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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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Lord Stowell left large estates, both real and personal. By the
premature death of his son, who had been the primary object in his
will, the enjoyment of the bulk of his property, real and personal,
devolved upon his daughter, Lady Sidmouth, for life. On her death
without issue, the devise carried the Gloucestershire estates to Lord
Encombe for life with remainder to his sons successively in tail male,
and in default of such issue to the testator's right heirs : the other
landed estates being left, immediately on failure of Lady Sidmouth's
issue, which event took place, to the testator's right heir, who was
Lady Sidmouth herself: the personal property, after payment of some
legacies and annuities, became divisible under the will among the
testator's next of kin, according to the Statute of Distributions.
The executors he named were Lord Eldon (who, from his great age,
was unable to undertake the trust), Lord Sidmouth and William
Chisholme, Esquire, of Lincoln's Inn Fields.

Lord Stowell had the good fortune to live in an age, of which the
events and circumstances were peculiarly qualified to exercise and

* So on the marble ; but he represented Downton from 1790 to 1801.


exhibit the high faculties of his mind. The greatest maritime ques-
tions which had ever presented themselves for adjudication, ques-
tions involving all the most important points both in the rights of
belligerents and in those of neutrals, arose, in his time, out of that
great war in which England became the sole occupant of the sea, and
held at her girdle the keys of all the harbours upon the globe. Of
these questions, most of them of first impression, a large proportion
could be determined only by a long and cautious process, of refer-
ence to principle, and induction from analogy. The genius of Lord
Stowell, at once profound and expansive, vigorous and acute, impar-
tial and decisive, penetrated, marshaled, and mastered all the diffi-
culties of these complex inquiries; till, having "sounded all their
depths and shoals," he framed and laid down that great comprehensive
chart of maritime law, which has become the rule of his successors,
and the admiration of the world. What he thus achieved in the
wide field of international jurisprudence, he accomplished also with
equal success in the narrower spheres of ecclesiastical, matrimonial
and testamentary law. And though, where so many higher excel-
lences stand forth, that of style may seem comparatively immaterial,
it is impossible not to notice that scholarlike finish of his judicial
compositions, by which they delight the taste of the critic, as by
their learning and their logic they satisfy the understanding of the

Like Lord Eldon, he was more repelled by fears of change, than
attracted by hopes of improvement. On questions, therefore, which
involved any kind of disturbance, whether legal, political or eccle-
siastical, his voice was almost always against the mover; or if he
opposed not with his voice, as he was little given to parliamentary
display, he resisted with a steady vote, and an influence which,
from his learning, his station, and his close connection and commu-
nion with the chancellor, was vastly potential. But he was not
more stubborn in legislation than he was free and facile in society :
he lived with all the best political and literary company, and to the
latest period of his London life, his presence was coveted at all the
most agreeable tables of the time, without distinction of party.




Letter from Lord Eldon to Lady E. Repton. Uneasy feelings : Lord Stowell's will :
letters between Lord Encombe and Lord Eldon. Portraits of Lord Eldon. His
fifth visit to Durham : Miss Forster's recollections of it A French lady and a
French kiss. Visit of Mrs. and Miss Forster to Encombe: Miss Forster's recol-
lections of it. Loss, recovery and history of Pincher. Conversation of Lord
Eldon with Mr. Farrer.

IN March, 1836, an alarming illness attacked Mr. G. W. J. Repton,
the son of Lady Elizabeth. His grandfather's deep interest in him
appears in the following letter:

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

(March 18th, 1836.)

"It is impossible for me to tell you or Mr. Repton, or G. R. junior, what my feelings
have been. My affection, my duty, and every sentiment of my heart leads me to beg
that you will mind no expense that advice can furnish you with: all that I shall most
heartily furnish, and send you as you may direct me. I trust and pray that Heaven
may graciously be kind to us all. My warmest love to each and every of you.

