Memoirs of Sir Wemyss Reid 1842-1885
Stuart J. Reid, ed.

Part 3 out of 6

the blank wall of Newgate Prison. The noise of the workmen's hammers as
they made the scaffold fast was almost drowned by the roar of the quickly
gathering crowd. All the scoundreldom of London seemed to have assembled
for the occasion. It was the last Old Bailey execution crowd. The windows
of the public-house opposite the scaffold had been thrown open, and at
every window men and women were crowded together, eagerly waiting for the
grim approaching spectacle. It was not an edifying sight, this execution

There was one strange incident connected with it that has never been put
on record. Shortly after the scaffold had been placed in position I saw
four men, whose faces were familiar to me, trying to force their way
through the crowd, and I was greatly startled when I recognised them as
the four men who had been tried at the same time as Barrett, but who had
been acquitted by the jury. Not knowing what sinister purpose they might
have in view, I felt it my duty at once to warn the chief inspector of
police of their presence. He was greatly disturbed, and quickly pushed
his way through the crowd towards the place I had indicated to him. I
followed close at his heels until we reached the front of the scaffold.
As we did so he quickly put his hand upon my shoulder to stop me, and at
the same time uncovered his head. It was a strange sight that we saw in
the middle of that obscene and blasphemous mob. The four men, who had so
narrowly escaped the fate of Barrett, were kneeling, bare-headed, on the
stones of the Old Bailey in front of the scaffold on which their friend
was about to die, praying silently but earnestly. For several minutes
they continued to kneel and pray, and then, suddenly rising, they
hurriedly left the crowd and disappeared. "Did you ever see anything like
that?" said the inspector to me; and I do not know which of us was the
more moved by this strange incident.

Of the execution itself I have only one thing to say: that is, that
Barrett died in a very different fashion from any other murderer whom I
had seen hanged. He faced death, in fact, like a hero, with undaunted
mien, and a smile upon his pallid lips. I observed that his trousers were
all frayed and worn at the knees, and remarked upon the fact to one of
the warders who was standing beside me. "Yes," he replied, "he has been
on his knees, praying, ever since he was sentenced." I came away from the
spot rejoicing in the thought that I should never again be called upon to
witness that abominable thing a public execution.

It was in 1868 that I gained my first experience of London club-life.
This was when I became a member of the Arundel Club. The club is still, I
believe, in existence, and has a home somewhere in the Adelphi. In 1868
it occupied a house at the bottom of a street, running from the Strand to
the river, which was swept away when the Hotel Cecil was built. This
house had once been the residence of John Black, the well-known editor of
the _Morning Chronicle_, a journalist who used to boast that his
readers would follow him wherever he liked to lead them. The members of
the club were, for the most part, journalists, actors, and artists. It
was a delight to me to find admittance to the society I had hitherto
regarded with wistful eyes from afar. I could feel at last that I had got
a foothold, however humble, in the literary life of London. The man who
introduced me to the club was my old friend James Macdonell. We had
become intimate at Newcastle, in the days when he was editing the
_Northern Daily Express_. His brilliant writing had attracted the
attention of the proprietors of the _Daily Telegraph_, and they had
brought him to London to act as assistant editor of that paper.

Macdonell was a typical journalist, of very fine character. He was an
enthusiast, more than commonly perfervid, even for a Scot. Whatever he
believed, he believed with all his heart and soul. He was always in
earnest, and always striving to give effect to his opinions. His leaders
were really polished essays, of remarkable point and brilliancy. His
conversation was as striking and epigrammatic as his writing. He was
inspired by generous impulses, and his soul was clean. One of his
colleagues on the _Telegraph_ declared that Macdonell evidently
believed that his chief business in life was to frame syllogisms and
apply them. He had a good deal of the temperament of the French man of
letters, and to the enthusiasm of the Gaul he added a fine taste for
style. In those early days in London he was full of the possibilities
that lay before the penny Press, and predicted that the day was not far
distant when the _Daily Telegraph_ would supersede the _Times_
as the chief organ of English opinion. He greatly admired the shrewdness
of the proprietors of the paper, who, having no knowledge of literary
quality themselves, had yet an unerring instinct for what was good in
journalism. He delighted in one story which I have heard him relate more
than once. He had been telling Alexander Russel, of the _Scotsman_,
of the shrewd manner in which Mr. Levy, the principal owner of the
_Telegraph_, had been criticising an article of which he did not
quite approve. The writer had pleaded that the reasoning of the article
was perfectly sound. "We don't want sound reason; we want sound writing,"
was Mr. Levy's response. When Macdonell repeated this to Russel, the
great Edinburgh editor slapped his thigh, and cried, with an oath, "The
Lord knew what He was about when He chose that people for His own!"

It was not to be Macdonell's fate to convert the _Telegraph_ into a
second _Times_. On the contrary, after a few years in Fleet Street,
he himself went to Printing House Square, where he became, in the closing
days of Delane's editorship of the _Times_, the principal political
leader writer. He made a great mark in that capacity, and drew the
_Times_ a good deal further in the direction of advanced Liberalism
than it has ever been drawn before or since. He was a strong hater of Mr.
Disraeli's Imperial policy, and for a time the leading journal lent no
countenance to that line of action. But the curb was put upon the
enthusiastic leader writer, with his strong humanitarian views, and he
had to see the paper with which he was identified taking a course of
which he could not approve. To a man who threw his whole heart into his
work, nothing could be more galling than this. Poor Macdonell fairly wore
himself out with his ceaseless expenditure of nervous and intellectual
force, and he died suddenly and prematurely in 1878. His death was, I
think, the greatest blow to English journalism that it has received in my
time. In 1868, however, Macdonell was still in the heyday of his physical
and mental powers. We used to meet at the Arundel Club in the society
that I have described. Sala, Tom Robertson, Swinburne, and others hardly
less eminent, formed the company; and to these Macdonell, when he was
moved to talk--as he frequently was--would pour out the epigrams in which
he delighted. I can recall some of them that were very brilliant, but
they are too personal to be repeated here.

Another friend of those days never attained to anything like fame. He
died, as he had lived, a simple working journalist, and he is now
remembered only by a handful of personal friends. Yet even now, more than
twenty years after his death, I feel that Robert Donald was in many ways
one of the most gifted men I have ever known. He had come from Edinburgh
to fill a place in the Reporters' Gallery, and he added to his work as
reporter that of London correspondent of the _Glasgow Herald_. With
the rest of his intimate friends, I had an almost unbounded admiration
for his gifts, and an unqualified belief in his future. We knew from
constant and intimate intercourse the wealth of intellect and of feeling
that he possessed, and we were convinced that when he revealed these
riches to the world he would impress others as much as he had impressed

He had been engaged for years in writing a novel--a novel that, we were
convinced, would be a notable addition to the great treasury of English
literature. He was very reticent on the subject of this _magnum
opus_, but at last he consented to submit the manuscript to me and to
another friend with whom he was equally intimate, Mr. Charles Russell. I
can recall the thrill of expectancy and delight with which I first turned
to the voluminous pages of Donald's book. I can remember how I read on
far into the night, revelling in the freshness and vigour of the style,
in the brilliancy of the dialogue which abounded throughout the story,
and in the insight into character and the grasp of human motives that
were everywhere revealed. After I had read a hundred pages I was
convinced that all our anticipations as to Donald's future fell short of
the mark. But I read on and on, and slowly, yet certainly, a deadly sense
of disappointment crept into my heart. It was not that there was any
falling-off in the quality of the work. Every page was as fresh and as
strong as those which preceded it. But when I had read a thousand
pages--large pages, closely written--and had come to the end of that part
of the work that he had finished, I made the appalling discovery that the
story he had to tell had not advanced a single step beyond the point he
had reached in the first chapter. Apparently it would require thousands
of pages more to complete the tale, and the work was already as long as
"Middlemarch" itself.

Donald had the faculty of writing admirably--far better, I still think,
than any but the greatest of his contemporaries; but he lacked the chief
essential of a novelist, the power of making his story march. Russell,
when he read the manuscript, compared it to an immense torso, heroic in
its proportions, splendid in its workmanship, but nothing more than a
fragment after all. "And yet what a quarry it is!" he said to me when we
were discussing it. "If only some inferior writer were allowed to dig
into it, and transfer its gold and marble to his own pages!" My poor
friend's personal story was a real tragedy. He accepted the advice we
gave him, and, laying aside the huge unfinished manuscript, began to
write what he meant to be a short and simple story. He submitted the
opening chapters to the editor of the _Glasgow Weekly Herald_. That
gentleman was delighted with it, and at once accepted the novel for
publication in his journal. The first few weekly instalments were read
with the keenest pleasure by everybody, and the hope ran high that we had
found a new writer who was destined to take his place in the first rank
of English authorship. But by-and-by the readers of the _Herald_
made the discovery that had been made by myself when I read Donald's
unfinished manuscript. Each chapter of the tale was brilliant in itself,
but no single chapter advanced the movement of the story by a hair's

For weeks and months the novel ran its course, until the murmurs of
discontent on the part of the readers swelled into a positive roar. Mr.
Stoddart, the editor, who was a warm friend of Donald's, again and again
implored him to expedite the development of the plot, and again and again
he undertook to do so. But it was beyond his power to fulfil his promise.
Then, one day, a terrible thing happened. I was lunching with Donald in a
club in St. James's Street, one of the proprietors of the _Herald_
(now dead) being also his guest. This gentleman suddenly turned to
Donald, and speaking not with intentional brutality, but simply in the
frankness of unrestrained good-fellowship, asked him "when that d----d
long-winded story of his was going to stop?" adding that it must be got
out of the way in a week or two, as they wanted to begin the publication
of another. I saw how my poor friend turned pale at the cruel thrust. He
faltered out a promise that he would finish the tale at once, but I felt
that his heart was broken. He went home and bravely did his best to keep
his promise, but he only found once more that the task was beyond his
strength; and the unfortunate editor was reluctantly compelled to call in
an outsider to put an end in a summary fashion to a story which had
escaped completely from the grasp of its author. Donald never recovered
from the blow. His own ambition was crushed and mortified, and the ardent
hopes of his friends were all destroyed. He did not long survive this
tragical experience. And yet what a man he was! And what capacities he
possessed, capacities which would have enabled him to delight the world,
if only he had not lacked the poor faculty of the storyteller!

These were two of my great friends during my first residence in London,
and they were friends of whom any man might have been proud. Others I
held scarcely less dear, but they are still, happily, living, and I must
refrain from dwelling upon them. I had not been long settled in London
before I found work of different kinds accumulating on my hands. I wrote
London letters every week for the _Madras Times_, under the
editorship of an old friend, James Sutherland, and I contributed to
various provincial papers. But that which chiefly attracted me was
literary work for the magazines, and it was in connection with this work
that I first became acquainted with one of the dearest and most honoured
of the friends of my life, James Payn. I had been for some years an
occasional contributor to _Chambers's Journal_, and had received
more than one encouraging note written in a hand that it was difficult to
decipher, and simply signed, "Editor, _C.J._" At last it occurred to
me that a series of descriptive articles relating to the places and
scenes with which I had become familiar as a Parliamentary reporter might
be accepted by the editor. With much trepidation--for I was still a
neophyte in London literary life--I addressed a personal note to Mr.
Payn, asking for an interview. I got a cordial reply, inviting me to call
upon him at the office of Messrs. Chambers in Paternoster Row. Though I
entered his presence with fear and trembling, in two minutes I was at my
ease, and talking freely to the kindest and most generous man that ever
wielded the editorial pen. Neither of us then knew how dear we were to
become to each other, and how close and affectionate was to be our
intercourse during more than twenty years.

To Payn I was, of course, merely a very humble contributor to the journal
he edited; but I was received in a most friendly and cordial fashion, and
found, much to my delight and not a little to my astonishment, that the
brilliant man of letters before me was eager to recognise the bond which
a common calling created between us. There was no air of patronage in his
treatment of my modest proposals. He did what he could to make me feel
that we stood on an equality. This was Payn all over. Throughout his life
he was one of those men of letters who, whilst never sinking into the
boon companionship of Bohemia, show their respect for the calling they
have adopted by treating all the other members of that calling with an
unaffected respect and cordiality. Such men are the salt of our order.
Payn's generosity to young and unknown writers has been attested by many
men who in later life attained eminence, to whom he gave the first
helping hand in their long struggle against fate. When, in later days, I
read these tributes to the splendid and unselfish service which Payn had
rendered to English literature, I always recalled him as I saw him in the
dingy office in Paternoster Row on that day in 1868, when he first gave
me the right hand of fellowship. I shall have much to say of him
hereafter. At this point I need only record the fact that I became a
frequent contributor to _Chambers's Journal_, writing for it a
series of articles, descriptive of the work of the journalist, that were
afterwards republished in a volume called "Briefs and Papers." In this
little book I collaborated with my old friend and schoolfellow, Mr. W. H.
Cooke, who was the author of the chapters describing the experiences of a
young barrister.

