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John expressed a more favourable and perhaps truer opinion on the value of public schools :—
A public school does form the character. It takes a boy from home, where he is a darling, where his folly is wit, and his obstinacy spirit, to a place where he takes rank according to his real power and talents. . . . This is of much more importance than the acquisition of mere knowledge.
Happily for him—
The hard life of a fag—for in those days it was a hard life— and the unwholesome food disagreed with me so much that,[in the summer of 18041] my stepmother, the Duchess of Bedford, insisted with my father that I should be taken away and sent to a private tutor. . . . For some months I received lessons at Woburn Abbey from Dr. Cartwright, the brother of Major Cartwright, the famous reformer. From Dr. Cartwright [at that time domestic Chaplain to the Duke of Bedford], who was a man of much learning and great mechanical ingenuity, I acquired a taste for Latin poetry which has never left me.
Lord John Russell goes on to say that Dr. Cartwright invented a machine for carding wool, and a model of a boat which was moved by clockwork and acted on the water by a paddle underneath. Oddly enough, he omits to add that Dr. Cartwright was the inventor of the power-loom, a machine which gradually effected a complete revolution in manufacturing England, and whose introduction, by destroying hand-loom weaving, was attended with social changes of unexampled importance. But Dr. Cartwright was not merely a mechanic. He was a poet of some note in his day; and published in 1807 a volume of letters and sonnets on moral and other interesting subjects addressed to Lord John Russel [sir]. In his preface to this collection, Dr. Cartwright says that——
The writer’s chief aim was merely to divert and amuse his very young friend by dwelling on such subjects only as were calculated for the meridian of a child’s understanding. But he soon per
! Mr. Russell Barker, a gentleman who has carefully studied the Westminster papers, has been good enough to ascertain for me that Lord John left Westminster at Bartholomewtide x804. He was at Westminster, therefore, not quite a year. a
ceived that the mental digestion of his infantine correspondent was competent to more solid and nutritious aliment than anything he had yet supplied him with.
Or to quote his opening letter 1——
The playful style in which we have hitherto corresponded would but ill accord with that gravity of character which, in our present stage of life, it is now incumbent upon us to assume. I, my Lord, have completed my grand climacterical year, and your Lordship is actually entered into your teens. Let us then lay aside our quips and our quiddities, and start some serious subject of correspondence. '
Dr. Cartwright’s example probably stimulated his young pupil to prosecute pursuits for which he had already developed an inclination. About this time, if handwriting may be accepted as a guide, Lord John commenced the composition of a drama, never destined to be completed, in which Alonzo, the ‘right king’ of Spain, is living in exile, and earning his bread as a fishermanpwhile Diego, a usurper, occupies his throne. Soon afterwards he began compiling a scrap medley, or commonplace book, in which he entered any epigram or anecdote that struck his fancy; and from 1805 his writings really assume considerable proportions.
His first volume of poetry, if it may be so called, is a little manuscript book, entitled—
1 Fielding's line is ‘ Let pity to his lighter errors bend.’ But Lord John \either did not verify his quotation or purposely modified it. The ‘fun ' of the letters which Lord John appends to his name hardly needs to pointed out.
On the back of the title-page is a short dedication to the Right HOn. William Pitt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, &c., which concludes—
This little volume, being graced with your name, will prosper; without it my labour would be all in vain, May you remain at the helm of state long enough to bestow a pension on your very humble and obedient servant, JOHN RUSSELL.1
The volume opens with a farce which the author entitles ‘ Perseverance, or All in All.’ It is, of course, too long to quote here; but it is characteristic that the author’s earliest production is not only a play, but that one of the chief incidents of the play is laid in a playhouse. Lord John was apparently of opinion that, if a lover in London could not discover his mistress elsewhere, he was tolerably certain to find her at a theatre. The rest of the volume is made up of epigrams and shorter poems, some of which will be quoted later on.
