THE LIFE OF THE RT. HON. SIR CHARLES W. DILKE, BART., M.P.
THE LIFE OF THE RT. HON. SIR CHARLES W. DILKE BART., M.P.
BEGUN BY STEPHEN GWYNN, M.P.
COMPLETED AND EDITED BY GERTRUDE M. TUCKWELL.
IN TWO VOLUMES VOL. I.
The following Life of Sir Charles W. Dilke consists mainly of his own Memoirs and of correspondence left by him or furnished by his friends.
The Memoirs were compiled by Sir Charles Dilke from his private diaries and letters between the years 1888 and his return to Parliament in 1892. The private diaries consisted of entries made daily at the dates dealt with. Of the Memoirs he says: "These notes are bald, but I thought it best not to try, as the phrase goes, 'to write them up.'" In some cases the Memoirs have been condensed into narrative, for Sir Charles says of the periods his "notes" cover: "These chapters contain everything that can be used, and more than is needed, and changes should be by way of 'boiling down.'" The Memoirs were unfinished. He writes in May, 1893: "From this time forward I shall not name my speeches and ordinary action in the House, as I had now regained the position which I held up to 1878, though not my position of 1878-1880, nor that of 1884-85;" and as from this point onwards there are few entries, chapters treating of his varied activities have been contributed by those competent to deal with them.
Sir Charles Dilke's will, after giving full discretionary powers to his literary executrix, contains these words: "I would suggest that, as regards those parts relating to Ireland, Egypt, and South Africa, the same shall be made use of (if at all) without editing, as they have been agreed to by a Cabinet colleague chiefly concerned." A further note shows that, so far as Ireland was concerned, the years 1884-85 cover the dates to which Sir Charles Dilke alludes. The part of the Memoirs dealing with these subjects has therefore been printed in extenso, except in the case of some detailed portions of a discussion on Egyptian finance.
The closing words of this part of Sir Charles Dilke's will point out to his executrix that "it would be inconsistent with my lifelong views that she should seek assistance in editing from anyone closely connected with either the Liberal or Conservative party, so as to import into the publications any of the conventional attitude of the old parties. The same objection will not apply to members of the other parties." In consequence of this direction, Mr. Stephen Gwynn, M.P., whose name was among those suggested by Sir Charles Dilke, was asked to undertake the work of arranging the Memoirs, and supplementing them where necessary. This work was already far advanced when Mr. Gwynn joined the British forces on the outbreak of the War. His able and sympathetic assistance was thus withdrawn from the work entailed in the final editing of this book—a work which has occupied the Editor until going to press.
A deep debt of gratitude is due to Mr. Spenser Wilkinson, who has contributed the chapters on "The British Army" and "Imperial Defence." Sir George Askwith was good enough, amidst almost overwhelming pressure of public duties, to read and revise the chapter entitled "The Turning- Point." Sir George Barnes and Sir John Mellor have also freely given expert advice and criticism. Mrs. H. J. Tennant, Miss Constance Smith, Mr. E. S. Grew, Mr. H. K. Hudson and Mr. John Randall have given much valuable assistance. The work of reading proofs and verifying references was made easy by their help.
While thanking all those who have placed letters at her disposal, the Editor would specially acknowledge the kindness with which Mr. Austen Chamberlain has met applications for leave to publish much correspondence.
Mr. John Murray's great experience has made his constant counsel of the utmost value; and from the beginning to the close of the Editor's task the literary judgment of the Rev. W. Tuck well has been placed unsparingly at her service. Sir H. H. Lee and Mr. Bodley, who were Sir Charles Dilke's official secretaries when he was a Minister, have given her useful information as to political events and dates.
To the many other friends, too numerous to name, who have contributed "recollections" and aid, grateful acknowledgments must be made.
Finally, the Editor expresses her warmest thanks to Lord Fitzmaurice, who has laid under contribution, for the benefit of Sir Charles Dilke's Life, his great knowledge of contemporary history and of foreign affairs, without which invaluable aid the work of editing could not have been completed.
The papers from which the following Memoir is written were left to my exclusive care because for twenty-five years I was intimately associated with Sir Charles Dilke's home and work and life. Before the year 1885 I had met him only once or twice, but I recall how his kindness and consideration dissipated a young girl's awe of the great political figure.
From the year 1885, when my aunt, Mrs. Mark Pattison, married Sir Charles, I was constantly with them, acting from 1893 as secretary in their trade- union work. Death came to her in 1904, and till January, 1911, he fought alone.
In the earlier days there was much young life about the house. Mrs. H. J. Tennant, that most loyal of friends, stands out as one who, hardly less than I, used to look on 76, Sloane Street, as a home. There is no need to bear witness to the happiness of that home. The Book of the Spiritual Life, in which are collected my aunt's last essays, contains also the Memoir of her written by her husband, and the spirit which breathes through those pages bears perfect testimony to an abiding love.
The atmosphere of the house was one of work, and the impression left upon the mind was that no life was truly lived unless it was largely dedicated to public service. To the labours of his wife, a "Benedictine, working always and everywhere," Sir Charles bears testimony. But what of his own labours? "Nothing will ever come before my work," were his initial words to me in the days when I first became their secretary. Through the years realization of this fact became complete, so that, towards the last, remonstrances at his ceaseless labour were made with hopeless hearts; we knew he would not purchase length of life by the abatement of one jot of his energy. He did not expect long life, and death was ever without terror for him. For years he anticipated a heart seizure, so that in the complete ordering of his days he lived each one as if it were his last.
The house was a fine school, for in it no waste of force was permitted. He had drilled himself to the suppression of emotion, and he would not tolerate it in those who worked with him except as an inspiration to action. "Keep your tears for your speeches, so that you make others act; leave off crying and think what you can do," was the characteristic rebuke bestowed upon one of us who had reported a case of acute industrial suffering. He never indulged in rhetoric or talked of first principles, and one divined from chance words of encouragement the deep feeling and passion for justice which formed the inspiration of his work.
He utilized every moment. The rapidity of his transition from one kind of work to another, and his immediate concentration on a subject totally different from that which he had previously handled, were only equalled by the rapidity with which he turned from work to play.
With the same unerring quickness he would gather up the contents of a book or appreciate the drift of a question. This latter characteristic, I fear, often disconcerted disputants, who objected to leave their nicely turned periods incomplete because he had grasped the point involved before they were halfway through a sentence; but his delight in finding this same rapidity of thought in others was great, and I remember his instancing it as a characteristic of Mr. Asquith.
His wide grasp of every question with which he dealt was accompanied by so complete a knowledge of its smallest details that vague or inaccurate statements were intolerable to him; but I think the patience with which he sifted such statements was amongst the finest features in the discipline of working under him. One felt it a crime to have wasted that time of which no moment was ever deliberately wasted by himself.
The spirit in which he approached his work was one of detachment from all personal considerations; the introduction of private feuds or dislikes into public service was a thing impossible to him and to be severely rebuked in those who helped him. He never belittled antagonists, underrated his opponents' ability, or hesitated to admit a mistake. Others will testify in the pages which follow to the warmth and generosity of his friendship, but that which stands out in memory is his forbearance to his foes.
Just as his knowledge was complete in its general grasp as in its smallest detail, so was his sympathy all-embracing. No suffering, says the Secretary of the Anti-Sweating League, was too small for his help; the early atrocities of Congo misrule did not meet with a readier response than did the wrongs of some heavily fined factory girl or the sufferings of the victim of a dangerous trade.
For his own achievements he was curiously regardless of fame. He gave ungrudgingly of his knowledge to all who claimed his help and direction, and he trained many other men to great public service. In Mr. Alfred Lyttelton's happy phrase, he possessed "rare self-effacement." There are many instances in his early career of this habit of self-effacement, and the habit increased with years. Remonstrance met with the reply: "What does it matter who gets the credit so long as the work is done?"
It is for this reason that we who love him shall ever bear in affectionate memory those who brought his laurels home to him in their celebration of the passing of the Trade Boards Act in 1910—that first instalment of the principle of the minimum wage, on which he united all parties and of which he had been the earliest advocate.
It has been said of his public life that he knew too much and interested himself in too many things; but those coming after who regard his life as a whole will see the connecting link which ran through all. I can speak only of that side of his activities in which I served him. He saw the cause of labour in Great Britain as it is linked with the conditions of labour throughout the globe; his fight against slavery in the Congo, his constant pressure for enlightened government in India, his championship of the native races everywhere, were all part and parcel of the objects to which he had pledged himself from the first. For progress and development it is necessary that a country should be at peace, and his study of military and naval problems was dictated by the consideration of the best means under existing conditions to obtain that end for England.
Yet to imagine that his life was all work would be to wrong the balance of his nature. He turned from letters and papers to his fencing bout, his morning gallop, or his morning scull on the river, with equal enthusiasm, and his great resonant boyish laugh sounded across the reach at Dockett or echoed through the house after a successful "touch." His keenness for athletic exercises, dating from his early Cambridge days, lasted, as his work did, to the end. In spite of the warnings of an overtaxed heart, he sculled each morning of the last summer at Dockett, and in Paris he handed over his foils to his fencing-school only a month before his death, leaving, like Mr. Valiant-for-Truth before he crossed the river, his arms to those who could wield them. It was well for him; he could not have borne long years of failing strength and ebbing mental energy. Anything less than life at its full was death to him.
