The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

January 26, 2016

January 26, 1911

Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke, 2nd Baronet  (September 4, 1843 to January 26, 1911) was a British politician who at one point was expected to become the Prime Minister. He served in Gladstone's second administration as a cabinet member. He was politically more radical than the liberal Gladstone.

A messy scandal blighted his ambitions. He was named as a corespondent in a divorce. He denied he had been involved romantically with the woman who claimed he had been, and his arguments were successful, but after the publicity subsided, his only avenue was to resume service as an ordinary MP. Here is how his Encyclopedia Britannica article described the complexities of Dilke's situation then:

...... Dilke strenuously denied the story, [against him in the divorce case] and, when the case was heard, in February 1886, there was adjudged to be no evidence against him....A press campaign, in which the Pall Mall Gazette took the lead, made this an inadequate victory for Dilke. To try to clear his name he got the queen’s proctor to reopen the case, and a second hearing took place in July 1886. This went heavily against Dilke. One of his public difficulties was that, although he rebutted Mrs. Crawford’s allegations, he was forced to admit to having been her mother’s lover.

Six years later, Dilke returned to the House of Commons and held the seat until his death. He was active in the Commons as a military expert and as an exponent of advanced labour legislation. Much of his energy, however, was devoted to gathering evidence that might clear his name. The accumulated evidence showed decisively that much of Mrs. Crawford’s story was a fabrication; whether there was a substratum of truth remains uncertain.

Another source relates an interesting detail about the man. In a book about Dilke's wife, a writer and feminist, Names and Stories: Emilia Dilke and Victorian Culture, (Kali Israel, 1998) we  learn

"those who knew Charles as a distinguished public figure in adulthood were often struck by his "boyish" qualities, prankishness, and "childlike fondness for cats and other animals."

This telling detail may well reflect a man of honor, and certainly someone we would like.

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