MY LAST VISIT TO ENGLAND.
As soon as we got our carriage put together Hattie and I drove out every day, as the roads in England are in fine condition all the year round. We had lovely weather during the spring, but the summer was wet and cold. With reading, writing, going up to London, and receiving visitors, the months flew by without our accomplishing half the work we proposed.
As my daughter was a member of the Albemarle Club, we invited several friends to dine with us there at different times. There we had a long talk with Mr. Stead, the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, on his position in regard to Russian affairs, “The Deceased Wife’s Sister Bill,” and the divorce laws of England. Mr. Stead is a fluent talker as well as a good writer. He is the leader of the social purity movement in England. The wisdom of his course toward Sir Charles Dilke and Mr. Parnell was questioned by many; but there is a touch of the religious fanatic in Mr. Stead, as in many of his followers.
There were several problems in social ethics that deeply stirred the English people in the year of our Lord 1890. One was Charles Stewart Parnell’s platonic friendship with Mrs. O’Shea, and the other was the Lord Chancellor’s decision in the case of Mrs. Jackson. The pulpit, the press, and the people vied with each other in trying to dethrone Mr. Parnell as the great Irish leader, but the united forces did not succeed in destroying his self-respect, nor in hounding him out of the British Parliament, though, after a brave and protracted resistance on his part, they did succeed in hounding him into the grave.
It was pitiful to see the Irish themselves, misled by a hypocritical popular sentiment in England, turn against their great leader, the only one they had had for half a century who was able to keep the Irish question uppermost in the House of Commons year after year. The course of events since his death has proved the truth of what he told them, to wit: that there was no sincerity in the interest English politicians manifested in the question of Home Rule, and that the debates on that point would cease as soon as it was no longer forced on their consideration. And now when they have succeeded in killing their leader, they begin to realize their loss. The question evolved through the ferment of social opinions was concisely stated, thus: “Can a man be a great leader, a statesman, a general, an admiral, a learned chief justice, a trusted lawyer, or skillful physician, if he has ever broken the Seventh Commandment?”
I expressed my opinion in the Westminster Review, at the time, in the affirmative. Mrs. Jacob Bright, Mrs. Ellen Battelle Dietrick of Boston, Kate Field, in her Washington, agreed with me. Many other women spoke out promptly in the negative, and with a bitterness against those who took the opposite view that was lamentable.