Edward Frederick Leveson-Gower.

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the nominee of O'Connell for an Irish borough,
and voted for Repeal. He w^is, I believe, the
only Englishman who ever did so. But when he
became member for Stoke he had grown into a
full-blown Tory. In justice to him I may say
that when I came in contact with him he stuck
manfully to his principles, and did not, in order
to catch votes, profess any which he did not
believe in, a proceeding which appears every day
to become more common.

In the course of the following autumn a vacancy
for the representation of Paisley occurred. I was
persuaded to go there as a candidate. The late
Commissioner Kerr, who was then a rising barrister,
most kindly offered to accompany me and be my
dry-nurse during my canvass. A Scotch gentleman,
Mr. Lamont, who afterwards became well known in
London, likewise came forward, professing the same


politics as I did. I remained in Paisley three weeks.
My prospects appeared fairly good, when Mr. Crum
Ewing, a former Member for the borough, where
he was very popular, after refusing to stand, was
ultimately induced to do so, which obliged Mr.
Lamont and myself to withdraw.^ I did not regret
the three weeks I spent there ; it was a pleasant
time. I learnt much about Scottish politics, and I
liked the Paisley bodies, a name given them rather
contemptuously in the rest of Scotland. Their
intelligence was superior to what I generally met
with either in Derby or Stoke. They knew much
that was going on in the world, and discussed very
well the various questions of the day. They were
most cordial to me, and with the kindest intentions
pressed me to drink more whiskey than I could
well carry. I however resisted their importunity.
Their principal objection to me was my nationality.
The Scotch were on that point very illiberal, for
although several Scotchmen then sat for English
constituencies, Mr. Edward Bouverie was the only
Englishman who represented one in Scotland.
On one occasion I pleaded that my grandmother
was Scotch, which made some one in the crowd
stand up at the end of my speech and say, *' We
should like to hear something more about that
grandmother." Another objection to me was my
connection with the Sutherland family. It was
strange that, after the lapse of so many years, what
were known as the Sutherland evictions were still

* His son has just been elected for Buteshire.



so keenly resented. I urged that those events
occurred long before I was born, and that my family
was only connected by marriage with the Countess
of Sutherland.^ I however added that I believed
those evictions, although possibly carried out rather
harshly, were determined on with a view to improve
the condition of the people, an improvement which
was certainly brought about.

My warmest supporter was Lord Glasgow, who
lived within a short distance of the borough. He
was eccentric, but popular, particularly in the racing
community. He was a Tory, but hated Disraeli,
and had a great regard for my brother, for which
reasons he was anxious for my success. Every
morninof he walked into the town to learn how
matters stood. I occasionally dined and slept at
his house ; excellent food, but dull evenings. He
was not on speaking terms with his wife. They
sat at opposite ends of a long table, and alternately
spoke to me, but never exchanged a word with
each other. He was hot-tempered, and once flew
into a passion at the railway station, when the
booking-clerk asked him to write his name on the
back of the bank-note he was presenting, and, ob-
serving what he had written, cried out to him,
" You fool ! Write your name, and not the town
you live in ! "

In course of time, after my life of seclusion

' The second Marquis of Stafford, who was created Duke of
Sutherland in 1833, and was my father's half-brother; he married in
1785 Elizabeth, Countess of Sutlierland in her own right.

1847-80] M.P. FOR BODMIN 243

referred to in the next chapter, my brother induced
me to try to get back to the House of Commons.
Through the intervention of Mr. Hayter, the Whip,
Mr. Robartes, the Member for the Eastern Division
of Cornwall, offered to get me returned for Bodmin.
He had considerable property in that borough, and
was besides much esteemed there, which enabled
him to secure at least one of the two seats for
any one he recommended. There never was a more
considerate patron, and nothing could exceed his
unvarying kindness. We held the same political
views, as he was a convinced Free Trader, an enemy
of all monopoly and privilege, and in every respect
a thorough-going Liberal. His tastes were very
simple, and he spent but little of his great
wealth on himself. He rarely saw any company,
which made the Tories describe his lovely old
place, Lanhydrock, as a house without cheer, a
park without deer, and a cellar without beer ; and
yet he was one of the most generous of men.
His acts of charity were boundless, all carried out
without ostentation, with the concurrence of his
admirable wife. An old friend of his used to say
that his charity was all the more meritorious
because he hated to give away money ; and I am
inclined to agree with this and to think that in the
same way that a coward who on a field of battle
behaves well is a hero, so more credit is due to
the man who, hating to spend money, gives it
freely, than to the spendthrift, who parts with it
readily because he loves expenditure.


