Edward Frederick Leveson-Gower.

Bygone years; online

. (page 1 of 21)
Online LibraryEdward Frederick Leveson-GowerBygone years; → online text (page 1 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

-"•'■'■'^g'i''^'""" ■'











T^25c/"*^>'* y




* > »•

* t t •> y*

» o ' o * ■




• •«

• c

• *

• • •


• •

0*. *

« c


e «

c c

i ■


i e 1 c c

• t •




ABROAD: 1841-42 .

SOCIETY : 1840-46 .

LAW : 1841-48 .


SOCIETY : 1846-50 .

INDIA: 1850-51


ELECTIONS: 1847-80





INDEX . ' .


















IT has been often remarked that few men above
the age of eighty retain any activity of mind.
Although I have long passed that age, I do not
perceive that my mind, which was never active,
is less so than it was. What is gradually failing
me is memory, and if I am to relate a few
incidents of my life, I must do so at once.

I cannot attempt to write an autobiography, but
merely to jot down some recollections which may
be found of interest. It is curious how uncertain
memory becomes at an advanced age. Whilst I
remember a number of unimportant events, I find
it difficult to call to mind the broad outlines of
my life. I can, therefore, only offer a disconnected
account of it, for which I crave the indulgence
of any one who may be inclined to glance over
these pages. It may be extended to me because
the whole of these recollections have been written
since I attained my eighty-sixth birthday, and
because I possess no notes or journals to assist me,
except those from which I have taken descriptions
of Spain, India and Russia, which I wrote at the
request of my uncle, the Duke of Devonshire.



Moreover, no one is obliged to read my book, and
if it bores any one, he has only himself to blame.
I say to him, —

I give thee all I can, no more,
Though poor the offering be.

If, then, asked why I publish it, I make the
usual excuse — because my friends advise it, and I
attach greater weight to their opinion than to my

It may cause some disappointment that I scarcely
ever refer to political events. As my brother was
a statesman who played so distinguished a part
during a great portion of the last century, and
having lived in close intimacy with him during
the whole of our joint lives, I may be expected
to throw light on many occurrences which are
still imperfectly known. But for two reasons I
shall not attempt it. My first reason is because
I cannot trust my treacherous memory to preserve
me from falling into some inaccuracies which do
not signify when I am relating social gossip, but
which would be quite inexcusable when they are
connected with political events. My second reason
is that my brother's life is being written by Lord
Edmond FitzMaurice, and that he is better able
than I am to describe the various political episodes
which entered into Lord Granville's career.

I may, however, say that it has been my good
fortune on nearly every occasion to share my
brother's political opinions, and to admire his
conduct in public affairs. Because he had charming


manners and was conciliatory, he has sometimes
been suspected of weakness ; but he did not deserve
this imputation. For I have known few men with
a stronger will or more ready to be firm whenever
it was needful.


April, 1905.




I WAS born in 1819. I passed the first ten years
of my life alternately in London and at Wher-
stead, a country-house in Suffolk which my father
rented. Of course I have only some very vague
recollections of the place. I remember resenting not
being allowed to enter the adjoining woods for fear
of disturbing the game, which was very plentiful. I
think that on one occasion the bag consisted of
a thousand head, which was then considered re-
markable, but would not be thought so now. It
was there that the Duke of Wellington, who was
not a safe shot, wounded my father in the face,
doing no harm, only covering it with blood, his
eyes luckily escaping. I also remember my
astonishment at the rapidity with which at break-
fast Mr. Frederick Byng ^ ate his egg, devouring
it in one or two spoonfuls, whereas I ate mine
very slowly, one with more prolonged pleasure.

* A son of the fifth Viscount Torrington.



Did this forebode that I should grow up a philo-
sopher or a gourmand ? I certainly did not become
the former, and I hope not the latter.

My father in 1824 was appointed Ambassador to
the Netherlands. The post was then an Embassy,
and remained so till Belgium was separated from
Holland. Towards the end of that year he became
Ambassador at Paris. I remained with my parents
abroad until I was sent to school. I can call to
mind very little of the intervening period.

