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Biography of Anthony Ashley Cooper

Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury. Philanthropist. The word ‘Philanthropist’ has suffered the same fate as many other words in our language. It has become hackneyed and corrupted; it has taken a professional taint; it has almost become a byword. We are apt to think of the philanthropist as an excitable, contentious creature, at the mercy of every fad, an ultra-radical in politics, craving for notoriety, filled with self-confidence, and meddling with other people’s business. Anthony Ashley Cooper, the greatest philanthropist of the nineteenth century, was of a different type. By temper he was strongly conservative. He always loved best to be among his own family; he was fond of his home, fond of the old associations of his house. To come out into public life, to take his place in Parliament or on the platform, to be mixed up in the wrangling of politics was naturally distasteful to him. It continually needed a strong effort for him to overcome this distaste and to act up to his sense of duty. It is only when we remember this that we can do justice to his lifelong activity, and to the high principles, which bore him up through so many efforts and so many disappointments. For himself he would submit to injustice and be still: for his fellow countrymen and for his religion he would renew the battle to the last day of his life. His childhood was not happy. His parents had little sympathy with children, his father being absorbed in the cares of public life, his mother given up to society pleasures. He had three sisters older than himself, but...

Biography of Sir Robert Peel

In the years that lay between the Treaty of Utrecht and the close of the Napoleonic wars British politics were largely dominated by Walpole and the two Pitts: their great figures only stand out in stronger relief because their place was filled for a time by such weak ministers as Newcastle and Bute, as Grafton and North. In the nineteenth century there were many gifted statesmen who held the position of first minister of the Crown. Disraeli and Palmerston by shrewdness and force of character, Canning and Derby by brilliant oratorical gifts, Russell and Aberdeen by earnest devotion to public service, were all commanding figures in their day, whose claims to the chieftainship of a party and of a government were generally admitted. Gladstone, the most versatile genius of them all, had abilities second to none; but his place in history will for long be a subject of acute controversy. He stands too close to our own time to be fairly judged. Of the others no one had the same combination of gifts as Sir Robert Peel, no one had in the same measure that particular knowledge, judgment, and ability which characterize the statesman. His career was the most fruitful, his work the most enduring: he has left his mark in English history to a degree which no one of his rivals can equal. The Peel family can be traced back to the misty days of Danish inroads. Its original home in England is disputed between Yorkshire and Lancashire; but as early as the days of Elizabeth the branch from which our statesman was descended is certainly to be...

Biography of John Coleridge Patteson

Missionary. New Zealand, discovered by Captain Cook in 1769, lay derelict for half a century, and like others of our Colonies it came very near to passing under the rule of France. From this it was saved in 1840 by the foresight and energy of Gibbon Wakefield, who forced the hand of our reluctant Government; and its steady progress was secured by the sagacity of Sir George Grey, one of our greatest empire-builders in Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. Thanks to them and to others, there has arisen in the Southern Pacific a state which, more than any other, seems to resemble the mother country with its sea-girt islands, its temperate climate, its mountains and its plains. A population almost entirely British, living in these conditions, might be expected to repeat the history of their ancestors. In politics and social questions its sons show the same independence of spirit and even greater enterprise. The names of two other men deserve recognition here for the part they played in the history of these islands. In 1814, before they became a British possession, Samuel Marsden came from Australia to carry the Gospel to their inhabitants, and formed settlements in the Northern districts, in days when the lives of settlers were in constant peril from the Maoris. But nothing could daunt his courage; and whenever they came into personal contact with him, these childlike savages felt his power and responded to his influence, and he was able to lay a good foundation. In 1841 the English Church sent out George Augustus Selwyn as first Missionary Bishop of New Zealand, giving him...

Biography of Robert Morier

Diplomatist. Diplomacy as a profession is a product of modern history. As Europe emerged from the Middle Ages, the dividing walls between State and State were broken down, and Governments found it necessary to have trained agents resident at foreign courts to conduct the questions of growing importance which arose between them. Churchmen were at first best qualified to undertake such duties, and Nicholas Wotton, Dean of Canterbury, who enjoyed the confidence of four Tudor sovereigns, came to be as much at home in France or in the Netherlands as he was in his own Deanery. It was his great nephew Sir Henry (who began his days as a scholar at Winchester, and ended them as Provost at Eton) who did his profession a notable disservice by indulging his humor at Augsburg when acting as envoy for James I, defining the diplomatist as ‘one who was sent to lie abroad for his country’. Since then many a politician and writer has let fly his shafts at diplomacy, and fervent democrats have come to regard diplomats as veritable children of the devil. But this prejudice is chiefly due to ignorance, and can easily be cured by a patient study of history. In the nineteenth century, in particular, English diplomacy can point to a noble roll of ambassadors, who worked for European peace as well as for the triumph of liberal causes, and none has a higher claim to such praise than Sir Robert Morier, the subject of this sketch. The traditions of his family marked out his path in life. We can trace their origin to connexions in the Consular...

Biography of William Morris

Craftsman and Social Reformer. In general it is difficult to account for the birth of an original man at a particular place and time. As Carlyle says: ‘Priceless Shakespeare was the free gift of nature, given altogether silently, received altogether silently.’ Of his childhood history has almost nothing to relate, and what is true of Shakespeare is true in large measure of Burns, of Shelley, of Keats. Even in an age when records are more common, we can only discern a little and can explain less of the silent influences at work that begin to make the man. There are few things more surprising than that, in an age given up chiefly to industrial development, two prosperous middle-class homes should have given birth to John Ruskin and William Morris, so alien in temper to all that traditionally springs from such a soil. In the case of Morris there is nothing known of his ancestry to explain his rich and various gifts. From a child he seemed to have found some spring within himself which drew him instinctively to all that was beautiful in nature, in art, in books. His earliest companions were the Waverley Novels, which he began at the age of four and finished at seven; his earliest haunt was Epping Forest, where he roamed and dreamed through many of the years of his youth. His father, who was in business in the City of London, as partner in a bill-broking firm, lived at different times at Walthamstow and at Woodford; and the hills of the forest, in some places covered with thick growth of hornbeam or of...

Biography of John Richard Green

Historian. The eighteenth century did some things with a splendor and a completeness, which is the despair of later, more restlessly striving generations. Barren though it was of poetry and high imagination, it gave birth to our most famous works in political economy, in biography, and in history; and it has set up for us classic models of imperishable fame. But the wisdom of Adam Smith, the shrewd observation of Boswell, the learning of Gibbon, did not readily find their way into the market place. Outside of the libraries and the booksellers’ rows in London and Edinburgh they were in slight demand. Even when the volumes of Gibbon, Hume, and Robertson had been added to the library shelves, where Clarendon and Burnet reigned before them, too often they only passed to a state of dignified retirement and slumber. No hand disturbed them save that of the conscientious housemaid who dusted them in due season. They were part of the furnishings indispensable to the elegance of a ‘gentleman’s seat’; and in many cases the guests, unless a Gibbon were among them, remained ignorant whether the labels on their backs told a truthful tale, or whether they disguised an ingenious box or backgammon board, or formed a mere covering to the wall. The fault was with the public more than with the authors. Those who ventured on the quest would find noble eloquence in Clarendon, lively narrative in Burnet, critical analysis in Hume; but the indolence of the Universities and the ignorance of the general public unfitted them for the effort required to value a knowledge of history or to take...

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