Released from work, he was intensely gay, and his tastes were sufficiently simple for him to find enjoyment everywhere. He loved all beautiful things, and, though he had seen everything, the gleam of the sinking sun through the pine aisles at his Pyrford cottage would hold him spellbound; and in summer he would spend hours trying to distinguish the bird notes, naming the river flora, or watching the creature life upon the river banks. So in the Forest of Dean, that constituency which he loved well and which well deserved his love, his greatest pleasure was to set himself as guide to all its pleasant places, rehearsing the name of each blue hill on the far horizon, tracing the windings and meeting of the rivers, loving all best, I think, when the ground was like a sea of bluebells and anemones in the early year. He watched eagerly each season for the first signs of spring, and when he was very ill he told me that it must ever be a joy untouched by advancing years. But indeed he had in him the heart of the spring. I think it was largely this simple love of nature which kept him always strong and sweet even after the deep blow of his wife's death in 1904.
Wherever he was, life took on warmth and colour. Travel with him was a revelation, trodden and hackneyed though the road might be. In his vivid narrative the past lived again. Once more troops fought and manoeuvred as we passed through stretches of peaceful country which were the battlefields of France; Provence broke on us out of a mist of legendary lore, the enchantment deepening as we reached the little-traversed highlands near the coast—those Mountains of the Moors where in past days, connu comme le loup blanc among the people, he had wandered on foot with his old Provencal servant before motors and light railways were.
His care for the Athenaeum, inspired by the more than filial love he bore his grandfather, its earlier proprietor, led to continual reading and reviewing, and he would note with interest those few Parliamentarians who, keeping themselves fresh for their work of routine by some touch with the world of Literature, thereby, as he phrased it, "saved their souls."
Of the events which cut his public life asunder it is sufficient to say here that those nearest him never believed in the truth of the charges brought, finding it almost inconceivable that they should have been made; while the letters and records in my hands bear testimony to that great outer circle of friends, known and unknown, who have expressed by spoken or by written word, in public and in private, their share in that absolute belief in him which was a cardinal fact of our work and life.
The fortitude which gave to his country, after the crash of 1886, twenty- five years of tireless work, was inspired, for those who knew him best, by that consciousness of rectitude which holds a man above the clamour of tongues, and finds its reward in the fulfilment of his life's purpose.
"To have an end, a purpose, an object pursued through all vicissitudes of fortune, through heart's anguish and shame, through humiliation and disaster and defeat—that is the great distinction, the supreme justification of a life." So wrote his wife in her preface for The Shrine of Death.
The service of his country was the purpose of his life. Nor was that life justified alone by his unswerving pursuit of its great aim; it was justified also in its fulfilment, for his service was entirely fruitful— he wrested success from failure, gain from loss.
It has been said that in 1886 the nation lost one who would have been among its greatest administrators. Yet when we look back on all that was inspired and done by him, on the thousand avenues of usefulness into which his boundless energy was directed, there is no waste, only magnificent achievement.
An independent critic both by pen and speech inside and outside the House of Commons, the consolidator of whatever Radical forces that chamber held, the representative of labour before the Labour Party was, he stood for all the forces of progress, and when his great figure passed into the silence his place was left unfilled.
One writing for an African journal the record of his funeral, dreamed that as the strains of the anthem poured their blessings on "him that hath endured," there rose behind the crowd which gathered round him dead a greater band of mourners. "A vast unseen concourse of oppressed mankind were there, coming to do homage to one who had ever found time, amidst his manifold activities, to plead their cause with wisdom, unfailing knowledge, and with keen sympathy of heart."
I commit his memory to the people whom he loved and served.
G. M. T.
CONTENTS OF VOL. 1
I. EARLY LIFE
IV. CAMBRIDGE (continued)
V. LAST TERMS AT THE UNIVERSITY
VI. "GREATER BRITAIN"
VII. ELECTION TO PARLIAMENT
VIII. THE EDUCATION BILL OF 1870—THE FRANCO-GERMAN WAR
IX. THE BLACK SEA TREATY—THE COMMUNE
X. THE CIVIL LIST
XI. PERIOD OF FIRST MARRIAGE
XII. RE-ELECTION TO PARLIAMENT—DEATH OF LADY DILKE
XIII. RENEWAL OF ACTIVITY
XIV. REVIVAL OF THE EASTERN QUESTION
XV. HOME POLITICS AND PERSONAL SURROUNDINGS
XVI. THE EASTERN QUESTION—TREATY OF SAN STEFANO AND CONGRESS OF BERLIN
XVII. POLITICS AND PERSONS
XVIII. THE ZULU WAR AND THE GREEK COMMITTEE
XIX. SOCIAL AND POLITICAL INTERESTS
XX. THE FORMATION OF A MINISTRY
XXI. AT THE FOREIGN OFFICE
XXII. HOME POLITICS—COMMERCIAL TREATY—PERSONAL MATTERS
XXIV. EUROPEAN POLITICS
XXV. COMMERCIAL RELATIONS WITH FRANCE
XXVI. GAMBETTA, DISRAELI, ROYAL PERSONAGES, MORIER
XXVII. DIFFICULTIES OF THE LIBERAL GOVERNMENT
XXVIII. THE PHOENIX PARK MURDERS
XXIX. EGYPT (JANUARY TO SEPTEMBER, 1882)
XXX. ENTRY INTO THE CABINET (SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER, 1882)
XXXI. AT THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
XXXII. FOREIGN AND COLONIAL AFFAIRS (OCTOBER, 1882, TO DECEMBER, 1883)
XXXIII. EGYPT AFTER TEL-EL-KEBIR (SEPTEMBER, 1882, TO DECEMBER, 1883)
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS TO VOL. I
RT. HON. SIR CHARLES W. DILKE, M.P., IN THE YEAR 1873 Photographed by F. Hollyer from the painting by G. F. Watts, R.A., in the National Portrait Gallery.
SIR CHARLES W. DILKE AS A CHILD From the miniature by Fanny Corbaux.
MR. CHARLES WENTWORTH DILKE (SIR CHARLES W. DILKE'S GRANDFATHER) Photographed by F. Hollyer from the painting by Arthur Hughes.
SIR C. WENTWORTH DILKE (SIR CHARLES W. DILKE'S) FATHER Photographed by F. Hollyer from the painting by Arthur Hughes.
LADY DILKE (MISS KATHERINE SHEIL) From a photograph by Hills and Saunders.
JOHN STUART MILL Photographed by F. Hollyer from the painting by G. F. Watts, R.A., bequeathed by Sir Charles W. Dilke to the Westminster Town Hall.
RT. HON, JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN, M.P. Photographed by F. Hollyer from the painting by Frank Holl, R.A., bequeathed by Sir Charles W. Dilke to the National Portrait Gallery.
LEON GAMBETTA Photographed by F. Hollyer from the painting by Legros, bequeathed by Sir Charles W. Dilke to the Luxembourg and Louvre Museums.
THE LIFE OF SIR CHARLES DILKE
The man whose history is here recorded was for more than forty years a commanding figure upon the theatre of English public life; a politician, who in the councils of a powerful Ministry exercised an influence more than proportioned to the offices he held; a statesman, who brought to triumphant issue many wise projects, and whose authority, even when he was a private member of Parliament, continued to be recognized not only among all parties of his countrymen, but also throughout Europe: yet, when he died, all thought and spoke not of what he had achieved, but of what he had missed.
To write the biography of one so marked by a special malignity of fate is a difficult task. That bare justice may be done, it is necessary not only to follow out his openly recorded successes, things done in his own name and of his own right, but also to disentangle, as far as may be, the part which his authority, his knowledge, and his ceaseless industry played in framing and securing measures whose enactment redounded to the credit of other men. But above all, since a man's personality signifies far more than his achievements, and this man stands before the world overshadowed by a dishonouring accusation, it is necessary to establish by facts and by testimony not so much what he did as what he was.
Yet it must not be supposed that he himself counted his career among life's failures. The record will tell of close and affectionate family ties; of a wonderfully vivid and varied experience acquired in many lands and through many phases of activity; and, even in his blackest hour, of a noble love retained and richly repaid. No trace will be found of a nature soured or warped by balked ambition, nor any resentful withdrawal from the public stage.
In the story that has to be told, proof will emerge indisputably that, without affected indifference to the prizes of a public career, his passion was for work, not for its attendant honours; that he valued office as an opportunity to advance, not himself, but the causes which he had at heart; and that when further tenure of power was denied him, he abated no jot of his lifelong labours. The main purpose of his life was 'to revive true courage in the democracy of his country,' [Footnote: Throughout these volumes single quotation marks without further indication signify an excerpt from the Manuscript Memoir (compiled by Sir Charles, as explained in the Preface, from original diaries and letters), or (as here) from notes left with that document, but not embodied in it. Double quotation marks signify Correspondence and Memoranda found in the despatch-cases and letters sent by correspondents, etc.] and his immediate object always and everywhere to defend the weak. For the protection of toilers from their taskmasters at home and abroad, in the slums of industrial England and in the dark places of Africa, he effected much directly; but indirectly, through his help and guidance of others, he effected more; and in the recognition of his services by those for whom he worked and those who worked with him he received his reward.
