This biographical study is not reliable. For example, it is not true that Kinglake had met Lord Raglan before the Crimea, sailed to the Crimea as Lord Raglan’s guest, was with him throughout the campaign, or was present at the Battle of Balaklava.
Kinglake first met Lord Raglan on the morning of the Battle of the Alma (20.9.1854), and was in the Crimea for only four weeks, leaving before the Battle of Balaklava (25.10.1854). — D.K.
It is just eleven years since Kinglake passed away, and his life has not yet been separately memorialized. A few years more, and the personal side of him would be irrecoverable, though by personality, no less than by authorship, he made his contemporary mark. When a tomb has been closed for centuries, the effaced lineaments of its tenant can be re-coloured only by the idealizing hand of genius, as Scott drew Claverhouse, and Carlyle drew Cromwell. But, to the biographer of the lately dead, men have a right to say, as Saul said to the Witch of Endor, “Call up Samuel!” In your study of a life so recent as Kinglake’s, give us, if you choose, some critical synopsis of his monumental writings, some salvage from his ephemeral and scattered papers; trace so much of his youthful training as shaped the development of his character; depict, with wise restraint, his political and public life: but also, and above all, re-clothe him “in his habit as he lived,” as friends and associates knew him; recover his traits of voice and manner, his conversational wit or wisdom, epigram or paradox, his explosions of sarcasm and his eccentricities of reserve, his words of winningness and acts of kindness: and, since one half of his life was social, introduce us to the companions who shared his lighter hour and evoked his finer fancies; take us to the Athenaeum “Corner,” or to Holland House, and flash on us at least a glimpse of the brilliant men and women who formed the setting to his sparkle; dic in amicitiam coeant et foedera jungant.
This I have endeavoured to do, with such aid as I could command from his few remaining contemporaries. His letters to his family were destroyed by his own desire; on those written to Madame Novikoff no such embargo was laid, nor does she believe that it was intended. I have used these sparingly, and all extracts from them have been subjected to her censorship. If the result is not Attic in salt, it is at any rate Roman in brevity. I send it forth with John Bunyan’s homely aspiration:
And may its buyer have no cause to say, His money is but lost or thrown away.
The fourth decade of the deceased century dawned on a procession of Oriental pilgrims, variously qualified or disqualified to hold the gorgeous East in fee, who, with bakshish in their purses, a theory in their brains, an unfilled diary-book in their portmanteaus, sought out the Holy Land, the Sinai peninsula, the valley of the Nile, sometimes even Armenia and the Monte Santo, and returned home to emit their illustrated and mapped octavos. We have the type delineated admiringly in Miss Yonge’s Heartsease, 1 bitterly in Miss Skene’s Use and Abuse, facetiously in the Clarence Bulbul of Our Street. “Hang it! has not everybody written an Eastern book? I should like to meet anybody in society now who has not been up to the Second Cataract. My Lord Castleroyal has done one — an honest one; my Lord Youngent another — an amusing one; my Lord Woolsey another — a pious one; there is the Cutlet and the Cabob — a sentimental one; Timbuctoo then — a humorous one.” Lord Carlisle’s honesty, Lord Nugent’s fun, Lord Lindsay’s piety, failed to float their books. Miss Martineau, clear, frank, unemotional Curzon, fuddling the Levantine monks with rosoglio that he might fleece them of their treasured hereditary manuscripts, even Eliot Warburton’s power, colouring, play of fancy, have yielded to the mobility of Time. Two alone out of the gallant company maintain their vogue to-day: Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine, as a Fifth Gospel, an inspired Scripture Gazetteer; and Eothen, as a literary gem of purest ray serene.
In 1898 a reprint of the first edition was given to the public, prefaced by a brief eulogium of the book and a slight notice of the author. It brought to the writer of the Introduction not only kind and indulgent criticism, but valuable corrections, fresh facts, clues to further knowledge. These last have been carefully followed out. The unwary statement that Kinglake never spoke after his first failure in the House has been atoned by a careful study of all his speeches in and out of Parliament. His reviews in the Quarterly and elsewhere have been noted; impressions of his manner and appearance at different periods of his life have been recovered from coæval acquaintances; his friend Hayward’s Letters, the numerous allusions in Lord Houghton’s Life, Mrs. Crosse’s lively chapters in Red Letter Days of my Life, Lady Gregory’s interesting recollections of the Athenaeum Club in Blackwood of December, 1895, the somewhat slender notice in the Dictionary of National Biography, have all been carefully digested. From these, and, as will be seen, from other sources, the present Memoir has been compiled; an endeavour — sera tamen — to lay before the countless readers and admirers of his books a fairly adequate appreciation, hitherto unattempted, of their author.
I have to acknowledge the great kindness of Canon William Warburton, who examined his brother Eliot’s diaries on my behalf, obtained information from Dean Boyle and Sir M. Grant Duff, cleared up for me not a few obscure allusions in the Eothen pages. My highly valued friend, Mrs. Hamilton Kinglake, of Taunton, his sister-in-law, last surviving relative of his own generation, has helped me with facts which no one else could have recalled. To Mr. Estcott, his old acquaintance and Somersetshire neighbour, I am indebted for recollections manifold and interesting; but above all I tender thanks to Madame Novikoff, his intimate associate and correspondent during the last twenty years of his life, who has supplemented her brilliant sketch of him in La Nouvelle Revue of 1896 by oral and written information lavish in quantity and of paramount biographical value. Kinglake’s external life, his literary and political career, his speeches, and the more fugitive productions of his pen, were recoverable from public sources; but his personal and private side, as it showed itself to the few close intimates who still survive, must have remained to myself and others meagre, superficial, disappointing, without Madame Novikoff’s unreserved and sympathetic confidence.
Alexander William Kinglake was descended from an old Scottish stock, the Kinlochs, who migrated to England with King James, and whose name was Anglicized into Kinglake. Later on we find them settled on a considerable estate of their own at Saltmoor, near Borobridge, whence towards the close of the eighteenth century two brothers, moving southward, made their home in Taunton — Robert as a physician, William as a solicitor and banker. Both were of high repute, both begat famous sons. From Robert sprang the eminent Parliamentary lawyer, Serjeant John Kinglake, at one time a contemporary with Cockburn and Crowder on the Western Circuit, and William Chapman Kinglake, who while at Trinity, Cambridge, won the Latin verse prize, Salix Babylonica, the English verse prizes on Byzantium and the Taking of Jerusalem, in 1830 and 1832. Of William’s sons the eldest was Alexander William, author of Eothen, the youngest Hamilton, for many years one of the most distinguished physicians in the West of England. “Eothen,” as he came to be called, was born at Taunton on the 5th August, 1809, at a house called “The Lawn.” His father, a sturdy Whig, died at the age of ninety through injuries received in the hustings crowd of a contested election. His mother belonged to an old Somersetshire family, the Woodfordes of Castle Cary. She, too, lived to a great age; a slight, neat figure in dainty dress, full of antique charm and grace. As a girl she had known Lady Hester Stanhope, who lived with her grandmother, Lady Chatham, at Burton Pynsent, her own father, Dr. Thomas Woodforde, being Lady Chatham’s medical attendant. 2 The future prophetess of the Lebanon was then a wild girl, scouring the countryside on bare-backed horses; she showed great kindness to Mary Woodforde, afterwards Kinglake’s mother. It was as his mother’s son that she received him long afterwards at Djoun. To his mother Kinglake was passionately attached; owed to her, as he tells us in Eothen, his home in the saddle and his love for Homer. A tradition is preserved in the family that on the day of her funeral, at a churchyard five miles away, he was missed from the household group reassembled in the mourning home; he was found to have ordered his horse, and galloped back in the darkness to his mother’s grave. Forty years later he writes to Alexander Knox: “The death of a mother has an almost magical power of recalling the home of one’s childhood, and the almost separate world that rests upon affection.” Of his two sisters, one was well read and agreeably talkative, noted by Thackeray as the cleverest woman he had ever met; the other, Mrs. Acton, was a delightful old esprit fort, as I knew her in the sixties, “pagan, I regret to say,” but not a little resembling her brother in the point and manner of her wit. The family moved in his infancy to an old-fashioned handsome “Wilton House,” adjoining closely to the town, but standing amid spacious park-like grounds, and inhabited in after years by Kinglake’s younger brother Hamilton, who succeeded his uncle in the medical profession, and passed away, amid deep and universal regret, in 1898. Here during the thirties Sydney Smith was a frequent and a welcome visitor; it was in answer to old Mrs. Kinglake that he uttered his audacious mot on being asked if he would object, as a neighbouring clergyman had done, to bury a Dissenter: “Not bury Dissenters? I should like to be burying them all day!”
Taunton was an innutrient foster-mother, arida nutrix, for such young lions as the Kinglake brood. Two hundred years before it had been a prosperous and famous place, its woollen and kersey trades, with the population they supported, ranking it as eighth in order among English towns. Its inhabitants were then a gallant race, republican in politics, Puritan in creed. Twice besieged by Goring and Lumford, it had twice repelled the Royalists with loss. It was the centre of Monmouth’s rebellion and of Jeffrey’s vengeance; the suburb of Tangier, hard by its ancient castle, still recalls the time when Colonel Kirke and his regiment of “Lambs” were quartered in the town. But long before the advent of the Kinglakes its glory had departed; its manufactures had died out, its society become Philistine and bourgeois — “little men who walk in narrow ways” — while from pre-eminence in electoral venality among English boroughs it was saved only by the near proximity of Bridgwater. A noted statesman who, at a later period, represented it in Parliament, used to say that by only one family besides Dr. Hamilton Kinglake’s could he be received with any sense of social or intellectual equality.
Not much, however, of Kinglake’s time was given to his native town: he was early sent to the Grammar School at Ottery St. Mary’s, the “Clavering” of Pendennis, whose Dr. Wapshot was George Coleridge, brother of the poet. He was wont in after life to speak of this time with bitterness; a delicate child, he was starved on insufficient diet; and an eloquent passage in Eothen depicts his intellectual fall from the varied interests and expanding enthusiasm of liberal home teaching to the regulation gerund-grinding and Procrustean discipline of school. “The dismal change is ordained, and then — thin meagre Latin with small shreds and patches of Greek, is thrown like a pauper’s pall over all your early lore; instead of sweet knowledge, vile, monkish, doggerel grammars and graduses, dictionaries and lexicons, and horrible odds and ends of dead languages are given you for your portion, and down you fall, from Roman story to a three-inch scrap of Scriptores Romani, — from Greek poetry, down, down to the cold rations of Poetae Graeci, cut up by commentators, and served out by school-masters!”
At Eton — under Keate, as all readers of Eothen know — he was contemporary with Gladstone, Sir F. Hanmer, Lords Canning and Dalhousie, Selwyn, Shadwell. He wrote in the Etonian, created and edited by Mackworth Praed; and is mentioned in Praed’s poem on Surly Hall as
Kinglake, dear to poetry,
And dear to all his friends.
Dr. Gatty remembers his “determined pale face”; thinks that he made his mark on the river rather than in the playing fields, being a good oar and swimmer. His great friend at school was Savile, the “Methley” of his travels, who became successively Lord Pollington and Earl of Mexborough. The Homeric lore which Methley exhibited in the Troad, is curiously illustrated by an Eton story, that in a pugilistic encounter with Hoseason, afterwards an Indian Cavalry officer, while the latter sat between the rounds upon his second’s knee, Savile strutted about the ring, spouting Homer.
Kinglake entered at Trinity, Cambridge, in 1828, among an exceptionally brilliant set — Tennyson, Arthur Hallam, John Sterling, Trench, Spedding, Spring Rice, Charles Buller, Maurice, Monckton Milnes, J. M. Kemble, Brookfield, Thompson. With none of them does he seem in his undergraduate days to have been intimate. Probably then, as afterwards, he shrank from camaraderie, shared Byron’s distaste for “enthusymusy”; naturally cynical and self-contained, was repelled by the spiritual fervour, incessant logical collision, aggressive tilting at abuses of those young “Apostles,” already
Yearning for the large excitement that the coming years would yield,
Eager-hearted as a boy when first he leaves his father’s field,
waxing ever daily, as Sterling exhorted, “in religion and radicalism.” He saw life differently; more practically, if more selfishly; to one rhapsodizing about the “plain living and high thinking” of Wordsworth’s sonnet, he answered: “You know that you prefer dining with people who have good glass and china and plenty of servants.” For Tennyson’s poetry he even then felt admiration; quotes, nay, misquotes, in Eothen, from the little known Timbuctoo; 3 and from Locksley Hall; and supplied long afterwards an incident adopted by Tennyson in Enoch Arden,
Once likewise in the ringing of his ears
Though faintly, merrily — far and far away —
He heard the pealing of his parish bells, 4
from his own experience in the desert, when on a Sunday, amid overpowering heat and stillness, he heard the Marlen bells of Taunton peal for morning church. 5
In whatever set he may have lived he made his mark at Cambridge. Lord Houghton remembered him as an orator at the Union; and speaking to Cambridge undergraduates fifty years later, after enumerating the giants of his student days, Macaulay, Praed, Buller, Sterling, Merivale, he goes on to say: “there, too, were Kemble and Kinglake, the historian of our earliest civilization and of our latest war; Kemble as interesting an individual as ever was portrayed by the dramatic genius of his own race; Kinglake, as bold a man-at-arms in literature as ever confronted public opinion.” We know, too, that not many years after leaving Cambridge he received, and refused, a solicitation to stand as Liberal representative of the University in Parliament. He was, in fact, as far as any of his contemporaries from acquiescing in social conventionalisms and shams. To the end of his life he chafed at such restraint: “when pressed to stay in country houses,” he writes in 1872, “I have had the frankness to say that I have not discipline enough.” Repeatedly he speaks with loathing of the “stale civilization,” the “utter respectability,” of European life; 6 longed with all his soul for the excitement and stir of soldiership, from which his shortsightedness debarred him; 7 rushed off again and again into foreign travel; set out immediately on leaving Cambridge, in 1834, for his first Eastern tour, “to fortify himself for the business of life.” Methley joined him at Hamburg, and they travelled by Berlin, Dresden, Prague, Vienna, to Semlin, where his book begins. Lord Pollington’s health broke down, and he remained to winter at Corfu, while Kinglake pursued his way alone, returning to England in October, 1835. 8 On his return he read for the Chancery Bar along with his friend Eliot Warburton, under Bryan Procter, a Commissioner of Lunacy, better known by his poet-name, Barry Cornwall; his acquaintance with both husband and wife ripening into lifelong friendship. Mrs. Procter is the “Lady of Bitterness,” cited in the Eothen Preface. As Anne Skepper, before her marriage, she was much admired by Carlyle; “a brisk witty prettyish clear eyed sharp tongued young lady”; and was the intimate, among many, especially of Thackeray and Browning. In epigrammatic power she resembled Kinglake; but while his acrid sayings were emitted with gentlest aspect and with softest speech; while, like Byron’s Lambro:
he was the mildest mannered man
That ever scuttled ship or cut a throat,
With such true breeding of a gentleman,
You never could divine his real thought,
her sarcasms rang out with a resonant clearness that enforced and aggravated their severity. That two persons so strongly resembling each other in capacity for rival exhibition, or for mutual exasperation, should have maintained so firm a friendship, often surprised their acquaintance; she explained it by saying that she and Kinglake sharpened one another like two knives; that, in the words of Petruchio,
Where two raging fires meet together,
They do consume the thing that feeds their fury.
Crabb Robinson, stung by her in a tender place, his boastful iterative monologues on Weimar and on Goethe, said that of all men Procter ought to escape purgatory after death, having tasted its fulness here through living so many years with Mrs. Procter; “the husbands of the talkative have great reward hereafter,” said Rudyard Kipling’s Lama. And I have been told by those who knew the pair that there was truth as well as irritation in the taunt. “A graceful Preface to Eothen,” wrote to me a now famous lady who as a girl had known Mrs. Procter well, “made friendly company yesterday to a lonely meal, and brought back memories of Mr. Kinglake’s kind spoiling of a raw young woman, and of the wit, the egregious vanity, the coarseness, the kindness, of that hard old worldling our Lady of Bitterness.” In the presence of one man, Tennyson, she laid aside her shrewishness: “talking with Alfred Tennyson lifts me out of the earth earthy; a visit to Farringford is like a retreat to the religious.” A celebrity in London for fifty years, she died, witty and vigorous to the last, in 1888. “You and I and Mr. Kinglake,” she says to Lord Houghton, “are all that are left of the goodly band that used to come to St. John’s Wood; Eliot Warburton, Motley, Adelaide, Count de Verg, Chorley, Sir Edwin Landseer, my husband.” “I never could write a book,” she tells him in another letter, “and one strong reason for not doing so was the idea of some few seeing how poor it was. Venables was one of the few; I need not say that you were one, and Kinglake.”
Kinglake was called to the Chancery Bar, and practised apparently with no great success. He believed that his reputation as a writer stood in his way. When, in 1845, poor Hood’s friends were helping him by gratuitous articles in his magazine, Hood’s Own, Kinglake wrote to Monckton Milnes refusing to contribute. He will send 10 pounds to buy an article from some competent writer, but will not himself write. “It would be seriously injurious to me if the author of Eothen were affiched as contributing to a magazine. My frailty in publishing a book has, I fear, already hurt me in my profession, and a small sin of this kind would bring on me still deeper disgrace with the solicitors.”
