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restraints of diplomatic reticence. What he felt to be a private or public injustice to others, cost what the avowal might to himself, he felt bound to declare and de
There is a good deal of mystery concerning his death. It has been attributed to natural causes, but Madame Adam, the well-known French feuilletoniste, in her monograph of Skobeleff declares that there exists evidence to prove that he was garotted by German enemies.
The most notable diplomatist during my sojourn at Constantinople was General Count Ignatieff, a man of surprising acuteness of mind, a keen observer of events before and behind the political curtain, and who concealed his wonderful sagacity under an open frankness of speech which led to the universal opinion that he was totally unreliable for any statement he made on political affairs. The opinion generally held was that what he said might be perfectly true or utterly false, certainly the latter if it related to any matter in which Russia was practically concerned. The consequence was, that the gravest blunders were frequently made by those who acted on this principle. Ignatieff was perfectly aware of the reputation he bore in this respect, and pretended to be excessively amused at it. He always asserted that he had no secrets, and was as candid and outspoken as a child. My fault is," he once said to me, "that I speak too plainly, and my excellent colleagues do not like it and so do not believe it. But the Turks believe me and know that I tell them the truth."
Ignatieff was so wonderfully in advance of his colleagues in obtaining "State secrets" at the Sublime Porte, and profiting therefrom, that he excited no little jeal ousy in political circles. He was never, I believe, caught napping but once, and then the whole diplomatic body, as well as the public at large, were in the same oblivious condition. That was when the populations of Stamboul and Pera were suddenly aroused one morning at daybreak by the firing of signal-guns in front of the Sultan's palace at Dolma Baghtchi, announcing the fact to the world at large that, during the night, Abdul Aziz had been deposed by the Grand Vizir and his ministers, and Prince Murad enthroned in his place. So cleverly and expeditiously had the conspirators carried out and con
summated the plot, that none were more profoundly astonished and mystified at this grand political coup than the Foreign Ambassadors, from whom all knowledge of the design had been dexterously concealed.
Being on excellent personal terms with the Russian Ambassador, and outside the circle of diplomatic intrigue, I was often indebted to him for very early and sometimes very interesting information. One day, as I was passing by the gate of the Embassy, I met Ignatieff coming out.
"What do you think," he asked, "of the condition of the Turkish finances?'' "As bad as can be," I replied. "No; they can be worse. Come in, and I will explain."
Taking me into his sanctum, he sat down at his writing-table, and with pencil and paper proceeded to prove by figures that the treasury could not possibly provide for the overdue payments to the army, navy, and civil service, letting alone. the interest on the foreign debt. Assuming the revenue to be sixteen million of Turkish pounds and the indebtedness to be twenty-six million, he asked how the deficiency was to be made up. I reminded His Excellency that this was an old story, and that the depleted condition of the treasury was the normal state of affairs, but that, by hook or by crook, the Government at the eleventh hour had always been able to tide over its embarrassments by a recourse to temporary loans.
"From whom?" he asked. England has been duped long enough, and will not lend another shilling, and there is not a security left to obtain a loan upon from Jew or Greek in Constantinople. Do you know what will happen? The Turks will repudiate the next six months' interest on the foreign bonded debt."
The impressive tone in which he made this announcement inclined me to believe that it was not a calculation on paper upon which he founded this alarming prophecy, and that he knew more than he chose to reveal. I asked if he were stating an opinion or a fact.
"It is my opinion," he answered, "but you will find that I am right."
I then asked if I might communicate his opinion to others.
"To any one you choose; but I tell you beforehand that nobody will believe me."
And nobody did. Of the two individuals to whom I thought the matter worth repeating, one, an ambassador, expressed surprise that I should attach any importance to information from such a source; the other, a prominent banker who negotiated an enormous amount of Turkish bonds, laughed in derision, and remarked that my informant's chief characteristic was mendacity. "As to the bonded interest, it would be punctually paid, as it always had been and always would be."
In less than the time mentioned by Ignatieff, the Government declared its inability to pay the semi-annual interest, and down went the market value of all Turkish securities.''
"What did I tell you?" said Ignatieff, pulling up his horse as I met him on the road between Therapia and Buyukdera. "Was I not right? Now I will tell you another thing. They will not pay the other half! You will see-you will see!" and off rode the Ambassador, chuckling with satisfaction at the success of his prophecy, or the discomfiture of the bondholders, or both.
