'Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life' (8)
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THE Anti-Corn-Law League instructed the people, its organisation enabled the people to express their opinion, but it was the platform orators who inspired the opinion.  The struggle of the League lasted seven years, and cost half a million of money.  In the fourth year of its activity, Mr. Paulton stated that the League employed upward of 300 persons in making up electoral packets of tracts, and 500 other persons in distributing them among the constituencies.  In England and Scotland alone they distributed to electors 5,000,000 tracts and stamped publications, while to non-electors of the working class they distributed 3,600,000 publications.  In addition, the League had stitched up in monthly magazines and other periodicals 426,000 tracts.  The entire number of tracts and stamped publications issued by the League in the single year 1843, was 9,026,000, weighing upwards of 100 tons.

John Bright, M.P.

    Such were the business features of this famous association.  But its success came from its inspiration, and its inspiration, as I have said, came from its remarkable leaders.  Ebenezer Elliott wrote fiery rhymes for it; Gen. Thompson wrote its Catechism; George Wilson, the chairman of the League, admittedly the most efficient chairman in England during his day [organised its popular action]; James Acland, a vigorous speaker, acquainted with the people, was a sort of outrider to the League, going into market towns on market days on a white horse, perhaps as a pacific emblem, but partly as a means of drawing attention.  He took the fighting among the belligerent farmers, so that when Bright and Cobden came [here Mr. Bright changed the order of names and put Cobden first] the strength of the enemy was known, and the local stock of turbulence being expended, the peripatetic orators obtained a hearing.  Cobden mainly addressed himself to the villagers.  He foresaw the great jam industry, and predicted to mothers cheap sugar and abundant fruit preserves.  Oxfordshire cottagers tell to this day of the happy tidings their mothers brought home after listening to the League orators in the Market Place.  Bright dealt more with the landlords and farmers, into whose cold understanding he poured the hot shot of League logic.

    The League was the first body of agitators who introduced method into public meetings.  In the hour of argument in the Covent Garden Theatre, Mr. Villiers' mastery of the question was heard, his high character lending influence to the cause.  Mr. Milner Gibson, another Parliamentary voice, had a graceful and cogent eloquence which always commanded attention.  Mr. W. J. Fox, a Unitarian minister, and subsequently M.P.  for Oldham, surpassed all the orators of the League of that day in brilliance of speech.  Shorter and more rotund than Charles James Fox, he, notwithstanding, produced effects of rhetoric transcending those of his great namesake.  The term "brilliant" does not entirely describe them.  You no more thought of his appearance while he was speaking than you did of Thiers's insignificant stature.  His low, clear, lute-like voice penetrated over the pit and gallery of Covent Garden Theatre.  "You saw in the papers yesterday," he would begin, "the case of a poacher who was seized, indignantly treated, summarily tried, and sentenced to a serious term of degrading imprisonment.  If this," he exclaimed, "be the rightful treatment of the poor man who steals the rich man's bird, what ought to be done to the rich man who steals the poor man's bread?"  In words to this effect he spoke.  Men remember that argument to this day.  It constituted the first words of his speech.  He began with it.  No first words of any speech in my time ever produced the same effect upon an audience.

Richard Cobden, M.P.

    The public and the press were allured by the great names of Cobden and Bright.  Mr. Cobden, "the palefaced manufacturer," whom the landowners believed, and the farmers were persuaded to believe, was a Manchester enemy of agriculture, and a paid emissary of the Socialist insurgents of the Continent, was himself the son of a Sussex farmer, whose ambition was to die one of that class, and did so die, seeking and accepting no other distinction than that which his genius cast around his name.  He was the logician of the League.  As a master of lucid statement on the platform or in Parliament, he left no equal at his death.  When he had made a statement, he looked at it and around it, as though he saw it in the air before him.  What was deficient he supplied, what was redundant he withdrew, by putting the question in another way, in which he omitted any mischievous word, or qualified any phrase he had used which might mislead, so that he could not be misunderstood by accident, nor his meaning perverted by design.  This contributed to give the League great ascendancy, since all its adherents could quote without fear of contradiction what he said, and his speeches of one day became the authority of the next.

    Mr. Bright's was a grander, more imposing and impassioned order of eloquence.  Cobden presented the facts.  Bright put fire into them.  With the finest voice of any European orator, he displayed a measured vehemence on the platform which gave the impression of unknown power.  He was the Vulcan of the movement; he forged at red heat, and hurled the burning bolts which finally set Protection on fire.

    Finally there came the collection maker of the League, R. R. R. Moore, with a voice that fell on a meeting like the bursting of a reservoir.  It was not what he said, so much as the sound he made, that produced the effect.  The maddest clamour was not hushed—it was overwhelmed by the new roar, which was always reserved to the end of the meeting.  His function was to appeal for subscriptions, and he exactly answered that end, for when his astounding voice fell upon the meeting no one seemed to have the power of going away.  I do but describe my impressions; but here Mr. Bright remarks: ["His speeches were often logical and very good.  The description of his voice is greatly exaggerated.  He worked hard and was of great service to the League.—J. B."]

    These were the great propagandists of Free Trade Economy, who made conquest of the Premier, Sir Robert Peel, who won for himself an imperishable name, by repealing in 1846 the Corn Laws; thus "giving the people bread no longer leavened," as he proudly said, "by a sense of injustice."  Never was there such a wreck of political reputations as took place within a few years of the abolition of Protection in Corn.  Nothing happened which had been predicted by the prognosticators of disaster.  Poor lands were more cultivated than before; no stoppage of imports by war occurred; manufacturers and shopkeepers throve beyond their forefathers' dreams of prosperity; instead of rents of land falling, the aristocracy, the chief owners of it, grew rich while they slept—as they do still; and farmers found "ruin" a very pleasant thing to them.  The working classes became better instead of worse employed, and their wages in some places excite the jealousy of curates, while the agricultural labourers are at last able to insist upon improved provision for themselves.  A stimulus, inconceivable before, was given to trade; fluctuations in the price of corn decreased; apprehensions of insufficient harvests no longer excited dread, and the British race became physically one-half larger in bulk and one half heavier in weight than in the days before Cobden and Bright arose.  The victory of the Anti-Corn-Law League was the greatest ever won by reason in the history of human agitations.  Neither in piety, nor morals, nor trade are men for trusting one another.  Everybody is for protecting his neighbour from benefiting himself.  Nobody is for leaving freedom free.  The principle of progress in commerce and social life is not to limit liberty, but to limit injury.  It was the establishment of this principle in trade that caused this League to be regarded as one of the historic forces of British civilisation.

    Mr. Cobden told me one night at the House of Commons that, despite all the expenditure in public instruction, "the League would not have carried the repeal of the Corn Laws when they did, had it not been for the Irish famine and the circumstance that we had a Minister who thought more of the lives of the people than his own continuance in power."

    George Wilson was a great chairman.  In a short, strong speech he explained the position of the question (to be considered) out of doors, and the case to be submitted to the meeting.  But in conducting the meetings he was despotic.  There was no code for their regulation then in England nor now, and despotism alone brought them to an end.

    During a thousand years the theory of public meetings in England has not been revised.  In Saxon times, we are told, the wise men of the commune assembled under a tree and took counsel together.  If public meetings were limited to "wise men" in these days they would seldom be crowded.  Saxon public meetings were not so numerous but that every one could give his opinion who had an opinion to give, and the theory of the Saxon public meeting was that every one present had a right to be heard.  Upon this theory meetings to-day are held when they amount to ten thousand persons, or, as at Bingley Hall, Birmingham, when Mr. Gladstone was there, to thirty thousand.  In the days of Thomas Attwood a Newhall Hill meeting in Birmingham was held, when Daniel O'Connell spoke, at which two hundred thousand persons were present.  Had each person "stood upon his right to be heard," the meeting would have lasted a year.  Whenever disorder is intended, persons are put forward to "demand" a hearing.  The friends of the impossible "right" yell for it, and the friends of order yell against it.  The chairman all the while is as helpless as a  windmill.  When Mr. Jesse Collings, M.P., was Mayor of Birmingham, he was insulted by Tories for two hours.  They stopped the meeting over which he presided.  They had made a large drawing of the head of an ass, and suspended it from the gallery in front of Mr. Collings, loudly calling his attention to it.  At last he ordered the police to remove the asinine rioters, who indicted him for assault, which a Tory magistrate (Mr. Kynersley) sustained.  At Brighton, during the Tory Government of Mr. Disraeli, no Liberal meeting could be held for five years, because the Liberals were unwilling to physically fight the Tories who were ready with a contingent of ruffians for that kind of disturbance.  In Rochdale, when Mr. T. B. Potter was first elected, men were sent into the town, armed with sticks, to break up the meeting.  I therefore advised that thick-headed Liberals should be put in the front, and they proved to be the most valuable members of the party of order, since they could best resist the arguments of insurgent sticks.  Patriots of cranial tenuity were of no use.

    It is singular and absurd that the right of public meeting should be a boasted English institution, at which no chairman can lawfully preserve order, and the proceedings can only be regulated by riot, or by the cloture of clamour, as in the House of Commons.  The organisation of democracy is a long way off, and Liberalism is deliberate enough to reassure the most alarmed and apprehensive Toryism in the kingdom not to have established, one hundred years ago, the right of order at public meetings, and promulgated a code of procedure suitable to the conditions of modern days.  The resolutions to be proposed should be described by the Chair.  They should be few, the speakers few, and the time of each allotted and time for amendments provided and limited, and the authority of the Chair as to order should be made legal.  [27]


ABOUT 1847, two young men came to London from Oxford, not so much to seek their fortunes as to find occupation more genial than that they followed.  Still they both had the instinct of distinction in them.  One was George Hooper, who afterwards wrote, in the Reasoner, some articles under the signature of "Eugene."  He brought some knowledge of Latin to town, and continued to read the classics in his leisure, which was much to his credit.  I spoke of him to Mr. Thornton Hunt, and when the Leader was started he was assigned a place upon it.  He pursued journalism and authorship, and made himself a name in military literature.  His companion, Henry Merritt, came to reside in my house, where he continued nearly eighteen years, employing himself in picture restoration, in which he ultimately acquired skill and repute.

    His life had been one of vicissitude.  His social condition as a youth in Oxford was below hope, save by self-help.  He had been in a charity school, an errand boy about the colleges, had filled various humble and precarious situations.  In London he had been a Bohemian with art-love in his mind, honesty in his heart, and nothing in his pocket; with no patrons save a watchmaker in a passage off Drury Lane and a Jew coffeehouse keeper in the Strand, both "good fellows" in their way.

    When about Graves's shop (the printseller's) in Oxford, he had become acquainted with Mr. Delamotte, who, seeing the youth's taste, kindly gave him encouragement; and what was more valuable, he gave him instruction in art, for which Merritt was grateful all his days.  He dedicated his first book, "Dirt and Pictures Separated," thus:—

Who, when I was a boy—a stranger,
Unknown to him even by name,
Carefully and gratuitously instructed me
In the rudiments of art,
I inscribe this little Volume
With long-cherished feelings of respect.  [28]

    As he resided with me, I had opportunities of introducing him to my friends, and at times he shared invitations with me.  He occupied two rooms in my house (one being his studio), and had the use of the dining-room.  He paid seven or eight shillings then.  Sometimes he was in arrears several pounds, as I see from his account-book of that time.  When money came to hand he paid up arrears, for he was as honest in his dealings as in his work.

    When I removed to a lodge near Regent's Park, Merritt went with me by his own desire.  There he worked for two years upon the oldest picture in England, Richard II, brought there from the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey, and entrusted to him by Dean Stanley, Mr. Richmond the elder superintending its restoration.  Mr. Dennison, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and other eminent persons, oft came to witness the progress of the work.  It was a delight to me to see this picture day by day, and see the king revealed whose face no eye had seen for 150 years.  In the last century the House of Commons appointed one Captain Broome to brighten up the portrait, who knew no more of restoration than a house painter.  He put upon the panel a new portrait in which the king was lost, and a staring, treacle-faced young man appeared in his place, with a sceptre as short and stumpy as a policeman's staff.  Underneath Broome's paint was found the true presentment of the pensive, timorous king whom Shakespeare drew, holding a graceful sceptre in his hand.  Broome had forgotten that the tails of the king's ermine pointed down, and had painted them up.  The reader may see the real Richard II, in the Jerusalem Chamber now.

    As remarkable in its way is the ponderous panel on which the life-sized king was painted.  It is more than an inch thick, and is composed of three planks of oak, not only as sound as when they were sawn five hundred years ago, but as unwarped as a plane of steel.  Mr. Hans Holbein, who believed himself a descendant of his famous namesake, could not by a microscope discover the suture where the clever carpenter who made it had joined the panel.

    At the Lodge the ground rent exceeded £23, and house charges were considerable.  Merritt occupied four rooms; the two chief having folding doors, made him a spacious studio.  He took up the whole time of a servant, and the Lodge grounds were yielded to him for recreation.  Here he paid £1 a week.  Like most persons born and reared in indigence, he was alarmed at any new expense, even when he could well bear it.  He was distressed and apprehensive even at this charge, and never paid more to the end of his tenancy.  But I had other interest than profit in continuing it.  It was partly friendship—partly liking, and partly the love of seeing pictures, curious or choice, about my rooms—a pleasure otherwise unattainable by me.  It was diverting in another way to see, in the earlier years, the straits of impecuniousness in artist life.  Well I remember when at Woburn Buildings, Mr. Parrington, a friend of mine, called with a picture for Merritt to test or restore.  It happened he had no solvent of any kind by him, by which he could clean the surface or remove encrustations of varnish.  Then Mrs. Holyoake secretly sent out for what he wanted, so that the visitor might not be aware of its scarcity; for a patron with a valuable picture would be loathe to leave it if he suspected the need of the artist might lead him to pledge it.  Then when the solvents came it was found that there was no linen with which to apply or absorb them at the critical moment, when the household collection had to be drawn upon, and sent into the studio—as from a store-room where he was supposed to keep his rolls of old soft linen.

    Besides the interest of these episodes, Merritt was ordinarily excellent company to talk to, or contradict.  As Hartley Coleridge said of one of his friends:—

"Fine wit he had—and knew not it was wit
     And native thoughts before he dreamed of thinking;
 Odd sayings, too, for each occasion fit,
     To oldest sights the newest fancies linking."

    What I most honoured my friend for was his honesty in art.  By falsifying pictures, making new ones look old, and finding the signature of the master under the paint where it had never been put, inventing for a picture a pedigree and a character, he might have made money as others did, but he preferred poverty to deceit.  After many years he had his reward.  He could be trusted.  He was known to know his art; his word could be believed, and his opinion was worth money.  Connoisseurs so eminent as Mr. Gladstone in Merritt's later years consulted him.

    My brother William, Curator of the Art Schools of the Royal Academy, was useful to Merritt, as he was to others in his way; but Merritt could not paint, and therefore he could be trusted to restore.  He had colour in his blood.  He had the patience of Gerard Dow (whom Merritt was fond of citing), who was said to spend days in painting a broom.  I have seen Merritt spend days over a few inches of injured canvas, until, by careful stipling, he matched the colours, and replaced the lost tints, so that no ordinary eye could tell where the effacing fingers of neglect or decay had wrought mischief.  No one who could paint could be depended upon to take this trouble, when he could in an hour paint in the defective parts; whether such a one could do it better or worse, or as well, he would not represent the genius of the master nor restore his work.

    When we lived at No. 1, Woburn Buildings, a window overlooked the grounds of Charles Dickens, who resided then at Tavistock Place, made Merritt's working-room the best room, because it looked on trees.  On Sundays Dickens would have a friend or two in the garden, and a tray of bottled stout, "churchwardens," and tobacco would be brought from the house.  We were told that this was Dickens's protest against the doleful way of keeping Sunday then thought becoming.  Tavistock House was the one formerly occupied by "Perry of the Morning Chronicle," as he used to be described, but in my time it was divided into two houses.  One was occupied by Frank Stone the elder, who died there—a very genial person to know.  The other was occupied by Sidney Milnes Hawkes, afterwards by Mr. James Stansfield.  Mazzini was frequently there in those times.  One morning, when Dickens resided there, a person purporting to be Mazzini called, and solicited aid.  Dickens sent down a servant, who presented a sovereign on a silver tray.  The visitor took the gift with thanks.  When this came to be known to Mazzini's friends they were filled with amazement at Dickens's thoughtlessness, to say the least.  How could he imagine that a gentleman whom he had met in society, as a man of reputation for honour and self-respect, would come to his door soliciting alms, like an adventurer or an impostor? And, if he believed the applicant to be Mazzini, some inquiry, some commiseration and identification was necessary to make sure that one so eminent was suddenly in distress so abject.  Mazzini had a hundred friends who would have aided him before he need have been a suppliant at Dickens's door.

