Posts Tagged ‘Victorian Age’


Robert Gascoyne-Cecil(1830-1903) was a descendent of Sir Robert Cecil of the Elizabethan fame. He was three times Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, from 1885 to 1886, 1886 to 1892 and 1895 and 1902 and also served four times as Foreign Secretary. His time as Prime Minister coincided with a great expansion of the British Empire. Lord Salisbury is also remembered as an adherent of the policy of “splendid isolation”, the desire to keep Great Britain out of European affairs and alliances. He was also the last British Prime Minister to serve from the Lords.
He was notoriously myopic and mistook people in his own cabinet and also his son. He once looked at the photograph of Edward VII and mistook him for Sir.Redvers Buller. Intemperate in speech( of Disraeli-‘the grain of dirt that clogged the political machine’) he was not above granting one of his nephews an out of turn favor. In 1887 he made Arthur Balfour from obscurity to front-line post of Chief Secretary for Ireland, a vital post that gave rise to the expression,’Bob’s your uncle.’ Subject to nervous storms, pessimistic, shambling he on a ceremonial occasion induced near apoplexy on his sovereign by appearing in a mixture of two uniforms.
A representative of the landed aristocracy, he held the reactionary credo, “Whatever happens will be for the worse, and therefore it is in our interest that as little should happen as possible.” Instead of seeing his party’s victory in 1886 as a harbinger of a new and more popular Conservatism, he longed to return to the stability of the past, when his party’s main function was to restrain demagogic liberalism and democratic excess.
(ack: wikipedia, eminent Edwardians/Piers Brendon-Penguin-1979)

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Lord Palmerston


Lord Palmerston, Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount (1774-1865)
While in charge of the War Office, he came under criticism from the radical MP’s for keeping a standing army even after the threat of Bonaparte was long past. Some of the Tories also sided with them and demanded that the military costs should be drastically reduced. Palmerston reminded them that the Army always became unpopular after every war was over and told them the story of the soldiers who marched out of London against the Jacobites in 1745.
“There go our brave guards! There go the pillars of the State.” Cried the people.
“Aye, “said one of the veterans, “but when we have licked the enemy the cry will be. ‘There go the caterpillars of the State.”

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In 1856 WM Thackeray the author of Vanity Fair, visited the US for his second series of lectures. In St. Louis in between lectures he took time out to sample the local color. While dining at the Barnum’s Hotel he overheard one Irish waiter telling another in awe,’Do you know who that is?’
‘No’ came the answer.
‘That is the celebrated Thacker!’replied the first waiter gloating in his knowledge.
‘What’s he done?’
‘Damned if I know!’
Benjamin Jowett of Oxford was one of its lions and no visit to Oxford was complete without seeing him. Many out -of- towners had their wish fulfilled to catch a glimpse of the famous professor.
At a time when Jowett was busy translating Plato one found his study overlooked into the Bond Street.
Once he brought in a small crowd of gawks and pointing to the window above and said,’This ladies and gentlemen is Balliol College. One of the holdest in the huniversity, and and famous for its herudite of its scholars. The ‘ead of Balliol College is called the Master. The present Master of the College is the most celebrated Professor Benjamin Jowett, Regius Professor of Greek.’ Pointing to the study windows the Cockney stooped down to take a handful of gravel and said in glee, ‘There’ and he threw the gravel against the panes bringing a livid professor to the window. The ruffian announced proudly,’ladies and gentlemen, the Professor Benjamin Jowett himself!’

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In The House Of The Lords

The House of Lords was generally considered as the grave of eloquence. When someone remarked that Disraeli would find the Lords tame after the Commons, he replied,”I am dead;dead but in the Elysian fields.”
A young peer once asked Disraeli what course of study he had best undertaken to qualify himself of speaking so as to catch the ear of the House of the Lords.
“Have you a graveyard near your house?” asked Dizzy.
“Then I should recommend you to visit it early of a morning and practise upon the tombstones”.
Final Days
Disraeli was already ill and as he corrected the proof of his final speech in Parliament,he said wearily, ”I’ll not go down to posterity talking bad grammar”.
As death drew near, Disraeli ravaged by gout and asthma,quipped, ‘ I have suffered much. Had I been a nihilist, I would have confessed all.’

