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THACKERAY'S HISTORY OF THE EARL OF
[EDINBURGH Review, 1834.1
Though several years have elapsed since i ral excellence—the just man made perfect the publication of this work, it is still, we be. He was in the right when he attempted to esta lieve, a new publication to most of our read- Dlish an inquisition, and to give bounties for ers. Nor are we surprised at this. The book perjury, in order to get Walpole's head. Hc is large and the style heavy. The information was in the right when he declared Walpole to which Mr. Thackeray has obtained from the have been an excellent minister. He was in State Paper Office is new, but much of it is to the right when, being in opposition, he mainus very uninteresting. The rest of his narra- tained that no peace ought to be made with tive is very little better than Gifford's or Tom- Spain, till she should formally renounce the line's Life of the Second Pitt, and tells us little right of search. He was in the right when, or nothing that may not be found quite as well being in office, he silently acquiesced in a told in the “Parliamentary History,” the “An. treaty by which Spain did not renounce the nual Register," and other works equally com- right of search. When he left the Duke of inon.
Newcastle, when he coalesced with the Duke Almost every mechanical employment, it is of Newcastle ; when he thundered against subsaid, has a tendency to injure soine one or sidies, when he lavished subsidies with uner. other of the bodily organs of ihe artisan. Grind- ampled profusion; when he execrated the ers of cutlery die of consumption; weavers are Hanoverian connection ; when he declared siunted in their growth; and smiths become that Hanover ought to be as dear to us as blear-eyed. In the same manner almost every Hampshire; he was still invariably speaking intellectual employment has a tendency to pro- the language of a virtuous and enlightened duce some intellectual malady. Biographers, statesman. translators, editors—all, in short, who employ The truth is, that there scarcely ever lived a themselves in illustrating the lives or the person who had so little claim to this sort of writing: ? cthers, are peculiarly exposed to praise as Pitt. He was undoubtedly a great the Lues Boswelliana, or disease of admiration. man. But his was not a complete and wellBut we scarcely remember ever to have seen proportioned greatness. The public life of a patient so far gone in this distemper as Mr. Hampden, or of Somers, resembles a regular Thackeray. He is not satisfied with forcing drama, which can be criticised as a whole, and us to confess that Pitt was a great orator, a every scene of which is to be viewed in convigorous minister, an honourable and high- nection with the main action. The public life spirited gentleman. He will have it that all of Pitt, on the other hand, is a rude though virtues and all accomplishments met in his striking piece-a piece abounding in inconhero. In spite of gods, men, and columns, Pitt gruities—a piece without any unity of plan, must be a poet-a poet capable of producing a but redeemed by some noble passages, the heroic poem of the first order; and we are as effect of which is increased by the tameness sured that we ought to find many charms in or extravagance of what precedes and of what such lines as these:
follows. His opinions were unfixed. His con· Midst all the tumults of the warring sphere,
duct at some of the most important conjunc. My light-charged bark may haply glide ;
tures of his life was evidently determined by Bome gale may wasl, some conscious thought shall pride and resentment. He had one fault, which
of all human faults is most rarely found in And the small freight unanxious glide."
company with true greatness. He was ex Pitt was in the army for a few months in tremely affected. He was an almost solitary time of peace.
Mr. Thackeray accordingly instance of a man of real genius, and of a insists on our confessing that, if the young brave, lofty, and commanding spirit, without cornet had remained in the service, he would simplicity of character. He was an actor in the have been one of the ablest commanders 'that closet, an actor at Council, an actor in Parlia. ever lived. But this is not all. Pitt, it seems, ment; and even in privatc society he could was not merely a great poet in esse, and a great not lay aside his theatrical tones and attitudes, general in posse, but a finished example of mo. We know that one of the most distinguished
of his partisans often complained that he could A History of ine Right Honourable Willium Pitt, Earl never obtain admittance to Lord Chatham's of Chatham, containing his Speeches in Parliament, a considerable portion of his Correspondence when Secretary of room till every thing was ready for the repreState, upon French, Spanish, and American Affairs, never sentation, till the dresses and properties were before published; and an account of the principal Events all correctly disposed, till the light was thrown and Persons of his Time, connecied with his life, Sen: with Rembrandt-like effect on the head of the timents, and Administration. By the Rev. FRANCIS THACKERAY, A.M. 2 vc ls. 410. London. 1827. illustrious performer, till the flannels had been
arranged with the air of a Grecian drapery, ' venteen he was entered at Trinity College and the crutch placed as gracefully as that of Oxford. During the second year of his resi. Belisarius or Lear.