    Though he hardly knew it, Merritt had the ambition of authorship in him, but he cost me infinite trouble to make him believe it.  He began by writing for me in the Reasoner under the signature of "Christopher."  Sometimes I suggested the subjects, and revised what he wrote.  At length I urged him to write about his own profession, as nothing distinctive or readable existed upon it.  At last he wrote some chapters on the Art of Restoration.  At that time Mr. Hans Holbein, then stationmaster at Euston, was frequently at my house.  His passion was to collect all the engravings of Holbein he could afford to purchase.  He induced Merritt to call his little treatise "Dirt and Pictures Separated"—a purely technical title which could interest nobody but connoisseurs.  I added the line "in the Works of the Old Masters" to render the title more human.  At that time Merritt was not apt with his pen, but there was originality and fervour in him which showed he had literary taste.  He had read no books save odd volumes of the letters of Pope, Defoe, or an old dramatist or two, which he had picked up on second-hand bookstalls.  He had had no education save the Charity School sort—Church Catechism chiefly, which leaves a youth helpless and abject in the battle of life.  But he had the education of the streets—an excellent school for those who have sense enough to learn in it.  He knew that an acquaintance of mine who made a name as a tragedian had learned grammar from a book I had written, which he had read when he resided in the house of my sister Caroline.  I had put on the title-page of the book the words:—"No department of knowledge is like grammar.  A person may conceal his ignorance of any other art; but every time he speaks he publishes his ignorance of this.  There can be no greater imputation on the intelligence of any man than that he should talk from the cradle to the tomb, and never talk well."

    These words incited Merritt, who had the instinct of a simple and manly style in him.  Like every person of taste, he was dissatisfied with his first efforts, not only dissatisfied but dismayed and despairing, and threw his chapters on Restoration six or seven times into the fire, where they would have perished had not my wife rescued them until a more hopeful mood came to him.  Again and again they were enlarged and improved, and again thrown on the fire.  To encourage him, I induced the editor of the Leader newspaper, by my accounts of their intrinsic excellence, to publish them in the "Portfolio" of that journal, were the chief chapters first appeared.

    To this end I invented reasons to prove their insertion would be relevant, and wrote the introduction to the chapters in the Leader, and also a handbill about them, which was sent out to artisan readers in all the towns where I was in the habit of speaking.  What I said was this:—

    "The interesting discussion which several times has arisen respecting the preservation of the pictures in the National Gallery renders it necessary that every man having regard to the credit of the nation in this respect should be able to form an intelligent opinion upon pictures.

    "Hitherto this has not been practicable to the mass of the people, because nearly all works on the subject of painting are written from the professional point of view, and abound in technicalities unintelligible to the general reader.

    "Newspaper criticisms are usually written for the initiated alone.  The editor of the Leader, therefore, has thought it useful to insert a series of


which are written in popular language, and by explaining the artistic processes employed in creating a great painting, and in restoring it when unhappily damaged by accident, time, or neglect, shall enable the general reader to understand pictures and learn to appreciate them, and take part in the discussions which relate to them.

    "A great painter sheds renown on his country, and refinement on all people who have the good fortune to gaze on his work.  Taste for the fine arts is a proof of the civilisation of a nation.  English artisans would not be behind those of any on the Continent, if knowledge of the right kind was submitted to them.  The names of poets and philosophers are become household words in our land—why should not the painters become equal favourites? They would if equally well known.  If political economists and politicians attain popularity, surely the day of the great artists is come.  Raphael sounds as well as Ricardo, Titian may stand by Torrens, the canvas of Correggio is as attractive as Cobbett's Paper against Gold."

    Had the Leader not possessed that heroic sentimentality in favour of usefulness which practical men despise, Merritt's papers had never appeared.  He was paid, as I considered, liberally, but such was his nature that he was dissatisfied, although it was the first money he received for any writing, save such limited compensation as I was able to make him for his papers in the Reasoner.

    The name of the errand boy of Oxford appearing in the Portfolio of a famous journal, with those of George Eliot, Herbert Spencer, Harriet Martineau, and George Henry Lewes, was reputation.  Merritt had not the money to purchase the distinction, and could not have bought it if he had.  Yet it was not until I threatened to abandon him that he gave up his purpose of writing to the office a letter of discontent at his payment.  He was as difficult to befriend as Rousseau.  Yet his papers in the Leader were the beginning of his fortune.  He became known to connoisseurs who otherwise had never heard of him.  Mr. Boxall (afterwards Sir William) could then afford to know his Bohemian townsman.

    The chapters would have ended with the Leader had I not induced him to complete them and make a little book of them, which I printed in the "Cabinet of Reason" series, although the subject was not suited thereto.  The preface was wholly mine, and the table of the painters named in the work.  In concert with its purpose, I added here and there in the book remarks to enlist the interest of outside readers in a subject which would strike them as being alien.  The publication brought him picture clients from he provinces.  The book had a new kind of genius, and the genius was all his own.  It showed knowledge, devotion, and enthusiasm, qualities Merritt alone put into the book.


HENRY MERRITT had some delightful qualities, but he was the most timid, the most irritable and inconsistent of all the children of genius whom I have known.  He now possessed the status the Leader had given him.  Next opportunity occurred of introducing him to the Empire, set up by Mr. Livesey, the founder of Teetotalism.  The editor was John Hamilton, who had the passion of a prophet in him, and with whom I had public discussion, and for whom I had great regard.  Hamilton became editor of the Morning Star, and Merritt came to write on art in both papers.  Through the Star, he contributed for a time to the Manchester Examiner, and he went to Manchester on the occasion of an exhibition of pictures in that city.  Then I was able to give him an introduction to Mr. Stephen Pettitt of Merchants' Hotel, where he made friends and had pleasant days.  It was a pleasure to me to be useful to him.

    An intimate friend of mine on the staff of the Standard, Mr. Percy Greg, was a constant visitor at my house, and I enlisted his influence to obtain the appointment of Merritt as its art critic.  When he came home in Gallery days he was sometimes unable to write out his notes in time for the Standard the same night.  Then it fell to me to write them out for him, which involved many hours of close work.  Sometimes this occurred two or three times in a week.  For no week, even when I spent the day at the Gallery, did I receive more than £1 for work for which he received £6.  Nor should I have taken what I did had not this work prevented me from doing my own.  He would have been as ready to help me in like case.

    When, in a season of illness, he was unable to attend the Galleries, he would ask me to go and make notes for him.  Devoid of his critical knowledge of pictures, long familiarity with them enabled me to describe their features and the story the artist had told by his pencil.  Merritt found from the art notices in other newspapers, which he subsequently perused, that my reports were to be trusted.  He knew the kind of work produced by each artist who habitually exhibited.  His notices sent to the Standard, written upon my report, were confined to descriptions of the subjects and the general characteristics of the painters, reserving technical criticisms until he was able to run down to the Galleries and see for himself.  On the occasions when I went for him some droll experience befell me, such as recalled Boswell in a forgotten passage, preserved by Hazlett in his "Memoirs of Thomas Holcroft."  The comedian, who knew Boswell, records in his diary that one morning Boswell, calling on Johnson, found him writing a letter for a Mr. Lowe.  On Lowe leaving, Boswell followed him, and with insinuating professions began: "How do you do, Mr. Lowe?  I hope you are very well, Mr. Lowe.  Pardon my freedom, Mr. Lowe, but I think I saw my dear friend Dr. Johnson writing a letter for you."  "Yes, sir."  "I hope you will not think me rude, but if it would not be too great a favour you would infinitely oblige me if you would just let me have a sight of it.  Everything from that hand is so inestimable."  "It is on my own private affairs."  "I would not pry into any person's affairs, my dear Mr. Lowe, by any means.  I am sure you would not accuse me of such a thing, only if it were no particular secret."  "Sir, you are welcome to read the letter."  I thank you, my dear Mr. Lowe; you are very obliging.  I take it exceedingly kind" (having read it).  "It is nothing, I believe, Mr. Lowe, that you would be ashamed of."  "Certainly not!"  "Why, then, my dear sir, if you would do me another favour, you would make the obligation eternal.  If you would but step to Peele's coffee-house with me, and just suffer me to take a copy of it, I would do anything in my power to oblige you."  "I was overcome," said Lowe, "by this sudden familiarity and condescension, accompanied with bows and grimaces.  I had no power to refuse; we went to the coffeehouse, my letter was presently transcribed, and as soon as he had put his document in his pocket, Mr. Boswell walked away as erect and as proud as he was half an hour before suppliant, and I ever afterwards was unnoticed."  Lowe added that he was left to pay for the coffee he had ordered to give Boswell opportunity of copying his letter.

    A countryman of Boswell's, one of the habitual critics of the Galleries, knew me well, and would come to me in the most desultory way, with cordial greetings and incidental inquiries as to "what paper I wrote for," "why was I there," and "whom did I represent."  I then wrote for three papers, but not upon art subjects.  "Did I write art notices for them?"  he would inquire.  "Merritt writes for the Standard, does he not?  Is he here?"  Beguiled by cordial familiarity, I incautiously said "my friend was unwell, and I was looking round for him."  Immediately he mentioned in the paper for which he wrote—the Reader—that Mr. Merritt's criticisms in the Standard were done by another hand.  This would have given great pain to Merritt, whom my questioner knew and for whom he always expressed the greatest regard.  Had the treacherous information come under the eyes of the Standard, it might have cost my friend his appointment.  When the inquisitive critic next put his familiar question to me, I said "his solicitude was very interesting, but I observed he never prefaced his inquiries by informing me what he was doing and for what paper he was writing."  His curiosity there and then ceased.  I suspected him of seeking Merritt's place.  Of course I kept the incident from Merritt, and kept the Reader out of his sight.

    Mr. Merritt remained art critic of the Standard until the time of his death.  His criticisms were written on a theory we had often discussed; it was that of subordinating merely technical criticism, giving mainly an animated description of the character of the pictures and design of the painter, with his characteristics as an artist.  By limiting technical criticism to such points as were necessary for the connoisseur and picture buyer, and describing in what respect the pictures were additions to the scenic glory of art, his notices were always, and are still, readable, and they sent more persons to the Galleries to see the pictures for themselves than any other art criticisms of his time.  Art critics mostly wrote not to interest the public in art, but to show off their skill as critics; just as most books on education are written, not to explain difficulties to uninformed students, but to show how much the author is better informed than his rival teachers.  Always distrustful of his own work, Mr. Merritt cast aside his criticisms after they appeared.  I kept copies of them all, and made them up into four volumes, which he afterwards was glad to refer to and show.

    "Robert Dalby and his World of Troubles," Merritt's best work, I copied out several times for him.  The "Oxford Professor," which he never finished, I was to re-write for him, just so far as to show him my idea how it should be treated.  In everything I did for him, I did but polish the diamond: the diamond was his, not mine.  Merritt had no inside life.  In description of outside life he had genius.  Separate passages were perfect and inimitable.  He attained a spontaneous grace which change could only mar.  This needs no testimony, since Mr. Ruskin wrote to him:—

    "You have given great pleasure to Carlyle by your report, and you always give much to me whenever you write to me.  I have no other friend who says such pretty things to me, in a way that reminds me of the little courtesies of old days, when people were graceful by kind act in a letter as much as in a quadrille, and when flattery was the naughtiest of one's faults to one's friends—never carelessness."

    In later years, when we were still home companions, Merritt's health became precarious.  For two years his life was a daily uncertainty.  The whole household was absorbed in attending upon him.  Often I rose once or twice in the night, and went to his room to see if he were alive, or needed aid.  After he had left me, he was again in danger, and when he became delirious I sat up all night with him.  When his death occurred I wrote a solicitous letter to the editor of the Standard to procure the art criticship for one to whom he had left his fortune, as I was always willing to serve any one whom a friend of mine befriended.

    Merritt never married until within a few weeks of his death.  Though a Bohemian in freedom and precariousness, he was Bohemian in nothing else; yet all his life his most amusing satire had been upon the peril and subjection of marriage, and he could not bear to tell me or any one that he had married.  On his death I made it known in the papers, that she whom he had married might not be exposed to incredulity, for none of his friends would have otherwise believed in his marriage.  The last time I saw him, scarcely a fortnight before he died, he besought me to come to him soon, as he had many things to tell me.  He said that in his will he had left small bequests of £50 each to two of my children, but he should arrange to fulfil another promise he had often made.  I received a telegram from a common friend summoning me from the country, as he was in great danger.  I at once returned, but he was in other hands, and no opportunity occurred to me of seeing him again.  He had no idea that his days would be so short, and thought he had time to do everything he meditated.  He bequeathed shortly before his death several thousand pounds which he had honourably earned, and never doubted that he should earn more for his own use.

    After his death, what purported to be a "Memoir" of him appeared by persons who had not known him long, and were unacquainted with the circumstances of his life, in which it was said that "the persons with whom he lived shared the benefits of his increased earnings."  Again, "It was touching to see how often he supplied one family especially who depended upon him for every comfort with the means of that enjoyment in the country or by the sea-shore, while he remained at home literally to work for them."  A reference to Merritt's friend and townsman, George Hooper, was still worse.  Mr. Basil Champneys, the editor of the book, vouches that these things" are done with perfect tact and graphic fidelity."  I attempted to obtain some correction of these statements from the editor and the publisher, but found I had no resources to obtain it legally, and expectation of its being done from a sense of justice there was none.  Besides my family, some eminent friends in London and many friends elsewhere who would see the book, knew of Merritt's long residence with me, and that these references related to me.  After fourteen years there comes to me this opportunity of correcting them.

    Merritt had all the irascibility of the artist, but he was honourable and truthful at heart, and would have been very wild had he lived to see these statements made in his name.  All the years he resided with me we seldom went to the country or seaside but we took him with us, increasing our expenses to which for many years he was unable to contribute his share.  His querulousness with our friends always embittered our days, and made us glad when the unpleasantness ended.  To do him justice, he regretted this, but could not help it, and he strove to make amends in his way.  I used to say to him he was like Dr. Johnson's good-natured, angry man—"he spent his time in injury and reparation."  When he came to acquire means of his own he became more insupportable, and, as his income was good, I besought him to take apartments elsewhere.  He wrote to me saying "I was killing him, as I had given him nineteen notices to leave my house."  Were I "living upon him," it was very injudicious in me to beseech him "nineteen times" to do me the favour of going away.  To mitigate the tone of my request, I used to repeat the lines of Martial—

"In all thy humours, whether grave or mellow,
 Thou'rt such a touchy, testy, pleasant fellow,
 Hast so much wit and mirth and spleen about thee,
 That there's no living with thee nor without thee."

But I could "live without him," and I had ceaseless relief when I recovered the control of my house.

    He did leave at length, but my personal regard for him never changed, nor his for me.  Not long before his death he wrote to my friend Major Bell, saying, "It is nearly thirty years since my friendship for Holyoake commenced, and it is not likely to terminate till death."

    When a person has arrived at years of discretion (some arrive very late, I am afraid: I have not reached that period yet), he sees many things which were always palpable, but which he did not observe until experience opened his eyes.  Then he sees irritating things dispassionately.  Many times I have tried to analyse the complex character of my artist friend.  I often say of the inhabitants of a famous town which I know well, that God has given to them more humility and more pride than He has vouchsafed to any other collection of His creatures.  Merritt was not born on the Tyne, but he had these qualities.  He had an insatiable expectancy of the recognition by others of qualities he disclaimed having.  Charles Lamb excelled all English humourists in the American wit of exaggeration.  When, he said, Coleridge met him on his way to the India House and took him by the button to discourse to him, he, with his penknife, deftly released himself, and on returning in the evening found Coleridge still holding the button, preaching to it.  No one misunderstood Lamb, who merely put a halo round a fact which he left palpable.  Merritt, with less than Lamb's art and genial restraint, had the bright gift of enlargement, and misled, without meaning it, those who did not know him.

