« ZurückWeiter »
death that he should be made a Privy Councillor; but he died before he could be sworn in. The most eminent of all political parties joined to commemorate his worth and brilliancy by a bust, placed in Westminster Abbey, bearing an inscription written by one of his oldest and most admiring friends, another "Apostle," Richard Monckton Milnes. When Macaulay, excluded from the House of Commons in 1847, was re-elected for Edinburgh in 1852, he referred in the speech which he addressed to his constituents to some of the eminent men who had vanished during his absence; and hebegan withBuller:—"In Parliament I shall look in vain for virtues which I loved, and for abilities which I admired. Often in debate, and never more than when we discuss those questions of colonial policy which are every day acquiring a new interest, I shall remember with regret how much eloquence and wit, how much acuteness and knowledge, how many engaging qualities, how many fair hopes, are buried in the grave of poor Charles Buller." Later, another distinguished politician and man of genius, reviewing the celebrities of St. Stephen's, has given Charles Buller a due place in his gallery of fame.
"Farewell, fine humourist, finer reasoner still, Lively as Luttrell, logical as Mill, Lamented Buller: just as each new hour Knit thy stray forces into steadfast power, Death shut thy progress from admiring
eyes, And gave thy soul's completion to the • skies."l
Charles Buller, before he went to Cambridge, had been the pupil of one of our greatest writers and worthiest men, Thomas Carlyle, who always loves to speak of the fine endowments of his pupil, and who, immediately after his death, testified publicly to his virtues and capacity. The author dwelt characteristically on the truthfulness and simplicity of Charles Buller :— "There shone mildly in his whole
1 "St. Stephen's, a Poem," known to be Sir E. 6. Lyttou's, though bis name is not on the
conduct a beautiful veracity, as if it were unconscious of itself: a perfect spontaneous absence of all cant, hypocrisy and hollow pretence, not in word and act only, but in thought and instinct. To a singular extent, it can be said of him, that he was a spontaneous, clear man. Very gentle, too, though full of fire; simple, brave, graceful. What he did, and what he said, came from him as light from a luminous body, and had thus always in it a high and rare merit, which any of the more discerning could appreciate fully."1
Is it not time that some friend should collect the scattered remains of Charles Buller's wit and wisdom, and present them to the world, with one of those Memoirs with selected correspondence which in later times have made so numerous and valuable a department of historical biography 1
This Cambridge Society may feel a just pride in one whom all its members, from the oldest to the youngest, from the most distinguished to the humblest, regard with affection—the poet, the excellent prose-writer, the temperate and thoughtful politician, who, with general public approval, has lately been made Lord Houghton. If Richard Monckton Milnes had not been a man of the world and busy politician, and if he had been able to concentrate his energies on poetry, and gird himself to the building up of some great poem, none who know what poetry he has written, can doubt that it was in him to be a great poet; and none who know his " Life of Keats," or any of his many pamphlets and articles in Reviews and Magazines, will deny that he presents another example of what he has himself lately proclaimed, and supported by much proof, that a good poet makes himself a good prose-writer.2 To give examples of Tennyson's poetry is needless, but there may be readers who will wish now to see a specimen of Milnes.
1 Examiner, December, 1818.
= Introductory Address in the Philosophical Institution, Edinburgh, by Lord Houghton, Some specimens exist in earlier volumes -of this Magazine. But take a little gem, one of many, from his earliest poems. The following was written when he was nineteen :—
"I saw two children intertwine
"I markt those two when thev were men,
I watcht them meet one day;
Each went on his own way:
Of love, the lightest chain,
Or press the hand again.
