My Life in Two Hemispheres/Chapter 22
MAKING READY FOR AUSTRALIA
I determine to quit Ireland—Edward Whitty's opinion—Inquiries as to the climate of Australia—Counsel of William and Mary Howitt, Mr Woolner, Robert and Mrs. Lowe, Mr. Latrobe—Work before quitting Parliament—Smith O'Brien's case—Conversation with Mr. Disraeli—Letter from Sir Denham Norreys—Visit to Smith O'Brien at Brussels—The Belgian deputy and the widow MacCormack—Visit to M. de Potter, member of the Provisional Government of 1830—The Maynooth College inquiry—Letter from the Maynooth Professor—The Catholic University and Dr. Newman—Application for the Chiltern Hundreds—Alderman Plunkett's consternation—Invitations to public dinners in London and Dublin—Proposed testimonial declined—Generous help proffered by Arthur Geheoghan and Mrs. Anderson—Breakfast with Richard and Henry Doyle—Lindsey and the Civil Service Reform Movement—Louis Blanc, Julia Kavanagh—Sir Emerson Tennant and the Crimean War—Last look at the House of Lords—Death of Frederick Lucas—I decline the public dinners in consequence—Letters from Thackeray and Lord Brougham—Farewell to my friends in Dublin and London—Conversation with Stuart Mill—Dr. Madden and his "Life of Lady Blessington"—Gough the teetotal lecturer—Dr. Hughes, Archbishop of New York—Sir William Molesworth—Mr. Godley, founder of the Canterbury settlement—Letters from Rev. Charles Kingsley, Mary Howitt, and Sir Emerson Tennant.
When it became necessary to retire from Parliament I determined to quit Ireland also. I could no longer promise the suffering people relief, and to witness injustice without curb and wrong without remedy would render life too painful. An Ireland where Mr. Keogh typified patriotism and Dr. Cullen the Church, was an Ireland in which I could not live, but would probably soon cease to live. Where to go was a primary question. The circumstance that I had recently taken a considerable part in resisting alterations in the constitution adopted by the colonies of Australia turned my attention to that continent. I gave it a provisional preference till I could make searching inquiries.
I communicated my intention immediately to a few intimate friends; most of them remonstrated, but Edward Whitty declared I was right, and that he would go with me.
"The idea fills me with excitement," he wrote. "If you go, I will go. I would presume to advise you to go without reference to the appeal to Rome—which will be resultless. There is something more than the Bishops against you—your country is in America or Australia. Your project would be historical. You would lead the colony—you would create a better Ireland there—you would become rich. I am sure you would be happier, for I think you have been long fighting without hope. I say all this with no impertinent conceit of sagacity—with profound respect, and I know you will understand it. I know nearly everything about Australia. When the gold business came up I did the whole subject—went at all the books—for the Daily News. I have several friends there—Filmore, correspondent of the Times in Sydney; Butler Cole Aspinall (whom you know) on the Melbourne Argus."
I entreated Whitty not to go to Australia immediately, but only after I had made some footing there. I only knew three men on the Australian Continent; the experiment I was making was a perilous one, and I could not allow him to share the peril.
In the interval he went to Liverpool and worked ten hours a day at his father's paper, became English correspondent of the Melbourne Argus, and afterwards undertook the editorship of the Northern Whig, and published his singularly original and graphic novel, "Friends of Bohemia," and finally he emigrated to Australia in 1858, two years after me.
Conflicting reports on the climate and social life of Australia reached me, and I determined to have information which I could rely upon. Two or three extracts from my diary will indicate with what success:—
"William Hewitt's recent book describes the plague of flies in Australia as equal to any of the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians. If his story be authentic they must make life intolerable. I resolved to talk to him about it, and still more to talk to his wife, on whose sweet reasonableness I have more reliance. Yes (he said) there was a great trouble from flies in the summer months. But au contraire, during fifteen years in the country, he had not to sit up one night with the illness of any of his family or his servants. There were climatic troubles enough in England. To find a perfect climate with no drawback one must wait for Paradise. As for society, it was a little rough. Before the gold discovery there was some very nice society and some very able men in Melbourne, though they had sometimes sprung from a class whose habits were, of course, not altogether agreeable. But he referred me to his wife for details.
"I was charmed with the Hewitts' house; it has an air of civilisation and culture produced without cost by the taste of a poetess. In the drawing-room there were dwarf shelves, mounting from the floor to the height of an easy-chair, with pictures on the walls above them and flowers in various places. The corners were filled with triangular shelves for curios; the effect was charming, and gave their humble cottage a peculiarly pleasant and refined appearance. Kinkel, who lately escaped from a German prison, dined with us. He resembles John Dillon, but his face is less noble and his brow retreats. He told me the European party of revolution dislike Irish Nationalists, because their objects were exclusively local. Mitchel, whom he called Meagre, has disgusted them by his pro-slavery opinions. The next movement he declares will be against clerics as well as kings. After dinner Kinkel's children sang a little German serenade in the open air, under the dining-room window, which was very charming. Mrs. Howitt bade me not to be too much alarmed by William's opinions about the Australian climate; when he was in a passion he was apt to be a little unreasonable. She said this with a smile, which completely extracted the sting.
