Item of the Day: The Honourable Charles James Fox (1801)

Found In: Public Characters of 1798-9. The Third Edition. Enlarged and Corrected to the 20th of April, 1801. To Be Continued Annually. London: Printed for R. Phillips, No. 71, St. Paul’s Church Yard; and sold by T. Hurst, J. Wallie and West and Hughes, Paternoster-Row; Carpenter and Co. Old Bond-Street; R. H. Westley, Strand; and by all other booksellers, 1801.

 

THE HONOURABLE (LATELY RIGHT HONOURABLE)

CHARLES JAMES FOX.

ALL the great men of the present day are either the offspring of, or immediately descended from, new families. The ancient nobility repose under the laurels of their ancestors. Not deigning to apply to any of the learned professions, and deeming commerce and agriculture unworthy of their pursuits (a few illustrious characters excepted) they delegate their domestic concerns to the care of their upper servants, and not unfrequently the business of the nation is entrusted to their proxies. This, perhaps, will be the best apology for the multitude of the plebeian scions, recently engrafted on the stock of ancient aristocracy; and, although it may puzzle Garter, Norroy, and Clarencieux, to find them either arms or ancestors, certain it is, that the life-blood of nobility has been infused into the peerage through the conduit of democracy.

It may also be necessary to preface this article with another observation, of which some of the most conspicious characters of the present political drama, afford more than one pregnant instance: that the younger sons of our nobility are more successful in their political efforts, than the elder. This may be easily accounted for: the heir to a great fortune, and an illustrious title, knows not how soon both may devolve upon him; and when that event takes place, to what further object can his expectations point? He finds that he has been born a legislator, and that a large fortune is intailed upon his person; here, then, are wealth and honours not only within his grasp, but actually in his possission. It is otherwise with the juniro brances, for they have in general but little in possesion, and every thing to look for; they inhereit all the exquisite relish for pleasure that their seniors enjoy to satiety, and are only deficient in the means of gratification. Like the dove of Noah, they scarcely find a resting-place for the soles of their feet, on their own earth; and they are exactly in the situation of an invading general who has burnt his ships, for they must go on, or perish!

Charles James Fox is the younger son of Henry, who was himself a younger son of Sir Stephen Fox, celebrated less for his own birth, than the circumstance of being a father at the age of eighty, an event not incredible, however, and rendered, in the present instance, unsuspicious, by the decorous conduct, and acknowledged virtue of the partner of his bed. Henry entered early into public life, and such was his address in parliament, during the reign of George II. that he soon attained not only some of the most arduous and honourable but also the most lucrative situations in the gift of the crown; for, in the year 1754, he was appointed secretary at war; then secretary of state for the southern department; and, after being ousted by the great Mr. Pitt, less celbrated uner the name of Earl of Chatham, we find him filling the immensely beneficial office of pay-master general of the forces, accumulating great wealth, and thereby incurring the animadversions of the first city of the empire. Such, indeed, was his consequence, that at a time when patents of peerage were not very common, he was ennobled by his present Majesty, in 1763, by the title of Baron Holland of Foxley.

His son, Charles James, was born January 13th, 1749, and if on his father’s side he classed among the novi homines, by his mother’s, his descent must be allowed to be illustrious; for Lady Georgiana Carolina Lenox was the daughter of the late Duke of Richmond; and, as such, in addition to that of the King of Sardinia, she was allied to the two rival, but related families, which had so long contested the throne of Great Britain — those of Brunswick and Stuart.

But it is not to such claims as these that the future historian will have recourse; he will dwell with ardour on the early promise of a genius, the precocious talents of the boy, the matured wisdom of the philosopher and the statesman; and while the ablilities and virtues that adorn the character of his hero bring him forward on the canvas, these inefficient and involuntry pretensions will be cast into the shade, and scarcely be distinguished in the background. . . .

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Filed under 1790's, Biography, Culture, Eighteenth century, Government, Great Britain, Politics, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

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