Featured Image: William Gladstone

The formidable stare of William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898) features in a portrait by Millais from 1885, this replica of which hangs near the entrance to the Great Hall of Lambeth Palace. It is the stare of a man who was both a leading protagonist and observer of the Victorian age, a man who served as Prime Minister four times, resigning for the last time aged 84. The presence of this painting near to the Library relates to the presence of Gladstone's diaries and papers (ref: MS 1416-1455, 2578-2774) within the Library's collections.

Gladstone's journals, which span over 70 years of his life, include poignant reflections and self examinations. It was whilst Gladstone was at Eton in 1825 that the entries were begun, and as Gladstone proclaimed, they are ‘an account book of the all-precious gift of Time'. There are over 25,000 entries covering topics such as religion, rules of conduct, sexual temptation and also mundane and factual matters such as lists of reading and correspondence. The diaries were also a canvas for Gladstone's secret thoughts and desires, often being written in foreign language code, and they divulge such matters as his morally ambiguous ‘rescue work' with prostitutes.

It was in 1928 that the Archbishop of Canterbury was entrusted with guardianship of the collection and in 1938 a later donation was given to Lambeth Palace Library. Between 1968-1994 they were painstakingly edited for publication by M.R.D.Foot and the late H.C.G.Matthew.