In the autumn of 1872, Sir Charles 'started a small Electoral Reform Committee.' Its purpose was to assist, first, the Bill of Mr. Trevelyan making the qualification for a vote in counties the same as in boroughs, and, secondly, his own resolution which demanded that seats should be redistributed in proportion to the number of electors. The outcome was an arrangement under which Mr. Trevelyan substituted for his Bill a resolution dealing with both matters; and this resolution, moved by him and seconded by Sir Charles, afforded annually a gauge of the progress made, as indicated by the division list.
'Chamberlain co-operated with me, but was more keen about his own education subjects.'
At this time the attitude of Sir Charles and his associates towards the Liberal party was one of detachment bordering on hostility. Chamberlain, writing from Birmingham on March 2nd, 1873, noted that the Irish University Bill was "going badly in the country, and the Noncons. and Leaguers in the House ought to have the game in their hands." He wished "they would have the pluck to tell Mr. Gladstone that they will do nothing to bolster up a Ministry which will not give satisfactory assurances upon English education;" and he wanted Mr. George Dixon to go on with his resolution in favour of universal free schools and carry it to a division.
"If members do not vote with him, and there is a general election soon, they will have a nice little crow to pick with their constituents; whereas if there is no division on this issue, all our labour during the recess is lost, and our friends are disheartened.... Viewed ab extra, there is no doubt the boldest policy is the best. It is probable from what I have seen that the weakest course is best suited to the atmosphere of what some people are pleased to call a 'reformed House of Commons.'"
In the following week the Irish University Bill which was "going badly in the country" received a new and unexpected stab: Cardinal Cullen denounced it in a pastoral on March 9th. The debate on the second reading terminated during the small hours of March 12th. Government was defeated by three on a division of 284-287. On the 13th Mr. Gladstone's Ministry tendered their resignations, and the Queen sent for Mr. Disraeli, who declined either to accept office or to recommend a dissolution. By March 20th it was formally announced that the Government would go on, but it went on with power and prestige greatly diminished.
On July 6th Chamberlain wrote to Dilke advocating an "irreconcilable policy," and asking for news of any "fanatics willing to join the Forlorn Hope and help in smashing up that whited sepulchre called the Liberal party." This letter concluded with an attack on Mr. Bright, who had just joined the reconstructed Ministry, but whose influence Mr. Chamberlain thought was "quite too small to save the Government." [Footnote: One cause of the Government's unpopularity was the attempt of Mr. Ayrton (First Commissioner of Public Works) to limit the right of public meeting in Hyde Park, to which there is this allusion: 'In July I was greatly occupied in the House of Commons in fighting against Ayrton's Parks Bill. It was at dinner at my house one night that, in his dry, quiet way, old Kinglake chirped out, "For so insignificant a personage Mr. Ayrton is quite the most pompous individual that I know." Mr. Ayrton's unpopularity was a powerful cause of Mr. Gladstone's downfall in 1874.'] Sir William Harcourt, though hardly less discontented, was openly more conformable, and towards the close of 1873 took office as Solicitor- General. He wrote:
"I do not know if I have done a very wise or a very foolish thing. Probably the latter. But it is done, and my friends must help me to make the best of it. It was a great inducement to me the having Henry James [Footnote: Sir Henry James became Attorney-General in September, 1873.] as a colleague.... I feel like an old bachelor going to leave his lodgings and marry a woman he is not in love with, in grave doubt whether he and she will suit. However, fortunately, she is going to die soon, and we shall soon again be in opposition below the gangway. The Duke of Argyll says that now I am in harness I must be driven in blinkers; but, then, dukes are insolent by nature. Whatever comes, I shall never leave the House of Commons. I do not see why I am not to be a politician because I am a law officer. Law officers used to be politicians some years ago."
The Civil List question was raised again in Parliament in this year, when the Crown Private Estates Bill was introduced; and an amendment moved by Mr. George Anderson, member for Glasgow, complaining of the secrecy which attached to Royal wills, was supported, not only by Sir Charles, but by "the leader of the old Whigs in the House of Commons," Mr. E. P. Bouverie, a Privy Councillor, who to his horror found himself named to tell against the Bill, and thus identified with the "republican" opposition. 'Speaker Brand no doubt owed him some grudge.' [Footnote: The Right Hon. E. P. Bouverie had been a very successful Chairman of Committees of the whole House, and was indicated by public option as a probable Speaker. He was recognized as a leading authority on the Law of Parliament.] Dilke's own speech had demanded the annual publication of the receipts and disbursements of the Crown Private Estates, and though he waited long to carry his point, he saw this amongst other proposals adopted on the recommendation of the Civil List Committee of 1910, on which he served.
Proof was not wanting that his determined attitude on these matters had won him the support of great masses of the democracy. Miners' Unions and Labourers' Unions wrote, begging, some for his portrait, others for an address; also, in places where opposition had been offered to his speaking, reprisals were exacted.
'Early in January, 1873, we went to Derby, at the request of the chairman of my meeting at Derby which had failed in the winter of '71-72, when, though a majority were upon our side, a gang of hired poachers had entrenched themselves in a corner of the room, had burned cayenne pepper, and defied all attempts to drive them out. The chairman was a man of determination who did not mean to be beaten. He organized his meeting on this occasion with almost too much care, for I fancy he brought fighting friends from Nottingham and other bruising places to it. The Tory roughs appeared, as on the former occasion. Before we were allowed to enter the room they were charged by means of battering rams with such effect that their entrenchments were destroyed, and they themselves were mostly stunned and carried out one by one. No one was dangerously hurt, but there were many broken heads. Lady Dilke was present in the thick of it, and, according to the newspaper reports, anxiously begged the stewards to deal gently with those whom they threw out. After this the meeting was held in peace. But the result was a formal Government inquiry, and the removal of the chairman of the meeting from the County Bench by the Lord Chancellor. He turned clergyman, to the benefit of Notes and Queries and of the societies for antiquarian research, for, being a man of active mind, and finding the care of small parishes of ritualistic tendencies insufficient to occupy his whole time, he became the author of the famous book, Churches of Derbyshire, and of much other antiquarian work.'
Sir Charles notes that this address at Derby was in fact his first pronouncement on "Free Land." In the following week, at Chelsea, he spoke upon Free Trade, and in both these speeches used the phrase, "Free land, free church, free schools, free trade, free law," laying down, early in 1873, 'the principles on which Chamberlain and John Morley afterwards went in the construction of the pamphlet known as The Radical Programme.'
Sir G. Trevelyan writes:
"In the first months of 1872 he was supposed to have injured himself greatly by his proceedings with regard to the Civil List; and yet, _to my knowledge, within a very few years Mr. Disraeli stated it as his opinion that Sir Charles Dilke was the most useful and influential member, among quite young men, that he had ever known."
In pursuit of his plan of "keeping quiet" till the impending dissolution, he took no prominent action in these months; but he backed independent Liberalism whenever he saw a chance, as, for instance, by subscribing to forward the candidature of Mr. Burt, who had then been selected by the Morpeth miners to represent them. There was, however, a further reason for this quiescence. Lady Dilke at the close of the season was seriously ill, and it was late in autumn before she could be taken abroad to Monaco. Here, under the associations of the place, Dilke wrote his very successful political fantasy, Prince Florestan.
Another event which clouded 1873 was Mill's death—'a great loss to us. Ours was the last house at which he dined, and we, with the Hills' (the editor of the Daily News and his wife), 'were the last friends who dined with him. The Watts portrait for which he had consented to sit was finished for me just when he died.'
'I loved him greatly,' Sir Charles writes. The relation between the two had been that of master and disciple, and Mill may be said to have carried on and completed the work of old Mr. Dilke.
RE-ELECTION TO PARLIAMENT—DEATH OF LADY DILKE
Having remained abroad until after Christmas, 1873, the Dilkes stayed at Brighton for the sake of Lady Dilke's health, Sir Charles coming to town as occasion needed.
His address to his constituents in 1874 assumed a special character in view of the approaching dissolution. He reviewed the whole work done by the 'Householder Parliament,' and more particularly the part taken in it by the members for Chelsea. It was an independent speech, making it quite clear that from the introduction of the Education Bill in 1870 the speaker had "ceased to be a steady supporter of the Government," and showing that "during the past three years the present Government had been declining in public esteem." Sir Charles recalled the various matters on which he had criticized their action, laying emphasis on two points. One was the Act of 1871 for amending the Criminal Law in regard to combinations of workmen, which had been passed in response to a long and vehement demand that the position of Trade Unions should be regularized. The amending Act had really left the Unions worse off than before: "the weapon of the men is picketing, and the weapon of the master is the black list. The picketing is practically prohibited by this Bill, and the black list is left untouched." [Footnote: See "Labour," Chapter LII. (Volume II., pp. 342- 367).]
The other matter of interest was the Irish Peace Preservation Bill of 1873, a Bill which, as he said, would have raised great outcry if applied to an English district; yet, 'because it applied only to Ireland, and the Irish were unpopular and were supposed to be an unaccountable people different from all others,' it had passed with small opposition. He could not understand 'how those who shuddered at arbitrary arrests in Poland, and who ridiculed the gagging of the Press in France, could permit the passing of a law for Ireland which gave absolute powers of arrest and of suppression of newspapers to the Lord-Lieutenant.'
