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1 Hist. MSS. Comm., ibid.



WAYS AND MEANS 113

great improvement in agriculture, but as the cen-
tury progressed England suffered too, and the new
poorhouses or Houses of Industry, as they were
officially termed, provided by rates levied on unions
of neighbouring parishes, were universally dubbed
Bastilles and regarded with the utmost loathing
and terror. Country gentlemen and magistrates
subscribed to supply soup for the poor, usually, as
appears from various recipes, made out of potatoes
or rice, for a series of wet summers sent corn to
famine prices, and starvation in the 'eighties and
'nineties became a frequent cause of death.

At the same time luxury in the metropolis grew
no less. Noblemen competed for the best cooks-
sixty guineas was no unusual wage for one. Drink-
ing was as heavy at the close of the century as
earlier. " Good-humoured " seems to have been a
term equivalent to intoxicated, when a man like
"honest Harry Bellenden," amiably deplored by
a host of friends, feasted and drank himself to
death. Walpole found it impossible to regret the
decease of his brother Edward's son, though he was
but a little over thirty and a young man of good
parts, but "sunk into such habits of drinking and
gaming that the first ruined his constitution and
the latter would have ruined his father."

Semi-intoxication was no unusual sight in draw-
ing-rooms or in the Houses of Parliament. The
tears which members were so constantly shedding
at their own or other orators' impassioned harangues
are to be placed rather to the credit of port wine
than to their chastened sensibilities. Townshend,

i



1 1 4 HORACE WALPOLE'S WORLD

Fox, Pitt, and Dundas, were no more habitually
sober than country squires.

It is an unpleasant side of the picture, but it
ought not to be forgotten in estimating the worth
of the brilliance of the eighteenth century.

People so contemptuous of business were not
likely to pay more attention to that of their
country than they did to their own. There was a
general tendency to treat all office as a species of
dilettantism, and to make it as much as possible a
sinecure by appointing deputies to attend to the
necessary work. The salaries for the most part
were so large as to permit of this being done with
profit: but the deputies, too, were appointed either
out of private friendship or for hard cash, and in
neither case was there much guarantee of efficiency;
besides, as the deputy had no very high salary there
was every temptation to him to make profits for
himself, if he could, by methods more or less
illicit, which, under the extremely lax modes of
inspecting accounts, were often easily practised.

Patronage and perquisites were two crying evils
of English government during this lavish epoch.

Every official, minister, and department had a
numberof places in absolute gift; no examination, no
testimonial need be exacted. Lady Mary Coke tells a
little tale 1 which shows how easily an appointment
might depend upon the merest freak of a minister.
She had gone, one day in 1767, to visit her sister
Lady Dalkeith, wife of Charles Townshend, then
Chancellor of the Exchequer; and "the Treasury
1 Letters and Journals of Lady Mary Coke, vol. i.



WAYS AND MEANS 115

was setting, and the Duke of Grafton and Mr.
Townshend look'd out of the Window and invited
me to come in. As I had never seen the Treasury
Chamber I accepted the invitation and Lady Dal-
keith went with me. They desir'd me to sit in the
King's Chair . . . when I had placed myself the
Chancellor of the Exchequer desired me to make
a request. The favour came so unexpected that I
was at a loss what to ask. ..." But luckily she re-
collected a person to whom she was much obliged,
for whom she had only been able to obtain "a land
waiter's place at Bristol," and who had begged
her to get him a better place because his family was
large and he wished to give them a good educa-
tion. So she wrote this man's name down, and
was promised that he should have the first vacancy
which occurred.

The invariable bestowal, under George III, of
military and naval posts by favouritism is almost too
well known to need illustration. Sometimes an edify-
ing battle raged between two rival patrons striving
to secure a place or a promotion for their respective
favourites; the most exalted strife of this kind
was that over the competing merits of the Keppels
and the Howes, waged between personages of no less
degree than William, Duke of Cumberland, and his
nephew King George III, a struggle wherein the
King, naturally, was able to win the ostensible
victory, but in which the national voice and sub-
sequent credit remained with the abler family of
Keppel.

