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‘ Come Barbers and Taylors, all sorts and all kinds ;
Mind you always take care of good Number One.
And so on, through another dozen stanzas, till at last :—
Billy Pitt tried all means he could for his friend,
Lord John stayed at Woodnesboro’ from February till August 1805. Perhaps from the anxiety which his delicacy caused,1 he did not return to his tutor’s at the end of the usual holidays, but remained at Woburn till the following January. Life in Bedfordshire did not afford many incidents for history to record; and, from Lord John’s point of view, the most important of them was a visit which he paid to Kimbolton, and some private theatricals in which he himself took part at the Abbey. The visit to Kimbolton was in honour of Lady. Madalina Sinclair’s2 marriage with Mr. Palmer of Luckley——< an event which suggested a new poem to this little boy of thirteen z—- '
Hail, couple worthy of a poet’s lay!
Hail, blessed era! hail, O joyful day '!
But hear the envious cry of plodding cits :
‘ Why, surely Palmer must have lost his wits.’ V
‘ She brought him nothing,’ hark, another cries.—
‘ This subject with far different eyes I see,
\Vhat’s nought to you a treasure proves to me,
Or all the gold to'which Peru gives birth,
1 Lord John writes on his thirteenth birthday, ‘Iam 4 feet 5% inches high, and I weigh 4 stone 7 lbs. 14 oz.’ Two years had barely added 3} inches to his stature, and 10 lbs. to his weight. '
2 Lady Madalina was the second, and the Duchess of Manchester the third daughter of the fourth Duke of Gordon. They were therefore sisters to the Duchess of Bedford. Lady Madalina’s first husband was Sir Robert Sinclair of Stevenson.
Richer than all the hoarding miser’s pelf :
While at Kimbolton, Lord John received the first letter from his father which has been preserved. In it the Duke says :—
I enclose you J6 5, the greater part of which you will probably have occasion for before you leave Kimbolton. You will give a guinea to the man who takes care of your pony; half a guinea to the person who cleans your clothes; and five shillings to the housemaid; and pay your washing bills.
The Duke’s instructions were faithfully carried out. In the account-book a few days later is the following entry :-—
, .r. d.
A fortnight before the marriage, the party at Woburn got up some private theatricals, playing ‘The Mayor of Garratt’ and ‘The Village Lawyer,’ first to the company and the servants, and second to the neighbourhood. Lord John played Roger in ‘The Mayor of Garratt,’ and took part in the epilogue, a dialogue between a county manager (Mr. Cartwright) and a London actor (Lord J. Russell). The play was successful; and on December 31, 1805, and on January 2, 4, 7, 1806, it was followed by new performances of ‘T he Mayor of Garratt,’ preceded by ‘John Bull.’ Still later, on January 10 and II, the company gave ‘The Rivals,’ in which Lord John played the minor part of Lucy; and, in setting out the dramatis persona in his diary, Lord John records his opinion that ‘The Rivals’ was the best acted on the whole.
It is remarkable that Lord John—a boy of thirteen—both wrote and spoke the prologue to these performances. It is preserved in ‘The Works of John Russell’ as ‘Prologue to “John Bull,” spoken by Lord J. Russell in the character of a
fox-hunter ;’ and as, in his scrap medley, Lord John has alst VOL. I. p B
preserved an epilogue written by Mr. Whitbread, and spoken by himself in the same character, it may be inferred that he spoke the epilogue also.
These theatricals were probably, in Lord John’s opinion, the greatest, as they were also the last, incident in his long holiday. Six days afterwards he left Woburn, and, after staying four nights in London, on three of which—the fourth was a Sunday—he went to the theatre, he returned to Woodnesboro’. The month in which he returned was a memorable one in English history. Two days after Lord John reached his tutor’s Mr. Pitt died; and Lord Hawkesbury, it was reported, had some chance of becoming Prime Minister. -The rumour inspired Lord John with a parody of the famous dagger scene in ‘ Macbeth.’ He made Lord Hawkesbury say :—
Is this a place I see before me?
Lord Hawkesbury, however, refused the offer; the Talents Administration was formed; and the Whig tutor gave his Whig pupils a whole holiday to celebrate the return of the Whigs to power.
Saturday, February 8.—\Ve did no business1 on Mr. Fox’s coming into the Ministry. I shot a couple of larks beyond Southerden.
In the new Administration Lord H. Petty, who afterwards, as Lord Lansdowne, was Lord John’s close friend and colleague, began his career as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the name suggested to Lord John his first epigram :—
In, vain for strength and energy we seek,
All our hopes are effeminate and weak.
Look to the stage—the ruler there is Betty ;1
The fall of the Tories, however, suggested to the future Prime Minister a much more ambitious poem. In his later days he wrote of it as ‘a very bad satire directed against the leaders of the Opposition.’ Here are a few extracts from it :—
Once on a time, by fate or fortun'e led,
In Downing’s well-known Street I chanced to tread.
‘ What’s this?’ I cried, ‘ what new parade of State?’
The quondam Ministers will soon come out.
Good and great men, they gave my eldest brother
A sinecure, and promised me another.’
Mr. Pitt’s colleagues pass one after another through the Street. ' The gentle rabble sighed in sympathy.
Of grief for Pitt there not a single trace is.
Consequent upon the change of Ministry, the Duke of Bedford was made Viceroy of Ireland.
The boys reached London after being very nearly snowed up at Sittingbourne on the following evening; stayed there eight nights, on five of which Lord John went to the theatre ; and, after bidding their father good-bye, returned to Woodnesboro’, where Lord John remained till the following June.
During these months, the boy was gradually acquiring fresh pursuits.
! In 1806 the child-actor, Master Betty, was drawing crowded houses to Covent Garden.
ing for the first time with Mr. Smith’s gun. I got eight shots at little birds, and killed four of them.
Sunday, [Hare/z 2.-I rode William’s pony for the first time about the fields. He carried me very well,
Saturday, April 5.--I rode with Tavistock about here. He made me leap some places I was afraid of.
Thenceforward the boy’s expeditions were longer, and his knowledge of the country and his confidence on horseback grew. _
Ponies, however, were not the only live-stock at Woodnesboro’. Lord Hartington in 180 5 brought to his tutor’s his dog ‘Chance.’ In 1806 Lord John kept at the Vicarage another dog, ‘Mrs. Witty.’ It was characteristic of the boy that the first thing he did on obtaining his new pet was to write what he knew of her history :—
THE HISTORY or MRS. WiTTY
This renowned heroine was born in the summer of 1803. Her father’s name was Jehasabaz, belonging to Major Fuller of the 10th Light Dragoons, but in reality an independent regimental dog. Her mother was a little black poodle of whom we have been able to trace no documents from an authentic source. At her coming into the world, together with her brother and sisters, there are no accounts of the heavens appearing otherwise than they did on any other day. They were all given by the abovementioned Major directly to his groom, who sold the subject of the present memoir to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales’s hussar for the sum of half a guinea, and it is chiefly owing to his instruction and care that she is such an accomplished lady.
The first mention of ‘Mrs. Witty’ is in the accounts for
September 1805 :-
But after Lord John’s return to Woodnesboro’ in February 1806, he writes :—
Sunday, February 2 3.-I had a letter from J. Marsden to say that Witty, who had six puppies the 2,5th, February (P), had suckled four. .