    We say of some men that they are nervous, meaning all the while that they have no nerves.  Merritt had none.  But, in lieu of them, he had a set of organised electric filaments, which, the moment you touched him with a harmless phrase, gave you a shock.  He was the first person in whom I observed supernatural sensitiveness, who, starting at the slightest reflection upon himself, would say habitually things which it exceeded mortal self-respect to tolerate.  In those moods you avoided him, and forgave him because it was his nature, to which he had never taught restraint.  When he became eminent he kindly undertook to teach my eldest son his art.  It was a distinction to be his pupil.  But, with frequent kindness, there were outbursts of imputation which imperilled manliness itself to submit to.  I have seen his best physician refuse further to attend him in consequence of his porcupine episodes.  Yet, being just at heart, he would, like Carlyle, speak generously of the same persons, and, if others disparaged them, would defend them with many a bright and graceful phrase.  Merritt thought that no one would remember what he never meant.  Had I not known what heredity and circumstances do for all of us, I should have had sharp and permanent contempt, where I had only compassion and forbearance.  Pained as an honourable man is that his nature should so betray him against those whom he regards, Merritt made, when he had means, what reparation he could by gifts.  These he made to persons in whom I was interested, which was his way of giving me (as he thought) pleasure.  In vain I besought him not to do it.  For myself, I never had any gift from him, nor did I seek one, and he knew it.  Thus in some instances he destroyed my natural authority by attracting expectation to himself, and left me a legacy of mischief which made me say on one occasion that Merritt with the best intention brought great misery on others and requited some one else.  His friendship was a pleasure to me and a misfortune.  Merritt had the elements of a noble character in him, and, counting the disadvantages which he surmounted and the eminence he attained in art and in literature, owing everything to his honesty and skill, he deserves a place in the annals of remarkable men.  A wise ancient said, "Know thyself."  Merritt did not know himself.  Of all knowledge possible to him he lacked this alone.


Ernest Jones

I OWN I have the sympathies of Old Mortality.  In my time I have perpetuated the memory of many unregarded heroes, who gave their strength, and in some cases their lives, in defence of the people who had forgotten, or who had never inquired, to whom they owed their advantages.

    Ernest Charles Jones will, however, be long remembered by Chartist generations.  He was the son of a Major Jones, of high connections, who had served in the wars of Wellington, and was at Waterloo.  He was subsequently equerry to the Duke of Cumberland, afterwards Ernest I.  of Hanover, and uncle of Queen Victoria.  Major Jones's mother was an Annesley, daughter of a squire of Kent.  His only son, Ernest, was born in Vienna, in January, 1819.  His father having an estate in Holstein, on the border of the Black Forest, Ernest Jones passed his boyhood there, and in 1830, when eleven years old, he set out across the Black Forest, with a bundle under his arm, to "help the Poles."  With a similar precarious equipment, he in after years set out to help the Chartists.  He was educated at St.  Michael's College in Luneburg, where only high-caste students were admitted, and where he won distinction by delivering an oration in German.  In 1838, he became a regular attendant at the English Court, where he was presented by the Duke of Beaufort.  He married into the aristocratic family of Gibson Atherley, of Barfield, Cumberland, the name being borne by his son Atherley Jones, now member of Parliament.  We of the Chartist times all knew the gentle lady who lived in Brompton during the dreary days of her husband's frightful imprisonment.

    In 1844, Ernest Jones was called to the Bar of the Inner Temple.  All along he had high tastes and high prospects.  Thus he was reared under circumstances which did not render it necessary that he should have any sympathy with the people.  But the inspiration of poetry came to him.  The influence of Byron may be seen in his verse.  He had no mean capacity of song.  With better fortune than befell him when he had cast his lot with Chartism, and with more leisure, he would have been a poet of mark: but he threw fortune away.  His family did not like the idea of his being a Chartist rhymer.  His uncle, Holton Annesley, offered to leave him £2,000 a year if he would abandon Chartist advocacy.  If not, he would leave the fortune to another—and he did.  Mr. Jones must have had in him elements of a valorous integrity to refuse that splendid prospect.  He knew well what he was about, and that the service of the people would not keep him in bread.  They whom he served were not able to do it—they had too many needs of their own.  He had declined his uncle's wealthy offer in terms of noble but disastrous pride, and the fortune he relinquished was given to his uncle's gardener.  Though he had chosen penury, he retained the patrician taste natural to him, and made a point of not taking payment for his speeches and addresses.  There was more pride than sense in this.  Those who consumed his days in travelling and his strength in speaking could and would have made him some remuneration.  Without it his home must be unprovided.  Making a speech has as fair a claim to payment as writing an article.  Honest oratory is as much entitled to costs as honest literature.  Mr. Jones often walked from town to town without means of procuring adequate refreshment by day or accommodation by night.  On some occasions an observant Chartist would buy him a pair of shoes, seeing his need of them.  Ernest Jones published the People's Paper—the sale of which did not pay expenses.  The sense of debt was a new burden to him.  On one occasion when I printed for him, and he was considerably in arrears, he said, "I must go to my friend Disraeli."  An hour later he returned, and handed my brother Austin three of several £5 notes.  He had others in his hand.  That politic Minister inspired many Chartists with hatred of the Whigs, whom he himself disliked, because they did not favour his circuitous pretensions; and when he found Chartists of genius having the same hatred, he would supply them with money, the better to give effect to it.  I never knew any Chartist in the habit of taking money, who took it for the abandonment of his principles; nor do I believe Disraeli ever gave it them for that purpose.  Their undiscerning hatred answered Tory ends.

    It was July, 1848, when Mr. Jones was sentenced to two years' solitary imprisonment, and to find two sureties of £100 each and himself £200 for three years after his release—for saying, "Only organise, and you will see the green flag floating over Downing Street; let that be accomplished, and John Mitchell shall be brought back again to his native country, and Sir G. Grey and Lord John Russell shall be sent out to exchange places with him."  This was simply amusing, and there was no more danger of this happening than of a flock of pigeons stopping a railway train.  In the same speech for which he was condemned, he gave the same advice to the meeting that I had given to the delegates to the Convention in the John Street Hall, on the night before the 10th of April, 1848.

    When Jones was imprisoned, it was sought to humiliate him.  The Whigs did it, but the Tories would have done the same—yet the Whigs were more bound to respect the advocates of the people.  Jones was required to pick oakum.  Being a gentleman, he refused to be degraded as a criminal.  Politics was not a crime.  In the case of Colonel Valentine Baker, the Government had just respect for a 'gentlemen; but not when the gentlemen was the political advocate of the poor, though Jones was socially superior to Baker.

    Mr. Jones was kept in solitary confinement on the silent system—enforced with the utmost rigour for nineteen months.  He complied with all the prison regulations, excepting oakum picking.  That he steadfastly refused, as he would never bend himself to voluntary degradation.  To break his firmness on this point he was again and again confined in a dark cell and fed on bread and water.

    When suffering from dysentery, he was put into a cell in an indescribable state from which a prisoner who died from cholera had been carried.  It may be reasonably assumed that it was intended to kill him.  The cholera was then raging in London, and, had Jones died, no question would have been asked.  Still the authorities never succeeded in making him pick oakum.

    In the second year of his imprisonment he was so broken in health that he could no longer stand upright, and was found lying on the floor of his cell.  Only then was he taken to the hospital.  He was told, if he would petition for his release and abjure politics, the remainder of his sentence would be remitted.  This he refused, and he was sent back to his cell.  Let anyone consider what those two dreary years of indignity, brutality,  peril, and solitude must have been to a man like Ernest Jones—nervous, sanguine, ambitious, with his fiery spirit, fine taste, and consciousness of great powers—and restrain if he can admiration of that splendid courage and steadfastness.  Unregarded, uncared for, he maintained his self-respect.  Thomas Carlyle went to look at the caged Chartist through the bars of his prison, and increased, by his heartless and contemptuous remarks, public indifference to the fate of the friendless prisoner.  Carlyle wrote: "The world and its cares quite excluded for some months to come, master of his own time, and spiritual resources to, as I supposed, a really enviable extent."  This shows that, like meaner men, Carlyle could write without facts, or even inquiring for them.  Ernest Jones, "master of his own time," had to pick oakum, or spend his days in a dark cell.  Thus his "spiritual resources" were limited.  He was refused a Bible even, and had to write with his blood.  His "really enviable" condition was that of knowing that his wife was ignorant whether he was dead or alive, and he was denied the knowledge what fate in the cholera season had befallen her or his children, for whom no provision existed.

    In his savage imprisonment he did write poems, but it had to be done with his own blood—not from sensationalism, but from necessity, pen and ink being denied him.  Undaunted, he returned on his liberation to his old advocacy of the people.  Mr. Benjamin Wilson, of Salterhebble, Halifax, who knew Jones well, has given many facts not before known of his career in the "Struggles of Old Chartists."

    Ernest Jones and I were associated in Chartist agitation while it lasted.  I was a visitor at his fireside at Brompton.  Mrs. Ernest Jones, a lady of great refinement, shared the vicissitudes of his Chartist days, which shortened her own.  Mr. Jones left London in 1859, and went to Manchester with a sad heart.  Practice at the Bar had to be won.  One night, after attending the court at Leeds, he was met by Mr. Moses Clayton, who found he had no home to go to.  A home was found him at Dr. Skelton's, and a brief also next day.  He had come to the resolution that night that he would see no morning.  Afterwards better fortune came to him.  He had the chance of being member for Dewsbury.  He was nearly elected member for Manchester, and the reversion of the seat to him was likely when he suddenly died.  His grand energy, fatigue, and exposure killed him.  Had he reached Parliament, he had all the qualities which promised a great career there.  Shortly before his death he spent some hours with me in my chambers in Cockspur Street, overlooking Trafalgar Square, discussing a favourite theory of his—the manner in which an actor on the stage of the world should quit it.*

    In every workshop in Great Britain, in mine and mill, and in other lands where his name was familiar, there was sadness when his death was known.  His friend in many a conflict, George Julian Harney, sent from America to the Newcastle Daily Chronicle an impassioned account of the effect of the news on him as he read it in a telegram in Boston.

    Mr. Jones had a strong musical voice, energy and fire, and a more classic style of expression than any of his compeers in agitation.  When he spoke at the grave of Benjamin Rushton of Ovenden, he began:—"We meet to-day at a burial and a birth—the burial of a noble patriot is the resurrection of a glorious principle.  The foundation stones of liberty are the graves of the just; the lives of the departed are the landmarks of the living; the memories of the past are the beacons of the future."

    Despite his popular sympathies and generous sacrifices for the people, the patrician distrust of them, now and then, broke out, as when he wrote:—

"Ill fare the men who, flushed with sudden power,
 Would uproot centuries in a single hour.
 Gaze on those crowds—is theirs the force that saves?
 What were they yesterday?—a horde of slaves!
 What are they now but slaves without their chains?
 The badge is cancelled, but the man remains."

    There is some truth in these lines.  The abatements I take to be these:—1.  You can't "uproot centuries" if you try.  2.  The "crowds" are always better than they look.  3.  The "slaves" are always free in spirit long before they get rid of "their chains." 4.  When the "badge is cancelled," the "man" who "remains" generally turns out a gladsome, practical creature.

    In the nobler vein which so well became him, he vindicated with a poet's insight his own career:—

"Men counted him a dreamer?  Dreams
 Are but the light of clearer skies—
 Too dazzling for our naked eyes.
 And when we catch their flashing beams
 We turn aside and call them dreams.
 Oh! trust me every thought that yet
 In greatness rose and sorrow set,
 That time to ripening glory nurst,
 Was called an 'idle dream' at first."

    Mr. Morrison Davidson has published the most comprehensive sketch of the career of Ernest Jones which has appeared, and a noble volume might be made of his poems, speeches and political writings.  Because he opposed middle-class projects and broke up their meetings, little attention was paid to his views by those who would have been most impressed by them.  Before their day he was as well informed as Karl Marx or Henry George on questions of capital and land, and held eventually wider views of co-operation than were advocated in his time.  It would have been economy to mankind to have pensioned Ernest Jones, that he might have devoted his genius to oratory, literature, and liberty.

    Those of this generation who have not in their memory any instance of Ernest Jones's eloquence, may see it in the following passage from his Lecture on the Middle Ages and the Papacy.

“You have been told that the Church in the Dark Ages was the preserver of learning, the patron of science, and the friend of freedom.  The preserver of learning in the Dark Ages! It was the Church that made these ages dark.  The preserver of learning! Yes, as the worm-eaten oak chest preserves a manuscript.  No more thanks to them than to the rats for not devouring its pages.  It was the Republics of Italy and the Saracens of Spain that preserved learning—and it was the Church that trod out the light of those Italian Republics.  The patron of science! What? When they burned Savonarola and Bruno, imprisoned Galileo, persecuted Columbus, and mutilated Abelard? The friend of freedom! What? When they crushed the Republics of the South, pressed the Netherlands like the vintage in a wine-kelter, girdled Switzerland with a belt of fire and steel, banded the crowned tyrants of Europe against the Reformers of Germany, and launched Claverhouse against the Covenanters of Scotland? The friend of freedom! When they hedged kings with a divinity! Their superstitions alone upheld the rotten fabric of oppression.  Their superstitions alone turned the indignant freeman into a willing slave and made men bow to the Hell they created here by a hope of the Heaven they could not insure hereafter.  There is nothing so corrupt that the Papacy has not befriended, and but one gleam of sunshine flashes across the black picture, in the architecture of its churches, the painting of its aisles, and the music of its choirs."

Note:  After his death an "Ernest Jones Fund " was proposed.  Lord Armstrong, then Sir William, sent two guineas to the Punch office, which was sent to me for the Fund.


THE Liberals of Leicester had sent deputations to London in support of Mr. Bradlaugh, who was excluded from his seat in Parliament on the ground of atheistical opinions, which were held to disqualify him from taking the oath.  The appearance at the bar of another member equally disqualified to make oath would have strengthened the argument for affirmation.  A vacancy occurring at that time in the representation of the borough, I offered myself as a candidate.  My primary qualification consisted in my being the only public man in England—not a Quaker—who on no occasion and for no private or public advantage had ever taken an oath.  I made it clear that, if chosen as member for Leicester, I should take no oath either by speech or pantomime, nor profane the oath in the opinion of men of Christian conviction, by solemnly repeating words which indicated no corresponding belief in my mind.  But if any tribunal, exacting the oath and knowing my opinions, treated the oath as a mere secular undertaking of good faith, there would be neither profanity nor deceit in taking it, though there would be repugnance in using a form of words otherwise disingenuous, ambiguous, and misleading.

    Apart from this question, the chances were against me, as I had been long known as one having decided views on public questions; whereas the most presentable candidates are men who have spoken no word of principle—written no books—made no effort—taken no side—professed no principle—helped in no contest—shared in no sacrifice—served in no forlorn hope.  Men who have done nothing, who are uncommitted to anything, and upon whom no one has any reason to depend, are the candidates mostly chosen.  The cowards who kept on the outskirts of the field while the fight was going on—all the supine and superfine, who sat before the cosy fire with their feet upon the fender, while the combatants were out in the tempest—find laid at their feet the spoils of progress which others have won.

    As to my professions, I said I was no Tory Radical, professing to be more "advanced" than anybody else, and helping the enemy on every occasion.  I was no Social Democrat, offering the people comfort as a charity instead of putting in their hands the right and means of commanding it by honest effort.  I was no reformer by confiscation.  I was not a Liberal who would trust, without conditions, the wise with the fortunes of the many, nor the many with the fortunes of the wise, nor set one against the other—but would charge both equally with responsibility for the honour and welfare of the State.  I followed the path of the great Minister who brought in our new Franchise Bill.  All other Ministers bringing in Reform Bills have studied how many they could exclude from it.  Mr. Gladstone has been the first Minister who has studied how many he could include in it.  I am for trusting the Minister who trusts the people, and for supporting with my vote that foreign policy which is just without sentimentality—brave without swagger—which keeps faith with treaties adversaries have made—fights with English courage for English honour, and does not knowingly murder for prestige.