The public service was the last consideration



u6 HORACE WALPOLE'S WORLD

entertained. One of Sackville's correspondents
holds it a laudably bold proceeding on the part of
General Wall (in 1780) to name a practical man
barrack master of the garrison at Gorea "in lieu
of a little boy about eight years old that formerly
was nominated to that office." That the neglected
troops in that post were allowed no fresh meat,
though it was plentiful and cheap, was regrettable
but not surprising. But hints of this kind were
not likely to move Sackville. His friend Governor
Murray could appeal to him confidently on behalf
of a nephew who must be "honourably" extricated
from the West Indies by promotion to a regiment
at home. This favour Sackville is to extort by
means of General Amherst, in the midst of the
American War. On the other hand Lord George
Sackville was always able to promote his personal
supporters. Irwin, a steady voter, is early pro-
mised the King's personal favour (in 1767), and
duly became a general. Of his military achieve-
ments history appears to be uninformed, but "Lady
George says nobody understands lace so well as
General Irwin," and he was asked to lay out ,50
at Paris on new ruffles for Lord George.

In the minor degrees everything rested on in-
fluence, people even asked for places as if they
were objects transferable from hand to hand.
Lord Clive 1 found himself asked for " a com-
mission " for a friend's relative who was going to
India, and gently stipulated that it was at least
necessary that he should know the gentleman's
1 Hist. MSS. Comm., 1909, Various, vi.



WAYS AND MEANS 117

name and the district in India to which he was to
go. Influence descended to the minutest particu-
lars: Lord Sandwich "expects" Captain Corn-
wallis (afterwards the famous Admiral) in some
manner to advance a surgeon's mate who is on his
ship, " because his relations at Huntingdon are my
particular friends. I cannot, therefore, at their
intercession, avoid recommending him to your pro-
tection."

Sandwich was notoriously brazen, venal, and
partial. But a man of better standing, the Earl of
Mornington, pestered poor Captain Cornwallis
with personal requests. One of his sons was a
middy on board, and though his lordship does not
in general approve of making exceptions, and
thinks it only proper that a lad should, as a rule,
go through the duties of his profession, still, in this
case, as Lady Mornington is crying all day, and
as the climate of the West Indies is known to be
unwholesome, and as his son certainly felt the heat
trying before, he does desire Captain Cornwallis to
send William home at once if the climate of the
first West India island they touch at in the least
disagrees with him. This was in 1778, in the midst
of a great war. William Wellesley was promptly
sent home at the first opportunity. In due course
of time, but apparently without further naval ex-
perience, he became Secretary to the Admiralty.

A post might go from deputy to deputy. Lord
George Sackville left the work of his own good place
in the Irish government to be transacted by a man
who, after long service, became too old and ill to



n8 HORACE WALPOLE'S WORLD

do it ; so it went through the hands of a nephew,
one Patrickson; this "third deputy is a young
man of much merit," writes Sackville's informant,
"perhaps it would be reasonable to give Green a
pension after his 48 years service. Patrickson
gives up all his time to the office, and receives
at present only ,50 a year."

Deputies and assistants to influential persons
usually do seem to have obtained pensions, but by
no means from the pockets of the wealthy sinecur-
ists whose work they had been attending to. They
were quartered on the revenues of the nation, their
pensions being treated as party questions, and voted
on according to the popularity of the minister
concerned.

So completely had the word, pension acquired a
sinister meaning, so unheard-of was the gift of a
pension for anything but a political service or a
political bribe, that the acceptance of one was taken
for a public acknowledgment of servility to govern-
ment, and neutralized all previous merit. Dr. John-
son was frequently vilified for accepting one; Wai-
pole, who despised Johnson for his "teeth-breaking
diction " and his bad manners, allowed that he
"had sense, till he changed it for words, and sold
it for a pension." The acceptance of even a pro-
fessorship or a canonry, being crown appointments,
he considered dubious; " I know that till [Gray]
did accept the Professorship from the Duke of
Grafton, it was my constant belief that he would
scorn any place."

The system, then, had produced the absurd re-



WAYS AND MEANS 119

suit that real merit must not be provided for at
all. The outcry on Pitt's acceptance of a pension
is voiced by none more vehemently than by Wai-
pole, who, as he says, had honestly believed the great
minister possessed of real integrity and animated
only by public duty. 1

" I adored Mr. Pitt, as if I was just come from
school and reading Livy's lies of Brutus and
Camillus, and Fabius, and romance knows whom.
Alack! Alack! Mr. Pitt loves an estate as well as
my Lord Bath!"

