"I happened," said Mr. Gladstone, "to be standing at my library table with my hands upon a book, when Mr. Holl said, 'That will do, Mr. Gladstone, exactly,' and the result was that he painted me in that position. But I felt uncommonly awkward and uncomfortable the whole time, and as I have just said, I had to lie down and sleep after each sitting."
Now why was this? It was the very attitude of all others with which we who have studied it so often when the ex-Premier has been standing at the table in the House are so familiar. No artist who had once seen him in that position would have failed to select it as the most favourable and characteristic for the purposes of a historical portrait. And yet the picture, when it was completed, was a failure, and the artist himself knew that it was. The explanation is, I think, very simple, and it exemplifies once more the truth of the formula which defines genius to be "an infinite capacity for taking pains." Frank Holl undoubtedly had talent, but his omission of an important detail in this picture—a detail which would have probably made all the difference between success and failure—shows once more by how narrow a line the highest art is often divided from the next best, that art of which we have such a plethora nowadays—which just contrives to miss hitting the bullseye of perfection.
When Mr. Holl exclaimed, "That will do, Mr. Gladstone, exactly," he was no doubt impressed with the idea that the great orator was more at ease standing at the table in the House of Commons than in any other position, and he therefore selected it for his picture. But he forgot that upon the table in the House there stands a box on which Mr. Gladstone was always in the habit, when he was speaking, of resting one of his hands, and that if that box was missing he would naturally, although perhaps unconsciously, be sensible that something to which he was accustomed was absent, and that he would therefore be as uncomfortable as a fish out of water. This was actually the case. But if some substitute for the box, of the proper height and size, had been forthcoming, I have not the slightest doubt, from my long and close observation of the habits and movements of Mr. Gladstone in the House, that he would at once have dropped easily into his customary attitude, and that the picture in the hands of so true an artist as Holl would then have been a conspicuous success.
Mr. Gladstone was asked whether he thought the tone of the House had degenerated in recent times. He replied that he did not think so at all, quoting in proof that after the introduction of the first Reform Bill many Members used to express their feelings in cock-crows and other offensive ways. Mr. Gladstone, however, at the time I met him, was getting decidedly deaf, and no doubt much that went on behind him in the House "did not reach" him.
Asked if the "count out" ought to be abolished, Mr. Gladstone said it was too convenient a custom to be abolished, but that he noticed a very important alteration of late years in the mode of conducting it. Years ago he recollected it was the rule that, when a Member moved that "forty Members were not present, he was obliged to remain in his place while the 'count out' was in progress." "Now," said Mr. Gladstone, "he gets up and rushes out.
"Indeed," continued the veteran statesman, "I understand very little about the rules and regulations of the House now. I am very ignorant indeed; I believe I am the most ignorant man in the House, and I mean to continue so; it is not worth my while to begin now to learn fresh rules."
He told us of a curious incident which happened in the House when he was a young Parliamentary hand. Members did not leave the House for a division, but it was left to the discretion of the Speaker to decide which side was in the majority. He would then order them to walk to the other side of the House, and anyone remaining would of course be counted with the opposite side. Old Sir Watkin Wynn, I believe, was determined to vote against a certain Bill. He had been hunting all day, and rode up to town in time to vote. Arriving in his hunting costume and muddy boots, he took his seat tired out, and soon went fast asleep. The division came on, and his party were ordered to go over to the other side of the House. He slept in blissful ignorance, waking some time afterwards to find to his horror that he had been counted with those in favour of the Bill.
Mr. Gladstone remarked that it was curious that in the old days the Whips could tell to a vote how a division would go. He recollected well, in 1841, a vote of no confidence in Lord Melbourne was moved. The point was going to be decided by one vote. I shall never forget the "Grand Old Man's" graphic description of that vote. There was an old Member who was known to be to all intents and purposes as dead as a door-nail. The excitement was intense to know if that still breathing corpse could be brought to vote. Mr. Gladstone, with other young Tory Members, stood anxiously round the lobby door watching, and just at the critical moment when the vote was to be taken the all but lifeless body was borne along ignorant of all that was going around him, his vote was recorded, and that one vote sealed the fate of a Ministry.
In Mr. Gladstone's opinion, American humour invariably consisted in dealing with magnitudes. He preferred to hear American stories on this side of the Atlantic. He never had been in America, and never intended going. He expressed himself as apprehensive of the effect on the nervous system of the vibration caused by the engines of a steamer travelling at a high speed, but spoke with admiration of the rapid travelling at sea performed by the Continental mail packets, saying that a few days before, returning from the Continent, he had only just settled down to read when he was told to disembark, for the steamer had reached Dover.
I overheard Mr. Gladstone asking the question: "Why is it that when we get a good thing we do not stick to it?" I fully expected him to launch into some huge political question, such as the "Unity of the Empire" or "Universal Franchise." Instead of this, I was somewhat surprised to hear him proceed: "Now, I recollect an excruciatingly funny toy which you wound up, and it danced about in a most comical way. I have watched that little nigger many and many a time, but lately I have been looking everywhere to get one. I have asked at the shops in the Strand and elsewhere, and they show me other things, but not the funny nigger I recollect, so I have given up my search in despair."
I noticed that Mr. Gladstone took champagne at dinner, and after dinner a glass of port. Some conversation arising with reference to the history of wines, the old politician seemed to know more on the subject than anyone else at table; in fact, during the whole evening, there was not a subject touched upon on which he did not give the heads for an interesting essay. The only time Mr. Gladstone mentioned Ireland was in connection with the subject of wines, when he dilated upon the beauties of Newfoundland port, which was to be found in Ireland in the good old days.
In one respect Mr. Gladstone was not an exception among the old, for he seemed fond of dwelling upon the great age which men have attained. He seemed to think that the high pressure at which we live nowadays would show its effect on the longevity of the rising generation, and remarked:
"You young men will have a very bad time of it."
It is curious that very few statesmen indeed have led the House of Commons in their old age. It may be said that Lord John Russell was the first to do so; Lord Palmerston also was very old before he obtained office. And so chatted the Grand Old Man, in the most fascinating and delightful manner. He was always the same on such occasions, entering into the spirit of the entertainment, and, as was his habit, forgetting for the time everything else. When my old friend William Woodall, M.P. for Stoke (Governor-General of the Ordnance in Mr. Gladstone's Government 1885), gave at St. Anne's Mansions his famous "Sandwich Soirees" to his friends, the spacious ballroom on the ground floor packed with his many friends—a characteristic, polyglot gathering of Ministers and Parliamentarians of all kinds, musicians, dramatists, authors, artists, actors, and journalists, who sang, recited, and gave a gratuitous entertainment (for some of these I acted as his hon. secretary, and helped to get together a collection of modern paintings on the walls, besides designing the invitations)—I recollect the greatest success was the Grand Old Man. There was "standing room" only, but a chair was provided for Mr. Gladstone in the centre of the huge circle which had formed around the mesmerist Verbeck. Many guests sat on the floor, to afford those behind a better chance of seeing. The Prime Minister, noticing this, absolutely declined to be an exception, and he squatted "a la Turk" on the floor. I confess this struck me as "playing to the gallery." It certainly was playing to the Press, for Mr. Gladstone's attitude on that occasion was paragraphed all over the country, by means of which fact I have here refreshed my memory. In fact, Mr. Gladstone was always en evidence. When the great statesman dined with Toby, M.P., I was sitting close to him. He had dispensed with his own shirt-collars, and wore quite the smallest, slenderest, and most inconspicuous of narrow, turn-down collars, assumed for that occasion only. "One of Herbert's cast-offs," someone whispered to me. "That's strange," said another guest to me. "Last night at dinner the pin in the back of Gladstone's collar came out, and as he got excited, the collar rose round his head, and we all agreed that 'Furniss ought to have witnessed what he has so often drawn, but never seen.'"
Mr. Lucy has made the statement that Mr. Gladstone was "a constant student of Punch" and "knew no occasion upon which he was not able to join in the general merriment of the public; but hadn't there been enough about the fabulous collars?"
I received an editorial order to bury them, "but before long they were out again, flapping their folds in the political breeze."
Well, I have no doubt that Mr. Gladstone for many years was "a constant student of Punch," for during the greater portion of his political career he was idealised in the pages of Punch, and not caricatured. I doubt very much, however, if he made Punch an exception in his latter period, for it is well known that for years he was only allowed to see flattering notices of himself, and all references at all likely to disturb him were kept from his sight. At Mr. Lucy's own house, the night Mr. Gladstone dined with him, a copy of Punch was lying on the table, containing a rare thing for Punch—a supplement. In this case it took the shape of my caricatures of the Royal Academy, 1889. Just as dinner was announced Mr. Gladstone saw the paper, and was on the point of taking it up. I handed it to him, but at the same moment slipped the supplement out of the number and threw it under the table, for it contained a caricature of Professor Herkomer's Academy portrait of Mrs. Gladstone, objecting to being placed next to a lady by Mr. Val Prinsep sitting for the "altogether." During dinner Mr. Gladstone mentioned this portrait of Mrs. Gladstone, and expressed great delight with Herkomer's work: it showed her mature age, he said, and as a portrait was very happy and true—he did not say anything about the hanging of it!
