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Gladstone and Panizzi

Judith Oliver


THERE were several strands in Gladstone's relation with Panizzi, whom he came to call 'this very true, trusty, hearty friend'. Panizzi made his English debut in the 1820s in Liverpool, where John Gladstone was a merchant prince, and he made it under the patronage of William Ewart the future Prime Minister's godfather; but at that time the young W. E. Gladstone was a boy at Eton, and there is no indication that he and Panizzi then met. They first encountered each other over official and literary business in the early 1840s, when Gladstone was a rising Tory politician and Panizzi - twelve years his seniorwas Keeper of Printed Books in the British Museum. Italian poetry drew them together, and they became closer still through the work they did - all of it arduous and some of it secret - for the benefit of victims of the Neapolitan police, in the 1850s. They then had several years' close official co-operation while Gladstone was a Museum Trustee and Panizzi was Principal Librarian. After Panizzi resigned, Gladstone was one of the friends with whom he kept in touch, and was a frequent visitor when Panizzi was ill.

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