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attached, died after a few weeks' illness. Although
necessarily prepared for such a calamity, it was a heavy
blow to Gleorge when it came. The two brothers were

xxvi Sir John Kayes Letter.

very fond and mutually proud of each other. There
was nothing pleasanfcer than to hear the language in
which the lawyer brother spoke of the soldier brother,
or the soldier spoke of the lawyer. It was long
before Sir George recovered from the effects of this
bereavement. For many months I could observe a
marked change in his appearance and demeanour. The
death of his old friend and comrade, General Swiney,
of the Bengal Artillery, also affected him greatly.
They had been friends for more than threescore years ;
and their names stood next to each other in the Army
List. Swiney, who was a man of considerable lite-
rary and scientific attainments, and a most genial com-
panion, not only cherished the warmest affection for
his old friend, but had a keen critical appreciation
of Pollock's military services, and often wrote and
spoke of them, as one well skilled in the theory
of war. Those were white-letter days for both, when
Swiney came up from Cheltenham, with some mem-
bers of his family, to spend a little time with his old
friend on Clapham Common ; and very sorry was
Pollock when Swiney passed away from the scene.
" I shall soon follow him," he said ; " my turn will
come next."

If, however, there were pains, there were pleasures
also for him, in advanced age. It is not to be
doubted that the cumulative honours which were
bestowed upon Sir George Pollock, within the
last few years of his life, afforded him much cor-
dial gratification. He had not solicited them. He

Sir John Kayes Letter. xxvii

had never at any time been a disappointed man.
Nothing had ever soured the sweetness of his nature.
How it happened that these distinctions were so long
deferred that when, in the full freshness of his repu-
tation, that was not done which nearly thirty years
afterwards was cheerfully accorded to him (I speak of
the grant of an hereditary title), is among the marvels
and mysteries of public life. That within a very brief
period (after he had passed his eightieth year), he
was made a Field-Marshal of the Army, a Baronet and
Constable of the Tower, are facts very honourable to
Mr. Gladstone, the Duke of Cambridge, and the Duke
of Argyll ; and they afford most encouraging proofs
that really good service, though it may be overlooked
for a time, in this country, is seldom forgotten.

The last public mark of respect that was shown to
him was the solicitation of the Court of Directors of
the East India Company, that he would become one
of their body. It was but a shadowy distinction ;
still, as it was wholly unsought, it was a compliment
to his high character. There were those who wished
him to decline the offer, as he was far too conscien-
tious not to take his share of the work, whatever it
might be ; but when assured that the work was very
light, and that it would be a disappointment to the
Court if he declined to do them the honour of joining
them, he consented to be elected and took his seat at
the Board.

The summer of 1872 was an unusually trying
one, not only to people of advanced age (for the

xxviii Sir John Kay en Letter.

changes of temperature were frequent and sudden),
and the Field-Marshal suffered, as did many others,
from derangement of the liver, but there was nothing
to cause the least anxiety to his friends. In the
early part of the autumn he appeared to me to be
in excellent health and spirits. One of the last
occasions on which I dined with him, very shortly be-
fore his death, was for the special purpose of meeting
his favourite nephew my friend General F. R. Pol-
lock, whom I had first met as a " griffin," in 1844, at
Sir George's house at Cossipore, and who had now
recently returned from a special mission to Seistan.
We exchanged congratulations on the heartiness and
cheerfulness of the Field-Marshal, and thought that
he might attain to the age of the oldest of the Con-
stables of the Tower. I was, therefore, as much
surprised as I was shocked, to receive on Sunday,
the 6th of October, a telegraphic message from
Walmer, whither he had gone with Lady Pollock on
a visit to Mrs. Wollaston, announcing that the Field-
Marshal had died suddenly, in the morning, at that
place. He had been full of life on the preceding
day, and had gone to Walmer Castle to leave his
card on Lord Granville, Warden of the Cinque Ports.
On seeing it, the Warden, observing that Sir George
Pollock was not to be treated as an ordinary visitor,
requested the Field-Marshal to come in and see him.
Whether any thought passed over the old soldier's
mind that another Constable of the Tower had been
Warden of the Cinque Ports, and that he had died

Sir John Kayes Letter. xxix

beneath the roof under which they were then con-
versing, can only be vaguely surmised. But it is at
least a coincidence worthy to be noted in your book,
that two Field-Marshals, Constables of the Tower,
died in that little sea-coast place within a period of
twenty years.

