« PreviousContinue »
we are to take it for granted that his secession from
occasioned by the opposition he encountered, in the highest quarter, to all further concessions to the great mass of the people of Ireland, in religious and political matters, to which he had solemnly pledged himself when carrying the Act of Union with Ireland. The ministry of Lord Sidmouth, who had concluded the peace of Amiens, Pitt supported for a season; but, joining the opposition, was found once again on the side of his old antagonist, and less successful rival, Charles James Fox.
Once more, in 1804, we find Pitt in his position for the second time as war minister, exerting all the energy of his character to destroy Napoleon ; but again without success,—the coalition he succeeded in effecting between Russia and Austria having been dissolved by the battle of Austerlitz.
Now it was that the hitherto unexampled energy and self-sustainment of this great man began to fail; or rather, failing health, and a constitution broken by hereditary gout, and injured by a too liberal use of wine, yielded to the joint attacks of disease, bodily and mental. The impeachment of his colleague and friend, Lord Melville, is thought to have weighed heavily upon him, and to have completed his mental depression.
To form a correct estimate of the character of William Pitt belongs to the calm and impartial historian, who, far removed from the prejudices of contending factions, can weigh at leisure the value of the evidence for and against him, and determine whether posterity has or has not done him sufficient justice. As a minister, however, it is pretty generally conceded that his genius was better adapted to the regulative process of peaceable and domestic government, than for the arrangement and conduct of that warlike exertion which, with its consequences, his policy entailed upon the country. At the same time, it must be confessed, that he had to encounter the career, not then to be repressed, of gigantic and overwhelming energies, the result of a crisis of unprecedented political and social magnitude. Had it not been for his committal to a policy founded upon the extinction of revolutionary tendencies in Europe, instead of an enormous debt and questionable advantages, we should have found the great son of the great Chatham pursuing the career of his father ;-reducing into practice constitutional and political improvements, and persisting in the advocacy of those great principles of temperate and rational reform, with the profession whereof he set out in his career of political life. His early accession to power was injurious to him as a
statesman; a longer career of opposition would have produced better fruit for the country, and for his own reputation.
The man who has never known adversity, or who only knows it at the decline of life, can hardly be truly great. True greatness, taught by suffering, has a moderation, a stability, and a modesty, Pitt had not the opportunity to learn till too late.
He has had praise for his indifference to the opportunities his position gave him of amassing wealth for himself; he deserves none. Negligence did for him the duty of extravagance; and it would have been more creditable to him to have paid his debts, by carefully husbanding his resources, than to leave the nation a legacy of his private as well as of his public incumbrances.
In person and physiognomy Mr. Pitt possessed no surpassing advantages. A loftiness, approaching to arrogance, the result, probably, of his position, was his habitual expression in public: in private, he has been described by an intimate friend as peculiarly complacent and urbane. His eloquence, if not more elevated or profound, was, upon the whole, more perfect than that of any other orator of his time, being remarkably correct, well-arranged, and copious. Although neither illuminated by the flashes of genius which characterised his father's oratory, or by the imagination which distinguished the eloquence of Burke, it was more uniformly just and impressive than that of either ; while the indignant severity and keenness of his sarcasm were unequalled.
On the whole, Mr. Pitt was a statesman of commanding powers, and still loftier pretensions; and, however painful the pecuniary burdens to which he left the nation inheritor, it is certain that he paved the way for that final overthrow of a power which, beginning by the assertion of principles of liberty and equality, ended in aiming at universal empire-at universal despotism.
In estimating the characters of public, as of private men, circumstances must ever be taken as the first principle of modification of the character, whether it be for evil or for good. To circumstances Pitt was a slave : originally a temperate reformer, he was compelled during a long life of power to antagonise intemperate reforms; originally a patriot, his early assumption of the reins of government, the confidence of his king, and the support of a perhaps too compliant House of Commons, gave him too much of the arrogance of the secure placeman. Much must be allowed for the
great crisis of his time; his warlike administration was the result of circumstances, his pacific measures were his own.
Upon Putney Heath, not far from the Bowling-green House, a Mr. Hartley erected a building, for the purpose of proving the efficacy of iron plates to preserve houses from fire. An obelisk, built at the expense of the city of London, records the success of the experiments; but it does not appear that the invention was ever generally applied to practical purposes. One of the signal-posts, or telegraphs, communicating between the Admiralty and Portsmouth, stands near the above-mentioned obelisk.
