Men I Have Painted/Mr. Gladstone
I.—AT HAWARDEN CASTLE
SHORTLY after I had settled in Alpha House three of the many beautiful daughters of Mr. Joseph Rowley, "Taffy" in Du Maurier's "Trilby," came to see me. While having tea in the garden under the shade of the great weeping ash-tree which was said by the Princess Dolgorouki, who lived there as a girl, to be the largest in England, I could not help noticing the resemblance of the three sisters to Romney's portraits of Lady Hamilton, and particularly to Ethel, Mrs. Myles Kennedy, whose commanding beauty, as I afterwards was to discover, arrested attention wherever she appeared. The conversation naturally turned upon Romney, the portraits, and Emma Lyon herself, who, as a young girl, lived in the parish of Hawarden, near the Gladstones, the Glynnes and the Rowleys, in whose families traces of a similar and remarkable beauty could be found: the Romney portrait of Lady Hamilton in the gallery of Tabley Hall, Cheshire, was always called "Mrs. Gladstone," from the striking resemblance. The outcome of the talk was a suggestion from Maud, who afterwards became Mrs. Strickland, that I ought to paint Mr. Gladstone, and Alice agreed to take me to Hawarden Castle and introduce me to Mrs. Gladstone and Mrs. Drew, if I would care to spend a month on the banks of the Dee.
Here was an opportunity that could not be lightly put aside. My regular work had been interrupted by several years of travel in Italy and in America, and having once more settled down in London, as I thought, permanently, in a comfortable house, surrounded by a garden of unusual size and beauty, I saw, in this proposal to paint the foremost statesman in Europe, the beginning of a prosperous and interesting career. After a little discussion and some subsequent correspondence, these young ladies engaged rooms in the inn at Queen's Ferry, where the most momentous month of my life, in some respects, was passed. The morning after our arrival we visited "Taffy" and Mrs. Rowley at Dee Bank, and were introduced to the other daughters. There I was interested to find a complete set of Whistler's first etchings, subscribed for in Paris by "Taffy" when the master was entering upon that turbulent and eventful life-struggle that bore him—but alas! only after his death—to the most exalted position among the few men of genius in Art.
The ladies drove me, as they had promised, to Hawarden Castle and introduced me to Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone and Mrs. Drew. Mr. Gladstone received me affably, and listened with great good nature to my request for a sitting. It was immediately arranged that I should make a drawing next day. It is needless to describe the amount of gladness that filled me to overflowing as we drove merrily back to Dee Bank, and subsequently to the inn, to impart the good news to delighted audiences.
The next morning I prepared my papers and pastels and started to walk to the castle. There are times when the mind dominates the body so completely as practically to annihilate it. The senses respond to impressions from without and from within which seem to be transmitted to the brain by spiritual rather than corporeal processes. At such moments forgetful enthusiasts are misled into thinking that the body and the spirit are divisible and can exist independently of each other. The air caresses you as you move over rough stones without feeling them: the heavens bathe your vision in a flood of azure, and the song of the lark thrills you without passing through your ears: the scent of hedgerows and of honeysuckle embalms you completely and makes you one with the ambient air.
Such was my condition of being as I quickly traversed the distance between the ferry and the lower entrance to the churchyard which I crossed to shorten the walk to the castle gates. Here it was that I regained consciousness, with a very large dose of self-consciousness thrown in. I began to lose my way, and, instead of taking the narrow path through a small wooden gate, I continued on the drive that leads across the park, and a great discouragement fell upon me. "What if I should fail?" became an oft-repeated question to myself; and so questioning I stumbled up a grassy slope towards the wall into which was built a narrow door. When I was near enough to see them, three letters and a date on the lintel became distinct. The word I read was W. E. G., and the date, 1853, was the year of my birth. The word translated into English meant "way," but standing under the lintel the period after each capital letter indicated them to be the initials of a name. Slowly I began to say "William Ewart Gladstone," and with a lighter heart I laughed aloud, and, lifting the latch, entered into the grounds and gardens of the castle.
