Life of Joseph Chamberlain, Vol. 1

Life of Joseph Chamberlain, Vol. I.

by J. L. Garvin
[Macmillan, $5.OO]
IF we Americans have the courage of our convictions, we have also the fortitude of our prejudices. In our own country we love or hate our statesmen according to the pattern of our Party, while our benevolent neutrality toward the politicians of Europe enables us to exercise in their regard every variety of predilection or antipathy which chance or hearsay may dictate. Our national sympathies, for instance, were violently Gladstonian, though if the Grand Old Man had been President instead of Premier, we should have been at least as violently divided. Toward Mr. Chamberlain we have ever been adverse. True, he was of the ‘American type.’ Ilis way was organization by city, ward, and precinct. The Caucus, as he introduced it, seemed to us an American importation. Put we knew by the cut of his impudently perfect coat that he was British to the backbone. The invariable orchid in his buttonhole roused our suspicion, and his monocle was an offense to the Republic.
Mr. Garvin, who has written this book for Englishmen, has done us Americans a service in thus presenting the complete Chamberlain in his habit as he lived: the republican who lived to be beloved by his sovereign next to Dizzy alone; the dissenter who learned to fight for Union; the Sunday-school teacher who came to use the Empire for his classroom; the great administrator who learned his business from the making of screws, and applied it to half the world; the supreme executive, perhaps, of his century; the man who more than any other of our time put his stamp, first on the city of his choice, and last upon the British Commonwealth of Nations. This is the Chamberlain Americans have known only in crude outline, and he is worthy of our scrutiny.
But after all, as we have said, this Life, of which only the firsi fifty years can be crowded into this first volume, is a book for Englishmen. I do not know when Mr. Garvin first began to write his five omniscient Sunday columns which Americans in London read in the Observer, but it was the day before yesterday that he was born, and much of Chamberlain’s England is a personal memory with him. A detached and highly intelligent journalist, he knows every Party manœuvre, all the alarums and excursions of politics, as well as its pitched battles. Whigs, Tories, Liberals, and Unionists pass in embattled review and are surveyed by the umpire with a charity past praise; which shows that wound do heal, that living politicians may become dead statesmen, and that history can make of politics a noble exercise.