George Nugent Grenville Nugent.

Some memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times online

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withdrawal and disavowal of the libel, was steadily resisted,
and even at the last, when, upon the supposed consent of Lord
Nugent' s representative in these negotiations, a written with-
drawal of the charges was printed in the offending journal,
Lord Nugent himself at once publicly declared that the
apparently modified tone of its disavowal was unsatisfactory to
him, and had not received his consent. Upon this, after a
few days' delay, the subjoined statement was given in the
most prominent part of the paper.

' The Proprietors of the regret that the paragraph published

' by them in the of Wednesday last, withdrawing imputations

' against the conduct of Lord Nugent in his Administration in the
c Ionian Islands, was not fully satisfactory to his Lordship. They
' now, however, wholly withdraw and disavow those imputations
' and regret their publication. Lord Nugent has discontinued his
e action on this further explanation, and on payment of the expenses
' of the suit.'

If anything could have strengthened Lord Nugent's title to
some mark of undiminished confidence from the Government
whose employment he had lately quitted, it was this undeserved
subjection to calumny from a paper known to be in the
Government interest at the time ; nor was it a less untoward
circumstance that the chief proprietor of this very paper,
while its apologies and retractations were in course of pre-



paration, should himself have received a public appointment.
But upon this I lay less stress, because I have before me
convincing evidence, in a letter of the Cabinet Minister by
whom that appointment was conferred, that he knew nothing
of the libel when the promise was given, that the libel had been
retracted before the gift was confirmed, and that his respect
and regard for Lord Nugent continued undiminished. Nor
can there be any impropriety in quoting the actual words of a
letter written at the time by the late Lord Holland. ' I feel,
( I assure you/ he writes to Lord Nugent,

' That the Government have a debt to discharge to you ; and I

* also feel much annoyed that it has been so long deferred. In

* this I really believe we all concur. The appointment of

' after libelling you, was- certainly unseasonable, but it was inad-
' yertently promised before that circumstance was adverted to ;

' and I do believe that , with all his offences to Lord

' Brougham and yourself, had some claims of an old date that
' were very strong on the party. The whole transaction has at
' least had this good effect, that it proves to all impartial men, not

' only that was not appointed for his recent conduct, but

' that neither the Government which had sent you out, that to
' which you resigned your office, or that which succeeded it, ever in
' the smallest degree implied dissatisfaction, much less censure of
' your administration.'

With this assurance Lord Nugent had to content himself,
for the debt which Lord Holland describes remained to the
close of his life undischarged. The employment of which he
was thus deprived, he never again, in any other form, received.
From his first entry into Parliament, at the earliest age at which
, he could enter it, he had at every conceivable sacrifice of family
interest and ambition, given undeviating support to the party
whose opinions had so long excluded them from power ; and in
all fairness it might have been thought that he had established
his title to share their better fortunes, as long as his capacity
and conduct should remain unimpeached. But it was a wrong


done, as well as a debt not paid. In accepting the Ionian
Government, lie had given up the personal influence of
residence which for so many years had secured him his seat at
Aylesbury, and by that studied and continued exclusion from
office to which he had now to submit, he was affected as much
in what are called personal interests, as in those which more
especially concern the credit of a position in public life. And
though, into the enforced abstinence from affairs to which he
was thus sentenced for several years he carried the conscious-
ness that his honour had been publicly and privately acquitted,
and that in fidelity to his principles as well as conduct to his party
he stood confessedly above reproach, it was not to be expected,
however friendly the assurances conveyed to him, that he should
accept without repining an exclusion which he felt to be unjust.
He made many attempts to resume his place in the House
of Commons. He was named for Marylebone in 1836, but on
the result of a ballot to determine the chances of the several
candidates proving adverse, he at once actively busied himself in
promoting the election of his more fortunate competitor ; and
he took the same disinterested course in 1838, when a similar
incident occurred. In 1837 he contested Aylesbury unsuc-
cessfully against Mr. Praed, and became convinced that the
attempt to recover the borough for the liberal party must
necessarily fail, where the contest involved only a single seat.
He publicly declared therefore, that in future, to protect his
friends against sacrifices uncalled for, because useless, he
would not ask them for their votes, except where the entire
representation was contested ; but the reserve thus practised
by himself he should also expect from others, and would object
to any other Liberal assuming to occupy his place until a
majority of the liberal voters should declare themselves dis-
satisfied with his prior and long-established claim to represent
them. ^Yhen, therefore, on the death of Mr. Praed in the
summer of 1839, a liberal candidate unexpectedly presented
himself in opposition to Captain Baillie Hamilton, Lord


