Letters Illustrative of the Reign of William III., from 1696 to 1708; addressed to the Duke of Shrewsbury, by James Vernon. Esq., Secretary of State. Now first published from the Originals. Edited by G. P. R. James. Esq. Author of •' Me- moirs of the Court of Louis the Fourteenth," &c. &c. &c. lu 3 cots...,. Colbert..
The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland. practically Described and Illustrated. By Francis Whishaw, Civil Engineer, Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Sorkin and Marshall.
Longbeard. Lord of London: a Romance. In 3 vols. Bull. STORYTELLING, Le_gendary Tales of the Highlands. A Sequel to the Highland Rambles. By Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, Bart., Author of" Lochandu," &c. &c. In 3 vols.Colburn.
VERNON'S LETTERS TO THE DUKE OF SHREWSBURY.
JAMES VERNON is said to have been descended by the father's side from an ancient family of Cheshire, but his immediate ancestors were citizens : he was born about the middle of the seventeenth century, and received at an early period of his life an appointment in the Secretary of State's Office ; where he was found by the Revolution of 1688. He had acquired con- siderable knowledge of the business and forms of office ; but was suspected of a leaning to the STUARTS, which in 1689 barred his advancement. In the interim, however, he purged his character ; for on the Duke of SHREWSBURY'S acceptance of the seals in 1694, VERNON was appointed private secretary. Ill health, or the pre- tence of it, (for the latter seems a probable suspicion,) kept SHREWSBURY much in the country ; and the actual duties of the office devolved upon VERNON. In 1697, the Duke resolved to re- sign ; and in order to defeat the machinations of the Whigs, who were bent upon thrusting in some candidate of their own, VERNON was appointed to the Secretaryship, much against his own consent. On the accession of ANNE, he was dispossessed of the seals, but the interest of his friends procured him the office of Teller ; with- out which he must have retired into a humble sphere of life, for he was originally a man of slender means, and does not appear to have accumulated much.
JAMES VERNON has no pretensions to the title of statesman; and a sense of his want of connexion and station, together with the conflict of nearly balanced parties prevented him from attaining the character of a minister, to which he had better claims. For be was a man of good sagacity and penetration, with a clear com- mon sense, unclouded by prejudice, united to considerable know- ledge of business and of mankind. His manners, apparently, wanted the polish of the age ; for his patron, SHREWSBURY, speaks of his "rough outside" ; but the "many good qualities" of which he also makes mention, must have been conspicuous, to raise him from a clerkship to the office of Secretary of State.
The three thick volumes before us contain VERNON'S Letters to the Duke of SHREWSBURY' and one or two other persons, from 1696 to 1708; but the bulk of the correspondence terminates with the year 1700. When VERNON was appointed private secretary to the Fluke, and his patron withdrew into the country, the deputy continually addressed to him a sort of despatch on the business of the day, with the brevity and precision necessary in affairs, where the party knowing all the circumstances is only anxious for results. This practice, begun in necessity, was continued at intervals by habit ; and the communications of' VERNON to the Duke were as particular, if not so frequent, after SHREWSBURY had resigned office, and even during his sojourn on the Continent for his health, as when he was responsible to the world for all that was going on. The subjects of these communications of course vary, but they are not so various as might be inferred by persons who do not reflect that there can be little essential variety in the routine affairs of any office. Sometimes VERNON gives an account of the Parliamentary business, and of the Ministerial hopes and fears, with the zeal or backsliding of supporters. Sometimes he reports conversations with the Duke's colleagues' and other persons, occasionally including the King himself. Of foreign news there is little, for VERNON generally sent the letters themselves,—a practice he followed with other documents. A considerable part of his letters, however, relate to his dealings with real and pretended traffickers in intelligence. Neither the exiled family nor their par- tisans, whether at home or abroad, were disposed to submit to the loss of the throne of Great Britain and Ireland without a struggle. Modern discoveries have shown how extensively these intrigues were carried on even by some of King WILLIAM'S confidential advisers : we may therefore readily suppose that the needy, un- known, and unscrupulous Jacobites, were not more quiet. The general object of these plots was the assassination of WILLIAM: but the real plots were not so troublesome as the sham. When a true conspiracy was discovered, it appears to have furnished a hint to unscrupulous persons living by their wits ; and they immediately beset the Government with offers of information, which it was un- safe to neglect and unpleasant to prosecute. Unsafe because if it were true, the life of the Monarch and the stability of the Govern- ment were at stake ; and if it had only a colour of truth, its neglect afforded a ready handle to political adversaries to raise a clamour about neglect of the public weal, and to hint at treason. To pursue the statements of these adventurers took up much time ; seems often to have ended in that ridicule which attaches to those who listen to unfounded Stories; and involved the chance of expense, when the revenue was so straitened that it was somtitnes difficult for the offioials to raise their own salaries,— a "reward" being the first and last object of the informers. In these matters VERNON was a good deal engaged ; not merely from his official situation, but from the position of his patron SHREWSBURY. Sir Jona FENWICK, who was engaged in an exten- sive conspiracy to asassinate the King, for which he was proceeded against by a bill of attainder, (the legal proof falling short,) and executed, had implicated the Duke and some other Ministers of WILLIAM in the plot. To this proceeding he had been incited, it would appear, by the intrigues of the able but eccentric Earl of PETERBOROUGH ; and it was the task of VERNON to keep his patron cognisant of all the information that turned up about this extraordinary matter.
