Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE LATE MR. GRAVES. ( From The Economist, 25 th January, 1873.) - The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9 (Essays from the Economist, the Saturday Review)
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THE LATE MR. GRAVES. ( From “ The Economist, ” 25 th January, 1873.) - Walter Bagehot, The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9 (Essays from the Economist, the Saturday Review) 
The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, ed. Mrs. Russell Barrington. The Works in Nine Volumes. The Life in One Volume. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915). Vol. 9.
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THE LATE MR. GRAVES.
The generality of the sorrow at the sudden death of Mr. Graves, and the depth of the respect shown for his memory, almost prove that both must be deserved. That a man of Irish birth, who started in Liverpool with but little fortune and with no particular connections, should, at so early an age as fiftyfive, be Member for that great city, have an almost universal popularity there, receive at his election more votes than any borough Member ever obtained before, attain an excellent position in Parliament, and receive at his unlooked-for death marks of attachment and grief from all ranks of persons, and even from Royalty itself, is very remarkable, but it would be quite incomprehensible without real and great merit. Only fine qualities of some kind could enable a man who began with so few advantages to obtain so much influence over so many and so various persons, and to win so much regard from them.
Those best acquainted with the sphere of action will admit that business ability alone would never have given Mr. Graves the position he held, or have attracted such multitudes to his funeral. Business ability is not an uncommon quality in Liverpool; a very considerable number of persons could be named there who can transact commercial affairs almost as well as it is possible to transact them. No skill in money matters could elevate anyone much above many of them, for their skill in such matters is almost perfect. And though commercial ability gains money it does not win hearts, and it is plain that Mr. Graves gained at Liverpool and elsewhere a sympathy and an affection which can never be obtained by mere transacting power. Nor was Mr. Graves’s success in his constituency and in Parliament due to any singular gift of oratory. On the contrary, there are plenty of men who speak quite as well as Mr. Graves whom no one cares for, either in Parliament or out of it, and on whose death, however sudden, no one would grieve except a small circle just around them. Nor would mere “hard work,” to which we have seen Mr. Graves’s success, both in life and Parliament, ascribed, at all account for the peculiar nature of that success. The genuine faculty of hard work is not a common quality, and we quite agree that Mr. Graves possessed it; but we could name men even in Parliament who work quite as hard for whom no one cares—who have won no sympathy, and attained no respect.
The real secret of Mr. Graves’s peculiar success was his singularly unique character. He possessed in combination two important qualities, which are not very common singly, which are very rarely joined together, but the combination of which has singular power. A very high degree of fairness and honesty is not so very common in mercantile or in any other line of life. A certain decent amount of honesty is very fairly diffused; the higher kind of nicety and honour, which every one feels though no one can precisely describe it, is unhappily not common. And every one who met Mr. Graves, even casually, became at once convinced that he possessed this delicate and indefinable quality, and those who knew him long and well were unanimous that this casual conviction was justified. He was a man whom no one need watch, and who might be trusted implicitly, and with anything.
And besides this he was a consummate manager and manipulator of men. For the most part there is about people so honest as he was a certain rigidity of manner and stiffness of mind. They do not easily enter into the thoughts and minds of others; they are blunt and decided, and go to their object in a plain straightforward way. They do not perceive instinctively what others are thinking of; in consequence they are bad negotiators. They do not see what is in the minds of the other side, and so they say the wrong thing, and negotiation fails. But Mr. Graves was a warm negotiator. He could not help seeing what was in the minds of those with whom he was concerned. He adapted himself to it instinctively; was astonished that anyone could help seeing it. He was as pliable as a diplomatist could be, and he was as honest as it was possible to be. Indeed, an honest negotiator is the honestest of men, for it is in the making of delicate arrangements, and in the nice manipulation of men, that the highest honesty is tested most nicely.
We do not at all mean that Mr. Graves’s powers were of a moral kind only. The intellectual qualities required for a good diplomatist are of an extremely high kind. To have in a large measure the comprehension to understand and the tact to manage other men, is very rare, and Mr. Graves had these gifts in singular abundance. We need not say that besides these, he had all the qualities of a man of business, and that he had commercial knowledge and a fine practical understanding. All this has been said for the last few days so often that it is needless to repeat it. We have only tried to analyse a little his character, so as to give to those who did not know him some vague idea of his peculiar gifts and power.
That we have done so with a painful feeling we need not say. There is a charm about men like him which no analysis can reach, and no pen can set down. And those who have that charm are perhaps most apt to be taken from us. A coarse and hard man of business might have done Mr. Graves’s work and more, and been with us still; but the crush of Parliamentary and the struggle of commercial life are most trying to the finer fibres of human nature. In such scenes we should always watch with the most anxiety the lives of those whom we can least spare, and whom we should most wish to keep.