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   Chapter 3 ON POLITICS.

Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Girl / Sister of that Idle Fellow."" By Jenny Wren Characters: 10711

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Perhaps you don't think me competent to talk about politics? "What do women know about such things?" asks the superior masculine mind.

Well, they don't know so much as men, I admit, and I earnestly hope they never will. A woman who is infected with politics is a positive pest, and should be removed at once. If I do not know anything about them, at any rate I ought to, as I have been brought up in a raging Tory household, and so have been steeped in them from my youth up.

There is such a sameness in politicians. Whatever their opinions, their language and feelings are all one. They are only directed at different people. While one man is gloating over a Conservative victory you hear a mutter from the Radical to the effect that "That brute has got in for --" Poor man, why, because he thinks differently to you, should he be a brute? But just the same words are spoken if the positions be reversed. It is only the mouths that change places.

I am afraid my views incline toward the Tory side. I cannot help it, I was bought over long ago. You must feel an interest as to the successful candidate when the result means either a tip all round or a thundery atmosphere for the rest of the day. Men take an adverse poll as a personal affront and vent their feelings on their families. The tipping was quite an understood thing when I was younger, now it is given up, and joy is shown in a less substantial way, I regret to say. Unfortunately the thunder storms are not events of the past as well.

Politicians have such a narrow way of looking at things. The other side can do nothing right while they themselves are absolutely faultless! If a Tory wishes to confer an opprobrious epithet on a person he calls him a Radical, and vice versa; the opposite faction is capable of any enormity? This reminds me of the old Scotchman who on being asked his opinion of a man who had first murdered and then mutilated his victim, answered in a shocked voice, "What do I think? Well, I think that a maun who'd do all that would whistle on the Sawbuths!" "Such a man must be a Home Ruler," my father would have said.

In having a guest with opposite views at your dinner table, what agonies do you not suffer? I have gone through those dreadful meals trembling at every word that drops from the man's lips. Try as you may, turn the conversation how you will, there is sure to be some allusion, some statement that sets on fire all the host's enthusiasm, and it does not take long before the poor guest is entirely annihilated and subdued-unless indeed he is as hot on his side as the other is on his; then indeed all we can do is to sit and hear it out. To attempt to stem such a torrent would be the act of a lunatic. We only feel thankful that "pistols for two and coffee for one" is a thing of the past.

The General Elections are dreadful times; nothing but canvassing goes on night after night for weeks beforehand. Conversation is entirely restricted to the coming event-if you mention a word about anything apart from it, you are considered absolutely profane, and are treated as a pariah for the next few days.

It is interesting, I admit, and the election day itself is positively exciting. You cannot help catching the malady at times. I remember once, when I was very little, and walking out with my governess, tearing down a Liberal bill, in spite of all she said to the contrary. True, it was on what she considered her own side, though I don't think she knew enough to distinguish between the two; still her real annoyance was occasioned more by the look of the thing. That a pupil of hers should act in such a plebeian way, and in so public a place, certainly must have been somewhat provoking? Anyhow, she gave me a bad mark for disobedience, which affected me but little, as when I related the story to my father later on he rewarded me with a shilling for my prowess! Electioneering, you see, is not good for the morals!

How tired you get, too, of seeing the names of would-be members stuck up all over the place. My brothers used to follow the Liberal bill-sticker round, and as soon as he had turned his back pull the placards down, or cover them up with their own. This was found out at last, and the foe grew more cautious.

Then the extravagant promises made by the candidates, which they never really intend to fulfil, and could not if they wished. It is like the man in Church who, while singing-

"Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were an offering far too small,"

was rubbing his finger along the rim of a threepenny bit to make sure it was not a fourpenny!

On election days all mankind goes mad. Their excitement is so great that they would scarcely know it did they forego their dinner. And this, with men, proves an absorbing interest in the matter. Anything placed above dinner, in their opinion, must be important indeed.

There is such a polite element abroad on polling day. Men are so respectful and hurl such affectionate terms at one another. Even the dogs are upset, and strut about in quite a different manner than on ordinary days, so puffed out with vanity are they, on account of their decorations. The members' wives and their friends are all taking part in the scene too, bringing voters along in their carriages, and shaking hands with everybody indiscriminately. I heard an ol

d navvy protesting once that "Lady -- never troubled to shake 'ands with him any other time, but was generally that 'orty she'd step over you as soon as look at you."

