Stanhope, Pinup Dormer

, fourth earl of Chesterfield, was born in London, on the 22d of September 1694. He was the son of Philip third earl of Chesterfield by his wife lady Elizabeth Savile, daughter of George marquis of Halifax. He received his first instructions from private tutors, under the care of his grandmother, lady Halifax and, at the age of eighteen, was sent to Trinity- hall, Cambridge. $ere he studied assiduously, and became, according to his own account, an absolute pedant. “When I talked my best,” he says, “I talked Horace; when I aimed at being facetious, I quoted Martial; and when I had a mind to be a fine gentleman, I talked Ovid. I was convinced that none but the ancients had common sense; that the classics contained every thing that was either necessary, or useful, or ornamental to men: and I was not without thoughts of wearing the toga virilis of the Romans, instead of the vulgar and illiberal dress of the moderns.” He was, however, only two years exposed to this danger, for in the spring of 1714, lord Stanhope left the university for the tour of Europe, but without a governor. He passed the summer of that year at the Hague, among friends who quickly laughed him out of his scholastic habits, but taught him one far more disgraceful and pernicious, as he himself laments, which was that of gaming. Still his leading object was that of becoming an eminent statesman, and of this, among all his dissipations, he never lost sight. From | the Hague he went to Paris, where, he informs us, he received his final polish, under the tuition of the belles of that place.

On the accession of George I. general Stanhope, (afterwards earl Stanhope,) his great uncle, being appointed one of the principal secretaries of state, young lord Stanhope was sent for, and though he had intended passing the carnival at Venice, returned early in 1715, and was appointed one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber to the prince of Wales. In the first parliament of this reign he was elected for the borough of St. Germain’s in Cornwall; and soon became distinguished as a speaker. His ambition would not let him rest till he obtained this object; and Re tells his son, in one of his letters, that from the day he was elected, to the day that he spoke, which was a month after, he thought and dreamt of nothing but speaking. He formed about this time a friendship with lord Lumley, afterwards earl of Scarborough, which no conflicts of parties ever could impair. When he made his first speech in parliament, which was a violent one, he was actually under age, and receiving a hint of this from one of the opposite party, thought proper to give up his attendance for a time, and return to Paris. His biographer surmises that he might there be engaged in political services, as well as in pleasure, which was his apparent object. Having returned to England in 1716, he spoke in favour of the septennial bill, and from time to time came forward on other occasions. The division between the court and the prince of Wales soon after threw lord Stanhope, who was attached to the latter, into opposition, from which all the influence and offers of the general, now in the height of power and favour, could not recall him. The second borough for which he sat, was Lestwithiel in Cornwall; but in January 1726, the death of his father removed him into the House of Lords.

He was soon distinguished in this house, as he had been in the lower, by his talent for speaking, which indeed he exerted with more success as a peer than as a commoner. “Lord Chesterfield’s eloquence,” says Dr. Maty, “though the fruit of study and imitation, was in great measure his own. Equal to most of his contemporaries in elegance and perspicuity, perhaps surpassed by some in extensiveness and strength, he could have no competitors in choice of imagery, taste, urbanity, and graceful irony. This turn | might originally have arisen from the delicacy of his frame, which, as on one hand it deprived him of the power of working forcibly upon the passions of his hearers, enabled him, on the other, to affect their finer sensations, by nice touches of raillery and humour. His strokes, however poignant, were always nnd r the controui of decency and good sense. He reasoned best when he appeared most witty; and while he gained the affections of his hearers, he turned the laugh on his opposers, and often forced them to join in it. It might, in some degree, be owing to this particular turn that he was not heard with so much applause in the lower, as in the upper house.” Besides being eminent as a speaker in parliament, lord Chesterfield had the credit of being intimate with all the wits of his time. The friendship of Pope in particular, with whom he passed much time at Twickenham, led to the very best society which could then be enjoyed. He was known also to Algarotti, Voltaire, and Montesquieu, when they visited England, and with the latter he formed a friendship, and established a correspondence.

