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William E. Gladstone
by [?]

He always spoke the truth. He never played “hookey”; nor, as he grew older, would he tell stories of doubtful flavor, or allow others to relate such in his presence. His influence was for good, and Cardinal Manning has said that there was less wine drunk at Oxford during the Forties than would have been the case if Gladstone had not been there in the Thirties.

He graduated from Christchurch with the highest possible honors the college could bestow, and at twenty-two he seemed like one who had sprung into life full-armed.

At that time he had magnificent health, a fine form, vast and varied knowledge, and a command of language so great that he was a master of forensics. His speeches were fully equal to his later splendid efforts. In feature he was handsome: the face bold and masculine; eyes of piercing luster; and hair, which he tossed when in debate, like a lion’s mane. He could speak five languages, sing tenor, dance gracefully, and was on more than speaking terms with many of the best and greatest men in England. Besides all this he was rich in British gold.

Now, here is a combination of good things that would send most young men straight to perdition–not so Gladstone. He took the best care of his health, systematized his time as a miser might, listened not to the flatterers, and used his money only for good purposes. His intention was to enter the Church, but his father said, “Not yet,” and half-forced him into politics. So, at this early age of twenty-two, he ran for Parliament, was elected, and has practically never been out of the shadow of Westminster Palace during these sixty-odd years.

At thirty-three, he was a member of the Cabinet. At thirty-six, his absolute honesty compelled him for conscience’ sake to resign from the Ministry. His opponents then said, “Gladstone is an extinct volcano,” and they have said this again and again; but somehow the volcano always breaks out in a new place, stronger and brighter than ever. It is difficult to subdue a volcano.

When twenty-nine, he married Catherine Glynne, sister and heir of Sir Stephen Glynne, Baronet. The marriage was most fortunate in every way. For over fifty years this most excellent woman has been his comrade, counselor, consolation, friend–his wife.

“How can any adversity come to him who hath a wife?” said Chaucer.

If this splendid woman had died, then his opponents might truthfully have said, “Gladstone is an extinct volcano”; but she is still with him, and a short time ago, when he had to undergo an operation for cataract, this woman of eighty was his only nurse.

The influence of Gladstone has been of untold value to England. His ideals for national action have been high. To the material prosperity of the country he has added millions upon millions; he has made education popular, and schooling easy; his policy in the main has been such as to command the admiration of the good and great. But there are spots on the sun.

On reading Mr. Gladstone’s books I find he has vigorously defended certain measures that seem unworthy of his genius. He has palliated human slavery as a “necessary evil”; has maintained the visibility and divine authority of the Church; has asserted the mathematical certainty of the historic episcopate, the mystical efficacy of the sacraments; and has vindicated the Church of England as the God-appointed guardian of truth.

He has fought bitterly any attempt to improve the divorce-laws of England. Much has been done in this line, even in spite of his earnest opposition, but we now owe it to Mr. Gladstone that there is on England’s law-books a statute providing that if a wife leaves her husband he can invoke a magistrate, whose duty it will then be to issue a writ and give it to an officer, who will bring her back. More than this, when the officer has returned the woman, the loving husband has the legal right to “reprove” her. Just what reprove means the courts have not yet determined; for, in a recent decision, when a costermonger admitted having given his lady “a taste of the cat,” the prisoner was discharged on the ground that it was only needed reproof.