Charles Wentworth Dilke was born into a family of English gentlefolk, which after a considerable period of comparative obscurity had won back prosperous days. The baronetcy to which he succeeded was recent, the reward of his father's public services; but a long line of ancestors linked him to a notable landed stock, the Dilkes of Maxstoke.
This family was divided against itself in the Civil Wars; and the brother of the inheritor of Maxstoke, Fisher Dilke, from whom Sir Charles descended, was a fanatical Puritan, and married into a great Puritan house. His wife, Sybil Wentworth, was granddaughter to Peter Wentworth, who led the Puritan party of Elizabeth's reign: she was sister to Sir Peter Wentworth, a distinguished member of Cromwell's Council of State. Property was inherited through her under condition that the Dilke heirs to it should assume the Wentworth name; and in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Fisher Dilke's descendants were Wentworth Dilke or Dilke Wentworth from time to time.
In George II.'s reign one Wentworth Dilke was clerk to the Board of Green Cloth at Kew Palace: his only son, Wentworth Dilke Wentworth, was secretary to the Earl of Litchfield of the first creation, and left an only son, Charles Wentworth Dilke, who was a clerk in the Admiralty. This Dilke was the first of five who successively have borne this combination of names. [Footnote: For convenience a partial table of descent is inserted, showing the five Dilkes who bore the same combination of names.
CHARLES WENTWORTH DILKE, b. 1742, d. 1826. - Charles Wentworth Dilke = Maria Dover William Dilke, b. 1796, b. 1789, d. 1864. Walker. d. 1885. - Charles Wentworth Dilke = M. Mary William Wentworth first Baronet, b. 1810, Chatfield. Grant Dilke, killed in d. 1869. Crimea, b. 1826, d. 1854 Charles Wentworth Dilke = (1) Katherine Ashton Dilke, second Baronet, M. E. Sheil. b. 1850, d. 1883. b. 1843, d. 1911. (2) Emilia F. S. Pattison. Charles Wentworth Dilke, present Baronet, b. 1874.]
The second of them, Charles Wentworth Dilke, his eldest son, and grandfather to the subject of the memoir, was, like his father, a clerk in the Admiralty; but early in life showed qualities which fitted him to succeed in another sphere of work—qualities through which he exercised a remarkable influence over the character and career of his grandson. So potent was this influence in moulding the life which has to be chronicled, that it is necessary to give some clear idea of the person who exercised it.
Mr. Dilke—who shall be so called to distinguish him from his son Wentworth Dilke, and from his grandson Charles Dilke—at an early period added the pursuit of literature to his duties as a civil servant. By 1815, when he was only twenty-six, Gifford, the editor of the Quarterly Review, already spoke highly of him; and between that date and 1830 he was contributing largely to the monthly and quarterly reviews. In 1830 he acquired a main share in the Athenaeum, a journal 'but just born yet nevertheless dying,' and quickly raised it into the high position of critical authority which it maintained, not only throughout his own life, but throughout his grandson's. So careful was Mr. Dilke to preserve its reputation for impartial judgment, that during the sixteen years in which he had virtually entire control of the paper, he withdrew altogether from general society "in order to avoid making literary acquaintances which might either prove annoying to him, or be supposed to compromise the independence of his journal." [Footnote: From Papers of a Critic, a selection of Mr. Dilke's essays, edited, with a memoir, by Sir Charles Dilke, See infra, p. 184.]
After 1846 the editorship of the Athenaeum was in other hands, but the proprietor's vigilant interest in it never abated, and was transmitted to his grandson, who continued to the end of his days not only to write for it, but also to read the proofs every week, and repeatedly for brief periods to act as editor.
When in 1846 Mr. Dilke curtailed his work on the Athenaeum, it was to take up other duties. For three years he was manager of the recently established Daily News, working in close fellowship with his friends John Forster and Charles Dickens.
From the time when he gave up this task till his death in 1864 Mr. Dilke's life had one all-engrossing preoccupation—the training of his grandson Charles. But to the last, literary research employed him. In 1849 he helped to establish Notes and Queries 'to be a paper in which literary men could answer each other's questions'; and his contributions to this paper [Footnote: Its founder and first editor, Mr. W. J. Thorns (afterwards Librarian of the House of Lords), had for three years been contributing to the Athenaeum columns headed "Folk-Lore"—a word coined by him for the purpose. The correspondence which grew out of this threatened to swamp other departments of the paper, and so the project was formed of starting a journal entirely devoted to the subjects which he had been treating. Mr. Dilke, being consulted, approved the plan, and lent it his full support. In 1872, when Mr. Thorns retired from control of the paper, Sir Charles Dilke bought it, putting in Dr. Doran as editor; and thenceforward it was published from the same office as the Athenaeum.] and to the Athenaeum never ceased; though so unambitious of any personal repute was he that in all his long career he never signed an article with his own name, nor identified himself with a pseudonym. A man of letters, he loved learning and literature for their own sake; yet stronger still than this love was his desire to transmit to his heirs his own gathered knowledge, experience, and convictions.
He had become early 'an antiquary and a Radical,' and this combination rightly indicated unusual breadth of sympathy. The period in which he was born favoured it: for, keen student as he was of the eighteenth century— preserving in his own style, perhaps later than any other man who wrote in England, that dignified but simple manner which Swift and Bolingbroke had perfected—he yet was intimately in touch with the young genius of an age in revolt against all the eighteenth-century tradition. Keats, only a few years his junior, was his close friend; so was John Hamilton Reynolds, the comrade of Keats, and author of poems known to every student of that literary group. Thomas Hood and Charles Lamb had long and near association with him. Lover of the old, he had always an open heart for the new; and, bookish though he was, no one could be less a bookworm. The antiquary in him never mastered the Radical: he had an unflagging interest in the large facts of life, an undying faith in human progress. Slighting his own lifework as he evidently did—for he never spoke of it to his son or his son's son—he was yet prompted by instinct to kindle and tend a torch which one after him should carry, and perhaps should carry high. It would be difficult to name any man who had a stronger sense of the family bond.
He had married very young—before he was nineteen—Maria Dover Walker, the beautiful daughter of a Yorkshire yeoman, still younger than he. This couple, who lived together "in a most complete happiness" for forty years, had one child only, born in 1810, Charles Wentworth Dilke, commonly called Wentworth. [Footnote: Papers of a Critic, vol. i., p. 13.] Mr. Dilke sent his son to Westminster, and removed him at the age of sixteen, arranging—because his theory of education laid great stress on the advantage of travel—that the lad should live for a while with Baron Kirkup, British Consul and miniature painter, in Florence, as a preparatory discipline before going to Cambridge. What he hoped and intended is notably expressed in a letter written by him at Genoa on his return journey to his son in Florence in 1826: [Footnote: Ibid., p. 18.]
"I ought to be in bed, but somehow you are always first in my thoughts and last, and I prefer five minutes of gossiping with you.... How, indeed, could it be otherwise than that you should be first and last in my thoughts, who for so many years have occupied all my thoughts. For fifteen years at least it has been my pleasure to watch over you, to direct and to advise. Now, direct and personal interference has ceased.... It is natural, perhaps, that I should take a greater interest than other fathers, for I have a greater interest at stake. I have but one son. That son, too, I have brought up differently from others, and if he be not better than others, it will be urged against me, not as a misfortune, but as a shame. From the first hour I never taught you to believe what I did not myself believe. I have been a thousand times censured for it, but I had that confidence in truth that I dared put my faith in it and in you. And you will not fail me. I am sure you will return home to do me honour, and to make me respect you, as I do, and ever shall, love you."
It was a singular letter for a man of thirty-seven to write—singular in its self-effacement before the rising generation, singular, too, in the intensity of its forecast. Yet, after all, a measure of disappointment was to be his return for that first venture. The son to whom so great a cargo of hopes had been committed was a vigorous lad, backed when he was fifteen 'to swim or shoot or throw against any boy of his age in England,' and he developed these and kindred energies, accepting culture only in so far as it ministered to his fine natural faculty for enjoyment. He acquired a knowledge of Italian and of operatic music at Florence; but when afterwards at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he was, to his father's despair, very idle, and during his early years in London 'was principally known to his friends for never missing a night at the Opera.'
That interest in things of the mind which he could hardly have failed to inherit had made of him a dilettante rather than a scholar; but later he became very active in promoting those ideals which appealed to his taste. He had a shrewd business eye, and showed it in founding the Gardeners' Chronicle and the Agricultural Gazette, both paying properties. He had, moreover, a talent for organization, and a zeal in getting things done, acknowledged in many letters from persons of authority in their recognition of those services to the International Exhibitions of 1851 and 1862 which were rewarded by his baronetcy. An interesting National Exhibition of 'Art Manufactures' had already been held by the Society of Arts, on whose Council Wentworth Dilke was an active worker, at the time when he, with two other members of the Council and the secretary, Mr. Scott Russell, met the Prince Consort on June 30th, 1849, and decided to renew the venture on a scale which should include foreign nations. When the executive committee of four (to whom were added a secretary and a representative of the contractors) was named in January, 1850, the work practically fell on three persons—Sir William Reid communicating with the public departments, Mr. Henry Cole settling questions of space and arrangement, [Footnote: Mr. Cole, afterwards Sir Henry Cole, K.C.B., was, says the Memoir, 'commonly known as King Cole,' and was afterwards secretary to the South Kensington School of Design.] and Wentworth Dilke 'having charge of the correspondence and general superintendence,' and attending 'every meeting of the executive except the first.'
