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They told me that its skies were bright,
You could not tell when Summer's near
I went that glorious land to view,
I saw it-and the tale was true.
August 10th, 1860.
Robert Lowe about this time wrote to Mrs. Bernal Osborne to announce the death of a favourite sister, and curiously diverged into a criticism of Hood's poems, which is not without interest as a piece of self-revelation.
Robert Lowe to Mrs. Bernal Osborne.
Caterham September 13, 1860.
My dear Mrs. Osborne,-I have just had a very heavy loss to bear, in the death of a sister who was very dear to me, and between whom and me there was this additional bond of an exact similarity in physical peculiarities. She died without pain, of a decay of nature.
Many thanks for your present of photographs. I think they are admirable and shall hang them up in my drawing-room here, as very agreeable objects of contemplation. But you must know that there is another, which I should value much more, and which I hope I may not have very long to wait for. Pray do not withhold
it from me.
By the law of England, the Queen is entitled to all treasuretrove, so that Lewis's offer to pay for it is a mitigation, not an aggravation, of the present state of things; I can give you no other explanation, and can only hope that this may assuage your wrath; otherwise, I abandon him to your vengeance.
I do not think the review of Hood a good one; the ideas about wit and bulls were not clearly worked out, and were quite irrelevant The criticism on and not worth bringing in head and shoulders.
the Bridge' and the Shirt' I did not like either.
The fault of the 'Shirt' is not that it is a homely description of homely misery, but that it is false in sentiment and tendency. The 'Shirt' seems to suppose that if people gave up wearing them, like the Irishman who was caught by the Sultan of Scrindib, the women
who make them would be better off; that is, that to diminish employment is a remedy for poverty, and that the rich ought somehow to take care that the employers of the poor seamstresses paid them more. Such sentiments do not even rise to the level of Socialism, they are downright fatuity.
It seems to me absurd to say the 'Bridge' is not pathetic. What other merit does it pretend to? If it is to found Hood's reputation on an ill-chosen metre and an absence of pathos, that reputation will not stand long. But it is pathetic, and the proof is that every reader feels the pathos. A false taste may mistake bombast for sublimity, or trifling for refinement, but pathos is within everyone's comprehension, and can only be judged by its effects, not on critics, but on ordinary readers. Did you ever read Hood's Irish Schoolmaster'?
I know of no earthquakes but moral ones, which abound greatly. I have been sounded as to my willingness to take the Government of Madras, but have declined-thirty millions of subjects! and 8,0007. or 10,000l. a year, I forget which. Poor Wilson' has not long enjoyed his place. I have not read the story you mention. Give my love to the two originals, a term which I use in no depreciating sense, And believe me always,
The sister whose death he lamented was Elizabeth Agnes Pyndar Lowe, who was two years his senior, and, like himself, an albino. In his brief autobiography there is a touching allusion to her and to the affliction common to both. She was,' he wrote, I think, the gentlest and best person I ever knew, but was very keenly alive to this misfortune. Had I felt my peculiarities as she did, anything like public or even active life would have been to me an impossibility.'
The Right Hon. James Wilson, founder of the Economist, and father-inlaw of its most famous editor, Walter Bagehot. Like Lord Sherbrooke, Wilson had been Secretary of the Board of Control, and was afterwards Financial Secretary of the Treasury. He went to India as Financial Member of the Council in 1859, but died in less than a year, to the deep regret of Lord Canning and all British India.
MINISTER OF EDUCATION
FROM 1859 to 1864 Robert Lowe held the office of Vice-President of the Council of Education (in which capacity, as already stated, he was also President of the Board of Health) in the last Palmerston Government. Before accepting this office he had not only held with great distinction the equally onerous post of Vice-President of the Board of Trade, but in and out of office he had rendered the old Liberal Prime Minister most arduous and faithful service. It is hardly to be wondered at that his friends should have thought the time had arrived when he should have been admitted into the Cabinet. There is nothing, however, to show that Lowe himself took any steps to press his claims upon Palmerston until the elevation of Lord Russell to the House of Lords and the death of Lord Herbert of Lea in 1861 necessitated a reconstruction of the Government. Lowe, like all men who are diffident about pushing their own claims, was again overlooked. His friends strongly urged him to make a stand, and it would appear that he must have had some confidential talk with Lord Granville, who was not only his official superior as Lord President of the Council, but also his friend in the Cabinet.
Lord Granville occupied quite a unique position in the inner circle of official Liberalism. On the fall of the Derby Ministry in 1859 the Queen had sent for him, and he would
have formed a Government but for the refusal of Lord John Russell to serve under him. For all that, Lord Granville never bore the least malice to Lord John Russell, and was, indeed, his truest friend and wisest panegyrist up to the end. In the same spirit he heartily consented to fill a mere ornamental post under Palmerston. Such a man must always be very influential; for, being to a great extent unselfish, and having the rare faculty of seeing the best side of those more fiercely contending for the prize, he is naturally consulted at all times of crisis and in every difficulty. Some earnest conversation passed between Granville and Lowe, when the latter repeated what his friends were always urging-that if he acquiesced in Palmerston's neglect, and in his continued exclusion from the Cabinet, it would come to be looked upon as a matter of course that he should remain permanently in a subordinate position. Lord Granville, who was pre-eminently a man of the world, would be sure to feel the force of this reasoning. He had a strong admiration for Lowe's great ability and marvellous capacity for work, and had he been able himself to form a Government, there can be little doubt that Lowe would have been in the Cabinet from the outset. However, he was skilled in the art of pouring oil on the troubled waters, and succeeded in making his friend feel that Palmerston's neglect arose from the circumstances of his position and the importunity of men who, if they possessed less worth and ability, had greater parliamentary influence. Robert Lowe, as he always said himself, was the reverse of an ambitious man, and returned to his duties in the Education Department without giving the matter another thought. The following letter from the Marquis of Lansdowne clearly shows that this was the case.
Lord Lansdowne to the Right Hon. Robert Lowe.
Bowood: April 24, 1863.
Dear Mr. Lowe,-I am much obliged to you for recollecting the interest which I take in all that concerns you, and for informing
me of what passed in connection with the recent changes in the Government. I had certainly expected that those changes would have produced some combination of such a kind as to give you a seat in the Cabinet; and I felt sure that what has taken place would be a disappointment to you. No one who has the pleasure of knowing you, or who is in a position to appreciate your abilities as well as your great services, can do otherwise than participate in that disappointment. I feel convinced that it must have been a source of regret to Lord Palmerston and others, that the circumstances of the case should have been such as to have necessitated, in his opinion, the adoption of the course which was decided upon; but they must feel themselves deeply indebted to you for putting aside your personal feelings so completely in favour of the public interest.
Lady Lansdowne desires to be kindly remembered to you. She is equally interested with myself in your London gossip.'
Alas! Gratitude is but a lively sense of favours to come! When in the following year Robert Lowe had to meet a vote of censure in the House of Commons, Lord Palmerston, it must be confessed, did not show that he was conscious of any deep indebtedness-at least, not until Lowe took the matter into his own hands and by boldly resigning his office against the counsel and protestations of his colleagues brought about what is called a Ministerial crisis.
The world has recently been informed that Robert Lowe sprang into sudden fame by certain anti-Reform speeches. delivered in the House of Commons in 1866, and that before this time he was a mere nonentity, and that afterwards he again sank into obscurity. But if we study the actual events of our own time, or the parliamentary records of the last forty years, we shall find that Robert Lowe, previous to his anti-Reform speeches, had proved himself to be the best Minister of Trade, the best Minister of Health, and (with the possible exception of Mr. Forster) the greatest Minister of Education of our time. There are exceptions even among contemporary chroniclers; but, as a rule, the only persons