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Art. IV.-1. The Life of The Right Hon. William Pitt. By
Earl STANHOPE. 4 vols. 8vo. London: 1861-2. 2. The Miscellaneous Writings of Lord Macaulay. (Biography
of William Pitt.) 2 vols. London: 1860. 3. The Journal and Correspondence of William, Lord Auckland,
with a Preface and Introduction. By the Right Hon. and Right Rev. the Bishop of Bath and Wells. Vols. III. and
IV. London: 1862. THE he lapse of more than half a century since the death of Mr.
Pitt may justly be assumed to have wrought that prescription which extinguishes the passions of contemporary politicians and vindicates the truth of history. With two or three illustrious exceptions, the generation of statesmen who entered public life before the career of Pitt was prematurely closed, is no longer represented amongst us; and the generation of statesmen who immediately succeeded himn is also nearly extinct, although their influence may be said to have extended to the present day in the administrations of Mr. Canning, of Sir Robert Peel, and of Lord Palmerston. But the old Tory toasts of the Pitt clubs are as little remembered as the toasts of the Jacobites. The vast citadel of bigotry, intolerance, commercial protection, agricultural monopoly, and repressive government, in which the nation had fortified itself against the ravages and the terrors of the French Revolution, has successively lost its outworks and finally thrown open its gates. The spirit of the last years of the administration of Mr. Pitt, which rendered that period so dangerous to the liberties of the country, is forgotten; the intemperate Toryism of the first quarter of the present century has been purged and expiated by thirty years of uninterrupted progress and reform. The ascendancy of liberal principles over the minds of the whole community is now even more complete than the ascendancy of the political party, which in those dark and evil days was the only champion of the liberal cause. Party predilections may now be dismissed from our estimate of a statesman, who was once the type of party in our modern history, but who now belongs less to party than to the nation. Above the feverish contests of his hour the imposing figure of William Pitt has risen into permanent greatness; showing how far he stood above the narrow policy which was ignorantly and unjustly connected with his VOL. CXVI. NO. CCXXXV.
name, and how largely he anticipated the great measures of reform which it was not his fate to realise and accomplish.
The biography of Mr. Pitt has therefore within the last few years been conceived and attempted by several of our most eminent writers, in a spirit equally remote from the wretched alulation of Tomline and Gifford, as from the attacks and calumnies of his political antagonists. It adds lustre even to the fame of Lord Macaulay that one of the last productions of his pen was the biographical essay, now included in his miscellaneous works, where he exposed, with his usual vivacity, the absurdities long current with the public, under the name of Pittprinciples, and paid a candid and dignified tribute to those qualities which are the true basis of Mr. Pitt's fame.
Amongst the historical writers who have in our time addressed themselves to this great subject, none, however, unites the qualifications which we desire in the biographer of Mr. Pitt, to so high a degree as Lord Stanhope. His earlier labours in the field of our annals, which have given us the best existing history of England from the Peace of Utrecht to the peace of 1783, terminated precisely at the moment when Mr. Pitt entered Lord Shelburne's administration. In one sense, therefore, the present biography may be regarded as a continuation of those seven decades of the history of England which bear the name of Lord Mahon. From the date of the appearance of Mr. Pitt upon the stage of public affairs, Lord Stanhope appears to have thought that the interest of his narrative would be more effectually sustained by grouping the series of events around one central figure, and the history of the country becomes for eighteen years the life of its Minister.
To the execution of this task Lord Stanhope brought, in addition to his eminent talents and his high sense of historical justice, peculiar advantages. He was born in Mr. Pitt's house, and bred in affectionate reverence for his name. Since the extinction of all the male lines of the Pitt family, which can boast of consanguinity with Chatham and the son of Chatham, the heir of the Stanhopes may fairly be regarded as one of the nearest representatives of that illustrious house to which his own was allied by more than one marriage. The traditions of these families, and many of the papers and pictures which denote their long and confidential intercourse, are in his own hands: other manuscripts found at Arniston, at Belvoir, and elsewhere, were readily confided to so discreet and judicious an investigator. Hence the materials collected for these volumes are copious and original. But the highest merit which Lord Stanhope displays in this work is that dispassionate love of truth and fairness which is so creditable to his writings. It is no exception to this remark that he avows his predilection for the statesman whose character he has undertaken to delineate, and endeavours to vindicate him from the strictures which have been passed upon many passages of his life. He clearly and calmly states the grounds which appear to him to refute a calumny, to explain an error, or to extenuate a fault. And, although we cannot always arrive at the same conclusions as his lordship, we are always assisted by the candour and liberality he brings to the discussion of these events. Since it has become the practice to open the archives of State and the correspondence of past generations to historical research, biographical writing has lost that terse and vigorous personality which characterise such inimitable productions of the art as the · Life of Agricola' by Tacitus, or the Life of Nelson' by Southey. There we have a finished statue of the man — here we have a series of bas-reliefs of his actions; and the materials of history somewhat choke the course of the stream. In this respect Lord Macaulay's sketch still remains the boldest delineation of Pitt. Like a drawing from the crayon of a great master it speaks to the imagination and strikes the memory even more powerfully than a highly finished performance. But Lord Stanhope has supplied, with great care and fidelity, the background and the foreground of the picture, and his work will be universally read with interest and advantage.