Twice at least in these early years he travelled. “Mr. Kinglake,” writes Mrs. Procter in 1843, “is in Switzerland, reading Rousseau.” And in the following year we hear of him in Algeria, accompanying St. Arnaud in his campaign against the Arabs. The mingled interest and horror inspired in him by this extra-ordinary man finds expression in his Invasion of the Crimea (ii.157). A few, a very few survivors, still remember his appearance and manners in the forties. The eminent husband of a lady, now passed away, who in her lifetime gave Sunday dinners at which Kinglake was always present, speaks of him as sensitive, quiet in the presence of noisy people, of Brookfield and the overpowering Bernal Osborne; liking their company, but never saying anything worthy of remembrance. A popular old statesman, still active in the House of Commons, recalls meeting him at Palmerston, Lord Harrington’s seat, where was assembled a party in honour of Madame Guiccioli and her second husband, the Marquis de Boissy, and tells me that he attached himself to ladies, not to gentlemen, nor ever joined in general tattle. Like many other famous men, he passed through a period of shyness, which yielded to women’s tactfulness only. From the first they appreciated him; “if you were as gentle as your friend Kinglake,” writes Mrs. Norton reproachfully to Hayward in the sulks. Another coaeval of those days calls him handsome — an epithet I should hardly apply to him later — slight, not tall, sharp featured, with dark hair well tended, always modishly dressed after the fashion of the thirties, the fashion of Bulwer’s exquisites, or of H. K. Browne’s Nicholas Nickleby illustrations; leaving on all who saw him an impression of great personal distinction, yet with an air of youthful abandon which never quite left him: “He was pale, small, and delicate in appearance,” says Mrs. Simpson, Nassau Senior’s daughter, who knew him to the end of his life; while Mrs. Andrew Crosse, his friend in the Crimean decade, cites his finely chiselled features and intellectual brow, “a complexion bloodless with the pallor not of ill-health, but of an old Greek bust.”
Eothen appeared in 1844. Twice, Kinglake tells us, he had essayed the story of his travels, twice abandoned it under a sense of strong disinclination to write. A third attempt was induced by an entreaty from his friend Eliot Warburton, himself projecting an Eastern tour; and to Warburton in a characteristic preface the narrative is addressed. The book, when finished, went the round of the London market without finding a publisher. It was offered to John Murray, who cited his refusal of it as the great blunder of his professional life, consoling himself with the thought that his father had equally lacked foresight thirty years before in declining the Rejected Addresses; he secured the copyright later on. It was published in the end by a personal friend, Ollivier, of Pall Mall, Kinglake paying £50 to cover risk of loss; even worse terms than were obtained by Warburton two years afterwards from Colburn, who owned in the fifties to having cleared £6,000 by The Crescent and the Cross. The volume was an octavo of 418 pages; the curious folding-plate which forms the frontispiece was drawn and coloured by the author, and was compared by the critics to a tea-tray. In front is Moostapha the Tartar; the two foremost figures in the rear stand for accomplished Mysseri, whom Kinglake was delighted to recognize long afterwards as a flourishing hotel keeper in Constantinople, and Steel, the Yorkshire servant, in his striped pantry jacket, “looking out for gentlemen’s seats.” Behind are “Methley,” Lord Pollington, in a broad-brimmed hat, and the booted leg of Kinglake, who modestly hid his figure by a tree, but exposed his foot, of which he was very proud. Of the other characters, “Our Lady of Bitterness” was Mrs. Procter, “Carrigaholt” was Henry Stuart Burton of Carrigaholt, County Clare. Here and there are allusions, obvious at the time, now needing a scholiast, which have not in any of the reprints been explained. In their ride through the Balkans they talked of old Eton days. “We bullied Keate, and scoffed at Larrey Miller and Okes; we rode along loudly laughing, and talked to the grave Servian forest as though it were the Brocas clump.” 9 Keate requires no interpreter; Okes was an Eton tutor, afterwards Provost of King’s. Larrey or Laurie Miller was an old tailor in Keate’s Lane who used to sit on his open shop-board, facing the street, a mark for the compliments of passing boys; as frolicsome youngsters in the days of Addison and Steele, as High School lads in the days of Walter Scott, were accustomed to “smoke the cobler.” The Brocas was a meadow sacred to badger-baiting and cat-hunts. The badgers were kept by a certain Jemmy Flowers, who charged sixpence for each “draw”; Puss was turned out of a bag and chased by dogs, her chance being to reach and climb a group of trees near the river, known as the “Brocas Clump.” Of the quotations, “a Yorkshireman hippodamoio” (p. 35) is, I am told, an obiter dictum of Sir Francis Doyle. “Striving to attain,” etc. (p. 33), is taken not quite correctly from Tennyson’s Timbuctoo. Our crew were “a solemn company” (p. 57) is probably a reminiscence of “we were a gallant company” in The Siege of Corinth. For “ ‘the own armchair’ of our Lyrist’s ‘Sweet Lady Anne’ ” (p. 161) see the poem, My own arm-chair in Barry Cornwall’s English Lyrics. “Proud Marie of Anjou” (p. 96) and “single-sin” (p. 121), are unintelligible; a friend once asked Kinglake to explain the former, but received for answer, “Oh! that is a private thing.” It may, however, have been a pet name for little Marie de Viry, Procter’s niece, and the chere amie of his verse, whom Eothen must have met often at his friend’s house. The St. Simonians of p. 83 were the disciples of Comte de St. Simon, a Parisian reformer in the latter part of the eighteenth century, who endeavoured to establish a social republic based on capacity and labour. Père Enfantin was his disciple. The “mystic mother” was a female Messiah, expected to become the parent of a new Saviour. “Sir Robert once said a good thing” (p. 93), refers possibly to Sir Robert Peel, not famous for epigram, whose one good thing is said to have been bestowed upon a friend before Croker’s portrait in the Academy. “Wonderful likeness,” said the friend, “it gives the very quiver of the mouth.” “Yes,” said Sir Robert, “and the arrow coming out of it.” Or it may mean Sir Robert Inglis, Peel’s successor at Oxford, more noted for his genial kindness and for the perpetual bouquet in his buttonhole at a date when such ornaments were not worn, than for capacity to conceive and say good things. In some mischievous lines describing the Oxford election where Inglis supplanted Peel, Macaulay wrote
And then said all the Doctors sitting in the Divinity School,
Not this man, but Sir Robert’ — now Sir Robert was a fool.
But in the fifth and later editions Kinglake altered it to “Sir John.”
By a curious oversight in the first two editions (p. 41) Jove was made to gaze on Troy from Samothrace; it was rightly altered to Neptune in the third; and “eagle eye of Jove” in the following sentence was replaced by “dread Commoter of our globe.” The phrase “a natural Chiffney-bit” (p. 109), I have found unintelligible today through lapse of time even to professional equestrians and stable-keepers. Samuel Chiffney, a famous rider and trainer, was born in 1753, and won the Derby on Skyscraper in 1789. He managed the Prince of Wales’s stud, was the subject of discreditable insinuations, and was called before the Jockey Club. Nothing was proved against him, but in consequence of the fracas the Prince severed his connection with the Club and sold his horses. Chiffney invented a bit named after him; a curb with two snaffles, which gave a stronger bearing on the sides of a horse’s mouth. His rule in racing was to keep a slack rein and to ride a waiting race, not calling on his horse till near the end. His son Samuel, who followed him, observed the same plan; from its frequent success the term “Chiffney rush” became proverbial. In his ride through the desert (p. 169) Kinglake speaks of his “native bells — the innocent bells of Marlen, that never before sent forth their music beyond the Blaygon hills.” Marlen bells is the local name for the fine peal of St. Mary Magdalen, Taunton. The Blaygon, more commonly called the Blagdon Hills, run parallel with the Quantocks, and between them lies the fertile Vale of Taunton Deane. “Damascus,” he says, on p. 245, “was safer than Oxford”; and adds a note on Mr. Everett’s degree which requires correction. It is true that an attempt was made to non-placet Mr. Everett’s honorary degree in the Oxford Theatre in 1843 on the ground of his being a Unitarian; not true that it succeeded. It was a conspiracy by the young lions of the Newmania, who had organized a formidable opposition to the degree, and would have created a painful scene even if defeated. But the Proctor of that year, Jelf, happened to be the most-hated official of the century; and the furious groans of undergraduate displeasure at his presence, continuing unabated for three-quarters of an hour, compelled Wynter, the Vice-Chancellor, to break up the Assembly, without recitation of the prizes, but not without conferring the degrees in dumb show: unconscious Mr. Everett smilingly took his place in red gown among the Doctors, the Vice-Chancellor asserting afterwards, what was true in the letter though not in the spirit, that he did not hear the non-placets. So while Everett was obnoxious to the Puseyites, Jelf was obnoxious to the undergraduates; the cannonade of the angry youngsters drowned the odium of the theological malcontents; in the words of Bombastes:
Another lion gave another roar,
And the first lion thought the last a bore.
The popularity of Eothen is a paradox: it fascinates by violating all the rules which convention assigns to viatic narrative. It traverses the most affecting regions of the world, and describes no one of them: the Troad — and we get only his childish raptures over Pope’s Homer’s Iliad; Stamboul — and he recounts the murderous services rendered by the Golden Horn to the Assassin whose Serail, palace, council chamber, it washes; Cairo — but the Plague shuts out all other thoughts; Jerusalem — but Pilgrims have vulgarized the Holy Sepulchre into a Bartholomew Fair. He gives us everywhere, not history, antiquities, geography, description, statistics, but only Kinglake, only his own sensations, thoughts, experiences. We are told not what the desert looks like, but what journeying in the desert feels like. From morn till eve you sit aloft upon your voyaging camel; the risen sun, still lenient on your left, mounts vertical and dominant; you shroud head and face in silk, your skin glows, shoulders ache, Arabs moan, and still moves on the sighing camel with his disjointed awkward dual swing, till the sun once more descending touches you on the right, your veil is thrown aside, your tent is pitched, books, maps, cloaks, toilet luxuries, litter your spread-out rugs, you feast on scorching toast and “fragrant” 10 tea, sleep sound and long; then again the tent is drawn, the comforts packed, civilization retires from the spot she had for a single night annexed, and the Genius of the Desert stalks in.
Herein, in these subjective chatty confidences, is part of the spell he lays upon us: while we read we are in the East: other books, as Warburton says, tell us about the East, this is the East itself. And yet in his company we are always Englishmen in the East: behind Servian, Egyptian, Syrian, desert realities, is a background of English scenery, faint and unobtrusive yet persistent and horizoning. In the Danubian forest we talk of past school-days. The Balkan plain suggests an English park, its trees planted as if to shut out “some infernal fellow creature in the shape of a new-made squire”; Jordan recalls the Thames; the Galilean Lake, Windermere; the Via Dolorosa, Bond Street; the fresh toast of the desert bivouac, an Eton breakfast; the hungry questing jackals are the place-hunters of Bridgewater and Taunton; the Damascus gardens, a neglected English manor from which the “family” has been long abroad; in the fierce, dry desert air are heard the “Marlen” bells of home, calling to morning prayer the prim congregation in far-off St. Mary’s parish. And a not less potent factor in the charm is the magician’s self who wields it, shown through each passing environment of the narrative; the shy, haughty, imperious Solitary, “a sort of Byron in the desert,” of cultured mind and eloquent speech, headstrong and not always amiable, hiding sentiment with cynicism, yet therefore irresistible all the more when he condescends to endear himself by his confidence. He meets the Plague and its terrors like a gentleman, but shows us, through the vicarious torments of the cowering Levantine that it was courage and coolness, not insensibility, which bore him through it. A foe to marriage, compassionating Carrigaholt as doomed to travel “Vetturini-wise,” pitying the Dead Sea goatherd for his ugly wife, revelling in the meek surrender of the three young men whom he sees “led to the altar” in Suez, he is still the frank, susceptible, gallant bachelor, observantly and critically studious of female charms: of the magnificent yet formidable Smyrniotes, eyes, brow, nostrils, throat, sweetly turned lips, alarming in their latent capacity for fierceness, pride, passion, power: of the Moslem women in Nablous, “so handsome that they could not keep up their yashmaks:” of Cypriote witchery in hair, shoulder-slope, tempestuous fold of robe. He opines as he contemplates the plain, clumsy Arab wives that the fine things we feel and say of women apply only to the good-looking and the graceful: his memory wanders off ever and again to the muslin sleeves and bodices and “sweet chemisettes” in distant England. In hands sensual and vulgar the allusions might have been coarse, the dilatings unseemly; but the “taste which is the feminine of genius,” the self-respecting gentleman-like instinct, innocent at once and playful, keeps the voluptuary out of sight, teaches, as Imogen taught Iachimo, “the wide difference ’twixt amorous and villainous.” Add to all these elements of fascination the unbroken luxuriance of style; the easy flow of casual epigram or negligent simile; — Greek holy days not kept holy but “kept stupid”; the mule who “forgot that his rider was a saint and remembered that he was a tailor”; the pilgrims “transacting their salvation” at the Holy Sepulchre; the frightened, wavering guard at Satalieh, not shrinking back or running away, but “looking as if the pack were being shuffled,” each man desirous to change places with his neighbour; the white man’s unresisting hand “passed round like a claret jug” by the hospitable Arabs; the travellers dripping from a Balkan storm compared to “men turned back by the Humane Society as being incurably drowned.” Sometimes he breaks into a canter, as in the first experience of a Moslem city, the rapturous escape from respectability and civilization; the apostrophe to the Stamboul sea; the glimpse of the Mysian Olympus; the burial of the poor dead Greek; the Janus view of Orient and Occident from the Lebanon watershed; the pathetic terror of Bedouins and camels on entering a walled city; until, once more in the saddle, and winding through the Taurus defiles, he saddens us by a first discordant note, the note of sorrow that the entrancing tale is at an end.
Old times return to me as I handle the familiar pages. To the schoolboy six and fifty years ago arrives from home a birthday gift, the bright green volume, with its showy paintings of the impaled robbers and the Jordan passage; its bulky Tartar, towering high above his scraggy steed, impressed in shining gold upon its cover. Read, borrowed, handed round, it is devoured and discussed with fifth form critical presumption, the adventurous audacity arresting, the literary charm not analyzed but felt, the vivid personality of the old Etonian winged with public school freemasonry. Scarcely in the acquired insight of all the intervening years could those who enjoyed it then more keenly appreciate it to-day. Transcendent gift of genius! to gladden equally with selfsame words the reluctant inexperience of boyhood and the fastidious judgment of maturity. Delightful self-accountant reverence of author-craft! which wields full knowledge of a shaddock-tainted world, yet presents no licence to the prurient lad, reveals no trail to the suspicious moralist.
Eothen was reviewed in the Quarterly by Eliot Warburton. “Other books,” he says, “contain facts and statistics about the East; this book gives the East itself in vital actual reality. Its style is conversational; or the soliloquy rather of a man convincing and amusing himself as he proceeds, without reverence for others’ faith, or lenity towards others’ prejudices. It is a real book, not a sham; it equals Anastasius, rivals Vathek; its terseness, vigour, bold imagery, recall the grand style of Fuller and of South, to which the author adds a spirit, freshness, delicacy, all his own.” Kinglake, in turn, reviewed The Crescent and the Cross in an article called The French Lake. From a cordial notice of the book he passes to a history of French ambition in the Levant. It was Bonaparte’s fixed idea to become an Oriental conqueror — a second Alexander: Egypt in his grasp, he would pass on to India. He sought alliance against the English with Tippoo Saib, and spent whole days stretched upon maps of Asia. He was baffled, first at Aboukir, then at Acre; but the partition of Turkey at Tilsit showed that he had not abandoned his design. To have refrained from seizing Egypt after his withdrawal was a political blunder on the part of England.
By far the most charming of Kinglake’s articles was a paper on the Rights of Women, in the Quarterly Review of December, 1844. Grouping together Monckton Milnes’s Palm Leaves, Mrs. Poole’s Sketch of Egyptian Harems, Mrs. Ellis’s Women and Wives of England, he produced a playful, lightly touched, yet sincerely constructed sketch of woman’s characteristics, seductions, attainments; the extent and secret of her fascination and her deeper influence; her defects, foibles, misconceptions. He was greatly vexed to learn that his criticism of Palm Leaves was considered hostile, and begged Warburton to explain. His praise, he said, had been looked upon as irony, his bantering taken to express bitterness. Warburton added his own conviction that the notice was tributary to Milnes’s fame, and Milnes accepted the explanation. But the chief interest of this paper lies in the beautiful passage which ends it. “The world must go on its own way, for all that we can say against it. Beauty, though it beams over the organization of a doll, will have its hour of empire; the most torpid heiress will easily get herself married; but the wife whose sweet nature can kindle worthy delights is she that brings to her hearth a joyous, hopeful, ardent spirit, and that subtle power whose sources we can hardly trace, but which yet so irradiates a home that all who come near are filled and inspired by a deep sense of womanly presence. We best learn the unsuspected might of a being like this when we try the weight of that sadness which hangs like lead upon the room, the gallery, the stairs, where once her footstep sounded, and now is heard no more. It is not less the energy than the grace and gentleness of this character that works the enchantment. Books can instruct, and books can exalt and purify; beauty of face and beauty of form will come with bright pictures and statues, and for the government of a household hired menials will suffice; but fondness and hate, daring hopes, lively fears, the lust of glory and the scorn of base deeds, sweet charity, faithfulness, pride, and, chief over all, the impetuous will, lending might and power to feeling:— these are the rib of the man, and from these, deep veiled in the mystery of her very loveliness, his true companion sprang. A being thus ardent will often go wrong in her strenuous course; will often alarm, sometimes provoke; will now and then work mischief and even perhaps grievous harm; but she will be our own Eve after all; the sweet-speaking tempter whom heaven created to be the joy and the trouble of this pleasing anxious existence; to shame us away from the hiding-places of a slothful neutrality, and lead us abroad in the world, men militant here on earth, enduring quiet, content with strife, and looking for peace hereafter.” 11 Beautiful words indeed! how came the author of a tribute so caressingly appreciative, so eloquently sincere, to remain himself outside the gates of Paradise? how could the pen which in the Crimean chapter on the Holy Shrines traced so exquisitely the delicate fancifulness of purest sexual love, perpetrate that elaborate sneer over the bachelor obsequies of Carrigaholt — “the lowly grave, that is the end of man’s romantic hopes, has closed over all his rich fancies and all his high aspirations: he is utterly married.” 12
Gai, gai, mariez vous,
Mettez vous dans la misere!
