Page images
PDF
EPUB

BIRTH OF A PRINCESS.

463

sibly asks, “ Had he no way of affronting his parents but by venturing to kill his wife and the heir to the crown ?" A correspondence ensued between George II. and his rash son ; of which the issue was, that although the prince confessed that he had been in the wrong, the harsh father issued this peremptory command to him—" It is my pleasure that you leave St. James's with all your family.” Frederick quitted the palace, and took up his residence at Norfolk House, in St. James's Square. The people rejoiced in the birth of a princess; for they said, "if ever she came to the Crown, what had been so much wished ever since the Hanover family came to the throne, by every one who understood and wished the interest of England, must happen,—which was the disjoining the Electorate of Hanover from the Crown of England." *

In his quarrel with the king and queen, the prince of Wales managed to add to his own popularity. The general dislike towards the father made the son who opposed him a public favourite. The prince, however, contrived to make it appear, that not to the sovereign, but to the chief minister, what he considered as injustice was to be imputed. When the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London addressed their congratulations to him on the birth of a princess, Frederick said he knew the value of their friendship, and should never look upon them as “beggars.” The “sturdy beggars ” of Walpole's rash speech in the Excise year was never to be forgotten. The prince went to the performance of Cato. At the lines

“When vice prevails, and impious men bear sway,

The post of honour is a private station," the audience huzzaed, and the prince joined in the applause in a very marked manner. In the midst of these unseemly exhibitions queen Caroline was taken dangerously ill, on the 9th of November, She had long been afflicted with a serious complaint, which she bore with heroic fortitude, concealing from every one, even from her physicians, the real nature of her malady. The prince of Wales expressed great anxiety to see his mother. He was forbidden by the king to come to St. James's. The queen herself said to the king, according to lord Hervey, “I am so far from desiring to see him, that nothing but your absolute commands should ever make me consent to it.” This was on the second day of her serious illness. On the third day the king, who for fourteen years had been aware of her dangerous affliction, but who had promised never to mention it, thought it his duty to send for a surgeon and disclose what was so repugnant to the queen's false delicacy. It was soon found that the disease had gone too far to allow of hopei

• Lord Hervey's "Memoirs," vol. iit p. 413.

On the 14th, sir Robert Walpole arrived froin Houghton. He was conducted by the king to her majesty's bedside. “ The interview was short, but what the queen said was material, for these were her words : “My good sir Robert, you see me in a very indifferent situation. I have nothing to say to you, but to recommend the king, my children, and the kingdom, to your care."* Horace Walpole says, “ As the king and sir Robert were alone, standing by her. bedside, she pathetically recommended, not the minister to the sovereign, but the master to the servant. Sir Robert was alarmed, and feared the recommendation must have left a fatal impression ; but, a short time after, the king, reading with sir Robert some intercepted letters from Germany, which said, that now the queen was gone sir Robert would have no protection,— On the contrary,' said the king, "you know she recommended me to you.'” + Lord Hervey relates a curious conversation between the great minister and himself, one night as they were hovering round this death-bed : “Oh, my lord,” said sir Robert, "if this woman should die, what a scene of confusion will here be! Who can tell into what hands the king will fall ? or who will have the management of him? I defy the ablest person in this kingdom to foresee what will be the consequence of this great event.” “ For my own part," replied lord Hervey, “ I have not the least doubt how it will be. He will cry for her for a fortnight, forget her in a month, have two or three women that he will pass his time with ; but whilst they have most of his time, a little of his money, less of his confidence, and no power, you will have all the credit, more power than ever you had, and govern him more absolutely than ever you did. Your credit before was through the medium of the queen, and all power through a medium must be weaker than when it operates directly. Besides, sir, all princes must now and then be deceived by their ministers, and as the king is much easier deceived than the queen, so your task, whenever that task is deceiving, will be much less difficult than it was before. In the first place, because the king is naturally much less suspicious than the queen; in the next, because he is less penetrating; and lastly, because he cares much less to converse with different people, and will hear nobody talk to him of business but yourself.” “Oh! my lord,” interrupted sir Robert, " though he will hear nobody but me, you do not know how often he refuses to hear me when it is on a subject he does not like ; but by the queen I can with time fetch him round to those subjects again; she can make him do the same thing in another shape, and when I give her her lesson, can make him propose the very • Lord Hervey, vol. i. p. ss6

"Reminiscences."

DEATH OF QUEEN CAROLINE.

465

[ocr errors]

thing as his own opinion which a week before he had rejected as mine." *

On Sunday night, the 20th of November, Caroline lay expecting a speedy relief to her sufferings. The king was asleep at the bed-foot ; the princess Emily was also sleeping on a couch. Sudden. ly an attendant exclaimed that the queen was dying. All started up. “Open the window !”. the queen exclaimed-and then said -“ Pray.” The princess Emily began to read a prayer, but before she repeated ten words all was over. The king, with all his silliness about mistresses—a silliness which he avowed even to his dying wife in well-known words, indicative of the loose morality of the period-loved and respected Caroline. “The grief he felt for

" the queen, as it was universally known, and showed a tenderness of which the world thought him before utterly incapable, made him for some time more popular and better spoken of than he had ever been before this incident.” | Truly does Mr. Carlyle say, There is something stoically tragic in the history of Caroline with her flighty vapouring little king : seldom had foolish husband so wise a wife.” The one dark shade upon her character was her persevering dislike of her eldest son-a dislike almost approaching to hatred, and so opposed to the calm sense which was the usual guide of her actions. Her contemporaries saw this blot. The irony of Pope expressed it:

“Hang the sad verse on Carolina's urn,
And hail her passage to the realms of rest,
All parts performed, and all her children blest."

