Horace Twiss.

The public and private life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, with selections from his correspondence (Volume 2) online

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acted throughout with the utmost sincerity and consistency. He trusted that as he
had never doubted the sincerity of noble lords, whilst they were supporting opinions
opposed to his own, their lordships would not doubt at present of the sincerity of his
motives. He trusted that he might be permitted to conclude with the sincere expres-
sion of the obligations which he owed to their lordships for the kindness with which
they had always supported him in the discharge of the arduous duties which he had
just resigned. He begged their lordships to believe that he felt the deepest gratitude
for the forbearance which they had uniformly shown to his failings and his feelings
in that House, and assured them that he should never lose a sense of it, so long as he
retained the functions of memory. [Hear, hear.']

The subject being renewed in the House of Commons on the 3d of
May, Mr. Canning added, to his former statement, the following can-
did testimonial :

"It was on the night of the llth of April he received the resignation of Lord West-
moreland: of the resignation of the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Peel) he was aware
some days before. He received the resignation of the Duke of Wellington on the
12th, at half-past ten A. M. Lord Bexley sent in his* shortly after. With these, and
the verbal resignation of Mr. Peel, he went to St. James's. Those of Lord Eldon and
Lord Bathurst arrived during his absence, and did not reach him till he was in the
king's closet. He would state further, that, so far from anticipating the resignation
of Lord Eldon, the king and himself were each under the delusion that there were ihe
best reasons to expect the support of his services in the new arrangements. This
was the exact state of the affair; and upon his honour he assured the House, that
when he spoke of the coincidence in the manner in which he had mentioned it, he
intended no sneer. It was bare justice to Lord Eldon to say, that his conduct was
that of a man of the highest feelings of honour, and that, throughout, it had been
above all exception."

* It was afterwards recalled.


(Lord Eldon to Lord Encombe.} (Extract.)

"Saturd -y, May 5th. 1827.
"My very dear John,

" I had my pen in my hand, to write to you therewith, at the moment I received your
kind and affectionate letter, for which many, many thanks to yon. We ex-ministers
have been as much abused for cabal and conspiracy as if we had formed another
Cato Street gang; and we were tried in (he House of Lords as if we had been a band
. of culprits. We all pleaded not guilty, and I believe we were all, in the opinion of
all, most honourably acquitted. The fact is, that with my principles, to remain in
office under a prime minister of different principles, (either his principles or mine
being, but both, certainly not being consistent with the support of the pure reformed
establi>hed religion of the country, and the support of its political liberties.) ap-
peared to me to be unworthy conduct on my part, being satisfied that my own prin-
ciples were right. I look back to forty-four or five years spent in Parliament with
perfect consistency in conduct no deviation whatever I have been either always
right or always wrong, Servetur ad &c. &c. Not that consistency in error is otherwise
than most blameable, if the person, observing that consistency, has discovered that he
has been in error. This discovery I have not been able to make; and the line that I
have taken in the support of the religion and political constitution of my country,
after a most anxious endeavour to inform myseif aright upon subjects so interest-
ing, I think, upon severe reflection, was the line I ought to pursue in the discharge
of my duty to myself, my descendants, my fellow subjects, their descendants, my
sovereign, and the throne; and, with all due humility, I add, my duty to God. Esto
perpthia is my prayer as to the constitution in church and state. I tremble some-
what when I see a prime minister supported by those individual? who have been
thought to hold Jacobinical and radical doctrines for years past, and when I see some
of our supposed Whigs joining them : can this long endure? My defensive speech, I
have reason to believe, did me and my family no discredit, and I think it will do none
to my memory. The House was much surprised with the ability, clearness, judg-
ment and power, with which the Duke of Wellington spoke.

"The king parted with me in a very kind and affectionate manner. The piece of
magnificent plate, which he presented to me upon parting, will, I think, very much
please you; and it is certainly a very valuable family possession.

* * * * * * *

"I hope, my dear John, I have acted in the close of my political life, according to
my moral and religious duties. A good example of a life, spent in an endeavour con- *
stantlv to conform to those duties always and ever to regulate conduct by the rules
which those duties, well understood, prescribe, is, my Nearest John, the best, and proud-
est, and most valuable inheritance I can bequeath to you and my family. God bless
you ever bless you is the prayer of your dear grandmother, and of your affection-
ate grandfather,


(Lady Elizabeth Repton to Lord Encombe.) (Extract.)

