The Greville Memoirs

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The Greville Memoirs


Chapter of the Bath — The Duc de Dino arrested — A Ball to the Divan — English Policy in Greece — Sir Thomas Lawrence — Gallatin — Court of King's Bench — Accident to the Grand Duke Constantine — Osterley — Young Sidney Herbert — Duke of Wellington in Office — Stapleton's 'Life of Canning' — Death of Sir Thomas Lawrence — Leopold and the Throne of Greece — Canning's Answers to Lord Grey — Distressed State of the Country — Canning's Greatness and his Failings — Death of Tierney — Sir Martin Shee President — The Duke of Wellington's Views and Conduct — The Coming Session — Moore's 'Life of Byron' — Character of Byron — Opening of Parliament — The Fire King — The Duke of Wellington's Speaking — The English Opera House burnt down — Lord Thurlow on Kenyon and Buller — Old Rothschild — Lansdowne House — Earl Stanhope — John Murray — Departure for Italy.

[254] December 7th, 1829

At Windsor for a Council; the Duke was there, and Lord Aberdeen, Murray, Lord Rosslyn, the Chancellor, and Herries. There was a chapter of the Bath, when the Duke of Clarence was installed Grand Master, Stratford Canning and Robert Gordon Grand Crosses. The King looked very well, but was very blind. The Council was by candle-light, but he could not see to read the list, and begged me to read it for him. However, I was so good a courtier that I held the candle in such a way as to enable him to read it himself. He saw the Duke for a short time, and the Chancellor for a long time. I asked the latter if the King had been Denmanising, and he said, 'Oh, yes — "I said when I consented to that fellow's having the silk gown that I would never admit him," &c.' I was amused with old Conyngham, who told me his wife had been in danger, 'so they tell me,' talking of her as if she were somebody else's wife. The Duke went from the Council to Stowe; we all returned to town.

December 9th, 1829

Dined with Prince Lieven; a great [254]dinner — Laval, [1] Granvilles, Aberdeen, Montrond, &c. The Duc de Dino, who came here to amuse himself, has been arrested, and Montrond and Vaudreuil begged Laval to put him on his list of attachés at the Foreign Office, which would release him from the sponging-house. He was afraid and made difficulties; they were excessively provoked, but at last induced him to speak to Lord Aberdeen about it, which he said he would do after dinner. In the meantime Montrond got me to tell the story to Aberdeen, which I did, and got him to encourage Laval to do the business. He then told Laval that I had aplani the matter, at which the Ambassador was rather affronted, but I suppose the thing will be done and Dino will get out. The Duc de Dino is Talleyrand's nephew, and his son has married Mademoiselle de Montmorency, a relation of the Duc de Laval.

[1] The Duc de Laval had succeeded Prince Polignac as French Ambassador in London.

December 10th, 1829

Last night Miss Kemble acted Belvidera for the first time, and with great success.

December 18th, 1829

At Roehampton last Saturday to Monday; Granvilles, Byng, Lord Ashley, and I. Dino was extricated from prison by Laval's paying the money, which he did very handsomely; he thought it wrong to have him in prison and wrong to attach him fictitiously to his Embassy, so he paid the debt, and Dino is gone back to France.

Despatches were received from Gordon yesterday giving an account of a ball he had given to the Divan; the Turks came, and the Reis-Effendi waltzed with a Mrs. Moore. After supper they drank King George IV.'s health in bumpers of champagne. This story was told to Lord Sidmouth as a good joke; but he said with a face of dismay, 'Good God, is it possible? To what extent will these innovations be carried?'

December 19th, 1829

There is a review in the 'Foreign Quarterly' (the last number) on Greece, which is a remarkably able critique of the conduct of our Government in the affairs of that State. The writer, whoever he may be, has been amply supplied with documents and information, [256] probably from Paris. Nothing can be more just than his remarks on our miserable policy, or more severe. I showed it to Lord Granville, who told me that it was generally correct, though containing some errors; for instance, that it was not true that we had engaged to afford the Greeks pecuniary aid, which we never did promise, but that he had been himself the person to negotiate with M. de la Ferronays, then Minister for Foreign Affairs at Paris, for the more limited boundary, and to dissuade the French from sending their expedition to the Morea; that there had been a violent contest in the English Cabinet on that subject, Huskisson and Dudley being in favour of the French expedition, and the Duke and the rest against it, but that the moment Huskisson and his party resigned the Duke gave way and agreed to the measure. This affords another example of his extraordinary mode of proceeding, that of opposing the views and plans of others violently, and when he finds opposition fruitless, or likely to become so, turning short round and adopting them as his own, and taking all the credit he can get for doing so. He did so in the case of the recognition of the South American colonies, of the Test and Corporation Acts, the Catholic question, and in this instance. Then his conduct on the Corn Bill is only the converse of the same proposition — begins by being a party to it and then procures its rejection. Greece and Portugal, if well handled, would afford two great cases against the Duke's foreign policy, and they serve as admirable commentaries on each other. The raising the siege of Previsa, and the respect paid to Miguel's blockade, and compulsion exercised on the Terceira people are enough to prove everything.

Ashley told me a curious thing about Sir Thomas Lawrence the other day. His father kept the inn at Devizes,[2] and when Lord Shaftesbury's father and mother were once at the inn with Lord Shaftesbury, then a boy, the innkeeper

[2] Sir Thomas Lawrence's father at one time kept the 'Black Bear' at Devizes. In 1775 Lord and Lady Kenyon had the young prodigy (as he was called) introduced to them there. Lawrence was then only six years old.

[257] came into the room and said he had a son with a genius for drawing, and, if they would allow him, his little boy should draw their little boy's picture; on which the little Lawrence was sent for, who produced his chalk and paper, and made a portrait of the young Lord.