"This is a page in our life's book
"Our days are broken into parts,
May make our freshest hopes turn pale;
Some seventeen years ago Lord Houghton was sketched, with the addition of a little playful caricature, and of one or two touches inconsistent with the whole, which the better feelings of the man of genius who wrote that sketch will probably have long since led him to regret, in Mr. Disraeli's " Tancred," under the name of "Mr. Vavasour." The following sentences are a slightlymarred recognition of qualities which in the interval have become widely known:—
"Mr. Vavasour was a social favourite; a poet, and a real poet, quite a troubadour, as well as a member of Parliament, travelled, sweet - tempered, and good - hearted; very amusing, and very clever. With catholic sympathies and an eclectic turn of mind, Mr. Vavasour saw something good in everybody
and perhaps just, but disqualifies a man in some degree for the business of life, which requires for its conduct a certain degree of prejudice. Mr. Vavasour's breakfasts were renowned. Whatever your creed, class, or country—one might almost add, your character—you were a welcome guest at his matutinal meal, provided you were celebrated. That qualification, however, was rigidly enforced. Individuals met at his hospitable house who had never met before, but who for years had been cherishing in solitude mutual detestation, with all the irritable exaggeration of the literary character. He prided himself on figuring as the social medium by which rival reputations become acquainted, and paid each other in his presence the compliments which veiled their ineffable disgust. A real philosopher, alike from his genial disposition and from the influence of his rich and various information, Vavasour moved amid the strife sympathizing with everyone; and perhaps, afteralhtbx philanthropy, which was Ins boast, was not untinged by a dash of humour, of which rare and charming quality he possessed no inconsiderable portion. Vavasour liked to know evervbody who was known, and to see everything which ought to he seen. His life was a gyration of energetic curiosity, an insatiable whirl of social celebrity. There was not a congregation of sages and philosophers in any part of Europe which he did not attend as a brother. As for his acquaintances, he was welcomed in every land: his universal sympathies seemed omnipotent. Emperor and kmg, jacobin and carbonari, alike cherished him. He was the steward of Polish balls, and the vindicator of Russian humanity; he dined with Louis Philippe and gave dinners to Louis Blanc"
A better knowledge of Lord Heugh: ton would have taught the writer, and has very likely already taught him, that he seeks not celebrity only, but talent, whether celebrated or obscure; and that merit, and not success, is the indispensable qualification. Many are the young authors, and obscure men of talent, who may afterwards perhaps attain fame or may miss it, who know the warmth of his sympathy and the constancy of his friendship. Merit or mark, though lowly or unfashionable, is, indeed, to him as beauty to Van Artevelde's Elena—
"Beauty in plain attire her heart could fill; Yea, though in beggary, 'twas beauty stilL"
Nor can I admit the justice of the insinuation that malice mingles in his catholic friendship and hospitality; tician's own account of his mission of conciliation in lines, published in 1840, which are worthy to be quoted for themselves—
* Amid the factions of the Field of Life The Poet held his little neutral ground, And they who mixt the deepest in the strife Their evening way to his seclusion found. "Thus, meeting oft the antagonists of the day, Who near in mute suspicion seemed to stand, He said what neither would be first to say, And, having spoken, left them hand in hand."
The description of Lord Houghton's life as " a gyration of energetic curiosity, an insatiable whirl of social celebrity," is not too strong; and the combination of such a life with great acquirements and constant literary occupation, and with the mental activity which enables him to keep pace with the progress of almost all branches of literature and speculative philosophy, and to study and prosecute more political questions than are undertaken by most legislators, is truly matter for amazement. To the large mind Mr. Disraeli has done justice, but not to the large heart which is with it. This has been well described with one single touch, by a well-known popular writer, another "Apostle," who, in his own quaint manner, in one of the volumes of the "Friends in Council," has set himself to think how his friends would treat him if he should get into serious trouble or discredit, and declares himself confident of one thing, that "Pontefract " would instantly ask him to dinner.
