Imatges de pàgina

in 1882, he sketched out on a sheet of foolscap in the form of a diagram his remedy for the woes of Ireland. It was Home Rule of a kind that might not satisfy the zealous protagonists of that movement, but Home Rule it was after a fashion. He proposed that County Councils should be elected by what was practically manhood suffrage ; that every County Council should elect representatives to serve on what he called a Local Government Board, and that to this Board should be delegated the control of the internal government of Ireland, legislative and administrative, but subject to the veto of the Imperial Parliament. I mention this to show how constantly his thoughts ran in the direction of self-government, whether for Egyptian Fellaheen or Irish peasants, and how little he was inclined to trust in the good government of a dominant race. He was interested in all forms of administration, being a born administrator himself.

He described to me once a custom of the Chinese, which had made a great impression on him, under which men who belong to the College of Censors travel through the country and report on the deeds of the Local Authorities. These Censors have a right to address the Throne, and cannot be silenced. They arrive in some city, and remain there, observing and questioning. The Governor may offer them civilities, but they refuse them, and thus acquire great power.

Even the Emperor is sometimes denounced by them, and their verdict is final, for they are not self-seekers. These Censors attacked my friend Li Hung Chang, so I recommended they should be smitten, for they had attacked him unjustly, because he knew and had said that China could not fight Russia.

They are a wonderful set, and often die in defence of their rights. They are the men who denounce the opium trade. Fanatics, yet humble, they seek the welfare of their country, and live in penury.

This passage, full of admiration for these seekers after truth, but quite relentless when they happened to make a blunder, is a curious illustration of that extraordinary compound of imagination and practical good sense which was so characteristic of Gordon's mind.

I censored Lord Northbrook to-day (he continued), and told him it was mean not to send reinforcements to Evelyn Baring (now Lord Cromer), who was surrounded by Boers ; that Baring was a man who, if he was not supported, would resign ; that H.M.G. had put him there (in the Indian Council), and ought to help him ; and that he was worth all of them put together.

In attempting to draw this picture of Gordon, not of the soldier and hero, but of the man and friend, I cannot refrain from quoting one of the earliest letters I received from him. Although I worked fairly hard in those days, and was completely absorbed in Indian affairs, Gordon was fond of rallying me, in his sly humorous way, upon the society' side of my life.

Sometimes I took him seriously, and would argue the point with him. It was after one of these discussions that he wrote to me as follows:

Since I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance I have seen a desire on

your part to go into things which concern the welfare of our country, and with that desire a sentiment of not consulting expediency. Why do you not, with those of the rising generation, the successors of Gladstone, etc., form some sort of community and acquaint yourselves with all the ins and outs of our relations with the Colonies and foreign Powers, and thus prepare yourselves for the mantles of those now in office ?

Now, I would say—take the general question of alliances, and ask your. selves who are our natural allies—i.e. those who are less interfered with by our existence. Think that out. Then ask how are we situated with respect to nations in process of dissolution. Would it be better to let them dissolve, or to prevent it, and in what way, etc. You must know that, as a rule, our Ministers are a hand-to-mouth set; enough for the day its evil is their maxim. They have a lack-lustre eye for anything which does not press. They like not any opposition. They are much ‘clerk' and ' official’ ridden.

I think if you and some of the younger men were to abandon your fearful treats, your dinner-parties, etc., you could come to some definite platform and work on it.

It would indeed be absurd for me to give you a platform, but any defined platform would be better than drifting. Some of those who joined your party might in the recess go to India, China, or the Cape and collect information.

That is what I would say if I belonged to your group. France and China are our natural allies. Remove all bothers with them. What bothers exist ? How to deal with them ? State of affairs in Africa, Tunis, Morocco, West Coast, Cape, Zanzibar, Egypt. If you and some of the other rising men would study these things and would agree on a definite policy, you would have great weight. It is certainly worth it. I declare we shall come to grief from laziness and ignorance, though the knowledge is at our door. Six united men with honest intentions would carry enormous weight. There is no doubt that in the recess you must not go to Scotland and shoot, but must go to the Colonies. I would have a regular department for each of you, and no needy man should be engaged. Excuse me writing so freely.

Believe me,
Yours sincerely,


P.S. -Depend upon it, a well-intentioned man, seeking not his own advantage, is capable of judging any military, civil, financial, or political question (as well as the most experienced Minister) in its great aspects.

Such was the force of Gordon's whimsical personality that his words carried weight altogether beyond their intrinsic value. This letter was shown to several friends, and I well remember the effect it produced upon the mind of Lord Grey, the present Governor-General of Canada, although he has probably forgotten it long ago.

In January 1884, after his interviews with Lord Hartington and Lord Granville, Gordon came for the last time to Tilney Street. He was leaving for Brussels. I can see him now, with his muffler and his worn coat, walking about the nursery with my eldest son in his


From Brussels he wrote:

Brocklehurst is here with me. Government and authorities have been exceedingly kind, and I have every reason to be grateful to them, for I have often worried them, and they have decided to let me stay in H.M.S.

VOL. LXIII-No. 376

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I may say, I fear-for people have been too kind. Did you ever read The Ring of Polycrates ?

