Hardinge, George (1743-1816) (DNB00)

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HARDINGE, GEORGE (1743–1816), author and senior justice of Brecon, was born on 22 June (new style) 1743 at Canbury, a manorhouse in Kingston-on-Thames. He was the third but eldest surviving son of Nicholas Hardinge [q. v.], by his wife Jane, daughter of Sir John Pratt, and sister of Charles, first earl Camden. He was educated by Woodeson, a Kingston schoolmaster, and at Eton under Dr. Barnard [see Barnard, Edward. He was once acting in his boarding-house the part of Cato in Addison's play, when Barnard solemnly advanced upon the stage, and tore ‘Cato's long wig’ and gown without mercy. The wig (borrowed from a barber) was identified by Burton, the vice-provost, as his own (Hardinge, Miscellaneous Works, i. p. xi). Hardinge succeeded to his father's estate on the death of the latter on 9 April 1758. On 14 Jan. 1761 he was admitted pensioner at Trinity College, Cambridge. He took no B.A. degree, but in 1769 obtained that of M.A. by royal mandate. On 9 June 1769 he was called to the bar (Middle Temple), and soon had considerable practice at nisi prius. One of his friends at this time was Akenside the poet. In 1776 he visited France and Switzerland. Lady Gray (mother of Sir Charles Gray), whom he visited in her ninetieth year at Denhill, presented him with fifty guineas for his journey. On his return he somewhat neglected law, and his friend, Sir William Jones, warned him in a sonnet against ‘the glare of wealth’ and pleasure (ib. p. xvi). On 20 Oct. 1777 he married Lucy, daughter and heiress of Richard Long of Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, who survived her husband. They had no children, but Hardinge educated and adopted as his son and heir George Nicholas Hardinge [q. v.], son of his brother, Henry Hardinge. Soon after his marriage Hardinge went to live at Ragman's Castle, a small house at Twickenham (Walford, Greater London, i. 86). Here he saw much of his neighbour, Horace Walpole, of whom he has left a character, printed in Nichols's ‘Literary Anecdotes,’ viii. 525. In April 1782 he was appointed solicitor-general to the queen, and in March 1794 her attorney-general. In 1783 he was counsel in the House of Commons for the defence of Sir Thomas Rumbold, and on 16 Dec. of that year was counsel at the bar of the House of Lords for the East India Company, in opposition to Fox's India Bill. In 1784 he was returned M.P. for the borough of Old Sarum, by the favour of his intimate friend, Thomas Pitt (Lord Camelford). He was re-chosen in November 1787, in 1790, 1796, and 1801. Nichols says he was an eloquent and ingenious speaker. On 16 Dec. 1788 he supported Pitt's resolution declaring the right of the houses to appoint a regent. On 5 April 1792 he pleaded at Warwick as counsel for the hundred in mitigation of the damages claimed by Dr. Priestley. In August 1787 he had been appointed senior justice of the counties of Brecon, Glamorgan, and Radnor. He was a painstaking judge, and held the office till his death, which took place at Presteign from pleurisy, on 26 April 1816. Hardinge was an honourable and benevolent man, witty, and sprightly in manner. He is ‘the waggish Welsh judge, Jefferies Hardsman’ of Byron's ‘Don Juan’ (xiii. stanza 88), who consoles his prisoners with ‘his judge's joke.’ Hardinge's addresses to condemned prisoners (printed in Miscell. Works, vol. i.) are, however, sufficiently solemn and elaborate. It is stated that he collected more than 10,000l. for different charitable objects. He was vice-president and an early promoter of the Philanthropic Society. His worst crime was a frequent habit of borrowing books, which were hardly to be recovered from ‘the chaos of my library.’ In person Hardinge was a somewhat short but very handsome man, as is evident from the portrait of him by N. Dance engraved as the frontispiece to his ‘Miscellaneous Works,’ vol. i. (also in Nichols, Lit. Illustr. vol. iii.; an anonymous mezzotint of him is mentioned, Miscell. Works, i. xxxiv).

Hardinge made some interesting biographical contributions to Nichols's ‘Literary Anecdotes’ and ‘Literary Illustrations,’ including extensive memoirs of Daniel Wray, F.R.S. (Lit. Illustr. i. 5–168), and of Sneyd Davies (ib. pp. 48–709). He also edited some of his father's writings. In 1791 he published ‘A Series of Letters to the Rt. Hon. E. Burke [as to] the Constitutional Existence of an Impeachment against Mr. Hastings,’ London, 8vo; 3rd edit. same year. In 1800 he published two editions, ‘The Essence of Malone, or the Beauties of that fascinating Writer extracted from his immortal work in 539 pages and a quarter, just published, and with his accustomed felicity intituled “Some Account of the Life and Writings of John Dryden.”’ ‘Another Essence of Malone’ followed in 1801, 8vo. He was also the author of ‘Rowley and Chatterton in the Shades,’ 1782 (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xi. 30), and of other writings, many of which are printed in his ‘Miscellaneous Works,’ edited by his friend, J. Nichols, 3 vols., London, 1818, 8vo. Vol. i. contains his charges and speeches, and vol. iii. his miscellaneous prose works. Vol. ii. is devoted to his verse-writings, few of which were worth printing, though Nichols pronounces the lighter poems ‘facetious,’ and the serious poems ‘pleasingly impressive.’ Hardinge was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (elected November 1769) and of the Royal Society (elected April 1788). Among his correspondents were Jacob Bryant, Horace Walpole (see Lit. Illustr. iii. 148–223, and Hardinge, Miscell. Works, i. xxxvi–xxxvii), and Anna Seward. Miss Seward's letters to him are in her ‘Letters’ (1811), vols. i. and ii.

[Hardinge's Miscell. Works, with Memoir, ed. Nichols; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. and Lit. Illustr.; Gent. Mag. 1816, vol. lxxxvi. pt. i. pp. 469–70, 563; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

W. W.