That morning I made two pastel drawings of Mr. Gladstone, one reading and the other writing. They seemed to be so satisfactory to Mrs. Gladstone and Mrs. Drew, that I was encouraged to ask for sittings for a portrait, and it was then and there agreed between Mr. Gladstone and myself that I could come to the "Temple of Peace" in the mornings and paint, if I did not ask for formal sittings. In other words, Mr. Gladstone would spend his time in reading and writing, according to his daily routine, and I could catch him as I found him. He was to do his work and I mine, without considering one the other. That arrangement suited me perfectly. Here was a new aspect of portraiture, and one that strongly appealed to the passive side of my indolent nature. Why should I not take advantage of this unforeseen permission to paint portraits at my ease, and so be free from the ever-trammelling thought that my sitter was being victimized through being obliged to stare stolidly at the antics and flourishes of an uninspired and uninspiring painter? Are there not enough stark and stiff upright figures looking down at us from the walls of every public and private gallery in the universe, that I should add one more senseless effigy to the number, unless commissioned to do so by a wife who avers that her husband is always upright and his eyes brilliant? From that day to this I have set my face steadily against the formal staring portrait, and, whenever it has been possible, have painted men at home, and in their homes, always avoiding anything like studio lights and effects.
The day after this interview I began that series of paintings of Mr. Gladstone that show him in his hours of peaceful recreation and leisure at Hawarden, and in his intervals of rest in Downing Street. The next day I began the first of the series on a canvas measuring 24 X 18. The day after, the colours in the head were evenly
sticky and in a state of drying. At the end of the sitting there appeared upon the canvas the head of a wrinkled old man that bore no resemblance to Mr. Gladstone. Yet it was finished: there was nothing more to be done to it. It reminded me of those minutely executed Italian paintings of old men carrying bottles of chianti wine. Its surface was shiny and its technique offensive to the eye. When I removed the protecting canvas on reaching the inn and looked at it there, and showed it to my wife, we both sadly admitted that it was a failure, an irredeemable failure.
In the early morning, on looking again at the head, it seemed to have degenerated still more by drying hard. Turning it to the wall, I breakfasted without appetite, and drove away with another canvas to try again. This time I selected Mr. Gladstone's writing attitude, and painted in a different style, using very little colour and no medium. The colours I used were ground in petroleum, and petroleum was my medium, when I used any. How the previous head had become so shiny puzzled me. Having been more successful with the writing portrait, I returned home in better spirits. Looking again at the first head, I suddenly remembered that cuttle-fish bone would rub down the surface of the paint and remove the objectionable gloss. The canvas on which it was painted was French twill and woven evenly, so I did not fear the removal of the paint in spots or blotches. Taking a little water and sprinkling it over the painting, I began to rub gently with the cuttle-fish, after having removed its hard and bony edges. Presently a semi-transparent film composed of particles of cuttle-fish and of paint, held in the water, covered the head like a veil. To my surprise and joy the colour as well as the texture of the face changed completely, and with the change in colour there appeared a decided likeness to Mr. Gladstone. I called my wife, who instantly recognized the change, and exclaimed, "Why, you can make it like with very little." Having sufficiently rubbed off the surface, I dried the canvas, and cleaned it with petroleum. Then taking the palette I made a colour similar to the film I had removed, and scumbled over the head with it, so that the work and detail all appeared through it. This was a good surface to work into while still wet, so I hurried off to the castle, where I found Mr. Gladstone reading, and in the same light and position as in the portrait.
As I worked, putting in an accent here and a light there, and enhancing the reflected light from the book on the face, the resemblance so much strengthened that it brought forth an exclamation of pleasure from Mrs. Drew when she entered the room, as she was in the habit of doing, to see how I was progressing. I began to feel that this small portrait was really growing under my brush, and had risen to a happy frame of mind, when an untoward and strange thing happened. There was a visitor at the castle, Lady Phillimore. I had met her at tea in the drawing-room the day before. She suddenly appeared behind me and asked me in a whisper to join her in the drawing-room, as she had something to say to me. Imagine my feelings! I knew that Mr. Gladstone would stop reading in a few minutes. I could not ask him to continue, as we had agreed upon perfect liberty of action. The portrait could not be painted on the following day, because the paint would be dry, and dry paint cannot be worked into. It can be worked upon only, and that spoils it. A few minutes more would finish the head, and I was asked to give those precious minutes to this lady!