"Yours from my heart,


Though Lord Encombe's purchase of Shirley in November, 1834,
had been so far from disagreeable to Lord Eldon that he had even
presented his grandson with the purchase-money of that property,
yet when he found that the effect of a residence so near London was
practically to prevent Lord and Lady Encombe from making their
constant abode in town during the winter, he became a little dis-
contented. Lord Encombe's object in placing himself at Shirley had
been to combine a provision for the health of Lady Encombe and his
young family, with a frequent attendance on his grandfather; but, as
old age and infirmity are not always quite reasonable, Lord Eldon,
in the last two years of his life, allowed himself to be a good deal
chagrined at this arrangement, without any intimation, however, to
Lord Encombe, who learned his grandfather's dissatisfaction only
from some hints kindly given to him by Mr. and Lady Elizabeth
Repton. Lord Eldon appears also to have been a little mortified,
that Lord Stowell's will passed him by, in favour of Lord Encombe.
On this last subject, a conversation chanced to take place between
him and his grandson, which produced the following letters :

(Lord Encombe to Lord Eldon.}

" 11, Hill St., Sunday Evening, April 3J, 1S36.
" My dear Grandfather,

" As an expression escaped me to-day in our conversation, which I had previously
not intended to have mentioned during my cousin Lady Sidmouth's lifetime, I prefer
to write it now distinctly to you without further delay. At the time that my dear


uncle Lord Stowell made his will, Lady Sidmouth's health was far better than it is
unfortunately now, and he could not reasonably have anticipated that his son, being
then a young man of a most powerful constitution, should be called from this world
before his father, Lord Stowell, or you his uncle. This to my mind sufficiently
accounts for the omission of your name, instead of, or at least previously to, mine,
as a successor to the Stowell estates.

" I, therefore, hope you will understand (since there can be no doubt that the event
of my cousin William Scott's death, had it been known to Lord Stowell, might
materially have altered his arrangements, as long as his mind was equal to it), that
I consider myself as doing no act of ostentatious liberality, but a bare act of justice,
when I beg, as I do, that you will, during our lives (should we survive Lady Sid-
mouth), take entire possession, in the amplest manner, of every right and power over
the Stowell estates, which is in the will bestowed on me, not for my own merits, but
as being your grandson. With Louisa's and my own most affectionate love,
" Believe me, my dear grandfather,

" Your very affectionate grandson,

" ElfCOMBE."

(Lord Eldon to Lord Encomle.)

(April 4th, 1836,)
" Dear Encombe,

"I have received this morning your most kind, and most affectionate, and most
liberal letter. To avail myself of it, in the smallest degree, I cannot, indeed I ought
not. I had every reason to believe, I may say to know, that my brother, quite inde-
pendently of your kind way of accounting for it, had long intended to place you next
in succession, to his Gloucester estates, to his son and daughter; and had made up
his mind, and I don't think unreasonably, I really do not think so, to pass over me
Avith respect to that property. Of your kindness and liberality I never could think
of availing myself in the smallest degree. If, in events which may happen, I live to
see you in possession, you may depend upon my best advice to enable you to enjoy
that possession, and assistance if I have the means of rendering that assistance and
giving that advice. The only, and the last anxious wish that I can express or form, is
that whilst I live, and after I am gone, my dear daughters and their children may be,
as I think they ought, next to your descendants, the objects of your principal kind-
ness and respect.

" Wishing you, Louisa, and Infantula, all happiness for many years to come, I am
theirs and yours very affectionately,


The strength of Lord Eldon was now visibly giving way. In the
session of 1836, he never attended the House of Lords, from which,
while his health permitted, it had always been a point of conscience
with him not to absent himself.

Early in the preceding year, a portrait of him, begun in December,
1834, was finished by Briggs. It represents him in his great-coat,
seated by a library table, on which appear a letter and an inkstand,
the original of which was made of oak from one of the Houses of
Parliament, and given to him by the Rev. Thomas Thurlow.* This
picture was painted for Mr. Thurlow, and the letter appears franked
tohimf; which was done upon the canvass by Lord Eldon's own
hand, in a colour resembling ink. In the beginning of 1836, two
repetitions of it were painted by the same artist, as presents from
Lord Eldon to his two daughters respectively, which have this varia-
tion from the first, and from one another, that the letter in each is
addressed to the lady for whom that particular picture was executed.
As in the original, so in the two counterparts, the address is written,

* See a letter to Lady F. J. Bankes, of March, 1835.

f " London, March 7th, 1835. Eldon. Rev. Thomas Thurlow, Baynard's Park."


or coloured in, by Lord Eldon himself. In the painting for Lady
Frances, but not in the others, the dog Pincher is introduced.