    Mr. Herbert Spencer's opinions on Parliament were published at the Leicester election.  He, being a thinker and an opinion maker, was well fitted for Parliamentary service.  He, however, declined, as he was for individuality and for independence of the views of constituencies.  On Mr. Spencer's principle every man would have his will and nobody have his way.  He thought "the influence possessed by members of Parliament" was rated too high—the representative being too "subject to his constituents."  Mr. Spencer held that "laws were practically made out of doors and simply registered by Parliament."  He, like Lord Sherbrooke, regarded the duties of the delegate as merely mechanical.  Yet could there be a nobler function discharged or nobler office filled than that of explaining the opinions of those who had no other way of being heard save by the mouth of their member?  Is a member a machine because he is a delegate?  Where is there such a delegate as a judge upon the bench? His instructions are not merely given by word of mouth, or at a poll, but discussed in Parliament, fixed with strictness and printed in books; so that the instructions of a judge are so defined that, when perfect, he can neither misunderstand nor misinterpret them.  And yet is there not scope on the Bench for the greatest forensic genius?  If a delegate to Parliament was confined as a judge is, he would have ample scope for his independence and individuality.  But there is a much wider margin in Parliament.  Many who were prominent in smaller circles, as in the Vestry or Town Council, found themselves powerless in Parliament, because there was required more art and persuasiveness—there a man has to see farther, to hear more, to understand better, to master all the points pertaining to a question, to accord regard to the convictions of others, and present a question in a light so clear, and with arguments so conclusive, that he can create conviction on the side of public justice.  There is no assembly in the world where there is greater room for the display of the highest powers in representing a constituency, interpreting its views, maintaining them when assailed, and, when need demands, storming the fortresses of the enemy.

    There were in Parliament several members disqualified like myself by conviction from taking the oath, and Leicester was the one town most likely to be desirous of opening a door through which an honest man might enter the House of Commons without humiliation.  It proved not to be so, and thus my candidature ended.


ENGLAND has often been enriched by the inventive genius of industrial exiles who have sought our shores for religious liberty.  Not less has it been indebted to political exiles, who, seeking freedom here, extended it by their teaching and exalted it by their example.

Louis Kossuth, Hungarian patriot

    Kossuth was the chief of the few foreigners who took at once a high place as a public speaker in a new tongue.  No sooner had he landed than he appeared as an English orator, displaying not only mastery but imposing force.  Neither Bright nor Gladstone had then attained like ascendency on the platform, and Joseph Rayner Stephens, who might be compared with Kossuth for his mastery of tongues, was silent.  Since Kossuth's day only one orator has with the same suddenness engaged public imagination—Joseph Cowen.  But Kossuth's distinction was the greater because he spoke in a tongue foreign to him.  And what was not less striking, his reputation was as much owing to what he said as to his manner of saying it.  In his speech on Poland he said: "In the public life of nations, never is anything accidental.  There everything is cause and effect.  An act of political morality can never be neglected with impunity.  Every such neglect is fraught with the necessity of atoning it with sacrifices, increasing step by step, which, however, never will remedy the evil, unless the wrong occasioned by that neglect be redressed.  In politics a fault is equivalent to a crime, and no false political step can ever escape punishment."

    In speaking in the House of Legislation, Ohio, Kossuth said: "The spirit of our age is democratic.  All for the people and all by the people.  Nothing about the people without the people.  That is Democracy."  The conception of the popular aspiration and the idiomatic expression of it are alike remarkable.  He instructed as well as declaimed.  In Kossuth's speeches you found definition as in Paine or John Stuart Mill, which is rare in popular orators and writers.

    I published Kossuth's oration on the "Independence of Poland," delivered in Sheffield, June, 1854; but his speeches on the "War in the East" and "The Alliance with Austria," delivered in Sheffield and Nottingham the same year, were "published by himself."  They were printed by Tucker, Perry Place, Oxford Street, and sold by him.  As Kossuth had no place of business, he could not "publish by himself."  Probably, by saying so, he merely meant to indicate that they appeared by his authority.  Louis Blanc was long resident in this country.  He Spent twenty years of exile among us, and understood men and things in England, our politics and prejudices, and more faithfully interpreted them to the French people than any other exile who ever dwelt in England save Mazzini.  Mr. G. W. Smalley, an American, not an exile, has excelled in the same art.  Kossuth, on the other hand, sometimes entertained suspicions which fuller information would have made impossible.  An attempt to serve him would seem to him, as it did to Weitling, something very different.  Foreigners as a rule are liable to suspicion, but Kossuth was so distinguished for cosmopolitan attainments that anything ordinary became noticeable in him.

Louis Blanc

    In another respect, not of contrast, but of similarity, Kossuth may be compared with Louis Blanc.  Kossuth was regarded as a man of flexible principles, yet, like Blanc, he proved to have inflexibility to a degree unforeseen.  Kossuth lacked the penetration of Mazzini, and put such trust in Louis Napoleon as to enter into negotiation with him when he was Emperor; yet he preferred to live an exile rather than acknowledge an order of things in his own country he disapproved.

    Louis Blanc was distrusted because the policy of French Republicanism which he espoused was deemed materialistic.  I published the manifesto of Kossuth, Ledru Rollin, and Mazzini, and also Louis Blanc's "Reply" thereto.  Yet Louis Blanc possessed an inflexibility on questions of principle as austere as Mazzini himself.  He was many times besought to return to Paris, and offers of a Parliamentary seat were made, to which he answered—

    "Duty could only call me to Paris to take part in Parliamentary struggles, if the electors should assign me a post.  But this post no power on earth can make me occupy, so long as I must needs, in order to do so, take an oath which is not in my heart.

    "Do the people really wish to be the sovereign?  Let them elect those who refuse to take the oath; let them elect them, not in spite of, but because of their refusal."

    These sentiments are all the more remarkable since few public men in England have expressed them or acted upon them.

    This resolution was as noble as the warning was wise, and Louis Blanc remained an exile until Sedan swept the false Emperor away.  His exile lasted twenty years.  I knew him from the beginning to the end, during his residence in London and Brighton.  It was said of him, and of his distinguished but more demonstrative brother Charles, that Charles was a reed painted like iron, while Louis was iron painted like a reed.  This was true.  Beneath Louis Blanc's passionless cordiality lay impassable determination, which neither profit, nor applause, nor obscurity, nor neglect could divert from honest principle.  Though a small man, smaller than the First Napoleon, he had none of the self-assertion by which little people often seek to conceal their diminutiveness.  Louis Blanc was a self-possessed man, and, alike when he conversed or spoke on the platform, you never thought of his stature under the boldness of his tones and his commanding gesture.

    He ranked among the great political historians of France.  Like M. Thiers, he made history a stepping-stone to power.  The "History of the Consulate and the Empire" led to Thiers becoming a statesman; and the "History of Ten Years" mainly inspired the Revolution of 1848, and made Louis Blanc a member of the Provisional Government.  Unlike Ledru Rollin, whom he resembled in a noble irreconcilability, Louis Blanc had literary genius and capacity for statesmanship, which consists in understanding what measures are best conducive to the greatest happiness of the greatest number, and acting with large toleration.  Blanc continued to maintain his influence as a commanding force in French politics until his death.  It seemed as though all Paris followed him to the tomb.  Since the burial of Thiers so great a concourse had not marched to a tomb until Hugo died.  I was proud to be one of his English friends invited by Louis Blanc's family to follow him to his grave.

    Ledru Rollin was another exile of note who had a singular career.  When he did return to France, another generation had grown up, to whom he was unknown.  Exile is a fatal power in the hands of tyranny: since it not only kills influence, it kills reputation.  Louis Blanc having literary powers, his pen kept his name before his countrymen.  Rollin's power was in the courts, on the platform, and in the Senate.  Exile destroyed it.  Mazzini said of him that he was the only Frenchman who gave up a public position and sacrificed himself for the welfare of a country not France, and for a cause not French.  He incurred exile by his generous championship of the cause of Italy.  He was what he appeared in Madame Venturi's painting of him—of manly bearing, of conscious power, yet withal unobtrusive in manner.  That Barthelemy—a duellist whom some regarded as a murderer, and who was eventually hanged at Newgate for an undoubted murder—was hostile to the famous tribune is proof that he was less extreme than he was taken to be.  Some politicians speak better than they act: Rollin acted more wisely than he spoke.  The Royalist press of England decried him because of the title of a book he published some time after his arrival in England—"The Decadence of England."  That work contained nothing but what we knew—nothing but what we had said ourselves.  Had the great Republican lawyer entitled his volume, "Extracts from the Morning Chronicle," or "England drawn by Horace Mayhew," or the "Fall of the English Foretold by Themselves," any one of these titles would have expressed the character of the work.  But because the author employed another title, the public were incited to take offence at the book.  Six out of every seven titles of books have no relation to their contents.

Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin

    The sagacious French jurist, no doubt, saw signs of decadence in England, in aristocratic incumbrance.  With the millstone of noble incompetence hanging round the neck of the nation, he might well think Britain was going to sink "ten thousand fathoms deep."  What Ledru Rollin could not see was that England has the power of renewing its youth.  The Sindbad of Britain will not carry the Old Man of Privilege on its back for ever.  Soaring, it will drop the aristocratic tortoise on some well-chosen rock, and smash it.  Rollin thought he saw the old English lion stuffed with cotton.  The noble brute who, in the days of Cromwell, could roar until he made the isles resound and Europe reverberate, seemed turned into a puff-bellied, flaxen-hearted old beast, whose lungs were a pair of steam-boilers, his breath condensed vapour, his molars spinning jennies, and his royal old tail a horizontal factory chimney.  With these signs before him, Ledru Rollin might conclude the English nation was declining.

    When the recruiting sergeant went to Manchester and Preston, did he not find the men too stunted to reach the standard and too weak to wield a sword? The race had been spun up in Jacquard looms.  Many who condemned Ledru Rollin's book hastened to abolish these signs of the decline of manhood in our manufacturing towns.  We needed a foreigner to tell us this fact which our own statesmen did not see, or did not own, and did not alter, and have not done it wholly yet.


BEFORE mentioning those who are the chief subjects of this chapter, I cite two who will have no other biographer.  One is Allan Davenport, known at the beginning of this century as an enthusiastic advocate of the Spencerian system—not the new one of Herbert Spencer, but his of agrarian repute.  Davenport wrote verse.  His last publication he dedicated to me.  I remember it, because it was the first time that distinction came to me.  The poet was thin, and pale, and poor.  He lived about the East End, was known at every workman's political meeting, and any surplus over his personal needs arising from his daily labour, was spent in publications giving information to men of his order, whom he sought to serve.

    The other was John Weston—the thinnest, wiriest, gentlest, yet most ardent, prompt, and demonstrative of working-class politicians.  There was nothing of him save his voice and his ceaseless energy.  He was a workman who owed everything to himself.  He was a cow-boy and a page-boy in his youth, and at last hand-rail maker—a trade he learned himself.  And no man knew it better, or so well, for he wrote a book upon it,, which is an authority in the trade.  He lived to be seventy-two, working ten to twelve hours a day at the bench, and making speeches when evening came.  With the independence which only a good workman can afford to show, he carried his principles into every house, high or low, where he went, and gave his opinions upon public questions to the noblest employer who fell into conversation with him.  He stood none of the Imperialistic Communism and State Socialism of Carl Marx, but confronted that master of agitation, and carried resolutions against him.  Whatever good movement was on foot anywhere in the metropolis, Weston was soon in it, if, indeed, he were not there first; and yet there were more home difficulties in his way, of the Zantippe type, than any man save Socrates had to encounter.  But no discomfort deterred him.  Of all men of gentle spirit I have known he was the fiercest worker: a jelly fish in speech, he was dynamite in action.  He had the genuine passion of progress which brings good to others, but only gratitude and poverty to those who have it.

    Those who look back fifty years usually remember a few persons among working-class politicians of whom they find no parallel at the present day.  In diplomacy, in oratory, indeed in every department of human professions or trades, some observe the same thing.  Fifty years hence, people will look back upon these days and distinguish a few men in every class who surpassed all others in conspicuousness of service, manifesting qualities unlike any of their compeers.  The reason is that there is excellence in every generation, but not of the same kind.  The Quintin Matzys and Benvenuto Cellinis have been superseded by machinery; but the genius which conceives the wonderful machines that now do the work of the world is but another form of genius, and surpasses in its way anything which preceded it.  Henry Hetherington, Richard Moore, and James Watson, three working-class politicians, had remarkable qualities not common now, though no doubt there are men of this day as remarkable in relation to their time and the, new work now requiring to be done.

    Henry Hetherington was a Londoner, being born in Compton Street, Soho, 1792.  He was apprenticed to the father of Luke Hansard, the Parliamentary printer.  For some time he worked in Belgium.  In London he was the most energetic working man who assisted Dr. Birkbeck in establishing Mechanics' Institutions.  Though then a Radical politician, he was desirous that working men should have knowledge—the better to use the increase of freedom they were then seeking.  In 1830 he was chosen by his Radical colleagues to draw up the "Circular for the Formation of Trades Unions," out of which arose the National Union of the Working Classes; and out of that union arose Chartism.

    In 1831, Hetherington commenced to print and publish his famous unstamped paper, the Poor Man's Guardian, at one penny, when newspapers were sixpence and ninepence each.  This was the first messenger of popular and political intelligence which reached the working classes.  Three convictions were soon obtained against him.  He was imprisoned for six months and again imprisoned for six months.  The names of "Hetherington, Watson, and Cleave" were in the mouths of every newsvendor and mechanic in the three kingdoms, Hetherington's name being always mentioned first.  On the title-page of the Poor Man's Guardian appeared the candid but perilous words, "Published in defiance of the law, to try the power of right against might."  This was not a profitable business.  He had to leave his shop disguised, and return to it disguised—sometimes as a Quaker, a waggoner, or a costermonger.  After one of his flights he returned to London to see his dying mother, when a Bow Street runner seized him as he was knocking at the door.  To distribute his paper, dummy parcels were sent off by persons instructed to make all resistance they could to constables who seized them, and in the meantime real parcels were sent by another road.  His shopmen were imprisoned, his premises entered, his property taken, and men were brought into the house by constables who broke up, with blacksmith's hammers, his press and his type; as the reader has seen recounted in the chapter, "The Trouble with Queen Anne."

    In 1840 he was sentenced to four months' imprisonment for publishing "Haslam's Letters to the Clergy"—a performance which would not disquiet General Booth, and which Mr. Spurgeon would dismiss with the feeble censure of being a "down grade" book.  Hetherington defended himself, Lord Denman saying he had "listened to him with sentiments of respect."  Acting on the militant advice of Francis Place, Hetherington indicted Moxon for publishing Shelley's works, when Serjeant Talfourd discovered that the power of indicting gentlemen for publishing the works of gentlemen "was a fearful engine of oppression," which led eventually to restriction being put upon that "right of action" dear to the clerical mind.  He died in London, 1849, of cholera, through trusting to his habitual temperance and distrust of medical aid.  At his burial at Kensal Green, 2,000 persons assembled, and I made the first funeral oration it fell to me to deliver.  I spoke from the tomb of "Publicola" of the Weekly Dispatch, who had oft defended Hetherington in the dark days of conflict.  Hetherington had a strong, honest voice and genial manners.  He was the first trade unionist who told his colleagues that the co-operative workshop was the bulwark of the strike, and that they were not to rob any class, but take care no class robbed them—or, as Carlyle put it later, "Thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not be stolen from."

