In the Name of the Bodleian and Other Essays
Augustine Birrell

Part 3 out of 3

Richard Carlile, as honourable a man as most, and between whose
religious opinions and (let us say) Lord Palmerston's there was
probably no difference worth mentioning, spent nine out of the
fifty-two years of his life in prison. Attorney-Generals, and, indeed,
every degree of prosecuting counsel have abused this kind of
free-thinker, not merely with professional impunity, but amidst
popular applause. Judges, speaking with emotion, have exhibited the
utmost horror of atheistical opinions, and have railed in good set
terms at the wretch who has been dragged before them, and have then,
at the rising of the court, proceeded to their club and played cards
till dinner-time with a first-class free-thinker for partner.

This is natural and easily accounted for, but we need not be surprised
if, in the biographies of second-class freethinkers, bitterness is
occasionally exhibited towards the well-to-do brethren who decline
what Dr. Bentley, in his Boyle Lectures, called 'the public odium and
resentment of the magistrate.'

Mr. Bradlaugh was a freethinker of the second class. His father was a
solicitor's clerk on a salary which never exceeded L2 2s. a week; his
mother had been a nursery-maid; and he himself was born in 1833 in
Bacchus Walk, Hoxton. At seven he went to a national school, but at
eleven his school education ended, and he became an office-boy. At
fourteen he was a wharf-clerk and cashier to a coal-merchant. His
parents were not much addicted to church-going, but Charles was from
the first a serious boy, and became at a somewhat early age a
Sunday-school teacher at St. Peter's, Hackney Road. The incumbent, in
order to prepare him for Confirmation, set him to work to extract the
Thirty-nine Articles out of the four Gospels. Unhappy task, worthy to
be described by the pen of the biographer of John Sterling. The
youthful wharfinger could not find the Articles in the Gospels, and
informed the Rev. J.G. Packer of the fact. His letter conveying this
intelligence is not forthcoming, and probably enough contained
offensive matter, for Mr. Packer seems at once to have denounced young
Bradlaugh as one engaged in atheistical inquiries, to have suspended
him from the Sunday-school, to have made it very disagreeable for him
at home and with his employer, and to have wound up by giving him
three days to change his views or to lose his place.

Mr. Packer has been well abused, but it has never been the fashion to
treat youthful atheists with much respect. When Coleridge confided to
the Rev. James Boyer that he (S.T. Coleridge) was inclined to atheism,
the reverend gentleman had him stripped and flogged. Mr. Packer,
however, does seem to have been too hasty, for Bradlaugh did not
formally abandon his beliefs until some months after his suspension.
He retired for a short season, and studied Hebrew under Mr. James
Savage, of Circus Street, Marylebone. He emerged an unbeliever, aged
sixteen. Expelled from his wharf, he sold coal on commission, but his
principal, if not his only customer, the wife of a baker, discovering
that he was an infidel, gave him no more orders, being afraid, so she
said, that her bread would smell of brimstone.

In 1850 Bradlaugh published his first pamphlet, _A Few Words on the
Christian Creed_, and dedicated it to the unhappy Mr. Packer. But
starvation stared him in the face, and in the same year he enlisted in
the 7th Dragoon Guards, and spent the next three years in Ireland,
where he earned a good character, and on more occasions than one
showed that adroitness for which he was afterwards remarkable.

In October, 1853, his mother and sister with great difficulty raised
the L30 necessary to buy his discharge, and Bradlaugh returned to
London, not only full grown, but well fed. Had he not taken the
Queen's shilling he never would have lived to fight the battle he did.

He became a solicitor's clerk on a miserably small pay, and took to
lecturing as 'Iconoclast.' In 1855 he was married at St. Philip's
Church, Stepney. His lectures and discussions began to assume great
proportions, and covered more than twenty years of his life. Terribly
hard work they were. Profits there were none, or next to none. Few men
have endured greater hardships.

In 1860 the _National Reformer_ was started, and his warfare in the
courts began. In 1868 he first stood for Northampton, which he
unsuccessfully contested three times. In April, 1880, he was returned
to Parliament, and then began the famous struggle with which the
constitutional historian will have to deal. After this date the facts
are well known. Bradlaugh died on January 30, 1891.

His life was a hard one from beginning to end. He had no advantages.
Nobody really helped him or influenced him or mollified him. He had
never either money or repose; he had no time to travel, except as a
propagandist, no time to acquire knowledge for its own sake; he was
often abused but seldom criticised. In a single sentence, he was never
taught the extent of his own ignorance.

His attitude towards the Christian religion and the Bible was a
perfectly fair one, and ought not to have brought down upon him any
abuse whatever. There are more ways than one of dealing with religion.
It may be approached as a mystery or as a series of events supported
by testimony. If the evidence is trustworthy, if the witnesses are
irreproachable, if they submit successfully to examination and
cross-examination, then, however remarkable or out of the way may be
the facts to which they depose, they are entitled to be believed. This
is a mode of treatment with which we are all familiar, whether as
applied to the Bible or to the authority of the Church. Nobody is
expected to believe in the authority of the Church until satisfied
by the exercise of his reason that the Church in question possesses
'the notes' of a true Church. This was the aspect of the question
which engaged Bradlaugh's attention. He was critical, legal. He
took objections, insisted on discrepancies, cross-examined as to
credibility, and came to the conclusion that the case for the
supernatural was not made out. And this he did not after the
first-class fashion in the study or in octavo volumes, but in the
street. His audiences were not Mr. Mudie's subscribers, but men and
women earning weekly wages. The coarseness of his language, the
offensiveness of his imagery, have been greatly exaggerated. It is now
a good many years since I heard him lecture in a northern town on the
Bible to an audience almost wholly composed of artisans. He was bitter
and aggressive, but the treatment he was then experiencing accounted
for this. As an avowed atheist he received no quarter, and he might
fairly say with Wilfred Osbaldistone, 'It's hard I should get raps
over the costard, and only pay you back in make-believes.'

It was not what Bradlaugh said, but the people he said it to, that
drew down upon him the censure of the magistrate, and (unkindest cut
of all) the condemnation of the House of Commons.

Of all the evils from which the lovers of religion do well to pray
that their faith may be delivered, the worst is that it should ever
come to be discussed across the floor of the House of Commons. The
self-elected champions of the Christian faith who then ride into the
lists are of a kind well calculated to make Piety hide her head for
very shame. Rowdy noblemen, intemperate country gentlemen, sterile
lawyers, cynical but wealthy sceptics who maintain religion as another
fence round their property, hereditary Nonconformists whose God is
respectability and whose goal a baronetcy, contrive, with a score or
two of bigots thrown in, to make a carnival of folly, a veritable
devil's dance of blasphemy. The debates on Bradlaugh's oath-taking
extended over four years, and will make melancholy reading for
posterity. Two figures, and two figures only, stand out in solitary
grandeur, those of a Quaker and an Anglican--Bright and Gladstone.

The conclusion which an attentive reading of Mr. Bradlaugh's biography
forces upon me is that in all probability he was the last freethinker
who will be exposed, for many a long day (it would be more than
usually rash to write 'ever'), to pains and penalties for uttering his
unbelief. It is true the Blasphemy Laws are not yet repealed; it may
be true for all I know that Christianity is still part and parcel
of the common law; it is possibly an indictable offence to lend
_Literature and Dogma_ and _God and the Bible_ to a friend; but,
however these things may be, Mr. Bradlaugh's stock-in-trade is now
free of the market-place, where just at present, at all events, its
price is low. It has become pretty plain that neither the Fortress of
Holy Scripture nor the Rock of Church Authority is likely to be taken
by storm. The Mystery of Creation, the unsolvable problem of matter,
continue to press upon us more heavily than ever. Neither by Paleys
nor by Bradlaughs will religion be either bolstered up or pulled down.
Sceptics and Sacramentarians must be content to put up with one
another's vagaries for some time to come. Indeed, the new socialists,
though at present but poor theologians (one hasty reading of _Lux
Mundi_ does not make a theologian), are casting favourable eyes
upon Sacramentarianism, deeming it to have a distinct flavour of
Collectivism. Calvinism, on the other hand, is considered repulsively
individualistic, being based upon the notion that it is the duty of
each man to secure his own salvation.

But whether Bradlaugh was the last of his race or not, he was a
brave man whose life well deserves an honourable place amongst the
biographies of those Radicals who have suffered in the cause of
Free-thought, and into the fruits of whose labours others have


The late Sir William Fraser was not, I have been told, a popular
person in that society about which he thought so much, and his book,
_Disraeli and His Day_, did not succeed in attracting much of the
notice of the general reader, and failed, so I, at least, have been
made to understand, to win a verdict of approval from the really well

I consider the book a very good one, in the sense of being valuable.
Whatever your mood may be, that of the moralist, cynic, satirist,
humourist, whether you love, pity, or despise your fellow-man, here is
grist for your mill. It feeds the mind.

Although in form the book is but a stringing together of stories,
incidents, and aphorisms, still the whole produces a distinct effect.
To state what that effect is would be, I suppose, the higher
criticism. It is not altogether disagreeable; it is decidedly amusing;
it is clever and somewhat contemptible. Sir William Fraser was a
baronet who thought well of his order. He desiderated a tribunal to
determine the right to the title, and he opined that the courtesy
prefix of 'Honourable,' which once, it appears, belonged to baronets,
should be restored to them. Apart from these opinions, ridiculous and
peculiar, Sir William Fraser stands revealed in this volume as cast in
a familiar mould. The words 'gentleman,' 'White's,' 'Society,' often
flow from his pen, and we may be sure were engraven on his heart. He
had seen a world wrecked. When he was young, so he tells his readers,
the world consisted of at least three, and certainly not more than
five, hundred persons who were accustomed night after night during the
season to make their appearance at a certain number of houses, which
are affectionately enumerated. A new face at any one of these
gatherings immediately attracted attention, as, indeed, it is easy to
believe it would. 'Anything for a change,' as somebody observes in

This is the atmosphere of the book, and Sir William breathes in it
very pleasantly. Endowed by Nature with a retentive memory and a
literary taste, active if singular, he may be discovered in his own
pages moving up and down, in and out of society, supplying and
correcting quotations, and gratifying the vanity of distinguished
authors by remembering their own writings better than they did
themselves. The book makes one clearly comprehend what a monstrous
clever fellow the rank and file of the Tory party must have felt Sir
William Fraser to be. This, however, is only background. In the front
of the picture we have the mysterious outlines, the strange
personality, struggling between the bizarre and the romantic, of 'the
Jew,' as big George Bentinck was ever accustomed to denominate his
leader. Sir William Fraser's Disraeli is a very different figure from
Sir Stafford Northcote's. The myth about the pocket Sophocles is
rudely exploded. Sir William is certain that Disraeli could not have
construed a chapter of the Greek Testament. He found such mythology
as he required where many an honest fellow has found it before him--in
Lempriere's Dictionary. His French accent, as Sir William records it,
was most satisfactory, and a conclusive proof of his _bona-fides_.
Disraeli, it is clear, cared as little for literature as he did for
art. He admired Gray, as every man with a sense for epithet must; he
studied Junius, whose style, so Sir William Fraser believes, he
surpassed in his 'Runnymede' letters. Sir William Fraser kindly
explains the etymology of this strange word 'Runnymede,' as he also
does that of 'Parliament,' which he says is '_Parliamo mente_' (Let us
speak our minds). Sir William clearly possessed the learning denied to
his chief.

