Leslie Stephen and the Clubbable Men of Radical London: An Essay in Honour of John King's Retirement

Gregory C. G. Moore

Rounded Globe



A version of the following essay on Leslie Stephen’s experiences in London clubland and its allied precincts was presented at the HETSA 2004 and HES 2007 conferences. This unreasonably long delay before final publication is due to my preoccupation with teaching economics to the undergraduates who happen to pay my wage; a grasshopper preference to move between research topics and disciplines that fleetingly interest me; and my awareness that Stephen is already well served by two magnificent biographies by Frederic Maitland and Noel Annan. This last point was a particularly challenging obstacle, since it is, to say the least, taxing to write anything radically new on the subject of Stephen that matches the style and substance of these (and other) fine works. I therefore simply drifted away from this manuscript in the same way that I have drifted away from countless other manuscripts. Two main prompts, however, eventually forced me to publish this component of my research relating to Stephen, and each of these prompts induces me to thank certain people.

First, in 2014 I wished to submit a paper of weight and value to the Festschrift for John King, who acted as my doctoral supervisor many decades ago. It was under John’s tutelage that I embraced the type of contextual historiography that defines this essay and which characterises most of my narratives in my notional field of research, the history of economic thought. My debt to John is deep. Unfortunately, however, even though the editors of the Festschrift showed great tolerance, if not enthusiasm, by initially granting me leave to contribute a lengthy essay to this celebratory exercise, I could not reduce the piece to the 6000 to 8000 words that were eventually stipulated by the chosen publisher without doing major violence to its structure and intent. It is thus with great pleasure that the subtitle of this essay is “An Essay in Honour of John King’s Retirement”. Second, in 2015 I became aware of Simon Cook’s innovative publishing enterprise, Rounded Globe, which specialises in monographs that are too small for a book and too large for a traditional refereed article. This was serendipitous, since this essay falls between these two stools in just this way. Simon’s enthusiasm for an expanded narrative was, moreover, sufficiently infectious that I was encouraged to publish, while his keen editorial eye improved the final product. This is also an opportune point to thank my many other proof readers: Elena Douglas, Keith Eldershaw, Helen Fordham, Gerry Kelly, John King, Milly Main, Neil De Marchi, Michael McLure and Mike White. All errors and off-the-mark interpretations are, of course, my own.

I should also emphasise that numerous related publications have appeared during the decade between writing the first draft of this piece and publishing the final version. The inter-disciplinary nature of the subject matter made the exercise of hunting down this latest literature especially difficult. There have, for example, been a number of publications of great merit in which the authors, predominantly of a feminist hue, treat London clubland from a literary-critical perspective. Amy Milne-Smith’s London Clubland: A Cultural History of Gender and Class in Late Victorian Britain (2011) and Barbara Black’s A Room of His Own: A Literary-Cultural Study of Victorian Clubland (2012) are just two recent publications that immediately come to mind. Their bold lead gave me the courage to expand on my earlier analysis of some of the mid-Victorian fraternal traits, such as clubbability and masculinity, and to corral the implications of the contextual particulars that are presented in the first half of the essay into an enlarged concluding section. I have, for all this, chosen to assimilate most other new publications by citing them at strategic points in the narrative while leaving the original themes of the 2004 and 2007 narratives largely intact. The only substantive change to the original conception of these earlier essays is to include a section devoted to considering how Jürgen Habermas’s model of a transforming public sphere is relevant to London clubland. This adjustment is, furthermore, designed primarily to emphasise the way in which Habermas’s model was anticipated by, of all people, Stephen, rather than to engineer any substantial shift in the original intent of the narrative. I have also added a brief introduction for the benefit of those readers who are unfamiliar with Stephen’s life and writings. Hopefully this version of the essay will allow those scholars who have been citing the earlier manuscripts (now unobtainable mimeos) a superior and more accessible narrative to reference.

Part One

Introducing Stephen and a Knot of Enthusiastic Men

I saw something of Fawcett’s friends, Cairnes and W. T. Thornton, the economists, and even of the great J. S. Mill (Stephen 1977:8).

Leslie Stephen’s (1832-1904) father, Sir James Stephen, was a member of the anti-slavery Clapham sect and a sufficiently powerful Colonial Undersecretary that he was referred to as Mr Over-secretary; his brother, James Fitzjames Stephen, was a party-of-one Benthamite-Tory whose Liberty, Equality, Fraternity of 1873 challenged the then rising liberal orthodoxy promoted by John Stuart Mill; and his daughter, Virginia Woolf, was a noted essayist and possibly the greatest modernist author of the twentieth century. His extended family included so many of the Victorian cultural elite that they dominate the kinship tree which Annan (1955) employed to support his thesis that an English “intellectual aristocracy” emerged in the nineteenth century. Stephen himself gained fame as a pioneer of the history of English intellectual history, one of the leading mountaineers of his generation, a belle-lettrist of the first rank, a champion of agnosticism in a vociferous religious age, one of the founders of the Cambridge tradition in literary criticism, and a biographer and inaugural editor of The Dictionary of National Biography (DNB). He was married to Harriet (Minny) Thackeray, the daughter of the great William Makepeace Thackeray, and following her death, to the beautiful and wonderfully complete Julia Duckworth. It was as a husband of the latter that he gained disrepute amongst modern Bloomsbury enthusiasts due to the way in which he acted as the model for the self-critical and self-absorbed paterfamilias, Mr Ramsey, in Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. In his early years, however, Stephen was better known to his contemporaries as a man of great promise with Radical-Liberal inclinations (hereafter simply Radical). It is with this earlier manifestation of Stephen’s nature that I am occupied in this essay. As the Stephen scholar, John Bicknell (1987), reminds us: “Mr Ramsey was young once”.1

Stephen’s Radical colours were first unfurled at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he gained the credible rank of twentieth Wrangler in the Mathematical Tripos exams in 1854, and, for a good decade thereafter, acted as one of the newfangled muscular dons who both coached crews on the Cam and broke with tradition by taking his pastoral duties seriously. Stephen there struck up a famous friendship with Henry Fawcett in the process of leading a Radical set that gathered at Trinity Hall. Their answer to hesitating proselytes was “read Mill” (Stephen 1903 [1924]:76). At a theoretical level they celebrated the Holy Trinity of Mill’s Principles, Liberty and Logic, and embraced, in particular, the political economy of an 1857 Millite marque. At a policy level they demanded reform to overcome the perceived sinister interests that defended government sinecures, obstructed free contract, protected landed privileges, restricted the franchise, and preserved the moribund universities and established church. They simultaneously deployed a hyper-masculine logic, which was then celebrated at Cambridge, to dismiss other reformers who trafficked sentimental nostrums and ignored the self-interest of masterless men. Thus, to use Isaiah Berlin’s (1958) admittedly over-drawn schema, their vision was shaped more by the negative liberty championed by the Radical Philosophers in the first part of the century and less by the positive liberty dwelt upon by the New Liberals in the last part of the century. Stephen’s compact with this set and sentiment was further cemented when Fawcett was blinded in a shooting accident in 1858. He dutifully deployed his elegant style to write out Fawcett’s Manual of Political Economy in 1863, lobbied for Fawcett to win the Cambridge Chair of Political Economy in 1863, and campaigned to secure Fawcett a seat in Parliament (in 1860, 1863, 1864 and 1865). Over this time, the Hall Radicals also met leading reformers at convivial social gatherings held at Daniel and Alexander Macmillan’s bookshop in Cambridge and, further, developed friendships with established London Radicals, such as W. T. Thornton, Thomas Hare and J. E. Cairnes, by inviting them to Trinity Hall feasts.2

Stephen continued these Radical associations in the London clubs devoted to reform, such as the Century and Radical, after he came down from Cambridge in the winter of 1864-5 to make a name for himself as a Higher Journalist. He there met numerous other Oxbridge graduates of his generation who had embraced some variant of the Radical agenda and were in want of a living in London. Stephen could not be described as a leading figure in these ‘clubbish’ circles of reformers and, indeed, although he explicitly defined himself as a Radical in the heady days of progressive optimism that defined the 1860s, he began to betray, even at this stage, an ambivalence towards Radical ideas and the Radicals themselves that he articulated more forthrightly later in life. Like Mill, Stephen slowly and hesitatingly began to recognise that some sort of limited collective action was needed to raise the character of base-born individuals to enable them to execute effective freedom. His flirtation with those elements of Comtism that were congenial to many Radicals also induced him to conclude that reform was ineffective if it left the interconnected social organism unchanged. He eventually settled on a mild liberal-conservative cynicism that chiefly entailed being suspicious of individuals, like his former self, who were dreadfully in earnest. The Radicals who later reminisced about the mid-1860s certainly recall the younger Stephen as a reformer who did not trim in the Radical clubs. It was in such forums that these enthusiastic young men and their ageing mentors gathered to discuss the issues that were important to the Radicals, whether it be franchise reform or the war waged by the abolitionist North against the slave-owning South in the American Union. These excited discussions, in turn, prompted the publications—such as Essays on Reform (1867) and Questions for a Reformed Parliament (1867)—which became the outward manifestations of the Radical movement. It was also in these out-of-session tobacco parliaments that the rising generation of Radical leaders, such as Fawcett, Leonard Courtney, Charles Dilke and John Morley, constructed platforms to launch their offensive to transform the Whig-dominated Liberal party into a Liberal party with a Radical slant.3

My goal in this essay is the modest one of exploring the way in which Stephen’s experiences in the Radical end of London clubland and allied domains shine light on the written products of the period, especially those that relate to political economy in the 1860s and 1870s. The more specific conceit is to accompany Stephen—a formidable, if not a famous, perambulator—on a walk through the different venues that he frequented in and around the clubland precinct. Such an ambulatory exercise yields the type of systematic observation of particulars that is needed to comprehend how the social networks, cultural practices and public performances in the Radical fraternal associations of this period shaped, in a minor way, the nature and fortunes of the ideas that some of the Radicals were seeking to advance on the printed page. Treating Stephen as an eyewitness, I literally retrace his steps to show how the social world of this enthusiastic knot of young men moulded some of the rhetoric and strong positions that finally appeared, for posterity, on the printed page in the Radical publications. It also should be emphasised that the report of the observations of the walking exercise is predominantly written with a readership of historians of economic thought in mind. I hope, in particular, that the observations induce such historians to shift their historiographical focus away from the universities and published books towards the London clubs and the Higher Journalist organs. This entails a change in emphasis from the texts to the context of the mid-Victorian world to a degree that some in this sub-discipline find uncomfortable. A secondary, more mischievous, hope is that a record of these observations prompts historians of economic thought of all colours to pursue their inescapable ideological goals with more humour and less unbending earnestness. With any luck this will be encouraged by Stephen’s own perambulatory commentary, particularly since, as a natural scoffer of priggish sentiment and as an intellectual historian who became the “apostle of the eighteenth-century”, he was disposed to mock those clubmen who displayed the type of excessive “enthusiasm” (read pejoratively as humourless fanaticism) that was frowned upon in post-Restoration England.4

This walking tour is completed in four main parts. In Part Two I survey Stephen’s role as a Higher Journalist in London in the 1860s to show that, although these posts were in no way dominated by Radicals, the writings of the Higher Journalists who were Radicals both exerted powerful reach and echoed the debates taking place in the Radical clubs. In Part Three I survey the London clubs to which Stephen belonged to capture the cultural dynamics of the fraternal associations that gathered at the Radical end of clubland. In Part Four I flesh out Stephen’s clubland observations by allowing him to take a perambulatory detour to some of the regular social and dinner engagements in which the Radicals also met and justify this on the grounds that these venues, with a little liberty, could be interpreted as extensions of clubland. In Part Five I explain how the institutional features described in the preceding three parts shaped the nature and fortunes of the written products of the Radicals. I determine, in particular, the extent to which the Radical end of London clubland resembled Jürgen Habermas’s concept of a transformed public sphere and, in the process, show that Habermas's model of this sphere is drawn, in part, from Stephen’s own writings. I also determine the extent to which clubbability and other fraternal traits influenced the way clubmen read and reviewed each other’s works and, further, gave rise to exclusive social networks that may account for the claims of some contemporary commentators that a “noxious” influence of authority pervaded Radical circles at this time. The walk begins with Stephen deciding to leave Cambridge for a life of journalism in London — even if there is no record that he walked this distance on this specific occasion.

Part Two

Leslie Stephen in the Age of Higher Journalism

It is doubtful whether I shall get to the Alps this year. I leave the Hall, and shall probably be in London with a pen to sell (Vernon Whitford [read Stephen] in The Egoist, 1879:136).

2.1 Introduction

Stephen was thinking about earning a living from journalism in London as early as 1862, when he resigned his position in the church for want of faith and, as a direct consequence, lost his tutorship (but not his fellowship) at Trinity Hall. Stephen’s crisis of conscience from wearing the clerical neckcloth while embracing what was eventually termed ‘agnosticism’ was accompanied by a crisis of confidence over whether he possessed the qualities (both good and bad) that were needed to become a scholar of the first rank. He was increasingly unsettled by his inability to find a suitable thesis topic to make his name as a gentleman of letters and he was clearly being outpaced by his more ambitious friend, Fawcett, who by 1863 had already published numerous monographs and won the Cambridge Chair of Political Economy. Stephen, in short, was fearful of becoming one of the second-rate dons with whom he rubbed shoulders on a daily basis and hence, to accommodate his own understated ambition to do something on a grand scale, he began to entertain the idea of leaving the cloistered security of Trinity Hall, his home since the autumn of 1850, for the more uncertain environment of Grub Street. Stephen’s friend George Meredith described the logic of this decision in The Egoist, when he had his hero, Vernon Whitford (who was modelled on Stephen), justify his decision to give up his academic life to sell his pen in London:

Well, I’m two and thirty, and have never been in the fray: a kind of nondescript, half-scholar, and by nature half billman or bowman or musketeer; if I’m worth anything, London’s the field for me (1879:137).5

Many young scholars from the two senior universities had successfully made this career move in the previous decade, including Stephen’s elder brother, but not everyone was happy with Stephen’s decision. Whitford’s aristocratic cousin in The Egoist exclaimed:

Leaves the Hall!...He made a bad start at the beginning, and I should have thought that would have tamed him: had to throw over his Fellowship; ahem... rank gambling, as I told him. Londonizing can do him no good (1879:159).

It was this sort of reasoning that forced Stephen to hesitate before making the move to the seat of Empire. He had been approached to help edit The Reader in 1862 (and again in 1865), but declined on the grounds that he did not want to embark on a doubtful venture as an editor when he had few qualifications for such a senior role (Fenwick 1993: xvi, 176). He did not summon the courage to join the ranks of the fourth estate until December 1864.

Stephen came down to London at a time when journalism was experiencing a golden age. The educated class had grown to a point where there was a market that could support several newspapers with literary pretensions, while the pool of literary talent had swelled to a level where editors of these publications could rely on numerous competent litterateurs to supply a steady stream of quality pieces. Bright young men were consequently recruited by the dozen from Oxford and Cambridge to write Leaders, Middles and Reviews in the newly established daily and weekly broadsheets, with the Leader devoted to a leading newsworthy event (usually political), the Middle devoted to some sort of lay sermon on things in general, and the Review devoted to demolishing or puffing the latest scientific monograph or historical romance. Publications such as The Saturday Review, The Spectator and The Pall Mall Gazette (or PMG) soon took a place alongside the quarterlies as a forum for serious (and often not so serious) political, economic and literary analysis. Even long-established broadsheets such as The Times peaked in literary quality during this period. The editors of these publications not surprisingly chose, and then guarded, their stable of writers carefully, and the new style adopted by their young contributors—which was learned, often humorous and sometimes derisive—was labelled Higher Journalism. Stephen’s easy style, fine critical sense, epigrammatic skills and droll sense of humour enabled him to slip into this company with ease. He wrote for The Saturday Review and PMG through to the 1870s, and submitted a fortnightly letter on England (not unlike Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America in reverse) from 1866 to 1873 for the US magazine, The Nation. The pieces that have been identified as the product of Stephen’s pen (Bevington 1941 and Fenwick 1993) show that he (like his colleagues) largely carried on in print the tone of their conversations in the Oxbridge common room and later the London clubs. Journalism was, in short, no longer the province of disreputable hacks of Grub Street, but a living sufficiently respectable for the middle classes and, more importantly, a profession fit for the Coleridgean clerisy. The institutional nature of knowledge production altered accordingly.6

2.2 Saturday Review

One of the first sites of intellectual enterprise traversed by Stephen was the office of The Saturday Review. This magazine was put on a new footing in 1855 by the celebrated editor John Douglas Cook, who, like anyone worth knowing, possessed the agreeable habit of providing narratives of his life that owed as much to imagination as to historical fact. His colourful reputation was further enhanced in the eyes of the fresh-faced employees from the universities by his ability to combine an obvious lack of interest in cultural issues with a singular facility for recognising and harnessing literary talent. He was a journalist of the old school par excellence. The Saturday Review subsequently seized first place amongst the English literary publications, and by the 1860s its stable of writers housed a veritable who’s who of Victorian men of letters. Contributors included Edward Freeman (who contributed over 700 articles), John Richard Green, Fitzjames Stephen, Goldwin Smith, Henry Maine, Mark Pattison and John Morley. This venerable group of youthful litterateurs grew sufficiently large that the regular dinners held for contributors at either Richmond or Greenwich gave the impression that the “whole literary tribe of London were gathered together” (Smith 1910:10). These writers willingly subscribed to an elitist and masculine culture that was reflected in the magazines’ famous, if not infamous, irreverent editorial policy of censuring sentimentalism, humbug, sloppy thinking and anyone who struck poses. The nearest modern equivalent to its radical-Tory line would be a hybrid of the writings of Paul Johnson and P. J. O’Rourke. Alexander Macmillan called this style Saturdayism, A. C. Hilton christened the journal “Latterday Pooh-Pooh”, and John Bright, the Radical Parliamentarian who bore the brunt of its acerbic denunciations, called it the Saturday Reviler (Graves 1910:184). This last name stuck and thereafter was taken as a badge of honour by its impertinent contributors, who, like most young intellectuals making their way in the world, revelled in causing a little mayhem.7

Stephen joined this brilliant band of writers when his brother introduced him to Cook in 1865, and he thereafter wrote up to two pieces a week until at least 1873, when he began to drift away from what he called “pot boiling for the Saturday” (Maitland 1906:203, 237). He did not agree with the Tory stance of the Reviler, but, given the masculine temper of his Radical set at Cambridge, he readily embraced its sneering-cum-comic tone. Indeed, Stephen’s willingness to ape the Reviler’s style and to suppress his Radical inclinations to match its Tory politics was not driven by his need to earn an income. This, after all, was the age of anonymous journalism, in which the writer readily subordinated his views to the corporate line and the editorial “we” was not just a grammatical peculiarity (Kent 1978:106). Stephen even later admitted that he had difficulty distinguishing his contributions from those written by his Tory colleagues (1903 [1924]:130), while Cook was sufficiently satisfied with Stephen’s efforts that he gave him a yearly retaining fee of fifty guineas in 1867 as a wedding present (Annan 1984:51). Stephen’s known Radical beliefs meant, for all this, that he was never trusted with a Leader. He was confined to writing Middles on subjects such as Parisian criminals, dinner giving, contagious diseases and the redundancy of women, as well as numerous reviews, including one on Thornton’s contribution to The Fortnightly Review on supply and demand (Stephen 1866). He later characterised these pieces as lay sermons, and attributed their success to an Englishman’s traditional love of a good sermon, especially one not bound by the proprieties of the religious pulpit (Stephen 1895:148ff; 178). Stephen, in other words, never delivered Radical sermons via this institution and was more likely to meet a High Tory than a Radical in its offices and at its famous dinners. It was by sheer chance that he came across Morley in the editorial ante-room of the Reviler.8 This fellow Radical was also never trusted with a Leader and instead wrote pieces on a three-volume novel one week and Baroness Burdett-Coutts’s famous donkey shows the next (Knickerbocker 1943:74). Morley (1917, i:117) caught the political isolation of these two Reviler Radicals in his reminiscences:

Stephen and I were shut out from political writing, for we were both of us in politics inexorable root and branch men; our editorial masters were just as strong for church and queen, with even a dark suspicion of partnership with Dr. Pusey, and an odd admixture besides of two or three of the most unflinching and dogmatical Erastians in the kingdom. The staff must have worn a curious physiognomy to a candid observer who knew the secrets.

2.3 The Pall Mall Gazette (PMG)

Stephen also wrote for The Pall Mall Gazette or the PMG, which was located on Salisbury St just off the Strand (Lee 1901 [1902]:41).9 The legendary publisher, George Murray Smith, established the PMG as an evening broadsheet in 1865 and recruited as his first editor the equally celebrated Frederick Greenwood, whose singular character gave the paper its mark. It was inspired by George Canning’s Anti-Jacobin and named after the mythical newspaper in Thackeray’s A History of Pendennis (1850), which was “written by gentlemen for gentlemen”. It was clubbish, aristocratic, cultured if not scholarly, and constituted by adumbrations of the morning news plus articles on political questions, literature and the arts. Although it was initially hard to define politically and despite the fact that Greenwood was something of a liberal, it soon adopted a sceptical-Tory tone that was keenly anti-Gladstonian.10 It was almost certainly the model for the “Evening Pulpit” in Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now (1875:186), which issued articles that were “amusing”, “well-informed,” “ironical” and “omniscient”; and which gave its “readers all that had been said and done up to two o’clock in the day by all the leading people in the metropolis” in a clever fashion and often with “ignorance hardly surpassed by its arrogance” (Trollope 1875:5). Indeed, the PMG (or “Evening Pulpit”) became a sufficiently successful literary innovation that it soon stood in relation to the daily papers as The Saturday Review stood in relation to the weekly magazines. Greenwood could certainly boast that his contributors included some of the best practitioners of Higher Journalism, such as George Lewes, George Eliot, Matthew Arnold, Robert Giffen, Maine, Harrison and Trollope. Fitzjames Stephen was a particularly prolific contributor, writing nearly two-thirds of the Leaders in 1868 and half in some other years, and thereby supporting Leslie Stephen’s (1895:213-5) claim that articles came out of his brother as easily as talk.11 Fitzjames Stephen even deemed this daily a suitable vehicle for his anti-Millite tract, Liberty, Equality Fraternity, which first appeared in serial form there in 1872. Arnold similarly chose to serialise his musings on the dangers of liberalism and philistinism in the PMG between 1866 and 1870. It was also in the PMG (and the Reviler) that the boorish Freeman famously challenged the equally boorish Froude to check the accuracy of the claims in his History of England, a reasonable request that led to one of the more venomous of the many famous quarrels between so-called scholars and gentlemen.

Fitzjames Stephen once again provided the necessary introductions for his younger brother to secure employment with the PMG in 1865. Leslie Stephen disapproved of the Tory stance of the PMG in the same way that he disapproved of the conservative editorial “we” of The Saturday Review, but his easy style and humorous tone again earned him the right to write much of the padding in the paper. Greenwood later wrote of the “sensation” when he broke open an envelope to catch a glimpse of Stephen’s “neat, small hand writing” (Robertson Scott 1950:156), and Stephen returned this respect when he described the PMG as “the incarnation of Greenwood” (Anonymous 1917:158). It is known that Stephen was still writing an article a week for the PMG in 1868 (Fenwick 1993:178), but unfortunately, the only pieces that have been identified as his are those that were subsequently published as Sketches from Cambridge (1865a). Stephen would have therefore met the larger body of contributors, with both advanced and backward views, at the PMG dinners in the second half of the 1860s. Trollope (1883 [1950]:199) recalled that the crowd of notable figures at these social occasions would “have filled the House of Commons more respectably than I have seen it filled even on important occasions”. It must be emphasised, however, that the dinners and offices of the PMG were, like those of the Reviler, not natural meeting places for Radicals. It was nonetheless as a reporter for the PMG (and The Nation) that Stephen analysed, from the press gallery, the performance of the reformers who gained parliamentary seats in the remarkable Radical triumph of 1865. This included the election of the great Mill himself. Stephen was surprised at Mill’s weak voice; his peculiar habit of stopping and shutting his eyes between consecutive sentences; and the way he got rattled by the ignorant laughter from the Tory benches (1873g:383; 1900, iii:64; 1903 [1924]:72). It was a feminine display that was at odds with his virile Cambridge concept of manliness, even if he recognised that Mill’s lucid narratives raised the tone of parliamentary debate. He was, in other words, struck by the divergence between the man of reason revealed through the Logic and the more human figure in the flesh.12 It was also as a PMG contributor that Stephen was sometimes bailed up by Radicals for writing hostile anonymous reviews of their work. Thornton, for one, accused him of writing a dyspeptic analysis of one of his tracts. Stephen, a close friend of Thornton, denied this, but privately thought little of the work and secretly wished that he had written it (Stephen to Norton 15 May 1874, in Bicknell 1996, i:136; Moore 2006:608).

2.4 The Nation

The third literary enterprise to recruit Stephen’s services was The Nation, which was founded in 1865 and for which Stephen wrote 146 fortnightly articles on English affairs for American readers between 1866 and 1873. The Irish-born editor-cum-maverick of this weekly paper, Edwin Lawrence Godkin, personally wrote most of its columns and almost single-handedly transformed it into the leading liberal paper in the American Union.13 James Bryce, a Radical of Oxford pedigree who accompanied Stephen on a trek in Transylvania in the summer of 1866 and who took over Stephen’s column in The Nation in the 1880s, ranked Godkin alongside Cook and Delane as one of the great editors of the age and, rather less plausibly, described The Nation itself as “the best weekly” in the world (1903a:372; Fisher 1927, i:122ff,178ff). Stephen’s own involvement in this American publication arose from his decision to tour the United States in 1863 to gain first-hand impressions of the Civil War. He was struck most by the way in which the English broadsheets were publishing pro-South columns that were littered with simple falsehoods and mendacious claims that the American Union had become a military despotism which was allowed to run amok by a corrupt democratic process. Stephen duly published a rebuttal, entitled The Times on the American War (1865b), in which he declared that The Times was guilty of a “public crime” for its misreporting of this internecine and anti-slavery war. His umbrage at the anti-American sentiments of his colleagues in the Fourth Estate was magnified by the fact that he thoroughly enjoyed his first-hand experience of the United States, where he made friends with James Russell Lowell, Charles Eliot Norton and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, and took a shine to American humour, Yankee common-sense and the patrician attitudes of the New England intellectual elite. He thereby joined a select group of pro-Union Radicals, such as Albert Dicey (his cousin), Smith and Bryce, who took a liking to North American culture and recognised that franchise reform in England partly hinged on proving that democracy in the United States need not lead to corrupt government or tariffs via pork barrelling (see Stephen 1867a). Stephen, in short, understood the cleft between English and American cultures in a way that made his Radical credentials even more attractive to the editor of The Nation. The precise mechanics by which he was recruited into its ranks is, for all this, unclear. It is possible that either Lowell or Norton (who were associated with the paper) put forward Stephen’s name, but this is not certain. He further reinforced his close links with this Yankee literary set when he returned to North America for his honeymoon in 1868.

Stephen’s pieces for The Nation, which were usually entitled “England”, have already been subjected to an admirable study by Brian Stenfors (1996). Godkin did not place restrictions on Stephen’s narratives in the same way that Cook and Greenwood had done at the Reviler and the PMG, and hence his fortnightly pieces provided a platform from which he could comment on the Radical issues, such as parliamentary reform, the disestablishment of the Church and Irish land reform. Stephen analysed these subjects, ostensibly as a journalist, either when they were raised in Parliament as part of the daily grind of government business or when they became the great questions of the day upon which governments flourished or fell. On each occasion he took a broader, almost sociological, view of the trajectory of English society. The consistent reformist tone of Stephen’s commentaries were, however, increasingly laced with harsh asides about doctrinaire Radicalism as the 1860s folded into the 1870s. His increasing disillusionment with the Radical movement at this time was caused less by a slow drift towards cynical conservatism and more by his frustration with the Gladstone government’s vacillation on reform, exasperation with the lack of cohesion within Radical ranks and irritation with the rigid thinking of the more zealous Radicals. The reader may turn to Stenfors (1996) for the splendid minutiae of Stephen’s American letters. What is of more interest for this narrative is the extent to which these columns shed indirect light on the fraternal spaces Stephen frequented in London—both as a Higher Journalist and clubman—and which are discussed in the next part to this essay. Thus, it is interesting to note that Stephen was a member of the divisive Radical Club when he wrote that the Radicals consisted predominantly of “mere windy ranters, or very worthy but very dull and unimaginative posers” (1870:258); that Dilke was embarking on a power struggle with Fawcett for the leadership of the Radical Club when he wrote that Dilke expresses views that are “hopelessly narrow” and of a “low order of political intelligence” (1871c:352); that he was a member of the Century Club, founded by Harrison, when he wrote that Harrison is one of the most effective mouthpieces of the Positivists and that the Positivists themselves should be taken seriously on reform issues even if their religious views are slightly ridiculous (1869c:273, 1872b:6); and so on. Stephen’s letters to America both contain a wealth of perambulatory observations of Radical life at this time and collectively constitute a Radical prism that provides a wonderfully distorted view of mid-Victorian society.

2.5. Conclusion to Part Two

The editors of the chief Higher Journalist organs were happy for the Radicals to articulate the economic propositions of Mill’s Principles (of which they themselves generally approved), but were leery of the broader tenets of the Radical agenda. Theological controversies, the extension of the franchise and land reform were just a few of the controversial topics deemed unsuitable for the Radicals on the payroll to cover. The resulting constraints on what could be written, which were often so binding that nothing was written, eventually induced the Radicals to establish their own magazines (such as The Reader) and monthlies (such as the paradoxically named The Fortnightly Review due to its brief life as a fortnightly). In a broad ‘insiders’ review of the newspaper market in 1867 for the American readers of The Nation, Stephen admitted that the general tone of The Times, the PMG and The Saturday Review was adjusted to suit the contented and conservative temperaments of their readers. No doubt thinking of Morley, Courtney and himself, he added that many of the writers did not subscribe to these views:

There is often a curious contrast between the writers in these papers and the opinions expressed, which I hasten to add is not due to any intellectual dishonesty of the writers, though perhaps a stern moralist may consider them in some degree compromised (1867c:418).

The remarkable success of the Higher Journalist organs in the 1850s and 1860s nonetheless gave prestige and power to the select Radicals who wrote for them in those domains, such as political economy, in which they could comment liberally. The abolition of the newspaper tax, or “tax on knowledge”, in 1855, together with the introduction of new production technology, had reduced the costs of issuing such newspapers at the very moment that the market for highbrow copy achieved a critical mass. Not only had the number of cultivated readers grown sufficiently that this market could support several papers with highbrow pretentions, but the community of scholars and those who aped their ways had also yet to fragment into inward-looking sets with their own highly specialised journals. There was consequently a critical number of cultivated scribes, including some Radicals, who could supply the required felicitous mix of intelligent commentary and humour in the expanded market. The dailies and weeklies (and monthlies) thereby collectively sidled up to the old quarterlies in terms of reputation and influence. It is also evident that the Higher Journalists expressed ideas that were being developed within a singular fraternal milieu to which they themselves belonged. Specifically, the precincts in which this growing number of Higher Journalists assembled closely overlapped London clubland and its near extensions, with many journalists writing copy in a club chair, reporting the intelligence gathered at these venues and treating fellow clubmen as their chief audience (Black 2012:113). The select Radicals who wrote for the Higher Journalist organs thereby echoed, at least to some extent, what was being talked about in the Radical circles in London clubland when they could. These clubland networks are explored in greater detail in the successive parts of this essay, where evidence is presented to suggest that those who were reviewed (or were ignored) presumed that there was a cabal of Radical clubmen and Higher Journalists who made or broke reputations in political economy.