dence at the University, George the First died Yet, with all his faults and affectations, Pitt and the event was, after the fashion of that ge had, in a very extraordinary degree, many of neration, celebrated by the Oxcnians in many the elements of greatness. He had splendid very middling copies of verses.
On this occa. talents, strong passions, quick sensibility, and sion Pitt published some Latin lines, which vehement enthusiasm for the grand and the Mr. Thackeray has preserved. They prove beautiful. There was something about him that he had but a very limited knowledge even which ennobled tergiversation itself. He often of the mechanical part of his art. All true went wrong, very wrong. But to quote the Etonians will hear with concern, that their language of Wordsworth,
illustrious school-fellow is guilty of making
the first syllable in labenti short. The matter “Ile still retained, 'Mid such abasement, what he had received
of the poem is as worthless as that of any From nature, an intense and glowing mind.” college exercise that was ever written before
or since. There is, of course, much about In an age of low and dirty prostitution—in Mars, Themis, Neptune, and Cocytus. The the age of Doddington and Sandys—it was Muses are earnestly entreated 10 weep for something to have a man who might, perhaps, Cæsar; for Cæsar, says the poet, loved the under some strong excitement, have heen Muses ;-Cæsar, who could not read a line of tempted to ruin his country, but who never Pope, and who loved nothing but punch and would have stooped to pilfer from her;-a man fat women. whose crrors arose, not from a sordid desire Pitt had been, from his schooldays, cruelly of gain, but from a fierce thirst for power, for tormented by the gout; and was at last advised glory, and for vengeance. History owes to to travel for his health. He accordingly left hiin this attestation-that, at a time when any Oxford without taking a degree, and visiied thing short of direct embezzlement of the pub- France and Italy. He returned, however, lic money was considered as quite fair in pub- without having received much benefit from his lic men, he showed the most scrupulous dis- excursion, and continued, till the close of his interestedness; that, at a time when it seemed lite, to suffer most severely from his constitu to be generally taken for granted that govern- tional malady. ment could be upheld only by the basest and His father was now dead, and had left very most immoral arts, he appealed to the better little to the younger children. It was neces. and nobler parts of human nature; that he sary that William should choose a profession. made a brave and splendid attempt to do, by He decided for the army, and a cornet's com. means of public opinion, what no other states- mission was procured for him in the Blues. man of his day thought it possible to do, ex- But, small as his fortune was, his family had cept by means of corruption ; that he looked both the power and the inclination to serve for support, not like the Pelhams, to a strong him. At ihe general election of 1734, his elder aristocratical connection, not, like Bute, to the brother Thomas was chosen both for Old Sa. personal favour of the sovereign, but to the rum and for Oakhampton. When Parliament middle class of Englishmen; that he inspired mei in 1735, Thomas made his election to that class with a firm confidence in his inte serve for Oakhampton, and William was regrity and ability; that, backed by them, he turned for Old Sarum. forced an unwilling court and an unwilling Walpole had now been, during fourteen oligarchy to admit him to an ample share of years, at the head of affairs. He had risen to power; and that he used his power in such a power under the most favourable circum. manner as clearly proved that he had sought stances. The whole of the Whig party-of it, not for the sake of profit or patronage, but that party which professed peculiar attachment from a wish to establish for himself a great and to the principles of the Revolution, and which durable reputation by means of eminent ser- exclusively enjoyed the confidence of the vices rendered to the state.