"I met Woolner, a young sculptor, at Cheyne Row (the Carlyles' house). He lived in Australia, and declares that so delightful a climate nowhere exists. The flies count for nothing; the air is exhilarating; he was always in high spirits and ready for work. There were some men of brains and culture in Melbourne, and he enjoyed life thoroughly. I laughed and inquired, 'Why did you quit this terrestrial Paradise?' 'Well,' he rejoined, 'I am an artist, and art won't be born there for a generation or two, and meantime I must live, if possible.' I quoted Howitt's book. 'Ah!' he said, 'Howitt's book is such a one as a man might be expected to write who acted against the advice of all his friends, and fared accordingly.' I spoke to Lowe in the House about the climate and social life. He said I must come and talk to his wife, who was the most enthusiastic Australian. And so she proved. She declared the climate is delightful, and the trouble from dust, of which I had also heard, not worth mentioning. Since they had lived in London she constantly entreated her husband to throw up his seat in Parliament and his political functions and return to the sunshine. I asked her about insects. Insects (she said) were probably a trouble in newly occupied districts, but she suffered no more inconvenience from them in her drawing-room in Sydney than in the one where we were conversing. Lowe said their residence was four or five miles out of town, and he rode in daily, inhaling the intoxicating air with a pleasure he could never recall in this country. Mrs. Lowe produced photographs of their Australian home, and of other favourite scenes, bathed in sunshine and gemmed with sparkling waters, which looked like glimpses of Paradise. Lowe said the comfort of Australian houses was often marred by the practice of building them after English models, in no respect suitable to the country. They made large windows, and many for example, and then had the trouble of inventing contrivances to blind them, instead of beginning with the narrow casements suitable to hot climates. Verandahs were universally used, which was a great comfort; the verandah generally became the favourite apartment, containing drawing-room, boudoir, and study, for they sometimes surrounded the entire house, and were capable of being applied to many purposes. In Sydney there were wealthy and cultivated families in the second generation who enjoyed many of the comforts of Europe in their houses and habits of life. They had generally the good sense to live after the manner of Continental Europe rather than of England. He was in the habit of having all the doors and windows of his house opened every morning from five till seven, which kept it cool till three in the afternoon.
"I said my enjoyments in life had always been many books and a few friends, and these were indispensable to happiness. Books, he replied, were as easily had in Sydney or Melbourne as in London, only a few months later, and a few shillings dearer. As regards friends, he added, smiling a little cynically, if you insist on that luxury you must import it.
"My constant friend John Forster invited me to meet Mr. Latrobe, the first Governor of Victoria, who confirmed all the favourable statements. On the whole, I am content with this information and proceed with my preparations."
Before quitting Parliament there was some work which it was my peculiar duty to do. After the escape of Meagher and Mitchel the Government allowed Smith O'Brien and his remaining associates to return to Europe with the sole condition that they must not revisit the United Kingdom. It is a significant tribute to the character of O'Brien among men who knew him well that I had little difficulty in obtaining the signatures of a hundred and fifty members of Parliament to a memorial requesting that this restriction might be withdrawn. Sir Fitzroy Kelly and Henry Bailie, Spooner and Alexander Hamilton, Whiteside and Napier, signed as willingly as Cobden, Bright, Lord Goderich or Milner Gibson. The Secretary of the Admiralty and the Secretary of the Board of Control felt free to urge this measure on the Cabinet of the Administration to which they belonged; but I wanted something more—the assent of the Leader of the Opposition. When I mentioned it to Mr. Disraeli in the House he asked me to come and talk it over with him in Park Lane. My diary contains this account of the interview:—
"I was received in his library, a convenient room on an upper floor and well lined with books. He spoke immediately of my intention of leaving the House of Commons. I was too impatient, he said. Human life might be likened to a wheel; it was constantly turning round, and what was at the bottom to-day would be at the top some other day. The wheel, I said, was worked with a strong pulley by the party whips, and the Irish Nationalists never came to the top. I told him I was chiefly anxious to see him because a memorial was about to be presented to Lord Palmerston requesting that Smith O'Brien might be allowed to return to Ireland. I trusted he was not unfavourable to that design? Not at all, he said; the time has come when Mr. O'Brien might properly be allowed to reside wherever he thought fit. I inquired if I was at liberty to mention this opinion. Certainly, he said; if the Government blotted out all the penalties he should not criticise their conduct unfavourably. I said I wished we were asking the favour from him rather than Lord Palmerston who had no sympathy with a generous career, who apparently did not understand nationality, and with all his airy gaiety was at bottom a dry, hard Whig, who cared for nothing in politics but a majority. My countrymen, Mr. Disraeli observed smilingly, were not of my opinion—they constantly supported the gay old man. Yes, I said; and that disposition made the House of Commons intolerable to me. He did me the honour to speak with great openness of the Irish question and I ventured to tell him that Conservatives, by a generous policy, might make themselves more acceptable to Ireland than the Whigs, whom Lord John Russell's conduct had rendered detestable. He said he had taken great pains to induce the Cabinet to accept Napier's land reforms, and meditated other concessions, and he had sent Naas to Ireland to get rid of the old jog-trot of the Castle.
