The Old Court Suburb, or Memorials of Kensington, Regal, Critical, and Anecdotical, Volume II

Hunt, Leigh





STEPHEN, second Lord Holland, though by no means destitute of natural abilities or vivacity, appears to have had in his com- position too great a predominance of the animal nature over the spiritual. He was good-natured, but whimsical; and as he had


been allowed to have his way, his way pro- bably lay chiefly in the eating and drinking line; for his face is sleepy and sensual, with very thick lips. Hence an apoplectic ten- dency, which took him off at the age of nine- and-twenty.

But Stephen had a brother, afterwards the celebrated Charles James Fox, the "man of the people," who, however he may have indulged himself in the same way, had life enough in him to keep him wide awake (and others too) for nearly twice the time. Indeed, he may be said, during his youth, to have had too much life; more animal vitality in him, and robustness of body to bear it out, than he well knew what to do with. And his father is said to have encouraged it by never thwarting his will in anything. Thus the boy expressing a desire one day to "smash a watch," the father, after ascer-


taining that the little gentleman did positively feel such a desire, and was not disposed to give it up, said, "Well, if you must, I sup- pose you must;" and the watch was smashed. Another time, having been promised that he should see a portion of a wall pulled down, and the demolition having taken place while he was absent, and a new portion supplied, the latter itself was pulled down, in order that the father's promise might be kept, and the boy not disappointed. The keeping of the promise was excellent, and the wall well sacrificed; but not so the watch; and much less the guineas with which his father is absolutely said to have tempted him to the gaming table, out of a foolish desire to see the boy employed like himself. Habits ensued which became alarming to the old gamester himself, and which impeded the rise, injured the reputation, and finally


nullified that supremacy on the part of the son, which was borne away from him by the inferior but more decorous nature of Pitt.

Fox was a great lesson as to what is good and what is bad in fatherly indulgence. All that was good in him it made better; all that was bad it made worse. And it would have made it worse still, had not the good luckily preponderated, and thus made the best at last even of the bad. Charles was to have his way as a child; so he smashed watches. He was to have his way as a youth; so he gambled and was dissolute. He was to have his way as a man; so he must be in parliament, and get power, and vote as his father did, on the Tory side, because his father had indulged him, and he must indulge his father.

But his father died, and then the love


of sincerity which had been taught the youth as a bravery and a predominance, was encouraged to break forth by the galling of his political trammels; and though he could not refuse his passions their indulgence, till friends rescued him from insolvency, and thus piqued his gratitude into amendment, that very circumstance tended to show that he added strength and largeness of heart to his father's softness; for the spoilt child and reckless gamester, though he never could become the ruling power in a state which had got into the hands of mere conventional decorums (for his brief occupations of office are to be counted as nothing), finally settled down as the representative of a nobler age that was coming, and was the charm in private of all who admired simplicity of manners, and the perfection of good sense.



Apart from this love of truth, we do not take him, in any respect, to have been profound, or to have seen beyond the next generation. In none of his departures from conventionalities, practical or theoretical, did he incline to go beyond the warrant of the liberality of the day. His love of truth itself, perhaps, was none the worse for his indolence. He found it easiest as well as noblest to take to its broad, straight road. Not that the reputation of truth is to suffer on that account. It only shows how good it is for temperaments of all kinds. His oratory was very effective, from its vehemence and sincerity; yet nobody now reads it. His " History of James the Second" in spite of his reputation as the greatest master of the subject, was a general disappointment. His reading, though far from being of a narrow description, lay chiefly in the middle


classes of literature, and leaned to style and manners rather than to any power beyond them.

What was greatest in Charles Fox was his freedom from all nonsense, pettiness, and pretention. He could by no means admit that greater was smaller, or the rights of the American or French nations inferior to those of their princes. He envied no man his good qualities; felt under no necessity of considering his dignity with young or old; thought humanity at large superior to any particular forms of it; and in becoming its representative in circles which would have conceded such a privilege to none but a man of birth, enabled them to feel how charming it was, and thus became the most cherished head of a party, that ever, perhaps, existed. An excess of this geniality of nature, on the wrong side of it, when he was young, had


given a tendency to his jovial body, which cut him off with a dropsy before he was old. At least, he was but fifty-eight; which was not an age at which a man of so strong a constitution ought to have died. But the wisdom of the spiritual portion of it survived the folly of the rest, just as soul itself survives body; and this kept him the consistent statesman, and the pleasant sage of private life, to the last.

The spoilt child prevailed so long in the life of Fox, and, to all appearance, so irremediably, that accounts of him at different periods seem hardly recording the same man.

To give instances, in as few words as possible. We have seen the smashing of the watch.

When a youth, he was a great admirer of peerages and ribbons; and on his return from his first visit to the continent, he appeared


in red-heeled shoes, and a feather in his hat-the greatest fopperies of the day.

His father paid a hundred and forty thousand pounds for his gaming debts.

He took to the other extreme in dress, and became as slovenly as he had been foppish.

On coming into office, he showed that he could be as industrious as he had been idle.

Whenever he was in office, he never touched a card; and when his political friends, out of a sense of what was due to his public services, finally paid his debts, and made him easy for life, he left off play entirely.

He dressed decently and simply, and settled down for the remainder of his life into the domestic husband, the reader of books, and the lover of country retirement,


from which he could not bear to be absent for a day.

