Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XII.: THE ECONOMIST - The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 10 (The Life)
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CHAPTER XII.: “THE ECONOMIST” - Mrs. Russell Barrington, The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 10 (The Life) 
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. 10.
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Bagehot was sworn in as Justice of the Peace for the County of Somerset at the Epiphany Session held at Taunton, and on 18th January, 1861, he attended Petty Sessions for the first time with Sir Arthur Elton. They drove together to Long Asheton , where Petty Sessions were held.
My father had appointed his brothers and Bagehot his executors. It was settled that Bagehot should undertake the Directorship of the Economist, to continue, in fact, to hold the same position my father gave him when he left for India. He was beginning to feel that the daily railway journeys were exhausting, and determined that it would be better for him and my sister to live in London. About this time Lord Ellenborough wrote to my mother offering to relinquish his lease of 12 Upper Belgrave Street which he had taken for five years, the term of my father’s Indian appointment. It was decided that she should accept this kind offer, and that the Bagehots should make their London home with us in Upper Belgrave Street. A change was made in Bagehot’s work in Stuckey’s Bank. He resigned the local management of the branch in Bristol and undertook to supervise the work of the Bank in London.
A change also was made in the staff of the Economist. Mr. Meredith Townsend, who was conducting the Friend of India in 1859, had obtained an introduction to my father while he was in Calcutta. Mr. Townsend wished to leave India and start a newspaper in England. My father advised him to obtain, if posible, the aid of Mr. Hutton. Much as my father and Bagehot valued Mr. Hutton, they agreed in thinking that his particular gifts would work better on the staff of a newspaper such as Mr. Townsend wished to start, than on that of the Economist. On arriving in England Mr. Townsend found that the Spectator was in the market. Following my father’s advice he made the acquaintance of Mr. Hutton, and together, as co-proprietors and co-editors, they revived the Spectator. The complete success of this venture is now well known.
Bagehot did not replace Mr. Hutton but undertook the work of editing as well as directing the Economist himself. By living in London he found this was possible, at all events, for the time being. The uprooting from The Arches took place in May, 1861.
In the July number of the National Review, 1861, appeared Bagehot’s essay on William Pitt, the text being “Life of the Right Hon. William Pitt by Earl Stanhope, author of the History of England from the Peace of Utrecht”. It was a subject after his own heart. Pitt’s commanding character, his courage, his fortitude, his singular good fortune, his unrivalled opportunities while he still possessed the fervour of youth, all appealed to Bagehot’s imagination. But perhaps what fascinated him most were certain characteristics in Pitt which cannot fail to remind those intimate with Bagehot of himself. “He (Pitt) was preserved,” Bagehot writes, “from the characteristic degradation of well-intentioned and erudite youth by two great counteracting influences—a strong sense of humour and a genuine interest in great subjects. His sense of fun was, indeed, disguised from the vulgar by a rigid mask of grave dignity; but in private it was his strongest characteristic. ‘Don’t tell me,’ he is said to have remarked, ‘of a man’s being able to talk sense; everyone can talk sense; can he talk nonsense?’ And Mr. Wilberforce, the most cheerful of human beings, who had seen the most amusing society of his generation, always declared that Pitt’s wit was the best which he had ever known. And it was likely to be; humour gains much by constant suppression, and at no time of life was Pitt ever wanting in dexterous words. No man who really cares for great things, and who sees the laughable side of little things, ever becomes a ‘prig’.” Again, how much of the following description of Pitt suggests Bagehot’s own moods. “In all descriptions of Pitt’s appearance in the House of Commons, a certain aloofness fills an odd space. He is a ‘thing apart,’ different somehow from other members. Pitt was spare, dignified, and reserved. When he entered the House, he walked to the place of the Premier, without looking to the right or to the left, and he sat at the same place. He was ready to discuss important business with all proper persons, upon all necessary occasions, but he was not ready to discuss business unnecessarily with anyone, nor did he discuss anything but business with any save a few intimate friends, with whom his reserve at once vanished, and his wit and humour at once expanded, and his genuine interest in all really great subjects was at once displayed. In