Page images

In fact, in this dream a lady goes through this process of mental obliteration, and is totally relieved of all inconvenient recollections of some unpleasant episodes in her life; indeed, the working of our future is represented as being as easy as that of an automatic printing machine-name the memory you wish to dispose of, place the electrodes over one particular spot of the brain, press the knobs, a local area of nerve-cells neatly circumscribed becomes sterilised, and the patient goes on his way rejoicing.

But, setting aside such trifling, the bonds linking together science and fiction are already strong. Science owes to our novelists much of its interest, much of its publicity. The scientist slowly and laboriously hammers out some new discovery, some recognition of the individuality of a certain group of symptoms which had been previously lost in the crowd; wearied with his work he too often launches this discovery with all the ugliness of technicality hanging around it like a convict's dress, betokening the hard labour through which it has passed; and then some good Samaritan of a novelist turns out of his way to take pity on it, to lavish care upon it, to clothe it anew, to attract to it the attention of the public, and thus to save it from death from neglect. It is introduced into good society, and it thrives, and perhaps becomes a leading topic of conversation for a short time.

But if the scientist has reason to be grateful, so also has the novelist. New facts have been given to him, new marvels to dilate upon and make his own; he has been supplied with new modes of escape from the web of intricacies with which he has entangled bis characters, and thus the advantage is mutual.

For the continuance of this good-fellowship there is reason to be hopeful. Medical science has never perhaps been more active than at the present time. The new diseases and the new methods of treatment which have not been utilised in novels are already forming a portentous crowd clamouring for recognition in story. Neurasthenia and its cure by the Weir Mitchell process of massage has not, to my knowledge, yet been drawn in, although the marvellous cures of bedridden individuals would seem to furnish scope for an enterprising worker. The antiseptic process also has its picturesque side; the saving of life and limb on the battlefield, as furnished by the medical records of the last Egyptian campaign, gives ample opportunity for surprises of the most telling character.

The recognition of hitherto unrealised disease by means of the ophthalmoscope, and the progrostic value of the signs, might also be described. Locomotor ataxy has already played a part in an Agnostic dialogue in a contemporary, but there is yet room for its further development in the pages of fiction. Metallo-therapy is too much discredited now to find favour, but the prophylactic action of copper against cholera was until recently sufficiently unproven to allow of its

being swept into the vortex of fiction, for the instruction of those who do not follow the medical journals assiduously.

It is impossible to lay down rules or to point out all the lines which might be followed. The aim of this article is to show from the past what has been worthily accomplished, what has been recklessly undertaken, as well as the mistakes of those attempting to foretell the future of medicine, in the hope that, while affording interest to the public, it may also help novelists, who, with the Materialist of a recent poet

Would learn with the boldest to think,
Would grapple with things that perplex,
Would stand on the verge and the brink
Where the seen and the unseen are met.



The autumn session of the new Parliament has already thrown much light upon the position and tactics of those members of the House of Commons who have assumed the title of Liberal Unionists, but whom the mass of the Liberal party, unwilling to concede an exclusive claim to either of these adjectives, prefers to designate as Dissentient Liberals. Though it is little worth while to quarrel about a name, it is eminently so to discuss what will be the future of this section; whether it will succeed in the hopes of its leaders in inducing a reunion of the whole party upon their own terms, or whether it will be forced by the irresistible logic of events into the adoption of Mr. Gladstone's Irish policy, with some slight modifications to satisfy the amour propre of its leaders, or whether it is destined to be a permanent secession from Liberal ranks, and to ensure the continuance of the present Government, for a more or less prolonged period, and ultimately to be incorporated with the Tory party.

The position, though novel in many of its aspects, is not without precedent in party politics. There have been two serious secessions within the present century, one from each of the two great parties, leading to the defeat of Ministries, though neither of them successful in defeating a policy : that of the Protectionists' secession from Sir Robert Peel's Government in 1846, and that known as the Liberal Cave in the case of Lord Russell's Government of 1866. The latter speedily ended in disaster and discredit to those responsible for it; for the only result of the defeat of Lord Russell's Reform Bill was to afford the opportunity to the Government of Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli to carry a still more democratic measure of Reform ; and in the ensuing general election the members of the Cave either disappeared from public life or were re-absorbed as contrite members of the Liberal party.