In Holland House Fox, passed his boyhood and part of his youth. He is not much associated with it otherwise, except as a name. He and a friend, one day, without a penny in their pockets, walked thither from Oxford, a distance of fifty miles; for the purpose, we suppose, of getting a supply. They resolved to do it without stopping on the road; but the day was hot; an alehouse became irresistible; and on ar- riving at their journey's end, Charles thus addressed his father, who was drinking his coffee: "You must send half a guinea, or a guinea without loss of time to the alehouse-keeper at Nettlebed, to redeem the gold watch you gave me some years ago, and which I have left in pawn there for a pot of porter."

A little before he died, he drove several


times with his wife to Holland House, and looked about the grounds with a melancholy tenderness.

But, notwithstanding the celebrity of Charles Fox, and that of Addison himself, the man who has drawn the greatest attention to Holland House, if not in his own person, yet certainly by the effect of his personal qualities and attainments upon other people, was Fox's nephew, the late Lord Holland, Henry Richard, third of the title. He succeeded to the title before he was a year old; rescued the old mansion from ruin, as before noticed; and with allowance for visits to the continent, and occasional residence in town, may be said to have passed his whole life in it, between enjoyments of his books, and hospitalities to wits and worthies of all parties.

Lord Holland was a man of elegant literature,


of liberal politics, of great benevolence. Travelling like other young noblemen on the continent, but extending his acquaintance with it beyond most of them, and going into Spain, his inclinations became directed to the writers of that country, and his feelings deeply interested in their political struggles. The consequence was a work in two volumes, containing the Lives of Lope de Vega and Guillen de Castro, a translation of three Spanish comedies, and the most hospitable and generous services to the patriots who suffered exile in the cause of their country's freedom. The comedies we have never seen. The lives, though not profound (for his lordship was educated in a school of criticism anterior to that of Coleridge and the Germans), are excellent as far as they go, written with classical correctness, and full of the most pleasing and judicious remarks. The friendly intercourse


to which he invited all who were distinguished on the liberal side of politics or wit, had, in the mean time, constituted, him a kind of representative of theirs in the great world. The Edinburgh Review was said, (though erroneously) to be concocted at Holland House, owing to the residence with him of his friend Mr. Allen, who was one of its principal contributors; and the reputation thus publicly acquired was maintained at his hospitable table by a conversation which, though full of his personal good-nature, was remarkable for its exaction of the severest reasoning, and the most scrupulous attention to facts. How he reconciled this nicety, or his liberal principles in general, with that unbounded admiration for Bonaparte, which has lately transpired in his posthumous "Recollections of Foreign Courts," it is difficult to say. The admiration, we have no doubt,


was driven into the inconsistency by the hypocrisy and broken promises of Bonaparte's enemies, the kings and ministers, who pretended to oppose him in behalf of freedom. The same disgust at hypocrisy, sharpened by personal experience of the inconsistency of those customs in his own country which will discountenance at court what they consecrate at the altar, led him to speak freely of this habits of courts in general; and offence was taken at the moment, both at his Napoleon predilections and his old-world aversions. The cloud on the memory of so warm a heart was not calculated to last. Privately he will be remembered only for his benevolence, and for the great increase of pleasant associations which he has given to Holland House; and there is a reigning circumstance in his career, which will procure him a niche in the parliamentary history of his times, equally unique


and beautiful-and that is, that whenever a measure was carried through the House of Lords which was not of a just or generous nature, Lord Holland's " Protest" against it was sure to be found upon the records. He might have been called, in a new sense of the word, the Protestant Peer. There is a book of his also, which will live, the other posthumous work, entitled, "Reminiscences of the Whig Party." It is written not only with correctness and elegance, but with a charming mixture of acuteness and good- nature-of the sharp and the sweet, the " true pine-apple flavour," and contains some masterly portraitures of character.

It is a pity that the lives of such men are not always as long as they might be. Lord Holland had a constitutional tendency to gout which, till he was married, he kept under by hard riding and hunting, of which, up to that


period, he had been extremely fond. He afterwards, like his uncle Charles, used to play at tennis, and to fish; for, with the same inconsistency, and like many another good man before him (and since) he was an instance of the wonderful effect of habit and education in being able to blink the unanswerable objection that lies at the core of all reasoning on the subject of "sporting;" to wit, the unwarrantableness of any pleasure founded on the infliction of pain. During the last twenty years of his life, his gout conspired with his love of books to render him less and less active, till at last he became wholly confined to his chair; and the disease killed him at the age of sixty-seven.

It has been observed of the Fox face, that it improved with every generation. Lord Holland is described in a contemporary letter of one of his relations as being very handsome


when a child, and he was comely throughout life. The only objection to be made to his face was, that the nose, though of a manly shape and well-formed, was somewhat too small-a defect to which his friend Napoleon, who thought nothing was to be done but by men with well-developed noses, would have attributed the inactivity that hastened his end. Perhaps it was lucky for the Emperor that his future panegyrist, though he good-humouredly encouraged playful allusions to the defect from his family, was not aware of the great man's opinion in this respect; which has but lately, we believe, transpired. His lordship might have observed, however, that if his life was not so stirring as the great captain's, it was longer, more his own, and had a better end; that his uncle Charles, though he had nose enough to lead a great party, died of a dropsy,


nine years sooner; and that the Emperor himself would have been luckier, even as a soldier, if his nose had not induced him to thrust it into Spain and Moscow.