The Diaries of John Bright

By John Bright; R. A. J. Walling | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II THE NEAR EAST

I

BRIGHT was a young man of twenty-four when he set out in August, 1835, on a journey which almost exactly reproduced the route if not the adventures of another young man of twenty- four who had preceded him by five years. Disraeli brought back from the Near East the material of "Tancred" and the ideas about Oriental policy which coloured his career. Bright returned with no mystic conceptions of the place of the Oriental mind in civilization and no literary work of the imagination, but with a large cargo of facts and a very definite dislike of the Turkish system. Disraeli's letters and Bright's diaries, written within a few years of each other and showing their reactions to the same circumstances, startlingly foreshadow the antagonisms which were to be fought out at Westminster forty years later.

Bright took his Grand Tour in the company of James King, son of his father's friend of that name. They visited the Peninsula, Greece, the Holy Land, Egypt, Turkey, and Italy. The diary hardly fails of a daily entry for eight months.

The young Quaker, with his handsome face, his sanguine spirit, his sense of fun and his love of human intercourse, seems to have charmed every being with whom he had contact during this high adventure. His notes reveal an avidly observant mind and an exhaustless curiosity, but also a good deal more than the lively interest of youth in novel surroundings. In this first self-record it is, indeed, almost possible already to see John Bright whole. Here is his personality in embryo--its apposition of extensive interest and intensive feeling, its downright frankness and its immense reserves, its limitless concern for humanity and its ineffable inwardness. There is surprising maturity in his reflections, certainty in his judgments, decisiveness in his conduct in emergency. At twenty-four he has thought more and probed his mind more deeply than most men at their climacteric. When

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