December 21st, 1829

At Roehampton from Saturday; Maclane, the American Minister, Washington Irving, Melbourne, Byng, and on Sunday the Lievens to dinner. Maclane a sensible man, with very good American manners, which are not refined. Even Irving, who has been so many years here, has a bluntness which is very foreign to the tone of good society. Maclane gave me a curious account of Gallatin. He was born at Geneva, and went over to America early in life, possessed of nothing; there he set up a little huxtering shop — in I forget what State — and fell in love with one of the daughters of a poor woman at whose house he lodged, but he was so destitute that the mother refused him. In this abject condition accident introduced him to the celebrated Patrick Henry, who advised him to abandon trade, and go into the neighbouring State and try to advance himself by his talents. He followed the advice, and soon began to make himself known.

December 22nd, 1829

Dined with Byng yesterday and met Moore, Fitzgerald, and Luttrell. Luttrell is a great lover of conundrums, which taste he acquired from Beresford, the author of the 'Miseries of Human Life,' who has invented some very curious but elaborate conundrums. They are not worth repeating. Moore told a story of an Irishman at the play calling out, 'Now, boys, a clap for Wellington!' which being complied with, 'And now silence for the rest of the family!' He complained that all the humour which used to break out in an Irish audience is extinct.

Fitzgerald told me that the King had been annoying them as much as he could, that he took pleasure in making his Government weak, that the money matter (which the Duke told me of before) had been settled by 'contrivances,' or that they must have gone to Parliament for the amount; that he has just ordered plate to the amount of £25,000. [258] Fitzgerald is so ill that he can scarcely carry on the business of his office, and yet he does not like to give it up, for fear of embarrassing the Government; he complained that the other offices had thrown much of their business on the Board of Trade, a custom which had grown up in Huskisson's time, who was the most competent man, and who took it all. Probably Huskisson was not sorry, by making himself very useful, to make himself nearly indispensable, and thought that he was so; and so he was de jure, but the Duke would not let him be so de facto.

December 23rd, 1829

Went to the Court of King's Bench this morning to prove that the Duke of Wellington is a Privy Councillor, on the trial of the action which the Duke brought against the 'Morning Journal.' The action brought by the Chancellor had been tried the day before. Scarlett was feeble; Alexander again defended himself in a very poor speech; the jury retired for three hours, and I thought would have said 'Not guilty;' but they brought in a verdict which is tantamount to a defeat of the prosecution on this charge, and amply proves the folly of having instituted it at all. I did not hear the second trial, on which they gave a verdict of guilty, after consulting for about half an hour. The jury in each case consisted of eight special jurors and four talesmen. Afterwards there was a crim. con. case, which I did not stay out, but which was amusing enough from the translations of the counsel, the Judge, the witnesses, and the interpreters, for some of the witnesses were French. Lord Tenterden has a comical way of muttering to himself half aloud as the counsel are speaking, either answering or commenting on what they say. Scarlett was saying (in this last case) that he could not prove the fact, but he could prove that the defendant passed the night in the lady's room, and the jury might judge what he did, when Tenterden muttered, 'If he did nothing, what was he there for?'

The prosecution finished with the trial of Bell (of the 'Atlas'), who made a very good speech (it was about Lord and Lady Lyndhurst), and the jury found him guilty of [259] publishing only, which I take to be an acquittal; the point, however, will not be tried probably, for it is not likely that he will be brought up for judgment. He will be contented to get off, and they will not like to stir such a question. The result of the trials proves the egregious folly of having ever brought them on, especially the Duke's. One of the verdicts is, as far as he is concerned, an acquittal; the author showed himself to be so contemptible that he had better have been treated with indifference. He has been converted into a sort of martyr, and whatever may have been thought of the vulgar scurrility of the language, ruin and imprisonment will appear to most people too severe a punishment for the offence. Then the whole press have united upon this occasion, and in some very powerful articles have spread to every corner of the country the strongest condemnation of the whole proceeding. The Government, or rather the Duke, is likely to become unpopular, and no good end will have been answered. I do not believe that these prosecutions originate in a desire to curb the press, but merely in that of punishing a writer who had so violently abused him; not, however, that he would be sorry to adopt any measure which should tend to fetter free discussion, and subject the press to future punishment. But this would be a fearful war to wage, and I do not think he is rash enough to undertake such a crusade.

December 27th, 1829

At Panshanger since the 24th; Lievens, J. Russell, Montrond, M. de la Rochefoucauld, F. Lamb. On Christmas Day the Princess [Lieven] got up a little fete such as is customary all over Germany. Three trees in great pots were put upon a long table covered with pink linen; each tree was illuminated with three circular tiers of coloured wax candles — blue, green, red, and white. Before each tree was displayed a quantity of toys, gloves, pocket-handkerchiefs, workboxes, books, and various articles — presents made to the owner of the tree. It was very pretty. Here it was only for the children; in Germany the custom extends to persons of all ages. The Princess told us to-day about the Emperor of Russia's relapse and the cause of it. He [260] had had a cold which he had neglected, but at length the physicians had given him some medicine to produce perspiration, and he was in bed in that state, the Empress sitting by him reading to him, when on a sudden a dreadful noise was heard in the next (the children's) room, followed by loud shrieks. The Empress rushed into the room, and the Emperor jumped out of bed in his shirt and followed her. There the children, the governess, and the nurses were screaming out that Constantine (the second boy, of two years old) was destroyed; a huge vase of porphyry had been thrown down and had fallen over the child, who was not to be seen. So great was the weight and size of the vase that it was several minutes before it could be raised, though assistance was immediately fetched, and all that time the Emperor and Empress stood there in ignorance of the fate of the child, and expecting to see the removal of the vase discover his mangled body, when to their delight it was found that the vase had fallen exactly over him, without doing him the least injury, but the agitation and the cold brought on a violent fever, which for some time put the Emperor in great danger. The Princess said she was surprised that it did not kill the Empress, for she is the most nervous woman in the world, ever since the conspiracy at the time of his accession, when her nerves were ébranlés by all she went through. That scene (of the revolt of the Guards) took place under the window of the Palace. The whole Imperial Family was assembled there and saw it all, the Emperor being in the middle of men by whom they expected him to be assassinated every moment. During all that time — many hours — the young Empress never spoke, but stood 'pale comme une statue,' and when at length it was all over, and the Emperor returned, she threw herself on her knees and began to pray.

