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William Gladstone was Baring-Gould's patron for several years and it was he that offered Baring-Gould the crown living of East Mersea in Essex where he spent ten years of his life.
Baring-Gould and Gladstone
On a recent visit to the British Library to discover more about the collection of ballads that Sabine Baring-Gould donated to them I took the opportunity to look at the library's small collection of his letters. Among these are three that add a little to our knowledge about his relationship with W. E. Gladstone. It is well documented that Baring-Gould owed his translocation from
The first letter, written on March 15th 1873 (less than two years after arriving in Mersea) is the most revealing. Baring-Gould writes:
"I venture to ask if you would take me into consideration when you dispose of the vacant canonry at
I have not been idle since you so kindly presented me to this living, for in the two years I have written ten volumes.
Talmudic Legends of the Old Testament Characters, 2 vols.
Lives of the Saints, 4 vols. Published and 6 written out of 13 that will complete the series
One Hundred Sermon Sketches for Extempore Preachers
Village Conferences on the Creed, (in the press).
Besides editing a quarterly review of Ecclesiastical Art "The Sacristy".
My 'Lives of the Saints' will occupy me two or three years more and will be, I really think, a useful contribution to Ecclesiastical history and biography. In addition I have been collecting for two other works I have in view, a History of the Hussite wars in
I have now to make at times a journey to
I can promise that preferment will not make me idle, for I only seek it to enable me to get more among books and use my pen more nimbly"
On the reverse of the letter is an exchange of messages between Gladstone and his secretary which confirm that his name was put forward for the canonry, though we know, of course, that he was not successful.
The second letter was written on 23rd September 1876 and shows us clearly the depth of Baring-Gould's feelings about the Government's support for an ally who has committed barbarous acts against civilian 'insurgents'. In this case the Prime Minister was Disraeli and the atrocity took place in
"Excuse a line to express the depth of gratitude I feel for your letter, pamphlet and speech on the Eastern Question. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks and after Lord Beaconsfield's outrage at Aylesbury I cannot contain myself from expressing my feelings.
I enclose some lines on the question somewhat too stinging for publication but true"
The second sentence is a paraphrase of Luke 6:45 and the attached verses clearly demonstrate the depth of Baring-Gould's feelings
The Turk and the Tory
By Allah the Turk with his blade and brand
Is ruthlessly thinning a people down
Red rapine and murder race hand in hand
Through hamlet and village and town
And the fleet of old
is keeping the ring England
That the Turk unmolested may have his fling
Wild women are leaping and shriek in flame
Their babes beheaded and spiked by score
Weak maidens are outraged and dead in shame
The ravening Turk is yelling for more
And the premier of England has laughter and jeers
For woman's dishonour and widow's tears
The Heart of the Turk is turned to stone
The life of the harmless is sifted chaff
The rust of their gold must have gnawed at the bone
When human misery wakens a laugh
And quivering zeal to re-rivet the chain
On the victim who's writhing in wrath and pain
The blood that has dripped from the wild beast's maw
On the scutcheon of England has left a smear
The red-spattered tiger is dubbed bashaw
The laughing hyena is crowned a peer
But the blood of our brothers cries out to God
For the Turk a gallows. The Tory a rod
O lion of
awake, arise! Britain
With bristling mane and a wrathful roar
Bid liberty dawn on those Eastern skies
And tyranny trample and blight no more
To the bats and the owls with the Tory and Turk
The lying excuse and the fiendish work
This powerful set of verses also appears in Plymouth Notebook 2 (the fair copy of SB-G's own verse) with slightly 'improved' lyrics. There is a note attached to it which reads "After the Bulgarian atrocities D'Israeli in the House had the indecency to make them the subject of a joke. The English fleet was used to watch against Russian interference". There is another poem on the topic in the
The final letter, written on the 21st May 1877 is included in a volume of correspondence related to dinner invitations in which Baring-Gould replies:
I am much obliged to you for so kindly asking me to call on you next month but unfortunately I shall not be in England in June, as I go abroad next Monday, but if you will allow me, on my return in July, I will do myself the honour of accepting your kind invitation
18th May 2004