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16. CHAPTER XVI - BEVERLEY
Very early in life, very soon after I had become a clerk in St. Martin's le Grand, when I was utterly impecunious and beginning to fall grievously into debt, I was asked by an uncle of mine, who was himself a clerk in the War Office, what destination I should like best for my future life. He probably meant to inquire whether I wished to live married or single, whether to remain in the Post Office or to leave it, whether I should prefer the town or the country. I replied that I should like to be a Member of Parliament. My uncle, who was given to sarcasm, rejoined that, as far a he knew, few clerks in the Post Office did become Members of Parliament. I think it was the remembrance of this jeer which stirred me up to look for a seat as soon as I had made myself capable of holding one by leaving the public service. My uncle was dead, but if I could get a seat, the knowledge that I had done so might travel to that bourne from whence he was not likely to return, and he might there feel that he had done me wrong.
Independently of this, I have always thought that to sit in the British Parliament should be the highest object of ambition to every educated Englishman. I do not by this mean to suggest that every educated Englishman should set before himself a seat in Parliament as a probable or even a possible career; but that the man in Parliament has reached a higher position than the man out,--that to serve one's country without pay is the grandest work that a man can do,--that of all studies the study of politics is the one in which a man may make himself most useful to his fellow-creatures,--and that of all lives, public political lives are capable of the highest efforts. So thinking,--though I was aware that fifty-three was too late an age at which to commence a new career,--I resolved with much hesitation that I would make the attempt. Writing now at an age beyond sixty, I can say that my political feelings and convictions have never undergone any change. They are now what they became when I first began to have political feelings and convictions. Nor do I find in myself any tendency to modify them as I have found generally in men as they grow old. I consider myself to be an advanced, but still a Conservative-Liberal, which I regard not only as a possible, but as a rational and consistent phase of political existence. I can, I believe, in a very few words, make known my political theory; and, as I am anxious that any who know aught of me should know that, I will endeavour to do so.
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