Imágenes de páginas

conscientiously accept office under such a leader. He refused the offer decisively, and the chief promoter of the repeal of the corn laws never held any place in an English administration. Cobden, however, advised his friend, Mr. Milner Gibson, to avail himself of Lord Palmerston's offer, and Mr. Gibson acted on the advice. The opinions of Mr. Cobden and Mr. Gibson were the same on most subjects, but Mr. Gibson had never stood out before the country in so conspicuous a position as an opponent of Lord Palmerston. Perhaps Cobden's advice was given in the spirit of Dr. Parr, who encouraged a modest friend to adopt the ordinary pronunciation of the Egyptian city's name. “Dr. Bently and I, sir, must call it Alexandria; but I think you may call it Alexandria."

Mr. Cobden felt really grateful to Lord Palmerston for his offer, and for his manner of making it. “I had no personal feeling whatever," he said to his constituents at Rochdale, “in the course I took with regard to Lord Pal. merston's offer. If I had had any feeling of personal hostility, which I never had towards him, for he is of that happy nature which cannot create a personal enemy, his kind and manly offer would have instantly disarmed me.” Lord Palmerston had not made any tender of office to Mr. Bright; and he wrote to Mr. Bright frankly explaining his reasons. Mr. Bright had been speaking out too strongly during his recent reform campaign, to make his presence in the Cabinet acceptable to some of the Whig magnates for whom seats had to be found. It is curious to notice now the conviction, which at that time seemed to be universal, that Mr. Cobden was a much more moderate reformer than , Mr. Bright. The impression was altogether wrong. There was, in Mr. Bright's nature, a certain element of conserva. tism which showed itself clearly enough the moment the particular reforms which he thought necessary were carried ; Mr. Cobden would have gone on advancing in the direction

of reform as long as he lived. It was Mr. Cobden's con. ciliatory manner, and an easy genuine bonhomie, worthy of Palmerston himself, that made the difference between the two men in popular estimation. Not much difference to be sure, was ever to be noticed between them in public affairs. Only once had they voted in opposite lobbies of the House of Commons, and that was, if we are not mistaken, on the Maynooth grant; and Mr. Bright afterwards adopted the views of Mr. Cobden. But where there was any difference, even of speculative opinion, Mr. Cobden went further than Mr. Bright along the path of Radicalism. Mr. Cobden's sweet temper and good-humored disposition made it hard for him to express strong opinions in tones of anger. It is doubtful whether a man of his temperament ever could be a really great orator. Indignation is even more effective as an element in the making of great speeches than in the making of small verses.

The closing days of the year were made memorable by the death of Macaulay. He had been raised to the peerage, and had had some hopes of being able to take occasional part in the stately debates of the House of Lords. But his health almost suddenly broke down, and his voice was never heard in the Upper Chamber. He died prematurely, having only entered on his sixtieth year. We have already studied the literary character of this successful literary man. Macaulay had had, as be often said himself, a singularly happy life, although it was not without its severe losses and its griefs. His career was one of uninterrupted success. His books brought hiin fame, influence, social position, and wealth all at once. He never made a failure. The world only applauded one book more than the other, the second speech more than the first. Macaulay the essayist, Macaulay the historian, Macaulay the ballad-writer, Macaulay the Parliamentary orato Macaulay the brilliant inexhaustible talker-he was ali

it might appear, supreme in everything he chose to do or to attempt. After his death there came a natural reaction ; and the reaction as is always the case, was inclined to go too far. People began to find out that Macaulay had done too many things; that he did not do anything as it might have been done; that he was too brilliant; that he was only brilliant; that he was not really brilliant at all, but only superficial and showy. The disparagement was more unjust by far than even the extravagant estimate. Macaulay was not the paragon, the ninth wonder of the world, for which people once set him down; but he was undoubtedly a great literary man. He was also a man of singularly noble character. He was, in a literary sense, egotistic; that is to say, he thought and talked and wrote a good deal about his works and himself but he was one of the most unselfish men that ever lived. He appears to have enjoyed advancement, success, fame, and money only because these enabled him to give pleasure and support to the members of his family. He was attached to his family, especially to his sisters, with the tenderest affection. His real nature seems only to have thoroughly shone out when in their society. There he was loving, sportive even to joyous frolicksomeness. a glad school-boy almost to the very end. He was remarkably generous and charitable, even to strangers; his hand was almost always open; but he gave so unostentiously that it was not until after his death half his kindly deeds became known. He had a spirit which was absolutely above any of the corrupting temptations of money and rank. He was very poor at one time, and during his poverty he was beginning to make his reputation in the House of Commons. It is often said that a poor man feels nowhere so much out of place, nowhere so much at a disadvantage, nowhere so much humilated as in the House of Commons. Macaulay felt nothing of the kind. He bore himself as easily and steadfastly as though he had been the eldest son

of a proud and wealthy family. It did not seem to have occurred to him, when he was poor, that money was lacking to the dignity of his intellect and his manhood; or when he was rich that money added to it. Certain defects of temper and manner, rather than of character, he had, which caused men often to misunderstand him, and sometimes to dislike him. He was apt to be overbearing in tone, and to show himself a little too confident of his splendid gifts and acquirements: his marvellous memory, his varied reading, his overwhelming power of argument. He trampled on men's prejudices too heedlessly, was inclined to treat ignorance as if it were a crime, and to make dulness feel that it had cause to be ashamed of itself. Such defects as these are hardly worth mentioning, and would not be mentioned here but that they serve to explain some of the misconceptions which were formed of Macaulay by many during his lifetime, and some of the antagonisms which he unconsciously created. Absolutely without literary affectation, undepressed by early poverty, unspoiled by later and almost unequalled success, he was an independent, quiet, self-relying man who, in all his noon of fame, found most happiness in the companionship and the sympathy of those he loved, and who, from first to last, was loved most tenderly by those who knew him best. He was buried in Westminster Abbey in the first week of the new year, and there truly took his place among his peers.



ORD Palmerston's Ministry came into power in troub

lous times. All over the world there seemed to be an unheaving of old systems. Since 1848 there had not been such a period of political and social commotion. A new war had broken out in China. The peace of Villafranca had only patched up the Italian system. Every one saw that there was much convulsion to come yet before Italy was likely to settle down into order. From across the Atlantic came the first murmurings of civil war. John Brown had made his famous raid into Harper's Ferry, a town on the borders of Virginia and Maryland, for the purpose of help. ing slaves to escape, and he was captured, tried for the attempt, and executed. He met his death with the composure of an antique hero. Victor Hugo declared, in one of his most impassioned sentences, that the gibbet of John Brown was the Calvary of the anti-slavery movement; and assuredly the execution of the brave old man was the deathsentence of slavery. Abraham Lincoln had just been adopt. ed by the National Republican Convention of Chicago as candidate for the Presidency, and even here in England people were beginning to understand what that meant. At home there were distractions of other kinds. Some of the greatest strikes ever known in England had just broken out; and a political panic was further perplexed by the quarrels of class with class. A profund distrust of Louis Napoleon

« AnteriorContinuar »