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Radium. By. R. H. Law
Victoria A. Buxton
Victoria A. Buxton
By G. K. Chesterton
By H. B. Marriott Watson
Nineteenth Century and After
......140, 279, 420,
It is a commoplace with some critics politicians, and a personal character that Mr. Morley made a great mistake which commands the respect of all his when he deserted literature for polis opponents, is and has long been a tics. The criticism is not a very pro- force to be reckoned with in English found one, though it is natural on the public life. Besides, Mr. Morley has part of those who, having no sym- never entirely deserted literature for pathy with Mr. Morley's political politics; he has brought his political views, may very well think that he training to bear on literature; witness was less likely to do harm as a man of his admirable studies of Sir Robert Walletters than as a man of affairs. Even pole and of Oliver Cromwell, books so, however, it is rather short-sighted. which abound in wise saws and pregTo begin with, it is very doubtful nant reflections that could never have whether the influence of the writer is been inspired in the study. They are less than that of the politician. In the fine flower of political experience, the second place, Mr. Morley has al- ripened in the senate and the marketways beeen something more than a place, quickened by the habit of dealman of letters. All his serious contri- ing directly with men, and perfected butions to literature have been in- by rare literary skill. spired by lofty political ideals. In But it is by his "Life of William him the man of letters has always as- Ewart Gladstone,” just published, that sumed the garb of the political evange- Mr. Morley may claim to be finally list-the evangelist of a political gos- judged both as a man of letters and pel which is not ours, but which, as- as a man of affairs. There are few sociated as it is with a literary fac- forms of litrature so difficult to suculty of rare felicity and power, a cced in as biography; there are perbreadth of culture rarely attained by haps none so difficult as political biog
• 1. The Life of William Ewart Gladstone. By Hon. Hugh O. E. Childers, 1827-1896. By his John Morley. Three volumes. London: Mac- son, Lieut.-Col. Spencer Childers, C.B. Two vol. millan, 1903.
London: Murray, 1901. 2. The Life of William Ewart Gladstone. By
in Contemporary Biography. By #. W. Paul. London: Smith, Elder, 1901.
James Bryce. London: Macmillan, 1903. 3. The Life and Correspondence of the Right
raphy; and probably no political biog- not be fair to the author to attribute raphy that ever was written was this remarkable freedom from party more difficult to write well than that spirit to the influence of Queen Victoof Mr. Gladstone. Has Mr. Morley ria; but it is only right to record, as written it well? The answer will gen- Mr. Morley does himself, that, when erally depend in some measure on the he applied to her Majesty for the use point of view and the political and of certain documents not accessible personal prepossessions of the critic. without her sanction, the Queen, in Those who think that Mr. Gladstone's complying with his request, political aims were mischievous and his political conduct flagitious, who re- “added a message strongly impressing gard him as a time-serving demagogue
on me that the work I was about to un
dertake should not be handled in the and hypocrite, driven to tortuous courses by the stings of a restless and
narrow way of party. This injunction,"
continues Mr. Morley, “represents my overmastering ambition, will hardly
own clear view of the spirit in which approve of a biography which repre- the history of a career so memorable sents him throughout as a statesman as Mr. Gladstone's should be composed. inspired by a singularly lofty sense of
That, to be sure, is not at all inconpublic duty, a man of profound and
sistent with our regarding party feel
ing, in its honorable sense, as entirely unimpeachable piety, measuring and
the reverse of an infirmity" (Preface, judging all his acts by his own high p. vii). standard of Christian ethics, and seeking to bring the policy of his country There are three aspects in which Mr. into conformity with the same lofty Morley's great work can, and in the ideals. But no impartial and compe- long run must, be appreciated—its astent critic, freeing his mind from pre- pect as a work of literary art; its psyjudices and prepossessions which have chological aspect as a sympathetic aptoo often blinded literary judgments, preciation of one of the greatest perwill hesitate to declare that Mr. Mor- sonalities of his time; its historical asley has discharged his supremely pect as presenting a survey, which must difficult task with consummate skill needs be concise without being inadeand discretion. In all his long and bril- quate, of the long series of political liant career as a man of letters, he events associated with Mr. Gladstone's has seldom, perhaps never, written career and subjected to his influence. with a more sustained ethical fervor These several aspects are so organior a more triumphant literary dexter- cally connected in the biographical ity, with a shrewder insight into mo- synthesis that they cannot be wholly tive and character, a defter adjust dissociated in the critical analysis. No ment of literary and historical "val. biography which neglects any one of ues,” or a more judicious handling of them can be held to attain to the highmaterials. Throughout the work he est order of merit; but, if due allow. displays a serene and charitable tem- ance be made for Mr. Morley's personal per, always seeking to do justice to sympathies and political prepossesopponents, never imputing unworthy sions, never suppressed and yet never motives to them, and perhaps only in obtruded, we shall hardly place Mr. one case that of the Special Commis- Morley's biography in any class lower sion-giving the rein to a sæva indigna. than the first. It is a great portrait tio which it is permissible alike to a of a great man. good man to feel and to other good The biography is long, even as biogmen not to share with him. It would raphies go now; but its length cannot
be said to be excessive, in view of the of the chief comrades or rivals of unusual duration of Mr. Gladstone's the minister's own generation-the public career, the unparalleled fulness
strong administrators, the eager and
accomplished debaters, the sagacious of his life, and the wide range of his
leaders—the only survivor now comparinterests. It has been said that only able to him in eloquence or in influa syndicate could write the life of such ence was Mr. Bright. That illustrious a man, and only an encyclopædia man seldom came into the House in could contain it. Mr. Morley has ac
those distracted days; and on this mem
orable occasion his stern and noble complished the work single-handed; head was to be seen in dim obseurity. he has completed it in three years; and Various as were the emotions in other he has compressed the results into regions of the House, in one quarter three volumes. Further than this
rejoicing was unmixed. There, at compression could not profitably go.
least, was no doubt and no misgiving.
