Hervey, Frederick Augustus (DNB00)
HERVEY, FREDERICK AUGUSTUS, D.D., fourth Earl of Bristol (1730–1803), bishop of Derry, third son of John Hervey, baron Hervey of Ickworth [q. v.], and grandson of John Hervey, first earl of Bristol [q. v.], was born on 1 Aug. 1730. He was educated at Westminster School and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he graduated M.A. as a nobleman in 1754, and was created D.D. in 1770. Originally intended for the bar, he entered one of the inns of court, but finally took holy orders. He became a clerk of the privy seal in 1756, principal clerk in 1761, and a royal chaplain in 1763. But substantial preferment, though eagerly solicited by him, came slowly, and in the meantime Hervey visited the chief cities and places of interest on the continent. He was passionately fond of art, and Italy naturally possessed great attractions for him. Being at Naples in 1766, at a time when Vesuvius was in a state of agitation previous to its eruption, he visited the crater; was severely wounded in the arm by a falling stone, and thenceforth closely studied volcanic phenomena. His interest in this field of science brought him into contact with Sir John Strange, at that time British resident at Venice, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship, and with the Italian naturalist, Fortis, with whom he made a journey through Dalmatia, and whom he more than once liberally supplied with money for the prosecution of his studies. Hervey afterwards claimed to have been the first to draw attention to the geological formation of the Giant's Causeway, on the coast of Antrim.
During the brief period of his brother's viceroyalty in Ireland [see Hervey, George William] he was nominated for the first bishopric that fell vacant there, and on 2 Feb. 1767 he was created bishop of Cloyne. Anxious to ingratiate himself with the Irish clergy, and to prove himself superior to the prejudice which restricted almost every gift in the church to Englishmen, he offered his chaplainship to Philip Skelton as a mark of his admiration for his ‘Deism Revealed.’ The offer was accepted, but came to nothing, owing to Skelton's eccentric behaviour. On 18 Feb. 1768 Hervey was translated to the very rich bishopric of Derry; but during his short tenure of the see of Cloyne he did much to improve its property by reclaiming the bog of Cloyne, which had hitherto been a source of constant dispute and a harbour for loose persons. His action was fiercely resented by the Irish, particularly the Casey family, who claimed a proprietary right in the bog, and tore down his fences and gates as fast as he erected them, involving him in much expensive litigation. In the end, however, he triumphed, and in 1768 the right of the see of Cloyne to the bog was finally established. His tenure of the bishopric of Derry was marked by the like assiduous attention to the welfare of his diocese. Having personally visited every parish, he instituted a fund for the support of superannuated clergymen. He was generous and even lavish in his expenditure of the revenues of his see for public purposes. He opened out wild and uncivilised districts by roads constructed at his own expense; he contributed largely to the building of a new bridge on the Foyle; he was actively engaged in fostering agriculture and in introducing new and improved methods of farming, and it was chiefly at his instigation that extensive operations in search of coal were undertaken. In addition to the princely residences he erected at Downhill and Ballyscullion, and adorned with the rarest works of art, the city and county of Londonderry owe to him many of their chief architectural beauties. In 1770 the corporation of Londonderry presented him with the freedom of their city, a compliment never before paid to his predecessors, and the city of Dublin conferred a similar honour on him.
At a time when sectarian jealousies ran high, Hervey did much by his example to soften their asperities and to cultivate a spirit of toleration. In parliament he warmly advocated a relaxation of the penal laws, and it was largely due to his exertions that the act relieving the catholics from the oath of supremacy was passed. He was strongly opposed to the tithe system, and suggested that in lieu of it a portion of land should be assigned to each clergyman for his subsistence. His suggestion was favourably received by his fellow-bishops, and an experiment made of it in his diocese; but ill-health and other circumstances compelled him to drop it before it had a fair trial. From his letters to Strange it would appear that from 1777 to 1779 he resided chiefly in Italy. He had gone to Rome partly on account of his son, who had a taste for architecture, and partly for the sake of some Irish records to be found there; but he himself was much more interested in investigating the subterraneous rivers of Istria. In the summer of 1778 he was attacked by a severe illness, which compelled him to pass the winter at Naples. On the death of his elder brother (Augustus John [q. v.]) in December 1779, he succeeded to the earldom of Bristol and an annual rental of about 20,000l.; but his brother, with the characteristic eccentricity of the family, took care by a codicil to deprive him of all that he possibly could, including the private papers of the family and the deer in Ickworth Park. On his return to Ireland Hervey seems for a time to have abstained from any active part in politics, and it was not until after the great volunteer convention at Dungannon in February 1782 that he publicly announced his intention of joining the corps of Londonderry volunteers. Thenceforth he threw himself enthusiastically into the movement, contributing largely to the purchase of camp equipage, and even entering into negotiations with Strange for the purchase of several ships of the line from the Venetian state. His popularity with every class of the community, especially with the presbyterians, his enormous wealth and undoubted ability soon raised him to a prominent position among the volunteers of the north. Like most of the intelligent politicians of the time, he was strongly convinced of the necessity of supplementing the legislative enactments of 1782 by a radical reform of the representation of the Irish House of Commons; but, unlike the majority of them, he would gladly have seen the elective franchise extended to the Roman catholics. His opinions in this respect naturally drew him closer to the democratic party; but it would be a mistake to attribute to him any sympathy with republicanism. His views, although extreme, showed a keener perception of the critical nature of the situation than those of Grattan and Charlemont.
