The Life of the Rt. Hon. Sir Charles W. Dilke V1
Stephen Gwynn

Part 2 out of 11

3, went head of the river.

"_The ever-memorable May 12th_, 1864.


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

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

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

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

"_June 3rd_, 1864.

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

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

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

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

"Your affectionate father,

"C. W. D."

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

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

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

It was Pope's couplet:

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

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

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

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

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

"_July 28th_, 1864.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: MR. C. W. DILKE.
From the painting by Arthur Hughes ]



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Favourite books, 1864 (in themselves--for no object):
"The Bible.
"J. S. Mill: _Political Economy; On Liberty; Dissertations._
"Longfellow: _Evangeline_ and _Miles Standish_.
"Homer: _Works_.
"Tennyson: nearly all.
"Plato: _Republic_.
"Sir P. Sidney: _Arcadia_.
"Claude Adrien Helvetius: _Works_.
"Victor Hugo: _Les Miserables_.
"William Godwin: _Political Justice_."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere a manuscript note describes his varying attitude towards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

The first of these letters is to his father:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Your devoted friend and brother,


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He wrote of this passage in his Memoir:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The personal composition of the assembly had greatly altered. More than a
third of its members were new to Parliament. W. Vernon Harcourt, Henry
James, and Campbell-Bannerman, sat then for the first time, and sat, as
did Charles Dilke, below the gangway. In the same quarter was Fawcett, who
helped them in creating the new phenomenon of a House of Commons alive in
all its parts.

Sir George Trevelyan, who almost alone of living men can compare from
experience the House of Commons before the Reform Bill of 1867 and after,
holds that it would be difficult to overstate the contrast. The House was
no longer an arena for set combat between a few distinguished
parliamentarians, whose displays were watched by followers on either side,
either diffident of their ability to compete, or held silent by the
unwritten rule which imposed strict reserve upon a new member. For the
greater number promotion had come through slow and steady service in the

Charles Dilke from the first was always in his place--that corner seat
below the gangway which became gradually his traditional possession; and
from the first he assumed a responsible part in all Parliamentary
business. "He was the true forerunner, in his processes, his industry, his
constant attendance, and his frequent speaking, of Lord Randolph
Churchill." The revolt against 'the old gang' began on the Liberal side,
and Charles Dilke was the chief beginner of it. Although the new Reform
Act had led to far-reaching change in the quality of the House of Commons,
the choice by Mr. Gladstone of the members of the Ministry made it plain
that no break with the past was contemplated by the leaders. Lowe, whose
anti-democratic utterances on Reform had been denounced by Dilke at the
Cambridge Union, was Chancellor of the Exchequer; and only half the
Cabinet were commoners. Among these was indeed Bright; but the only other
Minister whose name carried a hint of Radicalism was Forster, Vice-
President of the Council of Education, and he was not in the Cabinet when
it was first formed.

On the other hand, Bright and Forster were to an exceptional degree
responsible for the general trend of the Government policy. The
dissolution and election had turned with more than usual definiteness on a
clear issue--the proposal to conciliate Ireland by disestablishing the
privileged Church of the minority; and behind this immediate proposal lay
a less clearly defined scheme for giving security of tenure to Irish
tenants. Ireland was the first business of Charles Dilke's first
Parliament, and it was Bright more than any other man who had stirred
English feeling with the sense that England had failed in her duty to the
smaller country, and that an attempt to do justice must be made. Yet in
both Church reform and land reform the actual brunt of the Parliamentary
struggle fell upon Mr. Gladstone. Bright had a marvellous gift for rousing
political emotion, but he had not the application necessary to give
legislative effect to his aims; and Charles Dilke, though fully sensitive
to the beauty of cadence in Bright's language, and enthusiastic for the
music of "his unmatched voice," nevertheless inherited something of his
grandfather's suspicion of "that old humbug Oratory"--at all events, when
the oratorical gift was not allied with executive capacity.