"Taking up a volume of Disraeli's early novels which lay on the table I said I would take the liberty of saying something which was permissible because I was probably seeing him for the last time. I differed widely about his books from the public, who preferred 'Coningsby,' but in my opinion several of the early novels were much better. They had the inspiration and enthusiasm of youth. The 'Wondrous Tale of Alroy,' as it used to be called, was the most entrancing romance since 'Ivanhoe.' 'Contarini Fleming' could not be compared with any other English book, because it was sui generis an insight into the desires and dreams of a youth of genius; and 'Ixion in Heaven' was of the genre of 'Candide' and worthy to be set on the same shelf. His early novels, he said, had been judged hardly, and perhaps they deserve no better. He would have withdrawn the one which excited most clamour if it had been possible. Yes, I said, and nothing he had ever done or designed surprised me more than his willingness to sacrifice 'Vivian Grey' to 'Mrs. Grundy.' That story painted an audacious and unscrupulous adventurer, but all his plans failed in consequence. He was not a prosperous but an unprosperous hero, and the moral of the book plainly was that unscrupulous projects tumble down about the projector's head. The advocatus diaboli might insist indeed that the accomplished young neophyte of diplomacy was made too fascinating, and I could not deny that objection, for the first time I read 'Vivian Grey' was like the first time I drank champagne; I was intoxicated with an altogether new and mysterious enjoyment. As I spoke this last sentence, which was literally true, and spoken to a man whom I never expected to see again, I noticed a flush rise from Disraeli's cheeks to his forehead till it glowed with sudden light. The man, blasé with applause in many shapes, was moved with my manifest enjoyment of what pleased himself most, for under the mask of abstruse political profundity, which could be shifted like a domino, he was always at heart a man of letters, and the only one among his contemporaries. Other statesmen published books he was a dreamer and a creator whose truest life was in the region of imagination."
I have not re-read "Vivian Grey" since I have reached the age of being hypercritical, but I am it will be for ever a book for ambitious boys.
Before leaving, I said, if he would allow me, I would speak for the last time of Irish affairs, without expecting any answer; and I cited rapidly the reforms which a Conservative statesman might, in. my opinion, make in that country without violating the principles of his party. He listened graciously, and when I finished he clasped me warmly by the hand and accompanied me outside the library door, where he renewed his farewell.
Sir Denham Norreys, who, though a decided Whig, had affectionate remembrance of O'Brien, brought the question of his return to Ireland privately before Lord Palmerston, and reported the result to me in this note:—
"House of Commons, August 7, 1853.
"Dear Mr. Duffy,—I saw Lord Palmerston to-day about Wm. S. O'Brien. He spoke kindly about him—but still stated that he and Sir George Grey did not consider that they could with propriety recommend to her Majesty his free pardon at present—but at the same time he desired me to say that he by no means wished to convey to me that the 'door of hope' was shut upon him. He recommended that he should do nothing which would altogether separate him from this country, as it is quite possible that at a not very distant future a more favourable answer to a similar application in his favour might be attended with better success.
"In fact his case is not decided favourably, because it would rule that of others whom they don't wish to pardon.
"At any rate you have this satisfaction, that by the memorial which you alone were the means of procuring and by the efforts which have been made in his favour which your untiring energy in his behalf excited, Smith O'Brien stands in a far more favourable position than he did at the commencement of the session. Believe me, dear Mr. Duffy, ever faithfully yours,
Before I left Europe, perhaps for ever, I determined to shake the hand of Smith O'Brien again, and I spent a few days with him in Brussels, where he then resided. Much of our talk is chronicled in my diary, but time has made it obsolete, and I only make a couple of extracts of collateral incidents:—
"O'Brien naturally wished to know the judgment of the country on our unsuccessful experiment. I told him I believed the country was just to his character, and unjust to his policy. No one doubted that he meant generously, and made noble sacrifices, but his own class would not be pursuaded that he was morally justified in attempting a revolution; the middle class, who had no such scruple, thought there ought to have been French or American officers procured to take charge of the operation, and the new secret societies declared 'it was a pity and a crime to sacrifice a grand opportunity to sentimental humanity; he ought to have burned Widow MacCormack's house at Ballingarry, and her family, if necessary. What did a few individuals count in a revolution?' O'Brien said with great feeling that he would not be guilty of the murder of Widow MacCormack's children for any political success whatever.
"At the table d'hôte the same evening I fell into conversation with a Belgian member of the Chamber of Deputies who took a lively interest in Irish affairs. After various questions about our institutions and notabilities, he took away my breath with surprise by suddenly demanding, 'Connaisez-vous Madame Veuve M'Cormack?' After a good deal of wobbling we came to understand each other. He knew nothing of the Ballingarry widow, but there was an Irish lady of the name residing in the Quartier-Louise at that time whom he assumed I ought to know.