Beyond apparently imposing upon Sir Stafford Northcote, Disraeli
himself never made any vain pretensions to be devoted to pursuits for
which he did not care a rap. He once dreamt of an epic poem, and his
early ambition urged him a step or two in that direction, but his
critical faculty, which, despite all his monstrosities of taste, was
vital, restrained him from making a fool of himself, and he forswore
the muse, puffed the prostitute away, and carried his very saleable
wares to another market, where his efforts were crowned with
prodigious success. Sir William Fraser introduces his great man to us
as observing, in reply to a question, that revenge was the passion
which gives pleasure the latest. A man, he continued, will enjoy that
when even avarice has ceased to please. As a matter of fact, Disraeli
himself was neither avaricious nor revengeful, and, as far as one can
judge, was never tempted to be either. This is the fatal defect of
almost all Disraeli's aphorisms: they are dead words, whilst the
words of a true aphorism have veins filled with the life of their
utterer. Nothing of this sort ever escaped the lips of our modern
Sphinx. If he had any faiths, any deep convictions, any rooted
principles, he held his tongue about them. He was, Sir William tells
us, an indolent man. It is doubtful whether he ever did, apart from
the preparation and delivery of his speeches, what would be called by
a professional man a hard day's work in his life. He had courage, wit,
insight, instinct, prevision, and a thorough persuasion that he
perfectly understood the materials he had to work upon and the tools
within his reach. Perhaps no man ever gauged more accurately or more
profoundly despised that 'world' Sir William Fraser so pathetically
laments. For folly, egotism, vanity, conceit, and stupidity, he had an
amazing eye. He could not, owing to his short sight, read men's faces
across the floor of the House, but he did not require the aid of any
optic nerve to see the petty secrets of their souls. His best sayings
have men's weaknesses for their text. Sir William's book gives many
excellent examples. One laughs throughout.

Sir William would have us believe that in later life Disraeli clung
affectionately to dulness--to gentle dulness. He did not want to be
surrounded by wits. He had been one himself in his youth, and he
questioned their sincerity. It would almost appear from passages in
the book that Disraeli found even Sir William Fraser too pungent for
him. Once, we are told, the impenetrable Prime Minister quailed before
Sir William's reproachful oratory. The story is not of a cock and a
bull, but of a question put in the House of Commons by Sir William,
who was snubbed by the Home Secretary, who was cheered by Disraeli.
This was intolerable, and accordingly next day, being, as good luck
would have it, a Friday, when, as all men and members know, 'it is in
the power of any member to bring forward any topic he may choose,' Sir
William naturally chose the topic nearest to his heart, and 'said a
few words on my wrongs.'

'During my performance I watched Disraeli narrowly. I could not see
his face, but I noticed that whenever I became in any way
disagreeable--in short, whenever my words really bit--they were
invariably followed by one movement. Sitting as he always did with
his right knee over his left, whenever the words touched him he
moved the pendant leg twice or three times, then curved his foot
upwards. I could observe no other sign of emotion, but this was
distinct. Some years afterwards, on a somewhat more important
occasion at the Conference at Berlin, a great German philosopher,
Herr ----, went to Berlin on purpose to study Disraeli's character.
He said afterwards that he was most struck by the more than Indian
stoicism which Disraeli showed. To this there was one exception.
"Like all men of his race, he has one sign of emotion which never
fails to show itself--the movement of the leg that is crossed over
the other, and of the foot!" The person who told me this had never
heard me hint, nor had anyone, that I had observed this peculiar
symptom on the earlier occasion to which I have referred.'

Statesmen of Jewish descent, with a reputation for stoicism to
preserve, would do well to learn from this story not to swing their
crossed leg when tired. The great want about Mr. Disraeli is something
to hang the countless anecdotes about him upon. Most remarkable men
have some predominant feature of character round which you can build
your general conception of them, or, at all events, there has been
some great incident in their lives for ever connected with their
names, and your imagination mixes the man and the event together. Who
can think of Peel without remembering the Corn Laws and the
reverberating sentence: 'I shall leave a name execrated by every
monopolist who, for less honourable motives, clamours for Protection
because it conduces to his own individual benefit; but it may be that
I shall leave a name sometimes remembered with expressions of
good-will in the abode of those whose lot it is to labour and to earn
their daily bread with the sweat of their brow, when they shall
recruit their exhausted strength with abundant and untaxed food, the
sweeter because it is no longer leavened with a sense of injustice.'
But round what are our memories of Disraeli to cluster? Sir William
Fraser speaks rapturously of his wondrous mind and of his intellect,
but where is posterity to look for evidences of either? Certainly not
in Sir William's book, which shows us a wearied wit and nothing more.
Carlyle once asked, 'How long will John Bull permit this absurd
monkey'--meaning Mr. Disraeli--'to dance upon his stomach?' The
question was coarsely put, but there is nothing in Sir William's book
to make one wonder it should have been asked. Mr. Disraeli lived to
offer Carlyle the Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, and that, in
Sir William's opinion, is enough to dispose of Carlyle's vituperation;
but, after all, the Grand Cross is no answer to anything except an
application for it.

A great many other people are made to cross Sir William Fraser's
stage. His comments upon them are lively, independent, and original.
He liked Cobden and hated Bright. The reason for this he makes quite
plain. He thinks he detected in Cobden a deprecatory manner--a
recognition of the sublime truth that he, Richard Cobden, had not been
half so well educated as the mob of Tories he was addressing. Bright,
on the other band, was fat and rude, and thought that most country
gentlemen and town-bred wits were either fools or fribbles. This was
intolerable. Here was a man who not only could not have belonged to
the 'world,' but honestly did not wish to, and was persuaded--the
gross fellow--that he and his world were better in every respect than
the exclusive circles which listened to Sir William Fraser's _bon
mots_ and tags from the poets. Certainly there was nothing deprecatory
about John Bright. He could be quite as insolent in his way as any
aristocrat in his. He had a habit, we are told, of slowly getting up
and walking out of the House in the middle of Mr. Disraeli's speeches,
and just when that ingenious orator was leading up to a carefully
prepared point, and then immediately returning behind the Speaker's
chair. If this is true, it was perhaps rude, but nobody can deny that
it is a Tory dodge of indicating disdain. What was really irritating
about Mr. Bright was that his disdain was genuine. He did think very
little of the Tory party, and he did not care one straw for the
opinion of society. He positively would not have cared to have been
made a baronet. Sir William Fraser seems to have been really fond of
Disraeli, and the very last time he met his great man in the Carlton
Club he told him a story too broad to be printed. The great man
pronounced it admirable, and passed on his weary way.


It must always be rash to speak positively about human nature, whose
various types of character are singularly tough, and endure, if not
for ever, for a very long time; yet some types do seem to show signs
of wearing out. The connoisseur, for example, here in England is
hardly what he was. He has specialized, and behind him there is now
the bottomless purse of the multi-millionaire, who buys as he is
bidden, and has no sense of prices. If the multi-millionaire wants a
thing, why should he not have it? The gaping mob, penniless but
appreciative, looks on and cheers his pluck.

Mr. Frederick Locker, about whom I wish to write a few lines, was an
old-world connoisseur, the shy recesses of whose soul Addison might
have penetrated in the page of a _Spectator_--and a delicate operation
it would have been.

My father-in-law was only once in the witness-box. I had the felicity
to see him there. It was a dispute about the price of a picture, and
in the course of his very short evidence he hazarded the opinion that
the grouping of the figures (they were portraits) was in bad taste.
The Judge, the late Mr. Justice Cave, an excellent lawyer of the old
school, snarled out, 'Do you think you could explain to _me_ what is
taste?' Mr. Locker surveyed the Judge through the eye-glass which
seemed almost part of his being, with a glance modest, deferential,
deprecatory, as if suggesting 'Who am _I_ to explain anything to
_you_?' but at the same time critical, ironical, and humorous. It was
but for one brief moment; the eyeglass dropped, and there came the
mournful answer, as from a man baffled at all points: 'No, my lord; I
should find it impossible!' The Judge grunted a ready, almost a
cheerful, assent.

Properly to describe Mr. Locker, you ought to be able to explain both
to judge and jury what you mean by taste. He sometimes seemed to me to
be _all_ taste. Whatever subject he approached--was it the mystery of
religion, or the moralities of life, a poem or a print, a bit of old
china or a human being--whatever it might be, it was along the avenue
of taste that he gently made his way up to it. His favourite word of
commendation was _pleasing_, and if he ever brought himself to say
(and he was not a man who scattered his judgments, rather was he
extremely reticent of them) of a man, and still more of a woman, that
he or she was _unpleasing_, you almost shuddered at the fierceness of
the condemnation, knowing, as all Locker's intimate friends could not
help doing, what the word meant to him. 'Attractive' was another of
his critical instruments. He meets Lord Palmerston, and does not find
him 'attractive' (_My Confidences_, p. 155).

This is a temperament which when cultivated, as it was in Mr. Locker's
case, by a life-long familiarity with beautiful things in all the arts
and crafts, is apt to make its owner very susceptible to what some
stirring folk may not unjustly consider the trifles of life. Sometimes
Locker might seem to overlook the dominant features, the main object
of the existence, either of a man or of some piece of man's work, in
his sensitively keen perception of the beauty, or the lapse from
beauty, of some trait of character or bit of workmanship. This may
have been so. Mr. Locker was more at home, more entirely his own
delightful self, when he was calling your attention to some humorous
touch in one of Bewick's tail-pieces, or to some plump figure in a
group by his favourite Stothard than when handling a Michael Angelo
drawing or an amazing Blake. Yet, had it been his humour, he could
have played the showman to Michael Angelo and Blake at least as well
as to Bewick, Stothard, or Chodowiecki. But a modesty, marvellously
mingled with irony, was of the very essence of his nature. No man
expatiated less. He never expounded anything in his born days; he very
soon wearied of those he called 'strong' talkers. His critical method
was in a conversational manner to direct your attention to something
in a poem or a picture, to make a brief suggestion or two, perhaps to
apply an epithet, and it was all over, but your eyes were opened.
Rapture he never professed, his tones were never loud enough to
express enthusiasm, but his enjoyment of what he considered good,
wherever he found it--and he was regardless of the set judgments of
the critics--was most intense and intimate. His feeling for anything
he liked was fibrous: he clung to it. For all his rare books and
prints, if he liked a thing he was very tolerant of its _format_. He
would cut a drawing out of a newspaper, frame it, hang it up, and be
just as tender towards it as if it were an impression with the unique

Mr. Locker had probably inherited his virtuoso's whim from his
ancestors. His great-grandfather was certified by Johnson in his life
of Addison to be a gentleman 'eminent for curiosity and literature,'
and though his grandfather, the Commodore, who lives for ever in our
history as the man who taught Nelson the lesson that saved an
Empire--'Lay a Frenchman close, and you will beat him'--was no
collector, his father, Edward Hawke Locker, though also a naval man,
was not only the friend of Sir Walter Scott, but a most judicious
buyer of pictures, prints, and old furniture.