With my usual complaisance I sacrificed my work and went to her in the drawing-room. "Mr. Hamilton," she began, "I only wanted to expostulate with you for wasting Mr. Gladstone's time, and yours for that matter. Don't you know that Sir John Millais has painted Mr. Gladstone, and that is enough? You cannot expect to succeed where so many other men have failed. Mr. Gladstone is a very busy man, and he should not be disturbed in his work." "But, Madam," I protested, "we have arranged all that." "No, no, it must worry him;" and she continued on in this strain until I began to feel that this lady might possibly be the mouthpiece of a member of the family, and that it would be well to take her counsel and give up the sitting. I acquiesced and returned to the library, where I found Mr. Gladstone still reading. "At any cost," I thought, "I will work until he moves," and hurriedly began to paint. In a moment or two another lady came to me and said quietly, "Go on with your work, and don't mind mama. She is over-zealous." The portrait was finished there and then. I have never known whether Mr. Gladstone had not been a silent witness to these proceedings, and in consequence prolonged his reading for the purpose of aiding me. His thoughtfulness on subsequent occasions more than leads me to believe that he was always conscious of what transpired about him without in the least appearing to be. The hour spent that morning in finishing this portrait was probably the most intensely interesting episode of all my experience in portrait painting. The circumstances all combined to create a tumult of ideas that inspired and invigorated me. The man I was painting, what he stood for in the Empire, his picturesqueness, his surroundings, the contrast of great power and extreme simplicity, and above all, to me, the ease and comfort of working before one who seemed to be absolutely unconscious of my presence. Had it not been for the momentary intrusion of an officious and self-appointed bodyguard, my contentment would have been complete. How many geniuses have had these body-guards, some permanent, some transitory! Johnson had his Boswell, Swinburne his Watts-Dunton, Ruskin his Severn, Whistler his Pennell.
I protected the little head with great care so that it should not be rubbed on its way to the inn. Taking my seat in the dog-cart that was waiting for me, I drove rapidly down the hill into the fields below, where ripening corn was waving in golden billows against the distant blue of the estuary of the Dee. My eyes saw what Tennyson made "The Lady of Shalott" see—
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky—
and I was filled with a vision of plenty and of gladness. The visit to Queen's Ferry had not been in vain. Memories of those happy days still linger but little dimmed by the more than thirty years that intervene between then and now, crowded as they have been by ever-changing acts and scenes of a long and full life.
II.—THE STORY OF THE PROPHETIC BUTTERFLY
THE rôle that the butterfly plays in nature had remained entirely unambiguous until that paradoxical genius, James McNeill Whistler, found in its innocent, gaudy, and harmless image a symbol to emphasize the malignant enmity of his enemies. When he descanted on the
persecution by the critics, which followed his slight, airy, and fantastic imaginations, nocturnes in blue and gold, he aptly described the process as "crushing a butterfly on the wheel." Here then was the giddy and insouciant creature of the scent-laden ether drawn down to suffer one of the heaviest and cruellest punishments devised by the ingenuity of those other creatures who are said to be a little lower than the angels. The happy allusion gave the great master his monogram, but he added a sting to the tail—another of his facetious ways of saying that "nature is looking up."
The butterfly you are to hear about is of another sort, one of those fluttering pale things, like the petals of an evening primrose, that joyously disport themselves among the chestnut-trees of the Champs Élysées, in that atmosphere only found in Paris when Spring has dressed the gay city in tones of tender green under the genial skies of May. Onslow Ford and I, with other painters and sculptors, were in the habit of making annual pilgrimages to Paris to see the Salon. In those days the exhibition was held in the Palais de l'Industrie; the new Salon, of the secessionists—for there must be revolutionaries in Art as well as in religion and politics—was housed in the building at the Champs de Mars.
