'From Bryce I heard that he had been appointed Under-Secretary of State for the Foreign Department, and asking me whom he should take as his private secretary; and I told him Austin Lee, and he took him at once.'
'To the Prince of Wales I wrote to say that I should not attend the Levee, and had from him a reply marked by that great personal courtesy which he always shows.'
Thus came into being Mr. Gladstone's third Administration. In 1885 the continuance of Mr. Gladstone's leadership had seemed necessary in order to bridge the gap between Lord Hartington and the Radicals. Now in 1886 Lord Hartington was out, to mark his opposition, not to Chamberlain, but to Gladstone; and Chamberlain was in, though heavily handicapped. Yet none of these contradictions which had defied anticipation was so unforeseen as the exclusion of Sir Charles Dilke.
See p. 196. Letter of Mr. Gladstone to Lord Hartington, December 17th, 1885:
'The whole stream of public excitement is now turned upon me, and I am pestered with incessant telegrams which I have no defence against but either suicide or Parnell's method of self-concealment. The truth is I have more or less of opinions and ideas, but no intentions or negotiations. In these ideas and opinions there is, I think, little that I have not more or less conveyed in public declarations: in principle, nothing. I will try to lay them before you. I consider that Ireland has now spoken, and that an effort ought to be made by the Government without delay to meet her demand for the management, by an Irish legislative body, of Irish as distinct from Imperial affairs. Only a Government can do it, and a Tory Government can do it more easily and safely than any other.
'There is first a postulate—that the state of Ireland shall be such as to warrant it.
'The conditions of an admissible plan, I think, are—
'(1) Union of the Empire and due supremacy of Parliament.
'(2) Protection for the minority. A difficult matter on which I have talked much with Spencer, certain points, however, remaining to be considered.
'(3) Fair allocation of Imperial charges.
'(4) A statutory basis seems to me to be better and safer than the revival of Grattan's Parliament, but I wish to hear more upon this, as the minds of men are still in so crude a state on the whole subject.
'(5) Neither as opinions nor as intentions have I to anyone alive promulgated these ideas as decided on by me.
'(6) As to intentions, I am determined to have none at present—to leave space to the Government—I should wish to encourage them if I properly could—above all, on no account to say or do anything which would enable the Nationalists to establish rival biddings between us.
'If this storm of rumours continues to rage, it may be necessary for me to write some new letter to my constituents, but I am desirous to do nothing, simply leaving the field open for the Government, until time makes it necessary to decide. Of our late colleagues, I have had most communication with Granville, Spencer, and Rosebery. Would you kindly send this on to Granville? I think you will find it in conformity with my public declarations, though some blanks are filled up. I have in truth thought it my duty, without in the least committing myself or anyone else, to think through the subject as well as I could, being equally convinced of its urgency and its bigness.'
The remainder of this letter is not quoted in the Memoir.
THE FIRST HOME RULE BILL
FEBRUARY TO JULY, 1886
The acute political crisis now maturing within the Liberal party had a special menace for Sir Charles Dilke. It threatened to affect a personal tie cemented by his friend's stanchness through these months of trouble.
On January 31st, 1886, he wrote:
'My Dear Chamberlain,
'I feel that our friendship is going to be subjected to the heaviest strain it has ever borne, and I wish to minimize any risks to it, in which, however, I don't believe. I am determined that it shall not dwindle into a form or pretence of friendship of which the substance has departed. It will be a great change if I do not feel that I can go to your house or to your room as freely as ever. At the same time confidence from one in the inner circle of the Cabinet to one wholly outside the Government is not easy, and reserve makes all conversation untrue. I think the awkwardness will be less if I abstain from taking part in home affairs (unless, indeed, in supporting my Local Government Bill, should that come up). In Foreign Affairs we shall not be brought into conflict, and to Foreign and Colonial affairs I propose to return.
'I intend to sit behind (in Forster's seat), not below the gangway, as long as you are in the Government.
'There is one great favour which I think you will be able to do me without any trouble to yourself, and that is to let my wife come to your room to see me between her lunch and the meeting of the House. The greatest nuisance about being out is that I shall have to go down in the mornings to get my place, and to sit in the library all day....
'Chs. W. D'
When the first trial of the divorce case was over (almost before Mr. Gladstone's Government had fairly assumed office), in the period during which Sir Charles designedly absented himself from the House of Commons,
'Chamberlain asked me to act on the Committee to revise my Local Government Bill, and to put it into a form for introduction to the House; and I attended at the Local Government Board throughout the spring at meetings at which Chamberlain, if present, presided.... It is a curious fact that I often presided over this Cabinet Committee, though not a member of the Government.'
During the month of February, while the Press campaign against him was ripening, Sir Charles had little freedom of mind for politics. Yet this was the moment when Mr. Chamberlain's action, decisive for the immediate fate of a great question, had to be determined. Sir Charles had been a conducting medium between Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Chamberlain. He was so no longer. "I wonder," wrote Chamberlain, years after, on reading Dilke's Memoir, "what passed in that most intricate and Jesuitical mind in the months between June and December, 1885." Perhaps the breach that came was unavoidable. But at all events the one man who might have prevented it was at the critical moment hopelessly involved in the endeavour to combat the scandal that assailed him. [Footnote: There is a letter of this date to Mr. John Morley:
'76, Sloane Street, S.W.,
'My Dear Morley,
'As I must not yet congratulate you on becoming at a bound Privy Councillor and member of the Cabinet, let me in the meantime congratulate you on your election as a V.P. of the Chelsea Liberal Association. But seriously, there can be no doubt that you now have sealed the great position which you had already won. My one hope is that you will work;—my hope, not for your own sake, but for the sake of Radical principles—as completely with Chamberlain as I did. It is the only way to stand against the overwhelming numbers of the Whig peers. I fear Mr. Gladstone will find his new lot of Whig peers just as troublesome as the old.
'As long as I am out and my friends are in, I shall sit, not in my old place below the gangway, but behind, and do anything and everything that I can do to help.
'Chs. W. D.
'I hope it is true that Stansfeld is back?'
It was not till March 3rd, 1886, that
'I resumed my attendance at the House of Commons, and Joseph Cowen, the member for Newcastle, did what he could to make it pleasant. I wrote to him, and he replied: "It is a man's duty to stick to his friends when they are 'run at' as you have been."'
'On March 4th a meeting of the Local Government Committee at Chamberlain's was put off by the absence of Thring, who had been sent for by Mr. Gladstone with instructions to draw a Home Rule Bill. I went to Chamberlain's house, he being too cross to come to the House of Commons, and held with him an important conversation as to his future. I tried to point out to him that if he went out, as he was thinking of doing, he would wreck the party, who would put up with the Whigs going out against Mr. Gladstone on Home Rule, but who would be rent in twain by a Radical secession. He would do this, I told him, without much popular sympathy, and it was a terrible position to face. He told me that he had said so much in the autumn that he felt he must do it. I said, "Certainly. But do not go out and fight. Go out and lie low. If honesty forces you out, well and good, but it does not force you to fight." He seemed to agree, at all events at the moment.
'On March 13th there was a Cabinet, an account of which I had from Chamberlain, who was consulting me daily as to his position. Mr. Gladstone expounded his land proposals, which ran to 120 millions of loan, and on which Chamberlain wrote: "As a result of yesterday's Council, I think Trevelyan and I will be out on Tuesday. If you are at the House, come to my room after questions." I went to Chamberlain's room and met Bright with him. But real consultation in presence of Bright was impossible, because Bright was merely disagreeable. On Monday, the 15th, Chamberlain and Trevelyan wrote their letters of resignation, and late at night Chamberlain showed me the reply to his. On the same day James told me that the old and close friendship between Harcourt and himself was at an end, they having taken opposite sides with some warmth. On the 16th Chamberlain wrote to Mr. Gladstone that he thought he had better leave him, as he could only attend his Cabinets in order to gather arguments against his schemes; and Mr. Gladstone replied that he had better come all the same.
'On the 22nd I had an interesting talk with Sexton about the events of the period between April and June, 1885. Sexton said that he had agreed to the Chamberlain plan in conversation with Manning, but it was as a Local Government plan, not to prevent, so far as he was concerned, the subsequent adoption of a Parliament. It was on this day that Chamberlain's resignation became final. On March 26th I, having to attend a meeting on the Irish question under the auspices of the Chelsea Liberal Association, showed Chamberlain a draft of the resolution which I proposed for it. I had written: "That while this meeting is firmly resolved on the maintenance of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland, it is of opinion that the wishes of the Irish people in favour of self-government, as expressed at the last election, should receive satisfaction." Chamberlain wrote back that the two things were inconsistent, and that the Irish wishes as expressed by Parnell were for separation. But his only suggestion was that I should insert "favourable consideration" in place of "satisfaction," which did not seem much change. This, however, was the form in which the resolution was carried by an open Liberal public meeting, and it is an interesting example of the fluidity of opinion in the Liberal party generally at the moment. A rider to the effect that the meeting had complete confidence in Mr. Gladstone was moved, but from want of adequate support was not put to the meeting. I violently attacked the land purchase scheme in my speech, suspended my judgment upon the Home Rule scheme until I saw it, but declared that it was "one which, generally speaking, so far as I know it, I fancy I should be able to support." On this same day Cyril Flower told me that on the previous day the Irish members had informed Mr. Gladstone that it was their wish that he should entirely abandon that land purchase scheme which he had adopted for the sake of conciliating Lord Spencer. On March 27th Chamberlain wrote: "My resignation has been accepted by the Queen, and is now therefore public property. We have a devil of a time before us."