Frederick Locker was born in 1821, in Greenwich Hospital, where Edward
Hawke Locker was Civil Commissioner. His mother was the daughter of
one of the greatest book-buyers of his time, a man whose library it
took nine days to disperse--the Rev. Jonathan Boucher, the friend and
opponent of George Washington, an ecclesiastic who might have been
first Bishop of Edinburgh, but who died a better thing, the Vicar of

Frederick Locker grew up among pretty things in the famous hospital.
Water-colours by Lawrence, Prout, Girtin, Turner, Chinnery, Paul
Sandby, Cipriani, and other masters; casts after Canova; mezzotints
after Sir Joshua; Hogarth's famous picture of David Garrick and his
wife, now well hung in Windsor Castle, were about him, and early
attracted his observant eye. Yet the same things were about his elder
brother Arthur, an exceedingly clever fellow, who remained quite
curiously impervious to the impressiveness of pretty things all his

Locker began collecting on his own account after his marriage, in
1850, to a daughter of Lord Byron's enemy, the Lord Elgin, who brought
the marbles from Athens to Bloomsbury. His first object, at least so
he thought, was to make his rooms pretty. From the beginning of his
life as a connoisseur he spared himself no pains, often trudging
miles, when not wanted at the Admiralty Office, in search of his prey.
If any mercantile-minded friend ever inquired what anything had cost,
he would be answered with a rueful smile, 'Much shoe leather.' He
began with old furniture, china, and bric-a-brac, which ere long
somewhat inconveniently filled his small rooms. Prices rose, and means
in those days were as small as the rooms. No more purchases of Louis
Seize and blue majolica and Palissy ware could be made. Drawings by
the old masters and small pictures were the next objects of the chase.
Here again the long purses were soon on his track, and the pursuit had
to be abandoned, but not till many treasures had been garnered. Last
of all he became a book-hunter, beginning with little volumes of
poetry and the drama from 1590 to 1610; and as time went on the
boundaries expanded, but never so as to include black letter.

I dare not say Mr. Locker had all the characteristics of a great
collector, or that he was entirely free from the whimsicalities of the
tribe of connoisseurs, but he was certainly endowed with the chief
qualifications for the pursuit of rarities, and remained clear of the
unpleasant vices that so often mar men's most innocent avocations. Mr.
Locker always knew what he wanted and what he did not want, and never
could be persuaded to take the one for the other; he did not grow
excited in the presence of the quarry; he had patience to wait, and
to go on waiting, and he seldom lacked courage to buy.

He rode his own hobby-horse, never employing experts as buyers. For
quantity he had no stomach. He shrank from numbers. He was not a
Bodleian man; he had not the sinews to grapple with libraries. He was
the connoisseur throughout. Of the huge acquisitiveness of a Heber or
a Huth he had not a trace. He hated a crowd, of whatsoever it was
composed. He was apt to apologize for his possessions, and to
depreciate his tastes. As for boasting of a treasure, he could as
easily have eaten beef at breakfast.

So delicate a spirit, armed as it was for purposes of defence with a
rare gift of irony and a very shrewd insight into the weaknesses and
noisy falsettos of life, was sure to be misunderstood. The dull and
coarse witted found Locker hard to make out. He struck them as
artificial and elaborate, perhaps as frivolous, and yet they felt
uneasy in his company lest there should be a lurking ridicule behind
his quiet, humble demeanour. There was, indeed, always an element of
mockery in Locker's humility.

An exceedingly spiteful account of him, in which it is asserted that
'most of his rarest books are miserable copies' (how book-collectors
can hate one another!), ends with the reluctant admission: 'He was
eminently a gentleman, however, and his manners were even courtly, yet
virile.' Such extorted praise is valuable.

I can see him now before me, with a nicely graduated foot-rule in his
delicate hand, measuring with grave precision the height to a hair of
his copy of _Robinson Crusoe_ (1719), for the purpose of ascertaining
whether it was taller or shorter than one being vaunted for sale in a
bookseller's catalogue just to hand. His face, one of much refinement,
was a study, exhibiting alike a fixed determination to discover the
exact truth about the copy and a humorous realization of the inherent
triviality of the whole business. Locker was a philosopher as well as
a connoisseur.

The Rowfant Library has disappeared. Great possessions are great
cares. 'But ships are but boards, sailors but men; there be land-rats,
water-thieves, and land-thieves--I mean pirates; and then there is the
peril of waters, winds and rocks.' To this list the nervous owner of
rare books must add fire, that dread enemy of all the arts. It is
often difficult to provide stabling for dead men's hobby-horses. It
were perhaps absurd in a world like this to grow sentimental over a
parcel of old books. Death, the great unbinder, must always make a

Mr. Locker's poetry now forms a volume of the _Golden Treasury
Series_. The _London Lyrics_ are what they are. They have been well
praised by good critics, and have themselves been made the subject of
good verse.

'Apollo made one April day
A new thing in the rhyming way;
Its turn was neat, its wit was clear,
It wavered 'twixt a smile and tear.
Then Momus gave a touch satiric,
And it became a _London Lyric_.'

In another copy of verses Mr. Dobson adds:

'Or where discern a verse so neat,
So well-bred and so witty--
So finished in its least conceit,
So mixed of mirth and pity?'

'Pope taught him rhythm, Prior ease,
Praed buoyancy and banter;
What modern bard would learn from these?
Ah, _tempora mutantur_!'

Nothing can usefully be added to criticism so just, so searching, and
so happily expressed.

Some of the _London Lyrics_ have, I think, achieved what we poor
mortals call immortality--a strange word to apply to the piping of so
slender a reed, to so slight a strain--yet

'In small proportions we just beauties see.'

It is the simplest strain that lodges longest in the heart. Mr.
Locker's strains are never precisely _simple_. The gay enchantment of
the world and the sense of its bitter disappointments murmur through
all of them, and are fatal to their being simple, but the
unpretentiousness of a _London Lyric_ is akin to simplicity.

His relation to his own poetry was somewhat peculiar. A critic in
every fibre, he judged his own verses with a severity he would have
shrunk from applying to those of any other rhyming man. He was deeply
dissatisfied, almost on bad terms, with himself, yet for all that he
was convinced that he had written some very good verses indeed. His
poetry meant a great deal to him, and he stood in need of sympathy and
of allies against his own despondency. He did not get much sympathy,
being a man hard to praise, for unless he agreed with your praise it
gave him more pain than pleasure.

I am not sure that Mr. Dobson agrees with me, but I am very fond of
Locker's paraphrase of one of Clement Marot's _Epigrammes_; and as the
lines are redolent of his delicate connoisseurship, I will quote both
the original (dated 1544) and the paraphrase:


'Elle a tres bien ceste gorge d'albastre,
Ce doulx parler, ce cler tainct, ces beaux yeulx:
Mais en effect, ce petit rys follastre,
C'est a mon gre ce qui lui sied le mieulx;
Elle en pourroit les chemins et les lieux
Ou elle passe a plaisir inciter;
Et si ennuy me venoit contrister
Tant que par mort fust ma vie abbatue,
Il me fauldroit pour me resusciter
Que ce rys la duguel elle me tue.'

'How fair those locks which now the light wind stirs!
What eyes she has, and what a perfect arm!
And yet methinks that little laugh of hers--
That little laugh--is still her crowning charm.
Where'er she passes, countryside or town,
The streets make festa and the fields rejoice.
Should sorrow come, as 'twill, to cast me down,
Or Death, as come he must, to hush my voice,
Her laugh would wake me just as now it thrills me--
That little, giddy laugh wherewith she kills me.'

'Tis the very laugh of Millamant in _The Way of the World_! 'I would
rather,' cried Hazlitt, 'have seen Mrs. Abington's Millamant than any
Rosalind that ever appeared on the stage.' Such wishes are idle.
Hazlitt never saw Mrs. Abington's Millamant. I have seen Miss Ethel
Irving's Millamant, _dulce ridentem_, and it was that little giddy
laugh of hers that reminded me of Marot's Epigram and of Frederick
Locker's paraphrase. So do womanly charms endure from generation to
generation, and it is one of the duties of poets to record them.

In 1867 Mr. Locker published his _Lyra Elegantiarun. A Collection of
Some of the Best Specimens of Vers de Societe and Vers d'Occasion in
the English Languages by Deceased Authors_. In his preface Locker gave
what may now be fairly called the 'classical' definition of the verses
he was collecting. '_Vers de societe_ and _vers d'occasion_ should'
(so he wrote) 'be short, elegant, refined and fanciful, not seldom
distinguished by heightened sentiment, and often playful. The tone
should not be pitched high; it should be idiomatic and rather in the
conversational key; the rhythm should be crisp and sparkling, and the
rhyme frequent and never forced, while the entire poem should be
marked by tasteful moderation, high finish and completeness; for
however trivial the subject-matter may be--indeed, rather in
proportion to its triviality, subordination to the rules of
composition and perfection of execution should be strictly enforced.
The definition may be further illustrated by a few examples of pieces,
which, from the absence of some of the foregoing qualities, or from
the excess of others, cannot be properly regarded as _vers de
societe_, though they may bear a certain generic resemblance to that
species of poetry. The ballad of "John Gilpin," for example, is too
broadly and simply ludicrous; Swift's "Lines on the Death of
Marlborough," and Byron's "Windsor Poetics," are too savage and
truculent; Cowper's "My Mary" is far too pathetic; Herrick's lyrics to
"Blossoms" and "Daffodils" are too elevated; "Sally in our Alley" is
too homely and too entirely simple and natural; while the "Rape of the
Lock," which would otherwise be one of the finest specimens of _vers
de societe_ in any language, must be excluded on account of its
length, which renders it much too important.'

I have made this long quotation because it is an excellent example of
Mr. Locker's way of talking about poets and poetry, and of his
intimate, searching, and unaffected criticism.

_Lyra Elegantiarum_ is a real, not a bookseller's collection. Mr.
Locker was a great student of verse. There was hardly a stanza of any
English poet, unless it was Spenser, for whom he had no great
affection, which he had not pondered over and clearly considered as
does a lawyer his cases. He delighted in a complete success, and
grieved over any lapse from the fold of metrical virtue, over any
ill-sounding rhyme or unhappy expression. The circulation of _Lyra
Elegantiarum_ was somewhat interfered with by a 'copyright' question.
Mr. Locker had a great admiration for Landor's short poems, and
included no less than forty-one of them, which he chose with the
utmost care. Publishers are slow to perceive that the best chance of
getting rid of their poetical wares (and Landor was not popular) is to
have attention called to the artificer who produced them. The
Landorian publisher objected, and the _Lyra_ had to be 'suppressed'--a
fine word full of hidden meanings. The second-hand booksellers, a wily
race, were quick to perceive the significance of this, and have for
more than thirty years obtained inflated prices for their early
copies, being able to vend them as possessing the _Suppressed Verses_.
There is a great deal of Locker in this collection. To turn its pages
is to renew intercourse with its editor.

In 1879 another little volume instinct with his personality came into
existence and made friends for itself. He called it _Patchwork_, and
to have given it any other name would have severely taxed his
inventiveness. It is a collection of stories, of _ana_, of quotations
in verse and prose, of original matter, of character-sketches, of
small adventures, of table-talk, and of other things besides, if other
things, indeed, there be. If you know _Patchwork_ by heart you are
well equipped. It is intensely original throughout, and never more
original than when its matter is borrowed. Readers of _Patchwork_ had
heard of Mr. Creevey long before Sir Herbert Maxwell once again let
that politician loose upon an unlettered society.

