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LUCK IN FAMILIES.
HAVE before expatiated, brethren, on what a blessed thing it is to be born in a state of luck. The ancient Romans, towards whom I early imbibed a well-sustained feeling of aversion, reckoned good luck among the highest qualifications of a general. To be considered lucky by the world is the highest stroke of luck that can befall a man; for to be considered lucky in commercial circles is tantamount to the possession of vast credit; and through credit there have been vast operations effected, infinite scratchings on mercantile paper, and the construction of splendid fortunes. The history of successful commerce is the history of the marvels of credit, as such a house as Jones, Loyd, and Co., can testify. As I go to and fro on the earth I hear of divers slices of luck, and I wonder when a slice, thick and juicy, of that description of viand, will ever come to my watering mouth.
For one really does hear of extraordinary things which set the most unselfish and carefully-balanced mind into an envious attitude of wishing to 'get something.' The only kind of an El Dorado that suggests itself to me is to take shares in a mine-a Peruvian mine if you like-but instead of stumbling upon golden ore or caves lighted up with precious stones, I have a presentiment that the first dividend would be paid out of capital; that we should fall to one per cent.; and that the shareholders would be placed under most unpleasing contributories towards making good all sorts of defalcations. Whereas there is a man in the West of England-the story is well known there-who took a thousand shares in a mine, and never had to pay more than a pound a piece for them; and on those shares he lived sumptuously, and out of the income of those shares he bought an estate for a hundred thousand pounds, and, finally, he sold those shares for half a million of money. There is a man in Berkshire who
has got a park with a walled frontage of seven miles, and he tells of a beautiful little operation which made a nice little addition to his fortune. He was in Australia when the first discoveries of gold were made. The miners brought in their nuggets, and took them to the local banks. The bankers were a little nervous about the business, uncertain about the quality of the gold, and waiting to see its character established. This man had a taste for natural sciences, and knew something about metallurgy. He tried each test, solid and fluid, satisfied himself of the quality of the gold, and then, with all the money he had, or could borrow, he bought as much gold as might be, and showed a profit of a hundred thousand pounds in the course of a day or two. It is to be observed here that what we call luck is resolvable very often into what is really observation and knowledge, and a happy tact in applying them when a sudden opportunity arises. The late Joseph Hume was a happy instance of this. He went out to India, and while he was still a young man he accumulated a considerable fortune. He saw that hard 'y any about him knew the native languages, so he applied himself to the hard work of mastering them, and turned the knowledge to most profitable account. On one occasion, when all the gunpowder had failed the British army, he succeeded in scraping together a large amount of the necessary materials, and manufactured it for our troops. When he returned to England he canvassed with so much ability and earnestness for a seat in the East India Directorate, that he might carry out his scheme of reform, that though he failed to get the vote of a certain large proprietor of stock, he won his daughter's heart, and made a prosperous marriage. Ah! marriage is, after all, the luckiest bit of luck when it is all it should be. When Henry Baring, the late Lord Ashburton, travelled in America-not
merely dilettante travelling, but like Lord Milton in our days, piercing into untravelled wilds, meeting only a stray, enthusiastic naturalist, lile Audubon - he made his marriage with Miss Bingham, and so consolidated the American business of the great house of Baring. In an international point of view this was a happy marriage, for in after years it gave him a peculiar facility for concluding the great Ashburton treaty. We have just seen with universal satisfaction a great lady added to the peerage of Great Britain. Mr. Disraeli dedicated one of his works to the 'severest of critics, but a perfect wife;' and at the Edinburgh banquet he told the guests how much he owed to his matchless wife. It is no secret how much of his fortunes he owed to her help, and how greatly he benefited by her sympathy and wisdom.
The husband whom she so helped in his youthful struggles for fortune has in return made her a peeress, and we all wish happiness and long life to the Viscountess Beaconsfield. So lucky has Mr. Disraeli been in his wife, that it is hardly worth while alluding to the minor and subordinate circumstance that an old lady, a stranger, some years ago left him a legacy of thirty or forty thousand pounds, through admiration of his public character.