By-and-by, as I extended my connection with magazine work, I was brought
into contact with Mrs. Riddell, the gifted writer of that admirable novel
"George Geith," and of other stories of equal merit. Mrs. Riddell was the
editor and proprietor of the _St. James's Magazine_, and I became a
regular contributor to its pages. Here I was brought into intimate
association with a phase of literary life which belongs rather to the
past than to the present. Mrs. Riddell had achieved sudden fame by her
brilliant stories. In these days such fame would have meant for her a
handsome income and a recognised position in society. But forty years ago
fame as a writer was not necessarily rewarded in this way. My first
interview with Mrs. Riddell, who was a lady of delightful manners and
charming appearance, took place literally in a cellar beneath a shop in
Cheapside. The shop was her husband's, and here certain patent stoves, of
which he was the inventor and manufacturer, were exposed for sale. I had
been greatly surprised when Mrs. Riddell, wishing to speak to me about
certain contributions to the _St. James's Magazine_, had asked me to
call, not at the office in Essex Street, but at this shop in Cheapside. I
was still more surprised on finding this gifted woman, in whose brilliant
pages I had found so much to delight me, acting as her husband's clerk,
and engaged in making out invoices in the cellar beneath the shop.

I am afraid that, in spite of her husband's occupation, I cannot give
Mrs. Riddell a testimonial as a business woman. She was, as I have said,
delightful as a writer, and charming as a woman, but her editorship of
the _St. James's Magazine_ did not suggest that she had the aptitude
necessary to success in business. She was very kind to me, and gave me
the opportunity of writing on any subject, and at almost any length, in
the pages she controlled. More than once I have had three long articles
in one number of the magazine; but I was always harassed by the fact that
the magazine was never "out" on the proper day, and that the editor was
always in a hurry for the copy I had to supply. My chief contributions to
the _St. James's_ were a series of sketches of statesmen,
subsequently republished in a volume, entitled "Cabinet Portraits,"
another series of sketches of London preachers, and a novel called "The
Lumley Entail."

This novel was my first venture in fiction, and one curious incident, at
least, was connected with it. I had submitted to Mrs. Riddell nothing
more than the first two or three chapters, and a synopsis of the plot,
when I offered it to her. With a courage that was undoubtedly rash, she
accepted the story forthwith, and decided to begin its publication at
once. I was very busy with my newspaper work at the time, and in
consequence could only write my monthly instalment in bare time for its
inclusion in the coming number of the magazine. One awful day, when the
_St. James's_ for the current month was already overdue, I received
a telegram from the publisher bidding me send in my instalment
immediately, as they were waiting for it in order to go to press. I
rushed to the office in a state of consternation, and explained to the
man that I had duly sent in my manuscript more than a week before. "I
know that," he said quite coolly; "I got it myself, and gave it to Mrs.
Riddell; but unfortunately she has lost it, so you will have to write it
over again." Here was a pretty dilemma for a budding novelist! I did not
take "The Lumley Entail" so seriously as I should have done, and I had a
very vague recollection of the contents of the lost instalment; but there
was no help for it. I had to sit down there and then in the office in
Essex Street, and write another instalment of equal length. It was
altogether different from that which it was meant to replace, and I have
no doubt that it changed materially the fortunes of the more or less
human beings who figured in my tale. Such, however, was the fate of a
young contributor in the hands of an unbusinesslike editor.

But, as I have said, Mrs. Riddell, apart from her imperfect observance of
editorial customs, was a delightful woman. She and her husband lived in a
rambling old house in the Green Lanes, Tottenham. Here she entertained
many of the notable men of letters of her time, and here I had the
pleasure of making the acquaintance of not a few of them. The
establishment was a somewhat primitive one. The workshop in which Mr.
Riddell carried on the manufacture of his patent stoves was at the back
of the house, and a rather large central hall, dividing the dining-room
and the drawing-room, was used as a kind of show-room in which choice
specimens of Mr. Riddell's wares were displayed. The special feature of
these patent stoves was that they were ornamental as well as useful. They
were made to look like anything but what they were. One stove appeared in
the guise of a table, richly ornamented in cast-iron; another was a vase;
a third a structure like an altar, and so forth. But whatever their
appearance might be, they all were stoves. One winter's night, when there
was an inch of snow on the ground, I went out to the Green Lanes to
attend one of Mrs. Riddell's literary parties. It was bitterly cold, and
one of the stoves in the hall had been lighted for the comfort of the
guests. We were a merry company, including, if I remember aright, George
Augustus Sala, and some other well-known journalists. In the course of
the evening Mrs. Riddell asked a well-known barrister, who at that time
dabbled a little in literature, and who has since risen to fame and to a
knighthood, to favour us with a song. He was an innocent young man in
those days, and tried to excuse himself. "Now, Mr. C----," said Mrs.
Riddell, "I know you have brought some music with you, so you must get it
and do as I wish." The young man admitted that he had brought music, and
blushingly retired to the hall in quest of it. Suddenly, those of us who
were standing near the door heard a groan of anguish, and, looking out,
we saw Mr. C---- holding in one hand the charred remains of a roll of
music, and in the other the remnants of what had once been an excellent
overcoat. He had laid his coat, when he arrived, on what was apparently a
hall table. Unluckily for him, it happened to be the patent stove that
had been lighted that evening to cheer and warm us when we escaped from
the storm outside. I draw a veil over the subsequent proceedings.

I believe it was on this very evening that I heard Sala utter one of
those jocosely brutal sentences for which he was celebrated. The literary
men who frequented Mrs. Riddell's house were not, I am sorry to say, so
respectful to her husband as they might have been. They made it very
clear, in fact, that it was the novelist and not the inventor of stoves
whom they came to see, and they were impatient when the latter attempted
to intrude his views upon them. A party of us were gathered in the
dining-room, smoking and otherwise refreshing ourselves. We had been
listening to story after story from some of the best talkers in the
Bohemia of those days, and again and again the attempts of Mr. Riddell to
contribute to our entertainment by some long-winded narration had been
vigorously and successfully repulsed. At last the unhappy host found an
opening, and had got so far as "What you were saying reminds me of an
interesting anecdote I once heard," when Sala, striking his fist upon the
table, thundered a stentorian "Stop, sir!" Mr. Riddell looked at him,
half frightened, half indignant. "If the story you propose to tell us,"
continued Sala, "is an improper one, I wish to tell you that we have
heard it already; and if it is not improper, we don't want to hear it at
all." Yes, clearly one had wandered into Bohemia in those days.

My work in the Gallery of the House of Commons was of great interest. I
watched Disraeli during his first brief premiership in 1868, when he had
to hold the reins of authority in a House in which his party was really
in a minority, and when he had nightly to confront the fierce attacks of
Mr. Gladstone, who was rallying his own followers, both in the House and
in the country, for their successful onslaught upon the Government. It
was a unique and most valuable experience to watch these two great men in
their gladiatorial combats across the table of the House: Gladstone
wielding the mighty broadsword of his powerful eloquence, and seeming as
if at every moment he would annihilate his antagonist; Disraeli, with
marvellous skill and exquisite adroitness, bringing the rapier of his wit
to bear upon his opponent, and again and again pinking him with some
stinging epigram or smart retort that set all the Tory benches roaring
with delight. It made one's young blood grow warmer to watch the struggle
from the impartial height of the Reporters' Gallery.

I was in the House on that memorable occasion when Disraeli made a speech
which astounded his followers so much that they were only able to account
for it by the hypothesis that he had taken too much to drink. This is a
harsh way of stating the case, but there is no doubt a measure of truth
in it. Disraeli was not a self-indulgent man, but in those days his
devotion to his duties in the House was so great that he would sometimes
sit all the evening listening to a debate without taking any food, and in
his dinnerless condition the stimulant he took before making his speech
in reply occasionally got into his head. Certainly, in the memorable
speech on the Irish Church question, to which I allude, he was betrayed
into excesses for which some justification was necessary. I remember
seeing him, at the close of that speech, draw his handkerchief from his
pocket and wave it round his head, before he sank back exhausted on the
Treasury bench; and I can still see the pale and angry face of Mr.
Gladstone as he sprang to his feet to reply, and hear the stern tones in
which he referred to "the excitement--the too obvious excitement--of the
right honourable gentleman."

Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff has recently furnished the world with many
volumes of personal reminiscences. He does not include among those
reminiscences any reference to a scene which I witnessed in the House of
Commons during Disraeli's first brief premiership, although Sir
Mountstuart was himself the hero of the occasion. It was one Wednesday
afternoon. There was an empty House and a dull debate, but Disraeli was
in his place on the Treasury Bench, so that anything might happen. It
pleased the Mr. Grant Duff of those days to deliver himself of a
philippic, at once voluminous and violent, against the Prime Minister. He
quoted the opinions of foreign critics to the disadvantage of Mr.
Disraeli; he emphasised them by fine flights of his own imagination; and
he illustrated his speech with a wealth of gesticulation and a variety of
intonation that convulsed his scanty audience with laughter. People
wondered mildly what punishment was in store for the audacious man who
was thus breaking one of the unwritten canons of the House, for in those
days it was regarded as bad form on the part of a man not himself in the
front rank to attack one in the position of Mr. Disraeli. As the speech
proceeded, the Prime Minister sat in his favourite attitude, his arms
folded, his head slightly bent forward, and his vacant eyes fixed upon
the points of his boots. He might have been carved in stone for any trace
of emotion that he displayed. We in the Gallery anticipated that this air
of absolute indifference was to be the punishment of his rash assailant.
But to our surprise, when Grant Duff sat down, Disraeli instantly sprang
to his feet. As he did so, he raised his single glass to his eye, and
looked fixedly across the House to the spot where the member for Elgin
was slowly composing himself after his mighty effort. For some seconds
Disraeli, with an air of cold, cynical aloofness, continued to gaze at
the unfortunate man. Then, with a favourite action, he suddenly dropped
the glass from his eye, and, waving his hand with an airy gesture of
contempt, said, "I shall not detain the House, sir, by referring to
the--the _exhibition_ we have just witnessed; but I merely wish to
say in reply to an honourable member below the gangway," and so on. This
was, I think, the most cruel speech I ever heard Disraeli make, and for
the moment it seemed to have a crushing effect upon its subject.

In those days Disraeli was not the Tory idol he subsequently became. I
well remember, on the historic evening when Mr. Gathorne Hardy moved the
adjournment of the House because of the absence of Mr. Disraeli at
Windsor, and the news instantly spread that Lord Derby had resigned and
Mr. Disraeli had become Prime Minister in his place, that there was a
hubbub--not merely of excitement, but of disapproval--in the Lobby. Tory
members of the old school were furious at having "that Jew," as they
contemptuously styled him, set over them. I walked from the House that
evening with Sir Edward Baines and Mr.--afterwards Sir Charles--Forster.
They were both full of the dislike felt on the Tory side for the change
in the leadership of their party. It is strange to note how quickly the
views of a party change with regard to its leaders. I remember the time
when the idea that Mr. Gladstone would ever be Prime Minister was treated
with ridicule by not a few of those who sat beside him in Parliament. I
have myself heard Mr. Disraeli assailed in scornful and sarcastic terms
by Lord Salisbury, and have listened to his sneering retort. Even after
Disraeli became Prime Minister in 1868 it is notorious that the Duke of
Buccleuch refused to entertain him as his guest when he visited Scotland
to rally the party before the General Election of that year. It was on
the occasion of this visit that he gave such offence to the graver
section of the Tories by the speech in which, explaining the genesis of
the Household Suffrage Act, he used the words, "I educated my party." A
few years later the whole party was proud of having been educated by him;
but when he made this speech his words were regarded as an insolent
display of vanity on the part of an upstart who had elbowed his way to
the front at the expense of better men.

My only personal encounter with the great Tory leader was connected with
this same speech at Edinburgh. I went to Aylesbury, during the course of
the 1868 election, in order to report a speech of his. He spoke in the
Corn Exchange, which was crowded to excess. The accommodation for the
reporters was quite unequal to their demands, and I had to stand among
the crowd and take my notes as best I could. A good-natured farmer in
front of me invited me to use his back as a desk, against which I placed
my note-book. Disraeli had not proceeded very far with his speech before
I found that my friend was not by any means in agreement with the
illustrious speaker. Again and again he interrupted him with exclamations
and questions. For a long time Disraeli took no notice of these
interruptions, but at last one stung him into action. The orator had
paused for a moment, and my farmer friend, seizing his chance, bawled out
in a stentorian voice, "What about educating your party?" The Prime
Minister instantly turned round, raised his glass to his eye, and with an
angry and contemptuous glare, transfixed--me! The farmer's courage had
given way when he found that his shot had told, and, to my unutterable
disgust, he dropped upon his knees, and left me to face the music.
Disraeli looked at me for a perceptible space of time, and then, dropping
his glass, said, in those chilling tones of which he was a master, "I
shall certainly not try to educate _you_, sir." Everybody stared at
me; everybody groaned at me; and it was only the consciousness of my own
innocence that kept me from dropping on my knees beside the treacherous
author of my humiliation.

In that election of 1868 I recorded my first parliamentary vote. Living
at 24, Addison Road North, I was an elector of Chelsea, and I duly
supported at the polling booth the joint candidature of Sir Charles Dilke
and Sir Henry Hoare. This was the last General Election before the
passing of the Ballot Bill. Representatives of the different candidates
sat on either side of the poll clerk, and duly thanked each elector as he
recorded his vote for the man whom they represented.

