Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

From Fraser's Magazine. memoir, while the sympathetic work of an WALTER BAGEHOT.

attached friend, is at the same time just In some respects, the intellect of the and discriminating. The character of its gifted man whose name furnishes the title subject is set in a clear light, and he beof the present paper, was typical of the comes by means of this sketch a visible age. It was fearless and independent, entity in the minds of readers. While accepting only that which came with well- duly grateful, with Mr. Bagehot's other established claims upon its credence; it friends, for the fine tributes paid to his was susceptible, yet capable of giving

financial sagacity by the chancellor of the exact weight to the opinions and ideas exchequer, Lord Granville, and others, which impinged upon its susceptibility; it Mr. Hutton says:was dissatisfied with the status quo, both I have sometimes felt somewhat unreasonin theology and politics; and, as in the ably vexed that those who appreciated so well case of all the best minds, it was not utterly what I may almost call the smallest part of devoid of some tinge of utopianism. To him appeared to know so little of the essence a frank and liberal nature were united of him, of the high-spirited, buoyant, subtle, deep mental culture, considerable philo- qualities were even more remarkable than the

speculative nature in which the imaginative sophical power, imaginative endowments judgment, and were, indeed, at the root of all of no mean order, and — what is more that was strongest in the judgment, of the gay surprising than all, perhaps, after the qual- and dashing humor which was the life of every ities just enumerated — a large practical conversation in which he joined, and of the ability rarely witnessed in this order of visionary nature to which the commonest brain. Few men of our own time have things often seemed the most marvellous, and combined in so eminent à degree “the the marvellous things the most intrinsically useful and the beautiful ” — if we may use

probable. a common phrase in this connection. Yet There is a class of persons upon whom his name and his writings are by no means the mere words “political economy” act so widely known as they deserve to be. as a kind of nightmare; and many of these It would be unfair to the late Mr. Bagehot have probably been repelled from a closer to apply the ordinary standards of popu- acquaintance with Bagehot by a precon. larity in his case; the value of such a mind ceived notion that he is one of “the dreary is not to be measured by the amount of professors of a dismal science.adulation poured upon it in the press. posed to be beyond the capacity of man to Nor did he at any time court popularity make the science of figures interesting, for its own sake. Now that he is gone, though we have the illustrious examples thinking men recognize a distinct loss; a of a Pitt and a Gladstone to the contrary. gap which no other writer exactly fills; However, the old adage, “Give a dog a and this is, perhaps, the best of all tributes bad name,” has been carried out as regards which could be paid to the memory of political economists, and it many cases it Walter Bagehot.

acts as a most effective bogey. Mr. HutIt is not my intention - even if it were ton is convinced that Bagehot's judgment within my power

to consider the claims was sounder than other men's on many of Mr. Bagehot upon his generation as a subjects, “not in spite of, but in consepolitical economist or a political reformer quence of the excursive imagination and and thinker; but I would say something vivid humor which are so often accused upon the man himself, and upon his purely of betraying otherwise sober minds into literary efforts.

An opportunity is fur- dangerous aberrations.” One cannot altonished for this, owing to the two volumes gether coincide in this, nor in the statement of essays by Mr. Bagehot recently pub- that in Bagehot“ both lucidity and caution lished, and preceded by an admirable bio- were directly traceable to the force of his graphical sketch by Mr. Hutton.* This imagination.” Humor undoubtedly has a

Literary Studies. By the late Walter Bagehot, With a Prefatory Memoir. Edited by Richard Holt M.A., and Fellow of University College, London. | Hutton. London: Longmans, Green, & Co.