The chief incident which I can remember was my
introduction to Sir Walter Scott. He was dining
at the Embassy when I was sent for to be presented
to him. I fancy I still recall the kind manner and
benevolent countenance. Three years ago I went
to see Abbotsford from a country-house in its
neiofhbourhood. The old g^uide who showed it
was so enthusiastic about Sir Walter that I was
induced to tell him that I once had the honour
of shaking hands with him. — " That is impossible.
Do you know when he died?" — " He died in 1832,
and I saw him in 1826 when I was seven years
old." — When at length I convinced him he was
delighted, and told the next batch of tourists of
my acquaintance with Sir Walter, which he seemed
to think a marvel.

There were two other occurrences during my
stay in Paris v/hich, although of no importance,
impressed me much at the time. One was that my
squirrel bit me, when I thought him incapable of
such wickedness ; the other was the death of some

1819-40] ST. CLOUD— BRIGHTON 3

small birds, just hatched, that I had brought from
the garden to feed. One evening, going to some
entertainment, I forgot to feed them, and found
them dead on my return home. For some time
I looked upon myself as a murderer.

I was sent occasionally to St. Cloud, in order to
play with the Due de Bordeaux (whose later title
of the Comte de Chambord is more familiar) and
his sister. The Duke's subsequent career, which
was perhaps a happier one than if he had become
King of France, is well known. His sister married
the Duke of Lucca, who, on the death of his father,
became Duke of Parma. He was unworthy of her,
and deserved his nickname of ''filthy Lucres Soon
after their marriage they passed a winter in the
neighbourhood of London, when he frequently
after dinner deposited his wife at my brother's
house in Bruton Street, going himself to his club,
and did not call for her before the small hours of
the morning, to her distress and the annoyance of
my sister-in-law. Some years afterwards we met
at Venice, when they had become still more
estranged, and she openly complained of his
conduct. His end was tragical, as in 1854 he
was assassinated in the streets of his capital. She
survived him long, and retained the respect of
all who knew her.

At the early age of eight I was sent to Dr.
Everard's fashionable school at Brighton, which
was called the "Young House of Lords" owing
to most of the boys being related to the peerage,


many of them future peers, and among them
several dukes. We were treated luxuriously, so
much so that the Doctor, who was as improvident
as he was kind, soon afterwards became a bankrupt
and fled the country, his debts amounting to
thousands of pounds. The dear old matron, Miss
Holland, a second Mrs. Partington, being aware
of the money difficulties, only lighted one of the
two tallow candles allowed her when we visited
her in the evening — a piece of economy which did
not avert the coming catastrophe. The drawback
to the school was that we learned little, which
at the time I did not much resent. We saw a
great deal of the royal cousins. Prince George
of Hanover and Prince George of Cambridge.
They were put under the care of their uncle the
King in order that they might be brought up
with English surroundings, and were staying with
him at the Pavilion. We liked them both ; they
played with us at our school, and we were often
summoned to the Pavilion to play with them. We
were delighted with the King, who was very kind
to us, and told us sailors' stories, sometimes rather
coarse ones, which amused us much. It is not
generally known that there was a question of the
late Duke of Cambridge marrying Queen Victoria.
His mother was intent upon it. The blindness of
his elder cousin was an obstacle to his becoming
King of Hanover, and the younger one would have
taken his place, which would have rendered the
English alliance impossible. The Duchess of

1819-40] ETON 5

Cambridge, in consequence, got some experts to
state that the bHndness of the elder prince was
merely temporary, and that he was therefore entitled
to ascend the throne of Hanover. This would
have enabled his cousin to marry Princess Victoria.
But " Femme propose et Dieu disposed The
Duchess of Kent and her brother, the King of
the Belgians, put forward the claims of their
nephew, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, in opposi-
tion to the Duke of Cambridge. If the Queen
had married the latter, no one could have objected,
but she did still better.