Ireland has frequently afforded a test of the thoroughness of Liberal principles, and Sir Charles was distinguished from most of his countrymen by a refusal to impose geographical limitations on his notions of logic or of conduct. He was the least insular of Englishmen.
In this speech of January, 1874, printed for circulation to the electors, he went very fully into the matter of the Civil List controversy, but did not touch his avowal of republican principles, because that declaration had been made outside Parliament, and he had never spoken of it in Parliament. He dealt with the matter, however, in a letter written to one of his supporters for general publication:
"You ask me whether you are not justified in saying that I have always declined to take part in a republican agitation. That is so. I have repeatedly declined to do so; I have declined to attend republican meetings and I have abstained from subscribing to republican funds. I also refused to join the Republican Club formed at Cambridge University, though I am far from wishing to cast a slur on those Liberal politicians—Professor Fawcett and others—who did join it. The view I took was that I had no right to make use of my position as a member of the House of Commons, gained largely by the votes of those who are not even theoretical republicans, to push on an English republican movement. On the other hand, when denounced in a Conservative paper as a 'republican,' as though that were a term of abuse, I felt bound as an honest man to say I was one. But I am not a 'republican member' or a 'republican candidate,' any more than Mr. Gordon" (his opponent) "is a monarchical candidate, because there is neither Republican party nor Monarchical party in the English Parliament. I said at Glasgow two years ago: 'The majority of the people of Great Britain believe that the reforms they desire are compatible with the monarchic form of government,' and this I believe now as then."
'At the time when the letter was written,' notes the Memoir, 'an immediate dissolution of Parliament was not expected, but it was only just in time (being dated January 20th) to be of the most use, for the sudden dissolution occurred four days after its publication. The word "sudden" hardly perhaps, at this distance of time, conveys an impression of the extraordinary nature of the event.'
The Cabinet's decision to dissolve, arising out of difficulties on the Budget, was announced on January 24th. By February 16th the elections were over, and Mr. Gladstone's Government had resigned, the Tories having come back with a solid majority. It was an overthrow for the Liberal party, but Sir Charles survived triumphantly, though ten seats in London were lost to Mr. Gladstone's following. Mr. Ayrton, the First Commissioner of Works, against whom Sir Charles and his fellow-Radicals had fought fiercely, was ejected from the Tower Hamlets, and never returned to public life. Another victim was Sir Charles's former colleague.
'To the astonishment of many people, I was returned at the head of the poll, the Conservative standing next, and then Sir Henry Hoare, while the independent Moderate Liberal who had stood against me and obtained the temperance vote, obtained nothing else, and was, at a great distance from us, at the bottom of the poll.'
When all the political journalists in England were reviewing, after his death in 1911, the remarkable career that they had watched, some for half a lifetime, one of the veterans among them wrote: [Footnote: The Newcastle Daily Chronicle.]
"We do not think that Sir Charles Dilke owed a great deal to the Liberal party, but we certainly think that the Liberal party owed a very great deal to Sir Charles Dilke. In the dark days of 1874, when the party was deeper in the slough of despond than it has ever been before or since in our time, it was from the initiative and courage of Sir Charles Dilke that salvation came. His work in organizing the Liberal forces, especially in the Metropolis, has never received due acknowledgment.'
The centre of his influence was among those who knew him best—his own constituents. 'I had indeed invented a caucus in Chelsea before the first Birmingham Election Association was started,' he says of his own electoral machinery. [Footnote: See Chapter XVII., p. 268.] The Eleusis Club was known all over England as a propagandist centre. Here he had no occasion to explain his speeches at Newcastle or elsewhere. "We were all republicans down Chelsea way when young Charlie Dilke came among us first," said an old supporter. Yet the propaganda emanating from the Eleusis Club was not republican.
Here and all over the constituency he made innumerable and unreported speeches to instruct industrial opinion. He laid under contribution his whole store of extraordinary knowledge, suggesting and answering questions till no Parliamentary representative in the country was followed by his supporters with an attention so informed and discriminating.
"Nothing of the sort had been known since David Urquhart, in the first half of the Victorian age, opened his lecture-halls and classrooms throughout the world for counter-working Palmerston, and for teaching artisans the true inwardness of the Eastern Question." [Footnote: Mr. T. H. S. Escott, the New Age, February 9th, 1911.]
Sir Charles himself gives in the Memoir some sketch of the feelings with which Liberals confronted that rout of Liberalism, and of the steps taken to repair the disaster.
'Harcourt wrote (upon paper which bore the words "Solicitor-General" with a large "No longer" in his handwriting at the top):
'"Rari nantes in gurgite vasto. Here we are again.... To tell you the truth, I am not sorry. It had to come, and it is as well over. We shall get rid of these canting duffers of the party and begin afresh. We must all meet again below the gangway. We shall have a nice little party, though diminished. I am very sorry about Fawcett, but we shall soon get him back again."
'My first work was to bring back Fawcett, and by negotiations with Homer, the Hackney publican (Secretary of the Licensed Victuallers' Protection Association), into which I entered because Fawcett's defeat had been partly owing to the determined opposition of Sir Wilfrid Lawson's friends, who could not forgive his attacks on the direct veto, I succeeded in securing him an invitation to contest Hackney, where there was an early vacancy. Fitzmaurice and I became respectively Chairman and Treasurer of a fund, and we raised more money than was needed for paying the whole of Fawcett's expenses, and were able to bank a fund in the name of trustees, of whom I was one, for his next election.
'Fitzmaurice, in accepting my invitation to co-operate with me in this matter, said that he had succeeded in discovering a place to which posts took two days, "wherein I can moralize at leisure on the folly of the leaders of the Liberal party."
'When Fawcett returned to the House, he would not let himself be introduced by the party Whips; but was introduced by me, in conjunction, however, with Playfair, who, besides being one of his most intimate political friends, had been for a short time before the dissolution a member of the Government. On this occasion Fitzmaurice wrote: "Gladstone, I imagine, is the person least pleased at the return of Fawcett, and I should think has been dreaming ever since that Bouverie's turn will come next." Cowen said in the Newcastle Chronicle, Fawcett "contributed as much as any man in the late House of Commons to damage the late Government. During the last session he voted in favour of the proposals made by Mr. Gladstone's Government about 160 times, and he voted against them about 180 times. It always struck me that Professor Fawcett's boasted independence partook greatly of crotchety awkwardness." Fawcett's personal popularity was, however, great, not only with the public, but with men who did not share his views and saw much of him in private life, such as the ordinary Cambridge Dons among whom he lived, and whose prejudices upon many points he was continually attacking. Nevertheless he was a popular guest.'
Elsewhere, relating how Fawcett disturbed the peace of Mr. Glyn, the ministerial Chief Whip from 1868 onwards. Sir Charles explained that—
'when he had some mischief brewing late at night, he used to get one of the Junior Whips to give him an arm through the lobby, and as he passed the Senior Whip at the door leading to the members' entrance would say "Good-night, Glyn," as though he were going home to bed.'
Mr. Glyn thought "the blind man" had gone to bed, but in reality he had simply passed down to the terrace, and would sit there smoking till the other conspirators saw the moment to go down and fetch him. 'I fear it was by this stratagem that he had helped me to defeat Ayrton's Bill for throwing a piece of the Park into the Kensington Road opposite the Albert Hall.'
It is possible that Dilke was a name of even greater horror to the orthodox Whiggish opinion of this date than to the regular adherents of Toryism. The general attitude at this moment towards "the Republican"— "Citizen Dilke"—is illustrated by an anecdote in the Reminiscences of Charles Gavard, who was for many years First Secretary at the French Embassy. He says that when Sir Charles Dilke stood for Chelsea in 1874, he attended several of his meetings—
"partly, I must admit, in the spirit of the Englishman who never missed a performance of van Amburg, the lion-tamer, hoping some day to see him devoured by his lions. On one occasion, at Chelsea Town Hall, I had the honour of leading Lady Dilke on to the platform, and was greeted, with such a round of applause as I am not likely to enjoy again in my life. But, to my horror, I heard the reporters inquiring as to my identity. Fortunately, Sir Charles perceived the peril I was in, and gave them some misleading information. Otherwise, my name might have appeared in the Press, and my diplomatic career have been abruptly ended for figuring in public among the supporters of so hostile an opponent of the form of government prevailing, in the country to which I was accredited."
Sir Charles's personal triumph at the polls amid the general rout of his party inevitably enhanced his position in the House. And upon it there followed a wholly different success which established his prestige precisely on the point where it was the fashion to assail it. He had been decried as 'dreary'; yet London suddenly found itself applauding him as a wit.
