Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 53.djvu/362

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


final suggestion that, if Nelson's health did not permit him to be with the fleet, he ought to return to England. It was probably the necessity of this recall which led Spencer to doubt the advisability of sending Nelson to the Baltic as commander-in-chief, and therefore to appoint him as second under Sir Hyde Parker, a mistake which Lord St. Vincent, who knew Nelson better, endeavoured to rectify when too late. With the resignation of Pitt in February 1801, Spencer also went out of office. He had been made a K.G. on 1 March 1799. It is said that it was offered him two years before, but that he declined it in favour of Lord Howe [see Howe, Richard, Earl].

He was home secretary during Fox's administration, 1806–7, and master of the Trinity House; after which he held no office under the government, devoting himself principally to administrative work in his county of Northampton, and to literary or scientific pursuits. He was colonel of the Northamptonshire yeomanry: he was for thirty years chairman of quarter sessions; it was by his energy that the infirmary at Northampton was built and endowed. He was president of the Royal Institution, for forty years was a trustee of the British Museum, and in 1812 was one of the founders and first president of the Roxburghe Club. But during these later years his fame must principally rest on the rehabilitation of the Althorp library (founded by his ancestor, Charles Spencer, third earl of Sunderland [q. v.]), said, probably with truth, to be the finest private library in Europe. Of this, with the house and its works of art, an account was published by Thomas Frognall Dibdin [q. v.], under the titles of ‘Bibliotheca Spenceriana’ (1814–15), ‘Ædes Althorpianæ’ (1822), and ‘Book Rarities in Lord Spencer's Library’ (1811). The collection, which was specially rich in Caxtons and other fifteenth-century works, was, with some unimportant reservations, bought in 1892 by Mrs. Rylands, and was removed to Manchester to form a memorial of her husband, under the name of the ‘John Rylands Library’ in Manchester [see Rylands, John]. Spencer died at Althorp on 10 Nov. 1834. He married, in March 1781. His wife was Lavinia, eldest daughter of Charles Bingham, first earl of Lucan, a woman of great beauty and intelligence, brilliancy of conversation and charm of character. For many years, at the end of the last century and the beginning of this, she was well-nigh the most prominent lady in London society, and was remarkable for having been the friend of a singularly large number of men of eminence, literary, naval, and political. As a girl she had known Johnson well; his visits to her mother's house were frequent, and the personal tradition of him which she preserved is recorded by Rogers (Table Talk, p. 10). She often sat to Reynolds, and figures in several of his pictures. Ill health compelled her about 1783 to reside abroad (G. Birkbeck Hill, Letters of Samuel Johnson, ii. 65); and at Lausanne in 1785 she met Gibbon, who describes her (Miscell. Works, ed. 1814, ii. 384) as ‘a charming woman, who with sense and spirit has the simplicity and playfulness of a child.’ The letters of Nelson and Collingwood frequently refer to her as their valued and sympathetic friend, and she used to call the former her ‘bulldog,’ though his treatment of Lady Nelson seems latterly to have alienated her (Nelson Despatches, vol. viii. Addenda cc.) Her prominence in London society and her charm are recorded in Moore's ‘Memoirs’ and Redgrave's ‘Diary,’ and it was to her that Lord John Russell dedicated ‘The Bee and the Fly’ (Life of Alaric Watts, i. 272; notes supplied by J. A. Hamilton, esq.). She died in June 1831, leaving issue: John Charles, viscount Althorp and third earl Spencer [q. v.]; Sir Robert Cavendish Spencer [q. v.]; Frederick, fourth earl Spencer and father of the present earl; George; and two daughters.

There are several portraits of Spencer. One at the age of seventeen, by Reynolds, was engraved by T. H. Robinson for the ‘Bibliotheca Spenceriana;’ a second portrait, by Phillips, was engraved by Finden for ‘Ædes Althorpianæ;’ a third, by Copley, in the robes of a knight of the Garter, is engraved in Fisher's ‘National Portrait Gallery;’ a fourth, by Hoppner, is engraved in Cadell's ‘Contemporary Portraits;’ and a fifth, by Shee, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1804.

[Gent. Mag. 1835, i. 89; Nicolas's Despatches and Letters of Lord Nelson; Doyle's Official Baronage; information from Earl Spencer, K.G.]

J. K. L.


SPENCER, GEORGE TREVOR (1799–1866), second bishop of Madras, born 11 Dec. 1799 in Curzon Street, Mayfair, was third son of William Robert Spencer [q. v.] He gained prizes for Latin alcaics and an English essay at Charterhouse, whence he proceeded to University College, Oxford. He graduated B.A. in 1822, and was created D.D. on 16 June 1847. Ordained deacon in 1823 and priest in 1824, he held the perpetual curacy of Buxton from the latter year till 1829. From 1829 till 1837 he was rector of Leaden-Roding in Essex. In 1837 he was