The Life of the Rt. Hon. Sir Charles W. Dilke V1
by Stephen Gwynn
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"He said—'You will be very sorry if it happens that you are not first legalist of your year—that is the only place in the Law Tripos that you can be content with—and yet remember you have Shee in your year, who is always a dangerous adversary, and who starts with some little knowledge on the subject.'

"I said I should read with Shee, and make him understand that I was intended by Nature to beat him."

The dangerous Shee had been thus announced in a letter of February, 1863: "Shee—son of the well-known Serjeant, [Footnote: Mr. Serjeant Shee was later a Judge—the first Roman Catholic since the time of the Stuarts to sit on the English Bench.] has come up and taken the rooms over me. He seems a nice kind of fellow; of course, a strong Romanist."

Shee remained till the end Dilke's chief competitor, and he was also one of the band of friends who met each other incessantly, and incessantly talked over first principles till the small hours of morning. Perhaps it is not without importance that Charles Dilke should have had the experience, not very common for Englishmen, of living on terms of intimacy with an Irish Roman Catholic: at all events, his relations in after-life, both with Irishmen and with Roman Catholics, were more friendly than is common. For the moment Shee made one factor in the discussions upon theology which are inevitable among undergraduates, and which went on with vigour in this little group, according to the recollection of Judge Steavenson, who in those days, faithful to the orthodoxy of his Low Church upbringing, found himself ranged by the side of the 'strong Romanist' against a general onslaught upon Christianity. Charley Dilke himself had come under the influences of the place and the time. There is an entry headed May, 1863: "I find a fair argument against miracles in my notes for this month." He had abandoned attendance at Communion, but, according to Judge Steavenson, did not go further in opinions or in talk than a vague agnosticism—which was also the attitude of another subtle and agile intelligence in that circle.

Turning over, in 1891, the boxes which held his letters and papers of college days, Charles Dilke wrote:


"In every page of the destroyed notebooks of this year I could see the influence of two men—my grandfather and H. D. Warr." [Footnote: Mr. H. D. Warr became a journalist. In 1880 Sir Charles secured him the post of Secretary to the Royal Commission upon City Companies, of which Lord Derby was Chairman.]

Warr was a classical exhibitioner of Trinity Hall in Dilke's year, and was not among the few who are named at first as likely friends, though he figures early as a competitor in the Euclid and Algebra 'fights' at his tutor's. In February, 1863, his name must have been on Dilke's tongue or pen, since this is evidently a reply to inquiries:

"Warr is a clergyman's son. He will probably be about fourth or fifth for the Bell (Scholarship)."

It is not till the October term of his second year that more explicit notice of this friend occurs, when Dilke is giving an account of his first speech as Vice-President of the Union. He opened a debate on the metric system, concerning which he had solid and well-thought-out opinions:

"My speech was logical but not fluent. Warr says it was the best opening speech he ever listened to, but by no means the best speech. Warr is a candid critic whom I dread, so that I am glad he was satisfied."

Of this candour Dilke has preserved some specimens which show that Warr's influence was mainly used in laughing his friend out of his solemnity. Thus Warr characterizes him as a dealer in logic," and, breaking off from some fantastic speculation as to the future of all their college set, January 9th, 1864, moralizes.

"I am an ass, my friend, a great ass, to write in this silly strain to you, but you must not be very angry, though I own now to a feeling of having half insulted your kind serious ways by talking nonsense to them on paper."


Sir Charles Dilke's association with the river and with rowing men was so constant that we ate justified in preserving this contemporary report of his first race for the Grand Challenge, on which he always looked back with pride:

"It was," says the report, which Dilke preserved, "one of the finest and fastest races ever seen at Henley, and the losers deserve as much credit as the winners. The Oxford crew were on the Berks side, Kingston on the Oxon, and Cambridge in the middle. It was a very fine and even start, and they continued level for about 50 yards, when Brasenose began to show the bow of their boat in front, the others still remaining oar and oar, rowing in fine form and at a great pace. So finely were the three crews matched, that, although Brasenose continued to increase their lead, it was only inch by inch. At the end of about 400 yards Brasenose were about a quarter of a length only ahead. The race was continued with unabated vigour, Brasenose now going more in front, and being a length ahead at the Poplars, where they began to ease slightly. The contest between Cambridge and Kingston was still admirable; Cambridge had made some fine bursts to get away from them, but they were not to be shaken off, and the gallant effort of the one crew was met by a no less gallant effort on the part of the other. The Cambridge crew began to show in front as they neared Remenham, and a most determined race was continued to the end. Brasenose won by a length clear, and the Cambridge boat was not clear of the Kingston, only having got her about three-quarters of their length."

The time—seven minutes, twenty-six seconds—was the fastest that had been rowed over that course, and more than half a minute faster than that of the final heat, in which Brasenose were beaten by University. But next day in the Ladies' Plate University brought down the record by three seconds. Trinity Hall had the worst station, and if they were beaten by only a length, must have been as fast as Brasenose. Kingston was stroked by L. Pugh Evans, Brasenose by D. Pocklington (W. B. Woodgate rowing 4). The Trinity Hall eight were as follows:

st. lb. E. F. Dyke 9 12 H. W. Edwardes 10 13 W. H. Darton 11 2 C. W. Dilke 11 5 D. F. Steavenson 12 1 R. E. Neane 11 0 W. J. S. Cadman 10 6 R. Richardson 9 10 A. A. Berens (cox.) 9 8


CAMBRIDGE (Continued)

In these years of all-round training Cambridge was doing for Charles Dilke what it has done for hundreds of other young men. The exceptional in his case sprang from the tie which linked this young athlete to the old scholar who, in his library at Sloane Street, or among his flowers at Alice Holt, was ceaselessly preoccupied with detail of the undergraduate's life and work. From the first there was a pathos in his eagerness to follow and understand all the minutiae of an unfamiliar scene. At the close of Charles Dilke's first term he wrote (December 1st, 1862):

"Your letter gave me great pleasure, as indeed for one reason or another, or for no reason if you please, your letters always do; though not being a Cambridge man, I am at times a little puzzled.... What a bore I shall be after the 13th with my endless enquiries."

Ten days later he is jubilant over the results of the college examination which closed the first term:

"Hurrah! hurrah! my dear grandson. Ninety-seven out of a hundred— eleven above the second 'man'—is a position that would satisfy a whole family of loving friends, even if they were all grandfathers."

After every college examination the grandson sent lists of results, compiled with elaborate detail. The grandfather studied them, treasured them, compared them, wanted to know why this man had fallen back, how the other had advanced, and always with the same warm outflow of sympathy and pride over his own pupil. There they lie to-day in the despatch-boxes, preserved as a memorial of that love by the man on whom it was expended. On one is noted:

"Many scraps such as this, and his letters, show the loving care with which my grandfather watched over my progress at the University."

The beginning of his first Long Vacation he spent in travelling through Germany, Holland, and Belgium with his father. Later, in August, he visited Jersey and Guernsey, and went to France alone, making pilgrimage from Cherbourg to Tocqueville's two houses, and filling notebooks with observations on Norman architecture at St. Lo, Coutances, and elsewhere. He was perfecting his mastery of the language, too, and notes long after: "On this journey I was once taken for a Frenchman, but my French was not so good as it was about 1870." But always and everywhere he observed; and sent back the results of his observation to the man who had trained it. On June 30th, 1863, he writes:

"I have been all over Brussels to-day. My previous estimate of the place is confirmed. It apes Paris without having any of the Parisian charms, just as its people speak French without being able to pronounce it.

"The two modern pictures in the Palais de Justice are to me worth all the so-called Rubenses in the place. They are by Gallait and de Biefve, and the one is our old friend of last year in London, 'The Abdication of Charles V.'

"Rogier—the great Belgian Minister—has failed to secure his return in the late elections, owing to his having given a vote unpopular to his constituents on the fortification scheme. The Catholics lost three votes (regained by the advanced party) in the Senate these elections.

"The names of the sides of the chambers are significant:

"Liberals. — Catholics.

"What a fine country Belgium would be if it could get rid of its priests a little more. The people understand freedom. In Ghent the priests are rich, but utterly powerless owing to the extent of the manufacturing interest."

When he returned to Cambridge for the October term of 1863, his hard reading did not satisfy his prodigious power for work. He was Vice- President of the Union, and he undertook the more arduous duties of Secretary and Treasurer of the College Boat Club. When at the beginning of 1864 he was re-elected Vice-President of the Union, his grandfather wrote: "Your University career has proved to me that you have a happiness of manner that wins friends." Mr. Dilke's health began to decline notably in the early part of 1864, and loss of sight menaced him. He took the doctor's sentence, that he must refrain altogether from reading, with characteristic philosophy, but added: "I have ordered that newspapers are not to be sent here, so you must excuse it if, when we meet, I am a little in arrear of the course of life."