The Fall of Prince Florestan of Monaco was published anonymously in March, 1874. To-day the little book is perhaps almost forgotten, although one can still be amused by the story of the Cambridge undergraduate, trained in the fullest faith of free-thinking Radicalism, who finds himself suddenly promoted to the principality of Monaco, and who arrives in his microscopic kingdom only to realize that his monarchical state rests on the support of two pillars—a Jesuit who controls the Church and education, and M. Blanc, who manages the gaming tables. The consequence of Prince Florestan's attempt to put in practice democratic principles where nobody wanted them was wittily and ingeniously thought out, and the tone of subdued irony admirably kept up. The work was characteristically thorough. The 126 functionaries, the 60 soldiers and carbineers, the 150 unpaid diplomatic representatives of Monaco abroad, the Vicar-General, the Treasurer-General, the Honorary Almoner, and all the other "appliances and excrescences of civilized government," which went to make up that "perfection of bureaucracy and red tape in a territory one mile broad and five miles long," were all statistically accurate. Throughout the whole a reference to other monarchies and other swarms of functionaries was delicately implied.
The quality of the book is rather that of talk than of writing. It has the dash, the quick turn, and the vivacity of a good improvisation at the dinner-table; and a quotation will illustrate not so much Sir Charles's literary gift as the manner of his talk:
"On the 5th of February I reached Nice by the express, and, after reading the telegram which announced the return of Mr. Gladstone by a discerning people as junior colleague to a gin distiller, was presented with an address by the Gambettist mayor at the desire of the legitimist prefet. The mayor, being a red-hot republican in politics, but a carriage-builder by trade, lectured me on the drawbacks of despotism in his address, but informed me in conversation afterwards that he had had the honour of building a Victoria for Prince Charles Honore—which was next door to giving me his business card. The address, however, also assumed that the Princes of Monaco were suffered only by Providence to exist in order that the trade of Nice, the nearest large French town, might thrive.
"In the evening at four we reached the station at Monaco, which was decked with the white flags of my ancestors. What a pity, was my thought, that M. de Chambord should not be aware that if he would come to stay with me at the castle he would live under the white flag to which he is so much attached all the days of his life. My reception was enthusiastic. The guards, in blue uniforms not unlike the Bavarian, but with tall shakos instead of helmets, and similar to that which during the stoppage of the train at Nice I had rapidly put on, were drawn up in line to the number of thirty-nine—one being in hospital with a wart on his thumb, as M. de Payan told me. What an admirable centralization that such a detail should be known to every member of the administration! Two drummers rolled their drums French fashion. In front of the line were four officers, of whom—one fat; Baron Imberty; the Vicar-General; and Pere Pellico of the Jesuits of the Visitation, brother, as I already knew, to the celebrated Italian patriot, Silvio Pellico, of dungeon and spider fame.
"'Where is M. Blanc?' I cried to M. de Payan, as we stopped, seeing no one not in uniform or robes. "'M. Blanc,' said M. de Payan severely, 'though a useful subject to Your Highness, is neither a member of the household of Your Highness, a soldier of His army, nor a functionary of His Government. M. Blanc is in the crowd outside'" [Footnote: Prince Florestan, p. 23.]
Sir Charles sent the manuscript anonymously to Macmillans, with a statement that the work would certainly be a success, and that the author would announce himself on the appearance of the second edition. But the Macmillans, who had published Greater Britain, noted that the proposed little book contained several contumelious references to the "lugubrious speeches" of Sir Charles Dilke and his brother, and refused to have anything to do with it. To pacify them, Sir Charles, from behind his mask, had to excise some of the disagreeable things which he had said about himself. Enough was left to convince one egregious London daily paper not only that Matthew Arnold was the author, but that the special object of his new satire was Sir Charles Dilke, "a clever young man who fancies that his prejudices are ideas, and who, if he had the misfortune to be made King, would stir up a revolution in a week."
This was the very thing that Sir Charles wanted. Fundamentally the book was chaff—chaff of other people for their estimate of him. Finding himself perpetually under the necessity of explaining that his theoretic preference for Republicanism would not constrain him to upset a monarchy which happened to suit the nation where it existed, he wrote Prince Florestan, as though to say: 'This is what you take me for'; and even while it satirized the absurdity of Florestan's court and constitution, the book showed that it would be still more absurd to upset even the most ridiculous Government so long as it suited the people governed.
The ascription to Matthew Arnold was frequent. The book came out on March 16th, and within forty-eight hours had been reviewed in five leading papers, and, in all the guessing, no one in print guessed right.
The disclosure was made by Lady Dilke, who, entering a friend's drawing- room, caused herself to be announced as "Princess Florestan." Newspapers proclaimed the authorship; a popular edition of the book appeared, with malicious extracts from the various reviews that had been written when the authorship was unknown; and the result was to make Sir Charles, already universally known, now universally the fashion.
Though he had faced social ostracism with a courage all the greater in one who enjoyed society, he was unaffectedly glad to take his place again. One shrewd critic wrote that "Florestan's" success "had led some people to discover that they always liked Sir Charles Dilke."
"Society" (the writer went on) "still bears Sir Charles a grudge, and would have voted anything known to be his to be dull—like his speeches, as he good-naturedly said of himself. Amused, without knowing who amused them, the few fine people who supply views to the many fine people in need of them prove not ungrateful."
The return of a Conservative Government was accompanied by a period of comparative inaction on the part of Sir Charles and his friends; and the activities of the whole Liberal party were in a measure paralyzed by the withdrawal of Mr. Gladstone, not merely from leadership, but almost from the Parliamentary arena. Mr. Chamberlain, who had stood for Parliament and been defeated at Sheffield, wrote that he was engaged in purchasing the Birmingham Gasworks for the Corporation, and did not want to stand again till he had finished his mayoralty.'
"It may be well to let the crude attempts at democratic organizations, Radical unions, etc., etc., be disposed of before we talk over our propositions. I do not think the League will do. We must be a new organization, although our experience and acquired information may be useful."
'This was the death-warrant of the Education League, and the birth- certificate of the National Liberal Federation, always privately called by Chamberlain after the name given to it by his enemies, The Caucus.'
Sir Charles himself was mainly occupied in Parliament with pioneer work for the extension of the franchise; and by a series of small steps towards electoral reform he obtained ultimately, as a private member in opposition, very considerable results. It was not merely with the right to vote, but with the opportunity that he concerned himself, and his Bill to extend the polling hours till 8 p.m., introduced in the session of 1874, although it was opposed by the Government and rejected on a division, nevertheless became law in a few years, as a measure applying to London first, and then to the whole of the United Kingdom.
In the same session he served on a Committee to inquire into the adulteration of food, and obtained through a careful watching of the evidence "a considerable knowledge of the processes of manufacture, which was afterwards useful when I came to be charged with the negotiation of commercial treaties."
'I continued to interest myself in the question of local government, until I had shaped my views into the form of proposals which I was able to place in a Bill when afterwards at the Local Government Board, and to make public in a speech at Halifax in 1885.'
He adds: 'In 1874 I voted for Home Rule.' This was always for him a form of local government in its highest sense.
He was strong enough to take up a position of detachment, and from that vantage-ground he made at Hammersmith, on September 8th, 1874, an interesting speech, in which he gave free rein to the ironical mood of Prince Florestan. The Tories, he said, came into office with at all events a strong list of names: Mr. Disraeli, Lord Cairns and Mr. Gathorne Hardy could not easily be matched.
"On the other hand, our chiefs were nowhere. Mr. Gladstone was in the sulks, and Mr. Forster had been returned by Tory votes at Bradford, than which nothing is more weakening to a Liberal politician. Mr. Cardwell and Mr. Chichester Fortescue had gone to the Whig heaven; and Sir William Harcourt, whose great abilities were beginning to be recognized, was draping himself in the mantle of Lord Palmerston, and looked rather to a distant than to an immediate future.
"As though to strengthen the Conservative position, we were at the same time on our side called upon to surrender our parliamentary liberties as independent members to a triumvirate, composed of Mr. Goschen, Lord Hartington, and Mr. Forster—the title of the first being founded upon the fact that he was the intimate friend of Mr. Gladstone, whom the country had just condemned; that of the second, that he was a serious Marquis, the son of a highly respectable Duke; and that of the third, that he had the confidence of gentlemen who sat upon the other side of the House. Believing, as we did, that Mr. Disraeli never made mistakes, it was not easy to foresee the end of his administration.
"When people talked about the extinction of the Whigs, it certainly then seemed, on the contrary, that that party, instead of being extinct, had become all-embracing, for one knew nobody who was not a Whig. With a Whig Government in office under Mr. Disraeli, and a disorganized Whig opposition on the other side, there seemed to be in question only persons, and not principles. At the Same time, many Liberals thought that it would be better, as far as principles went, to keep the Conservatives in office, inasmuch as they possessed a majority in the House of Lords, and, being forced by the House of Commons and the country into passing Whig measures, would have to carry them through both Houses and into law, instead of dropping them halfway, as our people had often been compelled to do."
In this speech he assailed Mr. Disraeli's Government for legislation which laid restrictions only on "the poor and the lower middle classes, and which put down a servants' betting club, though it had precisely the same rules as prevail at Tattersall's." The Friendly Societies Bill, again, seemed to him "harassing," and drawn on the assumption that working men have not sense enough to investigate for themselves the position of the society which they wish to join.
