« AnteriorContinuar »
to wed a woman of this world, with whom he would seem to have lived in the usual alternations of conjugal strife and endearments.
As he had devoted his life to dreams of educational perfection, he found his death in carrying out his favourite theory; imagining that the breakingin of colts, as of children, was “a vicious artificial system,” calculated to prevent the “moral excellences” of the quadruped from attaining their fullest development, he undertook to be his own horse-breaker, but, unfortunately, broke his neck in the experiment. Since then, children and colts are trained pretty much as they were before; wives are no longer educated for friends who assist at their selection; and the generality of mankind are content to take their spouses as they find them!
St. Anne's Hill is a conspicuous eminence, about a mile westward from Chertsey; on the south-eastern side of the hill is the former residence of the late Charles James Fox: the house, though plain and unadorned, is commodious, and the gardens are laid out with surpassing taste and elegance.
Charles James Fox was the second son of Henry, first Lord Holland of that family, and was born in 1748. He was educated at Eton, whence he removed to Hertford College, Oxford, where he had for his tutor Dr. Newcome, afterwards Archbishop of Armagh. In the Musæ Etonienses, some specimens of his poetry have been preserved; but, although he displayed considerable taste in the composition of those trifles, his classical attainments are not acknowledged as remarkable.
That no time might be lost in bringing him into the arena of political life, Lord Holland procured for his gifted son a seat in Parliament for the borough of Medhurst, before he was of legal age, and two years after, he held office as one of the Lords of the Admiralty. His early predilections would seem to have been Tory; he spoke and voted against Wilkes, and otherwise identified himself with the principles of the administration under which he held office. A quarrel with Lord North, supposed to have been in consequence of a difference of opinion as to the propriety of committing Woodfall the printer, led to his dismissal with very little ceremony; and, such is sometimes the source of public virtue,—we have hardly lost sight of the discarded placeman, “all tranquillity and smiles,” before he reappears, , a patriot, bursting with heroic rage,” on the opposition benches.
Instead of fitting out ships of war, in his capacity of a Lord of the Admiralty, we find that during the whole of the eventful contest with the
American colonies, he spoke and voted in direct opposition to the ministerial system, and in conjunction with Burke, Barré, Dunning, and other eminent leaders, displayed the highest talents both as a statesman and orator. At the general election in 1780, he became a candidate for the representation of Westminster, and succeeded, although opposed by the whole influence of the Crown: a circumstance that necessarily much increased his political importance.
On the dismissal of Lord North, and accession to power of the Marquis of Rockingham, Mr. Fox obtained the office of Secretary of State for foreign affairs, and a bright career of official life might have then been anticipated for him, had not the death of the Marquis of Rockingham, ard the dissensions among his adherents, consequent upon that event, broke up the administration.
It would appear that Mr. Fox longed for the sweets of official life, otherwise we can hardly reconcile to the principles which he had so strenuously advocated, during the American war, his unexpected, and for his fame unhappy, coalition with his fallen foe, Lord North. Under this ill-assorted ministry, Mr. Fox held the office of Foreign Secretary. Whatever might have been his motives in uniting himself, and giving the benefit of his giant talents, to those he had denounced for years together, in the most eloquent and vehement language, as unfit to hold the reins of government, it is certain that it damaged the political reputation, not to speak of the mere popularity, of Mr. Fox. Notwithstanding his eloquent and ingenious defence of his conduct, in which he much insisted upon the doctrine that “measures not men were to be considered, the men were deemed not fit to be trusted, and both the Crown and people joined in one universal expression of a desire to get rid of them. The India Bill offered an excellent opportunity, and the placemen patriots were dismissed with disgrace, to recommence, until the chance of another coalition, the war of antagonism to the next succeeding ministry. Upon this rock the political fortunes of Fox, as far as office was thenceforward concerned, were shipwrecked; a new star, that of Mr. Pitt, culminated and preserved its ascendancy, during a memorable, eventful period; in the election following the dismissal of the Coalition administration, Mr. Fox lost not less than seventy votes, and after an expensive and desperate contest, was with difficulty returned for Westminster.
Now began that brilliant career of opposition for which Fox seemed by nature qualified, rather than for the heavy responsibilities and defensive tactics of office. While Fox, and Sheridan, and Burke had all the advantages of superior oratorical prowess, they never succeeded in weakening the array of votes marshalled upon the side of their great antagonist ; triumphs of talk were the only triumphs which they had to boast.
In 1788, Mr. Fox made an excursion on the Continent with the lady afterwards publicly acknowledged as his wife, and was proceeding to Italy, when he was recalled by the king's illness, and the necessity of constituting a Regency. The contest for the unrestricted right of the heir-apparent, which he warmly espoused, was marked by a great display of oratorical and logical ability on the part of the opposition ; but both in and out of Parliament the opinion of the majority justified the conduct of Pitt.
With his strenuous opposition to the wars against Spain and Russia, the popularity of Mr. Fox began to revive ; to which his Libel bill, regulating the right of juries in criminal prosecutions, and making them judges at once of the law and of the fact, not a little contributed.
