LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The “Pope” of Holland House

‣ Preface
Chapter I: 1813
Chapter II: 1814
Chapter III: 1815
Chapter IV: 1816
Chapter V: 1817
Chapter VI: 1818
Chapter VII: 1819
Chapter VIII: 1820
Chapter IX: 1821
Chapter X: 1822
Chapter XI: 1824-33
Chapter XII: 1833-35
Chapter XIII: 1806-40
Chapter XIV: Appendix
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THE correspondence from which the following selection has been made was found by Mr. Cosmo Romilly amongst the effects of his father, Mr. Charles Romilly, who was Mr. Whishaw’s heir and executor.

In 1844 Mrs. Smith, of Easton Grey, sent all the letters written to her husband or herself to Charles Romilly with the accompanying letter:—

Easton Grey,
March 20, 1844.

Dear Sir,—It is very satisfactory to me to find by your kind letter that the arrangement mentioned by Mr. Mallet1 respecting the letters of our dear and excellent friend, Mr. Whishaw, is so acceptable to yourself. I feel it would be impossible to give any final destination to these letters that could be so much approved by the writer, or the friend to whom they were addressed; and in no family but yours, the adopted children of his affections, and his solicitudes, could they be so safe. I would wish you to

1 J. L. Mallet, Esq., son of Mallet du Pan.

feel at perfect liberty to destroy any that you might think it desirable not to preserve. . . .

The remembrance of his affectionate friendship, so uniform and so long continued, will always be gratefully cherished by me.

I am, Dear Sir, sincerely yours,
Elizabeth Smith.

It would be well, perhaps, to give here some slight account of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Smith, of Easton Grey, with whom Whishaw kept up such a long and regular correspondence.

Their house in Wiltshire was the rendezvous of many of the distinguished men and women of the day.

In December, 1820, Maria Edgeworth writes as follows when on a visit there:—

“This house is delightful, in a beautiful situation, fine trees, fine valleys, and soft verdure even at this season: the library drawing-room, with low sofas, plenty of movable tables, open bookcases, and all that speaks the habits and affords the means of agreeable occupation. Easton Grey might be a happy model of what an English country gentleman’s house should be, and Mrs. Smith’s kind, well-bred manners, and Mr. Smith’s literary and sensible conversation, make this house one of the most agreeable I ever saw.”1

And again in June, 1822, on hearing of Mr. Smith’s death, “Oh, my dear mother, at this pretty flowery-lawned inn, where we dined on our way to Slough,

1Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth,” by Aug. Hare, vol. ii. p. 25.

as your brother was reading the newspaper, he came to the death of our dear Mr. Smith, of Easton Grey. At
Sir Benjamin Hobhouse’s, a few months ago, he was the gayest of the gay, and she the fondest and happiest of wives.”1

The Gentleman’s Magazine for June, 1822, records the death, at Whitton, in Suffolk, of Mr. Smith, and in a subsequent number writes as follows:—

Mr. Smith was a native of Cirencester, and bred to the Bar; but from an impediment of speech, did not make a public exercise of his profession. He married early in life the daughter of the late — Chandler, Esq., of Gloucester; and first resided at Padhill, near Minchinhampton; from whence he removed to Bownhams, in the same vicinity; and lastly to Easton Grey, near Malmesbury, a seat and manor which he purchased of — Hodges, Esq. (Walter Parry Hodges),2 of Bath. Here Mr. Smith resided till his decease, and was the Mecænas of his neighbourhood. He had an excellent judgment, much valuable acquired knowledge, an amiable temper, and a benevolent, useful turn of mind. To those who knew him, his loss is not the common transient regret which merely jars the feelings and is then forgotten, but a permanent melancholy, a sensation of loss not to be repaired.

“A well-informed, liberal-minded country gentleman, with a fondness for science, brings into estimation judicious modes of thinking in his vicinity, and

1Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth,” by Aug. Hare, vol. ii. p. 86.

2 Britton’sBeauties in England and Wales” (Wiltshire).

promotes the improvement of it, while a mere Nimrod, or Butterfly, merely propagates barbarism or dissipation. Such a man as we have just described was
Mr. Smith: a gentleman and philosopher in his pleasures and habits; a philanthropist and public character in his forms of living and acting.”1

Mrs. Smith was also a person of much originality of character. She was a Unitarian, and therefore not much in sympathy with the ordinary county and clerical society, but was intimate both at Bowood with Lord and Lady Lansdowne, and at Gatcombe with Mr. Ricardo. She had a large and valuable library and collection of autographs, which were sold and dispersed at her death in 1859, for she lived to the great age of ninety-five.

The Smiths very rarely came to London, but were kept well informed by Mr. Whishaw on all political and literary subjects, as, owing to his intimacy at Holland House, he was acquainted with all the prominent Whig statesmen and writers of the day. But his interests were so varied and his knowledge so general, that he was consulted not only by politicians, but by travellers, authors, and men of science.

Sir James Mackintosh from his exile in Bombay asked for advice and help in his historical projects. Dr. Holland wrote from the Peninsula a long account of our army in Spain, and later, when at Naples with the Princess of Wales, gave a vivid picture of Murat’s Court. Henry Warburton, who was more successful in geology than in politics, described his discoveries

1 Gentleman’s Magazine for July, 1822, page 91.

of prehistoric remains in Suffolk. The Edgeworths discussed
Mungo Park and the sources of the Niger. Hallam writes at length as to his grievances with Murray. Amongst other correspondents were Lord and Lady Holland and their faithful friend Allen, Sydney Smith, Francis Horner, Lady Mackintosh, and many others.

It is natural that the earlier letters should be principally concerned with Napoleon, the Allies, the Bourbons, and foreign politics; but literature is never forgotten, and the poems of Scott and Byron, the Waverley novels as they appeared, and the articles in the Edinburgh Review, are all criticised and discussed for the benefit of the coterie at Easton Grey.

Mr. Whishaw was often abroad, but his letters during his travels are not of so much value to the modern reader as those that treat of the events of the day, and of the people he knew and constantly met. They are, therefore, not included in the present collection.

His was a singularly calm and dispassionate nature, and his judgment of people and events was eminently reasonable and moderate. Never carried away himself by passion or excitement, he was, however, keenly appreciative of the more ardent dispositions of his friends, and his staunch interest in their political or literary work never failed.

In a letter written by Leonard Horner to his daughter, Lady Lyell, in 1826, he alludes to him as “that worthy Meænas of all men of true merit.”1

The letters written to Mr. Whishaw (with the exception of those that bear directly on the questions

1 “Memoirs of Leonard Horner” (privately printed).

discussed by him with the Smiths) are in a separate chapter. Those written by him to his wards, the sons of
Sir Samuel Romilly, are mostly of too intimate a nature for publication.

For Charles Romilly he had the love of a devoted father, and many of his letters show how much he was under the charm of a personality that many still remember as singularly winning and delightful. Charles Romilly’s youth, spirits, and good looks must to a large degree have consoled the old bachelor for the loss of nearly all his contemporaries and friends, to whom he was so well known as “The Pope” of the Holland House set.

My thanks are due to Mr. Cosmo Romilly for allowing me full access to the letters, to Mr. W. P. Courtney for his valuable advice and able help, and to Mrs. Graham Smith for much interesting information about Easton Grey and its former inhabitants.

Elizabeth Seymour.