I wrote an article in the _St. James's Magazine_ describing the
opening day of the session of the new Household Suffrage Parliament. It
was called "The Birthday of an Era," and, looking back, I think I was
fully entitled to make use of that somewhat high-sounding phrase. It was
the beginning of the Gladstonian epoch in English history, and, for good
or for evil (in my own opinion mainly for good), it was destined to make
a deep impression on the institutions and fortunes of the nation. When
Mr. Gladstone entered upon his first term of office as Prime Minister, he
was certainly surrounded by a wonderful band of colleagues. They included
Lord Granville, Lord Hartington, Lord Kimberley, Mr. Lowe, Mr. Bright,
Mr. Cardwell, Mr. Childers, Mr. Bruce, and Mr. Forster. In my time no
stronger ministry than this has had power in England. The men I admired
most after Mr. Gladstone were Mr. Bright and Mr. Forster. I had not yet
made the personal acquaintance of Forster, and did not dream of the close
ties by which we were eventually to be united; but I was drawn to him
from the very first by an instinctive feeling of liking and esteem. His
blunt speech, his careless dress, his unpolished but genuine manners, all
seemed to me to mark him out as that rare creature a thoroughly honest
politician; and whilst I sat in the Reporters' Gallery, there was no one
after Mr. Gladstone whose speeches delighted me more than did those of

Before the Ministry had been long in office I was brought into contact
with one of its members, Mr. W.E. Baxter, the Secretary to the Admiralty.
Mr. Baxter was a great reformer and a financial purist. When he went to
the Admiralty he found extravagance and confusion, not to speak of
corruption, pervading all the departments connected with the provision of
_matériel_ for the Fleet. He set to work at once, with the vigour of
the new broom, to cleanse the Augean stable. Naturally he excited the
bitter hostility of those whose personal interests were affected by his
action, and these, being in many cases persons of influence, were able to
inspire attacks upon his policy in the leading organs of the daily press
in London. I, in my small way, as London correspondent of the _Leeds
Mercury_, had defended him against some of these attacks. Baxter
noticed my defence, and sought me out in order to thank me for it. He did
more than this. He proposed that I should hear from him from time to time
how he was advancing in his work of reorganisation and reform, and should
make the facts known to the public through the columns of the
_Mercury_. This was great promotion for me. In those days the
provincial press had no direct connection with Ministers or the leaders
of parties; and the "London correspondent" was not in a position to
supply his readers with news at first hand, or with any news, indeed,
that was at once original and authentic. Through Mr. Baxter I suddenly
found myself placed in a position that enabled me to provide the _Leeds
Mercury_ with political and administrative news that was not only of
the highest importance, but that had not appeared anywhere else. For Mr.
Baxter was better than his word. When I went, as I did several times a
week, to see him at the Admiralty, he not only told me all that was going
on in his own department, but all that could be published with regard to
the proceedings of the Government as a whole. I think I am correct in
saying that I was at that time the only correspondent of a provincial
newspaper who was favoured in this way, and my letter to the
_Mercury_ began to be read and quoted in many different quarters.
Certainly my position was made both easier and more important by this
friendship with Mr. Baxter.

During the whole of 1869 I attended the debates in Parliament, and
watched with eager sympathy the progress of the Government in the heavy
task that it had set itself. The passing of the Bill for disestablishing
the Irish Church was the chief business of that memorable session. The
speaking on both sides was at the highest level. In the House of Commons,
Gladstone, Disraeli, Bright, Lowe, and Gathorne Hardy distinguished
themselves above all others. But the palm for oratory, as has so often
been the case, was borne off by the House of Lords. That House presented
a brilliant spectacle during the debates on the second reading of the
Bill which the majority of the peers detested so heartily. The speaking
against the measure was far more effective than that in its favour.
Indeed, at this distance of time I can only recall one speech by a
supporter of the Bill which impressed itself so strongly upon me as to
remain fresh in my memory after the lapse of more than thirty years. That
was the speech of Dr. Connop Thirlwall, Bishop of St. David's, who was
courageous enough to stand against his brethren, and to prefer the claims
of justice to those of the Establishment in which he was a leading
figure. On the other hand, two at least of the speeches delivered against
the Bill are still vividly present to my mind. The first was the speech
of Dr. Magee, Bishop of Peterborough, an extraordinary display of florid
and flowing eloquence. It moved the House so greatly that when he sat
down the Tory peers rose, almost in a body, and rushing across the floor,
offered him their personal congratulations and handshakes in recognition
of his success. Such a scene, common enough in foreign Chambers, was
almost without precedent in our cold and stately House of Lords. The
other memorable speech was that of Lord Derby, "the Rupert of debate."
Though I had no sympathy with his views, I could not but admire the
almost passionate fervour with which he pleaded for the Irish Church, and
the indignation with which he denounced those who were bent upon
despoiling it. I remember his quoting with dramatic effect the curse
uttered by Meg Merrilees upon Ellan-gowan--a curse which he intended, of
course, to apply to Mr. Gladstone. It was the last speech that Lord Derby
ever made. When the announcement of the final surrender of the Peers,
after the Bill had passed through Committee, was made by Lord Cairns, I
saw Lord Derby rise from his seat and, with a face inflamed with
indignation, hobble swiftly out of the Chamber. He never entered it

This incident belongs to the tragedy of politics; but the debates on the
Irish Church Bill in the House of Lords were not without their touches of
comedy. One of these was supplied by Lord Westbury, the ex-Liberal Lord
Chancellor. He made a very amusing, a very bitter, and an almost wholly
inaudible speech against the Bill. The older peers, with their hands
behind their ears, clustered round him to catch his witticisms, some even
kneeling on the floor in order to be near enough to hear him. They
chuckled and laughed consumedly, but we unfortunate reporters in the
Gallery had but the faintest idea of what it was they were laughing at.
One sentence I did indeed catch, and still remember. It was to the effect
that if the Irish Church were disestablished there would be no provision
for the celebration of holy matrimony in Ireland in accordance with
Protestant rites. "Was it possible," Lord Westbury asked, with simulated
indignation, "that the authors of this iniquitous measure really meant to
drive all the unmarried Protestants of Ireland into mortal sin?" The old
peers around him enjoyed this effort of the imagination mightily.

The other comic incident I remember was of a different kind. The
Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Trench, on behalf of his fellow-prelates, made
a long speech against the Bill. Dr. Trench was a man of very high
character and fine talent, but he was not at home in the House of Lords,
or, indeed, in a political speech. When he advanced to the table of the
House, he caused a slight titter by producing an unmistakable black
sermon case, and spreading it open before him. By-and-by, as he proceeded
with his sonorous but somewhat melancholy discourse, everybody perceived
that he was preaching a sermon. The intonation of his voice, the
phraseology, the measured sweep of the hands, all smacked of the pulpit.
The whole House listened eagerly, and watched intently for the accident
that was certain to happen. At last it came. "I beseech you, my
brethren," said the Archbishop, in a moment of apostolic absence of mind,
and the whole House exploded in a roar of long-suppressed laughter, which
made it impossible to learn the nature of the Primate's appeal.

For any man of intelligence the position of a parliamentary reporter is
one of great interest and full of great possibilities. In my days in the
Gallery there was, as I have already stated, little communication between
the Gallery and the House proper. The art of exploiting the Press had not
yet become familiar to the politicians, and a great gulf seemed to be
fixed between the reporters and the members. Since then, that gulf has
almost disappeared, and not a few men have stepped down from the
Reporters' Gallery to the floor of the House. But our very aloofness from
the inner side of parliamentary life, with its personal interests and its
incessant intrigues, strengthened our position as independent critics and
observers. We looked on as at a play in which we ourselves had no part,
and those who possessed the instinct for politics which is the gift of
the born journalist were able to see more and learn more from our
independent standpoint than many of the actual actors saw and learned.
Some of the most capable of our political writers and critics were
trained in the Gallery. One of my most intimate friends in those days was
Mr. Mudford, who subsequently became known to fame as the editor of the
_Standard_, and who built up that journal's great reputation. Of
Mudford's capacity as an editor it is hardly necessary to speak here, but
I may note in passing that even in his early days in the Gallery he
displayed the marked characteristics which distinguished him when he was
at once the ablest and the least known of London editors. His
independence of character was even then combined with a strong
indisposition to make many acquaintances, or to cut any figure in public.
It was my privilege to be counted thus early in his career among his
friends, and I am glad to say that it is a privilege which I still enjoy.

My stay in London was brought to an end in the early part of 1870, amid
circumstances that changed the whole tenor of my life, and for a time
left me a crippled and wounded man. I have said nothing in these pages of
my private life or my domestic happiness. My marriage had proved to be,
in all respects save one, everything that the heart of man could desire.
The one drawback was my wife's delicate health; but she had shown such
marvellous recuperative powers at times when the doctors had spoken in
the gravest manner of her case, and she possessed so unfailing a flow of
natural good spirits, that it was impossible for one who, perhaps, saw
only that which he desired to see, to believe that her case was hopeless.
Yet hopeless it really was during the whole of the two short years of her
married life. Her death--it took place on the 4th of February--was a blow
that seemed to shatter my own life to its very foundations. I cannot
dwell upon it, unless it be to say that at that time of unspeakable
sorrow I first learned the value of human sympathy, and made the
discovery that there are, happily, in this world not a few men and women
who seem to have the gift of being able, not indeed to remove, but to
share and to lighten the burdens of their fellow-creatures. It is only
those who have gone through such an ordeal as this of mine who can fully
understand all that human sympathy may be in that hour of darkest woe
when a man, still standing on the threshold of life, finds himself alone
in a world which to him has suddenly become an empty desert.

One incident, and one only, of those days I will venture to recall. I was
walking along the Strand in the blackest hours of my misery, when I saw
an old man approaching me whose depth of mourning showed that he had
sustained the same bereavement as myself. There was probably a difference
of fifty years in our ages, but we were alike in the sacred kinship of
sorrow. As he drew near me I saw his eyes fixed upon mine with a long
look of tenderness and sympathy that went to my very heart, and comforted
me subtly. I envied him his age, which seemed to bring him so much nearer
to the end. I do not think he envied me my youth. It was but for a moment
that we were thus drawn to each other in the crowded street--"ships that
passed in the night," in the darkest night, indeed; but that moment I
have never forgotten.



Forming Good Resolutions--Provincial Journalism in the 'Seventies--
Recollections of the Franco-German War--The Loss of the _Captain_
and its Consequences to me--Settling Down at Leeds--Acquaintance with
Monckton Milnes--Visits to Fryston--Lord Houghton's Chivalry--His
Talk--His Skill in Judging Men--Stories about George Venables--Lord
Houghton's Regard for Religious Observances.

In April, 1870, there came to me most unexpectedly the offer of the
editorship of the _Leeds Mercury_. It came, as readers of the
preceding pages know, at a time when my whole life was unsettled by the
bereavement which had made me a lonely, restless man. It was, I need
hardly say, an offer of a very tempting character. After little more than
two years of the life of a journalist in London, the prospect was held
out to me of a recognised position on the Press as chief of one of the
principal provincial dailies. The position meant increased remuneration,
freedom from the anxieties of miscellaneous work, and the possession of
influence of no ordinary kind. All my friends and relatives urged upon me
the madness of refusing such an offer, especially since it had come to me
unsought and at an unusually early age. Yet for a time I was more
inclined to refuse than to accept the proposal. I loved London, and the
freedom of its literary life, and I knew by experience how sharp was the
contrast between the social life of the capital and that of a provincial
town like Leeds. Besides, London drew my sympathies more strongly than
ever as the scene of those short years of married happiness which had now
come to an end. So, for a time, I wavered as to the acceptance of the new
position offered to me, and it was only under the sharp pressure of
friends and relatives that I at last wrote to my old friend, Mr.
Frederick Baines, and accepted the editorship of the _Mercury_.