Gai, gai, mariez vous,
Mettez vous la corde au cou! 13
There is generally a good reason for prolonged celibacy, a reason which the bachelor as generally does not betray: Kinglake remained single, by his own account, because he had observed that women always prefer other men to their own husbands. Yet, although unmarried, perhaps because unmarried, he heartily admired many clever women; formed with them sedate but genuine friendships, the l’amour sans ailes, sometimes called “Platonic” by persons who have not read Plato; found in their illogical clear-sightedness, in their αγχινοια [anchinoia, acumen] ἀγχίνοια , to use the master’s own untranslatable phrase, a titillating stimulus which he missed in men. He thought that the Church should ordain priestesses as well as priests, the former to be the Egerias of men, as the latter are the Pontiffs of women. And Lady Gregory tells us, that when attacked by gout, he wished for the solace of a lady doctor, and wrote to one asking if gout were beyond her scope. She answered: “Dear Sir, — Gout is not beyond my scope, but men are.”
In 1854 he accompanied Lord Raglan to the Crimea. “I had heard,” writes John Kenyon, “of Kinglake’s chivalrous goings on. We were saying yesterday that though he might write a book, he was among the last men to go that he might write a book. He is wild about matters military, if so calm a man is ever wild.” He had hoped to go in an official position as non-combatant, but this was refused by the authorities. His friend, Lord Raglan, whose acquaintance he had made while hunting with the Duke of Beaufort’s hounds, took him as his private guest. Arrested for a time at Malta by an attack of fever, he joined our army before hostilities began, rode with Lord Raglan’s staff at the Alma fight, likening the novel sensation to the excitement of fox-hunting; and accompanied the chief in his visit of tenderness to the wounded when the fight was over. Throughout the campaign the two were much together, as we shall notice more fully later on. There are often slight but unmistakable signs of Kinglake’s presence as spectator and auditor of Lordáa Raglan’s deeds and words; 14 his affection and reverence for the great general animate the whole; in outward composure and latent strength the two men resembled each other closely. The book is, in fact, a history of Lord Raglan’s share in the campaign; begun in 1856 at the request of Lady Raglan, the narrative ends when the Caradoc with the general’s body on board steams out of the bay, “Farewell” flying at her masthead, the Russian batteries, with generous recognition, ceasing to fire till the ship was out of sight. “Lord Raglan is dead,” said Kinglake as vol. viii. was sent to press, “and my work is finished.”
Ten years were to elapse before the opening volumes should appear; and meanwhile he entered parliament for the borough of Bridgwater, which had rejected him in 1852. His colleague was Colonel Charles J. Kemyss Tynte, member of a family which local influence and lavish expenditure had secured in the representation of the town for nearly forty years. Catechized as to his political creed, he answered: “I call myself an advanced Liberal; but I decline to go into parliament as the pledged adherent of Lord Palmerston or any other Liberal.” He adds, in response to a further question: “I am believed to be the author of Eothen.” He broke down in his maiden speech; but recovered himself in a later effort, and spoke, not unfrequently, on subjects then important, now forgotten; on the outrage of the Charles et George; the capture of the Sardinian Cagliari by the Neapolitans on the high seas; our attitude towards the Paris Congress of 1857; while in 1858 he led the revolt against Lord Palmerston’s proposal to amend the Conspiracy Laws in deference to Louis Napoleon; in 1860 vigorously denounced the annexation of Savoy and Nice; and in 1864 moved the amendment to Mr. Disraeli’s motion in the debate on the Address, which was carried by 313 to 295. His feeble voice and unimpressive manner prevented him from becoming a power in the House; but his speeches when read are full, fluent, and graceful; the late Sir Robert Peel’s remarkable harangue against the French Emperor in the course of an earlier debate was taken, as he is said to have owned, mainly from a speech by Kinglake, delivered so indistinctly that the reporters failed to catch it, but audible to Sir Robert who sate close beside him.
With his constituents he was more at ease and more effective. His seat for Bridgwater was challenged at a general election by Henry Padwick, a hanger-on to Disraeli and a well-known bookmaker on the turf, who, with an Irish Colonel Westbrook, tried to cajole the electors and their wives by extravagant compliments to the town, its neighbourhood, its denizens; a place celebrated, as Captain Costigan said of Chatteris, “for its antiquitee, its hospitalitee, the beautee of its women, the manly fidelitee, generositee, and jovialitee of its men.” Kinglake met them on their own ground. In his flowery speeches the romance of Sinai and Palestine faded before the glories of the little Somersetshire town. What was the Jordan by comparison with the Parrett? Could Libanus or Anti-Libanus vie with the Mendip and the Quantock Hills? The view surveyed by Monmouth from St. Mary’s Tower on the Eve of Sedgemoor transcended all the panoramas which the Holy Land or Asia Minor could present! But his more serious orations were worthy of his higher fame. In the panic of 1858, when the address of the French colonels to the Emperor, beseeching to be led against England, had created serious alarm on this side the Channel, he went down to Bridgwater to enlighten the West of England. “Why,” he asked, “do we fear invasion? The population of France is peaceful, the ‘turnip-soup Jacques Bonhomme’ is peaceful, the soldiers of the line are peaceful. Why are we anxious? Because there sits in his chamber at the Tuileries a solitary moody man. He is deeply interested in the science and the art of war; he told me once that he was contemplating a history of all the great battles ever fought. He holds absolute control over vast resources both in men and money; he has shown that he can attack successfully at a few weeks’ notice the greatest European military power: gout or indigestion may at any moment convert him into an enemy of ourselves. Until France returns to parliamentary government this danger is imminent and continual. Our safety lies in our fleet, and in that alone. If for twenty-four hours only the Channel were denuded of our ships in time of war with France, they would hurl upon our shores a force we could not meet. Such denudation must be made impossible; our fleet so augmented and strengthened as to provide impregnably at all times for home defence no less than for foreign necessities. Our danger, I repeat, lies in no hostility on the part of the French army, in no ferocity on the part of the French people, in no present unfriendliness on the part of the French Emperor: it arises from the fact that a revolutionary government exists in France, which has armed one man, under the name of Emperor — Dictator rather, I should say — with a power so colossal, that until such power is moderated, as all power ought to be, no neighbour can be entirely safe.” This speech was reproduced in The Times. Montalembert read it with admiration. “Who,” he asked Sir M. E. Grant Duff, “who is Mr. Kinglake?” “He is the author of Eothen.” “And what is Eothen? I never heard of it.”
He found great enjoyment in parliamentary life, but was in 1868 unseated on petition for bribery on the part of his agents. Blue-books are not ordinarily light reading; but the Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the alleged corrupt practices at Bridgwater is not only a model of terse and vigorous composition, but to persons with a sense of humour, inclined to view human irregularities and inconsistencies in a sportive rather than an indignant light, it is a sustained and diverting comedy. Of the constituency, both before and after the Reform Bill, three-fourths, the Commissioners artlessly inform us, sought and received bribes; of the remainder, all but a few individuals negotiated and gave the bribes. So in every election, both sides bribed avowedly; if a luckless Purity Candidate appeared, he was promptly informed that “Mr. Most” would win the seat: highest bribes decided each election, further bribes averted petitions. When once a desperate riot took place and the ringleaders were tried at Quarter Sessions, the jury were bribed to acquit, in the teeth of the Chairman’s summing up. At last, in 1868, the defeated candidate petitioned; blue-book literature was enriched by a remarkable report, and the borough was disfranchised. Of course Kinglake had only himself to thank; if a gentleman chooses to sit for a venal borough, and to intrust his interests to a questionable agent, he must, in the words of Mrs. Gamp, “take the consequences of sech a sitiwation.” The consequences to him were loss of his present seat, and permanent exclusion from Parliament.
He was keenly mortified by his ostracism, speaking of himself ever after as “a political corpse.” Thenceforward he gave his whole energy to literary work, to occasional reviews, mainly to his Invasion of the Crimea. In the Edinburgh I think he never wrote, cordially disliking its then editor. A fine notice in Blackwood of Madame de Lafayette’s life was from his pen. Surveying the Revolutionary Terror, he points out that Robespierre’s opponents were in numbers overwhelmingly strong, but lacked cohesion and leaders; while the Mountain, dominated by a single will, was legally armed with power to kill, and went on killing. The Church played into Robespierre’s hands by enforcing Patience and Resignation as the highest Christian virtues, confusing the idea of submission to Heaven with the idea of submission to a scoundrel. Had Hampden been a Papist he would have paid ship-money. He wrote also in The Owl, a brilliant little magazine edited by his friend Laurence Oliphant; a Society Journal, conducted by a set of clever well-to-do young bachelors living in London, addressed like the Pall Mall Gazette, in Pendennis, “to the higher circles of society, written by gentlemen for gentlemen.” When the expenses of production were paid, the balance was spent on a whitebait dinner at Greenwich, and on offerings of flowers and jewellery to the lady guests invited. It came to an end, leaving no successor equally brilliant, high-toned, wholesome; its collected numbers figure sometimes at a formidable price in sales and catalogues. 15
The first two volumes of his Crimea had appeared in 1863. They were awaited with eager expectation. An elaborate history of the war had been written by a Baron de Bazancourt, condemned as unfair and unreliable by English statesmen, and severely handled in our reviews. So the wish was felt everywhere for some record less ephemeral, which should render the tale historically, and counteract Bazancourt’s misstatements. “I hear,” wrote the Duke of Newcastle, “that Kinglake has undertaken the task. He has a noble opportunity of producing a text-book for future history, but to accomplish this it must be stoically impartial.”
The beauty of their style, the merciless portraiture of the Second Empire, the unparalleled diorama of the Alma fight, combined to gain for these first four-and-twenty chapters an immediate vogue as emphatic and as widely spread as that which saluted the opening of Macaulay’s History. None of the later volumes, though highly prized as battle narratives, quite came up to these. The political and military conclusions drawn provoked no small bitterness; his cousin, Mrs. Serjeant Kinglake, used to say that she met sometimes with almost affronting coldness in society at the time, under the impression that she was A. W. Kinglake’s wife. Russians were, perhaps unfairly, dissatisfied. Todleben, who knew and loved Kinglake well, pronounced the book a charming romance, not a history of the war. Individuals were aggrieved by its notice of themselves or of their regiments; statesmen chafed under the scientific analysis of their characters, or at the publication of official letters which they had intended but not required to be looked upon as confidential, and which the recipients had in all innocence communicated to the historian. Palmerstonians, accepting with their chief the Man of December, were furious at the exposure of his basenesses. Lucas in The Times pronounced the work perverse and mischievous; the Westminster Review branded it as reactionary. The Quarterly, in an article ascribed to A. H. Layard, condemned its style as laboured and artificial; as palling from the sustained pomp and glitter of the language; as wearisome from the constant strain after minute dissection; declaring it further to be “in every sense of the word a mischievous book.” “Blackwood,” less unfriendly, surrendered itself to the beauty of the writing; “satire so studied, so polished, so remorseless, and withal so diabolically entertaining, that we know not where in modern literature to seek such another philippic.”
Reeve, editor of the Edinburgh, wished Lord Clarendon to attack the book; he refused, but offered help, and the resulting article was due to the collaboration of the pair. It caused a prolonged coolness between Reeve and Kinglake, who at last ended the quarrel by a characteristic letter: “I observed yesterday that my malice, founded perhaps upon a couple of words, and now of three years’ duration, had not engendered corresponding anger in you; and if my impression was a right one, I trust we may meet for the future on our old terms.”
On the other hand, the Saturday Review, then at the height of its repute and influence, vindicated in a powerful article Kinglake’s truth and fairness; and a pamphlet by Hayward, called Mr. Kinglake and the Quarterlys, amused society by its furious onslaught upon the hostile periodicals, laid bare their animus, and exposed their misstatements. “If you rise in this tone,” he began, in words of Lord Ellenborough when Attorney-General, “I can speak as loudly and emphatically: I shall prosecute the case with all the liberality of a gentleman, but no tone or manner shall put me down.” And the dissentient voices were drowned in the general chorus of admiration. German eulogy was extravagant; French Republicanism was overjoyed; Englishmen, at home and abroad, read eagerly for the first time in close and vivid sequence events which, when spread over thirty months of daily newspapers, few had the patience to follow, none the qualifications to condense. Macaulay tells us that soon after the appearance of his own first volumes, a Mr. Crump from America offered him five hundred dollars if he would introduce the name of Crump into his history. An English gentleman and lady, from one of our most distant colonies, wrote to Kinglake a jointly signed pathetic letter, intreating him to cite in his pages the name of their only son, who had fallen in the Crimea. He at once consented, and asked for particulars — manner, time, place — of the young man’s death. The parents replied that they need not trouble him with details; these should be left to the historian’s kind inventiveness: whatever he might please to say in embellishment of their young hero’s end they would gratefully accept.
Unlike most authors, from Molière down to Dickens, he never read aloud to friends any portion of the unpublished manuscript; never, except to closest intimates, spoke of the book, or tolerated inquiry about it from others. When asked as to the progress of a volume he had in hand, he used to say, “That is really a matter on which it is quite out of my power even to inform myself”; and I remember how once at a well-selected dinner-party in the country, whither he came in good spirits and inclined to talk his best, a second-hand criticism on his book by a conceited parson, the official and incongruous element in the group, stiffened him into persistent silence. All England laughed, when Blackwood’s Memoirs saw the light, over his polite repulse of the kindly officious publisher, who wished, after his fashion, to criticise and finger and suggest. “I am almost alarmed, as it were, at the notion of receiving suggestions. I feel that hints from you might be so valuable and so important, it might be madness to ask you beforehand to abstain from giving me any; but I am anxious for you to know what the dangers in the way of long delay might be, the result of even a few slight and possibly most useful suggestions. . . . You will perhaps (after what I have said) think it best not to set my mind running in a new path, lest I should take to re-writing.” Note, by the way, the slovenliness of this epistle, as coming from so great a master of style; that defect characterizes all his correspondence. He wrote for the Press “with all his singing robes about him”; his letters were unrevised and brief. Mrs. Simpson, in her pleasant Memories, ascribes to him the eloquence du billet in a supreme degree. I must confess that of more than five hundred letters from his pen which I have seen only six cover more than a single sheet of note-paper, all are alike careless and unstudied in style, though often in matter characteristic and informing. “I am not by nature,” he would say, “a letter-writer, and habitually think of the uncertainty as to who may be the reader of anything that I write. It is my fate, as a writer of history, to have before me letters never intended for my eyes, and this has aggravated my foible, and makes me a wretched correspondent. I should like very much to write letters gracefully and easily, but I can’t, because it is contrary to my nature.” “I have got,” he writes so early as 1873, “to shrink from the use of the pen; to ask me to write letters is like asking a lame man to walk; it is not, as horse-dealers say, ‘the nature of the beast.’ When others talk to me charmingly, my answers are short, faltering, incoherent sentences; so it is with my writing.” “You,” he says to another lady correspondent, “have the pleasant faculty of easy, pleasant letter-writing, in which I am wholly deficient.”
In fact, the claims of his Crimean book, which compelled him latterly to refuse all other literary work, gave little time for correspondence. Its successive revisions formed his daily task until illness struck him down. Sacks of Crimean notes, labelled through some fantastic whim with female Christian names — the Helen bag, the Adelaide bag, etc. — were ranged round his room. His working library was very small in bulk, his habit being to cut out from any book the pages which would be serviceable, and to fling the rest away. So, we are told, the first Napoleon, binding volumes for his travelling library, shore their margins to the quick, and removed all prefaces, title-pages, and other superfluous leaves. So, too, Edward Fitzgerald used to tear out of his books all that in his judgment fell below their authors’ highest standard, retaining for his own delectation only the quintessential remnants. Vols. III. and IV. appeared in 1868, V. in 1875, VI. in 1880, VII. and VIII. in 1887; while a Cabinet Edition of the whole in nine volumes was issued continuously from 1870 to 1887. Our attempt to appreciate the book shall be reserved for another chapter.
Was the history of the Crimean War worth writing? Not as a magnified newspaper report, — that had been already done — but as a permanent work of art from the pen of a great literary expert? Very many of us, I think, after the lapse of fifty years, feel compelled to say that it was not. The struggle represented no great principles, begot no far-reaching consequences. It was not inspired by the “holy glee” with which in Wordsworth’s sonnet Liberty fights against a tyrant, but by the faltering boldness, the drifting, purposeless unresolve of statesmen who did not desire it, and by the irrational violence of a Press which did not understand it. It was not a necessary war; its avowed object would have been attained within a few weeks or months by bloodless European concert. It was not a glorious war; crippled by an incompatible alliance and governed by the Evil Genius who had initiated it for personal and sordid ends, it brought discredit on baffled generals in the field, on Crown, Cabinet, populace, at home. It was not a fruitful war; the detailed results purchased by its squandered life and treasure lapsed in swift succession during twenty sequent years, until the last sheet of the treaty which secured them was contemptuously torn up by Gortschakoff in 1870. But a right sense of historical proportion is in no time the heritage of the many, and is least of all attainable while the memory of a campaign is fresh. On Englishmen who welcomed home their army in 1855, the strife from which shattered but victorious it had returned, loomed as epoch-making and colossal, as claiming therefore permanent record from some eloquent artist of attested descriptive power. Soon the report gained ground that the destined chronicler was Kinglake, and all men hailed the selection; yet the sceptic who in looking back to-day decries the greatness of the campaign may perhaps no less hesitate to approve the fitness of its chosen annalist. His fame was due to the perfection of a single book; he ranked as a potentate in style. But literary perfection, whether in prose or poetry, is a fragile quality, an afflatus irregular, independent, unamenable to orders; the official tributes of a Laureate we compliment at their best with the northern farmer’s verdict on the pulpit performances of his parson:
An’ I niver knaw’d wot a mean’d but I thow’t a ’ad summut to saay,
And I thowt a said wot a owt to ’a said an’ I comed awaay.
