Tuesday, January 12, 2021

My courage failed

‘Attended the House of Lords on the Unitarian Marriage Bill. I had a great mind to say something but my courage failed me . . . I should be sorry to appear ridiculous - my great evil, is my almost total want of memory . . . all is chaos, blank and confusion.’ This is from the interesting and informative diaries of the 4th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne. He began keeping a diary after the death of his wife, and continued assiduously until his own death exactly 170 years ago today.

Pelham-Clinton was born in 1785, the eldest son of the 3rd Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne and his wife Lady Anna Maria (née Stanhope). He succeeded to the dukedom aged only 10 when his father died. He was educated at Eton. In 1803, his mother and stepfather took him on a European Tour, but when war broke out in 1803 he was detained at Tours until 1806. On his return to England, he married an heiress, Georgiana Elizabeth. They had twelve children, but Georgiana died aged only 33 while giving birth to twins. He served as Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire from 1809, and in 1812 was made a Knight of the Garter, and Steward of Sherwood Forest and of Folewood Park. He was very active in local and regional politics.

From about 1826 Pelham-Clinton became one of the leaders of the so-called Tory Ultras, staunchly supporting the church and state establishment. He was a vehement opponent of policies such as Catholic Emancipation, and also of electoral reform. His positions on the latter led to violent attacks on his property. He published his views on the Reform Bill in An Address to All Classes and Conditions of Englishmen, and was one of 22 peers to vote against it in 1832. As a result of the bill he lost the patronage and interest of six boroughs. 

In 1839, Pelham-Clinton objected, on political and religious grounds, to two government appointments to the magistracy. He wrote an offensive letter to the Lord Chancellor, and on refusing to withdraw it, he was sacked as Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire. He died on 12 January 1851, and was succeeded by his eldest son Henry, the 5th Duke of Newcastle, a prominent politician. Further information is available from Wikipedia, University of Nottingham (which holds an archive of the 4th Duke’s papers), the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required), The Peerage, Bromley House or The Nottinghamshire Heritage Gateway.

The latter of these sources has this assessment: ‘The fourth duke of Newcastle is principally remembered as an anti-hero; an obscurantist ultra-Tory who stood in the way of change. Yet at his death [. . .] most of those who opposed Newcastle’s political principles were nevertheless willing to acknowledge his strong dedication to his family, the honest conviction with which he held his political views and the genuine degree of interest shown in his tenants and estate workers. The duke interested himself in the history of his family, in church building, school and hospital provision and in bequeathing a rich material legacy of property, books, art and documents to his successors. It was this mixture of political excess and personal conviction that made him one of the more colourful characters in the history of Nottinghamshire during this period.’

After the death of his wife (and a daughter), Pelham-Clinton began to keep a diary. He kept the habit up for the rest of his life, amassing some 10,000 entries. The diaries are held in the archive at the University of Nottingham which says of them: ‘The entries are detailed, and concern all aspects of his domestic and public life, including comments on news and reports of contemporary events. Family members are referred to frequently, providing information about his daughters, Charlotte, Georgiana, Caroline (later Ricketts) and Henrietta (later D'Eyncourt), and his sons. He was estranged from his eldest son, Henry, Lord Lincoln, and there are references to both Lord Lincoln and his wife Susan, Lady Lincoln, from whom he was subsequently divorced.’

Selections from Pelham-Clinton’s diaries have been published several times. Firstly came John Fletcher’s Where Truth Abides - Extracts from the Diaries of Henry Pelham Fiennes-Clinton 4th Duke Newcastle-Under-Lyne (Country Books, 2001). Dr Richard Gaunt then authored two others: Unhappy Reactionary: The Diaries of the Fourth Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne, 1822-50 (Thoroton Society Record Series Volume XLIII, 2004), and Unrepentant Tory: Political Selections from the Diaries of the Fourth Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne, 1827-38 (Boydell Press, 2006).

The following selection of Pelham-Clinton’s diary entries are taken from Fletcher’s Where Truth Abides and Gaunt’s Unrepentant Tory.

24 July 1823
‘Went to London - sat to Sir T. Lawrence for my portrait which he is about to compleat, having had it in hand now about 15 years. Called on Mr Reynolds who is engraving a print of my beloved Georgiana from a picture by Sir Thom. Lawrence.’ 

24 April 1824
‘I today weaned Edward from the nursery and had his bed put with his brothers where he is now fast asleep . . . I left Miss Spencer in London - and Mr Thompson went there as soon as I arrived here, so that I have the children with me entirely.’

28 April 1824
‘Mr Thompson went to Eton to arrange and prepare every thing for Lincoln’s arrival . . . it seems that nothing is found there in private houses, beds, linen and all furniture and utensils to be found by the occupiers.’

