Mr. Chamberlain told me that in a critical debate in the House of Commons, when the government was in danger, Mr. Gladstone, who alone could save the situation, suddenly disappeared. Every known resort of his was searched to find him. Mr. Chamberlain, recollecting Mr. Gladstone's interest in a certain subject, drove to the house of the lady whose authority on that subject Mr. Gladstone highly respected. He found him submitting to the lady for her criticism and correction some of Watts's hymns, which he had translated into Italian.
The British Government sent Mr. Chamberlain to America, and he had many public receptions given him by our mercantile and other bodies. On account of his separating from Mr. Gladstone on Home Rule, he met with a great deal of hostility here from the Irish. I was present at a public dinner where the interruptions and hostile demonstrations were very pronounced. But Mr. Chamberlain won his audience by his skill and fighting qualities.
I gave him a dinner at my house and had a number of representative men to meet him. He made the occasion exceedingly interesting by presenting views of domestic conditions in England and international ones with this country, which were quite new to us.
Mr. Chamberlain was a guest on the Teutonic at the famous review of the British navy celebrating Queen Victoria's jubilee, where I had the pleasure of again meeting him. He had recently married Miss Endicott, the charming daughter of our secretary of war, and everybody appreciated that it was a British statesman's honeymoon.
He gave me a dinner in London, at which were present a large company, and two subjects came under very acute discussion. There had been a recent marriage in high English society, where there were wonderful pedigree and relationships on both sides, but no money. It finally developed, however, that under family settlements the young couple might have fifteen hundred pounds a year, or seven thousand five hundred dollars. The decision was unanimous that they could get along very well and maintain their position on this sum and be able to reciprocate reasonably the attentions they would receive. Nothing could better illustrate the terrific increase in the cost of living than the contrast between then and now.
Some one of the guests at the dinner said that the Americans by the introduction of slang were ruining the English language. Mr. James Russell Lowell had come evidently prepared for this controversy. He said that American slang was the common language of that part of England from which the Pilgrims sailed, and that it had been preserved in certain parts of the United States, notably northern New England. He then produced an old book, a sort of dictionary of that period, and proved his case. It was a surprise to everybody to know that American slang was really classic English, and still spoken in the remoter parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, though no longer in use in England.
The period of Mr. Gladstone's reign as prime minister was one of the most interesting for an American visitor who had the privilege of knowing him and the eminent men who formed his Cabinet. The ladies of the Cabinet entertained lavishly and superbly. A great favorite at these social gatherings was Miss Margot Tennant, afterwards Mrs. Asquith. Her youth, her wit, her originality and audacity made every function a success which was graced by her presence.
The bitterness towards Mr. Gladstone of the opposition party surpassed anything I have met in American politics, except during the Civil War. At dinners and receptions given me by my friends of the Tory party I was supposed as an American to be friendly to Mr. Gladstone and Home Rule. I do not know whether this was the reason or whether it was usual, but on such occasions the denunciation of Mr. Gladstone as a traitor and the hope of living to see him executed was very frequent.