Billeder på siden

with the reversion to an office-the clerkship of the Councilwhich brings its holder into occasional contact with the Crown, and into close intercourse with the Ministers of the day. In addition to the emoluments of this office, he drew the salary of a lucrative appointment in the West Indies, whose duties he discharged by deputy. Thus endowedin accordance with the bad customs of those days-with a liberal income, he had not to make his career, which was already marked out for him. He had none of the incentives to exertion which poverty supplies to other men; and he devoted himself to the routine duties of his office, and to the diversions of society, contented in his leisure hours with recording the history which his abilities might have qualified him to help in making.

During the earlier years of his life he probably reflected little on the opportunities which he missed. But, as his age increased and his health decayed, he was lamentably conscious that he might have turned both his time and his abilities to better account. As the friends of his youth dropped one after another away, he had fewer temptations for social intercourse. Never married, he had not the consolations which marriage affords; he had private anxieties to endure, which, if they found no place in his diary, may perhaps be traced in its tone. If, in short, he had been spared the struggles of youth, he had his full share of the regrets of old age.

In the first part of Mr. Greville's diary Mr. Reeve gave us the journal of

a young man of fashion and of pleasure, plunged, as was not inconsistent with his age and his social position, in the dissipation and the amusements of the day; but he was beginning to get tired of them. In the second part he enters with all the energy of which he was capable, though shackled by his official position, upon the great political struggles of the time-the earnest advocate of peace, of moderation, of justice, and of liberal principles.' (Preface.)

In the third part, which is now before us, we find the advance of years and the increase of infirmities withdrawing him more and more from society, and depriving him of many of those sources of intelligence which had been so freely ' opened to him.' So early as 1856 he declared (though his readers will hardly share his conclusion), 'It is impossible to 'find anything of the least interest to write about, and my 'journal is in danger of dying of starvation or of atrophy.' A year afterwards, in 1857, he wrote:

'I have read over the few preceding pages, and am disgusted to

find how barren they are of interest and how little worth preserving. They show how entirely my social relations have ceased with all those friends and acquaintances from whom I have been in the habit of drawing the information which the earlier parts of this journal contain, and consequently my total ignorance of all political subjects. There was a time when I should have had a great deal to say upon passing events of interest or importance, but all that is gone by.' (Vol. ii. p. 117.)

While finally, in November 1860, a year and a half after he had retired from his office, he brought his labours to a conclusion with this emphatic entry :


At the end of three months since I last wrote anything in this book, I take my pen in hand to record my determination to bring this journal (which is no journal at all) to an end. I have long seen that it is useless to attempt to carry it on, for I am entirely out of the way of hearing anything of the slightest interest beyond what is known to all the world. I therefore close this record without any intention or expectation of renewing it, with a full consciousness of the smallness of its value or interest, and with great regret that I did not make better use of the opportunities I have had of recording something more worth reading.' (Vol. ii. p. 309.)

Remarks of this kind in reality testify not to any deficiency in the writer's narrative or in his matter, but to his growing reluctance to write at all. The reader is gradually prepared for the conclusion by noticing longer and longer intervals between the entries in the journal, and by observing that Mr. Greville himself ascribes his neglect to continue his work to an apathy which was probably attributable to his growing ill-health. The gloomy feelings, which were due to illness, equally account for the unfavourable judgement which the writer passes on his own work. Public opinion has long been pronounced on the value and interest of Mr. Greville's Memoirs; and, as his editor rightly states, if he ever 'enter'tained a hope that he might contribute some pages to the record of his time and the literature of his country, that hope was not altogether vain.'

The most depreciatory critic of Mr. Greville's journal is, then, Mr. Greville himself; and other readers are not likely to affirm the judgement which the author pronounced on his work. The section of it which is now before us, like that which was published in 1885, is remarkable, not merely for the light which it throws on the political history of the time, but for the carefully finished portraits which it contains of some of the more remarkable of Mr. Greville's contemporaries. There is, indeed, no character in these volumes quite equal to the

finished likeness which the second part of these Memoirs gave us of Lord Melbourne. That sketch was, and is, Mr. Greville's chef d'œuvre. But the portraits which these volumes contain of Lord Ellesmere, Lord Macaulay, Madame de Lieven, Miss Berry, Lady Ashburton, and of others, if not quite equal to the description of Lord Melbourne, are well worthy of being hung in the same gallery. It is remarkable, too, that, in his character of Lord Macaulay, Mr. Greville noticed a trait which did not strike his other contemporaries.

'I have mentioned the circumstance of my first meeting him, after which we became rather intimate in a general way, and he used frequently to invite me to those breakfasts in the Albany at which he used to collect small miscellaneous parties, generally including some remarkable people, and at which he loved to pour forth all those stores of his mind, and accumulations of his memory, to which his humbler guests, like myself, used to listen with delighted admiration, and enjoy as the choicest of intellectual feasts. I don't think he was ever so entirely agreeable as at his own breakfast table, though I shall remember as long as I live the pleasant days I have spent in his society at Bowood, Holland House, and elsewhere. Nothing was more remarkable in Macaulay than the natural way in which he talked, never for the sake of display or to manifest his superior powers and knowledge. On the contrary, he was free from any assumption of superiority over others, and seemed to be impressed with the notion that those he conversed with knew as much as himself, and he was always quite as ready to listen as to talk.' (Vol. ii. p. 278.)

The famous flashes of silence evidently seemed much more frequent to the man who came to listen than to the man who came to talk.

Literary criticism, moreover, is in these days so crude, and critics are so fond of pointing out the little blots which they detect, instead of dwelling on the merits which they ignore, that we cannot resist copying the remarks with which Mr. Greville sums up a short and discriminating verdict on Lord Macaulay's History.