On the accession of George II. in 1727, whom he had served with steadiness for thirteen years, lord Chesterfield seemed to have a right to expect particular favour. In this he was disappointed, owing to his having paid his court to the king’s mistress lady Suffolk, instead of applying to the queen, which her majesty, as well as the king, who always preserved a high respect for the queen, resented; but in 1728 he was appointed ambassador to Holland, in which station he was determined to distinguish himself, and his efforts were perfectly successful. Mr. Slingeland, then the grand pensionary of Holland, conceived a friendship for him, and much advanced his diplomatic education. Having by his address preserved Hanover from a war, he received high marks of his majesty’s favour in being made high steward of the household, and knight of the garter. He came over in the summer of 1730, to be installed at Windsor, and then returned to his embassy. He was recalled in 1732, on the plea of health; and when he recovered, began again to distinguish himself in the House of Lords; and in the same year, on the occasion of the excise-bill, went into strong opposition against sir Robert Walpole. He was immediately obliged to resign his office of high steward, and so ill received at court that he desisted from attending it; He continued in | opposition, not only to the end of sir Robert’s ministry in 1742, but even against the men with whom he had acted in the minority. It was not till the coalition of parties in 1744, by what was called “the broad-bottomed treaty,” that he was admitted into the cabinet, and then very much against the will of the king, who now had long considered him as a personal enemy. In the course of this long opposition he had frequently distinguished himself by his speeches; but particularly on the occasion of the bill for putting the theatres under the authority of a licenser, which he opposed in a speech of great animation, still extant in his works. During the same period we find him engaging in marriage with Melosina de Schulenburg, countess of Walsingham, to whom he was united in September 1733; but still constantly attentive to the education of his natural son by a former connection at the Hague. By his wife he had no children. In 1741 and 1742 he was obliged to pay temporary visits to the continent on account of his health, at which time it appears that he wrote regularly to his son, then only ten years old.

On the llth of January, 1745, he was again sent ambassador and plenipotentiary to Holland, and succeeded in the purposes of his embassy, beyond the hopes of those who had employed him. He took his leave of the statesgeneral eight days after the battle of Fontenoy, and hastened to his office of lord-lieutenant of Ireland, to which he had been nominated before he went to Holland. That he filled this difficult office at a very critical time, with the greatest dignity and ability, is well known, and few viceroys have succeeded so completely in conciliating the esteem and confidence of the Irish nation. He left it, however, in April 1746. His services there and in Holland had succeeded in removing the prejudices of the king, at whose express desire he accepted the place of principal secretary of state in November the same year, and returned no more to Ireland. He retired from this office on the 6th. of January 1748, even more to the regret of the king, whom he had conciliated by his manners as well as his services, than he had entered at first into administration. He was, however, determined to the step, by finding that he could not carry measures in the cabinet, which appeared to him of the highest political importance. His health also had greatly declined, he was troubled by frequent attacks of vertigo, and appears from this time to have determined | to preserve himself free from the fatigues of office. His retirement was amused and dignified by literature and other elegant pursuits; and the chief part of his miscellaneous works bear date after this period. Deafness corning upon him, in addition to his other complaints, he did not often take an active part in the business of the House of Lords, but in the debates concerning the alteration of the style, which took place in February 1751, he distinguished himself by an eloquent speech in favour of the measure. Of this he speaks with modesty in one of his letters to his son. Every one complimented him, and said that he had made the whole very clear to them, “when, God knows,” says he, “I had not even attempted it. I could as soon have talked Celtic or Sclavonian to them as astronomy, and they would have understood me full as well. Lord Macclesfield,” he adds, “who had the greatest share in forming the bill, and is one of the greatest mathematicians and astronomers in Europe, spoke afterwards with infinite knowledge, and all the clearness that so intricate a matter would admit of; but as his words, his periods, and his utterance were not near so good as mine, the preference was most unanimously, though most unjustly, given to me.

