19 NOVEMBER 1910, Page 20


IN the preface to this Memoir of her late husband Mrs. Arnold-Forster tells us her reason for publishing it " after no long delay." The subjects with which Arnold-Forster occupied himself are still problems to be solved, and she desired that his opinions should he kept in mind while they might be of use. His 'opinions on naval and military affairs were not generally our own, but we cannot begin to comment on this most admirable Memoir without saying at once how impressive is this record of the life of a man- who devoted himself to the State, who knew no relaxation in his labours, and who never flinched under the stress of several years of great suffering and the instant menace of death. Arnold- Forster was ever a fighter, which means that he had his enemies. But the man whose eyes light up with battle is often the man of the strongest private love. This was extra- ordinarily true of Arnold-Forster. The revelation made through Jai's letters of his family affection, for instance, is beautiful and tender. One is reminded a little of the letters of his grandfather, Arnold of Rugby, which proved to the world how much more of gentleness and sensitiveness lay behind the magnificent austerity of the great schoolmaster than had ever been supposed. Mrs. Arnold-Forster has told neither too much nor too little ; she has, in fact, written with perfect discretion and faultless taste. Her Memoir is a model of what such a book should be. We heartily wish that it could be read chiefly by those who dissented most vehemently from Arnold-Forster in politics. Radicals and Socialists may have really supposed his patriotism to be a thing of repellent chiculations in battleships and battalions, but if they turn to this book they will find an unmistakably true picture of a man yearning for the good of his country with a consuming passion. He thought day and night of the honour and welfare of England with a fire in his soul which burned like that of a Hebrew prophet dreaming of the Messianic age. The thing was so genuine, and so lofty, that we should much like to know the candid opinion entertained of it by some political. thinkers who profess to see in the cult of the patria only material and ignoble impulses. They would be shamed into the admission, we think, that Arnold-Forster exceeded them in the pure flame of his unselfishness. Politics meant to him service, never the seeking of place.

Arnold-Forster was a son of William Delafield Arnold, the Indian administrator, who died just after the Mutiny, and to whose memory his brother Matthew Arnold addressed that exquisite poem " A Southern Night." Mrs. W. D. Arnold had died shortly before him, and the orphaned family of young children were adopted and brought up by W. E. Forster and Mrs. Forster. Never were orphans more fortunate. In W. E. Forster they had of course before them the type of the just man in public life,—honest and courageous in everything that he did. Mrs. Forster was a woman of a bounteous motherly affection, but also a woman • The Right Honourable Hugh Oakeley Arnold-Forster: a Memoir. By his Wife. London: Edward Arnold. [15s. net.]

of reading and a high power of thought. Was it not to her that Matthew Arnold would look for criticism before be ventured to put the seal of even his own approval on his work? How good is this passage in one of her letters to Arnold-Forster when he was aggrieved at having to learn the Thirty-nine Articles at Oxford !—

"I am sorry the 'Articles' are such a bugbear, my dear boy. Is it the learning by heart which is difficult ? I should have thought their very quaintness and archaic style would have made them easy to remember, especially for an intelligent-niind, like I won't say whose, which knows them, almost every one of them, to be the monuments (not the entombments, I fear) of old con- troversies which have intensely interested and influenced human beings, occupied philosophers, divided Churches, and shaken Kingdoms. See how much I could find for you in the Articles ! and then a clever young Oxonian finds them nothing but a bore. However, I would rather you knew the Old Testament than the Articles. I should like to see the papers they set you. Farewell, my dearest."

After leaving Oxford Arnold-Forster acted for some time as secretary to his adopted father. He was by his side during the perilous period of his Chief Secretaryship in Ireland. It was not till afterwards that Arnold-Forster learned quite how near W. E. Forster had been to assassination, and then, in a characteristic letter, he wrote to him :-

"When I last wrote I had not read the reports very closely, and I had not realised the whole bearing of the evidence—indeed, I was under the impression that when the Chief Secretary' was referred to it was Trevelyan that was meant. Now that I have gone through the whole of the evidence in the English and Irish papers I see that the escape was yours, and it was not the only one for which we have to be thankful. It is not easy to say, nor indeed to feel, all one ought, when reading now of your danger and your preservation. The fear was so long present to us all, and to me, perhaps, as much as any one, all the time we were in Dublin, that now, when suspicion has become certainty, it scarcely brings the shock of surprise that would seem natural. Nevertheless, I cannot help writing to say how deeply thankful I am; thankful, too, that I saw you go through it all without turning your head an inch one way or the other ; with a patience and a courage which only we, at home, can ever really appreciate. It is a lesson I hope not to be thrown away."