There was no lack of masterful grip and handling of detail in the other
great orator of the Liberal party, yet the young Radical's attitude to his
leader was one of admiration indeed, but always of limited sympathy. Not
only did a long generation lie between them, but Charles Dilke had been
bred a Radical, and Gladstone had been bred a Tory. The Government policy
after 1868 was dominated by the education controversy, and was dictated by
Forster. There was probably no man among his colleagues with whom Dilke
more often came into collision. Forster was a strong natural Conservative,
though he had been brought up in the traditions of Radicalism, and Mr.
Gladstone was suspected of not being willing to abolish Collegiate as well
as University tests.

On the Opposition front bench Disraeli's primacy was not less marked than
Mr. Gladstone's, and his romantic figure always fascinated Dilke. But his
special admiration was for Gathorne Hardy (afterwards Lord Cranbrook), in
whom High Toryism found its most eloquent and sincerest spokesman. Later,
in 1876, Sir Charles was to complain ironically that the Conservatives
"never will be able to employ the services of the man best fitted by
nature to be their leader. Mr. Gathorne Hardy will never lead the
Conservative party because he is not a Liberal."

In 1869 he saw little of either the Tories or the Whigs, 'but acted with
the Radicals.' He had modified his first estimate of the composition of
the House. This Radical group largely represented the industrial towns and
Nonconformist interests. It included Peter Rylands, member for Warrington;
Peter Taylor, member for Leicester; Henry Richard, member for Merthyr
Tydvil; George Anderson, member for Glasgow; and Llewellyn Dillwyn, member
for Swansea. Some, such as Peter Taylor, were theoretical Republicans, but
all were peace-at-any-price men, Bright's votaries, though when Bright
joined the Government they were ready to vote against Bright.

The group contained also some men of Charles Dilke's own stamp, with whom
Cambridge associations created a bond. 'Harcourt, of whom I saw much, was
then a below-the-gangway Radical.' He, though sixteen years Dilke's
senior, was also a newcomer, but a newcomer well known already at
Westminster by his famous letters to the _Times_, signed "Historicus," and
by his career at the Parliamentary bar. Another was Lord Edmond
Fitzmaurice, who had been Charles Dilke's contemporary and coadjutor at
the Union. A great figure in the Radical group came from Trinity Hall--
Fawcett, who had first won his seat for Brighton in 1865.

Among Government Liberals, Lord Granville in the House of Lords was an
hereditary friend, through his attachment to Dilke's father, but belonged
to a much older generation. Grant Duff, a man to whom later on Dilke came
to be strongly attached, was Under-Secretary of State for India. From the
first, however, a close alliance formed itself between Charles Dilke and a
junior member of the Government, who had still been debating at the Union
when Dilke came to Trinity Hall. Entering Parliament in 1865, Mr.
Trevelyan had distinguished himself by a vigorous campaign against the
system of purchase in the Army, and, in 1868, he was put in office as
Junior Lord of the Admiralty. Senior to Charles Dilke by five years, he
had not known him at Cambridge; but they "speedily became very intimate."
So writes Sir George Trevelyan in a letter of 1911:

"I was a very young Minister, worked hard all day by Mr. Childers, a
very strict but very friendly taskmaster, and never, according to the
Treasury Bench discipline of those heroic times, allowed to be absent
from the House of Commons for a single moment. I used to come to the
House unlunched, and desperately hungry; and I got my dinner at four
o'clock in an empty dining-room. Afternoon after afternoon, Charles
Dilke used to come and sit with me; and a greater delight than his
company, young to the young, I can hardly describe. But it does not
need description to you, for never did anyone's talk alter less as
time went on. The last time I saw him was at the swearing-in of Privy
Councillors last May (1910), when we talked for half an hour as if we
were respectively thirty and five-and-twenty years old."

An enrichment of that talk, as his friend remembers it, lay in Charles
Dilke's multifarious knowledge. "This man seems to know all about
everything in the world," someone remarked in those days. "Yes," was the
answer, "and last week we were talking about the other world: Dilke seemed
to know all about that too."