"O'Brien brought me to visit M. de Potter, leader of the Ultras in the Belgian revolution, and one of the editors of the Pays Bas, their organ of that era. When Brussels rose, De Potter was taken out of prison and made one of the Provisional Government; but when it was proposed to negotiate with France for a king, he insisted on a republic being declared; his colleagues contended that the Great Powers would not permit Belgium to create a republic in the centre of Europe, and thereupon he retired. Belgium became a monarchy, and in the quarter of a century which followed De Potter has been altogether excluded from public affairs. He is now an old man with white hair, and looks somewhat like George Petrie. He is very garrulous (which is pardonable, I suppose, in one who is visited as a personage), and he is too deferential to his guests for our western ideas. We were introduced to him as Irish patriots by M. Deuputtien, another of the Belgian National party of 1830. He was in prison with De Potter, and he affirms that the leader was not at all a practical politician. It was there he read for the first time the constitution which they were resisting. Deuputtien, as secretary of the Commission, declares that he had the good fortune to strike an effective blow for liberty: he was ordered to write a letter to the Prince of Orange, then besieging Brussels, which amounted to the first step of a submission. He wrote the letter, read it to the Commissioners and had it approved, and then dropped it under the table, substituting a blank sheet of paper in the envelope. The Prince was enraged at so disrespectful an answer, and the negotiation which might have renewed the slavery of Belgium was broken off."
Next to the return of O'Brien I felt the liveliest interest in the proposed investigation of Maynooth College, where I had friends whose interests and happiness were imperilled. A Select Committee was about to sit, and it was confidently believed that Dr. Cullen would obtain the assistance of the Whigs to bring the college completely under his personal control, to denationalise it, to Italianise it, and crush the professors who cherished some spirit of independence. The constitutional rights they enjoyed under statute were to be abolished and replaced by a purely arbitrary system of episcopal control. I wrote to one of my friends in the college asking for instructions how I could help them in Parliament, and his answer was worthy of a great ecclesiastic:—
Coll., Maynooth, April 23, '55.
"In the first place, and before all things, I would have you to do nothing whatever, save what you are persuaded is right, proper, and becoming to do. But, in truth, C.'s hostility to us is precisely on the points in which you agree with us. He is for centralising all management of affairs in himself, and he is for narrow views, clandestine manœuvres—we are for the very opposite of all these. Our opinions on priests in politics are a mere accident as regards him and coincide with his opinion only in terms and appearance. We are opposed to clerical tyranny.
"Crolly thinks it of the first importance that we should be interrogated. Our sole object and wish in all this is to prevent C.'s and his party's interference and annoyance. I can speak for myself with the most perfect sincerity that I do not feel the least emotion of ill-will, revenge, or any other unworthy stimulus.
"This is not a matter of Crolly, Duffy, and Murray, &c., v. Cullen, &c., but of liberality, fair play, manly honour and truth v. &c., &c., &c., and therefore your heart should be in it as well as ours (over and above all personal considerations, and therefore I need not apologise for any trouble I give you in it."
I rejoice to think that I did my devoirs to the satisfaction of my friends. The Professors were cited before the Committee and their interests were effectually served. Another institution in which I took a strong interest was less fortunate. Dr. Newman was at the head of the Catholic University, and was perhaps among living men the one fittest for that position. Dr. Cullen was entitled to exercise a certain control over the University, and thwarted more than one of the Superior's designs. At length he produced a catastrophe. A salary had been assigned to Rev. Mr. Ford, a young man who was perhaps useful to the Archbishop, but did no service whatever to the University. Dr. Newman declined to certify for a salary which did not represent any service. The Archbishop sent him peremptory instructions to certify, which he did accordingly, but immediately sent in his resignation. By this unhappy incident the man who had most profoundly influenced the Church of England while he was one of its ministers was separated from the Irish Church, where his influence would probably have been as large and as beneficent.
My design in going to Australia was to practise at the Bar and to hold aloof from politics, but my friends insisted on anticipating for me a political career in the new world. Lucas wrote me, "John Bright, who has been to see me, says that Lowe predicts you will be member for Sydney before six months," and Isaac Butt wrote "that you may win in the land of your adoption all that the strange fate that attends Irishmen of genius has kept from you at home is now all that your friends can wish for you." They forecast the future more successfully than I did.
I left in the hands of my friends an application for the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds, the acceptance of an office of profit being the only method by which a seat in the House of Commons can be relinquished, the profit in this case counting by shillings, and the shillings being never paid in any instance I have heard of.
John Dillon told my steadfast friend Alderman Plunkett that I had applied for an office under the British Crown in England, and no doubt would get it. Plunkett swore that it was impossible. Dillon assured him he had seen my letter to the Secretary of the Treasury. "Well (exclaimed Plunkett) I will never believe in any man again; I'm done with politics for the rest of my life." The jest had gone far enough, and Dillon explained the puzzle.
In these realms what event is too sombre or disheartening to be celebrated by a public dinner? My intended exile suggested two, one in Dublin projected by the Tenant Leaguers and the survivors of the Young Ireland party, the other in London by men of letters, who had only a limited interest in Irish affairs, but were good enough to honour me with some personal sympathy. When a committee, which had John Stuart Mill for chairman and James Hannay for secretary, communicated their wishes to me, I felt that such a grace was a compensation for many disappointments. My friends, who were professors in the new University, were active in organising the Dublin dinner. A courtly ecclesiastic whispered to James M'Carthy, the Professor of the Fine Arts, when he read his name on the committee, "Don't be a fool; the Archbishop is essential to your success, you cannot build churches without bishops, and the Archbishop does not love the exiled agitator." "No," replied M'Carthy, "I believe he does not, but I do." M'Carthy had never taken any public part in politics, but while he was studding Ireland with noble gothic churches on which the genius of native art was stamped, his heart was still the heart of a boy for his early hopes and his early associates.
