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William E. Gladstone
by [?]

Mr. Gladstone is grave, sober, earnest, proud, passionate, and at times romantic to a rare degree. He rebukes, refutes, contradicts, defies, and has a magnificent capacity for indignation. He will roar you like a lion, his eyes will flash, and his clenched fist will shake as he denounces that which he believes to be error. And yet among inferiors he will consult, defer, inquire, and show a humility, a forced suavity, that has given the caricaturist excuse.

In his home he is gentle, amiable, always kind, social and hospitable. He loves deeply, and his friends revere him to a point that is but little this side of idolatry. And surely their affection is not misplaced.

Some day a Plutarch without a Plutarch’s prejudice will arise, and with malice toward none, but with charity for all, he will write the life of the statesman, Gladstone. Over against this he will write the life of an American statesman. The name he will choose will be that of one born in a log hut in the forest; who was rocked by the foot of a mother whose hands meanwhile were busy at her wheel; who had no schooling, no wise and influential friends; who had few books and little time to read; who knew no formal religion; who never traveled out of his own country; who had no helpmeet, but who walked solitary–alone, a man of sorrows; down whose homely, furrowed face the tears of pity often ran, and yet whose name, strange paradox! stands in many minds as a symbol of mirth.

And when the master comes, who has the power to portray with absolute fidelity the greatness of these two men, will it be to the disadvantage of the American?

* * * * *

The village of Hawarden is in Flintshire, North Wales. It is seven miles from Chester. I walked the distance one fine June morning–out across the battlefield where Cromwell’s army crushed that of Charles; and on past old stone walls and stately elms.

There had been a shower the night before, but the morning sun came out bright and warm and made the raindrops glisten like beads as they clung to each leaf and flower. Larks sang and soared, and great flocks of crows called and cawed as they flew lazily across the sky. It was a time for silent peace, and quiet joy, and serene thankfulness for life and health.

I walked leisurely, and in a little over two hours reached Hawarden–a cluster of plain stone houses with climbing vines and flowers and gardens, which told of homely thrift and simple tastes. I went straight to the old stone church, which is always open, and rested for half an hour, listening to the organ on which a young girl was practising, instructed by a white-haired old gentleman.

The church is dingy and stained inside and out by time. The pews are irregular, some curiously carved, and all stiff and uncomfortable. I walked around and read the inscriptions on the walls, and all the time the young girl played and the old gentleman beat time, and neither noticed my presence. One brass tablet I saw was to a woman “who for long years was a faithful servant at Hawarden Castle–erected in gratitude by W.E.G.”

Near this was a memorial to W.H. Gladstone, son of the Premier, who died in Eighteen Hundred Ninety-one. Then there were inscriptions to various Glynnes and several others whose names appear in English history. I stood at the reading-desk, where the great man has so often read, and marked the spot where William Ewart Gladstone and Catherine Glynne knelt when they were married here in July, Eighteen Hundred Thirty-nine.

A short distance from the church is the entrance to Hawarden Park. This fine property was the inheritance of Mrs. Gladstone; the park itself seems to belong to the public. If Mr. Gladstone were a plain citizen, people, of course, would not come by hundreds and picnic on his preserve, but serving the State, he and his possessions belong to the people, and this democratic familiarity is rather pleasing than otherwise. So great has been the throng in times past, that an iron fence had to be placed about the ivy-covered ruins of the ancient castle, to protect it from those who threatened to carry it away by the pocketful. A wall has also been put around the present “castle” (more properly, house). This was done some years ago, I was told by the butler, after a torchlight procession of a thousand enthusiastic admirers had come down from Liverpool and trampled Mrs. Gladstone’s flowers into “smithereens.”