a popular assembly this sort of reserve, rightly manipulated, is a power. It is analogous to the manner which the accomplished author of Eothen recommends in dealing with Orientals: ‘it excites terror and inspires respect’. A recent book of memoirs illustrates it. During Addington’s administration, a certain rather obscure ‘Mr. G.’ was made a privy councillor; and the question was raised in Pitt’s presence as to the mode in which he could have obtained that honour. Someone said, ‘I suppose he was always talking to the Premier and bothering him’. Mr. Pitt quietly observed, ‘In my time I would much rather have made him a Privy Councillor than have spoken to him’.” (In a letter to one of his sisters-in-law, Bagehot writes: “It is inconceivable to me to like to see many people and even to speak to them. Every new person you know is an intellectual burden because you may see them again, and must be able to recognise and willing to converse with them.”) “It is easy to conceive the mental exhaustion which this well-managed reserve spared him, the number of trivial conversations which it economised, the number of imperfect ambitions which it quelled before they were uttered. An ordinary man could not, of course, make use of it. But Pitt at the earliest period imparted to the House of Commons the two most important convictions for a member in his position: he convinced them that he would not be the king’s creature, and that he desired no pecuniary profit for himself. As he despised royal favour, and despised real money, the House of Commons thought he might well despise them.”
Lord Ellenborough did not at once find another London house to suit him, therefore our return to Upper Belgrave Street was delayed till the winter of 1861. Meanwhile my mother and the Bagehots took a house in Ennismore Gardens—belonging to a very great friend and admirer of my father’s, Mr. Bonamy Price, Professor of Political Economy at Oxford. There Madame Mohl spent most days with us. She was writing the Life of Madame Récamier and sought my sister Julia’s aid in correcting her proofs.
Bagehot was then writing the article on “The American Constitution” for the National Review, suggested by stirring events then happening in America. During that year he wrote no less than thirty-one articles in the Economist on the Civil War, and the main side issues resulting from it.
In the early days of August the death occurred of Lord Herbert of Lee, and a tribute to him by Bagehot appeared in the Economist. “Lord Herbert’s untimely death is one of those rare calamities,” he writes, “which all men of all parties unite not only in deploring as a public loss, but in feeling as a personal grief. We cannot say ‘we could have better spared a better man,’—for among our statesmen no better man was to be found; but assuredly we could have better spared a cleverer man,—and many cleverer undoubtedly exist. But Lord Herbert was an unique man; and unique men are of all the most difficult to replace. He was also an unstained and undamaged man—and such can seldom be met with among politicians who for years have taken a prominent part in the struggles of the Parliamentary arena or the toils of official life, and are perhaps scarcer than ever now. He was in the prime of his mature strength; he had the highest position in the State in almost certain prospect; and, what was more important still, he had great services yet to render to his country. He did much, but has left his special work undone. He was disinterested and sincere; he was not specially ambitious of distinction or of power; he was fortunate in that his position as to rank and wealth left him nothing to desire; more fortunate still in that this happy independence was in him combined with a public courage which is not always its concomitant. From his freedom, from his honesty, from his earnestness, he drew that proper spirit—half the inheritance of the English gentleman, half the endowment of the moral and religious thinker—which refused to fall in with popular prejudice or to bow to popular clamour. He sympathised largely and warmly with the people; he served them zealously and faithfully; but never for a moment would he either flatter them or yield to them. On the question of Reform his views were liberal as well as moderate; he repeated no party Shibboleth: he really studied the subject, and was one of the few public men who showed himself a willing and intelligent recipient of new ideas. Power, in his estimation, was too sacred a trust to be either neglected or abused: he could not, knowingly, have made a bad appointment; he could not have deliberately foisted into the public service an incompetent relative or friend; he could not, at the head of a great department, have suffered recognised abuses to survive, if a way of reforming them could be devised. He was above everything a man to confide in; you always knew where to find him; he had courage, but it was not aggressive; he had zeal, but it was according to knowledge. He has left no similitude behind him.”