Yet it is hard to know when a man is lucky or when unlucky. If a man is going to lose a fortune in gambling he generally has some strokes of luck at the commencement. If poor Lord Hastings had not made those lucky hits when he first went on the turf, perhaps he would not have verified the family motto in a new, sad sense, and 'scattered his arrows' so freely. What a world of meaning there is in the Sparsimus tela motto of the extinct house of Hastings. Oh, hollow glades and bowery loveliness of Castle Donington! what weird, sad whispers will next seem to sound for me when I may revisit those old ancestral haunts! There is a very distinguished nobleman who first tried his luck at sea before he became what men at sea call a land-shark. When young Thesiger gave up the
trade of midshipman I dare say some kind friends pronounced him a failure; but no one would say that of Lord Chancellor Chelmsford. There was another man who became a British peer through circumstances full of luck for the country, but which he doubtless always considered of direst unluck to himself. A quiet, happy country gentleman was Mr. Graham, with abundant means and healthful tastes, a handsome estate and a handsome wife. There is a tale of his prowess related about his wife. They were at Edinburgh, and were going to a great ball, when, to her infinite annoyance, she found that she had left her jewel-case behind her. The distance was sixty or seventy miles, and it was not many hours before the ball was to come off. Graham took a fleet horse, and at the top of his speed rode away homewards in search of the jewel-case. He did his ride of a hundred and fifty miles in marvellously short time, and the ornaments were in time for the ball. When the wife, for whose comfort and pleasure he had so chivalrously acted, died, Mr. Graham was inconsolable. To alleviate his deep-seated melancholy he joined the army as a volunteer. Then commenced his splendid career as a soldier, in which he proved himself one of the most efficient and gallant of Wellington's lieutenants, and fought his way to pension and peerage. Such was the turning point in the history of the late Lord Lynedoch.
It has always struck me that the career of the late Baron Ward, who, from a stable-boy, became Prime Minister of Parma, was a remarkable instance of the union of luck and desert. I abridge an account of him by one who knew him well.
I cannot tell the exact year in which Ward entered the Duke of Lucca's service-it must have been between 1825 and 1830. He was for some years in the ducal stables, when his cleverness and good conduct attracted the favourable notice of his master. And as he was very fond of the English, he wished to attach Ward more closely to his
immediate service; and notwithstanding his equestrian skill, he decided upon removing him from his stables, and making him his under valet de chambre. Ward owed this promotion entirely to his high character, integrity, and scrupulous English cleanliness... Ward's rise in the service of the Duke of Lucca was extremely gradual, and was the result, not of capricious favour, but of the most well-grounded appreciation of his long-tried worth and his rare intelligence. . . . His extraordinary good sense and practical ability became gradually more and more apparent. The Duke soon began to see that his advice was good in matters far beyond the departments of his stable and of his wardrobe. He accordingly consulted him in many perplexed and difficult cases as they happened to occur; and he invariably found such benefit from the advice of his new counsellor, that he began to regard him as almost infallible... The zeal and address which Ward displayed in the arrangement of some affair procured for him an unbounded influence with his master, who, soon after this, strongly urged him to accept of a portfolio, and to assume the public position of a Minister of State. This proposition Ward refused point blank. . . . The groom was elevated to the post of personal attendant, then of intendant of his stables and household, then of comptroller of his privy purse, then of Minister of State, and, in fact, Prime Minister, with baronial titles and manifold knightly decorations. Such was the elevation to which Ward had ascended at the present epoch of his history. He was the trusted adviser of his master in the knottiest questions of foreign politics, the arbiter of the most difficult points of international policy with other states, and the highest authority in all home affairs. He was one of those men of action who speedily distinguish themselves wherever the game of life is to be played; quick to discern the character of those around him, and prompt to avail himself of their knowledge. Little hampered by the conventionalities which impose