The age of Higher Journalism, and the power of those select Radicals who wrote for the associated organs, continued through to the late 1870s. The market grew to such an extent that eventually it could support more focused, but still eclectic, monthly journals, such as The Nineteenth Century (1877), which stood midway between the quarterlies and the Higher Journalist products. It was not until the 1880s that highbrow scholarship retreated to specialised journals, such as Mind (1876), The English Historical Review (1886) and The Economic Journal (1891). The age of Higher Journalism faded with both the advent of this specialisation and the emergence of W.T. Stead’s concept of government by journalism, which entailed a shift from a band of elite scholar-journalists seeking to educate their readers to a collective of investigative journalists seeking to represent their readers by exposing wrongs done to them (Hampton 2004). Higher Journalism was then, ironically, finally killed off in the Edwardian age when the scribes who embraced what was eventually called New Journalism began to treat journalism as a career for life. This shift in intent meant that the fourth estate was soon dominated by time-servers rather than, as in the mid-Victorian period, brilliant individuals who chose this occupation as a temporary measure to establish their reputations and to advance what they believed were their true vocations as authors and politicians. It is telling that Roundell Palmer, Lowe, Courtney and Morley—all Higher Journalists—each rose to Cabinet rank (Kent 1978:110). Stephen himself slowly withdrew from journalism in the early 1870s to make a name for himself as one of the great Victorian men of letters. In his words: “I took up the trade at a time when the leaders of the profession were worthy of their position” (1903 [1924]:100).

Part Three

Leslie Stephen in London Clubland

There is…First Principles [read Stephen?], deep in conversation probably with Smiffle, or perhaps with Professor Smithson [read Fawcett?]…But we may quit the Century [Club], with its formidable array of sham philosophers, pseudo-sages, pedants, doxosophists and prigs (Hay c1870:280-281).

3.1. Introduction

The inability of the Radicals to create a critical mass of like-minded individuals in any given occupation—whether this be in the fourth estate or the legal profession—made it incumbent upon those individuals with advanced views to form their own clubs and other physical sites of interaction. This was both a political and social imperative, since the young men who came down to London from Oxford and Cambridge in the 1860s saw themselves as belonging to a new generation that was at odds with the generation of their elders and so-called betters. The ageing Walter Bagehot was one of the first to detect the different gait of this new cohort of graduates, declaring that 1865—the year in which a number of young Radicals gained seats in Parliament and the year in which Stephen established himself in the world of London journalism—was one of those turning-point years in which political power was silently transferred from one generation to another; that is, from those who were born prior to the Reform Act of 1832 to those who were born after this date (1872 [1974]:166-7).14 This generational change fortunately transpired at a time when it was relatively easy to form or mould a club in the image of each new subculture. This was because, as Victorian society expanded in size and complexity, numerous sub-classes within the traditional gentleman class grew to a point where each could support clubs, often with heavily capitalised establishments, to meet the specific needs and political affiliations of the individuals who constituted these sub-classes. Consider just some of the choices available to that elastic category of “gentleman” by the 1860s. The conservative could choose between the Carlton, the Junior Carlton, the Conservative and St Stephen’s; the Whig could choose between Brooks’s, the Reform and the Devonshire; the soldier could choose between the United Service, Army and Navy, the Naval and Military, the East India and the Guards’; the university man could choose between the University, the Oxford and Cambridge, and the New University; and so on (Anonymous 1879:127-9,136). In fact, very nearly every interest was accommodated by the time Stephen arrived in London—whether it be mountain climbing (the Alpine Club), political economy (the Political Economy Club), the established man of letters (the Athenaeum), the theatre (the Garrick Club), or social intercourse with Scandinavians (the Scandinavian Club).15 Many of these clubs built ornate meeting rooms along Pall Mall and around St James’s Square, and these and nearby streets were soon transformed into what became known as Clubland.

In other words, far from being frozen in form by a slavish commitment to tradition, the London club scene constantly mutated and divided to cater for the needs of the different social sets that emerged throughout the Victorian age. The supply responded so readily to the changing needs and aspirations of each section of the gentleman class that the London club had, by the middle decades of the century, become the centre of social and intellectual life of England to a degree not seen before nor since. Many of these niche clubs had humble origins as debating or drinking societies and it was not uncommon for members to hold their early meetings in borrowed or rented rooms. Those clubs that proved successful collected funds from their members to finance the move from these humble places (usually in the Piccadilly precincts) to the ornate palaces in Clubland proper. Many other clubs boomed for a decade or two, but never went beyond renting rooms in the seedier parts of the West End, after which they merged with each other or simply vanished, without leaving records. Indeed, with the availability of endless cheap rooms for socialising throughout Piccadilly, the only barrier preventing the establishment of a formally constituted club to fill a niche was an officious and industrious organiser, and, if anything, there were too many individuals with these character traits within Radical circles. The adolescent passion for founding societies was particularly prominent amongst the radically inclined Oxbridge graduates coming down to London. Several clubs were therefore formed that could be described as either genuine Radical clubs or venues in which men with advanced views felt comfortable articulating newfangled ideas. Stephen readily participated in this new culture of knowledge production, since although he was reserved and often felt awkward in the company of others, to exclude oneself from the London club scene was very nearly to exclude oneself from society. It is known that he joined the Century Club, Radical Club, Cosmopolitan Club, New Club, Alpine Club and Athenaeum. He also occasionally attended the Political Economy Club as Fawcett’s guest. Stephen’s club experiences were sufficiently rich that it is convenient to comprehend each of the Radical sites from his perspective.

3.2. Century Club

Frederic Harrison, a prominent Comtist and follower of the associated Religion of Humanity, was one of the first reformers to recognise that they were too thinly dispersed over a number of professions and forums. He therefore was the driving force behind the formation of the Century Club in 1865.16 Harrison believed that the pressing Radical issues would be resolved in five years if only 50 key men could collect together. He argued that if Parliament would not act, there would be a tendency towards “spontaneous parliaments” that would eventually become the true focal points of power in the country. Stephen and Fawcett, agreeing with these sentiments, were amongst the first to join.17 The preliminary meeting was held in Harrison’s chambers in Lincoln’s Inn and the early meetings were held near St Martin le Grand in rooms of the Alpine Club, which, in turn, was near Charing Cross Road (Symonds 1892 [1984]:186). Harrison (1903 [1908]:372) described it as “a kind of Caucus to effect political, social and ecclesiastical reforms, without distinctions of class, or tastes, or moral habits”, and added that “candidates were not to be ineligible simply because they did not employ a fashionable tailor, and working men were to be as welcome as noble lords”. Members, however, were predominantly barristers and Higher Journalists with a Cambridge or Oxford pedigree. In addition to Harrison, Fawcett and Stephen, members included Bagehot, Courtney, Morley, Dilke, Bryce, Dicey, Thorold Rogers, Herbert Spencer, and T. H. Huxley (Harvie 1976:261). They congregated at 9.00 pm on Wednesdays and Sundays when Parliament was not sitting. Refreshment was more soda water than whisky, partly in deference to the temperance champion, Sir Wilfrid Lawson (Harrison 1903 [1908]:371-2), and, unlike many other clubs, dinners were not provided. The way in which the club offered little more than earnest conversation is caught brilliantly in Laurence Oliphant’s satirical novel, Piccadilly, when the staid and upright Mr Broadhem declares that there are no boys at the Century, and certainly none that would be silly enough to “dance” (1865 [1930]:134).18 The Century was also lampooned in a satire of club life by a Mr Cecil Hay (c1870:277ff), who took exception to its Comtist overtones. He depicted the club as a forum for the ventilation of “advanced” conversations that were “full of mock wisdom, pseudo erudition, and genuine conceit”, and which were guided by the trinity of “scepticism, profanity, and culture” (and added that one needed to believe in each to avoid being blackballed) (c1870:278).19 Finally, the anti-reformist cleric, Dean Mansel, proposed that the club motto should be a line from Tacitus’ Germania: Corrumpere et corrumpi Saeculum Vocatur (Vogeler 1984:71). The translation of the wider passage reads: “In truth, nobody turns vices into mirth there, nor is the practice of corrupting and of yielding to corruption called the custom of the Age”.20 The members were, in short, caricatured as extremists, atheists and, worst of all, prigs.

Stephen was an active member of the Century Club and, as a deaf old man cut off from the world with an ineffective ear trumpet, he reminisced with some fondness about the way in which they discussed all things Radical in this social setting. He recalled that it was a smaller society (although designed along the same lines) than the Cosmopolitan Club (see below) and that the papers contained in Essays on Reform (1867) indicate the tone of the discussions carried out there. In his words:

To it belonged many of the clever young writers and barristers, chiefly of the radical persuasion. I chiefly remember Fred. Harrison and some of his positivist friends. We used to meet on Wednesday and Sunday evenings, to smoke and drink in moderation and discuss the Universe and the Reform movement of 1866-7. A volume of Essays on reform, published about this time, contains an essay of mine, which, I remember, appeared to me to be very good. I have not looked at it for years; but the volume would give you, if you cared to look at it, some notion of our general tone (1977:8).

In fact, nearly all of the contributors to Essays on Reform and Questions for a Reformed Parliament, both of which appeared in 1867, were members of the Century. Stephen’s own contribution to Essays on Reform, entitled “On the Choice of Representatives by Popular Constituencies”, was designed to show that the American experience should not be used to prevent the expansion of the franchise in England. He accepted that the American legislators were often corrupt and vulgar, but stated that the social conditions of the two countries were different and hence the act of expanding the franchise need not reduce the quality of England's public figures. Harrison (1903 [1908]:375) similarly recalled with fondness that one “of the loudest talkers” at the club was Fawcett, who would “cause some laughter by giving his opinions about persons who were in the room and within hearing”. It was also at the Century that Huxley repeatedly baited Harrison in 1869 for being Comte’s disciple, which eventually induced Harrison to enter the debate on Comtism then being played out in The Fortnightly Review (Vogeler 1984:92). The club lost steam in the 1870s as the Gladstone administration faltered and as a feeling emerged that “almost every purpose” the Radicals “sought to effect had been fully accomplished” (Harrison 1903 [1908]:373). It also lost momentum because, unlike the Reform Club, it failed to evolve from a political into a social club proper. Stephen himself resigned in 1876, and it eventually merged with the National Liberal club in the early 1880s.21

3.3. Radical Club

Another venue for disquisitions on all things Radical was the Radical Club.22 When Stephen helped Fawcett gain his Parliamentary seat in 1865 there was no such thing as a Radical party, only a loose affiliation of parliamentarians who held advanced reformist views within the Liberal party. These Radical Liberals defined themselves largely through their opposition to the defenders of aristocratic privileges, the Whig Liberals, and the anti-democratic Cassandras, the Adullamite Liberals. They occasionally talked of themselves as a third party nominally in coalition with the Liberals, but this was more a dream than a reality and, as time passed, they were increasingly fractured by the conflict between those who wished to restrict the reform agenda to emancipating the politically disenfranchised through a systematic assault on aristocratic privilege (in the Philosophical-Radical tradition) and those who wished to expand this agenda to emancipating the materially disenfranchised through limited state intervention (in the rising New-Liberal tradition). The nascent Radical alliance was also tested by each Radical’s belief that he and he alone understood the Radical tenets, while each of his colleagues, whom he invariably detested, was betraying the true faith. Fawcett was nonetheless able temporarily to render this loose formation partly concrete in the second half of the 1860s. He sought to rectify the absence of a party structure by establishing a support network for the Radical Parliamentarians and, given that reform was in the air, he was not short of recruits. Cairnes, for instance, asked Courtney (as the Radical insider on the Times) for intelligence on this Radical group, the members of which he referred to as “academic liberals”, shortly after learning that they saw themselves as an identifiable set and at the very time the Radical gains from 1865 had been reversed in 1868.23 These “academic liberals”, in turn, provided the foundations for the more formal Radical Club, which was constituted in 1870 on the principle that membership should not exceed forty, and that one half of this number should be members of Parliament and one half not members, but nonetheless “able to assist the cause of Radicalism by speech or writing” (Add43931,f48 Dilke Papers). The first dinner was held on Tuesday 13 February (auspiciously the coldest day then recorded in England), and members thereafter met for dinner at various London inns every Sunday when Parliament was in session to debate a paper that related to an issue relevant to that session. Among the original members were Mill, Hare, Fawcett, Cairnes, Courtney, Morley, Stephen, Harrison and Henry Sidgwick.

Stephen took exception to the way a wilful few reduced Radical gatherings such as these to competing windy rants. In the case of the Radical Club, Fawcett and Dilke, both headstrong and intolerant of views different to their own, each attempted to harness the club’s agenda to advance along one of the aforementioned Radical paths. Specifically, Fawcett continued to articulate a program of political emancipation that Mill had popularised as a young man, while Dilke increasingly advocated the material emancipation and mild collectivism that was promulgated by Mill in his final years. Mill himself may have introduced the interventionist genii into the Radical Club when he used one of its meetings to launch his claim that the unearned increment should be taxed for the purposes of funding the purchase of private land.24 Not all members who championed a greater role for government were, however, satisfied with Mill’s shift of sentiment. Harrison, for one, had a vision of a Comtist state that was almost totalitarian in nature and hence railed at the way in which the elderly Mill’s activist persona, which he believed to be metaphysical, impotent and wrongheaded, indirectly drove club proceedings:

He has no more business to touch politics than Babbage of the Calculating Machine or the Astronomer Royal. He reasons, argues and syllogises about Politics. And all his followers & believers do the same (Harrison to Morley, 20 Feb. 1871, 1/53,f11 Harrison Papers).

Harrison, however, had few allies and, following his resignation in 1872 and the death of Mill in 1873, the real power struggle between Fawcett and Dilke developed with a vengeance. Fawcett had to put up with Dilke’s imperious arrogance, while Dilke had to keep his temper in the face of Fawcett’s extreme, sometimes horrifying, old-fashioned Radicalism.25 The Radical Club, for all of this, continued to exercise “some little influence” in the Commons by “bringing men together for the exchange of ideas” (Add43931,f246; Add43932,f170, Dilke Papers). Numerous spats, of course, still spun out of control, such as when Dilke chose to ignore Fawcett’s insulting tone on the grounds that one had to make allowances for the way Fawcett spoke down to people (9 Jun. 1877, Add43898,f50-1); or when Dilke pursued Courtney out of a heated meeting to accuse him of attributing views to him that he did not hold (Courtney to Dilke 5 Mar. 1879, Add43910,f258).26 In the end, however, the club’s demise was due less to the fractious meetings and more to a dilution of talent (although there may have been a connection between the two). Dilke observed that the better members ceased to attend, the less desirable members attended with greater frequency, the undistinguished wives of existing members were granted entry, and membership declined further after many lost their seats in the 1874 election (Add43931,f246; Add43932,f170). Some of the newer members were not even Radicals, however loosely this term is defined.27 Stephen was amongst the better members who chose to stay at home. His disdain for such politics reached a point where he could not even bring himself to vote in the 1874 election (Annan 1984:220). The club lost its influence entirely in the early 1880s, after Dilke, Fawcett and Chamberlain, all gaining positions in the second Gladstone administration, resigned under the peculiar club rule (which perhaps could only be designed by a Radical mentality) that members could not hold ministerial rank (Add43934,f156, Dilke Papers) .

3.4. Cosmopolitan Club

The origins of the Cosmopolitan Club are in some dispute, but it was most likely founded by the noted diplomat, Robert Morier, who provided a meeting place for friends and colleagues in his Bond Street rooms in the 1850s.28 The meetings soon became so large that the nascent club needed to start housekeeping on its own account. Unlike many other clubs, membership was determined by “introduction” rather than ballot, and it eventually met late in the evening on Wednesdays and Sundays, when Parliament was sitting, in two smoky rooms on Charles Street off Berkeley Square in Mayfair (Glendinning 1992:293). The club soon became an agreeable rendezvous for politicians, travellers and writers, and, according to Harrison (1911, ii:85), it was where one would be sure to meet any visiting foreigners or colonials of distinction.29 The House of Commons sat from noon to six on Wednesdays, making this day particularly suitable for dinner parties followed by late-night meetings at the ‘Cosmo’ (Glendinning 1992:293). By 1862 membership had risen to 120 and included Trollope, Oliphant, Lowe, Bright, Maine, Froude, Tom Hughes, Francis Palgrave and Monckton Milnes (West 1903:168). Trollope, who was especially fond of the Cosmopolitan, drew upon the political gossip trafficked there for his parliamentary novels. He recalled that it was a “delightful…little club” which supplied “its members, and its members’ friends, tea and brandy and water without charge!” (1883 [1950]:160). The club itself featured as the “Universe” in the fourth novel of his Palliser series, Phineas Redux (1874 [1876]:254), as a venue that “was kept open only one hour before and one hour after midnight” on two nights of the week and which was much liked by its members even though the “conversation was generally listless and often desultory”. Indeed, the Cosmopolitan became so closely associated with Trollope’s Universe that contemporaries used this moniker as a pseudonym. Another literary figure fond of club life, Henry James, described it as an “extremely” select “talking” club after being “introduced” in 1877 (Edel 1962:288). His compatriot, a Mr Hoppin of the U.S. embassy, by contrast, provided a less enthusiastic account of his first visit, relating that at 11.00 pm a doorman ushered him up a flight of stairs within a gloomy house to a large barn-like room, which was once the studio of painter G. F. Watts. There were mythological pictures on the side wall and “tables with tea cups, three bottles of spirits, and a provision of soda”. Several gentlemen were seated around the fire, but no one noticed, let alone stood to greet him, a reception which he described as typically English (Edel 1962:323). Hoppin was only saved when James arrived and introduced him to Stephen’s cousin, Dicey.30 The Cosmopolitan was not for outsiders.

The Cosmopolitan had evolved into a “famous resort for the select intellects of London” by the time Stephen joined in 1865 (Stephen 1977:8). Men of influence gossiped about very nearly everything there, but political gossip was particularly prominent. Trollope (1883 [1950]:160) related that prominent men whispered the “secrets of Parliament with free tongues”, while Dilke recalled a conversation in which he was told that Lord Derby was expelled from Eton for theft in 1838 (Add 43933,252f Dilke Papers). Stephen would have found such intelligence invaluable for his letter to America in The Nation and for his sundry submissions to the Reviler and the Evening Pulpit. The Cosmopolitan, however, could not be described as a Radical forum for the young graduates coming down to London, even if it was more liberal than not. Stephen and his friends were nonetheless regular attendees and their agenda was considered in this forum as a matter of course by those members who were indifferent to reform, especially if it allowed them to rib the more earnest Radicals. This is reflected in a famous 1869 row, in which Trollope (1883 [1950]:194ff), a fox hunting man, had a particularly shrill exchange with Freeman in The Fortnightly Review on whether the aristocratic institution of hunting for amusement was a suitable pastime in a civilised society. Trollope was well aware that a number of Radicals, such as Morley and Harrison, were non-vocal supporters of Freeman, and hence was most amused when he subsequently observed Harrison escorting a woman to a hunt. Harrison recalled with good humour that Trollope never tired of “holding me up to the scorn of the ‘Universe’ club” as a “backslider” of the “school he detested” (Sadleir 1927 [1947]:265ff). This sort of gentle mocking was harmless enough, but, as in the case of the Radical Club, some of these spats escalated to a vicious pitch. Trollope, who invariably modelled his novels on real events, related that even at the select “Universe” there were a few clubmen whom everyone detested (McMaster 1978:68-9, 75). He also famously constructed a plot in which Phineas, the chief protagonist of Phineas Redux, quarrels with a political and personal rival by the name of Mr. Bonteen before the members of the Universe. Phineas is then presumed to be the (literal) clubber when Bonteen is soon after clubbed to death.31 Finally, it should be noted that the Radicals’ own Century Club was modelled on the Cosmopolitan, since it too offered no dining facilities and was designed for dialogue. The key difference was that the Cosmopolitan met late on Wednesdays and Sundays when Parliament sat, while the Century met on these days when it did not sit; a division probably designed to enable individuals to attend both sites.

3.5. Political Economy Club (PEC)

Another forum for Radical disquisitions was the Political Economy Club (PEC), especially in the 1870s when the overlap in its membership and that of the Radical Club’s became pronounced. The PEC was consequently another battleground on which the Radicals who still adhered to a rigid Philosophical-Radical framework fought the Radicals who had embraced Mill’s later New-Liberal-cum-Socialist tendencies. This fault line, which was later mapped out as an over-defined boundary between negative and positive liberalism, was possibly a product of a deliberate recruiting program by Mill to regenerate the PEC. As early as 1864 Mill was musing about the questionable conversation at this club when the subject moved from what currently prevailed to what was possible in the future:

The discussion of the subject at the Club was interesting and well supported, but, like all discussions by that body of the questions of the future as distinguished from the past, it was a sad exposure of the nakedness of the land. I almost think we need a Junior Political Economy Club. But the same end may be better attained by getting good recruits into this (to Cairnes, 28 March 1864, in Mill 1872a, XV:929-30).

Ironically, many of Mill’s early disciples eventually became the main opposition to his later recruits. Fawcett, in particular, fought the same uncompromising rear-guard action against the mild collectivist sentiment at the PEC as he did at the Radical Club, and his rows there with Mill’s ‘New Liberal’ bulldog, Dilke, carried on to the Radical Club as a matter of course. Dilke provides a vivid picture of this battle of wills in various entries in his infamous diary following his election in May 1869 to the PEC under Mill’s patronage. He witnessed the way in which Ricardian orthodoxy and Philosophical Radicalism dominated discussions and how club members effectively devoted their time to watching for the propagation of any doctrine hostile to these ‘sound’ views, even if they were championed by the great Mill himself. Dilke also believed that he eventually overtook Mill in his drift toward a more collectivist Radicalism: “I gradually deserted Fawcett and, more and more influenced by Mill’s later views, finally came to march even in front of Mill in our advance” (Gwynn and Tuckwell 1918, i:89; Jenkins 1965:43-4; Nicholls 1995:42-3; various entries in Dilke Papers).

Although Stephen was not a member of the PEC, he witnessed these developments as a guest on a number of occasions. Four sponsors were required by the rules of the club for a visitor to attend, which Stephen could easily muster amongst his friends, so he may not have bothered to go through the process of lobbying to become a permanent member. Stephen would certainly not have been excluded from membership on the basis of his then lack of standing as a political economist, since his brother and others had been elected without publishing works in this field. Indeed, the lack of theoretical knowledge of political economy demonstrated by some of the members, especially amongst the many bankers and politicians who sometimes dominated the proceedings, was then a perennial subject of concern. Sidgwick sarcastically commented in the 1880s that many members had read Mill many years ago and other members, at most, look at his Principles of Political Economy from time to time on Sunday (Tribe 2001:36). In any event, Stephen stated that it was at a meeting of the PEC in March 1863 (while still at Trinity Hall) that he first had the honour of being in the company of Mill, his undergraduate hero. The subject for discussion, “not at first sight a very attractive one, was the propriety of allowing cab fares to be regulated by free competition instead of fixed by tariff” (1873g:383).32 The next record of Stephen attending was for a meeting at St James’s Hall in December 1866. On the authority of the minutes we know that Thornton led the discussion with the the question: “What is the meaning of Supply, and what of Demand? Is it Correct to say that supply and demand determine price? If not, in what manner is it that supply and demand affect price?” (PEC 1921:xxii, 86). Stephen liked Thornton and, as already mentioned, in 1866 wrote a searching but largely positive appraisal in The Saturday Review of Thornton’s article on supply and demand that had earlier appeared in The Fortnightly Review. He nonetheless secretly thought that Thornton was an amiable fool who occasionally contributed something of worth, and his reaction to the speech was less than complimentary. He wrote to his future wife on the bill of fare with the point of a fork (with the resulting indents still visible to the historian):

My Dearest MINNY,—I am suffering the torments of the damned from the God-forgotten Thornton, who is boring on about supply and demand, when I would give anything to be with you. He is not a bad fellow, but just now I hate him like poison. O-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oh! Ever yours, Leslie Stephen” (Maitland 1906:189).33

Although Stephen maintained an interest in political economy for the rest of his life—as reflected in the last two volumes of The English Utilitarians in 1900 and a critical note sent to Alfred Marshall on the subject of consumer surplus in 1891 (Whitaker 1996, ii:8)—there is no record of him attending another PEC meeting. The disputes, of course, carried on without him. Courtney’s correspondence in July 1879 conveyed that the Club’s Treasurer (William Newmarch) was habitually contemptuous of views not his own and that Thornton was prone to querulous irritability (PEC 1921:314), while elsewhere he recalled that it was interesting to observe the blood rushing to the head of the ever-voluble Newmarch when he became excited in discussion (PEC 1921:327). The most humorous depiction of PEC proceedings, however, is contained in Hay (c1870:275), who lampooned its members in the same way that he mocked the men of the Century.

3.6. Alpine Club

The Alpine Club was founded in 1857 and evolved into a dining society, located on St Martin’s Place off Charing Cross Road, which catered for Alpine enthusiasts who wished to canvass mountaineering issues.34 Members discussed the best routes, methods and instruments that could be employed on their next Alpine excursion, and told tales of near escapes on their last climbs. The club was also a site in which those individuals who were not necessarily keen climbers discussed literature, science and art that was related, if ever so distantly, to mountains. John Ruskin, for instance, was invited to join because the incumbent members were impressed by his vivid word pictures of the Alpine regions, while John Tyndall, who was a leading climber of his generation, became more famous for dragging scientific instruments up mountains to test various scientific propositions. The Club became almost fashionable, and some indiviudals who were elected seem to have had little connection with the Alps, such as Matthew Arnold, W. S. Blunt and Richard Burton (Clark 1953:83). The club was, for all this social success, not always convivial. It was constantly rent by disputes of astonishing ferocity over scientific issues related to the Alps (particularly the glacier theory), appropriate mountaineering practices (was the alpenstock or ice-axe more useful?), whether it was appropriate to smoke while gazing at the Alpine peaks, and, of course, the clash of egos. There was, in short, an unfortunate degree of earnestness with which certain members pursued the vocation of mountaineering. Morley particularly became fed up with the “pedants from the Alpine Club”, and singled out two of his Radical friends as culprits, namely, the “sensible and social and civic” Harrison and the “cynical, anti-culturalistic” Stephen. He believed that Rousseau’s simple love of nature was reason enough for an individual to take to the mountains and he contrasted this with the typical earnest member of the Alpine Club (presumably Stephen), who turned to the Alps as “a pick me up after the exhausting imbecilities of the London season” and as “a concentrated tonic, bearing them up against the future [indecipherable] of writing articles for the Saturday”. He ended this diatribe with “how I despise Alpine cant” (Morley to Harrison Dec. 15 1872, 1/79, Harrison Papers).

Stephen joined the Alpine Club in 1858 as a muscular don who was still overcompensating for a youth defined by delicacy and ill-health. He subsequently took to climbing with the same unbridled enthusiasm with which he had earlier taken to coaching the Trinity Hall eight, rowing for the ‘Old Mariners’ and perambulation. Stephen was the first to ascend the Shreckhorn (in 1861) and the first to climb Mont Blanc from St Gervais. His numerous mountaineering narratives became classics in this genre and, indeed, it was he who famously described the Alps as The Playground of Europe (1871) at a time when the Alps caught the imagination of the Victorians.35 Meredith best captured Stephen as the ‘mountaineering scholar’ with the claim that he “walked from Alp to Alp like a pair of one-inch compasses on a large-sized map” (Robertson Scott 1950:95). It is safe to speculate that Stephen looked upon mountaineering as a spiritual exercise to replace the religion that he had lost. He compared the soothing influence of the Alps to De Quincey’s opium-induced “dream fugue” and wrote of “some immortal being” watching over the plains below (1871:82). He subsequently became more involved in the administration of the Alpine Club than he did in the running of the political clubs, serving as Vice-President (1864), President (1865-8) and editor of the club’s quarterly Alpine Journal (1868-72). It is also apparent that, as implied by Morley, Stephen’s single-minded approach to mountaineering caused him to be involved in more than his share of the disputes that rocked this club. Tyndall resigned his membership in a huff in 1862 after Stephen made a light-hearted speech in which he indirectly denigrated Tyndall for taking scientific instruments up the mountain (Clark 1953:99). Ruskin (1874 [1907]), who famously upbraided mountaineers as philistines for looking upon the Alpine peaks as “soaped poles in a bear-garden”, responded to Stephen’s (1874) dyspeptic attack on his political economy by questioning the aesthetic sensibility of anyone who believed that an Alpine experience improved if tobacco was imbibed (Moore and Fordham 2017). Stephen, who was a famous smoker and alive to Ruskin’s mental imbalance at that time, took this in his stride and suggested to their mutual friend, Norton, that Ruskin would have a better take on the world if he had a manly smoke while gazing at the peaks (25 Dec. 1874, in Bicknell 1996, i:146). Politics was, in fact, a strictly taboo subject while climbing with Stephen. The only time he climbed with his brother, in an ascent of the Jungfrau, Fitzjames talked about the Reviler to the top and down again. Stephen (1895:96) was indignant: “I consigned that journal to the fate which I believe it has hitherto escaped”. This club (and the Alps themselves) was, then, not a site in which Radicals talked the talk, or at least not in front of Stephen, even if many of their number were members.

3.7 The Eclectic Club or New Club or Savile Club

The Savile Club was formed in mid-1868, initially under the name of the Eclectic Club, as a social centre for young gentleman journalists with literary pretensions. Unlike most of the other clubs canvassed in this paper, the Savile still exists and hence there are numerous secondary references devoted to its history. The first members met in a set of borrowed rooms in the Medical Club near Trafalgar Square. The club name changed to the New Club in 1869 when it was located at 9 Spring Gardens, and then to the Savile Club in 1871 when it moved to a house at 15 Savile Row in Mayfair. It moved again to Piccadilly in 1882, and did not move to its present address of 69 Brook Street until 1927 (Lejeune 1984:262). Early members included a number of liberals with Radical leanings who also belonged to the Century Club, such as G. C. Brodrick, F. H. Hill, R. H. Hutton, G. Lushington, T. Rogers, A. O. Rutson, Bryce, Milnes and, of course, Stephen (Kent 1978:175). Later it enlisted a strong literary and academic element, boasting names such as R. L. Stevenson, Thomas Hardy, W. B. Yeats and Lytton Strachey. It was in the billiard room of this club that Stevenson is famously alleged to have said to Herbert Spencer that “to play billiards well is the sign of an ill-spent youth” (although other clubs claim that it derived from their billiard room). It was a more democratic club than most (although this is not saying much) and had two simple rules when it was founded: (1) a thorough simplification in all arrangements, and (2) a mixture of men of different professions and opinions carefully selected by election. Oscar Wilde looked around the club before declaring, “True Democrats! Not a sovereign between them”, while another old saying was that “Nobody could get in, unless he was an atheist or had written a book” (Lejeune 1984:259). The club was in fact exceptional in that the blackballing system was not used and candidates were openly discussed. Wilde was quietly warned off under this mechanism, and his name remains on the candidates’ book (Kennedy 1986:205). Evelyn Waugh (1934 [1988]:157) perhaps best captured this atmosphere a generation later in A Handful of Dust, when he wrote “Now that Brat’s and Brown’s were distasteful to him he felt thankful that he had kept on with the Greville [read Savile]. It was a club of intellectual flavour, composed of dons, a few writers and the officials of museums and learned societies. It had a tradition of garrulity”.36 The custom of members contributing a signed first edition of their books led to the formation of an impressive library that still exists today (Kennedy 1986:205).

