« السابقةمتابعة »
graphic of our contemporaries have found nothing to record of Prince Albert so truly characteristic as this change, - his circumstances, and perhaps his character, forbade him to attempt the visible achievements and the showy displays which attract momentary popularity. Discretion is a quality seldom appreciated till it is lost; and it was discretion which Prince Albert eminently possessed.
WHAT LORD LYNDHURST REALLY WAS.
(1863.) A GREAT phenomenon has passed away from English public life. Not long since, Lord Lyndhurst observed:-“ My Lords, I well remember the breaking out of the French revolution in 1789, the death of Louis XVI., and the course of the consequent events.' There is not perhaps a conspicuous public man now in Europe who could say this ; certainly there is none in England. The picturesque features of Lord Lyndhurst's mind and character made the phenomenon still more striking. The characteristic of his intellect was the combination of great force and great lucidity: every sentence from him was full of light and energy. His face and brow were perhaps unrivaled in our time for the expression of pure intellect, and he preserved the physical aptitude for public oratory to an old age when most men are scarcely fit for mere conversation. To the very extremity of a protracted life — and this is very rarehe both looked, and was, a great man: the intellect was undimmed, and the power of expression hardly abated. There is no such man left.
It is very natural that such a man should have lived till his career should be half a myth or a legend. Few indeed of those who during the last few years gazed on that remarkable face had any distinct conception of the life which had been led by the person they saw. The singular vigor of his
* Hansard thus :- “My Lords, I am old enough to remember the whole history of the Revolutionary War, and of the war which succeeded it with the Empire of France” (speech on the “Naval Reserve,” May 1, 1860).
( 406 )
conversation charmed those who resorted to him, and they were led to believe that a man who talked so very well could hardly have acted very ill. The lives which have been put forth in the newspapers carefully prepared, like those of most old men-are merely panegyrics; for once, the physical vigor of a long old age has redeemed in public estimation the errors and vices of a long life. But it is not so that history should be written; it is in no strain of panegyric that an impartial observer can review the career of Lord Lyndhurst.
The beginning of the public life of Lord Lyndhurst was towards the end of the long reign of the Tory party. Sir George Lewis justly observed that the Tories in 1815 had an immense balance of popularity arising from the successful issue of the great war, and that they managed to spend it most completely before 1830.* They governed, as all Conservatives even would now admit, in precisely the wrong spirit: they governed not in the spirit of Mr. Pitt, but in the spirit of Lord Eldon. They maintained not only the main institutions of the country, which were acceptable and popular, but also the minutest abuses which in the course of years had clung to those institutions. They connected the name of the Tory party with every petty abuse and misdemeanor throughout the country; they would alter nothing, and they would let nothing be altered. When public meetings were convened to express public opinion, the organs of the Government cried out “sedition,” and talked as if a “French revolution” were going to break out here. By this stupid - there is no milder epithet that is fitting - and narrow-minded policy, the Tories caused the outburst of public opinion which carried the Reform Bill. Their best organs have admitted as much of late years : “A few more drops,” said the Quarterly Review not long since, “of Eldonine, and
* Second paragraph of No. vii. in “Administrations of Great Britain,” reprinted from Edinburgh Review, Vol. cx., review of Lord John Russell's Fox.
we should have had the People's Charter." party kept the nation in such tight and painful fetters that it was driven wild, and rose and broke them: “if the Tories will permit no improvement," so went the national idea, “we must have an end of Toryism."
All this was excusable and natural in men like Lord Eldon: he had been a Tory from his youth, and he had been confirmed in Toryism by the events of the French revolution. When the peace came, and a new generation sprang up, he was too old to change his creed; he honestly believed that it was necessary to resist every innovation, no matter of what sort, and to maintain everything, no matter of what kind. In Lord Eldon such conduct was natural and excusable; but it was not natural in a young man of great intelligence in the next generation, -- able young men well knew that this illiberal Toryism was out of place and an anachronism. It was in 1818, when the effects of this system were beginning to be plainly visible, that Lord Lyndhurst chose to connect himself with it. He did so under circumstances of great suspicion : he had held — loosely, we apprehend
some sort of ultra-Liberal opinions ; he had been, at any rate, in the habit of talking in that style at young men's parties and the circuit mess. He was a Liberal if he was anything; and charges continued to be made against him for many years of having deserted his principles.
It is indeed utterly inconceivable that Lord Lyndhurst should have believed in Toryism such as Toryism was in 1818: he would have no title to fame if he had believed in it. His claim is an intellectual claim : he is said, and justly said, to have had when he chose to exert it an intellect of the highest cultivation, more fitted than almost any other in his time for the perception of the truth ; a first-rate judicial mind, with culture and experience far transcending
the ordinary judicial range. It is inconsistent with this claim that he should really have been on the wrong side in all the important questions of his time. It is absurd to say that the greatest political intellect of his time- and some such claim as this might be justly made for Lord Lyndhurst - really believed that the Catholics should not be emancipated; that the Corn Laws should be maintained ; that there should be no reform in Parliament; that the narrow system of 1818 was a perfect or even an endurable system. We do not mean to charge him with acting contrary to his principles : that charge was made years ago, but was the exaggerated charge of political opponents, who saw that there was something to blame, but who in their eagerness and haste overdid their accusation. The true charge is, that he had no principles, that he did not care to have opinions. If he had applied his splendid judicial faculties to the arguments for Free Trade or for Catholic Emancipation, he would soon enough have discovered the truth; but he never did apply them. There is a story of a clever young official who said it was “inconvenient to keep opinions"; and this exactly expresses Lord Lyndhurst's life and sentiments. They tell a story, which may be true or false but is certainly characteristic, of what he said as to the act which bears his name, forbidding a man to marry a deceased wife's sister. The real object of that act was to please certain particular people who had married their sisters-in-law, and as it stands to this day it legalizes all antecedent marriages. As it was originally brought in, it legalized subsequent marriages also : persons conversant with the clergy, and other strict people, represented to Lord Lyndhurst that there would be an outcry against this; he replied, “Put it the other way, then,- forbid the future marriages : I am sure I do not care which way it is.”
He wanted to serve a temporary purpose, and he did so always. He regarded politics as a game, to be played first for himself and then for