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Art. IV.-Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Cen

tury, consisting of authentic memoirs and original letters of eminent persons ; and intended as a sequel to the Literary Anecdotes. By John Nichols, F.S.A. Vol. vi. 8vo, pp. 896. London: J. B. Nichols

& Son. 1831. NEARLY twenty years have elapsed since Mr. Nichols presented to the world the first six volumes of his “ Literary Anecdotes.” The present work forms the sixth of a series which he has since added to the" Anecdotes," by way of supplement and illustration; and when we are told that the stores of his correspondence are ' still far from being exhausted,' we presume that the announcement may be considered as a warning to us to prepare for as many more.

The reader may form some notion of the pile of materials which the editor must have at his command, upon learning that the single tome, whose title we have given above, contains very nearly nine hundred pages, many of which are in small print. It would be gross flattery, if we were to hail such a publication as this with feelings of marked satisfaction. We see no material benefit that can arise to the community, from the formation of a collection, consisting chiefly of small details, connected with persons who have obtained no celebrity. Country curates who bave occupied their idle hours in what they supposed to be literature, the composition of sermons, verses of which nobody beyond their own small circle had ever heard, essays upon subjects of local interest, haply upon the merits of the chase and the characters of dogs and foxes, think that their letters and the story of their lives must be supremely worthy of preservation, and forth with they turn their eyes towards Mr. Nichols. They open a correspondence with him, amuse him with dissertations upon some favourite subject, send him their biographies, and he, good man, deems every scrap of their writings worthy, not only of being carefully kept, but of being printed in his Illustrations.'

Hence we have here a memoir of the Rev. John Hellins, F. R.S., of whom Mr. Polwhele, in his history of Cornwall, speaks, 'as“ that celebrated mathematician,” but whose fame, we believe, was never before extended beyond the precincts of that remote county. The fact that he had begun life as a cooper, and that he had educated himself, would have been worth knowing, if he had ever risen much beyond the humble rank of the mechanic. The Rev. Malachy Hitchins is another of the Cornish worthies, whose biography has found its way into this volume. It seems that he died and left a son, who wrote “ The Sea-shore and other Poems." Is there one reader in one thousand, perhaps we might ask in one million, now living, who has ever heard a syllable before concerning the said Malachy, or the said " Sea-shore ?” Again, the Rev. Peter Cuningham, some years since curate of Eyam, near the Peak, in Derbyshire, had the courage to print a poem, intitled “ Britannia's Naval

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Triumph,” concerning which even Mr. Nichols has no recollection, and can find no record, with the exception of a few lines of extravagant praise written by a certain William Newton, and printed in that repository of all dull things, the “Gentleman's Magazine.” This is enough, however, in the opinion of the editor, to entitle Mr. Peter Cuningham not only to the honours of a mem

emoir, but also to the privilege of having fifteen pages of his letters printed among these Illustrations of the Literature of the Eighteenth Century ! Nay, even William Newton here obtains a niche; being the author of the fulsome lines alluded to, and a village poet, in whose estimation Hayley was the most sublime of bards, and the most judicious of critics ! Another hero, whose merits are here recorded, is the Rev. William Chubbe, who has left behind him in verse the following description of his own character. Perhaps it contains all that the world would ever desire to know about him.

“ Unfit for deeper studies, pleas'd with rhyme,

And, from late illness, grey before his tine;
Of middle stature, fond to bask away
In sun and indolence the summer day;
Prone to dispute, if chance he takes a cup,

But never known to keep resentment up."--p. 464. This celebrated name is followed by others equally well known, such as the Rev. Samuel Darby, the Rev. John Price, et hoc genus omne, the hitherto unknown inhabitants of the terra incognita of the republic of literature. In truth Mr. Nichols ought to have intitled his present publication “ Illustrations of the Curacies of the Eighteenth Century.” The name would then have been infinitely more in unison with the greater part of the materials, which would appear to be in his possession.