Set to compile a biography from thirty years of Moniteurs, the author of Waverley, like Lord Chesterfield’s diamond pencil, produced one miracle of dulness; it might well be feared that Kinglake’s volatile pen, when linked with forceful feeling and bound to rigid task-work, might lose the charm of casual epigram, easy luxuriance, playful egotism, vagrant allusion, which established Eothen as a classic. On the other hand, he had been for twenty years conversant with Eastern history, geography, politics; was, more than most professional soldiers, an adept in military science; had sat in the centre of the campaign as its general’s guest and comrade; was intrusted, above all, by Lady Raglan with the entire collection of her husband’s papers: her wish, implied though not expressed, that they should be utilized for the vindication of the great field-marshal’s fame, he accepted as a sacred charge; her confidence not only governed his decision to become the historian of the war, but imparted a personal character to the narrative.
In order, therefore, rightly to appreciate The Invasion of the Crimea, we must look upon it as a great prose epic; its argument, machinery, actors, episodes, subordinate to a predominant ever present hero. In its fine preamble Lord Raglan sits enthroned high above generals, armies, spectators, conflicts; on the quality of his mind the fate of two great hosts and the fame of two great nations hang. He checks St. Arnaud’s wild ambition; overrules the waverings of the Allies; against his own judgment, but in dutiful obedience to home instruction carries out the descent upon the Old Fort coast. The successful achievement of the perilous flank march is ascribed to the undivided command which, during forty-eight hours, accident had conferred upon him. From his presence in council French and English come away convinced and strengthened; his calm in action imparts itself to anxious generals and panic-stricken aides-de-camp. Through Alma fight, from the high knoll to which happy audacity had carried him he rides the whirlwind and directs the storm. In the terrible crisis which sees the Russians breaking over the crest of Inkerman, in the ill-fated attack on the Great Redan where Lacy Yea is killed, his apparent freedom from anxiety infects all around him and achieves redemption from disaster. 16 We see him in his moments of vexation and discomfiture; dissembling pain and anger under the stress of the French alliance, galled by Cathcart’s disobedience, by the loss of the Light Brigade, by Lord Panmure’s insulting, querulous, unfounded blame. We read his last despatch, framed with wonted grace and clearness; then — on the same day — we see the outworn frame break down, and follow mournfully two days later the afflicting details of his death. As the generals and admirals of the allied forces stand round the dead hero’s form, as the palled bier, draped in the flag of England, is carried from headquarters to the port, as the Caradoc, steaming away with her honoured freight, flies out her “Farewell” signal, the narrative abruptly ends. The months of the siege which still remained might be left to other hands or lapse untold. Troy had still to be taken when Hector died; but with his funeral dirge the Iliad closed, the blind bard’s task was over:
Such honours Ilion to her hero paid,
And peaceful slept the mighty Hector’s shade.
If the framework of the narrative is epic, its treatment is frequently dramatic. The “Usage of Europe” in the opening pages is not so much a record as a personification of unwritten Law: the Great Eltchi tramps the stage with a majesty sometimes bordering on fustian. Dramatic is the story of the sleeping Cabinet. “It was evening — a summer evening” — one thinks of a world-famous passage in the De Corona — when the Duke of Newcastle carried to Richmond Lodge the fateful despatch committing England to the war. “Before the reading of the Paper had long continued, all the members of the Cabinet except a small minority were overcome with sleep”; the few who remained awake were in a quiet, assenting frame of mind, and the despatch “received from the Cabinet the kind of approval which is awarded to an unobjectionable Sermon.” Not less dramatic is Nolan’s death; the unearthly shriek of the slain corpse erect in saddle with sword arm high in air, as the dead horseman rode still seated through the 13th Light Dragoons; the “Minden Yell” of the 20th driving down upon the Iakoutsk battalion; the sustained and scathing satire on the Notre Dame Te Deum for the Boulevard massacre. A simple dialogue, a commonplace necessary act, is staged sometimes for effect. “Then Lord Stratford apprised the Sultan that he had a private communication to make to him. The pale Sultan listened.” . . . “Whose was the mind which had freshly come to bear upon this part of the fight? Sir Colin Campbell was sitting in his saddle, the veteran was watching his time.” . . . “The Emperor Nicholas was alone in his accustomed writing-room. He took no counsel; he rang a bell. Presently an officer of his staff stood before him. To him he gave his order for the occupation of the Principalities.” This overpasses drama — it is melodrama.
To the personal element which pervades the volumes great part of their charm is due. The writer never obtrudes himself, but leaves his presence to be discerned by the touches which attest an eye-witness. Through his observant nearness we watch the Chief’s demeanour and hear his words; see him “turn scarlet with shame and anger” when the brutal Zouaves carry outrage into the friendly Crimean village, witness his personal succour of the wounded Russian after Inkerman, hear his arch acceptance of the French courtesy, so careful always to yield the post of danger to the English; his “Go quietly” to the excited aide-de-camp; 17 his good-humoured reception of the scared and breathless messenger from D’Aurelle’s brigade; the “five words” spoken to Airey commanding the long delayed advance across the Alma; the “tranquil low voice” which gave the order rescuing the staff from its unforeseen encounter with the Russian rear. He records Codrington’s leap on his grey Arab into the breast-work of the Great Redoubt; Lacy Yea’s passionate energy in forcing his clustered regiment to open out; Miller’s stentorian “Rally” in reforming the Scots Greys after the Balaclava charge; Clarke losing his helmet in the same charge, and creating amongst the Russians, as he plunged in bareheaded amongst their ranks, the belief that he was sheltered by some Satanic charm. He notes on the Alma the singular pause of sound maintained by both armies just before the cannonade began; the first death — of an artilleryman riding before his gun — a new sight to nine-tenths of those who witnessed it; 18 the weird scream of exploding shells as they rent the air around. He crossed the Alma close behind Lord Raglan, cantering after him to the summit of a conspicuous hillock in the heart of the enemy’s position, whence the mere sight of plumed English officers scared the Russian generals, and, followed soon by guns and troops, governed the issue of the fight. The general’s manner was “the manner of a man enlivened by the progress of a great undertaking without being robbed of his leisure. He spoke to me, I remember, about his horse. He seemed like a man who had a clue of his own and knew his way through the battle.” When the last gun was fired Kinglake followed the Chief back, witnessed the wild burst of cheering accorded to him by the whole British army, a manifestation, Lord Burghersh tells us, which greatly distressed his modesty — and dined alone with him in his tent on the evening of the eventful day.
If Lord Raglan was the Hector of the Crimean Iliad, its Agamemnon was Lord Stratford: “king of men,” as Stanley called him in his funeral sermon at Westminster; king of distrustful home Cabinets, nominally his masters, of scheming European embassies, of insulting Russian opponents, of presumptuous French generals, of false and fleeting Pashas (le Sultan, c’est Lord Stratford, said St. Arnaud), of all men, whatever their degree, who entered his ambassadorial presence. Ascendency was native to the man; while yet in his teens we find Etonian and Cambridge friends writing to him deferentially as to a critic and superior. At four and twenty he became Minister to a Court manageable only by high-handed authority and menace. He owned, and for the most part controlled, a violent temper; it broke bounds sometimes, to our great amusement as we read to-day, to the occasional discomfiture of attachés or of dependents, 19 to the abject terror of Turkish Sublimities who had outworn his patience. But he knew when to be angry; he could pulverize by fiery outbreaks the Reis Effendi and his master, Abdul-Mejid; but as Plenipotentiary to the United States he could “quench the terror of his beak, the lightning of his eye,” disarming by his formal courtesy and winning by his obvious sincerity the suspicious and irritable John Quincy Adams. When Menschikoff once insulted him, seeing that a quarrel at that moment would be fatal to his purpose, he pretended to be deaf, and left the Russian in the belief that his rude speech had not been heard. Enthroned for the sixth time in Constantinople, at the dangerous epoch of 1853, he could point to an unequalled diplomatic record in the past; to the Treaty of Bucharest, to reunion of the Helvetic Confederacy shattered by Napoleon’s fall, to the Convention which ratified Greek independence, to the rescue from Austrian malignity of the Hungarian refugees.
His conduct of the negotiations preceding the Crimean War is justly called the cornerstone of his career: at this moment of his greatness Kinglake encounters and describes him: through the brilliant chapters in his opening volume, as more fully later on through Mr. Lane Poole’s admirable biography, the Great Eltchi is known to English readers. He moves across the stage with a majesty sometimes bordering on what Iago calls bombast circumstance; drums and trumpets herald his every entrance; now pacing the shady gardens of the Bosphorus, now foiling, “in his grand quiet way,” the Czar’s ferocious Christianity, or torturing his baffled ambassador by scornful concession of the points which he formally demanded but did not really want; or crushing with “thin, tight, merciless lips and grand overhanging Canning brow” the presumptuous French commander who had dared to enter his presence with a plot for undermining England’s influence in the partnership of the campaign. Was he, we ask as we end the fascinating description, was he, what Bright and the Peace Party proclaimed him to be, the cause of the Crimean War? The Czar’s personal dislike to him — a caprice which has never been explained 20 — exasperated no doubt to the mind of Nicholas the repulse of Menschikoff’s demands; but that the precipitation of the prince and his master had put the Russian Court absolutely in the wrong is universally admitted. It has been urged against him that his recommendation of the famous Vienna Note to the Porte was official merely, and allowed the watchful Turks to assume his personal approbation of their refusal. It may be so; his biographer does not admit so much: but it is obvious that the Turks were out of hand, and that no pressure from Lord Stratford could have persuaded them to accept the Note. Further, the “Russian Analysis of the Note,” escaping shortly afterwards from the bag of diplomatic secrecy, revealed to our Cabinet the necessity of those amendments to the Note on which the Porte had insisted. And lastly, the passage of the Dardanelles by our fleet, which more than any overt act made war inevitable, was ordered by the Government at home against Lord Stratford’s counsel. Between panic-stricken statesmen and vacillating ambassadors, Lord Clarendon on one side, M. de la Cour on the other, the Eltchi stands like Tennyson’s promontory of rock,
Napoleon at St. Helena attributed much of his success in the field to the fact that he was not hampered by governments at home. Every modern commander, down certainly to the present moment, must have envied him. Kinglake’s mordant pen depicts with felicity and compression the men of Downing Street, who without military experience or definite political aim, thwarted, criticised, over-ruled, tormented, their much-enduring General. We have Aberdeen, deficient in mental clearness and propelling force, by his horror of war bringing war to pass; Gladstone, of too subtle intellect and too lively conscience, “a good man in the worst sense of the term”; Palmerston, above both in keenness of instinct and in strength of will, meaning war from the first, and biding his time to insure it; Newcastle, sanguine to the verge of rashness, loyally adherent to Lord Raglan while governed by his own judgment, distrustful under stress of popular clamour; Panmure, ungenerous, rough-tongued, violent, churlish, yet not malevolent — “a rhinoceros rather than a tiger” — hurried by subservience to the newspaper Press into injustice which he afterwards recognized, yet did but sullenly repair. We see finally that dominant Press itself, personified in the all-powerful Delane, a potentate with convictions at once flexible and vehement; forceful without spite and merciless without malignity; writing no articles, but evoking, shaping, revising all. The French commanders were not hampered by the muzzled Paris Press, which had long since ceased to utter any but dictated sentiments; they suffered even more disastrously from the imperious interference of the Tuileries. Canrobert’s inaction, mutability, sudden alarms, flagrant breaches of faith, were inexplicable until long afterwards, when the fall of the Empire disclosed the secret instructions — disloyal to his allies and ruinous to the campaign — by which Louis Napoleon shackled his unhappy General. In Canrobert’s successor, Pelissier, he met his match. For the first time a strong man headed the French army. Short of stature, bull-necked and massive in build, with grey hair, long dark moustache, keen fiery eyes, his coarse rough speech masking tested brain power and high intellectual culture, he brought new life to the benumbed French army, new hope to Lord Raglan. The duel between the resolute general and the enraged Emperor is narrated with a touch comedy. All that Lord Raglan desired, all that the Emperor forbade, Pelissier was stubbornly determined to accomplish; the siege should be pressed at once, the city taken at any cost, the expedition to Kertch resumed. Once only, under torment of the Emperor’s reproaches and the Minister at War’s remonstrances, his resolution and his nerve gave way; eight days of failing judgment issued in the Karabelnaya defeat, the severest repulse which the two armies had sustained; but the paralysis passed away, he showed himself once more eager to act in concert with the English general; — when the long-borne strain of disappointment and anxiety sapped at last Lord Raglan’s vital forces, and the hard fierce Frenchman stood for upwards of an hour beside his dead colleague’s bedside, “crying like a child.”
The lieutenants of Lord Raglan in the Crimea have long since passed away, but in artistic epical presentment they retain their place around him. Airey, his right hand from the first disembarkation at Kalamita Bay, strong-willed, decisive, ardent, thrusting away suspense and doubt, untying every knot, is vindicated by his Chief against the Duke of Newcastle’s wordy inculpation in the severest despatch perhaps ever penned to his official superior by a soldier in the field. Colin Campbell, with glowing face, grey kindling eye, light, stubborn, crisping hair, leads his Highland brigade up the hill against the Vladimir columns, till “with the sorrowful wail which bursts from the brave Russian infantry when they have to suffer loss,” eight battalions of the enemy fall back in retreat. Lord Lucan, tall, lithe, slender, his face glittering and panther-like in moments of strenuous action, wins our hearts as he won Kinglake’s, in spite of the mis-aimed cleverness and presumptuous self-confidence which always criticised and sometimes disobeyed the orders of his Chief. General Pennefather, “the grand old boy,” his exulting radiant face flashing everywhere through the smoke, his resonant innocuous oaths roaring cheerily down the line, sustains all day the handful of our troops against the tenfold masses of the enemy. Generous and eloquent are the notices of Korniloff and Todleben, the great sailor and the great engineer, the soul and the brain of the Sebastopol defence. The first fell in the siege, the second lived to write its history, to become a valued friend of Kinglake, to explore and interpret in his company long afterwards the scenes of struggle; his book and his personal guidance gave to the historian what would otherwise have been unattainable, a clear knowledge of the conflict as viewed from within the town.
The pitched battlefields of the campaign were three, Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman. The Alma chapter is the most graphic, for there the fight was concentrated, offering to a spectator by Lord Raglan’s side a coup d’oeil of the entire action. The French were by bad generalship virtually wiped out; for Bosquet crossed the river too far to the right, Canrobert was afraid to move without artillery, Prince Napoleon and St. Arnaud’s reserves were jammed together in the bottom of the valley. We see, as though on the spot, the advance, irregular and unsupported, of Codrington’s brigade, their dash into the Great Redoubt and subsequent disorderly retreat; the enemy checked by the two guns from Lord Raglan’s knoll and by the steadiness of the Royal Fusiliers; the repulse of the Scots Fusiliers and the peril which hung over the event; then the superb advance of Guards and Highlanders up the hill, thin red line against massive columns, which determined finally the action.
The interest of the Balaclava fight centres in the two historic cavalry charges. Here again, from his position on the hill above, Kinglake witnessed both; the first, clear in smokeless air, the second lost in the volleying clouds which filled the valley of death. He saw the enormous mass of Russian cavalry, 3,500 sabres, flooding like an avalanche down the hill with a momentum which Scarlett’s tiny squadron could not for a moment have resisted; their unexplained halt, the three hundred seizing the opportunity to strike, digging individually into the Russian ranks, the scarlet streaks visibly cleaving the dense grey columns. Inwedged and surrounded, in their passionate blood frenzy, with ceaseless play of whirling sword, with impetus of human and equestrian weight and strength, the red atoms hewed their way to the Russian rear, turned, worked back, emerged, reformed; while the 4th and 5th Dragoons, the Royals, the 1st Inniskillings, dashed upon the amazed column right, left, front, till the close-locked mass headed slowly up the hill, ranks loosened, horsemen turned and galloped off, a beaten straggling herd. Eight minutes elapsed from the time when Scarlett gave the word to charge, until the moment when the Russians broke: we turn from the fifty describing pages, breathless as though we had ridden in the melee; if the episode has no historical parallel, the narrative is no less unique. Our greatest contemporary poet tried to celebrate it; his lines are tame and unexciting beside Kinglake’s passionate pulsing rhapsody. Its effect upon the Russian mind was lasting; out of all their vast array hardly a single squadron was ever after able to keep its ground against the approach of English cavalry; while but for Cathcart’s obstinacy and Lucan’s temper it would have issued in the immediate recapture of the Causeway Heights.
The Charge of the Light Brigade, on the other hand, while it stirred the imagination of the poet, shocked the military conscience of the historian. He saw in it with agony, as Lord Raglan saw, as the French spectators saw, no act of heroic sacrifice, but a needless, fruitless massacre. “You have lost the Light Brigade,” was his commander’s salutation to Lord Lucan. “C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre,” was the oft-quoted reproof of Bosquet. The “someone’s blunder,” the sullen perversity in misconception which destroyed the flower of our cavalry, has faded from men’s memories; the splendour of the deed remains. It is well to recover salvage from the irrevocable, to voice and to prolong the deep human interest attaching to death encountered at the call of duty; that is the poet’s task, and brilliantly it has been discharged. Its other side, the pæan of sorrow for a self-destructive exploit, the dirge on lives wantonly thrown away, the deep blame attaching to the untractableness which sent them to their doom, was the task of the historian, and that too has been faithfully and lastingly accomplished.