It was characteristic of Charles Dilke to choose for his maiden effort the
most highly technical of subjects, and one which lent itself as little as
possible to tricks of oratory. He would recall how Mr. George Melly, the
member for Stoke-on-Trent, had cautioned him: "Don't talk to them about
God Almighty; even Mr. Gladstone can't; they'll only stand it from John
Bright." On March 9th, 1869, Mr. William Vernon Harcourt (as he then was)
came forward with a motion for the appointment of a Select Committee to
inquire into registration in Parliamentary boroughs. Upon this Charles
Dilke made his first speech, filled with detailed knowledge, and with
suggestions drawn from French procedure. Later speakers recognized the
special competence shown, and when the Select Committee was appointed, he
was named to serve on it--thus taking his place at once in the normal
working life of the House.

'I acquired in the early months of this Session a knowledge of the
registration and rating systems which lasted for a good many years,
and the plan for the restoration of compounding, which was accepted by
Mr. Goschen and moved by him in the form of new clauses in his Bill in
April, 1869, was of my suggestion. By the joint operation of this
plan, and of the Registration Act of 1878, which was my own, an
immense increase of the electorate in boroughs was effected.'

No subject could have appeared less attractive than all this dull lore of
compound householders and lodger's franchises.

But the spirit of official Liberalism was constantly at war with Radical

'My diary continually expressed my regret at what I thought the
timidity of Mr. Gladstone's Government.' Thus, when it was beaten by
the abstention of Liberals on Fawcett's Election Expenses Bill, which
proposed to throw the necessary expenses of returning officers on the
local rates, Charles Dilke 'was angry with the Government for not
having so much as named the Bill upon their Whip.' Again, when his
group had proposed to penalize a corrupt borough, the member for which
had been unseated on petition, the entry ran: 'We Radicals beaten by
Government and Tories on the Bewdley writ,' the issue of which the
Radicals had moved to postpone for twelve months.

In the case of Fawcett's motion to abolish University Tests, of whose
injustice Dilke had personal experience: [Footnote: Having taken his
Master's degree at Cambridge in this year, Dilke was 'immediately
nominated to the Senate as an examiner for the Law Tripos by the Regius
Professor of Laws.' But on further inquiry it appeared that an examiner
for honours in Law must be a member of the Senate, and that a member of
the Senate must declare himself a member of the Church of England. Dilke,
strongly objecting to this exclusiveness, had refused to make the required
profession. The 'grace,' therefore, was withdrawn, and he was not allowed
to examine. Sir Roundell Palmer became Chancellor in 1872, on the
retirement of Lord Hatherley. He was again Chancellor from 1880 to 1885.]

'My diary records a division in connection with which Sir Roundell
Palmer did us some harm, the fact being that the great lawyer, who was
afterwards Lord Selborne, was one of those gentlemen calling
themselves Liberals in whom it was difficult to find any agreement
with Liberal principles at any time or upon any subject. He was, in
fact, a High Church Tory, as I found when I served with him in a
Liberal Cabinet.'

On yet another motion of Fawcett's the Radicals found themselves in
collision with the head of the Liberal Government. This advocated open
competition for the Civil Service, and Dilke supported Fawcett by speech
as well as vote. Mr. Gladstone, following Dilke in the debate, suggested
that he had spoken without examining his facts, a charge specially
calculated to excite this conscientious worker's resentment. 'I recorded a
strong opinion as to the crushing of independent members by Mr.

Charles Dilke was already displaying that blend of opinions which made him
always a trial to the party Whips. He notes that, 'taking as I did an
independent line, I supported on the Navy Estimates the Conservative ex-
chief First Lord of the Admiralty' (Mr. Corry) 'on a motion which
deprecated the building of further turret ships till those already built
had been tested.'

From the painting by Arthur Hughes.]

These outbreaks of independence led to remonstrance from his father, and
remonstrance to this reply:

"I don't mean to let either you or Glyn" (the Chief Whip, afterwards
Lord Wolverton) "frighten me into supporting the Government when I
think they are wrong, but I vote for them when I am at all doubtful."

