13 OCTOBER 1866, Page 6

aki,§ T ON THE HOrk. OF COkitONS.

MR. ARNOLD has at least end political disciple or collabo- AL rdteur, — or it may be even political teacher, in the House of Cdnunons—(it was Mr. Grant Duff; and not Mr. Arnold, who first applied the term Ungeist to our political Philis- tinism)—one who preaches the same doctrine as the accom- plished poet, and practically applies it to the strife of parties and the judgment of politicians,—Mr. Grant Dnff, the member for the Elgin boroughs. Autumn after autumn there come back to us from Elgin really brilliant literary essays on the actors and the drama of the Parliamentary session which has just expired. Every one reads them with the same sort of interest with which a new essay of Macaulay's used to be read twenty years ago; and wonders to find them so different from the addresses of ordinary members to ordinary constituents. In fact they are not speeches, but works of art ; and the Elgin ten-pounders, though they probably have sense enough to feel flattered at being made the nominal recipients of so high a style of literary composition, know perfectly well that their member does not expect them to appreciate all his epigrammatic touches; but that they are intended ultimately for as " Intelligetz-Staat " in which the Elgin boroughs occupy, if any place at all; a very insignificant one indeed. The dissertation which Mr. Grant Duff has just delivered on the last act in the political drains is much the most brilliant of these annual performances. He reserved himself for this, which is indeed his most useful function, during the session,—in which his voice was scarcely heard. There is too little of the carnal mind of the British Philistine in Mr. Grant Duff to exercise any influence proportioned to his intellectual ability in Parliament. There, he is as a " pelican in the desert," a "sparrow upon the housetop," a fountain of shrill, solitary, and neglected remonstrance. But it is good for the House of Commons to have a member who can put himself in a position sufficiently external to it to criticize its proceedings with & much keenness and as much effect as Mx. Grant Duff. There is always a tendency in an English House of Commons to lose itself in detail and miss the general effect of its own proceedings. Mr. Grant Duff's yearly review may be—we think it is—a little cold, and even intel- lectually a little cynical, but it puts the legislative achieve- ments and the legislative omissions of the House in a wider and larger point of view than any other speech of the year. Other members,—even Lord Stanley who comes nearest in this respect to Mr. Grant Duff, —cannot sufficiently forget that they are addressing their constituents. Mr. Grant Duff idealizes his cormtitnents• into an audience far more intellectually sensi- tive than the House of Commons itself,—an audience of more than the highest English, of European, culture,—and so pro- duces an essay on the session which might be usefully pub- lished in a polyglot edition and read by the politicians of Germany, France, and Italy with no less, perhaps more, plea- sure than by cultivated Englishmen.

