Abingdon, Willoughby Bertie

, earl of, a descendant of the preceding, was born in 1740, anoV | succeeded his father William, the third earl, in 1760. His lordship was educated atGeneva, where he probably imbibed some of the democratic principles of the philosophists in that republic. He generally opposed the measures of administration with declamatory vehemence, and his frequent speeches in the house of peers were singularly eccentric, but added little weight or dignity to the cause he supported. The editor, however, of Mr. Wilkes’s speeches (in all probability Mr. Wilkes himself) characterises this noble earl “as one of the most steady and intrepid assertors of liberty in this age. No gentleman was ever more formed to please and captivate in private life, or has been more deservedly, more generally, esteemed and beloved. He possesses true honour in the highest degree, has generous sentiments of friendship, and to superior manly sense joins the most easy wit, with a gaiety of temper which diffuses universal cheerfulness it is impossible not to be charmed with the happy prodigality of nature in his favour; but every consideration yields with him to a warm attachment to the laws and constitution of England.” Much of this character may be just, yet his lordship was less respected as a public character or partizan than he himself thought he deserved. He had, in particular, a very high opinion of his speeches, and that the public might not lose the benefit of them, he sent copies to the different newspapers with a handsome fee, which ensured that prominence in the debate which might not otherwise have been assigned to them. This custom was no doubt gratifying to himself and his friends, but it proved on one occasion peculiarly unfortunate. Having made a violent attack on the character of an attorney belonging to the court of king’s bench, and sent the speech containing it, as usual, to the papers, he was prosecuted and sent to prison for some months, as the publisher of a libel.

In 1777 he published a pamphlet which excited much attention, entitled, “Thoughts on the letter of Edmund Burke, esq. to the sheriffs of Bristol, on the affairs of America,Oxford, 8vo. This went through six editions, from that time to 1780. An anonymous reply was published, much admired for its force of irony and major Cartwright addressed a letter to the earl, discussing a position relative to a fundamental right of the constitution, 1778: this induced his lordship to add a dedication to his sixth edition, “To the collective body of the people of | England.” He is also the reputed author of “A Letter to lady Loughborough, in consequence of her presentation of the colours to the Bloomsbury and Inns of Court Association with a public letter to the university of Oxford,1798 a rhapsodical epistle, which the influence of his lordship’s name operating on curiosity, carried through eight or nine editions. His lordship died in 1799. 1


Gent. Mag. 1798, 1799.—Park’s Royal and Noble Authors.