Mr. Gladstone was the life and soul of a party, and seemed to enjoy being the centre of attraction wherever he was.
Mr. Gladstone's portrait has been adopted by others besides caricaturists. It is carved as a gargoyle in the stone-work of a church, and the head of the Grand Old Man has been turned into a match-box. The latter I here reproduce. It was shown to me one evening when I was the guest at the Guard Mess at St. James's Palace. A clever young Guardsman, who had a taste for turning, worked this out in wood from my caricatures of Mr. Gladstone, and I advised his having it reproduced in pottery. The suggestion was carried out by the late Mr. Woodall, the Member for the Potteries, and was largely distributed at the time the G.O.M. was politically meeting his match and thought by some to be a little light-headed.
In being shown round the beautiful municipal buildings in Glasgow I found my caricature there accidentally figuring in the marble-work; and the guides at Antwerp Cathedral (as I have mentioned in the first chapter) point out a grotesque figure in the wood carving of the choir stalls which resembles almost exactly Mr. Gladstone's head as depicted by me.
I find a note which I introduce here, as I hardly know where to place it in this hotch-potch of confessions. Is it a fact that Mr. Gladstone once signed a caricature of himself? In 1896 a Mr. J. T. Cox, of the "Norwich school" of amateurs, procured a slab of a sycamore tree felled by Mr. Gladstone, and on it reproduced in pencil my Punch cartoon depicting a visit of the "Grand Old Undergrad" to his Alma Mater, Oxford. This was sent to Hawarden, and returned signed with the following note:
"Mr. Gladstone is obliged to refuse his signature, but Mrs. Drew asked him for it for herself on enclosed—it was so cleverly arranged.
"May 5th, 1896."
Here is to me, I confess, a first-he-would-and-then-he-wouldn't, Cox and Box mystery I fail to explain.
I drew the G.O.M., Mr. Cox drew me, he drew Mrs. Drew, and Mrs. Drew drew Mr. Gladstone. Mr. Gladstone refused his signature, and yet he signed it. I think he signed his cut of sycamore, and not my cut at him.
Both as a "special artist" for the Illustrated London News in my pre-Punch days, and later for various periodicals, I saw and sketched Mr. Gladstone on many important occasions, but towards the end of his career it was sad to see the great man. The Daily News once gave me a chance in the following account of Mr. Gladstone during one of these scenes; when Mr. Gladstone, having accidentally mentioned the approach of his eightieth birthday, "the vast audience suddenly leapt to its feet and burst into ringing cheers. Mr. Gladstone was evidently deeply touched by this spontaneous outburst of almost personal affection. He stood with hands folded, head bent down, and legs quivering." The fun of this joke, however, lies in the fact that the "legs" which quivered were the telegraph operators'. The reporter wrote "lips."
So great was the public admiration for the illustrious leader of the Liberal Party that merely to see him was, to the majority of his audience, enough. In later years he could not be heard at public meetings. Penetrating as his voice was, it was absolutely impossible for any but those standing immediately around the platform to hear him upon such occasions as that of the famous Blackheath meeting, or those at Birmingham or elsewhere; but the masses nevertheless came in their thousands, and were more than repaid for their trouble by catching only a distant glimpse of William Ewart Gladstone.
Whatever one may think of Mr. Gladstone as a politician (and some say that he was no statesman, and others that he was never sincere, while many maintain that he was merely a "dangerous old woman"), all must agree that as a man he was a figure that England might well be proud of. It will be interesting to see what historians will make of him. When the glamour of his personality is forgotten, what will be remembered? His figure, his face—and shall I say his collars?
In my time Mr. Parnell was the most interesting figure in Parliament, and, after Mr. Gladstone, had the greatest influence in the House. Mr. Gladstone was, politically speaking, Parliament itself (at one time he was the Country); but I doubt if even Mr. Gladstone ever hypnotised the House by his personality as Parnell did. There was a mystery in everything connected with the great Irish leader; no mystery hung about Mr. Gladstone. Mr. Gladstone in the House was voluble, eloquent, communicative. Mr. Parnell was silent, a poor speaker, and as uncommunicative as the Sphinx. Mr. Gladstone's power lay in his unreservedness; Mr. Parnell's lay in his absolute reserve. His orders were "No one to speak to the man at the wheel," and the man at the wheel spoke to no one. He guided the Irish ship just as he liked over the troubled waters of a political crisis, and not one of his men knew what move would be his next. By this means, so foreign to the Irish character, he held that excitable, rebellious, irrepressible crew in thrall. He made them dance, sleep, roar; he made them obstructionists, orators, buffoons, at his will. He made them everything but friends. A characteristic story was circulated when Parnell was known as "the uncrowned king." Accompanied by his faithful private secretary, he was walking from the House, when he met one of his colleagues. The satellite saluted his chief and "smiled affably at the private secretary." Mr. Parnell took no notice whatever of Mr. ——, but after a few seconds had elapsed, turned to his companion and said, "Who was that, Campbell?"
"Why, ——" (mentioning the name of the hon. Member), was the reply.
"What a horrible-looking scoundrel!" exclaimed the uncrowned king in his most supercilious manner, and then began to talk of something else.
He was a study as fascinating to the artist as to the politician, and no portrait ever drawn by pen or pencil can hand down to future generations the mysterious subtlety in the personality of the all-powerful leader.
He was as puzzling to the Parliamentary artist as he was to the politician: he never appeared just as one expected him. When I first made a sketch of him he had short hair, a well-trimmed moustache, shortly-cut side whiskers, a neat-fitting coat and trousers, and well-shaped boots. He then let his beard and hair grow, and his coat and trousers seemed to grow also—the coat in length and the trousers in width; and his boots grew with the rest—they were ugly and enormous. His hat didn't grow, but it was out of date. Then he would cut his beard and hair again, wear a short coat, a sort of pilot jacket, and eventually a long black coat. So that if a drawing was not published at once it would have been out of date.
Some artists have been flattering enough to take my sketches as references for Parliamentarians, but others depended on photographs, and for years I have seen Mr. Parnell represented with the neatly-trimmed moustache and closely-cut side whiskers. A propos of this, I may mention here how mistakes often become perpetuated. John Bright, for instance, was generally represented in political sketches with an eye-glass. This was a slip made by an artist in Punch many years ago. But ever after John Bright was represented with an eye-glass—which he never wore, except on one occasion just to see how he liked it.
The effect upon the House when Mr. Parnell rose was always dramatic. He sat there during a debate, seldom, if ever, taking a note, with his hat well over his eyes and his arms crossed, in strong contrast to the restlessness of those around him. When he rose, it seemed an effort to lift his voice, and he spoke in a hesitating, ineffective manner. Neither was there much in what he said, but he was Parnell, and the fact that he said little and said it quietly, that what he said was not prepared in consultation with his Whips or with his Party, that in fact he was playing a game in which his closest friends were not consulted, made his rising interesting from the reporters' gallery to the doorkeepers in the Lobby the other side.
Mr. Parnell seemed to have been very little affected by his continued reverses; and perhaps the only visible effect of his loss of power was that the "uncrowned king" of Ireland changed his top-hat to a plebeian bowler, but he did not change his coat. He was always careless about his dress, and his tall, handsome figure looked somewhat ridiculous when he wore a bowler, black frock coat, and his hair as usual unkempt.
The fall of Parnell was one of the most sensational and certainly the most dramatic incident in the history of Parliament.
Mr. Parnell was politically ruined and the Irish Party smashed beyond recovery in the famous Committee Room No. 15, after the disclosures in the Divorce Court in which Mr. Parnell figured as co-respondent. Mr. Parnell had found the Irish Party without a leader, without a programme, without a future. He had by his individual force made it a power which had to be reckoned with, and which practically controlled Parliament. He had been attacked by the most important paper in the world. He had come out of the affair, in the eyes of many, a hero; he made his Party stronger than their wildest dreams ever anticipated. But his followers little thought that in hiding from them his tactics he had also hidden the weakness which caused his ultimate downfall. Howbeit the Irish Party, whom he held in a hypnotic trance, agreed to stand by him still. Then, suddenly, Mr. Gladstone made his demand for a sacrifice to Mrs. Grundy. His famous letter, written November 24th, 1894, to Mr. Morley, was the death-warrant to Parnellism, and, as it subsequently proved, to Gladstonianism as well.
There was a strange fascination in watching the mysterious Leader of the Irish Party during the crisis, and I took full advantage of my privilege in the House to do so. I was in and about the House early and late, and probably saw more of Mr. Parnell than anyone else not connected with him. It was just before his exposure that I happened to be in an out-of-the-way passage leading from the House, making a little note in my sketch-book on a corner of the building, when Mr. Parnell walked out. He stood close by, not observing me, and was occupied for a minute in taking letters out of the pocket on the right side of his overcoat: they were unopened. He looked at them singly; now and then he would tap one on the other, as much as to say, "I wonder what is in that?" Then he passed it over with the others and put them all into the pocket on the left side of his overcoat, and strolled off to catch his train to Brighton. That incident, as I subsequently found out, was the cause of much of his trouble; for I was informed, when I mentioned it to a great friend of Mr. Parnell's and of mine—Mr. Richard Power—that about that time he had written him important letters which might have saved him if they had been attended to in time.