As Ford and I were walking up the right side of the avenue in the direction of the Arc de Triomphe, he called my attention to the coveys of primrose-yellow butterflies, and said, "Whenever one of these floats down and alights on my coat or hat, it is an omen of good fortune, not to me, but to the man who happens to be walking with me. If one should alight on me now, you will get a medal or something," adding rather sadly, "I never get anything." He had hardly finished speaking when one of the graceful insects settled composedly on the lapel of his coat, and began that quaint custom of the butterfly of slowly opening and shutting its wings. The little portrait of Gladstone was in the exhibition. My feelings were aroused, in spite of the flash of cold reason that I bring to bear upon all things called superstitious, and, as I listened to Ford's tale of awards that always followed the visit of the prophetic butterfly, my eagerness to see the fulfilment of the prophecy made me quicken my steps towards the entrance of the great building close at hand. So unlike the raven perched upon the marble bust of Pallas, croaking "never more," was this other winged thing, luminous as that wonderful crescent distinct with a duplicate horn, lightly poised on the dark coat of Onslow Ford, that I almost began to believe the potency of the message, and that its tidings might be of joyful import.
We entered the great hall of sculpture, and here the papillon took flight and volleyed about in graceful curves among the bronzes and marbles and plaster casts that encumbered without embellishing the lofty conservatory. Ford's attention was diverted at once to the sculpture; the last Dallou, the Fremiet, or the Rodin must be seen, and his own work searched out among the myriads of exhibits.
At last we were in the picture galleries, and presently I espied the little portrait, and on the frame was a yellow placard. With an increased beating of the pulse I hurried to the picture, exclaiming, "'Mention Honorable!' Ford; you see the oracle spoke truly." I was satisfied. Had it been a medal, perhaps my pleasure would have been just a shade greater. I do not know. But this was not all; like the honours announced to Macbeth, the greater was to come. On returning to the hotel I found a formal communication from the Minister of the Fine Arts requesting me to sell the picture to the State! No wonder the little emissary of good fortune had lingered so long with us!
"Sell it by all means," Ford called out after I had read the letter; "never mind the price. I would give almost anything for this honour."
In those days it was a much-coveted distinction among English and American artists to be represented in the collection of Modern Art which the French Government was bringing together in the Luxembourg Museum. Before that year, if I am not mistaken, only one foreign picture hung in the gallery. That year Sargent's Carmencita, Whistler's Mother, and the little Gladstone were added. Whistler, so I am told, resented the inclusion of the small portrait in the same class as that of the Mother and, if the story is not exaggerated, exclaimed, "Why drag in Hamilton! Who is he, anyhow? "Alas for human foresight! He lived long enough to discover me as an "enemy."
There was great rejoicing in the cabarets that night, as, arm-in-arm, we wandered through the mazes of the Latin Quarter, seeking out the old haunts of my student days and ending again in the allées of the Champs Élysées scintillating with lamps of all shades of colour, where we listened to Aristide Bruant dans son café.
The episode was ended. A silver chain had been forged in Paris many years before by Svengali, the wizard. When "Taffy," that splendid type of British athlete, had linked his strong arm into the arms of Poynter and Whistler and Du Maurier, he began unwittingly a story that ended twenty years later under the same flowering trees of the Champs Élysées; a tale that was continued and deftly woven by the graceful hands of his then unborn daughters, who came, as the Three Graces, to lead the way through the groves of Hawarden back to the shrine where Art is the goddess adored by a universal brotherhood of worshippers.
III.—AT DOWNING STREET
MR. GLADSTONE was again Prime Minister. He was living at No. 10, Downing Street, that unpretentious old house whose walls echoed and re-echoed the mandates of the governors of the British Empire.
I sought anew the Prime Minister and asked to be allowed to work as I had worked before: America wanted a portrait. He consented with the simplicity of manner and grace which one expects from a great man. I was to come early in the morning after breakfast. "At ten o'clock Sir Algernon West, my secretary, will bring in the letters, and he and I will go over them together. It will take perhaps twenty minutes or less. In case there should be anything of a private nature to which you should not be privy, I will ask you to wait in the next room for the few minutes required to discuss the answer." After a pause, "But no," he continued, "on second thoughts I will go with Sir Algernon into this ante-room, so that you may go on with your work during the few minutes I shall be absent." I thanked him for his consideration, and sat down before the easel, knowing how very dear to those who can command is the virtue of acquiescence.
