Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

exists the greater part of that society from which alone the student of real genius can hope for just appreciation; but to be found, it must be courted, and to be enjoyed, it must be deserved. If early habits have disqualified the aspirant for such success, and early flattery has given him an overweening opinion of his own professional powers, he will at best become the wonder of some amateur coterie, perhaps the oracle of a subordinate circle. We know of no place where men of true talent and sense are so sure to be distinguished, and none where secondary skill and acquirements are so apt to be misled into vulgar pretensions and disgusting affectation. The paltry ' poetry ' now published bears the stamp of these in every lineament, and painting, as Mr. Cunningham observes, is a kindred art. Sense and talent exist in every rank, and are in all alike, but the world is not made up of them. The artist that would study unfettered and undisguised nature will perhaps find her most frequently in those who, from rank or understanding, are above mere fashion, or, from obscurity and situation, are independent of it. All between are infected; and the conventional minauderie which Mr. Cunningham appears somewhat inclined to charge on the courtly and titled subjects of Reynolds's and Lawrence's portraits is not a whit more factitious than the far less agreeable airs of their inferiors, which pass with the uninitiated for natural simplicity. We suspect that Reynolds himself discovered more real and unaffected grace in the lovely daughters of our highest aristocracy, than in those to whom elegance was an object offashion, and for the same reason that West observed it in the Indian savage of North America. Mr. Rush repeatedly bears witness, in the Narrative of his Residence in England, to the simplicity of manners which characterizes the highest and most select circle of our society, 'the result,' as he justly observes, * of the greatest refinement.' From the stress laid on this observation the fact evidently surprised the amiable republican; and we are sure it is a fact which would never be suspected by those who draw their notions of society in this metropolis from such meretricious trash as the 'novels'—already, it seems, standard novels—' of fashionable life.'

Art. IV.—Memoirs of the Administration of the Right Honourable Henry Pelham. Collected from the Family Papers and other authentic Documents. By William Coxe, M. A., F.R.S., F.S.A., Archdeacon of Wilts. 2 vols. London. 1829. T^HIS work, which closed a long series of literary labours, was originally planned by its author as a sequel to his Memoirs of Sir Robert Walpole. Soon after their completion he had conceived ceived the design of tracing the struggle of parties and the revolutions of the cabinet during the ministry of VValpole's successor and pupil, Mr. Pelham, and had collected materials for that purpose; but the reluctance of Miss Pelham, daughter of the minister, to communicate some documents, without which the narrative must have been imperfect, caused a temporary abandonment of the undertaking. After an interval of many years, the author's mind was again directed towards it by the appearance of Lord Orford's Posthumous History.

'I found with regret,' says Mr. Coxe, (and there could not be a more competent judge,) 'that though it contained much valuable and original matter, it was deeply imbued with the prejudices and antipathies of the writer, and was calculated to create an impression highly unfavourable to the character of Mr. Pelham. The misrepresentations and errors with which it abounded induced me to enter into a new and attentive scrutiny of the documents I had laid aside. While I was engaged in this pursuit I received a flattering communication from the Duke of Newcastle, offering the use of such papers and information as his grace could procure, with a view of presenting a faithful and impartial narrative of the administration of his ancestor. By his grace's kindness I was permitted to examine those very papers which Miss Pelham had before withheld, and which had been transferred, through her bequest, to her nephew and executor, the Honourable Charles Watson, son of the first Lord Sondes and of Grace the third daughter of Mr. Pelham. These advantages encouraged me to resume my original design, not merely with a view to beguile the tedium of my situation,' (Mr. Coxe was now afflicted with total blindness,) ' but also to contribute the means left at my disposal for the illustration of a curious and interesting period of our national history. When I had nearly completed my intended work, I was honoured with a communication from the late lamented Earl of Chichester, liberally offering me access to the letters and papers of the Duke of Newcastle, which his lordship inherited from his noble father. Availing myself of this proposal, the whole collection was submitted, at my request, to my friend Mr. Rylance, who made extracts or copies of the most important documents. Hence I was enabled to enlarge my narrative, and to correct and explain many points on which I had before possessed but imperfect information. With the assistance of my late faithful and able secretary, Mr. Hatcher, as well as of Mr. Rylance, I have completed this work, and now offer it to the candour of the public, trusting in that indulgence which I have so frequently experienced, and to which I have now an additional claim.'—Preface, pp. viii. ix.

The last years of the author's life were employed in constructing, from the materials here described, and others imparted with similar liberality, these Memoirs of the Pelham Administration.

He He did not, however, live to bestow upon them the final revision; and they were left, at his decease, to the judicious care of his brother, the Rev. George Coxe, under whose superintendence they were ultimately carried through the press. They have lately acquired a new title to attention, (if such a work needed any casual incident to enhance its value,) by the publication of Lord Orford's lively letters to Sir Horace Mann, where a great part of the small-talk embodied in Walpole's 'Memoires,' and of which Mr. Coxe's history is the best corrective, re-appears in a lighter and more attractive form.

The eleven years (from 1743 to 1754) of which, chiefly, the present volumes treat, are a period not fertile in remarkable occurrences, nor administering much gratification to national pride. An unsuccessful war, an inglorious though necessary peace, a rebellion, or rather invasion, which almost endangered the capital without awakening any powerful spirit of resistance in the country, intrigues and frequent disunion in the government at home, and a complex and inefl'ective course of foreign policy, form at the first view no attractive argument. Yet the era of the Peliiam administration presents much that deserves to be remembered. At no period were the strength and greatness of Englaud more vigorously striking root. Never was the tempestuous sea of parliament lulled into a profounder calm. If the time was unmarked by great events, it was not barren of distinguished men, although some were declining, or already sunk, from their former influence and renown, and some only rising to that eminence which they afterwards more conspicuously enjoyed. At the commencement of this period, Walpole had not ceased to mingle in political transactions; at its close the genius of Chatham was hastening to the ascendant. And if history is to be esteemed not merely as the occurrences are striking and uncommon, but as we are enabled to connect them with the motives and characters of men, this portion of the English annals, illustrated as it now is, can never justly be disregarded as insipid or uninstructive.

