On the late Lord Derby – The man who was the life and soul of the Conservative party in England for years was in private life one of the most genial and childlike of men. To the last, his spirit of natural gayety never left him, and his wife was, as it were, the shadow of himself. A story was current in London society about this characteristic buoyancy of his, and his son’s no less characteristic ponderosity, not to say boorishness. Dining with the Queen one day, he had been speaking of light and amusing matters, entirely sinking the statesman in the polished man of the world, when the Queen, during a pause in the conversation, suddenly asked him his opinion on a certain political matter then before Parliament.
He gave it at once, whereupon his royal hostess, seemingly very much amused, said to him, “Lord Stanley (his eldest son now Lord Derby, and a very able politician) was dining with me the other day, and I asked him the same question, which he answered very differently; so I said to him, ‘Your father does not think so.’” ‘No, ma’am,’ he said very gravely, ‘I know it; but my father, ma’am, is a very sanguine man.’” Lord Derby laughed, and, assuming all his son’s cumbersome manner and cumbersome, guttural speech, said with a roguish twinkle in his eye, “And my son, ma’am, is a very cautious man.”
This anecdote is a capital illustration of the oral characters to whom it refers, the Queen delighting and having great tact in drawing out her guests by judicious little remarks of her own. Thus those Windsor dinners, despite the very strict etiquette of the English court, were skillfully shorn of their tedium, and rendered a pleasant remembrance to all who partook of them. That, however, was before Prince Albert’s death.
In his own house in St. James’ Square, London, Lord Derby was peculiarly charming. Indeed, he was more charming than absolutely clever, yet it was so strange to think that the same man who at the informal meal of luncheon (of which, unlike many men, he was very fond) could so sparkle with harmless vivacity of spirits, was the same whom other men, cleverer than himself, could, listen to without wearying for a whole night in the House of Lords.
Sometimes at dinner, when his son was present (which never happened except under moral compulsion), he would purposely start a heavy argument, and keep up a close fire of political repartee with his solemn younger self, to the immense but suppressed amusement of his guests, while Lord Stanley would fall unconsciously into the trap, and miss the kindly satire of his father’s imitative voice. Then after awhile, the elder man would drop the argument as if weary of it, and conclude thus: “But then, Stanley, you are so much older and wiser, and know things so well. You must be right.”— Lady Blanche Murphy, in the October number of Lippincott's Magazine, 1872
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