« السابقةمتابعة »
ideas adopted, which is hardest of all. Such is the duty which the reformers of 1832 have cast upon us.
And this is what of necessity must happen if you set men like Lord Althorp to guide legislative changes in complex institutions. Being without culture, they do not know how these institutions grew; being without insight, they only see one half of their effect; being without-foresight, they do not know what will happen if they are enlarged; being without originality, they cannot devise anything new to supply, if necessary, the place of what is old. Common sense no doubt they have, but common sense without instruction can wisely revise old institutions than it can write the Nautical Almanac. Probably they will do some present palpable good, but they will do so at a heavy cost; years after they have passed away, the bad effects of that which they did, and of the precedents which they set, will be hard to bear and difficult to change. Such men are admirably suited to early and simple times. English history is full of them, and England has been made mainly by them; but they fail in later times, when the work of the past is accumulated, and no question is any longer simple. The simplicity of their one-idead minds, which is suited to the common arithmetic and vulgar fractions of early societies, is not suited, indeed rather unfits them, for the involved analysis and complex problem papers of later ages.
There is little that in a sketch like this need be said of Lord Althorp's life after the passing of the Reform Act. The other acts of Lord Grey's ministry have nothing so memorable or so characteristic of Lord Althorp that anything need be said about them. Nor does anyone in the least care now as to the once celebrated mistake of Mr. Littleton in dealing with O'Connell, or Lord Althorp's connection with it. Parliamentary history is only interesting when it is important constitutional history, or when it illustrates something in the character of some interesting man. But the end of Lord Althorp's public life was very curious. In the November of 1834 his brother,
Lord Spencer, died, and as he was then leader of the House of Commons, a successor for him had to be found. But William IV., whose liberal partialities had long since died away, began by objecting to everyone proposed, and ended by turning out the ministry—another event in his reign which our coming republicans will no doubt make the most of. But I have nothing to do with the King and the constitutional question now. My business is with Lord Althorp. He acted very characteristically
- he said that a retirement from office was to him the 'cessation of acute pain,' and never afterwards would touch it again, though he lived for many years. Nor was this an idle affectation, far less indolence. “You must be aware,' he said once before, in a letter to Lord Brougham, “that my being in office is nothing less than a source of misery to me. I am perfectly certain that no man ever disliked it to such a degree as I do; and, indeed, the first thing that usually comes into my head when I wake is how to get rid of it. He retired into the country and occupied himself with the rural pursuits which he loved best, attended at quarter sessions, and was active as a farmer. Few persons,' said an old shepherd, 'could compete with my lord in å knowledge of sheep.' He delighted to watch a whole flock pass,
and seemed to know them as if he had lived with them. • Of all my former pursuits,' he wrote, just after Lady Althorp's death, and in the midst of his grief, 'the only one in which I now take any interest is breeding stock; it is the only one in which I can build castles in the air.' And as soon as he could, among such castles in the air he lived and died. No doubt, too, much better for himself than for many of his friends, who long wanted to lure him back to politics. He was wise with the solid wisdom of agricultural England ; popular and useful; sagacious in usual things; a model in common duties; well able to advise men in the daily difficulties which are the staple of human life.
But beyond this he could not go. Having no call to decide on more intellectual questions, he was distressed and pained when he had to do so. He was a man so picturesquely out of place in a great scene, that if a great describer gets hold of him he may be long remembered; and it was the misfortune of his life that the simplicity of his purposes and the trustworthiness of his character raised him at a great conjuncture to a high place for which Nature had not meant him, and for which he felt that she had not meant him.
THE PRINCE CONSORT.
So much has, ere this, been said upon the life and character of Prince Albert, that scarcely anything now remains except to join very simply and plainly in the regret and sympathy which have been everywhere expressed by all classes of the nationthe low as well as the high. A long narrative of a simple career would now. be wholly needless, for our contemporaries have supplied many such ; and any protracted eulogy would be unsuitable both to our business-like pages and to the simple character of him whom we have lost.
If our loss is not-as has been extravagantly said—the greatest which the English nation could have sustained, it is among the most irreparable. Our parliamentary constitution, in some
se, renews itself, or tends to do so. As one old statesman leaves the scene, a younger one comes forward, in the vigour of hope and power, to fill his place. When one great orator dies, another commonly succeeds him. The opportunity of the new aspirant is the departure of his predecessor ; on every vacancy some new claimant-many claimants probably-strive with eager emulation to win it and to retain it. Every loss is, in a brief period, easily and fully repaired. Even, too, in the hereditary part of our constitution, most calamities are soon forgotten. One monarch dies, and another
1 The Economist of December 21, where this article first appeared.
succeeds him. A new court, a new family, new hopes and new interests, spring up and supersede those which have passed away. What was, is forgotten; what is, is seen.
But now we have the old Court without one of its mainstays and principal supports. The royal family of last week is still (and without change) the royal family of to-day; but the father of that family is removed. For such a loss there is not, in this world, any adequate resource or any complete compensation. In no rank of life can any one else be to the widow and children what the deceased husband and father would have been. In the Court as in the cottage, such loss must not only be grief now, but perplexity, trouble, and perhaps mistake hereafter.
The present generation, at least the younger part of it, have lost the idea that the Court is a serious matter. Everything for twenty years has seemed to go so easily and so well, that it has seemed to go of itself. There is no such thing in this world. Everything requires anxiety, and reflection, and patience. And the function of the Court, though we easily forget it when it is well performed, keeps itself much in our remembrance when it is ill performed. Old observers say that some of the half-revolutionary discontent in the times preceding the Reform Bill was attributable to the selfish apathy and decrepit profligacy of George the Fourth. The Crown is of singular importance in a divided and contentious free state, because it is the sole object of attachment which is elevated above every contention and division. But to maintain that importance, it must create attachment. We know that the Crown now does so fully; but we do not adequately bear in mind how much rectitude of intention, how much judgment in conduct, how much power of doing right, how much power of doing nothing, are requisite to unite the loyalty and to retain the confidence of a free people.
Some cynical observers have contrasted the unlimited encomiums of the last week with the cold observance' and very measured popularity of Prince Albert during his life. They