Some practical men insisted that before seeing me for the last time there ought to be some more permanent testimony of good will. Colonel French, who will be remembered as one of the habitués of the Reform Club for a whole generation, organised a Gavan Duffy Testimonial Fund in London, but as I always refused testimonials I brought that project to a prompt termination. Arthur Geheoghan, then a young Protestant Nationalist in the Excise Department, afterwards one of the four officials called "The Kings of Somerset House," wrote to offer me all the savings he had accumulated to be repaid without interest, and at my absolute convenience; and Mrs. Anderson, the wife of a general officer whose sympathy with Ireland made her well-known to me, proffered me the law library of her uncle, Judge Bowen, and proposed to meet me in London to hand it over. "My dear husband has just escaped with life," she said, "and is still so weak I would not leave him for any other cause on earth than that to which you have devoted your life."
It adds a flavour of rare magnanimity to Mr. Geheoghan's offer, that he did not agree with me in the contest which had brought about my exile.
"There is not on the face of God's earth," he wrote, "a more pious and self-sacrificing priesthood than yours, and as an Irishman I am proud of them. Often and often, through the by-lanes and boreens at all hours and at all seasons, I have seen the young curates hurrying to watch over, to pray beside, to cherish, and to comfort the parting hours of the wretched and the poor. But while I silently admired them on their errands of mercy, I thought that their reward should not be of this world, and grieved when I reflected that the dignitaries of your Church in return for such acts should require from a grateful peasantry the surrender into their hands of their rights as citizens or privileges as freemen.
"I differ from you on many points, but on none more so than that it is either desirable or expedient for the clergymen of your Church to take an active share in politics. That O'Connell hastened Emancipation some years by their assistance there is no doubt; but equally true it is that they have most habitually checked and retarded, either directly or indirectly, the growth of a free and manly opinion in Ireland ever since."
Michael O'Grady, applauding my refusal of a testimonial, entreated me to accept from the Irish workmen in London the carved fittings of a library in Irish bog-oak. Of these proffered favours, I accepted only that of Mr. Geheoghan to a limited extent, because it could be repaid.
My diary at this time recalls some memorable and pleasant transactions. During the period when I had constant Parliamentary responsibility I thought of nothing else. I never went to theatres or exhibitions, and boat races and Derby Day appealed to me in vain. But when I had no longer public duties, I determined to see something more of the wonderful city which I was about to quit, perhaps for ever. The National Gallery, Westminster Abbey, and the British Museum occupied much of my leisure. Tristram Kennedy gave me a mount, and brought me to Rotten Row; Edward Whitty introduced me behind the scenes in the opera; I dined with a friend or two at the "Star and Garter," and ate indigestible fish dinners at Greenwich; visited all the political clubs with members, and accepted more invitations in a month than during many previous sessions. "Breakfasted at the Stafford Club with Richard Doyle and his brother Henry, and Wallis (afterwards editor of the Tablet): I was surprised to note how familiar they were with the Nation and the work of the Young Irelanders, the Doyles being sons of a Unionist, and Wallis an Englishman. Dick Doyle speaks in a slow, rather drawling tone, but always admirably ad rem. Of Thackeray he said he could not get over the impression that he despised the finest of his own creations. He looked down even on Colonel Newcome because he was not a man about town. He declared that the only Parliamentary news he read or wanted to read, was Edward Whitty's 'Stranger in Parliament' in the Leader. It contained the essential oil of public transactions skilfully expressed. Henry, speaking of Cardinal Wiseman, declares that he is the tenderest and most considerate of sick nurses; he had tended him in illness like the best of fathers. Wallis referred to the insolence of James, who said Dr. Wiseman was an English gentleman, if being born in Spain of Irish parents could make him so. I said I accepted the insolence as an eloge. Dr. Wiseman was, in fact, strikingly Irish; he looked, as some one said, like a strong parish priest with the key of the county in his pocket.
"I asked the Doyles about their father, the famous H. B. He was still living, Richard said, and was soon coming to see them. Originally he distrusted O'Connell very much, as might be seen in his work, but latterly he came to think better of him. I spoke of Punch and Henry said his brother could not put up with the Exeter Hall clique into whose hands it had fallen."
"Cobden introduced me the other evening to Lindsey, the shipowner the virtual leader, I believe, of the Civil Service reform movement, of which Layard is the figure-head, and which has drawn Dickens and Thackeray into its current. 'Twenty years ago,' says Cobden, 'he was sleeping under a dog-cart. At present he is worth £20,000 a year. I advised him,' Cobden added, 'that his brain was overworked, and that he ought to give up business and take to politics as a change. He took half my advice—he took to politics, but did not give up business.' His brain is active, but he has a very overworked look; his head drops on his breast, and his hands hang loose and flabby. I heard him speak at the city meeting. He has energy, pluck, and good sense, but not a touch of eloquence. If it were not unjust to Cobden I would say he was a vulgar Cobden. He has one weakness of which there is not a trace in Cobden, an affectation of intimacy with the aristocracy. ' Among my correspondents,' he said to me, 'there is an old lady of great capacity and business habits, the Marchioness of Londonderry.' I believe he is really intimate with several great ladies, though he would not be a comely figure at a fancy ball. I met Bennoch, the poet, in this connection, and liked him very much. He has a more agile intellect than any other of the new reformers.