(May 5ih, 1827.)

"The hurry and fatigue that he (Lord Eldon) has gone through, during the last three
weeks, is quite surprising; but, thank God, he has kept wonderfully well. The king
sent fur him last Sunday, and, as far as concerned himself, nothing could be more
gratifying than his audience; and, when about to take leave, he put a small key into
his hand, and said he hoped when he got home he would find not only a token of his
present regard for him, but of that which he must feel to the latest hour of his life.

"Given as this token was, my dear John, it cannot fail to be very gratifying to us
all. On monday your grandfather attended, with the rest of the ministers, to give up
the seals of office, and was, of course, called in first. The king was so much affected
that very little passed, but he threw his arms round your grandfather's neck and shed

The present earl describes the gift of the sovereign as <c consisting
of a tankard of silver gilt, its lid having an accession medal of the
king embodied therein, and bearing on the lower side these words:






" The key of the case in which Lord Eldon found it standing, had
been put into his hands by the king himself."

(Mr. Farrerto Lord Encombe.)

" May 4th, 1827.
"Dear Encombe,

"I went to Lord Eldon, and had a long conversation with him, a conversation in
which he detailed his feelings upon the late extraordinary political proceedings, in a
manner that gratified my mind, and satisfied me that he had acted most honourably,
and that he felt his retirement as his best friends would wish him to feel it. The
meeting of Parliament has given him the opportunity of making a full explanation of
his conduct. It was most satisfactory and convincing. It was delivered in his best
style, clear, manly, powerful, not without feeling and sensibility in finding himself
called upon to repel some false charges, but there was no unbecoming softness. I
never was more gratified. The king's present is a very just testimony; but mark the
delicacy of your grandfather's feelings. Before he accepted absolutely, he consulted
his colleagues as to the propriety of his accepting it with reference to them. Their
answer was, you must accept the tankard, and you must provide wine for us to drink
out of it."

(Lord Eldon to Lady F. J. Bankes.} (Extract.)

"Saturday, (May, 1827.)
" My dearest Fan,

"Many thanks for to-day's letter. I can't help writing, as to-morrow is not a post
day; though to be honest and say the truth, my head is in a state of such puzzle
between winding up old causes, pressing judgments, constant interruptions of visitors
and I know not what besides, that, if I did not feel uneasy if I did not send you my
love, I could hardly be excusable for writing. Of news I have none. I think political
^enmity runs higher and waxes warmer than I ever knew it. God bless us all! to
think of our prime minister's principal supporters in the House of Commons being
Burdett and Brougham! Surely such things can't remain long.

"I still think that the minister must either fall, or be borne up by the Lansdowne
party. That, however, seems very small, as one looks at them when congregated in
the House of Lords. Think of Lord King sitting among the bishops! I am afraid
that that bench, as to some of them, will do themselves no credit.


"The newspapers are, after abusing us the culprits, Eldon, Wellington, Westmore-
land, Bathurst, Melville and Peel, wheeling about and becoming trumpeters in behalf
of us, the acquitted conspirators."


A very gratifying address was presented to Lord Eldon on his
retirement by the masters in chancery, expressing their grateful sense
of his kindness to them throughout the very long period for which he
had held the great seal, and bearing testimony to his "great learning
and unsullied integrity." It was dated May 5th, 1827, and signed

F. P. Stratford, J. S. Harvey,* Samuel C. Cox, James Stephen, J. E. Dowdeswell,
F. Cross, James Trower, William Wingfield, J. W. Farrer, G. Wilson, R. H. Eden.t

The answer was in these cordial terms :

" May 7th, 1827.

"Lord Eldon has received, with great satisfaction, the letter which the masters in
chancery have been pleased to address to him.

* Accountant-General. t Afterwards Lord Henley.


" He reflects with great pleasure upon the fact, that he has given to the public the
benefit of the services of all these gentlemen.

" Separated from them, as being no longer in a judicial situation, he trusts that ne
may carry with him in retirement their good opinions, and he assures them that, in
what remains to him of life, he shall most anxiously promote, as far as he can, their
honour and welfare."