But those who saw the fallen chief during the sittings in Committee Room No. 15, when, through the letter of Mr. Gladstone to which I have referred, he was denounced, and had to fight with his back to the wall, can never forget his tragic figure during that exciting time. No one knew better than he that the tactics of his lieutenant would be cunning and perhaps treacherous; so this lazy, self-composed man suddenly awoke as a general who finds himself surprised in the camp, and determines to keep watch himself. Every day he took by right the chair at the meetings. Had he not been present, who knows that it would not have been wrested from him? In the early afternoon I saw him more than once walk with a firm step, with an ashy pale face, his eyes fixed straight in front of him, through the yard, through the Lobby, up the stairs, and into Room 15, accompanied by his secretary, Mr. Campbell. The members of his Party, on their arrival, found him sitting where they had left him the night before. I recollect one morning, as he passed where I was standing, he never moved his head, but I heard him say to Mr. Campbell, "Who's that? what does he want?" in a sharp, nervous manner. He never seemed to recognise anyone, or wish them to recognise him. His one idea was to face the man who wished to fight him in the little ring they had selected in the Committee Room No. 15.
No outsider but myself heard any portion of that debate, for at the beginning of it the reporters, who were standing round the doors outside to hear what they could, were ordered away; and I was left there, not being a reporter, to finish a rather tedious sketch of the corridor. A policeman was placed at either end of this very long passage, and if anyone had to pass that way he was not allowed to pause for a moment at the door of the room upon which the interest of the political world was centred at the moment. Nearly all the time I was there I only saw the policeman at either end, and one solitary figure seated on the bench outside the door. It was the figure of a woman with a kind, homely-looking face, resting with her head upon her hand. She seemed not to be aware of, or at least not interested in what was going on inside; she simply sighed as Big Ben tolled on toward the hour for the dismissal of the Leader of the Irish Party. She was the wife of a blind Member of Parliament who was taking part in the proceedings, and her thoughts were evidently more intent upon seeing that her husband was not worn out by that strange, long struggle than in the political significance of the meeting.
It was my good fortune to hear what was perhaps the most interesting of the speeches—John Redmond's defence of his chief—and I never wish to listen to a finer oration. Everyone admits that the Irish are, by nature, good speakers, but they are not always sincere. Here was a combat in which there was no quarter, no gallery, and no reporters. The men spoke from their hearts, and if any orator could have moved an assembly by his power and genius, Mr. Redmond ought to have had a unanimous vote recorded in favour of his chief. I am not a phonograph, nor was I a journalist privileged to record what passed, and have no intention of breaking their trust.
I shall never forget the scene one Wednesday afternoon when Mr. Maurice Healy, brother of "Tim," and one of the Members for Cork, challenged Mr. Parnell to retire and so enable their respective claims to the confidence of the people of Cork to be tested. He tried to drag Mr. Parnell into a newspaper controversy upon this point, but failing to do so repeated in tragic tones his somewhat Hibernian sentiment that Mr. Parnell did not represent the constituency which elected him. Mr. Maurice Healy, a somewhat sickly-looking young man, with a family resemblance to his brother, is much taller than his more famous relative, but lacks the stamina and vivacity of the Member for Longford.
At this moment, when the Irish Party might have been likened to machinery deprived of its principal wheel, it was curious to notice how energetic Mr. Parnell became. He tried to cover his position by being unusually active in Parliament; he followed the Chief Secretary for Ireland in the debates upon the Land Purchase Bill, to the obvious discomfort of Mr. Morley, and rather delighted the young Conservatives by twitting the faction which had thrown him over. His speeches, however, were laboured, and, as one of the Irish Members remarked to me in the Lobby, it had a curious effect on them to see Mr. Parnell sit down after making an important speech without hearing a single cheer. And whereas for years he had addressed the House with the greatest calmness, his chief characteristic being his "reserve force," he now changed all this, and one Friday night caused quite a sensation in the House in his attack upon Mr. Gladstone, not so much by what he said as by the manner in which he said it. His excitement was visible to all, and he was observed to be positively convulsed with anger. He also remained, contrary to his previous custom, late in the House.
The last occasion on which I saw Charles Stewart Parnell was a few months before his death. I was in Dublin during the Horse Show week, giving my "Humours of Parliament" to crowded houses in the "Ancient Concert Rooms," and my ancient hotel rooms were at Morrison's Hotel—"Parnell's Hotel," for the "uncrowned king" (at that time deposed) always stopped there—in fact it was said he had an interest in the property. It was late on Sunday afternoon. I was writing in my sitting-room on the first floor, next to Parnell's room, when the strains of national music of approaching bands smote my ear, and soon the hotel was surrounded by a cheering, shouting crowd. Banners were flying, bands were playing, thousands of voices were shouting. Standing in a brake haranguing the surging mass of people was the familiar figure of Charles Stewart Parnell. With difficulty he descended from the brake, and had literally to fight his way into the hotel, while his worshippers clung on to him into the building, till they were seized and ejected by the servants. I went out of my door to see the scene, and in the passage outside, between Parnell's sitting-room and mine, he sat apparently exhausted. His flesh seemed transparent—I could fancy I saw the pattern of the wall-paper through his pallid cheeks. The next moment, before I was aware, another figure sat on the same seat, arms were thrown round my neck. It was my old Irish nurse, who had come up from Wexford to see me, and had been lying in wait for me.
The first picture I drew for Punch's essence of Parliament was a portrait of Lord Randolph Churchill, "Caught on the Hip," to illustrate the following truly prophetic words of Toby, M.P.: "The new delight you have given us is the spectacle of an undisciplined Tory—a man who will not march at the word of command and snaps his fingers at his captain. You won't last long, Randolph; you are rather funny than witty—more impudent than important." That was written at the opening of Parliament, 1891.
I must plead guilty to being the cause of giving an erroneous impression of Lord Randolph's height. He was not a small man, but he looked small; and when he first came into notoriety, with a small following, was considered of small importance and, by some, small-minded. It was to show this political insignificance in humorous contrast to his bombastic audacity that I represented him as a midget; but the idea was also suggested from time to time by his opponents in debate. Did not Mr. Gladstone once call him a gnat? and do we not find the following lines under Punch's Fancy Portraits, No. 47, drawn by Mr. Sambourne?
"There is a Midge at Westminster, A Gnatty little Thing, It bites at Night This mighty Mite, But no one feels its sting."
Two gentlemen of Yorkshire had a dispute about his correct height, and one of them, anxious to have an authoritative pronouncement, wrote to the noble Lord, and received the following reply:
"2, CONNAUGHT PLACE, W.
"Dear Sir,—Lord Randolph Churchill desires me to say, in reply to your letter of the 21st inst., that his height is just under 5ft. 10in.
"I am, yours faithfully,
"CECIL DRUMMOND-WOLFF, Secretary."
Lord Randolph Churchill was a mere creature of impulse, the spoilt pet of Parliament—what you will—but no one can deny that he was the most interesting figure in the House since Disraeli. He had none of Disraeli's chief attraction—namely, mystery. Nor had he Disraeli's power of organisation, for, although Lord Randolph "educated a party" of three—the first step to his eventually becoming Leader of the House—it cannot be said that at any time afterwards he really had, in the strict sense of the word, a party at all. He was a political Don Quixote, and he had his Sancho Panza in the person of Mr. Louis Jennings. Perhaps nothing can show the impulsive nature of Lord Randolph more than the incident which was the cause of Mr. Jennings breaking with Lord Randolph. Mr. Louis Jennings was, in many ways, his chief's superior: a brilliant journalist, originally on the Times, afterwards editor of the New York World, when, by dint of his energy and pluck, he was the chief cause of breaking up the notorious Tammany Ring; a charming writer of picturesque country scenes—in fact, an accomplished man, and one harshly treated by that fickle dame Fortune by being branded, rightly or wrongly, as the mere creature of a political adventurer.
One afternoon I was standing in the Inner Lobby when Mr. Jennings asked me to go into the House to a seat under the Gallery to hear him deliver a speech he had been requested to make by the Government Party, and one he thought something of. At that moment Lord Randolph came up and said, "I am going in to hear you, Jennings; I have arranged not to speak till after dinner." And we all three entered the House.
