December 14

Has been quite warm and comfortable all day; dull in camp, and no news from Generals Sherman or Thomas; got an order to fix up quarters this morning which will do the men good as it will occupy their minds; are getting out timber now; shall be glad when my hut is fixed; am tired of changing about so much; wrote to Jim Burnham this evening; expected to go on duty this morning.

December Fourteenth

Washington stands alone and unapproachable, like a snow-peak rising above its fellows into the clear air of morning, with a dignity, constancy and purity which have made him the ideal type of civic virtue to succeeding generations.

James Bryce
(England)

 

George Washington dies, 1799

 

 

December 14

BIRDS'-NESTS.

I went out to tea last evening, and a lady gave me two nests made of platted grass, into which the birds enter through a hole at the bottom. They are about a yard long, and they hang swinging from the branch of a tree to which they are fastened. They are built in this form, in order to keep out the violent rains, and to preserve the birds from the monkeys.

COST OF DRESS.

The commonest articles of dress in Calcutta are at least three times as dear as they are in England. I bought a silk hat which would have cost five shillings at home, and paid fourteen rupees for it here; and some ribbon, which would have been threepence a-yard in England, cost a rupee and a half here. Then on the other hand many things are cheaper.

There has been no rain for two months, nor a cloud until the last day or two; now the clouds will continue to increase for a week, and then we shall have three days of rain, after that no more till the middle of June, except about three tremendous thunderstorms in April and May. The weather is now delightful: the thermometer varies from 60° to 80°; but I am glad of cloth clothes, and at night we have three blankets and a heavy counterpane. At this time of the year we have peas, beans, &c., and every one looks happy and cheerful, not healthy, for Europeans are all of a deadly white, and most of them exceedingly fat.

Monday, December 14th.—Got off at last at 3.30 a.m. Loaded up 300 at Merville, a place we've only been to once before, near the coalmines. Guns were banging only four miles off.

Had a good many bad cases, medical and surgical, this time: kept one busy to the journey's end. We are unloaded to-night, so they will soon be well seen to, instead of going down to Rouen or Havre, which two other trains just in have got to do.

We have a good many Gordons on; one was hugging his bagpipes, and we had him up after dinner to play, which he did beautifully with a wrapt expression.

We are going up again to-night. "Three trains wanted immediately"—been expecting that.

December 14, 1863

Monday afternoon. Lieutenant Colonel Parker and Lieutenant Heath went out for a ride, and it was whispered about that they were going out on Montague Street for a horse race. Gorton and I followed them up and found them already at it. A horse-car line crosses Montague Street a few blocks from the Cotton Press, and a car came across just as they were almost to it. Heath just missed and the colonel ran plump into it. His head hit the edge of the roof, which laid his scalp lock right back on his head. We picked him up and got him into a nearby drug store, and by that time he was coming to. But he didn't know where he was or what had happened. We got a doctor, who said he should go to the hospital, and he is there now with a very sore head, and the prospects of a big broad scar to remember his ride by.

If some of them don't get their necks broken it will be a wonder. Gorton has taken one of the rejected recruits to wait on him. Someway he had got past the doctor who examined him and was sworn in. But he is lame and was afterwards thrown out. His name is Henry Holmes, and says he enlisted at West Baton Rouge under an officer whose name he has forgotten. He was brought to New Orleans for transfer into a regiment, and was finally thrown out. He is very anxious to go north, and Gorton has promised to take him along when he goes home. He and my Tony are chums already and I am teaching them their letters. My time not being my own, I have no regular school hours, but they are always ready and really try hard to learn. As there is no prospect of our leaving our present quarters, and being of small account here, several of us have applied for leave of absence to go home. It is not expected each will get one and several bets have been made for and against any of us getting one. But wouldn't I be a happy boy if it should happen to be me.

Cannes Dec. 14, 1881

—— is so much stronger that I really believe that I shall be able to run over for a short visit, and the temptation is strong upon me to take your kind words literally. May I come—by the morning train from town—on Monday, the second day of 1882? It would be the pleasantest beginning of a New Year that I could possibly imagine, after a melancholy autumn.