Wentworth Dilke worked hard for this and for other objects. But his public activities had to be fitted in with a great deal of shooting and other sport at Alice Holt, the small house in Hampshire, with adjacent preserves, which he rented, and which became the family's country home.
In 1840 he married, and, after the birth of Charles Wentworth Dilke, the subject of this Memoir, on September 4th, 1843, all the grandfather's thought centred on the child. His daughter-in-law became, from then till her death, his chief correspondent, and the master of the house was 'completely overshadowed' in the family group.
That group was so large as to be almost patriarchal. Wentworth Dilke, when he married, and established himself at 76, Sloane Street, took under his roof his wife's mother, Mrs. Chatfield, her grandmother, Mrs. Duncombe, and also her unmarried cousin, Miss Folkard. All these ladies lived out their lives there, Mrs. Chatfield and Miss Folkard surviving till Charles Dilke had become a Minister of State.
Up to 1850 old Mr. Dilke and his wife lived at their house in Lower Grosvenor Place, which was a second home for their grandson Charles. But in 1850 the wife died, and Mr. Dilke 'spent sixteen months in wandering through the remoter parts of Scotland, and along the north and west coast of Ireland, but corresponded ceaselessly with his daughter-in-law, to whom he was much attached.' During a great part of this time he was accompanied by his grandson. Mrs. Wentworth Dilke, after giving birth in 1850 to her second child, Ashton Dilke, had 'fallen into a deep decline'; and Charles Dilke, at the age of seven, was handed over to his grandfather's charge, partly to solace the old widower's loneliness, partly to relieve the strain on his mother.
The peculiar relation between grandfather, mother, and son, stands out clearly from the letter which that mother wrote shortly before her death in September, 1853, to be delivered to the boy Charles. After some tender exhortation, she added:
"But moral discipline your grandfather will teach you. What I wish particularly to impress on you is the necessity of worshipping God."
And at the end:
"My own boy, there is another thing still to name, for none can say whether this letter may be required soon, or whether I may have the delight of seeing my children grow up, but this last and cherished subject is my little Ashton. When he is old enough, dear, to understand, let him read this letter, and by his mother's blessing teach him to think and feel that all that I have said applies equally to him. Set him a good example in your own conduct, and be always affectionate brothers."
Of the father, not a word—and for care of the younger boy, the dying woman's hope is in his brother. It will be shown how studiously the ten- year-old boy, on whom his mother so leant, fulfilled that charge. But he himself felt, in later life, that scant justice had been done to the man who was 'overshadowed' in his home, and wrote in 1890:
'My father loved my grandfather deeply, but my grandfather was greatly disappointed in him, and always a little hard towards him: my father suffered through life under a constant sense of his inferiority. He suffered also later from the fact that while his elder son was the grandfather's and not the father's boy, his younger son was as completely under my influence in most matters, as I was under the influence of my grandfather.'
Yet in a sense the relation between old Mr. Dilke and the son whom he unconsciously slighted was strangely intimate and confiding. For in 1853 the elder man gave up his own house in Lower Grosvenor Place, made over all his money to his son, and came to live under the son's roof in Sloane Street for the remainder of his life. His confidence in the patriarchal principle justified itself. 'My father,' writes Sir Charles, 'for eleven years consulted his father—dependent on him for bread—in every act of his life.'
To the world at large, Wentworth Dilke was a vastly more important person than the old antiquary and scholar. After his services in organizing the Great Exhibition of 1851, he declined a knighthood and rewards in money; but he accepted from the French Government a gift of Sevres china; from the King of Saxony, the Collar of the Order of Albertus Animosus; from the King of Sweden and from the Prince Consort, medals; and from Queen Victoria, a bracelet for his wife. These remained among the treasures of 76, Sloane Street. But he acquired something far more important in the establishment of friendly relations with persons of mark and influence all over the Continent; for these relations were destined to be developed by Charles Dilke, then a pretty-mannered boy, who was taken everywhere, and saw, for instance, in 1851, the Duke of Wellington walk through the Exhibition buildings on a day when more than a hundred thousand people were present. He could remember how the Duke's 'shrivelled little form' and 'white ducks' 'disappeared in the throng which almost crushed him to death' before the police could effect his rescue.
Wentworth Dilke's association in the Prince Consort's most cherished schemes had brought him on a footing of friendship with the Royal Family; and on July 25th, 1851, his wife wrote that the Queen had come over and talked to her in the Exhibition ground. Long afterwards, when the pretty- mannered boy had grown into a Radical, who avowed his theoretical preference for republican institutions, Queen Victoria said that "she remembered having stroked his head, and supposed she had stroked it the wrong way."
The earliest memory that Sir Charles Dilke could date was 'of April 10th, 1848, when the Chartist meeting led to military preparations, during which I' (a boy in his fifth year) 'saw the Duke of Wellington riding through the street, attended by his staff, but all in plain clothes.' In 1850 'No Popery chalked on the walls attracted my attention, but failed to excite my interest'; he was not of an age to be troubled by the appointment of Dr. Wiseman to be Archbishop of Westminster. In 1851 he was taken to a meeting to hear Kossuth.
From this year—1851—date the earliest letters preserved in the series of thirty-four boxes which contain the sortings of his vast correspondence. There is a childish scrap to his grandfather, and a long letter from the grandfather to him written from Dublin, which lovingly conjures up a picture of the interior at Sloane Street, with 'Cousin' (Miss Folkard) stirring the fire, 'Charley-boy' settling down his head on his mother's lap, and 'grandmamma' (his mother's mother, Mrs. Chatfield) sitting in the chimney-corner.
For the year 1852 there are no letters to the boy; it was the time of his mother's failing health, and he was journeying with his grandfather all over England, 'reading Shakespeare, and studying church architecture, especially Norman.' It was a delightful way of learning history for a quick child of nine:
'We followed Charles II. in his flight, and visited every spot that has ever been mentioned in connection with his escape—a pilgrimage which took me among other places to my future constituency of the Forest of Dean. We went to every English cathedral, and when my grandfather was at work upon his Pope investigations, saw every place which was connected with the history of the Carylls.' [Footnote: John Caryll suggested to Pope the idea of the "Rape of the Look"; and many of the poet's letters were written to his son, a younger John Caryll. They were an ancient and distinguished Roman Catholic family, devoted partisans of, and centres of correspondence with, the exiled Stuarts.]
Mr. Dilke combined his desire to instruct the child with the frankest interest in his play. Here, for instance, is a letter to Charles of October 15th, 1853:
"DEAR OLD ADMIRAL,
"Hope you found all right and tight: a gallant vessel—tackle trim— noble crew of true blue waters—guns shining and serving for looking— glasses to shave by—powder dry—plenty in the locker. Wishing you favourable gales,
"Your old friend and rough and tough
It is worth while giving the reply—precocious for a boy of ten:
"BEDHAMPTON, "HAVANT, "October 16th, 1853.
"MY DEAR GRANDPAPA,
"We arrived quite safely on Friday night, and were astonished to find that my Aunt and Uncle and Cousin Letitia were gone to Brighton and then to Hastings, and Godpapa had a letter this morning to say that they found it so hot at Hastings that they went on to Folkestone, and they are there now. The Admiral has to report for the information of his Cockney readers that he hoisted his Flag yesterday at the main peak. The weather was, however, so windy and wet that after hiding himself with his honoured father under the cuddy for half an hour, the Admiral thought that prudence was part of his duty, therefore struck his Pocket-handkerchief and retired to luncheon. A Salute from a black cloud hastened his departure.
"Your affectionate grandson,
"C. W. DILKE."
The boy was his grandfather's to educate, and there has not often been such an education. A man ripe in years, still vigorous—for Mr. Dilke was only fifty-three when his elder grandson was born—yet retired from the business of life, and full of leisure, full of charm, full of experience, full of knowledge, devoted his remaining years to the education of his grandson. It may be held that he created a forcing-house of feeling, no less than of knowledge, under which the boy's nature was prematurely drawn up; but there can be no doubt as to the efficacy of the method. It was not coddling—Mr. Dilke was too shrewd for that—and if at a certain stage it seemed as though excessive stimulus had been given, maturity went far to contradict that impression.
'After my mother's death I began classics and mathematics with Mr. Bickmore, at that time a Chelsea curate and afterwards Vicar of Kenilworth. At the same time I took charge of teaching letters to my brother. I had few child friends, and used to see more of grown-up people, such as Chorley, [Footnote: Musical critic for the Athenaeum.] Thackeray, and Dickens, of whom the latter was known to us as "young Charles Dickens," owing to my great-grandfather having known "Micawber."'
Old Mr. Dilke's father had been employed in the Admiralty along with the father of Dickens. As for Thackeray, it was probably about this time that he came on the boy stretched out upon grass in the garden of Gore House, resting on elbows, deep in a book, and looked over his shoulder. "Is it any good?" he asked. "Rather!" said the boy. "Lend it me," said Thackeray. The book was The Three Musketeers, and we all know The Roundabout Papers which came out of that loan.