We have thus freely stated our principal objection to this work, which is a great deal too bulky, and too full of trifling details. At the same time we do not mean to say that it is altogether destitute of value. It may possibly be useful that there shall be compiled from time to time a collection of this nature, which, although unattractive to general readers, may serve to gratify the curious, in whose eyes small things are worthy of investigation. An idler meets, perchance, in the parlour window of an inn, or in an old library, a poem or a pamphlet which he had never heard of before. He looks into it; the style or the thought strikes his fancy, he reads it through, and coming to the end, he feels a disposition to know something of the author. He turns to Nichols's 'Illustrations,' and finds enough for his purpose; forthwith he is pleased with the industry of that gentleman, a qualification which no person can deny him. Again, there may be here and there scattered amongst mankind, a few individuals who derive peculiar delight from the perusal of works, in which they may be informed of the opinions, the occupations, the little gossip even of an obscure curate's family

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and neighbours. To such persons these Illustrations will afford abundant enjoyment. The descendants of the most humble of those curates may, sometimes, be raised to the highest stations which the church or state has to confer; in that case it is pleasant to be able, with the ready assistance of such an Omnibus as this, to ascertain the depths from whence they have sprung, and to encourage others by their fortunate example.

Nor are these Illustrations altogether confined to names unknown in the world of politics and letters. The first article in the present volume is a proof of the reverse, since it contains, besides his own exquisite piece of autobiography, a memoir and several anecdotes of the late William Gifford, and some playful rhymes written by him, which have not been before published. The biography and letters of Thomas Pitt, Lord Camelford, are also, particularly the latter, valuable in no ordinary degree. He was the only son of Thomas, the elder brother of the immortal Chatham, and from this connexion alone would have been entitled to distinction, inasmuch as it was to him, during his residence at Cambridge, that those affectionate and instructive letters were addressed by his uncle, which were subsequently published by Lord Grenville. He was called to the House of Lords in 1784 by the title of Lord Camelford, and appears to have been a man of superior intellect. The latter years of his life were spent upon the continent. The famous borough of Old Sarum was a portion of his patrimony, and though he appears to have treated his members with more than common liberality, nevertheless, his notions of the extent of his power and propertywith respect to that machine for the fabrication of representatives of the people, are abundantly characteristic, and strongly illustrate the sort of freedom which was allowed to their nominees by the patrons of close boroughs. Before we come to the precious epistles upon that subject, there are one or two upon the politics of the day, which will be read with interest. The first is dated in 1781, at the time when Fox was, as he elsewhere expresses it, “playing the devil” in the House of Commons. It is addressed, as all his letters printed in this collection are, to his intimate friend Mr. Justice Hardinge, an ex-Welsh judge, who appears also to be the friend of Mr. Nichols, and his assistant in the present work.

“ You remember when King William reproached the Duke of Buckingham for having revealed a secret, instead of receiving as an excuse that he had trusted it to his wife, the King replied, 'my Lord, I never trusted it to mine!' I cannot say as King William did, for I have trusted it to nine, but you are almost the only person else that has ever seen it; and though I have no reason to suspect your good woman's weakness, I confess I feel more casy that you have not mentioned it to her. At the same time, however, that I cannot bring myself to indulge your request, I am not a little flattered that you have made it ; I hope you will not be able to bring our amendments in the Irish propositions to a dispute between the two Houses, upon the ground Fox seems to have laid

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in for them; that fiend will find means to do the most effectual mischief to the country, whether in or out of office. I wish he were with his father, wherever that may be. Lord Camden would have been killed within one week more; indeed, so should we all. Do you breakfast here on Sunday?")

-p. 74,

The apprehensions of the writer would seem to have been considerably increased towards the latter part of 1782, for he then says-After new year's day we shall probably date from the first of the republic. In the March of 1783 he thus gives expression to his alarm.

"" The strange unsettled way in which I now live, between Petersham and London, keeps me in perpetual motion, without giving me an opportunity of conversing with many of whose opinions I should wish to avail myself in this very extraordinary juncture. I have endeavoured to preserve my own consistency, whilst every thing has been turning round me; which, by those who were carried on by the motion of others, is, I am told, deemed inconsistent. I opposed my Lord North, because I thought he availed himself of the influence of the Crown to its full extent, in order to support a violent, absurd, and ruinous system of war, which I trusted his successors meant to put an end to, after the influence of corruption had met with some checks that might bring it back again to certain bounds. Upon the death of Lord Rockingham, all the strength and union of those who had promised us a better prospect was dissolved by that party, who, thinking they have a right to the power of this kingdom, jure divino, could not bear to see the Treasury in hands they could not trust, in other words, that they could not dispose of. I thought it my duty not to countenance so factious a proceeding, which could be capable of deserting the country at such a moment, because it was not surrendered up to them as their property.