"Went to a reception which Mrs. London and Mrs. Crowe gave in concert. Among the company Louis Blanc interested me most. His face is very fine and his eyes expressive, but the effect is seriously diminished by his dwarfish figure. He has not at all the air of a gentleman in the English sense. He smiles and contorts too much even for a Frenchman, and suggests an artist, play-actor, or singer rather than a politician. I spoke of the vehement promises Ledru Rollin and other democratic leaders had made of help to Ireland in '44, which compared ill with the slender performances of the Provisional Government in '48. He said Ireland and all struggling nationalities would have been helped but for Lamartine, who paralysed the good intentions of his colleagues. I expressed regret that Kossuth should have become a regular contributor to the Sunday Times; people were accustomed to think of him as the chief of a people. Blanc said it had become necessary for Kossuth to work for an income. 'It was a pity; the articles would damage the reputation of the Maygar Chief, as they contained no new ideas and not many old ones. The next European revolution (he said) would be a fierce and sanguinary one. In '48 the Republicans ruined their cause by moderation, and that was not a fault they would commit twice. Ireland (he went on to say) would find little favour with the leaders, for in Ireland everything was under the influence of the priests, and priests, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, were the sworn enemies of the revolution.' He asked about the rejection of the Tenant-Right Bill in the House of Commons. He understood the question fairly well, but predicted that we never would get anything from the British Parliament worth having.
"Later in the evening I met Julia Kavanagh. She is very small, smaller even than Louis Blanc, and, like him, has a good head and fine eyes. She is very much at home in Irish subjects, and tells me she is learning Gaelic. She proposed a volume of sketches from Irish history lately to Colburne and afterwards to Bentley, but neither of them would hear of it. She sent my small proprietors' scheme to Wills of Household Words, whom I met last year at Malvern, proposing to make an article about it, but that enlightened economist told her he had quite another object in view. He meant that Ireland should be colonised by Englishmen.
"Mrs. Crowe mentioned a fact which is of bad augury for English trade if it be authentic. It is impossible (she says) to get good silk in England, it has become so habitually deteriorated. French and Belgian silk, on the contrary, are excellent. A lady who was talking with us declared that the deterioration extended to almost all species of lady's dress.
"I called on Sir Emerson Tennant at his office, and had an interesting talk about the war. Admiral Dundas assured him he could not get Lord Stratford to send spies to the Crimea before the expedition. The Ambassador flew into a passion when he insisted on the necessity of it. At the Council of War before the expedition Dundas asked what they ought to do, as he objected to attacking a place of which he knew nothing. St. Arnaud exclaimed, like the hero of a melodrama from Port St. Martin, 'Let us go, let us show ourselves, let us conquer.' He then requested Lord Raglan's opinion, who mildly stated his objections; but St. Arnaud, who was half bandit, half playactor, repeated his rhodomontade. I inquired why Raglan, the Commander-in-Chief of an independent army, submitted to this gasconade. 'Because,' Tennant replied, 'he had a letter in his pocket from his Government commanding him to do so.' Baraguay d'Hilliers, according to Tennant, declared that the French fleet in the Baltic is commanded by a prosy old lady, and the English fleet by a vulgar old woman. The entente cordiale does not seem to grow.
"At the Ellenborough 'want of confidence' debate I took a last look at the House of Lords. There is as large a proportion of commonplace men as I have seen in any assembly of gentlemen—Lord Grey, far from inheriting the noble-domed forehead of his father, looks as he hobbles along shrewd and ordinary—an attorney or land agent; Lord Panmure, with his port wine complexion and costume of a ci-devant jeune homme, might be a retired stockbroker; the Duke of Newcastle, a wooden mediocrity without a ray of the divine light of intellect; Lord Derby looks like a Lord John Russell with a soul, but that make a profound difference; and the Duke of Argyle a Frederick Peel ditto; Lord Derby has the unsettled eye and mien which sometimes betokens genius, but never wisdom or discretion. He looks unreliable, not from falseness, for he is open and dashing, but from recklessness. Lord Ellenborough spoke without force or fire, Lord Aberdeen, like a Puritan preacher, he is highly respectable, solemn, and discontented. But in fronta nulla fides; Cabrera, the Spanish cutthroat, was pointed out to me under the gallery one evening, and he is one of the handsomest and most gentlemanly men I have seen. Compared to him Louis Napoleon is vulgar. Napoleon's complexion is reddish brown, Cabrera's a clear, colourless pallor, his head impressive and well set. Again, Sir De Lacy Evans, the commander of the not too reputable Spanish brigade, is a noble, soldierly-looking man, whose profession immediately suggests itself; whereas Lord Hardinge, a great soldier, is nothing short of mean and ugly, and might pass for a Common Council man; and the Duke of Cambridge, illustrious by birth and courtesy, is big, brawny, and resembles a sergeant of dragoons. By the way, the House of Lords itself very much suggests a Roman Catholic church—the Throne representing the altar, and the reporters' gallery the organ loft. The likeness is rendered more complete by a picture over the Throne, and candles and stands near it."
