FOR Bright the terrible year of 1854, shadowed by the tragedy in the Crimea, opened in profound and prophetic gloom. His New Year sky was overcast by private as well as by public griefs, and especially by the death of his brother Gratton, whose fatal illness Jacob Bright, when he returned, attributed to a fever caught while bathing at Venice.
Such Arctic weather as that of January, 1854, is rare in England. "So much winter is strange to this generation," Bright said. On the way from Manchester to Rochdale one night, his train was snowed up. He had to sleep at Middleton, and next day to walk seven miles home. "Hard work," he wrote. "Snow very deep; carts and wagons, full and empty, left in the road. Saw a cow being dug out of a drift in which she had been buried during the night. How she lived thro' it is strange. The whole traffic of this district has been suspended since yesterday about noon, many mills not working for want of coal. Our mills stopped at ½ past 4 last evening to give the people a chance of getting home, but about 60 or more of them slept in the mill rather than encounter the danger of attempting to go to their own homes. They were furnished with a good supper in the schoolroom and were not unhappy at their singular position. We have had no London papers since the day before yesterday, and no London mail or letters to-day. Such a storm of snow has not been known for very many years."
The month passed at "One Ash" quietly, amid family gatherings subdued by sorrow. The only interludes were visits to Manchester and Sheffield to make speeches on some public occasions. Into the first he was persuaded against his will by Cobden, who had got up a meeting on a local education question. "I have some hesitation about it, but do not like to shrink from any good work in which he is engaged." So he spent an evening making notes for a speech, and went next day