The Savile Club was definitely a social rather than a political club, and indeed, the club’s motto of Sodalitas Convivium was deliberately chosen both to emphasise this point and to escape the oppressive atmosphere of some of the more staid Victorian clubs. A feature of the early days was its table d’hôte dîner, at which all members dining by themselves were required to take the first seat available on a long, common table and engage in conversation with his neighbour (Lejeune, 1984:260; Kennedy 1986:205). This convivial atmosphere was important because the club was known less for its food and more for its company. Stevenson, a member from 1874 to 1894, described the Savile as the centre of London life (Kennedy 1986:205). Not all members, of course, appreciated the excess of conversation that followed these dinners. Spencer, for one, was known to ostentatiously produce a pair of earmuffs when trying to read (Lejeune 1984:262). It also should be emphasised that although the club had no political affiliation, most members were journalists and artists who were interested in the issues of the day, and, given the Radicals on the membership list, there was definitely a political element in the 1860s and early 1870s. Stephen would have particularly appreciated the company of the literary figures who frequented the club, especially after losing interest in politics in the mid-1870s and increasingly becoming irritated with the rather narrow and dogmatic way his Oxbridge contemporaries talked about political economy and all things Radical. Stephen nonetheless resigned from the Savile Club in 1877 when he was elected to the selective Athenaeum Club. This was not unusual. Members of the Savile Club, which was interpreted as a less staid version of the more prestigious Athenaeum Club, usually resigned to join the Athenaeum when they became older and more eminent. There is a Victorian cartoon in which a stranger, observing the old gentleman entering the Athenaeum, asks a policeman what they did until they were old enough to join such a club, to which the policeman replies: “They’ve quite a nice little place to wait, up in Piccadilly somewhere” (Lejeune 1984:259).

3.8 The Athenaeum Club

The Athenaeum was a club of sober and respectable scholars, divines and worldly men with intellectual dispositions. Arthur Balfour stated that its members were of “undiluted distinction” and in 1881 the waiting list stood at 1,673 individuals (Darwin 1943:26-7). This august atmosphere was to a large extent the product of Rule II of the club’s constitution, which allowed for the election each year of a certain number of distinguished scholars, litterateurs, artists and scientists. An individual’s election to the membership list via this means was viewed as peer recognition for a body of work constructed over a lifetime, and, as Collini (1991:13ff) has convincingly argued, it effectively signalled to the wider public a scholar’s elevation to the highest stratum of England’s intellectual elite. Harrison (1911, ii: 82), who was elected in 1878, summed it up in the following way:

The Athenaeum gives one everything a quiet family man of mature age and cultured taste can desire. Its rigid inhospitality to strangers, now like everything else in the twentieth century melting away, secures peace and retirement, so that before luncheon and after dinner hour the Club is a haven of literary seclusion. The long wait before the ballot of candidates is reached makes it eminently the Club of the elderly; for hardly any candidate can pass until he is far beyond middle age. All this is delightfully soothing. In the whirl of the London season, or even in a political crisis or a hot election, the Athenaeum remains a neutral and peaceful refuge where bustle and excitement are alike unknown, were it not for the infernal motor horn in Pall Mall.

James, who gained temporary guest access to the Athenaeum in 1877, declared that it was “the last word of a high civilization” (quoted in Edel 1962:284). He wrote to his father from the “beautiful library” in which, at 9.30 pm, on one side of the room “sat Herbert Spencer, asleep in a chair (he always is, whenever I come here)” and a little way off was the “portly Archbishop of York with his nose in a little book”. He added that one of the greatest blessings of the place was the “good and cheap” dinners, especially since he felt that the “literally fabulous” badness of London’s restaurants could drive him from the land (quoted in Edel 1962:284-5). Of course not everyone enjoyed the more staid environment. As was the custom, H. G. Wells left the Savile when elected to the Athenaeum, but quickly fled back, exclaiming: “Thank God I’m back. This is the Athenaeum of the living” (Kennedy 1986:205).

Stephen was elected to the Athenaeum in 1877, on the basis of Rule II, primarily because of the publication the year before of his two-volume magnum opus, History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century (1876). His eligibility was also no doubt enhanced by nearly two decades of contributions to the periodicals, on subjects ranging from agnosticism to mountain climbing, as well as his editorial duties at The Cornhill. The Athenaeum subsequently became a place of solitude and something of a second home for him. It was, for example, in the famous library of the Athenaeum that Stephen was to have a mental collapse in 1889, following the strain of attempting to assemble The Dictionary of National Biography almost single-handedly and to an exacting timetable (Fenwick 1993:14). The “elevation” of Stephen to the Athenaeum may also be interpreted as a sign of maturation—a shift from youthful promise to accomplished middle age. Stephen had, after all, reached the age of 45 in 1877. Indeed, it could be argued that one of the reasons for Stephen’s loss of interest in all things Radical was the shift in interests that usually accompanies the ageing process. He became pre-occupied with family, and, as conveyed repeatedly in this narrative, he grew intolerant of the shallow and fractious Radical debates. Even his more committed friends of advancing years, such as Harrison, pursued the Radical cause with less fervour. It seems that only the truly possessed carried on the Radical programme with the old earnestness, until, that is, they were stopped by external forces, such as death (Fawcett in 1884) or a divorce scandal entailing group sex and French vices, whatever they may be (Dilke in 1885). It is, in short, telling that Stephen ceased to attend the Radical from about 1874, the Century in 1876, the Cosmopolitan in 1876 and the Savile in 1877, and then joined the Athenaeum in 1877.37

3.9. Conclusion to Part Three

It must be granted that the fraternal gatherings of the young Oxbridge reformers in the London clubland of the 1860s and early 1870s were not as intellectually intense as those that took place during their university days. This is, in part, because family commitments and London distances did not allow for the type of marathon conversations that took place in their bachelor college rooms. No doubt recalling the sustained socialising amongst the Trinity Hall Radicals in the 1850s and early 1860s, Stephen (1865a:142-3) contended:

In London you are separated from your most intimate friend by half an hour’s drive, and meet him late in the evening for two or three hours on your good behaviour. In Cambridge, besides the power of dropping in at any time in the morning for the trouble of crossing a court, you are expected often to dine at five and pass the rest of the evening not uncheered by the cigar or even the ‘churchwarden’ of domestic life.

But the modern domesticated inhabitants of London, or of any other city today, would read with jealousy of meeting late in the evening “for two or three hours”. The Radicals, like any social or political set with a specific interest, took advantage of the evolving clubland environment to carve out some fraternal spaces of their own. A new club was almost immediately forthcoming at this time whenever a critical mass of gentlemen with a singular interest emerged. Many of these clubs were initially set up with little capital and never moved beyond using borrowed rooms, while those that flourished built more permanent and substantial establishments until, one by one, the “little shops in Pall Mall and St James’s street were demolished, and on their ruins rose stately edifices such as Venice in her palmiest days would not have been ashamed of owning” (Anonymous 1879:129). The Century and the Radical were specifically designed to provide debating venues for the young Radicals who had come down from the senior universities in the 1860s. Other clubs, such as the Cosmopolitan, provided venues in which they could meet and exchange views within a broader community of intellectuals and men of influence. The Oxbridge Radicals, in short, had their needs met in the same way that the staid scholars at the Athenaeum did when they pulled down one of the 70,000 books in one of the greatest libraries in London; or the actors at the Garrick did when they drew inspiration from sitting under pictures of Macklin and Rich; or the junior officers at the United Service did when they heightened their martial pride by sitting in Wellington’s favourite chair. These fraternal associations permitted the production of the requisite progressive ideas and reformist policies to which they were wedded and, more importantly, their institutional features shaped these ideas in peculiar ways yet to be considered in this perambulatory exercise.

The fraternal pull of the Radical end of clubland was, however, an insufficient centripetal force to hold the youthful Oxbridge reformers for more than a decade or so. Many Radicals believed that they had executed their reform agenda by the mid-1870s, or at least those elements that were achievable given the political realities of the day. Thereafter only the doctrinaire and very earnest of the reformers carried on the fight with the old fervour, either by holding fast to the Radical Philosophy of Mill’s youth or by setting out on the New Liberal path that was taken by Mill in his final years.38 Many other Radicals simply outgrew the Radical habitats when they began to diversify their interests and socialise with individuals who were occupied with different cultural pursuits. Stephen’s withdrawal from the scene was not untypical, but perhaps earlier than most due to his natural inclination to be cynical in the face of excessive intellectual enthusiasm. It was already underway in the late 1860s. He became occupied with connubial duties following his marriage to Minni Thackeray in 1867; he slowly turned to more sophisticated views of the human condition than that modelled by the Radical mind when he gave into his love of literature by turning his hand to literary criticism; and he became occupied with the quest to produce a scholarly tract of importance on the subject of English intellectual history, and thereby, in his own dishevelled way, to achieve respectability and acceptance. Above all else, he became irritated with the doctrinaire script to which many Radicals adhered. The full array of reasons for Stephen’s fading allegiance to the Radical banner are better understood once we allow him to perambulate towards one or two of the household receptions through which he occasionally passed and that, at a pinch, may be interpreted as extensions of clubland. Such a minor detour also yields still more protocol statements relating to the cultural traits of the fraternal spaces traversed by Stephen in the 1860s and 1870s.

Part Four

Leslie Stephen in the Extended Clubland of Household Receptions

[Sir James Fitzjames Stephen] and Leslie Stephen were...very unlike one another in early life, when J. F. Stephen was a fat, half-Whig, half Tory lawyer and Saturday Reviewer, and Leslie a starved-looking, free thinking Radical parson, afterwards to throw off his Orders. As they grew old they became much alike in appearance, and in opinion (Dilke’s Diary 23 Feb. 1879, quoted in Gwynn and Tuckwell 1906, i:284).

4.1 Introduction

The regular London dinner and sundry household receptions were, like the gentleman clubs, important social spaces in which Victorians discussed the issues of the day. Some of these venues were famous in their own time. The politician Monckton Milnes, who later became Lord Houghton and figures in the club lists presented earlier in this essay, held breakfasts that were legendary. He was the social force of the mid-Victorian world and—with an easy manner, famous wit, and infamous library of rare erotica and sado-masochistic literature—was referred to as the “cool of the evening” (Glendinning 1993:294). The only prerequisite for an invitation, which was rigidly enforced, was to be a celebrity. Milnes subsequently became the model for Mr Vavasour—a character who held similar breakfasts—in Disraeli’s Tancred (Rintoul 1993:675).39 The great publisher, George Murray Smith, entertained supporters of his literary enterprises in a comparable lavish manner. It was generally accepted that one’s literary status was assured after receiving an invitation to one of his dinners. The more earnest Radicals also entertained on a regular basis—although in a less ostentatious style and with a more political purpose. Mill entertained his inner circle with plain fare, but heavy intellectual food, at Blackheath in the 1860s; Cairnes amused his Radical friends with memorable conversations at Blackheath in the early 1870s; and Marian Evans (aka George Eliot) and George Lewes (aka Mr George Eliot) received visitors at Regent’s Park. The complete history of Victorian dinner parties has yet to be written (but see Davidoff 1973) and many other miscellaneous social circles could be described. It is sufficient, given the limited scope of this essay, to state that such dining circuits were central to socialising in this period and that it was important to perform in these gatherings to improve one’s chances of success in whatever activity one wished to pursue. Moreover, to the extent that clubmen dominated a particular residential scene, some of these receptions may be interpreted as an extension of London clubland itself.40

Stephen attended an array of such social gatherings as the 1860s drifted into the 1870s. He was building a name for himself as a man of letters by writing more substantial pieces for the established periodicals. This culminated with his appointment in 1871 as editor of Smith’s The Cornhill Magazine, which enabled Stephen to wind back his journalistic obligations to the Evening Pulpit and Reviler and to devote more time to writing History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century (1876). His role at The Cornhill, together with his family and Cambridge contacts, gained him easy access to a number of literary soirées, not just the intellectual gatherings provided by his Radical friends. It is known that he struck up friendships with a number of notable literary figures, ranging from Hardy to Meredith to Eliot; continued to socialise with those of his generation who chose the donnish life at Cambridge and Oxford; and was invited to the houses of Mill, Cairnes, Smith and Carlyle. The sheer weight of references to these social functions in the extant correspondence implies that he was not the deranged social failure sometimes implied in the secondary literature devoted to his daughter, Virginia Woolf. He may have been shy, silent and crotchety at times, but he also had a natural talent for befriending and impressing the important cultural figures who attended these social gatherings if the scene was to his liking. Maitland, who was one of his closest friends, suspected that Stephen just required the right company to light up:

In his latest years L.S. could hardly understand his friendship for F [i.e. Fawcett]. The truth is that he was exceedingly shy and got on best with people who were the reverse—up to a certain point that is. In the presence of a ‘damned intellectual’, or of anyone who seemed to be such, he shut up tight (Maitland to Jackson, 24 Jan. 1905, in Fifoot 1965:327).41

Stephen (1869a) even wrote a delightful piece on “Dinner Giving” for The Saturday Review, in which he detailed the qualities required for the perfect dinner party. He there distinguished between two categories of such parties: the semi-barbarous dinner where food and drink are the ends rather than the means of the event, and the sociable dinner where food and drink are the means to generate brilliant conversation. It is therefore evident that Stephen had something to offer in such social settings—after all, few literary figures have made a sufficient mark at social gatherings to become the model for so many protagonists in literature. He is Vernon Smith in Meredith’s Egoist, he is strikingly portrayed as the Schreckhorn Mountain in a poem by Hardy and, of course, he is Mr Ramsey in Woolf’s To The Lighthouse.42 At the same time, the evidence presented in the pages that immediately follow suggests that Stephen also had a talent to alienate the occasional host sufficiently that he did not regularly patronise some gatherings his fellow clubmen attended.

4.2. Mill’s Blackheath Dinners

One of the key fraternal sites for Radicals in the 1860s was the regular Sunday dinners at Mill’s residence at 113 Blackheath Park, Blackheath, on the rise behind the Greenwich observatory. Mill emerged from his self-imposed seclusion in the 1850s during his marriage to Harriet Taylor and became positively “sociable” in his parliamentary years from 1865 to 1868 (Stephen 1900, iii:68).43 Numerous promising men with Radical sentiment came down to Blackheath, which had then only recently become accessible by train and was described in a contemporary guidebook as one of the “healthiest spots” on the outskirts of London, located on a “high” open space close to Greenwich Park (Dickens 1879).44 The heath itself was where the rebel armies that advanced on London from the East once mustered (the most famous of which was Wat Tyler’s peasant army of 1381), and hence it was an appropriate setting for the Millite Radicals to talk and plot reform. Morley (1917, i:52) recalled that the dinners over which this talk took place were held at the unconventional time of five o’clock in the afternoon and acted as “ideal symposia” for Mill’s inner circle in the 1860s, or what Lipkes (1999:4,119) has since christened “Mill’s Blackheath Park Circle”. Drawing on first-hand knowledge, Stephen (1900, iii:68) listed Cairnes, Thornton, Hare, Fawcett, Morley and Courtney as particularly regular dinner guests, while other sources also list Spencer, Grote, Louis Blanc, Charles Lyell, Cliffe Leslie and (a little later) Dilke as frequent attendees.45 Fawcett gained access to this inner sanctum following his whirlwind sweep through the public forums that were directly or indirectly devoted to political economy in the early 1860s, and which ended with him winning the Cambridge Chair of Political Economy in 1863 (Stephen 1885:104, 187). Fawcett, in turn, drew Stephen to Mill’s notice by passing on extracts from Stephen’s pro-Union letters sent from North America at the height of the Civil War (Mill to Fawcett 24 Aug 1863, in Mill 1972a, XV:876-7; 14 Oct. 1863, in Mill 1972a, XV:889-91). These letters, which became the basis of The Times on the American Civil War (1865b), also circulated amongst the larger Blackheath crowd. Mill, for example, finishes a letter to Thornton predominantly devoted to the Civil War with the statement: “But you will soon hear all this from Leslie Stephen better than from me” (23 Oct. 1863, in Mill 1972a, XV: 892-3).46 The extant records, however, indicate that Stephen was not a regular attendee at these dinners in spite of Fawcett’s efforts and even though he was thick with Thornton, Cairnes and Morley.

Stephen’s reminiscences imply that he did not meet Mill in person, at least beyond shaking his hand in the company of others, until well after he came down to London in the winter of 1864-5. Specifically, although he heard Mill speak at a PEC dinner in 1863 (Stephen 1873g:383), it is possible that he first met Mill on an intimate level when he accompanied his then more accomplished elder brother on a visit to Blackheath in the mid-1860s (Stephen 1895:230). No date is given for this visit, but the passage containing the description of the occasion suggests that it was before the end of the 1867-8 legal proceedings in the Governor Eyre affair, when the association between Mill and Fitzjames Stephen cooled over the latter’s failure to pursue the prosecution of Eyre and his lieutenants with sufficient vigour (Stephen 1895:230). Stephen also recalled elsewhere how he met Mill in a small gathering at which a young, but nameless, Millite acolyte was criticised by someone from Stephen’s party (1903 [1924]:73). This drew Mill’s ire to such an extent that it seemed as if he had taken the criticism as a personal attack on himself. Stephen and his friends were, in turn, taken aback by the indignant zeal with which Mill defended the youth, whom Stephen described as “a singular fine specimen of the offensive prig in general estimation” (1903 [1924]:73). Given the number of times Stephen indirectly repeated this story, he may very well have been the individual who articulated the criticism and who received Mill’s rebuke. He also generalised from it, arguing that although Mill was warm hearted, one could not trust his glowing accounts of his friends “whose merits are not so conspicuous to the outside world” (1873g:383). Mill’s much commented upon excessive praise of his wife’s character and abilities in his autobiography did not help matters. Stephen could not brook such sentimentalism and was, once again, disappointed with the character of the idol from his undergraduate years. This disappointment, which turned just as much on Mill’s unmanly and spiritless “reasoning machine” nature as on his gushing commitment to unworthy associates, is discussed at greater length in Part Five of this essay.47 At this point it is sufficient to conclude that the divergent personalities of Mill and Stephen hindered the two from forming a close association. Stephen (1903 [1924]:77) later even claimed that his demonstrable and self-confessed early admiration for Mill as a thinker was never unqualified. This context perhaps explains why, in the third volume of The English Utilitarians, his largely fair and nuanced account of Mill’s thought and noble character contains a number of overly harsh asides, such as:

At the bottom of his heart [Mill] seems to prefer a prig, a man of rigid formulae, to the vivid and emotional character, whose merits he recognises in theory. He complains frequently of the general decay of energy, and yet his ideal would seem to the thoroughly drilled thinker, who is the slave of abstract theories. His ‘zeal for the good of mankind’ was really to the last what he admits it to have been at the early period, a ‘zeal for speculative opinions’. The startling phrases about his wife contrast to this coolness, but they are so hysterical as to check full sympathy. From such remarks, some people have inferred that Mill was really a frigid thinker, a worthy prophet of the dismal science, which leaves out of account all that is deepest and mostly truly valuable in human nature (Stephen 1900, iii:70).

4.3. Cairnes’s Blackheath Residence

Stephen was a more frequent figure of the gatherings at Cairnes’s own Blackheath residence prior to the latter’s death in 1875.48 These Radical forums, which may be considered as the successors to Mill’s Blackheath meetings, are particularly important for this narrative because it was there that Stephen conveyed his growing irritation with the narrow Radicalism expressed by some of his friends. Cairnes was obviously the centrepiece of this assembly, and even more so once he became the leading political economist in England following the death of Mill in 1873. He had “pitched his tent in Blackheath” in 1870 after becoming partly immobilised by a creeping malady that struck in the mid-1860s and which was either the result of an old riding injury to his leg or rheumatic fever (Gooch 1920:111; Fawcett 1875:150; Stephen 1885:200; Stephen 1917a; Lipkes 1998:196). He had chosen Blackheath, in part, to be in the neighbourhood of Mill, who would slowly walk beside this near-immobile cripple when he “was well enough to go out” (Gooch 1920:112). Unfortunately, however, this affliction, which attacked joint after joint, eventually restricted him to moving around the house with the aid of a bath chair. Fawcett, Courtney, Thornton and Stephen therefore made whirlwind visits to provide company for a friend in need, but more importantly to enjoy his conversation—which they all agreed was brilliant—and to discuss political strategy. Stephen (1885:200-1) described how Fawcett regularly ran “down to his friend’s house” to cheer him up by conversation; to encourage him to “collect and republish essays”; to bring “down any one whom he thought likely to be an amusing companion”; and to take “counsel with him on the political measures in which they were both interested”. Fawcett (1875:151) himself related how Cairnes “possessed charm, vivacity and humour in conjunction” that “made all his friends look forward to their visits to him as one of their greatest pleasures”. He added that when any of his friends heard a good story their first thought was, “How Cairnes will enjoy it!”; and that by “laughing with him over some joke or hearing him tell some amusing story”, they often lingered so long that they “had to run to the station” and not infrequently “missed the last train” (Fawcett 1875:151). Stephen also conveyed his own experiences of Cairnes’s clubbable manner and capacity to talk at Blackheath in his correspondence of this time:

I went down with old Fawcett the other day to dine with Cairnes—the political economist. Poor Cairnes is one of the saddest of sights. He is crippled by rheumatism so that he can move neither hand, foot nor head & is like a man petrified. Yet he can talk & even has just written a book on the dismal science; and is an excellent fellow in every way (to Norton, 15 May 1874 in Bicknell 1996, i:136).49

Stephen (1917a:669) later gave every indication of liking Cairnes as a person, writing that in “private life he was a man of singular charm of conversation, even when quite disabled physically”. Courtney similarly waxed lyrical about Cairnes’s charm and power of conversation in his obituary of Cairnes for The Times, adding that it was a privilege for anyone to visit him in his suburban home (9 July 1875; Gooch 1920:113).50

Cairnes, Fawcett and Courtney constituted the core of this second Blackheath circle and by the early 1870s may be regarded as a something of a Radical triumvirate.51 G. P. Gooch (1920: 111), the great historian of modern diplomacy and Courtney’s family-approved biographer, put it nicely:

If Cairnes was Courtney’s first intimate friend among the leaders of thought, Fawcett was his first ally among men of action; and the three men formed a working alliance which was not without influence on English history.

The influence of this triple alliance reached its peak with the defeat of the 1873 Irish University Bill (Fawcett 1875:153-4; Stephen 1885:278ff). This bill looked harmless enough when first presented by Gladstone, and most thought it would pass easily (including Stephen). It was proposed that the demands of the differing religious bodies in Ireland could be met by reconstituting the Dublin University as a national university with colleges of different denominations, and without chairs in theology, philosophy and modern history in order to avoid offending religious sensibilities. Fawcett sought out Cairnes at Blackheath after the first reading, and given Cairnes’s fears (dating from his Dublin and Galway years) that the Roman Catholics were seeking complete control over education in Ireland, the members of the triumvirate decided to fight the bill with all their powers. The ban on certain disciplinary chairs was an insurmountable problem, while the sectarian nature of each college went against the Radical goal of taking religion out of higher education. They deemed it a crime to divide young men on religious grounds, especially if it condemned Catholic youth to the insular teachings of an Ultramontane priesthood. Fawcett subsequently “launched the thunderbolts that were forged in the arsenal at Blackheath”, while the third member of the triumvirate, Courtney, “entrenched in Printing House Square” and yet to become an MP, used his power as leader writer for The Times to contribute to the campaign (Gooch 1920:113). In the end, several factions stood against the bill and its rejection signalled the end of the Gladstonian reformist Parliament.52 Stephen himself was, for all his anti-clericism, less passionate and mildly amused with the strange alliance of Radicals, conservatives and Ultramontanes who defeated the bill (1873b, c, d, e).53 In fact, the doctrinaire views espoused at venues such as Blackheath partly motivated his quest to disentangle himself from Radical circles. Fawcett’s monologues were particularly irksome to him. He conveyed to Norton that Fawcett had, “very characteristically”, asked: “Why does Carlyle call political economy the dismal science? He really asked for information.” Stephen then added:

Fawcett, unluckily, fired up at dinner against the extreme folly of not allowing everybody to get drunk just as much & often as he pleases; & in short, talked Mill’s ‘Liberty’ of the crudest kind at the top of his voice for an hour or two, till I damned all radicals as heartily as Ruskin. Lord! How stale, flat & unprofitable that kind of stuff does sound sometimes! However, Fawcett who is a good fellow & as hard-headed a man within his proper limits as I know, suits the British public to a nicety & his election gives them great satisfaction (15 May 1874 in Bicknell 1996, i:136).

Stephen invariably emphasised that he was still fond of Fawcett, but, as the years passed, increasingly added the rider that the latter pleased him less and attributed their friendship to an accident of time when they were undergraduates together (Stephen to Norton 25 Dec. 1882, in Bicknell 1996, ii:295; Maitland to Jackson, 24 Jan. 1905, in Fifoot 1965:327). Stephen’s backsliding and growing quest to find value in non-Radical frameworks did not, however, extend to Ruskin’s political economy, which he demolished in an 1874 issue of Fraser’s Magazine at the very time of his Blackheath meetings. This article, unsurprisingly, both reflected Cairnes’s views on political economy and prompted Ruskin’s aforementioned sneers at Stephen’s muscular, Alpine persona (see Moore and Fordham 2017).54

4.4. George Murray Smith’s Literary Dinners

The few Radicals with literary pretentions also attended the dinner parties that publishers held, almost by convention, for the contributors and supporters of their literary enterprises. The most influential publisher of the day, Smith, used his substantial independent wealth to host a particularly important monthly banquet at his home for the contributors of The Cornhill Magazine.55 This magazine quickly became a “literary landmark” after it was founded as a monthly in 1860 under the editorship of Thackeray (Stephen 1903 [1924]:135). The first of the associated dinner parties was held in January 1860 at 11 Gloucester Square and Smith continued to host them there until 1863, after which they were held at his new home at Oak Hill Lodge, Hampstead. Smith also opened his home every Friday to friends, who were presented with a menu card designed by George du Maurier, a regular attendee (Smith 1901 [1902]:119; Glendinning 1992:281ff). The leading cultural figures of the day attended these soirées and a treasured invitation to a Cornhill dinner was seen as a sign of acceptance by the literary aristocracy of London. Guests included Thackeray, ‘Mr George Eliot’, Millais, George Augustus Sala and Milnes. Indeed, the dinners became so famous that they were the source of some vicious lampooning of Smith by Edmund Yates in the New York papers (Sadleir 1927 [1947]:211ff). Given the close association between The Cornhill and Smith’s other literary venture of this time, the PMG, it is also possible that these banquets were in some way interconnected with the PMG dinners that were mentioned in Part Two of this essay and which Trollope conjectured drew a guest list more august than that seen sitting in the Houses of Commons (1883 [1950]:199; Sadleir 1927 [1947]:261). Either way, Trollope, who had been in exile in Ireland until 1859, dated his success as a literary figure after receiving an invitation to one of Smith’s Cornhill dinners (and being elected to the Garrick and the Cosmopolitan).56 His performance on this evening indicates the way in which an individual was ushered into the inner sanctums of literary London. Within moments of his arrival he perceived a snub from Thackeray when the latter turned on his heels on being introduced to Trollope. A horrified Trollope, who was not aware that Thackeray had a stomach disorder and regularly fled from people to save both himself and them embarrassment, was eventually calmed by the host. Trollope then proceeded to alternate between sleeping on various sofas and barking his views throughout the evening (Smith 1901 [1902]:120; Hennessy 1971:194, Glendinning 1992:279ff). He left his mark on the attendees and most (but certainly not all) excused his excesses on this and subsequent occasions because of the eccentric nature of his uneven clubbable manner.57

Stephen was a regular guest at Smith’s home due to his involvement in the latter’s more important literary enterprises, including contributing to the PMG from 1865, writing for The Cornhill from 1866 and, most importantly, editing The Cornhill from 1871 to 1882 (for the princely sum of £500 per year). He regarded Smith as a close friend, later recalling with pleasure the long, often “scandalously irrelevant”, conversations they had at the publishing offices of Smith, Elder & Co at Waterloo Place (Stephen 1901a [1902]:151). It is also known that he courted Minny Thackeray at Smith’s Hampstead residence prior to their marriage in 1867.58 Stephen repaid Smith’s trust by drawing stories and critical reviews from authors of weight ranging from Meredith to James, while making lesser-known contributors undertake extensive rewrites of the lighter pieces for which The Cornhill then had a reputation. In Stephen’s words, the magazine’s policy “was to contain nothing which could be unsuitable reading for the daughters of country parsons whom Trollope was describing in its pages” (1903 [1924]:136). His own liberal contribution of 60 articles to this magazine, some of which were republished in the three series of Hours in a Library, were described by Meredith as displaying inoffensive irony that now and then “stole out for a roll over, like a furry cub” (Cook 1910:17). Stephen occasionally dwelt on the eighteenth-century themes that were then preoccupying him and sometimes strayed from the required lighter reviewing style to heavier literary criticism. On the whole, however, he strove to censor himself to meet the expectations of the magazine’s readership and to discharge his editorial duties in a way that did not harm circulation (Maurer 1953:74). Stephen certainly avoided the controversial political and religious matters that were dear to him. The Cornhill social world was, moreover, in no way Radical and it is considered here mainly to convey that he was now stepping outside the social circles dominated by his doctrinaire Oxbridge contemporaries.59 It was through this editorial office that he promoted and befriended Hardy, Stephenson, W. E. Henley and others who provided rich worldviews at least equal to that yielded by the dead mechanism of political economy and other reasoning frames of his Radical youth. It is no wonder that the two Radicals with whom he kept up correspondence in his more mature years, Morley and Harrison, both shared his love of literature. His Cornhill period enabled him to give full reign to this pleasure, but ultimately circulation fell under his watch due to his inability to strike the light tone wanted by The Cornhill readers and the flooding of the market with similar journals. He saw himself as a failure in this endeavour, even if Smith believed it was a case of the “goodness of the magazine” being out of joint with the “bad taste of the public” (Maurer 1953:70).

4.5 The Ad Eundem Club

The Ad Eundem Club is another fraternal setting that, with a little imagination, may be interpreted as an extension of London clubland. This association was an exclusive dining club of a Radical nature that was founded in 1864 (although some records suggest 1865 or 1866) to bring together men with advanced views from Cambridge and Oxford. Given that Ad Eundem may be roughly translated as “the same rank” and an Ad Eundem degree was once conferred as a courtesy on faculty members of a university who had graduated from another university, it is likely that the club’s title was designed to convey that the Oxford and Cambridge men met as equals. The founding members included Fawcett, George Trevelyan, Arthur Sidgwick, William Sidgwick and Henry Sidgwick. The last of these men seems to have been particularly instrumental in founding the club, with Henry Jackson believing that the Ad Eundem Club was one of Sidgwick’s “good works” and that he was extremely “useful” in making contacts between the men of the two universities (Jackson to H. Sidgwick 14 June 1904, Sidgwick Papers 103/57). Stephen (1885:80), however, believed that Fawcett and the mathematician Henry Smith were the most important club members from the respective universities, since, though they were different in many ways, they were “rivals in diffusing a thoroughly social spirit”. The membership list changed over the years, but, in addition to the founders already mentioned, regular attendees in the 1860s and 1870s included Maine, Smith, Lord Ramsay (afterwards Lord Dalhousie), Couts Trotter, Jackson, Bryce, Lushington, Dicey, Sir William Anson and Henry Pelham (a full list is included in Jackson to H. Sidgwick, 14 June 1904, Sidgwick Papers 103/57; Harvie 1976:67, Kent 1978:175). The club dinners were held once a term and alternated between Cambridge and Oxford to enable the London-based university men to interact with like-minded contemporaries still residing in either Cambridge or Oxford. The constitution of the club was designed to achieve this goal, since it dictated that membership should consist of 20 university men; that of this 20, 10 should be from Cambridge and 10 from Oxford; and that of each of these respective 10, five should be resident and five non-resident. The full-length history of the Ad Eundem Club has yet to be written, but from Harvie’s (1976:67) admirable brief account and extant correspondence it seems that its membership and tone closely resembled that of the London Radical clubs. It is also evident that university reform and other issues important to the university Radicals were the subjects most frequently discussed in the early club meetings. Stephen wrote on university reform repeatedly (see Stephen 1868a) and no doubt tested his views in this setting. It was a sufficiently popular dining club that it outlived the Radical ferment in which it was formed, with octogenarians, Bryce and Dicey, still attending the Ad Eundem dinners in 1917 (Harvie 1976:51).