reigning house-had been united in support The family of Pitt was wealthy and respect of his administration. Happily for him, he able. His grandfather was Governor of Madras; had been out of office when the South Sea Act and brought back from India that celebrated was passed; and, though he does not appear diamond which the Regent Orleans, by the ad- to have foreseen all the consequences of tha: vice of Saint Simon, purchased for upwards measure, he had strenuously opposed it, as he of three millions of livres, and which is still opposed almost all the measures, good or bad, considered as the most precious of the crown of Sunderland's administration. When the jewels of France. Governor Pitt bought estates South Sea Company were voting dividends of and rotten boroughs, and sat in the House of fifty per cent.--when a hundred pounds of their Commons for Old Sarum. His son Robert was stock were selling for eleven hundred pounds at one time member for Old Sarum, and at an- - when Threadneedle streel was daily crowdother for Oakhampton. Robert had iwo sons. ed with the coaches of dukes and prelates Thomas, the elder, inherited the estates and when divines and philosophers turned gamblers the parliamentary interest of his father. The —when a thousand kindred bubbles werr: daily second was the celebrated William Pitt. blown into existence—the periwig company,
He was born in November, 1708. About the and the Spanish-jackass company, and the early part of his life little more is known than quicksilver-fixation company-Walpole's calm thai he was educated at Eton, and that at se- good sense preserved him from the general infatuation. He condemned the prevailing mad- | an offer. He indignantly refused to accepty ness in public, and turned a considerable sum For sume time he continued to brood over his by taking advantage of it in private. When wrongs, and to watch for an opportunity of the crash came—when ten thousand families revenge. As soon as a favourable conjunc were reduced to beggary in a day--when the ture arrived, he joined the minority, and be people, in the frenzy of their rage and despair, came the greatest leader of Opposition that the clamoured not only against the lower agents House of Commons had ever seen. in the juggle, but against the Hanoverian fa- Of all the members of the cabinet, Carteret vourites, against the English ministers, against | was the most eloquent and accomplished. His the king himself--when Parliament met, eager talents for debate were of the first order; his for confiscation and blood--when members of knowledge of foreign affairs superior to that the House of Commons proposed that the die of any living statesman; his attachment to the rectors should be treated like parricides in Protestant succession was undoubted. Bat ancient Rome, tied up in sacks, and thrown there was not room in one government for him into the Thames, Walpole was the man on and Walpole. Carteret retired, and was, from whom all parties turned their eyes. Four years that time forward, one of the most persevering before he had been driven from power by the and formidable enemies of his old colleague. intrigues of Sunderland and Stanhope, and the If there was any man with whom Walpole lead in the House of Commons had been in- could have consented to make a partition of trusted to Craggs and Aislabie. Stanhope was power, that man was Lord Townshend. They no more. Aislabie was expelled from Parlia- were distant kinsmen by birth, near kinsmen ment, on account of his disgraceful conduct by marriage. They had been friends from regarding the South Sea scheme. Craggs was childhood. They had been schoolfellows at saved by a timely death from a similar mark Eton. They were country-neighbours in Nor. of infamy. A large minority in the House of folk. They had been in office together under Commons voted for a severe censure on Sun Godolphin. They had gone into opposition derland, who, finding it impossible to withstand together when Harley rose to power. They the force of the prevailing sentiment, retired had been persecuted by the same House of from office, and outlived his retirement but a Commons. They had, after the death of Anne, very short time. The schism which had di- been recailed together to office. They had vided the Whig party was now completely again been driven out by Sunderland, and had healed. Walpole had no opposition to en- again come back together when the influence counter except that of the Tories, and the of Sunderland had declined. Their opinions Tories were naturally regarded by the king on public affairs almost always coincided with the strongest suspicion and dislike. They were both men of frank, generous, and
For a time business went on with a smooth compassionate natures; their intercourse had ness and a despatch such as had not been been for many years most affectionate and corknown since the days of the Tudors. During dial. But the ties of blood, of marriage, and the session of 1724, for example, there was of friendship, the memory of mutual services only a single division. It was not impossible and common persecutions, were insufficient to ihai, by taking the course which Pelham after- restrain that ambition which domineered over wards took-by admitting into the government all the virtues and vices of Walpole. He was all the rising talents and ambition of the Whig resolved, to use his own metaphor, that the firm party, and by making room here and there for of the house should be, not “Townshend and a Tory not unfriendly to the House of Bruns- Walpole,” but “Walpole and Townshend." wick-Walpole might have averted the tre- At length the rivals proceeded to personal mendous contlict in which he passed the lat- abuse before witnesses, seized each other by ter years of his administration, and in which the collar, and grasped their swords. The he was at length vanquished. The Opposition women squalled. The men parted the combat which overthrew him was an opposition cre- ants.* By friendly intervention the scandal ated by his own policy. by his own insatiable of a duel between cousins, brothers-in-law, old love of power.