The breaking out of the French Revolution was the signal for a breaking up of the hitherto compact party which regarded Fox as their great leader ; some espousing the principles—for the practice had not yet been developed, of that mighty political and moral earthquake; and others, with Burke at their head, prophesying the horrors, political and social, to which that burst of popular fury would give rise. The torrent of eloquence and power in which Burke publicly renounced the friendship of Fox, upon the score of incompatible feelings upon this subject, is one of the most striking incidents in Parliamentary history.
The policy of the war which followed this event, Mr. Fox, in pursuance of his principles, announced at its commencement, strenuously opposed, and 'counselled peace on every opportunity; which was at length, in 1801, concluded, with the cordial approbation of Fox, by Mr. Addington, afterwards Lord Sidmouth.
Yet strange to say, on the renewal of hostilities, he accepted office once again under the Grenville ministry, and became nearly as unpopular as he had been during his adherence to the memorable Coalition administration of Lord North
But it was not fated for him to live to carry out his political views, through the medium of either official or opposition life: a free liver in his earlier years, and of social habits, he laid thc foundation of a dropsy, which carried him off, in the fifty-eighth year of his age, but a few months after the death of his rival, Pitt, near whose grave, in Westminster Abbey, Fox was interred.
It is impossible, within our limits, to enter into any detail of the characters that have been drawn of this distinguished man, and if it were possible, in a work of this sort it would be improper; tinged more or less, as all that has been written upon Fox must ever be, with the hues of party, it would be almost impossible to sum up without the appearance, at least, of throwing too much light or too much shadow on the picture.
It may be asserted without fear that he was a sincere and hearty friend to the principles of rational liberty, at the same time alloyed by great latitude on the subject of party and political expediency. His unhappy propensity to coalitions with men whose principles were opposed to his own, detracted mainly from his power or utility as a public man; he went a willing captive into the enemy's camp, and was then surprised to find himself powerless and disarmed; had he been able to have led his own party into power he had been truly great; but forming a hollow truce with the political enemies of a long life, he was a victim to his desire of coalescing with others, without the reputation of a martyr.
Of his oratory, the common consent would appear to be that it was powerful and argumentative, without being brilliant or seductive; of his speeches, when we have said that they were outpourings of the heart, expressed with honest fervour and blunt sincerity, we have said enough.
Of his social qualities and amiability in private life there is but one opinion; he had a happy temperament, no permanent bitterness found a place in his nature, and he was idolized in private by a large and powerful circle of attached friends.
As an author, Fox has no great claims upon the attention of posterity; during his life, with the exception of a few numbers of a paper called the
Englishman,” he published nothing save a memorable “Letter to the Electors of Westminster,” which had the fate of other temporary effusions of its kind, being soon forgotten. The “ History of the early part of the reign of James the Second,” which was intended to form a commencement of a history of the Revolution of 1668, a work expected with the most lively interest by the world, has hardly justified public expectation; and had it been heralded under the auspices of a meaner name, would probably have been considered a failure.
In his Memoirs of Mr. Fox, his private secretary, Trotter, who had an opportunity of visiting the place often during the life-time of his great friend, gives an account of St. Anne's Hill, as it then appeared, from which we extract the subjoined passage, together with his brief summary of the character of its own.
“St. Anne's Hill is delightfully situated, commanding a rich and extensive prospect. The house, which is embowered in trees, rests on the side of the hill, while the grounds decline gracefully to the grove which bounds the bottom. Some fine trees are grouped round the house, and three remarkably beautiful ones stand on the lawn, while a profusion of shrubs are distributed throughout with taste and judgment. Here Mr. Fox was the happy possessor of about thirty acres of land, and the inmate of a small but pleasant mansion. When I first visited St. Anne's Hill, the summer was not yet passed, and all the freshness of nature was upon that beautiful spot : its sloping glades were unparched by autumnal suns; the flowers and shrubs were redolent with sweets, and the full choir of birds, which burst from every tree and shady recess, filled the heart with gladness. The rich expanse of cultivated country, the meadows, corn, woods, villages, till the sight caught the far-distant smoke of London, composed the prospect; while the graceful Thames, winding beneath the hill, gave effect to all I saw.” In describing this place, it will be naturally expected that we should say something of the distinguished character who passed, during so many years of his life, every hour he could spare from his public duties at it. His superior talents, commanding eloquence, comprehensive mind, and great attainments, were so long, so continually, and so powerfully employed in the great concerns of his country, that no one can be a stranger to them. His private virtues, his social qualities, his winning manners, his undisguised heart, and his capacity for the endearments of friendship, all those who knew him in the privacy of life never lose the opportunity of recording.”
STAINES, called in ancient records Stana, from the Saxon word, stana, a stone, is a market town in the hundred of Spelthome, sixteen miles from London. The parish is bounded by Stanwell on the north, by Ashford on the east, Laleham on the south, and the river Thames on the west.
The town, consisting of one principal street, is exceedingly neat, containing a number of excellent houses, and the air considered remarkably salubrious.