At the end of July, Lord Eldon repeated his excursion into Dur-
ham, of which Miss Forster has recorded many particulars. She
writes thus :

" As Lord Eldon appeared to enjoy much these annual visits to
his northern friends and his northern estates, looking back to the last
and forward to the next with extreme pleasure, it may perhaps be a
source of future interest, if I preserve some account of what passed
at one of them.

" On Saturday, July 30th, 1836, Lord Eldon arrived at Rushey-
ford, about three o'clock in the afternoon ; and, in about half an hour
afterwards, my mother and myself joined him, having received letters
from him on his way down, to let us know his progress and when he
would arrive. Not finding us at Rusheyford, he had just finished a
letter to my mother to tell her, ' that we could not arrive too soon or
stay too long.' Our reception was truly gratifying, from the warmth
of affection he showed us. He was very weak, from his long and
recent attack of gout ; but his appetite was better than the preceding
year, and he was extremely cheerful. That afternoon and the fol-
lowing day (Sunday), the conversation was principally upon family
events ; and he remained quiet, in order to rest after the fatigue of
his journey from London.

" On Monday, he went to see what he called ' one of his foreign
domains.' He arrived back to dinner, and found Mr. and Mrs. J. Man-
isty and Mr. Aubone Surtees. To attempt to describe Lord Eldon's
conversation would require very great powers of memory ; for every
sentence is worth recording. Arguments upon the present state of
public affairs, proving, from the effects of past measures, the justness
of what he had formerly stated in parliamentary debates, and a full
stream of anecdotes, mingled with many playful and witty observa-
tions, made that, as well as every other day I spent in his company,
truly delightful.

" My dear uncle's conversation at Eldon was partly serious ; but,
the greater part of the time, full of fun, joke and anecdote. Neither
in this or any former years did I ever know him to omit to speak
seriously of what his thoughts and feelings ought to be at the very
great age he had now attained, the uncertainty of his ever reaching
Eldon again, the examination of his past life, which the leisure of
the last few years had enabled him to make, the satisfaction that
arose from a consciousness of not having sought honours, but of
having endeavoured to act in every case from pure motives, his
preparations for death, which must soon take place.

"'I have employed the leisure of my latter years,' he said, 'in
looking back upon my past life, and I hope I may say without pre-
sumption, that my mind is at ease. I may have been in the wrong ;
but I always tried to judge, and to act by the best powers of my mind,
unswayed by any impure motive.' Having created the impression on
his hearers, which, as a Christian, he appeared to wish to make, he


would turn to lighter subjects, and, by his wit and his anecdote,
keep every one amused the whole of the evening.

" Thursday. On this day, on which the tenants dined, my uncle
remained in the house. After dinner, he always, on this day, went
in, made a speech, and drank to the health of his guests : loud indeed
were the cheers that ensued. The following was his address to them,
written down by Mr. A. Bell.
" ' Gentlemen,

" ' I thank God, that it has pleased him to allow me once more the
happiness and pleasure of meeting you all again. It also gives me
great satisfaction to tell you, that I have been informed by those,
from whom alone I can receive accurate information on the subject,
that you have, all of you, made improvements in the management of
your farms. For this I thank you : and I cannot but attribute these
beneficial effects, in a great measure, to the alteration which you have
made in the tenure of your farms, in taking them for a term instead
of from year to year. It is evident to me, as it must, I think, be to
you all, that a tenant, who is liable to be removed in a year from his
farm, cannot, satisfactorily to himself, make those improvements,
which he will do, when he is sure that he can remain on his farm
long enough to reap the benefit to himself of those improvements. I
thank you all, for your improved management. I will come among
you as long as it shall please God to allow me. I wish you all, your-
selves and families, health and happiness ; and I shall never, while I
live, cease to consider my tenantry as part of myself.'

" The following morning, Friday, 5th of August, my venerable
uncle, Lord Eldon, left Rusheyford. We parted cheerfully, for we
hoped soon to meet again at Encombe.

