« AnkstesnisTęsti »
long retired from public life, wrote, 'I do not believe that the necessity for such an experiment (as the abolition of party government) would have arisen, in this country at least, if twenty-five years ago the leading politicians on both side (sic) had been less selfishly bent upon using the question of a reform of the House of Commons for their own personal and party objects, and would have joined in an attempt to accomplish a reform which would have made the House of Commons a really good deliberative assembly, instead of utterly degrading it by what are called the Reform Acts of '67 and '85. But now that by these mischievous measures a real monopoly of political power has been given to the uneducated classes, and every day shows more clearly how unfit they are to use it, there seems no chance of escaping some great calamity without a complete change in our whole system of government.' Again, 'Bad days are coming, I fear, and the glory of England is departing.'+ The old Whig and the Peelite are not far apart. For both, we fancy, England was at its zenith before 1860. But how little Goldwin Smith was capable of judging the real forces that were causing the social changes about him may best be seen from an entertaining incident reported by Mr. Haultain.
‘He was once quietly penning some vaticinations upon some murderous strikes which had recently occurred somewhere--Cripple Creek, or Chicago, or Philadelphia, or Glace Bay. Presently he raised his head, adjusted his little skull cap, poised his pen, and remarked to me, as he gazed pensively through the window over his peaceful lawn at the gently-swaying boughs of his elms, "Why cannot people be satisfied with what they have got?” His own securities at that date represented, I suppose, a capital of about $800,000 -say, £160,000. *
One of the most interesting parts of these volumes is a diary written when Smith was not satisfied to see people
*Correspondence, p. 215.
* Correspondence, p. 241. It may be well here to draw attention to the extremely interesting letter of Earl Grey on the position of the House of Lords in the Constitution, p. 260.
*Life, p. 147.
content with what they had got. It contains his impressions of the Civil War and of the society of the period. I extract a few notes.
"The vast work of the American people in bringing the country under cultivation to be taken into account in estimating their intensely busy character. It has forbidden repose and the growth of tranquil qualities of mind.' 'Dislike of farmers (in Illinois) for high education. “Does not teach a man to make a straight furrow." ‘American journalism rougher than English. But doubtful whether more sensuous or unscrupulous. Little fine writing. Gives solid reasons.' 'Sabbath strictly kept in Illinois). . . The magistrates have been stricter in these matters and in the general exercise of authority since the war.' 'Confederate prisoners at Camp Douglas. Many of them very young. Boys of sixteen. One of 17 had been in the army three years.' Schools . . toomany things taught.' 'Incapacity of Carlyle to understand the Americans as an intelligent people fit for self-government, not a nation of fools to be governed by a king.'
Mr. Haultain gives a good deal of space to Goldwin Smith's views on religion and philosophy. Intrinsically, these discussions seem to the writer to have no value. Anyone who cares to look up the 'Westminster Review of the fifties and sixties, will find the same kind of arguments and doubts, though that magazine will not reveal such a naïve blending as this: 'He seems to believe in the objectivity, in the reality of Space and Time; in the essential existence of the bodily individual; in the actual existence of an external material world; in the freedom of the Will; in the absolute nature of right and wrong; in the inexplicability of the problem of the origin of evil; in the extraneous operation of cause; in the positive persistence of physical forces; in the possibility, at all events, of a future life—though of what character he is careful not definitely to say.' On the other hand he seemed almost destitute of a historian's chief faculty—the historical way of thinking. That made him rather a pamphleteer than a historian; for all that lay outside the narrow lines of his intense vision he failed to appreciate, and he lived so long that most things in the world changed though he did not. This lack of sympathy is most evident when he speaks of religion. ‘After all, the crux of the whole thing is this: Do they or do they not believe in the Book of Genesis? If they do, science is there to refute them. If they do not, if they call it a mere Allegory, then the Fall is an Allegory; if the Fall is an Allegory, the Redemption is an Allegory, the Incarnation is an Allegory. I do not see any possible way of getting over that chain of reasoning. We have at least learned to distrust such armour-plated reasonings whether used for or against any particular body of doctrines. One cause made it easier for Goldwin Smith to content himself with such a priori arguments.He was out of sympathy with the Jewish Scriptures, The writers were wild men in his eyes. 'Ezekiel ? No; Oh, Ezekiel was a raving fakir, a raving fakir. And Jeremiah does not seem to me to be much better. There is something in Isaiah. Genesis, too, gives us a certain sort of patriarchial life. But it is all too remote, too alien.' A historical way of thinking would at least have made some of those writings less alien. But, after all, these extracts are the natural expression of a mind formed while last century was young, a mind
a barely tinged by modern science, yet enough under its influence to use it against the system of thought in which he had grown up. Another characteristic that strikes the reader of these two volumes is the tenacity of his resentments. The number of times that 'Disreeli' the 'Seemite,' recurs in these books is positively tiresome. Goldwin Smith's account of the origin of Disraeli's famous attack sheds some light on the character of Smith himself.
