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George's 'autocracy' and his supposed suppression of Government by Cabinet, that the reason for Lord Ripon's resignation, his refusal to identify himself with the action of Mr Asquith's Government in yielding to the inflammatory appeals of the Protestant Alliance, was for the first time made known to some members of Mr Asquith's Cabinet by reading in Lord Ripon's biography his letter of resignation to the Prime Minister of the day. Chivalrous and loyal to the last, Lord Ripon allowed Mr Asquith to state or imply as the true cause of his retirement the false reason of advancing age and failing health, leaving him to suffer in silence the adverse comments of the Roman Catholic world, rather than risk the danger to the Government-especially from their Irish supporters—if the true story had been revealed.
The sorrow that darkened the last two years of Lord Ripon's life was the loss of his wife. After fifty years of companionship-and never was the word better exemplified than in the relation of these two married peopleLady Ripon died. She was his closest friend and counsellor. Every conclusion, slowly and laboriously formed, every contemplated action, was first brought to her whose advice he never set aside. In spite of sickness and pain, from which she was never altogether free, her smiling eyes and charming voice were ready always to be placed at his service. Her sofa was a throne of grace. On one occasion, Auberon Herbert, her cousin, led his two beautiful curly-headed children, the late Lord Lucas and his sister, up to her sofa saying, "We three are republicans, but you, dearest H. A. T., are our Queen.'
Mr Gladstone and Lord Beaconsfield,' wrote Sir Arthur Helps from Hughenden, 'agreed in one thing, their admiration for Lady Ripon. Her correspondence, if lacking in brilliancy, betrays in every line the sweetness of her character. From Rome in 1876 she wrote:
'I am supposed to be enjoying my travels wildly, and, if only I had a little less pain, I should do so, for I find to my surprise that age has not numbed my powers of appreciation of what to one appears beautiful, and I am as indifferent as ever to bad food, waiting at stations, travelling in the dark, and the hundred and one little things that put so many people out. . . . On Saturday Lord R. had an audience at the Vatican. The Pope was very gracious and said that his
conversion had cheered him up in his days of affliction. I have had a long talk with Archbishop Howard. He used to be a partner in the days of my youth. He looks so contented and prosperous while he talks of the present terrible state of things, but, as he says, going to Heaven is all that signifies. One understands his complacency without sharing his opinions. , .. I am very fond of Mrs Arthur Sidgwick. I only saw Henry Sidgwick at his brother's wedding, but, if he is as good a philosopher as speaker, Cambridge has reason to be proud of him indeed. I did not think the stammering a real drawback, and otherwise he was perfect.'
Many are the extracts from Lady Ripon's letters that could be quoted to show her fine discrimination, although she had no pretensions to style, and wrote upon impulse out of simple friendship. Lord Northbrook interests me (she says). He is so warm-hearted, and that cold sarcastic manner is merely a mask. I should think he was always haunted by the fear of being carried away by sentiment.' Of W. E. Forster she says, He is an overgrown baby who never had his fling when young'; and of Lord Ripon she wrote:
"We went to Rome this time last year. I think Goderich becomes happier every day. A life of rule is so soothing and attractive to his disposition. I sometimes think that if I were to die, he would be tempted to join some community; but he would not yield to the inclination, devoted as he is to the old Duty to your neighbour of the Catechism.'
Perhaps with some persistence in this train of thought she had urged Lord Ripon to visit once more Dr Newman, who was getting old and very frail. Lord Ripon spent two happy days at the Birmingham Oratory, the memory of which remained with him for the next thirty years of his life.
'I was more than charmed with the great man, as you justly call him, but it was on this occasion, just as it was when I saw him before, his wonderful simplicity which struck me most& gentle modest simplicity which is more saintly than anything I have ever seen, though Father Douglas in Rome has a good deal of it. We were, I think, both shy at first (of course I was); but, as time went on, it wore off and we talked about all sorts of things and people charmingly. You see his intellectual power flashing out through his modesty in a way unlike anything I have ever seen before, and sometimes the sparkle of an almost unconscious sarcasm, playful not malicious, but recalling many things in his writings. In all he said of others there was a wonderful gentleness and fairness, whether he spoke of Gladstone or Dr Pusey or whosoever it might be. He seems much older in the face than in his movements, which are singularly swift (that seems to me the appropriate word), and show the naturally eager temperament of the man. This morning I attended his Mass at seven and received Holy Communion from him.'
At this time, and throughout the two succeeding years (1878-9), the idea that he might again hold office was forming in Lord Ripon's mind. His aspiration and his consequent attitude towards the Liberal Party are well explained by his biographer. In all questions of domestic and foreign policy he took an active interest, and never lost a chance of urging his views upon the Liberal leaders. His mistrust and dislike of Palmerston in the days of early manhood were in middle life transferred to Lord Beaconsfield. His hatred of Disraeli was an unreasoning obsession, much as his hatred of Palmerston had been.