Stephen was one of the first to join the club and he was still attending in 1877, as Dilke mentioned him when he listed the members at the dinner he attended in that year (Add 43933 125f, 204f Dilke Memoirs; see also Stephen to H. Sidgwick, 24 May 1877, Sidgwick Papers 95/95). Dilke also implied that the Ad Eundem dinners, like the other Radical venues, were often soured by disagreements between strong personalities. He wrote in his diary that he did not wish to attend many more of these functions, reporting:

Henry Smith & Henry Sidgwick were pleasant at the Ad Eundem dinner, and Pelham and Lord Ramsay showed themselves now, as always, men of sense; but the party was not an agreeable one, for Sidgwick’s brother and Sir George Young, both of them, were as bitter as they were simple. I luncheoned on the Sunday with Professor Henry Smith & his sister at the University museum—a far pleasanter party (Add 4933 204f Dilke Memoirs).

Given the way in which Dilke was invariably party to the disputes at the London Radical clubs, one can only assume that he was partly instrumental in inducing this bitterness. Henry James, who was invited as a guest to another of these dinners, certainly did not provide a flattering portrait of Dilke in this setting. He deemed the dinner dullish and portrayed Dilke as a good fellow, a man who was shooting ahead of the rest, and who would soon be a cabinet minister, but concluded that he was also a specimen of a “fortunate Englishman” who was born without “exceptional talents” to a “big property” and a “political ambition which—resolute industry and the force of social circumstance abiding—he is steady en train to realize” (quoted in Edel 1962:336-7). James also had little time for the Radical personality on display at this club. He described his friend Bryce, who had invited him to the dinner, as more intellectually able than Dilke, but one who spread himself too thinly and, worse, belonged to a class of “young doctrinaire radicals (they are all growing old at it)” who “don’t take the ‘popular heart’ and seem booked to remain out of affairs” (quoted in Edel 1962: 336). He added that they are “all tainted with priggishness—though Bryce less so than some of the others” (quoted in Edel 1962: 336). Fawcett was, of course, the most doctrinaire of these earnest Radicals of the Ad Eundem dinners and, for this reason, irritated the more subtle and flexible Stephen in the same way that he had irritated him at Cairnes’s Blackheath gatherings. When Fawcett pontificated “in somewhat affected and unreal manner” on Radical matters, Stephen famously shouted down the table to his old college friend: “Don’t talk like a damn fool, Fawcett” (Maitland to Henry Jackson, 15 March 1904, Maitland Papers, in Annan 1984:40).

4.6. The Carlyle-Froude-Fitzjames Stephen Set

Stephen (1903 [1924]:107) also became a “questionable intruder” in Thomas Carlyle’s inner circle in the early 1870s. At this time some of the more important figures sitting before Carlyle, the ‘Prophet of Chelsea’, were Froude and Stephen’s rather formidable elder brother, Fitzjames Stephen, who had a fondness for talking about “our dear old gallows” and who was known as “The Gruffian” or the “Giant Grim” by his Cambridge contemporaries. Carlyle famously held court at his little house at 24 Cheyne Row (now a museum for all things Carlylesean) in Chelsea, where acolytes were ushered in to hear Biblically inspired word-pictures of doom and foreboding from the great (if not the greatest) Victorian. He also undertook regular walks on Sundays with select interlocutors. Leslie Stephen was, as one would expect, introduced to this circle through his elder brother, who, by the early 1870s, had evolved from a Benthamite who called for the codifying of laws along more rational lines and an efficiently-run state into a Benthamite-Tory who contended that liberty did not necessarily maximise utility for the greatest number and that elite men should use the full force of the state to ensure inveterately weak-minded individuals pursue moral ends.60 Fitzjames Stephen’s legendary contempt for the human race and its possibilities are laid out in his anti-Mill tract Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (1873), which amounts to a diatribe against those who championed liberty, democracy and Comte’s Religion of Humanity. Mill’s notion of liberty was, he believed, a threat to social order and what the nation really needed was more coercion through flaying with a birch. Such ideas naturally drew responses from Leslie Stephen’s friends, Morley and Harrison, with Harrison (1873) declaring that Fitzjames Stephen was the champion of a “Religion of Inhumanity”. Fitzjames Stephen, in turn, responded to their criticisms in a second edition of this work (1874). The Radicals, for all this, recognised that Fitzjames Stephen possessed a powerful intellect and happily met him via introductions provided by Leslie Stephen, who, although not agreeing with his brother’s views, admired him immensely.61 The younger Stephen also developed a strong working relationship with Carlyle’s lieutenant, Froude, over this period. The latter edited Fraser’s Magazine from 1860 to 1874, which partly explains why many of Stephen’s articles that were deemed too serious for The Cornhill were placed with this quarterly. These pieces, which mostly turned on championing agnosticism and attacking the established church, were eventually collected in Essays on Freethinking and Plainspeaking (1873). Stephen himself acted as a deputy editor of Fraser’s Magazine in 1867 and was offered the editorship itself in 1871 when Froude was tiring of the role, but instead accepted Smith’s swiftly placed rival offer to edit The Cornhill.62

Stephen (1903 [1924]:102) was alive to the paradox that he saw more personally of Carlyle than Mill even though he was firmly in the camp of the latter. He nonetheless thought more of Carlyle once his elder brother sat at Carlyle’s feet, since he knew that Fitzjames was little disposed to sit at anyone’s feet. Such an endorsement from a respected sibling was especially important given the way Stephen’s Trinity Hall set were so vehemently contemptuous of the fuzzy philosophising of Carlyle, Ruskin, Newman and Kingsley. It also helped that the maturing Stephen was increasingly willing to admit that such fuzzy thinkers sometimes uttered quarter-truths. When, for example, Carlyle published “Shooting Niagara – And After” shortly after Stephen’s own pro-democratic piece for Essays on Reform (1867a), Stephen contended that it was nonsense to claim that franchise reform was akin to going over the Niagara Falls in a barrel, but “nonsense of a genius & not without a certain point” (Stephen to Holmes 18 Aug. 1867, in Bicknell 1996, i:54). In the typical masculine style that characterised the Cambridge Radical, he added: “We have a lot of effete things in this blessed old country & a good rush over Niagara will do us all the good in the world” (ibid). He simultaneously used his column for The Nation to contend that Carlyle “should be compared to Rembrandt in art”, since he had the same “peculiar power of seeing events in exaggerated chiaroscuro” (Stephen 1867d:214).63 The precise date on which Stephen was actually ushered into Carlyle’s presence is uncertain, but he does describe audiences with the great sage in 1873:

I see the prophet pretty often myself & though I am not so independent a character as J.F.S. I am almost equally repelled and attracted by him. Personally indeed I am simply attracted, for he is a really noble old cove & by far the best specimen of the literary gent that we at present produce. He has grown milder too with age. But politically and philosophically he talks a good deal of arrant & rather pestilent nonsense—that is, what I call nonsense (Stephen to Holmes Jr, 24 Jan. 1873, in Bicknell 1996, i:117).

As can be seen from this letter, Stephen was still not convinced that Carlyle made sense. He was also something of a failure in the Chelsea circle and suspected that Carlyle believed him to be a “hot-headed & misguided & irreverent person” (Stephen to Norton 10 May, 1873, in Bicknell 1996, i:121). He did not put himself forward at these meetings because he feared that Carlyle would disapprove of his Radical sympathies if, in a rash moment, he expressed “leanings towards the pig philosophy and even some belief in the ‘dismal science’” (1903 [1924]:104). Stephen justified his reticence on the grounds that no man over seventy should ever be contradicted, especially someone of Carlyle’s form, and, in any event, one went to Carlyle to be roused not to discuss scientific formulas (1903 [1924]:104-5). This might have been a mistake, since to be timid while declaring one or two views obnoxious to the individual one is trying to impress leaves a doubly bad impression. There were also a few embarrassing incidents in which Stephen may have put Carlyle’s nose out of joint. First, an Australian bore was presented to Carlyle on the pretext that he had an introduction from Stephen and, second, during a walk, Carlyle attacked Stephen for an article in which he had questioned the realities of hell (Stephen 1903 [1924]:106, Stephen to Norton 27 Jan. 1875, in Maitland 1906:249; Stephen to Norton 16 Nov. 1873, in Bicknell 1996, i:126-7). Stephen’s regard for Carlyle’s poetic character nonetheless eventually grew to a point where he saw one or two elements of value in Carlyle’s vision. This is reflected in an 1881 issue of The Cornhill in which Stephen sought to reconcile aspects of this vision with the Comtist-inspired dynamic sociological framework that had figured in his own history of English thought in the eighteenth century (1876, 1881c [1991]; Annan 1984:172-3). He stated that although his “juvenile sympathies” were on the side of Carlyle’s opponents, he could now see that Carlyle’s focus on vital forces, as expressed by the actions of leading men who represented an age, ensured that the historian focused on the cooperative organic forces working through agents rather than on incidental factors (1881c [1991]:275). At the same time, Stephen’s logical mind made short work of the associated arguments that ‘Might makes Right’ and that all men are fools except for a few supermen. Stephen also unfavourably compared Mill’s effete character and dead analytical machinery with Carlyle’s strong (but possibly deceptive) masculine personality and vision on more than one occasion and in a way that will be explored further in the last part of this essay.

4.7 Conclusion to Part Four

The receptions through which Stephen passed in the late 1860s and early 1870s reflected his changing intellectual interests and influenced him in subtle ways. He showed irritation with the Radicals who dominated some of these venues, concluding that Mill was a bit of a prig and condemning Fawcett’s dogmatic Radical talk. He rubbed shoulders with literary types—at Smith’s banquets and through The Cornhill itself—who cared more about culture than the Irish University Bill, and more about spirited humanity than abstract humanity. He was exposed to the main detractors of Radical reform through his visits to Carlyle’s Chelsea residence and via his close bond with his grim, hanging-judge brother. Stephen was, in short, seeking out a richer intellectual life than that provided by a Radical mentality that dissected political economy tracts for heresies and exposed back-peddlers on political reform. This shift in interests was partly driven by his increasing preoccupation with literary criticism, which he published in The Cornhill, and intellectual history, which later yielded History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century (1876). His focus on the evolution of cultural products induced him to place ideas in historical (and thereby critical) context and to recognise that the Radical framework was itself, in part, the product of an evolving social organism. This quasi-Comtist sociological vision, which was alluded to in the previous section and is discussed in greater detail in the pages that follow, also led him to believe that the Radical framework was barren (and possibly dangerous) when mistakenly taken as a complete account of the deep, complex and often dark underlying forces that were driving society. The Radicals were, for this reason, neglecting important motives and social relationships that might prevent their reforms from achieving the desired goals. Stephen began to use his anonymous letters to The Nation to belittle Mill’s acolytes (presumably Stephen’s own friends) for seeking to appropriate for themselves the “old title of philosophical radicals once applied to Mill’s early friends”, adding that though the associated doctrines may be true, they do not entail “great cultivation or width” and are not the “whole truth” (1873a:72). Accompanying this growing unease with the beliefs of his younger self was a realisation that he detested the political machinations associated with reform. Stephen (1903 [1924]:95) never rejected Radical principles once they were properly framed, but became more interested in exposing the fallacies and half-truths of doctrines that were now accepted as truisms and commonplaces. This balance (and first-hand knowledge) made him the ideal scholar to pioneer the history of Radical thought, which he duly accomplished in the last decade of his life in The English Utilitarians (1900).

Stephen’s growing aversion to doctrinaire Radicalism in the early 1870s was, at the time, only known to his closest friends. Most still viewed him as the one-dimensional Radical of the 1860s who was a “good political economist, a respectable radical, partly misled by female influences, and given to chaff the parsons” (Stephen to Norton 10 May, 1873, in Bicknell 1996, i:121). His break from both this larger social treadmill and the Radical world of his youth was prompted (if not disguised) by the death in 1875 of his first wife. He resigned from the Century and Cosmopolitan, and, after a suitable period of grieving, began to pursue his second wife and build a second family. The Bloomsbury representation of Stephen as a selfish and crotchety paterfamilias during his subsequent ‘Ramsey years’ has unfortunately drawn attention from the degree to which he socialised, for the most part successfully, in his younger days. His fraternal interactions in London clubland and household receptions not only shaped and reflected aspects of his intellectual vision, but also enrich our understanding of how these interactions formed Victorian ideas more generally. Stephen’s perambulatory observations relating to these fraternal spaces suggest, in particular, that such venues so dominated mid-Victorian London life that the spoken word was as important as the written word. Victorian intellectuals on the make therefore needed to have the necessary verbal and social skills to advance their ideas. Success or failure in household receptions was perhaps even more apparent than in the clubs, since at least in the latter there was usually a quiet corner to which individuals could retreat so as to be seen but not heard. Mr Higgins, Henry James’s compatriot from the U.S. embassy, was an obvious failure in this society, especially when he tallied the number of invitations James received (including some issued by Stephen) with his own. He became so fascinated by his incapacity to impress that he decided to write an (unpublished) essay on the issue:

This great success of James leads me to inquire how it is that some people succeed so well here while others constantly fail. I class myself decidedly among the failures (quoted in Edel 1962:325).

The very fact that he decided to write an essay on this subject perhaps explains why he failed (and I acknowledge the irony of this sentence, but add the denial that I have ever tried to enter any such society). In any event, Higgins’s chief conclusion was that London society was so large and complex that one could make a mark, in the way James had, only if one had had rank (i.e. celebrity status) or was personally attractive or could make an impression. It will become apparent in the next part of this essay just how much the social space over which Stephen traversed influenced success or failure in this way.

Part Five

Implications and Conclusion

The memories of walks…are located and dated; they are hitched on to particular times and places; they spontaneously form a kind of calendar or connecting thread upon which other memories may be strung (Stephen 1901c [1902]:257).

5.1 Introduction

The mid-Victorian proliferation of new clubs led some contemporaries to conclude that there had been a social levelling of the club scene, since the singular needs of anyone who had the slightest claim to that “elastic title of gentleman” were now served (Anonymous 1879:136). If a candidate was blackballed, or “pilled” as members used to say, at one club, he would simply try his luck at the new club down the road. It could also be argued that the analogous proliferation of Higher Journalist organs in the late 1860s, with the advent of the likes of The Academy, eroded the elitist and gate-keeping credentials derived from belonging to the stables of The Saturday Review and the PMG. The contentions that clubland and Higher Journalism had become more fluid and less exclusive should not, however, be taken too far. The evidence signals that these domains were dominated by a privileged elite composed predominantly of young Oxbridge graduates (such as Fawcett and Courtney) and their ageing mentors (such as Mill and Cairnes). They operated within an institutional environment defined by social networks, boundaries between insiders and outsiders, cultural norms and rules, and the celebration of particular behavioural traits.64 Specifically, the perambulatory observations arising from accompanying Stephen through Piccadilly and Grub Street indicate that the Radicals operated within clubbable, masculine, hyper-critical and clique-ridden spaces. They also suggest that the discursive practices and public performances (or non-performances if men were blackballed or lived at a distance from London) in these habitats shaped, in some small way, what was published. This nexus between the ‘babblative’ and the ‘scribblative’ worlds certainly explains some rather strange written passages—which, without context, raise an eyebrow amongst us moderns—at a critical point in the evolution of economic thought. These passages cannot be fully understood if one adopts the traditional historiographical line of dwelling on the universities and the landmark books, rather than clubland and the Higher Journalist organs, when considering the knowledge-formation of this time.

The remainder of this essay is therefore given over to tracing how the institutional features of these clubbable spaces buffeted the written product in economics at the very time in which the English variant of marginalism was born, the English “Battle of Methods” broke out, and positive liberalism (of the New Liberals) began to displace negative liberalism (of the old Radical Philosophers) as the dominant frame for economic policy. The goal is not to reconstruct the Radical conceptual framework as some sort of sociologically generated Kuhnian paradigm (although I am sure that can be done), but simply to tease out how the social world of the clubmen shaped, in some small way, the written products that we have before us today. Five institutional features are explored. Specifically, it is contended that the written publications of the period were to some extent echoes, in the Habermasian fashion, of the conversations transpiring in the fraternal associations of clubland. It is argued that an individual’s clubbability determined, at the margin, the way in which his written publications were read and reviewed. It is submitted that the extent to which an individual subscribed to the singular mid-Victorian conception of masculinity in the clubland precincts had a small impact on the reception (and nature!) of his published work. It is shown that the acidic and hypercritical nature of the reviews of this period was the product of the Oxbridge clubmen naturally excelling in the acerbic house-styles that defined the Higher Journalist organs. It is established that cliques of Radical clubmen sought to use the hyper-critical reviewing process to police the nascent boundaries of the discipline of economics in a fashion that induced some theorists to claim that a noxious influence of authority hindered doctrinal innovation in the 1870s. To some extent these five institutional features are discussed in no particular order of importance, but, given the way in which the work of Habermas invariably dominates historical narratives devoted to fraternal associations, it is appropriate to lead the discussion with how the conversations and discursive practices in such associations shaped the ‘opinion’ of the day.

5.2 The Discursive Practices in (Habermasian) Clubland

The conceptual framework associated with Habermas’s The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962 [1989]) is invariably wheeled out in the literature devoted to fraternal associations. It has become a department-store commonplace for historians in want of a quick fitting and, once adjusted for purpose, it seems that it is still neither quite shop worn nor quite out of style. Habermas described the way in which the power of the court-cum-state was eroded in the early eighteenth century when the members of the rising commercial classes began to congregate in the coffeehouses of London, the salons of Paris and the Tischgesellschaften (table societies) of German towns. Specifically, bourgeois householders from the private sphere joined the new fraternal associations that frequented these venues to transform the public sphere from one of courtly display to one of individuals undertaking rational-critical debate in various communal spaces. The larger and more dispersed “public of private individuals” which subsequently emerged was then bound as one by a critical-oriented press that acted as an interchange through which “public opinion” was formed (Habermas 1962 [1989]:51, 249). The extent to which all groups were represented (such as the plebeian classes and women) in an inclusive and independent public sphere without irresolvable conflict determined the extent to which this emancipatory trajectory continued to maturity. Indeed, this trajectory is usually presented in this literature as a Bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, in which the bourgeois public sphere is presented as a child of the eighteenth century whose life unravels in the twentieth century when the critical independence of the various fraternal associations is undermined by mass media and “opinion management” (Habermas 1962 [1989]:xviii, 195). The narrative tale therefore sadly ends with the effective re-feudalisation of the public sphere.65

The frightful complexities and tensions in this (often contested) synthetic-cum-historical trajectory, not to mention the difficulties in grasping the myriad of tiresome meanings of public and private, cannot be considered here. It is sufficient to note that Stephen’s mid-Victorian clubland and its allied precincts came to constitute an important discursive space in which ideas were shaped before their final publication and, further, that this space resembled in many ways (but definitely not in all ways) Habermas’s original vision of a transformed ‘public sphere’. The most celebrated historically specific Habermasian public space is, in fact, that from which London clubland eventually emerged, namely, the London coffeehouse milieu of post-Restoration England. Habermas presented these coffeehouses as the earliest example of an unalloyed public sphere and referred to the transformation process that yielded this sphere as “The Model Case of British Development”. He argued that the coffeehouses provided intimate settings for rational-critical discussion that were replicated in the publications overseen by Richard Steele and Joseph Addison and, ultimately, generated a public opinion that challenged the authority of the English court (Habermas 1962 [1989]:32-4, 43-4). Habermas further contended that a larger English “public of private people” emerged out of this ‘model’ coffeehouse environment when a print interchange, overseen by the post-Restoration men of letters and the fourth estate, bound together the rational-critical discussions taking place over a more dispersed set of social spaces (Habermas 1962 [1989]:51, 60). English public opinion was then transformed from something that was an echo of London coffeehouse talk to something that was an echo of a larger interconnected conversation.

The historians of early-modern England not surprisingly drew upon Habermas’s transformed public sphere in a proliferation of narratives devoted to post-Restoration coffeehouses once The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962) was translated into English in 1989. The resulting academic issue has grown to a point where “The Model Case of British Development” is a recognised field of study worthy of York notes, A-level exam questions and answers by way of swatted formulae.66 It is less well recognised, however, that Stephen himself provided an account of the way in which the fraternities of private citizens who met in these coffeehouses checked the authority of the court and, further, that Habermas (1962 [1989]:32 fn 9, 42, fn 35) himself cites Stephen’s account in the process of building his model British case. Given that Stephen was one of the leading Victorian scholars of eighteenth-century thought and given that the political role of coffeehouses already figured in the Whig histories that dominated his youth, it should not really be a surprise that Stephen in some way anticipated Habermas’s British model (although it may surprise some, since Stephen is rarely cited on this issue in the secondary literature). It is therefore reasonable to conclude, paradoxical though it seems, that Stephen’s experiences in clubland in the 1860s and 1870s provided one or two of the raw materials for his representation of the coffeehouse fraternities of the 1700s and 1710s, and, because of his modest role in influencing Habermas’s convoluted (but always edifying) sociological brutalisms, that this representation may be used to flesh out the implications of his (and his fellow Radicals’) experiences in clubland.67 It is one of the more interesting, but yet to be explored, loops in intellectual history. It is also a loop that demands a slight detour to consider the larger historiographical conceptual framework within which Stephen interpreted the role of eighteenth-century coffeehouses.

As mentioned earlier in this essay, Stephen made his reputation as a historian of the eighteenth century, and arguably laid the foundation text for English intellectual history, when he published his two-volume History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century (1876). He initially planned to implement Mill’s Comtist-inspired vision of dynamic laws of society that famously figured in Book IV of A System of Logic (1843) and in which a dominant historical trajectory of speculative reasoning (such as Comte’s three stages of thought) acted as a central chain to which other social progressions were linked and dragged along. Stephen, however, became hopelessly lost in the unfeasible procrustean task of constructing this dynamic sociology and, being honest to his trade as a historian, retreated to the more reasonable notion that ideas develop (in a multi-causal manner) coevally with an evolving social organism. He further concluded that the quality and influence of an author’s intellectual product is partly determined by the degree to which it is adapted to, and in sympathy with, the prevailing organic state of social progress. This less rigid framework subsequently shaped his seminal contributions to the emerging Cambridge school of literary criticism and his larger eighteenth-century corpus, including his countless entries in the DNB, numerous essays, and publications in the Men of Letters series, such as Johnson (1878), Pope (1880) and Swift (1882). It may also be perceived, but more hazily, in his three-volume The English Utilitarians (1900), which should be interpreted as an extension of his two-volume eighteenth-century history, and thus as part of a grand pentalogy of English intellectual history.68 Finally, and most importantly for this narrative, a rapidly ailing Stephen unfolded his proto-Habermasian colours within this dynamic sociological framework when he delivered (via a deputy) the Ford Lectures at Oxford in 1903 on the subject of the relationship between the progress of literature and social change in eighteenth-century England. These lectures were posthumously published as English Literature and Society in the Eighteenth Century (1904).

In this often inexplicably overlooked publication, which fittingly bookended a career as an intellectual historian, Stephen sketched the rise of a public sphere that was separate from the court in the period following the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Like Habermas, he provided an account of both the way in which the coffeehouses proliferated in this period to serve the different needs of the fraternal societies that frequented them (1904:37-9) and the associated rise of the fourth estate (1904:41-2). Stephen contended that these societies allowed authors, aristocrats and politicians to fraternise in a familiar, if not democratic, manner, and to dominate the conversation in the public domain to such an extent that “the court no longer overshadowed society” (1904:41). Power shifted to the literary society of London and the limited region served by the penny post, which included the remote villages of Paddington and Brompton. Stephen referred to this new centre of power as the “town” (1904:43) and an “island of illumination amid the surrounding darkness of the agricultural country” (1904:54). As an aside, it is interesting to note that Habermas (1962 [1989]:30-2) also repeatedly used the term “town” as a historically specific moniker for the public sphere, and presumably he drew this term from Stephen. In any event, channelling Addison’s “Coffee-House Politicians” (1712 [1880]), but without citing the precise essay, Stephen contended that the “town” was constituted by numerous “nations” that inhabited the different coffeehouses.69 The members or “wits” of these “nations” acted as “critical tribunals” prior to the dominance of literary journals (1904:43, 53). The “tacit confederation” of the coffeehouses allowed these “town” citizens to compare notes in a way that formed the “whole public opinion of the day” (1904:54). This social-cum-literary development, which was suitable for the prevailing stage to which society had evolved, was instrumental in checking “arbitrary power and bigotry” (1904:45).

I contend that this is merely Habermas on a smaller scale and without the heavy Teutonic hand. Only Stephen could, for instance, finesse his coffeehouse narrative by concluding a tale about a famous coffeehouse duel over which word to place a classical Greek accent, with the comment: “let us hope, it was the worst scholar who was killed” (1904:37). It should also be emphasised that Stephen, like Habermas, argued that the dominance of the “Coffee-House Politicians” ended before the middle of the eighteenth century when a more dispersed public was connected by a print interchange overseen by the fourth estate and a critical literary tradition. Specifically, he contended that English society evolved in a way that induced the authors and men of letters to serve, first, the needs of the town and country rather than just the “town” and, eventually, the tastes of an increasingly literate citizenry located in a range of different centres. The critical journals of review that emerged in response to this new social environment signalled the “beginning of a new tribunal or literary Star Chamber” (and, though this is a reference to the magazines of the 1750s, one sees here Stephen channelling his experience with The Saturday Review). This meant that the “author” no longer had to “inquire what is said of his performance in the coffee houses, where the Wits gathered under the presidency of Addision or Swift”, and hence the narratives had ceased to be a mere echo of “coffee-house talk” (Stephen 1904:148-9, 157). “Public opinion” then acquired even more power when Parliament was thrown open to the reporter, since this forced Parliamentarians to address their speeches to the constituencies and to make legislation more “amenable to the opinions of the constituencies” (Stephen 1904:195). The journalist, orator and man with literary talent became more highly prized as a consequence.

The similarities between this Habermasian (-cum-Stephen) representation of the post-Restoration coffeehouses and mid-Victorian clubland has already been alluded to by recent cultural historians of a feminist literary-critical hue, but, understandably, without reference to the invariably under-cited Stephen (Milne-Smith 2011:19; Black 2012:24, ch.3). These writers focus on the way that the homosocial spaces of clubland (an admittedly highly restricted public sphere) shaped broader Victorian cultural characteristics and certain tropes in Victorian and Edwardian literature. Black (2012:130), in particular, represents clubland as a public space in which men of letters assembled and different groups of clubland journalists congregated with “clubbable like mindedness” to generate “clubland papers”. She does not make reference to the remarkable phenomenon that was Higher Journalism, but does dwell on how “literary-journalistic Bohemia”, particularly the journalists attached to the PMG and Punch, “often asserted its social authority and political currency by being intimate with clubland” (2012:113). In other words, the journalists both wrote primarily for the members of clubland and drew their ideas from the clubland conversations in the fashion of the Habermasian ‘model’ British case. Such cultural historians obviously do not consider how clubland shaped the specific intellectual products in the political economy domain and they invariably restrict their focus to the highly capitalised clubs that survived the incubation period rather than those (like the Radical and the Century) that came and went. They provide invaluable insights for all this and will be cited at strategic points hereafter. There is, after all, overwhelming evidence that the Higher Journalists not only formed their opinions by having conversations in clubs, but also exploited such venues as sources of intelligence, to test their latest speculations and as actual workstations. Thackeray (1863:637) caught this particularly well in one of his “Roundabout Papers” for The Cornhill entitled “Strange to Say, on Club Paper”, in which he depicted the London clubs as “these Pall Mall agorae” where men gathered daily to discuss the “affairs of the state or of private individuals, the quarrels of empires or of authors, the movements of the court, or the splendid vagaries of fashion”. He added, in a larger narrative arc which need not concern us, that paper with the club imprimatur (and now ubiquitously littered in the archives for modern historians to view) could only be used on club premises. Indeed, the implication was that a clubman had possibly pilfered the paper if he signed off by citing another location. Most importantly, Thackeray (1863:638) has one clubman state that he had seen “literary fellows at Clubs writing their rubbishing articles”. 

Stephen (1903 [1924]:112-4) himself explicitly compared the Higher Journalists of his day with the coffeehouse writers of Addison’s era (and the Edinburgh reviewers of Jeffrey’s era), contending that they were the authentic incarnation of public opinion once they served the new middle class from the 1850s onwards. He added:

One symptom of the change was the success of the Saturday Review, started in 1855. Like the Edinburgh Review, indeed like Addison’s Spectator, it meant that as the reading class multiplied, there was a growing movement of literary talent towards the periodical press. In each case the cultivated critics found that there was a new audience prepared to accept their authority. The Saturday Reviewers, like Jeffrey and his friends, laid on the lash with a will (Stephen 1903 [1924]:113).

I do not, for all this, slavishly subscribe to the ‘model case’ of the early stage of the Habermasian trajectory in this essay on the reasonable grounds that it ceased to dominate the British intellectual scene some one hundred years prior to the mid-Victorian period. More specifically, the chief hypothesis of this essay is not that critical commentaries echoed the talk of mid-Victorian clubland in the same way that print commentaries echoed the chattering and babbling of the Queen Anne coffeehouses. This is partly because the production of knowledge is more complex than the over-exploited, but nonetheless valuable, “Model British Case of Development”, and more importantly because it is more plausible to situate mid-Victorian clubland in the latter stage of the evolution of the Habermas-cum-Stephen trajectory in which a print interchange connects the oral rational-critical discussions that take place over a multitude of dispersed public spaces. After all, few would dispute that, by the mid-Victorian era, London clubland was just one set of overlapping fraternal spaces (albeit an extremely important one) that collectively generated a public sphere via a print interchange overseen by men of letters, publishers and high-end journalists. It was certainly not equivalent to Stephen’s “town” of the early eighteenth century. The Radical end of clubland (with its aspiring Tobacco-house Parliamentarians, Oxbridge graduates and Higher Journalists) also provided a discursive space that was even more comparable to the Habermasian-idealised coffee house milieu (with its Coffeehouse Politicians, Wits and Grub Street journalists), but it too did not monopolise the formation of opinion in political economy or any other intellectual domain. The men of the Century, the Radical and other allied assemblies made extremely important contributions to the public of private individuals via the PMG, the Reviler, The Times, the monthlies, the established quarterlies and the Macmillan tome (and like presses). They did this, however, at the same time that individuals made contributions from a range of other settings, including the Oxbridge common rooms, the countless fraternal spaces in provincial centres and, as shown in the previous part to this essay, the many London social dining circuits (and let us not forget the critical discussion that takes place, in the privacy of one’s study, with the impartial spectator in the agora that is one’s head).

The conceit of this narrative, then, is that the Stephen-inspired Habermasian framework may be employed to flesh out Stephen’s own commentaries on the more talkative end of London clubland and its allied domains in the age of Higher Journalism. The contention, which is deliberately modest, is that the Radical clubmen made a net contribution to the formation of a broader opinion via the print interchange and were not simply manipulated by it. Some, but definitely not all, of the ideas that were tentatively born and borne by word of mouth in these intimate fraternal settings shaped what was printed for posterity. The authors of the printed words were then cross-examined at subsequent club gatherings in a way that would propel or retard the progress of these ideas. And, most importantly, some of these authors began to treat their fellow club members as the primary audience for their half-independently formed ideas; that is, an author would imagine in his mind’s eye how a particular clubman figure would, with relish, enjoy or recoil from an epigrammatic line or weighty political nostrum, and shape it accordingly. Other audiences would, of course, not be neglected by clubmen writers and, in turn, clubmen would act as an audience, via the print interchange, for those writing at a distance from clubland. The published monographs and reviews issued by the likes of Cairnes, Fawcett, Stephen, Courtney and countless other Radical writers should be read within this framework. To some extent the possibility of a close nexus between political economy and the social world of clubland (and the associated private receptions), which for some reason has been missed in the secondary literature, naturally emerges in the first half of this essay in the process of presenting the protocol statements drawn from the archives and contemporary publications. Stephen was seen writing a Reviler column under the cover of a dinner plate at one club dinner; his columns are littered with inside information gathered by socialising in clubland and talking to fellow Radicals on the make in politics; he was dining with Cairnes over the same period he wrote a critique of Ruskin’s political economy that partly reflected Cairnes’s views; and so on. To make the link between the social and written domains stronger, however, some of the singular features of clubland and its allied precincts are explored more thoroughly. The first, and perhaps most defining feature, is clubbability.