In due course of time I was sent to Eton, where
my life was not a very happy one, and, unlike most
Etonians, I do not retain a very pleasant impression
of it. My health was indifferent. I was not good
at games, and I made no friends — at least, none
who remained so in subsequent years. At one
time I became dangerously ill from internal in-
flammation. I had been out of school ten days,
complaining of headaches, when my tutor accused
me of malingering, and said I must at once resume
my school duties. Two days later I was at death's
door. My near relations in England were sum-
moned to my bedside, and my parents were nearly
beine sent for from Paris. I was bled once one
day and three times the next. Before the last
bleeding I actually heard the two doctors, father
and son, dispute about it. The former said I
could not bear another bleeding ; the latter, that
if I did not have it I must die. I however


recovered, and never during my long life have I
again been seriously ill.

It was during the Easter holidays in 1834 that
my first great sorrow occurred. My relations were
at Devonshire House, but I was staying with my
aunt. Lady Harrowby, in Grosvenor Square. I
remember my father coming there to break to me
the sad news of my brother William's death. He
was most lovable, and I was devotedly attached
to him, perhaps all the more from his having always
been a great invalid. I returned soon afterwards
to Eton with a heavy heart, and was so much
dejected that Spankie, the dealer in sweets who
was always stationed at the entrance of the College,
rebuked me, and urged me, the dear old man, to
try to be more cheerful. Spankie, at his death,
which occurred many years afterwards, possessed
a substantial sum of money, which I am told he
left to Eton College.

Perhaps because I was idle, or on account of my
state of health, I was soon afterwards sent to a
private tutor in Nottinghamshire. Having little
else to do there I read diligently, which would have
benefited me more had Mr. Berry been a good
scholar. He was an excellent man, but not blessed
with the art of teaching. He had a refined mind
and wrote admirable letters, which induced my
father, who had read some of them, to send me to
him. The kindest of men, he was not the most
tolerant. Although a Low Churchman, he was
impressed with the idea that Dissenters generally


were incorrigible sinners. I was therefore surprised
when in later years I got engaged in elections, to
find that they were as a rule the most moral
members of the community. He was not free from
some weaknesses. With the view of giving me a
favourable impression of his culture, he used, when
we were reading Juvenal together, to say he was
reminded of a parallel passage, which he quoted as
if from memory. I unfortunately had, unknown to
him, the same edition, and perceived from the notes
at the bottom of the page whence he had derived
his quotation. In spite of such little failings I
had a great regard for him, and was glad to meet
him many years later, when he had become an
incumbent in Dorsetshire. I was fond of some of
my companions, amongst whom were Vesey Dawson,
who lost his life at Inkerman, and the late General
Claremont, the best friend man ever had. It was
at this period of my life that I began to take an
interest in politics. I read with delight Mr.
Fonblanque's brilliant articles in the Examiner,
and adopted Liberal principles, which I have never
since abandoned. In 1837 there was a general
election and a contest in Nottinghamshire, in which
we took some interest. One of the candidates
caused much amusement by stating in his address
at the conclusion of his canvass that what had
gratified him most was that in the places where he
was least known he had met with the warmest

I fancy there are few men who have gone through


a University career who do not look back with
pleasure to that period of their lives. To feel
oneself for the first time comparatively one's own
master, and to lead an existence free from the cares
which usually come with later life, is delightful.
How valuable are the life-long friendships then
formed, free from the mistrust which too frequently
accompanies the friendships of later years. I went
to Oxford in 1837, and remained there about two
and a half years. I must confess that I was very
idle. The atmosphere at Christ Church was not
at that time intellectual. I cannot call to mind
in my time at Christ Church any undergraduate
who afterwards became a Cabinet Minister, or who,
with one exception, distinguished himself in any
other capacity. And amongst my friends there was
not one who seemed in the least anxious to obtain
University honours. How different it was in
previous years at Christ Church, when there were
so many undergraduates who in after life took a
considerable part in the history of their country.
To what is to be ascribed this change ? I am
inclined to think it was partly due to Dean
Gaisford's management. Whilst Christ Church was
going back, other Colleges were advancing, par-
ticularly Balliol, which soon after came under the
influence of Mr. Jowett. The fact is, the Dean,
although very learned, was ill fitted for his post.
He knew more about Greek particles than about
young men. His manners were rough and he
inspired the undergraduates with no confidence.