At the grand convention of volunteers held in Dublin in November 1783, he played a prominent and picturesque part as a delegate from county Derry. Accompanied by his nephew, the notorious George Robert Fitzgerald [q. v.], and attended by a troop of dragoons, he proceeded from his diocese to Dublin with all the pomp and ceremony of a royal progress. Dressed entirely in purple, with diamond knee- and shoe-buckles, with white gloves fringed with gold lace, and fastened by long gold tassels, he entered Dublin seated in an open landau, drawn by six horses, caparisoned with purple trappings, and passed slowly through the principal streets to the Royal Exchange, where the delegates of the volunteer companies were assembled. He was doubtless disappointed at not being elected president, but he showed no resentment. He advocated the incorporation of the catholics in whatever scheme of reform was adopted, and his suggestion that the convention should allow itself to be guided by the practical experience of Flood saved the proceedings from degenerating into a mere farce. His conduct was as far removed as possible from that of an ambitious demagogue or a would-be leader of an armed rebellion. He wisely counselled—unfortunately without success—that the convention should dissolve itself before Flood introduced his bill into the House of Commons. After the dissolution of the convention Hervey was the recipient of many laudatory addresses from the principal volunteer companies in the north, and his replies, especially that to the address of the Bill of Rights Battalion, seem to have alarmed the government so much that they even contemplated the advisability of arresting him (Add. MSS. 33100 f. 461, 33101 f. 29, 77). But with the collapse of the volunteer movement Hervey ceased to take any active interest in Irish politics. He voted by proxy for the Act of Union, and there is extant a curious letter from him to Pelham, dated Venice, 16 June 1798, in which he attributes what success the rebellion had to the tithe grievance, and advocates the endowment by the state of nonconformist ministers as the best remedy for Irish disaffection. His health seems to have been indifferent, and what time he did not spend in superintending the arrangement of his art treasures at Downhill and Ballyscullion appears to have been passed chiefly on the continent. At a late period of his life he became enamoured of the Countess Lichtenau, the mistress of Frederick William II of Prussia, and his letters to her reveal a shameless disregard of his profession and ordinary morality (see also Memoirs of Lady Hamilton, pp. 112–26; Life of Grattan, iii. 116). In 1798 he was arrested by the French in Italy, and confined for a time in the castle of Milan. A valuable collection of antiquities which he was on the point of transmitting to England was seized at the same time. A remonstrance, signed by 345 artists of different nations, was presented to Citizen Haller, administrator of the finances of the army of Italy, and the collection was redeemed for the sum of 10,000l., under an arrangement with the directory; but within a week after the payment of the money it was again plundered, and the whole dispersed. Hervey died at Albano on 8 July 1803 (see Lord Cloncurry, Personal Recollections, p. 191). His body was brought to England in April 1804, and interred in the church of Ickworth, near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, the ancient seat of the Herveys. There is no monument to his memory inside the church; but an obelisk erected by the inhabitants of Derry, to which the Roman catholic bishop and resident dissenting minister had alike contributed, stands in the park. According to Sir Jonah Barrington, Hervey's personal appearance was extremely prepossessing. He was rather under the middle size, but well built. His character betrayed all the eccentricity for which his family was remarkable, and which had given rise to the saying that God had created men, women, and Herveys. John Wesley, who spent a Sunday with him in 1775, was much impressed by the ‘admirable solemnity’ with which he celebrated the Lord's Supper. Charlemont, who had better opportunities for knowing him, describes him as a bad father, a worse husband, a determined deist, very blasphemous in his conversation, and greatly addicted to intrigue and gallantry (Lecky, Hist. of England, vi. 334–5).
He succeeded to the barony of Howard de Walden through his grandmother in 1799. He married very early (1752), against the wishes both of his own and his wife's family, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Jermyn Davers, and sister and heiress of Sir Charles Davers, bart.; she died on 16 Dec. 1800, having had two sons, Augustus John, lord Hervey (d. 1796), and Frederick William, fifth earl and marquis of Bristol (1769–1859), and three daughters.