Mr. Gladstone at Home. The Whole-Hearted Homage of a Hero-Worshipper.
J. P. Mayall, “The Whole Hearted Homage of a Hero-Worshipper,” in The Grand Old Man, No. 44, Pall Mall Gazette “Extra” (London) (November 5, 1888), Part VII, pp. 26–30. LSE Selected Pamphlets, LSE Library, http://www.jstor.org/stable/60214627.
MR. GLADSTONE AT HOME.
THE WHOLE-HEARTED HOMAGE OF A HERO-WORSHIPPER.
MR. J. P. MAYALL, one of the well-known photographers of that name, paid two visits to Hawarden for the purpose of photographing Mr. Gladstone. Of them he has been good enough to send us the following interesting account, which will be read just now with great interest. Last night crowds of enthusiastic Liberals flocked to the National Liberal Club to see Mr. Gladstone on show. In the following article is a picture of him as he appeared to a hero-worshipper at home :—
THE CASTLE LOOMS UP IN THE DISTANCE.
I packed up my apparatus and started off with my assistant on January 15, 1883, by the 5:15 A.M. train, from Euston. We arrived at Broughton Hall in due course, distant about two miles from Hawarden Castle, which was visible from the railway station. We drove over in a trap. The day was dull and unpromising for photography. The aspect of the country became more interesting as we approached the lodge gates of the park which surrounds the castle. Once inside the park the undulating character of the country studded with fine trees was very charming, reminding one so much of the subject of Mendelssohn’s beautiful part-song “Departure.” To my mind Hawarden-park represents a magnificent poem set to music. There one would delight to roam the long summer days, “forgetting and forgot” by the thousand and one cares which beset the life of man in cities, under the blue sky of heaven, there to commune with one’s own heart. There to go out at eve in the fields, to meditate as Isaac did of old. Surely after a busy and chequered life there would be enough to occupy one’s thoughts. As a background to this magnificent scene, the stately castle looms in the distance, the goal of our journey and the home of one of England’s greatest men--a noble and stately pile, built of stone in the mediæval Gothic style, with embattled towers and ponderous gateway. Our coachman entertained us with bits of local lore, and acquainted us with the important fact that he had often driven the old lady and gentleman (alluding to Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone) from the station in the vehicle we occupied. The coachman was evidently quite at home, for on approaching the ponderous gates he stepped down in the most familiar way and opened them both, and then entered in state, as though the place belonged to him. I was somewhat afraid we were trespassing by thus entering at the front gate, being always fearful of intruding, like “Paul Pry.” I had written to Mrs. Gladstone immediately on receipt of her letter to say that we should present ourselves at the Castle on Tuesday morning.
“SPARE NOT, WASTE NOT.”
Accordingly, I sent up my card by the major-domo, after waiting a few minutes in the servants’ hall, where I whiled away the time by taking down an inscription written over the fireplace in these words :—
Good words, excellent precepts, sound advice. And where could moral virtue be inculcated with better grace than in the home of the past and future Prime Minister of England? One who himself excels in every moral and social virtue, worthily does he occupy the exalted position to which he has been called by the Sovereign and people of England. From his labours, his life, and his character may every Englishman learn the most useful of lessons. “Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, worshipping the Lord.” His name Englishmen will always cherish and not willingly let die. But I must cease moralizing (which my friends tell me not to do), and come back to the subject.
“THE TEMPLE OF PEACE.”
Now came the technical and other difficulties to be surmounted in taking a photograph of Mr. Gladstone in his sitting-room. I had been somewhat alarmed at the persistent way in which Mr. Gladstone’s sitting-room had been pronounced too dark to be photographed. “Ah!” said I to myself, before seeing the sitting-room, “des faux bruits.” I have hardly seen a room which does not admit of being photographed with Wratten’s dry plates. “Soyez tranquille, mon ami,” I said to myself; “ne t’embarrasse point.” Now, Mrs. Gladstone told me that she wished to prepare Mr. Gladstone for the ordeal of being photographed, shall I say, for the thousand and first time. Would I, therefore, follow her into the “Temple of Peace.” .” By this tranquil name did she designate Mr. Gladstone’s sanctum. “Look round and take a general survey. Take no notice of Mr. Gladstone,” who was sitting in his favourite corner, reading. Accordingly, I followed her with light footstep and on entering I inwardly exclaimed, “Allons donc! des histoires. There is light enough here for my purpose.” But my attention was fully absorbed as Mrs. Gladstone pointed out the table where the Homeric studies had been penned, her own table, with many objects of interest scattered about (one a medallion of a great friend of Mr. Gladstone—Sidney Herbert, now no more).
WHAT MR. GLADSTONE WAS READING.
