William Ewart Gladstone -- By: Jacob Cooper
BSac 55:219 (July 1898) p. 550
William Ewart Gladstone
The Life of Gladstone by Justin McCarthy1 is without doubt the most interesting biography that has appeared since Boswell gave Johnson a new and unending lease of life. It is written in a fascinating style, as entertaining as a fairy tale, and yet instructive in almost every line. For while there is no “preaching,” yet we cannot arise from the perusal of this book without being inspired with resolves to do more and better for the- good of the world. The biographer has the historic spirit, as has been well displayed in his previous writings, and this gift is conspicuous in the work before us. There is no other book which gives us as true and interesting a narrative of England’s progress, and her influence on the destinies of the world since the passage of the Reform Bill in 1832, when Gladstone’s public life began. Every event political, religious, social, or educational is touched upon; often briefly, as was inevitable from the size of the book and its purpose; yet with a master hand, and in a way to make us desire for more. The great men who were the contemporaries are described, and their share in public measures sketched, in such a masterly way that they stand in clear outline before us. And, what adds greatly to the value of the work, is the large number of portraits and photographic views, some seventy-six in all: so that we have a most valuable album of noted characters in Britain who have figured during this century. The book is gotten up in such a dainty style that it looks almost too nice to touch.
Though the book is certainly well written, we must take exception to a few things which betray carelessness or hurry. While this is confessedly the life of Gladstone, there may be too much reiteration of the name. This very often occurs twice, or even more, in a single sentence. Had the name been used twelve hundred times less, much space could have been saved for valuable uses, and the simple pronoun made the meaning, equally clear, and the writing more terse. On page 163 Mr. McCarthy criticises Disraeli, and tries to show his lack of culture by his interpretation of the word “University,” and the title to one of Cardinal
BSac 55:219 (July 1898) p. 551
Newman’s books, “Apologia pro Vitâ Suâ.” In both cases the critic is wrong, and shows in himself the same sort of deficiency which he blames in the author of “Endymion.” But these are slight blemishes, and they in no way destroy the wonderful charm of the whole book.
Mr. Gladstone is one of the few great men in the world’s history who have shown equal vigor in their earliest manhood and extreme age. At the age of twenty-two he had won the highest ...
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