Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol III (1901).djvu/226
nation of the presidency of the board of trade. The prime minister (Lord Rosebery) requested him to withdraw it, but later on he insisted upon it, and his resignation took effect on 12 May 1894. He gave his reasons for it in the House of Commons on the 24th. As for the bearing of these proceedings upon his character, the opinion of a stout political opponent intimately acquainted with the facts can here be given. In a letter, not at the time intended for publication, Lord James of Hereford (then Sir Henry James) wrote: 'It seems strange to me that, after having had an intimate acquaintance with Mundella for nearly thirty years, I should now be writing in regard to him a letter which may be regarded as of an exculpatory character. I say it is strange, because during all our intimacy I have had full reason to know by what a high standard of rectitude his conduct has been controlled. My object, however, in writing to you is to say that I have had an opportunity of obtaining some insight into the affairs of the New Zealand Loan Company and Mr. Mundella's connection therewith. I can discover nothing in all these proceedings, so far as I know them, which ought to disentitle Mr. Mundella to the confidence of any man.'
Nevertheless a suffering, poignant in proportion to his keen sense of honour, shook the health of his robust frame. In the succeeding general election of 1895, which proved so disastrous to his party, his constituents returned him unopposed, and his former colleagues invited him to take his place again upon the front opposition bench. His energy in and out of parliament returned; in particular he took a prominent part in debate on the education bills of 1896 and 1897. But on the night of 18 June 1897 he was struck with paralysis, and he died on 21 July at his house, 16 Elvaston Place, Queen's Gate. A memorial service was held at St. Margaret's on the 26th, and he was buried at Nottingham on the 27th.
His life was one of unresting public activity, characterised throughout by a certain eager and warm-hearted combativeness, but characterised too by a modest estimate of the range of his own capacities, and by unselfish desire that good work should be done, whether he or another got the praise. Few strenuous partisans have counted in their circle of friends so many of their foremost opponents. To those friends he left the recollection of a man full of fire and fight; shrewd, but none the less simple-minded and tender of heart. In parliament he seldom spoke except to put the house in possession of his own experience. Voice, manner, presence, temperament, and intense but genial conviction lent him oratorical resources which he used with powerful effect in popular meetings. His relation to Gladstone was that of enduring trust and personal loyalty. His history is in part merged in that of the political cause of which he was a champion; but he is to be remembered as one of the two or three who established the British state system of popular education, and as a great and successful labourer for industrial peace.
The bust of Mundella, by Boehm, passed to his daughter, Mrs. Roby Thorpe, Stowe House, Lichfield; an oil painting by Cope is in the mayor's parlour, Sheffield; and a replica in the possession of his daughter, Miss Mundella, 18 Elvaston Place, W.—both presented by 'constituents independent of party.'
[Private information; Hansard's Debates; Revue des Deux Mondes, 1898; pamphlet biography published by the Sheffield Independent Company in 1897.]