Saturday, February 26, 2011

29Mar1880, Borough Elections

BOLTON ABBEY, March 29th–April 4th, 1880.
—A great and notable week for England! the Borough elections came off thick and fast, and revealed a mighty reaction; the week-end finds us with a gain of 55 Liberal seats. The greatest events have been Leeds, which puts Uncle W. at the head of the poll, majority 10,000, and a 2nd Liberal who polls _____ more than the Tory next in order. Bradford, Halifax, Manchester, and many more are great victories too; manifest causes of true repentance for the wretched splits and confusions of the past. York kicks out "Jimmy Lowther." The same thing is going on S., E., and W. as well as N. As for F. and Sir Matthew Wilson, they have been making a regular triumphant "progress," and great fun it has been for me. Farming districts, big colliery villages, and manufacturing towns — it's all the same; close-packed meetings, roars of applause, all but unanimous shows of hands, and frantic enthusiasm of man, woman, and child. We dined Friday at Mr. Shaw's gorgeous house at Allangate, and, driving down in an open carriage to Sowerby Bridge, the whole population turned out to meet us. And all this the more delightful from being Yorkshire: such keen, strong intelligent faces listening intently and seizing upon the points of the speeches. As to the hospitality !—splendid banquets of every degree await us at every turn, to the sore perplexity of unaccustomed stomachs; wine and salmon and sweetbreads and feather-beds abound; and all sorts and conditions of men are working like horses day and night at the canvassing, "all for love and nothing for reward." The party seems absolutely united; many questions are sometimes asked as to drink, disestablishment, etc., but there seems no fear of losing any votes by these differences, and we fly into the arms of rabid Dissenters and teetotallers, all as gentle as sucking-doves. Mr. Illingworth (just elected with Mr. Forster for Bradford), who would not work for F. last election, turns up on our platforms and speaks for him; and he and I go hooking about together.

—Monday. We led off with the excellent Dewhursts of Aireville, Skipton (who had 2 cooks from Manchester to do us honour !), and did 3 meetings to which they drove us. Barnoldswick the most interesting; an immense gathering. F. went off Tues. Todmorden way, and I staid the night at Aireville, going with him and the Wilsons Wednesday to Bentham. Sumptuous luncheon at Mrs. Rice's. Thence Ly. Wilson and I went on to the B. Briggs at Keighley, missing 2 meetings, but coming in for splendid evening ones at Keighley. Here vaccination has been a perfect red-rag, but beyond a question or two we heard nothing of it. Harriet Briggs inveigled me to see Mr. Longsdon's chapel with my text in it. Likewise to a Confirmation on April 1st, after which we drove to call on Mrs. Craven and at Oakworth, Mr. Holden's gorgeous house, with miles of hot-house, and a most homely body of a Missus to do the honours. Said Isaac Holden a frantic anti-Church man, but now working tooth and nail for us! I ought to have mentioned Settle on Tues., where F. is well known from his chairmanship of Giggleswick Grammar-school, and where consequently there were delightful things said of him. Unlucky Messrs. Powell and Lister here first met my sight, winding up a poor meeting, at one side of the market¬place, while we were high-gee at the other.

—Thurs. Ly. Wilson and I took it easy, while the hapless candidates stumped to Ripponden, West Vale, and Elland, and ended at a delightful old Mrs. Ormerod's at Brighouse, where we turned up to dinner. Two hot-and-hot meetings afterwards, where telegrams came in with the 1st series of triumphs — Halifax led off. Friday was the splendid Sowerby Bridge day. At Buttershaw we had the usual splendid spread under the auspices of an excellent old couple of the name of Bottomley; the lady in the most marvellous cap over her round red face: they killed us with kindness. Rattling good meeting afterwards in a spacious Independent School. We slept near Sowerby Bridge at a Mr. Morris's; a most uncommon fidget, with a fine-lady wife, but nice sons; and every luxury under the sun.

Saturday there was no time to eat, the result of which was that we had 7 meals!! Six meetings, but the gentlemen were pitied and allowed to divide forces: Ly. W. and I stuck to Sir Matthew and had tea and supper and what-not at Mr. Craven's of Thornton: great meeting there. Got back to the Happy Valley [FN: I.e. Bolton.] in pouring rain at 12.30. At Addingham a maukin tore after the carriage to ask "what Liberal gains," and when we told him, went madly cheering into the darkness. Sunday most lovely and delicious and heart-refreshing. Walk to the Valley of Desolation and the Strid. Tea with the Bellairs; he means to plump for F., tho' in a sad fright about the Church, but believing he won't pull it down, and much encouraged by the thought of getting rid of Lord Cairns and his vile Church appointments.

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