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piety, and only resented the treachery of Sir Robert's relations and colleagues in the great crisis of his fall. But it has been shown in a former article of this Review (on Walpole's Memoirs, vol. xxviii. p. 189, &c.), from evidence accidentally and unconsciously supplied by Walpole's own pen, that this palliative plea—though often insinuated by him-is wholly unfounded.
That old Horace had betrayed his brother we know not that the younger Horace ever ventured distinctly to state; that would have been too absurd.* He frequently indeed accuses him of treachery, but we shall see presently that he did not mean treachery to Sir Robert--but to himself, our Horace, long after Sir Robert's death. But in truth there is no reason (except Walpole's own very equivocal insinuations to suppose that Sir Robert was betrayed by any one. He fell because he had hung on so long that he was ripe for falling. His ministry may be said to have died a natural death, though the last moments were convulsive. He had for some time shown symptoms of the weakness and apathy of age-especially when he suffered himself to be bullied, contrary to his policy and pledges, into the war with Spain; but, above all, there had grown up a new generation, whose minds, naturally anxious for novelty and stimulated by ambition, were peculiarly inflamed against Sir Robert by the speeches and writings of one of the ablest and most active Oppositions that ever influenced the Senate and guided the Press. Young Horace, as eager, as clever, and as ambitious as any of Sir Robert's adversaries, very naturally regretted and resented a defeat so injurious to his prospects and so mortifying to all his feelings, but he had little reason to entertain, and did not for many years express any indig. nation against Sir Robert's colleagues on the score of their treachery to him : this was an imputation subsequently devised. Walpole continued not merely on good terms but in cordial alliance with the Pelhams and their friends-for nearly ten years after Sir Robert's retirement and eight years after his death-until Mr. Pelham and the Duke of Newcastle forfeited his favour by refusing to do a very profligate pecuniary job for him; and to the defeat of this and some other equally scandalous attempts at increasing his already enormous sinecure incoine are to be attributed all Walpole's personal enmity and political opposition to those ministers. Hence-a striking illustration of Doctor Johnson's celebrated dictum—he turned patriot; and so completely had
--so shrewd and sharp-sighted in detecting the foibles of others,-blinded himself, or fancied he had blinded the world,
* His zeal for his brother involved him, soon after Sir Robert's retirement, in a duel with one of his persecutors.
to his real motives, that we find that during the long life in which he enjoyed five sinecure offices, producing him at least 63001. ayear, he was not ashamed to inveigh bitterly against the abuses of ministerial patronage, and to profess—with astonishing effrontery --that the one virtue which he possessed in a singular degree was DISINTERESTEDNESS and CONTEMPT OF MONEY.' (Mem. yol. ii. p. 337, and Letters passim.)
As to the imputed treachery of his Uncle, as against Sir Robert, we have already treated it as an absurd calumny, attributable to some personal differences between the Horatii. This suspicion, which had been created by a consideration of the Memoirs’ and the general correspondence, has been corroborated by the first series of the letters to Mann, where we find that the supposed treachery had no reference at all to Sir Robert, and indeed did not occur for many years after his death. The fact seems to have been that, after the death of his eldest brother, the second Lord Orford, Horace Walpole became a party to a strange and scandalous plot to carry off a great heiress, one Miss Nicholl, from her guardian, and marry her clandestinely to his nephew, the young
Earl: nor was it from an indiscreet zeal for his nephew's interests that he entered into this conspiracy, but because he himself, and his special friends the Manns, were large creditors on the family estates, which were so much involved that these gentlemen had little hope of recovering their debts unless they could find some supply of money to enable the young
them off. This, as it seems, infamous scheme Horace senior in some way defeated, and hence the accusation of treachery and the eternal animosity with which Horace the younger persecuted him and his memory. Of course it is not likely that we should find any direct confession of such abominable motives, but we think we can collect from Walpole’s own statements a sufficient corroboration of the charge against him.
On the 1st of April, 1751, he gives Mann an account of his brother's death, and adds that he has left his son
the most ruined young man in England. My loss, I fear, may be considerable; but it is no small addition to my concern to fear or foresee that Houghton and all the remains of my father's glory will be pulled to pieces.'-Walpole's Letters, Gen. Col., vol. ii. p. 379.
And again, on the 1st of May, he tells Mann :
‘His [the young Lord's] affairs are putting into the best situation we can, and we are agitating a vast match for him, which, if it can be brought to bear, will even save your brother, whose great tenderness to mine (the deceased Lord] has left him exposed to greater risks than any of the creditors. For myself I think I shall escape tolerably, as my
lord to pay
demands are from my father, * whose debts are likely to be satisfied.'— Walpole's Letters, p. 386.
In these difficulties old Horace came to the assistance of his family with a disinterested activity, which the younger Horace acknowledges without the least indication of any dislike or animosity towards his uncle :
My uncle Horace is indefatigable in adjusting all this confusion. Do but figure him at seventy-four, looking not merely well for his age, but plump, ruddy, and without a wrinkle or complaint, doing everybody's business.' Ibid.
Within a month the scene changes, and the failure of the plot and its causes are on the 30th of May thus stated :
'If I could be mortified anew, I should meet with a new disappointment. The immense and uncommon friendship of Mr. Chute had found a method of saving both my family and yours. In short, in the height of his affliction for Whithed [a young friend lately dead] he undertook to get Miss Nicholl-the vast fortune-a fortune of above 150,0001., whom Mr. Whithed was to have had for Lord Orford. He actually persuaded her to run away from her guardians, who used her inhumanly, and are her next heirs. . After such fair success Lord Orford has refused to marry her : why, nobody can guess. Thus had I placed him in a greater situation than even his grandfather hoped to bequeath to him-had retrieved all the oversights of my family—had saved Houghton and all our glory!—now all must go!—and what shocks me infinitely more, Mr. Chute, by excess of treachery (a story too long for a letter), is embroiled with his own brother.'-Ibid., p. 387.
Some time after we find the treachery directly imputed to his uncle:
* The affair of Miss Nicholl is blown up [happy metaphor!] by the treachery of my uncle Horace and some lawyers I had employed at his recommendation. I have been forced to write a narrative of the whole transaction, and was with difficulty kept from publishing it.'-Ibid.,
Then suddenly his uncle becomes the object of ridicule and wrath.
Within ten pages we find• Lord Bolingbroke, it was thought was cured by a quackplaster ; but it is not everybody can be cured at seventy-five like my monstrous uncle.'-Ibid., p. 410.
And again, in a post or two after, we read of that buffoon, my old uncle.' - Ibid., p. 413. And in his Memoirs, which he meant for history, he heaped every kind of opprobrium on this unclewho, he said, had “injured and basely betrayed him.'—Mem., vol.
* It is observable that in one of Walpole's many panegyrics on his own disinterestedness, he says that he never had but 2501. from Sir Robert—which is not surprising, when we recollect that from his childhood he had been loaded with lucrative offices. But how is it, then, that he has considerable clajms against Sir Robert's estate ?
. p. 335. But of injury and treachery we can find no other trace than this story of Miss Nicholl.* And we see, twenty years later, the same odium in longum jacens, when he (Horace junior) alludes to the ghost of old Horace chuckling' at the ingratitude he had met with from his nephews, though he had never cheated them of heiresses.'-Ibid., vol. i. p. 194. It is possible that the narrative which he says he drew up of this affair may be found in his papers. If it ever sees the light, we dare say that it will not be found to contradict materially the conclusions we have drawn from his epistolary hints.
But besides the intensity of Walpole's dislike to individuals, at whom he might happen, rightly or wrongly, to take offence, there was a still deeper cause for the violence of his dislikes, and the disproportionate quantity of ill-nature that breaks out all through his correspondence, and in a most remarkable degree in his Memoirs. Sir Walter Scott says, with a significant delicacy, that ‘his temper was precarious.' Lord Dover, with the most favourable disposition towards him, is forced to admit that he quarrelled, as it would seem wantonly, with some of his oldest and most intimate friends; and that his ruptures with Gray, Asheton, Bentley, Montague, and Mason rather support Scott's imputation of a precarious temper. We ourselves see many reasons for believing that this infirmity of temper which Scott hinted at by the epithet precarious was not mere occasional caprice, but rather constitutional • A rash humour which his Mother
him'not Sir Robert, certainly, who was one of the best-humoured and best-natured men that ever existed. The introductory anecdotes to the recent edition of Lady Mary Wortley Montague's works give us a strange story about Horace Walpole and his mother.
'Horace Walpole was generally supposed to be the son of Carr Lord Harvey,t and Sir Robert not to be ignorant of it. One striking circumstance was visible to the naked eye; no beings in human shape could resemble each other less than the two passing for father and son.' -Lady Mary Wortley Montague's Works, vol. i. p. 34.
If there be any truth in this scandal, and there are many circumstances which render it but too credible, Horace Walpole might have a claim to hereditary peculiarity on both sides; but,
* This young lady was doomed to be the victim of this sort of barter. It was first planned to marry her to Mr. Whithed—his early death broke that off. Then came this affair with Lord Orford ; and it appears that there was subsequently a design to marry her to Lord Pulteney, which also failed, from some misunderstanding between the managing parties.
† The eldest son of John first Earl of Bristol. He died unmarried, and was succeeded by his half brother, the more famous Lord Harvey, the issue of his father's second marriage. VOL. LXXII. NO. CXLIV.
however that may be, when we recollect the many remarkable eccentricities of his mother's family which he himself records, and which were so notorious in their day as to be still traditionally remembered in ours, it is not unreasonable to suspect that some of the less amiable details of Walpole’s temper and conduct may be attributable to a state of mind—(represented by Shakspeare* and by Walpole † himself as peculiarly prevalent in England) liable to partial disturbance, while the general powers of the intellect are not only unimpaired, but frequently of the highest and brightest order.
Great wit is sure to madness near allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide.' So sang Dryden; and a long list of illustrious eccentrics might be produced to support his theory. Such were the cases, as Walpole himself delights to tell us, of many of his own familiar acquaintances; of Sir C. Hanbury Williams—of George and Charles Townshend—of even the great Lord Chatham—such, we believe, was Walpole's own—and such, we are convinced, that of one of his most celebrated admirers, Lord Byron. This, Walpole, in his summary style of dealing with other folks, never hesitates to call madness--either unsuspicious that others said the same of him, or indifferent as to what might be said,
— eò quòd Maxima pars hominum morbo jactatur eodem.' To confirmed madness no doubt this predisposition often leads; but such cases as we are now alluding to are no more insanity, in the usual sense of the term, than a delicacy of lungs is an asthma. In some instances, as in Walpole's own, it amounts rather to peculiarities of taste and temper than to what can even be called 'irregularity of mind, and is forcibly, though not very precisely, described by what was said of another great genius, that his mind's eye squinted. Certain it is that Walpole saw men and things through a medium very different from ordinary eyes, and that his judgments and even his narratives are, as he himself candidly admits, to be received with great caution and abatement.
One is at first inclined to lament that a writer who has taken
* Hamlet, v i.
† Walpole writes to Sir Horace Mann:— Nay, don't you find every Englishman or woman who arrives at Florence out of their senses? Mrs. Anne Pitt is going to Pisa-you know she is Lord Chatham's sister as well as his very image. She has excellent parts, a great deal of wit, and not so sweet a temper as to contradict the likeness of her features. She has at times been absolutely English -—and to which he adds, as an explanation of the word 'English'—' out of her senses. She died so some years after.'