Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 34.djvu/391

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

for another period of five years, and made a contract on the same terms at the end of the second period.

Lytton had spent the whole of 1849 abroad. After his return he joined Dickens in an enterprise for the amelioration of the position of authors. He wrote a comedy, ‘Not so bad as we seem,’ for the amateur company of which Dickens was manager, which was performed (27 May 1851) at the Duke of Devonshire's house in London. The same company had played ‘Every Man in his Humour’ at Knebworth in November 1850, when the scheme for a ‘Guild of Literature and Art’ was suggested. The scheme languished, till at last Lytton gave a piece of land near Stevenage, Hertfordshire, upon which three houses were erected for decayed authors (built from the profits of ‘Not so bad as we seem’). It was opened by a festival (29 July 1865), at which Lytton and Dickens appeared as president and vice-president of the guild. Decayed authors, however, were not forthcoming, and the scheme collapsed. Dickens named a son, born in 1852, after his friend; and Lytton presided at the dinner (2 Nov. 1867) given to Dickens upon his last departure for America.

Bulwer now returned to political life. He had declined an invitation to stand for Westminster on account of his objection to a total repeal of the corn laws. In 1851 he published his ‘Letters to John Bull, Esq.,’ which went through several editions, advocating some moderate protection of corn. He had from the first differed from the liberals upon this subject; and his political theories, though differing from old-fashioned toryism, were never those of the radicals. He really shared the prejudices and principles of the class to which he belonged, though he tried to give them a more philosophical colouring, and especially distrusted the Manchester school, both as hostile to the landed interest and to what he regarded as a worthy imperial policy. He therefore joined the conservatives, and in 1852 was elected M.P. for Hertfordshire. He held the seat till his elevation to the peerage in 1866. His general reputation gave him more authority than he had possessed in his past parliamentary career. He never became a skilful debater, nor did he hold an important position among the leaders of his party. He made, however, set speeches which were carefully prepared and frequently successful. He spoke against such taxation as was disapproved by his party and the country gentlemen, supported an energetic prosecution of the Crimean war, advocated administrative reform and the introduction of competitive examinations in 1855, when our military failures had produced general discontent, denounced the treatment of China upon the ‘Arrow’ dispute in 1857, and opposed the abolition of the East India Company in 1857 as conducive to the subordination of Indian interests to parliamentary intrigue.

He was appointed secretary for the colonies in Lord Derby's ministry (1858–9). His principal measure was for the organisation of the new colony of British Columbia, which had become necessary in consequence of the discovery of gold-fields and a rapid influx of population. Queensland was also separated from New South Wales during his tenure of office, and a town in each colony is named Lytton after him. He defended the Reform Bill introduced by Disraeli in 1859, and attacked that introduced in 1860 by Lord John Russell in two able speeches. The point of both was the danger of swamping the constituencies by an indiscriminate admission of the working classes, and the necessity therefore of such an arrangement of the franchise as might admit only the more prudent and intelligent. He afterwards opposed Mr. Gladstone's bill of 1866 upon similar grounds.

After leaving office Lytton ceased to take any conspicuous part in politics. Upon Lord Derby's return to office in 1866 he was raised to the House of Peers as Baron Lytton of Knebworth (gazetted 13 July 1866). He meanwhile resumed his industry as an author. His love of the mysterious, already shown in ‘Zanoni,’ led to the ‘Strange Story’ (1862), in which some attempt is made to give a quasi-scientific colouring to old-fashioned magic. Besides various publications of a different kind, he produced ‘The Coming Race’—an ingenious prophecy of the society of the future—which made a great success, although he kept the authorship secret until his death; ‘Kenelm Chillingly,’ a novel intended to give some of his views of the tendency of the age; and ‘The Parisians,’ a lighter satirical version of the same views, which was appearing in ‘Blackwood's Magazine’ at his death.

Lytton died at Torquay, 18 Jan. 1873, in the arms of his only son. He had long suffered from some disease in the bones of the ear. Acute pain set in on the 16th, and he became unconscious on the day of his death.

Lytton was elected lord rector of Glasgow in 1856 and 1858, the only Englishman, it is said, upon whom the honour has been twice conferred.

Lytton is one of the authors upon whose merits the critics have never agreed with the public. He won immense popularity in the