« ZurückWeiter »
Eternal smiles his emptiness betray,
Wit that can creep, and pride that licks the dust.' ''Though the substance and many of the sharpest points of this bitter invective as well as of the prose“ Letter” were originally taken from Pulteney's libel, the brilliancy is all the poet's own; and it is impossible not to admire, however we may condemn, the art by which acknowledged wit, beauty, and gentle manners—the Queen's favourand even a valetudinary diet, are travestied into the most odious defects and offences. The only trait perhaps that is not either false or overcharged is Hervey's hereditary turn for antithesis, which, as the reader of the Memoirs will see, was habitual in both his writing and speaking. His speeches were, as Warton says, very far above “florid impotence; but they were in favour of the Ministry, and that was sufficiently offensive to Pope.” Smollett too, led away, no doubt, by the satirist, calls his speeches "pert and frivolous.” Those that have been preserved are surely of a very different character ; but pert speeches, if such they were, and even the foppery and affectation of a young man of fashion, are very subordinate offences, while that more serious defect which might have been really charged upon him, and which was strongly hinted at in the "Letter”-laxity of moral and religious principle-has here altogether-or nearly so-escaped the censure of the satirist. Was it too fashionable and too general--or in the eyes of the friend of Bolingbroke too venial--to be made an object of reproach ??—Preface.
On this commentary we shall not comment at much length. Mr. Croker, we should suppose, hardly expected Pope to dwell on the point of infidelity : and as to the • laxity of moral principle all but escaping, we may content ourselves with hoping that the very name Sporus (in the first draft Paris) constituted the foulest of calumnies as well as the most atrocious of insults.
With respect to Pope's copying of sharp points from Pulteney's Craftsman, Mr. Croker seems not to have observed a refine
ment of the executioner's art in borrowing some hints also from Hervey's own · Lines to the Imitator of Horace' (Wortley, vol. iii. p. 384.) Thus the butterfly-bug is developed from—
Is this the thing to keep mankind in awe,
And as we're told of wasps, it stings and dies.'
• When God created thee, one would believe,
To human race antipathy declare,' &c. &c. And since we quote this piece, let us give also its closing couplets, which, if not travestied by Pope, were more resented than all the rest:
• Thou, as thou hatest, be hated by mankind-
Wander, like him, accursed through the land.' These verses, it must be confessed, afforded fair provocation for all but the main and pervading idea in the character of Sporus. Let us conclude with reminding our readers of the hereditary * eccentricity' in the Hervey family: what that gentle term occasionally indicates is often found in connexion with the terrible discase by which this remarkable person was afflicted--and there was no lack of eccentricity in some of his progeny, for one son was the Augustus Hervey who married Miss Chudleigh (the Duchess of Kingston), and another was the fourth Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry-the celebrated Comte-Evêque' of the Continent, and of Cumberland's entertaining Autobiography.
We have kept our readers too long from the Memoirs themselves—but their revelations are such that in fairness to the author it seemed necessary to give a clear idea of his position when he wroie them, and justice to the people he deals with no less demanded some scrutiny into the character of the witness.
The editor says:
'Lord Hervey himself fairly admits that impartiality in such cases as his is not to be expected, and he justifies that confession to its fullest extent; but while he thus warns us of what we should have soon discovered without any warning—that his colouring may be capricious and exaggerated - no one can feel the least hesitation as to the substantial and, as
to mere facts, the minute accuracy of his narrative. He may, and I have no doubt too often does, impute a wrong motive to an act, or a wrong meaning to a speech; but we can have no doubt that the act or the speech themselves are related as he saw and heard them.
'I know of no such near and intimate picture of the interior of a court; no other memoirs that I have ever read bring us so immediately, so actually into not merely the presence, but the company of the personages of the royal circle.' - Preface.
We are not quite sure that the revelation is more close and intimate than that of the manners of two smaller courts, of nearly the same date, by the Margravine of Bareuth; or that of a far more splendid court, which we owe to St. Simon; but certainly we have no picture of the interior of English royalty at all to be compared with this; and the author having been not only a resident in the Palace, but also an active statesman, holding the most confidential intercourse with the minister, and taking a zealous part in parliamentary conflicts and intrigues, his work is enriched with a mixture of interests such as never could be at the command of any one penman under a continental despotism, whether great or small. Since our constitution assumed anything like its present form, it has been a very rare thing for a man of political eminence to be also a domesticated attendant on the person of a British sovereign; we doubt if any other man of public talents nearly equal to Lord Hervey's has ever within that period spent seven years in the daily observation of a royal circle; nor have we as yet had—not even in the Malmesbury papers-a series of political revelations, properly so called, extending over a similar space of time, and executed by a hand so near the springs of action. The combination of court and politics here is, we believe, entirely unique. The editor proceeds thus :
Lord Hervey is, may I venture to say, almost the Boswell of George II. and Queen Caroline—but a Boswell without good nature. He seems to have taken-perhaps under the influence of that wretched health of which he so frequently complained- a morbid view of mankind, and to have had little of the milk of human kindness in his temper. In fact, whether in his jeux d'esprit, his graver verses, his pamphlets, or his memoirs, satire-perhaps I might say detractionseems to have been, as with Horace Walpole, the natural bias of his mind. There is, as far as I recollect, in all his writings, no human being of whom he speaks well, or to whom he allows a good motive for anything they say or do, but his father and the Princess Caroline. It must be owned few others of his personages deserved it so well : but the result is that all his portraits, not excepting even his own, are of the Spagnoletto school.'-Ibid. This is, we venture to say, a little too stern. If we had been to select a pictorial parallel, we own Hogarth would have
occurred to us rather than Spagnolet. We cannot allow that good motives are wholly denied to Hervey's Queen Caroline; he could hardly be expected to be in love with both the mother and the daughter-but we believe that the touches which seem to Mr. Croker the severest were not introduced with any unkindly purpose; nay, that he meant them to be received as ornamental. For example, that overtolerance of the King's irregularities, which, Mr. Croker says, “if truth is ever to be veiled, might have been spared on this occasion,' was probably considered by Lord Hervey as a fine trait in his patroness; and if “an impression injurious to the Queen's character' results, not from capricious exaggeration of shadow, but merely from faithful transcript of feature, have we a right to blame the pencil ?