"“I was told, 'Lord Shelburne was deceitful, that he did not mean peace, that he would never grant America independence, that he would bring back Lord North, and betray the country. I waited the event, to decide


conduct; I found the American independence granted, and the peace concluded. Was I inconsistent in defending that unpopular peace, and those unpopular ministers, at the moment the declaimers had themselves made the league with Lord North, to overthrow the ministry, and bring themselves into power? Mankind can have but one opinion on such a junction ; I cannot be sorry for it, as it has pulled off the mask, and exposed them to the most unconscious. They will, I hope, be ministers. The interested of their parties, especially of Lord North's, will revolt from disappointment; the men of principle will revolt from indignation; the people will despise them for their want of honesty, and hate them for the burthens it will be their lot to impose upon them. It is then that others may come forward, who may unite the respect of their sovereign, the confidence of the people, and the support of the respectable part of Parliament. This the last hope of the country. Pray God it may not be defeated !

«« I shall read with pleasure the tract you are so kind as to promise me, and with profit, upon a subject so little generally undersood. 'I shall be always happy to see you, and shall think it hard if we cannot contrive

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to meet during the recess. Mrs. Pitt will certainly wait upon Mrs. Hardinge when she is settled in town; but at present her time is so much divided between her aged father* and her girl, who is just recovering from a long illness, that her attention and her time are almost wholly devoted to them. I am, dear Sir, your most obedient faithful humble servant,

" THOMAS Pitt.'”—pp. 76, 77. After the writer was raised to the House of Peers, his confidential friend, Mr. Hardinge, was nominated by him for Old Sarum. The learned barrister seemed to have thought that he had sufficiently explained to his patron his political principles, and accordingly voted as he felt upon the question of reform. The following letter dated January 28, 1785, shows how the peer meditated on the matter, and how very little reference there is in this choice effusion to the rights and liberties of the Commons of England. C“ A few words upon the last sentence in your note as to your

democratical principles of Reform, of which you say you gave me early notice. The question now grows more serious, and therefore let us understand one another. I never wished you to vote against your opinion upon any subject, nor do I wish it now. † Your principles, however, cannot be more decided upon the business of Reform than mine; nor are they half so strongly pledged to the public. Old Sarum has two representatives; upon one of them I have not the smallest claim, because I never pretended any kindness to him in the seat I gave him. It is, to be sure, even in his instance, however, a whimsical thing, that from his connection with Pitt, he feels hinself under a necessity of subverting, as far as his vote goes, the seat he is intrusted with by his constituents, or, if you choose to call it so, by his constituent. But were he to vote against what Pitt, to whom he owes it, professes to have at heart, I am well aware it might be interpreted by the enemies of his friend as inconsistency and double dealing. What is your case ? the argument cuts exactly the other way. Who will believe, if they see you take a part in direct opposition to what I have so often declared to be my deliberate opinion, that there is not a game played between us for the sake of flattering the Minister's favourite object! My line has been distinct, and I have never departed from it. I dread every change; and at this moment in particular think it not only unnecessary, but, considering the state of Scotland and Ireland, I think such a measure madness and absurdity. If, however, the circumstances were favourable, the utmost length I can go to is the one additional county member; but that I consider as an experiment, and as a compounding to prevent further mischief. This I shall certainly say in the House of Lords, if ever it gets thither, and shall think (what I shall not say) that he is an enemy to parliament who goes further. If, from your general wish to support the Minister, or from your attachment to Lord Camden, or from a conscientious opinion upon the subject, you cannot think as I do, at least absent yourself upon this occasion, and do not distress me so far as


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* Pinkney Wilkinson, Esq., of Burnham, Norfolk.'

+ This letter is endorsed by Mr. Hardinge, “ A divine letter,—upon the Reform of Parliament, for which Mr. Hardinge voted just after he was chosen for Old Sarum.".

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