Dodington, George Bubb

, Lord Melcombe, the son of a gentleman of fortune in Dorsetshire,*

*

It has usually been said that he was the son of an apothecary; but a correspondent in the British Critic for Feb. 1809, gives the following account of the family. There were two heiresses in Somersetshire of the name of Dodington; one was married into the family of the marquis of Buckingham, who, by that right became possessed of the estate and magnificent house at Kastbury, after the death of lord Melcombe. The other married an Irish fortune-hunter of the name of Bulib, and the offspring of this marriage was the subject of the present article.

was born in 1691, and appears to have been educated at Oxford. In 1715 he was elected member of parliament for Winchelsea, and was soon after appointed envoy-extraordinary at the court of Spain, in which capacity he signed the treaty of Madrid, and remained there until 1717. In 1720, by the death of his uncle George Dodington of Eastbury in Dorsetshire, he came into possession of a very large estate in that county, on which he built a magnificent | seat at the expence of 140,000l. which was often the residence of the first writers of the times, of Thomson, Young, Pitt, Lyttelton, &c. and the beauties of which have been frequently celebrated by them. On this great accession of property, he took the surname of Dodington. In 1721 he was appointed lord lieutenant of the county of Somerset; in 1724 was constituted a lord of the treasury, and obtained the lucrative o trice of clerk of the peils in Ireland. While he was lord of the treasury, Thomson dedicated the first edition of his “Summer” to him, in 1727; but this dedication, of the flattery of which Thomson became probably ashamed, was never reprinted.

At this period Dodington closely connected himself with sir Robert Walpole, and in 1726 published a poetical epistle addressed to that minister, which is remarkable only for its servility, and which he afterwards, changing the name, addressed to lord Bute. In 1734 he was elected member for Weymouth, and in 1737 he took a very decided part in the contest between George II. and the prince of Wales, in the question about the augmentation of his allowance, and a jointure for the princess. This transaction forms one of the best parts of his “Diary,” lately published. At this time he appears to have acted with some coolness towards sir Robert Walpole, in consequence of which he was, in 1740, dismissed from his seat in the treasury, and joined the ranks of opposition; but although his new friends succeeded in procuring the dismissal of the Walpole administration, Dodington was probably disappointed, since he became principally concerned in that opposition which brought about the downfall of this new administration. On their succession to power in 1745, he was made treasurer of the navy, and sworn of the privycouncil, but his versatility would not permit him to remain steady to this party. In March 1749, the prince of Wales offered him a full return to his favour, and the principal direction of his affairs, to which Dodington agreed, and resigned his office of treasurer of the navy. He now fancied himself at the head of a formidable band, whom he was about to muster and train, when almost immediately an opposition was formed against him in the prince’s household, and, as he informs us, he foresaw there was no prospect of “doing any good.” He continued, however, in the household until the prince’s death, which put an end to the hopes of all his highness’s dependents. | For some time, Mr. Dodington, although desirous of regaining his influence at court, found all his efforts unsuccessful but at length, on the sudden change which took place in 1755, he accepted his former post of treasurer of the navy under the duke of Newcastle, which he retained until, another change taking place the following year, he was again left alone, and gave up all hopes of establishing himself at court during that reign. On the accession of his present majesty he was very early received into the confidence of lord Bute, and in 1761 was advanced to the peerage by the title of lord Melcombe, yet he attained no ostensible post, nor indeed did he long survive his baronial honours, as he died at his house at Hammersmith, July 28, 1762.

Lord Melcombe is allowed to have been generous, magnificent, and convivial, but more respected as a private gentleman than as a politician. In the one character he was free, easy, and engaging; in the other intriguing, close, and reserved. His reigning passion was to be well at court, and to this object he sacrificed every circumstance of his life. Lord Orford says of him that he was “ostentatious in his person, houses, and furniture, and wanted in his expences the taste he never wanted in his conversation. Pope and Churchill treated him more severely than he deserved, a fate that may attend a man of the greatest wit, when his parts are more suited to society than to composition. The verse remains, the bon-mots and sallies are forgotten.” He was handsome, and of a striking figure, but in his latter days was probably singular in his dress. Churchill ridicules his wig, and Hogarth has introduced it in one of his “orders of periwigs.” His patronage of learned men descended from Young, Thomson, and Glover, to the meaner political hirelings who frequented the prince’s court. And among his intimate friends, besides Young, Thomson, and Glover, were Fielding, Bentley, Voltaire, Lyttelton, lord Chesterfield, lord Peterborough, Dr. Gregory Sharpe, &c. and among his lower associates, Ralph, Paul Whitehead, and a Dr. Thomson, a physician without practice or manners, served to add to the hilarity of his table. Most of his biographers have reported that he was a single man, but he certainly was married, as in his letters he frequently speaks of Mrs. Dodington, whose heart was placed in an urn at the top of an obelisk which he erected at Hammersmith. When she died we know | not, but as she left no family, he is reported to have used some singular expedients for procuring an heir, which were as unsuccessful as immoral and foolish. He bequeathed his whole property, a few legacies excepted, to the late Thomas Wyndham, esq. of Hammersmith. The mansion which he built at Eastbury came, as already observed in the note, to the marquis of Buckingham, and was taken down a few years ago. Part of the offices were left standing, and have been converted into a very convenient house by J. Wedgewood, esq. who purchased the estate of the marquis of Buckingham. His villa at Hammersmith became a few years ago the property of the margrave of Anspach.

Lord Melcombe has some literary claims. Two of his Memorials to the court of Spain may be seen in the Historical Register for 1716, p. 205 207, &c. He was concerned in writing the “Remembrancer,” an anti-ministerial paper, published in 1744; and was the avowed Author of “Occasional observations on a double- titled paper about the clear produceof the Civil List Revenue, from Midsummer 1727 to Midsummer 1761.” A pamphlet on the “Expedition to Rochefort” has also been ascribed to him. His poetical efforts, some of which have been admired, were, “An Epistle to sir Robert Walpole, written on his birth-day, Aug. 26,” printed in Dodsley’s Collection, and afterwards, as we have mentioned, addressed, mutatis mutandis, to lord Bute; “An Epistle from John More, apothecary in Abchurch lane, to lord Carteret, upon the treaty of Worms;” “Verses in his eating-room at Hammersmith;” “Verses to Mrs. Stubbs;” “Verses written a little before his death to Dr. Young;” some “Love Verses,” and other poetry unpublished, and most of which, it is said, is too indelicate for publication; “An Elegy on the Death of queen Caroline” is printed in Coxe’s Life of Walpole. But he will long be best known by his celebrated “Diary,” published in 1784 by Henry Penruddock Wyndham, esq. On a publication so generally read, our remarks may be spared. The public owe much to the editor for thus “unveiling the mysterious intrigues of a court, and for exposing the latent causes of opposition.” The whole proves, that while this publication reflects “some degree of honour on lord Melcombe’s abilities, it shows his political conduct to have been wholly directed by the base motives of avarice, vanity, and selfishness.1

1

Diary, as above, the best edition of which is that of 1809, with a copiou$

|