On that particular trait Mr. Croker afterwards gives us some clever remarks, which we cannot altogether reconcile with his sweeping allegation now quoted. He says :
• The general fact is from many other sources too notorious, but the details are odious. The motive which Lord Hervey, Horace Walpole, and Lord Chancellor King suggest for the Queen's complaisancethat she did it to preserve her power over her husband-would be, in truth, the reverse of an excuse. But may not a less selfish motive be suggested? What could she have done ? The immoralities of kings have been always too leniently treated in public opinion; and in the precarious possession which the Hanoverian family were thought to have of the throne until the failure of the rebellion of 1745—could the Queen have prudently or safely taken measures of resistance, which must have at last ended in separation or divorce, or at least a scandal great enough, perhaps, to have overthrown her dynasty; and in such a course her prudery, as it might have been called, would probably have met little sympathy in those dissolute times. But even in this case we must regret that she had not devoured her own humiliation and sorrow in absolute silence, and submitted discreetly, and without confidants, to what she could not effectually resist. But neither the selfish motives imputed by former writers, nor the extenuating circumstance of expediency which I thus venture to suggest, can in any degree excuse the indulgence and even encouragement given, as we shall see, on her death-bed to the King's vices; and we are forced, on the whole, to conclude that moral delicacy as well as Christian duty must have had very little hold on either her mind or heart. I have ventured to say (vol. ii. p. 528, note) that "she had read and argued herself into a very low and cold species of Christianity;" but Lord Chesterfield (who, however, personally disliked her) goes farther, and says, “After puzzling herself with all the whimsies and fantastical speculations of different sects, she fixed herself ultimately in deism-believing in a future state. Upon the whole the agreeable woman was liked by most people, while the Queen was neither esteemed, beloved, nor heeded by any one but the King.” - Preface, p. lxv. As both Hervey and Chesterfield were infidels themselves, we
might not have trusted implicitly to their representations of the Queen's religion ; but there is most abundant evidence to support Mr. Croker's own measured language, and no one can object to the manner in which he connects this question with the one immediately before him. As to his regret that the Queen did not 'submit without confidants '--if she had done so, what could we have ever known of the humiliation and sorrow' that she had to devour? Must it not have been the natural conclusion that she either disbelieved the facts, or was indifferent to them? And then, no doubt, if we could have known that she did suffer intensely, but had pride enough to suppress all within her own bosom, the result would have been a more heroical impressionbut would Mr. Croker have preferred a tragedy queen to the true, authentic, flesh and blood Queen Caroline? Would he have preferred that merely in an artistical point of view ? Far more, in the reality of the matter? When tragedy queens are involved in sufferings of this sort, the results are apt to be serious. It will not be apprehensions of separation or divorce, or even the downfall of a dynasty, new or old, that will chain up one of them in absolute silence. A tragedy will have its fifth act. We for our part are well contented to have the character as it was, rather than any grandiose embellishment of it-any fantastical ideal; and though we think Mr. Croker's conjectural apologies very ingenious, we also think it more probable that the motives he suggests operated in conjunction with the one which he is disposed to reject, than that the 'main motive for the Queen's complaisance' escaped such observers as Hervey and Sir Robert Walpole—for it is Sir Robert's opinion most undoubtedly that we have reflected both in Horace Walpole's Reminiscences and in Lord King's Diary. But though Mr. Croker, like an illustrious countryman of his, goes on refining,' and is perhaps as fond of historical doubts and theories as Queen Caroline was of Socinian metaphysics, we are far from supposing that he has in this curious Preface given us an exhaustive summary of his conclusions on the point before us. The text of Hervey proceeds from the first page to the last in the unhesitating belief that love of power was Queen Caroline's ruling passion, and, if everybody has some ruling passion, what else could have been hers? She was never even suspected of what the poet makes the only other ruling passion in her sex. And if this was not the pleasure of her life, every one who lays down this book will ask what it was that could have made life endurable to this' 'very
?'* * We have been speaking of tragedies. The book that was found dabbled with blood by Madanie de Praslin's bedside was that delicate specimen of Mrs. Gore's skill entitled Mrs. Armytage; or, Female Domination.' VOL. LXXXII. NO, CLXIV.