Charles James Fox.

Memorials and correspondence of Charles James Fox (Volume 1) online

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made Master of the Rolls.

" It is said that Charles Yorke refused the Attorney-General-
ship, because Lord Sandwich would not comply with some of his
demands relative to Cambridge. He insisted .that Lord Sand-
wich should give him his word never to oppose any Cambridge-
man whom Lord Hardwick and Yorke should recommend. If
this be his reason, why did he accept the patent of precedency?
Churchill is dead. His friend Wilkes has published a pamphlet
called a letter to his constituents at Aylesbury, and sent it to
London by Mr. Stanley's servant to Lords Mansfield, Halifax,

' [Dr. Ne-wcome was appointed to an Irish bisliopric in 1767, and after
various translations lie was promoted, during Lord Fitzwilliam's short
Lieutenancy, to the Primacy. It was said at Dublin, when Lord Fitz-
William was abruptly recalled, that Dr. Newcome's appointment was the
only lasting benefit he had been able to confer on Ireland. — J. A.]


Sandwich, Temple, and others. It contains nothing but a justi-
fication of his conduct as to the ^ North Briton.' He says it
was respectful to the King. The ' Essay on Woman' he calls
an idle poem, in which he had ridiculed nothing but a creed
which the great Tillotson wished the Church of England fairly
rid of. It contains violent abuse of Lord Mansfield

" This is all the public news I can think of. If I recollect
more before I finish I shall put it in, though perhaps you may
have heard all before from some other correspondent. Now for
private news. The Duke and Duchess of Grafton are parted.
I cannot learn the immediate reason of their separation. All I
have heard is, that their tempers did not suit. Our friend
Hinchclifie^ is tutor to the Duke of Devonshire, by which he has
600Z. a year. I have not seen him since. Crewe is in town.
James I saw two days ago, who intends writing to you soon.
Crawford goes with me to-morrow to Bunbury's, where Upton,^
I believe, will come too.

" Lord and Lady Holland and Harry go to-morrow to Good-
wood. We have heard lately from my brother (Stephen) ; he
is very well, and loves Paris better than ever. Mrs. and Miss
Greville^ went out of town the 18th. Miss Greville had been
ill, but was recovered. I forgot to tell you that we do not hear
my brother plays, which, I believe, you will be glad to hear.
My mother is very well. My father complained of pain in his
knees, but he is' now better, and, in my opinion, very well ; he
has had the asthma once or twice, but not bad.

" We have heard from Lady Susan since her arrival at New
York. I do not think they will make much of their lands, and
I fear it will be impossible to get O'Brien a place. I like
Oxford well enough. I read there a great deal, and am very
fond of mathematics. I believe I shall go to Paris in the
spring with my mother; Lady Sarah,* perhaps, may go with us.
She will probably return with us. I fear you had a very un-

J Afterwards Bisliop of Peterborougli.

2 Afterwards Lord Templcton. ^ Afterwards Mrs. Crewe.

^ Lady Sarah Lennox.


pleasant journey. I hope the cold of Petersburg agrees with
you. We have very cold weather here. I hope to hear from
you very soon. I can recollect nothing more at present you can
wish to hear, except that I am very well. Believe me, my dear
Macartney, I sincerely wish you so, and that you may always be
happy. Any professions of friendship would be needless from
one whom you know to be so affectionate a friend. I wish sin-
cerely for our meeting. If you stay long in Russia, I may per-
haps visit you there.

" Adieu,

^' Yours unalterably,

"C. J. FOX."

Mr. Fox had always a great regard for Lord Macartney, and
thought him, as he was, a very friendly and honorable man.
But Mr. Fox did not retain the high notion he had conceived of
his abilities early in life, and used afterwards to smile at himself
for having mistaken Macartney's singular memory and absurd
paradoxes for great acquirements and abilities. Macartney was
in truth a foolish, good sort of man, with a prodigious memory,
and a playful sort of self-sufficiency, which induced him to sport
paradoxes he could not maintain, and to imagine that those
whom he invited to laugh at them secretly admired him for his
courage or ingenuity in avowing them. He was much too
aifected and artificial to suit Mr. Fox as a companion, and much
too worldly to espouse his politics or attach himself to him in

Horace Walpole says of Macartney in 1768, ^' He was a young
and handsome Irishman attached to Lord Holland, with whose
eldest son he had travelled as a kind of governor. He was an
amiable man, with various knowledge and singular memory, but
no other extraordinary talents."^ The character is a just one.