December 29th, 1829

At Osterley;[3] Lady Euston, Mrs. Sheridan and her son; a very fine house, which is thrown away, as they hardly ever live there. They spent £200,000 in building Middleton, which is the worst place in England, and now they [261] regret it, but Lord Jersey hates Osterley and likes Middleton. This place belonged to Sir Thomas Gresham, but the present house is modern. It was here that Sir Thomas Gresham feasted Queen Elizabeth, and pulled down a wall in the night which she had found fault with, so that in the morning she found it was gone.

[3] Lord Jersey's seat near Hanwell, Middlesex.


January 2nd, 1830

At Roehampton; William Howard, Baring Wall, and Lady Pembroke's son;[4] the best sort of youth I have seen for a long while, and he will have £12,000 a year, besides what his mother may leave him. Vesey Fitzgerald is so ill that it is doubtful if he will recover, and, at all events, almost impossible that he should remain in office. It will be very difficult for the Duke to fill his place. There is not a man in office now who is fit for it, and where is he to look for anyone else? Yet I think almost anybody would take it; for although the late prosecutions are blamed, and the foreign policy is thought by most people to have been very miserable, there is an extensive disposition to support the Duke and to keep him at the head of affairs. Huskisson is the man whose knowledge and capacity would be of the greatest service just now, but the Duke will not like to apply to him in a moment of distress, because he would probably take advantage of that distress to make better terms for himself; at the same time, I should not be surprised if the Duke were to invite him to return to the Cabinet, and that he accepted the Chancellorship of the Exchequer or one of the Secretaryships without any conditions. Vesey will be a great loss, for he is clever and ready in debate, and by great diligence and application, and the powerful assistance of Hume and Stephen, he has made considerable progress in the science of trade and commerce.

[4] Sidney Herbert, afterwards Lord Herbert of Lea, whose life and character did not belie the promise of his youth.

January 5th, 1830

There are many speculations about Vesey's successor; some think Lord Chandos or Herries; I think Frankland Lewis, but that Lord Chandos will have some [262] place before long; the Duke has a great hankering after that set. In the meantime all accounts concur in admitting the great and increasing distress; and, as such a state of things not unnaturally produces a good deal of ill-humour, the Duke is abused for gadding about visiting and shooting while the country is in difficulty, and it is argued that he must be very unfeeling and indifferent to it all to amuse himself in this manner. Nothing can be more unjust than such accusations as these. The sort of relaxation he takes is necessary to his health, and, all things considered, it is not extraordinary he should prefer other people's houses to his own, particularly when everyone invites him in the most pressing manner. But these visits by no means interrupt the course of his official business; all his letters are regularly sent to him, and as regularly answered every day, and it is his habit to open his letters himself, to read them all, and to answer all. He never receives any letter, whatever may be the subject or the situation of the writer, that he does not answer, and that immediately, to a degree which is not only unprecedented, but quite unnecessary, and I think unwise, although certainly it contributes to his popularity. It is another proof of that simplicity of character and the absence of all arrogance which are so remarkable in him, especially as he has long been used to command and to implicit obedience, and the whole tenor of his conduct since he has been in office shows that he is covetous of power and authority, and will not endure anybody who will not be subservient to him; still in his manner and bearing there is nothing but openness, frankness, civility, and good-humour. As to his supposed indifference to the public distress, I firmly believe that his mind is incessantly occupied with projects for its relief, and that when unwarped by particular prejudices, partialities, and antipathies, which have had a stronger and more frequent influence over him than befits so great a man, he is animated with a sincere desire to reform abuses of any kind, and is not diverted from his purpose by any personal considerations or collateral objects. The King is preparing for [263] a new battle with him (stimulated, I presume, by the Duke of Cumberland) about the appointment of sheriffs. He has taken it into his head that he will not appoint any Roman Catholic sheriff; and as several have been named, and these generally first on the list, according to the usual practice, they must be chosen. The King will be obliged to give way, but it is an additional proof of his bad disposition and his pleasure in thwarting his Ministers on every possible occasion.

January 7th, 1830

Stapleton's 'Memoirs of Canning' are coming out directly, but he is prevented from making use of all the documents he, or rather Lady Canning, has. She has had an angry correspondence with the Foreign Office. Every Minister takes away a precis of all he has done while in office, but Canning's precis was not finished when he died. She wrote and demanded that what was incomplete should be furnished to her, but claimed it as a right, and said it was for the purpose of vindicating him. Lord Aberdeen declined giving it, and I think very properly. The reason he assigned was that a Minister who was furnished with such documents for his own justification was bound by his oath of secresy not to reveal the contents, but the secrets of the State could not be imparted to any irresponsible person, who was under no such restraint.

Vesey Fitzgerald is better, but will hardly be able to do any business. Some think he will have leave of absence, that Dawson will exchange offices with Courtenay, and do the business of the Board of Trade; others, that Herries will succeed Vesey, or Frankland Lewis. The revenue has fallen off one million and more. The accounts of distress from the country grow worse and more desponding, and a return to one pound notes begins to be talked of.