Early in February, 1864, Charles Dilke had entered without training for a walking race, and had beaten the University champion, Patrick, covering the mile ("in a gale of wind and over heavy slush") in eight minutes and forty-two seconds. [Footnote: Mr. Patrick, afterwards member of Parliament, and from 1886 Permanent Under-Secretary for Scotland.] To this announcement his grandfather made pleasant reply, threatening to come up and compete in person, but three days later wrote:

"I wish you had sent me a Cambridge paper which contained an account of your Olympic games. It is not too late now if you can get one; I reserve the right of reading everything that relates to you and your concerns."

Meanwhile Charles Dilke's reading went on with feverish energy. The dangerous rival was closely watched. "Shee has been sitting up till ominously late hours for some nights past. His father came up last night and left again to-night, but I fear he did not make his son waste much time." The competitors were straining then for a college law prize, but the letter goes on to observe very sagely:

"The law is of little consequence, as neither of us can know anything about it at present; but I should like to win the essay prize."

The prize was the annual college prize for the best English essay, and that year's subject was "Sir Robert Walpole." Compositions were presumably sent in after the Christmas vacation, for on February 29th, 1864, a fortnight after the announcement as to the walking race, comes this laconic bulletin:


"English Essay Prize: Dilke. Honourably mentioned: Osborn, Shee. Latin Essay Prize: Warr. Honourably mentioned: Casswell. [Footnote: A scholar of Sir Charles's year, and one of his most frequent associates in undergraduate days.]

"They say that parts of my essay were vulgar.

"Your affectionate grandson,


That last sentence roused the old critic:

"I should like to read the whole essay. My especial interest is aroused by the charge of occasional vulgarity. If it be true, it is not improbable that the writer caught the infection from his grandfather. With one half the world, in its judgment of literature and of life, vulgarity is the opposite of gentility, and gentility is merely negative, and implies the absence of all character, and, in language, of all idiom, all bone and muscle. I have a notion—only do not whisper such heresy within college walls—that a college tutor must be genteel in his college judgments, that 'The Polite Letter Writer' was the work of an M.A. in the 'Augustan Age.' You may find in Shakespeare household words and phrases from every condition and walk in life—as much coarseness as you please to look for—anything and everything except gentility and vulgarity. Occasional vulgarity is, therefore, a question on which I refuse to take the opinion of any man not well known to me."

On one matter the pupil was recalcitrant. Mr. Dilke begged him to give "one hour or one half-hour a day" to mastering Greek, so as to be able to read it with pleasure—a mastery which could only be acquired "before you enter on the direct purpose and business of life." But "insuperable difficulties" presented themselves. "It is of considerable importance that I should be first in the college Law May examination." Hopes of compliance in a later period were held out, to which Mr. Dilke replied shrewdly that "insuperable difficulties" were often temperamental, and that during the whole period of study equally strong reasons for postponement would continue to present themselves; and then would come "the all-engrossing business of life, and there is an end of half-hours."

In May, 1864, Mr. Dilke was present on the bank at 'Grassy' when, on the second night of the races, Trinity Hall, with his grandson rowing at No. 3, went head of the river.

"The ever-memorable May 12th, 1864.


"Last night we gained on 3rd Trinity all the way to Ditton Corner, where we were overlapping. Our coxswain made a shot, missed them, and we went into the mid-stream. After our misfortune we paddled slowly over the long reach, and came in half a length behind 3rd Trinity and 2 lengths ahead of 1st Trinity. To-night we did not gain much up to the Plough, where we spurted and caught up 3rd directly; we rowed round Ditton Corner overlapping, and so for 100 yds. more, and then made our bump. The whole of the crew and Stephen were chaired and carried round the quad. [Footnote: Leslie Stephen had coached the boat, which stayed head throughout the races. Judge Steavenson rowed in it at No. 5, where he had rowed earlier in the year for the University. In 1868 it was settled that 'the outrigger which was rowed head of the river in 1864 should be cut up, and the pieces distributed amongst the members of the crew who rowed in her in that year.' Dilke's piece always hung against the wall in his study in Sloane Street.] Our 2nd has made its bump each night, and is 8th on the river!!!"

Hardly were the May races over before the college Law examination began. On May 31st Charles Dilke wrote to his grandfather:

"The results will be known to-morrow. I have worked as hard as it is possible for me to do, for I have worked till I became almost deprived of memory.... Shee has worked, too, as hard as he could, and was in a dreadful state of nervous excitement this evening. I almost hope that he is first, for I should like to see him get his scholarship. Warr tried to get me to refuse to go in for the examination, or find some pretext for being away, in order to let our common friend get his scholarship; but I said that I thought he would beat me, and that he should have the glory of beating my best efforts if he beat me at all."

An underlying reason against his acceptance of Warr's advice may be found in this letter from Mr. Dilke at Alice Holt to his son Wentworth:

"June 3rd, 1864.

"If you carried out your intention of going to and returning from Cambridge this day, you know, and all in Sloane Street know, that our noble fellow has again won the prize. But the weather may have deterred you, and on the possible chance I copy the results:

"1. Chas. Dilke, 570 marks. Prize. Shee, 440

"What a blessing that boy has been to my old age! May God reward him! I feel for Shee! for he has laboured long and zealously. I wish there had been two prizes.

"I will not mix the subject with baser matter, so shall write my memoranda on another sheet.

"Your affectionate father,

"C. W. D."

After the May term came Henley Regatta, and Trinity Hall was again entered for the Grand Challenge. Many of the friends, Shee amongst them, had taken up their quarters there, along with the oarsmen; and Warr, who was not at Henley, wrote pressing a prompt return to Cambridge for the Long Vacation term. As the Henley week progressed [Footnote: Dilke rowed again both for the Grand Challenge and the Ladies' Plate. In each Trinity Hall met the ultimate winner in the trial heat, and were defeated by Kingston and by Eton, but beat London and Radley.] Mr. Dilke writes:

"My movements may be absolutely regulated by your wishes or convenience. If you desire to pay a visit to the Holt, I have there the chance of a quicker recovery, if I am to go on well; whereas if there be more inducements to visit London, why here I have the benefit of the doctors should I not make progress. The pleasure and the advantages being equal to me, you have only to decide. Let me know your decision by return of post."

Charles Dilke decided for London, and there spent three or four days in the company of his family, and, above all, of his grandfather. Then he went back to Cambridge, and lived the life of strenuous, healthy young men in the summer weather; getting up at five o'clock in the mornings, bathing, reading long hours, walking long walks, talking the long talks of youth. The correspondence with his grandfather centred chiefly now on the subject for the next year's essay competition, which had been announced at the close of the May term, and which, as Charles Dilke said, "seems to be rather in my line."

It was Pope's couplet:

"For forms of government let fools contest, Whatever is best administered is best."

It was no less in old Mr. Dilke's line than in his grandson's. He wrote on July 14th from Alice Holt a page of admirable criticism on the scheme as outlined by his grandson, and concludes in his habitual tone of affectionate self-depreciation:

"This is another of my old prosings—another proof that love and good will and good wishes remain when power to serve is gone...."

With the precocious maturity of Charles Dilke's intellect had gone a slowness of development in other directions. It is true that those Cambridge men who remember him as an undergraduate remember him as serious, but full of high animal spirits and sense of fun; while everyone speaks of his charm and gaiety. "We were all in love with him," says one vivacious old lady, who belonged to the circle of connections and relatives that frequented 76, Sloane Street. But the letters of his early days at Cambridge hardly show that 'happiness of manner' which his grandfather attributed to him. Only now does the whole personality begin to emerge, as in a letter of 1864, in which he begs his grandfather, because "writing is irksome to you," to send two very short letters rather than one longer one; "for the receipt of a letter gives me an excuse to write again, while on the other hand I can by habit catch your meaning by the first words of your shortest criticisms."

The rest of the sheet was occupied by very able analysis of an article which had been published in the Athenaeum—criticism mature and manly both in thought and expression. The change did not escape the shrewd observer. Mr. Dilke replied:

"ALICE HOLT, "BY FARNHAM, SURREY, "July 28th, 1864.


"Your letters give me very great pleasure, not because they are kind and considerate, of which I had evidence enough long since, not because they flatter the vanity of the old man by asking his opinion, which few now regard, but because I see in them a gradual development of your own mind."

He added a few words in praise of the analysis, but pointed out that the reviewer, whom Charles Dilke censured, was treating a well-worn subject— Bentham's Philosophy—and therefore needed to aim at freshness of view rather than thoroughness of exposition. He added:

"I, however, am delighted with the Article, which is full of promise of a coming man by which the old journal may benefit."

Save for a final "God bless you!" from "as ever, your affectionate Grand.," that was the last word written by Mr. Dilke to his grandson. Within a week he was struck down by what proved to be his fatal illness.

Early on August 8th Charles Dilke wrote to his father that he was deterred from coming home only by the fear lest his sudden arrival might "frighten grandfather about himself and make him worse." A few hours later he was summoned. The rest may be given in his own words:

'August 8th, Monday.—I received a telegram from my father at noon: "You had better come here." I left by the 1.30 train, and reached Alice Holt at half-past six. My Father met me on the lawn: he was crying bitterly, and said, "He lives only to see you." I went upstairs and sat down by the sofa, on which lay the Grand., looking haggard, but still a noble wreck. I took his hand, and he began to talk of very trivial matters—of Cambridge everyday life—his favourite theme of old. He seemed to be testing his strength, for at last he said: "I shall be able to talk to-morrow; I may last some weeks; but were it not for the pang that all of you would feel, I should prefer that it should end at once. I have had a good time of it."

