such sitting of the Cabinet, but
there may have been a meeting of the Empress, the Duc de Gramont, and
the Minister of War, and they may have dared to take it upon
themselves to reverse the decision at which the Cabinet had arrived.
'The Duc de Gramont and the Minister of War had been in the minority
at the Cabinet on the 14th when the Cabinet withdrew the order for the
mobilization of the reserves, and this minority took it upon itself in
the night to maintain the order for the calling out of the reserves.
On the other hand, if there was ground for the impeachment of the Duc
de Gramont, I am afraid that there was also ground for that of
Ollivier in his own admissions. The declaration made to the Chambers
on July 15th states that the reserves were called out on the 14th, and
Ollivier allowed the decision of his Cabinet, which was his own, to be
reversed in his own name, apparently with his approval. [Footnote: See
note on p. 486, and the authorities cited there.]
'Bismarck's action in forcing on a war might be justified by his
probable acquaintance with the engagement of Austria to France that
she would join her in attacking Prussia in the early spring of 1871;
but it is a curious fact that he has never, either to me or to anybody
else, made use of this justification.
'Upon all these subjects the papers found in the palaces and published
by the Government of National Defence had an essential bearing, and
these I discussed, while they were fresh, with Gambetta and Ollivier.
The same matters were again before me in the following year (1873),
when I had the opportunity of attending the Bazaine Court-Martial,
presided over by the Duc d'Aumale, and of again reading the papers
found in the Tuileries (including the volume afterwards suppressed) on
the spot, and while the events related were fresh in men's minds, as
well as of talking over all doubtful points with my two friends.
'Bazaine at the Court-Martial looked only stupid, like a fat old seal,
utterly unmilitary, and, as the French would say, "become cow-like."
It was difficult to see in him the man who, however great his crimes
in Mexico, had at least been a man of the most daring courage and of
the most overweening ambition. In the suppressed volume of the papers
of the Imperial family seized at the Tuileries there is a letter from
General Felix Douay to his brother in which he describes Bazaine's
attempt to become the Bernadotte of Mexico, and shows how, in order to
obtain the Mexican throne, he kept up treasonable relations with the
chiefs of the republican bands which it was his duty to combat. It is
curious to find the French second-in-command writing to his brother,
also a General, a letter which, somehow or other, came into the
possession of the Emperor himself, in which he says: "It is terrible
to see a great dignity prostrated in such fashion.... We have to go
back to Cardinal Dubois to find such an accomplished scoundrel having
made use of a situation of the highest confidence to sell his country
and his master.... He will not long escape the infamy to which he is
consigned by the wishes of all honest men in the army, who are daily
more and more shocked by the scandal of his personal fortune." Colonel
Boyer was chief of the staff to Bazaine in Mexico, and is mentioned in
the correspondence between the two Generals Douay as being mixed up in
these discreditable transactions; and he was afterwards, as General
Boyer, concerned, it may be remembered, in the Regnier affair at Metz,
when General Bourbaki was sent out under a pass from the Prussians on
a fool's errand to the Empress Eugenie, there being some treasonable
plot behind. This is now (1908) confirmed by the letter of the King of
Prussia to the Empress Eugenie in the Bernstorff Memoirs.'
From 1872 onwards Sir Charles, in his many passages through Paris,
invariably met Gambetta, 'and spent as much time with him as possible.' He
was in this way kept fully informed on French politics by the most
powerful politician in France. As Gambetta's power grew, Dilke's influence
grew also, until there came a time when the friendship between the two was
of international interest.
On returning to London after the Easter recess of 1872, Sir Charles
resumed his political duties in and out of Parliament. The Radical Club,
of which he remained Secretary till he took office in 1880, exercised some
little influence in the House of Commons, and was of some value in
bringing men together for the exchange of ideas, but began to present
difficulties in its working, and soon 'dropped very much into the hands of
Fawcett. Fitzmaurice, and myself.'
Apart from weekly attendance at its meetings, Sir Charles did not go out
much. 'We were so wrapped up in ourselves,' he says, 'that I have no doubt
we were spoken of as selfish.' The marriage had resulted in a tie much
closer than the simple union of two people who would "get on very well
together." Lady Dilke was a creature of glowing life. Those who remember
her say that when she entered a room the whole atmosphere seemed to
change: she was so brilliant, so handsome, so charged with vitality, so
eager always in everything.
From this period there were dinners at 76, Sloane Street, twice a week,
and among those who gathered about the Dilkes 'were Harcourt; Kinglake,
the historian; Stopford Brooke (who had not then left the Church of
England), Brookfield, the Queen's chaplain, commonly known as the "naughty
parson," and husband of Thackeray's Amelia, Fitzmaurice; Charles Villiers;
Mrs. Procter (widow of Barry Cornwall); Miss Tizy Smith, daughter of
Horace Smith, of _Rejected Addresses_; James (afterwards Sir Henry
James).' Browning also 'was constantly at the house,' and read there his
"Red Cotton Nightcap Country"--'at his own request.' Lord Houghton began
in these days an intimacy which lasted till his death. Of Americans, there
were Leland ("Hans Breitmann") and Mark Twain, and with these are named a
number of foreign guests: Emile de Laveleye, the economist; Ricciotti
Garibaldi; Moret, the Spanish Minister.
'We used to judge the position of affairs in Spain by whether Moret
wore or did not wear the Golden Fleece when he came to dinner. When
Castelar was dictator and the Republic proceeding upon conservative
lines, the sheep hung prominently at his side. When the Republic was
federalist and democratic, as was the case from time to time, the
sheep was left at home in a box.'
Others in the list of guests were Taglioni, 'in her youth the famous
dancer, and in her old age Comtesse Gilbert de Voisins, the stupidest and
most respectable of old dames,' and Ristori, the tragedian, who stayed at
Sloane Street 'with her husband, the Marquis Capranica del Grillo, and
their lovely daughter Bianca.'
A novel feature at some of Lady Dilke's evenings was the production of
French comedies by M. Brasseur, the celebrated comedian, and father of the
well-known actor of the present day. At all times in Sir Charles Dilke's
life his house was a great meeting-place for those who loved and knew
France and the French tongue.
Many painters were among the Chelsea constituents, and in 1868 Rossetti,
having been pressed to vote, replied:
"I think if Shakespeare and Michael Angelo were going to the poll, and
if the one were not opposing the other, and if there were no danger of
being expected to take an active part in the chairing of either, I
might prove for once to have enough political electricity to brush a
vote out of me, like a spark out of a cat's back. But I fear no other
kind of earthly hero could do it."
Another constituent was Carlyle, who in 1871 came to Dilke with a memorial
in favour of a Civil List pension for Miss Geraldine Jewsbury. Out of him
also no vote had been "brushed": he had exercised the franchise only once
in his life. Passing through his native village, he had seen a notice that
persons who would pay half a crown could be registered, and he had paid
his fee and had been registered. He had thought at the time, so he told
Sir Charles, that "heaven and hell hung on that vote," but he "had found
out afterwards that they did not."
It was in the course of 1872 that Sir Charles carried out one of his
grandfather's instructions by distributing old Mr. Dilke's books--
'in those quarters where I thought they would be useful in the cause
of historic research, or where they would be best preserved. The
British Museum had the first choice, and took those of the books
relating to the Commonwealth, to the Stuarts, to Pope, and to Junius,
which they had not already on their shelves. [Footnote: 'The Stuart
papers consisted of the Caryll papers and the Seaforth Mackenzie
papers, which last were first used by the Marchesa Campana da Cavelli
in the preparation of a great work on the Stuart documents, in which
they were fully quoted.'] I then offered the remainder of the Junius
collection to Chichester Fortescue, at that time President of the
Board of Trade (afterwards Lord Carlingford), husband of the famous
Lady Waldegrave, and tenant in consequence of Strawberry Hill, where
he was reforming Horace Walpole's library.'
It was a house at which Sir Charles became very intimate but not till some
years later. About this time Lady Strachie remembers the interest with
which, as a young girl at her aunt's table, she glanced down the row of
guests to catch the profile of 'Citizen Dilke,' who, with his wife, was
dining there for the first time.
Lord Carlingford believed that Francis wrote Junius, a view which old Mr.
'But Abraham Hayward, who was constantly with him, held anti-
Franciscan opinions, and he would, I knew, have the full run of the
books, which I was certain in Fortescue's hands would be carefully
preserved. My arrangements were not concluded until the end of the
following year, 1873, when I presented the last of the Pope books and
all my grandfather's Pope manuscripts to John Murray, the publisher,
in consequence of his great interest in the new edition.' [Footnote:
Elwin and Courthope's edition of Pope's works.]
In the same year Sir Charles Dilke made another arrangement which
testified to the strength of his brotherly affection. Wentworth Dilke had
left his personal property in the proportion of two-thirds to the elder
son and one-third to the younger; and had also exercised a power of
appointment which he held by dividing his wife's property in the same way.
Charles Dilke now decided that the shares should be equalized, and secured
this by handing over one-sixth of his property to Ashton, who was at this
time in Russia, on a journey of exploration extending over the greater
part of that Empire.
About this time also Sir Charles purchased _Notes and Queries_ for L2,500
from its founder, Mr. Thoms, the Librarian of the House of Lords, 'one of
the dearest old men that ever was worshipped by his friends,' and a
devoted admirer of old Mr. Dilke. He appointed Dr. Doran to be editor,
"partly as consolation for having refused him the editorship of the
_Athenaeum_, for which he had asked as an old contributor and as the
yearly acting editor in the 'editor's holiday.'" But Sir Charles's choice
had fallen on Mr. Norman MacColl, 'that Scotch Solomon,' as he sometimes
called this admirable critic, who conducted the paper for thirty years.
'In the autumn we went abroad again, and took a letter of introduction
to George Sand, for whose talent Katie had a great admiration. We
missed her at Trouville, but found her afterwards in Paris--an
interesting person, hideously ugly, but more pleasant than her English
rival novelist, the other pseudonymous George. They had few points in
common except that both wrote well and were full of talent of a
different kind and were equally monstrous, looking like two old
Of George Eliot's "talent" he wrote to Hepworth Dixon in 1866:
"The only fact of which I am at this present very certain ... is that
Miss Evans is not far from being the best _indirect describer_ of
character and the wittiest observer of human nature that has lived in
England since Shakespeare, and I think that there are touches in _Amos
Barton, Scenes from Clerical Life_, and in the first few chapters of
_The Mill on the Floss_ quite worthy of Shakespeare himself."
