Page images

Were it not that this proportion of the wages of the working classes is abstracted in a more or less indirect way, it would have caused social disturbances long ago; but it goes out in tobacco and beer and tea and coal and house rent, and the true destination of the money is hid from those who pay it. They know only that life becomes harder and the struggle more desperate year after year. And this is the condition of life for the great majority of people in this country at a time when it is probably at the height of its enjoyment of "tribute" from other nations. Wealth pours in from abroad all the year round, and still the great majority of our population wrestles with poverty, each year bound by closer ties to the public usurer. Putting aside what might be considered a sentimental view of the situation, and looking merely at the economic one, it must surely strike the most careless observer that in an economic sense the nation is insecure. We load the home population with obligations which it could not bear for a moment unaided by the fruits of the labour of other nations, and the consequence is that we depend more and more upon this extraneous assistance. That is the position, and it would be an increasingly precarious one, even were there no indications that the foreign supplies of wealth may soon be curtailed. When, however, there are numerous signs that the country may suffer in this way—an India overburdened, colonies struggling with unwieldy debts, foreign nations crushed by their accumulated loads and seething with the elements of revolution-the course we pursue is simply one of madness. In the past twelve years we have about doubled the load of local debts which the population has to bear, and by this means not only has all that we have nominally gained by the reduction of the National Debt been more than neutralised, but the working and staying capacity of the people has been crippled. Trade, it is said, has been dull, and comparatively profitless for years past. Our foreign commerce is altogether changing its character, and the conditions under which it is carried on imply a keener competition with other nations. Economy in production is the one way to success left us; and at the very time when this is the case, when we are warned by many signs that our wage-earning classes may have to subsist upon less money, we are so augmenting their burdens as to make economy in wages a practical impossibility. If, as matters stand, the bulk of the nation lives in a state always bordering on want, what folly it must be to persist in a policy that can have no other result than to prevent their escape from that frightful position! Viewed in this light, the social progress, about which we boast to ourselves so much, wears a somewhat gruesome aspect. Not only does the debtcreating system of national and social development pre-suppose a continuance of the full tide of national prosperity, for this generation it demands an increase in that prosperity. High wages, unfailing

employment, and a profitable and steadily expanding trade, these alone can save the country from a social catastrophe; and even these would not enable the people to maintain the battle with hunger for existence were any one of our large sources of tribute to fail us. What should we do, for example, did war break out between France and China, putting an end, though for a time only, to our trade with the latter country? China closed would mean India bankrupt, and India bankrupt would mean something like a universal solution in the continuity of credit here, a misery-stricken population huddled together helplessly in our towns, and infinite danger to the ancient institutions of the nation.

Statements of this kind will, no doubt, be hailed with the usual cry of "pessimism," but epithets do not answer facts. I beseech those whose first impulse it may be to put disagreeable thoughts of this order away out of sight to pause, and look in all earnestness at our national position. Not only have we all these public obligations to bear, but labour, the industry of the people, is loaded down with the charges upon invested capital on every side. Our railways take £32,000,000 per annum out of the earnings of the people for interest and dividends. Much of this may be fair legitimate profit, much of it, also, may not. The thing to consider is the bearings of all these mortgages upon the well-being of the people, and not only so, but upon their capacity to meet adversity. That the time of our prosperity will flow on for ever no sane person will consider possible, but we go on everywhere as if it were as certain to do so as that the sun will rise.

But the impatient reader may exclaim, "Granting all this true, what is the use of disturbing our peace of mind by these Cassandra wails if you have no remedy to propose? Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." And does not the very statement of the danger convey the suggestion of a cure? Cease to contract more debt to begin with. Put an end to the reckless and pernicious mortgaging of the labour of present and future generations for the gratification of a passing fit of social development and the enrichment of the small wealthy class. That done, proceed to pay all existing debts. Other remedies there are tending to mitigate the curse under which modern nations lie, but these I will not now discuss. It will be better to wait until the position of this country has been placed side by side with that of one or two foreign nations. That I shall endeavour to do in a future essay.



THE morning newspapers of the 7th of February contained the account of a funeral ceremony held the previous day in St. James's Church, Piccadilly, which must have caused many readers no little surprise. The name of the man round whose bier the mourners were gathered was probably unknown to the large proportion of the provincial public, and would have been strange to a far larger, had not The Times of the preceding Monday devoted two columns of big type to his life, and summed up his character and career in a leading article. But the company collected to pay the last token of respect and regard to his memory within the church, from which the din of the most bustling of West End thoroughfares is audible comprised men distinguished in various walks of life, known and honoured by all their countrymen. The Prime Minister placed a wreath of snowdrops, fresh from the woods of Hawarden, upon the pall. Near him stood one or two of his colleagues in the Cabinet; stood two or three ex-Cabinet Ministers; stood also men famous in diplomacy, in law, as well as in statesmanship and letters-the ornaments and representatives of what is called society. It is impossible to conceive of a more typical gathering, and Mr. Hayward could have desired no more significant tribute to the position he had achieved long ago, and the kind of ascendency he had held. Those to whom his patronymic either conveyed no idea at all, or little else than a dim impression of some powerful reviewer whose writings they could not well indicate, must have been at a loss to account for the attention paid to him by men who are already part of English history. I propose briefly, and, as it cannot but be, most inadequately, to give some explanation of this phenomenon; hereafter I trust there may be published in the pages of the Fortnightly Review a more finished and worthy study of Hayward's life and labours.

