Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/340

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ness, and in particular the employment of two words where one would do. But when he was pressed for time, no one could be terser, and his speeches of close reasoning or of pure exposition scarcely contain a superfluous syllable. His oratorical method and arrangement were borrowed from Peel. The fire, the energy, the enthusiasm, the fusion of reason and passion, the intense and glowing mind, were all his own.

As a financier Gladstone can only be compared with Walpole, Pitt, and Peel. Walpole's great speech on the peerage bill and Gladstone's speech on the taxation of charities have been coupled as the best examples of abstract reasoning addressed to the House of Commons. Gladstone's first financial statement, made in 1853, shows that he had carefully studied the principles of Pitt's ; financial legislation. He was the pupil and disciple of Sir Robert Peel, whose labours in promoting the freedom of commerce he continued and completed. His intellectual supremacy was never more fully shown than in framing and carrying the budgets of 1853, 1860, and 1861. Gladstone's principal fault as a statesman was that, with the two exceptions of Italian independence and the rescue of eastern Christians from the rule of the Porte, he paid no continuous attention to foreign affairs. He trusted too much to his friend Lord Granville, who, though able and tactful, was dilatory and procrastinating. A critic, even a friendly critic, might say of Gladstone that he tried to do too many things at a time. From 1886 to 1894 home rule absorbed him, and he considered almost every subject as it affected that great issue. But at other times, even when he was prime minister, he occupied his scanty leisure with art, with theological speculations, with literature, with historical research, and with practical philanthropy. In his zeal to reclaim the fallen and to console the wretched he did what no man of the world would have dared to do without fear of misconstruction, or even of scandal. Indeed, he did not know what fear was. As Lord Rosebery said of him, he was the bravest of the brave. During his second government he was in serious danger of assassination. But the only thing which troubled and annoyed him was the discovery that he was under the special protection of the police. When his doctor told him, in 1894, that he had cataract, he desired him to operate then and there, that he might resume as soon as possible 'the great gift of working vision.' He loved popularity, having come to believe more and more as he advanced in years that the instincts of the people were, on broad questions, right, and their judgment in the long run sound. But in 1878 he set himself deliberately against a wave of public enthusiasm which he thought mistaken, with the result that he was hardly safe in the streets of London. No English statesman has been more fervently adored or more intensely hated than Gladstone. While his political admirers were extolling him to sympathetic crowds as equal or superior to the most illustrious of the human race, he was being accused in anonymous letters of the foulest crimes. Even his religion was set down in some quarters as the basest hypocrisy. But his personal enemies, as distinguished from his political opponents, were men who did not know him. Of his personal friends, at different periods of his life, the most conspicuous were Arthur Hallam, Alfred Tennyson, Samuel Wilberforce, and Mr. John Morley. Gladstone cannot be called 'happy in the occasion of his death.' The cause on which he bestowed the last years of his health and strength was submerged : the party which he had led was shattered in pieces. Peel broke up his party, but he carried free trade. Gladstone did not live to carry home rule. The list of his legislative achievements stops at 1885. He was a demagogue in the proper sense of the term, a true leader of the people. He exhorted them always to employ the political freedom which he had largely helped to give them, less for their own material advancement than for the best and highest interests of mankind.

[A full Life of Gladstone, by his friend Mr. John Morley, is in preparation. Gladstone made some contributions to an autobiography in A Chapter of Autobiography, 1868 (an apologia for his policy of Irish disestablishment), in the History of an Idea, 1886 (an explanation of his policy of Home Rule), and in Personal Recollections of A. H. Hallam (a description of his schooldays), which appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 5 Jan. 1898. Useful compilations are Mr. A. F. Robbins's Early Public Life of Gladstone, 1894 ; Mr. G. Barnett-Smith's Life. 2 vols., 1879 ; and Mr. G. W. E. Russell's Life in the Queen's Prime Ministers Series, 1891 (4th edit. 1898). Sir Edward Hamilton's Mr. Gladstone, a monograph (1898), and Mr. Sydney Buxton's Mr. Gladstone as Chancellor of the Exchequer: a study (1901), are both of considerable value. A popular Life was edited by Sir Wenvyss Reid in 1899. Slighter sketches are Mr. H. W. Lucy's Mr. Gladstone, a Study from Life, 1895, and Mr. Justin McCarthy's Story of Mr. Gladstone's Life, 1897. Mr. Lionel Tollemache's Talks with Mr. Gladstone, 1898, deals with the latest period of his career. Mr. H. W. Lucy supplies useful information in Diaries of