Though it was not unexpected, the sudden death of Frederick Lucas at this time was a painful blow. I had acted with him for many years in sunshine and shade, and loved as well as honoured him. I declined the public dinners to which I was invited and all other engagements, as a token of sympathy for my lost friend.
Shortly after, an able but singularly ungenerous article appeared in the Times, suggesting that the Attorney-General had probably provided a legal appointment in Australia for the Irish exile. I was going to a colony where the Attorney-General, or the Imperial Government, could not appoint or remove a policeman, where the favour of the people of Australia was the only road to office of any kind; but political criticism does not always trouble itself with the state of the facts. Edward Whitty wrote me that it was generally believed in journalistic circles that the article was written by Thackeray, and I was amazed and wounded at such an unexpected hypothesis, for I had established friendly relations with him, and I believed it impossible that he could have struck such,a malign stroke. To put my mind at ease I wrote and asked him, and promptly received his denial.
"Thursday, September 6th,
"36, Onslow Square.
"My Dear Mr. Duffy,—There is not one word of truth in your correspondent's information. I have not written one line in the Times. Ye gods! when will well-informed correspondent's leave off swallowing mouches and telling fibs? I wish you a happy voyage and prosperity wherever you are; and don't think I should be the man to hiss the boat that carried you away from the shore. May we both return to it ere long, and shake hands, says, yours very sincerely,
"W. M. Thackeray."
A curious illustration of the feverish anxiety of Lord Brougham's life turned up at this time. Among the many articles pro and con which my retirement from Irish affairs begot, the Liverpool Daily Post enumerated various notable men who had spoken favourably of my literary experiments. Among others Lord Jeffrey was mentioned as having been enthusiastic over the Ballad Poetry of Ireland. A correspondent, too important to be refused a hearing, burst in with a denial that Jeffrey had ever expressed any opinion on the subject. In a subsequent number Jeffrey's language was cited from a note to his wife, and Edward Whitty sent me the following letter from the querulous correspondent:—
"Brougham, October 6, 1855.
"Lord Brougham presents his compliments to Mr. Whitty. He supposed from the extract he had seen from the Ll Journal that it was in the Ed. Review Lord Jeffrey was believed to have mentioned Mr. Duffy's poetry, and he is much obliged to Mr. W. for the reference to Lord Cockburn's 'Life of Jeffrey,' which he finds to be quite correct."
A levée in the Nation office enabled me to say farewell to my oldest and closest friends, and I made a hasty visit to London for a similar purpose. I shook the hands of Carlyle and Mrs. Carlyle, of John Forster and Mrs. Forster, of William Howitt and Mary Howitt, and many more. Stuart Mill called on me, and I find in my diary some note of our conversation:—
"Stuart Mill called to invite me to dine, but my brief time in London was all occupied. I had a very interesting talk with him. He spoke with indignation of the article in the Times, and strongly regretted that I had not accepted the London literary dinner. He deplored my quitting Parliament, as he was certain a party of the best men in public life were gradually getting concentrated. Speaking of Australia, he said a duty on gold was not liable to any political economy objection. It was one the least injurious to the community that could be devised. I inquired whether he thought the bulk of the public expenditure in a new country might not be defrayed by leasing land in perpetuity for settlement instead of selling it, the State retaining the fee-simple. He replied that he considered such a method quite legitimate; but the rent reserved would be difficult to collect, and liable to Parliamentary combinations to annul it. If such a system were established the rent ought to be an ad valorem one, and be liable to be increased to meet improvements springing from the growth of society without any effort of the occupier, and the title of the occupier ought to be forfeited by a certain amount of arrears. Speaking of responsible Government, he said that in colonies where it existed the Governor ought, he thought, to be as impassive as the Queen is in England, except where Imperial interests, of which he is the guardian, were concerned.
"I met Dr. Madden in Piccadilly, and we lunched together. I suggested that the big volumes of his 'Life of Lady Blessington' might be squeezed into a pleasant little book containing the correspondence, which was interesting, especially the anonymous letters. The time for a new edition, he said, had not come. The anonymous correspondence was the letters of important men, whose assent to publication with their names he had not obtained. The letter rating Pencilling Willis savagely for his breaches of taste and confidence was by Lytton Bulwer, who also wrote the letter on Catholicity, in which he says that if he had been born a Catholic he would have remained one. The letters signed F. B. were by Sir Francis Burdett, and those signed P. by Sir Robert Peel. I told him the story Dr. Gully told me at Malvern, that Bulwer ran a race with his brother Henry for their mother's estate, which was to be bequeathed to whichever of them first became a peer, but Madden cannot say whether or not it is authentic.
"Apropos of the 'Life of Lady Blessington,' I asked him how he had avoided the glaring D'Orsay scandal. He shook his head meaningly, and said there was no evidence in the papers submitted to him, and so he kept his peace. In the evening we went to hear J. B. Gough, the teetotal lecturer, at Drury Lane. If Demosthenes said that acting was the soul of oratory, Demosthenes said well. Gough moves tears and laughter as I have never seen any orator do. He walks up and down the stage, recites dialogues, makes imitations, and, in short, performs a dramatic entertainment. He was originally a comic actor, and turns his experience to excellent account. His gifts are not great; he is the Henry Russell of lecturers, vulgar and clap-trap, but with genuine power over the popular heart.
