« PreviousContinue »
any man in Europe. While at Turin, it is stated, on the testimony of an eye-witness, that he walked about his room, dictating, to as many amanuenses, nine letters at once, on different subjects, and addressed to different persons.
On his return to England he was made colonel of the royal regiment of horse guards, general of marines, and lord-lieutenant and custos rotulorum of the county of Northampton. In 1713, he received the insignia of the Garter, and was sent ambassador to Sicily, and other Italian powers. In 1714, he was appointed governor of Minorca; and in the reigns of George the First and Second, was general of the marine forces in Great Britain.
On the death of his first wife, a Miss Fraser, in 1720, he married the celebrated and beautiful singer, Anastasia Robinson, whom he had previously, but unsuccessfully, attempted to seduce. Before he was united to her, it is related, that at an opera rehearsal, he severely caned Senesino, a musical performer, who had given her some offence. Although much attached to her, his pride would not allow him to acknowledge her as his wife, and she, consequently, declined to reside under his roof, until the period of his last illness, when he consented to receive her publicly by her legitimate title.
In the latter part of his life he ceased to figure as an important person, and, from his retirement in the country, railed at the decline of public virtue, and the mercenary spirit of the age. Having long suffered under a painful complaint, he was, at length, compelled to undergo a lithotomical operation at Bristol. The surgeon, as usual, wished to have him bound, but after much warm discussion on the subject, the earl positively declared, it should never be said, that a Mordaunt was seen tied hand and foot. He then desired to be placed in a posture most advantageous for the operation, in which he remained, without flinching, until it was over. Three weeks after he arrived at Bevis Mount, where he received the coun. less, who is said to have behaved towards him with much tenderness. Although his sufferings were great, he received and conversed with crowds of persons, who came from Southampton to visit him. His recovery appearing more than doubtful, he began to dwell upon subjects of a solemn nature; but such was the restlessness of his spirit, that although as. sured of his incapacity to bear the fatigues of a voyage, he determined on embarking, with the countess, for Lisbon; the climate of which, he faintly hoped would restore him to health. He, however, died during the passage, on the 25th of October, 1745. His remains
were brought to England, and buried at Turvey, in Bedfordshire. He had two sons by his first wife, neither of whom survived him. They were both depraved, and appear to have partaken of that slight taint of insanity, with which their father, as well as his immediate predecessors in the title, were evidently afflicted.
The earl was of a tall and graceful figure, and had strikingly the look of a nobleman, although so thin that Swift called him a skeleton. Even his peculiarities, says Walpole, were becoming in him, as he had a natural ease that immediately adopted and saved them from the air of affectation. A fine portrait of him was painted by Kneller.
In politics he had no fixed principles, having changed sides as often as the Vicar of Bray. His romantic courage has procured him a lofty reputation as a commander, to which he does not appear to have been justly entitled. Active, enterprising, and Quixotic, he delighted in difficulties, and never, says one of his panegyrists, employed a hundred men on any expedition, without accompanying them himself.' He frequently arrived at great ends by inadequate means; and professed those qualities which, as a partisan, would have rendered him almost without an equal. But he displayed none of the calm judgment and severe prudence necessary for the command of a large army. It is true that, while in Spain, he was, on the whole, successful; but the most brilliant of his exploits have, with great felicity of expression, been designated as “happy temerities.”
His conduct at Barcelona was truly chivalrous; and he did all in his power to cultivate a high feeling of honour among his troops; any aggression against whom, on the other hand, he punished, whenever it was possible, with conspicuous rigour. On one occasion, he hung a Spaniard, who had killed a British officer, at the knocker of his own door. Though frugal of the public purse, he liberally expended his own money for the benefit of his troops; and when, through the trickery of some Spanish functionaries, he had been despoiled of his baggage, worth about 8,0001., he refused to accept any private compensation for the loss, but insisted on being furnished with corn sufficieșt to maintain his forces for several months.