1 H. Walpole's Memoirs.
VOL. I. — 4



" Oxford, February 13, 1765.

" Dear Macartney : —

'^ I received, about a month ago, a letter from you, dated
Memel, in Russia, wliicli gave me great pleasure, as it gives me
hopes that I shall hear from you pretty constantly. You cannot
expect to hear much from this place. All I know that you can
wish to hear is that Sir William Meredith made, the 29th of
last month, a motion to declare (general) warrants illegal, and
that it was determined not to put the question by a majority of
224 to 185. I really know no more of politics, but will send
this open to my father, who will perhaps tell you more. I refer
you to him for news from Ste, as I have not heard from him.
I am heartily obliged to you for your advice about French,
which I will undoubtedly follow, as I am thoroughly convinced
of its utility.* I read here much, and like vastly (what I know
you think useless) mathematics. I believe they are useful, and
I am sure they are entertaining,^ which is alone enough to re-

* He kept his promise ; and, in the course of that and the two ensuing
years, made himself an excellent Frenchman. Few Englishmen have
ever spoken or written that language with more care and correctness.
Napoleon is made, in some memoirs, to quote Mr. Fox as saying some-
thing — " dans son viauvais Francais.^'' I think it is unlikely; but, if true,
it will perhaps confirm the suspicion that he was himself neither a judge
nor a proficient in the pronunciation and idiom of the language. Pari-
sians pretend that he spoke it with a strong Italian accent ; and Mr. Fox
himself remarked that it was not the French of old Paris society. — V. H.

2 Rather a whimsical epithet for mathematics. Perhaps he had a fancy
to combat one paradox with another. Macartney thought mathematics
useless ; so he declared them entertaining. AVhen he says he read much
mathematics, regard mvist be had to the place from whence he wrote.
'What constituted — and, above all, what then constituted — much mathe-
matics at Oxford, would be very little at Cambridge, or in any other place
destined for the education of gentlemen. But a lad of sixteen may be
allowed to speak the language of the place. Mr. Fox had a wonderful
capacity for calculation, and a great aptitude, no doubt, for all branches


commend them to me. I did not expect my life here could be
so pleasant as I find it ; but I really think, to a man who reads
a great deal, there cannot be a more agreeable place. My
mother still continues in her resolution to go to Paris in spring,
where I shall be with her. My brother will probably return
with us. I think I have now told you all I know about our
family and their intentions, in return to which I hope to hear a
great deal about Petersburg and your reception there. I cannot
suspect you again of being so devoid of taste* as to fall in love
with a woman under forty, though as you have once begun to
give wayj you may perhaps be reduced in time to be in love with
a tripping milliner girl of fifteen. I hear there is very deep
play at Petersburg. I hope that that will not tempt you to
break your resolution against gaming. I think you did very
well to pass your Latin speech upon the magistrates of Dantzic
for extempore. I cannot say your application of Ste's speech
about Sir James Macdonald was well applied. When he com-
plimented the English young men, he included himself and
raised their idea of him. You, on the contrary, lessened their
opinion of you by putting the other ministers on a par with
yourself. Crawford and James, when I saw them last, both
intended to write to you. Whether they have or not, I cannot
tell. If there were any way of sending you pamphlets, I would
send you a new poem, called the ' Traveller,' which appears to
me to have a great deal of merit. I do not know anything else
that I would advise you to read if you were here, though there
have been two or three political pamphlets much admired. I
was told the rest of your journey was likely to be tolerable
enough on account of the frosts. I hope it proved so. You did

of mathematics; but I have often heard him regret that he had applied
so little to them ; and ascribe his neglect of them to the superficial man-
ner in which they were taught at Oxford. A symptom of the little store
set upon them may be discerned in the subsequent letter of Newcome to
his pupil. — V. H.