The present earl computes the total duration of his grandfather's
chancellorship to have been but a few weeks short of a quarter of a
century; calculating thus:

Years. Months. Days.

"From 14th April 1801, J .

to 7ih February, 1806 - (
From 1st April, 1807, (
to 30th April, 1827 - (

Total duration - - - - 24 10 23

" From the time of the Norman conquest the great seal of England
was never held so long by any other individual, lay or clerical, as by
Lord Eldon."

The anecdotes which occupy the succeeding pages are all, or most
of them, referable to the period of Lord Eldon's chancellorship; and
therefore, in the absence of precise dates, will not improperly form
the conclusion of this part of his biography, which closes his official
life. The first seven are from the Anecdote Book.

" The Duke of Norfolk,* towards the latter end of his life, was
extremely apt to fall asleep. This happened very often in the House
of Lords, and its proceedings were in some measure interrupted by
the noise which his grace's snoring made. Upon one day, whilst he
was sound asleep, and very sonorous, the members of the House of
Commons came up with a bill, and I announced to the House of
Lords, as speaker, that the message from the Commons was, that the
Commons had passed a bill relative to Great Snoring, to which they
desired their lordship's concurrence. I spoke very loud when I
mentioned Great Snoring, which, with a laugh throughout the House,
awaked the duke out of his great snoring, who very heartily joined
in the laugh. Great Snoring is a parish, I forget in w r hat county,!
and the bill was a bill for inclosing the commons of that parish."

" By Act of Parliament, an Irish peer has his right to vote, in the
election of peers to sit in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, re-
solved in the House of Lords, proving his pedigree. An Irish peer
asked me in the House of Lords, how the marriage of his grandfather
was to be proved? I told him that it must be proved in the usual
manner, by production of the register of the parish where the marriage
was celebrated. ' But, my dear,' says he, ' in Ireland there are very
few parish registers ; I don't know in what parish my grandfather was
married, but it has no register.' 'How do you know that,' said I,
'if you don't know the parish?' 'Oh, aye,' said he, 'that's true, it
did not occur to me. But it is,' he added, ' very hard, my lord :
won't my testimony, my dear, be sufficient to prove my grandfather's

* Charles, the eleventh duke, who died in 1815. f In the county of Norfolk,

VOL. II. 12


marriage?' ' Certainly, my lord,' said I, 'it will, if you were present
at your grandfather's marriage; otherwise not.' "

" There stands on the table of the House of Lords a large box, half
full of papers and half empty. A stroke of the hand upon it makes
a vast noise, and is extremely distressing if often repeated. Lord
Grenville was much in the habit of inflicting blows upon it whilst
speaking, and when he wished to make the House attentive. Stunned
with the noise, a person left the House, saying, ' It is impossible to
bear this ; 'tis box et praterea nihil.' "

" Law, Bishop of Elphin, when he was first in Ireland, had strong
feelings in favour of the Roman Catholics. During his residence in
Ireland, he became hostile to them. He came and sat upon the
woolsack with me one day in the House of Lords, and began a
conversation respecting the Catholic claims. He said he had told
Ned that morning (so he styled his brother Edward, then Lord Ellen-
borough), the long and short of the argument, all that need be said
about it. Upon my asking him what was his argument, he replied,
'I can't see why we should allow those people any places upon earth,
who will not allow us to have any in heaven.' '

" Lord Donoughmore came to me upon the woolsack, upon a day
in which something was to pass on the Catholic question, and an
eminent prelate, it was understood, was to vote with Donoughmore.
Entering into conversation with me, Lord Donoughmore said, ' What
say you to us now? We have got a great card to-night.' I said,
1 What card do you mean ? I know the king is not with you ; there is
no queen ; there is only another great card.' { What,' said Donough-
more, 'the right reverend prelate a knave!' l You have called him
so,' said I, '/have not."

" Mr. Quarme, deputy usher of the black rod in the House of Lords,
was crossing the street by the Horse Guards, when it was very dirty.
Being a very diminutive man, a soldier picked him up under his arm,
and set him down on the opposite side of the street : Quarme was
very angry, and swore at him for what he had done. ' Oh,' said the
soldier, ' if I have done wrong, I'll set matters right again immedi-
ately:' and so picked up Quarme again, and set him down exactly in
the same dirt out of which he had before taken him."