His mind seemed to be very active at that time.
He had taken down with him a volume of the
Calcutta Review, which contained an article I had
written, many years before, reviewing Stocqueler's /
" Life of Sir William Nott. Sir George had asked
me if I had seen the book. Quite forgetting that he
had himself read it at the time of publication, he
spoke of it as something new to him. I called his
attention to the criticism, which had, indeed, been
based upon his own notes or oral observations ; and
when, on the day before his death, he read it over
very carefully, all the incidents referred to in it came
back to his mind, and he commented with obvious
satisfaction on its accuracy. Those about him,
indeed, were much struck with the clearness with
which he seemed to recall even comparatively un-
important details connected with that eventful period
of his life. He had also carried with him to
Walmer the " Memoirs of Sir Henry Lawrence," by
Edwardes and Merivale, and he asked one of the
ladies of the family whether she had read them,
saying that he especially wished her to read a letter
written by Lawrence to his children after their
mother's death. He sent for the book, pointed out

xxx Sir John Kayes Letter.

the letter, and spoke in the warmest terms of the
high Christian tone that pervaded it. Of Henry
Lawrence's character, Sir George Pollock had the
most genuine admiration, and he expressed himself
on this occasion very strongly about it. I "believe
that Lawrence thought that his old commandant had
scarcely done him justice, with respect to his services
in Afghanistan. But I am sure that, if it were so,
the omission must have "been purely accidental;
not only on account of what I have above said, but
because I never knew a man, who was more habi-
tually disposed to give credit to others for the assis-
tance which they had rendered to him, and sometimes,
indeed, for what he had done wholly himself. He
often spoke to me, with gratitude and admiration, of
the help which he had derived from the energy and
ability of Henry Lawrence and Eichmond Shake-
spear throughout the war of Retribution ; and said
that he did not know how he should have got on
without them.

A lady resident in the house, to whom I am
indebted for some of the above details, and who then
met Sir George Pollock I believe for the first time,
says that she was greatly impressed by the gentleness
and tenderness of his manner his unwillingness to
give trouble, and his thankfulness to all who in any
way administered to his comforts. This was so
habitual to him, that those who were in constant
intercourse with the good old man, and know well
the modesty of his nature, had ceased to take account

Sir John Kayes Letter. xxxi

of it. But strangers were greatly impressed with
the sight of this exceeding unpretentiousness in one
occupying so high a position and so long accustomed
to command.

As illustrative of this trait of character, I may
mention, that up to the very last, he would insist,
when he came to see me at office, on ascending the
laborious stairs leading to my room (an ascent of
which men of not more than half his years often com-
plained), although I repeatedly begged him not to do
so, saying that if he would send up his name to me,
I should always be most pleased to go down to see
him, either in a ground-floor room, or at his carriage
door. His answer always was, that my time was of
more value than his ; and nothing could ever persuade
him to let me do as I suggested.

When Sir George Pollock, on the evening before his
death, retired to rest, he was in his usual health and
spirits. He had all his life been an early riser, as
had his brother the Chief Baron,* and on that Sunday
morning he left his bed at the usual time and lighted
the fire in his dressing-room, according to his wonted
custom. When his faithful attendant went into the
room to take his master his usual cup of coffee,
he found the Field - Marshal lying on a couch,

* I remember Sir George Pollock George, Having got up rather

telling me one day, that he had earlier than usual (3.30), the best

received a letter from his brother tiling that I can do is to write you

Frederick, beginning " My dear a letter."

xxxii Sir John Kayes Letter.

apparently insensible. He summoned Lady Pollock,
and some brandy was administered to the dying man.
He was asked if he was in any pain ; he answered,
" None," and that was the last word he ever spoke.
He passed away in perfect peace with himself and
with all mankind.

I went down to Walmer to see him for the last
time in his coffin. I cannot write of that solemn

interview with the dead I had lost

the dearest and the best friend that ever man had;
and I loved him with filial reverence and affection.

