LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The “Pope” of Holland House
Chapter VII: 1819

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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Deaths of Sir Samuel and Lady Romilly—Italy—Don Juan—Marriage of Lord Brougham—Peterloo—Manchester magistrates—Holland House—The young Romillys—Sir Manasseh Lopez—Hobhouse—Question of the Prince’s divorce—Hobhouse in Newgate.

[In October, 1818, occurred the deaths of Sir Samuel and Lady Romilly. Mr. Whishaw was left executor and guardian of their children. He was so much occupied with this sad event that there are no letters from him to Mr. Smith till March, 1819. He then writes to him abroad explaining his silence, and after describing the tragedy he says:—]

From Mr. Whishaw to Mr. Smith.

YOU will not wonder that I have no longer the same enjoyment of existence:
“Year chases year, decay pursues decay;
Still drops some joy from withering life away.”1
For some time it was well that I had much urgent business to occupy my thoughts; I might otherwise have found it difficult to resist the effect of these

1The Vanity of Human Wishes” (Johnson).

repeated calamities. You will scarcely, perhaps, believe in how great a degree I for some time gave up society, and even books, and how much I lost my interest in all passing events. These feelings and tastes are gradually and slowly returning; but my mind is still “sicklied o’er with a pale cast of thought,” and I feel that I am no longer the same person as before.

Among the other charges that my present trust has brought me is the custody and disposal of a great mass of papers and manuscripts, many of which are of considerable importance. If you were justly struck with those interesting papers of poor Horner you would be much more interested in those of Romilly, considering the incessant occupations and engagements of the latter. They consist principally, indeed, of fragments and detached essays relating to his favourite subject, the amelioration of the criminal law; but there are also many important letters, and many interesting details of his early life, all of them honourable in the highest degree to his memory, and placing his great talents and still greater virtues in new and unexpected points of view. I have said little to any of my friends respecting these papers; but I often think with great anxiety as to what will be the proper mode of disposing of them. At present they are not even examined and arranged.1

1 Sir Samuel Romilly’s memoirs appeared in 1840, edited by his sons, who had been much assisted in their preparation by Mr. Whishaw.

In a letter written by Etienne Dumont to Whishaw in 1822 he writes:—

“J’attends avec un grand interet, mon cher Whishaw, ce que

J. Hobhouse

I am sure you will excuse my occupying so much of my letter with my personal feelings and concerns. I know that the subject is not uninteresting to you, but it is time to release you from such melancholy topics. I rejoice to hear that you have been so prosperous throughout your journey. You seem, I must confess, to have a little too much of the Englishman in your feelings towards the poor Italians, and hardly to make sufficient allowances for an illustrious but most unfortunate nation, naturally among the most ingenious and distinguished of Europe, but degraded and debased by its forms of religion and government. I am not surprised that you decline staying to the mummery of Holy Week, and that you begin to be seized with the maladie du pays and long to be home again.

You have, of course, heard of the event of the Westminster election, and of J. Hobhouse’s unexpected failure, owing in a great degree to the confidence and arrogance of his party and their contemptuous treatment of the Whigs. I could only act on public principles, and I was most sincerely hostile to the party that brought him forward and with whom he must necessarily have acted.

vous me direz au sujet des mémoires. Je comprends toutes les difficultes que vous éprouvez, et je pense bien comme Mr. Dugald Stewart, que vous devez travailler à loisir, et qu’un ouvrage de ce genre ne dépend point pour le succès réel d’une publication plus ou moins prompte; quoique le sentiment d’une telle perte ne s’affaiblisse point, il y a des choses qui sont impossibles à l’amitié jusqu’à ce que les impressions se soient adoucies, et je n’oserais pas encore me fier à moi-même pour retracer les souvenirs aussi presents a ma memoire que si les évènements étaient tout récents.”

July 17, 1819.

I have read the greater part of “Don Juan,” which is extremely licentious, but (very unfortunately as I think) extremely clever. It must be ranked amongst the first of Lord B.’s productions, and will be very popular. It is fortunate, certainly, that the obnoxious passage we spoke of was expunged from a book which must have a very extensive circulation, and may perhaps remain with posterity. But I am not without apprehension that the suppressed lines should find a place in some future edition.

One of the most interesting subjects at present is Brougham’s marriage to a Mrs. Spalding, a handsome and rather dashing widow with three children, a good jointure, and a house in Hill Street. She was formerly Miss Eden, a niece of the late Lord Auckland, and is sister of the lady of Sir Graham Moore, the admiral. The extraordinary thing is that the marriage has been kept secret for some time—according to the most general report, since Easter—without any apparent reason. All, I believe, that can be considered certain is that the parties left London together last week, and are now at Brougham Hall. He wrote to me whilst on the journey, without alluding to the event.

Aug. 20, 1819.

What terrible news from Manchester!1 It seems almost like the commencement of an Irish rebellion. How unfortunate that the yeomanry were called upon to act in the first instance, instead of the regular troops.