The only weakness in Mr. Grant Duff, of which his political diaciple or teacher, Mr. Arnold, world surely not have been guilty, is that he evidently believes "Geist " to be a pure Liberal, and therefore believes himself to utter the purest Liberalism of which the House of Commons is capable. Mr. Arnold certainly does not hold that view. He is disposed to think that Geist is slightly democratic, but he' is well a*are. that Liberalisrcr as commonly understedd has a Philistine element in it which he and Geist reject almost with loathing. And it is precidely this olertient in Liberalism; which Mr. Arnold con- sciously rejects, and which Mr. Grant Duff believes that 'mitecepts, the real though unconscious aversion to which infuses into Mr. Duff's brilliantspeech so much acrimony of tone towards the. leading merirbers of. the Liberal party. Timiugliout the whole- of his -speech there runs an, undertone of intellectual dislike to- Mr. Gladstone and to Lord Russell. He feels drawn towards. Mr. Lowe; and apOlogizes for` him in eloqnent language when he summons-up Mr. Lowe's figure before his mind beside thatof his late leaders. Towards Mr. 114111 he, feels'intellectual admira- tion; modified by a slight and evidently unconscious feeling of scorn for the headlong chivalry with which he threw himself into, various popular quarrels. Take all the personal criticisms -in Mr. Grant Duff's speech, and we shall see everywhere a strong preference for the sceptical Liberalismwhich is seldom really- popular=over the earnest' Liberalism which is; and perhaps- therefore; a little Philistine too. He cannot anyhow forgive Mr. Gladstone his positive side, that tendency to cling to his old Church beliefs which set him at variance with all his o*n followeris on the Oxford• Test Bill. He admires Mr. Lowe 'so much, we suspect, because on all the ecclesiastical and tradi- tional questions Mr. Lowe is absolutely on the negative side, on the side of Geist and intellectual indifference; as against popular enthusiasm and the warm sentiment by which it prefers- to be led. On the subject of Reform this is visible enough. Mr. Grant Duff is in favour of conceding something to the spirit of Democracy. He thinks it manifest destiny, and- does not think it the part of an intellectual than to fight with manifest destiny. But he throws a good deal of cold water on the enthusiasm about Reform. He hints not indistinctly that. Mr. Gladstone made rather a fuss about nothing. He clearly does not feel attracted by the notion of popiilar enthusiasms_ at. the head of affairs. He dislikes fanaticism in every shape except the intellectual. He laughs at the idea that a Reform Bill-new can make any change comparable to that of 1832. He intimates that there are much more important reforms to, accomplish than the Reform of the Constitution,—especially reforms of the ecclesiastical monopolies. In short, much of the sub-acid tone of Mr. Grant Duff's speech arises from sit:le- st& faint suspicion as to the real drift of popular Liberalism as, in the most striking criticism of his speech, he attri- buted to Mr. Gladstone. He soon forgave Mr. Gladstone, we are told, for opposing the Oxford Test Abolition Bill, fothe forgot the wrong in reflecting on "the amusing glimpse which it affords into the state of mind of this highly gifted man."' "Jdst at this stage of his career--.--the neophyte leader of the Liberals—he is indeed a most curious study. His intellect disapproves of the dogged Toryism of Mr. Hardy—he is- revolted by the sceptical, half-ironical, Toryism of tr.- Disraeli ; but what he hates mosthates with that concen- trated malignity which a great'living poet his described in his soliloquy in a Spanish cloister—is that thorough-going Liberalism which extends to every department of thought, and in which every part fits into every other. And why does. he hate it ? Because he has a suspicion-a suspicion which he has hardly yet begdn to whisper to himself—that the line- on which he has been moving, when produced, leads to that end. He has a horrible foreboding that--4o use his own words—time is on the side of those very politicians who, when he started in public life; were at the Opposite pole of • the political sphere—against whom all the strength of his- youth and of his manhood were directed. Read his early speeches—Andy his early books. He has travelled far since then, and may well murmur from time to time at that destiny-. Which may lead him, before he dies--;-like the Sicambrian of old—to burn what he adored, and adore what he burned." There is no fear of Mr. Grant Duff ever buniing " what he adores, or adoring what he ihas burned," but we think there- is some chance of his seeing perfect Liberalism, as we in; England at least understand it, drift away from him under the influence of popular sympathies and faiths which are never likely to be led successfully by pure Geist. He sees the rup- ture already almost completed in Mr. Lowe's case. There, is a man, Liberal as Geist could make him, who has long ago eman- cipated himself from all the Conservative fetters which keep back the party of progress, but without taking up in their place any of the popular faiths and sentiments which give moral unity and strength to the popular cause, and who suddenly finds him- self, in consequence, fighting the battle of the most dead Conser- vatism, and fighting-it with weapons forged in the school of Geist. Whatis to avertfrom himself asimilarfate? At present Mr. Duff saves himself by saying that Geist concedes- to inevitable ten- dency; to the march of necessity, to the' " logicof -events," what it does not itself very greatly care about or feel able to appre- ciate: But is not that the beginning- of unfaithfulness to Geist after all? It _ England is to be, as Mr. Grant Duff wishes; an Intelligent-Skult, what is the defence for throwing yet more power than at present into the hands of the least culti- vated classes ? Is riot Mr. Lowe after all a truer priest of Geist than Mr. Grant: Miff ? And if Mr. Duff yields to this stream, what other popular fervours May not be brought into existence by the fermentation of great ideasin' half-educated minds ? Is there-nOt a clear possibility that he himself may stand some day as much islasided in the flood of popular Liberalism as Mr. Lowe now ? The " flesh-and-blood " doctrine cannot well be akin to the teaching of Geist. Mr. Gladstone is not one of the true sons' of Geist, but then he is full of electric sympathies with the people. Mr. Lowe is a true son of Geist, but: he has no electric sympathies with the people or electric impulses of any sort. Is there not some danger that Mr. GratitThiff nlay find the stream of popular feeling leaving him stranded like Mr. Lowe ? Is not that the secret of the'evident acrimony with which this brilliant essayist regards the leaders of the popular party, and tries to persuade his audience that they are really less true Liberals than himself ? Geist will never be really popular. GeiSt is a spirit not of faith, biat of scepticism, thmigh it often is the best and most efffcient agency in des- troying the structures built by superstition. We suspect that GeiSt will end by objecting altogether to a Mime of Conlinons. In Mr. Arnold's philosophy it' has reached—not that point, bat a marked preference for the imperial type of deinociacy.