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

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the formation of an administration composed of persons of such opposite public prin-
ciples, that, if they are all honest in their professed opinions, they never could agree
about any interesting public matter, yet that acceptance cannot but he, I think, a
strong prop to the administration, as the present opposition cannot possibly, I think,
have the benefit of his counsel and advice against the administration, if they choose to
adopt measures which he may think ought net to be adopted, but which the comman-
der-in-chief may be obliged to execute. Besides this, all experience proves, that
when individuals come frequently into company and contact with each other, they
soon like each other better than they did before ; they soften as to their differences,
and the oil and vinegar begin to lose their repugnant properties, and to amalgamate
with each other as if they were substances of the same nature. Among those who,


towards the end of the session, were the determined friends of Wellington, Peel and
Eldon, the opinions, as to W.'s acceptance, are various. Some think he ought not to
have accepted some that he ought some that he should have made conditions and
some that he should have told his majesty plainly, that he must change his adminis-
tration and take the late ministers; and that upon that condition only he would com-
mand the army. This last opinion, I am sure, is wrong for I have seen enough of
the feelings of the people of this country to be sure that they will have their kin
(let them ever so heartily dislike measures) talked in as a king that they will not
bear any person's dictating to him that they will not endure a sovereign over their
sovereign and particularly, that they would never endure a person's holding such
language to the king, whom they would consider as a military man, confiding in the
attachment of the army to him; which army he, as a good subject, should, by every
proper means in his power, endeavour to attach to the sovereign. After all, though
I think he could not refuse to accept, because the country has not another' manln
it fit to command the army, I think the acceptance, though unavoidable in my opinion,
will nevertheless be the cause of much, that, with my principles,! shall have to lament!
The members of the motley administration and their adherents think they have gained
a vast advantage.
" So much as to the stilus publica."


(Lord Eldon to Lord Slowell.) (Extract.)

" Saturday niaht; (from Encombe, probably Sept. 1327.)

" I think Lady Eldon is somewhat better. Nothing can be more certain than that she
received benefit here last year, and Pennington urged her coming here again this year.
The loneliness of the place is far from being an object of distaste with me. Besides,
we are now getting, close by, what grieves me, as likely to destroy the beauties of
loneliness we are getting a nuisance here at Swanage, of a bathing place of much
resort, and this spot unfortunately becoming a lion for those to look at who resort

"As to being out of a town where nobody that comes into or goes out of my house
has not been watched, and known to political persons upon the watch, for some
months, I was eager for that, among other reasons, to leave town, upon which I will
tell you more than I now write when we meet. It is, perhaps, unfortunate, too, that
having been accustomed, ever since I was called to the bar, to be out of town during
vacations, I have an anxiety to continue that (perhaps not commendable, but really
irresistible,) as long as I can. I have all my life disliked going: to bathing or public
places or visiting other folks at their homes and now I can't spend my time at inns,
when. I am out of town. This led me to (perhaps a foolish measure) buying this place,
which we have been very fond of now for twenty years ; and after the very great ex-
pense of the various improvements, which, in the house.gardens and grounds 1 have
been at, I cannot bring myself to throw all that away which would be infallibly the
case if we did not occasionally reside here. We shall probably make a much shorter
stay, however, than we did last year, I think certainly. Being absent from your
society, I can assure you I feel very painfully: as to any other society in London, I
should be quite content to have done with it entirely."

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

(Franked November 4th, 1827 )

" We are now here already some days beyond the day in which, in any former year,
we could remain here. It is at least as pleasant as sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall
among the lawyers. Shadwell informs me by letter of his appointment; his letter is
towards me a very handsome one. My old acquaintance, who is gone to Ireland,*
has not thought it necessary to pay me the same compliment; indeed, commencing a
chancellorship at seventy-three is so foolish a business, that perhaps he thought it
most advisable to be silent. Fanny is very well. We all join in affection to you, and
I am, Yours ever, ELDON."

