Page images

ii Ithink I am wonder

ful *::::::: much I have gone
o o, one has been no easy life.
... out once happened to me.
i oil with the gout; it was in my feet,
so I was carried into my carriage; and
from it i was carried into my Court-
Ther. I remained all the day, and de-
livered an arduous judgment: . In the
evening I was carried straight from my

Yas an important question, the peace of **iens — I forgot my gout, and spoke for two hours. "Well, the House broke *P, I was carried home, and at six in the morning I prepared to go to bed. My Poor left leg had just got in, when I recollected I had important papers to look Over, and that I had not had time to examine them ; so I pulled my poor left leg out of bed, put on my clothes, and

court to the House of Lords: there I sat until two o'clock"in the morning, when some of the Lords came and whispered to me that I was expected to speak. I told them I really could not, W. was ill, and I could not stand; but they still urged, and at last I hobbled, in some way or other, with their assistance, to the place from

went to my study. I did examine the papers; they related to the Recorder's report, which had to be heard that day; I was again carried into Court, where I had to deliver another arduous judgment, again went to the House of Lords, and it was not till the middle of the second night that I got into bed. These are hard trials

which I usually addressed the House. It to a man's constitution.”

Let him who aspires to the highest stations of professional eminence recollect also the arduous duties that accompany it, for to every conscientious mind they are inseparably joined ; and he who would endeavour to separate them, would find himself in deeper troubles than those he had vainly attempted to evade. When Lord Thurlow was asked howhegot through his business as a Chancellor, he said, “Just as a pickpocket gets through a horsepond,-he must get through." In 1804 the King was again suffering under his dreadful affliction; and the Chancellor says, “God grant that no future Chancellor may go through the same distressing scenes, or be exposed to the dangerous responsibility which I went through, and was exposed to during the indispositions of my sovereign.” Lord Eldon related to Lord Encombe, that the King used to say that he had had one advantage from his mental afflictions; viz. the means of knowing his real from his pretended friends. In 1804 the force of circumstances alone, and not the King's will or favourable disposition, prevailed to place Mr. Pitt again in power; for kings will always be served by men of moderate talents and flexible wills if they can ; they don't like the uncompromising character of great and lofty minds; George the Third neither liked Lord Chatham nor his son ; and in one passage of this work he complains that one of the new ministry (meaning, doubtless, Lord Grey) came up to him as Bonaparte would after the battle of Austerlitz. In 1804 much of his time was taken up by the differences between the King and the Prince of Wales. The chief event in his domestic life, was the marriage of his eldest son with Miss Ridley. In 1805 he made his first speech against the Roman Catholic Claims, which were brought forward by a petition presented by Lord Grenville. Then followed the very annoying business of the accusation against Lord Melville, his resignation, and the consequent loss to the Cabinet of his energy and talent. Mr. Pitt's rapidly declining health was also a source of great uneasiness to Lord Eldon; but he was soon visited by a deeper affliction in the illness and death of his eldest son, who died in December 1805. On the 23rd of January Mr. Pitt breathed his last. Then came the change of administration. Mr. Fox and Lord Grenville came into power, and Lord Erskine was appointed to the Chancellorship. On the 4th February Lord Eldon took leave of the Bar, and became consequently entitled to a pension of 4000l. a-year. We must go now more rapidly through the remainder of the narrative. In 1806 we find Lord Eldon engaged in correspondence

