« PreviousContinue »
He staid not long at Oxford, for in 1728 he began his travels, 4 and saw France and Italy'. When he returned he obtained a seat in parliament, and soon distinguished himself among the most eager opponents of Sir Robert Walpole, though his father, who was Commissioner of the Admiralty, always voted with the Court 3.
For many years the name of George Lyttelton was seen in every 5 account of every debate in the House of Commons. He opposed the standing army 5; he opposed the excise; he supported the motion for petitioning the King to remove Walpole'. His zeal was considered by the courtiers not only as violent, but as acrimonious and malignant; and when Walpole was at last hunted from his places, every effort was made by his friends, and many friends he had, to exclude Lyttelton from the Secret Committee 10.
The Prince of Wales, being (1737) driven from St. James's, 6 kept a separate court, and opened his arms to the opponents of the ministry". Mr. Lyttelton became his secretary "2, and was
his intention not to reprint these Letters see Warton's Essay on Pope, ii. 386.
For his letters on his tour see Works, p. 639.
* In 1735, as member for Okehampton. Parl. Hist. ix. 619.
3 His father was member for Camelford. The list of the division on March 8, 1738-9, on the Convention with Spain is given in Gent. Mag. June, 1739, where it is stated (pp. 306, 309) that the father, with a salary of £1,300, with lodging, and fire and candle,' voted for the ministers, and the son, with a salary of £866 as Secretary to the Prince, voted against them. See also Coxe's Walpole, i. 603.
Walpole, in 1747, mentions his making the finest oration imaginable.' Letters, ii. 81.
'He had a great flow of words, that were always uttered in a lulling monotony, and the little meaning they had to boast of was generally borrowed from the common-place maxims and sentiments of moralists.' LORD HERVEY, Memoirs, i. 433.
5 On Feb. 3, 1737-8, and on Feb. 14, 1738-9. Parl. Hist. x. 405, 1345.
The Excise Bill was brought in on April 4, 1733, two years before he entered Parliament. Ib. ix. 1.
'On Feb. 13, 1741. 76. xi. 1370. His reported speech was written by Johnson. Gent. Mag. 1743, p. 172.
On the opening lines of this paragraph Macaulay seems to have modelled one part of his style.
8 'There was nobody more violent in the Opposition, nor anybody a more declared enemy to Sir Robert Walpole than Mr. Lyttelton.' LORD HERVEY, Memoirs, ii. 481.
" In the first edition, 'driven.' The same word comes four lines lower down.
Appointed on March 29, 1742, 'to inquire into the conduct of the Earl of Orford [Walpole].' Lyttelton was excluded. Parl. Hist. xii. 587.
"Ante, POPE, 217; THOMSON, 28; MALLET, 12.
12 In Aug. 1737. Works, p. 701. Mrs. Delany (Auto. 2nd Ser. iii. 179) told of 'Lyttelton sending a letter on business of a secret nature to the post, without any direction, about the Prince's affairs, and it came into the hands of Mr. Pelham [the Prime Minister].'
supposed to have great influence in the direction of his conduct'. He persuaded his master, whose business it was now to be popular, that he would advance his character by patronage. Mallet was made under-secretary with 200/3, and Thomson had a pension of 100%. a year'. For Thomson Lyttelton always retained his kindness, and was able at last to place him at ease 5.
Moore courted his favour by an apologetical poem, called The Trial of Selim, for which he was paid with kind words, which, as is common, raised great hopes, that at last were disappointed'.
Lyttelton now stood in the first rank of opposition; and Pope, who was incited, it is not easy to say how, to increase the clamour against the ministry, commended him among the other
' Lyttelton endorsed the draft of a letter written by him to the Prince before 1734:-'Ñ.B. He then advised with me in all his affairs, for I was his chief favourite.' Phillimore's Lyttelton, i. 51.
In 1738 Pope wrote (Epil. Sat. i. 45)::
'If any ask
you, "Who's the man so
His Prince, that writes in verse, and has his ear?"
Why, answer Lyttelton, and I'll engage
The worthy youth shall ne'er be in a rage.'
Swift, in 1739, asked Lyttelton to let the Prince know 'the profound respect, honour, esteem and veneration I bear towards his princely virtues.' Swift's Works, xix. 205.