Roehampton, January 9th, 1830

Yesterday morning died Sir Thomas Lawrence after a very short illness. Few people knew he was ill before they heard he was dead. He was longe primus of all living painters, and has left no one fit to succeed him in the chair of the Royal Academy. Lawrence was about sixty, very like Canning in appearance, [264] remarkably gentlemanlike, with very mild manners, though rather too doucereux, agreeable in society, unassuming, and not a great talker; his mind was highly cultivated, he had a taste for every kind of literature, and was enthusiastically devoted to his art; he was very industrious, and painted an enormous number of portraits, but many of his later works are still unfinished, and great complaints used to be made of his exacting either the whole or half payment when he began a picture, but that when he had got the money he could never be prevailed on to complete it. Although he is supposed to have earned enormous sums by his paintings, he has always been a distressed man, without any visible means of expense, except a magnificent collection of drawings by the ancient masters, said to be the finest in the world, and procured at great cost. He was, however, a generous patron of young artists of merit and talent. It was always said that he lost money at play, but this assertion seems to have proceeded more from the difficulty of reconciling his pecuniary embarrassments with his enormous profits than from any proof of the fact. He was a great courtier, and is said to have been so devoted to the King that he would not paint anybody who was personally obnoxious to his Majesty; but I do not believe this is true. He is an irreparable loss; since Sir Joshua there has been no painter like him; his portraits as pictures I think are not nearly so fine as Sir Joshua's, but as likenesses many of them are quite perfect. Moore's was the last portrait he painted, and Miss Kemble's his last drawing.

The King has been very ill; lost forty ounces of blood. Vesey is better, but has no chance of going on with his office. The general opinion seems to be that Herries will succeed him. I do not believe he knows anything of the business of the Board of Trade. Charles Mills told me yesterday that a proposal was lately made by Government to the East India Company to reduce their dividends, and that at the very time this was done Rothschild, who had £40,000 East India stock, sold it all out, and all his friends who held any did the same. The matter was eventually [265] dropped, but he says nobody doubts that N — — gave notice to Rothschild of the proposed measure. The Company are mightily satisfied with Lord William Bentinck, who has acted very handsomely by them in this business by the reduction of the pay of the troops. He has written some very trimming letters to Lord Combermere, who is coming home, and if he had not been, would probably have been recalled. The Duke, as well as the Company, is furious with Combermere for the part he has acted in the affair.

Leopold's election to the throne of Greece seems to be settled, and while everybody has been wondering what could induce him to accept it, it turns out that he has been most anxious for it, and has moved heaven and earth to obtain it; that the greatest obstacle he has met with has been from the King, who hates him, and cannot bear that he should become a crowned head. He may think it 'better to reign in hell than serve in heaven,' but I should have thought he had a better prospect here, with £50,000 a year and as uncle to the heiress apparent, than to go to a ruined country without cities or inhabitants, and where everything is to be created, and to sit on such a wretched throne as the nominee of the Allied Powers, by whom he will be held responsible for his acts; however, 'il ne faut pas disputer des goûts.'

George Bentinck told me that Lady Canning is not satisfied with Stapleton's book, particularly with that part of it in which he attempts to answer Lord Grey's speech, which she thinks poor and spiritless; he is not disposed to be very severe on Lord Grey, being in a manner connected with him. She is persuaded that that speech contributed to kill Canning; his feelings were deeply wounded that not one of his friends said a word in reply to it, although some of them knew that the facts in Lord Grey's speech were incorrect. He vehemently desired to be raised to the peerage, that he might have an opportunity of answering it, and he had actually composed and spoken to Mrs. Canning the speech which he intended to make in the House of Lords. A great part of this she remembers. It seems, too, [266] that to the day of his death this was the ruling desire of his mind, and he had declared that the following year, when he should have carried the Corn Bill through the House of Commons, he would go to the House of Lords and fight the battle there.

January 17th, 1830

Charles Mills told me the other day that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been making enquiries as to the fact of Rothschild having sold his India stock at the time he did. The two Grants (Charles and Robert) are always together, and both very forgetful and unpunctual. Somebody said that if you asked Charles to dine with you at six on Monday, you were very likely to have Robert at seven on Tuesday.

Edward Villiers (who has been living with Malcolm on board his ship in the Mediterranean) writes word that Malcolm told him that he had orders, in the event of Diebitsch's marching upon Constantinople, to destroy the Russian fleet. If this is true, it would have been a great outrage, and a most extraordinary piece of vigour, after so much long-suffering and endurance.

The country gentlemen are beginning to arrive, and they all tell the same story as to the universally prevailing distress and the certainty of things becoming much worse; of the failure of rents all over England, and the necessity of some decisive measures or the prospect of general ruin. Of course they differ as to the measures, but there appears to be a strong leaning towards the alteration in the currency and one pound notes. It really does appear, from many representations, that a notion prevails of the Duke of Wellington's indifference to the state of the country, and of his disposition to treat the remonstrances and petitions of the people, as well as their interests and feelings, with contempt, which I believe most false and unjust. He has an overweening opinion of his own all-sufficiency, and that is his besetting sin, and the one which, if anything does, will overturn his Government, for if he would be less dictatorial and opinionated, and would call to his assistance such talents and information as the crisis demands, he would be universally [267] voted the best man alive to be at the head of the Government; but he has such a set of men under him, and Peel will never get over the Catholic question. [Peel got over it, but not before he had expiated his conduct by being turned out.]

January 20th, 1830

The Duke and Lord Bathurst dined here yesterday, the former not in good spirits. The battle about Leopold and Greece is still going on between his Majesty and his Ministers. The Duke was talking about the robbery at Brussels of the Princess of Orange's jewels, and that there is reason to believe that Pereira, the Prince's friend, had some concern in it; many people suspect that both he and the Prince were concerned. The Princess was in the country, and only one maid-servant in the house where such valuable property was left. The jewels were in a case, and the key of the case was kept in a cabinet, which was opened, the key taken, and the large case or chest opened by it. Small footsteps (like those of Pereira, who has very small feet) were traced in the house or near it, and the day of the robbery the porter was taken by Pereira's servant to his house and there made drunk. The robbery was discovered on Friday morning, but no steps were taken to inform the police till Sunday night.

