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Title: The Wits and Beaux of Society
       Volume 2

Author: Grace & Philip Wharton

Release Date: January 22, 2004 [EBook #10797]

Language: English

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THE

WITS AND BEAUX OF SOCIETY


BY

GRACE AND PHILIP WHARTON


EDITED

BY

JUSTIN HUNTLY MCCARTHY, M. P.


_And the original illustrations by_

H. K. BROWNE AND JAMES GODWIN


TWO VOLS.--VOL. II.


1890



CONTENTS VOL. II.


HORACE WALPOLE.

The Commoners of England.--Horace's Regret for the Death of his Mother.--
Little Horace in Arlington Street.--Introduced to George I.--
Characteristic Anecdote of George I.--Walpole's Education.--Schoolboy
Days.-- Boyish Friendships.--Companionship of Gray.--A Dreary Doom.--
Walpole's Description of Youthful Delights.--Anecdote of Pope and
Frederic of Wales.--The Pomfrets.--Sir Thomas Robinson's Ball.--An
Admirable Scene.--Political Squibs.--Sir Robert's Retirement from
Office.--The Splendid Mansion of Houghton.--Sir Robert's Love of
Gardening.--What we owe to the 'Grandes Tours.'--George Vertue.--Men of
One Idea.--The Noble Picture-gallery at Houghton.--The 'Market Pieces.'--
Sir Robert's Death.--The Granville Faction.--A very good Quarrel.--
Twickenham.-- Strawberry Hill.--The Recluse of Strawberry.--Portraits of
the Digby Family.--Sacrilege.--Mrs. Darner's Models.--The Long Gallery at
Strawberry.-- The Chapel.--'A Dirty Little Thing.'--The Society around
Strawberry Hill.--Anne Seymour Conway.--A Man who never Doubted.--Lady
Sophia Fermer's Marriage.--Horace in Favour.--Anecdote of Sir William
Stanhope.--A Paper House.--Walpole's Habits.--Why did he not Marry?--
'Dowagers as Plenty as Flounders.'--Catherine Hyde, Duchess of
Queensberry.--Anecdote of Lady Granville.--Kitty Clive.--Death of Horatio
Walpole.--George, third Earl of Orford.--A Visit to Houghton.--Family
Misfortunes.--Poor Chatterton.--Walpole's Concern with Chatterton.--
Walpole in Paris.--Anecdote of Madame Geoffrin.--'Who's that Mr.
Walpole?'-- The Miss Berrys.--Horace's two 'Straw Berries.'--Tapping a
New Reign.--The Sign of the Gothic Castle.--Growing Old with Dignity.--
Succession to an Earldom.--Walpole's Last Hours.--Let us not be
Ungrateful.


GEORGE SELWYN.

A Love of Horrors.--Anecdotes of Selwyn's Mother.--Selwyn's College
Days.--Orator Henley.--Selwyn's Blasphemous Freak.--The Profession of a
Wit.--The Thirst for Hazard.--Reynolds's Conversation-Piece.--Selwyn's
Eccentricities and Witticisms.--A most Important Communication.--An
Amateur Headsman.--The Eloquence of Indifference.--Catching a
Housebreaker.--The Family of the Selwyns.--The Man of the People.--
Selwyn's Parliamentary Career.--True Wit.--Some of Selwyn's Witty
Sayings.--The Sovereignty of the People.--On two kinds of Wit.--Selwyn's
Home for Children.--Mie-Mie, the Little Italian.--Selwyn's Little
Companion taken from him.--His Later Days and Death.


RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN.

Sheridan a Dunce.--Boyish Dreams of Literary Fame.--Sheridan in Love.--A
Nest of Nightingales.--The 'Maid of Bath.'--Captivated by Genius.--
Sheridan's Elopement with 'Cecilia.'--His Duel with Captain Matthews.--
Standards of Ridicule.--Painful Family Estrangements.--Enters Drury
Lane.--Success of the Famous 'School for Scandal.'--Opinions of Sheridan
and his Influence.--The Literary Club.--Anecdote of Garrick's
Admittance.--Origin of the 'Rejected Addresses.'--New Flights.--Political
Ambition.--The Gaming Mania.--Almacks'.--Brookes'.--Black-balled.--Two
Versions of the Election Trick.--St. Stephen's Won.--Vocal Difficulties.--
Leads a Double Life.--Pitt's Vulgar Attack.--Sheridan's Happy Retort--
Grattan's Quip.--Sheridan's Sallies.--The Trial of Warren Hastings.--
Wonderful Effect of Sheridan's Eloquence.--The Supreme Effort.--The
Star Culminates.--Native Taste for Swindling.--A Shrewd but Graceless
Oxonian.--Duns Outwitted.--The Lawyer Jockeyed.--Adventures with
Bailiffs.--Sheridan's Powers of Persuasion.--House of Commons Greek.--
Curious Mimicry.--The Royal Boon Company.--Street Frolics at Night.--
An Old Tale.--'All's well that ends well.'--The Fray in St. Giles'.--
Unopened Letters.--An Odd Incident.--Reckless Extravagance,--Sporting
Ambition.--Like Father like Son.--A Severe and Witty Rebuke.--
Intemperance.--Convivial Excesses of a Past Day.--Worth wins at last.--
Bitter Pangs.--The Scythe of Death.--Sheridan's Second Wife.--Debts of
Honour.--Drury Lane Burnt.--The Owner's Serenity.--Misfortunes never come
Singly.--The Whitbread Quarrel.--Ruined.--Undone and almost Forsaken.--
The Dead Man Arrested.--The Stories fixed on Sheridan.--Extempore Wit and
Inveterate Talkers.


BEAU BRUMMELL.

Two popular Sciences.--'Buck Brummell' at Eton.--Investing his Capital.--
Young Cornet Brummell.--The Beau's Studio.--The Toilet.--'Creasing
Down.'--Devotion to Dress.--A Great Gentleman.--Anecdotes of Brummell.--
'Don't forget, Brum: Goose at Four'--Offers of Intimacy resented.--
Never in love.--Brummell out Hunting.--Anecdote of Sheridan and
Brummell.--The Beau's Poetical Efforts.--The Value of a Crooked
Sixpence.--The Breach with the Prince of Wales.--'Who's your Fat
Friend?'--The Climax is reached.--The Black-mail of Calais.--George the
Greater and George the Less.--An Extraordinary Step.--Down the Hill of
Life.--A Miserable Old Age.--In the Hospice Du Bon Sauveur.--O Young Men
of this Age, be warned!


THEODORE EDWARD HOOK.

The Greatest of Modern Wits.--What Coleridge said of Hook.--Hook's
Family.--Redeeming Points.--Versatility.--Varieties of Hoaxing.--The
Black-wafered Horse.--The Berners Street Hoax.--Success of the Scheme.--
The Strop of Hunger.--Kitchen Examinations.--The Wrong House.--Angling
for an Invitation.--The Hackney-coach Device.--The Plots of Hook and
Mathews.--Hook's Talents as an Improvisatore.--The Gift becomes his
Bane.--Hook's Novels.--College Fun.--Baiting a Proctor.--The Punning
Faculty.--Official Life Opens.--Troublesome Pleasantry.--Charge of
Embezzlement.--Misfortune.--Doubly Disgraced.--No Effort to remove the
Stain.--Attacks on the Queen.--An Incongruous Mixture.--Specimen of
the Ramsbottom Letters.--Hook's Scurrility.---Fortune and Popularity.--
The End.


SYDNEY SMITH.

The 'Wise Wit.'--Oddities of the Father.--Verse-making at Winchester.--
Curate Life on Salisbury Plain.--Old Edinburgh.--Its Social and
Architectural Features.--Making Love Metaphysically.--The Old Scottish
Supper.--The Men of Mark passing away.--The Band of Young Spirits.--
Brougham's Early Tenacity.--Fitting up Conversations.--'Old School'
Ceremonies.--The Speculative Society.--A Brilliant Set.--Sydney's Opinion
of his Friends.--Holland House.--Preacher at the 'Foundling.'--Sydney's
'Grammar of Life.'--The Picture Mania.--A Living Comes at Last.--The
Wit's Ministry.--The Parsonage House at Foston-le-Clay.--Country Quiet.--
The Universal Scratcher.--Country Life and Country Prejudice.--The
Genial Magistrate.--Glimpse of Edinburgh Society.--Mrs. Grant of Laggan.--
A Pension Difficulty.--Jeffrey and Cockburn.--Craigcrook.--Sydney
Smith's Cheerfulness.--His Rheumatic Armour.--No Bishopric.--Becomes
Canon of St. Paul's.--Anecdotes of Lord Dudley.--A Sharp Reproof.--
Sydney's Classification of Society.--Last Strokes of Humour.


GEORGE BUBB DODINGTON, LORD MELCOMBE.

A Dinner-giving lordly Poet.--A Misfortune for a Man of Society.--
Brandenburgh House.--'The Diversions of the Morning.'--Johnson's Opinion
of Foote.--Churchill and 'The Rosciad.'--Personal Ridicule in its Proper
Light.--Wild Specimen of the Poet.--Walpole on Dodington's 'Diary.'--
The best Commentary on a Man's Life.--Leicester House.--Grace Boyle.--
Elegant Modes of passing Time.--A sad Day.--What does Dodington come
here for?--The Veteran Wit, Beau, and Politician.--'Defend us from our
Executors and Editors.'



SUBJECTS OF THE ILLUSTRATIONS


Volume II.

"WHO'S YOUR FAT FRIEND?"

STRAWBERRY HILL FROM THE THAMES

SELWYN ACKNOWLEDGES "THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE PEOPLE"

THE FAMOUS "LITERARY CLUB"

A TREASURE FOR A LADY--SHERIDAN AND THE LAWYER

THEODORE HOOK'S ENGINEERING FROLIC

SYDNEY SMITH'S WITTY ANSWER TO THE OLD PARISH CLERK



HORACE WALPOLE.


The Commoners of England.--Horace's Regret for the Death of his Mother.--
'Little Horace' in Arlington Street.--Introduced to George I.--
Characteristic Anecdote of George I.--Walpole's Education.--Schoolboy
Days.--Boyish Friendships.--Companionship of Gray.--A Dreary Doom.--
Walpole's Description of Youthful Delights.--Anecdote of Pope and
Frederic of Wales.--The Pomfrets.--Sir Thomas Robinson's Ball.--An
Admirable Scene.--Political Squibs.--Sir Robert's Retirement from
Office.--The Splendid Mansion of Houghton.--Sir Robert's Love of
Gardening.--What we owe to the 'Grandes Tours.'--George Vertue.--Men of
One Idea.--The Noble Picture-gallery at Houghton.--The 'Market Pieces.'--
Sir Robert's Death.--The Granville Faction.--A very good Quarrel.--
Twickenham.--Strawberry Hill.--The Recluse of Strawberry.--Portraits of
the Digby Family.--Sacrilege.--Mrs. Darner's Models.--The Long Gallery at
Strawberry.--The Chapel.--'A Dirty Little Thing.'--The Society around
Strawberry Hill.--Anne Seymour Conway.--A Man who never Doubted.--Lady
Sophia Fermor's Marriage.--Horace in Favour.--Anecdote of Sir William
Stanhope.--A Paper House.--Walpole's Habits.--Why did he not Marry?--
'Dowagers as Plenty as Flounders.'--Catherine Hyde, Duchess of
Queensberry.--Anecdote of Lady Granville.--Kitty Clive.--Death of Horatio
Walpole.--George, third Earl of Orford.--A Visit to Houghton.--Family
Misfortunes.--Poor Chatterton.--Walpole's Concern with Chatterton.--
Walpole in Paris.--Anecdote of Madame Geoffrin.--'Who's that Mr.
Walpole?'--The Miss Berrys.--Horace's two 'Straw Berries.'--Tapping a New
Reign.--The Sign of the Gothic Castle.--Growing Old with Dignity.--
Succession to an Earldom.--Walpole's Last Hours.--Let us not be
Ungrateful.


Had this elegant writer, remarks the compiler of 'Walpoliana,' composed
memoirs of his own life, an example authorized by eminent names, ancient
and modern, every other pen must have been dropped in despair, so true
was it that 'he united the good sense of Fontenelle with the Attic salt
and graces of Count Anthony Hamilton.'

But 'Horace' was a man of great literary modesty, and always undervalued
his own efforts. His life was one of little incident: it is his
character, his mind, the society around him, the period in which he
shone, that give the charm to his correspondence, and the interest to
his biography.

Besides, he had the weakness common to several other fine gentlemen who
have combined letters and _haut ton_, of being ashamed of the literary
character. The vulgarity of the court, its indifference to all that was
not party writing, whether polemical or political, cast a shade over
authors in his time.

Never was there, beneath all his assumed Whig principles, a more
profound aristocrat than Horace Walpole. He was, by birth, one of those
well-descended English gentlemen who have often scorned the title of
noble, and who have repudiated the notion of merging their own ancient
names in modern titles. The commoners of England hold a proud
pre-eminence. When some low-born man entreated James I. to make him a
gentleman, the well-known answer was, 'Na, na, I canna! I could mak thee
a lord, but none but God Almighty can mak a gentleman.'

Sir Robert Walpole, afterwards minister to George II., and eventually
Lord Orford, belonged to an ancient family in Norfolk; he was a third
son, and was originally destined for the Church, but the death of his
elder brethren having left him heir to the family estate, in 1698, he
succeeded to a property which ought to have yielded him L2,000 a year,
but which was crippled with various encumbrances. In order to relieve
himself of these, Sir Robert married Catherine Shorter, the
granddaughter of Sir John Shorter, who had been illegally and
arbitrarily appointed Lord Mayor of London by James II.

Horace was her youngest child, and was born in Arlington Street, on the
24th of September, 1717, O.S. Six years afterwards he was inoculated for
the small-pox, a precaution which he records as worthy of remark, since
the operation had then only recently been introduced by Lady Mary
Wortley Montagu from Turkey.

He is silent, however, naturally enough, as to one important point--his
real parentage. The character of his mother was by no means such as to
disprove an assertion which gained general belief: this was, that Horace
was the offspring, not of Sir Robert Walpole, but of Carr, Lord Hervey,
the eldest son of the Earl of Bristol, and the elder brother of Lord
Hervey, whose 'Memoirs of the Court of George II.' are so generally
known.

Carr, Lord Hervey, was witty, eccentric, and sarcastic: and from him
Horace Walpole is said to have inherited his wit, his eccentricity, his
love of literature, and his profound contempt for all mankind, excepting
only a few members of a cherished and exclusive _clique_.

In the Notes of his life which Horace Walpole left for the use of his
executor, Robert Berry, Esq., and of his daughter, Miss Berry, he makes
this brief mention of Lady Walpole:--'My mother died in 1737.' He was
then twenty years of age.

But beneath this seemingly slight recurrence to his mother, a regret
which never left him through life was buried. Like Cowper, he mourned,
as the profoundest of all sorrows, the loss of that life-long friend.

  'My mother, when I learn'd that thou wast dead,
  Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed?
  Hovered thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son?
  Wretch even then, life's journey just begun.'

Although Horace in many points bore a strong resemblance to Sir Robert
Walpole, he rarely if ever received from that jovial, heartless, able
man, any proof of affection. An outcast from his father's heart, the
whole force of the boy's love centred in his mother; yet in after-life
no one reverenced Sir Robert Walpole so much as his supposed son. To be
adverse to the minister was to be adverse to the unloved son who
cherished his memory. What 'my father' thought, did, and said, was law;
what his foes dared to express was heresy. Horace had the family mania
strong upon him; the world was made for Walpoles, whose views were never
to be controverted, nor whose faith impugned. Yet Horace must have
witnessed, perhaps with out comprehending it, much disunion at home.
Lady Walpole. beautiful and accomplished, could not succeed in riveting
her husband to his conjugal duties. Gross licentiousness was the order
of the day, and Sir Robert was among the most licentious; he left his
lovely wife to the perilous attentions of all the young courtiers who
fancied that by courting the Premier's wife they could secure Walpole's
good offices. Sir Robert, according to Pope, was one of those who--

  'Never made a friend in private life,
  And was, besides, a tyrant to his wife.

At all events, if not a tyrant, he was indifferent to those
circumstances which reflected upon him, and were injurious to her. He
was conscious that he had no right to complain of any infidelity on her
part, and he left her to be surrounded by men whom he knew to be
profligates of the most dangerous pretensions to wit and elegance.

It was possibly not unfrequently that Horace, his mother's pet, gleaned
in the drawing-rooms of Arlington Street his first notions of that
_persiflage_ which was the fashion of the day. We. can fancy him a
precocious, old-fashioned little boy, at his mother's apron-string,
whilst Carr, Lord Hervey, was paying his devoirs; we see him gazing with
wondering eyes at Pulteney, Earl of Bath, with his blue ribbon across
his laced coat; whilst compassionating friends observing the pale-faced
boy in that hot-house atmosphere, in which both mind and body were like
forced plants, prophesied that 'little Horace' could not possibly live
to be a man.

He survived, however, two sisters, who died in childhood, and became
dearer and dearer to his fond mother.

In his old age, Horace delighted in recalling anecdotes of his infancy;
in these his mother's partiality largely figured. Brought up among
courtiers and ministers, his childish talk was all of kings and princes;
and he was a gossip both by inclination and habit. His greatest desire
in life was to see the king--George I., and his nurses and attendants
augmented his wish by their exalted descriptions of the grandeur which
he effected, in after-life, to despise. He entreated his mother to take
him to St. James's. When relating the incidents of the scene in which he
was first introduced to a court, Horace Walpole speaks of the 'infinite
good-nature of his father, who never thwarted any of his children,' and
'suffered him,' he says, 'to be too much indulged.'

Some difficulties attended the fruition of the forward boy's wish. The
Duchess of Kendal was jealous of Sir Robert Walpole's influence with the
king: her aim was to bring Lord Bolingbroke into power. The childish
fancy was, nevertheless, gratified: and under his mother's care he was
conducted to the apartments of the Duchess of Kendal in St. James's.

'A favour so unusual to be asked by a boy of ten years old,' he
afterwards wrote in his 'Reminiscences,' 'was still too slight to be
refused to the wife of the first minister and her darling child.'
However, as it was not to be a precedent, the interview was to be
private, and at night.

It was ten o'clock in the evening when Lady Walpole, leading her son,
was admitted into the apartments of Melusina de Schulenberg, Countess of
Walsingham, who passed under the name of the Duchess of Kendal's niece,
but who was, in fact, her daughter, by George I. The polluted rooms in
which Lady Walsingham lived were afterwards occupied by the two
mistresses of George II.--the Countess of Suffolk, and Madame de
Walmoden, Countess of Yarmouth.

With Lady Walsingham, Lady Walpole and her little son waited until,
notice having been given that the king had come down to supper, he was
led into the presence of 'that good sort of man,' as he calls George I.
That monarch was pleased to permit the young courtier to kneel down and
kiss his hand. A few words were spoken by the august personage, and
Horace was led back into the adjoining room.

But the vision of that 'good sort of man' was present to him when, in
old age, he wrote down his recollections for his beloved Miss Berry. By
the side of a tall, lean, ill-favoured old German lady--the Duchess of
Kendal--stood a pale, short, elderly man, with a dark tie-wig, in a
plain coat and waistcoat: these and his breeches were all of
snuff-coloured cloth, and his stockings of the same colour. By the blue
riband alone could the young subject of this 'good sort of man' discern
that he was in the presence of majesty. Little interest could be
elicited in this brief interview, yet Horace thought it his painful
duty, being also the son of a prime minister, to shed tears when, with
the other scholars of Eton College, he walked in the procession to the
proclamation of George II. And no doubt he was one of _very_ few
personages in England whose eyes Were moistened for that event.
Nevertheless, there was something of _bonhommie_ in the character of
George I. that one misses in his successor. His love of punch, and his
habit of becoming a little tipsy over his private dinners with Sir
Robert Walpole, were English as well as German traits, and were regarded
almost as condescensions; and then he had a kind of slow wit, that was
turned upon the venial officials whose perquisites were at their
disgraceful height in his time.

'A strange country this,' said the monarch, in his most clamorous
German: 'one day, after I came to St. James's, I looked out of the
window, and saw a park, with walks, laurels, &c.; these they told me
were mine. The next day Lord Chetwynd, the ranger of _my_ park, sends me
a brace of carp out of my canal; I was told, thereupon, that I must give
five guineas to Lord Chetwynd's porter for bringing me my _own_ fish,
out of my _own_ canal, in my _own_ park!' In spite of some agreeable
qualities, George I. was, however, anything but a 'good sort of man.' It
is difficult how to rank the two first Georges; both were detestable as
men, and scarcely tolerable as monarchs. The foreign deeds of George I.
were stained with the supposed murder of Count Konigsmark: the English
career of George II. was one of the coarsest profligacy. Their example
was infamous.

His father's only sister having become the second wife of Charles Lord
Townshend, Horace was educated with his cousins; and the tutor selected
was Edward Weston, the son of Stephen, Bishop of Exeter; this preceptor
was afterwards engaged in a controversy with Dr. Warburton, concerning
the 'Naturalization of the Jews.' By that learned, haughty disputant, he
is termed 'a gazetteer by profession--by inclination a Methodist.' Such
was the man who guided the dawning intellect of Horace Walpole. Under
his care he remained until he went, in 1727, to Eton. But Walpole's was
not merely a scholastic education: he was destined for the law--and, on
going up to Cambridge, was obliged to attend lectures on civil law. He
went from Eton to King's College--where he was, however, more disposed
to what are termed accomplishments than to deep reading. At Cambridge he
even studied Italian; at home he learned to dance and fence; and took
lessons in drawing from Bernard Lens, drawing-master to the Duke of
Cumberland and his sisters. It is not to be wondered at that he left
Cambridge without taking a degree.

But fortune was lying, as it were, in wait for him; and various
sinecures had been reserved for the Minister's youngest son: first, he
became Inspector of the Imports and Exports in the Customs; but soon
resigned that post to be Usher of the Exchequer. 'And as soon,' he
writes, 'as I became of age I took possession of two other little patent
places in the Exchequer, called Comptroller of the Pipe, and Clerk of
the Estreats. They had been held for me by Mr. Fane.'

Such was the mode in which the younger sons were then provided for by a
minister; nor has the unworthy system died out in our time, although
greatly modified.

Horace was growing up meantime, not an awkward, but a somewhat
insignificant youth, with a short, slender figure: which always retained
a boyish appearance when seen from behind. His face was common-place,
except when his really expressive eyes sparkled with intelligence, or
melted into the sweetest expression of kindness. But his laugh was
forced and uncouth: and even in his smile there was a hard, sarcastic
expression that made one regret that he smiled.

He was now in possession of an income of L1,700 annually, and he looked
naturally to the Continent, to which all young members of the
aristocracy repaired, after the completion of their collegiate life.

He had been popular at Eton: he was also, it is said, both beloved and
valued at Cambridge. In reference to his Etonian days he says, in one of
his letters, 'I can't say I am sorry I was never quite a schoolboy: an
expedition against bargemen, or a match at cricket, may be very pretty
things to recollect; but, thank my stars, I can remember things that are
very near as pretty. The beginning of my Roman history was spent in the
asylum, or conversing in Egeria's hallowed grove; not in thumping and
pummelling King Amulius's herdsmen.[1]

[1: Life by Warburton, p 70.]

'I remember,' he adds, 'when I was at Eton, and Mr. Bland had set me on
an extraordinary task, I used sometimes to pique myself upon not getting
it, because it was not immediately my school business. What! learn more
than I was absolutely forced to learn! I felt the weight of learning
that; for I was a blockhead, _and pushed above my parts_.'[2]

[2: Life of Warburton, p. 63.]

Popular amongst his schoolfellows, Horace formed friendships at Eton
which mainly influenced his after-life. Richard West, the son of West,
Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and the grandson, on his mother's side, of
Bishop Burnet; together with a youth named Assheton--formed, with the
poet Gray, and Horace himself, what the young wit termed the 'Quadruple
Alliance.' Then there was the 'triumvirate,' George Montagu, Charles
Montagu, and Horace: next came George Selwyn and Hanbury Williams;
lastly, a retired, studious youth, a sort of foil to all these gay,
brilliant young wits--a certain William Cole, a lover of old books, and
of quaint prints. And in all these boyish friendships, some of which
were carried from Eton to Cambridge, may be traced the foundation of the
Horace Walpole, of Strawberry Hill and of Berkeley Square. To Gray he
owed his ambition to be learned, if possible--poetical, if nature had
not forbidden; to the Montagus, his dash and spirit; to Sir Hanbury
Williams, his turn for _jeux d'esprit_, as a part of the completion of a
fine gentleman's education; to George Selwyn, his appreciation of what
was then considered wit--but which we moderns are not worthy to
appreciate. Lord Hertford and Henry Conway, Walpole's cousins, were also
his schoolfellows; and for them he evinced throughout his long life a
warm regard. William Pitt, Lord Chatham--chiefly remembered at Eton for
having been flogged for being out of bounds--was a contemporary, though
not an intimate, of Horace Walpole's at Eton.

His regard for Gray did him infinite credit: yet never were two men more
dissimilar as they advanced in life. Gray had no aristocratic birth to
boast; and Horace dearly loved birth, refinement, position, all that
comprises the cherished term 'aristocracy.' Thomas Gray, more
illustrious for the little his fastidious judgment permitted him to give
to the then critical world, than many have been in their productions of
volumes, was born in Cornhill--his father being a worthy citizen. He was
just one year older than Walpole, but an age his senior in gravity,
precision, and in a stiff resolution to maintain his independence. He
made one fatal step, fatal to his friendship for Horace, when he
forfeited--by allowing Horace to take him and pay his expenses during a
long continental tour--his independence. Gray had many points which made
him vulnerable to Walpole's shafts of ridicule; and Horace had a host of
faults which excited the stern condemnation of Gray. The author of the
'Elegy'--which Johnson has pronounced to be the noblest ode in our
language--was one of the most learned men of his time, 'and was equally
acquainted with the elegant and profound paths of science, and that not
superficially, but thoroughly; knowing in every branch of history, both
natural and civil, as having read all the original historians of
England, France, and Italy; a great antiquarian, who made criticisms,
metaphysics, morals, and politics a principal part of his plan of
study--who was uncommonly fond of voyages and travels of all sorts--and
who had a fine taste in painting, prints, architecture, and gardening'
What a companion for a young man of taste and sympathy! but the friends
were far too clever long to agree. Gray was haughty, impatient,
intolerant of the peculiarities of others, according to the author of
'Walpoliana:' doubtless he detected the vanity, the actual selfishness,
the want of earnest feeling in Horace, which had all been kept down at
school, where boys are far more unsparing Mentors than their betters. In
vain did they travel _en prince_, and all at Walpole's expense; in vain
did they visit courts, and receive affability from princes: in vain did
he of Cornhill participate for a brief period in the attentions lavished
on the son of a British Prime Minister: they quarrelled--and we almost
reverence Gray for that result, more especially when we find the author
of 'Walpoliana' expressing his conviction that 'had it not been for this
idle indulgence of his hasty temper, Mr. Gray would immediately on his
return home have received, as usual, a pension or office from Sir Robert
Walpole.' We are inclined to feel contempt for the anonymous writer of
that amusing little book.

After a companionship of four years, Gray, nevertheless, returned to
London. He had been educated with the expectation of being a barrister;
but finding that funds were wanting to pursue a legal education, he gave
up a set of chambers in the Temple, which he had occupied previous to
his travels, and retired to Cambridge.

Henceforth what a singular contrast did the lives of these once fond
friends present! In the small, quaint rooms of Peter-House,[3] Gray
consumed a dreary celibacy, consoled by the Muse alone, who--if other
damsels found no charms in his somewhat piggish, wooden countenance, or
in his manners, replete, it is said, with an unpleasant consciousness of
superiority--never deserted him. His college existence, varied only by
his being appointed Professor of Modern History, was, for a brief space,
exchanged for an existence almost as studious in London. Between the
years 1759 and 1762, he took lodgings, we find, in Southampton Row--a
pleasant locality then, opening to the fields--in order to be near the
British Museum, at that time just opened to the public. Here his intense
studies were, it may be presumed, relieved by the lighter task of
perusing the Harleian Manuscripts; and here he formed the acquaintance
of Mason, a dull, affected poet, whose celebrity is greater as the
friend and biographer of Gray, than even as the author of those verses
on the death of Lady Coventry, in which there are, nevertheless, some
beautiful lines. Gray died in college--a doom that, next to ending one's
days in a jail or a convent, seems the dreariest. He died of the gout: a
suitable, and, in that region and in those three-bottle days, almost an
inevitable disease; but there is no record of his having been
intemperate.

[3: Gray migrated to Pembroke in 1756.]

Whilst Gray was poring over dusty manuscripts, Horace was beginning that
career of prosperity which was commenced by the keenest enjoyment of
existence. He has left us, in his Letters, some brilliant passages,
indicative of the delights of his boyhood and youth. Like him, we linger
over a period still fresh, still hopeful, still generous in impulse--
still strong in faith in the world's worth--before we hasten on to
portray the man of the world, heartless, not wholly, perhaps, but wont
to check all feeling till it was well-nigh quenched; little minded;
bitter, if not spiteful; with many acquaintances and scarce one
friend--the Horace Walpole of Berkeley Square and Strawberry Hill.

'Youthful passages of life are,' he says, 'the chippings of Pitt's
diamond, set into little heart-rings with mottoes; the stone itself more
worth, the filings more gentle and agreeable. Alexander, at the head of
the world, never tasted the true pleasure that boys of his age have
enjoyed at the head of a school. Little intrigues, little schemes and
policies engage their thoughts; and at the same time that they are
laying the foundation for their middle age of life, the mimic republic
they live in, furnishes materials of conversation for their latter age;
and old men cannot be said to be children a second time with greater
truth from any one cause, than their living over again their childhood
in imagination.'

Again: 'Dear George, were not the playing-fields at Eton food for all
manner of flights? No old maid's gown, though it had been tormented into
all the fashions from King James to King George, ever underwent so many
transformations as these poor plains have in my idea. At first I was
contented with tending a visionary flock, and sighing some pastoral name
to the echo of the cascade under the bridge ... As I got further into
Virgil and Clelia, I found myself transported from Arcadia to the garden
of Italy; and saw Windsor Castle in no other view than the _Capitoli
immobile saxum_.'

Horace Walpole's humble friend Assheton was another of those Etonians
who were plodding on to independence, whilst he, set forward by fortune
and interest, was accomplishing reputation. Assheton was the son of a
worthy man, who presided over the Grammar School at Lancaster, upon a
stipend of L32 a year. Assheton's mother had brought to her husband a
small estate. This was sold to educate the 'boys:' they were both clever
and deserving. One became the fellow of Trinity College; the other, the
friend of Horace, rose into notice as the tutor of the young Earl of
Plymouth; then became a D.D., and a fashionable preacher in London; was
elected preacher at Lincoln's Inn; attacked the Methodists; and died, at
fifty-three, at variance with Horace--this Assheton, whom once he had
loved so much.

Horace, on the other hand, after having seen during his travels all that
was most exclusive, attractive, and lofty, both in art and nature, came
home without bringing, he declares, 'one word of French or Italian for
common use.' He professed, indeed, to prefer England to all other
countries. A country tour in England delighted him: the populousness,
the ease in the people also, charmed him. 'Canterbury was a paradise to
Modena, Reggio, or Parma.' He had, before he returned, perceived that
nowhere except in England was there the distinction of 'middling
people;' he now found that nowhere but in England were middling houses.
'How snug they are!' exclaims this scion of the exclusives. Then he runs
on into an anecdote about Pope and Frederick, Prince of Wales. 'Mr.
Pope, said the prince, 'you don't love princes.' 'Sir, I beg your
pardon.' 'Well, you don't love kings, then.' 'Sir, I own I like the lion
better before his claws are grown.' The 'Horace Walpole' began now to
creep out: never was he really at home except in a court atmosphere.
Still he assumed, even at twenty-four, to be the boy.

'You won't find me,' he writes to Harry Conway, 'much altered, I
believe; at least, outwardly. I am not grown a bit shorter or fatter,
but am just the same long, lean creature as usual. Then I talk no French
but to my footman; nor Italian, but to myself. What inward alterations
may have happened to me you will discover best; for you know 'tis said,
one never knows that one's self. I will answer, that that part of it
that belongs to you has not suffered the least change--I took care of
that. For _virtu_, I have a little to entertain you--it is my sole
pleasure. I am neither young enough nor old enough to be in love.'

Nevertheless, it peeps out soon after that the 'Pomfrets' are coming
back. Horace had known them in Italy. The Earl and Countess and their
daughters were just then the very pink of fashion; and even the leaders
of all that was exclusive in the court. Half in ridicule, half in
earnest, are the remarks which, throughout all the career of Horace,
incessantly occur. 'I am neither young enough nor old enough to be in
love,' he says; yet that he was in love with one of the lovely Fermors
is traditionary still in the family--and that tradition pointed at Lady
Juliana, the youngest, afterwards married to Mr. Penn. The Earl of
Pomfret had been master of the horse to Queen Caroline: Lady Pomfret,
lady of the bed-chamber. 'My Earl,' as the-countess styled him, was
apparently a supine subject to her ladyship's strong will and
wrong-headed ability--which she, perhaps, inherited from her
grandfather, Judge Jeffreys; she being the daughter and heiress of that
rash young Lord Jeffreys, who, in a spirit of braggadocia, stopped the
funeral of Dryden on its way to Westminster, promising a more splendid
procession than the poor, humble cortege--a boast which he never
fulfilled. Lady Sophia Fermor, the eldest daughter, who afterwards
became the wife of Lord Carteret, resembled, in beauty, the famed
Mistress Arabella Fermor, the heroine of the 'Rape of the Lock.' Horace
Walpole admired Lady Sophia--whom he christened Juno--intensely.
Scarcely a letter drips from his pen--as a modern novelist used to
express it[4]--without some touch of the Pomfrets. Thus to Sir Horace
Mann, then a diplomatist at Florence:--

[4: The accomplished novelist, Mrs. Gore, famous for her facility, used
to say that a three-volume novel just 'dripped from her pen.']

'Lady Pomfret I saw last night. Lady Sophia has been ill with a cold;
her head is to be dressed French, and her body English, for which I am
sorry, her figure is so fine in a robe. She is full as sorry as I am.'

Again, at a ball at Sir Thomas Robinson's, where four-and-twenty couples
danced country-dances, in two sets, twelve and twelve, 'there was Lady
Sophia, handsomer than ever, but a little out of humour at the scarcity
of minuets; however, as usual, dancing more than anybody, and, as usual
too, she took out what men she liked, or thought the best
dancers.'...'We danced; for I country-danced till four, then had tea and
coffee, and came home.' Poor Horace! Lady Sophia was not for a younger
son, however gay, talented, or rich he might be.

His pique and resentment towards her mother, who had higher views for
her beautiful daughter, begin at this period to show themselves, and
never died away.

Lady Townshend was the wit who used to gratify Horace with tales of her
whom he hated--Henrietta-Louisa, Countess of Pomfret.

'Lady Townshend told me an admirable history: it is of _our friend_ Lady
Pomfret. Somebody that belonged to the Prince of Wales said, they were
going to _court_; it was objected that they ought to say to Carlton
House; that the only _court_ is where the king resides. Lady P., with
her paltry air of significant learning and absurdity, said, "Oh, Lord!
Is there no _court_ in England but the king's? Sure, there are many
more! There is the _Court_ of Chancery, the _Court_ of Exchequer, the
_Court_ of King's Bench, &c." Don't you love her? Lord Lincoln does her
daughter--Lady Sophia Fermor. He is come over, and met me and her the
other night; he turned pale, spoke to her several times in the evening,
but not long, and sighed to me at going away. He came over all alone;
and not only his Uncle Duke (the Duke of Newcastle) but even Majesty is
fallen in love with him. He talked to the king at his levee, without
being spoken to. That was always thought high treason; but I don't know
how the gruff gentleman liked it. And then he had been told that Lord
Lincoln designed to have made the campaign, if we had gone to war; in
short, he says Lord Lincoln is the handsomest man in England.'

Horace was not, therefore, the only victim to a mother's ambition: there
is something touching in the interest he from time to time evinces in
poor Lord Lincoln's hopeless love. On another occasion, a second ball of
Sir Thomas Robinson's, Lord Lincoln, out of prudence, dances with Lady
Caroline Fitzroy, Mr. Conway taking Lady Sophia Fermor. 'The two couple
were just admirably mismatched, as everybody soon perceived, by the
attentions of each man to the woman he did not dance with, and the
emulation of either lady; it was an admirable scene.'

All, however, was not country dancing: the young man, 'too old and too
young to be in love,' was to make his way as a wit. He did so, in the
approved way in that day of irreligion, in a political squib. On July
14th, 1742, he writes in his Notes, 'I wrote the "_Lessons for the
Day_;" the "Lessons for the day" being the first and second chapters of
the "Book of Preferment,"' Horace was proud of this _brochure_, for he
says it got about surreptitiously, and was 'the original of many things
of that sort.' Various _jeux d'esprit_ of a similar sort followed. A
'Sermon on Painting,' which was preached before Sir Robert Walpole, in
the gallery at Houghton, by his chaplain; 'Patapan, or the Little White
Dog,' imitated from La Fontaine. No. 38 of the 'Old England Journal,'
intended to ridicule Lord Bath; and then, in a magazine, was printed his
'Scheme for a Tax on Message Cards and Notes.' Next the 'Beauties,'
which was also handed about, and got into print. So that without the
vulgarity of publishing, the reputation of the dandy writer was soon
noised about. His religious tenets may or may not have been sound; but
at all events the tone of his mind assumed at this time a very different
character to that reverent strain in which, when a youth at college, he
had apostrophized those who bowed their heads beneath the vaulted roof
of King's College, in his eulogium in the character of Henry VI.

  'Ascend the temple, join the vocal choir,
  Let harmony your raptured souls inspire.
  Hark how the tuneful, solemn organs blow,
  Awfully strong, elaborately slow;
  Now to you empyrean seats above
  Raise meditation on the wings of love.
  Now falling, sinking, dying to the moan
  Once warbled sad by Jesse's contrite son;
  Breathe in each note a conscience through the sense,
  And call forth tears from soft-eyed Penitence.'

In the midst of all his gaieties, his successes, and perhaps his hopes,
a cloud hovered over the destinies of his father. The opposition, Horace
saw, in 1741, wished to ruin his father 'by ruining his constitution.'
They wished to continue their debates on Saturdays, Sir Robert's only
day of rest, when he used to rush to Richmond New Park, there to amuse
himself with a favourite pack of beagles. Notwithstanding the minister's
indifference to this his youngest son, Horace felt bitterly what he
considered a persecution against one of the most corrupt of modern
statesmen.

'Trust me, if we fall, all the grandeur, all the envied grandeur of our
house, will not cost me a sigh: it has given me no pleasure while we
have it, and will give me no pain when I part with it. My liberty, my
ease, and choice of my own friends and company, will sufficiently
counterbalance the crowds of Downing Street. I am so sick of it all,
that if we are victorious or not, I propose leaving England in the
spring.

The struggle was not destined to last long. Sir Robert was forced to
give up the contest and be shelved with a peerage. In 1742, he was
created Earl of Orford, and resigned. The wonder is that, with a mortal
internal disease to contend with, he should have faced his foes so long.
Verses ascribed to Lord Hervey ended, as did all the squibs of the day,
with a fling at that 'rogue Walpole.'

  'For though you have made that rogue Walpole retire,
  You are out of the frying-pan into the fire:
  But since to the Protestant line I'm a friend,
  I tremble to think how these changes may end.'

Horace, notwithstanding an affected indifference, felt his father's
downfall poignantly. He went, indeed, to court, in spite of a cold,
taken in an unaired house; for the prime minister now quitted Downing
Street for Arlington Street. The court was crowded, he found, with old
ladies, the wives of patriots who had not been there for 'these twenty
years,' and who appeared in the accoutrements that were in vogue in
Queen Anne's time. 'Then', he writes, 'the joy and awkward jollity of
them is inexpressible! They titter, and, wherever you meet them, are
always looking at their watches an hour before the time. I met several
on the birthday (for I did not arrive time enough to make clothes), and
they were dressed in all the colours of the rainbow. They seem to have
said to themselves, twenty years ago, "Well, if ever I do go to court
again, I will have a pink and silver, or a blue and silver;" and they
keep their resolutions.'

Another characteristic anecdote betrays his ill-suppressed vexation:--

'I laughed at myself prodigiously the other day for a piece of absence.
I was writing, on the king's birthday, and being disturbed with the mob
in the street, I rang for the porter and with an air of grandeur, as if
I was still at Downing Street, cried, "Pray send away those marrow-bones
and cleavers."

The poor fellow, with the most mortified air in the world, replied,
"Sir, they are not at _our_ door, but over the way, at my Lord
Carteret's."--"Oh!" said I, "then let them alone; may be, he does not
dislike the noise!" I pity the poor porter, who sees all his old
customers going over the way too.'

The retirement of Sir Robert from office had an important effect on the
tastes and future life of his son Horace. The minister had been
occupying his later years in pulling down his old ancestral house at
Houghton, and in building an enormous mansion, which has since his time
been, in its turn, partially demolished. When Harley, Earl of Orford,
was known to be erecting a great house for himself, Sir Robert had
remarked that a minister who did so committed a great imprudence. When
Houghton was begun, Sir Hynde Aston reminded Sir Robert of this speech.
'You ought to have recalled it to me before,' was the reply; 'for before
I began building, it might have been of use to me.'

This famous memorial of Walpolean greatness, this splendid folly,
constructed, it is generally supposed, on public money, was inhabited by
Sir Robert only ten days in summer, and twenty days in winter; in the
autumn, during the shooting season, two months. It became almost an
eyesore to the quiet gentry, who viewed the palace with a feeling of
their own inferiority. People as good as the Walpoles lived in their
gable-ended, moderate-sized mansions; and who was Sir Robert, to set
them at so immense a distance?

To the vulgar comprehension of the Premier, Houghton, gigantic in its
proportions, had its purposes. He there assembled his supporters; there,
for a short time, he entertained his constituents and coadjutors with a
magnificent, jovial hospitality, of which he, with his gay spirits, his
humourous, indelicate jokes, and his unbounded good-nature, was the very
soul. Free conversation, hard-drinking, were the features of every day's
feast. Pope thus describes him:--

  'Seen him, I have, but in his happier hour,
  Of social pleasure, ill exchanged for power;
  Seen him uncumbered with the venal tribe,
  Smile without art, and win without a bribe.'

Amid the coarse taste one gentle refinement existed: this was the love
of gardening, both in its smaller compass and it its nobler sense of
landscape gardening. 'This place,' Sir Robert, in 1743, wrote to General
Churchill, from Houghton, 'affords no news, no subject of entertainment
or amusement; for fine men of wit and pleasure about town understand
neither the language and taste, nor the pleasure of the inanimate world.
My flatterers here are all mutes: the oaks, the beeches, the chestnuts,
seem to contend which best shall please the lord of the manor. They
cannot deceive; they will not lie. I in sincerity admire them, and have
as many beauties about me as fill up all my hours of dangling, and no
disgrace attending me, from sixty-seven years of age. Within doors we
come a little nearer to real life, and admire, upon the almost speaking
canvas, all the airs and graces the proudest ladies can boast.'

In these pursuits Horace cordially shared. Through his agency, Horace
Mann, still in the diplomatic service, at Florence, selected and
purchased works of art, which were sent either to Arlington Street, or
to form the famous Houghton Collection, to which Horace so often refers
in that delightful work, his 'Anecdotes of Painting.'

Amongst the embellishments of Houghton, the gardens were the most
expensive.

'Sir Robert has pleased himself,' Pulteney, Earl of Bath, wrote, 'with
erecting palaces and extending parks, planting gardens in places to
which the very earth was to be transported in carriages, and embracing
cascades and fountains whose water was only to be obtained by aqueducts
and machines, and imitating the extravagance of Oriental monarchs, at
the expense of a free people whom he has at once impoverished and
betrayed.'

The ex-minister went to a great expense in the cultivation of plants,
bought Uvedale's 'Hortus Siccus;' and received from Bradley, the
Professor of Botany at Cambridge, the tribute of a dedication, in which
it was said that 'Sir Robert had purchased one of the finest collections
of plants in the kingdom.'

What was more to his honour still, was Sir Robert's preservation of St.
James's Park for the people. Fond of outdoor amusements himself, the
Premier heard, with dismay, a proposal on the part of Queen Caroline to
convert that ancient park into a palace garden. 'She asked my father,'
Horace Walpole relates, 'what the alteration might possibly
cost?'--_Only three crowns_' was the civil, witty, candid answer. The
queen was wise enough to take the hint. It is possible she meant to
convert the park into gardens that should be open to the public as at
Berlin, Mannheim, and even the Tuileries. Still it would not have been
ours.

Horace Walpole owed, perhaps, his love of architecture and his taste for
gardening, partly to the early companionship of Gray, who delighted in
those pursuits. Walpole's estimation of pictures, medals, and statues,
was however the fruit of a long residence abroad. We are apt to rail at
continental nations; yet had it not been for the occasional intercourse
with foreign nations, art would have altogether died out among us. To
the 'Grandes Tours,' performed as a matter of course by our young
nobility in the most impressionable period of their lives we owe most of
our noble private collections. Charles I. and Buckingham, renewed, in
their travels in Spain, the efforts previously made by Lord Arundel and
Lord Pembroke, to embellish their country seats. Then came the
Rebellion; and like a mighty rushing river, made a chasm in which much
perished. Art languished in the reign of the second Charles, excepting
in what related to portrait painting. Evelyn stood almost alone in his
then secluded and lovely retirement at Wotton; apart in his undying
exertions still to arrest the Muses ere they quitted for ever English
shores. Then came the deadly frost of William's icy influence. The reign
of Anne was conspicuous more for letters than for art: architecture,
more especially, was vulgarized under Vanbrugh. George I. had no
conception of anything abstract: taste, erudition, science, art, were
like a dead language to his common sense, his vulgar profligacy, and his
personal predilections. Neither George II. nor his queen had an iota of
taste, either in language, conduct, literature, or art. To be vulgar,
was _haut-ton;_ to be refined, to have pursuits that took one from low
party gossip, or heterodox disquisitions upon party, was esteemed odd:
everything original was cramped; everything imaginative was sneered at;
the enthusiasm that is elevated by religion was unphilosophic; the
poetry that is breathed out from the works of genius was not
comprehended.

It was at Houghton, under the roof of that monster palace, that Horace
Walpole indulged that tastes for pictures which he had acquired in
Italy. His chief coadjutor, however, as far as the antiquities of
painting are concerned, was George Vertue, the eminent engraver. Vertue
was a man of modest merit, and was educated merely as an engraver; but,
conscious of talent, studied drawing, which he afterwards applied to
engraving. He was patronised both by the vain Godfrey Kneller and by the
intellectual Lord Somers: yet his works have more fidelity than
elegance, and betray in every line the antiquary rather than the genius.
Vertue was known to be a first-rate authority as to the history of a
painter; he was admitted and welcomed into every great country house in
England; he lived in an atmosphere of vertu; every line a dilettante
collector wrote, every word he uttered, was minuted down by him; he
visited every collection of rarities; he copied every paper he could
find relative to art; registers of wills, and registers of parishes, for
births and deaths were his delight; sales his recreation. He was the
'Old Mortality' of pictures in this country. No wonder that his
compilations were barely contained in forty volumes, which he left in
manuscript. Human nature has singular varieties: here was a man who
expended his very existence in gathering up the works of others, and
died without giving to the world one of his own. But Horace Walpole has
done him justice. After Vertue's death he bought his manuscripts from
his widow. In one of his pocket-books was contained the whole history of
this man of one idea: Vertue began his collection in 1713, and worked at
it until his death in 1757, forty-four years.

He died in the belief that he should one day publish an unique work on
painting and painters: such was the aim of his existence, and his study
must have been even more curious than the wonderfully crammed, small
house at Islington, where William Upcott, the 'Old Mortality' in his
line, who saved from the housemaid's fire-lighting designs the MSS. Of
Evelyn's

Life and Letters, which he found tossing about in the old gallery at
Wotton, near Dorking, passed his days. Like Upcott, like Palissy, Vertue
lived and died under the influence of one isolated aim, effort, and
hope.

In these men, the cherished and amiable monomania of gifted minds was
realized. Upcott had every possible autograph from every known hand in
his collection: Palissy succeeded in making glazed china; but Vertue
left his ore to the hands of others to work out into shape, and the man
who moulded his crude materials was Horace Walpole, and Vertue's forty
volumes were shaped into a readable work, as curious and accurate in
facts as it is flippant and prejudiced in style and opinions.

Walpole's 'Anecdotes of Painting' are the foundation of all our small
amount of knowledge as to what England has done formerly to encourage
art.

One may fancy the modest, ingenious George Vertue arranging first, and
then making a catalogue of the Houghton Gallery; Horace, a boy still, in
looks,--with a somewhat chubby face, admiring and following: Sir Robert,
in a cocked hat, edged with silver lace, a curled short wig, a loose
coat, also edged with silver lace, and with a half humorous expression
on his vulgar countenance, watching them at intervals, as they paraded
through the hall, a large square space, adorned with bas-reliefs and
busts, and containing a bronze copy of the Laocoon, for which Sir Robert
(or rather we English) paid a thousand pounds; or they might be seen
hopping speedily through the ground-floor apartments where there could
be little to arrest the footsteps of the mediaeval-minded Vertue. Who
but a courtier could give one glance at a portrait of George I., though
by Kneller? Who that _was_ a courtier in that house would pause to look
at the resemblance, also by Kneller, of the short-lived, ill-used
Catherine Shorter, the Premier's first wife--even though he still
endured it in his bed-room? a mute reproach for his neglect and
misconduct. So let us hasten to the yellow dining-room where presently
we may admire the works of Titian, Guido, Vanderwerf, and last, not
least, eleven portraits by Vandyck, of the Wharton family, which Sir
Robert bought at the sale of the spendthrift Duke of Wharton.

Then let us glance at the saloon, famed for the four large 'Market
Pieces,' as they were called, by Rubens and Snyders: let us lounge into
what were called the Carlo Maratti and the Vandyck rooms; step we also
into the green velvet bed-chamber, the tapestry-room, the worked bed
chamber; then comes another dining-room: in short, we are lost in wonder
at this noble collection, which cost L40,000.

Many of the pictures were selected and bargained for by Vertue, who, in
Flanders, purchased the Market Pieces referred to, for L428; but did not
secure the 'Fish Market,' and the 'Meat Market,' by the same painter. In
addition to the pictures, the stateliness and beauty of the rooms were
enhanced by rich furniture, carving, gilding, and all the subsidiary
arts which our grandfathers loved to add to high merit in design or
colouring. Besides his purchases, Sir Robert received presents of
pictures from friends, and expectant courtiers; and the gallery at
Houghton contained at last 222 pictures. To our sorrow now, to our
disgrace then, this splendid collection was suffered to go out of the
country: Catherine, empress of Russia, bought it for L40,000, and it
adorns the Hermitage Palace of St. Petersburgh.

After Sir Robert's retirement from power, the good qualities which he
undoubtedly possessed, seemed to re-appear as soon as the pressure of
party feeling was withdrawn. He was fast declining in health when the
insurrection of 1745 was impending. He had warned the country of its
danger in his last speech, one of the finest ever made in the House of
Lords: after that effort his voice was heard no more. The gallant,
unfortunate Charles Edward was then at Paris, and that scope of old
experience

  ----'which doth attain
  To somewhat of prophetic strain,'

showed the ex-minister of Great Britain that an invasion was at hand. It
was on this occasion that Frederick, Prince of Wales, took Sir Robert,
then Lord Orford, by the hand, and thanked him for his zeal in the cause
of the royal family. Walpole returned to Norfolk, but was summoned again
to London to afford the ministry the benefit of his counsels. Death,
however, closed his prosperous, but laborious life. He suffered agonies
from the stone; large doses of opium kept him in a state of stupor, and
alone gave him ease; but his strength failed, and he was warned to
prepare himself for his decease. He bore the announcement with great
fortitude, and took leave of his children in perfect resignation to his
doom. He died on the 28th of March, 1745.

Horace Walpole--whatsoever doubts may rest on the fact of his being Lord
Orford's son or not--writes feelingly and naturally upon this event, and
its forerunner, the agonies of disease. He seems, from the following
passages in his letters to Sir Horace Mann, to have devoted himself
incessantly to the patient invalid: on his father having rallied, he
thus expresses himself:--

'You have heard from your brother the reason of my not having written to
you so long. I have been out but twice since my father fell into this
illness, which is now near a month, and all that time either continually
in his room, or obliged to see multitudes of people: for it is wonderful
how everybody of all kinds has affected to express their concern for
him! He has been out of danger this week; but I can't say he mended at
all perceptibly till these last three days. His spirits are amazing, and
his constitution more, for Dr. Hulse said honestly from the first, that
if he recovered it would be from his own strength, not from their art.
How much more,' he adds, mournfully, 'he will ever recover, one scarce
dare hope about; for us, he is greatly recovered; for himself--' He then
breaks off.

A month after we find him thus referring to the parent still throbbing
in mortal agony on the death-bed, with no chance of amendment:--

'How dismal a prospect for him, with the possession of the greatest
understanding in the world, not the least impaired, to lie without any
use for it! for to keep him from pains and restlessness, he takes so
much opiate, that he is scarce awake four hours of the four-and-twenty;
but I will say no more of this.'

On the 29th of March, he again wrote to his friend in the following
terms:--

'I begged your brothers to tell you what it is impossible for me to tell
you. You share in our common loss! Don't expect me to enter at all upon
the subject. After the melancholy two months that I have passed, and in
my situation, you will not wonder I shun a conversation which could not
be bounded by a letter, a letter that would grow into a panegyric or a
piece of a moral; improper for me to write upon, and too distressful for
us both! a death is only to be felt, never to be talked upon by those it
touches.'

Nevertheless, the world soon had Horace Walpole for her own again;
during Lord Orford's last illness, George II. Thought of him, it seems,
even though the 'Granvilles' were the only people tolerated at court.
That famous _clique_ comprised the secretly adored of Horace (Lady
Granville now), Lady Sophia Fermor.

'The Granville faction,' Horace wrote, before his father's death, 'are
still the constant and only countenanced people at court. Lord
Winchelsea, one of the disgraced, played at court at Twelfth-night, and
won; the king asked him next morning how much he had for his own share.
He replied, "Sir, about a quarter's salary." I liked the spirit, and was
talking to him of it the next night at Lord Granville's. "Why yes," said
he, "I think it showed familiarity at least: tell it your father, I
don't think he will dislike it."'

The most trifling incidents divided the world of fashion and produced
the bitterest rancour. Indeed, nothing could exceed the frivolity of the
great, except their impertinence. For want of better amusements, it had
become the fashion to make conundrums, and to have printed books full of
them, which were produced at parties. But these were peaceful
diversions. The following anecdote is worthy of the times of George II.
and of Frederick of Wales:--

'There is a very good quarrel,' Horace writes, 'on foot, between two
duchesses: she of Queensberry sent to invite Lady Emily Lenox to a ball:
her grace of Richmond, who is wonderfully cautious since Lady Caroline's
elopement (with Mr. Fox), sent word "she could not determine." The other
sent again the same night: the same answer. The Queensberry then sent
word, that she had made up her company, and desired to be excused from
having Lady Emily's; but at the bottom of the card wrote, "Too great
trust." There is no declaration of war come out from the other duchess:
but I believe it will be made a national quarrel of the whole
illegitimate royal family.'

Her Grace of Queensberry, Prior's 'Kitty, beautiful and young,' lorded
it, with a tyrannical hand, over the court. Her famed loveliness was, it
is true, at this time on the wane. Her portrait delineating her in her
bib and tucker, with her head rolled back underneath a sort of half cap,
half veil, shows how intellectual was the face to which such incense was
paid for years. Her forehead and eyebrows are beautiful: her eyes soft
though lively in expression: her features refined. She was as whimsical
in her attire as in her character. When, however, she chose to appear as
the _grande dame_, no one could cope with her, Mrs. Delany describes her
at the Birth-day,--her dress of white satin, embroidered with vine
leaves, convolvuluses, rose-buds, shaded after nature; but she, says her
friend, 'was _so far_ beyond the master-_piece of art_ that one could
hardly think of her clothes--allowing for her age I never saw so
_beautiful a creature_.'

Meantime, Houghton was shut up: for its owner died L50,000 in debt, and
the elder brother of Horace, the second Lord Orford, proposed, on
entering it again, after keeping it closed for some time, to enter upon
'new, and then very unknown economy, for which there was great need:'
thus Horace refers to the changes.

It was in the South Sea scheme that Sir Robert Walpole had realized a
large sum of money, by selling out at the right moment. In doing so he
had gained 1000 per cent. But he left little to his family, and at his
death, Horace received a legacy only of L5,000, and a thousand pounds
yearly, which he was to draw (for doing nothing) from the collector's
place in the Custom House; the surplus to be divided between his brother
Edward and himself: this provision was afterwards enhanced by some money
which came to Horace and his brothers from his uncle Captain Shorter's
property; but Horace was not at this period a rich man, and perhaps his
not marrying was owing to his dislike of fortune-hunting, or to his
dread of refusal.

Two years after his father's death, he took a small house at Twickenham:
the property cost him nearly L14,000; in the deeds he found that it was
called Strawberry Hill. He soon commenced making considerable additions
to the house--which became a sort of raree-show in the latter part of
the last, and until a late period in this, century.

Twickenham--so called, according to the antiquary Norden, because the
Thames, as it flows near it, seems from the islands to be divided into
two rivers,--had long been celebrated for its gardens, when Horace
Walpole, the generalissimo of all bachelors, took Strawberry Hill.
'Twicknam is as much as Twynam,' declares Norden, 'a place scytuate
between two rivers.' So fertile a locality could not be neglected by the
monks of old, the great gardeners and tillers of land in ancient days;
and the Manor of Twickenham was consequently given to the monks of
Christ Church, Canterbury, by King Edred, in 491; who piously inserted
his anathema against any person--whatever their rank, sex, or order--who
should infringe the rights of these holy men. 'May their memory,' the
king decreed, with a force worthy of the excommunicator-wholesale, Pius
IX., 'be blotted out of the Book of Life; may their strength continually
waste away, and be there no restorative to repair it!' nevertheless,
there were in the time of Lysons, a hundred and fifty acres of
fruit-gardens at Twickenham: the soil being a sandy loam, raspberries
grew plentifully. Even so early as Queen Elizabeth's days, Bishop
Corbet's father had a nursery garden at Twickenham,--so that King
Edred's curse seems to have fallen as powerlessly as it may be hoped all
subsequent maledictions may do.