Mr. Gladstone then stretched himself out on a dark-red morocco sofa that was drawn up diagonally across one of the tall windows with its foot towards the door, and began to read. There was an ample space between the window and the sofa to accommodate a chair placed immediately back of the sofa. I had worked for about an hour when the door at the foot of the sofa opened and a tall, well-dressed man entered, bearing in his hand a large bundle of papers opened flat. After saying "Good morning" and glancing at me with a little surprise in his eyebrows, he sat down in the chair behind the sofa and, drawing it forward, faced Mr. Gladstone, who dropped his book and looked at him in an attitude of attention. Sir Algernon West began without preamble to read the letters and other communications, to which Mr. Gladstone gave his replies—"Yes" or "No"—without comment, or in a few words indicated the general tenor of the reply, leaving it to the well-trained mind of Sir Algernon to amplify. Now and again Mr. Gladstone would interrupt the reading of a long letter, or of any very important or perhaps personal appeal, and taking it, would say, "I will answer that myself."
It is impossible for me now to recall what Sir Algernon West said in regard to letters of a private character intended only for Mr. Gladstone's information, but I do remember that he told Sir Algernon he had arranged to have them read in the adjoining room. On one or two occasions the Prime Minister and his secretary left me for a few minutes, but this happened, I was glad to note, very rarely, as it occasioned me not a little embarrassment to think that my presence caused the Prime Minister the inconvenience of rising from his resting position on the couch. Mr. Gladstone knew the art of resting. His strength and activity were unusual in men of his age, but he wasted neither, so that he could call at once upon all his reserves and use them in any emergency. So soon as the secretary left the room, Mr. Gladstone would rise with the letters he had retained and go to his desk and begin to write the answers slowly and carefully in that well-known small handwriting that indicates the literary or careful and methodic mind. We worked in silence. Big Ben chimed the hours. The faces of statesmen looked down from the walls upon a scene that must have recalled many a similar episode in their own lives, for the drawings, mostly by Richmond the elder, were in themselves evidence of the relation between portrait-painter and patron.
Mr. Gladstone was, to me, very beautiful. I never tired of admiring him, and was always filled with the desire to paint or draw him in every pose he assumed. His colour was luminous; that is, his face seemed to irradiate light, to reflect light where most faces absorb it. These luminous faces are rare in women and more so in men. My niece, Norah, to whom I wrote the letter describing Bismarck, had the most luminous complexion in face and hair of anyone I have seen. This luminosity has been sought for by painters, of landscape chiefly, and Monet discovered that by leaving projecting particles of paint in a precise rather than an irregular pattern all over the surface of the canvas he was able to procure a greater impression of "open air" than by the ordinary manipulation of the paint. The explanation is simple. Each projecting point of paint caught a ray of light and projected a shadow, and the general effect became in consequence more brilliant. When age and cleaning has rubbed these points away the picture will assume a general dullness.
People whose faces have been pitted in small, almost invisible and regular, pits by small-pox seem to throw off light. Each pit is a concave reflector, and its lower half catches the light from above and reflects it as from a cup.
The face of Mr. Gladstone when last in Downing Street was covered with regular and small wrinkles that were only visible in certain lights. These small lines may have caused in him the effect I have been trying to explain.
While bending over the writing-table the reflected light from the white paper produced an effect, in combination with his thin white and rather straggling hair, that always inspired the most irresistible desire to sketch quickly each succeeding phase.
Work went on, in this regular routine, day after day until the portrait, a full-length but under life-size, was almost finished. But one morning Mrs. Gladstone came into the room, and she in turn seemed surprised to see me calmly working while Sir Algernon West was going over the correspondence. I rose to greet her, but she nodded and passed by me on her way to the window, where for a few moments she stood gazing out towards the Duke of York's Column. Presently she came back and, leaning over me, said, "I do not think you should be here while Sir Algernon is reading the letters: there may be things in them that you should not know." "Yes," I replied, "that is so, but Mr. Gladstone has arranged all that. I am to go out, or Mr. Gladstone will take Sir Algernon into the next room when anything I should not hear comes up." Slowly and reluctantly she appeared to accept this, but after another and longer inspection of St. James's Park from the window she began to pass nervously to and fro between Mr. Gladstone and me. Presently Mr. Gladstone raised his voice a little above the tone he was using with the secretary, and I heard him say, "My dear! do not walk between Mr. Hamilton and me. You will prevent him from seeing me." I almost shuddered to think of the effect of this admonition upon Mrs. Gladstone, for there seemed to be in the manner and the tone a slight rebuke. I was not wrong, for after another but shorter view out of the window, Mrs. Gladstone returned to the easel, and looking over it so that Mr. Gladstone could not see her face, she said firmly and decisively, "Mr. Hamilton, I know you should not be here. It must be an embarrassment to Sir Algernon to have you in the room when he is here." That finished the matter and, rising, I said, "Very well, Mrs. Gladstone, I will go out until the letters are finished." As I moved away Mr. Gladstone turned his head towards me, and I still remember the faintest of smiles and the most innocent of winks to console me for the disturbance. There is no doubt that, technically speaking, Mrs. Gladstone was right, although there had been nothing in the correspondence that could not have been shouted from the housetops, and I was so little curious, and my work so absorbing, that most of it made no impression upon me, yet in an unguarded moment something unusual might have been read that my ears should not have heard.