'On April 5th there was a misunderstanding between Hartington and Chamberlain which almost shivered to pieces the newborn Liberal Unionist party. Hartington had taken to having meetings of James and some of the other more Whiggish men who were acting with him, which meetings Chamberlain would not attend, and at these meetings resolutions were arrived at to which Chamberlain paid no attention. Chamberlain consulted me as to the personal question between Hartington and himself, and placed in my hands the letters which passed.'
Mr. Gladstone was to introduce his Home Rule Bill on April 8th, and on the 5th Lord Hartington wrote to Chamberlain announcing that he had 'very unwillingly' decided to follow Mr. Gladstone immediately, 'not, of course, for the purpose of answering his speech, but to state in general terms why that part of the party which generally approves of my course in declining to join the Government is unable to accept the measure which Mr. Gladstone will describe to us.'
Chamberlain replied on April 6th to Lord Hartington that his letter had surprised him. Having tendered his resignation on March 15th, he had kept silence as to his motives and intentions. He said he thought that it was understood that retiring Ministers were expected to take the first opportunity of explaining their resignations, and Trevelyan and he were alone in a position to say how far Mr. Gladstone might have modified his proposals since their resignations, and thus to initiate the subsequent debate. He objected to what he understood to be Lord Hartington's proposed course—namely, formally to oppose Mr. Gladstone's scheme immediately on its announcement; and this he thought not only a tactical error, but also discourteous to Trevelyan and himself.
'Chamberlain went on, however, virtually to accept Hartington's suggestion, and the real reason was that he had not received the Queen's permission to speak upon the land purchase scheme, and that he did not want to make his real statement until he was in a position to do this. Chamberlain, in sending me this correspondence, said that Hartington's proposal was "dictated by Goschen's uneasy jealousy."'
Sir Charles at this moment believed it possible that Mr. Chamberlain might carry his point against Mr. Gladstone as to the continued representation of Ireland at Westminster, and, although he disliked this proposal, desired its success because it would retain Mr. Chamberlain in the party. This is the moment at which Dilke's influence, had he retained his old position, would probably have proved decisive. What Mr. Gladstone would not yield to Chamberlain alone he would probably have yielded to the two Radicals combined; and Mr. Chamberlain, deprived of the argument to which he gave special prominence, could scarcely have resisted his friend's wish that he should support the second reading. Sir Charles wrote, April 7th, 1886:
'I don't like the idea of the Irish throwing all their ferocity against you, and treating you as they treated Forster. Unless you are given a very large share in the direction of the business, I think you must let it be known that you are not satisfied with the Whig line. I hate the prospect of your being driven into coercion as a follower of a Goschen-Hartington-James-Brand-Albert Grey clique, and yet treated by the Irish as the Forster of the clique. I believe from what I see of my caucus, and from the two large public meetings we have held for discussion, that the great mass of the party will go for Repeal, though fiercely against the land. Enough will go the other way to risk all the seats, but the party will go for Repeal, and sooner or later now Repeal will come, whether or not we have a dreary period of coercion first. I should decidedly let it be known that you won't stand airs from Goschen.
'Chs. W. D.'
'Another meeting on the Irish Question in Chelsea led to no clearer expression of opinion than had the previous one, for it was concluded by Mr. Westlake, Q.C., M.P., who afterwards voted against the Home Rule Bill, moving that the meeting suspend its judgment, and Mr. Firth, who was a Gladstonian candidate and afterwards a Home Rule member, seconding this resolution, which was carried unanimously.'
'On April 20th Labouchere wrote to me as to an attempt which he was making to heal the breach between Mr. Gladstone and Chamberlain.
'Chamberlain wrote on April 22nd from Highbury: "I got through my meeting last night splendidly. Schnadhorst has been doing everything to thwart me, but the whole conspiracy broke down completely in face of the meeting, which was most cordially enthusiastic. The feeling against the Land Bill was overwhelming. As regards Home Rule, there is no love for the Bill, but only a willingness to accept the principle as a necessity, and to hope for a recasting of the provisions. There is great sympathy with the old man personally, and at the same time a soreness that he did not consult his colleagues and party. Hartington's name was hissed. They cannot forgive him for going to the Opera House with Salisbury. I continue to receive many letters of sympathy from Radicals and Liberals, and invitations to address meetings, but I shall lie low now for some time. The Caucuses in the country are generally with the Government, but there will be a great number of abstentions at an election.... Parnell is apparently telling a good many lies just now. He told W. Kenrick the other day, not knowing his relationship at first, that I had made overtures to him for Home Rule, which showed my opposition to Mr. G. to be purely personal. I have sent him word that he has my leave to publish anything ever written or said by me on the Irish Question, either to him or to anyone else.... I have a list of 109 men who at one time or another have promised to vote against the second reading, but they are not all stanch, and I do not think any calculation is to be relied on."
'On April 24th Labouchere wrote that Chamberlain and Morley could not be got together, Chamberlain sticking to his phrases, and Morley writing that Chamberlain's speech is an attempt to coerce the Government, and they won't stand coercion.
'On April 30th Chamberlain wrote to me from Birmingham to get me to vote with him against the second reading. "The Bill is doomed. I have a list of 111 Liberals pledged against the second reading. Of these I know that fifty-nine have publicly announced their intentions to their constituents. I believe that almost all the rest are certain; but making every allowance for desertions, the Home Rule Bill cannot pass without the changes I have asked for. If these were made, I reckon that at least fifty of the malcontents would vote for the second reading. Besides my 111 there are many more who intend to vote for amendments in Committee. The Land Bill has hardly any friends;" and then he strongly pressed me to go down to Highbury upon the subject.'
To this Sir Charles replied:
'May Day, 1886.
'My Dear Chamberlain,
'Lots of people have written to me, confident statements having been made that I was against the Bills, which I see Heneage repeats in the Times to-day. I have replied that I was strongly against the Bill for land purchase, but that as regards the chief Bill I had said nothing, and was free to vote as I thought right when the time came. I have called my caucus for Friday. We don't have reporters, but I think I ought to tell them what I mean to do, and why.
'As to our being separated, I am most anxious, as you know, that you should not vote against the second reading. I know the Bill is doomed, but I fancy the Government know that, too, and that some change will be made or promised, and it is a question of how much. My difficulty in being one to ask for those changes you want is that I am against the chief change, as you know. If it is made—as seems likely—I shall keep quiet and not say I am against it, but go with you and the rest. But—what if it is not made? You see, I have said over and over again that, if forced to have a big scheme, I had sooner get rid of the Irish members, and that, if forced to choose between Repeal and Federation, I prefer Repeal to any scheme of Federation I have ever heard of. Now, all this I can swallow quietly—yielding my own judgment—if I go with the party; but I can't well fight against the party for a policy which is opposed to my view of the national interest. If it is of any use that I should remain free up to the last instant, I can manage this. I can explain my views in detail to the caucus, and not say which way I intend to vote; but I do not well see how, when it comes to the vote, I can fail to vote for the second reading.
'The reason, as you know, why I am so anxious for YOU (which matters more than I matter at present or shall for a long time) to find yourself able if possible to take the offers made you, and vote for the second reading, is that the dissolution will wreck the party, but yet leave a party—democratic, because all the moderates will go over to the Tories: poor, because all the subscribers will go over to the Tories; more Radical than the party has ever been; and yet, as things now stand, with you outside of it.'
Chamberlain wrote on May 3rd from Highbury:
'My Dear Dilke,
'Your letter has greatly troubled me. My pleasure in politics has gone, and I hold very loosely to public life just now.
'The friends with whom I have worked so long are many of them separated from me. The party is going blindly to its ruin, and everywhere there seems a want of courage and decision and principle which almost causes one to despair. I have hesitated to write to you again, but perhaps it is better that I should say what is in my mind. During all our years of intimacy I have never had a suspicion, until the last few weeks, that we differed on the Irish Question. You voted for Butt, and I assumed that, like myself, you were in favour of the principle of federation, although probably, like myself also, you did not think the time had come to give practical effect to it. The retention of the Irish representatives is clearly the touchstone. If they go, separation must follow. If they remain, federation is possible whenever local assemblies are established in England and Scotland. Without the positive and absolute promise of the Government that the Irish representation will be maintained, I shall vote against the second reading. You must do what your conscience tells you to be right, and, having decided, I should declare the situation publicly at once.
'It will do you harm on the whole, but that cannot be helped, if you have made up your mind that it is right. But you must be prepared for unkind things said by those who know how closely we have been united hitherto. The present crisis is, of course, life and death to me. I shall win if I can, and if I cannot I will cultivate my garden. I do not care for the leadership of a party which should prove itself so fickle and so careless of national interests as to sacrifice the unity of the Empire to the precipitate impatience of an old man—careless of the future in which he can have no part—and to an uninstructed instinct which will not take the trouble to exercise judgment and criticism.