In 1698, one of the Earl of Bradford's coachmen built a small house on a
piece of ground, called in old works, Strawberry-Hill-Shot; lodgings
were here let, and Colley Cibber became one of the occupants of the
place, and here wrote his Comedy called 'Refusal; or the Ladies'
Philosophy.' The spot was so greatly admired that Talbot, Bishop of
Durham, lived eight years in it, and the Marquis of Carnarvon succeeded
him as a tenant: next came Mrs. Chenevix, a famous toy-woman. She was
probably a French woman, for Father Courayer--he who vainly endeavoured
to effect an union between the English and the Gallican churches--lodged
here some time. Horace Walpole bought up Mrs. Chenevix's lease, and
afterwards the fee-simple; and henceforth became the busiest, if not the
happiest, man in a small way in existence.

[Illustration: STRAWBERRY HILL FROM THE THAMES.]

We now despise the poor, over-ornate miniature Gothic style of
Strawberry Hill; we do not consider with what infinite pains the
structure was enlarged into its final and well-known form. In the first
place, Horace made a tour to collect models from the chief cathedral
cities in England; but the building required twenty-three years to
complete it. It was begun in 1753, and finished in 1776. Strawberry Hill
had one merit, everything was in keeping: the internal decorations, the
screens, the niches, the chimney-pieces, the book-shelves, were all
Gothic; and most of these were designed by Horace himself; and, indeed,
the description of Strawberry Hill is too closely connected with the
annals of his life to be dissevered from his biography. Here he gathered
up his mental forces to support and amuse himself during a long life,
sometimes darkened by spleen, but rarely by solitude; for Horace, with
much isolation of the heart, was, to the world, a social being.

What scandal, what trifles, what important events, what littleness of
mind, yet what stretch of intellect were henceforth issued by the
recluse of Strawberry, as he plumed himself on being styled, from that
library of 'Strawberry!' Let us picture to ourselves the place, the
persons--put on, if we can, the sentiments and habits of the retreat;
look through its loopholes, not only on the wide world beyond, but into
the small world within; and face the fine gentleman author in every
period of his varied life.

'The Strawberry Gazette,' Horace once wrote to a fine and titled lady,
'is very barren of weeds.' Such, however, was rarely the case. Peers,
and still better, peeresses,--politicians, actors, actresses,--the poor
poet who knew not where to dine, the Maecenas who was 'fed with
dedications'--the belle of the season, the demirep of many, the
antiquary, and the dilettanti,--painters, sculptors, engravers, all
brought news to the 'Strawberry Gazette;' and incense, sometimes wrung
from aching hearts, to the fastidious wit who professed to be a judge of
all material and immaterial things--from a burlesque to an Essay on
history or Philosophy--from the construction of Mrs. Chenevix's last new
toy to the mechanism of a clock made in the sixteenth century, was
lavished there.

Suppose that it is noon-day: Horace is showing a party of guests from
London over Strawberry:--enter we with him, and let us stand in the
great parlour before a portrait by Wright of the Minister to whom all
courts bowed. 'That is my father, Sir Robert, in profile,' and a vulgar
face in profile is always seen at its vulgarest; and the
_nex-retrousse,_ the coarse mouth, the double chin, are most forcibly
exhibited in this limning by Wright; who did not, like Reynolds, or like
Lawrence, cast a _nuance_ of gentility over every subject of his pencil.
Horace--can we not hear him in imagination?--is telling his friends how
Sir Robert used to celebrate the day on which he sent in his
resignation, as a fete; then he would point out to his visitors a
Conversation-piece, one of Reynolds's earliest efforts in small life,
representing the second Earl of Edgecumbe, Selwyn, and Williams---all
wits and beaux, and _habitues_ of Strawberry. Colley Cibber, however,
was put in cold marble in the anteroom; a respect very _Horatian_, for
no man knew better how to rank his friends than the recluse of
Strawberry. He hurries the lingering guests through the little parlour,
the chimneypiece of which was copied from the tomb of Ruthall, Bishop of
Durham, in Westminster Abbey. Yet how he pauses complacently to
enumerate what has been done for him by titled belles: how these dogs,
modelled in terra-cotta, are the production of Anne Darner; a
water-colour drawing by Agnes Berry; a landscape with gipsies by Lady Di
Beauclerk;--all platonically devoted to our Horace; but he dwells long,
and his bright eyes are lighted up as he pauses before a case, looking
as if it contained only a few apparently faded, of no-one-knows-who (or
by whom) miniatures; this is a collection of Peter Oliver's best
works--portraits of the Digby family.

How sadly, in referring to these invaluable pictures, does one's mind
revert to the day when, before the hammer of Robins had resounded in
these rooms--before his transcendent eloquence had been heard at
Strawberry--Agnes Strickland, followed by all eyes, pondered over that
group of portraits: how, as she slowly withdrew, we of the commonalty
scarce worthy to look, gathered around the spot again, and wondered at
the perfect life, the perfect colouring, proportion, and keeping of
those tiny vestiges of a bygone generation!

Then Horace--we fear it was not till his prime was past, and a touch of
gout crippled his once active limbs--points to a picture of Rose, the
gardener (well named), presenting Charles II. with a pine-apple. Some
may murmur a doubt whether pine-apples were cultivated in cold Britain
so long since. But Horace enforces the fact; 'the likeness of the king,'
quoth he, 'is too marked, and his features are too well known to doubt
the fact;' and then he tells 'how he had received a present the last
Sunday of fruit--and from whom.'

They pause next on Sir Peter Lely's portrait of Cowley--next on
Hogarth's Sarah Malcolm, the murderess of her mistress; then--and
doubtless, the spinster ladies are in fault here for the delay,--on Mrs.
Damer's model of two kittens, pets, though, of Horace Walpole's--for he
who loved few human beings was, after the fashion of bachelors, fond of
cats.

They ascend the staircase: the domestic adornments merge into the
historic. We have Francis I.--not himself, but his armour: the
chimneypiece, too, is a copy from the tomb-works of John, Earl of
Cornwall, in Westminster Abbey; the stonework from that of Thomas, Duke
of Clarence, at Canterbury.

Stay awhile: we have not done with sacrilege yet; worse things are to be
told, and we walk with consciences not unscathed into the Library,
disapproving in secret but flattering vocally. Here the very spirit of
Horace seemed to those who visited Strawberry before its fall to breathe
in every corner. Alas! when we beheld that library, it was half filled
with chests containing the celebrated MSS. of his letters; which were
bought by that enterprising publisher of learned name, Richard Bentley,
and which have since had adequate justice done them by first-rate
editors. There they were: the 'Strawberry Gazette' in full;--one glanced
merely at the yellow paper, and clear, decisive hand, and then turned to
see what objects he, who loved his books so well, collected for his
especial gratification. Mrs. Damer again! how proud he was of her
genius--her beauty, her cousinly love for himself; the wise way in which
she bound up the wounds of her breaking heart when her profligate
husband shot himself, by taking to occupation--perhaps, too, by liking
cousin Horace indifferently well. He put her models forward in every
place. Here was her Osprey Eagle in terra-cotta, a masterly production;
there a _couvre-fire,_ or _cur-few,_ imitated and modelled by her. Then
the marriage of Henry VI. Figures on the wall; near the fire is a screen
of the first tapestry ever made in England, representing a map of Surrey
and Middlesex; a notion of utility combined with ornament, which we see
still exhibited in the Sampler in old-fashioned, middle-class houses;
that poor posthumous, base-born child of the tapestry, almost defunct
itself; and a veritable piece of antiquity.

Still more remarkable in this room was a quaint-faced clock, silver
gilt, given by Henry VIII. to Anne Boleyn; which perchance, after
marking the moments of her festive life, struck unfeelingly the hour of
her doom.

But the company are hurrying into a little ante-room, the ceiling of
which is studded with stars in mosaic; it is therefore called jocularly,
the 'Star Chamber;' and here stands a cast of the famous bust of Henry
VII., by Torregiano, intended for the tomb of that sad-faced,
long-visaged monarch, who always looks as if royalty had disagreed with
him.

Next we enter the Holbein Chamber. Horace hated bishops and archbishops,
and all the hierarchy; yet here again we behold another prelatical
chimneypiece--a frieze taken from the tomb of Archbishop Warham, at
Canterbury. And here, in addition to Holbein's picture of Mary Tudor,
Duchess of Suffolk, and of her third husband Adrian Stokes, are Vertue's
copies of Holbein, drawings of that great master's pictures in
Buckingham House: enough--let us hasten into the Long Gallery. Those who
remember Sir Samuel Merrick and his Gallery at Goodrich Court will have
traced in his curious, somewhat gew gaw collections of armour,
antiquities, faded portraits, and mock horses, much of the taste and
turn of mind that existed in Horace Walpole.

The gallery, which all who recollect the sale at Strawberry Hill must
remember with peculiar interest, sounded well on paper. It was 56 feet
long, 17 high, and 13 wide; yet was neither long enough, high enough,
nor wide enough to inspire the indefinable sentiment by which we
acknowledge vastness. We beheld it the scene of George Robins's
triumphs--crowded to excess. Here strolled Lord John Russell; there,
with heavy tread, walked Daniel O'Connell. Hallam, placid, kindly,
gentle--the prince of book-worms--moved quickly through the rooms,
pausing to raise a glance to the ceiling--copied from one of the side
aisles of Henry VII.'s Chapel--but the fretwork is gilt, and there is
_petitesse_ about the Gothic which disappoints all good judges.

But when Horace conducted his courtly guests into this his mind-vaunted
vaulted gallery, he had sometimes George Selwyn at his side; or
Gray--or, in his old age, 'my niece, the Duchess of Gloucester,' leaned
on his arm. What strange associations, what brilliant company!--the
associations can never be recalled there again; nor the company
reassembled. The gallery, like everything else, has perished under the
pressure of debt. He who was so particular, too, as to the number of
those who were admitted to see his house--he who stipulated that four
persons only should compose a party, and one party alone be shown over
each day--how would he have borne the crisis, could he have foreseen it,
when Robins became, for the time, his successor, and was the temporary
lord of Strawberry; the dusty, ruthless, wondering, depreciating mob of
brokers--the respectable host of publishers--the starving army of
martyrs, the authors--the fine ladies, who saw nothing there comparable
to Howell and James's--the antiquaries, fishing out suspicious
antiquities--the painters, clamorous over Kneller's profile of Mrs.
Barry--the virtuous indignant mothers, as they passed by the portraits
of the Duchess de la Valliere, and of Ninon de l'Enclos, and remarked,
or at all events they _might_ have remarked, that the company on the
floor was scarcely much more respectable than the company on the
walls--the fashionables, who herded together, impelled by caste, that
free-masonry of social life, enter the Beauclerk closet to look over
Lady Di's scenes from the 'Mysterious Mother'--the players and
dramatists, finally, who crowded round Hogarth's sketch of his 'Beggars'
Opera,' with portraits, and gazed on Davison's likeness of Mrs.
Clive:--how could poor Horace have tolerated the sound of their
irreverent remarks, the dust of their shoes, the degradation of their
fancying that they might doubt his spurious-looking antiquities, or
condemn his improper-looking ladies on their canvas? How, indeed, could
he? For those parlours, that library, were peopled in his days with all
those who could enhance his pleasures, or add to their own, by their
presence. When Poverty stole in there, it was irradiated by Genius. When
painters hovered beneath the fretted ceiling of that library, it was to
thank the oracle of the day, not always for large orders, but for
powerful recommendations. When actresses trod the Star Chamber, it was
as modest friends, not as audacious critics on Horace, his house, and
his pictures.

Before we call up the spirits that were familiar at Strawberry--ere we
pass through the garden-gate, the piers of which were copied from the
tomb of Bishop William de Luda, in Ely Cathedral--let us glance at the
chapel, and then a word or two about Walpole's neighbours and anent
Twickenham.

The front of the chapel was copied from Bishop Audley's tomb at
Salisbury. Four panels of wood, taken from the Abbey of St. Edmund's
Bury, displayed the portraits of Cardinal Beaufort, of Humphrey Duke of
Gloucester, and of Archbishop Kemp. So much for the English church.

Next was seen a magnificent shrine in mosaic, from the church of St.
Mary Maggiore, in Rome. This was the work of the noted Peter Cavalini,
who constructed the tomb of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey.
The shrine had figured over the sepulchre of four martyrs, who rested
between it in 1257: then the principal window in the chapel was brought
from Bexhill in Sussex; and displayed portraits of Henry III. and his
queen.

It was not every day that gay visitors travelled down the dusty roads
from London to visit the recluse at Strawberry: but Horace wanted them
not, for he had neighbours. In his youth he had owned for his playfellow
the ever witty, the precocious, the all-fascinating Lady Mary Wortley
Montagu. 'She was,' he wrote, 'a playfellow of mine when we were
children. She was always a dirty little thing. This habit continued with
her. When at Florence, the Grand Duke gave her apartments in his palace.
One room sufficed for everything; and when she went away, the stench was
so strong that they were obliged to fumigate the chamber with vinegar
for a week.'

Let not the scandal be implicitly credited. Lady Mary, dirty or clean,
resided occasionally, however, at Twickenham. When the admirable Lysons
composed his 'Environs of London,' Horace Walpole was still living--it
was in 1795--to point out to him the house in which his brilliant
acquaintance lived. It was then inhabited by Dr. Morton. The profligate
and clever Duke of Wharton lived also at Twickenham.

Marble Hill was built by George II, for the countess of Suffolk, and
Henry, Earl of Pembroke, was the architect. Of later years, the
beautiful and injured Mrs. Fitzherbert might be seen traversing the
greensward, which was laved by the then pellucid waters of the Thames.
The parish of Twickenham, in fact, was noted for the numerous characters
who have, at various times, lived in it: Robert Boyle, the great
philosopher; James Craggs, Secretary of State; Lord George Germaine;
Lord Bute--are strangely mixed up with the old memories which circle
around Twickenham to say nothing of its being, in after years, the abode
of Louis Philippe, and now, of his accomplished son.

One dark figure in the background of society haunts us also: Lady
Macclesfield, the cruel mother of Savage, polluted Twickenham by her
evil presence.

Let us not dwell on her name, but recall, with somewhat of pride, that
the names of that knot of accomplished, intellectual women, who composed
the neighbourhood of Strawberry, were all English; those who loved to
revel in all its charms of society and intellect were our justly-prized
countrywomen.

Foremost in the bright constellation was Anne Seymour Conway, too soon
married to the Hon. John Darner. She was one of the loveliest, the most
enterprizing, and the most gifted women of her time--thirty-one years
younger than Horace, having been born in 1748. He doubtless liked her
the more that no ridicule could attach to his partiality, which was that
of a father to a daughter, insofar as regarded his young cousin. She
belonged to a family dear to him, being the daughter of Field Marshal
Henry Seymour Conway: then she was beautiful, witty, a courageous
politician, a heroine, fearless of losing caste, by aspiring to be an
artist. She was, in truth, of our own time rather than of that. The
works which she left at Strawberry are scattered; and if still
traceable, are probably in many instances scarcely valued. But in that
lovely spot, hallowed by the remembrance of Mrs. Siddons, who lived
there in some humble capacity--say maid, say companion--in Guy's Cliff
House, near Warwick--noble traces of Anne Damer's genius are extant:
busts of the majestic Sally Siddons; of Nature's aristocrat, John
Kemble; of his brother Charles--arrest many a look, call up many a
thought of Anne Damer and her gifts: her intelligence, her warmth of
heart, her beauty, her associates. Of her powers Horace Walpole had the
highest opinion. 'If they come to Florence,' he wrote, speaking of Mrs.
Damer's going to Italy for the winter, 'the great duke should beg Mrs.
Damer to give him something of her statuary; and it would be a greater
curiosity than anything in his Chamber of Painters. She has executed
several marvels since you saw her; and has lately carved two colossal
heads for the bridge at Henley, which is the most beautiful in the
world, next to the Ponte di Trinita and was principally designed by her
father, General Conway.'

No wonder that he left to this accomplished relative the privilege of
living, after his death, at Strawberry Hill, of which she took
possession in 1797, and where she remained twenty years; giving it up,
in 1828, to Lord Waldegrave.

She was, as we have said, before her time in her appreciation of what
was noble and superior, in preference to that which gives to caste
alone, its supremacy. During her last years she bravely espoused an
unfashionable cause; and disregarding the contempt of the lofty, became
the champion of the injured and unhappy Caroline of Brunswick.

From his retreat at Strawberry, Horace Walpole heard all that befel the
object of his flame, Lady Sophia Fermor. His letters present from time
to time such passages as these; Lady Pomfret, whom he detested, being
always the object of his satire:--

'There is not the least news; but that my Lord Carteret's wedding has
been deferred on Lady Sophia's (Fermor's) falling dangerously ill of a
scarlet fever; but they say it is to be next Saturday. She is to have
L1,600 a year jointure, L400 pin-money, and L2,000 of jewels. Carteret
says he does not intend to marry the mother (Lady Pomfret) and the whole
family. What do you think my Lady intends?'

Lord Carteret, who was the object of Lady Pomfret's successful
generalship, was at this period, 1744, fifty-four years of age, having
been born in 1690. He was the son of George, Lord Carteret, by Grace,
daughter of the first Earl of Bath, of the line of Granville--a title
which became eventually his. The fair Sophia, in marrying him, espoused
a man of no ordinary attributes. In person, Horace Walpole, after the
grave had closed over one whom he probably envied, thus describes him:--

  'Commanding beauty, smoothed by cheerful grace,
  Sat on each open feature of his face.
  Bold was his language, rapid, glowing, strong,
  And science flowed spontaneous from his tongue:
  A genius seizing systems, slighting rules,
  And void of gall, with boundless scorn of fools.'

After having been Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Carteret attended his
royal master in the campaign, during which the Battle of Dettingen was
fought. He now held the reins of government in his own hands as premier.
Lord Chesterfield has described him as possessing quick precision, nice
decision, and unbounded presumption. The Duke of Newcastle used to say
of him that he was a 'man who never doubted.'

In a subsequent letter we find the sacrifice of the young and lovely
Sophia completed. Ambition was the characteristic of her family: and she
went, not unwillingly, to the altar. The whole affair is too amusingly
told to be given in other language than that of Horace:--

'I could tell you a great deal of news,' he writes to Horace Mann, 'but
it would not be what you would expect. It is not of battles, sieges, and
declarations of war; nor of invasions, insurrections and addresses: it
is the god of love, not he of war, who reigns in the newspapers. The
town has made up a list of six-and-thirty weddings, which I shall not
catalogue to you. But the chief entertainment has been the nuptials of
our great Quixote (Carteret) and the fair Sophia. On the point of
matrimony, she fell ill of a scarlet fever, and was given over, while he
had the gout, but heroically sent her word, that if she was well, he
_would_ be well. They corresponded every day, and he used to plague the
cabinet council with reading her letters to them. Last night they were
married; and as all he does must have a particular air in it, they
supped at Lord Pomfret's. At twelve, Lady Granville (his mother) and all
his family went to bed, but the porter: then my lord went home, and
waited for her in the lodge. She came alone, in a hackney chair, met him
in the hall, and was led up the back stairs to bed. What is ridiculously
lucky is, that Lord Lincoln goes into waiting to-day, and will be to
present her!'

The event was succeeded by a great ball at the Duchess of Richmond's, in
honour of the bride, Lady Carteret paying her ladyship the 'highest
honours,' which she received in the 'highest state.' 'I have seen her,'
adds Horace, 'but once, and found her just what I expected, _tres grande
dame_, full of herself, and yet not with an air of happiness. She looks
ill, and is grown lean, but is still the finest figure in the world. The
mother (Lady Pomfret) is not so exalted as I expected; I fancy Carteret
has kept his resolution, and does not marry her too.'

Whilst this game was being played out, one of Walpole's most valued
neighbours, Pope, was dying of dropsy, and every evening a gentle
delirium possessed him. Again does Horace return to the theme, ever in
his thoughts--the Carterets: again does he recount their triumphs and
their follies.

'I will not fail'--still to Horace Mann--'to make your compliments to
the Pomfrets and Carterets. I see them seldom but I am in favour; so I
conclude, for my Lady Pomfret told me the other night that I said better
things than anybody. I was with them all at a subscription ball at
Ranelagh last week, which my Lady Carteret thought proper to look upon
as given to her, and thanked the gentlemen, who were not quite so well
pleased at her condescending to take it to herself. I did the honours of
all her dress. "How charming your ladyship's cross is! I am sure the
design was your own!"--"No, indeed; my lord sent it me just as it is."
Then as much to the mother. Do you wonder I say better things than
anybody?'

But these brilliant scenes were soon mournfully ended. Lady Sophia, the
haughty, the idolized, the Juno of that gay circle, was suddenly carried
off by a fever. With real feeling Horace thus tells the tale:--

'Before I talk of any public news, I must tell you what you will be very
sorry for. Lady Granville (Lady Sophia Fermor) is dead. She had a fever
for six weeks before her lying-in, and could never get it off. Last
Saturday they called in another physician, Dr. Oliver. On Monday he
pronounced her out of danger; about seven in the evening, as Lady
Pomfret and Lady Charlotte (Fermor) were sitting by her, the first
notice they had of her immediate danger was her sighing and saying, "I
feel death come very fast upon me!" She repeated the same words
frequently, remained perfectly in her senses and calm, and died about
eleven at night. It is very shocking for anybody so young, so handsome,
so arrived at the height of happiness, to be so quickly snatched away.'

So vanished one of the brightest stars of the court. The same autumn
(1745) was the epoch of a great event; the marching of Charles Edward
into England. Whilst the Duke of Cumberland was preparing to head the
troops to oppose him, the Prince of Wales was inviting a party to
supper, the main feature of which was the citadel of Carlisle in sugar,
the company all besieging it with sugar-plums. It would, indeed, as
Walpole declared, be impossible to relate all the _Caligulisms_ of this
effeminate, absurd prince. But buffoonery and eccentricity were the
order of the day. 'A ridiculous thing happened,' Horace writes, 'when
the princess saw company after her confinement. The new-born babe was
shown in a mighty pretty cradle, designed by Kent, under a canopy in the
great drawing-room. Sir William Stanhope went to look at it. Mrs,
Herbert, the governess, advanced to unmantle it. He said, "In wax, I
suppose?" "Sir?" "In wax, madam?" "The young prince, sir?" "Yes, in wax,
I suppose?" This is his odd humour. When he went to see the duke at his
birth, he said, "Lord, it sees!"'

The recluse of Strawberry was soon consoled by hearing that the rebels
were driven back from Derby, where they had penetrated, and where the
remembrance of the then gay, sanguine, brave young Chevalier long
lingered among the old inhabitants. One of the last traces of his
short-lived possession of the town is gone: very recently, Exeter House,
where he lodged and where he received his adherents, has been pulled
down; the ground on which it stood, with its court and garden--somewhat
in appearace like an old French hotel--being too valuable for the relic
of bygone times to be spared. The panelled chambers, the fine staircase,
certain pictures--one by Wright of Derby, of him--one of Miss
Walkinshaw--have all disappeared.

Of the capture, the trial, the death of his adherents, Horace Walpole
has left the most graphic and therefore touching account that has been
given; whilst he calls a 'rebellion on the defensive' a 'despicable
affair.' Humane, he reverted with horror to the atrocities of General
Hawley, 'the Chief Justice,' as he was designated, who had a 'passion
for frequent and sudden executions.' When this savage commander gained
intelligence of a French spy coming over, he displayed him at once
before the army on a gallows, dangling in his muff and boots. When one
of the surgeons begged for the body of a deserter to dissect, 'Well,'
said the wretch, 'but you must let me have the skeleton to hang up in
the guard-room,' Such was the temper of the times; vice, childishness,
levity at court, brutality in the camp, were the order of the day.
Horace, even Horace, worldly in all, indifferent as to good and bad,
seems to have been heart sick. His brother's matrimonial infidelity
vexed him also sorely. Lady Orford, 'tired,' as he expresses it, of
'sublunary affairs,' was trying to come to an arrangement with her
husband, from whom she had been long separated; the price was to be, he
fancied, L2,000 a year. Meantime, during the convulsive state of
political affairs, he interested himself continually in the improvement
of Strawberry Hill. There was a rival building, Mr. Bateman's Monastery,
at Old Windsor, which is said to have had more uniformity of design than
Strawberry Hill. Horace used indeed to call the house of which he became
so proud a paper house; the walls were at first so slight, and the roof
so insecure in heavy rains. Nevertheless, his days were passed as
peacefully there as the premature infirmities which came upon him would
permit.

From the age of twenty-five his fingers were enlarged and deformed by
chalk-stones, which were discharged twice a year. 'I can chalk up a
score with more rapidity than any man in England,' was his melancholy
jest. He had now adopted as a necessity a strict temperance: he sat up
very late, either writing or conversing, yet always breakfasted at nine
o'clock. After the death of Madame du Deffand, a little fat dog,
scarcely able to move for age and size--her legacy--used to proclaim his
approach by barking. The little favourite was placed beside him on a
sofa; a tea-kettle, stand, and heater were brought in, and he drank two
or three cups of tea out of the finest and most precious china of
Japan--that of a pure white. He breakfasted with an appetite, feeding
from his table the little dog and his pet squirrels.

Dinner at Strawberry Hill was usually served up in the small parlour in
winter, the large dining-room being reserved for large parties. As age
drew on, he was supported down stairs by his valet; and then, says the
compiler of Walpoliana, 'he ate most moderately of chicken, pheasant, or
any light food. Pastry he disliked, as difficult of digestion, though he
would taste a morsel of venison-pie. Never but once, that he drank two
glasses of white wine, did the editor see him taste any liquor, except
ice-water. A pail of ice was placed under the table, in which stood a
decanter of water, from which he supplied himself with his favourite
beverage.'

No wine was drunk after dinner, when the host of Strawberry Hill called
instantly to some one to ring the bell for coffee. It was served
upstairs, and there, adds the same writer, 'he would pass about five
o'clock, and generally resuming his place on the sofa, would sit till
two in the morning, in miscellaneous chit-chat, full of singular
anecdotes, strokes of wit, and acute observations, occasionally sending
for books, or curiosities, or passing to the library, as any reference
happened to arise in conversation. After his coffee, he tasted nothing;
but the snuff-box of _tabac d'etrennes_, from Fribourg's, was not
forgotten, and was replenished from a canister lodged in an ancient
marble urn of great thickness, which stood in the window seat, and
served to secure its moisture and rich flavour.'

In spite of all his infirmities, Horace Walpole took no care of his
health, as far as out-door exercise was concerned. His friends beheld
him with horror go out on a dewy day: he would even step out in his
slippers. In his own grounds he never wore a hat: he used to say, that
on his first visit to Paris he was ashamed of his effeminacy, when he
saw every meagre little Frenchman whom he could have knocked down in a
breath walking without a hat, which he could not do without a certainty
of taking the disease which the Germans say is endemical in England, and
which they call _to catch cold_. The first trial, he used to tell his
friends, cost him a fever, but he got over it. Draughts of air, damp
rooms, windows open at his back, became matters of indifference to him
after once getting through the hardening process. He used even to be
vexed at the officious solicitude of friends on this point, and with
half a smile would say, 'My back is the same as my face, and my neck is
like my nose.' He regarded his favourite iced-water as a preservative to
his stomach, which, he said, would last longer than his bones. He did
not take into account that the stomach is usually the seat of disease.

One naturally inquires why the amiable recluse never, in his best days,
thought of marriage: a difficult question to be answered. In men of that
period, a dissolute life, an unhappy connection, too frequently
explained the problem. In the case before us no such explanation can be
offered. Horace Walpole had many votaries, many friends, several
favourites, but no known mistress. The marks of the old bachelor
fastened early on him, more especially after he began to be governed by
his _valet de chambre_. The notable personage who ruled over the pliant
Horace was a Swiss, named Colomb. This domestic tyrant was despotic; if
Horace wanted a tree to be felled, Colomb opposed it, and the master
yielded. Servants, in those days, were intrinsically the same as in
ours, but they differed in manner. The old familiarity had not gone out,
but existed as it still does among the French. Those who recollect Dr.
Parr will remember how stern a rule his factotum Sam exercised over him.
Sam put down what wine he chose, nay, almost invited the guests; at all
events, he had his favourites among them. And in the same way as Sam
ruled at Hatton, Colomb was, _de facto,_ the master of Strawberry Hill.

With all its defects, the little 'plaything house' as Horace Walpole
called it, must have been a charming house to visit in. First, there was
the host. 'His engaging manners,' writes the editor of Walpoliana, 'and
gentle, endearing affability to his friends, exceed all praise. Not the
smallest hauteur, or consciousness of rank or talent, appeared in his
familiar conferences; and he was ever eager to dissipate any constraint
that might occur, as imposing a constraint upon himself, and knowing
that any such chain enfeebles and almost annihilates the mental powers.
Endued with exquisite sensibility, his wit never gave the smallest
wound, even to the grossest ignorance of the world, or the most morbid
hypochondriac bashfulness.'

He had, in fact, no excuse for being doleful or morbid. How many
resources were his! what an even destiny! what prosperous fortunes! What
learned luxury he revelled in! he was enabled to 'pick up all the roses
of science, and to leave the thorns behind.' To how few of the gifted
have the means of gratification been permitted! to how many has hard
work been allotted! Then, when genius has been endowed with rank, with
wealth, how often it has been degraded by excess! Rochester's passions
ran riot in one century: Beckford's gifts were polluted by his vices in
another--signal landmarks of each age. But Horace Walpole was prudent,
decorous, even respectable: no elevated aspirations, no benevolent views
ennobled under the _petitesse_ of his nature. He had neither genius nor
romance: he was even devoid of sentiment; but he was social to all,
neighbourly to many, and attached to some of his fellow-creatures.

The 'prettiest bauble' possible, as he called Strawberry Hill, 'set in
enamelled meadows in filigree hedges,' was surrounded by 'dowagers as
plenty as flounders;' such was Walpole's assertion. As he sat in his
library, scented by caraway, heliotropes, or pots of tuberose, or
orange-trees in flower, certain dames would look in upon him, sometimes
_malgre lui_, sometimes to his bachelor heart's content.

'Thank God!' he wrote to his cousin Conway, 'the Thames is between me
and the Duchess of Queensberry!' Walpole's dislike to his fair neighbour
may partly have originated in the circumstance of her birth, and her
grace's presuming to plume herself on what he deemed an unimportant
distinction. Catherine Hyde, Duchess of Queensberry, was the
great-granddaughter of the famous Lord Clarendon, and the great-niece of
Anne, Duchess of York. Prior had in her youth celebrated her in the
'Female Phaeton,' as 'Kitty:' in his verse he begs Phaeton to give Kitty
the chariot, if but for a day.

In reference to this, Horace Walpole, in the days of his admiration of
her grace, had made the following impromptu:--

'On seeing the Duchess of Queensberry walk at the funeral of the
Princess Dowager of Wales,--

  'To many a Kitty, Love his car
  Would for a day engage;
  But Prior's Kitty, ever fair,
  Obtained it for an age.'

It was Kitty who took Gay under her patronage, who resented the
prohibition of the 'Beggar's Opera,' remonstrated with the king and
queen, and was thereupon forbidden the court. She carried the poet to
her house. She may have been ridiculous, but she had a warm, generous
heart. 'I am now,' Gay wrote to Swift in 1729, 'in the Duke of
Queensberry's house, and have been so ever since I left Hampstead; where
I was carried at a time that it was thought I could not live a day. I
must acquaint you (because I know it will please you) that during my
sickness I had many of the kindest proofs of friendship, particularly
from the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry; who, if I had been their
nearest relation and dearest friend, could not have treated me with more
constant attendance then, and they continue the same to me now.'

The duchess appears to have been one of those wilful, eccentric, spoiled
children, whom the world at once worships and ridicules: next to the
Countess of Pomfret, she was Horace Walpole's pet aversion. She was well
described as being 'very clever, very whimsical, and just not mad.' Some
of Walpole's touches are strongly confirmatory of this description. For
instance, her grace gives a ball, orders every one to come at six, to
sup at twelve, and go away directly after: opens the ball herself with a
minuet. To this ball she sends strange invitations; 'yet,' says Horace,
'except these flights, the only extraordinary thing the duchess did was
to do nothing extraordinary, for I do not call it very mad that some
pique happening between her and the Duchess of Bedford, the latter had
this distich sent to her;--

  'Come with a whistle--come with a call:
  Come with good-will, or come not at all.'

'I do not know whether what I am going to tell you did not border a
little upon Moorfields. The gallery where they danced was very cold.
Lord Lorn, George Selwyn, and I retired into a little room, and sat
comfortably by the fire. The duchess looked in, said nothing, and sent a
smith to take the hinges of the door oft. We understood the hint--left
the room--and so did the smith the door.'

'I must tell you,' he adds in another letter, 'of an admirable reply of
your acquaintance, the Duchess of Queensberry: old Lady Granville, Lord
Carteret's mother, whom they call _the queen-mother_, from taking upon
her to do the honours of her son's power, was pressing the duchess to
ask her for some place for herself or friends, and assured her that she
would procure it, be it what it would. Could she have picked out a
fitter person to be gracious to? The duchess made her a most grave
curtsey, and said, "Indeed, there was one thing she had set her heart
on."--"Dear child, how you oblige me by asking anything! What is it?
Tell me."--"Only that you would speak to my Lord Carteret to get me made
lady of the bedchamber to the Queen of Hungary."'

The duchess was, therefore, one of the dowagers, 'thick as flounders,'
whose proximity was irritating to the fastidious bachelor. There was,
however, another Kitty between whom and Horace a tender friendship
subsisted: this was Kitty Clive, the famous actress; formerly Kitty
Ruftar. Horace had given her a house on his estate, which he called
sometimes 'Little Strawberry Hill,' and sometimes 'Cliveden;' and here
Mrs. Clive lived with her brother, Mr. Ruftar, until 1785. She formed,
for her friend, a sort of outer-home, in which he passed his evenings.
Long had he admired her talents. Those were the days of the drama in all
its glory: the opera was unfashionable. There were, Horace writes in
1742, on the 26th of May, only two-and-forty people in the Opera House,
in the pit and boxes: people were running to see 'Miss Lucy in Town,' at
Drury Lane, and to admire Mrs. Clive, in her imitation of the
Muscovites; but the greatest crowds assembled to wonder at Garrick, in
'Wine Merchant turned Player;' and great and small alike rushed to
Goodman's Fields to see him act all parts, and to laugh at his admirable
mimicry. It was perhaps, somewhat in jealousy of the counter attraction,
that Horace declared he saw nothing wonderful in the acting of Garrick,
though it was then heresy to say so. 'Now I talk of players,' he adds in
the same letter, 'tell Mr. Chute that his friend Bracegirdle breakfasted
with me this morning.' Horace delighted in such intimacies, and in
recalling old times.

Mrs. Abingdon, another charming and clever actress, was also a denizen
of Twickenham, which became the most fashionable village near the
metropolis. Mrs. Pritchard, likewise, was attracted there; but the
proximity of the Countess of Suffolk, who lived at Marble Hill was the
delight of a great portion of Horace Walpole's life. Her reminiscences,
her anecdotes, her experience, were valuable as well as entertaining to
one who was for ever gathering up materials for history, or for
biography, or for letters to absent friends.

In his own family he found little to cheer him: but if he hated one or
two more especially--and no one could hate more intensely than Horace
Walpole--it was his uncle, Lord Wapole, and his cousin, that nobleman's
son, whom he christened Pigwiggin; 'my monstrous uncle;' 'that old
buffoon, my uncle;' are terms which occur in his letters, and he speaks
of the bloody civil wars between 'Horatio Walpole' and 'Horace Walpole.'

Horatio Walpole, the brother of Sir Robert, was created in June, 1756,
Baron Walpole of Wolterton, as a recompense for fifty years passed in
the public service--an honour which he only survived nine months. He
expired in February, 1757. His death removed one subject of bitter
dislike from the mind of Horace; but enough remained in the family to
excite grief and resentment.

Towards his own two brothers, Robert, Earl of Orford, and Edward
Walpole, Horace the younger, as he was styled in contradistinction to
his uncle, bore very little affection. His feelings, however, for his
nephew George, who succeeded his father as Earl of Orford in 1751, were
more creditable to his heart; yet he gives a description of this
ill-fated young man in his letters, which shows at once pride and
disapprobation. One lingers with regret over the character and the
destiny of this fine young nobleman, whose existence was rendered
miserable by frequent attacks, at intervals, of insanity.

Never was there a handsomer, a more popular, a more engaging being than
George, third Earl of Orford. When he appeared at the head of the
Norfolk regiment of militia, of which he was colonel, even the great
Lord Chatham broke out into enthusiasm:--'Nothing,' he wrote, 'could
make a better appearance than the two Norfolk battalions; Lord Orford,
with the front of Mars himself, and really the greatest figure under
arms I ever saw, as the theme of every tongue.' His person and air,
Horace Walpole declared, had a noble wildness in them: crowds followed
the battalions when the king reviewed them in Hyde Park; and among the
gay young officers in their scarlet uniforms, faced with black, in their
buff waistcoats and gold buttons, none was so conspicuous for martial
bearing as Lord Onord, although classed by his uncle 'among the knights
of shire who had never in their lives shot anything but woodcocks.'

But there was a peculiarity of character in the young peer which shocked
Horace. 'No man,' he says in one of his letters, 'ever felt such a
disposition to love another as I did to love him. I flattered myself
that he would restore some lustre to our house--at least not let it
totally sink; but I am forced to give him up, and all my Walpole
views.... He has a good breeding, and attention when he is with you that
is even flattering;... he promises, offers everything one can wish; but
this is all: the instant he leaves you, all the world are nothing to
him; he would not give himself the least trouble in the world to give
any one satisfaction; yet this is mere indolence of mind, not of body:
his whole pleasure is outrageous exercise.'

'He is,' in another place Horace adds, 'the most selfish man in the
world: without being in the least interested, he loves nobody but
himself, yet neglects every view of fortune and ambition. Yet,' he
concludes, 'it is impossible not to love him when one sees him:
impossible to esteem him when one thinks on him.'

The young lord, succeeding to an estate deeply encumbered, both by his
father and grandfather, rushed on the turf, and involved himself still
more. In vain did Horace the younger endeavour to secure for him the
hand of Miss Nicholls, an heiress with L50,000, and, to that end, placed
the young lady with Horace the elder (Lord Walpole), at Wolterton. The
scheme failed: the crafty old politician thought he might as well
benefit his own sons as his nephew, for he had himself claims on the
Houghton estate which he expected Miss Nicholl's fortune might help to
liquidate.

At length the insanity and recklessness displayed by his nephew--the
handsome martial George--induced poor Horace to take affairs in his own
hands. His reflections, on his paying a visit to Houghton to look after
the property there, are pathetically expressed:--

'Here I am again at Houghton,' he writes in March, 1761, 'and alone; in
this spot where (except two hours last month) I have not been in sixteen
years. Think what a crowd of reflections!... Here I am probably for the
last time of my life: every clock that strikes, tells me I am an hour
nearer to yonder church--that church into which I have not yet had
courage to enter; where lies that mother on whom I doated, and who
doated on me! There are the two rival mistresses of Houghton, neither of
whom ever wished to enjoy it. There, too, is he who founded its
greatness--to contribute to whose fall Europe was embroiled; there he
sleeps in quiet and dignity, while his friend and his foe--rather his
false ally and real enemy--Newcastle and Bath, are exhausting the dregs
of their pitiful lives in squabbles and pamphlets.

When he looked at the pictures--that famous Houghton collection--the
surprise of Horace was excessive. Accustomed to see nothing elsewhere
but daubs, he gazed with ecstasy on them. 'The majesty of Italian
ideas,' he says, 'almost sinks before the warm nature of Italian
colouring! Alas! don't I grow old?'

As he lingered in the gallery, with mingled pride and sadness, a party
arrived to see the house--a man and three women in riding-dresses--who
'rode post' through the apartments. 'I could not,' he adds, 'hurry
before them fast enough; they were not so long in seeing the whole
gallery as I could have been in one room, to examine what I knew by
heart. I remember formerly being often diverted with this kind of
_seers_; they come, ask what such a room is called in which Sir Robert
lay, write it down, admire a lobster or a cabbage in a Market Piece,
dispute whether the last room was green or purple, and then hurry to the
inn, for fear the fish should be over-dressed. How different my
sensations! not a picture here but recalls a history; not one but I
remembered in Downing Street, or Chelsea, where queens and crowds
admired them, though seeing them as little as these travellers![5]

[5: Sir Robert Walpole purchased a house and garden at Chelsea in 1722,
near the college, adjoining Gough House.--Cunningham's 'London.']

After tea he strolled into the garden. They told him it was now called a
_pleasure-ground._ To Horace it was a scene of desolation--a floral
Nineveh. 'What a dissonant idea of pleasure!--those groves, those
_allees_, where I have passed so many charming moments, were now
stripped up or overgrown--many fond paths I could not unravel, though
with an exact clue in my memory. I met two gamekeepers, and a thousand
hares! In the days when all my soul was tuned to pleasure and vivacity
(and you will think perhaps it is far from being out of tune yet), I
hated Houghton and its solitude; yet I loved this garden, as now, with
many regrets, I love Houghton--Houghton, I know not what to call it--a
monument of grandeur or ruin!'

Although he did not go with the expectation of finding a land flowing
with milk and honey, the sight of all this ruin long saddened his
thoughts. All was confusion, disorder, debts, mortgages, sales, pillage,
villainy, waste, folly, and madness. The nettles and brambles in the
park were up to his shoulders; horses had been turned into the garden,
and banditti lodged in every cottage.

The perpetuity of livings that came up to the very park-palings had been
sold, and the farms let at half their value. Certainly, if Houghton were
bought by Sir Robert Walpole with public money, that public was now
avenged.

The owner of this ruined property had just stemmed the torrent; but the
worst was to come. The pictures were sold, and to Russia they went.

Whilst thus harassed by family misfortunes, other annoyances came. The
mournful story of Chatterton's fate was painfully mixed up with the
tenour of Horace Walpole's life.

The gifted and unfortunate Thomas Chatterton was born at Bristol in
1752. Even from his birth fate seemed to pursue him, for he was a
posthumous son: and if the loss of a father in the highest ranks of life
be severely felt, how much more so is it to be deplored in those which
are termed the working classes!

The friendless enthusiast was slow in learning to read; but when the
illuminated capitals of an old book were presented to him, he quickly
learned his letters. This fact, and his being taught to read out of a
black-letter Bible, are said to have accounted for his facility in the
imitation of antiquities. Pensive and taciturn, he picked up education
at a charity-school, until apprenticed to a scrivener, when he began
that battle of life which ended to him so fatally.

Upon very slight accidents did his destiny hinge. In those days women
worked with thread, and used thread-papers. Now paper was, at that time,
dear: dainty matrons liked tasty thread-papers. A pretty set of
thread-papers, with birds or flowers painted on each, was no mean
present for a friend. Chatterton, a quiet child, one day noticed that
his mother's thread-papers were of no ordinary materials. They were made
of parchment, and on this parchment was some of the black-letter
characters by which his childish attention had been fixed to his book.
The fact was, that his uncle was sexton to the ancient church of St.
Mary Redcliffe, at Bristol; and the parchment was the fruit of theft.
Chatterton's father had carried off, from a room in the church, certain
ancient manuscripts, which had been left about; being originally
abstracted from what was called Mr. Canynge's coffin. Mr. Canynge, an
eminent merchant, had rebuilt St. Mary Redcliffe in the reign of Edward
IV.: and the parchments, therefore, were of some antiquity. The
antiquary groans over their loss in vain: Chatterton's father had
covered his books with them; his mother had used up the strips for
thread-papers; and Thomas Chatterton himself contrived to abstract a
considerable portion also, for his own purposes.

He was ingenious, industrious, a poet by nature, and, wonderful to say,
withal a herald by taste. Upon his nefarious possessions, he founded a
scheme of literary forgeries; purporting to be ancient pieces of poetry
found in Canynge's chest; and described as being the production of
Thomas Canynge and of his friend, one Thomas Rowley, a priest. Money and
books were sent to Chatterton in return for little strips of vellum,
which he passed off as the original itself; and the successful forger
might now be seen in deep thought, walking in the meadows near
Redcliffe; a marked, admired, poetic youth.

In 1769, Chatterton wrote to Horace Walpole, offering to send him some
accounts of eminent painters who had flourished at Bristol, and at the
same time mentioning the discovery of the poems, and enclosing some
specimens. In a subsequent letter he begged Walpole to aid him in his
wish to be freed from his then servile condition, and to be placed in
one more congenial to his pursuits.

In his choice of a patron poor Chatterton made a fatal mistake. The
benevolence of Horace was of a general kind, and never descended to
anything obscure or unappreciated. There was a certain hardness in that
nature of his which had so pleasant an aspect. 'An artist,' he once
said, 'has his pencils--an author his pens--and the public must reward
them as it pleases.' Alas! he forgot how long it is before penury, even
ennobled by genius, can make itself seen, heard, approved, repaid: how
vast is the influence of _prestige!_ how generous the hand which is
extended to those in want, even if in error! All that Horace did,
however, was strictly correct: he showed the poems to Gray and Mason,
who pronounced them forgeries; and he wrote a cold and reproving letter
to the starving author: and no one could blame him: Chatterton demanded
back his poems; Walpole was going to Paris, and forgot to return them.
Another letter came: the wounded poet again demanded them, adding that
Walpole would not have dared to use him so had he not been poor. The
poems were returned in a blank cover: and here all Walpole's concern
with Thomas Chatterton ends. All this happened in 1769. In August, 1770,
the remains of the unhappy youth were carried to the burial-ground of
Shoe Lane workhouse, near Holborn. He had swallowed arsenic; had
lingered a day in agonies; and then, at the age of eighteen expired.
Starvation had prompted the act: yet on the day before he had committed
it, he had refused a dinner, of which he was invited by his hostess to
partake, assuring her that he was not hungry. Just or unjust, the world
has never forgiven Horace Walpole for Chatterton's misery. His
indifference has been contrasted with the generosity of Edmund Burke to
Crabbe: a generosity to which we owe 'The Village,' 'The Borough,' and
to which Crabbe owed his peaceful old age, and almost his existence. The
cases were different; but Crabbe had his faults--and Chatterton was
worth saving. It is well for genius that there are souls in the world
more sympathizing, less worldly, and more indulgent, than those of such
men as Horace Walpole. Even the editor of 'Walpoliana' lets judgment go
by default. 'As to artists,' he says, 'he paid them what they earned,
and he commonly employed mean ones, that the reward might be smaller.'

Let us change the strain: stilled be the mournful note on which we have
rested too long. What have wits and beaux and men of society to do with
poets and beggars? Behold, Horace, when he has written his monitory
letter, packs up for Paris. Let us follow him there, and see him in the
very centre of his pleasures--in the _salon_ of La Marquise du Deffand.

Horace Walpole had perfected his education, as a fine gentleman, by his
intimacy with Madame Geoffrin, to whom Lady Hervey had introduced him.
She called him _le nouveau Richelieu_; and Horace was sensible of so
great a compliment from a woman at once '_spirituelle_ and _pieuse_'--a
combination rare in France. Nevertheless, she had the national views of
matrimony. 'What have you done, Madame,' said a foreigner to her, 'with
the poor man I used to see here, who never spoke a word?'

'Ah, _mon Dieu!_ was the reply, 'that was my husband: he is dead.' She
spoke in the same tone as if she had been specifying the last new opera,
or referring to the latest work in vogue: things just passed away.

The _Marquise du Deffaud_ was a very different personage to Madame
Geoffrin, whose great enemy she was. When Horace Walpole first entered
into the society of the Marquise, she was stone blind, and old; but
retained not only her wit, and her memory, but her passions. Passions,
like artificial flowers, are unbecoming to age: and those of the witty,
atheistical Marquise are almost revolting. Scandal still attached her
name to that of Henault, of whom Voltaire wrote the epitaph beginning

  'Henault, fameus par vos soupers
  Et votre "chronologie,"' &c.

Henault was for many years deaf; and, during the whole of his life,
disagreeable. There was something farcical in the old man's receptions
on his death-bed; whilst, amongst the rest of the company came Madame du
Deffand, a blind old woman of seventy, who, bawling in his ear, aroused
the lethargic man, by inquiring after a former rival of hers, Madame de
Castelmaron--about whom he went on babbling until death stopped his
voice.

She was seventy years of age when Horace Walpole, at fifty, became her
passion. She was poor and disreputable, and even the high position of
having been mistress to the regent could not save her from being decried
by a large portion of that society which centered round the _bel
esprit_. 'She was,' observes the biographer of Horace Walpole (the
lamented author of the 'Crescent and the Cross,') 'always gay, always
charming--everything but a Christian.' The loss of her eyesight did not
impair the remains of her beauty; her replies, her compliments, were
brilliant; even from one whose best organs of expression were mute.

A frequent guest at her suppers, Walpole's kindness, real or pretended,
soon made inroads on a heart still susceptible. The ever-green passions
of this venerable sinner threw out fresh shoots; and she became
enamoured of the attentive and admired Englishman. Horace was
susceptible of ridicule: there his somewhat icy heart was easily
touched. Partly in vanity, partly in playfulness, he encouraged the
sentimental-exaggeration of his correspondent; but, becoming afraid of
the world's laughter, ended by reproving her warmth, and by chilling,
under the refrigerating influence of his cautions, all the romance of
the octogenarian.

In later days, however, after his solicitude--partly soothed by the
return of his letters to Madame du Deffand, partly by her death--had
completely subsided, a happier friendship was permitted to solace his
now increasing infirmities, as well as to enhance his social pleasures.

It was during the year 1788, when he was living in retirement at
Strawberry, that his auspicious friendship was formed. The only grain of
ambition he had left he declared was to believe himself forgotten; that
was 'the thread that had run through his life;' 'so true,' he adds,
'except the folly of being an author, has been what I said last year to
the Prince' (afterwards George IV.), 'when he asked me "If I was a
Freemason," I replied, "No sir; I never was anything."'

Lady Charleville told him that some of her friends had been to see
Strawberry. 'Lord!' cried one lady, 'who is that Mr. Walpole?' 'Lord!'
cried a second; 'don't you know the great epicure, Mr. Walpole?' 'Who?'
cried the first,--'great epicure! you mean the antiquarian.' 'Surely,'
adds Horace, 'this anecdote may take its place in the chapter of local
fame.'

But he reverts to his new acquisition--the acquaintance of the Miss
Berrys, who had accidentally taken a house next to his at Strawberry
Hill. Their story, he adds, was a curious one: their descent Scotch;
their grandfather had an estate of L5,000 a year, but disinherited his
son on account of his marrying a woman with no fortune. She died, and
the grandfather, wishing for an heir-male, pressed the widower to marry
again: he refused; and said he would devote himself to the education of
his two daughters. The second son generously gave up L8oo a year to his
brother, and the two motherless girls were taken to the Continent,
whence they returned the 'best informed and most perfect creatures that
Horace Walpole ever saw at their age.'

Sensible, natural, frank, their conversation proved most agreeable to a
man who was sated of grand society, and sick of vanity until he had
indulged in vexation of spirit. He discovered by chance only--for there
was no pedantry in these truly well-educated women--that the eldest
understood Latin, and 'was a perfect Frenchwoman in her language. Then
the youngest drew well; and copied one of Lady Di Beauclerk's pictures,
'The Gipsies,' though she had never attempted colours before. Then, as
to looks: Mary, the eldest, had a sweet face, the more interesting from
being pale; with fine dark eyes that were lighted up when she spoke.
Agnes, the younger, was 'hardly to be called handsome, but almost;' with
an agreeable sensible countenance. It is remarkable that women thus
delineated--not beauties, yet not plain--are always the most fascinating
to men. The sisters doted on each other: Mary taking the lead in
society. 'I must even tell you,' Horace wrote to the Countess of Ossory,
'that they dress within the bounds of fashion, but without the
excrescences and balconies with which modern hoydens overwhelm and
barricade their persons.' (One would almost have supposed that Horace
had lived in the days of crinoline.')

The first night that Horace met the two sisters, he refused to be
introduced to them: having heard so much of them that he concluded they
would be 'all pretension.' The second night that he met them, he sat
next Mary, and found her an 'angel both inside and out.' He did not know
which he liked best; but Mary's face, which was formed for a sentimental
novel, or, still more, for genteel comedy, riveted him, he owned. Mr.
Berry, the father, was a little 'merry man with a round face,' whom no
one would have suspected of sacrificing 'all for love, and the world
well lost.' This delightful family visited him every Sunday evening; the
region of wickenham being too 'proclamatory' for cards to be introduced
on the seventh day, conversation was tried instead; thankful, indeed,
was Horace, for the 'pearls,' as he styled them, thus thrown in his
path. His two 'Strawberries,' as he christened them, were henceforth the
theme of every letter. He had set up a printing-press many years
previously at Strawberry, and on taking the young ladies to see it, he
remembered the gallantry of his former days, and they found these
stanzas in type:--

  'To Mary's lips has ancient Rome
    Her purest language taught;
  And from the modern city home
    Agnes its pencil brought.

  'Rome's ancient Horace sweetly chants
    Such maids with lyric fire;
  Albion's old Horace sings nor paints,
    He only can admire.

  'Still would his press their fame record,
    So amiable the pair is!
  But, ah! how vain to think his word
    Can add a straw to Berry's.'

On the following day, Mary, whom he terms the Latin nymph sent the
following lines:--

  'Had Rome's famed Horace thus addrest
    His Lydia or his Lyce,
  He had ne'er so oft complained their breast
    To him was cold and icy.

  'But had they sought their joy to explain,
    Or praise their generous bard,
  Perhaps, like me, they had tried in vain,
    And felt the task too hard.'

The society of this family gave Horace Walpole the truest, and perhaps
the only relish he ever had of domestic life. But his mind was harassed
towards the close of the eighteenth century, by the insanity not only of
his nephew, but by the great national calamity, that of the king. 'Every
_eighty-eight_ seems,' he remarks, 'to be a favourite period with fate;'
he was 'too ancient,' he said, 'to tap what might almost be called a new
reign;' of which he was not likely to see much. He never pretended to
penetration, but his foresight, 'if he gave it the reign, would not
prognosticate much felicity to the country from the madness of his
father, and the probable regency of the Prince of Wales. His happiest
relations were now not with politics or literature, but with Mrs. Damer
and the Miss Berrys, to whom he wrote:--'I am afraid of protesting how
much I delight in your society, lest I should seem to affect being
gallant; but, if two negatives make an affirmative, why may not two
ridicules compose one piece of sense? and, therefore, as I am in love
with you both, I trust it is a proof of the good sense of your
devoted--H. WALPOLE,'

He was doomed, in the decline of life, to witness two great national
convulsions: of the insurrection of 1745 he wrote
feelingly--justly--almost pathetically: forty-five years later he was
tired, he said, of railing against French barbarity and folly.
'Legislators! a Senate! To neglect laws, in order to annihilate
coats-of-arms and liveries!' George Selwyn said, that Monsieur the
king's brother was the only man of rank from whom they could not take a
title. His alarm at the idea of his two young friends going to the
Continent was excessive. The flame of revolution had burst forth at
Florence: Flanders was not a safe road; dreadful horrors had been
perpetrated at Avignon. Then he relates a characteristic anecdote of
poor _Marie Antoinette!_ She went with the king to see the manufacture
of glass. As they passed the Halle, the _poissardes_ hurra'd them. 'Upon
my word,' said the queen, 'these folks are civiller when you visit them,
than when they visit you.'

Walpole's affection for the Miss Berrys cast a glow of happiness over
the fast-ebbing years of his life, 'In happy days,' he wrote to them
when they were abroad, 'I called you my dear wives; now I can only think
of you as darling children, of whom I am bereaved.' He was proud of
their affection; proud of their spending many hours with 'a very old
man,' whilst they were the objects of general admiration. These charming
women survived until our own time: the centre of a circle of the leading
characters in literature, politics, art, rank, and virtue. They are
remembered with true regret. The fulness of their age perfected the
promise of their youth. Samuel Rogers used to say that they had lived in
the reign of Queen Anne, so far back seemed their memories which were so
coupled to the past; but the youth of their minds, their feelings, their
intelligence, remained almost to the last.

For many years Horace Walpole continued, in spite of incessant attacks
of the gout, to keep almost open house at Strawberry; in short, he said,
he kept an inn--the sign, the Gothic Castle! 'Take my advice,' he wrote
to a friend, 'never build a charming house for yourself between London
and Hampton Court; everybody will live in it but you.'

The death of Lady Suffolk, in 1767, had been an essential loss to her
partial, and not too rigid neighbours. Two days before the death of
George II. she had gone to Kensington not knowing that there was a
review there. Hemmed in by coaches, she found herself close to George
II. and to Lady Yarmouth. Neither of them knew her--a circumstance which
greatly affected the countess.

Horace Walpole was now desirous of growing old with dignity. He had no
wish 'to dress up a withered person, nor to drag it about to public
places;' but he was equally averse from 'sitting at home, wrapped up in
flannels,' to receive condolences from people he did not care for--and
attentions from relations who were impatient for his death. Well might a
writer in the 'Quarterly Review' remark that our most useful lessons in
reading Walpole's Letters are not only derived from his sound sense, but
from 'considering this man of the world, full of information and
sparkling with vivacity, stretched on a sick bed, and apprehending all
the tedious languor of helpless decrepitude and deserted solitude.' His
later years had been diversified by correspondence with Hannah More, who
sent him her poem of the _Bas Bleu_, into which she had introduced his
name. In 1786 she visited him at Strawberry Hill. He was then a martyr
to the gout, but with spirits gay as ever: 'I never knew a man suffer
pain with such entire patience,' was Hannah More's remark. His
correspondence with her continued regularly; but that with the charming
sisters was delightfully interrupted by their residence at little
Strawberry Hill--_Cliveden_, as it was also called, where day after day,
night after night, they gleaned stores from that rich fund of anecdote
which went back to the days of George I., touched even on the anterior
epoch of Anne, and came in volumes of amusement down to the very era
when the old man was sitting by his parlour fire, happy with his _wives_
near him, resigned and cheerful. For his young friends he composed his
'Reminiscences of the Court of England.'

He still wrote cheerfully of his physical state, in which eyesight was
perfect; hearing little impaired; and though his hands and feet were
crippled, he could use them; and since he neither 'wished to box, to
wrestle, nor to dance a hornpipe,' he was contented.

His character became softer, his wit less caustic, his heart more
tender, his talk more reverent, as he approached the term of a long,
prosperous life--and knew, practically, the small value of all that he
had once too fondly prized.