I informed my two incredulous friends of this second opinion" of the astute diplomatist, but they indignantly refused to believe in the "other half." They had come to the conclusion that Ignatieff himself had persuaded the Government to this suicidal course in order to give an other shake to the rickety throne of the Sultan, and that he was probably speculating in the funds. As to the crisis, they believed it would be temporary, and that the public credit would soon be restored.
In due time the repudiation-for such it amounted to-of the second half-year's interest followed, and down to lower depths than ever went the Turkish bonds. The blind belief in the good faith of the Government was never more rudely dispelled, nor the ignorance of credulous bondholders more severely exposed. To use the words of a certain Turkish Pasha, who was discussing with me the situation of affairs-one of the few who spoke English and who had acquired in England some practical acquaintance with the principles of political economy-" The Turks have sucked the English orange dry, and have thrown the skin in their faces.
Many anecdotes of General Ignatieff's
cunning in diplomacy were current in Constantinople. I am not sure that I did not have the following from his own lips. The late Sultan Abdul Aziz, if not absolutely mad was sufficiently eccentric to cause constant irritation, not only to his ministers but to the Foreign Ambassadors. At one time he refused absolutely to grant an audience to any of the members of the diplomatic body, and this at a time when many of them, including the Russian Ambassador, were waiting anxiously for interviews. Ignatieff ascertained that, under the plea of official occupation, the Sultan was spending the greater part of his time in cock-fighting, an amusement which he greatly relished. He further ascertained that His Imperial Majesty was in want of fresh birds to supply the places of those killed in fight. Thereupon Ignatieff procured a fine-looking white fowl of the farmyard species, had it trimmed and spurred to resemble a game-cock, and sent it in a richly decorated cage to the Sultan, with the respectful compliments of the Russian Ambassador. The ruse was successful. His Majesty, who at first was delighted with the gift, soon sent for the Ambassador to present himself at the palace, and explain, if he could, why the bird had no fight in him. Ignatieff went, and in the presence of the Sultan examined the bird, and with, of course, immense astonishment and regret, acknowledged that it was quite unable to cope with His Majesty's superior gamecocks. A conference followed on the subject of gamecocks in general and this one in particular, and when the diplomatist had succeeded in drawing the Sultan into a conversational mood, he adroitly introduced the political matter he had so long awaited an opportunity to bring before His Majesty. Ignatieff returned to his embassy triumphant over his colleagues, who were left out in the cold.
This reference to the late Sultan Abdul Aziz recalls an amusing incident, with which I will close these off-hand recollections. During a "Grand Council" of ministers at the Sublime Porte, and in the midst of the discussion on a subject of vital importance, a mounted messenger from the palace arrived, bearing an imperial order to the Grand Vizir to wait upon His Majesty without an instant's delay. The council broke up, and the
Grand Vizir proceeded to the palace in hot haste. There he was informed that the Sultan was in the garden impatiently awaiting his arrival. As he entered, he saw His Majesty standing with a few attendants intently watching a fight between two gamecocks. The Grand Vizir, following the custom of all Turkish subjects when approaching the august presence, stopped at a respectful distance and commenced the series of salaams with down
cast eyes and shrinking attitude appropriate to the occasion.
"Never mind that now," exclaimed His Majesty excitedly, "but come here directly. Look-see-what did I tell you? Did I not say that Acmet"pointing to one of the cocks-would whip Assam? Look, he is doing it!"
And this was what, and all, the Sultan had to communicate to his Grand Vizir.Murray's Magazine.
IF Mrs. Oliphant had ventured to portray in one of her novels such a career as that which she has described in her Memoir of Laurence Oliphant, she would doubtless have had some difficulty in replying to critical objections as to probabilities overstepped, unities outraged, and ideals pushed to absurdity. And, in good sooth, nothing but the constant assurance that we have along with us the vouchers of authenticated truth, enables us to read this record as one of fact and not of imagination. To those even who knew him best, Laurence Oliphant's life presented features that were strange and inexplicable; and now that the veil which covered it has been raised, it will still appear scarcely less singular and unintelligible. In Oliphant's case the difficulty is, and was, to refer him to any recognized human standard, and to get at his gauge by comparison therewith. We could never reduce his mind, as it seems, to its lowest terms, and thus get at the ultimate facts which formed the basis of his inner life. A puzzle and a problem while he lived, a mystery scarcely less intense, even when his life has passed through the ordeal of strict scrutiny and study, must yet continue to envelop his memory.
