Having spoken of his brethren, I may now refer to one or two of Mr. Chamberlain’s friends and associates. Among these I will specially mention Mr. Jesse Collings, Mr. Schnadhorst, and Mr. Powell Williams. Mr. Collings, like Mr. Chamberlain, is a stranger within our gates. He is a Devon man by birth, but as a comparatively young man he came to Birmingham, and he not only came but he saw and he prospered. He entered local public life about the same time as Mr. Chamberlain, and they soon became kindred spirits. From the first Mr. Chamberlain seemed to take a special fancy to Mr. Collings—in American phrase, he “froze to him.” They became a sort of David and Jonathan company limited, and although each of the partners may have preserved a certain amount of independence and individuality, in many things they pulled together in their work and policy like one man.
When Mr. Chamberlain took leave of local municipal life and went up higher, Mr. Collings was not long in following him, and now both have been for some years very familiar figures in Parliament. Since they first entered public life both men have in some ways mellowed down. Compared with what they once were, their foes at any rate say, they have both lost colour. They were once ripe, full-bodied Radicals, and now they are tawny Liberals, who have been bottled late—but bottled.
Although time and experience may have taught Mr. Collings many things, he probably retains more of the old Radical Adam than does Mr. Chamberlain. At one time he was regarded by some of his opponents as a political fire-eater—a democratic despot who would have decapitated kings and queens without a tinge of remorse, and slain wicked Tories with the sword. He was, however, never the ungenial, self-seeking, aggressive person some of his foes may have fancied him. He was always an affable, pleasant, agreeable man, who could be civil and even polite to his adversaries, especially when political fighting was not going on in front. But, as I have said, he has toned down during late years and has learned, as many other men have done, that there are large lessons to be learnt by experience, and that there is some virtue in expediency.
Of course a good deal of mud has been flung at Mr. Collings by some of his local friends in consequence of what they consider his political perversion, but I don’t know that much of it has stuck to him. With some of his former allies it is not so much that he may have become more temperate in his views, or that he did actually abandon his absolute freedom and take a Government office. They might have forgiven these little backslidings, but in their eyes he sinned past redemption when he consorted with titled people, broke the bread of kings, and even suffered himself to be entertained at Sandringham. These were offences outside forgiveness in the eyes of some few of his former associates. With Mr. Chamberlain, however, as his friend and prototype, he probably feels that he can afford to smile at the sneers and jeers of those who, not being able to make much way up the political ladder themselves, take their revenge by pelting those who are climbing their way towards the top.