His face, as often happens, seemed

to be much younger in death than in life. And there
was an appearance of greater massiveness about it,
and an expression indicative of far greater power than
had been observable in it for many years. Altogether,
the countenance, in the beautiful repose of death, re-
called the wonderful likeness of Sir Francis Grant's
portrait, taken a quarter of a century ago. This was,
perhaps, mainly caused by the fact that in life, owing
to his infirmity of deafness, his face often wore that
distressed and anxious aspect, which, I believe, is
common to all those who have a similar physical

I have incidentally spoken of some of the most
prominent features of Sir George Pollock's character,
and I have not now much to add. I never in my
life knew so simple-minded a man. He was perfectly
transparent. There was nothing for you to find out.

John Kayes Letter. xxxiii

You saw at once a thoroughly honest, open-hearted
English gentleman ; of a kindly nature and with a
cordial manner which endeared him to all who were
honoured with his friendship, and to many who had
hut a superficial acquaintance with him. There were
few of his friends who were not also my friends, and I
seldom heard him spoken of otherwise than as " dear
Sir George." He never made any parade of his
religion, but he was a righteous man to the core.
The secret of this was his constant study of the
Bible, with prayer ; a habit first instilled into him by
a pious mother, daily continued through his whole
life, and not interrupted by the fatigues and occupa-
tions of a military life. This habit was continued
to the very last. The time gained by early rising
during his last years was wholly devoted to the study
of the Bible. Living a blameless life himself, he
had an overflowing charity towards the weaknesses
of others ; and altogether a large-hearted toleration,
which caused him, both in public and private life, if
not to espouse the cause of, at least to endeavour
to mitigate the penalties incurred by, men who had
manifestly offended. He saw clearly the whole ex-
tent of the offence ; but he took generous account of
the temptation. It may be added, as another proof
of the gentleness of his nature, that he was very
fond of children, and always a great favourite with

I never saw so many true mourners gathered

xxxiv Sir John Kayes Letter.

together, as at the funeral of the Field-Marshal
in Westminster Ahbey. Men who had loved and
honoured him during life, came from distant parts of
the country to pay their last respects to the "warrior
dead." It was said by a distinguished military
writer, in an appreciative review of the career of Sir
George Pollock, that Lord Clyde had said, when he
received his highest honours, that he had outlived
nearly all the friends whom his elevation would
gratify. It was not so with the old soldier who
now rests so near to him. The distinctions conferred
on Pollock towards the close of his career afforded
heart-felt pleasure to troops of friends ; for his affec-
tions were as warm as in the prime of his life, and
none whom he had once honoured with his friendship,
ever slackened in their devotion to him. The last
scene in Westminster Abbey was a touching proof of
this ; it proved that his personal kindnesses were as
fresh in the hearts as his public acts in the memories
of the mourners.

Eeading over what I have written, I feel some-
what ashamed of the egotism pervading these notes.
But you asked me for my " personal recollections,"
and personal recollections must be more or less ego-
tistical. I have not written anything about Sir
George Pollock's character and career as a military
commander ; for I could add nothing to what I wrote
about them more than twenty years ago. You will,
I am sure, do ample justice to them. But if these

Sir John Kayes Letter. xxxv

slight notes, principally relating to the mere private
life of the deceased Field-Marshal, should be of any
service to you, you are welcome to make such use of
them as you may think fit.

Yours faithfully,


BATH, January, 1873.





BART., G.C.B., G.C.S.I.



Introduction. Parentage and early years of George Pollock. His
departure for Calcutta. The military situation in India in 1803.
The Battle and Siege of Deig, 1804.

THE death of SIR GEORGE POLLOCK has removed a re-
presentative man from onr midst. The veteran Field-
Marshal was one of the last remaining links connect-
ing the mighty past of Indian conquest with the far
different present of consolidation and amelioration of
the subject races, and a future regarding the course
of which, owing to the agencies at work in our great
Eastern dependency, he would be a bold man indeed
who ventured to speculate.

