« PreviousContinue »
of opinioppreciate a own, tra
on Lord E. Fitzmaurice, which he has executed with judgment and skill. Although occasional exception may be taken to his style, the narrative and connecting portions of the work contributed by him are marked by a complete mastery of the subject, an excellent spirit and tone, with boldness and liberality of opinion, and firmness and comprehensiveness of view.
To appreciate a man's estimates of character we must carefully analyse his own, trace it up through each stage of its growth or formation, and mark the peculiarities of mind, temper and disposition, as well as the accidents of early training and association, by which his future judgments may have been warped. It is laid down as an undoubted fact by James Mill that the early sequences to which we are accustomed form the primary habits, and that the primary habits are the fundamental character of the man. The consequence is most important, for it follows that as soon as the infant, or rather the embryo, begins to feel, the character begins to be formed.'* Assuming this theory to be sound, Lord Shelburne is fully justified in dwelling on his earliest infancy as influencing his mental and moral development:
'I was born,' he begins, 'in Dublin (20th of May, 1737). I spent the four first years of my life in the remotest part of the south of Ireland, under the government of an old grandfather, who reigned, or rather tyrannised, equally over his own family and the neighbouring country as if it was his family, in the same manner as I suppose his ancestors, Lords of Kerry, had done for generations since the time of Henry II., who granted to our family 100,000 acres in those remote parts in consideration of their services against the Irish, with the title of Barons of Kerry. I have seen the original grant in the possession of my father, and it must be now in my brother's. It is a curiosity on account of its simplicity and brevity compared with grants of a later date, not being longer than a common writ of subpæna or a summons to Parliament.'
This grandfather, 21st Baron Kerry, was made Earl of Kerry in 1722. He married in 1792 Anne, the daughter of Sir William Petty, whose son was the first Earl of Shelburne. This title, , having become extinct by his death without issue in 1751, was conferred on John Fitzmaurice, the fifth son of the Earl of Kerry by Anne Petty, to whom the whole of the Petty estates had been devised by his maternal uncle, on condition of his adopting the name and arms of Petty. He had already been created Viscount Fitzmaurice, the title by which his son, the first Marquess of Lansdowne, was known till 1761. To avoid confusion, we allude to the subject of this work throughout as Lord Shelburne.
* 'Encyclopædia Britannica,' article Education. We gladly avail ourselves of this opportunity to direct the attention of our readers to the new (ninth) edition of this great work, of which the first voluine has recently appeared under the editorship of Professor Baynes, of St. Andrews. A great part of it has been re-written; and so far as we have been able to examine the articles, we congratulate the Editor upon the success of his undertaking. He has secured the co-operation of many of the ablest writers in all departments of Literature, History, Philosophy and Science; and most of the subjects have been brought up to the present state of knowledge. If completed in the same manner in which it is commenced, it will be the most valuable Encyclopædia in our language. We would only suggest to the Editor that he should, in the forthcoming volumes, omit, even more rigorously than he has hitherto done, some of the old materials. We have, in a few cases, noticed some articles left from the former edition that should have been re-written.-EDITOR.
His grandfather, he states, was the most severe character that can be imagined, obstinate and inflexible.
• He was a handsome man, and, luckily for me and mine, married a very ugly woman (Anne Petty), who brought into his family whatever degree of sense may have appeared in it, or whatever wealth is likely to remain in it.' This lady, whom he describes as a perfect model of sense, prudence, and spirit, educating her children well, furnishing several houses, supporting a style of living superior to any family whatever in Ireland, and with all this improving the fortune of their house, died within a few months of his birth ; so that he lost the benefit of her personal superintendence, and was left entirely to the uncontrolled tutelage of the grandfather.
He kept that barbarous country in strict subordination. He protected strangers and their property, and took care that the laws should be executed, and all violences repressed. He governed his own family as he did the country. In consequence his children did not love him, but dreaded him; his servants the same.'
This statement is confirmed by tradition. The Baron of Lixnaw lived in feudal state, and held a court in which he distributed rude justice and hospitality; a curious example of the paternal or patriarchal rule, without which neither life nor property would have been safe in the district he ruled over; nor was his the only territory in which the same state of things had existed for centuries. Indeed, traces of it survived till within living memory. Not fifty years since a territorial magnate of herculean proportions, when presiding at petty sessions, instead of imposing fines or periods of imprisonment for offences, was wont to quit the judgment seat, and inflict an appropriate number of lashes with a hunting whip, which (like the Roman fasces) lay on the table before him, the instrument of punishment and the emblem of authority.
Referring a little farther on to the grandfather's love of honour, justice and truth, as a counterpoise to excess of severity,
he adds, that so far as he can learn both were the characteristics of the House of Lixnaw for many generations, and are distinguishable to this day in the small remains of it, although he hopes he has introduced a degree of softness into it. His father was forty-five when the grandfather died; and with formed habits, cramped notions and broken spirit, fell under the control of his mother; a woman of restless activity, irritable temper, fond of power, and still fonder of money. There are plausible grounds for supposing that all the faults of the son's character were owing to her.
* • Under the circumstances I have described, I had no great chance of a very liberal education; no great example before me, no information in my way, except what I might be able to acquire by my own observation or by chance; good-breeding within my own family which made part of the feudal system, but out of it nothing but those uncultivated, undisciplined manners, and that vulgarity which make all Irish society so justly odious all over Europe.
