The Onlooker, October 25, 1902



To those whose business keeps them in town all the year round—with the exception of a holiday too insignificant to mention—the latter half of October is really the best part of the year. London begins to awake from its summer torpor, every second cab that attempts to run over the man in the street carries on its roof the luggage of the returning, the odds that the blinds will be down and the family out of town at any house at which one may pay a call have changed from ninety to one to ten to one, new pieces are being put on at the theatres, and Parliament has begun its winter session. Thanks to the Irish members, and to Mr. John O’Donnell in particular, what might, in view of subsequent happenings, be termed the opening round was brisk and interesting. From beginning to end there was no trace of ennui in the proceedings, and when Mr. O’Donnell rose, to the accompaniment of Irish “whirroos,” and obliged the house with his celebrated reminiscences of Donnybrook, it is no exaggeration to say that affairs became exciting. What were the exact words of the truculent gentleman’s speech has not been placed on record. With true Irish consistency his colleagues, having howled lustily to give him the chance of speaking, continued to howl during the whole of his oration. Apparently the point was that he should speak. Whether his words were heard by anyone but himself was a minor question. Mr. Balfour may have caught snatches of silver eloquence through the uproar, but his attention must have been sadly distracted by the patriotic fist that circled gently before his face. According to the Daily News, Mr. O’Donnell “has provided the country with a startling reminder that even an Irishman has feelings.” As regards Mr. O’Donnell himself this may possibly be correct. No man (we speak from observation rather than personal experience) is quite himself on the eve of a long spell of imprisonment. But in the case of the other Irish members the whole display was nothing more or less than a desperate attempt to advertise themselves. What they expected to gain by behaviour which none but the most biassed critic could describe as anything but disgraceful is one of the things which only an Irish member could hope to understand.

Quite apart, however, from these stirring events, the opening of the Session would have been interesting. The storm-clouds of the Education Bill are gathering fast, and the atmosphere is heavily charged with electricity. Lord Rosebery, having expressed an opinion that the Bill will pass, urges his followers, as a sort of afterthought, to fight to the death. The lobbyist of the Times notes the large attendance of Ministerialists at the opening debate, and comments on their manifest determination to meet the “no compromise” challenge of the Liberals with “no surrender.” His colleague on the Daily News, hints darkly that the Opposition is not, so to speak, such a fool as it looks. “The Government, driving on in slack and incompetent hands to their fate, will soon discover the reality and force of the Opposition,” says he, and with a muttered “Aha! A time will come,” relapses once more into an ominous silence. What will come of it?



   Parliament resumed yesterday. All the time of the House is to be taken up by Government business. This means, of course, the Education Bill, though other matters, it is hoped, will have the attention of the House.
   An attempt was made by Irish members to obtain the promise of a day to discuss their own affairs. Mr. Balfour said this would be considered if the Opposition wished to move a vote of censure. On the closure being moved, a violent scene took place. Mr. John O’Donnell, who had risen to address the House, strode across the floor to where Mr. Balfour was sitting, and clenching his fists proceeded to abuse him. The Serjeant-at-Arms was sent for, but Mr. O’Donnell could not be found.
   A motion for his suspension was carried by 341 votes to 51.
      (Daily Express, October 17, 1902)

See note to “Motor Movements” for more on Wodehouse’s authorship of these editorials.