'I hope you have got well through your meeting to-night. I send this by early post to-morrow before I can see the papers.
'Yours very truly,
'The meeting to which Chamberlain in his letter referred was that at Preece's Riding School, in which I announced that I had succeeded in inducing the Queen's Proctor to intervene.... The meeting was a very fine one, and the next day Chamberlain wrote to congratulate me on it and on my speech, and added: "Labouchere writes me that the Government are at last alive to the fact that they cannot carry the second reading without me, and that Mr. G. is going to give way. I hope it is true, but I shall not believe it till he has made a public declaration."'
Sir Charles replied:
'76, Sloane Street, S.W.,
'Wednesday, May 5th, 1886.
'My Dear Chamberlain,
'... It is a curious fact that we should without a difference have gone through the trials of the years in which we were rivals, and that the differences and the break should have come now that I have—at least in my own belief, and that of most people—ceased for ever to count at all in politics.... The fall was, as you know, in my opinion final and irretrievable on the day on which the charge was made in July last—as would be that, in these days, of any man against whom such a false charge was made by conspiracy and careful preparation. I think, as I have always thought, that the day will come when all will know, but it will come too late for political life to be resumed with power or real use....
'You say you never had a suspicion that we differed on the Irish Question. As to land purchase—yes: we used to differ about it; and we do not differ about the present Bill. As to the larger question— when Morley and I talked it over with you in the autumn, I said that, if I had to take a large scheme, I inclined rather to Repeal, or getting rid of the Irish members, than to Home Rule. I don't think, however, that I or you had either of us very clear or definite views, and I am sure that Morley hadn't. You inclined to stick to National Councils only, and I never heard you speak of Federation until just before you spoke on the Bill in Parliament. I spoke in public against Federation in the autumn in reply to Rosebery.
'I do not pretend to have clear and definite views now, any more than I had then. I am so anxious, for you personally, and for the Radical cause, that anything shall be done by the Government that will allow you to vote for the second reading, and so succeed to the head of the party purged of the Whig element; so anxious, that, while I don't really see my way about Federation, and on the whole am opposed to it, I will pretend to see my way, and try and find hope about it; so anxious, that, though I still incline to think (in great doubt) that it would be better to get rid of the Irish members, I said in my last, I think, I would be silent as to this, and joyfully see the Government wholly alter their scheme in your sense. I still hope for the Government giving the promise that you ask. Labouchere has kept me informed of all that has passed, and I have strongly urged your view on Henry Fowler, who agrees with you, and on the few who have spoken to me. I care (in great doubt as to the future of Ireland and as to that of the Empire) more about the future of Radicalism, and about your return to the party and escape from the Whigs, than about anything else as to which I am clear and free from doubt. I don't think that my circumstances make any declaration or any act of mine necessary, and on Friday at the private meeting I need not declare myself, and can perhaps best help bring about the promise which you want by not doing so. Why don't you deal with the Chancellor (Lord Herschell), instead of with Labouchere, O'Shea, and so forth?
'I care so much (not about what you name, and it is a pity you should do so, for one word of yourself is worth more with me than the opinion of the whole world)—not about what people will say, but about what you think, that I am driven distracted by your tone. I beg you to think that I do not consider myself in this at all, except that I should wish to so act as to act rightly. Personal policy I should not consider for myself. My seat here will go, either way, for certain, as it is a Tory seat now, and will become a more and more Tory seat with each fresh registration. If I should make any attempt to remain at all in political life, I do not think that my finding another seat would depend on the course I take in this present Irish matter. This thing will be forgotten in the common resistance of the Radicals to Tory coercion. I think, then, that by the nature of things I am not influenced by selfish considerations. As to inclination, I feel as strongly as any man can as to the way in which Mr. Gladstone has done this thing, and all my inclination is therefore to follow you, where affection also leads. But if this is to be—what it will be—a fight, not as to the way and the man, and the past, but as to the future, the second reading will be a choice between acceptance of a vast change which has in one form or the other become inevitable, and on the other side Hartington-Goschen opposition, with coercion behind it. I am only a camp follower now, but my place is not in the camp of the Goschens, Hartingtons, Brands, Heneages, Greys. I owe something, too, to my constituents. There can be no doubt as to the feeling of the rank and file, from whom I have received such hearty support and following. If I voted against the second reading, unable as I should be honestly to defend my vote as you could and would honestly defend yours, by saying that all turned on the promise as to the retention of the Irish members, I should be voting without a ground or a defence, except that of personal affection for you, which is one which it is wholly impossible to put forward. If I voted against the second reading, I should vote like a peer, with total disregard to the opinion of those who sent me to Parliament. Their overwhelming feeling—and they never cared for Mr. Gladstone, and do not care for him—is, hatred of the Land Bill, but determination to have done with coercion. They look on the second reading as a declaration for or against large change. They believe that the Irish members will be kept, though they differ as to whether they want it. Both you and I regard large change as inevitable, and it is certain that as to the form of it you must win. The exclusion of the Irish has no powerful friends, save Morley, and he knows he is beaten and must give way. I still in my heart think the case for the exclusion better than the case against it, but all the talk is the other way. The Pall Mall is helping you very powerfully, for it is a tremendous power, and even Mr. G., I fancy, is really with you about it, and not with Morley. It seems to me that they must accept your own terms.
'The meeting was a most wonderful success.
'Chs. W. D.
'Since I nearly finished this, your other has come, and I have now read it. I have only to repeat that I should not negotiate through Labouchere, but through a member of the Cabinet of high character who agrees in your view. L. is very able and very pleasant, but still a little too fond of fun, which often, in delicate matters, means mischief.
'I have kept no copy of this letter. When one has a "difference with a friend," I believe "prudence dictates" that one should keep a record of what one writes. I have not done so. I can't really believe that you would, however worried and badgered and misrepresented, grow hard or unkind under torture, any more than I have; but you are stronger than I am, and perhaps my weakness helps me in this way. I don't believe in the difference, and I have merely scribbled all I think in the old way.'
'May 6th, 1886.
'My Dear Dilke,
'The strain of the political situation is very great and the best and strongest of us may well find it difficult to keep an even mind.
'I thank you for writing so fully and freely. It is evident that, without meaning it, I must have said more than I supposed, and perhaps in the worry of my own mind I did not allow enough for the tension of yours.
'We never have been rivals. Such an idea has not at any time entered my mind, and consequently, whether your position is as desperate as you suppose or as completely retrievable as I hope and believe, it is not from this point of view that I regard any differences, but entirely as questions affecting our long friendship and absolute mutual confidence. If we differ now at this supreme moment, it is just as painful to me to lose your entire sympathy as if you could bring to me an influence as great as Gladstone's himself.
'I feel bitterly the action of some of these men ... who have left my side at this time, although many of them owe much to me, and certainly cannot pretend to have worked out for themselves the policy which for various reasons they have adopted. On the whole—and in spite of unfavourable symptoms—I think I shall win this fight, and shall have in the long-run an increase of public influence; but even if this should be the case I cannot forget what has been said and done by those who were among my most intimate associates, and I shall never work with them again with the slightest real pleasure or real confidence. With you it is different. We have been so closely connected that I cannot contemplate any severance. I hope, as I have said, that this infernal cloud on your public life will be dispersed; and if it is not I feel that half my usefulness and more—much more—than half my interest in politics are gone.... As to the course to be taken, it is clear. You must do what you believe to be right, even though it sends us for once into opposite lobbies.
'I do not really expect the Government to give way, and, indeed, I do not wish it. To satisfy others I have talked about conciliation, and have consented to make advances, but on the whole I would rather vote against the Bill than not, and the retention of the Irish members is only, with me, the flag that covers other objections. I want to see the whole Bill recast and brought back to the National Council proposals, with the changes justified by the altered public opinion. I have no objection to call them Parliaments and to give them some legislative powers, but I have as strong a dislike as ever to anything like a really co-ordinate authority in Ireland, and if one is ever set up I should not like to take the responsibility of governing England.
'I heartily wish I could clear out of the whole busine&s for the next twelve months at least. I feel that there is no longer any security for anything while Mr. Gladstone remains the foremost figure in politics. But as between us two let nothing come.
'Yours ever sincerely,
'On May 7th Chamberlain wrote:
'"I hope it will all come right in the end, and though not so optimist as I was, I do believe that 'le jour se fera.'
'"I got more names yesterday against the Bill. I have ninety-three now. Labouchere declares still that Mr. G. means to give way, and has now a plan for the retention of Irish members which is to go to Cabinet to-day or to-morrow."
'On May 18th I presided at the special meeting of the London Liberal and Radical Council, of which I was President, which discussed the Home Rule Bill; but I merely presided without expressing opinions, and I discouraged the denunciations of Hartington and Chamberlain, which, however, began to be heard, their names being loudly hissed. On May 27th we had the meeting of the party on the Bill at the Foreign Office, which I attended. But there was no expression of the views of the minority.'
Mr. Chamberlain wrote to the Press some phrases of biting comment concerning the meeting of the 18th, and Sir Charles made protest in a private letter.
