Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

prejudice, took the form in which it appeared in her journal. Lady Minto at Vienna heard all the Palermo stories from Mr. Rushout, and such further accounts from Mr. Wyndham as gave her the saddest forebodings. The Queen of Naples, at Leghorn, she writes, was

'very ill with a sort of convulsive fit, and Nelson was staying there to nurse her; . . . his zeal for the public service seemed entirely lost in his love and vanity, and they all sat and flattered each other all day long.'

But when Nelson presented himself in person at Vienna, the atmosphere of the stories rolled away. Writing to her sister, Lady Malmesbury, she describes the unbounded enthusiasm of the populace for the hero,' as she was accustomed to call him, and then goes on:

'I don't think him altered in the least. He has the same shock head, and the same honest simple manners; but he is devoted to Emma; he thinks her quite an angel, and talks of her as such to her face and behind her back, and she leads him about like a keeper with a bear. . . . He is just the same as ever he was; says he owes everything to Lord Minto; that but for the interest he took about him he should have had no reward for his services in the first action, nor have been placed in a situation to obtain the second.'

The pictures of Nelson at Dresden and at Vienna are not reconcileable. But Lady Minto knew the man well, and Mrs. St. George did not know him at all.

It must be allowed that, to the mere spectator, Nelson's ordinary behaviour in the company of Lady Hamilton would be regarded as an outrage; yet it was an outrage of which neither of them was conscious. We do not believe in the 'arts' of Lady Hamilton. It was unfortunate for both of them, that two characters so entirely unsophisticated ever came together, and it is pitiable to read some of the simple, homely, and wifelike letters of the lady who was the chief sufferer in the result. But the joint household at Merton was a heavy trouble to Nelson's friends. Lord Minto writes of it, on March 22, 1802 :

'The whole establishment and way of life is such as to make me angry, as well as melancholy; but I cannot alter it, and I do not think myself obliged, or at liberty, to quarrel with him for his weakness, though nothing shall ever induce me to give the smallest countenance to Lady Hamilton. . . . In the meanwhile she and Sir William and the whole set of them are living with him at his expense.*

...

She

* This was a mistake. A number of the weekly housekeeping accounts are now in possession of Mr. A. Morrison. They are jointly

VOL. CLXIV. NO. CCCY

PP

goes on cramming Nelson with trowelfuls of flattery, which he goes on taking as quietly as a child does pap.'

Little wonder that Lord Minto should sum up his impressions in the sentence: 'He is in many points a really great man, in others a baby.' But whatever the estimate of statesmen, the general public had no doubt at all.

[ocr errors]

'I met Nelson,' writes Lord Minto in August, 1805, 'in a mob in Piccadilly, and got hold of his arm, so that I was mobbed too. It is really quite affecting to see the wonder and admiration and love and respect of the whole world; and the genuine expression of all these sentiments at once from gentle and simple, the moment he is seen. It is beyond anything represented in a play or a poem of fame.'

What are we to say of a character so widely viewed and so differently spoken of by those who were in contact with it? Our judgement may easily rest upon a broader basis than theirs, and yet as we cannot escape from the influence of the final scene in the Victory's' cockpit, it can never be so free from bias. We think, however, that the tendency on the whole has been to lose some of the moral force that was in Nelson, while unduly exalting his intellectual power. We cannot admit that this was great; we hardly allow that deep thought and direct simple aims can exist in the same mind. Certainly, Nelson has left behind him nothing approaching the profound. In two capital instances he was absolutely blind where others saw clearly. He entirely failed to penetrate the designs of the French fleet under Villeneuve, which Collingwood completely unravelled. He showed himself incapable of anticipating the vast importance of Malta, though it was the fashion of the day to style Egypt the key of India and Malta the key of Egypt; and though Lord Minto and Sir Alexander Ball were fully aware of the truth of the adage. No one had greater reason to guess what Malta would become than Nelson, for he had anticipated the overland route in the person of Lieut. Duval. But Toulon was at the time a hostile port; the French were our enemies; and it was impossible for him to withdraw his thoughts from those immediate contingencies. Malta was of no use to Great Britain for the blockade of Toulon; it was therefore useless for any other purpose.

But over all the intellectual shortcomings, hiding with the brightness of its rays the innocent vanities, the unregulated

settled by Sir William and Nelson at the rate of 3,000l. or 4,000l. a year between them.

* Coleridge.

passions of a childish nature, shines the star of moral grandeur. As we lay down the book we have so far kept in desultory companionship, we say there has not lived another Englishman with such a record of devoted self-sacrifice as that which is shown in its pages. Men of the world may curl the lip at one who had so little in common with them, but our countrymen in general will never cease to feel that the real greatness of Nelson, the real aim and principle of his life, was summed up in his last words. Always in his heart and playing on his lips was the love of king and country. That surmounts and puts aside all that we, in cold judgement, may condemn and the consciousness that this was so confronted him at the last, and enabled him to leave the world claiming to have done his duty in it.