No one not a member of the Baines family had edited the journal since it
became the property of the first Edward Baines, so that it was a new
departure in more respects than one that the proprietors were making in
placing the editorship in my hands. The cause of the vacancy which I
undertook to fill was a rather curious one. Mr. Tom Baines, who had been
editor since his father, Edward Baines, entered Parliament, had become an
adherent of the religious body known as Plymouth Brethren. A man of
culture, of fine ability, and of high character, he had deliberately
associated himself with a sect which regarded the affairs of the world as
being outside the scope of a Christian's duties. He found it impossible
to combine attention to the many questions of politics and public
business that must engage the thoughts of a newspaper editor, with the
Bible readings and sermons upon spiritual truth to which he specially
desired to devote himself. It was a sore trouble to his excellent father
when Mr. Tom Baines decided that the life of a journalist and that of a
Plymouth Brother were not consistent; but, with that noble respect for
all conscientious convictions which distinguished Edward Baines both in
public and in private, he bowed to his son's decision, and regretfully
acquiesced in his retirement from a post that he had filled with eminent

So it came about that on May 15th, 1870, I found myself in the train on
my road to Leeds to take charge of the duties of the important post to
which I had been called. I do not think that I had any conception at that
time of the real importance of that post, or of the heavy
responsibilities attaching to it. I was barely eight-and-twenty, and
hitherto the bent of my inclination had been towards literature rather
than political journalism. The ideal life, I thought, was that of a
successful writer of fiction. Though a sincere and convinced Liberal, I
had always possessed an unfortunate capacity for seeing the defects and
blunders of my own party, and I had a strong distaste for the doctrine
which finds expression in the phrase, "My party, right or wrong."
Besides, I was then, as I still am, strongly attracted towards different
personalities. There were men on the Conservative side of the House of
Commons whom I regarded with deep respect and esteem. There were others,
sitting on the Liberal benches, whom I held in something like contempt.
Upon the whole, therefore, I did not feel so much attracted by the
responsible editorship of a great political journal as might have been
expected, and it was with considerable trepidation, and many doubts as to
my own capacity, that I made that fateful journey to Leeds. I remember
distinctly the current of my thoughts as the train flew northwards. The
death of my wife had sobered me, and all youthful levity seemed to have
been buried in her grave. I spent the four hours of the railway journey
in making good resolutions as to my conduct in my new position.

The resolution which impressed itself most forcibly upon my mind was a
determination not to make any enemies. I could honestly say that I had
made none so far in the course of my life. If my circle of acquaintances
was but a narrow one, it consisted wholly of persons who were truly my
friends. In my innocence I believed that in the public position I was
about to take this pleasant condition of things might be continued. I
would be fair, just, and courteous to everybody, I resolved; and thus I
should pass through life as one of those fortunate men who enjoy
everyone's goodwill. I can smile now as I recall the speedy shattering of
that illusion which awaited me at Leeds; but I well remember the almost
tragical sense of surprise and disappointment which I felt when I first
found that in honestly doing what I conceived to be my duty, in a public
matter with which I had to deal, I had most unexpectedly made a personal
enemy. Speaking now with long years of experience behind me, I may be
allowed to bear my testimony to the fact that it is impossible for a
public man in this country to deal honestly with the many controversial
questions that politicians have to handle without finding that, in the
course of his life, he must of necessity make some enemies. Human nature
being what it is, it seems impossible for a man to take a clear and
independent line on great questions without at times giving offence to
others, who may be just as honest and conscientious as himself. It would,
of course, be ridiculous to say that the test of a man's worth as a
politician, whether in Parliament or the editorial chair, is the number
of his enemies; but I am convinced that a public man who has absolutely
no enemies must be a person who has deliberately shirked his duties and
stifled his conscience.

My first step on entering on my duties as editor of the _Mercury_
was to make a complete change in the editor's hours. My predecessor had
been in the habit of writing his leader in the middle of the day, and it
was very seldom that he was to be seen in the office after four o'clock
in the afternoon. In common with all, or nearly all, the editors of the
provincial dailies of his time, he never attempted to write upon late
news. It was the fashion then for the provincial editor to wait until he
had ascertained the opinions of the London daily papers upon current
questions before he ventured to express his own. It was a delightful
system so far as the ease and comfort of the provincial editor were
concerned. To be able to finish the labours of the day in the early hours
of the afternoon was an ideal state of things from the personal point of
view. Fortunately I did not yield to the temptation to continue the old,
easygoing _régime_. My experience in London had made me acquainted
with the interiors of the offices of more than one of the daily
newspapers, and I was no longer oppressed with a provincial reverence for
London editors as beings who dwelt apart. I saw no reason why I should
not express my own views upon the questions with which I had to deal,
instead of waiting to pen a mere reflection of the views of other
persons. So, almost from the first day of my editorship, I went to the
office late, and wrote upon some subject that was absolutely fresh.
Barely three weeks had passed before I was able to make a distinct
impression upon the readers of the _Mercury_ as a result of this
changed system.

It was on the night of June 9th, 1870. I had finished my leader for the
next morning's paper, and was just preparing to leave the office, when a
telegram was brought to me with the sad announcement of the death of
Charles Dickens. My old leader was instantly thrown aside, and, sitting
down, I wrote out of a full heart of the irreparable loss which English
literature and the Englishmen of that generation had suffered. No matter
what the faults of the article might be, it made a great impression upon
the readers of the _Mercury_ next morning, for the death of Dickens
was one of those events that touch the heart of the nation, and everybody
was anxious to read any comments upon it. The impression made by my
article was deepened by the fact that no other provincial paper had
commented upon the absorbing topic. From that moment I seemed to have
gained the ear of my readers, and Leeds, which, not unnaturally, had
taken coldly to me in the first instance, began to open its heart and
extend its sympathies to the new and unknown editor. All this sounds like
sheer egotism; but as to the fact that, with my editorship of the
_Mercury_, the practice of writing upon the latest topics in the
provincial daily press first became general, there can be no dispute, and
as it is a fact of interest in the history of the Press, I have dwelt
upon it at this length.

Very soon the attention of newspaper readers all over the world was
absorbed by one engrossing topic--the great war between France and
Germany. The experiences of an editor during those exciting days were not
uninteresting. There have been no such days since in my recollection. In
the first instance, when the clouds were gathering with startling
suddenness, few persons in this country believed that war was possible.
It was incredible, they held, that two civilised nations should fight
over such a question as the candidature for the Spanish throne. All the
orthodox authorities were furiously angry with those journals that
pointed out the real dangers of the situation, and the difficulty of
arresting two great nations like France and Prussia when they had once
begun to approach each other with the language of menace. One day Mr.
Frederick Baines brought into my room one of the most influential
citizens of Leeds. His purpose in calling was to protest against the
alarmist tone of the articles in the _Mercury_, and nothing could
have been better than the imposing air of authority with which he
informed me that he knew for a fact that neither the members of the
English Government nor any other well-informed persons looked upon a war
as being even remotely possible. I felt very uncomfortable, and somewhat
overweighted by the air of my visitor. I could see, too, that Mr.
Frederick Baines, though thoroughly loyal to me, was also impressed by
his friend's statement. But in spite of the high authority on which this
gentleman spoke, just three days later war was declared.

Never in my time has the world looked on at a drama at once so stupendous
and so enthralling in its excitement as that of the Franco-German War. We
have had wars since then which have affected this country more nearly,
and have, of course, stirred deeper emotions in our breasts, than this
war between France and Germany; but as a dramatic spectacle on which,
thank God, we Englishmen could look as spectators merely, this great
struggle was unsurpassed and unapproached. The march of events was so
swift, the surprises were so great and numerous, the field of operations
was so near and so familiar, and the political upheaval so terrible and
so complete, that we onlookers were kept in a state of perpetual, almost
breathless, suspense whilst the struggle lasted.

Of course, the newspapers were full of the war from the moment of its
breaking out. The arrangements for special correspondents and news from
the front were more complete than they had ever been before, and as the
astounding drama swiftly advanced from the trivial overture at Saarbruck
to the overwhelming catastrophe at Sedan, the civilised world had eyes
and ears for nothing else. Barely seven weeks elapsed between the
declaration of war and the surrender of the Emperor and the fall of his
empire. During those seven weeks, public opinion in this country seemed
to be equally divided between the two belligerents; but after the
collapse of the Imperial army and the fall of the empire, the balance
swung round in favour of France. That wholesome human sentiment which
leads most men to take sides with the weak against the strong acted upon
us, and drew our sympathies to unhappy France. The French have never
given us credit for this fact, but have continually reproached us for not
having espoused their side in a quarrel with which we had absolutely no
concern. On the other hand, the Germans have never openly resented our
sympathy with France in her day of immeasurable misfortune. I do not
think, however, that they have forgotten it.

It was after Sedan, when it became evident that Paris was about to be
invested by the victorious troops, that the war entered upon a new phase.
At first nobody believed in a possible siege of Paris, any more than
people now believe in a possible siege of London. I remember one of the
sub-editors of the _Leeds Mercury_, who happened to take the
Prussian side in the quarrel, bursting into my room one day in a furious
passion to denounce the conduct of those wretched Frenchmen, who were
positively cutting down the woods outside the city barriers in order to
prevent their affording shelter to the enemy. My friend had once visited
Paris, and had been struck by the beauty of these woods. Apparently he
thought that, even for their own salvation, the French had no right to
disfigure scenes of beauty that had delighted the eyes of sentimental

The newspapers, when it became evident that the siege of Paris was, after
all, destined to take place, had to adopt measures to secure
correspondents who were prepared to endure the hardships of that siege in
order to furnish information to the British public. The most famous of
these correspondents was Mr. Labouchere, who furnished the _Daily
News_ with the most entertaining journal of a siege ever written by a
besieged resident. On behalf of the _Leeds Mercury_ I engaged the
services of another well-known journalist to act as our representative
during the siege. This gentleman very naturally required a considerable
sum of money in advance for his maintenance during the investment. He had
written one or two admirable letters in anticipation of the siege, and I
cheerfully sent him the amount for which he asked. He received it just
before the Prussian lines closed round Paris, and I do not remember that
I ever heard from him again. The letters which it is to be presumed he
wrote to the _Leeds Mercury_ never reached that journal.

When the investment began, and Paris was cut off from the outer world, we
onlookers with the strip of sea between had certain visible signs of the
reality of the siege offered to us in our very midst. The front page of
the _Times_ furnished one of these signs. Day after day, for weeks
at a stretch, the whole of that page was occupied by messages from the
French outside Paris to their friends and relatives within the walls. At
first English readers were puzzled by this phenomenon. The investment of
the city was very strict, and it was difficult to understand how the
newspaper could be smuggled inside the barriers; but presently the truth
was made known. This page of the _Times_ was part of the machinery
of the famous pigeon post which connected the outside world with Paris
during its long beleaguerment. The page was photographed on a microscopic
scale. The film on which the photograph was printed was carried into
Paris by a pigeon, a magic-lantern was used to enlarge the photograph,
and the messages it contained were copied by Post Office officials, and
forwarded to their different destinations. Such a postal service was, I
imagine, unique. It was certainly most ingenious.

Another sign of the siege of Paris was presented during those bright
autumn days by the appearance of Piccadilly, especially on a Sunday
afternoon. I generally spent Sunday in London, and during that autumn,
when walking on a Sunday in Piccadilly, I noticed more than once that the
majority of the well-dressed persons promenading on the northern side of
the street were Frenchmen--most of them wearing the ribbon of the Legion
of Honour. They were chiefly Imperialists, for whom there was no place in
France under the new _régime_, and they had flocked to London
literally in thousands, so that the great West End thoroughfare resounded
at times with the French tongue.

One feature of that autumn was the unwonted magnificence of the displays
of the aurora borealis. I never saw such fine auroras before or since.
Night after night the sky was lighted up by the brilliantly coloured
shafts of quivering flame. It is hardly surprising that the vulgar should
have associated the phenomenon with the wonderful tragedy which was being
enacted so near to our shores. The most ignorant, however, did not regard
it as an omen. They honestly believed that they saw in the heavens the
reflection of the glare from burning Paris.

I did not settle down to my editorial work in Leeds easily. Everything
drew me back to London, and I told the proprietors of the _Mercury_
that I did not mean to retain my post after the war came to an end. But
at this point a fresh piece of good fortune came to me, though it arose
out of a deplorable calamity. The _Captain_, the experimental vessel
built by Captain Cowper Coles on designs that many high naval authorities
had declared to be dangerously unsound, capsized in the Bay of Biscay,
and sank with nearly every soul on board, including her designer, Captain
Coles himself. There had been a great newspaper discussion about the
_Captain_, and the _Times_ had taken a vigorous part in it
against the Admiralty authorities and in favour of Captain Coles. On the
morning on which the news of the disaster was announced, the _Times_
in its leading article maintained that the catastrophe was in no sense
due to the instability of the ship, and urged that another _Captain_
should be forthwith built. The _Leeds Mercury_, on the other hand,
took what I regarded as the commonsense view, and insisted that for the
future the opinions of the trained experts of the Admiralty should be
preferred to those of irresponsible enthusiasts, even though they
happened to be, like Captain Cowper Coles, men of genius.

Mr. Edward Baines, like most old journalists, had a profound respect for
the wisdom of the _Times_, and he was very much disturbed when he
found that the _Leeds Mercury_ took a directly opposite view of the
disaster to that of "the leading journal." He expressed to me, in his
usual friendly and courteous manner, his regret that I had expressed
myself so strongly, and evidently felt that what the _Times_ said
must be true. But on the following day the _Times_, after an
interval for reflection, completely changed its position, admitted that
the design of the _Captain_ must have been at fault, recalled the
fact that the catastrophe had been foreseen by the highest authorities,
and protested against the building of any more ships of the same
character. There was nothing surprising in this change of front, for the
first views of the paper had been obviously inconsistent with the facts
and with commonsense. But Mr. Baines was immensely impressed by the fact
that the _Leeds Mercury_ had grasped the essential truth before the
_Times_. He greatly exaggerated the merit of his editor in the
matter, came to the conclusion that I had become indispensable to the
paper, and would not rest until I had entered into a new and binding
agreement with him to continue my editorship on conditions that were
greatly to my own advantage.