'He had been saying all that morning: "Is that a carriage I hear?" or "I shall live to see him."

'Tuesday.—When I went in to him, he sent away the others, and told me to look for an envelope and a key. I failed to find it, and fetched Morris, who after a careful search found the key, but no envelope. We had both passed over my last letter (August 6th), which lay on the table. He made us both leave the room, but recalled me directly, and when I entered had banknotes in his hand, which he must have taken from the envelope of my letter. (This involved rising.) He said: "I cannot live, I fear, to your birthday—I want to make you a present—I think I have heard you say that you should like a stop-watch—I have made careful inquiries as to the price—and have saved—as I believe— sufficient." He then gave me notes, and the key of a desk in London, in the secret drawer of which I should find the remaining money. He then gave me the disposition of his papers and manuscripts, directing that what I did not want should go to the British Museum. He then said: "I have nothing more to say but that you have fulfilled—my every hope—beyond all measure—and—I am deeply—grateful."

'He died in my presence on Wednesday, 10th, at half-past one, in perfect peace.'



After his grandfather's death Charles Dilke went away alone on a walking tour in Devon. The death of his grandfather was hardly realized at first; 'the sense of loss' deepened: 'it has been greater with me every year that followed.' He corresponded with his college friends, and of this date is a letter of remonstrance at his overstudious habits from the sententious H. D. Warr:

"My dear Dilke will forgive me if I say that, though I honour him much for his many strong and good qualities, I think he is far too given to laborious processes in work and social life.... My warm regard for you rests to some extent on my very high appreciation of your strength and consistency of character: you have always appeared to me to be a supremely honest man, almost comically so, at least when I am in a profane humour: I do not know that anything you could do would possibly make me like you better. But I think if you gave yourself a little wider fling and liberty, and did not walk always as it were on the seam of the carpet, it would be better; there would be less to lean on in you, perhaps, but if possible more to love."

Charles Dilke used to say that Fawcett and Warr had between them cured him of that priggishness which he often recalled with amusement. Almost inevitably his grandfather's devotion, the absolute engrossment of so considerable a personality in his least important concerns, would emphasize the inclination to take himself over-seriously which is marked in every clever and resolute young man.

In the beginning of 1865 he won the college essay prize for the second time. A pile of dockets from the British Museum shows that, as soon as coming of age qualified him to be a reader there, he plunged deep into all the works on ideal commonwealths to complete his survey of 'forms of government'—the subject indicated by Pope's couplet, which had appealed so strongly both to his grandfather and himself. This was a side issue. Beading for his Tripos went on with unremitting energy, and he had in use ninety-four notebooks crammed with analyses. In June, 1865, he was announced Senior Legalist, easily at the head of the law students of his year, thus crowning his college successes by the highest University distinction open to a man who followed that course.

A month before he entered for the Tripos, he had stroked the college boat, which was head of the river. Trinity Hall, however, retained its pride of place only for one day, and it was no small achievement to accomplish even this, since Third Trinity, who bumped them on the second night, were a wonderful crew, with five University oars, 'including some of the most distinguished Eton oars that ever rowed.' [Footnote: The Memoir details them: 'Chambers, the winner of the pairs, sculls, and "walk," President of the University Boat Club, and afterwards Secretary of the Amateur Athletic Club; Kinglake, afterwards President of the University Boat Club; W. E. Griffith, afterwards President of the University Boat Club, and formerly stroke of the finest Eton eight ever seen; Selwyn, afterwards Bishop of Melanesia, stroke of the University eight; and C. B. Lawes, afterwards the well-known sculptor, who had been captain of the Boats at Eton, and who had won the Diamond Sculls and the amateur championship of the Thames, and had rowed stroke of the University crew the year after Selwyn.'] The Hall had only one 'blue,' Steavenson, but to Charles Dilke himself had been offered in February, 1865, and was offered again in 1866, the place of 'seven' in the University eight. He declined on grounds of health, fearing the strain of the four-mile course on his heart. A note added later says regretfully: 'I believe that I was unduly frightened by my doctor, and that I might have rowed.'

To be Senior Legalist and to stroke the first boat on the river in the same term was an unusual combination: in the next Charles Dilke added to it the Presidency of the Union. The new Union buildings were now in process of construction, and he had done more than any other man to bring them from a derisive by-word into solid realization of brick and mortar. He took credit to himself for 'the selection of Waterhouse as architect against Gilbert Scott and Digby Wyatt.' Care to see this business fully through was one of the reasons which determined him to come up for a fourth year, and to hold the Presidency a second time in the Lent term of 1866. On his retirement he proposed Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice for his successor, and thus left the lead in hands he could trust.

Of his own speeches he has preserved some detail, showing how early his opinions displayed the character which was to be constant in them:

'In 1864-65 I spoke twice at the Union [Footnote: After Dilke's death, when a resolution of regret was carried at the Union, the Vice- President, Mr. J. H. Allen of Jesus, said in moving it: "Sir Charles was in a double sense the architect of the fortunes of the Society, because he was responsible for the superintendence of the change from the old inadequate home in Queens' Street into the more glorious building which they now enjoyed. It was for that reason that on two occasions the Society elected him to the highest position which they could confer."] in favour of the foreign policy of Lord Palmerston, opposing several of my friends who were condemning it. Cobden at the time was attacking supposed extravagance, based, as he thought, on panic, and I sided with Palmerston in thinking that the enormous increase of the French Navy could only be intended for an anti-English policy, while in the event of even the temporary loss of the command of the Channel, invasion by an immense French army would become possible. To Poland I was friendly, but unwilling to contemplate, as Lord Palmerston was unwilling to contemplate, interference by England in alliance with the Emperor Napoleon. I was so far from strongly taking the Danish side in the war that I chose the opportunity to put up in my rooms at Cambridge a photograph of Bismarck, for whom I had a considerable admiration. I had made Lord Palmerston's acquaintance during the Exhibition in '62 (to the ceremonies of which I also owed that of Auber, Meyerbeer, and many other distinguished people), but I do not think that the chat of the jaunty old gentleman in his last days had had any effect upon my views, and I was certainly more pro- German than was Palmerston, who was not pro-anything except pro- English.'[Footnote: For Sir Charles's opinion of Lord Palmerston, see vol. ii., p. 493. ]

The best speech, in Dilke's own opinion, that he made during 1866 was in opposition to the proposal to congratulate Governor Eyre upon his suppression of 'the supposed insurrection in Jamaica.' This was the first of the many occasions on which Sir Charles Dilke criticized the severity of white men towards natives in the name of civilized government.

Fuller anticipation of the views he supported in Parliament is to be found in his speeches on home politics. In the spring of 1866 the country was violently agitated over the Reform Bill introduced by Lord Russell, who had become Prime Minister on the death of Lord Palmerston in 1865. Of course there was a debate at the Union, and it was prolonged to a second night. Dilke writes:

'I took up for the first time broad democratic ground. Attacking the famous speech of Mr. Lowe, [Footnote: Mr. Lowe had asked in the debate on the "Representation of the People Bill," as reported in Hansard, on March 13th, 1866: "If you want venality, ignorance, drunkenness; if you want impulsive, unreflecting, violent people, where do you look for them? Do you go to the top, or to the bottom?"] I declared that so far was I from agreement with these calumnies, that I was of opinion that those homely and truly English qualities which had to some slight extent grown slack among the upper classes were to be met with in all their strength as much in the more intelligent portion of the now unrepresented classes, as among those familiarly styled "their betters." With regard to the question of the fitness of the artisans for the franchise, I argued that they had not to decide for themselves between Austria and Prussia in the Holstein question, but had to decide between candidates who would settle the more abstruse questions for them. The middle classes, I contended, could as a body do no more, and the artisan was just as competent to judge of honesty and ability as the L10 householder; and less likely to be influenced by bribery and intimidation, as being more independent and more fearless of consequences. Moreover, any attempt to keep the great mass of the people from all share of political power seemed to me idle: whether we liked their advent to government or whether we feared it, it was inevitable, and the longer we delayed to prepare for it the worse it would be for so-called Conservative interests when it came. I contended that the working man had proportionately a greater stake in the country than the rich; that the taxes which he paid were a vastly more serious matter to him than those which the rich paid were to them, and that a hundred of the laws passed by Parliament vitally affected the interests of the working people to one which injured those of the upper class.'

For a young man whose political views were so maturely thought out, debate was no mere exercitation; his education was fast passing into apprenticeship for public life; and in February, 1865, his father, Sir Wentworth Dilke, coming forward at a by-election in the Liberal interest for Wallingford, gave the Union debater his first chance on a public platform.