1 Peterloo.

Aug. 24, 1819.

Smyth informs me that his family had a narrow escape at Macclesfield, the house having been threatened and nearly attacked by the mob (who had arrived within a few hundred yards) on account of his brother, who is a captain in the volunteer cavalry.

Sept. 19, 1819.

It is impossible to exaggerate the bad consequences of the conduct of the Manchester magistracy.1 Altogether the state of public affairs must be considered as very critical; and I begin for the first time to be an alarmist.

Sept. 29, 1819.

I continue to hear satisfactory reports of Brougham; but I have been much distressed by the accounts I have received from Ampthill respecting the youngest daughter, Georgina,2 who has been seriously ill several weeks, and lately in considerable danger. Her complaint was originally bilious, but is now inflammatory, of the nature, apparently, of pleurisy. She is now a little better, having been bled five times during a very short period. It is to be hoped her youth will carry her through it: she has no other chance. The family are in the greatest anxiety and affliction.

Oct. 13, 1819.

I dined on Sunday at Holland House, where they are in much better spirits, but the little girl, though decidedly better, is still seriously ill. They live very quiet and retired.

1 In ordering the yeomanry to charge the unarmed mob.

2 Daughter of Lord and Lady Holland.


I am still much engaged with my family. John Romilly,1 the second son, came here this morning, and will stay two days. We then go to the Mackintoshes, accompanied by Sharp; and on Saturday we proceed to Cambridge, where Henry and Edward are to meet us from Bury St. Edmunds. I wish to take this opportunity of seeing the boys and showing them the University. I hope to return on Monday.

I have no news, except that there is some prospect of a scheme of moderate and reasonable reform being brought forward by the Whigs; but I am afraid it will not be generally supported, even by their own party. I hope to write more fully on this subject in the course of next week.

Nov. 6, 1819.

I have settled John Romilly at Cambridge, and he seems to be going on well. I have since been at the East India College to meet Smyth, who, as you say, is somewhat of an alarmist, and, I think, with some reason, but he wishes conciliation to be united with firmness. He and Abercromby, from having been in Cheshire and Lancashire in the disturbed districts, are returned with similar sentiments. Lord Lansdowne also, I hear, is unfavourable on the whole to county meetings. He is expected on the 15th, and much will depend on the course he adopts. Lord Grey, though he has been very ill, sets out for London on the 10th.

Lord and Lady Holland are in the deepest affliction,2 and will be long before they recover a tolerable degree of tranquillity. At present, Lady

1 Afterwards Master of the Rolls and first Baron Romilly.

2 Owing to the death of their daughter, Georgina.

H. bears the loss with the greater firmness; but she will feel it throughout her whole life.

We talk of restrictions on public meetings and small seditious pamphlets, an extension of the time for the return to payments in specie (by which the great work of last Session will be entirely undone) and an income tax of 5 per cent., which will be carried by dint of terror.

Nov. 16, 1819.

Many persons are arrived for the approaching meeting of Parliament, which is expected to be fully attended. The Ministers and their friends say they have a strong case; but they keep it very secret, as well as the restrictive measures which they intend bringing forward. The Opposition are not yet come to any determination relative to their system of conduct, but I hope they will agree before next week. Lord Lansdowne was expected yesterday; but the weather has been bad and the wind adverse, and I am afraid they must have had a bad passage.

As Lord L. is understood to have been disinclined to the county meetings, he will probably join the moderates of the Opposition, among whom are Mackintosh, Abercromby, Lord A. Hamilton, Lord Morpeth, A. Baring, and some other very good names, who admit the alarm to a certain extent and will not, probably, oppose some reasonable and moderate restrictions on public meetings. On the other hand, Lord Grey, Tierney, Brougham, Sir Robert Wilson, and I believe Lord Holland and the Russells, seem determined to resist all restrictive measures whatever.

The City people are urging very strongly the con-
The Opposition
tinuance of the Bank restriction; but hitherto, it is said,
Lord Liverpool is disposed to be firm, and to adhere to the measures of last Session.

We are much pleased with the report of Mackintosh on the criminal law, and disgusted by the violent sentence of the King’s Bench against the poor detected briber, Sir Manasseh Lopez.1

Nov. 20.

You will be gratified by hearing that Lord Lansdowne appears to be reasonable and judicious on the political questions which at present agitate the country. He is decidedly against the Manchester magistrates, and will view any restrictive measures which may be proposed by Government with great jealousy. Mackintosh, who has talked with him and Lord Grey, as well as with Brougham and Tierney, tells me that his mind is now very much at ease with regard to the political differences which he apprehended. He sees no reason to doubt that there will be a cordial agreement among the leading members of the Opposition as to all principal points. This is very material; for though they can do no good by their union, they might do great mischief by their divisions. There will be a full attendance of members, and Tierney reckons that he shall muster from 120 to 130, which at such times and upon such questions is a considerable force. For we must always recollect, whatever may be our individual opinions, that we live in a Tory country and that the great majority of well-informed and respectable

1 He was condemned to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of £1,000 for bribing the electors of Grampound.

Hobhouse’s Pamphlet
persons whose sentiments ought to have weight in political questions think very differently from ourselves. Indeed, I am inclined to think that the measure which has been talked of, of giving representatives to Manchester, Glasgow, Halifax, &c., would add to the ministerial majority.

I have been reading J. Hobhouse’s last pamphlet,1 and am much hurt by the tone of violence which prevails through it. For instance, “We have an instinctive horror and disgust at the very abstract idea of a Boroughmonger.” In this class are to be found the Duke of Bedford, Lord Fitzwilliam, and other true friends of their country; and it should be remembered that we owe to such persons the having in Parliament such men as Romilly, Horner, Mackintosh, Tierney, Brougham, &c., who could not easily have found seats, especially before they were known to the public, by any mode of popular election.

I observe in Hobhouse’s pamphlet some passages recommending resistance of force, which might be made ground of a criminal prosecution. I extremely regret all this violence in a man who means well and has many estimable qualities.

Nov. 22, 1819.

The Ministers have brought together an immense mass of supporters, and among others most of their Irish members. William Parnell, who is just arrived, says there were sixty violent alarmists in the same packet with him. Among other renegades you will be sorry to hear that Plunket is to support the

1A Trifling Mistake.”

Meeting of Parliament
Government, as well as the Grenvilles and
Lord Wellesley. The latter is coming into office together with some of the Grenvilles.

Dec. 11, 1819.

You would be much concerned to hear of J. Hobhouse’s scrape.1 I had been aware for some time that his violence had excited attention, and was apprehensive of some storm. It is not yet settled whether it will be treated as a question of privilege or the Attorney-General will prosecute. The former course will be better, for it will only be confinement in Newgate till the end of the present Session, unless he should make submission, which he certainly will not do.

The meeting of Parliament has been attended with such consequences as we expected. It has done much for alarm and irritation, and nothing for conciliation or tranquillity. The state of the country is indeed very critical; but I am by no means such an alarmist as Lord Strathmore, the Duke of Northumberland, or even Alex. Baring. The evil is greatly increased by such exaggerated reports, to which speeches in Parliament give great currency and circulation.

Dec. 18th.

When I said that I considered the meeting of the 18th of August to be illegal, I meant that the Judges would certainly hold it to be so, and that they would have sufficient authorities for that opinion. It must be observed, however, that the law respecting tumultuous meetings, and the right of the magistrates

1 Publication of anonymous pamphlet, “A Trifling Mistake,” for which he was prosecuted for breach of privilege.

to interfere, is unfortunately rather vague, and ought to be settled by some definitive enactments. The poor people who were assembled and the principal actors in the meeting certainly thought they were acting legally, and were justified in their opinion by the acquiescence of Government in what had passed at Smithfield and other places.

The Opposition have certainly been of great use in modifying the restrictive measures of the Government. In their present shape, with some exceptions, they are not on the whole very objectionable. Lord Castlereagh’s partial and qualified acquiescence in Lord J. Russell’s motion1 was very gratifying, and a great surprise to the House. It was an approach, though a very slight one, to the principles of Parliamentary reform. But I do not believe that the Bill will be suffered to pass.

I am much concerned for Hobhouse, though he is probably fortunate in having escaped an Information by the Attorney-General, which would have been followed by an imprisonment for two years. I consider what has passed as a vindictive act, on the part of Canning, in return for the anonymous letter; Wortley and Courtenay being his particular friends, and the latter entirely his dependent. In the late number of the Quarterly Review there is an attack upon Hobhouse unquestionably from the same quarter.

I am glad you are so much pleased with Lord J. Russell’s book, which is very creditable to him.2 A work on the East by Mr. Henry Hope has been

1 For the disfranchisement of Grampound.

2 The Life of William, Lord Russell.

lately published, called “
Anastatius,” the fictitious history of a Greek interspersed with anecdotes and observations collected by the author during his travels. I have a great dislike to such mixtures of truth and fiction, which have usually the effect of spoiling both. The present work seems to be an exception to this general remark.

I am obliged to conclude, being surrounded by the young Romillys, who are just come from school, and are going into Wales on Monday.

Much is said about the Prince’s divorce being brought forward in Parliament. His Royal Highness is much bent upon it, but Lord Liverpool and the Chancellor are disinclined to it, and I think the latter will prevail, but time is not propitious.

Dec. 25, 1819.

We went together to call on J. Hobhouse the other day, but were informed that he was then taking a walk on the top of the prison, and that he could not be seen without writing a note and making a previous appointment. We accordingly left our names. I hear that he intends, after the example of Sir F. Burdett, to bring an action, which will do no good, and be productive only of expense. I hope the report is unfounded. It is more probable that he has undertaken some literary work—according to one report, on Parliamentary privilege; according to another, the life of Horne Tooke. Lord Erskine says, “When my young literary opponent writes himself into Newgate it is he that makes the ‘Trifling Mistake’ and not I.”