'It is a great pity,' he wrote to Chamberlain, 'that you should not have done justice to the efforts and speeches of your friends at that meeting. Many were there (and the seven delegates from almost every association attended, which made the meeting by far the most complete representation of the party ever held) simply for the purpose of preventing and replying to attacks on you. For every attack on you there was a reply; the amendments attacking you were both defeated, and a colourless resolution carried, and Claydon, Osborn, Hardcastle and others, defended you with the utmost warmth and vigour.'
'Chamberlain wrote to me (May 20th, 1886) about the attacks which were being made on him:
'"I was disgusted at the brutality of some of the attacks. I am only human, and I cannot stand the persistent malignity of interpretation of all my actions and motives without lashing out occasionally. You will see that I met your letter with an apology. I might complain of its tone, but I don't. This strain and tension is bad for all of us. I do not know where it will ultimately lead us, but I fear that the mischief already done is irretrievable.
'"I shall fight this matter out to the bitter end, but I am getting more and more doubtful whether, when it is out of the way, I shall continue in politics. I am 'wounded in the house of my friends,' and I have lost my interest in the business."
'In another letter (May 21st) Chamberlain said: "Your note makes everything right between us. Let us agree to consider everything which is said and done for the next few weeks as a dream.
'"I suppose the party must go to smash and the Tories come in. After a few years those of us who remain will be able to pick up the pieces. It is a hard saying, but apparently Mr. Gladstone is bent on crowning his life by the destruction of the most devoted and loyal instrument by which a great Minister was ever served." [Footnote: In a letter of January 2nd, 1886, Lord Hartington, writing to Lord Granville, said: "Did any leader ever treat a party in such a way as he (Mr. Gladstone) has done?" (Life of Granville, vol. ii., p. 478).]
'On June 2nd Chamberlain wrote: "I suppose we shall have a dissolution immediately and an awful smash." On that day I spoke on the Irish Registration Bills in the House of Commons—almost the only utterance which I made in the course of this short Parliament.
'On June 4th Sir Robert Sandeman, who had sought an interview with me to thank me for what I had done previously about the assigned districts on the Quetta frontier, came to see me, to tell me the present position and to discuss with me Sir Frederick Roberts's plans for defence against the eventuality of a Russian advance.'
The defeat of the Home Rule Bill by a majority of thirty came on June 8th, and the General Election followed. [Footnote: See Morley's Life of Gladstone, vol. iii., p. 337, which gives one o'clock on the morning of the 8th as the time of decision. Sir Charles's Memoir contains among its pages an article from Truth of October 14th, 1908, marked by him. The article, which is called 'The Secret History of the First Home Rule Bill,' states that Mr. Gladstone's language did not make clear that the proposal to exclude Irish representatives from the Imperial Parliament was given up. Mr. Chamberlain, who had made the retention of the Irish members a condition of giving his vote for the second reading, left the House, declaring that his decision to vote against the Bill was final. The Life of Labouchere, by Algar Thorold, chap, xii., p. 272 et seq., gives the long correspondence between Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Labouchere prior to this event.] Sir Charles voted for the Bill.
'On July 5th I was beaten at Chelsea, and so left Parliament in which I had sat from November, 1868.
'The turn-over in Chelsea was very small, smaller than anywhere else in the neighbourhood, and showed that personal considerations had told in my favour, inasmuch as we gained but a small number of Irish, it not being an Irish district, and had it not been for personal considerations should have lost more Liberal Unionists than we did.
'Some of my warmest private and personal friends were forced to work and vote against me (on the Irish Question), as, for example, John Westlake, Q.C., and Dr. Robert Cust, the learned Secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society, and Sir Henry Gordon—General Charles Gordon's brother—who soon afterwards died, remaining my strong friend, as did these others.
'James wrote to Lady Dilke, July 26th:
'"No one but your husband could have polled so many Gladstonian votes. London is dead against the Prime Minister."'
Mr. Chamberlain wrote of his deep regret and sympathy that the one Ministerialist seat which he had earnestly hoped would be kept should have gone. He pointed out that the falling off in this case was less than in other London polls; but the reactionary period would continue while Mr. Gladstone was in politics. If he retired, Mr. Chamberlain thought the party would recover in a year or two.
There is a warm letter from Mr. Joseph Cowen of Newcastle, who wrote:
'Chelsea has been going Tory for some time past, and only you would have kept it Liberal at the last election.... If you had not been one of the bravest men that ever lived, you would have been driven away long ago. I admire your courage and sincerely sympathize with your misfortunes.... I always believed you would achieve the highest position in English statesmanship, and I don't despair of your doing so still.'
For a final word in this chapter of discouragement may be given a letter from Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, who wrote from a detached position, having been prevented by illness from standing both in 1885 and 1886:
'What a delightful leader of a party is the G.O.M.! It is an interesting subject of speculation, though, thank God, it is one of speculation only, what might happen to this country if, like the old Red Indian in Hawthorne's novel, he lived to be 300 years old.... My own opinions about setting up a Parliament in Dublin are quite unchanged, but I look on the G.O.M. as the great obstacle to any satisfactory settlement. I see nothing but pandemonium ahead of us.'
The question was whether the future Assembly in Dublin was to be called a 'Legislature' or a 'Parliament.'
Sir Charles, as a Gladstonian Liberal politician, was involved in the misfortune of his party. But in the first weeks of July he hoped that justice in the court of law might soon relieve his personal misfortunes. That anticipation was rudely falsified. Within a fortnight after he had lost the seat which had been won and held by him triumphantly in four General Elections, the second trial of his case was over, and had followed the course which has been already described.
LADY DILKE—76, SLOANE STREET
Sir Charles Dilke's marriage in 1885 extended rather than modified his sphere of work. Lady Dilke, the Emilia Strong who was studying drawing in 1859 at South Kensington, [Footnote: See Chapter 11. (Vol. 1., p. 17).] had submitted herself in these long intervening years to such scholarly training and discipline as gave her weight and authority on the subjects which she handled.
The brilliant girl's desire to take all knowledge for her kingdom had been intensified by her marriage at twenty-one to the scholar more than twice her age. In the words of Sir Charles's Memoir: 'She widened her conception of art by the teaching of the philosopher and by the study of the literatures to which the schooling of Mark Pattison admitted her. She saw, too, men and things, travelled largely with him, became mistress of many tongues, and gained above all a breadth of desire for human knowledge, destined only to grow with the advance of years.' [Footnote: The Book of the Spiritual Life, by the late Lady Dilke, with a Memoir of the Author by Sir Charles W. Dilke, p. 18.]
At twenty-five years of age she was contributing philosophical articles to the Westminster Review, and for years she wrote the review of foreign politics for the Annual Register. Later she furnished art criticisms to the Portfolio, the Saturday Review, and the Academy, of which last she was art editor. It was as an art critic that she had come to be known, and to this work she brought a remarkable equipment; for to her technical knowledge and artist's training was added a deep study of the tendencies of history and of human thought. Art in the Modern State, in which she wrote of the art of the 'Grand Siecle' in its bearing on modern political and social organizations, has been quoted as the book most characteristic of the philosophical tendency of her writing, but this did not appear till 1888. The Renaissance of Art in France, which had been published in 1879, was illustrated by drawings from her own pencil, and in 1884 had appeared Claude Lorrain, written by herself in the pure and graceful French of which she was mistress.
She had been a pupil of Mulready, whose portrait still decorates the mantelpiece of her Pyrford home, and in the early South Kensington days had come much under the influence of Watts and Ruskin. There were numbered among her friends many who had achieved distinction in the art, literature, or politics of Europe. Her letters on art to Eugene Muentz, preserved in the Manuscript Department of the Bibliotheque Nationale, commemorate the friendship and assistance given to her by the author of the History of the Italian Renaissance, whose admiration for her work made him persuade her to undertake her Claude. It was Taine who bore witness to her 'veritable erudition on the fine arts of the Renaissance,' when in 1871, lecturing in Oxford, he used to visit Mark Pattison and his young wife at Lincoln College, and described the 'toute jeune femme, charmante, gracieuse, a visage frais et presque mutin, dans le plus joli nid de vieille architecture, avec lierre et grands arbres.' [Footnote: 'The Art Work of Lady Dilke,' Quarterly Review, October, 1906.] It was Renan, a friend of later years, whom as yet she did not know, who 'presented' her Renaissance to the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres.
But there was another side to her activities, as intense. Public service was to her a duty of citizenship, and her keen sympathy with suffering had inspired her to such study of economic and industrial questions that, in her effort for the development of organization among women workers, she was for years 'the practical director of a considerable social movement.' Her four volumes on Art in France in the Eighteenth Century, which occupied her from this time onwards, were not more absorbing to her than was the growth of the Women's Trade Union League.
She had concentrated her powers on a special period of French art, just as she concentrated them on a certain phase of industrial development; but her reverence for and pursuit of all learning persisted, and, in the words of the Memoir written by Sir Charles, 'she was master enough of human knowledge in its principal branches to know the relation of almost every part of it to every other.' [Footnote: Book of the Spiritual Life, Memoir, p. 70.]
