« PreviousContinue »
For many years Lord Shaftesbury resisted every appeal that was made to him to allow his biography to be written. “No one can do that satisfactorily but myself," he said, “and I have neither the time nor the inclination.” Towards the close of his life, however, it became apparent to him that a biography was, to use his own word, “ inevitable,” and it was then his wish that it should be written with his co-operation.
“If the story, such as it is, must be told,” he said, “ I should like it to be told accurately. That cannot be done unless I furnish the means.”
He accordingly placed at my disposal a mass of material, and, in addition, he was good enough to allow me for many months to be in frequent personal communication with him, when, pen in hand, I took down the record of his life as he narrated it. to the very last was surprising, and as the scenes of his earlier life passed before him, he would recall facts and figures, dates and words, with such accuracy, that
His memory although, at his request, I subsequently verified them, it was almost unnecessary to do so.
The conditions imposed upon me were simple and explicit, and were expressed as nearly as possible in these words :
“I will give you every assistance in my power; place letters, books, and documents in your hands, give you introductions to those who know most about me, and tell you, from time to time, what I can remember of my past history. I will answer any questions and indicate all the sources of information available to you. But I will not read a word of your manuscript, nor pass a sheet for the press. When the book is issued to the public I will, if I am alive, read it, but not till then. All I ask is, that the story of my life be told in its entirety-political, social, domestic, philanthropic, and religious.”
I was aware that Lord Shaftesbury had kept voluminous Diaries, and, from the first, was anxious that these should be placed in my hands. “They are of no
. value to any one but myself,” was his reply; "they have never been seen by anybody, and they never will be. They are a mass of contradictions; thoughts jotted down as they passed through my mind, and contradicted perhaps on the next page-records of passing events written on the spur of the moment,
and private details which no one could understand but myself.”
In these circumstances I felt that I could not urge Lord Shaftesbury to entrust them to me, but he promised that he would, if possible, go through thein and furnish me with some extracts if he found any that were “worth putting into print.” But neither time nor opportunity came for this; the busy life was busy to the last, and increasing weakness made any effort of this kind impossible.
For six months I continued my work, and in many long and intensely interesting interviews gained much information and many important details of his personal life. But I was conscious that, without the aid of the Diaries, I stood only on the threshold of the subject, and he was conscious of this too. I, therefore, lost no opportunity of urging him to let me have access to them.
In June, 1885, warned by continued failure in health that the end was not far off, Lord Shaftesbury yielded to these entreaties and placed the first volume of his Journals in my hands, promising to let me have the remainder in succession.
It was never my intention that a page, or a line, should ever be published,” he said to me; “ but I have been looking through them again, and I think it is
possible that there are some portions of them that may do good. At all events I do not see how you can perform your
task without them, for I cannot give you the personal assistance I could have wished. Besides, all that I could tell you, and much more, is written here, and I must leave it to your discretion to make what use of them you like. You will find they were written in hurried moments, just as thoughts or events arose. They were true at the time, but I may have changed my opinions, or have found afterwards that I had taken a wrong view of things. You are at liberty, of course, to take
my actions, and to praise or blame them as you will, but do not attempt to represent me as always in the right or you will inevitably break down in
task. You will find that the movements in which I was engaged brought me at times into opposition with all classes, even with those who were working with me, oftentimes with men I loved dearly and greatly adnired. I did not seek this opposition ; I could not help it; but do not represent me as having been always a man of a cantankerous disposition because of this, unless you find the evidence overwhelming that such was the case. Above all things—and this is one of my strongest motives for placing these volumes in your hands—try to do justice to those who laboured with me.
I could never have done the few things I