Also there is reference to a letter quoted in George Eliot's Life which
tells that the year 1873 "began sweetly" for her, because "a beautiful
bouquet with a pretty legend was left at my door by a person who went away
after ringing." 'It was I,' says Sir Charles, 'who left that bouquet and I
who wrote that legend. It was Katie who prepared the bouquet and asked me
to take it.'
After the tempestuous scene of March 19th, Sir Charles had remained on the
whole a silent member of Parliament.
'I am going to keep quiet till the general election' (he says in a
letter of May 1st, 1873) 'as the best means of retaining my present
seat. If I should be turned out, look out for squalls, as I should
then stand on an extreme platform for every vacancy in the North.'
The main objects of the Radical group were, first, extension and
redistribution of the voting power, and, secondly, a universal system of
compulsory education, controlled by elective school boards. In October of
this year (1872) Sir Charles and Lady Dilke went down as Mr. Chamberlain's
guests to Birmingham, where Sir Charles spoke on free schools (basing
himself, as usual, on his observation of other countries) with Mr.
Chamberlain in the chair. In November there was a return visit, and Mr.
Chamberlain spoke under Dilke's chairmanship at St. James's Hall on
electoral reform. 'Chamberlain's was the first important speech that he
had delivered to a London public meeting,' and probably these reciprocal
visits and chairmanships gave the first general intimation of an alliance
which for a dozen years was destined to influence Liberal policy.
In the autumn of 1872, Sir Charles 'started a small Electoral Reform
Committee.' Its purpose was to assist, first, the Bill of Mr. Trevelyan
making the qualification for a vote in counties the same as in boroughs,
and, secondly, his own resolution which demanded that seats should be
redistributed in proportion to the number of electors. The outcome was an
arrangement under which Mr. Trevelyan substituted for his Bill a
resolution dealing with both matters; and this resolution, moved by him
and seconded by Sir Charles, afforded annually a gauge of the progress
made, as indicated by the division list.
'Chamberlain co-operated with me, but was more keen about his own
At this time the attitude of Sir Charles and his associates towards the
Liberal party was one of detachment bordering on hostility. Chamberlain,
writing from Birmingham on March 2nd, 1873, noted that the Irish
University Bill was "going badly in the country, and the Noncons. and
Leaguers in the House ought to have the game in their hands." He wished
"they would have the pluck to tell Mr. Gladstone that they will do nothing
to bolster up a Ministry which will not give satisfactory assurances upon
English education;" and he wanted Mr. George Dixon to go on with his
resolution in favour of universal free schools and carry it to a division.
"If members do not vote with him, and there is a general election
soon, they will have a nice little crow to pick with their
constituents; whereas if there is no division on this issue, all our
labour during the recess is lost, and our friends are disheartened....
Viewed _ab extra_, there is no doubt the boldest policy is the best.
It is probable from what I have seen that the weakest course is best
suited to the atmosphere of what some people are pleased to call a
'_reformed_ House of Commons.'"
In the following week the Irish University Bill which was "going badly in
the country" received a new and unexpected stab: Cardinal Cullen denounced
it in a pastoral on March 9th. The debate on the second reading terminated
during the small hours of March 12th. Government was defeated by three on
a division of 284-287. On the 13th Mr. Gladstone's Ministry tendered their
resignations, and the Queen sent for Mr. Disraeli, who declined either to
accept office or to recommend a dissolution. By March 20th it was formally
announced that the Government would go on, but it went on with power and
prestige greatly diminished.
On July 6th Chamberlain wrote to Dilke advocating an "irreconcilable
policy," and asking for news of any "fanatics willing to join the Forlorn
Hope and help in smashing up that whited sepulchre called the Liberal
party." This letter concluded with an attack on Mr. Bright, who had just
joined the reconstructed Ministry, but whose influence Mr. Chamberlain
thought was "quite too small to save the Government." [Footnote: One cause
of the Government's unpopularity was the attempt of Mr. Ayrton (First
Commissioner of Public Works) to limit the right of public meeting in Hyde
Park, to which there is this allusion: 'In July I was greatly occupied in
the House of Commons in fighting against Ayrton's Parks Bill. It was at
dinner at my house one night that, in his dry, quiet way, old Kinglake
chirped out, "For so insignificant a personage Mr. Ayrton is quite the
most pompous individual that I know." Mr. Ayrton's unpopularity was a
powerful cause of Mr. Gladstone's downfall in 1874.'] Sir William
Harcourt, though hardly less discontented, was openly more conformable,
and towards the close of 1873 took office as Solicitor-
General. He wrote:
"I do not know if I have done a very wise or a very foolish thing.
Probably the latter. But it is done, and my friends must help me to
make the best of it. It was a great inducement to me the having Henry
James [Footnote: Sir Henry James became Attorney-General in September,
1873.] as a colleague.... I feel like an old bachelor going to leave
his lodgings and marry a woman he is not in love with, in grave doubt
whether he and she will suit. However, fortunately, _she_ is going to
die soon, and we shall soon again be in opposition below the gangway.
The Duke of Argyll says that now I am in harness I must be driven in
blinkers; but, then, dukes are insolent by nature. Whatever comes, I
shall never leave the House of Commons. I do not see why I am not to
be a politician because I am a law officer. Law officers used to be
politicians some years ago."
The Civil List question was raised again in Parliament in this year, when
the Crown Private Estates Bill was introduced; and an amendment moved by
Mr. George Anderson, member for Glasgow, complaining of the secrecy which
attached to Royal wills, was supported, not only by Sir Charles, but by
"the leader of the old Whigs in the House of Commons," Mr. E. P. Bouverie,
a Privy Councillor, who to his horror found himself named to tell against
the Bill, and thus identified with the "republican" opposition. 'Speaker
Brand no doubt owed him some grudge.' [Footnote: The Right Hon. E. P.
Bouverie had been a very successful Chairman of Committees of the whole
House, and was indicated by public option as a probable Speaker. He was
recognized as a leading authority on the Law of Parliament.] Dilke's own
speech had demanded the annual publication of the receipts and
disbursements of the Crown Private Estates, and though he waited long to
carry his point, he saw this amongst other proposals adopted on the
recommendation of the Civil List Committee of 1910, on which he served.
Proof was not wanting that his determined attitude on these matters had
won him the support of great masses of the democracy. Miners' Unions and
Labourers' Unions wrote, begging, some for his portrait, others for an
address; also, in places where opposition had been offered to his
speaking, reprisals were exacted.
'Early in January, 1873, we went to Derby, at the request of the
chairman of my meeting at Derby which had failed in the winter of
'71-72, when, though a majority were upon our side, a gang of hired
poachers had entrenched themselves in a corner of the room, had burned
cayenne pepper, and defied all attempts to drive them out. The
chairman was a man of determination who did not mean to be beaten. He
organized his meeting on this occasion with almost too much care, for
I fancy he brought fighting friends from Nottingham and other bruising
places to it. The Tory roughs appeared, as on the former occasion.
Before we were allowed to enter the room they were charged by means of
battering rams with such effect that their entrenchments were
destroyed, and they themselves were mostly stunned and carried out one
by one. No one was dangerously hurt, but there were many broken heads.
Lady Dilke was present in the thick of it, and, according to the
newspaper reports, anxiously begged the stewards to deal gently with
those whom they threw out. After this the meeting was held in peace.
But the result was a formal Government inquiry, and the removal of the
chairman of the meeting from the County Bench by the Lord Chancellor.
He turned clergyman, to the benefit of _Notes and Queries_ and of the
societies for antiquarian research, for, being a man of active mind,
and finding the care of small parishes of ritualistic tendencies
insufficient to occupy his whole time, he became the author of the
famous book, _Churches of Derbyshire_, and of much other antiquarian
Sir Charles notes that this address at Derby was in fact his first
pronouncement on "Free Land." In the following week, at Chelsea, he spoke
upon Free Trade, and in both these speeches used the phrase, "Free land,
free church, free schools, free trade, free law," laying down, early in
1873, 'the principles on which Chamberlain and John Morley afterwards went
in the construction of the pamphlet known as _The Radical Programme_.'
Sir G. Trevelyan writes:
"In the first months of 1872 he was supposed to have injured himself
greatly by his proceedings with regard to the Civil List; and yet, _to
my knowledge, within a very few years Mr. Disraeli stated it as his
opinion that Sir Charles Dilke was the most useful and influential
member, among quite young men, that he had ever known."
In pursuit of his plan of "keeping quiet" till the impending dissolution,
he took no prominent action in these months; but he backed independent
Liberalism whenever he saw a chance, as, for instance, by subscribing to
forward the candidature of Mr. Burt, who had then been selected by the
Morpeth miners to represent them. There was, however, a further reason for
this quiescence. Lady Dilke at the close of the season was seriously ill,
and it was late in autumn before she could be taken abroad to Monaco.
Here, under the associations of the place, Dilke wrote his very successful
political fantasy, _Prince Florestan_.
Another event which clouded 1873 was Mill's death--'a great loss to us.
Ours was the last house at which he dined, and we, with the Hills' (the
editor of the _Daily News_ and his wife), 'were the last friends who dined
with him. The Watts portrait for which he had consented to sit was
finished for me just when he died.'
'I loved him greatly,' Sir Charles writes. The relation between the two
had been that of master and disciple, and Mill may be said to have carried
on and completed the work of old Mr. Dilke.
[Illustration: JOHN STUART MILL.
From the painting by G. F. Watts, R.A., in the Westminster Town Hall.]
RE-ELECTION TO PARLIAMENT--DEATH OF LADY DILKE
Having remained abroad until after Christmas, 1873, the Dilkes stayed at
Brighton for the sake of Lady Dilke's health, Sir Charles coming to town
as occasion needed.
His address to his constituents in 1874 assumed a special character in
view of the approaching dissolution. He reviewed the whole work done by
the 'Householder Parliament,' and more particularly the part taken in it
by the members for Chelsea. It was an independent speech, making it quite
clear that from the introduction of the Education Bill in 1870 the speaker
had "ceased to be a steady supporter of the Government," and showing that
"during the past three years the present Government had been declining in
public esteem." Sir Charles recalled the various matters on which he had
criticized their action, laying emphasis on two points. One was the Act of
1871 for amending the Criminal Law in regard to combinations of workmen,
which had been passed in response to a long and vehement demand that the
position of Trade Unions should be regularized. The amending Act had
really left the Unions worse off than before: "the weapon of the men is
picketing, and the weapon of the master is the black list. The picketing
is practically prohibited by this Bill, and the black list is left
untouched." [Footnote: See "Labour," Chapter LII. (Volume II., pp. 342-
The other matter of interest was the Irish Peace Preservation Bill of
1873, a Bill which, as he said, would have raised great outcry if applied
to an English district; yet, 'because it applied only to Ireland, and the
Irish were unpopular and were supposed to be an unaccountable people
different from all others,' it had passed with small opposition. He could
not understand 'how those who shuddered at arbitrary arrests in Poland,
and who ridiculed the gagging of the Press in France, could permit the
passing of a law for Ireland which gave absolute powers of arrest and of
suppression of newspapers to the Lord-Lieutenant.'