Long afterwards, when Sir Charles Dilke was travelling down to the Forest of Dean with a party of guests and friends, one of them, looking out as the train swept along the Thames Valley, caught sight of a little white church nestling under a hill and asked, "Is that Cholsey?" Sir Charles turned round in his eager way: "What, do you know this district? Yes, that is Cholsey;" and went on to tell how intimate he had become with all the villages round Wallingford when speaking and canvassing for his father, and how the experience gained among the Berkshire peasants had supplied valuable lessons for his own contests in later years.

Sir Wentworth was elected, and Lord Granville, who had a real friendship for him, wrote, in a spirit very typical of the traditional view: "I know no one to whom Parliamentary life will afford more interest and amusement." Charles Dilke's conception of Parliamentary life was very different from that of his father, and from that which Lord Granville indicated. On the other hand, the son seemed to the father deficient in appreciation of the pleasures acceptable to himself:

'One of the difficulties between my father and myself about this period arose from his vexation at my refusing to take part in the shooting-parties at Alice Holt. He was passionately fond of shooting; ... I had now but little sympathy with the amusement, and had shown my dislike for it in many ways.'

Yet despite differences, the father was immensely proud of his son, and consulted him in regard to the younger brother's education. In his reply Charles Dilke discussed the view of certain Dons who held that the cultivated English gentleman ought not to go in for honours at all, and admitted that "reading for a high place here involves loss of many pleasures, of almost all society; it makes a man fretful, and often leaves him behind the world; as an education for the mind it is not so good as the self-education of a non-honours man ought to be, but never is." He thought, nevertheless, that classics—of which he avowed himself "more ignorant than an English gentleman ought to be"—offered the field in which success was best worth having. He himself "would gladly be put back to fourteen or fifteen, and 'grind my life out' till two-and-twenty, in order to get a high place in the first-class classics." But it must be all or nothing. A second-class he dismissed as not worth winning. Moreover, "if the boy has not a high standard set up for him, he will do nothing whatever, which is far worse than doing too much."

Meanwhile, in the midst of all that full college life which was becoming more and more definitely a preparation for the political career, he was trying his strength in the field of journalism.

His grandfather had never ceased to impress upon him that every public man should have learned and practised thoroughly the craft of writing. This precept allied itself with the inherited ownership of a great literary journal; and very shortly after old Mr. Dilke's death the undergraduate, as he then was, began to associate himself actively with the work of the Athenaeum. His first published writing in it appeared on October 22nd, 1864, when he reviewed a well-known work on economics by the writer whom the Memoir styles 'that dull Frenchman, Le Play.' [Footnote: French Senator, son-in-law of the celebrated economist Michel Chevalier. He wrote works on the principles of agriculture, the application of chemistry to agriculture, and kindred subjects.] Le Play wrote from Paris to thank Sir Wentworth Dilke for a copy of the article which had been sent him, and had already attracted attention in France:

"On y trouve un sentiment de vrai progres et une intelligence de la vie pratique qui se rencontrent rarement chez nos critiques."

The British Museum tickets show the course of reading which Charles Dilke was pursuing at this period: Bacon, Filmer, Mandeville, Hume, represent the older English writers on Commonwealths, ideal and actual; Crousaz, Condorcet, Diderot, Linguet, Fenelon, Helvetius, stood for the influences of eighteenth-century France. With them were writers more recondite; the Mundus Alter et Idem of "Britannicus," Barclay his Argenis, Holberg's Journey in the Underworld, Sadeur's Terre Australe Connue, Ned Lane's Excellencie of a Free State, were all out-of-the-way books with an antiquarian flavour. Of recent or contemporary authors, Montalembert was included, with Proudhon, as were men whom Charles Dilke came to know personally—Emile de Girardin, Michel Chevalier, and, a close friend afterwards, Louis Blanc. Works of Mohl and Willick brought in the Germans, and a volume of the Federalist introduced him to that great American commonwealth which he was soon to visit. A sheaf of dockets for works upon the Swedenborgian Association and theories complete this very extensive range of reading, which may be supplemented by the following note of his own:

"Favourite books, 1864 (in themselves—for no object): "Shakespeare. "The Bible. "J. S. Mill: Political Economy; On Liberty; Dissertations. "Longfellow: Evangeline and Miles Standish. "Homer: Works. "Tennyson: nearly all. "Plato: Republic. "Sir P. Sidney: Arcadia. "Claude Adrien Helvetius: Works. "Victor Hugo: Les Miserables. "William Godwin: Political Justice."

He notes also in the Memoir that the reading of Mill at this period marked the beginning of Mill's influence over him. This influence was a great factor in Dilke's life, and, when it passed into a personal relation, became almost one of discipleship.

His taste for Victor Hugo led him to write in the Athenaeum a long notice of Les Travailleurs de la Mer in 1866, when that romance appeared; but another article about the same period on international law indicates the main bent of his studies.

As early as the Long Vacation of 1864, in the course of preparing his essay on forms of government, he had found himself tracing 'the future of the Anglo-Saxon race both in the United States and Australasia'; and he thus, without knowing it, laid the foundation lines of Greater Britain. Also, in 1865, 'I had already dreamt of visiting and writing upon Russia, a country which always had a great hold on my imagination.' Another project of these undergraduate years was less his own than his grandfather's. Old Mr. Dilke contemplated a universal catalogue of books, to be prepared by international action. This scheme was completely abandoned, yet it is interesting that the grandson entertained it. The scholar, not merely the lover, but the active servant, of learning, was always present in Charles Dilke's many-sided personality, though never dominant. We approach the central preoccupations of his mind with the History of Prevalent Opinions in Politics, towards which 'a great deal of work' was done by him in the winter of 1864-65. In 1866 the same underlying group of ideas took form in the outline of a treatise on Radicalism.

In working for this he read 'most of the writers upon the theory of politics—Hooker, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Linguet, Locke, Bentham, and many more.' 'Many more' included some very unusual reading; for the plan of his book was in three chapters, 'the first chapter being upon the Radicalism of the days before the coming of Jesus; the second chapter upon the period between the teaching of our Lord and 1789; and the third on Radicalism in modern history.' In the second part he 'gave much space to Arius, Huss, Wyclif, Savonarola, Vane, Roger Williams, Baxter, Fox, Zinzendorf, and other religious reformers.' All this reading taught him the 'extent to which forgotten doctrines come up again, and are known by the names of men who have but revived them'; and, on the other hand, how doctrines change and degenerate while keeping the original name.

'In the sketch of my book, so far as it was worked out, I gave much space to the falling-off in the Church from the Radicalism of primitive Christianity.... It began with a definition of Radicalism as a going to the root of things, which naturally led to the doctrine of the perfectibility of man, and, quoting the gospels freely, I attempted to prove the essential Radicalism of Christ's teaching.'

Here, then, is suggested another aspect of his mind's history. He notes:

'As I rejected at this period of my life the Divinity of Christ, I sought, under Renan's guidance, more fully than I need have done, the origin of Christ's teaching and of that of Paul, in the doctrines previously taught by the Essenes and the Sadducees.'

Elsewhere a manuscript note describes his varying attitude towards Christianity:

'In the course of 1863 I ceased my attendance upon Holy Communion, and fell into a sceptical frame of mind which lasted for several years, was modified in 1874, and came to an end in 1875. I had been a very strong believer, and in the loss of my belief in the supernatural, as it is called—i.e., in the Divinity of our Blessed Lord—I kept an unbounded admiration for His words, as recorded in the Sermon on the Mount, and belief in duty towards others. From 1885 to 1888 the Holy Sacrament was a profound blessing to me, but in 1905 I ceased again to find any help in forms.'

To what he called in 1865 the essential Radicalism of Christ's teaching— to-day it would be called Christian Socialism—he was always constant. It was the guiding principle of that inner idealism which underlay his whole life and which strengthened with his maturity. The world was for him 'a Christian' world. But acceptance not so much of the dogma as of the mystical faith of Christians would seem to have varied with him from time to time, and to have varied also in its formal expression. His mind was too positive, too much occupied in the detail of life, to have time either for brooding meditation or for the metaphysics of religious inquiry; and, at least in 1866, Christianity interested him mainly as one of the most potent shaping forces of human society. The desire to follow out and investigate at first hand certain of its modern manifestations helped to direct the impulse for travel which was already prompting him.

The Long Vacation of 1865 had found him tramping, first with Warr in Guernsey, afterwards alone 'through Brittany and Normandy and partly into the provinces south of the Loire,' eloquent on the charms of travelling without luggage, sketching also, and increasing his carefully gathered knowledge of French architecture.

He had explored France very thoroughly before he found the part of it which was to become almost a second homeland in his affections; and he had the Frenchman's appreciation of what was most characteristically France. "I think the better of the French," he wrote at this time, "for their admiration of the scenery of the Loire, the Indre, and the Vienne. Few English people are capable of appreciating the scenery of Anjou.... I never saw anything more lovely than the scenery of the Vilaine south of Guichen and Bourg des Comptes."

