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were not in Lord John's way, he can draw a rapier of the finest temper and polish, and run you through." There is one other characteristic in Lord John's speeches which deserves to be noticed. In the words of the late Sir William Heathcote, he never mingled in debate without rais--f. ing its tone. His reasoning may be true or false; it may command or fail to secure consent. But the reader instinctively . feels that the arguments come from a true man, who is expressing, not concealing, his real opinions, and who is labouring to the best of his judgment in the service of his country and mankind. His language is as transparent as his thoughts * are clear. There is no false colour in his sentences, no base metal in his composition. Ring him where you will, he rings true. It was somewhere said of Lord John's speeches that, whatever effect they might have on the audience, they read better than those of other people; and, in fact, Lord John had physical defects which prevented him from taking the highest rank as an orator. His physique was weak. Mr. Sydney Smith told a Devonshire elector in the thirties who expressed surprise at Lord John's small stature that “he was wasted in the service of his country;’ while one of his own colleagues declared that it was strange to see ‘so great a man so little.’ Nor was his weak physique his only drawback; his voice was thin, his manner was awkward. It was humorously stated that, when he placed his left elbow on the palm of his right hand, the House awaited a sentiment in favour of civil and religious liberty. In a very careful and on the whole appreciative article in Araser's Magazine, in June 1845, the writer says—
Notwithstanding the many points of excellence in his speeches, Lord John Russell's exterior and style of speaking are most disappointing. Remembering the pleasure he has given you on paper, and the prominent position he holds in the House of Commons, your first sensation on seeing and hearing him is that you must
* I owe this saying and the succeeding one to Lord Coleridge.
have been misinformed. Can that little, quiet, fragile, modest, almost insignificant-looking man—so neat, plain, and formal, in -- his black coat and snow-white neckcloth, who sits with his legs crossed anyhow, and his hat overshading his small, sharp features till they are scarcely seen—can that be Lord John Russell? . . . In a few moments he takes off his hat and rises from his seat, advancing to the table to speak. Now, for the first time, there is something that prepossesses. His head, though small, is finely shaped; it is a highly intellectual head, and the brow is wide and deep. . . . A moment more and you are struck with the proportions, though small, of his frame—his erect attitude, his chest expanded. You begin to perceive that a little man need not, of necessity, be insignificant. . . . He speaks for a time, and your disappointment returns. His voice is feeble in quality, and monotonous. It is thin, and there is a twang upon it which smacks of aristocratic affectation; but it is distinct. . . . He goes on in that strain, uttering a few of the most obvious commonplaces of apology or of deprecation, till the idea of mediocrity grows insensibly upon your mind. Wait a little. A cheer comes from the Opposition benches. . . . Nay, even on the Ministerial side the ‘point’ has not been without its effect, as many a suppressed titter testifies. All the level commonplace, it seems, was but the stringing of the bow; at the moment when least expected, the cool prepared marksman has shot his arrow of keen and polished sarcasm at Sir Robert Peel, whom it has fleshed, if not transfixed. . . . And then he proceeds during a speech of perhaps an hour and a half . . . now rousing his own side to cheers against their opponents, and now stimulating those opponents to laugh at or. suspect their own leaders; but always exhibiting power, self-possession, tact, skill, Parliamentary and political knowledge, command of language, and felicity of diction, surpassed but by few of the distinguished men of the day.