Thus this grave disaster to an English ship led to my final
relinquishment of the idea of returning to London as a literary free
lance, and to my settling in Leeds as permanent editor of the
_Mercury_. Gradually my life in the town of my adoption became more
agreeable to me. I made friends who were kind to me with the
characteristic kindness of Yorkshire. I began to feel the power, as well
as the responsibility, of my position; and I learned before long that,
even in connection with the local affairs of a great community, a man can
render services to his fellow citizens quite as important as any that he
can render on the larger platform of public life.

It was at the close of 1870 that I first made the personal acquaintance
of a man to whom I was afterwards to be deeply and permanently indebted.
This was Monckton Milnes, first Lord Houghton. There was no better known
figure in London society in those days than Lord Houghton. But he was
much more than a figure in society. Delightful as host, _raconteur_,
poet, and man of letters, he was more admirable still as the generous and
willing servant of those who needed help. He had his foibles, his likes
and his dislikes; but he was not one of those philanthropists who wait to
be asked for their help. Where he was attracted towards anyone he was
eager to aid, not only without solicitation, but at times even against
the will of the beneficiary himself. I have known many kind men, many
true friends, in the course of my life; I have known none whose kindness
was more unstinted, more constant, or more generous than that of Lord
Houghton. He had come to Leeds in December, 1870, to attend some public
meeting, and he was entertained as his guest by Mr. Baines, whose son, as
I have already explained, was my predecessor in the editorship of the

At the dinner-table at Mr. Baines's house, Lord Houghton was as vivacious
and as full of good talk as usual. The conversation happened to turn upon
slips of the tongue. Houghton said that the most amusing he remembered
was that of the lady who, meeting a friend in the street, exclaimed,
"Have you heard of the dreadful thing that has happened to my poor
brother John? He has become a Yarmouth Bloater." The good lady meant, of
course, to say "Plymouth Brother." To Houghton's surprise, his story was
received in embarrassed silence, and someone, as he told me afterwards,
trod heavily upon his foot. Monckton Milnes was not a man to be easily
disconcerted, and he speedily restored the party to a proper mood of
geniality; but after dinner he took someone aside, and asked the meaning
of the cold reception of his joke. He received the explanation which the
reader will anticipate. It was because Mr. Tom Baines had become a
Plymouth Brother that he had been compelled to retire from the editorship
of the _Mercury_, to the great distress of his father. My name as
his successor in that position was unknown until then to Lord Houghton,
but he had no sooner heard it than he invited me to visit him at Fryston.

When I first entered the hospitable door of Fryston, I suffered from a
distinct feeling of trepidation. It was new to me to meet men of Lord
Houghton's social rank and fame on terms of friendly intimacy, and I
confess that I was miserably shy when I made my first appearance among
the company assembled in that pleasant morning room, where, long years
before, Thomas Carlyle had been first introduced to the amenities of
English country-house life. Carlyle has told the world, in a letter
written to his wife, how much he was confounded by what seemed to him to
be the splendours of a society that he had hitherto viewed only from the
outside. His description of his bedroom--it was much larger and grander
in the letter than any bedroom that really existed at Fryston--of the
servants in livery, the menu of the dinner-table, and of the valet who
made unlawful and undesired investigation of the contents of his pockets
when he intruded himself upon him in the morning, all bespoke the
absolute novice. I do not think, however, that he was a greater novice in
1842 than I was in 1870. A very brief experience enables any person of
ordinary intelligence to grasp the essential details of country-house
life; but many persons--including Carlyle and myself--would have been
spared a certain spell of nervous discomfort if there had existed some
simple written code explaining those usages and customs in which
country-house life differs from the ordinary life of the English
middle-classes. But kindness puts an end to all difficulties of the shy
guest, and certainly there never was a kinder hostess than Lady Houghton.

From 1870 down to 1885 I had the good fortune to be a frequent visitor at
Fryston. Lord Houghton's kindness to me at our first meeting only
increased as time passed; and writing of him now, long after he has
passed away, I must relieve my heart by saying that I owe more to him and
to his unceasing efforts, not merely to draw me out, but to push me
forward, than to any other friend I have ever made. There was a whimsical
side to his character which, naturally enough, attracted more attention
than was given to his more sober qualities. The eccentricities of his
youth, embalmed by Sydney Smith and the other humorists of the 'thirties
and 'forties, had disappeared when I made his acquaintance; but to the
last he was absolutely careless as to public opinion, except on such
points as those on which he himself shared that opinion. The truest thing
that was ever said of him was said by William Edward Forster at the
Cosmopolitan Club one night, when Houghton was leaving it. Someone said,
referring to Houghton, "He's a good man to trust when you're in trouble,
for he'll stand by you." "He'll do more than that," responded Forster;
"he'll stand by a man not only in trouble but in disgrace, and I know
nobody else who will." This was where the finer trait in Houghton's
independence of character came in. He was always ready to espouse the
cause of a man upon whom the world was frowning, but happily this quality
is not uncommon among our nobler natures. That which was most uncommon in
Houghton's character was his willingness to befriend a man even when he
knew that the disgrace into which he had fallen was not undeserved. He
could be severe--as severe as anybody I have ever known--upon vice and
meanness; but if the sinner needed help he pitied him at once, and was
ready to aid him to the best of his power.

His talk in his own house was delightful. It was altogether different
from the talk that men heard when they met him at London dinner-tables.
Strangely enough, it was at the breakfast-table that he talked best. Most
Englishmen are not roused to conversational brilliancy until the day is
far spent; but Houghton was at his best at breakfast and immediately
afterwards. And how good that best was! He was a walking encyclopaedia,
although no man was ever less of "a book in breeches." Whenever I wished
to clear up some obscure point in history or politics, in literature or
in the personal life of our times, I went to him, and seldom was it that
I failed to get the light I wanted. As a judge of character he had no
equal among the men I have known, and in the years that have flown since
his death I have had the happiness of seeing his forecast of the future
of not a few men strikingly realised. The first time I ever heard the
name of Lord Rosebery was from his lips, in 1874 or 1875. I had seen the
name in print, of course, but to me it was a name, and nothing more. "You
don't know Lord Rosebery?" said he one day. "Then mark him well. He is
the ablest young man in England, and, I believe, will be Prime Minister
before he dies."

On another occasion he shocked me for the moment by a deliverance about
Mr. Gladstone. It was in 1880, when the great statesman, having won the
most brilliant triumph of his life, and finally defeated his great rival,
Lord Beaconsfield, was struck down by serious illness a few weeks after
he had regained power. "I am so sorry to see that Gladstone is getting
better," Houghton said to me as we sat in the library at Fryston. I could
hardly believe my own ears, and expressed my surprise at hearing such a
sentiment from the lips of one of Mr. Gladstone's greatest admirers.
"Don't you see," responded Houghton, "that if he dies now he will be one
of the greatest figures in English history? He has just won the greatest
triumph a statesman ever enjoyed. It is impossible that he can remain at
this dazzling height. _Now_ is the time for him to die." Those who
only knew Lord Houghton as a genial cynic would have been surprised if
they had known that in his opinion the greatest Englishman of his own
time was Lord Shaftesbury, and the greatest Englishwoman Florence
Nightingale. Those who were acquainted with his poetry would not have
felt this surprise. There is much in his verse, neglected though it now
be, which deserves a high place in our national literature. But in his
later days--or, rather, throughout his life--the world refused to see his
more serious side, and treated him as the humorist and the wit, the
cynic, and the kind-hearted but eccentric peer who made it his mission in
life to try to fuse the two worlds of society and intellect.

He certainly had wonderful success in bringing together men who stood at
opposite poles both of position and opinion. In the days when Mr. John
Morley was only known as a promising writer of the most terrible
heterodoxy, he dined with Houghton, and was placed next the Archbishop of
Canterbury. "Who is that clever-looking young man sitting next the
Archbishop?" asked Lord Selborne, who was also at the table. When he was
told that it was Mr. Morley, the editor of the _Fortnightly Review_
and the author of the famous "little g," he threw up his hands in
absolute consternation. But Houghton had a rare discrimination in
bringing men together. He never brought people who disliked each other
into juxtaposition, as some notorious hostesses of our own time are fond
of doing. What he did was to gather round his table men of talent and
worth who would have had little chance of meeting but for his kindly and
hospitable intervention, and many a lifelong friendship has thus been
begun beneath his roof.

One of the earliest lessons a man learnt on being admitted to Houghton's
cosmopolitan society was the great need of care in the selection of
topics in addressing a stranger. Most persons one met at Fryston had
either done something or were somebodies, and occasionally their fame was
not of the kind that commends itself to everybody. It was necessary,
therefore, to walk delicately, like Agag, in opening a conversation with
a stranger. A terrible experience of my own will illustrate this fact. As
boy and man I had adored Thackeray, and made him the hero of my literary
dreams. There was one incident in his early life about which I was quite
unreasonably curious. I wanted to know which of his schoolfellows it was
who broke his nose and disfigured him for life, and I had made up my mind
that if ever I met a man who had been at school with him I would question
him on this point. During one of my earlier visits to Fryston I found
that George Venables, the well-known Parliamentary counsel and Saturday
Reviewer, was staying there. Venables was one of the most distinguished
men of his day. His ripe judgment commanded universal confidence, whilst
the somewhat austere manner which veiled a warm heart inspired chance
acquaintances with a certain feeling of awe. During dinner I heard
Venables talking about his early days at the Charterhouse, and felt at
once that my long-sought chance had come. Accordingly, when I was walking
with him in the Fryston woods on the following morning, I plucked up my
courage, and asked him if he had been at the Charterhouse with Thackeray.
"Certainly I was," replied the eminent publicist; "we entered on the same
day, and were great friends all the time we were at school." "Then," said
I, rushing blindly upon my fate, "you can tell me what I have long wanted
to know. Who was it that broke Thackeray's nose?"

It was winter, and we were walking in Indian file through the woods. As I
put this question to Venables, he suddenly stopped, and, turning round,
glared at me in a manner that instantly revealed the terrible truth to my
alarmed intelligence. He continued to glare for several seconds, and
then, apparently perceiving nothing but innocent confusion, not unmixed
with alarm, on my face, his own features became relaxed into a more
amiable expression. "Did anybody tell you," he said slowly, and with
solemn emphasis, "to ask me that question?" I could truthfully say that
nobody had done so. My answer seemed to mollify Venables at once. "Then,
if nobody put you up to asking me that question, I don't mind answering
it. It was _I_ who broke Thackeray's nose. We were only little boys
at the time, and quarrelled over something, and had the usual fight. It
wasn't my fault that he was disfigured for life; it was all the fault of
some wretched doctor. Nowadays a boy's nose can be mended so that nobody
can see that it has ever been broken. Let me tell you," he continued,
"that Thackeray never showed me any ill-will for the harm I had done him,
and I do not believe he felt any." Nor, I must add, did Venables show any
ill-will to me for the _gaucherie_ which had caused me to rake up
this painful episode in his career.

Venables himself had been the victim of another mistake, which he
resented more strongly than he did my indiscretion. He told the story to
me and to Mrs. Procter one day in the drawing-room at Fryston, with keen
indignation. A certain noble lord had approached him at an evening party
with an air of extraordinary deference. Venables knew the peer very
slightly, and was surprised by the salaams with which he was greeted. His
surprise changed to fury when he discovered that his lordship had
mistaken him for a notorious millionaire of somewhat dubious reputation
who had just blossomed into a baronetcy. "Think of it!" he said with
lofty scorn. "The fellow came cringing to me as if I were a prince of the
blood, merely because he thought I was that odious adventurer, and had
money in my pocket." Mrs. Procter sprang from her seat, and, hobbling
across the room with extended forefinger, cried to Venables, in tones of
dramatic intensity, "Does that noble lord still live?"

It was from Venables that I heard a delightful story about our host
which, years afterwards, I repeated in writing Lord Houghton's life. It
was the story of Carlyle's remark when Tennyson's friends were trying to
procure a pension for him from Sir Robert Peel. "Richard Milnes," said
Carlyle, taking his pipe out of his mouth, "when are ye gaun to get that
pension for Alfred Tennyson?" Milnes tried to explain to Carlyle that
there were difficulties in the way, and that possibly his constituents,
who knew nothing about Tennyson, might accuse him of being concerned in a
job if he were to succeed in getting the desired pension for the poet.
"Richard Milnes," replied the sage, "on the Day of Judgment, when the
Lord asks ye why ye didna get that pension for Alfred Tennyson, it'll no
do to lay the blame on your constituents. It's _you_ that'll be
damned." I always had a half impression that, for some reason or other,
Lord Houghton did not like to hear that story told in his presence. All
the world knows, of course, that he did get the pension for the poet, and
thus escaped the penalty anticipated by the philosopher.

But if Lord Houghton was sensitive on some points, he was frank and
courageous in acknowledging his own youthful follies and the punishment
which they brought upon him. I shall never forget his taking me to a
particular corner in that vast library at Fryston--which, like some
vegetable parasite, seemed to have spread itself over every inch of
available wall-space in the house--and taking down from the shelves a
volume of the "Life of Sydney Smith." His object in doing so was to show
me the original manuscript of the pungent and witty letter in which
Sydney Smith rebuked him sharply for having written a somewhat peppery
note to ask the Canon if it was true that he had dubbed him "the cool of
the evening." "What a young fool I was!" said Lord Houghton, when he had
read the letter to me. "And how good it was of Sydney Smith to set me
down in that fashion!"