But this was only an excursion. The whole bent of his desire lay towards serious travel, in which he should pass from the training- ground of the University to that wider school where knowledge was to be gained, applied, and perfected. In the early part of 1866 he was talking only of a journey in America, and it was a journey with a literary purpose. In his History of Radicalism he had given much space to the Revivals in Prussia led by Ebel, and also to the rise in America of the school of the Perfectionists in 1834. He proposed to take with him the sketch of this book, and work into it the results of inquiry made on the spot as regards the communistic experiments which had been tried in the United States.

But travel for its own sake tempted him, and even before he set out, 'I fancy,' he writes, 'my intention was already to go round the world: but if I had asked my father's leave to do so, I should have been refused.'

At all events, when once fairly launched, the interest of travelling absorbed his mind; and accordingly the book on Radicalism was finally put aside, though not before some work had been done on it at Quebec and Ottawa. Nor was it altogether abandoned; for, he says, in treating of 'Radicalism in modern history':

'I discussed it under various heads, of which the first was Great Britain, the second the British Colonies, the third the United States, showing, as this table was made before I left England, the predominance which Colonial questions were already assuming in my mind.' Also: 'In the last part of the sketch of the work I dealt with the political Radicalism of the future. I wrote strongly in favour of the removal of the disabilities of sex. I took the Irish Catholic view of the Irish question, and I commenced the discussion of some of those questions which made the freshness and the success of Greater Britain—for example, "Effects upon Radicalism of Increased Facility of Communication," and "Development of the Principle of Love of Country into that of Love of Man."'

'Such,' he writes, at the end of that passage which describes the purposes and the labours of his last academic terms—'such were the dispositions in which I commenced my journey round the world.'



In June, 1866, Charles Dilke, not yet twenty-three, started on the travels which are recorded in the first and most popular of his books, Greater Britain. Its original draft was in reality the numbered series of long descriptive letters which he sent home to Sloane Street.

His first prolonged absence, coupled with the unspent shock of his grandfather's death, had bred in him a homesickness, which under the influence of a Virginian summer he tried to dissipate by an outburst of verse; but the medium was unsuited to his pen, and he soon returned to the 'dispositions' with which he started on his journey.

'Leaving England as I did with my mind in this kind of ferment, my visit to Boston became deeply interesting to me, as I met there a group of men undoubtedly, on the whole, the most distinguished then collected at any city in the world. At one party of nine people, at Cambridge, I met Emerson, Agassiz, Longfellow, Wendell Holmes, Asa Gray, Lowell ("Hosea Biglow"), Dr. Collyer the Radical Unitarian, and Dr. Hedge the great preacher. It is hard to say by which of them I was the most charmed. Emerson, Longfellow, Asa Gray, and Wendell Holmes seemed to me equal in the perfection of their courtesy, the grace of their manner, and the interest of their conversation, while Hedge and Collyer were full of an intellectual energy which was new to me, and which had a powerful effect upon my work of the time; to be traced indeed through the whole of the American portion of Greater Britain.'

There is no need here to attempt any sketch of a journey which is described in a book which is still read after half a century. Charles Dilke began with the South, where the earth had scarcely closed over the graves of the great war, where the rebel spirit still smouldered fiercely, and where reorganization was only beginning to establish itself. He went on to New York, to New England, and to Canada; then, crossing the line of the Great Lakes, followed that other highway of the northern continent, the Mississippi, to St. Louis. Here he met with Mr. Hepworth Dixon, then editor of the Athenaeum, and the character of his journey changed: he travelled in company, and he travelled for the first time under privations and in real danger. Together they crossed the plains from the eastern head of the Pacific Railway at a period of Indian war, and parted at Salt Lake City.

This is a marking-point in the experience. Before Charles Dilke set out to cross a land still debatable, where travel still was what travel had been for the pioneers, he wrote home two letters. Both are dated August 26th, 1866, from Leavenworth in Kansas, now a sober town of twenty thousand inhabitants, then carrying recent memories of the days "when the Southern 'Border Ruffians' were in the habit of parading its streets, bearing the scalps of Abolitionists stuck on poles," and even after the war basing its repute for health on the story that, when it became necessary to "inaugurate" the new graveyard, "they had to shoot a man on purpose."

The first of these letters is to his father:


"I have been for some days considering whether I would write to you upon my present theme before or after my journey across the plains, but I have come to the conclusion that it is in every way better that I should do it now. Before leaving you, I had prepared, with the knowledge only of Casswell" (one of his Trinity Hall set), "elaborate plans for my long-thought-of visit to Australia.

"After landing in the States, I came to think that, in spite of the evident advantages to be gleaned by taking the two tours in one, you might be seriously averse to my more lengthy absence. When, however, I came to sketch out plans for the great work which I have long intended some day to write, and of which I completed the first map during my stay at Ottawa, I found that I must go to Australia before getting very far through with the book, and that I could not be even so much as certain of my basement and groundwork until after such a visit.

"Were I to postpone my trip to Australia, I might find it impossible ever to go there, remembering that it is not a tour which can be made from England, at any time, much more quickly than I shall have made it now; and whenever I did make it, you would have to expect an absence more prolonged than that for which this letter will prepare you. Of course that absence is fully as grievous to me as to you, and nothing but necessity would drive me to it. Of course my going will depend upon my health, and upon the letters I shall receive at San Francisco. I have ample funds to take me as far as Sydney, and to enable me to live there a long time, were anything to prevent your letters reaching there as soon as I do. I enclose a letter to Knight for Tasmanian introductions; you can no doubt get me Australian from Sir Daniel Cooper and others. I propose to visit Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Geelong, Adelaide, Hobart Town, Wellington, and Auckland, but the order in which I take them, of course, depends on local circumstances. Will you send me some money to Sydney, with such introductions as you can get? If they don't turn up, I shall start a Shaker colony, or a newspaper, or row people ashore from the emigrant ships."

When the travellers halted to rest for some time at Denver, after six days' journey across the plains, Charles Dilke, with a brain excited by the keen atmosphere of the prairie, "sketched out many projects of a literary kind."

'In addition to my book on Radicalism, there was a plan for a book of "Political Geography" based on the doctrine that geographical centres ultimately become political centres—ideas which are also to be traced in Greater Britain under the name of Omphalism; and a scheme for a book to be called "The Anglo-Saxon Race or The English World," which is noted as dating from June, 1862, and being a head under which should be treated the infusion of foreign elements into the Saxon world—such as, for example, Chinese immigration. A fifth work was to be on "International Law," in two parts—"As it is," and "As it might be." Another was to be on the offer to an unembodied soul of the alternatives of non-existence, or of birth accompanied by free-will, followed by life in sin or life in Godliness.'

But all the time literature figured in his mind only as an accompaniment to political life. There was more than jest in the young man's answer to Governor Gilpin of Colorado, when that dignitary suggested permanent stay in Denver, with promise of all sorts of honours and rewards in his infant state. Charles Dilke writes home:

"I told him that unless he would carry a constitutional amendment allowing a foreign-born subject to be President of the United States, he would not receive my services. This he said he would 'see about.'"

What underlay the jesting is set out in this letter to his brother Ashton, sent by the same mail that carried to his father news of the projected journey to Australia:


"I write in English [Footnote: The brothers usually corresponded with each other in French; see Chap. II., p. 15.] because I write of serious matters, best to be talked over in our serious mother-tongue. I shall also write very simply, saying exactly what I want you to hear, and that in the plainest manner.

"I have been thinking of late that in talking to you I may have failed to make you comprehend why 'I wanted to make you do things that would pay,' and that if I failed to lead you to look at these things as I do, I must have debased your mind and done you as much harm as any man can do his dearest friend. I will, then, in this memorandum explain my views about you and your future, leaving it to you, my dear brother, to apply or reject them as your judgment prompts, without letting your love for me bias you in favour of my argument.

"I believe that the bent of your mind is not unlike that of mine. My aim in life is to be of the greatest use I can to the world at large, not because that is my duty, but because that is the course which will make my life happiest—i.e., my motives are selfish in the wide and unusual sense of that word. I believe that, on account of my temperament and education, I can be most useful as a statesman and as a writer. I have, therefore, educated myself with a view to getting such power as to make me able at all events to teach men my views, whether or not they follow them. I believe that you and I together would be more than twice as strong as each of us alone; I, therefore, if you are not disinclined, wish to see you acting with me and ever standing by my side in all love and happiness. To do this you must make a name, and you must begin by making a name at Cambridge. If you can go up to college 'a certain future first-class man'—then you can give up classics if you like, and read other and more immediately useful things—be President of the Union, and so on; but you cannot do that from a god-like height unless you are 'a certain first.' So with music, if you play at all, you must play like a whole band of seraphs (as, indeed, you seem in a fair way to do). Of course, it is very easy to say—Music is an art which, if cultivated merely because it will 'pay,' ceases to be either art or music. True! Quite true!! But only true if you insert merely—merely because it will 'pay.' I think (I may be wrong) that it is possible to cultivate it so as to 'pay,' and yet love and reverence it (and yourself in it) as the highest form of art.