His later years were disturbed by the marriage of his niece Maria
Waldegrave to the Duke of Gloucester: but the severest interruption to
his peace was his own succession to an Earldom.

In 1791, George, Earl of Orford, expired; leaving an estate encumbered
with debt, and, added to the bequest, a series of lawsuits threatened to
break down all remaining comfort in the mind of the uncle, who had
already suffered so much on the young man's account.

Horace Walpole disdained the honours which brought him such solid
trouble, with such empty titles, and for some time refused to sign
himself otherwise but 'Uncle to the late Earl of Orford.' He was
certainly not likely to be able to walk in his robes to the House of
Lords, or to grace a levee. However, he thanked God he was free from
pain. 'Since all my fingers are useless,' he wrote to Hannah More, 'and
that I have only six hairs left, I am not very much grieved at not being
able to comb my head!' To Hannah More he wrote in all sincerity,
referring to his elevation to the peerage: 'For the other empty
metamorphosis that has happened to the outward man, you do me justice in
believing that it can do nothing but tease me; it is being called names
in one's old age:' in fact, he reckoned on being styled 'Lord
Methusalem.' He had lived to hear of the cruel deaths of the once gay
and high-born friends whom he had known in Paris, by the guillotine: he
had lived to execrate the monsters who persecuted the grandest heroine
of modern times, Marie Antoinette, to madness; he lived to censure the
infatuation of religious zeal in the Birmingham riots. 'Are not the
devils escaped out of the swine, and overrunning the earth
headlong?'--he asked in one of his letters.

He had offered his hand, and all the ambitious views which it opened, to
each of the Miss Berrys successively, but they refused to bear his name,
though they still cheered his solitude: and, strange to say, two of the
most admired and beloved women of their time remained single.

In 1796, the sinking invalid was persuaded to remove to Berkeley Square,
to be within reach of good and prompt advice. He consented unwillingly,
for his 'Gothic Castle' was his favourite abode. He left it with a
presentiment that he should see it no more; but he followed the
proffered advice, and in the spring of the year was established in
Berkeley Square. His mind was still clear. He seems to have cherished to
the last a concern for that literary fame which he affected to despise.
'Literature has,' he said, 'many revolutions; if an author could rise
from the dead, after a hundred years, what would be his surprise at the
adventures of his works! I often say, perhaps my books may be published
in Paternoster Row!' He would indeed have been astonished at the vast
circulation of his Letters, and the popularity which has carried them
into every aristocratic family in England. It is remarkable that among
the middle and lower classes they are far less known, for he was
essentially the chronicler, as well as the wit and beau, of St. James's,
of Windsor, and Richmond.

At last he declared that he should 'be content with a sprig of rosemary'
thrown on him when the parson of the parish commits his 'dust to dust.'
The end of his now suffering existence was near at hand. Irritability,
one of the unpitied accompaniments of weakness, seemed to compete with
the gathering clouds of mental darkness as the last hour drew on. At
intervals there were flashes of a wit that appeared at that solemn
moment hardly natural, and that must have startled rather than pleased,
the watchful friends around him. He became unjust in his fretfulness,
and those who loved him most could not wish to see him survive the wreck
of his intellect. Fever came on, and he died on the 2nd of March, 1797.

He had collected his letters from his friends: these epistles were
deposited in two boxes, one marked with an A., the other with a B. The
chest A. was not to be opened until the eldest son of his grandniece,
Lady Laura, should attain the age of twenty-five. The chest was found to
contain memoirs, and bundles of letters ready for publication.

It was singular, at the sale of the effects at Strawberry Hill, to see
this chest, with the MSS. in the clean _Horatian_ hand, and to reflect
how poignant would have been the anguish of the writer could he have
seen his Gothic Castle given up for fourteen days, to all that could
pain the living, or degrade the dead.

Peace to his manes, prince of letter-writers; prince companion of beaux;
wit of the highest order! Without thy pen, society in the eighteenth
century would have been to us almost as dead as the _beau monde_ of
Pompeii, or the remains of Etruscan leaders of the ton. Let us not be
ungrateful to our Horace: we owe him more than we could ever have
calculated on before we knew him through his works: prejudiced, he was
not false; cold, he was rarely cruel; egotistical, he was seldom
vain-glorious. Every age should have a Horace Walpole; every country
possess a chronicler so sure, so keen to perceive, so exact to delineate
peculiarities, manners, characters, and events.



GEORGE SELWYN.


A Love of Horrors.--Anecdotes of Selwyn's Mother.--Selwyn's College
Days.--Orator Henley.--Selwyn's Blasphemous Freak.--The Profession
of a Wit.--The Thirst for Hazard.--Reynolds's Conversation-Piece.--
Selwyn's Eccentricities and Witticisms.--A most Important
Communication.--An Amateur Headsman.--The Eloquence of Indifference.--
Catching a Housebreaker.--The Family of the Selwyns.--The Man of the
People.--Selwyn's Parliamentary Career.--True Wit.---Some of Selwyn's
Witty Sayings.--The Sovereignty of the People.--On two kinds of Wit.--
Selwyn's Love for Children.--Mie Mie, the Little Italian.--Selwyn's
Little Companion taken from him.--His Later Days and Death.


I have heard, at times, of maiden ladies of a certain age who found
pleasure in the affection of 'spotted snakes with double tongue, thorny
hedge-hogs, newts, and in live worms.' I frequently meet ladies who
think conversation lacks interest without the recital of 'melancholy
deaths,' 'fatal diseases,' and 'mournful cases;' _on ne dispute pas les
gouts_, and certainly the taste for the night side of nature seems
immensely prevalent among the lower orders--in whom, perhaps, the
terrible only can rouse from a sullen insensibility. What happy people!
I always think to myself, when I hear of the huge attendance on the last
tragic performance at Newgate; how very little they can see of mournful
and horrible in common life, if they seek it out so eagerly, and relish
it so thoroughly, when they find it! I don't know; for my own part,
_gaudeamus_. I have always thought that the text, 'Blessed are they that
mourn,' referred to the inner private life, not to a perpetual display
of sackcloth and ashes; but I know not. I can understand the
weeping-willow taste among people, who have too little wit or too little
Christianity to be cheerful, but it is a wonder to find the luxury of
gloom united to the keenest perception of the laughable in such a man as
George Selwyn.

If human beings could be made pets, like Miss Tabitha's snake or toad,
Selwyn would have fondled a hangman. He loved the noble art of
execution, and was a connoisseur of the execution of the art. In
childhood he must have decapitated his rocking-horse, hanged his doll in
a miniature gallows, and burnt his baubles at mimic stakes. The man
whose calm eye was watched for the quiet sparkle that announced--and
only that ever did announce it--the flashing wit within the mind, by a
gay crowd of loungers at Arthur's, might be found next day rummaging
among coffins in a damp vault, glorying in a mummy, confessing and
preparing a live criminal, paying any sum for a relic of a dead one, or
pressing eagerly forward to witness the dying agonies of a condemned
man.

Yet Walpole and Warner both bore the highest testimony to the goodness
of his heart; and it is impossible to doubt that his nature was as
gentle as a woman's. There have been other instances of even educated
men delighting in scenes of suffering; but in general their characters
have been more or less gross, their heads more or less insensible. The
husband of Madame Recamier went daily to see the guillotine do its vile
work during the reign of Terror; but then he was a man who never wept
over the death of a friend. The man who was devoted to a little child,
whom he adopted and treated with the tenderest care, was very different
from M. Recamier--and that he _had_ a heart there is no doubt. He was an
anomaly, and famous for being so; though, perhaps, his well-known
eccentricity was taken advantage of by his witty friends, and many a
story fathered on Selwyn which has no origin but in the brain of its
narrator.

George Augustus Selwyn, then, famous for his wit, and notorious for his
love of horrors, was the second son of a country gentleman, of Matson,
in Gloucestershire, Colonel John Selwyn, who had been an aide-de-camp of
Marlborough's, and afterwards a frequenter of the courts of the first
two Georges. He inherited his wit chiefly from his mother, Mary, the
daughter of General Farington or Farringdon, of the county of Kent.
Walpole tells us that she figured among the beauties of the court of the
Prince and Princess of Wales, and was bedchamber-woman to Queen
Caroline. Her character was not spotless, for we hear of an intrigue,
which her own mistress imparted in confidence to the Duchess of Orleans
(the mother of the Regent: they wrote on her tomb _Cy gist l'oisivete_,
because idleness is the _mother_ of all vice), and which eventually
found its way into the 'Utrecht Gazette.' It was Mrs. Selwyn, too, who
said to George II., that he was the last person she would ever have an
intrigue with, because she was sure he would tell the queen of it: it
was well known that that very virtuous sovereign made his wife the
confidante of his amours, which was even more shameless than young De
Sevigne's taking advice from his mother on his intrigue with Ninon de
l'Enclos. She seems to have been reputed a wit, for Walpole retails her
_mots_ as if they were worth it, but they are not very remarkable: for
instance, when Miss Pelham lost a pair of diamond earrings, which she
had borrowed, and tried to faint when the loss was discovered, some one
called for lavender-drops as a restorative. 'Pooh!' cries Mrs. Selwyn,
'give her diamond-drops.'

George Augustus was born on the 11th of August, 1719. Walpole says that
he knew him at eight years old, and as the two were at Eton about the
same time, it is presumed that they were contemporaries there. In fact,
a list of the boys there, in 1732, furnished to Eliot Warburton,
contains the names of Walpole, Selwyn, Edgecumbe, and Conway, all in
after-life intimate friends and correspondents. From Eton to Oxford was
the natural course, and George was duly entered at Hertford College. He
did not long grace Alma Mater, for the _grand tour_ had to be made, and
London life to be begun, but he was there long enough to contract the
usual Oxford debts, which his father consented to pay more than once. It
is amusing to find the son getting Dr. Newton to write him a contrite
and respectful letter to the angry parent, to liquidate the 'small
accounts' accumulated in London and Oxford as early as 1740. Three years
later we find him in Paris, leading a gay life, and writing respectful
letters to England for more money. Previously to this, however, he had
obtained, through his father, the sinecure of Clerk of the Irons and
surveyor of the Meltings at the Mint, a comfortable little appointment,
the duties of which were performed by deputy, while its holder contented
himself with honestly acknowledging the salary, and dining once a week,
when in town, with the officers of the Mint, and at the Government's
expense.

So far the young gentleman went on well enough, but in 1744 he returned
to England, and his rather rampant character showed itself in more than
one disgraceful affair.

Among the London shows was Orator Henley, a clergyman and clergyman's
son, and a member of St. John's, Cambridge. He had come to London about
this time, and instituted a series of lectures on universal knowledge
and primitive Christianity. He styled himself a Rationalist, a title
then more honourable than it is now; and in grandiloquent language,
'spouted' on religious subjects to an audience admitted at a shilling
a-head. On one occasion he announced a disputation among any two of his
hearers, offering to give an impartial hearing and judgment to both.
Selwyn and the young Lord Carteret were prepared, and stood up, the one
to defend the ignorance, the other the impudence, of Orator Henley
himself; so, at least, it is inferred from a passage in D'Israeli the
Elder. The uproar that ensued can well be imagined. Henley himself made
his escape by a back door. His pulpit, all gilt, has been immortalized
by Pope, as 'Henley's gilt tub;' in which--

  'Imbrown'd with native bronze, lo! Henley stands,
  Tuning his voice and balancing his hands.'

The affair gave rise to a correspondence between the Orator and his
young friends; who, doubtless, came off best in the matter.

This was harmless enough, but George's next freak was not so excusable.
The circumstances of this affair are narrated in a letter from Captain
Nicholson, his friend, to George Selwyn; and may, therefore, be relied
on. It appears that being at a certain club in Oxford, at a wine party
with his friends, George sent to a certain silversmith's for a certain
chalice, intrusted to the shopkeeper from a certain church to be
repaired in a certain manner. This being brought, Master George--then,
be it remembered, not at the delicate and frivolous age of most Oxford
boys, but at the mature one of six-and-twenty--filled it with wine, and
handing it round, used the sacred words, 'Drink this in remembrance of
me.' This was a blasphemous parody of the most sacred rite of the
Church. All Selwyn could say for himself was, that he was drunk when he
did it. The other plea, that he did it in ridicule of the
transubstantiation of the Romish Church, could not stand at all; and was
most weakly put forward. Let Oxford Dons be what they will; let them put
a stop to all religious inquiry, and nearly expel Adam Smith for reading
Hume's 'Essay on Human Nature;' let them be, as many allege,
narrow-minded, hypocritical, and ignorant; we cannot charge them with
wrong-dealing in expelling the originator of such open blasphemy, which
nothing can be found to palliate, and of which its perpetrator did not
appear to repent, rather complaining that the treatment of the Dons was
harsh. The act of expulsion was, of course, considered in the same light
by his numerous acquaintance, many of whom condoled with him on the
occasion. It is true, the Oxford Dons are often charged with injustice
and partiality, and too often the evidence is not sufficiently strong to
excuse their judgments; but in this the evidence was not denied; only a
palliative was put in, which every one can see through. The only
injustice we can discover in this case is, that the head of Hart Hall,
as Hertford College was called, seemed to have been influenced in
pronouncing his sentence of expulsion by certain previous _suspicions_,
having no bearing on the question before him, which had been entertained
by another set of tutors--those of Christchurch--where Selwyn had many
friends, and where, probably enough, he indulged in many collegian's
freaks. This knack of bringing up a mere suspicion, is truly
characteristic of the Oxford Don, and since the same Head of this
House--Dr. Newton--acknowledged that Selwyn was, during his Oxford
career, neither intemperate, dissolute, nor a gamester, it is fair to
give him the advantage of the doubt, that the judgment on the evidence
had been influenced by the consideration of 'suspicions' of former
misdeeds, which had not been proved, perhaps never committed. Knowing
the after-life of the man, we can, however, scarcely doubt that George
had led a fast life at the University, and given cause for mistrust. But
one may ask whether Dons, whose love of drinking, and whose tendency to
jest on the most solemn subjects, are well known even in the present
day, might not have treated Selwyn less harshly for what was done under
the influence of wine? To this we are inclined to reply, that no
punishment is too severe for profanation; and that drunkenness is not an
excuse, but an aggravation. Selwyn threatened to appeal, and took advice
on the matter. This, as usual, was vain. Many an expelled man, more
unjustly treated than Selwyn, has talked of appeal in vain. Appeal to
whom? To what? Appeal against men who never acknowledge themselves
wrong, and who, to maintain that they are right, will listen to evidence
which they can see is contradictory, and which they know to be
worthless! An appeal from an Oxford decision is as hopeless in the
present day as it was in Selwyn's. He wisely left it alone, but less
wisely insisted on reappearing in Oxford, against the advice of all his
friends, whose characters were lost if the ostracised man were seen
among them.

From this time he entered upon his 'profession,' that of a wit, gambler,
club-lounger, and man about town; for these many characters are all
mixed in the one which is generally called 'a wit.' Let us remember that
he was good-hearted, and not ill-intentioned, though imbued with the
false ideas of his day. He was not a great man, but a great wit.

The localities in which the trade of wit was plied were, then, the
clubs, and the drawing-rooms of fashionable beauties. The former were in
Selwyn's youth still limited in the number of their members, thirty
constituting a large club; and as the subscribers were all known to one
another, presented an admirable field for display of mental powers in
conversation. In fact, the early clubs were nothing more than
dining-societies, precisely the same in theory as our breakfasting
arrangements at Oxford, which were every whit as exclusive, though not
balloted for. The ballot, however, and the principle of a single black
ball suffering to negative an election were not only, under such
circumstances, excusable, but even necessary for the actual preservation
of peace. Of course, in a succession of dinner-parties, if any two
members were at all opposed to one other, the awkwardness would be
intolerable. In the present day, two men may belong to the same club and
scarcely meet even on the stairs, oftener than once or twice in a
season.

Gradually, however, in the place of the 'feast of reason and flow of
soul' and wine, instead of the evenings spent in toasting, talking,
emptying bottles and filling heads, as in the case of the old Kit-kat,
men took to the monstrous amusement of examining fate, and on
club-tables the dice rattled far more freely than the glasses, though
these latter were not necessarily abandoned. Then came the thirst for
hazard that brought men early in the day to try their fortune, and thus
made the club-room a lounge. Selwyn was an habitual frequenter of
Brookes.'

Brookes' was, perhaps, the principal club of the day, though 'White's
Chocolate House' was almost on a par with it. But Selwyn did not confine
his attention solely to this club. It was the fashion to belong to as
many of them as possible, and Wilberforce mentions no less than five to
which he himself belonged: Brookes', Boodle's, White's, Miles and
Evans's in New Palace Yard, and Goosetree's. As their names imply, these
were all, originally, mere coffee-houses, kept by men of the above
names. One or two rooms then sufficed for the requirements of a small
party, and it was not till the members were greatly increased that the
coffee-house rose majestically to the dignity of a bow-window, and was
entirely and exclusively appropriated to the requirements of the club.

This was especially the case with White's, of which so many of the wits
and talkers of Selwyn's day were members. Who does not know that
bow-window at the top of St. James's Street, where there are sure, about
three or four in the afternoon, to be at least three gentlemen, two old
and one young, standing, to the exclusion of light within, talking and
contemplating the oft-repeated movement outside. White's was established
as early as 1698, and was thus one of the original coffee-houses. It was
then kept by a man named Arthur: here Chesterfield gamed and talked, to
be succeeded by Gilly Williams. Charles Townshend, and George Selwyn.
The old house was burnt down in 1733. It was at White's--or as Hogarth
calls it in his pictorial squib, Black's--that, when a man fell dead at
the door, he was lugged in and bets made as to whether he was dead or
no. The surgeon's operations were opposed, for fear of disturbing the
bets. Here, too, did George Selwyn and Charles Townshend pit their wit
against wit; and here Pelham passed all the time he was not forced to
devote to politics. In short it was, next to Brookes', the club of the
day, and perhaps in some respects had a greater renown than even that
famous club, and its play was as high.

In Brookes' and White's Selwyn appeared with a twofold fame, that of a
pronouncer of _bon-mots_ and that of a lover of horrors. His wit was of
the quaintest order. He was no inveterate talker, like Sydney Smith; no
clever dissimulator, like Mr. Hook. Calmly, almost sanctimoniously, he
uttered those neat and telling sayings which the next day passed over
England as 'Selwyn's last.' Walpole describes his manner admirably---his
eyes turned up, his mouth set primly, a look almost of melancholy in his
whole face. Reynolds, in his Conversation-piece, celebrated when in the
Strawberry Collection, and representing Selwyn leaning on a chair, Gilly
Williams, crayon in hand, and Dick Edgecumbe by his side, has caught the
pseudo-solemn expression of his face admirably. The ease of the figure,
one hand _empochee_, the other holding a paper of epigrams, or what not,
the huge waistcoat with a dozen buttons and huge flaps, the ruffled
sleeve, the bob-wig, all belong to the outer man; but the calm, quiet,
almost enquiring face, the look half of melancholy, half of reproach,
and, as the Milesian would say, the other half of sleek wisdom; the long
nose, the prim mouth and joined lips, the elevated brow, and beneath it
the quiet contemplative eye, contemplative not of heaven or hell, but of
this world as it had seen it, in its most worldly point of view, yet
twinkling with a flashing thought of incongruity made congruous, are the
indices of the inner man. Most of our wits, it must have been seen, have
had some other interest and occupation in life than that of 'making
wit:' some have been authors, some statesmen, some soldiers, some
wild-rakes, and some players of tricks: Selwyn had no profession but
that of _diseur de bons mots_; for though he sat in the House, ne took
no prominent part in politics; though he gambled extensively, he did not
game for the sake of money only. Thus his life was that merely of a
London bachelor, with few incidents to mark it, and therefore his memoir
must resolve itself more or less into a series of anecdotes of his
eccentricities and list of his witticisms.

His friend Walpole gives us an immense number of both, not all of a
first-rate nature, nor many interesting in the present day. Selwyn, calm
as he was, brought out his sayings on the spur of the moment, and their
appropriateness to the occasion was one of their greatest
recommendations. A good saying, like a good sermon, depends much on its
delivery, and loses much in print. Nothing less immortal than wit! To
take first, however, the eccentricities of his character, and especially
his love of horrors, we find anecdotes by the dozen retailed of him. It
was so well known, that Lord Holland, when dying, ordered his servant to
be sure to admit Mr. Selwyn if he called to enquire after him, 'for if I
am alive,' said he, 'I shall be glad to see him, and if I am dead, he
will be glad to see me.' The name of Holland leads us to an anecdote
told by Walpole. Selwyn was looking over Cornbury with Lord Abergavenny
and Mrs. Frere, 'who loved one another a little,' and was disgusted with
the frivolity of the woman who could take no interest in anything worth
seeing. 'You don't know what you missed in the other room,' he cried at
last, peevishly. 'Why, what?'--'Why, my Lord Holland's picture.'--'Well,
what is my Lord Holland to me?' 'Don't you know,' whispered the wit
mysteriously, 'that Lord Holland's body lies in the same vault in
Kensington Church with my Lord Abergavenny's mother?' 'Lord! she was so
obliged,' says Walpole, 'and thanked him a thousand times!'

Selwyn knew the vaults as thoroughly as old Anthony Wood knew the
brasses. The elder Craggs had risen by the favour of Marlborough, whose
footman he had been, and his son was eventually a Secretary of State.
Arthur Moore, the father of James Moore Smyth, of whom Pope wrote--

  'Arthur, whose giddy son neglects the laws,
  Imputes to me and my damned works the cause'

had worn a livery too. When Craggs got into a coach with him, he
exclaimed, 'Why, Arthur, I am always getting up behind, are not you?'
Walpole having related this story to Selwyn, the latter told him, as a
most important communication, that Arthur Moore had had his coffin
chained to that of his mistress. 'Lord! how do you know?' asked Horace.
'Why, I saw them the other day in a vault at St. Giles's.' 'Oh! Your
servant, Mr. Selwyn,' cried the man who showed the tombs at Westminster
Abbey, 'I expected to see _you_ here the other day when the old Duke of
Richmond's body was taken up.'

Criminals were, of course, included in his passion. Walpole affirms that
he had a great share in bringing Lord Dacre's footman, who had murdered
the butler, to confess his crime. In writing the confession, the
ingenious plush coolly stopped and asked how 'murdered' was spelt. But
it mattered little to George whether the criminal were alive or dead,
and he defended his eccentric taste with his usual wit; when rallied by
some women for going to see the Jacobite Lord Lovat's head cut off, he
retorted, sharply--'I made full amends, for I went to see it sewn on
again.' He had indeed done so, and given the company at the undertaker's
a touch of his favourite blasphemy, for when the man of coffins had done
his work and laid the body in its box, Selwyn, imitating the voice of
the Lord Chancellor at the trial, muttered, 'My Lord Lovat, you may
_rise_.' He said a better thing on the trial of a confederate of
Lovat's, that Lord Kilmarnock, with whom the ladies fell so desperately
in love as he stood on his defence. Mrs. Bethel, who was famous for a
_hatchet-face,_ was among the fair spectators: 'What a shame it is,'
quoth the wit, 'to turn her face to the prisoners before they are
condemned!' Terrible, indeed, was that instrument of death to those men,
who had in the heat of battle so gallantly met sword and blunderbuss.
The slow, sure approach of the day of the scaffold was a thousand times
worse than the roar of cannon. Lord Cromarty was pardoned, solely, it
was said, from pity for his poor wife, who was at the time of the trial
far advanced in pregnancy. It was affirmed that the child born had a
distinct mark of an axe on his neck. _Credat Judaeus_! Walpole used to
say that Selwyn never thought but _a la tete tranchee_, and that when he
went to have a tooth drawn, he told the dentist he would drop his
handkerchief by way of signal. Certain it is that he did love an
execution, whatever he or his friends may have done to remove the
impression of this extraordinary taste. Some better men than Selwyn have
had the same, and Macaulay accuses Penn of a similar affection. The best
known anecdote of Selwyn's peculiarity relates to the execution of
Damiens, who was torn with red-hot pincers, and finally quartered by
four horses, for the attempt to assassinate Louis XV. On the day fixed,
George mingled with the crowd plainly dressed, and managed to press
forward close to the place of torture. The executioner observing him,
eagerly cried out, '_Faites place pour Monsieur; c'est un Anglais et un
amateur_;' or, as another version goes, he was asked if he was not
himself a _bourreau_.--'_Non, Monsieur,_' he is said to have answered,
'_je n'ai pas cet honneur, je ne suis qu'un amateur._' The story is more
than apocryphal, for Selwyn is not the only person of whom it has been
told; and he was even accused, according to Wraxall, of going to
executions in female costume. George Selwyn must have passed as a
'remarkably fine woman,' in that case.

It is only justice to him to say that the many stories of his attending
executions were supposed to be inventions of Sir Charles Hanbury
Williams, another wit, and of Chesterfield, another, and a rival. In
confirmation, it is adduced that when the former had been relating some
new account, and an old friend of Selwyn's expressed his surprise that
he had never heard the tale before, the hero of it replied quietly, 'No
wonder at all, for Sir Charles has just invented it, and knows that I
will not by contradiction spoil the pleasure of the company he is so
highly entertaining.'

Wit has been called 'the eloquence of indifference;' no one seems ever
to have been so indifferent about everything, but his little daughter,
as George Selwyn. He always, however, took up the joke, and when asked
why he had not been to see one Charles Fox, a low criminal, hanged at
Tyburn, answered, quietly, 'I make a point of never going to
_rehearsals_.'

Selwyn's love for this kind of thing, to believe his most intimate
friend, Horace Walpole, was quite a fact. His friend relates that he
even bargained for the High Sheriff's wand, after it was broken, at the
condemnation of the gallant Lords, but said, 'that he behaved so like an
attorney the first day, and so like a pettifogger the second, that he
would not take it to light his fire with.'

The State Trials, of course, interested George more than any other in
his eventless life; he dined after the sentence with the celebrated Lady
Townshend, who was so devoted to Lord Kilmarnock--

  'Pitied by gentle minds, Kilmarnock died'--Johnson.

that she is said to have even stayed under his windows, when he was in
prison; but he treated her anxiety with such lightness that the lady
burst into tears, and 'flung up-stairs.' 'George,' writes Walpole to
Montague, 'cooly took Mrs. Dorcas, her woman, and bade her sit down to
finish the bottle.--"And pray," said Dorcas, "do you think my lady will
be prevailed upon to let me go and see the execution? I have a friend
that has promised to take care of me, and I can lie in the Tower the
night before." Could she have talked so pleasantly to Selwyn?'

His contemporaries certainly believed in his love for Newgatism; for
when Walpole had caught a housebreaker in a neighbour's area, he
immediately despatched a messenger to White's for the philo-criminalist,
who was sure to be playing at the Club any time before daylight. It
happened that the drawer at the 'Chocolate-house' had been himself
lately robbed, and therefore stole to George with fear and trembling,
and muttered mysteriously to him, 'Mr. Walpole's compliments, and he has
got a housebreaker for you.' Of course Selwyn obeyed the summons
readily, and the event concluded, as such events do nine times out of
ten, with a quiet capture, and much ado about nothing.

The Selwyns were a powerful family in Gloucestershire, owning a great
deal of property in the neighbourhood of Gloucester itself. The old
colonel had represented that city in Parliament for many years. On the
5th of November, 1751, he died. His eldest son had gone a few months
before him. This son had been also at Eton, and was an early friend of
Horace Walpole and General Conway. His death left George sole heir to
the property, and very much he seemed to have needed the heritage.

The property of the Selwyns lay in the picturesque district of the
Northern Cotswolds. Anybody who has passed a day in the dull city of
Gloucester, which seems to break into anything like life only at an
election, lying dormant in the intervals, has been glad to rush out to
enjoy air and a fine view on Robin Hood's Hill, a favourite walk with
the worthy citizens, though what the jovial archer of merry Sherwood had
to do with it, or whether he was ever in Gloucestershire at all, I
profess I know not. Walpole describes the hill with humorous
exaggeration. 'It is lofty enough for an alp, yet is a mountain of turf
to the very top, has wood scattered all over it, springs that long to be
cascades in many places of it, and from the summit it beats even Sir
George Littleton's views, by having the city of Gloucester at its foot,
and the Severn widening to the horizon.' On the very summit of the next
hill, Chosen-down, is a solitary church, and the legend saith that the
good people who built it did so originally at the foot of the steep
mount, but that the Virgin Mary carried up the stones by night, till the
builder, in despair, was compelled to erect it on the top. Others
attribute the mysterious act to a very different personage, and with
apparently more reason, for the position of the church must keep many an
old sinner from hearing service.

At Matson, then, on Robin Hood's Hill, the Selwyns lived; Walpole says
that the 'house is small, but neat. King Charles lay here at the seige,
and the Duke of York, with typical fury, hacked and hewed the
window-shutters of his chamber as a memorandum of his being there. And
here is the very flowerpot and counterfeit association for which Bishop
Sprat was taken up, and the Duke of Marlborough sent to the Tower. The
reservoirs on the hill supply the city. The late Mr. Selwyn governed the
borough by them--and I believe by some wine too.' Probably, or at least
by some beer, if the modern electors be not much altered from their
forefathers.

Besides this important estate, the Selwyns had another at Ludgershall,
and their influence there was so complete, that they might fairly be
said to _give_ one seat to any one they chose. With such double barrels
George Selwyn was, of course, a great gun in the House, but his interest
lay far more in piquet and pleasantry than in politics and patriotism,
and he was never fired off with any but the blank cartridges of his two
votes. His parliamentary career, begun in 1747, lasted more than forty
years, yet was entirely without distinction. He, however, amused both
parties with his wit, and by _snoring in unison_ with Lord North. This
must have been trying to Mr. Speaker Cornwall, who was longing, no
doubt, to snore also, and dared not. He was probably the only Speaker
who presided over so august an assembly as our English Parliament with a
pewter pot of porter at his elbow, sending for more and more to
Bellamy's till his heavy eyes closed of themselves. A modern M.P.,
carried back by some fancies to 'the Senate' of those days, might
reasonably doubt whether his guide had not taken him by mistake to some
Coal-hole or Cider-cellar, presided over by some former Baron Nicholson,
and whether the furious eloquence of Messrs. Fox, Pitt, and Burke were
not got up for the amusement of an audience admitted at sixpence a head.

Selwyn's political jokes were the delight of Bellamy's! He said that Fox
and Pitt reminded him of Hogarth's Idle and Industrious Apprentices.
When asked by some one, as he sauntered out of the house--'Is the House
up?' he replied; 'No, but Burke is.' The length of Burke's elaborate
spoken essays was proverbial, and obtained for him the name of the
'Dinner-bell.' Fox was talking one day at Brookes' of the advantageous
peace he had made with France, and that he had even induced that country
to give up the _gum_ trade to England. 'That, Charles,' quoth Selwyn,
sharply, 'I am not at all surprised at; for having drawn your _teeth_,
they would be d----d fools to quarrel with you about gums.' Fox was
often the object of his good-natured satire. As every one knows, his
boast was to be called 'The Man of the People,' though perhaps he cared
as little for the great unwashed as for the wealth and happiness of the
waiters at his clubs.' Every one knows, too, what a dissolute life he
led for many years. Selwyn's sleepiness was well known. He slept in the
House; he slept, after losing L8oo 'and with as many more before him,'
upon the gaming-table, with the dice-box 'stamped close to his ears;' he
slept, or half-slept, even in conversation, which he seems to have
caught by fits and starts. Thus it was that words he heard suggested
different senses, partly from being only dimly associated with the
subject on the _tapis_. So, when, they were talking around of the war,
and whether it should be a sea war or a Continent war, Selwyn woke up
just enough to say, 'I am for a sea war and a _Continent_ admiral.'

When Fox had ruined himself, and a subscription for him was talked of,
some one asked how they thought 'he would take it.'--'Take it,' cried
Selwyn, suddenly lighting up, 'why, _quarterly_ to be sure.'

His parliamentary career was then quite uneventful; but at the
dissolution in 1780, he found that his security at Gloucester was
threatened. He was not Whig enough for that constituency, and had
throughout supported the war with America. He offered himself, of
course, but was rejected with scorn, and forced to fly for a seat to
Ludgershall. Walpole writes to Lady Ossory: 'They' (the Gloucester
people) 'hanged him in effigy, and dressed up a figure of Mie-Mie' (his
adopted daughter), 'and pinned on its breast these words, alluding to
the gallows:--"This is what I told you you would come to!"' From
Gloucester he went to Ludgershall, where he was received by ringing of
bells and bonfires. 'Being driven out of my capital,' said he, 'and
coming into that country of turnips, where I was adored, I seemed to be
arrived in my Hanoverian dominions'--no bad hit at George II. For
Ludgershall he sat for many years, with Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, whose
'Memoirs' are better known than trusted, as colleague. That writer says
of Selwyn, that he was 'thoroughly well versed in our history, and
master of many curious as well as secret anecdotes, relative to the
houses of Stuart and Brunswick.'

Another _bon-mot_, not in connection with politics, is reported by
Walpole as incomparable.' Lord George Gordon asked him if the
Ludgershall electors would take him (Lord George) for Ludgershall,
adding, 'if you would recommend me, they would choose me, if I came from
the coast of Africa.'--'That is according to what part of the coast you
came from; they would certainly, if you came from the Guinea coast.'
'Now, Madam,' writes his friend, 'is not this true inspiration as well
as true wit? Had any one asked him in which of the four quarters of the
world Guinea is situated, could he have told?' Walpole did not perhaps
know master George thoroughly--he was neither so ignorant nor so
indifferent as he seemed. His manner got him the character of being
both; but he was a still fool that ran deep.

Though Selwyn did little with his two votes, he made them pay; and in
addition to the post in the Mint, got out of the party he supported
those of Registrar to the Court of Chancery in the Island of Barbadoes,
a sinecure done by deputy, Surveyor of the Crown Lands, and Paymaster to
the Board of Works. The wits of White's added the title of
'Receiver-General of Waif and Stray Jokes.' It is said that his
hostility to Sheridan arose from the latter having lost him the office
in the Works in 1782, when Burke's Bill for reducing the Civil List came
into operation; but this is not at all probable, as his dislike was
shown long before that period. Apropos of the Board of Works, Walpole
gives another anecdote. On one occasion, in 1780, Lord George Gordon had
been the only opponent on a division. Selwyn afterwards took him in his
carriage to White's. 'I have brought,' said he, 'the whole Opposition in
my coach, and I hope one coach will always hold them, if they mean to
take away the Board of Works.'

Undoubtedly, Selwyn's wit wanted the manner of the man to make it so
popular, for, as we read it, it is often rather mild. To string a list
of them together:--Lady Coventry showed him her new dress all covered
with spangles as large as shillings. 'Bless my soul,' said he, 'you'll
be change for a guinea.'

Fox, debtor and bankrupt as he was, had taken lodgings with Fitzpatrick
at an oilman's in Piccadilly. Every one pitied the landlord, who would
certainly be ruined. 'Not a bit of it,' quoth George; 'he'll have the
credit of keeping at his house the finest pickles in London.'

Sometimes there was a good touch of satire on his times. When 'High Life
Below Stairs' was first acted, Selwyn vowed he would go and see it, for
he was sick of low life above stairs; and when a waiter at his Club had
been convicted of felony, 'What a horrid idea,' said he, 'the man will
give of _us_ in Newgate!'

Dining with Bruce, the Abyssinian traveller, he heard him say, in answer
to a question about musical instruments in the East, 'I believe I saw
one _lyre_ there.'--'Ay,' whispered the wit to his neighbour, 'and
there's one less since he left the country.' Bruce shared the
travellers' reputation of drawing the long-bow to a very considerable
extent.

Two of Selwyn's best _mots_ were about one of the Foley family, who were
so deeply in debt that they had 'to go to Texas,' or Boulogne, to escape
the money-lenders. 'That,' quoth Selwyn, 'is a _pass-over_ which will
not be much relished by the Jews.' And again, when it was said that they
would be able to cancel their father's old will by a new-found one, he
profanely indulged in a pun far too impious to be repeated in our day,
however it may have been relished in Selwyn's time.

A picture called 'The Daughter of Pharaoh' in which the Princess Royal
and her attendant ladies figured as the saver of Moses and her
handmaids, was being exhibited in 1782, at a house opposite Brookes',
and was to be the companion-piece to Copley's 'Death of Chatham.' George
said he could recommend a better companion, to wit--the 'Sons of
Pharaoh' at the opposite house. It is scarcely necessary to explain that
pharaoh or faro was the most popular game of hazard then played.

Walking one day with Lord Pembroke, and being besieged by a troop of
small chimney-climbers, begging--Selwyn, after bearing their importunity
very calmly for some time, suddenly turned round, and with the most
serious face thus addressed them--'I have often heard of the sovereignty
of the people; I suppose your highnesses are in Court mourning,' We can
well imagine the effect of this sedate speech on the astonished
youngsters.

Pelham's truculency was well known. Walpole and his
friend went to the sale of his plate in 1755. 'Lord,' said the wit, 'how
many toads have been eaten off these plates!'

[Illustration: SELWYN ACKNOWLEDGES THE "SOVEREIGNTY OF THE PEOPLE."]

The jokes were not always very delicate. When, in the middle of the
summer of 1751, Lord North, who had been twice married before, espoused
the widow of the Earl of Rockingham, who was fearfully stout, Selwyn
suggested that she had been kept in ice for three days before the
wedding. So, too, when there was talk of another _embonpoint_ personage
going to America during the war, he remarked that she would make a
capital _breast_-work.

One of the few epigrams he ever wrote--if not the only one, of which
there is some doubt--was in the same spirit. It is on the discovery of a
pair of shoes in a certain lady's bed--

  Well may Suspicion shake its head--
  Well may Clorinda's spouse be jealous,
  When the dear wanton takes to bed
  Her very shoes--because they're fellows.

Such are a few specimens of George Selwyn's wit; and dozens more are
dispersed though Walpole's Letters. As Eliot Warburton remarks, they do
not give us a very high idea of the humour of the period; but two things
must be taken into consideration before we deprecate their author's
title to the dignity and reputation he enjoyed so abundantly among his
contemporaries; they are not necessarily the _best_ specimens that might
have been given, if more of his _mots_ had been preserved; and their
effect on his listeners depended more on the manner of delivery than on
the matter. That they were improvised and unpremeditated is another
important consideration. It is quite unfair to compare them, as
Warburton does, with the hebdomadal trash of 'Punch,' though perhaps
they would stand the comparison pretty well. It is one thing to force
wit with plenty of time to invent and meditate it--another to have so
much wit within you that you can bring it out on any occasion; one thing
to compose a good fancy for _money_--another to utter it only when it
flashes through the brain.

But it matters little what we in the present day may think of Selwyn's
wit, for conversation is spoiled by bottling, and should be drawn fresh
when wanted. Selwyn's companions--all men of wit, more or less, affirmed
him to be the most amusing man of his day, and that was all the part he
had to play. No real wit ever hopes to _talk_ for posterity; and written
wit is of a very different character to the more sparkling, if less
solid, creations of a moment.

We have seen Selwyn in many points of view, not all very creditable to
him; first, expelled from Oxford for blasphemy; next, a professed
gambler and the associate of men who led fashion in those days, it is
true, but then it was very bad fashion; then as a lover of hangmen, a
wit and a lounger. There is reason to believe that Selwyn, though less
openly reprobate than many of his associates, was, in his quiet way,
just as bad as any of them, if we except the Duke of Queensberry, his
intimate friend, or the disgusting 'Franciscans' of Medmenham Abbey, of
whom, though not the founder, nor even a member, he was, in a manner,
the suggester in his blasphemy.

But Selwyn's real character is only seen in profile in all these
accounts. He had at the bottom of such vice, to which his position, and
the fashion of the day introduced him, a far better heart than any of
his contemporaries, and in some respects a kind of simplicity which was
endearing. He was neither knave nor fool. He was not a voluptuary, like
his friend the duke; nor a continued drunkard, like many other 'fine
gentlemen' with whom he mixed; nor a cheat, though a gambler; nor a
sceptic, like his friend Walpole; nor a blasphemer, like the Medmenham
set, though he had once parodied profanely a sacred rite; nor was he
steeped in debt, as Fox was; nor does he appear to have been a practised
seducer, as too many of his acquaintance were. Not that these negative
qualities are to his praise; but if we look at the age and the society
around him, we must, at least, admit that Selwyn was not one of the
worst of that wicked set.

But the most pleasing point in the character of the old bachelor--for he
was _too much_ of a wit ever to marry--is his affection for
children--not his own. That is, not avowedly his own, for it was often
suspected that the little ones he took up so fondly bore some
relationship to him, and there can be little doubt that Selwyn, like
everybody else in that evil age, had his intrigues. He did not die in
his sins, and that is almost all we can say for him. He gave up gaming
in time, protesting that it was the bane of four much better
things--health, money, time, and thinking. For the last two, perhaps, he
cared little. Before his death he is said to have been a Christian,
which was a decided rarity in the fashionable set of his day. Walpole
answered, when asked if he was a Freemason, that he never had been
_anything_, and probably most of the men of the time would, if they had
had the honesty, have said the same. They were not atheists professedly,
but they neither believed in nor practised Christianity.

His love for children has been called one of his eccentricities. It
would be a hard name to give it if he had not been a club-lounger of his
day. I have sufficient faith in human nature to trust that two-thirds of
the men of this country have that most amiable eccentricity. But in
Selwyn it amounted to something more than in the ordinary paterfamilias:
it was almost a passion. He was almost motherly in his celibate
tenderness to the little ones to whom he took a fancy. This affection he
showed to several of the children, sons or daughters, of his friends;
but to two especially, Anne Coventry and Maria Fagniani.

The former was the daughter of the beautiful Maria Gunning, who became
Countess of Coventry. Nanny, as he called her, was four years old when
her mother died, and from that time he treated her almost as his own
child.

But Mie-Mie, as the little Italian was called, was far more favoured.
Whoever may have been the child's father, her mother was a rather
beautiful and very immoral woman, the wife of the Marchese Fagniani. She
seems to have desired to make the most for her daughter out of the
extraordinary rivalry of the two English 'gentlemen,' and they were
admirably taken in by her. Whatever the truth may have been, Selwyn's
love for children showed itself more strongly in this case than in any
other; and, oddly enough, it seems to have begun when the little girl
was at an age when children scarcely interest other men than their
fathers--in short, in infancy. Her parents allowed him to have the sole
charge of her at a very early age, when they returned to the Continent;
but in 1777, the marchioness, being then in Brussels, claimed her
daughter back again; though less, it seems, from any great anxiety on
the child's account, than because her husband's parents, in Milan,
objected to their grand-daughter being left in England; and also, not a
little, from fear of the voice of Mrs. Grundy. Selwyn seems to have used
all kinds of arguments to retain the child; and a long correspondence
took place, which the marchesa begins with, 'My very dear friend,' and
many affectionate expressions, and concludes with a haughty 'Sir,' and
her opinion that his conduct was 'devilish.' The affair was, therefore,
clearly a violent quarrel, and Selwyn was obliged at last to give up the
child. He had a carriage fitted up for her expressly for her journey;
made out for her a list of the best hotels on her route; sent his own
confidential man-servant with her, and treasured up among his 'relics'
the childish little notes, in a large scrawling hand, which Mie-Mie sent
him. Still more curious was it to see this complete man of the world,
this gambler for many years, this club-lounger, drinker, associate of
well-dressed blasphemers, of Franciscans of Medmenham Abbey, devoting,
not his money only, but his very time to this mere child, leaving town
in the height of the season for dull Matson, that she might have fresh
air; quitting his hot club-rooms, his nights spent at the piquet-table,
and the rattle of the dice, for the quiet, pleasant terraces of his
country-house, where he would hold the little innocent Mie-Mie by her
tiny hand, as she looked up into his shrivelled dissipated face;
quitting the interchange of wit, the society of the Townshends, the
Walpoles, the Williamses, the Edgecumbes; all the jovial, keen wisdom of
Gilly, and Dick, and Horace, and Charles, as they called one another,
for the meaningless prattle, the merry laughter of this half-English,
half-Italian child, It redeems Selwyn in our eyes, and it may have done
him real good: nay, he must have felt a keen refreshment in this change
from vice to innocence; and we understand the misery he expressed, when
the old bachelor's one little companion and only pure friend was taken
away from him. His love for the child was well known in London society;
and of it did Sheridan's friends take advantage, when they wanted to get
Selwyn out of Brookes', to prevent his black-balling the dramatist. The
anecdote is given in the next memoir.

In his later days Selwyn still haunted the clubs, hanging about, sleepy,
shrivelled, dilapidated in face and figure, yet still respected and
dreaded by the youngsters, as the 'celebrated Mr. Selwyn.' The wit's
disease--gout--carried him off at last, in 1791, at the age of
seventy-two.

He left a fortune which was not contemptible: L33,000 of it were to go
to Mie-Mie--by this time a young lady--and as the Duke of Queensberry,
at his death, left her no less than L150,000, Miss was by no means a bad
match for Lord Yarmouth.[6] See what a good thing it is to have three
papas, when two of them are rich! The duke made Lord Yarmouth his
residuary legatee, and between him and his wife divided nearly
half-a-million.

[6: Afterwards the well-known and dissolute Marquis of Hertford.]

Let us not forget in closing this sketch of George Selwyn's life, that,
gambler and reprobate as he was, he possessed some good traits, among
which his love of children appears in shining colours.



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN.

Sheridan a Dunce.--Boyish Dreams of Literary Fame.--Sheridan in Love.--A
Nest of Nightingales.--The 'Maid of Bath.'--Captivated by Genius.--
Sheridan's Elopement with 'Cecilia.'--His Duel with Captain Matthews.--
Standards of Ridicule.--Painful Family Estrangements.--Enters Drury Lane.
--Success of the Famous 'School for Scandal.'--Opinions of Sheridan and
his Influence.--The Literary Club.--Anecdote of Garrick's Admittance.--
Origin of the 'Rejected Addresses.'--New Flights.--Political Ambition.--
The Gaming Mania.--Almacks'.--Brookes'.--Black-balled.--Two Versions of
the Election Trick.--St. Stephen's Won.--Vocal Difficulties.--Leads a
Double Life.--Pitt's Vulgar Attack.--Sheridan's Happy Retort.--Grattan's
Quip.--Sheridan's Sallies.--The Trial at Warren Hastings.--Wonderful
Effect of Sheridan's Eloquence.--The Supreme Effort.--The Star
Culminates.--Native Taste for Swindling.--A Shrewd but Graceless
Oxonian.--Duns Outwitted.--The Lawyer Jockeyed.--Adventures with
Bailiffs.--Sheridan's Powers of Persuasion.--House of Commons Greek.--
Curious Mimicry.--The Royal Boon Company.--Street Frolics at Night.--An
Old Tale.--'All's well that ends well.'--The Fray in St. Giles.'--
Unopened Letters.--An Odd Incident.--Reckless Extravagance.--Sporting
Ambition.--Like Father like Son.--A Severe and Witty Rebuke.--
Intemperance.--Convivial Excesses of a Past Day.--Worth wins at last.--
Bitter Pangs.--The Scythe of Death.--Sheridan's Second Wife.--Debts of
Honour.--Drury Lane Burnt.--The Owner's Serenity.--Misfortunes never come
Singly.--The Whitbread Quarrel.--Ruined.--Undone and almost Forsaken.--
The Dead Man Arrested.--The Stories fixed on Sheridan.--Extempore Wit and
Inveterate Talkers.


Poor Sheridan! gambler, spendthrift, debtor, as thou wert, what is it
that shakes from our hand the stone we would fling at thee? Almost, we
must confess it, thy very faults; at least those qualities which seem to
have been thy glory and thy ruin: which brought thee into temptation; to
which, hadst thou been less brilliant, less bountiful, thou hadst never
been drawn. What is it that disarms us when we review thy life, and
wrings from us a tear when we should utter a reproach? Thy punishment;
that bitter, miserable end; that long battling with poverty, debt,
disease, all brought on by thyself; that abandonment in the hour of
need, more bitter than them all; that awakening to the terrible truth of
the hollowness of man and rottenness of the world!--surely this is
enough: surely we may hope that a pardon followed. But now let us view
thee in thy upward flight the genius, the wit, the monarch of mind.

This great man, this wonderful genius, this eloquent senator, this most
applauded dramatist was--hear it, oh, ye boys! and fling it triumphantly
in the faces of your pedagogues--Sheridan, at your age, was a dunce!
This was the more extraordinary, inasmuch as his father, mother, and
grandfather were all celebrated for their quick mental powers. The last,
in fact, Dr. Sheridan, was a successful and eminent schoolmaster, the
intimate friend of Dean Swift, and an author. He was an Irish man and a
wit, and would seem to have been a Jacobite to boot, for he was deprived
of a chaplaincy he held under Government, for preaching, on King
George's birthday, a sermon having for its text 'Sufficient for the day
is the evil thereof.'

Sheridan's mother, again--an eccentric, extraordinary woman--wrote
novels and plays; among the latter 'The Discovery,' which Garrick said
was 'one of the best comedies he ever read;' and Sheridan's father, Tom
Sheridan, was famous, in connection with the stage where he was so long
the rival of David Garrick.

Born of such parents, in September, 1751, Richard Brinsley Sheridan was
sent in due course to Harrow, where that famous old pedant, Dr. Parr,
was at that time one of the masters. The Doctor has himself described
the lazy boy, in whose face he discovered the latent genius, and whom he
attempted to inspire with a love of Greek verbs and Latin verses, by
making him ashamed of his ignorance. But Richard preferred English
verses and no verbs, and the Doctor failed. He did not, even at that
period, cultivate elocution, of which his father was so good a master;
though Dr. Parr remembered one of his sisters, on a visit to Harrow,
reciting, in accordance with her father's teaching, the well-known
lines--

  '_None_ but the brave,
  None but the _brave_,
  None _but_ the brave deserve the fair.

But the real mind of the boy who would not be a scholar showed itself
early enough. He had only just left Harrow, when he began to display his
literary abilities. He had formed at school the intimate acquaintance of
Halhed, afterwards a distinguished Indianist, a man of like tastes with
himself; he had translated with him some of the poems of Theocritus. The
two boys had revelled together in boyish dreams of literary fame--ah,
those boyish dreams! so often our noblest--so seldom realized. So often,
alas! the aspirations to which we can look back as our purest and best,
and which make us bitterly regret that they were but dreams. And now,
when young Halhed went to Oxford, and young Sheridan to join his family
at Bath, they continued these ambitious projects for a time, and laid
out their fancy at full usury over many a work destined never to see the
fingers of the printer's devil. Among these was a farce, or rather
burlesque, which shows immense promise, and which, oddly enough,
resembles in its cast the famous 'Critic,' which followed it later. It
was called 'Jupiter,' and turned chiefly on the story of Ixion--

  'Embracing cloud, Ixion like,'

the lover of Juno, who caught a cold instead of the Queen of Heaven; and
who, according to the classical legend, tortured for ever on a wheel,
was in this production to be condemned for ever to trundle the machine
of a 'needy knife-grinder,' amid a grand musical chorus of 'razors,
scissors, and penknives to grind!' This piece was amusing enough, and
clever enough, though it betrayed repeatedly the youthfulness of its
authors; but less so their next attempt, a weekly periodical, to be
called 'Hernan's Miscellany,' of which Sheridan wrote, or was to write,
pretty nearly the whole. None but the first number was ever completed,
and perhaps we need not regret that no more followed it; but it is
touching to see these two young men, both feeling their powers,
confident in them, and sunning their halcyon's wings in the happy belief
that they were those of the eagle, longing eagerly, earnestly, for the
few poor guineas that they hoped from their work. Halhed, indeed, wrote
diligently, but his colleague was not true to the contract, and though
the hope of gold stimulated him--for he was poor enough--from time to
time to a great effort, he was always 'beginning,' and never completing.

The only real product of these united labours was a volume of Epistles
in verse from the Greek of a poor writer of late age, Aristaenetus. This
volume, which does little credit to either of its parents, was
positively printed and published in 1770, but the rich harvest of fame
and shillings which they expected from it was never gathered in. Yet the
book excited some little notice. The incognito of its authors induced
some critics to palm it even on such a man as Dr. Johnson; others
praised; others sneered at it. In the young men it raised hopes, only to
dash them; but its failure was not so utter as to put the idea of
literary success entirely out of their heads, nor its success sufficient
to induce them to rush recklessly into print, and thus strangle their
fame in its cradle. Let it fail, was Richard Sheridan's thought; he had
now a far more engrossing ambition. In a word, he was in love.

Yes, he was in love for a time--only for a time, and not truly. But, be
it remembered, Sheridan's evil days had not commenced. He sowed his wild
oats late in life,--alack for him!--and he never finished sowing them.
His was not the viciousness of nature, but the corruption of success.
'In all time of wealth, good Lord deliver us!' What prayer can wild,
unrestrained, unheeding Genius utter with more fervency? I own Genius is
rarely in love. There is an egotism, almost a selfishness, about it,
that will not stoop to such common worship. Women know it, and often
prefer the blunt, honest, common-place soldier to the wild erratic poet.
Genius, grand as it is, is unsympathetic. It demands higher--the highest
joys. Genius claims to be loved, but to love is too much to ask it. And
yet at this time Sheridan was not a matured Genius. When his development
came, he cast off this very love for which he had fought, manoeuvred,
struggled, and was unfaithful to the very wife whom he had nearly died
to obtain.

Miss Linley was one of a family who have been called 'a nest of
nightingales.' Young ladies who practise elaborate pieces and sing
simple ballads in the voice of a white mouse, know the name of Linley
well. For ages the Linleys have been the bards of England--composers,
musicians, singers, always popular, always English. Sheridan's love was
one of the most renowned of the family, but the 'Maid of Bath,' as she
was called, was as celebrated for her beauty as for the magnificence of
her voice. When Sheridan first knew her, she was only sixteen years
old--very beautiful, clever, and modest. She was a singer by profession,
living at Bath, as Sheridan, only three years older than herself, also
was, but attending concerts, oratorios, and so forth, in other places,
especially at Oxford. Her adorers were legion; and the Oxford boys
especially--always in love as they are--were among them. Halhed was
among these last, and in the innocence of his heart confided his passion
to his friend Dick Sheridan. At sixteen the young beauty began her
conquests. A rich old Wiltshire squire, with a fine heart, as golden as
his guineas, offered to or for her, and was readily accepted. But
'Cecilia,' as she was always called, could not sacrifice herself on the
altar of duty, and she privately told him that though she honoured and
esteemed, she could never love him. The old gentleman proved his worth.
Did he storm? did he hold her to her engagement? did he shackle himself
with a young wife, who would only learn to hate him for his persinacity?
Not a bit of it. He acted with a generosity which should be held up as a
model to all old gentlemen who are wild enough, to fall in love with
girls of sixteen. He knew Mr. Linley, who was delighted with the match,
would be furious if it were broken off. He offered to take on himself
all the blame if the breach, and, to satisfy the angry parent, settled
L1,000 on the daughter. The offer was accepted, and the trial for breach
of promise with which the pere Linley had threatened Mr. Long, was of
course withheld. Mr. Long afterwards presented Mrs. Sheridan with
L3,000.

The 'Maid of Bath' was now an heiress as well as a fascinating beauty,
but her face and her voice were the chief enchantments with her ardent
and youthful adorers. The Sheridans had settled in Mead Street, in that
town which is celebrated for its gambling, its scandal, and its
unhealthy situation at the bottom of a natural basin. Well might the
Romans build their baths there: it will take more water than even Bath
supplies to wash out its follies and iniquities. It certainly is strange
how washing and cards go together. One would fancy there were no baths
in Eden, for wherever there are baths, there we find idleness and all
its attendant vices.

The Linleys were soon intimate with the Sheridans, and the Maid of Bath
added to her adorers both Richard and his elder brother Charles; only,
just as at Harrow every one thought Richard a dunce and he disappointed
them; so at Bath no one thought Richard would fall in love, and he _did_
disappoint them--none more so than Charles, his brother, and Halhed, his
bosom friend. As for the latter, he was almost mad in his devotion, and
certainly extravagant in his expressions. He described his passion by a
clever, but rather disagreeable simile, which Sheridan, who was a most
disgraceful plagiarist, though he had no need to be so, afterwards
adopted as his own. 'Just as the Egyptian pharmacists,' wrote Halhed, in
a Latin letter, in which he described the power of Miss Linley's voice
over his spirit, 'were wont, in embalming a dead body to draw the brain
out through the ears with a crooked hook, this nightingale has drawn out
through mine ears not my brain only, but my heart also.'

Then among other of her devotees were Norris, the singer, and Mr. Watts,
a rich gentleman-commoner, who had also met her at Oxford. Surely with
such and other rivals, the chances of the quiet, unpretending,
undemonstrative boy of nineteen were small. But no, Miss Linley was
foolish enough to be captivated by genius, and charmed by such poems as
the quiet boy wrote to her, of which this is, perhaps, one of the
prettiest:

  'Dry that tear, my gentlest love;
    Be hush'd that struggling sigh,
  Nor seasons, day, nor fate shall prove
    More fix'd, more true than I.
  Hush'd be that sigh, be dry that tear;
  Cease boding doubt, cease anxious fear:
    Dry be that tear.

  'Ask'st thou how long my love will stay,
    When all that's new is past?
  How long, ah Delia, can I say
    How long my life will last?
  Dry be that tear, be hush'd that sigh,
  At least I'll love thee till I die:
    Hush'd be that sigh.

  'And does that thought affect thee too,
    The thought of Sylvio's death,
  That he who only breath'd for you,
    Must yield that faithful breath?
  Hush'd be that sigh, be dry that tear,
  Nor let us lose our Heaven here:
    Be dry that tear.'

The many adorers had not the remotest suspicion of this devotion, and
'gave her' to this, that, or the other eligible personage; but the
villanous conduct of a scoundrel soon brought the matter to a crisis.
The whole story was as romantic as it could be. In a three-volume novel,
critics, always so just and acute in their judgment, would call it
far-fetched, improbable, unnatural; in short, anything but what should
be the plot of the pure 'domestic English story.' Yet, here it is with
almost dramatic effect, the simple tale of what really befel one of our
most celebrated men.

