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understand the spirit in which our English politicians work, that you see how, amid a good deal of self-seeking and littleness of purpose and petty ambition, there is yet a kindly tolerance for obnoxious opinions, a generosity in judging of the motives even of antagonists, a sentiment of personal friendliness and good-will, binding the members of opposite parties into a homogeneous whole, which must always make the House of Commons an assembly to which the most cultured and catholic of thinkers, the most refined and fastidious of students, may be proud to belong. It is not, I repeat, in the dull and vapid speeches which are embalmed in the dreary pages of `Hansard,' but in the talk of tea-room and smokingroom and lobbies, that you discover that
reasonableness' and broad tolerance of diverging views which are the most remarkable, and perhaps the most creditable, of all
the characteristics of the British Parliament, and which distinguish it so conspicuously from other Legislative Chambers. Yet, how can the sense of these characteristics be conveyed to that outside world which has no admission to the political sanctuary of St. Stephen's ?
It would be impossible, even if it were desirable, to retail either the private arrangements or the desultory chit-chat of the precincts of the House'
for the benefit of the general public. The eavesdropper would be quickly and most righteously expelled from a place the hospitality of which he had so shamefully abused. It is true that as the years roll on, the memoirwriter comes to our aid, and we are permitted to see something, by means of the diaries and letters and recorded conversations of the politicians who have passed away, of that inner side of political life, that 'back of the moon' of which I am speaking. But by that time the pressing and practical importance of such revelations has been lost. What do we want to know about the private arrangements, or the personal characters, or the secret opinions of the party leaders of forty years ago, when it is in the sayings and doings of Mr. Gladstone or Lord Beaconsfield that we feel most deeply interested ? It is here that the political caricaturist, if he is true to his function, comes to our aid. With his pencil he can convey to us far more than we could learn from any unscrupulous 'Tom Eaves' of journalism. He is allowed a latitude which is most properly denied to the worker with the pen. And so he can hint, without giving legitimate cause of offence to anybody, that these two rivals who are always pounding each other under the eyes of the public in the gallery, are not, after all, on such unfriendly terms as might have been supposed; that in this man's heroic
eloquence there is something of bathos; and in the other's outburst of passionate indignation something of wounded vanity; that a particular Secretary of State is addicted to cigars and idleness, or that another is fond of basking in the smiles of the fair. In short, if he is really capable of doing the work he has undertaken, he can throw a flood of light into those mysterious recesses of political life which may contain nothing that is mysterious to the man about town, but which are absolutely impenetrable to the ordinary Englishman, who has merely to look to his daily newspaper for political information.
I do not pretend that Punch has performed this part of the work of the caricaturist so well as it has done that other part of it, which consists in conveying the state of public opinion on any particular question at a glance. Yet how much more real and vivid have our English politicians been made
to the great mass of the public by the cartoons of Mr. Tenniel, than they would otherwise have been ; and how many things are delicately suggested in those wonderful Parliamentary sketches by Mr. Sambourne ! Week after week the public look upon the faces and figures of our eminent men, until they become as familiar with the outward aspects of the leading personages of the country as though they were next door neighbours in a provincial town. The half-cynical, half-philosophic indifference of Lord Beaconsfield, the passionate intensity of Mr. Gladstone, the pert self-consequence of Mr. Cross, the fiery impetuosity of the Duke of Argyll, are conveyed to the world at large far more easily and forcibly in the pictures of Punch, than in the most elaborate criticisms of the most powerful of writers.
Of course, it may be objected by prosaic people that the caricaturist exaggerates, and