With the year 1827, ends also the Anecdote Book of Lord Eldon.
He thus concludes it:

" Here I close this volume, which, at different idle moments, and
without much attention to the fact whether matters recorded in it, de-

* Sir Anthony Hart.


serve to be remembered or not, and for the amusement of my grandson,
has been formed. To his custody the volume is committed, under a
conviction that no communication will be permitted by him, either of
its contents or of any part of its contents, save only where that com-
munication may be made without prejudice to the character of his

Never was a caution less required. Many of the anecdotes and
recollections which that book contains are omitted, indeed, from this
biography, as being already known, or as not possessing that sort of
interest which would make them acceptable to the general reader ;
but neither in that volume, nor in any of the correspondence which
has been perused for the purpose of this work, amounting to upwards
of 2,000 letters from Lord Eldon to various persons, chiefly members
of his own family, with whom he would naturally have had least
reserve, has there been found one sentence, which his enemies, if
any such survive, could have distorted to the disadvantage of his
high and honest fame ; no underhand motives no meannesses no
duplicity no silly vanity no offensive egotism not one of all the
littlenesses that so often raise a laugh against wise men, and a sneer
against great ones.

Most of those anecdotes and recollections in Lord Eldon's manu-
script volume, which do not peculiarly attach themselves to any
ascertainable date in this biography, seem to find their place conve-
niently here, at the point of time where that volume closes.

"The Lord Sandwich, who was first lord of the admiralty, (in 1771,)
was, as the world said, very profligate, and without religious princi-
ples. Dr. Scott, of Simonburn, dined at his table, and, as report
stated, was about to say grace before dinner, when Lord Sandwich
said, ' Stay, doctor, I have a chaplain of my own, who is coming into
the room ;' and immediately a monkey was introduced, dressed in
canonicals. Scott then apologized for having obtruded his services,
assuring Lord Sandwich that he did not know his lordship had a
relation in orders."

"Alderman Watson, when bathing in the West Indies, had the
misfortune to lose his leg by the bite of a shark. Some years after-
wards, when he and Wilkes were both in the House of Commons,
and a tax upon attorneys was proposed, Alderman Watson spoke
strongly in favour of the tax, and inveighed warmly against attorneys
in general. Somebody asked Wilkes what made his brother alder-
man so severe upon the attorneys ? ' Why,' said Wilkes, ' my bro-
ther alderman was bit by a shark when he was young, and has never
forgiven it.' "

"When Mr. Harley was lord mayor, Wilkes, having done some
discreditable act, Harley told him that he should inform the livery
what he had done. ' You may do so,' said Wilkes ; ' I shall deny it,
and that will be enough with them to induce them to think you a liar
and me a most honourable man.' "

"When the Duke of Richmond was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland,
he took frequent occasion to remonstrate with his company against


the prevalent practice in Ireland, of duelling upon trivial occasions.
A young gentleman, who sat next him, stated his opinion as concur-
ring with the duke's, observing that he was never out but once, and
that that was not to fight himself, but, as his father was to fight, he
wished to see that the old boy behaved well."'

" George IV., when Prince of Wales, met with a Highland soldier,
very far advanced in years. He asked him whether he had ever been
in England before. He answered shyly, ' Yes, once, as far as Der-
by.' That was when he was in the Pretender's army."

" When even a most worthy man is surprised into doing an act,
which, not under the influence of surprise, he would not have done,
he is hurried into maintaining that he is right and has done no wrong,
though perhaps he was the last man in the world who would have
done the act, or attempted to justify it, if not taken by surprise. I
remember a Kentish clergyman, named Mr. B * * *, who was as wor-
thy a man as ever lived, and who, in September, had leave to shoot
upon a gentleman's estate, who was out with him, and upon a fine
cock pheasant rising, shot at it, and brought it down. ' Mr. B * * *,'
said the gentleman upon whose estate they were shooting, ' this is too
much. You had my leave to shoot upon my estate, and, not content
with the ample sport you have had in killing partridges, you kill
before the season commences, and before my face this pheasant.
This is too much it is past bearing.' ' Sir,' said B * * *, under the
influence of surprise and misery, ' what, do you call that a pheasant?
It is a partridge, and nothing but a partridge.' After repeating this
two or three times he recollected himself made no apology for what
he had done for any man, an eager shot, may kill a pheasant that
rises before him in September but prayed forgiveness for what he
had said after he had shot the bird, and hardly forgave himself."