I was cilvvays allowed to put up at Lanhydrock
in the absence of the owners, as well as when
they were there. There was not much luxury, but
its simple comforts were perhaps preferable to the
silks and satins of other places. The charm of the
place was its picturesque avenue, its beautiful
park, its fine old gate-way and splendid gallery.

In 1869 a peerage was conferred on Mr.
Robartes, to the great satisfaction of the Cornish
Liberals. I do not think he would have cared for
a baronetcy. He told me that his uncle, Lord
Clifden, once said to him : " Thomas, whatever
misfortunes befall you in life, do not add to them
by becoming a baronet."

As soon as I had made up my mind on the
subject, I went down to Bodmin to offer myself
as a candidate. My brother-in-law. Lord William
Compton,^ to whom I was much attached and who
was the most delightful companion, agreed to ac-
company me and help me in my canvass. Soon,
with his cheery sailor manners, he became so popular
that I said to him one day in jest, " You have
come to help me, but you will end by supplanting
me." One of our first visits was to Lady Moles-
worth, who was living at her place, Pencarrow,
which was only three miles from the borough. We
were at first refused admittance, being probably
taken for county neighbours, and were told that
Lady Moles worth could not receive us, as she was
ill in bed. We had not, however, gone far from
^ Afterwards fourth Marcjuis ot' Northtimptonj


the house when the footman overtook us by a
short cut, and said his mistress would be glad to
see us. We found her in the library in perfect
health, conversing with a few friends. Ever since
that day the doors of that hospitable house were
open to me. Each autumn it was filled with much
of what is called the best society in London.
Wit, beauty and fashion abounded there, and there
was Royalty in the persons of the Comte and
Comtesse de Paris and the Due d'Aumale. Some-
times the house could not hold us all, and once
I was made to sleep in a bothy next door to
some snoring gardeners, who kept me awake all
night. I was not much appeased when at break-
fast next day my hostess asked me how I had
borne my out-door relief. I must add that she
apologised when she saw my displeasure, and
that never again was I subjected to such ill-
usage. It would have been so easy to let me go
back and sleep in my Bodmin lodgings.

Lady Molesworth was always true to my in-
terests in the borough, although surrounded by
those who at one time did not wish me well on
account of my devotion to Gladstone, and who
got up the last opposition to me as related else-

It would take volumes to describe all the
kindness I met with, both in town and country,
during my long connection with Cornwall. Politics
made no difference. The Tories were well dis-
posed towards me, which might have been different


if any Cornish country gentleman had stood against
me ; but they had no sympathy with any of my
successive opponents, who were not to their
hking. One, a local doctor, who was deservedly
popular because of his kindness to the poor ;
another a not very distinguished lawyer; a third
a renegade Radical ; then a rather unscrupulous
demagogue ; and lastly a Scotchman, who could
not get accepted by any Scotch constituency.

Lord Vivian, the Lord-Lieutenant of the county,
who was good-looking, clever and agreeable, was
a favourite in his own immediate circle, but outside
it he was not popular on account of his ungovern-
able temper. He once told me he was aware of
this infirmity and much regretted his inability to
overcome it, an admission his friends declared he
had never before made. Mr. Henry Baring, driving
through the town on his way to Pencarrow, heard
the church bells ringing and asked the cause. It
was to celebrate the Lord- Lieutenant's defeat in a
lawsuit. But it is fair to add that it was won by
the Corporation.

Lady Vivian, on the contrary, was universally
popular. When I first saw her she was, curiously
enouo'h, a orrand-dauohter and also a g-randmother.
Her grandmother and mother were alive, and her
handsome daughter, Mrs. Tremayne, had a child.