"There cannot be too little interference with the great self-governed popular Societies. I think that this Bill is the thin end of the wedge, that espionage is the first step to control, and that control is a long step on the road which leads to the destruction of the Societies, and to the creation of a single Government provident organization, which I should regard as a great evil."
The speech attracted much attention, and Sir Charles was now quoted as one whom men would wish to see in any Liberal Ministry. In the public field, during the spring and summer of 1874, all went well with him. But his personal life during these months was overshadowed by approaching calamity.
Lady Dilke was again in ill-health, and was under the presentiment of approaching death. 'Our last happy time was at Paris at Christmas, 1873, on our way home from Monaco, when Gambetta's brightness was answered by our own.' Sir Charles occupied himself with buying land at Broadstairs, where the climate was specially favourable to his wife's health, but as the plans for building on it progressed, he could note that the keenness of her interest 'drooped and died.' After the beginning of August there were no more dinner-parties, and although those who came to the house—of whom Sir William Harcourt was the last to be admitted—found its mistress wearing a gay face, the gloom deepened over her, and she suffered acutely from insomnia. A child was born in September; she lived to see her son, the present Sir Wentworth Dilke, but she never rallied. Death came to her with difficulty, early in the night of September 20th. Sir Charles, overstrained already by long watching, was completely unstrung by the unlooked-for end of the final and terrible vigil. Having summoned his grandmother, Mrs. Chatfield, and asked her to take charge of his house and son—a charge which she fulfilled till her death—he fled from the scene of his suffering, and hid himself in Paris, seeing no one, and holding communication with no one.
'For about a month I think I did not see a letter. I worked steadily at historical work; but I have very little recollection of the time (except by looking at the notebooks which contain the work I did), and even within a few months afterwards was unable to recall it.'
All the letters which poured in speak again and again of Lady Dilke's radiant charm. Moret, the Spanish Minister, who had been one of the guests at the last of all her dinner-parties, recalled her as he saw her then, "si belle, si bonne, si souriante, que j'eprouvai moi-meme le bonheur qu'elle respirait."
'The beginning of my friendship with Cardinal Manning was his letter to me at this time, in which he said, "We have met only once, and that in public, but it was that meeting which enables me to understand what your affliction is now."'
Gambetta wrote to him 'a really beautiful letter ':
"La Republique Francaise, "16, RUE DU CROISSANT, "PARIS, "le 2 novembre, 1874.
"MON BIEN CHER AMI,
"Plus que jamais permettez-moi de vous donner ce nom, qui, au milieu des terribles epreuves qui vous accablent, n'exprime que bien imparfaitement les sentiments de profond attachement, de volontaire solidarite que je vous ai voues.
"Je sais, je mesure l'insuffisance amere de toute parole de consolation pour d'aussi grandes douleurs, d'aussi irreparables pertes. Car meme l'impuissance de semblables remedes qui m'ont empeche de vous ecrire plutot, m'ont arrete dans le desir de venir pres de vous a un moment aussi lugubre pour votre grand coeur. J'ai cru plus digne, plus respectueux de vos angoisses, d'attendre; et je m'en suis remis a votre penetration naturelle pour comprendre et accepter mon silence.
"Aujourd'hui je viens vous dire que le plus haut prix que je puisse obtenir de notre commune affection serait de pouvoir penser que dans la fuite de la vie, je pourrais etre assez heureux pour etre de quelque utilite dans les actes de votre existence.
"Je viendrai vous voir demain mardi a 2 heures et vous repeter de vive-voix ce que je dis ici. Je suis tout entier a vous et de coeur,
From that day forward Sir Charles met him constantly.
'It would have been difficult to find a better companion at such a moment than one who was so full of interest in life, about things which were absolutely outside my own life, who was surrounded by people who could recall to me no circumstances of pain.'
After seeing Gambetta, Sir Charles roused himself to write a reply in the last days of October to Sir William Harcourt, whose sympathy had been expressed with a rare warmth of kindness, and who caused his son—then a boy of eleven, [Footnote: Afterwards the Right Hon. Lewis Harcourt, created Viscount at the end of 1916.]—'to write to me about Katie, who had been kind to him, which was a pretty thought, and proposed that I should go and live with him, which I ultimately did.'
'Some scraps of polities' were added to they letter, in the hope of reviving his interest in life; but Sir Charles at this moment was fully determined to resign his seat, feeling himself unable to face old associates and associations again. His brother Ashton, now busily and successfully at work in directing his newspaper, the Weekly Dispatch, begged him at least to consider his constituents. An election caused by the Radical member's retirement would certainly let in a second Tory. Also:
"For yourself, I really think, my dear boy, that work is the best remedy, and though you may not think it now, you could not give it up.... It seems selfish to speak of myself, but I should have to give up the Dispatch, as the thing is too serious for me to go into without your advice. Do think it over again, Charlie; there is no hurry. I will come next week. We must not make dear Dragon's [Footnote: Mrs. Chatfield, their grandmother.] last days unhappy by wandering over the world year after year. Remember your child, and that you must regard the living as well as the dead. I am sure she would never have let you sacrifice your career. Do think it over again."
Sir Charles adds: 'It was, however, Gambetta, I think, that saved me.'
In the course of the month (November, 1874) he wrote to his constituents in reply to a resolution sent by them, but could not promise to take his seat during the following session, and said that in any event he should have for a long time to transact business only by letter. 'From this time forward I got rapidly better as far as nervousness at meeting people went, although for many months I was completely changed and out of my proper self.' [Footnote: He, however, began to attend Parliament in the early part of the session of 1875.]
He sought escape in travel, starting suddenly in December for Algeria by way of Oran, and pushing through the desert as far as Laghouat and the Mzab.
RENEWAL OF ACTIVITY
On his return from Algeria Sir Charles reached Paris and crossed to England in the last week of January, 1875.
'On reaching London, instead of going to Harcourt's, I had to go first to my own house, for I was sickening with disease, and had, indeed, a curious very slight attack of smallpox, which passed off, however, in about two days, but I had to be isolated for another week. When I became what the doctors called well I moved to Harcourt's; but my hand still shook, and I had contracted a bad habit of counting the beating of my heart, and I was so weak of mind that the slightest act of kindness made me cry. To my grandmother and brother I wrote to ask them to let me go on living with Harcourt for the present, not because I preferred him to them, but because I could not live in my own house, and should have a better chance of sleep if I returned elsewhere at night from the House of Commons.'
From this prostration he slowly recovered, occupying himself partly in arranging for the publication by Murray of Papers of a Critic, which he describes as 'a reprint of some of my grandfather's articles, with a memoir of him by myself which I had written while in Paris.'
The book was well received, and a copy sent to Mr. Disraeli brought this acknowledgment:
"2, WHITEHALL GARDENS, "June 28th, '75.
"DEAR SIR CHARLES,
"I am obliged to you for sending me your book; I find it agreeable and amusing. Belles Lettres are now extremely rare, but, I must confess, very refreshing. Your grandfather had a true literary vein, and you have done wisely in collecting his papers.
"Very much yours,
This pleasant note was the beginning of an acquaintance, though by a series of chances Sir Charles never met the Tory leader outside Parliament till Lord Beaconsfield was in the last year of his life.
When coming through Paris he had, 'of course at once' gone to see Gambetta, whom he found 'privately ridiculing the various suggestions made as to a constitution for his country.' Gambetta suggested as an alternative that they should allow the National Assembly elected after the war—
'to continue to govern the country without filling up death vacancies, and with the provision that when at last it became reduced to one member, he should take any title or give to any person that he pleased any title, or adopt any form of government that he should think fit!'
Shortly after Mr. John Morley went with an introduction from Sir Charles to Gambetta, which nearly miscarried.
"I went for two nights" (he wrote) "to Gambetta's office (the office of the Republique Francaise), and found him 'not come.' As I would not sit up late three nights ... I desisted. Then he wrote me the most courteous letter, making a more sensible appointment at his private quarters. This I kept. He gave a most gracious and even caressing reception, and I was intensely interested in him."
On this Sir Charles comments: 'Morley was no doubt told by Gambetta's faithful secretary to call at "2 a.m.," which was a playful way this old gentleman had of choking off callers.'
As his health became re-established Sir Charles took an increasing part in political life. The independent man is on much better terms with his party when that party is in opposition; his critical faculty is directed against other men's measures, and if he has force, he easily passes into the position of being consulted. The process was the easier in Sir Charles's case, because the governing group of the Liberal party in Parliament was much disorganized. A great effort was being made to escape from the unsatisfactory relations between Liberals and their Front Bench, which a witty member had defined by saying that the party sat "like Scotch communicants trying aspirants for the ministry of their church by their sermons."
'Fierce fighting was taking place over the choice of a leader of the Liberal party. Up to the day on which there went out the notices for the meeting there was the greatest doubt as to the result.... Sir H. James reported 'Forster very loyal and quite willing to give way. Hartington careless. Mundella, Fawcett, and Trevelyan working hard for Forster, but Adam" (the Chief Whip) "says the great bulk of our men all for Hartington. Richard very strong against Forster, and he represents a great many Nonconformists. Adam says Fawcett is going to Birmingham to-morrow in order to support Forster there, but this I do not believe.' James added that he had ventured to say to Adam that as far as he knew Harcourt was not disposed to take any part, one way or the other, in reference to the matter, which was the case also with himself.'