"A prelate told me that a clergyman, to whom he had given a liv-
ing as soon as he asked it, and who protested that he was so satisfied
that he never would trouble his patron again, nevertheless, in a very
short time, applied to him for another vacant benefice. The party
applied to said he should take some time to consider it, and should
not give it away immediately. The applicant pressed him, saying,
'Bis dat^qui dto dat ;' ' which being interpreted, 'rejoined the party
applied to, ' means, I suppose, that having given one living to you
without hesitation, I am expected dare bis. and to give you ano-


"Bis dat

Qui cito dat: minimi gratia tarda preti est."

AldaCs Embkmt, 162, line 9.


"I consider," said Lord Eldon to Mrs. Forster, "that Encombe
used to renew my life, during the short period I could spend here
every year when I was chancellor : for I laid it down as a rule, that I
would transact no business here. Had I not done so, I should have
been beset with all sorts of applicants." One of these, as Lord Eldon
told Mr. Stratford, the master in chancery, was a country clergyman,
who found his way to Encombe, and asked for the chancellor. The
servant, who opened the door, said his lordship was out shooting.
" Which way is he gone ?" replied the clergyman. " What is your
business, sir?" asked the servant. "Never mind," rejoined the
clergyman, " only just tell me which way your master is gone." The
servant pointed out the quarter in which the chancellor was to be
found, and the stranger, following the direction, was not long before
he came up with a man carrying a gun, and accompanied by a brace
of dogs, but somewhat shabbily dressed ; of whom he inquired where-
abouts the chancellor might be found. " Not far off," said the sports-
man: and, just as he spoke, a covey of partridges got up, at which he
fired, but without success. The stranger left him, crossed another
field or two, and witnessed, from a little distance, the discharge of
several shots as unproductive as the first. " You don't seem to make
much of that," said he, coming back; "I wish you could tell me
where to meet with Lord Eldon." " Why then," said the other,
"I am Lord Eldon." The clergyman fell a stammering and apolo-
gizing, till the chancellor asked him, rather shortly, whence he came,
how he had got to Encombe, and what he wanted there. The poor
clergyman said he had come from Lancashire to the Bull and Mouth
in London ; and that, finding the chancellor had left town, and having
no money to spare, he had walked from London to Encombe ; that

he was Mr. , the curate of a small parish, which he mentioned,

and of which the incumbent was just dead ; and that he was come to
solicit the vacant benefice. "I never give answers to applicants
coming hither," said the chancellor, " or I should never have a mo-
ment to myself; and I can only express my regret that you should
have taken the trouble of coming so far to no purpose." The suitor
said, if so, he had no alternative but to go back to the Bull and
Mouth, where he expected to find a friend who would give him a cast
back into Lancashire : and, with a heavy heart, took leave. When
he arrived at the Bull and Mouth, a letter, in an unknown hand, was
waiting for him. He opened the cover with the anxious curiosity of
a man to whom epistolary communications are rare : and had the joy
of finding in it a good-humoured note from the chancellor, giving him
the preferment. " But now," said Lord Eldon, in telling the story
to Master Stratford, " see the ingratitude of mankind. It was not long
before a large present of game reached me, with a letter from my
new-made rector, purporting that he had sent it me, because, from

Queen Elizabeth was dilatory enough in suits, of her own nature: and the Lord
Treasurer Btirleish, to feed her humour, would say to her, " Madam, you do well to
let suitors stay ; for I shall tell you, bis dot, gui cito dat: if you grant them speedily, they
will come again the sooner." Bacon's Works, 8vo. 1825, vol. i. 366, Apophthegm 71.


what he had seen of my shooting, he supposed I must be badly off for
game! Think of his turning upon me in this way after the kindness
I had done him, and wounding me in my very tenderest point! "

" The Whigs," says the writer of a letter to the late Lord Fe versham, dated January,
1826, "have got up a fine story of a clergyman having lately got a living from the
chancellor by aiding and commending his shooting. The tale was, that this same
clergyman went to Encombe on the errand alluded to. He was told at the house that
the chancellor was out a-shooting. but, when he returned, he would not allow himself
to be seen on business. Resolved, however, on an audience, the gentleman got to
learn which wayjjthe chancellor went traced him by the report of his gun passed
a covey at which his lordship had been firing, and boldly told him of his object,
which occasioned the following dialogue: Chun. 'It is highly impertinent in you to
inlrude yourself here, and I shall have nothing to say to you on your business.'
Clerg. [apparently silenced, as having got his answer] 'Has your lordship had good
success to-day?' Chan. 'No, I cannot say I have; I missed at a covey just now.'