James Watson

    James Watson was a Malton man (Yorkshire), distinguished as a Radical and Liberal publisher by integrity, courage, and a Puritan inflexibility of character.  He came up to London to act as shopman to Richard Carlile, and underwent successive imprisonments when judges were insulting and their sentences merciless.  A magistrate being ostentatiously Christian was no guarantee of justice or civility in his time.  Becoming familiar with Mr. Owen's views, Hetherington undertook in 1828 the agency of the Co-Operative Store at 36, Red Lion Square, and in 1829 he went through Northern towns promoting the formation of co-operative, political, and free inquiry societies.  When he came to London, in 1823, it was to defend Carlile, whom he had never seen, and who was then in Dorchester Gaol.  Mrs. Carlile had just been liberated after two years' imprisonment.  Carlile's house was then 201, Strand.  For selling a copy of Palmer's "Principles of Nature," which nobody cared for then and nobody understands now, Watson was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment.  This was in 1823.  Three of his fellow-shopmen were sentenced in 1824 to three years' imprisonment.  For ten years the Government did business chiefly in sentences.  In 1825, Watson was attacked by cholera, followed by typhus and brain fever.  Julian Hibbert took him to his house at Kentish Town and nursed him eight weeks.  Watson had learned printing, and Hibbert employed him to set up a Greek work he was writing at that time.  Afterwards Hibbert gave Watson press and types, and left him 450 guineas in his will, which Watson spent in bringing out editions of forbidden books.  In 1832, when gentlemen went abroad to escape the cholera, and left a Fast Day at home for the poor, Watson was arrested for organising a public procession of protest against a Fast, when the people needed less labour and more food.  Watson and his friends Lovell and Benbow completed their "fast" in the lockup at Bow Street, which was the way to give them cholera.  In 1833 he received six months' imprisonment for selling the Poor Man's Guardian.  In 1834, within a month of his marriage, he was again subjected to six months' imprisonment.  But nothing moved him from his purpose.  To disparage these sacrifices, it was said in the hostile press that those who incurred imprisonment were tools and were unable to defend themselves.  Then they did defend themselves; when the judges made it worse for them.  Watson, Hetherington, Carlile, all who defended the right of the free publicity of Radical or unorthodox opinion, were straightforward and defiant.  Whether they fought against the Crown or the Church, they denied nothing they had done, they explained nothing away, they evaded nothing, and they never asked for mercy.  Watson published Bronterre O'Brien's "Life of Robespierre," and Babœuf's "Conspiracy," and Thomas Cooper's "Purgatory of Suicides."  I was his successor in business.

    Hetherington and Watson were friends.  Neither would accept any business which one thought the other ought to have, or would like to have.  Of the same pursuits, they engaged in the same contests, were inspired with the same ideas, worked for the same public objects.  Both suffered in the same way, for the same cause.  Both regarded the cause they represented as sacred; both had pride; both exalted their principles by their character.

    Another who did this was Richard Moore (born in London, 1810), a wood-carver in Hart Street, Bloomsbury.  He took an active part in Westminster and Finsbury politics.  He was one of the Radicals who acted under the inspiration of Francis Place.  He and James Watson married two sisters, who shared their interest in public affairs.  The People's Charter was signed by six members of Parliament and six working men.  Moore was, one of the six, and was one of the Council of the National Political Union of 1830, and of the Chartist Convention of 1839.  For twelve years he was chairman of the Association for Repealing the Taxes on Knowledge.  Though interested mainly in politics, he was, like Watson and Lovett, active in the Socialist movement of Robert Owen, in which he acquired, as others did, placability of character.  He rendered Mr. Owen aid at Gray's Inn Rooms, when Mr. Owen gave the use of his large apartment on Sundays for his friend Edward Irving to preach in, when he had been expelled from the Scotch Church, Regent's Square, for heresy.  Moore, as member of the council of the National Union, took part in opening a political newsroom on Sunday, the first time working men had the independence to do it.  Mr. C. D. Collett, in his life of Moore, relates that W. J. Fox approved of it, saying working men had as much right as gentlemen had to enter their newsroom on a Sunday.  All his life Moore worked at his trade, never seeking anything for himself.  He was unnoticed, because he had no speciality save disinterestedness, energy, and good sense.  He had no arrogance, or egotism, or bluster, which destroy political associations among the middle as well as among the working class, where enthusiasm in adherents has often been dissipated by personal ambition in leaders.  Moore was the reverse of all this.  Never swerving from well-considered principle, abating no demand which was ascertained to be just, never imperilling a claim by putting it forward in an offensive way, he persisted in it to the end.  On the way to the end, concession of some portion of the demand became oft imperative.  These he would accept, and in due time proceed with the advocacy of the remainder.

    When the Lodger Franchise Association of Finsbury closed, Moore himself discharged the balance of its expenses remaining unpaid (£20).  As he left little at his death, a presentation was made to Mrs. Moore.  Mr. Milner Gibson sent £25, Mr. Stansfeld, M.P., Mr. Cowen, Mr. Novello, and others joined.  In these days, when newspapers fill columns with notices of the known who have done nothing, it is but justice to devote a little to the unknown who have done much.

    The Rev. Mr. White, the Speaker's chaplain, as was befitting the end of the old Parliamentary Reformer, read the service at his grave in Highgate Cemetery, at which Mr. Joseph Cowen was present, which would have given gratification to Moore could he have known it.

    William Lovett, with Watson, Moore, and Hetherington, made a quadrilateral of remarkable working-men politicians.  Lovett was a Cornish man.  In 1828 he was the first manager of the Greville Street Co-operative Store, where men afterwards famous, as J. A. Roebuck, J. S. Mill, and others, oft attended meetings for promoting social progress.  It was Lovett's hand which drew the People's Charter, which Roebuck revised.  Lovett was the first person who drew up and sent to Parliament a petition for opening museums and art galleries on Sunday.  In 1839 he was imprisoned two years with John Collins in Warwick Gaol for having issued a protest against the violence of the Government in putting down public meetings in the Bull Ring, Birmingham, by London policemen.  Lovett published a scheme, devised in Warwick Gaol, of political education for the people, for he was always for intelligent liberty.  Lovett was an excellent political secretary.  He observed everything, made notes of everything, and kept everything relating to important conference.  His fault was that he had too much suspicion of the motives of others not taking his view of things.  Later in life he was teacher and superintendent of the only secular schools we had in London, established and supported by William Ellis, an early colleague of Mr. Mill.  Lovett died in 1877, and I spoke at his grave at Highgate, quoting as relating to him the words of W. R. Greg:—"t is not by the monk in his cell, or the saint in his closet, but by the valiant worker in humble sphere and in dangerous days, that the landmarks of liberty are pushed forward"—a sentiment which applies to all of whom I have here written.


John Bright

MR. BRIGHT resembled a Company Limited.  Compared with average men he was a company in himself, but, not being registered under the Companies Act, few noticed that his trading capital of convictions (if his noble qualities may be so spoken of) was limited.  No other simile I can think of so well describes what was not understood about him.

    In politics there is more eagerness than observation.  Public men are not adequately regarded for what they do, and are often praised for what they do not intend to do.  Champions of a popular question are taken to be champions of all that the people desire.  Those who have long observed public men know where and on what questions they will fail the people.  Hardly ten leaders in a hundred are thorough and can be trusted all round—not so much because they are base, as because they are limited in knowledge or sympathy, and are for a question without knowing or caring for the principle of it.  The safe rule is to accord leaders full credit for the service they do render, and not count on more, unless they give reason for such expectation.

    The Tory hatred of Mr. Bright which long prevailed was without foundation, and the eulogies passed upon him since his death for merits but lately discerned, have given the public no consistent or complete idea what manner of man he was politically.  Not being under youthful illusions as to public men is an advantage.  I may do them more justice for the service they do render, and not defame them, nor feel disappointment at their not doing what is not and never was, in their nature to do.

    Mr. Bright was not a political tribune of the people, though his fame was political.  He was a social tribune—though he was against Socialism.  Working men distrusted Mr. Bright when he first became known to them, because he was against the Factory Acts, which he regarded as opposed to free trade between employer and workman, and did not see that where humanity comes in, humanity is to be respected, and is not to be subjected to laws of barter.  Mr. Bright was for Free Trade before everything, and the Chartists were of the same mind, being for political freedom before everything.  We have lived to see men of higher position than Chartists persist in their own views to the peril of every other interest.  Mr. Bright professed no sympathy with Chartist aims, and they knew he was not with them; but when Free Trade brought them better wages and fuller employment they respected Mr. Bright for his defence of it, and when he advocated the suffrage they thought he was with them in their political theories, not seeing that Mr. Bright was still Conservative, and moving in a plane apart from them.  He never expressed sympathy for struggling nationalities.  The patriots of Poland—of Hungary, of Italy, of France—never had help from his voice.  He was silent on Neapolitan and Austrian oppression which moved the heart of Mr. Gladstone.  He was incapable of approving the perjury and usurpation of Louis Napoleon, but no protest came from him.  He was for the extension of the suffrage, because it was a necessity—not because it was a right.  With him the franchise was a means to an end, and that end was the creation of a popular force for the maintenance of Free Trade, international peace, and public economy.  Politically, he regarded the voter not as a man, but as an elector—nor did he think it necessary that all men should be electors.  He was content if the majority of the people had a determining power, and whatever franchise gave this was sufficient in his eyes.  He had no sympathy with manhood suffrage, and less for womanhood suffrage.  He believed in the aristocracy of sex, and thought the political equality of women unnecessary, a perplexing and disturbing element in electoral calculations.  That manhood suffrage gave dignity to the individual, by investing him with power and responsibility, was not much in his mind.  Womanhood suffrage, enabling half the human race to bring their quicker, gentler, and juster influence to bear on public affairs in which their welfare and that of their children are concerned, was outside Mr. Bright's sympathies.

    There are two sorts of Tories—those who seek power for ends of personal supremacy; and the better sort, who seek to retain power in order to do good, but the good is to be good they give the people—the Tory belief being that the people cannot be trusted to determine what is good for themselves.  Mr. Bright was better than the better sort of Tories.  He believed a majority of the people were to be trusted.  So far he was for Liberalism—but he was for Liberalism Limited.  The Whigs of 1832 put down borough-mongering and entrusted the franchise to a "worshipful company of ten-pound householders."  Mr. Bright was for enlarging that company by the admission of six-pound householders.  When the Duke of Wellington heard new prayers read which were not to be found in the old, crude prayer book of the Established Church, he refused to join in them, as being "fancy prayers."  Following in the Duke's steps Mr. Bright contemptuously called any new scheme of enfranchisement, which increased the number of electors indefinitely, "fancy franchises." [29]  The Duke was for addressing Heaven by regulation prayers, and in the same spirit Mr. Bright was for "standing on the old lines."  He was against working-class representation just as the Tories were against middle-class representation.  Those in possession always think they sufficiently represent those excluded.  Mr. Bright was of this way of thinking.  He had this defence: he meant to be just to all outsiders, and did not deem it necessary that they should be able to enforce their own claim in person.  Later he applied this doctrine to the whole Irish nation.

    He was against the ascendancy of the Church as allied to the State, not because its ascendancy was an offence against equality, but because it was contrary to the simplicity of Christ's teaching as he read it, and because a State Church gave religious sanction to State war.  As a man Mr. Bright put Christianity in the first place as a personal influence—as a politician he regarded it chiefly as a public force to be appealed to on behalf of social welfare.  What he hated was injustice; what he abhorred was cruelty, whether of war or slavery; what he cared for was the comfort and prosperity of common people.  Whatever stood in the way of these things he would withstand, whether the opposing forces were spiritual principalities, or peers, or thrones.  If they fell, it would be their own fault—the forces of humanity must triumph.  He would not set up privilege, nor would he put it down—provided it behaved itself.  He was no leveller, he envied no rank, he coveted no distinction; but he was for the honest, industrious people, whether manufacturers or workmen, having control over their own interests—come what would.

    It was to this end that he opposed the Corn Laws and advocated Free Trade and the repeal of the taxes on knowledge.  He desired that the people might learn what their social interests were.  He was for the extension of the suffrage, that those who came to understand their commercial and industrial interests should be able to insist upon attention, and not have to supplicate for it.  If the governing classes had given heed to social interests, Mr. Bright would never have invoked the power of the people.  Like Canning, he was for calling in a "new world" [of power] to redress the persistent injustice of "the old."  He would no more have sought the suffrage than Robert Owen would the support of the people, if his aims could have been realised without them.  Owen went from court to court; he waited in the ante-chamber of Sidmouth and Liverpool in vain; and when courts and Ministers gave no heed he appealed to the people.  Because he did so, Liberals and Radicals thought he was with them, but all the while he was a Tory.  Bright, like Owen, cared for the people more than for theories; and the people, whose principles were opposed to thrones, thought the great social tribune was with them all through.  This was the mistake which they, and wiser men than they, have made.  Bright aided the extinction of slavery because it shocked his sense of justice and humanity; but had the slave been well treated, and not bought and sold and flogged, he might, like Owen, have seen no such harm in it as to warrant the disturbance of States to put it down.  But when its immorality and cruelty became authentically known to Bright, his noble sense of humanity was outraged, and his splendid eloquence, like O'Connell's, was exerted on behalf of the slave.

    He was friendly to co-operators—he spoke for their protection, but never in favour of their principle.  Like Bastiat, he believed in the divinity of competition.  He was at once the advocate of Peace and Competition—the principle of sleepless and pitiless resistance to the interests of others.  With him adulteration was but a form of competition.  This is true.  But if adulteration be its concomitant, that is the condemnation of both.  Mr. Bright thought this reasoning Utopian.

    Mr. Bright, like Mr. Disraeli, had little respect for philosophers.  He did not dread them like Lord Beaconsfield, but he mistrusted them in politics.  The region of the philosopher is the region of the possible.  Bright's mind ran always in the region of the practical.  His tendency was to regard new rights as "fads."  The philosophers laid down new lines — he was content with the old.  He, as I have said, ridiculed a franchise founded upon intelligence, as a "fancy franchise."  Yet he sat in the House, himself under a " fancy franchise."  The concession which enabled the Quaker to affirm was a "fancy franchise;" the Jews were brought into the House by a "fanciful" alteration of the oath to meet their tribal but honourable fastidiousness.  It was not well that he should have contempt for new paths discovered by thought; but he was not without merit in his preference for established roads, since many men give all their time to searching for new precepts who would be the better for practising the good ones they already have.

    If, however, the great Tribune had the characteristics herein described, the reader will ask, "How is it that he was so widely mistaken for an aggressive and uncompromising Liberal?"  Most men think that because a man goes down the same street with them he is going to the same place.  Bright accepted the aid of the men of right, without sympathy with the passion for right, beyond the helpfulness of its advocates in the attainment of the public ends he cared for.  Cobden did the same, but he owned it, and sought such aid.  Bright did neither, but did not decline alien aid when it came.  He was the terror of the Tories, and they never discerned that he was their friend.  He opposed them for what they did, not for what they were.

    When riotous Radicals of 1832 had became fat and contented middle-class manufacturers, and were shrieking as dismally as Conservatives against a transfer of power to workmen, Mr. Bright, deserted by his compeers in Parliament, appeared alone on provincial platforms, pleading for larger enfranchisement.  Members of Parliament, themselves Liberals, thought the question of the suffrage hopeless for years to come, and said to me, "Why does Bright go about flogging a dead horse?"  Tories expressed contemptuous scorn for his enthusiasm.  Had he been silent or supine, working men would be without substantial enfranchisement now.  What Ebenezer Elliott wrote of Cobbett they may, with a change of name, say of Bright:—

"Our friend when other friend we'd none,
 Our champion when we had but one;
 Cursed by all knaves, beneath this sod
 Brave John Bright lies—a man by God."

    Yet he had limits in his mind beyond which he would not, and did not, go.  In 1870, he deprecated the admission of working men in Parliament as likely to increase the evils of class legislation, yet all the while the House of Commons is, and always has been, full of class interests.  Mr. Bright and his friend Cobden were the great representatives of the middle class, yet he did not propose that middle-class representation should cease so that the evils of class representation might cease or diminish.  If any class at all ought to be represented in the House of Commons, surely it is the working class, who exceed all other classes in numbers and usefulness in the State.  But the idea of democracy was not in his mind, and women, as part of the human race, having political interests was simply abhorrent to him.  He was always for the Crown, the Bible, and the Constitution as much as any Conservative.  He was against the Tories—when they put passion in the place of principle and their interests in the place of duty—but not otherwise.

    It is quite a vulgar error to suppose that the democracy are more undiscerning than patricians.  They made as many mistakes about Mr. Bright as the people did.  An illustrious poet could write of him as:—

"This broad-brimmed brawler of holy things,
 Whose ear is cramm'd with his cotton, and sings
 Even in dreams, to the chink of his pence."

