Queen Victoria and Prince Albert,
page 12 of 13
He had, too, a peculiar capacity for understanding foreign nations in their lines of thought, their likes and dislikes, and their politics. As learning of all kinds was to the great Lord Bacon, so the politics of all nations were to Lord Palmerston. He practically had, at all times, the political map of Europe not only in his pocket, but he knew it by heart. By that power of witchery which he possessed, which amounted to genius, he had the faculty of feeling a nation’s pulse on all vital points without that nation knowing it, and he regulated his own country’s political action accordingly, and seldom blundered in the decision. In his legislative relationships at home he was ever guided by this same strong, far-seeing faculty. He well knew that, so long as he had public opinion on his side, no influence could subvert him or prevail against him. His knowledge of public opinion, and the probable tendency it might, at some important juncture, take, seemed to be in him an instinct, and could always be trusted. He had his failings, being stubborn, hot-tempered, and self-willed; but no statesman of the reign has served his sovereign and his country more faithfully, and no one has ever done so much to make our name both respected and feared abroad.
The whole of Her Majesty’s reign has marked a wonderful and brilliant era in civilization. During that period our own nation may be said to have created a literature, an art, and a philosophy of its own. The men of distinction in letters who have been raised in our land during the past half-century are almost numberless, but, amongst the great masters in thought and distinguished moral teachers, Dr. Arnold, Carlyle, Dickens, Thackeray, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, Huxley, Tyndal, and Darwin may be mentioned. Apart from all these teachers there are two men who have richly gained for themselves a lofty splendid eminence in the purest regions of the world of thought-Tennyson and Browning. By a happy, though very unusual, chance in literary history, these two most eminent British poets of the latter half of the nineteenth century have been contemporaries, and both have had allotted to them more than the threescore years and ten of which the Psalmist sings. They have not been the ephemeral poets of a day, but all their lives long have had an increasing popularity, and in their latter days have commanded veneration and love; and when, one short year ago, the latter was buried by the side of him (Charles Dickens) who wrote of “Little Nell,” in Westminster Abbey, no hero or great man ever more deserved the sweet words of his own beloved wife’s hymn, set to the solemn strains of the organ, “He giveth His beloved sleep!” Unlike the too frequent lot of poets,
“Who learn by suffering what they teach in song,”
it has been the happy lot of Tennyson and Browning to live free from the pressure and excesses which have agitated the lives of so many great men. In much these poets are alike; but the noblest point in which they resemble each other is their holding fast to the great spiritual truths of existence, and, with lofty aim, looking ever upwards to the grand destiny of the human soul. They have been prophets, teachers, seers, as well as poets; and it is alike an honour to them, and a matter for unbounded gratification to us that our two most illustrious poets have ever had implicit confidence in the divine Fatherhood, that confidence so nobly expressed in Browning’s line:—
“God’s in His heaven: all’s right with the world.”