Sir Charles had declined to attend the meeting, but before it took place the matter was arranged.
'At one moment, after a fiasco by Mr. Bright at Birmingham, it had looked as though Forster might win, in spite of Chamberlain and the Nonconformists. Although James professed Harcourt's indifference in the matter, Harcourt and James were both, as a fact, for Hartington. Harcourt had conceived a strong feeling against Fawcett immediately before this, in January, for trying to keep Mr. Gladstone as the leader, a course to which Harcourt was bitterly opposed....'
In these years Sir William Harcourt, then a widower devoted to his one boy, stood nearer to Sir Charles than any other of his English friends. Dilke wrote to him: "How little credit you get for your heart! How few people know you have one!"
'In this month of February, 1875,' he goes on to say, 'I revived an acquaintance which had slumbered for thirteen years, but was destined not again to drop.'
Account has already been given of Sir Charles's boyish friendship with Emilia Strong, a brilliant girl three years his elder. In 1861 she had married Mark Pattison, the Rector of Lincoln College, and from that time onward Dilke, although he had seen something of the famous scholar, her husband, had scarcely met Mrs. Pattison, as she seldom came to London, and he at that time never went to Oxford. Now, in 1875, she was staying with her husband in Gower Street, under the roof of Sir Charles Newton, Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum, and was gradually becoming convalescent after a terrible attack of gout, which had left both her arms useless for many months. During this time they were strapped to her sides, and she had to invent a machine to turn over the pages of her book. But the bracing influence of her mind on those around her was unimpaired. In the years which followed, the habit of correspondence grew up between them, strengthening, until at any important crisis in his political life it became natural to him to consult her or take her into his confidence.
We have also at this moment reference to the beginnings of an acquaintance with a remarkable opponent.
Sir Charles notes that at Easter, 1875, when crossing to France, he met Lord Randolph Churchill, already known to him in the House, who expressed a wish to be presented to Gambetta. The meeting was a success, and Gambetta, delighted with his talk, asked him to breakfast along with Dilke, fixing the hour at noon; but later there came this note:
"MON CHER AMI,
"Je vous prie en grace de vouloir bien avancer notre dejeuner au Cafe Anglais et de prevenir votre ami de ce petit derangement. L'enterrement d'Edgar Quinet doit avoir lieu a une heure a Montparnasse et je ne peux manquer a cette ceremonie. Donc a demain lundi 11h au Caf. Anglais.
"Votre toujours devoue,
At the breakfast talk turned naturally on Quinet, the professor and critic who was exiled after the coup d'etat, and whom the Third Republic welcomed back to his place on the Extreme Left. This led to mention of the recent occasion when Gambetta had "assisted" at the funeral of another famous Republican exile, Ledru-Rollin, who had died on the last day of 1874. Hereupon—
'Randolph turned to Gambetta, and in his most apologetic style, which is extremely taking, said: "Would you mind telling me who Ledru- Rollin was?" Gambetta looked him all up and down, as though to say, "What sort of a politician are you, never to have heard of Ledru- Rollin?" and then broke into a laugh, and replied: "Ledru-Rollin was a republican in the days when there were none, so we were bound to give him a first-class funeral."'
Sir Charles adds:
'When I was a boy, Hepworth Dixon used to tell a story of how an omnibus driver had nudged him one day when he was sitting on the box- seat, and pointing out Ledru-Rollin in Oxford Street, had said, "See that gentleman? I have heard say how he once was King of France"— which had been pretty true at the beginning of 1848.'
After the Easter recess 'was the moment of the German war scare' of 1875 in France—
'Bourke' (the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs) 'kept me quiet in the Commons by keeping me informed. He told me of the Queen's letter to the Emperor William the day it went. Gavard, the French Charge d'Affaires, told me that England and Russia received official thanks from France for preventing war by pressure at Berlin. Peace was not in danger.'
There is a note referring to conversations held earlier in 1875 with Gambetta, and to other conversations with Bismarck in 1889:
'I had heard a rumour that Thiers had signed secret articles of peace in addition to the public treaty, and further that in these articles there was something about the number of men to be kept under arms by France. In the Arnim trial it came out that one of the despatches concerned Prussian spies in France in 1872, while two of the despatches were "so secret that they could not be even named or catalogued." It was thought that these despatches concerned the secret articles, and it was sought in this way to explain the efforts made by Germany to prevent the fall of Thiers on the ground that he must be kept on his legs for fear a different Government would disregard his secret articles. Bismarck himself, it should be remembered, spoke of the two uncatalogued despatches as "perhaps decisive of the question of peace or war." [Footnote: Secret articles of the Versailles and Frankfort.]
When at Friedrichsruh in September, 1889, [Footnote: This was during Sir Charles's visit to Prince Bismarck, described in Chapter L. (Volume II.).] as Bismarck was talking very freely about everything that was past and gone, I asked him about this, and he said that I should agree with him that it was plain that the suggestions as to the limit of the number of men had been wrong, inasmuch as France had repeatedly increased her forces; but the sudden risk of war between France and Germany which arose in 1875, when war was only prevented by the interference of the Russian Emperor, has never been adequately explained.
On this point Sir Charles afterwards pencilled in the margin: 'The Prussian Staff wanted war; I doubt whether the old German Emperor intended to permit it.'
There follow other references of this year to foreign politics and politicians:
'Don Alfonso at this moment (January, 1875) had become King of Spain. Two years previously Moret told me to a day when Amedeo, whose Ambassador in England he then was, would fall; and on Boxing Day of 1874 in Paris, before I left for Algeria, he recalled to me this prophecy, and told me that Serrano would "bring back" Alfonso that week, and so he did. [Footnote: Marshal Serrano was Minister of War to Queen Isabella II., with whom he had great influence. His opposition to the illegal prorogation of the Cortes led to his imprisonment, but after the revolution of 1868, when Isabella was dethroned and her dynasty proscribed, he became Regent of Spain from 1868 to 1871. He resigned this power when Amedeo I. entered Madrid, but remained President of the Council and Minister of War. On the abdiction of Amedeo and proclamation of a Republic he was again at the head of affairs until Alfonso II., son of Isabella, was "brought back."]
'Sigismund Moret is not only the handsomest and pleasantest of men, but about the cleverest; but at this moment his country offered him no place, and his friends could only regret that he could find nothing better to do than play whist. He afterwards became Prime Minister.
'Alfonso was said to be greatly under the influence at this time of the Duchesse de Sesto—my old friend of 1860, the Duchesse de Morny, lovely of the lovely at that time at Trouville, but afterwards when I saw her at La Bourboule, I think in 1881, become much like other people, and somewhat weighed down by the responsibility of being the mother of that terrible young man "Le petit Duc."
'It was about this time that Rochefort, who had escaped from New Caledonia with Pascal Grousset (died 1909), came to London, and I saw them. I afterwards quarrelled with Rochefort, or rather ceased to see him, for I had seen him only this once, because of his behaviour towards Gambetta, who had been very good to him.'
Of Grousset Sir Charles writes:
'This handsome youth had in 1868 just become notorious for his grossly impertinent and indecent reply to the President of the Tribunal at the trial of Prince Peter Bonaparte for shooting Victor Noir. Grousset was the principal witness, and when asked the usual first question of French law, "Witness, are you the husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, ascendant or descendant, or any relation of the prisoner?" replied: "It is impossible to say; Madame Letitia was not particular"—alluding to the mother of Napoleon the Great.
'Grousset had conducted the "Foreign Affairs" of the Commune of Paris, and had been so polite to the representatives of the Embassies that George Sheffield, the private secretary to Lord Lyons, who conducted British affairs at Paris, used to declare that of all the many French Governments he had known the Commune was the only one that knew how to behave itself in society....'
But this feeling was not universal.
'Mrs. Wodehouse (formerly Minnie King, an American beauty, and afterwards Lady Anglesey) asked me to breakfast with her to meet Grousset.' (She was receiving the refugee at the request of Madame Novikoff.)
'When her butler, who was an old French gendarme, found who was coming to breakfast, he refused to serve, and a hired waiter had to be called in, the old man saying that he had had charge of Grousset to convey him from Versailles to the hulks before the Communalists had been sent to New Caledonia, and that Grousset had been so impertinent to him that nothing would induce him to wait upon him as a servant.
'This clever boy of all the persons deeply compromised in the Commune was, with one exception, the one who made his peace most rapidly with French society, and in 1890 he was received by the President of the Republic officially as elected Director of the federation of all the Gymnastic Societies of France.' [Footnote: It was perhaps on account of his youthful appearance that Pascal Grousset was described as a boy. He was only two years younger than Sir Charles, and was twenty- six at the time of the Commune. He was later, for twenty years, one of the Deputies for Paris.]
Sir Charles in this Session contributed to the gaiety of Parliament by his motion upon unreformed Borough Corporations, and, said the newspapers, "kept the House of Commons in a roar."
'But the fact was that the subject was so funny that it was impossible to make a speech about it which would not have been amusing, and Randolph Churchill, who replied to me, was funnier than I was, though he was not equally regardful of the truth.'