The great event of the winter of 1861 was the death of the Prince Consort. Bagehot published a short article in the Economist of 21st December on this grave national calamity. “If our loss,” he wrote, “is not—as has been extravagantly said—the greatest which the English nation could have sustained, it is among the most irreparable. . . . The royal family of last week is still (and without change) the royal family of to-day; but the father of that family is removed. For such a loss there is not, in this world, any adequate resource or any complete compensation. In no rank of life can anyone else be to the widow and children what the deceased father and husband would have been. In the Court as in the cottage, such loss must not only be grief now, but perplexity, trouble, and perhaps mistake hereafter. The present generation, at least the younger part of it, have lost the idea that the Court is a serious matter. Everything for twenty years has seemed to go so easily and so well, that it has seemed to go by itself. There is no such thing in this world. Everything requires anxiety, and reflection, and patience. And the function of the Court, though we easily forget it when it is well performed, keeps itself much in our remembrance when it is ill-performed. The Crown is of singular importance in a divided and contentious free State, because it is the sole object of attachment which is elevated above every contention and division. But to maintain that importance, it must create attachment. We know that the Crown now does so fully; but we do not adequately bear in mind how much rectitude of intention, how much judgment in conduct, how much power of doing right, how much power of doing nothing, are requisite to unite the loyalty and to retain the confidence of a free people. . . . His (Prince Albert’s) circumstances and perhaps his character, forbade him to attempt the visible achievements and the showy displays which attract momentary popularity. Discretion is a quality seldom appreciated till it is lost; and it was discretion which Prince Albert eminently possessed.”
No quality was more adequately appreciated by Walter Bagehot than such discretion—the active principle of good sense.
In the month previous to the Prince Consort’s death Walter Bagehot lost his old friend Arthur Clough, the poet and the subject of Matthew Arnold’s “Thyrsis”. He died of fever at Florence on the 13th of November in his forty-third year. To quote afresh Mr. Hutton’s words: “Clough ever remained to Bagehot a theme of profound intellectual and moral interest which lasted him his life, and never failed to draw him into animated discussion long after Clough’s own premature death.” At the time, however, of Arthur Clough’s death Bagehot was engaged in work, the interest of which had, I think, somewhat freed him from this “intellectual fascination”. His admiration for my father had also tended to effect this.
Of my father Bagehot wrote: “His conscientiousness was of a plain but very practical kind; he had a single-minded rectitude which went straight to the pith of a moral difficulty—which showed him what he ought to do. On such subjects he was somewhat intolerant of speculative reasoning. ‘The common sense is so and so,’ he used to say, and he did not wish to be plagued with anything else.” I think Bagehot felt the simplicity of my father’s views had a wholesome effect upon his own mind. In the National Review of October, 1862, appeared Bagehot’s article “Mr. Clough’s Poems”. In it we find together with much subtle appreciation the following:—
“Mr. Clough’s career and life were exactly those most likely to develop and foster a morbid peculiarity of his intellect. He had, as we have explained, by nature, an unusual difficulty in forming a creed as to the unseen world; he could not get the visible world out of his head; his strong grasp of plain facts and obvious matters was a difficulty to him. Too easily one great teacher inculcated a remarkable creed; then another great teacher took it away; then this second teacher made him believe for a time some of his own artificial faith; then it would not do. He fell back on that vague, impalpable, unembodied religion which we have attempted to describe.”
Bagehot still continued to feel a reverence and admiration for his old friend; this he shows in his essay on his poetry; but circumstances no less than the natural trend of his own nature had, I think, changed his attitude towards what he called the peculiarity of Mr. Clough’s intellect. He felt more and more that this peculiarity tended to a hair-splitting in moral and religious speculation which led to no definite enlightenment.
During the years spent together in Upper Belgrave Street, between our returning there in 1861 and my marriage in 1868, we had much of Walter at his best. Ordinary conversation became extraordinarily stimulating. Constantly there was an unexpected charge of wit given out in a quaint restrained tone of voice, a twist of whimsical fancy turned on to a very commonplace matter, which made the hours spent with him a revelry of good things. No subject was needed to make a conversation notable, everything was a subject with Walter Bagehot. The discussion of serious matters, equally with those of a frivolous kind, was of no less original a quality. Everything he said carried with it that profound sense of reality which was so strong a characteristic of his mind. A passage in the essay on Shelley shows how he treats of the “higher air” which does not carry with it this sense. He writes: “Of course, all his [Shelley’s] Works contain ‘Spirits,’ ‘Phantoms,’ ‘Dream No. 1,’ and ‘Fairy No. 3,’ but these do not belong to this world. The higher air seems never to have been favourable to the production of marked character; with almost all poets the inhabitants of it are prone to a shadowy thinness; in Shelley, the habit of frequenting mountain-tops has reduced them to evanescent mists of lyrical energy.” Who but Walter Bagehot could hint with so neat a humour at the flimsy, dictatorial element in some of Shelley’s arrangements when he flies into this “higher air”?
The natural affinity of one side of Walter Bagehot’s mind was clearly for such wisdom and understanding as is taught us in the Book of Proverbs. In his Essay on Bishop Butler he applies Dr. Arnold’s expression, moral thoughtfulness to his subject. The expression partly suggests his own attitude of mind. But in him this attitude, though certainly existing, was mitigated in rigour by elasticity of temperament, buoyant spirits, and a general happiness of nature. He knew, through personal experience, that an attitude of moral thoughtfulness need not be allowed to overpower all other valuable qualities. He writes that it cannot but be doubted “how far such teaching as that of Arnold tends to introduce a too stiff and anxious habit of mind; how far the perpetual presence of a purpose, will interfere with the simple happiness of life, and how far also it can be forced on the ‘lilies of the field’; how far the care of anxious minds and active thoughts is to be obtruded on the young, on the cheerful, on the natural”.
The tenet which Walter Bagehot held, and consistently put into practice, was Live and let Live. This tolerance infused into the atmosphere of family life a singularly nutritious flavour. The saying “A gentleman is careful of the dignity of others” fits well into the memories of Walter Bagehot, recalling the invariable consideration he paid to every feeling or interest in those about him, however different from his own they might be, providing always they were real feelings and real interests. He writes: “we may admire what we cannot share; reverence what we do not imitate. As those who cannot comprehend a strain of soothing music, look with interest on those who can; as those who cannot feel the gentle glow of a quiet landscape, yet stand aside and seem inferior to those who do; so in character, the buoyant and the bold, the harsh and the practical, may, at least for the moment, moralise and look upwards, reverence, and do homage when they come to a close experience of what is gentler and simpler, more anxious and more thoughtful, kinder and more religious than themselves.”1 A strong sympathy and kindliness towards his fellow-creatures as fellow-creatures, especially towards the young and those with whom he was connected, made him highly sensitive to their interests. To those of his sisters-in-law he proved himself as keenly alive as if they had been sisters of his own. In family life, no less than in political and financial affairs, it was the sense of absolute trust inspired by Walter Bagehot which won confidence and secured the great influence he possessed. Even had he not inherited strict principles as to right and wrong, he was too wise not to have preferred the straight to the crooked paths. Intellectually as well as morally he was profoundly sound. He allowed no personal predilections, no inclination of his mind or of his feelings to over-ride his reasoned opinions. None of the “taking” qualities that inspire passing engouements and fashions in the public mind, no exciting movements, ever made his judgment swerve from the reality of truth. A friend of ours who had been a constant inmate of our home before and after Walter Bagehot entered it, would converse in a singularly pleasant and ingenious fashion on questions affecting the prosperity of the country; but was apt at times to indulge in eloquent flights of argument, aerial theories, and prophetic convictions, all based more or less on a cloud arrangement of his own creation. After a lively spurt of such ingenuity, I remember Walter, in a kindly, sarcastic, slightly speculative tone, opened his dark, round eyes very wide, turned his head a little on one side, and said quietly: “Most valuable information, if true!” much in the same spirit as he would—to quote Mr. Hutton—utter his satirical “Hear, hear!”—a formidable sound in the debating society, and one which took the heart out of many a younger speaker; and the ironical “How much?” with which in conversation he would meet an over-eloquent expression, was always apt to reduce a man, as the mathematical phrase goes, to his “lowest terms”. Walter Bagehot keenly felt the responsibility of eloquence, and how morally cheap it could be when let forth merely as an exciting game, or to support an unsound argument in too persuasive a fashion (see passages in his article “Mr. Gladstone”). He thought eloquence not safe unless it were the outcome of profound conviction and deep feeling. It was a power likely to do mischief and lead astray if not safeguarded by rigid conscientiousness and a power of true perception. His own mental survey embraced a wide horizon. He looked beyond the obvious expediency in a question, and from this wider outlook worked back, so to speak, on to the consideration of every-day practical matters. He recognised the importance of acting deliberately and wisely in these commonplace occurrences, for he knew the influence commonplace events can have on the lives of the great majority, who in this world lead commonplace lives. But, however far-reaching might be the ideas which Walter Bagehot brought to bear on daily concerns, they were conveyed invariably in a natural, familiar manner, without any alarming impressiveness.