^ One of Lord Macartney's paradoxes, that a woman was never lovely
till she had passed forty.


not describe your stay at Memel as agreeable. It is indeed a
great way from hence to Russia, but I do not absolutely despair
of seeing you there, though the thoughts of it at present I
believe frighten my mother a little. However, if I never see
you there, it may not perhaps be so long before we meet as we
at present imagine. Let us, however, supply as much as we can
what the distance that separates us forbids by writing continually
to each other. So as I hear often from you (if it be but to tell
me you are well), I shall be satisfied, and will promise in return
to write regularly. I dare say you will now and then have a
letter from Ste. You know him too well to expect to keep up a
regular correspondence with him. I am, dear Macartney, with
the most unalterable friendship,

" Yours,


Here follows a postscript from Lord Holland, confirming the
newspaper intelligence, and not worth transcribing, or even ad-
verting to, further than as it proves the easy footing on which
Charles Fox lived with his father.

Another letter from Mr. Fox to Sir G-eorge Macartney gives
an account of the exaggerated report of his father's illness,
which had been sufficient to call him from Oxford, but never
dangerous, and, when he wrote, nearly removed.

In March, 1765, Lord Holland, in a letter to Sir George Ma-
cartney, says — '^ At Easter, the three sisters^ go to Paris, Charles
and I sail to sup with them at Calais. Charles goes on with
them, and I return to Kingsgate — Charles is still at Oxford,
and, I hear, studying very hard.''

It was probably upon his apprising his Oxford tutor. Dr. New-
come, of this expedition with his mother to Paris, that that

» [The three sisters were Lady Holland, Lady Louisa ConoUy, and
Lady Sarah Bunbury, in addition to "whom the party consisted of Stephen
Fox, Charles Fox, and Mr. Upton. They sailed on the 22d April, went
no further than Paris, and returned to England on the 8th of July.
Charles Fox went back to Oxford, and remained there till spring, 1766.]


gentleman wrote him the letter of which the following is a copy,
and which Mr. Fox carried about in his pocketbook during the
latter years of his life, and used not unfrequently to produce
with a sort of playful triumph to confute his political friends,
when they censured hiin, with great appearance of reason, for
his idleness and negligence in not reading parliamentary papers
and other necessary documents.


"You judged rightly in thinking I should be much surprised
by the information you were so obliging to give me. But upon
reflection I think that you have done well to change the scene
in such a manner, and I feel myself inclined to envy you the
power of doing it. Application like yours requires some inter-
mission, and you are the only person with whom I have ever
had connection, to whom I could say this. I expect that you
will return with much keenness for Greek and for lines and
angles. As to trigonometry, it is a matter of entire indifference
to the other geometricians of the college (who will probably con-
tinue some time here), whether they proceed to the other branch-
es of mathematics immediately, or wait a term or two longer.
You need not, therefore, interrupt your amusements by severe
studies, for it is wholly unnecessary to take a step onwards with-
out you, and therefore we shall stop until we have the pleasure
of your company. All your acquaintance here which I know,
are well, but not much happier for your absence. '^

[On his return from Paris, Mr. Fox went by his own choice
for another year to Oxford.] " Charles has been here,'^ says
his father in a letter to Sir George Macartney, dated Kingsgate,
July 25, 1765, "but is now at Oxford studying very hard, after
two months at Paris, which he relished as much as ever. Such
a mixture in education was never seen, but extraordinary as it is,
it seems likely to do very well." — " Charles is at Oxford, apply-
ing himself" [says his mother in a letter of the 14th November,



1765] ; " next spring he purposes to leave it entirely. What his
future schemes are I don't know/' He passed the greater part
of one whole vacation at Oxford with his friend and contemporary
Dickson, afterwards Bishop of Down, a man remarkable for
warmth of heart and gentleness of disposition, as well as for
uncommon agreeableness of manners and singular advantages of
person. They studied very hard, and their relaxation consisted
in reading to one another, or by themselves, all the early dramatic
poets of England ; they spent their evenings for that purpose in
the bookseller's shop, and I think I have heard Mr. Fox say,
that there was no play extant, written and published before the
Restoration, that he had not read attentively. From some acci-
dent or another he and Dickson were at this time without money,
and as they had no acquaintance between Oxford and London,
likely to give them credit, they determined without a penny in
their pockets to walk up to Holland House (full 56 miles) without
any expense of conveyance, lodging, or board. The day was sultry,
and when they had got to Nettlebed, between Benson and Henley,
Mr. Fox was so hot and fatigued that he stopped with his friend
at an alehouse, to eat some bread and cheese and drink some ale.
He was obliged to leave his gold watch in pawn, for the payment
of his homely fare, with the landlord, and performed the rest of
his journey in the course of the day. On his arrival, his first
exclamation to his father, who was taking his coffee, was, "You
must send half a guinea or a guinea, without loss of time, to the
alehouse-keeper at Nettlebed, to redeem the gold watch you gave
me some years ago, and which I have left in pawn there for a pot
of porter. '^ He always plumed himself on the steadiness and
length of his walks, and even later in life, and when he was
grown corpulent, not unfrequently decided any disputed distance
by walking five or ten miles himself, in full confidence that the
time he employed in it was a sure measure of the distance.

