Memoirs of the Reign of King George the Second, Volume 1 (of 3)
Footnote anchors are denoted by [number], and the footnotes have beenplaced at the end of each chapter.
The Appendix has sections marked B to K; there is no section A, andno section J.
As the Editor notes in his Preface, “Some, though very few, coarseexpressions, have been suppressed by the Editor, and the vacantspaces filled up by [3 or 4] asterisks.” A few names have beeneditorially omitted; these are sometimes indicated by ——and sometimes by ****.
Some minor changes to the text are noted at the end of the book.
OF THE REIGN OF
KING GEORGE THE SECOND.
OF THE REIGN OF
KING GEORGE THE SECOND.
YOUNGEST SON OF SIR ROBERT WALPOLE, EARL OF ORFORD.
EDITED, FROM THE ORIGINAL MSS.
WITH A PREFACE AND NOTES,
BY THE LATE
Second Edition, Revised.
WITH THE ORIGINAL MOTTOES.
HENRY COLBURN, PUBLISHER,
GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET.
The work now submitted to the public is printedfrom a Manuscript of the late Horace Walpole,Earl of Orford.
Among the papers found at Strawberry Hill,after the death of Lord Orford, was the followingMemorandum, wrapped in an envelope, on which waswritten, “Not to be opened till after my Will.”
“In my Library at Strawberry Hill are twowainscot chests or boxes, the larger marked withan A, the lesser with a B. I desire, that as soonas I am dead, my Executor and Executrix willcord up strongly and seal the larger box, markedA, and deliver it to the Honourable Hugh ConwaySeymour, to be kept by him unopened and unsealedtill the eldest son of Lady Waldegrave, or whicheverof her sons, being Earl of Waldegrave, shall attainthe age of twenty-five years; when the said chest,[vi]with whatever it contains, shall be delivered to himfor his own. And I beg that the Honourable HughConway Seymour, when he shall receive the saidchest, will give a promise in writing, signed by him,to Lady Waldegrave, that he or his Representativeswill deliver the said chest unopened and unsealed,by my Executor and Executrix, to the first son ofLady Waldegrave who shall attain the age oftwenty-five years. The key of the said chest is inone of the cupboards of the Green Closet, withinthe Blue Breakfast Room, at Strawberry Hill, andthat key, I desire, may be delivered to Laura, LadyWaldegrave, to be kept by her till her son shallreceive the chest.
(Signed) “Hor. Walpole, Earl of Orford.
“August 19, 1796.”
In obedience to these directions, the box describedin the preceding Memorandum was corded andsealed with the seals of the Honourable Mrs. Damerand the late Lord Frederick Campbell, the Executrixand Executor of Lord Orford, and by them deliveredto the late Lord Hugh Seymour, by whoseRepresentatives it was given up, unopened and unsealed,to the present Earl of Waldegrave, when heattained the age of twenty-five. On examining the[vii]box, it was found to contain a number of manuscriptvolumes and other papers, among which werethe Memoirs now published.
Though no directions were left by Lord Orfordfor the publication of these Memoirs, there can belittle doubt of his intention that they should oneday or other be communicated to the world. Innumerablepassages in the Memoirs show they werewritten for the public. The precautions of theAuthor to preserve them for a certain number ofyears from inspection, are a proof, not of his intentionthat they should remain always in the privatehands of his family, but of his fears lest, if divulged,they might be published prematurely; and the termfixed for opening the chest seems to mark the distanceof time when he thought they might be madepublic without impropriety. Ten years have elapsedsince that period, and more than sixty years sincethe last of the historical events he commemoratesin this work. No man is now alive whose characteror conduct is the subject of praise or censure inthese Memoirs.
The printed correspondence of Lord Orford containsallusions to this work. In a letter written in[viii]1752, he informs Mr. Montagu, that “his Memoirsof last year are quite finished,” but that hemeans to “add some pages of notes that will notwant anecdotes;” and in answer to that gentleman,who had threatened him in jest with a Messengerfrom the Secretary’s Office to seize his papers, aftera ludicrous account of the alarm into which he hadbeen thrown by the actual arrival of a King’s Messengerat his door, he adds, “however, I haveburied the Memoirs under the oak in my garden,where they are to be found a thousand years hence,and taken, perhaps, for a Runic history in rhyme.”
The Postscript, printed in this edition at theend of the Preface, but annexed by the Author tohis Memoirs of the year 1751, evidently implies,that what he had then written was destined for publication.It is addressed in the usual style of anauthor to his reader, and contains an answer to objectionsthat might be made to him. In this answeror apology for his work he justifies the freedom ofhis strictures on public men, vindicates the impartialityof his characters and narrative, claims themerit of care and fidelity in his reports of parliamentaryproceedings, and explains the sources ofinformation from which he derived his knowledge[ix]of the many private anecdotes and transactions herelates.
In the beginning of his Memoirs of 1752, heagain speaks of his work as one ultimately destinedfor the public. “I sit down,” he says, “to resumea task, for which I fear Posterity will condemn theAuthor, at the same time that they feel theircuriosity gratified.”
