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THE ROOM IN WHICH CANNING DIED. Almost every one living within the bounds of the great world knows something of that small, but beautiful villa—a palace in miniature—which now belongs to the Duke of Devonshire, and was, when first built, the object of so much satire against its original possessor. At Chiswick, there stands that classical, yet singular building, whose walls once echoed to the gaieties of the most brilliant circle which one Englishwoman ever drew around her. The wit, the licence, the luxury, may have been equalled in the reign of Charles the Second, but not the variety, the refinement, or the genius. We should be under a great mistake if we supposed that the tone of society, in the time of the dissolute monarch we have just quoted, possessed any thing of what we should now call elegance in debauchery, or refinement in excess. It was radically and universally coarse; the conversation of the Court was the lowest ribaldry of the stews; the lampoqns and the wooings, the attacks on the King, or the courtships of a mistress, were alike filthy and obscene, often fraught with indisputable and rare wit, but never with the wit of the gentleman or the pleasantry of the saloon. The rakehell, brocaded yet vulgar, with strong animal spirits and a great capacity of drink-whose adventures lay in swindling, and whose loves ended in disease, was the real wit, courtier, and fine gentleman of that period. We have but to read the plays, the poetry, the correspondence in England of the time, and then think of the plays, poetry and correspondence which, under Louis the Fourteenth, were shedding so bright a lustre on France, to see how poor and base was the state of courtly society in the
former country, compared to hat in the latter. What Louis the For eenth was to Charles the Second, the society of France was to the society in England. It is a mistake, then, to suppose there was any thing of grace in the licentiousness of that day-the Venus of Charles the Second wore no cestus; and if compared with the “reunions” which the Duchess of Devonshire assembled, the circle of Charles the Second wanted in lightness, in vivacity, and polish-it certainly wanted far more in that genius which hallows where it visits. The broad mind of Fox-the buoyant elasticity of Sheridan-these are not to find parallels in the smutty caricatura of Rochester, the wittiest-or even the light philosophy of St. Evremond, the sagest perhaps, of the whole group, to whom Old Rowley gossiped of the pleasures he had outlived, in the stories which it had saved him many a sharp jest at his “ damnable iteration” if he had outlived also. Who has not heard of the thousand and one stories of the beautiful Duchess? Who, when he recalls those who made the habitants of her circle, cannot at once conceive a just notion of the spirit of the place ?-a spirit that borrowed only from Rank its flattering gentleness of manner, and from Wealth its capacities to charm, and was in all else the mere spirit of the poetry, and the eloquence, and the vivacity, and the power of the day focus at once of arts and of politics—of conversation and action-of pleasure, and of learning. Fancy, then, in that suite of rooms—in which the sole decorations are in works of art, the bronze or the picture-nothing more splendid than the walls or more simple than the furniture -fancy in that suite of rooms assembled all those who are now some the things of history-some of scandal, which is Fashion's history!
Fancy there the restless eye and satyr-lip of Sheridan-the bland countenance of Fox-the flattered and flattering complacency of him, the prince among fops, and the fop among princes--the laughing face of poor
then a child at “my Aunt Devonshire's” knee -the beauty of Lady Elizabeth M-; the jest of the compliment of - Fancy this scene, so light and so frivolous, and then drop the curtain for a few years ;-raise it once more—the stage is cleared a new scene succeeds! In that room, so plain, so unadorned, so barren of all luxury, the most gifted and the most ambitious of adventurers breathes his last. It is a small, low chamber at Chiswick, in which Canning died. He chose it himself; it had formerly, we believe, been a sort of nursery; and the present Duke of Devonshire having accidently slept there just before Canning took up his residence at the villa, it was considered more likely to be aired, and free from damp, than any other and costlier apartment. It has not even a cheerful view from the window, but overlooks a wing of the house, as it were, like a back yard. Nothing can be more common than the
of the walls or the furniture of the apartment. side of the fire-place are ranged a few books, chiefly of a light character-such as the “Novelists' Magazine," "Rousseau," (the “ Heloise,” we think,) “ Camilla,” &c. Opposite the foot of the bed is the fireplace, and on the low chimney-piece stands a small bronze clock. How often to that clock must have turned the eyes of that restless and ardent being, during his short and painful progress through disease to death!—with how bitter a monotony must its ticking sound have fallen on his ear! Nothing on earth is so wearing to the fretful nerve of sickness as that low, regular, perpetual voice in which Time speaks its warnings. He was just a week ill. On Wednesday a party of diplomatists dined with the Prime Minister—on the Wednesday following
« Pass'd away
The haughty spirit from that humble clay !” For the last three days, he was somewhat relieved from the excruciating pain he had before suffered. Not that it is true, as was said in the newspapers at the time, that his cries could be heard at some considerable distance from the house during one day, however, they were heard by the servants below. He was frequently insensible ; and during that time, the words, “ Spain-Portugal,” were constantly on his lips. During those six days of agony and trial, his wif
was with him, and, we believe, neither took rest in bed, nor undressed, throughout the whole time. Her distress and despair, when all was over, was equal to her devotion during the struggle. It is said that the physicians declared it necessary for her life, or reason, that she should obtain the relief of tears; for she had not wept once, either before or after his death and this relief came to her when she saw her son. At eleven o'clock at night, she left that house of mourning and went to the Duke of Portland's, in Cavendish-square. I never pass that dull and melancholy building, known as Harcourt House, with its dead wail and gloomy court-yard, without figuring to myself the scene of that night, when the heavy gates opened to receive the widow of one whom Genius had so gifted and Ambition had so betrayed.