    True, this was said long ago.  But no one who personally knew Bright, at his advent in public affairs, could think this.  Bright was no "brawler of holy things."  Sincerity and reverence were always deep in his heart.  There was no "cotton in his ears."  He knew Free Trade and peace would benefit the manufacturer, but would benefit the people more.  No politician of his day was less influenced by the "chink of his pence" than John Bright.  Carlyle, with all his clamorous philosophy, made the same mistake as the poet, in his contemptuous remark upon the" cock-nosed Rochdale Radical," who had as fair a nose as the scornful "Sage of Chelsea."

    All the while Mr. Bright's eloquence was directed to the maintenance of an honest garrison in the fortress of authority.  He was the one platform warder of the constitution, but it must minister to freedom and justice.  He spoke no word against the throne from his first speech until his last.  Quakers ask protection from power; they never seek to subvert power.  Their doctrine of non-resistance makes them the natural allies of monarchs.  Penn had the ear of Charles II.  Edmundson had ready audience of King James.  Shillitoe prayed with the Emperor of Russia, who knelt by Shillitoe's side.  Quakers were not spies against freedom, but honest reporters of wrong done, whose honest impartial word kings could trust.  Mr. Bright was always of the Quaker mind.  He regarded authority as of God, but he held that authority was responsible for righteous rule.  He was a courtier with an honest conscience.  He was for the perpetuity of the Crown, and also, and more so, for the welfare of the people.  In one of his great speeches he avowed:—

"There is a yet auguster thing,
 Veiled though it be, than Parliament or King."

Mr. Bright was always for freedom of conscience, and equally for freedom of action, at the dictate of conscience.  "Are mankind to stand still?" he asked in one of his earlier speeches.  He was for order, but with order there must be progress.  It was this conviction which made him insurgent against the policy of doing nothing.  Now he is gone, there is no great popular Conservative force left, save Mr. Gladstone.


OF Mr. Bright's political appreciation of orthodoxy, an instance occurred in connection with the Repeal of the Taxes on Knowledge.  It was proposed that I should move, and Mr. C. D. Collet second, an amendment at the London Tavern, at a public meeting convened by Mr. Peter Borthwick, M.P., for the purpose of founding a separate association for repealing the Advertisement duty, leaving out the repeal of the Paper duty, which he did not desire—the Tories being opposed to it, and being also against the abolition of the newspaper stamp, which prevented the people having newspapers in their interests.  Mr. C. D. Collet, the secretary, defended my being appointed to make the anti-Borthwick speech, on the ground that I was the most likely person to perform a disagreeable duty in the least disagreeable manner.  Mr. Bright, when told of the appointment, objected on the score of policy—it not being advisable that the society should be represented on so conspicuous an occasion by a person of my known opinions on other subjects.  "We might be described by the enemy as a society of atheists."  Mr. Cobden, who was always for carrying a point by whatever force was at hand, said, when the arrangement was mentioned to him, that "for his part he saw no objection to my moving the amendment in question, as he would accept the assistance of the devil in a justifiable enterprise, provided he observed such regard to personal appearances as might preclude his identity at an untimely moment."  As I was considered a person who would fulfil these conditions, I was appointed.  There was no doubt in any mind as to my identity with the sable agitator who had been named.  I and Mr. Collet made our speeches, and our resolution was carried.  Mr. Milner Gibson, who had remained in an ante-room until the success of the motion was clear, came forward and took part in the meeting, it being thought best that he should not appear at all, unless Mr. Borthwick's proposal was doomed to defeat.  Thus it came to pass that the resolution against Mr. Borthwick's separatist project was carried (December 30, 1850), and the Advertisement Duty, the Newspaper Stamp, and the Paper Tax were kept unitedly before Parliament until they were all repealed.  Mr. Bright's objection to me was on grounds of policy alone.  Personally he was always friendly to me.

    As I have said, he possessed a strong sense of personal religion; there was no narrowness in his judgments.  He cared more for the conduct of men than for their professions.  A Cabinet colleague of Mr. Bright has related that one day objection was made by some one as to the opinions he supposed me to hold, when Mr. Bright, who was present, stopped him by saying, "Holyoake is a very good Christian, and does not know it."

    At the burial of Samuel Lucas, the editor of the Morning Star, I accompanied Mr. Bright to the grave of his sister, who died soon after her marriage.  She was considered beautiful, as most of the Bright family are.  Afterwards, speaking of many things, I asked him if he remembered a Moslem said to have been in his father's employ who was considered a famous, manipulator of colours. [30]  The man was unable, even for reward, to communicate his secret.  His sense of the quality of colour was an instinct, and he decided the proportions by feeling (by feelth as the Saxons would say more expressively) on passing the colour through his fingers.  On my early visits to Rochdale I often heard him spoken of by workmen, he being a foreigner and a Mohammedan.  He attended church and passed as a Christian during his lifetime.  When, however, his end came, it was found that he had the Koran under his pillow, and that he turned his face to Mecca to die.  Christianity did very well for him to live by, but he could not trust it to die by.  In the most unoriental of towns—Rochdale—he preserved his trust in his Oriental faith.  Mr. Bright was much interested in the story of the man.  He might, had he been in Mr. Bright's employ, have lived openly as a Moslem, and no disadvantage would have accrued to him on the part of his employer.  Mr. Bright had in his works men of all political, religious, speculative, and socialistic convictions, who never had reason to conceal their opinions from him.

    The last time I saw Mr. Bright was at One Ash, his residence in Rochdale, a few months before his death.  He showed me the political presents in his rooms, especially those from America, and pointed out portraits of members of his family known to me.  We conversed on many things.  He was the same to me as ever, although he knew that with his later opinions I could never be brought to agree—even by the aid of machinery.

    He was the friend of his workpeople; respecting their views, he asked no questions, but they might ask him any, and he was often stopped in the mill yard when his advice was wished in some personal trouble.  A visitor might at times see Mr. Bright, while walking home, overtake one of his waggoners, and converse with him as they went along, side by side.

    At Lord Palmerston's desire, conveyed to me by Mr. Thornton Hunt, I undertook to ascertain whether Mr. Bright would take office, being of opinion myself that it was not advantageous for a great leader to remain outside the Cabinet, to criticise it for not doing more, and not to go in when it was open to him and attempt to do what he could, where his presence would at least be a deterrent influence against evil measures to some extent.  Mr. Bright thought differently, and he was more competent than myself to form an opinion upon that proposal, which concerned himself alone.  Years later, when, in obedience to what he was assured was the public interest, and under the influence of Mr. Gladstone's friendship, Mr. Bright took office, he had to present himself to the Queen as one of her Ministers.  The Queen, with that personal consideration by which she was often distinguished, remembering that Mr. Bright was a Quaker and might have scruples at kneeling to a monarch, who refused to uncover his head in the presence of God—therefore caused it to be made known to Mr. Bright that he might, if he pleased, omit the ceremony of kneeling on kissing hands.  A friend of Mr. Bright's, thinking this act of fine consideration for the feelings of others ought to be made public, asked me to state it.  When I had ascertained that there was no objection to the fact being mentioned in print, I communicated it to the Newcastle Chronicle; but either from misreading or from the printer having no letter "n" in his case, it was printed "or" instead of "on"; and it went forth that Mr. Bright was at liberty to dispense with kneeling or kissing hands on his presentation to the Queen, which was quite a superfluous concession, as a Quaker is never wanting in ceremonial courtesy to a lady, and Mr. Bright—himself a Monarchist by conviction—would never demur to kissing the Queen's hands.  The paragraph was copied into The Times with the same error in it; it went through the press in the same way.  Mr. Camden Hotten, in his edition of the "Speeches of John Bright," repeated it.  I wrote to the New York Tribune correcting the error in America.  Nevertheless, owing to the error of a single letter, it has passed into English history that Mr. Bright neither knelt nor kissed hands when he became Minister of the Crown,

    Mr. Paulton, who knew as much as most men of the early history of the Anti-Corn Law League, told me that both "Mr. Bright and Mr. Cobden were taught and confirmed" in the principles of commercial freedom they espoused by Mr. Thomas Thomasson.  Mr. Thomasson was a manufacturer of Bolton, who understood the political economy of trade better than any other manufacturer of his day.  Mr. Thomasson being a Quaker, it was natural that Mr. Bright should be impressed by him.  The first time Mr. Bright went out to deliver a lecture, he was doubtful of his success.  He had well considered what he would say, but on his way to the hall he called upon Mr. Thomasson to take his advice as to the quality of his arguments.  Mr. Paulton said Mr. Cobden had often consulted Mr. Thomasson in a similar way.


THOUGH engaged in business, with little time to spare for study, Mr. Bright became a great orator—on the principle explained by the Irishman, who said "a short sleep did for him, because when he slept he paid attention to it."  Force of expression was natural to Mr. Bright.  His fine voice and public applause made him conscious that excellence in public speaking was possible to him.  But force and finish of expression came slowly.  The great speeches of Sheridan and Fox do not—from such accounts as we have of them—justify their great reputation.  That is owing probably to their not being adequately reported.  When a speaker is master of his subject and sure of his terms, an exact report will give him fame.  But if his speech be summarised, his reputation may suffer—unless he who makes the summary is capable of making the speech.  Dr.  Johnson was a man of this capacity, and his summaries made the fame of the orators of whose speeches he condescended to give an account.  Porson said: "Pitt carefully considered his sentences before he uttered them, but Fox threw himself into the middle of his, and left it to God Almighty to get him out again."  Fox got himself out before his auditors, by his overmastering energy, but his reader needed aid.  Pitt's later speeches, fully reported (as I judge from reading some of them), had captivating fluency.  When Bright's speeches are read, they justify the reputation assigned to them.  He moved the hearers as Danton and Mirabeau did the audiences they addressed.  Mr. Beresford Hope's description of Mr. Bright—when he was advanced in years—as "the white lion of Birmingham "could best be understood by those who heard him.  One night, at Birmingham, when he had delivered a long, forcible, but not brilliant speech, on Ireland, a vote of thanks was accorded to him late in the evening.  In acknowledging the vote, there came a storm of oratory from him awakening a fury of enthusiasm in the some what languid meeting.  "If you, my countrymen," he exclaimed, "are unanimous that justice should be done to Ireland, it shall be done."  He spoke the words as though he were the tribune of the kingdom, and his resolute and commanding tone gave the impression that he was able to cause it to come to pass.

    In the earlier elections in which Mr. Bright was concerned in Birmingham, he spoke at various ward meetings, when his language was often disjointed, and sometimes incomplete.  It might be owing to the work of inferior or wearied reporters to some extent, but the language was that of an ordinary and excited speaker.  Mr. Bright himself might be exhausted, but the defects of style were such as exhaustion would not occasion.  It was the original manner, which cultivation had not then effaced.

    At a Covent Garden meeting, October, 1843, Mr. Bright, in the course of his speech in defence of Free Trade, exclaimed:—

"Oh! then, innocently brave,
 We will wrestle with the wave
 Where commerce spreads her daring sail,
 And yokes her naval chariots to the gale."

    The loud and long-continued cheering evoked was owing to the orator's manner rather than his matter.  Twenty-five years later Mr. Bright showed far greater taste in selecting quotations from the poets.  Speaking in Birmingham on January 13, 1868, he said—

"Religion, freedom, vengeance, what you will,
 A word's enough to rouse mankind to kill,
 Some cunning phrase by faction caught and spread
 That guilt may reign, and wolves and worms be fed."

There was instruction as well as honest rage in these lines.

    At the Anti-Corn Law meeting of 1843, as may be read in the League newspaper reports and elsewhere at that period, Mr. Bright told us, in various terms, that the cost of the army and navy was maintained in the interest of the upper class.  Twenty-five years later I heard him recur to this idea at a banquet in the Birmingham Town Hall, but no longer in the crude form of earlier days.  The flint-headed hatchet was exchanged for a flashing scimitar.  He said that "the army and navy were but a gigantic system of out-door relief for the aristocracy."  The effect upon the audience was notable.  The satire of the expression was caught at first only by the quicker part of the audience, who cheered—when immediately a larger number saw the point and the cheering was doubled—then everybody saw it, and the hall resounded with cheering and laughter and striking the plates with knife and fork.  The next day Lord Lyttelton wrote a letter denying that the words were cheered: but the banquet committee had to pay a considerable sum for breakages which occurred at that particular time.

    Some years later Mr. Bright was speaking at St Martin's.  Hall.  Mr. Ayrton came in.  It was on the day of, or the day after, the great Reform procession which had passed through the Mall.  Complaints had been made by the Tories that the procession should have been allowed so near Buckingham Palace.  Mr. Ayrton uttered reproaches of the Queen that she had not condescended to witness it.  Then Mr. Bright arose and made his famous defence of the Queen.  He could not foresee that Mr. Ayrton would come in, nor foreknow what he would say—yet his language was as perfect as though premeditated.  I sat by him as he spoke, and concluded from that night that a style of dignity and grace had become habitual to him.  In earlier years he had spoken of the Queen at Covent Garden meetings with studied respectfulness, but never with the felicity of phrase which he had now acquired.  He had the voice of an organ, at once strong and harmonious, which swelled but never screeched.  A resolute face and a resolute tone gave him a commanding manner, which, united to a stately way of thinking, gave him ascendency in oratory.  Disregarding details, he put the relevance of a question so strongly that it is difficult to express in other words the same idea with equal force.  This is the mark of the style we call Shakespearean, Miltonic, or Tennysonian—noble thought put in unchangeable terms.  A single passage in one of his orations makes clear his method of speech.  "I believe," he said, "there is no permanent greatness to a nation, except it be based on morality.  I do not care for military greatness or military renown; I care for the condition of the people among whom I live.  There is no man in England less likely to speak irreverently of the Crown and Monarchy of England than I am; but crown, coronets, mitres, military displays, pomp of war, wide colonies, and a huge empire are, in my view, all trifles light as air, and not worth considering, unless with them you can have a fair share of comfort, contentment, and happiness among the great body of the people.  Palaces, baronial castles, great halls, and stately mansions do not make a nation.  The nation in every country dwells in the cottage."  Here is the Homeric, realistic tread of simplicity and power—not among metaphysical abstractions which flit before the mind like shadows, but among men and things palpable to every mind and touching living interests.

    The Quaker gets from his self-chosen faith self-sufficiency, concentration, and force, and to this Bright owed his simplicity, directness and massiveness of speech.

    In his earlier speeches he made furious personal imputations upon the landlords of the aristocracy who stood in the way of the Repeal of the Corn Laws.  They thought he hated them.  That was their mistake.  On the contrary, he said that, if they would take the part of the people, he should welcome them in council and would "defer to their opinions."

    Mr. Bright's invective was owing to his Quaker belief, and he was never free from invective.  An everyday man will think his adversary has some common sense, and that if facts could be put before him his opinion would change.  But a Quaker says, "I have an inner light which tells me what the truth is, and what is more, you have the same inner light which tells you the truth, and you are sinning against it."  The true Quaker regards the "inner light" as the very voice of God, and is more wroth in terms than other men, and has more difficulty in forgiving dissent from his views.

    Though a peace-lover from humanity as well as from faith, I once heard Mr. Bright express interest in battle.  It was the third year of the American war, and the House of Commons derided his predictions of the success of the Union, because it had obtained no signal advantages in the field.  An eminent American came down to the House and spoke with Mr. Bright on their prospects.  Mr. Bright said to me, "If they would give us a victory, we should soon put things right here"—meaning in the House of Commons.

    There hung, some years ago, in the National Portrait Gallery, a portrait of George Fox in leathern garments, with a face of great sensual beauty.  No wonder the women of fifty towns were in love with him.  The portrait inspired me with respect for a man of his nature, who gave up the worship of women for his life in gaols.  Seeing Mr. Bright in one of the rooms, I said, "Go and see George Fox's portrait," which he had not noticed; "you will understand why he came to wear a leather dress and attain his strange ascendency."  He went to see it, and took Mrs. Bright with him, who was then in town.

