1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lyttelton, Alfred
|←Lys, Battle of the||1922 Encyclopædia Britannica
|McAdoo, William Gibbs→|
|See also Alfred Lyttelton on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.|
LYTTELTON, ALFRED (1837-1913), English politician, was the youngest child and eighth son of the 4th Lord Lyttelton, a brilliant scholar who had been senior classic at Cambridge. His mother, daughter of Sir Stephen Glynne and sister of Mrs. W. E. Gladstone, died six months after his birth. All the eight boys were brought up to be keen cricketers, the cricket-ground at Hagley, Worcs., their home, being close to the house; all went to Eton, and six were in the Eton eleven. Many of them distinguished themselves in after life. The eldest, Viscount Cobham (1842- ), became a land commissioner and a railway commissioner; General Sir Neville Lyttelton, G.C.B. (1845- ), an experienced soldier and governor of Chelsea hospital; Spencer Lyttelton, C.B. (1847-1913), three times private secretary to Gladstone when Prime Minister; the Right Rev. Arthur Lyttelton, D.D. (1852-1903), Bishop of Southampton; and the Rev. Edward Lyttelton, D.D. (1854- ), headmaster, first of Haileybury and then of Eton. Alfred, the youngest, was the most famous cricketer of them all. Indeed, for nearly all ball games he had an extraordinary aptitude. He excelled in football of three kinds, and in fives, racquets, and especially tennis holding the amateur championship for tennis from 1882 to 1896. Golf he did not take up till comparatively late in life; and, though he became keen on the game, he never attained more than a moderate proficiency. At cricket he was equally good as a bat and as a wicket-keeper. He was four years, 1872-5, in the Eton eleven, and captain the last year; four years, 1876-9, in the Cambridge eleven, and captain the last year. Moreover, he played for England against Australia, and for Gentlemen against Players; and for some years was a notable member of the Middlesex eleven. The infectious joyousness of his nature, his sterling character, his solid, if not brilliant, intellect, and his prowess at games gave him an undisputed lead among his contemporaries. He was king of the place before he left Eton; and when he went up to Trinity, Cambridge, in 1875 he gained a similar ascendancy. Perhaps his popularity and many-sidedness militated against his academical success; at any rate he only obtained, to his chagrin, a second class in the History Tripos. He chose the law as his profession, and was called to the bar in 1881. Here his reputation stood him in good stead, and he soon obtained a considerable practice both in London and on the Oxford circuit. In 1883 he was invited to assist in chambers the then Attorney-General, Sir Henry James, and from this time his success was assured. He was appointed recorder of Hereford in 1893 and of Oxford in 1894, and in due course took silk. His first wife was the brilliant Laura Tennant, sister of Mrs. Asquith; but she died in 1886, a year after the marriage, and her little boy lived only a couple of years. He married again in 1892 Edith Sophy, daughter of Archibald Balfour, who, with a son and daughter, survived him. By family tradition and an idealistic outlook a Liberal, Alfred Lyttelton had always taken a great interest in politics; and he formed one of the party at Dalmeny, when his uncle Gladstone carried his Midlothian campaign to a successful issue in the general election of 1880. But the Home Rule departure filled him with misgivings, and he declined the offer of a safe Liberal seat in 1891. Nevertheless, so long as Gladstone was in active politics he felt he could not publicly join a party in opposition to an uncle whom he revered. After the great man's retirement he entered Parliament as a Liberal Unionist at a by-election in 1895 for Warwick and Leamington a seat which he held till the Unionist downfall in 1906, returning, however, to the House a few months after the general election as member for St. George's, Hanover Square. It gave him great satisfaction to serve his apprenticeship to politics under the leadership of Mr. Arthur Balfour, to whom he was personally much attached. He did not at first speak very often, though he showed an active interest both in legal questions and in Chamberlain's schemes of social betterment and imperial unity. The Boer War afforded him an opportunity to show his capacity. He was appointed in 1900 chairman of a commission to inquire into the various concessions which President Kruger and the Rand had granted to companies and private individuals in the Transvaal, and to report which should be maintained and which annulled. In pursuance of the investigation he spent the autumn of 1900 in S. Africa, and he so impressed Lord Milner by his qualities that the High Commissioner hoped to secure him as his successor. It was, however, destined that his S. African experience should be utilized in another way. When Chamberlain resigned in 1903 in order to carry on his Tariff Reform campaign unhampered by office, Lyttelton was selected by Mr. Balfour, after Lord Milner's refusal, for the vacant secretaryship for the Colonies. His tenure of office lasted two years, and was marked by the drafting of a temporary constitution which should give representative institutions to the Transvaal until such time as it should be safe to concede responsible government. This constitution was never put in force, as Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's Ministry determined that they would risk the grant of responsible government at once. He incurred much ill-informed odium by sanctioning the scheme of importing Chinese coolies into Johannesburg, in order to remedy the shortness of native labour and to restart the mines, and thereby the whole economic machinery of S. Africa.
After the change of government the last years of his life were spent in taking his due share in the vigorous opposition which the Unionists offered to the Liberal Education bills the budget of 1909, the Parliament bill, the Home Rule bill, and the Welsh Disestablishment bill. Of this last bill he was one of the protagonists. A man of deep religious feeling and an earnest churchman, he strongly resented a measure which was calculated, to his mind, greatly to injure the cause of religion in Wales. He was also, though he deplored the conduct of the militants, a decided supporter of woman suffrage; and he took an active interest in, and lent a helping hand to, many social movements, the Working Men's College, Toynbee Hall, the Hampstead Garden Suburb, Children's Country Holidays, the Shakespeare National Memorial, as well as to a number of miscellaneous church societies. His death came very unexpectedly, after an injury in a local cricket match. An enormous attendance at the funeral service at St. Margaret's testified to the warm place he held in the hearts of people of all classes. Mr. Asquith, then Prime Minister, spoke of him in the House of Commons as having come nearest, of all men of his generation, to that ideal of manhood to which every English father would wish to see his son aspire.
See Edith Lyttelton, Alfred Lyttelton (London, 1917).
- (G. E. B.)