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Friends in Council — First Series   By: (1813-1875)

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This etext was produced by Les Bowler, St. Ives, Dorset.



Arthur Helps was born at Streatham on the 10th of July, 1813. He went at the age of sixteen to Eton, thence to Trinity College, Cambridge. Having graduated B.A. in 1835, he became private secretary to the Hon. T. Spring Rice, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in Lord Melbourne's Cabinet, formed in April, 1835. This was his position at the beginning of the present reign in June, 1837.

In 1839 in which year he graduated M.A. Arthur Helps was transferred to the service of Lord Morpeth, who was Irish Secretary in the same ministry. Lord Melbourne's Ministry was succeeded by that of Sir Robert Peel in September, 1841, and Helps then was appointed a Commissioner of French, Danish, and Spanish Claims. In 1841 he published "Essays Written in the Intervals of Business." Their quiet thoughtfulness was in accord with the spirit that had given value to his services as private secretary to two ministers of State. In 1844 that little book was followed by another on "The Claims of Labour," dealing with the relations of employers to employed. There was the same scholarly simplicity and grace of style, the same interest in things worth serious attention. "We say," he wrote, towards the close, "that Kings are God's Vicegerents upon Earth; but almost every human being has, at one time or other of his life, a portion of the happiness of those around him in his power, which might make him tremble, if he did but see it in all its fulness." To this book Arthur Helps added an essay "On the Means of Improving the Health and Increasing the Comfort of the Labouring Classes."

His next book was this First Series of "Friends in Council," published in 1847, and followed by other series in later years. There were many other writings of his, less popular than they would have been if the same abilities had been controlled by less good taste. His "History of the Conquest of the New World" in 1848, and of "The Spanish Conquest of America," in four volumes, from 1855 to 1861, preceded his obtaining from his University, in 1864, the honorary degree of D.C.L. In June, 1860, Arthur Helps was made Clerk of the Privy Council, and held that office of high trust until his death on the 7th of March, 1875. He had become Sir Arthur in 1872. H. M.



None but those who, like myself, have once lived in intellectual society, and then have been deprived of it for years, can appreciate the delight of finding it again. Not that I have any right to complain, if I were fated to live as a recluse for ever. I can add little, or nothing, to the pleasure of any company; I like to listen rather than to talk; and when anything apposite does occur to me, it is generally the day after the conversation has taken place. I do not, however, love good talk the less for these defects of mine; and I console myself with thinking that I sustain the part of a judicious listener, not always an easy one.

Great, then, was my delight at hearing last year that my old pupil, Milverton, had taken a house which had long been vacant in our neighbourhood. To add to my pleasure, his college friend, Ellesmere, the great lawyer, also an old pupil of mine, came to us frequently in the course of the autumn. Milverton was at that time writing some essays which he occasionally read to Ellesmere and myself. The conversations which then took place I am proud to say that I have chronicled. I think they must be interesting to the world in general, though of course not so much so as to me.

Milverton and Ellesmere were my favourite pupils. Many is the heartache I have had at finding that those boys, with all their abilities, would do nothing at the University. But it was in vain to urge them. I grieve to say that neither of them had any ambition of the right kind. Once I thought I had stimulated Ellesmere to the proper care and exertion; when, to my astonishment and vexation, going into his rooms about a month before an examination, I found that, instead of getting up his subjects, like a reasonable man, he was absolutely endeavouring to invent some new method for proving something which had been proved before in a hundred ways... Continue reading book >>

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