Ireland has frequently afforded a test of the thoroughness of Liberal
principles, and Sir Charles was distinguished from most of his countrymen
by a refusal to impose geographical limitations on his notions of logic or
of conduct. He was the least insular of Englishmen.
In this speech of January, 1874, printed for circulation to the electors,
he went very fully into the matter of the Civil List controversy, but did
not touch his avowal of republican principles, because that declaration
had been made outside Parliament, and he had never spoken of it in
Parliament. He dealt with the matter, however, in a letter written to one
of his supporters for general publication:
"You ask me whether you are not justified in saying that I have always
declined to take part in a republican agitation. That is so. I have
repeatedly declined to do so; I have declined to attend republican
meetings and I have abstained from subscribing to republican funds. I
also refused to join the Republican Club formed at Cambridge
University, though I am far from wishing to cast a slur on those
Liberal politicians--Professor Fawcett and others--who did join it.
The view I took was that I had no right to make use of my position as
a member of the House of Commons, gained largely by the votes of those
who are not even theoretical republicans, to push on an English
republican movement. On the other hand, when denounced in a
Conservative paper as a 'republican,' as though that were a term of
abuse, I felt bound as an honest man to say I was one. But I am not a
'republican member' or a 'republican candidate,' any more than Mr.
Gordon" (his opponent) "is a monarchical candidate, because there is
neither Republican party nor Monarchical party in the English
Parliament. I said at Glasgow two years ago: 'The majority of the
people of Great Britain believe that the reforms they desire are
compatible with the monarchic form of government,' and this I believe
now as then."
'At the time when the letter was written,' notes the Memoir, 'an
immediate dissolution of Parliament was not expected, but it was only
just in time (being dated January 20th) to be of the most use, for the
sudden dissolution occurred four days after its publication. The word
"sudden" hardly perhaps, at this distance of time, conveys an
impression of the extraordinary nature of the event.'
The Cabinet's decision to dissolve, arising out of difficulties on the
Budget, was announced on January 24th. By February 16th the elections were
over, and Mr. Gladstone's Government had resigned, the Tories having come
back with a solid majority. It was an overthrow for the Liberal party, but
Sir Charles survived triumphantly, though ten seats in London were lost to
Mr. Gladstone's following. Mr. Ayrton, the First Commissioner of Works,
against whom Sir Charles and his fellow-Radicals had fought fiercely, was
ejected from the Tower Hamlets, and never returned to public life. Another
victim was Sir Charles's former colleague.
'To the astonishment of many people, I was returned at the head of the
poll, the Conservative standing next, and then Sir Henry Hoare, while
the independent Moderate Liberal who had stood against me and obtained
the temperance vote, obtained nothing else, and was, at a great
distance from us, at the bottom of the poll.'
When all the political journalists in England were reviewing, after his
death in 1911, the remarkable career that they had watched, some for half
a lifetime, one of the veterans among them wrote: [Footnote: The
_Newcastle Daily Chronicle_.]
"_We do not think that Sir Charles Dilke owed a great deal to the
Liberal party, but we certainly think that the Liberal party owed a
very great deal to Sir Charles Dilke_. In the dark days of 1874, when
the party was deeper in the slough of despond than it has ever been
before or since in our time, it was from the initiative and courage of
Sir Charles Dilke that salvation came. His work in organizing the
Liberal forces, especially in the Metropolis, has never received due
The centre of his influence was among those who knew him best--his own
constituents. 'I had indeed invented a caucus in Chelsea before the first
Birmingham Election Association was started,' he says of his own electoral
machinery. [Footnote: See Chapter XVII., p. 268.] The Eleusis Club was
known all over England as a propagandist centre. Here he had no occasion
to explain his speeches at Newcastle or elsewhere. "We were all
republicans down Chelsea way when young Charlie Dilke came among us
first," said an old supporter. Yet the propaganda emanating from the
Eleusis Club was not republican.
Here and all over the constituency he made innumerable and unreported
speeches to instruct industrial opinion. He laid under contribution his
whole store of extraordinary knowledge, suggesting and answering questions
till no Parliamentary representative in the country was followed by his
supporters with an attention so informed and discriminating.
"Nothing of the sort had been known since David Urquhart, in the first
half of the Victorian age, opened his lecture-halls and classrooms
throughout the world for counter-working Palmerston, and for teaching
artisans the true inwardness of the Eastern Question." [Footnote: Mr.
T. H. S. Escott, the _New Age_, February 9th, 1911.]
Sir Charles himself gives in the Memoir some sketch of the feelings with
which Liberals confronted that rout of Liberalism, and of the steps taken
to repair the disaster.
'Harcourt wrote (upon paper which bore the words "Solicitor-General"
with a large "No longer" in his handwriting at the top):
'"_Rari nantes in gurgite vasto._ Here we are again.... To tell you
the truth, I am not sorry. It had to come, and it is as well over. We
shall get rid of these canting duffers of the party and begin afresh.
We must all meet again _below_ the gangway. We shall have a nice
little party, though diminished. I am very sorry about Fawcett, but we
shall soon get him back again."
'My first work was to bring back Fawcett, and by negotiations with
Homer, the Hackney publican (Secretary of the Licensed Victuallers'
Protection Association), into which I entered because Fawcett's defeat
had been partly owing to the determined opposition of Sir Wilfrid
Lawson's friends, who could not forgive his attacks on the direct
veto, I succeeded in securing him an invitation to contest Hackney,
where there was an early vacancy. Fitzmaurice and I became
respectively Chairman and Treasurer of a fund, and we raised more
money than was needed for paying the whole of Fawcett's expenses, and
were able to bank a fund in the name of trustees, of whom I was one,
for his next election.
'Fitzmaurice, in accepting my invitation to co-operate with me in this
matter, said that he had succeeded in discovering a place to which
posts took two days, "wherein I can moralize at leisure on the folly
of the leaders of the Liberal party."
'When Fawcett returned to the House, he would not let himself be
introduced by the party Whips; but was introduced by me, in
conjunction, however, with Playfair, who, besides being one of his
most intimate political friends, had been for a short time before the
dissolution a member of the Government. On this occasion Fitzmaurice
wrote: "Gladstone, I imagine, is the person least pleased at the
return of Fawcett, and I should think has been dreaming ever since
that Bouverie's turn will come next." Cowen said in the _Newcastle
Chronicle_, Fawcett "contributed as much as any man in the late House
of Commons to damage the late Government. During the last session he
voted in favour of the proposals made by Mr. Gladstone's Government
about 160 times, and he voted against them about 180 times. It always
struck me that Professor Fawcett's boasted independence partook
greatly of crotchety awkwardness." Fawcett's personal popularity was,
however, great, not only with the public, but with men who did not
share his views and saw much of him in private life, such as the
ordinary Cambridge Dons among whom he lived, and whose prejudices upon
many points he was continually attacking. Nevertheless he was a
Elsewhere, relating how Fawcett disturbed the peace of Mr. Glyn, the
ministerial Chief Whip from 1868 onwards. Sir Charles explained that--
'when he had some mischief brewing late at night, he used to get one
of the Junior Whips to give him an arm through the lobby, and as he
passed the Senior Whip at the door leading to the members' entrance
would say "Good-night, Glyn," as though he were going home to bed.'
Mr. Glyn thought "the blind man" had gone to bed, but in reality he had
simply passed down to the terrace, and would sit there smoking till the
other conspirators saw the moment to go down and fetch him. 'I fear it was
by this stratagem that he had helped me to defeat Ayrton's Bill for
throwing a piece of the Park into the Kensington Road opposite the Albert
It is possible that Dilke was a name of even greater horror to the
orthodox Whiggish opinion of this date than to the regular adherents of
Toryism. The general attitude at this moment towards "the Republican"--
"Citizen Dilke"--is illustrated by an anecdote in the _Reminiscences of
Charles Gavard_, who was for many years First Secretary at the French
Embassy. He says that when Sir Charles Dilke stood for Chelsea in 1874, he
attended several of his meetings--
"partly, I must admit, in the spirit of the Englishman who never
missed a performance of van Amburg, the lion-tamer, hoping some day to
see him devoured by his lions. On one occasion, at Chelsea Town Hall,
I had the honour of leading Lady Dilke on to the platform, and was
greeted, with such a round of applause as I am not likely to enjoy
again in my life. But, to my horror, I heard the reporters inquiring
as to my identity. Fortunately, Sir Charles perceived the peril I was
in, and gave them some misleading information. Otherwise, my name
might have appeared in the Press, and my diplomatic career have been
abruptly ended for figuring in public among the supporters of so
hostile an opponent of the form of government prevailing, in the
country to which I was accredited."
Sir Charles's personal triumph at the polls amid the general rout of his
party inevitably enhanced his position in the House. And upon it there
followed a wholly different success which established his prestige
precisely on the point where it was the fashion to assail it. He had been
decried as 'dreary'; yet London suddenly found itself applauding him as a
_The Fall of Prince Florestan of Monaco_ was published anonymously in
March, 1874. To-day the little book is perhaps almost forgotten, although
one can still be amused by the story of the Cambridge undergraduate,
trained in the fullest faith of free-thinking Radicalism, who finds
himself suddenly promoted to the principality of Monaco, and who arrives
in his microscopic kingdom only to realize that his monarchical state
rests on the support of two pillars--a Jesuit who controls the Church and
education, and M. Blanc, who manages the gaming tables. The consequence of
Prince Florestan's attempt to put in practice democratic principles where
nobody wanted them was wittily and ingeniously thought out, and the tone
of subdued irony admirably kept up. The work was characteristically
thorough. The 126 functionaries, the 60 soldiers and carbineers, the 150
unpaid diplomatic representatives of Monaco abroad, the Vicar-General, the
Treasurer-General, the Honorary Almoner, and all the other "appliances and
excrescences of civilized government," which went to make up that
"perfection of bureaucracy and red tape in a territory one mile broad and
five miles long," were all statistically accurate. Throughout the whole a
reference to other monarchies and other swarms of functionaries was
The quality of the book is rather that of talk than of writing. It has the
dash, the quick turn, and the vivacity of a good improvisation at the
dinner-table; and a quotation will illustrate not so much Sir Charles's
literary gift as the manner of his talk:
"On the 5th of February I reached Nice by the express, and, after
reading the telegram which announced the return of Mr. Gladstone by a
discerning people as junior colleague to a gin distiller, was
presented with an address by the Gambettist mayor at the desire of the
legitimist prefet. The mayor, being a red-hot republican in politics,
but a carriage-builder by trade, lectured me on the drawbacks of
despotism in his address, but informed me in conversation afterwards
that he had had the honour of building a Victoria for Prince Charles
Honore--which was next door to giving me his business card. The
address, however, also assumed that the Princes of Monaco were
suffered only by Providence to exist in order that the trade of Nice,
the nearest large French town, might thrive.
"In the evening at four we reached the station at Monaco, which was
decked with the white flags of my ancestors. What a pity, was my
thought, that M. de Chambord should not be aware that if he would come
to stay with me at the castle he would live under the white flag to
which he is so much attached all the days of his life. My reception
was enthusiastic. The guards, in blue uniforms not unlike the
Bavarian, but with tall shakos instead of helmets, and similar to that
which during the stoppage of the train at Nice I had rapidly put on,
were drawn up in line to the number of thirty-nine--one being in
hospital with a wart on his thumb, as M. de Payan told me. What an
admirable centralization that such a detail should be known to every
member of the administration! Two drummers rolled their drums French
fashion. In front of the line were four officers, of whom--one fat;
Baron Imberty; the Vicar-General; and Pere Pellico of the Jesuits of
the Visitation, brother, as I already knew, to the celebrated Italian
patriot, Silvio Pellico, of dungeon and spider fame.
"'Where is M. Blanc?' I cried to M. de Payan, as we stopped, seeing no
one not in uniform or robes. "'M. Blanc,' said M. de Payan severely,
'though a useful subject to Your Highness, is neither a member of the
household of Your Highness, a soldier of His army, nor a functionary
of His Government. M. Blanc is in the crowd outside'" [Footnote:
_Prince Florestan_, p. 23.]
Sir Charles sent the manuscript anonymously to Macmillans, with a
statement that the work would certainly be a success, and that the author
would announce himself on the appearance of the second edition. But the
Macmillans, who had published _Greater Britain_, noted that the proposed
little book contained several contumelious references to the "lugubrious
speeches" of Sir Charles Dilke and his brother, and refused to have
anything to do with it. To pacify them, Sir Charles, from behind his mask,
had to excise some of the disagreeable things which he had said about
himself. Enough was left to convince one egregious London daily paper not
only that Matthew Arnold was the author, but that the special object of
his new satire was Sir Charles Dilke, "a clever young man who fancies that
his prejudices are ideas, and who, if he had the misfortune to be made
King, would stir up a revolution in a week."
This was the very thing that Sir Charles wanted. Fundamentally the book
was chaff--chaff of other people for their estimate of him. Finding
himself perpetually under the necessity of explaining that his theoretic
preference for Republicanism would not constrain him to upset a monarchy
which happened to suit the nation where it existed, he wrote _Prince
Florestan_, as though to say: 'This is what you take me for'; and even
while it satirized the absurdity of Florestan's court and constitution,
the book showed that it would be still more absurd to upset even the most
ridiculous Government so long as it suited the people governed.
The ascription to Matthew Arnold was frequent. The book came out on March
16th, and within forty-eight hours had been reviewed in five leading
papers, and, in all the guessing, no one in print guessed right.
The disclosure was made by Lady Dilke, who, entering a friend's drawing-
room, caused herself to be announced as "Princess Florestan." Newspapers
proclaimed the authorship; a popular edition of the book appeared, with
malicious extracts from the various reviews that had been written when the
authorship was unknown; and the result was to make Sir Charles, already
universally known, now universally the fashion.
Though he had faced social ostracism with a courage all the greater in one
who enjoyed society, he was unaffectedly glad to take his place again. One
shrewd critic wrote that "Florestan's" success "had led some people to
discover that they always liked Sir Charles Dilke."
"Society" (the writer went on) "still bears Sir Charles a grudge, and
would have voted anything known to be his to be dull--like his
speeches, as he good-naturedly said of himself. Amused, without
knowing who amused them, the few fine people who supply views to the
many fine people in need of them prove not ungrateful."
The return of a Conservative Government was accompanied by a period of
comparative inaction on the part of Sir Charles and his friends; and the
activities of the whole Liberal party were in a measure paralyzed by the
withdrawal of Mr. Gladstone, not merely from leadership, but almost from
the Parliamentary arena. Mr. Chamberlain, who had stood for Parliament and
been defeated at Sheffield, wrote that he was engaged in purchasing the
Birmingham Gasworks for the Corporation, and did not want to stand again
till he had finished his mayoralty.'
"It may be well to let the crude attempts at democratic organizations,
Radical unions, etc., etc., be disposed of before we talk over our
propositions. I do not think the League will do. We must be a new
organization, although our experience and acquired information may be
'This was the death-warrant of the Education League, and the birth-
certificate of the National Liberal Federation, always privately
called by Chamberlain after the name given to it by his enemies, The
Sir Charles himself was mainly occupied in Parliament with pioneer work
for the extension of the franchise; and by a series of small steps towards
electoral reform he obtained ultimately, as a private member in
opposition, very considerable results. It was not merely with the right to
vote, but with the opportunity that he concerned himself, and his Bill to
extend the polling hours till 8 p.m., introduced in the session of 1874,
although it was opposed by the Government and rejected on a division,
nevertheless became law in a few years, as a measure applying to London
first, and then to the whole of the United Kingdom.
In the same session he served on a Committee to inquire into the
adulteration of food, and obtained through a careful watching of the
evidence "a considerable knowledge of the processes of manufacture, which
was afterwards useful when I came to be charged with the negotiation of
'I continued to interest myself in the question of local government,
until I had shaped my views into the form of proposals which I was
able to place in a Bill when afterwards at the Local Government Board,
and to make public in a speech at Halifax in 1885.'
He adds: 'In 1874 I voted for Home Rule.' This was always for him a form
of local government in its highest sense.
He was strong enough to take up a position of detachment, and from that
vantage-ground he made at Hammersmith, on September 8th, 1874, an
interesting speech, in which he gave free rein to the ironical mood of
Prince Florestan. The Tories, he said, came into office with at all events
a strong list of names: Mr. Disraeli, Lord Cairns and Mr. Gathorne Hardy
could not easily be matched.
"On the other hand, our chiefs were nowhere. Mr. Gladstone was in the
sulks, and Mr. Forster had been returned by Tory votes at Bradford, than
which nothing is more weakening to a Liberal politician. Mr. Cardwell and
Mr. Chichester Fortescue had gone to the Whig heaven; and Sir William
Harcourt, whose great abilities were beginning to be recognized, was
draping himself in the mantle of Lord Palmerston, and looked rather to a
distant than to an immediate future.
"As though to strengthen the Conservative position, we were at the
same time on our side called upon to surrender our parliamentary
liberties as independent members to a triumvirate, composed of Mr.
Goschen, Lord Hartington, and Mr. Forster--the title of the first
being founded upon the fact that he was the intimate friend of Mr.
Gladstone, whom the country had just condemned; that of the second,
that he was a serious Marquis, the son of a highly respectable Duke;
and that of the third, that he had the confidence of gentlemen who sat
upon the other side of the House. Believing, as we did, that Mr.
Disraeli never made mistakes, it was not easy to foresee the end of
"When people talked about the extinction of the Whigs, it certainly
then seemed, on the contrary, that that party, instead of being
extinct, had become all-embracing, for one knew nobody who was not a
Whig. With a Whig Government in office under Mr. Disraeli, and a
disorganized Whig opposition on the other side, there seemed to be in
question only persons, and not principles. At the Same time, many
Liberals thought that it would be better, as far as principles went,
to keep the Conservatives in office, inasmuch as they possessed a
majority in the House of Lords, and, being forced by the House of
Commons and the country into passing Whig measures, would have to
carry them through both Houses and into law, instead of dropping them
halfway, as our people had often been compelled to do."
In this speech he assailed Mr. Disraeli's Government for legislation which
laid restrictions only on "the poor and the lower middle classes, and
which put down a servants' betting club, though it had precisely the same
rules as prevail at Tattersall's." The Friendly Societies Bill, again,
seemed to him "harassing," and drawn on the assumption that working men
have not sense enough to investigate for themselves the position of the
society which they wish to join.
"There cannot be too little interference with the great self-governed
popular Societies. I think that this Bill is the thin end of the
wedge, that espionage is the first step to control, and that control
is a long step on the road which leads to the destruction of the
Societies, and to the creation of a single Government provident
organization, which I should regard as a great evil."
The speech attracted much attention, and Sir Charles was now quoted as one
whom men would wish to see in any Liberal Ministry. In the public field,
during the spring and summer of 1874, all went well with him. But his
personal life during these months was overshadowed by approaching
Lady Dilke was again in ill-health, and was under the presentiment of
approaching death. 'Our last happy time was at Paris at Christmas, 1873,
on our way home from Monaco, when Gambetta's brightness was answered by
our own.' Sir Charles occupied himself with buying land at Broadstairs,
where the climate was specially favourable to his wife's health, but as
the plans for building on it progressed, he could note that the keenness
of her interest 'drooped and died.' After the beginning of August there
were no more dinner-parties, and although those who came to the house--of
whom Sir William Harcourt was the last to be admitted--found its mistress
wearing a gay face, the gloom deepened over her, and she suffered acutely
from insomnia. A child was born in September; she lived to see her son,
the present Sir Wentworth Dilke, but she never rallied. Death came to her
with difficulty, early in the night of September 20th. Sir Charles,
overstrained already by long watching, was completely unstrung by the
unlooked-for end of the final and terrible vigil. Having summoned his
grandmother, Mrs. Chatfield, and asked her to take charge of his house and
son--a charge which she fulfilled till her death--he fled from the scene
of his suffering, and hid himself in Paris, seeing no one, and holding
communication with no one.
'For about a month I think I did not see a letter. I worked steadily
at historical work; but I have very little recollection of the time
(except by looking at the notebooks which contain the work I did), and
even within a few months afterwards was unable to recall it.'
All the letters which poured in speak again and again of Lady Dilke's
radiant charm. Moret, the Spanish Minister, who had been one of the guests
at the last of all her dinner-parties, recalled her as he saw her then,
"si belle, si bonne, si souriante, que j'eprouvai moi-meme le bonheur
'The beginning of my friendship with Cardinal Manning was his letter
to me at this time, in which he said, "We have met only once, and that
in public, but it was that meeting which enables me to understand what
your affliction is now."'
Gambetta wrote to him 'a really beautiful letter ':
_"La Republique Francaise,_
"16, RUE DU CROISSANT,
"_le 2 novembre_, 1874.
"MON BIEN CHER AMI,
"Plus que jamais permettez-moi de vous donner ce nom, qui, au milieu
des terribles epreuves qui vous accablent, n'exprime que bien
imparfaitement les sentiments de profond attachement, de volontaire
solidarite que je vous ai voues.
"Je sais, je mesure l'insuffisance amere de toute parole de
consolation pour d'aussi grandes douleurs, d'aussi irreparables
pertes. Car meme l'impuissance de semblables remedes qui m'ont empeche
de vous ecrire plutot, m'ont arrete dans le desir de venir pres de
vous a un moment aussi lugubre pour votre grand coeur. J'ai cru plus
digne, plus respectueux de vos angoisses, d'attendre; et je m'en suis
remis a votre penetration naturelle pour comprendre et accepter mon
"Aujourd'hui je viens vous dire que le plus haut prix que je puisse
obtenir de notre commune affection serait de pouvoir penser que dans
la fuite de la vie, je pourrais etre assez heureux pour etre de
quelque utilite dans les actes de votre existence.
"Je viendrai vous voir demain mardi a 2 heures et vous repeter de
vive-voix ce que je dis ici. Je suis tout entier a vous et de coeur,
From that day forward Sir Charles met him constantly.
'It would have been difficult to find a better companion at such a
moment than one who was so full of interest in life, about things
which were absolutely outside my own life, who was surrounded by
people who could recall to me no circumstances of pain.'
After seeing Gambetta, Sir Charles roused himself to write a reply in the
last days of October to Sir William Harcourt, whose sympathy had been
expressed with a rare warmth of kindness, and who caused his son--then a
boy of eleven, [Footnote: Afterwards the Right Hon. Lewis Harcourt,
created Viscount at the end of 1916.]--'to write to me about Katie, who
had been kind to him, which was a pretty thought, and proposed that I
should go and live with him, which I ultimately did.'
'Some scraps of polities' were added to they letter, in the hope of
reviving his interest in life; but Sir Charles at this moment was fully
determined to resign his seat, feeling himself unable to face old
associates and associations again. His brother Ashton, now busily and
successfully at work in directing his newspaper, the _Weekly Dispatch_,
begged him at least to consider his constituents. An election caused by
the Radical member's retirement would certainly let in a second Tory.
"For yourself, I really think, my dear boy, that work is the best
remedy, and though you may not think it now, you could not give it
up.... It seems selfish to speak of myself, but I should have to give
up the _Dispatch_, as the thing is too serious for me to go into
without your advice. Do think it over again, Charlie; there is no
hurry. I will come next week. We must not make dear Dragon's
[Footnote: Mrs. Chatfield, their grandmother.] last days unhappy by
wandering over the world year after year. Remember your child, and
that you must regard the living as well as the dead. I am sure she
would never have let you sacrifice your career. Do think it over
Sir Charles adds: 'It was, however, Gambetta, I think, that saved me.'
In the course of the month (November, 1874) he wrote to his constituents
in reply to a resolution sent by them, but could not promise to take his
seat during the following session, and said that in any event he should
have for a long time to transact business only by letter. 'From this time
forward I got rapidly better as far as nervousness at meeting people went,
although for many months I was completely changed and out of my proper
self.' [Footnote: He, however, began to attend Parliament in the early
part of the session of 1875.]
He sought escape in travel, starting suddenly in December for Algeria by
way of Oran, and pushing through the desert as far as Laghouat and the
RENEWAL OF ACTIVITY
On his return from Algeria Sir Charles reached Paris and crossed to
England in the last week of January, 1875.
'On reaching London, instead of going to Harcourt's, I had to go
first to my own house, for I was sickening with disease, and had,
indeed, a curious very slight attack of smallpox, which passed off,
however, in about two days, but I had to be isolated for another week.
When I became what the doctors called well I moved to Harcourt's; but
my hand still shook, and I had contracted a bad habit of counting the
beating of my heart, and I was so weak of mind that the slightest act
of kindness made me cry. To my grandmother and brother I wrote to ask
them to let me go on living with Harcourt for the present, not because
I preferred him to them, but because I could not live in my own house,
and should have a better chance of sleep if I returned elsewhere at
night from the House of Commons.'
From this prostration he slowly recovered, occupying himself partly in
arranging for the publication by Murray of _Papers of a Critic_, which he
describes as 'a reprint of some of my grandfather's articles, with a
memoir of him by myself which I had written while in Paris.'
The book was well received, and a copy sent to Mr. Disraeli brought this
"2, WHITEHALL GARDENS,
"_June 28th_, '75.
"DEAR SIR CHARLES,
"I am obliged to you for sending me your book; I find it agreeable and
amusing. _Belles Lettres_ are now extremely rare, but, I must confess,
very refreshing. Your grandfather had a true literary vein, and you
have done wisely in collecting his papers.
"Very much yours,
This pleasant note was the beginning of an acquaintance, though by a
series of chances Sir Charles never met the Tory leader outside Parliament
till Lord Beaconsfield was in the last year of his life.
When coming through Paris he had, 'of course at once' gone to see
Gambetta, whom he found 'privately ridiculing the various suggestions made
as to a constitution for his country.' Gambetta suggested as an
alternative that they should allow the National Assembly elected after the
'to continue to govern the country without filling up death vacancies,
and with the provision that when at last it became reduced to one
member, he should take any title or give to any person that he pleased
any title, or adopt any form of government that he should think fit!'
Shortly after Mr. John Morley went with an introduction from Sir Charles
to Gambetta, which nearly miscarried.
"I went for two nights" (he wrote) "to Gambetta's office (the office
of the _Republique Francaise_), and found him 'not come.' As I would
not sit up late three nights ... I desisted. Then he wrote me the most
courteous letter, making a more sensible appointment at his private
quarters. This I kept. He gave a most gracious and even caressing
reception, and I was intensely interested in him."
On this Sir Charles comments: 'Morley was no doubt told by Gambetta's
faithful secretary to call at "2 a.m.," which was a playful way this old
gentleman had of choking off callers.'
As his health became re-established Sir Charles took an increasing part in
political life. The independent man is on much better terms with his party
when that party is in opposition; his critical faculty is directed against
other men's measures, and if he has force, he easily passes into the
position of being consulted. The process was the easier in Sir Charles's
case, because the governing group of the Liberal party in Parliament was
much disorganized. A great effort was being made to escape from the
unsatisfactory relations between Liberals and their Front Bench, which a
witty member had defined by saying that the party sat "like Scotch
communicants trying aspirants for the ministry of their church by their
'Fierce fighting was taking place over the choice of a leader of the
Liberal party. Up to the day on which there went out the notices for
the meeting there was the greatest doubt as to the result.... Sir H.
James reported 'Forster very loyal and quite willing to give way.
Hartington careless. Mundella, Fawcett, and Trevelyan working hard for
Forster, but Adam" (the Chief Whip) "says the great bulk of our men
all for Hartington. Richard very strong against Forster, and he
represents a great many Nonconformists. Adam says Fawcett is going to
Birmingham to-morrow in order to support Forster there, but this I do
not believe.' James added that he had ventured to say to Adam that as
far as he knew Harcourt was not disposed to take any part, one way or
the other, in reference to the matter, which was the case also with
Sir Charles had declined to attend the meeting, but before it took place
the matter was arranged.
'At one moment, after a fiasco by Mr. Bright at Birmingham, it had
looked as though Forster might win, in spite of Chamberlain and the
Nonconformists. Although James professed Harcourt's indifference in
the matter, Harcourt and James were both, as a fact, for Hartington.
Harcourt had conceived a strong feeling against Fawcett immediately
before this, in January, for trying to keep Mr. Gladstone as the
leader, a course to which Harcourt was bitterly opposed....'
In these years Sir William Harcourt, then a widower devoted to his one
boy, stood nearer to Sir Charles than any other of his English friends.
Dilke wrote to him: "How little credit you get for your heart! How few
people know you have one!"
'In this month of February, 1875,' he goes on to say, 'I revived an
acquaintance which had slumbered for thirteen years, but was destined
not again to drop.'
Account has already been given of Sir Charles's boyish friendship with
Emilia Strong, a brilliant girl three years his elder. In 1861 she had
married Mark Pattison, the Rector of Lincoln College, and from that time
onward Dilke, although he had seen something of the famous scholar, her
husband, had scarcely met Mrs. Pattison, as she seldom came to London, and
he at that time never went to Oxford. Now, in 1875, she was staying with
her husband in Gower Street, under the roof of Sir Charles Newton, Keeper
of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum, and was gradually
becoming convalescent after a terrible attack of gout, which had left both
her arms useless for many months. During this time they were strapped to
her sides, and she had to invent a machine to turn over the pages of her
book. But the bracing influence of her mind on those around her was
unimpaired. In the years which followed, the habit of correspondence grew
up between them, strengthening, until at any important crisis in his
political life it became natural to him to consult her or take her into
We have also at this moment reference to the beginnings of an acquaintance
with a remarkable opponent.
Sir Charles notes that at Easter, 1875, when crossing to France, he met
Lord Randolph Churchill, already known to him in the House, who expressed
a wish to be presented to Gambetta. The meeting was a success, and
Gambetta, delighted with his talk, asked him to breakfast along with
Dilke, fixing the hour at noon; but later there came this note:
"MON CHER AMI,
"Je vous prie en grace de vouloir bien avancer notre dejeuner au Cafe
Anglais et de prevenir votre ami de ce petit derangement.
L'enterrement d'Edgar Quinet doit avoir lieu a une heure a
Montparnasse et je ne peux manquer a cette ceremonie. Donc a demain
lundi 11h au Caf. Anglais.
"Votre toujours devoue,
At the breakfast talk turned naturally on Quinet, the professor and critic
who was exiled after the _coup d'etat_, and whom the Third Republic
welcomed back to his place on the Extreme Left. This led to mention of the
recent occasion when Gambetta had "assisted" at the funeral of another
famous Republican exile, Ledru-Rollin, who had died on the last day of
'Randolph turned to Gambetta, and in his most apologetic style, which
is extremely taking, said: "_Would_ you mind telling me who Ledru-
Rollin was?" Gambetta looked him all up and down, as though to say,
"What sort of a politician are you, never to have heard of Ledru-
Rollin?" and then broke into a laugh, and replied: "Ledru-Rollin was a
republican in the days when there were none, so we were bound to give
him a first-class funeral."'