Of the other work which has been placed at the head of these pages, it is not our intention to speak at equal length; though it has an important bearing on the subject of Mr. Pitt's administration. The third and fourth volumes of the Auck• land Correspondence' complete the publication reviewed by us in a recent number; and they contain numerous letters from Mr. Pitt, or relating to him, to which we shall presently have occasion to refer. In one or two instances the Editor has endeavoured to refute, by evidence from the Auckland Papers, statements previously published by Lord Stanhope, who had not the advantage of access to these documents before the publication of his own work. But we cannot think these arguments are sound and judicious, and in some places the inference we draw from Lord Auckland's letters is precisely the reverse of that suggested by the Editor of these volumes. They are, however, a curious contribution to the materials for the history of these times.
It may be inferred from what we have already said, and from the failure of several previous attempts to write the life of Pitt, that he cannot be regarded as a very favourable subject for biography. The statesman almost entirely absorbs the individual - the hietory of the man becomes the history of a government. Lord Macaulay had already rendered us familiar with the characteristic anecdotes of his boyhood — with that astonishing precocity which marked him from his cradle for an orator, a ruler, and a thorn in Charles' side'—and with the somewhat niggardly culture bestowed on his prodigious faculties. Seven years at Cambridge, which gave him a full command of classical literature and a remarkable proficiency in mathematical reasoning, are the history of Pitt's education. He passed at once from the University to the House of Commons, and with an interval of only two years to the head of affairs. How he acquired by these means, and in that time, the knowledge of men and of things which never seemed wanting to him in his parliamentary career, is one of the mysteries of genius. This much, however, is apparent at the outset – Mr. Pitt owed everything to the concentration of his character. Whatever he did, he did with his might; never allowing anything to interfere with his main design, and seldom caring to step aside, even to attain any collateral object within his reach; hence it was that when he stood confronted by the matchless intellect of Burke, by the eloquence of Fox, by the wit of Sheridan, by an array of men who excelled him in most of the arts and accomplishments of life, his single power was more than a match for the varied splendour of their genius. There was at the bottom no want of human kindness in that proud nature and beneath that surface of bronze. His letters to his mother are stiff, partly after the fashion of the time, but they indicate a deeprooted affection and veneration for Lady Chatham; and they not unfrequently contain indications of that most pleasing and graceful of the attributes of power—the wish to confer a benefit on a humble friend, of whom nothing is to be expected in return. He was strong and stedfast, we had almost said warnı, in his friendships. His early letters to the Duke of Rutland, that gifted and amiable young nobleman, not much older than himself, who held the Lord-Lieutenancy of Ireland in 1784, and died in 1787, at thirty-three, are singularly cordial and unreserved ; more so, indeed, than any other known specimen of his correspondence. His firm friendship for Henry Dundas, his unvarying confidence in George Rose, his deference to Bishop Tomline, his attachment to Canning, and his kindness to some of the junior branches of the Stanhope family, prove that the customary signature of affectionately yours,' which he addressed to his nearest friends, was not a mere form of words. Yet even these had occasion in later years to complain of the outward appearance at least of indifference, and of confidence too often or too long withheld.
Self-reliant, self-complete, from first to last, he asked, and indeed he endured, no divided authority and no auxiliary power. It would be difficult to name another example of a man who lived and laboured in equal solitariness of purpose. Those who surrounded him were satellites. Not even with a could he share the burden and the glory of empire. Careless of money to a fault, for he rejected all occasions of enriching himself, and allowed his large official income to be squandered by his servants-exempt from vanity, for he cared not even to rescue from oblivion the most memorable of his own orations, after they had served their political purpose-devoid of prejudices to a remarkable degree — and enslaved by no passions second to that noble passion of political power which absorbed his existence Mr. Pitt owed his greatness to the singleness of aim which marked his life. et this austere Minister was no ascetic. He drank hard, after the fashion of the times; he rode hard, and we think it is Lady Hester Stanhope who relates that three or four grooms died successively in his service from the pace at which he travelled; he was a keen, though not a very successful shot; and during the only interval of his life when he was out of office, he applied himself with great energy to drill the Cinque Port Volunteers. Although by no means destitute of high literary culture, he was absolutely insensible to the personal claims of literary men; and although strongly attached to the established Church, and to the religion of his country, he appears in his last moments to have acknowledged with regret that he had been too unmindful of its rites.
On these points, Lord Auckland ventured, on one occasion, to address him in the following curious language:
• It is not sufficient for the most eminent person of the eighteenth and nineteenth century to possess the learning, and a true taste for learning : it is not only wise in a worldly sense, but wise and right in every sense, that he should be the patron and encourager of the learned from an impression analogous to this, I have also thought that it is not sufficient for such an individual as I have alluded to, to possess all the purity of mind, and all the strictness of morality, that genuine goodness and right religion can give - it is essential, not merely to bis own character (for that is a secondary point), but to the welfare and well-being of others, that appearances should correspond with internal sentiments, and that he should not be supposed to be indifferent to the discharge of religious observances.' (Auckland Papers, vol. iv. p. 108.)
Lord Stanhope says, from his father's personal reminiscences of this great Minister, that Mr. Pitt was a most agreeable ' and amiable, as well as most interesting companion, and