"When he left Rusheyford in the beginning of August, he desired
me to deliver a kind message which he dictated, on business, to the
Rev. James Manisty, and a kiss to his lady,* which he said he durst
not give her in her husband's presence. Writing to him a few days
afterwards, my letter contained the following paragraph :

"'I delivered your message to Mr. and Mrs. Manisty, and they both desire me to
return you their grateful thanks; that is to say, Mr. Manisty thanks you for your mes-
sage, Junie for your kiss, which I took care to deliver, as you desired, in private. 1

" When we were at Earley Court I received a letter from Junie,
containing the following message, which I copied and sent to my
uncle, explaining that a French kiss was one to each cheek:

"'Pray, El!en, say whatever you think most respectful for me to Lord Eldon ; but
I do not think there would be any harm in sending him a French kiss. It is what
no English lawyer can object to, it being only justice to make both sides of the face

" When Lord Eldon read this message, he laughed heartily,
declared he had thought he would have lived and died an English-
man in every thing, but really in the article of a kiss he must become
a Frenchman. He wrote me this answer :

* A native of France.


"Corfe Castle, Sept. llth, 1836.

"'I entirely approve the double species of osculation, of both cheeks, which Mrs.
M. recommends, and I shall hereafter punctually adopt that mode of osculation when
a French face is in my view.'"

Before the middle of September, 1836, Mr. Pennington paid a
visit to Lord Eldon at Encombe. " When I went there," said Mr.
Pennington some time afterwards to Mr. Farrer, " Lord Eldon abrupt-
ly asked me whether I thought he could recover. Seeing I was taken
by surprise, he said, ' I know you can't stay long : go into the next
room and take some luncheon.' I did so; and when I returned, he
again put the same question to me. 'As you ask me, my lord,' I
said, ' it is my duty to tell you, that I never knew the disease you are
suffering under cured. There are persons in London, who say they
can cure it: I am most anxious that your lordship should call in
other medical advice: I hope you will do so when you go to town.'
Lord Eldon looked at me, and then in his emphatic manner replied,
'I have lived by Pennington, and I will die by Pennington.' "

Mrs. and Miss Forster arrived at Encombe about the latter end of
September, 1836. The following are Miss Forster's memoranda made
at that time :

" On our arrival at Encombe, we received, from my dear uncle,
Lord Eldon, a most kind and affectionate welcome. By Lady Eliza-
beth, Mr. Repton and their son, we were also most cordially greeted.
That day there was no company, and the evening passed in cheerful
conversation and some anecdotes.

" The next morning, my venerable uncle invited my mother and
myself to accompany him into his study, or, as he called it, into his
shop, where he told us we would be at all times welcome, and that
the more time we spent there, the more welcome we would be. The
first thing he pointed out to our attention was a small painting of his
royal master, George HI. ; not in what at first sight might have been
deemed an honourable situation, but placed in a corner, the only spot
in the room which had the double advantage of being out of the
reach of the sun, and in full sight from the easy chair by the fire,
where Lord Eldon usually sat : and these advantages he carefully
pointed out to our attention. The next object he showed us was a
small drawing of his favourite dog Pincher, done for him by Mr.
Repton. This dog was connected in his mind with some affecting
family circumstances, and recalled to his memory a deceased son.
The third object was an old worn-looking Greek testament, upon the
first page of which he had written, that it had belonged to his revered
master, the Rev. Hugh Moises. After sitting some time, in confi-
dential conversation upon various subjects, we left the study, my
uncle again inviting us to come there frequently, promising that we
should have all the old stories over again, of which, he said, we
knew he had a great store. Lady Frances Banks came to dinner,
and two of her children had their supper at our dessert.

" Mr. Repton accompanied us in a walk to the Eldon Seat. This
seat, which was erected under the direction of Mr. Repton, is made


of stone, and intended to last as long as massive stones, cramped
together by iron, can last. To this spot we frequently walked during
our stay at Encombe, and my uncle always appeared pleased when
we told him we had been there. He told us the most imposing sight
he had ever beheld was from the neighbourhood of this spot : it was
a fleet of several hundred vessels passing along the channel, sailing
in regular order, and forming a dense square. They manoeuvred or
tacked by signal, always preserving their order with beautiful pre-
cision ; these vessels were conveying soldiers to Spain.