As a business letter-writer, VERNON possesses clearness ; and when the subject admits of it, or he is in the vein, he displays a quiet turn for satire. But the specimens of this talent are very rare. The bulk of his correspondence is a plain business-like account of daily affairs, here and there displaying a few curious traits of the manners of the age, but as a whole devoid of value or interest; tedious to read, and leaving little impression after the reading. Even to the historian or the biographer we cannot con- ceive that it possesses much value; to all others it must be useless.
That this correspondence has been perused by persons en- gaged in researches into the period of which it treats, and by them judiciously left in manuscript, is, we think, very likely. But this is only conjecture. We know nothing of the history of the letters; no more does Mr. JAMES. " These papers," says he in his preface, " I was requested to edit by the publisher ; and have his fullest assurance of their authenticity. No one, however, who looks into them, can have any doubt in that respect. I am myself perfectly satisfied that they are so." So are we. Anybody setting about forgery would have made his forgery more striking. The peculiar characteristics of the work render the selection of extracts by no means easy ; for such as have an interest often re- quire the context, to be fully apprehended, or, it may be, a know- ledge of previous circumstances. But we take the hest we can pick out. The first is from one of the many passages connected with PETERBOROUGH'S enmity to SHREWSBURY, and affords a strange picture of the times : a student of the Temple turning highwaymen in his need, yet still consorting with former acquaint- ances, and admitted to the acquaintance of a Peer for purposes of his own—that Peer at their first meeting having been " stopped " by him on the "road."
STRANGE TRAITS OF THE TIMES, 1696-7. Sir John Talbot came to me last night, upon a very remarkable occasion, which he had in the morning communicated to my Lord Keeper. And it is thus. One Talbot tells him he has had a pretty long acquaintance with one Brown, whom he knew a student in the Temple; where his father made him reasonable allowance, till his estate came to be forfeited ; and since that time be has lived by play, sharping, and a little on the highway. This man, with three or four more, set upon my Lord Monmouth last summer. The account be gives of it is, that they took from him his hat, sword, perriwig, a ring he had on his fin- ger, and six shillings in money, which was all he had. My Lord, making them a compliment, that by their behaviour they looked like gentlemen, and to take that course only out of necessity, and therefore de- sired to know how he might place ten guineas upon them. They immediately gave all his things again, except the SIX shillings, which he would not take. The guard from Chelsea College coming to the hedge-side about that time, and firing upon them, they told my Lord they should be obliged to mischief him if he did not call to the guard that there were none but friends; which he did, and bid his coach drive on.
Some time after this, Brown made my Lord a visit, and told him his errand. My Lord asked him how he durst venture himself in coming thither. Be returned my Lord his compliment, that he knew he was a man of honour : he came with assurance of what be bad said to them, and those who were necessitated to lead his life ran great dangers elsewhere.
My Lord gave him a guinea or two, and encouraged his coming again ; and after that he had frequent meetings with his Lordship, at some mistresses' lodgings. In that time, my Lord formed a project and proposed it to him, that he should come in when required, to declare that the design upon my Lord Monmouth was for carrying him over into France, upon pretence that he should be kept in ex- change for my Lord Aylesbury, and that they were engaged in that design by I know not what Scotch Colonel, and Sir Peter Frazer, who, as I take it, Is the Countess's own brother.
My Lord prepared large instructions to this purpose, which the man has by him, and indited letters that be copied, which were sent to my Lorp Keeper, Mr. Secretary, and the Lord Chief Justice ; upon which the advertisement signed by the Secretary was published in the Gazettes; and John Davis, who is mentioned as the person who gave the first information, was in the robbery, and committed to Newgate for something else. Ile is likewise made privy to this design, whether before or since his commitment I know not. But both my Lord Monmouth and Brown have been with him in Newgate, and he stands yet prepared to swear whatever the Lord would have him ; but Brown pretends a detestation of so villanous a practice, and is endeavouring to bring it out, and make the naked truth appear, which he says he can demonstrate otherwise than by his own oath.
A SPECIMEN OF DEBATES, 1697.
When the House were in a Committee upon the Civil List, there were some reflecting touches. Mr. Smith happened to express the necessity of the family in an'ill-chosen word, though with a good meaning, saying that the King was in a starving condition. Mr. Greenville took a fancy to repeat the word very often : and if the King were starving, why then were such grants made of Crown lands, and why such grants and great pensions, and why foreigners enriched and made lords ?