In those Belgrave Street days he was especially talkative at breakfast. It was flattering to hear him say that he found it more amusing to breakfast with his sisters-in-law than to join breakfast parties to which he was asked, given by Gladstone and other notable people. At The Arches he had generally had before him the anxiety of catching his train. Here he had not, so would linger, wandering about the room, and continuing to talk, his mind fresh, his spirits buoyant. No attitude of “moral thoughtfulness” ever extinguished the boy in Walter Bagehot. It is exasperating to think of the many good things that came out while he paced up and down the Belgrave Street dining-room, and yet to have made no record of them. But there are warnings against the attempt to put them down on paper. Others have made the attempt. I think it is wiser to refrain. I feel with Henry Sawtell that it is useless to try to conjure up Bagehot’s wit for those who have no picture of Bagehot himself in their mind’s eye. President Woodrow Wilson, never having seen him, wrote a brilliantly understanding essay on Bagehot as “A Wit and a Seer,” inspired by his writings. His talk, however, was more amusing even than his writings. But the gist of it was evoked by the subject of the moment, by the person to whom he was speaking, by his or her peculiar interests or characteristics. The pith of it could not be conveyed without a vision of Bagehot himself, and the situation which evoked it. Egoism was totally absent. The last rôle he would have wished to play was that of a professional wit. He was never known to have been guilty of a monologue. Conversation never went beyond the limits of conversation proper. As Lord Bryce, in a letter to Mr. Hutton, after Bagehot’s death, wrote: “one seemed to gain more profit as well as pleasure from a talk with him [Walter Bagehot] than with almost any one else, all the more so because, however much one felt his superiority, it always remained conversation, and not, as so often with great talkers, a lecture or a declamation”.
The charm of his funny sayings lay in their unpremeditated quaintness, in their not being made up. He knew no more how his wit came out than did those who enjoyed it. It was inspired nonsense, and Walter’s nonsense would have satisfied Pitt, or any other, fastidious in the art.
Besides the breakfast-table at home another happy field for expansion in this art was the Spectator office. From early days Mr. Hutton was accustomed to get his full share. Bagehot soon became intimate with Mr. Townsend, his co-editor. “I go round to the Spectator Office,” he used to say, “to know what is going to happen. Townsend can always prophesy.” In after years, referring to his constant visits, Mr. Meredith Townsend writes: “Do you know I doubt if I ever received a letter from Mr. Bagehot in my life. If he had anything to say he ran in to the Spectator, and if I had anything to say I ran in to the Economist. I am quite sorry, for any letter of his was sure to be full of witty wisdom.” In a letter to my sister written in 1905, Miss Helen Gladstone records a saying of Walter’s, uttered about that time: “I think the only time I met Mr. Bagehot to speak to was a very long time ago when he came to one of my father’s Thursday breakfasts at 11 Carlton House Terrace, but we left that house over thirty years ago; I only remember distinctly one thing that he told us; that he knew what a nut felt like when it was going to be cracked, as he once got his head caught between a cart-shed and a lamp-post.”