5.3 Clubbablility and the Affable Circle of Like Minds

Samuel Johnson coined the term “clubbable” in 1783 when he used this appellation to describe the affable nature of his friend James Boswell.70 The qualities that were required to be socially acceptable and desirable company in all-male assemblies, and thereby clubbable, altered as the nineteenth century progressed. The drunken and dissolute Hogarthian gambler who preached two-bottle orthodoxy at three in the morning with a small and obnoxious coterie in one of the hellfire clubs of the Georgian period has no doubt been overdrawn by moralistic narrators. The historical record nonetheless bares out the often-repeated claim in the secondary literature that the typical clubman had become more moderate, sober, considerate and polished by the mid-Victorian period (Milne-Smith 2011, Black 2012, and Capdeville 2015). Black (2012:12) neatly captures the singular masculine civility of this specific time and place by drawing on the image of “The Man in the Club Window” that figures in The Habits of Good Society (Anonymous 1859). The latter is a handbook of etiquette in which the voice of the apocryphal clubman, who observes society in a calm manner from his choice position in the club window, is employed as a device to delineate appropriate behaviour in English mid-Victorian society. The cultural importance of this temperate clubman demeanour is similarly caught by Thackeray (1863:632) in the aforementioned “Strange to Say, on Club Paper” when a hectoring street-preacher points an accusing finger at some elderly clubmen who are possibly transgressing the Sabbath by sitting quietly, if not serenely, in the club window. One may conclude from such narratives that the voice of the ideal clubman, or “The Man in the Club Window”, exuded a composed masculine civility in a mid-Victorian timbre.

The more precise qualities required to make a man clubbable in the mid-Victorian era are more difficult to pin down. The anonymous author of “Clubbable Men” in an 1897 issue of The Spectator claimed that when Dr Johnson invented the word ‘clubbable’ he “had no idea how large a class of qualities he was trying to define” and, further, that the word has “certainly had very different meanings when pronounced by different lips” (1897:12). Good breeding certainly did not guarantee acceptability. As “The Man in the Club Window” related, “a number of men have crept into it [his club] who ought not to be there” even though they come from good families (1859:14).71 Nor was subscription to social norms always necessary, since paradoxically the Englishman’s love of eccentricity and individuality meant that clubmen invariably admired those rare few who could break from the centricity and the collective with style and without causing offence (Capdeville 2015). Such club eccentricity almost became a trope in Victorian literature, as seen in comic novels such as Israel Zangwill’s The Bachelors’ Club (1891)—in which members must remain bachelors and never fall in love—and in the form of anecdotal relief in the many dull Victorian memoirs. Desirable qualities also manifestly differed from club to club, with athletic prowess prized at the Alpine Club and intellectual precision appreciated at the Century Club. This meant that what was acceptable at one venue could very well be considered a transgression warranting expulsion at another. Indeed, given that nearly every distinct social preference was served by a different club by the 1860s, and given individuality was tolerated to a point, it was not that implausible (but still amusing enough) for Conan Doyle to make Sherlock Holmes’s unsociable brother, Mycroft, a member of the fictional Diogenes Club, which was a club for the unclubbable.72 The required clubbable qualities mutated still further with the nature of the person under scrutiny at any given club. As the contributor to The Spectator (1897:12) stated, clubbability is enhanced if there is a “slight flavour of naughtiness in the effect of any verbal encounter, such as must be felt when a great man is treated with a little pardonable insouciance”, or when a great personage, such as a bishop or a judge, “condescends to use the foils with an amount of freedom that would not be permitted to any one of lower standing”. What, in short, is welcomed from one man with enthusiasm is rejected from another with a “sigh in vain” (1897:12).

It seems, then, that the quest to define clubbablity is not only reduced to the exercise of constructing lists, but also lists that shift with context. In addition to the obvious qualities, such as sociability, ease of manner and conversational abilities, clubbability often turned on the mere swing of one’s gait or the unfathomable ability to sit alone on occasion without causing umbrage. To some extent—and my prejudice against French philosophising causes me pain to admit this—it is perhaps easier to define clubbability by what it is not, namely unclubbability, within a Derridean binary opposition. Some obvious dispositions were frowned upon, such as those displayed by the obsequious fawners who craved social acceptance, or the climbers who overtly exploited club settings for personal advancement, or, to draw from Dr Johnson’s dictionary, the tedious and “low wit who endeavours at reputation by double meaning”. Trollope (1874 [1876]:254) caught the last type in Phineas Redux when he wrote how even at the exclusive Universe (i.e. the Cosmopolitan), “occasionally there would arise the great and terrible evil of a punster whom everyone hated but no one had life enough to put down”. The Victorian commentators certainly devoted just as much time to delineating unclubbable as clubbable qualities. But this tactic of considering ‘Not-A’ often faces the same problem as considering ‘A’, since many fine qualities were considered unclubbable in certain contexts. To quote once again from The Spectator, plenty of men are strangely “rendered unclubbable by their highest qualities, and not by their lowest” (1897:12). I suppose—and again this is grudgingly admitted—this is what the post-structural literary theorists mean when they refer (sic) to the constant deferment of meaning due to the absence of an external referent that confers meaning. Perhaps a better way of conveying this is that the exercise of defining clubbability is a complex assignment. In fact, it is so vexingly complex that I propose to side-step it almost completely by deploying a version of the economic theory of revealed preference; that is, what a particular mid-Victorian man deems clubbable or unclubbable in another particular man is what he directly or indirectly identifies as such.

The need to be a clubbable man also gave rise to the manipulation of the club setting to give the impression of being clubbable. Habermas’s notion of the public sphere is, quite correctly, the most commonly wheeled out conceptual framework in the clubland-cum-association literature, but no one to my knowledge has applied Erving Goffman’s concept of “impression management” in this domain. Goffman, who is arguably Habermas’s equal as a sociologist, contended in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1956) and other publications that individuals subscribe to cultural norms to gain acceptance in social settings and, in so doing, construct different selves for different audiences at different times. The metaphor of a stage play is paramount in comprehending this conceptual framework. Agents execute a theatrical performance in front of an audience that is dissected in what Goffman called “dramaturgical analysis”. Those characteristics that gain acceptance are accentuated (on the stage proper) and those that are socially questionable are suppressed (back stage). This framework is perhaps most amenable to historians of economic thought who have undertaken orthodox economic training, as it entails managing the perceptions of viewers by signalling in the face of asymmetric information and undertaking game theoretic-interactions with others in a social setting. The members of the audience are, for instance, presented as effective actors and, in a loop within a structure-agent-structure sequence, any given actor may undertake a risky action to prompt a change in the perceived norms of the stage structure that they need to navigate for social success. Goffman’s wider oeuvre, which considers how actors avoid social “stigma” by concealing those dispositions that transgress social norms, is also relevant to any comprehension of club life. Needless to add, poets, such as T. S. Eliot (in Prufrock), have long conveyed the idea that one needs to “prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet”. 73

The implication of this conceptual framework is that the clubbable nature presented to the outside world may be a learnt disposition that is deployed within a Goffman theatre rather than something that is innate. Awkward Victorian youths were carefully bred (in the public schools and universities) either to acquire certain habits that became effectively innate or to give the false impression that the habits they outwardly presented were innate. This could be a dangerous game to play, since the mid-Victorian mind respected authenticity to such an extent that social ostracism could result if a clubman were caught acting inauthentically. The truly unclubbable Victorian man, from this perspective, was the ill-trained or naturally bad actor who missed his queues, emphasised the wrong syllables and forgot his lines. Indeed, the importance of an authentic club voice at this time was magnified by the more fluid social protocols in English club settings compared to the more codified etiquette (and hence more easily imitated behaviours) that prevailed when the court dominated the English public sphere and which still figured in the public domains, such as the Parisian salons, on the Continent. Thus, although the culture of the rake was slowly weeded out of the London clubs in the Georgian era due, in part, to the importation of French etiquette, the mid-Victorian clubmen did not accept the associated false note, formal tone and rule-bound procedures that defined the French salon (Capdeville 2015). Goffman-style impression management was therefore successfully at play, but authenticity was at the same time so highly prized that those who were not properly trained in the English clubbable ways found English society difficult. Mill (1873), for one, was famously not properly socialised in this way. He justified his decade-long withdrawal from society after marrying Mrs Taylor in 1851 on the grounds that men of mental superiority deteriorate in English society. He contended that the tone of conversation is lowered to suit a base standard, that Englishmen think serious discussion ill-bred, that agreement is required to preserve friendships and that, unlike the French, the English are unable to talk agreeably about trifles (1873:227-8). Stephen (1900, iii:45) believed that Mill’s voluntary withdrawal from society could be a “topic for an essay” and censured his justification for this seclusion, arguing, in particular, that socialising prevented an individual from becoming the intellectual equivalent of a “religious Puritan”.74

It is, of course, important to emphasise that clubbability—false or true and in all of its strange manifestations—was not as important for the advancement of mid-Victorian scientific ideas as it was for the advancement of a mid-Victorian’s social standing. Political economists who wished to traffic their latest manuscripts to the very fullest degree nonetheless had to perform well in the fraternal exchanges that took place in club settings. The truly unclubbable were, at the first hurdle, disadvantaged if blackballed (formally or informally) because to ensure that a book was reviewed, or even to gain an offer of a publishing contract, sometimes turned on making random contacts with Higher Journalists, senior men of letters and publishers. Those who had sufficient social acceptability to be admitted to fraternal associations were, at the second hurdle, disadvantaged if they had insufficient social desirability to be sought after company in such associations. They had to gain access to the inner circles of highly clubbable men of a certain demeanour who identified with each other and effectively formed clubs within clubs. Club rituals are, after all, institutional mechanisms by which to include some and exclude others, and there is no reason why such boundary-drawing, which is vital in the construction of social and intellectual networks, should stop at the club door. Those who did successfully drift into one of these ‘circles within a circle’ were, at the third and final hurdle, disadvantaged if they failed to impress others with their clubbability at the point of contact. The need for humour (sardonic or otherwise) or affability or a singular presence or some other clubbable quality influenced, at least at the margin, the way in which Stephen and the members of the circles to which he belonged read and reviewed published work. This may be illustrated by considering one or two case studies of clubbable and unclubbable men of the time.

One of the most clubbable of men was Fawcett, Stephen’s lifelong friend from Trinity Hall. Fawcett had sufficient infectious goodwill that his friends tolerated his loud, doctrinaire monologues. Stephen had begun to lose patience with such talk by the early 1870s as he drifted from the naïve negative liberalism of his early Radical days. Attention has already been drawn to the way in which he shouted down the table at an Ad Eundem club dinner to let Fawcett know that he was a damn fool for talking on Radical matters in an “affected and unreal manner”. Reference has also been made to the way Stephen thought that even Ruskin’s economic moonshine seemed reasonable when he was forced to listen to Fawcett pronounce at length on Mill’s liberty, in the crudest manner, at one of Cairnes’s Blackheath meetings. The relationship was also strained after Fawcett’s marriage to Millicent Fawcett in 1867, since she shared her husband’s belief in dry theories, but with “an additional touch of acrid fanaticism” and without his genial character (Stephen to A. V. Dicey 18 Jan. 1902, in Fenwick 1993:103). Yet, even though Stephen eventually concluded that his close, if not famous, friendship with Fawcett was largely due to the mere accident of them both attending Trinity Hall (Stephen 1977:87), he still celebrated Fawcett as the most “clubbable of mankind” in perhaps the greatest biography written of an economist, Life of Henry Fawcett (1885:286). Most contemporaries accepted this reading of Fawcett’s affable nature almost as a truth universally acknowledged. J. H. Balfour Browne, for one, stated that although Fawcett was a man of “stirt and strife” in the mean world of politics, he never made an enemy and had a “peculiarly open, hearty nature, which invited to love and friendship” (1886 [1907]:294). Fawcett’s wife, admittedly, was more alive to the way in which Stephen had quietly weaved into the biography some criticisms of Fawcett’s doctrinaire nature, taking umbrage, in particular, at his claim that “some of the younger men” did not approve of Fawcett’s inflexible commitment to old economic doctrines (1885:125).75 The more perceptive Radicals, such as G. C. Brodrick (1900:264), also slyly noted that Fawcett’s blindness was not an unmixed disadvantage, if not a good career move, since it focused attention on his noble efforts to overcome an infirmity and, reading between the lines, induced contemporaries to excuse his lack of finesse and insight (see also Harvie 1989:180). The fact remains, however, that all and sundry put up with Fawcett’s noisy ways, blinkered vision and “Mill and water” talk because of his convivial goodwill. Even his political opponents admired and loved him.

This clubbable nature was writ equally large in Thornton, of whom Stephen was also very fond, but nevertheless (and again as briefly mentioned earlier in this essay) described as the “God forgotten Thornton” when he moaned on about supply and demand at the Political Economy dinner in December of 1866. Stephen was even more harsh when, in response to Thornton falsely charging him with writing an unfair review of one of his books, he confidentially related to Norton that his “unfairness in regard to him is that I have never told the public what a fool he is, but I shan’t tell him so” (to Norton 15 May 1874, in Bicknell 1996, i:136). Stephen subsequently questioned the intellect of this man of “singular amiability” in a series of back-handed compliments within his Life of Henry Fawcett. Thornton, he submitted, was “of calm, slow working intellect, who would go on cross-examining any acquaintance who had thrown out a remark not perfectly intelligible with an amusing persistency”; he “had a mild obstinacy which secured him from the risk of conversion”; he was “quite ignorant” of agriculture, but wrote a valuable book on peasant proprietorship through painstaking research; and his “patient brooding over problems for which he had little apparent qualifications led him to some useful results, and he had the credit of converting Mill in regard to the wage-fund doctrine” (1885:197-8). Stephen, in other words, saw Thornton, like Fawcett, as an amiable scholar of the second rank who made contributions of value by dogged persistence. He nonetheless liked the man and was therefore happy to review Thornton’s musings on supply and demand for the Reviler in a critical, but complementary, manner (Stephen 1866).76 Stephen also provided a touching sketch of Thornton’s affable character in The English Utilitarians, justifying this detour from his analytical subject matter on the grounds that “little has been told of Thornton’s private life”:

Thornton’s extreme amiability, his placid and candid, if slightly long-winded, discussions of his favourite topics, won the affection of his young hearers, and has left a charming impression upon the survivors (Stephen 1900, iii:187).

Cairnes similarly appreciated Thornton’s clubbable nature, referring to Thornton’s “very pleasing manners” after encountering him at a meeting of the PEC (to his wife 2 July 1864, in Foley and Boylan 2000:217). He later badgered Courtney to write a review of Thornton’s On Labour for The Times on the grounds that the book, though flawed, had real merit and because he had a “great liking for the man”. Cairnes added that a recent “notice in the Pall Mall (I suppose by Leslie Stephen)” was “somewhat depreciating”, but “characterizes the book in the main pretty justly” (23 Mar., 1 Sept. 1869, v1,54f,57f, Courtney Papers).77

Cairnes’s effusive appreciation of Thornton contrasts with his detestation of his contemporary from Trinity College Dublin, Cliffe Leslie, who was inopportunely seated on the same table as Cairnes in various London settings, such as a PEC dinner and one of Mill’s Blackheath meetings. Cairnes’s denigration of Cliffe Leslie’s less clubbable character must be placed in the context of a larger extended feud between the two that turned, in part, on conceptual differences and Cairnes’s belief that Cliffe Leslie was an incompetent economist who wrote articles that were as “trite as the pavement” (to Nesbitt 8 Aug. 1862, in Foley and Boylan 2000:209). The fact remains, however, that Cairnes repeatedly dwelt on Cliffe Leslie’s breeches of fraternal etiquette, such as his surreptitiously begging for compliments, requesting Cairnes to gather facts for his articles as if he were a junior assistant, and asking Cairnes to read his narratives even after accusing Cairnes of underhand dealings. Cairnes concluded that he “is positively the most unaccountable fellow I have ever had any dealings with” (to Nesbitt, 15 Feb. 1862, in Foley and Boylan 2000:210). He also related how Cliffe Leslie had the indecency to force the conversation at one of Mill’s dinners into “channels of his own recent studies” for no reason other than “self-exhibition” (to Nesbit 6 July 1863, in Foley and Boylen 2000:216). It is therefore unsurprising that he conveyed to Courtney: “I dare say you have gathered that I have no particular admiration or liking for him” (4 Aug. 1867, in Koot 1975:324). Mill admittedly appreciated and mentored Cliffe Leslie, but the general opinion seems to be that he was both gauche and paranoid when it came to promoting his economic reputation. J. N. Keynes, for instance, sympathised a good deal with what Cliffe Leslie wrote, but deemed that some of his claims against orthodox economists were “unfair” to the point of being “impertinent” and, further, reported that Fawcett told him that Cliffe Leslie’s “sensitiveness” amounted “almost to monomania” (5 June and 10 Aug. 1879, J. N. Keynes Diaries Add 7831). Unfortunately, there are no extant records of Stephen’s commenting on Cliffe Leslie’s unclubbable behaviour, but with the parade of critical comments from his clubland associates already cited, they are not needed. There is, however, a record of Cliffe Leslie complaining to Mill (and indeed he seemed to complain to everyone about everyone) about the “insolent” and “domineering” behaviour of Stephen’s brother, who, amongst other things, boasted that he fell asleep at PEC meetings (8 May 1869, in Mill 1972b, XVII:1600; O’Grady 1987). It seems that Cliffe Leslie remained an unclubbable outsider due to an unfortunate, but common enough, character flaw: an excessive desire to be liked and respected.78

The clubman’s ability to penetrate social boundaries through affable collisions with members of a tight inner circle had consequences beyond simply inducing them to review (or actively not review) his latest product. A speaker could impress (or unimpress) his listeners sufficiently to induce them to remember his mien and tone of speech when they read his written narratives. Listening to an author’s club voice between the written lines and recalling his physical deportment in the clubs could thereby enrich a humble manuscript or humble a rich manuscript. Conversations, in other words, not only contributed directly to the production of written manuscripts in the fashion delineated in the Habermas-cum-Stephen model of fraternal spaces, but also contributed to the way that these manuscripts were consumed. From this perspective, the Radical who is striving to traffic an idea to the fullest degree needs to exhibit those clubbable qualities associated with conveying an argument in a rhetorically effective manner with charm and physical presence. Such gifted communicators signal their powerful intellect, integrity, subtle mind and surreptitious humour in a way that lingers in the ear when the listener turns to the associated published words in the quiet of his study. The implication is that Deirdre McCloskey’s (1983) rhetoric of economics happens at two levels—the written word and the remembered spoken word—simultaneously. Indeed, the intense fraternal nature of mid-Victorian London explains why the written and spoken spheres were so often linked when contemporary critics described someone’s worth. A common compliment (sometimes mixed, especially in Mill’s case) was that someone ‘talked like a book’ or ‘wrote as easily as one talked’. Stephen’s narratives are littered with such commentary: Mill “could talk like a book, and, what is far rarer, like a very excellent book” (1873a:383, 1900, iii: 64); articles came from Stephen’s brother “as easily as ordinary talk” (1895:215); and even Stephen’s father’s “ordinary conversation” was as “polished and grammatically perfect as his finished writing” (1895:53). The voice and the printed word were thus woven into one in these intimate fraternal spaces of club elites: one thought of the printed word when conversing and heard the voices when reading the printed word.

Stephen’s pioneering work in literary criticism also led him to conclude that literary appreciation is heightened when the reader becomes sufficiently acquainted with an author that a stray phrase from his or her writings rings in the reader’s ear “with the accent of an old acquaintance” (1887 [1956]:18). This approach to literary criticism was driven both by Stephen’s historiographical framework in which literary products are partly shaped by the stage of social evolution in which the authors live and by his contention that biographical endeavours (including his own herculean efforts in this field) are important intellectual pursuits. The argument in all its brutal simplicity is that the reader needs to understand the historical context of an author’s life to fully understand what he or she was trying to achieve within a narrative, and that this is accomplished once the reader begins to hear the author’s voice ‘between the lines’ as if it were the voice of an old friend. Stephen’s invariable light-hearted rider to this particular contention is that it is often preferable to hear the voices of the dead rather than the living, since we “can meet Dr Johnson with the least fear that he will be personally rude, and stop Macaulay’s excessive flow of information by simply shutting his pages” (1887 [1956]:17). The implication that I draw from this line of thinking is that a reader gains knowledge of a contemporary author’s intentions through conversation in the same way that he or she gains knowledge of a dead author’s intentions by reconstructing historical context.79 Not surprisingly, Stephen’s friends heard his singular voice when reading his work, such as when Lowell related to Stephen his thoughts on Hours in a Library: “I could not help being constantly reminded of you as I read” (15 May 1876, in Fenwick 1993:47). The words on the page, in other words, conveyed a certain tone, intent and meaning to those readers who knew the author.

These insights would be trite if they were not invariably overlooked in modern accounts of Victorian political economy. Teasing out their implications is, moreover, rendered more complex once it is recognised that the clubbable qualities that make these conversations memorable come in many strange forms. In other words, the specific speech and body mannerisms that cause a clubman to be remembered as rhetorically effective are (like all clubbable qualities) difficult to determine. Stephen, for one, was hamstrung by an innate shyness and a tendency to fall into long silences, and hence he could not be described as socially adept in the conventional manner. He nonetheless possessed a powerful intellect, commanding presence and dark humour to such an extent that his verbal delivery invariably impressed all present when he finally brought himself to speak. Reinforcing what Stephen himself wrote about his father and brother, Leonard Woolf (1960:183-4), the husband of Virginia Stephen, described this mode of talk as Stephenesque, stating:

All male Stephens—and many of the females—whom I have known have had one marked characteristic which I always think Stephenesque…. It consisted in a way of thinking and even more in a way of expressing their thoughts which one associates with Dr Johnson. There was something monolithic about their opinions, and something marmoreal or lapidary about their way of expressing those opinions, reminding one of the Ten Commandments engraved upon the tables of stone, even when they were only telling you that it would rain tomorrow. And what was even more characteristic and Stephenesque was that usually over this monolithic thought and these monolithic pronouncements there played—if one dare use the word of these rather elephantine activities—a peculiar monolithic humour.

This singular combination of deliberative delivery and sardonic humour, which was inherited by his children and has also been dwelt upon by Hyman (1983:204), made Stephen more than acceptable in clubland, even if his own mistaken assessment was that he was not clubbable (Maitland 1906:308). I grant that those who became acquainted with Stephen after the death of his first wife had good cause to doubt that such a reclusive curmudgeon was ever sociable, but no one should doubt that he exhibited a healthy amount of what Maitland (1906:100) called “Alpine–Clubbability” in the 1860s. Indeed, Stephen’s masculine demeanour was well received at the Alpine Club and most other venues, and hence it is appropriate now to segue to this particularly important clubbable quality.

5.4 Masculinity

Clubs were homosocial spaces in which one of the most valued clubbable qualities was a type of masculinity singular to the Mid-Victorian era. Stephen (1904:44) himself commented on this English fraternal trait in English Literature and Society in the Eighteenth Century, where he stated that the London coffeehouses from which clubland emerged differed from Parisian salons of the same period due to a “marked absence of feminine elements” in the former.80 They were designed for a society of bachelors: “The Englishmen, gentle or simple, enjoyed himself over a pipe and his bottle and dismissed his womenkind (sic) to bed” (1904:44). Writing these lines as a septuagenarian, rather than as a manly youth, Stephen contended that this was a negative rather than positive cultural attribute. It meant, amongst other things, that the fraternal tone was characterised by “coarseness and occasional brutality” and, unlike Richard Steele’s quest for a liberal education in the company of Lady Elizabeth Hastings, members were bereft of the civilizing influence of women (1904:44).81 The complex ways in which a more acceptable masculinity emerged in Victorian fraternal settings has since been fleshed out by the aforementioned feminist historians who traced the rise of the more civilized clubman in the clubland window (but without reference to Stephen) (Capdeville 2015, Black 2012:15-17). They contend that mid-Victorian masculinity was shaped, ritualised and codified in clubland in a way that, paradoxically, reflected both a virilisation and feminisation of this public space. This strange braiding of two sets of qualities to produce a singular mid-Victorian masculine clubman entailed adjusting the imported politeness, polish and moderation from the French salon to suit an all-male conversational environment that was more fluid, less designed to please and not bound by so many formal rules. The closely associated, and already commented upon, toleration of deviance and eccentricity amongst clubmen did not, however, mean that effeminacy was a clubbable trait. The English clubman remained a masculine gentlemen and, in the same way that “effeminate fops” and impudent “beau Jews” in the eighteenth-century coffee milieu were disparaged (Cowan 2001:138), the mid-Victorian male with one of any number of possible feminine qualities was, ceteris paribus, disadvantaged in London clubland generally and Stephen’s circle particularly.

The precise ‘civilised’ masculine temperament that was deemed clubbable is, like all clubbable qualities, difficult to pin down. It was a manifold product of an ego that is in need of suppression, a manly bearing and a voice with a suitable timbre, a penchant for camaraderie and a stoic outlook, a realisation through introspection and experience that the human animal has a passionate (and sometimes base) nature, an aversion to priggishness and sentimentalism, a display of energy and independence, and a ruthless quest to follow an issue through to its logical conclusion even if it affronts society. The celebration of such a nature was magnified to a near ludicrous degree by Stephen’s Trinity Hall set and many of the other Oxbridge reformers who came of age in the 1850s and 1860s. It was then widely believed that these manly traits (or at least those traits appropriated as manly) were required to navigate the highly competitive years of incessant study to gain a top-twenty place in the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos and, further, that the Tripos itself bred a disposition that valued ‘masculine’ logic and mistrusted ‘feminine’ emotion. As Stephen (1903 [1924]:75) commented on his younger self:

The study of mathematical sciences predisposes, no doubt, to a sympathy with good hard reasoning, and our favourite antipathy was the ‘impostor’—that is, the man given, in another favourite phrase of ours, to ‘gushing’ and to allowing his feelings to override his common sense.

Stephen’s Trinity Hall set, for this reason, admired the muscular logic of Mill’s writings and ridiculed the feminine sentimentalism of Ruskin’s narratives (Moore 2006). They also took to the newfangled undergraduate sporting activities, such as rowing and walking, which were developed at this time, in part, to breed both the stamina to prepare for the Tripos exams (as well as the abnormally lengthy exams themselves) and the character to manfully face the prospect of being plucked when the results were posted in public.82 It was in this context that Stephen gained minor fame as a muscular don who excelled as a rowing coach and, as already mentioned, one of the greatest mountaineers of his generation. As one of the earliest and most important members of the hyper-masculine Alpine Club, he was effectively fêted as a national hero and a mid-Victorian man’s man. Trollope conveyed his type (if not Stephen himself) in “The Alpine Club Man” (1866:93) by portraying the Alpinist who had faced death as someone who “does not carry himself quite as another man, and has his nose a little in the air, even when he is not climbing”. Stephen himself tellingly portrayed the mountain peaks as male spheres and the valleys as domains reserved for tourists and women. In The Playground of Europe (1871b), for example, he argued that adventurous women could, at most, reach the middle ground rather than the peaks themselves: “Travellers, like plants, may be divided according to the zones which they reach” (Colley [2010] 2016:111).83 It is safe to conclude, then, that Stephen and the other Oxbridge men streaming into London in the 1860s injected an additional dose of muscular temperament into an already masculine clubland world.

The way in which this singular concept of manliness influenced the intellectual milieu of mid-Victorian London has already been outlined in a singular fashion in Collini’s Public Moralists (1991:ch5) and elsewhere.84 The more modest task I therefore set myself here is to draw on Stephen’s perambulatory observations of clubland and its allied precincts to develop some alternative explanations for how this Trinity Hall manliness indirectly shaped some of the written narratives of the time. The influx of manly fellows into the Radical end of clubland certainly meant that these venues were characterised by an extreme aversion to gushing, sentimentalism and the other qualities then regarded as unmanly. It should also be emphasised, however, that although the reformers of the Century and Radical clubs possessed cold logic in spades, many of them also believed in the perfectibility of an abstract man who resembled one or two of their over-serious members, and hence the Radicals were themselves, paradoxically, sometimes mocked as unmanly prigs by their detractors. This dual characterisation of the Radical clubman’s nature is reflected in the passages from Oliphant’s Piccadilly and Hay’s Club Life that were quoted liberally in the early parts of this essay. This more complex reading of a Radical’s nature as both manly and unmanly also increasingly figured in Stephen’s own descriptions of his club associates, which will be considered shortly. On balance, however, the overwhelming temper exhibited in these fraternal settings was masculine, if not hyper-masculine in the Trinity Hall tradition. A parade of extracts from Stephen’s writings have already been presented in this essay to support this contention. It is reflected in the way heated spats between men with inflated egos, such as the aberrantly bombastic Fawcett and the abnormally virile Dilke, spiralled out of the club halls into the written missives. It is similarly revealed in the mixed response to the less masculine natures of one or two of the great public intellectuals of the day, most notably Mill and Ruskin. Stephen, it may be recalled, lowered his opinion of Mill, his undergraduate hero, when he first observed the latter’s less than manly manner of delivery in public forums. Mill in the flesh was simply not the deity that Stephen had presumed him to be after reading the trinity of Principles, Logic and Liberty. He even compared him to a blushing girl, writing that nothing could be:

more contrary to my preconceived notions than the slight fragile man, trembling with ill suppressed nervousness and, at times, blushing like a girl for some inappreciable cause (1873g:383; 1900, iii:64).

Although Stephen put this uncomfortable surprise behind him once Mill put his relentless logical processes to work, he repeatedly commented upon Mill’s less than masculine delivery in a way that suggests it displeased him (1903 [1924]:72). The reader may also recall that Stephen more than once dwelt on the emotional zeal with which Mill defended a prig at Blackheath from a criticism levelled by one of Stephen’s party and on the way Mill’s sentimental nature induced him to unnecessarily eulogise his friends. 85

Stephen’s distaste for the effeminate displays by Mill and others moderated as he matured. He increasingly wanted to see the world with all of its rough edges, contradictions, historical dynamics and uncontrollable underlying forces, rather than simply via syllogisms based on an abstract economic man. He also became aware of different world views through his contact with leading literary figures at The Cornhill and through his work in both English intellectual history and literary criticism. These endeavours pressed home to Stephen that the hyper-logical, and therefore masculine, world of the Radicals rendered them rigid and tunnel visioned. They similarly induced him to contend that the ‘masculine’ mathematical training for the Cambridge Tripos exams led to a certain narrowness in the intellectual constitutions of some of the favourite sons of Cambridge, such as Paley, Fawcett and his own former self.86 Stephen (1885:104) even implied that Mill’s softer side had a beneficial effect on the doctrinaire Fawcett, who, he claimed “soon perceived the peculiar charm of a feminine tenderness underlying a character which superficial readers of [Mill’s] books had taken to be stern and chilling”. He also sympathetically interpreted Mill’s emotional nature as a reaction to a logical straightjacket constructed by his father, since, like Bunyan, “he had been locked up by Giant Despair, and had escaped from the dungeons, though by a different method”. After all, and perhaps also speaking for himself, he stated that to “feel that all that is left for one is to be a machine grinding out theorems in political economy is certainly not an exhilarating state of things” (1881a [1991]:243-4). Stephen nonetheless believed that a doctrinaire-cum-syllogistic spirit was at the heart of both Mill’s nature and the whole Millite school, and that no amount of “feminine” tenderness would counteract this (1881a [1991]:246-8). It was this insight that, paradoxically, led him to agree with the likes of Oliphant and Hay that the more zealous members of the Radical school were sentimental prigs, and thereby less than masculine, for presuming that the world was other than it is. This characterisation of the doctrinaire Radical’s dual nature is sufficiently complex that it must be explored in a little more detail.