To-morrow I am off to Nice with M., after the Blue Rose, and Christmas presents for the others. They tell me that Mr. Cross[155 ] is here. If so, I hope to have a talk with him about the difficult life he is writing.

I have been looking forward to the books of the Year, which I have not had courage to send for, especially the life of the most fascinating writer[156 ] of the day, and the letters of Bishop Thirlwall. I am glad to think that I need not stop in London to read them, and am extremely interested by what you say of Thirlwall. I never found him very attractive or accessible, personally.

The success of Newnham is a thing to congratulate your sister on. As to Herbert, the papers enable me to follow his wanderings and conversations with old Irishwomen. He must be making himself very useful to Mr. Gladstone; and I rejoice at symptoms in this day's papers which tend to weaken my inclination to compensation.

Of course you will tell me if the proposed date had better be exchanged for another, if there is any incompatible visit just then or for any other reason. I should not start until Thursday, the 29th.

[155 ] The husband of George Eliot.

[156 ] A short Life of Newman, by Mr. Jennings.

Dec. 14, 1880

Don't let me be unjust to Lecky. Dr. Smith asked me to review his "Eighteenth Century," but added that if I found myself inclining to severity he would wish to recall the proposal, inasmuch as the Quarterly  had just attacked Tyndall. For it happens that Smith[55 ] and I sometimes dine at a self-satisfied place that calls itself The Club. Good men belong to it, but stay away: Lowe, that he may not meet ——, whom he dislikes sober, and detests drunk; the P.M., because he too much appreciates the sweetness of home; others, for other futile reasons. The group that continues faithful and carries on the tradition of Johnson and Garrick is consequently small, and it is a delicate matter to meet in such close lists men one is editorially holding up to ridicule and obloquy. Indeed, the presence of both Edinburgh  and Quarterly  on that narrow stage imparts a taste of muttered thunder to most of our meetings. Tyndall and Lecky are members, and Smith did not like to be on with a new quarrel before he was off with the old. He had spoken unfavourably of an early and unripe book of Lecky's, who was gratified when he heard of the message I had received, and still more when Hayward reviewed him instead of me. I declined, because I was already in the clutches of a longer task, and because I find that people quarrel with me for reviewing them—not from dislike of the book. Hayward could find nothing in it he did not know before. But I was more fortunate; I learned a great deal, and should have said that it was solid, original, and just. Perhaps not deep or strong or lively, or even suggestive, for that is a refined quality, inconsistent with the habit of telling all one knows and thinks, and dotting all the i 's. The book is lop-sided, having grown out of a desire to demolish Froude's Irish volumes. And it was a mistake to treat the central, political history as a thing generally known, that could be taken for granted. No part of modern history has been so searched and sifted as to be without urgent need of new and deeper inquiry, and the touch of a fresh mind. Here is a new volume of 600 pages on Mary Stuart, by a man I never heard of, in which every other page tells us something unknown before, and the times of Walpole, Pelham, Pitt, being stirred by no surviving strife, have been much less studied than the great dispute whether Protestant or Catholic should reign in England. Neglecting the inexhaustible discoveries before him in the Archives, Lecky has to give sentence when he gives too little evidence, to describe characters more fully than careers, and to obtrude his own very good sense where a true scholar and artist would take care not to be seen.

There is another defect, due to the secular tone of Lecky's mind, but common to most historians. The age he writes of was the last in which permanent political doctrines were formed by ecclesiastical principles. Men very easily shape their notions of what government ought to be by their conception of divine right, of that domain in which the actual legislator is God. As to one class of minds Church interests are the supreme law in politics, to others, Church forms are the supreme example. Nobody is so fanatical as Nigel Penruddocke; but through subtle channels the influence works, and it was not merely a propelling, but a constructive force in politics from the end of the Middle Ages until the middle of the eighteenth century, when it became fixed in the theories of men like Atterbury, Toland, Hoadley, Wilson, Warburton—whose innermost instincts might be better exposed.

