Letter, January 14, 1886, to Mr. Butler

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Letter discussing a future trip to America, German public schools, and Prime Minister Gladstone's dealings with Ireland.

My dear Mr. Butler, I will not delay to answer your kind letter; if you heard from me as often as we think of you, we should be in very frequent communication indeed. You do not say whether you came in contact with Dr. Farrar while he was in America; if you did, I should be curious to hear what impression he made upon you. He speaks very highly of the kindness he met with, but says nothing will induce him to go on another lecturing tour. I do not think I shall go on a second lecturing tour either, for we have change our plans, and think now of coming out in May. Lucy is expecting her confinement about the end of that month, and naturally wants her mother with her at the time; we as naturally, do not like to lose Mrs. Arnold from May till October, the time when we had originally meant to come out ourselves. So we shall probably come all three of us together, Mrs. Arnold and I and my daughter Nelly, in May, and return to England in August. I may perhaps give a single lecture in two or three of the great cities, but this will be the utmost; indeed the season would make it useless to do more. But I shall very much enjoy seeing your country in spring and summer; what it looks like in winter, I know pretty well. I have paid an interesting visit to Germany on a mission from the government here, who want to know what is actually done about free schools abroad; at present, so far as I can make out, the number of free schools is small, but Bismarck is said to have the idea in his head that to make the schools free is desirable, and if he thinks so, he has at his disposal wonderful means for getting things done. What struck me most was how good the schools are, and what a good sort of people the Germans are; I have a letter this morning from a schoolmistress, a single woman of about 40, in a Berlin Common School, which a woman in her circumstances could not, I think, have produced anywhere else; such is its piety, modesty, information, and intelligence, all in combination together. As to Mr. Gladstone they say he is anxious to close his political life by settling the Irish question, and will try about anything in the hope of doing this; certainly his failure in dealing with Ireland hitherto has been stupendous. Bismarck is a bad speaker, but as I listened to him I could not but think how with his strong mind and character he had been constantly succeeding for the last quarter of a century, while our debunk statesman with his fertile and ingenious tongue, has been as constantly failing. But our system is such that the question asked is whether a statesman carries his measure, not whether they are measures which, when carried, produce the upmost effect and do good. Mrs. Arnold joins with me in love to you and dear Miss Butler; I could not clearly say what pleasure it gives me to think of shaking you again by the hand. affectionately yours, Matthew Arnold.
Letters, Arnold, Matthew, 1822-1888