To the world at large who did not know him personally, Bagehot was viewed as a sedate and reserved person, the grave director of the Economist, who interviewed statesmen on important questions; who went down to the City and was treated as a person of importance when he got there; who edited the National Review, and wrote essays which were thought much of by those whose opinion was of moment.
President Woodrow Wilson writes: “He [Bagehot] became editor of the London Economist and brought questions of finance to the light in editorials which clarified knowledge and steadied prediction in such fashion as made him the admiration of the Street. The City had never before seen its business set forth with such lucidity and mastery.
“Such a capital as London is a huge intellectual clearing-house, and men get out of it, as it were, the net balances of the nation’s needs and thoughts. Bagehot both took and gave a great deal in such a place. His mind was singularly fitted to understand London, and every complex group of men and interest. He had the social imagination that Burke had, and Carlyle,—that every successful student of affairs must have, if he would scratch but a little beneath the surface or lift the mystery from any transaction whatever. For minds with this gift of sight there is a quick way opened to the heart of things. Their acquaintance with any individual man is but a detail in their acquaintance with men; and it is noteworthy that, though they gain in mastery, they do not gain in insight by their contact with men and with the actual business of the world.” This was most aptly true of Bagehot, whose insight was singularly intuitive.
Notwithstanding a very full life of grave occupations, he found time to ride with his sisters-in-law in the park, to drive his wife nearly every day in their phaeton, and to join much in the social life of our family, keeping up the while with his old friends and early associations. He continued to pay constant visits to Herd’s Hill, combining these with the fortnightly meetings of the directors of Stuckey’s Bank, and quarter sessions held at Wells or Taunton. He occasionally stayed with his old friends Sir Arthur and Lady Elton at Clevedon Court, and with Mr. Freeman, the historian, who, in 1860, bought a place called Somerleage , near Wells. Walter and my sister did not as a rule pay many country visits, as most of the available time out of London was spent at Herd’s Hill. Mr. and Mrs. Bagehot were very generous in their invitations to all our family, and we constantly enjoyed their hospitality.
Much going out and much entertaining at Upper Belgrave Street went on in those days, drawing-rooms, state balls, political “At Homes,” dinners, luncheons, balls, the opera and theatres. Friends would come in every afternoon to five o’clock tea. Walter, however, never assisted at this function. Mr. Greg, who was then Controller of the Stationery Office, would come nearly every day straight from his office at five o’clock, and often returned to dinner. Our house was a second home to him, while his own, on Wimbledon Common, was at our disposal when any member of our family wanted change of air. There was a constant going to and fro between Park Lodge and Upper Belgrave Street. Mr. Greg wrote on political questions, and he and Bagehot discussed these subjects together. They had mutual friends notable in the literary and political world, and pleasant dinner-parties took place at both houses, remarkable for the intellectual distinction of the guests. It suited Bagehot to have social life going on around him, provided he was not responsible for the arrangements, and that he could join, or not, as he felt inclined. On the occasion of a ball my mother gave, my sister wrote to Mrs. Bagehot: “I think our ball went off well. It was very full (nearly 300 people) and spirited, and we kept it up till half-past three. Walter really enjoyed it, and behaved quite nicely, not retiring once till he slipped away to bed at a quarter before three.” My sister wrote almost every day to Mrs. Bagehot giving her an account of the doings of the family. All these letters were preciously preserved, and exist unto this day.
Every one consulted Bagehot about any event that happened in our family. Walter could always understand. He gave the best advice in an amusing form, and was never known to rub any one the wrong way. The romances of his sisters-in-law were subjects of interest to him; he never in fact seemed indifferent about anything concerning those about him. I remember going to him to air some grievance I had against “disturbing influences”.1 He was sympathetic and consoling; “Get to your Ruskin,—you will soon forget all about it. I have been through the same sort of thing over and over again, and books have always come to the rescue.” Throughout his life, books were as healing balm to Bagehot. He never smoked, and when, as a youth, a friend told him that his cigars cost him £30 per annum, Walter exclaimed, “But imagine how many books that would buy!”