Everybody knows that Lord Houghton was the most tolerant of men in all
matters of faith and opinion; but he did not allow mere carelessness or
idleness to serve as an excuse for the disregard of religious
observances. My usual time for visiting Fryston was on Saturday, when I
was free from the charge of my paper for four-and-twenty hours. My kind
friend always insisted on Sunday morning that instead of going to church
I should spend the morning in strolling in the park, either alone or in
his delightful company. This, he would say, was necessary in the
interests of my health. I spent more Sundays at Fryston than I can count,
but I never entered the little church hard by the park gates until the
sad day when I went there to attend his funeral. One Sunday evening, when
there was a rather large party at the Hall--including John Morley--we
were summoned by the old butler--himself a character not unworthy of
commemoration--to prayers in the morning room. Lord Houghton was good
enough to intimate to Morley and myself that we should not be expected to
attend, and we accordingly remained in the drawing-room in conversation.
A certain young Yorkshire baronet, who was also of the party, influenced
by our bad example, stayed behind with us. In a couple of minutes,
however, the butler reappeared, and going up to the baronet, said, "Sir
Henry, his lordship is waiting for you before he begins prayers." The
liberty accorded to the philosophic writer and the editor was not
permitted to the country gentleman. I think I ought to add, in justice to
Mr. Morley at least, that he and I accompanied the unwilling young man to
the scene of the family devotions.

I must stay my hand, however, in these rambling recollections of my kind
and brilliant friend and benefactor. No doubt I shall have more to say
about him before my task is finished; but for the present I must take up
again the thread of my narrative.



A Generous Scot--Paris after the Commune--An Uncomfortable Journey
Home--Illness of the Prince of Wales--Revived Popularity of the
Throne--Death and Funeral of Napoleon III.--Burial of the Prince
Imperial--Forster's Educational Policy--Bruce's Incensing Bill--My Second

With the opening of 1871 came the armistice before Paris, quickly
followed by the conclusion of peace. Then took place the ghastly upheaval
of the Commune, and the eyes of the world were once more riveted upon the
great city which has been the theatre of so many tragedies. It shocked
everybody to think that the heavy sufferings through which unhappy France
had passed, instead of uniting all classes of the people together in the
bonds of a common sorrow, had only intensified the conflicts of parties
and social grades. But in due time the Communist rising itself was
suppressed, and peace at last fell to the lot of distracted France.

In September of this year, 1871, I went abroad for the first time in my
life. Passing through Belgium and by the Rhine to Switzerland, I visited
the Italian lakes before returning to England by way of Paris. There is
no need to dwell upon the incidents of a commonplace tour like this,
though one can never forget the delightful sense of exhilaration produced
by a first experience of the living grandeur of the Alps. Switzerland was
not so completely hackneyed in those days as it is now, and to me, of
course, as a newcomer, it did not seem to be hackneyed at all. I was too
young, I think, fully to realise the indescribable charm of Italy, a
charm which is felt more strongly by most of us with each successive
visit to that land of dreams and beauty. At Milan I was the victim of a
not unusual incident in travel. I found myself stranded at the old Hôtel
de la Ville for want of money. I had arranged for a remittance to reach
me there; but in those days there were no tunnels through the Alps, and
Italy was, in consequence, still a long way from England. My remittance,
therefore, took longer to reach me than I had anticipated. The result was
that I spent certain miserable days in a state of almost complete
impecuniosity. I shall never forget the weary hours during which I
tramped the streets, and the endless visits to the post office in search
of the letter which I awaited so anxiously.

But whilst in this unpleasant position, I was fortunate enough to meet
with an instance of genuine kindliness that really raised my opinion of
my fellow-creatures. An old Scotsman used to sit beside me at the
_table d'hôte_ at the Hôtel de la Ville. He was a man of
intelligence, and I found his conversation very pleasant. With the pride
and sensitiveness of youth, I was, of course, resolute in my
determination to conceal from him my unpleasant fix; but one night at
dinner he startled me by asking when I was going to leave Milan. I feebly
evaded the question by saying that I must first of all see all the sights
of the place. "Hoots, man!" he retorted, "ye've seen all the sights, and
ye're jist wasting your time and losing your holiday stopping here. I ken
weel what it is ye're waiting for. Ye're short of money--that's it, isn't
it?" I murmured something to the effect that I was expecting remittances
which would, no doubt, reach me almost immediately. "Weel, I'm not going
to let a young fellow like you lose your holiday," said my friend, in a
very positive manner, "and ye'll just have to make me your banker for
what ye want, and get away out of this hole as soon as ye can, for there
are better sights to be seen than Milan." I could only prevent his
forcing money upon me on the spot by promising that if my remittance did
not come next day I would avail myself of his generous offer. Happily,
the next day relief came, and I was no longer in pawn at Milan. But
blessings on the head of that worthy old Scot, who must long ago have
gone over to the majority! At least he nobly redeemed the character of
his countrymen from the libel which makes the name of a Scotsman
synonymous with meanness.

Paris in September, 1871, presented a strange sight to the eyes of a
visitor. The shadow of the double ordeal of the siege and the Communist
rising still lay heavily upon it. In the streets traces of the conflict
between the Versaillists and the Communards were everywhere visible.
Lamp-posts twisted by the shell fire, plate-glass windows perforated by
bullets, columns chipped and shattered, and the pavement ripped up for
the erection of barricades, were the common sights of the streets; whilst
the blackened ruins of the Tuileries, and the other public buildings
destroyed by the rebels, remained to attest the desperate character of
the civil war that had been waged in the capital. The inhabitants had not
yet recovered from the privations of the siege and the horrors of the
Commune. There were few who smiled, and there were many who could not
speak of the past without tears. That which was specially noticeable was
the fact that all the fury of the Parisians seemed to be turned against
the Communards. Many of them, speaking of the Prussians, referred warmly
to the contrast between their conduct and that of their own lawless

Outside Paris the traces of the siege were everywhere visible, and
driving along the country roads near St. Cloud--where the people were
still living in tents and wooden sheds, almost every house having been
destroyed--one came constantly upon little groups of graves of German
soldiers who had been buried where they fell, each grave marked by its
wooden cross with its simple inscription. These monuments spoke
eloquently of the tragic character of the struggle. At Versailles, where
the National Assembly was sitting, the great bulk of the Communist
prisoners were confined in the orangery in front of the palace. Loaded
cannon commanded this improvised prison, where many hundreds of men and
women were herded promiscuously. Standing on the terrace above the
orangery, I leant over the balustrade in order to look on the prisoners
beneath. I had to withdraw hastily, for from the miserable crowd there
came up an unbearable stench, such as might emanate from a cage of wild
animals. Now and then one saw Communists being escorted by soldiers to
meet the swift vengeance of the court-martial which was sitting to try
them. These unhappy prisoners, who had little chance of escaping the
penalty of death, bore themselves with firmness, and manifestly believed
that they were sufferers in a holy cause. Not even the sight of the
destruction they had wrought in Paris could wholly stifle one's feelings
of sympathy with them in their wretched plight.

I had a second experience of the disadvantages of impecuniosity before I
reached London. During the latter part of my trip I had found a pleasant
travelling companion in the person of Mr. Charles Townsend, of Bristol, a
gentleman who subsequently represented that city in Parliament. As we
were travelling straight through from Paris to London, and had, as we
believed, ample funds for the journey, we signalised the close of our
trip on the Continent by a specially good dinner on the evening of our
departure, for which we had to pay a price in accordance with its merits.
We were returning by the Dieppe route. The journey by rail was delayed
because all the bridges near Paris were broken, and we had to creep
across temporary wooden structures. Before we were allowed to board the
steamer at Dieppe, all passports were carefully examined. The police were
on the search for escaped Communists, and whilst it was easy enough to
get into France, it was much more difficult to get out of the country.
Our passports, however, were in order, and we were soon lying down to
sleep in the cabin of the steamer in the full belief that we should find
ourselves in England in a few hours. I slept soundly, and only awoke when
the sun was well up in the heavens. The steamer was at rest, and I
thought we were in the harbour of Newhaven; but, to my dismay, when I
went on deck I found that we were still moored to the quay at Dieppe. A
terrific northwesterly gale was blowing, and the captain had not ventured
to put out. All that day we lay at Dieppe, the result being that the
money which would have taken us, under ordinary circumstances, in comfort
to London, was expended before we quitted France. When we reached
Victoria Station our united capital consisted of a halfpenny. We could
not even tip the porter who attended to us. I felt it was the meanest
moment of my life. We drove straight to a bank, however, and in a few
minutes had each a pocketful of gold. The double lesson I received during
this first Continental trip has made me careful ever since to take
sufficient funds on every journey to carry me safely through to the end.

The great public event of the autumn of 1871 was the illness of the
Prince of Wales. He had been staying in November with Lord Londesborough
at Scarborough, and on his return to Sandringham he was attacked by
typhoid fever. For a time no anxiety was felt, because it was believed
that the illness was a slight one. But suddenly the news was flashed
through the country that his Royal Highness had taken a turn for the
worse. This was followed a few hours later by the announcement that the
Queen and the other members of his family had been suddenly summoned to
his bedside; and yet a little later came the tidings that his case was
hopeless, and that he was rapidly sinking. December 14th, the day which
had proved fatal to his father exactly ten years before, was at hand, and
everybody believed that it would see another heavy blow dealt at the
Royal Family. It is impossible to describe the emotion produced by the
most unexpected news of the Prince's condition. The telegrams from
Sandringham were of so positive a nature that they forbade hope. On
Friday, December 13th, the gloom deepened hourly. At midnight a telegram
reached the office of the _Leeds Mercury_ saying that the family
were gathered round the Prince's bed awaiting his dissolution. That
telegram was received in every other newspaper office in the kingdom.
Everywhere Lives of the Prince were hurriedly prepared, and articles
written announcing the event which appeared to be imminent.

When the time approached for the _Mercury_ to be sent to press,
though we had made every preparation in case of the Prince's death, the
fatal news had not yet arrived. I consequently wrote an article upon his
illness and the emotion it had caused, to be inserted if his death had
not taken place when we went to press. Needless to say, it was this
article, and not that in which the national calamity was bewailed, that
appeared in the _Leeds Mercury_ next morning. The only other daily
newspaper that had a leading article on the Prince's illness was the
_Times_. In every other newspaper office the conviction that he was
at the very point of death was so strong that no preparation had been
made for his possible survival. When the morning of the fateful 14th came
it was announced that the Prince, though still in grave danger, had
rallied. For several days he hung between life and death, and then began
rapidly to mend, thanks to his own good constitution and to the
extraordinary care and skill with which he was nursed by Sir
William--then Dr.--Gull.

The revived popularity of the Throne in England may be dated, I believe,
from that period. The Queen's long withdrawal from the public eye,
consequent upon her widowhood, had led the multitude, ignorant of the
manner in which she devoted herself to the heavy duties of her position,
to regard her as being little more than a figurehead. Certain
politicians, in the autumn of 1871, had taken advantage of this state of
feeling to begin a crusade against the monarchy, and a section of the
extreme Radicals really seemed to believe that the glorious Throne of
England was about to be overthrown. But the sharp touch of personal
sorrow changed all this, and revealed to the English people their true
sentiments towards the Queen and her family. The grief, universally felt
when it was believed that we were about to lose the heir to the Crown,
and the affectionate sympathy with which his slow recovery was followed,
convinced us all, as they convinced the outside world, that the bonds
between the English Throne and the English people were far closer and
stronger than most persons had imagined. The trumpery campaign against
the monarchy died in a single night, and from that day to this the mutual
love and trust of monarch and people have gone on steadily increasing.