As to the novel of the season,[56 ] it is so dull and so absurd that I cannot get beyond the first volume. Except querulousness, it has nearly all the bad qualities of old age; and if St. Barbe is meant for Thackeray, it is contemptible even in caricature. My neighbour Salisbury must feel that his time is soon coming.

There is a little disappointment for Hayward even in the "Life of Fox." There is less pioneer's work in it than in Fitzmaurice. But the fulness of knowledge, the force and finish of the style (you see by my three F's that I have been studying the Irish question) have revealed a new man. I see him compared to his uncle,[57 ] and I think it is not an exaggeration, though Taine says there have been only two men in the world who had Macaulay's perspicuity. G.O.[58 ] is as transparent as graceful, and more easy. The only thing that has shocked me yet is his presumptuous assurance about the authorship of Junius. It is a Whig dogma that Francis was Junius; but that is mere Macaulayolatry. I have seen half the arguments that convinced me thirty years ago fall to pieces; and I am provoked that Trevelyan gives me old conclusions instead of new proofs. If his speaking has made as much progress as his writing, the Government has acquired a future Secretary of State. But I am still unhappy at their meeting Parliament with Courtney out in the cold.

As I quote Taine, I ought to say that I do not agree with him. The problems Macaulay made so clear were not the most difficult. Fenwick's attainder, and the theory of standing armies—purple patches in the way of exposition—are trifles compared with questions which jurists, divines, economists have to discuss. The phases of the Pelagian controversy, or the principles of government about which the Lutheran, Zwinglian, Calvinist, and Anglican Churches contended, would better have tested his power of making darkness clear.

I am glad that I wrote to Fagan before reading his book.[59 ] For I wrote about the Italian correspondence, which is curious. But the biography does not deserve the praise it gets from partial people in Downing Street. Houghton, I hear, has written ill-naturedly about Panizzi; but the book is as full as an egg of mistakes, and of things worse than mistakes, so that even remonstrance would be thrown away. You will read with interest two volumes of Mérimée's letters to Panizzi, just coming out. He was a bad man, and generally wrong; but few men ever wrote so well.

*****

I will get the Church Quarterly  at Nice, where I go to see my friend Arnim, who is dying there, and shall be very curious to read the article.[60 ] There is not a more interesting or unexhausted topic in all history than Julian, but I would have waited for the promised edition of his work against the Christians, which had not appeared when I left Germany.

Here is Parker,[61 ] fresh from Hawarden; and when I think of your long and obstinate cold, I cannot help regretting that you did not make the Cardwells bring you to Montfleury, where they are our nearest neighbours. He is much better than half a year ago, but very weak. For three weeks the sun has shone all day. Greatcoats and umbrellas are obsolete; and we have the most beautiful walks.

T. B. Potter, also at Montfleury, and a great favourite with my children, keeps me supplied with Cobdenian literature, and I have read Brodrick[62 ] with much pleasure.

Of course we are always thinking of Ireland, wishing for heroic treatment, such as would have saved Louis XVI. and the old French Monarchy, despairing of the needful overwhelming majority in the Commons, of any majority in the Lords, of union and strength in the Ministry; cheered by several intelligent letters and articles in the newspapers, sure only of the chief, and more sure of his strong mind than of his strong hand. If he has time for anything else, I hope he has read La Belgique et le Vatican, the volume published by Frere-Orban, the Belgian Minister, a weighty study of Vaticanism.

I am under the shock of the sudden Cabinet and of the Standard article, and am waiting for an answer to a telegram to know whether I must come at once. If not now, then on Monday or Tuesday before the opening, for I want to get the cue of the situation from the P.M. (an affair of five minutes), to see you, not quite so rapid a proceeding, and to hear the first debates.

[55 ] The editor of the Quarterly Review.

[56 ] Lord Beaconsfield's "Endymion," in which Nigel Penruddocke is one of the characters.

[57 ] Lord Macaulay.

[58 ] George Otto Trevelyan.

[59 ] "Life of Panizzi."

[60 ] "Julian the Apostate." By the Rev. the Hon. Arthur Lyttelton, afterwards Bishop of Southampton.