a

It is sup

a

a

great practical value; for what is it in vice-chairman of Stuckey's Banking Com. essence, but the capacity to perceive dif- pany, and in this post he was succeeded ferences ? But to trace caution as an effect by his son. Bagehot's mother was a niece of the imagination is another matter. In of the Mr. Samuel Stuckey above menone order of intellect, and that the highest tioned, and she appears to have been a range, of which Shakespeare is a type, we sensible as well as an intellectual woman. witness the practical and the imaginative “ There is no doubt that Bagehot,” says faculties developed pari passu. The au- his biographer," was greatly indebted to thor of “Hamlet” - we are authorized the constant and careful sympathy in all in believing - would have made as good his studies that both she and his father a chancellor of the exchequer as Mr. gave him, as well as to a very studious Gladstone, as skilful an engineer as the disposition, for his future success.” She Stephensons, as excellent a man of busi- had a marked taste for science, which she ness, and as shrewd, as the Stewarts and cultivated under the direction of her rela. the Astors. To use a homely but expres- tive, Dr. Prichard, author of “The Races of sive phrase, one “would have to get up Man." This taste, or a measure of it, was very early” to take Shakespeare in. But imparted to her son, and the results of who would venture to say all this of Milton, his early speculative thought and diligent or of Dante? - men of towering imagina- inquiry are discovered in his work on tion, but lacking the all-round force of “ Physics and Politics.” Mr. Hutton first Shakespeare. And if we come to a some made Bagehot's acquaintance at Univerwhat lower range of writers, we find that sity College, London, when neither of them the vast majority of those who have been had attained his seventeenth year. He distinguished for their imaginative gifts was struck by the questions he put, and have been equally noted for the absence the two baving become known to each of business capabilities. The truth is that other, an intimate friendship resulted. in Bagehot's case the imagination and the Bagehot did not go to Oxford, as his business faculty were developed together ; father was strongly opposed to all docbut if the former had been less active, I trinal tests. The loss was not great, fail to see why the latter should have however, to an intellect constituted like necessarily suffered, as would have been Bagehot's; it certainly would not have the case upon Mr. Hutton's hypothesis. ripened so well there as it did in those But one thing should be borne in mind. haunts in London where the questions of and this will probably help us in fathoming the day were freely discussed, and handled the reason why Mr. Bagehot did not pro- without intellectual gloves. As Bagehot cure an intense hold upon the public mind himself afterwards expressed it, – - viz., that though he had a lively imagi.

In youth the real plastic energy is not in nation, it was not the imagination of abso

tutors, or lectures, or in books “got up,” but lute genius, but the imagination of a high in Wordsworth and Shelley, in the books that order of talent.

all read because all like; in what all talk of The life of Walter Bagehot, as regards because all are interested; in the argumenta. its conspicuous incidents, may be puttive walk or the disputatious lounge ; in the im. within a very brief compass. He was pact of young thought upon young thought, of born at Langport, a small town in the fresh thought on fresh thought, of hot thought heart of Somersetshire, on the third of on hot thought; in mirth and refutation, in February, 1826. An excellent centre for ridicule and laughter; for these are the free trade, it was at Langport that Mr. Samuel play of the natural mind. Stuckey founded the Somersetshire Bank, In short, the best teacher and educator which holds a high position amongst pro- of man is humanity. Under the care of vincial banking-houses. As Mr. Hutton such men as Professors De Morgan, Mal. states, it is now the largest private bank den, and Long, Bagehot's mind was quickly of issue in England. Walter Bagehot's expanded and sharpened. But he did not father, Mr. Thomas Watson Bagehot, was remain content with the formal knowledge for thirty years managing director and thus acquired. The period of his studies

[ocr errors]

m

was one of great popular agitation, the this is a very different thing from convicfree-trade campaign being then in full tion; they have been saved from embracvigor; and Mr. Hutton says that he and ing her religion because intellect and Bagehot

conscience have alike recoiled from her

It would be curious seldom missed an opportunity of hearing

stupendous errors. together the matchless practical disquisitions to inquire upon how many distinguished of Mr. Cobden — lucid and homely, yet glow- men of our own time Dr. Newman has not ing with intense conviction — the profound wielded a powerful influence at some stage passion, and careless, though artistic, scorn of in their career. Though he has given to Mr. Bright, and the artificial and elaborately the Roman Catholic Church "what was ornate periods, and witty, though somewhat meant for mankind,” there is, perhaps, ad captandum, epigrams of Mr. W. J. Fox more in him than in any other writer now (afterwards M.P. for Oldham). Indeed, we living, to attract the admiration and venescoured London together to hear any kind of ration of men of all sects. Bagehot's adoratory that had gained a reputation of its miration for him seems to have led him own, and compared all we heard with the declamation of Burke and the rhetoric of inal lines which Mr. Hutton quotes possess

even to imitate his poetry; and some origMacaulay, many of whose later essays came

both vigor and idea. out and were eagerly discussed by us while we were together at college.

While Bagehot was reading law in Lon

don - undecided upon his future course, Even at this early stage there seems to and hovering between the bar and the have been developed in Bagehot that sense bank - he made the acquaintance of that of the advantages to be derived from com- singular man of genius, Arthur Hugh promise which afterwards distinguished | Clough. This acquaintance speedily rihim in relation to some great questions. pened into friendship. Clough was prinIn private life, however, while affable, cipal of University Hall, an institution in kind, and generous, he does not appear to which Bagehot took a great interest. Mr. have had that mere “agreeableness” which Hutton, who can trace the effect of some Talleyrand defined as belonging to "the of Clough's writings on Bagehot's mind to man who agrees with me.” He was not the very end of his career, gives the folof that numerous class of men who go lowing noticeable picture of Clough: out of their way to say smooth things for the express purpose of making matters There were some points of likeness between pleasant all round.

