Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83

Lord Malmesbury

Lord Malmesbury.

A Year or two ago, the Earl of Malmesbury, being a widower of about Mr. Gladstone's age, married a very young lady, and set about preparing his reminiscences.

When Sir Charles Coldstream was so dreadfully used up, his friend, Sir Adonis Leech, tried to rally him with reminiscences of foreign travel. "But then there is the dome of St. Peter's at Rome." "Oh, ah, very nicely scooped out, but—there's nothing in it!"

Here is the moral of "Lord Malmesbury's Recollections." Thackeray drew Louis XIV. without his built-up peruke and gorgeous robes, reducing him to an atomy. It may be unkind to suggest that Lord Malmesbury does the same with himself, but what conclusion can we draw from the autobiographic record of a life which is all upholstery?

Again, it suggests Fanny Kemble's reminiscences of Lady Cook, whom she found, at the age of ninety, admiring her own white shoulders before the mirror. "For shame, ma'am," exclaimed the lady's maid, applying an antimacassar.

Or we may take the venerable and dying Chester, in "Barnaby Rudge," carefully composing his features, so that they might be left handsome.

"Truly it is a dreadful thing to be alive," wrote Carlyle, but Malmesbury is of the type of his "Maupas" in the "French page 10 Revolution"—that good old man who gyrated and said, "It will last my time." One can hardly regard the thing as pleasant that a man on the verge of the Eternal World, setting down his life for the benefit of the young, can only give a tag-rag counterpane of gossip—a life, too, begun in the purple, with splendid opportunities. However, we will take good Malmesbury as we find him.

Perhaps we can extract the most, for Australians, with regard to the late Lord Derby, for Derby is the name in everybody's mouth. Alexander Dumas wrote "Le Pere Prodigue," the Prodigal Father. He limned his own father, as Dickens did, in Mr. Micawber. Charles Mathews will be remembered at the Gaiety in "My Awful Dad."

The late Earl Derby spoke of his son, the present earl, as the "Old Gentleman." He had an awful respect for Stanley, the man of science and statistics. Malmesbury increases our respect for the late earl by showing how unwilling he was to lead his party into office. He preferred a quiet life at Knowsley, among his antelopes, springboks, gazelles and gnus, having a strange fancy for the collection of these animals.

Then again, he sensibly recognised that Lord Palmerston, at the tiller, was the right man in the right place. Palmerston was a rank Tory. Gladstone is the virtual leader of the Conservatives at the present day. Punch neatly hits off the situation with the Franchise farce, "And if our friends in front are pleased then Gladstone Box—and Salisbury Cox—are happy."

Malmesbury's stories, some of them, are what his aristocratic friends would term rather blue, or very brown. We would not care about reprinting that apropos of the lady attache, who unconsciously went diaphanously to the fancy ball.

The clotted cream, whipped syllabub and snow meringues of life are all that Lord Malmesbury has lived for. His ideal was similar to Disraeli's, though on a lower plane, and he professes himself satisfied—"Pleasure is pleasant," that is all. He represents a state of things which is passing away, caking off and dropping into limbo. "Men cannot return to their superstition and prejudice unless they return to their ignorance." The whole fabric of the power of Malmesbury and his party was built on the helpless state of the masses through ignorance.

He complacently narrates how he was thoroughly qualified as Foreign Minister by wading through about six feet thick of the despatches of an ancestor. This, superadded to a gad-fly like flitting about outside diplomatic circles at Paris, Vienna and Berlin, was all the education he needed.

Mr. Gladstone, with his energy, his earnestness, and his reality, is strongly before our mind in contrast to Lord Malmesbury. They have run the same space in their "gleam of time between two eternities." My Lord is typical of that bulk of page 11 mankind "Neither very virtuous nor very vicious, causing no scandal, exciting no wonder, noiselessly conforming to the standard of the age in which they live." The standard is fixed by use and wont. Our Party. Perhaps we are too severe, for, "In every work regard the writer's end."

The best part of Malmesbury's two volumes is contained in the recollections of the late French Emperor. He is an integral figure in history, over neglected just now.