Lord Randolph, who had then left the Ministry, sat on the bench in the second row below the gangway, on the Government side of the House. Mr. Jennings was seated on the bench behind, close to where he had found a place for me under the Gallery. He carefully arranged the notes for his speech, and directly the Member who had been addressing the House sat down, Mr. Jennings jumped to his feet to "catch the Speaker's eye." But Lord Randolph, who had been very restless all through the speech just delivered, sprang to his feet. Jennings leant over to him and said something, but Churchill waved him impatiently away, and the Speaker called upon Lord Randolph. Jennings sank back with a look of disgust and chagrin, which changed to astonishment when Lord Randolph fired out that famous Pigott speech, in which he attacked his late colleagues with a vituperation and vulgarity he had never before betrayed. His speech electrified the House and disgusted his friends—none more so than his faithful Jennings, who left the Chamber directly after his "friend's" tirade of abuse, returning later in the evening to make a capital speech, full of feeling and power, in which he finally threw over Lord Randolph. In the meantime, meeting me, he did not hide the fact that the incident had determined him to have nothing more to say to Churchill. And this was the man I once drew a cartoon of in Punch on all fours, with a coat covering his head (suspiciously like a donkey's head), with "Little Randy" riding on his back!
If Samson's strength vanished with his hair, Lord Randolph's strength vanished with the growing of his beard. The real reason why Lord Randolph so strangely transformed himself is not generally known, but it was for the simplest of all reasons—like that of the gentleman who committed suicide because he was "tired of buttoning and unbuttoning," Lord Randolph was tired of shaving or being shaved; hence the heroic beard, which has offended certain political purists who think that a man with an established reputation has no right to alter his established appearance. Still, if he had not vanished to grow his beard, I doubt if he would have survived the winter; and probably he discovered that it was good for any man to escape now and then from what the late Mr. R. L. Stevenson called "the servile life of cities." Perhaps no one received such a "sending off," or was more feted, than Lord Randolph Churchill. Happening to be a guest at more than one of those festive little gatherings, I heard Lord Randolph say that all the literary food that he was taking out with him to Mashonaland consisted of the works of two authors—one English, and the other French. We were asked who they were. "In Darkest England," suggested one. "Ruff's Guide to the Turf," said another. Both were wrong. And it ultimately transpired that, together with his friends' best wishes for his safe return, Lord Randolph was carrying with him complete sets of the works of Shakespeare and Moliere.
The deafness which attacked Lord Randolph led to his making mistakes, and to others making a scene, particularly when the noise in the House was so great through the excitement on the Home Rule question. I find a note made then upon this point, alluding to a little incident a propos of Lord Randolph Churchill's deafness: "It is really dangerous, considering the high state of feeling in the House, that Members antagonistic to each other should have to sit side by side. During the stormy scene to which I have just alluded, I was sitting in one of the front boxes directly over the Speaker's chair, and, although remarks kept flying about from the benches below, it was difficult to catch the words, and still more difficult to stop the utterer; so I don't wonder that Lord Randolph Churchill—who is rather deaf—should have misconstrued the words, 'You are not dumb!' as 'You are knocked up!' Later on, however, an Irish Member knocked down another one who was opposed to him in politics; and this the Press called 'coming into collision.'"
There is little doubt that ill-health was the cause of that querulousness which led to Lord Randolph's curious and fatal move. I recollect being introduced to an American doctor in the Lobby one afternoon when Lord Randolph was at the zenith of his height and fame. Lord Randolph passed close to us, and stood for a few minutes talking to the Member who had introduced the doctor to me. I whispered to the American to take stock of the Member his friend was talking to. He did, and when Lord Randolph walked away he said, "Well, I don't know who that man is, but he won't live five years." It was unfortunate for the reputation of Lord Randolph that the doctor's words did not come true.
Many efforts were made by the friends of Lord Randolph to bring Lord Salisbury and his lieutenant together again. A deputation of a few intimate friends, ladies as well as gentlemen, called on Lord Salisbury, presumably on quite a different matter, but led up to Lord Randolph. Lord Salisbury, seeing through their object, asked the question, "Have any of you ever had a carbuncle on the back of your neck?"
"Then I have, and I do not want another."
But perhaps Lord Salisbury saw more than anyone else that Lord Randolph was not the man he once was. It was painful in his latter days to see the Members run out of the House when he rose to speak, and to recollect that but a few years before they poured in to listen to the "plucky little Randy"; and the sympathy of everyone for him was shown in a very marked way by the kindness of the Press when one of the most extraordinary figures in the Parliamentary world had passed away.
Lord Randolph Churchill recalls another familiar figure I caricatured—Lord Iddesleigh, a statesman who will always be remembered with respect. No statue has ever been erected in the buildings of the House of Commons to any Member who better deserves it, and, strange to say, the white marble took the character and style of the man, chilliness, pure, and firm. A country gentleman in politics and out of it, free from flashy party-colour rhetoric.
* * * * *
Sir Stafford Northcote, as he was known in the House of Commons, the gentlest of statesmen, had by no means a peaceful career in politics. He was at one time Mr. Gladstone's secretary, and those who knew him declare that he never lost his respect and admiration for his former master, although time took him from Mr. Gladstone's flock to the fold of Lord Beaconsfield. I recollect on one occasion, when I was seated in a Press box directly over the Speaker's chair, seeing Mr. Gladstone write a memorandum on a piece of paper and throw it across the table to Sir Stafford, who was at that time Leader of the House of Commons; after reading it, Sir Stafford nodded to Mr. Gladstone, and they both rose together and went behind the Speaker's chair. One could easily detect in the manner of the two old friends an existence of personal regard, and their estrangement on political circumstances must have been a matter of mutual regret. Sir Stafford and Mr. Gladstone towards the end, however, did not show that friendliness that had gone on for so many years. This may have been brought about by many causes, not the least of which was the fact that Mr. Gladstone refused to lead the House during the Bradlaugh scene, and left it to Sir Stafford, then Leader of the Opposition. For instance, after the division in which Mr. Bradlaugh was refused the House by a vote of 383 to 233, the Speaker appealed to the House to know what to do. Mr. Bradlaugh stood at the table and refused to leave it. Mr. Gladstone lay back on the seat of the Government bench motionless, so Sir Stafford took up the leadership of the House, and asked the Prime Minister, whom he facetiously called the Leader of the House, "whether he intended to propose any counsel, any course for the purpose of maintaining the authority of the House and of the Chair." And so it was on many occasions. When Mr. Bradlaugh did rush up to the table of the House, escorted by Mr. Labouchere and Mr. Bass, and went through the amusing part of taking the oath, he brought the book which he kissed and the papers which he signed, and then rushed back into his seat. The House witnessed the scene indescribable by either pen or pencil. But here again Mr. Gladstone refused to lead the House. There had been a division, and Mr. Bradlaugh had once more been refused admission; so Sir Stafford Northcote came forward, as he always did on these occasions, in the mildest possible way and the most gentlemanly manner, which rather added to the effect of his taking the reins left dangling uselessly by the Leader of the House. He said: "Mr. Speaker, I need hardly say that if the Leader of the House desires to rise, I will give him the opportunity; but assuming that he does not, I intend to do so, and as I see no indication of his consent to do so, I shall call the attention of the House to the position in which we stand," and so on. Sir Stafford Northcote was not a man to stand the rough treatment which Members have had in the House during the last fifteen years. Had he been a Member twenty years before that, or even a little more, he would have been more in tone with the "best club in London." He was perplexed by Mr. Gladstone, he was bullied by Lord Randolph Churchill, and he was generally looked upon as an old woman, and eventually he was simply sent up to the other House. It was not until his sad and tragic death occurred that everyone realised that they had lost one of the most able statesmen and one of the finest gentlemen that ever sat in the House of Commons.
Had Mr. Bradlaugh taken the oath with the rest of the Members when first introduced to the House, or had he, after refusing to take it, behaved with less violence, I doubt if he would have made any name in Parliament. The House was determined to fight Bradlaugh, and it is not to be wondered at, for he paraded his atheism, and his views on other matters, in the most repulsive manner possible. But Bradlaugh did not run the risk of fighting down mere prejudice. Had he taken the oath, he would only have won the ear of the House by proving himself a great politician. This he was not, though he was a hard-working one, and a model Member from a constituency's point of view. But the only big question he mastered was his own right to take his seat. Once he got it, he became a respectable and respected Member of Parliament, and nothing more. So, with the wisdom of the serpent, he did not enter the House quietly to fight a wearisome and impossible battle against the inveterate prejudices of the Members. No, Bradlaugh defied the House of Commons; he horrified it, he insulted it, he lectured it, he laughed at it, he tricked it, he shamed it, he humiliated it, he conquered it. He brought to their knees the men who howled at him—as no other man has ever been howled at before—by sheer force of character.