Bagehot and Clough, but many more of dif

ference. Both had the capacity for boyish In 1846, Bagehot took the mathematical scholarship with his bachelor's degree in spirits in them, and the florid color which usuthe University of London; and two years both were reserved men, with a great dislike

ally accompanies a good deal of animal vigor; later he received the gold medal in intel- of anything like the appearance of false sentilectual and moral philosophy with his ment, and both were passionate admirers of master's degree. It was at this time he Wordsworth's poetry; but Clough was slightly became well grounded in the principles of lymphatic, with a great tendency to unexpolitical economy, though these severer pressed and unacknowledged discouragement, studies did not preclude him from the and to the paralysis of silent embarrass. more attractive pursuits of theology and ment when suffering from such feelings, while poetry. Mr. Hutton says that one of his Bagehot was keen, and very quickly evacuated favorite authors was Dr. J. H. Newman, embarrassing positions, and never returned to

them. and that for seven or eight years of his

When, however, Clough was happy

and at ease, there was a calm and silent radi. life the Roman Catholic Church had a

ance in his face, and his head was set with a great fascination for his imagination, kind of stateliness on his shoulders, that gave though he does not believe that he was him almost an Olympian air; but this would ever at all near conversion. Many deep sometimes vanish in a moment into an emthinkers have been impressed by the bis- barrassed taciturnity that was quite uncouth. tory and antiquity of the Roman Church, One of his friends declares that the man who and the picturesqueness of her ritual, but was said to be “a cross between a schoolboy

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

race.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

60

and a bishop" must have been like Clough. | illustrations of that “ruinous force of the There was in Clough, too, a large Chaucerian will” which Bagehot had learnt from simplicity and a flavor of homeliness, so that Clough so much to dread. Mr. Hutton now and then, when the light shone into his quotes an extract in which the writer eyes, there was something, in spite of the air maintained that free institutions are apt to of fine scholarship and culture, which reminded one of the best likenesses of Burns.

succeed with a stupid people, and to

founder with a ready-witted and vivacious Clough certainly possessed, what Bage. one. These sentences, though fallacious, hot lacked, distinct genius; but there was are excellent in their way:something of the intellectual dyspeptic in the former, and this cannot be said of the clever people always lose? I need not say

Why do the stupid people always win, and Bagehot. It may, perhaps, be straining a that in real sound stupidity the English people point to describe the philosophy of Clough

are unrivalled. You'll have more wit, and as the philosophy of discontent, though better wit, in an Irish street row than would there was much of that in it. Discontent, keep Westminster Hall in humor for five per se, is an insidious and harmful creed; weeks. . . . These valuable truths are no disbut discontent, as an incentive to inquiry, coveries of mine. They are familiar enough is most helpful. Clough's attitude on all to people whose business it is to know them. vital questions was one of hesitancy; and Hear what a douce and aged attorney says of however much we may admire the man your peculiarly promising barrister. “Sharp ? and his gifts, hesitancy and negation have Oh, yes, yes, he's too sharp by half. He isn't never done much for the human

safe, not a minute, isn't that young man.” Man asks for something definite and posi, director some youthful aspirant for literary

* What style, sir,” asked of an East Indian tive, and it is a singular but undoubted renown, “is most to be preferred in the comfact, that the most stable happiness ac- position of official despatches ?” 'My good companies assurance and belief not be- fellow,” responded the ruler of Hindostan, lief in this or that creed so much, but still “the style as we like is the Humdrum !” a well-grounded and earnest belief in something. It is not surprising, consequently,

This writing is clever, but it teems with that such a philosophy as that of Clough false assumptions. The stupid people do should make few proselytes. We admire not of course always win, nor do the clever his genius, but because we feel the diffi- people always lose. The English people culty with him of finding truth, we are not, are not unrivalled for their stupidity, nor necessarily, to plunge ourselves into the is the humor of an Irish street row the depths of despair. As Mr. Browning highest development of wit. The average sings,

Englishman may not be so vivacious as

the average Frenchman, yet England has God's in his heaven

produced (considering its restricted area) All's right with the world !

more nimble-witted men, and more men of One very curious intellectual episode in genius, than any other country. Caution Bagehot's career is that during which he and slowness of speech must not be conwrote a series of letters in the Inquirer founded with stupidity; and if England upon Louis Napoleon's coup d'état. The has acquired her liberties by slower stages Inquirer is the organ of the Unitarian than some other nations, she holds them body, and in 1851 a knot of clever young with a firmer grip. If the English are a Unitarians, including Mr. J. Langton San- stupid people, our stupidity might be ford and Mr. Hutton, were engaged in emulated with advantage by our vivacious conducting it. To this journal Ňr. Bage-, neighbors across the Channel. It is this hot (who was not a Unitarian) contributed' stupidity or resolution, as we should his letters on the coup d'état. They must prefer to call it — which has insured for have fallen like a bombshell amongst the modern Englishmen the inheritance desreaders of the Inquirer, to most of whom cribed by Mr. Tennyson, the words “ Louis Napoleon” were the

A land of settled government, synonym of despotism of the worst type.