Inkerman was the most complicated of the battles; the chapters which record it are correspondingly taxing to the reader. More than once or twice they must be scanned, with close study of their lucid maps, before the intricate sequences are fairly and distinctively grasped; the sixth book of Thucydides, a standing terror to young Greek students, is light and easy reading compared with the bulky sixth volume of Kinglake. The hero of the day was Pennefather; he maintained on Mount Inkerman a combat of pickets reinforced from time to time, while around him through nine hours successive attacks of thousands were met by hundreds. The disparity of numbers was appalling. At daybreak 40,000 Russian troops advanced against 3,000 English and were repulsed. Three hours later 19,000 fresh troops came on, passed through a gap in our lines, which Cathcart’s disobedience, atoned for presently by his death, had left unoccupied, and seized the heights behind us; they too were dispossessed, but our numbers were dwindling and our strength diminishing. The Home Ridge, key of our position, was next invaded by 6,000 Russians; the 7th Leger, linked with a few Zouaves and with 200 men of our 77th Regiment, French and English for once joyously intermingled, hurled them back. It was the crisis of the fight; Canrobert’s interposition would have determined it; but he sullenly refused to move. Finally, led by two or three daring young officers, 300 of our wearied troops charged the Russian battery which had tormented us all day; their artillerymen, already flinching under the galling fire of two 18-pounders, brought up by Lord Raglan’s foresight early in the morning, hastily withdrew their guns, and the battle was won. It was a day of Homeric rushes; Burnaby, with only twenty men to support him, rescuing the Grenadier Guards’ colours; the onset of the 20th with their “Minden Yell”; Colonel Daubeny with two dozen followers cleaving the Russian trunk column at the barrier; Waddy’s dash at the retreating artillery train, foiled only by the presence and the readiness of Todleben. One marvels in reading how the English held their own; their victory against so tremendous odds is ascribed by the historian to three conditions; the hampering of the enemy by his crowded masses; the slaughter amongst his officers early in the fight, which deprived their men of leadership; above all, the dense mist which obscured from him the fewness of his opponents. If Canrobert with his fresh troops had followed in pursuit, the Russian’s retreat must have been turned into a rout and his artillery captured; if on the following day he had assaulted the Flagstaff Bastion, Sebastopol, Todleben owned, must have fallen. He would do neither; his hesitancy and apparent feebleness have already been explained; but to it, and to the sinister influence which held his hand, were due the subsequent miseries of the Crimean winter.
But the epic muse exacted from Kinglake, as from Virgil long before, the portrayal not only of generals and of battles, but of two great monarchs, each in his own day conspicuously and absolutely prominent — the Czar Nicholas and the Emperor Napoleon:
dicam horrida bella,
Dicam acies, actosque animis in funera reges.
His handling of them is characteristic. Few men living then could have approached either without a certain awe, their “genius” rebuked, — like Mark Antony’s, in the presence of Caesars so imposing and so mighty; Kinglake’s attitude towards both is the attitude of cold analysis.
In the opening of the fifties the Czar Nicholas was the most powerful man then living in the world. He ruled over sixty million subjects whose loyalty bordered on worship: he had in arms a million soldiers, brave and highly trained. In the troubles of 1848 he had stood scornful and secure amid the overthrow of surrounding thrones; and the entire impact of his vast and well-organized Empire was subject to his single will; whatever he chose to do he did. Of stern and unrelenting nature, of active and widely ranging capacity for business, of gigantic stature and commanding presence, he inspired almost universal terror; and yet his friendliness had when he pleased a glow and frankness irresistible in its charm. Readers of Queen Victoria’s early life will recall the alarm she felt at his sudden proposal to visit Windsor in 1844, the fascination which his presence exercised on her when he became her guest. He professed to embody his standard of conduct in the English word “gentleman”; his ideal of human grandeur was the character of the Duke of Wellington. It was an evil destiny that betrayed this high-minded man into crooked ways; that made England sacrifice the stateliest among her ancient friends to an ignoble and crime-stained adventurer; that poured out blood and treasure for no public advantage and with no permanent result; that first humiliated, then slew with broken heart the man who had been so great, and who is still regarded by surviving Russians who knew his inner life and had seen him in his gentle mood with passionate reverence and affection.
Kinglake’s description of “Prince Louis Bonaparte,” of his character, his accomplices, his policy, his crimes, is perhaps unequalled in historical literature; I know not where else to look for a vivisection so scientific and so merciless of a great potentate in the height of his power. With scrutiny polite, impartial, guarded, he lays bare the springs of a conscienceless nature and the secrets of a crime-driven career; while for the combination of precise simplicity with exhaustive synopsis, the masquerading of moral indignation in the guise of mocking laughter, the loathing of a gentleman for a scoundrel set to the measure not of indignation but of contempt, we must go back to the refined insolence, the ὕβρις πεπαιδευμένη [hubris pepaideumene, cultured brashness] of Voltaire. He had well known Prince Napoleon in his London days, had been attracted by him as a curiosity — “a balloon man who had twice fallen from the skies and yet was still alive” — had divined the mental power veiled habitually by his blank, opaque, wooden looks, had listened to his ambitious talk and gathered up the utterances of his thoughtful, long-pondering mind, had quarrelled with him finally and lastingly over rivalry in the good graces of a woman. 21 He saw in him a fourfold student; of the art of war, of the mind of the first Napoleon, of the French people’s character, of the science by which law may lend itself to stratagem and become a weapon of deceit.
The intellect of this strange being was subject to an uncertainty of judgment, issuing in ambiguity of enterprise, and giving an impression of well-kept secrecy, due often to the fact that divided by mental conflict he had no secret to tell. He understood truth, but under the pressure of strong motive would invariably deceive. He sometimes, out of curiosity, would listen to the voice of conscience, and could imitate neatly on occasion the scrupulous language of a man of honour; but the consideration that one of two courses was honest, and the other not, never entered into his motives for action. He was bold in forming plots, and skilful in conducting them; but in the hour of trial and under the confront of physical danger he was paralysed by constitutional timidity. His great aim in life was to be conspicuous — digito monstrarier — coupled with a theatric mania which made scenic effects and surprises essential to the eminence he craved.
Handling this key to his character, Kinglake pursues him into his December treason, contrasts the consummate cleverness of his schemes with the faltering cowardice which shrank, like Macbeth’s ambition, from “the illness should attend them,” and which, but for the stronger nerve of those behind him, would have caused his collapse, at Paris as at Strasburg and Boulogne, in contact with the shock of action. It is difficult now to realize the commotion caused by this fourteenth chapter of Kinglake’s book. The Emperor was at the summit of his power, fresh from Austrian conquest, viewed with alarm by England, whose rulers feared his strength and were distrustful of his friendship. Our Crown, our government, our society, had condoned his usurpation; he had kissed the Queen’s cheek, bent her ministers to his will, ridden through her capital a triumphant and applauded guest. And now men read not only a cynical dissection of his character and disclosure of his early foibles, but the hideous details of his deceit and treachery, the phases of cold-blooded massacre and lawless deportation by which he emptied France of all who hesitated to enrol themselves as his accomplices or his tools. Forty years have passed since the terrible indictment was put forth; down to its minutest allegation it has been proved literally true; the arch criminal has fallen from his estate to die in disgrace, disease, exile. When we talk today with cultivated Frenchmen of that half-forgotten epoch, and of the book which bared its horrors, we are met by their response of ardent gratitude to the man who joined to passionate hatred of iniquity surpassing capacity for denouncing it; their avowal that with all its frequent exposure of their military shortcomings and depreciation of their national character, no English chronicle of the century stands higher in their esteem than the history of the war in the Crimea.
The close of the book is grim and tragic in the main, the stir of gallant fights exchanged for the dreary course of siege, intrenchment, mine and countermine. We have the awful winter on the heights, the November hurricane, the foiled bombardments, the cruel blunder of the Karabelnaya assault, the bitter natural discontent at home, the weak subservience of our government to misdirected clamour, the touching help-fraught advent of the Lady Nurses: then, just as better prospects dawn, the Chief’s collapse and death. From the morrow of Inkerman to the end, through no fault of his, the historian’s chariot wheels drag. More and more one sees how from the nature of the task, except for the flush of contemporary interest then, except by military students now, it is not a work to be popularly read; the exhausted interest of its subject swamps the genius of its narrator. Scattered through its more serious matter are gems with the old Eothen sparkle, of periphrasis, aphorism, felicitous phrase and pregnant epithet. Such is the fine analogy between the worship of holy shrines and the lover’s homage to the spot which his mistress’s feet have trod; such France’s tolerance of the Elysée brethren compared to the Arab laying his verminous burnous upon an ant-hill; the apt quotation from the Psalms to illustrate the on-coming of the Guards; the demeanour of horses in action; the course of a flying cannon-ball; the two ponderous troopers at the Horse Guards; Tom Tower and his Croats landing stores for our soldiers from the Erminia. Or again, we have the light clear touches of a single line; “the decisiveness and consistency of despotism” — “the fractional and volatile interests in trading adventure which go by the name of Shares” — “the unlabelled, undocketed state of mind which shall enable a man to encounter the Unknown” — “the qualifying words which correct the imprudences and derange the grammatical structure of a Queen’s Speech”: but these are islets in the sea of narrative, not, as in Eothen, woof-threads which cross the warp.
To compare an idyll with an epic, it may be said, is like comparing a cameo with a Grecian temple: be it so; but the temple falls in ruins, the cameo is preserved in cabinets; and it is possible that a century hence the Crimean history will be forgotten, while Eothen is read and enjoyed. The best judges at the time pronounced that as a lasting monument of literary force the work was over refined: “Kinglake,” said Sir George Cornewall Lewis, “tries to write better than he can write”; quoting, perhaps unconsciously, the epigram of a French art critic a hundred years before — Il cherche toujours à faire mieux qu’il ne fait. 22 He lavished on it far more pains than on Eothen: the proof sheets were a black sea of erasures, intercalations, blots; the original chaotic manuscript pages had to be disentangled by a calligraphic Taunton bookseller before they could be sent to press. This fastidiousness in part gained its purpose; won temporary success; gave to his style the glitter, rapidity, point, effectiveness, of a pungent editorial; went home, stormed, convinced, vindicated, damaged, triumphed: but it missed by excessive polish the reposeful, unlaboured, classic grace essential to the highest art. Over-scrupulous manipulation of words is liable to the “defect of its qualities”; as with unskilful goldsmiths of whom old Latin writers tell us, the file goes too deep, trimming away more of the first fine minting than we can afford to lose. Ruskin has explained to us how the decadence of Gothic architecture commenced through care bestowed on window tracery for itself instead of as an avenue or vehicle for the admission of light. Read “words” for tracery, “thought” for light, and we see how inspiration avenges itself so soon as diction is made paramount; artifice, which demands and misses watchful self-concealment, passes into mannerism; we have lost the incalculable charm of spontaneity. Comparison of Eothen with the Crimea will I think exemplify this truth. The first, to use Matthew Arnold’s imagery, is Attic, the last has declined to the Corinthian; it remains a great, an amazingly great production; great in its pictorial force, its omnipresent survey, verbal eloquence, firm grasp, marshalled delineation of multitudinous and entangled matter; but it is not unique amongst martial records as Eothen is unique amongst books of travel: it is through Eothen that its author has soared into a classic, and bids fair to hold his place. And, apart from the merit of style, great campaigns lose interest in a third, if not in a second generation; their historical consequence effaced through lapse of years; their policy seen to have been nugatory or mischievous; their chronicles, swallowed greedily at the birth like Saturn’s progeny, returning to vex their parent; relegated finally to an honourable exile in the library upper shelves, where they hold a place eyed curiously, not invaded:
As fast as they are made, forgot as soon
As done. . . . To have done, is to hang
Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail,
In monumental mockery.
The Cabinet Edition of The Invasion of the Crimea appeared in 1877, shortly after the Servian struggle for independence, which aroused in England universal interest and sympathy. Kinglake had heard from the lips of a valued lady friend the tragic death-tale of her brother Nicholas Kireeff, who fell fighting as a volunteer on the side of the gallant Servian against the Turk: and, much moved by the recital, offered to honour the memory of the dead hero in the Preface to his forthcoming edition. He kept his word; made sympathetic reference to M. Kireeff in the opening of his Preface; but passed in pursuance of his original design to a hostile impeachment of Russia, its people, its church, its ruler. This was an error of judgment and of feeling; and the lady, reading the manuscript, indignantly desired him to burn the whole rather than commit the outrage of associating her brother’s name with an attack on causes and personages dear to him as to herself. Kinglake listened in silence, then tendered to her a crayon rouge, begging her to efface all that pained her. She did so; and, diminished by three-fourths of its matter, the Preface appears in Vol. I. of the Cabinet Edition. The erasure was no slight sacrifice to an author of Kinglake’s literary sensitiveness, mutilating as it did the integrity of a carefully schemed composition, and leaving visible the scar. He sets forth the strongly sentimental and romantic side of Russian temperament. Love of the Holy Shrines begat the war of 1853, racial ardour the war of 1876. The first was directed by a single will, the second by national enthusiasm; yet the mind of Nicholas was no less tossed by a breathless strife of opposing desires and moods than was Russia at large by the struggle between Panslavism and statesmanship. Kinglake paints vividly the imposing figure of the young Kireeff, his stature, beauty, bravery, the white robe he wore incarnadined by death-wounds, his body captured by the hateful foes. He goes on to tell how myth rose like an exhalation round his memory: how legends of “a giant piling up hecatombs by a mighty slaughter” reverberated through mansion and cottage, town and village, cathedral and church; until thousands of volunteers rushed to arms that they might go where young Kireeff had gone. Alexander’s hand was forced, and the war began, which but for England’s intervention would have cleared Europe of the Turk. We have the text, but not the sermon; the Preface ends abruptly with an almost clumsy peroration.
The lady who inspired both the eulogy and the curtailment was Madame Novikoff, more widely known perhaps as O. K., with whom Kinglake maintained during the last twenty years of life an intimate and mutual friendship. Madame Olga Novikoff, née Kireeff, is a Russian lady of aristocratic rank both by parentage and marriage. In a lengthened sojourn at Vienna with her brother-in-law, the Russian ambassador, she learned the current business of diplomacy. An eager religious propagandist, she formed alliance with the “Old Catholics” on the Continent, and with many among the High Church English clergy; becoming, together with her brother Alexander, a member of the Réunion Nationale, a society for the union of Christendom. Her interest in education has led her to devote extensive help to school and church building and endowment on her son’s estate. God-daughter to the Czar Nicholas, she is a devoted Imperialist, nor less in sympathy, as were all her family, with Russian patriotism: after the death of her brother in Servia on July 6/18, 1876, she became a still more ardent Slavophile. The three articles of her creed are, she says, those of her country, Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationalism. Her political aspirations have been guided, and guided right, by her tact and goodness of heart. Her life’s aim has been to bring about a cordial understanding between England and her native land; there is little doubt that her influence with leading Liberal politicians, and her vigorous allocutions in the Press, had much to do with the enthusiasm manifested by England for the liberation of the Danubian States. Readers of the Princess Lieven’s letters to Earl Grey will recall the part played by that able ambassadress in keeping this country neutral through the crisis of 1828-9; to her Madame Novikoff has been likened, and probably with truth, by the Turkish Press both English and Continental. She was accused in 1876 of playing on the religious side of Mr. Gladstone’s character to secure his interest in the Danubians as members of the Greek Church, while with unecclesiastical people she was said to be equally skilful on the political side, converting at the same time Anglophobe Russia by her letters in the Moscow Gazette. Mr. Gladstone’s leanings to Montenegro were attributed angrily in the English Standard to Madame Novikoff: “A serious statesman should know better than to catch contagion from the petulant enthusiasm of a Russian Apostle.” The contagion was in any case caught, and to some purpose; letter after letter had been sent by the lady to the great statesman, then in temporary retirement, without reply, until the last of these, “a bitter cry of a sister for a sacrificed brother,” brought a feeling answer from Mrs. Gladstone, saying that her husband was deeply moved by the appeal, and was writing on the subject. In a few days appeared his famous pamphlet, Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East.
Carlyle advised that Madame Novikoff’s scattered papers should be worked into a volume; they appeared under the title Is Russia Wrong? with a preface by Froude, the moderate and ultra-prudent tone of which infuriated Hayward and Kinglake, as not being sufficiently appreciative. Hayward declared some woman had biassed him; Kinglake was of opinion that by studying the état of Queen Elizabeth Froude had “gone and turned himself into an old maid.”
Froude’s Preface to her next work, Russia and England, a Protest and an Appeal, by O. K., 1880, was worded in a very different tone and satisfied all her friends. The book was also reviewed with highest praise by Gladstone in The Nineteenth Century. Learning that an assault upon it was contemplated in The Quarterly, Kinglake offered to supply the editor, Dr. Smith, with materials which might be so used as to neutralize a personal attack upon O. K. Smith entreated him to compose the whole article himself. “I could promise you,” he writes, “that the authorship should be kept a profound secret;” but this Kinglake seems to have thought undesirable. The article appeared in April, 1880, under the title of The Slavonic Menace to Europe. It opens with a panegyric on the authoress: “She has mastered our language with conspicuous success; she expostulates as easily as she reproaches, and she exhibits as much facility in barbing shafts of satire as in framing specious excuses for daring acts of diplomacy.” It insists on the high esteem felt for her by both the Russian and Austrian governments, telling with much humour an anecdote of Count Beust, the Prime Minister of Austria during her residence in Vienna. The Count, after meeting her at a dinner party at the Turkish Embassy, composed a set of verses in her honour, and gave them to her, but she forgot to mention them to her brother-in-law. The Prime Minister, encountering the latter, asked his opinion of the verses; and the ambassador was greatly amazed at knowing nothing of the matter. 23 From amenities towards the authoress, the article passes abruptly to hostile criticism of the book; declares it to be proscribed in Russia as mischievous, and to have precipitated a general war by keeping up English interest in Serbian rebellion. It sneers in doubtful taste at the lady’s learning:
sit non doctissima conjux,
Sit nox cum somno, sit sine lite dies;
denounces the Slavs as incapable of being welded into a nation, urging that their independence must destroy Austria-Hungary, a consummation desired by Madame Novikoff, with her feline contempt for “poor dear Austria,” but which all must unite to prevent if they would avert a European war.