Bradlaugh's bitter struggle would fill a volume. Select Committees were appointed, and they declared against him. Ignoring them, Bradlaugh marched up to the table and demanded to be sworn. The Fourth Party would not let him touch the Testament. Three days followed of angry debate on Bradlaughism, with more scenes. A new Committee reversed the decision of its predecessor, and said that Bradlaugh might affirm. Two days were consumed in discussing this, and the present Lord Chancellor, then Sir Hardinge Giffard, swayed the House against the report of the Committee. Nothing daunted, Mr. Bradlaugh the very next day was back at the table of the House, clamouring to be allowed to address the House on his case. A scene of wild confusion resulted, Mr. Bradlaugh endeavouring to speak, the House howling to prevent him. Eventually he was ordered below the Bar—that is, nominally outside the House, although within the four walls. After much acrimonious chatter from all sides, he was allowed to make his speech. His hour had come. He stood like a prisoner pleading before a single judge and a jury of 670 of his fellow-men. His speech was more worthy of the Surrey Theatre than of the "Best Club." It was bombastic and theatrical. He was ordered to withdraw, while the jury considered their verdict. When he was recalled, it was to hear sentence of expulsion passed on him. But he would not depart, and another tremendous uproar took place. Mr. Bradlaugh's well-trained platform voice rose above all others in loud assertion of his "rights," and he continued to call for them all through the House, the Lobbies, the corridors, up the winding stair into the Clock Tower, where he was immured by the Sergeant-at-Arms. The following day he was released after another angry debate, and he quickly returned to the forbidden precincts. Then he was induced to quit, but on the next day he came down to the House with his family, and with a triumphant procession entered the House amid the cheers of the crowd. So the drama went on day after day, like a Chinese play. The characters in it were acted by the leading players on both sides of the House, and the excitement never flagged for a moment until Mr. Bradlaugh was allowed to affirm. He was told that he would vote at his own risk. He voted repeatedly, and by so doing incurred a fine, at the hands of Mr. Justice Mathew, of the little round sum of L100,000 (he never had 100,000 farthings), nor could he even open his mouth in the House without savage interruption. Finally, Mr. Labouchere, his colleague, moved for a new writ for the borough of Northampton. Bradlaugh re-won the seat by the small majority of 132 votes, and the Bradlaugh incubus lay once more on Parliament. Then followed the same old cycle of events, the same scene at the table, the same angry religious warfare in debate (Mr. Bright's great oratorical effort will be remembered), the same speech from Mr. Bradlaugh at the Bar, the same division, the same result. Scene followed scene, and scandal scandal for weeks, months, years.
To appreciate Mr. John Bright fully, one must have heard him. Really to comprehend his power and greatness, one must have heard him at his best. Yet the greatness of his oratory lay not so much in what he said as in the beautiful way he said it.
Previous to my having the opportunity of listening to the debates, Mr. Bright had reached that stage a singer reaches who has to all intents retired from the stage, and merely makes an appearance for someone's benefit now and then. In the first two or three years which I recall in these pages Mr. Bright was making his last appearance in grand political opera. He was in the Government, but although he assured the House that "he was not going to turn his back upon himself"—an assertion of his powers as a contortionist I endeavoured to depict in Punch the following week—Mr. Bright had practically turned his back upon making great oratorical displays. The Bradlaugh scandal was in 1881 the subject of the hour, and it was whilst appearing for Mr. Bradlaugh's benefit, on the occasion of one of the numerous matinees arranged by the elected for Northampton, that Mr. Bright used the words. But on no occasion in my memory did he rise in a full-dress debate to make one of those grand efforts with which his name will ever be remembered as the great orator.
Statesmanship was not so much to him as speechifying. He was not a diplomatist such as Beaconsfield, a tactician like Mr. Gladstone, a fearless, dashing debater like Lord Derby the elder, "The Rupert of Debate"; nor had he the weight of Lord Salisbury, nor the aestheticism of Mr. Balfour. But as a mere voice in the political opera he had a charm above them all. In appearance he was commonplace compared with these others I have mentioned. Often the most indifferent-looking horse in the stable or in the paddock is the best in action. You would not give L40 for some standing at ease; but in action, moving to perfection, with fire and speed and staying power, the price is more like L20,000. Mr. Bright never got into his stride at any time or in any event while he came under my observation.
These equine remarks about a great politician bring to mind a protest I received about a drawing of mine, which appeared a year or two ago, representing Mr. Gladstone as a Grand Old Horse, hearing the horn at the meet, cantering towards his companions in so many runs in which he had taken the lead, and for which his day had gone. The protest came from a Quaker, horrified at my depicting Mr. Gladstone as a gee-gee! as if he had not been so depicted often enough before.
Jacob Bright was the very antithesis to his brother, both in appearance and manner—tall, of a nervous, wiry frame, rigid face, severe expression. He, like others without a spark of humour, was often the means of unconscious merriment. For instance, when Lord Randolph Churchill was Member for Woodstock, Mr. Jacob Bright referred to him as the noble lord "the Member for Woodcock." Sir John Tenniel in the cartoon in Punch, and myself in the minor pictures of Parliament in that journal, made full use of the "woodcock," and, therefore, revelling in heraldry, quickly added the woodcock to the Churchill arms.
Half the bores in London clubs are Indian officials returned to us with their digestion and their temper destroyed, to spend the rest of their days in fighting their poor livers and their unhappy friends. The etiquette of Clubland prevents one from protesting. But in the "Best Club" they are not spared. They are either howled at, or left to speak to empty benches.
Perhaps Sir George Campbell, who had been Governor of Bombay, was the most eccentric bore we have ever had in the House of Commons. Sir George has acknowledged that he could not resist the temptation to speak. On one occasion he made no less than fifty-five speeches on the Standing Committee of one Bill. At breakfast in the morning he read in the Times his heated, unconsidered interruptions in the House the night before, and he read of the contempt with which they were received—the "Loud laughter," cries of "Order!" "Divide! divide! divide!" and the snubs administered to him by the wearied and disgusted Members. He read after lunch at his club the jeering remarks of the evening Press. He was well aware he was a nuisance to the House, and he resolved as he walked down Whitehall not to open his mouth. But as soon as he crossed Palace Yard and entered the corridors of the House he sniffed the odour of authority and the fever of debate. He, the Great Sir George of India,—silent? Never! Whether there was a question about the bathing-machines on the beach at Hastings, or the spread of scarlet fever at Battersea, or about an old pump at Littleshrimpton, he cared not: he must act his part—that of the Pantaloon in Parliament.
In appearance he was a striking, handsome man, with a strong individuality. A good head, piercing eye, well-shaped nose, and tall, active frame no doubt added to his authority in India. He struck me as a man who had been taken to pieces on his way home to this country, and put together again badly, for his joints were all wrong. Certainly his head was, and he was over wound up. His tongue never ceased, and the worst of it was he had a rasping, penetrating voice, with the strongest Scotch accent. One afternoon in the House this accent led to one of those frequent outbursts of merriment and protest combined—so common when Sir George bored the House, as he was always doing. Sometimes he made over thirty speeches in one evening. A question was asked about the obstructive methods of the irrepressible Sir George, who on this particular afternoon was supported in his boredom by two other bores, the Member for Sunderland and Mr. Conybeare. These three had the House to themselves, and peppered the Government benches with question after question, speech after speech. Sir George alluded to themselves as "a band of devoted guerillas." The weary House, not paying particular attention to every accent, failed to catch most of what Sir George said, as his rasping Scotch accent left them no escape. But the last word was misunderstood, and an outburst of laughter, long, loud, and hearty, followed, and, in a Parliamentary sense, killed Sir George for the day. The House understood him to say "a band of us devoted gorillas."
Perhaps the neatest rebuke Sir George ever had in the House—or, as a matter of fact, any Member ever had—was administered by that most polished wit, Mr. Plunket (now Lord Rathmore). Sir George solemnly rose and asked Mr. Plunket, who happened at the time to be Minister of Public Works, whether he (Mr. Plunket) was responsible for the "fearful creatures" whose effigies adorn the staircase of Westminster Hall. Mr. Plunket rose and quietly replied, in his effective, hesitating manner, "I am not responsible for the fearful creatures either in Westminster Hall or in this House," a retort which "brought down the House" and caused it to laugh loud and long. This I chronicled in a drawing for Punch the following week.
The subject of gargoyles recalls another witticism, which, however, has the light touch that failed.
Now there is nothing so disappointing to a humorist as to lead up to an interruption, and then find he is not interrupted. Mr. Chamberlain seldom fails to bring off his little unsuspected repartee, and it is his mastery of this art that make his speeches sparkle with diamond brilliancy, but then these are usually serious, and he can afford a few miss-fires. Mr. Goschen, in the Commons, romped through his "plants" for his opponents; his interruptions were three or four deep, but he was ready for all of them. He may be likened to a professional chess player, playing a dozen opponents at once, and remembering all the moves on the separate boards. But for a humorist to miss fire—after an elaborate joke is prepared—is a catastrophe.
Colonel Sanderson rose on a very important and ticklish occasion to "draw" Mr. Labouchere. The Member for Northampton had been electrifying the House by his free handling of a matter affecting the morality of private individuals, a course of action for which, later on, he was suspended. Colonel Sanderson, alluding to Mr. Labouchere, called him a "political gargoyle." Mr. Labouchere did not, as was expected, rise in a furious state and demand an explanation. The Colonel paused and repeated, "I say the hon. gentleman, the Member for Northampton, is a political gargoyle." No notice was taken by the gentleman compared to the architectural adornment of past days; it was evident that, like the gargoyle in ancient architecture, the remark of the humorous Colonel was some elaboration too lofty to be noticed. A few days afterwards Mr. Labouchere met the Colonel, and asked him what he meant by calling him a political gargoyle. "Well," said the Colonel, "rather late to ask me; you will find the definition in the dictionary. It is a grotesque gutter-spout." Said Mr. Labouchere, "You're a very clever fellow, Colonel; that would have been a capital point—if you had made it."