A land of just and old renown, While almost all English Liberals were

Where freedom broadens slowly down moved with indignation against Louis

From precedent to precedent. Napoleon, Bagehot undertook to defend the act for which his name was most exe- But though at one time Bagehoț thus crated. As a specimen of ingenious defended a high-handed and an outrageous reasoning and argument his letters are act, his biographer states that in later life well worth reading; but, as Mr. Hutton he was by no means blind to the political says, the coup d'état was one of the best shortcomings of Louis Napoleon's régime,

An article which he published in the Econ- | brotherhood." Here crops out Bagehot's omist after a later visit to France in 1865 cynicism, and his contempt for the cant of abundantly proves this. Speaking of the those who are perpetually talking of the government of the empire, he remarks: great human brotherhood, and yet keeping " It is an admirable government for present a sharp eye upon their neighbors, and and coarse purposes, but a detestable too often upon their neighbors' propgovernment for future and refined pur-erty. poses.” Again: “A real course of free Ceasing to think of the bar as a profeslectures on popular subjects would be im- sion, Bagehot joined his father in the Sompossible in Paris. Agitation is forbidden, ersetshire bank, alternating his financial and it is agitation, and agitation alone, and commercial transactions with visits to which teaches. The crude mass of men London. He was fond of hunting, but he bear easily philosophical treatises, refined had no love for the ordinary amusements articles, elegant literature ; there are but of society. Mr. Hutton relates an amustwo instruments penetrative enough to ing saying of his to the effect that he reach their opaque minds - the newspaper wished he could think balls wicked, being article and the popular speech ; both so unquestionably stupid, with all their of these are forbidden." Once more : “ little blue and pink girls, so like each “France, as it is, may be happier because other.” Banking and commerce now en. of the empire, but France in the future gaged his attention, but literature was not will be more ignorant because of the em- neglected. He became joint editor of the pire. The daily play of the higher mind National Review, and to this and to the upon the lower mind is arrested.” France Prospective Review he contributed a series "endures the daily presence of an efficient of articles which were afterwards pubimmorality; she sacrifices the educating lished under the title of “Estimates of apparatus which would elevate Frenchinen some Englishmen and Scotchmen.” Most yet to be born. But these two disadvan- of these articles reappear in the volumes tages are not the only ones. France gains now before us, and it is certainly matter the material present, but she does not gain for surprise that (as the editor observes) the material future.” Bagehot's keen mind the literary taste of England could commit detected the flaws in the policy of the em- the blunder of passing by these remarkapire, and he hatėd with intensity its system ble essays. Few living men could have of repression. The latest development of written some of the articles; where they Cæsarism in France had a fall as swift and do not command assent, they challenge sudden as its rise; and under any circum- admiration in the great majority of instances the lack of the necessary condi- stances for their critical insight. tions to sound and permanent government At the age of thirty-two Bagehot marforbade its long continuance. The disas. ried the eldest daughter of the Right Hon. ter of 1870 only precipitated that which James Wilson. Mr. Wilson died in India was inevitable.

while acting as financial member of the It is stated that during his residence in Indian Council. In editing the Economist, Paris, and at the time of the riots, Bage in the study of politics and of political

was a good deal in the streets, and economy, and in the preparation of his from a mere love of art helped the Paris. work on “ Physics and Politics,” Mr. Bageians to construct some of their barricades, hot's time was now passed. In matters notwithstanding the fact that his own sym- political he was as fearless a thinker as pathy was with those who shot down the Mr. Lowe, though he had also much in barricades, not with those who manned common with that far more cautious states. them. He climbed over the gates of the man, Sir George Cornewall Lewis, for Palais Royal on the morning of December whom, indeed, he had a high admiration. second to breakfast, and used to say that There is something in these views which he was the only person who did breakfast would commend itself to the member for there on that day.” He speaks of the the University of London: “He would Montagnard as “the most horrible being have been glad to find a fair excuse for to the eye I ever saw – sallow, sincere, giving up India, for throwing the colonies sour fanaticism, with grizzled moustaches, on their own resources, and for persuad. and a strong wish to shoot you rather than ing the English people to accept deliberdot. The Montagnards are a scarce com- ately the place of a fourth or fifth rate modity the real race — only three or European power which was not in his four, if so many, to a barricade. If you estimation a cynical or unpatriotic wish, want a Satan any odd time, they'll do ; only but quite the reverse, for he thought that I hope that he don't believe in human such a course would result in generally

hot

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »