Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 54.djvu/38

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Stanhope
Stanhope
31

terfield was called on to play a congenial part behind the scenes. The king was pronouncedly hostile to Pitt, whose presence in the ministry was inevitable. Newcastle refused to serve with Pitt, and the formation of a government that would be tolerated by the king consequently seemed impossible. Chesterfield's good offices were enlisted in bringing about a compromise. Lord Bute, at the suggestion of the court, privately invited him to overcome Newcastle's objections to take office with Pitt. The difficult task needed all Chesterfield's tact. With neither Pitt nor Newcastle had he been of late on cordial terms, but on 29 June, largely owing to his power of persuasion, the difficulties were surmounted, and Newcastle became nominal prime minister, with Pitt as the leading spirit of the government (cf. Walpole, George II, ii. 224; Newcastle Papers, Addit. MS. 32871). This proved Chesterfield's final incursion into practical politics, but he still corresponded with Newcastle and others on political topics. Subsequently from the vantage-ground of his retirement he viewed with all Chatham's disgust the government's attempts to tax the American colonies. He hotly condemned England's appeal to coercion. 'For my part,' he sagaciously wrote in 1765, 'I never saw a froward child mended by whipping, and I would not have the mother-country become a stepmother.'

But from the date of his resignation of office in 1748 till his death twenty-five years later, politics was the smallest of Chesterfield's interests. The same night on which he gave up his seals he resumed his practice long interrupted by political preoccupations of gambling at White's Club in St. James's Street, of which he and his brother William were for many years prominent members, and where his witticisms were long remembered. But he soon abandoned play; and when, about 1755, he learned that George Selwyn gave him at the club the nickname of Joe Miller he ceased to attend. In 1770 he directed his name to be struck off. His chief recreations were less exceptionable. 'My horse, my books, and my friends will divide my time pretty equally,' he told Dayrolles, when he withdrew from political office. He desired to enjoy 'the only real comforts in the latter end of life quiet, liberty, and health.' All the happiness that wealth could bring him lay at his disposal. He spent time and money in building Chesterfield House in South Audley Street, Mayfair, which was completed in 1749 from the plans of Isaac Ware [cf. Walpole, Letters, ii. 279). The pillars for the hall and staircase were purchased from the Duke of Chandos's mansion at Canons, and much attention was bestowed on the garden. An interesting print of the imposing exterior in Palladian style from a drawing by Eyre was published in 1750 (cf. reproduction in Chesterfield, Letters to his Godson, 1890, ed. Carnarvon). The house is still standing, and is the residence of Lord Burton, although the streets known as Chesterfield Street and Chesterfield Gardens have been built over parts of the garden and the site of the out-buildings (cf. Wheatley and Cunningham's London). The gallery of pictures at Chesterfield House, Chesterfield wrote to Dayrolles on 4 Nov. 1748, was nearly complete; only two or three great masters were unrepresented. The death of his brother John in December 1748 meanwhile increased his resources. He received under the will 30,000l. for life and a villa at Blackheath. There, too, he built a gallery, and the fine garden, where melons and pineapples throve, inspired him with a 'furor hortensis.' Attacks of rheumatic gout rendered visits to Bath, Spa, and like resorts often necessary. In May 1752 a fall from his horse in Hyde Park temporarily crippled him. But his most serious trouble was increasing deafness. After trying every manner of remedy, he wrote on 16 Nov. 1753 to Dayrolles that cure was out of the question. The disability gradually withdrew him from society, but he bore his isolation cheerfully. 'He did not lose the power of hearing,' he wrote, 'till after he had very nearly lost the desire of it,' and he found consolation in increased devotion to literature. He wrote much on literary and social topics in the 'World' newspaper. He penned a pungent series of 'characters ' of his contemporaries which was published posthumously. Walpole believed that he made some progress with some 'Memoirs of his own Time,' but burnt his notes 'a little before his death, being offended at Sir John Dalrymple's history, and saying he would leave no materials for aspersing great names.' He maintained close relations by correspondence with friends in France, including Voltaire, and leaders of intellectual society in Paris like Madame du Monconseil and Madame du Bocage. In August 1755 he was elected, much to his gratification, a member of the Academy of Inscriptions at Paris. But reading in his own library was his most satisfying resource. On 22 Nov. 1757 he wrote: 'I read with more pleasure than ever, perhaps because it is the only pleasure I have left. . . . Solid folios are the people of business with whom I converse in the morning. Quartos, not quarts—pardon the