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bama claims by arbitration instead of by bloodshed. Of course, there were many minor causes, of which the care and prudence shown by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in spending the nation's money was one of the chief. Above all, the people wanted a change, and were quite sated with administrative reform and Irish experimental legislation.
It was at this crisis, too, that the internal dissensions of the Ministry were made the subject of public comment. Lowe more and more found it impossible to work, or even to preserve the semblance of amicable relations, with Ayrton. As he was never in the habit of referring to these personal matters in his conversations with friends, it is quite impossible to say how things had come to such a pass. Mr. Ward Hunt, however, asked in the House, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Commissioner of Works were on speaking terms. All that can positively be said is that, as the story of Alfred Stevens the sculptor plainly shows, Robert Lowe thoroughly disliked Ayrton's manner and methods, and consulted him on matters of public business as little as possible. Hence arose the imbroglio concerning the plans for the erection of the Law Courts and other public buildings on the Embankment, which Ayrton bitterly resented. Such dissensions were of ill omen for the life of the Ministry. There was, besides, the dispute with Mr. Baxter, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and the direct negotiations between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mr. Scudamore of the Telegraph Department. That perhaps too energetic official seems to have been in the habit of completely ignoring his parliamentary chiefs (Lord Hartington and Mr. Monsell), a practice in which it was stated the Chancellor of the Exchequer abetted him. Lowe's chief difficulty, however, was, as already stated, with Ayrton, and this was, without doubt, one of the principal causes which led to the reconstruction of the Ministry, when Mr. Gladstone took the Treasury, Robert Lowe became Secretary of State for the Home Department, and Mr. Bruce
became Lord Aberdare. There were other important changes which need not be specified, though it should, perhaps, be added that Mr. Ayrton ceased to be Commissioner of Works. and Dr. Lyon Playfair succeeded Mr. Monsell at the Post Office.
Robert Lowe's official career was now fast drawing to its close. He, indeed, only held the office of Home Secretary for some five months, during the whole of which time Parliament was in
There can be no doubt that the release from the harassments of the Treasury and the holiday from nightly worries at St. Stephen's wrought a beneficial change. The four years' close and unremitting labour as Chancellor of the Exchequer had begun to tell their tale on his powerful mind and singularly healthy bodily constitution. They had, to a great extent, divorced him from the society of his friends and the companionship of his books; worse than all, day after day, while he was receiving deputations and going over distracting lists of figures and calculations, or wrangling with the cantankerous Mr. Ayrton, he was thinking of the serious illness of his wife. This greatly worried him at nights, when he was obliged to sit through dreary debates on the Ministerial benches. Little did his antagonists all over the country suspect that the hard and unsympathetic statesman, such as they imagined him, was all the while racked with anxiety, and eagerly longing to get home to a suffering wife. He was the last man to have urged private sorrow as a plea for public shortcomings; but now that the battle is over it may, perhaps, be briefly alluded to as throwing some light on the troubled close of his official career as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
And thus it was that the removal to the Home Office, the release from Mr. Ayrton, and the respite from parliamentary attendance, restored some of his former elasticity and almost undeviating cheerfulness. The final episode in the life of the Gladstone Ministry has been depicted by many an unsparing
pen, one amongst whom thus describes the growing popularity of the new Home Secretary :
Curiously enough, it was Mr. Lowe who was most successful in winning popularity for the Ministry during the recess. The policy [Mr. Forster's Education Act] found in him a zealous defender. The working classes heard with pleased surprise a rumour to the effect that he had drafted a Bill conceding the demand of Trades' Unionists for a reform of the labour laws. His manner of receiving deputations had suddenly become bland and suave. When, for example, the representatives of the Licensed Victuallers went to complain to him of the licensing laws, he was so sympathetic that the leader of the deputation sent a graphic account of the interview to the press. He explained how he and his colleagues had waited on the new Home Secretary in fear and trembling, but how delighted they were to find that the great scholar and debater cheered the meeting with many sunny glimpses of his own anti-Puritanic nature.' 1
There is a class of men in the colonies who always turn up on a goldfield after it is worked out, when their more swift and adventurous brethren are off to a fresh rush.' In this spirit, a gentleman who had compiled a political brochure, having, doubtless, read many attacks on Robert Lowe in the back files of the newspapers, thought fit to institute a peculiarly infelicitous comparison between him and the present Lord Cross, as Home Secretaries. Someone brought the book under Lowe's notice, who, more in amusement than in anger, despatched to the author the following epistle :
34 Lowndes Square: March 25, 1880.
Sir,-In your recently published work, entitled England Under Lord Beaconsfield, p. 49, you say: 'He (Mr. Cross) has not made half the mistakes in five and a half years which Mr. Lowe made in five and a half months, and has probably done almost as much to make the Government popular as Mr. Lowe did to make the late administration disliked.'
I think I am fairly entitled to call upon you to specify to what proceedings of mine, during the brief period for which I held the office of Secretary of State for the Home Department, you allude.
1 Life and Times of Queen Victoria, vol. ii. p. 458-9. (Cassell.)
I confess that, as the whole period was in the vacation, and as no particular event occurred during that time, I thought I was as little entitled to censure as to praise; and I await with some curiosity the catalogue, with which I hope you will be so good as to furnish me, of the many mistakes damaging to the Government which you say that I made during those five months and a half for which I was at the Home Office, with such fatal effect on the Ministry.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
A STATESMAN'S RECREATION
ROBERT LOWE's release from the cares of office was by no means unwelcome to himself, while it was hailed with delight by his intimate personal friends-especially those of the fair sex-who for the past four years had been deprived of so much of his valued conversation and society. He was a man, like Dr. Johnson, who loved to unbend and to talk, sometimes epigrammatically and sometimes at random, on all the subjects that excite and interest the human mind. Of all our English public men in this terribly dull and prosaic age, he was the only one, with the exception of Disraeli, out of whose sayings a really interesting volume of table-talk could have been compiled. Without being in any way so bizarre as Lord Beaconsfield, he was quite as witty, and he had a range of knowledge and scholarship altogether beyond the reach of that remarkable and fascinating personage. Unfortunately, the mass of his brilliant sayings have passed into thin air; for he had this peculiarity, unique among great talkers, that he poured out what was best in him at the moment, quite irrespective of the nature of his audience. Indeed, unlike such famous wits of society as Sydney Smith, he never looked for an audience at all.
It is much to be regretted that a man with the singular conversational gifts of Lord Sherbrooke should not have had, during some portion of his career, a Boswell at his elbow. The late Richard Redgrave, the artist, who seems to have had a genuine admiration for his old chief, is one of the few