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Thus to the pious and
in England bore traces of the 'pew.' excellent persons who belong to the same pew as John Henry Newman, it seems almost wicked that one should venture to complain of his theological bias or his lack of philosophic insight. So with the Cobdenites; it rests with none but the foolish to deny that Richard Cobden played a great part in remodelling the social and political life of England. But we are surely not on that account debarred from freely criticising his limitations as a statesman. It is, perhaps, hazardous to do so, after the popular biography of so skilful a panegyrist as Mr. John Morley, who seems to regard Cobden not only as the great apostle of free trade, but also as a kind of inspired Foreign Minister. Such a conception could only have taken place after Cobden's death, nor could it be generally accepted by the English people unless they were what their great enemy declared them to be, a nation of shopkeepers. It is instructive to turn from the pages of Mr. Morley's Life of Richard Cobden-admirable as it is-to the comments and criticism made on that remarkable man during his lifetime. For instance, Cobden published a reply to a clergyman who had sent him a memorial sermon on the Duke of Wellington; therein, as on other occasions, he showed his own littleness by trying to belittle one who was so infinitely greater than himself. The Spectator 1-never a partisan or extreme journal -was so indignant with Cobden's effusion that it published a severe and excellent article, headed 'The Great Un-Englishman.'
It is refreshing to find that Lord Sherbrooke, though essentially a Liberal, and a strenuous advocate of all reforms which he thought tended to the progress of the nation, on this subject of our national defences, naval and military, expressed himself as entirely opposed to the teachings of Richard Cobden, with whom on most economic questions he was completely in accord.
1 January 29, 1853.
The articles here alluded to are but a mere fraction of those which Lowe contributed to the Times during the first year of his connection with that journal. He wrote on almost every question of public interest, social as well as political. Among his lighter contributions was a criticism of Charles Dickens's pet project-the Guild of Literature and Art-which, no doubt, greatly disgusted the popular novelist at the time. The Guild was inaugurated by the famous amateur theatrical performance of Bulwer Lytton's comedy, Not so Bad as We Seem, at Devonshire House, in the presence of the Queen and the Prince Consort; and, in addition to Dickens and Lytton, there were a number of other well-known artists and men of letters connected with the enterprise.
The scheme looked very well on paper; nothing could be more admirable than to encourage life assurance and provident habits, and to render timely assistance that should not compromise the independence of needy authors and artists. But, as the Times article acutely pointed out, this scheme could only assist persons whom the public would have not the slightest anxiety to relieve. The Guild would not redeem Sheridan's blanket from the bailiff, or succour the pinching poverty of a Goldsmith or a Burns. These were constitutionally improvident men, who never dreamt of insuring their lives, or of anything else except their own daily subsistence, the delight of their readers, the deathless renown of their works, and the glory of their country and their language.'
The writer proceeds to give other familiar illustrations of improvident men of genius whom he declares the Guild would never have assisted. He then points out the class whom it would in all probability succour. The drudge of the bookseller, whose labour is little more intellectual than that of the printer and binder who contribute with him to the construction of a volume, and mediocrities of all kinds, whether in the department of review or compilation.' For the declared object of Charles Dickens's scheme was, he wrote, 'not to reward
talent and public service, but prudence, and prudence of that particular kind which commences its proceedings in life with the view and ambition of terminating it in an almshouse. The men whom the Guild delights to honour are those who work at literature as a trade, and being conscious of their inability to make it pay, look forward to eleemosynary support in their old age. Such a prospect would afford the same stimulus to literary exertion and the same reward of merit as the plan of the French Socialist, to pay all labourers alike whether they work well or ill.'
No doubt this mode of treating their favourite scheme greatly annoyed such men as Charles Dickens, Bulwer Lytton, and Douglas Jerrold; but though clever men.of letters, they were none of them social philosophers, and the day came when they must have perceived that their critic understood literary human nature much better than they did themselves.