'One of the Corporations which I had attacked was that of Woodstock, and Randolph Churchill brought the Prince of Wales down to the House to hear his defence of his constituency. I had said in my speech that the Mayor of Woodstock had been lately fined by his own Bench, he being a publican, for breaking the law in a house the property of the Corporation, and that he had said on that occasion in public court, after hearing the evidence of the police: "I have always had a high respect for the police, but in future I shall have none." Randolph Churchill, answering me, said that I had slightly mistaken the Mayor's words, and that what he had really said was: "I have always had a high respect for the police, but in future I shall have more." After this debate was over, Randolph came up to me outside, and said: "I was terrified lest you should have heard anything to-day, but I see you have not." I said: "What?" He said: "He was fined again yesterday."'
In the same speech the case of New Romney was described—"the worst of all" the Cinque Ports, where the number of freemen, twenty-one at the passing of the Reform Act (of 1832), had fallen to eight—
"the only town in England in which six gentlemen elected themselves to every office, appointed themselves magistrates, let the whole of the valuable town properties exclusively to themselves, audited their own accounts, and never showed a balance sheet."
A cartoon in one of the comic papers displayed one selfsame and highly complacent person, first as "Our Grocer," then as "Our Mayor," then as "The Gentleman who elects our Mayor," "The Gentleman who disposes of our Public Trusts," "The Gentleman who benefits by our Public Trusts, "and "The Committee appointed annually to look into the Accounts of the Gentleman who disposes of our Public Trusts."
Another of Sir Charles's topics in 1875 was the working of the Ballot Act. 'A dull speech on a dull subject,' it secured, however, the appointment of a Committee to inquire whether secrecy of voting was not menaced by the form in which ballot papers were issued. But the main object of his activity in the field of electoral reform was redistribution, and this object was the hardest to attain, because more than 400 members of the House sat for constituencies not numerically entitled to representation. The over-represented had a majority of two-thirds in Parliament, and this was a tremendous vested interest to assail. Still, the whole Liberal party was now committed to the support of his principle.
The same general support was given to his Bill 'known as the Allotments Extension Bill, to provide for the letting to cottagers of lands held for the benefit of the poor'—a scheme originally proposed by Mill.
'My Parliamentary Session of 1875 was my most successful.
'My motion on Ballot Act, " " " Unreformed Boroughs, " " " Redistribution, " Bill " Allotments, were all four great successes, and so spoken of in all the papers. On the first I got my way. On the second I prepared it for next year, and on the third and fourth I got the support of the whole Liberal party and most of the Press.'
There are a good many pleasant stories of what seems to have been a very easy-going Session of Parliament:
'At this time Plimsoll's name was in every mouth, and the only formidable opposition in the House was that which he offered to the Government in the sailors' name. Old Adderley, afterwards Lord Norton, who was at the Board of Trade, assured me, in his solid hatred of the man, that when Plimsoll told the House of Commons that he had stopped a fearful shipwreck by taking a telegram to the Board of Trade at 3 a.m., and ringing for the porter and sending it then and there to the President's house, Plimsoll had neglected to state that this telegram had reached him at five o'clock in the afternoon, and had been kept back by him till the middle of the night for the production of a sensation....
'The other hero of the Session was Major O'Gorman, a hero of four-and- twenty stone, who on two occasions at least made the House laugh as they never laughed before, nor have laughed since. We used at first to lose him at a quarter to twelve each night, as he had to get to the Charing Cross Hotel, where he lived on the fourth storey, before the lift had gone up for the last time. But later in the Session we managed to keep him till 1.15, for he made the brilliant discovery that the luggage lift, which just suited him, was available till 1.30.
'Some of his finest things are lost in the reports. For example, "Swill the whisky through the streets till the very curs lie prostrate," and this, which, however, in a weakened form, survives in Mr. Lucy's Diary: "Some men who call themselves my constituents tell me that if I oppose this Bill I shall never sit again. Well, what then?" (This in a stentorian voice that nearly blew the windows out.) "Athens ostracized Aristides."
'After midnight a postponed Bill is fixed for the next sitting by the words "This day." O'Gorman was opposing and watching such a Bill, and shouted out: "What day?" "This day" was solemnly repeated. Then the puzzled Major, looking at the clock, and bowing to the chair, said: "Mr. Speaker, is it yesterday or is it to-morrow?" I never heard a question more difficult of reply under the circumstances of the case.
The best Irish bull uttered within his own hearing was, says Dilke, Sir Patrick O'Brien's defence of Mr. Gladstone addressed to the Irish Nationalists: "The right honourable gentleman has done much for our common country. He has broken down the bridges that divided us."
When the Session was ended, Sir Charles, according to his custom, set out on travel, following a scheme mapped out far ahead. In December, 1874, he had written to Miss Kate Field, correspondent of the New York Tribune and a friend of Sir Charles and of his first wife, that he would be in America in the following September on a journey round the world, and there accordingly he appeared—'on my way to Japan, China, Java, Singapore, and the Straits of Malacca—taking with me as travelling companion my scheme for a history of the nineteenth century,' a work projected on such ample lines that a note of this year sets down 1899 as the probable date of completion, "if I live so long."
The record of this journey is to be found in the additional chapters to Greater Britain, first issued in 1876 as magazine articles, and added to the eighth edition in 1885. He saw Japan before the Satsuma rebellion had broken out in a last attempt to restore the old feudal regime, and he stayed in the Tartar General's yamen at Canton, where at gun-fire he and the other Europeans in the same house were shut up within barred gates, only representatives of the white race among 2,000,000 Chinese. As for the Japanese, he wrote:
"I'm in love with this country and people.... The theatre is where I spend all my time.... There alone can you now see the soldiers in masks, ferocious and hairy, with the chain-armour and javelins of fifteen years ago. [Footnote: This was written in 1875.] There alone can you now see the procession of daimios accompanied by two-sworded Samurai, there alone have the true old Japan of the times before this cursed 'New Reform Government' arose."
'My stay at Tokio was at the same moment as that of Shimadzu Suboro, the old Satsuma Chief, uncle and adoptive father to the Satsuma Princes, and last constitutional light of the Feudal party. The "great Marshal" Saigo was commanding in chief the forces, and was in the next year to head the Satsuma rebellion. The Corean Envoys—tall men, with wondrous stars in their hair—were at the capital also, and I met them often.'
The beauty of Java, where he stayed at the Governor's Palace at Buitenzorg, charmed him.
His journey from the East was very rapid, and January, 1876, saw him back in England. He was in time to address his constituents as usual before the opening of Parliament.
The speech contains what he points out as notable in one who 'so seldom spoke upon the Irish question'—an attack on the Coercion Bill of the previous year. It might be better, he said, to govern Ireland on the assumption that human nature is much the same everywhere, and Irishmen under no special bar of incapacity. A majority of the Irish representatives were in favour of Home Rule, and "a reformed dual constitution might possibly be devised which would work fairly well." This was an extreme attitude for those days, and he went on to recommend "the immediate creation of a local elective body, having power to deal with public works and the like"—in short, very much what Mr. Chamberlain advocated in 1885.
The speech also protested against Lord Carnarvon's policy as Colonial Minister, "in sending out Mr. Froude to stump South Africa against the local Ministers of the Crown, which was the beginning of all the frightful evils which afflicted South African affairs for the next nine years."
The conduct of the Opposition did not escape comment. "The duty of a Liberal leader is to follow his party, and this Lord Hartington has done with exemplary fidelity and unexampled patience." Another phrase noted that the Session of 1875 had left its mark on the House of Commons, "for pillows had been for the first time provided for members who wished to sleep," and the same atmosphere of repose marked the Session of 1876. The Memoir sketches some Parliamentary operations with which Sir Charles was connected:
'Early in this session occurred the introduction of the Royal Titles Bill, conferring the Imperial title upon the Queen, and I wrote for Fawcett a motion for an address to pray the Queen that she would be graciously pleased not to assume any addition to her title in respect of India other than the title of Queen. When the matter came on for discussion Cowen, who had now come into the House for Newcastle, rose to make his first speech. He had succeeded his old father, who was a Whig in politics and an old fogey in appearance, the son being now an ultra-Radical, now a democratic Tory, dressing like a workman, with a black comforter round his neck, and the only wideawake hat at that time known in the House of Commons. The next day Mr. Disraeli said: "I am told that we are blamed for not having put up a Minister to answer Cowen. How could we? I came into the House while he was speaking. I saw a little man with one hand in his pocket, and the other arm raising and waving uncouthly a clenched fist, making what appeared to be a most impassioned oration. But I was in this difficulty. I did not understand a word of it. I turned to my colleagues, and found that they were in the same position. We could not reply to him; we did not understand the tongue in which the speech was delivered." Cowen spoke with a Newcastle burr so strong that it was not easy to follow his words, and it was only by the context that one could guess what he meant, when he used, for example, such a word as "rowing," which he pronounced "woane."...
