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--LONDON LETTER, j -I

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LONDON LETTER, [SPECIALLY WIKKD.j [BY OUR GALLEKY CORRESPONDENT.] LONDON, Friday Night. That a Cabinet Council should have been summoned within a day or two of the open- ing of the new year is by no means an unusual experience, albeit the sudden coming of Ministers to town to-day has afforded ground for so much speculation. To go Lack no farther than twelve months ago, it will be remembered that there was a Cabinet at almost exactly the sfimo time. Then, undoubtedly, dome.-La quL^uons demanded a paramount place in the consideration of Ministers. The Franchise Bill and the Tendon Government Bill were to be the t vo _*rtau measures of the session. General < cruon was in London. We knew nothing or a Nile expedition, and had not been brought into acquaintance with the com- plications in Angra Pequena, New Guinea, or the New Hebrides. So clearly were home affairs the leading topic of considera- tion then that Lord Derby did not think it necessary to come up from Knowsly to attend the council. It is different now. The Franchise Bill is law, and very few expect to hear anything of the London Government Bill during the next session. Recent incidents of colonial administration, and the attitude of this and other countries towards the solving of the long standing problem of the Egyptian policy are in them- selves sufficient to account for-the Ministerial gathering of to-day. It is just such a day as we often get in midwinter in London, dry, cold, and gloomy, a representative day of this period of the v; ar, which gives us on an average one or two hours of bright sunshine during a whole week, as officially registered at Greenwich Observatory. On a fine afternoon there is usually a considerable crowd of loungers at the corner of Downing-street, nearest the Privy Council Office, to see the Ministers pass up into the Treasury. The chief ob- jec* -if interest, however, on these occasions, wo aid be Mr Gladstone, had he any necessity to leave his official residence, which he has not. He passes from his private apartments into the council chamber, in which for 40 years he has intermittently been a familiar figure, without the observa- tion of the curious who may be gathered outside, and which with a temperature only a degree or two above freezing point is less than usual. An excellent idea of the in- terest which attends the movements of the veteran premier is supplied in the session when a double line of pedestrians is drawn up in Parliament-street to see him pass from Downing-street to the House of Commons. The indisposition for which Sir Andrew Clark is now attending Mr Gladstone is not serious, and merely the result of yesterday's cold journey from Hawarden to London. As Lord Ripon is on his way home, the question is asked whether the usual rule will be followed in advancing a retired Viceroy of India a grade in the peerage. In his lordship's case there is only one step higher, for he was created a marquis after presiding over the High Joint Commission at Wash- ington, in 1871, exchanging the two earl- doms of De Grey and Ripon for the superior title then conferred upon him by the Queen at the recommendation of Mr Gladstone. Of course it is well known that the granting -of a dukedom is a most exceptional occurrence. The Marquis of Westminster received this honour in 1874, but previously to that there had been no such instance in the peerage of the United King- dom for more than forty years, when Earl Grey created the dukedoms of Cleveland and Sutherland for the services which two great Whig peers had rendered to the State in the reform struggle. It is the custom to recognise the services of ex-Viceroys of India by giving them a higher rank in the peerage. Dalhousie, Ellenborough, Can- ning, Northbrook, Lytton, are names which at once suggest themselves. Lord Elgin died out there Lord Mayo was assassinated, so that their names cannot be added to this list. But Sir John Lawrence exchanged his baronetcy for a peerage on Ihis return from Calcutta. Lord Ripon 13 already a Knight of the Garter and cannot take two of these coveted distinctions., The Viceroyalty of India is the most splendid, the most responsible, and the most weary- ing position under the Crown, hence the desire of the Sovereign to offer, to the statesman who has filled it some recognition of the wear and tear involved Tin the dis- charge of such duties. Dormant political life is gradually re- awakening, and as Londoners endeavour gradually to comprehend the details of the Redistribution Bill they will devote more attention to the way in which the capital is carved out into new districts. It appears that the Boundary Commissioners have no power to settle the divisions of the proposed one member consti- tuencies, and they certainly have no power to do anything further with the metropolitan boroughs than that which is set forth in the schedules of the bill. It is to be wished that they, or some other responsible body, had such power. Both north and south of the river murmurs are already heard at the erratic way in which the divisions have been carried out. The end of the year brings with it the ac- customed private view of the Grosvenor, this time of extraordinary interest on account of the comparison inevitably and not invidiously awakened between Gainsborough and Rey- nolds. Never before have so many of the great English master's works been collected under a single roof. We see pictures well- known by constant exhibition like the famous 'Blue Boy' or the portrait of Garrick, which the actor thought the best of all the likenesses, and which he himself presented to the corporation of Stratford-on-Avon, and others by no means familiar and yet ob- viously Gainsboroughs. One point the present exhibition establishes — his supremacy as a landscape painter. Here, indeed, Reynolds was no match for his only rival. Sea and woodland, shipping and cattle, are alike treated poeti- cally and yet truthfully, and, in his earlier works, with a firmness which he sometimes lost in portraiture. His pictures, too, are in much better preservation than Reynolds. He established his method soon, while to his last year Sir Joshua was tentatively try- ing to make his palette keep pace with his imagination. The present exhibition does not inspire us with the same melancholy which last year's year's collection could not fail to produce. There are few cracked sur- faces or wrecked canvases. His favourite blue seems, happily for posterity, to have been a nfer colour than Sir Joshua's lovely but fugitive carnations.

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