Clerg. 'I saw that covey light as I came along.' Chan. ' Did you? Will you take
me to them ?' They went forward, and the chancellor fired and hit. Clerg. 'That
was an excellent shot.' Chan. ' I think it was very well.' Clerg. ' I marked the birds,
and will take 3 r our lordship to them if you will allow me.' As they went along, his
lordship grew more familiar, asked if he ever shot, and then inquired particulars of
his situation, to which he seemed to listen favourably. Clerg. ' I have a letter from
Lord Yarborough to your lordship.' Chan. ' Why did you not mention that at first?'

Clerg. 'Because yuur lordship seemed angry with me, and forbade my saying any
thing further.' Chan. ' Well, I will think of the matter when I get to London ; let me
be applied to there.' And so the story is, that the living was given him."

"The following correspondence," said Lord Eldon to Mrs. Fors-
ter, " once took place between my old friend, Dr. Fisher of the Char-
ter House, and me. He applied to me for a piece of preferment then
vacant, in my gift: so I wrote to him:

" ' Dear Fisher,

" ' I cannot, to-day, give you the preferment for which you ask.

"'I remain your sincere friend,

" ' Turn over.'
" Then, on the other side,

" ' I gave it to you yesterday.' "

A relative of Dr. Griffith, master of University College, Oxford,
related to Miss Forster the following instance of Lord Eldon's kind-
ness to the worthy Doctor. " Lord Eldon had offered various livings
to his acceptance, which Dr. Griffith had always refused. At last,
afraid he might appear ungrateful, the Doctor accepted one in York-
shire : the reason of his having declined the others was, that his office
at Oxford prevented his being able to reside, and he did not like to
hold preferment when he could not personally perform the duties.
This feeling was so strong, that he was literally unhappy in the pos-
session of the living in Yorkshire, and at the end of two years he
wrote to Lord Eldon, to entreat permission to resign it, and, that
Lord Eldon might not think him ungrateful, he assigned the reason for
so doing. Lord Eldon answered him most kindly, giving permission,
but entreating as a favour, that the resignation should not be sent in
immediately, but that Dr. Griffith should retain the living a short time
longer. In about nine months afterwards, Lord Eldon again wrote
to Dr. Griffith, telling him that he might now resign the living in
Yorkshire, and that he had pleasure in offering him a stall at Bristol


just become vacant, that being a piece of preferment that did not
require residence. I need scarcely say Dr. Griffith accepted it, deeply
gratified with his patron's kind consideration ; but before he took
possession of it, he again received a letter from Lord Eld on, revoking
the gift of the stall at Bristol, and offering him one at Gloucester,
it having become vacant, and the more valuable of the two." Dr.
Griffith accordingly became a prebendary of Gloucester.

The next three anecdotes are communicated by the present earl, as
having been derived from the chancellor's own mouth.

"A counsel in the Court of Chancery happening to say, of himself
and a brother barrister who represented another party in the cause,
' that though the case might look as if it were one of collusion, there
was really no understanding between them,' the lord chancellor
(Lord Eldon) said, 'I once heard a gentleman in the House of Com-
mons inform the members present, that himself and another individual
had but one idea between them ; but I think you are going rather far-
ther to say that another gentleman and yourself have no understanding
between you.' "

<k Mr. Basil Montagu, arguing as counsel before Lord Eldon, had
illustrated his speech with several anecdotes, which made a consider-
able addition to its length. On his making some reference to what
he designated as the fabric of his argument, the chancellor said, 'Mr.
Montagu, your fabric appears to be composed of so many stories, that
I fear we shall never get to the top of it.' '

" On an application against Mr. Pierce Egan, the author of ' Boxi-
ana,' to restrain him from publishing a fourth volume of that work,
he pleaded for himself, and succeeded in preventing the injunction.

Online LibraryHorace TwissThe public and private life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, with selections from his correspondence (Volume 2) → online text (page 26 of 65)