The book had no great sale, but copies evidently fell into the hands
of the more judicious of the pressmen, who kept it by their sides, and
every now and again

'Waled a portion with judicious care'

for quotation in their columns. The _Patchwork_ stories thus got into
circulation one by one. Kind friends of Mr. Locker's, who had been
told, or had discovered for themselves, that he was somewhat of a wag,
would frequently regale him with bits of his own _Patchwork_,
introducing them to his notice as something they had just heard, which
they thought he would like--murdering his own stories to give him
pleasure. His countenance on such occasions was a _rendezvous_ of
contending emotions, a battlefield of rival forces. Politeness ever
prevailed, but it took all his irony and sad philosophy to hide his
pain. _Patchwork_ is such a good collection of the kind of story he
liked best that it was really difficult to avoid telling him a story
that was _not_ in it. I made the blunder once myself with a Voltairean
anecdote. Here it is as told in _Patchwork_: 'Voltaire was one day
listening to a dramatic author reading his comedy, and who said, "Ici
le chevalier rit!" He exclaimed: "Le chevalier est _bien_ heureux!"' I
hope I told it fairly well. He smiled sadly, and said nothing, not
even _Et tu, Brute_!

In 1886 Mr. Locker printed for presentation a catalogue of his printed
books, manuscripts, autograph letters, drawings, and pictures. Nothing
of his own figures in this catalogue, and yet in a very real sense the
whole is his. Most of the books are dispersed, but the catalogue
remains, not merely as a record of rareties and bibliographical
details dear to the collector's heart, but as a token of taste. Just
as there is, so Wordsworth reminds us, 'a spirit in the woods,' so is
there still, brooding over and haunting the pages of the 'Rowfant
Catalogue,' the spirit of true connoisseurship. In the slender lists
of Locker's 'Works' this book must always have a place.

Frederick Locker died at Rowfant on May 30, 1895, leaving behind him,
carefully prepared for the press, a volume he had christened _My
Confidences: An Autographical Sketch addressed to My Descendants_.

In due course the book appeared, and was misunderstood at first by
many. It cut a strange, outlandish figure among the crowd of casual
reminiscences it externally resembled. Glancing over the pages of _My
Confidences_, the careless library subscriber encountered the usual
number of names of well-known personages, whose appearance is supposed
by publishers to add sufficient zest to reminiscences to secure
for them a sale large enough, at any rate, to recoup the cost of
publication. Yet, despite these names, Mr. Locker's book is completely
unlike the modern memoir. Beneath a carefully-constructed, and
perhaps slightly artificially maintained, frivolity of tone, the book
is written in deadly earnest. Not for nothing did its author choose as
one of the mottoes for its title-page, 'Ce ne sont mes gestes que
j'ecrie; c'est moy.' It may be said of this book, as of Senancour's

'A fever in these pages burns;
Beneath the calm they feign,
A wounded human spirit turns
Here on its bed of pain.'

The still small voice of its author whispers through _My Confidences_.
Like Montaigne's _Essays_, the book is one of entire good faith, and
strangely uncovers a personality.

As a tiny child Locker was thought by his parents to be very like Sir
Joshua Reynolds' picture of Puck, an engraving of which was in the
home at Greenwich Hospital, and certainly Locker carried to his
grave more than a suspicion of what is called Puckishness. In _My
Confidences_ there are traces of this quality.

Clearly enough the author of _London Lyrics_, the editor of _Lyra
Elegantiarum_, of _Patchwork_, and the whimsical but sincere compiler
of _My Confidences_ was more than a mere connoisseur, however much
connoisseurship entered into a character in which taste played so
dominant a part.

Stronger even than taste was his almost laborious love of kindness.
He really took too much pains about it, exposing himself to rebuffs
and misunderstandings; but he was not without his rewards. All
down-hearted folk, sorrowful, disappointed people, the unlucky, the
ill-considered, the _mesestimes_--those who found themselves condemned
to discharge uncongenial duties in unsympathetic society, turned
instinctively to Mr. Locker for a consolation, so softly administered
that it was hard to say it was intended. He had friends everywhere, in
all ranks of life, who found in him an infinity of solace, and for his
friends there was nothing he would not do. It seemed as if he could
not spare himself. I remember his calling at my chambers one hot day
in July, when he happened to have with him some presents he was in
course of delivering. Among them I noticed a bust of Voltaire and an
unusually lively tortoise, generally half-way out of a paper bag.
Wherever he went he found occasion for kindness, and his whimsical
adventures would fill a volume. I sometimes thought it would really be
worth while to leave off the struggle for existence, and gently to
subside into one of Lord Rowton's homes in order to have the pleasure
of receiving in my new quarters a first visit from Mr. Locker. How
pleasantly would he have mounted the stair, laden with who knows what
small gifts?--a box of mignonette for the window-sill, an old book or
two, as likely as not a live kitten, for indeed there was never an end
to the variety or ingenuity of his offerings! How felicitous would
have been his greeting! How cordial his compliments! How abiding the
sense of his unpatronizing friendliness! But it was not to be. One can
seldom choose one's pleasures.

In his _Patchwork_ Mr. Locker quotes Gibbon's encomium on Charles
James Fox. Anyone less like Fox than Frederick Locker it might be hard
to discover, but fine qualities are alike wherever they are found
lodged; and if Fox was as much entitled as Locker to the full benefit
of Gibbon's praise, he was indeed a good fellow.

'In his tour to Switzerland Mr. Fox gave me two days of free and
private society. He seemed to feel and even to envy the happiness of
my situation, while I admired the powers of a superior man as they are
blended in his character with the softness and simplicity of a child.
_Perhaps no human being was ever more perfectly exempted from the
taint of malevolence, vanity, and falsehood._'


The republication of Mr. Arnold's _Friendship's Garland_ after an
interval of twenty-seven years may well set us all a-thinking. Here it
is, in startling facsimile--the white covers, destined too soon to
become black, the gilt device, the familiar motto. As we gazed upon
it, we found ourselves exclaiming, so vividly did it recall the past:

'It is we, it is we, who have changed.'

_Friendship's Garland_ was a very good joke seven-and-twenty years
ago, and though some of its once luminous paint has been rubbed off,
and a few of its jests have ceased to effervesce, it is a good joke
still. Mr. Bottle's mind, qua mind; the rowdy Philistine Adolescens
Leo, Esq.; Dr. Russell, of the _Times_, mounting his war-horse; the
tale of how Lord Lumpington and the Rev. Esau Hittall got their
degrees at Oxford; and many another ironic thrust which made the
reader laugh 'while the hair was yet brown on his head,' may well make
him laugh still, 'though his scalp is almost hairless, and his
figure's grown convex.' Since 1871 we have learnt the answer to the
sombre lesson, 'What is it to grow old?' But, thank God! we can laugh
even yet.

The humour and high spirits of _Friendship's Garland_ were, however,
but the gilding of a pill, the artificial sweetening of a nauseous
draught. In reality, and joking apart, the book is an indictment at
the bar of _Geist_ of the English people as represented by its middle
class and by its full-voiced organ, the daily press. Mr. Arnold
invented Arminius to be the mouthpiece of this indictment, the
traducer of our 'imperial race,' because such blasphemies could not
artistically have been attributed to one of the number. He made
Arminius a Prussian because in those far-off days Prussia stood for
Von Humboldt and education and culture, and all the things Sir Thomas
Bazley and Mr. Miall were supposed to be without. Around the central
figure of Arminius the essentially playful fancy of Mr. Arnold grouped
other figures, including his own. What an old equity draughtsman would
call 'the charging parts' of the book consist in the allegations that
the Government of England had been taken out of the hands of an
aristocracy grown barren of ideas and stupid beyond words, and
entrusted to a middle class without noble traditions, wretchedly
educated, full of _Ungeist_, with a passion for clap-trap, only
wanting to be left alone to push trade and make money; so ignorant as
to believe that feudalism can be abated without any heroic Stein, by
providing that in one insignificant case out of a hundred thousand,
land shall not follow the feudal law of descent; without a single
vital idea or sentiment or feeling for beauty or appropriateness; well
persuaded that if more trade is done in England than anywhere else, if
personal independence is without a check, and newspaper publicity
unbounded, that is, by the nature of things, to be great; misled every
morning by the magnificent _Times_ or the 'rowdy' _Telegraph_;
desperately prone to preaching to other nations, proud of being able
to say what it likes, whilst wholly indifferent to the fact that it
has nothing whatever to say.

Such, in brief, is the substance of this most agreeable volume. Its
message was lightly treated by the grave and reverend seigniors of the
State. The magnificent _Times_, the rowdy _Telegraph_, continued to
preach their gospels as before; but for all that Mr. Arnold found an
audience fit, though few, and, of course, he found it among the people
he abused. The barbarians, as he called the aristocracy, were not
likely to pay heed to a professor of poetry. Our working classes
were not readers of the _Pall Mall Gazette_ or purchasers of
four-and-sixpenny tracts bound in white cloth. No; it was the middle
class, to whom Mr. Arnold himself belonged, who took him to honest
hearts, stuck his photograph upon their writing-tables, and sounded
his praises so loudly that his fame even reached the United States of
America, where he was promptly invited to lecture, an invitation he
accepted. But for the middle classes Mr. Arnold would have had but a
poor time of it. They did not mind being insulted; they overlooked
exaggeration; they pardoned ignorance--in a word, they proved
teachable. Yet, though meek in spirit, they have not yet inherited the
earth; indeed, there are those who assert that their chances are gone,
their sceptre for ever buried. It is all over with the middle-class.
Tuck up its muddled head! Tie up its chin!

A rabble of bad writers may now be noticed pushing their vulgar way
along, who, though born and bred in the middle classes, and disfigured
by many of the very faults Mr. Arnold deplored, yet make it a test of
their membership, an 'open sesame' to their dull orgies, that all
decent, sober-minded folk, who love virtue, and, on the whole, prefer
delicate humour to sickly lubricity, should be labelled 'middle

Politically, it cannot but be noticed that, for good or for ill, the
old middle-class audience no longer exists in its integrity. The
crowds that flocked to hear Cobden and Bright, that abhorred slavery,
that cheered Kossuth, that hated the income-tax, are now watered down
by a huge population who do not know, and do not want to know, what
the income-tax is, but who do want to know what the Government is
going to do for them in the matter of shorter hours, better wages, and
constant employment. Will the rabble, we wonder, prove as teachable as
the middle class? Will they consent to be told their faults as meekly?
Will they buy the photograph of their physician, or heave half a brick
at him? It remains to be seen. In the meantime it would be a mistake
to assume that the middle class counts for nothing, even at an
election. As to ideas, have we got any new ones since 1871? 'To be
consequent and powerful,' says Arminius, 'men must be bottomed on some
vital idea or sentiment which lends strength and certainty to their
action.' There are those who tell us that we have at last found this
vital idea in those conceptions of the British Empire which Mr.
Chamberlain so vigorously trumpets. To trumpet a conception is hardly
a happy phrase, but, as Mr. Chamberlain plays no other instrument, it
is forced upon me. Would that we could revive Arminius, to tell us
what he thinks of our new Ariel girdling the earth with twenty Prime
Ministers, each the choicest product of a self-governing and
deeply-involved colony. Is it a vital or a vulgar idea? Is it merely a
big theory or really a great one? Is it the ornate beginning of a
Time, or but the tawdry ending of a period? At all events, it is an
idea unknown to Arminius von Thunder-Ten-Tronckh, and we ought to be,
and many are, thankful for it.