This letter was written to Sir Wentworth Dilke, then on a tour through the
north of Europe with his son Ashton, by this time a Cambridge
undergraduate, and inclined to regard his elder brother as a very timid
politician. 'My father and my brother went to Berlin, and saw the Crown
Prince, afterwards the Emperor Frederick, and Prince Bismarck, who many
years later described to me the impression which they--the Whig and the
Republican--had made on him.' From Germany they passed into Russia, where
Wentworth Dilke was commissioned to represent England at the Horticultural
Congress. In May a sudden telegram called Charles Dilke to St. Petersburg.
His father had been attacked with 'that deadly form of Russian influenza,
a local degeneration of the tissues, which kills a man in three days,
without his being able to tell you that he feels anything except
weakness.' Before Charles Dilke could reach the Russian capital, his
father had been already 'embalmed and temporarily buried,' with a view to
interment in England.

His successor entered upon his position while still several months short
of the age of twenty-six. He took steps to give up at once Alice Holt--'a
mere shooting place'--and also sold Hawkley in Hampshire, keeping only the
London house, 76, Sloane Street, in which he had been born, and which was
to be his home till he died there. It was home also for his brother
Ashton, now reading classics and rowing in the Trinity Hall boat. The
house continued to be managed for the two young men by their grandmother,
Mrs. Chatfield, known to Sir Charles and to all his intimates as the
"Dragon," 'on account of the sportive old soul calling herself the Dragon
of Wantley whenever she attacked me in arms.' With her lived her niece,
Miss Folkard, a quiet little old lady. When Charles Dilke married, Mrs.
Chatfield and Miss Folkard made way for the bride, and Ashton Dilke's home
was then with his grandmother. When death cut short that marriage, the old
ladies returned, and lived out the end of their lives in Sloane Street.
Mrs. Chatfield was a very popular personage; and many letters from Sir
Charles's friends have affectionate or jesting messages to 'Dragon.'


John Stuart Mill returned to England from Avignon in the spring of 1869,
and followed up his earlier letter of friendly criticism on _Greater
Britain_ by a suggestion of meeting. On Easter Sunday the meeting took
place, and the acquaintance 'rapidly ripened into a close friendship.'

Sir Charles was elected in May to the Political Economy Club, of which
Mill was a leading member, 'defeating George Shaw Lefevre, Sir Louis
Mallet, Lord Houghton, and John Morley, although, or perhaps because, I
was somewhat heterodox. Still,' a marginal note adds, 'Mallet and Houghton
were pretty heterodox too.'

The heterodoxy challenged that economic orthodoxy of which the Political
Economy Club was the special guardian. Forty years later Sir Charles
wrote, against the date May, 1869:

'This was the moment of the domination of the Ricardo
religion.[Footnote: It will be remembered that the fundamental
principle of the "Ricardian theory"--distinguishing it from that o+
Adam Smith--is the determination of wages by the law of population.
According to Ricardo, it is the influence of high or low wages on the
numbers of the population which adjusts the "market rate" to the
"natural rate."] It is admirably pointed out in Professor Ashley's
address, as President of the Economic Section of the British
Association, 1907, that this doctrine had become a complete creed,
with a stronger hold over the educated classes of England (and I
should add France) by 1821 than any creed has had. The Political
Economy Club is shown by Ashley to have been the assembly of the
elders of the Church, of which the founder assumed that they possessed
a complete code, representing just principles necessary to "diffuse."
The Club was to watch for the propagation of any doctrine hostile to
sound views. The sect grew rapidly from the small body of Utilitarian
founders, and conquered all the statesmen who rejected the other
opinions of James Mill. As I tried to show, with the support of a
majority of the Club, in April, 1907, the heresy of which I was
elected in 1869 as a representative has now (1908) triumphed. The
facts announced as "certain" by Ricardo have crumbled, and the
doctrine crumbles with them. Professor Ashley declared from the
Ricardo chair in 1907 that "the Ricardian orthodoxy is, by general
consent, ... dead to-day among the English-speaking economists."