The intense mental training of the years of her first marriage had given her a grasp of essential facts and a breadth of outlook most unusual in women, and rare among men. She always correlated her own special work to that of the larger world. She found in the Women's Protective and Provident Union a little close corporation, full of sex antagonism and opposition to legislative protection, but under her sway these limitations gradually disappeared, and the Women's Trade Union movement became an integral part of industrial progress. It is difficult to realize now the breadth of vision which was then required to see that the industrial interests of the sexes are identical, and that protective legislation does not hamper, but emancipates. It was this attitude which brought to her in this field of work the friendship and support of all that was best in the Labour world of her day henceforth to the end.
'It is delightful to talk to Mrs. Mark Pattison,' said Sir Charles Dilke years before to Sir Henry James. 'She says such wonderful things.' She had the rare power of revealing to others by a few words things in their true values, and those who came within the sphere of her influence try still to recover the attitude of mind which she inspired, to remember how she would have looked at the fresh problems which confront them, and to view them in relation to all work and life.
It was this knowledge and breadth of view which told. A perfect speaker, with tremendous force of personality, charm of manner, beauty of voice, and command of emotional oratory, her power was greatest when she preferred to these methods the force of a reasoned appeal. Conviction waited on these appeals, and in early days, at a public meeting, a group of youthful cynics, 'out' for entertainment, dispersed with the comment: 'That was wonderful—you couldn't heckle a woman like that.'
Her serious work never detracted from her social charm, which was influenced by her love and study of eighteenth century French art. Her wit, gaiety, and the sensitive fancy which manifested itself in her stories, [Footnote: The Shrine of Love, and Other Stories; and The Shrine of Death, and Other Stories.] made up this charm, which was reflected in the distinction and finish of her appearance. Some touches seemed subtly to differentiate her dress from the prevailing fashion, and to make it the expression of a personality which belonged to a century more dignified, more leisured, and less superficial, than our own. [Footnote: Book of the Spiritual Life, p. 120.] Her dress recalled the canvases of Boucher, Van Loo, and Watteau, which she loved.
She played as she worked, with all her heart, delivering herself completely to the enjoyment of the moment. 'Vous devez bien vous amuser, Monsieur, tous les jours chez vous,' said a Frenchwoman to Sir Charles one night at a dinner in Paris. [Footnote: Book of the Spiritual Life, Memoir, p. 96.] In this power of complete relaxation their natures coincided. Her gaiety matched Sir Charles's own. This perhaps was the least of the bonds between them. The same high courage, the same capacity for tireless work, the same sense of public duty, characterized both.
Sir Charles's real home was the home of all his life, of his father and grandfather—No. 76, Sloane Street. Pyrford and Dockett were, like La Sainte Campagne at Toulon, mainly places for rest and play. This home was a house of treasures—of many things precious in themselves, and more that were precious to the owners from memory and association. Through successive generations one member of the family after another had added to the collection. Many had been accumulated by the last owner, who slept always in the room that had been his nursery. He believed he would die, and desired to die, in the house where he was born. The desire was accomplished, for he died there, on January 26th, 1911, a few months before the long lease expired.
Partly from its dull rich colouring of deep blues and reds and greens, its old carpets and tapestries, partly from the pictures that crowded its walls, the interior had the air rather of a family country-house than of a London dwelling in a busy street.
Pictures, lining the walls from top to bottom of the staircase, represented a medley of date and association. Byng's Fleet at Naples on August 1st, 1718, with Sir Thomas Dilkes second in command, hung next to a view of the Chateau de la Garde, near Toulon. This picturesque ruin rose clear in the view from Sir Charles's house at Cap Brun, 'La Sainte Campagne,' and figures as an illustration in one of Lady Dilke's stories; 'Reeds and Umbrella Pines' at Carqueiranne, by Pownoll Williams, kept another memory of Provence. Next to a painting, by Horace Vernet, of a scene on the Mediterranean coast, little Anne Fisher, born 1588, exhibited herself in hooped and embroidered petticoat, quaint cap and costly laces, a person of great dignity at six years old. She was to be Lady Dilke of Maxstoke Castle and a shrewd termagant, mother of two sons who sided, one with the Commonwealth, the other with the King. The Royalist Sir Peter Wentworth was a great friend of Milton, with whom he came in contact on the Committee of State when Milton was Secretary for the Council of Foreign Tongues. But Cromwell turned him off the Council, and he was arrested and brought to London for abetting his Warwickshire tenantry in refusal to pay the Protector's war-taxes. Her Puritan son, Fisher Dilke, followed, with a sour-faced Puritan divine, and then came a group of water-colours by Thomas Hood, the author of 'The Song of the Shirt,' and an intimate friend of the Dilkes.
One of the ancestors, an earlier Peter Wentworth, son of Sir Nicholas Wentworth (who was Chief Porter of Calais, and knighted by Henry VIII. at the siege of Boulogne), bore the distinction of having been three times sent to the Tower. The first was for a memorable speech on behalf of the liberties of the House of Commons, in 1575. Imprisonment does not seem to have taught him caution, for he was last imprisoned in 1593, because he had 'offended Her Majesty,' and a prisoner he remained till his death in 1596, occupying the period by writing a Pithie Exhortation to Her Majesty for Establishing her Successor to the Crowne.
Engravings of Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Francis Walsingham, Sir Harry Vane, Fulk Greville, Lord Burleigh, William Warham (the friend of Erasmus, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Chancellor), Queen Katharine Parr, Robert Devereux (Earl of Essex), who all came into the Dilke pedigree, hung on the walls. But the most interesting portrait might have been that of Sir Charles himself in fancy dress, the Sir Charles of the early eighties before trouble had lined his face or silvered his hair. This was the painting of Sir Thomas, afterwards Lord Wentworth, who died in 1551 and lies in Westminster Abbey. The reversion to type was so striking that guests would often ask to see again 'the best portrait of Sir Charles.' [Footnote: This first Baron Wentworth had been knighted for his bravery in the taking of Braye and Montdidier in the expedition to France of 1523, and in 1529 was summoned to Parliament under the title of Lord Wentworth of Nettlestead. He attended Henry VIII. in his interview with the French King at Calais, and under Edward VI. was Lord Chamberlain of the Household and a member of the Privy Council.]
Among more recent portraits and drawings were a group of trophies, illustrating Sir Charles's experiences in the Franco-German War. Of three passes, the first was carried when he was with the Crown Prince Frederick and the Knights of St. John; the other two showed the change in his sympathies from Germany to France—one from the Commune, the other from the national headquarters at Versailles. Here lay a bullet which struck the wall beside him at Clamart Railway Station, just missing him; pens taken from the table of the Procureur Imperial at Wissembourg when the first French town was entered by the Germans; and a trophy of his birthday in 1871, a bit of the Napoleonic Eagle from the Guard-room at the Tuileries, smashed by the crowd on that day, September 4th, when the Third Republic was proclaimed.
Then followed old photographs of members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers; pictures of Maxstoke Castle, where the elder branch of the Dilkes had its home; etchings by Rajon; framed numbers of Le Vengeur, printed after the entry of the Versailles army into Paris during the 'semaine sang-lante'; addresses, including some in Greek, presented to Sir Charles on various occasions. In the double dining-room a famous portrait of Gambetta—the only portrait taken from life—hung over one mantelpiece. A favourite citation might have been upon the lips: 'La France etait a genoux. Je lui ai dit, "Leve-toi".' In 1875 Sir Charles asked Professor Legros to go to Paris and paint Gambetta, who never sat to any other artist. This portrait hangs now in the Luxembourg, and will ultimately be transferred to the Louvre, its destination by Sir Charles's bequest. The only other portrait of Gambetta is that by Bonnat, painted after death. It was the property of Dilke's friend M. Joseph Reinach, and the two had agreed to bequeath these treasured possessions to the Louvre. But the Legros was the more authentic. M. Bonnat said to Sir Charles: 'Mine is black and white; I never saw him. Yours is red as a lobster. Mais il parait qu'il etait rouge comme un homard.' Sir Charles himself wrote: 'It is Gambetta as he lives and moves and has his being. What more can I ask for or expect?' He always predicted that its painter, whose merit had never in his opinion been adequately recognized, would after death come to his due place.
The rooms had been lined with the grandfather's books, but soon after he came into possession Sir Charles disposed of them. He had a strong belief in keeping round him only the necessary tools for his work, and a large library was an encumbrance to him. But sentiment was strong, and for some time they remained, till a comment of George Odger's sealed their fate. Looking round the shelves, he remarked with wonderment on the number of the books and the wisdom of the friend who had read them all. Sir Charles, conscious that he had not done so, and that he never should lead the life of a purely literary man, gave away the more valuable, and sold the rest of the collection. Lord Carlingford profited by the Junius papers; Mr. John Murray by the Pope manuscripts; the British Museum by the Caryll papers; and pictures took the place of shelves. [Footnote: See Chapter XI. (Vol. I., pp. 161, 162).]
A number of fine old prints after Raphael were there, and also a photograph of the head of Fortune in Burne-Jones's 'Wheel.' Sir Charles had commissioned Burne-Jones to paint a head of Fortune, and the correspondence on the subject was sufficiently complete to suggest that the commission had been executed, though as a fact it was never carried out. Sir Charles, who knew something of the difficulty of tracing and attributing pictures, used to declare laughingly that the correspondence might go far to mislead some critic of the future into search after a non-existent original. Anyway, the beautiful head with its closed eyes hung there always, presiding over the varying fortunes of the last tenants of the house.