I am, I confess it, hard to please. If a round dozen of Bad Women, all
made in England too, does not satisfy me, what will? What ails the
fellow at them? Yet was I at first dissatisfied, and am, therefore,
glad to notice that whilst I was demurring and splitting hairs the
great, generous public was buying the _Lives of Twelve Bad Women_, by
Arthur Vincent, and putting it into a second edition. This is as it
should be. When the excellent Dean Burgon dubbed his dozen biographies
_Twelve Good Men_, it probably never occurred to him that the title
suggested three companion volumes; but so it did, and two of them,
_Twelve Bad Men_ and _Twelve Bad Women_, have made their appearance. I
still await, with great patience, _Twelve Good Women_. Twelve was the
number of the Apostles. Had it not been, one might be tempted to ask,
Why twelve? But as there must be some limit to bookmaking, there is no
need to quarrel with an arithmetical limit.

My criticism upon the Dean's dozen was that they were not by any
means, all of them, conspicuously good men; for, to name one only, who
would call old Dr. Routh, the President of Magdalen, a particularly
good man? In a sense, all Presidents, Provosts, Principals, and
Masters of Colleges are good men--in fact, they must be so by the
statutes--but to few of them are given the special notes of goodness.
Dr. Routh was a remarkable man, a learned man, perhaps a pious
man--undeniably, when he came to die, an old man--but he was no better
than his colleagues. This weakness of classification has run all
through the series, and it is my real quarrel with it. I do not
understand the principle of selection. I did not understand the Dean's
test of goodness, nor do I understand Mr. Seccombe's or Mr. Vincent's
test of badness. What do we mean by a good man or a bad one, a good
woman or a bad one? Most people, like the young man in the song, are
'not very good, nor yet very bad.' We move about the pastures of life
in huge herds, and all do the same things, at the same times, and for
the same reasons. 'Forty feeding like one.' Are we mean? Well, we have
done some mean things in our time. Are we generous? Occasionally we
are. Were we good sons or dutiful daughters? We have both honoured and
dishonoured our parents, who, in their turn, had done the same by
theirs. Do we melt at the sight of misery? Indeed we do. Do we forget
all about it when we have turned the corner? Frequently that is so. Do
we expect to be put to open shame at the Great Day of Judgment? We
should be terribly frightened of this did we not cling to the hope
that amidst the shocking revelations then for the first time made
public our little affairs may fail to attract much notice. Judged by
the standards of humanity, few people are either good or bad. 'I have
not been a great sinner,' said the dying Nelson; nor had he--he had
only been made a great fool of by a woman. Mankind is all tarred with
the same brush, though some who chance to be operated upon when the
brush is fresh from the barrel get more than their share of the tar.
The biography of a celebrated man usually reminds me of the outside of
a coastguardsman's cottage--all tar and whitewash. These are the two
condiments of human life--tar and whitewash--the faults and the
excuses for the faults, the passions and pettinesses that make us
occasionally drop on all fours, and the generous aspirations that at
times enable us, if not to stand upright, at least to adopt the
attitude of the kangaroo. It is rather tiresome, this perpetual game
of French and English going on inside one. True goodness and real
badness escape it altogether. A good man does not spend his life
wrestling with the Powers of Darkness. He is victor in the fray, and
the most he is called upon to do is every now and again to hit his
prostrate foe a blow over the costard just to keep him in his place.
Thus rid of a perpetual anxiety, the good man has time to grow in
goodness, to expand pleasantly, to take his ease on Zion. You can see
in his face that he is at peace with himself--that he is no longer at
war with his elements. His society, if you are fond of goodness, is
both agreeable and medicinal; but if you are a bad man it is hateful,
and you cry out with Mr. Love-lust in Bunyan's Vanity Fair: 'Away with
him. I cannot endure him; he is for ever condemning my way.'

Not many of Dean Burgon's biographies reached this standard. The
explanation, perhaps, is that the Dean chiefly moved in clerical
circles where excellence is more frequently to be met with than

In the same way a really bad man is one who has frankly said, 'Evil,
be thou my good.' Like the good man, though for a very different
reason, the bad one has ceased to make war with the devil. Finding a
conspiracy against goodness going on, the bad man joins it, and thus,
like the good man, is at peace with himself. The bad man is bent upon
his own way, to get what he wants, no matter at what cost. Human
lives! What do they matter? A woman's honour! What does that matter?
Truth and fidelity! What are they? To know what you want, and not to
mind what you pay for it, is the straight path to fame, fortune, and
hell-fire. Careers, of course, vary; to dominate a continent or to
open a corner shop as a pork-butcher's, plenty of devilry may go to
either ambition. Also, genius is a rare gift. It by no means follows
that because you are a bad man you will become a great one; but to be
bad, and at the same time unsuccessful, is a hard fate. It casts a
little doubt upon a man's badness if he does not, at least, make a
little money. It is a poor business accompanying badness on to a
common scaffold, or to see it die in a wretched garret. That was one
of my complaints with Mr. Seccombe's Twelve Bad Men. Most of them came
to violent ends. They were all failures.

But I have kept these twelve ladies waiting a most unconscionable
time. Who are they? There are amongst them four courtesans: Alice
Perrers, one of King Edward III.'s misses; Barbara Villiers, one of
King Charles II.'s; Mrs. Mary Anne Clarke, who had to be content with
a royal Duke; and Mrs. Con Phillips. Six members of the criminal
class: Alice Arden, Moll Cutpurse, Jenny Diver, Elizabeth Brownrigg,
Elizabeth Canning, and Mary Bateman; and only two ladies of title,
Frances Howard, Countess of Somerset, and Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess
of Kingston. Of these twelve bad women one-third were executed, Alice
Arden being burnt at Canterbury, Jenny Diver and Elizabeth Brownrigg
being hung at Tyburn, and Mary Bateman suffering the same fate at
Leeds. Elizabeth Canning was sentenced to seven years' transportation,
and, indeed, if their biographers are to be believed, all the other
ladies made miserable ends. There is nothing triumphant about their
badness. Even from the point of view of this world they had better
have been good. In fact, squalor is the badge of the whole tribe. Some
of them, probably--Elizabeth Brownrigg, for example--were mad. This
last-named poor creature bore sixteen children to a house-painter and
plasterer, and then became a parish mid-wife, and only finally a
baby-farmer. Her cruelty to her apprentices had madness in every
detail. To include her in this volume was wholly unnecessary. She
lives but in George Canning's famous parody on Southey's sonnet to the
regicide Marten.

With those sentimentalists who maintain that all bad people are mad I
will have no dealings. It is sheer nonsense; lives of great men all
remind us it is sheer nonsense. Some of our greatest men have been
infernal scoundrels--pre-eminently bad men--with nothing mad about
them, unless it be mad to get on in the world and knock people about
in it.

_Twelve Bad Women_ contains much interesting matter, but, on the
whole, it is depressing. It seems very dull to be bad. Perhaps the
editor desired to create this impression; if so, he has succeeded.
Hannah More had fifty times more fun in her life than all these
courtesans and criminals put together. The note of jollity is
entirely absent. It was no primrose path these unhappy women
traversed, though that it led to the everlasting bonfire it were
unchristian to doubt. The dissatisfaction I confessed to at the
beginning returns upon me as a cloud at the end; but, for all that, I
rejoice the book is in a second edition, and I hope soon to hear it is
in a third, for it has a moral tendency.


Anyone who is teased by the notion that it would be pleasant to be
remembered, in the sense of being read, after death, cannot do better
to secure that end than compose an Itinerary and leave it behind him
in manuscript, with his name legibly inscribed thereon. If an honest
bit of work, noting distances, detailing expenses, naming landmarks,
moors, mountains, harbours, docks, buildings--indeed, anything which,
as lawyers say, savours of realty--and but scantily interspersed with
reflections, and with no quotations, why, then, such a piece of work,
however long publication may be delayed--and a century or two will not
matter in the least--cannot fail, whenever it is printed, to attract
attention, to excite general interest and secure a permanent hold in
every decent library in the kingdom.

Time cannot stale an Itinerary. _Iter, Via, Actus_ are words of pith
and moment. Stage-coaches, express trains, motor-cars, have written,
or are now writing, their eventful histories over the face of these
islands; but, whatever changes they have made or are destined to make,
they have left untouched the mystery of the road, although for the
moment the latest comer may seem injuriously to have affected its

The Itinerist alone among authors is always sure of an audience. No
matter where, no matter when, he has but to tell us how he footed it
and what he saw by the wayside, and we must listen. How can we help
it? Two hundred years ago, it may be, this Itinerist came through our
village, passed by the wall of our homestead, climbed our familiar
hill, and went on his way; it is perhaps but two lines and a half he
can afford to give us, but what lines they are! How different with
sermons, poems, and novels! On each of these is the stamp of the
author's age; sentiments, fashions, thoughts, faiths, phraseology, all
worn out--cold, dirty grate, where once there was a blazing fire.
Cheerlessness personified! Leland's anti-Papal treatise in forty-five
chapters remains in learned custody--a manuscript; a publisher it will
never find. We still have Papists and anti-Papists; in this case the
fire still blazes, but the grates are of an entirely different
construction. Leland's treatise is out of date. But his _Itinerary_ in
nine volumes, a favourite book throughout the eighteenth century,
which has graced many a bookseller's catalogue for the last hundred
years, and seldom without eliciting a purchaser--Leland's _Itinerary_
is to-day being reprinted under the most able editorship. The charm of
the road is irresistible. The _Vicar of Wakefield_ is a delightful
book, with a great tradition behind it and a future still before it;
but it has not escaped the ravages of time, and I would, now, at all
events, gladly exchange it for Oliver Goldsmith's _Itinerary through
Germany with a Flute_!

Vain authors, publisher's men, may write as they like about
_Shakespeare's_ country, or _Scott's_ country, or _Carlyle's_ country,
or _Crockett's_ country, but--

'Oh, good gigantic smile of the brown old earth!'

the land laughs at the delusions of the men who hurriedly cross its

'Rydal and Fairfield are there,--
In the shadow Wordsworth lies dead.
So it is, so it will be for aye,
Nature is fresh as of old,
Is lovely, a mortal is dead.'

These reflections, which by themselves would be enough to sink even an
Itinerary, seemed forced upon me by the publication of _A Journey to
Edenborough in Scotland by Joseph Taylor, Late of the Inner Temple,
Esquire_. This journey was made two hundred years ago in the Long
Vacation of 1705, but has just been printed from the original
manuscript, under the editorship of Mr. William Cowan, by the
well-known Edinburgh bookseller, Mr. Brown, of Princes Street, to whom
all lovers of things Scottish already owe much.