The announcement that the Queen proposed to attend St. Paul's Cathedral
in state to return thanks for the recovery of her eldest son touched the
heart of the nation afresh, and evoked the first great popular
demonstration of loyalty that had been witnessed since the early days of
the reign. I was present in the Cathedral at that solemn and stately
service on the 27th February, 1872, the precursor of the still more
stately service held at Westminster on the 21st June, 1887. Except on the
occasion of the Jubilee of the last-mentioned year, and of that of 1897,
London has never witnessed a more remarkable outburst of loyal
enthusiasm. At night the whole town was illuminated, St. Paul's Cathedral
being lighted up after the fashion of St. Peter's at Rome on Easter Day.
The crowds which filled the streets were enormous, and as the London
police had not then acquired the art of marshalling vast multitudes,
there was terrible crushing, and several lives were lost. Three persons
were suffocated at Temple Bar, which was already marked for removal. I
myself had the narrowest escape from death on Ludgate Hill, where the
multitude was packed in one dense, immovable mass for hours. The people
in the houses on the hill passed down water in buckets to the fainting
crowd, and now and then some woman or child was positively hauled out of
it by ropes, and thus placed in safety. It was not a sight that could
ever be forgotten, and it impressed forcibly upon one's mind the strength
of the hold which the monarch has upon the hearts of the people of this

Among those who watched the passage of the Queen and the Prince of Wales
from Buckingham Palace to St. Paul's there was one notable and historic
personage. This was Napoleon the Third, at that time living in exile at
Chislehurst. Within twelve months the ex-Emperor was dead. His death was
the cause of a singularly picturesque demonstration on the part of the
ruined Imperialist party. I went to Chislehurst to see the lying-in-state
which preceded the funeral. The train which took me down from Charing
Cross was crowded with Frenchmen wearing the rosette of the Legion of
Honour, and on every side I heard men called by names that for twenty
years had been part of the history of Europe. The poor Emperor lying in
his coffin, guarded by men who but recently had been the great officers
of an Imperial household, was a pathetic object. I noticed that his hair
had turned grey; and the shortness of stature that he had been so anxious
to conceal when living was now plainly apparent. His funeral, which took
place on the following day, fittingly symbolised the fall of the Second
Empire. Preceding the hearse walked a body of French workmen in blue
blouses, the foremost of whom bore the tricolour, rudely fastened to a
branch which had been hastily torn from one of the fine trees at Camden
Place. Behind the hearse the young Prince Imperial walked alone, a pale,
thoughtful, delicate youth, who seemed little fitted to bear the burden
of the Pretendership. Behind him, in a single line, were four of his
father's cousins, of whom the most conspicuous was Prince Napoleon. His
likeness to the great Emperor was startling, and, as he walked
bareheaded, one could see that it was emphasised by the way in which he
had trained a solitary lock of hair upon his massive brow.

The Emperor was buried in a temporary vault in the Catholic chapel of
Chislehurst. The building was too small to admit a tithe of the crowd of
French people who were present, but those who could not enter the chapel
knelt throughout the service on the damp grass of the churchyard. When
the funeral party returned to Camden House, I witnessed an unexpected and
dramatic scene. The mourners had come back, as they went, in absolute
silence. From highest to lowest, all seemed to be suffering from the
deepest depression. The young Prince was the first to step within the
door of the house. As he did so, he turned and bowed to the great company
of Frenchmen--the wreckage of his father's empire. Instantly every hat
was raised, and a tremendous cry went up, "_Vive Napoléon le
Quatre!_" The suddenness and unexpectedness of this acclamation of the
youth as the inheritor of the Napoleonic legend startled and impressed
all those of us who were present as spectators.

Alas! in how brief a space of time I attended another funeral at Camden
Place, and saw the body of the boy, who had thus been hailed as Emperor,
carried across the breezy common to rest by his father's side. But now it
was with the sad music of military bands and the pomp and glitter of an
army in motion that the body was carried to the tomb. The Prince Imperial
was buried with the honours due not merely to a royal prince, but to an
English soldier. The Union Jack lay side by side with the tricolour upon
his coffin, and four English princes acted as pall-bearers. The Queen
herself watched from a pavilion erected above the wall of Camden Place
the passage of the funeral party from the house to the place of burial.
It was strange to think that this display of heartfelt sorrow, which was
shared alike by the highest and the lowest, had been drawn forth by the
death of the last representative of the Napoleonic Empire. But one could
not forget the opening words of the young Prince's will, in which he
declared that he died with a heart full of gratitude to the Queen of
England and her family. If that could have been the end of the Napoleonic
legend it would have been a fitting one; but even on the day of the
funeral of the Prince the truth that peace is seldom to be found in the
houses of the great was painfully illustrated. The chief mourner was
Prince Napoleon, to whom had fallen the second place only at the burial
of the Emperor. When the party came out of church the Prince took a
ceremonious farewell of the members of our Royal Family, and then,
disregarding the entreaties of the officials that he would return to
Camden Place and meet the greatly bereaved mother, leapt into his
carriage and in a harsh voice cried imperiously to the driver, "_A

After the curtain had fallen on the great drama of the Franco-German War
there was an interval during which this country was chiefly occupied with
questions of domestic interest. The Gladstone Ministry had completed its
great achievements. It had disestablished the Irish Church, abolished
purchase in the Army, established vote by ballot, reformed the Irish land
system, and, above all, had created a national system of education. To
Mr. Forster had fallen the high honour of carrying this last-named
measure, and it is an honour which seems even greater now than it did at
the moment when the Royal assent was given in 1870 to the Education Bill.
At that time, indeed, Forster met with criticism and abuse, rather than
admiration and gratitude, for his great achievement. As older persons
will remember, he excited the bitter hostility of the Dissenters and a
section of the Radicals because of his refusal to make a hopeless crusade
against the Church schools the basis of his educational policy. Even if
he had believed such a step to be just, he would have committed the
gravest of errors if he had yielded to Nonconformist clamour. It would
have been impossible, even in the Parliament of 1868, to have carried
such a Bill as the Birmingham Education League demanded, and there has
been no Parliament since then that would even have looked at such a task.
Remembering this fact, the injustice of the bitter attacks made upon Mr.
Forster by a certain section of the Radicals, among whom a young
Birmingham manufacturer named Joseph Chamberlain was now beginning to
make himself conspicuous, is manifest.

One can only account for the acerbity with which Mr. Forster was attacked
on the ground that, both as a Radical and the son of Nonconformist
parents, he had excited the hope among the extreme party that he himself
would be as extreme as any of them. The wisdom with which he turned
existing institutions to account, and succeeded in masking the batteries
that the Church was ready to open upon any State system of education, was
denounced as cowardice and lukewarmness; and as a consequence of the
greatest triumph of his career--a triumph hardly excelled by any other
Minister of our time--he became the object of the undying suspicion and
hatred of a large number of the members of his own party. To the end of
my days it will be a cause of pride to me that, although myself an ardent
Liberal, and the son of a Nonconformist minister, I gave all the support
I could in the columns of the _Leeds Mercury_ to Mr. Forster. That
this support was of real importance to him was due to the fact that the
_Leeds Mercury_ circulated largely in Bradford, the town for which
Mr. Forster sat.

My championship of Forster and his educational policy, though it had the
warm support of Sir Edward Baines and of the majority of Yorkshire
Liberals, brought upon me the heavy displeasure of the advanced Radicals.
Like Mr. Forster, I was regarded as a traitor to my principles, and again
and again in those days, when I attended public meetings, I heard the
_Leeds Mercury_ and its editor denounced by those who declared that
the Liberalism propounded in its columns was a feeble, milk-and-water
product, scarcely better than open and undiluted Toryism. Here I must
pause to interject one word of grateful acknowledgment of the generous
manner in which the proprietors of the _Mercury_ stood by me in
those stormy days, and encouraged me to give free expression to the
independent opinions that I had formed. It was a time of trial for
Liberalism in general, and it was also a time of trial for the young
editor who, in supporting what he believed to be the truth, had thus to
run counter to the convictions of a very important section of his
readers. Yet, looking back, I cannot say that I suffered any substantial
injury from the ordeal through which I had thus to pass. It is true that
for many years I was regarded with suspicion as being only a half-hearted
Liberal by a considerable section of my party in Yorkshire; but I had the
compensation of being allowed to speak my own mind, and of knowing that
my words were not without influence upon others. No greater compensation
than this can be desired by any publicist.

It was not the education question alone that engaged the attention of the
public in the years 1872 and 1873, with which I am now dealing. The great
problem of the liquor traffic had been brought to the front, in a large
measure owing to the spirited but somewhat mischievous campaign
maintained at a great cost by the United Kingdom Alliance, in favour of
the measure known as the Permissive Bill. I have never been able to
understand why the promoters of the Permissive Bill should have made a
fetich of that very dubious measure. Yet for a whole generation it has
been their shibboleth, and, no matter what might be the aims or the
virtues of the man who refused to pronounce it, the supporters of the
Permissive Bill have regarded him as an enemy. They, at least, have not
laid themselves open to the charge of trimming. For more than thirty
years the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill, has been their
cry; and as a consequence they have seen these years pass without the
carrying of any real amendment of our licensing system.

In 1873 the Gladstone Government, now drawing towards the close of its
remarkable history, introduced a great measure of licensing reform, known
at the time as Mr. Bruce's Bill. It was a wise and statesmanlike scheme,
and if it had been carried it would have wrought a beneficent social
revolution in this country. But the Government, in their attempt to deal
in a practical way with the evils of our drink system, had to face not
only the opposition of the unholy alliance of the pulpit and the
beer-shop, but the hostility of the United Kingdom Alliance and its
supporters throughout the country. It was from the friends of the
Permissive Bill, rather than from the friends of the Tory party and the
publicans, that the Government scheme received its death-blow. The
fanatical opposition of extreme politicians had not proved fatal to Mr.
Forster's Education Bill, and as a consequence we have had for thirty
years a great national system of education at work in England, producing
results of immeasurable value. But the fanatics did kill Mr. Bruce's
Licensing Bill, and the thirty years that have followed have in
consequence seen no amelioration of the greatest of our social evils. The
_Leeds Mercury_ gave an uncompromising support to the Government
proposals with regard to the licensing system, and I thus roused against
myself the anger and ill-will of the adherents of the United Kingdom
Alliance, who were no less bitter against me than were the extreme
Radicals and Dissenters. I have no desire to fight my battles over again
in these pages, but the reader will understand that the editor of a
Liberal newspaper who was thus placed in a position of antagonism to more
than one important section of his party had not an altogether happy lot.
Yet I enjoyed it. I had my full measure of confidence in the soundness of
my own opinions, that great characteristic of the young journalist, and
in my many encounters with the foes of my own household I always tried
not to come off second-best.

The year 1873 was memorable to me in another and more personal sense. On
the 26th of March I married again. My second wife, who, I am glad to say,
still survives, was Miss Louisa Berry, of Headingley, Leeds. This union
brought with it settled domestic happiness, and gave me once more what I
needed--solace and sympathy under my own roof. Here perhaps, as I have
touched upon private affairs, is the right place to speak about my
children. The eldest, John Alexander, was born in London, and is the only
child of my first marriage. The other two, my daughter Eleanor and my
younger son Harold, were born at Headingley, during my later Leeds life.
Surely nothing to a man immersed in public work can be more helpful than
the loving devotion--it was never denied to me--of those who turn what
would otherwise be a mere dwelling place into a home.



Bringing the _Leeds Mercury_ into Line with the London
Dailies--Friendship with William Black--The Dissolution of 1874--The
Election at Leeds--Mr. Chamberlain's Candidature for Sheffield--Mr.
Gladstone's Resignation--Election of his Successor--Birth of the
Caucus--The System Described--Its Adoption at Leeds--Its Effect upon the
Fortunes of the Liberal Party--The Bulgarian Atrocities Agitation.

It was in the autumn of 1873 that I undertook a formidable task as a
journalist. I had long been of opinion that the provincial daily papers,
if they were properly organised, might make themselves independent of the
London dailies, and prevent the latter from competing with the local
press. Having convinced the proprietors of the _Mercury_ of the
soundness of my views, I looked out for allies elsewhere. The
_Manchester Guardian_ was the chief rival in those days of the
_Leeds Mercury_ in the great district comprising East Lancashire and
Yorkshire. The _Guardian_ was conducted with spirit and energy, and
I had been annoyed to find that it was gradually pushing its way into
that which we regarded as the territory of the _Mercury_. I
accordingly proposed to the local rival of the _Guardian_, the
_Manchester Examiner_, that it should enter into an alliance with
the _Leeds Mercury_ for the improvement of both newspapers. My
proposal was rejected with great promptitude by the managers of the
_Examiner_. They declared that they regarded the costly efforts that
were being made by the _Guardian_ to establish its preeminence in
Lancashire as a ridiculous waste of money, and plainly intimated that
they would never attempt to enter into a competition which, in their
opinion, savoured of stark lunacy.

Long afterwards I remembered my negotiations with the _Examiner_
when I saw that newspaper, after passing through a lingering decline,
finally absorbed by its successful rival, the _Guardian_. Baffled at
Manchester, I turned my eyes to another quarter. The _Glasgow
Herald_ suffered in Scotland from the spirited management of the
_Scotsman_ as we were suffering from the enterprise of the
_Manchester Guardian_. I went to Glasgow and laid my proposals
before the proprietors and editor of the _Herald_. After some
negotiations they were accepted, and a working alliance was established
between the _Leeds Mercury_ and the _Glasgow Herald_, which
only came to an end in 1900. We established a joint London office, with
special wires to Leeds and Glasgow respectively. (I ought to say that the
_Herald_, like the _Scotsman_, already had its special wire
from London.) We formed a thoroughly efficient editorial staff to do the
work of the London office, and we entered into an arrangement with one of
the London daily papers by which we secured access to all the information
it received. In this way I was able to guarantee the readers of the
_Leeds Mercury_ as good a supply of important London news as they
could obtain in one of the London dailies. I went further than this,
however, and took a step of the wisdom of which I am not now so fully
convinced as I was in 1873. This was the installation of a night editor
in our office in Fleet Street, whose business it was to secure the
earliest copies of the London morning papers and to telegraph from them
over our private wires any special items of news that those papers
contained, and that were not supplied by the ordinary agencies. The
_Times_ was hostile to this new departure, and we had some
difficulty in getting copies of the paper for the purpose of our "morning
express," as we called the new service. The other London dailies did not
object. The result was that a great part of each day's issue of the
_Leeds Mercury_ contained all the special items of news published in
the chief London newspapers of the same morning. It was a bold and
audacious innovation in the methods of English journalism, and I need not
say that it was one that was quickly imitated by others.