    Mr. Bright never distinguished that sentimentality is the sense of what ought to be, and practicality is the sense of what can be.  He had both senses, though he denied it.  One night, in the Smoke Room of the House of Commons, I asked him to present a petition for me upon a question he thought unattainable.  Seeing a Minister near, he said, "Take it to him.  He parts his hair down the middle.  He is a man of sentiment—just the man for you."  He forgot that he came from the Puritan stock who all parted their hair.  He was himself a shareholder in the Morning Star.  All London was amazed when the hard-headed Manchester school elected to be represented by the sentimental title of old Utopian journals.

    Mr. Bright had moral imagination beyond any political orator of my time.  The ethical passion glowed in his speeches.  It was that which won for him popular trust.  One night he had quoted in Parliament George Fox—whom he did not name—a fine passage to the effect—When death shall divest the soul of its human garments of passions and prejudices, and we come to know ourselves as we are, we shall wonder to find how much our intentions have been the same.  Speaking to Mr. Bright as he came out of the House, I said: "That peroration was a sermon which only you would have the courage to preach there, and from you only would they listen to it."  He answered, "This is a House where sermons are more needed than any place I know."

    It may be said of Mr. Bright as Ben Jonson said of Lord Bacon, "There happened in my time one noble speaker, who was full of gravity in his speaking.  His language, where he could spare, or pass by a jest, was nobly censorious.  No man ever spoke more neatly, more pressingly, more weightily, or suffered less emptiness, less idleness in what he uttered.  He commanded where he spoke.  The fear of every man who heard him was lest he should make an end."

    One morning, at a breakfast at Mr. Gladstone's, he said, "I want to speak to you about your book," meaning the "History of Co-operation in England," which he had permitted me to dedicate to him.  "There is only one thing in which I think you wrong.  You speak of capital as injurious in itself."  I said that was not in my mind.  He answered quickly, putting his hand on my shoulder, "But it is in your book."  This was true.  I had not distinguished that it was certain acts of capitalists which I deprecated.

    In 1882, I took to America the fine, almost life-size photograph of Mr. Bright, by Mayall, which I presented to my friend James Charlton, of Chicago.  That represents Bright as he appeared when he took the floor in Parliament, with fire and defiance in his face.  The Century gave an engraving of it.  Mr. G. W. Smalley, of the Tribune, was to write a paper on Bright.  Not being able to do it at the time, it was given to Mr. Escott, a coadjutor of Captain Hamber on the Hour.  I was indignant at seeing Mr. Bright depicted before the American nation by dashes of Tory disparagement, and resented it wherever I wrote.

    One orator whom Mr. Bright would never admit that he equalled, was Wendell Phillips, whom he regarded, he said, "as the greatest orator who spoke the English tongue."  In 1879, as Mr. Phillips was showing me the memorable buildings in State Street, Boston, Mr. Bright's son came up.  He was visiting America at the time, and I introduced Mr. Phillips to him.  Mr. Phillips took off his hat and stood uncovered all the time of the interview, after the Indian manner of doing honour to the father by treating his son with distinction.  I wrote Mr. Bright of this fine act of courtesy on the part of Mr. Wendell Phillips.  On my return to England he passed me on the platform of the Birmingham Town Hall as he was about to address his constituents.  Not expecting to meet me so soon he turned back and said, "Why, Holyoake, you are always somewhere." 

    During several years I heard all the principal debates in the House of Commons.  For two sessions he was continually assailed for his Franchise speeches.  So constantly was this done, that every measure he was supposed to favour was condemned, until it seemed that his sympathy with a Liberal bill was dangerous to it.  All the while the Tory party had come to see that he was right and had made up their minds to further enfranchisement, and this was the way in which they disguised the concession which had become inevitable.  It was exactly the case described by the American poet at the collapse of the Slaveholder's Confederacy:—

"Not all at once did the skunk curl up;
 We saw it bounce and heard it lie—
 But all the while it was looking about
 For a hole in which to die."

Shortly after, Mr. Bright became the most popular man in the House and the country, and his approval valuable to politicians in difficulties.

    The views of Mr. Bright's character I have described are such as impressed me who knew him in movements he liked and in those he disliked.  Despite his avowed contempt for sentiment, he was the most sentimental member of the House of Commons.  He had the same aversion to philosophers as Lord Beaconsfield, but for different reasons.  He had great humility, as Mr. Gladstone has; but in Mr. Bright it was the humility of genius falling below its own ideal—in Mr. Gladstone it is the humility of duty falling short of the obligation of service due to the Giver of his great powers.  Mr. Bright was no friend of democracy; he had no sympathy for it.  With political principles, as thinkers define them, he little troubled.  His great passions were for justice, public prosperity, the comfort and contentment of the people.  To these ends he devoted his great powers.  Of these he was the foremost champion of our time.  All else was to him as though it were not.  As far as he was concerned, thrones might stand.  To him intellectual rights were impracticable ideals.  But within the limits in which his mind ranged he commanded the admiration and gratitude of the English people.

    This is why the people had honour for Mr. Bright, and put trust in him.  He was a Liberal who strove for progress, vindicated it, pleaded for it, urged it forward, attacked all who withstood it.  A Tory studies how he can stop it—defames it, obstructs it, and denounces all who are friendly to it: and when, despite of him, it comes to pass, he claims to have originated it.

    When Mr. Bright's last illness came, bulletins went out which led the press to make remarks that his end was near.  Mr. Bright might not see the papers, but they could not but affect his attendants, and he was too quick an observer not to divine foreboding in their faces; so it came to pass by a friendly suggestion to the bulletin maker that they were less frequent and more placid.  Mr. Bright was always cheered by friendly remembrances by his townsmen, and, having to address a great meeting of co-operators in Rochdale, representing twelve thousand of his neighbours, I moved that we sent a message (not a condolence) to him, saying—

"That this assembly, celebrating the forty-fourth anniversary of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers' Society, desires to send to Mr. Bright a message of regard for acts of neighbourly friendship and counsel to the early Pioneers, and for his aid in Parliament in procuring legal protection for societies of self-help in their unfriended days.  The Rochdale members send him their grateful wishes.  They know he is sustained by a simple and noble faith, and by a conscience rich in a thousand memories of services to those who dwell in cottages or labour in our towns.  The days of one who gave his strength for the benefit of the people ought to be "long in the land," and they who send him this message are glad to believe that his days will be yet long extended."

    It gave Mr. Bright pleasure.  It was the only resolution of sympathy made public having no dash of the undertaker in it.

    He was the friend of industrious working people everywhere; what is more, he had personal friendliness towards them, and sympathy with them, and helped them in difficulty, in old age, and need, as his own work-people knew.  His choice was to dwell among his own people.  He lived among them, he died among them; he elected to be buried among them, and he left the lustre of his name to their town.

    What Lord Tennyson said of the Duke of Wellington may be written on the tomb of Mr. Bright:—

"His voice is silent in your council hall
 For ever; ...yet remember all
 He spoke among you, and the man who spoke
 Who never sold the truth to serve the hour."

    A new fact concerning Mr. Bright, which illustrates his noble passion for justice beyond all instances I have known, has just been published in the Rochdale Congress Handbook.  There is in that town, works known as the Mitchell Hey Mill, started by workmen on co-operative principles, giving the right of profit to all concerned in making it.  As soon as the shareholders were numerous enough, they took the workmen's shares of profit from them.  "Mr. Bright expressed disapproval of the decision," and meeting one of the co-operative leaders (Mr. A. Greenwood) "inquired if it could not be reversed.  A large number of Members of Parliament had taken great interest in the experiment, and he also knew," he said, "manufacturers who would have been quite willing to allow workmen to share in a certain amount of the profits."  Mr. Bright accepted the principle that a share in profit was included in equity to labour; and had Mitchell Hey Mill been permitted to prove that equity could succeed in manufacture, he would have put his own mills on the same plan.


As my name has been associated with Secularism for forty years, and as I have no intention of disconnecting myself from it, nor evading any responsibility for having originated it, I give some account of it before ending the present autobiographical series.

    Not seeing in my youth what better I could do in a world where no one seemed infallible than to think for myself, led to my acquiring opinions different from other people.  For a time it distressed me very much to find that I differed from the world, until it occurred to me that the world differed from me; then I had no more anxiety.  Those who believe because others believe the same, are without claim to authority; while those who hold opinions because they have thought them out for themselves, have used the same liberty I had taken, and I was guilty neither of presumption nor singularity.  If the world differed from me, it was doubtless in self-defence, and if I differed from the world, it was in self-protection.  And, as the world did not make any arrangement to answer for my opinions, it was but common sense that I should myself select the principles for which I was to be responsible.

    At Carlile's lecture, to which he invited me, [31] he took the line he adopted in his Christian Warrior, in which he taught that a scientific and mythologic explanation could be given of the main facts of the Bible.  When I spoke, I explained the ideas from which I never departed—namely, that mythologic and astronomic modes of accounting for scriptural doctrine could never be made intelligible and convincing except to students of very considerable research.  Such theories, I contended, must rest, more or less, on conjectural interpretation, which could never command the popular mind nor enable a working man to dare the understanding of others in argument.  Scientific interpretation, I maintained, lay entirely outside Christian acquirements, and seemed to them as disingenuous evasions of what they take to be obvious truths.  My contention was—"The people have no historic or critical knowledge enabling them to judge of the authenticity or genuineness of the Scriptures—their astronomic or mythologic origin.  That controversy must always be confined to scholars.  On the platform he who has most knowledge of Hebrew, Greek, or Latin will always be able to silence any dissentient who has not equal information and reputation for learning and research.  If by accident a controversialist happened to have this knowledge, it goes for nothing as authority, unless he has credit for classical competency.  In matters of controversy it is not enough for a man to know; he must be known to know, before his conclusions can have acceptance.  To myself it was not of moment whether the Scriptures were authentic or inspired.  My sole inquiry was—Do they contain clear moral guidance which would increase our certainty of aid from God?  If they do I accept that guidance with implicitness and gratitude.  If I find maxims obviously useful and true, judged by human experience, I adopt them, whether given by inspiration or not.  If precepts did not answer to this test, they were not acceptable, though all the apostles in committee had signed them.  To miracles I did not object, nor did I see any sense in endeavouring to explain them way.  We all have reason to regret that no one performs them now.  It was our misfortune that the power delegated with so much pomp of promise to the saints had not descended to these days.  If any preacher or deacon could, in this day, feed five thousand men on a few loaves and a few small fishes, and leave as many baskets of fragments as would run a workhouse for a week, the Poor Law Commissioners would make a king of that saint.  But if a precept enjoined me to believe what was not true, it would be a base precept, and all the miracles in the Scriptures could not alter its character: while, if a precept be honest and just, no miracle is wanted to attest it—indeed, a miracle, to allure credence in it, would only cast suspicion on its genuineness.  The moral test of the Scriptures was sufficient, and the only one that had popular education in it, and needed neither ridicule, nor scorn, nor bitterness to enforce it, since it had the commanding advantage of appealing to the common sense and best sense of all sorts and conditions of men, of Christian or of Pagan persuasion.  Ethical criticism has this further, merit, that on the platform of discussion the miner, the weaver, or farm labourer, are on the same level as the priest.  A man goes to Heaven upon his own judgment: whereas, if his belief is based on the learning of others, he goes to Heaven second hand."

    My mind being given to open thought, I came to consider whether a simple theory of ethical duty was possible, which would save from indifference the increasing class of thinkers who regarded the theology then in vogue as vague, uncertain, irrelevant, or untrue.  It seemed to me that doing good was being good—that it was good to do good, and that if a God of Goodness existed he would count goodness as merit; and if no such God did exist, goodness was the best thing men could do in this world.  It was best for ourselves for its satisfaction and its example, and it was best for others as they would profit by it.  It was not less plain that there was no mode of doing good open to us so certain as by material means.  What were called spiritual means could not be depended on; the preacher who put his trust in aid from above still found it necessary to take up a collection.  Looking to Providence for protection against epidemics or famine, still left a good deal for physicians and Poor Law Guardians to do.  Those who, like Mr. Spurgeon, could fill their meal barrels by prayer, had no unfailing formula they could patent, of which the public could purchase the royalty.  Clearly science is the only Providence which can be depended upon.  Therefore, the morality of duty and material effort were the practical precepts of Life, yielding preservation in this world, and furnishing the best credentials to present in any other.

    These principles being few, practical, and demonstrable to any capable of observation and reflection, they constituted an independent code of conduct which, owing nothing to ancient revelations, adherents of such views were under no obligation to waste time in reconciling the truth of to-day with error of the past.  Distinct from received opinion, the form here described is at least equal to it, for, in the words of the Oriental motto before cited, "There is no religion higher than Truth."  Secularism, it was hoped, would aid the "coming of the kingdom of man," to which Professor Clifford looked forward.

    In my youth I had borne the burden of theologic hopes and fears until my mind ached, and if I could lead others into a simpler, surer, and brighter way, I was wishful to do so.  The "Principles of Secularism," which I published, were submitted to the better judgment of others.  Not being a fanatic, insisting on opinions without reason or relevance; nor a prophet claiming authority for his word; nor having a "mission" for which there was no necessity; but being one of the few persons extant who had no impression of his own infallibility, I sought confirmation from better instructed minds.  One was Mr. John Stuart Mill, who approved my proposal as a useful departure from the theologic thought of the day, ever obstructive of secular improvement.  The reader may see the nature of these principles in "Chambers's Encyclopædia" in an article which I wrote at the request of the editor, who "wished an account of Secularism by one responsible for it, and not one by a dissentient, which might be a caricature."  Professor Francis William Newman, to whom I was indebted for the better expression of some points than was possible to me, regarded all who believed that duty to man is prior in time and importance to duty to God, as Secularists—and in this sense he might be so classed himself, though he maintains Theism with a noble earnestness like that of Theodore Parker.

    That this secular form of opinion implies Atheism is an error into which many fall.  Secularism, like mathematics, is independent of theistical or other doctrine.  Euclid did not ignore the gods of his day; he did not recognise them in geometry.  They were not included in it.  But if pagan theology undertook to contradict mathematical principle, Euclid might have joined issue thereupon.  But his province was geometry.  At one time the only two men of note in England who maintained that the Secular was Atheistic, were Dr. Magee, the late Archbishop of York, and Mr. Bradlaugh.  Twice I discussed this point with Mr. Bradlaugh—first about 1856, and again in 1870.  The reader may see the report of the last debate in "A Little Book About Great Britain," by Azimat Batuk, an agent of the Napoleonic dynasty, who wrote under a Turkish name.  My argument was that a man could judge a house as to its suitability of situation, structure, surroundings, and general desirableness, without ever knowing who was the architect or landlord; and if as occupant he received no application for rent, he ought in gratitude to keep the place in good repair.  So it is with this world.  It is our dwelling place.  We know the laws of sanitation, economy, and equity, upon which health, wealth, and security depend.  All these things are quite' independent of any knowledge of the origin of the universe or the owner of it.  And as no demands are made upon us in consideration of our tenancy, the least we can do is to improve the estate as our acknowledgment of the advantage we enjoy.  This is Secularism.

    When I first knew the party of independent opinion, it had no policy.  Its sole occupation was the confutation of error, or what it took to be error, and went no further.  Anything more was not then to be expected.  The confutation of theologic error was a forbidden right, and they who exercised it did it at their peril, and they did much who maintained that right.  But the time came when those who had succeeded in proving certain received principles to be wrong, were called upon to show what independent and self-dependent principles, in accordance with reason and conscience, could take their places and guarantee the continuance of public and private morality, and not only continue them but improve their quality.  It was to this new theory of secular life, the sequel and complement of free criticism, that the name of Secularism was given.  [32]  Some societies, simply anti-theological, have taken the secular name, which leads many unobservant persons to consider the term Secularism as synonymous with atheism and general church-fighting; whereas Secularism is a new name implying a new principle and a new policy.  It would be an imposture term were it merely a new name intended to disguise an old thing.