'The son of the Club's founder, John Stuart Mill, lived to lead the
way out of the doctrine of his father, James Mill, Malthus, and
Ricardo, against the opposition of his own disciple Fawcett, into the
new land which he just lived to see.

'In the debates, which I regularly attended, Mill, who had become
semi-socialist in his views, was usually at odds with his own disciple
Fawcett, who had remained individualist. The rows which they had at
this Club were carried to the Radical Club after its formation later,
and I gradually deserted Fawcett, and, more and more influenced by
Mill's later views, finally came to march even in front of Mill in our

Sir Charles was from the first actually _in_ political life, to which Mill
had come after more than half a lifetime spent in study; and experience
transformed the philosopher.

"The whole tone of his writings before he entered Parliament," said
Sir Charles a quarter of a century afterwards, "had been marked by a
vein of practical Conservatism, which entirely disappeared when he
found himself in touch with the destructive realities of British
politics." [Footnote: "John Stuart Mill, 1869-1873," _Cosmopolis_,
March, 1897.]

Dilke, rightly zealous for the repute of a teacher under whose influence
his own political faith developed, was always at pains to confute the
popular opinion as to Mill's hardness. Addressing the Economic Society in
1909, he said:

"John Mill's nature was far more spiritual than that of his father.
His self-training was far more permeated by what may be loosely called
Comtist-Christianity than by the utilitarian philosophy."

He cited as an example the conclusion expressed by Mill so far back as
1848 that "cheapness of goods was not desirable when the cause was that
labour is ill-remunerated." Here was one of the points where Fawcett
'fiercely differed' from Mill, denying the possibility of any 'exception
to the wage principle laid down by Malthus and Ricardo.' Sir Charles was
destined not merely to affirm the principle which Mill conceded, but to
show by infinitely patient investigation of the facts, first the need for
applying the principle, and later--far more difficult--the means by which
it could be brought into operation.

The change foreshadowed by this division among leaders of democratic
thought was no ordinary one; the whole direction of forces and tendencies
was altered; and from 1870 onwards Sir Charles was at the centre of the
movement which has established the 'semi-socialism' of Mill's last years
as the normal political opinion accepted by both parties to-day. He, more
than any other man, translated it from abstract theory into terms of
political reality.


Since his undergraduate years Charles Dilke had entertained the project of
writing on Russia, and perhaps the journey to his father's death-bed
revived the plan.

While on the way to St. Petersburg in May, 1869, he chanced to share a
railway carriage with a distinguished member of the Russian Diplomatic
Service, Baron Jomini, son of the famous writer on strategy, and 'almost,'
says Sir Charles, 'the cleverest man I ever met with, and to me always an
excellent friend.' Jomini was useful even on that journey, when
difficulties arose over an irregular passport; and in later years he
rendered Sir Charles various services with officialdom--as, for example,
when the Russian Customs officers, not unnaturally, objected to the
English traveller's bringing in for his personal use 'books prohibited in
Russia, the most extraordinary collection that was probably ever got
together in that country unless in the office of the censorship of

From the first Baron Jomini was at hand to introduce Sir Charles to
society in Russia, but in other directions the traveller was not less well
equipped. He learnt Russian; and before setting out on his second visit to
St. Petersburg in the autumn of 1869 he had made a special journey to
Geneva, with an introduction from Louis Blanc to Herzen, leader of the
moderate Russian revolutionists. He knew Mazzini well, and through him had
visited Baden to make a lasting acquaintance with Tourgenief. Tourgenief
was then 'living with the Viardots, the sister and brother-in-law of
Malibran.' Long years after Dilke spoke of him as one of the finest of

At St. Petersburg he met many of the advanced revolutionaries to whom
Herzen had commended him, and he was also received by more orthodox
Liberalism. The Political Economy Club gave a dinner in his honour, at
which he made a speech in French on the Irish Land Question; and the
Geographical Society held a reception in recognition of the author of
_Greater Britain_, with Baron von der Osten Sacken in the chair, son of a
comrade and colleague of the elder Jomini in days of Napoleonic war.
[Footnote: Nicolas Dmitrivitch von der Osten Sacken, Chamberlain of the
Imperial Court, afterwards Russian Ambassador at Berlin; born 1834, died
1912.] Osten Sacken's father was the Governor of Paris in 1815 after the
entry of the Allies.