.Arnold-Forster separated hibiself from the Liberal Party in 1884. If this had not happened, as it did, owing to the Liberal policy in Egypt at that time, it must have happened as soon as Mr. Gladstone introduced his Home-Rule Bill. In a letter to his future wife he wrote some words about . Liberalism which will be appreciated by all who understand the danger of letting principles pass unconsciously into a kind of useless incantation :—

"I believe that, apart from questions of administration, which involve special and elaborate knowledge, political matters generally should be approached from the outside ; that a political problem should be dealt with by the light of all the knowledge, the experience, the moderation, the forbearance, the romance which have accumulated in a man's mind during his whole life. I believe that directly you get to phrases like that elaborate lie, 'Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity,' you are loSt. I don't mean that there are not principles in politics, but I do mean that they are not special principles applicable by rule of thumb to certain questions of legislation and administration. As to the main principles of . Liberalism, the perfect acquiescence in the equality of all men until they show that they are more than equal to their fellows, I am certain I go quite as far as you do; and unearned privileges seem to me detestable."

We must give now ail:example of the manner in which Arnold- Forster wrote to Mrs.' W. E. Forster,—a manner which sprang from the assurance of perfect sympathy and perfect under- standing. This letter was written after his return to Parlia- ment for the first time, and is, one feels sure, a sound piece of

self-criticism t-

" And now let me thaik you, dearest mother, for your letter, and let me say that what has brought me down from the deck is the wish to write and tell you how very dear you are to me, and how specially I shall think of you on the 1st August, whether this letter reaches you on that day or not. I cannot tell you what a ti.fference it makes to me, with ray new responsibilities and possi- bilities, to know that I have you to shiire the pleasure with me, and to help me with the difficulties, which will be many. Some of the difficulties will come of themselves fast enough. Others will be of my own making if I do not take great care. One tempta- tion I think I shall get the better of, that I mean of talking too much and too soon. In the first place I don't" deny that the idea of opening my month at all in the House of "Commons is a formid- able one to me, and I shall have to muster up all my courage whenever I do face the :ordeal. In the second place I am firmly convinced that, save under very exceptional circumstances, the positive duty of a new inember, who has 'any regard for his own interests, is to keep his eyes and ears open and his mouth shut for many weeks, and it may be months, after getting into the House. I am afraid I am more likely to get into trouble over some of my other failings. I shall have to try and avoid getting 'across' with people who are just as earnest and well-intentioned as myself: I shall have to avoid being bitter, and above all smart.' Also 1. shall have to overcome a failing which is not a vice, that of getting flurried and annoyed by hostile speeches. These are °nix a tithe of the pitfalls into which I may tumble. And, alas ! human nature being what it is, to be forewarned of one's own deficiencieb is not always to be forearmed against them. If that were the cage indeed, I should be a most exemplary person, for no one could write a fuller and more accurate catalogue of his own shortcomings than I. Still, if you see me visibly slipping into any of the hole:, I have referred to, or into others, I shall most truly welcome a warning note from you. I think I have some advantages on .thyt side. I have, or should like to have, a great respect for tho House of Commons as an institution. I have a real and deep /eve foil: the country ; and if I can see questions from a long way off instead of losing their proper perspective and getting muddled', by. details and small issues, I think I can usually get a fair idea o what is worthy or unworthy from the national point of view. .1- have not ever yet suffered from the desire to make money for 'the sake of making it, nor do I think that I should become so wedded'. to Parliamentary life as to be incapable of leaving it decently. These two things ought to keep me fairly straight against temptations to sell my opinions."

We need not apologise for having left ourselves no more to write of Arnold-Forster's views on the Army. These—his dislike of the linked-battalion system, of the Militia, and oft short service—are tolerably well remembered. From the time he first began to think about the Army, he never hesitated ov, wavered in his opinions as to what reforms were necessary.. "I know exactly what I want," he used to say. We have not counted the number of times those words, or their equivahmt, occur in his letters. To know what one wants is much, btit in Arnold-Forster's case it was not enough to overcome the peculiar difficulties of his position when he was Secretary fOr War. He no doubt thought that Mr. Balfour did not make things as easy as possible for him. We shall not look into that matter here. We arc concerned with Arnold-Forster'd character as this Memoir unfolds it, and we understand after reading why it was Mr. Balfour who said of him that "het was a man of a higher temper of courage than he had almost ever known."