[61 ] Charles Stewart Parker, then M.P. for Perth.

[62 ] "English Land and English Landlords." By the Honble. George Brodrick, late Warden of Merton.

Cannes Dec. 14, 1880

I have been afraid to write. The delicious and most spiritual gift[46 ] was sent to me here, whither we came early, only to find ourselves in sore trouble, for a child had died of diphtheria in our villa just before we arrived. We had to settle in half-furnished apartments, where Mrs. Flower[47 ] found us, bringing a flavour of Hawarden. What has stood in my way is this: Some time ago, recalling a foolish speech of mine, a year old, and spoken under the spell of a great charm, you asked me to repeat it on paper. I hesitated long, and whilst I hesitated, the little volume came, and made it churlish to decline any wish of yours. I resolved that the best sign of the sincerity of my gratitude would be to do what you had asked, and to be much more foolish than ever by putting on impertinent record the evanescent conversation of Tegernsee. But I have been so fearful of giving you more annoyance than pleasure, whether by the seeming of flattery or of censure, that I have allowed myself to slip into a much more grievous fault. Will you understand me and try to forgive me? I can never thank you enough for all the friendship of which that beautiful volume is the treasured symbol. There is so much of your thought in the beauty of it, and so much in the choice of it—more than you could guess. A dear friend of mine, now dead,[48 ] devoted himself to the study of the Sonnets, as the real key to Shakespeare, being the form of his own ideas, not what he gave to his characters. We discussed them much together in long evenings at Aldenham, and he wrote a book about them, which he followed up with a volume called "The School of Shakespeare"; and the two together are the best introduction to him that I know.... Swinburne himself has recognised their merit; so that a lost part of my life came back to me with your gift. All which is to say that, whereas all that comes from you is very precious to me, if anything could add to its price it was the happy chance that guided your hand.

Beyond that I must thank you very heartily for the confidence you showed me in sending me that early letter.[49 ] It fills a large blank in my conception and understanding of his life, for it shows—for the first time to me—how large a part of what we know and contemplate with wonder is an original gift, and was born with him, and how little, on the other hand, has been added by the training of life. There are things which experience has restrained, and checked in their exuberance; but there are almost all the germs of the power that rules the movements of half a world. When I read that skit of the revered philosopher,[50 ] it almost seemed to me as if I had sometimes doubted his greatness, and I think you were very good-natured. He is one of the few Englishmen of genius; one of the most perfect masters of our language that ever wrote; and when one has said that, and said it as forcibly as can be, one comes to a deplorable catalogue of evil qualities with which I shall not darken my pages. It was very good of you to send me that introduction.

I went to the Ghetto, and was amazed at the knowledge and conversation of a lady who turned out to be Mrs. Mark Pattison.... She seemed to be much in the secrets of the Chamberlain-Morley-Dilke faction, and despondent about the Pall Mall. But I like Mrs. Flower exceedingly, though I had only a glimpse of her. I thought her intelligent, sensible, and good—things not to be lightly spoken of anybody—and especially not to you. As to Lady Blennerhassett, she is kind-hearted, knows how to think straight, and is the cleverest woman I ever met out of St. John's Wood.[51 ] If I ever said less than this in her favour, it would be injustice to do so now. Sir Rowland Blennerhassett fell at one time into bad hands—hands of Midhat and of Newman.... I fancied he was half a jingo, half an Ultramontane; and his wife seemed to back him, and held much aloof from us. They have richly made up for it since, and there is no Irishman whom I should more wish to see in conference with your father just now. He told me so much that was curious and important and concrete, that I begged him to put our conversation on paper, that I might use it in the proper quarter. He has not chosen to do it, I fear from a motive of delicacy. For we suppose that a set is being made against Forster; and he would not like, by private letters, to contribute to it, as his statements certainly would have done. But all these are words of wisdom: it is time for foolishness. I remember the occasion. You wished that you could disengage your mind from its surroundings, and learn the judgment of posterity; and I said that, if you chose, you might hear it at once. How I retrieved my audacity I cannot tell; and it is an awkward matter to recall, unless, like the ghosts that looked so foolish in the vestibule of the "Inferno," I avoid both good and evil.