Anxious to support a literary character, lord Chesterfield wished also to be considered as a patron of literature, but, occupied by other cares, and not willing to make any great sacrifices for that object, he managed his advances to Dr. Johnson on the subject of his Dictionary so ill, that they procured for him only a rebuff, accompanied by that letter of dignified severity, which, though he affected to despise, he could not but feel at the time. It must be owned, however, that the two papers which he published on the occasion, in the World (No. 100 and 101), gave an honourable and useful recommendation to the work. In November, 1768, he lost that son whose education and advancement had been, for many years, the principal objects of his care; and, his own infirmities increasing very fast upon him, the remainder of his life wore a cast of melancholy and almost of despondency. He represents himself, in some letters at that period, as “totally unconnected with the world, detached from life, bearing the burthen of it with patience, from instinct rather than reason, and, from that principle alone, taking all proper methods to preserve it.” This, indeed, was not uniform; | his natural vivacity still occasionally displayed itself; but in his moments of seriousness he presents a melancholy picture, of a mind destitute of the only effectual supports under natural decay and pain. He lived, with increasing infirmities, to the 24th of March 1773. His character is thus briefly summed up by Dr. Maty. “A nobleman unequalled in his time for variety of talents, brilliancy of wit, politeness, and elegance of conversation. At once a man of pleasure ancl of business; yet never suffering the former to encroach upon the latter. His embassy in Holland marks his skill, dexterity, and address as an able negotiator. His administration in Ireland, where his name is still revered by all ranks and orders of men, indicates his integrity, vigilance, and sound policy as a statesman. His speeches in parliament fix his reputation as a distinguished orator, in a refined and uncommon species of eloquence. His conduct in public life was upright, conscientious, and steady: in private, friendly and affectionate; in both, pleasant, amiable, and conciliating.” He adds, “these were his excellencies; let those who surpass him speak of his defects.” This friendly artifice to close the mouths of objectors, ought not, however, to prevent an impartial biographer from saying, for the benefit of mankind at large, that the picture he has exhibited of himself in hisLetters to his Son,“proves him to have been a man in whose mind the applause of the world was the great, and almost the sole governing principle. No attack of an enemy could have degraded his character so much as the publication of these letters; which, if they do not quite deserve the severe reprehension of Johnson, that they” inculcate the morals of a strumpet, with the manners of a dancing-master," certainly display a relaxation of principle, for which no talents can make amends.

These letters appeared in two vols. 4to. in 1774. His “Miscellaneous works,” also in two vols. 4to. were published in 1777. They consist of papers supplied to Fog’s Journal, to a periodical paper entitled “Common Sense,” and “The World;” all evincing considerable vivacity and skill in writing. Some of his speeches, and other state papers, conclude the first volume. The second contains an ample collection of his Letters, digested into three books. Many of these are written in French, of which language he was, for a foreigner, a very complete master. In 1778 a third volume of “Miscellaneous works” was | published, but, as the former had not been eminently successful, this, which appeared in a dubious shape, attracted very little attention, and few copies are supposed to have got abroad. Lord Chesterfield’s entrance into the world, says lord Orford, was announced by his bon-mots, and his closing lips dropped repartees that sparkled with his juvenile fire. Of these witticisms, several are currently repeated in conversation, though on what authority is now uncertain. He appears, by a few specimens, to have possessed considerable talents for the lighter kinds of poetry; some proofs of which appear in the first volume of Dodsley’s collection; but it has been said that he often assumed to himself the credit of verses not his own. As a patron he was distinguished by his steady protection of the elegant, but unfortunate, Hammond; whose poems he published after the author’s death, in 1743, with a preface, but without an avowal of himself as the editor. Encomiums upon him, as the friend of merit and letters, may be found in the writings of this poet, of Pope, and many others; but some of the most elegant compliments to him appear in the third volume of Dodsley’s collection, and proceeded from the pen of Philip Fletcher, dean of Kildare. Applause was his favourite object, and few men have enjoyed it in a greater abundance. 1


Life by Maty. Lord Orford’s Works, vol. I. 535, V. 40, 84, 663. Swift’s Works, see Index. Forbes’s Life of Beattie. —Boswell’s Life of Johnson. Bowles’s edition of Pope’s Works. Collins’s Peerage, by sir E. Brydges.