The Gladstone Diarie: January 1875 - December 1880 - Vol. 9

The Gladstone Diarie: January 1875 - December 1880 - Vol. 9

The Gladstone Diarie: January 1875 - December 1880 - Vol. 9

The Gladstone Diarie: January 1875 - December 1880 - Vol. 9

Excerpt

The year [1875] has been an important one, & not only on account of its great abundance, as usual, in opportunities & in failures. In the great business of unwinding the coil of life & establishing my freedom I have made some progress by resigning the leadership, selling my House (needful for pecuniary reasons) and declining public occasions. But more has yet to be done. To minimise my presence in London is alike needful for growth, for my work, for the great duty & business of solemn recollection & preparation.

I hope my polemical period is over. It has virtually occupied over a twelvemonth: but good has been done, especially in Italy.

And now I am writing in the last minutes of the seventh decade of my life. This closing is a great event. The days of our life are three score years and ten. It is hardly possible that I should complete another decade. How much, or how little, of this will God give me for the purposes dear to my heart? Ah what need have I of what I may term spiritual leisure: to be out of the dust and heat and blast and strain, before I pass into the unseen world.

But perhaps this is a form of selflove. For the last 3½ years I have been passing through a political experience which is I believe without example in our Parliamentary history. I profess it [sic] to believe it has been an occasion, when the battle to be fought was a battle of justice humanity freedom law, all in their first elements from the very root, and all on a gigantic scale. The word spoken was a word for millions, and for millions who themselves cannot speak. If I really believe this then I should regard my having been morally forced into this work as a great and high election of God. And certainly I cannot but believe that He has given me special gifts of strength, on the late occasion especially in Scotland. But alas the poor little garden of my own soul remains uncultivated, unweeded, and defaced. So then while I am bound to accept this election for the time, may I not be permitted to pray that the time shall be short? Three things I would ask of God over and above all the bounty which surrounds me. This first that I may escape into retirement. This second that I may speedily be enabled to divest myself of everything resembling wealth. And the third--if I may--that when God calls me He may call me speedily. To die in Church appears to be a great euthanasia: but not a time to disturb worshippers. Such are some of the old man's thoughts, in whom there is still something that consents not to be old. Though I am well aware that my wonderful health is contingent on the freedom of my actual position, and that I could not bear the strain of anxiety. All this I ought to have written on my knees: from which indeed were I never to rise.

Last among the last
Least among the least
Can there be a place for me
At the marriage feast?

In every, decade of these diaries, the theme has been the same: the yearning for retirement from political life. With the decisive defeat of the Liberal Government . . .

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