If his work had lain, where it should by rights have lain, in a ministerial office in Dublin, all would have been well. As it was, the deliberate and extreme seclusion of his life in Ireland weakened his influence. He was far too shrewd not to know this, and far too unambitious to care. Work he never shrank from. But the daily solicitations of people with personal grievances to lay before him, personal interests which they desired him to promote, made a form of trouble which in his periods of rest from work he refused to undergo.
The same qualities in him were responsible for his persistent refusal to accept private hospitality where he went on public business. Whether in Ireland or in Great Britain, he must stay at a hotel, and many were the magnates of Liberalism whose ruffled feelings it was necessary to smooth down on this account. He detested being lionized and wanted always, when the public affair was over, to get away to his own quarters.
The demands on him in England for platform work were portentous. Every constituency which wanted a meeting on the Home Rule question wanted Redmond and no other speaker. Of course he could not go to one-twentieth of the places where he was asked for; and his objection to going was not the effort involved but the impossibility either of indefinitely repeating himself or of finding something new to say each time. “If it was in America,” he would say, “I would speak as often as you asked me” (it was my misfortune to have to do the asking), “because they never report a speech.” The fact is worth noting, for in scores of instances what was adduced by opponents as quotation from his utterances in the United States represented simply some American journalist’s impression, perhaps less of what Redmond said than of what, in the reporter’s opinion, he should have said. Those who represented him as putting one face on the argument in America and another in Great Britain did not know the man. “I have made it a rule,” he said to me more than once, “to say the extremest things I had to say in the House of Commons.”
However, all the machinery which was employed by the opponents of Home Rule to prejudice Ireland’s case in the British constituencies proved very ineffectual. For one thing, the lesson of South Africa had gone home. For another, and perhaps a greater, no cause ever had a missionary better adapted to the temperament of the British democracy. The dignity and beauty of Redmond’s eloquence, the weight which he could give to an argument, his extraordinary gift for simplifying an issue and grouping thoughts in large bold masses—all these things carried audiences with them.