"Mr. Morton Pitt, member for the county of Dorset, established,
in the parish of Corfe Castle, a ropery to employ the poor. George
Rose, secretary to the treasury, Morton Pitt's acquaintance and friend,
thought the government ought to encourage this act of provision and
kindness for the poor, and contracted with Mr. M. Pitt for a few hundred
pounds' worth of cordage. The act of Parliament occurred to neither
of them; but, soon afterwards, Mr. Morton Pitt, in consequence, it is
reported, of threats that if he sat and voted in Parliament, he should
be sued for the penalties as a contractor, was obliged to be re-elected
to represent the county."

"At the lord mayor's dinner, on the 9th November, at Guildhall, it
is customary for the crier to give the toasts, by stating that the lord
mayor, the lady mayoress, the noblemen present, naming each, the
different aldermen, naming each, and others, drink the health he is
instructed by the lord mayor to mention. On one 9th of November,
when toasts considerably more than a dozen had been given, a person
at the bottom of the hall having got somewhat intoxicated, upon
hearing that the lady mayoress's name was given out, as one of the
parties drinking a fourteenth or fifteenth glass, exclaimed, to the great
amusement of the company, ' Bless me, how drunk the lady mayoress
must be by this time!' "


" I went once with Lord Wellesley to Windsor to wait upon the
king. He had formerly represented Windsor, and (as in most bo-
roughs) they have an active clever voter of the lower order of voters,
of great use in elections. He mentioned to me that, standing upon
the interest of the Bliles, he employed one of those clever fellows as
a sort of lower agent against his opponents the Yellows. This fellow,
he said, had a wooden leg, which, upon this occasion, was painted
blue ; but having, as his habit was, got very drunk, and being found
at night lying in the streets, some of the opposite party painted his
wooden leg yellow. When he waked in the morning he found him-
self laughed at and ridiculed by a great body of the Yellows, congre-
gated to enjoy his distress. He immediately sent to the bellman to
go round the town of Windsor and desire the attendance of all people
at a fire, in the street named by the bellman, there to meet him.
When the assembly was gathered together, he took off his yellow
leg, and loudly proclaimed that, as Cranmer burnt the hand, the sight
of which he could not endure, so his conscience obliged him, what-
ever pain it cost him, to allow the flames to consume his leg, and
committing the yellow leg to the flames, he, amidst the applause of
all around, pulled out a new blue leg from under his coat, affixed it
to his thigh, and desired their company to the hustings to support
Lord Wellesley, (then Lord Mornington,) their Blue candidate."

" There was a low fellow, at an election at Newcastle which I
attended, (of much the same sort of character as the Windsor person
mentioned in the preceding article,) who made a great many speeches,
that, however, singular they were, were of great use to the candidate
he supported, among his fellow-voters, the freemen of the low r er or-
ders. One of the candidates, whose residence was within five or six
miles, addressing the numerous electors, stated, that the law would
not allow him to entertain them at his seat during the election, but
that, when he could lawfully invite them, he should hope frequently
to have the honour of their company to dine there. The other can-
didate was Sir John Trevelyan, who lived in Somersetshire, some
hundred miles distant from Newcastle, who was silent: upon which
this fellow said : ' Gentlemen electors, as Sir John says nothing for
himself, allow me to say something for him, and to assure you that
Sir John will also be extremely happy to have the honour of your
company to dine with him at his seat in Somersetshire ; but he recom-
mends it to you to provide for yourselves in going and returning, to
get your dinners where you can in the eight or ten days of going,
and as many in returning, and to choose moonlight nights for your
journey; and I recommend to you to consider whose dinners you will
like best, your neighbour's, or the Somersetshire gentleman's.' This
stuff had a considerable effect."

"After Captain Parry returned from his voyage of discovery, he
was asked, at a dinner party where my successor and predecessor,
Lord Erskine, was present, what he and his crew had lived upon when
they were frozen up in the polar sea. Parry said they lived upon the
seals. 'And very good living, too,' said Erskine, ' if you keep them
long enough.'"