There is reason to suppose that some months and even years
before Mr. Fox was elected to a seat in Parliament, his success
there was foretold by his friends, and confidently expected by his
relations. The verses of Lord Carlisle on his companions at


Eton designate Charles Fox to act the most conspicuous part in
the Senate ; and in the foregoing pages, as well as a variety of
other letters of my family, his powers as an orator were distinctly
predicted. Between school and his actual appearance on the
great theatre of the world, other and less agreeable prognostics
were afforded of his future career. His mother does not seem
to have been insensible to the dangers to which the ardor of his
mind and the unbounded indulgence of his father might expose
him. Among other things his rivalry with young William Pitt,
his junior by ten years, seems to have been early predicted. The
Duchess of Leinster related to me a conversation, at which she
was present, between her sister. Lady Caroline, and Mr. Fox
(Lord Holland). Lady Caroline, in expostulating with her hus-
band on his excessive indulgence to his children, and to Charles
in particular, added, " I have been this morning with Lady Hester
Pitt, and there is little William Pitt not eight years old, and really
the cleverest child I ever saw, and hroiiglit up so strictly and so
proper in his behavior, that, marJc my ivords, that little boy will
be a thorn in Charles's side as long as he lives." [In telling this
story, the Duchess of Leinster naturally called the persons she
mentioned by the names she first knew them by. It is almost
unnecessary, therefore, to say, that when Mr. Pitt was eight years
old, his mother had been many years Lady Chatham, and Mr.
and Lady Caroline Fox, Lord and Lady Holland.]

Such predictions are no doubt often made by parents, who
fancy they see the future celebrity and importance of their
children. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the greatness of
the individual, the groundwork of all the anticipation and ap-
prehension, is not realized. But when such predictions turn
out true, one has a childish pleasure in recording them.

[In a letter to Sir George Macartney, dated from London,
14th of March, 1766 (to which he had been summoned from
Oxford on account of his father's illness), Mr. Fox mentions his
having been present at the debate on the repeal of the Stamp
Act in the House of Lords, and his having thought the Duke of
Grafton's speech the best he had ever heard there ; but the in-


teresting part of the letter is the proof it affords of his early
intimacy (he was then only seventeen) with Mr. Burke. Sir
George Macartney had, it seems, sent him a copy of a speech he
had made to the Empress of Russia.] "I think/' says he,
" your speech to the Czarina one of the prettiest things of the
kind I ever saw. I did not observe literally your commands
about it, but I have shown it to very few people. Mr. Burke
admires it vastly."

[Writing to Sir George from Holland House on the 8d of
May, he says, that] ^' His father, in having assigned to him, in
his correspondence with Macartney, the province of politics, has
in a manner condemned him to silence; for, since the repeal of
the Stamp Act, there has been no news of that sort. The
Ministry goes on just as it did, everybody laughing at them and
holding them cheap ; but, according to the fashionable phrase,
doing justice to their good intentions." [Such was the language
he held at that time of a party into which he afterwards infused
so much spirit and vigor.]

[In a letter from Lord Holland to the same, of the 30 th of
June, he expresses himself with the utmost warmth and tender-
ness towards his son.] '^Charles is above measure kind and
attentive to me. He has a good heart, and is more to be ad-
mired for that than for his head, which you know is no bad one.
I am very happy in my family, and that may well atone for what
I have to complain of in the article of friends.' '

[Mr. Fox finally left Oxford in spring, 1766, and though the
following account of the two succeeding years of his life is
nothing more than a dry catalogue of dates and names, it may
not be a useless preface to the letters and to the remarks of Lord
Holland that follow.

