Thurlow, Edward

, Lord Thurlow, a distinguished statesman and lawyer, was the second son of the rev. Thomas Thurlow, rector of Ashfield in Suffolk, and was born about 1732. He was entered of, and continued for some time at Caiut college, Cambridge, whery vulgar report has made him idle and dissipated. Of this we have no proof, nor of his having been equally careless of his studies after he entered the society of the Middle Temple. Lord Thurlow may have been indebted to what are called lucky coincidences for some of his promotions, but as he | was always found amply qualified for the high stations he held, he could not have much neglected the cultivation of his natural abilities, or been remiss in accumulating that knowledge by which alone he could rival his contemporaries. He appears to have been called to the bar in 1758, and must have rapidly attained distinction in his profession, for, in three years after, chiefly owing to the talent he displayed in the Douglas cause, he was advanced to the rank of king’s counsel. His voice, person, and manner, were not ill calculated to give his efforts an air of consequence at the bar, and his practice became extensive. In March 1770 he was appointed solicitor-general, and in. June 1771 attorney-general. He now sat in parliament for the borough of Tamworth, where he had many opportunities of justifying the choice of his patrons, and of creating that species of character and interest which generally leads to the highest legal appointments. As a politician, he uniformly, and with commanding vigour, suppotted the measures adopted with respect to America, Sec. during lord North’s administration. In June 1778, he was appointed to succeed lord Apsley, as lord high chancellor of Great Britain, and the same day was raised to the peerage by the title of Lord Thurlow of Ashfield in Suffolk. This office he resigned in April 1783, when the seals were put into commission, but was re-appointed when Mr. Pitt was nominated prime minister in December following. He again resigned them in June 1792, and on the 12th of that month was created Lord Thurlow of Thurlow in Suffolk, with a collateral remainder of this honour to the issue male of his late two brothers, the bishop of Durham, and John Thurlow of Norwich. After this retirement, till a short period before his death, he took an active part, and had great weight, in the House of Lords.; and having retained complete possession of his faculties, with accumulated wisdom and experience, his latter speeches were often more the subject of admiration, than any that had been remembered in his earlier days. He died in the seventy-fourth year of his age, Sept. 12, 1806, without male issue.

Lord Thurlow, says the candid author of the Biographical Peerage, “was a man of whose talents opinions have been various. His faculties were strong and direct; and, the results of his mind decisive. His nervous manner, and imperious temper, gave an artificial strength to what he | delivered. Whatever he conceived right, he had rrcr timidity or hesitation in enforcing. A manly tone of sentiment, and a boldness which was admired while it was dreaded, gave him almost irresistible weight when clothed with authority. These qualities, added to a powerful natural sagacity, fitted him to preside over a court of equity with many advantages. He never felt himself fettered by forms and technicalities; but laid the case bare at once, and got at its essence. His head was not formed to be diverted by little difficulties or sophistries. On the other hand he was frequently too impatient, too dogmatical, and too little open to persuasion, and to all the complicated bearings of an entangled cause. His temper was severe, his feelings morose, and his disregard of the world, and even its innocent passions and foibles, too general and untparing. He made little allowance for a difference of habits or pursuits. On the whole, however, he was a man f a superior mind; and in many respects rilled his high station with great and deserved reputation.” To this we may add, that as a patron he was munificent; and often, what he could not perform in his official capacity, he expended from his own fortune. His behaviour, in this respect, to Dr. Johnson, must ever be remembered to his honour. In bestowing church preferment he was singularly honest and disinterested, and of all the anecdotes in current report (and they were at one time very many) relating to this subject, we never heard one that did not place his good sense and humanity in a very favourable light. But while, like many other men of high station encumbered with business, he needed to be reminded of those who had claims upon him, it was peculiar to himself that in his character of patron, he was seldom accessible to the common forms of application. If a tale of depressed merit and consequent distress was gently insinuated, he seldom heard it without extending relief, but all manner of solicitation from those who thought they had influence over him, he repelled with contempt; and such were the vicissitudes of his temper, that even when he came to confer his highest favours, it was frequently in a manner that seemed to lessen the obligation.

As a scholar lord Thurlow possessed more knowledge than the world gave him credit for, and his profound acquaintance with the Greek language is testified in a dedication to him by his friend Dr. Horsley. In early life, he | lived much with men of gaiety and wit, and always preserved a high respect for literary merit. In his latter years, he would not probably have defended the laxity in which much of his time had been spent. He never was married, but left three daughters by a lady with whom he had long lived. He was, agreeably to the terms of his second peerage, succeeded by his nephew Edward, eldest son of Thomas Thurlow, late bishop of Durham, who died in 179 1. 1


Collins’s Peerage, by sir E. Brydges.—Gent. Mag. vol. LXXVI.—Boswell’s Life of Johnson.