1819-40] LIFE AT OXFORD 9

Frank Charteris ^ was an exception. He was not
afraid of the Dean and said what he liked to him.
I fancy people who know that some are afraid
of them are apt to prefer others who are not
so. The Dean once gave him leave to go to
London to get advice about a lame leg. The
following day the Dean perceived his name in
the list of guests at the Palace ball, which made
him say the next time he met him, " I was not
aware, Mr. Charteris, that dancing was a cure for

There was one undergraduate in my day who was
relied upon to maintain the credit of the College.
He took a first-class, but in after life proved a
failure. He became a member of the House of
Commons, where he made foolish speeches. On
one such occasion Mr. Lowe whispered to his
neighbour, " That fellow was my pupil at Oxford."
— " I do not think he does you much credit." —
" Not much credit ? I never had a pupil who did
me more. Fool as he is, I enabled him to obtain
a first-class."

There was another undergraduate who was little
thought of at Oxford, but who became afterwards
very famous, the late Mr. Ruskin. The Dean of
Durham tells us in an article he has lately written,
entitled " Ruskin at Oxford," that by degrees
Ruskin formed at Oxford valuable friendships.
This was not my impression. He seemed to keep
himself aloof from everybody, to seek no friends,

* The present Earl of Wemyss,


and to have none. I never met him in any one
else's rooms or at any social gathering. I see him
now, looking rather crazy, taking his solitary walks.
His isolation was in no wise, as the Dean suggests,
due to his parentage, as undergraduates never took
that into account in the choice of their companions.
Young men having relations and friends in common
and some knowledge of London society were un-
consciously disposed to foregather, but not from
any wish for exclusiveness. It was no advan-
tage to Ruskin to be a gentleman-commoner, as
gentleman-commoners, with some notable exceptions,
were generally looked upon askance, as rather vulgar
parvenus, too proud of their wealth ; and there was
more fellowship between noblemen and commoners
than there was between them and gentleman-
commoners. Ruskin classed the gentleman-com-
moners as beinor between the noblemen and the
commoners. I should put them last. But such
classifications are rather fanciful. A Yankee who
had never been in England asked a fellow country-
man who had been there what people were
comprised in the term "middle-class." — " Baronets,
to be sure " — a definition which would not be
acceptable to some of our baronets with long

Ruskin on one occasion gave a large supper,
to which he invited some of the leading under-
graduates whom he did not know. His speech
on this occasion did not make a favourable im-
pression. He said he could hardly express how

1819-40] RUSKIN II

much he felt honoured that so many young men
who were superior to him socially should have
condescended to accept his invitation. This dis-
inclined us to keep up the acquaintance, although
we were the losers thereby.

I cannot however, say that I have ever felt the
enthusiasm with which Ruskin inspired so many
of his contemporaries. No one can fail to admire
the beauty and eloquence of his writings and his
exquisite drawing. But I have felt great misgiving
about the soundness of his judgment. I do not
pretend to be an authority upon Art, but I know
something about Political Economy, which causes
me to be astounded at the nonsense he wrote on
economic subjects. What could be more foolish
than to urge young men to give up their games
in order by manual exertion to do something useful,
and accordingly persuading them to dig a road
which led nowhere and was left unfinished ? Surely
educated youths should try to benefit mankind by
the use of their brains rather than of their muscles.