" On Sunday the carriage was ready to convey us to church.
Kingston church, which is a chapel of ease to Corfe, had been rebuilt
at my uncle's expense, under the direction of Mr. Repton. A plain
monument to the memory of Lady Eldon, by Chantrey, had been
placed in it. Another spot, to which my dear uncle directed our
attention, was the vault, which he had had prepared for himself and
family, and which had been consecrated by Dr. Gray, the late Bishop
of Bristol. It was indeed with feelings of deep emotion we surveyed
so interesting and so sacred a spot, destined to be the resting-place
of the mortal remains of one for whom we felt such warm, constant
and fervent affection, and whose end we could not contemplate with-
out foretase of that sorrow so great a bereavement was sure to inflict:
but he spoke not of it as an event of sorrow, but as a change for
which he had been long prepared an event \vhich must soon take
place. My dear uncle sent us to drive along the beautiful grassy
terrace, on the high ground that surrounds the bowl. We were, as
we might well be, charmed with the splendid views all around, which
we then saw with all the advantages of a bright day.

" Whilst at Encombe, I slipped my foot on the hill beneath the
Stowell monument, and fell with amazing rapidity to the bottom.
The shake brought on a feverish attack. I felt very grateful for my
dear uncle's kindness and attention whilst I was ill, though I confess
I could not help being amused at hearing of his frequent inquiries of
what wine he must send up, and his lamentations that no wine could
be found in his cellar to do me good. When I first saw him, his
brightly affectionate look, and the simple words, ' my darling,' I can
never forget.

" On the morning that my cousin George Repton left us at En-
combe, to return to his tutor near Weymouth, I went into my uncle's
study, and mentioned that George had looked very grave at parting.
My uncle agreed, observing ' I told him that if he wished to stay,
or felt that a further period of relaxation was necessary for the resto-
ration of his health, he should remain, and I would be glad of his
company ; but at the same time I represented to him, that his present
period of life (nearly eighteen) was very valuable for purposes of
education, and that I had frequent occasion to remark, that young
men who lost that period, from idleness, or any other cause, were
never able to make it up in after life : it was therefore for his serious
consideration whether he would or would not stay; I repeated, how-
ever, that I would be glad of his company, and though he looked


very dull, he is gone.' 'He told me with great delight,' said I,
' of your having allowed his favourite dog to accompany him.' ' Yes,'
answered Lord Eldon, 'I was obliged to do that to comfort him.'

" During the latter part of our stay we talked a great deal of Ox-
ford, and received his strict injunction to see University College.
He also directed our attention to the theatre and several other colleges
and buildings ; and he appeared to have very great pleasure in talking
of the various things that had occurred to him there, his riding up
to London to keep his terms, his cutting down the tree in All Saints'
churchyard, his tittering audience, &c.

" I enjoyed very much seeing my venerable uncle with his grand-
children, Fanny and Eldon Bankes, beside him after dinner, other mem-
bers of the family being present. The children hearing him his letters,
he repeated the alphabet, altering the usual order of the letters.
"No, no, grandpapa, that won't do." He again repeated them with
mock solemnity, preserving every letter, though he again varied the
order. Then came a mock discussion between the elder and younger
members of the family, whether grandpapa should be sent to a pre-
paratory school, or taught the rudiments of education at home, lest
he should disgrace the family: the venerable earl listening to, and
entering into the amusement with affectionate playfulness.

" Encombe may be considered an hospital for horses, all the
favourite horses of the family having a run there for life. My uncle
appears to delight in making every one around him happy. The
wife and children of his personal attendant, Mr. Smith, are brought
down to Encorabe for the time of Lord Eldon's sojourn there, and
are comfortably established in one wing of the house. The children
call him ' a dear Lord Eldon.' '

Lord Eldon related to Miss Forster the particulars of the temporary
loss of his dog Pincher, which had happened in November, 1832.
The following is his narrative to her, a little corrected from letters
written by him to Lord Encombe and Lady F. J. Bankes, a few
days after the occurrence, while its circumstances were fresh in his

Online LibraryHorace TwissThe public and private life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, with selections from his correspondence (Volume 2) → online text (page 46 of 65)