Memoirs of the Reign of King George the Third, Volume 1 (of 4)
OF THE REIGN OF
KING GEORGE THE THIRD.
OF THE REIGN OF
KING GEORGE THE THIRD.
By HORACE WALPOLE,
YOUNGEST SON OF SIR ROBERT WALPOLE, EARL OF ORFORD.
NOW FIRST PUBLISHED FROM THE ORIGINAL MSS.
EDITED, WITH NOTES,
By Sir DENIS LE MARCHANT, Bart.
RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET,
Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty.
Printed by S. & J. Bentley, Wilson, and Fley
Bangor House, Shoe Lane.
The Memoirs of the Reign of King Georgethe Third, by Horace Walpole (Earl of Orford),now for the first time submitted to the Public, areprinted from a manuscript copy contained in the boxof papers which came into the possession of the lateEarl of Waldegrave, under the circumstances statedin the Preface to “The Memoires of the Last TwelveYears of the Reign of George the Second.” Thismanuscript was placed by Lord Waldegrave in thehands of the late Lord Holland at the same timewith “the Memoires” last mentioned, and hopeswere long entertained that it would have had theadvantage of the editorial care which gave so muchadditional interest to that work; but from the dateof Lord Holland’s return to office, in 1830, the littleleisure he could find for literary pursuits was divertedfrom these volumes by engagements of a more pressviingcharacter; and it appeared at his death that hehad never even commenced the task which he wasof all persons eminently qualified to execute. Underthese circumstances Lord Euston (now Duke ofGrafton) on whom the property of the manuscripthad devolved, as Lord Waldegrave’s executor, becamevery desirous that the publication should nolonger be deferred; and happening to consult meon the subject, my interest was so much excitedby a cursory perusal, that I acceded to the requestmade to me to prepare the Work for the press.In this I was further encouraged by the assurance Ireceived of the zealous co-operation and assistance ofthe late Mr. John Allen, whose knowledge of the earlyyears of George the Third’s reign was surpassed bynone of his contemporaries (excepting, perhaps, LordHolland), and whose participation in all the studies,and I might almost add identification with the literarypursuits of that nobleman, would have given me manyof the advantages I should have derived from himself,had he been still living. I had several conversationswith Mr. Allen on the plan to be pursuedin editing the Work, and his hints on the charactersof the individuals described in it were of essentialservice to me; but unhappily, before my labourshad commenced in earnest, he was taken ill, and in afew days followed his friend and patron to the grave.viiFew of the associates of his latter days valued himmore than myself, or more deeply regretted his loss;and in revising these pages, my mind has often recurredwith melancholy yet grateful satisfaction to the manyagreeable and most instructive hours I have passed inhis and Lord Holland’s society at a house which hasacquired an European celebrity as the great point ofintellectual and moral reunion among the most distinguishedpolitical and literary men of the presentcentury.
These Memoirs comprise the first twelve years ofthe reign of George the Third, and close the historicalworks of Horace Walpole. “On their merits,” to usethe words of Lord Holland,1 “it would be improperto enlarge in this place. That they contain muchcurious and original information, will not be disputed.”In common with the Memoires of George the Second,“they treat of a part of our annals most imperfectlyknown to us,” with the decided advantage of theperiod being one marked by events of deeper interestand more congenial in their character and bearingswith those which have since engaged, and still occupyour attention. The contests between Whigs andJacobites may not be undeserving our curiosity; yetthey sink into insignificance when compared with theviiiorigin and progress of the American discontents, inwhich may be traced the first indistinct rudiments ofthe great antagonistic principles and social revolutionsof our own time. The Parliamentary struggles,too, in the case of General Warrants, are important,not less on account of the stores of constitutionalknowledge they elicited, than from the spirit of freeinquiry into the Prerogatives of the Crown on theone hand and the Privileges of the People on theother, which necessarily sprang out of them. Nor isit an uninstructive lesson to observe the effortsmade by George the Third to break up the politicalparties which had embarrassed the reign of his predecessor.These topics are among the most prominentin the History of England during the Eighteenth Century,and they constitute the staple of the presentWork. Some of the best debates on the Stamp Act,and on the proceedings against Mr. Wilkes, are herereported with a vivacity and apparent correctnesswhich may be sought in vain elsewhere; and we meetthroughout the Work the same abundance of anecdote,and the same graphic description of men andmanners, that characterise the Memoires of George theSecond. It