This was the second time that work on a portrait had been interrupted by a mischance, and, as I shall show in the next article, which deals with the making of a third and the last portrait, an interruption of a different kind almost prevented its completion.
About two years after the foregoing incident, while on a shooting expedition with a score or more of wild young spirits in the Matilija Canyon of the Sierra Nevadas, east of Santa Barbara, in Lower California, a telephone message came to me in those lonely and distant mountains that Mr. Edward H. Coates, the president of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, had acquired this portrait. No
contrast could have been greater than that between the cabaret of Aristide Bruant among the lights of the Champs Élysées and the lonely ranch house, on the then barren shores of Lake Guadalupe, but the rejoicing was the same, although enlivened by whisky-floats instead of vin rouge.
IV.—IN THE TEMPLE OF PEACE
I AM once more at Hawarden. In the Temple of Peace there is absolute silence. An older Gladstone is sitting at the desk by the tall window that overlooks the green slope that rises to the hill on which the ruins of the ancient castle stand: a little shrunken maybe—not quite so vigorous—but more beautiful than ever. He writes with his head bent down close to the paper on the table, and every now and then refers to a blue-bound book lying at hand.
The canvas on my easel is small, the same as the first that was painted in the library years before. He raises his head sometimes and gazes thoughtfully out upon the trees that are changing the colour of their leaves to yellow, pink, and chestnut. The profile against the pane is so finely cut that I trace its outline in the lower corner of the canvas, and go on with the portrait when he bends his head to write. Mr. Gladstone is editing the works of Bishop Butler. Presently, wishing to make a comprehensive search through the pages of the blue volume, he takes it up in one hand, and using the thumb as a ratchet, allows the leaves to fall one by one, seeking on each page the thought or phrase to suit his purpose. I pause in my work and wait until he resumes his position writing, but the minutes go slowly by, and still the leaves fall one by one until the whole attitude and expression begin to appeal to me as something to paint, and to paint at once. But will he hold the book in that queer way long enough? Over against the wall on the other side of the room is a canvas, but larger than I need. In an instant it is on the easel and I have measured by the eye the spot on which to place the head. With the greatest rapidity of which I am capable I brushed in the colour, the thin gray hair, the shadowed but luminous face, the eye-sockets, and a few lines for the pursed lips. Every nerve was awake and strained to speed on the eye and hand before the book was dropped, never to be taken up again in the same way. It seemed a miracle that it was held so long—how long I have never been able to tell, but, judging by the work done, full twenty minutes must have slipped slowly away before the hand began to droop and the blue volume fell upon the table—and my heart fell with it. There was a daub of colour on the canvas and nothing more. Sad and disappointed, I carried it back to its place against the wall, muttering, "Another good canvas spoiled," and resumed the portrait writing. This I finished. (Lord Armitstead saw it at Agnew's some time afterwards, and gave it to Lord Gladstone. The profile remains in the corner.) As I was about to start work I noticed that Mr. Gladstone commenced to nod the head a little, and was inclined to sleep. Rising suddenly, he left the desk and passed across the room to the other window, sat down comfortably in an easy chair and went to sleep. "This is the end of work to-day," I thought, so I began to pack up my things. To do so I had to cross the floor in front of the sleeper, when, to my astonishment and delight, I found Mr. Gladstone's head was in the same position in relation to the light as in the sketch with the blue book which I had rubbed in. Seizing the canvas, it took me but a second to move the easel to a position near, and directly in front of, Mr. Gladstone's chair. By looking down upon him the view became perfect, and I commenced deliberately and carefully to put in the details. I knew that the slumber was profound, and that it would last for at least thirty minutes, and there was no danger of disturbing it with any noise that I might make, because of his deafness. So I was quite composed and happy, and worked away merrily. The eyes had been sufficiently indicated at first, so I confined my attention to the forms of the head and face, and to the mouth, which, mirabile dictu, was pursed up as it had been when reading the pages of the book. Before the nap was over the portrait was completed, and it was not touched again. There was the head on a tall, bare canvas, and the lines of a book, and a finger. Moving the easel back to its first position in front of the other window, it did not take long to sketch in the position of the desk with the papers on it, and to indicate the high window, and the lawn sloping upwards to the ancient ruin on the hill. The details of the background were added afterwards, the bookcase, I believe, in Edward Clifford's drawing-room in Kensington Square.