'I again brought forward my motion with regard to unreformed corporations, with fresh illustrations and new jokes, and the second edition was voted as popular as the first. Corfe Castle, with the Lord High Admiral of the Isle of Purbeck, and a Corporation consisting of one person, was a gem. Sir John Holker, who had to deal with the question for the Government, and who prepared the Royal Commission which sat to consider it in consequence of my motions, laid down some law for my information, which I doubted, and thereon showed to Harcourt, who said: "You will find the Attorney-General's law as bad as might be expected." Holker was personally popular. But he certainly, though a great winner of verdicts from juries, was one of the dullest men who ever addressed the House of Commons.'
Although Sir Charles was active and, generally speaking, successful during this session, on two points he found himself without support. One was his opposition to the principle of the Bills dealing with the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, on both of which he "took a highly Conservative tone without securing any assistance from Conservative opinion." But a passage in his diary, March, 1877, describes his action and that of the Liberal party on the "Universities Bill" of that year, and mentions a meeting at which Lord Hartington, Goschen, Harcourt, Fawcett, and Fitzmaurice were present, and at which 'it was decided to support my amendments to the Bill.' [Footnote: See Appendix, p. 200.]
His conservatism in academic matters revealed itself fully in 1878, as did that abiding feeling for his old college which characterized every after— allusion to it or to his University life. The Papal diplomatist, Bishop Bateman, founder of Trinity Hall, was mentioned by Sir Charles with the respect due to a patron saint. No traditions were dearer to him than those of Trinity Hall. Speaking at the College annual dinner, he impressed upon the reforming Fellows their obligation, in the college interests, to retain its exclusive teaching and qualifications for fellowship as laid down by its founder, "for the study of the canon and civil law." [Footnote: A scrap of the menu of the dinner of June 19th, 1878, is preserved, which shows these toasts: '"The Lord Chief Justice of England— proposed by the Master; responded to by the Lord Chief Justice of England, Sir Alexander Cockburn. Fellows and ex-Fellows—proposed by Sir Charles Dilke, Bart., M.P.; responded to by (Fellows) Professor Fawcett, M.P., (ex-Fellows) R. Romer, Esq. Our Old Blues and Captains of the T.H. Boat and Cricket Clubs—Proposed by Leslie Stephen, Esq."]
"It is a good thing for a small college that it should not be merely one of the herd. It is a bad thing that a small college should be driven to teach everything—classics, mathematics, law, theology, medicine, and science, physical and moral—for if it teaches so many things, of necessity, from its poverty in money and in men, it cannot teach all well. A small college can only keep at a high moral and social and intellectual level by having a distinguishing note or accent. In our dear old House we have already in existence by our history and by the Instrument of Foundation that special mark to distinguish us from others which the most advanced University Reformers clamour to see created as regards each College in the University....
"It should keep its distinguishing note, and flourish for another five hundred and twenty-eight years, not only in manners, good-fellowship, and rowing, but as a school of law.
"In rowing and law it had fallen off, but good-fellowship still differentiates the College, and prevents it from surrendering to the prevailing tendency to make the colleges in our grand old University pale copies of French lycees—all cut on one pattern and administered by schoolmasters, who will rule over dunces of universal acquirements examined to the point of death."
The other question on which he failed to secure support was his attack on the Royal Academy:
'What I really wanted was that the Academy should be reminded that they obtained their present magnificent site upon conditions which have not been observed, and that they ought at least to give a free day a week at their exhibition, and give up a portion of their privileges against outsiders.'
But the attack, as he admits, was not pressed with spirit for he had only the Pall Mall Gazette and the Examiner with him in the Press. In the House Lord Elcho [Footnote: Better known as Lord Wemyss, long the venerable father of Parliament.] and Mr. George Bentinck 'alone understood the question,' and the latter was too intimate with all the Academy leaders to afford a hope that he would do otherwise than take their side. So, feeling his isolation in the matter, Dilke limited himself to moving for some papers, which were given.
By the summer of 1876 Sir Charles was well again:
'I began this year to stay a great deal at Lady Waldegrave's, both at Dudbrook in Essex and at Strawberry Hill; and ultimately I had a room at Strawberry Hill, to which I went backwards and forwards as I chose. The house was extremely pleasant, and so was Fortescue, and he passionately adored his wife, and was afterwards completely broken down and almost killed by her death. Fortescue was my friend; but she was an excellent hostess, and the house was perfectly pleasant, and that in a degree in which no other house of our time has been. The other house which was always named as "the rival establishment," Holland House, I also knew. Some of the same people went there— Abraham Hayward, commonly called the "Viper," and Charles Villiers, for example. Lady Waldegrave always made everybody feel at home, which Lady Holland did not always do. Those of whom I saw the most this year, in addition to the Strawberry Hill people (who were Harcourt, James, Ayrton, Villiers, Hayward, Dr. Smith the editor of the Quarterly, Henry Reeve the editor of the Edinburgh, the Comte de Paris, and the Due d'Aumale), were Lord Houghton and Mrs. Duncan Stewart. Lord Houghton never met me without referring to a review of his collected works, which appeared in the Athenaeum in the spring, and which had cut the old man to the heart' (because it rated his poetry on a level with that of Eliza Cook).
'One of the most agreeable parties of clever people to which I ever went was a luncheon given by Mrs. Stewart, when she was living a few doors from me in my street, at which I was the only man, the party chiefly consisting of old ladies; indeed, I was by far the youngest person present. Besides Mrs. Stewart herself, there were friends, Lady Hamilton Gordon, Lady Pollock, Lady Hopetoun, Mrs. Frank Hill, Mrs. Oliphant, and Mrs. Lynn Linton—Lady Gordon, a remarkably able woman, one of the bedchamber women of the Queen and a great gossip; Lady Pollock, slow, but full of theatrical anecdote, being stage-mad, as was her husband, old Sir Frederick, the Queen's Remembrancer, father of my Cambridge friend Professor Pollock (now Sir Frederick) and of Walter Pollock, the editor of the Saturday Review. A few days later I met Lady Pollock at a great party given by Lord Houghton. Irving was coming down the stairs, at the bottom of which we stood, having Mrs. Singleton (now, 1894, the Ambassadress, Lady Currie) upon his arm. Old Lady Pollock, clutching at my arm, exclaimed: "Who is that woman with Irving?" To which I answered: "Mrs. Singleton, author of Denzil Place—Violet Fane." "She won't do him any harm, will she?" was the embarrassing question by which Lady Pollock replied to me.'
In this summer Sir Charles gave dinner-parties which included ladies—'a plan which I found so uncomfortable for a politician who had only a grandmother to entertain them that I dropped it after August, 1876.' His dinners were always among the pleasantest in London, but till 1886 they were only dinners of men.
Of men friends of this year he specially notes 'Gennadius, the Greek Secretary, afterwards Minister,' with whom his friendship was lifelong.
A meeting was held at Devonshire House on March 1st, 1877:
'There were present, besides Lord Hartington and myself, Lowe, Goschen, Harcourt, Fawcett, and Fitzmaurice.—It was decided to support Grant Duff in adding the names of Huxley and Max Muller, and not to support Fitzmaurice in adding Bryce, but to support him in adding Hooker, and Goschen in adding Professor Bartholomew Price to the Oxford Commission, and to support Hartington in moving to add Dr. Bateson, the Master of John's, to the Cambridge Commission. Bouverie was to be proposed by Harcourt, as against Cockburn, for chairman of the Cambridge Commission, because we objected to overworked Judges being on Commissions. The name of Bradley, afterwards Dean of Westminster, was suggested for the Oxford Commission by Lowe, but not supported by the meeting, and it was decided to support my amendments to the Bill. The Commissions as originally suggested were badly composed. The best men suggested were not good—Dr. Bellamy (President of St. John's, Oxford), for example, the wealthiest of all college officials, a precise, old-fashioned, kind-hearted nonentity, a simple tool of more intelligent Conservatives; and Henry Smith, an Irishman of the keenest order of intelligence, ready to give an intellectual assent to the abstract desirability of the best and highest in all things. On another of the names originally suggested I may quote Smith himself, for when Dean Burgon's appointment was attacked in the House of Commons by me and others, Smith, approaching Lord Salisbury at a party, and engaging in conversation upon the matter, said that the reasons for appointing him were overwhelming, at which Lord Salisbury was greatly pleased; when Henry Smith went on: "No such Commission could possibly be complete without its buffoon."'
REVIVAL OF THE EASTERN QUESTION
Sir Charles at this period of his career was passing from the status of a formidable independent member to that of a recognized force in his party. In May, 1876, he became Chairman of the Elections Committee at the Liberal Central Association, and from that time forward up to 1880 'took a very active part in connection with the choice of candidates.'@@Mr. Joseph Chamberlain had been elected for Birmingham. He was lame from gout, and resented it, saying to Sir Charles 'that it was an illness which should be exclusively reserved by a just Providence for Tories.' On July 8th, 1876, he wrote to Dilke that before coming up to take his seat he had called his friends together and settled a programme and general course of action. "I think there is every chance of our Union being productive of useful practical results, but it is agreed that our arrangements shall remain strictly private for the present. Omne ignotum pro magnifico." On August 2nd Sir Charles introduced to Lord Hartington at Devonshire House 'a great private deputation upon the Education Bill from the North Country Liberal Associations, which was in fact the first movement by what was afterwards the National Liberal Federation.' So the "Caucus" began to make itself felt in domestic affairs.
