|Caption||Vanity Fair. No. 216|
Statesmen. No. 132
Mr Henry Fawcett, M.P.
In spite of all obstacles men of parts do occasionally make their way into the House of Commons, and do sometimes command not only a hearing for their opinions but a following for their course of action, different though it may be from the ordinary type. The wonder with which such portentous appearances are regarded, and the distrust which they excite are, however, carefully stored up in the inmost heart of the Philistines, as a warning against any further admission of ideas not brought under any recognised discipline. Mr. Fawcett is a man of parts; he has assiduously cultivated the great abilities which nature first gave him, and has owed to them alone the marked position which he has obtained. Born of a family possessing neither influence nor fortune, he devoted himself early to Cambridge, and seemed destined to wear out a small existence in the precincts of the University, or at most to go beyond it only in the memory of some fellow-students. But he craved for an audience larger and more immediately reached, and in 1859 he contested a Parliamentary election in Southwark. Unsuccessful there, he next tried Cambridge and then Brighton, which at last returned him to the House of Commons, where he at once took a special place as the ready exponent of advanced Radicalism of a certain doctrinaire cast. He supported the minority clauses which provide for the return of members by forbidding electors to vote for them. He believes in co-operation and the wrongs of the labourer, and he takes an interest even in the finances of India, on which he made a splendid speech only last year to an assembly which knew better than to attend to the wrongs of a hundred and fifty millions of British subjects. Withal he is a political economist of a distinctly new kind, and a social philosopher not in accordance with social traditions, and he has dared to touch the sacred land - all which causes him to be viewed with a fearful horror. He is already regarded as a Radical leader, but in Parliamentary tactics he has much to learn, nor is it likely that he will ever sufficiently master the art of intrigue to be dealt with by leaders as a high contracting power. He is single-minded and honest, also he is poor, which till they are held to be claims will be considered disqualifications for a share in the actual Government of England.
Mr. Fawcett is now forty, and during the whole of his public career he has had to contend with a personal affliction which would have reduced most men to utter inaction. When only twenty-five the calamity befel him of a total deprivation of sight through an accident when shooting birds. The calamity itself must doubly endear him to his friends, and the manner in which he bears it would conciliate his enemies if in the full sense of the word he had any. He rows, rides, fishes, skates, and even smokes like the rest of us, and his good temper never fails under the most trying circumstances. His memory, always great, is now that he has so exclusively to rely upon it quite prodigious, and there is no member of the House of Commons who will sooner recognise a speaker by face than he will by voice. He has indeed so far overcome what to most would seem a fatal deprivation that in his case it seems scarcely to exist.