And so ended a long series of portraits and sketches of the most famous man of his century.
Mr. Gladstone was a tall and strong man; his massive head surpassed in character and in beauty that of all other men of his time. The mobility of his features and his comprehensive range of expression seconded, in the most extraordinary degree, a voice as resonant as a bell, clanging in command or appealing in rhythmic and silvery tones. No tragedian that I have seen, from the young American Booth to the English Irving, or among the Italians, headed by Salvini, had a tithe of his facial play. I have seen him turn suddenly from a ministering into an avenging angel. With his grandchild, Dorothy Drew, on one knee and the black pomeranian on the other, his countenance would light up, as though he were possessed of all the beatitudes. When speaking of the wrongs of nations or of peoples, his righteous frown might have bespoken the minister of divine vengeance.
I did not know the extent and variety of his more subtle expressions. Indeed, I am inclined to think that subtle emotions played but a small part in his large nature, the extremes of affection and of hatred being the dominating impulses of one who lived but in two spheres, a public and a private, the former for and with the people, the other in and for the family.
I happened to be in the House of Commons and was sitting in the small gallery just above the floor of the House when Mr. Gladstone rose to attack Mr. Chamberlain, after the Home Rule split. He was magnificent; his thin silvery hair was so lighted up that it looked like a great mass of white. Thrusting his fingers through it with a majestic gesture, he began: "There is an office in the Church of Rome presided over by the Devil's Advocate whose duty it is to defend the Satanic Majesty from attack; and if there is a man in this House, aye, even in this country, qualified for the office, it is the Right Hon. Member for Birmingham. (Applause and laughter.)
The reason for supposing, as some have done, that Mr. Gladstone was a small man, is that he always sat on the Front Treasury or Opposition Bench beside or near Sir William Harcourt, whose bulk overarched every one else. There is in the word "massive" a meaning that goes deeper than mere mass. Mr. Gladstone's massiveness resembled chiselled granite. Sir William Harcourt was also massive, but that was mere flesh.
There was nothing more than that which is common to most sound and strong men in Bismarck's head, save two features, one of which was unnatural, and the other merely a decoration. His head was round and solid, his nose short and insignificant, his mouth and chin strong, his forehead full, but not high. The two chief features were not features at all, but abnormalities—for his eyes, round and full, projected unpleasantly from their sockets, and the hairs of his eyebrows stood out like quills on a fretful porcupine. Gladstone, on the other hand, without any abnormality in particular, was, in old age, whatever he may have been in youth, as a whole, super-normal. The forehead was not high, and sloped backwards from the frontal bones that overhung the eye-sockets, where dark and piercing eyes were deep set. The head was very broad and full at the temples, a marked characteristic of most politicians and statesmen—in Balfour the distance from the ears to the top of the head is unusually great, but the head is narrow—Gladstone's nose was large and masterful, the mouth firm, and the chin broad, and not prominent. But the style of the bone structure was quite different from that of other men, in that all the fine points which are usually thought to be associated with genius or talent were in him pronounced, rather than exaggerated.
The iris was fringed with a conspicuous arcus senilis. I have known but one other like it, and that in a comparatively young man.
His large brain must have been composed of memory cells which increased by use to supply a great and continually growing need. He was self-centred. No one can accuse him of ambition, because his life was not the fulfilment of his desires: all things seemed to come to him before he had time to desire them; in other words, success often anticipated desire.