Granville, George

, viscount Lansdowne, an English poet, was descended of a family distinguished for their loyalty; being second son of Barnard Granville, esq. brother to the first earl of Bath of this name, who had a principal share in bringing about the restoration of Charles II. and son of the loyal sir Bevil Greenvile, who lost his life fighting for Charles I. at Lansdowne in 1643. He was born in 1667, and in his infancy was sent to France, under the tuition of sir William Ellys, a gentleman bred up under Dr. Busby, and who was afterwards eminent in many public stations. From this excellent tutor he not only imbibed a taste for classical learning, but was also instructed in all other accomplishments suitable to his birth, in which he made so quick a proficiency, that after he had distinguished himself above all the youths of France in martial exercises, he was sent to Trinity-college, Cambridge, in 1677, at ten years of age; and before he was twelve, spoke some verses of his own composing to the duchess of York, afterwards queen-consort to James II. at her visit to that university in 1679. On account of his extraordinary merit, he was created M. A. at the age of thirteen, and left the college soon after.

In the first stage of his life, he seems rather to have made his Muse subservient to his ambition and thirst after military glory, in which there appeared such a force of genius as raised the admiration of Mr. Waller. But his ambition shewed itself most active on the duke of Monmouth’s rebellion and he requested his father to let him arm in defence of his sovereign but being then only eighteen years of age, he was thought too young for such an enterprize. It was not without extreme reluctance that he submitted to the tenderness of paternal restraint; which was the more mortifying, as his uncle the earl of Bath had on this occasion raised a regiment of foot for the king’s service; with the behaviour and discipline of which his | majesty was so well pleased, that, on reviewing them at Hounslow, as a public mark of his approbation he conferred the honour of knighthood upon our author’s elder brother Bevil, who was a captain, at the head of the regiment. Thus, forbidden to handle his pike on this important occasion, he took up his pen after the rebellion was crushed, and addressed some congratulatory lines to the king.

When the prince of Orange declared his intended expedition to England, our young hero made a fresh application, in the most importunate terms, to let him prove his loyalty. His letter to his father, on this occasion, which is printed by Dr. Johnson, is an elegant composition; but this was likewise unavailing, as the danger was now increased in a greater proportion than his age. The king’s affairs were become so desperate, that any attempt to serve him could only have involved him in his royal master’s ruin. On this he sat down a quiet spectator of the revolution, in which most of his family acquiesced, but was certainly far from being pleased with the change; he saw no prospect of receiving any favours from the new administration; and resolving to lay aside all thoughts of pushing his fortune either in the court or the camp, he endeavoured to divert his melancholy in the company and conversation of the softer sex. His adopted favourite was the countess of Newburgh, and he exerted all his powers of verse x in singing the force of this enchantress’s charms, and the sweets of his own captivity. But he sang in vain, hapless like Waller in his passion, while by his poetry he endeavoured to raise his Myra to the immortality which Waller had given to Sacharissa. In the mean time some of his friends were much grieved at this conduct in retiring from business, as unbecoming himself, and disgraceful to his family. One of these in particular, a female relation, whose name was Higgins, took the liberty to send to him an expostuiatory ode in 1690, in hopes of shaming him out of his enchantment; but this was his age of romance, and he persisted in asserting that his resolution was unchangeable, and that he would barter no happiness for that of a lover.

In this temper he passed the course of king William’s reign in private life, enjoying the company of his Muse, which he employed in celebrating the reigning beauties of thut age, as Waller, whom he strove to imitate, had done | those of the preceding. We have also several dramatic pieces written in this early part of Jife, of which the “British Enchanters,” he tells us himself, was the first essay of a very infant Muse being written at his first entrance into his teens, and attempted rather as a task in hours free from other exercises, than with any view to public exhibition. But Betterton, the celebrated actor, having accidentally seen it many years after it was written, begged it for the stage, where it found so favourable a reception, as to have an uninterrupted run of at least forty days. His other dramatic pieces were also well received; but although we are assured they owed that reception to their own merit, as much as to the general esteem and respect which all the polite world professed for their author, that intrinsic merit is not now discoverable. Addison, however, joined with Dryden in sounding Granville’s praises; the former, in the “Epilogue to the British Enchanters;” and the latter, in some verses addressed to him upon his tragedy of “Heroic Love.

