Nassau W. Senior, 1790-1864: Critical Essayist, Classical Economist and Adviser of Governments

Nassau W. Senior, 1790-1864: Critical Essayist, Classical Economist and Adviser of Governments

Nassau W. Senior, 1790-1864: Critical Essayist, Classical Economist and Adviser of Governments

Nassau W. Senior, 1790-1864: Critical Essayist, Classical Economist and Adviser of Governments

Excerpt

FANNY KEMBLE, THE brilliant actress of the early Victorian period, gives a vivid description of Senior, 'the cast-iron man of facts', whom she met at the country home of their mutual friend, Mrs George Grote wife of the London banker, radical Member of Parliament and eminent historian of Greece.

I remember very well, one evening at her own house I was working at some embroidery and I was listening with perfect satisfaction to an able and animated discussion between Mr. Grote, Charles Greville [ the diarist, Clerk of the Privy Council and nephew of the Duke of Portland], Mr. Senior, and a very intelligent Piedmontese then staying at the Beeche, on the aspect of European politics, and more especially, of Italian affairs, when Mrs. Grote, evidently thinking the subject too much for me, drew her chair up to mine and began a condescending conversation about matters which she probably judged more on a level with my comprehension: for she seemed both relieved and surprised when I stopped her kind effort to entertain me at once, thanking her, and assuring her that I was enjoying extremely what I was listening to.

A very clever man, a great talker, good upon all subjects, but best upon all those on which I am below my average depth of ignorance, public affairs, questions of government, the science of political economy, and all its kindred knowledges.... His clear and acute intelligence, his general information and agreeable powers of conversation -- his universal acquaintance with all political and statistical details, and the whole contemporaneous history of European events, and the readiness and fulness of his information on all matters of interest connected with public affairs, used to make Mrs. Grote call him her 'man of facts'.

The Piedmontese referred to was, no doubt, Count Cavour, the founder of modern Italy, and the date probably 1843, when he visited England for the second time. On his first visit to London in 1835, then only twenty-five years of age, one of the first persons he had tried to see was Senior, whom he found it difficult to approach. He recorded in his diary:

I went early to Kensington and at last I have Ibund Mr. Senior at home. He was, however, at first so busy and afterwards had such a number of visitors that it was impossible for me to get anything out of him except an excellent lunch and a very kind invitation to dinner this evening.

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