Stephen’s tendency to present the more earnest Radicals as both manly and unmanly does not constitute a double standard once it is construed as the product of his quasi-Comtist dynamic sociological vision and his observations of the “windy ranters” at the Radical end of clubland. Specifically, the cold logic that the Mill-men manfully employed to follow a line of reasoning to its conclusion, no matter what the distasteful consequences happened to be, ironically reflected a non-manly disposition if it induced them, as sexless calculating machines, to disregard base (and noble) passions and customs as mere accidental forces, and thereby to neglect what really drove the evolution of society. In other words, the anti-sentimental nature of Mill’s classic narratives, which Stephen applauded as an undergraduate and continued to admire in his fading years once properly qualified, became sentimental in the hands of spiritless young men if they presumed such bloodless mechanisms captured all, rather than merely some, of the hidden springs of action and inherited customs that drive the dynamic sociological whole. It was in this context that he criticised those Radicals who sought favour with Mill by calling themselves Radical Philosophers and who pressed the associated ideas as ends in themselves (1873a:72). This proposed motive for Stephen’s anti-Millite turn also explains his double-edged portrait of Mrs Fawcett as both an effective Radical because she did not express “womanish views of political questions” and someone who was too masculine and unsentimental (1872a:336). Mrs Fawcett, whose doctrinaire spirit irked Stephen on a personal level, was thereby masculine because she was un-sentimental and sentimental because she was excessively masculine. Within his anonymous columns for The Nation, he began referring to these sorts of narrow and unbending enthusiasts as Doctrinaire Radicals and Puritan Radicals (1871c:352). It was no doubt these doctrinaire spirits that induced him to conclude in The Cornhill:

It is unfortunately a common experience to feel one would be, say, a Radical, were it not for the Radicals. The tail of the party—and the tails of parties are apt to be the largest part of them—is very infrequently the strongest argument against the head (1881d:353).

Even Mill (the head!), who was primarily responsible for releasing the Comtist genii onto the English scene, did not escape this strange charge of ‘doctrinaire’ sentimentalism. Stephen accused him of relying on the “human contrivance” of institutional mechanisms (such as Hare’s voting schemes) to paper over difficulties that accompanied his proposed reforms, even though these institutions are rendered ineffective by the actions of special-interest groups and fail to alter the more complex forces driving the larger sociological dynamic (1872c:71, 1900, iii:279-81). He similarly believed that Mill’s political economy sheds light on the mechanics of the specific social structure from which it was drawn, but is incapable of explaining how the larger organic structure evolves (1900, iii:241-2). He further contended that Mill’s conception of society as an aggregate of individuals, each a bundle of ideas bound together by associations that can be modified, failed to account sufficiently for the way that the forces of the evolving organic society operated through individuals (1900, iii:294). Stephen never swore off the then key liberal conviction that manly individuals with energy should remain independent and unregulated (Collini 1991:195), nor did he reject the key Millite doctrines once they were properly interpreted, in a non-doctrinaire way, as capturing only a part of the concrete whole. He did, however, question Mill’s ‘sentimental’ quest to improve society by building each individual’s character, independence and choice set, arguing that the associated reforms would come to naught if they left unaltered the deeper underlying forces that drove the evolving organic society. Mill, he concluded, was ill-suited to lead the Radicals because he had “too much of the excitable and feminine elements” and was “too much intent to adopt the crude fancies of his associates” (1870:257). Stephen, in short, rendered Mill unmanly for complex philosophical reasons.

Stephen’s heavily gendered anti-Millite position was further shaped by his exposure to the powerful personalities of Carlyle and his elder brother. These men presented uncannily similar criticisms of Mill within conceptual frameworks that were very different to Stephen’s quasi-Comtist vision. In his biography of his brother, for example, Stephen (1895:231) related Fitzjames’s charge that Mill dwelt “in a region where the great passions and forces which really stir mankind” are “neglected or treated as mere accidental disturbances of the right theory”. Indeed, although Stephen always carefully stated that he opposed Fitzjames’s larger anti-liberal vision, the two brothers were so much in alignment on this specific issue that Stephen seems to use his brother’s voice to express his own views about Mill. This is reflected in the way he describes, almost ad nauseam, how the abnormally manly Fitzjames and the earthy Carlyle could not fathom the unmanly nature displayed by Mill. Specifically, Stephen speculated that his brother could never properly befriend someone, like Mill, who was “not so much cold-blooded as bloodless, wanting in the fire and the force of the full-grown male animal” and “comparable to a superlatively crammed senior wrangler, whose body has been stunted by his brains” (1895:231). And again: Fitzjames could only make a “real friend” of a “man” with “masculine emotions as well as logical acuteness” and, rightly or wrongly, Mill “appeared to him to be too much of a calculating machine and too little of a human being” (1895:231). And yet again: Fitzjames, like Henry VIII, “loved a man” rather than a “colourless, flaccid creature” like Mill, who required to “have some red blood infused in to his veins”; who was as “cold as ice”; and who was a “mere walking book” (1895:316-7). Stephen concluded that the ultimate reason the two men could not be on easy terms was “Mill’s want of virility” (1895:316). Stephen admittedly sought to qualify these extreme characterisations in asides, but from his general tone it is evident that he believed Fitzjames’s stance to be more right than wrong. It was for these same reasons that he became irritated with his less dogmatic Radical friends, such as Morley, for failing to appreciate Carlyle as a man and visionary. Stephen declared that he may have been more in Mill’s camp than not, but “as a man, Carlyle seems to me to be worth a wilderness of Mills” (to Norton 21 Dec 1895, in Bicknell 1996, ii: 450).87 The long and short of it is that Mill could not win: he was unmanly when he showed feminine emotion and lacked virility when he deployed masculine logic.

Stephen, in his Mr Ramsey years, became even more alive to the excessive, if not foolish, hyper-masculine nature that he and his contemporaries exhibited during the 1850s and 1860s. He realised that muscular posturing could be destructive and feminine sentiment could provide a more civilized environment in which to develop ideas. Above all, he prized female company. The sheer weight of gender-specific references in his later writings is, for all this, abnormal even by Victorian standards. It seems that he had shifted from acting out his masculine pre-dispositions to reflecting on an untamed nature that he had only partly harnessed. In some ways he began to look upon his own youthful muscular persona as if he were a historian examining an historical personality type that had passed out of circulation. He took issue, for example, with Eliot’s Daniel Deronda on the grounds that not only is the chief protagonist, Deronda, too much of a goody-two-shoes and a school girl’s hero, but also because it was improbable that such an implausible character would have attended Cambridge in about 1860, some 15 years before the novel appeared, when Stephen’s manly crowd then dominated Cambridge culture. In the Cambridge atmosphere of Deronda’s days, he argued, there was a “certain element of rough common sense which might have knocked some of her hero’s nonsense out of him” (1902:191). Stephen also implied that Eliot’s false representation of the Cambridge men of this era arose because she incorrectly modelled them on Sidgwick’s less muscular set, of only a half generation later, with whom she was interacting while writing the novel (1902:191). In other words, the muscular Radicals who dominated Stephen’s Cambridge and came down to the London clubs in the 1860s figured less prominently in these same venues by the mid-1870s. The irony is that Eliot was also probably partly modelling Deronda (incorrectly as it happens) on Stephen himself, especially since in the Cambridge scenes of this novel Deronda sacrifices a potential academic career by helping a friend who is blinded!88 The reflective mood that induced the ageing Stephen to emphasise the manly and plain-speaking culture of Cambridge in the 1860s also naturally led him to meditate on the closely associated sneering tone that was embraced by the Oxbridge men who joined the Higher Journalist stables of the Reviler and PMG during these years.

5.5 Sneering Tone

The masculine and over-confident temper of the clubs was mirrored in the infamous way in which the Higher Journalists, with great intellectual arrogance, employed strident satire to dismiss views that they presumed to be sentimental, culturally flawed and, above all, the product of sloppy thinking. Their elitist quest to maintain intellectual and cultural standards did, of course, induce some critiques that have failed the test of time. The writings of Trollope were outrageously denounced as monstrously prosaic and (perhaps closer to the truth) those of Dickens were dismissed as sentimentalist claptrap, while the great Cornhill Magazine under Thackeray’s reign was unfairly deemed an “asylum for lazy or extinct genius” (Skilton 1972:53ff). This astounding self-belief was deployed with even greater force in the quest to protect a literary, political and scientific canon from the intrusion of impostors (of all political shades). Under the watchful eye of their far more conservative editors, this strident satire was especially deployed to dissect the writings of the ‘inferior’ political economists and reformers who pushed too far ahead of Mill’s Principles. This sneering tone often disintegrated into flippant attacks of unnecessary cruelty, which, when combined with the anonymity of the pieces, caused consternation and recrimination amongst those reviewed. The targets sometimes falsely accused their fellow club members, whom they presumed sympathised with their views, as being the authors of the attacks. Reference has already been made to the occasion when Thornton falsely accused Stephen of writing a critical account of his work in the PMG, with the added charge that, if Stephen had written the review, his “long practice of reviewing” had made him “incapable of fairness” even when he meant “to be fair” (Stephen to Norton 15 May 1874, in Bicknell 1996, i:136). There is also a record of Morley gruffly responding to Harrison’s accusation that he wrote an inflammatory piece in the PMG about the Comtists with: “Well, I’ll start with your insulting question whether I wrote in the ‘Pall Mall’ something on Comtist agitation. The last time you saw me, I lost a pocket-handkerchief. Did you take it? That’s my answer” (26 Apr.1871,1/78,18f. Harrison Papers).89

All the evidence suggests that a similar sneering tone occasionally crept into the conversations that took place in the clubs. An ageing Stephen again historicised his younger behaviour in this regard, at least indirectly, when he belittled the cynical tone of all-male club culture in his account of post-Restoration coffeehouses. After misleadingly stating that his own acquaintance with club life was “not very extensive”, and although he grants that not “every member of a London club is a Mephistopheles”, he concludes that a “certain excess of hard worldly wisdom may be generated in such resorts” (1904:79). In other words, the eighteenth century once again becomes a Tuchman-like distant mirror that reflects Stephen’s time as an anti-sentimentalist clubman and jeering Higher Journalist. A related question is how much of this sneering Higher Journalist and clubland culture did Stephen and his Oxbridge contemporaries bring to their written narratives and how much of their own acerbic characters did they bring to this culture? In the case of Stephen, it was more likely the latter. Confident judgements and a scornful tone were part of the wider Stephen clan’s genetic and cultural wiring, especially when standards appeared to be under threat. Even Stephen’s friends, though always dwelling on his kind nature, recognised that he was hard on people with less ability or when they were meddling in matters important to him. As Morley related (1917, i:117), Stephen had a “kindness of heart”, but people who did not know him “found him unceremonious and even grim, and in truth he did not suffer gladly either a bad argument or a fool in person”. His inability to tolerate individuals who struggled with concepts that came easily to him presents an additional negative character trait to add to those possessed by Mr Ramsey, the self-centred, self-doubting and judging tyrant. This vice of hyper-criticism—whether learnt or inherited—governed his accounts of the economists, philosophers and novelists in his multi-volume histories and numerous periodical articles. The Leavisites, by contrast, loved him for it.

The fact remains that, whether innate or cultivated, derisive judgements crept into the monographs issued by the Higher Journalists and clubmen. This is best caught in Stephen’s own History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century (1876), which may be taken to illustrate the point in brief. The quasi-Comtist historiographical structure of this tract (which was described earlier in this essay) encases the more specific contention that ‘Argument from Design’ and other deist strategies in the first part of the eighteenth century shaped the rationalist orientation of English moral philosophy (including political economy) in the second half of that century, but, given the eventual rise of Methodism and Evangelicalism, failed to shape the religious stance of the broader community. The specific prompt that induced Stephen to turn to this subject matter was Mark Pattison’s gigantean essay “Tendencies of Religious Thought in England, 1688-1750” in the notorious Essays and Reviews (1860). Pattison, in turn, wrote an extended review essay of Stephen’s history for The Fortnightly Review, entitled “The Age of Reason” (1877), which itself constitutes one of the earliest and most powerful justifications of the worth of intellectual history. Pattison, who was possibly the model for Eliot’s dry-as-dust scholar, Casaubon, in Middlemarch (he of the never-to-be-completed Key to All Mythologies), was himself planning to write a substantial history on this subject and hence it was gracious of him to write an overwhelmingly positive review of the scholar who gazumped him.90 Like many of the prominent scholars of the day, Pattison also happened to be a Higher Journalist for a period and, presumably with inside knowledge about Stephen’s background as a writer for the Reviler, stated that he was pleased the book was balanced and did not display the “vulgar ribaldry and London slang” which give “piquancy to the treatment of serious subjects by the evening papers” (1877:343). This judgment may have been an expression of simple relief that Stephen did not deploy strident journalistic prose in excess. Either way, it is contradicted by the conclusions drawn by other reviewers, who suspected that Stephen, by then a known advocate of agnosticism, was carrying out an attack on the established church by providing hyper-critical accounts of the religious questions of the eighteenth century. They believed, in particular, that this attack involved dwelling more on the foibles of the historical agents and less on the way in which intellectual and social changes unfolded in tandem (Robertson 1877, Anonymous 1881). This, in turn, led at least one reviewer to claim that the flippant culture and the substandard prose of the magazines had crept into Stephen’s war by proxy: “It will not be contended that this is ‘good form’, even for an article in a magazine; but some laxity of manner is naturally connected with this incessant multiplication of small dicta concerning men and things” (Anonymous 1881:573). Modern historians also invariably (and quite correctly) interpret Stephen’s history as a not-so-subtle attack on the religious beliefs and institutions of the Victorian age (Bicknell 1962, Young 2007), but not in the context of the sneering tone for which the Higher Journalists were then known.

The contemporary reviewers of this exercise in intellectual history may have had a point. Stephen’s monolithic judgments of, and amusing underhand jabs at, authors and philosophers are littered throughout not only this two-volume tract, but also his subsequent histories and essays. His acquaintance with political economists of the second rank in the Radical clubs of his own day almost certainly explains why he sought out this sub-species for particular ridicule. James Steuart, to take one example, is deemed to be “amongst the most tiresome individuals of the most tiresome of all literary species—the inferior political economist” (1876, ii:304). He contended that Sir John Sinclair “belonged to the prosaic breed, which created the ‘dismal science’, and seems to have been regarded as a stupendous bore”, but granted that bores “represent a social force not to be despised, and Sinclair was no exception” (1900, i:79). More elevated men of letters who did not dabble in political economy were also not spared. Even the great Gibbon is portrayed as a “fat, phlegmatic little man” whose “polished sarcasms” unintentionally aided the revolutionaries (1876, i:448). Such punishing character portraits could be replicated here ad infinitum, but I believe that time is better spent by coming to Stephen’s defence. It is my contention that such jibes enliven a rather trying narrative devoted to forgotten religious controversies of the eighteenth century and staid utilitarian theories of the nineteenth century and, as a defining feature of most of Stephen’s writings, still make him worth reading today. Stephen is one of the few Victorian scholars whose narratives induce the modern reader to draw a smile, if not laugh out loud. Saturdayism invective could, for all this, be counterproductive when deployed against the living rather than the dead, especially if used to police the ill-defined boundaries of certain emerging disciplines, such as economics.

5.6 Policing Boundaries and the Noxious Influence of Authority

The idea that a Radical clique was meeting in the London clubs and (albeit alongside High Tory editors and their factotums) writing for the Higher Journalist organs and more established quarterlies, naturally provides some a priori justification for the fears of outsiders (such as Jevons and Cliffe Leslie) that there was a conspiracy against theoretical developments and policy proposals that were not in alignment with the conceptual visions that drove the conversations in these fraternal spaces. It is entirely possible that the dissemination of certain ideas was hampered when a sufficient number of their champions were excluded from these forums, whether it be because they lived part or all of their time in Manchester (Jevons), Melbourne (Hearn) or Belfast (Cliffe Leslie), or because they had insufficient social connections or clubbability to make an impression in clubland, or because they did not have the necessary Oxbridge pedigree and family connections to be ushered into the famous editorial stables of the Reviler and its imitators. The close nexus between clubland and Higher Journalism played a particularly important role in inducing the perception that an exclusionary frontier was being drawn in the world of ideas, especially as the Higher Journalists explicitly presented themselves as a social elite who maintained cultural and literary standards with almost a despotic irresponsibility. An opening editorial in the Reviler celebrated this cliquey world, stating that the writers, “who are known to each other, and none of whom are unpractised in periodical literature, have been thrown together by affinities naturally arising from common habits of thought, education, reflection, and social views”, and hence they would address themselves to the “educated mind of the country” not so much “in the spirit of party as in the more philosophical attitude of mutual council and friendly conflict of opinions” (3 Nov. 1855; Bourne 1887, ii:247). The Radical clubmen, though setting themselves apart by rejecting the received views of the day, similarly saw themselves as forward sentinels of a Coleridgean clerisy who had already shown their worth in the Oxbridge common rooms and exams. The likes of Harrison (1903 [1908]:372), admittedly, insisted that Century Club membership should not turn on the address of a candidate’s tailor, but such democratic sentiments rarely overcame the want of a social network and intellectual acculturation that yielded an invitation to join.91

There were therefore well-founded concerns amongst the paranoid and marginalised political economists that there were insiders, whose narratives reflected established opinions and were given favourable reviews by their friends, and outsiders, whose ideas were ignored or shown no mercy. Evidence to support this hypothesis may be derived from the archives and published sources. Cairnes, for one, repeatedly stated in print that the discipline of political economy was in danger of disintegrating into anarchy due to the way that second-rate political economists and leading men of letters, who were either ill-read in or entirely ignorant of the canon of political economy, were intruding into this domain. He claimed that many individuals “now enrolled themselves as political economists who had never taken the trouble to study the elementary principles of the science” (Cairnes 1875:4) and that it is “anarchy, as it seems to me, rather than despotism, with which we are menaced” (Cairnes 1872:72; see also Checkland 1951:148). Cairnes particularly had a low opinion of his undergraduate contemporaries of Trinity College, Dublin, from the 1840s who aspired to be political economists, such as Hearn, who promoted a proto-neoclassical economics, and Cliffe Leslie, who promoted historical economics (and whose squabble with Cairnes has already been commented upon). Both of these approaches were at odds with Cairnes’s version of the “Millite” Ricardianism that dominated the 1850s, which remained the anchor for the majority of the London Radicals in the 1860s, even if many, including Mill himself, increasingly drifted with the incoming tides, from New Liberalism to socialism. Cairnes was also openly hostile to the great Victorian sages, particularly Ruskin, who was then denigrating established economic doctrine in iconoclastic tracts such as Unto This Last (1862), Munera Pulveris (1872) and Fors Clavigera (1871-84). The implication of Cairnes’s anti-anarchy position was that senior political economists had a responsibility to police the fledgling disciplinary boundaries of political economy either directly or indirectly. One way of achieving this end prior to the establishment of formal qualifications in economics and specialist journals was to influence the reviewing process in the Higher Journalist organs and established quarterlies.

There is evidence that Cairnes sought to execute these policing actions by exploiting his associations with the Oxbridge men who were coming down to London Clubland in the 1860s, especially those whom he mentored in the early 1860s and who, in turn, entertained him over lunch when he was confined as an invalid to Blackheath in the early 1870s; namely, Stephen, Fawcett and Courtney (Moore 2011). Cairnes, for instance, sent a furious letter to Courtney demanding that he call upon Stephen to ask him to justify his positive review in The Reader of Hearn’s Plutology, a book Cairnes judged to be an “imposition on the public” (22 Mar.1864, v.1,25f, Courtney Papers). He conveyed a similar view to Mill, who, following Cairnes’s lead, did not bother to read Hearn’s book and attributed the few positive accounts in the magazines not to “defects of honesty”, but to “sheer ignorance and incompetence on the subject” (28 Mar. 1864, in Mill 1972a, XV:929-30). Macmillan, the obliging publisher, did his best to puff Plutology in the marketplace in the face of slow sales, and no doubt had exploited his close friendship with Stephen, dating from their conversations at the Macmillan bookshop in Cambridge in the 1850s, to recruit him as a reviewer of this particular publication. Unfortunately, however, Macmillan eventually had to convey to Hearn that, apart from figures such as Jevons, the London intellectual elite were not responding to his appeals. Macmillan speculated that Hearn’s outsider status as a recent Anglo-Irish migrant to Melbourne might account for this state of affairs, and vainly inquired if Hearn knew of any reputable economists he could ask to promote the book (31 Oct.1866 Hearn Correspondence). Cliffe Leslie, who experienced a similar whispering campaign against his reputation as a political economist, was the most explicit in claiming that a clique of London Radicals with a backward-looking Ricardian bent were, under Cairnes’s directives, conspiring to suppress his historicist views. He complained to Harrison as follows:

I have had the utmost difficulty in getting a hearing on any economic question in this country, because there is a combination of economists and newspapers—especially Cairnes, Fawcett, Courtney, the Spectator, the Saturday Review [possibly Leslie Stephen?]—to put me down. They do this by, on the one hand, not noticing anything I write, & on the other by seizing every opportunity to abuse the line of political economy I take—ie inquiring into facts & questioning the old formulas (8 Jun. 1875, 1/46,20f Harrison Papers).92

It is also telling that Stephen’s correspondence for 1874 indicates that he was visiting Cairnes’s residence at the very time he was writing a hostile review of Ruskin’s political economy. As already mentioned, the narrative that finally appeared in Fraser’s Magazine not surprisingly reflects, on occasion, the themes emphasised in Cairnes’s Some Leading Principles of Political Economy Newly Expounded (1874), which was published around the same time.

These and other protocol statements that may be carved from the archives suggest that there is something in Jevons’s often-cited claim that innovations in political economy and philosophy at this time were hindered by a “noxious influence of authority” (1871:265-7, 1879:298-300). It is, of course, implausible to conclude that there was a secret cabal of Radical clubmen, dominated by Cairnes, which completely monopolised what was printed and not printed in the political economy domain. Cliffe Leslie himself had been for a brief time an occasional writer for The Saturday Review; he had become a contributor to The Academy by the time he wrote the letter cited in the previous paragraph; and he could not complain too much, since he gained access to Mill’s Blackheath circle (and Mill’s ear) in the 1860s. It is also evident that one or two distressed swallows an oppressive summer does not make, especially if one of them, Cliffe Leslie, was notoriously paranoid, while another, Ruskin, deliberately did not subscribe to the scientific conventions of the day. Success or failure, moreover, was far more dependent on randomly making contact (and making an impression!) with men who were prominent in the overlapping Radical circles, than on overcoming a despotic group of late-Ricardians who monopolised the publishing and reviewing processes. The delay of an English review of Das Kapital (1867), to take an extreme example, was more likely due to Marx’s obvious outsider status than any conspiratorial act by hostile parties. Just consider the circuitous route by which it eventually gained notice. Engels actively lobbied for a review of this tract, but the only result of his initial heroic, and sometimes devious, efforts was a small notice in the Reviler in 1868 (McLellan 1973:353). These efforts included exploiting his association with Beesly, who the reader may recall was a Comtist member of the Century Club, to convey two reviews written in his own hand to Morley at The Fortnightly Review. Unfortunately, both these submissions were rejected in late 1867 on the grounds that they were too dry (Henderson 1976, ii: 404-5). Engels later turned to J. M. Ludlow—a Christian Socialist who had occasion to associate with the Oxbridge Radicals—after discovering that he knew German sufficiently to appraise Lassallian socialism in an 1869 issue of The Fortnightly Review. When, however, Ludlow failed to overcome its Teutonic density, he suggested that Sidgwick was the only English reviewer who could do it justice. The latter, in turn, may not have even finished it (and let’s face it, it defeats most of us), and so Ludlow proposed Luigi Brentano as an alternative candidate for the task (Masterman 1963:206-7). It finally gained exposure, and then only indirectly, in January 1875 when Cliffe Leslie (1875:33) referred to Marx within a review of a condensed translation of Albert Schäffle’s tract on socialism in an issue of The Academy.93 Stephen’s circle of insiders did not have to wait this long to receive recognition for their intellectual products, even if this was partly because, unlike Marx, they possessed a lucid style free of the neo-Hegelian fog and other obnoxious German theorising.

The evidence is, for all this, sufficient to conclude that some sort of ‘authority’ was wielded via the networks of clubmen and the hyper-critical reviews (or more likely an absence of reviews) in the 1860s and 1870s. Such a carefully weighed and heavily qualified conclusion also necessitates a slight adjustment to the prevailing interpretations of Jevons’s famous (or infamous) fighting words that this authority was “noxious”, and that “anarchy and sedition” should replace the “despotic calm”. The secondary literature devoted to this issue was initially preoccupied with exploring Jevons’s own hints that a Millite clique placed their preferred candidates in the few academic posts then in existence to control the curricula via an “academic power structure” (Keynes [1936] 1951:293, Checkland 1951:167-8, Coats 1964:95-6, De Marchi 1973). The resulting consensus, led by De Marchi (1973) and difficult to dispute, is that it is unlikely such an academic power structure existed. White and Inoue (2009) subsequently deployed extensive archival material and close readings of the relevant texts to conclude that Jevons was also primarily concerned with the way Mill’s vision monopolised the moral philosophy rather than the political economy curricula. Winch (2009:ch.6) simultaneously championed this shift in emphasis by contending that Jevons was predominantly concerned with the hegemony of Mill’s wrong-headed philosophy (rather than political economy) and had publicly railed against the dominance of a Mill faction for deep psychological reasons. Now it is my contention that all of these readings allow latitude for an alternative, and non-competing, explanation suggested by Stephen’s perambulatory observations; namely, Jevons’s charge that innovations were hindered by an intellectual tyranny was prompted by a perception that a network of Radical clubmen manipulated the philosophical and economic narratives in the Higher Journalist organs, monthlies, quarterlies and the Macmillan tomes. His allegation that a “noxious” authority existed at this time (even though clearly overstated) certainly makes more sense once the focus shifts from university appointments to clubland networks. Such a charge also marries with Cliffe Leslie’s claim that there was an abuse of power at this time. Indeed, Jevons may have been magnifying his own perverse fears of Millite shadows by taking heed of the half-paranoid babblings of the marginalised around him in a way that induced him to present an explanation that did not quite capture the landscape in which authority was formed. His less than perfect account of the nature of any “noxious” authority has, for whatever reason, distracted historians from tracing the scent to the clubland networks.

This shift in research focus to clubland also partly allays the negative connotations usually associated with Jevons’s charge that a “noxious” (or misplaced) authority existed at this time. This is because the vetting opportunities that arose with the formation of the exclusive networks at the senior universities and in London clubland, together with the manipulation of what appeared in print, in many ways resemble the vetting machinery of the doctoral programs and refereeing processes of today. As Collini (1991:1-18) has convincingly argued, the “leading minds” of these clubbish circles built reputations through dint of effort that allowed them, ultimately, to become members of what Stephen (1895:302) himself called a “spontaneous freemasonry” that formed the “higher intellectual stratum of London society”. Members of this freemasonry of the elite later revealed their standing as the leading men of letters to the wider public when they were elevated to the Athenaeum Club under Rule II, which, the reader may recall, allowed for the election each year of a certain number of distinguished scholars, litterateurs, artists and scientists. Men of such intellectual rank cast judgement on those around them trying their hand in political economy and other disciplines in the mid-Victorian period in the same way that tenured professors of modern senior universities cast judgement on those who submit refereed journal articles to the leading journals and apply for tenure track positions. After all, someone has to do it, for good or ill. Indeed, I contend that the leveraging of clubland networks to influence the reviewing and publishing process constitutes an early half-step in the professionalisation of the fledgling discipline of economics. This nascent policing of the boundaries of economics has been under-emphasised in the literature devoted to this professionalisation process. Most scholars, quite correctly, focus on the expansion of the economics curricula in the universities and the establishment of specialised economic journals at the end of the century. The more important professionalisation steps of the fin de siècle should not, however, overshadow this earlier phase in the process, if only because the historical record of the professionalisation process needs to be rendered complete.

This early frontier policing also manoeuvres the narrative back to the Habermasian trope running through this part of the essay. The reader may recall that Habermas argued that the transformed public sphere was to some extent democratic and non-exclusive. The implication is that the sphere in which the mid-Victorian political economists operated deviated from the ideal Habermasian public sphere to the extent to which certain authorities, such as Cairnes, presumed that the debate in this sphere had become anarchical and diluted by talentless poseurs who had not read or did not understand the canon of political economy, and hence to the extent to which these authorities sought to impose constraints on the debate by making this sphere exclusive. This should not detain us too long, however, since even the post-Restoration coffeehouses did not attain this Habermasian ideal. Recent early modern historians, such as Cowan (2004b), have pointed out that Addison, Steele and their fellow travellers used the journals that Habermas believed echoed coffeehouse discourse less to carve out an inclusive space for the democratic exchange of ideas and more to rein in and discipline the unruly nature of coffeehouse society. It seems reasonable to presume that a little bit of discipline and exclusion is of benefit even to the liberal-democratic bourgeois world and certainly for a fledgling faux science, such as political economy, whose members sought to imitate the ways of the more established natural sciences. This observation has obvious implications for the Habermasian (1962 [1989]:175) claim that a trajectory of the independent public sphere was arrested in the nineteenth century rather than earlier. It also raises the possibility that different domains of ideas have different historical trajectories as independent public spheres, and quite rightly so.

5.7 Conclusion to both Part Five and the Essay

I knew both the Stephens. They were both hard men, Leslie less hard, more genial than Fitzjames. They were both critics. Neither of them set out to construct anything, to prove anything, to establish anything. They were always criticizing what other people did (Goldwin Smith, in Haultain 1913:39).

Our walk alongside Stephen through clubland and its allied precincts entailed one or two detours to venues that were not dominated by Radicals, such as the Cosmopolitan, on the grounds that the conversations held there sometimes involved commentary (usually critical) on the Radicals and their mindsets. Further detours were made to receptions at private residences if a critical mass of the same set of clubmen gathered in these spaces in a sufficient club-like atmosphere that they may be read, at a pinch, as clubland extensions. Clubland proper has also been interpreted, as contemporaries themselves quite rightly interpreted it, as a domain that included the numerous fledgling clubs, often located in rented or borrowed premises, which failed to recruit sufficient members to fund the construction of the grand palatial clubs of Piccadilly that are still observed today. After all, the men of the Cosmopolitan met in a cold hall-like room with a few bottles of spirits in the corner, yet its membership list included London’s cultural and political elite. I have, however, drawn the line at the many other venues Stephen traversed if the resulting observations convey no relevant intelligence about his changing attitude to the Radicals, such as when he reported on a banquet for a hippaphagous sect (1868b:192) during a passing mid-Victorian craze for the eating of horseflesh or, for the benefit of the North American readers of The Nation, on an atrocious public dinner for 400 souls who wished to hear Dickens orate:

What use is it to speak of drunken waiters, of hopeless scrambles for greasy fragments, of cold dishes with the soup, and hot plates with the ice pudding, and of other petty miseries far too insignificant to cross a thousand leagues of water? (Stephen 1867e:435)

The resulting observations of the Radicals in their habitats were intentionally recorded at painful length to construct the historical context that would allow a reader in the early twenty-first century (bunkered down in an isolated study with his or her electronic gadgetry) to understand how the singular and intense fraternal associations of the mid-Victorian era shaped the written narratives of the period. The conclusions that may be drawn from this exercise in contextual history are very small beer considering the amount of effort exerted in collecting the protocol statements; not to mention the required stamina for a reader to reach this far. I must add in my defence that the particulars were largely collected before the inductions were drawn, and hence the fact that the findings were meagre is largely out of my hands. I also grudgingly admit that some of the findings merely confirm what other intellectual historians, from Annan to Collini, have already derived by examining different particulars.

