William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), born in Liverpool, England, spent his entire adult life in government service, serving as prime minister four times. He was undoubtedly the greatest British statesman of the nineteenth century. He was eighty-two when he assumed the office of prime minister for the fourth time and was known as the Grand Old Man or the GOM of Great Britain. The English language has accepted that appellation for any distinguished person whose age befits the description.
Although Gladstone’s political life speaks for itself (he was an avid, but unsuccessful, supporter of Home Rule for Ireland), his name lives on in several forms: as a four-wheeled carriage and as cheaper wines because of his reduction of the duty on wine in his 1860 budget. Willard R. Espy, a GOM in the history of English words, puts it this way: «If in an English pub you hear a customer order a gladstone... he is requesting a cheap claret».
But what the great Victorian’s name is best known for is the Gladstone bag, a leather portmanteau made in various sizes, with a wide mouth folding at the top to close with a central clip.
If one cannot afford a Gladstone, a cheap version is the duffel bag, which was named for a town near Antwerp, Belgium. This large cloth bag for carrying personal belongings has, like the Gladstone, a big mouth, but is made of canvas or duck.