LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The “Pope” of Holland House
Chapter XI: 1824-33

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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Produced by CATH
1824 to 1833
Tour of “Fashionables” in America—Death of the Emperor Alexander—Failures of banks—Edinburgh Review—Lord John Russell—Calne election—State of the country—Reform—Lord Althorp—Death of Lady Spencer—House of Lords and Reform—The Reform Bill and the King—Sir J. Mackintosh—Factories Commission.
From Mr. Whishaw to Mrs. Smith.
Nov. 27, 1824.

YOU must have read some time since in the papers of a few young “Fashionables,” Mr. Stanley (Lord Derby’s grandson), Messrs. Wortley and Denison, ministerial members, and Labouchere, a nephew of Mr. Baring, having sailed for New York with the intention of making a tour of the United States. The scheme was thought very wild, and much disapproved of by the West End of the town; and disappointment and disgust were universally predicted. You will be glad to hear, however, that Macdonald has received letters from two of them, who are his particular friends, expressing their great satisfaction with all they have seen, and their deter-
Sydney Smith
mination to extend their plan by staying till May next. In the meantime they purpose to visit Kentucky and the banks of the Ohio, to see Carolina and the Slave States, and to pass some time in the spring at Washington during the sitting of Congress. It is a very interesting tour, and very creditable to those who have undertaken it, and in its results we may hope it will tend to improve the tone of national feeling with regard to America.

Jan. 7, 1826.

The death of the Emperor Alexander has made a great change in the state of Europe. It has happily deprived the Holy Alliance of its leader, but, on the other hand, we must expect hostile preparations and a serious interruption of that general tranquillity which has prevailed for the last ten years.

The last failures of town and country banks, the melancholy effect of over-trading and speculation, and of a bad banking system, form a strange exception to our general prosperity. I hope you have not suffered from this calamity, the effect of which has been so widely extended.

May 6, 1826.

You will be pleased to hear that our friend Sydney Smith is now at Paris, for the first time, on a visit to Lord and Lady Holland. He had only seen some parts of the interior of France before, and that many years ago, for a short time. He writes to his friends that the name “Paris” is only an abbreviation of “Paradise,” and that he is exceedingly gratified by all that he sees, hears, and eats.

Calne Election, 1826

If you have seen the last number of the Edinburgh Review, you must have been entertained by the articles on “Waterton’s Wanderings” and “Granby,” which are written by Sydney Smith. There is another article much talked of on the “London University,” by young Macaulay,1 the son of Wilberforce’s friend. It is very spirited and able, but violent and exaggerated, and little calculated to serve the cause it espouses.

I called on the Hobhouses yesterday. They have Mr. and Mrs. Spencer with them, and seem all of them tolerably well. You must have heard of John Hobhouse’s Parliamentary success this year. I allude particularly to his speech on Lord John Russell’s motion,2 which is considered as one of the most spirited and effective of the present Session, and has given him a new rank and station in Parliament.

June 10, 1826.

You will be sorry to hear that there has been a great disturbance at Calne. Mr. Abercromby and Mr. Macdonald, the old members, found on their arrival that nine out of the seventeen electors were unfavourable to them; but in consequence of the difficulty of finding candidates the dissentients gave way, and all seems quiet for the present. The election is on Monday, and there seems no doubt that the former members will be elected. Indeed, all parties were agreed as to their merits and good

1 Afterwards Lord Macaulay.

2 This motion for the suppression of bribery at elections was entrusted to Lord Althorp, as Lord John had lost his seat and was not in Parliament.

State of the Country, 1830
political conduct. The objection to them was, as nominees of
Lord Lansdowne, from whom they wish to emancipate themselves. I do not know what course Lord L. will pursue. He bore the blow, though quite unexpected, with great goodhumour, though he was suffering under a severe fit of the gout, which confined him some days to his bed.

I am engaged, as usual, in the politics of the Cambridge University election, which will be very strongly contested. All candidates are ministerial; but Lord Palmerston, as the only one favourable to the Catholics, is strongly supported by the Whigs. By their assistance he will make, I trust, a good appearance on the poll, but the event is very doubtful.1

Dec. 23, 1830.

Mr. Mallet, who has heard of you through our Malmesbury friend Mr. Thomas, gives me a good account of your health, but I was very sorry to hear of the disturbances having extended to your neighbourhood, and of the visits that have been made to Easton Grey. I hope that you have not suffered in your property, and that tranquillity is restored in Wiltshire for the present. The state of the country, indeed, is very alarming; and it is no subject of congratulation to our friends that they have been admitted into office in such times. They are surrounded with difficulties, and after Christmas will have to encounter a very formidable Opposition; so that, though they have the King favourable, or

1 He was opposed by Goulburn, but was returned after a keen contest.

Lord Grey’s Government
at least disposed to act fairly, it is doubtful whether they can retain office long enough to do much good. Objections may be made to some of the arrangements, but all circumstances considered, it is one of the best Governments this country has ever seen.1 We must hope for the best. All proper offers were made to
Lord Holland and Lord Lansdowne, but they declined any active employment on the score of health. Lord L. had at one time accepted the Foreign Office, but female influence prevailed, and after twenty-four hours’ consideration he declined it. We may lament, but cannot blame his decision. I know that Lady Lansdowne strongly deprecated his taking office, and have often heard her say that the few months during which he was Secretary of State in 1827 were the most anxious and unpleasant she had ever passed.

Feb. 2, 1831.

I am much obliged to you for your kind letter, giving me a tolerably good account of yourself, for I had been apprehensive that your health might have suffered from the disturbed state of the country. All such alarms are now happily abated, and gradually subsiding. The Special Commissions appear to have done their duty, and I hope you will think that the Government has acted wisely and properly in complying, to a certain extent, with the humane wishes of the public, and tempering justice with mercy. Their task in this, as in every other respect, has been very difficult, but they have still greater diffi-

1 Lord Grey was now the head of a Ministry composed of Whigs and Canningites.

culties to encounter. To-morrow they are again to meet Parliament, and in a very short time to produce their plans of Reform in the representation; as also in the administration of justice, especially in the Court of Chancery. The former will be brought forward by
Lord Althorp, the latter by Lord Brougham, who, calling the best assistance to his power, has devoted the whole of his time since he became Chancellor, consistent with his other duties, in framing and digesting an excellent plan of regulations for his Court. He will, I trust, carry into effect in a few months those improvements which had been vainly expected from his predecessors, Lords Eldon and Lyndhurst, the former of whom held the seals a quarter of a century, and the latter near four years!

I hope that these things will have weight with a House of Commons naturally averse to the present Ministers and their measures, but who cannot fail to be influenced by their own fears, the feelings of the public, and the spirit of the times. By the aid of these motives, operating on the independent part of the House, I trust that our friends will prevail over a teasing and insidious opposition on the part of Mr. Peel and his adherents, which they will encounter at every step of their proceedings. It is most satisfactory to know that their plans of reform have had no dissentient voice in the Cabinet, and that upon being laid before the King a few days since at Brighton, they received his entire approbation.

June 10, 1831.

The time for assembling the new Parliament (the most interesting since the Revolution of 1688) is advancing rapidly. Everything favourable may be expected from the House of Commons, but there will be great difficulty with the Lords, in which there is a very numerous and determined Opposition embodied and arrayed, not only against the Bill, but against every important measure of the present Government.

The sudden death of Lady Spencer1 has spread a great gloom over Whig society. She was intimately connected with the Lansdownes, Abercrombys, and other of our friends. Her high rank, combined with considerable talents and acquirements, and great energy and determination of character, made her an important person in society, and her loss will be much felt.

Nov. 7, 1831.

I have been somewhat remiss in not apprising you sooner of my return home, where I have now been settled for some time. You will be glad to hear that my Continental expedition answered, as usual, perfectly well. I experienced no difficulties, I saw much that was new and interesting, revived many old recollections, and returned home with a good stock of health and spirits.

At Paris I remained only a few days. It was a time of tumults, occasioned by the surrender of Warsaw, which were speedily put down. I went to the Chamber of Deputies, and was well satisfied with

1 Lavinia, eldest daughter of Charles Bingham, Earl of Lucan.

The Reform Bill
what I witnessed there. They are improving in the arts of debate; and all will be well if they preserve peace, and obtain a reasonable and settled Government. The intelligent Frenchmen whom I saw, consider these objects as mainly depending on the stability of the English Administration, and the success of their measures of Reform, which excites almost as much interest in France as it does in England.

Upon this subject I need not tell you how much I was grieved and mortified, though not at all surprised, by the decision of the House of Lords.1 What will happen on the next discussion of this all-important question it is impossible to conjecture. All is doubt and uncertainty, and I see no ground for entertaining great hopes. The Opposition, who seemed at first to be stunned by their victory, seem now to have recovered their spirits, and to be determined, notwithstanding Bristol, to fight out to the last.

May 28, 1832.

I congratulate you on being relieved from the long and painful state of political suspense, or rather, despair, in which the country has been lately involved. The Ministers, the House of Commons, and the country have all of them done their duty; and we may look forward to a speedy and triumphant passing of the Reform Bills with great confidence. We have certainly been on the brink of a precipice: and after what has passed, we may perhaps experience some trouble yet.

1 On the 8th of October the House of Lords had thrown out the Reform Bill by a majority of 41.

Sir James Mackintosh
The Reform Bill may be considered safe, but not its authors.

They will be very narrowly watched by the Court intriguers; and an opportunity may be taken in some unguarded moment, and when the people are no longer excited (after the Reform Bills have been carried) to dismiss the Whigs and re-establish a Tory Government. It will be a rash and hazardous experiment, but the Court party are very capable of trying it. One cannot but be sorry for the poor King, who I really believe, though deficient in firmness, has good and honest intentions, but who is surrounded by able and active intriguers, and I hear is personally alienated to a considerable degree from the Whigs. It is fortunate that he remained constant to them for so long; and again I must say we must hope for the best.

You will be glad to hear that most of our friends are well; but, alas! there is one great exception in poor Sir James Mackintosh, who now lies dangerously ill, and indeed past all hope. His health has been declining for some time past, and he has been unable to attend Parliament; but it was not till a few days ago that he was attacked by a mortal illness. He will be a great public and private loss, upon which a great deal might be said, but the subject is too painful for me to enlarge upon at present.

April 27, 1833.

You have probably seen in the newspapers that a Commission has been issued for inquiry into the treatment of children in the factories. My friend Leonard Horner is one of the Commissioners, and as he is to take the Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, and Wiltshire districts, I have given him an introduction to you, and have desired that he will not fail to take some opportunity of paying a visit to Easton Grey. The visit, I am sure, will be equally interesting and agreeable to both parties.

I do not know if you have heard of a windfall to Lord Lansdowne, by the death of his brother’s widow, of her jointure of £3,000 a year. You will be sorry to hear that the ministerial prospects are not favourable. The vote of last night for reducing the malt tax must embarrass our friends very much, and perhaps may lead to a change of Government, certainly to a property tax.