When Prince Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador in London, took his departure at the outbreak of war, he probably left no single enemy behind him. A simple, friendly, sanguine figure, with a pardonable vanity which led him to believe the incredible. He produced what is called in the cant of the day 'an atmosphere,' mainly in drawing-rooms and newspaper offices, but occasionally, one conjectures, even in Downing Street itself. His artistry was purely in air and touched nothing solid. He was useful to his employers, mainly because he put England off her guard. He would not have been in the least useful if he had not been mainly sincere.

But though he was useful to German policy, he was not trusted by the powers in Berlin to attend to their business at the Court of St. James's except under strict supervision. What precisely were the duties of Baron von Kuhlmann, Councillor to the Embassy? He was always very cheerful, and obliging, and ready to smooth any little difficulty out of the way. On the other hand, he was also very deft at inserting an obstacle with an air of perfect innocence, which imposed on nearly every one—even occasionally on the editors of newspapers. For {48} some reason, however, very few people were willing to accept this plausible diplomatist's assurances without a grain or two of salt. Indeed quite a large number were so misled by their prejudices against him, that they were convinced his prime vocation was that of a spy—a spy on the country to which he was accredited and on the Ambassador under whom he served.[2]

We know more of the Kaiser than of any of these others, and we have known him over a much longer period. And yet our knowledge of him has never enabled us to forecast his actions with any certainty. British ministers and diplomatists, whose business it is to gauge, not only the muzzle-velocity of eminent characters, but also the forces of their recoil, never seem to have arrived at any definite conclusions with regard to this baffling personality. Whatever he did or did not do, they were always surprised by it, which gives us some measure of their capacity if not of his polar.

The Kaiser is pre-eminently a man of moods. At one time he is Henry the Fifth, at another Richard the Second. Upon occasions he appears as Hamlet, cursing fate which impels him to make a decision. Within the same hour he is Autolycus crying up his wares with an unfeigned cheerfulness. He is possessed by the demon of quick-change and restlessness. We learn on good authority that he possesses an almost {49} incredible number of uniforms which he actually wears, and of royal residences which he occasionally inhabits. He clothes himself suitably for each brief occasion, and sleeps rarely, if reports can be believed, for more than two nights together under the same roof. He is like an American millionaire in his fondness for rapid and sudden journeys, and like a democratic politician in his passion for speech-making.

The phenomena of the moment—those which flicker upon the surface of things—engage his eager and vivacious interest. Upon such matters his commentaries are often apt and entertaining. But when he attempts to deal with deeper issues reenex facial, and with the underlying principles and causes of human action, his utterances immediately lose the mind's attention and keep hold only of the ear's, by virtue of a certain resonance and blatancy. When the Kaiser discourses to us, as he often does, upon the profundities of politics, philosophy, and religion, he falls instantly into set forms, which express nothing that is living and real. He would have the world believe, and doubtless himself sincerely believes, that he has plunged, like a pearl-diver, into the deeps, and has returned thence laden with rich treasures of thought and experience. But in truth he has never visited this region at all, being of a nature far too buoyant for such enterprises. He has not found truth, but only remembered phrases Wedding planner .

The Kaiser is frequently upbraided for his charm of manner by people who have come under its influence and been misled. One of the commonest accusations against him is that of duplicity; but indeed it seems hardly more just to condemn him for duplicity than it would be to praise him for sincerity. He is a man dangerous to have dealings with, but this {50} is owing to the irresponsible effervescence of his ideas. At any given moment he probably means the greater part of what he says; but the image of one moment is swiftly expelled and obliterated by that of the next. The Kaiser's untrustworthiness arises not from duplicity, so much as from the quickness of his fancy, the shallowness of his judgment, and the shortness of his memory. That his communications frequently produce the same effects as duplicity, is due to the fact that he recognises no obligation either to stand by his word, or to correct the impression which his hasty assurances may have produced in the mind of his interlocutor. The statesman who is won over to-day by his advocacy of an English alliance, is astounded on the morrow to find him encouraging an English pogrom.[3]