Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fawkener, Everard

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

FAWKENER, Sir EVERARD (1684–1758), merchant and official, son of William Fawkener, citizen and mercer of London, who married Mary, daughter of Ralphe Boxe, citizen and druggist, was born in 1684. The family of Fawkener was connected with Rutlandshire (Wright, Rutland, i. 131), but Everard had several brothers engaged in London commerce, and his sister married Sir Peter Delme, lord mayor in 1724. He himself was, like his father, a citizen and mercer, and until fifty years of age he was engrossed in business; probably, as Parton states, he was a silk and cloth merchant. His home was at Wandsworth, and his leisure hours were spent in reading the classics or in collecting ancient coins and medals. Voltaire, who made his acquaintance in Paris, promised to visit him in England, and when necessity drove Voltaire to England in the spring of 1726 his friend's house at Wandsworth became his home, and until his departure from England in 1729 the greater portion of his time was passed there. His tragedy of ‘Brutus’ was begun under Fawkener's roof, and the third edition of his tragedy of ‘Zaïre’ was dedicated ‘to M. Falkener, English merchant; since ambassador at Constantinople,’ the dedicatory epistle dwelling on the respect in which merchants like Fawkener are held in England (Vergesco, i. 15; Desnoiresterres, Voltaire Bibliographie, Voltaire et la Société Française (la jeunesse de Voltaire), i. 374–376). About 1735 Fawkener was knighted and sent as ambassador to Constantinople, a position which Voltaire subsequently asserted that he had predicted for him, but the means by which he was enabled to exchange commerce for diplomacy are not known. Although he incurred some censure in 1736, when hostilities broke out between the Turks and the Russians, by too eagerly adopting the proposed mediation, he remained at his post for several years, and his conduct on that occasion did not hinder his future advancement. While resident at the Porte he ‘wrote a very elaborate description of Constantinople, more curious and entertaining than any in our books. It has never been printed.’ From this position he was fortunately promoted to be secretary to the Duke of Cumberland, the favourite son of George II, and he accompanied him throughout the campaigns on the continent and in Scotland. He had often visited Lord Lovat in his imprisonment at Fort Augustus, and he was a witness against that old peer at his trial in March 1747 for high treason. Lovat, when asked whether he wished to put any questions to Fawkener, declined to examine him, but, much to the amusement of the court, wished him joy of his young wife. Windham adds the additional anecdote, which he heard in 1785, that when Fawkener appeared to give evidence Lovat remarked that ‘both their heads were in a bad way’ (Windham, Diary, p. 67). In recognition of his services during the expedition in Flanders the very lucrative office of joint postmaster-general, in conjunction with the Earl of Leicester, was conferred on him on 28 May 1745, and he retained it until his death. Fawkener played at cards for high stakes and with little judgment, and this gave point to George Selwyn's bon-mot on going into White's Club one night when he was playing at piquet and losing heavily, that the winner was ‘robbing the mail.’ He was suggested in 1748 by the Duke of Cumberland, his staunch friend, as a proper person to fill the position of English minister in Berlin, and Horace Walpole, his connection, went so far as to write (12 Jan. 1748) ‘Sir Everard Falkener is going to Berlin,’ but four days later he announced that Legge had kissed hands for the appointment, and added ‘we thought Sir Everard Falkener sure, but this has come forth very unexpectedly. Legge is certainly a wiser choice.’ Fawkener died at Bath on 16 Nov. 1758, and a monument to his memory was placed in its abbey church, where he was buried. His brother, Kenelm Fawkener, died on 14 Dec. 1758. It was said of Sir Everard Fawkener after his death that he had ‘left a great many debts, a very deserving wife, and several fine children in very bad circumstances.’ This wife, Harriet, natural daughter of General Charles Churchill, the ‘young wife’ of Lord Lovat, born in 1726, was married to Fawkener in February 1747. She was described by Horace Walpole in 1741 as ‘prettyish and dancing well,’ but at a later period he characterises her as ‘sister of my brother-in-law, Mr. Churchill, a very intriguing woman and intimate both with Lady Waldegrave and the Duchess of Cumberland,’ and it was no doubt through Fawkener's friendship with the duke that he obtained her in marriage. On 3 Aug. 1765 she was married at Chelsea to ‘Governor’ Pownall, and she died on 6 Feb. 1777. A sarcophagus, with a fulsome epitaph usually said to be the composition of her second husband, was erected in her honour on the north side of the lady chapel in Lincoln Cathedral. Fawkener's two sons visited Voltaire at Ferney in 1774. The elder, William Augustus—christian names no doubt given him by the favour of the Duke of Cumberland—attended the duke's funeral on 9 Nov. 1768 as page of honour. He became clerk to the privy council, and in 1791 he was sent on a secret mission to Russia; his conversation with the Empress Catherine on the bust of Fox is in Miss Berry's ‘Journal,’ i. 321. On 29 Jan. 1784 he married, at St. George's, Hanover Square, Georgiana Ann Poyntz, a niece of Lady Spencer; but the marriage turned out unhappily, and as Walpole wrote in the previous May that ‘Falkener has just abandoned a daughter of Lord Ashburnham,’ the fault was doubtless due to the husband. One of Sir Everard's daughters married, on 17 May 1764, ‘a young rich Mr. Crewe, a Macarone’ (who is to be distinguished from John Crewe, first lord Crewe [q. v.]); and another daughter, Henrietta or Harriet, married, first, at St. George's, Hanover Square, on 30 June 1764, the Hon. Edward Bouverie, and secondly, in 1811, when she was sixty-one years old, Lord Robert Spencer, a prominent whig. She died at Woolbeding, near Midhurst, on 17 Nov. 1825. A well-known painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds of Mrs. Bouverie and Mrs. Crewe, Fawkener's two daughters, was afterwards engraved by Marchi. The descendants of Fawkener married into other leading English families, such as those of Cavendish and Walpole. The change in his life from commerce to the most fashionable society of London is not easily accounted for. Carlyle, in his ‘Frederick the Great’ (ii. 586–587), calls Fawkener ‘a man highly unmemorable now were it not for the young Frenchman he was hospitable to.’ Voltaire called him ‘the good and plain philosopher of Wandsworth,’ and in after life renewed the friendship in a correspondence of some twenty letters, sending Fawkener some books, soliciting his good offices for an English edition of the age of Louis XIV, and drawing upon him for 94l. on account of the profits. These letters, dated between 1735 and 1753, were confided by the younger Fawkener to an English diplomatist called Edward Mason, and were sent by him in 1780 to M. de la Harpe. They were printed in ‘Lettres inédites de Voltaire’ (1856), i. 71, &c., and afford a valuable proof of the warmth of Voltaire's friendship. Fawkener's character is revealed to us in the following passage from one of his letters quoted in Voltaire's ‘Remarks on Pascal's “Pensées:”’ ‘I am here, just as you left me, neither merrier nor sadder, nor richer nor poorer, enjoying perfect health, having everything that renders life agreeable, without love, without avarice, without ambition, and without envy; and as long as all that lasts I shall call myself a very happy man.’