with Caroline, Princess of Wales, on the subject of the charges brought against her. In 1807 the Whig ministry was dismissed, and he again took the Great Seal : he bought the Encombe estate, in Dorsetshire, of Mr. Morton Pitt, for 53,000l. thinking that its size and character suited him well. In the session of 1808 we find him defending the Orders in Council, and the somewhat difficult point of the seizure of the Danish fleet. What the King thought of the act may be seen in a conversation he had with our ambassador, Mr. Jackson, who waited on the Prince Royal to demand the ships. “Was he up stairs or down when he received you?” asked the King. “He was on the ground-floor, please your Majesty.” “I am glad of it, for your sake,” said the King, “ for, if he had half the spirit of George the Third, he would infallibly have kicked you down stairs.” In 1809 the Chancellor was engaged in defending his friend the Duke of York against Col. Wardle's charges. After this came the serious misunderstanding between Lord Castlereagh and Mr. Canning, which ended in their mutual resignation and the consequent confusion of the Cabinet. In October the Duke of Portland died, and the Marquess Wellesley and Mr. Perceval formed the new administration At the close of the year Lord Eldon stood for the Chancellorship of Oxford against Lord Grenville and the Duke of Beaufort, and the reasons for his want of success are detailed in Mr. Twiss's volume. He again in 1810 opposed the petition of the Catholics : next year the illness of the King took a character of decided permanence, and the Regency question, with its powers and limitations, became the subject of long deliberation and violent dispute. When that was settled other difficulties disappeared, as the Prince Regent continued Mr. Perceval's administration. The only material change that took place was the retirement of the Marquess Wellesley, who was succeeded by Lord Castlereagh. In May 1812 Mr. Perceval was shot in the lobby of the House; he was the principal adviser of the Government, and his loss was deeply felt; his character is fairly drawn, we think, in the book, and we shall give it at the close of our article, together with some others. After much fruitless negotiation to form a stronger administration from the junction of Lord Wellesley and Mr. Canning, and subsequently of the Whig leaders, Lord Liverpool took the place of Mr. Perceval, and this administration, which it was said at the time would not weather the Session, lasted fifteen years afterwards, without any material change of policy except the recognition of the Roman Catholic question, and without any important additions except the return of Mr. Canning in 1816, the entrance of the Duke of Wellington in 1818, and of Sir R. Peel in 1822. We must pass over the next two years, in which nothing very important took place, although the long and fatal war was terminated, and the Bourbons were replacedon the throne of France; but in these great events Lord Eldon of course did not appear as a prominent person, for the country was now taken out of Chancery, and he was in it. In 1815 Lord Eldon's house was forcibly entered and taken possession of by a violent and angry mob, infuriated with the Corn Bill ; his family took refuge in the British Museum gardens, and the arrival of the foot soldiers and horse-guards alone preserved the dwelling of the Chancellor from destruction. Under the date of this year, 1815, will be found an interesting correspondence between Lord Eldon and his brother relating to the #." on which the captivity of Bonaparte should be founded. Mr.

wiss says, “It is a great evidence of Lord Eldon's extraordinary powers, that he should have been able, out of a mass of perplexities which had baffled Lord Ellenborough, Sir William Grant, and Sir W. Scott, to deduce a solid, comprehensive judgment of his own—reconciling the multifarious difficulties of the law of nations, and setting the sanction of justice to the tranquillity of the world.” Lord Eldon's wish for retirement, which he had for some time entertained, appears to have been increased by a long illness, which attacked him in the autumn of the year 1816. He was soon, however, restored to health by medical treatment; but it unfortunately was only to witness an event that much displeased him, the marriage of his eldest daughter with Mr. George Repton. This he never forgave ; no doubt that to him it appeared at once imprudent and unkind; imprudent as forfeiting all the advantage of her rank and station and fortune, and unkind to him who had always treated her not only as his daughter, but his friend ;-he who has daughters must not be surprised sometimes at such amiable weaknesses appearing ;-but it appears to us that the only true ground of a father's alienation must be when a step of folly destroys every feeling of that respect on which even affection itself reposes. In June 1819 he again opposed further concession to the Catholics; he appears, however, in this session to have been overpowered by labour: he writes to his brother, “Town, or this world, I must leave—such is my state: and I hope, when I do leave it, to return no more to labour without ceasing from seven in the morning of the 28th October to nine at night of the 31st August. I can't bear it longer—it's impossible.” Before he went into Dorsetshire he quitted Bedford Square for Hamilton Place, which he occupied till his death. In 1820 his youngest daughter married Mr. Edward Bankes. Lord Eldon kept up a correspondence with her, very minute and unreserved, which has enriched the pages of this biography with some of its most valuable matter. The Chancellor was not to be happy in his daughters' marriages. She and her husband disagreed and separated. These things all depend on whether Juno or the Eumenides attend the marriage feast.* The parent's love, however, was altogether undiminished. From this time his attention was almost entirely engrossed, together with that of King, ministers, people, and parliament, by the claims and conduct of Queen Caroline. It was a sad subject for the Ministry: we well remember the then first Lady Liverpool, when she witnessed the dreadful anxiety and constant distress of the Earl, used to repeat, “Oh that woman 1" for she believed in her guilt, and therefore in her conduct saw nothing but the grossness of personal audacity and the exasperation of party feeling. George the Fourth, in acknowledgment of Lord Eldon's great services, conferred the dignity of an Earldom upon him. In August the Queen died of internal inflammation ;t had she lived she intended in a few days to have left the country for the continent, and all preparation was made for the expedition. In 1822 a section of the Grenville party gained the Ministry, and Mr. Peel accepted the office of Home Secretary