It is no blame to Mrs. Oliphant that she has not solved the insoluble. She has brought qualifications to bear upon her work which no contemporary writer is possessed of. Her "Life of Edward Irving" proved how adapted she was to trace
*Memoir of the Life of Laurence Oliphant, and of Alice Oliphant, his Wife. By Mar
garet Oliphant W. Oliphant. Fourth Edition. In two volumes. William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh and London. 1891.
with sympathetic skill eccentric genius in all its phases of health and disease; and to some extent the life of Laurence Oliphant suggests parallel lines of inquiry. Of her knowledge of human nature and firm grasp of the human mind, the number and diversity of additions to the environing world of fiction, its most living and life-like inhabitants, which out of these resources have been fashioned by her genius, are sufficient attestation. She had also the advantages of personal acquaintance; of a sympathy which could readily appreciate Oliphant's remarkable powers, and accompany him a certain length in his aspirations; and of confidential intercourse which brought Oliphant's mind under the analysis of a shrewd and friendly investigator. And yet when she has done her best-when she has probed Oliphant's nature as deep as human penetration can go, when she has examined all the circumstances and influences amid which his life was spent-his biographer will not scruple to admit that there are occult impulses in his conduct which baffle explanation, and latent forces in his personality indescribable by her, as they are incomprehensible to us.
When Laurence Oliphant's singular career was under discussion, there were always two explanations of his conduct ready enough to hand, but neither of these could for one moment be entertained by any one who had come within the circle of his acquaintance. One theory was that Oliphant's desire for notoriety was so strong as to lead him to make the most costly sacrifices for its gratification; that he was posing before the public when he took the decisive step which changed the
whole tenor of his life; and that in his retirement at Brocton he was simply preparing himself for the lionizing which would await him on his re-entry into society. To those who knew only the outer Laurence Oliphant-brilliant, unsettled, eccentric, and not without a dash of frivolity, such as he appeared to be during his parliamentary life-this was a plausible enough supposition; but no one could come into intimate contact with him without being aware that there was a deep earnestness of purpose underlying his life which directly negatived such an idea. Nothing is more apparent in the Memoirs here set before us than that Laurence Oliphant was a man by whom the opinion of the world was rated at its least possible value, and that he wholly disliked and distrusted the spirit which quickened its judgments. And his whole bearing and demeanor, when he again appeared in his old world, quite forbade the idea that he had any self-consciousness of having done anything to be talked about. And with all its idealism, Laurence Oliphant's was a very practical mind. He had made very heavy material sacrifices, which could result in no possible material compensations; we may be sure, therefore, that he thought he saw his way very clearly to an adequate spiritual equivalent.
Another theory has been more frequently put in the form of a question than directly hazarded-Was there a twist in Oliphant's mental organization, a disordered intuition which drove him to views and courses ridiculed by the aggregate common-sense of his fellows?-in short, had he what his own countrymen call "a bee in his bonnet"? The doubt is more easily raised than answered, for its solution would open up distinctions that must reduce the number of sane men among us to an illustrious minimum. The soundness of Laurence Oliphant's judgment was proved by the reliance which many eminent men placed upon it in very difficult conjunctures of affairs, by the accuracy and ability of his views on public questions, and by the judicious advice which he always had at the service of those friends that required it. And even in the case of those intellectual convictions of his which strike us most strangely, and in connection with which any mental weakness must have assuredly asserted itself, he was wont to discuss his views with scientific calin
ness and in the most dispassionate fashion, and almost without any recognition that there was aught in them calculated to startle an ordinary mind.
From Laurence Oliphant's life, more than from his works, we may gather some hints that, for want of better lights, may afford more or less satisfactory explanations of his remarkable mental development. Almost from the very beginning the conditions of his training were singular; his education was as wide as it was vague" one of the pupils of the school of Life,” of Life," as Mrs. Oliphant says, "educated mainly by what his keen eyes saw and his quick ears heard, and his clear understanding and lively wit picked up, amid human intercourse of all kinds;" his experiences were from the first of an adventurous and unusual description, though coming to him in a natural enough fashion. He was shunted at the outset off the beaten track of life; he never had to tug at the collar of conventionality; and circumstances seemed continually conspiring to draft him off into some strange and unusual field of action. Yet this educational scope was not without its drawbacks. Oliphant was never made to realize the conditions that properly limit our judg ments. His imagination, keen and brilliant, outpaced his reason, and eventually dragged the latter captive at its heels, until he became incapable of realizing the boundaries between the real and the ideal. His education, or rather want of education, together with his experiences while his mind was still in a plastic state, suggests, however, more than it explains, the peculiar workings of Laurence Oliphant's mind.