Sir Josiah Mason

THE "dead hand" has destroyed the grace of many gifts, as when a man endows a church on the condition that certain doctrines are to be for ever preached in it.  This precludes progress in thought and furnishes a premium to the gentleman in the pulpit to go on preaching what is no longer true, and if true no longer useful to the hearers.  The doctrine is dead, but the dead hand cannot be lifted.  Though the object of the endower was no doubt that truth should be preached, yet the spirit of his provision cannot be acted upon owing to the terms of his gift not providing for this.  In the case of charity schools it is different.  The dead hand gets uplifted by cupidity.  Schools founded for the education of poor scholars or poor children are perverted to the uses of children of the rich.  The intent of the founder, his spirit and letter are alike set aside.

    I knew one great donor who left no dead hand on his gifts, though they amounted to half a million.  In Birmingham there lived, until lately, one Josiah Mason, who, when I and others were advocates of Social views in Lawrence Street Chapel, used to be one of the hearers.  Josiah Mason had an inquiring, an observant, and ambitious mind, but his ambition was the wholesome ambition of usefulness.  He had risen from the humblest occupation.  When a young man he held a situation as manager of a business in which his master promised him a partnership.  Under the inspiration of this promise he had put into his service the zeal and sagacity of a partner.  At length he found that the promise was not to be fulfilled; he left, and no inducement, not that of a salary higher than he had any prospect of obtaining elsewhere, could induce him to stay.  He had self-reliance and self-help in him.  No honest duty was beneath him, and industry and probity did the rest.  He knew that thrift was fortune.  He became a manufacturer eventually, and when the day of prosperity came, he built a great orphanage at Erdington, open to children of any sect and of any race.  Neither opinion nor colour was a bar to admission.  He had acquired Robert Owen's passion for the formation of character, and concluded that wholesome conditions and good practical education would go a good way towards it in the young.  One day he explained to me himself his arrangements, which showed that he was a kindly student of child nature.  He had their baths made of wood, and the spaces around on which they stepped into the bath also of wood, so that no cold or discomfort should be associated with a healthy habit, rendering it distasteful and repugnant.  He had all the doors in the buildings made so that they would open in or out by a child pushing them, that the little ones might not be impeded nor kept in or out by knobs difficult to turn.  He had the beams of the roof left visible, that a child who could not understand why the ceiling was kept up might see it was supported and would not fall down.  The gas and water pipes he had left visible, so that they might understand everything that was liable to instruct them or excite their curiosity.  In the chapel in which they were assembled on Sundays he prescribed that a preacher of any denomination might conduct the service, providing he was willing to discourse a wise and kindly morality, omitting the awful tenet of eternal punishment, which he thought a fearful terror to the young mind and a barbaric conception of God.

Sir Josiah Mason's orphanage, Erdington

    Adopting a wise provision, suggested by a philosophical lawyer he consulted (Mr. G. J. Johnson), he gave the whole property in trust to persons half chosen by himself and half by municipal authority; and at his decease the trust was to be entirely controlled by the town.  A further wise provision was that, at the end of every thirty years, the trust should be open for two years for suggestions of improvement in its objects needed to meet new requirements which time and experience might develop.  Thus was substituted the authority of the public interests for the dead hand of the donor.  I do not remember any like instance of tolerant and sagacious thoughtfulness enabling a great public gift to be kept in line with public progress.

    The trustees chosen by Mr. Josiah Mason for the administration of the orphanage were nearly all personal friends of mine.  Meeting some of them shortly after the endowment (which amounted to nearly a quarter of a million of money) was placed in their hands, I asked "Under what circumstances they received it and by what ceremony it was accompanied.  Did they assemble the citizens in the Town Hall and receive from his hands the splendid gift with circumstances of public honour?"  It transpired that they had met him at luncheon at the Orphanage, received the transfer of the building and its opulent endowments, and wished him good morning.  Considering that the giver of so unusual a gift was entitled to public honour, I inquired why did they not ask a knighthood for him?  Honour was the wine of old age, and such a recognition would be creditable to the town.  The answer was they did not see how it was to be done, but if I thought it possible I might take any steps to that end with their concurrence.  Then I mentioned the matter to such members of Parliament as I thought might take an interest in municipal equity.  I wrote upon the subject in the papers, and asked Mr. Walker, the then editor of the Daily News, who was always ready to promote any project for local or public good, to mention the matter in his columns.  Public honour conferred upon mere worth is hard to be obtained until the public take interest in it, and to do this it is necessary that they have information.  It was also necessary that the knighthood I suggested should be concurred in by the members of Parliament for the borough in which Mr. Mason dwelt.  Mr. George Dixon readily assented, and supported the proposal; but Mr. Bright saw objections to it, and asked me, "Whether I thought it a good principle that a man should be made a knight because he had given £200,000 to a town?"  I answered, "If the question was whether an order of knighthood or other social distinctions should be created, its usefulness was open to contention; but, knowing as he did how knights were made, how men who never rendered any public service received that distinction, and many because they had become possessed by ways unknown of £100,000—it did seem to me not an unprofitable principle to establish that any one who had given £200,000 to the community should be eligible for a knighthood."  Mr. Bright admitted there was some reason in that view, and when he learned that Mr. Mason had not proposed to leave this money at his death liable to dispute and doubtfulness of application—but had actually divested himself of it while living, and placed its administration in the hands of the municipality—he concurred in the proposal.

    In the deed of trust which Mr. Mason executed, he stated that when he first entered Birmingham as a youth he sold muffins in the streets.  No bell had a purer tinkle than his.  No muffins were warmer or cosier than his in the clean green baize which covered them.  From that humble beginning he had risen by industry and integrity to the possession of great wealth, which he had devoted to a well-considered public purpose.  I asked a member of the Government, Mr. Stansfeld, whose friendliness to unrecognised service I knew, to put Mr. Mason's candid and manly story into the hands of the Queen, who I believe would be interested in it.  She was interested, and considerately ordered that Mr. Mason's knighthood should be gazetted that he might be saved the necessity of appearing at Court to receive the distinction, at his age, which was then 78.  Thus the benefactor who made a great gift and attached no dead hand to it became Sir Josiah Mason.  When I received intimation of the Queen's decision, Mr. George Dixon, M.P., said it was for me to communicate it to Mr. Mason because I had caused it to occur.  I had pride in it, because it added well-earned dignity to one who was the providence of little children, and had done a generous thing in an unexampled way, and who would otherwise have remained unrecognised by any public distinction.  Sir Josiah Mason afterwards gave a quarter of a million more to found and endow the Mason College in which no creed or want of one is any disqualification for entering it.


MANY books at their close need this: and he who has perused these chapters has probably thought some apology was due long ago.  The story of many persons and many events remain untold in them; should I ever tell them, as in those I have related, one characteristic will be found—that of depicting the manners, prejudices, and progress of my time, so far as, judging from my own experience, may be of use to others.  In any manifesto of a committee, of which I have been one, I have asked, in mercy to others, for brevity and clearness.  Having myself a full share both of perversity and dullness, the statement which compelled my assent might be intelligible to the public; for I never put myself forward as representing other than the average stupidity of mankind.  In this way I have been of service to men wiser than myself.  Only in this way I may have been of service to the reader, who, being better informed than the writer, has been saved time in making out his meaning.

    Forty of my colleagues of former years, all counted, have died by my side, and I should be dead also had I been as strong as they.  Being otherwise, I had to keep both work and pleasure within the limits of my strength, whereas they, being like Dr. Wendell Holmes's "one-horse shay," equally strong in every part, went down, without suspicion or foreboding, altogether.

    In my life one constant source of pleasure has been—that of laughing at the absurdity of the things I like.  Seeing principles as objects apart from me, I could not but notice the grotesque way in which unconsciously they were sometimes carried out.  A friend of mine who had progress in his heart and was bent upon the redemption of the world, which has been the ambition of noble men in all ages, founded a "Redemption Society"—a big business surely—and we began to acknowledge the weekly receipts in the Leader, which ran—Leeds, 7d.; London, 10½d.; Glasgow, 1s. 3d.  These small sums for a vast end made it look absurd.  I suggested that the contributions should be allowed to accumulate before inserting them, which caused me to be counted unsympathetic.  In speech, in conduct, as in judgments, I am for proportion.  In social and political aims credence depends upon proportion between progression and possibility.  Far be it from me to pretend to be without points of amusement in the judgment of others.  The only apology for absurdity lies in admitting it when you have committed it.  There is no safeguard against ridiculousness, save by looking outside yourself, and observing the reflection which conduct makes in the mirror of circumambient eyes.

    Many who enter on the path of public service are repelled, as I have seen, by the prevalence there of aspirants for the position of pontiffs, chiefs, and lesser popes and potentates.  Yet it is a good sign that this ambition exists.  When, however, these persons are found decrying the thing another is doing, which you therefore conclude to be wrong and extol them for their wiser perception—you are discouraged on finding that they did not consider the thing wrong, but sought to prevent another doing it in order to have the credit of doing it themselves.  Carlyle, proclaiming the doctrine of silence in order that his own voice might be alone heard, is an instance of the same thing in literature.  Surprise on the first discovery of this artifice is one of the instructive shocks of experience.

    The ambition of distinction is wholesome so long as it permits equal opportunity to others.  In democracy there is no chieftainship to which others must submit their judgment against their reason.  There is no legitimate leadership, save the leadership of ideas, no allegiance save that of conviction, no loyalty save loyalty to principle.  The passion of personal ascendancy—the more than impatience, the dislike such persons have of submitting their conduct to the judgment of others—their belief that they are superior persons and all others inferior—the desire to keep others separate and apart—the reluctance to consult them except when applause or suffrages are necessary to the success of their aims—lies deep in the hearts of those who seek personal ascendancy.  When the genius of democracy enters the mind and teaches a leader to aim at the elevation of his cause or his country, rather than the elevation of himself, then he says with Byron—

                                  "I wish men to he free
 As much from mobs as kings-from you as me."

    Those who look back on life disappointed because it has not been what they wished it to be, should be put back again into the kingdom of the unborn—they do not understand the world into which they have come.  Those who look on their days with regret because they have not been what they might have been had they availed themselves of the opportunities they have had, have not adequately observed what has gone on around them.  No one does avail himself of all his opportunities.  Every one has to regret fatal or irreparable omissions.  The dice of life are loaded by unseen agents before we throw them, and we may be glad if we win anything, not discontented because we do not win all.

    My information, all told, does not amount to much; but the best and surest part of it has been gained in discussion, and in listening to criticisms.  It is wise to believe in the Arabic proverb:—

"Men are four.
"He who knows not, and knows not he knows not.  He is a fool; shun him.
"He who knows not, and knows he knows not.  He is simple; teach him.
"He who knows, and knows not he knows.  He is asleep; wake him.
"He who knows, and knows he knows.  He is wise; follow him."

    Sayings are like glow-worms.  It is only in the night of experience that we discern the light in them.  One reads the saying of Pascal: "What an enigma is man!  What a strange, chaotic, and contradictory being.  Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, depository of the Truth, mass of uncertainty, glory and butt of the universe!"  "It was a long time before it became evident to me that these contradictions which Pascal discerned of men in the aggregate are true of every man.  Each individual has within himself, latent or operant, all the characteristics of the race, which opportunity or circumstance (more enduring than opportunity), brings out.  Byron saw that man was "half dust, half deity."  Like Carlyle, a man may be at once brutal, contemptuous, and tender—unjust, yet loving justice—reverencing right in man, yet exhorting them to despotism.  Seeing that every person possesses all the qualities of mankind in proportion, what remains but to look with unexpectant eyes upon all, waiting to see what baser elements have been repressed or transmuted by wise education and noble conditions of life, or what lofty principles have been exalted and confirmed.  Only on such considerations can a man protect himself from mistaken judgments and irreparable disappointment.

    It is less difficult to inspire persons with the passion for knowledge than to induce them to extend the advantage of it to others.  Too many despise those in the condition from which they have escaped; their contemptible philosophy is that of the Coptic song which tells us that everywhere

"This, and but this, was the gospel alway:
 Fools from their folly 'tis hopeless to stay,
 Mules will be mules by the law of their mulishness;
 Then be advised and leave fools to foolishness
 What from an ass can be got but a bray?"

But mankind are not asses, though he is who thinks them so.  Certainly there are men of mulish minds, and their muline judgments have to be tolerated on grounds of heredity.  But none knew better than Goethe, who wrote the Coptic song, that the average man could be exalted.  To this he contributed by his splendid genius.  He who alleges the unimprovability of others as an excuse for his doing nothing for them—and thinks only of himself—forfeits his right to exist.  There is no place or need for him in another life; and were he raised from the dead, it would bring resurrection itself into contempt.

    Once I had opportunity of aid unforeseen by me.  A valued friend (Mr. W. H. Dingnan), whom the Government of the day desired to requite for public service, generously proposed that I should be requited in his stead.  It being intended, I wrote to Mr. Gladstone "not to give heed to it as I could not accept anything.  I had spent many years in teaching working men the lesson of self-help, and that it was the duty of the people to support the State, and not the State the people.  Should blindness come again or age render me incapable of my accustomed work, I might think differently."  Age, with noiseless and unnoticed steps has arrived, and friends with it, who have mitigated its disablement.  In 1876 Mr. John Stephens Storr, and in 1888 Mr. Thomas Allsop, were the cause of it.  On each occasion a Committee, whose names will always be in my mind, [33] enabled all future work by me to depend on choice and pleasure.

    A curious feature was this: Some whom I had served, not without cost and peril to myself when I might rightly have served myself instead, were as the Levite and passed by on the other side; while others I had never known, even by name, whom I had never seen, upon whom I had no claim, whom I never had opportunity of serving, with others whose thoughts were alien to mine, showed me a disinterested friendliness.  The world is a field sprinkled with generous seed which springs up in unexpected and unknown places.  Whatever I have done since, I owe to these diversified friends.  They gave me length of days and pleasure greater than they can know.

    Every one who has taste in ideas, and is above adopting second-hand opinions—because they can be had cheap—incurs trouble in selecting those of the best quality and testing them himself.  He who does this has trouble, but his pleasure and pride in true thinking is greater than the slovenly and shabby minded ever know.  If a man could believe in everybody's creed, it would make things pleasanter in this world, and perhaps safer for the next; since surely some of them must be the right ones.  But he thinks meanly of the arbiters of Heaven if he supposes its doors are open to applicants of indolence, calculation and low taste.  The "land of the leal" belongs to those who, like Savonarola, judge not authors according to their fame, nor accept opinions because they are in vogue, but always keep their eyes fixed on truth and reason; not to those who, in Diderot's words, think it more prudent to be mad with the mad than be wise by themselves.  This is my apology to the reader for that wilfulness of opinion which I fear has often perplexed or perturbed him in these pages.





In this and the previous chapter I have used annotations by Mr, Bright.  He then and always deprecated any words of praise applied to himself, but I did not wholly leave them out on that account.


Merritt never heard of his friend more.  Yet all the while he was pursuing his art in Brighton and executed some works for Joseph Ellis, who told me he had much regard for Delamotte.


He applied this phrase to my proposal, that proof of intelligence, such as a workman could give and which I defined, should be a certificate of enfranchisement.


Mr. Bright did not remember him. Mr. J. A. Bright tells me there is no, tradition of him in the family, and he must have worked elsewhere in Rochdale.


See "Carlile the Publisher," vol. i. chap. xxxv. p. 87.


In Chambers's "Encyclopædia," in Molesworth's "History of England," in Cassell's "Encyclopædic Dictionary," in Dr. Murray's Oxford Dictionary, the reader will see definitions of it. In theological literature readers may meet with fair estimates of it. "Mr. Holyoake taught us many years ago those truths of Secularism which are happily no longer neglected by Christian teachers."--Rev. Hugh Price Hughes, in New Review.


Among them were George Anderson, Robert Applegarth, Major Evans Bell, Lord Brassey, Rev. Stopford A. Brooke, Thomas Burt, M.P., Right Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, M.P., Right Hon. Sir Charles Dilke, Bart., Rev. J. R. Green, Judge Hughes, Walter Morrison, M.P., E. Vansittart Neale, Rev. Joseph Parker, D.D. To Drs. George Bird and Hugh Campbell I owed the recovery of my health, and to Mr. Brudenell Carter the restoration of my sight. Nor can I be unmindful that Professors Bain, Huxley, Newman, and Tyndall, that Harriet Martineau, Herbert Spencer, and many others, were among those to whose friendship I was indebted.



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