« PreviousContinue »
time, grows misty and confused, so would the question under his discussion, when the humour took him to be hypercritical. Hence it was that his impromptues in parliament were generally more admired than his studied speeches, and his first suggestions in the councils of his party better attended to than his prepared opinions.
Being a man of humble birth, he seemed to have an innate respect for titles, and none bowed with more devotion to the robes and fasces of high rank and office. He was decidedly aristocratic: he paid his court to Walpole in panegyric poems, apologizing for his presumption by reminding him that it was better to be pelted with roses than with rotten eggs: to Chesterfield, to Winnington, Pulteney, Fox, and the luminaries of his early time, he offered up the oblations of his genius, and incensed them with all the odours of his wit: in his latter days, and within the period of my acquaintance with him, the Earl of Bute, in the plenitude of his power, was the god of his idolatry. That noble lord was himself too much a man of letters and a patron of the sciences to overlook a witty head, that bowed so low, he accordingly put a coronet upon it, which, like the barren sceptre in the hand of Macbeth, merely served as a ticket for the coronation procession, and having nothing else to leave to posterity in memory of its owner, left its mark upon the lid of his coffin."
During my stay at Eastbury we were visited by the late Mr. Henry Fox and Mr. Alderman Beckford: the solid good sense of the former, and the dashing loquacity of the latter, formed a striking contrast between the characters of these gentlemen. To Mr. Fox our host paid all that courtly homage which he so well knew how to time and where to apply; to Beckford he did not observe the same attentions, but in the happiest flow of his raillery and wit combated this intrepid talker with admirable effect. It was an interlude truly comic and amusing. Beckford loud, voluble, selfsufficient, and galled by hits, which he could not parry, and probably did not expect, laid himself more open in the vehemence of his argument; Dodington, lolling in his chair in perfect apathy and self command, dosing, and even snoring at intervals, in his lethargic way, broke out every now and then into such flashes of wit and irony, as by the contrast of his phlegm with the other's impetuosity, made his humour irresistible, and set the table in a roar. He was here upon his very strongest ground, for no man was better calculated to exemplify how true the observation is:—
At the same time he had his serious hours and graver topics, which he would handle with all due solemnity of thought and language, and these were to me some of the most pleasing hours I have passed with him; for he could keep close to his point, if he would, and could be not less argumentative than he was eloquent, when the question was of magnitude enough to interest him. It is with singular satisfaction that I can truly say, that I never knew him flippant upon sacred subjects. He was, however, generally courted and admired as a gay companion, rather than as a grave one. Cumberland. • * * *
Soon after the arrival of Frederick Prince of Wales in England, Dodington became a favourite, and submitted to the prince's childish horse play, being once rolled up in a blanket, and trundled down stairs; nor was he negligent in paying more solid court, by lending his royal highness money. He was, however, supplanted, 1 think, by George, afterwards Lord Lyttelton, and again became a courtier and placeman at St. James's; but once more reverted to the prince at the period where his Diary commences. Pope was not the only poet who diverted the town at Dodington's expense. Sir Charles ridiculed him in a well known dialogue with Gyles Earle, and in a ballad entitled " A Grub upon Bubb." Dr. Young, on the contrary, who was patronized by him, has dedicated to him one of his satires on the Love of Fame, as Lyttelton had inscribed one of his cantos on the Progress of Love. Glover, and that prostitute fellow Ralph, were also countenanced by him, as the Diary shows.
Dodington's own wit was very ready. I will mention two instances. Lord Sundon was commissioner of the treasury with him and Winnington, and was very dull. One Thursday, as they left the board, Lord Sundon laughed heartily at something Dodington said; and when gone, Winnington said, " Dodington, you are very ungrateful; you call Sundon stupid and slow, and yet you see how quick he took what you said." "Oh no," replied Dodington, " Lhe was only laughing now at what I said last treasury day." Mr. Trenchard, a neighbour, telling him that though his pinery was expensive, he contrived, by applying the fire and the dung to other purposes, to make it so advantageous that he believed he got a shilling by every pine apple he ate: "Sir," said Dodington, " I would eat them for half the money."
Dodington was married to a Mrs. Behan, whom he was supposed to keep. Though secretly married, he could not own her, as he then did, till the death of Mrs. Strawbridge, to whom he had given a promise of marriage, under the penalty of ten thousand pounds. He had long made love to the latter, and at last, obtaining an assignation, found her lying on a couch. However, he only fell on his knees, and after kissing her hand for some time, cried out, " Oh that I had you in a wood !"—" In a wood !" exclaimed the disappointed dame; " What would you do then? Would you rob me?" It was on this Mrs. Strawbridge that was made the ballad—
My Strawberry—my Strawberry
To the burthen and tune of which Lord Bath, many years afterwards, wrote his songon " Strawberry-hill."
Dodington had no children. His estate descended to Lord Temple, whom he hated, as he did Lord Chatham, against whom he wrote a pamphlet to expose the expedition to Eochfort.
Nothing was more glaring in Doddington than his want of taste, and the tawdry ostentation in the dress and furniture of his houses. At Eastbury, in the great bed chamber, hung with the richest red velvet, was pasted, on every pannel of the velvet, his crest (a hunting horn supported by an eagle) cut out of gilt leather. The foot cloth round the bed was a mosaic of pocket flaps and cuffs of all his embroidered clothes. At Hammersmith his crest, in pebbles, was stuck into the centre of the turf before his door. The chimney piece was hung with spars resembling icicles round the fire, and a bed of purple, lined with orange, was crowned by a dome of peacock's feathers. The great gallery, to which was a beautiful door of white marble, supported by two columns of lapis lazuli, was not only filled with busts and statues, but had, I think, an inlaid floor of marble; and all this weight was above stairs.
One day, showing it to Edward, Duke of York, Dodington said, "Sir, some persons tell me this room ought to be on the ground." "Be easy, Mr. Dodington, replied the prince, "it will soon be there."
Dodington was very lethargic: falling asleep one day after dinner, with Sir Richard Temple, Lord Cobham, the general, the latter reproached Dodington with his drowsiness; Dodington denied having been asleep, and to prove he had not, offered to repeat all Lord Cobham had been saying. Cobham challenged him to do so. Dodington repeated a story, and Lord Cobham owned