Macaulay's History is the best ethical study for forming the mind and character of a young man, for it is replete with maxims of the highest practical value. It holds up in every page to hatred and scorn all the vices which can stain, and to admiration and emulation all the virtues which can adorn, a public career. It is impossible for anyone to study that great work without sentiments of profound admiration for the lessons it inculcates, and they who become thoroughly imbued with its spirit, no matter whether they coincide or not with his opinions, will be strengthened in a profound veneration for truth and justice, for public and private integrity and honour, and in a genuine patriotism and desire for the freedom, prosperity, and glory of their country.' (Vol. ii. p. 280.)

Mr. Froude has given the present generation a new interest in the character of the late Lady Ashburton. Mr. Carlyle, it may be recollected, considered that she was the greatest lady of rank' he ever saw; and, in some difficulty to reconcile her life with his own precepts, he declared, in one of his most singular verdicts, that her work-call it her grand and noble 'endurance of want of work-is all done.' Here is Mr. Greville's account of this lady


'Lady Ashburton was perhaps, on the whole, the most conspicuous woman in the society of the present day. She was undoubtedly very intelligent, with much quickness and vivacity in conversation, and by dint of a good deal of desultory reading and social intercourse with men more or less distinguished, she had improved her mind, and made herself a very agreeable woman, and had acquired no small reputation for ability and wit. It is never difficult for a woman in a great position and with some talent for conversation to attract a large society around her, and to have a number of admirers and devoted habitués. Lady Ashburton laid herself out for this, and while she exercised hospitality on a great scale, she was more of a Précieuse than any woman I have known. She was, or affected to be, extremely intimate with many men whose literary celebrity or talents constituted their only attraction, and while they were gratified by the attentions of the great lady, her vanity was flattered by the homage of such men, of whom Carlyle was the principal. It is only justice to her to say that she treated her literary friends with constant kindness and the most unselfish attentions. They, their wives and children (when they had any), were received at her house in the country, and entertained there for weeks without any airs of patronage, and with a spirit of genuine benevolence as well as hospitality. She was in her youth tall and commanding in person, but without any pretension to good looks; still she was not altogether destitute of sentiment and coquetry, or incapable of both feeling and inspiring a certain amount of passion. The only man with whom she was ever what could be called in love was Clarendon, and that feeling was never entirely extinct, and the recollection of it kept up a sort of undefined relation between them to the end of her life. Two men were certainly in love with her, both distinguished in different ways. One was John Mill, who was sentimentally attached to her, and for a long time was devoted to her society. She was pleased and flattered by his devotion, but as she did not in the slightest degree return his passion, though she admired his abilities, he at last came to resent her indifference, and ended by estranging himself from her entirely, and proved the strength of his feeling by his obstinate refusal to continue even his acquaintance with her. Her other admirer was Charles Buller, with whom she was extremely intimate, but without ever reciprocating his love. Curiously enough, they were very like each other in person, as well as in their mental accomplishments. They had both the same spirits and cleverness in conversation, and the same quickness and drollery in repartee. I remember Allen well describing them, when he said that their talk was like that in the polite conver

sation between Never Out and Miss Notable. Her faults appeared to be caprice and a disposition to quarrels and tracasseries about nothing, which, however common amongst ordinary women, were unworthy of her superior understanding. But during her last illness all that was bad and hard in her nature seemed to be improved and softened, and she became full of charity, good-will, and the milk of human kindness. Her brother and her sister-in-law, who, forgetting former estrangements, hastened to her sick bed, were received by her with overflowing tenderness, and all selfish and unamiable feelings seemed to be entirely subdued within her. Had she recovered she would probably have lived a better and a happier woman, and as it is she has died in charity with all the world, and has left behind her corresponding sentiments of affection and regret for her memory.' (Vol. ii. pp. 107-9.)

But the most finished portrait in these volumes is that of Madame de Lieven; and, though it is too long to reproduce as a whole, we shall make no apology for making lengthy extracts from an admirable account of an accomplished


'Madame de Lieven came to this country at the end of 1812 or beginning of 1813 on the war breaking out between Russia and France. She was at that time young, at least in the prime of life, and though without any pretensions to beauty, and indeed with some personal defects, she had so fine an air and manner, and a countenance so pretty and so full of intelligence, as to be on the whole a very striking and attractive person. . . . People here were not slow to acknowledge her merits and social excellence, and she almost immediately took her place in the cream of the cream of English society, forming close intimacies with the most conspicuous women in it, and assiduously cultivating relations with the most remarkable men of all parties. . . . The Regent, afterwards George IV., delighted in her company, and she was a frequent guest at the Pavilion, and on very intimate terms with Lady Conyngham, for although Madame de Lieven was not very tolerant of mediocrity, and social and colloquial superiority was necessary to her existence, she always made great allowances for Royalty and those immediately connected with it. She used to be a great deal at Oatlands, and was one of the few intimate friends of the Duchess of York, herself very intelligent, and who therefore had in the eyes of Madame de Lieven the double charm of her position and her agreeableness. It was her duty as well as her inclination to cultivate the members of all the successive Cabinets which passed before her, and she became the friend of Lord Castlereagh, of Canning, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Grey, Lord Palmerston, John Russell, Aberdeen, and many others of inferior note, and she was likewise one of the habitués of Holland House, which was always more or less neutral ground, even when Lord Holland was himself a member of the government. When Talleyrand came over here as Ambassador, there was for some time a sort of antagonism between the two embassies, and particularly between the ladies of each, but Madame de Dino (now

« ForrigeFortsæt »