Open main menu

Page:Notes and Queries - Series 10 - Volume 12.djvu/123

This page needs to be proofread.

10 s. XIL JULY si, 1909.] NOTES AND QUERIES.



Recollections of a Long Life. By Lord Broughton (John Cam Hobhouse). With Additional Ex- tracts from his Private Diaries. Edited by his Daughter, Lady Dorchester. 2 vols. With Portraits. (John Murray.)

A * NOTE BY THE PUBLISHER' begins this book, explaining that Lord Broughton printed in the sixties, but did not publish, his ' Recollections of a Long Life,' in five volumes, and that he also left a large number of diaries and MSS., as well as various published volumes, of which the 'Letters from Paris during the Last Reign of Napoleon' (1816) is the best known. Lady Dorchester, Mr. Murray explains, " taking the early part of the five volumes as a basis, has, with much labour, consideration, and research, incorporated therewith portions of the Diaries and a few extracts from the above- named published works. These various sources are indicated throughout, and it is hoped that the Reminiscences as they now stand may prove of value and interest to the public."

The two resultant volumes are certainly the most interesting contribution to history and biography that we have seen this year, and the Preface by Lord Rosebery sufficiently indicates what sort of man Hobhouse was a hero- worshipper who was strongly attracted by two great men, Byron and Napoleon.

But one interesting question raised by the account of Hobhouse in the ' Dictionary of National Bio- graphy ' is not settled here. His ' Diaries, Corre- spondence and Memoranda, &c.,' deposited in the British Museum, were, it is said, first opened, in accordance with the bequest, in 1900. Have these latest sources been used or not ? Perhaps they are to be utilized for a further volume, as those before us go down only to 1822. As for the editing, para- graphs headed ' Book ' interposed in matter from diaries do not explain in many cases what book of Hobhouse's is meant ; there is some repetition of facts e.g., concerning Erskine which might have been avoided ; and the notes on persons, accurate as far as they go, might well have been improved by an expert student of the period.

There is a great deal of detail included concern- ing politics and ministers whose actions have been discussed in many books of memoirs. We should have been inclined to reduce the volumes by large omissions of such matter, though there are inte- resting glimpses of men like Fox and Sheridan not attainable elsewhere.

We are willing to read some dull pages for the sake of the many striking things which the volumes contain. Hobhouse had a keen ear for other people's notable sayings, and his frankness concerning his own merits and position is decidedly entertaining. As Lord Rosebery points out, he invented the phrase "His Majesty's Opposition"; he lived "a busy, strenuous life"; and he never lacked enter- prise and courage when the interests of his friends and constituents were at stake.

The daily papers have already given much of the appreciation of famous men which these well- printed volumes offer, but we propose to mention tor one reason or another a few notable comments or passages which have struck us in the course of a careful reading.

In his early years, Hobhouse was sent to a school at Bristol, which, he adds, " became the residence of men afterwards much celebrated I allude to Coleridge, and Southey, and Lamb." Surely .the last name involves an error. Was Elia ever resident at Bristol, or any of the Lamb family which gave the world of politics and politeness Lord Mel- bourne ?

Many references to Byron show enthusiasm, and it was not confined to his chief worshipper, the diarist of these pages. In 1810 under March 11 is recorded :

" Mrs. Werry actually cut off a lock of Byron's hair on parting from him to-day, and shed a good many tears. Pretty well for fifty-six years at least."

In 1812 Hobhouse met a son of Bozzy, James Boswell, who agreed that " Ellenborough was like Johnson in his way of poking out his sentences at the corner of his forehead," a picturesque, but rather odd expression.

There is much criticism of Sheridan, whose jests and stories do not seem to us very exhilarating. Here is an oddity, however, which is at least ben trovato :

"Mr. Sheridan tolcl us of Mr. Richard Cavendish, who had a trick of swinging his arm round when talking, that, walking up Bond Street with a friend, he found, on stopping, that he had drawn seven hackney coaches to him."

Sheridan also heard Burke say of the North American Indians, "They enjoy the highest boon of Heaven, supreme and perpetual indolence."

The second volume opens with 1816. Hobhouse travels with Byron and others. At Malines W. said that a piece of sculpture was " nullse magiiaa quassationes." At Chamouni Byron defaced with great care Shelley's addition to his own name, in a travellers' book, of atheist and philanthropist in Greek. He thought to do Shelley a service by this,. and his action was distorted by literary gossipers. A visit to Madame de Stae'l introduced Bonstetten, an inmate of her house. He was in vigorous old age, and proud of his earlier connexion with Gray. We find the comment :

" He said to Polidori and Lord Byron : ' I believe that Gray had been killed by Johnson's criticism ' that is, by a criticism which recorded his death ! "

This is not clear to us. It seems probable that Bonstetten meant that Gray's reputation as a poet, had been killed by Johnson's unfavourable criticism in the ' Lives of the Poets,' which, Boswell tells us, raised a clamour. Bonstetten, it may be noted, is. described on this same page as "not talking English, but apparently understanding it." So Hobhouse may have misunderstood what he said.

In 1819 Hobhouse was committed to Newgate by the House of Commons for writing a pamphlet which was a libel and a breach of privilege, and in 1820 he took his seat in the House, and "continued a member of that assembly, with the exception of a year and a quarter, for thirty years "

Of classical quotation in the'House we read :

" When I first came into Parliament Latin quota- tions were very common, and Horace especially was most unmercifully brought into play. A very respectable county member actually hazarded the- justum et tenacem propositi virum, and no one even smiled, much less laughed. Such small erudition would now be received with shouts of laughter. Of course, with dexterity, a well-known phrase may be introduced, but even this requires more than