Nugent was only fulfilling a pledge he was in honour bound
to redeem, in actively opposing such an attempt. His conduct
was impugned by a section of the popular party unconnected
with the borough, and he defended himself with spirit and
success. ' If my eager sincerity for the cause of reform/ he
said, ' now required any proof or defence, my life would have
' been passed to little purpose. My whole public career has
' been a series of personal sacrifices to the cause/ Certainly,
if an always unshrinking disregard of personal interests may be
accepted as honourable evidence of a sincerity and earnestness
of opinion, the fact of Lord Nugent' s could as little be doubted,
as that there would often have lain within his reach no small
temptations to abandon it, if he had ever allowed himself to
consider from what quarter the greater benefit would come.

Shortly after this election, he was engaged in a matter
having too direct a connection with the principal subject of
the present volume not to receive a brief mention here.
The Second Centenary of the Long Parliament, in 1840,
brought with it many a memorable anniversary, which the
writer of this imperfect sketch had the happiness to enjoy with
Lord Nugent ; for the author of the Life of Hampden had
taken a generous interest in a series of lives illustrating the
same great time, and for some years had opened to the writer
all the access to original materials he was able to command.
One of his many cordial letters now lying before me has
reference to one of these anniversaries, when a bottle of wine
was to be opened in Hampden's own hall at Great Hampden,
in celebration of the 3rd of November, 1640. 'Come/ he
wrote, ' and we will explore the whole of this beautiful and
' most interesting country, from the library where John
1 Hampden studied Davila, to the field where he received his
' death wound, and the church where he is buried. In the
' rectory of Hampden, there lives a liberal clergyman on a
' soil sacred to liberty. The old parsonage house which stood
' there, until pulled down a few years ago by barbarous hands


' (not my friend's), was inhabited by Lenthal, the Speaker's
' son, to whom John Harapden gave the living ; and who died,
' and his whole family, of the plague as it was said (perhaps
' of the Eestoration of Monarchy) in 1662, and with his whole
' family lies buried at the end of the garden/ At this visit,
the design suggested itself to Lord Nugent of marking, by a
simple memorial of a solid and enduring kind, the spot where
Hampden received his mortal wound, and of erecting it on the
anniversary of the second centenary of the fatal day atChalgrove.
' Yours usque ad inferos/ said Lord Denman, replying to the
letter inviting his co-operation, with an allusion to the disinter-
ment in Hampden Church, ' I cannot resist your company in
' attempting to give just honour to the great patriot, whose
' very identical body I am sure we saw. You must, however,
' set me down for the smallest subscription (5), and it must
' be with my initial, for I think there is a serious objection to
' judges volunteering any political profession/ In a like tone,
and to the same effect, Lord Leigh cordially responded, in
defiance of the ghosts of his jacobitical ancestors at Stoneleigh,
who, he said, were grinning at him from his family walls for
his apostasy from the principles of his forefathers. With no
need to apprehend such family terrors, but telling Lord Nugent
that he was still mindful of the old AYhig toast, and rejoiced
in the opportunity to declare his continued allegiance to the
' cause for which Hampden bled in the field, and Sidney and
' Russell on the scaffold/ the Duke of Bedford sent ,20.
Others as gladly gave their help, and sufficient money was
soon provided for the modest and unpretending design.