Yes, to complete the fiction-like aspect of the affair, there was even a
'captain' in the matter--as good a villain as ever shone in short hose
and cut doublet at the 'Strand' or 'Victoria.' Captain Matthews was a
married man, and a very naughty one. He was an intimate friend of the
Linleys, and wanted to push his intimacy too far. In short, 'not to put
too fine a point on it' (too fine a point is precisely what never _is_
put), he attempted to seduce the pretty, innocent girl, and not dismayed
at one failure, went on again and again. 'Cecilia,' knowing the temper
of Linley pere, was afraid to expose him to her father, and with a
course, which we of the present day cannot but think strange, if nothing
more, disclosed the attempts of her persecutor to no other than her own
lover, Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

Strange want of delicacy, undoubtedly, and yet we can excuse the poor
songstress, with a father who sought only to make money out of her
talents, and no other relations to confide in. But Richard Brinsley,
long her lover, now resolved to be both her protector and her husband.
He persuaded her to fly to France, under cover of entering a convent. He
induced his sister to lend him money out of that provided for the
housekeeping at home, hired a post-chaise, and sent a sedan-chair to her
father's house in the Crescent to convey her to it, and wafted her off
to town. Thence, after a few adroit lies on the part of Sheridan, they
sailed to Dunkirk; and there he persuaded her to become his wife. She
consented, and they were knotted together by an obliging priest
accustomed to these runaway matches from _la perfide Albion_.

The irate parent, Linley, followed, recaptured his daughter, and brought
Her back to England. Meanwhile, the elopement excited great agitation in
the good city of Bath, and among others, the villain of the story, the
gallant Captain Matthews, posted Richard Brinsley as 'a scoundrel and a
liar,' the then polite method of expressing disgust. Home came Richard
in the wake of Miss Linley, who rejoiced in the unromantic praenomen of
'Betsy,' to her angry parent, and found matters had been running high in
his short absence. A duel with Matthews seems to have been the natural
consequence, and up Richard posted to London to fight it. Matthews
played the craven--Sheridan the impetuous lover. They met, fought,
seized one another's swords, wrestled, fell together, and wounded each
other with the stumps of their rapiers in true Chevy-Chase fashion.
Matthews, who had behaved in a cowardly manner in the first affair,
sought to retrieve his honour by sending a second challenge. Again the
rivals--well represented in 'The Rivals' afterwards produced--met at
Kingsdown. Mr. Matthews drew; Mr. Sheridan advanced on him at first: Mr.
Matthews in turn advanced fast on Mr. Sheridan; upon which he retreated,
till he very suddenly ran in upon Mr. Matthews, laying himself
exceedingly open, and endeavouring to get hold of Mr. Matthews' sword.
Mr. Matthews received him at point, and, I believe, disengaged his sword
from Mr. Sheridan's body, and gave him another wound. The same scene was
now enacted, and a _combat a l'outrance_ took place, ending in mutual
wounds, and fortunately no one dead.

Poor little Betsy was at Oxford when all this took place. On her return
to Bath she heard something of it, and unconsciously revealed the secret
of her private marriage, claiming the right of a wife to watch over her
wounded husband. Then came the _denouement_. Old Tom Sheridan rejected
his son. The angry Linley would have rejected his daughter, but for her
honour. Richard was sent off into Essex, and in due time the couple were
legally married in England. So ended a wild, romantic affair, in which
Sheridan took a desperate, but not altogether honourable, part. But the
dramatist got more out of it than a pretty wife. Like all true geniuses,
he employed his own experience in the production of his works, and drew
from the very event of his life some hints or touches to enliven the
characters of his imagination. Surely the bravado and cowardice of
Captain Matthews, who on the first meeting in the Park is described as
finding all kinds of difficulties in the way of their fighting,
objecting now to the ground as unlevel, now to the presence of a
stranger, who turns out to be an officer, and very politely moves off
when requested, who, in short, delays the event as long as possible,
must have supplied the idea of Bob Acres; while the very conversations,
of which we have no record, may have given him some of those hints of
character which made the 'Rivals' so successful. That play--his
first--was written in 1774. It failed on its first appearance, owing to
the bad acting of the part of Sir Lucius O'Trigger, by Mr. Lee; but when
another actor was substituted, the piece was at once successful, and
acted with overflowing houses all over the country. How could it be
otherwise? It may have been exaggerated, far-fetched, unnatural, but
such characters as Sir Anthony Absolute, Sir Lucius, Bob Acres, Lydia
Languish, and most of all Mrs. Malaprop, so admirably conceived, and so
carefully and ingeniously worked out, could not but be admired. They
have become household words; they are even now our standards of
ridicule, and be they natural or not, these last eighty years have
changed the world so little that Malaprops and Acreses may be found in
the range of almost any man's experience, and in every class of society.

Sheridan and his divine Betsy were now living in their own house, in
that Dull little place, Orchard Street, Portman Square, then an
aristocratic neighbourhood, and he was diligent in the production of
essays, pamphlets, and farces, many of which never saw the light, while
others fell flat, or were not calculated to bring him any fame. What
great authors have not experienced the same disappointments? What men
would ever be great if they allowed such checks to damp their energy, or
were turned back by them from the course in which they feel that their
power lies?

But his next work, the opera of 'The Duenna,' had a yet more signal
success, and a run of no less than seventy-five nights at Covent Garden,
which put Garrick at Drury Lane to his wit's end to know how to compete
with it. Old Linley himself composed the music for it; and to show how
thus a family could hold the stage, Garrick actually played off the
mother against the son, and revived Mrs. Sheridan's comedy of 'The
Discovery,' to compete with Richard Sheridan's 'Duenna.'

The first night 'The Rivals' was brought out at Bath came Sheridan's
father, who, as we have seen, had refused to have anything to say to his
son. It is related as an instance of Richard's filial affection, that
during the representation he placed himself behind a side-scene opposite
to the box in which his father and sisters sat, and gazed at them all
the time. When he returned to his house and wife, he burst into tears,
and declared that he felt it too bitter that he alone should have been
forbidden to speak to those on whom he had been gazing all the night.

During the following year this speculative man, who married on nothing
but his brain, and had no capital, no wealthy friends, in short nothing
whatever, suddenly appears in the most mysterious manner as a
capitalist, and lays down his L10,000 in the coolest and quietest
manner. And for what? For a share in the purchase of Garrick's moiety of
the patent of Drury Lane. The whole property was worth L70,000; Garrick
sold his half for L35,000, of which old Mr. Linley contributed L10,000,
Dr. Ford L15,000, and penniless Sheridan the balance. Where he got the
money nobody knew, and apparently nobody asked. It was paid, and he
entered at once on the business of proprietor of that old house, where
so many a Roscius has strutted and declaimed with more or less fame; so
many a Walking gentleman done his five shillings' worth of polite
comedy, so many a tinsel king degraded the 'legitimate drama,' in the
most illegitimate manner, and whose glories were extinguished with the
reign of Macready, when we were boys, _nous autres_.

The first piece he contributed to this stage was 'A Trip to
Scarborough,' Which was only a species of 'family edition of Vanbrugh's
play, 'The Relapse;' but in 1777 he reached the acme of his fame, in
'The School for Scandal.'

But alack and alas for these sensual days, when it is too much trouble
to think, and people go to the play, if they go at all, to feast their
eyes and ears, not their minds; can any sensible person believe that if
'The School for Scandal,' teeming as it does with wit, satire, and
character, finer and truer than in any play produced since the days of
Ben Jonson, Massinger, and Marlowe, were set on the boards of the
Haymarket at this day, as a new piece by an author of no very high
celebrity, it would draw away a single admirer from the flummery in
Oxford Street, the squeaking at Covent Garden, or the broad, exaggerated
farce at the Adelphi or Olympic? No: it may still have its place on the
London stage when well acted, but it owes that to its ancient celebrity,
and it can never compete with the tinsel and tailoring which alone can
make even Shakspeare go down with a modern audience.

In those days of Garrick, on the other hand, those glorious days of true
histrionic art, high and low were not ashamed to throng Drury Lane and
Covent Garden, and make the appearance of a new play the great event of
the season. Hundreds were turned away from the doors, when 'The School
for Scandal' was acted, and those who were fortunate enough to get in
made the piece the subject of conversation in society for many a night,
passing keen comment on every scene, every line, every word almost, and
using their minds as we now use our eyes.

This brilliant play, the earliest idea of which was derived from its
author's experience of the gossip of that kettle of scandal and
backbiting, Bath, where, if no other commandment were ever broken, the
constant breach of the ninth would suffice to put it on a level with
certain condemned cities we have somewhere read of, won for Sheridan a
reputation of which he at once felt the value, and made his purchase of
a share in the property of Old Drury for the time being, a successful
speculation. It produced a result which his good heart perhaps valued
even more than the guineas which now flowed in; it induced his father,
who had long been at war with him, to seek a reconciliation, and the
elder Sheridan actually became manager of the theatre of which his son
was part proprietor.

Old Tom Sheridan had always been a proud man, and when once he was
offended, was hard to bring round again. His quarrel with Johnson was an
instance of this. In 1762 the Doctor, hearing they had given Sheridan a
pension of two hundred a year, exclaimed, 'What have they given _him_ a
pension? then it is time for me to give up mine.' A 'kind friend' took
care to repeat the peevish exclamation, without adding what Johnson had
said immediately afterwards, 'However, I am glad that they have given
Mr. Sheridan a pension, for he is a very good man.' The actor was
disgusted; and though Boswell interfered, declined to be reconciled. On
one occasion he even rushed from a house at which he was to dine, when
he heard that the great Samuel had been invited. The Doctor had little
opinion of Sheridan's declamation. 'Besides, sir,' said he, 'what
influence can Mr. Sheridan have upon the language of this great country
by his narrow exertions. Sir, it is burning a farthing candle at Dover
to show light at Calais.' Still, when Garrick attacked his rival,
Johnson nobly defended him. 'No sir,' he said, 'there is to be sure, in
Sheridan, something to reprehend, and everything to laugh at; but, sir,
he is not a bad man. No, sir, were mankind to be divided into good and
bad, he would stand considerably within the ranks of the good.'

However, the greatest bully of his age (and the kindest-hearted man)
thought very differently of the son. Richard Brinsley had written a
prologue to Savage's play of 'Sir Thomas Overbury'--

  'Ill-fated Savage, at whose birth was giv'n
  No parent but the Muse, no friend but Heav'n;'

and in this had paid an elegant compliment to the great lexicographer,
winding up with these lines:--

  'So pleads the tale that gives to future times
  The son's misfortunes and the parent's crimes;
  There shall his fame, if own'd to-night, survive,
  Fix'd _by the hand that bids our language live_--

referring at once to Johnson's life of his friend Savage and to his
great Dictionary. It was Savage, every one remembers, with whom Johnson
in his days of starvation was wont to walk the streets all night,
neither of them being able to pay for a lodging, and with whom, walking
one night round and round St. James's Square, he kept up his own and his
companion's spirits by inveighing against the minister and declaring
that they would 'stand by their country.'

Doubtless the Doctor felt as much pleasure at the meed awarded to his
old companion in misery as at the high compliment to himself. Anyhow he
pronounced that Sheridan 'had written the two best comedies of his age,'
and therefore proposed him as a member of the Literary Club.

This celebrated gathering of wit and whimsicality, founded by Johnson
himself in conjunction with Sir J. Reynolds, was the Helicon of London
Letters, and the temple which the greatest talker of his age had built
for himself, and in which he took care to be duly worshipped. It met at
the Turk's Head in Gerrard Street, Soho, every Friday; and from seven in
the evening to almost any hour of night was the scene of such talk,
mainly on literature and learning, as has never been heard since in this
country. It consisted at this period of twenty-six members, and there is
scarcely one among them whose name is not known to-day as well as any in
the history of our literature. Besides the high priests, Reynolds and
Johnson, there came Edmund Burke, Fox, Sheridan, and many another of
less note, to represent the senate: Goldsmith, Gibbon, Adam Smith,
Malone, Dr. Burney, Percy, Nugent, Sir William Jones, three Irish
bishops, and a host of others, crowded in from the ranks of learning and
literature. Garrick and George Colman found here an indulgent audience;
and the light portion of the company comprised such men as Topham
Beauclerk, Bennet Langton, Vesey, and a dozen of lords and baronets. In
short, they were picked men, and if their conversation was not always
witty, it was because they had all wit and frightened one another.

[Illustration: THE FAMOUS LITERARY CLUB.]

Among them the bullying Doctor rolled in majestic grumpiness; scolded,
dogmatized, contradicted, pished and pshawed; and made himself generally
disagreeable; yet, hail the omen, Intellect! such was the force, such
the fame of his mind, that the more he snorted, the more they adored
him--the more he bullied, the more humbly they knocked under. He was
quite 'His Majesty' at the Turk's Head, and the courtiers waited for his
coming with anxiety, and talked of him till he came in the same manner
as the lacqueys in the anteroom of a crowned monarch. Boswell, who, by
the way, was also a member--of course he was, or how should we have had
the great man's conversations handed down to us?--was sure to keep them
up to the proper mark of adulation if they ever flagged in it, and was
as servile in his admiration in the Doctor's absence as when he was there
to call him a fool for his pains.

Thus, on one occasion while 'King Johnson' tarried, the courtiers were
discussing his journey to the Hebrides and his coming away 'willing to
believe the second sight.' Some of them smiled at this, but Bozzy was
down on them with more than usual servility. 'He is only _willing_ to
believe,' he exclaimed. '_I do_ believe. The evidence is enough for me,
though not for his great mind. What will not fill a quart bottle will
fill a pint bottle. I am filled with belief.'--'Are you?' said Colman,
slily; 'then cork it up.'

As a specimen of Johnson's pride in his own club, which always remained
extremely exclusive, we have what he said of Garrick, who, before he was
elected, carelessly told Reynolds he liked the club, and thought 'he
would be of them.'

'_He'll be of us!_' roared the Doctor indignantly, on hearing of this.
'How does he know we will _permit_ him? The first duke in England has no
right to hold such language!'

It can easily be imagined that when 'His Majesty' expressed his approval
of Richard Brinsley, then a young man of eight-and-twenty, there was no
one who ventured to blackball him, and so Sheridan was duly elected.

The fame of 'The School for Scandal' was a substantial one for Richard
Brinsley, and in the following year he extended his speculation by
buying the other moiety of Drury Lane. This theatre, which took its name
from the old Cockpit Theatre in Drury Lane, where Killigrew acted in the
days of Charles II. is famous for the number of times it has been
rebuilt. The first house had been destroyed in 1674; and the one in
which Garrick acted was built by Sir Christopher Wren and opened with a
prologue by Dryden. In 1793 this was rebuilt. In 1809 it was burnt to
the ground; and on its re-opening the Committee advertised a prize for a
prologue, which was supposed to be tried for by all the poets and
poetasters then in England.[7] Sheridan adding afterwards a condition
that he wanted an address without a Phoenix in it. Horace Smith and his
brother seized the opportunity to parody the style of the most
celebrated in their delightful 'Rejected Addresses.' Drury Lane has
always been grand in its prologue, for besides Dryden and Byron, it
could boast of Sam. Johnson, who wrote the address when Garrick opened
the theatre in 1747. No theatre ever had more great names connected with
its history.

[7: None of the addresses sent in having given satisfaction, Lord Byron
was requested to write one, which he did.]

It was in 1778, after the purchase of the other moiety of this property,
that Sheridan set on its boards 'The Critic.' Though this was denounced
as itself as complete a plagiarism as any Sir Fretful Plagiary could
make, and though undoubtedly the idea of it was borrowed, its wit, so
truly Sheridanian, and its complete characters, enhanced its author's
fame, in spite of the disappointment of those who expected higher things
from the writer of 'The School for Scandal.' Whether Sheridan would have
gone on improving, had he remained true to the drama, 'The Critic'
leaves us in doubt. But he was a man of higher ambition. Step by step,
unexpectedly, and apparently unprepared, he had taken by storm the
out-works of the citadel he was determined to capture, and he seems to
have cared little to garrison these minor fortresses. He had carried off
from among a dozen suitors a wife of such beauty that Walpole thus
writes of her in 1773:--

'I was at the ball last night, and have only been at the opera, where I
was infinitely struck with the Carrara, who is the prettiest creature
upon earth. Mrs. Hartley I find still handsomer, and Miss Linley is to
be the superlative degree. The king admires the last, and ogles her as
much as he dares in so holy a place as an oratorio, and at so devout a
service as Alexander's Feast'

Yet Sheridan did not prize his lovely wife as he should have done, when
he had once obtained her. Again he had struck boldly into the drama, and
in four years had achieved that fame as a play-writer to which even
Johnson could testify so handsomely. He now quitted this, and with the
same innate power--the same consciousness of success--the same readiness
of genius--took a higher, far more brilliant flight than ever. Yet had
he garrisoned the forts he captured, he would have been a better,
happier, and more prosperous man. Had he been true to the Maid of Bath,
his character would not have degenerated as it did. Had he kept up his
connection with the drama, he would not have lost so largely by his
speculation in Drury Lane. His genius became his temptation, and he
hurried on to triumph and to fall.

Public praise is a syren which the young sailor through life cannot
resist. Political life is a fine aim, even when its seeker starts
without a shred of real patriotism to conceal his personal ambition. No
young man of any character can think, without a thrill of rapture, on
the glory of having _his_ name--now obscure--written in capitals on the
page of his country's history. A true patriot cares nothing for fame; a
really great man is content to die nameless, if his acts may but survive
him. Sheridan was not really great, and it may be doubted if he had any
sincerity in his political views. But the period favoured the rise of
young men of genius. In former reigns a man could have little hope of
political influence without being first a courtier; but by this time
liberalism had made giant strides. The leaven of revolutionary ideas,
which had leavened the whole lump in France, was still working quietly
and less passionately in this country, and being less repressed,
displayed itself in the last quarter of the eighteenth century in the
form of a strong and brilliant opposition. It was to this that the young
men of ambition attached themselves, rallying under the standard of
Charles James Fox, since it was there only that their talents were
sufficient to recommend them.

To this party, Sheridan, laughing in his sleeve at the extravagance of
their demands--so that when they clamoured for a 'parliament once a
year, or oftener if need be,' he pronounced himself an
'Oftener-if-need-be' man--was introduced, when his fame as a literary
man had brought him into contact with some of its hangers on. Fox, after
his first interview with him, affirmed that he had always thought Hare
and Charles Townsend the wittiest men he had ever met, but that Sheridan
surpassed them both; and Sheridan was equally pleased with 'the Man of
the People.'

The first step to this political position was to become a member of a
certain club, where its leaders gambled away their money, and drank away
their minds--to wit, Brookes'. Pretty boys, indeed, were these great
Whig patriots when turned loose in these precincts. The tables were for
stakes of twenty or fifty guineas, but soon ran up to hundreds. What did
it matter to Charles James Fox, to the Man of the People, whether he
lost five, seven, or ten thousand of a night, when the one-half came out
of his father's, the other out of Hebrew, pockets--the sleek,
thick-lipped owners of which thronged his Jerusalem chamber, as he
called his back sitting-room, only too glad to 'oblige' him to any
amount? The rage for gaming at this pandemonium may be understood from a
rule of the club, which it was found necessary to make to interdict it
_in the eating-room_, but to which was added the truly British
exception, which allowed two members of Parliament in those days, or two
'gentlemen' of any kind, to toss up for what they had ordered.

This charming resort of the dissipated was originally established in
Pall Mall in 1764, and the manager was that same Almack who afterwards
opened a lady's club in the rooms now called Willis's, in King Street,
St. James's; who also owned the famous Thatched House, and whom Gilly
Williams described as having a 'Scotch face, in a bag-wig,' waiting on
the ladies at supper. In 1778 Brookes--a wine-merchant and money-lender,
whom Tickell, in his famous 'Epistle from the Hon. Charles Fox,
partridge-shooting, to the Hon. John Townsend, cruising,' describes in
these lines;--

  'And know I've bought the best champagne from Brookes,
  From liberal Brookes, whose speculative skill
  Is hasty credit, and a distant bill:
  Who, nurs'd in clubs, disdains a vulgar trade:
  Exults to trust, and blushes to be paid--'

built and opened the present club-house in St. James's Street, and
thither the members of Almack's migrated. Brookes' speculative skill,
however, did not make him a rich man, and the 'gentlemen' he dealt with
were perhaps too gentlemanly to pay him. He died poor in 1782. Almack's
at first consisted of twenty-seven members, one of whom was C.J. Fox.
Gibbon, the historian, was actually a member of it, and says that in
spite of the rage for play, he found the society there rational and
entertaining. Sir Joshua Reynolds wanted to be a member of it too. 'You
see,' says Topham Beauclerk thereupon, 'what noble ambition will make a
man attempt. That den is not yet opened,' &c.

Brookes', however, was far more celebrated, and besides Fox, Reynolds,
and Gibbon, there were here to be found Horace Walpole, David Hume,
Burke, Selwyn, and Garrick. It would be curious to discover how much
religion, how much morality, and how much vanity there were among the
set. The first two would require a microscope to examine, the last an
ocean to contain it. But let Tickell describe its inmates:--

  'Soon as to Brookes's thence thy footsteps bend
  What gratulations thy approach attend!
  See Gibbon rap his box--auspicious sign,
  That classic compliment and wit combine;
  See Beauclerk's cheek a tinge of red surprise,
  And friendship give what cruel health denies;

         *       *       *       *       *

  Of wit, of taste, of fancy we'll debate,
  If Sheridan for once be not too late.
  But scarce a thought on politics we'll spare
  Unless on Polish politics with Hare.
  Good-natured Devon! oft shall there appear
  The cool complacence of thy friendly sneer;
  Oft shall Fitzpatrick's wit, and Stanhope's ease,
  And Burgoyne's manly sense combine to please.

To show how high gaming ran in this assembly of wits, even so early at
1772, there is a memorandum in the books, stating that Mr. Thynne
retired from the club in disgust, because he had only won L12,000 in two
months. The principal games at this period were quinze and faro.

Into this eligible club Richard Sheridan, who ten years before had been
agreeing with Halhed on the bliss of making a couple of hundred pounds
by their literary exertions, now essayed to enter as a member; but in
vain. One black-ball sufficed to nullify his election, and that one was
dropped in by George Selwyn, who, with degrading littleness, would not
have the son of an actor among them. Again and again he made the
attempt; again and again Selwyn foiled him; and it was not till 1780
that he succeeded. The Prince of Wales was then his devoted friend, and
was determined he should be admitted into the club. The elections at
that time took place between eleven at night and one o'clock in the
morning, and the 'greatest gentleman in Europe' took care to be in the
hall when the ballot began. Selwyn came down as usual, bent on triumph.
The prince called him to him. There was nothing for it; Selwyn was
forced to obey. The prince walked him up and down the hall, engaging him
in an apparently most important conversation. George Selwyn answered him
question after question, and made desperate attempts to slip away. The
other George had always something more to say to him. The long finger of
the clock went round, and Selwyn's long white fingers were itching for
the black ball. The prince was only more and more interested, the wit
only more and more abstracted. Never was the young George more lively,
or the other more silent. But it was all in vain. The finger of the
clock went round and round, and at last the members came out noisily
from the balloting-room, and the smiling faces of the prince's friends
showed to the unhappy Selwyn that his enemy had been elected.

So, at least, runs one story. The other, told by Sir Nathaniel Wraxall,
is perhaps more probable. It appears that the Earl of Besborough was no
less opposed to his election than George Selwyn, and these two
individuals agreed at any cost of comfort to be always at the club at
the time of the ballot to throw in their black balls. On the night of
his success, Lord Besborough was there as usual, and Selwyn was at his
rooms in Cleveland Row, preparing to come to the club. Suddenly a
chairman rushed into Brookes' with an important note for my lord, who,
on tearing it open, found to his horror that it was from his
daughter-in-law, Lady Duncannon, announcing that his house in Cavendish
Square was on fire, and imploring him to come immediately. Feeling
confident that his fellow conspirator would be true to his post, the
earl set off at once. But almost the same moment Selwyn received a
message informing him that his adopted daughter, of whom he was very
fond, was seized with an alarming illness. The ground was cleared; and
by the time the earl returned, having, it is needless to say, found his
house in a perfect state of security, and was joined by Selwyn, whose
daughter had never been better in her life, the actor's son was elected,
and the conspirators found they had been duped.

But it is far easier in this country to get into that House, where one
has to represent the interests of thousands, and take a share in the
government of a nation, than to be admitted to a club where one has but
to lounge, to gamble, and to eat dinner; and Sheridan was elected for
the town of Stafford with probably little more artifice than the old and
stale one of putting five-pound notes under voters' glasses, or paying
thirty pounds for a home-cured ham. Whether he bribed or not, a petition
was presented against his election, almost as a matter of course in
those days, and his maiden speech was made in defence of the good
burgesses of that quiet little county-town. After making this speech,
which was listened to in silence on account of his reputation as a
dramatic author, but which does not appear to have been very wonderful,
he rushed up to the gallery, and eagerly asked his friend Woodfall what
he thought of it. That candid man shook his head, and told him oratory
was not his forte, Sheridan leaned his head on his hand a moment, and
then exclaimed with vehement emphasis, 'It is in me, however, and, by
Heaven! it shall come out.'

He spoke prophetically, yet not as the great man who determines to
conquer difficulties, but rather as one who feels conscious of his own
powers, and knows that they must show themselves sooner or later.
Sheridan found himself labouring under the same natural obstacles as
Demosthenes--though in a less degree--a thick and disagreeable tone of
voice; but we do not find in the indolent but gifted Englishman that
admirable perseverance, that conquering zeal, which enabled the Athenian
to turn these very impediments to his own advantage. He did, indeed,
prepare his speeches, and at times had fits of that same diligence which
he had displayed in the preparation of 'The School for Scandal;' but his
indolent, self-indulgent mode of life left him no time for such steady
devotion to oratory as might have made him the finest speaker of his
age, for perhaps his natural abilities were greater than those of Pitt,
Fox, or even Burke, though his education was inferior to that of those
two statesmen.

From this time Sheridan's life had two phases--that of a politician, and
that of a man of the world. With the former, we have nothing to do in
such a memoir as this, and indeed it is difficult to say whether it was
in oratory, the drama, or wit that he gained the greatest celebrity.
There is, however, some difference between the three capacities. On the
mimic stage, and on the stage of the country, his fame rested on a very
few grand outbursts--some matured, prepared, deliberated--others
spontaneous. He left only three great comedies, and perhaps we may say
only one really grand. In the same way he made only two great speeches,
or perhaps we may say only one. His wit on the other hand--though that
too is said to have been studied--was the constant accompaniment of his
daily life, and Sheridan has not left two or three celebrated bon-mots,
but a hundred.

But even in his political career his wit, which must then have been
spontaneous, won him almost as much fame as his eloquence, which he
seems to have reserved for great occasions. He was the wit of the House.
Wit, ridicule, satire, quiet, cool, and easy sneers, always made in good
temper, and always therefore the more bitter, were his weapons, and they
struck with unerring accuracy. At that time--nor at that time only--the
'Den of Thieves,' as Cobbett called our senate, was a cockpit as vulgar
and personal as the present Congress of the United States. Party-spirit
meant more than it has ever done since, and scarcely less than it had
meant when the throne itself was the stake for which parties played some
forty years before. There was, in fact a substantial personal centre for
each side. The one party rallied round a respectable but maniac monarch,
whose mental afflictions took the most distressing form, the other round
his gay, handsome, dissolute--nay disgusting--son, at once his rival and
his heir. The spirit of each party was therefore personal, and their
attacks on one another were more personal than anything we can imagine
in the present day in so respectably ridiculous a conclave as the House
of Commons. It was little for one honourable gentleman to give another
honourable gentleman the lie direct before the eyes of the country. The
honourable gentlemen descended--or, as they thought, ascended--to the
most vehement invective, and such was at times the torrent of personal
abuse which parties heaped on one another, while good-natured John Bull
looked on and smiled at his rulers, that, as in the United States of
to-day, a debate was often the prelude to a duel. Pitt and Fox, Tierney,
Adam, Fullarton, Lord George Germain, Lord Shelburne, and Governor
Johnstone, all 'vindicated their honour,' as the phrase went, by 'coffee
and pistols for four.' If Sheridan had not to repeat the Bob Acres scene
with Captain Matthews, it was only because his wonderful good humour
could put up with a great deal that others thought could only be
expiated by a hole in the waistcoat.

In the administration of the Marquis of Rockingham the dramatist enjoyed
the pleasures of office for less than a year as one of the Under
Secretaries of State in 1782. In the next year we find him making a
happy retort on Pitt, who had somewhat vulgarly alluded to his being a
dramatic author. It was on the American question, perhaps the bitterest
that ever called forth the acrimony of parties in the House. Sheridan,
from boyhood, had been taunted with being the son of an actor. One can
hardly credit this fact, just after Garrick had raised the profession of
an actor to so great an eminence in the social scale. He had been called
'the player boy' at school, and his election at Brookes' had been
opposed on the same grounds. It was evidently his bitterest point, and
Pitt probably knew this when, in replying to a speech of the
ex-dramatist's he said that 'no man admired more than he did the
abilities of that right honourable gentleman, the elegant sallies of his
thought, the gay effusions of his fancy, his _dramatic_ turns, and his
epigrammatic point; and if they were reserved for the _proper stage,_
they would, no doubt, receive what the hon. gentleman's abilities always
did receive, the plaudits of the audience; and it would be his fortune
_sui plausu gaudere theatri_. But this was not the proper scene for the
exhibition of those elegancies.' This was vulgar in Pitt, and probably
every one felt so. But Sheridan rose, cool and collected, and quietly
replied:--

'On the particular sort of personality which the right hon. gentleman
has thought proper to make use of, I need not make any comment. The
propriety, the taste, the gentlemanly point of it, must have been
obvious to the House. But let me assure the right hon. gentleman that I
do now, and will at any time he chooses to repeat this sort of allusion,
meet it with the most sincere good humour. Nay, I will say more:
flattered and encouraged by the right hon. gentleman's panegyric on my
talents, if ever I again engage in the compositions he alludes to, I may
be tempted to an act of presumption--to attempt an improvement on one of
Ben Jonson's best characters, the character of the _Angry Boy_, in the
"Alchemist."'

The fury of Pitt, contrasted with the coolness of the man he had so
shamefully attacked, made this sally irresistible, and from that time
neither 'the angry boy' himself, nor any of his colleagues, were anxious
to twit Sheridan on his dramatic pursuits.

Pitt wanted to lay a tax on every horse that started in a race. Lord
Surry, a _turfish_ individual of the day, proposed one of five pounds on
the winner. Sheridan, rising, told his lordship that the next time he
visited Newmarket he would probably be greeted with the line:--

  'Jockey of Norfolk, be not so bold--.'

Lord Rolie, the butt of the Opposition, who had attacked him in the
famous satire, 'The Rolliad,' so popular that it went through twenty-two
editions in twenty-seven years, accused Sheridan of inflammatory
speeches among the operatives of the northern counties on the cotton
question. Sheridan retorted by saying that he believed Lord Rolle must
refer to 'Compositions less prosaic, but more popular' (meaning the
'Rolliad'), and thus successfully turned the laugh against him.

It was Grattan, I think, who said, 'When I can't talk sense, I talk
metaphor.' Sheridan often talked metaphor, though he sometimes mingled
it with sense. His famous speech about the Begums of Oude is full of it,
but we have one or two instances before that. Thus on the Duke of
Richmond's report about fortifications, he said, turning to the duke,
that 'holding in his hand the report made by the Board of Officers, he
complimented the noble president on his talents as an _engineer_, which
were strongly evinced in planning and constructing that very paper....
He has made it a contest of posts, and conducted his reasoning not less
on principles of trigonometry than of logic. There are certain
assumptions thrown up, like advanced works, to keep the enemy at a
distance from the principal object of debate; strong provisos protect
and cover the flanks of his assertions, his very queries are his
casemates,' and so on.

When Lord Mulgrave said, on another occasion, that any man using his
influence to obtain a vote for the crown _ought_ to lose his head,
Sheridan quietly remarked, that he was glad his lordship had said
'_ought_ to lose his head,' not _would_ have lost it, for in that case
the learned gentleman would not have had that evening '_face_ to have
shown among us.'

Such are a few of his well-remembered replies in the House; but his fame
as an orator rested on the splendid speeches which he made at the
impeachment of Warren Hastings. The first of these was made in the House
on the 7th of February, 1787. The whole story of the corruption,
extortions, and cruelty of the worst of many bad rulers who have been
imposed upon that unhappy nation of Hindostan, and who ignorant how to
_parcere subjectis_, have gone on in their unjust oppression, only
rendering it the more dangerous by weak concessions, is too well known
to need a recapitulation here. The worst feature in the whole of
Hastings' misconduct was, perhaps, his treatment of those unfortunate
ladies whose money he coveted, the Begums of Oude. The Opposition was
determined to make the governor-general's conduct a state question, but
their charges had been received with little attention, till on this day
Sheridan rose to denounce the cruel extortioner. He spoke for five hours
and a half, and surpassed all he had ever said in eloquence. The subject
was one to find sympathy in the hearts of Englishmen, who, though they
beat their own wives, are always indignant at a man who dares to lay a
little finger on those of anybody else. Then, too, the subject was
Oriental: it might even be invested with something of romance and
poetry; the zenanah, sacred in the eyes of the oppressed natives, had
been ruthlessly insulted, under a glaring Indian sun, amid the
luxuriance of Indian foliage, these acts had been committed, &c. &c. It
was a fertile theme for a poet; and how little soever Sheridan cared for
the Begums and their wrongs--and that he did care little appears from
what he afterwards said of Hastings himself--he could evidently make a
telling speech out of the theme, and he did so. Walpole says that he
turned everybody's head. 'One heard everybody in the street raving on
the wonders of that speech; for my part, I cannot believe it was so
supernatural as they say.' He affirms that there must be a witchery in
Mr. Sheridan, who had no diamonds--as Hastings had--to win favour with,
and says that the Opposition may be fairly charged with sorcery. Burke
declared the speech to be 'the most astonishing effort of eloquence,
argument, and wit united, of which there was any record or tradition.'
Fox affirmed that 'all he had ever heard, all he had ever read, when
compared with it, dwindled into nothing, and vanished like vapour before
the sun.' But these were partizans. Even Pitt acknowledged 'that it
surpassed all the eloquence of ancient and modern times, and possessed
everything that genius or art could furnish to agitate and control the
human mind.' One member confessed himself so unhinged by it, that he
moved an adjournment, because he could not, in his then state of mind,
give an unbiassed vote. But the highest testimony was that of Logan, the
defender of Hastings. At the end of the first hour of the speech, he
said to a friend, 'All this is declamatory assertion without proof.'
Another hour's speaking, and he muttered, 'This is a most wonderful
oration!' A third, and he confessed 'Mr. Hastings has acted very
unjustifiably.' At the end of the fourth, he exclaimed, 'Mr. Hastings is
a most atrocious criminal.' And before the speaker had sat down, he
vehemently protested that 'Of all monsters of iniquity, the most
enormous is Warren Hastings.'

Such in those days was the effect of eloquence; an art which has been
eschewed in the present House of Commons, and which our newspapers
affect to think is much out of place in an assembly met for calm
deliberation. Perhaps they are right; but oh! for the golden words of a
Sheridan, a Fox, even a Pitt and Burke.

It is said, though not proved, that on this same night of Sheridan's
glory in the House of Commons, his 'School for Scandal' was acted with
'rapturous applause' at Covent Garden, and his 'Duenna' no less
successfully at Drury Lane. What a pitch of glory for the dunce who had
been shamed into learning Greek verbs at Harrow! Surely Dr. Parr must
then have confessed that a man can be great without the classics--nay,
without even a decent English education, for Sheridan knew comparatively
little of history and literature, certainly less than the men against
whom he was pitted or whose powers he emulated. He has been known to say
to his friends, when asked to take part with them on some important
question, 'You know I'm an ignoramus--instruct me and I'll do my best.'
He had even to rub up his arithmetic when he thought he had some chance
of being made Chancellor of the Exchequer; but, perhaps, many a
statesman before and after him has done as much as that.

No wonder that after such a speech in the House, the celebrated trial
which commenced in the beginning of the following year should have
roused the attention of the whole nation. The proceedings opened in
Westminster Hall, the noblest room in England, on the 13th of February,
1788. The Queen and four of her daughters were seated in the Duke of
Newcastle's box; the Prince of Wales walked in at the head of a hundred
and fifty peers of the realm. The spectacle was imposing enough. But the
trial proceeded slowly for some months, and it was not till the 3rd of
June that Sheridan rose to make his second great speech on this subject.

The excitement was then at its highest. Two-thirds of the peers with the
peeresses and their daughters were present, and the whole of the vast
hall was crowded to excess. The sun shone in brightly to light up the
gloomy building, and the whole scene was splendid. Such was the
enthusiasm that people paid _fifty guineas_ for a ticket to hear the
first orator of his day, for such he then was. The actor's son felt the
enlivening influence of a full audience. He had been long preparing for
this moment, and he threw into his speech all the theatrical effect of
which he had studied much and inherited more. He spoke for many hours on
the 3rd, 5th, and 6th, and concluded with these words:

'They (the House of Commons) exhort you by everything that calls
sublimely upon the heart of man, by the majesty of that justice which
this bold man has libelled, by the wide fame of your own tribunal, by
the sacred pledges by which you swear in the solemn hour of decision,
knowing that that decision will then bring you the highest reward that
ever blessed the heart of man, the consciousness of having done the
greatest act of mercy for the world that the earth has ever yet received
from any hand but heaven!--My Lords, I have done.'

Sheridan's valet was very proud of his master's success, and as he had
been to hear the speech, was asked what part he considered the finest.
Plush replied by putting himself into his master's attitude, and
imitating his voice admirably, solemnly uttering, 'My Lords, I have
done!' He should have added the word 'nothing.' Sheridan's eloquence had
no more effect than the clear proof of Hastings' guilt, and the
impeachment, as usual, was but a troublesome subterfuge, to satisfy the
Opposition and dust the eyeballs of the country.

Sheridan's great speech was made. The orator has concluded his oration;
fame was complete, and no more was wanted, Adieu, then, blue-books and
parties, and come on the last grand profession of this man of many
talents--that of the wit. That it was a profession there can be no
doubt, for he lived on it, it was all his capital. He paid his bills in
that coin alone: he paid his workmen, his actors, carpenters, builders
with no more sterling metal; with that ready tool he extracted loans
from the very men who came to be paid; that brilliant ornament
maintained his reputation in the senate, and his character in society.
But wit without wisdom--the froth without the fluid--the capital without
the pillar--is but a poor fortune, a wretched substitute for real worth
and honest utility. For a time men forgave to Mr. Sheridan--extravagant
and reckless as he was--what would long before have brought an honester,
better, but less amusing man to a debtor's prison and the contempt of
society; but only for a time was this career possible.

Sheridan has now reached the pinnacle of his fame, and from this point
we have to trace that decline which ended so awfully.

Whilst we call him a dishonest man, we must not be supposed to imply
that he was so in heart. It is pleaded for him that he tricked his
creditors 'for the fun of the thing,' like a modern Robin Hood, and like
that forester bold, he was mightily generous with other men's money.
Deception is deception whether in sport or earnest, and Sheridan, no
doubt, made it a very profitable employment. He had always a taste for
the art of duping, and he had begun early in life--soon after leaving
Harrow. He was spending a few days at Bristol, and wanted a pair of new
boots, but could not afford to pay for them. Shortly before he left, he
called on two bootmakers, and ordered of each a pair, promising payment
on delivery. He fixed the morning of his departure for the tradesmen to
send in their goods. When the first arrived he tried on the boots,
complaining that that for the _right_ foot pinched a little, and ordered
Crispin to take it back, stretch it, and bring it again at nine the next
morning. The second arrived soon after, and this time it was the boot
for the _left_ foot which pinched. Same complaint; same order given;
each had taken away only the pinching boot, and left the other behind.
The same afternoon Sheridan left in his new boots for town, and when the
two shoemakers called at nine the next day, each with a boot in his
hand, we can imagine their disgust at finding how neatly they had been
duped.

Anecdotes of this kind swarm in every account of Richard Sheridan--many
of them, perhaps, quite apocryphal, others exaggerated, or attributed to
this noted trickster, but all tending to show how completely he was
master of this high art. His ways of eluding creditors used to delight
me, I remember, when an Oxford boy, and they are only paralleled by
Oxford stories. One of these may not be generally known, and was worthy
of Sheridan. Every Oxonian knows Hall, the boat-builder at Folly Bridge.
Mrs. Hall was, in my time, proprietress of those dangerous skiffs and
nutshell canoes which we young harebrains delighted to launch on the
Isis. Some youthful Sheridanian had a long account with this elderly and
bashful personage, who had applied in vain for her money, till, coming
one day to his rooms, she announced her intention not to leave till the
money was paid. 'Very well, Mrs. Hall, then you must sit down and make
yourself comfortable while I dress, for I am going out directly.' Mrs.
H. sat down composedly, and with equal composure the youth took off his
coat. Mrs. H. was not abashed, but in another moment the debtor removed
his waistcoat also. Mrs. H. was still immoveable. Sundry other articles
of dress followed, and the good lady began to be nervous. 'Now, Mrs.
Hall, you can stay if you like, but I assure you that I am going to
change _all_ my dress.' Suiting the action to the word, he began to
remove his lower garments, when Mrs. Hall, shocked and furious, rushed
from the room.

This reminds us of Sheridan's treatment of a female creditor. He had for
some years hired his carriage-horses from Edbrooke in Clarges Street,
and his bill was a heavy one. Mrs. Edbrooke wanted a new bonnet, and
blew up her mate for not insisting on payment. The curtain lecture was
followed next day by a refusal to allow Mr. Sheridan to have the horses
till the account was settled. Mr. Sheridan sent the politest possible
message in reply, begging that Mrs. Edbrooke would allow his coachman to
drive her in his own carriage to his door, and promising that the matter
should be satisfactorily arranged. The good woman was delighted, dressed
in her best, and, bill in hand, entered the M.P.'s chariot. Sheridan
meanwhile had given orders to his servants. Mrs. Edbrooke was shown up
into the back drawing-room, where a slight luncheon, of which she was
begged to partake, was laid out; and she was assured that her debtor
would not keep her waiting long, though for the moment engaged. The
horse-dealer's wife sat down and discussed a wing of chicken and glass
of wine, and in the meantime her victimizer had been watching his
opportunity, slipped down stairs, jumped into the vehicle, and drove
off. Mrs. Edbrooke finished her lunch and waited in vain; ten minutes,
twenty, thirty, passed, and then she rang the bell: 'Very sorry, ma'am,
but Mr. Sheridan went out on important business half an hour ago.' 'And
the carriage?'--'Oh, ma'am, Mr. Sheridan never walks.'

He procured his wine in the same style. Chalier, the wine-merchant, was
his creditor to a large amount, and had stopped supplies. Sheridan was
to give a grand dinner to the leaders of the Opposition, and had no port
or sherry to offer them. On the morning of the day fixed he sent for
Chalier, and told him he wanted to settle his account. The importer,
much pleased, said he would go home and bring it at once. 'Stay,' cried
the debtor, 'will you dine with me to-day; Lord----, Sir----, and
So-and-so are coming.' Chalier was flattered and readily accepted.
Returning to his office, he told his clerk that he should dine with Mr.
Sheridan, and therefore leave early. At the proper hour he arrived in
full dress, and was no sooner in the house., than his host despatched a
message to the clerk at the office, saying that Mr. Chalier wished him
to send up at once three dozen of Burgundy, two of claret, two of port,
&c., &c. Nothing seemed more natural, and the wine was forwarded, just
in time for the dinner. It was highly praised by the guests, who asked
Sheridan who was his wine-merchant. The host bowed towards Chalier, gave
him a high recommendation, and impressed him with the belief that he was
telling a polite falsehood in order to secure him other customers.
Little did he think that he was drinking his own wine, and that it was
not, and probably never would be, paid for!

In like manner, when he wanted a particular Burgundy an innkeeper at
Richmond, who declined to supply it till his bill was paid, he sent for
the man, and had no sooner seen him safe in the house than he drove off
to Richmond, saw his wife, told her he had just had a conversation with
mine host, settled everything, and would, to save them trouble, take the
wine with him in his carriage. The condescension overpowered the good
woman, who ordered it at once to be produced, and Sheridan drove home
about the time that her husband was returning to Richmond, weary of
waiting for his absent debtor. But this kind of trickery could not
always succeed without some knowledge of his creditor's character. In
the case of Holloway, the lawyer, Sheridan took advantage of his
well-known vanity of his judgment of horse-flesh. Kelly gives the
anecdote as authentic. He was walking one day with Sheridan, close to
the churchyard of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, when, as ill-luck would
have it, up comes Holloway on horseback, and in a furious rage,
complains that he has called on Mr. Sheridan time and again in Hertford
Street, and can never gain admittance. He proceeds to violent threats,
and slangs his debtor roundly. Sheridan, cool as a whole bed of
cucumbers, takes no notice of these attacks, but quietly exclaims: 'What
a beautiful creature you're riding, Holloway!' The lawyer's weak point
was touched.

'You were speaking to me the other day about a horse for Mrs. Sheridan;
now this would be a treasure for a lady.'

'Does he canter well?' asks Sheridan, with a look of business.

'Like Pegasus himself.'

'If that's the case, I shouldn't mind, Holloway, stretching a point for
him. Do you mind showing me his paces?'

'Not at all,' replies the lawyer, only too happy to show off his own:
and touching up the horse, put him to a quiet canter. The moment is not
to be lost; the churchyard gate is at hand; Sheridan slips in, knowing
that his mounted tormentor cannot follow him, and there bursts into a
roar of laughter, which is joined in by Kelly, but not by the returning
Holloway.

[Illustration: "A TREASURE FOR A LADY"--SHERIDAN AND THE LAWYER.]

But if he escaped an importunate lawyer once in a way like this, he
Required more ingenuity to get rid of the limbs of the law, when they
came, as they did frequently in his later years. It was the fashionable
thing in bygone novels of the 'Pelham' school, and Even in more recent
comedies, to introduce a well-dressed sheriff's officer at a dinner
party or ball, and take him through a variety of predicaments, ending,
at length, in the revelation of his real character; and probably some
such scene is still enacted from time to time in the houses of the
extravagant: but Sheridan's adventures with bailiffs seem to have
excited more attention. In the midst of his difficulties he never ceased
to entertain his friends, and 'why should he not do so, since he had not
to pay?' 'Pay your bills, sir? what a shameful waste of money!' he once
said. Thus, one day a young friend was met by him and taken back to
dinner, 'quite in a quiet way, just to meet a very old friend of mine, a
man of great talent, and most charming companion.' When they arrived
they found 'the old friend' already installed, and presenting a somewhat
unpolished appearance, which the young man explained to himself by
supposing him to be a genius of somewhat low extraction. His habits at
dinner, the eager look, the free use of his knife, and so forth, were
all accounted for in the same way, but that he was a genius of no slight
distinction was clear from the deep respect and attention with which
Sheridan listened to his slightest remarks, and asked his opinion on
English poetry. Meanwhile Sheridan and the servant between them plied
the genius very liberally with wine: and the former, rising, made him a
complimentary speech on his critical powers, while the young guest, who
had heard nothing from his lips but the commonest platitudes in very bad
English, grew more and more amused. The wine told in time, the 'genius'
sang songs which were more Saxon than delicate, talked loud, clapped his
host on the shoulder, and at last rolled fairly under the table. 'Now,'
said Sheridan, quite calmly to his young friend, 'we will go up stairs:
and, Jack,' (to his servant) 'take that man's hat and give him to the
watch.' He then explained in the same calm tone, that this was a bailiff
of whose company he was growing rather tired, and wanted to be freed.

But his finest tricks were undoubtedly those by which he turned,
harlequin-like, a creditor into a lender This was done by sheer force of
persuasion, by assuming a lofty indignation, or by putting forth his
claims to mercy with the most touching eloquence over which he would
laugh heartily when his point was gained. He was often compelled to do
this during his theatrical management, when a troublesome creditor might
have interfered with the success of the establishment. He talked over an
upholsterer who came with a writ for L350 till the latter handed him,
instead, a cheque for L200. He once, when the actors struck for arrears
of wages to the amount of L3,000, and his bankers refused flatly to
Kelly to advance another penny, screwed the whole sum out of them in
less than a quarter of an hour by sheer talk. He got a gold watch from
Harris, the manager, with whom he had broken several appointments, by
complaining that as he had no watch he could never tell the time fixed
for their meetings; and, as for putting off pressing creditors, and
turning furious foes into affectionate friends, he was such an adept at
it, that his reputation as a dun-destroyer is quite on a par with his
fame as comedian and orator.

Hoaxing, a style of amusement fortunately out of fashion how, was almost
a passion with him, and his practical jokes were as merciless as his
satire. He and Tickell, who had married the sister of his wife, used to
play them off on one another like a couple of schoolboys. One evening,
for instance, Sheridan got together all the crockery in the house and
arranged it in a dark passage, leaving a small channel for escape for
himself, and then, having teased Tickell till he rushed after him,
bounded out and picked his way gingerly along the passage. His friend
followed him unwittingly, and at the first step stumbled over a
washhand-basin, and fell forwards with a crash on piles of plates and
dishes, which cut his face and hands in a most cruel manner, Sheridan
all the while laughing immoderately at the end of the passage, secure
from vengeance.

But his most impudent hoax was that on the Honourable House of Commons
itself. Lord Belgrave had made a very telling speech which he wound up
with a Greek quotation, loudly applauded. Sheridan had no arguments to
meet him with; so rising, he admitted the force of his lordship's
quotation (of which he probably did not understand a word), but added
that had he gone a little farther, and completed the passage, he would
have seen that the context completely altered the sense. He would prove
it to the House, he said, and forthwith rolled forth a grand string of
majestic gibberish so well imitated that the whole assembly cried,
'Hear, hear!' Lord Belgrave rose again, and frankly admitted that the
passage had the meaning ascribed to it by the honourable gentleman, and
that he had overlooked it at the moment. At the end of the evening, Fox,
who prided himself on his classical lore, came up to and said to him,
'Sheridan, how came you to be so ready with that passage? It is
certainly as you say, but I was not aware of it before you quoted it.'
Sheridan was wise enough to keep his own counsel for the time, but must
have felt delightfully tickled at the ignorance of the would-be savants
with whom he was politically associated. Probably Sheridan could not at
any time have quoted a whole passage of Greek on the spur of the moment;
but it is certain that he had not kept up his classics, and at the time
in question must have forgotten the little he ever knew of them.

This facility of imitating exactly the sound of a language without
introducing a single word of it is not so very rare, but is generally
possessed in greater readiness by those who know no tongue but their
own, and are therefore more struck by the strangeness of a foreign one,
when hearing it. Many of us have heard Italian songs in which there was
not a word of actual Italian sung in London burlesques, and some of us
have laughed at Levassor's capital imitation of English; but perhaps the
cleverest mimic of the kind I ever heard was M. Laffitte, brother of
that famous banker who made his fortune by picking up a pin. This
gentleman could speak nothing but French, but had been brought by his
business into contact with foreigners of every race at Paris, and when
he once began his little trick, it was impossible to believe that he was
not possessed of a gift of tongues. His German and Italian were good
enough, but his English was so splendidly counterfeited, that after
listening to him for a short time, I suddenly heard a roar of laughter
from all present, for I had actually unconsciously _answered him_,
'Yes,' 'No,' 'Exactly so,' and 'I quite agree with you!'

Undoubtedly much of Sheridan's depravity must be attributed to his
intimacy with a man whom it was a great honour to a youngster then to
know, but who would probably be scouted even from a London club in the
present day--the Prince of Wales. The part of a courtier is always
degrading enough to play; but to be courtier to a prince whose favour
was to be won by proficiency in vice, and audacity in follies, to
truckle to his tastes, to win his smiles by the invention of a new
pleasure and his approbation by the plotting of a new villany, what an
office for the author of 'The School for Scandal,' and the orator
renowned for denouncing the wickednesses of Warren Hastings! What a life
for the young poet who had wooed and won the Maid of Bath--for the man
of strong domestic affections, who wept over his father's sternness, and
loved his son only too well! It was bad enough for such mere worldlings
as Captain Hanger or Beau Brummell, but for a man of higher and purer
feelings, like Sheridan, who, with all his faults, had some poetry in
his soul, such a career was doubly disgraceful.

It was at the house of the beautiful, lively, and adventurous Duchess of
Devonshire, the partizan of Charles James Fox, who loved him or his
cause--for Fox and Liberalism were often one in ladies' eyes--so well,
that she could give Steele, the butcher, a kiss for his vote, that
Sheridan first met the prince--then a boy in years, but already more
than an adult in vice. No doubt the youth whom Fox, Brummell, Hanger,
Lord Surrey, Sheridan, the tailors and the women, combined to turn at
once into the finest gentleman and greatest blackguard in Europe, was at
that time as fascinating in appearance and manner as any one, prince or
not, could be. He was by far the handsomest of the Hanoverians, and had
the least amount of their sheepish look. He possessed all their taste
and capacity, for gallantry, with apparently none of the German
coarseness which certain other Princes of Wales exhibited in their
amorous address. _His_ coarseness was of a more sensual, but less
imperious kind. He _had_ his redeeming points, which few of his
ancestors had, and his liberal hand and warm heart won him friends,
where his conduct could win him little else than contempt. Sheridan was
introduced to him by Fox, and Mrs. Sheridan by the Duchess of
Devonshire. The prince had that which always takes with Englishmen--a
readiness of conviviality, and a recklessness of character. He was ready
to chat, drink, and bet with Sheridan, or any new comer equally well
recommended, and an introduction to young George was always followed by
an easy recognition. With all this he managed to keep up a certain
amount of royal dignity under the most trying circumstances, but he had
none of that easy grace which made Charles II. beloved by his
associates. When the George had gone too far, he had no resource but to
cut the individual with whom he had hobbed and nobbed, and he was as
ungrateful in his enmities as he was ready with his friendship. Brummell
had taught him to dress, and Sheridan had given him wiser counsels: he
quarrelled with both for trifles, which, if he had had real dignity,
would never have occurred, and if he had had real friendship, would
easily have been overlooked.

Sheridan's breach with the prince was honourable to him. He could not
wholly approve of the conduct of that personage and his ministers, and
he told him openly that his life was at his service, but his character
was the property of the country. The prince replied that Sheridan 'might
impeach his ministers on the morrow--that would not impair their
friendship;' yet turned on his heel, and was never his friend again.
When, again, the 'delicate investigation' came off, he sent for
Sheridan, and asked his aid. The latter replied, 'Your royal highness
honours me, but I will never take part against a woman, whether she be
right or wrong.' His political courage atones somewhat for the want of
moral courage he displayed in pandering to the prince's vices.

Many an anecdote is told of Sheridan and 'Wales'--many, indeed, that
cannot be repeated. Their bets were often of the coarsest nature, won by
Sheridan in the coarsest manner. A great intimacy sprang up between the
two reprobates, and Sheridan became one of the satellites of that
dissolute prince. There are few of the stories of their adventures which
can be told in a work like this, but we may give one or two specimens of
the less disgraceful character:--

The Prince, Lord Surrey, and Sheridan were in the habit of seeking
nightly adventures of any kind that suggested itself to their lively
minds. A low tavern, still in existence, was the rendezvous of the heir
to the crown and his noble and distinguished associates. This was the
'Salutation,' in Tavistock Court, Covent Garden, a night house for
gardeners and countrymen, and for the sharpers who fleeced both, and was
kept by a certain Mother Butler, who favoured in every way the
adventurous designs of her exalted guests. Here wigs, smock-frocks, and
other disguises were in readiness; and here, at call, was to be found a
ready-made magistrate, whose sole occupation was to deliver the young
Haroun and his companions from the dilemmas which their adventures
naturally brought them into, and which were generally more or less
concerned with the watch. Poor old watch! what happy days, when members
of parliament, noblemen, and future monarchs condescended to break thy
bob-wigged head! and--blush, Z 350, immaculate constable--to toss thee a
guinea to buy plaster with.

In addition to the other disguise, _aliases_ were of course assumed. The
prince went by the name of Blackstock, Greystock was my Lord Surrey, and
Thinstock Richard Brinsley Sheridan. The treatment of women by the
police is traditional. The 'unfortunate'--unhappy creatures!--are their
pet aversion; and once in their clutches, receive no mercy. The
'Charley' of old was quite as brutal as the modern Hercules of the
glazed hat, and the three adventurers showed an amount of zeal worthy of
a nobler cause, in rescuing the drunken Lais from his grasp. On one
occasion they seem to have hit on a 'deserving case;' a slight skirmish
with the watch ended in a rescue, and the erring creature was taken off
to a house of respectability sufficient to protect her. Here she told
her tale, which, however improbable, turned out to be true. It was a
very old, a very simple one--the common history of many a frail, foolish
girl, cursed with beauty, and the prey of a practised seducer. The main
peculiarity lay in the fact of her respectable birth, and his position,
she being the daughter of a solicitor, he the son of a nobleman.
Marriage was promised, of course, as it has been promised a million
times with the same intent, and for the millionth time was not
performed. The seducer took her from her home, kept her quiet for a
time, and when the novelty was gone, abandoned her. The old story went
on; poverty--a child--a mother's love struggling with a sense of
shame--a visit to her father's house at the last moment, as a forlorn
hope. There she had crawled on her knees to one of those relentless
parents on whose heads lie the utter loss of their children's souls. The
false pride, that spoke of the blot on his name, the disgrace of his
house--when a Saviour's example should have bid him forgive and raise
the penitent in her misery from the dust--whispered him to turn her from
his door. He ordered the footman to put her out. The man, a nobleman in
plush, moved by his young mistress's utter misery, would not obey though
it cost him his place, and the harder-hearted father himself thrust his
starving child into the cold street, into the drizzling rain, and
slammed the door upon her cries of agony. The footman slipped out after
her, and five shillings--a large sum for him--found its way from his
kind hand to hers. Now the common ending might have come; now
starvation, the slow, unwilling, recourse to more shame and deeper vice;
then the forced hilarity, the unreal smile, which in so many of these
poor creatures hides a canker at the heart; the gradual
degradation--lower still and lower--oblivion for a moment sought in the
bottle--a life of sin and death ended in a hospital. The will of
Providence turned the frolic of three voluptuaries to good account; the
prince gave his purse-full, Sheridan his one last guinea for her present
needs: the name of the good-hearted Plush was discovered, and he was
taken into Carlton House, where he soon became known as Roberts, the
prince's confidential servant: and Sheridan bestirred himself to rescue
for ever the poor lady, whose beauty still remained as a temptation. He
procured her a situation, where she studied for the stage, on which she
eventually appeared. 'All's well that ends well:' her secret was kept,
till one admirer came honourably forward. To him it was confided, and he
was noble enough to forgive the one false step of youth. She was well
married, and the boy for whom she had suffered so much fell at
Trafalgar, a lieutenant in the navy.

To better men such an adventure would have been a solemn warning; such a
tale, told by the ruined one herself, a sermon, every word of which
would have clung to their memories. What effect, if any, it may have had
on Blackstock and his companions must have been very fleeting.