There are, for all this, one or two aspects of this essay that may cause historians of economic thought to think differently about mid-Victorian political economy. Some may be interested to discover that Stephen drew upon his experiences in London clubland to model the post-Restoration coffeehouses and that Habermas, in turn, relied on Stephen’s research to construct his “Model British Case of Development”. The admittedly flawed Habermasian framework may therefore be a useful device (especially once adjusted for purpose) to comprehend the fraternal associations of the mid-Victorian world. Others may be interested in the more specific findings that the spoken word, clubbability, masculinity and social networks shaped, at the very margin, the written narratives of the 1860s and 1870s. It is, of course, implausible to claim that these non-scientific cultural traits are as important as rational thought, empirical verisimilitude and a driving ideology in the construction of knowledge. I simply argue that the clubbable world of mid-Victorian London and the knot of enthusiastic men who inhabited it should not be dismissed out of hand by scholars who traditionally focus on the major texts, rather than the context, of this time. Stephen, our guiding perambulator, was certainly more alive to the non-scientific processes at play in these environments than most scholars. Unlike Fawcett and many other Radicals, he came out of the other side of his walk through Radical London a far more complex figure. He was now willing to see the spirited and mutable man rather than the abstract and fixed man, yet he still saw great worth in syllogistic reasoning from narrow premises once it was deployed correctly. He now had a mild contempt for those who had unrealistic expectations about how much a passion-driven and genetically wired humanity could achieve in a reformed society, yet he grudgingly allowed for some form of mild collectivism in which positive liberty was considered alongside negative liberty. Stephen remained an old-fashioned liberal, of sorts, until his dying breath, but he became more critical and sceptical than most of his Radical contemporaries. Above all else he became tired of it all: “Before many years were over, I am afraid that my friends regarded me, not, indeed, as a back-slider, but as one whose zeal had grown rather tepid” (1903 [1924]:93).



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J. N. Keynes Diaries, ADD 7831-38, Cambridge University Library.

Maitland Papers, ADD 7004, Cambridge University Library.

Sidgwick Papers, Trinity College, Cambridge.

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1. Stephen has been honoured with outstanding biographies by Maitland (1906) and Annan (1951, 1984), with the successive editions of the latter being effectively separate books. Fenwick’s (1993) underappreciated bibliographical study of Stephen’s works is also essential reading. Other important sources for his early years include Stephen’s (1895) biography of his brother (which is effectively an account of the Stephen family); Stephen’s (1903 [1924]) early impressions; Stephen’s (1977) heartfelt mausoleum book designed for his children; Bicknell’s (1996) selection of Stephen’s letters; Young’s (2007) account of the cultural make-up of the Stephen family in his analysis of the ‘Victorian’ eighteenth-century; and Aplin’s (2010, 2011) biography of the Thackeray family. For refreshingly balanced studies of Stephen as Woolf’s father, see Hyman (1983) and Rosenbaum (1987). For a recent review of Annan’s “intellectual aristocracy”, see Whyte (2005).

2. The most important source for the Trinity Hall set is Stephen’s (1885) biography of Fawcett and the essays in Goldman (1989). See also, for all its juvenile woodenness and errors, Moore (2006), which may be interpreted as the first part in this two-part exercise, with the focus now on Stephen’s years in London rather than his years at Trinity Hall. Also note that Stephen’s (1900) own three-volume history of the utilitarians, particularly the last volume devoted to Mill, may be interpreted as a personal account of his Radical beliefs as a young man. In relation to the success of the Logic in the universities, for example, Stephen (1900, iii:76) states: “I can testify from personal observation that it became a kind of sacred book for students who claimed to be genuine Liberals”.

3. Harvie (1976) and Kent (1978) are still the most commonly cited authorities devoted to the Oxbridge Radicals streaming down to London in the 1860s. Collini (1991), Lipkes (1999) and Winch (2009) are also essential reading for the Radicals and wider context of London intellectual life at this time. For a broad account of London clubland in the Victorian era, see the books cited in the preface to this essay: Milne-Smith (2011) and Black (2012). Donoghue’s (2016) long-awaited biography of Thornton also provides valuable context for the Radical circles of this period, but could not be drawn upon prior to the completion of this narrative (but see footnote 77). The high tide of Stephen’s commitment to the Radical cause probably occurred in 1867 when, at the height of the debates relating to the Second Reform Act, he contributed a pro-democratic piece to Essays on Reform (1867).

4. Stephen was a famous walker in his day (Searby 1997:ch.18). Undergraduates recalled that he led them, as the "old Serpent", on prodigious treks within a university walking society called the Boa Constrictor Club (Maitland 1906:64); he once walked the 50 miles from Cambridge to London in twelve hours to attend an Alpine Club dinner (Stephen 1903 [1924]:47); he stated that he “was inclined to measure a man’s moral excellence by his love of this pursuit” (Stephen 1885:57); and he later founded a walking club, mainly of scholars and men of letters (including F. Y. Edgeworth), called The Sunday Tramps (Sully 1908). He celebrated walking with great elegance within “In Praise of Walking” (1901c [1902]). Finally, even though the walk in this essay is figurative, contemporaries recalled walking alongside Stephen on their way home from clubland venues. Frederic Harrison (1904 [1908]:380) stated that he had “tramped with him” not only across the Surrey Downs, but also in “some midnight stroll home from the Cosmopolitan, or the Century Club...”.

5. Meredith himself stated that Stephen was the model for Whitford (Cline 1970, ii:658). The most amusing passage in The Egoist from an economist’s perspective is when Whitford (aka Stephen) bungles his love overture to the female protagonist by talking political economy (1879:317). A lot of political economy was indeed spoken at social gatherings in this period (see sections below). Finally note that although Stephen publicly renounced Holy Orders in 1862, he did not legally do so until 1875.

6. The change in status of the journalist in mid-Victorian Britain due to the emergence of Higher Journalism was caught by Thackeray as early as 1849 in A History of Pendennis (1849:349-50) when he depicts “young Pen” earning the respect of his elders after clubmen and others notice his impudent and savage review for the fictional version of the Pall Mall Gazette. Stephen and the Trinity Hall Radicals actually invited Thackeray to try their rum and milk punch at their 1863 Christmas feast but Thackeray died before he could accept the offer. Stephen therefore never met his literary hero and the father of his first wife, “Minny” Thackeray, whom he married in 1867. Also note that Stephen himself provided a reasonably detailed contemporary survey of the Higher Journalist newspaper market in one of his columns (1867b). See also Collini (1991:52ff) for a concise summary of the growth in importance of dailies, weeklies and monthlies at this time.

7. The Saturdayism style was all the more startling because it contrasted with the staid conservatism of The Times, the “tyrant of Printing House Square”, which was then flourishing under the stern editorial hand of John Delane and which was the model for the The Jupiter in Anthony Trollope’s The Warden: “It is a fact amazing to ordinary mortals that The Jupiter is never wrong. With what endless care, with what unsparing labour, do we not strive to get together for our great national council the men most fitting to compose it” (1855 [1886]:141; 1883 [1950]:ch.5). Delane could rely on quality columns from Robert Lowe, William Russell, Roundell Palmer and (the closet Radical on the payroll) Leonard Courtney. For the Reviler see Bourne (1887), Stephen (1903[1924]), Escott (1911), Bryce (1903b:134ff), Smith (1910); Ward and Waller (1907-21:ch.4), Bevington (1941), Robertson Scott (1950), Jump (1952), Gross (1969), Kent (1969, 1978), Skilton (1972:ch.2), Smith (1988:ch2), Fenwick (1993:176ff) and Jones (2007:54).

8. Morley, like Stephen, had come down to London (from Oxford) to immerse himself in the Radical club scene and Higher Journalism. Although he cemented his friendship with Stephen through the Reviler and the Radical clubs that are discussed in the next section of this essay, he had actually met Stephen in passing earlier at Trinity Hall, “still wearing the clerical white neck-cloth, but not otherwise marked by clerical demeanor” (1917, i:116). There is also a record of Stephen attending the famous Reviler dinners (Maitland 1906:218), which Morley also presumably attended.

9. Salisbury St sloped down to “the muddy banks of the Thames, and was liable to flooding. They had to have an arch cut into the ceiling over the staircase of the little house, so that the tall Matthew Higgins could walk upstairs” (Glendinning 1992:344). Higgins, who was purported to be six foot eight inches tall, wrote under the pseudonym of Jacob Omnium and was one of the leading reviewers-cum-journalists of the day. Also note that Dickens (1879) and Stephen (1895:215) locate the PMG premises on Northumberland St, The Strand, (rather than on Salisbury St) and hence the enterprise most likely operated across two locations during Stephen’s tenure at the paper. For the PMG, see Trollope (1883 [1950]:198ff), Stephen (1895:212ff), Lee (1901 [1902]), Sadleir (1927 [1947]:258ff), Robertson Scott (1950:132ff) and the references cited in the section of this essay (specifically section 4.4) that is devoted to Smith’s Cornhill banquets.

10. Greenwood embraced Disraeli’s imperialist policies of the 1870s and the PMG, to use Stephen’s phrase, became the “most thorough going of the Jingo newspapers”. It was later converted into a Radical organ by Henry Yates Thompson. Meredith, who made a habit of drawing upon his friends for inspiration, used Greenwood as the model for Richard Rockney in Celt and Saxon (Anonymous 1917:159).

11. Stephen (1895:215) described his brother’s prodigious writing capacity, which reflected his own, thus: “His general plan, when in town, was to write before breakfast, and then to look in at the office of the ‘Pall Mall Gazette’, Northumberland Street, Strand, in the course of his walk to his chambers. There he talked matters over with Mr. Greenwood, and occasionally wrote an article on the spot”.

12. For a more positive (and balanced!) appraisal of Mill’s oratory skills at this time, see Collini (1991:166-8).

13. Godkin, who earned the nickname Mugwamp (which is Algonquin for aged chief or wise man), employed The Nation to challenge injustices and to smite self-seekers and time-servers. The Tammany leaders of New York would “repeatedly” arrest him on a Sunday, when it was least easy to find bail, for alleged criminal libels upon them (Bryce 1903a:374; Grimes 1953, Stenfors 1996).

14. The different gait of the post-1832 generation of Radicals (recall that Stephen was born in 1832), together with their quest to win Westminster seats in the elections of the 1860s, is caught in Meredith’s Beauchamp’s Career (1876 [1950]). The chief protagonist, Beauchamp, stands as a Radical in an election for a seaside town and though he is modelled on Frederick Maxse, who stood as a Radical for Southampton in 1868, the plot also captures Stephen’s heroic efforts to help Fawcett gain the seaside town of Brighton in the 1864 and 1865 elections (Moore 2006). Meredith (1876 [1950]:351) portrays the way in which the older generation looked upon the earnest idealism of the Radicals with wonderful passages such as: “Mr Romfrey appeared impregnable, and Beauchamp mad. ‘He’s foaming again!’ said the colonel, and was only ultra-pictorial. ‘Before breakfast!’ was a further slur on Beauchamp”.

15. Thus, compared to the members of the first Regency clubs that emerged from the coffee houses, the mid-Victorian clubmen had both a larger choice set for each market niche and a far greater number of niches served. The Reform Club, for example, was established to defend the 1832 Reform Act, and many years later new members were still required to recite an oath committing themselves to this Act; the Naval and Military (or the In and Out) was formed in 1862, in part, simply to service the social needs of the officers of the Buffs when they were stationed at the Tower of London; the St James’s Club was formed in 1857 to cater for the members of the diplomatic service—and (perhaps tellingly) was said to have the most beautiful lavatory of all the London clubs; and the National Club was formed in 1845 for an anti-Papal purpose, and, in 1889, when this was only half remembered, one of Edmund Gosse’s circle was asked to resign because he had opened a Catholic bazaar on the Isle of Man (Charteris 1931:206; Kennedy 1986:205, 159). Some clubs had no specific market, such as the Beefsteak Club, which had “no particular object”, nor “any particular qualification” (Dickens 1879).

16. See Hay (c1870:277ff), Harrison (1903 [1908]; 1911, ii:82-3), Harvie (1976:128), Kent (1978:32) and Vogeler (1984:71). Note that Harrison (1903 [1908]):370) incorrectly recalls 1866 as the year in which the club was formally established. E.S. Beesly, a fellow Oxford Comtist, also seems to have assisted Harrison in the early stages (Beesly to H. Compton 24 Nov. 1864, Box 1 Beesly Papers). The prominence of fully fledged Comtists and fellow travelers in this club explains why it was denigrated as a Comtist forum. Many of the Radicals flirted with Comtist sociology at this time, particularly Stephen, in part because Mill had famously promoted it in Book IV of Logic; but only a tiny minority followed Harrison in embracing the religious and anti-laissez faire elements of this framework.

17. Stephen conveyed similar sentiments in The Nation following the franchise reforms in 1867 and Gladstone’s rise to power in 1868. The election proved a disaster for the Radical movement, with many reformers failing to retain the seats that they had gained in 1865 (including Mill). In the aftermath of this debacle Stephen recognised that since the franchise changes had not altered the balance of power, reform must evolve from the “advance of public opinion” rather than changes to Parliament (Stephen 1868c:551; Stenfors 1996:46).

18. Piccadilly, which is sufficiently forgotten that no Australian library has a copy, is a satire of London society in the 1860s (see also Kent 1978:33). The theme is struck early when it occurs to the protagonist, Lord Vanecourt, while reading Buckle’s History of Civilization, that he should write an account of “The Civilization of the British Isles, as exhibited in Piccadilly” (1865 [1930]:4). In the process, he advises a priggish young Radical, a Mr Broadhem, on affairs of the heart and suggests that he takes up dancing. “No,” says Broadhem, “I have started on the other tack, and people would say it was inconsistent; besides none of the young men of the day dance, even though they may not be religious. I don’t suppose that there is a single man in the Century dances”. Vanecourt mistakes this reference to the ‘Century’ for the ‘nineteenth century’, and suggests that surely not all boys of this era are backward at dancing. “Boys!” says Broadhem, indignantly; “there are no boys in the ‘Century’” (1865 [1930]:134). Stephen’s (1917b) DNB entry for Oliphant defines him as the “author of Piccadilly”. This is a strange characterisation of his friend, since Oliphant is better known for his travel books and borderline sanity (or a certain want of “intellectual ballast” as Stephen put it). Piccadilly obviously meant something to Stephen.

19. Hay’s Club Life is rare and given the pungent put-downs of the “men” of the Century, I cite it at greater length. After a damning description of a “Mr Smiffle”, “Professor Smithson” and Mr “First Principles” holding Oxbridge fellowships while pretending to believe in Christianity (see the epigraph for this section), he states: “Of the many kinds of cant now in vogue, the cant of intellect is the most utterly odious; and if you hear Smiffle and his friends, in the shrill treble tones which the set affect, airing their arguments that in another shape were exploded years ago—apropos, of the existence of the Deity, or the necessary imbecility of Conservativism—if you note carefully the smug air of infallibility and satisfaction with which they range through the whole gamut of themes sacred and profane, you will probably walk away with the conviction that in the whole range of your experience you have never listened to such a contemptible set of blasphemous young pedants and prigs. For pedants and prigs of the most consummate kind these young men, the self-appointed apostles of Comte, with their big prattle about the religion of humanity, and all-sufficiency of culture, are. Byronism was a hateful phase enough, some quarter of a century ago, in the rising generation, but Comtism is ten times more so” (c1870:279-80).

20. I thank my father for identifying and translating this passage. Note also that some of the priggish young Century men later became famous for breaking free of Victorian conventions. It was an aborted encounter with a guardsman (a “strapping fellow in scarlet uniform”) following a visit to the Century in 1865 that helped induce J. A. Symonds (1892 [1984]:186-7) to come to terms with his homosexuality (the “wolf leapt out”!).

21. There were, however, early plans to transform the Century into an established club, with the associated heavy investment in capital, along the lines of the Reform Club: “I doubt whether much can be made of the Cobden Club. I think in a few years it will be worth considering whether the Century cannot be turned to a new Reform Club. We should have the unique and [incalculable?] advantage of having a nucleus in [first rate?] sentiment, ability, character & social position—in fact we should soon become the best club in London” (Beesly to Compton, 27 July 1867, Box 1, Beesly Papers).

22. See Stephen (1885:286), Gwynn and Tuckwell (1918, i:100), Gooch (1920:109ff), Harvie (1976:187-8) and Nicholls (1995:42-3).

23. Cairnes wrote: “I learn from the Times that a new school of politicians which it describes as academic liberals [read Radical-Liberals]—the existence of which I was not aware of till I saw the reference to it in the comment on the elections—has likewise failed. I wish you would, when you have the time, tell me something of the distinctive opinions of this set. It is always pleasant to hear of a new school of liberals; for it seems to me the old dogmas have been pretty well used up, and that for solving the problems that now be before us, some new ideas of a more positive kind than of the liberalism of the Whigs or of Manchester can furnish are needed” (4 Dec. 1868, V.1, Courtney Papers).

24. Stephen, an eyewitness to such debates, was therefore irritated with those who dismissed Mill as an unreformed Radical Philosopher opposed to state intervention. He took Ruskin to task for calling Mill a “goose” in this regard: “Mill could speak as emphatically as himself of the injustice of the actual social order; and sympathized quite as much with Socialist aspiration, if not with the Socialist solution” (1900 [1902]:102). Stephen also emphasised this aspect of Mill’s later thought in the third volume of his The English Utilitarians (1900).

25. One can only imagine how Dilke responded to Fawcett’s argument against free state education: “From the point of view of the state merely, and not considering the claim of the child to education as a right, it would probably be the wisest plan to let the children of those parents who could not pay the school fees remain uneducated, the process of natural selection would gradually force the uneducated out of existence” (Fawcett to Dilke, 27 Dec. 1871, Add43909, Dilke Papers).

26. This last quarrel was serious enough for members to consider rule changes. Letters were exchanged between Fawcett, Courtney and Dilke to work out how to “prevent the recurrence of the inconvenience of Monday last” (5 Mar. 1879, 19 Mar.1879, Add43910,f260-262, Dilke Papers). It should be noted that Dilke was not always central to these disagreeable spats. After Fawcett and Courtney parried on the Eastern Question in 1877, Dilke recorded with amusement that “Fawcett has to swallow the discovery that there is in this world a man more obstinate than himself” (Add43933,f56). Shortly afterwards, he recorded that he could not invite both Fawcett and Fitzmaurice to a dinner for General Grant because of a feud between the two (Add43933,f102).

27. This is captured in Dilke’s record of his requests for Joseph Chamberlain to join. Chamberlain finally responded: “If you say I must I am ready to join what you call the ‘Radical Club’. But, he suggested, after reading the list of members, that I [Dilke] ought as secretary to, in the French sense, ‘reform’ ‘some of the present members’” (Add43932,f189).

28. See Trollope (1883 [1950]:160), West (1903), Harrison (1911, ii:85), Escott (1913 [1967]:153ff), Hewett (1958:various entries), Edel (1962) and Glendinning (1992:293-4).

29. In Oliphant’s Piccadilly, a foreigner called “Mr Wog” entertains Cosmopolitan members with his inside knowledge of American politics (1865 [1930]:97). Chichester Fortescue, said to be the best-informed man in London, also recorded the gossipy and international flavour of the club: “To Cosmopolitan, rather a good specimen of that society. There was Layard just arrived from the Ottoman Bank, pooh-pooing Kars, Williams [Sir William Fenwick Williams] fresh from Lord Stratford [in the Ottoman Empire], General Cadwalader from Yankeeland, Surtees the author of ‘Jorrocks’, chatting with Willis the judge, Higgins (Jacob Omnium), Milnes etc” (in Hewett 1958:96).

30. James socialised with Stephen and his Radical friends in the late 1860s, although at one point after mentioning that he had dined with the “political economists of The Fortnightly Review”, he carefully added that he felt “no special vocation for ‘meeting’ political economists” (James to William James, 19 Mar. 1869, in Edel 1974, i:99). Also note that James’s biographer (Edel 1962:323) drew upon Hoppin’s diaries to state that the Cosmopolitan Club met at 30 Charles St, while Escott (1913 [1967]:155) claims that they met at 45 Charles St. Unlike other authorities, Escott (1913 [1967]:154) further states that the Club met on Thursdays and Sundays, rather than Wednesdays and Sundays. Whatever the precise street number and days of meeting, the Cosmopolitan moved from the Charles St establishment in 1902 when it was discovered that it was literally afloat on sewerage which rested under the foundations. After a short stay at borrowed rooms at the “Alpine Society”, it closed its doors in 1907, since by that time the original members had died and the younger men had formed their own societies (Escott 1913 [1967]:155).

31. The modern sport of identifying the models for Trollope’s characters is particularly popular with respect to the Palliser novels, since many of the political figures are still of interest (Escott 1913 [1967], Sadleir 1927 [1947]:417-9, Hennessy 1971:280). Stephen (1901d [1902]:169) insightfully noted with respect to Trollope’s novels: “such of our unfortunate descendants as have a historical turn will be overwhelmed by the masses of material provided for them; and no doubt it will be a relief to them when weary of official dispatches and blue-books, and solemn historical dissertations, to clothe the statistical skeleton in the concrete flesh and blood of realistic fiction”. This is precisely what I am doing in this research exercise.

32. Thornton and Fawcett were also present for the question: “Is it expedient that the Cab Fares in London and elsewhere should be fixed by law?” (PEC 1921:81). Some issues are, it seems, perennial economic topics.

33. Someone also reported to Maitland (1906:189) that Stephen was observed writing an article for The Saturday Review under the cover of his plate at some club dinner. Maitland then ponders whether or not this happened during the Thornton address of December 1866? If it was, the article he wrote under the plate was not the critical review of Thornton’s political economy cited in the text above. Stephen’s article appeared on 13 October 1866 in The Saturday Review in response to Thornton’s article, “A New Theory of Supply and Demand”, in the October 1866 issue of The Fortnightly Review, while Thornton’s PEC address was delivered on 7 December 1866.

34. Both the history of the Alpine Club and the cultural implications of the Victorian craze for Alpine climbing are considered at great length in the secondary literature. See Clark (1953), Robbins (1987), Hansen (1995), Colley (2010 [2016]) and the exhaustive list of works cited in these authorities.

35. Stephen visited the Alps every year or second year throughout the 1860s and 1870s. His Playground of Europe (1871b:78) is an underestimated Victorian literary masterpiece that contains spectacular passages such as: “We were frequently flattened out against the rocks, like beasts of ill repute nailed to the barn, with fingers and toes inserted into four different cracks which tested the elasticity of our frames to the uttermost”. The extent to which the Alps figured in Victorian social life is nicely conveyed by Stephen’s sister in law: “All of Cambridge seems to be about. There is Henry Butcher sitting under a tree waiting for his luggage, in one of Leslie’s shirts. Mr and Mrs Browning were not at the station. Mr Balfour is somewhere. We met Professor Tyndall, D. C. L. in the road, smilingly escorting some ladies of rank” (A. Thackeray to R. Ritchie 11 Aug. 1875, in Ritchie 1924:166).

36. The less aristocratic atmosphere is also reflected in the story of a member of the Guards Club being observed giving hospitality to a member of the Savile. “They were quite decent fellows”, he explained. “No trouble. Make their own trousers, of course” (Lejeune 1984:18).

37. Stephen also joined the Metaphysical Society in 1877 and, as mentioned in footnote four in the introduction, was a founding member of the walking group called the Sunday Tramps. These clubs-cum-fraternal-associations, however, fall outside the time span set for this paper and were, in any event, not necessarily Radical in nature.

38. Precisely what the London Radicals thought they achieved is a thorny issue given the diversity of their aims. At the risk of over-simplifying, the core goals of this group by the mid-1860s may be reduced to six. First, they wished to break the political power of the landed classes because the latter blocked reforms that threatened traditional sinecures and privileges. Second, they supported franchise reform because they believed that the working classes would vote to break the rent-seeking racket operated by the landed classes. Third, they wished to reform those inefficient institutions, such as the army and church, designed to benefit the landed classes. Fourth, they wished to implement education and other reforms to make the working classes fit for the expanded franchise. Fifth, they wished to protect freedom of choice in the market place for goods and ideas. Sixth, they wished to use empiricism, syllogistic reasoning, some variant of utilitarianism and political economy to draw conclusions about what was best for society. Most of the Radicals believed that they had used principle six to achieve the realisable goals associated with the first five principles by the mid-1870s. Only the very earnest carried on the fight, and then often amongst themselves over one or two of these principles. Thus, regarding point five, Dilke fought Fawcett in the Radical Club when he sought to implement mild collectivist policies to achieve effective freedom for the majority, while Harrison came to realize that, through Mill’s influence, this club was too metaphysically ‘liberal’ and insufficiently ‘radical’ for his Comtist tastes. Similarly, regarding point six, the historicists and marginalists fought Cairnes and Fawcett over the nature of political economy. 

39. “Mr. Vavasour’s breakfasts were renowned. Whatever your creed, class, or country, one might almost add your character, you were a welcome guest at his matutinal meal, provided you were celebrated. That qualification, however, was rigidly enforced” (Disraeli 1847 [1904]:168). Also note that Milnes was regarded by many as the father-cum-president of the Cosmopolitan (Harrison 1911, ii:85) and was purported to be the model for Lord Dickiefield in Oliphant’s Piccadilly (Rintoul 1993:675).

40. One key difference, of course, was the greater likelihood of a woman being present at a dinner within a private residence. As it happens, the extant records rarely mention the presence of women in the venues considered in this section of the essay. Most seem to be all-male affairs or at least dominated by men.

41. Stephen’s friendship with Maitland illustrates nicely the way in which he could construct intimate and life-long bonds with others. Maitland wrote the following on the death of Stephen’s second wife: “I have an irrepressible wish, however foolish and wrong it may be, to touch your hand and tell you in two words what I think of you” (Maitland to Stephen, 9 May 1895, in Fifoot 1965:135). The correspondence to Stephen is littered with these sorts of overtures between committed and loyal friends.

42. Hardy’s poem is entitled “The Schreckhorn: With Thoughts of Leslie Stephen”. He there portrays Stephen as the Schreckhorn itself in lines that Virginia Woolf believed captured her father’s nature best, such as: “In its quaint glooms, keen lights, and rugged trim” (Halperin 1980). Stephen’s friendship with Hardy, like those Stephen had with a range of literary figures, was driven by personal and intellectual sympathy. This included marathon late-night talks in Stephen’s study in the early 1870s, which suggests the possibility that Stephen’s own Kensington home was also a site for fraternal association. It was, indeed, Hardy whom Stephen called, in a famous midnight summons, to witness his formal renunciation of Holy Orders in 1875; and it has also been argued that Stephen’s Alpine exploits inspired the famous cliff scene in Hardy’s A Pair of Blue Eyes (Halperin 1980:739-40). It also should be noted at this point that, in the last part of this essay, I contend that Stephen’s character contributed to the composite model for Eliot’s Daniel Deronda.

43. For Mill’s self-imposed social isolation in the 1850s, see Capaldi (2004:231); for his ‘Blackheath’ years, see Lipkes (1999); and for his role as a “Public Moralist” in the last two decades of his life, see Collini (1991:ch.4).

44. Mill’s house still stands and is a good ten-minute walk from the station at the end of a street of substantial Victorian houses that exude wealth. There was, however, none of the usual heritage markings and there was no reference to it in the guidebooks when I took this walk in 2002.

45. Also note that Harrison (1911, ii:83) recalled a “small club” called the Dominicans that was established by Mill in 1865 and which met at a hotel rather than at Mill’s Blackheath home. Harrison stated that this club was designed to impart Mill’s political views to the likes of Fawcett, Morley and Dilke. I have not been able to determine the overlap between this dinning society and the Blackheath “symposia” recalled by Morley (1917 i:52).

46. As mentioned in Part Two of this essay, Stephen had traveled to the United States in the summer of 1863, where he made life-long friends with Holmes, Lowell and Norton. Prior to leaving England, Fawcett had sourced Stephen a letter of introduction from John Bright, which gained him access to important figures, including Abraham Lincoln. This injected privileged insights into the letters he wrote home on the subject of the Civil War and, in particular, on the way in which the establishment in England had distorted the cause and prospects of the abolitionist North. Stephen (1903 [1924]: 89) recalled that on his return to England he could “lay down the law in Cambridge circles” on North American matters with “unanswerable authority”.

47. Mill, in turn, may have suspected that Stephen was not unlike his brother, Fitzjames Stephen: extremely bright, but masculine, skeptical, inherently conservative and a supporter of Carlyle’s darker visions of human nature. Unfortunately, we will never know Mill’s views, since Stephen was just one of many young satellites who passed through his orbit in the mid-1860s without making it into his inner circle. Stephen’s Radical friends and even his own charge from Trinity Hall, Dilke, were ushered in, but Stephen was not. Indeed, the extant correspondence suggests that Mill had far more contact with Stephen’s elder brother. Fitzjames Stephen was a more noted figure than Leslie Stephen in the 1860s due to his prolific contributions as a Higher Journalist over a longer period of time; his rising reputation as a legal theorist; his role in representing those who were charged with heresy for their contributions to the 1860 tract, Essays and Reviews; and, as mentioned in the text above, his part in prosecuting the case against Eyre in 1867-8. I am also certain that Leslie Stephen would not have looked to Mill as a potential mentor, as it was totally contrary to his philosophy of life and independent frame of mind; and hence I am equally certain that Mill’s acceptance of the other younger Radicals on the make did not concern Stephen in the least.

48. Strictly speaking Cairnes moved first to Lee, near Blackheath, in 1870 and then to Kidbrooke Rd, Blackheath in 1872 (Stephen 1917a:669).

49. The often-cited letter is particularly important for this essay because within a few pages Stephen comments on Fawcett, Thornton, Cairnes, Carlyle and Ruskin. Note, however, that parts of this letter are dated differently in two reliable sources: 15 May 1874 in Bicknell (1996, i:136) and 12 Oct. 1874 in Maitland (1906:241, 246). Maitland seems to have placed part of the letter written on 15 May at the end of the letter written on 12 October. This conclusion may be drawn on the grounds that Bicknell reproduces these missives in full, while Maitland provides large excerpts with breaks and, further, states explicitly that the passage cited in the text above cannot be dated exactly even though he weaves it into the passages dated as 12 October. I therefore use the Bicknell citation hereafter. Finally note that Bicknell also places the 15 May letter, with only a slight break, immediately under the main heading of a 2 May letter, and thus this letter is also sometimes mistakenly dated as 2 May.

50. This positive portrait of Cairnes by his close friends is diametrically opposite to the depictions given by Cairnes’s Alma Mater from Trinity College, Dublin, such as the historicists J. K. Ingram and Cliffe Leslie, who could not abide him (and he them) (Moore 1995, Lipkes 1999, Foley and Boylan 2000, Moore 2001).