The generation you consult will be more democratic and better instructed than our own; for the progress of democracy, though not constant, is certain, and the progress of knowledge is both constant and certain. It will be more severe in literary judgments, and more generous in political. With this prospect before me I ought to have answered that hereafter, when our descendants shall stand before the slab that is not yet laid among the monuments of famous Englishmen, they will say that Chatham knew how to inspire a nation with his energy, but was poorly furnished with knowledge and ideas; that the capacity of Fox was never proved in office, though he was the first of debaters; that Pitt, the strongest of ministers, was among the weakest of legislators; that no Foreign Secretary has equalled Canning, but that he showed no other administrative ability; that Peel, who excelled as an administrator, a debater, and a tactician, fell everywhere short of genius; and that the highest merits of the five without their drawbacks were united in Mr. Gladstone. Possibly they may remember that his only rival in depth, and wealth, and force of mind was neither admitted to the Cabinet nor buried in the Abbey. They will not say of him, as of Burke, that his writing equalled his speaking, or surpassed it like Macaulay's. For though his books manifest the range of his powers, if they do not establish a distinct and substantive reputation, they will breed regret that he suffered anything to divert him from that career in which his supremacy was undisputed among the men of his time. People who suspect that he sometimes disparaged himself by not recognising the secret of his own superiority will incline to believe that he fell into another error of wise and good men, who are not ashamed to fail in the rigid estimate of characters and talents. This will serve them to explain his lofty unfitness to deal with sordid motives, and to control that undignified but necessary work, his inability to sway certain kinds of men, and that strange property of his influence, which is greatest with multitudes, less in society—and least at home. And it will help them to understand a mystery that is becoming very prominent, that he formed no school, and left no disciples who were to him what Windham, Grenville, Wellesley, Canning, Castlereagh were to Pitt; that his colleagues followed him because he had the nation at his back, by force more than by persuasion, and chafed as he did by the side of Palmerston.

Some keys, I imagine, will be lost, and some finer lines will yield to the effacing fingers: the impress left by early friendship with men who died young, like Hallam, or from whom he was parted, like Hope Scott; the ceremonious deference to authorities that reigned in college days under a system heavily weighted with tradition; the microscopic subtlety and care in the choice of words, in guarding against misinterpretation and in correcting it, which belonged to the Oxford training, which is a growth of no other school, which even in such eminent men as Newman and Liddon is nearly a vice, and is a perpetual stumbling-block and a snare for lesser men—these are points appreciable by those who know him that must be obscure to those who come after us. They will wonder how it was that an intellect remarkable for originality and independence, matchless in vigour, fertility, and clearness, continued so long shrouded in convictions imbibed so early as to be akin to prejudices, and was outstripped in the process of emancipation by inferior minds. The pride of democratic consistency will aim its shafts at those lingering footsteps, as a scientific age will resent the familiarity and sympathy with Italian thought to the detriment of more perfect instruments of knowledge and of power, and that inadequate estimate of the French and German genius which has been unfortunately reciprocal.

But all the things about which no New Zealander will feel as we do, do not disturb your appeal to the serene and impartial judgment of history. When our problems are solved and our struggles ended, when distance has restored the proportions of things, and the sun has set for all but the highest summits, his fame will increase even in things where it seems impossible to add to it. Ask all the clever men you know, who were the greatest British orators, and there are ten or twelve names that will appear on every list. There is no such acknowledged primacy among them as Mirabeau enjoys in France or Webster in America. Macaulay told me that Brougham was the best speaker he had heard; Lord Russell preferred Plunket; and Gaskell, Canning. I have heard people who judged by efficacy assign the first place to Peel, O'Connell, Palmerston, and to an evangelical lecturer, whom I dare say nobody but Lord Harrowby remembers, of the name of Burnett. But that illustrious chain of English eloquence that begins in the Walpolean battles, ends with Mr. Gladstone. His rivals divide his gifts like the generals of Alexander. One may equal him in beauty of composition, another in the art of statement, and a third, perhaps, comes near him in fluency and fire. But he alone possesses all the qualities of an orator; and when men come to remember what his speeches accomplished, how it was the same whether he prepared an oration or hurled a reply, whether he addressed a British mob or the cream of Italian politicians, and would still be the same if he spoke in Latin to Convocation, they will admit no rival. "C'est la grandeur de Berryer avec la souplesse de Thiers," was the judgment of the ablest of the Ultramontanes on his speech on Charities.