Lord Vivian was nominally a Whig, but in opinion
a Conservative. However, in my earlier contests
he gave me his support, and was always very
good to me. On my first going down to stand,

1847-80] LORD VIVIAN 247

he gave me some letters of introduction to three
of his friends. I met them, and imagining them
to be Liberals I thought they would be pleased
with my political opinions. But they did not seem
so, and when I said I was in favour of the Ballot
one of them exclaimed, " The devil you are ! " The
fact was that they were Tories at heart, but they
eschewed their own opinions, and we made friends
and remained so ever afterwards. They first
supported me because they disliked the little doctor
who was my opponent, and as I was recommended
by Lord Vivian they could not believe me to be
a very bad politician.

One day when I was out shooting with Lord
Vivian he said to one of his tenants, at whose
house we had lunched, that he hoped he voted
for me. — " Yes, my lord, of course I do ; I am
a thorough-going Radical." — " A thorough-going
Radical! How dare you say that to me!" Then
followed an amount of abuse that made me fear
my supporter might receive a notice to quit the
next day.

I was always made welcome at Boconnoc, the
residence of Mr. Fortescue, who had married my
cousin, Lady Louisa Ryder. It was then lent to
him by his aunt, Lady Grenville, who subsequently
bequeathed it to him. He was a most charming
man, and had in his bachelor days been a much-
sought-after dandy. Not being well off, he lived
very quietly, and went little into general society ;
but he delighted in talking to me about his early


friends, some of whom I was old enoueh to
remember. He was, as befitted a nephew of Lord
Grenville, an ardent Free Trader, and althouorh
differing from Mr. Robartes on other points,
strenuously supported him when he stood for the
Eastern Division of Cornwall.

I had also many valued friends in Bodmin.
During my long connection with it I became
ntimate with the Chief Constable, Colonel Gilbert,
and his wife. I much liked them both. They
lived in a small country house, adjoining the town,
named The Priory, which during those many
years they made my home whenever it suited me.
It was the place of rendez-voits of the county
magistrates, and the dlite of Cornish society fre-
quented it. Many were the pleasant evenings that
I spent there. The Colonel was a nephew of
General Gilbert, who distinguished himself in the
Punjab, and was moreover a descendant of Sir
Walter Raleigh. Another friend of mine was Mr.
Hicks, who was at the head of the County Asylum.
Besides being an excellent man of business, he was
accomplished both as a draughtsman and as a
musician, and knew a number of amusing Cornish
stories, which he told so inimitably that they would
bear to be constantly repeated. He was a visitor
at most of the country houses, and thus broke
down in his own person the absurd barrier which
in the provincial world separates what is called
" county society " from the inhabitants of the
towns. Mr. Hicks always allowed me to canvass

1847-80] FRIENDS IN BODMIN 249

the warders in the asylum. On these occasions the
patients surrounded me and seemed to take an
interest in the proceedings. When I once said to
one of the officials who happened to be a Tory
that they seemed friendly, he observed, "Certainly,
and I am convinced that if they had votes every
one of them would vote for you."

The aged Rector of Bodmin was an antiquarian
and much interested in everything relating to
Cornwall. I was assured that he would vote
for me because I was a descendant of Sir Bevil
Granville, the Cornish hero ; but he failed to do so.
His successor was an Irish clergyman who wished
to carry out some of his High Church views. I
told him that if he did not take care he would get
into hot water. — " Sure, it is hot water I like to
be in." — He boasted of his extreme tolerance.
" Mr. Russell, the Wesleyan minister, is a worthy
man, and I can assure you that meeting him in
Truro the other day I shook hands with him. Of
course, I could not do so in my own parish.
Moreover, I did not object to the presence of the
Independent minister in this room, where he came
to a meeting to discuss the temperance question,
in which I take a lively interest." I own these
two instances of tolerance did not much impress

My agent, Mr. Collins, who was always vigilant
in my interests, amused me by begging me to sit
in Colonel Gilbert's pew instead of the Corpora-
tion's, because as it faced the altar I could not


then betray any preference by turning to the east
or refraining from doing so during the recital of the
Creed, and would thus ^ivoid offending either the
High or Low Church party.