Mr. Farmer Atkinson, who succeeded Sir William Ingram of the Illustrated London News and the Sketch as Member for Boston, Lincolnshire, was an invaluable "subject" for me during his brief hour upon the Parliamentary stage. Our introduction was peculiar. It so happened that when Mr. (now Sir) Christopher Furness was first returned for Hartlepool, Mr. Atkinson, although of opposite politics, was most anxious to welcome him to Parliament as a companion Dissenter. After diligent inquiries for Mr. Furness, I was by mistake pointed out to him. I suddenly found both my hands clasped and warmly shaken by the mistaken M.P. "Delighted to meet you, Mr. Furness! Allow me to congratulate you. We are both Dissenters, you know,—what a pity we are on different sides of the House!"
"Yes," I replied, "a thousand pities,—you see, you are inside and I am outside.
My introduction to Mr. Christopher Furness a day or two afterwards was in a way similar, but rather more embarrassing.
Perhaps there are not two men with surnames so similar and yet so different in every other way than that great man of business, Sir Christopher Furness, and myself. He has an eye for business, but not one for his surname—I have an "I" in my name, and two for art only. When Mr. Furness was first returned to Parliament, plain Mr., neither a knight nor a millionaire, then he asked to see me alone in one of the Lobbies of the House of Commons. He held a note in his hand, strangely and nervously,—so I knew at once it was not a bank-note.
"I—ah—am very sorry,—you are a stranger to me, I—a—stranger to the House. This note from a stranger was handed to me by a strange official. I read it before I noticed the mistake. It is addressed to you."
"Oh, that is of no consequence, I assure you," I said.
"Oh, but it is—it must be of consequence. It is—of—such a private nature, and so brief. I feel extremely awkward in having to acknowledge I read it,—a pure accident, I assure you!"
He handed me the note and was running away, when I called him back. It read:—
"Meet me under the clock at 8.
"I must introduce you to Lucy."
"No, no! not for worlds,"
But I did. Here he is.
There were more "scenes" in Parliament in the few sessions that I have selected to write about in this volume than there were in the rest of the last century put together. This was largely due to the climax of Irish affairs in the House. For effect in debate the English and Scotch Members,—not to speak of the Welsh Representatives,—are failures compared with those Members from across the water. No matter how hard the phlegmatic Englishman, the querulous Scotchman, or the whinings of those from gallant little Wales may try for effect, they have to give way to the Irish in the art of making a scene in the House. Occasionally, as when Dr. Kenealy shook some pepper over the House, and in the case of Mr. Plimsoll—or some other honourable gentleman—who went so far as to hang his umbrella on the Mace, an English Member causes a sensation which might almost excite a pang of envy in the breast of Dr. Tanner or Mr. Healy. No Englishman, however, has exceeded Mr. Bradlaugh in the persistent quality of sensationalism in Parliament, which now is sadly in want of another political phenomenon to enliven its proceedings.
One of the best studies in those days of good subjects for the Parliamentary caricaturist was the figure of that "squat and leering Quilp," Joseph Gillis Biggar, Member for County Cavan. Mr. Lucy (Toby, M.P.), who acted as Biggar's Boswell, records the interesting fact that when Mr. Biggar rose for the first time in the House (1874) to put a supplementary question to a Minister, Mr. Disraeli, startled by the apparition, turned to Lord Barrington as if he had seen seated in the Irish quarter an ourang-outang or some other strange creature,—"What's that?"
From that moment Mr. Biggar was a continual source of amusement—and "copy." I venture to say that Toby, M.P., has written a good-sized volume about Mr. Biggar's waistcoat alone. What he saw in the waistcoat to chronicle I confess I have failed to see. "A fearsome garment," Mr. Lucy called it, "which, at a distance, might be taken for sealskin, but was understood to be of native manufacture."
Mr. Biggar—waistcoat and all—was certainly seen and heard to advantage "at a distance." He was no doubt useful to his Party, acting, as I believe he did, as a kind of good-natured nurse to them, looking after their comfort and seeing they kept in bounds.
Mr. Biggar was always repulsive in both appearance and manner. His unfortunate deformity, his gargoyle-like face, his long, bony hands, large feet, the black tail coat and baggy black trousers, the grin and the grating voice, and the fact that pork was his study before Parliament, made Joseph Gillis Biggar's appearance as ugly as his name. His chief claim to a niche in Parliamentary history is the fact that he originated Obstruction, and showed the manner in which it should be applied by making a speech occupying four hours of valuable time. He also showed the length to which gross impertinence can be carried to bring the House into contempt. He "spied" His Royal Highness, our present King, one day in the gallery, and by the law of Parliament a Member by suddenly observing that he "spies" a stranger may have the House cleared of all but its Members, including Royalty—worse than that he on one occasion alluded to Mr. Gladstone as "a vain old gentleman."
The nearest approach I ever had to enter into practical politics was a request I received in March, 1892, to become the successor of Lord (then Sir Charles) Russell, as chairman of a local Radical association. In reply I confessed my political creed, and I see no reason to alter it.
MY POLITICAL CONFESSION.
"I have just received your flattering communication asking me to become the chairman of No. 2 Ward of the East Marylebone Liberal and Radical Association. It is the first time my name has ever been associated with Party politics, and I am puzzled to know myself whether I am a Radical, a Tory, a Liberal, or a Liberal Unionist!
"I read the Times every morning, and the Star and the Pall Mall Gazette every evening. I read the sporting papers for their politics, and the political papers for their literary and artistic notes.
"I work sixteen hours a day myself, and would agree to any law prohibiting others in my profession from working more than three hours.
"I am strongly opposed to Home Rule, as the disappearance of the Irish Members (who are invaluable to me in my profession) from St. Stephen's would be a serious loss to me.
"I agree to paying Members of Parliament, but would propose that they should be fined for non-attendance, and for the privilege of speaking too long, too often, or not often enough. These fines, in the majority of cases, would come to three times the amount of the Member's income.
"I am not in favour of capital punishment, and would do away with all judges and trials by jury, leaving the Press to fight out the criminal cases between themselves.
"I believe in free education, free libraries, and a free breakfast table, and would propose that free book-stalls and free restaurants should be compulsory on all railways.
"I am strongly opposed to vivisection, and hold that the life of a rabbit is quite as valuable as that of a professor. At the same time I would not countenance any law making it a punishable offence to boil a lobster alive.
"I am a believer in hypnotism, thought-reading, and theosophy (I have been a bit of an amateur conjurer myself).
"Right of public meeting? Certainly. This should be a free country—everyone do as he likes. Football in Hyde Park, and fairs in Trafalgar Square. Equal freedom for all processions—if Booth can stop the traffic, why not Sanger's menagerie?
"As to local option, by all means let all public-houses be closed. (I never enter one.) And all clubs, too, so long as my own are not interfered with.
"I am not at present a member of any political club, but if you wish me to become one I will put up at the Reform, either as a fervent Gladstonian or a red-hot Unionist; I don't mind which, as neither have the slightest chance of getting in now.
"If, after considering these qualifications, you are of opinion that I would be the right man in the right place, I shall be most happy and willing to become your chairman.—Yours, etc."
I regret to have to confess that I once posed as a political prophet. I was encouraged to prophesy the fact that six months before the election of July, 1892, when Mr. Gladstone was confident of "sweeping the country" and coming back with a majority of 170 or so, when both sides predicted a decisive result, and political prophets were cocksure of large figures, I luckily happened to be more successful in my vaticinations than they, giving the Gladstonians a majority of something between forty and forty-five. The actual majority turned out, six months afterwards, to be forty-two. This encouraged me to write the following letter to the Times, and it appeared July 19th:
"A Parliamentary Prophecy.
"Sir,—I am surprised that no Parliamentary chronicler has written to the papers to thank the electors of the United Kingdom for the happy result of the General Election. The jaded journalist is the only person to whom the result is pleasing, as he will have no lack of material for descriptive matter in the coming Parliament.
"The Gladstonians are not pleased, because they have barely got a working majority. The Conservatives are not pleased, because they have not got one at all. The Liberal Unionists are not pleased, because they go with the Conservatives. The Irish Nationalists are chagrined, because of the success of five Unionists in Ireland. The Parnellites feel mischievous but unhappy. The Labour representatives mischievous and happy—they are the heroes of the hour—and, although the members of the Labour Party have hitherto been nonentities in the House, they will probably be 'named' several times in the future. But Parliament is a refrigerator for red-hot rhetoric, and such Members will, in time, find respectability and aspirants, and grow dull.
 See page 212.