After a visit to Taganrog, at the eastern end of the Sea of Azof, he came
back to St. Petersburg, and occupied by chance the next rooms to the great
singer Mario--"an embarrassing neighbour, as he used to come in about 2
a.m., and give me far too much of the quality of his voice." Here also Sir
Charles made friends with Governor Curtin, the American Minister,
'formerly Lincoln's Governor of Pennsylvania during the war, and the best
story-teller in the world.' 'I went about a good deal with Baron Jomini
and Baron von der Osten Sacken, and saw much of the Emperor's aunt, the
Grande Duchesse Helene. My chief friends were at this time Princess
Galitzin, Prince Orlof Davydof, leader of the high Tory party, and the old
Princess Kotchubey, afterwards Grand Mistress of the Robes.'

Later in the year he pushed across into Siberia; and in the Christmas
vacation Ashton Dilke came out to join his brother. They met at Kazan,
whither Charles had returned from his Siberian wanderings, and went down
the Volga together to Astrakan, and thence travelled across the Don
Cossack Steppe. Sir Charles returned in the last days of 1869. He notes
that Ashton showed at this time the beginnings of consumption--symptoms
which led him to give up rowing, and became more grave in the years of his
travels in Central Asia.

Russia exercised from the first for Charles Dilke a fascination which it
never lost. A picture by Vladimir Makofsky, which he bought about this
time, hung in the breakfast-room at Sloane Street; 'it represents a scene
from one of Tourgenief's early stories, a summer's night in the government
of Toula: boys telling ghost stories while they watch horses grazing on
the lammas land.'

A chapter in _Greater Britain_ had set out the opinion which, after travel
in the East, he formed of Russia, from talk both with Englishmen and with
Orientals. The great power, which he then guessed at from the other side
of the Himalayan barrier, seemed to him essentially Asiatic, not European,
and not a civilizing power. He quoted with approval the saying of an
Egyptian under Ismail's rule: "Why, Russia is an organized barbarism,--
why--the Russians are--why, they are--why, nearly as bad as _we_ are."

This was his view of the Russian Government. The opinion which he formed
of the Russian people as a whole was in itself 'contradictory because they
are a contradictory people.' He found them 'avid of new ideas.' Yet,
'however fond half-educated Russians may be of professing a knowledge of
things they do not understand, I never doubted for one moment the
greatness of the future that lies before Russia, nor the essential
patriotism and strength of the Russian race; and it was these last
considerations that took me so often to their country.'




From his Russian journeys Sir Charles returned to take part in an election
in which occurred his first opportunity for helping the cause of direct
Labour Representation. In 1869--

'at the extreme end of the year, I returned to London, and worked hard
for Odger in the Southwark Election, in which, opposed by a
Conservative and a Liberal (Sir Sydney Waterlow), he beat the Liberal,
with the result, however, that the Conservative got in. Lord Edmond
Fitzmaurice subscribed towards Odger's expenses, and Fawcett also
worked for him. The incident contributed a good deal towards that
separate organization of the Radicals which was attempted early in the
following year.'

Already another organization of far-reaching influence had been planned,
and it led to a great alliance.

'In the course of 1869 I became Chairman of the London Branch of the
newly formed Education League, and my friendship with Joseph
Chamberlain began, he being Chairman of the Committee of the League
and its real head.'

Dilke was seven years the junior of Chamberlain, who in 1869 was thirty-
three. But he had seven years' Parliamentary seniority over his friend,
who did not become a member of the House of Commons till 1876. Chamberlain
was in 1869, and indeed for several years later, a politician and member
of the Birmingham Town Council, known throughout the Midland area for the
boldness of his Radicalism--which did not stop short of avowing Republican
principles--and also for extraordinary ability in developing the municipal
improvements in which Birmingham under his auspices led the way. He had
conceived, and in the Education League partly carried out, the idea of a
political association independent of official party control, which should
cover the whole country with its branches, and so become a power behind
and beyond the Parliamentary leadership. Sir Charles, on his side, brought
into the partnership the resources possessed by a young man of
considerable reputation both in literature and in public life, who at an
early age had established himself in a metropolitan seat.

