Life of Gladstone - M. B. Synge


"The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her. . . . She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life." —PROV. XXXI. 11,12.

The Peel Ministry was of short duration, and in 1834 Mr. Gladstone found himself out of office, and with plenty of leisure for other things. He was a man of resource, and he now turned his whole attention to theology. A book called "The State in its Relations with the Church" was the result of his busy leisure; but in the enormous amount of reading and writing the book entailed, Mr. Gladstone seriously injured his eye-sight. His doctors recommended him complete rest, and he decided to spend the winter in Rome, while Lord Melbourne and his Whig Ministry were in power.

Among the visitors in Rome that winter were the widowed Lady Glynne and her two beautiful daughters. Having known Lady Glynne's eldest son while he was at Oxford, Mr. Gladstone naturally became a visitor at the house.

"Mark that young man,'' said an English minister to the elder Miss Glynne one day; "he will yet be Prime Minister of England."

The winter in Rome passed pleasantly away. Before the end of it Mr. Gladstone was engaged to be married to Miss Catherine Glynne, whose younger sister was at the same time engaged to Lord Lyttelton.

The double wedding took place on July 25, 1339, at St. Deiniol's Church, Hawarden—Hawarden Castle belonging to Lady Glynne's eldest son Sir Stephen Glynne, who, dying unmarried, subsequently left the castle to Mrs. Gladstone.

The poet-friend of Mr. Gladstone, Sir Francis Doyle, was groomsman, and it was in a true prophetic spirit that he addressed these verses to the bride:—

"High hopes are thine, O eldest flower!

Great duties to be greatly done;

To soothe, in many a toilworn hour,

The noble heart which thou hast won.

"Covet not, then, the rest of those

Who sleep through life unknown to fame:

Fate grants not passionless repose

To her who wears a glorious name.

"He presses on through calm and storm

Unshaken, let what will betide:

Thou  hast an office to perform,

To he his answering spirit-bride.

"The path appointed for his feet

Through deserts wild and rocks may go,

Where the eye looks in vain to greet

The gales that from the waters blow.

"Be thou a balmy breeze to him;

A fountain singing at his side;

A star, whose light is never dim;

A pillar, to uphold and guide."

For over half a century she stood by his side, the most loyal and devoted of wives; she triumphed with his successes, she sorrowed for his failures. In days of anxiety and ill-health, it was Mrs. Gladstone who lightened the burden as far as it could be lightened by her never-failing tenderness and care. She nursed him with the skill of a nurse, she shielded him from all the minor worries of life, she took upon herself all the smaller business that was possible, to save him trouble. Other women, though younger and stronger than herself, would grow tired and disappear from the "hot stuffy cage" in the House of Commons known as the Ladies' Gallery; but Mrs. Gladstone would remain at her post, forgetful of late hour, forgetful of discomfort and weariness, with eyes only for the great orator below, at the sound of whose voice the House became hushed and attentive.

From that July day when they were married in the little Hawarden church to that May day when, after months of unspeakable pain and distress, he passed from her, her hand still lovingly grasped in his, she had been an ideal wife.

Well, indeed, that Lord Rosebery turned the thoughts of the House to that "solitary and pathetic" figure, who for sixty years shared all the sorrows and all the joys of Mr. Gladstone's life, who received his confidence and every aspiration, who shared his triumphs with him and cheered him under his defeats, who, by her tender vigilance, sustained and prolonged his years.