Nobody can hope to be less known than this our latest Itinerist, for
not only is he not in the _Dictionary of National Biography_, but it
is at present impossible to say which of two Joseph Taylors he was.
The House of the Winged Horse has ever had Taylors on its roll, the
sign of the Middle Temple, a very fleecy sheep, being perhaps
unattractive to the clan, and in 1705 it so happened that not only
were there two Taylors, but two Joseph Taylors, entitled to write
themselves 'of the Inner Temple, Esquire.' Which was the Itinerist?
Mr. Cowan, going by age, thinks that the Itinerist can hardly have
been the Joseph Taylor who was admitted to the Inn in 1663, as in that
case he must have been at least fifty-eight when he travelled to
Edinburgh. For my part, I see nothing in the _Itinerary_ to preclude
the possibility of its author having attained that age at the date of
its composition. I observe in the _Itinerary_ references which point
to the Itinerist being a Kentish man, and he mentions more than once
his 'Cousin D'aeth.' Research among the papers of the D'aeths of
Knowlton Court, near Dover, might result in the discovery which of
these two Taylors really was the Itinerist. As nothing else is at
present known about either, the investigation could probably be made
without passion or party or even religious bias. It might be
best begun by Mr. Cowan telling us in whose custody he found the
manuscript, and how it came there. These statements should always
be made when old manuscripts are first printed.

The journey began on August 2, 1705. The party consisted of Mr. Taylor
and his two friends, Mr. Harrison and Mr. Sloman. They travelled on
horseback, and often had difficulties with the poor beast that carried
their luggage. They reached Edinburgh in the evening of August 31, and
left it on their return journey on September 8, and got home on the
25th of the same month. The _Itinerary_ concludes as follows:

'Thus we spent almost 2 months in a Journy of many 100 miles,
sometimes thro' very charming Countryes, and at other times over
desolate and Barren Mountaines, and yet met with no particular
misfortune in all the Time.'

I may say at once of these three Itinerists--Mr. Taylor, Mr. Harrison,
and Mr. Sloman--that they appear to have been thoroughly
commonplace, well behaved, occasionally hilarious Englishmen, ready to
endure whatever befell them, if unavoidable; accustomed to take their
ease in their inn and to turn round and look at any pretty woman they
might chance to meet on their travels. Their first experience of what
the Itinerist calls 'the prodigies of Nature,' 'at once an occasion
both of Horrour and Admiration,' was in the Peak Country 'described in
poetry by the ingenious Mr. Cotton.' This part of the world they 'did'
with something of the earnestness of the modern tourist. But I hardly
think they enjoyed themselves. The 'prodigious' caverns and strange
petrifactions shocked them; 'nothing can be more terrible or shocking
to Nature.' Mam Tor, with its 1,710 feet, proved very impressive, 'a
vast high mountain reaching to the very clouds.' This gloom of the
Derbyshire hills and stony valleys was partially dispelled for our
travellers by a certain 'fair Gloriana' they met at Buxton, with whom
they had great fun, 'so much the greater, because we never expected
such heavenly enjoyments in so desolate a country.' If it be on
susceptibilities of this nature that Mr. Cowan rests his case for
thinking that the Itinerist can hardly have attained 'the blasted
antiquity' of fifty-eight, we must think Mr. Cowan a trifle hasty, or
a very young man, perhaps under forty, which is young for an editor.

After describing, somewhat too much like an auctioneer, the splendours
of Chatsworth, 'a Paradise in the deserts of Arabia,' the Itinerist
proceeds on his way north through Nottingham to Belvoir Castle, where
'my Lord Rosses Gentleman (to whom Mr. Harrison was recommended)
entertained us by his Lordship's command with good wine and the best
of malt liquors which the cellar abounds with'; the pictures in the
Long Gallery were shown them by 'my Lord himself.' At Doncaster, 'a
neat market-town which consists only in one long street,' they had
some superlative salmon just taken out of the river. By Knaresborough
Spaw, where they drank the waters and had icy cold baths, and dined at
the ordinary with a parson whose conversation startled the propriety
of the Templar, the travellers made their way to York, and for the
first and last time a few pages of _Guide Book_ are improperly
introduced. Then on to Scarborough.

'The next morning early we left Scarborough and travelled through a
dismall road, particularly near Robins Hood Bay; we were obliged to
lead our horses, and had much ado to get down a vast craggy
mountain which lyes within a quarter of a mile of it. The Bay is
about a mile broad, and inhabited by poor fishermen. We stopt to
taste some of their liquor and discourse with them. They told us
the French privateers came into the Very Bay and took 2 of their
Vessels but the day before, which were ransom'd for L25 a piece. We
saw a great many vessels lying upon the Shore, the masters not
daring to venture out to sea for fear of undergoing the same fate.'

We boast too readily of our inviolate shores.

A curious description is given of the Duke of Buckingham's alum works
near Whitby. The travellers then procured a guide, and traversed 'the
vast moors which lye between Whitby and Gisborough.' The civic
magnificence of Newcastle greatly struck our travellers, who, happier
than their modern successors, were able to see the town miles off. The
Itinerist quotes with gusto the civic proverb that the men of
Newcastle pay nothing for the Way, the Word, or the Water, 'for the
Ministers of Religion are maintained, the streets paved, and the
Conduits kept up at the publick charge.' A disagreeable account is
given of the brutishness of the people employed in the salt works at
Tynemouth. At Berwick the travellers got into trouble with the sentry,
but the mistake was rectified with the captain of the guard over '2
bowles of punch, there being no wine in the town.'

Scotland was now in sight, and the travellers became grave, as
befitted the occasion. They were told that the journey that lay before
them was extremely dangerous, that 'twould be difficult to escape with
their lives, much less (ominous words) without 'the distemper of the
country.' But Mr. Taylor, Mr. Harrison, and Mr. Sloman were as brave
as Mr. Pickwick, and they would on. 'Yet notwithstanding all these sad
representations, we resolv'd to proceed and stand by one another to
the last.'

What the Itinerists thought of Scotland when they got there is not for
me to say. I was once a Scottish member.

They arrived in Edinburgh at a great crisis in Scottish history. They
saw the Duke of Argyll, as Queen Anne's Lord High Commissioner, go to
the Parliament House in this manner:

'First a coach and six Horses for his Gentlemen, then a Trumpet,
then his own coach with six white horses, which were very fine,
being those presented by King William to the Duke of Queensbury,
and by him sold to the Duke of Argyle for L300; next goes a troop
of Horse Guards, cloathed like my Lord of Oxford's Regiment, but
the horses are of several colours; and the Lord Chancellor and the
Secretary of State, and the Lord Chief Justice Clerk, and other
officers of State close the cavalcade in coaches and six horses.
Thus the Commissioner goes and returns every day.'

The Itinerists followed the Duke and his procession into the
Parliament House, and heard debated the great question--the greatest
of all possible questions for Scotland--whether this magnificence
should cease, whether there should be an end of an auld sang--in
short, whether the proposed Act of Union should be proceeded with. By
special favour, our Itinerists had leave to stand upon the steps of
the throne, and witnessed a famous fiery and prolonged debate, the
Duke once turning to them and saying, _sotto voce_, 'It is now
deciding whether England and Scotland shall go together by the ears.'
How it was decided we all know, and that it was wisely decided no one
doubts; yet, when we read our Itinerist's account of the Duke's coach
and horses, and the cavalcade that followed him, and remember that
this was what happened every day during the sitting of the Parliament,
and must not be confounded with the greater glories of the first day
of a Parliament, when every member, be he peer, knight of the shire,
or burgh member, had to ride on horseback in the procession, it is
impossible not to feel the force of Miss Grisel Dalmahoy's appeal in
the _Heart of Midlothian_, she being an ancient sempstress, to Mr.
Saddletree, the harness-maker:

'And as for the Lords of States ye suld mind the riding o' the
Parliament in the gude auld time before the Union. A year's rent o'
mony a gude estate gaed for horse-graith and harnessing, forby
broidered robes and foot-mantles that wad hae stude by their lane
with gold and brocade, and that were muckle in my ain line.'

The graphic account of a famous debate given by, Taylor is worth
comparing with the _Lockhart Papers_ and Hill Burton. The date is a
little troublesome. According to our Itinerist, he heard the
discussion as to whether the Queen or the Scottish Parliament should
nominate the Commissioners. Now, according to the histories, this
all-important discussion began and ended on September 1, but our
Itinerist had only arrived in Edinburgh the night before the first,
and gives us to understand that he owed his invitation to be present
to the fact that whilst in Edinburgh he and his friends had had the
honour to have several lords and members of Parliament to dine, and
that these guests informed him 'of the grand day when the Act was to
be passed or rejected.' The Itinerist's account is too particular--for
he gives the result of the voting--to admit of any possibility of a
mistake, and he describes how several of the members came afterwards
to his lodgings, and, so he writes, 'embraced us with all the outward
marks of love and kindness, and seemed mightily pleased at what was
done, and told us we should now be no more English and Scotch, but
Brittons.' In the matter of nomenclature, at all events, the promises
of the Union have not been carried out.

After September 1 the Parliament did not meet till the 4th, when an
Address was passed to the Queen, but apparently without any repetition
of debate. So it really is a little difficult to reconcile the dates.
Perhaps Itinerists are best advised to keep off public events.

How our travellers escaped the 'national distemper' and journeyed
home by Ecclefechan, Carlisle, Shap Fell, Liverpool, Chester,
Coventry, and Warwick must be read in the _Journey_ itself, which,
though it only occupies 182 small pages, is full of matter and even
merriment; in fact, it is an excellent itinerary.


Epitaphs, if in rhyme, are the real literature of the masses. They
need no commendation and are beyond all criticism. A Cambridge don, a
London bus-driver, will own their charm in equal measure. Strange
indeed is the fascination of rhyme. A commonplace hitched into verse
instantly takes rank with Holy Scripture. This passion for poetry, as
it is sometimes called, is manifested on every side; even tradesmen
share it, and as the advertisements in our newspapers show, are
willing to pay small sums to poets who commend their wares in verse.
The widow bereft of her life's companion, the mother bending over an
empty cradle, find solace in thinking what doleful little scrag of
verse shall be graven on the tombstone of the dead. From the earliest
times men have sought to squeeze their loves and joys, their sorrows
and hatreds, into distichs and quatrains, and to inscribe them
somewhere, on walls or windows, on sepulchral urns and gravestones, as
memorials of their pleasure or their pain.

'Hark! how chimes the passing bell--
There's no music to a knell;
All the other sounds we hear
Flatter and but cheat our ear.'

So wrote Shirley the dramatist, and so does he truthfully explain the
popularity of the epitaph as distinguished from the epigram. Who ever
wearies of Martial's 'Erotion'?--

'Hic festinata requiescit Erotion umbra,
Crimine quam fati sexta peremit hiems.
Quisquis eris nostri post me regnator agelli
Manibus exiguis annua justa dato.
Sic lare perpetuo, sic turba sospite, solus
Flebilis in terra sit lapis iste tua'--

so prettily Englished by Leigh Hunt:

'Underneath this greedy stone
Lies little sweet Erotion,
Whom the Fates with hearts as cold
Nipped away at six years old.
Those, whoever thou may'st be,
That hast this small field after me,
Let the yearly rites be paid
To her little slender shade;
So shall no disease or jar
Hurt thy house or chill thy Lar,
But this tomb be here alone
The only melancholy stone.'