There can hardly be a literary reputation whose growth and spread have been so remarkable and satisfactory as that which has come in early manhood to the author of the " Claims of Labour" and the "Friends in Council." These and other books, published without a name, addressing neither the passions nor the imagination, written in no gorgeous or glittering style, but one singularly simple, unadorned, and clear, altogether unaided by arts of pulling, pushed by no newspaper or review, silently, steadily, widely worked their
and the author of the "Friends in Council" had a large circle of readers and fame, before the name of Arthur Helps was generally known. I believe that, as is often the case, the merits of this writer were widely appreciated in the United States, even before they obtained a similar wide appreciation in England. I cannot conceive a more decisive test of fame—as decisive, certainly, as the " Digito monstrari et dicier, hie est"—than what accidentally came under my notice a few years ago, viz., a lecture given in a provincial town (by, I think, an American lecturer), called "An Evening with Arthur Helps." The "Claims of Labour " made the beginning of his popularity, and the "Friends in Council" is the most popular of his works. Many of the readers of these books are perhaps yet unacquainted with the learning, wisdom, and eloquence (see, for instance, the eloquent description of the city of Mexico) of his "History of the Conquest of America," or with the practical wisdom condensed into his "Essays written in the Intervals of Business"—superior, perhaps, in some respects, and certainly for conciseness, to the Essays of the "Friends in Council." And few beyond the friends of his youth know of a little volume, which was published while he was at Cambridge, and which it is to be regretted that he has not reproduced—a little collection of aphorisms, " Thoughts in the Cloister and the Crowd," which, at the time of its anonymous publicacution, attracted the notice, and obtained the highly favourable judgment, of John Stuart Mill . This is twenty-seven years ago. The little book was the subject of an article by Mr. John Mill, which also treated of aphorisms generally, in the "London Review" of January, 1837. The same distinguished thmker and writer had been foremost to give warm welcome to the first poetry of Alfred Tennyson. I remember, when a bo}', first learning of Alfred Tennyson's name and poetry, by an article written by John Stuart Mill, pointing out the beauties and great promise of day could find nothing but matter for sneers and ridicule. This was published, in 1830 or 1831, in a Magazine called the Monthly Repository, edited by W. J. Fox. It is generally known that Arthur Helps is the author of the Preface to the collection of the Prince Consort's "Speeches and Addresses."
Among living and dead there are many other members of this Cambridge Society known more or less to fame. Let me first enumerate a few of the living: Frederick Maurice; Dr. Kennedy, the Head Master of Shrewsbury; Trench, Archbishop of Dublin, poet as well as divine; another poet and divine, Alford, the Dean of Canterbury; James Spedding, who, having served for some time in the Colonial Office, refused nearly twenty years ago the honourable offer of succession to Sir James Stephen as Under-Secretary for the Colonies, that he might patiently devote himself to his long labour of love on the life and works of Bacon; the Regius Professor of Greek, W. H. Thompson, a member of the late Commission on Public Schools; Charles Merivale, the distinguished Latin scholar and Roman historian, the present chaplain to the House of Commons; Kenneth Macaulay, the member for Cambridge, whose endowments singularly fitted him for distinction in the House of Commons, but whom enfeebled health has prevented from seeking there the prominence which in younger days of strength he had, with surprising rapidity, acquired at the Bar; W. F. Pollock, the translator of Dante; Tom Taylor, in all whose versatile accomplishments and industry are to be seen high principles of taste and moral aim, and the brightest element of whose various fame is the elevation by scholarship and moral purpose of his popular dramas; Maine, who is now maintaining in India, as Legislative Member of Council, the high name which he had acquired as a philosophical lawyer, and as author of a treatise on Ancient Law; another young jurist of solid reputation, Fitzjames Stephen, author of "A General View of the Criminal Law
young head-master of Harrow; William Johnson, of Eton; and let me end this list with one who may, without invidiousness, be selected from among the younger hopes of the Society, who has lately, in the pages of this Magazine, made a brilliant beginning in literature as the Indian "Competition Wallah," and who, the heir of two reputations, is expected by many to follow not unworthily in the two careers of literature and of politics.
