Hume, Hugh (DNB00)

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HUME, HUGH, third Earl of Marchmont (1708–1794), third son of Alexander Hume, afterwards Campbell, second earl of Marchmont [see Campbell, Alexander, second Earl of Marchmont], by his wife Margaret, daughter and heiress of Sir Alexander Campbell of Cessnock, Ayrshire, was born on 15 March 1708. He and his brother Alexander, who died lord clerk register in 1756, were twins, and so closely resembled each other in their persons that even during manhood they were frequently mistaken for one another by their most intimate friends. Being both destined for the profession of law, they were both sent, as their father had been, to complete their education in Holland, where they studied successively at Utrecht and Franeker. At the general election of 1734, when their father, through the hostility of Walpole, failed to be chosen a representative peer for Scotland, the two brothers entered parliament, Hugh, who was known as Lord Polwarth, as member for the town of Berwick, and Alexander as member for the county. Partly in requital of Walpole's treatment of their father, partly owing to dislike of Walpole's policy, they became his persistent and relentless opponents. Lord Polwarth's trenchant attacks on Walpole elevated him at once to the position of a leader of the opposition. Smollett, referring to his first appearance in the debates of the House of Commons, describes him as a ‘nobleman of elegant parts, keen penetration, and uncommon sagacity, who spoke with all the fluency and fervour of elocution.’ Walpole himself estimated Polwarth's powers of attack at their just value, and declared that there were few things he more ardently desired than to see him at the head of his family, and thus no longer eligible for a seat in the commons. When Walpole's sons were praising the speeches of Pulteney, Pitt, Lyttelton, and others, he answered, ‘You may cry up their speeches if you please, but when I have answered Sir John Barnard and Lord Polwarth I think I have concluded the debate’ (note to Coxe's Walpole).

On the death of his father on 27 Feb. 1740, Hume became third Earl of Marchmont. Removed from the House of Commons, and unable to get elected as a representative peer, he was precluded from continuing the political career which had opened so promisingly. His political ally, Sir William Wyndham, died on 17 June following. ‘What a star has our minister!’ (Walpole), Bolingbroke wrote to Pope: ‘Wyndham dead, Marchmont disabled—the loss of Marchmont and Wyndham to our country’ (Marchmont Papers, ii. 224). Pope himself told Marchmont that ‘if God had not given this country to perdition he would not have removed from its service the man whose capacity and integrity alone could have saved it’ (ib. p.208). Marchmont succeeded to Wyndham's place in Bolingbroke's intimacy, and during the latter's closing years was his most confidential friend. For some time he occupied Bolingbroke's house at Battersea. Bolingbroke wrote to him that he preferred to be remembered by posterity as ‘Wyndham's and Marchmont's friend’ rather than in any other character (ib. ii. 230). Pope immortalised his intimacy with Marchmont in the inscription on the grotto at Twickenham, ‘There the bright flame was shot through Marchmont's soul.’ While excluded from devoted much attention to husbandry, forestry, and gardening, in which he acquired the reputation of possessing exceptional knowledge and skill. He was also a very accomplished horseman. He built Marchmont House, Berwickshire.

Marchmont was one of Pope's four executors. He is blamed by Johnson for having along with Bolingbroke consented to the destruction of Pope's unpublished manuscripts and papers. But Pope in his will left his papers to Bolingbroke, who was not one of his executors, ‘committing them to his sole care and judgment to preserve or destroy them, or, in case he should not survive him, to the above said Earl of Marchmont.’ As Bolingbroke survived Pope, the papers did not come into Marchmont's possession, although it is possible that Bolingbroke consulted him regarding their destruction. Pope in his will left Marchmont a large-paper edition of ‘Thirannus’ and a portrait of Bolingbroke by Richardson. Marchmont was also one of the executors of Sarah, duchess of Marlborough, who died in the same year as Pope. She had been the friend of Marchmont's father, and her relations were equally cordial with the son, to whom she left 2,000l.

Marchmont, on the publication of Johnson's ‘Life of Pope,’ complained that Johnson made erroneous statements in spite of information with which he had supplied him. The truth seems to have been that when Johnson was writing his ‘Life of Pope’ Boswell, without consulting Johnson, communicated with Marchmont as to his knowledge of Pope (12 May 1779), and that Marchmont made an offer of assistance which was declined by Johnson. In 1780, however, Johnson visited Marchmont at his house in Curzon Street, discussed the subject, and expressed much satisfaction with the interview. Further information of value was afterwards supplied by Marchmont to Boswell, but was rejected by Johnson.

The formation of the ‘Broad Bottom’ administration in 1744 under his friend Chesterfield and Pitt enabled Marchmont to re-enter political life. During the rebellion of 1745 he was anxious to actively defend the protestant succession, but Bolingbroke advised him to moderate his zeal. He was a supporter of the government, and in August 1747 became president of the court of police in Scotland; but after Chesterfield resigned the seals he was in danger of dismissal from office on account of the general suspicion that he was the author of the famous `Apology' for Chesterfield's resignation. In 1750 he was chosen one of the sixteen Scots representative peers, and on 20 June 1764 was made lord keeper of the great seal of Scotland. He continued to be elected a Scots representative peer till 1784. He then finally retired from public life. Thenceforth he occupied himself chiefly with country recreations, and spent his evenings in the study of history and law. He died at Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, on 10 Jan. 1794. Marchmont boasted that 'he never gave a vote nor spoke from an interested motive during all the years he sat in the two houses.' He certainly was not a self-seeking politician, but his attacks on Walpole derived bitterness largely from his personal animosity to Walpole. That his abilities were much above the average and his character attractive may be inferred from the special respect in which he was held by men like Pope, Bolingbroke, Chesterfield, and Cobham.

Marchmont married first, in May 1731, Miss Anne Western of London, and by her had one son, Patrick, lord Polwarth, who died young, and three daughters. The youngest daughter, Diana, married Walter Scott of Harden, Berwickshire, and by him had one son, Hugh Scott of Harden, who, as the other daughters left no surviving issue, made good his claim in 1835 to the title of Lord Polwarth in the Scottish peerage, as heir general of the first Earl of Marchmont. His first wife died on 9 May 1747, and Marchmont married, on 30 Jan. of the following year, Elizabeth Crompton, daughter of a linen-draper in Cheapside. According to a letter from David Hume the historian (29 Jan. 1747-8), Marchmont fell in love with Miss Crompton on first seeing her by accident in a box at the theatre. Next morning he wrote to her father, who had recently been made bankrupt, and married the lady three weeks later (Burton, Life of Hume, i. 237). By this lady Marchmont had one son, Alexander, lord Polwarth, who married Lady Anabella Yorke, eldest daughter of Philip, second earl of Hardwicke, and was created a peer of the United Kingdom by the title Baron Hume of Berwick, 14 May 1776, but predeceased his father on 9 March 1781, when the British title became extinct.

The earldom of Marchmont became dormant on the death of the third earl. Marchmont House, Berwickshire, with the estate, was inherited by Sir Hugh Purves, sixth baronet, of Purves Hall, great-grandson of Lady Anne Purves, eldest sister of the third Earl of Marchmont. On inheriting the estates Purves assumed the surname of Hume-Campbell.

[Marchmont Papers, ed. Sir Gr. H. Rose, 3 vols., 1831; Works of Pope,Bolingbroke, and Chesterfield; Coxe's Life of Walpole; Horace Walpole's Letters; Boswell's Life of Johnson; Alexander Carlyle's Autobiography; Hill Burton's Life of David Hume; Douglas's Scottish Peerage(Wood), ii. 183.]

T. F. H.