Putney Heath, owing to its salubrity, elevated situation, beauty of prospect, and proximity to town, is a favourite site for aristocratic villas, as is also ROEHAMPTON, pleasantly situate at the western extremity of the heath. At Roehampton dwelt Christina, Countess of Devonshire, daughter of John Earl Spencer, a woman of considerable celebrity and very singular character. Although extolled for her devotion, she retained Hobbes, the free-thinker, as tutor to her son; and although remarkable for hospitality, so judicious was her economy that, having procured the wardship of her son, she managed his affairs so skilfully as to extricate his estates from a vast debt, and thirty law-suits; having ingratiated herself so far with the judges of the law, that Charles II. said jestingly to her—“Madam, you have all my judges at your disposal.” Her Grace deserves more particularly to be remembered as the associate of the wits of her age. Waller frequently read his verses to her, and Lord Pembroke wrote a volume of poems in her praise, afterwards published and dedicated to her by Donne. She was herself a poetess of no mean merit, leaving a pleasing monument of her taste and genius in a poem on the Passage of Mount St. Gothard, which has been translated into French by Delille. General Monk corresponded with her, and is said, at a time when his conduct was most mysterious, to have made known to her by a private signal his intention of restoring the king. Talent seems to rejoice in commingling, both by birth and alliance, with the blood of the noble house of Devonshire.
Roehampton is a favourite abode of the fashionable and wealthy, and justifies their choice. Its proximity to Richmond Park, to the river, to Putney, its pleasant and secluded situation, make it every way desirable : nor is there, perhaps, anywhere within the same distance from the metropolis, a situation combining so many and various advantages.
Return we to Putney, and crossing the bridge, devote a few minutes to
Fulham, in Middlesex, a manor belonging to the see of London a considerable time before the Conquest. The earliest historical association connected with Fulham is an encampment of the Danes in the year 879.
. The manor house, or palace, of Fulham has been, from a very early period, the principal summer residence of the Bishops of London. The present structure is of brick, and of the modern domestic class of mansions, occupying a low site, in tastefully-disposed grounds of thirty-seven acres, surrounded by a moat, over which are two bridges. The Gothic gate, and picturesque lodge, forming the principal entrance to the palace, are worthy observation; nor should an avenue of noble lime-trees be forgotten. From the palacegate a pleasant sccluded foot-path conducts the pedestrian to Hammersmith. The grounds of Fulham Palace have been remarkable since the time of Bishop Grindall, who was one of the earliest encouragers of botany, for the variety and rarity of their trees and shrubs ; of which some, the parent stocks of their kind in the kingdom, yet remain. In the hall of the palace are preserved portraits of the Bishops of London; among which we may enumerate those of Laud, King, Juxon, Sheldon, Compton, Sherlock, and Lowth ; of Bishop Bonner, whose intolerance and cruelty to those who conscientiously differed from him in religious matters are well known, and of whom little that is worthy of a Christian is remembered. During the civil war, the excellent Bishop Juxon was suffered to remain undisturbed at Fulham, where he was visited by persons of all parties, and respected, though he walked steadily in his old paths of loyalty and devotion.
At Parson's, or ParsonAGE GREEN, a hamlet appurtenant to Fulham, dwelt the celebrated Earl of Peterborough, not more distinguished for his skill in arms, than as the associate of Locke, Swift, and other distinguished literary characters. Swift, in one of his letters, speaks of Lord Peterborough's gardens as the finest he had ever seen about London. Peterborough House is now in the occupation of —— Sampayo, Esq. Indeed, the neighbourhood of Fulham is highly botanical, the example set by Bishop Grindall having smitten the proprietors of the neighbouring estates with the love of botanical and arboretic knowledge, the fruits whereof are yet visible in this richlycultivated vicinity.
At Parson's Green lived the celebrated Samuel Richardson, author of Clarissa Harlowe, which, with some other of his works, he composed here,
during the intervals of his professional avocations. Richardson delighted in the society of ladies, from whose criticism he was never known to appeal. He was said to have been a vain man ; but nothing could exceed his modesty, piety, moral worth, and general benevolence. It is to be regretted that his masterly conceptions, and delicate delineations of character, should have been diluted by a tedious and verbose style. Had he written less, he had written more.
Thomas Edwards, author of the Canons of Criticism, then on a visit to Richardson, died here. Sir Francis Child, a wealthy citizen and alderman of London, lived at Parson's Green; as did also Admiral Sir Charles Wager. Sir Thomas Bodley, founder of the Library at Oxford bearing his name, resided here; as did the great Lord Bacon for a time, at the house of his friend Lord Chief Justice Vaughan, founder of the noble house of Lisburne.
Fulham has ever been a favourite retreat of persons engaged in literary and scientific pursuits. Among others, Florio, the translator of Montaigne; Catesby, the naturalist; Jacob Tonson, and Bernard Lintot, the eminent booksellers ; Samuel Foote, the comedian and dramatist; the Margravine of Anspach ; and the late admired humourist, Theodore Hook.
The church, an ancient stone building, with a conspicuous tower, contains a monument to the memory of Sir William Butts, physician to Henry VIII., introduced in one of Shakspeare's plays; another of Dr. Barrow, physician and judge-advocate to Charles II., the work of the celebrated Grinlins Gibbons ; a third, with a statue of Lord Viscount Mordaunt, and some others. In the churchyard are monuments to the memories of several Bishops of