"A harassed leader, an ambitious Opposition, the balance of power resting in the hands of the Irish, divided amongst themselves, a new and probably noisy party, boredom increased, faddism intensified—such are the ingredients of the new House; and with little spice thrown in in the shape of a revived morality scandal, the new Parliament promises to be a hotch-potch of surprises. I myself take no side in politics, and am glad to say that I have numerous friends in all parties. Perhaps it was in consequence of this that I heard all sides of opinion, thereby enabling me six months ago to weigh all my information correctly and predict the result of the General Election—a Gladstonian majority of between forty and forty-five votes—and to this opinion I have firmly adhered in spite of the fluctuating prospects before the fight. Even on Wednesday, the 6th inst., when the returns pouring in seemed to point to a Government majority, I stuck to my prophecy.
"I am now receiving from my friends (more especially from my Liberal friends) congratulations upon my perspicacity, and, although I am no Schnadhorst, I must now regard myself in the light of a Parliamentary prophet. Having in that capacity chanted my incantations and calculated the number of square feet of Irish linen in one of Mr. Gladstone's collars to be in inverse ratio to the dimensions of his Mid-Lothian majority, and having by abstruse computations discovered the hitherto unknown quantity of Sir William Harcourt's chins, I can safely predict that there will be another General Election within the space of thirteen months, and that the result of the same will be the return of the Unionists with a majority of fifteen.
"Garrick Club, London, July 19."
The regret I felt was not caused by any failure of my prediction contained in the last paragraph in that letter, but that the whole of it was taken seriously. Editorial leaders appeared in the principal papers all over the kingdom. Letters followed, discussions took place, and politicians referred to it in their speeches. "Mr. Harry Furniss has taken the public into his confidence, as one who is thoroughly acquainted with Party politics, though he takes no personal interest in them. Men who can thus truthfully describe themselves are excessively rare, as far as we know. It is usually the person who does not understand politics who takes no interest in them. A man who understands politics, but does not concern himself to take sides, is in the position of the looker-on who sees most of the game," was truthfully written of me a propos of this letter—but why a propos of this letter? Why not of my serious work instead? No, my "airy persiflage" was only a cloak. I was seriously and instantaneously accepted as a serious political prophet, and otherwise criticised:
"To the Editor of the 'Times.'
"Sir, In a letter signed by Mr. Harry Furniss, which appeared in the Times of the 21st inst., the writer concluded by predicting that there would be another general election within thirteen months, and that the result would be a Unionist majority of fifteen.
"Mr. Furniss is evidently fond of odd numbers, but may I point out to him, and to many other political prophets who have fallen into the same trap, that the fulfilment of his prediction is an impossibility?
"In a House of 670 Members, or any other even number, if divided into two parties, the majority (in the sense he uses the word—viz., the difference) must always be an even number. It is true that the division lists sometimes show a majority which is an odd number, but in such a case an odd number of Members must have been absent from the division. Mr. Furniss must prophesy either fourteen or sixteen.
"The English language is so defective that the word 'majority' is used to mean 'the greater number,' and also 'the difference between the greater number and the less.' Cannot a new word be invented to replace 'majority' in one or other of these meanings, and so avoid the use of the same word for two distinct ideas?
"Your obedient servant,
"GEORGE R. GALLAHER,
"Fellow of the Institute of Bankers.
"44, Fenchurch Street, London, E.C."
I suppose F.I.B. stands for "Fellow of the Institute of Bankers." Anyway, before I had time to reply to the courteous captious critic the Times published the following:
"Sir,—In endeavouring to correct Mr. Furniss your correspondent Mr. Gallaher has forgotten that, although the House of Commons consists of an even number of Members, one of those Members will be elected Speaker; and that consequently, if all the Members were on any occasion to attend, the majority would be an odd, and not an even number. There is therefore no necessity for Mr. Furniss to alter his prophecy at present.
"Your obedient servant,
Other correspondents, less technical but strongly political, accused me of being "an inspired Conservative spy." Others that I was an oracle worth "rigging." And the Irish and Radical Press questioning my impartiality, I published this letter:
"To the Editor of the 'Manchester City News.'
"Sir,—My attention has been called to a paragraph in your issue of July 23rd, stating that I am a Conservative, an assertion which has highly amused those who know me well, for I am one of the strongest of Radicals in some things and the hottest of Tories in others. I earnestly advocate the claims of the working man, and sometimes I feel myself a Whig of the old school. Whether I am a Tory, a Liberal or a Radical, troubles me very little, but as you seem to take a kind interest in my political opinions I should have preferred you to have styled me an Independent, which I understand means nothing.
"Garrick Club, London."
But neither "Independent" nor humorous would the partisan Press allow me to be. Certainly I was applauded by some for having held steadfastly to my prophecy, despite temptations which would have made Cassandra succumb. I was flattered by being held up as an exception among the prophets. From Mr. Gladstone to Mr. T. P. O'Connor politicians had prophesied and were hopelessly wide of the mark. Mr. Chamberlain, speaking at Birmingham that week, said, "The gravity of the weighty man of the House of Commons, gentlemen, is a thing to which there is no parallel in the world," and oh! so serious!
"Prophets—at any rate political prophets—are chiefly distinguished from other people by being always dull and nearly always wrong. To-day, however, appears a brilliant exception to the almost universal rule," wrote one paper, and yet continued, "Mr. Furniss is simply within his own ground as one of the shrewdest and best trained of living observers, when he describes the newly-elected House of Commons as thoroughly discontented with itself. But we wish that Mr. Furniss had carried his prediction into the regions of counsel, and had been able to read in 'Mr. Gladstone's collars,' or in the 'unknown quantity of Sir William Harcourt's chins,' and whatever else serves him for his Stars, what is to be the outcome of a situation in which no party is able to obtain a working majority. If Mr. Furniss is right, the question of 'how is the Queen's Government to be carried on?' will assume a practical importance which it never had before; and unless he himself, as a thoroughly non-party man, can be induced to undertake the formation of an administration of similarly fortunate persons, one does not see what is to be done. Party government is based upon big majorities—it is within measurable distance of breaking down altogether unless the country will make up its mind to stand no more nonsense, and to prefer what is really a party to a conglomerate of fads and factions."
I was beginning to feel like a man who had started a story and forgotten the point of it. The only "comic relief" was the following note from the Editor of Punch:
_21st July, 1892.
"Vates et Vox Stellarum.
"Dear H. F.,—'Respectability and aspirants.' Didn't you squirm at the misprint? Is that setter-up-of-type still alive? Je m'en doute. The reference to Harcourt's chins will get you liked very much. You dated it from the Garrick, but you didn't put the time of night when you wrote it. 'P.S.'—Post Supperal, eh?
"Farewell, O Prophet!—but 'why didn't you say so before?'
"Allah il Allah Ari Furniss is His Prophet!
"F. C. B.
"Advt.—'LIKA JOKO'! Parliamentary Prophet!! Prophecies sent out on shortest notice. Terms, ——. Reduction on taking a quantity."
Yes! I did squirm at the misprint, which, however, was rectified in the next issue:
"A Parliamentary Prophecy.—In Mr. Harry Furniss's letter under this title in the Times of yesterday the word 'aspirates' should be read instead of 'aspirants' in the following passage: 'The Labour representatives feel mischievous and happy—they are the heroes of the hour—and, although the members of the Labour Party have hitherto been nonentities in the House, they will probably be 'named' several times in the future. But Parliament is a refrigerator for red-hot rhetoric, and such members will, in time, find respectability and aspirants, and grow dull."
I wish I had followed the example of Mr. John Morley, who announced a couple of months before the election that he had written down his General Election tip and placed it in a sealed envelope; but so far as I have heard, he never risked his reputation for prophecy—he refrained from publishing the secret. That grave and weighty right hon. gentleman scored as the humorist, and I failed as a prophet in my second attempt.
Two Punch Editors—Punch's Hump—My First Punch Dinner—Charles Keene—"Robert"—W. H. Bradbury—du Maurier—"Kiki"—A Trip to the Place of his Birth—He Hates Me—A Practical Joke—du Maurier's Strange Model—No Sportsman—Tea—Appollinaris—My First Contribution—My Record—Parliament—Press Gallery Official—I Feel Small—The "Black Beetle"—Professor Rogers—Sergeant-at-Arms' Room—Styles of Work—Privileges—Dr. Percy—I Sit in the Table—The Villain of Art—The New Cabinet—Criticism—Punch's Historical Cartoons—Darwen MacNeill—Scenes in the Lobby—A Technical Assault—John Burns's "Invention"—John Burns's Promise—John Burns's Insult—The Lay of Swift MacNeill—The Truth—Sir Frank Lockwood—"Grand Cross"—Lockwood's Little Sketch—Lockwood's Little Joke in the House—Lockwood's Little Joke at Dinner—Lewis Carroll and Punch—Gladstone's Head—Sir William's Portrait—Ciphers—Reversion—Punch at Play—Three Punch Men in a Boat—Squaring up—Two Pins Club—Its One Joke—Its One Horse—Its Mystery—Artistic Duties—Lord Russell—Furious Riding—Before the Beak—Burnand and I in the Saddle—Caricaturing Pictures for Punch—Art under Glass—Arthur Cecil—My Other Eye—The Ridicule that Kills—Red Tape—Punch in Prison—I make a Mess of it—Waterproof—"I used your Soap two years ago"—Charles Keene—Charles Barber—Punch's Advice—Punch's Wives.