January 22nd, 1830

I believe it to be impossible for a man of squeamish and uncompromising virtue to be a successful politician, and it requires the nicest feeling and soundest judgment to know upon what occasions and to what extent it is allowable and expedient to diverge from the straight line. Statesmen of the greatest power, and with the purest intentions, are perpetually counteracted by prejudices, obstinacy, interest, and ignorance; and in order to be efficient they must turn, and tack, and temporise, sometimes dissemble. They who are of the ruat coelum sort, who will carry everything their own way or not at all, must be content to yield their places to those who are certainly less scrupulous, and submit to the measures of those who are probably less wise. But though it is possible that the less rigid and austere politician may be equally virtuous and disinterested, the whole context of [268] his life must be such as to endure the most scrutinising enquiry, which unfortunately it will very seldom do, in order to establish a character for integrity. If Canning had had a fair field, he would have done great things, for his lofty and ambitious genius took an immense sweep, and the vigour of his intellect, his penetration and sagacity, enabled him to form mighty plans and work them out with success; but it is impossible to believe that he was a high-minded man, that he spurned everything that was dishonest, uncandid, and ungentlemanlike; he was not above trick and intrigue, and this was the fault of his character, which was unequal to his genius and understanding. However, notwithstanding his failings he was the greatest man we have had for a long time, and if life had been spared to him, and opposition had not been too much for him, he would have raised our character abroad, and perhaps found remedies for our difficulties at home. What a difference between his position and that of the Duke of Wellington's! Everybody is disposed to support the latter and give him unlimited credit for good intentions. The former was obliged to carry men's approbation by storm, and the moment he had failed, or been caught tripping, he would have been lost.

The Duke has lately given audience to the West Indians who came to complain of their sufferings and taxation and to implore relief. Murray and Goulburn were present, neither of whom, it is said, spoke a word. The Duke cut them very short, and told them they were not distressed at all, and that nothing would be done for them. He is like the philosopher in Moliere's play, who says, 'Il ne faut pas dire que vous avez recu des coups de baton, mais qu'il vous semble que vous en avez recus.'

Lawrence was buried yesterday; a magnificent funeral, which will have cost, they say, £2,000. The pall was borne by Clanwilliam, Aberdeen, Sir G. Murray, Croker, Agar Ellis, and three more — I forget who. There were thirty-two mourning-coaches and eighty private carriages. The ceremony in the church lasted two hours. Pretty well for a man [269] who died in very embarrassed circumstances. The favourites for the chair of the Academy are Shee and Wilkie, painters, and Westmacott and Chantrey, sculptors.

We were talking of Clanwilliam, who Agar said was the quickest man he had ever known; Luttrell said he and Rogers were 'the quick and the dead.' Looking over the 'Report of the Woods and Forests and the Cost of the Palaces,' somebody said 'the pensive' (meaning the public: see Rejected Addresses) must pay; Luttrell said 'the public was the pensive and the King the expensive.'

January 26th, 1830

Yesterday afternoon Tierney died. He sank back in his chair and expired suddenly, without any previous illness; he had been in an indifferent state of health for some time, but he had resolved to make one more effort in Parliament and deliver his opinion on the present state of affairs. He is a great loss to all his friends; his political life was already closed.

Shee was elected President of the Royal Academy last night at ten o'clock. He had sixteen or eighteen votes; Sir William Beechey six, who was the nearest to Shee; Wilkie only two. He is an Irishman and a Catholic, a bad painter, a tolerable poet, and a man of learning, but, it is said, florid.

Had a long conversation with Arbuthnot yesterday, who is weak, but knows everything; his sentiments are the Duke's. They are furious with the old Tories, especially Lord Lonsdale, and not well satisfied with Lowther, whom they suspect to be playing a sneaking, underhand part. The Duke is determined not to alter his Government, nor to take anybody in to strengthen it. Arbuthnot said that the Duke had shown he did not mean to be exclusive when he had taken in Scarlett and Calcraft, and that 'his friends' would not have borne any more extensive promotion from that party; that of all Ministers he was the one who least depended upon Parliamentary influence and the assistance of the great families; and that if Lord Lonsdale and all his members were to leave him to-morrow, he would not care a straw. Still he pays them, if not court, great deference, and he keeps Lowther, [270] though he suspects him. Arbuthnot said that as soon as the Duke became Minister he said to him, 'Now, Duke, for God's sake settle that question' (the Catholic), which was as much as to say, 'Now that you have got rid of every enemy and every rival, now that you can raise your own reputation, and that you will share the glory with no one, do that which you would never let anybody else do, and fight for the measure you have been opposing all your life.' It may be imagined he would not have said this unless he had been fully aware of the Duke's sentiments on the subject. This speech was made to him eight months after Canning came into office, when they all went out, on the Catholic question. He says it is utterly false that the Duke is unconscious of or indifferent to the distress, but that it is exaggerated, and the Duke attributes it to temporary and not to permanent causes; that he labours incessantly on the subject, and his thoughts are constantly occupied with devising a remedy for it, which he thinks he can do. He adverted to the difficulties with the King, who is never to be depended upon, as his father was. He remembers upon some occasion, when Perceval was Minister, and thought the difficulties of his situation great, he represented to George III. his sense of them in a letter; Perceval showed him the King's answer, which was in these words: — 'Do you stand by me as I will stand by you, and while we stand by each other we have nothing to fear.'

I told Arbuthnot it was reported that the Duke had given a very rough answer to the West Indian deputations, and that if he had it was unwise, as, though he might not adopt such measures of relief as they desired, he could treat them with soft language. He said that, so far from it, Lord Chandos had returned to the Duke the next day, and apologised for their conduct to him, assuring him that he was ashamed and tired of his connexion with them, and should withdraw from it as soon as possible. This I mentioned at Brookes', but Gordon (a West Indian) said that they had all been shocked at the manner in which he had used them, that some of them had declared they would never go to him [271] again; and Spring Rice said that old George Hibbert, who has been their agent these thirty years, and had attended deputations to every Prime Minister since Pitt, had told him that he never saw one so ill received before. It is customary for every deputation to draw out a minute of their conversation with the Minister, which they submit to him to admit its correctness. They did so, but the Duke destroyed their minute, and sent them back one drawn out by himself, which, however, they declare was not so correct as that which had been transmitted to him; which I can well believe, but they had no right to complain of this, on the contrary.