I must not overlook in the list of my friends
Mr. Stokes, the Clerk of the Peace, a highly
cultivated and noble-minded gentleman, for whom
I had especial regard. He published a good deal
of poetry, which was appreciated in the county,
partly owing to its strong local feeling, but which
was never much read beyond its borders. I asked
my London bookseller whether he had sold many
copies. — " A fair number, but all to you."

The constituency during my connection with it
was thoroughly Liberal. Jingoism never prevailed
there. But I do not say that every one was en-
lightened. Soon after my first arrival at Bodmin
the railway was opened between it and Plymouth.
This caused the gentry in the neighbourhood to
make their purchases in Devonport instead of in
Bodmin. Thereupon a warm supporter of mine
asked me whether this was not a great shame,
and whether I could not introduce a Bill to prevent
it. I .said the idea seemed to me excellent, but was
perhaps a little difficult to carry out. Nevertheless,
I now commend it to our modern Protectionists.
At another time nearly all the shopkeepers came
to complain to me of Civil Servants being allowed
to establish stores, thereby competing with honest
traders. My agent did not mend matters when
he said that it was a horrid shame that persons

1847-80] REFORM BILL OF 1867 251

who considered themselves gentlemen should de-
mean themselves by standing behind counters, an
observation which was not much appreciated by
the tradesmen he was addressing, who, however,
were rather amused by it.

There were many other Bodmin friends whom
I should like to mention, but I fear the list has
already been too long. I will only say that I
entertain a most pleasing impression of my relations
with my constituents, who, with scarcely any
exception, treated me very well. O.i the other
hand, it saddens me to be reminded, whilst drawing
up the list, how very few of them have survived.
This is the chief drawback of a very long life.

The Reform Bill of 1867 deprived Bodmin of
one of its members, which caused me at the
following election to fight single-handed against
my former colleague, Mr. Wyld, who, luckily for
me, had lately given some Tory votes. Being
defeated, he brought in a petition against my
return, with what object I cannot say, as he had
no case. All I know is that on the eve of the
trial he offered to withdraw the petition on my
paying him no less a sum than ;^2,ooo. This
of course I refused to do. The Judge, in deciding
in my favour, said that from all the evidence
brouofht forward, he came to the conclusion that
Bodmin was one of the purest boroughs in England.
That had not been its reputation in former years.
It was rather scandalous that although full costs
were given to me, the trial cost me no less than


;i{^i,ooo — SO true is it that to obtain justice in
our Courts of Law is often a very costly pro-
ceeding. As the only weapon which I feared
might be used against me was perjury, I engaged
Sergeant Ballantyne, who was considered the best
cross-examiner at the Bar. My supporters were
disappointed by his not making a fiery oration.
I told him this, when he said it was better, with
a good case, to leave it in the hands of the Judge.
But according to Bowen, afterwards Chief Justice,
who was the Junior Counsel, the real reason was
that the Sergeant had not looked at his brief
before he entered the Court. Ballantyne was
very clever, but utterly unscrupulous. Bowen was
superior to him in every respect, and gradually
became appreciated as one of the most delightful
men of his day. I have never forgotten his smile
of congratulation to me when the Judge in the
course of his speech intimated that his decision
would be in my favour.

In the General Election of 1874, which was so
disastrous to the Liberal party, I succeeded in
retaining my seat. Mrs. Grote on this occasion
wrote to me as follows :

" The dissolution came upon us like a bombshell.
In my humble opinion it was wisely done, con-
sidering the disjointed condition of the party and
the wavering opinions of the more general public
outside. Remembering, as I do, the active and
earnest feeling formerly current thirty years ago
respecting politics, I am made more sensible of
the transition to a state of comparative indifference

1847-80] MY LAST ELECTION 253

which daily observation brings before me. An
old friend, an inhabitant of West Kent and hainng
votes in five counties, was with me yesterday for
a couple of hours. * I shall vote for West Kent,'
he said, 'but not for any other place. It seems
to me that the smaller Mr. G.'s majority, the
less risk we run of farther violent changes,' and
so forth. I fancy this is no unfair example of
the feeling among old Liberals of an instructed
stamp. The issue lies, in fact, between the Glad-
stone rashness and the Conservative inaction ; no
wonder the nation feels but slightly interested in
deciding it."