2 For Bute's patronage of literary men see Boswell's Johnson, i. 372. 3 Ante, MALLET, 12.
4 Ante, THOMSON, 28. These amounts are not given in the first edition.
5 Ante, THOMSON, 35. Thomson introduces him in The Castle of Indolence, i. 65.
The Trial of Selim the Persian for Divers High Crimes and Misdemeanours. In Gent. Mag. 1748, p. 240, it is entered under 'Law.' Selim was the name of the supposed author of the Persian Letters. For Moore see ante, POPE, 358.
''Lyttelton set up The World [Boswell's Johnson, i. 257]; Moore was to enjoy the full profits of it, whether the numbers were written by himself or not.' Phillimore's Lyttelton, i. 329.
Horace Walpole wrote on May 18, 1754:-'You will laugh when I tell you that I am employed to reconcile Sir George and Moore; the latter has been very flippant, say impertinent, on the former's giving a little place to Bower in preference to him.' Letters, ii. 386. The 'little place' was 'Clerk to the Bucks warrants.' Phillimore, i. 334.
Smollett, writing of Lyttelton in Peregrine Pickle, 1751, iv. 122 (Appendix CC), says: Let a scribbler creep into his notice by the most abject veneration,... receive and read his emendations with pretended extasy, ... bawl for him upon all occasions in common conversation, prose and rhyme,... feed him with the soft pap of dedication, . . . the friendship of Mr. Scrag will be sooner or later manifested in some warm sinecure.'
Smollett also scoffed at him in Roderick Random, 1748, ch. 63, in the character of Earl Sheerwit, 'a Maecenas in the nation.' See Scott's Works, 1834, iii. 128.
8He had been won over by the attentions of the Prince of Wales.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vii. 406 n.; ante, POPE, 217.
patriots. This drew upon him the reproaches of Fox, who, in the house, imputed to him as a crime his intimacy with a lampooner so unjust and licentious. Lyttelton supported his friend, and replied that he thought it an honour to be received into the familiarity of so great a poet 2.
While he was thus conspicuous he married (1741)3 Miss Lucy 9 Fortescue of Devonshire, by whom he had a son, the late lord Lyttelton, and two daughters, and with whom he appears to have lived in the highest degree of connubial felicity: but human pleasures are short; she died in childbed about five years afterwards, and he solaced his grief by writing a long poem to her memory".
He did not, however, condemn himself to perpetual solitude 10 and sorrow, for after a while he was content to seek happiness again by a second marriage with the daughter of Sir Robert Rich; but the experiment was unsuccessful'.
At length, after a long struggle, Walpole gave way, and honour 11 and profit were distributed among his conquerors. Lyttelton was made (1744) one of the Lords of the Treasury; and from that time was engaged in supporting the schemes of the ministry.
Politicks did not, however, so much engage him as to withhold 12 his thoughts from things of more importance. He had, in the
''Sometimes a patriot, active in de
Mix with the world, and battle for the state,
Free as young Lyttelton her cause pursue,
Still true to virtue, and as warm as true.'
Imit. Hor., Epis. i. 1. 27. 2 Ante, POPE, 219. According to Walpole, in the privately printed Patriot King (ante, POPE, 250), 'where Bolingbroke had strongly flattered their common friend, Lyttelton, Pope suppressed the panegyric. ... Lyttelton asked Bolingbroke how he had forfeited his good opinion.' Walpole's Letters, ii. 159.
3 in June, 1742. Phillimore's Lyttelton, i. 213. Ante, WEST, 6 n.
The wicked Lord Lyttelton.' Boswell's Johnson, iv. 298 n.
5 She gave birth to a daughter on Jan. 1, 1746-7, and died on Jan. 19. Gent. Mag. 1747, pp. 47-8.
pride of juvenile confidence, with the help of corrupt conversation, entertained doubts of the truth of Christianity'; but he thought the time now come when it was no longer fit to doubt or believe by chance, and applied himself seriously to the great question. His studies, being honest, ended in conviction. He found that religion was true, and what he had learned he endeavoured to teach (1747) by Observations on the Conversion of St. Paul, a treatise to which infidelity has never been able to fabricate a specious answer. This book his father had the happiness of seeing, and expressed his pleasure in a letter which deserves to be inserted :
'I have read your religious treatise with infinite pleasure and satisfaction. The style is fine and clear, the arguments close, cogent, and irresistible. May the King of kings, whose glorious cause you have so well defended, reward your pious labours, and grant that I may be found worthy, through the merits of Jesus Christ, to be an eye-witness of that happiness which I don't doubt he will bountifully bestow upon you. In the mean time, I shall never cease glorifying God, for having endowed you with such useful talents, and giving me so good a son. 'Your affectionate father,
A few years afterwards (1751), by the death of his father, he inherited a baronet's title with a large estate, which, though perhaps he did not augment, he was careful to adorn, by a house of great elegance and expences and by much attention to the decoration of his park".
various characters that he has worn.' Letters, ii. 154.