[ocr errors]

Non Pronuba Juno Non Hymenaeus adest, non illigratia lecto. Eumenides tenuere faces de funere raptas Eumenides stravere torum.— Op. Metam. # The Queen, after retiring from the play, mixed and drank a tumbler of magnesia and water, upon that she swallowed another of diluted laudanum; this occasioned a complete stoppage in the bowels. We had this from a lady who was living with her at the time.-REv.

in the room of Lord Sidmouth. Lord Erskine, alluding to Charles Wynn's voice, said, “Ministers are hard run, but they still have a squeak for it.” Lord Eldon opposed the Roman Catholic Peers' Bill, which had passed the Commons, but was negatived in the Lords by a majority of 171 against 129. He was defeated, however, in his opposition to the Marriage Act Amendment Bill. In the August of this year he was much affected by the death of Lord Londonderry; whose vacant place was supplied by Mr. Canning, an appointment which we recollect gave a general satisfaction, and much advantage was anticipated from his commanding talents and enlarged and liberal policy. In 1824 he had to sustain a renewed attack of Mr. Williams on the proceedings of Chancery and the profits of the Chancellorship.” Mr. Peel, on this occasion, said the Chancellor's income was hardly more than a third of what the Members thought it was, and the Chancellor himself said he detested being influenced by sordid motives and feelings. It does not appear in the Life what it was, but sufficient, we believe, to have accumulated at Lord Eldon's death to somewhere about eight hundred thousand pounds. In May he resisted the Bill of Lord Lansdowne for the relief of the English Catholics. Mr. Canning called his speech that of a “pettifogging lawyer,” on which Lord Eldon observes, “Politicians are fond of representing lawyers as most ignorant politicians: they are pleased, however, to represent politicians as not being ignorant lawyers, which they, most undoubtedly, generally are—and this was never more clearly demonstrated than by Mr. Canning's speeches on the Roman Catholic question.” Most of this session of 1825 was passed in debate on the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, which passed the Commons by a majority of 21, but was lost in the Lords. The session of 1826-7 terminated the official, though not the public, life of Lord Eldon. In February Lord Liverpool was seized with that attack which destroyed his mental powers, and subsequently his life. In April the formation of a Government was entrusted to Mr. Canning, and Lord Eldon was succeeded as Chancellor by the present Lord Lyndhurst. He resigned the Seals on the 30th April 1827. “I have now,” he said, “taken my farewell of office; the King behaved to me with kindness and feeling;” and, we may also add, from knowing the Chancellor's habits of life, he gave him a tankard for his potations, parcel-gilt. His high office he had held about a quarter of a century. Lord Eldon's life was prolonged for ten years after this period; but we have no room left to record the events, though, as his biographer says, “He still faithfully served his country—opposing the weight of his years, of his abilities, and his character, against the rash delusions of the time—and, with steadfast and calm disregard to all the odds of passion and power, defending to his latest strength the institutions which his manhood had been devoted to maintain.” It is, we think, principally seen in his opposition to the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts; in 1828 also against the Catholic Claims, proposed by Lord Lansdowne ; and again in 1829, at which time the account he gives of the state of vacillation in which he found the King in his interviews with him, is very curious; he talked of going to the baths abroad—flung