Mr. Pelham himself was one of the most blameless and useful statesmen who ever led the House of Commons. His plain strong talents and unambitious virtues were precisely those which England most needed in her government at the time when he became prime minister. To them, scarcely less than to the mighty energies of Pitt, may be ascribed the prdsperity and glory which attended the close of George II.'s reign. As a financier he has been considered little inferior to Walpole. No man was ever a more anxious steward of the public resources; and he was even thought, in some instances, to enforce economy to a degree

inconsistent inconsistent with real prudence. His policy, like Walpole's, was characterized by an extreme solicitude for peace: on this point also he was perhaps inclined to err, nimium premendo Uttus; and the sentiments which his natural caution and diffidence inspired were sometimes openly expressed with a candour not usual nor always commendable in a minister. A remarkable instance of this occurred in the debate on Lord Egmont's motion upon the article respecting Dunkirk, in the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, when Mr. Pelham unreservedly declared his opinion, that the country, burdened as it then was, could not singly withstand the House of Bourbon, and that no continental confederacy could be formed which would not be an incumbrance rather than an advantage. It is true he was at that time (1750) occupied with his project for reducing the interest of the national debt, (the great achievement of his administration,) and naturally dreaded, and opposed with zeal, the agitation of topics likely to disturb that calm in which alone his measures could be accomplished. But he had expressed the same melancholy sentiment in private during the negotiations for peace, with still greater earnestness :—

'We shall, I fear, be brought to a terrible dilemma,' he said in a letter to the Duke of Newcastle, ' but we have no choice. It is the work, or rather no work, of former years, that has brought us to this terrible situation. But what is worse, if anything can be so, than the situation itself, is to be in it and not to know it. Dear brother, we are conquered, we have little strength of our own, and less of other people's; you act with as great spirit and resolution as any man can do, but all that will not change the nature of things.'—Pelham Administration, vol. ii., p. 30.

Happily, however, the feeling which prompted such expressions was in him not a weak despondency, but a watchful patriotic care, the parent of wise and active exertion. These merits in Mr. Pelham were acknowledged even by those whom his cautious policy had most thwarted. The Duke of Cumberland (till offended by the arrangements of the Regency Bill in 1751) entertained and expressed a high esteem for him. The king, on the conclusion of the treaty at Aix-la-Chapelle, declared him to be ' the most able and willing minister that had ever directed the affairs of his government;' and at his death pronounced upon him a still more emphatic eulogy, seasoned indeed with no little bitterness toward survivors:—' Now I shall have no more peace.1 Mr. Coxe observes, that ' he may be ranked among the few ministers who enjoyed at once the esteem of the sovereign, the confidence of the parliament, the respect of the opposition, and the love of the people;' and that

Horace Horace Walpole is almost the only author who has treated him with obloquy.* But the portraiture of him in Walpole's Memoirs (vol. i. pp. 145-199-321) is a cloud of epigrams, and antitheses, and riddles, in which it is often difficult, we do not merely say to ascertain a truth, but to lay hold of an assertion; and the motives which led that patriotic and disinterested historian, in the year 1751, to take steps for informing posterity that the Pelhams were but 'phantoms either of honesty or abilities,' have been sufficiently discussed in a former volume of this Keview.f Even Walpole, however, winds up Mr. Pelham's character with the acknowledgment, 'he lived without abusing his power, and died poor.'

Of the solid practical ability which distinguished Mr. Pelham's speeches and writings, the present work affords many satisfactory specimens. They display candour, moderation, and good sense, a studious regard to the national welfare without any selfish eagerness for popularity, a loyal fidelity to the king, and at the same time a manly steadiness in withstanding the sovereign's personal wishes and partialities when opposed to the public prosperity; a zeal for useful reforms, unaccompanied by any contempt for institutions; liberality, in the older sense of that term, when it did not yet imply being without principles and without attachments; and an observance of public opinion without any disposition to raise up a licentious and uncontrollable tyranny, under the name of ' the people.' In short, Mr. Pelharu was an old, not a new Whig.

It is agreed by his contemporaries, that he entirely wanted the brilliant parts of oratory. Walpole indeed affirms, that ' he was obscure upon the most trivial occurrences, perplexed even when he had but one idea, and whenever he spoke well it was owing to his being heated: he must lose his temper before he could exert his reason.'J Lord Waldegrave, on the other hand, says that, 'without being an orator, or having the finest parts, no man in the House of Commons argued with more weight, or was heard with greater attention.' According to Lord Chesterfield, though 'a very inelegant speaker in parliament, he spoke with a certain candour and openness, that made him be well heard and generally

* Glover coarsely abuses him in his Memoirs. In the lyrics of Sir Charles Hanbury Williams he is both flattered and lampooned; but (supposing the verses in each instance to be really Sir Charles's) the' fugitive pieces' of much better poets have put one another out of countenance when caught and confronted.

f Vol. xxvii., Article, Walpole's Memoirs.

I One of the occasions to which Walpole alludes, may be the debate in 1744 on the report of the committee of supply respecting the Hanover troops, (Pe/ham Administration, vol. i., p. 130,) when Mr. Pelham opposed Pitt with a more than usual warmth, but with great judgment, vigour, and success.

believed.'

« ElőzőTovább »