* Would'st thou escape the coming ill
Implore the dread Invisible

Thy sweets to sour.'

Good-bye. I will never forget you.

Yours sincerely,


Two months later he wrote to me from Khartoum. It was the last letter I received in that quaint small handwriting :

Thanks for your letter received to-day (he wrote on the 3rd of March 1884). I am sorry you worry about me, for, D.V., I am all right. I am comforted that if I try and do my best one cannot fail. As for Zebehr, I wish with all my heart he was here. He alone can ride the Soudan horse, and if they do not send him I am sentenced to penal servitude for my life


here. Bear this in mind, that it is impossible to hope for any compromise between H.M.G. and the Pasha tribe. I know it by experience, and I smite them with unrelenting severity, because I know it is hopeless to try and mollify them. I rejoice in so doing. It is no use trying to work with them. I wish our Govern. ment would see this. A French Consul will be here in two days. He will not bother me.

We must evacuate the Soudan. It is absolutely necessary. In a year the slaves up here will rise and will emancipate themselves. What a wonderful dénouement, and how my prayers will have been heard !

He added a few messages to my family, to his friend Colonel Brocklehurst, and to Lord Hartington. This was the end.

I have not set out with the intention of describing fully or of attempting to discuss the character of General Gordon. He stands above analysis and beyond discussion.

I have ventured to give to any reader of these pages an aspect of Gordon in his own words—words which he would have had no objection to speak from the housetops.

His letters, like his conversation, were full of humorous sallies, often at the expense of public men, and sometimes of private friends. These are sacred, under the seal of friendship.

There have been attempts made to belittle him, and to deprive him of some of the lustre which his life and death shed upon our country. The greatest gift a hero leaves his race is to have been a hero.'

It is true that he took small account of the great ones of the earth.' I am not sure that he possessed what is called a 'dress suit.' He was never, to my knowledge, at an evening party, but he was seen to walk hand in hand with street arabs. He knew the Bible by heart, and the fear of man was not in him. Faithlessness was in his eyes the worst of crimes. I am sure that he went to his death as to a feast.

Many lies have been told of him. Even his moral character has not been spared.

It has been said that he failed to do his duty, and he has been

called an inebriate. These accusations are absurdly false. But suppose they were true.

Some of us remember the terrible and lacerating words with which one of the gentlest spirits of the Victorian age crushed to the earth a man who had ventured to defame Father Damien :

Suppose these things were true,' he wrote. “Is it growing at all clear to you what a picture you have drawn of your own heart? I will try yet once again to make it clearer. You had a father : suppose this tale were about him, and some informant brought it to you, proof in hand : I am not making too high an estimate of your emotional nature when I suppose you would regret the circumstance ? That you would feel the tale of frailty the more keenly since it shamed the author of your days ? And that the last thing you would do would be to publish it in the religious Press ?

Well, the man who tried to do what Damien did is my father and the father of the man at the Apia bar, and the father of all who love goodness; and he was your father too, if God had given you the grace to see it.'

In the very heart of the metropolis Gordon's statue stands under the shadow of the great Nelson Column. Both these men claimed that they had tried to do their duty, and not vainly. Nelson had many frailties; Gordon had but few.

But, few or many, Gordon is the father of every patriotic man and woman of English blood. Especially is he the father of the poor and humble children whom he loved, and he is the father of every one of his detractors, if God had given them the grace to see it.'


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I FOUND myself lately in a company of average citizens where Lord Cromer's account and investigation of Gordon's proceedings and character were freely canvassed. It was asserted by a minority that Lord Cromer was bound to tell the truth, an amendment to leave out all the words after was' and to insert the words well advised to take this opportunity of saying what he thought not being accepted. The majority disapproved. They held Lord Cromer's estimate of Gordon to be grudging, overdone with the nicely calculated less or more,' and his moral reflections to be trite.

It may be that, having regard to this particular man, and to these particular events, Lord Cromer's method may be commonplace and his attitude a little usher-like. But Lord Cromer is a man of affairs dealing with the hard facts of history; he is surely entitled to deal with them in his own way; and a passage I lately came across in one of Hume's Essays is to the point.'

Some of Zobeir Pasha's comments and notions about the trans. actions we associate with the conspicuous memory of General Gordon may, in their turn, be of interest now that Lord Cromer's book is attracting so much and such deserved attention. I can at all events give them first hand.

Before going further I had better explain the nature of my own connection with Zobeir Pasha at the time of his detention at Gibraltar in 1885 and 1886. He was lodged in the Governor's cottage, the summer dépendance of Government House, perched on the bold cliffs between Europa Point and Catalan Bay, overlooking the Straits. You could throw a stone into the sea from the verandah; some people could, anyhow. The establishment was placed in charge of an officer of the garrison, whose duties were to administer all moneys

· Nothing requires greater nicety in our inquiries concerning human affairs than to distinguish exactly what is owing to chance and what proceeds from

nor is there any subject in which an author is more liable to deceive himself by false subtleties and requirements. To say that any event is derived from chance cuts short all further inquiry concerning it, and leaves the writer in the same state of ignorance with the rest of mankind. But when the event is supposed to proceed from certain and stable causes, he may then display his ingenuity in Assigning these cau


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