It is not so very long since the Seven Dials and St. Giles' were haunts
of wickedness and dens of thieves, into which the police scarcely dared
to penetrate. Probably their mysteries would have afforded more
amusement to the artist and the student of character than to the mere
seeker of adventure, but it was still, I remember, in my early days, a
great feat to visit by night one of the noted 'cribs' to which 'the
profession' which fills Newgate was wont to resort. The 'Brown Bear,' in
Broad Street, St. Giles', was one of these pleasant haunts, and thither
the three adventurers determined to go. This style of adventure is out
of date, and no longer amusing. Of course a fight ensued, in which the
prince and his companions showed immense pluck against terrible odds,
and in which, as one reads in the novels of the 'London Journal' or
'Family Herald,' the natural superiority of the well-born of course
displayed itself to great advantage. Surely Bulwer has described such
scenes too graphically in some of his earlier novels to make a minute
description here at all necessary; but the reader who is curious in the
matter may be referred to a work which has recently appeared under the
title of 'Sheridan and his Times,' professing to be written by an
Octogenarian, intimate with the hero. The fray ended with the arrival of
the watch, who rescued Blackstock, Greystock, and Thinstock, and with
Dogberryan stupidity carried them off to a neighbouring lock-up. The
examination which took place was just the occasion for Sheridan's fun to
display itself on, and pretending to turn informer, he succeeded in
bewildering the unfortunate parochial constable, who conducted it, till
the arrival of the magistrate, whose duty was to deliver his friends
from durance vile. The whole scene is well described in the book just
referred to, with, we presume, a certain amount of idealizing; but the
'Octogenarian' had probably heard the story from Sheridan himself, and
the main points must be accepted as correct. The affair ended, as usual,
with a supper at the 'Salutation.'

We must now follow Sheridan in his gradual downfall.

One of the causes of this--as far as money was concerned--was his
extreme indolence and utter negligence. He trusted far too much to his
ready wit and rapid genius. Thus when 'Pizarro' was to appear, day after
day went by, and nothing was done. On the night of representation, only
four acts out of five were written, and even these had not been
rehearsed, the principal performers, Siddons, Charles Kemble and
Barrymore, having only just received their parts. Sheridan was up in the
prompter's room actually writing the fifth act while the first was being
performed, and every now and then appeared in the green-room with a
fresh relay of dialogue, and setting all in good humour by his merry
abuse of his own negligence. In spite of this, 'Pizarro' succeeded. He
seldom wrote except at night, and surrounded by a profusion of lights.
Wine was his great stimulant in composition, as it has been to better
and worse authors. 'If the thought is slow to come,' he would say, 'a
glass of good wine encourages it; and when it does come, a glass of good
wine rewards it.' Those glasses of good wine, were, unfortunately, even
more frequent than the good thoughts, many and merry as they were.

His neglect of letters was a standing joke against him. He never took
the trouble to open any that he did not expect, and often left sealed
many that he was most anxious to read. He once appeared with his begging
face at the Bank, humbly asking an advance of twenty pounds. 'Certainly,
sir; would you like any more?--fifty or a hundred?' said the smiling
clerk. Sheridan was overpowered. He _would_ like a hundred. 'Two or
three?' asked the scribe. Sheridan thought he was joking, but was ready
for two or even three--he was always ready for more. But he could not
conceal his surprise. 'Have you not received our letter?' the clerk
asked, perceiving it. Certainly he had received the epistle, which
informed him that his salary as Receiver-General of Cornwall had been
paid in, but he had never opened it.

This neglect of letters once brought him into a troublesome lawsuit
about the theatre. It was necessary to pay certain demands, and he had
applied to the Duke of Bedford to be his security. The duke had
consented, and for a whole year his letter of consent remained unopened.
In the meantime Sheridan had believed that the duke had neglected him,
and allowed the demands to be brought into court.

In the same way he had long before committed himself in the affair with
Captain Matthews. In order to give a public denial of certain reports
circulated in Bath, he had called upon an editor, requesting him to
insert the said reports in his paper in order that he might write him a
letter to refute them. The editor at once complied, the calumny was
printed and published, but Sheridan forgot all about his own refutation,
which was applied for in vain till too late.

Other causes were his extravagance and intemperance. There was an utter
want of even common moderation in everything he did. Whenever his boyish
spirit suggested any freak, whenever a craving of any kind possessed
him, no matter what the consequences here or hereafter, he rushed
heedlessly into the indulgence of it. Perhaps the enemy had never an
easier subject to deal with. Any sin in which there was a show of
present mirth, or easy pleasure, was as easily taken up by Sheridan as
if he had not a single particle of conscience or religious feeling, and
yet we are not at all prepared to say that he lacked either; he had only
deadened both by excessive indulgence of his fancies. The temptation of
wealth and fame had been too much for the poor and obscure young man who
rose to them so suddenly, and, as so often happens, those very talents
which should have been his glory, were, in fact, his ruin.

His extravagance was unbounded. At a time when misfortune lay thick upon
him, and bailiffs were hourly expected, he would invite a large party to
a dinner, which a prince might have given, and to which one prince
sometimes sat down. On one occasion, having no plate left from the
pawnbroker's, he had to prevail on 'my uncle' to lend him some for a
banquet he was to give. The spoons and forks were sent, and with them
two of his men, who, dressed in livery, waited, no doubt with the most
vigilant attention, on the party. Such at that period was the host's
reputation, when he could not even be trusted not to pledge another
man's property. At one time his income was reckoned at L15,000 a year,
when the theatre was prosperous. Of this he is said to have spent not
more than L5,000 on his household, while the balance went to pay for his
former follies, debts, and the interest, lawsuits often arising from
mere carelessness and judgments against the theatre! Probably a great
deal of it was betted away, drank away, thrown away in one way or
another. As for betting, he generally lost all the wagers he made: as he
said himself--'I never made a bet upon my own judgment that I did not
lose; and I never won but one, which I had made against my judgment.'
His bets were generally laid in hundreds; and though he did not gamble,
he could of course run through a good deal of money in this way. He
betted on every possible trifle, but chiefly, it would seem, on
political possibilities; the state of the Funds, the result of an
election, or the downfall of a ministry. Horse-races do not seem to have
possessed any interest for him, and, in fact, he scarcely knew one kind
of horse from another. He was never an adept at field-sports, though
very ambitious of being thought a sportsman. Once, when staying in the
country, he went out with a friend's gamekeeper to shoot pheasants, and
after wasting a vast amount of powder and shot upon the air, he was only
rescued from ignominy by the sagacity of his companion, who, going a
little behind him when a bird rose, brought it down so neatly that
Sheridan, believing he had killed it himself, snatched it up, and rushed
bellowing with glee back to the house to show that he _could_ shoot. In
the same way, he tried his hand at fishing in a wretched little stream
behind the Deanery at Winchester, using, however, a net, as easier to
handle than a rod. Some boys, who had watched his want of success a long
time, at last bought a few pennyworth of pickled herrings, and throwing
them on the stream, allowed them to float down towards the eager
disciple of old Izaak. Sheridan saw them coming, rushed in regardless of
his clothes, cast his net and in great triumph secured them. When he had
landed his prize, however, there were the boys bursting with laughter,
and Piscator saw he was their dupe. 'Ah!' cried he, laughing in concert,
as he looked at his dripping clothes, 'this is a pretty _pickle_
indeed!'

His extravagance was well known to his friends, as well as to his
creditors. Lord Guildford met him one day. 'Well, Sherry, so you've
taken a new house, I hear.'--'Yes, and you'll see now that everything
will go on like clockwork.'--'Ay,' said my lord, with a knowing leer,
'_tick, tick_.' Even his son Tom used to laugh at him for it. 'Tom, if
you marry that girl, I'll cut you off with a shilling,'--'Then you must
borrow it,' replied the ingenuous youth.[8] Tom sometimes disconcerted
his father with his inherited wit--his only inheritance. He pressed
urgently for money on one, as on many an occasion. 'I have none,' was
the reply, as usual; 'there is a pair of pistols up stairs, a horse in
the enable, the night is dark, and Hounslow Heath at hand.'

[8: Another version is that Tom replied: 'You don't happen to have it
about you, sir, do you?']

'I understand what you mean,' replied young Tom; 'but I tried that last
night, and unluckily stopped your treasurer, Peake, who told me you had
been beforehand with him, and robbed him of every sixpence he had in the
world.'

So much for the respect of son to father!

Papa had his revenge on the young wit, when Tom, talking of Parliament,
announced his intention of entering it on an independent basis, ready to
be bought by the highest bidder 'I shall write on my forehead,' said he,
"To let."'

'And under that, Tom, "Unfurnished,"' rejoined Sherry the elder. The
joke is now stale enough.

But Sheridan was more truly witty in putting down a young braggart whom
he met at dinner at a country-house. There are still to be found, like
the bones of dead asses in a field newly ploughed, in some parts of the
country, youths, who are so hopelessly behind their age, and indeed
every age, as to look upon authorship as degrading, all knowledge, save
Latin and Greek, as 'a bore,' and all entertainment but hunting,
shooting, fishing, and badger-drawing, as unworthy of a man. In the last
century these young animals, who unite the modesty of the puppy with the
clear-sightedness of the pig, not to mention the progressiveness of
another quadruped, were more numerous than in the present day, and in
consequence more forward in their remarks. It was one of these charming
youths, who was staying in the same house as Sheridan, and who, quite
unprovoked, began at dinner to talk of 'actors and authors, and those
low sort of people, you know.' Sheridan said nought, but patiently bided
his time. The next day there was a large dinner-party, and Sheridan and
the youth happened to sit opposite to one another in the most
conspicuous part of the table. Young Nimrod was kindly obliging his side
of the table with extraordinary leaps of his hunter, the perfect working
of his new double-barrelled Manton, &c., bringing of course number one
in as the hero in each case. In a moment of silence, Sheridan, with an
air of great politeness, addressed his unhappy victim. 'He had not,' he
said, 'been able to catch the whole of the very interesting account he
had heard Mr. ---- relating.' All eyes were turned upon the two. 'Would
Mr. ---- permit him to ask who it was who made the extraordinary leap he
had mentioned?--'I, sir,' replied the youth with some pride. 'Then who
was it killed the wild duck at that distance?'--'I, sir.' 'Was it your
setter who behaved so well?'--'Yes, mine, sir,' replied the youth,
getting rather red over this examination. 'And who caught the huge
salmon so neatly?'--'I, sir.' And so the questioning went on through a
dozen more items, till the young man, weary of answering 'I, sir,' and
growing redder and redder every moment, would gladly have hid his head
under the table-cloth, in spite of his sporting prowess. But Sheridan
had to give him the _coup de grace_.

'So, sir,' said he, very politely, 'you were the chief _actor_ in every
anecdote, and the _author_ of them all; surely it is impolitic to
despise your own professions.'

Sheridan's intemperance was as great and as incurable as his
extravagance, and we think his mind, if not his body, lived only on
stimulants. He could neither write nor speak without them One day,
before one of his finest speeches in the House, he was seen to enter a
coffee-house, call for a pint of brandy, and swallow it 'neat,' and
almost at one gulp. His friends occasionally interfered. This drinking,
they told him, would destroy the coat of his stomach. 'Then my stomach
must digest in its waistcoat,' laughed Sheridan.

Where are the topers of yore? Jovial I will not call them, for every one
knows that

  'Mirth and laughter.'

worked up with a corkscrew, are followed by

  'Headaches and hot coppers the day after.'

But where are those Anakim of the bottle, who _could_ floor their two of
port and one of Madeira, though the said two and one floored them in
turn? The race, I believe, has died out. Our heads have got weaker, as
our cellars grew emptier. The arrangement was convenient. The daughters
of Eve have nobly undertaken to atone for the naughty conduct of their
primeval mamma, by reclaiming men, and dragging them from the Hades of
the mahogany to that seventh heaven of muffins and English ballads
prepared for them in the drawing-room.

We are certainly astounded, even to incredulity, when we read of the
deeds of a David or a Samson; but such wonderment can be nothing
compared to that which a generation or two hence will feel, when
sipping, as a great extravagance and unpardonable luxury, two
thimblefuls of 'African Sherry,' the young demirep of the day reads that
three English gentlemen, Sheridan, Richardson, and Ward, sat down one
day to dinner, and before they rose again--if they ever rose, which
seems doubtful--or, at least, were raised, had emptied five bottles of
port, two of Madeira, and one of brandy! Yet this was but one instance
in a thousand; there was nothing extraordinary in it, and it is only
mentioned because the amount drunk is accurately given by the unhappy
owner of the wine, Kelly, the composer, who, unfortunately, or
fortunately, was not present, and did not even imagine that the three
honourable gentlemen were discussing his little store. Yet Sheridan does
not seem to have believed much in his friend's vintages, for he advised
him to alter his brass plate to 'Michael Kelly, Composer of Wine and
Importer of Music.' He made a better joke, when, dining with Lord
Thurlow, he tried in vain to induce him to produce a second bottle of
some extremely choice Constantia from the Cape of Good Hope. 'Ah,' he
muttered to his neighbour, 'pass me that decanter, if you please, for I
must return to Madeira, as I see I cannot _double the Cape_'

But as long as Richard Brinsley was a leader of political and
fashionable circles, as long as he had a position to keep up, an
ambition to satisfy, a labour to complete, his drinking was, if not
moderate, not extraordinary for his time and his associates. But when a
man's ambition is limited to mere success--when fame and a flash for
himself are all he cares for, and there is no truer, grander motive for
his sustaining the position he has climbed to--when, in short, it is his
own glory, not mankind's good, he has ever striven for--woe, woe, woe
when the hour of success is come! I cannot stop to name and examine
instances, but let me be allowed to refer to that bugbear who is called
up whenever greatness of any kind has to be illustrated--Napoleon the
Great; or let me take any of the lesser Napoleons in lesser grades in
any nation, any age--the men who have had no star but self and
self-glory before them--and let me ask if any one can be named who, if
he has survived the attainment of his ambition, has not gone down the
other side of the hill somewhat faster than he came up it? Then let me
select men whose guiding-star has been the good of their
fellow-creatures, or the glory of God, and watch their peaceful useful
end on that calm summit that they toiled so honestly to reach. The
difference comes home to us. The moral is read only at the end of the
story. Remorse rings it for ever in the ears of the dying--often too
long a-dying--man who has laboured for himself. Peace reads it smilingly
to him whose generous toil for others has brought its own reward.

Sheridan had climbed with the stride of a giant, laughing at rocks, at
precipices, at slippery watercourses. He had spread the wings of genius
to poise himself withal, and gained one peak after another, while
homelier worth was struggling midway, clutching the bramble and clinging
to the ferns. He had, as Byron said in Sheridan's days of decay, done
the best in all he undertook, written the best comedy, best opera, best
farce; spoken the best parody, and made the best speech. Sheridan, when
those words of the young poet were told him, shed tears.

Perhaps the bitter thought struck him, that he had _not_ led the best,
but the _worst_ life; that comedy, farce, opera, monody, and oration
were nothing, nothing to a pure conscience and a peaceful old age; that
they could not save him from shame and poverty--from debt, disgrace,
drunkenness--from grasping, but long-cheated creditors, who dragged his
bed from under the feeble, nervous, ruined old man. Poor Sheridan! his
end was too bitter for us to cast one stone more upon him. Let it be
noted that it was in the beginning of his decline, when, having reached
the climax of all his ambition and completed his fame as a dramatist,
orator, and wit, that the hand of Providence mercifully interposed to
rescue this reckless man from his downfall. It smote him with that
common but powerful weapon--death. Those he best loved were torn from
him, one after another, rapidly, and with little warning. The Linleys,
the 'nest of nightingales,' were all delicate as nightingales should be;
and it seemed as if this very time was chosen for their deaths, that the
one erring soul--more precious, remember, than many just lives--might be
called back. Almost within one year he lost his dear sister-in-law, the
wife of his most intimate friend Tickell; Maria Linley, the last of the
family; his own wife, and his little daughter. One grief succeeded
another so rapidly that Sheridan was utterly unnerved, utterly brought
low by them; but it was his wife's death that told most upon him. With
that wife he had always been the lover rather than the husband. She had
married him in the days of his poverty, when her beauty was so
celebrated that she might have wed whom she would. She had risen with
him and shared his later anxieties. Yet she had seen him forget, neglect
her, and seek other society. In spite of his tender affection for her
and for his children, he had never made a _home_ of their home. Vanity
Fair had kept him ever flitting, and it is little to be wondered at that
Mrs. Sheridan was the object of much, though ever respectful
admiration.[9] Yet, in spite of calumny, she died with a fair fame.
Decline had long pressed upon her, yet her last illness was too brief.
In 1792 she was taken away, still in the summer of her days, and with
her last breath uttering her love for the man who had never duly prized
her. His grief was terrible; yet it passed, and wrought no change. He
found solace in his beloved son, and yet more beloved daughter. A few
months--and the little girl followed her mother. Again his grief was
terrible: again passed and wrought no change. Yes, it did work some
change, but not for the better; it drove him to the goblet; and from
that time we may date the confirmation of his habit of drinking. The
solemn warnings had been unheeded: they were to be repeated by a
long-suffering God in a yet more solemn manner, which should touch him
yet more nearly. His beautiful wife had been the one restraint upon his
folly and his lavishness. Now she was gone, they burst out afresh,
wilder than ever.

[9: Lord Edward Fitzgerald was one of the most devoted of her admirers:
he chose his wife, Pamela, because she resembled Mrs. Sheridan.--See
Moore's Life of Lord Edward.]

For a while after these afflictions, which were soon completed in the
death of his most intimate friend and boyish companion, Tickell,
Sheridan threw himself again into the commotion of the political world.
But in this we shall not follow him. Three years after the death of his
first wife he married again. He was again fortunate in his choice.
Though now forty-four, he succeeded in winning the heart of a most
estimable and charming young lady with a fortune of L5,000. She must
indeed have loved or admired the widower very much to consent to be the
wife of a man so notoriously irregular, to use a mild term, in his life.
But Sheridan fascinated wherever he went, and young ladies like 'a
little wildness.' His heart was always good, and where he gave it, he
gave it warmly, richly, fully. His second wife was Miss Esther Jane
Ogle, daughter of the Dean of Winchester. She was given to him on
condition of his settling in all L20,000, upon her--a wise proviso with
such a spendthrift--and he had to raise the money, as usual.

His political career was sufficiently brilliant, though his real fame as
a speaker rests on his great oration at Hastings' trial. In 1806 he
satisfied another point of his ambition, long desired, and was elected
for the city of Westminster, which he had ardently coveted when Fox
represented it. But a dissolution threw him again on the mercy of the
popular party; and again he offered himself for Westminster: but, in
spite of all the efforts made for him, without success. He was returned,
instead, for Ilchester.

Meanwhile his difficulties increased; extravagance, debt, want of energy
to meet both, brought him speedily into that position when a man accepts
without hesitation the slightest offer of aid. The man who had had an
income of L15,000 a year, and settled L20,000 on his wife, allowed a
poor friend to pay a bill for L5 for him, and clutched eagerly at a L50
note when displayed to him by another. Extravagance is the father of
meanness, and Sheridan was often mean in the readiness with which he
accepted offers, and the anxiety with which he implored assistance. It
is amusing in the present day to hear a man talk of 'a debt of honour,'
as if all debts did not demand honour to pay them--as if all debts
incurred without hope of repayment were not dishonourable. A story is
told relative to the old-fashioned idea of a 'debt of honour.' A
tradesman, to whom he had given a bill for L200, called on him for the
amount. A heap of gold was lying on the table. 'Don't look that way,'
cried Sheridan, after protesting that he had not a penny in the world,
'that is to pay a debt of honour.' The applicant, with some wit, tore up
the bill he held. 'Now, Mr. Sheridan,' quoth he, 'mine is a debt of
honour too.' It is to be hoped that Sheridan handed him the money.

The story of Gunter's bill is not so much to his credit, Hanson, an
ironmonger, called upon him and pressed for payment. A bill sent in by
the famous confectioner was lying on the table. A thought struck the
debtor, who had no means of getting rid of his importunate applicant.
'You know Gunter?' he asked. 'One of the safest men in London,' replied
the ironmonger. 'Then will you be satisfied if I give you his _bill_ for
the amount?'--'Certainly.' Thereupon Sheridan handed him the neatly
folded account and rushed from the room, leaving the creditor to
discover the point of Mr. Sheridan's little fun.

Still Sheridan might have weathered through the storm. Drury Lane was a
mine of wealth to him, and with a little care might have been really
profitable. The lawsuits, the debts, the engagements upon it, all rose
from his negligence and extravagance. But Old Drury was doomed. On the
24th February, 1809, soon after the conclusion of the performances, it
was announced to be in flames. Rather it announced itself. In a few
moments it was blazing--a royal bonfire. Sheridan was in the House of
Commons at the time. The reddened clouds above London threw the glare
back even to the windows of the House. The members rushed from their
seats to see the unwonted light, and in consideration for Sheridan, an
adjournment was moved. But he rose calmly, though sadly, and begged that
no misfortune of his should interrupt the public business. His
independence, he said--witty in the midst of his troubles--had often
been questioned, but was now confirmed, for he had nothing more to
depend upon. He then left the House, and repaired to the scene of
conflagration.

Not long after, Kelly found him sitting quite composed in 'The Bedford,'
sipping his wine, as if nothing had happened. The musician expressed his
astonishment at Mr. Sheridan's _sang froid_. 'Surely,' replied the wit,
'you'll admit that a man has a right to take his wine by his own
fireside.' But Sheridan was only drowning care, not disregarding it. The
event was really too much for him, though perhaps he did not realize the
extent of its effect at the time. In a word, all he had in the world
went with the theatre. Nothing was left either for him or the principal
shareholders. Yet he bore it all with fortitude, till he heard that the
harpsichord, on which his first wife was wont to play, was gone too.
Then he burst into tears.

This fire was the opening of the shaft down which the great man sank
rapidly. While his fortunes kept up, his spirits were not completely
exhausted. He drank much, but as an indulgence rather than as a relief.
Now it was by wine alone that he could even raise himself to the common
requirements of conversation. He is described, _before_ dinner, as
depressed, nervous, and dull; _after_ dinner only did the old fire break
out, the old wit blaze up, and Dick Sheridan was Dick Sheridan once
more. He was, in fact, fearfully oppressed by the long-accumulated and
never-to-be-wiped-off debts, for which he was now daily pressed. In
quitting Parliament he resigned his sanctuary, and left himself an easy
prey to the Jews and Gentiles, whom he had so long dodged and deluded
with his ready ingenuity. Drury Lane, as we all know, was rebuilt, and
the birth of the new house heralded with a prologue by Byron, about as
good as the one in 'Rejected Addresses,' the cleverest parodies ever
written, and suggested by this very occasion. The building-committee
having advertised for a prize prologue Samuel Whitbread sent in his own
attempt, in which, as probably in a hundred others, the new theatre was
compared to a Phoenix rising out of the ashes of the old one. Sheridan
said Whitbread's description of a Phoenix was excellent, for it was
quite a _poulterer's description_.

This same Sam Whitbread was now to figure conspicuously in the life of
Mr. Richard B. Sheridan. The ex-proprietor was found to have an interest
in the theatre to the amount of L150,000--not a trifle to be despised;
but he was now past sixty, and it need excite no astonishment that, even
with all his liabilities, he was unwilling to begin again the cares of
management, or mismanagement which he had endured so many years. He sold
his interest, in which his son Tom was joined, for L60,000. This sum
would have cleared off his debts and left him a balance sufficient to
secure comfort for his old age. But it was out of the question that any
money matters should go right with Dick Sheridan. Of the rights and
wrongs of the quarrel between him and Whitbread, who was the chairman of
the committee for building the new theatre, I do not pretend to form an
opinion. Sheridan was not naturally mean, though he descended to
meanness when hard pressed--what man of his stamp does not? Whitbread
was truly friendly to him for a time. Sheridan was always complaining
that he was sued for debts he did not owe, and kept out of many that
were due to him. Whitbread knew his man well, and if he withheld what
was owing to him, may be excused on the ground of real friendship. All I
know is, that Sheridan and Whitbread quarrelled; that the former did
not, or affirmed that he did not, receive the full amount of his claim
on the property, and that, when what he had received was paid over to
his principal creditors, there was little or nothing left for my lord to
spend in banquets to parliamentary friends and jorums of brandy in small
coffee-houses.

Because a man is a genius, he is not of necessity an upright, honest,
ill-used, oppressed, and cruelly-entreated man. Genius plays the fool
wittingly, and often enough quite knowingly, with its own interests. It
is its privilege to do so, and no one has a right to complain. But then
Genius ought to hold its tongue, and not make itself out a martyr, when
it has had the dubious glory of defying common-sense. If Genius despises
gold, well and good, but when he has spurned it, he should not whine out
that he is wrongfully kept from it. Poor Sheridan may or may not have
been right in the Whitbread quarrel; he has had his defenders, and I am
not ambitious of being numbered among them; but whatever were now his
troubles were brought on by his own disregard of all that was right and
beautiful in conduct. If he went down to the grave a pauper and a
debtor, he had made his own bed, and in it he was to lie.

Lie he did, wretchedly, on the most unhappy bed that old age ever lay
in. There is little more of importance to chronicle of his latter days.
The retribution came on slowly but terribly. The career of a ruined man
is not a pleasant topic to dwell upon, and I leave Sheridan's misery for
Mr. J. B. Gough to whine and roar over when he wants a shocking example.
Sheridan might have earned many a crown in that capacity, if
temperance-oratory had been the passion of the day. Debt, disease,
depravity--these words describe enough the downward career of his old
age. To eat, still more to drink, was now the troublesome enigma of the
quondam genius. I say quondam, for all the marks of that genius were now
gone. One after another his choicest properties made their way to 'my
uncle's.' The books went first, as if they could be most easily
dispensed with; the remnants of his plate followed; then his pictures
were sold; and at last even the portrait of his first wife, by Reynolds,
was left in pledge for a 'further remittance.'

The last humiliation arrived in time, and the associate of a prince, the
eloquent organ of a party, the man who had enjoyed L15,000, a year, was
carried off to a low sponging-house. His pride forsook him in that
dismal and disgusting imprisonment, and he wrote to Whitbread a letter
which his defenders ought not to have published. He had his
friends--stanch ones too--and they aided him. Peter Moore, ironmonger,
and even Canning, lent him money and released him from time to time. For
six years after the burning of the old theatre, he continued to go down
and down. Disease now attacked him fiercely. In the spring of 1816 he
was fast waning towards extinction. His day was past; he had outlived
his fame as a wit and social light; he was forgotten by many, if not by
most, of his old associates. He wrote to Rogers, 'I am absolutely undone
and broken-hearted.' Poor Sheridan! in spite of all thy faults, who is
he whose morality is so stern that he cannot shed one tear over thy
latter days! God forgive us, we are all sinners; and if we weep not for
this man's deficiency, how shall we ask tears when our day comes? Even
as I write, I feel my hand tremble and my eyes moisten over the sad end
of one whom I love, though he died before I was born. 'They are going to
put the carpets out of window,' he wrote to Rogers, 'and break into Mrs.
S.'s room and _take me_. For God's sake let me see you!' See him!--see
one friend who could and would help him in his misery! Oh! happy may
that man count himself who has never wanted that one friend, and felt
the utter helplessness of that want! Poor Sheridan! had he ever asked,
or hoped, or looked for that Friend out of _this_ world it had been
better; for 'the Lord thy God is a jealous God,' and we go on seeking
human friendship and neglecting the divine till it is too late. He found
one hearty friend in his physician, Dr. Bain, when all others had
forsaken him. The spirit of White's and Brookes', the companion of a
prince and a score of noblemen, the enlivener of every 'fashionable'
table, was forgotten by all but this one doctor. Let us read Moore's
description: 'A sheriff's officer at length arrested the dying man _in
his bed_, and was about to carry him off, in his blankets, to a
sponging-house, when Dr. Bain interfered.' Who would live the life of
revelry that Sheridan lived to have such an end? A few days after, on
the 7th of July, 1816, in his sixty-fifth year, he died. Of his last
hours the late Professor Smythe wrote an admirable and most touching
account, a copy of which was circulated in manuscript. The Professor,
hearing of Sheridan's condition, asked to see him, with a view, not only
of alleviating present distress, but of calling the dying man to
repentance. From his hands the unhappy Sheridan received the Holy
Communion; his face, during that solemn rite,--doubly solemn when it is
performed in the chamber of death, 'expressed,' Smythe relates, '_the
deepest awe_' That phrase conveys to the mind impressions not easy to be
defined, not soon to be forgotten.

Peace! there was not peace even in death, and the creditor pursued him
even into the 'waste wide,'--even to the coffin. He was lying in state,
when a gentleman in the deepest mourning called, it is said, at the
house, and introducing himself as an old and much-attached friend of the
deceased, begged to be allowed to look upon his face. The tears which
rose in his eyes, the tremulousness of his quiet voice, the pallor of
his mournful face, deceived the unsuspecting servant, who accompanied
him to the chamber of death, removed the lid of the coffin, turned down
the shrowd, and revealed features which had once been handsome, but long
since rendered almost hideous by drinking. The stranger gazed with
profound emotion, while he quietly drew from his pocket a bailiff's
wand, and touching the corpse's face with it, suddenly altered his
manner to one of considerable glee, and informed the servant that he had
arrested the corpse in the king's name for a debt of L500. It was the
morning of the funeral, which was to be attended by half the grandees of
England, and in a few minutes the mourners began to arrive. But the
corpse was the bailiff's property, till his claim was paid, and nought
but the money would soften the iron capturer. Canning and Lord Sidmouth
agreed to settle the matter, and over the coffin the debt was paid.

Poor corpse! was it worth L500--diseased, rotting as it was, and about
to be given for nothing to mother earth? Was it worth the pomp of the
splendid funeral and the grand hypocrisy of grief with which it was
borne to Westminster Abbey? Was not rather the wretched old man, while
he yet struggled on in life, worth this outlay, worth this show of
sympathy? Folly; not folly only--but a lie! What recked the dead of the
four noble pall-bearers--the Duke of Bedford, the Earl of Lauderdale,
Earl Mulgrave, and the Bishop of London? What good was it to him to be
followed by two royal highnesses--the Dukes of York and Sussex--by two
marquises, seven earls, three viscounts, five lords, a Canning, a lord
mayor, and a whole regiment of honourables and right honourables, who
now wore the livery of grief, when they had let him die in debt, in
want, and in misery? Far more, if the dead could feel, must he have been
grateful for the honester tears of those two untitled men, who had
really befriended him to the last hour and never abandoned him, Mr.
Rogers and Dr. Bain. But peace; let him pass with nodding plumes and
well-dyed horses to the great Walhalla, and amid the dust of many a poet
let the poet's dust find rest and honour, secure at last from the hand
of the bailiff. There was but one nook unoccupied in Poet's Corner, and
there they laid him. A simple marble was afforded by another friend
without a title--Peter Moore.

To a life like Sheridan's it is almost impossible to do justice in so
narrow a space as I have here. He is one of those men who, not to be
made out a whit better or worse than they are, demand a careful
investigation of all their actions, or reported actions--a careful
sifting of all the evidence for or against them, and a careful weeding
of all the anecdotes told of them. This requires a separate biography.
To give a general idea of the man, we must be content to give that which
he inspired in a general acquaintance. Many of his 'mots,' and more of
the stories about him, may have been invented for him, but they would
scarcely have been fixed on Sheridan, if they had not fitted more or
less his character: I have therefore given them. I might have given a
hundred more, but I have let alone those anecdotes which did not seem to
illustrate the character of the man. Many another good story is told of
him, and we must content ourselves with one or two. Take one that is
characteristic of his love of fun.

Sheridan is accosted by an elderly gentleman, who has forgotten the name
of a street to which he wants to go, and who informs him precisely that
it is an out-of-the-way name.

'Perhaps, sir, you mean John Street?' says Sherry, all innocence.

'No, an unusual name.'

'It can't be Charles Street?'

Impatience on the part of the old gentleman.

'King Street?' suggests the cruel wit.

'I tell you, sir, it is a street with a very odd name!'

'Bless me, is it Queen Street?'

Irritation on the part of the old gentleman.

'It must be Oxford Street?' cries Sheridan as if inspired.

'Sir, I repeat,' very testily, 'that it is a very odd name. Every one
knows Oxford Street!'

Sheridan appears to be thinking.

'An odd name! Oh! ah! just so; Piccadilly, of course?'

Old gentleman bounces away in disgust.

'Well, sir,' Sheridan calls after him, 'I envy you your admirable
memory!'

His wit was said to have been prepared, like his speeches, and he is
even reported to have carried his book of _mots_ in his pocket, as a
young lady of the middle class _might_, but seldom does, carry her book
of etiquette into a party. But some of his wit was no doubt extempore.

When arrested for non-attendance to a call in the House, soon after the
change of ministry, he exclaimed, 'How hard to be no sooner out of
office than into custody!'

He was not an inveterate talker, like Macaulay, Sydney Smith, or
Jeffrey: he seems rather to have aimed at a striking effect in all that
he said. When found tripping he had a clever knack of getting out of the
difficulty. In the Hastings speech he complimented Gibbon as a
'luminous' writer; questioned on this, he replied archly, 'I said
_vo_-luminous.'

I cannot afford to be voluminous on Sheridan, and so I quit him.



BEAU BRUMMELL


Two popular Sciences.--'Buck Brummell' at Eton.--Investing his Capital.--
Young Cornet Brummell.--The Beau's Studio.--The Toilet.--'Creasing
Down.'--Devotion to Dress.--A Great Gentleman.--Anecdotes of Brummell.--
'Don't forget, Brum: Goose at Four!'--Offers of Intimacy resented.--Never
in love.--Brummell out Hunting.--Anecdote of Sheridan and Brummell.--The
Beau's Poetical Efforts.--The Value of a Crooked Sixpence.--The Breach
with the Prince of Wales.--'Who's your Fat Friend?'--The Climax is
reached.--The Black-mail of Calais.--George the Greater and George the
Less.--An Extraordinary Step.--Down the Hill of Life.--A Miserable Old
Age.--In the Hospice Du Bon Sauveur.--O Young Men of this Age, be warned!


It is astonishing to what a number of insignificant things high art has
been applied, and with what success. It is the vice of high civilization
to look for it and reverence it, where a ruder age would only laugh at
its employment. Crime and cookery, especially, have been raised into
sciences of late, and the professors of both received the amount of
honour due to their acquirements. Who would be so naive as to sneer at
the author of 'The Art of Dining?' or who so ungentlemanly as not to
pity the sorrows of a pious baronet, whose devotion to the noble art of
appropriation was shamefully rewarded with accommodation gratis on board
one of Her Majesty's transport-ships? The disciples of Ude have left us
the literary results of their studies, and one at least, the graceful
Alexis Soyer, is numbered among our public benefactors. We have little
doubt that as the art, vulgarly called 'embezzlement,' becomes more and
more fashionable, as it does every day, we shall have a work on the 'Art
of Appropriation.' It is a pity that Brummell looked down upon
literature: poor literature! it had a hard struggle to recover the
slight, for we are convinced there is not a work more wanted than the
'Art of Dressing,' and 'George the Less' was almost the last professor
of that elaborate science.

If the maxim, that 'whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well,'
hold good, Beau Brummell must be regarded in the light of a great man.
That dressing is worth doing at all, everybody but a Fiji Islander seems
to admit, for everybody does it. If, then, a man succeeds in dressing
better than anybody else, it follows that he is entitled to the most
universal admiration.

But there was another object to which this great man condescended to
apply the principles of high art--I mean affectation. How admirably he
succeeded in this his life will show. But can we doubt that he is
entitled to our greatest esteem and heartiest gratitude for the studies
he pursued with unremitting patience in these two useful branches, when
we find that a prince of the blood delighted to honour, and the richest,
noblest, and most distinguished men of half a century ago were proud to
know him? We are writing, then, of no common man, no mere beau, but of
the greatest professor of two of the most popular sciences--Dress and
Affectation. Let us speak with reverence of this wonderful genius.

George Brummell was 'a self-made man.' That is, all that nature, the
tailors, stags, and padding had not made of him, he made for
himself--his name, his fame, his fortune, and his friends--and all these
were great. The author of 'Self-help' has most unaccountably omitted all
mention of him, and most erroneously, for if there ever was a man who
helped himself, and no one else, it was, 'very sincerely yours, George
Brummell.'

The founder of the noble house of Brummell, the grandfather of our hero,
was either a treasury porter, or a confectioner, or something else.[10]
At any rate he let lodgings in Bury Street, and whether from the fact
that his wife did not purloin her lodgers' tea and sugar, or from some
other cause, he managed to ingratiate himself with one of them--who
afterwards became Lord Liverpool--so thoroughly, that through his
influence he obtained for his son the post of Private Secretary to Lord
North. Nothing could have been more fortunate, except, perhaps, the
son's next move, which was to take in marriage the daughter of
Richardson, the owner of a well-known lottery-office. Between the
lottery of office and the lottery of love, Brummell _pere_ managed to
make a very good fortune. At his death he left as much as L65,000 to be
divided among his three children--Raikes says as much as L30,000
a-piece--so that the Beau, if not a fool, ought never to have been a
pauper.

[10: Mr. Jesse says that the Beau's grandfather was a servant of Mr.
Charles Monson, brother to the first Lord Monson.]

George Bryan Brummell, the second son of this worthy man, honoured by
his birth the 7th of June, 1778. No anecdotes of his childhood are
preserved, except that he once cried because he could not eat any more
damson tart. In later years he would probably have thought damson tart
'very vulgar.' He first turns up at Eton at the age of twelve, and even
there commences his distinguished career, and is known as 'Buck
Brummell.' The boy showed himself decidedly father to the man here.
Master George was not vulgar enough, nor so imprudent, it may be added,
as to fight, row, or play cricket, but he distinguished himself by the
introduction of a gold buckle in the white stock, by never being
flogged, and by his ability in toasting cheese. We do not hear much of
his classical attainments.

The very gentlemanly youth was in due time passed on to Oriel College,
Oxford. Here he distinguished himself by a studied indifference to
college discipline and an equal dislike to studies. He condescended to
try for the Newdigate Prize poem, but his genius leaned far more to the
turn of a coat-collar than that of a verse, and, unhappily for the
British poets, their ranks were not to be dignified by the addition of
this illustrious man. The Newdigate was given to another; and so, to
punish Oxford, the competitor left it and poetry together, after having
adorned the old quadrangle of Oriel for less than a year.

He was now a boy of seventeen, and a very fine boy, too. To judge from a
portrait taken in later life, he was not strictly handsome; but he is
described as tall, well built, and of a slight and graceful figure.
Added to this, he had got from Eton and Oxford, if not much learning,
many a well-born friend, and he was toady enough to cultivate those of
better, and to dismiss those of less distinction. He was, through life,
a celebrated 'cutter,' and Brummell's cut was as much admired--by all
but the _cuttee_--as Brummel's coat. Then he had some L25,000 as capital
and how could he best invest it? He consulted no stockbroker on this
weighty point; he did not even buy a shilling book of advice such as we
have seen advertised for those who do not know what to do with their
money. The question was answered in a moment by the young worldling of
sixteen: he would enter a crack regiment and invest his guineas in the
thousand per cents. of fashionable life.

His namesake, the Regent, was now thirty-two, and had spent those years
of his life in acquiring the honorary title of the 'first gentleman of
Europe' by every act of folly, debauch, dissipation, and degradation
which a prince can conveniently perpetrate. He was the hero of London
society, which adored and backbit him alternately, and he was precisely
the man whom the boy Brummell would worship. The Regent was colonel of a
famous regiment of fops--the 10th Hussars. It was the most expensive,
the most impertinent, the best-dressed, the worst-moralled regiment in
the British army. Its officers, many of them titled, all more or less
distinguished in the trying campaigns of London seasons, were the
intimates of the Prince-Colonel. Brummell aspired to a cornetcy in this
brilliant regiment, and obtained it; nor that alone; he secured, by his
manners, o his dress, or his impudence, the favour and companionship--
friendship we cannot say--of the prince who commanded it.

By this step his reputation was made, and it was only necessary to keep
it up. He had an immense fund of good nature, and, as long as his money
lasted, of good spirits, too. Good sayings--that is, witty if not wise--
are recorded of him, and his friends pronounce him a charming companion.
Introduced, therefore, into the highest circles in England, he could
scarcely fail to succeed. Young Cornet Brummell became a great favourite
with the fair.

His rise in the regiment was of course rapid: in three years he was at
the head of a troop. The onerous duties of a military life, which
vacillated between Brighton and London, and consisted chiefly in making
oneself agreeable in the mess-room, were too much for our hero. He
neglected parade, or arrived too late: it was such a bore to have to
dress in a hurry. It is said that he knew the troop he commanded only by
the peculiar nose of one of the men, and that when a transfer of men had
once been made, rode up to the wrong troop, and supported his mistake by
pointing to the nose in question. No fault, however, was found with the
Regent's favourite, and Brummell might have risen to any rank if he
could have supported the terrific labour of dressing for parade. Then,
too, there came wars and rumours of wars, and our gallant captain
shuddered at the vulgarity of shedding blood: the supply of
smelling-salts would never have been liberal enough to keep him from
fainting on the battle-field. It is said, too, that the regiment was
ordered to Manchester. Could anything be more gross or more ill-bred?
The idea of figuring before the wives and daughters of cotton-spinners
was too fearful; and from one cause or another our brave young captain
determined to retire, which he did in 1798.

It was now, therefore, that he commenced the profession of a beau, and
as he is the Prince of Beaux, as his patron was the Beau of Princes, and
as his fame has spread to France and Germany, if only as the inventor of
the trouser; and as there is no man who on getting up in the morning
does not put on his clothes with more or less reflection as to whether
they are the right ones to put on, and as beaux have existed since the
days of the emperor of beaux, Alexander the Macedonian, and will
probably exist to all time, let us rejoice in the high honour of being
permitted to describe how this illustrious genius clothed his poor
flesh, and made the most of what God had given him--a body and legs.

The private life of Brummell would in itself serve as a book of manners
and habits. The two were his profoundest study; but, alas! his impudence
marred the former, and the latter can scarcely be imitated in the
present day. Still as a great example he is yet invaluable, and must be
described in all detail.

His morning toilette was a most elaborate affair. Never was Brummell
guilty of _deshabille_. Like a true man of business, he devoted the best
and earliest hours--and many of them too--to his profession, namely--
dressing. His dressing-room was a studio, in which he daily prepared
that elaborate portrait of George Brummell which was to be exhibited for
a few hours in the club-rooms and drawing-rooms of town, only to be
taken to pieces again, and again made up for the evening. Charles I.
delighted to resort of a morning to the studio of Vandyck, and to watch
his favourite artist's progress. The Regent George was no less devoted
to art, for we are assured by Mr. Raikes that he often visited his
favourite beau in the morning to watch his toilet, and would sometimes
stay so late that he would send his horses away, insisting on Brummell
giving him a quiet dinner, 'which generally ended in a deep potation.'

There are, no doubt, many fabulous myths floating about concerning this
illustrious man; and his biographer, Captain Jesse, seems anxious to
defend him from the absurd stories of French writers, who asserted that
he employed two glovers to covers his hands, to one of whom were
intrusted the thumbs, to the other the fingers and hand, and three
barbers to dress his hair, while his boots were polished with champagne,
his cravats designed by a celebrated portrait painter, and so forth.
These may be pleasant inventions, but Captain Jesse's own account of his
toilet, even when the Beau was broken, and living in elegant poverty
abroad, is quite absurd enough to render excusable the ingenious
exaggerations of the foreign writer.

The _batterie de toilette_, we are told, was of silver, and included a
spitting-dish, for its owner said 'he could not spit into clay.'
Napoleon shaved himself, but Brummell was not quite great enough to do
that, just as my Lord So-and-so walks to church on Sunday, while his
neighbour, the Birmingham millionaire, can only arrive there in a
chariot and pair.

His ablutions took no less than two whole hours! What knowledge might
have been gained, what good done in the time he devoted to rubbing his
lovely person with a hair-glove! Cleanliness was, in fact, Brummell's
religion; perhaps because it is generally set down as 'next to
godliness,' a proximity with which the Beau was quite satisfied, for he
never attempted to pass on to that next stage. Poor fool, he might rub
every particle of moisture off the skin of his body--he might be clean
as a kitten--but he could not and did not purify his mind with all this
friction; and the man who would have fainted to see a black speck upon
his shirt, was not at all shocked at the indecent conversation in which
he and his companions occasionally indulged.

The body cleansed, the face had next to be brought up as near perfection
as nature would allow. With a small looking-glass in one hand, and
tweezers in the other, he carefully removed the tiniest hairs that he
could discover on his cheeks or chin, enduring the pain like a martyr.

Then came the shirt, which was in his palmy days changed three times a
day, and then in due course the great business of the cravat. Captain
Jesse's minute account of the process of tying this can surely be relied
on, and presents one of the most ludicrous pictures of folly and vanity
that can be imagined. Had Brummell never lived, and a novelist or
play-writer described the toilet which Captain Jesse affirms to have
been his daily achievement, he would have had the critics about him with
the now common phrase--'This book is a tissue, not only of
improbabilities, but of actual impossibilities.' The collar, then, was
so large, that in its natural condition it rose high above the wearer's
head, and some ingenuity was required to reduce it by delicate folds to
exactly that height which the Beau judged to be correct. Then came the
all-majestic white neck-tie, a foot in breadth. It is not to be supposed
that Brummell had the neck of a swan or a camel--far from it. The worthy
fool had now to undergo, with admirable patience, the mysterious process
known to our papas as 'creasing down.' The head was thrown back, as if
ready for a dentist; the stiff white tie applied to the throat, and
gradually wrinkled into half its actual breadth by the slow downward
movement of the chin. When all was done, we can imagine that comfort was
sacrificed to elegance, as it was then considered, and that the sudden
appearance of Venus herself could not have induced the deluded
individual to turn his head in a hurry.

It is scarcely profitable to follow this lesser deity into all the
details of his self-adornment. It must suffice to say that he affected
an extreme neatness and simplicity of dress, every item of which was
studied and discussed for many an hour. In the mornings he was still
guilty of hessians and pantaloons, or 'tops' and buckskins, with a blue
coat and buff waistcoat. The costume is not so ancient, but that one may
tumble now and then on a country squire who glories in it and denounces
us juveniles as 'bears' for want of a similar precision. Poor Brummell,
he cordially hated the country squires, and would have wanted rouge for
a week if he could have dreamed that his pet attire would, some fifty
years later, be represented only by one of that class which he was so
anxious to exclude from Watier's.

But it was in the evening that he displayed his happy invention of the
trouser, or rather its introduction from Germany. This article he wore
very tight to the leg, and buttoned over the ankle, exactly as we see it
in old prints of 'the fashion.' Then came the wig, and on that the hat.
It is a vain and thankless task to defend Brummell from the charge of
being a dandy. If one proof of his devotion to dress were wanted, it
would be the fact that this hat, once stuck jauntily on one side of the
wig, was never removed in the street even to salute a lady--so that,
inasmuch as he sacrificed his manners to his appearance, he may be
fairly set down as a fop.

The perfect artist could not be expected to be charitable to the less
successful. Dukes and princes consulted him on the make of their coats,
and discussed tailors with him with as much solemnity as divines might
dispute on a mystery of religion. Brummell did not spare them.
'Bedford,' said he, to the duke of that name, fingering a new garment
which his grace had submitted to his inspection, 'do you call this
_thing_ a coat?' Again, meeting a noble acquaintance who wore shoes in
the morning, he stopped and asked him what he had got upon his feet.
'Oh! shoes are they,' quoth he, with a well bred sneer, 'I thought they
were slippers.' He was even ashamed of his own brother, and when the
latter came to town, begged him to keep to the back streets till his new
clothes were sent home. Well might his friend the Regent say, that he
was 'a mere tailor's dummy to hang clothes upon.'

But in reality Brummell was more. He had some sharpness and some taste.
But the former was all brought out in sneers, and the latter in
snuff-boxes. His whole mind could have been put into one of these. He
had a splendid collection of them, and was famous for the grace with
which he opened the lid of his box with the thumb of the hand that
carried it, while he delicately took his pinch with two fingers of the
other. This and his bow were his chief acquirements, and his reputation
for manners was based on the distinction of his manner. He could not
drive in a public conveyance, but he could be rude to a well-meaning
lady; he never ate vegetables--_one_ pea he confessed to--but he did not
mind borrowing from his friends money which he knew he could never
return. He was a great gentleman, a gentleman of his patron's school--in
short, a well-dressed snob. But one thing is due to Brummell: he made
the assumption of being 'a gentleman' so thoroughly ridiculous that few
men of keen sense care now for the title: at least, not as a
class-distinction. Nor is it to be wondered at; when your tailor's
assistant is a 'gentleman,' and would be mightily disgusted at being
called anything else, you, with your indomitable pride of caste, can
scarcely care for the patent.

Brummell's claim to the title was based on his walk, his coat, his
cravat, and the grace with which he indulged, as Captain Jesse
delightfully calls it, 'the nasal pastime' of taking snuff, all the rest
was impudence; and many are the anecdotes--most of them familiar as
household words--which are told of his impertinence. The story of Mrs.
Johnson-Thompson is one of those oft-told tales, which, from having
become Joe Millers, have gradually passed out of date and been almost
forgotten. Two rival party-givers rejoiced in the aristocratic names of
Johnson and Thompson. The former lived near Finsbury, the latter near
Grosvenor Square, and Mrs. Thompson was somehow sufficiently fashionable
to expect the Regent himself at her assemblies. Brummell among other
impertinences, was fond of going where he was not invited or wanted. The
two rivals gave a ball on the same evening, and a card was sent to the
Beau by her of Finsbury. He chose to go to the Grosvenor Square house,
in hopes of meeting the Regent, then his foe. Mrs. Thompson was justly
disgusted, and with a vulgarity quite deserved by the intruder, told him
he was not invited. The Beau made a thousand apologies, hummed, hawed,
and drew a card from his pocket. It was the rival's invitation, and was
indignantly denounced. 'Dear me, how very unfortunate,' said the Beau,
'but you know Johnson and Thompson--I mean Thompson and Johnson are so
very much alike. Mrs. Johnson-Thompson, I wish you a very good evening.'

Perhaps there is no vulgarity greater than that of rallying people on
their surnames, but our exquisite gentleman had not wit enough to invent
one superior to such a puerile amusement. Thus, on one occasion, he woke
up at three in the morning a certain Mr. Snodgrass, and when the worthy
put his head out of the window in alarm, said quietly, 'Pray, sir, is
your name Snodgrass?'--'Yes, sir, it is Snodgrass.' 'Snodgrass--
Snodgrass--it is a very singular name. Good-bye, Mr. _Snodgrass_.' There
was more wit in his remark to Poodle Byng, a well-known puppy, whom he
met one day driving in the Park with a French dog in his curricle. 'Ah,'
cried the Beau, 'how d'ye do, Byng? a family vehicle, I see.'

It seems incredulous to modern gentlemen that such a man should have
been tolerated even at a club. Take, for instance, his vulgar treatment
of Lord Mayor Combe, whose name we still see with others over many a
public-house in London, and who was then a most prosperous brewer and
thriving gambler. At Brookes' one evening the Beau and the Brewer were
playing at the same table, 'Come, _Mash-tub_', cried the 'gentleman,'
'what do you set?' Mash-tub unresentingly set a pony, and the Beau won
twelve of him in succession. Pocketing his cash, he made him a bow, and
exclaimed, 'Thank you, Alderman, in future I shall drink no porter but
yours.' But Combe was worthy of his namesake, Shakspere's friend, and
answered very aptly, 'I wish, sir, that every _other_ blackguard in
London would tell me the same.'

Then again, after ruining a young fool of fortune at the tables, and
being reproached by the youth's father for leading his son astray, he
replied with charming affectation, 'Why, sir, I did all I could for him.
I once gave him my arm all the way from White's to Brookes'!'

When Brummell really wanted a dinner, while at Calais, he could not give
up his impertinence for the sake of it. Lord Westmoreland called on him,
and, perhaps out of compassion, asked him to dine at _three o'clock_
with him. 'Your Lordship is very kind,' said the Beau, 'but really I
could not _feed_ at such an hour.' Sooner or later he was glad to _feed_
with any one who was toady enough to ask him. He was once placed in a
delightfully awkward position from having accepted the invitation of a
charitable but vulgar-looking Britisher at Calais. He was walking with
Lord Sefton, when the individual passed and nodded familiarly. 'Who's
your friend, Brummell?'--'Not mine, he must be bowing to you.' But
presently the man passed again, and this time was cruel enough to
exclaim, 'Don't forget, Brum, don't forget--goose at four!' The poor
Beau must have wished the earth to open under him. He was equally
imprudent in the way in which he treated an old acquaintance who arrived
at the town to which he had retreated, and of whom he was fool enough to
be ashamed. He generally took away their characters summarily, but on
one occasion was frightened almost out of his wits by being called to
account for this conduct. An officer who had lost his nose in an
engagement in the Peninsula, called on him, and in very strong terms
requested to know why the Beau had reported that he was a retired
hatter. His manner alarmed the rascal, who apologized, and protested
that there must be a mistake; he had never said so. The officer retired,
and as he was going, Brummell added: 'Yes, it must be a mistake, for now
I think of it, I never dealt with a hatter without a nose.'

So much for the good breeding of this friend of George IV. and the Duke
of York.

His affectation was quite as great as his impudence: and he won the
reputation of fastidiousness--nothing gives more prestige--by dint of
being openly rude. No hospitality or kindness melted him, when he
thought he could gain a march. At one dinner, not liking the champagne,
he called to the servant to give him 'some more of that cider:' at
another, to which he was invited in days when a dinner was a charity to
him, after helping himself to a wing of capon, and trying a morsel of
it, he took it up in his napkin, called to his dog--he was generally
accompanied by a puppy, even to parties, as if one at a time were not
enough--and presenting it to him, said aloud, 'Here, _Atons_, try if you
can get your teeth through that, for I'm d--d if I can!'

To the last he resented offers of intimacy from those whom he considered
his inferiors, and as there are ladies enough everywhere, he had ample
opportunity for administering rebuke to those who pressed into his
society. On one occasion he was sauntering with a friend at Caen under
the window of a lady who longed for nothing more than to have the great
_arbiter elegantiarum_ at her house. When seeing him beneath, she put
her head out, and called out to him, 'Good evening, Mr. Brummell, won't
you come up and take tea?' The Beau looked up with extreme severity
expressed on his face, and replied, 'Madam, you take medicine--you take
a walk--you take a liberty--but you _drink_ tea,' and walked on, having,
it may be hoped, cured the lady of her admiration.

In the life of such a man there could not of course be much striking
incident. He lived for 'society,' and the whole of his story consists in
his rise and fall in that narrow world. Though admired and sought after
by the women--so much so that at his death his chief assets were locks
of hair, the only things he could not have turned into money--he never
married. Wedlock might have sobered him, and made him a more sensible,
if not more respectable member of society, but his advances towards
matrimony never brought him to the crisis. He accounted for one
rejection in his usual way. 'What could I do, my dear _fellar_,' he
lisped, 'when I actually saw Lady Mary eat cabbage?' At another time he
is said to have induced some deluded young creature to elope with him
from a ball-room, but managed the affair so ill, that the lovers (?)
were caught in the next street, and the affair came to an end. He wrote
rather ecstatic love-letters to Lady Marys and Miss ----s, gave married
ladies advice on the treatment of their spouses and was tender to
various widows, but though he went on in this way through life, he was
never, it would seem, in love, from the mere fact that he was incapable
of passion.

Perhaps he was too much of a woman to care much for women. He was
certainly egregiously effeminate. About the only creatures he could love
were poodles. When one of his dogs, from over-feeding, was taken ill, he
sent for two dog-doctors, and consulted very gravely with them on the
remedies to be applied. The canine physicians came to the conclusion
that she must be bled. 'Bled!' said Brummell, in horror; 'I shall leave
the room: inform me when the operation is over.' When the dog died, he
shed tears--probably the only ones he had shed since childhood: and
though at that time receiving money from many an old friend in England,
complained, with touching melancholy, 'that he had lost the only friend
he had!' His grief lasted three whole days, during which he shut himself
up, and would see no one; but we are not told that he ever thus mourned
over any human being.

His effeminacy was also shown in his dislike to field-sports. His
shooting exploits were confined to the murder of a pair of pet pigeons
perched on a roof, while he confessed, as regards hunting, that it was a
bore to get up so early in the morning only to have one's boots and
leathers splashed by galloping farmers. However, hunting was a fashion,
and Brummell must needs appear to hunt. He therefore kept a stud of
hunters in his better days, near Belvoir, the Duke of Rutland's, where
he was a frequent visitor, and if there was a near meet, would ride out
in pink and tops to see the hounds break cover, follow through a few
gates, and return to the more congenial atmosphere of the drawing-room.
He, however, condescended to bring his taste to bear on the
hunting-dress; and, it is said, introduced white tops instead of the
ancient mahoganies. That he _could_ ride there seems reason to believe,
but it is equally probable that he was afraid to do so. His valour was
certainly composed almost entirely of its 'better part,' and indeed had
so much prudence in it that it may be doubted if there was any of the
original stock left. Once when he had been taking away somebody's
character, the 'friend' of the maligned gentleman entered his apartment,
and very menacingly demanded satisfaction for his principal, unless an
apology were tendered 'in five minutes.' 'Five minutes!' answered the
exquisite, as pale as death, 'five seconds, or sooner if you like.'

Brummell was no fool, in spite of his follies. He had talents of a
mediocre kind, if he had chosen to make a better use of them. Yet the
general opinion was not in favour of his wisdom. He quite deserved
Sheridan's cool satire for his affectation, if not for his want of mind.

The Wit and the Beau met one day at Charing Cross, and it can well be
imagined that the latter was rather disgusted at being seen so far east
of St. James's Street, and drawled out to Sheridan,--'Sherry, my dear
boy, don't mention that you saw me in this filthy part of the town,
though, perhaps, I am rather severe, for his Grace of Northumberland
resides somewhere about this spot, if I don't mistake. The fact is, my
dear boy, I have been in the d----d City, to the Bank: I wish they would
remove it to the West End, for re-all-y it is quite a bore to go to such
a place; more particularly as one cannot be seen in one's own equipage
beyond Somerset House,' etc. etc. etc. in the Brummellian style.

'Nay, my good fellow,' was the answer to this peroration, 'travelling
from the East? impossible!'

'Why, my dear boy, why?'

