Sketches in the House (1893) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 279 pages of information about Sketches in the House (1893).
At eleven o’clock he announced he would be in the House again, and accordingly, at eleven o’clock—­quietly, unostentatiously, without the welcome of a cheer—­he almost stole to his place on the Treasury Bench.  Something about the figure of Mr. Gladstone compels the concentration of attention upon him at all times.  He seems the soul, the inspiration, the genius of the House of Commons.  He was not, as is usually the case with him in the evening, in the swallow-tail and large shirt-front of evening dress; he had the long, black, frock coat, which he usually wears on the great occasions when he has a mighty speech to deliver.  Of course, Mr. Gladstone was immediately the observed of every eye; but, as I have said, there was no demonstration—­the House of Commons is often silent at its most sublime moments.

[Sidenote:  He pounces.]

But if there were silence, it was simply pent-up rage, fierce resolve.  When, having brought the discussion down to past midnight, the Tories calmly proposed that the debate should be adjourned, the Old Man got up.  He was very quiet, spoke almost in whispered lowliness; but he was unmistakable.  The vote would have to be taken.  An hour later—­when the clock pointed to one—­there was a second attempt.  There was the same response in the same tone—­its quietness, however, fiercely accentuated by Liberal cheers.  And then, when the Tories still seemed determined to obstruct, came a division, then the closure, and at one o’clock in the morning Mr. Gladstone was able to leave the House.  Thus was he compelled to waste time and strength, that Mr. Chamberlain might nightly hiss his hate, and Mr. Jimmy Lowther might gulp and obstruct, obstruct and gulp.

CHAPTER VI.

Gladstone the survival.

[Sidenote:  From the past.]

What I like most about Mr. Gladstone is his antique spirituality.  The modern politician is smart, alive, pert, up-to-date; knows everything about registration; hires a good agent; can run a caucus, and receive a deputation.  With us, as yet, the modern politician has not wholly abandoned religious faith—­as he has done among our neighbours on the Continent—­and has not come to regard this solid earth of ours as the one standing-place in a universe alone worthy the consideration of intelligent men.  But the English politician is so far suffused with the spirit of modernity as to prefer the newspaper to the book, to regard more closely registration records than the classics, and generally is wide awake rather than steeped in subtler and profounder forms of sagacity and knowledge.  The Prime Minister is a Survival.  With all his extraordinary adaptiveness, he stands in many respects in sharpest contrast to his environment.  I can never forget, as I look at him, all those years he spent in that vanished epoch which knew nothing of evolution or of science at all, and was content to regard a knowledge of the classics as the beginning

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Sketches in the House (1893) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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