Methuen, Paul (1672-1757) (DNB00)

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METHUEN, Sir PAUL (1672–1757), diplomatist, eldest and only surviving son of John Methuen [q. v.], lord chancellor of Ireland, was born in 1672. When about twenty years old he entered the diplomatic service, and from 1697 to 1705, as envoy to the king of Portugal, he assisted his father in negotiations at Lisbon, where his conduct was much praised by the Hon. Alexander Stanhope, minister at Madrid (Stanhope, Spain under Charles II, p. 132). In July 1705 he accompanied Charles, archduke of Austria and claimant to the Spanish throne, on an expedition to Gibraltar, and at the close of that year was appointed minister at Turin. In 1706 he succeeded his father as ambassador to Portugal and remained there until August 1708, when he obtained leave of absence on account of his election to parliament by the borough of Devizes in Wiltshire. That constituency he represented from 1708 to 1710, and was again elected in 1710 by a double return, but was unseated by the House of Commons. In 1713 he was returned for Brackley, Northamptonshire, and although his name was erased by the house, he was rechosen by that borough at the general election of 1714-15, and represented it continuously until 1747. From November 1709 to December 1710 he held the post of lord of the admiralty, and from October 1714 to April 1717 he served in the same capacity at the treasury. In 1714 Methuen was appointed ambassador to Spain and Morocco, and on 29 Oct. in that year was created a privy councillor. During Stanhope's absence from England in 1716 he acted in his place as secretary of state, and then succeeded to the southern department; but on Townshend's dismissal from office he resigned with Walpole and Pulteney. A plaintive letter from him to Stanhope, in December 1716, sets out that he was writing 'at four in the morning,' after having been at work for eleven hours, and that, if he had any choice, he would 'would rather be a slave in the gallies.' On the return of his friends to power he became, in June 1720, comptroller of the household, a dignity exchanged in 1725 for that of treasurer of the household, which he occupied until 1730. He was, moreover, made a knight of the Bath on the revival of that order by George I in May 1725. Townshend endeavoured in 1730 to obtain his reappointment as secretary of state, but failed in the effort, and from that year Methuen remained out of office. He led the opposition to Bolingbroke's partial pardon, spoke vehemently against Walpole's excise measure, and in December 1741 carried Dr. Lee by four votes as chairman of committees in opposition to Walpole's nominee. He died, unmarried, on 11 April 1757, and was buried near his father in the south aisle of Westminster Abbey, where a memorial by Rysbrach was erected to their memory. His wealth was estimated at 250,000 l., of which 50,000l. in guineas were found, tied up in bags and sealed, in his house, not having produced any interest for years. Through his liberality all his servants were left with board wages for the rest of their lives.

Horace Walpole, in his 'Observations on Lord Chesterfield's Memoirs,' which are printed in the Philobiblon Soc. vol. xi., calls Methuen 'a dull, formal, romantic braggadochio,' who had returned from Spain with some reputation, and gives some specimens of his coarseness of demeanour; but this criticism was no doubt influenced by Methuen's political action. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu considered him 'handsome and well made, with wit enough, and a romantic turn in his conversation' worthy of Othello. She adds that he was a lover of Madame Kilmansegge (Letters, &c. ed. 1861, i. 132), at whom Lady Cowper describes him as 'making sweet eyes' at a party at Madame Montandre's in December 1714 (Diary, p. 29). His name twice occurs in Swift's 'Journal to Stella;' the fourth of Gay's 'Epistles on Several Occasions' is addressed to him, and in the epistle to Pope on the completion of the translation of the 'Iliad' Gay speaks of 'Methuen of sincerest mind, as Arthur grave, as soft as womankind.' The dedication by Steele of the seventh volume of the 'Spectator' to him praises his part, as British ambassador, in promoting commerce between England and Portugal, and the military renown which he won while minister at the court of Savoy. It also records his 'most graceful address in horsemanship, the use of the sword, and dancing,' as well as his genial hospitality. Methuen possessed a considerable knowledge of foreign languages and of the best authors in the chief European countries. During his stay abroad he formed a fine collection of pictures, an account of which, given in 'Catalogues of the Collections of Pictures of the Duke of Devonshire, General Guise, and the late Sir Paul Methuen. Strawberry Hill, 1760,' was reproduced in Thomas Martyn's 'English Connoisseur,' 1766, ii. 17–37. He left the pictures to his cousin, Paul Methuen of Corsham House, Wiltshire, and a description of those still preserved there is in Waagen's 'Treasures of Art in Great Britain,' supplementary vol. pp. 394–9. Letters from the Methuens abound in the manuscripts at the British Museum, particularly in Addit. MS. 28056, and in the collections described by the Historical MSS. Commission. Many are printed in Coxe's 'Sir Robert Walpole,' vol. ii., and in the 'Letters and Despatches of Marlborough;' John Hill Burton makes much use of them in the 'History of Queen Anne,' ii. 57–178.

The third volume of Charles King's 'British Merchant,' 1721, is dedicated to Methuen.

[Burke's Peerage; Gent. Mag. 1757, p. 189; Wilts Archæol. Mag. v. 378–83; Britton's Beauties of England, vol. xv. 'Wiltshire,' pp. 510–20; Britton's Corsham House and its Pictures, 1806; Baker's Northamptonshire, i. 570–1; Chester's Westminster Abbey, pp. 272, 390; Neale and Brayley's Westminster Abbey, ii. 251; Coxe's Sir R. Walpole, i. 105–7, 159, 207, 336, 399; Parnell's War of Succession in Spain, pp. 113, 163; Luttrell's Hist. Relation, v. 556, vi. 14, 341; Walpole's Letters, i. 100, 284; Walpole's Painting, ed. Wornum, iii. 992.]

W. P. C.