Sir George Pollock was a Company's officer, and


Life of Sir George Pollock.

possessed in an eminent degree many of the qualities
that distinguished the race. He went to India
without the adventitious aids of aristocratic connec-
tions or influential friends, and, though the composi-
tion of the Hon. East India Company's army was
quasi- democratic the nominations lying with the
Directors, many of whom had risen from obscurity,
or attained their seats through successful mercantile
ventures yet friends at Government House, or at
head-quarters, were scarcely less capable of advancing
the interests of a protege than in the royal service.
The young artillery officer had only his sword where-
with to advance his interests, and with this, a strong
constitution and an equable temperament, indomit-
able energy and industry, great good sense and sound
judgment, he achieved an undying reputation in our
Indian annals. But one advantage, denied by fate
to many, and permitted to pass unimproved by others
of his brother officers, was offered to Sir George
Pollock, and that was, an opportunity for achieving
distinction. When in the prime of life, and ripe
with the experience of nearly forty years' service, at
a time when so many military reputations were ship-
wrecked, he had presented to him this opportunity,
he seized it, turned it to the best advantage, and
came in on the flood tide of fortune and success.

Though we would not claim for Sir George
Pollock the gift of military genius, such as we recog-
nize it in a Olive, or a Wellington for genius, indeed,
is more rare in war than in arts or literature yet it

Life of Sir George Pollock.

cannot be denied that he takes rank among the few
Indian generals whose achievements will survive in
the page of history. Scarcely less great than the
founder of an empire is the saviour of a state, and
as such may be regarded the man who, when the
prestige of our invincibility was gone, when British
officers of the highest rank deprecated a bold for-
ward movement on Cabul, and an experienced foreign
soldier of fortune like General Avitabile predicted
the certain failure of any attempt to force the
Khyber Pass, yet advanced through that stupendous
defile into the most difficult country in the world,
and with an army, the native portion of which was
smitten with the paralysis of fear.

During that long, weary halt at Peshawur, the
calm assured demeanour, the patient attention to
every minute detail of organization displayed by
their general, inspired first confidence and respect,
and then enthusiasm among the native soldiery. Nor
is this surprising, for the spectacle presented by their
chief as he went among the Sepoys, not disdaining to
argue with them individually for the purpose of dis-
pelling their fears, possessed the elements of moral
grandeur in a not less degree than that exhibited by
the mightiest warrior of ancient times. Alexander
the Great, more than 2,300 years before, on the self-
same arena, sought to raise the fainting spirits of his
Macedonian phalanx, by addressing them in like
language :

"Ubi est ille clamor alacritatis vestrse index?

1 *

Life of Sir George Pollock.

Ubi ille meorum Macedonum vultus ? ]STon agnosco
vos milites."

Adding, when his address failed to awaken them to
a sense of duty :

" Ite reduces domos ; ite deserto rege ovantes.
Ego hie a vobis desperatse victoriao, aut honestse
mortis locum inveniam."

So much may be said for the moral elevation of
character of the late Field-Marshal. The capacity and
skill he displayed in the operations connected with
the forcing of the Khyber Pass, are, perhaps, not
excelled by any similar achievement in history, and
have commanded the admiration of all military critics.
The importance of the service he rendered to the State
during that crisis, can scarcely be over estimated ; but
an infallible test may be applied by a consideration of
the disastrous consequences that would have attended
a failure. Besides the Afghans arrayed to oppose his
advance, and the awful portals of the Khyber Pass
frowning before him, he had to take into account
two elements of weakness in the resources at his com-
mand, either .of which might, at any moment, have
brought defeat and ruin upon him and his plans.
The first of these were his half-hearted auxiliaries,
the Sikhs, ready, in the event of a reverse, or a
revolution at Lahore, to turn their swords upon their
" allies " and overwhelm the small British army, who
would have had to fight their way back to the
Provinces through the Punjaub bristling with the
vast array of 85,000 bayonets and 350 guns, drilled

Life of Sir George Pollock.

and equipped with such assiduous care by Eunjeet
Singh, who had only been laid in his grave some three
years before. Not less to be dreaded as a possible
contingency that would prove fatal to success, was
the bad mutinous spirit which had manifested itself
among Pollock's native troops ; on the first check,
they would, doubtless, have given vent to the dis-
affection, which had only been smothered by the
judicious treatment and calm assured bearing of their

We can now gauge rightly the magnitude of these
perils. History informs us how many thousands of
our best and bravest fell at the sanguinary battles of
Moodkee, Ferozeshah, Sobraon, Chillianwallah and
other fields, before the final rout of Goojerat broke
for ever the power of the Khalsa rule ; and history
also records on a more recently penned and not less
blood-stained page, what hecatombs of dead had to
be sacrificed at the altar of the military Moloch,
before the demon of mutiny was finally exorcised
from the same native army which, fifteen years
before, had swept through Afghanistan in one
unbroken series of victory under the leadership of
Sir George Pollock.