Our English epitaphs are to be found scattered up and down our country
churchyards--'uncouth rhymes,' as Gray calls them, yet full of the
sombre philosophy of life. They are fast becoming illegible, worn out
by the rain that raineth every day, and our prim, present-day parsons
do not look with favour upon them, besides which--to use a clumsy
phrase--besides which most of our churchyards are now closed against
burials, and without texts there can be no sermons:

'I'll stay and read my sermon here,
And skulls and bones shall be my text.

* * * *

Here learn that glory and disgrace,
Wisdom and Folly, pass away,
That mirth hath its appointed space,
That sorrow is but for a day;
That all we love and all we hate,
That all we hope and all we fear,
Each mood of mind, each turn of fate,
Must end in dust and silence here.'

The best epitaphs are the grim ones. Designed, as epitaphs are, to
arrest and hold in their momentary grasp the wandering attention and
languid interest of the passer-by, they must hit him hard and at once,
and this they can only do by striking some very responsive chord, and
no chords are so immediately responsive as those which relate to death
and, it may be, judgment to come.

Mr. Aubrey Stewart, in his interesting _Selection of English Epigrams
and Epitaphs_, published by Chapman and Hall, quotes an epitaph from a
Norfolk churchyard which I have seen in other parts of the country.
The last time I saw it was in the Forest of Dean. It is admirably
suited for the gravestone of any child of very tender years, say four:

'When the Archangel's trump shall blow
And souls to bodies join,
Many will wish their lives below
Had been as short as mine.'

It is uncouth, but it is warranted to grip.

Frequently, too, have I noticed how constantly the attention is
arrested by Pope's well-known lines from his magnificent 'Verses to
the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady,' which are often to be found on

'So peaceful rests without a stone and name
What once had beauty, titles, wealth, and fame.
How loved, how honoured once avails thee not,
To whom related or by whom begot.
A heap of dust alone remains of thee;
'Tis all thou art and all the proud shall be.'

I wish our modern poetasters who deny Pope's claim to be a poet no
worse fate than to lie under stones which have engraved upon them the
lines just quoted, for they will then secure in death what in life was
denied them--the ear of the public.

Next to the grim epitaph, I should be disposed to rank those which
remind the passer-by of his transitory estate. In different parts of
the country--in Cumberland and Cornwall, in Croyland Abbey, in
Llangollen Churchyard, in Melton Mowbray--are to be found lines more
or less resembling the following:

'Man's life is like unto a winter's day,
Some break their fast and so depart away,
Others stay dinner then depart full fed,
The longest age but sups and goes to bed.
O reader, there behold and see
As we are now, so thou must be.'

The complimentary epitaph seldom pleases. To lie like a tombstone has
become a proverb. Pope's famous epitaph on Newton:

'Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night,
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.'

is hyperbolical and out of character with the great man it seeks to
honour. It was intended for Westminster Abbey. I rejoice at the
preference given to prose Latinity.

The tender and emotional epitaphs have a tendency to become either
insipid or silly. But Herrick has shown us how to rival Martial:


Here she lies a pretty bud
Lately made of flesh and blood;
Who as soon fell fast asleep
As her little eyes did peep.
Give her strewings, but not stir
The earth that lightly covers her.'

Mr. Dodd, the editor of the admirable volume called _The
Epigrammatists_, published in Bohn's Standard Library, calls these
lines a model of simplicity and elegance. So they are, but they are
very vague. But then the child was very young. Erotion, one must
remember, was six years old. Ben Jonson's beautiful epitaph on S.P., a
child of Queen Elizabeth's Chapel, beginning,

'Weep with me all you that read
This little story;
And know for whom the tear you shed
Death's self is sorry,'

is fine poetry, but it is not life or death as plain people know those
sober realities. The flippant epitaph is always abominable. Gay's, for

'Life is a jest, and all things show it.
I thought so once, but now I know it.'

But _does_ he know it? Ay, there's the rub! The note of Christianity
is seldom struck in epitaphs. There is a deep-rooted paganism in the
English people which is for ever bubbling up and asserting itself in
the oddest of ways. Coleridge's epitaph for himself is a striking

'Stop, Christian passer-by! stop, child of God,
And read with gentle breast, Beneath this sod
A poet lies, or that which once seemed he.
O lift one thought in prayer for S.T.C,
That he who many a year with toil of breath
Found death in life, may here find life in death!
Mercy for praise--to be forgiven for fame,
He ask'd and hoped through Christ. Do thou the same.'


'Men are we, and must mourn when e'en the shade of that which once was
great has passed away.' This quotation--which, in obedience to the
prevailing taste, I print as prose--was forced upon me by reading in
the papers an account of some proceedings in a sale-room in Chancery
Lane last Tuesday,[A] when the entire stock and copyright of
_Hansard's Parliamentary History and Debates_ were exposed for sale,
and, it must be added, to ridicule. Yet 'Hansard' was once a name to
conjure with. To be in it was an ambition--costly, troublesome, but
animating; to know it was, if not a liberal education, at all events
almost certain promotion; whilst to possess it for your very own was
the outward and visible sign of serious statesmanship. No wonder that
unimaginative men still believed that _Hansard_ was a property with
money in it. Is it not the counterpart of Parliament, its dark and
majestic shadow thrown across the page of history? As the pious
Catholic studies his _Acta Sanctorum_, so should the constitutionalist
love to pore over the _ipsissima verba_ of Parliamentary gladiators,
and read their resolutions and their motions. Where else save in the
pages of _Hansard_ can we make ourselves fully acquainted with the
history of the Mother of Free Institutions? It is, no doubt, dull, but
with the soberminded a large and spacious dulness like that of
_Hansard's Debates_ is better than the incongruous chirpings of the
new 'humourists.' Besides, its dulness is exaggerated. If a reader
cannot extract amusement from it the fault is his, not _Hansard's_.
But, indeed, this perpetual talk of dulness and amusement ought not to
pass unchallenged. Since when has it become a crime to be dull? Our
fathers were not ashamed to be dull in a good cause. We are ashamed,
but without ceasing to be dull.

[Footnote A: March 8, 1902.]

But it is idle to argue with the higgle of the market. 'Things are
what they are,' said Bishop Butler in a passage which has lost its
freshness; that is to say, they are worth what they will fetch. 'Why,
then, should we desire to be deceived?' The test of truth remains
undiscovered, but the test of present value is the auction mart. Tried
by this test, it is plain that _Hansard_ has fallen upon evil days.
The bottled dreariness of Parliament is falling, falling, falling. An
Elizabethan song-book, the original edition of Gray's _Elegy_, or
_Peregrine Pickle_, is worth more than, or nearly as much as, the 458
volumes of _Hansard's Parliamentary Debates_. Three complete sets were
sold last Tuesday; one brought L110, the other two but L70 each. And
yet it is not long ago since a _Hansard_ was worth three times as
much. Where were our young politicians? There are serious men on both
sides of the House. Men of their stamp twenty years ago would not have
been happy without a _Hansard_ to clothe their shelves with dignity
and their minds with quotations. But these young men were not bidders.

As the sale proceeded, the discredit of _Hansard_ became plainer and
plainer. For the copyright, including, of course, the goodwill of the
name--the right to call yourself 'Hansard' for years to come--not a
penny was offered, and yet, as the auctioneer feelingly observed, only
eighteen months ago it was valued at L60,000. The cold douche of the
auction mart may brace the mind, but is apt to lower the price of
commodities of this kind. Then came incomplete and unbound sets, with
doleful results. For forty copies of the 'Indian Debates' for 1889
only a penny a copy was offered. It was rumoured that the bidder
intended, had he been successful, to circulate the copies amongst the
supporters of a National Council for India; but his purpose was
frustrated by the auctioneer, who, mindful of the honour of the
Empire, sorrowfully but firmly withdrew the lot, and proceeded to the
next, amidst the jeers of a thoroughly demoralized audience. But this
subject why pursue? It is, for the reason already cited at the
beginning, a painful one. The glory of _Hansard_ has departed for
ever. Like a new-fangled and sham religion, it began in pride and
ended in a police-court, instead of beginning in a police-court and
ending in pride, which is the now well-defined course of true

The fact that nobody wants _Hansard_ is not necessarily a rebuff to
Parliamentary eloquence, yet these low prices jump with the times and
undoubtedly indicate an impatience of oratory. We talk more than our
ancestors, but we prove our good faith by doing it very badly. We have
no Erskines at the Bar, but trials last longer than ever. There are
not half a dozen men in the House of Commons who can make a speech,
properly so called, but the session is none the shorter on that
account. _Hansard's Debates_ are said to be dull to read, but there is
a sterner fate than reading a dull debate: you may be called upon to
listen to one. The statesmen of the time must be impervious to
dulness; they must crush the artist within them to a powder. The new
people who have come bounding into politics and are now claiming their
share of the national inheritance are not orators by nature, and will
never become so by culture; but they mean business, and that is well.
Caleb Garth and not George Canning should be the model of the virtuous
politician of the future.


The late Mr. Carlyle has somewhere in his voluminous but well-indexed
writings a highly humorous and characteristic passage in which he,
with all his delightful gusto, dilates upon the oddity of the scene
where a withered old sinner perched on a bench, quaintly attired in
red turned up with ermine, addresses another sinner in a wooden pew,
and bids him be taken away and hung by the neck until he is dead; and
how the sinner in the pew, instead of indignantly remonstrating with
the sinner on the bench, 'Why, you cantankerous old absurdity, what
are you about taking my life like that?' usually exhibits signs of
great depression, and meekly allows himself to be conducted to his
cell, from whence in due course he is taken and throttled according to

This situation described by Carlyle is doubtless mighty full of
humour; but, none the less, were any prisoner at the bar to adopt
Craigenputtock's suggestion, he would only add to the peccadillo of
murder the grave offence of contempt of court, which has been defined
'as a disobedience to the court, an opposing or despising the
authority, justice, and dignity thereof.'

The whole subject of Contempt is an interesting and picturesque one,
and has been treated after an interesting and picturesque yet accurate
and learned fashion by a well-known lawyer, in a treatise[A] which
well deserves to be read not merely by the legal practitioner, but by
the student of constitutional law and the nice observer of our manners
and customs.

[Footnote A: _Contempt of Court, etc._ By J.F. Oswald, Q.C. London:
William Clowes and Sons, Limited.]