'The principle of the League was that of general education, and of
compulsion and freedom from fees as a consequence. The teaching of
religion was left to the Sunday-schools, and upon this head difficulties
soon arose.' The mass of English Liberals inherited the Protestant
conviction that "simple Bible teaching" could offend nobody, and must be
good for everybody, and consequently should be included in the term
"education," while the view of more sophisticated politicians was given by
Sir William Harcourt (then Mr. Vernon Harcourt). He wrote to Sir Charles
in 1870:

"We are fighting with inferior forces, and everything must depend upon
husbanding our strength, using it to the best advantage, and not
exposing ourselves to needless defeats. We must always seem to win,
even though we do not get what we want. That is what up to this point
we have accomplished. But we must not allow ourselves to be
precipitated upon destruction by men who may be philosophers, but who
are no politicians.... We must now retire on the second line of
defence. What is that to be? I lay down first that the thing to be
resisted is denominationalism. If it can be got rid of altogether--
best; but if not, then to the greatest degree--next best. Now, as a
politician (not as a philosopher) I am quite satisfied that neither in
the House of Commons nor in the country can we beat denominationalism
by secularism. If we attempt to meet the flood by this dyke it will
come over our heads. We must break the force of the wave by a slope,
and deal with its diminished weight afterwards as best we may."

'Harcourt then went on to defend that to which I was strongly opposed
--namely, Bible reading--on the ground that "we should give our
republic not the best possible laws, but the best which they will
bear. This is the essence of politics. All the rest is speculation....
We must make up our minds before the meeting on Monday, for in the
multitude of counsellors there is folly."'

A definite principle was at stake. Under this proposal the teaching,
though called undenominational, would not in fact be so. Bible reading,
subject, no doubt, to a conscience clause, would be enforced on Roman
Catholics, Jews, and secularists, and Bible reading, though
undenominational as regarded the different divisions of Protestant
Christianity, would still be denominational as regards these three: 'I
myself took the extreme and logical line of not only opposing Bible
reading, but of opposing Mr. Jacob Bright's and Mr. Cowper Temple's
amendments for excluding creeds, and for setting up a general
undenominational Protestantism of the majority.'

He was in agreement with John Stuart Mill in resisting a proposal which in
his opinion did injustice to large classes of the community for the sake
of introducing what (in his own words) "could be only religion of the
driest and baldest kind, and such as would be hardly worthy of the name."

At the beginning of 1870 Sir Charles was not openly in revolt, though
after working for Odger against the Government candidate, he had gone on
to condemn in a speech the Whig influences and fear of the House of Lords,
which in his opinion were destroying Mr. Gladstone's Irish Land Bill. Mr.
Gladstone showed a desire to conciliate this overactive critic by inviting
him to second the Address to the Crown.

Accordingly at the opening of Parliament on February 8th, 1870, Sir
Charles had his part to play in the modest ceremonial which still
survives, rather shamefacedly, in the House of Commons, when a couple of
commoners, uniformed or in Court dress, are put forward as the spokesmen
of that sombre assembly.

His speech, advocating the European concert, dwelt on the cloudless calm
which lay--in February, 1870--over the civilized world, and for another
six months wrapped it in delusive peace.

For the moment domestic affairs held the field. In spite of Bright's
observation about driving six omnibuses abreast through Temple Bar,
Forster's Education Bill was pressed forward along with the Irish Land
proposals, and the Government were at once in trouble with their advanced
wing, in which Sir Charles Dilke was a leader of revolt. He acted as
teller along with Henry Richard when Richard took sixty dissentient
Liberals into the Lobby in support of a general motion demanding that
school attendance should be compulsory, and that all religious teaching
should be separately paid for out of voluntary funds. When compromise was
accepted: [Footnote: The Cowper Temple clause practically left religious
teaching to local option. Each school was to give or not give such
religious teaching as it thought well, so long as no _Board_ School was
used to attach a child to a particular denomination.]

