Review of Reviews,  17 (1898), 222–35.

Character Sketch. The Marquis of Salisbury



Regular Feature, Biography


Politics, Conservatism, Radicalism, Electricity, Laboratories, Progress, Light, Transport, Declinism

    Remarks that although Robert A T G Cecil (3rd Marquess of Salisbury) may 'be a Conservative in the House of Lords. He is indisputably a Revolutionist in his laboratory at Hatfield'. While William E Gladstone was a revolutionary in his taste for 'Political Reform promoted by parliamentary and platform agitation', Lord Salisbury 'prefers Electricity, and who can deny that his revolutionist is the most subtle, the most far-reaching of all?'. (223) After all, 'Dynamite is a fool of a thing compared with electricity as a revolutionary agent. Hence its intense, its weird, its overwhelming fascination for Lord Salisbury'. This aspect of his character, however, is often obscured by his public image as 'a pillar of Conservatism, the dogged opponent of political change', although it is arguable that he 'may be remembered gratefully for the object-lessons which he has afforded his countrymen in the utilisation of electricity long after all the "blazing indiscretions" about "black men" and "Hottentots" have become unintelligible to posterity'. In any case, this 'resolute opponent of rash innovations in Church and State was one of the first to introduce electrical innovations into the lighting of his house, the workings of his farm', and though in London he is 'death on the Progressives in the County Council', at 'his own homestead he was the progressive pioneer in all things electrical before even the Council had come into being'. (224) Protests that Britain 'led the world in the utilisation of steam', but is now 'lagging behind even third-rate nations in utilising electricity'. Complains that 'When you return to London from New York or Chicago, you feel as if you had come back to a country village lit with the rushlights of the Middle Ages', and opines, 'If only Lord Salisbury's party would consent to be as progressive in London as their chief is in Hatfield! But that alas! seems to be past praying for' (224–25).

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