trammels on men born in an elevated station, and refined by elegant breeding, he generally attained his object by a coup de main before others had arranged their plans to oppose him. To these qualities, so instrumental to his success, he added a most rugged, unyielding honesty, and a loyal, single-hearted attachment to the person of his prince. Strong in his own conscious rectitude, and in the confiding regard of his sovereign, Ward stood alone and fearless against all the wiles and machinations of his formidable rivals, who, although armed against counter wiles and counter machinations, were quite unprepared against straightforward honesty. . . . . One day about this time, when he entered the Duke's room, he found him occupied with a pencil and paper. "Ward," said his Royal Highness, "I am drawing a coat of arms for you. As a mark of the esteem in which you are held by the Duchess as well as myself, you shall have armorial bearings compounded of her arms and my own. I will give you the silver cross of Savoy with the golden fleur de lys of France in dexter chief." With many expressions of gratitude for the honour which was about to be conferred upon him, he asked permission to add something emblematical of his native country; and as he had heard that coats of arms sometimes had supporters, he would like to have the cross of Savoy and the lily of Bourbon supported by English John Bulls. "So be it," said the Duke. "You shall have two bulls regardant for your supporters;" and thus the arms of Baron Ward may be found in "Burke's Peerage among those of Englishmen who have obtained foreign titles:-On a field gules, a cross argent, in the dexter chief, a shield azure, surmounted by a royal crown, and charged with a fleur de lys or; supporters, two bulls regardant proper. . . . In the beginning of the year 1854, Charles III., Duke of Parma, was suddenly removed from this world by a mysterious and violent death. One of the first acts of the Duchess, his widow, forced by its popularity among the subjects of her infant son,
was to depose Baron Ward from his ministry, and send him into banishment.... Ward was removed from the evil to come, and was called to exchange this world for a better before the last fatal outburst of ruin upon the family to whom he had devoted the active energies of his virtuous and useful life. After he was so suddenly and so harshly sacrificed by the course of events, and a vain attempt to conciliate popular favour, he entirely retired from public affairs.. Prince Metternich truly characterised him when, after the revolution of 1848, he visited that illustrious minister in his retirement at Brighton, by greeting him as a "Heaven-born diplomatist.".. He undertook a large farming establishment in the neighbourhood of Vienna, and spent his last few years in the enjoyment of domestic happiness with his wife and children. . . In 1858 Baron Ward died at the age of forty-nine; and he has left us a memorable example how integrity, talent, and courage can raise a man from the lowest position to ride on the high places of the earth, and to be an honour to his native country.'
The annals of our courts of law are peculiarly affluent in giving instances of luck in families. But here, as elsewhere, what is good luck in one direction, is sure to turn up as bad luck in another. The representatives of the Duke of Kingston, when they obtained the large sum left as a jointure to his widow, famous and handsome Elizabeth Chudleigh, were lucky in proving her former marriage with Lord Bristol: but his Duchess, convicted of bigamy, poor and disgraced, had to retire to Russia, where she lived many years before she died. Earl Talbot was in great luck when, ten years ago, the Shrewsbury titles, which made him Premier Earl of England, were assigned to him, and perhaps in still greater luck when, in the following year, the Shrewsbury estates were also assigned to him. Another remarkable cause célèbre, when the vast Bridgewater estates were involved, is one which more directly in
volved luck. In this case estates to the value of seventy thousand a year were at stake. The Earl of Bridgewater had devised these large estates to Lord Alford, the son of Earl Brownlow, with the proviso that if he died before he had attained the title of Duke or Marquis of Bridgewater, then his heirs should not inherit the estates, but they should pass to the second brother, Charles Henry Cust. Lord Alford died in the life of his father, Earl Brownlow, leaving a son, and without having attained any higher grade in the peerage. Vice Chancellor Lord Cranworth held that the condition not having been fulfilled, the estates passed away. An appeal was subsequently brought to the House of Lords, that is to say, to those few eminent personages who are known as the law lords, and to whom the House invariably relegates its judicial functions. It is rather interesting and amusing to attend the House of Lords on the occasion of the hearing of an appeal case. Two or three. gentlemen in plain clothes are lounging about on the empty seats, paying more or less attention to the monotonous pleading of counsel at the bar, and the vast empty space of the glorious chamber contrasts strongly