In this aversion of the queen, as well as of the king, there was possibly soine stronger motive than posterity will now ever know. The Memoirs of lord Hervey would probably have revealed, as was hinted in 1778, the origin of the antipathy of his parents to prince Frederick. But under the will of lord Hervey's son, the earl of Bristol, those Memoirs were not to be published till after the death of George III. The mystery was not solved when the Memoirs were published in 1848 ; for the nephew of the earl of Bristol caused many mutilations to be made in the manuscript which came into his possession. " It is evident,” says a Reviewer of these Memoirs, “ that the alienation between prince Frederick and, not only his father, but his mother, was strong and decided while he was yet in his early youth-years before he ever saw England." Memoirs," vol. ii. p. 523,

t Lord Hervey, vol. ii. p. 540. 1" Quarterly Review," vol. lxxxii. p. 5o2.

VOL. V.-30

CHAPTER XXV.

Act for Licensing Plays.-Birth of a prince, afterwards George III.-Commercial dis

putes with Spain. - Popular war-cry.-Jenkins's ear.-A Convention with Spain denounced in Parliament.-Walpole is driven into war.-His struggle to retain power.-Capture of Porto Bello.-Attack upon Carthagena.-Anson and Byron.Extension of the field of war.--Motion to remove Walpole from the king's councils. - Walpole resigns.-lle is created earl of Orford. -- Parliamentary inquiry into his administration.

There never, probably, was a minister who was the object of so much personal satire as Walpole. As his master hated “boets and bainters," Walpole despised journalists and pamphleteers. He was no patron of letters. He did not look out for young men who had written University prize-poems, to make them envoys and secretaries. He left authors to rise or fall by their profession; to grow rich like Pope, or to starve like Savage. What the minister did in the way of purchasing literary aid was worse than nothing. Smollett says, “he either wanted judgment to distinguish men of genius, or could find none that would engage in his service; he therefore employed a set of wretched authors, void of understanding and ingenuity." Tindal, a more impartial chronicler, has a similar testimony to this common mistake of statesmen. “No man ever set the press to work with so little judgment as he did. He looked upon writing to be a mechanical kind of business; and he took up with the first pen that he could find in public offices, or whom he could oblige by private liberality." When Bolingbroke and Pulteney had worked “The Craftsman " as far as such machinery would go, a new set of assailants appeared in the most popular of all forms of attack. The Stage became political. Gay, in his “Polly,” going far beyond the personal allusions of “ The Beggar's Opera,” the Lord Chamberlain revived his obnoxious power, and the representation of " Polly” was forbidden. In 1735, when sir John Bernard brought in a Bill “ to restrain the number of houses for playing interludes, and for the better regulating of common players of interludes,” Walpole proposed to introduce a clause to confirm and enlarge the power of the Lord Chamberlain in reference to plays. Sir John Bernard objected to the clause. and withdrew his Bill. In 1737, Henry Fielding produced

ACT FOR LICENSING PLAYS.

467

[ocr errors]

* Pasquin” at the theatre in the Haymarket. Colley Cibber' ascribes to this piece the enactment for licensing plays which Walpole broucht forward in that year: “Religion, laws, government, priests, judges, and ministers, were laid flat at the feet of the Herculean satirist, this Drawcansir in wit, who spared neither friend nor foe; who, to make his fame immortal, like another Erostratus, set fire to his stage by writing up to an Act of Parliament to de. molish it.” Walpole made no direct attack upon Pasquin ;” but having obtained, from the manager of Goodman's Fields Theatre, the manuscript of a farce called “ The Golden Rump,” which, says Smollett, “ was fraught with treason and abuse upon the government," the adroit minister read the most obnoxious passages to the House of Commons; and then moved an Amendment to the Vagrant Act, as far as related to the common players of interludes.” Two clauses were introduced, by which the customary privilege of the Lord Chamberlain to interfere with theatrical representations was made a legal power. Under this Bill, the Lord Chamberlain might prohibit the representation of plays; and copies of all new plays, additions to old plays, prologues and epilogues, were to be submitted to that officer for the purpose of being licensed. Smollett implies that there was "a vigorous opposition " to this measure. One speech only remains to us, that of lord Chesterfield, to indicate that there was any opposition at all. This was considered one of the most brilliant efforts of the great wit and accomplished orator. His prediction that this Bill was a step for introducing arbitrary power,—“ for removing or hood-winking, one after another, those sentries who are posted by the constitution of a free country for warning the people of their danger," -may be regarded as the exaggeration of party. The Bill for Licensing Plays was not to be a precedent "to lay the Press under a general license.” From that period the freedom of the Press las been surrounded by multiplied safeguards, which the declaimers for its liberty in that day would have regarded with horror. The Act for Licensing Plays still subsists amongst us. There have been many abuses of the power of the Licenser-in most cases, silly abuses. But no friend to the liberty of thought, of speech, and of writing, can wish these restraints upon the theatre wholly removed. There is a nianifest distinction between the profaneness and indecency that is written, and the profaneness and indecency that is spoken. The moral corruption of an audience is like the spread of a contagious disease. The reader who gloats over a dangerous book îndulges in a secret vice which shuns companionship. The improved education of all classes, aná

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »