Collections and Recollections by George William Erskine Russell

Produced by Malcolm Farmer, Wilelmina Malliere and PG Distributed Proofreaders COLLECTIONS AND RECOLLECTIONS George William Erskine Russell THE MOST GENIAL OF COMPANIONS JAMES PAYN AT WHOSE SUGGESTION THESE PAPERS WERE WRITTEN AND TO WHOM THEY WERE INSCRIBED DIED MARCH 25, 1898 * * * * * Is he gone to a land of no laughter–
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Produced by Malcolm Farmer, Wilelmina Malliere and PG Distributed Proofreaders


George William Erskine Russell




DIED MARCH 25, 1898

* * * * *

Is he gone to a land of no laughter– This man that made mirth for us all?
Proves Death but a silence hereafter, Where the echoes of earth cannot fall? Once closed, have the lips no more duty? No more pleasure the exquisite ears?
Has the heart done o’erflowing with beauty, As the eyes have with tears?

Nay, if aught be sure, what can be surer Than that earth’s good decays not with earth? And of all the heart’s springs none are purer Than the springs of the fountains of mirth? He that sounds them has pierced the heart’s hollows, The places where tears are and sleep; For the foam-flakes that dance in life’s shallows Are wrung from life’s deep.



It has been suggested by Mr. Reginald Smith, to whose friendliness and skill the fortunes of this book have been so greatly indebted, that a rather fuller preface might be suitably prefixed to this Edition.

When the book first appeared, it was stated on the title-page to be written “by One who has kept a Diary.” My claim to that modest title will scarcely be challenged by even the most carping critic who is conversant with the facts. On August 13, 1865, being then twelve years old, I began my Diary. Several attempts at diary-keeping I had already made and abandoned. This more serious endeavour was due to the fact that a young lady gave me a manuscript-book attractively bound in scarlet leather; and such a gift inspired a resolution to live up to it. Shall I be deemed to lift the veil of private life too roughly if I transcribe some early entries? “23rd: Dear Kate came; very nice.” “25th: Kate is very delightful.” “26th: Kate is a darling girl. _She kissed me_.”

Before long, Love’s young dream was dispersed by the realities of Harrow; but the scarlet book continued to receive my daily confidences. Soon–alas for puerile fickleness!–the name of “Kate” disappears, and is replaced by rougher appellations, such as “Bob” and “Charlie;” “Carrots” this, and “Chaw” that. To Harrow succeeds Oxford, and now more recognizable names begin to appear–“Liddon” and “Holland,” “Gore” and “Milner”, and “Lymington.”

But through all these personal permutations the continuous Life of the Diary remained unbroken, and so remains even to the present date. Not a day is missing. When I have been laid low by any of the rather numerous ills to which, if to little else, my flesh has been heir, I have always been able to jot down such pregnant entries as “Temperature 102 deg.;” “Salicine;” “Boiled Chicken;” “Bath Chair.” It is many a year since the scarlet book was laid aside; but it has had a long line of successors; and together they contain the record of what I have been, done, seen, and heard during thirty-eight years of chequered existence. Entertaining a strong and well-founded suspicion that Posterity would burn these precious volumes unread, I was moved, some few years ago, to compress into small compass the little that seemed worth remembering. At that time my friend Mr. James Payn was already confined to the house by the beginnings of what proved to be his last illness. His host of friends did what they could to relieve the tedium of his suffering days; and the only contribution which I could make was to tell him at my weekly visits anything interesting or amusing which I collected from the reperusal of my diary. Greatly to my surprise, he urged me to make these “Collections” into a book, and to add to them whatever “Recollections” they might suggest. Acting on this advice, I published during the year 1897 a series of weekly papers in the _Manchester Guardian_. They were received more kindly than I had any right to expect; and early in 1898 I reproduced them in the present volume–just too late to offer it, except in memory, to dear James Payn.

The fortunes of the book, from that time till now, would not interest the public, but are extremely interesting to me. The book brought me many friends. One story, at any rate, elicited the gracious laughter of Queen Victoria. A pauper who had known better days wrote to thank me for enlivening the monotony of a workhouse infirmary. Literary clerks plied me with questions about the sources of my quotations. A Scotch doctor demurred to the prayer–“Water that spark”–on the ground that the water would put the spark out. Elderly clergymen in country parsonages revived the rollicking memories of their undergraduate days, and sent me academic quips of the forties and fifties. From the most various quarters I received suggestions, corrections, and enrichments which have made each edition an improvement on the last. The public notices were, on the whole, extremely kind, and some were unintentionally amusing. Thus one editor, putting two and two together, calculated that the writer could not be less than eighty years old; while another, like Mrs. Prig, “didn’t believe there was no sich a person,” and acutely divined that the book was a journalistic squib directed against my amiable garrulity. The most pleasing notice was that of Jean La Frette, some extracts from which I venture to append. It is true that competent judges have questioned the accuracy of M. La Frette’s idiom, but his sentiments are unimpeachable. The necessary corrective was not wanting, for a weekly journal of high culture described my poor handiwork as “Snobbery and Snippets.” There was a boisterousness–almost a brutality–about the phrase which deterred me from reading the review; but I am fain to admit that there was a certain rude justice in the implied criticism.


_Christmas, 1903_.
















XIV. CONVERSATION (_continued_)

XV. CONVERSATION (_continued_)

XVI. CONVERSATION (_continued_)


XVIII. CLERGYMEN (_continued_)




















Of the celebrated Mrs. Disraeli her husband is reported to have said, “She is an excellent creature, but she never can remember which came first, the Greeks or the Romans.” In my walk through life I have constantly found myself among excellent creatures of this sort. The world is full of vague people, and in the average man, and still more in the average woman, the chronological sense seems to be entirely wanting. Thus, when I have occasionally stated in a mixed company that my first distinct recollection was the burning of Covent Garden Theatre, I have seen a general expression of surprised interest, and have been told, in a tone meant to be kind and complimentary, that my hearers would hardly have thought that my memory went back so far. The explanation has been that these excellent creatures had some vague notions of _Rejected Addresses_ floating in their minds, and confounded the burning of Covent Garden Theatre in 1856 with that of Drury Lane Theatre in 1809. It was pleasant to feel that one bore one’s years so well as to make the error possible.

But events, however striking, are only landmarks in memory. They are isolated and detached, and begin and end in themselves. The real interest of one’s early life is in its Links with the Past, through the old people whom one has known. Though I place my first distinct recollection in 1856, I have memories more or less hazy of an earlier date.

There was an old Lady Robert Seymour, who lived in Portland Place, and died there in 1855, in her ninety-first year. Probably she is my most direct link with the past, for she carried down to the time of the Crimean War the habits and phraseology of Queen Charlotte’s early Court. “Goold” of course she said for gold, and “yaller” for yellow, and “laylock” for lilac. She laid the stress on the second syllable of “balcony.” She called her maid her “‘ooman;” instead of sleeping at a place, she “lay” there, and when she consulted the doctor she spoke of having “used the ‘potticary.”

There still lives, in full possession of all her faculties, a venerable lady who can say that her husband was born at Boston when America was a British dependency. This is the widow of Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst, who was born in 1772, and helped to defeat Mr. Gladstone’s Paper Bill in the House of Lords on his eighty-eighth birthday. He died in 1862.[1]

A conspicuous figure in my early recollections is Sir Henry Holland, M.D., father of the present Lord Knutsford. He was born in 1788, and died in 1873. The stories of his superhuman vigour and activity would fill a volume. In 1863 Bishop Wilberforce wrote to a friend abroad: “Sir Henry Holland, who got back safe from all his American rambles, has been taken by Palmerston through the river at Broadlands, and lies very ill.” However, he completely threw off the effects of this mischance, and survived his aquaceous host for some eight years. I well remember his telling me in 1868 that his first famous patient was the mysterious “Pamela,” who became the wife of the Irish patriot, Lord Edward FitzGerald.

Every one who went about in London in the ‘seventies will remember the dyed locks and crimson velvet waistcoat of William, fifth Earl Bathurst, who was born in 1791 and died in 1878. He told me that he was at a private school at Sunbury-on-Thames with William and John Russell, the latter of whom became the author of the Reform Bill and Prime Minister. At this delightful seminary, the peers’ sons, including my informant, who was then the Hon. William Bathurst, had a bench to themselves. William and John Russell were not peers’ sons, as their father had not then succeeded to the Dukedom of Bedford. In 1802 he succeeded, on the sudden death of his elder brother, and became sixth Duke of Bedford; and his sons, becoming _Lord_ William and _Lord_ John, were duly promoted to the privileged bench. Nothing in _Pelham_ or _Vivian Grey_ quite equals this.

When I went to Harrow, in 1868, there was an old woman, by name Polly Arnold, still keeping a stationer’s shop in the town, who had sold cribs to Byron when he was a Harrow boy; and Byron’s fag, a funny old gentleman in a brown wig–called Baron Heath–was a standing dish on our school Speech-Day.

Once at a London dinner I happened to say in the hearing of Mrs. Procter (widow of “Barry Cornwall,” and mother of the poetess) that I was going next day to the Harrow Speeches. “Ah,” said Mrs. Procter, “that used to be a pleasant outing. The last time I went I drove down with Lord Byron and Dr. Parr, who had been breakfasting with my father.” Mrs. Procter died in 1888.

Among the remarkable women of our time, if merely in respect of longevity, must be reckoned Lady Louisa Stuart, sister and heir of the last Earl of Traquair. She was a friend and correspondent of Sir Walter Scott, who in describing “Tully Veolan” drew Traquair House with literal exactness, even down to the rampant bears which still guard the locked entrance-gates against all comers until the Royal Stuarts shall return to claim their own. Lady Louisa Stuart lived to be ninety-nine, and died in 1876.

Perhaps the most remarkable old lady whom I knew intimately was Caroline Lowther, Duchess of Cleveland, who was born in 1792 and died in 1883. She had been presented to Queen Charlotte when there were only forty people at the Drawing-room, had danced with the Prince of Orange, and had attended the “breakfasts” given by Albinia Countess of Buckinghamshire (who died in 1816), at her villa just outside London. The site of that villa is now Hobart Place, having taken its name from that of the Buckinghamshire family. The trees of its orchard are still discoverable in the back-gardens of Hobart Place and Wilton Street, and I am looking out upon them as I write this page.

Stories of highwaymen are excellent Links with the Past, and here is one. The fifth Earl of Berkeley, who died in 1810, had always declared that any one might without disgrace be overcome by superior numbers, but that he would never surrender to a single highwayman. As he was crossing Hounslow Heath one night, on his way from Berkeley Castle to London, his travelling carriage was stopped by a man on horseback, who put his head in at the window and said, “I believe you are Lord Berkeley?” “I am.” “I believe you have always boasted that you would never surrender to a single highwayman?” “I have.” “Well,” presenting a pistol, “I am a single highwayman, and I say, ‘Your money or your life.'” “You cowardly dog,” said Lord Berkeley, “do you think I can’t see your confederate skulking behind you?” The highwayman, who was really alone, looked hurriedly round, and Lord Berkeley shot him through the head. I asked Lady Caroline Maxse (1803-1886), who was born a Berkeley, if this story was true. I can never forget my thrill when she replied, “Yes; and I am proud to say that I am that man’s daughter.”

Sir Moses Montefiore was born in 1784, and died in 1885. It is a disheartening fact for the teetotallers that he had drunk a bottle of port wine every day since he grew up. He had dined with Lord Nelson on board his ship, and vividly remembered the transcendent beauty of Lady Hamilton. The last time Sir Moses appeared in public was, if I mistake not, at a garden-party at Marlborough House. The party was given on a Saturday. Sir Moses was restrained by religious scruples from using his horses, and was of course too feeble to walk, so he was conveyed to the party in a magnificent sedan-chair. That was the only occasion on which I have seen such an article in use.

When I began to go out in London, a conspicuous figure in dinner-society and on Protestant platforms was Captain Francis Maude, R.N. He was born in 1798 and died in 1886. He used to say, “My grandfather was nine years old when Charles II. died.” And so, if pedigrees may be trusted, he was. Charles II. died in 1685. Sir Robert Maude was born in 1676. His son, the first Lord Hawarden, was born in 1727, and Captain Francis Maude was this Lord Hawarden’s youngest son. The year of his death (1880) saw also that of a truly venerable woman, Mrs. Hodgson, mother of Kirkman and Stewart Hodgson, the well-known partners in Barings’ house. Her age was not precisely known, but when a schoolgirl in Paris she had seen Robespierre executed, and distinctly recollected the appearance of his bandaged face. Her granddaughters, Mr. Stewart Hodgson’s children, are quite young women, and if they live to the age which, with such ancestry, they are entitled to anticipate, they will carry down into the middle of the twentieth century the account, derived from an eye-witness, of the central event of the French Revolution.

One year later, in 1887, there died, at her house in St. James’s Square, Mrs. Anne Penelope Hoare, mother of the late Sir Henry Hoare, M.P. She recollected being at a children’s party when the lady of the house came in and stopped the dancing because news had come that the King of France had been put to death. Her range of conscious knowledge extended from the execution of Louis XVI. to the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. So short a thing is history.

Sir Walter Stirling, who was born in 1802 and died in 1888, was a little old gentleman of ubiquitous activity, running about London with a yellow wig, short trousers, and a cotton umbrella. I well remember his saying to me, when Mr. Bradlaugh was committed to the Clock Tower, “I don’t like this. I am afraid it will mean mischief. I am old enough to remember seeing Sir Francis Burdett taken to the Tower by the Sergeant-at-Arms with a military force. I saw the riot then, and I am afraid I shall see a riot again.”

In the same year (1888) died Mrs. Thomson Hankey, wife of a former M.P. for Peterborough. Her father, a Mr. Alexander, was born in 1729, and she had inherited from him traditions of London as it appeared to a young Scotsman in the year of the decapitation of the rebels after the rising of 1745.

One of the most venerable and interesting figures in London, down to his death in 1891, was George Thomas, sixth Earl of Albemarle. He was born in 1799. He had played bat-trap-and-ball at St. Anne’s Hill with Mr. Fox, and, excepting his old comrade General Whichcote, who outlived him by a few months, was the last survivor of Waterloo. A man whom I knew longer and more intimately than any of those whom I have described was the late Lord Charles James Fox Russell. He was born in 1807, and died in 1894. His father’s groom had led the uproar of London servants which in the eighteenth century damned the play _High Life Below Stairs_. He remembered a Highlander who had followed the army of Prince Charles Edward in 1745, and had learned from another Highlander the Jacobite soldiers’ song–

“I would I were at Manchester,
A-sitting on the grass,
And by my side a bottle of wine,
And on my lap a lass.”

He had officiated as a page at the coronation of George IV.; had conversed with Sir Walter Scott about _The Bride of Lammermoor_ before its authorship was disclosed; had served in the Blues under Ernest Duke of Cumberland; and had lost his way in trying to find the newly developed quarter of London called Belgrave Square.

Among living[2] links, I hope it is not ungallant to enumerate Lady Georgiana Grey, only surviving child of

“That Earl, who forced his compeers to be just, And wrought in brave old age what youth had planned;”

Lady Louisa Tighe, who as Lady Louisa Lennox buckled the Duke of Wellington’s sword when he set out from her mother’s ball at Brussels for the field of Waterloo; and Miss Eliza Smith of Brighton, the vivacious and evergreen daughter of Horace Smith, who wrote the _Rejected Addresses_. But these admirable and accomplished ladies hate garrulity, and the mere mention of their names is a signal to bring these disjointed reminiscences to a close.


[1] Lady Lyndhurst died in 1901.

[2] “Living” alas! no longer. The last survivor of these ladies died this year, 1903.



These chapters are founded on Links with the Past. Let me now describe in rather fuller detail three or four remarkable people with whom I had more than a cursory acquaintance, and who allowed me for many years the privilege of drawing without restriction on the rich stores of their political and social recollections.

First among these in point of date, if of nothing else, I must place John Earl Russell, the only person I have ever known who knew Napoleon the Great. Lord Russell–or, to give him the name by which he was most familiar to his countrymen, Lord John Russell–was born in 1792, and when I first knew him he was already old; but it might have been said of him with perfect truth that

“Votiva patuit veluti descripta tabella Vita senis.”

After he resigned the leadership of the Liberal party, at Christmas 1867, Lord Russell spent the greater part of his time at Pembroke Lodge, a house in Richmond Park which takes its name from Elizabeth Countess of Pembroke, long remembered as the object of King George the Third’s hopeless and pathetic love. As a token of his affection the King allowed Lady Pembroke to build herself a “lodge” in the “vast wilderness” of Richmond Park, amid surroundings which went far to realize Cowper’s idea of a “boundless contiguity of shade.”

On her death, in 1831, Pembroke Lodge was assigned by William IV. to his son-in-law, Lord Erroll, and in 1847 it was offered by the Queen to her Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, who then had no home except his house in Chesham Place. It was gratefully accepted, for indeed it had already been coveted as an ideal residence for a busy politician who wanted fresh air, and could not safely be far from the House of Commons. As years went on Lord John spent more and more of his time in this delicious retreat, and in his declining years it was practically his only home.

A quarter of a century ago it was a curious and interesting privilege for a young man to sit in the trellised dining-room of Pembroke Lodge, or to pace its terrace-walk looking down upon the Thames, in intimate converse with a statesman who had enjoyed the genial society of Charles Fox, and had been the travelling companion of Lord Holland; had corresponded with Tom Moore, debated with Francis Jeffrey, and dined with Dr. Parr; had visited Melrose Abbey in the company of Sir Walter Scott, and criticized the acting of Mrs. Siddons; conversed with Napoleon in his seclusion at Elba, and ridden with the Duke of Wellington along the lines of Torres Vedras.

The genius of John Leech, constantly exercised on the subject for twenty years, has made all students of _Punch_ familiar with Lord John Russell’s outward aspect. We know from his boyish diary that on his eleventh birthday he was “4 feet 2 inches high, and 3 stone 12 lb. weight;” and though, as time went on, these extremely modest dimensions were slightly exceeded, he was an unusually short man. His massive head and broad shoulders gave him when he sate the appearance of greater size, and when he rose to his feet the diminutive stature caused a feeling of surprise. Sydney Smith declared that when Lord John first contested Devonshire the burly electors were disappointed by the exiguity of their candidate, but were satisfied when it was explained to them that he had once been much larger, but was worn away by the anxieties and struggles of the Reform Bill of 1832. Never was so robust a spirit enshrined in so fragile a form. He inherited the miserable legacy of congenital weakness. Even in those untender days he was considered too delicate to remain at a Public School. It was thought impossible for him to live through his first session of Parliament. When he was fighting the Reform Bill through the House of Commons he had to be fed with arrowroot by a benevolent lady who was moved to compassion by his pitiful appearance. For years afterwards he was liable to fainting-fits, had a wretched digestion, and was easily upset by hot rooms, late hours, and bad air. These circumstances, combined with his love of domestic life and his fondness for the country, led him to spend every evening that he could spare in his seclusion at Pembroke Lodge, and consequently cut him off, very much to his political disadvantage, from constant and intimate associations with official colleagues and parliamentary supporters.

There were other characteristics which enhanced this unfortunate impression of aloofness. His voice had what used to be described in satirical writings of the first half of the century as “an aristocratic drawl,” and his pronunciation was archaic. Like other high-bred people of his time, he talked of “cowcumbers” and “laylocks,” called a woman an “‘ooman,” and was “much obleeged” where a degenerate age is content to be obliged. The frigidity of his address and the seeming stiffness of his manner, due really to an innate and incurable shyness, produced even among people who ought to have known him well a totally erroneous notion of his character and temperament. To Bulwer Lytton he seemed–

“How formed to lead, if not to proud to please! His fame would fire you, but his manners freeze. Like or dislike, he does not care a jot; He wants your vote, but your affections not; Vet human hearts need sun as well as oats– So cold a climate plays the deuce with votes.”

It must be admitted that in some of the small social arts which are so valuable an equipment for a political leader Lord John was funnily deficient. He had no memory for faces, and was painfully apt to ignore his political followers when he met them beyond the walls of Parliament. Once, staying in a Scotch country-house, he found himself thrown with young Lord D—-, now Earl of S—-. He liked the young man’s conversation, and was pleased to find that he was a Whig. When the party broke up, Lord John conquered his shyness sufficiently to say to his new friend, “Well, Lord D—-, I am very glad to have made your acquaintance, and now you must come into the House of Commons and support me there.” “I have been doing that for the last ten years, Lord John,” was the reply of the gratified follower.

This inability to remember faces was allied in Lord John with a curious artlessness of disposition which made it impossible for him to feign a cordiality he did not feel. Once, at a concert at Buckingham Palace, he was seen to get up suddenly, turn his back on the Duchess of Sutherland, by whom he had been sitting, walk to the remotest part of the room, and sit down by the Duchess of Inverness. When questioned afterwards as to the cause of his unceremonious move, which had the look of a quarrel, he said, “I could not have sate any longer by that great fire; I should have fainted.”

“Oh, that was a very good reason for moving; but I hope you told the Duchess of Sutherland why you left her.”

“Well–no; I don’t think I did that. But I told the Duchess of Inverness why I came and sate by her!”

Thus were opportunities of paying harmless compliments recklessly thrown away.

It was once remarked by a competent critic that “there have been Ministers who knew the springs of that public opinion which is delivered ready digested to the nation every morning, and who have not scrupled to work them for their own diurnal glorification, even although the recoil might injure their colleagues. But Lord Russell has never bowed the knee to the potentates of the Press; he has offered no sacrifice of invitations to social editors; and social editors have accordingly failed to discover the merits of a statesman who so little appreciated them, until they have almost made the nation forget the services that Lord Russell has so faithfully and courageously rendered.”

Be this as it may, there is no doubt that the old Whig statesman lacked those gifts or arts which make a man widely popular in a large society of superficial acquaintances. On his deathbed he said with touching pathos, “I have seemed cold to my friends, but it was not in my heart.” The friends needed no such assurance. He was the idol of those who were most closely associated with him by the ties of blood or duty. Even to people outside the innermost circle of intimacy there was something peculiarly attractive in his singular mixture of gentleness and dignity. He excelled as a host, doing the honours of his table with the old-fashioned grace which he had learned at Woburn Abbey and at Holland House when the century was young; and in the charm of his conversation he was not easily equalled–never, in my experience, surpassed. He had the happy knack of expressing a judgment which might be antagonistic to the sentiments of those with whom he was dealing in language which, while perfectly void of offence, was calmly decisive. His reply to Sir Francis Burdett was pronounced by Mr. Gladstone to be the best repartee ever made in Parliament. Sir Francis, an ex-Radical, attacking his former associates with all the bitterness of a renegade, had said, “The most offensive thing in the world is the cant of Patriotism.” Lord John replied, “I quite agree that the cant of Patriotism is a very offensive thing; but the _recant_ of Patriotism is more offensive still.” His letter to the Dean of Hereford about the election of Bishop Hampden is a classical instance of courteous controversy. Once a most Illustrious Personage asked him if it was true that he taught that under certain circumstances it was lawful for a subject to disobey the Sovereign. “Well, speaking to a Sovereign of the House of Hanover, I can only answer in the affirmative.”

His copiousness of anecdote was inexhaustible. His stories always fitted the point, and the droll gravity of his way of telling them added greatly to their zest. Of his conversation with Napoleon at Elba I recollect one curious question and answer. The Emperor took the little Englishman by the ear and asked him what was thought in England of his chances of returning to the throne of France. “I said, ‘Sire, they think you have no chance at all.'” The Emperor said that the English Government had made a great mistake in sending the Duke of Wellington to Paris–“On n’aime pas voir un homme par qui on a ete battu;” and on War he made this characteristic comment: “Eh bien, c’est un grand jeu–belle occupation.”

This interview took place when Lord John was making a tour with Lord and Lady Holland, and much of his earlier life had been spent at Holland House, in the heart of that brilliant society which Macaulay so picturesquely described, and in which Luttrell and Samuel Rogers were conspicuous figures. Their conversation supplied Lord John with an anecdote which he used to bring out, with a twinkling eye and a chuckling laugh, whenever he heard that any public reform was regarded with misgiving by sensible men. Luttrell and Rogers were passing in a wherry under old London Bridge when its destruction Was contemplated, and Rogers said, “Some very sensible men think that, if these works are carried into effect, the tide will flow so rapidly under the bridge that dangerous consequences will follow.” “My dear Rogers,” answered Luttrell, “if some very sensible men had been attended to, we should still be eating acorns.”

Of William and John Scott, afterwards Lord Stowell and Lord Eldon, Lord Russell used to tell with infinite zest a story which he declared to be highly characteristic of the methods by which they made their fortunes and position. When they were young men at the Bar, having had a stroke of professional luck, they determined to celebrate the occasion by having a dinner at a tavern and going to the play. When it was time to call for the reckoning, William Scott dropped a guinea. He and his brother searched for it in vain, and came to the conclusion that it had fallen between the boards of the uncarpeted floor.

“This is a bad job,” said William; “we must give up the play.”

“Stop a bit,” said John; “I know a trick worth two of that,” and called the waitress.

“Betty,” said he, “we’ve dropped two guineas. See if you can find them.” Betty went down on her hands and knees, and found the one guinea, which had rolled under the fender.

“That’s a very good girl, Betty,” said John Scott, pocketing the coin; “and when you find the other you can keep it for your trouble.” And the prudent brothers went with a light heart to the play, and so eventually to the Bench and the Woolsack.

In spite of profound differences of political opinion, Lord Russell had a high regard for the memory of the Duke of Wellington, and had been much in his society in early life. Travelling in the Peninsula in 1812, he visited Lord Wellington at his headquarters near Burgos. On the morning after his arrival he rode out with his host and an aide-de-camp, and surveyed the position of the French army. Lord Wellington, peering through his glass, suddenly exclaimed, “By G—-! they’ve changed their position!” and said no more.

When they returned from their ride, the aide-de-camp said to Lord John, “You had better get away as quick as you can. I am confident that Lord Wellington means to make a move.” Lord John took the hint, made his excuses, and went on his way. That evening the British army was in full retreat, and Lord Russell used to tell the story as illustrating the old Duke’s extreme reticence when there was a chance of a military secret leaking out.

Lord Russell’s father, the sixth Duke of Bedford, belonged to that section of the Whigs who thought that, while a Whig ministry was impossible, it was wiser to support the Duke of Wellington, whom they believed to be a thoroughly honest man, than Canning, whom they regarded as an unscrupulous adventurer. Accordingly the Duke of Wellington was a frequent visitor at Woburn Abbey, and showed consistent friendliness to Lord Russell and his many brothers, all of whom were full of anecdotes illustrative of his grim humour and robust common sense. Let a few of them be recorded.

The Government was contemplating the dispatch of an expedition to Burma, with a view of taking Rangoon, and a question arose as to who would be the fittest general to be sent in command of the expedition. The Cabinet sent for the Duke of Wellington, and asked his advice. He instantly replied, “Send Lord Combermere.”

“But we have always understood that your Grace thought Lord Combermere a fool.”

“So he is a fool, and a d—-d fool; but he can take Rangoon.”

At the time of Queen Caroline’s trial the mob of London sided with the Queen, and the Duke’s strong adhesion to the King made him extremely unpopular. Riding up Grosvenor Place one day towards Apsley House, he was beset by a gang of workmen who were mending the road. They formed a cordon, shouldered their pickaxes, and swore they would not let the Duke pass till he said “God save the Queen.” “Well, gentlemen, since you will have it so–‘God save the Queen,’ and may all your wives be like her!”

Mrs. Arbuthnot (wife of the Duke’s private secretary, familiarly called “Gosh”) was fond of parading her intimacy with the Duke before miscellaneous company. One day, in a large party, she said to him,–

“Duke, I know you won’t mind my asking you, but is it true that you were surprised at Waterloo?”

“By G—-! not half as much surprised as I am now, mum.”

When the Queen came to the throne her first public act was to go in state to St. James’s Palace to be proclaimed. She naturally wished to be accompanied in her State coach only by the Duchess of Kent and one of the Ladies of the Household; but Lord Albemarle, who was Master of the Horse, insisted that he had a right to travel with her Majesty in the coach, as he had done with William IV. The point was submitted to the Duke of Wellington, as a kind of universal referee in matters of precedence and usage. His judgment was delightfully unflattering to the outraged magnate–“The Queen can make you go inside the coach or outside the coach, or run behind like a tinker’s dog.”

And surely the whole literary profession, of which the present writer is a feeble unit, must cherish a sentiment of grateful respect for the memory of a man who, in refusing the dedication of a song, informed Mrs. Norton that he had been obliged to make a rule of refusing dedications, “because, in his situation as Chancellor of the University of Oxford, he had been _much exposed to authors_.”



If the Christian Socialists ever frame a Kalendar of Worthies (after the manner of Auguste Comte), it is to be hoped that they will mark among the most sacred of their anniversaries the day–April 28, 1801–which gave birth to Anthony Ashley, seventh Earl of Shaftesbury. His life of eighty-four years was consecrated, from boyhood till death, to the social service of humanity; and, for my own part, I must always regard the privilege of his friendship as among the highest honours of my life. Let me try to recall some of the outward and inward characteristics of this truly illustrious man.

Lord Shaftesbury was tall and spare–almost gaunt–in figure, but powerfully framed, and capable of great exertion. His features were handsome and strongly marked–an aquiline nose and very prominent chin. His complexion was as pale as marble, and contrasted effectively with a thick crop of jet-black hair which extreme old age scarcely tinged with silver.

When he first entered Parliament a contemporary observer wrote: “It would be difficult to imagine a more complete beau-ideal of aristocracy. His whole countenance has the coldness as well as the grace of a chiselled one, and expresses precision, prudence, and determination in no common degree.” The stateliness of bearing, the unbroken figure, the high glance of stern though melancholy resolve, he retained to the end. But the incessant labour and anxiety of sixty years made their mark, and Sir John Millais’s noble portrait, painted in 1877, shows a countenance on which a lifelong contact with human suffering had written its tale in legible characters.

Temperament is, I suppose, hereditary. Lord Shaftesbury’s father, who was for nearly forty years Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords, was distinguished by a strong intellect, an imperious temper, and a character singularly deficient in amiability. His mother (whose childish beauty is familiar to all lovers of Sir Joshua’s art as the little girl frightened by the mask in the great “Marlborough Group”) was the daughter of the third Duke of Marlborough by that Duchess whom Queen Charlotte pronounced to be the proudest woman in England. It is reasonable to suppose that from such a parentage and such an ancestry Lord Shaftesbury derived some of the most conspicuous features of his character. From his father he inherited his keenness of intellect, his habits of laborious industry, and his iron tenacity of purpose. From his mother he may have acquired that strong sense of personal dignity–that intuitive and perhaps unconscious feeling of what was due to his station as well as to his individuality–which made his presence and address so impressive and sometimes alarming.

Dignity was indeed the quality which immediately struck one on one’s first encounter with Lord Shaftesbury; and with dignity were associated a marked imperiousness and an eager rapidity of thought, utterance, and action. As one got to know him better, one began to realize his intense tenderness towards all weakness and suffering; his overflowing affection for those who stood nearest to him; his almost morbid sensitiveness; his passionate indignation against cruelty or oppression. Now and then his conversation was brightened by brief and sudden gleams of genuine humour, but these gleams were rare. He had seen too much of human misery to be habitually jocose, and his whole nature was underlain by a groundwork of melancholy.

The marble of manhood retained the impression stamped upon the wax of childhood. His early years had been profoundly unhappy. His parents were stern disciplinarians of the antique type. His private school was a hell on earth; and yet he used to say that he feared the master and the bullies less than he feared his parents. One element of joy, and one only, he recognized in looking back to those dark days, and that was the devotion of an old nurse, who comforted him in his childish sorrows, and taught him the rudiments of Christian faith. In all the struggles and distresses of boyhood and manhood, he used the words of prayer which he had learned from this good woman before he was seven years old; and of a keepsake which she left him–the gold watch which he wore to the last day of his life–he used to say, “That was given to me by the best friend I ever had in the world.”

At twelve years old Anthony Ashley went to Harrow, where he boarded with the Head Master, Dr. Butler, father of the present Master of Trinity. I have heard him say that the master in whose form he was, being a bad sleeper, held “first school” at four o’clock on a winter’s morning; and that the boy for whom he fagged, being anxious to shine as a reciter, and finding it difficult to secure an audience, compelled him and his fellow-fag to listen night after night to his recitations, perched on a high stool where a nap was impossible.

But in spite of these austerities, Anthony Ashley was happy at Harrow; and the place should be sacred in the eyes of all philanthropists, because it was there that, when he was fourteen years old, he consciously and definitely gave his life to the service of his fellow-men. He chanced to see a scene of drunken indecency and neglect at the funeral of one of the villagers, and exclaimed in horror, “Good heavens! Can this be permitted simply because the man was poor and friendless?” What resulted is told by a tablet on the wall of the Old School, which bears the following inscription:–

_Love. Serve_.










_Blessed is he that considereth the poor_.

After leaving Harrow Lord Ashley (as he now was) spent two years at a private tutor’s, and in 1819 he went up to Christ Church. In 1822 he took a First Class in Classics. The next four years were spent in study and travel, and in 1826 he was returned to Parliament, by the influence of his uncle the Duke of Marlborough, for the Borough of Woodstock. On November 16 he recorded in his diary: “Took the oaths of Parliament with great good will; a slight prayer for assistance in my thoughts and deeds.” Never was a politician’s prayer more abundantly granted.

In 1830 Lord Ashley married a daughter of Lord Cowper, and this marriage, independently of the radiant happiness which it brought, had an important bearing on his political career; for Lady Ashley’s uncle was Lord Melbourne, and her mother became, by a second marriage, the wife of Lord Palmerston. Of Lord Melbourne and his strong common sense Lord Shaftesbury, in 1882, told me the following characteristic story. When the Queen became engaged to Prince Albert, she wished him to be made King Consort by Act of Parliament, and urged her wish upon the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne. At first that sagacious man simply evaded the point, but when her Majesty insisted on a categorical answer, “I thought it my duty to be very plain with her. I said, ‘For G—-‘s sake, let’s hear no more of it, ma’am; for if you once get the English people into the way of making kings, you will get them into the way of unmaking them.'”

By this time Lord Ashley was deeply immersed in those philanthropic enterprises which he had deliberately chosen as the occupation of his lifetime. Reform of the Lunacy Law and a humaner treatment of lunatics were the earliest objects to which he devoted himself. To attain them the more effectually he got himself made a member, and subsequently chairman, of the Lunacy Commission, and threw himself into the work with characteristic thoroughness. He used to pay “surprise visits” both by day and night to public and private asylums, and discovered by those means a system of regulated and sanctioned cruelty which, as he narrated it in his old age, seemed almost too horrible for credence.

The abolition of slavery all over the world was a cause which very early enlisted his sympathy, and he used to tell, with grim humour, how, when, after he had become Lord Shaftesbury, he signed an Open Letter to America in favour of emancipation, a Southern newspaper sarcastically inquired, “Where was this Lord Shaftesbury when the noble-hearted Lord Ashley was doing his single-handed work on behalf of the English slaves in the factories of Lancashire and Yorkshire?”

Sanitary reform and the promotion of the public health were objects at which, in the middle part of his life, he worked hard, both as a landowner and as the unpaid Chairman of the Board of Health. The crusade against vivisection warmed his heart and woke his indignant eloquence in his declining years. His Memorial Service in Westminster Abbey was attended by representatives of nearly two hundred religious and philanthropic institutions with which he had been connected, and which, in one way or another, he had served. But, of course, it is with the reform of the Factory Laws that his name is most inseparably associated.

In 1833 Lord Ashley took up the Ten Hours Bill, previously in the charge of Mr. Sadler, who had now lost his seat. He carried his Bill through the Second Reading, but it was opposed by Lord Althorp, who threw it out, and carried a modified proposal in 1833. In 1844 the introduction of a new Bill for the regulation of labour in factories brought Lord Ashley back to his old battlefield. A desperate struggle was made to amend the Bill into a Ten Hours Bill, but this failed, owing to Sir Robert Peel’s threat of resignation. In 1845 Lord Ashley refused the Chief Secretaryship for Ireland in order to be able to devote himself wholly to the Ten Hours Bill; and, as soon as Parliament rose, he went on a tour through the manufacturing districts, speaking in public, mediating between masters and men, and organizing the Ten Hours movement.

In 1847 the Bill passed into law. On June 1 in that year Lord Ashley wrote in his diary: “News that the Factory Bill has just passed the Third Reading. I am humbled that my heart is not bursting with thankfulness to Almighty God–that I can find breath and sense to express my joy. What reward shall we give unto the Lord for all the benefits He hath conferred upon us?–God in His mercy prosper the work, and grant that these operatives may receive the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord!”

The perfervid vein of philanthropic zeal which is apparent in this extract animated every part of Lord Shaftesbury’s nature and every action of his life. He had, if ever man had, “the Enthusiasm of Humanity.” His religion, on its interior side, was rapt, emotional, and sometimes mystic; but at the same time it was, in its outward manifestations, definite, tangible, and, beyond most men’s, practical. At the age of twenty-seven he wrote in his diary: “On my soul, I believe that I desire the welfare of mankind.” At eighty-four he exclaimed, in view of his approaching end, “I cannot bear to leave the world with all the misery in it.” And this was no mere effusive declamation, but the genuine utterance of a zeal which condescended to the most minute and laborious forms of practical expression. “Poor dear children!” he exclaimed to the superintendent of a ragged school, after hearing from some of the children their tale of cold and hunger. “What can we do for them?”

“My God shall supply all their need,” replied the superintendent with easy faith.

“Yes,” said Lord Shaftesbury, “He will, but they must have some food directly.” He drove home, and instantly sent two churns of soup, enough to feed four hundred. That winter ten thousand basins of soup, made in Grosvenor Square, were distributed among the “dear little hearts” of Whitechapel.

And as in small things, so in great. One principle consecrated his whole life. His love of God constrained him to the service of men, and no earthly object or consideration–however natural, innocent, or even laudable–was allowed for a moment to interpose itself between him and the supreme purpose for which he lived. He was by nature a man of keen ambition, and yet he twice refused office in the Household, once the Chief Secretaryship, and three times a seat in the Cabinet, because acceptance would have hindered him in his social legislation and philanthropic business. When we consider his singular qualifications for public life–his physical gifts, his power of speech, his habits of business, his intimate connections with the official caste–when we remember that he did not succeed to his paternal property till he was fifty years old, and then found it grossly neglected and burdened with debt; and that his purse had been constantly drained by his philanthropic enterprises–we are justified in saying that very few men have ever sacrificed so much for a cause which brought neither honours, nor riches, nor power, nor any visible reward, except the diminished suffering and increased happiness of multitudes who were the least able to help themselves.

Lord Shaftesbury’s devotion to the cause of Labour led him to make the Factory Acts a touchstone of character. To the end of his days his view of public men was largely governed by the part which they had played in that great controversy. “Gladstone voted against me,” was a stern sentence not seldom on his lips. “Bright was the most malignant opponent the Factory Bill ever had.” “Cobden, though bitterly hostile, was better than Bright.” Even men whom on general grounds he disliked and despised–such as Lord Beaconsfield and Bishop Wilberforce–found a saving clause in his judgment if he could truthfully say, “He helped me with the chimney-sweeps,” or, “He felt for the wretched operatives.”

But even apart from questions of humane sentiment and the supreme interests of social legislation, I always felt in my intercourse with Lord Shaftesbury that it would have been impossible for him to act for long together in subordination to, or even in concert with, any political leader. Resolute, self-reliant, inflexible; hating compromise; never turning aside by a hair’s-breadth from the path of duty; incapable of flattering high or low; dreading leaps in the dark, but dreading more than anything else the sacrifice of principle to party–he was essentially the type of politician who is the despair of the official wire-puller.

Oddly enough, Lord Palmerston was the statesman with whom, despite all ethical dissimilarity, he had the most sympathy, and this arose partly from their near relationship and partly from Lord Palmerston’s easy-going habit of placing his ecclesiastical patronage in Lord Shaftesbury’s hands. It was this unseen but not unfelt power as a confidential yet irresponsible adviser that Lord Shaftesbury really enjoyed and, indeed, his political opinions were too individual to have allowed of binding association with either political party. He was, in the truest and best sense of the word, a Conservative. To call him a Tory would be quite misleading. He was not averse from Roman Catholic emancipation. He took no prominent part against the first Reform Bill. His resistance to the admission of the Jews to Parliament was directed rather against the method than the principle. Though not friendly to Women’s Suffrage, he said: “I shall feel myself bound to conform to the national will, but I am not prepared to stimulate it.”

But while no blind and unreasoning opponent of all change, he had a deep and lively veneration for the past. Institutions, doctrines, ceremonies, dignities, even social customs, which had descended from old time, had for him a fascination and an awe. In his high sense of the privileges and the duties of kingship, of aristocracy, of territorial possession, of established religions, he recalled the doctrine of Burke; and he resembled that illustrious man in his passionate love of principle, in his proud hatred of shifts and compromises, in his contempt for the whole race of mechanical politicians and their ignoble strife for place and power.

When Lord Derby formed his Government in 1866, on the defeat of Lord Russell’s second Reform Bill, he endeavoured to obtain the sanction of Lord Shaftesbury’s name and authority by offering him a seat in his Cabinet. This offer was promptly declined; had it been accepted, it might have had an important bearing on the following event, which was narrated to me by Lord Shaftesbury in 1882. One winter evening in 1867 he was sitting in his library in Grosvenor Square, when the servant told him that there was a poor man waiting to see him. The man was shown in, and proved to be a labourer from Clerkenwell, and one of the innumerable recipients of the old Earl’s charity. He said, “My Lord, you have been very good to me, and I have come to tell you what I have heard.” It appeared that at the public-house which he frequented he had overheard some Irishmen of desperate character plotting to blow up Clerkenwell prison. He gave Lord Shaftesbury the information to be used as he thought best, but made it a condition that his name should not be divulged. If it were, his life would not be worth an hour’s purchase. Lord Shaftesbury pledged himself to secrecy, ordered his carriage, and drove instantly to Whitehall. The authorities there refused, on grounds of official practice, to entertain the information without the name and address of the informant. These, of course, could not be given. The warning was rejected, and the jail blown up. Had Lord Shaftesbury been a Cabinet Minister, this triumph of officialism would probably not have occurred.

What I have said of this favourite hero of mine in his public aspects will have prepared the sympathetic reader for the presentment of the man as he appeared in private life. For what he was abroad that he was at home. He was not a man who showed two natures or lived two lives. He was profoundly religious, eagerly benevolent, utterly impatient of whatever stood between him and the laudable object of the moment, warmly attached to those who shared his sympathies and helped his enterprises–_Fort comme le diamant; plus tendre qu’une mere_. The imperiousness which I described at the outset remained a leading characteristic to the last. His opinions were strong, his judgment was emphatic, his language unmeasured. He had been, all through his public life, surrounded by a cohort of admiring and obedient coadjutors, and he was unused to, and intolerant of, disagreement or opposition. It was a disconcerting experience to speak on a platform where he was chairman, and, just as one was warming to an impressive passage, to feel a vigorous pull at one’s coat-tail, and to hear a quick, imperative voice say, in no muffled tone, “My dear fellow, are you never going to stop? We shall be here all night.”

But when due allowance was made for this natural habit of command, Lord Shaftesbury was delightful company. Given to hospitality, he did the honours with stately grace; and, on the rare occasions when he could be induced to dine out, his presence was sure to make the party a success. In early life he had been pestered by a delicate digestion, and had accustomed himself to a regimen of rigid simplicity; but, though the most abstemious of men, he knew and liked a good glass of wine, and in a small party would bring out of the treasures of his memory things new and old with a copiousness and a vivacity which fairly fascinated his hearers. His conversation had a certain flavour of literature. His classical scholarship was easy and graceful. He had the Latin poets at his fingers’ ends, spoke French fluently, knew Milton by heart, and was a great admirer of Crabbe. His own style, both in speech and writing, was copious, vigorous, and often really eloquent. It had the same ornamental precision as his exquisite handwriting. When he was among friends whom he thoroughly enjoyed, the sombre dignity of his conversation was constantly enlivened by flashes of a genuine humour, which relieved, by the force of vivid contrast, the habitual austerity of his demeanour.

A kind of proud humility was constantly present in his speech and bearing. Ostentation, display, lavish expenditure would have been abhorrent alike to his taste and his principles. The stately figure which bore itself so majestically in Courts and Parliaments naturally unbent among the costermongers of Whitechapel and the labourers of Dorsetshire. His personal appointments were simple to a degree; his own expenditure was restricted within the narrowest limits. But he loved, and was honestly proud of, his beautiful home–St. Giles’s House, near Cranbourne; and when he received his guests, gentle or simple, at “The Saint,” as he affectionately called it, the mixture of stateliness and geniality in his bearing and address was an object-lesson in high breeding. Once Lord Beaconsfield, who was staying with Lord Alington at Crichel, was driven over to call on Lord Shaftesbury at St. Giles’s. When he rose to take his leave, he said, with characteristic magniloquence, but not without an element of truth, “Good-bye, my dear Lord. You have given me the privilege of seeing one of the most impressive of all spectacles–a great English nobleman living in patriarchal state in his own hereditary halls.”



I have described a great philanthropist and a great statesman. My present subject is a man who combined in singular harmony the qualities of philanthropy and of statesmanship–Henry Edward, Cardinal Manning, and titular Archbishop of Westminster.

My acquaintance with Cardinal Manning began in 1833. Early in the Parliamentary session of that year he intimated, through a common friend, a desire to make my acquaintance. He wished to get an independent Member of Parliament, and especially, if possible, a Liberal and a Churchman, to take up in the House of Commons the cause of Denominational Education. His scheme was much the same as that now[3] adopted by the Government–the concurrent endowment of all denominational schools; which, as he remarked, would practically come to mean those of the Anglicans, the Romans, and the Wesleyans. In compliance with his request, I presented myself at that barrack-like building off the Vauxhall Bridge Road, which was formerly the Guards’ Institute, and is now the Archbishop’s House. Of course, I had long been familiar with the Cardinal’s shrunken form and finely-cut features, and that extraordinary dignity of bearing which gave him, though in reality below the middle height, the air and aspect of a tall man. But I only knew him as a conspicuous and impressive figure in society, on public platforms, and (where he specially loved to be) in the precincts of the House of Commons. I had never exchanged a word with him, and it was with a feeling of very special interest that I entered his presence.

We had little in common. I was still a young man, and the Cardinal was already old. I was a staunch Anglican; he, the most devoted of Papalists. I was strongly opposed both to his Ultramontane policy and to those dexterous methods by which he was commonly supposed to promote it; and, as far as the circumstances of my life had given me any insight into the interior of Romanism, I sympathized with the great Oratorian of Birmingham rather than with his brother-cardinal of Westminster. But though I hope that my principles stood firm, all my prejudices melted away in that fascinating presence. Though there was something like half a century’s difference in our ages, I felt at once and completely at home with him.

What made our perfect ease of intercourse more remarkable was that, as far as the Cardinal’s immediate object was concerned, my visit was a total failure. I had no sympathy with his scheme for the endowment of denominational teaching, and, with all the will in the world to please him, I could not even meet him half way. But this untoward circumstance did not import the least difficulty or restraint into our conversation. He gently glided from business into general topics; knew all about my career, congratulated me on some recent success, remembered some of my belongings, inquired about my school and college, was interested to find that, like himself, I had been at Harrow and Oxford, and, after an hour’s pleasant chat, said, “Now you must stay and have some luncheon.” From that day to the end of his life I was a frequent visitor at his house, and every year that I knew him I learned to regard and respect him increasingly.

Looking back over these fourteen years, and reviewing my impressions of his personality, I must put first the physical aspect of the man. He seemed older than he was, and even more ascetic, for he looked as if, like the cardinal in _Lothair_, he lived on biscuits and soda-water; whereas he had a hearty appetite for his midday meal, and, in his own words, “enjoyed his tea.” Still, he carried the irreducible minimum of flesh on his bones, and his hollow cheeks and shrunken jaws threw his massive forehead into striking prominence. His line of features was absolutely faultless in its statuesque regularity, but his face was saved from the insipidity of too great perfection by the imperious–rather ruthless–lines of his mouth and the penetrating lustre of his deep-set eyes. His dress–a black cassock edged and buttoned with crimson, with a crimson skullcap and biretta, and a pectoral cross of gold–enhanced the picturesqueness of his aspect, and as he entered the anteroom where one awaited his approach, the most Protestant knee instinctively bent.

His dignity was astonishing. The position of a cardinal with a princely rank recognized abroad but officially ignored in England was difficult to carry off, but his exquisite tact enabled him to sustain it to perfection. He never put himself forward; never asserted his rank; never exposed himself to rebuffs; still, he always contrived to be the most conspicuous figure in any company which he entered; and whether one greeted him with the homage due to a prince of the Church or merely with the respect which no one refuses to a courtly old gentleman, his manner was equally easy, natural, and unembarrassed. The fact that the Cardinal’s name, after due consideration, was inserted in the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Poor immediately after that of the Prince of Wales and before Lord Salisbury’s was the formal recognition of a social precedence which adroitness and judgment had already made his own.

To imagine that Cardinal Manning regarded station, or dignity, or even power, as treasures to be valued in themselves would be ridiculously to misconceive the man. He had two supreme and absorbing objects in life–if, indeed, they may not be more properly spoken of as one–the glory of God and the salvation of men. These were, in his intellect and conscience, identified with the victory of the Roman Church. To these all else was subordinated; by its relation to these all else was weighed and calculated. His ecclesiastical dignity, and the secular recognition of it, were valuable as means to high ends. They attracted public notice to his person and mission; they secured him a wider hearing; they gave him access to circles which, perhaps, would otherwise have been closed. Hence, and for no other reason, they were valuable.

It has always to be borne in mind that Manning was essentially a man of the world, though he was much more than that. Be it far from me to disparage the ordinary type of Roman ecclesiastic, who is bred in a seminary, and perhaps spends his lifetime in a religious community. That peculiar training produces, often enough, a character of saintliness and unworldly grace on which one can only “look,” to use a phrase of Mr. Gladstone’s, “as men look up at the stars.” But it was a very different process that had made Cardinal Manning what he was. He had touched life at many points. A wealthy home, four years at Harrow, Balliol in its palmiest days, a good degree, a College Fellowship, political and secular ambitions of no common kind, apprenticeship to the practical work of a Government office, a marriage brightly but all too briefly happy, the charge of a country parish, and an early initiation into the duties of ecclesiastical rulership–all these experiences had made Henry Manning, by the time of his momentous change, an accomplished man of the world.

His subsequent career, though, of course, it superadded certain characteristics of its own, never obliterated or even concealed the marks left by those earlier phases, and the octogenarian Cardinal was a beautifully-mannered, well-informed, sagacious old gentleman who, but for his dress, might have passed for a Cabinet Minister, an eminent judge, or a great county magnate.

His mental alertness was remarkable. He seemed to read everything that came out, and to know all that was going on. He probed character with a glance, and was particularly sharp on pretentiousness and self-importance. A well-known publicist, who perhaps thinks of himself rather more highly than he ought to think, once ventured to tell the Cardinal that he knew nothing about the subject of a painful agitation which pervaded London in the summer of 1885. “I have been hearing confessions in London for thirty years, and I fancy more people have confided their secrets to me than to you, Mr. —-,” was the Cardinal’s reply.

Once, when his burning sympathy with suffering and his profound contempt for Political Economy had led him, in his own words, to “poke fun at the Dismal Science,” the _Times_ lectured him in its most superior manner, and said that the venerable prelate seemed to mistake cause and effect. “That,” said the Cardinal to me, “is the sort of criticism that an undergraduate makes, and thinks himself very clever. But I am told that in the present day the _Times_ is chiefly written by undergraduates.”

I once asked him what he thought of a high dignitary of the English Church, who had gone a certain way in a public movement, and then had been frightened back by clamour. His reply was the single word “_infirmus_,” accompanied by that peculiar sniff which every one who ever conversed with him must remember as adding so much to the piquancy of his terse judgments. When he was asked his opinion of a famous biography in which a son had disclosed, with too absolute frankness, his father’s innermost thoughts and feelings, the Cardinal replied, “I think that —- has committed the sin of Ham.”

His sense of humour was peculiarly keen, and though it was habitually kept under control, it was sometimes used to point a moral with admirable effect.

“What are you going to do in life?” he asked a rather flippant undergraduate at Oxford.

“Oh, I’m going to take Holy Orders,” was the airy reply.

“Take care you get them, my son.”

Though he was intolerant of bumptiousness, the Cardinal liked young men. He often had some about him, and in speaking to them the friendliness of his manner was touched with fatherliness in a truly attractive fashion. And as with young men, so with children. Surely nothing could be prettier than this answer to a little girl in New York who had addressed some of her domestic experiences to “Cardinal Manning, England.”

“My Dear Child,–You ask me whether I am glad to receive letters from little children. I am always glad, for they write kindly and give me no trouble. I wish all my letters were like theirs. Give my blessing to your father, and tell him that our good Master will reward him a hundredfold for all he has lost for the sake of his faith. Tell him that when he comes over to England he must come to see me. And mind you bring your violin, for I love music, but seldom have any time to hear it. The next three or four years of your life are very precious. They are like the ploughing-time and the sowing-time in the year. You are learning to know God, the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the presence and voice of the Holy Ghost in the Church of Jesus Christ. Learn all these things solidly, and you will love the Blessed Sacrament and our Blessed Mother with all your heart. And now you will pray for me that I may make a good end of a long life, which cannot be far off. And may God guide you and guard you in innocence and in fidelity through this evil, evil world! And may His blessing be on your home and all belonging to you! Believe me always a true friend, Henry Edward, Card. Abp. of Westminster.”

The Cardinal had, I should say, rather a contempt for women. He exercised a great influence over them, but I question if he rated their intellectual and moral qualities as highly as he ought, and their “rights” he held in utter detestation. General society, though in his later days he saw little of it except at the Athenaeum, he thoroughly enjoyed. Like most old people, he was fond of talking about old days, and as he had known hosts of important and interesting men, had a tenacious memory, and spoke the most finished English, it was a pleasure to listen to his reminiscences. He wrote as well as he talked. His pointed and lucid style gave to his printed performances a semblance of cogency which they did not really possess; and his letters–even his shortest notes–were as exquisite in wording as in penmanship. As he grew older, he became increasingly sensible of the charms of “Auld Lang Syne,” and he delighted to renew his acquaintance with the scenes and associations of his youth.

On July 15, 1888, being the first day of the Eton and Harrow Match at Lord’s, a few old Harrovians of different generations met at a Harrow dinner. The Cardinal, who had just turned eighty, was invited. He declined to dine, on the ground that he never dined out, but he would on no account forego the opportunity of meeting the members of his old school, and he recalled with pride that he had played for two years in the Harrow Eleven. He appeared as soon as dinner was over, gallantly faced the cloud of cigar-smoke, was in his very best vein of anecdote and reminiscence, and stayed till the party broke up.

The Cardinal’s friendships were not, I believe, numerous, but his affection for Mr. Gladstone is well known. It dated from Oxford. Through Manning and Hope-Scott the influence of the Catholic revival reached the young member for Newark, and they were the godfathers of his eldest son. After their secession to Rome in 1851 this profound friendship fell into abeyance. As far as Manning was concerned, it was renewed when, in 1868, Mr. Gladstone took in hand to disestablish the Irish Church. It was broken again by the controversy about _Vaticanism_, in 1875, and some fifteen years later was happily revived by the good offices of a common friend. “Gladstone is a very fine fellow,” said the Cardinal to me in 1890. “He is not vindictive. You may fight him as hard as you like, and when the fight is over you will find that it has left no rancour behind it.”

This affection for Mr. Gladstone was a personal matter, quite independent of politics; but in political matters also they had much in common. “You know,” wrote the Cardinal to Mrs. Gladstone on her Golden Wedding, “how nearly I have agreed in William’s political career, especially in his Irish policy of the last twenty years.” He accepted the principle of Home Rule, though he thought badly of the Bill of 1886, and predicted its failure from the day when it was brought in. The exclusion of the Irish members was in his eyes a fatal blot, as tending rather to separation than to that Imperial federation which was his political ideal. But the Cardinal always held his politics in subordination to his religion, and at the General Election of 1885 his vigorous intervention on behalf of denominational education which he considered to be imperilled by the Radical policy, considerably embarrassed the Liberal cause in those districts of London where there is a Roman Catholic vote.

It is necessary to say a word about Cardinal Manning’s method of religious propagandism. He excelled in the art of driving a nail where it would go. He never worried his acquaintance with controversy, never introduced religious topics unseasonably, never cast his pearls before unappreciative animals. But when he saw a chance, an opening, a sympathetic tendency, or a weak spot, he fastened on it with unerring instinct. His line was rather admonitory than persuasive. When he thought that the person whom he was addressing had an inkling of the truth, but was held back from avowing it by cowardice or indecision, he would utter the most startling warnings about the danger of dallying with grace.

“I promise you to become a Catholic when I am twenty-one,” said a young lady whom he was trying to convert.

“But can you promise to live so long?” was the searching rejoinder.

In Manning’s belief, the Roman Church was the one oracle of truth and the one ark of salvation; and his was the faith which would compass sea and land, sacrifice all that it possessed, and give its body to be burned, if it might by any means bring one more soul to safety. If he could win a single human being to see the truth and act on it, he was supremely happy. To make the Church of Rome attractive, to enlarge her borders, to win recruits for her, was therefore his constant effort. He had an ulterior eye to it in all his public works–his zealous teetotalism, his advocacy of the claims of labour, his sympathy with the demand for Home Rule; and the same principle which animated him in these large schemes of philanthropy and public policy made itself felt in the minutest details of daily life and personal dealing. Where he saw the possibility of making a convert, or even of dissipating prejudice and inclining a single Protestant more favourably towards Rome, he left no stone unturned to secure this all-important end. Hence it came that he was constantly, and not wholly without reason, depicted as a man whom in religious matters it was impossible to trust; with whom the end justified the means; and whose every act and word, where the interests of his Church were involved, must be watched with the most jealous suspicion.

All this was grossly overstated. Whatever else Cardinal Manning was, he was an English gentleman of the old school, with a nice sense of honour and propriety. But still, under a mass of calumny and exaggeration, there lay this substratum of truth–that he who wills the end wills the means; and that where the interests of a sacred cause are at stake, an enthusiastic adherent will sometimes use methods to which, in enterprises of less pith and moment, recourse could not properly be had.

Manning had what has been called “the ambition of distinctiveness.” He felt that he had a special mission which no other man could so adequately fulfil, and this was to establish and popularize in England his own robust faith in the cause of the Papacy as identical with the cause of God. There never lived a stronger Papalist. He was more Ultramontane than the Ultramontanes. Everything Roman was to him divine. Italian architecture, Italian vestments, the Italian mode of pronouncing ecclesiastical Latin were dear to him, because they visibly and audibly implied the all-pervading presence and power of Rome. Rightly or wrongly, he conceived that English Romanism, as it was when he joined the Roman Church, was practically Gallicanism; that it minimized the Papal supremacy, was disloyal to the Temporal Power, and was prone to accommodate itself to its Protestant and secular environment. Against this time-serving spirit he set his face like a flint. He believed that he had been divinely appointed to Papalize England. The cause of the Pope was the cause of God; Manning was the person who could best serve the Pope’s cause, and therefore all forces which opposed him were in effect opposing the Divine Will. This seems to have been his simple and sufficient creed, and certainly it had the merit of supplying a clear rule of action. It made itself felt in his hostility to the Religious Orders, and especially the Society of Jesus. Religious Orders are extra-episcopal. The Jesuits are scarcely subject to the Pope himself. Certainly neither the Orders nor the Society would, or could, be subject to Manning. A power independent of, or hostile to, his authority was inimical to religion, and must, as a religious duty, be checked, and, if possible, destroyed. Exactly the same principle animated his dealings with Cardinal Newman. Rightly or wrongly, Manning thought Newman a half-hearted Papalist. He dreaded alike his way of putting things and his practical policy. Newman’s favourite scheme of establishing a Roman Catholic college at Oxford, Manning regarded as fraught with peril to the faith of the rising generation. The scheme must therefore be crushed and its author snubbed.

I must in candour add that these differences of opinion between the two Cardinals were mixed with and embittered by a sense of personal dislike. When Newman died there appeared in a monthly magazine a series of very unflattering sketches by one who had lived under his roof. I ventured to ask Cardinal Manning if he had seen these sketches. He replied that he had, and thought them very shocking; the writer must have a very unenviable mind, &c., and then, having thus sacrificed to propriety, after a moment’s pause he added, “But if you ask me if they are like poor Newman, I am bound to say–_a photograph_.”

It was, I suppose, matter of common knowledge that Manning’s early and conspicuous ascendency in the counsels of the Papacy rested mainly on the intimacy of his personal relations with Pius IX. But it was news to most of us that (if his biographer is right) he wished to succeed Antonelli as Secretary of State in 1876, and to transfer the scene of his activities from Westminster to Rome, and that he attributed the Pope’s disregard of his wishes to mental decrepitude. The point, if true, is an important one, for his accession to the Secretaryship of State, and permanent residence in Rome, could not have failed to affect the development of events when, two years later, the Papal throne became vacant by the death of Pius IX. But _Deo aliter visum_. It was ordained that he should pass the evening of his days in England, and that he should outlive his intimacy at the Vatican and his influence on the general policy of the Church of Rome. With the accession of Leo XIII. a new order began, and Newman’s elevation to the sacred purple seemed to affix the sanction of Infallibility to views and methods against which Manning had waged a Thirty Years’ War. Henceforward he felt himself a stranger at the Vatican, and powerless beyond the limits of his own jurisdiction.

Perhaps this restriction of exterior activities in the ecclesiastical sphere drove the venerable Cardinal to find a vent for his untiring energies in those various efforts of social reform in which, during the last ten years of his life, he played so conspicuous a part. If this be so, though Rome may have lost, England was unquestionably a gainer. It was during those ten years that I was honoured by his friendship. The storms, the struggles, the ambitions, the intrigues which had filled so large a part of his middle life lay far behind. He was revered, useful, and, I think, contented in his present life, and looked forward with serene confidence to the final, and not distant, issue. Thrice happy is the man who, in spite of increasing infirmity and the loss of much that once made life enjoyable, thus

“Finds comfort in himself and in his cause, And, while the mortal mist is gathering, draws His breath in confidence of Heaven’s applause.”


[3] 1903



It is narrated of an ancient Fellow of All Souls’ that, lamenting the changes which had transformed his College from the nest of aristocratic idlers into a society of accomplished scholars, he exclaimed: “Hang it all, sir, we were _sui generis_.” What the unreformed Fellows of All Souls’ were among the common run of Oxford dons, that, it may truly (and with better syntax) be said, the late Lord Houghton was among his fellow-citizens. Of all the men I have ever known he was, I think, the most completely _sui generis_. His temperament and turn of mind were, as far as I know, quite unlike anything that obtained among his predecessors and contemporaries; nor do I see them reproduced among the men who have come after him. His peculiarities were not external. His appearance accorded with his position. He looked very much what one would have expected in a country gentleman of large means and prosperous circumstances. His early portraits show that he was very like all the other young gentlemen of fashion whom D’Orsay drew, with their long hair, high collars, and stupendous neckcloths. The admirably faithful work of Mr. Lehmann will enable all posterity to know exactly how he looked in his later years with his loose-fitting clothes, comfortable figure, and air of genial gravity. Externally all was normal. His peculiarities were those of mental habit, temperament, and taste. As far as I know, he had not a drop of foreign blood in his veins, yet his nature was essentially un-English.

A country gentleman who frankly preferred living in London, and a Yorkshireman who detested sport, made a sufficiently strange phenomenon; but in Lord Houghton the astonished world beheld as well a politician who wrote poetry, a railway-director who lived in literature, a _libre-penseur_ who championed the Tractarians, a sentimentalist who talked like a cynic, and a philosopher who had elevated conviviality to the dignity of an exact science. Here, indeed, was a “living oxymoron”–a combination of inconsistent and incongruous qualities which to the typical John Bull–Lord Palmerston’s “Fat man with a white hat in the twopenny omnibus”–was a sealed and hopeless mystery.

Something of this unlikeness to his fellow-Englishmen was due, no doubt, to the fact that Lord Houghton, the only son of a gifted, eccentric, and indulgent father, was brought up at home. The glorification of the Public School has been ridiculously overdone. But it argues no blind faith in that strange system of unnatural restraints and scarcely more reasonable indulgences to share Gibbon’s opinion that the training of a Public School is the best adapted to the common run of Englishmen. “It made us what we were, sir,” said Major Bagstock to Mr. Dombey; “we were iron, sir, and it forged us.” The average English boy being what he is by nature–“a soaring human boy,” as Mr. Chadband called him–a Public School simply makes him more so. It confirms alike his characteristic faults and his peculiar virtues, and turns him out after five or six years that altogether lovely and gracious product–the Average Englishman. This may be readily conceded; but, after all, the pleasantness of the world as a place of residence, and the growing good of the human race, do not depend exclusively on the Average Englishman; and something may be said for the system of training which has produced, not only all famous foreigners (for they, of course, are a negligible quantity), but such exceptional Englishmen as William Pitt and Thomas Macaulay, and John Keble and Samuel Wilberforce, and Richard Monckton Milnes.

From an opulent and cultivated home young Milnes passed to the most famous college in the world, and found himself under the tuition of Whewell and Thirlwall, and in the companionship of Alfred Tennyson and Julius Hare, Charles Buller and John Sterling–a high-hearted brotherhood who made their deep mark on the spiritual and intellectual life of their own generation and of that which succeeded it.

