MR. LLOYD GEORGE
"And wars, like mists
that rise against the sun,
Made him but greater seem, not greater grow."
If you think about it, no one since Napoleon has appeared on the earth who attracts so universal an interest as Mr. Lloyd George. This is a rather startling thought.
It is significant, I think, how completely a politician should overshadow all the great soldiers and sailors charged with their nation’s very life in the severest and infinitely the most critical military struggle of man’s history.
A democratic age, lacking in colour, and antipathetic to romance, somewhat obscures for us the pictorial achievement of this remarkable figure. He lacks only a crown, a robe, and a gilded chair easily to outshine in visible picturesqueness the great Emperor. His achievement, when we consider what hung upon it, is greater than Napoleon’s, the narrative of his origin more romantic, his character more complex. And yet who does not feel the greatness of Napoleon?—and who does not suspect the shallowness of Mr. Lloyd George?
History, it is certain, will unmask his pretensions to grandeur with a rough, perhaps with an angry hand; but all the more because of this unmasking posterity will continue to crowd about the exposed hero asking, and perhaps for centuries continuing to ask, questions concerning his place in the history of the world. “How came it, man of straw, that in Armageddon there was none greater than you?”
The coldest-blooded amongst us, Mr. Massingham of The Nation for example, must confess that it was a moment rich in the emotion which bestows immortality on incident when this son of a village schoolmaster, who grew up in a shoemaker’s shop, and whose boyish games were played in the street of a Welsh hamlet remote from all the refinements of civilization and all the clangours of industrialism, announced to a breathless Europe without any pomposity of phrase and with but a brief and contemptuous gesture of dismissal the passing away from the world’s stage of the Hapsburgs and Hohenzollerns—those ancient, long glorious, and most puissant houses whose history for an aeon was the history of Europe.
Such topsy-turvydom, such historical anarchy, tilts the figure of Mr. Lloyd George into a salience so conspicuous that for a moment one is tempted to confuse prominence with eminence, and to mistake the slagheap of upheaval for the peaks of Olympus.
But how is it that this politician has attained even to such super-prominence?