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Of the second of these speeches Lord Clarendon said—
I have had nearly forty letters from persons of very different opinions, but all agreeing that your speech on Thursday night was not only one of the most effective you ever made, but one of the finest that was ever heard in Parliament.
On the evening that succeeded this speech, Lord John was defeated by a small majority in a small House, and at once resigned office. The cause of his resignation is so well known that it is hardly necessary to restate it. The coup d'état in France had been followed by what Mr. Cobden called the second of his famous three panics ; and Lord John, though far from sharing the universal alarm, brought forward the scheme, which had been matured four years before, for reorganising the local militia. Lord Palmerston, in perfect consistency with the opinion which he had expressed in the Cabinet in 1848, moved an amendment to extend the operation of the measure. As he said, in his own light-hearted way—
I have had my tit-for-tat with John Russell, and I turned him out on Friday last.
Lord John's Administration had lasted almost exactly five years and eight months; a period which exceeds by eleven months that during which his rival, Sir Robert Peel, had held office. During the whole of it he had been exposed to difficultics from which Sir Robert had been free. In the Parliament of 1841 the Conservatives had enjoyed a predominating majority. In the Parliament of 1847 Lord John could only secure a majority in the Commons by the combination of various and not always concurring parties. During much of the time, moreover, his wife's health and his own delicate constitution forced him to abstain from many of those social gatherings by which public men in England do so much to conciliate and consolidate their followers. His own fortune, though sufficient for the modest requirements of his household, was hardly equal to the exigencies of his position ; and it is a well-known fact that Lord John stated openly to a committee of the House of Commons that he had never been in debt till he had become Prime Minister of England." The members of his Cabinet, too, were rather attached as friends than united in policy; and Lord John was not always able to carry in Council the measures which he would have liked to bring forward in the Senate, Few Prime Ministers had ever done more to encourage letters, science, and art. He gave the Royal Society, IOOO/. of public money to be spent on scientific research ; he made Sir John Herschel Master of the Mint; he made Mr. TennySon Poet Laureate. A man of letters himself before he was a statesman, he was always seeking for literary Society, and striving to reward literary merit. Just as in his youth he had delighted in the company which had gathered round the tables of Holland House, so in his age he would temper his dull political dinners by inviting such a man as Mr. Dickens to his table. “Nothing so flat, so he used to say, as the cream by itself. It has been well described to be like table-land, high and flat.” No man ever placed the claims of literature on a higher level. Soon after he became Prime Minister the students of Glasgow desired to elect him their Lord Rector. He wrote— Downing Street: November 13, 1846. Dear Rutherford, I should be very sorry to be the cause of preventing the election of Mr. Wordsworth as Lord Rector of Glasgow. Cannot you represent to the students that I think this would be a good opportunity of making the distinction purely literary It is a great honour to be thought of for the honour, but I should greatly prefer seeing it conferred on Mr. Wordsworth, whose genius has performed so much in which men of all political parties find delight.—I remain, &c., J. RUSSELL. No man ever took more pains that the pensions which the Crown is enabled to bestow should be conferred on desert. A writer in ‘Blackwood' has recently mentioned that, when Lord John heard that Mrs. Somerville was in pecuniary difficulty, he contrived to increase by IOO!, the pension which Sir
' The exact words of his evidence are, ‘I know, for my own part, that I never had a debt in my life till I was First Lord of the Treasury. I have now paid it off; so that it was no great encumbrance to me.” * Lord Morpeth's Diary, p. 103. Lady Russell thinks that Mr. Moore was the author of this excellent saying. VOL. II. L
Robert Peel had conferred on her." In his first year of office he secured a pension of 200/ a year for Dr. Chalmers's widow ; he gave a pension of 30O/ to Father Mathew ; of 2007 to Mr. Leigh Hunt, telling him that ‘the severe treatment he formerly received in times of unjust persecution of liberal writers enhanced the satisfaction' with which he made the announcement; he conferred a pension of IOO!, on the children of Mr. Hood ; in the following year, he conferred pensions on Mr. Adams the astronomer, on Mr. Sheridan Knowles, on Mr. Carleton the author of ‘Irish Stories,' and on Professor McCullagh's sister; while in his last year of office he conferred a pension on Professor Wilson, he procured a grant for, Mr. Hind, and he gave a pension to Mrs. Jameson. These are a few instances of the use which he made of the Pension list. Of the many applications which were made to him in connection with it, perhaps it is permissible to give a sample, which is too good a specimen of its author's skill to be buried for ever under the heavy mass of a Prime Minister's correspondence.” Devonshire Terrace: Wednesday evening, December 18, 1850. My dear Lord, Allow me to thank you for your ready and kind reply to my note, and to put you in possession of the exact state of Mr. P 's