Sir Charles notes that he 'for the first time began to be summoned to meetings respecting the course to be taken by the party.' Here already he found that—
'Mr. Gladstone began, although somewhat ostentatiously proclaiming in public the opposite principle, to interfere a good deal in Hartington's leadership, and even Harcourt, who only a few months before had ridiculed Mr. Gladstone's pretensions in such strong terms, on the rare occasions when he was unable to get his way with Hartington always now went off to Mr. Gladstone, to try to make use of the power of his name.'
"Foreign affairs had suddenly risen out of complete obscurity into a position in which they overshadowed all other things, and left home politics in stagnation." [Footnote: Speech at Notting Hill, August, 1876.] These complications were destined to bring Mr. Gladstone back into an activity not merely unimpaired, but redoubled, and to shake the power of Mr. Disraeli to its fall.
Sir Charles was, first and foremost, a "good European"; he conceived of Europe as a body politic, bound in honour to regulate its own members. Isolation appeared to him a mere abandonment of the duty of civilized powers to maintain order in the civilized world. Corporate action was to be encouraged, because, in most cases, the mere threat of it would suffice either as between States to prevent wars of aggression, or as between ruler and ruled to assert the ordinary principles of just government.
The enforcement of this view might involve its support by force of arms, and he worked all his life for our military preparedness, holding that it was the best guarantee that armed intervention would be unnecessary, as it was also the best guarantee of our own immunity from attack.
At this moment "foreign affairs" meant the Eastern Question, in regard to which the future of two nations, Russia and Greece, specially interested him. He was notably a Phil-Hellene, who "dreamed of a new Greece"—a "force of the future instead of a force of the past; a force of trade instead of a force of war; European instead of Asiatic; intensely independent, democratic, maritime." Here, and not in any Slavonic State, did he see the rightful successors to the Ottoman dominion. Towards Russia his feelings were complex: admiration for the people accompanied detestation of the Government, and the unscrupulous power commanding the services of so vast and virile a people always appeared in his eyes as a menace to civilization. Yet in the future of Russia he "firmly believed," and he repeats in speech after speech this creed: "Behind it are ranged the forces of the future." "To compare the Russia of to-day to the Russia that is to come is to compare chaos to the universe." "If by Russia we mean the leading Slavonic power, whether a Russia one and indivisible, or a Slavonian confederation, we mean one of the greatest forces of the future." [Footnote: Speech at Notting Hill, August, 1876.]
Sir Charles's speeches, taken in conjunction with the diary, give the story of these Eastern troubles from the outside as well as from the inside. His constituents had little excuse for being carried away by popular cries. In his speech on the last day of the session he advocated the sending of a "strong and efficient man to Constantinople in the name of the Western Powers to carry out that policy of protection of Christian subjects of Turkey which England had intended after the Crimea," [Footnote: Ibid.] But while condemning with the greatest energy the Turkish barbarities in Bulgaria, he warned his constituents against overlooking atrocities committed elsewhere, "for there was not one pin to choose between Circassian ruffians on the one side and Montenegrin ruffians on the other." To those who "were carried away by their belief that the conflict was one between the present and the past, and between Christianity and Islamism, and declared that the Turks must be driven out of Europe," he pointed out the larger questions at stake.
Turning to the Balkan States, he did not believe in a continuous united movement among these "which would suffice to drive the Mohammedan out of Europe." "To allow the Russians to interfere openly" would rouse Austria, a Power which, in spite of the difficulties presented by its internal "differences of creed and hostilities of races," must in the interests of South-Eastern Europe be "bolstered up." In this instance he urged the need for joint action, and laid bare some underlying difficulties awaiting diplomacy. It was a situation complicated by the fact that "this Europe is probably mined beneath our feet with secret treaties." [Footnote: Sir Charles notes later: 'Since the accession of George III. the country had concluded about forty treaties or separate articles of a secret nature which were not communicated to Parliament at the time of their conclusion, and in some instances not at all; but these secret engagements were mostly concluded in anticipation of war, or during war, and ceased to have effect when war was over.']
In his speech of January 15th, 1878, in Kensington, at one of the critical moments of the struggle, he told the whole story, which began in August, 1875, when Mr. Disraeli's Government consented "with reluctance" to take part in sending a European Consular Mission to inquire into disturbances occasioned by Turkish misrule in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Great Britain's reluctance weakened, so Sir Charles thought, the European concert, and the mission resulted only in delusive promises of reform. In the following winter Turkey was increasingly encouraged to lean upon British support in withstanding pressure from the other Powers; and in May, 1876, after disturbances in Bulgaria had been repressed with appalling ferocity, Mr. Disraeli's Cabinet positively refused to join in a demand for certain reforms to be carried out by Turkey under European supervision.
'Our Government had refused to sign the Berlin Memorandum on account of a reference in it to the possible need of taking "efficacious measures" to secure good government in Turkey.
'But' (commented Sir Charles in 1878, making plain exactly what he meant by European intervention) 'it was England who, not shrinking from mere words, but herself proposing deeds, had taken a really "efficacious" part in the "efficacious measures" of 1860, when, after the massacres in the Lebanon, Europe sent Lord Dufferin to Syria with a French armed force—the Powers making that engagement not to accept territory which could also have been made in 1876. In 1860 Lord Dufferin, in the name of Europe, hanged a guilty Pasha and pacified the Lebanon, which to this moment still enjoys, in consequence of European intervention, a better government than the rest of Turkey, and this with the result of an increase of strength to the Turkish, power. Only the obstructiveness of our Government prevented the still more easy pacification of the European provinces of Turkey in 1876, and caused the present war with all its harm to British trade and all its risks to "British interests."' [Footnote: Speech delivered at Kensington on January 15th, 1878.]
Holding these views, Sir Charles encouraged Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice to place on the notice paper of the House of Commons a formal resolution of censure on the Government for refusing to join in the Berlin Memorandum without making a counter-proposal of their own. It was believed that Mr. Gladstone approved the course indicated, but he was still in retirement, and not only did Lord Granville and Lord Hartington think that any formal action in the House would be impolitic, but many of the 'peace-at-any- price' Radicals, who regarded Lord Derby's extreme policy of non- intervention with favour, refused to support the proposed censure. The resolution accordingly had to be withdrawn, amid the general disapproval, however, of the Liberal Press. Thus the first attempt at action at once betrayed a profound cleavage of opinion. This was unfortunately only typical of everything which followed in this chapter of events, though the debate which took place towards the end of the Session proved very damaging to the Government. [Footnote: See _Hansard_, cxlii. 22; _Life of Gladstone_, ii, 549; _Life of Granville, ii. 166 and 264, where Lord Ampthill, writing in 1882, expresses the opinion that Lord Derby's policy was most unfortunate.]
It was on May 19th, 1876, that the British Government dated their refusal to intervene. As early as June, accounts of what had been done in Bulgaria began to appear in the Press. Mr. Disraeli ridiculed them in the House of Commons, but testimony soon accumulated, and the most important evidence was that of Mr. Eugene Schuyler, then attached to the American Legation at Constantinople. As American Consul at St. Petersburg in 1869-70, he had become acquainted with Sir Charles, and had seen a good deal of him in London during the earlier part of 1875. It was, therefore, to Dilke that Schuyler wrote his account of the massacres at Batak, based upon his visit to the spot, which he found still horrible with unburied corpses; and in August, on the last day of the Session, Dilke, addressing his constituents at Notting Hill, read Schuyler's letter to them.
Early in September, 1876, public indignation was set ablaze by Mr. Gladstone's famous pamphlet, which demanded that the Turk should clear out of Bulgaria, "bag and baggage." On the 14th of the same month Mr. Baring's official report confirmed the Schuyler letter, and on the 21st Lord Derby sent a despatch, which, says Sir Charles, 'in the sharpest words ever, I think, used in a despatch, demanded reparation, and the "signal, conspicuous, and exemplary punishment" of Chefket Pasha, director of the Bulgarian massacres.'
Meanwhile Servia and Montenegro, feudatory States of the Porte, had gone to war with their overlord; and in order to induce the Turks to grant an armistice, Russia and Austria proposed to England a joint naval demonstration, carried out in the name of Europe, by England and France. Lord Derby proposed instead a conference of Europe to take place at Constantinople, and to this the Powers agreed. But Russia, not contented with this step, presented an ultimatum to Turkey demanding an armistice for Servia, and obtained it on November 1st. Thus, by Lord Derby's action, 'the armistice was refused to Europe and yielded to a Russian ultimatum.'
The conference met at Constantinople in December, 1876, and on the 14th Lord Salisbury, who represented England, was advocating the "efficacious measure" of occupying Bulgaria by English troops, and, when this was refused, proposed the employment of Belgians. But—
'It was now too late. Turkey had been encouraged by us into mobilization. Russia had been thwarted by us into mobilization. The time was past when we might have averted war, might have pacified the East, protected alike the Eastern Christians and "British interests" by a signature.'