In a letter written after my election she said :

'* What a tornado we have experienced in the
political atmosphere ! The working of ' the repre-
sentative system ' has seldom been displayed in a
more unsatisfactory shape, I must say. However,
Bodmin has done its duty amid the strife, and
this is a real comfort to your faithful servant and

My last contest, in 1880, was the most severe.
A foolish fellow with more money than brains
came down to oppose me, professing at first Jingo
opinions. But finding that they were unacceptable
to the constituency he gradually adopted all my
views. The Tories in spite of this paid me the
compliment of refusing to support me. They were
joined by all the riff-raff in the place, attracted by
my opponent's lavish expenditure, which amounted
to several thousand pounds. It was highly
creditable to this small community, where wealth
did not abound and the temptation to take a bribe


was great, that the majority remained true to their
principles and placed me again at the head of the
poll. During the polling my opponent offered to
bet me a thousand pounds that he would be
returned, but, although confident of victory, I had
not the pluck to accept the bet. I might have
said to him what Mr. Sheridan said to an opponent
who threatened to knock out his brains, that he
would advise him if he did so to pick them up,
as he was sadly in want of them.



I AM ashamed to say that during the thirty-
three years I sat in the House of Commons
I took but a small share in its proceedings.
When my brother remonstrated with me I pleaded
diffidence, but he ascribed it to indolence. There
was some truth in both these views. It might
almost be said that I was one of the numerous
class of silent Members who, in the opinion of
many people, particularly of the Whips, are more
desirable legislators than many who are more
loquacious. With a few exceptions my speeches
referred to questions connected with Political
Economy. My first was in favour of the principle
of Limited Liability, for which I got reproved by
the great capitalist, Lord Overstone. Experience
has proved how much mistaken he was and how
marvellously the country has benefited by its

Lord Overstone was however always very good
to me. Mrs. Grote wrote to me of him, " I had
a long confab with Lord Overstone on Friday. He
is one of the wisest talkers I know, and eke an
honest citizen." He proposed me as a candidate



for the Political Economy Club. I myself pro-
posed for it Mr. Arthur Balfour, who, apart
from politics, has always been a general favourite.
Soon after his election he read to the Club, as
in duty bound, a paper in which he discussed
the question of trade following the flag, which
he himself strongly affirmed. His views were
generally condemned, and I do not think he
was pleased with the reception they met with.
Since then I never saw him at any of our
meetings. If he had continued to attend them
he might have formed more decided views on
such subjects than he seems now to entertain.

My next speech was when I seconded the
Address on the meeting of Parliament in the autumn
of 1854 in the midst of the Crimean War. My
duty was to interview previously Lord John
Russell, who was then the Leader of the House,
in order to receive his instructions. His words
were few. " I am glad you are going to second
the Address. You will know what to say. Good
morning." This was flattering, but a little more
guidance would have been acceptable.

I began by regretting that as far as I was
aware, it was the first time that a speech from
the throne alluded to only one topic, and I still
remember the hearty cheer with which Mr. Bright
greeted this remark. I then described the terrible
sufferings of our soldiers and the resignation with
which they bore them, consoling themselves with
the reflection that they had fought and suffered


on behalf of their country. I was afterwards
gratified to hear that these few words had caused
a dear relative of mine to shed tears. But she
had a tender heart, and was easily moved when
she heard of the sufferings of others.

On another occasion I was most unfortunate. A
debate on Italian affairs was coming on, for which
I had prepared an elaborate oration, collecting for
it many materials. On my way to the House I
called at the Privy Council Office to talk the
matter over with Frederick Cavendish, who was
my brother's private secretary. Unfortunately I
left my notes on his table, and when called upon
to speak, I felt for them in my pocket and found
it empty. My distress was great. I could not
sit down again, and was forced to struggle on as
I best could without any help from my notes.
The result was deplorable, and I was not consoled
by the Italian Minister being good-natured enough
to bestow upon my speech a few phrases of
conventional praise.

Lord Frederick Cavendish, who was murdered
in Phoenix Park, was as good as he was able,
and his sad death was a loss to his country. I
used to say of him that he was one of the few
persons I ever knew who might always think aloud,

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Online LibraryEdward Frederick Leveson-GowerBygone years; → online text (page 16 of 21)