The Protectionist revolt of 1846 had more serious and lasting effects. It consisted of nearly two-thirds of the Tory party ; 240 of them voted against Sir Robert Peel on the second reading of the Bill for the repeal of the Corn Laws; and in revenge for their betrayal, 80 of these, under the leadership of Lord George Bentinck and Mr. Disraeli, joined with the Liberals in defeating the Irish Coercion Bill and in turning out the Government, while as many more abstained from voting. It may be worth while to recall the fact that, on the formation of Lord Russell's Government, the Protectionists, to mark their separation from Sir Robert Peel, took their seats on the Liberal side of the House. It was soon found, however, that they were a majority of the Tory party, and constituted the real Opposition to the Liberal Government.

In his Life of Bentinck,' Lord Beaconsfield states that the inconvenience of this arrangement soon became apparent, and in the session of 1847 it was arranged, in concert with the Government, that the Protectionists should cross over to the other side of the House and fill the benches usually allotted to an adverse party; he himself took his seat on the front Opposition bench, from which he led the main body of the Tories; while Peel, who sat by him, led what were practically the Dissentient Tories, and supported the Government. In the general election of 1847 the followers of Peel kept up the distinctive characters of their section, but they lost in numbers somewhat more in proportion than the Protectionists; and the split in the party did much to secure the return of Liberals. Even with this advantage, the Whigs were not a majority of the new Parliament. They were kept in power during the greater part of that Parliament by the Peelites. In 1852 a Coalition Government was formed of Liberals and Peelites, and at the general election of that year the distinction between these two parties disappeared; the Peelites ceased to exist as a separate section, and their leaders--Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Cardwell, and Sidney Herbert-identified themselves with the Liberals, and thenceforward became Liberal leaders.

These cases show that the separate existence of a third party (other than the Irish), consisting of dissentients from one or other of the two great historic parties, is not, under our system of party government, likely to be a very long one. The attraction of the two main parties is too strong for it, and it must ultimately give way to one or the other. If analogy from the past is of value in determining the future of the Dissentient Liberals, the next general election will see the extinction of their rank and file, and the complete union of their leaders either with their old or their new allies. Will the attraction be the stronger in this case to the Liberals or to the Tories? Will the fate of the Peelites or that of the Liberal Cave of 1866 be the precedent ? An answer cannot be given to these questions without a brief review of the circumstances attending the split, and the subsequent action of the dissidents, and without estimating their weight in the country as shown in the last election. In making this, although I may question the policy of many of their actions, I shall not attribute to them any but the most patriotic

[blocks in formation]

motives. No one can doubt that the Dissentient Liberals separated themselves on the Irish question from their former allies with the greatest pain, under the strongest impulse of public duty, and at great personal sacrifice to many of them. It must have been with equal pain, and under an equal sense of public policy, that Mr. Gladstone, after consultation with Lord Spencer and others specially conversant with Ireland, determined to adopt a policy of autonomy for that country, a policy which he must have known would result in the defection of a large section of his former Whig colleagues. It was absolutely certain that many of them could not adopt this policy consistently with their known convictions. Much as the split of the party was to be regretted, it was inevitable. The Liberal party could not have returned to power at the beginning of 1886 without the support of the Irish party. If no agreement had been come to with Mr. Parnell, a Liberal Government would not have been formed; the Tories would have remained in office, and would have proceeded with their policy of coercion ; they would have been supported in this by many of the Whig section, and the main body of the Liberals parting from them would have supported the Irish party in violent opposition to coercion. The split, therefore, must have arisen under any circumstances, and a combination must have been formed between the main body of the Liberals and the Irish members on the basis of an Irish policy, while the Tories and a section of the Whigs would have been united in supporting coercion.

One of the principal complaints of the Dissentient Liberals is that Mr. Gladstone did not give sufficient indications of a leaning to a Home Rule policy, either during the general election of 1885 or previously. As a result, however, of that election a new position had arisen. Ireland, for the first time in its history, and in consequence of its electoral reforms, returned a vast majority of its members pledged to support Mr. Parnell in a demand for Home Rule. This was a constitutional demand which could not be lightly disregarded or rejected. It compelled a more complete consideration of the whole question of Irish government, and a review of the results of the Act of Union of 1800, and its effect on Irish interests of all kinds.

Assuming that a statesman at this moment, after long hesitation and doubt, came to the conclusion that the demand of Ireland could not be refused, it will scarcely be denied that it was wise and statesmanlike on his part to come to terms at once with the Irish leaders. Was it not the best course for him to settle the question by agreement with them, rather than to wait till the Irish representatives should formulate their most extreme demands in the House of Commons, and to delay pronouncing in favour of the policy till it should appear to be conceded only to menace and to agitation, preceded or accompanied by coercive measures which would take from it all its

« PreviousContinue »