How could one clear harp, men asked themselves as they read, have produced so diverse tones? The riddle is solved when we learn that the first part only was from Kinglake’s pen: having vindicated his friend’s ability and good faith, her right to speak and to be heard attentively, he left the survey of her views, with which he probably disagreed, to the originally assigned reviewer. The article, Madame Novikoff tells us in the Nouvelle Revue, was received avec une stupefaction unanime. It formed the general talk for many days, was attributed to Lord Salisbury, was supposed to have been inspired by Prince Gortschakoff. The name standing against it in Messrs. Murray’s books, as they kindly inform me, is that of a writer still alive, and better known now than then, but they never heard that Kinglake had a hand in it; the editor would seem to have kept his secret even from the publishers. Kinglake sent the article in proof to the lady; hoped that the facts he had imparted and the interpolations he had inserted would please her; he could have made the attack on Russia more pointed had he written it; she would think the leniency shows a fault on the right side; he did not know the writer of this latter part. He begged her to acquaint her friends in Moscow what an important and majestic organ is The Quarterly, how weighty therefore its laudation of herself. She recalls his bringing her soon afterwards an article on her, written, he said, in an adoring tone by Laveleye in the Revue des Deux Mondes, and directing her to a paper in Fraser, by Miss Pauline Irby, a passionate lover of the “Slav ragamuffins,” and a worshipper of Madame Novikoff. He quotes with delight Chenery’s approbation of her Life of Skobeleff; he spoke of you “with a gleam of kindliness in his eyes which really and truly I had never observed before.” The Times quotes her as the “eloquent authoress of Russia and England”; “fancy that from your enemy! you are getting even The Times into your net.” A later article on O. K. contains some praise, but more abuse. Hayward is angry with it; Kinglake thinks it more friendly than could have been expected “to you, a friend of me, their old open enemy: the sugar-plums were meant for you, the sprinklings of soot for me.”
Besides Russia and England Madame Novikoff is the author of Friends or Foes? — is Russia wrong? and of a Life of Skobeleff, the hero of Plevna and of Geok Tepe. From her natural endowments and her long familiarity with Courts, she has acquired a capacity for combining, controlling, entertaining social “circles” which recalls les salons d’autrefois, the drawing-rooms of an Ancelot, a Le Brun, a Recamier. Residing in several European capitals, she surrounds herself in each with persons intellectually eminent; in England, where she has long spent her winters, Gladstone, Carlyle and Froude, Charles Villiers, Bernal Osborne, Sir Robert Morier, Lord Houghton, and many more of the same high type, formed her court and owned her influence.
Kinglake first met her at Lady Holland’s in 1870, and mutual liking ripened rapidly into close friendship. During her residences in England few days passed in which he did not present himself at her drawing-room in Claridge’s Hotel: when absent in Russia or on the Continent, she received from him weekly letters, though he used to complain that writing to a lady through the Poste Restante was like trying to kiss a nun through a double grating. These letters, all faithfully preserved, I have been privileged to see; they remind me, in their mixture of personal with narrative charm, of Swift’s Letters to Stella; except that Swift’s are often coarse and sometimes prurient, while Kinglake’s chivalrous admiration for his friend, though veiled occasionally by graceful banter, is always respectful and refined. They even imitate occasionally the “little language” of the great satirist; if Swift was Presto, Kinglake is “Poor dear me”; if Stella was M. D., Madame Novikoff is “My dear Miss.” This last endearment was due to an incident at a London dinner table. A story told by Hayward, seasoned as usual with gros sel, amused the more sophisticated English ladies present, but covered her with blushes. Kinglake perceived it, and said to her afterwards, “I thought you were a hardened married woman; I am glad that you are not; I shall henceforth call you Miss.” Sometimes he rushes into verse. In answer to some pretended rebuff received from her at Ryde he writes
There was a young lady of Ryde, so awfully puffed up by pride,
She felt grander by far than the Son of the Czar,
And when he said, ‘Dear, come and walk on the pier,
Oh please come and walk by my side;’
The answer he got, was ‘Much better not,’ from that awful young lady of Ryde.
Oftenest, the letters are serious in their admiring compliments; they speak of her superb organization of health and life and strength and joyousness, the delightful sunshine of her presence, her decision and strength of will, her great qualities and great opportunities: “away from you the world seems a blank.” He is glad that his Great Eltchi has been made known to her; the old statesman will be impressed, he feels sure, by her “intense life, graciousness and grace, intellect carefully masked, musical faculty in talk, with that heavenly power of coming to an end.”. He sends playfully affectionate messages from other members of the gerontaion, as he calls it, the group of aged admirers who formed her inner court; echoing their laments over the universality of her patronage. “Hayward can pardon your having an ambassador or two at your feet, but to find the way to your heart obstructed by a crowd of astronomers, Russ-expansionists, metaphysicians, theologians, translators, historians, poets; — this is more than he can endure. The crowd reduces him, as Ampere said to Mme. Recamier, to the qualified blessing of being only chez vous, from the delight of being avec vous.” He hails and notifies additions to the list of her admirers; quotes enthusiastic praise of her from Stansfeld and Charles Villiers, warm appreciation from Morier, Sir Robert Peel, Violet Fane. He rallies her on her victims, jests at Froude’s lover-like galanterie — “Poor St. Anthony! how he hovered round the flame”; — at the devotion of that gay Lothario, Tyndall, whose approaching marriage will, he thinks, clip his wings for flirtation. “It seems that at the Royal Institution, or whatever the place is called, young women look up to the Lecturers as priests of Science, and go to them after the lecture in what churchmen would call the vestry, and express charming little doubts about electricity, and pretty gentle disquietudes about the solar system: and then the Professors have to give explanations; — and then, somehow, at the end of a few weeks, they find they have provided themselves with chaperons for life.” So he pursues the list of devotees; her son will tell her that Caesar summarized his conquests in this country by saying veni, vidi, vici; but to her it is given to say, veni, videbar, vici.
On two subjects, theology and politics, Madame Novikoff was, as we have seen, passionately in earnest. Himself at once an amateur casuist and a consistent Nothingarian, whose dictum was that “Important if true” should be written over the doors of churches, he followed her religious arguments much as Lord Steyne listened to the contests between Father Mole and the Reverend Mr. Trail. He expresses his surprise in all seriousness that the Pharisees, a thoughtful and cultured set of men, who alone among the Jews believed in a future state, should have been the very men to whom our Saviour was habitually antagonistic. He refers more lightly and frequently to “those charming talks of ours about our Churches”; he thinks they both know how to effleurer the surface of theology without getting drowned in it. Of existing Churches he preferred the English, as “the most harmless going”; disliked the Latin Church, especially when intriguing in the East, as persecuting and as schismatic, and therefore as no Church at all. Roman Catholics, he said, have a special horror of being called “schismatic,” and that is, of course, a good reason for so calling them. He would not permit the use of the word “orthodox,” because, like a parson in the pulpit, it is always begging the question. He refused historical reverence to the Athanasian Creed, and was delighted when Stanley’s review in The Times of Mr. Ffoulkes’ learned book showed it to have been written by order of Charles the Great in 800 A.D. as what Thorold Rogers used to call “an election squib.” In the “Filioque” controversy, once dear to Liddon and to Gladstone, now, I suppose, obsolete for the English mind, but which relates to the chief dividing tenet of East from West, he showed an interest humorous rather than reverent; took pains to acquaint himself with the views held on it by Dollinger and the old Catholics; noted with amusement the perplexity of London ladies as to the meaning of the word when quoted in the much-read Quarterly article, declaring their belief to be that it was a clergyman’s baby born out of wedlock.
Madame Novikoff’s political influence, which he recognized to the full, he treated in the same mocking spirit. She is at Berlin, received by Bismarck; he hopes that though the great man may not eradicate her Slavophile heresies, he may manifest the weakness of embroiling nations on mere ethnological grounds. “Are even nearer relationships so delightful? would you walk across the street for a third or fourth cousin? then why for a millionth cousin?” Madame Novikoff kindly sends to me an “Imaginary Conversation” between herself and Gortschakoff, constructed by Kinglake during her stay in St. Petersburg in 1879.
“G. Well — you really have done good service to your country and your Czar by dividing and confusing these absurd English, and getting us out of the scrape we were in in that — Balkan Peninsula.
MISS O. Well, certainly I did my best; but I fear I have ruined the political reputation of my English partizans, for in order to make them ‘beloved of the Slav,’ I of course had to make them, poor souls! go against their own country; and their country, stupid as it is, has now I fear found them out.
G. Tant pis pour eux! Entre nous, if I had been Gladstone, I should have preferred the love of my own country to the love of these — Slavs of yours. But, tell me, how did you get hold of Gladstone?
MISS O. Rien de plus simple! Four or five years ago I asked what was his weak point, and was told that he had two, ‘Effervescence,’ and ‘Theology.’ With that knowledge I found it all child’s play to manage him. I just sent him to Munich, and there boiled him up in a weak decoction of ‘Filioque,’ then kept him ready for use, and impatiently awaited the moment when our plans for getting up the ‘Bulgarian atrocities’ should be mature. I say ‘impatiently,’ for, Heavens, how slow you all were! at least so it strikes a woman. The arrangement of the ‘atrocities’ was begun by our people in 1871, and yet till 1876, though I had Gladstone ready in 1875, nothing really was done! I assure you, Prince, it is a trying thing to a woman to be kept waiting for promised atrocities such an unconscionable time.
G. That brother-in-law of yours was partly the cause of our slowness. He was always wanting to have the orders for fire and blood in neat formal despatches, signed by me, and copied by clerks. However, I hope you are satisfied now, with the butcheries and the flames, and the — ?
MISS O. Pour le moment!”
She is absent during the sudden dissolution of Parliament in 1874. “London woke yesterday morning and found that your friend Gladstone had made a coup d’état. He has dissolved Parliament at a moment when no human being expected it, and my impression is that he has made a good hit, and that the renovated Parliament will give him a great majority.” The impression was wildly wrong; and he found a cause for the Conservative majority in Gladstone’s tame foreign policy, and especially in the pusillanimity his government showed when insulted by Gortschakoff. He always does justice to her influence with Gladstone; his great majority at the polls in 1880 is her victory and her triumph; but his Turkophobia is no less her creation: “England is stricken with incapacity because you have stirred up the seething caldron that boils under Gladstone’s skull, putting in diabolical charms and poisons of theology to overturn the structure of English polity:” she will be able, he thinks, to tell her government that Gladstone is doing his best to break up the British Empire.
He quotes with approbation the newspaper comparison of her to the Princess Lieven. She disparages the famous ambassadress; he sets her right. Let her read the Correspondence, by his friend Mr. Guy Le Strange, and she will see how large a part the Princess played in keeping England quiet during the war of 1828-29. She did not convert her austere admirer, Lord Grey, to approval of the Russian designs, nor overcome the uneasiness with which the Duke of Wellington regarded her intrigues; but the Foreign Minister, Lord Aberdeen, was apparently a fool in her hands; and, whoever had the merit, the neutrality of England continued. That was, he repeats more than once, a most critical time for Russia; it was an object almost of life and death to the Czar to keep England dawdling in a state of actual though not avowed neutrality. It is, he argued, a matter of fact, that precisely this result was attained, and “I shall be slow to believe that Madame de Lieven did not deserve a great share of the glory (as you would think it) of making England act weakly under such circumstances; more especially since we know that the Duke did not like the great lady, and may be supposed to have distinctly traced his painful embarrassment to her power.” So the letters go, interspersed with news, with criticisms of notable persons, with comments enlightening or cynical on passing political events: with personal matters only now and then; as when he notes the loss of his two sisters; dwells with unwonted feeling on the death of his eldest nephew by consumption; condoles with her on her husband’s illness; gives council, wise or playful, as to the education of her son. “I am glad to hear that he is good at Greek, Latin, and Mathematics, for that shows his cleverness; glad also to hear that he is occasionally naughty, for that shows his force. I advise you to claim and exercise as much control as possible, because I am certain that a woman — especially so gifted a one as you — knows more, or rather feels more, about the right way of bringing up a boy than any mere man.”
Unbrokenly the correspondence continues: the intimacy added charm, interest, fragrance to his life, brought out in him all that was genial, playful, humorous. He fights the admonitions of coming weakness; goes to Sidmouth with a sore throat, but takes his papers and his books. It is, he says, a deserted little sea-coast place. “Mrs. Grundy has a small house there, but she does not know me by sight. If Madame Novikoff were to come, the astonished little town, dazzled first by her, would find itself invaded by theologians, bishops, ambassadors of deceased emperors, and an ex-Prime-Minister.” But as time goes on he speaks more often of his suffering throat; of gout, increasing deafness, only half a voice: his last letter is written in July, 1890, to condole with his friend upon her husband’s death. In October his nurse takes the pen; Madame Novikoff comes back hurriedly from Scotland to find him in his last illness. “It is very nice,” he told his nurse, “to see dear Madame Novikoff again, but I am going down hill fast, and cannot hope to be well enough to see much of her.” This is in November, 1890; on New Year’s Eve came the inexorable, “Terminator of delights and Separator of friends.”
For twenty years Kinglake lived in Hyde Park Place, in bright cheerful rooms looking in one direction across the Park, but on another side into a churchyard. The churchyard, Lady Gregory tells us, gave him pause on first seeing the rooms. “I should not like to live here, I should be afraid of ghosts.” “Oh no, sir, there is always a policeman round the corner.” 24 “Pleaceman X.” has not, perhaps, before been revered as the Shade-compelling son of Maia:
Tu pias laetis animas reponis
Sedibus, Virgaque levem coerces
Here he worked through the morning; the afternoon took him to the “Travellers,” where his friends, Sir Henry Bunbury and Mr. Chenery, usually expected him; then at eight o’clock, if not, as Shylock says, bid forth, he went to dine at the Athenaeum. His dinner seat was in the left-hand corner of the coffee-room, where, in the thirties, Theodore Hook had been wont to sit, gathering near him so many listeners to his talk, that at Hook’s death in 1841 the receipts for the club dinners fell off to a large amount. Here, in the “Corner,” as they called it, round Kinglake would be Hayward, Drummond Wolff, Massey, Oliphant, Edward Twisleton, Strzelecki, Storks, Venables, Wyke, Bunbury, Gregory, American Ticknor, and a few more; Sir W. Stirling Maxwell, when in Scotland, sending hampers of pheasants to the company. “Hurried to the Athenaeum for dinner,” says Ticknor in 1857, “and there found Kinglake and Sir Henry Rawlinson, to whom were soon added Hayward and Stirling. We pushed our tables together and had a jolly dinner. . . . To the Athenaeum; and having dined pleasantly with Merivale, Kinglake, and Stirling, I hurried off to the House.” In later years, when his voice grew low and his hearing difficult, he preferred that the diners should resolve themselves into little groups, assigning to himself a tête-à-tête, with whom at his ease he could unfold himself.
No man ever fought more gallantly the encroachments of old age — on sut être jeune jusque dans ses vieux jours. At seventy-four years old, staying with a friend at Brighton, he insisted on riding over to Rottingdean, where Sir Frederick Pollock was staying. “I mastered,” he said, in answer to remonstrances, “I mastered the peculiarities of the Brighton screw before you were born, and have never forgotten them.” Vaulting into his saddle he rode off, returning with a schoolboy’s delight at the brisk trot he had found practicable when once clear of the King’s Road. Long after his hearing had failed, his sight become grievously weakened, and his limbs not always trustworthy, he would never allow a cab to be summoned for him after dinner, always walking to his lodgings. But he had to give up by and by his daily canter in Rotten Row, and more reluctantly still his continental travel. Foreign railways were closed to him by the salle d’attente; he could not stand incarceration in the waiting-rooms.
The last time he crossed the Channel was at the close of the Franco-Prussian war, on a visit to his old friend M. Thiers, then President. It was a dinner to deputies of the Extreme Left, and Kinglake was the only Englishman; “so,” he said, “among the servants there was a sort of reasoning process as to my identity, ending in the conclusion, ‘Il doit être Sir Dilke.’ ” Soon the inference was treated as a fact; and in due sequence came newspaper paragraphs declaring that the British Ambassador had gravely remonstrated with the President for inviting Sir Charles Dilke to his table. Then followed articles defending the course taken by the President, and so for some time the ball was kept up. The remonstrance of the Ambassador was a myth, Lord Lyons was a friend of Sir Charles; but the latter was suspect at the time both in England and France; in England for his speeches and motion on the Civil List; in France, because, with Frederic Harrison, he had helped to get some of the French Communists away from France; and the French Government was watching him with spies. In Sir Charles’s motion Kinglake took much interest, refusing to join in the cry against it as disloyal. Sir Charles, he said, spoke no word against the Queen; and only brought the matter before the House because challenged to repeat in Parliament the statements he had made in the country. As a matter of policy he thought it mistaken: “Move in such a matter openly, and party discipline compels your defeat; bring pressure to bear on a Cabinet, some of its members are on your side, and you may gain your point.” Sir Charles’s speech was calmly argumentative, and to many minds convincing; it provoked a passionate reply from Gladstone; and when Mr. Auberon Herbert following declared himself a Republican, a tumult arose such as in those pre-Milesian days had rarely been witnessed in the House. But the wisdom of Kinglake’s counsel is sustained by the fact that many years afterwards, as a result of more private discussion, Mr. Gladstone pronounced his conversion to the two bases of the motion, publicity, and the giving of the State allowance to the head of the family rather than, person by person, to the children and grandchildren of the Sovereign. Action pointing in this direction was taken in 1889 and 1901 on the advice of Tory ministers.