It was placed at Chalgrove field on Monday the 19th of June,
1843 (the actual anniversary of the fight, the 18th, falling on a
Sunday), when, as Lord Nugent wrote to me on the day follow-
ing, ' everything went off admirably well, many thousands on
' the field in the morning, and upwards of two hundred and fifty
' at dinner, gentry, farmers, &c., from all round, and a great
' many more unable to find room in our barn/ The monu-


ment thus raised is a plain and simple record, so durably
built as to offer good resistance to attacks of weather, and
deriving its sole interest from the inscription it bears. ' Here,
' in this field of Chalgrove, John Hampden, after an able
' and strenuous but unsuccessful resistance in parliament,
' and before the judges of the land, to the measures of an
' arbitrary court, first took arms, assembling the levies of the
' associated counties of Buckingham and Oxford, in 1642 ;
' and here, within a few paces of this spot, while fighting
' in defence of the free monarchy, and the ancient liberties of
' England, he received a wound of which he died, June 18,
' 1643. In the two hundredth year from that day, this stone
' was raised in reverence to his memory/ On the south side
are the names of those by whose subscriptions it had been
erected, and on the west are the arms of Hampden and his
deathless motto, Yestigia Nulla Eetrorsum. These it was
meant to have accompanied by a profile of the patriot, and
the intention, though afterwards abandoned, had associated Lady
Nugent in the work of honouring her husband's hero. She
executed with taste and skill a model in bas-relief founded on
the original portrait prefixed to this volume.

Nor should it be omitted that with Lord Nugent she had
also shared, some few years earlier than this, in the authorship
and publication of two small volumes of Legends of the
Library of Lilies ; * and that to a quarterly periodical devoted

* The delightful little seat in Buckinghamshire from which the book took
its title, the home to which Lord Nugent was tenderly attached for more
than five-and-thirty years, the scene of all his most cherished recollections,
and the place of his death, is described by himself in a preface to the first
volume, which may not unfitly be preserved here.

' If you would place yourself just mid- way between the three seas which

' form the boundaries of Southern England, you shall find yourself on a

' small knoll, covered with antique elm, walnut, and sycamore trees, which

' rises out of a vale famous in all time for the natural fertility of its soil,

' and the moral virtues of its people. On this knoll, fitly called by our

ancestors " the heart of South Britain," stood, distant about half-a-mile

from each other, two monasteries, known by the flowery appellatives of


to modern Greek literature, and the illustration of Greek history
and antiquities, which ought before to have had mention as
published by Lord Nugent at Corfu during his Ionian High
Comrnissionership, she had made some graceful contributions.

' Lilies and Roses ; not unaptly setting forth a promise of all that can
' recommend itself as fair and sweet unto the gentler senses. These
' edifices have, for many centuries, been no more ; but, on the site of the
' first mentioned of the two, standeth a small mansion, of Tudor architec-
' ture, bearing still its ancient name. Of the monastery little memorial
' beyond the name remains; save only that under a small enclosed space,
' erewhile its cemetery, now a wilderness of flowers, the bones of the monks
' repose. Two lines of artificial slope to the westward mark the boundaries
' of the pleasaunce, where they took their recreation, and cultivated their
' lentils and fruits ; and a range of thickly-walled cellar still retains the
' same destination and office as when it furnished to those holy men their
' more generous materials of refection.

' What more shall be said of the mansion, or of the domain, full seventy
' statute acres, which surrounds it ? of the herds and flocks content to
' thrive in silence on the richness of its fields, and thrive they do in
' wondrous measure of prosperity? Nothing. Nor much of that more
' gamesome troop of idling steeds, though pleasant to their master's eye,
' who, on its green expanse, frisk and gambol out a sportive colt-hood, or
' gaze and hobble through a tranquil old age, with the active and laborious
' honours of a public life past, but not forgotten. Little shall be said of
' that smooth and narrow pool, scarce visible among the rising shrubs
' which belt in and shroud the grounds from the incurious wayfarer ; or
' of such carp and tench as, having 'scaped the treacherous toils of the
' nightly plunderer, gasp and tumble on its surface, delighting to display
' their golden pride in the mid-day sun, before the gaze of lawful posses-
' sion. Nor shall the casual reader be led carelessly and wearily to note
' the many sweet memorials of private friendship, records of the living and
' the dead, which, standing forth from amid the lightsome glades and leafy
' shadows around, make the place sacred to many a strong affection.
' Romantic the scenery without is not, and for spacious halls and gorgeous
' canopies the eye may search in vain within. But for the warm cheer of
' the little oak library, for the quaint carvings, the tracery of other times,
which abound therein, for the awful note of the blood-hound, baying upon
midnight chain, and the pleasing melancholy of the hooting owl from
^>is hereditary chamber in the roof, and for the tunefulness of the cooing