'Because the wise men came from the East,'

'So, then, sa-ar--you think me a fool?'

'By no means; I know you to be one,' quoth Sherry, and turned away. It
is due to both the parties to this anecdote to state that it is quite
apocryphal, and rests on the slenderest authority. However, whether fool
or not, Brummell has one certain, though small, claim upon certain small
readers. Were you born in a modern generation, when scraps of poetry
were forbidden in your nursery, and no other pabulum was offered to your
infant stomach, but the rather dull biographies of rather dull, though
very upright men?--if so, I pity you. Old airs of a jaunty jig-like kind
are still haunting the echoes of my brain. Among them is--

  'The butterfly was a gentleman,
  Which nobody can refute:
  He left his lady-love at home,
  And roamed in a velvet suit.'

I remember often to have ruminated over this character of an innocent,
and, I believe, calumniated, insect. He was a gentleman, and the
consequences thereof were twofold: he abandoned the young woman who had
trusted her affections to him, and attired his person in a complete
costume of the best Lyons silk-velvet, _not_ the proctor's velvet, which
Theodore felt with thumb and finger, impudently asking 'how much a
yard?' I secretly resolved to do the same thing as Mr. Butterfly when I
came of age. But the said Mr. Butterfly had a varied and somewhat awful
history, all of which was narrated in various ditties chanted by my
nurse. I could not quite join in her vivid assertion that she _would_

  '----be a butterfly,
    Born in a bower,
  Christened in a tea-pot,
    And dead in an hour.'

Aetat four, life is dear, and the idea of that early demise was far from
welcome to me. I privily agreed that I would _not_ be a butterfly. But
there was no end to the history of this very inconstant insect in our
nursery lore. We didn't care a drop of honey for Dr. Watts's 'Busy Bee;'
we infinitely preferred the account--not in the 'Morning Post'--of the
'Butterfly's Ball' and the 'Grasshopper's Feast; and few, perhaps, have
ever given children more pleasures of imagination than William Roscoe,
its author. There were some amongst us, however, who were already being
weaned to a knowledge of life's mysterious changes, and we sought the
third volume of the romance of the flitting gaudy thing in a little poem
called 'The Butterfly's Funeral.'

Little dreamed we, when in our prettly little song-books we saw the
initial 'B.' at the bottom of these verses, that a real human butterfly
had written them, and that they conveyed a solemn prognostication of a
fate that was _not_ his. Little we dreamed, as we lisped out the verses,
that the 'gentleman who roamed in a' not velvet but 'plum-coloured
suit,' according to Lady Hester Stanhope, was the illustrious George
Brummell, The Beau wrote these trashy little rhymes--pretty in their
way--and, since I was once a child, and learnt them off by heart, I will
not cast a stone at them. Brummell indulged in such trifling poetizing,
but never went further. It is a pity he did not write his memoirs; they
would have added a valuable page to the history of 'Vanity Fair.'

Brummell's London glory lasted from 1798 to 1816. His chief club was
Watier's. It was a superb assemblage of gamesters and fops--knaves and
fools; and it is difficult to say which, element predominated. For a
time Brummell was monarch there; but his day of reckoning came at last.
Byron and Moore, Sir Henry Mildmay and Mr. Pierrepoint, were among the
members. Play ran high there, and Brummell once won nearly as much as
his squandered patrimony, L26.000. Of course he not only lost it again,
but much more--indeed his whole capital. It was after some heavy loss
that he was walking home through Berkeley Street with Mr. Raikes, when
he saw something glittering in the gutter, picked it up, and found it to
be a crooked sixpence. Like all small-minded men, he had a great fund of
superstition, and he wore the talisman of good luck for some time. For
two years, we are told, after this finding of treasure-trove, success
attended him in play--macao, the very pith of hazard, was the chief game
at Watier's--and he attributed it all to the sixpence. At last he lost
it, and luck turned against him. So goes the story. It is probably much
more easily accountable. Few men played honestly in those days without
losing to the dishonest, and we have no reason to charge the Beau with
mal-practice. However this may be, his losses at play first brought
about his ruin. The Jews were, of course, resorted to; and if Brummell
did not, like Charles Fox, keep a Jerusalem Chamber, it was only because
the sum total of his fortune was pretty well known to the money-lenders.

  'Then came the change, the check, the fall;
  Pain rises up, old pleasures pall.
  There is one remedy for all.'

This remedy was the crossing of the Channel, a crossing kept by beggars,
who levy a heavy toll on those who pass over it.

The decline of the Beau was rapid, but not without its _eclat_. A breach
with his royal patron led the way. It is presumed that every reader of
these volumes has heard the famous story of 'Wales, ring the bell!' but
not all may know its particulars.

A deep impenetrable mystery hangs over this story. Perhaps some German
of the twenty-first century--some future Giffard, or who not--will put
his wits to work to solve the riddle. In very sooth _il ne vaut pas la
chandelle_. A quarrel did take place between George the Prince and
George the Less, but of its causes no living mortal is cognizant: we can
only give the received versions. It appears, then, that dining with
H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, Master Brummell asked him to ring the bell.
Considering the intimacy between them, and that the Regent often
sacrificed his dignity to his amusement, there was nothing extraordinary
in this. But it is added that the Prince did ring the bell in
question--unhappy bell to jar so between two such illustrious
friends!--and when the servant came, ordered 'Mr. Brummell's carriage!'
Another version palms off the impertinence on a drunken midshipman, who,
being related to the Comptroller of the Household, had been invited to
dinner by the Regent. Another yet states that Brummell, being asked to
ring the said bell, replied, 'Your Royal Highness is close to it.' No
one knows the truth of the legend, any more than whether Homer was a man
or a myth. It surely does not matter. The friends quarrelled, and
perhaps it was time they should do so, for they had never improved one
another's morals; but it is only fair to the Beau to add that he always
denied the whole affair, and that he himself gave as the cause of the
quarrel his own sarcasms on the Prince's increasing corpulency, and his
resemblance to Mrs. Fitzherbert's porter, 'Big Ben.' Certainly some
praise is due to the Beau for the _sans, froid_ with which he appeared
to treat the matter, though in reality dreadfully cut up about it. He
lounged about, made amusing remarks on his late friend and patron, swore
he would 'cut' him, and in short behaved with his usual _aplomb_. The
'Wales, ring the bell,' was sufficient proof of his impudence, but
'Who's your fat friend?' was really good.

It is well known, in all probability, that George IV. contemplated with
as much disgust and horror the increasing rotundity of his 'presence' as
ever a maiden lady of a certain age did her first grey hair. Soon after
the bell affair, the royal beau met his former friend in St. James's
Street, and resolved to cut him. This was attacking Brummell with his
own pet weapon, but not with success. Each antagonist was leaning on the
arm of a friend. 'Jack Lee,' who was thus supporting the Beau, was
intimate with the Prince, who, to make the cut the more marked, stopped
and talked to him without taking the slightest notice of Brummell. After
a time both parties moved on, and then came the moment of triumph and
revenge. It was sublime! Turning round half way, so that his words could
not fail to be heard by the retreating Regent, the Beau asked of his
companion in his usual drawl, 'Well, Jack, who's your fat friend?' The
coolness, presumption, and impertinence of the question perhaps made it
the best thing the Beau ever said, and from that time the Prince took
care not to risk another encounter with him.[11]

[11: Another version, given by Captain Jesse, represents this to have
taken place at a ball given at the Argyle Rooms in July, 1813, by Lord
Alvanley, Sir Henry Miklmav, Mr. Pierrepoint, and Mr. Brummell.]

Brummell was scotched rather than killed by the Prince's indifference.
He at once resolved to patronise his brother, the Duke of York, and
found in him a truer friend. The duchess, who had a particular fondness
for dogs, of which she is said to have kept no fewer, at one time, than
a hundred, added the puppy Brummell to the list, and treated him with a
kindness in which little condescension was mixed. But neither impudence
nor the blood-royal can keep a man out of debt, especially when he
plays. The Beau got deeper and deeper into the difficulty, and at last
some mysterious quarrel about money with a gentleman who thenceforward
went by the name of Dick the Dandy-killer, obliged him to think of place
and poverty in another land. He looked in vain for aid, and among others
Scrope Davies was written to to lend him 'two hundred,' 'because his
money was all in the three per cents.' Scrope replied laconically--

    'MY DEAR GEORGE,

    'It is very unfortunate, but _my_ money is all in the three per
    cents. Yours,

    'S. DAVIES,'

It was the last attempt. The Beau went to the opera, as usual, and drove
away from it clear off to Dover, whence the packet took him to safety
and slovenliness in the ancient town of Calais. His few effects were
sold after his departure. Porcelaine, buhl, a drawing or two,
double-barrelled Mantons (probably never used), plenty of old wine,
linen, furniture, and a few well-bound books, were the Beau's assets.
His debts were with half the chief tradesmen of the West End and a large
number of his personal friends.

The climax is reached: henceforth Master George Bryan Brummell goes
rapidly and gracefully down the hill of life.

The position of a Calais beggar was by no means a bad one, if the
reduced individual had any claim whatever to distinction. A black-mail
was sedulously levied by the outcasts and exiles of that town on every
Englishman who passed through it; and in those days it was customary to
pass some short time in this entrance of France. The English 'residents'
were always on the look-out, generally crowding round the packet-boat,
and the new arrival was sure to be accosted by some old and attached
friend, who had not seen him for years. Just as Buttons, who is always
breaking the plates and tumblers, has the invariable mode of accounting
for his carelessness, 'they fell apart, sir, in my 'ands!' so these
expatriated Britons had always a tale of confidence misplaced--security
for a bond--bail for a delinquent, or in short any hard case, which
compelled them, much against their wills, to remain 'for a period' on
the shores of France. To such men, whom you had known in seven-guinea
waistcoats at White's and Watier's, and found in seven-shilling coats on
the Calais pier, it was impossible to refuse your five-pound note, and
in time the black-mail of Calais came to be reckoned among the
established expenses of a Continental tour.

Brummell was a distinguished beggar of this description, and managed so
adroitly that the new arrivals thought themselves obliged by Mr.
Brummell's acceptance of their donations. The man who could not eat
cabbages, drive in a hackney-coach, or wear less than three shirts a
day, was now supported by voluntary contributions, and did not see
anything derogatory to a gentleman in their acceptance. If Brummell had
now turned his talents to account; if he had practised his painting, in
which he was not altogether despicable; or his poetry, in which he had
already had some trifling success: if he had even engaged himself as a
waiter at Quillacq's, or given lessons in the art of deportment, his
fine friends from town might have cut him, but posterity would have
withheld its blame. He was a beggar of the merriest kind. While he wrote
letters to friends in England, asking for remittances, and describing
his wretched condition on a bed of straw and eating bran bread, he had a
good barrel of Dorchester ale in his lodgings, his usual glass of
maraschino, and his bottle of claret after dinner; and though living on
charity, could order new snuff-boxes to add to his collection, and new
knick-knacks to adorn his room. There can be no pity for such a man, and
we have no pity for him, whatever the rest of the world may feel.

Nothing can be more contemptible than the gradual downfall of the broken
beau. Yet, if it were doubted that his soul ever rose above the collar
of a coat or the brim of a hat, his letters to Mr. Raikes in the time of
his poverty would settle the question. 'I heard of you the other day in
a waistcoat that does you considerable credit, spick-and-span from
Paris, a broad stripe, salmon-colour, and _cramoise_. Don't let them
laugh you into a relapse--into the Gothic--as that of your former
English simplicity.' He speaks of the army of occupation as 'rascals in
red coats waiting for embarkation.' 'English education,' he says in
another letter, 'may be all very well to instruct the hemming of
handkerchiefs, and the ungainly romps of a country-dance, but nothing
else; and it would be a poor consolation to your declining years to see
your daughters come into the room upon their elbows, and to find their
accomplishments limited to broad native phraseology in conversation, or
thumping the "Woodpecker" upon a discordant spinet.' And he proceeds to
recommend a 'good French formation of manners,' and so forth.

Nor did he display any of that dignity and self-respect which are
generally supposed to mark the 'gentleman.' When his late friend and
foe, by this time a king, passed through Calais, the Beau, broken in
every sense, had not pride enough to keep out of his way. Many stories
are told of the manner in which he pressed himself into George IV.'s
notice, but the various legends mostly turn upon a certain snuff-box.
According to one quite as reliable as any other, the Prince and the Beau
had in their days of amity intended to exchange snuff-boxes, and George
the Greater had given George the Less an order on his jeweller for a
_tabatiere_ with his portrait on the top. On their quarrel this order
was, with very bad taste, rescinded, although Brummell's snuff-box had
already passed into the Prince's hands and had not been returned. It is
said that the Beau employed a friend to remind the king of this
agreement, and ask for his box; to whom the latter said that the story
was all nonsense, and that he supposed 'the poor devil,' meaning his
late intimate friend, wanted L100 and should have it. However, it is
doubtful if the money ever reached the 'poor devil.' The story does not
tell over well, for whatever were the failings and faults of George IV.,
he seems to have had a certain amount of good nature, if not absolutely
of good heart, and possessed, at least, sufficient sense of what became
a prince, to prevent his doing so shabby an act, though he may have
defrauded a hundred tradesmen. In these days there _were_ such things as
'debts of honour,' and they were punctiliously attended to. There are,
as we have said, various versions of this story, but all tend to show
that Brummell courted the notice of his late master and patron on his
way through the place of his exile; and it is not remarkable in a man
who borrowed so freely from all his acquaintances, and who was, in fact,
in such a state of dependence on their liberality.

Brummell made one grand mistake in his career as a Beau: he outlived
himself. For some twenty-four years he survived his flight from England,
to which country he never returned. For a time he was an assiduous
writer of begging-letters and the plague of his friends. At length he
obtained the appointment of consul at the good old Norman town of Caen.
This was almost a sinecure, and the Beau took care to keep it so. But no
one can account for the extraordinary step he took soon after entering
on his consular duties. He wrote to Lord Palmerston, stating that there
were no duties attached to the post, and recommending its abolition.
This act of suicide is partly explained by a supposed desire to be
appointed to some more lively and more lucrative consulate; but in this
the Beau was mistaken. The consulate at Caen was vacated in accordance
with his suggestion, and Brummell was left penniless, in debt, and to
shift for himself. With the aid of an English tradesman, half grocer,
half banker, he managed to get through a period of his poverty, but
could not long subsist in this way, and the punishment of his vanity and
extravagance came at last in his old age. A term of existence in prison
did not cure him, and when he was liberated he again resumed his
primrose gloves, his Eau de Cologne, and his patent _vernis_ for his
boots, though at that time literally supported by his friends with an
allowance of L120 per annum. In the old days of Caen life this would
have been equal to L300 a year in England, and certainly quite enough
for any bachelor; but the Beau was really a fool. For whom, for what
should he dress and polish his boots at such a quiet place as Caen? Yet
he continued to do so, and to run into debt for the polish. When he
confessed to having, 'so help him Heaven,' not four francs in the world,
he was ordering this _vernis de Guiton_, at five francs a bottle, from
Paris, and calling the provider of it a 'scoundrel,' because he ventured
to ask for his money. What foppery, what folly was all this! How truly
worthy of the man who built his fame on the reputation of a coat!
Terrible indeed was the hardship that followed his extravagance; he was
actually compelled to exchange his white for a black cravat. Poor
martyr! after such a trial it is impossible to be hard upon him. So,
too, the man who sent repeated begging-letters to the English grocer,
Armstrong, threw out of window a new dressing-gown because it was not of
the pattern he wished to have.

Retribution for all this folly came in time. His mind went even before
his health. Though only some sixty years of age, almost the bloom of
some men's life, he lost his memory and his powers of attention, His old
ill-manners became positively bad manners. When feasted and feted, he
could find nothing better to say than 'What a half-starved turkey.' At
last the Beau was reduced to the level of that slovenliness which he had
considered as the next step to perdition. Reduced to one pair of
trousers, he had to remain in bed till they were mended. He grew
indifferent to his personal appearance, the surest sign of decay.
Drivelling, wretched, in debt, an object of contempt to all honest men,
he dragged on a miserable existence. Still with his boots in holes, and
all the honour of beau-dom gone for ever, he clung to the last to his
Eau de Cologne, and some few other luxuries, and went down, a fool and a
fop, to the grave. To indulge his silly tastes he had to part with one
piece of property after another; and at length he was left with little
else than the locks of hair of which he had once boasted.

I remember a story of a labourer and his dying wife. The poor woman was
breathing her last wishes. 'And, I say, William, you'll see the old sow
don't kill her young uns?'--'Ay, ay, wife, set thee good.' 'And, I say,
William, you'll see Lizzy goes to schule reg'lar?'--'Ay, ay, wife, set
thee good.' 'And, I say, William, you'll see Tommy's breeches is mended
against he goes to schule again?'--'Ay, ay, wife, set thee good.'--'And,
I say, William, you'll see I'm laid proper in the yard?' William grew
impatient. 'Now never thee mind them things, wife, I'll see to 'em all,
you just go on with your dying.' No doubt Brummell's friends heartily
wished that he would go on with his dying, for he had already lived too
long; but he would live on. He is described in his last days as a
miserable, slovenly, half-witted old creature, creeping about to the
houses of a few friends he retained or who were kind enough to notice
him still, jeered at by the _gamins_, and remarkable now, not for the
cleanliness, but the filthiness and raggedness of his attire.

Poor old fool! one cannot but pity him, when wretched, friendless, and
miserable as he was, we find him, still graceful, in a poor _cafe_ near
the Place Royale, taking his cup of coffee, and when asked for the
amount of his bill, answering very vaguely, 'Oui, Madame, a la pleine
lune, a la pleine lune.'

The drivellings of old age are no fit subject for ridicule, yet in the
case of a man who had sneered so freely at his fellow-creatures, they
may afford a useful lesson. One of his fancies was to give imaginary
parties, when his tallow dips were all set alight and his servant
announced with proper decorum, 'The Duchess of Devonshire,' 'Lord
Alvanley, 'Mr. Sheridan,' or whom not. The poor old idiot received the
imaginary visitors with the old bow, and talked to them in the old
strain, till his servant announced their imaginary carriages, and he was
put drivelling to bed. At last the idiocy became mania. He burnt his
books, his relics, his tokens. He ate enormously, and the man who had
looked upon beer as the _ne plus ultra_ of vulgarity, was glad to
imagine it champagne. Let us not follow the poor maniac through his
wanderings. Rather let us throw a veil over all his drivelling
wretchedness, and find him at his last gasp, when coat and collar, hat
and brim, were all forgotten, when the man who had worn three shirts a
day was content to change his linen once a month. What a lesson, what a
warning! If Brummell had come to this pass in England, it is hard to say
how and where he would have died. He was now utterly penniless, and had
no prospect of receiving any remittances. It was determined to remove
him to the Hospice du Bon Sauveur, a _Maison de Charite_, where he would
be well cared for at no expense. The mania of the poor creature took, as
ever, the turn of external preparation. When the landlord of his inn
entered to try and induce him to go, he found him with his wig on his
knee, his shaving apparatus by his side, and the quondam beau deeply
interested in lathering the peruke as a preliminary to shearing it. He
resisted every proposal to move, and was carried down stairs, kicking
and shrieking. Once lodged in the Hospice, he was treated by the soeurs
de charite with the greatest kindness and consideration. An attempt was
made to recall him to a sense of his future peril, that he might at
least die in a more religious mood than he had lived; but in vain. It is
not for us, erring and sinful as we are, to judge any fellow-creature;
but perhaps poor Brummell was the last man to whom religion had a
meaning. His heart was good; his sins were more those of vanity than
those of hate; it may be that they are regarded mercifully where the
fund of mercy is unbounded. God grant that they may be so; or who of us
would escape? None but fiends will triumph over the death of any man in
sin. Men are not fiends; they must and will always feel for their
fellow-men, let them die as they will. No doubt Brummell was a fool--a
fool of the first water, but that he was equally a knave was not so
certain. Let it never be certain to blind man, who cannot read the
heart, that any man is a knave. He died on the 30th of March, 1840, and
so the last of the Beaux passed away. People have claimed, indeed for
D'Orsay, the honour of Brummell's descending mantle, but D'Orsay was not
strictly a beau, for he had other and higher tastes than mere dress. It
has never been advanced that Brummell's heart was bad, in spite of his
many faults. Vanity did all. Vanitas vanitatem. O young men of this age,
be warned by a Beau, and flee his doubtful reputation! Peace then to the
coat-thinker. Peace to all--to the worst. Let us look within and not
judge. It is enough that we are not tried in the same balance.



THEODORE EDWARD HOOK.


The Greatest of Modern Wits.---What Coleridge said of Hook.--Hook's
Family.--Redeeming Points.--Versatility.--Varieties of Hoaxing.--The
Black-wafered Horse.--The Berners Street Hoax.--Success of the Scheme.--
The Strop of Hunger.--Kitchen Examinations.--The Wrong House.--Angling
for an Invitation.--The Hackney-coach Device.--The Plots of Hook and
Mathews.--Hook's Talents as an Improvisatore.--The Gift becomes his
Bane.--Hook's Novels.--College Fun.--Baiting a Proctor.--The Punning
Faculty.--Official Life Opens.--Troublesome Pleasantry.--Charge of
Embezzlement.--Misfortune.--Doubly Disgraced.--No Effort to remove the
Stain.--Attacks on the Queen.--An Incongruous Mixture.--Specimen of the
Ramsbottom Letters.--Hook's Scurrility.--Fortune and Popularity.--The End.


If it be difficult to say what wit is, it is well nigh as hard to
pronounce what is not wit. In a sad world, mirth hath its full honour,
let it come in rags or in purple raiment. The age that patronises a
'Punch' every Saturday? and a pantomime every Christmas, has no right to
complain, if it finds itself barren of wits, while a rival age has
brought forth her dozens. Mirth is, no doubt, very good. We would see
more, not less, of it in this unmirthful land. We would fain imagine the
shrunken-cheeked factory-girl singing to herself a happy burthen, as she
shifts the loom,--the burthen of her life, and fain believe that the
voice was innocent as the sky-lark's. But if it be not so--and we know
it is not so--shall we quarrel with any one who tries to give the poor
care-worn, money-singing public a little laughter for a few pence? No,
truly, but it does not follow that the man who raises a titter is, of
necessity, a wit. The next age, perchance, will write a book of 'Wits
and Beaux,' in which Mr. Douglas Jerrold, Mr. Mark Lemon, and so on,
will represent the _wit_ of this passing day; and that future age will
not ask so nicely what wit is, and not look for that last solved of
riddles, its definition. Hook has been, by common consent, placed at the
head of modern wits. When kings were kings, they bullied, beat, and and
brow-beat their jesters. Now and then they treated them to a few years
in the Tower for a little extra impudence. Now that the people are
sovereign, the jester fares better--nay, too well. His books or his
bon-mots are read with zest and grins; he is invited to his Grace's and
implored to my Lord's; he is waited for, watched, pampered like a small
Grand Lama, and, in one sentence, the greater the fool, the more fools
he makes.

If Theodore Hook had lived in the stirring days of King Henry VIII., he
would have sent Messrs. Patch and Co. sharply to the right-about, and
been presented with the caps and bells after his first comic song. No
doubt he was a jester, a fool in many senses, though he did not, like
Solomon's fool, 'say in his _heart_' very much. He jested away even the
practicals of life, jested himself into disgrace, into prison, into
contempt, into the basest employment--that of a libeller tacked on to a
party. He was a mimic, too, to whom none could send a challenge; an
improvisatore, who beat Italians, Tyroleans, and Styrians hollow, sir,
hollow. And lastly--oh! shame of the shuffle-tongued--he was, too, a
punster. Yes, one who gloried in puns, a maker of pun upon pun, a man
whose whole wit ran into a pun as readily as water rushes into a hollow,
who could not keep out of a pun, let him loathe it or not, and who made
some of the best and some of the worst on record, but still--puns.

If he was a wit withal, it was _malgre soi_, for fun, not for wit, was
his 'aspiration.' Yet the world calls him a wit, and he has a claim to
his niche. There were, it is true, many a man in his own set who had
more real wit. There were James Smith, Thomas Ingoldsby, Tom Hill, and
others. Out of his set, but of his time, there was Sydney Smith, ten
times more a wit: but Theodore could amuse, Theodore could astonish,
Theodore could be at home anywhere; he had all the impudence, all the
readiness, all the indifference of a jester, and a jester he was.

Let any one look at his portrait, and he will doubt if this be the
king's jester, painted by Holbein, or Mr. Theodore Hook, painted by
Eddis. The short, thick nose, the long upper lip, the sensual, whimsical
mouth, the twinkling eyes, all belong to the regular maker of fun. Hook
was a certificated jester, with a lenient society to hear and applaud
him, instead of an irritable tyrant to keep him in order: and he filled
his post well. Whether he was more than a jester may well be doubted;
yet Coleridge, when he heard him, said: 'I have before in my time met
with men of admirable promptitude of intellectual power and play of wit,
which, as Stillingfleet says:

  "The rays of wit gild wheresoe'er they strike,"

but I never could have conceived such readiness of mind and resources of
genius to be poured out on the mere subject and impulse of the moment.'
The poet was wrong in one respect. Genius can in no sense be applied to
Hook, though readiness was his chief charm.

The famous Theodore was born in the same year as Byron, 1788, the one on
the 22nd of January, the other on the 22nd of September; so the poet was
only nine months his senior. Hook, like many other wits, was a second
son. Ladies of sixty or seventy well remember the name of Hook as that
which accompanied their earliest miseries. It was in learning Hook's
exercises, or primers, or whatever they were called, that they first had
their fingers slapped over the piano-forte. The father of Theodore, no
doubt, was the unwitting cause of much unhappiness to many a young lady
in her teens. Hook _pere_ was an organist at Norwich. He came up to
town, and was engaged at Marylebone Gardens and at Vauxhall; so that
Theodore had no excuse for being of decidedly plebeian origin, and, Tory
as he was, he was not fool enough to aspire to patricianism.

Theodore's family was, in real fact, Theodore himself. He made the name
what it is, and raised himself to the position he at one time held. Yet
he had a brother whose claims to celebrity are not altogether ancillary.
James Hook was fifteen years older than Theodore. After leaving
Westminster School he was sent to immortal Skimmery (St. Mary's Hall),
Oxford, which has fostered so many great men--and spoiled them. He was
advanced in the church from one preferment to another, and ultimately
became Dean of Worcester. The character of the reverend gentleman is
pretty well known, but it is unnecessary here to go into it farther. He
is only mentioned as Theodore's brother in this sketch.[12] He was a
dabbler in literature, like his brother, but scarcely to the same extent
a dabbler in wit.

[12: Dr. James Hook, Dean of Worcester, was father to Dr. Walter
Farquhar Hook, now the excellent Dean of Chichester, late Vicar of
Leeds.]

The younger son of 'Hook's Exercises' developed early enough a taste for
ingenious lying--so much admired in his predecessor--Sheridan, He
'fancied himself' a genius, and therefore, from school-age, not amenable
to the common laws of ordinary men. Frequenters of the now fashionable
prize-ring--thanks to two brutes who have brought that degraded pastime
into prominent notice--will hear a great deal about a man 'fancying
himself.' It is common slang and heeds little explanation. Hook 'fancied
himself' from an early period, and continued to 'fancy himself,' in
spite of repeated disgraces, till a very mature age. At Harrow, he was
the contemporary, but scarcely the friend, of Lord Byron. No two
characters could have been more unlike. Every one knows, more or less,
what Byron's was; it need only be said that Hook's was the reverse of it
in every respect. Byron felt where Hook laughed. Byron was morbid where
Hook was gay. Byron abjured with disgust the social vices to which he
was introduced; Hook fell in with them. Byron indulged in vice in a
romantic way; Hook in the coarsest. There is some excuse for Byron, much
as he has been blamed. There is little or no excuse for Hook, much as
his faults have been palliated. The fact is that goodness of heart will
soften, in men's minds, any or all misdemeanours. Hook, in spite of many
vulgar witticisms and cruel jokes, seems to have had a really good
heart.

I have it on the authority of one of Hook's most intimate friends, that
he was capable of any act of kindness, and by way of instance of his
goodness of heart, I am told by the same person that he on one occasion
quitted all his town amusements to solace the spirit of a friend in the
country who was in serious trouble. I, of course, refrain from giving
names: but the same person informs me that much of his time was devoted
in a like manner, to relieving, as far as possible, the anxiety of his
friends, often, indeed, arising from his own carelessness. It is due to
Hook to make this impartial statement before entering on a sketch of his
'Sayings and Doings,' which must necessarily leave the impression that
he was a heartless man.

Old Hook, the father, soon perceived the value of his son's talents;
and, determined to turn them to account, encouraged his natural
inclination to song-writing. At the age of sixteen Theodore wrote a kind
of comic opera, to which his father supplied the music. This was called
'The Soldier's Return.' It was followed by others, and young Hook, not
yet out of his teens, managed to keep a Drury Lane audience alive, as
well as himself and family. It must be remembered, however, that Liston
and Matthews could make almost any piece amusing. The young author was
introduced behind the scenes through his father's connection with the
theatre, and often played the fool under the stage while others were
playing it for him above it, practical jokes being a passion with him
which he developed thus early. These tricks were not always very
good-natured, which may be said of many of his jokes out of the theatre.

He soon showed evidence of another talent, that of acting as well as
writing pieces. Assurance was one of the main features of his character,
and to it he owed his success in society; but it is a remarkable fact,
that on his first appearance before an audience he entirely lost all his
nerve, turned pale, and could scarcely utter a syllable. He rapidly
recovered, however, and from this time became a favourite performer in
private theatricals, in which he was supported by Mathews and Mrs.
Mathews, and some amateurs who were almost equal to any professional
actors. His attempts were, of course, chiefly in broad farce and roaring
burlesque, in which his comic face, with its look of mock gravity, and
the twinkle of the eyes, itself excited roars of laughter. Whether he
would have succeeded as well in sober comedy or upon public boards may
well be doubted. Probably he would not have given to the profession that
careful attention and entire devotion that are necessary to bring
forward properly the highest natural talents. It is said that for a long
time he was anxious to take to the stage as, a profession, but,
perhaps--as the event seems to show--unfortunately for him, he was
dissuaded from what his friends must have thought a very rash step, and
in after years he took a violent dislike to the profession. Certainly
the stage could not have offered more temptations than did the society
in which he afterwards mixed; and perhaps under any circumstances Hook,
whose moral education had been neglected, and whose principles were
never very good, would have lived a life more or less vicious, though he
might not have died as he did.

Hook, however, was not long in coming very prominently before the public
in another capacity. Of all stories told about him, none are more common
or more popular than those which relate to his practical jokes and
hoaxes. Thank heaven, the world no longer sees amusement in the misery
of others, and the fashion of such clever performance is gone out. It is
fair, however, to premise, that while the cleverest of Hook's hoaxes
were of a victimizing character, a large number were just the reverse,
and his admirers affirm, not without some reason, that when he had got a
dinner out of a person whom he did not know, by an ingenious lie,
admirably supported, he fully paid for it in the amusement he afforded
his host and the ringing metal of his wit. As we have all been
boys--except those that were girls--and not all of us very good boys, we
can appreciate that passion for robbery which began with orchards and
passed on to knockers. It is difficult to sober middle-age to imagine
what entertainment there can be in that breach of the eighth
commandment, which is generally regarded as innocent. As Sheridan
swindled in fun, so Hook, as a young man, robbed in fun, as hundreds of
medical students and others have done before and since. Hook, however,
was a proficient in the art, and would have made a successful
'cracksman' had he been born in the Seven Dials. He collected a complete
museum of knockers, bell-pulls, wooden Highlanders, barbers' poles, and
shop signs of all sorts. On one occasion he devoted a whole fortnight to
the abstraction of a golden eagle over a shop window, by means of a
lasso. A fellow dilettante in the art had confidentially informed him of
its whereabouts, adding that he himself despaired of ever obtaining it.
At length Hook invited his friend to dinner, and on the removal of the
cover of what was supposed to be the joint, the work of art appeared
served up and appropriately garnished. Theodore was radiant with
triumph; but the friend, probably thinking that there ought to be honour
among thieves, was highly indignant at being thus surpassed.

Another achievement of this kind was the robbery of a life-sized
Highlander, who graced the door of some unsuspecting tobacconist. There
was little difficulty in the mere displacement of the figure; the
troublesome part of the business was to get the bare legged Celt home to
the museum, where probably many a Lilliputian of his race was already
awaiting him. A cloak, a hat, and Hook's ready wit effected the
transfer. The first was thrown over him, the second set upon his
bonneted head, and a passing hackney coach hailed by his captor, who
before the unsuspecting driver could descend, had opened the door,
pushed in the prize, and whispered to Jehu, 'My friend--very respectable
man but rather tipsy.' How he managed to get him out again at the end of
the journey we are not told.

Hook was soon a successful and valuable writer of light pieces for the
stage. But farces do not live, and few of Hook's are now favourites with
a public which is always athirst for something new. The incidents of
most of the pieces--many of them borrowed from the French--excited
laughter by their very improbability; but the wit which enlivened them
was not of a high order, and Hook, though so much more recent than
Sheridan, has disappeared before him.

But his hoaxes were far more famous than his collection of curiosities,
and quite as much to the purpose; and the imprudence he displayed in
them was only equalled by the quaintness of the humour which suggested
them. Who else would have ever thought, for instance, of covering a
white horse with black wafers, and driving it in a gig along a Welsh
high-road, merely for the satisfaction of being stared at? It was almost
worthy of Barnum. Or who, with less assurance, could have played so
admirably on the credulity of a lady and daughters fresh from the
country as he did, at the trial of Lord Melville? The lady, who stood
next to him, was, naturally, anxious to understand the proceedings, and
betrayed her ignorance at once by a remark which she made to her
daughter about the procession of the Lords into the House. When the
bishops entered in full episcopal costume, she applied to Hook to know
who were 'those gentlemen?' 'Gentlemen,' quoth Hook, with charming
simplicity; 'ladies, I think you mean; at any rate, those are the
dowager peeresses in their own right.' Question followed question as the
procession came on, and Theodore indulged his fancy more and more. At
length the Speaker, in full robes, became the subject of inquiry. 'And
pray, sir, who is that fine looking person?'--'That, ma'am, is Cardinal
Wolsey,' was the calm and audacious reply. This was too much even for
Sussex; and the lady drew herself up in majestic indignation. 'We know
better than that, sir,' she replied: 'Cardinal Wolsey has been dead many
a good year.' Theodore was unmoved. 'No such thing, my dear madam,' he
answered, without the slightest sign of perturbation: 'I know it has
been generally reported so in the country, but without the slightest
foundation; the newspapers, you know, will say anything.'

But the hoax of hoaxes, the one which filled the papers of the time for
several days, and which, eventually, made its author the very prince of
hoaxsters, if such a term can be admitted, was that of Berners Street.
Never, perhaps, was so much trouble expended, or so much attention
devoted, to so frivolous an object. In Berners Street there lived an
elderly lady, who, for no reason that can be ascertained, had excited
the animosity of the young Theodore Hook, who was then just of age. Six
weeks were spent in preparation, and three persons engaged in the
affair. Letters were sent off in every direction, and Theodore Hook's
autograph, if it could have any value, must have been somewhat low in
the market at that period, from the number of applications which he
wrote. On the day in question he and his accomplices seated themselves
at a window in Berners Street, opposite to that unfortunate Mrs.
Tottenham, of No 54, and there enjoyed the fun. Advertisements,
announcements, letters, circulars, and what not, had been most freely
issued, and were as freely responded to. A score of sweeps, all 'invited
to attend professionally,' opened the ball at a very early hour, and
claimed admittance, in virtue of the notice they had received. The
maid-servant had only just time to assure them that all the chimneys
were clean, and their services were not required, when some dozen of
coal-carts drew up as near as possible to the ill-fated house. New
protestations, new indignation. The grimy and irate coalheavers were
still being discoursed with, when a bevy of neat and polite individuals
arrived from different quarters, bearing each under his arm a splendid
ten-guinea wedding-cake. The maid grew distracted; her mistress was
single, and had no intention of doubling herself; there must be some
mistake; the confectioners were dismissed, in a very different humour to
that with which they had come. But they were scarcely gone when crowds
began to storm the house, all 'on business.' Rival doctors met in
astonishment and disgust, prepared for an _accouchement_; undertakers
stared one another mutely in the face, as they deposited at the door
coffins made to order--elm or oak--so many feet and so many inches; the
clergymen of all the neighbouring parishes, high church or low church,
were ready to minister to the spiritual wants of the unfortunate
moribund, but retired in disgust when they found that some forty
fishmongers had been engaged to purvey 'cod's head and lobsters' for a
person professing to be on the brink of the grave.

The street now became the scene of fearful distraction. Furious
tradesmen of every kind were ringing the house-bell, and rapping the
knocker for admittance--such, at least, as could press through the crowd
as far as the house. Bootmakers arrived with Hessians and
Wellingtons--'as per order'--or the most delicate of dancing-shoes for
the sober old lady; haberdashers had brought the last new thing in
evening dress, 'quite the fashion,' and 'very chaste:' hat-makers from
Lincoln and Bennett down to the Hebrew vendor in Marylebone Lane,
arrived with their crown-pieces; butchers' boys, on stout little nags,
could not get near enough to deliver the legs of mutton which had been
ordered; the lumbering coal-carts 'still stopped the way.' A crowd--the
easiest curiosity in the world to collect--soon gathered round the
motley mob of butchers, bakers, candlestick-makers, and makers and
sellers of everything else that mortal can want; the mob thronged the
pavement, the carts filled the road, and soon the carriages of the noble
of the land dashed up in all the panoply of state, and a demand was made
to clear the way for the Duke of Gloucester, for the Governor of the
Bank, the Chairman of the East India Company, and last, but, oh! not
least, the grandee whose successor the originator of the plot afterwards
so admirably satirized--the great Lord Mayor himself. The consternation,
disgust, and terror of the elderly female, the delight and chuckling of
Theodore and his accomplices, seated at a window on the opposite side of
the road, 'can be more easily imagined than described;' but what were
the feelings of tradesmen, professional men, gentlemen, noblemen, and
grand officials, who had been summoned from distant spots by artful
lures to No. 54, and there battled with a crowd in vain only to find
that there were hoaxed; people who had thus lost both time and money,
can be neither described nor imagined. It was not the idea of the
hoax--simple enough in itself--which was entitled to the admiration
accorded to ingenuity, but its extent and success, and the clever means
taken by the conspirators to insure the attendance of every one who
ought not to have been there. It was only late at night that the police
succeeded in clearing the street, and the dupes retired, murmuring and
vowing vengeance. Hook, however, gloried in the exploit, which he
thought 'perfect.'

But the hoaxing dearest to Theodore--for there was something to be
gained by it---was that by which he managed to obtain a dinner when
either too hard-up to pay for one, or in the humour for a little
amusement. No one who has not lived as a bachelor in London and been
reduced---in respect of coin--to the sum of twopence-halfpenny, can tell
how excellent a strop is hunger to sharpen wit upon. We all know that

  'Mortals with stomachs can't live without dinner;'

and in Hook's day the substitute of 'heavy teas' was not invented.
Necessity is very soon brought to bed, when a man puts his fingers into
his pockets, finds them untenanted, and remembers that the only friend
who would consent to lend him five shillings is gone out of town; and
the infant, Invention, presently smiles into the nurse's face. But it
was no uncommon thing in those days for gentlemen to invite themselves
where they listed, and stay as long as they liked. It was only necessary
for them to make themselves really agreeable, and deceive their host in
some way or other. Hook's friend, little Tom Hill, of whom it was said
that he knew everybody's affairs far better than they did themselves,
was famous for examining kitchens about the hour of dinner, and quietly
selecting his host according to the odour of the viands. It is of him
that the old 'Joe Miller' is told of the 'haunch of venison.' Invited to
dinner at one house, he _happens_ to glance down into the kitchen of the
next, and seeing a tempting haunch of venison on the spit, throws over
the inviter, and ingratiates himself with his neighbour, who ends by
asking him to stay to dinner. The fare, however, consisted of nothing
more luxurious than an Irish stew, and the disappointed guest was
informed that he had been 'too cunning by half,' inasmuch as the venison
belonged to his original inviter, and had been cooked in the house he
was in by kind permission, because the chimney of the owner's kitchen
smoked.

The same principle often actuated Theodore; and, indeed, there are few
stories which can be told of this characteristic of the great frolicker,
which have not been told a century of times.

For instance: two young men are strolling, towards 5 P.M., in the then
fashionable neighbourhood of Soho; the one is Terry, the actor--the
other, Hook, the actor, for surely he deserves the title. They pass a
house, and sniff the viands cooking underground. Hook quietly announces
his intention of dining _there_. He enters, is admitted and announced by
the servant, mingles with the company, and is quite at home before he is
perceived by the host. At last the _denouement_ came; the dinner-giver
approached the stranger, and with great politeness asked his name.
'Smith' was, of course, the reply, and reverting to mistakes made by
servants in announcing, &c., 'Smith' hurried off into an amusing story,
to put his host in good humour. The conversation that followed is taken
from 'Ingoldsby':--

'But, really, my dear sir,' the host put in, 'I think the mistake on the
present occasion does not originate in the source you allude to; I
certainly did not anticipate the honour of Mr. Smith's company to-day.'

'No, I dare say not. You said _four_ in your note, I know, and it is
now, I see, a quarter past five; but the fact is, I have been detained
in the City, as I was going to explain--'

'Pray,' said the host, 'whom do you suppose you are addressing?'

'Whom? why Mr. Thompson, of course, old friend of my father. I have not
the pleasure, indeed, of being personally known to you, but having
received your kind invitation yesterday,' &c. &c.

'No, sir, my name is not Thompson, but Jones,' in highly indignant
accents.

'Jones!' was the well-acted answer: 'why, surely, I cannot have--yes I
must--good heaven! I see it all. My _dear_ sir, what an unfortunate
blunder; wrong house--what must you think of such an intrusion? I am
really at a loss for words in which to apologize; you will permit me to
retire at present, and to-morrow--'

'Pray, don't think of retiring,' rejoined the host, taken with the
appearance and manner of the young man. 'Your friend's table must have
been cleared long ago, if, as you say, four was the hour named, and I am
too happy to be able to offer you a seat at mine.'

It may be easily conceived that the invitation had not to be very often
repeated, and Hook kept the risible muscles of the company upon the
constant stretch, and paid for the entertainment in the only coin with
which he was well supplied.

There was more wit, however, in his visit to a retired watchmaker, who
had got from government a premium of L10,000 for the best chronometer.
Hook was very partial to journeys in search of adventure; a gig, a
lively companion, and sixpence for the first turnpike being generally
all that was requisite; ingenuity supplied the rest. It was on one of
these excursions, that Hook and his friend found themselves in the
neighbourhood of Uxbridge, with a horse and a gig, and not a sixpence to
be found in any pocket. Now a horse and gig are property, but of what
use is a valuable of which you cannot dispose or deposit at a
pawnbroker's, while you are prevented proceeding on your way by that
neat white gate with the neat white box of a house at its side? The only
alternative left to the young men was to drive home again, dinnerless, a
distance of twenty miles, with a jaded horse, or to find gratuitous
accommodation for man and beast. In such a case Sheridan would simply
have driven to the first inn, and by persuasion or stratagem contrived
to elude payment, after having drunk the best wine and eaten the best
dinner the house could afford. Hook was really more refined, as well as
bolder in his pillaging.

The villa of the retired tradesman was perceived, and the gig soon drew
up before the door. The strangers were ushered in to the watchmaker, and
Hook, with great politeness and a serious respectful look, addressed
him. He said that he felt he was taking a great liberty--so he was--but
that he could not pass the door of a man who had done the country so
much service by the invention of what must prove the most useful and
valuable instrument, without expressing to him the gratitude which he,
as a British subject devoted to his country's good, could not but feel
towards the inventor, &c. &c. The flattery was so delicately and so
seriously insinuated, that the worthy citizen could only receive it as
an honest expression of sincere admiration. The Rubicon was passed; a
little lively conversation, artfully made attractive by Hook, followed,
and the watchmaker was more and more gratified. He felt, too, what an
honour it would be to entertain two real gentlemen, and remarking that
they were far from town, brought out at last the longed-for invitation,
which was, of course, declined as out of the question. Thereupon the old
gentleman became pressing: the young strangers were at last prevailed
upon to accept it, and very full justice they did to the larder and
cellar of the successful chronometer-maker.

There is nothing very original in the act of hoaxing, and Hook's way of
getting a hackney-coach without paying for it, was, perhaps, suggested
by Sheridan's, but was more laughable. Finding himself in the vehicle,
and knowing that there was nothing either in his purse or at home to pay
the fare, he cast about for expedients, and at last remembered the
address of an eminent surgeon in the neighbourhood. He ordered the
coachman to drive to his house and knock violently at the door, which
was no sooner opened than Hook rushed in, terribly agitated, demanded to
see the doctor, to whom in a few incoherent and agitated sentences, he
gave to understand that his wife needed his services, immediately, being
on the point of becoming a mother.

'I will start directly,' replied the surgeon; 'I will order my carriage
at once.'

'But, my dear sir, there is not a moment to spare. I have a coach at the
door, jump into that.'

The surgeon obeyed. The name and address given were those of a
middle-aged spinster of the most rigid virtue. We can imagine her
indignation, and how sharply she rung the bell, when the surgeon had
delicately explained the object of his visit, and how eagerly he took
refuge in the coach. Hook had, of course, walked quietly away in the
meantime, and the Galenite had to pay the demand of Jehu.

The hoaxing stories of Theodore Hook are numberless. Hoaxing was the
fashion of the day, and a childish fashion too. Charles Mathews, whose
face possessed the flexibility of an acrobat's body, and who could
assume any character or disguise on the shortest notice, was his great
confederate in these plots. The banks of the Thames were their great
resort. At one point there was Mathews talking gibberish in a disguise
intended to represent the Spanish Ambassador, and actually deceiving the
Woolwich authorities by his clever impersonation. At another, there was
Hook landing uninvited with his friends upon the well-known,
sleek-looking lawn of a testy little gentleman, drawing out a note-book
and talking so authoritatively about the survey for a canal, to be
undertaken by Government, that the owner of the lawn becomes frightened,
and in his anxiety attempts to conciliate the mighty self-made official
by the offer of dinner--of course accepted.

[Illustration: THEODORE HOOK'S ENGINEERING FROLIC.]

Then the _Arcades ambo_ show off their jesting tricks at Croydon fair, a
most suitable place for them. On one occasion Hook personates a madman,
accusing Mathews, 'his brother,' of keeping him out of his rights and in
his custody. The whole fair collects around them, and begins to
sympathise with Hook, who begs them to aid in his escape from his
'brother.' A sham escape and sham capture take place, and the party
adjourn to the inn, where Mathews, who had been taken by surprise by the
new part suddenly played by his confederate, seized upon a hearse, which
drew up before the inn, on its return from a funeral, persuaded the
company to bind the 'madman,' who was now becoming furious, and who
would have deposited him in the gloomy vehicle, if he had not succeeded
in snapping his fetters, and so escaped. In short, they were two boys,
with the sole difference, that they had sufficient talent and experience
of the world to maintain admirably the parts they assumed.

But a far more famous and more admirable talent in Theodore than that of
deception was that of improvising. The art of improvising belongs to
Italy and the Tyrol. The wonderful gift of ready verse to express
satire, and ridicule, seems, as a rule, to be confined to the
inhabitants of those two lands. Others are, indeed, scattered over the
world, who possess this gift, but very sparsely. Theodore Hook stands
almost alone in this country as an improviser. Yet to judge of such of
his verses as have been preserved, taken down from memory or what not,
the grand effect of them--and no doubt it _was_ grand--must have been
owing more to his manner and his acting, than to any intrinsic value in
the verses themselves, which are, for the most part, slight, and devoid
of actual wit, though abounding in puns. Sheridan's testimony to the
wonderful powers of the man is, perhaps, more valuable than that of any
one else, for he was a good judge both of verse and of wit. One of
Hook's earliest displays of his talent was at a dinner given by the
Drury Lane actors to Sheridan at the Piazza Coffee House in 1808. Here,
as usual, Hook sat down to the piano, and touching off a few chords,
gave verse after verse on all the events of the entertainment, on each
person present, though he now saw many of them for the first time, and
on anything connected with the matters of interest before them. Sheridan
was delighted, and declared that he could not have believed such a
faculty possible if he had not witnessed its effects: that no
description 'could have convinced him of so peculiar an instance of
genius,' and so forth.

One of his most extraordinary efforts in this line is related by Mr.
Jerdan. A dinner was given by Mansell Reynolds to Lockhart, Luttrell,
Coleridge, Hook, Tom Hill, and others. The grown-up schoolboys, pretty
far gone in Falernian, of a home-made, and very homely vintage, amused
themselves by breaking the wine-glasses, till Coleridge was set to
demolish the last of them with a fork thrown at it from the side of the
table. Let it not be supposed that any teetotal spirit suggested this
inconoclasm, far from it--the glasses were too small, and the poets, the
wits, the punsters, the jesters, preferred to drink their port out of
tumblers. After dinner Hook gave one of his songs which satirized
successively, and successfully, each person present. He was then
challenged to improvise on any given subject, and by way of one as far
distant from poetry as could be, _cocoa-nut oil_ was fixed upon.
Theodore accepted the challenge; and after a moment's consideration
began his lay with a description of the Mauritius, which he knew so
well, the negroes dancing round the cocoa-nut tree, the process of
extracting the oil, and so forth, all in excellent rhyme and rhythm, if
not actual poetry. Then came the voyage to England, hits at the Italian
warehousemen, and so on, till the oil is brought into the very lamp
before them in that very room, to show them with the light it feeds and
make them able to break wine-glasses and get drunk from tumblers. This
we may be sure Hook himself did, for one, and the rest were probably not
much behind him.

In late life this gift of Hook's--improvising I mean, not getting
intoxicated--was his highest recommendation in society, and at the same
time his bane. Like Sheridan, he was ruined by his wonderful natural
powers. It can well be imagined that to improvise in the manner in which
Hook did it, and at a moment's notice, required some effort of the
intellect. This effort became greater as circumstances depressed his
spirits more and more and yet with every care upon his mind, he was
expected, wherever he went, to amuse the guests with a display of his
talent. He could not do so without stimulants, and rather than give up
society, fell into habits of drinking, which hastened his death.

We have thrown together the foregoing anecdotes of Hook, irrespective of
time, in order to show what the man's gifts were, and what his title to
be considered a wit. We must proceed more steadily to a review of his
life. Successful as Hook had proved as a writer for the stage, he
suddenly and without any sufficient cause rushed off into another branch
of literature, that of novel-writing. His first attempt in this kind of
fiction was 'The Man of Sorrow,' published under the _nom de plume_ of
_Alfred Allendale_. This was not, as its name would seem to imply, a
novel of pathetic cast, but the history of a gentleman whose life from
beginning to end is rendered wretched by a succession of mishaps of the
most ludicrous but improbable kind. Indeed Theodore's novels, like his
stage-pieces, are gone out of date in an age so practical that even in
romance it will not allow of the slightest departure from reality. Their
very style was ephemeral, and their interest could not outlast the
generation to amuse which they were penned. This first novel was written
when Hook was one-and-twenty. Soon after he was sent to Oxford, where he
had been entered at St. Mary's Hall, more affectionately known by the
nickname of 'Skimmery.' No selection could have been worse. Skimmery
was, at that day, and, until quite recently, a den of thieves, where
young men of fortune and folly submitted to be pillaged in return for
being allowed perfect licence, as much to eat as they could possibly
swallow, and far more to drink than was at all good for them. It has
required all the enterprise of the present excellent Principal to
convert it into a place of sober study. It was then the most
'gentlemanly' residence in Oxford; for a gentleman in those days meant a
man who did nothing, spent his own or his father's guineas with a
brilliant indifference to consequences, and who applied his mind solely
to the art of frolic. It was the very place where Hook would be
encouraged instead of restrained in his natural propensities, and had he
remained there he would probably have ruined himself and his father long
before he had put on the sleeves.

At the matriculation itself he gave a specimen of his 'fun.'

When asked, according to the usual form, 'if he was willing to sign the
Thirty-nine Articles,' he replied, 'Certainly, sir, _forty_ if you
please.' The gravity of the stern Vice-Chancellor was upset, but as no
Oxford Don can ever pardon a joke, however good, Master Theodore was
very nearly being dismissed, had not his brother, by this time a
Prebendary of Winchester, and 'an honour to his college, sir,'
interceded in his favour.

The night before, he had given a still better specimen of his
effrontery. He had picked up a number of old Harrovians, with whom he
had repaired to a tavern for song, supper, and sociability, and as usual
in such cases, in the lap of Alma Mater, the babes became sufficiently
intoxicated, and not a little uproarious. Drinking in a tavern is
forbidden by Oxonian statutes, and one of the proctors happening to pass
in the street outside, was attracted into the house by the sound of
somewhat unscholastic merriment. The effect can be imagined. All the
youths were in absolute terror, except Theodore, and looked in vain for
some way to escape. The wary and faithful 'bulldogs' guarded the
doorway; the marshal, predecessor of the modern omniscient Brown,
advanced respectfully behind the proctor into the room, and passing a
penetrating glance from one youth to the other, all of whom--except
Theodore again--he knew by sight--for that is the pride and pleasure of
a marshal--mentally registered their names in secret hopes of getting
half-a-crown a-piece to forget them again.

No mortal is more respectful in his manner of accosting you than an
Oxford proctor, for he may make a mistake, and a mistake may make him
very miserable. When, for instance, a highly respectable lady was the
other day lodged, in spite of protestations, in the 'Procuratorial
Rooms,' and there locked up on suspicion of being somebody very
different, the over-zealous proctor who had ordered her incarceration
was sued for damages for L300, and had to pay them too! Therefore the
gentleman in question most graciously and suavely inquired of Mr.
Theodore Hook--

'I beg your pardon, sir, but are you a member of this university?'--the
usual form.

'No, sir, I am not. Are you?'

The suavity at once changed to grave dignity. The proctor lifted up the
hem of his garment, which being of broad velvet, with the selvage on it,
was one of the insignia of his office, and sternly said,--'You see this,
sir.'

'Ah!' said Hook, cool as ever, and quietly feeling the material, which
he examined with apparent interest, 'I see; Manchester velvet: and may I
take the liberty, sir, of inquiring how much you have paid per yard for
the article?'

A roar of laughter from all present burst forth with such vehemence that
it shot the poor official, red with suppressed anger, into the street
again, and the merrymakers continued their bout till the approach of
midnight, when they were obliged to return to their respective colleges.

Had Theodore proceeded in this way for several terms, no doubt the
outraged authorities would have added his name to the list of the great
men whom they have expelled from time to time most unprophetically. As
it was, he soon left the groves of Academus, and sought those of Fashion
in town. His matriculation into this new university was much more
auspicious; he was hailed in society as already fit to take a degree of
bachelor of his particular arts, and ere long his improvising, his fun,
his mirth--as yet natural and over-boiling--his wicked punning, and his
tender wickedness, induced the same institution to offer him the grade
of 'Master' of those arts. In after years he rose to be even 'Doctor,'
and many, perhaps, were the minds diseased to which his well-known mirth
ministered.

It was during this period that some of his talents were displayed in the
manner we have described, though his great fame as an improvisatore was
established more completely in later days. Yet he had already made
himself a name in that species of wit--not a very high one--which found
favour with the society of that period. We allude to imitation, 'taking
off,' and punning. The last contemptible branch of wit-making, now
happily confined to 'Punch,' is as old as variety of language. It is not
possible with simple vocabularies, and accordingly is seldom met with in
purely-derived languages. Yet we have Roman and Greek puns; and English
is peculiarly adapted to this childish exercise, because, being made up
of several languages, it necessarily contains many words which are like
in sound and unlike in meaning. Punning is, in fact, the vice of English
wit, the temptation of English mirth-makers, and, at last, we trust, the
scorn of English good sense. But in Theodore's day it held a high place,
and men who had no real wit about them could twist and turn words and
combinations of words with great ingenuity and much readiness, to the
delight of their listeners. Pun-making was a fashion among the
conversationists of that day, and took the place of better wit. Hook was
a disgraceful punster, and a successful one. He strung puns together by
the score--nothing more easy--in his improvised songs and conversation.
Take an instance from his quiz on the march of intellect:--

  'Hackney-coachmen from _Swift_ shall reply, if you feel
    Annoyed at being needlessly shaken;
  And butchers, of course, be flippant from _Steele_,
    And pig-drivers well versed in _Bacon_.
  From _Locke_ shall the blacksmiths authority brave,
    And gas-men cite _Coke_ at discretion;
  Undertakers talk _Gay_ as they go to the _grave_,
    And watermen _Rowe_ by profession.'

I have known a party of naturally stupid people produce a whole century
of puns one after another, on any subject that presented itself, and I
am inclined to think that nothing can, at the same time, be more
nauseous, or more destructive to real wit. Yet Theodore's strength lay
in puns, and when shorn of them, the Philistines might well laugh at his
want of strength. Surely his title to wit does not lie in that
direction.

However, he amused, and that gratis; and an amusing man makes his way
anywhere if he have only sufficient tact not to abuse his privileges.
Hook grew great in London society for a time, and might have grown
greater if a change had not come.

He had supported himself, up to 1812, almost entirely by his pen: and
the goose-quill is rarely a staff, though it may sometimes be a
walking-stick. It was clear that he needed--what so many of us need and
cannot get--a certainty. Happy fellow! he might have begged for an
appointment for years in vain, as many another does, but it fell into
his lap, no one knows how, and at four-and-twenty Mr. Theodore Edward
Hook was made treasurer to the Island of Mauritius, with a salary of
L2,000 per annum. This was not to be, and was not, despised. In spite of
climate, mosquitoes, and so forth, Hook took the money and sailed.

We have no intention of entering minutely upon his conduct in this
office, which has nothing to do with his character as a wit. There are a
thousand and one reasons for believing him guilty of the charges brought
against him, and a thousand and one for supposing him guiltless. Here
was a young man, gay, jovial, given to society entirely, and not at all
to arithmetic, put into a very trying and awkward position--native
clerks who would cheat if they could, English governors who would find
fault if they could, a disturbed treasury, an awkward currency, liars
for witnesses, and undeniable evidence of defalcation. In a word, an
examination was made into the state of the treasury of the island, and a
large deficit found. It remained to trace it home to its original
author.