His love of glory and military renown was tarnished by an affectation of vulgar popularity, which he endeavoured to gain by frequenting coffee-houses, and public places. He was once mistaken by the mob for the Duke of Marlborough, at a time when his grace was very unpopular, but saved himself from rough usage, with which he was threatened, by the following pithy address : “Gentlemen, I can convince you, by two reasons, that I am not the duke ;-in the first place, I have only five guineas in my pocket; and, in the second, (throwing his purse to the multitude as he spoke,) they are heartily at your service."
The brilliancy of his exploits abroad was oddly contrasted with some of the eccentricities of his conduct at home. On one occasion, he leaped out of his carriage for the purpose of driving, sword in hand, a dancing-master, clad in pearl-coloured stockings, who was carefully crossing a dirty street, into the mud. Cookery was as much his hobby as war.
It appears to have been far from unusual for him to assist at the
preparation of a feast over which he was about to preside; and when at Bath, he was occasionally seen about the streets, in his blue riband and star, carrying a chicken in his hand, and a cabbage, perhaps, under each arm.
He was intimate with Swift, Gay, Dryden, Pope, and most other wits and authors of the age in which he lived. To Pope, who was his frequent guest and companion, he presented, on his death-bed, a valuable watch, which had been given to him by the king of Sicily. He wrote a severe copy of verses against the Duchess of Marlborough, whom he alternately flattered and reviled. He also composed his own memoirs, which, however, after his death, were committed, by the countess, to the flames; and expressed an intention, if he lived, “to give that rascal, Burnet, the lie in half his history :" for this purpose he had marked both of the volumes, in several parts of the margin, and carried them with him to Lisbon. His letters were once extolled as models of an elegant epistolary style, but the publication of his correspondence with the Countess of Suffolk has much diminished his previous reputation as a writer. He is said to have been an exquisite penman, and to have punctuated and spelt much more accurately than the greater part of his literary contemporaries.
His enmity,” says Horace Walpole,“ to the Duke of Marlborough, and his friendship with Pope, will preserve his name, when his genius, too romantic to have laid a solid foundation for fame, and his politics, too disinterested for his age and country, shall be equally forgotten.” Bishop Burnet, with great truth, calls him a man of much heat, many notions, full of discourse, brave and generous-with little true judgment, and no virtue.' He was loose'in his manners, and remarkably sensual. While in Spain, he set no bounds to the gratification of his desires, and once pointed some artillery against a convent, in which a beautiful woman of rank had taken refuge,
so that by terrifying her to come forth, he might obtain a view of her admirable person.
He was vain, passionate, and inconstant; a mocker of christianity, and had, according to his own voluntary confession, committed three capital crimes before he was of the age of twenty. He once went to hear Penn preach, “because," as he said, “'twas his way to be civil to all religions.” During a visit to Fenelon, at Cambray, the virtues of that amiable man appear to have made some impression on him, so that, as he states, "he was obliged to get away from the delicious creature as fast as he could, lest he should become pious." While Voltaire was in England, the earl employed him to write a book, and furnished him with money to pay the printer during its progress through the press. Voltaire, however, appropriated the money to his own uses. At this time he was a visiter at Peterborough house, Parsons' green, where the printer, being unable to go on for want of supplies, called one evening, in order to obtain an advance. Meeting the earl in the grounds, he proceeded
to state the cause of his visit; on hearing which, Peterborough, perceiving Voltaire at a short distance, rushed towards him, sword in hand, in such a paroxysm of rage, that the philosopher of Ferney, it is said, with great difficulty, and by speed alone saved himself from destruction.
EDWARD PELLEW, VISCOUNT
This admiral, second son of Samuel Pellew, Esq. was born at Dover, on the 19th of April, 1757 ; and, in 1771, accompanied Captain Stott, in the Juno frigate, to take possession of the places discovered by Byron. He subsequently went to the Mediterranean with the same officer, who, on account of some mis