" Pray, sir [Horry asks Montagu], how does vir-
tue sell in Ireland now ? I think for a province they
have now and then given large prices. Have you
a mind to know what the biggest virtue in the
world is worth? If Cicero had been a Drawcansir
instead of a coward . . . for how much do you
think he would have sold all that reputation? . . .
You are so incorrupt yourself, you would give the
world Mju^_P]tt was so too you adore him for
what he has done for us ; you bless him for placing
England at the head of Europe, . . . wej>we the
recoygry_of^^ur affairs to him. . . . Nothing is
too much for such services accordingly I hope
you will not think the barony of Chatham and 3,000
pounds a year for three lives too much Tor my Lady
Esther. She has this pittance."

" Three thousand pounds a year for three lives
[he tells Conway]. Not to Mr. Pitt you can't

1 See Nos. 782 to 786.



120 HORACE WALPOLE'S WORLD

suppose it. Why truly not the title, but the
annuity does, and Lady Hester is the baroness;
that, if he should please, he may earn an earldom
himself. Don't believe me, if you have not a mind.
I know I did not believe those who told me. But
ask the Gazette that swears it ask the King,
who has kissed Lady Hester ask the City of
London, who are ready to tear^Mr.'^FTtt to pieces
ask forty people I can name, who are over-
joyed at it and then ask me again, who am
mortified, and who have been the dupe of his dis-
interestedness. Oh, my dear Harry ! I beg you on
my knees, keep your virtue: do let me think there
is still one man upon earth who despises money."

That Pitt had broken his health and neglected
his own interests in the service of the nation, that
he had rejijsed to take_the custojTTarvperqui sites
of his offices, that he had come poor from a situa-
t ion in which Fox had reaped a golden harvest,
that he had not obtained sinecures for his family:
all this could not entitle him to a provision for his
wife and young children. Three thousand a year
for three Pitt lives, by pension, was scandalous,
though two thousand a year, in a patent office, for
three Walpole lives was reasonable royal gratitude.

Walpole forgot that to despise money was pos-
sible only to men whose families could live on air
or who were provided for (like Conway and himself)
by fortunes bestowed already. He was, however,
scrupulously fair towards his own subordinates, and
he received honest service from them. The rever-



WAYS AND MEANS 121

sion of his Exchequer place was assured to Samuel
Martin, that notorious member of the Court party
who tried to murder Wilkes in a duel. At any news
of Walpole's illness, Martin sent ostentatiously to
inquire after him, and once betook himself to the
deputy, Mr. Grosvenor Bedford, to inquire the real
value of the office with all its perquisites. Bedford
would not betray his master's confidence, and was
roundly told that the moment Walpole died he
should be dismissed. As little to the credit of the
methods of the Court section was an attempt made
by the wealthy Hollands to provide for their run-
away niece, Lady Susan O'Brien, by pestering
Walpole to dismiss Mr. Bedford and hand over the
post to O'Brien. Walpole was a friend of the
Foxes, which might make it difficult to refuse, but
he defeated Lord and Lady Holland by treating
them as honest persons, and assuming that they
had meant to buy out Mr. Bedford. He could not
possibly ask his deputy to resign the post which
procured him a living, he said, but he was perfectly
ready to vacate two small places held by himself
"at what they should be reckoned worth fairly.
They did not choose to pay the price for them. ..."
At a time when favouritism was only equalled
by servility, it was the perpetual boast of Horace
Walpole that he was independent. He was never
assertive of his own merits save in this one particu-
lar. Possibly it may seem to need some asserting,
for he and his brothers drew the whole of their
ample means from the public purse, the principal
difference between their position and that of any



122 HORACE WALPOLE'S WORLD

common place-holder being" that their places had
been bestowed by royal gift of George II (as patents)
and were inalienable by any subsequent king or
minister. They were permanent abuses.

In the eyes of Horace Walpole this made all the
difference. He held his office and revenue by as
lawful and hereditary a right, he declared, as any
nobleman his estates and title. It was a fine thing
to remember that Sir Robert Walpole had refrained
from heaping up a great fortune by using his un-
doubted opportunities. The King had rewarded
him by endowing his three sons, not with pensions,
but with ancient offices to which, from time im-
memorial, were attached salaries or fees which the
alterations of time and of money had chanced to
make very valuable. The eldest son was Auditor
of the Exchequer, the second, Clerk of the Pells,
Horace himself, Usher of the Exchequer, besides
sharing with his brother Edward a collectorship of
the Customs, granted to Sir Robert for three lives,
an office from which Horace drew the major share
of the revenue.