An ill-disposed person may exhibit contempt of court in divers
ways--for example, he may scandalize the the court itself, which may
be done not merely by the extreme measure of hurling missiles at the
presiding judge, or loudly contemning his learning or authority, but
by ostentatiously reading a newspaper in his presence, or laughing
uproariously at a joke made by somebody else. Such contempts,
committed as they are _in facie curiae_, are criminal offences, and
may be punished summarily by immediate imprisonment without the right
of appeal. It speaks well both for the great good sense of the judges
and for the deep-rooted legal instincts of our people that such
offences are seldom heard of. It would be impossible nicely to define
what measure of freedom of manners should be allowed in a court of
justice, which, as we know, is neither a church nor a theatre, but, as
a matter of practice, the happy mean between an awe-struck and unmanly
silence and free-and-easy conversation is well preserved. The
practising advocate, to avoid contempt and obtain, if instructed so to
do, a hearing, must obey certain sumptuary laws, for not only must he
don the horsehair wig, the gown, and bands of his profession, but his
upper clothing must be black, nor should his nether garment be
otherwise than of sober hue. Mr. Oswald reports Mr. Justice Byles as
having once observed to the late Lord Coleridge whilst at the Bar: 'I
always listen with little pleasure to the arguments of counsel whose
legs are encased in light gray trousers.' The junior Bar is growing
somewhat lax in these matters. Dark gray coats are not unknown, and it
was only the other day I observed a barrister duly robed sitting in
court in a white waistcoat, apparently oblivious of the fact that
whilst thus attired no judge could possibly have heard a word he said.
However, as he had nothing to say, the question did not arise. It is
doubtless the increasing Chamber practice of the judges which has
occasioned this regrettable laxity. In Chambers a judge cannot
summarily commit for contempt, nor is it necessary or customary for
counsel to appear before him in robes. Some judges object to fancy
waistcoats in Chambers, but others do not. The late Sir James Bacon,
who was a great stickler for forensic propriety, and who, sitting in
court, would not have allowed a counsel in a white waistcoat to say a
word, habitually wore one himself when sitting as vacation judge in
the summer.

It must not be supposed that there can be no contempt out of court.
There can. To use bad language on being served with legal process is
to treat the court from whence such process issued with contempt. None
the less, considerable latitude of language on such occasions is
allowed. How necessary it is to protect the humble officers of the law
who serve writs and subpoenas is proved by the case of one Johns, who
was very rightly committed to the Fleet in 1772, it appearing by
affidavit that he had compelled the poor wretch who sought to serve
him with a subpoena to devour both the parchment and the wax seal of
the court, and had then, after kicking him so savagely as to make him
insensible, ordered his body to be cast into the river. No amount of
irritation could justify such conduct. It is no contempt to tear up
the writ or subpoena in the presence of the officer of the court,
because, the service once lawfully effected, the court is indifferent
to the treatment of its stationery; but such behaviour, though lawful,
is childish. To obstruct a witness on his way to give evidence, or to
threaten him if he does give evidence, or to tamper with the jury, are
all serious contempts. In short, there is a divinity which hedges a
court of justice, and anybody who, by action or inaction, renders the
course of justice more difficult or dilatory than it otherwise would
be, incurs the penalty of contempt. Consider, for example, the case of
documents and letters. Prior to the issue of a writ, the owner of
documents and letters may destroy them, if he pleases--the fact of his
having done so, if litigation should ensue on the subject to which the
destroyed documents related, being only matter for comment--but the
moment a writ is issued the destruction by a defendant of any document
in his possession relating to the action is a grave contempt, for
which a duchess was lately sent to prison. There is something majestic
about this. No sooner is the aid of a court of law invoked than it
assumes a seizin of every scrap of writing which will assist it in its
investigation of the matter at issue between the parties, and to
destroy any such paper is to obstruct the court in its holy task, and
therefore a contempt.

To disobey a specific order of the court is, of course, contempt. The
old Court of Chancery had a great experience in this aspect of the
question. It was accustomed to issue many peremptory commands; it
forbade manufacturers to foul rivers, builders so to build as to
obstruct ancient lights, suitors to seek the hand in matrimony of its
female wards, Dissenting ministers from attempting to occupy the
pulpits from which their congregations had by vote ejected them, and
so on through almost all the business of this mortal life. It was more
ready to forbid than to command; but it would do either if justice
required it. And if you persisted in doing what the Court of Chancery
told you not to do, you were committed; whilst if you refused to do
what it had ordered you to do, you were attached; and the difference
between committal and attachment need not concern the lay mind.

To pursue the subject further would be to plunge into the morasses of
the law where there is no footing for the plain man; but just a word
or two may be added on the subject of punishment for contempt. In old
days persons who were guilty of contempt _in facie curiae_ had their
right hands cut off, and Mr. Oswald prints as an appendix to his book
certain clauses of an Act of Parliament of Henry VIII. which provide
for the execution of this barbarous sentence, and also (it must be
admitted) for the kindly after-treatment of the victim, who was to
have a surgeon at hand to sear the stump, a sergeant of the poultry
with a cock ready for the surgeon to wrap about the stump, a sergeant
of the pantry with bread to eat, and a sergeant of the cellar with a
pot of red wine to drink.

Nowadays the penalty for most contempts is costs. The guilty party in
order to purge his contempt has to pay all the costs of a motion to
commit and attach. The amount is not always inconsiderable, and when
it is paid it would be idle to apply to the other side for a pot of
red wine. They would only laugh at you. Our ancestors had a way of
mitigating their atrocities which robs the latter of more than half
their barbarity. Costs are an unmitigable atrocity.


The appearance of this undebated Act of Parliament in the attenuated
volume of the Statutes of 1905 almost forces upon sensitive minds an
unwelcome inquiry as to what is the attitude proper to be assumed by
an emancipated but trained intelligence towards a decision of the
House of Lords, sitting judicially as the highest (because the last)
Court of Appeal.

So far as the _parties_ to the litigation are concerned, the decision,
if of a final character, puts an end to the _lis_. Litigation must, so
at least it has always been assumed, end somewhere, and in these
realms it ends with the House of Lords. Higher you cannot go, however
litigiously minded.

In the vast majority of appeal cases a final appeal not only ends the
_lis_, but determines once for all the rights of the parties to the
subject-matter. The successful litigant leaves the House of Lords
quieted in his possession or restored to what he now knows to be his
own, conscious of a victory, final and complete; whilst the
unsuccessful litigant goes away exceeding sorrowful, knowing that his
only possible revenge is to file his petition in bankruptcy.

This, however, is not always so.

In August, 1904, the House of Lords decided in a properly constituted
_lis_ that a particular ecclesiastical body in Scotland, somewhat
reduced in numbers, but existent and militant, was entitled to certain
property held in trust for the use and behoof of the Free Church of
Scotland. There is no other way of holding property than by a legal
title. Sometimes that title has been created by an Act of Parliament,
and sometimes it is a title recognised by the general laws and customs
of the realm, but a legal title it has got to be. Titles are never
matters of rhetoric, nor are they _jure divino_, or conferred in
answer to prayer; they are strictly legal matters, and it is the very
particular business of courts of law, when properly invoked, to
recognise and enforce them.

In the case I have in mind there were two claimants to the
subject-matter--the Free Church and the United Free Church--and the
House of Lords, after a great argle-bargle, decided that the property
in question belonged to the Free Church.

Thereupon the expected happened. A hubbub arose in Scotland and
elsewhere, and in consequence of the hubbub an Act of Parliament has
somewhat coyly made its appearance in the Statute Book (5 Edward VII.,
chapter 12) appointing and authorizing Commissioners to take away from
the successful litigant a certain portion of the property just
declared to be his, and to give it to the unsuccessful litigant.

The reasons alleged for taking away by statute from the Free Church
some of the property that belongs to it are that the Free Church is
not big enough to administer satisfactorily all the property it
possesses; and that the State may reasonably refuse to allow a
religious body to have more property than it can in the opinion of
State-appointed Commissioners usefully employ in the propagation of
its religion. Let the reasons be well noted. They have made their
appearance before in history. These were the reasons alleged by Henry
VIII. for the suppression of the smaller monasteries. The State,
having made up its mind to take away from the Free Church so much of
its property as the Commissioners may think it cannot usefully
administer, then proceeds, by this undebated Act of Parliament, to
give the overplus to the unsuccessful litigant, the United Free
Church. Why to them? It will never do to answer this question by
saying because it is always desirable to return lost property to its
true owner, since so to reply would be to give the lie direct to a
decision of the Final Court of Appeal on a question of property.

In the eye--I must not write the blind eye--of the law, this
parliamentary gift to the United Free Church is not a _giving back_
but an _original free gift_ from the State by way of endowment to a
particular denomination of Presbyterian dissenters. In theory the
State could have done what it liked with so much of the property of
the Free Church as that body is not big enough to spend upon itself.
It might, for example, have divided it between Presbyterians
generally, or it might have left it to the Free Church to say who was
to be the disponee of its property.

As a matter of hard fact, the State had no choice in the matter. It
could not select, or let the Free Church select, the object of its
bounty. The public sense (a vague term) demanded that the United Free
Church should not be required to abide by the decision of the House of
Lords, but should have given to it whatever property could, under any
decent pretext of public policy and by Act of Parliament, be taken
away from the Free Church. If the pretext of the inability of the
Free Church to administer its own estate had not been forthcoming,
some other pretext must and would have been discovered.

Having regard, then, to 5 Edward VII., chapter 12, how ought one to
feel towards the decision of the House of Lords in the Scottish
Churches case? In public life you can usually huddle up anything, if
only all parties, for reasons, however diverse, of their own, are
agreed upon what is to be done. Like many another Act of Parliament, 5
Edward VII., chapter 12, was bought with a sum of money. Nobody, not
even Lord Robertson, really wanted to debate or discuss it, least of
all to discover the philosophy of it. But in an essay you can huddle
up nothing. At all hazards, you must go on. This is why so many
essayists have been burnt alive.

_First_.--Was the decision wrong? 'Yes' or 'No.' If it was right--

_Second_.--Was the law, in pursuance of which the decision was given,
so manifestly unjust as to demand, not the alteration of the law for
the future, but the passage through Parliament, _ex post facto_, of an
Act to prevent the decision from taking effect between the parties
according to its tenour?

_Third_.--Supposing the decision to be right, and the law it expounded
just and reasonable in general, was there anything in the peculiar
circumstances of the successful litigant, and in the sources from
which a considerable portion of the property was derived, to justify
Parliamentary interference and the provisions of 5 Edward VII.,
chapter 12?

_Number Three_, being the easiest way out of the difficulty, has been
adopted. The _decision_ remains untouched, the _law_ it expounds
remains unaltered--nothing has gone, except the _order_ of the Final
Court giving effect to the untouched decision and to the unaltered
law. _That_ has been tampered with for the reasons suggested in
_Number Three_.

John Locke was fond of referring questions to something he called 'the
bulk of mankind'--an undefinable, undignified, unsalaried body, of
small account at the beginning of controversies, but all-powerful at
their close.

My own belief is that eventually 'the bulk of mankind' will say
bluntly that the House of Lords went wrong in these cases, and that
the Act of Parliament was hastily patched up to avert wrong, and to
do substantial justice between the parties.

If asked, What can 'the bulk of mankind' know about law? I reply, with
great cheerfulness, 'Very little indeed.' But suppose that the
application of law to a particular _lis_ requires precise and full
knowledge of all that happened during an ecclesiastical contest, and,
in addition, demands a grasp of the philosophy of religion, and the
ascertainment of true views as to the innate authority of a church and
the development of doctrine, would there be anything very surprising
if half a dozen eminent authorities in our Courts of Law and Equity
were to go wrong?

Between a frank admission of an incomplete consideration of a
complicated and badly presented case and such blunt _ex post facto_
legislation as 5 Edward VII., chapter 12, I should have preferred the
former. The Act is what would once have been called a dangerous
precedent. To-day precedents, good or bad, are not much considered. If
we want to do a thing, we do it, precedent or no precedent. So far we
have done so very little that the question has hardly arisen. If our
Legislature ever reassumes activity under new conditions, and in
obedience to new impulses, it may be discovered whether bad precedents
are dangerous or not.



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