There are especially two qualities that will not be found in other men. First, the vigorous and perpetual progress of his mind. Later ages will know what in this critical autumn of a famous year is only guessed, that even now, at 70, in his second ministry, after half a century of public life, his thoughts are clearing, moving, changing, on the two highest of all political questions.[52 ]

His other pre-eminent characteristic is the union of theory and policy. Bonaparte must have possessed the same mastery of infinite detail; and the best democrats, Jefferson, Sieyès, and Mill, were firm and faithful in their grasp of speculative principle. But in democracy that doctrinal fidelity is neither difficult nor very desirable of attainment. Its disciples embrace a ready-made system that has been thought out like the higher mathematics, beyond the need or the chance of application. The sums have been worked, the answers are known. There is no secret about their art. Their prescriptions are in the books, tabulated and ready for use. We always know what is coming. We know that the doctrine of equality leads by steps not only logical, but almost mechanical, to sacrifice the principle of liberty to the principle of quantity; that, being unable to abdicate responsibility and power, it attacks genuine representation, and, as there is no limit where there is no control, invades, sooner or later, both property and religion. In a doctrine so simple, consistency is no merit. But in Mr. Gladstone there is all the resource and policy of the heroes of Carlyle's worship, and yet he moves scrupulously along the lines of the science of statesmanship. Those who deem that Burke was the first political genius until now, must at this point admit his inferiority. He loved to evade the arbitration of principle. He was prolific of arguments that were admirable but not decisive. He dreaded two-edged weapons and maxims that faced both ways. Through his inconsistencies we can perceive that his mind stood in a brighter light than his language; but he refused to employ in America reasons which might be fitted to Ireland, lest he should become odious to the great families and impossible with the King.[53 ] Half of his genius was spent in masking the secret that hampered it. Goldsmith's cruel line is literally true.[54 ]

Looking abroad, beyond the walls of Westminster, for objects worthy of comparison, they will say that other men, such as Hamilton and Cavour, accomplished work as great; that Turgot and Roon were unsurpassed in administrative craft; that Clay and Thiers were as dexterous in parliamentary management; that Berryer and Webster resembled him in gifts of speech, Guizot and Radowitz in fulness of thought; but that in the three elements of greatness combined, the man, the power, and the result—character, genius, and success—none reached his level.

The decisive test of his greatness will be the gap he will leave. Among those who come after him there will be none who understand that the men who pay wages ought not to be the political masters of those who earn them, (because laws should be adapted to those who have the heaviest stake in the country, for whom misgovernment means not mortified pride or stinted luxury, but want and pain, and degradation and risk to their own lives and to their children's souls,) and who yet can understand and feel sympathy for institutions that incorporate tradition and prolong the reign of the dead. Fill the blanks, deepen the contrasts, shut your eyes to my handwriting, and, if you make believe very much, you shall hear the roll of the ages.

[46 ] Shakespeare's Sonnets, pocket edition.

[47 ] Now Lady Battersea.

[48 ] Richard Simpson (1820-1876), author of an "Introduction to the Philosophy of Shakespeare's Sonnets" (1868) and "The School of Shakespeare" (1872).

[49 ] A letter from Mr. Gladstone on the choice of a profession.

[50 ] Mr. Ruskin.

[51 ] George Eliot lived in St. John's Wood.

[52 ] Agrarian Laws and Ecclesiastical Establishments.

[53 ] He stood by Ireland to the end, and his last letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe reaffirms the principles of his youth.

[54 ] "And to party gave up what was meant for mankind."