Sir William Harcourt (1827-1904) was a Liberal politician who served as Home Secretary (1880 to 1885) and twice as Chancellor of the Exchequer, briefly in 1886 and from 1892 to 1895, under Prime Minister William Gladstone. Harcourt led the Liberal party as Leader of the Opposition from 1896 to 1898, before retiring from the party. At the time of his caricature by Cloister, he was a private member of parliament, though he continued to involve himself in government policy. Sir William Harcourt first appeared in Vanity Fair in 1870, drawn by Alfred Thompson.
“He is now a Politician of seventy-two; but there is as great difference between the old ‘Historicus’ and the new Ecclesiastic as there might be between the Squire of Malwood and the Bishop thereof. He is also the retired Leader of a (once) great Party: who in his retirement takes much interest in the position of the Church; and so may be imagined by the vain fancier as the denizen of some Cloister. But, though he is now retired, he is still the gentle Radical that he was. He knows all about everything better than any other; and he is still a reverent follower of the Shade of that Grand Old Man who once proved himself his better.
He is a merry fellow in his newest guise.”