On the 23d of September, 1766, Lord and Lady Holland
sailed from Kingsgate, in the Isle of Thanet, for Calais, and on
the 6th of October their son Charles, who had gone some days
before on a visit to M. de Mortfontaines at Soissons, met them at
Lyons. From Lyons, Lord Holland, Charles, and Lord Ossory
went down the Rhone to Marseilles, where they embarked for


Naples. Lady Holland, her two other sons, and Lady Mary
Fox, wife of Stephen Fox, crossed the Alps, and joined them at
Naples, where they passed the Winter. In March, 1767, they
set out on their return to England, and towards the latter end
of May Lord and Lady Holland arrived at Holland House.
Charles, who had made occasional excursions during their route
through Italy, left them at Turin on the 26th of April, and
went to Genoa to meet Lord Fitzwilliam, with whom and Mr.
Uvedale Price he passed the summer. Towards the end of Octo-
ber Lord and Lady Holland set off again to the continent, and
were met at Paris by their son Charles. He soon left them again,
and after several short tours in the south of France, in company
with Lord Carlisle, he joined them at Nice before the middle of
December. At Nice they remained till April, when Lord and
Lady Holland returned to England, and Charles went back to
Italy. According to the plan he had proposed and probably exe-
cuted, he was to go by Genoa, Lerici, Pisa, and Sienna, to Rome ;
it appears he was in that capital when the Queen of the two
Sicilies passed through Rome on her way to Naples. On his
return home in company with Mr. Uvedale Price, he visited
Voltaire at Ferney, and arrived in England on the 2d of August,
In the following September, he accompanied his brother Stephen,
who, with his wife. Lady Mary, and Mr. Dickson, who has been
before mentioned, made an excursion of three weeks through the
Austrian Netherlands and Holland. He had been returned for
Midhurst to the Parliament that met on the 10th May, 1768,
but in consequence of his absence from England he did not take
his seat during the first session.] At Florence he saw much of
Lord Fitzwilliam, of Mr. Price, and of Mr. Crofts, a clergyman,
who was a good Spanish scholar, and then travelling with Lord
Fitzwilliam. He seems by his letter, dated from that place to
his friend Richard Fitzpatrick (September 22d, Florence) to have
been much occupied with projects of acting plays, and with the
study of Italian literature. Acting plays became quite a passion
with him during that and the ensuing year. His sister-in-law


(Lady Mary Fox, then recently married) and her brother, Rich-
ard Fitzpatrick, no doubt partook and fomented the passion. He
was at Home, when the Queen o^Naples was married (in summer,
1768). He travelled with Mr. Uvedale Price, the ingenious
author of "The Picturesque," and then an Eton, tennis, and
acting acquaintance of his own age, by Terni and Loretto, to
Venice, and he passed Mantua by night, and joined Lord Fitz-
william at Turin.

Although Mr. Fox at this period of his life entered eagerly
into the pursuit of pleasure, he seems never to have intermitted
his studies entirely, especially those of the modern languages of
the countries in which he was travelling. Even in his amuse-
ments his active, acute, and creative mind was always employed,
and his judgment and taste were improved by observation and
exercise. During the year 1767, which he passed abroad, either
with travellers of his own age or with his father and mother (who
spent part of their time at Naples, Nice, and Paris), he was
assiduous in learning the languages of France and Italy, enthu-
siastic in his admiration of Italian poetry, and fond of exercising
his ingenuity in French composition. His letters to Richard
Fitzpatrick are generally in the latter language, and many pas-
sages of them in verse, in the structure of which he seems to
have been particularly careful and critical. In subsequent let-
ters he often refers to his former verses, and expresses great
anxiety to correct any false rhyme or defective prosody which,
on recollection, he suspects to have disfigured his versification.
This propensity to labor at excellence, even in his amusements,
distinguished him throughout life. Not only would he turn the
verse, in every jeu d^ esprit of his composition, fifty difi'erent
ways, but at every little diversion or employment — chess, cards,
carving at dinner — would he exercise his faculties with wonder-
ful assiduity and attention till he had attained the degree of
perfection he aimed at. It was this peculiarity which led him,
many years afterwards, when asked how he contrived, being so
corpulent, to pick up the cut balls at tennis so well, to answer,


Online LibraryCharles James FoxMemorials and correspondence of Charles James Fox (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 31)