To these stories the present earl has added three others, not set
down in the Anecdote Book, but related to him by his grandfather:

"A friend of mine," said Lord Eldon, "went out of curiosity to
hear the harangues delivered at a debating society, which met in the
neighbourhood of the courts of law. He heard one of the orators
talking most seditious language, and at last venturing to give a Greek
quotation, in support, as he was pleased to declare, of the democratic
views which he had been taking. ' Gentlemen,' the speaker cried,
at the highest tone of his voice, ' the poet Homer has this sentiment :

Tbv 5' artap.c i86p.ivos rCpoytfyn xpn'cov Ayap.ip.vuv'

which is to say, All government is founded upon the consent of the
people.' The unlucky wight had relied too far on the ignorance of
his audience. The uproar was instantaneous and immense, and he
was forthwith ejected from the rostrum which he had so audaciously

" Under the old bribery laws an artful fellow contrived the follow-
ing cheap and safe trick for getting into Parliament, as the represent-
ative of a corrupt borough. At an election there, prior to the occa-
sion on which he calculated that his object would be accomplished,
he presented himself as a candidate, and, making no promises or
presents, obtained, as he had expected, very few supporters. With
these few, however, numbering some half dozen, he went to the poll ;
and, shortly afterwards, sent a handsome amount of head-money to
each of them. This was soon noised abroad, and produced the ex-
pected effect upon the electoral mind throughout the borough. At
the general election he re-appeared ; was received with universal
acclamation, and came in at the head of the poll, without giving or
promising sixpence. The head-money was naturally expected as
before ; but this expectation was never realized. Of course the ho-
nourable member could never show his face in that borough again;
but, at least, he had been a member in one Parliament without dan-
ger and without cost."

A modern alteration of the law has precluded the repetition of this
cheat ; for a distribution of head-money is now made illegal, though
it be long after the election, and even though it be not in fulfilment
of any promise prior to the polling.

" The late Lord Commissioner Adam was, for many years, a per-
sonal friend of King George IV., and filled some high appointment in
the duchy of Cornwall, under his majesty when Prince of Wales. He
was appointed to the Jury Court in Scotland, upon its first establish-
ment; upon which a wag asked ' Why is the Jury Court like Para-
dise?' and answered his own question by saying, 'Because it is a
place made for JldamS This joke Lord Eldon was fond of repeat-
ing; and he always added to it this counter question and answer:
'Why is the Jury Court not like Paradise?' 'Because there is no
getting Adam out of it.' '

VOL. II. 13




Dissolution of Lord Goderich's ministry and formation of the Duke of Wellington's :
letters of Lord Eldon to Lady F. J. Bankes, and of Mr. Peel to Lord Eldon. Open-
ing of session: Lord Eldon's support of the address. Letters of Lord Eldon to Lady
F. J. Bankes. Lord Eldon's speech on the battle of Navarino. Letters of Lord
Eldon to Mrs. H. Ridley, and Lady F. J. Bankes. Repeal of Test and Corporation
Acts: Lord Eldon's speeches against it. Lord Encombe's degree : Lord Eldon's
letter to Mrs. Farrer. Letters from Lord Eldon to Lady F. J. Bankes. Pitt Club
anniversary. Retirement of a section of the ministry. Catholic question. Letters
of Lord Eldon to Lady F. J. Bankes and Lord Stowell, and of Lord Redesdale to
Lord Eldon. Letters of Lord Eldon to Lord Howe and Lord Stowell.

PARLIAMENT was appointed to assemble for the session of 1828, on
the 29th of January, but the new ministry was not destined to meet
it. The close of the year 1827 had been marked by manifest signs
of disunion between certain sections of the cabinet ; and Lord Gode-
rich, harassed with their dissensions, and hopeless of surmounting
the personal and political difficulties of the time, resigned his office
on the 8th of January. The following letter refers to some unsuc-
cessful efforts which were made for supplying his loss :

(Lord Eldon to Lady F, J. Bankes.)

(About Jan. 1st, 1828.)

"Lord Powis has declined accepting the blue ribbon that Lord Pembroke had. It
was offered to Harrowby, if he would undertake to form an administration; but he
would not, to which I may add, he could not. Lord Powis stated to his majesty, in
a most respectful letter^ thai he could not, in accepting, do an act which might be
thought inconsistent with opposing a ministry, which he thought himself conscien-
tiously bound to oppose.

"The supposed intention of this offer was, that it should have some influence upon
the support of the Duke of Northumberland, Lord Clive, &c. &c. The ribbon is now
supposed to be offered to the Duke of Portland.