The first representative of Mr. Punch with whom I came into contact was the late Tom Taylor, at that period the tenant of the editorial chair. To this meeting I have referred on a previous page, when I mentioned that Mr. Taylor had just returned from the wilds of Connemara and strongly advised me to make some explorations in that little-known district for the purpose of making sketches of the "genus homo indigenous to the soil," which I did a week or so prior to my setting foot in the busy haunt of men on murky Thames.
Tom Taylor was, I believe, one of the best of men, and the possessor of one of the kindest hearts; but although he certainly professed to take an interest in me (probably owing to the fact that it was to a relative of mine that he was indebted for his first introduction to literature), the fact remains that whenever I sent him a sketch I used to receive one of his extraordinary hieroglyphical missives supposed to be a note courteously declining my efforts, notwithstanding that I was often flattered although not enriched by subsequently seeing the subjects of them appear redrawn under another name in the pages of Punch.
It was not until Tom Taylor had passed away that Mr. Punch would deign to give me a chance. I had then been seven years in London hard at work for the leading magazines and illustrated papers, and I may truly say that my work was the only introduction I ever had to Mr. Burnand.
When I first entered the goal of my boyish ambition—that is to say, the editorial sanctum of Mr. Punch—I had never met the gentleman who for a number of years afterwards was destined to be my chief, and I fully expected to see the editor turn round and receive me with that look of irrepressible humour and in that habitually jocose style which I had so often heard described. I looked in vain for the geniality in the editor's glance, and there was a remarkably complete absence of the jocose in the sharp, irritable words which he addressed to me.
"Really," said he, "this is too bad! I wrote to you to meet me at the Surrey Theatre last night, and you never turned up. We go to press to-day, and the sketches are not even made."
"I don't quite understand you," I replied, "for I never heard from you in my life, and I don't think that you ever saw me before."
"But surely you are Mr. ——?" (a contributor who had been drawing for Punch for some weeks). "Are you not?"
"No," I said. "My name is Furniss, and I understood that you wanted to see me."
This was in 1880, and from that period up to the time of my resignation from the staff of Punch I certainly do not think that I have ever seen Burnand's face assume such a threatening and offended expression as it wore that day.
I was then twenty-six. Strange to say, Charles Keene and George du Maurier were exactly the same age when they first made their debut in Punch, but not yet invited to "join the table."
As I was leaving my house one summer evening a few years afterwards, the youngest member of my family, who was being personally conducted up to bed by his nurse, enquired where I was going.
"To dine with Mr. Punch," I replied.
"Oh, haven't you eaten all his hump yet, papa? It does last a long time!" And the little chap continued his journey to the arms of Morpheus, evidently quite concerned about his father's long-drawn-out act of cannibalism.
The first feast to which I was bidden was not one of the ordinary or office description, but a banquet given at the "Albion" Tavern, in the City, on the 3rd of January, 1881, to celebrate the installation of Mr. Burnand as the occupant of the editorial chair. And on my invitation card I first sketched my new friends, the Punch staff, and a few of the outside contributors who were present, conspicuous among whom was George Augustus Sala, the honoured stranger of the evening. That he should be so struck me as peculiar, for it was an open secret that Sala wrote and illustrated that famous attack (nominally by Alfred Bunn), "A Word with Punch," a most vulgar, vicious, and personal insult which had given much offence years before; a clear proof of Mr. Punch's forgiving nature. That grand old man of Punch, Tenniel, I made an attempt to sketch as he was "saying a few words," but on this particular occasion it was my vis-a-vis Charles Keene who interested me more than any other person present. He wore black kid gloves and never removed them all during dinner—that puzzled me. Why he wore them I cannot say. I never saw him wearing gloves at table again, or even out of doors. Then he was in trouble with his cigar, and finally I noticed that he threw it under the table and stamped upon it, and produced his favourite dirty Charles the First pipe, the diminutive bowl of which he filled continually with what smokers call "dottles." He was then apparently perfectly happy, as indeed he always looked when puffing away at his antique clay. Years afterwards, when sketching a background for a Punch drawing in the East End, I noticed some labourers returning from working at excavations, laughing over something they had found in the ground; it was a splendid specimen of the Charles clay pipe, longer than any I have seen. I bought it from them to present to Keene, but he was ill then, and soon after the greatest master of black and white England ever produced had passed away.
After Keene the strangest character present was Mr. Deputy Bedford—"Robert" in the pages of Punch—an undertaker in the City, and one of the most humorous men within its boundary. I recollect introducing my wife to him at some function at the Mansion House—not as Robert, but as Mr. Deputy Bedford. She expressed her pleasure at meeting one of the City dignitaries, and he offered to show her over the treasures in the Mansion House. "There's a fine statue for you! Don't know who did it, but we paid a thousand pounds for it. And that one over there, which weighs half a ton less, cost twice as much. Oh! the pictures are worth something, too. That portrait cost L800; I don't know what that one cost, but the frame is cheap at L20. Yes, fine gold plate, isn't it? Old designs? Yes, but old or new, boiled down, I should think L80,000 wouldn't be taken for the pile!" And so on, and so on, with a merry twinkle in his eye and an excellent imitation of what outsiders consider City men to be.
My caricature of the genial E. L. S. (Sambourne) is not good, but quite as kind as Sala's remarks were on that occasion in chaffing Sambourne for turning up in morning costume. In the bottom right-hand corner of the card is a note of the late Mr. W. H. Bradbury, one of the proprietors of Punch, the kindest and the best host, the biggest-hearted and most genial friend, I ever worked for. He has his eye, I notice, on a gentleman making an impromptu speech—the sensation of the evening—referred to by Mr. M. H. Spielmann in "The History of Punch." Next to that irrepressible orator is Mr. Lucy, "Toby, M.P.," as I saw him first.
I note on this card an attempt to sketch du Maurier, the "Thackeray of the pencil." By the way, I was certainly the first to apply that term to him—in my first lecture, "Art and Artists." He was some distance from me at the banquet when I made these notes.
It is a curious fact that I really never had a seat allotted to me at the Punch table. I always sat in du Maurier's, except on the rare occasions when he came to the dinner, when I moved up one. It was always a treat to have du Maurier at "the table." He was by far and away the cleverest conversationalist of his time I ever met,—his delightful repartees were so neat and effective, and his daring chaff and his criticisms so bright and refreshing.
For some extraordinary reason du Maurier was known to the Punch men as "Kiki," a friendly sobriquet which greeted him when he first joined, and refers to his nationality. In the same way as an English schoolboy calls out "Froggy" to a Frenchman, his friends on the Punch staff called him Kiki, suggested by the Frenchman's peculiar and un-English art of self-defence.
Du Maurier took very little interest in the discussions at the table; in fact, he resented informal debate on the subject of the cartoon as an interruption to his conversation, although he once suggested a cartoon which will always rank as one of the most historical hits of Mr. Punch—a cartoon of the First Napoleon warning Napoleon the Third as he marches out to meet the Germans in the War of 1870.
At times he might enter into the artistic treatment of the cartoon; and I reproduce a sketch he did on the back of a menu to explain some idea in connection with the cartoon which appeared the following week in Punch.
Du Maurier's extremely clever conversation struck me the moment I joined the staff of Punch. As I went part of his way to Hampstead, we sometimes shared a cab, and in one of these journeys I mentioned my conviction that he, in my mind, was a great deal more than a humorous artist, and if he would only take up the pen seriously the world would be all the more indebted to him. He told me that Mr. James had for some time said nice things of a similar character.
About ten days afterwards I received a letter saying that my conversation had had an effect upon him, and that he was starting his first novel. So perhaps the world is really indebted to me, indirectly, for the pleasure of reading "Peter Ibbetson" and "Trilby;" the fact being that he had, with Burnand and myself, just visited Paris—the first time he had set foot in the gay city since his youth. Many things he saw had impressed him, and "Peter Ibbetson" was the result. How interesting it was to watch him in Paris, the place of his birth, standing, the ideal type of a Frenchman himself, smiling and as amused as a boy at his own countrymen and women. "So very un-English, you know!" Then, as we drove about Paris, he stood up in the carriage, excitedly showing us places familiar to him in his young days, and greatly amused us by pointing out no fewer than three different houses in which he was born! We three were the guests of Mr. Staat Forbes at Fontainebleau during the same trip, and du Maurier's sketches of our pleasant experiences on that occasion appear in Punch, under the heading "Souvenir de Fontainebleau," in three numbers in October, 1886. In the drawing of our al fresco dinner, "Smith" is our host, I am "Brown," du Maurier "Jones," and Mr. Burnand "Robinson."