Sir Charles adds:
'When I was a boy, Hepworth Dixon used to tell a story of how an
omnibus driver had nudged him one day when he was sitting on the box-
seat, and pointing out Ledru-Rollin in Oxford Street, had said, "See
that gentleman? I have heard say how he once was King of France"--
which had been pretty true at the beginning of 1848.'
After the Easter recess 'was the moment of the German war scare' of 1875
'Bourke' (the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs) 'kept me quiet in
the Commons by keeping me informed. He told me of the Queen's letter
to the Emperor William the day it went. Gavard, the French Charge
d'Affaires, told me that England and Russia received official thanks
from France for preventing war by pressure at Berlin. Peace was not in
There is a note referring to conversations held earlier in 1875 with
Gambetta, and to other conversations with Bismarck in 1889:
'I had heard a rumour that Thiers had signed secret articles of peace
in addition to the public treaty, and further that in these articles
there was something about the number of men to be kept under arms by
France. In the Arnim trial it came out that one of the despatches
concerned Prussian spies in France in 1872, while two of the
despatches were "so secret that they could not be even named or
catalogued." It was thought that these despatches concerned the secret
articles, and it was sought in this way to explain the efforts made by
Germany to prevent the fall of Thiers on the ground that he must be
kept on his legs for fear a different Government would disregard his
secret articles. Bismarck himself, it should be remembered, spoke of
the two uncatalogued despatches as "perhaps decisive of the question
of peace or war." [Footnote: Secret articles of the Versailles and
When at Friedrichsruh in September, 1889, [Footnote: This was during
Sir Charles's visit to Prince Bismarck, described in Chapter L.
(Volume II.).] as Bismarck was talking very freely about everything
that was past and gone, I asked him about this, and he said that I
should agree with him that it was plain that the suggestions as to the
limit of the number of men had been wrong, inasmuch as France had
repeatedly increased her forces; but the sudden risk of war between
France and Germany which arose in 1875, when war was only prevented by
the interference of the Russian Emperor, has never been adequately
On this point Sir Charles afterwards pencilled in the margin: 'The
Prussian Staff wanted war; I doubt whether the old German Emperor intended
to permit it.'
There follow other references of this year to foreign politics and
'Don Alfonso at this moment (January, 1875) had become King of Spain.
Two years previously Moret told me to a day when Amedeo, whose
Ambassador in England he then was, would fall; and on Boxing Day of
1874 in Paris, before I left for Algeria, he recalled to me this
prophecy, and told me that Serrano would "bring back" Alfonso that
week, and so he did. [Footnote: Marshal Serrano was Minister of War to
Queen Isabella II., with whom he had great influence. His opposition
to the illegal prorogation of the Cortes led to his imprisonment, but
after the revolution of 1868, when Isabella was dethroned and her
dynasty proscribed, he became Regent of Spain from 1868 to 1871. He
resigned this power when Amedeo I. entered Madrid, but remained
President of the Council and Minister of War. On the abdiction of
Amedeo and proclamation of a Republic he was again at the head of
affairs until Alfonso II., son of Isabella, was "brought back."]
'Sigismund Moret is not only the handsomest and pleasantest of men,
but about the cleverest; but at this moment his country offered him no
place, and his friends could only regret that he could find nothing
better to do than play whist. He afterwards became Prime Minister.
'Alfonso was said to be greatly under the influence at this time of
the Duchesse de Sesto--my old friend of 1860, the Duchesse de Morny,
lovely of the lovely at that time at Trouville, but afterwards when I
saw her at La Bourboule, I think in 1881, become much like other
people, and somewhat weighed down by the responsibility of being the
mother of that terrible young man "Le petit Duc."
'It was about this time that Rochefort, who had escaped from New
Caledonia with Pascal Grousset (died 1909), came to London, and I saw
them. I afterwards quarrelled with Rochefort, or rather ceased to see
him, for I had seen him only this once, because of his behaviour
towards Gambetta, who had been very good to him.'
Of Grousset Sir Charles writes:
'This handsome youth had in 1868 just become notorious for his grossly
impertinent and indecent reply to the President of the Tribunal at the
trial of Prince Peter Bonaparte for shooting Victor Noir. Grousset was
the principal witness, and when asked the usual first question of
French law, "Witness, are you the husband, wife, father, mother, son,
daughter, brother, sister, ascendant or descendant, or any relation of
the prisoner?" replied: "It is impossible to say; Madame Letitia was
not particular"--alluding to the mother of Napoleon the Great.
'Grousset had conducted the "Foreign Affairs" of the Commune of Paris,
and had been so polite to the representatives of the Embassies that
George Sheffield, the private secretary to Lord Lyons, who conducted
British affairs at Paris, used to declare that of all the many French
Governments he had known the Commune was the only one that knew how to
behave itself in society....'
But this feeling was not universal.
'Mrs. Wodehouse (formerly Minnie King, an American beauty, and
afterwards Lady Anglesey) asked me to breakfast with her to meet
Grousset.' (She was receiving the refugee at the request of Madame
'When her butler, who was an old French gendarme, found who was coming
to breakfast, he refused to serve, and a hired waiter had to be called
in, the old man saying that he had had charge of Grousset to convey
him from Versailles to the hulks before the Communalists had been sent
to New Caledonia, and that Grousset had been so impertinent to him
that nothing would induce him to wait upon him as a servant.
'This clever boy of all the persons deeply compromised in the Commune
was, with one exception, the one who made his peace most rapidly with
French society, and in 1890 he was received by the President of the
Republic officially as elected Director of the federation of all the
Gymnastic Societies of France.' [Footnote: It was perhaps on account
of his youthful appearance that Pascal Grousset was described as a
boy. He was only two years younger than Sir Charles, and was twenty-
six at the time of the Commune. He was later, for twenty years, one of
the Deputies for Paris.]
Sir Charles in this Session contributed to the gaiety of Parliament by his
motion upon unreformed Borough Corporations, and, said the newspapers,
"kept the House of Commons in a roar."
'But the fact was that the subject was so funny that it was impossible
to make a speech about it which would not have been amusing, and
Randolph Churchill, who replied to me, was funnier than I was, though
he was not equally regardful of the truth.'
'One of the Corporations which I had attacked was that of Woodstock,
and Randolph Churchill brought the Prince of Wales down to the House
to hear his defence of his constituency. I had said in my speech that
the Mayor of Woodstock had been lately fined by his own Bench, he
being a publican, for breaking the law in a house the property of the
Corporation, and that he had said on that occasion in public court,
after hearing the evidence of the police: "I have always had a high
respect for the police, but in future I shall have none." Randolph
Churchill, answering me, said that I had slightly mistaken the Mayor's
words, and that what he had really said was: "I have always had a high
respect for the police, but in future I shall have _more_." After this
debate was over, Randolph came up to me outside, and said: "I was
terrified lest you should have heard anything to-day, but I see you
have not." I said: "What?" He said: "He was fined again yesterday."'
In the same speech the case of New Romney was described--"the worst of
all" the Cinque Ports, where the number of freemen, twenty-one at the
passing of the Reform Act (of 1832), had fallen to eight--
"the only town in England in which six gentlemen elected themselves to
every office, appointed themselves magistrates, let the whole of the
valuable town properties exclusively to themselves, audited their own
accounts, and never showed a balance sheet."
A cartoon in one of the comic papers displayed one selfsame and highly
complacent person, first as "Our Grocer," then as "Our Mayor," then as
"The Gentleman who elects our Mayor," "The Gentleman who disposes of our
Public Trusts," "The Gentleman who benefits by our Public Trusts, "and
"The Committee appointed annually to look into the Accounts of the
Gentleman who disposes of our Public Trusts."
Another of Sir Charles's topics in 1875 was the working of the Ballot Act.
'A dull speech on a dull subject,' it secured, however, the appointment of
a Committee to inquire whether secrecy of voting was not menaced by the
form in which ballot papers were issued. But the main object of his
activity in the field of electoral reform was redistribution, and this
object was the hardest to attain, because more than 400 members of the
House sat for constituencies not numerically entitled to representation.
The over-represented had a majority of two-thirds in Parliament, and this
was a tremendous vested interest to assail. Still, the whole Liberal party
was now committed to the support of his principle.
The same general support was given to his Bill 'known as the Allotments
Extension Bill, to provide for the letting to cottagers of lands held for
the benefit of the poor'--a scheme originally proposed by Mill.
'My Parliamentary Session of 1875 was my most successful.
'My motion on Ballot Act,
" " " Unreformed Boroughs,
" " " Redistribution,
" Bill " Allotments,
were all four great successes, and so spoken of in all the papers. On
the first I got my way. On the second I prepared it for next year, and
on the third and fourth I got the support of the whole Liberal party
and most of the Press.'
There are a good many pleasant stories of what seems to have been a very
easy-going Session of Parliament:
'At this time Plimsoll's name was in every mouth, and the only
formidable opposition in the House was that which he offered to the
Government in the sailors' name. Old Adderley, afterwards Lord Norton,
who was at the Board of Trade, assured me, in his solid hatred of the
man, that when Plimsoll told the House of Commons that he had stopped
a fearful shipwreck by taking a telegram to the Board of Trade at 3
a.m., and ringing for the porter and sending it then and there to the
President's house, Plimsoll had neglected to state that this telegram
had reached him at five o'clock in the afternoon, and had been kept
back by him till the middle of the night for the production of a
'The other hero of the Session was Major O'Gorman, a hero of four-and-
twenty stone, who on two occasions at least made the House laugh as
they never laughed before, nor have laughed since. We used at first to
lose him at a quarter to twelve each night, as he had to get to the
Charing Cross Hotel, where he lived on the fourth storey, before the
lift had gone up for the last time. But later in the Session we
managed to keep him till 1.15, for he made the brilliant discovery
that the luggage lift, which just suited him, was available till 1.30.
'Some of his finest things are lost in the reports. For example,
"Swill the whisky through the streets till the very curs lie
prostrate," and this, which, however, in a weakened form, survives in
Mr. Lucy's Diary: "Some men who call themselves my constituents tell
me that if I oppose this Bill I shall never sit again. Well, _what
then?_" (This in a stentorian voice that nearly blew the windows out.)
"Athens ostracized Aristides."
'After midnight a postponed Bill is fixed for the next sitting by the
words "This day." O'Gorman was opposing and watching such a Bill, and
shouted out: "_What_ day?" "This day" was solemnly repeated. Then the
puzzled Major, looking at the clock, and bowing to the chair, said:
"Mr. Speaker, is it yesterday or is it to-morrow?" I never heard a
question more difficult of reply under the circumstances of the case.