"Now I come to riding. I do most earnestly suggest that if you can bring yourself to learn to ride so as to be able to ride an ordinary horse along a road with perfect safety, you should do so. I am clear that you cannot go into the diplomatic service without it. In travel you must ride. If you can bring yourself to it at all, it must be at once.

"Now for my absence. Part of my plan is the writing of serious and grave works, neither of which can be written until I have seen Australia as well as America. I find it, then, a necessity to go there; and I go there now, firstly because I have it within reach, and secondly, because absence from all, and above all from you, dearest, would be worse at any future time than now.

"Keep, however, constantly before you the ultimate doing good or being useful—which is (for I firmly hold the Jesuit doctrine, if it be rightly understood) to justify the means.

"I need hardly say that this talk is for you, and not even for father, nor for Casswell.

"Your devoted friend and brother,


"What a prig he was!" is scrawled across the page, as Charles Dilke's judgment on himself, when later the letter fell into his hands.

But, happily, in all the ordinary intercourse of life, ease and geniality were native to him; he got on readily with all manner of men; and nothing could have been better for him than the plunge into a society where all was in the rough. He shed his priggishness once and for all somewhere on the "Great Divide." What makes the permanent charm of Greater Britain is its sense of enjoyment, its delighted acceptance of new and unconventional ways. In crossing the plains, he first made the experience of actual physical privations, and for the first time saw and fell in love with "the bright eyes of danger."

Through all the seriousness and solid concentration of Greater Britain there runs a vein of high spirits. Facts are there, but with them is a ferment of ideas and of feeling. Part of that feeling is just a contagious delight in the joyous business of living. But the strong current which lifted him so buoyantly was an emotion which no shyness or stiffness hampered in the expression—in its essence an exultant patriotism of race. Democracy meant to him in this stage of his development, not any abstract theory of government, but the triumph of English ideas.

California, then in the full rush of mining, was the touchstone of Democracy; where, out of the chaos of blackguardism, through lynchings and vigilance committees, judge and jury were at work evolving decent security and settled government.

"The wonder is" (he wrote) "not that, in such a State as California was till lately, the machinery of government should work unevenly, but that it should work at all. Democracy has never endured so rough a test as that from which it has triumphantly emerged in the Golden State and City....

"California is too British to be typically American: it would seem that nowhere in the United States have we found the true America or the real American. Except as abstractions, they do not exist; it is only by looking carefully at each eccentric and irregular America—at Irish New York, at Puritan New England, at the rowdy South, at the rough and swaggering Far West, at the cosmopolitan Pacific States— that we come to reject the anomalous features, and to find America in the points they possess in common. It is when the country is left that there rises in the mind an image that soars above all local prejudice —that of the America of the law-abiding, mighty people who are imposing English institutions on the world." [Footnote: Greater Britain (popular edition), p. 193.]

The same thought is summed up in the chapter where he sets down his recollected impressions on board the ship that carried him southwards along the shores of America from the Golden Gate towards Panama:

"A man may see American countries, from the pine-wastes of Maine to the slopes of the Sierra; may talk with American men and women, from the sober citizens of Boston to Digger Indians in California; may eat of American dishes, from jerked buffalo in Colorado to clambakes on the shores near Salem; and yet, from the time he first 'smells the molasses' at Nantucket light-ship to the moment when the pilot quits him at the Golden Gate, may have no idea of an America. You may have seen the East, the South, the West, the Pacific States, and yet have failed to find America. It is not till you have left her shores that her image grows up in the mind.

"The first thing that strikes the Englishman just landed in New York is the apparent Latinization of the English in America; but before he leaves the country, he comes to see that this is at most a local fact, and that the true moral of America is the vigour of the English race— the defeat of the cheaper by the dearer peoples, the victory of the man whose food costs four shillings a day over the man whose food costs four pence."[Footnote: Ibid., p. 216.]

That is the governing idea of the book—an idea in which were merged those other projects which passed before him when he halted at Denver; and it is set forth with most fulness and vigour in the opening chapters, which deal with a "Greater Britain" that is outside the British Empire—with the Britain that no longer dwells under the British flag.

He left the Pacific shores in tremendous spirits, and on the voyage to New Zealand was a provider of entertainment for his fellow- passengers, writing an opera bouffe, Oparo, or the Enchanting Isle, in which he himself spoke the prologue as Neptune, 'two hundred miles west- sou'-west of Pitcairn Island.' His head might be full of politics and of the ethics which touch on politics; but he was in the humour to turn his mind to jesting and to find material for comedy as well as for grave discourse in the advent of white men to cannibal islands.

The rest of the book is a sequel or corollary. English institutions are studied in New Zealand and in Australia, among autonomous communities of Britons. Later on they are studied in Ceylon and India, where they have their application to white men, living not as part of a democracy, but as the arbiters of their fate to Orientals.

Dilke's own exposition of this governing conception was set out in the preface to the book:

"In 1866 and 1867 I followed England round the world: everywhere I was in English-speaking or in English-governed lands. If I remarked that climate, soil, manners of life, that mixture with other peoples, had modified the blood, I saw, too, that in essentials the race was always, one.

"The idea which in all the length of my travels has been at once my fellow and my guide—a key wherewith to unlock the hidden things of strange new lands—is a conception, however imperfect, of the grandeur of our race, already girdling the earth, which it is destined perhaps eventually to overspread.

"In America the peoples of the world are being fused together, but they are run into an English mould: Alfred's laws and Chaucer's tongue are theirs whether they would or no. There are men who say that Britain in her age will claim the glory of having planted greater Englands across the seas. They fail to perceive that she has done more than found plantations of her own—that she has imposed her institutions upon the offshoots of Germany, of Ireland, of Scandinavia, and of Spain. Through America, England is speaking to the world.

"Sketches of Saxondom may be of interest even upon humbler grounds: the development of the England of Elizabeth is to be found, not in the Britain of Victoria, but in half the habitable globe. If two small islands are by courtesy styled 'Great,' America, Australia, India, must form a 'Greater Britain.'"

He wrote of this passage in his Memoir:

'The preface of Greater Britain, in which the title is justified and explained, is the best piece of work of my life. It states the doctrine on which our rule should be based—remembered in Canada— forgotten in South Africa—the true as against the bastard Imperialism. As will be seen from it, I included in my "Greater Britain" our Magna Graecia of the United States. As late as 1880, twelve years after the publication of my book, not only was the title "Greater Britain" often used for the English world—as I used it—but, speaking at the Lotus Club of New York, Mr. Whitelaw Reid used it specially of the United States. Tom Hughes, he declared, "led a pioneer English colony to this Greater Britain, to seek here a fuller expansion." It is contracting an idea which, as its author, I think lofty and even noble, to use "Greater Britain" only of the British Empire, as is now done.'

The touch of enthusiasm in this book lifted his writing to its highest plane. He himself was specially proud of the praise which P. G. Hamerton bestowed on the landscape passages: [Footnote: See Appendix, pp. 72, 73.] and they have the quality, which his grandfather schooled him in, of being really descriptive. But his characteristic excellence is found far more in such a passage as that which follows his sketch of the time when "the thinking men of Boston and the Cambridge professors, Emerson, Russell Lowell, Asa Gray, and a dozen more ... morally seceded from their country's councils," because in those councils the slave-holders still had the upper hand. Here are a few of its ringing sentences:

"In 1863 and 1864 there came the reckoning. When America was first brought to see the things that had been done in her name, and at her cost, and, rising in her hitherto unknown strength, struck the noblest blow for freedom that the world has seen, the men who had been urging on the movement from without at once re-entered the national ranks, and marched to victory. Of the men who sat beneath Longfellow, and Agassiz, and Emerson, whole battalions went forth to war. From Oberlin almost every male student and professor marched, and the University teaching was left in the women's hands. Out of 8,000 school-teachers in Pennsylvania, of whom 300 alone were drafted, 3,000 volunteered for the war. Everywhere the students were foremost among the Volunteers, and from that time forward America and her thinkers were at one." [Footnote: Greater Britain (popular edition), p. 41.]

The book was written at high pressure—in twelve months of desk work, beginning in June, 1867, when the traveller returned from his year's wandering—and it was not written under favourable conditions. He had contracted malaria in Ceylon, which gradually destroyed his appetite, and so induced a state of weakness leading to delirium at night. The end was an attack of typhoid fever, which came on while the book was still in the press; and his father, thinking it important to hurry the publication, took on himself to correct the proofs while his son was ill. The result was a crop of blunders; but nothing interfered with the unforeseen success of the book, which was published in the last months of 1868. Large portions of the work were translated into Russian, its circulation in America was enormous (under a pirate flag), and in England it rapidly ran through three editions, and was praised in the newspapers almost without exception.

In the reviews which appeared there stood out a general acceptance of the book as fair and friendly to all. In spite of its audacious patriotism, it was no way limited in sympathy. This fairness of mind received the homage of Thiers in a great defence of his Protectionist budget. "Un membre du parlement d'Angleterre, qui est certainement un des hommes les plus eclaires de son pays, M. Wentworth Dilke, vient d'ecrire un livre des plus remarquables," he said, and pressed the argument that Charles Dilke's defence of Protection from the American and Australian point of view gained authority by the very fact that its author was libre-echangiste d'Europe. Dilke always called himself, more accurately, "a geographical Free Trader." He accepted, that is to say, the doctrine for Great Britain unreservedly, only because of Great Britain's geographical conditions. This was very different from the orthodox English Liberal's view of Free Trade as a universal maxim to be accepted under penalty of political excommunication.