8 ood-quests, and the morning rooks which bustle and caw, and of the
' high winds that pipe and roar, daily and nightly, through the boughs,
' and for the deep glossy verdure of the pastures stretching forth to the
' brave distant hills which fence the vale, to those who in such things
' take delight, Lilies hath still its charms.'


It may also seem peculiarly befitting that here, before passing
from the subject of Hampden, some reference should be made
to an Imaginary Dialogue which Lord Nugent wrote some few
years after this date, and published as a Tract entitled True
and Faithful Relation of a Worthy Discourse between Colonel
John Hampden and Colonel Oliver Cromwell. Preceded by an
explanatory preface. The discourse is supposed to have been
overheard and reported by an Independent divine, and its drift
was to exhibit the probable influence which Colonel John
might have exerted over Colonel Oliver, if his life had been
spared, by contrasting Cromwell's grand but impracticable
theories with the more limited but more practicable views of
Hampden. It was one of those clever imitations of the political
and oratorical literature of the seventeenth century, which
could only have been written by one to whom its books and
men were familiar; and being put forth (of course anonymously)
in the quaint old-faced letter of its period, Lord Nugent took
great delight in the success with which he was able, by means
of a copy elaborately stained with tobacco-juice, to pass it oft'
upon his uncle, Mr. Thomas Grenville, no indifferent judge of
such matters, as a genuine piece of Commonwealth literature.

The six winter and spring months between December 1843
and May 1844 were passed by Lord Nugent in travel through

To complete this description, a brief reference only needs to be added
to certain trees scattered over the grounds, each with a stone memorial
at its base bearing the name of the friend who planted it, and the date
which was to keep that event memorable in the calendar at Lilies ; and
among the friendly memories thus kept green and fresh in Lord Nugent's
country home were those of public and private friends as various as
the pursuits and tastes of his life had been, living statesmen, exiled
patriots, and distinguished men of letters. Passing through the grounds
not many weeks ago, and observing the care with which every association
dear to Lord Nugent is still kept and cherished by their present possessor,
I saw, among other names attached to goodly trees of various growth,
those of the Duke of Sussex, Lord John Russell, Lord Fortescue. Mr.
Dickens, Lord Denman, Mr. Landor, Mr. Jerrold, M. Argiielles, some
younger members of the Fortescue family, Mr. Ains worth, Mr. Gleed, the
late public orator at Oxford, and Mr. Westmacot the sculptor.


Athens, Egypt, the Holy Land, and Syria ; and, both as he
went and returned, lie made a brief stay at his former seat of
government ill Corfu, from which he brought a frank and
cordial impression of Lord Seaton's policy and success. He
afterwards published some results of this journey in a scholarly
and agreeable book, Lands Classical and Sacred, as full of nice
observation as of ingenious suggestion, and from which, in
any less limited space than the present, the temptation would
be great to quote some of its passages of personal adventure.*
His attention to public affairs suffered no abatement, how-
ever, either from literature or travel. He had taken peculiar
interest in the wider social direction given to legislative
enquiry during the last few years; and politics had never
seemed to him so attractive a pursuit, as when they less
derived their interest from influencing party struggles than
from improving and benefiting great masses of the people.
He was never so anxious to enter parliament as when free-