51. A full account of the formation of this circle has, to my knowledge, yet to be written (but see Lipkes 1999:91-3). Although Courtney was a second wrangler who had been an undergraduate contemporary of Stephen and Fawcett at Cambridge in the first half of the 1850s, he did not mix in circles outside his college, St John’s; he left Cambridge shortly after taking his degree; and he only became well known to the Trinity Hall Radicals when he competed (against Fawcett) for the Cambridge chair in 1863 (Courtney to Cairnes 27 Nov 1863, MS8946, Cairnes Papers). Courtney did, however, become acquainted with Cairnes very early on, since the latter supported the former’s unsuccessful applications for the Trinity College chair in 1861 and the Cambridge chair in 1863. Fawcett and Stephen had also entertained Cairnes at a Trinity Hall feast in the early 1860s (Moore 2006). They were all firm friends after 1864-5, once they were based in London for a substantial part of the year, with Courtney writing leaders for The Times, Fawcett sitting in Parliament, Stephen writing for the Reviler and the Evening Pulpit, and Cairnes holding the chair at University College, London. Although members of this set were bound mainly by their commitment to Radical ideals broadly defined, their shared belief in a Ricardian-oriented political economy was also a reason for herding. Cairnes nominated himself as the rabid bulldog, ridding the rat pit of its second-rank post-Ricardian innovations, and Courtney and Fawcett, both of the old school, cheered every catch. Stephen, who watched the spectacle with less enthusiasm, did not always adhere to the party line. As early as 1864 Cairnes wrote to Courtney to ask Stephen, on Cairnes’s behalf, to justify his positive review of Hearn’s Plutology, which Cairnes thought was an imposition on the public (Moore 2011). This issue is returned to in Part Five of this essay.

52. The importance of the 1873 Irish University Bill in Victorian political history should, in short, not be underestimated. The Radicals turned on Gladstone, not just because he proposed a denominational structure, but also because this incident showed yet again that he needlessly made compromises. Gladstone attempted to resign when the bill was defeated, but Disraeli refused to take office until the general election of 1874, when the Gladstone government (and many Radicals) were swept from office. For the precise mechanics of the 1873 bill see Cairnes (1873), Stephen (1885:282ff), Goldman (1989:24ff), Kinzer (1987), Stenfors (1996:98) and Lipkes (1999:194). Eventually Fawcett’s original plan of simply removing the remaining religious disabilities at Trinity College Dublin (advanced in 1872), subsequently known as Fawcett’s bill, was accepted.

53. Stephen commented on this affair, quite dispassionately, in his weekly letters to The Nation. He was not explicitly opposed to the bill after its first reading and was cheerful about its prospects (1873b, c). As one would expect, he dismissed the idea of excluding theology, philosophy and history from the university as a means of avoiding religious controversy, as it would place the new university in fetters from birth. Stephen nonetheless portrayed the bill as an ingenious creation by Gladstone to serve all interests. He was, however, less sanguine in his succeeding letters, presumably after observing the hostility expressed by Fawcett, The Times and numerous other authorities (1873d&e). Thus, Stenfors (1996:95ff) misleads slightly by representing Stephen as being consistently opposed to the bill.

54. Also note that for all Stephen’s backsliding, Courtney looked upon Stephen as an old ally when, following the deaths of Cairnes in 1875 and Fawcett in 1884, he reminisced about the Blackheath set and compared it to the faux-Radical groups of the late-Victorian period. After receiving a copy of Stephen’s biography of Fawcett, he replied with the lament that pure liberalism was passing: “We are so infested with quacks, often sincere, that I am sometimes inclined to despair. I feel Fawcett’s loss continually. If Cairnes and he were alive now!” (Courtney to Stephen 18 Dec. 1885, in Gooch 1920:234). Courtney also wrote an appreciation of Stephen for The Nation in 1904, a date he interpreted as important, since it was a year in which an old Cambridge friend and a link with the circle of Cairnes and Fawcett passed away (Gooch 1920:461).

55. Smith is the model for Dr Bretton in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette (Stephen 1903 [1924]:134). He accumulated a fortune from commercial enterprises independently of his publishing endeavours and viewed Smith, Elder & Co more as a means to promote cultural endeavours than a profit-making business (Smith 1901 [1902], Stephen 1901a [1902], Lee 1901 [1902], Robertson Scottt 1950, Maurer 1953:70 and Glendinning 1992:279ff). Another enterprise that hosted literary dinners was The Fortnightly Review (to which Stephen also contributed articles). This event took place at the Star and Garter in Richmond and would be an interesting social space for a historian of economics to consider, given that it was in this journal that most of the papers relating to political economy were published in England from 1865 until the establishment of The Economic Journal in 1891. I have found no evidence, however, that Stephen was deeply involved in this liberal enterprise, even though his friend, Morley, was the editor from the end of 1866.

56. It was Trollope who indiscreetly provided the gossip about these dinners that Yates used in “Echoes from the London Clubs” in The New York Times (26 May 1860) and which was shortly after picked up by the men of the Reviler (who had long sniped at Smith’s Cornhill enterprise) in “Newspaper Gossip” (23 June 1860). Yates detested Thackeray (and thereby Smith) partly due to the earlier, more famous, Garrick Club scandal of 1858 in which Thackeray accused Yates of revealing clubland confidences (Black 2012:142). Thackeray (1860) responded to this latest “poisoned stiletto” in one of his “Roundabout Papers” entitled “On Screens in Dining Rooms”; and he became so aggrieved by the juvenile viciousness of the Reviler’s columns in general that he asked: “Is the world one great school of little boys, and the Saturday Review its great usher?” (Skilton 1972:53). Reflecting my claim that these venues were to some extent extensions of clubland, Sadleir (1927 [1947]:214) believed Trollope had learnt the lesson that “by London usage a friendly gathering of men of intellect is like a club, in that it imposes a duty of discretion upon all its members”. Cook (1910:21) also suggested that Thackeray’s counsel of remaining silent about what transpired at these dinners explains why there is very nearly no record of them after the Yates incident. It is known that Smith gave up his Hampstead residence after 1872, but continued to provide lavish entertainments for his authors in a range of residences thereafter (Lee 1901 [1902]:57).

57. Trollope’s famous (and often depicted) performance at this event seems largely to be derived from Sala (1894, i:30): “Trollope was very much to the fore, contradicting everybody, subsequently saying kind things to everybody, and occasionally going to sleep on sofas, chairs; or leaning against sideboards, and even somnolent while standing erect on the hearthrug. I never knew a man who could take so many spells of ‘forty winks’ at unexpected moments, and then turn up quite wakeful, alert and pugnacious, as the author of ‘Barchester Chronicles’ who had nothing of the bear but his skin, but whose ursine envelope was assuredly of the most grisly texture”. Trollope does not quite describe The Cornhill dinners this way in his Autobiography (1883 [1950]:147).

58. Stephen courted Minny Thackeray, whose father was the first editor of The Cornhill and one of Smith’s closest friends, from March 1865. They met for dinners at the house he was sharing with his mother and sister (with Fawcett being one of the guests), and at Smith’s house (Maitland 1906:462; see also Aplin 2010). For Stephen’s editorial role at The Cornhill, see Lee (1901 [1902]), Stephen (1901a [1902]), Stephen (1903 [1924]:133ff), Harrison (1904 [1908]), Cook (1910), Norris (1910) and Maurer (1953). Also note that Stephen edited the DNB, perhaps the greatest of Smith’s cultural contributions, from 1882. The fraternal associations arising from this venture are, however, not considered here because they demonstrably fall outside the time span set for this essay.

59. Stephen was, however, still considering what editorial liberties he could take shortly after he accepted the Cornhill editorship in 1871. This is reflected in the guest list that he proposed to Smith for a Cornhill dinner, which included several possible future contributors who were not known for their lightness of touch, including Thornton: “W. T. Thornton has also proposed to help, but is perhaps a trifle heavy & not to be rashly engaged. The ‘Optimist’ [Thornton] might counterbalance the Cynic [Stephen]” (March 1871, in Bicknell 1996 i:103).

60. For Fitzjames Stephen’s shifting conceptual framework, see Morley (1873), Harrison (1873), Stephen (1895), Lippincott (1931), White (1967), O’Grady (1987), Colaiaco (1983) and especially Smith (1988). I also agree with Collini’s (1991:280-7) contention that Roach (1957) still provides the most succinct account of the vexing complexities entailed in Fitzjames Stephen’s drift from a ‘Benthamite-Old-Liberal’ to a ‘Benthamite-Tory’.

61. Although Stephen (1895:307) repeatedly stated that he disagreed with his older brother’s conceptual system, he was equally clear that he was sympathetic with the latter’s attacks on the sentimentalism and humbug associated with certain aspects of Mill’s later teachings. He reviewed Liberty, Equality, Fraternity for The Nation (1873f) in a way that celebrated its “masculine vernacular” and intent, but without commenting on its doctrines.

62. In addition to publishing a critical review of Comtism (1869b) and a critique of Ruskin’s political economy (1874), Stephen published a number of pieces on religion in Fraser’s Magazine. For Stephen’s agnosticism and his contributions to Fraser’s Magazine over these years, see Stephen (1903 [1924]:137-9), Maurer (1949), von Arx (1985) and Fenwick (1993). Both Stephen’s brother and Froude held unorthodox religious views, and all of them were opposed to those, like Newman, who sought to square Popery with modern thought. Stephen wrote that “Froude allowed some of us (I felt honoured in being one) to attack certain common enemies” (quoted in Fenwick 1993:178). Stephen added, however, that although Froude was always kind to him and was a close friend of his brother, he could not quite understand his complex character or his views, and sometimes even distrusted him (Stephen to Holmes Jr, 24 Jan. 1873, in Bicknell 1996, i:118). He initially baulked at contributing a memorial article on Froude’s death in 1894 on the grounds that he did not have time to consider these issues in a way that would do Froude justice. He eventually published an appraisal in 1901, where he stated that Froude was “somehow enigmatic” and paid the penalty of being misjudged by his neighbours because of his shyness and sensitivity (1901b [1902]: 221). In separate correspondence he also stated explicitly that this appraisal was characterised by reticence and contained blanks (Fenwick 1993:218).

63. Stephen was more sympathetic than most of his contemporaries to Carlyle’s ‘Shooting Niagara’ declaration, and certainly believed it required a response more sophisticated than “Pooh, nonsense! And there is an end of it”. He nonetheless believed that the few positive presentations of Carlyle’s views had distorted Carlyle’s original conception: “Still, I doubt whether the poohpooh arguments can ever quite sum up the fitting reply to a man of genius, and I am more inclined to sympathise with The Pall Mall Gazette [presumably Stephen’s elder brother!], which translates Carlylese into English, pared of the eccentricities, and presented a very respectable residuum of argument which demands a serious answer. I think, indeed, that The Gazette has unconsciously altered the essence of his remarks in this process of distillation, and has made him the mouthpiece of ideas not his own” (1867d:214). Stephen often commented on the “able writer” of the PMG in this knowing way.

64. The unbroken exclusiveness of wider clubland through to the twentieth century is reflected in the way that club affiliation loomed large in Who’s Who—alongside birth, relations by marriage, public school, university and regiment—as a signal of social suitability. It was a social sorting device governed by subscriptions, procedures for proposing candidature and blackballing (Middlemas 1977:48; Morris 1990:398).

65. This is, of course, a highly simplified account of Habermas’s presumed trajectory of the public sphere. For a more detailed review see the essays contained in Calhoun (1992). It also should be emphasised that Habermas’s trajectory entails a singular evolution that is designed to yield an explanation of a social entity rather than a generalisation of typical relations that yields historicist predictions. Such a historiographical approach is in the tradition of the older German historical school of jurisprudence in which it was deemed sufficient to trace an entity’s historical origins to explain its nature, rather than in the fashion of the later German historicism that so upset Karl Popper (see Moore 1995 for this difference). Finally, it is now agreed that the transformed public sphere was never as inclusive as Habermas first suggested and, further, that the fear citizens could make decisions ill-suited to social, cultural and economic progress induced some of the social elite, even in the eighteenth century, to manipulate public opinion.

66. For a sample of the voluminous literature devoted to the social and political implications of post-Restoration coffeehouses since the English translation of Habermas ([1962] 1989), see Pincus (1995), Raymond (1998), Ellis (2001), Downie (2005), Cowan (2001, 2004a, 2004b, 2005), and the numerous references cited (nearly all of which I have not read) in the last. The subsequent Habermasian phase, dating from the second half of the eighteenth century, in which a print interchange binds together the more dispersed spaces of the public sphere, has not been popularised to the same extent. For an account of the further mutation of the print interchange in the late-Victorian period, see Hampton (2004).

67. In addition to Stephen (1904), Habermas cites G. M. Trevelyan’s two-page account in English Social History (1944:323-4), an essay on London clubs that has already been drawn upon in this essay (Anonymous 1857) and two German narratives (one of which is a review). The paucity of historical research undertaken by Habermas on this episode and his reliance on these key secondary sources has already been noted in the literature (see particularly Ellis 2001:44 and Griffen 2005:52). Also note that although Habermas seems primarily to rely on Stephen’s writings for his British model, he may have also been indirectly repackaging earlier accounts of the way in which the coffeehouse milieu emerged to challenge the authority of the court. As pointed out by Pincus (1995:808) and Cowan (2004a:22), the political implications of the coffeehouses were considered in the Whig historiographical tradition of David Hume (History of England, v.4 ch.66), Henry Hallam (Constitutional History of England v.3) and, perhaps most famously, T. B. Macaulay (History of England v.l ch.3). None of these Whig accounts, however, approaches Stephen’s proto-Habermasian interpretation of these public spaces. Finally note that Stephen was himself almost certainly aware of these Whig histories. It would have been unusual for any Victorian scholar, let alone Stephen, not to have read Macaulay’s third chapter on England’s social state on the eve of the Glorious Revolution. He explicitly alluded to Macaulay’s depiction of the post-Restoration coffeehouses and Grub Street on a number of occasions, at one point arguing: “If, now, you were studying the period of which Dryden was the literary autocrat, I believe that few bits of reading would give you more real help than that admirable third chapter of Macaulay’s history which, with all its faults, gives the most graphic and picturesque account of English society at the time” (1887 [1956]: 26; 1896 [1898]:48-50). He also provided a searching critique of Macaulay’s broader Whig beliefs (1876 [1991]) and wrote the DNB entry for Macaulay.

68. The more specific hypothesis that is encased in the historiographical frame of History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century—that the deist controversies in the first part of the century shaped the philosophy and literature of the second half of the century, but, given the eventual rise of Methodism and Evangicalism, failed to shape the religious stance of the broader community—is considered later in this essay in a different context. For the complex reasons Stephen retreated from Mill-cum-Comte and other simple-minded historicisms, see Bicknell (1962), Annan (1984:221ff), von Arx (1985:34ff), Young (2007) and de Waard (2011). For the way in which Stephen’s historiography shaped his literary criticism, see Stephen’s own essays, especially the pithy account in “Study of English Literature” (1887 [1956]). The latter actually anticipates the 1904 proto-Habermasian argument, since in the process of arguing that literary appreciation is enhanced if the reader comprehends the philosophy and society of the age in which the literary product is created, Stephen contends that Pope’s best poetry is the “incarnation” of what was acceptable in the coffeehouse circles (1887 [1956]:31-32). Stephen’s larger oeuvre is also littered with judgements that turn on the degree to which writers are in harmony with their times, such as: “Every new departure in literature thrives in proportion as it abandons old conventions which have become mere survivals. Each of them [Defoe, Richardson and Fielding], in his way, felt the need of appealing to the new class of readers by direct portraiture of the readers themselves” (1904:166). He also justified the art of biography on these grounds.

69. In “Coffee-House Politicians” (1712 [1880]) Addison famously describes a perambulatory journey through London in which he hears the completely different way that a report (the possible death of the King of France) is interpreted in the different circles that reside in the different coffeehouses.

70. Dr Johnson was a great founder and frequenter of clubs. He referred to Boswell as clubbable (which may also be spelt “clubable”) in his correspondence arising from his quest to form the Essex Head club just prior to his death (Timbs 1866, i:200-1, Boswell, 1826, iv:230). The Essex Head club should not be confused with the Literary Club, which loomed large in Johnson’s life and for which the required clubbability was such that “if only Two of them chanced to meet, they should be able to entertain each other without wanting the addition of more Company to pass the Evening agreeably”.

71. “The Man in the Club Window” gives these undesirables nicknames, such as the “horse dealer”, who only has one line of conversation (in this case horses), and the “card sharper”, who swindles his fellows like a common railway-carriage blackguard (Anonymous 1859:14).

72. In Conan Doyle’s (1998:201) words: “There are many men in London, you know, who, some from shyness, some from misanthropy, have no wish for the company of their fellows. Yet they are not averse to comfortable chairs and the latest periodicals. It is for the convenience of these that the Diogenes Club was started, and it now contains the most unsociable and unclubbable men in town. No member is permitted to take the least notice of any other one”.

73. The signalling and game-theoretic implications of Goffman’s “dramaturgical analysis” are too numerous to consider here. I cannot, however, help but explore one possibility. The best strategic outcome for some clubmen may have been not to say too much in club settings in order to hide their weaknesses. It must be granted that, as in the case of the proverbial weak-voiced bullfrog (which is invariably deployed in undergraduate classes devoted to the ‘full disclosure principle’), individuals without powerful croaks may reduce their chances of social, economic or sexual success by not signalling at all, since others would then perceive their croaks to be poorer than they are in reality. I nonetheless believe that the more alert of the unclubbable men realised that they were sometimes better off disguising their weaknesses by remaining silent at strategic points or, better still, staying away from clubs entirely. The often socially inept (and sometimes socially impossible) Alfred Marshall, for instance, may have advanced his career by largely confining himself to Cambridge and thereby isolating himself from the club scene. Even those who admired him found his social personality trying: “Marshall is the most exasperating talker I know. He will agree with nothing you say & argues & dogmatises so as to drive one wild” (11 Dec. 1899, J. N. Keynes Diaries , Add 7849). And again: “Foxwell says that Nicholson drinks too much whisky, and that people in London think Marshall mad!” (28 Oct. 1898, J. N. Keynes Diaries, Add 7848).

74. Specifically, Stephen (1900, iii:45) believed that a philosopher may become as austere as a “religious Puritan” if he is not buffeted by others in social environments; and that Mill may have become a “wiser man had he been able to drop his dignity, indulge in a few amusements, and interpret a little more generously the British contempt for high-flown sentiment”.

75. Millicent Fawcett took exception to the passage following the claim that the new men were critical of Fawcett’s political economy. Stephen (1885:125) there stated: “I am certainly not prepared to say that this criticism was groundless. My own opinion is that it represents the failing natural to an intellect wanting in versatility and less open to new ideas than powerful in its grasp of the old”. In response to her charge that such claims were “depreciatory”, Stephen argued that he was merely recording the opinions of others rather than his own: “I cannot help thinking that you have misunderstood me by supposing that I intended to adopt as my own certain sentiments which I attribute to the ‘younger men’ ie Sidgwick & his friends. The fact is that such opinions were held by them…” (Stephen to M. G. Fawcett 19 Apr. 1885, in Bicknell 1996, ii: 328; see also Fenwick 1993:101ff). Stephen proposed some slight rewriting, but refused to omit the fact that the younger men coming to prominence were less inclined to support Fawcett’s doctrines. Stephen also elegantly sidesteps criticising Fawcett’s political economy by claiming that although Fawcett often departed from Mill, he was of the Mill school and thus to criticise him would be to criticise Mill. This allowed him to conclude that it is “only in considering the first teachers of a doctrine that such a discussion would be desirable or permissible” (1885:134-5).

76. Thus, after picking apart Thornton’s criticisms of the laws of supply and demand without any sharp Saturdayisms, he kindly concluded: “But it is well, at any rate, to have established principles attacked by a man who can argue with good temper and ability. Scientific orthodoxy is frequently as intolerant as theological; but both theologians and men of science should be grateful of honest scepticism of which the only result can be to correct trifling misstatements, and to settle the main foundations of truth more securely than before” (Stephen 1866:453).

77. Lipkes (1999:118, 206) also draws upon both Stephen’s narratives and Thornton’s prose to conclude that Thornton was avuncular and charmingly diffident. This reading of Thornton’s nature is further reflected in his life-long friendship with Mill, but challenged by Courtney’s report (see section 3.6 above) that he was prone to querulous irritability at the PEC. It is entirely possible that Thornton was appreciated in some circles and not in others, and by some people in certain circumstances and not in others. It cannot be emphasised enough that mid-Victorian clubbability was a complex cultural trait that mutated across fraternal spaces and situations. A far more nuanced account of Thornton’s nature and friendships is presented in Donoghue’s (2016) recent biography of Thornton, which, as mentioned in footnote three in the introduction, was read sufficiently close to the final publication of this narrative that I am restricted to acknowledging its importance via this footnote.

78. Foley and Boylan’s (2000) account of the intense animosity between Cairnes and Cliffe Leslie is the authoritative piece on this issue. They speculate that the feud between the two could have been driven by conceptual differences, ideological differences or professional rivalry, but they neglect to mention the possibility that Cairnes simply detested Cliffe Leslie as a person (see also Koot 1975, Moore 1995, Lipkes 1999, Moore 2001). Also note that Cliffe Leslie’s complaint about the behaviour of Stephen’s brother raises the possibility that it was Cliffe Leslie who was the “youth” singled out as a prig by someone from the Stephen party at Mill’s Blackheath residence (see section 4.2 of this essay). This would constitute an elegant completion of a perfect circle in this narrative. There is, however, no concrete evidence for this and, given the long list of priggish Radicals of a doctrinaire spirit who ran in these circles at this time, it could have been any number of zealous young reformers.

79. Stephen (1881b:39) also conveyed that conversation and the written word in the world of literature were nearly one and the same thing: “literature may be sufficiently regarded as one form of personal intercourse. It is a subordinate question whether I know a man through his books, or hear him discourse with me viva voce, or talk to him in ordinary society”. Such an insight is, in part, due to Stephen perambulating through a fraternal environment in which he was just as likely to collide with Trollope and Stevenson as he was with Cairnes and Fawcett. He was acquainted with the modern authors he wrote about.

80. Again reflecting Stephen’s influence, Habermas (1962 [1989]:33) dwells on the exclusion of women from the public sphere immediately following those passages in which he cites Stephen on the coffeehouse milieu. Furthermore, although Stephen is examining the fraternal societies of Queen Anne’s age, his repeated references to the issue of masculinity in his other writings, which are quoted at length in this section, suggests that he was, in part, drawing upon (and eventually questioning) his own experiences of hyper-masculine behaviour in Victorian clubland.

81. Stephen correctly judged the capacity of his contemporaries to grasp the allusion to Lady Harrison, but he did not anticipate the ill-read audience (like myself) of today, and hence he did not pause to explain this cryptic reference. It is nonetheless easy enough to track down. It is derived from a passage in one of Steele’s famous Tatler essays in which the civilizing effects of women are celebrated. Specifically, the saintly Lady Hastings (or Steele’s Aspasia) is described thus: “Yet though her mien carries much more invitation than command, to behold her is an immediate check to loose behaviour; and to love her is a liberal education” (Tatler 1709-1711, no. 49. On Lady Elizabeth Hastings). The last clause had almost become a proverb by Victorian times.

82. For the way in which the challenging nature of the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos shaped sporting and other cultural activities at Cambridge, see Warwick (2003); for a review essay of the former with a focus on how the Mathematical Tripos specifically shaped some of the practices of the Cambridge school of economics, see Moore (2005); for the way in which the more demanding exam systems of this time at both Oxford (the Schools) and Cambridge (the Tripos Exams) shaped the nature of mid-Victorian masculinity, see Deslandes (2005). For the link between physical exercise and mental exertion in Victorian Britain, see Whyte (2005:35-6)

83. Trollope’s “The Alpine Club Man” appeared in Travelling Sketches, but was, like many of the publications of this era, first published in the PMG (Briggs 1985:24). For the masculine nature of the Alpinists and the Alpine Club itself see Robbins (1987), Hansen (1995), Colley ([2010] 2016) and Black (2012:147-8).

84. Collini (1991:ch.5) analyses the manly temperaments of Stephen and Fawcett to contend that mid-Victorian liberalism was distinct from the liberalisms of earlier and later epochs due to the degree to which its foundations rested on the celebration of man’s character, drive, energy and independence. The impact of the manly ethos of the Trinity Hall on the mid-Victorian intellectual frame of mind is also examined in Hilton (1989), Lipkes (1999:103) and Young (2007:131ff).

85. Stephen’s preoccupation with Ruskin’s less than masculine character is even more complex and just as interesting, but it is put to one side here partly because my point is sufficiently illustrated by dwelling on Stephen’s attitude to Mill and partly because Stephen’s main interactions with Ruskin took place in the mid-1870s after his clubland life had largely come to an end. It is, however, discussed at length in Moore and Fordham (2017). It is also worthy of mention that Stephen and Ruskin first met at the Alpine Club in 1866, when the latter was invited to speak on the basis of his famous descriptions of the Alps in Modern Painters. The distinction between the masculine Stephen conquering unclimbed mountains and Ruskin the aesthete providing vivid word pictures to testify to their beauty defines a fault line through Victorian society (see also Hansen 1995).

86. Stephen argued, for example, that Paley, like many men from the rugged North, was a typical specimen of the sturdy breed which had often shown its intellectual prowess at Cambridge examinations. “Mathematical studies have long been cultivated in that part of the country, and Paley shows everywhere that masculine, but rigid, intellect which finds its natural element in mathematical study. He is the very type of the clear and receptive, rather than originative, reasoners who are predestined to success in competitive examinations” (1876, i:407). Stephen (1887 [1956]:37), for all this, was still maintaining in the 1880s that the best training for someone who wished to be a literary critic was mathematics (or at least if someone was capable of such study), since it provided a vigorous faculty for determining worth in both the scientific and literary worlds.

87. Stephen also compares Mill’s effeminate oratory performances with Carlyle’s larger-than-life presence in a way that nicely illustrates the argument, described in the Clubbability section of this essay, that the memory of deportment affects literary appreciation. Specifically, Stephen stated: “Personally, the contrast between Mr. Mill and Mr. Carlyle is almost as characteristic as their literary differences. Mr Carlyle’s writings almost require for a full appreciation that we should remember his picturesque appearance and singular broad drawl. Mr. Mill’s appearance, on the other hand, detracts, if anything, from the value of his spoken word. He looks so slight and frail, his voice is so feeble…” (1867b:173).

88. A recent study by Kohlmann (2016) suggests that Deronda is a composite of the men in Sidgwick’s set of the 1870s, which included Edmund Gurney and Frederic Myers, and that the plot of the novel itself is driven by Sidgwick’s philosophical concept of the duality of practical reason. This is a sound account and Stephen (1902:191) himself proposed in his biography of Eliot that Gurney resembled Deronda. Note, however, that Kohlmann does not fully explore the possibility that Deronda may have been a composite of a wider number of Victorian figures. Indeed, I suggest that Stephen contributed to the construction of this character, since he too was interacting with Eliot at this time; provided intelligence to Eliot on the customs of Cambridge for the undergraduate scenes in the book; and, most importantly, Deronda sacrifices his undergraduate career by helping a friend who is temporarily blinded, which mirrors the way that Stephen devoted energy to helping Fawcett after he was blinded in a shooting accident, such as by writing out Fawcett’s Political Economy and acting as Fawcett’s campaign manager when the latter sought political office.

89. The rather cliquey (even malicious) “public schoolboy” environment constructed by the Higher Journalists is also caught by the tales conveyed by Courtney to Cairnes about William Vernon Harcourt, who was one of the Revilers of a Radical bent and had a reputation for being the most unpopular man in London. Courtney related that when some of the staff of The Saturday Review agreed to dine at Greenwich, each, as a malicious joke, was asked to invite the most disagreeable man he knew, the result of which was that Harcourt was the only guest, having been invited by every one of them (27 May 1863, MS 8946, Cairnes Papers). Courtney added that the black balls tumbled out of the balloting box in a continuous stream when Harcourt came up for election at the Athenaeum. The story of this malicious dinner invitation seemed to gain traction, since it appeared in the different reminiscences of the period as gossip heard at the dinner table (see, for example, Dana 1921:175).

90. For Pattison, see Pattison (1885), Jones (2007) and Nuttall (2003). Also note that, given that Pattison was famously reticent at drawing upon his wide reading to publish substantial tomes, and indeed, given that Eliot’s Casaubon never completes the fantastic Key to All Mythologies, Stephen’s gazumping of Pattison was something of a tragedy. Pattison wrote to a friend in 1877: “My one scheme, that of a history of the eighteenth century, having been forestalled by Leslie Stephen, and the collections, of years having been rendered useless, I am entirely out of gear, and cannot settle to anything” (in Morley’s 1885 [1889]:169-70 review of Pattison’s Memoir). The evidence for the Pattison-Casaubon link is strong but contested. Eliot was intimate with Pattison and his beautiful young wife (the purported model for the subordinated Dorothea); Pattison himself wrote a monograph on the Renaissance classical scholar, Isaac Casaubon; and, like the fictional Edward Casaubon of Middlemarch, Pattison was a perfectionist who baulked at writing. The possible overlap between the historical Casaubon, the fictional Casaubon and Pattison as the model for Casaubon is traced out in the late Nuttall’s (2003) last book, Dead from the Waist Down, where he reflects on how scholars have come to be viewed as sexless in their pursuit of pure scholarship (in a way not dissimilar to Stephen’s earlier-mentioned representation of Mill’s character) by analysing, in an almost Tom Stoppard fashion, the “three” Casaubons. It also should perhaps be emphasised that, though a studious scholar who wrote little in search of perfection, Pattison was more influential and pleasant than the pedant, Edward Casaubon, and relished pursuing scholarship for its own sake rather than for publication.

91. Exclusion, in short, did not turn on snobbery proper. The Radicals were in open rebellion against the exclusive institutions that favored the incumbent aristocratic classes, such as a restricted franchise, primogeniture and government sinecures. Their vision of a meritocratic New Jerusalem was therefore reflected in membership rules that turned on a candidate’s ability, industry and moral fibre, but not his birth.

92. Cliffe Leslie proceeded to complain that his Land Systems had earlier received no notices in The Saturday Review and The Economist, while The Spectator printed a most “malicious and untruthful” review entitled “Specious Political Economy”. He implied that his bête noir, Cairnes, was at the heart of the conspiracy, stating that Cairnes had used the occasion of the death of Mill to level “malicious general remarks at me”, even though Mill had publicly expressed favourable views of his writings and privately expressed astonishment that Cairnes had published on the subject of gold prices without mentioning his work in this area (Cliffe Leslie to Harrison 8 June 1875, 1/46,20f Harrison Papers; see also Cliffe Leslie’s endless complaints to Ingram, Ingram Papers).

93. Masterman (1963:279) cites Ludlow’s correspondence with Brentano to support this representation of events and then seems to suggest that Das Kapital was eventually reviewed by Cliffe Leslie on 10 June 1874. I have not had the chance to consult this correspondence, but note that there is no issue of the Academy on that day, and I can find no reference to Das Kapital for the month of June. The earliest review by Cliffe Leslie in which there is a reference to Marx seems to be the one cited in the above text, namely, 9 January 1875.

About the Author

Professor Gregory C. G. Moore is an economist who devotes a fair amount of his time to teaching undergraduates on the Fremantle Campus of the University of Notre Dame Australia. Although he regards himself as a generalist within the economics discipline, he has a life-long interest in intellectual history, particularly the intellectual history that relates to the evolution of economic thought. He is the recipient of the WEG Salter Prize from the University of Western Australia, the PhD Award from the History of Economic Thought Society of Australia (HETSA), and the Groenewegen Prize for the best article to appear in the History of Economics Review over the period 2009-10. He was also co-editor of the History of Economics Review from 2007 to 2011. Moore has dutifully published numerous articles in a range of refereed journals to meet the criteria that are set out in his job description, and will continue to do this until he retires, but he believes that his primary duty is to the students who pay his wage.


Text copyright © 2016 Gregory C. G. Moore

Cover image: Adapted from 'Scenes of Club Life', Punch, March 22, 1873.

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