There, pallid and tranquil, sat the Irish His words are seldom wasted. They
leader, whose hard insight, whose paare the distilled essence of documents tience, energy, and spirit of command, innumerable, the condensed record of had achieved this astounding result, one of the most active and many-sided
and done that which he had vowed to careers in British history, a brief epit.
his countrymen that he would assured
ly be able to do. On the benches ome of more than half a century
round him, genial excitement rose alcrowded with great political events, most to tumult. Well it might. For unexampled in social and economic the first time since the Union, the change.
Irish case was at last to be pressed in Nevertheless, severely as Mr. Morley
all its force and strength, in every as
pect of policy and of conscience, by the has condensed his materials, he retains
most powerful Englishman then alive. at all times perfect mastery over them. More striking than the audience was His biography is no mere bald and the man; more striking than the muljejune calendar of incidents, controver
titude of eager onlookers from the
shore was the rescuer with deliberate sies, or events, but an articulated nar
valor facing the floods ready to wash rative, well proportioned in its parts, him down; the veteran Ulysses who, instinct with life and movement, in after more than half a century of comwhich the rare but necessary docu- bat, service, toil, thought it not too ments to be quoted fall naturally into
late to try a further “work of noble
note.” In the hands of such a master their places as touches conducive to the
of the instrument, the theme might completeness of the portrait. In style easily have lent itself to one of those too the book is admirably suited to its displays of exalted passion which the subject. The dominant note is a grave House had marvelled at in more than and lofty dignity, but lighter tones are
one of Mr. Gladstone's speeches on
the Turkish question, or heard with renot infrequent; and their introduction
ligious reverence in his speech on the is well attuned to the spirit of the
Affirmation Bill in 1883. What the whole composition. It abounds in occasion now required was that pasfelicitous phrases and well chosen epi- sion should burn low, and reasoned thets; and there is no lack of those persuasion hold up the guiding lamp.
An elaborate scheme was to be unpungent apophthegms and pregnant re
folded, an unfamiliar policy to be exflections which bespeak the man of
plained and vindicated. or that best letters who has himself handled great kind of eloquence which dispenses with affairs. As a single specimen of Mr. declamation, this was a fine and susMorley's graver manner we may take
tained example. There was a deep, his description of the scene on the in
rapid, steady, onflowing volume of ar
gument, exposition, exhortation. Every troduction of the first Home Rule
hard or bitter stroke was avoided. Bill.
Now and again a fervid note thrilled
the ear and lifted all hearts. But political oratory is action, not wordsaction, character, will, conviction, purpose, personality. As this eager muster of men underwent the enchantment of periods exquisite in their balance and modulation, the compulsion of his flashing glance and animated gesture, what stirred and commanded them was the recollection of national service, the thought of the speaker's mastering purpose, his unflagging resolution and strenuous will, his strength of thew and sinew well tried in long years of resounding war, his quenched conviction that the just cause can never fail. Few are the heroic moments in our parliamentary politics, but this was one (iii, 311-2).
party the seamless mantle of ecclesiastical predominance." Is not that an epitome of a certain famous "Chapter of Autobiography"? "There is plenty of evidence, besides Mr. Gladstone's case, that plicity of character is no hindrance to subtlety of intellect'-a hard saying to those who saw in Mr. Gladstone nothing but a hypocrite, but full of truth and insight nevertheless. “Severer than any battle in Parliament is a long struggle inside a Cabinet”-a pregnant arcanum imperii indeed! This, again, of Mr. Gladstone's famous declaration on the franchise in 1864: "One of the fated words had been spoken that gather up the wandering forces of time and occasion and precipitate new eras." Or this in a largeminded apology for the tactics of Disraeli in 1867:
Even the bitterest adversary of the policy here referred to must acknowledge that this is literary work of the highest order. We may follow it up with a few detached quotations illustrating Mr. Morley's felicities of expression and appreciation, premising at the same time that they lose more than half their effect by being detached from their context. Here, for a first example, is a shrewd attempt to explain the baffling antinomies of Mr. Gladstone's personality.
"We always do best to seek rational explanations in large affairs. ... The secret of the strange reversal in 1867 of all that had been said, attempted, and done in 1866, would seem to be that the tide of public opinion had suddenly swelled to flood.” It is easy, as Mr. Morley says in another context, to label this with the ill-favored name of opportunism. “Yet if an opportunist be defined as a statesman who declines to attempt to do a thing until he believes that it can really be done, what is this but to call him a man of common-sense?"
An illustrious opponent once described him, by way of hitting his singular duality of disposition, as an ardent Italian in the custody of a Scotsman, It is easy to make too much of race, but when we are puzzled by Mr. Gladstone's seeming contrarieties of temperament, his union of impulse with caution, of passion with circumspection, of pride and fire with selfcontrol, of Ossianic flight with a steady foothold on the solid earth, we may perhaps find a sort of explanation in thinking of him as a highlander in the custody of a lowlander (i, 18).
It cannot be said, however, that Mr. Morley is always successful in defence. Those who blamed Mr. Gladstone's offer in 1874 to do away with the income-tax if the country gave him a majority, Mr. Morley dubs "critics of the peevish school who cry for better bread than can be made of political wheat." He follows up his sally with an enumeration of cases in which other ministers have taken a like course without incurring the same censure. The argument is plausible, but not very cogent, in view of Mr. Gladstone's
Other examples we have noted must, for lack of space, be cited with very little comment. As a rule, however, they speak for themselves. “He soon discovered how hard it is to adjust to the many angles of an English political