Certainly during his long tenure of his places
Horace Walpole always acted with probity and dig-
nity. His income consisted partly in a fixed sumfrom
the Customs of ^"1,400 a year, partly from regular
commissions on certain Exchequer transactions,
the profits of which had increased very greatly. The
duties of the ancient office of Usher were " to shut
the gates of the Exchequer and furnish paper, pens,
ink, wax, sand, tape, penknives, scissors, parch-
ment," etc., to the exchequer and treasury officials,



WAYS AND MEANS 123

and to pay tradesmen's bills. This business was
of course transacted by Walpole's deputy, Mr. Bed-
ford, whom he paid, but he was himself responsible
for all the payments and purchases above men-
tioned. The disagreeable part of his post was that
though it was a place for life, and though the emolu-
ments were certain (according to a scale drawn up in
the reign of Edward III) the actual disbursement
of moneys to Mr. Walpole could not be made
without warrants signed by the First Lord of the
Treasury, who could, if he chose, continually defer
payment, and thus might exercise pressure on the
votes of the Usher. Horace expressly declares that
he suffered seldom in this way, although he had never
once attended the lev^e of a First Minister: "If I
have been proud, they have been just," and Lord
North in particular was punctual and obliging.
No one but the Duke of Bedford appears to have
made a mean use of this paltry opportunity of doing
mischief.

Where temptation offered was by the loophole
for obtaining perquisites. A habit had been con-
nived at of other officials obtaining goods for them-
selves out of the Exchequer, either for some small
payment to the clerk, or as a bribe for their favour.
But against this Walpole set his face, once writing
a sharp letter to Mr. Bedford for permitting such
an irregularity, and taking the loss resulting from
the transaction on himself; he was very willing,
he said, that the applicant should have the cloth
he wanted, "only then I will pay for it myself."
44 1 will have no secrets in my office." And in his



i2 4 HORACE WALPOLE'S WORLD

old age he was able to say: " In more than forty
years I have never received a serious complaint nor
given occasion to one."

' * For forty good years I have made it my rule
not to ask a favour of any minister, that he might
not think he had a claim on my servility, or call
me ungrateful if I did not accept his draft "; so he
proudly wrote towards the close of his life. If he
a little overstated the case, at least, on the very
few occasions when he did ask a concession, or a
kindness to a friend, he was convinced that he had
a clear right to ask, and that he would owe nothing
in return. " I have all my life missed the fairest
opportunities; and am glad I have, because I
should blush if I had ever owed anything to solici-
tation." " I choose to have no obligations but to
him to whom I owed everything," i.e., to his
father.

At all events, he acted up to his own estimate
of himself. When places and salaries were ordered
to be taxed, he found the value of his Exchequer
place set down as ,4,100 per annum, a sum to
which it had but once risen, but he made no com-
plaint of being overrated. And when in 1783 an
idea was broached of abolishing these obsolete
places, Walpole wrote to Lord Shelburne to beg
that his " patent" might be no obstacle to any
necessary reformation, adding, " I wish my age of
sixty-six and my infirmities did not reduce this
tender to a very immeritorious one, for to give up
what I have very little time to enjoy is no very
heroic effort." He was at once assured that all



WAYS AND MEANS 125

holders of places abolished would be pensioned,
and it was only then that he declared his place far
over- valued at .4,000 a year, and that he would
refuse any such sum ; ,2,000 would amply content
him (this was considerably under its average worth),
but he would infinitely rather, he said, that instead
of bestowing" the overplus on himself, some pro-
vision should be made for his deputy and clerk, who
would otherwise suffer severely.