[Nichols's Lit. Anecd. viii. 64, 761; Coxe's Pelham, i. 493–4; Harris's Lord Hardwicke, ii. 273, 286; Gent. Mag. (1758), pp. 556, 612; Coxe's Sir Robert Walpole, i. 484, iii. 356; Coxe's Horatio Walpole, ii. 235, 304; Walpole's Last Journals (1771–83), i. 37; Walpole's Letters, i. 83, 346, ii. 74, 76, 96, 100, 102, 315, iv. 238, viii. 374, ix. 334; Letters of Lady Hervey, p. 246; Parton's Voltaire, i. 203–21, 276–7, 335–6, 504, ii. 46–8, 527; Maclachlan's Duke of Cumberland, pp. 130–2, 246, 291; Hanover Square Registers (Harl. Soc.), i. 133, 355; J. C. Smith's British Portraits, ii. 911; Genealogist (1884), i. 138; J. C. Collins's Voltaire in England, pp. 235–236; Chesterfield's Miscellaneous Works (1777), i. 284, 318; Goldsmith's Voltaire (Cunningham's ed. of works), iv. 20; Howell's State Trials, xviii. 745–6.]

W. P. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.121
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
263 ii 6 f.e. Fawkener, Sir Everard: for afterwards the first lord read who is to be distinguished from John Crewe, the first lord
264 i 5 for the second wife of Lord Crewe read Fawkener's two daughters