Sunday, September 25, 2011

Roy Jenkins, Gladstone: Chapters 7 and 8, "Ladies of the Night" and "The Tremendous Projectile"

After much foreshadowing of Gladstone's sexual vices, they turn out to have been disappointingly tame. His so-called pornographic tastes amounted to little more than a fondness for suggestive passages in classical and modern literature. He got a thrill out of mingling with prostitutes for the supposed purpose of reforming them, but there was no actual sexual consummation. In any case, Gladstone was plagued with guilt about these things in the mid-century years, and even tried to overcome his habits by flogging himself.

Gladstone's opposition to Palmerston's blockade of Greece (in response to claims arising from the Don Pacifico affair) reflected a cautious internationalism that united All branches of Tory opposition. His contribution to the parliamentary debate in 1850 was significant and effective, but the opposition motion was defeated with most of the Radicals joining the Whigs.

Gladstone next became much involved during a visit to Naples with the battle to free the Neapolitan political prisoner Baron Poerio, though his eagerness for British pressure in this case cut against the principles he enunciated during the Don Pacifico incident. He issued two pamphlets to make his case against the Neapolitan government. These made Gladstone's name among liberals in Europe, although they did discomfit the conservative leader, Lord Aberdeen.

Late in 1850, in response to the Pope's decision to authorize naming Catholic bishops in England, the Whig government cynically introduced the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill. The bill made accepting such titles from a Pope a crime -- a measure at variance with traditional Whig support for religious liberty. Gladstone, in another sign of his turn away from theological absolutism towards liberalism, opposed the bill. Gladstone produced another massive, learned oration, but again in vain. The measure passed comfortably, although Gladstone's opposition does not seem to have done him much harm even in his theologically conservative Oxford constituency.

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