friends, and old colleagues, was prevented. In the very act of forming his ministry, he But the disputants could not long continue to lurned one of the ablest and most attached of act together. Townshend retired, and with bis supporters into a deadly enemy. Pulteney rare moderation and public spirit, refused to lead strong public and private claims to a high take any part in politics. He could not, he situation in the new arrangement. His fortune said, trust his temper. He feared that the rewas immense. His private character was collection of his private wrongs might impel respectable. He was already a distinguished him to follow the example of Pulteney, and to speaker. He had acquired official experience oppose measures which he thought generally in an important post. He had been, through beneficial to the country. He, therefore, never all changes of fortune, a consistent Whig. visited London after his resignation; but pass. When the Whig party was split into two sec-ed the closing years of his life in dignity and tions, Pulteney had resigned a valuable place, repose among his trees and pictures at Rain. and had followed the fortunes of Walpole. Yet ham. when Walpole returned to power, Pulteney Next went Chesterfield. He too was a Whig vas pot invited to take office. An angry discussion took place between the friends. The * The scene of this extraordinary quarrel was we berainister offered a peerage. It was impossible eve; a house in Cleveland Square, now occupied by for Pulteney not to discern the motive of such Idence of Colonel Selwva.
Mr. Ellice, the Secretary at War. It was then the rest
und a friend of the Protestant succession. He character could drag down such parts; and was an orator, a courtier, a wit, and a man of Winnington, whose private morals lay, justly or ellers. He was at the head of ton in days unjustly, under imputations of the worst kind. when, in order to be at the head of ton, it was The discontented Whigs were, not perhaps noi sufficient to be dull and supercilious. It in number, but certainly in ability, experience, was evident that he submitted impatiently to and weighi, by far the most important part of the ascendency of Walpole. He murmured the Opposition. The Tories furnished little against the Excise Bill. His brothers voted more than rows of ponderous fox-hunters, fat against it in the House of Commons. The with Staffordshire or Devonshire ale- men minister acted with characteristic caution and who drank to the king over the water, and becharacteristic energy ;--caution in the conduct lieved that all the fundholders were Jewsof public affairs; energy where his own ad- men whose religion consisted in hating the ministration was concerned. He withdrew Dissenters, and whose political researches had his bill, and turned out all his hostile or waver-led them to fear, like Squire Western, that their ing colleagues. Chesterfield was stopped on land might be sent over to Hanover to be put she great staircase of St. James's, and sum- | into the sinking-fund. The eloquence of these moned to deliver up the staff which he bore as patriotic squires, the remnant of the on :e forLord Steward of the Household. A crowd of midable October Club, seldom went beyond a noble and powerful functionaries—the Dukes hearty Ay or No. Very few members if this of Montrose and Bolton, Lord Burlington, party had distinguished themselves much in Lord Stair, Lord Cobham, Lord Marchmont, Parliament, or could, under any circumstances, Lord Clinton—were at the same time dis- have been called to fill any high office; and missed from the service of the crown.
