Gladstone and the Irish Nation

By J. L. Hammond | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVII
GLADSTONE AND THE EDUCATED CLASSES

A former worshipper of the ex-Prime Minister said to me some time ago "Never in the history of England was there such a consensus of intellect arrayed against statesmen as is now arrayed against Mr Gladstone. What a fall. I rejoice to find this unanimity of judgment so specially illustrated among scientific men." . . .

John Tyndall: Letter to the Times, June 1887.

It may seem a paradox to say that Gladstone's isolation at this time and his confidence came from the same cause. Yet if his position is examined it will be seen that this is true. He was isolated because his fundamental outlook differed from that of the intellectual Liberal; he was confident because he put his faith in the very ideas and beliefs that created that difference between them.

Let us take two statements that describe the perplexity of his intellectual contemporaries about him. One by Leslie Stephen writing on Fawcett; the other by Courtney writing about the Cambridge of the 'sixties.

"Mr Gladstone, if I may say so, was as typical a representative of the Oxford which obeyed the impulse of Newman, as Fawcett of the comparatively plain, practical, and downright Cambridge. Mr Gladstone's astonishing versatility of mind, the power of interesting himself in ancient Greece or in modern theology which relieves his political energy, was a source of wondering amusement to Fawcett's strong, but comparatively limited, intellect. He was rather scandalised than amused by the singular subtlety and ingenuity in presenting unexpected interpretations of apparently plain doctrines which makes the history of Mr Gladstone's opinions so curious a subject for the psychologist."1

Courtney, writing after the death of Stephen, described the atmosphere of Cambridge in the 'sixties: "Mr Glad

____________________
1
Stephen Life of Fawcett, p. 244.

-532-

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