The far dining-room opened with French windows on a paved terrace, which led by steps to a little garden and to the stables beyond. This terrace was the scene of the morning fencing, when the clashing of foils and Sir Charles's shouts of laughter resounded to the neighbouring gardens. Lord Harcourt recalls the parties in the eighties, as one of the characteristic features of life at 76, Sloane Street. Lord Desborough, then Mr. W. Grenfell, a first-rate fencer, came frequently, and he chronicles the 'deadly riposte' of Sir Julian Pauncefote, a regular attendant when he was in town. Mr. R. C. Lehmann, best known as oarsman and boxer, but a fencer as well, came whenever he could. A great St. Bernard, lying waiting for him in the entrance hall, announced his master's presence.
Baron d'Estournelles de Constant, of the French Embassy, was one of the most regular attendants. When M. d'Estournelles left London it was to go to Tunis; and further reference in one of Sir Charles's letters betrays the pride with which he learnt that this frequenter of his school had done it credit by 'pinking his man' in a duel. M. Joseph Reinach came to fence whenever he was in London; so did Italian masters—for example, the Marchese Fabrizio Panluoci de' Calboli, 'who wants to set up here.'
The maitre d'armes was senior master at the London Fencing Club, and many young fencers joined these parties to gain experience. Sir Charles was one of the first Englishmen to use the epee; he fenced always when in Paris, as in London, and any famous French fencer who visited this country received as a matter of course an invitation to the morning meetings at No. 76. [Footnote: Sir Charles fenced whenever he was abroad, if he could get an opponent. There is a note of 1881: 'August 29th-September 3rd, fenced with de Clairval at La Bourboule.' As late as 1907 he was fencing at Hyeres with a master who came over from Toulon on certain days in the week. Also at the end of 1881 he 'started a local fencing club in my own street, and trained some good fencers there, and used to get away to fence there whenever I could find time in the evening hours.' He took part in a competition at this club, and 'won the prize for rapier fencing, being beaten, of course, for foil fencing.'] Sir Theodore Cook, now editor of the Field, an antagonist of a later date, and captain of the first international fencing team of 1903, speaks of the considerable reputation of Sir Charles as a fencer, 'taking the same place in a quiet way as that Lord Howard de Walden takes towards the public now' (1913).
It was the 'unconventional style and the boyish enjoyment of his pastime'—to use Lord Desborough's words—which were characteristic of Sir Charles. His mischievous attempts to distract his adversary's attention, his sudden drops to the ground and bewildering recoveries, his delight at the success of his feints, and contagious merriment, must have gained the sympathy of even the most formal fencer. Many stories of these bouts are told. One is that, having driven an antagonist from the terrace into the Garden Room, into which he was followed by his favourite cat, Sir Charles caught up and threw the protesting animal at his opponent, and dealt his final blow at a foe embarrassed by the double onslaught. Those, however, who know his respect for the dignity of cats will always regard the story as apocryphal.
He delighted in having near him the pictures of his friends, and there were many on the next landing, in the vestibule and the Blue Room to which it led. Mr. Chamberlain, keen-eyed and alert, looked out from Frank Holl's canvas. Fawcett, [Footnote: Now in the National Portrait Gallery, as also Holl's 'Chamberlain,' by Sir Charles's bequest.] painted by Ford Madox Brown in 1871, recalled an earlier friendship, as did the portrait of John Stuart Mill, who, never having sat to any painter, just before his death allowed Watts to paint this for Sir Charles. The picture came home on the day Mill died, and is the original. It was left by will to the Westminster Town Hall. The picture in the National Portrait Gallery is a replica, painted by Sir Charles's leave. By Watts was also a beautiful portrait of Sir Charles himself, the pendant to another which has gone. He and his first wife were painted for each other, but the portrait of her seemed to him so inadequately to render the 'real charm' of the dead woman that he destroyed it. The illustrations of this book contain some reproductions of pictures mentioned here.
Reminiscent of earlier family friendships were the Keats relics here and in Sir Charles's own study. Many of these had been bought by old Mr. Dilke from Keats's love, Fanny Brawne, to save them from the indignity of an auction.
In the Blue Room also hung some extraordinarily fine pictures by Blake, who was the friend of Sir Charles's grandfather—among them 'The Crucifixion,' 'The Blasphemer,' and 'The Devil,' [Footnote: 'I gave four of my Blakes to the South Kensington Museum in 1884.'] The best loved both by the grandfather and by Sir Charles was the beautiful 'Queen Catherine's Dream.' A precious copy of The Songs of Innocence, hand-painted by Blake and his wife, completed the collection. There were several reliefs by Dalou in the house, the finest let in over the mantelpiece of the Blue Room, a copy of Flaxman's Mercury and Pandora. They were executed for Sir Charles when the sculptor was in London in great distress after the Commune, before the amnesty which retrieved his fortunes.
Here also were reminiscences of Provence. One side of the wall was largely covered by a picture of Frejus by Wislin, painted in the days when St. Raphael and Valescure did not exist, and when the old town rose clear from the low ground as Rome rises from the Campagna, the beautiful Roquebrune, a spur of Sir Charles's beloved Mountains of the Moors, behind it. Sevres china, vases, bronzes, filled the window ledges, presents to the first Baronet from the Emperor of Austria, Napoleon III., the Crown Prince of Prussia (afterwards the Emperor Frederick), and other royal persons and Governments, with whom his Exhibition work brought him into touch.
At the time when Horace Walpole's collection at Strawberry Hill was sold, Sir Charles's grandfather had stayed at Twickenham, and had brought away many purchases, which peopled the Red and Green Drawing-rooms on the next landing. There was a little group of miniatures in which the 'Beautiful Gunnings' and a charming 'Miss Temple' figured; in another group, miniatures of Addison, of Mme. Le Brun, of Moliere, came from Lady Morgan, whose pen of bog-oak and gold, a gift to her from the Irish people, hung in Sir Charles's own study. The best of the miniatures were those by Peter Oliver, and portrayed Frederick of Bohemia, Elector Palatine, and his wife Elizabeth, Princess Royal of England, afterwards married to Lord Craven; while the finest of all was 'a son of Sir Kenelm Digby, 1632.' It was one of 'several others' which Walpole 'purchased at a great price,' a purchase which was thus chronicled 'by Mason (Junius) in a letter to Walpole: 'I congratulate you on the new miniatures, though I know one day they will become Court property and dangle under the crimson-coloured shop-glasses of our gracious Queen Charlotte.' The set were all brought together for the first time since 1842 at the Burlington Fine Arts Club Exhibition.
In these two drawing-rooms, among the medley of enamelled and inlaid tables, royal gifts and collectors' purchases, pictures by Cranach, Mabuse, Van Goyen, Mignard, and many more, some special objects stood out. These were a beautiful Madonna by Memling, on a circular panel, from Lord Northwick's collection; the Strawberry Hill marble version of the famous Bargello relief by Donatello, of the head of the infant St. John the Baptist; and a portrait ascribed to Cornelius Jansen, which, owing to the fleurs-de-lis on the chair, passed by the name of 'the Duchess,' a portly lady of some dignity, with beautiful white hands and tapering fingers. Lady Dilke's researches, however, placed the lady as Anne Dujardin, an innkeeper of Lyons. The painter, young Karl Dujardin, unable to pay his reckoning, had settled it by marrying his hostess and taking her to Amsterdam, and the fleurs-de-lis on the chair explained that the lady was of French extraction. A Flemish head of Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands, had come from the Gwydyr Collection. She was much exhibited, but her main interest was due to Sir Charles's intense admiration for the governing capacity and the overshadowed life of the woman. He made two pilgrimages to the church at Brou, near Bourg-en-Bresse, where her sculptured face, closely resembling that of the portrait, looks out from tomb and windows, as she lies side by side with Philibert le Beau, the husband of her love and of her youth, in the magnificent shrine she built for him.
Tapestry hangings divided the rooms from each other, and in many cases only heavy curtains divided them from the stairs.
Above these rooms, Sir Charles's little study, occupied all day by his secretary or himself, was lined with books of reference and piles of despatch-boxes, while every spare foot on the wall held relics of the past. There was the Herkomer portrait of his second wife, there also a copy of a favourite picture, Bellini's Doge Leonardo Loredano; the portrait of Keats, the only one Severn did from the life—now on loan at the National Portrait Gallery—old political cartoons of Chelsea days, portraits and prints of John Wilkes, and a head of Mazzini. Felix Moscheles (the nephew of Mendelssohn and baby of the Cradle Song) painted Mazzini. Concerning its subject the Memoir notes: 'In the course of 1872 I lost a good friend in Mazzini, whose enthusiasms, Italian and religious, I at that time scarcely shared, but whose conversation and close friendship I deeply valued.... The modernness of the Universal Cigarette Smoking Craze may be judged by the fact that Mazzini was the first man I ever knew who was constantly smoking cigarettes.'
