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HARRow on THE HILL : October 2, 1858.
MY DEAR PAPA,- . . . I have just been to the doctor with my list of work. He sent for me to come into his study, and spoke to me very kindly. He wished to know whether I was going to leave, and I said I was. He thought it was principally on the ground of health : I believed it was, but added that, in the fifth form, I had plenty of time to go out, and did not suffer in health at all. He advised me to tell you this, as he thought it might have some weight with you. Dear old Vaughan I am very fond of him, and should very much like to stay. I am sure the beautiful sermons we have from him every Sunday might hide a multitude of other disadvantages in the school. I do not mean that there are many disadvantages. The longer I stay, the fonder I get of Harrow ; the higher I am when I leave, the more pleased shall I be on looking back to my school-life when I am an old Harrovian. But, if I go to Edinburgh, it would give me all the trouble and awkwardness of a new boy over again. But, whatever your decision on the point may be, I shall, I hope, be satisfied with it, and trust to your superior wisdom to do what is best. . . . —Good-bye, from your most affectionate son, J. RUSSELL.
Like father, like son. The letter bears much resemblance to that which Lord John himself had written to his father the Duke from Spain nearly fifty years before.
It was no difficult matter, however, to trace the hereditary
likeness between Lord John and many of his children. In his eldest son's appreciation of the books which he was reading at school, in the interest which he was taking in politics, in his criticisms of the masters he was under, and of the sermons which he heard, he was unconsciously displaying all the qualities which his father had shown fifty years before. Like his father, too, he was writing poetry. His present to his mother on her birthday in 1857 was a poem on the Pembroke Lodge gardener. The boy, too, as well as his brothers and sisters, was displaying that taste for the drama which had been so strong in Lord John. In 1856, while they were at Florence, they acted a drama ‘The Three Golden Hairs, which had been specially arranged by the two elder sisters. It was reproduced at Pembroke Lodge on the last day of 1857, and its success suggested in 1858 a more ambitious performance. ‘Dewdrop
and Glorio, or the Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, was written, and dedicated to Lord J. Russell, by his wife, his eldest son, and his two eldest daughters. It was subsequently privately printed with some illustrations from the pencil of Lord John's eldest step-daughter (Mrs. Maurice Drummond), and copies of it have probably reached some of the hands into which this memoir may fall. For this play Lord John wrote the epilogue, which was spoken by his daughter Victoria in the character of Rainbow :— The Princess Dewdrop bids me reappear To ask you how you like our Christmas cheer : She feels uneasy, for she thinks mayhap That, while she took her century of nap, You too might sink in sympathetic doze, And need my wand your eyelids to unclose. But gladly she'll acknowledge her mistake, And hear that I have found you all awake. Now saw you ever on this mortal stage So well-preserved a beauty for her age? Some, who had long retained their youthful charms, At forty-five have set the world in arms; And some, ’tis whispered, of their faces thrifty, Have killed a lover with their frowns at fifty: But never yet was in a ball-room seen A beauty of one hundred and sixteen 1 Still without spectacles her books she'll read, Few wrinkles shows; and still, in case of need, Can join her subjects in a merry jig— And those fair locks you see are not a wig. And now, farewell ! To each indulgent guest Be granted days of joy and nights of rest: Rosebud and Rainbow from their fairy hall Wish you a merry Christmas—one and all.
Lord John was delighted with his children's performance; and he wrote to Lord Minto—
Our play answered very well. My six bairns are all good actors, and can earn their living on the stage if Bright destroys our old nobility !