'I cannot doubt,' he wrote (1878), 'that Lord Beaconsfield has really unconstitutional theories and tendencies in the direction of the “Quarterly Review” article. I do not think that these theories have any hold on the country; and, when Lord B. is out of the way, he will have no successors in this part of his political teaching. But I fear the effect of it on the Queen and the Prince of Wales; Hartington and others may have to meet and overcome the evil consequences of these pernicious doctrines on Royal minds.'
There was no reason for alarm. Such reflexions and fears are the commonplaces of controversial politics, But Disraeli's mind, mystical, adventurous, and robust, could make no possible appeal to one who, however honest, as Mr Gladstone said of Jane Austen, neither dives nor soars.' Lord Ripon mistrusted alike the diver and the soarer. It was this mistrust that had led him from Frederick Maurice into the Roman fold. During the intervening years he had read much, and had faced the three questions that Kant said it was the business of philosophy to answer. To the inquiry, What can I
know? What ought I to do? For what can I hope ?' he had found no reply other than the pontifical formulæ of the Catholic Church. Probability was for him no guide of life. He required the certainty which he could only find in Rome.
Having accepted the doctrines of the Catholic Church, he judged all things by her standards. He had moved away from the Radicalism of his youth, and moved towards the Whiggism of his parents. So much a Whig had he become that he would quote with approval Lord Acton's dictum that the danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern; every class is unfit to govern. Like all Whigs, he had ceased to feel active doubt. Morals, politics, the world, were full of problems, but all were soluble by the application of a few simple rules. The mind's health, as well as the body's, lay in routineà rule of life. He refused to believe that his country. men, with whom he had always been on such excellent terms, caring for their welfare and working for it, would acquiesce in the conclusions of Mr Gladstone's pamphlets on the Vatican Decrees. To persecute him as a Catholic, and shut him out from the field in which he had worked all his life, could not happen, unless Mr Fox was right, and men persecute because they love persecution. And thus it came to pass, as his biographer asserts, that he set his heart on entering the next Liberal Cabinet. His diary is quoted, where he tells of the message sent through Lord Hartington's private secretary.
In another's diary the following passage refers to the episode :
'A few days ago I showed Lord Ripon a list which, when I was at Chatsworth, Harcourt had made of candidates for office in the next Liberal Government. The following day Lady Ripon said Goderich was surprised at the omission of his name. I said I never supposed, nor did Harcourt, I felt sure, that Lord Ripon had office in view, having, when he became a Catholic, abandoned all idea of it. That evening after dinner, he called me to his room, and said that he wished me to know that his views of his eligibility for office, as a Catholic, were not what they were five years ago. His position in the country was stronger than it ever before. .. Lord Halifax, the only man with whom he had discussed the matter, was of opinion that he might
be included in the Cabinet notwithstanding his religion. Whether it would be wise of a Prime Minister to give him office he was not prepared to say; that would depend on circumstances; but he wished me to know that he did not consider himself, and he did not wish it to be assumed that he did consider himself, “out of the running.”'
In the following spring (1880) he was GovernorGeneral of India. He succeeded Lord Lytton, described by Lord Ripon's biographer as being in his dreams and his pose more Disraelian than his hated chief.' No one who ever knew Robert Lytton could connect him with 'pose' of any
kind. It was true that he saw visions and dreamed dreams, delightful compound as he was of statesman and poet, of cultured mind and youthful heart.
have inspired hatred in political opponents who never understood or knew him. Of those who were fortunate enough to be honoured with his friendship, most men and all women loved him. His Indian administration, like that of Lord Ripon afterwards, was bitterly criticised, according to the angle and prejudices of the critic. The hostility to Lytton's frontier policy was part of the stock-in-trade of the Liberal Opposition of the time. Ripon's frontier policy, as he found himself forced to admit, was a continuation, not a reversal, of that of his predecessor, although its sequence was adroitly concealed under the verbal repudiation common to all party manoeuvres.
When General Gordon resigned the private secretaryship to which Lord Ripon had appointed him, making (as he owned) a bad selection, that resignation was the direct consequence of the glimpse of 'selfseeking, jealousy, petty intrigue,' and insincere political manoeuvre, of which he got many a proof on the way out. This Gordon told a young companion, Eugene Brett, who was A.D.C. to the Viceroy at the time; and he admitted it freely to Lord Ripon before they parted. For many months after he returned home, Gordon spent days and days at the India Office doing what he could to send out reinforcements to Baring'; for to Evelyn Baring, who had proceeded to India as Financial Member of Council, Gordon looked as the one man who would run straight,' if only he could be adequately supported against what he called the backstairs interests.