"I believe the world here are now pretty well satisfied that I have not come here
for the sole purpose of intrigue, cabal, and holding conclaves for political purposes,
the ministerial (papers) having, when they stated me to have political meetings in
Hamilton Place, unluckily brought company together of many who have not been in

The king now sent for the Duke of Wellington to reconstruct
the ministry, who was forthwith joined by several of his former
colleagues, Mr. Peel undertaking the leadership in the House of

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

"Jan. 12th, 1828.

"You will probably have heard from Bessy that there is an end of the late admi-
nistration. This is certainly fact: Lord, Duke of, Wellington being charged and em-
powered by the king to form a new one. So the duke writes to me in a note, and adds


that he shall call upon me. More than this, as to this matter, which I hear engrosses
every body's attention and talk in this town,! have not, at the time I write this, heard.
People in general are delighted with the dismissal of the late administration: there
may be more difficulty in forming a perfectly good new one than they imagine. I
hear that Calcraft rejoices that, as he got nothing in the late administration, he is
more comfortable than those who have lost what they got."

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

"Jan. 25th, 1823.

" The ministry is now complete. 1. Duke of Wellington, first lord of the treasury.
2. Lyndhurst, chancellor. 3. Bathurst, president of council. 4. Peel, secretary of
home department. 5. Secretary of foreign department, Dudley. 6. Colonial depart-
ment, Huskisson. 7. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Goulburn. 8. President of Board
of Control, Melville. 9. Chancellor of duchy, Aberdeen. 10. Privy seal, Ellen-
borough. 11. Mint, Herries. 12. Board of Trade, Grant. 13. Secretary at war,
Palmerston. Of which are for Catholics, 1. Dudley; 2. Huskisson; 3. Melville; 4.
Ellenborough ; 5. Grant; and 6. Palmerston. The other seven are as yet for Protest-
ants, but some very loose. You will observe Dudley, Huskisson, Grant, Palmerston,
and Lyndhurst, (five) were all Canningites, with whom the rest were, three weeks
ago, in most violent contest and opposition. These things are to me quite marvellous.
How they are all to deal with each other's conduct as to the late treaty with Turkey,
and the Navarino battle, is impossible to conjecture. I am told that the Dukes of
Rutland and Newcastle have been to the king, to express their non-adhesion to this
coalition. Lord Lowther has refused office; so that, I suppose, Lonsdale is also dis-
satisfied. Viscountess Canning has written a strong letter, as Lord Ashley tells me,
to Huskisson, strongly reproaching him for joining (I use Ashley's own expression)
her husband's murderers. Ashley and the Shaftesburys are with ministers.

"As the first fruits of this arrangement, the Corporation of London have agreed to
petition Parliament to repeal the laws which affect Dissenters. Poor Wetherell, who
gallantly resigned the office of attorney-general as a sacrifice to his principles and
friends, and who, if he had kept it, would have had a high law office which became
vacant whilst the late administration remained, is sacrificed to Scarlett, who is a
Whig and who has been in violent opposition to all the administrations of which I
have been a member."

To some part of the public it was matter of surprise that Lord
Eldon formed no part of a government including most of his friends.
But his advanced age, for he was now in his 77th year, and his often-
declared disinclination to the labour and responsibility of the judg-
ment-seat, made it impossible to expect that he would again under-
take the great legal office which he had filled so ably for a quarter
of a century : and any merely political station seems to have been
regarded as unsuitable for him, in a cabinet where the prevalent
opinions were at variance with his upon some of the most important
questions of the state. It will be seen, however, from his letters to
Lady F. J. Bankes, that he was not quite pleased with his former
colleagues, for omitting to give him at least the refusal of a seat in
their councils. Mr. Peel, upon coming into office, expressed his
own feelings towards him in the following letter :

(Mr. Peel to Lord Eldon.)

" Whitehall Gardens, Jan. 26th, 1828. Saturday night.
" My dear Lord Eldon,

" It was not until this day, that my appointment to the office of home secretary of
state was completed by my taking the oaths in council.

"My first act is to express to you my deep regret, that any circumstances should
have occurred, carrying with them the remotest appearance of a separation from you

Online LibraryHorace TwissThe public and private life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, with selections from his correspondence (Volume 2) → online text (page 28 of 65)