This description, written nearly half a century ago, admirably illustrates both Lord John's excellences and defects as an orator. Defects in the present day have a constant tendency to survive. For the history of the nineteenth century is largely written in its caricatures; and the caricaturist naturally exaggerates the peculiarities at which men laugh, and not the qualities which they applaud. No man fills a larger place in caricature than Lord John Russell. The small stature, which testified to the frail body,
and the large head which indicated the capacious intellect, equally assisted the caricaturist. It became gradually customary to portray Lord John as a boy, or as a child. Lord John's striking personal characteristics were not, however, seized by the caricaturist at the first. In his earlier pictures of him, Mr. Doyle has concealed, instead of exaggerating, the Minister's peculiarities. In the earliest of them in which Lord John appears," a scene from the ‘Beggars' Opera, Lord John is the functionary waiting to lead Sir C. Wetherell off to execution. Two numbers later he is the tailor—a tall tailor—who has fitted John Bull with a pair of ‘bra’ new grey breeks.” And it was only in 1835 that Mr. Doyle thoroughly seized his characteristics and made himself master of his appearance. Mr. O’Connell's influence with the new Ministers was a tempting subject for the artist: Lord John's commanding position in the Cabinet brought him into the first place in almost every composition; while the Minister's slight frame contrasted with Mr. O'Connell's burly features gave zest to the caricature. Thus Lord John is Little Red Riding Hood to Mr. O'Connell's wolf; he is the very small sheep, while Mr. O'Connell is the wolf in sheep's clothing; he is Hop o' My Thumb in ‘The Faggot Cutter and his Seven Sons;’ he is a sleek and small pug in the admirable caricature of Sir E. Landseer's ‘Jack in Office;’ he sits on Lord Melbourne's lap in the ‘Sedan to Vauxhall; and finally he marches in front in ‘The Age of Leetle Men,” It will be probably clear from this short paragraph that Mr. Doyle had thoroughly realised how much Lord John's diminutive stature could be made to assist his pencil. The later caricaturists of the reign naturally availed themselves of the same peculiarity. But they engrafted on Lord John's slight physique some characteristics which were rather amusing than true. Represented almost always as a boy, or occasionally as a girl, it required only one step to connect him with the mischievous tendencies and the weakness which is inseparable
* The first caricature of Mr. Doyle's with which Lord John is associated— “The New Lamps for Old'—does not contain his portrait. i
from youth. Thus he is the boy who has written “No Popery’ on the wall and run away; he is the page who is not strong enough for the place; or the nursemaid unable to wheel the perambulator with the baby Reform Bill up the steps of the House of Lords. Probably even Lord John's intimate friends are hardly aware how their own impression of his character and career has been moulded by these amusing pictures. If Lord John's career was rendered more difficult by the smallness of his frame, he was at a still greater disadvantage from the physical weakness from which he suffered throughout his life. An old writer has said that stomach is everything and everything is stomach. But stomach was the one qualification which Lord John had not. His digestion was possibly weakened by the drastic remedies which our grandparents were in the habit of applying to organs which require a milder treatment. In reading Lord John's boyish diaries, it occurred to the present author that the first day of the week, when no playhouses were open, was reserved by Lord John either for travelling or for medicine. But from the first day of his life to the last days of his Prime Ministership his physical weakness undoubtedly militated against his chances. In the long rivalry between Lord Palmerston and himself, Lord Palmerston owed as much to his admirable organisation as Lord John did to his intellectual power. It has been said of a great modern statesman that the most extraordinary thing about him is not his mind but his body. And perhaps Lord John is the only instance of a man rising to the very highest rank in politics with a physical organisation so defective that it suggested doubt as to his strength for the work allotted to him at almost every stage of his career. Lord John was able to triumph over these defects of the body, and to survive to an unusual age, because he regulated his life on sensible principles. He was moderate in his diet, regular in his habits, and careful to obtain a sufficiency of 1 Lord Russell admitted to Mr. William Rogers that this caricature was
very severe, and did his Government a great deal of harm. He repaid it years afterwards by giving Mr. Leech's son a nomination for the Charter House.
exercise. But, though by these expedients he succeeded in partially overcoming a physical deficiency to which other men would have succumbed, the means which he adopted for doing so placed him under a disadvantage. Instead of consolidating his party by hospitality in Chesham Place, he was seeking rest and health in the seclusion of Pembroke Lodge. It is no doubt a somewhat humiliating circumstance that political success should so frequently be promoted by social pleasures. But those who recollect the careers of Lord John and Lord Palmerston will agree that the one Minister derived no mean advantage from the care with which his wife cultivated the society which the wife of the other Minister was forced to neglect. It was the common criticism, applied to Lord John in January 1855, that he resigned office without justification. History perhaps will pass an exactly opposite verdict on him, and say that both in 1838 and in 1848 he remained in office without justification. For the reasons which induced him to leave office in 1855—viz., his disapproval of the conduct of the war, and his refusal to resist an inquiry which he thought necessary—are at any rate adequate; while it is much more doubtful whether the withdrawal of the Appropriation Clause in 1838 should not have led to the resignation of the Ministry which was founded on it; and whether the rejection by the Cabinet of Lord John's Irish policy in 1848 should not have logically involved the retirement of the Minister who proposed it. This book, however, has not been concerned with Lord John's public career alone; it has endeavoured to deal with the man as well as with the Minister; and the author's objects would not be fulfilled if a few words were not added on what Lord John was, in the seclusion of his own home, to his wife, his children, his servants, and his friends. What Lord John was to his friends may perhaps be inferred from several passages in this memoir. In the society of those whom he liked, there was no better or brighter companion. The cold climate, which played the deuce with votes,
was dispelled by the sunshine of Pembroke Lodge.