gives even more copious details of thenegotiations between political parties, especially thoseincidental to the fall of Lord Rockingham’s Administration;the gradual alienation of that noblemanixand his friends from the Duke of Grafton; and theother divisions among the Whig party, which endedin the long enjoyment of power by their opponents.The records of these transactions do not, it is true,form the most dignified department of the historian,but political history is necessarily incompletewithout them; and here Walpole is on his ownground. Unlike most of the writers who have minutelychronicled their times, he can neither becharged with obtaining mere imperfect or occasionalglances into the councils of men in power, nor withsuffering himself to be shackled by a sense of officialrestraint, not to say responsibility. He possessed entirelythe secret of affairs, at least as long as Conwayremained Minister; and so unreservedly discloses whathe knew, that he might not untruly boast, as he doeselsewhere, “that the failings of some of his nearestfriends are as little concealed as those of other persons.”2
I have little to add concerning my own share inthese Memoirs. They are printed exactly as the Authorleft them, except that it has been thought rightto suppress a few passages of an indecent tendency; andfollowing the example of Lord Holland, “two or threepassages affecting the private characters of privatepersons, and in no ways connected with any politicalxevent, or illustrative of any great public character,have been omitted.”3
The notes that occur without any distinguishingmark were left by the Author. It will be perceivedthat they seldom extend beyond a brief statement ofthe rank or relationship of the individuals noticed inthe text. All the other notes are mine.
In compliance with a wish generally expressedafter the publication of the “Memoires of the LastTwelve Years of the Reign of George the Second,”for additional information respecting many of thecharacters described in that work, I have enlargedon the meagre notices left by Walpole, and endeavouredto correct his errors—taking, as my model, theannotations of Lord Dover and Mr. Wright on theAuthor’s correspondence. My references to those popularworks will be found to have been frequent, and Ican venture to add my testimony to their impartialityand correctness.4 I may have unconsciously borrowedfrom them, where we are treating of the same individuals;but I have endeavoured, as much as possible,to steer an independent course, and the subject isxisufficiently wide to admit of it. I have also carefullyconsulted all the contemporary authorities within myreach, and, in more than one instance, have receivedvaluable communications from persons who either livednear the times described by Walpole, or were actuallyacquainted with him. My sole object, however, hasbeen to contribute to the information of readershitherto little conversant with the events and charactersof the period under our notice. More detailedcriticism on particular transactions, and some biographicalsketches, too long for insertion in the notes,will be given in the Appendix to the Fourth Volume;but I have no pretensions to encroach on the provinceof the historian—especially since the publicationof the last volume of Lord Mahon’s History ofGeorge the Third, and the recent article on LordChatham in the Edinburgh Review, both of whichhave appeared since this Work went to the press.
It was at first expected that this Work would becomprised in three volumes, but a more careful examinationof the manuscript having proved a fourth tobe indispensable, it is thought best not to delay thepublication of the two volumes already printed, andto reserve the two concluding volumes until early inthe Spring.
I have to acknowledge much kindness from variousfriends in the prosecution of my inquiries. Sir EdwardxiiColebrooke, in particular, has favoured me with theloan of the manuscript autobiography of his grandfather,Sir George Colebrooke, M. P., Chairman of theEast India Company, an active politician, who lived onconfidential terms with the Duke of Newcastle, LordRockingham, and Mr. Charles Townshend; and I amindebted to Sir George Larpent for the perusal of thepapers of his father, when Secretary to Lord Hertford,during the embassy of the latter at Paris.
Denis Le Marchant.
7, Harley Street,
December 4, 1844.
THE FIRST VOLUME.
|Career of George II.||4|
|1760.||Auspicious circumstances under which George III. ascended the Throne||5|
|Firmness of the Administration||ib.|
|Glory and Fortune in War||ib.|
|Communication to the Prince of Wales of the Death of George II.||6|
|His Conduct to the Duke of Cumberland||7|
|The first Council||ib.|
|George II.’s Will||8|
|The King’s Speech to his Council||9|
|1760.||Plan to carry the Prerogative to an unusual height||16|
|Unpopularity and Seclusion of the Princess of Wales||17|
|Intended Duel between the Earl of Albemarle and General Townshend||20|
|Nov. 18. Meeting of Parliament||24|
|The King’s Speech||ib.|
|Increase of the Court Establishment||ib.|