This is a strange statement. Whatever the home-bred Irish may have been, surely the travelled Irish were even more remarkable for ease and pliancy of manner, ready adaptation to foreign habits, and facility in acquiring languages, than the English or the Scotch ; and Irish society, as represented by the expatriated or exiled nobility and gentry, stood on the best possible footing at almost every European capital.
'I must, however, make one illustrious exception to all that has been said 'within and without my family, in the person of Lady Arabella Denny, to whose virtues, talents, temper, taste, true religion, and goodness of every kind, it is impossible for me to do sufficient justice, any more than to the unspeakable gratitude I owe her. If it was not for her I should have scarce known how to read, write, or articulate, to being able to do which I am indebted, perhaps, for the greatest part of the little reputation I have lived to gain in the House of Lords. It was to her alone I owed any alleviation of the domestic brutality and ill-usage I daily experienced at home. She was the only example I had before me of the two qualities of mind which most adorn and dignify life-amiability and independence.
The husband of this incomparable woman was a good sort of man, uninformed and ignorant ; her brother-in-law, Sir – Denny, a coward, a savage, and a fool, who set himself to make her life unhappy. Her mode of counteracting him, original and ingenious, was by playing off one of his bad qualities against the others, by using his cowardice to subdue and neutralise his brutality. She practised pistol-shooting till she had
* So stated in a letter from Lord Kildare to Lord Holland.
become a capital shot, and then, after a display of her dexterity, she told him that she had made up her mind to give him the benefit of it unless he mended his ways, his ill-usage having made her regardless of life. The brute was so effectually cowed that he took care never to exasperate her again.
From four to fourteen Lord Shelburne's education was irregular and desultory. He was first sent to an ordinary school, and then placed under a private tutor, an incapable, narrow-minded man. Soon after fifteen he came to London, where he was suffered to go about and pick up what acquaintance offered, or amuse himself as he thought fit, with no restraint except in the article of money, of which, he says, he should never have had enough to answer the commonest purposes if it had not been for cousins and old aunts.
'I have dwelt on the manner in which I passed my early years, because it cost me more to unlearn the habits, manners, and principles which I then imbibed than would have served to qualify me for any róle whatever through life. I am conscious of the force of several of them to this hour, which I have not been able to root properly out.'
At all events he had the advantage of a University education, being sent to Christ Church, where again he unluckily fell under a narrow-minded tutor, and remarks that by one or other accident it has been his fate through life to fall in with clever but unpopular connections.
'I should mention that my father, before I left London, used to carry me when he made visits, and introduced me to several old people, telling me that they might be dead when I left Oxford, and I might hereafter be glad to have it to say that I had seen them. I saw by this means Lord Chesterfield and Lord Granville, and was wonderfully struck with the difference of their manner. He likewise carried me to the House of Commons, and I shall never forget the scolding he gave me for not staying to hear Lord North speak a second time, having heard him once, and disliking his manner. My father inferred from it to me that I never could be anybody. Lord North was then rising into reputation as a speaker.' He
appears to have done his best to make up for lost time at Oxford. He read with his tutor a good deal of natural law and the law of nations, some history, and part of Livy. He also translated some of the Orations of Demosthenes. He attended Blackstone's Lectures, and profited considerably by them; but complains rather unreasonably that he got little or no knowledge of the world, which is not exactly what a young man is expected to get at a University. The Dean, however (Dr. Gregory), gave him notions of people and things which were afterwards
useful to him, and he fell into habits' with Dr. King, President of St. Mary Hall, of political and Jacobite celebrity.
'I was likewise much connected during all the time I was at college with Mr. Hamilton Boyle, afterward Earl of Cork. As to the rest, the college was very low; a proof of it is, that no one who was there in my time has made much figure either as publick man, or man of letters. The Duke of Portland is the only one I recollect to have his name come before the publick.'
Pausing at 1756, the year when he quitted Oxford, he suspends his personal narrative, and proceeds thus :
*Previous however to my giving any further account of myself or of such things as may have come within my knowledge, I shall give some account of the condition of politics about the time I entered public life.
'It is common to attribute the happiness and comfort which this country enjoyed from the period of the Revolution till the commencement of the present reign, to the excellence of our constitution, to the Whigs, and to a variety of other causes, whereas I conceive the true cause to have been the existence of a Pretender with a very just right to the Throne upon all Tory and monarchical principles and all old prejudices, but without sufficient capacity to disturb the reigning family, or to accommodate himself to the new principles which have been making a slow but certain progress ever since the discovery of the press. Cardinal Wolsey, upon the first discovery of printing, told the clergy to be on their guard, for if they did not destroy the press the press would destroy them. The consequence was that, during the period alluded to, there was a King and no King. Instead of all that fine theory which Montesquieu and all the admirers of the English constitution suppose, and all the theory of action and reaction, the Hanover family never imagined they would continue, and as their only chance threw themselves into the arms of the old Whigs, abjuring the rights and the manners of Royalty, in other words, telling the people, “We are your slaves and blackamoors.”
In this and another passage to the same effect his Lordship assigns to the Pretender the part which the Lord (in the Prologue of Faust) assigns to Mephistopheles : Man's activity is all too prone to slumber: he soon gets fond of unconditional repose : I am therefore glad to give him a companion, who stirs and works, and must as devil be doing. Certainly the Pretender kept both the Court and the nation on the qui rive, but we fail to see how this added to the happiness and comfort of the country. These were surely owing to the development of commerce and industry under an equal administration of the laws, and in no slight degree to the peaceful policy of Walpole
. The national prosperity must have been checked and impaired