Abbildungen der Seite

Holland House.




CHARLES JAMES Fox was twenty-five years of age, when his elder brother, Stephen, the second Baron Holland, died, in 1774. Charles's genius, which exhibited itself from his childhood, had been eminently attractive to his father and to his friends; whereas the portly and ponderous Stephen displayed nothing of the talent possessed by his father and grandfather.

The anecdotes of Fox's early life too plainly exhibit the fond weakness of the father for the boy. Charles James desired to smash a watch. His father replied, "Well, if you must, I suppose you must;" and accordingly the watch was smashed. Charles James desired to have a hand in pulling down an old wall at Holland House. The wall was demolished during his absence, and a new one built up; but, as the youth had been promised a share in the work of destruction, the new wall was destroyed likewise, in order that the father's promise might be kept. Such anecdotes create a smile as we read them; but, when we reflect that they are told of a man whom nature moulded for one of her most distinguished children, the smile fades away, and we sigh to think that the brightness of such a peculiar star should have been dimmed through the weakness and the faults of a parent. It will ever be deplored that he grew up with no better example in his home than the ethical laxity of such a father, who led his son to the gamblingtable, whereby the man who was the charm of society, the embodiment in

* A pair of candlesticks, belonging to Mary Queen of Scots, of the above pattern, with her poison-ring, Napoleon's Legion of Honour, his hair and his ring, Charles James Fox's watch and seals, and a variety of interesting relics, are preserved in a case in the Yellow Drawing-room at Holland House.


all other matters of the best of all sense-common sense-and, as a statesman, the admiration of his age, became impoverished. Before his death, Henry Fox, Lord Holland, was punished for the evil patlı into which he had tempted his son, by having to pay £140,000 for his gambling debts.

It is told of Charles James Fox, and to his honour let it be here repeated, that, whenever he was in office as a servant of the Crown, nothing would induce him to approach a gambling-table.

"I admired," says Gibbon, "the powers of this superior man, as they are blended in his attractive character. With the softness and simplicity of a child, perhaps no human being was ever more perfectly exempt from the taint of malevolence, vanity, or falsehood." As a boy, he had received his schooling at Wandsworth, whence he was removed to Eton, and subsequently to Oxford, under the tutorship of Dr. Newcombe, afterward Archbishop of Armagh. After spending some time on the Continent, he was returned to Parliament for Midhurst, in 1768, while yet a minor. He could not vote, but, on taking his seat, he seized an early opportunity of addressing the House in a speech which gave promise of his future celebrity. In Lord North's Administration, 1770, Charles James Fox was appointed a Lord of the Admiralty; in 1772, a Lord of the Treasury. In 1774, he was opposed to Lord North regarding the American war, when he was dismissed from office by the following curious communication :—

"His Majesty has thought proper to order a new Commission for the Treasury to be made out, in which I do not perceive your name. "The Hon. Mr. Fox." "NORTH."

Fox had his revenge for this slight. He joined the Opposition, which overthrew Lord North's Administration, and zealously supported Edmund Burke's plan for economical reform. In 1780, he was returned M.P. for Westminster. In Lord Rockingham's Administration, 1782, Fox was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but resigned that office on the death of the Marquis. In the Coalition Ministry of 1783, he again held the seals of the same office, and again resigned on the defeat of the India Bill. The general election of 1784 followed, when Fox was a second time returned for Westminster, despite the violent opposition and animosity of William Pitt's party. The contest was one of the most remarkable on record, and has been rendered famous by the interest which the beautiful and adventurous Duchess of Devonshire took in it, when she gave Steele, the butcher,