Charles Dilke had his free run of novels as a boy, and not of novels only. In 1854, when he was only eleven:
'I began my regular theatre-going, which became a passion with me for many years, and burnt itself out, I may add, like most passions, for I almost entirely ceased to go near a theatre when I went to Cambridge at nineteen. Charles Kean, and Madame Vestris, and Charles Mathews, were my delight, with Wright and Paul Bedford at the Adelphi, Webster and Buckstone at the Haymarket, and Mrs. Keeley. Phelps came later, but Charles Kean's Shakespearian revivals at the Princess's from the first had no more regular attendant. My earliest theatrical recollection is Rachel.
'I was a nervous, and, therefore, in some things a backward child, because my nervousness led to my being forbidden for some years to read and work, as I was given to read and work too much, and during this long period of forced leisure I was set to music and drawing, with the result that I took none of the ordinary boy's interest in politics, and never formed an opinion upon a political question until the breaking-out of the American Civil War when I was eighteen. I then sided strongly with the Union, as I showed at the Cambridge Union when I reached the University. Even in this question, however, I only followed my grandfather's lead, although, for the first time, in this case intelligently. So far indeed as character can be moulded in childhood, mine was fashioned by my grandfather Dilke.'
It was not only character that Mr. Dilke formed. He made the boy the constant companion of his own intellectual pursuits, imbued him deeply with his own tastes, his own store of knowledge. In the summer of 1854 he had taken his pupil to 'Windsor, Canterbury, Rochester, Bury St. Edmunds, St. Albans, and many other interesting towns.' That autumn the pair went to France together—apparently the beginning of Charles Dilke's close acquaintance with that country, which was extended in the following year, 1855, when Wentworth Dilke was named one of the English Commissioners for the French International Exhibition, and took his family to live in Paris from April to August.
'We were all with him at Paris for some time, and I acquired a considerable knowledge of the antiquities of the town, before the changes associated with the name of Haussmann, by rambling about it with my grandfather, who, however, soon got sick of Paris and went home to his books, while we remained there for four months. I was at the party given at the Quai d'Orsay by Walewski, the son of Napoleon; at that given at the "Legion of Honour" by Flahaut, the father of Morny; at the Ball at the Hotel de Ville to the Emperor and Empress and Queen Victoria; at the review; and at the Queen's entry and departure. The entry was the finest display of troops which I ever witnessed, as the National Guard of the City and its outskirts turned out in great form, and raised the numbers to 120,000, while the costumes both of the Guard and of the National Guard were very showy. There paraded also two hundred veterans of the wars of the First Empire in all the uniforms of the period. I heard Lablache in his last great part, and in this year I think I also saw Rachel for the last time; but I had seen her in England, I believe, in 1853. I certainly had seen her in a part in which many years later I remember Sarah Bernhardt, and can recall Rachel well enough to be able to institute a comparison entirely to Rachel's advantage.
'After our visit to Paris in 1855 my brother and I had taken to speaking and to writing to one another in French, and this practice we kept up until his death, even when he was Member of Parliament for Newcastle-on-Tyne, and I a member of the Government.'
One memory of that year never left Sir Charles Dilke. In the evenings he used to go to the Place Vendome to hear the Guards' combined tattoo. Every regiment was represented, and the drummers were a wonderful show in their different brilliant uniforms—Chasseurs of the Garde, Dragoons, Lancers, Voltigeurs, and many more. In the midst was the gigantic sergeant-major waiting, with baton uplifted, for the clock to strike. At the first stroke he gave the signal with a twirl and a drop of his baton, and the long thundering roll began, taken up all round the great square. Sir Charles, as he told of this, would repeat the tambour-major's gesture; and the boy's tense, eager look of waiting, and flash of satisfaction when the roll broke out, revived on the countenance of the man.
'In 1856 I became half attached to a day-school, which had for its masters, in mathematics a Mr. Acland, a Cambridge man, and in classics a Mr. Holme, a fellow of Durham, and for several years I used to do the work which they set in the school without regularly attending the school, which, however, my brother attended. My health at that time was not supposed to be sufficiently strong to enable me even to attend a day-school, and still less to go to a public school; but there was nothing the matter with me except a nervous turn of mind, overexcitable and overstrained by the slightest circumstance. This lasted until I was eighteen, when it suddenly disappeared, and left me strong and well; but the form which this weakness took may be illustrated by the fact that, although I did not believe in ghosts, I have known myself at the age of sixteen walk many miles round to avoid passing through a "haunted" meadow.'
Also he made the experiments in literature common with clever lads:
'In 1856 I wrote a novel called Friston Place, and I have a sketch which I made of Friston Place in Sussex in August of that year, but the novel I have destroyed, as it was worthless.'
Another aspect of his education is recalled by drawings preserved in the boxes from 1854 onwards—conscientious delineations of buildings visited, representing an excellent training for the eye and observation.
In 1857 his grandfather took him to Oxford (where he rambled happily about the meadows while Mr. Dilke read in the Bodleian) and to Cambridge, going on thence to Ely, Peterborough, and Norwich. Later in the same year the pair travelled all over South Wales, everywhere rehearsing the historical memories of the place, everywhere mastering the details of whatever architecture presented itself.
Each return home brought experiences of a different kind. 'I have known,' he says, 'everyone worth knowing from 1850 to my death.' At seven years old he was seeing and hearing the famous persons of that time, either at the home in Sloane Street, to which Wentworth Dilke's connection with the Exhibition drew men eminent in the world of physical science and industrial enterprise, as well as the artists with whom his connoisseurship brought him into touch; or else at old Mr. Dilke's house in Lower Grosvenor Place. He remembered visits with his grandfather to Gore House, 'before Soyer turned it into the Symposium,' and to Lady Morgan's. The brilliant little Irishwoman was a familiar friend, and her pen, of bog-oak and gold, the gift to her of the Irish people, came at last to lie among the treasures of 76, Sloane Street. Also there remained with him
"memories from about 1851 of the bright eyes of little Louis Blanc, of Milner-Gibson's pleasant smile, of Bowring's silver locks, of Thackeray's tall stooping figure, of Dickens's goatee, of Paxton's white hat, of Barry Cornwall and his wife, of Robert Stephenson the engineer, to whom I wanted to be bound apprentice, of Browning (then known as 'Mrs. Browning's husband'), of Joseph Cooke (another engineer), of Cubitt the builder (one of the promoters of the Exhibition), of John Forster the historian, of the Redgraves, and of that greater painter, John Martin. Also of the Rowland Hills, at Hampstead.
"1859 was the height of my rage for our South Kensington Trap-Bat Club, which I think had invented the name South Kensington. It was at it that I first met Emilia Francis Strong. We played in the garden of Gore House where the Conservatory of the Horticultural Society, behind the Albert Hall, was afterwards built."
In the memoir of the second Lady Dilke, prefixed to The Book of the Spiritual Life, Sir Charles writes of this time, 1859 to 1860, when he "loved to be patronized by her, regarding her with the awe of a hobbledehoy of sixteen or seventeen towards a beautiful girl of nineteen or twenty." But at one point she bewildered him; for in those days Emilia Strong was devout to the verge of fanaticism:
"We were all puzzled by the apparent conflict between the vitality and the impish pranks of the brilliant student, expounding to us the most heterodox of social views, and the 'bigotry' which we seemed to discern when we touched her spiritual side." [Footnote: Book of the Spiritual Life, Memoir, p. 10.]
No doubt the fastings and mortifications which Emilia Strong practised at that period of her youth would seem 'bigotry' to a lad brought up under influences which, in so far as theology entered into them, had an Evangelical bent. Charles Dilke thus summed up his early prepossessions and practices in this respect:
'My mother had been a strong Low Church woman, and those of her letters which I have destroyed very clearly show that her chief fear in meeting death was that she would leave me without that class of religious training which she thought essential. My grandfather and my father, although both of them in their way religious men (and my grandfather, a man of the highest feeling of duty), were neither of them churchgoers, nor of her school of thought; and ... as I was till the age of twenty a regular church attendant and somewhat devout for a boy of that age, it was a grief to me to find that my brother's turn of mind as he grew up was different, and that he naturally thought his judgment on the subject as good as that of the mother whom he had lost at three years old, and could hardly be said to have known.'
But the true spiritual influence on Charles Dilke's early life was derived from his grandfather, whose nature had in it much of the serenity and wise happiness which go to the making of a saint. This influence was no doubt ethical in its character rather than religious; but it can be traced, for example, in a humane scruple which links it with Dilke's affectionate cult of St. Francis of Assisi:
'In 1856 I had begun to shoot, my father being passionately fond of the sport, and I suppose that few people ever shot more before they were nineteen than I did. But about the time I went to Cambridge I found the interference with my work considerable, and I also began to have doubts as to considerations of cruelty, and on points affecting the Game Laws, which led me to give up shooting, and from 1862 I hardly ever shot at all, except, in travelling, for food.'
The taste for travel, always in search of knowledge, but followed with an increasing delight in the quest, began for him in the rovings through England with his grandfather. As early as his seventeenth year he was out on the road by himself; and this letter written from Plymouth, April 5th, 1860 after a night spent at Exeter, indicates the results of his training:
"This morning we got up early, and went to the Northerny [Footnote: Northernhay, or Northfield, a pleasure-ground at Exeter.] and Cathedral. Nothing much. Took the train at quarter before ten. Railway runs along the shore under the cliffs and in the cliffs. We saw a rather large vessel wrecked on the sands. Teignmouth pretty. Got to Totnes before twelve. Hired a boat and two men, 10s. 6d. Down the river to Dartmouth, twelve miles. The Dart is more like a series of lakes than a river; in some of the reaches it is impossible to see what way you are to get out. Very like the Wye until you get low down, then it opens into a lake about two miles across, free from all mud, nothing but hills and cliffs. Then it again contracts, and passes through a gorge, which is said to be very like parts of the Rhine.
"The scene here is splendid. Dartmouth now comes, but the river, instead of spreading and becoming ugly, as most tidal rivers do, remains narrow and between cliffs, until you have the great sea waves thundering up against them. Dartmouth contains a church more curious than half the cathedrals in the kingdom: Norman (Late), fine brasses, barrel roof with the paint on, and stone pulpit painted, etc., etc. There are some very fine old houses also. The place is the most lovely by far of any that I ever saw—Paradise.
"We have had a bad day—real Devonshire—where they say that they must have one shower every day and two on Sundays. 'Shower' means about six hours' quiet rain, vide 'Murray' and our experience of to-day. The boatmen say 'it rains most days.' I hope Mrs. Jackson is going on well. Trusting you are all well, I send my love to all and remain
"Your affectionate grandson,
"CHARLES W. DILKE."
A scrap from one of the grandfather's letters, April 25th, 1859, which points to the terms of intellectual equality that existed in the correspondence between the two, has also some historical interest:
"Hope your news of the French troops landing in Genoa is premature. War, however, seems inevitable; but I hope on, hope ever. I should be sorry to see the Austrians triumph over the Sardinians, for then they would fasten the chains on Italy tighter than ever. Yet I cannot hope that the worst man in Europe, the Emperor of the French, should triumph."
At the close of 1860, the lad set out on a more adventurous excursion to France, in a storm of snow so tremendous that trains were blocked in many places. However, he reached Amiens safely, saw and described it dutifully, then made for Paris.
Charles Dilke's familiarity with France was destined to be extended year by year till the end of his life. This visit of Christmas 1860 was the first which he made alone to that country; but part of the summer of 1859 had been spent by him with his family at Trouville, whence he wandered over Normandy, adding detail to his knowledge of Norman architecture.
But even stronger than the interest in historic architecture which his grandfather had imparted to him was the interest in men and affairs; above all, in those men who had assisted at great events. Throughout his life his love of travel, his taste for society, and his pursuit of first-hand information upon political matters helped to enlarge his list of remarkable acquaintances; and during this stay in France a new name was added to the collection of celebrities:
'At Havre I got to know King Jerome, father to "Plon-Plon" and father- in-law to my friend Princess Clothilde, and was duly interested in this last of the brothers of Napoleon. The ex-King of Westphalia was a wicked old gentleman; but he did not let a boy find this out, and he was courteous and talkative. We long had in both years, I think, the next rooms to his at Frascati's; and he used to walk in the garden with me, finding me a good listener. The old Queen of Sweden was still alive, and he told me how Desiree Clary [Footnote: Eugenie Bernardine Desiree Clary married, August 16th, 1798, Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, afterwards Charles XIV., King of Sweden. Her elder sister Julie had become the wife of Joseph Bonaparte in 1794.] had thrown Bonaparte over for him, and then had thrown him over for Bernadotte. He also described riding through Paris with Bonaparte on the day of Brumaire.'
Having completely outgrown the nervous invalidishness of his earlier boyhood, Dilke at eighteen years of age was extending his activities in all directions.
'In 1861 I find by my diaries that I was at the very height of my theatre-going, attending theatres in Paris and in London with equal regularity; and in this year I wrote an elaborate criticism of Fechter's Hamlet, which is the first thing I ever wrote in the least worth reading, but it is not worth preservation, and has now been destroyed by me. At Easter, 1861, I walked to Brighton in a single day from London, and the next day attended the volunteer review. I was a great walker, and frequently walked my fifty miles within the day. My interest in military affairs continued, and I find among my letters of 1861 passages which might have formed part of my writings on military subjects of 1887 to 1889. I went down to see the new Tilbury forts, criticized the system of the distribution of strength in the Thames defences, advocated "a mile of vigorous peppering as against a slight dusting of feathers every half-hour"; and went to Shoeburyness to see the trial of the Whitworth guns.'
His cousin, William Wentworth Grant Dilke, was Captain and Adjutant of the 77th Regiment, and Charles Dilke remembered the young officer's visit to bid good-bye before he departed for the Crimea, where he met his death.
Though old Mr. Dilke had sympathized with the wonderful manoeuvres of the child's armies of leaden soldiers, and had added to them large reinforcements, he became troubled by his grandson's keen and excited following of all the reports from the Crimea. He had a terror of the boy's becoming a soldier, and 'used to do his best to point out the foolish side of war.' But this, as the passage already quoted shows, did not deter his pupil from beginning, while still a growing youth, detailed study of military matters.
Under normal conditions, an undergraduate going up to an English University without public school friendships is at a disadvantage: and this was Charles Dilke's case. But he went to his father's college, Trinity Hall; and his father was a very well known and powerfully connected man. Offer of a baronetcy had been made to Wentworth Dilke in very unusual and gratifying terms. General Grey, the Queen's secretary, wrote:
"ST. JAMES'S PALACE, "January 1st, 1862.
"MY DEAR DILKE,
"The Queen cannot forget for how many years you have been associated with her beloved husband in the promotion of objects which were dear to his heart; and she would fain mark her sense of the valuable assistance you have ever given him in his labours in some manner that would be gratifying to your feelings.
"I am therefore commanded by Her Majesty to express the hope that the offer of a Baronetcy which she has informed Lord Palmerston of her desire to confer upon you, coming direct from Her Majesty herself, and as her own personal act, may be one which it will be agreeable to you to accept."
Proof of the Queen's strong feeling for the man who had been so closely associated with the Prince Consort in his work of popularizing the arts and crafts had already been given by the fact that Wentworth Dilke was, except for those whom she was obliged to meet on business, the first person from the outside world whom she saw after the Prince Consort's death. And indeed, but for his sense of a personal graciousness in the offer, Wentworth Dilke would scarcely have departed from his lifelong habit of deference to his father's wish and judgment. Old Mr. Dilke, though gratified by the compliment, wrote to a friend:
"My son's fortune is not strong enough to enable his children to carry such a burthen with ease; and as to the waifs and strays which it may help them to, I would rather see them fight their good fight unshackled."
There came a time when the baronetcy was something of an encumbrance to one of these children:
'When I was accused of attacking the Queen, which I never did, somebody—I forget who—went further, and said I had "bitten the hand which fed me," and I really believe that this metaphor expressed publicly a private belief of some people that my father had made money by his labours. All I can say is that he never made a farthing by them in any form at any time, and that in '51 and in '62 he spent far more than his income on entertainments.... He wished for no reward, and he knew the conditions under which his life was given to public rather than to private service: but he killed himself at it; he left me much less rich than I should otherwise have been, and it is somewhat hard to find myself told that if I call attention to notorious illegalities I am "biting the hand that fed me." The Queen herself has, as I happen to know, always spoken in a very different sense.'
The newly made Baronet, in the course of his labours for the second Great Exhibition, added to his already very numerous friendships.
'My father's chief foreign friends in '62 were Prince Napoleon, Montesinos, Baron Schwartz (Austria), Baron von Brunen von Grootelind (Holland), Prince Oscar (afterwards King of Sweden), and Senator Fortamps (Belgium).'
Finally, there is this entry, written in 1890:
'Just as I had made the acquaintance of the Duke of Wellington through father in the Exhibition of 1851, so I made that of Palmerston in the Exhibition of 1862. He was still bright and lively in walk and talk, and was extremely kind in his manner to me, and asked me to one of Lady Palmerston's Saturday nights at Cambridge House, to which I duly went. I should think that there is no one living but myself who was at the Ball to the Queen at the Hotel de Ville in 1855, at the famous Guards' Ball in 1862, and also at one of Lady Palmerston's evenings.'
Charles Dilke matriculated at Trinity Hall in October 1862.
Charles Dilke was sent in 1862, as in later days he sent his own son, to his father's college. Trinity Hall in the early sixties was a community possessing in typical development the combination of qualities which Cambridge has always fostered. Neither very large nor very small, it had two distinguishing characteristics: it was a rowing college, and it was a college of lawyers. Although not as a rule distinguished in the Tripos Lists, it was then in a brilliant period.
The Memoir will show that in Dilke's first year a Hall man was Senior Wrangler, and that the boat started head of the river. Such things do not happen without a cause; and the college at this moment numbered on its staff some of the most notable figures in the University. The Vice-Master, Ben Latham, for thirty-five years connected with the Hall, was of those men whose reputation scarcely reaches the outside world; but he had found the college weak, he had made it strong, and he was one of the institutions of Cambridge.
Among the junior Fellows were Fawcett and Leslie Stephen. Both were profound believers in hard tonic discipline of mind and body, inculcating their belief by doctrine and example; and both, with great diversity of gifts, had the rough strong directness of intellectual attack which Cambridge, then perhaps more than at any other time, set in contrast to the subtleties of Oxford culture.