Nothing can be more misleading than many of the estimates of Mr. Hayward which have already appeared in print. He has been represented as a professional diner-out, a raconteur, a trifler, a cynic, a mere wielder of flippant persiflage. If he had been only one of these persons, or if he had been all of them combined, he would have failed to acquire the influence and distinction which belonged to him. English society, whatever its follies and frivolities, is essentially serious. The wits and wags, the farceurs and light comedians of the dinner-table, make a transient reputation, but they never reach the place which, willingly or unwillingly, was accorded to

Hayward. He had his angularities; he had his faults; but the estimate in which he was held and the authority which he had won were, on the whole, not more creditable to himself than to the society from which he derived his power. If he had been less passionate in his love of truth, less eager in his pursuit of it, less intrepid in his championship of friends and in his denunciation of foes, he would never have come to eminence and even autocracy. Endowed with a legal and thoroughly logical mind, with accurate and abundant knowledge, with prodigious energy, with a rare power of argumentative speech of the kind one may call overbearing, he still will not be remembered as a great lawyer. He produced no independent work of large dimensions, and he was not, in the sense in which that expression might be applied to some of his contemporaries, a great writer. His essays, indeed, which fill five or six stout volumes, may be described as a thesaurus of miscellaneous information, not more curious for its comprehensiveness than admirable for its accuracy and precision. It is no exaggeration to say that any person who had assimilated a tenth part of the knowledge contained in Hayward's occasional pieces would be unusually well informed. The literary merit of these compositions is considerable; but it was as little in his capacity of litterateur as of lawyer, anecdotist, and critic, that Hayward took the most powerful and brilliant portion of the English public by storm, and, once having captured it, held it in fee. The qualities which were the instruments and guarantees of his success were his thorough genuineness, his intensity, his abhorrence of falsehood and sham, of trickery and imposture, his dauntless and fiery determination to arrive in every case at facts, to prevent others being misled by phrases, and, in the words of Figaro, to "whip hypocrisy." Attributes of this kind generate a moral atmosphere. They may often offend, but they never fail to attract.

When Johnson asked Boswell his impressions of the conversation over night, the faithful satellite replied to his master, "Well, sir, you gored and trampled on a good many people." These words exactly describe Hayward's attitude to every species of falsehood, inaccuracy, or cant. One can understand how a young lady, on being told that Hayward was the sort of man who would do vehement justice to her if she were wrongly assailed, but would bring any slip she might make into prominent relief, had the naïveté to say, “What a horrid man!" and it was in the nature of things impossible for such a fierce hunter after truth to be extensively popular. People observing from without his distinguished position in society sat down at their desks and deliberately ascribed his elevation to a cause the reverse of the truth. Samuel Warren attempted to assail him in Ten Thousand a Year as Mr. Venom Tuft. Lord Beaconsfield who often

worked hard against him by manipulating the hogshead of abuse which his followers brought him and distilling it into three drops, was supposed by many persons to have lampooned him as Mr. St. Barbe in Endymion. The original of that character, it is now known, was Thackeray, whom Lord Beaconsfield disliked for the same kind of reason that he disliked Hayward. As he resented Thackeray's burlesque of his literary style in Codlingsby, so he resented Hayward's exposure of his plagiarism from Thiers' funeral paneyric on St. Cyr. Hayward had convicted him of a two-fold rhetorical dishonesty: first, his appropriation of Thiers' masterly composition, ideas, words, and all; secondly, his appropriation of the language in which it was first placed before the English public by the Morning Chronicle. But, independently of this incident, there was a natural antipathy between the two men which could not have failed to breed a reciprocity of dislike. To Hayward, Disraeli's character seemed essentially false; and the very reasons which made him, during the latter years of his life, so warm an admirer of Mr. Gladstone, prevented his ever being a sympathetic critic of Mr. Gladstone's great opponent. The reasons of Hayward's unpopularity during the earlier stage of his career were, on the part of those who knew him, impetuous aggressiveness; and on the part of those who did not, a mistaken estimate of him. No man ever less merited the surname bestowed upon him by Warren; no man was ever less of a parasite, a toady, or a tuft. He performed no acts of unworthy or interested homage. Where others won by blandishments, he succeeded with frowns and reprimands. If the number of those who entertained towards him any warm sentiment of friendship or affection was small, it was larger than falls to the lot of most of us, and few men have ever received on their death-bed such marks of patient and tender devotion from those outside the pale of their own kindred.

Hayward, indeed, had outlived his unpopularity. He ceased to be unpopular when he became privileged. The vast legion of his acquaintances did not measure him by the standard which is usually applied as a gauge of social amenity. He occupied a position of his own, apart from others, and he was not expected to conform to any conventional canons. If these traits in his character had not been accompanied by sterling and rare merits, society would not have tolerated and have smiled upon him. In addition to his truthfulness and thoroughness, he was absolutely loyal to his friends, not only doing justice to them in his talk, but, when necessary, and often when unnecessary, doing fierce battle in their behalf. He was, moreover, of great practical assistance on more than one occasion to some of those friends when they were entrusted with the administration of the nation's affairs. He was never the depository of State secrets, for it was his way when any. thing had been told him which interested him to talk about it every

« PreviousContinue »