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LET US NOT BE UNGRATEFUL.
rather than pleased, the watchful friends around him. He became unjust in his fretfulness, and those who loved him most could not wish to see him survive the wreck of his intellect. Fever came on, and he died on the 2d of March, 1797.
He had collected his letters from his friends: these epistles were deposited in two boxes, one marked with an A., the other with a B. The chest A. was not to be opened until the eldest son of his grandniece, Lady Laura, should attain the age of twenty-five. The chest was found to contain memoirs, and bundles of letters ready for publication.
It was singular, at the sale of the effects at Strawberry Hill, to see this chest, with the MSS. in the clean Horatian hand, and to reflect how poignant would have been the anguish of the writer could he have seen his Gothic Castle given up for fourteen days, to all that could pain the living or degrade the dead.
Peace to his manes, prince of letter-writers; prince companion of beaux; wit of the highest order! Without thy pen, society in the eighteenth century would have been to us almost as dead as the beau monde of Pompeii, or the remains of Etruscan leaders of the ton. Let us not be ungrateful to our Horace: we owe him more than we could ever have calculated on before we knew him through his works : prejudiced, he was not false; cold, he was rarely cruel; egotistical, he was seldom vainglorious. Every age should have a Horace Walpole; every country possess a chronicler so sure, so keen to perceive, so exact to delineate peculiarities, manners, characters, and events.
I HAVE heard, at times, of maiden ladies of a certain age who found pleasure in the affection of “spotted snakes with double tongue, thorny hedge-hogs, newts, and in live worms." I know that Leonardo da Vinci was partial to all that is horrible in nature. I frequently meet ladies who think conversation lacks interest without the recital of melancholy deaths," “fatal diseases,” and “mournful cases;” on ne dispute pas les goûts, and certainly the taste for the night side of nature seems immensely prevalent among the lower orders-in whom, perhaps, the terrible only can rouse from a sullen insensibility, What happy people, I always think to myself, when I hear of the huge attendance on the last tragic performance at Newgate; how very little they can see of mournful and horrible in common life, if they seek it out so eagerly, and relish it so thoroughly, when they find it! I don't know; for my own part, gaudeamus. I have always thought that the text, "Blessed are they that mourn,” referred to the inner private life, not to a perpetual display of sackcloth and ashes; but I know not. I can understand the weeping-willow taste among people, who have too little wit or too little Christianity to be cheerful, but it is a wonder to find the luxury of gloom united to the keenest perception of the laughable in such a man as George Selwyn.
If human beings could be made pets, like Miss Tabitha's snake or toad, Selwyn would have fondled a hangman. He loved the noble art of execution, and was a connoisseur of the execution of the art. In childhood he must have decapitated his rocking-horse, hanged his doll in a miniature gallows, and burnt his bawbles at mimic stakes. The man whose calm eye was watched for the quiet sparkle that announced—and only that ever did announce it—the flashing wit within the mind, by a gay crowd of loungers at Arthur's, might be found next day rummaging among coffins in a damp vault, glorying in a mummy, confessing and preparing a live criminal, paying any sum for a relic of a dead one, or pressing eagerly forward to witness the dying agonies of a condemned man.
Yet Walpole and Warner both bore the highest testimony to the goodness of his heart; and it is impossible to doubt that his nature was as gentle as a woman's. There have been other instances of even educated men delighting in scenes of
ANECDOTES OF SELWYN'S MOTHER.
suffering; but in general their characters have been more or less gross, their hearts more or less insensible. The husband of Madame Récamier went daily to see the guillotine do its vile work during the Reign of Terror; but then he was a man who never wept over the death of a friend. The man who was devoted to a little child, whom he adopted and treated with the tenderest care, was very different from M. Récamier —and that he had a heart there is no doubt. He was an anomaly, and famous for being so, though, perhaps, bis wellknown eccentricity was taken advantage of by his witty friends, and many a story fathered on Selwyn which has no origin but in the brain of its narrator.