The rest was a medley impossible to catalogue: portraits of Charles Lamb, who had been the grandfather's friend; a scarce proclamation by the Pretender; medals and other 'Caryll' relics; rapiers, pistols which had travelled with Sir Charles through America; a section of the Trinity Hall boat which was head of the river in 1862 and 1864; seven cups, trophies of rowing, walking, fencing, and shooting matches, with shots dug up on his Toulon estate which were mementoes of the British blockades of the town. Apart from works of reference, a special case was given to autographed books from Hood, Rogers the poet, Gambetta, Laveleye, Louis Blanc, Castelar, Cardinal Manning, Queen Victoria, and many more. In this collection figured all Sir Charles's college prizes, carefully preserved; the family Bible of Lord Leicester, uncle to Sir Philip Sidney, with Dilke family entries; and a little volume in which his second wife had written for him some of the most beautiful passages from 'Queens' Gardens' in Sesame and Lilies; it was bound in white vellum and 'blessed by Ruskin.' Here, too, were many Keats letters and books afterwards left by will to Hampstead.
A hoard of treasures filled a little book-room above—his mother's sketches, drawings of his first wife driving her ponies in Sloane Street, photographs and trinkets of hers, old family caricatures, and also some original sketches by Leech. In the room next to it, occupied by his grandmother till her death in 1882, was a John Collier of the first Lady Dilke.
When the grandmother's sitting-room was used later by Sir Charles's second wife, its main features were a small reference library of French art and a collection of books on Labour. Before the fireplace, on the writing-table as it was in 1885, were bowls of French porcelain filled once a week with fresh flowers from the Toulon garden—paper white narcissus and purple anemones or big violets of Provencal growth.
Sir Charles's bedroom above was the old nursery, connected with his mother's room, in which he was born, and out of which opened a little room where as a child he slept. His memories of that room were the terrors of a nervous boy, lying alone in the dark, creeping downstairs to sit—a tiny white-robed figure—as near as possible to the drawing-room door, to get comfort from the hum of talk or thunder of the four-handed piano pieces of the period.
His own room for many years was full of drawings by his second wife—her studies under Mulready, her drawings for her Renaissance, and other pen-and-ink sketches by her hand, as well as two miniatures of her by Pollet. Some of Frank Dicey's Thames water-colours, one showing Sir Charles's river house at Dockett Eddy, and sketches from his own pen or brush made in his Russian, American, and world-wide wanderings, were here also. In a tiny glazed bookcase by the fire were some 'favourite books,' a volume or two of Kipling, two volumes of Anatole France, next to a cookery book of 1600, Renan's Souvenirs d'Enfance et de Jeunesse, and a volume of Aubanel. The place of honour was given to a deeply scored copy of Jeremy Taylor's Golden Grove.
Beside his great-uncle's Peninsular medal and clasps hung one of Roty's medals, a present from the artist. There were several of Roty's beautiful medallions in the house, the finest one of Sir Charles himself, explained by the legend on the back as 'done for his wife.' She had it made, and it was always with her.
There were a good many of W. E. F. Britten's pictures, painted for Sir Charles; the finest was that of 'St. Francis preaching to the Birds,' a thing of delicate colour and taste, which fitted with his love of the Umbrian Holy Land and went later to the country cottage at Pyrford. There was more force in a large crayon drawing of the Earl of Southampton in the Tower: 'his cat had just arrived down the chimney, probably saving his master's reason by relief of the intolerable tension of lonely confinement.'
The painted cats, or Miss Chaplin's modelled pussies, of which there were many, were seldom without some magnificent living representative at 76, Sloane Street. Zulu, an enormous dark long-haired cat, was very popular; but the last of the 'Head Cats,' Calino, was so engaging that, at his death about 1908, Sir Charles decided that he should never be replaced. The sway of these cats was despotic, but there were occasions on which their own territory was too limited for them, and messages would come from far down the street demanding the removal of the reigning favourite from some article of furniture where it had ensconced itself with such majesty that a show of violence was out of the question. Among his precious books was a cat story—privately printed and bound—which his second wife had gradually evolved among the wonderful essays in story-telling with which, when he was jaded, she diverted him. This held so large a share in his affection that it nearly displaced his little French copy of the Contes de Perrault, containing the adventures of the Marquis of Carabas and Puss in Boots. At the winter cottage at Pyrford, among the pines, was a cattery, where Persian tailless cats, some ginger and some white, were bred. A list of names was kept ready for them, and Babettes, Papillons, Pierrots and Pierrettes, Mistigrises and Beelzebubs, were distributed to friends and acquaintances. Among the treasured pathetic scraps kept in his father's desk, his executors found a pencil drawing by his wife, the closed window of a silent house, into which the perfectly sketched figure of a little kitten was trying to enter.
In the gracious setting of this house the pervading atmosphere was that of work. The three generations of Dilkes whom it had sheltered had each found the sphere for which he was best fitted, and pursued it tirelessly. The grandfather, beloved old scholar and critic; the father, indefatigable organizer of international exhibitions, horticulturist, newspaper proprietor, member of Parliament—both passed on the traditions of strenuous labour to the great Parliamentarian who was now the occupant of the house. He had absorbed those traditions and far outvied his predecessors, working day and night, bringing down from his bedroom almost illegible memoranda to be deciphered by his secretary in the morning.
From 1880 to 1885 his accession to public office had intensified the work. Messengers with official boxes waited in the hall; callers on political or electoral business, to be interviewed by him or his secretaries, filled the Blue and Red Rooms. After the morning's fencing he passed rapidly from letters to interviews till the Office or the House of Commons claimed him, and his faithful coachman, Charles Grant, who when he died in 1901 had served his master for thirty years, waited for him at the door. Yet with all this the house continued, as in his father's day, to be noted for its hospitality, and the lists of guests in the tattered diaries bear witness to the enormous and varied circle of Sir Charles's friends. Here met foreign diplomatists and artists, English statesmen, and men of letters. Even Cardinal Manning broke his rule against dining out, as 'yours is a Cabinet dinner,' to come to 76, Sloane Street; but as he met M. de Franqueville, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, and the friend whom the Cardinal designated to be his biographer, the future author of France, J. E. C. Bodley, there must have been talk of other subjects than 'Housing of the Poor.' Indeed, absence of 'shop' seems to have been one of the charms of these dinners, and Mr. G. W. Osborn, the Chairman of the Chelsea Liberal Association, records that, even when the local leaders met there, some outside element was always introduced which made the talk general.
On another occasion Sir Charles notes: 'July 9th, 1884. On this day Cardinal Manning dined with me, and gave me, in return for a Spanish crucifix with which I had presented him, a miniature of "our patron, St. Charles,"' which now, he adds, '(1891 and 1903) hangs in my bedroom. Manning and H. von Bismarck met at my table—I think for the first time.'
His first invitation to Mr. Gladstone, of October 26th, 1882, was to meet the Duc de Broglie: 'the leader of the Conservative party in France is at this moment a sufficiently interesting figure for me to think you may like to come to meet him, if you are not engaged.'
Such social life, like the morning's rapid turn with the foils or the Sunday afternoon on the river, helped to save him from breakdown under a strain of work persistently intense. Another quality which saved him was his power of turning at once and completely from one occupation to another.
A friend thus describes him as he appeared in 1885: 'There was in him a quality of boyishness I have never seen in any other man, coupled with deep gravity and seriousness, and the transition from one mood to the other came with lightning rapidity. Appeal to him on some question of high politics, even at a moment of the most joyous relaxation, and his face gravened, his bearing changed; he pulled himself together with a trick of manner habitual to the end, and the 'boy' became the statesman before it seemed the last echoes of his laughter had died away. We all prophesied for him accession to the highest offices of the State; for though so far the offices which he had held had been of but minor rank, yet he had magnified these offices till they became of the first importance, and his knowledge and authority were as great as were his charm and his power of gathering round him supporters and friends. He spoke with the authority of one who knows his value to the nation which he serves.'
So with Sir Charles's second marriage the house entered on its last phase, and the dark days which followed were lightened for its two occupants by mutual confidence and the support of an abiding love.
After a brief stay at Royat, whither doctor's orders had sent Lady Dilke, Sir Charles returned with her, in September, 1886, to the little riverside cottage at Dockett. Thence, as autumn drew on, they moved to the other cottage that had been built among the pines on the sandy ridge near Woking.
No longer having a seat in the House of Commons, Sir Charles again resumed the pen, by which he had first gained distinction.
In the English home politics of 1887, the Irish Question predominated as it had never done before: Home Rule was being thrashed out on every platform. This was a matter on which Sir Charles, to use his own words, 'never clearly saw his way'; it was one that he naturally avoided, for it had separated him from his most intimate political associate, and he turned to the field of foreign affairs which had continuously occupied him during his tenure of office, and which, save during the episode of the franchise negotiations, had been his central concern.
For a moment he had the notion of entering into the business of newspaper management. His object was not to secure literary reputation, but to direct and influence public opinion. Early in 1887 he wrote to his friend Mr. Thursfield of the Times:
'What I want is work on foreign affairs, or rather external affairs, or foreign and colonial. I would prefer not to write, but to suggest and supervise foreign news, and to work up the subjects of the leaders which others would write. If I wrote, I think I should write less well than other people, because I always write as I speak, and not as people are taught to write.'