All the same, this immaculately independent
place-holder felt it unfair that he should suffer
under the disconcerting prospect of losing the half
of his income if his elder brother Edward should
happen to die before him. He drew (as stated
above) a considerable sum from the Collectorship
of the Customs held nominally by Edward. The
place having been originally bestowed for three
lives, and Edward's being the last, it was not un-
natural in Horace to wish that his own name, as
the real receiver of almost all the profits of it,
should be added to his brother's. But this would
make it a place for four lives, and the addition of
the fresh name, however reasonable in itself, was
a favour asked by a man who boasted of republican
sympathies, would support no ministry, and was
neither courtier nor politician. Nevertheless Wai-
pole asked twice, if not thrice, for this concession ;
Pelham was willing to change the name, but Horace
was too just and punctilious to allow his brother
even to be asked to consent. The Duke of Bed-
ford (if this was the favour which Walpole asked
him) refused with a roundness which kindled Wai-



126 HORACE WALPOLE'S WORLD

pole's resentment. The Duke might have reflected,
he observes, that it was but a very trifling favour
he had asked, for, to be sure, had he desired any-
thing of importance he would have addressed him-
self to the Duke's governess, the Duchess.



VI

SOCIETY IN FRANCE BEFORE THE
REVOLUTION



""HE spirit of change which, during the first
J_ decades of the reign of George III, was pre-
paring such radical alteration in Ireland, and even
in England, was at work yet more jvehemently in
France and with symptoms which puzzled English
travellers.

Ever since the Gre^JL-RehellionJiad driven the
best blood of England to take refuge in France,
England had turned thither for guidance in man-
ners and literature, and to Paris, as the home of
elegance and culture, hastened, throughout the
eighteenth century, our youth in training for polite
manhood and our nobility on holiday. The wars
of the eighteenth century merely interrupted__for a
few years. the tide of pilgrims; indeed the Seven
Years' War, ended in 1763, seemed to stimulate
French curiosity about England, for a number of
distinguished French made their way hither, on the
score of assisting in the negotiations, to be received
with every attention by delighted English hosts.
The war had not been in any sense prompted by
national hatreds.

In the summer of 1765 Horace Walpole con-

127



128 HORACE WALPOLE'S WORLD

trived to tear himself from the charms of his
Strawberry Hill and follow the prevalent fashion,
or, as he expressed it, sought abroad a refuge from
the annoyance of parliamentary politics, and
braved the sea passage he detested so much : it
was so likely to bring on the gout, and l ' one should
look so silly to be drowned at my age." He was
encouraged, he averred, by the recent invention
of a "marine belt": "You buckle it on, and
walk upon the sea as you would upon a grass-
plot," adding with characteristic irreverence, " the
discovery, to be sure, has given an ugly shock to
one of our best miracles but I give it up with
Christian patience, being convinced that the art of
flying will be next reduced to practice."

His first impressions of the country surprised
him. JN^owhere was there any sign of the strain and
in Fn^lariH to have been produced



by the wars. Walpole thought France wonderfully
he had last seen it. twentv-tour years



earlier. " Boulogne is grown quite a plump snug
town, with a number of new houses. The worst
villages are tight, and wooden shoes have dis-
appeared. Mr. Pitt and the City of London may
fancy what they will, but France will not come
a-begging to the Mansion House this year or
two."

Walpole only saw, of course, the route from the
coast to the capital, for more than ever was Paris
France, and few travellers dreamed of going fur-
ther afield. He debated, indeed, whether the air
of opulence might not be imputed chiefly to the



SOCIETY IN FRANCE 129

stream of English visitors. He himself might
spend but ten guineas on the road, but few were
so economical; the ninety-nine English whom
Lord Hertford had to dinner on the King's birth-
day would account for a considerable expenditure.

But a more practical observer corroborates his
impression of the wealth of agricultural France.
William Knox was on his way to Paris almost as
soon as the Peace was signed, and writes l im-
pressively to his patron, Charles Townshend:

11 I always thought England very happy in
giving birth to Mr. Pitt and yourself, but I am
now exceedingly thankful that neither of you are
Frenchmen."

This is not, as the next passage appears to sug-
gest, because they would, in that case, have missed
their customary sport: " I have travelled two hun-
dred miles through a cornfield in coming to this
town without seeing a single acre of uncultivated
ground no rocks, no hills, no woods, nor even
fences, so careful are the peasants to improve
every inch of their holding, and so watchfull is the
police to preserve the property of every individual
from the depredations of another. The Govern-
ment alone may here steal, or rather rob, with
impunity." The "immensity of the tillage and
the neatness of the farms " convinced Knox that
the resources of the nation were ample. France
had not succumbed in the war from inherent weak-


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