Poor old men are dragged out nolens volens to add their mite to the public voice, and are sometimes so aged that they scarcely know what their opinions are. I hope I shall not live to be very old. It is a terrible thing when you make such a prolonged stay on this earth that you have to be helped off it.

It is very curious too, how exceedingly disobliging old people are. I know a family who have never worn anything brighter than grey for years. "In case we have to go into mourning soon-our poor old aunt, you know. It's so very sad!" and they squeeze a tear out from somewhere, but whether on account of their relative's illness, or her prolonged life, is open to opinion. The old lady is flourishing still, and the family is as soberly clothed as ever. When she has been dead a few months what rainbows they will become, to make up for lost time!

"A disappointing man," I have heard a dutiful nephew term his uncle. True, he (the uncle, I mean) is ninety-four, and therefore old enough to know better than to rally so many times. But after all, he does nothing, runs into no danger, is tended as carefully as a new-born baby; I should not at all wonder if he still continued "disappointing" and took a new lease of life for seven years. But I am digressing, and must return to politics.

I went to a Primrose meeting once and the experience was not so happy as to make me wish to try it again.

It amused me, certainly. The conclusion I eventually arrived at, when I left, was that the chief element in the Primrose League was gratitude! This virtue seemed to be the point round which all the speakers rallied.

First the secretary rose, ran off a quantity of statistics, as to what had been done by the great League, what it was going to do, and how many converts had been induced to join, which was exceedingly uninteresting, I think, but which elicited loud applause from the rest of the audience. Then some resolution was passed, at which if you agreed you were begged "to signify the same in the usual way." After which those who thought differently were asked to show their feelings in the same fashion. I held my hand up here, but I suppose the ruling councillor did not expect any opposition, for he never even looked round to see, but gabbled off by rote, "On the contrary? carried unanimously!" and my amiable attempt at running counter to the rest was not even noticed!

Then the ruling councillor gave way to Mr. -- (here a sickly smile was directed at the great man), who had so very kindly come to speak to us this evening, who would, he felt sure, quite enchant us with his-er-great eloquence (another leer to his right).

The great man then came forward, and with a superior smile on his countenance waited until the applause which greeted his entrance had ceased, and then began. He commenced somewhat softly, detailing all the advantages of the Primrose League: what it had done for England, the fear it arouses in the heart of the Liberal faction, how it will raise the country to a summit it never before has reached! No! and never would have reached had it not been for this flourishing, this powerful League! &c., &c., &c. His voice gradually grew louder and louder until, with beating his hands on the table, stamping violently over the sins of the Radicals, and perspiring vehemently in the effort, he presented anything but a pleasing spectacle.

Of course animation like this brought down the house. The applause nearly deafened me, and I was quite glad when he drew near the end of his most tedious speech. He concluded by calming down very suddenly, returned to his original tones, and thanking his audience for his exceedingly kind reception, retired to his seat looking, as Mr. Mantalini would say, a "dem'd damp, moist, unpleasant body."

Then up rose the ruling councillor, and called us all to pass a vote of thanks to the "gifted orator." Someone seconded it, and the great man came forward again to thank us for thanking him. A sort of "So glad, I'm glad, you're glad" business, it seemed to me.

Then the ladies were thanked for being present: "Such great aids, and such an important element in the League," with a snigger, and what he confidently hoped was a fascinating smile, but which made him resemble a very placid cow with the corners of its mouth turned up. Such a mouth, too! The poor man could have whispered in his own ear had he wished. Then someone returned thanks for the ladies. The ruling councillor was thanked, and thanked his thankers back again, and after a few more people had exhibited their great faculty for gratitude the meeting broke up-the only moment at which I felt inclined to applaud.

I do not wish to disparage my own "side" by the foregoing remarks, not caring in any way to emulate Balaam. It is not only the members of the Primrose League who are so anxious to praise each other. It is the case at nearly every meeting you go to. It is a weakness of human nature. We know that if we laud our friend he will sing an eulogy on us the next minute, so it is only natural we should do it, after all.

"The fault is not in our stars,

But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

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