On a matter of even wider import for Imperial statesmanship his sympathies were at once and clearly declared. From this his first entry into the arena of public debate he was the champion of the dark-skinned peoples— all the more, perhaps, because he recognized clearly that the Anglo-Saxons were "the only extirpating race." In lands where white men could rear their children it seemed to him inevitable that the Anglo-Saxon race should replace the coloured peoples as, to take his own illustration, the English fly was superseding all other flies in New Zealand. Yet at least while the American-Indians or the Maoris remained, he was determined to secure justice for them; and he incurred angry criticism for outspoken condemnation of English dealing with the natives in Tasmania. But a great part of his book is devoted to discussion of questions which must be of constant recurrence, affecting the relations of Englishmen to natives in lands where the English are only a governing handful. These matters received special comment in a letter from John Stuart Mill at Avignon on February 9th, 1869. Mill, although a stranger to Dilke, was moved to write his commendation in the most ungrudging terms:

"It is long" (he said) "since any book connected with practical politics has been published on which I build such high hopes of the future usefulness and distinction of the writer, showing, as it does, that he not only possesses a most unusual amount of real knowledge on many of the principal questions of the future, but a mind strongly predisposed to what are (at least in my opinion) the most advanced and enlightened views of them.

"There are so few opinions expressed in any part of your book with which I do not, so far as my knowledge extends, fully and heartily coincide, that I feel impelled to take the liberty of noting the small number of points of any consequence on which I differ from you. These relate chiefly to India; though on that subject also I agree with you to a much greater extent than I differ. Not only do I most cordially sympathize with all you say about the insolence of the English even in India to the native population, which has now become not only a disgrace, but, as you have so usefully shown, a danger to our dominion there; but I have been much struck by the sagacity which, in so short a stay as yours must have been, has enabled you to detect facts which are as yet obvious to very few: as, for instance, the immense increase of all the evils and dangers you have pointed out by the substitution of the Queen's army for a local force of which both men and officers had at least a comparatively permanent tie to the country; and again, that the superior authority in England, having the records of all the presidencies before it, and corresponding regularly with them all, is the only authority which really knows India; the local governments and offices only knowing, at most, their own part of it, and having generally strong prejudices in favour of the peculiarities of the system of government there adopted, and against those of the other party." [Footnote: James Mill, the father of John Stuart Mill, was the historian of India, and for a long time one amongst its official rulers at the India House.]

Then followed an exhaustive and very friendly criticism, in which the most interesting points are his challenge of Dilke's proposal to make the Secretary of State for India a permanent office, not changing with party upheavals, and, lastly, this:

"If there is any criticism of a somewhat broader character that I could make, I think it would be this—that (in speaking of the physical and moral characteristics of the populations descended from the English) you sometimes express yourself almost as if there were no sources of national character but race and climate, as if whatever does not come from race must come from climate, and whatever does not come from climate must come from race. But as you show in many parts of your book a strong sense of the good and bad influences of education, legislation, and social circumstances, the only inference I draw is that you do not, perhaps, go so far as I do myself in believing these last causes to be of prodigiously greater efficacy than either race or climate, or the two combined."

The writing of this letter marked the beginning of a friendship which lasted till Mill's death. If the book had done nothing but secure Dilke this friend, it would have been well rewarded. But rewards were not lacking. The fortunate author was crowned with a great popular success invaluable for a young man about to enter political life. Yet more important even than the prestige acquired was the sum of experience gained.



A traveller who did not set out with the intention of word-painting, but to see how men of English race fared wherever they had settled, said that 'travellers soon learn, when making estimates of a country's value, to despise no feature of the landscape.' If Sir Charles Dilke wrote that rather from the political than the artistic point of view, it is not the less accurate in any case, for the landscape, however uninteresting it may seem, or even ugly, is never without its great influence on human happiness and destiny. The interest in human affairs which Sir Charles Dilke has in common with most men of any conspicuous ability, does not prevent him from seeing landscape-nature as well as if his travels had no other object. His description of the Great Plains of Colorado is an excellent example of that valuable kind of description which is not merely an artful arrangement of sonorous words, but perfectly conveys the character of the landscape, and makes you feel as if you had been there.

"Now great roaring uplands of enormous sweep, now boundless grassy plains; there is all the grandeur of monotony and yet continual change. Sometimes the distances are broken by blue buttes, or rugged bluffs. Over all there is a sparkling atmosphere and never-failing breeze; the air is bracing even when most hot, the sky is cloudless, and no rain falls. A solitude which no words can paint, the boundless prairie swell conveys an idea of vastness which is the overpowering feature of the Plains.... The impression is not merely one of size. There is perfect beauty, wondrous fertility, in the lonely steppe; no patriotism, no love of home, can prevent the traveller wishing here to end his days.

"To those who love the sea, there is here a double charm. Not only is the roll of the prairie as grand as that of the Atlantic, but the crispness of the wind, the absence of trees, the multitude of tiny blooms upon the sod, all conspire to give a feeling of nearness to the ocean, the effect of which is that we are always expecting to hail it from the top of the next hillock....

"The colour of the landscape is, in summer, green and flowers; in fall-time, yellow and flowers, but flowers ever." [Footnote: Greater Britain, p. 80 (popular edition).]

If the reader will take the trouble to analyze this description, he will perceive that, although powerful, it is extremely simple and sober. The traveller does not call in the aid of poetical comparisons (the only comparison indulged in is the obvious one of the Atlantic), and the effect of the description on the mind is due to the extreme care with which the writer has put together in a short space the special and peculiar characteristics of the scenery, not forgetting to tell us everything that we of ourselves would naturally fail to imagine. He corrects, one after another, all our erroneous notions, and substitutes a true idea for our false ones. The describer has been thoroughly alive; he has travelled with his eyes open; so that every epithet tells. The reader feels under a real obligation; he has not been put off with mere phrases, but is enriched with a novel and interesting landscape experience.

In a good prose description, such as these by Kingsley and Sir Charles Dilke, the author has nothing to do but to convey, as nearly as he can, a true impression of what he has actually seen. The greatest difficulties that he has to contend against are the ignorance and the previous misconceptions of his readers. He must give information without appearing didactic, and correct what he foresees as probable false conceptions, without ostentatiously pretending to know better. His language must be as concise as possible, or else important sentences will be skipped; and yet at the same time it must flow easily enough to be pleasantly readable. It is not easy to fulfil these conditions all at once, and therefore we meet with many books of travel in which attempted descriptions frequently occur, which fail, nevertheless, to convey a clear idea of the country. A weak writer wastes precious space in sentimental phrases or in vain adjectives that would be equally applicable to many other places, and forgets to note what is peculiarly and especially characteristic of the one place that he is attempting to describe.




While engaged in the writing of Greater Britain, Charles Dilke entered upon the main business of his life by coming forward as a candidate for the House of Commons. Immediate action was necessary; for the position of parties indicated the near approach of a General Election.

The constituency to which he addressed his candidature in the autumn of 1867 was the borough of Chelsea, a new Parliamentary division created by the Reform Act of that year. It was of vast extent, embracing Chelsea, Fulham, Hammersmith, Kensal Town, and Kensington. In Chelsea Charles Dilke had his home, and, as representing the Parliamentary borough, he would speak "backed by the vote and voice of 30,000 electors." "I would willingly wait any time," he said in his opening address on November 25th, in the Vestry Hall at Chelsea, "rather than enter the House of Commons a member for some small trumpery constituency." The electors should hear his opinions, "not upon any one subject or upon any two subjects or any three, but as nearly as might be upon all."

His speech began with the electoral machinery of democracy—questions of franchise and redistribution.

Purity of election he laid down as a necessary condition of reform, and to that end two points must be assured: the removal of election petitions from the House of Commons to a legal tribunal, [Footnote: A Bill with that object was at the time passing through Parliament.] and, secondly, the security of the ballot. Upon the first matter he came perhaps to doubt the new system after he had seen it tried; upon the second he was able to tell his audience from first-hand knowledge that in Australia opposition to the ballot was unknown, and that in Virginia a conquered minority looked to it as their best defence against oppression.

From the machinery of Government he passed to its application. Ireland was then the burning question, and Dilke's attitude upon Ireland may be indicated in a sentence. After the Church should have been disestablished, the land system reformed, [Footnote: His views on the Irish Land Question had been stated in Greater Britain (popular edition), p. 209: "Customs and principles of law, the natural growth of the Irish mind and the Irish soil, can be recognized and made the basis of legislation without bringing about the disruption of the Empire. The first Irish question that we shall have to set ourselves to face is that of land. Permanent tenure is as natural to the Irish as free-holding to the English people. All that is needed of our statesmen is that they recognize in legislation that which they cannot but admit in private talk—namely, that there may be essential differences between race and race."] and a wide measure of Parliamentary reform given to Ireland; after they should have passed Fawcett's Bill "for throwing open Trinity College, Dublin, and destroying the last trace of that sectarian spirit which has hitherto been allowed to rule in Ireland" —they might hope "not perhaps for instant quiet in the country, but at least for the gradual growth of a feeling that we have done our duty, and that we may well call upon the Irish to do theirs."