those few had generally, like Sir William Not long after these events, the Opposition Wyndham, learned in the company of their was reinforced by the Duke of Argyle, a man new associates the doctrines of toleration and vainglorious indeed and fickle, but brave, elo- political liberty, and might indeed with strict quent, and popular. It was in a great mea- propriety be called Whigs. sure owing to his exertions that the Act of Set- It was to the Whigs in opposition, the patlement had been peaceably executed in Eng-triots, as they were called, that the most dis. land immediately after the death of Anne, and tinguished of the English youth, who at this that the Jacobite rebellion which, during the season entered into public life, aitached them. following year, broke out in Scotland, was sup- selves. · These inexperienced politicians felt pressed. He too carried over to the minority all the enthusiasm which the name of liberty che aid of his great name, his talents, and his naturally excites in young and ardent minds. paramount influence in his native country. They conceived that the theory of the Tory
In each of these cases taken separately, al Opposition, and the practice of Walpole's goskilful defender of Walpole might perhapsvernment, were alike inconsistent with the make out a case for him. But when we see principles of liberty. They accordingly rethat during a long course of years all the foot- paired to the standard which Pulteney had set steps are turned the same way—that all the up. While opposing the Whig minister, they most eminent of those public men who agreed professed a firm adherence to the purest doc. with the minister in their general views of irines of Whigism. He was the schisinatic; policy left him, one after ancther, with sore and they were the true Catholics, the peculiar peoirritated minds, we find it impossible not to ple, the depositaries of the orthodox faith of believe that the real explanation of the phe- Hampden and Russell; the one sect which, nomenon is to be found in the words of his son, amidst the corruptions generated by tinie, and “Sir Robert Walpole loved power so much by the long possession of power, had preserved that he would not endure a rival."* Hume has inviolate the principles of the Revolution. Of described this famous minister with great feli- the young men who attached themselves to city in one short sentence-“moderate in exer- this portion of the Opposition, the most discising power, not equitable in engrossing it.” tinguished were Lyttleton and Pitt. Kind-hearted, jovial, and placible as Walpole When Pitt entered Parliament, the whole was, he was yet a man with whom no person political world was attentively watching the of high pretensions and high spirit could long progress of an event which soon added great continue to act. He had, therefore, to stand strength to the Opposition, and particularly against an Opposition containing all the most to that section of the Opposition in which the accomplished statesmen of the age, with no young statesman enrolled himself. The Prince better support than that which he received from of Wales was gradually becoming more and persons like his brother Horace, or Henry Pel- more estranged from his father and his faham, whose industrious mediocrity gave him ther's ministers, and more and more friendly no cause for jealousy; or from clever adven- to the patriots. turers, whose situation and character diminish- Nothing is more natural than that, in a mu ed the dread which their talents might other-narchy, where a constitutional Opposition ex wise have inspired. To this last class belong-ists, the heir-apparent of the throne should put ed Fox, who was too poor to live without office; himself at the head of that Opposition. He is Bir William Yonge, of whom Walpole himself impelled to such a course by every feeling of said, that nothing but such parts could buoy up ambition and of vanity. He cannot be more ruch a character, that nothing but such a than second in the estimation of the party
which is in. He is sure to be the first miem*Memoirs, vol. i. p. 201.
