Sunday, September 26, 2010

11Mar1873, Gladstone's Finest Speech

LONDON, Tuesday, March 11th, 1873.
—To the House again, but not till after dinner (at Ly. Mt. Beaumont's), as a pack of wild Irish were to begin the debate [FN: On the Irish University Bill]. Heard the main part of Dizzy's speech, which was wild-hitting and weak. He cast "longing lingering looks behind" on concurrent endowment! an unearthly sort of card for Tories to depend on. As the clock struck 12 down he sat after a strained bit of declamation, and up sprung Uncle W. and made "the finest speech" of his life—so say many folks. It took exactly 2 hrs. He may have been more strikingly eloquent at other times ; but for strong conviction, perfect temper, mastery of his subject, brilliant hitting and power and fervour and ability, nothing cd equal it. He ran splendid tilts against Ld. Edmund Fitzmaurice for reversing the ancient custom of elders castigating the young, against Dr. Playfair for being misled by his professorial position into thinking nothing cd be done without lectures, whereas he, Uncle W., had gained all the academical trifles he had gained with hardly the help of a single lecture—(but this attack was most gracefully done so as to be complimentary both to Playfair and Scotland)—and against one or two others ; with a delightful quizzing of "Big Bentinck" as a "repentant rebel." It will be hard to look upon Uncle W. after this vigorous feat of arms as an old man in great want of rest, which he rather tries to make himself out! He drank nothing but water, despising his usual egg-flip, as it was after dinner. Well, it was over, with a fine appeal to the Liberal Party at the end, urging them to put the crown to their work of justice to Ireland. I cdn't help thinking such a speech wd turn the tide, but Atie. P., an older hand than me, did not let herself hope. When I saw F.'s face coming back from the lobby, I foresaw defeat; and so it was, by a majority of 3, showing a coalition between the Irish Ultramontanes and the Conservatives. Old M. was in Sir Ch. Russell's box [FN: "Sir" in the Diary : but she probably refers to Lord Charles Russell, then Serjeant-at-Arms.] and greatly delighted with the speech: wigged Johnny for voting against. Mr. Forster came to the Speaker's box and said, "I don't care for anything after that speech"—touching, as I know he is wretched at the prospect of going out before carrying through his Education Act. Uncle W., finding us waiting at the Ladies' Gallery door, mornes et mélancoli-ques, for the carriage, gave me a kind little kiss. Mary [FN: I.e., of course, Mary Gladstone, afterwards Mrs. Drew.] was there : it was the 1st time she had heard him.

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