Leslie Stephen in particular, who had been a tutor and who was still a clerical Fellow, made it his business to meet undergraduates on their own ground. Hard work and hard bodily exercise—but, above all, hard bodily exercise—made up the gospel which he preached by example. No one ever did more to develop the cult of athletics, and there is no doubt that he thought these ideals the best antidote to drunkenness and other vices, which were far more rife in the University of that day than of this.
Both he and Fawcett were strenuous Radicals, and contact with them was well fitted to infuse fresh vitality into the political beliefs which Charles Dilke had assumed by inheritance from his grandfather. In these ways of thought he met them on ground already familiar and attractive to him. His introduction to Fawcett was at the Economics and Statistics Section of the British Association, which he attended at Cambridge in the first week of his first term. "I am one of the few people who really enjoy statistics," he said, long years after this, in a presidential address to the Statistical Society. But it was early at nineteen to develop this exceptional taste.
In another domain of modern thought these elder men affected his mind considerably and with a new order of ideas. Old Mr. Dilke seems to have left theology out of his purview altogether; and it was at Cambridge that Charles Dilke first met the current of definitely sceptical thought on religious matters.
Fawcett was aggressively unorthodox. But far more potent was the influence of Leslie Stephen, then with infinite pain struggling under the yoke that he had taken on himself at ordination, and had not yet shaken off. The effect of Stephen's talk—though he influenced young men as much by his dry critical silence as by his utterances—was heightened by admiration for his athletic prowess. He coached the college Eights: anyone who has been at a rowing college will realize how commanding an ascendancy is implied. But his athletics covered every phase of muscular activity; and Fawcett joined him in encouraging the fashion of long walks.
Another of the long-walkers whom the Memoir notes as among the chief influences of those days was Leslie Stephen's pupil Romer, the Admirable Crichton of that moment—oarsman, cricketer, and Trinity Hall's hope in the Mathematical Tripos. The future Lord Justice of Appeal was then reading for the Tripos, in which he was to be Senior Wrangler; and, according to Cambridge custom, took a certain amount of coaching as part of his work. Charles Dilke was one of those whom he instructed, and it was the beginning of a friendship which lasted many years.
Looking back, Sir Robert Romer says that most undergraduates are simply grown-up boys, and that at Trinity Hall in his day there was no variation from this type till Dilke came there—a lad who, to all appearance, had never associated with other lads, whose companions had been grown-up people, and who had mature ideas and information on everything. But, thrown among other young men, the young man found himself with surprising rapidity. Elements in his nature that had never been brought out developed at once; and one of these was a great sense of fun. Much stronger than he looked, he plunged into athletics with a perfectly simple delight. "Nobody," says Sir Robert Romer, "could make more noise at a boating supper." This frank natural glee remained with him to the end. Always disputatious, always a lover of the encounter of wits, he had none the less a lifelong gift for comradeship in which there was little clash of controversy and much hearty laughter.
One of the eight-and-twenty freshmen who matriculated at Trinity Hall along with Charles Dilke in 1862 was David Fenwick Steavenson, a dalesman from Northumberland, with whom he formed a lasting friendship. The two had seemingly little in common. Dilke to all appearance was "very serious," and in disposition of mind ten years older than his fellows, while the young Northumbrian's whole preoccupation was to maintain and enlarge the fame of his college on the river. If the friendship was to develop, Steavenson must undoubtedly become interested in intellectual matters, but not less certainly Dilke must learn to row. It was a very useful discipleship for the future politician. Sloping shoulders, flat and narrow chest, height too great for his build: these were things that Cambridge helped to correct. Dilke, a willing pupil, was diligently coached by the stronger man, until he became an accomplished and effective oar. In general Judge Steavenson's recollection confirms Sir Robert Romer's, and gives precision to one detail. In their second year, upon the occasion of some triumph on the river, there was to be a bump supper, but the college authorities forbade, whereupon an irregular feast was arranged—this one bringing a ham, that a chicken, and so on. When the heroes had put from them desire of eating and drinking, they sallied out, and after a vigorous demonstration in the court, proceeded to make music from commanding windows. It was Charles Dilke who had provided the whistles and toy drums for this ceremony, and Judge Steavenson retains a vision of the future statesman at his window [Footnote: Dilke's rooms were on Staircase A, on the first floor, above the buttery. They have not for very many years been let to an undergraduate, as they are too near the Fellows' Combination Room.] blowing on a whistle with all his might. The authorities were vindictive, and Dilke suffered deprivation of the scholarship which he had won at the close of his freshman year.
Such penalties carry no stigma with them. It should be noted, too, that at a period of University history when casual excess in drink was no reproach, but rather the contrary, Charles Dilke, living with boating men in a college where people were not squeamish, drank no wine. Judge Steavenson adds that the dislike of coarse talk which was marked with him later was equally evident in undergraduate days.
Charles Dilke's own ambition and industry were reinforced by the keen anxiety of his people. Concealing nothing of their eagerness for him to win distinction, those who watched his career with such passionate interest set their heart, it would seem, on purely academic successes. Sir Wentworth Dilke may well have feared, from his own experience, that old Mr. Dilke's expectations might again be disappointed by a student who found University life too full of pleasure. At all events it was to his father that the freshman wrote, October 24th, 1862, a fortnight after he had matriculated:
"I am very sorry to see by your letter of this morning that you have taken it into your head that I am not reading hard. I can assure you, on the contrary, that I read harder than any freshman except Osborn, who takes no exercise whatever; and that I have made the rowing-men very dissatisfied by reading all day three days a week. On the other three I never read less than six hours, besides four hours of lectures and papers. I have not missed reading a single evening yet since I have been here; that is, either from six, or seven, till eleven, except Saturday at Latham's. This—except for a fourth-year man—is more than even the tutors ask for.... I hope I have said enough to convince you that you are entirely wrong; what has made you so has been my account of breakfasts, which are universal, and neither consume time nor attract attention. I was at one this morning—I left my rooms at twenty-five minutes to nine, and returned to them at five minutes to nine, everything being over."
This scrupulous economy of time was to be characteristic of Charles Dilke's whole life, and nothing impressed his contemporaries more at all times than the "methodical bee-like industry" attributed to him by the present Master of Trinity Hall. Mr. Beck, who came up to the college just after Dilke left it, thus expands the impression:
"There remained in Trinity Hall in 1867 a vivid tradition that he was one of the few men who never lost a minute, would even get in ten minutes of work between river and Hall (which was in those days at five o'clock); and much resembled the Roman who learned Greek in the time saved from shaving. On the doorpost inside his bedroom over the Buttery there remained in pencil the details of many days of work thus pieced together." [Footnote: Cambridge Review, February 2nd, 1911.]
Judge Steavenson recalls how he used to be "bundled out" of his friend's rooms the instant that the appointed hour for beginning to read had arrived, and he did his best to mitigate the strenuousness of that application. But there were stronger influences at work than his: Sir Wentworth Dilke was fully satisfied with the assurance he had received, as well he might be; but the grandfather never ceased to enforce the claims of study. He wrote ceaselessly, but with constant exhortations that he should be answered only when work and play allowed.
When the letters from Cambridge told of success in athletics, he responded, but with a temperate rejoicing. Here, for instance, is his reference to the news that the freshman had rowed in the winning boat of the scratch fours on March 14th, 1863:
"I am glad that you have won your 'pewter'—as I was glad when you took rank among the best of the boating freshmen—although I have not set my heart on your plying at Blackfriars Bridge, nor winning the hand of the daughters of Horse-ferry as the 'jolly young waterman,' or old Doggett's Coat and Badge. But all things in degree; and therefore I rejoice a hundred times more at your position in the college Euclid examination."
There was no mistaking old Mr. Dilke's distaste for all these athletics, and it was to his father, on this one point more sympathetic, that the freshman wrote this characteristic announcement of a great promotion:
"Edwards" (captain of the Trinity Hall Boat Club) "has just called to inform me that I am to row in the head-of-the-river boat to- morrow, and to go into training for it.
"The time wasted if I row in it will not be greater than in the 2nd, but there is one difference—namely, that it may make me more sleepy at nights. I must read hard before breakfast. Romer—who is my master and pastor—tells me of all things to row in it,—this year at all events."
He did row in the May races of his first year, and with so little detriment to his work that in the following month he secured the first mathematical scholarship in the college examination. This triumph may well have disposed old Mr. Dilke to accept a suggestion which is recorded in the correspondence. On June 2nd it was decided that Trinity Hall should send an eight to Henley, and the letter adds: "I should think my grandfather would like to come and stay at or near Henley while I am there."
Before the date fixed, the oarsman had been inducted scholar, and so Mr. Dilke could go with a free heart to see his grandson row in the Grand Challenge against Brasenose and Kingston, where Trinity Hall defeated Kingston, but were themselves defeated by Brasenose in a very fast race.
It was not only in the examination halls and on the river that Charles Dilke was winning reputation. He had joined the Volunteers, and proved himself among the crack rifleshots of the University corps; he had won walking races, but especially he had begun to seek distinction in a path which led straight to his natural goal.
The impression left on Sir Robert Romer's mind was that Dilke came up to the University elaborately trained with a view to a political career. This is to read into the facts a wrong construction; the purpose, if it existed at all, was latent only in his mind. The training which he had received from his grandfather lent itself admirably, it is true, to the making of a statesman; but it was the pupil's temperament which determined the application of that rich culture.
The first debate which he had the chance to attend at the Union was on October 28th, 1862, the motion being: "That the cause of the Northern States is the cause of humanity and progress, and that the widespread sympathy with the Confederates is the result of ignorance and misrepresentation."
The discussion gained in actuality from the fact that the President of the Union was Mr. Everett, son of the distinguished literary man who had been America's representative in London, and was at this time Secretary of State in the Federal Government. But the South had a notable ally. Mr. George Otto Trevelyan, author of some of the best light verse ever written by an undergraduate, was still in residence, though he had before this taken his degree; and he shared in those days the sentimental preference for the South. Dilke reported to his grandfather: "Trevelyan's speech was mere flash, but very witty." "Mere flash" the freshman was likely to think it, for he shared his grandfather's opinions, and gave his first Union vote for the North—in a minority of 34 against 117. "Very witty" it was sure to be, and its most effective hit was a topical allusion. The Union Society of those days had its quarters in what had originally been a Wesleyan chapel—a large room in Green Street, the floor of which is now used as a public billiard saloon, while the galleries from which applause and interruption used to come freely now stand empty. There had long been complaint of its inadequacy; Oxford had set the example of a special edifice, and as far back as 1857 a Building Fund had been started, which, however, dragged on an abortive existence from year to year, a constant matter of gibes. 'Can the North restore the Union?' Mr. Trevelyan asked. 'Never, sir; they have no Building Fund'; and the punning jest brought down a storm of applause.
But when Mr. Trevelyan, after a year spent in India, came back to England and to Cambridge gossip in the beginning of 1864, he learnt that this despised Building Fund had been taken seriously in hand, that one undergraduate in particular was corresponding with all manner of persons, and that this Union also was going to be restored. That was how the present Sir George Trevelyan first heard the name of Charles Dilke.
Even in his earliest term Dilke soon passed out of the role of a mere listener and critic. The Commissioners of the International Exhibition of 1862 were then being sharply criticized, and on November 25th "a man of the name of Hyndman" (so the undergraduate's letter described this other undergraduate, afterwards to be well known as the Socialist writer and speaker) moved "a kind of vote of censure" upon them. It was natural enough that Sir Wentworth Dilke's son should brief the defence, and among the papers of 1862 is a bundle of "Notes by me for Everett's speech." Next he was trying his own mettle; and opposed a motion "that Prince Alfred should be permitted to accept the throne of Greece." His own note is:
'On the 8th December I made my first speech, advocating a Greek Republic, and suggesting that if they must have a King, they had better look to the northern nations to supply one. I was named by Everett, the President, as one of the tellers in the Division.'
Probably the speech had been no more of a success than most maiden speeches, for Mr. Dilke's letter reads like a consolation:
"The Greek debate I care little about. I would much rather have read a paper on the subject. Till a man can write he cannot speak— except, as Carlyle would say, 'in a confused babble of words and ideas.'"
The main part of the grandson's letters were concerned with the topics handled and the speeches made at the Union.
"November 7th, 1862.
"How wavering and shortsighted the policy of England in Turco-Grecian matters has been of late! Compare Navarino and Sebastopol. Palmerston will, if he has his way, oblige the Greeks to continue in much the same state of degradation as hitherto, and will go on holding up the crumbling Turkish Empire till some rising of Christians occurs at a time when we have our hands full and cannot afford to help our 'old friend.' Then Turkey-in-Europe will vanish. I do not myself believe in the Pan-Slavonic Empire. The Moldavians, Hungarians, and Greeks could never be long united; but I think that Greece might hold the whole of the coast and mountain provinces without containing in itself fatal elements of disunion.
"Brown—No. 3 of our four—broke from his training to-day, and spent the whole day with the hounds. That will never do."
Mr. Dilke in reply did not conceal the amusement which was awakened in him by the rowing man's deadly seriousness:
"November 9th, 1862.
"I agree with you. No Browns, no hunting fellows, no divided love!! If 'a man' goes in 'our boat' he goes in to win. "Broke from his training!" Abominable! Had he 'broke from his training' when standing out for Wrangler, why so be it, his honour only would be concerned; but here it is our honour, T. H. for ever, and no fox-hunting!
"After this, the Greek question falls flat on the ears, but I will suggest..."
and thereupon he goes into hints for research, very characteristic in their thoroughness, ending with a practical admonition:
"Now comes 'The Moral.' As you could not speak on the great Ionian question, why not write on it? Write down what you would or could have said on the subject. Take two or three hours of leisure and quiet; write with great deliberation, but write on till the subject is concluded. No deferring, no bit by bit piecework, but all offhand. No correction, not a word to be altered; once written let it stand. Put the Essay aside for a month. Then criticize it with your best judgment—the order and sequence of facts, its verbal defects, its want or superabundance of illustration, its want or superabundance of detail, etc., etc."
Another letter of Dilke's in his freshman year concerns the art of debate:
"What is wanted is common-sense discussion in well-worded speeches with connected argument, the whole to be spoken loud enough to be heard, and with sufficient liveliness to convince the hearers of the speaker's interest in what he is saying. So far as this is oratory, it is cultivated (with very moderate success) at the Union."
From the ideal here indicated—an accurate analysis of 'the House of Commons manner'—Charles Dilke never departed, and his grandfather in replying eagerly reinforced the estimate:
"I agree to all you say about that same Union, and about the Orators and Oratory. I should have said it myself, but thought it necessary to clear the way. I rejoice that no such preliminary labour was required. I agree that even Chatham was a 'Stump'—what he was in addition is not our question. I hope and believe he was the last of our Stumpers. Burke, so far as he was an Orator, was a Stump and something more, and the more may be attributed to the fact that he was a practised writer, where Chatham was not, and that he reported his own speeches. Latterly his writings were all Stump. I had not intended to have written for a week or more, for you have so many correspondents and are so punctual in reply that I fear the waste of precious time; but I am as pleased with your letter as an old dog- fancier when a terrier-pup catches his first rat—it is something to see my boy hunt out and hunt down that old humbug Oratory."
Charles Dilke's own mature judgment on the matters concerned was expressed in a letter to the Cantab of October 27th, 1893:
"The value of Union debates as a training for political life? Yes, if they are debates. There is probably little debate in the Union. There was little in my time. There is little real debating in the House of Commons. But debating is mastery. The gift of debate means the gift of making your opinion prevail. Set speaking is useless and worse than useless in these days."
Dilke was elected to the Library Committee of the Union in his second term, and in his third to the Standing Committee. At this moment a decision was taken to make a determined effort for new buildings, and it was suggested that he should stand for the secretaryship. Declining this as likely to engross more time than he could spare, he was put forward for the Vice-Presidency, and elected at the beginning of October, 1863. His prominence in the negotiations which followed may be inferred from the fact that he was re-elected. This was in itself a rare honour; but in his case was followed by election and re-election to the Presidency, a record unique in the Society's annals.
It was through this phase of his activity that Charles Dilke took part in the general life of the University. At the Union he was closely associated with men outside his own college, one of whom, Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, was destined to be a lifelong friend and fellow-worker. But his College meant more to him than the University. A conservative in this, he resented, and resisted later on, all tendencies to make the teaching of the place communal by an opening of college lectures to students from other colleges; he valued the distinctiveness of type which went with the older usage, under which he himself was nurtured. Trinity Hall was a lawyers' college; it had a library specially stored with law books, and it was early determined that he should conform to the genius loci so far at least as to be called to the Bar. In his first Christmas vacation he began to eat his dinners at the Middle Temple, where his nomination paper was signed by John Forster; and in June, 1863, after he had spent a year at mathematics and won his college scholarship, he took stock of his position, and felt clear as to his own powers. He might, he thought, attain to about a tenth wranglership in the Mathematical Tripos, which would insure him a fellowship at his college; but this, although he valued academic distinctions very highly, did not seem an end worth two years of work, and he determined to devote the remainder of his time at the University to the study of law and history.
He had not at any time limited himself to mathematics. Both before his freshman year and during it he had read hard and deeply on general subjects. His habit was to analyze on paper whatever he studied, and he had dealt thus in 1861 (aged eighteen) with all Sir Thomas More, Bolingbroke, and Hobbes. Among the papers for 1862 there is preserved such an analysis of Coleridge's political system; a note on the views of the Abbe Morellet, with essays on comparative psychology, the association of ideas, and the originality of the anti-selfish affections. These are deposits of that course of philosophic reading over which, says the Memoir, 'I wasted a good deal of time in 1862, but managed also to give myself much mental training.'
The determination to abandon mathematics for a line of study more germane to that career of which he already had some vision met with no resistance from his people; but it did not altogether please the college authorities. He wrote to old Mr. Dilke:
"When I told Hopkins" (his tutor) "that I was not going out in mathematics, he was taken aback, and seemed very sorry. He urged me to read law, but still to go out as a high senior optime, which he says I could be, without reading more than a very small quantity of mathematics every day. My objection to this was that I knew myself better than he did; that were I to go in for mathematics, I should be as high in that tripos as my talents would let me, and that my law and my life's purpose would suffer in consequence.