4 May 1824
‘Attended the House of Lords on the Unitarian Marriage Bill. I had a great mind to say something but my courage failed me . . . I should be sorry to appear ridiculous - my great evil, is my almost total want of memory . . . all is chaos, blank and confusion.’ 

29 May 1830
‘So great is the hurry to pass what may be called “the Bastard Regency bill’ that the H. of Lords is to sit today (K. Charles’s day a holiday) for the purpose of giving the Royal assent to it -

The King is in a wretched state: his legs are as big as his body, he cannot lie down & he suffers greatly - & yet he does not suspect his near dissolution: he has Even ordered a carriage for Ascot races - it is truly lamentable to conceive Such blindness & want of preparation for what must shortly come - This World & not the next has been the ruling passion.’

30 May 1830
‘The papers including Prince Leopold’s correspondence relative to taking Upon him the Sovereignty of Greece are very curious - He has extricated himself from bad hands & innumerable difficulties with great dexterity & address - He has proved himself more than a match for the D. of Wellington & his Satellites - & unquestionably merits the thanks of the whole Nation for having disengaged himself from this noxious affair.’

20 February 1831
‘. . . I myself have been visited by a troublesome attack, a sort of inflammation of the bladder and urinary passage . . . much pain . . . Dover’s powder, a preparation of opium, has done wonders for me. [The Doctor] tells me that the ailments of this season affect the brain . . . a curious proof is that 3 poor women tenants of mine at West Markham, Elkesley and Drayton have destroyed themselves.’

21 February 1831
‘The waters being very low to lay the ways for the launch of the ‘Lincoln’, I took the opportunity of fishing the end of the lake head. We found nothing but pike and not a great many of them, the mud and weeds were so thick that the net rolled and not a single carp or tench was in the net. There were 232 pike and a few large perch in the net. I put all the former into the [sleu?] below the cascade.’

28 November 1831
‘It is asserted with confidence that Lord Grey is out of favour with the King, that at last H.M. Sees through his Schemes & that the proclamation against the Unions was by the King’s Special desire - The King is Said to be inclined to adopt a different course & positively to refuse to make more Peers - if so Lord Grey & Co. must go - Negociations are on foot with Lords Harrowby & Wharncliffe & the report is that they approve of the new reform Bill.’

1 December 1833
‘I Know of no news - Mischief is working actively & sedulously, but secretly & surely - The report is that Mr Stanley is to be Minister with ultra Whigs.’ 

5 December 1833
‘The Dissenters have now fairly thrown off the mask, thro’ their organ “the Christian advocate”, they declare the Church of England a nuisance & their determination to obtain what they call their rights - that is a total exemption from all disabilities, & to be free & full participators in every benefit Enjoyed by the present Established Church - There is alas too much to be feared that these miscreants will carry their point & with it falls Religion & Order.’

20 December 1833
‘My preparations for the sale of Aldbro’ & Boro’bridge are now completed - They are valued at nearly [£] 146,000, but I think this much too low & I Shall not allow it to be Sold at that price -I should consider it to be very well sold at [£] 170,000.’

16 October 1834
‘. . . a letter arrived announcing that my Mother had taken very ill with inflamation on the chest . . . I shall leave this place for Ranby early tomorrow. My dear Mother has no one with her and must be in a most forlorn situation, on a sick bed with no one whom she loves near to her.’

20 December 1835
‘Mr Maunsel the Conservative Candidate for Northamptonshire has terminated the first day’s poll, most triumphantly with a majority of above 600 - the 2nd day will most probably produce a Still larger majority in his favor - all this shews the altered feeling in the Country.’

5 April 1840
‘The Queen believes herself to be pregnant . . . rather soon to suspect such an event . . . she is a strange self willed, unreasonable little personage. We went to the Levee today . . . I made my bow and passed on, making my bow also to Prince Albert who stood [at] Her left hand. He is a well looking young man, good countenance, with dark hair and complexion. Hitherto all agree in speaking well of him.’

5 August 1847
‘Gladstone is returned for Oxford - I grieve at it most sincerely, no return has given me more pain . . . Although I consider the man himself to be of no weight and not likely to be an authority in any thing, yet he is a man of indefatigable application . . . altho’ pretty nearly unintelligible, so involved and mystified is the style of his speaking and writing.’

11 August 1847
‘Prize fighting - principally on Lindrick Common, has increased so very much of late years, and has become so notorious and such a scandal to the neighbourhood, that a meeting was holden this day at Worksop to consider [action?] to put down the nuisance - and it was wished that I should take the Chair - it was found to be a difficult thing to devise means to meet all the points of difficulty - as the meeting place is on the borders of three counties - It was finally resolved that we should form ourselves into an Association to indict, and to appoint a Committee to watch the movements of the Fancy, and a professional man to conduct the proceedings - Mr Appleton [Vicar of Worksop] to be the Chairman of the Committee and Mr [John] Whall - the Attorney.’

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