a kiss by way of bribe for his vote in support of Fox. This was the period of his greatest political popularity. He had become "conspicuous in the nation's eye," and was accepted as leader of the Opposition to William Pitt's Administration. During the ten years that followed (which included the impeachment and trial of Warren Hastings), the part that Fox played in the House of Commons is too well known to need comment here. In 1797, he withdrew from Parliament, and resided at St. Ann's Hill, Chertsey, where he wrote his " History of the Reign of James II.," but in 1802 was again returned for Westminster. When William Pitt died in 1806, and Lord Grenville's Administration of "all the talents" was formed, Charles James Fox returned to office once more as Secretary of State. It was, however, but for the brief period of six months that he held the seals. His health was already giving way, and, on the 13th of September of the same year, while negociations peace with France were pending (destined to end in a renewal of the war), he died at Chiswick, aged fifty-seven. Regarding Chiswick, it is worth observation that it was there Fox's grandfather, Sir Stephen, died; and it is a singular fact that, in the Duke of Devonshire's villa at Chiswick, and in the same room, Fox, and subsequently George Canning, should both have breathed their last breath! It has often been remarked that, after all the cares and occupations of busy life, as men approach the great goal, their youth-the incidents, associations, and fancies of youth-come back to them, as if the mind were rehabilitating itself for that eternal youth which shall know no age. This was remarkably the case with Charles James Fox. His early days had been spent at Holland House; to Holland House his simple, affectionate heart turned when the strife of the great arena was ended, and "home" became all his world. Several times did he visit it, and drive through its grounds, pointing out, as he slowly passed along, to his best companion, the favourite spots of his youth, and telling her anecdotes connected with his childhood associated with the house, and gardens, and walks! Ah! if some friendly Boswell could have been there, what pleasant memories connected with the old house migh have been preserved to us, which would have enhanced its interest to future generations! With all its varied associations, not one, not even the death-bed of Addison, seems to him who writes these lines more touching or more solemn than the great statesman-life's turmoil ended -coming back to take a last lingering look at his childhood's home.

In speaking of Fox, Tom Moore mentions in his diary that his

nephew (Henry Richard, whom Charles James delighted, even to his death-bed, to address as "Young One") divided his uncle's life into three distinct periods. The first, when he was opposed to Lord North, and when his eloquence was bold, careless, vehement, vituperative. The second, when Pitt was his antagonist, and when he found it necessary to be more cool, cautious, and logical: during both these periods, ambition of power and distinction was his ruling passion; but in the third, and concluding portion of his life, all this had passed away, and his sole, steady, chastened-down desire was that of doing good. With prophetic and truthful anticipation of his future fame, did Lord Carlisle, Fox's school-fellow at Wandsworth, write of him in those early days—

"How will my Fox alone, by strength of parts,
Shake the loud Senate, animate the hearts
Of fearful statesmen! while around you stand
Both Peers and Commons listening your command.
While Tully's sense its weight to you affords,
His nervous sweetness shall adorn your words.
What praise to Pitt, to Townsend, e're was due,
In future times, my Fox, shall wait on you."

The "Young One," Henry Richard, third Baron Holland (over whose minority Charles James Fox had watched with an affectionate care not always exhibited by avuncular relatives), had passed through his state of pupilage, and had reached the age of thirty-three before his uncle's death. For sixty-six years, from 1774 to 1840, he enjoyed the title and estate. During his long minority the house was let to Lord Roseberry and Mr. Bancroft. He travelled for a considerable period, especially in Italy and Spain. In 1796, on returning to England, he completely restored and refurnished the house. He it was who made Holland House what we now see it. It was his home-his pride-the resort of the greatest men of the day, in every rank and walk of life. The rich treasures of Italian and Spanish literature which he collected now enriches the library of Holland House. The pictures of his friends and associates adorn the walls; the busts of men whom he admired embellish the reception-rooms. At every turn of the house, his taste in the articles of luxury, or the specimens of art with which he adorned his home, recall his name. With the most conservative care he rescued from decay the beautiful specimens of Jacobean decoration with which the house is enriched. One specimen is given in the accompanying illustration of the fire-place in the White Room, where

Stephen Fox's coffers, as Paymaster of the Forces, are deposited. Tom Moore, in his diary, alludes to him thus: "Slept at Holland House. Walked, before breakfast, with Tierney and Rogers, and read Luttrell's very pretty verses, written under Lord Holland's, in the seat called Rogers' Seat." (Rogers' Seat is represented in the initial, at the commencement of the former article on Holland House. It is in the


garden, overshadowed with the glorious old elm-trees of the park, and looks out upon the flower-beds, in the midst of which is the bust of Napoleon.) Lord Holland's lines, upon the wall at the back of this arbour, run:



« ZurückWeiter »