Domestic happiness, however, only formed one part of v. Lord John's social life. During these years of comparative freedom from Parliamentary and official toil, he found new pleasure in meeting friends and opponents at Grillion's; and in August 1857 his excellent social qualities procured his election to ‘the Club, his proposer being Lord Lansdowne, his seconder Lord Stanhope, and his election being announced to him by the chairman of the evening, Dr. Hawtrey, the Provost of Eton. While Lord John was enjoying the pleasures of home and the relaxations of society, his growing family was imposing on him new expenses. It has been already related that he had . never been in debt till he was Prime Minister. His defeat in 1852 did not afford him pecuniary relief. He had to maintain the position and incur the expenses of a leader of the Opposition on an income which many country gentlemen would consider slender. Nor did the formation of Lord Aberdeen’s Government improve the case. Throughout 1853, and till June 1854, he laboured in the service of the public without fee or reward, and his income proved unequal to the many calls upon his purse. The debts which he incurred during those months very nearly reached £4000. From June 1854 he occupied a slightly better position as President of the Council; while for a few months in 1855 he drew the salary of a Secretary of State. But from the summer of that year he was again thrown on his own moderate resources, and incurred the anxiety of meeting an expenditure which he could not easily reduce with an inadequate income. People, whose pecuniary position saved them from the difficulty which Lord John thus incurred, were always ready to complain that he should have insisted on leading the House of Commons in 1853 without office, or that he should have taken the Presidency of the Council and £20oo instead of the Colonial Department with its £5000 a year. They had not the generosity to reflect that both decisions exposed Lord John to pecuniary embarrassment, and that men do not wilfully refuse themselves some thousands a year without good VOL. II. T
reasons or reasons which they think good. After Lord John's final retirement in 1855, the pressure became too great to be any longer neglected. It compelled him in 1857 to let his London house. But, even with the additional income which he thus obtained, his expenditure exceeded his receipts by many hundreds of pounds. It was technically competent for Lord John to have terminated this embarrasment by applying for the pension to which Ministers of the Crown are entitled under certain conditions after certain service. But it would have been little short of a scandal if the brother of a Duke of Bedford had availed himself of a provision intended for poor men. He was saved from the difficulty by the Duke in 1857 taking a step which ordinary persons—recollecting his own wealth and his brother's eminence—will think that he might have taken before. Instead of doling out assistance from time to time, in a manner which must have been both distasteful and unsatisfactory to Lord John," he settled on him, once for all, an adequate annuity. Thenceforward, though Lord John was never a rich man, he was in comfortable and easy circumstances. If Lord John had been influenced by pecuniary motives, he would probably, both in 1856 and in 1857, have sought some opportunity for rejoining his old colleagues, and securing the emoluments which usually accompany power. His accession would have been eagerly welcomed. But from 1856 to 1859 he had no desire for office, preferring to give an independent support to Lord Palmerston’s Administration. His doing so was made the easier in 1856 from his being thoroughly in accord with the Government in concluding peace at Paris. Some men, indeed, there were who told him—though not quite accurately—that the terms which were agreed to at Paris did not materially differ from those which he had 1 Mr. Greville has some strong remarks on this. But, in the Duke's behalf, it should be recollected that he had inherited an embarrassed estate, and that he had retrieved himself from his difficulties by his own careful management, aided, no doubt, by the prodigious growth of the London property. Nothing brought home from Vienna; while he would have been justified by the event in contending that his own proposal promised to be more durable than that to which Lord Clarendon agreed. In his satisfaction, however, at the conclusion of the war, he felt no jealousy at Lord Clarendon's success. He wrote of Lord Clarendon's mission—
is so common as for a man, who has practised economy when it was a duty, to go on practising it when it is unnecessary.
He goes to make a peace, of which few people will be proud, but most people will be glad.
He said afterwards in debate—
I believe that the conditions of peace are honourable to her Majesty's crown, and that they fully accomplish the great objects for which the war was undertaken.
His pleasure at the conclusion of peace increased his anxiety to support the Government which had concluded it: and throughout 1856 the Administration could rely on his loyal assistance. The part which he played in Parliament during that year need not be minutely related. In the course of it, however, he brought forward one motion of great importance. The cause of education owed already more to Lord John than to any living statesman. As member of the Government which had authorised the first grants for the purpose, as leader of the House of Commons which had sanctioned the proposals of 1839, as the Prime Minister who had devised and expounded the policy of 1847, he had shown, in every stage of his career, his sense of the importance of the work. He recommended in 1856 a much more extensive policy. There were in the country—so he estimated— 4,000,ooo children of school age; exactly one-half of whom, or 2,000,ooo, were borne on the books of some school. But only one-fourth of them, or 5oo,ooo, were at schools under inspection; while the remainder were at schools where the teaching was so inefficient that the master of one of them on being asked whether he could read replied, ‘Yes, I can summat.’" To 1 Lord John said that there were 8000 Church of England schools whose
masters did not receive more than £28 a year, or 11s, a week, and a great many schools where the teachers only received £21 a year, or 8s, a week.