“My letters had brought me very prominently forward, and when my policy was so signally endorsed by the cession of the Ionian Isles to Greece, it was almost like a direct blow to Disraeli, who had strenuously taken the other side. I got the better of him and he never forgot that sort of thing.
'We took opposite sides on the land question, too, and again in the objects and results of the Oxford Commissionthere, too, I got the better of him. Dizzy never forgot such things, and even some time afterward in that novel of his, what was it?'
Such clashes might well have rendered Goldwin Smith a bitter enemy, but the tougher fibre of a politician was not to be affected so easily. One may conjecture that a satirist like Disraeli could pass with difficulty a temperament so opposite to his own, a character moulded in academic retreats, but aspiring after a wider sphere of influence. The same self-consciousness appears in Smith's account of the feeling at Court about the Boer war.
'Whatever people may say to the contrary, I believe the Court was against the war. I have been in fairly close touch for many years with the Duchess of Albany-we have not corresponded directly, but through her Master of the Household, Collins.
‘At the outbreak of the war Collins wrote to me, not precisely asking my opinion, but drawing me. It was not Collins that wanted my opinion; that I knew. I gave my opinion and put it very strongly, too. I have little doubt but that it found its way to the Duchess, and through the Duchess to the centre of the Court.'
Such passages furnish a not unfair commentary on Disraeli's sketch of Goldwin Smith. Almost every characteristic noted in 'Lothair' can be detected in this short extract.
It is pleasant to turn to a subject on which Mr. Haultain sheds new light, the style of Goldwin Smith. Not that he would have accepted the word. "They talk a great deal about style, but really I hardly know what they mean. I understand ‘manner.' Carlyle had a manner, Ruskin has a manner, Jeremy Taylor has a manner. But what is "style"?'
'Style! I have no style. I merely wait till the mud settles!' From Mr. Haultain's account, the mud took a long time to settle; correction after correction was made, revise after revise was required till everything seemed right. Then possibly the printing would be stopped at the last moment to allow further alteration.
It would be easy and pleasant to quote passage after passage from Mr. Haultain's vivid little sketches of Goldwin Smith's conversation. Perhaps there is a little too much of a good thing. There is room for only one more book about Goldwin Smith, and we doubt if that can now be written. If Mr. Haultain could give a volume of Oxford anecdote and correspondence he would have some grateful readers. But the correspondence seems to have been destroyed, and few memories are vivid enough to carry us back to those days before the Commission. As for the books before us, they are rather saddening, for they deal with a life that somehow missed fulfilling its promise. Still, Goldwin Smith was to the end a valiant soldier in defence of freedom.
Accuracy is not Mr. Haultain's forte. He speaks of the Professor's pedigree being traced to 'a Bishop Smith, founder of All Souls' College, Oxford.' The sentence contains two mistakes and a serious improbability. This Bishop Smith was an Archbishop, his name was Chichele, and there is no reason to suppose that a celibate priest left descendants. Goldwin Smith is made to say 'Lord Rosebery is evidently a jurist of the Jeffreys breed. I see it stated that he was counsel for Eyre.' Surely he wrote 'Lord Halsbury.' (C. p. 381). Is it the case that Smith graduated at Oxford seven years after he matriculated ? (C. p. xxiii). Probably the writer means that he took his mastership then, a very different thing. Mr. Haultain edits with abundance of humour, as the inclusion of the following letter will show.
'I have been informed that you have achieved some success in a literary line, and as I am in search of poems that can be set to music, I take the liberty of addressing you. I wish you would kindly co-operate with me at once, for by so doing I feel confident that both of us will be materially benefited.
Therefore I ask that you send in your manuscript without further delay, for right now is the time of the year that the big music publishers of this city are looking for next season's successes.' It is a pity that there was no answer.
A. S. F.