For some time before he died, Canning's countenance had betrayed the signs of the toil and exhaustion he had undergone. But after death these had vanished--and that beautiful and eloquent
countenance seemed in the coffin unutterably serene and hushed. That house is memorable for the death of two statesmen, Below, in a little dark chamber, covered with tapestry, Charles Fox breathed his last !--the greatest pupil of his great rival, after tacitly veering towards the main foundations of the same principles Fox had professed, came to the same roof to receive the last lesson Ambition can bestow
« Mors sola fatetur
Quantula sint hominum corpuscula !" It was impossible to stand in that quiet, and even humble room, and not glance back to the contrasts which the life, that there had become extinct, afforded to retrospection. In April 1827, it was announced to a Parliament, crowded beyond precedent, that George Canning had accepted the office of First Commissioner of his Majesty's Treasury -- id est, the office of Prime Minister, nouncement was received with bursts of the loudest, the most prolonged cheerscheers that made themselves scarce less audible along the neighbouring streets than within the House. What followed ? resignations the next day from his oldest and staunchest adherentsthe retirement of a host from his side—the breaking-up of the party of a life's forming-the suspicion, the rage of friends whom he might never regain—the strange alliance with foes, whom he could never hope to conciliate but by becoming the stepping-stone to their objects -objects which, if he continued to reject, he would have been lost for the future—if he accepted, he must have belied the whole tenour of the past. Then came persecution, attack, doubt, scorn—the wrath of the Peers, (that fatal House, whose power has never of late been exerted, but in opposition to the popular spirit it once fostered)—the schisms of the Commons—" the current slander and the echoed lie!" -and all this fell on a frame already breaking, and in need of rest. In April, Canning was announced Prime Minister of England, amongst the loudest exultation of a triumphant and seemingly re
In August, his corpse was carried to its grave !and within three months from that time, his party, that of late seemed so strong, so permanent, was, to use the strong phrase justly applied to them—5 scattered to the winds !” Never did a man, possessing so vast a personal influence in life, bequeath so little influence in death. And why ?–because it was the influence of talent, not principles,it was not the great doctrines round which men rallied, but the commanding genius ;-the genius extinct, the party was extinct.*
What he might have done for these times, who shall say ? What side, Reform or Anti-reform, he would have espoused, who can predicate ? Aristocrat as he was, the Aristocracy never forgave him, the moment he ceased to be their tool. The House of Peers to conciliate whom to blend with whom-to match with whom he had stooped the wings of a genius and the pride of a heart, that should have scorned the ambition of a Bexley or the aims of a Jenkinsonthe House of Peers he never could have gained, he never could have
• His powers of personal conciliation, too, were very great. The late King was won over from his dislike to him as by magic. The lady of an ambassador entering the King's apartments, when Canning was there on his second visit, and anticipating the evi. dence of much formality, saw the Monarch and his Minister seated together, with one of Canning's grandchildren on the King's knee, in the most familiar manner imaginable.
reconciled. The darlings they select from the people have but little licence to be popular. Low birth--the equivocal station, are forgotten in the Tory; but let the Tory turn Whig, and the blood of the titled bourgeois (for how few of the Peers have any thing to boast of in pedigree !) runs Norman-like in a trice! They never pardon the thing of a Lord when he aspires to be the Man of the People !—and to fear of what he is, they add their disdain for what he was.
The character of Canning will hereafter be remembered as the illustration of a system. He was the creature of the close boroughs
-a genius devoted to objects below itself-a mind that could see, that naturally inclined to, what was popular, yet had been turned unwholesomely away from all sympathy with the people. His ambition and his fate are no less instructive than his career. Hereafter, the advocates for the system which formed and marred him, will point to his genius as an argument on their behalf. The people, acknowledging the genius, will weigh in comparison with it the deeds. What he was! we confess. But " what has he done?"-there lies the question that a Nation puts to the dead! No man of equal talents, returned from the first to Parliament through the popular and legitimate channels, could have done so little--could have passed so brilliant a career with so scanty a reward—could have obtained an authority so wide one moment and so evanescent the next—or, above all, could have thrown into scales of so startling a disparity of weight, the tokens of his genius and the proofs of its utility ! C. C.C.
Some evenings since, a brilliant party met
More redolent of jokes Satanic;-
For ever since
Mounted the throne,
Shewing with arguments profound
And praying him to make
For mischief's sake
Like Charles the Obstinate his course he held ;
His imps rebelled.
Some went about,
Saluting the select with groans,
With lightning pace.
All danced for joy.
In fact, (This was the rainbow that had lulled the storm) The Lords that morning had refused Reform
The Bill, the Bill was lost !
And all the wicked went.
For Mr. P.,
A Debt it never can defray,
Sat on his left.
For noble birth,
Gives me peculiar bliss ; So many
Friends of Mischief met together ;
Fiends of a feather,
need not long detain you, but I call
(I'm much chagrined That many in this crowd must sit on thorns, With scarcely room to stir their tails or horns !)