After Cambridge came foreign travel, on a scale and plan quite outside the beaten track of the conventional “grand tour” as our fathers knew it. From the Continent Richard Milnes brought back a gaiety of spirit, a frankness of bearing, a lightness of touch which were quite un-English, and “a taste for French novels, French cookery, and French wines” with which Miss Crawley would have sympathized. In 1837 he entered Parliament as a “Liberal Conservative” for the Borough of Pontefract, over which his father exercised considerable influence, and he immediately became a conspicuous figure in the social life of London. A few years later his position and character were drawn by the hand of a master in a passage which will well bear yet one more reproduction:–

“Mr. Vavasour was a social favourite; a poet, and a real poet, and a troubadour, as well as a Member of Parliament; travelled, sweet-tempered, and good-hearted; amusing and clever. With catholic sympathies and an eclectic turn of mind, Mr. Vavasour saw something good in everybody and everything; which is certainly amiable, and perhaps just, but disqualifies a man in some degree for the business of life, which requires for its conduct a certain degree of prejudice. Mr. Vavasour’s breakfasts were renowned. Whatever your creed, class, or country–one might almost add your character–you were a welcome guest at his matutinal meal, provided you were celebrated. That qualification, however, was rigidly enforced. A real philosopher, alike from his genial disposition and from the influence of his rich and various information, Vavasour moved amid the strife, sympathizing with every one; and perhaps, after all, the philanthropy which was his boast was not untinged by a dash of humour, of which rare and charming quality he possessed no inconsiderable portion. Vavasour liked to know everybody who was known, and to see everything which ought to be seen. His life was a gyration of energetic curiosity; an insatiable whirl of social celebrity. There was not a congregation of sages and philosophers in any part of Europe which he did not attend as a brother. He was present at the camp of Kalisch in his yeomanry uniform, and assisted at the festivals of Barcelona in an Andalusian jacket. He was everywhere and at everything: he had gone down in a diving-bell and gone up in a balloon. As for his acquaintances, he was welcomed in every land; his universal sympathies seemed omnipotent. Emperor and King, Jacobin and Carbonaro, alike cherished him. He was the steward of Polish balls, and the vindicator of Russian humanity; he dined with Louis Philippe, and gave dinners to Louis Blanc.”

Lord Beaconsfield’s penetration in reading character and skill in delineating it were never, I think, displayed to better advantage than in the foregoing passage. Divested of its intentional and humorous exaggerations, it is not a caricature, but a portrait. It exhibits with singular fidelity the qualities which made Lord Houghton, to the end of his long life, at once unique and lovable. We recognize the overflowing sympathy, the keen interest in life, the vivid faculty of enjoyment, the absolute freedom from national prejudice, the love of seeing and of being seen.

During the Chartist riots of 1848 Matthew Arnold wrote to his mother: “Tell Miss Martineau it is said here that Monckton Milnes refused to be sworn in a special constable, that he might be free to assume the post of President of the Republic at a moment’s notice.” And those who knew Lord Houghton best suspect that he himself originated the joke at his own expense. The assured ease of young Milnes’s social manner, even among complete strangers, so unlike the morbid self-repression and proud humility of the typical Englishman, won for him the nickname of “The Cool of the Evening.” His wholly un-English tolerance and constant effort to put himself in the place of others whom the world condemned, procured for him from Carlyle (who genuinely loved him) the title of “President of the Heaven-and-Hell-Amalgamation Company.” Bishop Wilberforce wrote, describing a dinner-party in 1847: “Carlyle was very great. Monckton Milnes drew him out. Milnes began the young man’s cant of the present day–the barbarity and wickedness of capital punishment; that, after all, we could not be sure others were wicked, etc. Carlyle broke out on him with, ‘None of your Heaven-and-Hell-Amalgamation Companies for me. We _do_ know what is wickedness, _I_ know wicked men, men whom I _would not live with_–men whom under some conceivable circumstances I would kill or they should kill me. No, Milnes, there’s no truth or greatness in all that. It’s just poor, miserable littleness.'”

Lord Houghton’s faculty of enjoyment was peculiarly keen. He warmed not only both hands but indeed all his nature before the fire of life. “All impulses of soul and sense” affected him with agreeable emotions; no pleasure of body or spirit came amiss to him. And in nothing was he more characteristically un-English than in the frank manifestation of his enjoyment, bubbling over with an infectious jollity, and never, even when touched by years and illness, taking his pleasures after that melancholy manner of our nation to which it is a point of literary honour not more directly to allude. Equally un-English was his frank openness of speech and bearing. His address was pre-eminently what old-fashioned people called “forthcoming.” It was strikingly–even amusingly–free from that frigid dignity and arrogant reserve for which as a nation we are so justly famed. I never saw him kiss a guest on both cheeks, but if I had I should not have felt the least surprised.

What would have surprised me would have been if the guest (whatever his difference of age or station) had not felt immediately and completely at home, or if Lord Houghton had not seemed and spoken as if they had known one another from the days of short frocks and skipping-ropes. There never lived so perfect a host. His sympathy was genius, and his hospitality a fine art. He was peculiarly sensitive to the claims of “Auld Lang Syne,” and when a young man came up from Oxford or Cambridge to begin life in London, he was certain to find that Lord Houghton had travelled on the Continent with his father, or had danced with his mother, or had made love to his aunt, and was eagerly on the look-out for an opportunity of showing gracious and valuable kindness to the son of his ancient friends.

When I first lived in London Lord Houghton was occupying a house in Arlington Street made famous by the fact that Hogarth drew its interior and decorations in his pictures of “Marriage a la Mode.” And nowhere did the social neophyte receive a warmer welcome, or find himself amid a more eclectic and representative society. Queens of fashion, professional beauties, authors and authoresses, ambassadors, philosophers, discoverers, actors–every one who was famous or even notorious; who had been anywhere or had done anything, from a successful speech in Parliament to a hazardous leap at the Aquarium–jostled one another on the wide staircase and in the gravely ornate drawing-rooms. And amid the motley crowd the genial host was omnipresent, with a warm greeting and a twinkling smile for each successive guest–a good story, a happy quotation, the last morsel of piquant gossip, the newest theory of ethics or of politics.

Lord Houghton’s humour had a quality which was quite its own. Nothing was sacred to it–neither age, nor sex, nor subject was spared; but it was essentially good-natured. It was the property of a famous spear to heal the wounds which itself had made; the shafts of Lord Houghton’s fun needed no healing virtue, for they made no wound. When that saintly friend of temperance and all good causes, Mr. Cowper-Temple, was raised to the peerage as Lord Mount Temple, Lord Houghton went about saying, “You know that the precedent for Billy Cowper’s title is in _Don Juan?_–

‘And Lord Mount Coffee-house, the Irish peer, Who killed himself for love, with drink, last year.'”

When a very impecunious youth, who could barely afford to pay for his cab fares, lost a pound to him at whist, Lord Houghton said, as he pocketed the coin, “Ah, my dear boy, the _great_ Lord Hertford, whom foolish people called the _wicked_ Lord Hertford–Thackeray’s Steyne and Dizzy’s Monmouth–used to say, ‘There is no pleasure in winning money from a man who does not feel it.’ How true that was!–” And when he saw a young friend at a club supping on _pate de foie gras_ and champagne, he said encouragingly, “That’s quite right. All the pleasant things in life are unwholesome, or expensive, or wrong.” And amid these rather grim morsels of experimental philosophy he would interject certain _obiter dicta_ which came straight from the unspoiled goodness of a really kind heart. “All men are improved by prosperity,” he used to say. Envy, hatred, and malice had no place in his nature. It was a positive enjoyment to him to see other people happy, and a friend’s success was as gratifying as his own. His life, though in most respects singularly happy, had not been without its disappointments. At one time he had nursed political ambitions, and his peculiar knowledge of foreign affairs had seemed to indicate a special line of activity and success. But things went differently. He always professed to regard his peerage as “a Second Class in the School of Life,” and himself as a political failure. Yet no tinge of sourness, or jealousy, or cynical disbelief in his more successful contemporaries ever marred the geniality of his political conversation.

As years advanced he became not (as the manner of most men is) less Liberal, but more so; keener in sympathy with all popular causes; livelier in his indignation against monopoly and injustice. Thirty years ago, in the struggle for the Reform Bill of 1866, his character and position were happily hit off by Sir George Trevelyan in a description of a walk down Piccadilly:–

“There on warm midsummer Sundays Fryston’s Bard is wont to wend, Whom the Ridings trust and honour, Freedom’s staunch and jovial friend: Loved where shrewd hard-handed craftsmen cluster round the northern kilns–
He whom men style Baron Houghton, but the Gods call Dicky Milnes.”

And eighteen years later there was a whimsical pathos in the phrase in which he announced his fatal illness to a friend: “Yes, I am going to join the Majority–and you know I have always preferred Minorities.”

It would be foreign to my purpose to criticize Lord Houghton as a poet. My object in these chapters is merely to record the characteristic traits of eminent men who have honoured me with their friendship, and among those there is none for whose memory I cherish a warmer sentiment of affectionate gratitude than for him whose likeness I have now tried to sketch. His was the most precious of combinations–a genius and a heart. An estimate of his literary gifts and performances lies altogether outside my scope, but the political circumstances of the present hour[4] impel me to conclude this paper with a quotation which, even if it stood alone, would, I think, justify Lord Beaconsfield’s judgment quoted above–that “he was a poet, and a true poet.” Here is the lyrical cry which, writing in 1843, he puts into the mouth of Greece:–

“And if to his old Asian seat,
From this usurped, unnatural throne, The Turk is driven, ’tis surely meet
That we again should hold our own; Be but Byzantium’s native sign
Of Cross on Crescent[5] once unfurled, And Greece shall guard by right divine The portals of the Easter world.”


[4] March 1897.

[5] The Turks adopted the sign of the Crescent from Byzantium after the Conquest: the Cross above the Crescent is found on many ruins of the Grecian city–among others, on the Genoese castle on the Bosphorus.



In these chapters I have been trying to recall some notable people through whom I have been brought into contact with the social life of the past. I now propose to give the impressions which they conveyed to me of the moral, material, and political condition of England just at the moment when the old order was yielding place to new, and modern Society was emerging from the birth-throes of the French Revolution. All testimony seems to me to point to the fact that towards the close of the eighteenth century Religion was almost extinct in the highest and lowest classes of English society. The poor were sunk in ignorance and barbarism, and the aristocracy was honeycombed by profligacy. Morality, discarded alike by high and low, took refuge in the great Middle Class, then, as now, deeply influenced by Evangelical Dissent. A dissolute Heir-Apparent presided over a social system in which not merely religion but decency was habitually disregarded. At his wedding he was so drunk that his attendant dukes “could scarcely support him from falling.”[6] The Princes of the Blood were notorious for a freedom of life and manners which would be ludicrous if it were not shocking. Here I may cite an unpublished diary[7] of Lord Robert Seymour (son of the first Marquis of Hertford), who was born in 1748 and died in 1831. He was a man of fashion and a Member of Parliament; and these are some of the incidents which he notes in 1788:–

“The Prince of Wales declares there is not an honest Woman in London, excepting Ly. Parker and Ly. Westmoreland, and those are so stupid he can make nothing of them; they are scarcely fit to blow their own Noses.”

“At Mrs. Vaneck’s assembly last week, the Prince of Wales, very much to the honour of his polite and elegant Behaviour, measured the breadth of Mrs. V. behind with his Handkerchief, and shew’d the measurement to most of the Company.”

