"he rather admired Gladstone"

William Gladstone
Public DomainWilliam Gladstone

William Gladstone (1809-1898) was a Liberal Party politician who would go on to be Prime Minister four times, his first term starting in 1868.  At the time the novel is set, however, he had most recently been a controversial Chancellor of the Exchequer. His policies of raising income tax, abolishing other duties, supporting the independence of the USA and arguing for electoral reform would not have won him the support of the conservative country gentry, but would have gained the respect of more liberal, urban, younger upper and middle classes.