The Gladstone Diaries - Vol. 1

The Gladstone Diaries - Vol. 1

The Gladstone Diaries - Vol. 1

The Gladstone Diaries - Vol. 1

Excerpt

Morley rightly remarked, in his official Life of Gladstone, that his subject was not equipped with 'much or any of the rare talent of the born diarist'. These diaries reveal much about Gladstone's character, and illustrate the religious, political, and social life of his day; yet nobody will find in them either word-pictures of events, or analyses of personality, fit to be compared with Pepys's or with Greville's. Gladstone's diaries were not written with a literary aim. 'You may take', he once said to Balfour, 'the three proverbial courses about a journal: you may keep none, you may keep a complete and "fullblooded" one, or you may keep a mere skeleton like mine with nothing but bare entries of time and place.' The skeleton was not entirely bare of flesh; but primarily it was what Gladstone, a meticulous keeper of accounts, once called 'an account-book of the allprecious gift of Time'.

His own 'fierce regard for the sanctity of time' formed one of his best-known characteristics. From childhood, his elder sister Anne had brought him up to believe that waste of it was sinful, and that at the Last Day he would be called to a reckoning of how he had spent every minute accorded him. Making an entry in this pocket reminderbook of his own deficiencies had taken on, by the end of his teens, the character of a mild penitential exercise: a daily occasion for self- criticism, and for reflexion on how he was expending his 'all-precious gift '. 'Relief from the small grind of the Daily Journal' was how in the end he described giving it up. He found it helpful, in his frequent moods of self-doubt, to have beside him these notes of what he had done and left undone; notes that Herbert Gladstone described as 'a life story of intense introspection in which judgment was almost invariably given against himself'. Ludicrous though it may seem to admirers of Beerbohm's caricatures in the Junior Carlton, entitled 'Mr Gladstone goes to Heaven', this diary has elements in it of an aide-mémoire for a future conversation with St. Peter.

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