"I met Dr. Hughes, the eminent Archbishop of New York, in the House of Commons lately. He has a notable Roman head, the side face of which looks like the head on a coin in the time of Cæsar. He struck me as shrewd and clear rather than great or impressive. He says that Fr. Mullen's letter on the condition of Irish Catholics in the U.S. contained exaggerated statements, but he admits the lapses from religion are numerous. Meagher, he says, might have been anything in the United States which the votes of the people could make him if he had sat down to work at a profession in a quiet, serious manner. He considers him now irretrievably lost in habits and opinions, a hard judgment surely.
"I met Sir William Molesworth at dinner for the first time to-day; he interested me as the first of the philosophical Radicals who had been called to office. He is shy and pedantic, but apparently good-natured, and undoubtedly upright and sincere. He seems to suffer habitual physical pain, which Dr. Brady, who sat near me, explained. He is very industrious, notwithstanding the popular impression to the contrary. Dr. Black, who accompanied him, is his mentor, educated him in politics, still sometimes furnishes, Brady says, the material of his speeches, and manages his affairs. Of this latter function Brady gave me a startling instance. At some public dinner, where Molesworth, who presided, put down his name for a subscription, when the paper, which passed around the table, came to Black, he altered the figures, doubling the amount his friend had proposed to give.
"I breakfasted with Godley, the founder of the Canterbury settlement in New Zealand, and had some interesting talk with him. He assumed that I must go into politics, and his theme was patience and moderation. The Colonists could get anything that they wanted or that was good for them from a Government which, whoever were in power, would regard them with feelings which were paternal. Among the letters which reached me at the last moment was a welcome one from Charles Kingsley, the friend of all who suffered in a good cause. 'Let me say goodbye,' he said, 'to a man whom (deeply differing from him on many points) I have long admired for his talent and fearlessness, even where I thought those great powers misapplied. However, what is past is past; you are going now to a more wholesome atmosphere, there to mix with social problems more simple than those of this complicated and diseased Old World. I almost envy you. Yet I seem to see here still work to be done which I can do, though on the future of England and of Europe I look with sad and shuddering forebodings. Yet we must have courage. "God is the King" after all, and Right must conquer at last, not perhaps in the way which you or I might make out, but in some wider, deeper way.'
"And a final farewell from Mary Howitt:—
"'You must, dear Mr. Duffy, take with you our best and kindest wishes to the Antipodes. I think of your speaking of the woes of old Ireland with deep emotion, and I trust that God will give you a beautiful and a happy home in the new world of Australia, and that though you never can forget the old land of so many sorrows, yet that the new one may afford you and your children such abundant joy and comfort as may make the day you set foot on its shores the most fortunate day of your life.'"
These sympathisers were all Liberals, but it touched me keenly to have the good word of a Conservative who judged what was done and projected by quite another standard. Emerson Tennant wrote to me:—
"And here let me say that I think in the management of the Nation you have done more than any living man, Moore only excepted, to elevate the national feeling of Irishmen. I don't talk of your energies in pursuit of a brilliant delusion; but I refer to the lofty spirit which has characterised that pursuit, to the bursts of eloquence and flashes of true poetry which have accompanied it, and to the pure and lofty, and at the same time gentle feeling which you have evoked in the struggle. The Nation has exhibited the genius of Ireland in. new and unlooked-for phase."
On the last day in London Michael O'Grady introduced a troop of Irishmen, who wished to say goodbye. One of them uttered a saying which surely amounted to genuine spontaneous eloquence. He brought an old Prayer Book to get my autograph, and one of his companions, who was provided with a more presentable volume, said, "It's a shame, Tom, to offer such a book to Mr. Duffy for his signature." "Arrah," said Tom, "why shouldn't I offer it to him; isn't it like himself, tattered and torn in the service of God and the people?"
On October 8, 1855, I embarked at Liverpool on the good ship Ocean Chief, bound for Melbourne. My family were on board before me, and when I went to their cabin and saw them actually at sea, to sail to a country where I knew next to no one, my ribs seemed to close on my heart for a moment with a painful and perilous responsibility; but my wife bade me trust in God, and we faced the future without trepidation.
I left Ireland with the main purpose of my life unattained, but as I was persuaded, not lost, but postponed, for a belief in God's justice is incompatible with the doubt of Ireland's final deliverance from cruel and wicked misgovernment. It was my consolation that in public affairs I had always done what I believed best for Ireland, whatever penalty it involved, and that I had never accepted so much as a postage stamp by way of honorarium or compensation.
The experiment of Independent Opposition, which I had entered Parliament to test, was declared by scoffing critics to have altogether failed, but twenty years later when the ballot effectually established the power of the people, Mr. Parnell, as we have seen, took it up anew under more favourable conditions, and carried it to remarkable success.
It must be recognised as a generous trait in the character of Mr. Parnell that he acknowledged so frankly where his policy had been found. It was twenty years since it had been first propounded, and it was naturally a good deal forgotten. Had Mr. Parnell used it as Mr. Mitchel did the theory of Fintan Lalor, adopted it as his own, and spoke of it as "my policy," "the policy of me, C. P.," no one would have questioned his claim, and by this time a host of partisans would be prepared to assert in perfect good faith that Independent Opposition had never been mooted before his day.
- See vol. i. page 251.