'I was, I believe, the only Liberal member who resisted the Cowper
Temple amendment as accepted by the Government, and I resigned my post
as Chairman of the London Branch of the Education League. I published
a letter explaining the reasons for my resignation; the Committee
wrote in reply that they fully agreed with me in matters of principle,
and asked me to reconsider my resignation.'

This, however, he refused to do, since the London Branch and the League
generally were abandoning the principle in the support they gave to

Throughout the Committee stage his name appears in all the numerous
division lists, voting against Government as often as with it. Thus it was
from a position of complete independence that he carried two amendments of
great importance.

'The Bill as brought in made the School Boards mere committees of
Boards of Vestries, and the amendment that School Boards should be
elected by the ratepayers, which was forced on and ultimately accepted
by the Government, was mine. I also was the author of the proposal
that the School Board elections should be by ballot, which was
carried.' [Footnote: He always regretted the substitution later of the
Educational Committees of County Councils for the School Boards.]

The ballot was then the question of the hour, and it was a matter upon
which his study of foreign and Colonial institutions had made him an
authority. In 1869 he had given evidence before the Select Committee on
Parliamentary and Municipal Elections, 'explaining the working of the
ballot in France, in the United States, and, above all, in Tasmania and
Australia.' The evidence which he gave was of service in the preparation
of the Ballot Bill of 1870, which closely followed the example set by
Tasmania and South Australia.

Sir John Gorst, who was already a well-known figure in English politics,
though not yet in Parliament, remembered attending a debate specially to
hear what this newcomer had to say upon the question of the hour.

This first practical application of the ballot, 'forced on and ultimately
accepted by the Government,' did not pass unchallenged. When Sir Charles's
amendment was at last put to the vote, he was privileged to tell with
George Glyn, the Chief Whip, in a division which took place 'after the
fiercest conflict ever up to that known within the walls of Parliament, we
having sat up all night.' There was a long series of dilatory motions, a
fresh one being moved after a division had disposed of its predecessor
'This was the first birth of obstruction, and the lesson taught by Mr. G.
C. Bentinck on this occasion was afterwards applied by "the colonels" in
the proceedings on the Army Purchase Scheme in 1871, and then by Butt's
Irish after 1874.'

In all the discussions on the Ballot Bill for Parliamentary elections Sir
Charles steadily opposed the introduction of a scrutiny which involved the
numbering of the ballot papers. This appeared to him 'a pernicious
interference with the principle of secrecy, chiefly important because it
would be impossible to convince ignorant voters that their votes would not
be traced.' His view 'prevailed,' he says, 'in the House of Commons, but
the provisions of which we secured the omission from the second Ballot
Bill were once more inserted by the House of Lords' at its passage in

There was another matter connected with the franchise in which Sir Charles
had effected by an amendment an even more remarkable change, and that in
his first session. The proposal to give women ratepayers the franchise in
municipal elections, or rather 'to restore to them a right which was taken
away by the Municipal Reform Act of 1835,' was his. Two amendments were on
the paper, and though by a chance Mr. Jacob Bright's was taken first, the
suggestion, as Mr. Bright admitted, really came from Sir Charles, and it
was carried in the session of 1869. This proposal, as he explained to a
meeting of the London Society for Woman's Suffrage over which Mrs. Grote
presided, was in his opinion 'merely experimental, and only a first step
to adult suffrage.' In 1870 he seconded Jacob Bright's Woman's Suffrage
Bill, which was carried through the second reading--'the only occasion
when a majority of the House of Commons declared for the principle till
1897.' Divergencies of opinion had in the meantime arisen. The Bill of
1870 did not debar married women from obtaining the vote. When in later
years a proviso excluding them was introduced, Dilke, with Jacob Bright,
withdrew from the parent society. He held throughout his life that to
attempt compromise on this matter was to court failure, and that women
would never get the vote except as part of a scheme for universal


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