Hook had not acquired the best character in the island. Those who know
the official dignity of a small British colony can well understand how
his pleasantries must have shocked those worthy big-wigs who, exalted
from Pump Court, Temple, or Paradise Row, Old Brompton, to places of
honour and high salaries, rode their high horses with twice the
exclusiveness of those 'to the manner born.' For instance, Hook was
once, by a mere chance, obliged to take the chair at an official dinner,
on which occasion the toasts proposed by the chairman were to be
accompanied by a salute from guns without. Hook went through the list,
and seemed to enjoy toast-drinking so much that he was quite sorry to
have come to the end of it, and continued, as if still from the list, to
propose successively the health of each officer present. The gunners
were growing quite weary, but having their orders, dared not complain.
Hook was delighted, and went on to the amazement and amusement of all
who were not tired of the noise, each youthful sub, taken by surprise,
being quite gratified at the honour done him. At last there was no one
left to toast; but the wine had taken effect, and Hook, amid roars of
laughter inside, and roars of savage artillery without, proposed the
health of the waiter who had so ably officiated. This done, he bethought
him of the cook, who was sent for to return thanks; but the artillery
officer had by this time got wind of the affair, and feeling that more
than enough powder had been wasted on the health of gentlemen who were
determined to destroy it by the number of their potations, took on
himself the responsibility of ordering the gunners to stop.

On another occasion he incurred the displeasure of the governor, General
Hall, by fighting a duel--fortunately as harmless as that of Moore and
Jeffrey--

  'When Little's leadless pistol met his eye,
  And Bow-street myrmidons stood laughing by,'

as Byron says. The governor was sensible enough to wish to put down the
'Gothic appeal to arms,' and was therefore the more irate.

These circumstances must be taken into consideration in Hook's favour in
examining the charge of embezzlement. It must also be stated that the
information of the deficit was sent in a letter to the governor by a man
named Allan, chief clerk in the Treasury, who had, for irregular
conduct, been already threatened with dismissal. Allan had admitted that
he had known of the deficit for fifteen months, and yet he had not, till
he was himself in trouble, thought of making it known to the proper
authorities. Before his examination, which of course followed, could be
concluded, Allan committed suicide. Now, does it not, on the face of it,
seem of the highest probability that this man was the real delinquent,
and that knowing that Hook had all the responsibility, and having taken
fair precautions against his own detection, he had anticipated a
discovery of the affair by a revelation, incriminating the treasurer?
_Quien sabe_;--dead men tell no tales.

The chest, however, was examined, and the deficit found far greater yet
than had been reported. Hook could not explain, could not understand it
at all; but if not criminal, he had necessarily been careless. He was
arrested, thrown into prison, and by the first vessel despatched to
England to take his trial, his property of every kind having been sold
for the Government. Hook, in utter destitution, might be supposed to
have lost his usual spirits, but he could not resist a joke. At St.
Helena he met an old friend going out to the Cape, who, surprised at
seeing him on his return voyage after a residence of only five years,
said: 'I hope you are not going home for your health.'--'Why,' said
Theodore, 'I am sorry to say they think there is something wrong in the
_chest._ Something wrong in the chest' became henceforward the ordinary
phrase in London society in referring to Hook's scrape.

Arrived in England, he was set free, the Government here having decided
that he could not be criminally tried; and thus Hook, guilty or not, had
been ruined and disgraced for life for simple carelessness. True, the
custody of a nation's property makes negligence almost criminal; but
that does not excuse the punishment of a man before he is tried.

He was summoned, however, to the Colonial Audit Board, where he
underwent a trying examination; after which he was declared to be in the
debt of Government: a writ of extent was issued against him; nine months
were passed in that delightful place of residence--a Sponging-house,
which he then exchanged for the 'Rules of the Bench'--the only rules
which have no exception. From these he was at last liberated, in 1825,
on the understanding that he was to repay the money to Government if at
any time he should be in a position to do so.

His liberation was a tacit acknowledgment of his innocence of the charge
of robbery; his encumberment with a debt caused by another's
delinquencies was, we presume, a signification of his responsibility and
some kind of punishment for his carelessness. Certainly it was hard upon
Hook, that, if innocent, he should not have gone forth without a stain
on his character for honesty; and it was unjust, that, if guilty, he
should not have been punished. The judgment was one of those compromises
with stern justice which are seldom satisfactory to either party.

The fact was that, guilty or not guilty, Hook had been both incompetent
and inconsiderate. Doubtless he congratulated himself highly on
receiving, at the age of twenty-five, an appointment worth L2,000 a year
in the paradise of the world; but how short-sighted his satisfaction,
since this very appointment left him some ten years later a pauper to
begin life anew with an indelible stain on his character. It was absurd
to give so young a man such a post; but it was absolutely wrong in Hook
not to do his utmost to carry out his duties properly. Nay, he had
trifled with the public money in the same liberal--perhaps a _more_
liberal--spirit as if it had been his own--made advances and loans here
and there injudiciously, and taken little heed of the consequences.
Probably, at this day, the common opinion acquits Hook of a designed and
complicated fraud; but common opinion never did acquit him of
misconduct, and even by his friends this affair was looked upon with a
suspicion that preferred silence to examination.

But why take such pains to exonerate Hook from a charge of robbery, when
he was avowedly guilty of as bad a sin, of which the law took no
cognizance, and which society forgave far more easily than it could have
done for robbing the State? Soon after his return from the Mauritius, he
took lodgings in the cheap, but unfashionable neighbourhood of Somers
Town. Here, in the moment of his misfortune, when doubting whether
disgrace, imprisonment, or what not awaited him, he sought solace in the
affection of a young woman, of a class certainly much beneath his, and
of a character unfit to make her a valuable companion to him. Hook had
received little moral training, and had he done so, his impulses were
sufficiently strong to overcome any amount of principle. With this
person--to use the modern slang which seems to convert a glaring sin
into a social misdemeanour--'he formed a connection.' In other words, he
destroyed her virtue. Hateful as such an act is, we must, before we can
condemn a man for it without any recommendation to mercy, consider a
score of circumstances which have rendered the temptation stronger, and
the result almost involuntary. Hook was not a man of high moral
character--very far from it--but we need not therefore suppose that he
sat down coolly and deliberately, like a villain in a novel, to effect
the girl's ruin. But the Rubicon once passed, how difficult is the
retreat! There are but two paths open to a man, who would avoid living a
life of sin: the one, to marry his victim; the other, to break off the
connection before it is too late. The first is, of course, the more
proper course; but there are cases where marriage is impossible. From
the latter a man of any heart must shrink with horror. Yet there _are_
cases, even, where the one sin will prove the least--where she who has
loved too well may grieve bitterly at parting, yet will be no more open
to temptation than if she had never fallen. Such cases are rare, and it
is not probable that the young person with whom Hook had become
connected would have retrieved the fatal error. She became a mother, and
there was no retreat. It is clear that Hook ought to have married her.
It is evident that he was selfish and wrong not to do so;--yet he shrank
from it, weakly, wickedly, and he was punished for his shrinking. He had
sufficient feeling not to throw his victim over, yet he was content to
live a life of sin, and to keep her in such a life. This is perhaps the
blackest stain on Hook's character. When Fox married, in consequence of
a similar connection, he 'settled down,' retrieved his early errors, and
became a better man, morally, than he had ever been. Hook _ought_ to
have married. It was the cowardly dread of public opinion that deterred
him from doing so, and, in consequence, he was never happy, and felt
that this connection was a perpetual burden to him.

Wrecked and ruined, Hook had no resource but his literary talents, and
it is to be deplored that he should have prostituted these to serve an
ungentlemanly and dishonourable party in their onslaught upon an
unfortunate woman. Whatever may be now thought of the queen of 'the
greatest gentleman'--or _roue_--of Europe, those who hunted her down
will never be pardoned, and Hook was one of those. We have cried out
against an Austrian general for condemning a Hungarian lady to the lash,
and we have seen, with delight, a mob chase him through the streets of
London and threaten his very life. But we have not only pardoned, but
even praised, our favourite wit for far worse conduct than this. Even if
we allow, which we do not, chat the queen was one half as bad as her
enemies, or rather her husband's parasites, would make her out, we
cannot forgive the men who, shielded by their incognito, and perfectly
free from danger of any kind, set upon a woman with libels, invectives,
ballads, epigrams, and lampoons, which a lady could scarcely read, and
of which a royal lady, and many an English gentlewoman, too, were the
butts.

The vilest of all the vile papers of that day was the 'John Bull,' now
settled down to a quiet periodical. Perhaps the real John Bull, heavy,
good-natured lumberer as he is, was never worse represented than in this
journal which bore his name, but had little of his kindly spirit. Hook
was its originator, and for a long time its main supporter. Scurrility,
scandal, libel, baseness of all kinds formed the fuel with which it
blazed, and the wit, bitter, unflinching, unsparing, which puffed the
flame up, was its chief recommendation.

No more disgraceful climax was ever reached by a disgraceful dynasty of
profligates than that which found a King of England--long, as Regent,
the leader of the profligate and degraded--at war with his injured
Queen. None have deserved better the honest gratitude of their country
than those who, like Henry Brougham, defended the oppressed woman in
spite of opposition, obloquy, and ridicule.

But we need not go deeply into a history so fresh in the minds of all,
as that blot which shows John Bull himself upholding a wretched
dissipated monarch against a wife, who, whatever her faults, was still a
woman, and whatever her spirit--for she had much of it, and showed it
grandly at need--was still a lady. Suffice it to say that 'John Bull'
was the most violent of the periodicals that attacked her, and that
Theodore Hook, no Puritan himself, was the principal writer in that
paper.

If you can imagine 'Punch' turned Conservative, incorporated in one
paper with the 'Morning Herald,' so that a column of news was printed
side by side with one of a jocular character, and these two together
devoted without principle to the support of a party, the attack of
Whiggism, and an unblushing detraction of the character of one of our
princesses, you can form some idea of what 'John Bull' was in those
days. There is, however, a difference: 'Punch' attacks public
characters, and ridicules public events; 'John Bull' dragged out the
most retired from their privacy, and attacked them with calumnies for
which, often, there was no foundation. Then, again, 'Punch' is not
nearly so bitter as was 'John Bull:' there is not in the 'London
Charivari' a determination to say everything that spite can invent
against any particular set or party; there is a good nature, still, in
master 'Punch.' It was quite the reverse in 'John Bull,' established for
one purpose, and devoted to that. Yet the wit in Theodore's paper does
not rise much higher than that of our modern laughing philosopher.

Of Hook's contributions the most remarkable was the 'Ramsbottom
Letters,' in which Mrs. Lavinia Dorothea Ramsbottom describes all the
_memory billions_ of her various tours at home and abroad, always, of
course, with more or less allusion to political affairs. The 'fun' of
these letters is very inferior to that of 'Jeames' or of the 'Snob
Papers,' and consists more in Malaprop absurdities and a wide range of
bad puns, than in any real wit displayed in them. Of the style of both,
we take an extract anywhere:--

'Oh! Mr. Bull, Room is raley a beautiful place. We entered it by the
Point of Molly, which is just like the Point and Sally at Porchmouth,
only they call Sally there Port, which is not known in Room. The Tiber
is a nice river, it looks yellow, but it does the same there as the
Thames does here. We hired a carry-lettz and a cocky-olly, to take us to
the Church of Salt Peter, which is prodigious big; in the centre of the
pizarro there is a basilisk very high, on the right and left two
handsome foundlings; and the farcy, as Mr. Fulmer called it, is
ornamented with collateral statutes of some of the Apostates.'

We can quite imagine that Hook wrote many of these letters when excited
by wine. Some are laughable enough, but the majority are so deplorably
stupid, reeking with puns and scurrility, that when the temporary
interest was gone, there was nothing left to attract the reader. It is
scarcely possible to laugh at the Joe-Millerish mistakes, the old world
puns, and the trite stories of Hook 'remains.' Remains! indeed; they had
better have remained where they were.

Besides prose of this kind, Hook contributed various jingles--there is
no other name for them--arranged to popular tunes, and intended to
become favourites with the country people. These like the prose
effusions, served the purpose of an hour, and have no interest now.
Whether they were ever really popular remains to be proved. Certes, they
are forgotten now, and long since even in the most Conservative corners
of the country. Many of these have the appearance of having been
originally _recitati_, and their amusement must have depended chiefly on
the face and manner of the singer--Hook himself; but in some he
displayed that vice of rhyming which has often made nonsense go down,
and which is tolerable only when introduced in the satire of a 'Don
Juan' or the first-rate mimicry of 'Rejected Addresses.' Hook had a most
wonderful facility in concocting out-of-the-way rhymes, and a few verses
from his song on Clubs will suffice for a good specimen of his talent:--

  'If any man loves comfort, and has little cash to buy it, he
    Should get into a crowded club--a most select society;
  While solitude and mutton-cutlets serve _infelix uxor_, he
    May have his club (Like Hercules), and revel there in luxury.
                                                    Bow, wow, wow, &c.

  'Yes, clubs knock houses on the head; e'en Hatchett's can't demolish
                them;
    Joy grieves to see their magnitude, and Long longs to abolish them.
  The inns are out; hotels for single men scarce keep alive on it;
    While none but houses that are in the family way thrive on it.
                                                    Bow, wow, wow, &c.

  'There's first the Athenaeum Club, so wise, there's not a man of it,
    That has not sense enough for six (in fact, that is the plan of it);
  The very waiters answer you with eloquence Socratical;
    And always place the knives and forks in order mathematical.
                                                    Bow, wow, wow, &c.

         *       *       *       *       *

  'E'en Isis has a house in town, and Cam abandons her city.
  The master now hangs out at the Trinity University.

          *       *       *       *       *

  'The Union Club is quite superb; its best apartment daily is,
  The lounge of lawyers, doctors, merchants, beaux, _cum multis aliis_.

         *       *       *       *       *

  'The Travellers are in Pall Mall, and smoke cigars so cosily,
  And dream they climb the highest Alps, or rove the plains of Moselai.

         *       *       *       *       *

  'These are the stages which all men propose to play their parts upon,
  For _clubs_ are what the Londoners have clearly set their _hearts_
                upon.
        Bow, wow, wow, tiddy-iddy-iddy-iddy, bow, wow, wow, &c.

This is one of the harmless ballads of 'Bull.' Some of the political
ones are scarcely fit to print in the present day. We cannot wonder that
ladies of a certain position gave out that they would not receive any
one who took in this paper. It was scurrilous to the last degree, and
Theodore Hook was the soul of it. He preserved his incognito so well,
that in spite of all attempts to unearth him, it was many years before
he could be certainly fixed upon as a writer in its columns. He even
went to the length of writing letters and articles against himself, in
order to disarm suspicion.

Hook now lived and thrived purely on literature. He published many
novels--gone where the bad novels go, and unread in the present day,
unless in some remote country town, which boasts only a very meagre
circulating library. Improbability took the place of natural painting in
them; punning supplied that of better wit; and personal portraiture was
so freely used, that his most intimate friends--old Mathews, for
instance--did not escape.

Meanwhile Hook, making a good fortune, returned to his convivial life,
and the enjoyment--if enjoyment it be--of general society. He 'threw out
his bow window' on the strength of his success with 'John Bull,' and
spent much more than he had. He mingled freely in all the London circles
of thirty years ago, whose glory is still fresh in the minds of most of
us, and everywhere his talent as an improvisatore, and his
conversational powers, made him a general favourite.

Unhappy popularity for Hook! He, who was yet deeply in debt to the
nation--who had an illegitimate family to maintain, who owed in many
quarters more than he could ever hope to pay--was still fool enough to
entertain largely, and receive both nobles and wits in the handsomest
manner. Why did he not live quietly? why not, like Fox, marry the
unhappy woman whom he had made the mother of his children, and content
himself with trimming vines and rearing tulips? Why, forsooth? because
he was Theodore Hook, thoughtless and foolish to the last. The jester of
the people must needs be a fool. Let him take it to his conscience that
he was not as much a knave.

In his latter years Hook took to the two dissipations most likely to
bring him into misery--play and drink. He was utterly unfitted for the
former, being too gay a spirit to sit down and calculate chances. He
lost considerably, and the more he lost the more he played. Drinking
became almost a necessity with him. He had a reputation to keep up in
society, and had not the moral courage to retire from it altogether.
Writing, improvising, conviviality, play, demanded stimulants. His mind
was overworked in every sense. He had recourse to the only remedy, and
in drinking he found a temporary relief from anxiety, and a short-lived
sustenance. There is no doubt that this man, who had amused London
circles for many years, hastened his end by drinking.

It is not yet thirty years since Theodore Hook died. He left the world
on August the 24th, 1841, and by this time he remains in the memory of
men only as a wit that was, a punster, a hoaxer, a sorry jester, with an
ample fund of fun, but not as a great man in any way. Allowing
everything for his education--the times he lived in, and the unhappy
error of his early life--we may admit that Hook was not, in character,
the worst of the wits. He died in no odour of sanctity, but he was not a
blasphemer or reviler, like others of this class. He ignored the bond of
matrimony, yet he remained faithful to the woman he had betrayed; he was
undoubtedly careless in the one responsible office with which he was
intrusted, yet he cannot be taxed, taking all in all, with deliberate
peculation. His drinking and playing were bad--very bad. His improper
connection was bad--very bad; but perhaps the worst feature in his
career was his connection with 'John Bull,' and his ready giving in to a
system of low libel. There is no excuse for this but the necessity of
living; but Hook, had he retained any principle, might have made enough
to live upon in a more honest manner. His name does, certainly, not
stand out well among the wits of this country, but after all, since all
were so bad, Hook may be excused as not being the worst of them.
_Requiescat in pace_.



SYDNEY SMITH.


The 'Wise Wit.'--Oddities of the Father.--Verse-making at Winchester.--
Curate Life on Salisbury Plain.--Old Edinburgh.--Its Social and
Architectural Features.--Making Love Metaphysically.--The Old Scottish
Supper.--The Men of Mark passing away---The Band of Young Spirits.--
Brougham's Early Tenacity.--Fitting up Conversations.--'Old School'
Ceremonies.--The Speculative Society.--A Brilliant Set.--Sydney's Opinion
of his Friends.--Holland House.--Preacher at the 'Foundling.'--Sydney's
'Grammar of Life.'--The Picture Mania.--A Living Comes at Last.--The
wit's Ministry.--The Parsonage House at Foston-le-Clay.--Country Quiet.
The Universal Scratcher.--Country Life and Country Prejudice.--The Genial
Magistrate.--Glimpse of Edinburgh Society.--Mrs. Grant of Laggan. A
Pension Difficulty.--Jeffrey and Cockburn.--Craigcrook.--Sydney Smith's
Cheerfulness.--His Rheumatic Armour.--No Bishopric.--Becomes Canon of St.
Paul's.--Anecdotes of Lord Dudley.--A Sharp Reproof.--Sydney's
Classification of Society.--Last Strokes of Humour.


Smith's reputation--to quote from Lord Cockburn's 'Memorial of
Edinburgh'--'here, then, was the same as it has been throughout his
life, that of a wise wit.' A wit he was, but we must deny him the
reputation of being a beau. For that, nature, no less than his holy
office, had disqualified him. Who that ever beheld him in a London
drawing-room, when he went to so many dinners that he used to say he was
a walking patty--who could ever miscall him a beau? How few years have
we numbered since one perceived the large bulky form in canonical
attire--the plain, heavy face, large, long, unredeemed by any
expression, except that of sound hard sense--and thought, 'can this be
the Wit?' How few years is it since Henry Cockburn, hating London, and
coming but rarely to what he called the 'devil's drawing room,' stood
near him, yet apart, for he was the most diffident of men; his wonderful
luminous eyes, his clear, almost youthful, vivid complexion, contrasting
brightly with the gray, pallid, prebendal complexion of Sydney? how
short a time since Francis Jeffery, the smallest of great men, a beau in
his old age, a wit to the last, stood hat in hand to bandy words with
Sydney ere he rushed off to some still gayer scene, some more
fashionable circle: yet they are all gone--gone from sight, living in
memory alone.

Perhaps it was time: they might have lived, indeed, a few short years
longer; we might have heard their names amongst us; listened to their
voices; gazed upon the deep hazel, ever-sparkling eyes, that constituted
the charm of Cockburn's handsome face, and made all other faces seem
tame and dead: we might have marvelled at the ingenuity, the happy turns
of expression, the polite sarcasm of Jeffrey; we might have revelled in
Sydney Smith's immense natural gift of fun, and listened to the 'wise
wit,' regretting with Lord Cockburn, that so much worldly wisdom seemed
almost inappropriate in one who should have been in some freer sphere
than within the pale of holy orders: we might have done this, but the
picture might have been otherwise. Cockburn, whose intellect rose, and
became almost sublime, as his spirit neared death, might have sunk into
the depression of conscious weakness; Jeffery might have repeated
himself, or turned hypochondriacal; Sydney Smith have grown garrulous:
let us not grieve; they went in their prime of intellect, before one
quality of mind had been touched by the frostbite of age.

Sydney Smith's life is a chronicle of literary society. He was born in
1771, and he died in 1845. What a succession of great men does that
period comprise! Scott, Jeffrey, Mackintosh, Dugald Stewart, Homer,
Brougham and Cockburn were his familiars--a constellation which has set,
we fear, for ever. Our world presents nothing like it: we must look
back, not around us, for strong minds, cultivated up to the nicest
point. Our age is too diffused, too practical for us to hope to witness
again so grand a spectacle.

From his progenitors Sydney Smith inherited one of his best gifts, great
animal spirits--the only spirits one wants in this racking life of ours;
and his were transmitted to him by his father. That father, Mr. Robert
Smith, was odd as well as clever. His oddities seem to have been coupled
with folly but that of Sydney was soberized by thought, and swayed by
intense common sense. The father had a mania for buying and altering
places: one need hardly say that he spoiled them. Having done so, he
generally sold them; and _nineteen_ various places were thus the source
of expense to him, and of injury to the pecuniary interests of his
family.

This strange spendthrift married a Miss Olier, a daughter of a French
emigrant, from Languedoc. Every one may remember the charming attributes
given by Miss Kavanagh, in her delicious tale, 'Nathalie,' to the French
women of the South. This Miss Olier seems to have realized all one's
ideas of the handsome, sweet-tempered, high-minded Southrons of _la
belle France_. To her Sydney Smith traced his native gaiety; her beauty
did not, certainly, pass to him as well as to some of her other
descendants. When Talleyrand was living in England as an emigrant, on
intimate terms with Robert Smith, Sydney's brother, or Bobus, as he was
called by his intimates, the conversation turned one day on hereditary
beauty. Bobus spoke of his mother's personal perfections: _'Ah, mon
ami,'_ cried Talleyrand, _c'etait apparemment, monsieur: volre pere qui
n'etait pas bien.'_

This Bobus was the schoolfellow at Eton of Canning and Frere; and with
John Smith and those two youths, wrote the 'Microcosm.' Sydney, on the
other hand, was placed on the Foundation, at Winchester, which was then
a stern place of instruction for a gay, spirited, hungry boy. Courtenay,
his younger brother, went with him, but ran away twice. To owe one's
education to charity was, in those days, to be half starved. Never was
there enough, even of the coarsest food, to satisfy the boys, and the
urchins, fresh from home, were left to fare as they might. 'Neglect,
abuse, and vice were,' Sydney used to say, 'the pervading evils of
Winchester; and the system of teaching, if one may so call it, savoured
of the old monastic narrowness.... I believe, when a boy at school, I
made above ten thousand Latin verses, and no man in his senses would
dream of ever making another in after-life. So much for life and time
wasted.' The verse-inciting process is, nevertheless, remorselessly
carried on during three years more at Oxford and is much oftener the
test of patient stupidity than of aspiring talent, Yet of what
stupendous importance it is in the attainment of scholarships and
prizes; and how zealous, how tenacious, are dons and 'coaches' in
holding to that which far higher classics, the Germans, regard with
contempt!

Sydney's proficiency promoted him to be captain of the school, and he
left Winchester for New College, Oxford---one of the noblest and most
abused institutions then of that grand university. Having obtained a
scholarship, as a matter of course, and afterwards a fellowship, he
remarked that the usual bumpers of port wine at college were as much the
order of the day among the Fellows as Latin verses among the
undergraduates. We may not, however, picture to ourselves Sydney as
partaking of the festivities of the common room; with more probability
let us imagine him wandering with steady gait, even _after_ Hall--a
thing not even then or now certain in colleges--in those evergreen,
leafy, varied gardens, flanked by that old St. Peter's church on the one
side, and guarded by the high wall, once a fortification, on the other.
He was poor, and therefore safe, for poverty is a guardian angel to an
undergraduate, and work may protect even the Fellow from utter
deterioration.

He was turned out into the world by his father with his hundred a year
from the Fellowship, and never had a farthing from the old destroyer of
country-seats afterwards. He never owed a sixpence; nay, he paid a debt
of thirty pounds, which Courtenay, who had no _iron_ in his character,
had incurred at Winchester, and had not the courage to avow. The next
step was to choose a profession. The bar would have been Sydney's
choice; but the church was the choice of his father. It is the cheapest
channel by which a man may pass into genteel poverty; 'wit and
independence do not make bishops,' as Lord Cockburn remarks. We do not,
however, regard, as he does, Sydney Smith as 'lost' by being a
churchman. He was happy, and made others happy; he was good, and made
others good. Who can say the same of a successful barrister, or of a
popular orator? His first sphere was in a curacy on Salisbury Plain; one
of his earliest clerical duties was to marry his brother Robert (a
barrister) to Miss Vernon, aunt to Lord Lansdowne. 'All I can tell you
of the marriage,' Sydney wrote to his mother, 'is that he cried, she
cried, I cried.' It was celebrated in the library at Bowood, where
Sydney so often enchanted the captivating circle afterwards by his wit.

Nothing could be more gloomy than the young pastor's life on Salisbury
Plain: 'the first and poorest pauper of the hamlet,' as he calls a
curate, he was seated down among a few scattered cottages on this vast
flat; visited even by the butcher's cart only once a week from
Salisbury; accosted by few human beings; shunned by all who loved social
life. But the probation was not long; and after being nearly destroyed
by a thunder-storm in one of his rambles, he quitted Salisbury Plain,
after two years, for a more genial scene.

There was an hospitable squire, a Mr. Beach, living in Smith's parish;
the village of Netherhaven, near Amesbury. Mr. Beach had a son; the
quiet Sundays at the Hall were enlivened by the curate's company at
dinner, and Mr. Beach found his guest both amusing and sensible, and
begged him to become tutor to the young squire. Smith accepted; and went
away with his pupil, intending to visit Germany. The French Revolution
was, however, at its height. Germany was impracticable, and 'we were
driven,' Sydney wrote to his mother, 'by stress of politics, into
Edinburgh.'

This accident,--this seeming accident,--was the foundation of Sydney
Smith's opportunities; not of his success, for that his own merits
procured, but of the direction to which his efforts were applied. He
would have been eminent, wherever destiny had led him; but he was thus
made to be useful in one especial manner; 'his lines had, indeed, fallen
in pleasant places.'

Edinburgh, in 1797, was not, it is almost needless to say, the Edinburgh
of 1860. An ancient, picturesque, high-built looking city, with its
wynds and closes, it had far more the characteristics of an old French
_ville de province_ than of a northern capital. The foundation-stone of
the new College was laid in 1789, but the building was not finished
until more than forty years afterwards. The edifice then stood in the
midst of fields and gardens. 'Often.' writes Lord Cockburn, 'did we
stand to admire the blue and yellow crocuses rising through the clean
earth in the first days of spring, in the house of Doctor Monro (the
second), whose house stood in a small field entering from Nicolson
Street, within less than a hundred yards from the college.'

The New Town was in progress when Sydney Smith and his pupil took refuge
in 'Auld Reekie.' With the rise of every street some fresh innovation in
manners seemed also to begin. Lord Cockburn, wedded as he was to his
beloved Reekie, yet unprejudiced and candid on all points, ascribes the
change in customs to the intercourse with the English, and seems to date
it from the Union. Thus the overflowing of the old town into fresh
spaces, 'implied,' as he remarks, 'a general alteration of our habits.'

As the dwellers in the Faubourg St. Germain regard their neighbours
across the Seine, in the Faubourg St. Honore, with disapproving eyes, so
the sojourners in the Canongate and the Cowgate considered that the
inundation of modern population vulgarized their 'prescriptive
gentilities.' Cockburn's description of a Scottish assembly in the olden
time is most interesting.

'For example, Saint Cecilia's Hall was the only public resort of the
musical; and besides being our most selectly fashionable place of
amusement, was the best and most beautiful concert-room I have ever
seen. And there have I myself seen most of our literary and fashionable
gentlemen, predominating with their side curls and frills, and ruffles,
and silver buckles; and our stately matrons stiffened in hoops, and
gorgeous satin; and our beauties with high-heeled shoes, powdered and
pomatumed hair, and lofty and composite head-dresses. All this was in
the Cowgate; the last retreat now-a-days of destitution and disease. The
building still stands, through raised and changed. When I last saw it,
it seemed to be partly an old-clothesman's shop and partly a brazier's.'
Balls were held in the beautiful rooms of George Square, in spite of the
'New Town piece of presumption,' that is, an attempt to force the
fashionable dancers of the reel into the George Street apartments.

'And here,' writes Lord Cockburn, looking back to the days when he was
that 'ne'er-do-weel' Harry Cockburn, 'were the last remains of the
ball-room discipline of the preceding age. Martinet dowagers and
venerable beaux acted as masters and mistresses of ceremonies, and made
all the preliminary arrangements. No couple could dance unless each
party was provided with a ticket prescribing the precise place, in the
precise dance. If there was no ticket, the gentleman or the lady was
dealt with as an intruder, and turned out of the dance. If the ticket
had marked upon it---say for a country-dance, the figures, 3, 5; this
meant that the holder was to place himself in the 3rd dance, and 5th
from the top; and if he was anywhere else, he was set right or excluded.
And the partner's ticket must correspond. Woe on the poor girl who with
ticket 2, 7, was found opposite a youth marked 5, 9! It was flirting
without a licence, and looked very ill, and would probably be reported
by the ticket director of that dance to the mother.'

All this had passed away; and thus the aristocracy of a few individuals
was ended; and society, freed from some of its restraints, flourished in
another and more enlightened way than formerly.

There were still a sufficient number of peculiarities to gratify one who
had an eye to the ludicrous. Sydney Smith soon discovered that it is a
work of time to impart a humorous idea to a true Scot. 'It requires,' he
used to say, 'a surgical operation to get a joke well into a Scotch
understanding.' 'They are so embued with metaphysics, that they even
make love metaphysically. I overheard a young lady of my acquaintance,
at a dance in Edinburgh, exclaim in a sudden pause of the music, "What
you say, my Lord, is very true of love in the _abstract_, but,--" here
the fiddlers began fiddling furiously, and the rest was lost.' He was,
however, most deeply touched by the noble attribute of that nation which
retains what is so rare--the attribute of being true friends. He did
ample justice to their kindliness of heart. 'If you meet with an
accident,' he said, 'half Edinburgh immediately flocks to your doors to
inquire after your _pure_ hand, or your _pure_ foot.' 'Their temper,' he
observed, 'stands anything but an attack on their climate; even Jeffrey
cannot shake off the illusion that myrtles flourish at Craig Crook.' The
sharp reviewer stuck to his myrtle allusions, and treated Smith's
attempts with as much contempt as if he had been a 'wild visionary, who
had never breathed his caller air,' nor suffered under the rigours of
his climate, nor spent five years in 'discussing metaphysics and
medicine in that garret end of the earth,--that knuckle end of
England--that land of Calvin, oat-cakes, and sulphur,' as Smith termed
Scotland.

During two years he braved the winters, in which he declared
hackney-coaches were drawn by four horses on account of the snow; where
men were blown flat down on the face by the winds; and where even
'experienced Scotch fowls did not dare to cross the streets, but sidled
along, tails aloft, without venturing to encounter the gale.' He
luxuriated, nevertheless, in the true Scotch supper, than which nothing
more pleasant and more unwholesome has ever been known in Christendom.
Edinburgh is said to have been the only place where people dined twice a
day. The writer of this memoir is old enough to remember the true
Scottish _Attic_ supper before its final 'fading into wine and water,'
as Lord Cockburn describes its decline. 'Suppers,' Cockburn truly says,
'are cheaper than dinners,' and Edinburgh, at that time, was the
cheapest place in Great Britain. Port and sherry were the staple wines:
claret, duty free in Scotland until 1780, was indeed beginning to be a
luxury; it was no longer the ordinary beverage, as it was when as
Mackenzie, the author of the 'Man of Feeling,' described--it used, upon
the arrival of a cargo, to be sent through the town on a cart with a
horse before it, so that every one might have a sample, by carrying a
jug to be filled for sixpence: still even at the end of the eighteenth
century it was in frequent use. Whisky toddy and plotty (red wine mulled
with spices) came into the supper-room in ancient flagons or _stoups_
after a lengthy repast of broiled chickens, roasted moorfowl, pickled
mussels, flummery, and numerous other good things had been discussed by
a party who ate as if they had not dined that day. 'We will eat,' Lord
Cockburn used to say after a long walk, 'a profligate supper,'--a supper
without regard to discretion, or digestion; and he usually kept his
word.

In Edinburgh, Sydney Smith formed the intimate acquaintance of Lord
Jeffrey, and that acquaintance ripened into a friendship only closed by
death. The friendship of worthy, sensible men he looked upon as one of
the greatest pleasures in life.

The 'old suns,' Lord Cockburn tells us, 'were setting when the band of
great thinkers and great writers who afterwards concocted the "Edinburgh
Review," were rising into celebrity.' Principal Robertson, the
historian, had departed this life in 1793, a kindly old man. With
beaming eyes underneath his frizzed and curled wig, and a trumpet tied
with a black ribbon to the button-hole of his coat, for he was deaf,
this most excellent of writers showed how he could be also the most
zealous of diners. Old Adam Ferguson, the historian of Rome, had 'set,'
also: one of the finest specimens of humanity had gone from among his
people in him. Old people, not thirty years ago, delighted to tell you
how 'Adam,' when chaplain to the Black Watch, that glorious 42nd,
refused to retire to his proper place, the rear, during an action, but
persisted in being engaged in front. He was also gone; and Dugald
Stewart filled his vacant place in the professorship of moral
philosophy. Dr. Henry, the historian, was also at rest; after a long
laborious life, and the compilation of a dull, though admirable History
of England, the design of which, in making a chapter on arts, manners,
and literature separate from the narrative, appears to have suggested to
Macaulay his inimitable disquisition on the same topics. Dr. Henry
showed to a friend a pile of books which he had gone through, merely to
satisfy himself and the world as to what description of trousers was
worn by the Saxons. His death was calm as his life. 'Come out to me
directly,' he wrote to his friend, Sir Harry Moncrieff: 'I have got
something to do this week; I have got to die.'

It was in 1801, that Dugald Stewart began his course of lectures on
political economy. Hitherto all public favour had been on the side of
the Tories, and independence of thought was a sure way to incur
discouragement from the Bench, in the Church, and from every Government
functionary. Lectures on political economy were regarded as innovations;
but they formed a forerunner of that event which had made several
important changes in our literary and political hemisphere: the
commencement of the 'Edinburgh Review.' This undertaking was the work of
men who were separated from the mass of their brother-townsmen by their
politics; their isolation as a class binding them the more closely
together by links never broken, in a brotherhood of hope and ambition,
to which the natural spirits of Sydney Smith, of Cockburn, and of
Jeffrey, gave an irresistible charm.

Among those who the most early in life ended a career of promise was
Francis Horner. He was the son of a linen-draper in Edinburgh; or, as
the Scotch call it, following the French, a merchant. Homer's best linen
for sheets, and table-cloths, and all the _under garments_ of
housekeeping, are still highly esteemed by the trade.

'My desire to know Horner,' Sydney Smith states, 'arose from my being
cautioned against him by some excellent and feeble-minded people to whom
I brought letters of introduction, and who represented him as a person
of violent political opinions.' Sydney Smith interpreted this to mean
that Horner was a man who thought for himself; who loved truth better
than he loved Dundas (Lord Melville), then the tyrant of Scotland. 'It
is very curious to consider,' Sydney Smith wrote, in addressing Lady
Holland, in 1817, 'in what manner Horner gained, in so extraordinary a
degree, the affections of such a number of persons of both sexes, all
ages, parties, and ranks in society; for he was not remarkably good
tempered, nor particularly lively and agreeable; and an inflexible
politician on the unpopular side. The causes are, his high character for
probity, honour, and talents; his fine countenance; the benevolent
interest he took in the concerns of all his friends; his simple and
gentlemanlike manners; his untimely death.' 'Grave, studious,
honourable, kind, everything Horner did,' says Lord Cockburn, 'was
marked by thoughtfulness and kindness;' a beautiful character, which was
exhibited but briefly to his contemporaries, but long remembered after
his death.

Henry Brougham was another of the Edinburgh band of young spirits. He
was educated in the High School under Luke Fraser, the tutor who trained
Walter Scott and Francis Jeffrey. Brougham used to be pointed out 'as
the fellow who had beat the master.' He had dared to differ with Fraser,
a hot pedant, on some piece of Latinity. Fraser, irritated, punished the
rebel, and thought the matter ended. But the next day 'Harry,' as they
called him, appeared, loaded with books, renewed the charge, and forced
Luke to own that he was beaten. 'It was then,' says Lord Cockburn, 'that
I first saw him.'

After remaining two years in Edinburgh, Sydney Smith went southwards to
marry a former schoolfellow of his sister Maria's--a Miss Pybus, to whom
he had been attached and engaged at a very early period of his life. The
young lady, who was of West Indian descent, had some fortune; but her
husband's only stock, on which to begin housekeeping, consisted of six
silver tea-spoons, worn away with use. One day he rushed into the room
and threw these attenuated articles into her lap--'There, Kate, I give
you all my fortune, you lucky girl!'

With the small _dot_, and the thin silver-spoons, the young couple set
up housekeeping in the 'garret end of the earth.' Their first difficulty
was to know how money could be obtained to begin with, for Mrs. Smith's
small fortune was settled on herself by her husband's wish. Two rows of
pearls had been given her by her thoughtful mother. These she converted
into money, and obtained for them L500. Several years afterwards, when
visiting the shop at which she sold them, with Miss Vernon and Miss Fox,
Mrs. Smith saw her pearls, every one of which she knew. She asked what
was the price. 'L1,500,' was the reply.

The sum, however, was all important to the thrifty couple. It distanced
the nightmare of the poor and honest,--debt. L750 was presented by Mr.
Beach, in gratitude for the care of his son, to Smith. It was invested
in the funds, and formed the nucleus of future savings,--'_Ce n'est que
le premier pas qui coute_' is a trite saying. '_C'est le premier pas qui
gagne_, might be applied to this and similar cases. A little
daughter--Lady Holland, the wife of the celebrated physician, Sir Henry
Holland--was sent to bless the sensible pair. Sydney had wished that she
might be born with one eye, so that he might never lose her;
nevertheless, though she happened to be born with two, he bore her
secretly from the nursery, a few hours after her birth, to show her in
triumph to the future Edinburgh Reviewers.

The birth of the 'Edinburgh Review' quickly followed that of the young
lady. Jeffrey,--then an almost starving barrister, living in the eighth
or ninth flat of a house in Buccleuch Place,--Brougham, and Sydney Smith
were the triumvirate who propounded the scheme, Smith being the first
mover. He proposed a motto: 'Tenui Musam meditanum avenir:' We cultivate
literature on a little oatmeal; but this being too near the truth, they
took their motto from Publius Syrus; 'of whom,' said Smith, 'none of us
had, I am sure, read a single line.' To this undertaking Sydney Smith
devoted his talents for more than twenty-eight years.

Meantime, during the brief remainder of his stay in Edinburgh, his
circumstances improved. He had done that which most of the clergy are
obliged to do--taken a pupil. He had now another, the son of Mr. Gordon,
of Ellon; for each of these young men he received L400 a year. He became
to them a father and a friend; he entered into all their amusements. One
of them saying that he could not find conversation at the balls for his
partners, 'Never mind,' cried Sydney Smith, 'I'll fit you up in five
minutes.' Accordingly he wrote down conversations for them amid bursts
of laughter.

Thus happily did years, which many persons would have termed a season of
adversity, pass away. The chance which brought him to Edinburgh
introduced him to a state of society never likely to be seen again in
Scotland. Lord Cockburn's 'Memorials' afford an insight into manners,
not only as regarded suppers, but on the still momentous point, of
dinners. Three o'clock was the fashionable hour, so late as the
commencement of the present century. That hour, 'not without groans and
predictions,' became four--and four was long and conscientiously adhered
to. 'Inch by inch,' people yielded, and five continued to be the
standard polite hour from 1806 to 1820. 'Six has at length prevailed.'

The most punctilious ceremony existed. When dinner was announced, a file
of ladies went first in strict order of precedence. 'Mrs. Colonel Such
an One;' 'Mrs. Doctor Such an One,' and so on. Toasts were _de rigueur_:
no glass of wine was to be taken by a guest without comprehending a
lady, or a covey of ladies. 'I was present,' says Lord Cockburn, 'when
the late Duke of Buccleuch took a glass of sherry by himself at the
table of Charles Hope, then Lord Advocate, and this was noticed as a
piece of ducal contempt.' Toasts, and when the ladies had retired,
_rounds_ of toasts, were drunk. 'The prandial nuisance,' Lord Cockburn
wrote, 'was horrible. But it was nothing to what followed.'

At these repasts, though less at these than at boisterous suppers, a
frequent visitor at the same table with Sydney Smith was the illustrious
Sir James Mackintosh, a man to whose deep-thinking mind the world is
every day rendering justice. The son of a brave officer, Mackintosh was
born on the banks of Loch Ness: his mother, a Miss Fraser, was aunt to
Mrs. Fraser Tytler, wife of Lord Woodhouselee, one of the judges of the
Court of Session and mother of the late historian of that honoured name.

Mackintosh had been studying at Aberdeen, in the same classes with
Robert Hall, whose conversation, he avowed, had a great influence over
his mind. He arrived in Edinburgh about 1784, uncertain to what
profession to belong; somewhat anxious to be a bookseller, in order to
revel in 'the paradise of books;' he turned his attention, however, to
medicine, and became a Brunonian, that is, a disciple of John Brown, the
founder of a theory which he followed out to the extent in practice. The
main feature of the now defunct system, which set scientific Europe in a
blaze, seems to have been a mad indulgence of the passions; and an
unbridled use of intoxicating liquors. Brown fell a victim to his vices.
Years after he had been laid in his grave, his daughter, Euphemia, being
in great indigence, received real kindness from Sir James and Lady
Mackintosh, the former of whom used to delight in telling the story of
her father's saying to her: 'Effy, bring me the mooderate stimulus of a
hoonderd draps o' laudanum in a glass o' brandy.'

Mackintosh had not quitted Edinburgh when Sydney Smith reached it. Smith
became a member of the famous Speculative Society. Their acquaintance
was renewed years afterwards in London. Who can ever forget the small,
quiet dinners given by Mackintosh when living out of Parliament, and out
of office in Cadogan Place? Simple but genial were those repasts,
forming a strong contrast to the Edinburgh dinners of yore. He had then
long given up both the theory and practice of the Brunonians, and took
nothing but light French and German wines, and these in moderation. His
tall, somewhat high-shouldered, massive form; his calm brow, mild,
thoughtful; his dignity of manner; his gentleness to all; his vast
knowledge; his wonderful appreciation of excellence; his discrimination
of faults--all combined to form one of the finest specimens ever seen,
even in that illustrious period, of a philosopher and historian.

Jeffrey and Cockburn were contrasts to one whom they honoured. Jeffrey,
'the greatest of British critics,' was eight years younger than
Mackintosh, having been born in 1773. He was the son of one of the
depute clerks to the Supreme Court, not an elevated position, though one
of great respectability. When Mackintosh and Sydney Smith first knew him
in Edinburgh, he was enduring, with all the impatience of his sensitive
nature, what he called 'a slow, obscure, philosophical starvation' at
the Scotch bar.

'There are moments,' he wrote, 'when I think I could sell myself to the
ministers or to the devil, in order to get above these necessities.'
Like all men so situated, his depression came in fits. Short, spare,
with regular, yet _not_ aristocratic features;--speaking, brilliant, yet
_not_ pleasing eyes;--a voice consistent with that _mignon_ form;--a
somewhat precise and anxious manner, there was never in Jeffrey that
charm, that _abandon_, which rendered his valued friend, Henry Cockburn,
the most delightful, the most beloved of men, the very idol of his
native city.

The noble head of Cockburn, bald, almost in youth, with its pliant,
refined features, and its fresh tint upon a cheek always clear,
generally high in colour, was a strong contrast to the rigid _petitesse_
of Jeffrey's physiognomy; much more so to the large proportions of
Mackintosh; or to the ponderous, plain, and, later in life, swarthy
countenance of Sydney Smith. Lord Webb Seymour, the brother of the late
Duke of Somerset, gentle, modest, intelligent,--Thomas Thomson, the
antiquary,--and Charles and George Bell, the surgeon and the advocate,--
Murray, afterwards Lord Murray, the generous pleader, who gave up to its
rightful heirs an estate left him by a client,--and Brougham--formed the
staple of that set now long since extinct.

It was partially broken up by Sydney Smith's coming, in 1803, to London.
He there took a house in Doughty Street, being partial to legal society,
which was chiefly to be found in that neighbourhood.

Here Sir Samuel Romilly, Mackintosh, Scarlett (Lord Abinger), the
eccentric and unhappy Mr. Ward, afterwards Lord Dudley, 'Conversation'
Sharp, Rogers, and Luttrell, formed the circle in which Sidney
delighted. He was still very poor, and obliged to sell the rest of his
wife's jewels; but his brother Robert allowed him L100 a year, and lent
him, when he subsequently removed into Yorkshire, L500.

He had now a life of struggling, but those struggles were the lot of his
early friends also; Mackintosh talked of going to India as a lecturer;
Smith recommended Jeffrey to do the same. Happily, both had the courage
and the sense to await for better times at home; yet Smith's opinion of
Mackintosh was, that 'he never saw so theoretical a head which contained
so much practical understanding;' and to Jeffrey he wrote:

'You want nothing to be a great lawyer, and nothing to be a great
speaker, but a deeper voice--slower and more simple utterance--more
humility of face and neck--and a greater contempt for _esprit_ than men
_who have so much_ in general attain to.'

The great event of Sydney Smith's first residence in London was his
introduction at Holland House; in that 'gilded room which furnished,' as
he said, 'the best and most agreeable society in the world,' his
happiest hours were passed. John Allen, whom Smith had introduced to
Lord Holland was the peer's librarian and friend. Mackintosh, who Sydney
Smith thought only wanted a few bad qualities to get on in the world,
Rogers, Luttrell, Sheridan, Byron, were among the 'suns' that shone,
where Addison had suffered and studied.

Between Lord Holland and Sydney Smith the most cordial friendship
existed; and the eccentric and fascinating Lady Holland was his constant
correspondent. Of this able woman, it was said by Talleyrand: '_Elle est
toute assertion; mais quand on demande la preuve c'est la son secret_'
Of Lord Holland, the keen diplomatist observed: '_Cest la bienveillance
meme, mais la bienveillance la plus perturbatrice, qu'on ait jamais
vue._'

Lord Holland did not commit the error ascribed by Rogers, in his
Recollections, to Marlay, Bishop of Waterford, who when poor, with an
income of only L400 a year, used to give the best dinners possible; but,
when made a bishop, enlarged his table, and lost his fame-had no more
good company--there was an end of his enjoyment: he had lords and ladies
to his table--foolish people--foolish men--and foolish women--and there
was an end of him and us. 'Lord Holland selected his lords and ladies,
not for their rank, but for their peculiar merits or acquirements.' Then
even Lady Holland's oddities were amusing. When she wanted to get rid of
a fop, she used to say: 'I beg your pardon, but I wish you would sit a
little farther off; there is something on your handkerchief which I
don't quite like.' Or when a poor man happened to stand, after the
fashion of the lords of creation, with his back close to the
chimney-piece, she would cry out, 'Have the goodness, sir, to stir the
fire.'

Lord Holland never asked any one to dinner, ('not even _me_,' says
Rogers, 'whom he had known so long,') without asking Lady Holland. One
day, shortly before his lordship's death, Rogers was coming out from
Holland House when he met him. 'Well, do you return to dinner?' I
answered. 'No, I have not been invited.' The precaution, in fact, was
necessary, for Lord Holland was so good-natured and hospitable that he
would have had a crowd daily at his table had he been left to himself.

The death of Lord Holland completely broke up the unrivalled dinners,
and the subsequent evenings in the 'gilded chamber.' Lady Holland, to
whom Holland House was left for her life-time, declined to live there.
With Holland House, the mingling of aristocracy with talent; the
blending ranks by force of intellect; the assembling not only of all the
celebrity that Europe could boast, but of all that could enhance private
enjoyment, had ceased. London, the most intelligent of capitals,
possesses not one single great house in which pomp and wealth are made
subsidiary to the true luxury of intellectual conversation.

On the morning of the day when Lord Holland's last illness began, these
lines were written by him, and found after his death on his
dressing-table:--

  'Nephew of Fox, and Friend of Grey,
    Sufficient for my fame,
  If those who know me best shall say
    I tarnished neither name.'

Of him his best friend, Sydney Smith, left a short but discriminative
character. 'There was never (amongst other things he says) a better
heart, or one more purified from all the bad passions--more abounding in
charity and compassion--or which seemed to be so created as a refuge to
the helpless and oppressed.'

Meantime Sydney Smith's circumstances were still limited; L50 a year as
evening preacher to the Foundling Hospital was esteemed as a great help
by him. The writer of this memoir remembers an amusing anecdote related
of him at the table of an eminent literary character by a member of Lord
Woodhouselee's family, who had been desirous to obtain for Sydney the
patronage of the godly. To this end she persuaded Robert Grant and
Charles Grant (afterwards Lord Glenelg) to go to the Foundling to hear
him, she hoped to advantage; to her consternation he broke forth into so
familiar a strain, couched in terms so bordering on the jocose,--though
no one had deeper religious convictions than he had,--that the two
saintly brothers listened in disgust. They forgot how South let loose
the powers of his wit and sarcasm; and how the lofty-minded Jeremy
Taylor applied the force of humour to lighten the prolixity of argument.
Sydney Smith became, nevertheless, a most popular preacher; but the man
who prevents people from sleeping once a week in their pews is sure to
be criticised.

Let us turn to him, however, as a member of society. His circle of
acquaintance was enlarged, not only by his visits to Holland House, but
by his lectures on moral philosophy at the Royal Institution. Sir Robert
Peel, not the most impressionable of men, but one whose cold shake of
the hand is said--as Sydney Smith said of Sir James Mackintosh--'to have
come under the genus _Mortmain_' was a very young man at the time when
Albemarle Street was crowded with carriages from one end of the street
to the other, in consequence of Sydney Smith's lectures; yet he declared
that he had never forgotten the effect given to the speech of Logan, the
Indian chief, by Sydney's voice and manner.

His lectures produced a sum sufficient for Sydney to furnish a house in
Orchard Street. Doughty Street--raised to celebrity as having been the
residence, not only of Sydney Smith, but of Charles Dickens--was too far
for the _habitue_ of Holland House and the orator of Albemarle Street
long to sojourn there. In Orchard Street, Sydney enjoyed that domestic
comfort which he called 'the grammar of life;' delightful suppers, to
about twenty or thirty persons, who came and went as they pleased. A
great part of the same amusing and gifted set used to meet once a week
also at Sir James Mackintosh's, at a supper, which, though not exactly
Cowper's 'radish and an egg,' was simple, but plentiful--yet most
eagerly sought after. 'There are a few living,' writes Sydney Smith's
daughter, 'who can look back to them, and I have always found them do so
with a sigh of regret.'

One night, a country cousin of Sydney Smith's was present at a supper.
'Now, Sydney,' whispered the simple girl, 'I know all these are very
remarkable people; do tell me who they are.'--'Oh, yes; there's
Hannibal,' pointing to a grave, dry, stern man, Mr. Whishaw; 'he lost
his leg in the Carthagenian war: there's Socrates,' pointing to
Luttrell: 'that,' he added, turning to Horner, 'is Solon.'

Another evening, Mackintosh brought a raw Scotch cousin--an ensign in a
Highland regiment--with him. The young man's head could carry no idea of
glory except in regimentals. Suddenly, nudging Sir James, he whispered,
'Is that the great Sir Sydney Smith?'--'Yes, yes,' answered Sir James;
and instantly telling Sydney who he was supposed to be, the grave
evening preacher at the Foundling immediately assumed the character
ascribed to him, and acted the hero of Acre to perfection, fighting his
battles over again--even charging the Turks--whilst the young Scot was
so enchanted by the great Sir Sydney's condescension, that he wanted to
fetch the pipers of his regiment, and pipe to the great Sir Sydney, who
had never enjoyed the agonizing strains of the bagpipe. Upon this the
party broke up, and Sir James carried the Highlander off, lest he should
find out his mistake, and cut his throat from shame and vexation. One
may readily conceive Sydney Smith's enjoying this joke, for his spirits
were those of a boy: his gaiety was irresistible; his ringing laugh,
infectious; but it is difficult for those who knew Mackintosh in his
later years--the quiet, almost pensive invalid to realize in that
remembrance any trace of the Mackintosh of Doughty Street and Orchard
Street days.

One day Sydney Smith came home with two hackney coaches full of
pictures, which he had picked up at an auction. His daughter thus tells
the story: 'Another day he came home with two hackney-coach loads of
pictures, which he had met with at an auction, having found it
impossible to resist so many yards of brown-looking figures and faded
landscapes going for "absolutely nothing, unheard of sacrifices." "Kate"
hardly knew whether to laugh or cry when she saw these horribly
dingy-looking objects enter her pretty little drawing-room, and looked
at him as if she thought him half mad; and half mad he was, but with
delight at his purchase. He kept walking up and down the room, waving
his arms, putting them in fresh lights, declaring they were exquisite
specimens of art, and if not by the very best masters, merited to be so.
He invited his friends, and displayed his pictures; discovered fresh
beauties for each new comer; and for three or four days, under the magic
influence of his wit and imagination, these gloomy old pictures were a
perpetual source of amusement and fun.'

At last, finding that he was considered no authority for the fine arts,
off went the pictures to another auction, but all re-christened by
himself, with unheard-of names. 'One, I remember,' says Lady Holland,
'was a beautiful landscape, by Nicholas de Falda, a pupil of Valdezzio,
the only painting by that eminent artist. The pictures sold, I believe,
for rather less than he gave for them under their original names, which
were probably as real as their assumed ones.'

Sydney Smith had long been styled by his friends the 'Bishop of
Mickleham,' in allusion to his visits to, and influence in, the house of
his friend, Richard Sharp, who had a cottage at that place. A piece of
real preferment was now his. This was the living of Foston-le-Clay, in
Yorkshire, given him by Lord Erskine, then Chancellor. Lady Holland
never rested till she had prevailed on Erskine to give Sydney Smith a
living. Smith, as Rogers relates, went to thank his lordship. 'Oh,' said
Erskine, 'don't thank me, Mr. Smith; I gave you the living because Lady
Holland insisted on my doing so; and if she had desired me to give it to
the devil, _he_ must have had it.'

Notwithstanding the prediction of the saints, Sydney Smith proved an
excellent parish priest. Even his most admiring friends did not expect
this result. The general impression was, that he was infinitely better
fitted for the bar than for the church. 'Ah! Mr. Smith,' Lord Stowell
used to say to him, 'you would be in a far better situation, and a far
richer man, had you belonged to us.'

One _jeu d'esprit_ more, and Smith hastened to take possession of his
living, and to enter upon duties of which no one better knew the mighty
importance than he did.

Among the Mackintosh set was Richard Sharp, to whom we have already
referred, termed, from his great knowledge and ready memory,
'Conversation Sharp.' Many people may think that this did not imply an
agreeable man, and they were, perhaps, right. Sharp was a plain,
ungainly man. One evening, a literary lady, now living, being at Sir
James Mackintosh's, in company with Sharp, Sismondi, and the late Lord
Denman, then a man of middle age. Sir James was not only particularly
partial to Denman, but admired him personally. 'Do you not think Denman
handsome?' he inquired of the lady after the guests were gone. 'No? Then
you must think Mr. Sharp handsome,' he rejoined; meaning that a taste so
perverted as not to admire Denman must be smitten with Sharp. Sharp is
said to have studied all the morning before he went out to dinner, to
get up his wit and anecdote, as an actor does his part. Sydney Smith
having one day received an invitation from him to dine at Fishmongers'
Hall, sent the following reply:--

  'Much do I love
  The monsters of the deep to eat;
  To see the rosy salmon lying,
  By smelts encircled, born for frying;
  And from the china boat to pour
  On flaky cod the flavoured shower.
  Thee above all, I much regard,
  Flatter than Longman's flattest bard,
  Much-honour'd turbot! sore I grieve
  Thee and thy dainty friends to leave.
  Far from ye all, in snuggest corner,
  I go to dine with little Horner;
  He who with philosophic eye
  Sat brooding o'er his Christmas pie;
  Then firm resolved, with either thumb,
  Tore forth the crust-enveloped plum;
  And mad with youthful dreams of deathless fame,
  Proclaimed the deathless glories of his name.'

One word before we enter on the subject of Sydney Smith's ministry. In
this biography of a great Wit, we touch but lightly upon the graver
features of his character, yet they cannot wholly be passed over. Stanch
in his devotion to the Church of England, he was liberal to others. The
world in the present day is afraid of liberality. Let it not be
forgotten that it has been the fanatic and the intolerant, not the mild
and practical, among us who have gone from the Protestant to the Romish
faith. Sydney Smith, in common with other great men, had no predilection
for dealing damnation round the land. How noble, how true, are
Mackintosh's reflections on religious sects! 'It is impossible, I think,
to look into the interior of any religious sect, without thinking better
of it. I ought, indeed, to confine myself to those of Christian Europe,
but with that limitation it seems to me the remark is true; whether I
look at the Jansenists of Port Royal, or the Quakers in Clarkson, or the
Methodists in these journals. All these sects, which appear dangerous or
ridiculous at a distance, assume a much more amicable character on
nearer inspection. They all inculcate pure virtue, and practise mutual
kindness; and they exert great force of reason in rescuing their
doctrines from the absurd or pernicious consequences which naturally
flow from them. Much of this arises from the general nature of religious
principle--much also from the genius of the Gospel.'