We have said enough at present to indicate the special problem which Laurence Oliphant's life offers to students of mind, but it is far from being the only interest yielded by this Memoir. In fact, it would be hard to name any special interest that does not find something to whet its appetite in a career that includes within it the rôles of traveller, barrister, hunter, philanthropist, diplomatist, warrior, filibuster, conspirator, legislator, author, ploughman and teamster, war correspondent, man about town, mystic, and heresiarch-a many-sided life truly; and the most curious thing about it is, that each side as it comes uppermost seems to fit him to the skin-a wonderful man and a wonderful
life, an impossible conception in fiction, and difficult of realization in the still stranger truth.
And yet all this romance starts with a very sober foundation. The father, Sir Anthony Oliphant, a man of sound, homely, prosaic virtues, cast in an austere Scotch mould; the mother a more imaginative character, but chastened with pietism, and with a propensity for running riot in religious speculation. The mother exercises a marked influence throughout Lau. rence Oliphant's career, and she must have been a woman of singular influence to have carried with her the sober sense of her husband and the genius of her gifted If we could completely recover her, we might find the ultimate explanation of Laurence's mental idiosyncrasies; but, unfortunately, most of her letters that have been recovered chiefly illustrate the domestic love of a beautiful and pious soul.
Born at Cape Town, where his father was a judge, in 1829, Laurence Oliphant was sent to England as a child, and in due course went to school at Durnford Manor, near Salisbury, and afterward at Preston, where he remained until he was twelve or thirteen years old. Then at an age when most boys are beginning to settle down to their books, he entered upon his pilgrimage. His devoted parents sent for him to Ceylon, where Sir Anthony was now Chief Justice; and accompanied by a tutor, he set out upon the then formidable journey in the winter of 1841, travelling through France to Marseilles, where they embarked. Egypt had to be traversed, and accident opened up to him a visit to Mocha, a pleasure which, even to this day, is rarely available for the overland traveller; and in three months' time Laurence reached Ceylon, not then, as now, an Anglicized colony, but still an integral part of the old East, with the religion and manners of the Singhalese still flourishing in all their pristine purity. In Colombo, and at Sir Anthony's farm on the Kandyan hills, Laurence Oliphant's education was carried on by his tutor, under his parents' supervision; but it must have lacked the method, the restraint, and, above all, the discipline of a scholastic training.
"He was in no way the creation of school or college. When, as happens now and then, an education so desultory, so little consecutive or steady as his, produces a brilliant man or woman, we are apt to think that the acci
So it would have been in the case of Laurence Oliphant, for his irregular training and youthful wanderings must have been answerable to no small extent for the errant habits of mind and body that characterized his after-life. He had again a short period of study at home under a private tutor; but Sir Anthony's arrival in England on a two years' furlough put an end to his education, as well as to his prospects of a university training. The Oliphants were going to travel on the Continent, and "I represented," says Laurence,
so strongly the superior advantages, from an educational point of view, of European travel over ordinary scholastic training, and my arguments were urgently backed by my mother, that I found myself, to my great delight, transferred from the quiet of a Warwickshire vicarage to the Champs Elysées in Paris." Germany, Italy, and Switzerland were visited by the party. Among the superior advantages of this educational course appears to have been an opportunity of participating in a political émeute in the Piazza del Popolo, under the auspices of a demagogic wood merchant, which ended in burning the Austrian arms, and compelling the Princess Pamphili Doria to set fire to the pile," in all of which I took an active part, feeling that somehow or other I had deserved well of my country." This was in 1847, the beginning of the era of revolutions, and scenes of political excitement were rife. Young Oliphant dashed into the midst of them with boyish delight, rather than with definite enthusiasm, when he could get the chance. He joined a mob that broke into the Propaganda, and was present on the steps of St. Peter's when Pio Nono blessed the volunteers departing to encounter the Austrians. These stirring experiences must have been more to the relish of Laurence than of his anxious parents. As for the staid and sober Sir Anthony, his situation must have resembled that of the proverbial hen who sees the duckling she has unconsciously hatched take to water.
Next year they were all back in Ceylon ; Laurence was admitted to the local Bar, and became his father's private secretary.