Of Charles Buller I have already spoken at length. I will mention a few other members of this Society, who have prematurely died, leaving works and a name behind them, an instalment only of "unfulfilled renown." There was John Sterling, who has had the high honour of being the subject of two rival biographies by two such men as Julius Charles Hare and Thomas Carlyle; whose beautiful poem, the "Sexton's Daughter," ought to be known by all; whom I only saw and heard once,—" Virgilium vidi tantuTn,"—but the music of whose full and flowing eloquence as heard on that occasion has never faded from my ears.i There were the two Hallams, the elder of whom will be ever remembered by that great threnodia, greater than "Lycidas" or "Adonais," which our Poet Laureate has made in his memory, and the younger of whom was regarded by his contemporaries as of promise hardly inferior to his brother's.2 There were John Kemble, the wellknown Anglo-Saxon scholar; Henry Lushington, who was Secretary of Government in Malta, and whose virtues and accomplishments and works, much diminished by constant ill-health, have been recorded in the charming biography of his friend and brotherapostle, Venables; and, lastly, I will
i Archdeacon Hare says of his reputation as a speaker at Cambridge, "I have been told by several of the most intelligent among his contemporaries that, of all the speakers they ever heard, he had the greatest gift of natural eloquence." Carlyle, speaking of his college reputation as a speaker, says, that Charles Buller was considered to be the only one of his companions who came near him.
* See Dr. John Brown's "Horse Subsecivso," name one with whom I was united in close friendship, the late Secretary of the Civil Service Commission, John Gorham Maitland, the extent of whose powers and attainments his great modesty veiled from the world. At Cambridge he seemed never to have any work to do; yet he was third classic of his year, second Chancellor's medallist, and seventh wrangler. His mind embraced all subjects, and was as fitted for the work of life as for speculation. His superiors in the Civil Service Commission—I can speak for one of them at least, Sir John Lefevre—knew his capacity and worth .
A few young men at College, attracted to companionship by a common taste for literature and speculation, make a Society for a weekly essay and discussion. Such societies have often been made in public schools and Universities. This Society was founded about 1820 by some members of St. John's College, among whom was Tomlinson, the late Bishop of Gibraltar. In a few years it gravitated to Trinity, and it began to be famous in the time of Buller, Sterling, Maurice, and Trench. Then came the halo of Tennyson's young celebrity. Mr. Venables has alluded to the Society in his Life ofv Henry Lushington, as the chief pleasure and occupation of Lushington's Cambridge days. Quoting from one of Lushington's Essays a charming passage of reminiscences of his college life, Mr. Venables adds to the quotation a happy description of his own.
"'There is,' he says in one of the accompanying essays, 'a deep truth and tenderness in the tone in which Giusti recalls those four happy years spent without care; the days, the nights " smoked away" in free gladness, in laughter, in uninterrupted talk ; the aspirations, the free open-hearted converse, as it was then, of some who now meet us disguised as formal worldlings; all the delights of that life, whether at Cambridge or at Pisa, that comes not again.' Youthful conversation of
the higher class, though it would seem crude and pedantic to mature minds, is more ambitious, more earnest, and more fruitful, than the talk which furnishes excitement and relaxation in later life. Our Cambridge discussions would have been insufferably tedious to an experienced and accomplished listener of fifty; but in the audacity of metaphysical conjectures or assertions, in the partisanship of literary enthusiasm, in the exuberant spirits, the occasional melancholy, the far-fetched humour of youth, all were helping each other, governed by the incessant influence of contagious sympathy. Like many past and future generations of students, we spent our days—
'In search of deep philosophy,
Some fifteen generations of young "Apostles" have passed from college into life. A few have gained eminence, several distinction. The just pride of members of the Society in the fame of its greater ornaments cannot surely be proscribed by the most cynical. Within the Society itself there is no hierarchy of greatness. All are friends. Those who have been contemporaries meet through life as brothers. All, old and young, have a bond of sympathy in fellow-membership. All have a common joy and a common interest in the memory of bright days that are gone, of daily rambles and evening meetings, of times when they walked and talked with single-hearted friends in scenes hallowed by many memories and traditions—or by the hanks of Cam, or in the lime-tree avenues of Trinity, or within sound of the great organ of the great chapel of King's, or in the rural quiet of Madingley or Grantchester,— sometimes perhaps
"Yearning for the large excitement which the coming years would yield,"
but all, as they stood on the threshold of life, hopeful and happy, gladdened by genial influences which are never forgotten, and sunned by warm friendships of youth which never die.