January 30th, 1830

Laid up with the gout these last three days. George Bankes has resigned, and John Wortley is appointed Secretary to the Board of Control. He was of the Huskisson party, as it is called (though it does not deserve the name), and previously to the offer of this place being made to him was rather inimical to the Government; but the Duke proposed, and he accepted. I doubt his being of much use to them. Lord Ellenborough's letter to Sir John Malcolm, which appeared in the 'Times' a few days ago, has made a great deal of noise, as it well may, for a more flippant and injudicious performance has seldom been seen.[5]

[5] This letter, which excited much attention at this time, will be found in the 'Life of Sir John Malcolm,' by Mr. (now Sir John) Kaye, vol. ii. p. 528. It had been written a year before, and by some indiscretion obtained publicity in India. A warm dispute had broken out between Sir John Malcolm, then Governor of Bombay, and the Judges of the Supreme Court there. Lord Ellenborough took Malcolm's part with great eagerness, and said of the Chief Justice, Sir J. P. Grant, that he 'would be like a wild elephant between two tame ones.' This expression was long remembered as a joke against Lord Ellenborough.

The greatest curiosity and interest prevail about the transactions in the ensuing session — whether there will be any opposition, and from what quarter, how Peel will manage, how the country gentlemen will act and what language they will hold, and whether the Duke will produce any plan for alleviating the distress. I think there will be a great deal of talking and complaining, a great many half-measures suggested, but no opposition, and that the Duke [272] will do nothing, and get through the session without much difficulty. There was to have been a Council on Thursday to prick the sheriffs, but it was put off on account of my gout, and I was not able to attend at the dinner at the Chancellor's on Wednesday for the same reason. I remember once before a Council was put off because I was at Egham for the races; that was a Council in '27, I think, to admit foreign corn.

February 1st, 1830

Stapleton's book on Mr. Canning is not to appear. Douglas was sent to him by Aberdeen to tell him that if anything appeared in it which ought not to be published he would be turned out of his office. He wrote to Lady Canning accordingly, who sent him a very kind answer, desiring him by no means to expose himself to any such danger, and consenting to the suppression of the work. I am glad of it on all accounts.

February 3rd, 1830

Brougham has given up Lord Cleveland's borough, and comes in for Knaresborough, at the Duke of Devonshire's invitation. He is delighted at the exchange. I see by the 'Gazette' there has been a compromise with the King about the Catholic sheriffs; only one (Petre for Yorkshire) is chosen, the others, though first on the list and no excuses, passed over: they were Townley for Lancashire and Sir T. Stanley for Cheshire. It is childish and ridiculous if so; but no matter, as the principle is admitted.

I have just finished the first volume of Moore's 'Life of Byron.' I don't think I like this style of biography, half-way between ordinary narrative and self-delineation in the shape of letters, diary, &c. Moore's part is agreeably and feelingly written, and in a very different style from the 'Life of Sheridan' — no turgid diction and brilliant antitheses. It is, however, very amusing; the letters are exceedingly clever, full of wit, humour, and point, abounding in illustration, imagination, and information, but not the most agreeable sort of letters. They are joined together by a succession of little essays upon his character. But as to life, it is no life at all; it merely tells you that the details of his life are not tellabe, that they would be like those of Tilly or Casanova, and so indecent, and compromise so many people, [273] that we must be content to look at his life through an impenetrable veil. Then in the letters and diary the perpetual hiatus, and asterisks, and initials are exceedingly tantalising; but altogether it is very amusing. As to Byron, I have never had but one opinion about his poetry, which I think of first-rate excellence; an enormous heresy, of course, more particularly with those whose political taste rests upon the same foundation that their religious creed does — that of having been taught what to admire in the one case as they have been enjoined what to believe in the other. With regard to his character, I think Moore has succeeded in proving that he was far from deficient in amiable qualities; he was high-minded, liberal, generous, and good-natured, and, if he does not exaggerate his own feelings, a warm-hearted and sincere friend. But what a wretch he was! how thoroughly miserable with such splendid talents! how little philosophy! — wretched on account of his lame foot; not even his successes with women could reconcile him to a little personal deformity, though this is too hard a word for it; then tormenting himself to death nobody can tell why or wherefore. There never was so ill-regulated a mind, and he had not even the talent of making his pleasures subservient to his happiness — not any notion of enjoyment; all with him was riot, and debauchery, and rage and despair. That he very sincerely entertained a bad opinion of mankind may be easily believed; but so far from his pride and haughtiness raising him above the influence of the opinion of those whom he so despised, he was the veriest slave to it that ever breathed, as he confesses when he says that he was almost more annoyed at the censure of the meanest than pleased with the praises of the highest of mankind; and when he deals around his fierce vituperation or bitter sarcasms, he is only clanking the chains which, with all his pride, and defiance, and contempt, he is unable to throw off. Then he despises pretenders and charlatans of all sorts, while he is himself a pretender, as all men are who assume a character which does not belong to them, and affect to be something which they are all the time conscious they are not in reality. [274] But to 'assume a virtue if you have it not' is more allowable than to assume a vice which you have not. To wish to appear better or wiser than we really are is excusable in itself, and it is only the manner of doing it that may become ridiculous; but to endeavour to appear worse than we are is a species of perverted vanity the most disgusting, and a very bad compliment to the judgment, the morals or the taste of our acquaintance. Yet, with all his splendid genius, this sort of vanity certainly distinguished Lord Byron, and that among many other things proves how deeply a man may be read in human nature, what an insight he may acquire into the springs of action and feeling, and yet how incapable he may be of making any practical application of the knowledge he has acquired and the result of which he can faithfully delineate. He gives a list of the books he had read at eighteen which appears incredible, particularly as he says that he was always idle, and eight years after Scott says he did not appear well read either in poetry or history. Swift says 'some men know books as others do Lords — learn their titles, and then boast of their acquaintance with them,' and so perhaps at eighteen he knew by name the books he mentions; indeed, the list contains Hooker, Bacon, Locke, Hobbes, Berkeley, &c. It sounds rather improbable; but his letters contain allusions to every sort of literature, and certainly indicate considerable information. 'Dans le pays des aveugles les borgnes sont rois,' and Sir Walter Scott might think a man half read who knows all that is contained in the brains of White's, Brookes', and Boodle's, and the greater part of the two Houses of Parliament. But the more one reads and hears of great men the more reconciled one becomes to one's own mediocrity.