George Pollock was the youngest of four brothers,
sons of Mr. David Pollock, saddler to His Majesty

Life of Sir George Pollock.

George III., towards the lal/fcer part of the last
century. The family was of Scottish extraction,
and Mr. Pollock was as successful in business as
have been so many of his nationality who have
settled in the British metropolis.*

Three of Mr. Pollock's sons rose to distinction.
Of the two eldest, who both embraced the profes-
sion of the law, David became a Judge of the
High Court of Judicature at Bombay, but died at a
comparatively early age. Frederick, the second son,
achieved a brilliant reputation as a scholar, lawyer,
and statesman. As a judge he was one of the most
able that ever sat on the English bench ; some of his
judgments as in the famous " Alexandra " case,
delivered when he was over eighty years of age were
remarkable for their mastery of detail and painstaking
array of fact, though we believe the results at which
he arrived did not always command the assent of the
profession. He was born in 1783, a year before Lord
Palmerston saw the light, and retired upon his
laurels, after a career that would be almost unexampled
in any other country, but which, in the land that has

* Mr. William Jerdan, in his who became subsequently Lord
Autobiography, mentions how in Mayor of London and a baronet ;
that saddler's shop at Charing Peter Laurie, at that time foreman
Cross were gathered together a of the journeyman stitchers in
knot of men and youths who were Mr. Pollock's employ, hereafter to
destined to play more than com- be known also as an alderman
monly distinguished parts on the and Lord Mayor ; and Thomas
stage of after life John Pirie, Wilde, the playmate and school-
then a canny Scotch clerk, who fellow of one at least of Mr. Pol-
would stroll in when not too busy lock's sons at St. Paul's School,
with his master's invoices, and the future Lord Chancellor Truro.

Life of Sir George Pollock.

bred a Brougham, a St. Leonards, and a Lyndhurst,
is not without a parallel.

George, the youngest son, was born at his father's
residence within the precincts of Westminster, on the
4th of June, 1786, two years before the birth of
Byron, and at a time when Louis XVI. sat firmly on
the throne of France, and his accomplished and heroic
queen never dreamt of guillotines and of murderous
Parisian mobs. It was to the circumstance of his
natal day being identical with that of George III.,
that the subject of this Biography owes that name, for
his father was a staunch subject of his sovereign, and
brought up his sons to entertain like sentiments of
loyalty to the reigning monarch.

The brothers, Frederick and George, went to a
school at Yauxhall, and from thence the former was
removed to St. Paul's,* a seminary in which have

* From St. Paul's Frederick Huntingdon in the Conservative

proceeded to Trinity College, interest in 1831. When the great

Cambridge, where he became Sir Robert Peel formed his first

Senior Wrangler and Smith's administration, he was appointed

Prizeman so far back as 1806, the Attorney- General, and entered

year the reins of office slipped office with that statesman in

from the hands of the dying Pitt, 1841. For his services the Prime

and was elected a fellow of his Minister selected him for the high

college in 1807. Mr. Pollock judicial office of Lord Chief Baron

was called to the bar at the of the Exchequer in 1844, a post

Middle Temple in the same year, he held for twenty-two years,

took his M.A. degree in 1809, and when, on his making way for Sir

received his silk gown as King's Fitzroy Kelly, another Conserva-

Counsel in 1827. He held the tive Premier conferred upon him

office of Commissary of his uni- the dignity of a baronetcy. He

versity from 1824 to 1835, and died in 1870.
entered Parliament as member for

8 Life of Sir George Pollock.

been trained some of England's most illustrious sons,
chief among whom stand the mighty names of Marl-

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 2 of 40)