The best Irish bull uttered within his own hearing was, says Dilke, Sir
Patrick O'Brien's defence of Mr. Gladstone addressed to the Irish
Nationalists: "The right honourable gentleman has done much for our common
country. He has broken down the bridges that divided us."
When the Session was ended, Sir Charles, according to his custom, set out
on travel, following a scheme mapped out far ahead. In December, 1874, he
had written to Miss Kate Field, correspondent of the _New York Tribune_
and a friend of Sir Charles and of his first wife, that he would be in
America in the following September on a journey round the world, and there
accordingly he appeared--'on my way to Japan, China, Java, Singapore, and
the Straits of Malacca--taking with me as travelling companion my scheme
for a history of the nineteenth century,' a work projected on such ample
lines that a note of this year sets down 1899 as the probable date of
completion, "if I live so long."
The record of this journey is to be found in the additional chapters to
_Greater Britain,_ first issued in 1876 as magazine articles, and added to
the eighth edition in 1885. He saw Japan before the Satsuma rebellion had
broken out in a last attempt to restore the old feudal regime, and he
stayed in the Tartar General's _yamen_ at Canton, where at gun-fire he and
the other Europeans in the same house were shut up within barred gates,
only representatives of the white race among 2,000,000 Chinese. As for the
Japanese, he wrote:
"I'm in love with this country and people.... The theatre is where I
spend all my time.... There alone can you now see the soldiers in
masks, ferocious and hairy, with the chain-armour and javelins of
fifteen years ago. [Footnote: This was written in 1875.] There alone
can you now see the procession of daimios accompanied by two-sworded
Samurai, there alone have the true old Japan of the times before this
cursed 'New Reform Government' arose."
'My stay at Tokio was at the same moment as that of Shimadzu Suboro,
the old Satsuma Chief, uncle and adoptive father to the Satsuma
Princes, and last constitutional light of the Feudal party. The "great
Marshal" Saigo was commanding in chief the forces, and was in the next
year to head the Satsuma rebellion. The Corean Envoys--tall men, with
wondrous stars in their hair--were at the capital also, and I met them
The beauty of Java, where he stayed at the Governor's Palace at
Buitenzorg, charmed him.
His journey from the East was very rapid, and January, 1876, saw him back
in England. He was in time to address his constituents as usual before the
opening of Parliament.
The speech contains what he points out as notable in one who 'so seldom
spoke upon the Irish question'--an attack on the Coercion Bill of the
previous year. It might be better, he said, to govern Ireland on the
assumption that human nature is much the same everywhere, and Irishmen
under no special bar of incapacity. A majority of the Irish
representatives were in favour of Home Rule, and "a reformed dual
constitution might possibly be devised which would work fairly well." This
was an extreme attitude for those days, and he went on to recommend "the
immediate creation of a local elective body, having power to deal with
public works and the like"--in short, very much what Mr. Chamberlain
advocated in 1885.
The speech also protested against Lord Carnarvon's policy as Colonial
Minister, "in sending out Mr. Froude to stump South Africa against the
local Ministers of the Crown, which was the beginning of all the frightful
evils which afflicted South African affairs for the next nine years."
The conduct of the Opposition did not escape comment. "The duty of a
Liberal leader is to follow his party, and this Lord Hartington has done
with exemplary fidelity and unexampled patience." Another phrase noted
that the Session of 1875 had left its mark on the House of Commons, "for
pillows had been for the first time provided for members who wished to
sleep," and the same atmosphere of repose marked the Session of 1876. The
Memoir sketches some Parliamentary operations with which Sir Charles was
'Early in this session occurred the introduction of the Royal Titles
Bill, conferring the Imperial title upon the Queen, and I wrote for
Fawcett a motion for an address to pray the Queen that she would be
graciously pleased not to assume any addition to her title in respect
of India other than the title of Queen. When the matter came on for
discussion Cowen, who had now come into the House for Newcastle, rose
to make his first speech. He had succeeded his old father, who was a
Whig in politics and an old fogey in appearance, the son being now an
ultra-Radical, now a democratic Tory, dressing like a workman, with a
black comforter round his neck, and the only wideawake hat at that
time known in the House of Commons. The next day Mr. Disraeli said: "I
am told that we are blamed for not having put up a Minister to answer
Cowen. How could we? I came into the House while he was speaking. I
saw a little man with one hand in his pocket, and the other arm
raising and waving uncouthly a clenched fist, making what appeared to
be a most impassioned oration. But I was in this difficulty. I did not
understand a word of it. I turned to my colleagues, and found that
they were in the same position. We could not reply to him; we did not
understand the tongue in which the speech was delivered." Cowen spoke
with a Newcastle burr so strong that it was not easy to follow his
words, and it was only by the context that one could guess what he
meant, when he used, for example, such a word as "rowing," which he
'I again brought forward my motion with regard to unreformed
corporations, with fresh illustrations and new jokes, and the second
edition was voted as popular as the first. Corfe Castle, with the Lord
High Admiral of the Isle of Purbeck, and a Corporation consisting of
one person, was a gem. Sir John Holker, who had to deal with the
question for the Government, and who prepared the Royal Commission
which sat to consider it in consequence of my motions, laid down some
law for my information, which I doubted, and thereon showed to
Harcourt, who said: "You will find the Attorney-General's law as bad
as might be expected." Holker was personally popular. But he
certainly, though a great winner of verdicts from juries, was one of
the dullest men who ever addressed the House of Commons.'
Although Sir Charles was active and, generally speaking, successful during
this session, on two points he found himself without support. One was his
opposition to the principle of the Bills dealing with the University of
Oxford and the University of Cambridge, on both of which he "took a highly
Conservative tone without securing any assistance from Conservative
opinion." But a passage in his diary, March, 1877, describes his action
and that of the Liberal party on the "Universities Bill" of that year, and
mentions a meeting at which Lord Hartington, Goschen, Harcourt, Fawcett,
and Fitzmaurice were present, and at which 'it was decided to support my
amendments to the Bill.' [Footnote: See Appendix, p. 200.]
His conservatism in academic matters revealed itself fully in 1878, as did
that abiding feeling for his old college which characterized every after--
allusion to it or to his University life. The Papal diplomatist, Bishop
Bateman, founder of Trinity Hall, was mentioned by Sir Charles with the
respect due to a patron saint. No traditions were dearer to him than those
of Trinity Hall. Speaking at the College annual dinner, he impressed upon
the reforming Fellows their obligation, in the college interests, to
retain its exclusive teaching and qualifications for fellowship as laid
down by its founder, "for the study of the canon and civil law."
[Footnote: A scrap of the menu of the dinner of June 19th, 1878, is
preserved, which shows these toasts: '"The Lord Chief Justice of England--
proposed by the Master; responded to by the Lord Chief Justice of England,
Sir Alexander Cockburn. Fellows and ex-Fellows--proposed by Sir Charles
Dilke, Bart., M.P.; responded to by (Fellows) Professor Fawcett, M.P.,
(ex-Fellows) R. Romer, Esq. Our Old Blues and Captains of the T.H. Boat
and Cricket Clubs--Proposed by Leslie Stephen, Esq."]
"It is a good thing for a small college that it should not be merely
one of the herd. It is a bad thing that a small college should be
driven to teach everything--classics, mathematics, law, theology,
medicine, and science, physical and moral--for if it teaches so many
things, of necessity, from its poverty in money and in men, it cannot
teach all well. A small college can only keep at a high moral and
social and intellectual level by having a distinguishing note or
accent. In our dear old House we have already in existence by our
history and by the Instrument of Foundation that special mark to
distinguish us from others which the most advanced University
Reformers clamour to see created as regards each College in the
"It should keep its distinguishing note, and flourish for another five
hundred and twenty-eight years, not only in manners, good-fellowship,
and rowing, but as a school of law.
"In rowing and law it had fallen off, but good-fellowship still
differentiates the College, and prevents it from surrendering to the
prevailing tendency to make the colleges in our grand old University
pale copies of French _lycees_--all cut on one pattern and
administered by schoolmasters, who will rule over dunces of universal
acquirements examined to the point of death."
The other question on which he failed to secure support was his attack on
the Royal Academy:
'What I really wanted was that the Academy should be reminded that
they obtained their present magnificent site upon conditions which
have not been observed, and that they ought at least to give a free
day a week at their exhibition, and give up a portion of their
privileges against outsiders.'
But the attack, as he admits, was not pressed with spirit for he had only
the _Pall Mall Gazette_ and the _Examiner_ with him in the Press. In the
House Lord Elcho [Footnote: Better known as Lord Wemyss, long the
venerable father of Parliament.] and Mr. George Bentinck 'alone understood
the question,' and the latter was too intimate with all the Academy
leaders to afford a hope that he would do otherwise than take their side.
So, feeling his isolation in the matter, Dilke limited himself to moving
for some papers, which were given.
By the summer of 1876 Sir Charles was well again:
'I began this year to stay a great deal at Lady Waldegrave's, both at
Dudbrook in Essex and at Strawberry Hill; and ultimately I had a room
at Strawberry Hill, to which I went backwards and forwards as I chose.
The house was extremely pleasant, and so was Fortescue, and he
passionately adored his wife, and was afterwards completely broken
down and almost killed by her death. Fortescue was my friend; but she
was an excellent hostess, and the house was perfectly pleasant, and
that in a degree in which no other house of our time has been. The
other house which was always named as "the rival establishment,"
Holland House, I also knew. Some of the same people went there--
Abraham Hayward, commonly called the "Viper," and Charles Villiers,
for example. Lady Waldegrave always made everybody feel at home, which
Lady Holland did not always do. Those of whom I saw the most this
year, in addition to the Strawberry Hill people (who were Harcourt,
James, Ayrton, Villiers, Hayward, Dr. Smith the editor of the
_Quarterly,_ Henry Reeve the editor of the _Edinburgh,_ the Comte de
Paris, and the Due d'Aumale), were Lord Houghton and Mrs. Duncan
Stewart. Lord Houghton never met me without referring to a review of
his collected works, which appeared in the _Athenaeum_ in the spring,
and which had cut the old man to the heart' (because it rated his
poetry on a level with that of Eliza Cook).
'One of the most agreeable parties of clever people to which I ever
went was a luncheon given by Mrs. Stewart, when she was living a few
doors from me in my street, at which I was the only man, the party
chiefly consisting of old ladies; indeed, I was by far the youngest
person present. Besides Mrs. Stewart herself, there were friends, Lady
Hamilton Gordon, Lady Pollock, Lady Hopetoun, Mrs. Frank Hill, Mrs.