These poems were chiefly written after their author had passed out of Dr. Cartwright’s charge. In February 1805 he entered on a new phase of his singular educatiOn. He was sent to the house of Mr. Smith, the Vicar of Woodnesboro’, near Sandwich—‘a very worthy man,’ to quote Lord John’s own account of him, ‘well acquainted with classical authors, both Greek and Latin, but without any remarkable qualities either of character or understanding.’ At Woodnesboro’, which Lord John did not finally leave till the autumn of 1808, he became well acquainted with the Duke of Devonshire (then Lord Hartington), the Duke of Lcinster, his brother Lord William Fitzgerald, Lord Clare, his brother Richard Fitzgibbon, and his cousin Richard Butler, afterwards Lord, Cahir, who, as well as Lord Tavistock and Lord William
1 Lord John, throughout his life, had the worst opinion of Mr. Pitt's policy. Writing to Lord Melbourne on Dec. 12, 1838, he said, ‘ I agree with Tavistock in laying upon Pitt the fault of the Corn Laws, and every other difliculty we have or shall have. His measures were (I) 500 millions of debt; (2) a bad currency; (3) bad poor laws; (4) a bad law for Canada; (5) swamping the House of Lords. And his faults of omission [? were] about equal to those of commission. So that it is difficult to find any political evil which is not to be traced to Pitt. However, one has the satisfaction of thinking that a country which has survived being governed by Pitt must last for ever.‘
Russell, were Mr. Smith’s pupils during this time. With Lord Clare, Lord John formed so warm a friendship that Lord Byron, who had been Lord Clare’s friend at Harrow, expressed violent jealousy at the regret which Lord Clare felt when Lord John left England for Spain.1 In addition to the boys, Mr. Smith’s or Dean Smigo’s family—for the boys called their tutor Dean Smigo—comprised his wife and three daughters, whose birthdays are duly recorded inside the cover of the new diary which Lord John commenced on his arrival at Woodnesboro’. Perhaps these ladies’ personal qualifications may be gathered from a phrase in one of his letters. ‘To-morrow,’ he wrote in 1807, after a short absence, ‘ I shall again enjoy the satisfaction of seeing their sweet, delightful, pleasant, handsome, agreeable, pretty, entertaining, good-humoured, fat faces.’
The discipline at Woodnesboro’ does not seem to have been very strict. The elder boys rambled about the country with guns; the younger boys either accompanied them or walked to Sandwich, so usual a walk that Lord John wrote in his diary—
I shall always put down when I do not go to Sandwich; so I go always but when I put down I do not go or when I go a-shooting [z'.e., accompanying other boys shooting].
For games, the boys played cricket in the daytime, and loo and ‘speculation’ in the evening, either with Dean Smigo and his family, or with the neighbours. On other days they made excursions to Deal, Ramsgate, Dover, or Canterbury, taking post-chaises for their expeditions, and feeing the post-boys and dining at hotels like young gentlemen with whom money was no object. In April 1805, for instance, this boy of twelve gave 14s. for a dinner at Canterbury, and 2:. 8d. for a dinner on the following evening at Waldershare. Occasionally some strolling players came to Sandwich ; when Lord John’s accounts show that he was an almost invariable attendant in the pit, while his diary almost as invariably records his opinion of the performance.
1 Moore’r .Ilembil'r, vol. vi. p. 36, and Lady Russell's Memorandum Book
One other feature of the Woodnesboro’ life deserves to be mentioned. Hardly a day passed in which the boys did not lose or win some bet either with their tutor or with one another. Here are Lord John’s accounts for the last ten days of March 1805 :—
2 I. Won of Tavistock . 2 3. Wager with Mr. Smith . 24. Wager with Tavistock 28. Bet with Mr. Smith . 26. Bet with Tavistock . Oranges and biscuits . 30. Another with Tavis- Two letters . . tock . . . Wager with Mr. Smith 29. Lost at cards . 3o. Barley-sugar drops Biscuits . a Lost at ‘speculation’ , I Bet with Mr. Smith . 0
It may be added that in the spring of 1806 Lord John took a £1 ticket in the lottery, and in June he drew the sixteenth part of a £100 prize.1
_ Such was the course of Lord John’s life during his first few months’ stay at Woodnesboro’. At that time the attention of older persons was directed to the charges against Lord Melville and Lord John made the attack on the statesman the subject of his first political satire. Thus it began :—
When Harry Dundas was as little as me—
That is, years he had lived to the number of three—
And, whilst from her hands he it joyfully took,
She spoke to him thus : ‘ Remember, dear son,
That you always take care of good Number One.’
1 It was an ordinary thing to take what was known as a sixteenth in the lottery.