Nothing could present a greater contrast with the comforts of Orchard
Street than the place on which Sydney Smith's 'lines' had now 'fallen.'
Owing to the non-residence of the clergy, one-third of the parsonage
houses in England had fallen into decay, but that of Foston-le-Clay was
pre-eminently wretched. A hovel represented what was still called the
parsonage-house: it stood on a glebe of three hundred acres of the
stiffest clay in Yorkshire: a brick-floored kitchen, with a room above
it, both in a ruinous condition was the residence which, for a hundred
and fifty years, had never been inhabited by an incumbent. It will not
be a matter of surprise that for some time, until 1808, Sydney Smith,
with the permission of the Archbishop of York, continued to reside in
London, after having appointed a curate at Foston-le-Clay.

The first visit to his living was by no means promising. Picture to
yourself, my reader, Sydney Smith in a carriage, in his superfine black
coat, driving into the remote village, and parleying with the old parish
clerk, who after some conversation, observed, emphatically, shaking his
stick on the ground, 'Master Smith, it stroikes me that people as comes
froe London is such _fools_.--'I see _you_ are no fool,' was the prompt
answer; and the parson and the clerk parted mutually satisfied.

The profits, arising from the sale of two volumes of sermons, carried
Sydney Smith, his family, and his furniture, to Foston-le-Clay in the
summer of 1809, and he took up his abode in a pleasant house about two
miles from York, at Heslington.

[Illustration: SYDNEY SMITH'S WITTY ANSWER TO THE OLD PARISH CLERK.]

Let us now, for a time, forget the wit, the editor of the 'Edinburgh
Review,' the diner out, the evening preacher at the Foundling, and
glance at the peaceful and useful life of a country clergyman. His
spirits, his wit, all his social qualities, never deserted Sydney Smith,
even in the retreat to which he was destined. Let us see him driving in
his second-hand carriage, his horse, 'Peter the Cruel,' with Mrs. Smith
by his side, summer and winter, from Heslington to Foston-le-Clay. Mrs.
Smith, at first, trembled at the inexperience of her charioteer; but
'she soon,' said Sydney, 'raised my wages, and considered me an
excellent Jehu.' 'Mr. Brown,' said Sydney to one of the tradesmen of
York, through the streets of which he found it difficult to drive, 'your
streets are the narrowest, in Europe,'--'Narrow, sir? there's plenty of
room for two carriages to pass each other, and an inch and a half to
spare!'

Let us see him in his busy peaceful life, digging an hour or two every
day in his garden to avoid sudden death, by preventing corpulency; then
galloping through a book, and when his family laughed at him for so soon
dismissing a quarto, saying, 'Cross-examine me, then,' and going well
through the ordeal. Hear him, after finishing his morning's writing,
saying to his wife, 'There, Kate, it's done: do look over it; put the
dots to the i's, and cross the t's:' and off he went to his walk,
surrounded by his children, who were his companions and confidants. See
him in the lane, talking to an old woman whom he had taken into his gig
as she was returning from market, and picking up all sorts of knowledge
from her; or administering medicine to the poor, or to his horses and
animals, sometimes committing mistakes next to fatal. One day he
declared he found all his pigs intoxicated, grunting 'God save the King'
about the sty. He nearly poisoned his red cow by an over-dose of
castor-oil; and Peter the Cruel, so called because the groom once said
he had a cruel face, took two boxes of opium pills (boxes and all) in
his mash, without ill consequences.

See him, too, rushing out after dinner--for he had a horror of long
sittings after that meal--to look at his 'scratcher.'

He used to say, Lady Holland (his daughter) relates, 'I am all for cheap
luxuries, even for animals; now all animals have a passion for
scratching their backbones; they break down your gates and palings to
effect this. Look! there is my universal scratcher, a sharp-edged pole,
resting on a high and a low post, adapted to every height, from a horse
to a lamb. Even the Edinburgh Reviewer can take his turn: you have no
idea how popular it is; I have not had a gate broken since I put it up;
I have it in all my fields.'

Then his experiments were numerous. Mutton fat was to be burned instead
of candles; and working-people were brought in and fed with broth, or
with rice, or with porridge, to see which was the most satisfying diet.
Economy was made amusing, benevolence almost absurd, but the humorous
man, the kind man, shone forth in all things. He was one of the first,
if not the first, who introduced allotment-gardens for the poor: he was
one who could truly say at the last, when he had lived sixty-six years,
'I have done but very little harm in the world, and I have brought up my
family.'

We have taken a glimpse--and a glimpse merely--of the 'wise Wit' in
London, among congenial society, where every intellectual power was
daily called forth in combative force. See him now in the provincial
circles of the remote county of York. 'Did you ever,' he once asked,
'dine out in the country? What misery do human beings inflict on each
other under the name of pleasure!' Then he describes driving in a
broiling sun through a dusty road, to eat a haunch of venison at the
house of a neighbouring parson. Assembled in a small house, 'redolent of
frying,' talked of roads, weather, and turnips; began, that done, to be
hungry. A stripling, caught up for the occasion, calls the master of the
house out of the room, and announces that the cook has mistaken the soup
for dirty water, and has thrown it away. No help for it--agreed; they
must do without it; perhaps as well they should. Dinner announced; they
enter the dining-room: heavens! what a gale! the venison is high!

Various other adverse incidents occur, and the party return home,
grateful to the post-boys for not being drunk, and thankful to
Providence for not being thrown into a wet ditch.

In addition to these troubles and risks, there was an enemy at hand to
apprehend--prejudice. The Squire of Heslington--'the last of the
Squires'--regarded Mr. Smith as a Jacobin; and his lady, 'who looked as
if she had walked straight out of the Ark, or had been the wife of
Enoch,' used to turn aside as he passed. When, however, the squire found
'the peace of the village undisturbed, harvests as usual, his dogs
uninjured, he first bowed, then called, and ended by a pitch of
confidence;' actually discovered that Sydney Smith had made a joke;
nearly went into convulsions of laughter, and finished by inviting the
'dangerous fellow,' as he had once thought him, to see his dogs.

In 1813 Sydney Smith removed, as he thought it his duty to do, to
Foston-le-Clay, and, 'not knowing a turnip from a carrot,' began to farm
three hundred acres, and not having any money, to build a
parsonage-house.

It was a model parsonage, he thought, the plan being formed by himself
and 'Kate.' Being advised by his neighbours to purchase oxen, he bought
(and christened) four oxen, 'Tug and Lug,' 'Crawl and Haul.' But Tug and
Lug took to fainting, Haul and Crawl to lie down in the mud, so he was
compelled to sell them, and to purchase a team of horses.

The house plunged him into debt for twenty years; and a man-servant
being too expensive, the 'wise Wit' caught up a country girl, made like
a mile-stone, and christened her 'Bunch,' and Bunch became the best
butler in the county.

He next set up a carriage, which he christened the 'Immortal,' for it
grew, from being only an ancient green chariot, supposed to have been
the earliest invention of the kind, to be known by all the neighbours;
the village dogs barked at it, the village boys cheered it, and 'we had
no false shame.'

One could linger over the annals of Sydney Smith's useful, happy life at
Foston-le-Clay, visited there indeed by Mackintosh, and each day
achieving a higher and higher reputation in literature. We see him as a
magistrate, 'no friend to game,' as a country squire in Suffolk solemnly
said of a neighbour, but a friend to man; with a pitying heart, that
forbade him to commit young delinquents to gaol, though he would lecture
them severely, and call out, in bad cases, 'John, bring me out my
_private gallows_,' which brought the poor boys on their knees. We
behold him making visits, and even tours, in the 'Immortal,' and
receiving Lord and Lady Carlisle in their coach and four, which had
stuck in the middle of a ploughed field, there being scarcely any road,
only a lane up to the house. Behold him receiving his poor friend,
Francis Homer, who came to take his last leave of him, and died at Pisa,
in 1817, after earning honours, paid, as Sir James Mackintosh remarked,
to intrinsic claims alone--'a man of obscure birth, who never filled an
office.' See Sydney Smith, in 1816, from the failure of the harvest (he
who was in London 'a walking patty'), sitting down with his family to
repast without bread, thin, unleavened cakes being the substitute. See
his cheerfulness, his submission to many privations: picture him to
ourselves trying to ride, but falling off incessantly; but obliged to
leave off riding 'for the good of his family, and the peace of his
parish' (he had christened his horse, 'Calamity'). See him suddenly
prostrate from that steed in the midst of the streets of York, 'to the
great joy of Dissenters,' he declares: another time flung as if he had
been a shuttlecock, into a neighbouring parish, very glad that it was
not a neighbouring planet, for somehow or other his horse and he had a
'trick of parting company.' 'I used,' he wrote, 'to think a fall from a
horse dangerous, but much experience has convinced me to the contrary. I
have had six falls in two years, and just behaved like the Three per
Cents., when they fell--I got up again, and am not a bit the worse for
it, any more than the stock in question.'

This country life was varied by many visits. In 1820 he went to visit
Lord Grey, then to Edinburgh, to Jeffrey travelling by the coach, a
gentleman, with whom he had been talking, said, 'There is a very clever
fellow lives near here, Sydney Smith, I believe; a devilish odd
fellow.'--'He may be an odd fellow,' cried Sydney, taking off his hat,
'but here he is, odd as he is, at your service.'

Sydney Smith found great changes in Edinburgh--changes, however, in many
respects for the better. The society of Edinburgh was then in its
greatest perfection. 'Its brilliancy, Lord Cockburn remarks, 'was owing
to a variety of peculiar circumstances, which only operated during this
period. The principal of these were the survivance of several of the
eminent men of the preceding age, and of curious old habits, which the
modern flood had not yet obliterated; the rise of a powerful community
of young men of ability; the exclusion of the British from the
Continent, which made this place, both for education and for residence,
a favourite resort of strangers; the war, which maintained a constant
excitement of military preparation and of military idleness: the blaze
of that popular literature which made this the second city in the empire
for learning and science; and the extent and the ease with which
literature and society embellished each other, without rivalry, and
without pedantry.

Among the 'best young' as his lordship styles them, were Lord Webb
Seymour and Francis Horner; whilst those of the 'interesting old' most
noted were Elizabeth Hamilton and Mrs. Grant of Laggan, who had
'unfolded herself,' to borrow Lord Cockburn's words, in the 'Letters
from the Mountains,' 'an interesting treasury of good solitary
thoughts.' Of these two ladies, Lord Cockburn says, 'They were excellent
women, and not _too_ blue. Their sense covered the colour.' It was to
Mrs. Hamilton that Jeffrey said, 'That there was no objection to the
blue stocking, provided the petticoat came low enough to cover it.'
Neither of these ladies possessed personal attractions. Mrs. Hamilton
had the plain face proper to literary women; Mrs. Grant was a tall dark
woman, with much dignity of manner: in spite of her life of misfortune,
she had a great flow of spirits. Beautifully, indeed, does Lord Cockburn
render justice to her character: 'She was always under the influence of
an affectionate and delightful enthusiasm, which, unquenched by time and
sorrow, survived the wreck of many domestic attachments, and shed a glow
over the close of a very protracted life.'

Both she and Mrs. Hamilton succeeded in drawing to their
_conversazioni_, in small rooms of unpretending style, men of the
highest order, as well as attractive women of intelligence. Society in
Edinburgh took the form of Parisian _soirees_, and although much divided
into parties, was sufficiently general to be varied. It is amusing to
find that Mrs. Grant was at one time one of the supposed 'Authors of
"Waverley,"' until the disclosure of the mystery silenced reports. It
was the popularity of 'Marmion,' that made Scott, as he himself
confesses, nearly lose his footing. Mrs. Grant's observation on him,
after meeting the Great Unknown at some brilliant party, has been
allowed, even by the sarcastic Lockhart, to be 'witty enough.' 'Mr.
Scott always seems to me to be like a glass, through which the rays of
admiration pass without sensibly affecting it; but the bit of paper[13]
that lies beside it will presently be in a blaze--and no wonder.'

[13: Alluding to Lady Scott.]

Scott endeavoured to secure Mrs. Grant a pension; merited as he
observes, by her as an authoress, 'but much more,' in his opinion, 'by
the firmness and elasticity of mind with which she had borne a great
succession of domestic calamities.' 'Unhappily,' he adds, 'there was
only about L100 open on the Pension List, and this the minister assigned
in equal portions to Mrs. G---- and a distressed lady, grand-daughter of
a forfeited Scottish nobleman. Mrs. G---- , proud as a Highlandwoman,
vain as a poetess, and absurd as a blue-stocking, has taken this
partition in _malam partem_, and written to Lord Melville about her
merits, and that her friends do not consider her claims as being fairly
canvassed, with something like a demand that her petition be submitted
to the king. This is not the way to make her _plack_ a _bawbee_, and
Lord M---- , a little _miffed_ in turn, sends the whole correspondence
to me to know whether Mrs. G---- will accept the L50 or not

Now, hating to deal with ladies when they are in an unreasonable humour,
I have got the good-humoured Man of Feeling to find out the lady's mind,
and I take on myself the task of making her peace with Lord M---- .
After all, the poor lady is greatly to be pitied:--her sole remaining
daughter deep and far gone in a decline.'

The Man of Feeling proved successful, and reported soon afterwards that
the 'dirty pudding' was eaten by the almost destitute authoress. Scott's
tone in the letters which refer to this subject does little credit to
his good taste and delicacy of feeling, which were really attributable
to his character.

Very few notices occur of any intercourse between Scott and Sydney Smith
in Lockhart's 'Life,' It was not, indeed, until 1827 that Scott could be
sufficiently cooled down from the ferment of politics which had been
going on to meet Jeffrey and Cockburn. When he dined, however, with
Murray, then Lord Advocate, and met Jeffrey, Cockburn, the late Lord
Rutherford, then Mr. Rutherford, and others of 'that file,' he
pronounced the party to be 'very pleasant, capital good cheer, and
excellent wine, much laugh and fun. I do not know,' he writes, 'how it
is, but when I am out with a party of my Opposition friends, the day is
often merrier than when with our own set. It is because they are
cleverer? Jeffery and Harry Cockburn are, to be sure, very extraordinary
men, yet it is not owing to that entirely. I believe both parties meet
with the feeling of something like novelty. We have not worn out our
jests in daily contact. There is also a disposition on such occasions to
be courteous, and of course to be pleased.'

On his side, Cockburn did ample justice to the 'genius who,' to use his
own words, 'has immortalized Edinburgh and delighted the 'world.' Mrs.
Scott could not, however, recover the smarting inflicted by the
critiques of Jeffrey on her husband's works. Her--'And I hope, Mr.
Jeffrey, Mr. Constable paid you well for your Article' (Jeffrey dining
with her that day), had a depth of simple satire in it that ever, an
Edinburgh Reviewer could hardly exceed. It was, one must add,
impertinent and in bad taste. 'You are very good at cutting up.'

Sydney Smith found Jeffrey and Cockburn rising barristers. Horner, on
leaving Edinburgh, had left to Jeffrey his bar wig, and the bequest had
been lucky. Jeffrey was settled at Craigcrook, a lovely English-looking
spot, with wooded slopes and green glades, near Edinburgh; and Cockburn
had, since 1811, set up his rural gods at Bonally, near Colinton, just
under the Pentland Hills, and he wrote, 'Unless some avenging angel
shall expel me, I shall never leave that paradise.' And a paradise it
was. Beneath those rough, bare hills, broken here and there by a
trickling burn, like a silver thread on the brown sward, stands a Norman
tower, the addition, by Playfair's skill, to what was once a scarcely
habitable farmhouse. That tower contained Lord Cockburn's fine library,
also his ordinary sitting-rooms. There he read and wrote, and received
such society as will never meet again, there or elsewhere--amongst them
Sydney Smith. Beneath--around the tower--stretches a delicious garden,
composed of terraces, and laurel-hedged walks, and beds of flowers, that
bloomed freely in that sheltered spot. A bowling-green, shaded by one of
the few trees near the house, a sycamore, was the care of many an hour;
for to make the turf velvety, the sods were fetched from the hills
above--from 'yon hills,' as Lord Cockburn would have called them. And
this was for many years one of the rallying points of the best Scottish
society, and, as each autumn came round, of what the host called his
Carnival. Friends were summoned from the north and the south--'death no
apology.' High jinks within doors, excursions without. Every Edinburgh
man reveres the spot, hallowed by the remembrance of Lord Cockburn.
'Every thing except the two burns, he wrote, 'the few old trees, and the
mountains, are my own work. Human nature is incapable of enjoying more
happiness than has been my lot here. I have been too happy, and often
tremble in the anticipation that the cloud must come at last.' And come
it did; but found him not unprepared, although the burden that he had to
bear in after-life was heavy. In their enlarged and philosophic minds,
in their rapid transition from sense to nonsense, there was an affinity
in the characters of Sydney Smith and of Lord Cockburn which was not
carried out in any other point. Smith's conversation was wit--Lord
Cockburn's was eloquence.

From the festivities of Edinburgh Sydney Smith returned contentedly to
Foston-le-Clay, and to Bunch. Amongst other gifted visitors was Mrs.
Marcet. 'Come here, Bunch,' cries Sydney Smith one day; 'come and repeat
your crimes to Mrs. Marcet.' Then Bunch, grave as a judge, began to
repeat: 'Plate-snatching, gravy-spilling, door-slamming, blue-bottle-
fly-catching, and curtsey-bobbing. 'Blue-bottle-fly-catching,' means
standing with her mouth open, and not attending; and 'curtsey-bobbing'
was curtseying to the centre of the earth.

One night, in the winter, during a tremendous snowstorm, Bunch rushed
in, exclaiming, 'Lord and Lady Mackincrush is com'd in a coach and
four.' The lord and lady proved to be Sir James and his daughter, who
had arrived to stay with his friends in the remote parsonage of
Foston-le-Clay a few days, and had sent a letter, which arrived the day
afterwards to announce their visit. Their stay began with a blunder; and
when Sir James departed, leaving kind feelings behind him--books, his
hat, his gloves, his papers and other articles of apparel were found
also. 'What a man that would be,' said Sydney Smith, 'had he one
particle of gall, or the least knowledge of the value of red tape!' It
was true that the indolent, desultory character of Mackintosh interfered
perpetually with his progress in the world. He loved far better to lie
on the sofa reading a novel than to attend a Privy Council; the
slightest indisposition was made on his part a plea for avoiding the
most important business.

Sydney Smith had said that 'when a clever man takes to cultivating
turnips and retiring, it is generally an imposture;' but in him the
retirement was no imposture. His wisdom shone forth daily in small and
great matters. 'Life,' he justly thought, 'was to be fortified by many
friendships,' and he acted up to his principles, and kept up friendships
by letters. Cheerfulness he thought might be cultivated by making the
rooms one lives in as comfortable as possible. His own drawing-room was
papered on this principle, with a yellow flowering pattern; and filled
with 'irregular regularities;' his fires were blown into brightness by
_Shadrachs_, as he called them--tubes furnished with air opening in the
centre of each fire, His library contained his rheumatic armour: for he
tried heat and compression in rheumatism; put his legs into narrow
buckets, which he called his jack-boots; wore round his throat a tin
collar; over each shoulder he had a large tin thing like a shoulder of
mutton; and on his head he displayed a hollow helmet filled with hot
water. In the middle of a field into which his windows looked, was a
skeleton sort of a machine, his Universal Scratcher; with which every
animal from a lamb to a bullock could scratch itself. Then on the Sunday
the Immortal was called into use, to travel in state to a church like a
barn; about fifty people in it; but the most original idea was farming
through the medium of a tremendous speaking-trumpet from his own door,
with its companion, a telescope, to see what his people are about! On
the 24th of January, 1828, the first notable piece of preferment was
conferred on him by Lord Lyndhurst then Chancellor, and of widely
differing political opinions to Sydney Smith. This was a vacant stall in
the cathedral at Bristol, where on the ensuing 5th of November, the new
canon gave the Mayor and Corporation of that Protestant city such a dose
of 'toleration as should last them many a year.' He went to Court on his
appointment, and appeared in shoestrings instead of buckles. 'I found,'
he relates, 'to my surprise, people looking down at my feet: I could not
think what they were at. At first I thought they had discovered the
beauty of my legs; but at last the truth burst on me, by some wag
laughing and thinking I had done it as a good joke. I was, of course,
exceedingly annoyed to have been supposed capable of such a vulgar
unmeaning piece of disrespect, and kept my feet as coyly under my
petticoats as the veriest prude in the country till I should make my
escape.' His circumstances were now improved, and though moralists, he
said, thought property an evil, he declared himself happier every guinea
he gained. He thanked God for his animal spirits, which received,
unhappily, in 1829, a terrible shock from the death of his eldest son,
Douglas, aged twenty-four. This was the great misfortune of his life;
the young man was promising, talented, affectionate. He exchanged
Foston-le-Clay at this time for a living in Somersetshire, of a
beautiful and characteristic name--Combe Florey.

Combe Florey seems to have been an earthly paradise, seated in one of
those delicious hollows or in Combes, for which that part of the west of
England is celebrated. His withdrawal from the Edinburgh
Review--Mackintosh's death--the marriage of his eldest daughter, Saba,
to Dr. Holland (now Sir Henry Holland)--the termination of Lord Grey's
Administration, which ended Sydney's hopes of being a bishop, were the
leading events of his life for the next few years.

It appears that Sydney Smith felt to the hour of his death pained that
those by whose side he had fought for fifty years, in their adversity,
the Whig party, should never have offered what he declared he should
have rejected, a bishopric, when they were constantly bestowing such
promotions on persons of mediocre talent and claims. Waiving the point,
whether it is right or wrong to make men bishops because they have been
political partizans, the cause of this alleged injustice may be found in
the tone of the times, which was eminently tinctured with cant. The
Clapham sect were in the ascendancy; and Ministers scarcely dared to
offend so influential a body. Even the gentle Sir James Mackintosh
refers, in his Journal, with disgust to the phraseology of the day:--

'They have introduced a new language, in which they never say that A. B.
is good, or virtuous, or even religious; but that he is an "advanced
Christian." Dear Mr. Wilberforce is an "advanced Christian." Mrs. C. has
lost three children without a pang, and is so "advanced a Christian"
that she could see the remaining twenty, "with poor dear Mr. C.,"
removed with perfect tranquillity.'

Such was the disgust expressed towards that school by Mackintosh, whose
last days were described by his daughter as having been passed in
silence and thought, with his Bible before him, breaking that
silence--and portentous silence--to speak of God, and of his Maker's
disposition towards man.

His mind ceased to be occupied with speculations; politics interested
him no more. His own 'personal relationship to his Creator' was the
subject of his thoughts. Yet Mackintosh was not by any means considered
as an advanced Christian, or even as a Christian at all by the zealots
of his time.

Sydney Smith's notions of a bishop were certainly by no means carried
out in his own person and character. 'I never remember in my time,' he
said, 'a real bishop: a grave, elderly man, full of Greek, with sound
views of the middle voice and preterpluperfect tense; gentle and kind to
his poor clergy, of powerful and commanding eloquence in Parliament,
never to be put down when the great interests of mankind were concerned,
leaning to the Government when it was right, leaning to the people when
they were right; feeling that if the Spirit of God had called him to
that high office, he was called for no mean purpose, but rather that
seeing clearly, acting boldly, and intending purely, he might confer
lasting benefit upon mankind.'

In 1831 Lord Grey appointed Sydney Smith a Canon Resilentiary of St.
Paul's; but still the mitre was withheld, although it has since appeared
that Lord Grey had destined him for one of the first vacancies in
England.

Henceforth his residence at St. Paul's brought him still more
continually into the world, which he delighted by his 'wise wit.' Most
London dinners, he declared, evaporated in whispers to one's next
neighbours. He never, however, spoke to his neighbour, but 'fired'
across the table. One day, however, he broke his rule, on hearing a
lady, who sat next him, say in a sweet low voice, 'No gravy,
sir.'--'Madam!' he cried, 'I have all my life been looking for a person
who disliked gravy, let us swear immortal friendship.' She looked
astonished, but took the oath, and kept it. 'What better foundation for
friendship,' he asks, 'than similarity of tastes?'

He gave an evening party once a week; when a profusion of wax-lights was
his passion. He loved to see young people decked with natural flowers;
he was, in fact, a blameless and benevolent Epicurean in everything;
great indeed was the change from his former residence at Foston, which
he used to say was twelve miles from a lemon. Charming as his parties at
home must have been, they wanted the _bon-hommie_ and simplicity of
former days, and Of the homely suppers in Orchard Street. Lord Dudley,
Rogers, Moore, 'Young Macaulay,' as he was called for many years, formed
now his society. Lord Dudley was then in the state which afterwards
became insanity, and darkened completely a mind sad and peculiar from
childhood. Bankes, in his 'Journal,' relates an anecdote of him about
this time, when, as he says, 'Dudley's mind was on the wane; but still
his caustic humour would find vent through the cloud which was gradually
over-shadowing his masterly intellect.' He was one day sitting in his
room soliloquizing aloud; his favourite Newfoundland-dog was at his
side, and seemed to engross all ----m's attention. A gentleman was
present who was good-looking and good-natured, but not overburthened
with sense. Lord Dudley at last, patting his dog's head, said, 'Fido
mio, they say dogs have no souls. Humph, and still they say ----'
(naming the gentleman present) 'has a soul!' One day Lord Dudley met Mr.
Allen, Lord Holland's librarian, and asked him to dine with him. Allen
went. When asked to describe his dinner, he said, 'There was no one
there. Lord Dudley talked a little to his servant, and a great deal to
his dog, but said not one word to me.'

Innumerable are the witticisms related of Sydney Smith, when seated at a
dinner table--having swallowed in life what he called a 'Caspian Sea' of
soup. Talking one day of Sir Charles Lyell's book, the subject of which
was the phenomena which the earth might, at some future period, present
to the geologists. 'Let us imagine,' he said, 'an excavation on the site
of St. Paul's; fancy a lecture by the Owen of his future era on the
thigh-bone of a minor canon, or the tooth of a dean: the form,
qualities, and tastes he would discover from them.' 'It is a great proof
of shyness,' he said, 'to crumble your bread at dinner. Ah! I see,' he
said, turning to a young lady, 'you're afraid of me: you crumble your
bread. I do it when I sit by the Bishop of London, and with both hands
when I sit by the Archbishop.'

Be gave a capital reproof to a lively young M.P. who was accompanying
him after dinner to one of the solemn evening receptions at Lambeth
Palace during the life of the late Archbishop of Canterbury. The M.P.
had been calling him 'Smith,' though they had never met before that day.
As the carriage stopped at the Palace, Smith turned to him and said,
'Now don't, my good fellow, don't call the Archbishop "Howley."'

Talking of fancy-balls--'Of course,' he said, 'if I went to one, I
should go as a Dissenter.' Of Macaulay, he said, 'To take him out of
literature and science, and to put him in the House of Commons, is like
taking the chief physician out of London in a pestilence.'

Nothing amused him so much as the want of perception of a joke. One hot
day a Mrs. Jackson called on him, and spoke of the oppressive state of
the weather. 'Heat! it was dreadful,' said Sydney; 'I found I could do
nothing for it but take off my flesh and sit in my bones.' 'Take off
your flesh and sit in your bones! Oh, Mr. Smith! how could you do that?'
the lady cried. 'Come and see next time, ma'am--nothing more easy.' She
went away, however, convinced that such a proceeding was very
unorthodox. No wonder, with all his various acquirements, it should be
said of him that no 'dull dinners were ever remembered in his company.'

A happy old age concluded his life, at once brilliant and useful. To the
last he never considered his education as finished. His wit, a friend
said, 'was always fresh, always had the dew on it. He latterly got into
what Lord Jeffrey called the vicious habit of water drinking. Wine, he
said, destroyed his understanding. He even 'forgot the number of the
Muses, and thought it was thirty-nine, of course.' He agreed with Sir
James Mackintosh that he had found the world more good and more foolish
than he had thought when young. He took a cheerful view of all things;
he thanked God for small as well as great things, even for tea. 'I am
glad,' he used to say, 'I was not born before tea.' His domestic
affections were strong, and were heartily reciprocated.

General society he divided into classes: 'The noodles--very numerous and
well known. The affliction woman--a valuable member of society,
generally an ancient spinster in small circumstances, who packs up her
bag and sets off in cases of illness or death, "to comfort, flatter,
fetch, and carry." The up-takers--people who see, from their fingers'
ends and go through a room touching everything. The clearers--who begin
at a dish and go on tasting and eating till it is finished. The
sheep-walkers--who go on for ever on the beaten track. The
lemon-squeezers of society--who act on you as a wet blanket; see a cloud
in sunshine; the nails of the coffin in the ribbons of a bride;
extinguish all hope; people, whose very look sets your teeth on an edge.
The let-well-aloners, cousin-german to the noodles--yet a variety, and
who are afraid to act, and think it safer to stand still. Then the
washerwomen--very numerous! who always say, "Well, if ever I put on my
best bonnet, 'tis sure to rain," &c.

'Besides this there is a very large class of people always treading on
your gouty foot, or talking in your deaf ear, or asking you to give them
something with your lame hand,' &c.

During the autumn of the year 1844, Sydney Smith felt the death-stroke
approaching. 'I am so weak, both in body and mind,' he said, 'that I
believe if the knife were put into my hand, I should not have strength
enough to stick it into a Dissenter.' In October he became seriously
ill. 'Ah! Charles,' he said to General Fox (when he was being kept very
low), 'I wish they would allow me even the wing of a roasted butterfly,'
He dreaded sorrowful faces around him; but confided to his old servant,
Annie Kay--and to her alone--his sense of his danger.

Almost the last person Sydney Smith saw was his beloved brother Bobus,
who followed him to the grave a fortnight after he had been laid in the
tomb.

He lingered till the 22nd of February, 1845. His son closed his eyes.
His last act was, bestowing on a poverty-stricken clergyman a living.

He was buried at Kensal Green, where his eldest son, Douglas, had been
interred.

It has been justly and beautifully said of Sydney Smith, that
Christianity was not a dogma with him, but a practical and most
beneficent rule of life.

As a clergyman, he was liberal, practical, staunch; free from the
latitudinarian principles of Hoadley, as from the bigotry of Laud. His
wit was the wit of a virtuous, a decorous man; it had pungency without
venom; humour without indelicacy; and was copious without being
tiresome.



GEORGE BUBB DODINGTON, LORD MELCOMBE.


A Dinner-giving lordly Poet.--A Misfortune for a Man of Society.--
Brandenburgh House.--'The Diversions of the Morning.'--Johnson's Opinion
of Foote--Churchill and 'The Rosciad.'--Personal Ridicule in its Proper
Light.--Wild Specimen of the Poet.--Walpole on Dodington's 'Diary.'--The
best Commentary on a Man's Life.--Leicester House.--Grace Boyle,--Elegant
Modes of passing Time.--A sad Day.--What does Dodington come here for?--
The Veteran Wit, Beau, and Politician.--'Defend us from our Executors
and Editors.'


It would have been well for Lord Melcombe's memory, Horace Walpole
remarks, 'if his fame had been suffered to rest on the tradition of his
wit, and the evidence of his poetry.' And in the present day, that
desirable result has come to pass. We remember Bubb Dodington chiefly as
the courtier whose person, houses, and furniture were replete with
costly ostentation, so as to provoke the satire of Foote, who brought
him on the stage under the name of Sir Thomas Lofty in 'The Patron,'

We recall him most as '_l'Amphytrion chez qui on dine_;' 'My Lord of
Melcombe,' as Mallet says--

  'Whose soups and sauces duly season'd,
  Whose wit well tim'd and sense well reason'd,
  Give Burgundy a brighter stain,
  And add new flavour to Champagne.'

Who now cares much for the court intrigues which severed Sir Robert
Walpole and Bubb Dodington? Who now reads without disgust the annals of
that famous quarrel between George II. and his son, during which each
party devoutly wished the other dead? Who minds whether the time-serving
Bubb Dodington went over to Lord Bute or not? Who cares whether his
hopes of political preferment were or were not gratified? Bubb Dodington
was, in fact, the dinner-giving lordly poet, to whom even the saintly
Young could write:--

  'You give protection,--I a worthless strain.

Born in 1691, the accomplished courtier answered, till he had attained
the age of twenty-nine, to the not very euphonious name of Bubb. Then a
benevolent uncle with a large estate died, and left him, with his lands,
the more exalted surname of Dodington. He sprang, however, from an
obscure family, who had settled in Dorchester; but that disadvantage,
which, according to Lord Brougham's famous pamphlet, acts so fatally on
a young man's advancement in English public life, was obviated, as most
things are, by a great fortune.

Mr. Bubb had been educated at Oxford: at the age of twenty-four he was
elected M.P. for Winchelsea; he was soon afterwards named Envoy at the
Court of Spain, but returned home after his accession of wealth to
provincial honours, and became Lord-Lieutenant of Somerset. Nay, poets
began to worship him, and even pronounced him to be well born:--

  'Descended from old British sires;
  Great Dodington to kings allied;
  My patron then, my laurels' pride.

It would be consolatory to find that it is only Welsted who thus
profaned the Muse by this abject flattery, were it not recorded that
Thomson dedicated to him his 'Summer.' The dedication was prompted by
Lord Binning; and 'Summer' was published in 1727 when Dodington was one
of the Lords of the Treasury, as well as Clerk of the Pells in Ireland,
It seemed, therefore, worth while for Thomson to pen such a passage as
this:--'Your example sir, has recommended poetry with the greatest grace
to the example of those who are engag'd in the most active scenes of
life; and this, though confessedly the least considerable of those
qualities that dignify your character, must be particularly pleasing to
_one_ whose only hope of being introduced to your regard is thro' the
recommendation of an art in which you are a master.' Warton adding this
tribute:--

  'To praise a Dodington rash bard! forbear.
  What can thy weak and ill-tun'd voice avail,
  When on that theme both Young and Thomson fail?'

Yet even when midway in his career, Dodington, in the famous political
caricature called 'The Motion,' is depicted as 'the Spaniel,' sitting
between the Duke of Argyle's legs, whilst his grace is driving a coach
at full speed to the Treasury, with a sword instead of a whip in his
hand, with Lord Chesterfield as postilion, and Lord Cobham as a footman,
holding on by the straps: even then the servile though pompous character
of this true man of the world was comprehended completely; and Bubb
Dodington's characteristics never changed.

In his political life, Dodington was so selfish, obsequious, and
versatile as to incur universal opprobrium; he had also another
misfortune for a man of society,--he became fat and lethargic. 'My
brother Ned' Horace Walpole remarks, 'says he is grown of less
consequence, though more weight.' And on another occasion, speaking of a
majority in the House of Lords, he adds, 'I do not count Dodington, who
must now always be in the minority, for no majority will accept him.'

Whilst, however, during the factious reign of George II., the town was
declared, even by Horace to be wondrous dull; operas unfrequented, plays
not in fashion, and amours old as marriages. Bubb Dodington, with his
wealth and profusion, contrived always to be in vogue as a host, while
he was at a discount as a politician. Politics and literature are the
highroads in England to that much-craved-for distinction, an admittance
into the great world; and Dodington united these passports in his own
person: he was a poetaster, and wrote political pamphlets. The latter
were published and admired: the poems were referred to as 'very pretty
love verses,' by Lord Lyttelton, and were never published--and never
ought to have been published, it is stated.

His _bon mots_, his sallies, his fortunes and places, and continual
dangling at court, procured Bubo, as Pope styled him, one pre-eminence.
His dinners at Hammersmith were the most _recherches_ in the metropolis.
Every one remembers Brandenburgh House, when the hapless Caroline of
Brunswick held her court there, and where her brave heart,--burdened
probably with some sins, as well as with endless regrets,--broke at
last. It had been the residence of the beautiful and famous Margravine
of Anspach, whose loveliness in vain tempts us to believe her innocent,
in despite of facts. Before those eras--the presence of the Margravine,
whose infidelities were almost avowed, and the abiding of the queen,
whose errors had, at all events, verged on the very confines of
guilt--the house was owned by Dodington. There he gave dinners; there he
gratified a passion for display, which was puerile; there he indulged in
eccentricities which almost implied insanity; there he concocted his
schemes for court advancement; and there, later in life, he contributed
some of the treasures of his wit to dramatic literature. 'The Wishes,' a
comedy, by Bentley, was supposed to owe much of its point to the
brilliant wit of Dodington[14].

[14: See Walpole's 'Royal and Noble Authors']

At Brandenburgh House, a nobler presence than that of Dodington still
haunted the groves and alleys, for Prince Rupert had once owned it. When
Dodington bought it, he gave it--in jest, we must presume--the name of
La Trappe; and it was not called Brandenburgh House until the fair and
frail Margravine came to live there.

Its gardens were long famous; and in the time of Dodington were the
scene of revel. Thomas Bentley, the son of Richard Bentley, the
celebrated critic, had written a play called 'The Wishes;' and during
the summer of 1761 it was acted at Drury Lane, and met with the especial
approbation of George III., who sent the author, through Lord Bute, a
present of two hundred guineas as a tribute to the good sentiments of
the production.

This piece, which, in spite of its moral tendency, has died out, whilst
plays of less virtuous character have lived, was rehearsed in the
gardens of Brandenburgh House. Bubb Dodington associated much with those
who give fame; but he courted amongst them also those who could revenge
affronts by bitter ridicule. Among the actors and literati who were then
sometimes at Brandenburg House were Foote and Churchill; capital boon
companions, but, as it proved, dangerous foes.'

Endowed with imagination; with a mind enriched by classical and
historical studies; possessed of a brilliant wit, Bubb Dodington was,
nevertheless, in the sight of some men, ridiculous. Whilst the
rehearsals of 'The Wishes' went on, Foote was noting down all the
peculiarities of the Lord of Brandenburgh House, with a view to bring
them to account in his play of 'The Patron.' Lord Melcombe was an
aristocratic Dombey: stultified by his own self-complacency, he dared to
exhibit his peculiarities before the English Aristophanes. It was an act
of imprudence, for Foote had long before (in 1747) opened the little
theatre of the Haymarket with a sort of monologue play, 'The Diversions
of the Morning,' in which he convulsed his audience with the perfection
of a mimicry never beheld before, and so wonderful, that even the
persons of his models seemed to stand before the amazed spectators.

These entertainments, in which the contriver was at once the author and
performer, have been admirably revived by Mathews and others; and in
another line, by the lamented Albert Smith. The Westminster justices,
furious and alarmed, opposed the daring performance, on which Foote
changed the name of his piece, and called it 'Mr. Foote giving Tea to
his Friends,' himself still the sole actor, and changing with
Proteus-like celerity from one to the other. Then came his 'Auction of
Pictures,' and Sir Thomas de Veil, one of his enemies, the justices, was
introduced. Orator Henley and Cock the auctioneer figured also; and year
after year the town was enchanted by that which is most gratifying to a
polite audience, the finished exhibition of faults and follies. One
stern voice was raised in reprobation, that of Samuel Johnson: he, at
all events, had a due horror of buffoons; but even he owned himself
vanquished.

'The first time I was in Foote's company was at Fitzherbert's. Having no
good opinion of the fellow, I was resolved not to be pleased: and it is
very difficult to please a man against his will. I went on eating my
dinner pretty sullenly, affecting not to mind him; but the dog was so
very comical, that I was obliged to lay down my knife and fork, throw
myself back in my chair, and fairly laugh it out. Sir, he was
irresistible.' Consoled by Foote's misfortunes and ultimate complicated
misery for his lessened importance, Bubb Dodington still reigned,
however, in the hearts of some learned votaries. Richard Bentley, the
critic, compared him to Lord Halifax--

  'That Halifax, my Lord, as you do yet,
  Stood forth the friend of poetry and wit,
  Sought silent merit in the secret cell,
  And Heav'n, nay even man, repaid him well.

A more remorseless foe, however, than Foote appeared in the person of
Charles Churchill, the wild and unclerical son of a poor curate of
Westminster. Foote laughed Bubb Dodington down, but Churchill
perpetuated the satire; for Churchill was wholly unscrupulous, and his
faults had been reckless and desperate. Wholly unfit for a clergyman, he
had taken orders, obtained a curacy in Wales at L30 a year--not being
able to subsist, took to keeping a cider-cellar, became a sort of
bankrupt, and quitting Wales, succeeded to the curacy of his father, who
had just died. Still famine haunted his home; Churchill took, therefore,
to teaching young ladies to read and write, and conducted himself in the
boarding-school where his duties lay, with wonderful propriety. He had
married at seventeen; but even that step had not protected his morals:
he fell into abject poverty. Lloyd, father of his friend Robert Lloyd,
then second master of Westminster, made an arrangement with his
creditors. Young Lloyd had published a poem called 'The Actor;'
Churchill, in imitation, now produced 'The Rosciad,' and Bubb Dodington
was one whose ridiculous points were salient in those days of
personality. 'The Rosciad' had a signal success, which completed the
ruin of its author: he became a man of the town, forsook the wife of his
youth, and abandoned the clerical character. There are few sights more
contemptible than that of a clergyman who has cast off his profession,
or whose profession has cast him off. But Churchill's talents for a time
kept him from utter destitution. Bubb Doddington may have been consoled
by finding that he shared the fate of Dr. Johnson, who had spoken
slightingly of Churchill's works, and who shone forth, therefore, in
'The Ghost,' a later poem, as Dr. Pomposo.

Richard Cumberland, the dramatist, drew a portrait of Lord Melcombe,
which is said to have been taken from the life; but perhaps the most
faithful delineation of Bubb Dodington's character was furnished by
himself in his 'Diary;' in which, as it has been well observed, he
'unveiled the nakedness of his mind, and displayed himself as a courtly
compound of mean compliance and political prostitution.' It may, in
passing, be remarked, that few men figure well in an autobiography; and
that Cumberland himself, proclaimed by Dr. Johnson to be a 'learned,
ingenious, accomplished gentleman,' adding, 'the want of company is an
inconvenience, but Mr. Cumberland is a million:' in spite of this
eulogium, Cumberland has betrayed in his own autobiography unbounded
vanity, worldliness, and an undue estimation of his own perishable fame.
After all, amusing as personalities must always be, neither the humours
of Foote, the vigorous satire of Churchill, nor the careful limning of
Cumberland, whilst they cannot be ranked among talents of the highest
order, imply a sort of social treachery. The delicious little colloquy
between Boswell and Johnson places low personal ridicule in its proper
light.

Boswell.--'Foote has a great deal of humour.' Johnson.--'Yes, sir.'
Boswell.--'He has a singular talent of exhibiting characters.'
Johnson--'Sir. it is not a talent--it is a vice; it is what others
abstain from. It is not comedy, which exhibits the character of a
species--as that of a miser gathered from many misers--it is farce,
which exhibits individuals.' Boswell.--'Did not he think of exhibiting
you, sir?' Johnson.--'Sir, fear restrained him; he knew I would have
broken his bones. I would have saved him the trouble of cutting off a
leg; I would not have left him a leg to cut off.'

Few annals exist of the private life of Bubb Dodington, but those few
are discreditable.

Like most men of his time, and like many men of all times, Dodington was
entangled by an unhappy and perplexing intrigue.

There was a certain 'black woman,' as Horace Walpole calls a Mrs.
Strawbridge, whom Bubb Dodington admired. This handsome brunette lived
in a corner house of Saville Row, in Piccadilly, where Dodington visited
her. The result of their intimacy was his giving this lady a bond of ten
thousand pounds to be paid if he married any one else. The real object
of his affections was a Mrs. Behan, with whom he lived seventeen years,
and whom, on the death of Mrs. Strawbridge, he eventually married.

Among Bubb Dodington's admirers and disciples was Paul Whitehead, a wild
specimen of the poet, rake, satirist, dramatist, all in one; and what
was quite in character, a Templar to boot. Paul--so named from being
born on that Saint's day--wrote one or two pieces which brought him an
ephemeral fame, such as the 'State Dunces,' and the 'Epistle to Dr.
Thompson,' 'Manners,' a satire, and the 'Gymnasiad,' a mock heroic poem,
intended to ridicule the passion for boxing, then prevalent. Paul
Whitehead, who died in 1774, was an infamous, but not, in the opinion of
Walpole, a despicable poet, yet Churchill has consigned him to
everlasting infamy as a reprobate, in these lines:--

  'May I (can worse disgrace on manhood fall?)
  Be born a Whitebread, and baptised a Paul.'

Paul was not, however, worse than his satirist Churchill; and both of
these wretched men were members of a society long the theme of horror
and disgust, even after its existence had ceased to be remembered,
except by a few old people. This was the 'Hell-fire Club,' held in
appropriate orgies at Medmenham Abbey, Buckinghamshire. The profligate
Sir Francis Dashwood, Wilkes, and Churchill, were amongst its most
prominent members.

With such associates, and living in a court where nothing but the basest
passions reigned and the lowest arts prevailed, we are inclined to
accord with the descendant of Bubb Dodington, the editor of his 'Diary,'
Henry Penruddocke Wyndham, who declares that all Lord Melcombe's
political conduct was 'wholly directed by the base motives of vanity,
selfishness, and avarice.' Lord Melcombe seems to have been a man of the
world of the very worst _calibre_; sensual, servile, and treacherous;
ready, during the lifetime of his patron, Frederick, Prince of Wales, to
go any lengths against the adverse party of the Pelhams, that Prince's
political foes--eager, after the death of Frederick, to court those
powerful men with fawning servility.

The famous 'Diary' of Bubb Dodington supplies the information from which
these conclusions have been drawn. Horace Walpole, who knew Dodington
well, describes how he read with avidity the 'Diary,' which was
published in 1784.

'A nephew of Lord Melcombe's heirs has published that Lord's "Diary."
Indeed it commences in 1749, and I grieve it was not dated twenty years
later. However, it deals in topics that are twenty times more familiar
and fresh to my memory than any passage that has happened within these
six months I wish I could convey it to you. Though drawn by his own
hand, and certainly meant to flatter himself, it is a truer portrait
than any of his hirelings would have given. Never was such a composition
of vanity, versatility, and servility. In short, there is but one
feature wanting in it, his wit, of which in the whole book there are not
three sallies.'

The editor of this 'Diary' remarks, 'that he will no doubt be considered
a very extraordinary editor; the practice of whom has generally been to
prefer flattery to truth, and partiality to justice.' To understand, not
the flattery which his contemporaries heaped upon Bubb Dodington, but
the opprobrium with which they loaded his memory--to comprehend not his
merits but his demerits--it is necessary to take a brief survey of his
political life from the commencement. He began life, as we have seen, as
a servile adherent of Sir Robert Walpole. A political epistle to the
Minister was the prelude to a temporary alliance only, for in 1737, Bubb
went over to the adverse party of Leicester House, and espoused the
cause of Frederick, Prince of Wales, against his royal father He was
therefore dismissed from the Treasury. When Sir Robert fell, Bubb
expected to rise, but his expectations of preferment were not realized.
He attacked the new Administration forthwith, and succeeded so far in
becoming important that he was made Treasurer of the Navy; a post which
he resigned in 1749, and which he held again in 1755, but which he lost
the next year. On the accession of George III., he was not ashamed to
appear altogether in a new character, as the friend of Lord Bute; he
was, therefore, advanced to the peerage by the title of Baron of
Melcombe Regis, in 1761. The honour was enjoyed for one short year only;
and on the 28th of July, 1762, Bubb Dodington expired. Horace Walpole,
in his 'Royal and Noble Authors,' complains that 'Dodington's "Diary"
was mangled, in compliment, before it was imparted to the public.' We
cannot therefore judge of what the 'Diary' was before, as the editor
avows that every anecdote was cut out, and all the little gossip so
illustrative of character and manners which would have brightened its
dull pages, fell beneath the power of a merciless pair of scissors. Mr.
Penruddocke Wyndham conceives, however, that he was only doing justice
to society in these suppressions. 'It would,' he says, 'be _no_
entertainment to the reader to be informed who daily dined with his
lordship, or whom he daily met at the table of other people.'

Posterity thinks differently: a knowledge of a man's associates forms
the best commentary on his life; and there is much reason to rejoice
that all biographers are not like Mr. Penruddocke Wyndham. Bubb
Dodington, more especially, was a man of society: inferior as a literary
man, contemptible as a politician, it was only at the head of his table
that he was agreeable and brilliant. He was, in fact, a man who had no
domestic life; a courtier, like Lord Hervey, but without Lord Hervey's
consistency. He was, in truth, a type of that era in England: vulgar in
aims; dissolute in conduct; ostentatious, vain-glorious--of a low,
ephemeral ambition; but at the same time talented, acute, and lavish to
the lettered. The public is now the patron of the gifted. What writer
cares for individual opinion, except as it tends to sweep up the gross
amount of public blame or censure? What publisher will consent to
undertake a work because some lord or lady recommended it to his notice?
The reviewer is greater in the commonwealth of letters than the man of
rank.

But in these days it was otherwise; and they who, in the necessities of
the times, did what they could to advance the interest of the _belles
lettres_, deserve not to be forgotten.

It is with a feeling of sickness that we open the pages of this great
Wit's 'Diary,' and attempt to peruse the sentences in which the most
grasping selfishness is displayed. We follow him to Leicester House,
that ancient tenement--(wherefore pulled down, except to erect on its
former site the narrowest of streets, does not appear): that former home
of the Sydneys had not always been polluted by the dissolute, heartless
_clique_ who composed the court of Frederick, Prince of Wales. Its
chambers had once been traversed by Henry Sydney, by Algernon, his
brother. It was their _home_--their father, Robert Sydney, Earl of
Leicester, having lived there. The lovely Dorothy Sydney, Waller's
Saccharissa, once, in all purity and grace, had danced in that gallery
where the vulgar, brazen Lady Middlesex, and her compliant lord,
afterwards flattered the weakest of princes, Frederick. In old times
Leicester House had stood on Lammas land--land in the spirit of the old
charities, open to the poor after Lammas-tide; and even 'the Right Hon.
the Earl of Leicester'--as an old document hath it--was obliged, if _he_
chose to turn out his cows or horses on that appropriated land, to pay a
rent for it to the overseers of St. Martin's parish, then really 'in the
fields.' And here this nobleman not only dwelt in all state himself, but
let, or lent his house to persons whose memory seems to hallow even
Leicester Fields. Elizabeth of Bohemia, after what was to her indeed
'life's fitful fever,' died at Leicester House. It became then,
temporarily, the abode of ambassadors. Colbert, in the time of Charles
II., occupied the place; Prince Eugene, in 1712, held his residence
here; and the rough soldier, famous for all absence of tact--brave,
loyal-hearted, and coarse--lingered at Leicester House in hopes of
obstructing the peace between England and France.

All that was good and great fled for ever from Leicester House at the
instant that George II., when Prince of Wales, was driven by his royal
father from St. James's, and took up his abode in it until the death of
George I. The once honoured home of the Sydneys henceforth becomes
loathsome in a moral sense. Here William, Duke of Cumberland--the hero,
as court flatterers called him--the butcher, as the poor Jacobite
designated him--of Culloden, first saw the light. Peace and
respectability then dignified the old house for ever. Prince Frederick
was its next inmate: here the Princess of Wales, the mother of George
III., had her lying-in, and her royal husband held his public tables;
and at these and in every assembly, as well as in private, one figure is
conspicuous.

Grace Boyle--for she unworthily bore that great name--was the daughter
and heiress of Richard, Viscount Shannon. She married Lord Middlesex,
bringing him a fortune of thirty thousand pounds. Short, plain, 'very
yellow,' as her contemporaries affirm, with a head full of Greek and
Latin, and devoted to music and painting; it seems strange that
Frederick should have been attracted to one far inferior to his own
princess both in mind and person. But so it was, for in those days every
man liked his neighbour's wife better than his own. Imitating the
forbearance of her royal mother-in-law, the princess tolerated such of
her husband's mistresses as did not interfere in politics: Lady
Middlesex was the 'my good Mrs. Howard,' of Leicester House. She was
made Mistress of the Robes: her favour soon 'grew,' as the shrewd Horace
remarks, 'to be rather more than Platonic.' She lived with the royal
pair constantly, and sat up till five o'clock in the morning at their
suppers; and Lord Middlesex saw and submitted to all that was going on
with the loyalty and patience of a _Georgian_ courtier. Lady Middlesex
was a docile politician, and on that account, retained her position
probably long after she had lost her influence.

Her name appears constantly in the 'Diary,' out of which everything
amusing has been carefully expunged.

'Lady Middlesex, Lord Bathurst, Mr. Breton, and I, waited on their Royal
Highnesses to Spitalfields, to see the manufacture of silk.' In the
afternoon off went the same party to Norwood Forest, in private coaches,
to see a 'settlement of gypsies.' Then returning, went to find out
Bettesworth, the conjuror; but not discovering him, went in search of
the little Dutchman. Were disappointed in that; but 'concluded,' relates
Bubb Dodington, 'the peculiarities of this day by supping with Mrs.
Cannon, the princess's _midwife_.'

All these elegant modes of passing the time were not only for the sake
of Lady Middlesex, but, it was said, of her friend, Mrs. Granville, one
of the Maids of Honour, daughter of the first Lord Lansdown, the poet.
This young lady, Eliza Granville, was scarcely pretty: a far, red-haired
girl.

All this thoughtless, if not culpable, gallantry was abruptly checked by
the rude hand of death. During the month of March, Frederick was
attacked with illness, having caught cold. Very little apprehension was
expressed at first, but, about eleven days after his first attack, he
expired. Half an hour before his death, he had asked to see some
friends, and had called for coffee and bread and butter: a fit of
coughing came on, and he died instantly from suffocation. An abscess,
which had been forming in his side, had burst; nevertheless, his two
physicians, Wilmot and Lee, 'knew nothing of his distemper.' According
to Lord Melcombe, who thus refers to their blunders, 'They declared,
half an hour before his death, that his pulse was like a man's in
perfect health. They either would not see or did not know the
consequences of the black thrush, which appeared in his mouth, and quite
down in his throat. Their ignorance, or their knowledge of his disorder,
renders them equally inexcusable for not calling in other assistance.'

The consternation in the prince's household was great, not for his life,
but for the confusion into which politics were thrown by his death.
After his relapse, and until just before his death, the princess never
suffered any English, man or woman, above the degree of valet-de-chambre
to see him; nor did she herself see any one of her household until
absolutely necessary. After the death of his eldest born, George II.
vented his diabolical jealousy upon the cold remains of one thus cut off
in the prime of life. The funeral was ordered to be on the model of that
of Charles II., but private counter-orders were issued to reduce the
ceremonial to the smallest degree of respect that could be paid.

On the 13th of April, 1751, the body of the prince was entombed in Henry
VII.'s chapel. Except the lords appointed to hold the pall, and attend
the chief mourner, when the attendants were called over in their ranks,
there was not a _single_ English lord, not _one_ bishop, and only one
Irish lord (Lord Limerick), and three sons of peers. Sir John Rushout
and Dodington were the only privy counsellors who followed. It rained
heavily, but no covering was provided for the procession. The service
was performed without organ or anthem. 'Thus,' observes Bubb Dodington,
'ended this sad day.'

Although the prince left a brother and sisters, the Duke of Somerset
acted as chief mourner. The king hailed the event of the prince's death
as a relief, which was to render happy his remaining days; and Bubb
Dodington hastened, in a few months, to offer to the Pelhams 'his
friendship and attachment.' His attendance at court was resumed,
although George II. could not endure him; and the old Walpolians,
nick-named the Black-tan, were also averse to him.

Such were Bubb Dodington's _actions_. His expressions, on occasion of
the prince's death, were in a very different tone.

'We have lost,' he wrote to Sir Horace Mann, 'the delight and ornament
of the age he lived in,--the expectations of the public: in this light I
have lost more than any subject in England; but this is light,--public
advantages confined to myself do not, ought not, to weigh with me. But
we have lost the refuge of private distress--the balm of the afflicted
heart the shelter of the miserable against the fury of private
adversity; the arts, the graces, the anguish, the misfortunes of
society, have lost their patron and their remedy.

'I have lost my companion--my protector--the friend that loved me, that
condescended to hear, to communicate, to share in all the pleasures and
pains of the human heart: where the social affections and emotions of
the mind only presided without regard to the infinite disproportion of
my rank and condition. This is a wound that cannot, ought not to heal.
If I pretended to fortitude here, I should be infamous--a monster of
ingratitude--and unworthy of all consolation, if I was not
inconsolable.'

'Thank you,' writes the shrewd Horace Walpole, addressing Sir Horace
Mann, 'for the transcript from _Bulb de Tristibus_. I will keep your
secret, though I am persuaded that a man who had composed such a funeral
oration on his master had himself fully intended that its flowers should
not bloom and wither in obscurity.'

Well might George II., seeing him go to court say: 'I see Dodington here
sometimes, what does he come for?'

It was, however, clearly seen what he went for, when, in 1753, two years
after the death of his 'benefactor,' Dodington humbly offered His
Majesty his services in the house, and 'five members,' for the rest of
his life, if His Majesty would give Mr. Pelham leave to employ him for
His Majesty's service. Nevertheless he continued to advise with the
Princess of Wales, and to drop into her house as if it had been a
sister's house--sitting on a stool near the fireside, and listening to
her accounts of her children.

In the midst of these intrigues for favour on the part of Dodington, Mr.
Pelham died, and was succeeded by his brother, the Duke of Newcastle,
the issue of whose administration is well known.

In 1760 death again befriended the now veteran wit, beau and politician.
George II. died; and the intimacy which Dodington had always taken care
to preserve between himself and the Princess of Wales, ended
advantageously for him; and he instantly, in spite of all his former
professions to Pelham, joined hand and heart with that minister, from
whom he obtained a peerage. This, as we have seen, was not long enjoyed.
Lord Melcombe, as this able, intriguing man was now styled, died on the
28th of July, 1762; and with him terminated the short-lived distinction
for which he had sacrificed even a decent pretext of principle and
consistency.

So general has been the contempt felt for his character, that it seems
almost needless to assert that Bubb Dodington was eminently to be
despised. Nothing much more severe can be said of him than the remarks
of Horace Walpole--upon his 'Diary;' in which he observes that Dodington
records little but what is to his own disgrace; as if he thought that
the world would forgive his inconsistencies as readily as he forgave
himself. 'Had he adopted,' Horace well observes, 'the French title
"_Confessions_," it would have seemed to imply some kind of penitence.'

But vain-glory engrossed him: 'He was determined to raise an altar to
himself, and for want of burnt offerings, lighted the pyre, like a great
author (Rousseau), with his own character.'

It was said by the same acute observer, both of Lord Hervey and of Bubb
Dodington, that they were the only two persons he ever knew that were
always aiming at wit and never finding it.' And here, it seems, most
that can be testified in praise of a heartless, clever man, must be
summed up.

Lord Melcombe's property, with the exception of a few legacies, devolved
upon his cousin Thomas Wyndham, of Hammersmith, by whom his Lordship's
papers, letters, and poems, were bequeathed to Henry Penruddocke
Wyndham, with an injunction, that only such as 'might do honour to his
memory should be made public.'

After this, in addition to the true saying, defend us from our friends
one may exclaim, 'defend us from our executors and editors.'





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