“Another Trait of the P. of Wales’s Respectful Conduct is that at an assembly he beckoned to the poor old Dutchess of Bedford across a large Room, and, when she had taken the trouble of crossing the Room, he very abruptly told her he had nothing to say to her.”

“The Prince of Wales very much affronted the D. of Orleans and his natural Brother, L’Abbe de la Fai, at Newmarket, L’Abbe declaring it possible to charm a Fish out of the Water, which being disputed occasioned a Bett; and the Abbe stooped down over the water to tickle the Fish with a little switch. Fearing, however, the Prince said play him some Trick, he declared he hoped the Prince would not use him unfairly by throwing him into the water. The Prince answer’d him that he would not upon his Honor. The Abbe had no sooner began the operation by leaning over a little Bridge when the Prince took hold of his Heels and threw him into the Water, which was rather deep. The Abbe, much enraged, the moment he got himself out run at the Prince with great violence, a Horse-whip in his Hand, saying he thought very meanly of a Prince who cou’d not keep his word. The Prince flew from him, and getting to the Inn locked himself in one of the Rooms.”

“Prince of Wales, Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Duke and Dutchess of Cumberland, and Miss Pigott, Mrs. F.’s companion, went a Party to Windsor during the absence of _The Family_ fm. Windsor; and going to see a cold Bath, Miss P. expressed a great wish to bathe this hot weather. The D. of C. very imprudently pushed her in, and the Dut. of C. having the presence of mind to throw out the Rope saved her when in such a disagreeable State from fear and surprise as to be near sinking. Mrs. F. went into convulsion Fits, and the Dut. fainted away, and the scene proved ridiculous in the extreme, as Report says the Duke called out to Miss P. that he was instantly coming to her in the water, and continued undressing himself. Poor Miss P.’s clothes entirely laid upon the Water, and made her appear an awkward figure. They afterwards pushed in one of the Prince’s attendants.”

So much for High Life at the close of the eighteenth century. It is more difficult to realize that we are separated only by some sixty years from a time when a Cabinet Minister and a brother of the Sovereign conducted a business-like correspondence on the question whether the Minister had or had not turned the Prince out of the house for insulting his wife. The journals, newspapers, and memoirs of the time throw (especially for those who can read between the lines) a startling light on that hereditary principle which plays so important a part in our political system. All the ancillary vices flourished with a rank luxuriance. Hard drinking was the indispensable accomplishment of a fine gentleman, and great estates were constantly changing owners at the gaming-table.

The fifth Duke of Bedford (who had the temerity to attack Burke’s pension, and thereby drew down upon himself the most splendid repartee in literature) was a bosom-friend of Fox, and lived in a like-minded society. One night at Newmarket he lost a colossal sum at hazard, and, jumping up in a passion, he swore that the dice were loaded, put them in his pocket, and went to bed. Next morning he examined the dice in the presence of his boon companions, found that they were not loaded, and had to apologize and pay. Some years afterwards one of the party was lying on his death-bed, and he sent for the duke. “I have sent for you to tell you that you were right. The dice _were_ loaded. We waited till you were asleep, went to your bedroom, took them out of your waistcoat pocket, replaced them with unloaded ones, and retired.”

“But suppose I had woke and caught you doing it.”

“Well, we were desperate men–_and we had pistols_.”

Anecdotes of the same type might be multiplied endlessly, and would serve to confirm the strong impression which all contemporary evidence leaves upon the mind–that the closing years of the eighteenth century witnessed the _nadir_ of English virtue. The national conscience was in truth asleep, and it had a rude awakening. “I have heard persons of great weight and authority,” writes Mr. Gladstone, “such as Mr. Grenville, and also, I think, Archbishop Howley, ascribe the beginnings of a reviving seriousness in the upper classes of lay society to a reaction against the horrors and impieties of the first French Revolution in its later stages.” And this reviving seriousness was by no means confined to Nonconformist circles. In the eighteenth century the religious activities of the time proceeded largely (though not exclusively) from persons who, from one cause or another, were separated from the Established Church. Much theological learning and controversial skill, with the old traditions of Anglican divinity, had been drawn aside from the highway of the Establishment into the secluded byways of the Nonjurors. Whitefield and the Wesleys, and that grim but grand old Mother in Israel, Selina Countess of Huntingdon, found their evangelistic energies fatally cramped by episcopal authority, and, quite against their natural inclinations, were forced to act through independent organizations of their own making. But at the beginning of the nineteenth century things took a different turn.

The distinguishing mark of the religious revival which issued from the French Revolution was that it lived and moved and had its being within the precincts of the Church of England. Of that Church, as it existed at the close of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth, the characteristic feature had been a quiet worldliness. The typical clergyman, as drawn, for instance, in Crabbe’s poems and Miss Austen’s novels, is a well-bred, respectable, and kindly person, playing an agreeable part in the social life of his neighbourhood, and doing a secular work of solid value, but equally removed from the sacerdotal pretensions of the Caroline divines and from the awakening fervour of the Evangelical preachers. The professors of a more spiritual or a more aggressive religion were at once disliked and despised. Sydney Smith was never tired of poking fun at the “sanctified village of Clapham” and its “serious” inhabitants, at missionary effort and revivalist enthusiasm. When Lady Louisa Lennox was engaged to a prominent Evangelical and Liberal–Mr. Tighe of Woodstock–her mother, the Duchess of Richmond, said, “Poor Louisa is going to make a shocking marriage–a man called _Tiggy_, my dear, a Saint and a Radical.” When Lord Melbourne had accidently found himself the unwilling hearer of a rousing Evangelical sermon about sin and its consequences, he exclaimed in much disgust as he left the church, “Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade the sphere of private life!”

Arthur Young tells us that a daughter of the first Lord Carrington said to a visitor, “My papa used to have prayers in his family, but none since he has been a Peer.” A venerable Canon of Windsor, who was a younger son of a great family, told me that his old nurse, when she was putting him and his little brothers to bed, used to say, “If you’re very good little boys, and go to bed without giving trouble, you needn’t say your prayers to-night.” When the late Lord Mount Temple was a youth, he wished to take Holy Orders; and the project so horrified his parents that, after holding a family council, they plunged him into fashionable society in the hope of distracting his mind from religion, and accomplished their end by making him join the Blues.

The quiet worldliness which characterized the English Church as a whole was unpleasantly varied here and there by instances of grave and monstrous scandal. The system of Pluralities left isolated parishes in a condition of practical heathenism. Even bare morality was not always observed. In solitary places clerical drunkenness was common. On Saturday afternoon the parson would return from the nearest town “market-merry.” He consorted freely with the farmers, shared their habits, and spoke their language. I have known a lady to whom a country clergyman said, pointing to the darkened windows where a corpse lay awaiting burial, “There’s a stiff ‘un in that house.” I have known a country gentleman in Shropshire who had seen his own vicar drop the chalice at the Holy Communion because he was too drunk to hold it. I know a corner of Bedfordshire where, within the recollection of persons living thirty[8] years ago, three clerical neighbours used to meet for dinner at one another’s parsonages in turn. One winter afternoon a corpse was brought for burial to the village church. The vicar of the place came from his dinner so drunk that he could not read the service, although his sister supported him with one hand and held the lantern with the other. He retired beaten, and both his guests made the same attempt with no better success. So the corpse was left in the church, and the vicar buried it next day when he had recovered from his debauch.

While the prevailing tone of quiet worldliness was thus broken, here and there, by horrid scandals, in other places it was conspicuously relieved by splendid instances of piety and self-devotion, such as George Eliot drew in the character of Edgar Tryan of Milby. But the innovating clergy of the Evangelical persuasion had to force their way through “the teeth of clenched antagonisms.” The bishops, as a rule, were opposed to enthusiasm, and the bishops of that day were, in virtue of their wealth, their secular importance, and their professional cohesiveness, a formidable force in the life of the Church.

In the “good old days” of Erastian Churchmanship, before the Catholic revival had begun to breathe new life into ancient forms, a bishop was enthroned by proxy! Sydney Smith, rebuking Archbishop Howley for his undue readiness to surrender cathedral property to the Ecclesiastical Commission, pointed out that his conduct was inconsistent with having sworn at his enthronement that he would not alienate the possessions of the Church of Canterbury. “The oath,” he goes on, “may be less present to the Archbishop’s memory from the fact of his not having taken the oath in person, but by the medium of a gentleman sent down by the coach to take it for him–a practice which, though I believe it to have been long established in the Church, surprised me, I confess, not a little. A proxy to vote, if you please–a proxy to consent to arrangements of estates, if wanted; but a proxy sent down in the Canterbury Fly to take the Creator to witness that the Archbishop, detained in town by business or pleasure, will never violate that foundation of piety over which he presides–all this seems to me an act of the most extraordinary indolence ever recorded in history.” In this judgment the least ritualistic of laymen will heartily concur. But from Archbishop Howley to Archbishop Temple is a far cry, and the latest enthronement in Canterbury Cathedral must have made clear to the most casual eye the enormous transformation which sixty years have wrought alike in the inner temper and the outward aspect of the Church of England.

Once Dr. Liddon, walking with me down the hall of Christ Church, pointed to the portrait of an extremely bloated and sensual-looking prelate on the wall, and said, with that peculiar kind of mincing precision which added so much to the point of his sarcasms, “How singular, dear friend, to reflect that _that person_ was chosen, in the providential order, to connect Mr. Keble with the Apostles!” And certainly this connecting link bore little resemblance to either end of the chain. The considerations which governed the selection of a bishop in those good old days were indeed not a little singular. Perhaps he was chosen because he was a sprig of good family, like Archbishop Cornwallis, whose junketings at Lambeth drew down upon him the ire of Lady Huntingdon and the threats of George III., and whose sole qualification for the clerical office was that when an undergraduate he had suffered from a stroke of palsy which partially crippled him, but “did not, however, prevent him from holding a hand at cards.” Perhaps he had been, like Bishop Sumner, “bear-leader” to a great man’s son, and had won the gratitude of a powerful patron by extricating young hopeful from a matrimonial scrape. Perhaps, like Marsh or Van Mildert, he was a controversial pamphleteer who had tossed a Calvinist or gored an Evangelical. Or perhaps he was, like Blomfield and Monk, a “Greek Play Bishop,” who had annotated Aeschylus or composed a Sapphic Ode on a Royal marriage. “Young Crumpet is sent to school; takes to his books; spends the best years of his life in making Latin verses; knows that the _Crum_ in Crumpet is long and the _pet_ short; goes to the University; gets a prize for an Essay on the Dispersion of the Jews; takes Orders; becomes a bishop’s chaplain; has a young nobleman for his pupil; publishes a useless classic and a Serious Call to the Unconverted; and then goes through the Elysian transitions of Prebendary, Dean, Prelate, and the long train of purple, profit, and power.”

Few–and very few–are the adducible instances in which, in the reigns of George III., George IV., and William IV., a bishop was appointed for evangelistic zeal or pastoral efficiency.

But, on whatever principle chosen, the bishop, once duly consecrated and enthroned, was a formidable person, and surrounded by a dignity scarcely less than royal. “Nobody likes our bishop,” says Parson Lingon in _Felix Holt_. “He’s all Greek and greediness, and too proud to dine with his own father.” People still living can remember the days when the