:

ART. IX.-The Irish Question. By the Right Hon. W. E. GLADSTONE, M.P. London: August, 1886.

AT T the time of the appearance of our last number, the great political issue, so momentous for the future of the nation, between union and separation, was in course of decision at the polls; and though we freely expressed our expectation that victory would declare itself for the former, it was not without extreme anxiety that we awaited the result of the crisis. The battle has now been lost and won, the smoke has somewhat cleared away, and it is once more possible to take a survey of the field and to give a thought not merely to present difficulties, but also to the probabilities and the trials of the future.

The result of the general election in the defeat of the policy of the late Prime Minister was generally anticipated by the many thinking men of the Liberal party who were not too much blinded by party passion or too much under the influence of party discipline calmly to estimate the strength of the contending forces. But the expectations even of those most favourable to the union were outdone by the triumphant success which rewarded the efforts they had made to obtain a clear, a decisive, and a final answer from the people of the United Kingdom to the question Mr. Gladstone had asked them, viz. Did they or did they not wish to be governed as one nation? In an evil hour for his fame Mr. Gladstone had announced a policy diametrically opposed to the teaching of his whole political career, and to the express and recent language of himself and almost all his

colleagues. Inconsistency, however, in a popular leader, as the careers of many statesmen and of Mr. Gladstone himself bear witness, by no means always detracts from the enthusiasm of popular support; and what in this case brought ruin to the most popular leader of the age was the instinctive feeling which from the beginning has gone on steadily growing that his policy was an anti-national one, adopted under the stress of party circumstances and in the heat of conflict with political rivals, in the turmoil of which he had forgotten (let us hope it is but for a while) that he, the most powerful British statesman of the day, was not merely the leader of a party or of a faction, large or small, but was the trustee of the honour and the interests of the nation. In consequence of the democratic changes which modern times have made in our institutions, it is far less easy for a statesman now than formerly to run counter to a strong popular instinct and yet retain power in the State. In the time of the American War of Independence and of the Napoleonic wars, political opponents of the Government often expressed sympathy with the national enemy and even pleasure at national disasters. Even then, when wide popular feeling was far less powerful than at present to overcome the pettinesses and the selfishness of private and personal interests unfortunately inseparable from the party game, such sentiments were damaging to the reputation of those who expressed them. But now, when the political business of the nation is conducted in the full blaze of publicity, and the actions and motives of statesmen are subjected to daily criticism, and political power is absolutely dependent upon the support of public opinion, no British statesman who adopts a policy which is in the estimation of his countrymen anti-patriotic can hope to retain preponderating influence in public affairs.

Rarely in our history has it been possible for the national verdict to be given so entirely upon a single issue as at the late general election. When a Parliament or an Administration has existed for some time, and a dissolution takes place, it is unavoidable and right that electors should pay almost as much regard to the past conduct of affairs as to the programme the administration puts before them in the hope of obtaining a new lease of power. Even within the same political party rival programmes and divergent views are not unknown; and when the meaning of the elections comes to be interpreted it is often found quite impossible to determine how much electoral support is due to the one programme or the

other. But in the late elections there was no complexity of this kind to render uncertain the voice of the nation. The new Parliament had only just come into existence, and the Administration was even younger than the Parliament. Neither had any past to repent. The real programme of the Prime Minister was made abundantly clear to all men, since it was disclosed in the two bills he had laid before Parliament. The House of Commons had rejected his Irish policy as there defined, and Mr. Gladstone appealed from the House of Commons to the country to support both his bills and himself. How gladly would Liberal electors have responded to his appeal for support had it only been possible to separate him from his Irish policy! But this of course could not be. And hundreds of thousands of Liberal electors were forced to the painful decision of denying a support to Mr. Gladstone which they felt could only be given at the sacrifice of their political convictions and at the price of their duty to their country.

Thus the two general elections of November 1885 and July 1886 enable us to estimate much more accurately than is generally possible the strength of feeling of the nation upon one political question. Mr. Gladstone as leader of the Liberal party, appealing to the electors in November with a common-sense Liberal programme, which united all sections of the party, obtained the support of 333 representatives of the constituencies of Great Britain, though the Irish vote was thrown heavily against him. In Ireland, however, owing to his determined stand against those who (he told us) wished to march through rapine to the dismemberment and disintegration of the Empire,' he was opposed much more successfully by the Parnellite party, for from one end of that country to the other not a single Liberal member was returned in his support. Some months later Mr. Gladstone meets with a very different response. True, he now has the Nationalist voters enthusiastically on his side. They did but serve to break his fall. Nothing could keep back the strength of the aversion of the great mass of the nation to the policy so suddenly espoused. The same Mr. Gladstone, who, standing by the old principles of the Liberal party, was supported by 333 members, finds himself as the advocate of a separation policy supported but by 186 British representatives at the outside. Even in Ireland there are two Liberals returned who are not Parnellites, and they are bitterly opposed to Mr. Gladstone. Never has there been a more sudden revulsion against party leadership; but never

« AnkstesnisTęsti »