Mrs. Gladstone suggested to me that if I found the books in the way they could be removed. I said, “No! madam, don’t touch them. I am somewhat of a bookworm myself, and am jealous of any one disturbing my books. I will bring that much-treasured bookcase in view when I photograph Mr. Gladstone,” which I afterwards did. In the library were books on every conceivable subject. A series of shelves were dedicated to many and various editions of my favourite Shakespeare (the poet of poets). Even at a cursory glance I could gather from their titles in divers languages—Greek, Latin, Italian, French, German—those even which caught my eye. Ponderous tomes, representing the classical authors, Aristotle, Plato, Herodotus, Thucydides, &c. Reader, if you want to test your powers of comprehension, just try your ‘prentice hand on a volume of dry, theological disquisition which I saw in Mr. Gladstone’s library, entitled “L’Immaculata Concepzione.” Mr. Gladstone must have waded through this treatise with the same sturdy perseverance as though it had been a State paper to be grasped and fathomed before it could be dealt with, enabling him to expose the sophistry of the Roman Church. Yet one could imagine Mr. Gladstone’s capacious mind unraveling the thread of the argument and exposing it to view, unmasking, as it were, and divesting it of all its pomp of words and parade of logic with which the Church of Rome loves to array its lucubrations, which are made to conceal the real poverty and hollowness of the argument. “The Vatican Decrees” must have been well thumbed and thought over before answering. All the preparations being made and ready, the camera in site, double slides charged, and a good solid head-rest placed behind the chair, Mr. Gladstone was seated and I exposed the plate 120 seconds. Mrs. Gladstone and her son, who were in the library at the time, thought that I had exposed the plate five minutes, the time seemed so long. I said no, I had counted 120 long seconds, so Mr. Gladstone very good naturedly said, “Photographic seconds,” which I explained must be lengthened out if possible, as every photographer dreads under- exposure.
A DESCRIPTION OF THE TEMPLE.
I cannot here attempt to analyze my feelings on being ushered by Mrs. Gladstone into the “Temple of Peace,” and there to stand in the very room where Mr. Gladstone sat in his favourite corner, looking impassive as marble, engaged in reading. In that library at Hawarden Castle I saw one of the master spirits of the world, the scholar surrounded by his books and literary treasures, the man of letters immersed in thought, deep in study. You may perhaps be curious to know what book Mr. Gladstone had been reading. Now, as chance would have it, on my second visit to Hawarden Castle in June, 1883, after I had settled my apparatus in the library on the morning Mr. Gladstone sat to me the second time, I, being alone and having nothing else to do, availed myself of the opportunity to make a minute inspection of the library. On the table close by the chair where Mr. Gladstone sits in his library, I saw an open volume laid flat, placed with the pages facing the table so as not to lose the place—a habit familiar to every serious reader (and a very much better plan than dog-earing a page). I had the curiosity or indiscretion, which I dare say Mr. Gladstone will pardon, to examine the volume Mr. Gladstone had been reading, and the comments he had been making on it in his own handwriting. It was a volume in Greek—the Odes of Pindar. I said to myself, that must be pretty stiff reading, and would rather tax one’s knowledge of Greek. You require to be an enthusiastic Greek scholar to tackle such an author. The rest speaks for itself. To drop upon a man in his most unguarded moments might give you a surer key to his character and tastes than to meet him in public “staging himself in the eyes of the multitude.” I must confess, for my part, an extreme desire to make the acquaintance of men, not as they are seen by the outside world, but simply following the bent of their minds. Here is a touchstone of character which reveals volumes to the initiated and the genuine searcher.
A FEAST FOR THE EYE.
Mr. Gladstone then sat down in the chair, and here again was a feast for the eye of a painter, let alone a photographer. That face, that effect of light and shade, will never be effaced from my memory. It would have required Rembrandt himself to do justice to the occasion. There was a noble and majestic countenance, almost leonine in its aspect, so full of power and masculine dignity. This was one view of Mr. Gladstone’s face which I caught when I heard him speak in the House of Commons in May, 1883. At least, thought I to myself, I will aim at something different from anything I have yet seen of Mr. Gladstone. Whether I have succeeded or not I must leave others to judge. To the eye of the photographer Mr. Gladstone’s face is as pale as marble, and the lips and eyes alone give indication of colour. I have not seen any oil painting of Mr. Gladstone which satisfies my eye or which thoroughly represents the man. Per contra, as a salve to the portrait painters, I have seen a tremendous lot of caricatures of Mr. Gladstone in the shape of photographs (I hope that mine will not be included) which are downright false and repulsive. The finest photograph I have yet seen of Mr. Gladstone, and which I should like to have done myself, was one taken in Florence during his last visit to Italy. There is a delicacy and refinement about that photograph which pleases me. I have often gazed at it with much pleasure and delight. To the photographer Mr. Gladstone would be an endless subject: there is a refined expression on his countenance which caught my eye when speaking to him in the library which has not yet been portrayed either by painter or photographer. He will be a fortunate man who can render it.