Upon the accession of queen Anne, he stood as fair in the general esteem as any man of his years, now about thirty-five. He had always entertained the greatest veneration for the queen, and he made his court to her in the politest manner in Urganda’s prophecy, spoken by way of epilogue at the first representation of the “British Enchanters,” where he introduced a scene representing the queen, and the several triumphs of her reign. He entered heartily into the measures for carrying on the war against France; and, with a view to excite a proper spirit in the nation, he translated the second “Olynthian” of Demosthenes, in 1702. This new specimen of his, learning gained him many friends, and added highly to his reputation; and, when the design upon Cadiz was projected the same year, he presented to Mr. Harley, afterwards earl of Oxford, an authentic journal of Mr. Wimbledon’s expedition thither, in 1625; in order that, by avoiding the errors committed in a former attempt upon that place, a more successful plan might be formed. But, little attention being given to it, the same mistakes were committed, and the same disappointment ensued: with this difference only, that the duke of Ormond had an opportunity to take his revenge at Vigo, and to return with glory, which was not Wimbledon’s fate.

By a laudable oeconomy Granville had hitherto | preserved himself from those embarrassments, which in more advanced life he is said to have incurred, and his father, who was just dead, had made some provision for him, which was increased by a small annuity left him by his uncle the earl of Bath, who died not long after. These advantages, added to the favours which his cousin John Grenville had received from her majesty in being raised to the peerage by the title of lord Grenville of Pothericlge, and his brother being made governor of Barbadoes, with a fixed salary of 2000l. the same enabled him to come into the house of commons, as member for Fowey in Cornwall, in the first parliament of the queen. In 1706, his fortune was improved farther by the loss of his eldest brother, sir Bevil, who died that year, in his passage from Barbadoes, in the flower of his age, unmarried, and universally lamented. Hence our younger brother stood now as the head-branch of his family, and he still held his seat in the house of commons, both in the second and third parliaments of the queen. But the administration being taken out of the hands of his friends, with whom he remained steadily connected in the same principles, he was cut off from any prospect of being preferred at court.

In this situation he diverted himself among his brother poets; and we find him at this time introducing Wycherley and Pope to the acquaintance of Henry St. John, esq. afterwards lord viscount Bolingbroke. This friend, then displaced, having formed a design of celebrating such of the poets of that age as he thought deserved any notice, had applied for a character of the former to our author, who, in reply, having done justice to Mr. Wycherley’s merit, concludes his letter thus: “In short, Sir,” I’ll have you judge for yourself. I am not satisfied with this imperiect sketch name your day, and I will bring you together; I shall have both your thanks let it be at my lodging. I can give you no Falernian that has out-lived twenty consulships, but I can promise you a bottle of good claret, that has seen two reigns. Horatian wit will not be wanting when you meet. He shall bring with him, if you will, a youngpoet newly inspired in the neighbourhood of Cooper’shill, whom he and Walsh have taken under their wing. His name is Pope, he is not above seventeen or eighteen years of age, and promises miracles. If he goes on as he has becrun in the pastoral way, as Virgil first tried hu strength, we may hope to see English poetry vie with the | Roman, and this Swan of Windsor sing as sweetly as the Mantuan. I expect your answer."

SacheverelPs trial, which happened not long after, brought on that remarkable change in the ministry in 1710, when Mr. Granville^s friends came again into power. He was elected for the borough of Helston, but, being returned at the same time for the county of Cornwall, he chose to represent the latter; and on September 29, he was declared secretary at war, in the room of Robert Walpole, esq. afterwards the celebrated minister. He continued in this office for some time, and discharged it with reputation; and, towards the close of the next year, 1711, he married the lady Mary, daughter of Edward Villiers, earl of Jersey, at that time possessed of a considerable jointure, as widow of Thomas Thynne, esq. He had just before succeeded to the estate of the elder branch of his family, at Stow; and December 31, he was created a peer of Great Britain, by the title of lord Lansdowne, baron of Bideford, in the county of Devon. In this promotion he was one of the twelve peers who were all created at the same time; and so numerous a creation, being unprecedented, gave much offence, although but little in his case. His lordship was now the next male-issue in that noble family, in which two peerages, that of the earl of Bath, and that of lord Grenville of Potheridge, had been extinguished almost together: his personal merit was universally allowed; and as to his political sentiments, those who thought him most mistaken, allowed him to be open, candid, and uniform. He stood always high in the favour of queen Anne; and with great reason, having upon every occasion testified the greatest zeal for her government, and the most profound respect for her person. For these reasons, in the succeeding year, 1712, he was sworn of her majesty’s privy-council, made controller of her household, about a year after advanced to the post of treasurer in. the same office; and to his other honours, says Dr. Johnson, was added the dedication of Pope’s “Windsor Forest.” His lordship continued in his office of treasurer to the queen, until her death, when he kept company with his friends in falling a sacrifice to party-violence, being removed from his treasurer’s place by George I. Oct. 11, 1714.

