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personal popularity of the King. Only two years
with heedful eyes,
How that right loyal body wanted learning." These lines were retorted upon with singular felicity by Sir William Browne, whose composition not only excels, both in point and versification, the verses which prompted his rejoinder, but has also the merit of having been written impromptu :
“ The King to Oxford sent a troop of horse,
For Whigs allow no force but argument." The circumstance, perhaps, is a curious one, that, notwithstanding the excited state of partyfeeling in the reign of George the First, and the fact that by nearly half the nation he was regarded merely as a usurper, yet that his life should only on one occasion have been in danger from assassination, and then from the hands of a mere boy, who had conceived an almost frenzied devotion for the Stuart family. The youth in question was named James Shepherd, a coach-maker's apprentice, who, it seems, communicated his project to one Leake, a non-juring clergyman; at the same time expressing his desire to receive the sacrament daily, till he should have accomplished his purpose. By means of Leake, the government was made acquainted with the project, and the person of Shepherd secured. When placed on his trial, he not only freely admitted his guilt, but, at the place of execution, declared that he gloried in the design, and died a willing martyr to his principles. Lord Chesterfield writes, about thirty years afterwards, to his son,—“I cannot help reading of Porsenna and Regulus with surprise and reverence: and yet I remember that I saw, without either, the execution of Shepherd, a boy of eighteen years old, who intended to shoot the late King, and who would have been pardoned, if he would have expressed the least sorrow for his intended crime; but, on the contrary, he declared that if he was pardoned, he would attempt it again : that he thought it a duty which he owed his country ; and that he died with pleasure for having endeavoured to perform it. Reason equals Shepherd with Regulus; but prejudice, and the recency of the fact, makes Shepherd a common malefactor, and Regulus a hero." Shepherd was executed at Tyburn on the 17th of March, 1718. Probably, though actuated by false principles, the youth may have sacrificed his life for what he believed the good of his country ; and so far he merits the implied eulogium wasted upon him by Lord Chesterfield. He appears, however, by all accounts, to have been a mere fanatic, and more suited for Bedlam, than deserving a death on the scaffold, or a place in the temple of political martyrs.
Though occasionally obstinate and self-willed, George the First, when nothing of importance occurred to ruffle the evenness of his temper, appears to have been, what may be termed, an agreeable and a good-humoured man. In his own circle, and among his own friends, he could converse freely and laugh heartily, though, generally speaking, he preferred the pleasure of listening to the conversation of others to the labour of talking himself.* He delighted to divest himself of the cares of sovereignty with its trappings, and
* Letter from Etough to Dr. Birch. Add. MSS. Brit. Mus. 4326, B.
though neither his wit nor his conversation were of a very high order, he was, on these occasions, especially over his punch, a cheerful, and sometimes an amusing companion. Parade and observation were his particular aversion. Among his few redeeming qualities, was a love of music, and whenever this taste led him to frequent the opera, instead of appearing in state in the royal box, he usually sat (in a box allotted to the ladies of the Court) behind the Duchess of Kendal and Lady Walsingham, where he could watch the performances without being observed by the audience.
Of the King's peculiar kind of humour, and of his practice of embellishing a slight incident, the following may be taken as a specimen : “ This is a very odd country,” he said, speaking of England, “the first morning, after my arrival at St. James', I looked out of the window, and saw a park with walls, and a canal, which they told me were mine. The next day, Lord Chetwynd, the ranger of my park, sent me a brace of fine carp out of my canal, and I was told I must give five guineas to Lord Chetwynd's man, for bringing me my own carp, out of my own canal in my own park.”
A seasonable and well-turned pleasantry appears to have usually had the effect of putting him in a good-humour, a circumstance of which his courtiers did not fail to avail themselves. Among those who were in the habit of diverting him, either by exposing their own follies or retailing those of others, was the Duchess of Bolton,
a natural daughter of the unfortunate Duke of Monmouth.* This lady is said to have frequently amused him by her ridiculous, and more than Hibernian, blunders. On one occasion, having been at the theatre the night before when Colley Cibber's first dramatic performance “ Love's last Shift,” was acted, the King inquired of her, the next day, what piece she had seen performed. The play, she said, with a grave face, was La dernière Chemise de l'Amour. At another tirne, she made her appearance at Court in a great fright, and the King inquiring the cause of her alarm, she told him she had just been listening to a prophecy of Whiston, that the world would be burnt in three years, — “And for my part,” she added, “I am determined to go to China.”
Among others, in whose society he delighted, was Dr. Lockier, the well-known friend of Pope and the wits. The King, one day seeing Lockier at Court, desired the Duchess of Ancaster to invite him to her evening party.
Lockier, however, begged that the Duchess would excuse him to his Majesty: he stood well at present, he said, with the ministers, but should it be known that he was keeping such good company, he should probably miss the preferment which he was anxiously expecting. A few days afterwards Lockier was appointed to the Deanery of Peter
* Henrietta Crofts, natural daughter of James, Duke of Monmouth, by Eleanor, younger daughter of Sir Robert Needham, Knt. She became the third wife of Charles Paulet, second Duke of Bolton.