Nothing came of this idea; but it was a proposal remarkable in its self-depreciation, because it was made when work from his pen was already having a conspicuous success. Beginning in January, 1887, a series of six articles dealing with the existing position of the six Great Powers appeared in the Fortnightly Review, anonymously, but the author was at once identified. They sent the Review into repeated editions. They appeared translated into French in the Nouvelle Revue, and were discussed all over Europe. Later in the summer they were published in book form, and called in English The Present Position of European Politics and in French L'Europe en 1887.
In the author's own words, the articles dealt with 'facts and tendencies'; and though he would have been the last to hold himself a prophet, saying that in the nature of things 'two years meant for ever in politics,' much that he wrote is still of interest, and the suggestion of Mr. Erskine Childers' hero that we should 'Read Dilke' is not yet out of date. [Footnote: Riddle of the Sands, by Erskine Childers, popular edition, p. 127. First published March, 1903.]
The keynote of the book is contained in the opening words, 'The present position of the European world is one in which sheer force holds a larger place than it has held in modern times since the fall of Napoleon.' This reign of force the author traced back to 1878, the date of the Treaty of Berlin, but it was originally due, as he pointed out, to the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine in 1871, which had left a permanent source of irritation in the European States system. Nevertheless, he recognized that for the time the continuance of Prince Bismarck's policy, based as it was on the maintenance of the Treaty, meant peace, because Prince Bismarck believed peace to be necessary for the maintenance in undiminished strength of the German Empire, wedged in between France and Russia, the former always hostile, the latter an uncertain quantity. An alliance with Austria-Hungary was necessary to this policy: an alliance dictated by the fact that no other was likely to be permanent. Italy, it was true, had recently joined the alliance; but Italy, like Russia, was an uncertain factor, and Sir Charles Dilke believed that, if a critical moment were to come, the desire to get the Trentino would be stronger than the ties of any alliance. The policy of Prince Bismarck was accordingly to prevent a Russo-French alliance, and to help Russia to push into the Far East; to help her also in the Balkans, but not beyond the point at which Austria might remonstrate; and to prevent Austria from seeking anything calculated to precipitate a war between herself and Russia, such as an attempt to add to the position which she had obtained in the Balkan Peninsula under the Treaty of Berlin. This policy also involved keeping Turkey quiet and preventing a league of the Balkan States, lest such a league should irritate Russia and Austria and produce a European conflagration.
General Fadejew, in a celebrated pamphlet [Footnote: General Fadejew, Ueber Russland's Kriegsmacht und Kriegspolitik, Leipzig, 1870, translated from the Russian.] which fluttered all the Chancelleries of Europe in the early seventies, had said that the road from Russia to Constantinople lay through Vienna; and Vienna, Sir Charles agreed with the Russian general, was the centre to be watched, for it was there that the key of European policy was to be found. 'Austria interests me,' he wrote, when preparing his book, to Sir William White, the Ambassador at Constantinople. 'I can't leave London, but I'm thinking of sending a man to Vienna to tell me certain things. If so, to whom should he go?' And he watched the strange development of events in Bulgaria. Early in January he notes an interview with 'Dr. Stoiloff, the ablest man except the brutal Stambuloff, and the leader of the Conservative party' in Bulgaria, where the perpetual intrigues of Russian agents, official and unofficial, had recently culminated, in August, 1886, in the kidnapping of the reigning chief of the State, Prince Alexander of Battenberg, and had thereby created an Austrian party: events which were to have many long-drawn-out consequences, as the following century to its own cost was to find out. Bulgaria from this time began to move in an orbit of her own, distinct from, and often unfriendly to, the other Balkan States.
In 1887 it was still a current belief—especially on the part of many of Sir Charles's own political friends—that Germany was eagerly watching for an opportunity to seize the German provinces of Austria, and that Austria was eagerly watching for an opportunity 'to go to Salonica,' as the current phrase had it. The two propositions were almost mutually destructive, but, without insisting on this rather obvious consideration, Sir Charles was well aware that (even apart from reasons of international policy) Germany could not desire the disruption of Austria, because the German provinces of Upper and Lower Austria and Styria did not lie next to North Germany, but were cut off from it by countries in which the most enterprising of all Slavonic peoples—the Czechs of Bohemia—'hated the Germans with a deadly hatred,' and already, even in 1887, had got the upper hand. Count Bismarck himself had resisted—and successfully—the desire of the military party to annex Bohemia in 1866 after Sadowa. The permanent exclusion of Austria and the House of Hapsburg from Germany was also no sudden or ephemeral policy. In the middle of the seventeenth century, as the author of the Holy Roman Empire had reminded his readers, it had been proposed by the famous publicist Philippe Chemnitz, who wrote under the name of 'Hippolytus a Lapide,' as the surest means of securing a permanent unity of some kind in Germany. [Footnote: See Bryce, Holy Roman Empire, chap. xx., p. 386; Louis Leger, Histoire de l'Autriche-Hongrie, chap. xv., p. 258.] It had been adopted by the leaders in the Frankfurt Parliament of 1848-49, and Count Bismarck was the inheritor of these traditions when he finally expelled the House of Hapsburg in 1866, and thus translated ancient theories into modern facts. It was therefore highly improbable, to say the least, that only a few years after the Treaty of Berlin he should be engaged in an attempt to nullify his own work. [Footnote: On January 14th, 1849, the Frankfurt Parliament voted the exclusion of Austria from Germany.]
Austria, Sir Charles Dilke pointed out, some day by mere competition with Russia, if that Power made further advances, might perhaps be forced forward unwillingly to Salonica; but by thus seizing Macedonia—a far larger proposition than that of the annexation of Bosnia and the Herzegovina, and in many respects a different one—it was clear she would 'increase her military weakness, would deeply offend the Servians, the Greeks, and the Bulgarians, and by increasing the number of her Slavonic subjects would only hasten her own break-up.' Here, in fact, lay the real danger to the 'Eastern Empire.' Prince Bismarck, as a matter of fact, was of all men in Europe the man who most desired to keep Austria alive. 'It is a necessity to him that she should continue to exist. Once destroy Austria, and Germany is left to fight it out with France and Russia without assistance, for in this case Italy would not move,' notwithstanding the recently renewed Triple Alliance. That a military party existed in Austria which might desire to go to Salonica, and would also rejoice in a war with Italy, Sir Charles was well aware; but he saw no reason to believe that it would succeed in forcing these adventures on the Ballplatz, or on the statesmen of Hungary, who above all things dreaded an increase of the Slavonic elements in the Empire. The Austria-Hungary of 1887 was the Austria-Hungary of the long rule of Count Taafe at Vienna, of M. Koloman Tisza at Buda-Pesth, and of Count Kalnoky at the Ballplatz; and it was not unreasonable at that time to consider it possible that, 'after the division of the respective spheres of influence of Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia, in Macedonia, Austria might gradually increase her influence in the Balkan States; and if she would take the bold step of making up an arrangement for evacuating part of Bosnia and the Herzegovina, so as to show she had no intention of going southwards to Salonica, she might bring together in a general understanding with herself the small States and the Turks.' This, however, Sir Charles admitted, was probably impracticable, 'as Austro- Hungarian pride would effectually prevent the abandonment of any portion of Bosnia.' But so late as 1909 Dilke told Lord Fitzmaurice, when, at the time of her final annexation of Bosnia and the Herzegovina, Austria-Hungary had retired from the Sandjak of Novi Bazar, that he thought the British Foreign Office 'had made too great a fuss' over the annexation, which had been certain to come, sooner or later. [Footnote: Lord Fitzmaurice was then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and represented the Foreign Office in the House of Lords. See further as to Sir Charles Dilke's' views on the events of 1908, Chapter LVIII.]
Mr. Robert Lowe is credited with having said that a metaphysician resembled a blind man groping in a dark room for a black hat that was not there. The comparison might almost have been applied to the Foreign Minister of the Dual Empire, vainly seeking for a coherent policy among the mists and cross-currents of rival nationalities. The charge to be made against the foreign policy of Austria-Hungary was, in fact, not that she had got a policy—good or bad, ambitious or the reverse—but that it was almost impossible as a rule to ascertain whether she had any policy at all: the explanation being that her internal problems paralyzed her action abroad. 'It was difficult to be a patriot in Austria, for nobody exactly knew to the representatives of what race, tongue, or language, his allegiance was due.' 'Austria was indeed of all countries in the world by far the most difficult to govern, and as a necessity of her condition she must before all things long for peace.... Under her many difficulties caused by racial divisions she had become constitutionally timid and naturally slow to move, and the outlook was far from promising ... nor had Prince Bismarck'—notwithstanding the terms of the Triple Alliance—'bound Germany to espouse all the quarrels of Austria, no matter where and with whom.' It had been said, and by Prince Bismarck himself, that the bones of not a single Pomeranian grenadier should be allowed to whiten in a Balkan quarrel. [Footnote: Speech in the Reichstag, December 16th, 1876.] 'The only real question worth asking was: Will Austria resist Russian pretensions, and will she, if in danger of conquest, be supported by allies, or will she yield and take her share of the spoils?' [Footnote: The Present Position of European Politics, pp. 185, 193, 194, 205, 206, 219, 221-224.]