His lordship still continued steady to his former connections, and in that spirit entered his protest with them against the bills for attainting lord Bolingbroke and the | duke of Ormond, in 1715. He even entered deeply into the scheme for raising an insurrection in the West of England, and was at the head of it, if we may believe lord Bolingbroke, who represents him possessed now with the same political fire and frenzy for the*Pretender as he had shewn in his youth for the father. In consequence, however, of being suspected, he was apprehended September 26, 1715, and committed prisoner to the Tower of London, where he continued until February 8, 1716-17, when he was released without any form of trial or acquittal. However sensible he might be at this time of the mistake in his conduct, which had deprived him of his liberty, yet he was far from running into the other extreme. He seems, indeed, to be one of those tories, who are said to have been driven by the violent persecutions against that party into jacobitism, and who returned to their former principles as soon as that violence ceased. Hence we find him, in 1719, as warm as ever in defence of those principles, the first time of his speaking in the house of lords, in the debates about repealing the act against occasional conformity.

His lordship continued steady in the same sentiments, which were so opposite to those of the court, and inconsistent with the measures taken by the administration, that he must needs be sensible a watchful eye was kept ever upon him. Accordingly, when the flame broke out against his friends, on account of what is sometimes called Atterbury’s plot, in 1722, his lordship, as some say, to avoid a second imprisonment in the Tower, withdrew to France, but others attribute his going thither to a degree of profusion which had embarrassed his circumstances. He had been at Paris but a little while, when the first volume of Burnet’s “History of his oun Times” was published. Great expectations had been raised of this work, which accordingly he perused with attention; and finding the characters of the duke of Albemarle and the earl of Bath treated in a manner he thought they did not deserve, he formed the design of doing them justice. This led him to consider what had been said by other historians concerning his family; and, as Clarendon and Echard had treated his uncle sir Richard Granvilie more roughly, his lordship, being possessed of memoirs from which his conduct might be set in a fairer light, resolved to follow the dictates of duty and inclination, by publishing his sentiments upon these | heads. These pieces are printed in his works, under the title of “A Vindication of General Monk,” &c. and “A Vindication of Sir Richard Greenville, General of the West to King Charles I.” &c. They were answered by Oldmixon, in a piece entitled “Reflections historical and politic,” c. 1732, 4to, and by judge Burnet, in “Remarks,” &c. a pamphlet. His lordship replied, in “A Letter to the author of the Reflections,” &c. 1732, 4to, and the spring following, there came out a very rough answer in defence of Echard, by Dr. Colbatch, entitled “An Examination of Echard’s Account of the Marriage Treaty,” &c.

He continued abroad at Paris almost the space of ten years; and, being sensible that many juvenilities had escaped his pen in his poetical pieces, made use of the opportunity furnished by this retirement, to revise and correct them, in order to republication. Accordingly, at his return to England in 1732, he published these, together with a vindication of his kinsman just mentioned, in two volumes, 4to. To these may be added a tract in lord Somers’s collection, entitled “A Letter from a nobleman abroad to his friend in England,1722. The late queen Caroline having honoured him with her protection, the last verses he wrote were to inscribe two copies of his poems, one of which was presented to her majesty, and the other to the princess royal Anne, late princess dowager of Orange. The remaining years of his life were passed in privacy and retirement, to the day of his death, which happened January 30, 1735, in his sixty-eighth year; having lost his lady a few days before, by whom having no male issue, the title of Lansdowne became in him ex’tinct.

His character, as drawn by Dr. Johnson, seems now uncontested. He was, says that eminent critic, a man illustrious by birth, and therefore attracted notice; since he is styled by Popethe polite,” he must be supposed elegant in his manners, and generally loved; he was in times of contest and turbulence steady to his party, and obtained that esteem which is always conferred upon firmness and consistency. As a poet, Dr. Johnson has appreciated his merit with equal justice. He was indeed but a feeble imitator of the feeblest parts of Waller, and is far more to be praised for his patronage of poets, and the judgment he shewed in the case of Pope, than for any pretensions to rank among them. His prose style, however, is excellent, | ancl far beyond that of his early contemporaries. Dr, Warton notices, as proofs of this, his “Letter to a young man on his taking orders;” his “Observations on Burnet,” his “Defence of his relation sir Richard Greenville,” his translation of some parts of Demosthenes, and his Letter to his father on the Revolution, written in 1688. The same critic, who must have been acquainted with some who knew him intimately, adds that his conversation was most pleasing and polite; and his affability, and universal benevolence and gentleness, captivating. 1


Biog. Brit. Johnyon and Chalmers’s Poets, 1810.~Bowles’s. edition of Pope; see Index. Park’s edition of Lord Orford’s Royal and Noble Authors.