Say thou, whose thoughts at nothingness repine,
Shall Byron's fame with Byron's fate be thine?

Who would not prefer any obscurity before such splendid misery as was the lot of that extraordinary man? Even Moore is not happy. One thinks how one should like to be envied, and admired, and applauded, but after all such men [275] suffer more than we know or they will confess, and their celebrity is dearly purchased.

Se di ciascun l'interno affanno
Si leggesse in fronte scritto,
Quanti guai ch'invidia fanno Ci farebbe pieta.

One word more about Byron and I have done. I was much struck by the coincidence of style between his letters and his journal, and that appears to me a proof of the reality and nature which prevailed in both.

February 5th, 1830

Parliament met yesterday; there was a brisk debate and an amendment on the Address in each House. The Duke had very indiscreetly called the distress 'partial' in the Speech, and the consequence was an amendment moved by Knatchbull declaring it to be general. The result shows that Government has not the slightest command over the House of Commons, and that they have nothing but casual support to rely upon, and that of course will only be to be had 'dum se bene gesserint.' For a long time Holmes and their whippers-in thought that they should be in a minority; but Hume and a large party of Reformers supported them (contrary to their own expectations), so they got a majority of 50 out of 250. The division was very extraordinary, Brougham, Sadler, and O'Connell voting together. It is pretty clear, however, that they are in no danger of being turned out, but that they are wretchedly off for speakers. Huskisson made a shabby speech enough, O'Connell his debut, and a successful one, heard with profound attention; his manner good and his arguments attended and replied to. In the Lords there was nothing particular, but nothing was concerted by any party, for the subject of the amendment in the Commons was not even touched upon in the Lords, which is very remarkable. Lord Chandos has refused the Mint, because they will not give him a seat in the Cabinet, but many people think it is because he has been pressed to refuse by his High Tory friends. Charles Ross is the new [276] Lord of the Admiralty,[6] and Abercromby Chief Baron of Scotland, which everybody is glad of.

[6] The appointment has not taken place.

There is a charlatan of the name of Chobert, who calls himself the Fire King, who has been imposing upon the world for a year or more, exhibiting all sorts of juggleries in hot ovens, swallowing poisons, hot lead, &c.; but yesterday he was detected signally, and after a dreadful uproar was obliged to run away to avoid the ill-usage of his exasperated audience. He pretended to take prussic acid, and challenged anybody to produce the poison, which he engaged to swallow. At last Mr. Wakley, the proprietor of the 'Lancet,' went there with prussic acid, which Chobert refused to take, and then the whole deception came out, and there is an end of it; but it has made a great deal of noise, taken everybody in, and the fellow has made a great deal of money. It was to have been his last performance, but 'tant va la cruche a l'eau qu'enfin....

February 13th, 1830

In the House of Lords last night: Lord Holland's motion on Greece; his speech was amusing, but not so good as he generally is; Aberdeen wretched, the worst speaker I ever heard and incapable of a reply; I had no idea he was so bad. The Duke made a very clever speech, answering Holland and Melbourne, availing himself with great dexterity of the vulnerable parts of their speeches and leaving the rest alone. I was sitting by Robert Grant on the steps of the throne, and said to him, 'That is a good speech of the Duke's,' and he said, 'He speaks like a great man;' and so he did; it was bold and manly, and a high tone, not like a practised debater, but a man with a vigorous mind and determined character.

In the House of Commons Graham spoke for two hours; Burdett said not well, but others said the contrary. The Government resolution moved as an amendment by Dawson was better than his, so it was adopted without difficulty. Burdett said Peel made the best speech he ever heard him make, and threw over the Tories. Dined afterwards with Cowper, Durham, and Glengall. Durham said that Lord Grey's [277] politics were the same as his, and that before Easter he thought an Opposition would be formed, and that the elements, though scattered, exist of a strong one. I doubt it.

February 16th, 1830

Last night the English Opera House was burnt down — a magnificent fire. I was playing at whist at the 'Travellers' with Lord Granville, Lord Auckland, and Ross, when we saw the whole sky illuminated and a volume of fire rising in the air. We thought it was Covent Garden, and directly set off to the spot. We found the Opera House and several houses in Catherine Street on fire (sixteen houses), and, though it was three in the morning, the streets filled by an immense multitude. Nothing could be more picturesque than the scene, for the flames made it as light as day and threw a glare upon the strange and motley figures moving about. All the gentility of London was there from Princess Esterhazy's ball and all the clubs; gentlemen in their fur cloaks, pumps, and velvet waistcoats mixed with objects like the sans-culottes in the French Revolution — men and women half-dressed, covered with rags and dirt, some with nightcaps or handkerchiefs round their heads — then the soldiers, the firemen, and the engines, and the new police running and bustling, and clearing the way, and clattering along, and all with that intense interest and restless curiosity produced by the event, and which received fresh stimulus at every renewed burst of the flames as they rose in a shower of sparks like gold dust. Poor Arnold lost everything and was not insured. I trust the paraphernalia of the Beefsteak Club perished with the rest, for the enmity I bear that society for the dinner they gave me last year.

