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BEACONSFIELD

direction, they thought it one of their first duties to maintain their own Eastern empire; or, to put it another way, to contrive that Great Britain should be subject to Russian ascendancy (if ever), at the remotest period allowed by destiny. Such were the ideas on which England’s Russian policy was founded. In 1876 this policy revived as a matter of course in the Cabinet, and as spontaneously, though not upon a first provocation, became popular almost to fury. And furiously popular it remained. But a strong opposing current of feeling, equally passionate, set in against the Turks; war began and lasted long; and as the agitation at home and the conflict abroad went on, certain of Disraeli’s colleagues, who were staunch enough at the beginning, gradually weakened. It is certainly true that Disraeli Avas prepared, in all senses of the word, to take strong measures against such an end to the war as the San Stefano treaty threatened. Rather than suffer that, he Avould have fought the Russians in alliance with the Turks, and had gone much farther in maturing a scheme of attack and defence than was known at the time or is commonly known now. That there was a master motive for this resolution may be taken for granted ; and it is to be found in a belief that not to throw back the Russian advance then was to lose England’s last chance of postponing to a far future the predominance of a great rival power in the East. How much or how little judgment shows in that calculation, when viewed in the light of later days, we do not discuss. What countenance it had from his colleagues dropped away. At the end their voices Avere strong enough to insist upon the diplomatic action which at no point falls back on the sword; Lord Derby (foreign minister) being among the first to make a stand on that resolution, though he was not the first seceder from the Government. Such diplomacy in such conditions is paralytic. It cannot speak thrice, with whatever affectation of boldness, Avithout discovering its true character to trained ears ; which should be remembered when Disraeli’s successes at Berlin are measured. It should be remembered that what with the known timidity of his colleagues, and what with the strength and violence of the Russian party in England, his achievement at Berlin was like the reclamation of butter from a dog’s mouth; as Prince Bismarck understood in acknowledging Disraeli’s gifts of statesmanship. It should also be remembered, when his Eastern policy in 1876-78 is denounced as malign and a failure, that it was never carried out. Good or bad, ill or well calculated, effective existence was denied to it; and a man cannot be said to have failed in what he was never permitted to attempt. The nondescript course of action Avhich began at the Constantinople Conference and ended at Berlin was not of his direction until its few last days. It only marked at various stages the thwarting and suppression of his policy by colleagues who were haunted night and day by memories of the Crimean war, and not least, probably, by the fate of the statesmen who suffered for its blunders and their, own. Disraeli also looked back to those blunders, and he Avas by no means insensible to the fate of fallen ministers. But just as he maintained at the time of the conflict, and after, that there would have been no Crimean war had not the British Government convinced the Tsar that it was in the hands of the peace party, so now he believed that a bold policy would prevent or limit war, and at the worst put off grave consequences which otherwise would make a rapid advance. As if aware of much of this, the country was well content with Disraeli’s successes at Berlin, though sore on some points, he himself sharing the soreness. et there were great days for him after his return. At the

Berlin Conference he had established a formidable reputation ; the popularity he enjoyed at home was affectionately enthusiastic; no minister had ever stood in more cordial relations with his sovereign ; and his honours in every kind were his OAvn achievement against unending disadvantage. But he was soon to suffer irretrievable defeat. A confused and unsatisfactory war in Afghanistan, troubles yet more unsatisfactory in South Africa, conspired with two or three years of commercial distress to invigorate “ the swing of the pendulum ” AArhen he dissolved parliament in 1880. Dissolution the year before would have been wiser, but a certain pride forbade. The elections Avent heavily against him. He took the blow with composure, and sank easily into a comparative retirement. Yet he still watched affairs as a great party leader should, and from time to time figured vigorously in debate. Meanwhile he had another novel to sit down to—the poor though highly characteristic Endymion; which, to his great surprise and equal pleasure, Avas replaced on his table by a cheque for ten thousand pounds. Yet even this satisfaction had its tang of disappointment; for though Endymion was not Avholly written in his last days, it Avas in no respect the success that Lothair was. This also he could bear. His description of his grandfather recurs to us: “A man of ardent character, sanguine, courageous, and fortunate, with a temper which no disappointment could disturb.” As Earl of Beaconsfield (failing health had compelled him to take refuge in the House of Lords in 1876) Benjamin Disraeli died in his house in Curzon Street on the 19th of April 1881. The likelihood of his death was publicly known for some days before the event, and then the greatness of his popularity and its warmth Avere declared for the first time. No such demonstration of grief was expected even by those who grieved the most. He lies in Hughenden churchyard, in a rail-enclosed grave, with liberty for the turf to grow betAveen him and the sky. Within the church is a marble tablet, placed there by his Queen, Avith a generous inscription to his memory. The anniversary of his death has since been honoured in an unprecedented manner, the 19th of April being celebrated as “ Primrose Day ”—the primrose, for reasons impossible accurately to define, being popularly supposed to have been Disraeli’s favourite floAver. Even among his friends in youth (Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer, for an(j example), and not improbably among the City i^flue^e men who wagered their money in irrecoverable loans to him on the chance of his success, there may haA'e been some who compassed the thought of Benjamin Disraeli as prime minister and peer; but at no time could any fancy have imagined him remembered so enduringly as Lord Beaconsfield has been. It is possible that Sarah Disraeli (the Myra of Endymion), or that “ the most severe of critics but a perfect wife,” may have had such dreams—hardly that they could have occurred to any mind but a devoted woman’s. Disraeli’s life Avas a succession of surprises, but none was so great as that he should be remembered after death more widely, lastingly, respectfully, affectionately, than any other statesman in the long reign of Queen Victoria. While he lived he did not seem at all cut out for that distinction even as an Imperialist. Significant as was the common grief when he died, no such consequence could be inferred from it, and certainly not from the elections of 1880. It stands, however, this high distinction, and with it the thought that it would have been denied to him altogether had the “adventurer” and “mystery man” of the ’sixties died at the age of threescore years and ten. We have said that never till 1872 did he look upon the full cup of popularity. It might have been said that even at that