Sir Charles Dilke: A Victorian Tragedy

Sir Charles Dilke: A Victorian Tragedy

Sir Charles Dilke: A Victorian Tragedy

Sir Charles Dilke: A Victorian Tragedy

Excerpt

Sir Charles Dilke died in 1911. Although he was then twenty-five years past the zenith of his career his name was still a great one. But in the years that have since gone by his fame has crumbled rapidly. There are few to-day to whom he is more than a rather shadowy Victorian politician who became involved in a half-forgotten scandal.

This decline has perhaps been inevitable, for his fame has had no base of solid attainment to which to anchor itself. He did not rise above the lower ranks of the Cabinet and there are no memorable measures which are popularly associated with his name. His career, broken as it was by the great scandal of the Crawford divorce case, was almost entirely an affair of promise and influence on others rather than of achievement. Had the case not occurred and shattered his life the story might have been very different. He was very near to high office and great power when the blow fell. If, as he himself insisted and as the evidence now available makes likely, he was the victim not of his own actions but of an elaborate conspiracy, his case was unique in recent British history. Few men of wealth and influence have found themselves hopelessly imprisoned in a net of entirely fabricated accusations. More, no doubt, have looked likely candidates for the premiership without in fact achieving that office. But no one, other than Dilke, has got within striking distance of 10 Downing Street and then been politically annihilated by a woman's false accusations.

In these circumstances the unravelling of the case, which dominated Dilke's own mind for more than a third of his life, inevitably becomes a major part of the interest of recounting his life and occupies a correspondingly large section of the . . .

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