* One brief but amusing little picture may at least find insertion
in this note, for it quietly expresses Lord Nugerft's sense of humour,
together with the quick and ready perception which enabled him so often
to indulge it. He is describing the principal clown or jester in attendance
on a puppet-master and conjuror in the streets of Cairo. ' His principal
' jest was this : Every now and then he would pick a quarrel with the
' puppets, and aim a blow at them with a strap or courbash, apparently
' with intent to kill ; but always contriving to make the instrument miss
' his intended victim, and come round with a loud crack on his own
' shoulders. This was always received, happen as often as it would, with
' shrieks of delight by the bystanders, children, women, and men of all ages
' and conditions. There was one very venerable and well-dressed old
' gentleman, in a flowing caftan of yellow silk and ample turban, with a
' large chaplet of beads round his neck, and a long amber-lipped chibouk,
' which he silently and gravely smoked, never disturbing it, save as often
' as this event of the clown's self-castigation occurred. This, however, was
' too much for his gravity, which, from his appearance at all other moments,
I doubt whether anything else ever did or could affect. This never
' failed. I do not remember ever passing this group without seeing this
' same old gentleman always contemplating this performance, and his pipe
' always alight. He was probably some merchant or agent, who daily set
' forth with intent to cross the Esbekieh on business, but never could
' succeed in passing this spot.'


trade measures came under discussion, and upon the last
struggle of the Melbourne Ministry in 1842 he had polled
between five and six hundred votes against the Tory candidates
at Southampton. A correspondence of some interest on the
subject of free-trade passed between himself and the late Lord
Grey soon after this contest, in which his own distrust of
Sir Robert Peel's sliding-scale proposals somewhat strikingly
contrasted with the view of them taken by the veteran statesman.
* To the principles of free-trade/ Lord Grey wrote in one letter
(after a deserved compliment to Lord Nugent' s ' honest and
' manly spirit '), ' I offer no objection. But in their practical
' application they must be subject to many and various con-
' siderations ; and even if I thought as you do, I should have
' acquiesced in Sir Robert Peel's proposition, under whatever
' protest I might have thought necessary as to my own
' opinions. It certainly is a large and important concession,
1 and acknowledged by all to be a great improvement of the
' present system. To considering it, had I been a member of
' the House of Commons, I should have added one to the
' majority. It is, at all events, an important step, and if it
' does not practically succeed, as I hope it will, believing the
' country to be by no means so adverse to it as you suppose, it
' would materially strengthen and assist your opinions/

Lord Nugent had frequent reason to recall those words as
he watched the progress of events between 1842 and 1847,
when, on the fall of Sir Robert Peel, after the services and
sacrifices which have endeared his name and memory to the
masses of his countrymen, he contested Aylesbury at the
general election in the latter year, and was triumphantly
returned. He did not affect to conceal or make light of the
exultation and pride with which he received this testimony of
continued attachment from the constituency which first
returned him to parliament, and in whose service he had now
the happiness to think that he should end life as he had
begun it, Member for -the borough of Aylesbury. 'For


' many, many years/ lie told them, ' it has been my fond
' ambition again to serve you in parliament. That strong
' desire has lured me, not coy or reluctant certainly, but with
' every desire and energy engaged in it, from a most pleasant
' retirement, from a happy home, from my darling books
' which, after family and dear friends, of alF things I love the
' most ; and to the utmost of my power I will serve you
' faithfully. I have no design of looking through parliament
' for official power. When my service may be fulfilled, I
f desire no greater reward, no fairer epitaph in your memory,
' than that I have through life maintained the confidence of my
' friends, and never, by want of courtesy or honesty, deserved
' rancour from my opponents ; that I have been, without
' distinction of persons, through good report or evil, the
' opposer of bad government, and the faithful upholder of good,
' the resister of oppression, the advocate of religious freedom,
' and as in the beginning, so to the end, the unflinching
' promoter, according to the best means God may give me, of
' that greatest of His gifts to man, after reason, Liberty/

Soon this sense of gladness and satisfaction, however, was
to have a dark and melancholy shade drawn over it by a
domestic grief, a saddening of that " happy home/ which no
personal success or public acquisition could redeem. The
health of Lady Nugent, which had long been extremely
delicate, finally gave way in the spring of 1848; and if any
of his friends had yet to learn what a manly and true spirit
Lord Nugent possessed, they should have seen him at that
time. Upon a grief so sacred it would little become even the
friendliest speech to intrude, but in his own simple and truthful

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 6 of 45)