There went with that a moderate censure upon the lawlessness of Fenianism. But the Irish question did not occupy so much space in his discourse as in those of most speakers at that moment, and this for a reason which he gave later in his life: 'About Ireland I was never given to saying much, because, except for a short time in 1885, when moderate Home Rule could have been carried, I never thoroughly saw my own way.' But as early as 1869 he deplored the lack of local deliberative bodies which elsewhere did much of the State's work, and in 1871 he advocated their creation as a means of relieving Parliament. This, rather than any special sympathy with Nationalism as such, was always the governing consideration with him on the Irish question. 'I showed in this way,' he notes, 'a working of the opinion which in 1874 caused me to vote, alone of English members unpledged by their constituents, in support of Mr. Butt when he brought forward his Home Rule Bill.' [Footnote: Eight in all voted; all except Dilke represented Northern constituencies, with a large Irish vote among miners or operatives.]

He foreshadowed also his attitude towards Labour questions. He proposed, as early as 1867, that the Factory Acts should be extended to all employment; the best way of compelling children to attend school was, he thought, to prohibit their employment as premature wage-earners. Another declaration set forth that Trade Unions must be recognized, and their funds protected just as much as those "of any association formed for purposes not illegal." By no means were all Liberals in 1867 ready to distinguish between Trade Unions and criminal conspiracies.

Taxation came next. His desire to "sweep away many millions of Customs and Excise," and to establish a system so far as possible of direct taxation, is notable because it was put forward at the very moment when he was explaining in Greater Britain to the precisians of Free Trade that young countries, like America and the Colonies, had reasonable grounds for maintaining a rigid Protective system.

Questions put at this first meeting with the electors elicited a declaration for triennial Parliaments; if these failed, then for annual; for payment of members, with preference for the plan of payment by the constituency, advocated by "Mr. Mill, the great leader of political thinkers." As to manhood suffrage, the candidate held "that the burden of proof lies on those who would exclude any man from the suffrage; but I also hold that there is sufficient proof for the temporary exclusion of certain classes at the present time."

This, with some other points in the exposition of his political creed, needs to be read in the light of a passage in the Memoir:

'I tried to be moderate in order to please my father, and not to lose the general Liberal vote; my speeches are more timid than were my opinions.'

Yet for all his efforts after moderation he was too extreme for his father, who probably was shocked to hear that the Game Laws "needed an amendment, which should extend perhaps to their total abolition." Sir Wentworth Dilke remonstrated. His son replied in December, 1867:

"I am a Radical, I know; still I have for your sake done everything I can to speak moderately. I have spoken against Fenianism in spite of my immense sympathy for it. For my own part, though I should immensely like to be in Parliament, still I should feel terribly hampered there if I went in as anything except a Radical.... Radicalism is too much a thing of nature with me to throw it off by any effort of mine. If you think it a waste of money for me to contest Chelsea, I will cheerfully throw the thing up and turn to any pursuit you please."

Many other matters which were to occupy Charles Dilke later are mentioned in this first and detailed exposition of his political faith. He dealt with army reform: would abolish "purchase of commissions and flogging"; he condemned "an army in which we systematically deny a man those advantages that in entering an employment he naturally looked to receive," and the double responsibility of the Horse Guards and the War Office as "a system which is in its very essence costly and inefficient." On Foreign Affairs he said: "I am very wishful indeed for peace, but a peace more dignified than that which has of late prevailed." [Footnote: Speech in Chelsea, November 25th, 1867.]

He spoke at Chelsea, Kensington, Hammersmith, Fulham, Brompton, Notting Hill, and Walham Green, earning from the electors the name of Mr. Indefatigable Dilke. The borough deserved that a man who sought to represent it should state his case thoroughly, and there was an uncommon degree of truth in a not uncommon compliment when he called it "the most intelligent constituency in England." South Kensington was the home of many judges and other important lawyers, many great merchants and men of business; Brompton was still a literary quarter; Holland Park and Notting Hill the home of the artists who figured largely on Dilke's committee—the names of Leighton, Maclise, Faed, and other Academicians are among the list. The honorary committee was made up almost entirely of resident Members of Parliament.

In Kensal Town was a very strong artisan element, and at one time a working-man candidate was before the electors, George Odger, who was 'the best representative of the Trade Unions, and a man of whom the highest opinion was entertained by Mr. Mill.' He not only withdrew, but became also an active supporter.

Of the Tory candidates, perhaps the more important was Mr. Freake, a big contractor who had built Cromwell Road, in which he lived, and who was not on the best of terms with his workmen. Some of this unpopularity reflected itself on the allied candidature of Dr. W. H. Russell, whose expenses Mr. Freake was said to be paying. But the contest led to a lasting friendship between Charles Dilke and the famous war correspondent. The other Liberal candidate was Sir Henry Hoare, a Radical baronet, twenty years older than Dilke, who had for a short time sat as member for Windsor. So long as he represented Chelsea he voted with the extreme Radicals, and his name may be found in many division lists in the minority along with that of his colleague. But later in life he changed his politics, joined the Carlton Club, and was a member of it for many years. Charles Dilke always spoke of him in terms of cordial friendship even after their political association had long been ended.

Their candidature was not a joint one, as Dilke put himself forward independently; but when the election actually came the Liberal candidates joined forces, and two picture-cards represent the contest as between rival teams of cocks. In one the Odger cock is seen retreating; Freake is on his back, gasping; Russell and Hoare still contend, while under the banner "Dilke and Hoare for ever," Dilke crows victorious. In the second card Odger has no place, and Russell is as dead as Freake.

This graphic forecast was justified by the result. Polling took place on Wednesday, November 18th, 1868, and, according to a local paper, "the proceedings were of a most orderly character; indeed, the absence of vehicles, favours, etc., made the election dull." The voting was open. The results were published from hour to hour at the booths, and the unpopular candidates were in one or two places driven away by hisses. Even in Cromwell Road Dilke and Hoare led, and Dilke's advantage in his own district of Chelsea proper was conspicuous. The final figures were:

Dilke........ 7,374 Hoare........ 7,183 Russell...... 4,177 Freake....... 3,929

The triumph was all the more gratifying because it had been achieved by a volunteer canvass. No member has ever been bound to a constituency by closer ties of personal feeling than those which linked Charles Dilke, first to Chelsea and later to the Forest of Dean. He worked for his constituents, and taught them to work for him.

At this same General Election Sir Wentworth Dilke lost his seat, and Lord Granville sent him a note "to condole with you and to congratulate you. I suspect that the cause of the latter gives you more pleasure than the cause of the former gives you regret. How very well your son seems to have done!"

After the election Charles Dilke sought a rest by one of his flying trips abroad. He stopped a day in Paris to examine the details of the French registration system. Thence he proceeded to Toulon, 'to which I took a fancy, which ultimately led, many years after, to my buying a property there'; the scenery of Provence captured him from the first moment.

Parliament was summoned to meet on December 10th for the election of a Speaker, and for the swearing-in of members. By the beginning of December the member for Chelsea was on the eve of return, rejoicing in the news of Mr. Gladstone's defeat in South-West Lancashire and election for Greenwich. "He is much more likely to become a democratic leader now that he sits for a big town."

A note preserved in one of the boxes gives Charles Dilke's first impressions of the party and Government to which he had vowed a somewhat qualified allegiance.

"December 10th, 1868.—House met for election of Speaker. The Liberal party is more even in opinion than ever before. No Adullamites, no Radicals but myself. The Cabinet is somewhat behind the party, which is bad. Too many peers."

The House of Commons of 1868 was superficially very much like any of its predecessors. Dilke notes that it 'contained some survivals of the old days, such as Mr. Edward Ellice, son of "Bear" Ellice [Footnote: This was Mr. Edward Ellice, who had been in the House since 1836, and who continued to represent St. Andrews till 1879. He was sometimes called "the young Bear." See Life of Lord Granville, i. 80, 81, 141, 171, 175, as to the "old Bear."] of the days of Lord Melbourne,' a consistent and typical Liberal. The Liberal party consisted then mainly of men born into that governing class which Lord Melbourne had in mind when he said "that every English gentleman is qualified to hold any post which he has influence enough to secure." This element was accompanied by a fair sprinkling of manufacturers and other business men, for the most part Nonconformists. But no separate Irish party existed to complicate the grouping; indeed, the Irish were much less a corps apart than they had been in O'Connell's time. Labour had not one direct representative, though the importance of the artisan vote had made itself felt; and this was recognized by the choice of Mundella, then returned as a new member for Sheffield, to second the address at the opening of the session.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14     Next Part
Home - Random Browse