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Disraeli’s difficulties lay in the fact both Whigs and Tories distrusted him. He was too individualistic to subscribe to any political program. He disliked the Whigs who had substituted a selfish oligarchy for government while the Tories were on a nosedive loosened from traditions, as leaders of the people and supporter of the monarch. To regain this historical position would sum up his own work for the next half a century.
No one in 1830’s could have guessed that it was feasible, still less that the flashy young Jew would be the motive force behind the Tories. In 1834 Lord Melbourne then Home Secretary met Disraeli in one of the parties. Attracted by his conversation he asked what was his aim. “I want to be the Prime Minister,”replied Disraeli gravely. Melbourne with a weary sigh explained the utter impossibility of such an achievement. He ended with,”You must put all these foolish notions out of your head. This won’t do at all.”
Melbourne when towards the close of ’48 just before his death, heard that Disraeli was to be the leader in the Commons he exclaimed,”By God the fellow will do it, yet.”

Viscount Palmerston, war secretary under many prime ministers was a man of great personal charm and exceptional abilities, perhaps the only member of the House whose brain, Disraeli respected. He was a Lothario and his many amatory adventures were no secret. He stood for many years in the way of Disraeli’s ambitions from achieving their fruition. One of Dizzy’s supporters before an election had collected evidence of a furtive love affair publication of which he was certain would discredit his adversary. Disraeli refused.”Palmerston is now seventy. If he could provide evidence of his potency in his electoral address he would sweep the country,” was his reason.
Like many people who were not native but made England home he was fond of England and the English way of life. However his acute intelligence and robust imagination elicited responses which were so different from that of an Englishman. He loved meeting people from various walks of life especially during political meetings and exchange pleasantries. His opponents seldom missed an opportunity of heckling him.
In delivering a speech he would invariably began slowly and quietly.”Speak up! I can’t hear you!”shouted someone at a Newpost Pagnell meeting in Dec,49. Back came the answer,’Truth travels slowly, but it will reach you in time.’
To one heckler, with whom he was on familiar terms,  who called out,’Speak quick!’ he replied,”It is very easy for you to speak quick when you only utter stupid monosyllables.” He added,”But when I speak I must measure my words; I have to open your great thick head. What I say is to enlighten you. If I bawled like you, you would leave this place as great a fool as you entered it.”
Sometimes political hostility took on more personal forms. One jibed at him that his wife had picked him out of the gutter. His reply was a model of incisive wit delivered in his customary cool and unflappable composure. Dizzy replied,”My dear fellow, if you were in the gutter nobody would pick you out”.
His power of ridicule when given a cause was superb and he could floor anyone whether in the House or outside with a verbal thrust. By nature he was genial and never went out to aggravate the feeling of those whom he disliked. Once in the House he chose to ignore a vicious attack of one whom despised with an excuse, ”I have given him the mercy of my silence.”

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It would hardly be conceivable in British Parliamentary history that two personalities so diametrically opposed to one another as Disraeli and Gladstone could also represent two opposing ideologies at the same time. William Ewart Gladstone was the leader of opposition when Disraeli represented the Tories. Gladstone who changed opinions whenever it suited him came to represent the highest political morality while Disraeli who after he had found his party stuck to it all his life, was regarded as a man of few scruples. It was ironic that Dizzy should for his oriental outlook,and because of his race, be treated with distrust. In his opponent everything irrational and impulsive in the English people found home, which he could express with the religious emotionalism and a high moral tone that his supporters found very English. In short he represented qualities that Disraeli despised.
To Disraeli politics was a question of expedience whereas with Gladstone was a matter of morality and he could delude himself his was the voice of justice and truth. He played the politics as a demogogue combined with a missionary zeal that Dizzy thought he was mad; while his opponent thought Dizzy was a devil.
Gladstone carried common qualities on such a vast scale and without imagination and humor, the public saw in him a political prophet of his times. He was a humbug and not above stooping to underhand methods if it helped. As one M.P who remarked,”I don’t object to (him) always having the ace of trumps up his sleeve but merely to his belief that God Almighty put it there.”

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Lord Melbourne

Lord Melbourne when he was the Chief Secretary to Ireland ran his office in an unorthodox manner allowing Protestants and Catholics and seditious elements to approach him directly with their problems. One day a little boy, the son of a subordinate was brought in to be shown his room at the office.
“Is there anything you’d like here?”William asked him kindly. The child chose a stick of sealing wax. “That is right my boy,”said William pressing a bundle of pens into his hands,”begin life early. All these things belong to the public, and your business is to get out of the public as much as you can.”

Melbourne as the First Minister got along famously with the young Victoria who was still in her teens. She looked for guidance to the elder statesman during his official morning visits. Once when during dessert he had taken two apples she queried why he had taken two when he was unlikely to eat more than one he replied: “I would like to have the power of doing so.”(Ack: Melbourne-David Cecil)

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