Many other passages might be quoted that implyhe wrote for Posterity, with an intention that atsome future time his work should be given to thepublic. “These sheets,” he remarks, “were lessintended for a history of war than for civil annals.Whatever tends to a knowledge of the charactersof remarkable persons, of the manners of the age,and of its political intrigues, comes properly withinmy plan. I am more attentive to deserve thethanks of Posterity than their admiration.”—“Iam no historian,” he observes in another place; “Iwrite casual memoirs, I draw characters, I preserveanecdotes, which my superiors, the historians ofBritain, may enchase into their mighty annals, orpass over at pleasure.”—“To be read for a fewyears is immortality enough for such a writer asme.”—“Posterity, this is an impartial picture.”
At the conclusion of his Memoirs of 1758, where[x]the Author makes a pause in his work, and seemsuncertain whether he should ever resume it or not,he again addresses himself to his readers in the styleof an author looking forward to publication. If heshould ever continue his work, he warns his readers“not to expect so much intelligence and informationin any of the subsequent pages as may have appearedin the preceding.”—“During the formerperiod,” he goes on to observe, “I lived in thecentre of business, was intimately acquainted withmany of the chief actors, was eager in politics, indefatigablein heaping up knowledge and materialsfor my work. Now, detached from these busyscenes, with many political connexions dropped ordissolved, indifferent to events, and indolent, Ishall have fewer opportunities of informing myselfor others.”
He then proceeds to give a character of himself,and to “lay open to his readers his nearest sentiments.”He acknowledges some enmities and resentments,confesses that he has been injured bysome, and treated by others with ingratitude, butassures his readers, as he probably thought himself,that he has written without bias or partiality,“that affection and veneration for truth and justicehave preponderated above all other considerations,”[xi]and that when he has expressed himself of particularmen with a severity that may appear objectionable,it was “the unamiableness of the charactershe blames that imprinted the dislikes,” towhich he pleads guilty. Can it be supposed, heasks, that “he would sacrifice the integrity of theseMemoirs, his favourite labour, to a little revengethat he shall never taste?” Whatever may bethought of the soundness of this reasoning, andwhatever opinion may be formed of the impartialityof his work, it seems impossible that anythingshort of a positive injunction to commit his Memoirsto the Press could have conveyed a strongerindication of the intention and desire of the Author,that, at some future period after his decease, thishis favourite labour should be communicated tothe public.
The extraordinary pains taken by Lord Orfordto correct and improve his Memoirs, and preparethem for publication, afford no less convincing proofof his intentions in the legacy of his work. Thewhole of the Memoirs now published have beenwritten over twice, and the early part three times.The first sketches or foul copies of the work are inhis own hand-writing; then follows what he callsthe corrected and transcribed copy, which is also[xii]written by himself; and this third or last copy,extending to the end of 1755, is written by hissecretary or amanuensis, Mr. Kirkgate, with somecorrections by himself, and the notes on the blankpages, opposite to the fair copy, entirely in his ownhand. This last copy was bound into two regularvolumes, with etchings from designs furnished byBentley and Muntz, to serve as a frontispiece tothe whole work, and as head-pieces for each chapter,explanations of which were subjoined at the end.
So much for the authenticity of the presentwork, and obvious intention of the Author thatafter a sufficient lapse of years it should be published.Of the Author himself, so well known byhis numerous publications, little need be said, exceptto give the dates of his entrance into Parliament,and of his retirement from public life, withsome few observations on his political characterand connexions.
Horace Walpole, afterwards Earl of Orford, wasthird son of the celebrated Sir Robert Walpole.He was born on the 5th of October, 1717, andbrought into Parliament in 1741, for the boroughof Callington. At the general election in 1747, hewas returned a second time for the same borough;and in 1754 he came into Parliament for Castle[xiii]Rising. On the death of his uncle, Lord Walpole,of Wolterton, in 1757, he accepted the ChilternHundreds, in order to succeed his cousin, becomeLord Walpole, in the representation of Lynn Regis,“the Corporation of which had such reverence forhis father’s memory, that they would not bear distantrelations while he had sons living.” At thegeneral election for 1761, he was again returnedfor Lynn without opposition; but being threatenedwith a contested election, and heartily tired of politics,from which he had in a great measure withdrawnafter the accession of his friends to office in1765, he voluntarily retired from Parliament in1768. In 1791 he succeeded his nephew as Earlof Orford, and died on the 2nd of March, 1797, inthe eightieth year of his age.
The House of Commons, in which Mr. Walpolefirst sat, was the one that overturned his father’sAdministration. In the very first week of the session,the Minister was left in a minority. He still,however, kept his place, and so nearly were partiesbalanced, that for two months he maintained, withalternate victories and reverses, a contest with hisadversaries. At length, secretly betrayed by someof his colleagues, who had entered into private engagements[xiv]with his enemies, and defeated in anelection question, which had been made a trial ofstrength between Ministry and Opposition, he retiredfrom office, and became Earl of Orford.
His son Horace, though exempt from ambition,was roused by his father’s danger, and, while thestruggle lasted, took a lively interest in all thatpassed. In his letters, he gives an entertainingand not uncandid account of the Debates thattook place, and communicates freely to his Correspondentthe hopes and fears, the good and badsuccess of his party; his anticipations of theirstrength in the different questions as they arose, arefollowed by his explanations of their failures, asfar as he could account for them at the time; thedesertion and falling off of their friends are stigmatizedas they occurred, with the severity suchconduct deserved; and when Sir Robert was compelledto resign, his son records with satisfactionthe successful efforts used to secure him from thevengeance of his enemies, by disuniting the partiescoalesced