On Sundays he would often lunch with his friends, Lord and Lady Carnarvon, and in the afternoons drive my sister to Hampstead to see his Uncle and Aunt Reynolds, or ride to the Priory, St. John’s Wood, where on Sunday afternoons Mr. and Mrs. Lewes (George Eliot) entertained their friends. His uncle was the chief supporter of the Evangelical newspaper The Record, and Mr. and Mrs. George Lewes were steeped in German philosophy of most unorthodox tendencies! The quaint contrast amused Bagehot. His power of detachment enabled him to feel an interest in all varieties of creeds and opinions, the while retaining complete independence of thought and belief.
When paying a visit to Mr. Chichester Fortescue and Lady Waldegrave at Strawberry Hill, Walter and my sister met the Duc and Duchesse d’Aumale, then living at Orleans House, Twickenham. This acquaintance with Bagehot the Duc d’Aumale furthered.
Bagehot seldom remained in London long at a time. If he had any special piece of writing to get through, he and my sister would go for a few days to the sea, or to any place where pleasant scenery tuned his mind to a happy key and stimulated the growth of ideas. He would carry about with him minute pocket-books and in very faint pencil marks dot down notes when he was travelling, walking, riding or driving, or lying down on a sofa to rest. He always preferred lying down or standing to sitting. He had high desks made at which he would stand when writing.
In September, 1861, the Bagehots were in search of a quiet out-of-the-way seaside place, not too far from London. In the Diary, 23rd September, is recorded: “We started for Christchurch at 3 and reached it at 7, and put up at Newlyn’s Hotel. 24th.—Drove till dark looking for watering places—to Mudeford, Milford and Kielhaven—nearly as far as Hurst Castle. 25th—Drove to Mudeford and took Mount Pleasant. Found Zoe and Emy arrived from London at hotel. 29th September, Sunday. Beautiful mild day. Walter and I sat on beach and he read me poetry from Palgrave’s Collection. Walter, Zoë and Emy walked afternoon to opposite hills across the ferry. 30th.—Walter, Zoe and Emy went to beach before breakfast. Afternoon.—I had a donkey and we all went to the opposite hills, taking the donkey in the ferryboat, and sat in the heather. Went round by sand hills, and donkey lay down with me and sunk in the mud. We were obliged to get assistance and leave Walter with the donkey boy, and got home in the dark. A sea-captain helped the donkey out.”
This is the plain statement of an event which lives in my memory as a very amusing picture. Walter’s boyish delight in a comical situation came out in full force. He had always enjoyed a joke against my sister for her preferring donkeys to more spirited animals. He entirely enjoyed the donkey’s behaviour on that evening. The sun had gone down behind the sand hills above us, and a deep shadow was cast over the group surrounding the passive animal, who did not seem to mind in the least how far down in the mud he sank. It was a lonely piece of country, without trees or houses in sight. Walter managed with difficulty to get the donkey to stand on its legs, but the legs began sinking into the mud. Then he sent the donkey boy to fetch boards, and scooped each leg separately out of the mud, and placed them on the boards. But boards and legs together began to sink, and were continuing to do so when we sisters fled, leaving Walter and the donkey boy to cope with the situation, as twilight was fast turning into darkness. How the “sea-captain” succeeded in extricating the donkey history does not relate, but Walter returned to Mount Pleasant saying that he had.
The October number of the National Review containing Bagehot’s article on “The American Constitution” came out while we were at Mudeford, and from Mount Pleasant, Walter wrote to Mr. Gladstone: “I have ventured to desire the publishers of the National Review to send you the last number, which contains an article of mine on the ‘American Constitution’ and its effects just now. It has seemed to me that these have been a good deal overlooked in the midst of the more striking facts of the present crisis, and yet that they are very important. I should not, however, send you my article if what I have heard called the ‘Plenary power of not reading’ did not place the remedy in your own hands.