George Augustus Selwyn, then, famous for his wit, and notorious for his love of horrors, was the second son of a country gentleman, of Matson, in Gloucestershire, Colonel John Selwyn, who had been an aid-de-camp of Marlborough's, and afterward a frequenter of the courts of the first two Georges. He inherited his wit chiefly from his mother, Mary, the daughter of General Farington or Farringdon, of the county of Kent. Walpole tells us that she figured among the beauties of the court of the Prince and Princess of Wales, and was bedchamberwoman to Queen Caroline. Her character was not spotless, for we hear of an intrigue, which her own mistress imparted in confidence to the Duchess of Orleans (the mother of the Regent: they wrote on her tomb Cy gist l'oisiveté, because idleness is the mother of all vice), and which eventually found its way into the “Utrecht Gazette.” It was Mrs. Selwyn, too, who said to George II., that he was the last person she should ever have an intrigue with, because she was sure he would tell the queen of it: it was well known that that very virtuous sovereign made his wife the confidante of his amours, which was even more shameless than young De Sévigné's taking advice from his mother on his intrigue with Ninon de l'Enclos. She seems to have been reputed a wit, for Walpole retains her mots as if they were worth it, but they are not very remarkable: for instance, when Miss Pelham lost a pair of diamond earrings, which she had borrowed, and tried to faint when the loss was discovered, some one called for lavender-drops as a restorative. “Pooh !” cried Mrs. Selwyn,“ give her diamonddrops."
George Augustus was born on the 11th of August, 1719. Walpole says that he knew him at eight years old, and as the two were at Eton about the same time, it is presumed that they were contemporaries there. In fact, a list of the boys there, in 1732, furnished to Eliot Warburton, contains the names of Walpole, Selwyn, Edgecombe, and Conway, all in
SELWYN'S COLLEGE DAYS.
after life intimate friends and correspondents. From Eton to Oxford was the natural course, and George was duly entered at Hertford College. He did not long grace Alma Mater, for the grand tour had to be made, and London life to be begun, but he was there long enough to contract the usual Oxford debts, which his father consented to pay more than once. It is amusing to find the son getting Dr. Newton to write him contrite and respectful letter to the angry parent, to liquidate the “small accounts” accumulated in London and Oxford as early as 1740. Three years later we find him in Paris, leading a gay life, and writing respectful letters to England for more money. Previously to this, however, he had obtained, through his father, the sinecure of Clerk of the Irons and surveyor of the Meltings at the Mint, a comfortable little appointment, the duties of which were performed by deputy, while its holder contented himself with honestly acknowledging the salary, and dining once a week, when in town, with the officers of the Mint, and at the Government's expense.
So far the young gentleman went on well enough, but in 1744 he returned to England, and his rather rampant characI ter showed itself in more than one disgraceful affair.
Among the London shows was Orator Henley, a clergyman and clergyman's son, and a member of St. John's, Cambridge. He had come to London about this time, and instituted a series of lectures on universal knowledge and primitive Christianity. He styled himself a Rationalist, a title then more honorable than it is now; and, in grandiloquent language, “ spouted” on religious subjects to an audience admitted at a shilling a head. On one occasion he announced a disputation among any two of his hearers, offering to give an impartial hearing
and judgment to both. Selwyn and the young Lord Carteret were prepared, and stood up, the one to defend the ignorance, the other the impudence, of Orator Henley himself; so, at least, it is inferred from a passage in D’Israeli the Elder. The
that ensued can well be imagined. Henley himself made his escape by a back door. His pulpit, all gilt, has been immortalized by Pope, as “ Henley's gilt tub;" in which
“Imbrown'd with 'native bronze, lo! Henley stands,
Tuning his voice and balancing his hands." The affair gave rise to a correspondence between the Orator and his young friends; who, doubtless, came off best in the matter.
This was harmless enough, but George's next freak was not so excusable. The circumstances of this affair are narrated in a letter from Captain Nicholson, his friend, to George Selwyn; and may, therefore, be relied on. It appears that being at a