ber of the party which is out. The highest
favour which the existing administration can of politicians, who had considered themselves expect from him is, that he will not discard as placed under sentence of perpetual excluthem. But, if he joins the Opposition, all his sion from office, and who, in their despair, had associates expect that he will promote them; been almost ready to join in a counter-revolo. and the feelings which men entertain towards lion, as the only mode of removing the proone from whom they hope to obtain great ad. scription under which they lay, now zaw with vantages which they have not, are far warmer pleasure an easier and safer road to power than the feelings with which they regard one opening before them, and thought it far better who, at the very utmost, can only leave them to wait till, in the natural course of things, the in possession of what they already have. An crown should descend to the heir of the house heir-apparent, therefore, who wishes to enjoy, of Brunswick, than to risk their lands and in the highest perfection, all the pleasure that their necks in a rising for the house of Stuart can be derived from eloquent flattery and pro- The situation of the royal family resembled found respect, will always join those who are the situation of those Scotch families in which struggling to force themselves into power. father and son took opposite sides during the This is, we believe, the true explanation of a rebellion, in order that, come what might, the fact which Lord Granville attributed to some estate might not be forfeited. natural peculiarity in the illustrious house of In April, 1736, Frederic was married to the Brunswick. “This family,” said he at Council, Princess of Saxe-Gotha, with whom he asterwe suppose after his daily half-gallon of Bur- wards lived on terins very similar to those on gundy, “always has quarrelled and always which his father had lived with Queen Carowill qua
from generation to generation.” line. The prince adored his wife, and thought He should have known something of the mat- her in mind and person the most attractive of ter; for he had been a favourite with three suc- her sex. But he thought that conjugal fidelity cessive generations of the royal house. We was an unprincely virtue; and, in order to be cannot quite admit his explanation ; but the like Henry the Fourth and the Regent Orleans, fact is indisputable. Since the accession of he affected a libertinism for which he had no George the First, there have been four Princes taste, and frequenily quitted the only woman of Wales, and they have all been almost con- whom he loved for ugly and disagreeable stantly in opposition.
mistresses. Whatever might have been the motives The address which the House of Commons which induced Prince Frederic to join the presented to the king on occasion of the party opposed to Sir Robert Walpole, his sup- prince's marriage, was moved, not by the miport infused into many members of that pariy nister, but by Pulteney, the leader of the Whigs a courage and an energy, of which they stool in opposition. It was on this motion that Pitt, greatly in need. Hitherto, it hai been impos. who had not broken silence during the session sible for the discontented Whigs not to feel in which he took his seat, addressed the House some misgivings when they found themselves for the first time. “A contemporary historian," dividing night after night, with uncomprornis- says Mr. Thackeray, “ describes Mr. Piti's first ing Jacobites, who were known to be in con- speech as superior even to the models of anstant communication with the exiled fainily; cient eloquence. According to Tindal, it was or with Tories who had impeached Somers, more ornamented than the speeches of Dewho had murmured against Harley and St. mosthenes, and less diffuse than those of CiJohn as too remiss in the cause of the Church cero." This unmeaning phrase has been a and the landed interest; and who, if they were hundred times quoted. That it should ever not inclined to attack the reigning family, yet have been quoted, except to be laughed at, is considered the introduction of that family as, strange. The vogue which it has obtained at best, only the less of two great evils-as a may serve to show in how slovenly a way necessary, but a painful and humiliating pre- most people are content to think. Did Tindal, servative against Popery. The minister might who first used it, or Archdeacon Coxe, or Mr. plausibly say that Pulteney and Carteret, in Thackeray, who have borrowed it, ever in their the hope of gratifying their own appetite for lives hear any speaking which did not deserve office and for revenge, did not scruple to serve the same compliment? Did they ever hear the purposes of a faction hostile to the Pro- speaking less ornamented than that ci De. lestant succession. The appearance of Fre- mosthenes, or more diffuse than that of Ci. deric at the head of the patriots silenced this cero? We know no living orator, from Lord reproach. The leaders of the Opposition might Brougham down to Mr. Hunt, who is not en now boast that their proceedings were sanc- titled to the same magnificent eulogy. It would tioned by a person as deeply interested as the be no very flattering compliment to a man's king himself in maintaining the Act of Settle figure to say, that he was taller than the Polish inent; and that, instead of serving the pur- Count, and shorter than Giant O'Brien ;-fatter poses of the Tory party, they had brought that than the Anatomie Vivante, and more slender party over to the side of Whigism. It must than Daniel Lambert. indeed be admitted that, though both the king Pili's speech, as it is reported in the Gentle. and the prince behaved in a manner little to man's Magazine, certainly deserves Tindal's their honour though the father acted harshly, compliment, and deserves no other. It is just the son disrespectfully, and both childish- as empty and wordy as a maiden speech oo ly--the royal family was rather strengthened such an occasion might be expected to be ihan weakened by the disagreement of its two But the fluency and the personal advantages most distinguished members. A large class of the young orator instantlv caught the pal