with the crowded appearance of the narrow section formed by the bar, beyond which none of us dare advance. It must, however, be said that the law lords well earn the five thousand a year pension; and though their body at times rather needs recruiting, and Lord Westbury has a decided tendency to absent himself, its decisions are received with the greatest respect. Their decision in the matter of the Bridgewater estates was decidedly against expectation. The ViceChancellor, an eminently sound and careful lawyer, had given it against the child, Lord Alford. The House of Lords submitted a series of questions to their assessors, the judges, and the judges, by a very large preponderance, also gave their voices against the infant. Nevertheless the House of Lords-that is to say Lords Lyndhurst, Brougham, Truro, and St. Leonards-took a view utterly conflicting with that of the
judges of the land and that of the Vice-Chancellor, who at the time of the appeal had become Lord Chancellor Cranworth. They held that the conditions of the bequest were void, as being against public policy, it being a well-established rule of law that a condition against the public good is illegal and void. All the law lords agreed that the condition was against public policy. They drew pictures, not very flattering, of what ministers might do. A peer of the realm, with seventy thousand a year at stake, might be able to bring mighty inducements and temptations to bear, to which poor human nature must necessarily succumb. Here would be a young nobleman attempting to prescribe to the Crown what should be his exact title, with its conditions and limitations. Such a condition would bring on parties a painful pressure, an irresistible temptation. Lord Alford might be induced to use all kinds of undue means to gain his elevation. A peer was a judge, an adviser of the Crown, a member of the legislature; and conditions such as these, taking men as they were, and human nature as it is, must necessarily have a tendency to fetter a man's free agency. His mind would be bent less upon his duties, and with a less independent bias when his fortunes were at stake upon his promotion. Under these circumstances the four law lords, reversing the opinion of the court below, confirmed Lord Alford in the possession of the estates, by holding those conditions to be void according to the non-fulfilment of which he would incur their forfeiture. A constitutional decision by these great lawyers cannot but be received with respect; and yet Lord Cranworth's argument on the other side is very convincing, and so is the opinion of the judges. The present Earl Brownlow may certainly be considered an extremely lucky man in overthrowing such a body of legal opinions, and through the voice of a legal minority gaining such enormous advantages.
And now let us take another cause célèbre. It shall have a stroke of luck in it. One day a man was
lounging about in the grounds of Ashton Hall, the fine old seat of the Smythes. He knew the place well. A near relative of his had been housekeeper there for years. He had made it his business to collect all the information he could respecting the family. The estates attached to the title were very great, producing a rent-roll estimated not far from thirty thousand a year. The lord of these large possessions, in a broken and uncertain state, was ill at the Hall. The day on which this man was prowling about the grounds was destined to be the baronet's last day on earth. The following morning he was found dead in his bed. That this man was in the grounds that day there is no doubt; the fact is proved and is uncontested. A remarkable sort of man, quite middle-aged, with great precision of dress and manner, sallow, iron-grey, dressed in black; one who described himself as a schoolmaster and lecturer, and who looked the character. This was stated-that this eventful evening he sought and obtained an interview with the baronet; that he announced himself as his nephew, the son of his eldest brother by a previous marriage, the rightful heir of the title and estates which he had so long improperly enjoyed. The old man was thrown into such a dreadful state of perturbation, that the visitor added, that his object was to establish his rights for his family, and not to disturb him in possession. The baronet was unable to resist the proofs of relationship, and acknowledged his nephew, giving him a fifty-pound note, and promising to make an arrangement. The shock, however, was too much for him, and he died next morning.
Great doubt was thrown upon the statement whether this man, who called himself Sir Richard Hugh Smythe, and whom his enemies called John Provis, ever had this fatal interview with the baronet. However that may be, at his death the estates passed to his daughter Florence and her issue. The claimant, however, by no means lost sight of his case. He collected a great deal of oral testimony, not forgetting Bible, pictures, seals, rings, certificates calcu