* Vol. ii. p. 556, Lord Eldon says, in a letter to his daughter, that the profits of the Chancellorship are a little more than 9,000l. his receipts in bankruptcy 4,000l. more. If so, the Law is not so well paid as the Church, for the bishoprick of London is at this time worth 40,000l. per annum !! But see vol. iii. p. 315, where it appears, from a fuller statement, that his profits from the Chancellorship for the whole period were 14,700l., per anuum,

his arms around Lord Eldon's neck—asked what he was to fallback upon, and seems never to have prepared himself for meeting the most important question agitated in his reign. Probably, when Lord Eldon left him, he fellback on a paté of foie gras and a bottle of Burgundy: but the venerable and strong-minded statesman was attached to Georgethe Fourth, and with cause, for he had distinguished him by political favour and personal friendship. Once, he told him, he hated no man so much. The last great question which occupied the attention of a man now in his 80th year was the Reform Bill; to this he vainly opposed all his remaining strength. In 1831 he lost the old and faithful companion of his life. Lady Eldon expired on the 29th June, and from this affliction he never wholly recovered. Almost sixty years had elapsed since he received the fair burthen in his arms, as she descended from the window of her father's house, and for this long period she had faithfully shared in all his fortunes —with cheerfulness to the privations of early life, and with modest retirement during the splendour of his later. We know few things more discoidant to our minds than the laborious lawyer and his dashing, fashionable, and expensive wife. If women wish to be gay, they should eschew a marriage into the learned professions. Lord Eldon's medical adviser had come to an opinion that his health would be benefited by frequent movements through long columns of air. From this time therefore, through the remainder of his life, he travelled a good deal, and sometimes with no other object than the journey itself. He visited his friends and estates in the North-looked on the scenes and surviving companions of his youthful days, and occasionally went to Encombe. In 1832 he lost his second son, who died in July of that year. In this year he had so much recovered his health as to be able to walk to the top of the Encombe Hills, a favourite spot, commanding extensive views of land and sea. He also dined at the Bench table, in the Middle Temple Hall, with the members of the Society. The 8th of June was the last day he ever sat judicially as a Privy Councillor. In the autumn of 1834 he was subpoenaed on a trial by an attorney; when he appeared to take his seat the whole Bar respectfully rose, and again when he stood up to be sworn. Mr. Twiss says, “That was probably the only case where a Lord Chancellor was defendant (Brougham), an ex-Lord Chancellor witness (Eldon), and another ex-Lord Chancellor the judge (Lyndhurst)." In this year he was received with great honours at the Installation at Oxford. He was particularly pleased when leaving the theatre some one cried out, “There is old Eldon-cheer him, for he never ratted.” “I was much delighted, for I never did rat. I will not say I have been right through life: I may have been wrong—but I will say that I have been consistent." In the formation of Sir R. Peel's government in 1835, from Lord Eldon's great age and growing infirmities, no tender of office was made to him; but the minister conveyed to him an outline of his political views, and Lord Eldon still continued to interest himself in the political measures of the country, acting himself according to the advice he gave to the landlord at Rushyford, “Busy people are apt to think a life of leisure a life of happiness ; but when a man who has been much occupied arrives at having nothing to do, he is very apt not to know what to do with himself.” “In 1836 he lived to witness the death of Lord Stowell's only, son, and shortly after of the father himself; whose infirmity of mind had spared him the painful knowledge of the great affliction that had befallen him. In September 1836 we find his medical adviser, Mr. Pen

« PreviousContinue »