Amongst Frenchmen of the highest class, intellectually and socially, he had many valued friends, keeping his name on the “Cosmopolitan” long after he had ceased to visit it, since “one never knows when the distinguished foreigner may come upon one, and of such the Cosmo is the London Paradise.” But he used to say that in the other world a good Frenchman becomes an Englishman, a bad Englishman becomes a Frenchman. He saw in the typical Gaul a compound of the tiger and the monkey; noted their want of individuality, their tendency to go in flocks, their susceptibility to panic and to ferocity, to the terror that makes a man kill people, and “the terror that makes him lie down and beg.” We remember, too, his dissection of St. Arnaud, as before all things a type of his nation; “he impersonated with singular exactness the idea which our forefathers had in their minds when they spoke of what they called ‘a Frenchman;’ for although (by cowing the rich and by filling the poor with envy), the great French Revolution had thrown a lasting gloom on the national character, it left this one man untouched. He was bold, gay, reckless, vain; but beneath the mere glitter of the surface there was a great capacity for administrative business, and a more than common willingness to take away human life.”
“I relish,” Kinglake said in 1871, “the spectacle of Bismarck teaching the A B C of Liberal politics to the hapless French. His last mot, they tell me, is this. Speaking of the extent to which the French Emperor had destroyed his own reputation and put an end to the worship of the old Napoleon, he said: ‘He has killed himself and buried his uncle.’ ” Again, in 1874, noting the contre coup upon France resulting from the Bismarck and Arnim despatches, he said: “What puzzles the poor dear French is to see that truth and intrepid frankness consist with sound policy and consummate wisdom. How funny it would be, if the French some day, as a novelty, or what they would call a caprice, were to try the effect of truth; ‘though not naturally honest,’ as Autolycus says, were to become so by chance.”
He thought M. Gallifet dans sa logique in liking the Germans and hating Bismarck; for the Germans, in having their own way, would break up into as many fragments as the best Frenchman could desire, and Bismarck is the real suppressor of France. Throughout the Franco-Prussian war he sided strongly with the Prussians, refusing to dine in houses where the prevailing sympathy with France would make him unwelcome as its declared opponent; but he felt “as a nightmare” the attack on prostrate Paris, “as a blow” the capitulation of Metz; denouncing Gambetta and his colleagues as meeting their disasters only with slanderous shrieks, “possessed by the spirit of that awful Popish woman.” Bismarck as a statesman he consistently admired, and deplored his dismissal. I see, he said, all the peril implied by Bismarck’s exit, and the advent of his ambitious young Emperor. It is a transition from the known to the unknown, from wisdom, perhaps, to folly.
His Crimean volumes continued to appear; in 1875, 1880, finally in 1887; while the Cabinet Edition was published in 1887-8. This last contained three new Prefaces; in Vol. I. as we have seen, the memorial of Nicholas Kireeff; in Vol. II. the latter half of the original Preface to Vol. I., cancelled thence at Madame Novikoff’s request, though now carefully modified so as to avoid anything which might irritate Russia at a moment when troubles seemed to be clearing away. In his Preface to Vol. VII. he had three objects, to set right the position of Sir E. Hamley, who had been neglected in the despatches; to demolish his friend Lord Bury, who had “questioned my omniscience” in the Edinburgh Review; and to exonerate England at large from absurd self-congratulations about the “little Egypt affair,” the blame of such exaggeration resting with those whom he called State Showmen.
Silent to acquaintances about the progress of his work, he was communicative to his few intimates, though never reading aloud extracts or allowing them to be seen. In 1872 he would speak pathetically of his “Crimean muddle,” perplexed, as he well might be, by the intricacies of Inkerman. Asked if he will not introduce a Te Deum on the fall of Louis Napoleon, he answered that to write without the stimulus of combat would be a task beyond his energy; “when I took the trouble to compose that fourteenth chapter, the wretched Emperor and his gang were at the height of their power in Europe and the world; but now!” He was insatiate as to fresh facts: utilized his acquaintance with Todleben, whom he had first met on his visit to England in 1864; sought out Prince Ourusoff at a later time, and inserted particulars gleaned from him in Vol. IX., Chapter V.
In 1875 he told Madame Novikoff that his task was done so far as Inkerman was concerned, and was proud to think that he had rescued from oblivion the heroism of the Russian troops in what he calls the “Third Period” of the great fight, ignored as it was by all Russian historians of the war. He made fruitless inquiries after a paper said to have been left behind him by Skobeleff, explaining that “India is a cherry to be eaten by Russia, but in two bites”; it was contrary to the general’s recorded utterances and probably apocryphal. Russophobe as regarded Turkey, he sneered at England’s sentimental support of nationalities as “Platonic”: a capital epithet he called it, and envied the Frenchman who applied it to us, declaring that it had turned all the women against us. He was moved by receiving Korniloff’s portrait with a kind message from the dead hero’s family, seeing in the features a confirmation of the ideal which he had formed in his own mind and had tried to convey to others. Readers of his book will recall the fine tribute to Korniloff’s powers, and the description of his death, in Chapters VI. and XIII. of Vol. IV. (Cabinet Edition).
Many of his comments on current events are preserved in the notes or in the memories of his friends. Sometimes these were characteristically cynical. He ridiculed the newspaper parade of national sympathy with the Prince of Wales’s illness: “We are represented as all members of the royal family, and all in family hysterics.” Dizzy’s orientalization of Queen Victoria into an Empress angered him, as it angered many more. The last Empress Regnant, he said, was Catherine II. and it seems to be thought that by advising the Queen to take that great monarch’s title, we shall exercise a wholesome influence on the morals of our women. He would quote Byron’s
Russia’s mighty Empress
Behaved no better than a common sempstress;
“there was an old-fashioned sacredness, which, however foolish intrinsically, was still useful, in our title of ‘The Queen’; nor do we see the policy of adding a supreme de volaille to the bread and wine of our Sacrament.”
He chuckled over the indignation of the haute volee, when on the visit to England of President Grant’s daughter in 1872, Americans in London sent out cards of invitation headed “To meet Miss Grant,” as at a profane imitation of a practice hitherto confined to royalties; laughing not at the legitimate American mimicry of European consequence, but at the silly formalists in Society who fumed over the imagined presumption. Consulted by an invalid as to the charm of Ostend for a seaside residence, he limited it to persons of gregarious habits; “the people are all driven down to the beach like a flock of sheep in the morning, and in the evening they are all driven back to their folds.” He reported a feeble drama written by his ancient idol, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe; “it is a painful thing to see a man of his quality and of his age unduly detained in the world; when the Emperor Nicholas died, the Eltchi lost his raison d’être.” He disparaged the wild fit of morality undergone by the Pall Mall Gazette during the scandalous “Maiden Tribute” revelation, pronouncing its protegées to be “clever little devils.” He was greatly startled by Gortschakoff’s famous circular, annulling the Black Sea clause in the Treaty of Paris, and much relieved by Bismarck’s dexterous interposition, which saved the susceptibility of Europe, and especially of England, by yielding as a favour to the demand of Russia what no one was in a position to refuse; but he maintained, and Lord Stratford agreed with him, that Gortschakoff’s precipitate act was governed by circumstances never revealed to mankind. He learned, too, that it caused the Chancellor to be deconsideré; in high Russian circles; he was called “un Narcisse qui se mire dans son encrier.” Kinglake used to say that in conceding the right of the Sultan to exclude any war-flag from the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, Russia was treating Turkey as a bag-fox, to be gently hunted occasionally, but not mangled or killed; and he felt keenly the ridicule resting on the allies, who were compelled to surrender the neutralization purchased at the cost of so much blood and treasure. He watched with much amusement the restoration of Turkish self-confidence. “Turkey believes that he is no longer a sick man, and is turning all his doctors out of the house, to the immense astonishment of the English doctor, so conscious of his own rectitude that he cannot understand being sent off with the quacks. You know in our beautiful Liturgy we have a prayer for the Turks; it looks as if our supplications had become successful.” His interest in Turkey never flagged. “I am in a great fright,” he said in 1877, “about my dear Turks, because Russia gives virtual command of the army before Plevna to Todleben, a really great homme de guerre.”
Russophobia was at that time so strong in London that Madame Novikoff hesitated to visit England, and he himself feared that she might find it uncomfortable. Her alarm, however, was ridiculed by Hayward, “most faithful of the Russianisers, ready to do battle for Russia at any moment, declaring her to be quite virtuous, with no fault but that of being incomprisé.” But he groaned over the humiliation of England under Russia’s bold stroke, noting frequently a decay of English character which he ascribed to chronic causes. The Englishman taken separately, he said, seems much the same as he used to be; but there is a softening of the aggregate brain which affects Englishmen when acting together. He hailed the great Liberal victory of 1880, and watched with interest, as one behind the scenes, the negotiations which led to Lord Hartington’s withdrawal and Mr. Gladstone’s resumption of power; for in these his friend Hayward was an active go-between, removing by his tact and frankness “hitches” which might otherwise have been disastrous. He thought W. E. Forster’s attack on Mr. Gladstone’s Irish policy in 1882 ill-managed for his own position, his famous speech not sufficiently “clenching.” Had he separated from his chief on broader grounds, refusing complicity with a Minister who consented to parley with the imprisoned Irishmen, he would, Kinglake thought, have occupied a highly commanding position. At present his difference from his colleagues was one only of degree.
He was once beguiled, amongst friends very intimate, into telling a dream. He dreamed that he was attending an anatomical lecture — which, as a fact, he had never done — and that his own body, from which he found himself entirely separated, was the dissected subject on which the lecturer discoursed. The body lay on a table beside the lecturer, but he himself, his entity, was at the other end of the room, on the furthest or highest of a set of benches raised one above the other as at a theatre. He imagined himself in a vague way to be disagreeing with the lecturer; but the strongest impression on his mind was annoyance at being so badly placed, so far from the professor and from his own body that he could not see or hear without an effort. The dream, he pointed out, showed this curious fact, that without any conscious design or effort of the will a man may conceive himself to be in perfect possession of his identity, whilst separated from his own body by a distance of several feet. “The highest concept,” said Jowett, “which man forms of himself is as detached from the body.” (Life, ii. 241.) The lecture-room which he imagined was one of the lower school-rooms at Eton, with which he had been familiar in early days.
After Hayward’s death in 1884, his own habits began to change. He still dined at the Athenaeum “corner,” but increasing deafness began to make society irksome, and, his solitary meal ended, he spent his evenings reading in the Library. By-and-by that too became impossible. His voice grew weak, throat and tongue were threatened with disease. In 1888 he went to Brighton with a nurse, returned to rooms on Richmond Hill, then to Bayswater Terrace. An operation was performed and he seemed to recover, but relapsed. Old friends tended him: Madame Novikoff, Mr. Froude and Mr. Lecky, Madame de Quaire and Mrs. Brookfield, Lord Mexborough his ancient fellow-traveller, Mrs. Craven, Sir William and Lady Gregory, with a few more, cheered him by their visits so long as he was able to bear them; and his brother and sister, Dr. and Mrs. Hamilton Kinglake, were with him at the end. Patient to the last, kind and gentle to all about him, he passed away quietly on New Year’s Day, 1891:
Shook hands with flesh and blood, and so departed.
His remains were cremated at Woking, after a special service at Christchurch, Lancaster Gate, attended by Dr. and Mrs. Kinglake with their son Captain Kinglake, the Duke of Bedford, Mr. and Mrs. Lecky, Mrs. W. H. Brookfield and her son Charles.
No good portrait of him has been published. That prefixed to Blackwood’s Eothen of 1896 was furnished by Dr. Kinglake, who, however, looked upon it as unsatisfactory. The “Not an M.P.” of Vanity Fair, 1872, is a grotesque caricature. The photograph here reproduced (p. 128), by far the best likeness extant, he gave to Madame Novikoff in 1870, receiving hers in return, but pronouncing the transaction “an exchange between the personified months of May and November.” The face gives expression to the shy aloofness which, amongst strangers, was characteristic of him through life. He had even a horror of hearing his name pealed out by servants, and came early to parties that the proclamation might be achieved before as few auditors as possible. Visiting the newly married husband of his friend Adelaide Kemble, and being the first guest to arrive, he encountered in Mr. Sartoris a host as contentedly undemonstrative as himself. Bows passed, a seat by the fire was indicated, he sat down, and the pair contemplated one another for ten minutes in absolute silence, till the lady of the house came in, like the prince in “The Sleeping Beauty,” though not by the same process, to break the charm. He gave up calling at a house where he was warmly appreciated, because father, mother, daughter, bombarded him with questions. “I never came away without feeling sure that I had in some way perjured myself.”
On his shyness waited swiftly ensuing boredom; if his neighbour at table were garrulous or banale, his face at once betrayed conversational prostration; a lady who often watched him used to say that his pulse ought to be felt after the first course; and that if it showed languor he should be moved to the side of some other partner. “He had great charm,” writes to me another old friend, “in a quiet winning way, but was ‘dark’ with rough and noisy people.” So it came to pass that his manner was threefold; icy and repellent with those who set his nerves on edge; good-humoured, receptive, intermittently responsive in general and congenial company; while, at ease with friends trusted and beloved, the lines of the face became gracious, indulgent, affectionate, the sourire des yeux often inexpressibly winning and tender. “Kinglake,” says Eliot Warburton in his unpublished diary, “talked to us to-day about his travels; pessimistic and cynical to the rest of the world, he is always gentle and kind to us.” To this dear friend he was ever faithful, wearing to the day of his death an octagonal gold ring engraved “Eliot. Jan: 1852.” He would never play the raconteur in general company, for he had a great horror of repeating himself, and, latterly, of being looked upon as a bore by younger men; but he loved to pour out reminiscences of the past to an audience of one or two at most: “Let an old man gather his recollections and glance at them under the right angle, and his life is full of pantomime transformation scenes.” The chief characteristic of his wit was its unexpectedness; sometimes acrid, sometimes humorous, his sayings came forth, like Topham Beauclerk’s in Dr. Johnson’s day, like Talleyrand’s in our own, poignant without effort. His calm, gentle voice, contrasted with his startling caustic utterance, reminded people of Prosper Merimee: terse epigram, felicitous apropos, whimsical presentment of the topic under discussion, emitted in a low tone, and without the slightest change of muscle:
All the charm of all the Muses
Often flowering in a lonely word.25
Questions he would suavely and often wittily parry or repel: to an unhistorical lady asking if he remembered Madame Du Barry, he said, “my memory is very imperfect as to the particulars of my life during the reign of Lous XV. and the Regency; but I know a lady who has a teapot which belonged, she says, to Madame Du Barry.” Madame Novikoff, however, records his discomfiture at the query of a certain Lady E——, who, when all London was ringing with his first Crimean volumes, asked him if he were not an admirer of Louis Napoleon. “Le pauvre Kinglake, décontenance, répondit tout bas intimide comme un enfant qu’on met dans le coin: oui — non — pas précisement.”
He had no knowledge of or liking for music. Present once by some mischance at a matinée musicale, he was asked by the hostess what kind of music he preferred. His preference, he owned, was for the drum. One thinks of the “Bourgeois Gentilhomme,” “La trompette marine est un instrument qui me plait, el qui est harmonieux”; we are reminded, too, of Dean Stanley, who, absolutely tone-deaf, and hurrying away whenever music was performed, once from an adjoining room in his father’s house heard Jenny Lind sing “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” He went to her shyly, and told her that she had given him an idea of what people mean by music. Once before, he said in all seriousness, the same feeling had come over him, when before the palace at Vienna he had heard a tattoo rendered by four hundred drummers.
Kinglake used to regret the disuse of duelling, as having impaired the higher tone of good breeding current in his younger days, and even blamed the Duke of Wellington for proscribing it in the army. He had himself on one occasion sent a cartel, and stood waiting for his adversary, like Sir Richard Strachan at Walcheren, eight days on the French coast; but the adversary never came. Hayward once referred to him, as a counsellor, and if necessary a second, a quarrel with Lord R——. Lord R——’s friend called on him, a Norfolk squire, “broad-faced and breathing port wine,” after the fashion of uncle Phillips in Pride and Prejudice, who began in a boisterous voice, “I am one of those, Mr. Kinglake, who believe R—— to be a gentleman.” In his iciest tones and stoniest manner Kinglake answered: “That, Sir, I am quite willing to assume.” The effect, he used to say, as he told and acted the scene, was magical; “I had frozen him sober, and we settled everything without a fight.” Of all his friends Hayward was probably the closest; an association of discrepancies in character, manner, temperament, not complementary, but opposed and hostile; irreconcilable, one would say, but for the knowledge that in love and friendship paradox reigns supreme. Hayward was arrogant, overbearing, loud, insistent, full of strange oaths and often unpardonably coarse; “our dominant friend,” Kinglake called him; “odious” is the epithet I have heard commonly bestowed upon him by less affectionate acquaintances. Kinglake was reserved, shy, reticent, with the high breeding, grand manner, quiet urbanity, grata protervitas, of a waning epoch; restraint, concentration, tact of omission, dictating alike his silence and his speech; his well-weighed words “crystallizing into epigrams as they touched the air.” 26 When Hayward’s last illness came upon him in 1884, Kinglake nursed him tenderly; spending the morning in his friend’s lodgings at 8, St. James’s Street, the house which Byron occupied in his early London days; and bringing on the latest bulletin to the club. The patient rambled towards the end; “we ought to be getting ready to catch the train that we may go to my sister’s at Lyme.” Kinglake quieted his sick friend by an assurance that the servants, whom he would not wish to hurry, were packing. “On no account hurry the servants, but still let us be off.” The last thought which he articulated while dying was, “I don’t exactly know what it is, but I feel it is something grand.” “Hayward is dead,” Kinglake wrote to a common friend; “the devotion shown to him by all sorts and conditions of men, and, what is better, of women, was unbounded. Gladstone found time to be with him, and to engage him in a conversation of singular interest, of which he has made a memorandum.”