As he continued his activity in parliament, he was gradually * Post, LYTTELTON, 27. Horace Walpole wrote from Paris on Oct. 19, 1765: For Lord Lyttelton, if he would come hither and turn freethinker once more, he would be reckoned the most agreeable man in France.' Letters, iv. 426.
"Observations on the Conversion and Apostleship of St. Paul, price Is. 6d. Gent. Mag. 1747, p. 252; Works, p. 251; ante, WEST, 6.
3 Horace Walpole wrote of the Methodists in 1749:-'This sect increases as fast as almost ever any religious nonsense did. Lady Fanny Shirley has chosen this way of bestowing the dregs of her beauty, and Mr. Lyttelton is very near making the same sacrifice of the dregs of all those
The same year Fielding dedicated to him Tom Jones. From the name,' he wrote, 'of my patron indeed, I hope my reader will be convinced at his very entrance on this work that he will find in the whole course of it .. nothing which can offend even the chastest ear in the perusal.'
He died on Sept. 14, 1751. Gent. Mag. 1751, p. 427.
5The house,' wrote Walpole in 1753, 'is immeasurably bad and old. Letters, ii. 352. For Johnson's description of the new house see Boswell's Johnson, v. 456.
• Thomson, in 1728, celebrated the park in Spring, ll. 901-59. Walpole
advancing his claim to profit and preferment, and accordingly was made in time (1754) cofferer1 and privy counsellor: this place he exchanged next year for the great office of chancellor of the Exchequer; an office, however, that required some qualifications which he soon perceived himself to want 2.
The year after his curiosity led him into Wales; of which he 15 has given an account, perhaps rather with too much affectation of delight, to Archibald Bower, a man of whom he had conceived an opinion more favourable than he seems to have deserved, and whom, having once espoused his interest and fame, he never was persuaded to disown. Bower, whatever was his moral character, did not want abilities: attacked as he was by an universal outcry, and that outcry, as it seems, the echo of truth, he kept his ground; at last, when his defences began to fail him, he sallied out upon his adversaries, and his adversaries retreated 3.
About this time Lyttelton published his Dialogues of the 16 Dead', which were very eagerly read, though the production rather, as it seems, of leisure than of study, rather effusions than compositions. The names of his persons too often enable the reader to anticipate their conversation; and when they have
wrote in 1753:—‘There is a scene of
Gent. Mag. March, 1754, P. 143. Johnson defines Cofferer as a 'principal officer of his Majesty's Court, next under the Comptroller.' The salary was £500. Millan's Universal Register, 1756, p. 71.
* Walpole mentions the appointment on Nov. 25, 1755. Letters, ii. 489. On Jan. 24, 1756, he wrote that 'Lyttelton opened the Budget; well enough in general, but was strangely bewildered in the figures; he stumbled over millions, and dwelt pompously upon farthings.' Ib. p. 500. See also ib. p. 511. When he was succeeded by Dowdeswell, Warburton said:'The one (Lyttelton) never in his life could learn that two and two made four, while the other knew nothing
else.' Prior's Malone, p. 443.
Works, p. 313; Gent. Mag. 1760, p. 251.
Walpole, on May 24, 1760, described it as 'a work paltry enough; the style a mixture of bombast, poetry and vulgarisms.' Letters, iii. 314.
Wesley quoting from it :- Martin has spawned a strange brood of fellows called Methodists, Moravians, Hutchinsonians, who are madder than Jack was in his worst days,' continues:-'I would ask any one who knows what good breeding means, is this language for a nobleman or a porter? Journal, 1827, iii. 398.
5 Johnson first wrote:- The production rather of a mind that means well than thinks vigorously.' Boswell's Johnson, iv. 58. Speaking of it he said: 'That man sat down to write a book to tell the world what the world had all his life been telling him.' Ib. ii. 126.