case. . . . For some few years past he has been living in a fifth story in a house in the Rue Neuve Luxembourg in Paris (on the proceeds of an amateur theatrical performance for his benefit, of which I undertook the management and stewardship, and which I have dispensed to him half-yearly); and such is the nervous affection, of his hands particularly, that, when I have seen him there, trembling and staggering over a small wood fire, it has been a marvel to me, knowing him to live quite alone, how he ever got into or out of his clothes. To the best of my belief, he has no relation whomsoever. He must either have starved or gone to the workhouse (and I have little doubt that he would have done the former) but for the funds I have doled out to him, which were exhausted before you generously assisted him from the Queen's Bounty. He has no resource of any kind—of that I am perfectly sure. In the sunny time of the day he puts a melancholy little hat on one side of his head, and, with a little stick under his arm, goes hitching himself about the boulevards; but for any power he has of earning a livelihood he might as well be dead. For three years I have been in the constant expectation of receiving a letter from the portress of the house to say that his ashes and those of his wood-fire, both of a very shrunken description, had been found lying together on the hearth. But he has lived on ; and for a few hours every day has so concealed his real condition out of doors that many French authors and actors (who treat him with deference as an English man of letters) would stand amazed to know what I now tell you. I have endeavoured to put him before you precisely as he is, and neither to exaggerate his claims nor to invest him with any interest that does not attach to him. He has lived in Paris, to make the least of his poverty and the most of his means. Mr. Justice Talfourd, Mr. Hardwick, the police magistrate, Mr. Forster, the editor of the ‘Examiner,’ and I, are (I think) his only English friends. We all know him, just as I have described him. I do not think he would hold a small pension very long. I need not add that he sorely needs it—and I do not doubt that the public are well acquainted with his name and works. With every apology I can offer for troubling you at this length, I am, my dear Lord, your very faithful and obedient servant,
* Years afterwards he used his influence successfully with Mr. Gladstone to obtain pensions for the Misses Somerville.
* The candidates for pensions are, I presume, found in tolerably close array among the papers of Prime Ministers. It is more interesting to add that, among Lord J. Russell's papers, I have found a letter from Mr. Hallam, written after his son's death, resigning the pension for which he had no longer any need.
CHARLES DICKENS. The Lord John Russell.
Mr. Dickens had not long to wait.
Devonshire Terrace: December 24, 1850. My dear Lord, I have conveyed to Mr. P. by to-night's post the joyful intelligence of her Majesty's gracious approval of your generous suggestion in his favour; and I do not doubt that he will endeavour to express to you (over that brighter fire) some of the happiness he owes to you. . .-I am, my dear Lord, your faithful and
CHARLES DICKENs. While, however, Lord John was duly sensible of the claims of authors, some of whom were personally unknown to himself, he never forgot the poet who had been the friend of his youth and of his age; and who, more than twenty years before, had declared that the only place he desired of
him was that little corner of his friend's honest heart, which he believed to be his, and which Lord John knew that he valued. Lord John saw Mr. Moore for the last time in December 1849. That evening the poet had a fit, from the effects of which he never recovered. The light of his intellect grew still more dim ; his memory failed still more : . . . on the 26th of February 1852 (the day after Lord John resigned office), he expired calmly and without pain at Sloperton Cottage."
When his will—written nearly a quarter of a century before—was opened, it was found that he had
confided to my valued friend Lord John Russell (having obtained his kind promise to undertake the service for me) the task of looking over whatever papers, letters, or journals I may leave behind me, for the purpose of forming from them some kind of publication, whether in the shape of memoirs or otherwise, which may afford the means of making some provision for my wife and family.
The promise had been given when Lord John was comparatively young, and when he had never known the fatigues of office. It was redeemed when the author was growing old, and when he was wearied with the incessant labours which must fall to the lot of any man who fills the first place in this country for half a dozen consecutive years.
Yet Lord John never hesitated. He ran down to Bowood in the middle of April to talk the matter over with Mrs. Moore. He found that
Mr. Longman, anxious to comply with the wishes of Mr. Moore, at once offered for Mr. Moore's papers, on condition of my undertaking to be the editor, such a sum as, with the small pension allowed by the Crown, would enable Mrs. Moore to enjoy for the remainder of her life the moderate income which had latterly been the extent and limit of the yearly family expense.
And he at once addressed himself to the new task.
He used such despatch that the four first volumes appeared in 1853, the two succeeding volumes in 1854, the two concluding in 1856. The years in which they were thus being prepared for the press were, in a political sense, the
' This extract, and the following extracts, are taken from the introduction to Mr. Moore's Memoirs.