Robert Lowe was never an admirer of Louis Napoleon, and was not slow to attempt to rouse the English people to a sense of the risk they ran at the hands of so dangerous a neighbour, who, with the best feelings and intentions, might at any moment have been drawn into a war with England as he was, twenty years afterwards, with Germany, merely for the purpose of maintaining his own position and prestige. But Lowe never wrote anything of Napoleon III. more pointedly severe than the sentence in which he dismissed one of the public manifestoes of the Emperor's arch-detractor, Thiers: 'Every sentence is a complete answer to its neighbour, with this peculiar felicity, that M. Thiers contrives to lay down contrary propositions on the same subject, both of which are false !'
Lord John Russell as a reformer is thus hit off: Where good might be done by change, he is a prostrate worshipper of antiquity; where change must be productive of evil, a daring and wanton innovator.'
Of Earl Grey as a Colonial Minister it is remarked: He
governs a colony as Captain Cuttle manages his watch puts it forward a quarter of an hour in the morning, and back half an hour in the evening.'
An admirable illustration of his incisive manner of expressing common-sense opinion is furnished by an article on the Canterbury settlement, in New Zealand. After paying a high tribute to the noble ideal of the cultured founders of this province, Lord Sherbrooke gave this timely warning to the Canterbury pilgrims: 'If money is to be made at Canterbury, a mixed multitude of men of the most heterogeneous beliefs will infallibly rush in and elbow their orthodox predecessors from their stools. Nor do we see how this deluge of heresy and miscreancy is to be dammed out unless the Custom House officers are doctors of divinity, and the theological tenets of every new arrival be submitted to the same inquisitorial scrutiny as his sea-chest and his portmanteau.'
By joining the staff of the Times, Robert Lowe became more or less intimate with a number of its leading contributors. Among the most distinguished of these was the late Mr. Knox, afterwards the well-known police magistrate at Marlborough Street. Mr. Knox was then one of the principal leader-writers, and was not only a most able and accomplished journalist, but a man much given to thought and speculation, with whom Lord Sherbrooke always found it a pleasure to converse. The late Montagu Williams-an infallible authority on such a point-declared that Knox was the best story-teller he had ever known.
Another still more celebrated writer on the Times was the Rev. Thomas Mozley, whose Reminiscences of Oriel ranks among the best books of its class in the language. Mr. Mozley, as is well known, is the brother-in-law of the late Cardinal Newman, and brother of the famous Regius Professor of Divinity, J. B. Mozley, and of Miss Anne Mozley, the able writer and essayist. Of this brilliant family group, the only
survivor is the Rev. Thomas Mozley, formerly of the Times. With him it would appear that Lord Sherbrooke was never on very intimate terms.
With Sir George Dasent, the eminent Icelandic scholar, who was assistant-editor under Delane, Lord Sherbrooke was for many years on terms of great intimacy. He always regarded him as one of the best scholars and most accomplished and able writers in England. Sir George, who married a daughter of John Delane, is happily still living.
Bernal Osborne relates that he himself, Robert Lowe, Thackeray, Higgins (Jacob Omnium), Wingrove Cooke, Lawrence Oliphant, and Dr. W. H. Russell the war-correspondent, were wont to meet round the dinner-table at Delane's room in Serjeants' Inn. One can but regret that there should have been no Boswell present at these Symposia.
NOTE.-Law Reforms (pp. 26–30). It is interesting to note that the chapters dealing with Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in Bleak House were issued just after the appearance of Lord Sherbrooke's Times leaders on 'Chancery Reform.'
With regard to the Inns of Court, shortly after the satirical articles quoted in this chapter appeared, five readers-in Roman Law and Jurisprudence, in Real Property, in Equity, in Common Law, and in Constitutional Law-were appointed. The authorities clearly meant to wipe out the reproach of being 'rigid about eating, careless about learning.' Sir Henry Maine was one of the lecturers, and the world was subsequently the richer for these discourses, which formed the basis of his great work on Ancient Law.