Full Title: Memoirs of the Public and Private Life of John Howard, the Philanthropist; Compiled from his own Diary, in the Possession of his Family, his Confidential Letters; the Communications of his Surviving Relatives and Friends; and Other Authentic Sources of Information. By James Baldwin Brown, Esq. LL.D of the Inner Temple, Barrister at Law. Second Edition. London: Printed for Thomas and George Underwood, 32, Fleet Street; Thomas Tegg, Cheapside; and F. Westley, Stationers’ Court, 1823.
FROM HIS BIRTH, TO THE DEATH OF HIS FIRST WIFE, 1727-1755.
IT has been a source of deep regret to the bipgrapher, that the events of the earlier years of men, distinguished for the splendour of their talents, or the greatness of their actions, have often been involved in doubt and obscurity. It may, however, reasonably be questioned, whether, could the blank in the page of their history be accurately filled up, the information obtained would not rather tend to gratify our curiosity, than be productive of any practical good? For, after all that can be said, on the influence of education, and the force of early habit, in forming the future character of the man — there are springs of human action — there are burst of energy in the human mind — which set at defiance all the cool, calculating rules that philosophy has devised for estimating the regular gradation of causes, in producing one grand and unlooked-for effect. Hence, it has not unfrequently happened, that the dull or the idle school-boy, the thoughtless and dissipated young man, and even the listless saunterer of maturer life, when roused to action by some sudden and unexpected impetus, have called forth latent talents to adorn the period in which they lived, and to please, and to instruct, in ages then unborn. And might we not even point to those men of yet superior mould, whose splendid achievements, or whose public virtues, have excited the admiration of the world, and ask, whether the most exact detail of every occurrence of their earlier years, would afford us equal instruction or delight, with that which we should derive from a similar history of many of their associates, the vices, the follies, or the utter uselessness of whose manhood, belied the opening virtues, and blasted the fairest promise of their youth? Such at least, there is every reason to conclude, was the case with one of the brightest characters that ever attracted the admiration, or merited the esteem of his fellow men. For so noiseless and so even was the tenor of his way, until he had reached, or even passed the meridian of his days, that of the man, who, by the common consent of the civilized world, is distinguished by an appelation more honourable than sage ever assumed, or hero ever won, — neither the place, nor the year of his birth, can now be acertained with any certainty.
John Howard, empahtically and deservedly styled The Philanthopist, appears, from the best information that can be obtained upon the subject, to have been born about the year 1727, at Clapton, in the parish of Hackney, a populous village immediately adjoining to London. To this place his father seems to have removed, but a short time before, from a somewhat more distant retreat at Enfield, to which he had retired from the pursuit of his business, as an upholsterer and carpet warehouseman, in Long Lane, Smithfield, where he had acquired a considerable fortune. The house in which he then resided, and where his son was born, is described, in a sketch of that son’s life written some years since, as being his own freehold, “a venerable mansion, situated on the western side of the street, but now much decayed, and lately disfigured.” Soon after his birth he was sent to Cardington, near Beford, to be nursed by a cottager residing there upon a small farm, which was all the property his father ever possessed in that village, afterwards so celebrated as the favourite residence of the son, when, by large purchases, he had considerably increased this little patrimonial inheritance, in a county, which from the tradition, now reduced to a certainty, of his having spent some of the earliest, as he undoubtedly passed some of the happiest years of his life there, has, though very erroneously, been supposed to have been the place of his birth. . . .
Item of the Day: Walpole on Politics, Satire, etc. (1820)
Full Title: Private Correspondence of Horace Walpole, Earl or Orford. Now First Collected. In Four Volumes. Vol. III. 1735-1756. London: Printed for Rodwell and Martin, Bond-Street; and Colburn and Co., Conduit-Street. 1820.
To George Montagu, Esq.
Strawberry-hill, May 26, 1765.
If one of the one hundred events, and one hundredth part of the one hundred thousand reports that have passed, and been spread in this last month, have reached your solitary hill, you must be surprised at not a single word from me during that period. The number of events is my excuse. Though mine is the pen of a pretty ready writer, I could not keep pace with the revolutions of each day, each hour. I had not time to begin the narrative, much less to finish it: no, I must keep the whole to tell you at once, or to read it to you, for I think I shall write the history, which, let me tell you, Buckinger himself could not have crowded into a nut-shell.
For your part, you will be content, though the house of Montagu has not made an advantageous figure in this political warfare, yet it is crowded with victory, and laurels you know compensate for every scar. You went out of town fightened out of your sense at the giant prerogative: alack! he is grown so tame, that, as you said of our earthquake, you may stroke him. The regency bill, not quite calculated with that intent, has produced four regents, king Bedford, king Grenville, king Halifax, and king Twitcher. Lord Holland is turned out, and Stuart Mackenzie. Charles Townshend is paymaster, and lord Bute annihilated; and all done without the help of the Whigs. You love to guess what one is going to say; now you may guess what I am going to say. Your newspapers perhaps have given you a long roll of opposition names, who were coming into place, and so all the world thought; but the wind turned quite round, and left them on the strand, and just where they were, except in opposition, which is declared to be at an end. Enigma as all this may sound, the key would open it all to you in the twinkling of an administration. In the mean time, we have family reconciliations without end. The king and the duke of Cumberland have been shut up together day and night; lord Temple and George Grenville are sworn brothers; well, but Mr. Pitt, where is he? In the clouds, for aught I know, in one of which he may descend like the kings of Bantam, and take quiet possession of the throne again.
As a thorough-bass to these squabbles, we have had an insurrection, and a siege. Bedford-house, though garrisoned by horse and foot-guards, was on the point of being taken. The besieged are in their turn triumphant; and if any body now was to publish Droit le Duc, I do not think the House of Lords would censure his book. Indeed the regents may do what they please, and turn out whom they will; I see nothing to resist them. Lord Bute will not easily be tempted to rebel when the last struggle has cost him so dear.
I am sorry for some of my friends, to whom I wished more fortune. For myself, I am but just where I should have been, had they succeeded. It is satisfaction enough to me to be delivered from politics, which you know I have long detested. When I was tranquil enough to write Castles of Otranto, in the midst of grave nonsense, and foolish councils of war, I am not likely to distub myself with the diversions of the court, where I am connected with a soul. As it has proved to be the interest of the present ministers, however contrary to their former views, to lower the crown, they will scarce be in a hurry to aggrandize it again. That will satisfy you, and I you know am satisfied if I have any thing to laugh at–’tis a lucky age for a man who is so easily contented.
The poor Chute has had another relapse, but is out of bed again. I am thinking of my journey to France, but as Mr. Conway has a mind I should wait for him, I don’t know whether it will take place before the autumn. I will by no means release you from your promise of making me a visit here before I go.
Poor Mr. Bentley, I doubt, is under the greatest difficulties of any body. His poem, which he modestly delivered over to immortality, must be cut and turned, for lord Halifax and lord Bute cannot sit in the same canto together; then the horns and hoofs, that he had bestowed on lord Temple, must be pared away, and beams of glory distributed over his whole person. ‘Tis a dangerous thing to write political panegyrics or satires; it draws the unhappy bard into a thousand scrapes and contradictions. The edifices and inscriptions at Stowe should be a lesson not to erect monuments to the living. I will not place an ossuarium in my garden for my cat, before her bones are ready to be placed in it. I hold contradictions to be as essential to the definition of a political man, as any visible or featherless quality can be to man in general. Good night.
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Filed under 1760's, 1820's, Letters, Political Commentary, Posted by Matthew Williams, Satire