Oliphant, and Mrs. Lynn Linton--Lady Gordon, a remarkably able woman,
one of the bedchamber women of the Queen and a great gossip; Lady
Pollock, slow, but full of theatrical anecdote, being stage-mad, as
was her husband, old Sir Frederick, the Queen's Remembrancer, father
of my Cambridge friend Professor Pollock (now Sir Frederick) and of
Walter Pollock, the editor of the _Saturday Review_. A few days later
I met Lady Pollock at a great party given by Lord Houghton. Irving was
coming down the stairs, at the bottom of which we stood, having Mrs.
Singleton (now, 1894, the Ambassadress, Lady Currie) upon his arm. Old
Lady Pollock, clutching at my arm, exclaimed: "Who is that woman with
Irving?" To which I answered: "Mrs. Singleton, author of _Denzil
Place_--Violet Fane." "She won't do him any harm, will she?" was the
embarrassing question by which Lady Pollock replied to me.'
In this summer Sir Charles gave dinner-parties which included ladies--'a
plan which I found so uncomfortable for a politician who had only a
grandmother to entertain them that I dropped it after August, 1876.' His
dinners were always among the pleasantest in London, but till 1886 they
were only dinners of men.
Of men friends of this year he specially notes 'Gennadius, the Greek
Secretary, afterwards Minister,' with whom his friendship was lifelong.
A meeting was held at Devonshire House on March 1st, 1877:
'There were present, besides Lord Hartington and myself, Lowe,
Goschen, Harcourt, Fawcett, and Fitzmaurice.--It was decided to
support Grant Duff in adding the names of Huxley and Max Muller, and
not to support Fitzmaurice in adding Bryce, but to support him in
adding Hooker, and Goschen in adding Professor Bartholomew Price to
the Oxford Commission, and to support Hartington in moving to add Dr.
Bateson, the Master of John's, to the Cambridge Commission. Bouverie
was to be proposed by Harcourt, as against Cockburn, for chairman of
the Cambridge Commission, because we objected to overworked Judges
being on Commissions. The name of Bradley, afterwards Dean of
Westminster, was suggested for the Oxford Commission by Lowe, but not
supported by the meeting, and it was decided to support my amendments
to the Bill. The Commissions as originally suggested were badly
composed. The best men suggested were not good--Dr. Bellamy (President
of St. John's, Oxford), for example, the wealthiest of all college
officials, a precise, old-fashioned, kind-hearted nonentity, a simple
tool of more intelligent Conservatives; and Henry Smith, an Irishman
of the keenest order of intelligence, ready to give an intellectual
assent to the abstract desirability of the best and highest in all
things. On another of the names originally suggested I may quote Smith
himself, for when Dean Burgon's appointment was attacked in the House
of Commons by me and others, Smith, approaching Lord Salisbury at a
party, and engaging in conversation upon the matter, said that the
reasons for appointing him were overwhelming, at which Lord Salisbury
was greatly pleased; when Henry Smith went on: "No such Commission
could possibly be complete without its buffoon."'
REVIVAL OF THE EASTERN QUESTION
Sir Charles at this period of his career was passing from the status of a
formidable independent member to that of a recognized force in his party.
In May, 1876, he became Chairman of the Elections Committee at the Liberal
Central Association, and from that time forward up to 1880 'took a very
active part in connection with the choice of candidates.'@@Mr. Joseph
Chamberlain had been elected for Birmingham. He was lame from gout, and
resented it, saying to Sir Charles 'that it was an illness which should be
exclusively reserved by a just Providence for Tories.' On July 8th, 1876,
he wrote to Dilke that before coming up to take his seat he had called his
friends together and settled a programme and general course of action. "I
think there is every chance of our Union being productive of useful
practical results, but it is agreed that our arrangements shall remain
strictly private for the present. _Omne ignotum pro magnifico._" On August
2nd Sir Charles introduced to Lord Hartington at Devonshire House 'a great
private deputation upon the Education Bill from the North Country Liberal
Associations, which was in fact the first movement by what was afterwards
the National Liberal Federation.' So the "Caucus" began to make itself
felt in domestic affairs.
Sir Charles notes that he 'for the first time began to be summoned to
meetings respecting the course to be taken by the party.' Here already he
'Mr. Gladstone began, although somewhat ostentatiously proclaiming in
public the opposite principle, to interfere a good deal in
Hartington's leadership, and even Harcourt, who only a few months
before had ridiculed Mr. Gladstone's pretensions in such strong terms,
on the rare occasions when he was unable to get his way with
Hartington always now went off to Mr. Gladstone, to try to make use of
the power of his name.'
"Foreign affairs had suddenly risen out of complete obscurity into a
position in which they overshadowed all other things, and left home
politics in stagnation." [Footnote: Speech at Notting Hill, August, 1876.]
These complications were destined to bring Mr. Gladstone back into an
activity not merely unimpaired, but redoubled, and to shake the power of
Mr. Disraeli to its fall.
Sir Charles was, first and foremost, a "good European"; he conceived of
Europe as a body politic, bound in honour to regulate its own members.
Isolation appeared to him a mere abandonment of the duty of civilized
powers to maintain order in the civilized world. Corporate action was to
be encouraged, because, in most cases, the mere threat of it would suffice
either as between States to prevent wars of aggression, or as between
ruler and ruled to assert the ordinary principles of just government.
The enforcement of this view might involve its support by force of arms,
and he worked all his life for our military preparedness, holding that it
was the best guarantee that armed intervention would be unnecessary, as it
was also the best guarantee of our own immunity from attack.
At this moment "foreign affairs" meant the Eastern Question, in regard to
which the future of two nations, Russia and Greece, specially interested
him. He was notably a Phil-Hellene, who "dreamed of a new Greece"--a
"force of the future instead of a force of the past; a force of trade
instead of a force of war; European instead of Asiatic; intensely
independent, democratic, maritime." Here, and not in any Slavonic State,
did he see the rightful successors to the Ottoman dominion. Towards Russia
his feelings were complex: admiration for the people accompanied
detestation of the Government, and the unscrupulous power commanding the
services of so vast and virile a people always appeared in his eyes as a
menace to civilization. Yet in the future of Russia he "firmly believed,"
and he repeats in speech after speech this creed: "Behind it are ranged
the forces of the future." "To compare the Russia of to-day to the Russia
that is to come is to compare chaos to the universe." "If by Russia we
mean the leading Slavonic power, whether a Russia one and indivisible, or
a Slavonian confederation, we mean one of the greatest forces of the
future." [Footnote: Speech at Notting Hill, August, 1876.]
Sir Charles's speeches, taken in conjunction with the diary, give the
story of these Eastern troubles from the outside as well as from the
inside. His constituents had little excuse for being carried away by
popular cries. In his speech on the last day of the session he advocated
the sending of a "strong and efficient man to Constantinople in the name
of the Western Powers to carry out that policy of protection of Christian
subjects of Turkey which England had intended after the Crimea,"
[Footnote: _Ibid._] But while condemning with the greatest energy the
Turkish barbarities in Bulgaria, he warned his constituents against
overlooking atrocities committed elsewhere, "for there was not one pin to
choose between Circassian ruffians on the one side and Montenegrin
ruffians on the other." To those who "were carried away by their belief
that the conflict was one between the present and the past, and between
Christianity and Islamism, and declared that the Turks must be driven out
of Europe," he pointed out the larger questions at stake.
Turning to the Balkan States, he did not believe in a continuous united
movement among these "which would suffice to drive the Mohammedan out of
Europe." "To allow the Russians to interfere openly" would rouse Austria,
a Power which, in spite of the difficulties presented by its internal
"differences of creed and hostilities of races," must in the interests of
South-Eastern Europe be "bolstered up." In this instance he urged the need
for joint action, and laid bare some underlying difficulties awaiting
diplomacy. It was a situation complicated by the fact that "this Europe is
probably mined beneath our feet with secret treaties." [Footnote: Sir
Charles notes later: 'Since the accession of George III. the country had
concluded about forty treaties or separate articles of a secret nature
which were not communicated to Parliament at the time of their conclusion,
and in some instances not at all; but these secret engagements were mostly
concluded in anticipation of war, or during war, and ceased to have effect
when war was over.']
In his speech of January 15th, 1878, in Kensington, at one of the critical
moments of the struggle, he told the whole story, which began in August,
1875, when Mr. Disraeli's Government consented "with reluctance" to take
part in sending a European Consular Mission to inquire into disturbances
occasioned by Turkish misrule in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Great Britain's
reluctance weakened, so Sir Charles thought, the European concert, and the
mission resulted only in delusive promises of reform. In the following
winter Turkey was increasingly encouraged to lean upon British support in
withstanding pressure from the other Powers; and in May, 1876, after
disturbances in Bulgaria had been repressed with appalling ferocity, Mr.
Disraeli's Cabinet positively refused to join in a demand for certain
reforms to be carried out by Turkey under European supervision.
'Our Government had refused to sign the Berlin Memorandum on account
of a reference in it to the possible need of taking "efficacious
measures" to secure good government in Turkey.
'But' (commented Sir Charles in 1878, making plain exactly what he
meant by European intervention) 'it was England who, not shrinking
from mere words, but herself proposing deeds, had taken a really
"efficacious" part in the "efficacious measures" of 1860, when, after
the massacres in the Lebanon, Europe sent Lord Dufferin to Syria with
a French armed force--the Powers making that engagement not to accept
territory which could also have been made in 1876. In 1860 Lord
Dufferin, in the name of Europe, hanged a guilty Pasha and pacified
the Lebanon, which to this moment still enjoys, in consequence of
European intervention, a better government than the rest of Turkey,
and this with the result of an increase of strength to the Turkish,
power. Only the obstructiveness of our Government prevented the still
more easy pacification of the European provinces of Turkey in 1876,
and caused the present war with all its harm to British trade and all
its risks to "British interests."' [Footnote: Speech delivered at
Kensington on January 15th, 1878.]
Holding these views, Sir Charles encouraged Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice to
place on the notice paper of the House of Commons a formal resolution of
censure on the Government for refusing to join in the Berlin Memorandum
without making a counter-proposal of their own. It was believed that Mr.
Gladstone approved the course indicated, but he was still in retirement,
and not only did Lord Granville and Lord Hartington think that any formal
action in the House would be impolitic, but many of the 'peace-at-any-
price' Radicals, who regarded Lord Derby's extreme policy of non-
intervention with favour, refused to support the proposed censure. The
resolution accordingly had to be withdrawn, amid the general disapproval,
however, of the Liberal Press. Thus the first attempt at action at
once betrayed a profound cleavage of opinion. This was unfortunately
only typical of everything which followed in this chapter of events,
though the debate which took place towards the end of the Session proved
very damaging to the Government. [Footnote: See _Hansard_, cxlii. 22;