Besides making arrangements for a special report of Parliament, I
extended the old London letter of the _Mercury_ by securing for it a
number of contributors who were interested in different fields of
activity. Hitherto it had only been political. I now gave it a social and
literary character as well. It was in carrying out this part of my work
that I first became the intimate friend of William Black. I had met him
years before, but our friendship was of the slightest until I induced him
to take a leading part in the London correspondence of the
_Mercury_. He was at that time assistant-editor of the _Daily
News_, but he did not like the work, and was anxious to be relieved of
the drudgery of nightly attendance at the office in Bouverie Street. I
was able to offer him terms which justified him in relinquishing his
connection with the _Daily News_. He was just beginning his career
as a brilliantly successful novelist. "A Daughter of Heth" had won the
favour both of the critics and the public, and this he had followed up
with "The Strange Adventures of a Phaeton." The arrangement he made with
the _Leeds Mercury_ enabled him to devote his time and strength to
fiction, and, as I have said, it brought us into a relationship which
quickly ripened into one of affectionate intimacy.

There never was a man who stood the sharp test of prosperity better than
did Black. When we first became intimate he was just beginning to be
known, but within a year or two from that time he had become the most
popular of English novelists, and had become famous throughout the
civilised world. Obscure or famous, he was just the same. To a rare
simplicity of manner he added a chivalrousness of spirit that was almost
an inspiration to those who were brought into contact with him. As a
friend he scarcely had an equal. In all the affairs of life he would make
his friend's cause his own, and fight for it with an energy and
enthusiasm that few men are capable of showing, even on behalf of their
own interests. At a time, for example, when he was deep in the writing of
one of his own greatest novels, he voluntarily undertook the work of a
dying friend as a contributor to the Press, in order to ensure the
payment of his salary to the end of his life. I remember meeting him once
on his way to that friend's room, carrying in one hand a hare and in the
other a can containing some soup or other delicacy. He was very
particular about his appearance, always smart in his dress, and
rigorously observant of the social _convenances_; yet these
characteristics did not prevent his walking through the streets of London
on a summer afternoon laden in this fashion. My first dinner with him was
at the Pall Mall Club, in Waterloo Place, at the end of 1873. He had
another young man of our own age to share the entertainment, and behind
his back he spoke of this young man--who was, like himself, a
Scotsman--with an enthusiastic admiration. He was an artist who had just
come up to try his fortune in London, and that fortune, Black declared,
could be nothing less than the Academy. He was right, for the man who
made the third at that little dinner-party was the late Colin Hunter,

Black lived in those days in a roomy, old-fashioned house in Camberwell
Grove; and here, in course of time, I spent many a pleasant evening with
him. His second wife, a charming North-country lady, was, as most now
know, the original of "The Princess of Thule," the heroine of the book of
that name, and the portrait was far more true to life than most sketches
of heroines drawn from reality are. Black's mother, a kindly old
Scotswoman, justly proud of her son, was another inmate of the house. It
was from her I learned that Coquette, the bewitching creature who plays
the chief part in "A Daughter of Heth," had for her original Black's
first wife. I discovered for myself that the author was the original of
"The Whaup," and when I taxed him with it he did not deny the fact. One
evening, after dinner at Camberwell Grove, we went for a walk together.
When we reached the top of the Grove he drew my attention to a pleasant
little villa standing in its own ground. "James Drummond," he said,
"lives there." I wondered who James Drummond was, but said nothing.
By-and-bye, as we pursued our way, he pointed out other houses, and told
me the names of their occupants, all utterly unknown to me. At last I
said, "Who are these people, Black? I don't know one of them." "You soon
will know them, though, my boy," he answered. "Just wait and see if you
don't." And sure enough, when "Madcap Violet" appeared, all the unknown
personages of that night-walk at Camberwell were straightway revealed to

Black had an artist's eye and the soul of a poet. In general company he
was shy and ill at ease. If he talked at all to strangers, he talked with
nervous volubility, and too often perhaps with little meaning. In this
respect he reminded one of Goldsmith. But when he was with a friend, and
could open his heart freely, he gave you glimpses of a most beautiful
nature, a noble sense of chivalry, and the keenest eye in the world for
catching those gleams of spiritual light that sometimes illuminate even
the dullest of the bare realities of life. He was always sketching his
friends, and making them figure in his stories; but he did it in such a
fashion that the person drawn never recognised his portrait. He once
admitted that he had made use of me as a lay-figure in his literary
studio, but I was never able to discover by what character I was supposed
to be represented. As a rule, he was much too kind to his friends when
drawing their portraits, for he liked to think the best and say the best
of a man. Only once in my long friendship with him did I know him to
exercise his power of making a man whom he disliked appear odious in his
pages. But this particular person was so odious in reality that everybody
felt that Black had only done him justice. Of course, Black was careful
to give no clue to the identity of the disagreeable man which could be of
the slightest use to the general reader. A few of us knew perfectly well
who was meant, but that was all. Unfortunately, the particular story in
which this person figured was first published serially in an illustrated
magazine, and by some extraordinary chance--or mischance--the artist, in
depicting the disagreeable man, drew a portrait of the actual original
that was positively startling in its likeness. No one who knew him opened
the magazine without saying at once, "Why, here's a portrait of
So-and-so." And yet the likeness was absolutely accidental. Black assured
me that the artist knew nothing of the original disagreeable man, and had
never even seen him. It was all a freak of the long arm of coincidence.

I do not know whether I may not be boring my readers in telling these
little stories about works of fiction which they may never have read or
have cared to read. Yet those of us who can recall the refreshment and
delight which Black's earlier books spread amongst us will never allow
that the shadow of eclipse that now lies upon his literary fame is either
deserved or likely to prove lasting. No novelist of his century--alas!
this new century has begun without William Black--had his power of
painting a woman's heart and soul, or his deft grace in making the
portrait at once real and ideal. I do not wish to overpraise, but the man
who could draw Coquette, and Sheila, and Madcap Violet was, I hold, a
master in his craft. That he was, in a very literal sense, an artist in
words, is universally admitted. There are passages in his writings which,
in their power of conjuring up before the mind of the reader the scenes
they describe, are not surpassed by anything that Ruskin himself ever
wrote. The fact is that Black's sympathies drew him more strongly to art
than to literature. If he could have had his way, I think he would rather
have been a great painter than a great writer, and certainly he always
loved the company of artists better than that of journalists and men of
letters. He was most at his ease in the studios of his friends. He was
never so full of an eager, effervescent happiness as at the private view
at the Academy, when, seizing you by the arm, he would lead you from
picture to picture, pointing out the merits of each, and ending up by
introducing you to the artist. The artists, on their side, held him in no
common esteem, and long regarded him as first of those among the writers
of the day who had a real appreciation of and sympathy with art.

I must leave Black for the present, however, and return to Leeds, and the
events of 1874. My special wire and London arrangements had not been long
in existence before they received a most unexpected justification. One
night in February, 1874, when seated in my editor's room, I received over
the private wire a telegram that took my breath away. It was from our
London sub-editor, announcing that Parliament was to be dissolved
immediately, and that Mr. Gladstone had written a long address to the
electors of Greenwich, explaining his policy and intentions. My informant
added that this startling news was still a profound secret in London, and
that in all probability no other newspaper in Yorkshire would get
possession of it. Everybody interested in our political history now knows
the story of that bolt from the blue. It came with absolute
unexpectedness, and some even of Mr. Gladstone's own colleagues in the
Cabinet were taken by surprise. I know, at all events, of one member of
the Ministry who was staying at the time in a country house in Yorkshire,
and who, when the _Leeds Mercury_, with its announcement of the
dissolution and the long address of Mr. Gladstone to the Greenwich
electors, was brought to him, insisted that the paper must have been
hoaxed. Mr. Gladstone had kept his secret so well that at six o'clock on
the evening of the day on which he penned his manifesto there were not
twenty people in all England who knew what was about to happen. So far as
the _Leeds Mercury_ was concerned, this startling step ensured for
it a great success. No other newspaper in Yorkshire--and, if I remember
rightly, only one other provincial paper in England--was able to announce
the great event. The _Mercury_ accompanied the manifesto with a
"double-leaded" leader, and of course made the most of so precious a
piece of news. Those who doubted the wisdom of the increased expenditure
to which I had induced the proprietors of the paper to consent, doubted
no longer.

The General Election which followed immediately upon the dissolution was
a short but very bitter contest. It ended in the rout of the Liberal
party, a rout almost as signal and complete as that which befel it
twenty-one years later, in 1895. Mr. Disraeli, who had been nowhere at
the polls in 1868, was suddenly swept into the highest place by those
"harassed interests" which Mr. Gladstone's great administration had
offended by a policy that Disraeli described as one of "plundering and
blundering." It was, in reality, a policy which preferred the interests
of the nation to those of the privileged classes. In Leeds, where I had
now, for the first time as editor of a daily newspaper, to taste the
doubtful joys of a General Election, a fight of extraordinary vehemence
was waged.

Leeds was one of the three-cornered constituencies created by the Reform
Bill of 1867, and its representatives at the time of the dissolution were
Sir Edward Baines, Mr. Carter, an advanced Radical, very popular with the
working-classes, and Mr. Wheelhouse, a Conservative barrister. Sir Edward
Baines was the only one of the three who had achieved a Parliamentary
reputation. He had represented Leeds for fifteen years, and he was
recognised as its principal citizen by the community at large. He was a
total abstainer and an ardent advocate of temperance reform, but in the
eyes of the fanatical supporters of the Permissive Bill he had committed
the unpardonable sin in giving his adherence to Mr. Bruce's measure. So,
in spite of his character and his public services, they brought out
against him one of the agents of the United Kingdom Alliance. The Tories
had brought out a local gentleman named Tennant as their second
candidate. He was a man of many occupations, including that of a brewer.
The fight which followed was the most bitter in which I have ever been
engaged. Practically, Edward Baines stood alone, getting no help from
Carter. The Liberal party had fallen to pieces, and Edward Baines, as a
supporter of the Government, had to bear the weight of the offence given
both to the Radical Nonconformists and to the rabid teetotallers. The
Alliance candidate must have known that he had no chance of winning the
seat, but he persisted in his opposition to Sir Edward Baines, though the
effect of defeating him would be to secure the election of the local
brewer. Such are the extremes to which men allow themselves to be carried
at times of excitement. The end of the struggle was the defeat of Sir
Edward Baines, and the return of Carter, Wheelhouse, and Tennant. What
happened in Leeds happened in a great many other places. The teetotallers
deliberately wrecked the only Government which was prepared to reform the
licensing system. They have had more than a quarter of a century in which
to repent their folly.

It was, of course, in the Leeds election that I felt the deepest personal
interest; but the _Mercury_ had to take note of all the elections in
Yorkshire, and some of these were of special interest. At Sheffield a
candidate came forward in the extreme Radical interest whose speeches
attracted some notice in Yorkshire, though they passed unobserved by the
larger public beyond. This was Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, who now made his
first attempt to win Parliamentary honours. Up to that moment I had only
known Mr. Chamberlain as a young Birmingham politician who was fond of
saying things both bitter and flippant, not only about his political
opponents, but about the older members of his own party. He had made
himself one of the buglemen in the cry raised against Mr. Forster,
towards whom he seemed to entertain a feeling of almost personal
antipathy. At Sheffield he made himself conspicuous by his sneers at Mr.
Gladstone and almost all the recognised leaders of Liberalism. His own
political opinions appeared to be based upon a crude and intolerant
Radicalism of the Socialistic type. He evidently believed that promises
of material benefits would enable him to win the support of the mass of
the electors, and he conceived also that the best method of displacing
his seniors in the party of which he was a member was to assail them with
a rather coarse invective. These methods did not commend themselves to
the electors of Sheffield, and Mr. Chamberlain was soundly beaten. But he
had great ability, accompanied by great force of character, and all the
world knows how his ability and forcefulness have since carried him to
one of the highest places in political life. It is, however, not as a
Radical, but as a militant Tory that he now figures before the world.

I should not have dwelt upon the Sheffield election of 1874 but for the
fact that it was this election which made me one of Mr. Chamberlain's
political opponents. I did not like the way in which he spoke of men who
had been serving the country before he himself was born; and, without
questioning his honesty, I came to the conclusion that personal ambition
played a large part in his political professions. It followed that from
1874 onwards the _Leeds Mercury_ was never friendly to Mr.
Chamberlain, and never gave him its confidence, even at a time when he
was the idol of English Radicalism. For years I had to suffer because of
this attitude towards the Birmingham politician; and many a time, when I
have been sitting on the platform at a political meeting in Leeds, some
speaker has inveighed fiercely against me because of my want of faith in
Mr. Chamberlain. I had my revenge in 1885, when the Leeds Liberals swung


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