For some time before and shortly after Mr. Gladstone's retirement, there had been a remarkable succession of deaths among remarkable men in England. In 1890 Cardinal Newman, one of the most celebrated of modern ecclesiastics, died at Edgbaston. Lord Granville died in London on March 31, 1891. The Earl of Granville, as his full title describes him, had made for himself a distinguished name in the political history of the later years of Queen Victoria's reign. He was an advanced Liberal in politics, and had sat in the House of Commons for a short time, but succeeded to the peerage very young, and worked out nearly the whole of his political career in the House of Lords. He had more than once held the office of Foreign Secretary and Colonial Secretary, and was President of the Council and leader of the House of Lords. He had served under Lord Palmerston and under Mr. Gladstone, and was a supporter of Gladstone's Home Rule policy. Had he been a man of a more pushing disposition he might easily have been Prime Minister; but he was always willing to make his personal claims subservient to the general good of his party. He was a graceful and convincing debater, and as a ceremonial speaker or an after-dinner speaker had but few rivals in the England of our time. On the 14th of January, 1892, the regular line of succession to the Throne was broken by the death of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, Prince Albert Victor, who had been created Duke of Clarence two years before his death. His place in the succession to the Throne was filled by his younger brother, the Duke of York. On the same day died Henry Edward Manning, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, one of the greatest Princes of the Catholic Church in modern times; esteemed by all alike as a philanthropist and a social reformer. In the same year Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, died. As a poet, Tennyson held a position during his lifetime which might be considered almost absolutely unique.
In general popularity he had no rival. Many, indeed, there were who devoted themselves more absolutely to Robert Browning, a poet, it need hardly be said, of undoubted genius, a man richly endowed with the creative faculty, who had insight into the very deeps of humanity, and who yet had the eye of a genuine artist for all the outer moods of nature. Browning, who had died in 1889, was often too obscure to captivate the general public, and his measure lacked the exquisite, the super-sensuous melody with which Tennyson could bewitch the English-speaking world. John Tyndall, one of the most brilliant illustrators of modern science, died on the 4th of December, 1893. Tyndall, like one of Robert Browning's heroes, was ever a fighter. His fame was won not so much as the author of new discoveries in science as it was by his faculty of bringing to the exposition of his own views a marvellous power of eloquence and of illustration. He was, perhaps, the most brilliant scientific lecturer known to our modern days. In October of the following year, died James Anthony Froude, the historian, whose historical studies had aroused, perhaps, a keener controversy than those of any worker in the same field since Macaulay. Froude's style was especially picturesque, he had a passion for the romantic and the heroic which lent to his historical essays a peculiar fascination, but which some of his less friendly critics declared drew him too often away from the hard and arid byways of mere facts into the Armida bowers and tangled groves of imagination. He was in this way a great contrast to Edward Augustus Freeman, his rival as many critics declared, the severely accurate and thoughtfully stern historian, whom no allurements could win away from the most exhaustive research and the severest truths of narrative. Freeman died two years before the death of Froude. On 29th of June, 1895, Thomas Huxley, a man whose name will ever be associated in science with the names of Darwin and Tyndall, passed away from the world which he had done so much to instruct by his research, and to delight by his eloquence. Huxley, like Tyndall, was a scientific teacher of the combative order; he had a bright wit and a ready humour; he gave no quarter in controversy and he asked for none, and his essays are delightful reading, even for those who could not acknowledge the teaching of the scientific school to which he belonged.
Lord Tennyson. 1809-1892.
On the 24th of January, 1895, there died a man of great mark indeed but of a very different order of renown from any of those who have just been mentioned - Lord Randolph Spencer Churchill. Lord Randolph, as he was familiarly called, was but comparatively young when he died, only in his forty-sixth year; but he had made a distinct reputation for himself in Parliament, and strong hopes were at one time entertained that he might lead a great Administration there. A descendant of the famous Duke of Marlborough, he entered the House of Commons when very young, and after some years of reserve and habitual silence there he suddenly sprang up as the leader of a new party, the Fourth Party, as it was called, which professed to be absolutely independent alike of Liberals, Conservatives, and Irish Nationalists. Although he belonged, by tradition and by training, to the Conservative Party, he made himself conspicuous by his dashing attacks on the Conservative Government. He was a fearless and brilliant leader of guerilla warfare, and although his Fourth Party only consisted of four members, their chief included, he made himself a sore trouble to any statesman who happened to be in power. He was, however, credited with gifts much greater than those which belonged to a leader of political guerillas, and he became Secretary for India, in the first instance, and afterwards Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the House of Commons. In both offices he showed a capacity for statesmanship of a very high order, a freedom from the bondage of commonplace routine, an extraordinary power of application and a readiness to receive and to welcome new ideas. His health, however, became weakly and uncertain, he was an unsparing worker in every kind of work to which his genius led him, he overtaxed his strength, and he died without accomplishing the success which, of later years, his political opponents as well as his political friends were waiting in full confidence for him to realise.