In connection with this question of the relative
importance of physical and mental labour, I will
quote what the late Lord Farrer wrote to me
about it in a letter. He refers to the division
which our old economists made of the elements
of production into land, capital, and labour, and
omitting brains or lumping brains with labour as
if it were homogeneous, and adds : " The differ-
ence between brain labour and muscle labour is
as great as possible, and it is brain labour which


has caused the immense progress of later years.
From this confusion of lanijuaore arise innumerable
muddles, imperfectly got out of by such phrases
as wages of superintendence and absurd demands
on the part of socialists and workmen. It is human
intelligence and not human muscle which has made
material nature prolific and brought the ends of
the earth together in the service of man. Is it
not absurd to speak of the ' Wealth of Nations '
or the works of Watts and Faraday as labour ?
I feel sure that this one mistake in language is the
fertile parent of falsehoods without end."

I myself, however, should divide the elements
of production into labour, capital, and brains, as I
consider land to be fixed capital. But this is
sufficient political economy.

Among other absurd recommendations Ruskin
somewhere says that marriage should only be
allowed to those who deserved it. All this makes
me doubt whether even about Art he could be quite
a reliable guide ; and certainly some of his views
about it appear to me rather fanciful.

The gentleman-commoners had several privileges.
They were allowed to have a servant, a permission
prized by mothers, who were glad to have some
trusty person to look after the health and wants
of their sons. Another privilege was to wear silk
gowns and velvet caps ; and also to get better food,
which, like the noblemen, they ate at a separate
table of their own. My great friend Charteris
was a gentleman-commoner — and was wholly free


from the faults I have imputed to them generally.
In order to do me a good turn, he suggested that
I should sit at one end of the commoners' table,
and that he should sit near me at the end of his
table, so as to enable him to hand over the superior
dishes, from which I could help myself. This
was perceived by an officious don, who very
properly put an end to so objectionable a pro-

I can confirm the Dean of Durham's statement
that Mr. Gladstone disliked the removal of these
distinctions, as he held that those of the outer
world should have their echo at Oxford. I ventured
to argue with him on the subject. I maintained
that the equality between youths, both at school
and college, was a great advantage, particularly
to those who were most favoured by fortune ; and
that anything which militated against this equality
should be done away with. There is a well-
known story about my friend, the late Lord Bath,
who, on his first arrival at Eton, was asked his
name, and answered, " I am Viscount Weymouth,
and I shall be Marquis of Bath." Upon which
he received two kicks, one for the viscount, and
the other for the marquis. This story may not
be true, but at any rate it illustrates the fact
that if at Eton a boy boasted of his social advan-
tages he would have cause to repent it.

Soon after our arrival at Oxford, Edward
Kerrison and I were elected members of the Mitre
Club. It was a famous old hunting club, not


noted for the sobriety of its members, but which
latterly had somewhat mended its ways. Still I
cannot say that in our day it was conducted on
strictly temperance principles. For instance, a new
member was required to empty at one draught a
cup called the " Fox's Head," containing a bottle of
port. I have always looked upon myself as a sober
individual, because I never reduced myself to that
state in which I could not take care of myself.
But I am free to confess that, both at Oxford
and afterwards, I sometimes imbibed more wine
than was good for me. Both Kerrison and I
were gratified by our election to this club, so
soon after our arrival at Christ Church ; but our
satisfaction was a good deal diminished when we
learnt that every member was going to leave at
the end of the term, and that there was a debt
on the club amounting to eighty pounds. The
result was that at the beginning of the next term
we found ourselves the sole members, and that we
were responsible for this large sum. We put a
bold face on it, and summoned a meeting of the
club (i.e. ourselves), when we respectively elected
ourselves Chairman and Secretary. We then elected
twelve new members to fill up the vacancies. We
announced to them their election in some trepida-
tion, but secretly hoping that, like us, they would
consider it an honour. To our relief they gratefully
joined the club, which continued to exist a number
of years. It was Mr. Gladstone's opinion that
gambling was a worse vice than drunkenness ; al-


thouQfh he himself was the most abstemious of
men, he saw some merit in the genial intercourse
which takes place over the social glass of wine,
whereas he looked upon the greed which is the
sole incentive to gambling as one of the worst
propensities of man. I did not agree with him.
My chief answer was that I could be, and often
had been, fond of a gambler, but never of a

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryEdward Frederick Leveson-GowerBygone years; → online text (page 1 of 21)