Another of Kinglake’s life-long familiars was Charles Skirrow, Taxing Master in Chancery, with his accomplished wife, from whose memorable fish dinners at Greenwich he was seldom absent, adapting himself no less readily to their theatrical friends — the Bancrofts, Burnand, Toole, Irving — than to the literary set with which he was more habitually at home. He was religiously loyal to his friends, speaking of them with generous admiration, eagerly defending them when attacked. He lauded Butler Johnstone as the most gifted of the young men in the House of Commons; would not allow Bernal Osborne to be called untrue; “he offends people if you like, but he is never false or hollow.” A clever sobriquet fathered on him, burlesquing the monosyllabic names of a well-known diarist and official, he repelled indignantly. “He is my friend, and had I been guilty of the jeu, I should have broken two of my commandments; that which forbids my joking at a friend’s expense, and that which forbids my fashioning a play upon words.” He entreated Madame Novikoff to visit and cheer Charles Lever, dying at Trieste; deeply lamented Sir H. Bulwer’s death: “I used to think his a beautiful intellect, and he was wonderfully simpatico to me.” But he was shy of condoling with bereaved mourners, believing words used on such occasions to be utterly untrue. He loved to include husband and wife in the same meed of admiration, as in the case of Dean Stanley and Lady Augusta, or of Sir Robert and Lady Emily Peel. Peel, he said, has the radiant quality not easy to describe; Lady Emily is always beauteous, bright, attractive. Lord Stanhope he praised as a historian, paying him the equivocal compliment that his books were much better than his conversation. So, too, he qualified his admiration of Lady Ashburton, dwelling on her beauty, silver voice, ready enthusiasm apt to disperse itself by flying at too many objects.
He was wont to speak admiringly of Lord Acton, relating how, a Roman Catholic, yet respecting enlightenment and devoted to books, he once set up and edited a Quarterly Review, with a notion of reconciling the Light and the Dark as well as he could; but the “Prince of Darkness, the Pope,” interposed, and ordered him to stop the Review. He was compelled to obey; not, he told people, on any religious ground, but because relations and others would have made his life a bore to him if he had been contumacious against the Holy Father.
Kinglake was strongly attracted by W. E. Forster, a “rough diamond,” spoken of at one time as a possible Prime Minister. Beginning life, he said, as a Quaker, with narrow opinions, his vigour of character and brain-power shook them off. Powerful, robust, and perfectly honest, yet his honesty inflicted on him a doubleness of view which caused him to be described as engaging his two hands in two different pursuits. His estimate of Sir R. Morier would have gladdened Jowett’s heart; he loved him as a private friend; eulogized his public qualities; rejoiced over his appointment as Ambassador at St. Petersburg, seeing in him a diplomatist with not only a keen intellect and large views, but vibrating with the warmth, animation, friendliness, that are charmingly undiplomatic. Of Carlyle, his life-long, though not always congenial intimate, he used to speak as having great graphic power, but being essentially a humourist; a man who, with those he could trust, never pretended to be in earnest, but used to roar with glorious laughter over the fun of his own jeremiads; “so far from being a prophet he is a bad Scotch joker, and knows himself to be a wind-bag.” He blamed Froude’s revelations of Carlyle in The Reminiscences, as injurious and offensive. Froude himself he often likened to Carlyle; the thoughts of both, he said, ran in the same direction, but of the two, Froude was by far the more intellectual man.
Staunch friend to the few, polite, though never effusive, to the many, he also nourished strong antipathies. The appearance in Madame Novikoff’s rooms of a certain Scotch bishop invariably drove him out of them, “Peter Paul, Bishop of Claridge’s,” he called him. To Von Beust (the Austrian Chancellor), who spoke English in a rapid half-intelligible falsetto, he gave the name of Mirliton (penny trumpet). His allusions to Mirliton and to the Bishop frequently mystified Madame Novikoff’s guests. For he loved to talk in cypher. Canon Warburton, kindly searching on my behalf his brother Eliot’s journals, tells me that he and Kinglake, meeting almost daily, lived in a cryptic world of jokes, confidences, colloquialisms, inexplicable to all but their two selves.
He cordially disliked The Times newspaper, alleging instances of the unfairness with which its columns had been used to spite and injure persons who had offended it, chuckling over Hayward’s compact anathema, — “The Times, which as usual of late supplied its lack of argument and proof by assumption, misrepresentation, and personality.” He thought that its attacks upon himself had helped his popularity. “One of the main causes,” he said in 1875, “of the interest which people here were good enough to take in my book was the fight between The Times and me. In 1863 it raged, in 1867 it was renewed with great violence, and now I suppose the flame kindles once more, though probably with diminished strength. In 1863 the storm of opinion generally waxed fierce against me, but now, as I hear, The Times is alone, journals of all politics being loud in my praise. But I never look at any comment on my volumes till long afterwards, and I never in my life wrote to a newspaper.” Once, when Chenery, the editor, came to join the table at the Athenaeum where he and Mr. Cartwright were dining, Kinglake rose, and removed to another part of the room. The Times had inserted a statement that Madame Novikoff was ordered to leave England, and he thus publicly resented it. “So unlike me,” he said, relating the story, “but somehow a savagery as of youth came over me in my ancient days; it was like being twenty years old again.” It came out, however, that “our indiscreet friend Froude” had written something which justified the paragraph, and Kinglake sent his amende to Chenery, with whom ordinarily he was on most friendly terms.
He disliked Irishmen “in the lump,” saying that human nature is the same everywhere except in Ireland. Parnell he personally admired, though hating Home Rule; and stigmatized as gross hypocrisy the desertion of him by Liberals after the divorce trial. He was wont to speak irreverently of Lord Beaconsfield, whom he had known well at Lady Blessington’s in early days. He would have found himself in accord with Huxley, who used to thank God, his friend Mr. Fiske tells us, that he had never bowed the knee either to Louis Napoleon or Benjamin Disraeli. He poured scorn on the Treaty of Berlin. Russia, he said, defeating the Turks in war, has defeated Beaconsfield in diplomacy. If Englishmen understood such things they would see that the Congress was a comedy; anyone who will satisfy himself as to what Russia was really anxious to obtain, and then look at the Salisbury-Schouvaloff treaty, will see that, thanks to Beaconsfield’s imbecility, Schouvaloff obtained one of the most signal diplomatic triumphs that was ever won. 27 A sound entente between Russia and England he thought both possible and desirable; but conceived it to be rendered difficult by the want of steadiness and capacity which, for international purposes, were the real faults of Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury. He repeated with much amusement the current anecdote of Lord Beaconsfield’s conquest of Mrs. Gladstone. Meeting her in society, he was said to have inquired with tenderness after Mr. Gladstone’s health, and then after receiving the loving wife’s report of her William, to have rejoined in his most dulcet tones, “Ah! take care of him, for he is very very precious.” He always attributed Dizzy’s popularity to the feeling of Englishmen that he had “shown them sport,” an instinct, he thought, supreme in all departments of the English mind.
Towards his old schoolfellow Gladstone he never felt quite cordially, believing, rightly or wrongly, that the great statesman nourished enmity towards himself. He called him, as has been said, “a good man in the worst sense of the term, conscientious with a diseased conscience.” He watched with much amusement, as illustrating the moral twist in Gladstone’s temperament, the “Colliery explosion,” as it was called, when Sir R. Collier, the Attorney-General, was appointed to a Puisne Judgeship, which he held only for a day or two, in order to qualify him for a seat on a new Court of Appeal; together with a very similar trick, by which Ewelme Rectory, tenable only by an Oxonian, was given to a Cambridge man. The responsibility was divided between Gladstone and Lord Hatherley the Chancellor, with the mutual idea apparently that each of the two became thereby individually innocent. But Sir F. Pollock, in his amusing Reminiscences, recalls the amicable halving of a wicked word between the Abbess of Andouillet and the Novice Margarita in Tristram Shandy. It answered in neither case. “ ‘They do not understand us,’ cried Margarita. ‘But the Devil does,’ said the Abbess of Andouillet.” The Collier scandal narrowly escaped by two votes in the Lords, twenty-seven in the Commons, a Parliamentary vote of censure, and gave unquestionably a downward push to the Gladstone Administration. Mr. Gladstone, on the other hand, cordially admired Kinglake’s speeches, saying that few of those he had heard in Parliament could bear so well as his the test of publication.
To the great Prime Minister’s absolute fearlessness he did full justice, as one of the finest features in his character; and loved to quote an epigram by Lord Houghton, to whom Gladstone had complained in a moment of weariness that he led the life of a dog. “Yes,” said Houghton, “but of a St. Bernard dog, ever busied in saving life.” He loved to contrast the twofold biographical paradox in the careers of the two famous rivals, Gladstone and Disraeli; the dreaming Tory mystic, incarnation of Oxford exclusiveness and Puseyite reserve, passing into the Radical iconoclast; the Jew clerk in a city lawyer’s office, “bad specimen of an inferior dandy,” coming to rule the proudest aristocracy and lead the most fastidious assembly in the world.
He was not above broad farce when the fancy seized him. At the time when a certain kind of nonsense verse was popular, he, with Sir Noel Paton and others, added not a few facetious sonnets to Edward Lear’s book, which lay on Madame Novikoff’s table. His authorship is betrayed by the introduction of familiar Somersetshire names, Taunton, Wellington, Curry Rivel, Creech, Trull, Wilton:
There was a young lady of Wilton,
Who read all the poems of Milton:
And, when she had done,
She said, ‘What bad fun!’
This prosaic young lady of Wilton.
There were many more, but this will perhaps suffice; ex ungue leonem. They were addressed to the “Fair Lady of Claridge’s,” Madame Novikoff’s hotel when in London, and were signed “Peter Paul, Bishop of Claridge’s.”
There is a fair lady at Claridge’s,
Whose smile is more charming to me,
Than the rapture of ninety-nine marriages
Could possibly, possibly, be; —
is the final dedicatory stanza. It is the gracious fooling of a philosopher who understood his company. “There are folks,” says Mr. Counsellor Pleydell, “before whom a man should take care how he plays the fool, because they have either too much malice or too little wit.” Kinglake knew his associates, and was not ashamed desipere in loco, to frolic in their presence.
One point there was on which he never touched himself or suffered others to interrogate him, his conception of and attitude towards the Unseen. He wore his religion as Sir William Gull wore the fur of his coat, inside. Outwardly he died as he had lived, a Stoic; that on the most personal and sacred of all topics he should consult the Silences was in keeping with his idiosyncrasy. Another famous man, questioned as to his religious creed, made answer that he believed what all wise men believe. And what do all wise men believe? “That all wise men keep to themselves?”
(1) When Heartsease first appeared, Percy Fotheringham was believed to be a portrait; but the accomplished authoress in a letter written not long before her death told me that the character was wholly imaginary.
(3) Eothen, p. 33. Reading Timbuctoo to-day one is amazed it should have gained the prize. Two short passages adumbrate the coming Tennyson, the rest is mystic nonsense. “What do you think of Tennyson’s prize poem?” writes Charles Wordsworth to his brother Christopher. “Had it been sent up at Oxford, the author would have had a better chance of spending a few months at a lunatic asylum than of obtaining the Prize.” A current Cambridge story at the time explained the selection. There were three examiners, the Vice-Chancellor, a man of arbitrary temper, with whom his juniors hesitated to disagree; a classical professor unversed in English Literature; a mathematical professor indifferent to all literature. The letter G was to signify approval, the letter B to brand it with rejection. Tennyson’s manuscript came from the Vice-Chancellor scored all over with G’s. The classical professor failed to see its merit, but bowed to the Vice-Chancellor, and added his G. The mathematical professor could not admire, but since both his colleagues ordained it, good it must be, and his G made the award unanimous. The three met soon after, and the Vice-Chancellor, in his blatant way, attacked the other two for admiring a trashy poem. “Why,” they remonstrated, “you covered it with G’s yourself.” “G’s,” said he, “they were Q’s for queries; I could not understand a line of it.”
(7) His deferential regard for army rank was like that of Johnson for bishops. Great was his indignation when the “grotesque Salvation Army,” as he called it, adopted military nomenclature. “I would let those ragamuffins call themselves saints, angels, prophets, cherubim, Olympian gods and goddesses if they like; but their pretension in taking the rank of officers in the army is to me beyond measure repulsive.”
(14) One characteristic anecdote he omits. Two French officers were attached to our headquarters; and the staff were partly embarrassed and partly amused by Lord Raglan’s inveterate habit, due to old Peninsular associations, of calling the enemy “the French” in the presence of our foreign guests.
When at sunset, chill and dark,
Sunset thins the swarming park,
Bearing home his social gleaning —
Jests and riddles fraught with meaning,
Scandals, anecdotes, reports, —
Seeks The Owl a maze of courts
Which, with aspect towards the west,
Fringe the street of Sainted James,
Where a warm, secluded nest
As his sole domain he claims;
From his wing a feather draws,
Shapes for use a dainty nib,
Pens his parody or squib;
Combs his down and trims his claws,
And repairs where windows bright
Flood the sleepless Square with light.
(16) Greville, vii. 223, quotes from a letter written after Inkerman to the Prince Consort by Colonel Steele, saying “that he had no idea how great a mind Raglan really had, but that he now saw it, for in the midst of distresses and difficulties of every kind in which the army was involved, he was perfectly serene and undisturbed.”
(17) “Go quietly” might have been his motto: even on horseback he seemed never to be in a hurry. Airey used to come in from their rides round the outposts shuddering with cold, and complaining that the Chief would never move his horse out of a walk. “I daresay,” said Carlyle, “Lord Raglan will rise quite quietly at the last trump, and remain entirely composed during the whole day, and show the most perfect civility to both parties.”
(18) The first death! out of how many he nowhere reckons: he shrinks from estimates of carnage, and we thank him for it. But an accomplished naturalist tells me that the vulture, a bird unknown in the Crimea before hostilities began, swarmed there after the Alma fight, and remained till the war was over, disappearing meanwhile from the whole North African littoral.
(19) “D—n your eyes!” he said once, in a moment of irritation, to his attaché, Mr. Hay. “D—n your Excellency’s eyes!” was the answer, delivered with deep respect but with sufficient emphasis. Dismissed on the spot, the candid attaché went in great anger to pack up, but was followed after a time by Lady Canning, habitual peacemaker in the household, who besought him if not to apologize at least to bid his Chief good-bye. After much persuasion he consented. “Hardly had he entered the room when Sir Stratford had him by the hand. ‘My dear Hay, this will never do; what a devil of a temper you have!’ The two were firmer friends than ever after this” (Lane Poole’s Life of Lord StratfordD, chapter xiii.).
(20) The story of an old quarrel between Sir Stratford Canning and the then Grand Duke Nicholas at St. Petersburg in 1825 is disproved by Canning’s own statement. The two met once only in their lives, at a purely formal reception at Paris in 1814.
(21) La femme was a “Miss” or “Mrs.” Howard. She followed Louis Napoleon to France in 1848, and lived openly with him as his mistress. In the once famous Letters of an Englishman we are told how shortly after the December massacre the élite of English visitors in Paris were not ashamed to dine at her house in the President’s company: and in 1860, Mrs. Simpson, in France with her father, Nassau Senior, found her, decorated with the title of Madame de Beauregard, inhabiting La Celle, near Versailles, once the abode of Madame de Pompadour, “with the national flag flying over it, to the great scandal of the neighbourhood.”
L’Autriche — dit-on — et la Russie
Se brouillent pour la Turquie.
Des aujourd’hui il n’en est plus question.
En invitant une femme charmante,
Le Turc — et je l’en complimente —
Est devenu pour nous un trait d’union.
(25) I inserted this quotation before reading the Etchingham Letters. Sir Richard would wish me to erase it as hackneyed; but it applies to Kinglake’s talk as accurately as to Virgil’s writing, and I refuse to be defrauded of it.
The following Latin poem, from the pen of the well-known German poet, Gustave Schwetschke, was distributed by Prince Bismarck’s special request amongst the Plenipotentiaries immediately after the last sitting on Saturday:
Post dolores bellicosos,
Post labores gloriosos,
Nobis fit decessus.
Ubi sunt, qui ante nos
Tot per annos, tot per menses?
Mundus heu! vult decipi,
Sed non decipiatur,
Non plus ultra inter gentes
Litigantes et frementes
Vivat Pax! et comitent
Dii nunc congressum,
Ceu Deus ex machina
Ipsa venit Cypria
Vincat semper litem
Proxenetae probitas, 27a
Fides, spes, et charitas,
A correspondent informs us that the version given in The Standard of yesterday of the congratulatory ode (‘Gaudeamus igitur,’ etc.) addressed to the Congress by ‘the well-known German poet Gustave Schwetschke,’ and ‘distributed by Prince Bismarck’s request among the Plenipotentiaries,’ is incorrect. The true version, we are assured, is as follows:
Post dolores bellicosos,
Post labores bumptiosos,
Fit mirandus messus.
Ubi sunt qui apud nos
Ubi sunt provinciae
Quas est laus pacasse?
Totae, totae, sunt partitae:
Has tulerunt Muscovitae,
Illas Count Andrassy.
Et quid est quod Angliae
Dedit hic Congressus?
Jus pro aliis pugnandi,
Mortuum vivificandi —
Vult Joannes decipi
Io Beacche! Quae majestas!
Ostreae reportans testas
This version, which from internal evidence will be seen to be the true one, may be roughly Englished thus:
Let us have our hearty laugh,
Greatest of Congresses!
After days and weeks pugnacious,
After labours ostentatious,
See how big the mess is!
Where are those who at our bar
Their demands have stated:
Robbed Roumanians rampaging,
Greeklings with earth-hunger raging?
Where the lands we’ve pacified,
With their rebel masses?
All are gone; yes, all up-gobbled:
These the Muscovite has nobbled,
Those are Count Andrassy’s.
And what does England carry off
To add to her possessions?
The right to wage another’s strife,
The right to raise the dead to life —
Well, let John Bull bamboozled be
If he’s so fond of sells!
Io Beacche! Hark the cheering!
See him home in triumph bearing
Both 27b the oyster shells!