February 19th, 1830

In the House of Lords last night to hear Melbourne's motion about Portugal — a rather long and very bad debate. Melbourne spoke very ill — case very negligently got up, weakly stated, confused, and indiscreet — in the same sense as his brother's pamphlet, with part of which (the first part) none of the members of Canning's Administration or of Goderich's agree, and consequently it was answered by Lansdowne and Goderich. The latter made an excellent speech, the only good one that was made. Aberdeen [278] was wretched; it is really too bad that a man should be Secretary for Foreign Affairs who cannot speak better. The Duke made no case for the Terceira business, and delivered a very poor speech; but I like his speaking — it is so much to the point, no nonsense and verbiage about it, and he says strongly and simply what he has to say. The other night on Greece there was a very brisk skirmish between Palmerston and Peel, and the former spoke, they say, remarkably well; the latter, as usual, was in a passion.

February 21st, 1830

Dined with the Chancellor; Granvilles, Hollands, Moore, Luttrell, Lord Lansdowne, Auckland, and one or two more; very agreeable. Lord Holland told stories of Lord Thurlow, whom he mimicks, they say, exactly. When Lord Mansfield died, Thurlow said, 'I hesitated a long time between Kenyon and Buller. Kenyon was very intemperate, but Buller was so damned corrupt, and I thought upon the whole that intemperance was a less fault in a judge than corruption, not but what there was a damned deal of corruption in Kenyon's intemperance.' Lady Holland and I very friendly; the first time I have met her in company since our separation (for we have never quarrelled). She is mighty anxious to get me back, for no other reason than because I won't go. Everybody is surprised at Melbourne's failure the other night; some say he was not well, some that he did not like the business. I doubt if he is up to it; he did not speak like a man that has much in him.

February 23rd, 1830

Dined with Lord Bathurst and a dull party; but after dinner Lady Bathurst began talking about the King, and told me one or two anecdotes. When the account of Lord Liverpool's seizure reached the King at Brighton, Peel was at the Pavilion; the King got into one of his nervous ways, and sent for him in the middle of the night, desiring he would not dress; so he went down in his bedgown and sat by the side of the King's bed. Peel has got an awkward way of thrusting out his hands while he talks, which at length provoked the King so much that he said, 'Mr. Peel, it is no use going on so (taking him off) [279] and thrusting out your hands, which is no answer to my question.'

Went to Esterhazy's ball; talked to old Rothschild, who was there with his wife and a dandy little Jew son. He says that Polignac's Government will stand by the King's support and Polignac's own courage; offered to give me a letter to his brother, who would give me any information I wanted, squeezed my hand, and looked like what he is.

February 25th, 1830

Yesterday at Windsor for a Council; the first time I have seen one held in the new rooms of the Castle. They are magnificent and comfortable, the corridor really delightful — furnished through its whole length of about 500 feet with the luxury of a drawing-room, and full of fine busts and bronzes, and entertaining pictures, portraits, and curious antiquities. There were the Chancellor, the Duke, three Secretaries of State, Bathurst, and Melville. The King very blind — did not know the Lord Chancellor, who was standing close to him, and took him for Peel; he would not give up the point, though, for when he found his mistake he attributed it to the light, and appealed to Lord Bathurst, who is stone-blind, and who directly agreed.

February 26th, 1830

Intended to go to the House of Lords to hear the debate on Lord Stanhope's motion (state of the nation), but went to see Fanny Kemble in 'Mrs. Beverley' instead. She had a very great success — house crowded and plenty of emotion — but she does not touch me, though she did more than in her other parts; however, she is very good and will be much better.

The debate in the Lords was not lively, and the Duke, they say, made a most execrable speech. The fact is that he is not up to a great speech on a great question; he wants the information and preparation, the discipline of mind, that is necessary, and accordingly he exposes himself dreadfully, and entirely lost all the advantages he had gained by the excellent speeches he had previously made on other and more confined questions. He was very angry with the Duke of Richmond, whose opposition to him is considered by the [280] Duke's adherents as a sort of political parricide. Old Eldon spoke very well, and Radnor; the rest but moderate.

February 27th, 1830

Dined at Lord Lansdowne's; Moore, Rogers, J. Russell, Spring Rice, Charles Kemble, Auckland, and Doherty; very agreeable, but Rogers was overpowered by numbers and loud voices. Doherty told some good professional stories, and they all agreed that Irish courts of justice afforded the finest materials for novels and romances. The 'Mertons' and 'Collegians' are both founded on facts; the stories are in the 'New Monthly Magazine;' they said the author had not made the most of the 'Collegians' story. Very odd nervousness of Moore; he could not tell that story (of Crampton's), which I begged him to do, and which would not have been lugged in neck and shoulders, because everybody was telling just such stories; he is delighted with my note of it. Charles Kemble talked of his daughter and her success — said she was twenty, and that she had once seen Mrs. Siddons in 'Lady Randolph' when she was seven years old. She was so affected in 'Mrs. Beverley' that he was obliged to carry her into her dressing-room, where she screamed for five minutes; the last scream (when she throws herself on his body) was involuntary, not in the part, and she had not intended it, but could not resist the impulse. She likes Juliet the best of her parts.

February 28th, 1830

Dined yesterday with Lord Stanhope; Murray the bookseller (who published 'Belisarius'), Wilkie the painter, and Lord Strangford; nobody else of note. Wilkie appears stern, and might pass for mad; he said very little. Murray chattered incessantly; talked to me a great deal about Moore, who would have been mightily provoked if he had heard him. An odd dinner, not agreeable, though Lord Stanhope is amusing, so strange in his appearance, so ultra-Tory and anti-Liberal in his politics, full of information and a good deal of drollery. Murray told me that Moore is going to write a 'Life of Petrarch.' Croker would have written Lawrence's Life if Campbell [the poet] had not seized the task before anybody else thought of laying hold of it. He has circulated a command that all persons who have [281] anything to communicate will send their letters to his secretary, and not to him.

March 2nd, 1830

To-morrow I set out to Italy, after many years of anxiety to go there, without violent expectations of pleasure, but not thinking of disappointment. I care not for leaving London or anything in it; there are a few people whose society I regret, but as to friends or those who care for me, or for whom I care, I leave few behind.

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