Sir William Cooper answered him : by that gentleman's talking of pensions he seemed to know they were paid, but he hoped they were not, for he did not desire they should. Mr. Montague nipped him yet closer; saying, he found some gentlemen could not bear that this Prince should recompense any of his servants. If they would inquire into former as well as present gratifications, they might make something of it ; and he could tell them of a family that had cost the Crown, in King Charles's time, 300,0001. It was believed that some gentlemen would have taken this opportunity to make their court, and wiped off the remembrance of abundance or oppositions by a forwardness in so critical a point, but they have not yet showed any such intention.
RESIGNATION IN 1697-8.
I snake the more baste to acknowledge the honour of your Grace's letter of 'the25th; because:I would not • delay acquainting. you that my Lord Sander- -land-would not stay to he addressed from Court, and therefore last night he delivered up his-key and stuff. He was with the King -about a quarter of an hour before the Cabinet-sat; and when he came out of the closet he took me -over -to his lodgings, and said be had pressed the King he might resign, not -tieing, able to lead any longer the life he had led; that the King did not think :tat he-should leave his key there, hut gave him leave to put it into my hands; lelaichle•accordingly did, cutting it off from his side. 'When Immo up stairs again' I found those were not the directions, but what be would absolutely do; for the King would not have the key thus *delivered, moil less through my hands; and when the Cabinet was up, I was -sent to him to Erie's Court, to desire he would take his key again; but he could not endure to hear of it. I begged only he would suspend his resolution ttill next day that -he ' had spoke to my Lord Chancellor, -who had not then -sheen at Council, acquainting him that the King had told it to my Lord Or- ford; who very much disapproved of what he had done. He was unalterably 'tact' to hear no more of it, and never to meddle with that or any other public -employment. I put him in mind that he would give contrary rdvices to those -Who were as uneasy in their employments as he might be ; and since he did it -in consideration of the King's service, whether the same considerations ought snot to prevail on him when the King found•hiinself in such distress, by being torsaken of those whom he placed the greatest confidence in ; and I hope what- soever disgusted him might be made easier. He said it was not on account of -the Parliament only that he came to this resolution ; for he had otherwise led -the life of a dog, having- done all that was in his power for the service of a :party whom he could never oblige to live easily with him, or to treat him with -common civility. He came out with one expression, which I shall never men- tion but to your Grace—that there was no rack like to what he suffer. d, by ' being ground as he had been between Lord 'Monmouth and Lord Wharton. As soon as it -was out, he recollected himself again, and said he would not have -.opened himself so far to anybody but me : your Grace, therefore, 'will please
• tokeep his secret, if it be one.
A BISHOP ON WITCBES, 1691.
I told the Bishop of Worcester that his diocese is infected obit notions about witches : be intends his clergy shall rectify their mistakes in that parti- cular. Be told me some of the topics he would have argued. He don't much controvert the power of devils in the Gentile world, and their extraordinary operations may still take place among the Pagans. Ile is inclinable enough to believe -what some authors have writ of the strange effects in such places; hot he thinks the Gospel, as far-as it reaches, has destroyed the-works of the Devil, and those who are in-the covenant of grace can receive no hurt from the infernal powers, either in their persons, children, or goods ; that a man may be so pro- fligate as to give himself to the Devil, but he can have no assistance from him to hurt anybody else in a supernatural way. I think we may assent to this latter part, and leave, the Devil and the Gentiles to argue the-rest among them- -Selves.
FOOTPADS -ILT TYBURN.
My Lord Dorset was set upon on Saturday night by four or five fbotparls, as he came by Tyburn. Be says little of himself, but I hear they took from him to the value of fifty or sixty pounds, with his gold george. They, seeing him -fumbling in his pockets, told him it was not honourable to sink upon them, and they must search him ; whereon he threw his money out cf the coach, and bid them pick it up. One of them told him, if they did not know him they should nu him worse.
I send you the article about the Prince of Wales; which I delivered in form 'last night to Count Wratislau, that he may procure the Emperor's directions for his agreeing to it in the convention about the quotas. Lie said there was but one thing he observed in it, which he wished might be otherwise expressed, and that was the pretended .Prince of Wales. He asked whether it might not be changed to rulgo dictum. That, I told him, was a style utterly unknown 'here, and we can't vary from the language of our country in this case Ire said no more of it, and I hope nobody else will.
The French Ambassador made me a -visit yesterday:which-I returned-to- day. I received him at the bottom of the stairs, and conducted' him down to the door, as-I understood by Sir Charles Cotterell was customary. But I ob- served he expected me at the door of his apartment above stairs ; and therefore • upon coming away, and we were upon compliment whether he should go down stairs with me, I excused, rather desiring to be left where he made it his choice to receive me. He was indeed very pressing yesterday that I should not have conducted him down ; but I would-not abate any thing that was due to him. He began his visit-yesterday by alleging the reasons why his visit had been deferred. That he thought what had been done to three of his predecessors - successively would-still have been observed. But his Majesty having told him -_that the practice was otherwise ever since his being in England, he had ac- quainted the•King his master with it, and received his directions to conform to the present usage. I let him understand that this reign had made no innova- tion in that point ; and we happened to have two Masters of Ceremonies now in being, who both served the two last Kings, and they declared the practice was 'always the same.